Harry led his friends up to the stands where they would be watching the task from. Apparently each champion was being equipped with a monitoring charm so that the crowd would be able to see what was happening from their point of view.
The stands had been divided into three sections as opposed to the typical four when they were used to watch the Quidditch matches. Now there was a section for the Durmstrang, Hogwarts, and Beauxbaxtons students. Harry and his group had decided to sit in the Beauxbaxton section as they were rooting for Fleur to win. They had received a few odd looks, but once Gabby had come up and greeted them no one had said anything. Pansy, Tracey, and Daphne had all worked on a magical banner the night before as well and it had a picture of Fleur on it with the words good luck in French that would occasionally morph into English.
They had all agreed to where something blue so that they wouldn't stand out in the stands too much as well. They didn't want to draw too much attention to themselves after all. Theo and Draco were playing exploding snap to pass the little bit of time remaining until the first champion would attempt the task. No one had any idea how the order would be decided, but assumed it was either already determined or would be soon.
It was about fifteen minutes later that Ludo Bagman's magically enhanced voice could be heard around the stadium.
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen! The long awaited start of the tournament is finally upon us. Today you will see our four competitors face their first task. Let me assure you this will not be easy for them and only the strongest will emerge from it victorious!" The students burst into yells and cheers as Bagman paused.
"This task will be a cave of horrors. The cave itself will be completely pitch black so our champions will have to find a way to light it. However inside the cave will be numerous beasts of varying difficulty. So not only will they have to find a light source, but if they wish to use their wand some creativity will come into play."
More cheers came up from the crowd as Bagman finished describing the task. Suddenly an image burst to life in the middle of the stadium. It showed all four champions standing outside the entrance of what could only be the cave that had been described to them. The volume of the stands increased ten-fold and it seemed like the stands were actually shaking. Once more Bagman's voice cut through the air quieting the roar somewhat.
"The task will be starting momentarily and you will be able to watch as each competitor goes through from their view point thanks to some very complex monitoring charms. Our first competitor of the day will be Mr. Viktor KRUM!"
At his announcement the image suddenly shifted and suddenly everyone was watching from an over the shoulder point of view as Krum ran towards the entrance of the cave. He paused right before entering and whipped out his wand. He picked up a rock and transfigured it into a glass jar.
Bagman was apparently going to commentate the task the whole time as his voice cut through the cheers. "An impressive piece of transfiguration work by Mr. Krum!"
Krum then cast a simple bluebell flame spell and captured the flames inside the jar; he carefully poked holes into the lid to allow for oxygen to feed the flame before capping the jar. He repeated this process two more times before finally attaching the jars to his outer robe. It didn't give him a whole lot of light but as he finally entered the cave he and the spectators were able to see about five or six feet in all directions.
Krum kept an even pace as he advanced through the cave towards what should have been unknown beasts. It wasn't long before he came across the first problem. There was a chasm with only a couple planks laid across it to allow the champion to advance. He carefully stepped onto the planks making sure to have a good center of balance as he advanced. He had almost fully crossed the gap when out of the darkness a large form emerged.
As it stepped into the outer edges of his light the barely visible outline of a hippogriff was shown. Viktor watched as the beast moved slightly further into the light before stopping and staring him down.
Krum locked eyes with the beast and prepared to do a bow to show it the proper respect, however as he bowed his eyes dropped. Suddenly the hippogriff sprung forward causing Krum to dive backwards to avoid its talons. The extra weight on the boards was almost too much as the sound of splintering wood could be heard with every step the creature took.
Krum managed to get back to his feet and suddenly his wand was out. Thinking quickly he ran off the plank and back onto solid ground. He scrambled around for something he could transfigure. He grabbed a hold of a stick finally and set to work changing it into a rope and then enlarging it. The hippogriff had stopped its advance about half way across the planks which meant it was probably held in place by wards.
He tied the rope so that one end had a large loop on it. It was going to take a lot of precision but as he advanced towards the hippogriff it became clear to the crowd what the boy planned on doing. He gave the rope a couple of swings before he tossed the loop and everyone watched with baited breath as the rope encircled the neck of the beast.
It was momentarily confused as the weight of the large rope set onto its neck and Krum pushed his advantage. On the other end of the rope he had tied a medium sized rock and was now levitating it. He moved quickly with his wand work moving the rock in a circle around the hippogriff so that layer after layer of rope fell onto its back. After four loops the beast started to realize what was happening and attempted to get free. It was too late at that point though as Krum enlarged the rock and cancelled the levitation charm. As the rock fell the ropes tightened and pulled the hippogriff down against the planks.
