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another bend in the road

Chapter Text

 “A Portkey,” Cedric said, bewildered. “The Cup is a Portkey.”

 “Apparently.”

 Cedric laughed, but it had a very hollow sound. “This task just keeps going?”

 Harry looked away from the glow of the Triwizard Cup, which had landed some feet away from them. Their new surroundings were an open space, unlike the encroaching maze, but somehow just as dark and gloomy. Maybe darker and gloomier. They were in a graveyard that had the slight overgrowth of a near-forgotten place. Though there was a small church sitting behind a large yew tree nearby, Harry was arrested rather by a hill in the distance, where the shadow of a tall manor home stood alone against the night sky.

 “I don’t think this is part of the task,” Harry said uncertainly.

 All was strangely silent and still, as though they were waiting for something. Harry had never been here before, but something about it felt familiar even so. It felt as though he knew this graveyard somehow. Even worse: it felt as though this graveyard knew him.

 “But only the Headmaster can make a Portkey or Apparate on Hogwarts grounds,” Cedric said, but he too frowned at their eerie surroundings. “The mountains are all gone. It’s too flat here.”

 “We’re not at Hogwarts anymore,” Harry said, and it sounded true. “We might not even be in Scotland anymore.”

 “But why-?”

 Sharp pain burned through Harry’s forehead and he interrupted Cedric with a cry of pain. His injured leg gave out underneath him and he hit the cool grass heavily, but he barely felt it. His head felt like it was splitting apart at the scar.

 “Harry? Harry, what’s wrong?” Cedric cried, dropping down beside him. “Is it your leg? Is it a spell?”

 Harry tried to find words, but the pain seemed to burn them away.

 “We’ll get you b-” Cedric paused, then called out, “Who’s there?”

 Someone was here? Harry lifted his head and squinted in the direction of Cedric’s question. Doing so sent a new knife of pain through his skull, but he saw a stout, hooded figure picking their way through the headstones towards them. The figure had a bundle of blankets in one arm and the other gripping what looked like an uncommonly pale wand.

 “Who are you?” Cedric demanded, his wand shaking where he’d raised it. His other hand was a warm weight on Harry’s shoulder. “Can you help us? My friend needs help!”

 But the hooded figure said nothing as they came closer, raising their wand in turn at them.

 “Stop there! I said stop.”

 But the figure still didn’t stop, neither did the pain, and from the blankets in the figure’s arms rose a high, thin voice that haunted Harry’s worst dreams. He retched with pain and fear. Hearing that voice with his own ears made his chest feel hollow and cold.

 “Kill the spare,” it said.

 Harry felt Cedric’s hand clutch the back of his shirt.

 But here the figure stopped, about fifteen feet away from them, and did not cast the spell. The pale wand even seemed to waver – back and forth, back and forth.

 Harry tried to push himself up, to grab Cedric and run, but his leg gave out again, and he fell into Cedric, who had belatedly fumbled to help him. They tripped over each other. Cedric’s wand broke the standoff first as Harry fell into him.

 But still the figure didn’t move and didn’t cast. Back and forth went the pale wand, over the tangle of Harry and Cedric. The pause was so long that the voice rose up from the blankets again, furious.

 “Wormtail… kill the spare…”

 “My lord, they’re too close,” Peter Pettigrew said, trembling. “I might hit the wrong boy.”

 Harry grabbed the front of Cedric’s shirt. “We have to leave,” he gasped.

 He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he knew that it couldn’t happen. Voldemort had been waiting a long time for this, so Harry had to stop it. They had to get away. Harry pulled at Cedric’s shirt, directionless and desperate, prepared to crawl.

 “Cedric… Cedric…”

 Cedric stared back at Harry, wide-eyed and equally urgent.

 “Then separate them, Wormtail.”

 Cedric glanced away, towards the Cup, and Harry could see the shine of it in his eye. But it was too far away, Harry understood with dread, even if it was an escape. It was out of reach and no spell could be cast in time, because the pale wand in Peter Pettigrew’s hand no longer wavered. There was nothing between them and whatever was coming.

 Then Cedric’s hands dug into Harry’s shirt like a lifeline, one hand on his back and the wanded other over his heart. Harry looked back at him with desperate inevitability.

 “Hold on to me,” Cedric said.

 And then Cedric pulled them together and the space around them stretched, then squished, then swirled. Time itself seemed to bend for a second. It was like a Portkey except not. Cedric was yanked away and pulled Harry with him into the swirl. The last thing that Harry heart was the beginning of a shrill, outraged scream.

