The Tri-Wizard cup glinted in the light of the stadium. Harry met Cedric's eyes, watching them narrow into slits of concentration before widening. Cedric hesitated.
Harry did not want the cup, nor did he deserve it. He had never wanted any of this, and if he took the cup away from Cedric after all the help he received, he would never forgive himself. It seemed like a distant dream—the crowd roaring, even Cho's approval. His leg ached. All he wanted was a warm bed and Madame Pomfrey, and Cedric wanted to play Mr. Nobility. There was only one way out of this.
"Both of us," Harry said.
"We'll take it at the same time. It's still a Hogwarts victory. We'll tie for it."
Cedric considered it for a moment.
"Yeah," Harry said. "Yeah…we've helped each other out, haven't we. We both got here. Let's just take it together."
Cedric stared at him blankly for a few seconds and began nodding slowly, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.
"You're on," he said. "Come here."
Cedric slipped his shoulder under Harry's arm, supporting as much of his weight as he could, and they hobbled forward together like partners in a three-legged race. They reached the cup, so shiny that it nearly glowed.
"On three, right?" Harry said. "One. Two. Three."
He and Cedric both wove hands around separate handles. Harry's hand and the cup melted into one, both attached to a chain tugging on the back of his navel, a chain pulling him through swirls of light and color.
He slammed into the ground, face-first in warm grass. His leg crumpled beneath him, and every nerve on his body lit up with flame. He screamed into the night. It was not until he stopped that he realized Cedric was screaming too. Cedric's screams did not cease.
Harry found his wand on the ground next to him, ground his teeth against the pain, and rolled over. He gasped. Where Cedric's stomach had been, there was now a gaping hole of blood and pink flesh. Even Harry, who had seen so much in his life already, could not force away the gag. A pair of hands covered in rotting grey flesh dug into the hole, pulling at the insides, raising a length of intestine to its lips.
"Harry," Cedric moaned. Potter snapped back to reality and raised his wand.
"Stupefy!" The creature flew backwards and slammed into a tree, grunting. Harry bent over Cedric. The Hufflepuff's eyes swam with tears and terror.
"Harry," he gurgled, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Harry stared at the gaping wound, at the trail of flesh leading away from Cedric's stomach. Why had he not learned more healing spells? Why had he not deemed those useful when he was training for the tournament? Nothing like this was ever supposed to happen. Someone was supposed to be there, ready to heal any severe injuries.
"I don't know what to do," he said using his robe to sop up some of the blood.
"Please," Cedric begged. Harry tore Cedric's robes away from the wound. "Please." Harry Potter realized that this was the point where he usually had a stroke of dumb luck. He would discover his skin, imbued with love, was a weapon. A phoenix would show up with a hat and a sword. The murderer would turn out to be a friend and not an enemy. But there was so much blood.
"HELP!" Harry yelled. He looked around. He could not see the fallen creature in the darkness, and nothing looked familiar, but surely this was a part of the task. Someone would show up. "If anyone's there, please!" He briefly remembered that he was supposed to shoot red sparks if he ran into trouble, and he did, over and over. Still, no one came strolling out of the bushes, and Cedric continued to moan and plead. He grabbed the back of Harry's neck, his eyes wide and crazed.
"Please," he begged. "Kill me."
"No," Harry said, his voice cracking. "It's going to be okay. Just hold on. Someone will come."
Cedric reached for Harry's wand and pulled it toward his temple.
"Do it," he demanded. Harry shook his head, beginning a new series of frantic screams.
"Anybody, please. He's dying. Cedric's dying!" A cicada song was his only answer, and he dissolved into sobs. "Please…please…"
Cedric's grip tightened around Harry's hand. He looked into Cedric's eyes, tears flowing from the tip of his nose onto the other boy's cheek. "I'm sorry," he said so softly that it was barely more than a whisper, "Avada Kedavra."
Cedric went still, and Harry laid the boy's robes over the wound and fell back on the grass, crying and shaking. The cup lay abandoned in the grass. Were they really arguing about an old piece of silver and some gold mere minutes ago? Harry crawled for the cup, ready to pick it up and chuck it far into the woods.
Halfway to it, Harry reached out his arm. Before he got close, something slimy wrapped around his ankle and yanked hard. Harry's face hit the ground once more, and his wand flew out of his hand. He kicked back, his foot connecting with something solid. It growled, but did not let go. Harry kept kicking violently, again and again, until his leg broke free.
He scrambled for his wand in the grass. Then, rolling onto his back, he scooted against a tree, letting it defend him from behind. In the dim moonlight, he saw the same creature that attacked Cedric, jowls dripping. Was there magic that could bring back the dead and turn them into monsters? Whatever it was, it was obviously not affected by stunners.
It reached for him with its peeling hands, slick with Cedric's blood.
"Crucio." Harry kicked out with his good leg, sending the thing flying backwards again. "Diffindo." A slash ripped open on the creature, revealing blackened bones, but it did not stop. "Expelliarmus. Impedimenta." The creature slowed down, but it kept coming toward the young wizard.
"Avada Kedavra!" Even that had no effect. Harry sucked in a breath, choking down the panic, and began to spew every spell he knew. "Petrificus Totalus. Relashio. Rictumsempra." A few spells knocked the thing back, but it kept coming. "Reparo. Alohamora. In—Incendio!" The monster burst into flame like a rotten torch, filling the air with acrid smoke. Harry scrambled away from it, coughing and gaping at the way it continued to approach, its mouth wide, until it had dissolved into ashes.
A pile of cinders at his feet, Harry looked back to the place where Cedric lied. He wanted to get the hell out of there, and he would need to think of something that would allow him to get Cedric's body. He had to get back to Dumbledore and Hogwarts quick, but he could not leave Diggory behind in this. The body, however, was gone. For a moment, Harry thought perhaps he had gotten disoriented during the scuffle, but the flattened grass and the pool of blood told him he had not.
Had one of those things taken it away to feast? Harry slid up the tree, pushing himself with his good leg. He took a step, kicking the cup forcefully and sending it rolling a few feet across the grass. A small trail of blood led away from the spot where he had ki…where Cedric had died. Harry followed it by wand light, hobbling along the trail toward a bit of underbrush. He bent down to look through it and found it empty.
Frustrated, he turned around and came face to face with another creature. It growled at him, reached for him, and Harry backed away, raising his wand. It was then, in the wand light, that Harry realized the creature was Cedric, open-mouthed and groaning. He met his eyes, milky and mottled. Something hit the ground by his trainers with a squick, and Harry looked down. A piece had fallen out of the wound on Cedric's stomach and rolled against his shoes. For the second time, Harry gagged. The creature would not allow him a moment to get over the nausea.
Not-Cedric lunged for him, slamming him hard into a tree. It gnawed at the sleeve of his robe, and Harry found it hard to aim his wand properly. With a loud cry, he ripped it away, leaving a shred of fabric in its mouth. He stole a breath, prepared to deal with Not Cedric the only way he knew how to at this point, to char the boy's remains beyond recognition. He would not watch, he decided, as he raised his wand.
Harry jumped. Not Cedric's head seemed to be attached to the tree, nailed there by an arrow with fluorescent wings. Harry looked around quickly for the source and found a crossbow pointed directly at his face.
"The hell do you think you're doing?!" the shooter asked. "You'll bring every Walker for miles."