Hogwarts castle, 24th of June, near dusk.
"Ladies and gentlemen, in five minutes' time, I will be asking you to make your way down to the Quidditch field for the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Will the champions please follow Mr. Bagman down to the stadium now."
Harry got up, and Hermione and all the Weasleys wished him good luck, but as he appeared to be slightly green, she wasn't sure he had heard them. He seemed to be more confident then with the last two tasks, though, as along with Fleur, Cedric and Victor, he headed out of the Great Hall. Staring at her dessert, she suddenly felt a bit sick herself, and shoved the pudding out of her way.
Ron, sitting beside her, noticed her movement.
"Not hungry anymore?"
She shook her head.
"Neither am I," he confessed quietly, as the rest of his family talked excitedly. "I think we're both more nervous than he is."
She gave Ron a smile. She had forgotten how nice Ron could be when he wanted to.
Dumbledore stood up, and the Great Hall fell silent.
"My dear students, colleagues and guests. It is a great honour for me to invite you to the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament!"
Once the words had left his mouth, all she could hear was the scraping of stools. Mrs. Weasley was attempting to keep the seven of them together, so, feeling like part of a large human train, Hermione followed them to the Quidditch field, which was barely recognizable. Ron seemed not to have known about what had been done to it, as he whimpered quietly when he saw the maze of hedges. She gave him a sympathetic look as Mrs. Weasley found rather nice seats in the middle of one of the Quidditch stands, giving them a nice view over the maze. Just below her, Hermione could see Harry, Victor, Fleur, Cedric and some teachers, standing at the edge of the maze. It seemed to be the only entrance. Ludo Bagman's voice suddenly boomed out of nowhere, and she saw that the teachers were splitting up, each walking to a particular spot at the edge of the maze.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand! Tied in first place, with eighty-five points each – Mr. Cedric Diggory and Mr. Harry Potter, both of Hogwarts School!" Hermione and Ron both cheered loudly, as did the rest of the Weasleys. "In second place, with eighty points – Mr. Viktor Krum, of Durmstrang Institute!" More applause. Hermione noticed that Ron – probably on purpose- wasn't clapping. "And in third place – Miss Fleur Delacour, of Beauxbatons Academy!"
Hermione saw Harry waving at them, and she waved back, beaming encouragingly, while trying to ignore the knot her stomach had suddenly turned into.
"So…on my whistle, Harry and Cedric!" said Bagman. "Three – two – one —"
He blew sharply on his whistle, and Harry and Cedric hurried forward into the maze. Hermione had to squint a bit to see what was happening in the maze: It was rather dark in there. For a second time, the whistle was blown, and she saw Viktor running into the entrance.
"Oh, he's such a talented boy," she heard Mrs. Weasley say. "Didn't you tell me last summer about how well he played at the World Cup, Ron?"
Ron mumbled something, and frowned a bit, keeping his eyes on the maze. Hermione sighed and Ginny, sitting on her other side, heard her and giggled.
"What's there to giggle about?"
"Well, what's there to sigh about?"
Hermione had forgotten how much more blunt Ginny had become this term.
"I just don't understand why Ron has to act like such a complete prat when Victor is the subject," she whispered. Ginny giggled again.
"He doesn't like you being his girlfriend." At this, Hermione got red. Normally she would deny it, but she knew that wouldn't help matters with Ginny; the girl just knew, whether she was told or not. The whistle was blown again, and beneath them, they saw Fleur's long hair blow out behind her as she ran towards the entrance. A moment later, she too was consumed by the darkness.
Hermione leant towards her left, where Ron was sitting.
"There, at the left. Those Omnioculars would have come in pretty handy for this," she head him mumble.
Hermione watched Harry stop for a moment – probably to do that handy Point Me spell– and then take the left way of a fork in front of them.
In the meantime, Ludo Bagman was summing up what the champions had done so far in the Tournament, but Hermione found it hard to listen to him. She was trying to keep up with Harry and Viktor again. Next to Ron, Mrs. Weasley was fidgeting in her chair.
"Okay, remember when I said we were both feeling more nervous then Harry?" Ron whispered. Hermione nodded. "Well, add our nerves together, throw Harry's in, just for the hell of it, and you get my mum."
All over the stands, people were slowly realising what sort of dangers the maze held. Ten minutes after Harry entered the maze, they saw a burst of flame almost burn down one hedge.
"A dragon!" Hermione heard a first year scream, but it couldn't be: dragons were taller.
