Chapter 10

For a month, Magdelene and Cedric worked tirelessly in absolutely all aspects of their lives. They spent at least three hours on homework and studying every day, another two to four hours rehearsing, and then the rest of the night until curfew (with the exception of a 30 minute dinner break) they worked out the riddle and plans for what it could mean and how Cedric could approach it. It hadn't taken her more than a few days to realize that the egg's riddle could only be heard under water, and once they'd heard the riddle it took her another two weeks to realize what it said. It was only after Cedric had mentioned the mermaid flirting with him that Maggie had realized the riddle was given by the mermaids. It was also after that she had realized she was quite jealous of any girl who had the audacity to flirt with Cedric. The latter made her blush in shame. On the Friday night before the Second Task, Maggie was alone in the Room of Requirement, working hard on their plan for the next day. Cedric was supposed to be going to dinner (after acquiring special permission) in Hogsmeade with his father so Maggie knew she would be alone for the night.

"Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you're searching, ponder this:

We've taken what you'll sorely miss,

An hour long you'll have to look,

And to recover what we took,

But past an hour- the prospect's black

Too late, it's gone. It won't come back," she half-sang to herself, having memorized the words after studying it so many times. "The first bit obviously means he'll have to be swimming, so the bubble head charm we've planned handles that. He has an hour, so it'll have to be a strong charm to last an hour. And he'll be looking for something important to him. If he doesn't find it and retrieve it, he'll lose it forever," she frowned, talking to herself to help organize her thought. It was the only piece of the riddle that wasn't obvious and she simply couldn't figure it out. What could be so important, but not vital to perform the task? It couldn't be his wand; he'd need that. She supposed it could be something different for each of them. For Viktor and Harry, perhaps their brooms. For Fleur...well she couldn't say what was important to Fleur. And for Cedric? Perhaps his piano, but Maggie shuddered to think of that. What would people think? No, she doubted it would be his piano. With a sigh, she gave up on that aspect. Whatever he was looking for, it would be with the mermaids and their dwelling she'd found after careful reading was in the center of the Lake. She also had prepared him on every type of creature he might encounter and ways to ward them off, especially a nice bright Lumos charm. As she pushed the books away and stood, ready to dive back into dance rehearsal for the evening the door opened. The person who walked in did not shock Magdelene, but he did surprise her a bit.

"Professor Dumbledore!" she exclaimed.

"Hello Magdalene," he smiled, nodding his head a bit and observing the room peacefully. "I quite like what you've created here," he commented with a wink. Maggie blushed furiously.

"Oh thank you Sir," she said hastily.

"You're a very clever witch, Ms. Walsh," he eyed the book stack in the middle of the room as he walked around the room's perimeter. "So I'm sure you must assume that it was obvious you helped Mr. Diggory in the First Task and will most likely have helped him with the Second," he lectured calmly. Maggie gulped quietly and nodded. This made a laugh bubble from Albus Dumbledore's lips. "Dear child, it's not against the rules in the slightest! But I just wanted to confirm that you knew the riddle within the egg. Have you figured it out then?" he looked at her expectantly.

"Well yes Sir," she sighed in relief, having panicked for a moment. "Most of it at least," she grimaced at her inability to completely solve the riddle. She explained to him her theories, which she knew were correct, and her confusion over the last part.

"Yes we knew when we created that bit that not even the cleverest of our students could figure it out. The thing Cedric will be looking for, Magdalene, is you," he stated softly.

"Me?" her eyes widened, the concept whizzing around her head as if she couldn't quite grasp it. Maggie was intelligent and clever, but she had always had a terrible fear of water. She couldn't swim. She could swim in a rudimentary sense, she supposed, but not enough to survive in a pressured, timed situation. How could she stay under water for an entire hour just waiting to be rescued? She was not one to wait to be rescued, ever.

"Calm yourself Ms. Walsh. I promise we have taken every precaution to ensure that you and the other hostages are safe. You will be placed into a state of deep sleep and will be able to breathe underwater until you are brought to the surface. The charm will wear off then so the Champion's can easily help you to shore," he chuckled a bit at the terrified look on her face.

