The usual disclaimers apply; all belongs to J.K. Rowling except for this specific bit of story. I've found myself come into an unprecedented amount of free time, and also the burning desire to actually finish up all the 'fics I've left languishing. I'll just ignore the fact that I really, really need to overhaul them in favor of actually finishing the suckers first. So, anyone still hanging around, hoping for updates of 'Blood, Torture...', may actually have something along that vein to read sometime soon. Thus ends the author's notes.


5 Ways Cedric Diggory Doesn't Die

1.

Surprisingly, it's Fleur that beats them all to the Cup. Something about Veela genes, which of course gets cries of 'unfair advantage' – cries drowned out by the greater shock over the fact that Fleur is dead.

No one knows quite what happened, though Cedric thinks Dumbledore suspects more than he lets on. All Cedric knows is that the girls of Beauxbatons had shadowed eyes before they'd taken Fleur's body away, and Gabrielle Delacoeur could not stop her crying; that Cho snuck into the Hufflepuff dorms with solemn, excited eyes, saying, "It could have been you out there," before hexing the doors closed and spilling her robes around her feet; that rumors ride like wild horses through the wizarding world of evil and darkness, that Harry is never without at least two shadows dogging his step.

A change is coming, Cedric knows. Or maybe it's already been.

2.

The day before school is to start, Amos collapses and it's too late by the time they get him to St. Mungo's. "Spell damage," oneHealer explains kindly. "From the war. He took too many curses and his body never recovered. It just… gave up."

Heart failure – or a heart attack – or whatever you want to call it, dead is dead, and Cedric knows it when he sees his father's face, feels it in the middle of his chest.

With all of the funeral arrangements, he doesn't get back to Hogwarts until after the Triwizard Champions have been chosen, and even then he doesn't care. He goes on not caring through the First and Second Tasks, stays in his room during the Yule Ball despite many (many) offers to go.

He pays no attention to life, and, gradually, life pays no attention to him.

Then the Third Task comes, and after it there stands shell-shocked Harry Potter clutching the corpse of his fellow Hogwarts' Champion – a Ravenclaw, Cedric remembers vaguely – looking as if the world's just ended with him still on it.

Everywhere grows the chant, 'You Know Who, You Know Who,' a synonym for fear. Cedric watches it encroach the world, bright despair, slowly catching up to him.

3.

Cedric thinks of asking Cho Chang to the Yule Ball, but Zacharias Smith dissuades him with a scornful, "You do know Potter's been eyeing Chang for months now."

Cedric shrugs. "Yeah, the world pretty much knows. I gave him long enough to ask her out."

"Mate," Zacharias' rare earnestness pauses Cedric's motions to leave the Common Room in search of a certain pretty Ravenclaw. "Think on it a moment. Who here is the hero?"

Cedric gives him a look that basically says he's humoring the crazy person. "Most likely – given the horrible odds, tragic past, and even more tragic hairstyle – Harry Potter."

"Exactly," Zacharias nods. "And the hero always gets the girl. It's like a law of nature or something."

"You're mad," Cedric says definitively and pushes past, but once he's out in the hall pauses to think. He's never been one to believe in fate, but in a magical world, fate is as much a force as gravity; he doesn't feel like letting it drag him down.

It's best not to tempt what fate might do to ensure that Harry 'the Perfect' Potter ends up with Cho. That's why Cedric changes course from Ravenclaw to the kitchens; and if, while he's there, he happens to run into overlooked, overworked Gryffindor geniuses trying to catch up on a few meals lost to the library – well, that's just fate dealing him a new hand.

4.

The whole night has been strangely surreal with the Maze, the Cup, the cemetery – and now Harry, gone clutching at his forehead. Then there's that odd grimacing fellow holding in his arms a strange embryonic wormlike thing who simply exudes evil.

The evil worm thing says, in a voice as sibilant as a serpent whisper, "Kill the sp—" and then a curious pause. "Actually, he's quite pretty. May be just what I need after thirteen years without a body. Stun him instead."

"Understood, my Lord," the man says and raises his wand.

The last thing Cedric knows is the word 'Stupefy' and a red light arching to him before he can even think to dodge.

Somewhere Harry is screaming; and somewhere glints the gold of the Cup.

5.

The thing about Cedric is that he's not actually seventeen. When he was little, there was an incident involving a time turner, half a dozen balloons, and three simultaneous versions of himself. Things got confused, Cedric's mum yelled at his dad to never bring work home again, and Cedric is somewhere between fifteen and sixteen and seventeen and hopelessly screwed up, because that's what time turners will do to you.

He's only grateful that he doesn't try to put his name in the Goblet in front of everyone like the Weasley Twins do, that it's dark when he sneaks in and gives it a go, and is denied access.

He shrugs his shoulders and gets on with his life, though a tiny part of him protests the fairness ofPotter being accepted at age fourteen. Still, the whole world can't be Hufflepuff; Cedric trudges on and resolves to make fairness where he can.

Bonus track.

Even before the death curse has finished being cast, Harry has flung himself in the path of it. He's reckless and glorious swooping down on Cedric, a half wild shield; but Cedric's been playing Seeker for the past three years, and Harry's infinitely easier to catch than the Snitch.

He feels the sure weight of Harry in his arms, relief and blessing, turning with the impact to shelter the younger boy from harm. It takes less than an instant, and then he dies with the green of the Killing Curse going through his back, the green of Harry's shocked gaze going through his soul.

They're both of them heroes.