Krum started at a dead sprint as the beast started to snip at the ropes with its beak. He just had to get by it now before it got free. It was too distracted trying to free itself to react in time as Krum clambered over it and onto the other side of the planks. He didn't stop running until he was sure that he wasn't being followed.
In the stadium the cheers from the Durmstrang section were thunderous as they watched their champion conquer the first beast of the cave. The Beauxbaxton section applauded quietly so as to not appear as bad sports, while the Hogwarts section was actually booing.
Harry was impressed by the solution Krum had come up with. It wasn't conventional by any means, but it had worked. Obviously he would lose points because of the time he was taking, but at least he had beaten part of it.
A warm figure leaning her head on his shoulder brought his attention from the screen momentarily as he looked down to find Tracey with her arms looped through his and her head in the crook of his neck.
She noticed him looking down at her with a raised eyebrow and glared challengingly back at him. "It's cold Potter. If I can't use you to keep myself warm then what good are you?"
Harry had to admit her logic was solid except for one thing. "Tracey did you forget you're a witch? There is a warming charm you know."
To his pleasure this got a slight blush from Tracey, but she still didn't move from her spot. Honestly he didn't mind if she stayed there as long as she didn't distract him from the match. He turned his attention back to the screen to watch as Krum seemed to freeze up as he started to shiver. He was so caught up in the action on the screen that he failed to notice the hate filled looked he was receiving from another section of the stands.
Hogwart's Stands Section
Ron had been in a bad mood ever since the start of the year. Well that wasn't entirely true; his bad mood had started when Neville freaking Longbottom's name had come out of the goblet. Someone he thought had been his best mate had got into the tournament that he had so desperately wanted to compete in.
He had wanted to show his brothers and the rest of his family that he was important and powerful. Then Dumbledore had gone and set an age line. Neville had acted like he wanted no part of the tournament, but then low and behold his name had come out of the goblet.
Ron didn't think he was dumb or a fool. He knew that Dumbledore had probably told him how to get past the age line in one of their meetings. He just couldn't understand why his supposed best mate wouldn't share it with him though.
They had gotten in a huge row and still had not talked since that day. He was thankful that Hermione was still talking to him at least and she seemed to understand where he was coming from. He had agreed to go watch the first task only so that he could hopefully watch Longbottom fail and then rub it in his face afterwards.
He had initially been watching the task as Krum navigated through. It was amazing that one man could do so much and he envied him. Not only did he play professional Quidditch but he was also talented with a wand. However his attention had soon become distracted as he noticed his least favorite group of people were sitting with the French school.
"Hey Dean! Look at those filthy Slytherins." He got the boy's attention and pointed towards the French section. It took a second for Dean to realize what he was looking at but sure enough there were the Slytherins from their year.
"Yeah I see them Ron. Can't even bother to support their school I suppose. It's no wonder that no one likes them here. I bet that French school has dark witches in it and that's why they fit in so well."
Ron just nodded his head in agreement. Ever since he had stopped being friends with Longbottom he and Dean had begun talking more, but that was really the only person who would talk to him now besides Hermione.
He had to agree with Dean's assessment of the French school though, especially their champion. Every time he got near her he would just run into a babbling fool and make an idiot of himself. It was clearly dark magic because that was not how he acted at all. Now though he had more serious matters to attend to. He needed a way to embarrass those Slytherins, or at the very least Potter.
He knew that if he tried something during the competition he would most likely lose house points and get detention. But there was a lot of time between now and the end of the first task that he could use to set up something and then sneak back to the stands without his absence being noticed. He nudged Dean who had gone back to watching the screen as Krum ventured further and further into the cave. He gave a follow me gesture with his hand and was thankful that the boy caught on right away.
Once the two were a good distance away from the stands Ron spoke up again.
"We need to do something that will teach those Slytherins not to cheer for another school and expose them as the traitors they are."
Dean nodded his head at what Ron was saying. While he didn't have a personal grudge against the Slytherin's he knew they didn't like him because he was a muggleborn. It was common knowledge in the school after all that all of the snakes believed in blood purity.
"Alright so come on, we're going to find my brothers and ask them to help us. They may not like me too much right now because of my fight with Neville, but even they won't pass up an opportunity to prank some slimy snakes." The two set off towards a section of the stands further down; neither was aware that someone had ducked behind one of the support beams when they had come by.
The smirk that Draco wore as he walked back towards the French stands and the spot where his friends were seated was practically predatory. Harry noticed it right away, and was wondering what could have possibly caused such a reaction. He sat quietly though knowing that if Draco wanted to share he would when he was ready and not a second earlier.