 

~

 

 When the world untwisted, they fell to the ground and Harry fell apart. It was like the burning from his scar had spread out to the rest of his body. He had a pins and needles feeling all over. His stomach rolled and his throat seemed to be trying to turn inside out. All Harry could do was hold on to Cedric, who felt like the only thing holding him together.

 “Oh, hell! Harry, are you alright? I’m so sorry,” Cedric was saying, holding him tightly in turn. “Breathe, just… focus on breathing. Oh, hell, what are you supposed to do again? Are you missing anything? Oh, please don’t be missing anything.”

 Harry peered at Cedric through teary eyes. “What?”

 “You’re not Splinched, right?”

 “What…?”

 “Splinched,” Cedric repeated, as though this meant something.

 “I don’t know what that is,” Harry said, then leaned away from Cedric and threw up.

 When Harry stopped retching, which took several minutes, the burning pain throughout his body seemed to have faded to little more than a lingering memory. His scar still burned slightly, though, and his face was still hot with embarrassment. He felt filthy, but also so much better for throwing up, as though his body had convinced itself that was what had been causing the pain. Harry released Cedric’s shirt, took a deep breath, and sat up slowly.

 Obviously they weren’t in the graveyard any longer.

 How many miles they have travelled this time, Harry didn’t know, but there were still no familiar mountains holding up the night sky. Harry didn’t recognize this place at all. They were somewhere in the countryside, having landed in the grass just off a dirt road, in front of the gate of a comfortable two-story house with all dark windows. There were no mysterious figures and no gloom from which any traitors or murderers could creep out here.

 For all Harry knew, they could have been the only two people in the world.

 When Harry looked back at Cedric, who had also released him, he saw that Cedric was counting his fingers. Not his own fingers, but Harry’s fingers. As though Cedric needed to make certain that Harry had all ten digits.

 “…Sorry,” Cedric said. “I’ve next to no practice at that.”

 “What happened? What… what did you do?”

 “Er, I Apparated. I got my license earlier this year – well, last year, when I turned seventeen,” Cedric answered, before it was his turn to squint confusedly at Harry. “You… know what Apparition is, right, Harry? I’d heard that you were raised by Muggles, but…”

 “I know what Apparition is,” Harry said defensively.

 At least, he knew that wizards teleported about somehow. Ron and Hermione had both mentioned it before, while talking about Percy stressing over the exam or Sirius Black breaking into the castle.

 “I just didn’t know you could take other people with you when you did.”

 “I don’t have much practice at that,” Cedric confessed. “And you’re not supposed to Apparate when you’re too young – not often, at least. You’re not… solid enough yet… or something. I don’t know. It’s not good for you somehow. But I didn’t know what else to do, as soon as I realized that really wasn’t just another part of the task.”

 Harry shook his head grimly. “No, it was Voldemort.”

 Cedric stared at him. “…Sorry, what?”

 “Voldemort,” Harry repeated. “He’s not dead. He’s never been dead. He’s just been without a proper body since he tried to kill me.” He rubbed at his heated scar and then ran a hand through his hair, repeatedly. “I knew that he was planning something. I knew he had to be involved somehow in all this, but I didn’t know how or why.”

 “…Alright,” Cedric said faintly.

 “He was in the bundle of blankets,” Harry explained. “He was the voice giving orders to kill. He doesn’t have a real body right now. I recognized him – them – that’s how I knew we had to leave.”

 “You… recognized him from when you were a baby?”

 “No, I have these dreams…” Harry began, before he realized how that might sound. “I’ve met him more recently than that. In first year, he was here at the school, possessing Quirrell like some sort of parasite on the back of his head. He was trying to get the Philosopher’s Stone from the forbidden third-floor corridor.”

 Cedric’s face was worryingly without recognition.

 “I hear him when I get too close to dementors too,” Harry said, feeling like he was in a one-sided argument now. He moved on. “Where did you take us?”

 Cedric gave Harry one last concerned look, but then turned to the house and gestured helplessly. “Oh, uh, my house. We’re at my house. I didn’t know if Apparating would even work, but I figured if we weren't at Hogwarts anymore… then it probably would? This is where I have the most practice at picturing, so… welcome?”

 Harry looked at the house with the dark windows again. It wasn’t nearly so interesting or appealing as the Burrow, but it had its own tidy and homey look once he peered past the darkness, with the sort of natural growth and brightly painted features that would horrify any resident of Privet Drive. He’d never bothered to think about what sort of house the Diggories might have before, but his first thought now what that he might have imagined a house very like this one.

 “Thanks,” Harry said, looking at Cedric. “Really… thanks. You… you definitely saved us.”

