Chapter Sixty-One: The second task
The month without Malfoy had been pure bliss, Harry had to admit it.
After his victory against the dragon and seeing how well he and Cedric and all the other Champions were getting along, most of Hogwarts had relented their disdain against him more or less.
And without Malfoy there was practically nobody around to really antagonize him and it was quite relaxing being able to cross the courtyard without someone shouting insults or sitting through and entire Potions class without having someone there to sabotage his work.
Seemed like Malfoy really was the initiator of those pranks.
Without him his goons Crabbe and Goyle lacked the basic intelligence for pretty much anything, let alone to come up with something clever.
Also, his other followers like Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott barely paid him any attention.
A welcome change indeed.
He knew it wouldn't last.
Malfoy would be back before the second task in February and he would probably try to get back at him somehow.
Bet make use to the time he still had.
Once again, he was in the library but alone this time, skimming through one of his notebooks.
With the help of a certain map he had found the Prefects bathroom a few days ago, which held a really large swimming-pool-like-tub and he had gone for a swim with the egg, writing down the poem afterwards.
He was pretty sure that the second task would have something to do with the Black Lake or at least some form of water.
'Come seek us where our voices sound/We cannot sing above the ground.' That line was pretty much clear now to him.
'An hour long you'll have to look/ And to recover what we took'.
And he had an hour to find something and retrieve it or otherwise it would be lost.
More or less.
As to how he would hopefully be able to breathe underwater?
After Neville had mentioned the plant to him he'd done a bit of research on the whole topic of breathing underwater.
Theoretically it should be possible with Gillyweed and there were a few charms like eth bubble-head-charm you could use to breath underwater.
Still, just the thought of being under water that long brought back memories of the last time he had been under water longer than he had liked.
His hand ghosted over his ankle where he could still feel Lunas desperate grip.
He shook himself, trying refocus.
Maybe it would be wise to have a back-up option with him.
Gillyweed and bubble-head-charm it was then.
"Whose idea was it anyway to hold a competition that involves swimming in Scotland in February?" he wondered out loud and added heating charms to his list of things he would have to look up and practice.
Malfoy returned three days before the second task to the school.
But nothing happened.
He wasn't there at breakfast but by lunch his familiar white hair was suddenly back among the sea of Slytherins.
Nobody said anything, nobody made and remarks and Harry decided not to look a gifted horse in the mouth and returned to his studies.
The night before the second task found Harry and his fellow champions in the library.
It was really late.
Only a couple of people, mostly fifth and seventh years, were still around.
Outside it was dark and it was raining.
Fleur, Cedric, Victor, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Daphne all sat together, mostly silent.
Daphne was half asleep on Harrys shoulder and nobody really felt like talking.
Well, except for Hermione who started rambling whenever he was nervous.
She was sitting next to Victor, who was holding her hand.
"So…" she began "Are you all ready? For tomorrow I mean? I know Victor is but…I mean, I don't mean to say that I don't think that any of you are not prepared but…"
"We're prepared Hermione." Cedric said gently with a smile.
Fleur and Harry nodded.
Hermione seemed relieved. "Great."
There was silence again.
"I can't wait for this to be over." Fleur grumbled.
"Not what you expected?" Victor asked.
"I expected difficulties, sure. But I also thought that this would be a valuable life-experience. I thought I would grow as a person and a witch. I thought I would learn new things and prove something to myself and my friends and families. But all this has been is a hell-trip where we are just entertainment and the more we get mauled and hurt, the better." The part-veela replied frostily.
"I must agree with her." Victor admitted.
Harry nodded. "Yeah. I hear you." He muttered.
Cedric shrugged. "I can't say I'm happy with all their decisions but…I'm still happy because it has bound us closer together, showing solidarity for each other. We are friends. Young witches and wizards form across Europe, fighting together. I think there are worse things."
Harry smiled. Leave it to the Hufflepuff to be the voice of wisdom and friendship when all they could to was complain.