It didn't take long for the others around them to notice that something was up with Draco, but they too also sat and waited for the blonde to talk. Their resounding indifference to his attitude change seemed to slowly be grating on Draco's nerves though.
"Are none of you going to ask me where I went or why I am so excited right now? For merlin's sake people I'm acting practically Gryffindorish and none of you can even bother to say something."
Harry went to make a comment but was cut off by Theo. "We have just known you long enough to know that if we start trying to force answers out of you that you're just going to wait longer to tell us. By ignoring you how we are now you'll eventually crack and tell us, and we won't have to fuel your ego to find out what we want to know."
Theo was actually correct and after having said his two cents he went back to watching the screen as Krum progressed further into the cave.
The Durmstrang student had managed to make it pass the Dementors, and was now moving quickly through the dark cave in hopes of making up for his loss of time at start of the task. In his hurry though he failed to notice the gap in the floor of the cave. Much too late the boy tried to stop himself from falling over the edge, but it was to no avail as he tumbled head first into a pit. He closed his eyes in anticipation of the end, but his landing was surprisingly soft.
Cautiously Krum opened his eyes and almost instantly he wished he had kept them shut. He was stuck in some sort of web and it was very difficult to lift his arms or move his legs, but that wasn't his main problem with his situation. The biggest problem was the three foot long spider that was eyeing him up from the other side of the web.
Krum moved slowly trying not to stir the web too much and incur the wrath of the massive creature. Thankfully he hadn't lost his wand in the fall. Looking up he saw that the fall had been less than what he had anticipated as he was currently only seven or eight feet from the cliff's edge. He wasn't the tallest person, only standing at around 5' 10" but he figured he could grab onto a hand hold of some sort in the rock face and pull himself the rest of the way up. The only problem now was how to get around the acromantula.
He had read about them years back in his studies of dark creatures, but for the life of him he couldn't remember any of their weaknesses. As he watched the venom drip off of the long pearl white fangs he finally remembered something. One bite would paralyze a witch or wizard forever; making them an easy meal.
Surely there were some precautions in place to prevent that though, or at least that was what Krum kept telling himself in his head. There had been deaths in the past, but this year's torment was supposed to have a special emphasis on safety. Keeping that in mind he lifted his wand and leveled it at the creature. He never once let his eyes drop from his target knowing the speed the creature possessed. It could be on him in the blink of an eye if he didn't pay attention. Slowly and carefully he began to creep around at the edge of the web. If he posed no threat to the creature then it might just let him pass without trouble.
Before too long he had reached the opposite side of the web and could reach out and touch the cliff side that he was going to climb. This posed a new problem though as he was going to have to turn his back on the acromantula to climb out. Using his peripheral vision he tried to hone in on the fastest and best route to get up from. Thankfully he was able to spot numerous spots where he could put his foot on or grab onto. Krum took one more deep breathe before he made his move. He lunged towards the wall and started his scamper upwards. Just as he expected the acromantula took that moment to strike and charged directly at him. He had just started to pull himself up over the ledge when he felt a sharp pain in his leg. A feeling of dread filled him as he felt his start to tingle and numb. Using every last bit of strength he had, Krum kicked back with his still good leg and managed to force the creature off of him. As he finished pulling himself over the top ledge he started to drag himself across the cave floor. He didn't know if the spider was allowed to leave that hole it had been in, but if it could he was surely done for.
He could feel the venom starting to spread from his leg and work its way into the rest of his body. He was disgusted with himself for being so careless. If he had just paid attention he never would have fallen into that trap. Just as he thought all was lost he heard voices and could make out forms of people rushing towards him.
As they got closer he was able to identify some faces in the faint light. He vaguely recognized one woman was wearing Healer robes. His headmaster was also present and now at his side. The venom was messing with his mind as well as he could see lips moving, but was unable to make out any of the words being said. Whether from the venom or blood loss, he wasn't sure which, blackness was tingeing the corners of his eyes and they began to droop. Having no will to resist Krum let them close and only hoped there would be good news if he was to wake from his sleep.
The crowds of students sat in stunned silence as they watched the Bulgarian champion and famous Quidditch player get bit by the acromantula. There were gasps and shrieks from some of the more dramatic, but for the most part nothing but utter silence reigned. Harry watched with a detached sense of pity. He wasn't too good of friends with Krum, but the boy had been polite the few times they had run into each other and it was a shame to see him fail out of his first task. Harry knew however that it would only fuel the boy's desire to compete if he was able to continue. He would go all out in an attempt to make up for the humiliation.
