Day 1

Title: Day 4
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: G
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my 'verse. I don't get paid a cent to play. Please don't sue and make things worse.
Summary: Cedric might have come in first during the Second Task, but he lost the battle with his health.
Note: Part of the 12 Ficlets in 12 Days project 2010-2011. Requested by _la_mysterieuse


Cedric woke with his heart pounding. He had had a strange dream, which had been strange for him normally but really wasn't all that strange, considering what he'd done the day before. In his dream, he had been underwater, tied down to the bottom of a seabed with seaweed. There had been crabs skittering toward him, lobsters flexing their pinchers at him, and a shark with the head of Viktor Krum swimming his way. He had struggled hard at the bonds which held him in place. He saw a knife about three meters away, sticking in the ground. And he saw a half dozen rocks with sharp edges. But he couldn't use any of them unless he broke free and he couldn't break free without any of them. He could feel his bubble-headed charm wearing off, water rushing in. Cedric knew he only had moments left, and he took a deep breath. Then everything around him was water. He bobbed there, weirdly, chest pounding, head light from lack of oxygen, unable to figure out what to do next.

And that, thankfully, was when he'd woken up. His heart still raced from the lingering visuals of the dream running around in his head. His body felt tired, as if bound to the bed. And his head felt heavy , as if someone had come in while he was sleeping and stuffed it full of something. In fact, he sort of felt as if he were still underwater. Everything was slow and he couldn't think straight… and there was wetness.

At first, Cedric wondered if he'd wet the bed; at seventeen, that would have been beyond mortifying. But then he realized he had broken out in a sweat. His pajamas and sheets were damp, and he felt a desperate need to rid himself of them.

With a tired groan, Cedric pulled himself out of bed and headed into the boy's loo. There weren't too many 'puffs still in there, but every one of them beamed at him. “Cheers, Ced!” They were all still so proud of him, and that felt great, even if the rest of him didn't feel the least bit good at the moment.

Cedric threw off his pajamas and stepped into the shower. He washed up as usual, but being under the spray of water again was off-putting, so he lathered and rinsed as fast as he possibly could. And as he stepped out of the shower, a chill so intense ran down his spine. He grabbed his clothes and started dressing.  But he only made it through the socks, pants, and shirt before he felt the need to sneeze.

heh… heptchoo!” He rubbed his nose with a corner of the towel he was finished with.

“Bless you!” chimed several of his housemates, just as Cedric mumbled, “Bless me.”

He managed to get dressed without any more sneezes, but he stopped by a toilet stall to blow his nose for a full minute and a half. By the time he got downstairs to breakfast, he needed to blow his nose all over again. He sat down at the Hufflepuff table, flanked by several seventh year friends.

“Good of you to finally join us, Ced,” Alexander said, heaping eggs and bacon onto Cedric's plate. “Breakfast is almost over.”

“M'not very hungry,” Cedric said. Then, confidentially, because he didn't exactly want the news broadcasted to the entire student body of Hogwarts, “I think I've come down with a cold.”

Lauren was already pulling Agustus' jumper off him and Stephie was collecting hankies from everyone within reach on the other side of the table.

“Look, there's no reason to fuss over—ooof!” Rodrick had grabbed him by the shoulders, yanking off his robes, so the knit jumper could be put on him. “Really….. ah…” He pushed his head through the neck hole and shifted about as the jumper was pulled into place. “It's just a bit of a stuffy head, really.”

“No wonder, given what you went through yesterday. That water looked icy cold,” Stephie said, handing over the small stack of handkerchiefs.

“You were amazing, though,” Lauren said, which inspired a cheer of “Huff Huff Hufflepuff!” from everyone at the table. “You were so clever, and you were the first one to return. I wish we could have seen what went on under the water.”

Cedric smiled, rather glad his friends hadn't seen it all. “I told you, Harry got there first and helped me out. He'd already freed his friend, Ron. I wish I'd thought to… to...” He picked up one of the handkerchiefs, feeling another sneeze coming on. “hihh... hih-Mmphch!” As he snuffled into the hanky, he felt someone put his robes around his shoulders; they were thin, but he was glad for a little extra warmth.

Alexander filled Cedric's glass up with orange juice. “Here. Drink this. Vitamin C will help you feel better.”

Cedric hesitated, imagining how it might burn his throat. What he really wanted was some hot tea.

Stephie reached over and tapped his glass. “Drink this down. And then we'll take you back to the common room and make sure you're comfortable. Unless, of course, you want to go back to bed?”