He freaking loved Hufflepuffs.
"I don't want to interrupt" came suddenly a familiar voice from behind them "But the Headmaster would like to see Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley in his office right now."
Moody stood there, as always leaning onto his staff, one eye fixed on them, the other swirling around.
A shiver went down Harrys spine as always when the teacher was around.
It was strange, he knew Moody. They had met several times last summer. Back then everything had been fine.
But now every time they were in the same room Harry always felt slightly nauseous and uncomfortable.
And even though Moody knew about the bracelets he had tried several times over the last weeks to slip Harry clues.
Harry tried to ignore them, pride and discomfort keeping him accepting the help.
"Why? What's wrong?" Ron asked.
"The headmaster will tell you Mr. Weasley. I'd suggest you don't keep him waiting. Now go, get going. And you" he turned to look at the rest of them "You all have a big day ahead of you. Better get some sleep."
"Yes Professor." The muttered.
Moody nodded, grunted and then marched away.
"He's a strange one." Victor muttered, still watching the retreating figure of Mad Eye.
"He's an acquired taste my dad says." Cedric offered.
"Well, Ron and I will go see the headmaster. Though I can't imagine why." Hermione said, getting up, gently letting go of Victors hand.
Ron followed her.
"See ya tomorrow." he said, waving into the round.
The rest of them remained where they were until Madam Pince threw them out.
Harry said goodnight to the other champions before escorting Daphne towards the entrance to the dungeons.
"I don't know if we get a chance to see each other tomorrow before the task so…" Daphne said and then leaned forward, giving him a short sweet kiss on the lips "This is for good luck."
Harry smiled. "Thank you. Now nothing can go wrong."
Harry was awoken the next day by something wet and spongy and bad smelling going through his face.
He heard snickering and when he opened his eyes he found his sight blocked by black fur.
"Nice dog Harry. Didn't know you owed one. Morning professor Lupin." He heard Seamus snicker.
"I'm not your Professor anymore Mr. Finnegan. Mr. Lupin will do." Came the patient but slightly exasperate voice of Remus from the door.
"Padfoot you ball of fleas, get off me." Harry growled as eh understood what, or rather who, was licking his face.
The giant black dog that was in fact his, fully grown, godfather, jumped off the bed, yapped at him and then continued wagging his tail.
Harry sat up and glared first at the dog and then at Remus.
"What possessed you to take him with you in here?" he asked.
"He missed you and got really excited. You know how he gets when he's excited."
You mean he can't control his transformation sometimes, Harry thought sarcastically as he threw back the bedcovers and got up.
"What time is it anyway?" he asked, supressing a yawn.
"Eight. Time for breakfast and then it's time to get ready for the second task I'm afraid." Remus explained.
"Great." Harry muttered unenthusiastically.
Harry didn't notice Ron's and Hermione's absence until it was time to get going.
He tried to keep an eye out for them but with Remus and Sirius there with him he was rather distracted.
At the edge of the lake right next to the dock stood a tent into which Bagman waved him. He obviously wanted to protest Remus and Sirius following but one look from Sirius (who was human by now) and he decided to let them pass.
Inside was only Fleur.
She was pale and already dressed in a bathing-suit underneath a bathrobe.
As Harry changed she struck up a little bit of small-talk with his uncle and godfather and by the time he emerged Victor and Cedric had arrived and changed as well.
Nervously Harry palmed the handful of Gillyweed in his pocket, making sure it was there and the pocket was sealed. His wand was in his holster, securely strapped to his arm.
Harry had expected Bagman to come and get them but it was Crouch who let them outside.
He looked terrible. All sickly and pale and wide-eyed and didn't quite seem to understand where he was and what he was doing.
He told them to wait here and then he disappeared.
Now they stood at the edge of the lake, not really sure what to do.
On the Black Lake itself three giant tribunes had been erected, facing towards them and the Durmstrang ship lay anchored next to them.