The healers had gotten to him in a quick amount of time which meant they should be able to counter act the effects of the venom as it hadn't worked its full course. It might take Krum a week or two to regain full feeling in the parts that had been affected, but he would regain it. The screen had gone black by the end of his silent analysis, so he turned to his friends to see what their take on the event was.
From her spot next to him Tracey looked like she was still in shock over what she had just witnessed, which was pretty understandable considering the crowd had been able to see as the long white fang sank into and then pierced the other side of Krum's leg. Draco was doing his best to hide his shock, but Harry could see in his eyes that he was at least partially concerned.
That was as far as he got because Bagman's magically enhanced voice started to ring out drawing his attention.
"Ladies and gentleman! Our first competitor, Mr. Krum, has failed to complete the whole first task and as such will not receive scores. Do not worry though there is going to be no lasting damage from the incident and I'm sure we'll see an outstanding comeback from the Quidditch star in the next task! Now up next we have Hogwarts' Champion, CEDRIC DIGGORY!"
Roars of applause and cat calls rang out as the grim face of Diggory came on to the screen. There was no doubt that the boy was nervous after having probably seen his competition rushed from the cave unconscious.
Harry really couldn't bring himself to care too much about the older Hufflepuff's attempt at the cave. Honestly he wished the whole thing would just go faster for a few reasons. One it would mean Fleur was out of danger sooner, and two he would know if his subtle hints had been effective in getting Longbottom through the task. Diggory was able to get by the hippogriff much easier than Krum had. He supposed the boy could thank Hagrid for that one since the half-giant had done classes on them in past years.
With the easy part of the cave done Harry watched with more attention to see if Diggory would make the same mistake Krum had and fall into the web. He was moving at a much more sedated pace than Krum did. This made sense since he hadn't had to waste time dealing with an irate hippogriff, but it still didn't take long for him to come within a few feet of the edge that had ultimately led to Krum's downfall. The lack of challenges so far must have had the Hufflepuff paranoid as he was now being very cautious in his steps and it was a good thing since the light from the lantern he had transfigured at the start suddenly revealed the drop off. It didn't produce enough light to see all the way down clearly, but the web was well reflected.
It was clear Diggory wanted nothing to do with anything that made a web like that as he set his lantern on the ground and looked thoughtfully at the gap in front of him. It was too far to jump and there was nothing on the other side to attach a rope to or anything. Still he knew there had to be a way to the other side without climbing down and risking his life with the giant arachnid that was sure to have spun the web.
Diggory was losing valuable time as he hesitated longer and longer on a decision, and finally it seemed had had come up with an idea. He searched the ground for something and a smile broke across his face as he found what he had been looking for. He used an enlarging charm on a stone he had picked up until it was roughly 3 feet or so in diameter. A well placed cutting charm later and he had a smooth surface to stand on. He stepped onto it and then aimed his wand straight down and with a swish and a flick he was slowly floating off the ground.
Harry raised his eyebrows at the ingenious use of a levitating charm. One couldn't actually levitate themselves with it, but if they were standing on an object they could levitate that object with them on it, but it would require a good amount of power because of the added weight. If the boy's concentration faltered for even a second he would be plummeting to his unfortunate end though.
It took Cedric only a minute or two to fully levitate himself over the gap, but he wasted no time once his feet were back on solid ground. He took off at a jog in the direction he hoped led him towards the exit. He held the lantern in his left hand and his wand raised at the ready in his right. That was two of the beasts down which mean next was going to be the dementors. This was probably going to be the hardest part for all of the champions. Dragons, spiders, and hippogriffs could all be dodged or avoided. Dementors messed with your mind though and there was no avoiding that unless you could cast a patronus. It wasn't a charm ever taught in Hogwarts due to the complexity of it so Harry wasn't holding his breath for any of the champions to be able to cast it.
As Cedric walked further into the cave his breath was slowly becoming more and more visible. It was a sure sign that the dementors were growing nearer with every step. Most likely they were going to be chained and held in place, but they would still be close enough to cause great discomfort.
Probably too soon for Cedric's liking the cave became very narrow and he could just make out the hints of ghostly forms floating just off to the side. He took a deep breath in and resolutely marched forward already well aware of what was going to happen to him.
He felt something wash over him as he got closer and assumed it had been some type of ward to reduce the effects of the dementors until it was passed. He was proven right in his assumption very shortly after as his mind began being assaulted by flashes of incidents he wished he could forget. Walking in as a child and finding his grand-father dead was the one currently being played over and over. The more he focused on it the more lost in sorrow he became. He needed to try and focus on something happy so he could make it through this.
Cedric was thankful he didn't have anything more traumatic in his life than that event as he didn't know if he would have been able to push through something like what Longbottom was going to be forced to relive.
