The effect of the successful date was such that Harry seemingly had a grin permanently stuck to his face. Hermione was suffering from the same affliction, or so it seemed. This lasted for more than a week, until Hermione broke the spell one night in the Room of Requirement.
"Are you sure you've got everything planned Harry?"
"Haven't we been over this?" Harry asked, somewhat annoyed.
"Well, yes," Hermione said sheepishly. "But I think that going over it once more is a good thing."
"Fair enough," Harry relented. "Although we're not a hundred percent sure, chances are you'll be my hostage. I'll know the morning of the task itself. If you're not my hostage, the whole thing's more or less moot. I refuse to rescue Weasley. Anyway, if you are my hostage, I'll just stick to the plan and get you out as quickly as we can."
"But are you sure it will work?" Hermione asked, worriedly.
"You've checked the rules yourself. You're the one who convinced me that this was all on the up and up."
"That's true," Hermione said. "I just wish there was another way, a better way."
"I know," Harry sighed. "Problem is that I can't be seen to put up too much effort. Otherwise people won't believe that I don't actually want to compete. Besides, you know that the hostages are, more or less, safe. I'll let Fleur know to watch out for the Grindylows. That should be enough to let her save her sister."
Hermione just nodded and left it at that.
Breakfast the morning of the second task went more or less the way Harry had anticipated. Hermione, Cho and Daphne Greengrass were all absent. Harry was eyeing the champions to confirm that all knew what was going on. Judging by their nervous behaviour, all knew what to expect.
At a nine o'clock, precisely, McGonagall came to fetch Harry.
"It is time, Mister Potter," she said with a serious face. "You need to get to the lake, the second task is about to start."
"Thanks Professor," Harry said, getting up and leaving the great hall to several calls of 'good luck'.
Harry arrived at the dock and looked around. Last time he was way too stressed to actually take in his surroundings. He noticed the judges panel near the water's edge. Behind them were the Quidditch stands, filling up with the students who would see almost nothing, Harry thought bitterly. How anyone could think this task made for a good spectator task was beyond him. He then focussed on the judges themselves. He saw Dumbledore and Madam Maxime conversing. Karkaroff was just sitting looking haughtily around. Harry was somewhat shocked at not seeing Mister Crouch though. Instead there was Percy Weasley sitting there.
'Of course, I should've remembered that Crouch was under the Imperious curse by now,' he admonished himself.
When he reached the docks, Harry saw that the champions were already there. They were looking particularly nervous. Harry mused that they were thinking of the last lines of the song. 'But pas an hour, the prospect's black. Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.'
"Miss Delacour?" Harry said, getting the French girl's attention. "You might want to watch out for Grindylows. There are quite a number of them in there," Harry said, pointing at the lake.
Fleur looked at him, clearly pondering his words and trustfulness.
"Merci, Monsieur Potter," she said.
Before Harry could respond to her, Bagman cut in.
"Can I have a word, Mister Potter?"
"What about sir?" Harry asked.
"Well," Bagman began, looking somewhat apprehensive. "I was wondering if you know what you're going to do?"
"Thanks for your concern, sir. But I feel I've got it all in hand."
"Ah, good, good," the man said, turning to walk away.
"Aren't you going to ask the real champions, sir?" Harry said.
"Oh, uhm, no. Thing is, as you're the youngest…" With that, Bagman left to start the task.
"Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then. One...two... three!"
Harry watched, somewhat amused, at the other three preforming their charms. Of course, Cedric and Fleur used the Bubblehead charm again. Krum did his transfiguration thing again as well. Harry just stood there, watching as the other three disappeared below the surface.
"Uhm, Mister Potter?" Dumbledore said. "Don't you think you should go in?"
"Whatever for Headmaster?" Harry asked, hearing the laughter coming from the stands.
"Don't you want to rescue that 'which you'll sorely miss'?"
"Oh, right you are sir," Harry said, turning to the lake and sitting down.
Harry checked his watch. Five minutes had passed since the task started. Enough time, or so Harry felt.
"Dobby!" he called and the elf appeared.
"Yes, master Harry Potter, sir?"
"Do you know what has been taken from me?" Harry asked. The frantic nodding of the elf's head gave him all the answer he needed. "Could you please retrieve her for me?"
The elf popped away and returned with Hermione a mere second later.
"Thanks Dobby," Harry said, immediately preforming drying and warming charms on his girlfriend. "You're a life saver. Could you do me another favour please?"
"Anything, master Harry Potter, sir."
Harry sighed at the adoration the elf insisted on giving him.
"The others also have people down there, did you see?" waiting for the elf to acknowledge this. "The task started about five minutes ago. When the hour's up, could you check that there's no one remaining down there?"
