I don't own Harry Potter. In other news, I just saw Twilight last night; I thought it was pretty good.
Chapter 8 – A Watery Task
"I still don't like this, Albus," McGonnagal said nervously. "What if something goes wrong down there?"
"I assure you, Minerva, nothing will go wrong," Dumbledore said placatingly. "My stasis charms will hold and the Mermish have promised me that they will return any participants who have not been claimed."
"Fine, then what about the one hour limit?" McGonnagal pressed, "The lake is almost two hundred fifty meters deep, Albus, and the champions have absolutely no idea of its layout! Combine that with all the monsters that lurk in it, and how can you possibly expect them to find their objectives and return in under one hour?" she hissed, her eyes narrowing in anger.
"The one hour limit is simply to motivate them, Minerva," Dumbledore said, raising his hands to calm her. "I have no intention of letting anyone drown during this task." McGonnagal sighed tiredly and stared at her superior and mentor.
"Very well, Albus, I will concede for now," she said. "But if anything goes wrong down there, I will hold you personally responsible." She took a deep, calming breath and looked back at the elderly man before her. "So, who are we bringing in for our champions?" she asked.
"Well, I believe Mister Diggory's friend Miss Chang will be suitable," Dumbledore said. "As for Harry, normally I would use Mister Weasley. However, since the two seem to have had a falling out of sorts, I suppose I will have to use Miss Granger."
"Very well then," McGonnagal said, "I will arrange for them to prepare for the task tomorrow night."
"Thank you, Minerva," Dumbledore said, "I appreciate it." While McGonnagal put on a small smile, she could not help but worry that something would inevitably go wrong.
"I just know something's going to go wrong," Mara muttered to herself as she nervously paced in her Star Wars memorabilia-laden office. "The Second Task is about to start, and no matter what I do, he'll find some way to get around it." Suddenly, an alarm rang on her person, indicating that one of her charges was in danger. Sighing in frustration, she brought herself to see a Caucasian woman with long, plaited brown hair, a tank top and brown shorts reaching forward to grab a golden idol. Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Mara sought out the mechanism for the trap that would inevitably be set off and altered its timing.
As soon as the woman grabbed the idol, she ran off, narrowly avoiding the barrage of poisoned arrows that fired as she ran down the hallway. Mara, being not of this world, simply stood with her arms crossed in annoyance while the projectiles passed harmlessly through her.
"Damn it, you've been doing this for over ten years!" the redhead shouted out towards the fleeing brunette. "Why don't you retire, get married, start a family, anything but this!" Of course, the woman Mara was addressing did not respond, so she returned to her office to brood. As soon as her backside touched the cushion of her seat, an alarm alerting her of yet another charge in imminent danger rang. "I should have taken that job in the Department of Destiny," she grumbled as she sat back up.
"So, have you figured out what you're going to do for the Second Task?" Hermione asked as she and Harry sat in the library, doing their Charms homework.
"I don't really want to deal with the Gillyweed again, so I guess I'll just use a bubble-head charm," Harry said casually as he corrected an error in his essay.
"Harry, that's a fifth-year charm," Hermione reminded him, "don't you think that'll make people a bit suspicious?"
"Not really," Harry said as he added another line. "They'll probably just think I did some reading ahead. Besides, don't you already know it?" he asked her, his eyebrow rising in interest.
"I do, but that's beside the point," she said. "The point is, you're not me, and your increased study habits might raise some people's interest. I'm just worried that you'll be found out by someone you don't want to."
"Hermione, I'll be fine—" Harry began, but was loudly interrupted.
"Granger!" Moody barked, startling the two teenagers. "McGonnagal wants to see you in her office immediately," he continued.
"But sir, I still have work to do," Hermione informed her teacher.
"It can wait," Moody countered gruffly. "Now go." Sighing, Hermione gathered up her books and papers before turning to Harry.
"I'll see you later, Harry," she said before leaving for McGonnagal's office. Once Hermione left, Moody turned to Harry.
"So, did you figure out what you're going to do for the Second Task, Potter?" Moody asked.
"Yes, sir," Harry said casually.
"Ahh, so you talked to Longbottom then, good," Moody muttered softly; however, Harry heard him.
"Neville, sir?" Harry asked, feigning innocence. "Why would I talk to Neville?"
"Nothing," Moody covered quickly, "just the ramblings of an old man. Carry on then, Mister Potter," he said before stomping off leaving Harry alone in the library. As Harry put the finishing touches on his homework, Harry silently wondered how he would deal with the impostor when the time came.
"Professor McGonnagal, you wanted to see me?" Hermione asked as she entered her Transfiguration teacher's office, where she saw said professor, as well as Dumbledore waiting for her. "Professor Dumbledore, what are you doing here?"
"An interesting question, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said sagely. "You have been elected to be a participant in this next task. However, the final preparations require my presence," he continued.
"Does this have to do with what Harry will miss the most, Professor?" Hermione asked, already anticipating the answer.