Numbly he cast a warming charm on himself hoping for some sort of reprieve, but was given none. He was a little over halfway when the images in his mind intensified and the feeling of fear and sorrow set in full force. At that point he stopped and actually fell to his knees. He had no will to go on anymore. He just wanted the images to end, the sorrow to be gone from his life. He found his eyes drawn to his wand. All he would have to do was shoot out some red sparks and he would be free. They would stop the task and he would be allowed to leave. Krum had to leave so surely it wouldn't be that bad. He wouldn't be last in the standings and he could make up for it in the next task.
As he raised his wand in front of him ready to admit his failure an image of a crestfallen Cho flashed to the front of his mind, but it wasn't just Cho. It was his whole family. His mom and dad had been so proud of him when they had found out he had been selected for this tournament. His dad had sent him a letter telling him this was his chance to shine and show the Wizarding world a Diggory was no one to be taken likely. If he quit now how could he ever face them again?
Resolutely he focused on the positive feelings that finishing this task would bring. The celebrations afterwards, seeing his parents smiling, his dad clapping him on the back and telling him how proud he was, etc… It was hard to keep the overwhelming depression back, but the task was made simpler by focusing on a sole happy feeling. He just needed to stay focused. This whole cave was designed to test your courage in the face of the unknown. Nothing in it was meant to magically challenge those involved. He was sure that would come at a later date, but this was about courage and will to finish.
After forcing himself to take step after step forward for what felt like hours he finally felt the edge of the wards wash over him. With the depression lifted from him he took the chance to look down. He hadn't realized the death grip he had on his wand and the lantern. Relaxing his grip he continued onwards towards his victory, there was only one thing left and nothing was going to stand in his way.
Harry snorted a little at how simple the Dementor part had been. It seemed like he had overestimated how hard they were going to make these events. No one should be able to just wander through a narrow passage like that with dementors lining either side without some type of aid. There must have been wards in place to greatly reduce the effects produced by the creatures. If that was what they did to the dementors then it wasn't even worth watching Diggory try and get past the dragon. Having lost all interest for the time being he excused himself and got up to leave the stands. Tracey protested at the loss of her pillow and warmth, but didn't say anything more once Harry fixed her with a stare. Draco decided to join Harry and he to excused himself before quickly following the raven haired teen down the stairs.
Once they were gone Tracey spoke up, "I swear if I didn't know Harry was one hundred percent into females I would think he and Draco were having a relationship behind our backs. They are all the time just disappearing together for hours. Have any of you ever noticed that?"
She turned around to look at her friends who were now all fixing her with looks like she was crazy. "What? Are you telling me none of you think it's weird that they vanish and no one can find them? Come on, they're up to something and all I'm saying is if I didn't know they weren't gay then I'd think they were getting up to each other."
It was surprisingly Pansy who responded first. "So what you are really saying is, if you hadn't been spreading your legs for Harry you'd think he was gay?"
This caused a few snorts of laughter to come from their group and even a few of the French students around who had heard and understood. Tracey's cheek tinged a light red at the accusation, but did nothing to deny it. Instead she turned back around in her seat and focused on the screen.
Harry and Draco were walking towards the edge of the Black Lake in silence. Neither had said anything since they had left the stands, but it wasn't an awkward silence. Harry stopped about twenty feet from the water's edge and then turned to his friend and ally for the coming war.
"So what was it you were so desperate to tell us earlier Draco? I saw that look in your eye it must have been something good."
The blonde boy broke out into a full blow smirk as he began to tell Harry about what he had overheard from Weasley and Thomas.
"So they think that we're just going to walk into some stupid trap they set up. Well that is un-bloody likely. Before the rest of Slytherin leaves here, we'll make sure to let everyone know to be on the lookout. Wouldn't want one of them to accidentally get caught in the crossfire you know? But since we've got some time until Diggory finishes, how about we use the emptiness of the castle to our advantage and pay back those lions for even thinking they could get one over on us."
Draco smirked even harder at his friend. It amazed him how Harry could go from one second being a pillow and looking completely harmless to the next where he had a mad glint in his eye that proved he would, could, and had caused pain. "Yeah what did you have in mind?"
Harry thought about it for a moment. The last time he had enacted revenge on Longbottom he had taken weeks to plan it out, this time he had only twenty minutes at the most to put something into place. Perhaps he could use something he had already made, like a potion and have one of the house elves slip it into their drink and food.
"Honestly I don't know. Last time I had planned it out. This time we'll need to act fast. Do you have any suggestions Draco?"