"Yes, sir," Dobby said, before popping off and giving Harry the opportunity to turn his full attention to his girlfriend.
"Hi," Hermione said, looking at her boyfriend. "I hope I wasn't down there too long?"
"Well, as I don't know when you were put in, I can't actually comment on that. But it's been about five minutes since the start of the task," Harry responded.
Madam Pomfrey chose that moment to interject herself and she dragged Hermione over to the medical tent. Harry followed at a distance. Getting between the healer and her charge never went well, he knew from experience.
As she wasn't in the lake too long, her check-up wasn't overly long either. Madam Pomfrey was muttering her misgivings about sending people out into a cold lake in the middle of winter.
"Ready to face the great unwashed?" Harry asked Hermione, once she was released.
"If we must," she said.
When they left the tent, Harry's eyes immediately sought out the judges. What he saw greatly amused him. Percy looked gobsmacked, Maxime astonished and Bagman overjoyed. The looks on both Dumbledore's and Karkaroff's faces was what surprised him most. Both looked absolutely livid.
"Mister Potter," Dumbledore began. "Would you be so kind as to explain what has just happened here?"
"I would think that was quite obvious, sir. I had Hermione rescued by Dobby."
"You can't do that!" the headmaster said, clearly trying to hold on to his patience with considerable effort.
"It would seem that I can, sir," Harry replied cheekily.
"I'm sure he can, sir," Hermione added. "We've looked it up in the rules and there's nothing prohibiting what Harry did."
Before either Dumbledore or Karkaroff could say any more on the matter, the couple turned their backs on them and walked back to the dock.
"You think the others will make it in time?" Hermione asked Harry worriedly.
"They should. I warned Fleur, so she shouldn't have any troubles. Cedric and Krum both got their hostage fine last time, so I'd expect them to manage once more. They used the same tactics, in any event. Besides," Harry said, seeing Hermione looking worried still, "I told Dobby to get anyone out of the lake when the time's up."
This thoughtfulness earned Harry a hug and a kiss from his girlfriend.
It turned out that the couple didn't have to wait too long. Krum was once again the first to reach the three remaining hostages. Unlike last time though, he broke the surface of the lake well within the hour allotted. Fleur appeared a few minutes later, followed closely by Cedric.
Their journey to the shores was completed fairly quickly and, with the help of Harry and Hermione, the six people were hauled onto dry land. They didn't get too much time to get used to solid ground though. Madam Pomfrey was on them like lightning and herding the lot to the medical tent.
Dumbledore was, in the meantime, striking up a conversation with the head of the Merpeople. The look on his face clearly showed that he still wasn't too happy about the whole situation.
"A conference, I think," he said to the other judges, before leading them out of earshot.
"Shall we see how the others are doing?" Harry asked Hermione.
They entered the tent just in time to hear the matron muttering angrily about old fools and freezing water. The couple decided to walk over to Fleur, who was lying in the bed furthest away from the entrance. That the matron looked absolutely murderous might have been a contributing factor.
"How did things go?" Harry asked.
"Zank you for ze warning, Monsieur Potter," Fleur said. "I wouldn't have made it past ze Grindylows wizzout it."
"I see you've managed to find your hostage?"
"Oui, I 'ave. Zis is my sister, Gabrielle."
A rather petite girl sat up in the bed next to Fleur, still looking quite pale.
"Hi there," Harry said, waving to the girl before turning back to speak to Fleur.
"Hello Gabrielle, my name is Hermione and the one without the manners to properly introduce himself is my boyfriend, Harry Potter."
"Damn, sorry," Harry quickly apologised. "Just curious about what happened in the lake."
It turned out that Fleur's story was quite similar to Harry's experience the first time around. With the noticeable difference of nobody actually waiting to make sure that all the hostages were saved. Both Krum and Cedric told similar stories about their rescue attempts.
"You had your house elf rescue Hermione?" Cedric asked loudly.
Fleur and Krum obviously heard this, as they came walking up to the trio.
"Yeah, well," Harry began. "I really didn't fancy getting into that cold lake in the middle of winter. So Hermione and I looked for an alternative way to rescue 'what I would sorely miss'. Turns out there's nothing in the rules forbidding the use of house elves."
"Very clever," Krum said.
"Yeah, quite brilliant mate," Cedric added. "How long did it take your elf to retrieve Hermione?"
"Couple of seconds, I think."
Everyone looked at Harry in amazement.
"So you were finished in the first minute?" Cedric asked.