Shaking his head, “Really, mates, I'm all ri—“

Rodrick laughed. “You're a Hogwarts Champion. The rest of the school would kill us if they knew you were ill and we weren't looking after you properly. You're a Hufflepuff; we take care of our own.”

Cedric knew they were right. He'd do the same for any of them without thinking of it. So he downed the orange juice and he let them take him back to the common room. They wrapped him in blankets and made a sea of pillows in front of the fire. Rodrick leaned back against one of the yellow chairs. Cedric lay with his head in Rodrick's lap. And Stephie kept him supplied with all of the tissues and handkerchiefs he could want.

Cedric didn't have trouble falling asleep under such conditions, but staying asleep was another matter entirely. He kept waking up, shaking, feeling as though he were drowning. After the third such nightmare, Lauren tried giving him a shoulder rub to relax him, but he still woke up, gasping for air, and feeling stuffy and runny. His nose dribbled. His head pounded. And no matter what, he felt cold. Alexander even tried charming the blankets to warm him, but he couldn't feel it. After the fourth nightmare, he woke up in a panic, with Harry Potter's name on his lips. Harry had been there in the dream that time, laughing at him for wanting to save himself instead of saving the other hostages. He shook with shivers, and even Stephie's warm arms around him didn't help.

Feeling quite a bit stupid that his subconscious had such an obvious hold over him, Cedric decided he needed a minute to himself. He loved his friends desperately, but after a while, the constant attention started taking a toll on him. He couldn't even sneeze without them fussing over him. “Do you want another tissue?” and “Do you need to blow your nose now?” and “Are you sure you wouldn't rather be in bed?”

Finally, Cedric had had enough. He gathered one of the thick, plaid blankets around himself and rose to his feet. “I'll be back,” he told them. And practically everyone insisted on going with him, like a pack. Normally, that's how he would have felt most comfortable. And he did like the comfort and the backrubs and the support. But what he really wanted was a little breather and a cuppa.


Oh, for the love of… wait.  “Harry?” Cedric had nearly run into Harry Potter, literally, after emerging from the big, round Hufflepuff common room. And, to make things even more awkward than they were already, he had nearly sneezed in his face. Cedric only barely managed to turn away in time, covering up with a fellow 'puff's hanky. “hihh-Emphhh! Oh, sniff, excuse me.” He waved his hand dismissively. “I caught a tiny little head cold after yesterday, you know?”

Harry nodded, looking concerned. “I thought you took some Pepper-up. Madam Pomfrey gave us all some.”

Cedric nodded. “I had a little, but I gave most of mine to Cho. She looked so cold; I thought she needed it more than I did.”

Cedric wasn't sure he was seeing properly, but Harry's cheeks were flushed a little red. “I…” he stammered. “I wish I'd thought of that.”

“Then you'd probably have this cold too, and you don't want it, believe me.” He rubbed at his nose. “And I can't go to hospital wing because Madam Pomfrey will… kill me. Hah… hah-Imfchhh!” He slumped against the wall. “Excuse me. I've been sneezing all day. Sniff! Don't happen to know how to get a hold of the house elves, do you? Only I'm a bit desperate for some hot tea.”

“I'll do you one better,” Harry said. He disappeared down the hallway and around the corner. And for just a moment, Cedric wondered if Harry were just off having a laugh at his expense, having left Cedric standing stupidly in the hallway alone with a blanket around his shoulders. But then Harry was back with a steaming cup of tea. Cedric tested it, finding it almost too hot to drink, but sweetened quite nicely. It was perfect.

“How'd you do that?” Cedric asked. Then he held a hand up. “Never mind. I'm not sure I want to know. But th-thank you.” He handed the cup back over briefly as his nose tickled. “hah-Shooo!” he sneezed into his sleeve, feeling another one coming right up. “hah-Chihhhh! Sniff! Excuse me.”

Harry put the cup back in Cedric's hand. “Bless you. Well, then… um, I'd better be going…”

Cedric grinned. Harry definitely wasn't a Hufflepuff. No smothering, no fussing. It was rather refreshing, really. And it made Cedric want to go right back to his common room. “Ta, Harry.”

After finishing his cup of tea, his head felt a little less as though it were underwater; the steam had helped with that. And he no longer felt dreadfully cold. Cedric still felt sniffly and he still curled up in front of the fireplace in the Hufflepuff common room. But when he fell asleep, his dreams contained nothing that had to do with Harry Potter or being underwater.