"Actually I do have something. I don't know how well it would work, but what about a potion to make them hyper sensitive? You know how some can have the effects of raising a person's sense of smell or making even a slightest touch feel weird? What if we could make it so that they were sensitive to light? They would have to spend the day in the dark or risk a massive headache and discomfort all day. I know we don't have time for it now unless on the off chance you have something like that ready-made, but we could aim for a couple days."
It was amazing how similar he and Draco thought. Harry had been thinking along the lines of that, but was unsure of what to do with it. Draco had provided a great idea, and with a little note to Sirius or Draco's father they would have the potion they were looking for in a day's time or so.
"Excellent, you write your father and I'll write Sirius. I'm sure one of them will know something we can use. However I still think we need to do something right now just to make it clear we won't tolerate their plotting. How about we keep it simple, and apply a permanent sticking charm to their robes? Then we can 'accidentally' banish them into each other."
Draco nodded at the idea. "That sounds good, and they haven't come back out from the castle yet, so we should be able to get them before they go back to the stands. Disillusion ourselves and wait by the doors you reckon?"
Harry nodded and then disappeared as he silently cast his spell and it washed over him. He strode towards the entrance to the castle hoping Draco was following him and not waiting at the lake still.
In the distance he could hear an escalation of cheers and assumed that Diggory had either finished or was about to. That meant Fleur was probably up next so Weasley had better hurry.
It turned out they didn't have to wait too long though. Weasley and Thomas came walking down the main stair case only six or seven minutes later. Both boys were laughing and joking about something. Neither aware that only a few feet from them an ambush was lying in wait.
As they passed the threshold Harry began his casting. The permanent sticking charm flew from his wand tip and splashed against the back of Thomas's robes. The boy must have felt the impact because he turned around and drew his wand. Weasley not sure what was going on, but not wanting to be caught unaware mimicked his friend which turned out to be the wrong move as Draco took that moment to hit him in the back. With the sticking charms in place there was only one thing left to do.
A grin spread across Harrys disillusioned face as he silently banish Weasley into Thomas and then began to run back to the stands. He didn't need to stick around to know the outcome of what had just been done. The only way they were getting out of that mess was to cut those robes off since they had landed in a pile and merlin only knew whose limbs had landed where. With any luck they would still be stuck in that pile by the time the task was over and everyone returned to the castle.
He didn't drop his charm until he was at the bottom of the stairs leading back to the stands they had been in earlier. It was a moment or two later that a panting Draco appeared next to him. They shared a look and then broke into laughter as they started up the steps.
When they made it to the top Harry looked up at the screen only to freeze. His blood ran cold at what he saw. Fleur was already at the dragon portion of her task. It hadn't even been that long, how could she have possibly made it so fast? How was Longbottom supposed to beat that!? He had been stupid to help her, now she was going to be in danger because of him.
His attention was drawn back to the screen though as the crowd gasped at once. His heart stopped as he watched the dragon last out with its tail and catch Fleur across her left side. She was tossed like a rag doll across the cave and landed in a heap near one of the walls. It took every ounce of self-control Harry possessed not to storm that cave in that moment.
He saw Fleur stir and was silently praying she would stay down. A hit like that from the dragon's powerful tail almost assured that she had a broken arm at least, possibly a rib or two. To his immense displeasure though she stood up and began trying to finish her task again. Behind the dragon on a pedestal was a golden egg. The champions had to recover the egg and then exit the cave. As Fleur went back to trying to get the egg Harry took notice of the dragon. Its eyes were both bleeding and swollen. Someone had managed to hit it with the conjunctivitis curse and it was definitely pissed off. If Fleur could mask her scent then she might be able to sneak up on the dragon thanks to its lack of eye sight at the moment.
It seemed like she had a different idea though as a blasting curse flew from her wand and into the opposite wall. The dragon instinctively lunged towards the noise giving Fleur the opportunity she needed. With speed unexpected of someone who had been slammed by a dragon's tail only moments prior she ran at the pedestal and snatched the egg off. The dragon turned and must have regained its bearing, but it was too late as Fleur scampered to the exit. That didn't stop the dragon from trying though as it unleashed a blast of fire right towards the cave exit. Wards flared into life and then the screen changed to a picture of the judges' table.
As Ludo Bagman finished his announcing each judge put up their scores for Fleur. Dumbledore was first and held up a seven. Karkaroff went next and unsurprisingly he held up a four. Madam Maxime seemed to take this as an insult if the look of disgust was anything to go by, and then she showed a perfect ten. Harry snorted at that, this tournament was supposed to be unbiased? The stand in for Crouch had turned out to be Percy Weasley so he went next. He mimicked Dumbledore and produced a seven. Bagman was the last one to go and his six gave Fleur a total score of thirty-four. Harry hadn't been there for Diggory's score but only hoped that it had been enough to beat Fleur.
