A/N: Alright, the final, cracky chapter is here. Please note that this is un-Beta'd (because I forgot about it and started writing at like 9:30pm), and is written with an injured left pinky so the spelling might get kinda wonky in areas. On another note, updated beta'd chapters should be up this weekend!
Thanks for taking the time to read and stick with this story!
"Champions, step forward." Ludo Bagman said, face unusually serious.
Warily, as the man hadn't been this serious for the first task – the one with dragons, the champions step towards the man.
"Good, good. Now, Ms. Suzuki, choose a leash." Bagman whipped his left hand from behind his back and presented the multicolored strips of leather to the five champions.
Now, all of the champions were even more concerned. What creatures would they be dealing with this time? And how were they worse than nesting mother dragons?
Reina, honestly, was most concerned with how close she would have to get to this creature – beating a dragon was like a spar. Caring for one was another thing entirely – and how would that even help with getting to the center of a maze and finding the stupid cup?
(She had a history of destroying the Jigokuchou messenger butterflies – she kept overloading them with reiatsu and they tended to explode as a result. Given the way things were, magic wasn't guaranteed to make whatever she had to deal with more durable.)
"A what?" Reina asked, hoping that she had misheard.
"A leash," Bagman repeated. "Choose one on Mr. Filch's mar-"
The cannon blast went off.
"The blue one," Reina said, and grabbed the leash. She had only a moment to secure her grip before she was pulled off her feet and down the tunnel at the opening of the maze.
"Ah, yes. Well. The maze you see in front of you is the one you'll be facing underneath Hogwarts' lovely Quidditch pitch and is for the audience's entertainment – of course, it also lets the judges see where you are and how you fair against the different challenges of the maze. Now, Mr. Potter?" Bagman offers the leash to Harry, who decides to take the bright red one, only to also be pulled down the equivalent rabbit hole, too.
Landing on a pile of leaves that is thankfully not Devil's Snare, Harry is quickly jerked down the tunnel.
"Lumos!" Harry shouted, before calling down the tunnel, "Hey – hey! Slow down!"
Some snuffling is his only reply, although there seemed to be slightly less strain on his arm after his exclamation. At least he hadn't heard clacking or sparks – Harry had had enough of a problem dealing with the probably illegally bred Blast-Ended Skrewts in Care of Magical Creatures. He didn't need to be magically attached to a leash of one beneath the Quidditch pitch and racing to get the Triwizard Cup.
What felt like an hour later, Harry really began questioning his life and his luck. "Okay, so. Still running after some unknown creature I'm currently attached to in a dark maze with things that may or may not want to kill me. Why isn't it a nice, brightly lit tunnel?" Harry panted.
"And why are you not quiet, little one?" A woman's voice purrs from his left.
Harry tries to stop, but whatever he's attached to has no interest in stopping.
"You're not going the right direction, you know," the voice said again, its owner apparently moving to keep pace with Harry.
"I – okay, that's it," Harry growled in the direction of the creature pulling him along. "Imobilis!"
Five attempts later, and Harry was finally able to stop.
"Okay, now to find out what's been pulling me along," Harry muttered. The laugh off to his left was just as disconcerting as when the person or being had spoken, but Harry was pretty sure that he was, at that moment, too entertaining to be killed.
Summoning whatever was at the end of the leash, Harry quickly placed his wand in his mouth to free his right hand, and was nearly bowled over by a silky dark blob wearing a bright red vest that attached to the other end of Harry's leash.
"A…Niffler?" Harry asked around his wand, but before he was able to say more, the immobilizing spell wore off the creature and it began to wriggle in his hold, reaching for his glasses that were reflecting the light from his wand.
"Look out!" A voice shouted from Harry's right – too late to prevent the collision.
Harry felt the other person's Niffler scramble for his glasses, before it was tossed aside by Harry's Niffler, and sent right to some other shiny thing, and thus yanking the other person along with it…right on top of Harry.
"Ow," Harry groaned, as his Niffler objected to being squished between two humans and thus prevented access to the shiny glasses.
"Are you alright?" Cedric asked from where he was being dragged across Harry's ribcage and (currently biting) Niffler.
"I'm fine…I think. If the Niffler would stop biting me."
"Right, uh, give me a minute…." Cedric attempted to get his legs underneath himself without tumbling ass over teakettle.
Suddenly, Bagman's voice boomed from overhead. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the next round of Nifflers will be released…Now!"
Harry and Cedric exchanged looks, while the woman's laugh began again.
Suddenly there was another Niffler on Harry's face, going for his glasses, and Cedric was stuck fighting off one that wanted his watch.
"You're never going to get them to cooperate like that, you know."
"Miss, honestly, you're not being very helpful. Could you please just give us a straight answer?" Cedric snapped. Odd for the normally polite young wizard, but given that the Niffler he was fighting was getting mad enough to try and start gnawing on his wrist, he thought he deserved a break.
