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Chapter 7: Cedric
Cedric Diggory couldn’t seem to get to sleep, and not for any sorts of reasons as flat pillows, or twisted pajamas, or lights hitting his eyes at improper angles. All of these had, of course, factored into sleeplessness in the past, but things were drastically different tonight. Because tonight - and he was absolutely, positively, and unequivocally sure of this fact - a monster was lurking underneath his bed.
Cedric was lying as still as he possibly could, covers drawn right up under his nose so that every breath he took was fraught with the smell of mothballs, still potent though his mother had taken out his winter quilt over a month ago, and even after several washings. His ears still peeked out around the sheets, and he was listening hard for any telltale signs of this monster. It was a tricky creature, but thankfully, Peter Mackenny from down the street had told him just what to look for.
“They don’t breathe very much,” the boy was saying. They had been sitting side by side on the swing set of the neighborhood park, and Peter was scuffing his feet through the gravel underneath, talking in grave, serious tones. “Sometimes they’ll snore, but it’s always really, really quiet snoring.”
Cedric bit his lip and wiggled a bit uncomfortably on the swing. He wanted to appear brave, but it was a rather frightening thought, having a monster under one’s bed. “Do they… do anything?” he said, in a rather quivery sort of voice.
Peter tipped his head to the side thoughtfully. “Not usually,” he replied, with a casual one-shouldered shrug that Cedric felt did not suit the dire nature of the situation. “Sometimes they’ll gnaw on your toes or hands, just to sort of see what you’d taste like.” He kicked a particularly large stone, and it went zipping across the swing set’s enclosure. “They don’t kill people, normally.”
Cedric gulped. “Normally?” he squeaked, clutching his scarf a bit more tightly around his throat. Peter shrugged again.
“Nah, it’s mostly pretty harmless.” He suddenly looked sideways at Cedric, giving him a nastily knowing grin for such a small boy, his eyes widening a bit under his white-blonde fringe. “Haven’t you ever gotten little cuts - on your fingers, or on the backs of your hands - and wondered how they’d gotten there?”
Cedric looked down quickly at his hands - he had indeed received the very cuts his friend spoke of, and on more than one occasion. But he couldn’t let him know that that scared him. He hastily thrust his hands back into his jeans pockets. “That’s stupid,” he informed Peter plainly. “Any sort of monster has no business being under my bed.”
Peter raised an eyebrow in a gesture that spoke well beyond his years. “All right, then,” he said coolly, standing up from the swing and standing imperiously over Cedric. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” With that last admonition, he sauntered off, swaggering a bit as though proud of himself.
As soon as he was gone, Cedric slowly removed his hands from his pockets and looked down at them. And there, on the middle finger on his left hand, was a small nick, faintly red against his pale skin. He looked up quickly and swallowed again.
“There is no monster under my bed,” he said aloud, determined to convince himself. But even afterwards, as he began to make his own way home, tiny doubts still lingered.
It was this conversation that was playing in Cedric’s mind as he lay there, listening anxiously for any monster-sounding snores from beneath him. All was quiet and still, save for the distant ticking of the grandfather clock in the entryway downstairs. He wriggled around a bit, perhaps to goad the monster into making some sort of response, but nothing moved in the darkness. He pulled the quilt up more tightly, entombing his ears fully, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly. Cedric began attempting to think of pleasant things to lure him into sleep.
Raindrops. Birthday cake. Ice lollies in summer. Flying in front of Dad on his broom. Petting large, friendly dogs -
Cedric froze at once, his eyes shooting open just as quickly as he’d closed them. For while he had been compiling a list of happy things in his mind, he had heard it most distinctly - a sort of shuffling sound, distorted by the quilt, but it was very possible that it might have been a monster snore. A monster, here, in his bedroom!
He poked his head over the side of the bed tentatively, eyes straining through the gloom for any telltale signs of frightening beasts, but all remained quiet. He withdrew his head quickly and yanked the quilt over his head, trembling a bit. What should he do? Was it worth going and waking up his father?
Yes, Cedric decided, peeping one eye out from beneath the quilt. Amos Diggory was a great man, probably the best wizard who had ever lived, ever. Surely he would know how to combat this problem. His gaze swiveled over to the clock on his bedside; their luminous hands showed that it was just a little before midnight.
But there was still the problem of the monster! He leaned over bravely and again laid his eyes on that deeper blackness that was the shadow of his bed against the normal nighttime darkness. He had to make a run for it - and if he never made it back, then he would have died bravely, for the noble cause of ridding the world of bed monsters.
Cedric gathered the quilt about him and sat as tall as his small six-year-old frame would allow, holding his head with as much dignity as one could when it was shrouded in one’s bedclothes. And then, mustering all his courage, he made a wild leap from the bed, landing precariously and nearly careening into the door to his bedroom.