Part of him knew it was wrong to cheer against her, but that part was squashed by his humanity and desire to see her safe. It amazed him how one person could make him care so much, and if he hadn't ever met Fleur then he doubted he would have ever discovered the feelings he had now. In fact he probably would have wound up eventually dating Tracey, but even at their most intimate of times he never saw or felt for Tracey the way he did for Fleur.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts before finally taking his seat. He once again sat next to Tracey and only gave her a slightly raised eyebrow as she buried back into his side. Harry then set his eyes back on the screen waiting for Longbottom's performance and hoping it would be enough to take first.
Longbottom entered the cave with his floating torch in place and working great. He really had to thank Hermione at some point for all her help with that he never would have had as good of a light source.
He knew what the creatures he was going to face would be, but that didn't make it any less intimidating as he wandered forward. It wasn't long before he came upon the hippogriff. It was standing on the opposite side of a chasm just staring at him. He remembered everything Hagrid had taught them about in Care of Magical Creatures and locked eyes with the magnificent creature as he executed a slow deep bow. Returning up right he didn't dare break eye contact. Minutes seemed to tick by before finally the hippogriff extended its two front legs and dipped his head.
Neville let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding and cautiously started across the plank bridge that was before him. When he reached the other side he was thrown off guard when he got a good look at the hippogriff. It was the same one that Hagrid had brought to their first lesson in third year.
"Buckbeak?" Longbottom stilled as the creature turned and stared at him. It seemed to be taking in every detail of him, and then it leaned forward and rubbed its head against his shoulder.
A smile broke out on Longbottom's face as the hippogriff let him reach out and pet it. Then he had a brilliant idea. Hagrid had said that one could ride a hippogriff if they made it to this point.
"Buckbeak, do you think you could give me a ride?" He felt foolish talking to the creature not sure if it really understood him or not, but figured it would be worth a try. The hippogriff must have understood though as it leaned down so that Neville could toss one leg over and climb on top.
Within seconds the hippogriff was speeding off into the dark cave with the boy who lived clinging onto its back. It easily flew over the gap containing the acromantula and in no time it had reached the wards that held the dementors in place. Longbottom climbed off and then turned and bowed to Buckbeak again to thank him for the ride.
The hippogriff backed away and then flew back to the front of the cave. Neville turned and stared at the narrow passage way. He could already faintly hear the memory playing in his mind. He was about to be forced to relive the night his parents were murdered over and over until he got past this challenge. With shaky hands he reached into his pocket and pulled out a slab of honey dukes chocolate. He bit into it and then stepped forward past the ward line.
Almost immediately he wanted to turn around and quit. All he could hear was his mother screaming and begging for Voldemort to spare him. The tears were coming to his eyes as he watched the green light flare to life and toss his mother's body into the wall. Then it would restart. Each time it played it seemed like the screams got louder and louder. He hadn't even been able to move past one step in. He bit into the chocolate in his hand again hoping that he would be able fight back at least somewhat. As he bit into the slab he took a step. Then the effects would set in again. He repeated this process many times silently praying that he wouldn't run out of chocolate before he made it to the other side.
He wished he knew how to cast a patronus. This would have been so much easier if he could have just walked right through. That's what Fleur had done wasn't it? He had heard some of the judge's talking about how she had produced a silver mist or something. Even if it wasn't a fully corporal patronus it would have been better than nothing.
A bony, ice cold hand came to rest on his skin and he flung himself back. Lost in his own thoughts he had somehow wandered close enough to the dementors to be touched. In his hurry to get away though he had flung his chocolate slab. He had no idea where it had landed, and now he was going to have to finish without it. The cave started to expand its passage way again about twenty feet in front of him, so he assumed that was where the effects would stop, but that twenty feet suddenly seemed like a hundred as the warmth of the chocolate left him and the crushing cold, depression, and fear started back in on him.
Why hadn't he bothered to learn the patronus? Dumbledore had offered to practice with him, and he had said no. He wanted to learn about dueling not advanced charms. He should have known the man had a reason for it. Once again his arrogance had led to him being unprepared. Isn't that what Potter was always trying to tell him though? No matter how many times he thought he had the drop or advantage on the Slytherin he never came out on top. Somehow Harry fucking Potter would always beat him. It was humiliating! He hated being laughed at! He was the boy-who-lived! People should want to be like him he was powerful and he needed to show them all. How could something so simple keep him down like this? He wasn't going to let this beat him and risk being embarrassed again.