Students and teachers and Ministry officials and reporters crowded stood cheering on the wooden platforms and the deck of the ship, waving flags and cheering their champions on.
Although they were rather far away the noise they were making was incredible.
But then a loud whistling noise went through the crowd and they all went silent.
"Good morning dear students and guest, welcome to the second task of this Triwizard Tournament. Last night something was stolen from each of our champions, something valuable, something dear to them and close to their heart and it was hidden in the Black Lake. Our champions now have one hour to retrieve it. Good luck champions." Echoed Bagman's voice across to them.
The crowd erupted into cheers.
The Durmstrang cannons fired actual cannonballs with lots of sparks and smoke first into the lake.
"I hope they'll stop doing that once we're inside." Cedric stated dryly from where the four of them stood, lined up at the shore.
The all hummed in agreement.
"Champions, please get ready, you have two minutes to prepare. As soon as the start-signals go you may enter the water." Bagman's voice echoed towards them.
Harry turned to look at Sirius and Remus.
"You survived a dragon, you can survive a little swim in the Black Lake." Sirius said confidently.
"Do you want me to hold on to that while you are down there?" Remus asked, gesturing at him.
Harry frowned and looked down.
He was still wearing his necklace.
It had become such a constant thing to him that he barely even noticed it anymore.
His fingers ghosted over eth carved lion, the tiny rocks and crystals and feathers and, his own recent addition to Chao's parting gift, the little cube with the four faces he had gotten as part of his payment from Gringotts.
He still hadn't figured out what it was and honestly, he had mostly forgotten about it and simply added it to the chain because it looked nice.
He had lifted the necklace halfway off his head when a sudden jerking sensation in his gut made him stop.
"You know what…this is my lucky charm. I'm gonna keep it." He muttered distractedly, fingering the cube with his right hand.
"Alright then." Remus said with a smile and watched as Harry stuffed the chain back under his shirt.
"One minute!" came Bagman's voice again.
Sirius stepped forwards and hugged him.
"Good luck kiddo. And don't worry, you'll be fine."
Harry nodded, hugged Remus and then re-joined the others at the shoreline.
He summoned his wand, swiftly applying another set of heating charms. He had tried the water-repelling charm as well but it only worked on cloths, not skin so he opted to leave it away completely.
"Champions, on your marks!"
Harry took a careful step into the water and almost jumped right out of his skin.
Even with heating charms the water was still icy cold!
Harry looked left and right at the other three and they nodded at each other, wishing each of them silently good luck.
The shout was accompanied with more cannonballs and fireworks and even louder cheering.
Harry waded into the water, ignoring its icy bite on his skin, waved his wand in one fluent movement and drove straight underwater.
Being inside the Black Lake was like being on a different planet.
It was gloomy and so silent. All Harry could hear was his own breathing inside the bubble-head-charm.
He soon lost sight of his friends as he drove into the kelp-forest.
Just like he remembered from his last dip in the lake it was a confusing maze and Harry tried to swim a straight path.
There were of course fish in the lake, not to forget all sorts of magical beats and the giant Squid.
To his relieve the kelp-forest soon thinned but only to reveal a steep trench in the lakes ground that seemed to stretch along the entire length of the lake.
He wanted to turn around when he thought he heard a familiar humming.
He turned again, facing the trench once more and listened.
And sure enough, it was faint and far away but it was the same melody he had heard from the egg. He couldn't make out the words but he knew that this had to be the right way.
Of course, dive straight deep down into an abyss under water.
What could possible go wrong?
The farther Harry went down, the darker it got.
The trench was not very wide, maybe fifty feet? Less? It didn't matter.
It was all jagged rock and kelp and algae and fish.
As he got to the ground the song grew clearer.
It was obvious that he had to follow through the gorge to get where he needed to go.
He made a hesitant stroke forwards but stopped when his foot hit against something smooth and cold that wasn't rock.
He looked down.