"Indeed it is, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, producing a potion vial from his pocket. "First, I need you to drink this potion," he continued, holding the bottle out to Hermione. "It will put you into a deep sleep; when you awaken, you will be on the lake dock, your champion having rescued you." Hermione hesitated at the offered potion, but eventually took it and swallowed its contents, grimacing at the potion's bitter taste. Immediately, she felt her eyelids growing heavy, and McGonnagal conjured a cot for Hermione to lay down on as she closed her eyes and her breaths drifted into a slow, steady rhythm. Dumbledore drew a portkey created from a chocolate frog card of himself and laid it down on Hermione's unconscious form, transporting her to the chamber where the other participants would be held until the task the next morning.
"Well, that was the last of them," Dumbledore said before turning to his deputy headmistress. "Goodnight, Minerva," he bid the woman before taking the Floo back to his office, leaving McGonnagal alone.
The next morning, as Harry roused from his sleep, he slowly realized that he never saw Hermione after she left the night before, and the implications of it. Well, if she's what Viktor Krum misses the most again, I'm going to have a serious discussion with a few people, he thought grimly as he rolled out of his bed and into his clothes. He remained silent as he ate his breakfast and walked out to the lake along with the other three Triwizard champions, and idly stood on the edge of the dock while listening to Dumbledore's speech. When the cannon fired, all four champions dived into the icy water as one; Harry, Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour immediately cast bubble-head charms on themselves, while Krum transfigured his head into that of a great white shark, complete with gills. While the other three champions went their separate ways, Harry made an immediate course for where the hostages were.
When Harry arrived where the captives were held, Harry saw Hermione, fifth-year Ravenclaw Cho Chang, Gabrielle Delacour and the bubbly-headed girl that Krum danced with at the Yule Ball, all tethered by their ankles with lengths of seaweed. After briefly pondering whether they had simply used Krum's date as "what he would miss the most" simply because he had no friends or family to take the mantle, Harry freed Hermione and began swimming up to the surface. Thankfully, as he had not tried to go against the rules of the game, Harry received no resistance from the Mermen guarding the limp figures.
However, when Harry had almost reached the surface, he was suddenly yanked downwards by his ankle. He looked down to see an octopus-like grindylow grabbing onto his foot and pulling him down, more of the vile creatures swarming below. After sending Hermione up to the surface via a levitation charm, Harry began to fight off the grindylows, but they attacked with unusual ferocity. One of them swiped at the bubble surrounding Harry's mouth, bursting it and filling his lungs with water. Panicking, Harry silently unleashed the first spell he could think of, which happened to be a stunning hex. The spell chased off the grindylows, but not before they had done their damage: several bites and scratches were leaking blood, Harry's lungs burned from the fluid inside of them, and his mind was going fuzzy over the oxygen deprivation. But, as his world grew dark, one word sprung to his mind at the last moment: Ascendio!
When Hermione's unconscious form broke the surface, Dumbledore immediately summoned her over onto the dock and revived her, where she began coughing and sputtering before having a heavy towel wrapped around her.
"Where's Harry?" she asked, shivering in the cold. Everyone began scanning the surface of the water nervously when Harry did not appear. After a long, tense minute, Harry's figure flew out from the water and landed roughly on the dock. Madam Pomfrey rushed over to him and scanned his vital signs.
"He has water in his lungs," she said. "Miss Granger, hold his chest up," she ordered, Hermione quickly obeying. Madam Pomfrey pointed her wand at Harry's chest and uttered, "tersio aquis!" Harry immediately coughed up the water in his lungs, and continued to cough and retch loudly for over a minute.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he finally managed to rasp out. "I just need to catch my breath." As he lay on his back, gasping, Hermione had procured another heavy towel to wrap her friend and savior in. "So, how'd I do?" he asked weakly.
"Well, Mister Potter, you arrived first at a time of thirty-two minutes and twelve seconds, almost a new record," Dumbledore said. Harry raised an eyebrow at him.
"Almost?" he repeated.
"Yes," Dumbledore confirmed, a slight smirk growing on his face. "I'm afraid that if you had broken the surface with Miss Granger, you would have broken it."
"Damn," Harry muttered in mock disappointment, Hermione to slap him on the shoulder for his profanity. "Ow."
They waited patiently for the other champions to return. Cedric arrived first with Cho Chang in tow, just before the hour mark. Viktor Krum appeared next, at ten minutes after the hour. At fifteen minutes after the hour, Fleur Delacour returned, surprisingly with her sister at her side; apparently, Harry's encounter with the grindylows had paved the way for Fleur to reach her target unhindered. As the champions and their companions tried to warm and dry themselves, the judges convened to discuss the scoring. Finally, Dumbledore turned to address the masses.
"As Mister Potter was the first to complete his task by a considerable margin, he shall be awarded full points, and is currently in first place position," he announced, eliciting thundering cheers from the Gryffindors assembled. "Now, may I suggest we return to the warm hospitality of Hogwarts castle?" The masses rose and steadily began to work their way back to their respective dwellings, now that the spectacle was over.
"Well, two down, one to go," Harry muttered to himself as he wrapped the towel tighter around him. "Cedric's not dying this time."