With that thought in mind Longbottom sprinted as fast as he could towards what he hoped was the edge of the wards. If he could just breakthrough he would be fine. As he tried to escape the memory of that night played faster in his mind. Just as he reached the edge where the cave expanded again a bright green light flooded his mind and he fell forward as if it had been him hit with the curse.
Tears flowed freely down his cheeks as he tried to get himself under control. He had shivers running up and down his body and couldn't stop his hands from shaking. Pushing himself off the ground though he started to walked forward again. It was only a thirty foot walk or so before he saw an opening and he could feel the temperature rise. He knew what was going to be inside that entrance and he wasn't worried. He knew he was going to be able to get past that dragon. The dementors had been the thing he was most worried about.
He gave himself one more quick look over to make sure the shaking had mostly subsided. It wouldn't do to have a spell go awry because he couldn't control himself. Satisfied that he was as ready as he was going to be he charged forward into the room and wasted no time. He located his target and immediately began throwing spells in the direction of the beast. The dragon roared and stood on its hind legs as it unleashed a swell of fire towards the wizard throwing spells at it. Neville's eyes widened and he dove out of the way only seconds before the ground where he had just been was charred black. His plan wasn't to beat the dragon, just to distract it and confuse it long enough to get the egg and get out. Luckily one of his first spells had hit its target and the dragon only had one good eye.
Enraged by the pain it was feeling more flames were shot at Neville as he fired off a couple more spells. Unfortunately the conjunctivitis curse went just inches shy of making contact with the dragon's good eye. Neville cursed and fired again. This time he was able to hit his target.
He allowed himself a moment of celebration, but this cost him as the dragon lunged forward and swiped at him with its claws. He fell backwards in his attempt to save himself from being sliced to ribbons. He clumsily pulled himself backwards and out of reach of the dragon. It couldn't see him now but it was inhaling deeply and tracking him by his scent.
Thinking quickly he fired off a blasting hex at the dragon's nostril. Hopefully he would be able to do enough damage to give him time to get past the dragon.
He didn't waste his time watching though he got up and ran full sprint to the left to try and get around the dragon. The tail licked to life and he just barely managed to throw himself to the ground as it flung at him. He scrambled back to his feet and was once again sprinting towards the egg. He tried to summon it, but no surprise it didn't even budge.
He figured it was worth a try but had not expected the egg to be able to be summoned to begin with. When he was about five feet from the egg he reached out with his left hand and didn't even break his stride as he approached and snatched the egg under his arm. He made a sharp turn and hurried for the door. He wasn't as quick as Fleur though and this time when the dragon blasted flames at the door Longbottom was hit partially on his way out.
Madame Pompfrey could be seen rushing towards the boy as he collapsed on the ground screaming. The screen went dark at that point and the judges' table once again showed up.
"Don't worry folks! I'm sure Mr. Longbottom will be fine; he is under some of the finest care in the country right now between Madame Pomfrey and the healers from St. Mungo's here today. While we wait for an update let's get the boy's scores though!" Ludo Bagman tried to put a positive spin on everything it seemed like to Harry.
He watched attentively though as the judges began their scoring process. Dumbledore held up an eight, Karkaroff a four, Madame Maxime produced a seven, Percy Weasley also gave a seven, and surprise surprise Bagman help up a nine. That gave Longbottom a total of thirty five points. It moved him ahead of Fleur and Harry felt relief wash over him.
"Now we've just received word that Mr. Longbottom will be fine folks! The burns weren't very severe as the fire ran into the wards first. Now before we call it a day allow me to give you our standings after the first task! In last place for not finishing is Mr. Viktor Krum, but don't worry I'm sure we'll see him back in the second task! In third place is Mr. Cedric Diggory with a total of thirty three points! In second place is the lovely Miss Fleur Delacour with thirty four points!" Here Bagman took a dramatic pause for no reason.
"AND IN FIRST PLACE WITH THIRTY FIVE POINTS LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOY WHO LIVED, MR. NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM!" The Gryffindor section of the Hogwarts stands erupted into applause, but Harry didn't care. He got up and started to leave he had more important things to do at the moment than sit around and watch Gryffindors brag about one of their own who they had just been tormenting days prior. He needed to write Sirius and let him know that the plan was going as expected so far, and then once business was taken care of he would need to find Fleur and offer his congratulations on a great performance.
His cold smirk firmly in place and thoughts of the beautiful Veela running through his head Harry headed towards the castle so he could get the letter out of the way and spend the rest of the evening congratulating her in whatever way she wanted.