Vaguely he could make out one of the cannonballs from the Durmstrang ship! It must have landed here.
Something…something was wrong.
He couldn't say what it was but he looked around.
The water…it was as if it was vibrating!
Like something was coming towards him, fast.
Chanting softly: "Lumos." Harry raised his wand.
Instantly wished he hadn't.
The tiny light carried through the water and lit up his surroundings just fine.
And Harry found himself staring right into the yellow eyes of the Giant Squid.
As per usual with these kind of creatures, it was only something Hagrid could have loved.
It was bigger and longer than your typical London Bus and of a dark red colour.
Its tentacles made up two thirds of its entire length and each was thicker than Harry with two rows of cupping vessels the size of Harrys face!
Its skin was rough and uneven and covered with algae, barnacles and a few scars.
Its eyes were wide and mad with fear.
It surprised Harry really.
The Squid was not known to be aggressive or violent. Fred and George liked to tickle it when it swam into the shallower part of the lake for a sunbath. It had saved Colin Creevy's brother Dennis when he had fallen off the boat on his very first trip across the lake and had taken him to safety.
But now…now it was swelling up to twice its size, its tentacles menacingly hoovering around it.
Harry backed off slowly.
A small part of his brain wondered why it had taken him so long to see this giant creature.
But mostly he was wondering how the hell to get out of here alive.
He was hesitant to use magic since the Squid was already in a crazy wild unpredictable mood. Anything could set him off.
And then Harry noticed something.
He'd thought the Squid was losing ink.
But the cloud of darkness rising from underneath one of its tentacles was no ink.
It was blood.
And suddenly Harry understood what had happened.
One of the cannonballs must have hit the poor creature when the Durmstrang ship had fired them into the lake!
The poor animal, not being used to be attacked was panicking.
And in its mind, everything was the enemy.
So, when Harry backed up, still thinking at a thousand miles an hour, it lashed out.
Two tentacles shot forward, wrapping themselves around Harrys chest, pinning his arms to his sides and around his legs, effectively making it that Harry couldn't move a muscle.
Harry gasped for air in his tiny bubble but the squid was squeezing it all out of him.
The pressure was immense and Harry could barely think straight.
He tried to move, wriggle, kick, anything!
The Squid raised him up until they were eye to eye.
Its pupils were tiny and its yellow eyes glowed.
Harry tried to speak, maybe sooth the Squid with words. But he couldn't breathe, let alone speak.
This can't be happening, he thought hysterically, I can't die like this.
He half-expected the Squid to swallow him whole, when admits the pain of being squished to death, a familiar burning sensation on his wrist flared up.
But that would mean…
He tilted his head and…yep, there she was.
Like and avenging angel Fleur came shooting through the water.
She must have used some kind of spell to propel herself forwards because she wasn't really swimming herself.
Harry saw her wand move and from the walls of the trench huge rocks came tumbling down in slow motion almost and crashed into the Squid.
It jerked backwards and its grip on Harry loosened, enough for Harry to draw in a huge breath and wriggle his wand arm free.
Another second later his wand was in his hand and with a silent apology towards the Squid he shocked it right into the tentacle three times.
Good news: It let go of him.
Bad news: It did so by throwing him away.
Water may offer a greater resistance than air but Harry still felt like a torpedo as he was catapulted through the water.
He collided with the rocky walls of the trench, feeling the sharp edges cut through his skin.
Stunned he tried to see how Fleur was doing.
Not so good as she was now in the monster's grasp.
Ignoring the pain everywhere in his body and the burning bracelet on his skin, Harry pushed himself off the wall, gliding towards the Squid but he came to a halt when…
No, not a real shark.
Sharks didn't have legs and wore red speedos.
It seemed impossible but there was no way that that half-hum-half-shark hybrid was not Victor Krum.
With his mighty shark-jaw Victor bit the squid in the face.
It made no sound but Harry was sure it would have howled.