"But Professor, what if any of the Champions don't meet the time limit or gets disqualified? What happens to their hostage? The riddle said it would be too late and they would not get it back," her voice was low with dread as she thought about the realistic possibility she would die the following day without ever getting to say goodbye.

Professor Dumbledore thought for a moment. He could easily tell her the truth: that he would never let any student come to harm, and that they would be brought to the surface by the merpeople at the end of the task when all the Champions had returned. It would also be just as easy to let the worry instill a healthy fear into the fearless redhead who seemed to have such an edge on the competition. If she made sure that Cedric was aware of the danger of the situation, he would compete harder to ensure victory. However if she told him everything, he would have an unfair advantage. And despite wanting Hogwarts to win very badly, Professor Dumbledore would not cheat. Still, he felt it important that fear be a factor in the task. He also thought it would be fun, in a bit of an evil way, to see what the task would turn out like if the students did not know the hostages were completely safe. So instead of replying to her question, he simply looked at Magdalene grimly.

"I have the utmost confidence in our four champions that they will complete the task effectively. Come to my office at 5am tomorrow morning. The other hostages will also be there and you will all be prepared for the task," he instructed, taking his leave. When he reached the doorway, however, he turned back. "And Ms. Walsh?" the redhead looked up from where she had been pacing. "It's only logical that you cannot share this information with Mr. Diggory or anyone else," he looked over the top of his glasses at her and she hesitated slightly before nodding. "However, I think it's best that you forewarn Cedric that you will be occupied tomorrow morning so he doesn't go searching for you and miss the task," and with that, he turned and left the room. Maggie conjured a beanbag chair and sank into it, covering her eyes. She was so used to hiding her emotions around others that it was a habit even when she was alone. She tried to control her tears, but they poured out mercilessly causing her to hyperventilate. As she tried to reign in her emotions, Cedric was dashing through the halls at top speed. It was almost curfew and he wanted to be able to say goodnight to his redhead before he was due back in the Hufflepuff common room. He paced in front of the Room of Requirement quickly three times, not even having to think of how badly he wanted to see Maggie. But what he saw shocked him, and scared him a bit.

The small redhead stood quickly, wiping her eyes and taking a deep breath to calm herself. She tried her best to smile at him. He frowned, not fooled, and walked over to her slowly, embracing her in one swift movement and placing a solid kiss on her forehead.

"Maggie, what's wrong?" he questioned softly, eyes searching the bright green ones in front of him. The green eyes, for their part, worked swiftly to hide their true worry.

"Nothing," she hiccuped in a small voice, eyes glancing down. She wasn't very good at lying to him.

"Don't even try that," he warned. She stayed silent, not being able to come up with an explanation. "Maggie we can't go back to this," he groaned conjuring a couch and plopping her down on it before conjuring hot chocolate for the both of them.

"It's almost curfew," she muttered before standing to leave. "I have to get in some studying tomorrow morning so I can't have breakfast with you, but you'll see me right after the task. I know you're prepared, but remember to be really wary of everything down there and get through in plenty of time, okay?" the urgency in her voice was well masked by her fake calm demeanor. Cedric nodded, but followed her to the door, remembering her earlier tears.

"I think I know why you're upset," he whispered. Her heart froze and then sped up faster than it had ever beated. She didn't trust herself to even open her mouth.

"I promised a long time ago to tell my father about you. I'm so sorry I didn't keep that promise, but I told him tonight Maggie! And he wants to meet you tomorrow after the task," Cedric looked down, beaming at her. His father seemed skeptical of him going steady with a girl from an unknown, broken home. But she was intelligent and driven so he was willing to be open minded. Cedric knew it was only because he'd groveled and explained how much she'd helped him with both tasks, but he didn't tell Maggie that. Maggie's tears were renewed, thinking of how tragic it would be if she didn't survive, but she hid that fear with a smile as if the tears were of relief.

"Thank you Ced," she whispered before pressing an urgent kiss onto his lips and dashing off to her dormitory for a night she knew she would spend not sleeping. As she reached her room right before curfew the other girls were mostly all in bed with their drapes closed. One girl sat in the window nook, shadowed in the dark night but she looked up as Maggie entered. She smiled softly, but the tear stains on her cheek gave her away. Maggie bit her lip before approaching her.