"It's even worse than that," Ron said, shocked. "It's a couple of Blast-Ended-Skrewts!" Hermione took her eyes off of Harry and gasped as she saw Cedric, robes billowing smoke, barely escape from Hagrid's terrifying creations. Bill bent forward from Mrs. Weasley's other side, interested in the source of the disturbance.
"I've never heard of those creatures. What are they?"
"They're monsters. Rumour has it Hagrid bred them himself," George muttered. "Trust me; they're too much for you, or even for Charlie."
But Hermione didn't hear Bill's response. Her eyes were back on the maze. Something was happening to Harry and in shock, she grabbed Ron's hand.
"Look! A dementor!" She felt Ron's hand tense under hers, and they both looked intently at their friend.
"This is even harder to watch than the first task! At least then we knew what Harry had to do!"
"You did," Ron said softly. "I was only the world's biggest prat for not speaking to my best friend." Uncomfortable, Hermione said nothing, focusing all her attention back on Harry, who seemed to know what he was doing. Something silvery – though it was too difficult to distinguish its shape, Hermione knew it was his Patronus – erupted from the tip of his wand and galloped towards the dementor, which fell back and… wait…. It can't be…
"Since when does a dementor trip over its sleeves?" she heard Fred say, but before she could ponder that question, Harry had already given them the answer. There was a wisp of smoke, and the dementor vanished – Ron let out the breath he'd been holding and Ginny answered Fred – "It was a boggart!"
Hermione felt her hands trembled. She would have never been as quick as Harry had been, but at the same time, she felt so much pity for the boy there on the ground, who always seemed to attract so much danger, that she gladly would have switched places with him tonight, just to lift his burden a bit.
"Hey, what's Krum doing?" George said. Viktor was standing in one of the lanes at the right side of the maze; if he were to make a hole at his right through the hedges, he would've seen the guards, protecting the outside of the maze.
But his position wasn't what was interesting. Viktor had suddenly stopped, turned, and was now walking back in the direction he had come from.
"He probably realised that he took a wrong turn," Fred said.
Viktor was walking very fast. He was going to bump into Fleur any second now. But somehow… he didn't look like himself. Hermione had seen him walk, and this wasn't how he normally moved.
"Something's off," she whispered to Ginny.
Ginny had barely raised her eyebrows when Viktor came up behind Fleur. The Beauxbatons' champion screamed.
"What's he doing to her?" Fred yelled. Mrs. Weasley was covering her eyes. She didn't seem to find him such a talented boy now. The whole audience was in uproar, but Hermione barely heard them. There was something very wrong. Viktor had just attacked Fleur, who now was lying motionless on the grass in the maze. He stepped over her body, and began to walk in what seemed to be Cedric's direction.
Hermione glanced frantically around the maze, trying to find Harry and make sure he was all right. He was; apparently, he had just passed some yellow mist and was comparing with the others, the closest to the Cup.
"How could he do that? He seemed so nice!" she heard Ginny ask.
"Well, Ginny, people aren't always what they seem," Ron said. He couldn't conceal his glee as he said this and Hermione glared at him furiously.
"If you would just get to know him, I'm sure you would think differently!"
"I don't have to know him. He's just proven himself to be exactly what I said he is: the enemy!"
Letting out a shriek of frustration, she jumped up.
"He isn't the enemy! When has he ever been hostile towards Harry?"
"Yeah, well, you still put that same Harry in danger by going out with that Bulgarian git!"
"Viktor and I never talked about Harry!" Hermione knew that this had simmered under the surface ever since the blow-up after the Yule Ball. Only moments before, she had been relatively calm and intent on not rising to Ron's bait, but now she was oblivious to everything but their row.
"That's not the point! He - he can probably read minds and by dating him, you brought him closer to Harry!"
"Ron," she said, her voice now deadly calm, but trembling with rage, "Has it ever occurred to you that he might not have asked me out to get to Harry? That he noticed I'm a girl, and just likes me?"
At this, Ron seemed to be lost for words. Hermione knew he wouldn't say yes – he would do anything rather than admit he was jealous – but that left "no," and that answer would hurt her even more then she could imagine. If he says no…
Fortunately for Ron, his mum saved him.
"You two, stop doing that right now! You have a friend, standing there in a maze, who deserves your attention and your companionship for when he comes out of that maze! Quit bickering with each other and focus on the task!" Before Mrs. Weasley could say more, Ginny screamed, and she wasn't the only one in the audience who did so.