Or maybe it did howl and Harry just couldn't hear it over the sound of his own wildly beating heart.
As the squid tried to push Victor off with three of its tentacles, Harry saw Cedric freeing Fleur from its grip.
He caught the Hufflepuffs eye and Cedric pointed upwards and somewhere behind Harry.
Get the hell out of here.
Seeing that Fleur was already back to speeding through the water, Cedric right behind her, Harry turned to check up on Victor.
It was not good.
Victor had let go of the squid but what was worse was that he was unconscious.
How did Harry know?
Well, he was transforming back into a complete human!
They had come to his rescue, he would not leave now.
Every second that passed Victor was losing his ability to breath underwater and once he had no gills anymore it was only a matter of minutes.
Harry wasn't a strong swimmer but he was decent enough to make it close to the squid in no time.
One spell was all it took to get its attention.
He could never outswim it, not with an unconscious Bulgarian Quidditch payer weighing him down.
This was its territory after all and it knew it!
So maybe scare it off…
Problem, how do you scare something that is bigger than a double-decker-bus with tentacles twice as long as its body?
The thought came to him out of the blue as the monster moved towards him.
Scare it with fire.
Great idea genius, get a fire started underwater, the sassy part of his brain retorted.
And another part said: 'I don't care what you do as long as you do it soon!'
With a trembling hand Harry shot ore stunners and even leg-locking-curse at two of its tentacles. They snapped shut together and went stiff like a piece of wood but that still left it with six more arms.
Fire! I need fire. But from where?
In his preoccupied state of mind, he hadn't noticed his necklace getting lose and drifting upwards from underneath his shirt.
It hovered before him, dimly light from the light that came from the tip of his wand.
The little cube with the faces was right there in front of him.
It twirled gently in the waters currents.
The face facing Harry was the one with the wide and crazy eyes and open mouth with the long tongue hanging out of it.
And as he stared at it, mesmerized, the carved lines that made up the face flashed orangey-red.
He lifted his hand, clasping the cube and felt the heat it radiated.
And one thought sprung to mind.
And burn it did.
Harry didn't know how but from his clenched fist a stream of bright orange-red fire erupted, shooting in one big beam towards the Squid and hitting it square in the chest.
It was propelled backwards, blood rising from a smouldering wound in its chest.
How can it smoulder underwater, Harry thought hysterically as the fire kept coming from his fist.
He didn't know how it was possible but it seemed to work.
The Squid ejected a mighty cloud of black ink, taking Harrys eyesight completely.
The cube in his hand grew unbearably hot and he let go of it.
The second he did the fire beam stopped and all that was left in the inky blackness were the glowing line of the face on the cube.
His hand hurt and he was pretty sure it was burned.
But he had a different problem right now.
Where in Merlin's name was Viktor?
Certain that the Squid would be gone for now drove downwards.
His eyes stung from the squid's ink and more than once did he swim into rocks.
Knowing that his time-window was closing rapidly.
He took his wand and whispered: "Point me Viktor Krum!"
The wand spun in his hand until it settled and pointed to his left.
Harry followed it, going where the wand pointed him.
Slowly the ink began to dissolve and Harry could see a few feet in each direction.
Viktor's foot was the first thing he saw, followed by his leg, then the other leg and its foot and then the rest of his body.
The quidditch player was completely human and still not moving.
With two quick strokes Harry was by his side and lifted the older boys head up and chanted: "Engorgio."
The bubble of air around his head expanded until it covered Victors' head as well.
Harry reached inside the bubble with his hands and began slapping his face.
"Come on Victor, don't do this. Don't make me kiss you!" he muttered fiercely.
Still no reaction.
"Come on!" Harry shouted desperately and smacked the young Quidditch player with all him mind across the cheek.
That seemed to do the trick.
As soon as he did it, the Bulgarian spluttered, spilling out water and taking in deep breaths, coughing and gaging, gulping down the air in big breaths.