"Is everything alright Cho?" she asked. Cho blinked for a moment, completely shocked that the rumors that Magdalene had started speaking were completely true. She recovered quickly, not wanting to be rude.

"Not really, but I'm afraid I can't talk about it," she sighed. Maggie knew immediately what she was speaking of. Cho had been seen around the grounds and even at mealtimes speaking with Viktor Krum. She wasn't sure whether the relationship had progressed past platonic, but it was clear that she was at least Viktor's closest friend at Hogwarts. It would be an obvious choice for her to be Viktor's hostage.

"Did Professor Dumbledore come speak to you about tomorrow as well then?" Maggie sighed in return, thinking about what a turn the day had taken. Cho once again recovered from her shock quickly, realizing that Maggie must be Cedric's hostage. They were both sorted into Ravenclaw for a reason.

"No, Professor Flitwick told me," she whispered. They sat in mutual silence, both worrying over their own thoughts.

"For what it's worth, Maggie, I never intended to stand in the way of you and Cedric. It's clear you make each other happy," Cho told the smaller girl who sat beside her with a genuine smile. Maggie chuckled quietly.

"I never guessed in a million years that he would've even considered me, but now I can't consider him picking anyone else," Maggie confessed, happy to have a friend in Cho. "And I'm glad that you and Viktor seem to be hitting it off."

"Yeah," the brunette smiled, brushing her hair to the side. "Me too."

The next morning Cedric had breakfast with his mates, which wasn't as unusal as he thought. He ate with them three or four times a week still, after he had introduced Maggie she had become an accepted part of their group though they rarely actually socialized with her since her talking had only been recent as of a month previous. Still, he found it odd to sit at breakfast without her. He yearned to see her, but she had told him not to look for her so instead he ate what food he could stomach while listening to all his friends cheer him on. He noticed that while the other two Champions ate their breakfast, Harry Potter was nowhere to be seen. Cedric frowned, but didn't think too much of it. Back when they had figured out the egg needing to be heard underwater, Maggie had 'hinted' that it would be nice if he shared the tip with Harry, since Harry had tipped him off about the dragons. That way he thought they were even, even though that's not how Maggie saw it. He briefly wondered if that might be where Maggie was and a flash of jealousy shot through him. He pushed it down, knowing that she would never intentionally hurt him.

As he ate breakfast quickly and headed down to the Lake with the rest of the students, who were chattering excitedly and chanting his name, he ran over Maggie's plan in his head. Cast a strong bubblehead charm, cast a strong lumos charm, dive into the water and swim as quickly as I can to the center. He ran over all the various charms and shields he could use to fight off any creature he encountered such as Grindelows or the Squid. Rescue the object I need to rescue and swim directly upward. Break the surface before swimming to shore. He repeated the list mentally over and over, preparing himself for what he might find in the dark water. He knew that he had to pay extra mind to the time limit. He and Maggie had read as much on mermaids as they could. If the mermaids were holding the treasure, they would most likely allow him to take one item. If he tried to touch more, or touch something that wasn't his they would attack him. Mermaids were well known for seeming harmless until their treasure was threatened.

Soon Cedric found himself standing next to Harry, who had mysteriously appeared clenching something tightly in the hand that was not holding his wand. Cedric wondered briefly if it was Gillyweed, a plant Maggie had stumbled upon that wasn't readily available. On Harry's side stood Viktor, and on the end was Fleur. They glanced at each other, partly gauging the competition and partly wishing their fellow competitors luck in the dangerous task. When the horn blew he cast his charms swiftly before pushing off the dock and into the water. He briefly watched as Viktor Krum, head of a shark adourned, dashed off along the border. Harry Potter, gills and webbed hands and feet, took off in the opposite direction. He didn't catch a glance of just where Fleur went off to, but he swam forward knowing that the view from above he had studied would lead him to the mermaids and his supposed treasure. As Cedric swam, the only thing that really held him back was the Giant Squid which wrapped its tentacles around him and squeezed so hard that it took Cedric at least a minute to reach his wand and blast the creature away. A few other creatures ventured toward him, but were all deterred by his bright Lumos. As he approached the mermaid village he eyed them warily, slowing his speed. But when his eyes caught sight of their "treasures" anchored to a statue his heart filled with dread. Magdalene's red curls floated around her wildly as she swayed in the water along with Cho Chang, Ron Weasley, and a small blonde girl who looked like she could be Fleur's miniature clone. Her skin was dull and gray, like the mermaids, and the only sign that she was alive was the small stream of bubbles coming from her mouth. Having no idea what time it was he quick;y swam to her, using a slicing charm to cut her from the statue. The mermaids made no move to stop him and he let out a breath of relief. He saw them move, though, and realized they were moving to attack Harry, who had been there when Cedric got there.