He imagined he could hear the monster stirring, wondering what the occupant of the bed above it was doing leaping from bed at odd hours of the night, and didn’t hesitate a moment further. With a small squeak, or perhaps too, borne from minute amounts of fright, he pattered rapidly down the hall and past the bathroom. The nightlight within glowed eerily, and he picked up his pace down the stairs, treading on a bit of quilt and nearly pitching headlong down them.
The door to his mother and father’s room was shut tight, and he eased it open as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake his mother, who would surely worry about both husband and son going off to battle monsters at midnight. His father murmured something as the hinges gave a faint squeak, and he turned over, face towards Cedric. The small boy crept up to the side of the bed and tapped his father’s cheek with a blanket-covered forefinger.
Amos gave no indication of having heard his son, apart from another unintelligible murmur. Cedric frowned mightily and tapped his father’s cheek with more insistence.
“Dad? Dad, wake up! Dad!” Tap tap tap.
With a great, rumbling sort of sound that might have been called a snort, should someone have deigned to assign it a name, Amos jerked awake. “What? Wazzat?” He blinked blearily, and his eyes focused on Cedric, looking at him dolefully from under his quilted shroud. “Cedric?” He reached for his own bedside alarm clock and brought it close to his face, trying to decipher the numbers upon it. “What on earth are you doing up, son?”
Cedric sighed a little breath of impatience and trepidation. “I have a problem, Dad.” Amos blinked at him, and the boy leaned closer, cupping his hand to whisper into his father’s ear in a rather moist fashion. “There’s a monster under my bed.”
His father rubbed a tired hand over his sleep-filled eyes and set the alarm clock back on the nightstand none too gently. “There is no monster, Ced,” he said, a bit grumpily. He reached to ruffle his son’s hair but missed, and instead lightly smacked him in the face. “Sorry, son.”
“Dad.” Cedric was not about to give up so easily, and shook his father’s arm, tossing him to and fro on the flat pillow. “I heard it snore. You have to come and see!”
Letting out the third under-the-breath mumble of the evening, Amos swung his feet from the bed, rubbing his eyes again with a sound like sandpaper on concrete. “All right, all right.” He reached over and his fingers groped around for his wand, which he found lying next to the alarm clock. “Let’s go see whatever’s making this noise of yours.”
Cedric followed his father out of his parents’ bedroom, quilt still clutched around him and covering his head in its protective cotton embrace. The walk back upstairs to his own humble abode seemed interminably long, and Cedric just knew that the monster lay in wait for them, breathing its rumbling breaths, perhaps drooling on his area rug…
Amos flicked the light switch on, and his son immediately jumped as close to him as possible, clutching him around the middle. The suddenly-bright room looked as it always did, the walls painted a pale blue and stuck everywhere with posters of the various teams Cedric and his father had seen at Quidditch matches. With a sort of painful groan and the cracking of knees, Amos Diggory knelt down, ignited the tip of his wand, and shone it into the shadowy space beneath his son’s bed.
“See, Ced?” he said gently, motioning for Cedric to kneel beside him; he shook his quilt-covered head fervently. “There’s nothing there,” the older man explained patiently, waving the wand around to prove his point. And it was true - apart from a dust bunny or three, underneath the bed was virtually empty.
Cedric was not to be fooled.
“But Dad,” he said in a loud whisper, tiptoeing a few inches closer. “I bet he can turn invisible.”
Amos let out another long, world-weary sigh. “It’s late, Cedric. Why don’t we talk about this in the morning, hmm?” He reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair again, and this time managed to avoid hitting Cedric square in the face. He helped Cedric into bed and tucked the quilt firmly around him, so that he looked more like an ancient Egyptian mummy than a six-year-old boy.
But just as soon as the light was turned off once more, and he could hear his father’s footsteps padding back down the hall to his own bedroom, Cedric found that, once more, he could not sleep. Of course the monster could turn invisible - bed monsters would have been extinct if they hadn’t developed that ability - and now it was probably even angrier because Cedric had tattled on it!
He craned his head an infinitesimal amount over the side, and imagined he could hear the monster licking its hungry chops, waiting to make Cedric a meal. He called out in one last vain attempt to salvage his life, for he had too much left to do to die right now at the hands of an angry bed monster.
“Psst. Monster,” he said softly, bringing the quilt up to his nose so that his plea sounded a bit muffled. “I’m a little thin to be eaten. You can wait until I get a bit fatter. I don’t mind.” He thought about this a bit more, and then added, “Plus, I had a bath tonight, so I probably taste like soap.”
There was, as expected, no answer from below, but he still couldn't stop his limbs from trembling just a bit. The quilt quivered slightly and made his nose tickle.