"Harry?" he croaked, blinking as he looked around, taking in the shared bubble, their faces only a foot apart.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked, breathlessly.
Only then did Victor seem to understand that Harry was still holding him upwards.
He began to swim on his own but it was still sluggish and uncoordinated.
"I'll live." Krum said, rubbing his head.
"Good, 'cause we need to get out of here." Harry said quickly.
"Can you transform? Or do you want to use a bubblehead-charm?" he asked.
"Bubble-head. I'm done with seafood for one day."
Victor summoned his own wand and erected his own bubble.
He then opened his mouth to say something but it got stuck and instead a look of panic settle dover his face.
Harry knew what it meant before he felt it.
Something familiar wrapped itself around one of his legs and started pulling.
But Victor was faster, grabbing his arm and pulling him in the opposite direction.
He would never have succeeded against the Giant Squid, had it not been for Cedric and Fleur who choose that moment to reappear.
Cedric grabbed Victor, who was still holding Harry, while Fleur still had a good grip on him and with a flick of her wand the tentacle holding Harry was sliced through and with another flick of her and they were being propelled through the water and away, far away from the Squid.
When Fleur finally stopped, Harry was sure they must have crossed through the whole lake by now.
Everything hurt. He felt like he couldn't breathe right, his left hand was burned from that fire-summoning thing and he was covered in cuts.
He felt Victor drag him upwards and seconds later his head broke through the thin membrane of a giant shared air-bubble.
Looking at the other three he saw that they were all feeling pretty much as bad as he did.
"Is everyone alright?" Fleur asked through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, thanks for helping me guys!" Harry coughed.
"Back to you." Cedric said. "Sorry it took us so long." He then added.
"I'm just glad you made it in time." Victor growled.
They looked at each other for a few seconds, breathing deeply, calming their wildly beating hearts.
Feeling the adrenalin drop down, Harry thought he'd pass out here and now.
But he forced his eyes to stay open.
"What now?" he asked through chattering teeth. His warming charms must have worn off. "How much time did we lose?"
Fleurs face darkened. "Half the time is over." She muttered.
"So we have thirty minutes left to find our missing things before it gets bad?" Harry asked, treading the water weakly.
"They're not things." Cedric interrupted him silently.
"Not? Then what are they?" Harry asked.
"Didn't you notice what was missing this morning?" Cedric asked astonished.
Harry shook his head.
"They took our friends." Cedric explained.
"What?" Harry asked dumbly.
"For each of us they took one person that mattered to us. They took Cho for me."
"And Hermione for me." Victor growled.
"I didn't see Gabi this morning. Does that mean…." Fleur asked fearfully.
Cedric nodded. "Most likely. She means the world to you, doesn't she?"
Fleurs expression went from fearful to angry.
"Those bastards!" she screeched, kicking harshly under water.
"Last night when mad Eye told Ron and Mione that the headmaster wanted to see them…that must have been when they took them!" Harry realized.
"That means Ron's your item to retrieve." Cedric said.
Harry nodded mutely.
"So, what now? Where are we anyway? How do we go form here?" Victor asked.
"Well, we can use the pointe me spell, now that we know what we are looking for I guess. As to where we are…" Harry looked to Fleur.
"We're actually not that far away. I just wet in a big circle. We're round about where we started." She said. She raised her left hand to push a few lose strands of hair out of her face. Harrys gaze fell onto her bracelet.
"Fleur, look, the bracelet!" he called out.
They all looked towards the young woman's wrist.
"What is it Harry?" she asked, lowering her hand to inspect it herself.
The silver bracelet had turned a strange reddish-brown colour as if it had rusted.
"What in the name of…" Fleur began.
"Guys look!" Cedric suddenly exclaimed, holding up his own wrist.
His bracelet too had changed.
Harry and Victor checked theirs too and they too where dark and rusted-looking.
"Cedric just told us something about the task and we didn't get shocked." Fleur mumbled.
