The months leading to the final task began to fly by before anyone had a chance to take a breather. Between homework, exams, rehearsing, and preparing Cedric for the third task Cedric and Maggie were burning the candle at both ends. They started the day with a rushed breakfast, went straight into classes (any study hall periods were used to do homework for other classes), and after dinner rehearsed for hours until curfew. After curfew, Cedric found his way to his bed and collapsed, sleeping until just before breakfast. He regretted it the next morning every day, as he rushed to finish his homework during breakfast. He was mentally exhausted, but made sure to never let it show and he got enough sleep that he kept his easy confident persona around everyone else. He wasn't as worried about the tournament anymore. With Maggie's help, he was more prepared than anyone should have been. He didn't feel as uneasy as she was. Compared to dragons, the third task was sure to be easy. He was worried about Maggie, though. Every day her walk got a little bit slower, her eyes a little darker, and her temperament a little more agitated. It didn't help that he still hadn't shared his plans about joining the world of Muggle Music with his father. He could see the pain in her eyes every time she asked about it.
Maggie would stay up hours past curfew making sure all her work was done and excellent before reading as many books as she possibly could and teaching herself new charms and hexes to teach Cedric. This left her with no more than 4 hours a sleep each night, which was beginning to take a toll on her personality. She didn't dare let her schoolwork drop, and she only pushed herself harder in dance. The logical part of her mind knew that something needed to change. She needed to pull back on something before she ran herself into the ground, but she was making it work and as the day of the third task came closer and closer, she felt physically ill with worry. Every time Cedric acted like the third task wasn't a big deal and they didn't need to practice, she repressed the agitation she felt, but it was quickly building up.
Things had not felt right with the tournament from the beginning, but the more she thought about it the more things did not add up. Harry was infamous for getting into trouble because danger often sought him out. He was selected for a tournament he was not eligible for, and on top of that he had not even entered his name. It was obvious to Maggie that someone else had, but she had yet to figure out just who it was. She didn't think it could have been most professors, as the charms set by Professor Dumbledore were incredibly strong and couldn't be tricked by just anyone. It also had to be someone with a very dark agenda. Only recently had Maggie begun to question everyone involved with the Tournament. She automatically dismissed the other headmasters, as they wouldn't involve Harry Potter just to stir up trouble and give themselves an edge in the competition. It also couldn't be a student. That left someone in the Ministry (which was a terrifying thought) such as Barty Crouch or Ludo Bagman, or someone affiliated with Hogwarts though the only Professors she thought clever enough would be Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonogall, Professor Snape, and Professor Moody. Ludo Bagman was far too vain and self-concerned to have sinister plans against Harry Potter. She knew Professor Flitwick well and trusted that he did not have any dark intentions. She also knew Professor McGonogall was fiercely loyal to Professor Dumbledore as well as very protective over Harry Potter so she couldn't be an option. Professor Snape, despite his dark past and 'evil' reputation around the school, was known to be extremely loyal to Professor Dumbledore as well and Maggie hardly thought that picking on Harry made him capable of putting Harry's life in danger. She might as well say that Draco Malfoy was responsible. That left her with Barty Crouch and Professor Moody, though she couldn't figure out why either one would want to harm Harry.
"I'm sorry what was that you said?" Maggie looked up from her transfigurations book to glance questioningly at Cedric.
"I said if you don't get your head out of the clouds, your mouse is going to run away before you can transfigure it," he pointed at the struggling small creature on her desk, who she was barely keeping a hand on.
"Gee thanks for the helpful advice," she frowned, murmuring the required incantation and waving her wand as she watched the small mouse turn into a kitten. She sighed. They had been working on animal-animal transfigurations for a few weeks and while she normally would have gotten it perfectly, being distracted was not good for such a complicated transfiguration. The mouse was supposed to change into a fully grown cat, but she had only managed a kitten and several cat/mouse hybrid creatures. She reversed it before attempting one more time, with focus, and groaning as the mouse turned into a cat with a mouse tail and ears. Cedric gave her a worried glance as he pet the top of his cat's head. Professor McGonagall, who had noticed her usual star pupil's struggles, found her way over to the pair and taking a look at the strange cat thing on Maggie's desk.
"Perhaps try over-annunciating the incantation. It might help make up for whatever else is lacking," she said gently. She watched as Magdalene successfully performed the transfiguration before she wandered to the other side of the room.
"Maggie I think you should go to bed early today," Cedric told her as they packed up to leave class.
"Thanks so much for your ever helpful advice Cedric, but I'm fine," she huffed, picking up her book bag and leaving the class without waiting for him. Cedric gave a heavy sigh, but let it be. He'd rather force her into bed later than fight with her now. At the end of the day they left for class and headed directly to the Room of Requirement without a word between the two. When they got there she was immediately in her ballet clothes, warming up yet again. Cedric gave her a pointed look.