His father wasn't going to do anything about the monster, and his mother was, more than likely, still fast asleep downstairs -- and anyway, Cedric surmised that she might be afraid of such a monster. She often had to call her husband in to kill spiders, and those were much, much smaller than bed monsters. There was only one thing for it: He would have to do something about it himself.
But what could a six-year-old boy, bereft of wand and virtually any magical ability, except for that one time he exploded that teakettle, do to stop a monster?
A sudden idea popped into his head. He was reminded of the time he and his parents had taken a holiday to the coast, and had stayed in a very large and very fancy hotel. The people who were staying in the room above the Diggorys had been very rude and had sounded as though they were doing a sort of aerobics routine on their floor. The noise had been so obnoxious that Amos had eventually gone down to the front desk and asked for a change of rooms. But if noise from above could drive out humans, perhaps the same principles applied here.
Cedric darted his eyes about the bedroom, looking for the noisiest thing within reach, and he spotted his luminous alarm clock once more, its hands ticking away in a friendly sort of fashion. It would have to work.
He carefully snaked a hand out from beneath the quilt and snatched the clock, bringing it quickly back to him in case the monster wanted to nibble on his newly-exposed arm. The ticking was much louder at this proximity, and he quickly twisted the small knob on the back, setting the alarm for five minutes hence. He hoped that the monster couldn’t hear the clock ticks, for five minutes was an excruciatingly long time to wait out such a horrendous beast, and it could probably eat him in that span of time.
Quiet as a mouse, Cedric slithered from beneath the quilt and the sheets, wiggling his toes as he climbed up and hovered over the rumpled bed in a half-crouch. The clock ticked with insane loudness, matching his own small, thumping heartbeat almost stroke for stroke. When that clock rang, he told himself, then he would shout and jump about, making the bed shake to combat the loudness. And then - then the monster would be gone for good! He would be a hero! People would write books about him, and poems, and maybe songs -
With a shrill ring and a little vibration, the clock rang, quite before Cedric had been expecting it to. He let out a little squeak and dropped it, and it fell onto the floor with a thunk, shuddering away from him in small increments with its buzzing.
Suddenly remembering his plan, Cedric began to hop up and down on the bed, singing a small song of both heroism and improvisation:
I don’t like you
So please go away, right now,
Because I am being loud
And monsters don’t like loud things!"
He liked this verse so much that he started to sing it again, in a slightly higher voice than he had used before, to give it a bit of variation. And in fact, he was so thoroughly into his song that he completely missed his parents’ running footsteps until both of them had burst into his room. His father snapped the light switch.
“What - on - earth - are - you - doing?” Amos bellowed, enunciating each word to its fullest and breathing a bit like an out-of-breath bull. Cedric stopped jumping and singing at once; the alarm clock, still buzzing, had somehow made its way under his bureau. Cedric’s mother sleepily knelt down and grabbed it with a look of slight consternation, hitting the button to turn off the alarm with more force than was perhaps necessary.
“I’m - the monster, Dad,” said Cedric a bit timidly, plopping back down onto his bed and peeping under it. “Look, Dad, it worked! I scared him away!”
Amos shared a look with his wife, who was still clutching the alarm clock to her nightgown-clad chest. “Now you listen to me, Ced,” he said slowly, turning back around to face his son and talking through his teeth. “There are no monsters. None. Your mother and I” - and again, he looked back at his wife - “would not let monsters into this house. Is that clear?”
Cedric bobbed his head in agreement. He suddenly felt rather foolish, although, he thought, it was worth it for a bit of bed-bouncing. He decided it was probably for the best to deflect as much further embarrassment as possible. “Well, good night,” he said promptly, throwing himself back onto his pillow and pulling the quilt up to his chin. “Have a good sleep, family.” He closed his eyes, and so missed Amos rolling his before leaving the room. Cedric’s mother followed soon after, replacing the clock and turning out the light on her way out.
When the room was dark again, and the sound of his parents had completely faded from the house, Cedric opened one eye and smiled, suddenly feeling intensely sleepy.
There was no sleep, he thought to himself, closing his eye again and burrowing further under the covers, quite as good as the sleep that came after defeating a bed monster.
A/N: Baww, wee Cedric. He is just so adorable, and I think that's why this chapter turned out to be one of the longest, if not the longest, of the bunch I've written. The more I wrote, the cuter he got, and if you think it's easy to tear yourself away from writing a small child with a quilt over his head -- well, you've never tried it! Such a brave lad, defeating bed monsters.
Anyway. Thank you very much for reading and reviewing -- you all are fantastic! We've got, I think, 3 or 4 more chapters to go, so stick around. I do hope you enjoy them!