"Did…did they break?" Cedric asked, still inspecting the thing. "Did we break them?" he added uncertainly.
"I don't know. They were definitely working earlier when Fleur came to my first rescue." Harry said, clearly remembering the pain.
"My best guess is that with all of us working together, and helping each other…that was somehow too much for the things…guess we really did break them." Victor said with a shrug.
They were silent, all in awe before Harry had to grin and exclaimed. "Cool!"
That got a laugh out of everyone.
"Harry, what happened to your hand?" Fleur asked concerned, edging closer to him.
"Crazy story I will tell you once we're out of here." Harry said, putting down his burnt hand.
"Right now, I think we should get going." Cedric suggested.
One by one they separate from their shared air-bubble until each of them had made their own.
Harry flicked his wand and said: "Point me Ronald Weasley."
Immediately the wand spun a few times in his hand before it settled, pointing straight ahead.
He turned to the others, expecting them all to start swimming the same way but each was facing in a different direction.
He frowned, looking at Fleur for advice.
She shrugged. So did Cedric.
Okay, so they are not keeping our friends in the same place. Sure, that would have been too easy, Harry thought.
With one last nod, they parted ways once more.
With the pressure of finding his best friend and getting him out of danger Harry swam as fast as he could, following his wands directions.
It let him through another kelp-forest and when he broke free the most amazing sight greeted Harry.
Right there below him on the lakes floor stood what looked like the ancient ruins of a sunken village.
But the place wasn't abandoned.
He had read about them of course and he knew a colony lived in the Black Lake but they usually kept to themselves and he had never seen them before!
One noticed him and screeched.
Hesitantly Harry began to descend back to the lake ground, well aware of the stares he was getting and also very aware of their tridents and fishing nets and spears.
But they let him pass, forming a path through the town which he followed until he reached a tall stone-gateway.
And inside said gateway hoovered Ron's lifeless body, tied to a stone.
With one last wary glance at the merpeople, Harry used his wand to cut Ron's bonds and grabbed his arm securely.
Then he began his ascend.
It was hard.
Harry was physically and mentally exhausted.
Most of his heating charms had died down and he was freezing cold.
Adding that to his injured battered body Harry was amazed that he was still going. And Ron was heavy! A dead weight weighing him down.
By the time he could make out the lake surface maybe thirty meters above him he was burning his last reserves.
A commotion to his left caught his attention.
From the thick kelp forest shot the familiar figure of Fleur, Gabrielle securely in her arms.
For a second Harry was relieved but then he noticed Fleurs distressed expression.
And then he saw why she was in such a hurry.
Behind her a swarm of Grindylows burst form eth kelp, right on her heels.
The ugly green monsters were shrieking with the joy of the hunt.
There were at least three dozen of those little suckers!
And as he made that deduction the first grabbed Fleurs ankle.
Harry had a second to decide.
The surface was directly above them, thirty meters or so.
With as much power as he could manage he gave Ron's body his strongest push upwards and watched it ascend rapidly towards the light.
Hopefully he would make it to the surface alone. But Harry couldn't drag him along and he could leave him here, so this was the safest bet.
With Ron hopefully safely out of the way he turned and swan towards Fleur.
He sent a volley of stunners into the swarm of pesky beast that now started to surround Fleur.
Unfortunately, those stunners stunned Fleur as well and Harry had to hastily dive down to prevent her from sinking back into the kelp-forest.
Luckily the Grindylows were cowards and had disappeared just as soon as they had recovered from the stunner.
Struggling to hold on to Fleur and Gabi, Harry kicked the water with all his might.
They weren't sinking but neither were they getting any closer to the surface.
Up, up, please, up, he though feverishly, up, above, skywards…ascendio!
He wasn't holding his wand but it still reacted to the incantation and Harry felt as if someone was pushing from underneath against his feet, sending him upwards, faster and faster while holding his two friends as tightly as he could.
And then they broke through the water.
Harry was blinded by the bright daylight and his ears were ringing.