As she sat down again, Hermione saw something that made her Harry was standing in front of a Blast-Ended Skrewt, but not one of the "little ones" they had handled in class. The creature was ten feet tall and its body glittered under the light of the moon and the stars that surrounded the Quidditch pitch. Her hands were trembling and she debated whether to put them in front of her face, or leave them shaking in her lap.
Harry hit the skrewt with some sort of spell, but it rebounded. She saw him try another spell, but this one bounced off as well. Mrs. Weasley was screaming, along with many other girls in the stands, but even if Hermione had wanted to, she couldn't do the same: her voice was completely gone.
Harry staggered backward and fell over. Hermione's hands trembled more than ever, until she felt something else: a hand, coming from the left, covering hers. At that moment, Harry yelled something and another ray of light shot out his wand. The crowd sighed with relief; it seemed to have worked, since, only inches away from the fourth Triwizard champion, the skrewt had frozen. Harry stood up, and ran for his life: whatever the spell it was, it was likely only temporary.
"That was close," Bill said, looking rather drained. The twins nodded, and Ginny let out a long breath that she seemed to have been holding.
Hermione looked to her left and saw Ron looking more terrified then she had ever seen him. Leaning towards him, she said, "Now there's a creature the Ministry should decapitate. Buckbeak really is the perfect pet next to this monster."
Ron looked up and nodded, trying to smile.
"Even Norbert was a pet next to those things."
Hermione had shifted her attention back the maze when Ron suddenly said, "I'm sorry. I… just don't like Viktor."
Having completely forgotten that they had been fighting about him, she looked confusedly at Ron, but then managed to say, "I'm sorry too. I think something's wrong with him, actually – he doesn't usually act that way." Her eyes met Ron's, and Hermione was suddenly aware that they were still holding hands. She could tell he didn't believe her theory about Viktor, but somehow that didn't bother her as much anymore; she was more aware of the hand holding hers than of Ron's disbelief. Quickly, she looked back at the maze. Harry was running through a long path, which was parallel to another. In the other one was Cedric, and, behind him, Viktor.
"What's Krum doing?" she heard Ginny ask, as though from a distance. "Is he attacking Cedric?"
Cedric had fallen; Viktor had cast a spell at his legs. Viktor came closer to Cedric, who now lay on the ground, facing him. Then, suddenly, Viktor cast another spell, and even though no one could hear the incantation, everybody recognized the signs. Cedric's screams of pain and spastic movements were unmistakable.
"Blimey! Is that an Unforgivable?" Fred whispered.
Hermione could not make her mouth move to tell him exactly which one it was.
Mrs. Weasley had left her seat, and Hermione saw her moving toward the judges, who were sitting in the area normally reserved for the professors.
"Probably to ask if the contest can be stopped," Ron said, following her gaze. "Krum's clearly not playing fair, or else he's under a curse or something."
"But it can't be stopped! Only when one of them touches the Cup! The stupid rules are over seven hundred years old – the judges can't do anything!" she said.
"How do you know?" George asked.
"I looked the rules up when Harry had been selected to see if he could get out of it."
"Speaking of Harry, look!" Ron pointed at the maze; Hermione could barely see Harry making a hole through the bushes. He fell through it, and Viktor, noticing Harry, turned around and ran.
"He's fleeing! But why? If he can take Cedric, why not Harry?" Fred mumbled.
But Harry paralysed Viktor before he had turned around the corner and was now helping Cedric up. Then, after what seemed to be a brief conversation, Cedric shot red sparks in the air, marking the place were Viktor was lying.
The silence suddenly seemed overwhelming.
"Why isn't Bagman doing the commentary anymore?" she asked, looking around.
Ron, still holding her hand, squeezed it a bit, distracting her attention from the maze, and to the thing he was pointing at. In the teachers' section, Bagman had disappeared from where he had been sitting and Mrs. Weasley was instead wreaking havoc at the judges' table a few rows above Bagman's seat.
But then Hermione's eye fell on something else particular in the teachers' section. Or rather someone else. Sitting a few rows below Dumbledore, in an empty row, was a huge black dog.
"Look! It's Snuffles!" she whispered to Ron, and he nodded; that had clearly been what he was trying to show her.
Hermione had never seen any dog look so serious in her life, but since its godchild was now performing dangerous tasks, she really couldn't blame it.