"You only take your own," they hissed at the small boy who had been reaching for Cho Chang. Cedric ignored him, swimming to the top of the water with Maggie easily in his grasp. He hadn't really ever realized how light she was until that moment. As they broke the surface, Maggie gasped and opened her eyes before beaming at him.

"Oh Cedric I knew you would do it!" she exclaimed, holding in her emotions as she carefully treaded water. A frown reached her face as she glanced up at Fleur, screaming from the deck. She overheard Ludo Bagman announce that Cedric was first to emerge and Ms. Delacour had been disqualified. Terror filled her heart as she peered beneath the water, squinting, but not seeing anything. "Cedric you have to do something!" she screamed.

"What?" he asked, having started to swim toward the deck.

"You have to help Fleur's sister Gabrielle! Who is going to get her out?!" she screeched. Cedric knew that the professors wouldn't dare let a student die because one of the Champions failed their task, but the terror in Maggie's eyes and the reminder that Harry Potter was down there trying to be a hero told him that he should listen.

"Okay," he nodded with a sigh. "Can you make it back alright?" he asked to be sure, though he had no reason to believe otherwise.

"Yes," Maggie nodded carefully, putting herself in focus mode. She pecked him on the lips with force before wishing him luck. To the shock of the audience and the judges, he dove back under the water after re-casting his bubblehead charm just as Viktor Krum emerged holding Cho Chang. Unlike Cedric, however, he swam directly to the dock with her. Maggie ignored it all, though, as she doggie-paddled with determination. Her teeth were chattering because the water was ice cold in the winter and her speed was slow, but she made it to the dock with a victorious smile as Poppy fretted over all the kids, making sure they had heated towels and were being dried. Professor Dumbledore approached her with a mischeivous glint in his eye.

"Ms. Walsh, where did Mr. Diggory go?" he asked her. She stopped the chattering in her chin by wrapping a towel tightly around her.

"Back down to get Gabrielle," she said simply.

"Ms. Walsh you must know I would never let any harm come to someone who was not a willing participant," Dumbledore did his best not to sound patronizing, honestly surprised that the clever girl had not figured it out. She frowned at him before surprising him once more.

"Harry has come to harm already and will undoubtedly come to more. I cannot see the truth in that argument, Professor," she replied before swiftly turning and walking away. Her eyes remained trained on the clock. As it turned out they had emerged at 40 minutes, Viktor Krum at 45. Now it was 58 minutes and there was no sign of Harry or Cedric. Maggie paced anxiously, not listening to Poppy telling her to go into the heated tent. And then, just as everyone else thought Viktor would be declared winner by default, at 59 minutes and 50 seconds, Cedric and Harry emerged with Ronald Weasley in between them and Gabrielle tucked safely into Cedric's arm. An uproar shot through the crowd as Fleur shot up, quickly retrieving her sister and thanking both Cedric and Harry profusely. Harry gave Cedric an odd look of gratitude before turning to talk to Ronald. Cedric turned to Maggie, but she ushered him quickly into the medical tent after seeing the pink rings left from the Squid's suction cups. Just as he was finished being patched up a voice boomed over the stadium. Cedric grasped her hand tightly and she gave him a reassuring smile.