 Voldemort was so angry right now, Harry knew.

 “I’m just glad it worked,” Cedric said, standing up and offering his hand.

 Harry took Cedric’s help and stood up carefully. It was hard to tell whose hands were shaking more between them. Harry kept as much weight as he could off his injured leg. There was blood all down his trouser leg and Harry still hissed with pain when he tried to get a better look at what the spider’s pincers had done.

 “My parents are at the Tournament,” Cedric said worriedly. “I can get us inside the house, but… we ought to get someone, shouldn’t we? We need to tell someone what happened. And between that Portkey and my Apparating… no one will know where we’ve gone.”

 “Right now, I could think that’s a good thing,” Harry said grimly.

 Cedric looked at him quizzically.

 “Someone had to turn that Cup into a Portkey that’d send us straight to Voldemort, right?” Harry explained. “Probably the same person who put my name into the Goblet of Fire and started all this mess. Probably the same person who vanished Mr. Crouch. They don’t know where we are right now either… whoever they are.”

 “Right,” Cedric said understandingly. “And… you don’t have any idea who that might be?”

 Harry gave him a look.

 “Right, of course not. It could be anyone, couldn’t it? Maybe it was someone was Durmstrang? I heard… well, I heard that Karkaroff used to be a Death Eater…? Dad said to watch out for him and all those Durmstrang kids.”

 “Karkaroff did used to be a Death Eater,” Harry said, “but he seemed worried about his Dark Mark getting stronger. Fudge thinks Madame Maxime might have disappeared Mr. Crouch.”

 “Why? Oh, because of the… giant thing. That’s stupid,” Cedric said firmly. Then his voice turned uncertain again as he said, “It’s probably someone from Durmstrang. I didn’t want to assume anything, but then… Viktor just seemed so nice, you know? He was really nice.” Cedric made that hollow laugh again. “Then he proved me wrong there.”

 Cedric’s hands were shaking at his sides. The Unforgivable Curse that Krum had used on Cedric in pursuit of eternal glory had been a shock to Harry as well. He still didn’t know what had happened to Fleur. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to forget Cedric’s screaming.

 “He did seem nice,” Harry agreed quietly.

 Nothing about this year seemed to make sense. Even if the Tournament had just been Hogwarts students, it probably would have felt like there was no one he could trust. As it was, it felt like they’d invited enemies into their midst just to make it worse.

 “…Yeah,” Cedric said. “Let’s… let’s go inside?”

 Cedric fetched a key from a hiding spot in the garden and helped Harry inside. The inside of the Diggory house was tidy and homey, with more colourful quilts and comfy embroidered pillows than Harry thought anyone would rightly know what to do with. Cedric let him down on a sofa and Harry sank into what felt like a foot of cushion before he could object that he wasn’t clean enough to be on the good furniture at the moment.

 “I’ll get the healing kit,” Cedric said, flicking on a lamp painted with rabbits.

 Well, at least the sofa was brown. Harry tried to keep his injured leg off it as much as possible.

 When Cedric returned, it was with another pair of trousers as well as his family’s healing kit. He showed Harry how to clean, apply poultice to, and bandage his injury from the spider in the maze, since Harry insisted on doing it by himself, and then turned around so Harry could work and change. They then tended to all their other scratches and Cedric even had another poultice that was supposed to prevent bruises.

 “I got into a lot of scrapes as a kid,” Cedric explained, smiling a little at the memory. “There wasn’t much else to do out here as an only child but have your own adventures, you know? I broke a broom on a tree once and I didn’t even have the excuse of it being the Whomping Willow. Mum and Dad made me responsible for making these potions.”  

 Harry smiled back, though it still hurt a little to remember his broken Nimbus 2000. “Yeah?”

 “Yeah. I was braver back then, I think,” Cedric said quietly.

 Harry didn’t know what to say to that. Cedric’s hands were still shaking slightly, enough that he’d dripped poultice on the sofa covers, but something in the set of Cedric’s jaw had made Harry hesitate to offer help. Was there anything to treat the Cruciatus Curse?

 “We should probably get checked by Madam Pomfrey anyway, just to make sure, when we get back to Hogwarts,” Cedric said finally. “Or we could go to Saint Mungo’s, probably? Would it be a good idea to go to Saint Mungo’s, do you think? Or should we just stay here and try to send a letter to someone? And get hauled off to the Hospital Wing later?”

 “I don’t know. Is… is there any way that Voldemort could follow us here?”

 Cedric’s head snapped around. “What?”