She tore her eyes away from Snuffles when George said, "Look, Harry's reached a sphinx!"
Harry's way towards the cup was blocked by an enormous creature. It was lion-like, with the head of a woman.
"What's it doing?" Ginny asked Bill.
"My guess is that it's telling him a riddle he has to solve. That what the sphinxes do who guard the tombs in Egypt, like I showed you when you visited."
Ginny nodded, but then suddenly noticed something else. "Hey, Hermione! There's Ludo Bagman!"
Almost exactly under their box, Hermione could see Bagman's blond head, surrounded by goblins.
"What are those goblins doing here?" Ron asked. "Have they been here ever since we saw them in Hogsmeade?"
"Let's think about that later. I first want to make sure Harry gets alive out this maze."
"Alive? It looks like he going to win!" Fred suddenly yelled enthusiastic.
"No he's not," his twin argued. "Look at Cedric!"
The Triwizard Cup was glittering in the middle of the maze and both Harry and Cedric were running towards it like moths to a flame. Unfortunately for Harry, Cedric was pulling ahead, and his legs were longer than Harry's.
"Come on Harry!"
The audience was making so much noise. However, Hermione could hear the scream of Ginny above it and she saw immediately why the youngest Weasley was yelling so furiously. Apparently, Cedric and Harry weren't the only ones who were attracted by the glittering cup. Out of nowhere, a huge spider had appeared, running straight at Cedric. Ron flinched visibly. She wasn't sure what happened next. Cedric suddenly noticed the spider and tried to avoid it, but the spider kept going after him. "It's going to kill him!" Ginny squealed.
But Harry shot a spell at the spider, keeping it from killing Cedric. However, the spell didn't have the wanted result; the spider only took the opportunity to turn on Harry.
"WHY does he always have to do that?" she heard Ron say furiously.
Harry was now shooting spell after spell at the creature, but it seemed to have no effect at all: the spider was immune. It jumped on Harry and jerked the boy up in the air. Mrs. Weasley, who had just returned, screamed, and Hermione could see there were tears running down her cheeks.
Harry was struggling to get out of the spider's embrace, but the pincers were closing tighter… and tighter…
She felt herself shaking madly in her seat. Hold on, Harry! her mind screamed. They can't let you die! Suddenly, there was an arm around her shoulder; she turned and buried her face in Ron's shoulder, not wanting to see how it would end.
It might have been seconds, or minutes, or even a few hours, but all Hermione knew was that Ron was suddenly yelling in triumph, and with him, the rest of the stands. Hermione looked up to see that the spider had fallen on its back. Harry was lying in the grass with his wand in the air and Cedric stood not too far from him, his wand also raised.
"They did the same curse on the spider, got it at the same time!" Ron tried to explain to her over the cheering.
Hermione saw that Harry was trying to stand up, but was seemingly unable to stand on his own two feet and leaned against a hedge instead.
Cedric, looking over his shoulder at the Triwizard Cup, was talking to him.
"Why doesn't that boy just take the Cup?" she heard Mrs. Weasley say. "Then we could just stop all this nonsense and it would all be over!"
"What is taking them so long? Why doesn't one of them take the Cup?"
"Is it teatime now?" one of the twins said.
But then, to everybody's amazement, Cedric walked towards Harry, helping him up. Harry limped towards the cup with Cedric's help.
"What are they doing?" she mumbled.
"They're taking it together!" Ron yelled enthusiastically. "Cedric is just as stupidly noble an idiot as Harry!"
In the light of the prize standing before them, Hermione could see them both counting and instantly knew that Ron was right.
The screaming and yelling of the audience intensified, as they all understood what the Hogwarts-champions were doing. People were standing up to get a better view of the situation. She and the Weasleys followed their example.
Hermione saw Cedric and Harry, both reaching out for the cup, take a handle each.
But that's when it all went wrong. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the Cup, the light surrounding it, and the two people grabbing it, had disappeared.
With the quickness of thunder, the feeling in her stomach had come back. And she sunk on her chair, unable to process what had happened.
Hi there! I'm back. Hope you liked the first chapter. There will be 5, and I have already written them, so expect the updates soon! Huge thanks to my beta Lisa, who made some things more logical, and less then the chaos in my head! I have exams to study for at the moment, so off course I'm busy with writing, because that seems to be the only thing that can keep me a bit relaxed.
In the meantime, leaving me a review would be nice! I still want to know your opinions!