OMAKE: Dealing with Vernon Dursley
When Vernon Dursley opened his eyes, he was immediately consumed with confusion. One minute, he was ranting to his secretary for making his tea too hot, and the next, he was crammed in a moving seat sandwiched between two strangers. The air was rhythmically punctuated by a female voice yelling, "NEXT!"
"What the ruddy hell is this place?!" he yelled.
"How should I know?" the woman next to him snapped in an American accent. "One minute, I'm on the water, enjoying the view, and the next, POW! A giant ray jumps up and smacks me in the face." Dursley struggled out of his seat and stomped towards where the seats seemed to be going, muttering about "bloody Yanks" and about how they "should be put in their place" until he reached a plain wooden door. Rudely knocking the person about to enter out of the way, Dursley flung the door open to find a nearly empty room, its only furnishing being the computer desk in the middle, and the pretty young blonde girl sitting behind it.
"Hello," she greeted cheerfully. "Could you please state your full name?" When Dursley answered, he did not give his name, but with a long-winded rant laden with profanities. If one were to take the questions "Where am I?" "What am I doing here?" and "Who are you?" and pad them with virtually every swear word in the English language, then you would have a fair idea of what Vernon Dursley has just said. By the time he was done, the intern was close to bursting into tears.
"Umm, excuse me for one moment," she said, her voice cracking emotionally. She picked up the phone and dialed several numbers before waiting for the line to connect.
"Yeah?" a male voice on the other end asked.
"Umm, hey, could you help me out at the registration desk?" the female intern asked, trying to keep her voice even. "I've run into a little snag." The male voice gave an irritated sigh before agreeing and hanging up. As soon as she placed the phone back in its cradle, the second door opened to reveal a dark-haired Caucasian male wearing black clothing.
"What's the problem again?" he asked, leaning on the desk.
"Well, this man," the female intern said, pointing at Dursley, "won't give me his name, and I don't know what to do." The senior intern looked at the obese man before him, who was turning puce in the face and looked as if he were about to have a heart attack. Ironically, that was what got him into this situation in the first place.
"Okay sir, the pretty girl asked you for your name," the male intern said, crossing his arms, "so why didn't you answer her?" This seemed to have set off Dursley's short fuse, which launched him into another profanity-laden rant. This time, the girl broke down and began sobbing into her hands. The male intern, however, was used to such outbursts, and simply waited out the storm, a neutral expression on his face. "Are you done yet?" he asked when Dursley seemed to run out of steam. "Good. Now, I'm going to ask you again, what is your full name?" When Dursley puffed up his chest to begin yelling again, the intern raised his hand. "Sir, we can do this the easy way or the hard way." Dursley ignored him and began yelling, although it was not as loud as the previous two rants. Sighing in disappointment, the senior intern turned to the junior, who had since stopped crying, although her eyes were still red and puffy. "Dial extension two-three-three and ask say it's a class U situation in the processing room," he said. The girl nodded and followed his instructions.
"What does class U stand for?" she asked the man next to her while they waited.
"Uncooperative," he answered simply. Just then, two large, muscled men in white suits arrived, one carrying a metal briefcase. "Thanks guys, could you hold him for a minute, please?" Silently nodding, one of the men punched Dursley in the abdomen, silencing him before they both held him back by the arms. The male intern opened the briefcase to reveal a strange contraption: It was two suction cups connected to hoses that led to a laptop computer. He attached the cups to each side of Dursley's head and activated the device. The grossly obese man shuddered and babbled incoherently as information was forcibly extracted from his brain. The laptop made strange whirring noises until Dursley stopped convulsing and a name popped up on the screen with a cheerful chime: Vernon Reginald Dursley. The female intern typed the name in, and produced an entry card. After removing the suction cups from Dursley's head, the male intern fed the card into the second door and turned the handle.
"You guys ready?" he asked the two burly men restraining Dursley. When the both nodded, the intern flung open the door, and the two men threw Dursley into the other room, landing with a loud thud. "He's all yours!" the intern said to the reaper in the other room before closing the door. "Thanks for the help guys."
"Thanks," the female intern said softly. While normally not a shy person, being in the company of two people who looked like they could easily break you in half tended to intimidate most people.
"No problem," one of the muscle-bound men said as his companion wrapped up the device and closed the briefcase. "Just doing our jobs."
"And a good job you do," the male intern said, patting him on the shoulder. "See you later." After the two men left, the male intern turned to the junior sitting before him. "Don't worry, sit at this desk long enough, and you'll be able to handle anyone."
"Thanks," she said, sniffling. "It's just…I don't handle being yelled at very well."
"You're young, you'll get used to it," he said. "Oh, and if you happen to get a kid named Harry James Potter, give me a call. I already processed him six times; I want to make it a full set."
Just how I imagine Vernon Dursley would react to being at the Department of Death and Resurrection, and their response to him.
Does anyone besides me find the fact that in canon, Hermione is what Krum "would miss the most" after one night out a little bit disturbing?
A cookie if you can find the next franchise to cameo in this universe.
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