"Maggie you need to take a break," he insisted, arms crossed and refusing to go to the piano.
"You are not the boss of me, Cedric. I have rehearsing to do. Clearly you are not as invested in this as I am. Maybe you're ready to become a Ministry yuppie like your father wants and just sit in an office for the rest of your life, but dancing has been my love and my passion for my entire life. I am not giving up on it just because you think I need a break," she ranted angrily.
"Maggie I'm not asking you to stop dancing. I'm asking you to take a nap or just sit still for a minute. You look like you're about to pass out and even our professors are beginning to notice you have no energy left. How are you supposed to do well in your audition or in your classes if you aren't functioning properly?" he tried to stay calm, knowing that arguing with her would only make her more frustrated. She was in a very fragile mental state, more so than he had realized.
"What audition? I don't have an audition date yet, because I've been waiting for you to schedule it. You promised me Cedric! You PROMISED that once you did well in the tournament you would tell your dad about New York and the auditions. You haven't done that, just like you've only barely introduced me to your father. God forbid I meet any one else in your family. How much does our relationship actually mean to you, Cedric? We've been together for months now and I love you more than anything in the world. You have changed my world. I write to my mom, you know. I tell her all about you and she can't wait to meet you at the end of the year. I've let you into my whole world, but you keep me so far out of yours!" she shouted, letting her emotions go on a rampage. "I love you so much it scares me," she added in a whisper, wrapping her arms around herself. Cedric's face fell. He rushed to her, enveloping her in his arms and squeezing tightly.
"Oh Maggie," he murmured into her hair. "I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I have told my father. I told him a few weeks ago in a letter. He was angry, but a few letters later he understood. That's why he was so hostile to me that time we met up for lunch in Hogsmeade. He wasn't angry with you…he was angry with me. I'm sorry it slipped my mind to tell you. With everything going on I just can't keep track of it. I'm not as organized you," he confessed. She didn't respond, but simply hid her face in his chest, sniffling. He took her to the couch and sat down with her. "Magdalene Walsh I love you," he said to her. And while he said it, he looked firmly and directly into her eyes. His words said love, but his eyes said so much more. One glance into his eyes told her that everything would be alright, told her that he was sorry, but most of all they told her that the word love was everything. He loved her, protected her, cared about her, kept her in check, dedicated himself to her, made her smile, made her cry, made her laugh; he was her everything. He was her love. She stayed silent only for a moment.
"I love you," the girl whispered, using the same tone he had. But while her words were saying love, her heart was saying I trust you and I'll follow you to the end of the earth and back. They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes before he felt her muscles beginning to relax and her head begin to lull.
"Maggie?" he asked quickly.
"I'm exhausted," she confessed with a grimace. She hated to admit that she'd been wrong. Cedric closed his eyes for a minute, focusing on what they needed and watched as the Room morphed itself from their dance studio into a small room with a large comfortable bed, a fireplace, and a fluffy carpet beneath their feet. He picked up Maggie and carried her to the bed, slipping her under the covers easily.
"Sleep," he commanded gently. She stuck out her tongue before laughing lightly, transfiguring her dance clothes into her comfortable pajamas and setting her wand on the night stand. She was asleep within minutes while Cedric sat on the floor, toiling away at his homework and hers as well, knowing she would sleep through the night. He debated making her move to her own bed in her common room, but that would require waking her up so instead he opted to just let her sleep and take the couch for himself. Somewhere around eleven o clock when he had finally finished both their homework and was taking his robe and shoes off, Maggie turned in her sleep, fussing a bit.
In Maggie's dreams, Cedric stood smiling before her but as she ran to him, he got farther and farther away. His expression turned sad as a flash of green light headed toward him. As if in slow motion, the light hit him as the setting changed into a dark graveyard. She screamed as Cedric fell to the ground, unmoving. She turned around to find the source of the charm, but before she could find it she was shaken awake by Cedric.
"Maggie, shhhh, it's okay. It was just a dream I promise. It's okay. I'm fine. I'm right here," he soothed her, rocking her back and forth. She wanted to argue. It wasn't just a dream. He was in danger. The tournament was dangerous, just like she had said from the beginning. But she was too tired. Already, sleep was calling her back in. He stood up once she was calm, but she grabbed his arm and held on for dear life.
"Please Cedric don't leave," she whimpered. He looked back at her, conflicted. It would be completely improper to share a bed with her. He was about to refuse, but then he remembered the panicked way she'd been calling out his name in her dream and felt her fingers wrapped tightly around his arm. He sighed in defeat and laid on the bed next to her. She curled up tightly and snuggled into his side, falling asleep almost instantly. Cedric stroked her hair until he himself fell asleep, slight smile on his face.