He was drifting aimlessly, not sure where to go.
He heard someone splutter next to him and a timid voice asked: "Harry?"
"Gabrielle, thank Merlin, are you alright? Can you swim?" he asked the obviously frightened little girl in French.
"Oiu." Came the weak response.
Still holding up Fleurs unresponsive body Harry added: "Gabi, can you see land or somewhere else where we can go to?"
"There are people coming towards us right now." The eight-year-old said through chattering teeth.
"That's good, that's great, keep swimming until they get here!"
"What's wrong with Fleur?" she whimpered and Harry felt her close to him.
He still could only see vaguely.
"She's fine, you'll see!"
"HARRY!" he the heard Sirius voice.
"I'm fine!" he called out but it turned into a rather long cough because he swallowed a mouthful of water while speaking.
And then suddenly Fleurs weight was gone and next thing he knew two strong hands were grabbing his arms, lifting him clean out of the water and into a boat.
A blanket was thrown over him and he felt the boat set into motion.
Someone was hugging him tightly.
He was shivering so violently he thought their boat would capsize any second.
Then he felt the boat hit ground and he was lifted up.
Slowly the blinding light gave way to the sight of Sirius carrying him, Bill with Fleur in his arms right next to him.
"Sirius?" he whispered.
Suddenly they weren't outside in the cold anymore but somewhere inside and he was placed onto a soft bed.
Somewhere someone gasped.
"Daphne?" he asked, turning his head, trying to find her.
But then his sight was blocked by Madam Pomfrey.
"Dear Merlin, what tried to strangle you?"
"the giant Squid?" Harry offered weakly.
The medi-witch shook her head. "Really Potter! Basilisks, Dementors, Dragons, what next?"
Harry shrugged and then winced at the pain that coursed through his body.
"And is that a burn? How did you manage to burn your hand underwater Potter?" the motherly witch asked slightly flabbergasted.
"Wouldn't believe me if I told you." Harry muttered. Then he added: "Is everyone back?"
"Mr. Weasley resurfaced a few minutes before you. He's well, warming up in the tent next to us. His family is with him. Ms. Delacour also woke up and is being treated in the room next to us. Her sister is fine as well. Mr. Krum and Mr. Diggory have yet to return."
It didn't lessen Harrys worries one bit.
"They antagonized the Squid." He muttered. "They hit it with one of the…the cannonballs. It…it attacked us…"
"It what?" came Sirius's sharp question form next to him.
Harry turned his head upwards to look at his godfather.
"It's fine. Wasn't its fault."
"Potter, I need you to drink this." Pomfrey interrupted him.
She held something to his lips.
The smell was familiar, sickly sweet. A sleeping potion.
"No! Not until Ced and Victor get back!" Harry protested, turning his head away.
"Harry, they'll be fine! Please, you are in pain and need healing!" Sirius begged him, sinking down so they were on eyelevel.
"NO!" Harry said vehemently. "I need to know they made it out alright! Who knows what happened to them after we split up!"
By now his eyesight had returned to normal but now his head was pounding.
"Harry please!" Sirius begged.
"Sirius please, I…" Harry began but just then the tent flaps opened and he saw two figures stumbling in.
"It's Mr. Krum with Ms. Granger. Now, will you please drink Potter or do I have to force it down your throat?" Pomfrey asked him.
Harry really wanted to sleep but…
"Cedric, Cho, they…"
"Harry, nothing will happen to them!" Sirius whispered fiercely.
"But people die!" Harry protested, his brain fuddled with pain and exhaustion and confusion.
"Don't worry, they will step in in case of an emergency! Dumbledore made sure of that. He's had the merpeople looking out for each of you!" Sirius explained.
"Great help they were with eth squid." Harry muttered.
"Harry please, just take the potion." By now Sirius sounded almost helpless.
"Promise me they'll be fine!" Harry whispered.
The sickly sweet potion on his tongue was the last thing he remembered.