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Phoenix in the Ashes by HPFF United
Chapter 92 : No Longer
 
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The Great Hall was filled with a deafening and excited sort of chatter, the kind that pounded on the minds of all who were listeners, and not participants. Cedric Diggory was one of these, currently sitting at his place at the Hufflepuff table, toying with his food and wishing for just five seconds of silence so he could think. How everyone could be so carefree and excited right now, when tonight might very well be one of the most deciding nights of his life, was beyond him.

Part of him wished he hadn't even entered the tournament at all. Sure, all those things they talked about would be great fame, fortune, glory. All the usual things that came with something this big, he supposed. But was it all really necessary? He was the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, as well as their Seeker, and if he did say so himself a pretty darn good one. In the long run, maybe he didn't need all that notoriety.

"Good luck, Cedric," said a voice from somewhere to his right. He looked up to see a blonde girl he'd never before spoken to; she was smiling widely at him, so widely he could see her molars. "I really hope you get it," she gushed,and beside her, a girl with black plaits giggled maddeningly. Cedric offered the first girl what he hoped was a confident smile, and returned to staring at his uneaten potatoes.

His gaze darted around the rest of the hall, searching for other anxious expressions, for faces that mirrored his own. But not one person seemed to feel the apprehension that was currently knotting his stomach together. Viktor Krum, the famous Bulgarian Quidditch player, was scowling moodily into his own food, but Cedric knew that he looked like that anyway, so that didn't count.

He exhaled quickly, pushing a hand through his hair, and his fork clattered to the table. His friend Matt, seated to his left, looked over, mouth full of sprouts. He swallowed and said, "What's up, Ced? You nervous?"

"A little," Cedric muttered, glancing up for what felt like the hundredth time at the high table. All the teachers seemed a bit more stiff than normal; he noticed that Professor Flitwick, too, kept glancing at the Goblet of Fire, which had been placed on its casket before the school once more.

"Aw, don't be," said Matt, nudging Cedric in the ribs and grinning. He took a long drink from a goblet of pumpkin juice and added, wiping his mouth, "You're the best candidate out of any of those other Hogwarts people who put their name in, you know that. And then once you get selected - you're going to win." He smirked. "Plus, every girl in the school's going to want to date you."

"Knock it off," said Cedric, rolling his eyes but not being able to help laughing all the same. His eyes wandered unthinkingly to the Ravenclaw table, and swept them until they found the person they were looking for. Cho Chang was sitting with her back turned to him, long hair rippling over her shoulders. His stomach contracted slightly at the sight of her; he wished she would turn around.

At that moment, Professor Dumbledore stood up from his place at the top table, and a tangible hush fell over the entire group assembled before him. Cedric had never heard silence descend so quickly in one place. He began to speak, but the words were like a tuneless buzzing in Cedric's ears, and he wished the headmaster would hurry up so all of this could be over. He just wanted to know one way or the other, he had to know.

Finally, Dumbledore moved toward the goblet, which had suddenly started to glow cherry-red, emitting sparks. A piece of parchment, borne on a tongue of flame, shot out of the wooden cup, and Dumbledore caught it easily.

"From Durmstrang, Mr. Viktor Krum!"

Cheers shook the hall, causing a bit of dust to fall from the ceiling. Cedric smirked. Of course. He watched as Krum, broad-shouldered and slightly duck-footed, walked up to the top table and shook Dumbledore's hand before passing through a door behind the teachers. Karkaroff, the Durmstrang headmaster, was happier than Cedric had yet seen him; he could see each one of the man's brown teeth through his wide smile.

Another piece of parchment, another tongue of flame, and someone called Fleur Delacour was announced as the champion from Beauxbatons, the French school. The blonde girl in question rose gracefully from the Ravenclaw table only a few seats away from Cho, Cedric couldn't help noticing and followed Krum through the door.

At this point, Cedric's nerves reached their peak, and he violently hoped he wouldn't be ill. The third and final paper rose into the air, and it seemed to take a lifetime or two before Dumbledore was finally clutching it. He read it, and his eyes spoke the name before his mouth. They went directly to Cedric, and Cedric knew at once.

"From our own Hogwarts school, Mr. Cedric Diggory!"

The screams, shouts, and banging of feet was absolutely deafening, and Cedric felt himself become crushed under bodies and hands. Everyone was shouting at him, words of encouragement and congratulations; everyone now wanted a piece of him. Slowly but surely, a grin crept over his face as an enormous sense of both pride and relief swooped through him the long wait was over, and he had made it.

"All right, all right, let him walk!" he heard Matt calling over the din, and finally Cedric could stand on his own. His heart beating rather quickly, he rose from the table on slightly shaky knees and began walking up toward the high table. His eyes slid to Cho's she was beaming at him. His feeling of extraordinary happiness soared even higher.

"Congratulations," Dumbledore said quietly, clapping Cedric on the back. He motioned with his arm to the door, but Cedric knew what to do now. He walked purposefully towards the door, still trying to comprehend what had just happened.

He was no longer just Cedric Diggory, Hufflepuff student he was Cedric Diggory, Hogwarts champion. It was the start of something he could only begin to imagine.


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