"Viktor Krum, having officially finished in first place is awarded 10 points for his swift completion and strong charm work. Fleur Delacour, who unfortunately was unable to complete the task, recieves no point. Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter finished in last place, but are still awarded 8 points each for bravery and loyalty in the face of danger. This places Cedric Diggory in the top spot for the third task, Viktor Krum and Harry Potter have tied at second. And Fleur Delacour finishes off in fourth!" Ludo Bagman announced. Maggie beamed at Cedric as he swept her into a hug, spinning her around. The crowd was roaring beyond belief and everyone was pouring out of the stadium seats hoping to be first to congratulate the Champions.

"Cedric! Cedric!" a voice called. it was being overpowered by the crowd, but Cedric picked it out and grinned at Maggie, motioning for her to follow him. He grasped her hand so he wouldn't lose her in the crowd. It was hard to move through the throng of people wanting to congratulate him, but they did so with their heads down. When the reached the voice, they stood on the steps going into the castle.

"My boy! You did such a fantastic job out there today! Made me proud, you did," the grey haired man with small round glasses pulled Cedric into a tight hug.

"Thanks Dad," he grinned before pulled Maggie close to him. "Dad, this is Maggie," he introduced. Maggie ignored the nerves which suddenly bubbled in her stomach and smiled, shaking his hand politely. She had waited so many months to meet him, but it never once occured to her that she should be nervous. It wasn't until she had fully realized that she did not meet Amos Diggory's standards of upbringing, that she realized she should be very nervous about meeting him.

"Hello sir," she said brightly. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Amos thought for a moment, glancing the tiny girl up and down. She was thin, but clearly built in an agile way. She was obviously very clever and at least she wasn't frumpy or homely looking. She wasn't beautiful like Cho Chang, who Amos had been trying to set Cedric up with for years, but she was pretty. He thought of all the rage Cedric had thrown at him the previous night at dinner when he had automatically refused a match who's family was not up to par. It wasn't even that the family had to be pureblood, they just had to be well known and respected in society. The Walsh's were neither. The few that did know them frowned upon their divorce or the fact that they chose to have jobs outside of the magic community. Still, Amos saw the fire in her eyes and the loving glaces that both gave each other when they thought no one was looking. He was reminded, for an instant, of the love he and his late wife had shared. It hadn't been glorious and they had built their reputation from the ground up. It hadn't been glamorous, but it had been deep and strong. With a genuine smile Amos gave a slight nod and a wink to Cedric.

"The pleasure is all my mine Ms. Walsh. I can see just how much help you've been offering to Cedric in these tasks and in his schoolwork," he told her. Maggie shook her head slightly.

"No sir, I just help him plan. Cedric does much more than he gives himself credit for," she insisted, to which Cedric scoffed.

"Not likely Mags. I don't think I'd know where to find half the information you do in the library," he rubbed his thumb against the back of her palm absent-mindedly. She smiled to herself.

"You are just as capable of searching the library Ced," she laughed.

"Either way it is a pleasure to see you both so happy and of course victorious in the tournament!" Amos said, bouncing back to his usual competitive self. Cedric fought the urge to roll his eyes.

"It really was lovely to meet you, sir, but I have to finish some homework if I want to go on the fieldtrip to Hogsmeade tomorrow," Maggie explained before slipping her hand out of Cedric's and waving goodbye to them both. She disappeared into the crowd of students still pushing into the castle.

"Thanks Dad," Cedric told his dad earnestly, not even fully understanding why the meeting had been torturing him for weeks.

"Nonsense. You've clearly made up your mind. Have you got a ring then?" his Dad asked abruptly.

"WHAT?" Cedric almost choked on air as his dad's words hit his ears.

"An engagement ring of course. You are an adult now Cedric. It's not like you're going to go to Muggle college or anything. Once you win the Tournament and leave Hogwarts it's the perfect time to settle down," he lectured as if it were completely obvious.

"Father I will propose to Maggie whenever I want to, whether it's in a day or five years. We're not even close to that point right now. I've only just gotten her to kiss me," he groaned. Amos frowned.

"That's not what I see when I look at you two," he shrugged before waving goodbye and turning away from the Castle, joining the other adults. Cedric groaned at his father's antics. The old man would never learn.

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