"No, I decided to wait a bit. You know, for dramatic purposes." That earned Harry a slap on the shoulder. "Hey," he whined, "I had to give the audience something to look at, didn't I?"
"Just be happy that the enchantment kept us hostages safe," Hermione growled.
Harry, sensing he was on very thin ice at the moment, quickly suggested that they all would go and see what the scores would be.
When the group of champions and hostages approached the judges to collect their score, they were immediately set upon by Bagman.
"Harry, my boy," the former beater began. "What on earth were you thinking, pulling a stunt like that? Both Dumbledore and Karkaroff are adamant to give you just one point. They wouldn't even give you that, if they could."
"That's fine by," Harry started to say, but was interrupted by Cedric tapping his shoulder.
"Could you give us a second Harry?," he said. "Mister Bagman? Could you please ask the judges to wait a bit before handing out the scores? We might have got something to discuss with them beforehand."
Bagman looked questioningly at the Hufflepuff, but nodded and ran to the judges table to relay the message.
"What's up Cedric?" Harry asked.
"Harry, this isn't fair," he began holding up his hands to prevent Harry protesting. "You were the first to retrieve your hostage. That you did it using your house elf, shouldn't matter as it is allowed. According to your research, anyway. I feel you should get full marks because of that, but I'm not sure what these two think," Cedric said, pointing to Krum and Fleur.
"I for one agree," Fleur said.
Krum didn't speak, but nodded his approval.
"Good," Cedric said. "Now, let me do the talking, Harry."
"But…" Harry began.
"Shush you, let the older, and wiser, people speak," Hermione said with a smile.
Smiling at the quip, Harry just nodded his reluctant approval and with that the group walked to where the judges were sitting.
"Mister Dumbledore," Cedric began. "We've got a few questions before you hand out the points. Mister Bagman just informed us that Harry was to receive just a single point for his efforts. Is that correct?"
"It is indeed, Mister Diggory," Dumbledore said with a sour face. "He didn't retrieve his hostage himself and therefor didn't complete the task set."
"Could you please show me the rule that states that Harry wasn't allowed the use of a house elf?"
"It isn't explicitly forbidden in the rulebook," Dumbledore had to conceded. "But it also isn't explicitly allowed either."
"Fair enough," Cedric said, surprising the others. "Sir, could you tell me what the rules say about a champion not accepting the points given?"
Dumbledore looked very surprised at this question. "It doesn't say anything on that topic."
"So," Cedric reasoned, "it neither explicitly allows, or disallows, a champion to refuse to accept the points given?"
"No, not explicitly," Dumbledore carefully said. "But I think that it would be a given that a champion will accept the points."
"As it would be a given that the hostage had to be rescued by the champion himself?" Cedric asked.
"Indeed," Dumbledore said, looking happy that the Hufflepuff apparently had understood the situation this well.
"Good. In that case I refuse to accept the points given, unless Harry gets full marks. He was the first to rescue his hostage and did it in a way most people wouldn't even think off."
With that, Cedric turned his back on the judges, and walked towards the stands. Once there, he conjured a chair and sat down.
"I agree wiz Mister Diggory and shall also refuse ze points under ze zame demands," Fleur said before she joined Cedric.
"As do I," was Krum's short statement before joining the other two.
Harry and Hermione looked on with increasing wonderment and enjoyment. He had never expected the other three champions to actually stick up for him. He had apparently made an impact on them, somehow, somewhere.
When he looked at Hermione, she nodded and they both set off without a single comment to the judges.
"They can't do that!" Karkaroff shouted at Dumbledore.
"They can, and have," the Headmaster replied. "It would seem that they used our own logic against us."
Clearly not in the mood to talk to Karkaroff any further, Dumbledore cast the Sonorus charm on his throat to give the points.
"After much deliberation, the judges have decided that Harry Potter shall receive the full fifty points for his unique solution to the problem given. Mister Krum, being the second to retrieve his hostage, will receive forty points. Miss Delacour and Mister Diggory arrived at a very short interval. They will receive thirty and twenty-five points respectively. We thank you for cheering the champions on and will see you again for the third and final task on the twenty-fourth of June."
A/N: First of all, my deepest apologies for the extreme delay in getting this chapter online. It fought me for every word. Combine that with real life creeping in and writer's block, you get these kinds of delays. Sorry.
I know that Harry got more points in the book, but remember that they changed the scoring because of Harry's hero-complex.
I REALLY hope that the next update will be quicker than this one. Once again, sorry for all of you who were waiting for this. And thank you for your patience.
Although my usual sign off sentence just became a bit more ominous, I still like to use it: As per usual, keep the reviews coming, I love reading them. The next chapter will come when it comes.