 Harry looked back at him, his old, bloodied trousers folded in his lap. “Can anyone follow Apparating? Can that happen? Or can that not happen? I know it’s not allowed at Hogwarts, but… is there any way for him to know where we are right now?”

 Harry hoped not.

 “I… it could happen, maybe? I know the Ministry can do it, a bit, track Apparition. I think criminals Apparate a lot of times in a row to throw off Aurors and stuff, but I don’t know if just anyone could track it…”

 “He could,” Harry said. “Probably.”

 Harry had seen too many strange things now to underestimate what Voldemort was capable of doing. He remembered the wraithlike face on the back of a head, the memory of a boy in a diary, and the rat who was really a man. There was so much magic that was so far beyond Harry and right now they were so far from even the tenuous safety of Hogwarts. Harry couldn’t trust what Voldemort and his people might be capable of doing out here.

 Magic was so wonderful until it wasn’t.

 Sometimes it felt like it was all Harry could do not to be literally eaten alive.

 “You… do you think we should leave?” Cedric said uncertainly. “I thought you were worried we couldn’t trust anyone at Hogwarts.”

 “Well, there are some people we can trust,” Harry argued, though trustworthiness didn’t automatically mean anyone could actually do anything. “Like Dumbledore… or McGonagall… or Professor Moody maybe. He used to catch Dark wizards, right?”

 “He did, but he’s a bit…” Cedric made a face. “I’d trust Professor Sprout with my life, but if that was really You-Know-Who who just tried to have me killed… I think Dumbledore is our best bet.”

 “The only one You-Know-Who ever feared,” Harry agreed.

 “Yeah. We have to let someone know where we are. Do… do you think they’ve realized we’re missing yet? I can’t remember how they were supposed to know that we’d won. How long will it be before they start looking for us? I mean, my parents are going to be worried sick when I don’t come out of that maze.”

 Harry wondered what Ron, Hermione, Bill, and Mrs. Weasley would think when they realized he’d gone missing. They were all still waiting for him in the stands.

 What would Sirius think when Harry didn’t come out of the maze? His godfather had been sending him daily letters for weeks now and promised to remain close for the Third Task. He’d been urging Harry just to focus on surviving the Third Task, before they could all focus on whatever Voldemort might be plotting; what would he think when he realized that Harry was missing and the Third Task had been a part of Voldemort’s plot all along?

 “How can we make sure to make it to the headmaster?” Cedric wondered. “Should we try to make it to Hogwarts on our own or…?”

 “Can we… Can we not Apparate again?” Harry’s stomach turned just at the thought.

 “To Hogsmeade or something? Yeah, no, let’s not,” Cedric agreed with a grimace. “I don’t know if I could even do that again… and it’s probably not good for you either. Did you know they almost made seventeen-year-olds Side-Along Apparating with minors illegal? We’d probably Splinch.”

 Harry still didn’t know what that was, but he assumed it was bad.

 Cedric looked around the living room, settling on the fireplace. “My dad is allergic to Floo powder,” he said apologetically. “We don’t keep any in the house.”

 “That’s alright. I don’t like travelling by Floo. What about the Knight Bus?”

 “All of my pocket change is at school and my parents don’t leave money lying around the house. My Mum has a pet niffler.” Cedric looked around, as though expecting to spot this animal. “He’s… I don’t know where he is… probably sleeping under her bed. The Bursar’s really old. Are we… would it even be safe to take a bus? Is that too public?”

 “What else can we do?”

 “Just go to the Ministry? But… I guess someone managed to vanish Mr. Crouch… and he used to be the head of the D.M.L.E.,” Cedric said thoughtfully. “We could… go to someone else’s house? My dad’s owl is probably still at school too… or maybe at his office. The Weasleys live nearby, right? You’re friends with them.”

 “They’re all at the Tournament or work. No one is home.”

 “Oh.”

 They sat in a dim and awkward silence. Some part of Harry wanted nothing more than to stay here on this sofa and never get up again, rather than go back out into the night, but the threat of Voldemort somehow following them was stuck in his mind. He rubbed at his scar, which prickled now and still remembered the blistering pain of before. Peter Pettigrew had nearly killed Cedric already. Maybe someone at Hogwarts was working for Voldemort, but… they couldn’t just stay here either. Nowhere was really safe, but at least Hogwarts had Dumbledore and Harry’s friends.

 “Do you know anyone else nearby?” Harry asked. “Anyone else you trust? Who might have an owl or Floo powder or something you could borrow?”

 Cedric frowned at first, but then Harry saw an idea come into Cedric’s head. He seemed uncertain about his idea, though, and it took him nearly a minute to give it any voice.

 “There is… someone…” he began.