Wiggling one hand from beneath the Niffler currently pressed into his stomach, Harry grabbed his wand and petrified the Niffler attempting to steal his glasses.
Cedric, unfortunately, was not at an angle he was comfortable attempting at such close quarters.
(No one had ever managed to figure out if it was possible to accidently curse yourself with the milder jinxs, but Harry really didn't want to find out in this labyrinth.)
"Well, if you so desire and answer…Answer my riddle and I will give you a straight answer. Do not answer and you may leave unharmed by me. Answer wrongly, and I attack."
"Merlin's balls," Cedric groaned, "you found yourself a Sphinx, Potter."
"Why isn't Hermione here for this?" Harry muttered in reply. "She'd love it."
"We will hear your riddle," Cedric sighs.
"It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter."
"'Lies behind stars…'" Harry repeated.
"Fills empty holes…" Cedric said.
They stare into the blackness beyond their lit wands, thinking.
"But does it really kill laughter?" Harry mumbled. "Well, we're not laughing now…"
"It sounds like you have an idea Potter."
"Well…maybe…yeah. I'd say it could be…Darkness? Or the Dark?"
"I was thinking similarly, with the whole, 'comes first and follows after.'"
"Can we heard the riddle again?"
The sphinx acquiesced.
"I say the answer is the Dark." Harry said, voice firm, though his palms were sweating enough to allow his Niffler free to have its own go at his glasses.
"Correct," the voice purred again.
"Now, what you seek is closer than it seems. The fastest way is through the left corridor."
"Thanks," Harry gasped around his attack Niffler.
"Thanks," Cedric gritted out, once more distracted by the Niffler on his wrist.
Harry, desperate at this point for some relief, shouted "Accio shiny object!"
He promptly regretted it.
A horde of shiny, silver, glowing blue cups rushed at Cedric and him from all sides, along with a few surprised Nifflers, converged on the two downed teens.
"Merlin's pants, Potter!"
"I didn't know that was going to – wait, why are there more cups?" Harry shouted in surprise.
"There's a Gemnio charm that's sometimes placed on important artifacts." Cedric said slowly, "It's meant to duplicate the original endlessly, until the thief is crushed by the weight of the fakes."
The teens stare around themselves as the increasing pile of cups, that duplicated with a quiet popping sound.
"I'm going to die, buried by a pile of fake cups in a maze underneath the Quidditch pitch. I guess that's better than being killed by Voldemort," Harry sighed.
Cedric snorted, breathlessly. "Potter, you have got to get your priorities straight. The point is to not die."
"Yeah, well, I'm not seeing a way out of here. At least the Nifflers are happy." Harry breathed, as he jerked his head at the creatures that seemed to be almost swimming in the pile of silver and blue cups. He regretted that, too, as it moved his mouth from a relatively large pocket of air to right beneath a (presumably) fake cup.
"Honestly, Potter – " Cedric said, shifted slightly, only to be slammed, along with Harry, the dozens of still duplicating cups, and an armada of Nifflers into significantly soggier ground.
Thankfully, this displaced some of the cups currently burying the teens, and they rolled sideways in an attempt to extricate themselves from the pile. This was complicated by the fact they were still attached to some Nifflers exploring the pile of shiny cups, and thus making the pile ever larger.
"Did you know that the cup was a portkey?" Cedric whispered.
"No, but Bagman didn't quite get all the directions out before Suzuki went in, and I was next."
"So this isn't part of the task."
"Honestly, Cedric? Bagman is crazy, this tournament is crazy, we're crazy, and we still might die because of cups. I'm not sure anymore."
Cedric huffed a laugh.
On the other side of the graveyard, Wormtail stuttered at the sight before him.
"What is it Wormtail? Potter should be here, now!"
"T-t-there's a l-large pile of c-cups and no boy in sight…I'm n-not sure h-how well t-this plan was t-thought out?"
Consequently, neither noticed the figure clutching a bound Niffler sneak up behind them and knock them out with a conveniently located fake cup.
"Well, that was easier than I thought it would be," Reina said to the Niffler, currently pouting at her Zanpakutou.
"Now, you can play with my hair stick if you go and find the two boys in the pile, have your friends help, and make sure they get out safely. I'm sure someone would let you have some of the cups afterwards, too."
The Niffler stared at her before it shrugged and wiggled out of its jacket, only to head towards the small mountain of Triwizard Cups. Reina, meanwhile, took the moment to call Kurosaki-taichou.
"The creature is subdued, Taichou. The only problem is the growing pile of cups…"
Reviews welcomed! (I swear I'm getting to answer them from previous chapters - I'm just currently being steamrolled by school...so another thing that'll be done this weekend, I hope.)