Chapter Ten

The Second Task

"You and 'Ponine?" Ron said, incredulously. "In the tub together?"

Harry blushed slightly. "It was sort of an accident. I didn't even know she was there."

"What did she look like?"

"I don't know, I didn't see much…but she was really pretty. She had nice skin."

XXX

"You and Harry?!" said Hermione. "In the tub together?"

Eponine blushed. "Yea. It was sort of an accident."

"Did you see anything?" Hermione grinned a bit.

Eponine lowered her head and smiled slightly. "Not much. He was very muscular though."

XXX

It was the evening of the second task. The four friends were in the library, pouring over books of spells of what would help to breathe underwater for an hour. Eponine felt trapped in a nightmare. How could've she let this happen? Why didn't she work on the egg's clue earlier?

"Tell me what the clue was again," said Hermione.

Eponine and Harry had their heads lying on books that were piled up in the library.

"Come seek us where our voices sound," Harry replied.

"The Black Lake," said Hermione. "That's obvious."

"An hour long you'll have to look," Eponine added. "To recover what we took."

"Again obvious but potentially problematic."

"Potentially problematic?" Harry said. "Hermione, when was the last time you had to hold your breath underwater for an hour?"

"Look, we can figure this out," Hermione assured them.

"Sorry to break up the skull session," said Moody. "But Professor McGonagall would like to see you. Not you, Potter and Black. Just Weasley and Granger."

"But, sir," said Hermione. "The Second Task is hours away…."

"Precisely. Presumably, Potter and Black are well prepared and get a good night sleep. Go, now!"

Ron and Hermione left with Professor Moody.

"I guess we'll have to figure out what to do for the task," Eponine said.

Harry nodded in agreement.

After hours of pouring over books, Eponine's eyes felt heavy and she closed her eyes. She saw herself underwater, sinking to the bottom of the Black Lake, water filling her lungs. The mermaids held her necklace out of reach, which was glowing, laughing at her. Suddenly, Lord Voldemort's face appeared on the mermaid's face.

Eponine gasped and woke up covered in sweat. Neville Longbottom was standing next to her.

"Are you OK, 'Ponine?" asked Neville.

"Yea, fine," she said, rubbing her eyes. "Just had a bad dream. What are you doing here? What time is it?"

"Well, it's half-past seven. Harry said you fell asleep and couldn't wake you."

Eponine cursed under her breath about how late she was going to be for the task.

"Are you nervous about the second task?"

"Yes. I don't know what to do. I have to hold my breath underwater for an hour yet I don't know what to do."

"If you're interested in plants, Magical Plants of the Higland Lochs might be helpful," said Neville.

"Do you know of any plants that could help me breathe underwater for an hour?"

"Well, I read that gillyweed works."

Eponine was kicking herself for not thinking about this. She had access to Snape's storage closet. Yet, she was worried that the key would no longer work and if she dared to break into there, he would confirm his suspicion of someone breaking in.

"I have some gillyweed for you and Harry to use." He held his hand out and showed her a plant that looked like a ball of green worms. Eponine was about to open her mouth about where he got that until Neville interrupted her train of thought: "Come on. We should get you to the Task."

She nodded. She ran quickly to the girls' bathroom and changed into her bathing suit, which was a crimson red with gold, throwing gold and red sweats on top since it was so cold outside. She went with Neville to the Black Lake, finding Harry outside waiting for them.

"You're sure this will work?" asked Harry.

"Yes."

"For an hour?"

"Most likely."

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Eponine.

"Well, there have been some debates among herbologists as to the effects of saltwater and freshwater…"

"You're telling us this now?!" Harry said incredulously. "You must be joking."

"I-I just wanted to help."

Eponine looked around for Ron and Hermione. She didn't see them anywhere. Where could they be? Did they decide not to come to the Task? Harry and Neville and Eponine climbed into a boat that led out to rafts that stood in the middle of the lake.

"Welcome to the Second Task," said Dumbledore. "Last night, something was stolen from our champions: a treasure of sorts. These four treasures, one for each champion now lie at the bottom of the Black Lake. In order to win, each champion will need only to find their treasure and return to the surface. Simple enough, except that they only have an hour to look, and only one hour. No magic will save them."

Eponine looked at the gillyweed, shuddering in disgust and threw it in her mouth, hoping to just get it down and over with. She felt it moving down her throat, holding back on her gag reflex since it tasted disgusting. Dumbledore's words were buzzing in her mind as she continued to gag, feeling sick.

"You may begin at the start of the cannon…"

Before Dumbledore could say the word 'cannon', it went off in the cold, still air; the stands erupted with cheers and applause. The three champions, Cedric, Krum, and Fleur dived in. Harry and Eponine were pushed in by Moody. Eponine felt herself plunge into the icy cold water, feeling a piercing pain in the side of her neck and she felt slits on the sides of her neck…she had gills. She looked at her hands, which had sprouted webs and her feet turned into flippers. She saw Harry had done the same. They looked at each other and decided not to waste time since the clock was ticking.

Silence pressed on their ears as they swam through the dark, foggy landscape. There were forests of rippling, tangled kelp, wide plains of mud littered with dull, glimmering stones. They swam deeper and deeper toward the middle of the lake, staring through the gray water around them. They swam through the tall weed, looking around. Something swam right past them, scaring them to death and they saw what looked like a large fish. They followed the large fish and saw something in the distance.

A cluster of stone dwelling stained with algae loomed out of the gloom on all sides. There were faces…faces that bore no resemblance to the painting of the mermaid in the prefects' bathroom. They had grayish skin, wild hair that looked like sea anemones tentacles, their eyes were yellow and their teeth were sharp. Their powerful, silver fish tails beat the water, clutching tridents that looked like the shell of lobster claws.

A whole crowd of merpeople were floating in front of the houses lined what looked like a mer-version of a village square. A choir of merpeople singing broke the silence of the water, which sounded eerily beautiful. Eponine could hear them speaking in their language, Mermish. They were whispering amongst themselves about the strangers that came into their territory and how they didn't like it and about Dumbledore. Yet, she heard amongst them was about her…how astounded they were by her beauty: the men enchanted and the women envious.

As she approached the square, she found five figures tied to a large boulder. Ron was tied between Hermone and Cho Chang. There was also a girl who looked no older than eight, whose clouds of silvery hair made her sure that it was Fleur Delacour's sister. Next to Ron was George Weasley. All of them appeared to be in a very deep sleep, fine streams of bubbles escaped from their mouths. The ropes of weed tying the hostages to the statues were thick, slimy and very strong.

She saw Harry swimming in the square. She sped towards the square, at first thinking that they were going to attack until she read their minds. She took out her wand and used a wordless incantation of the Severing Charm at George's rope. Harry followed in suit to Ron. He was about to help Hermione until the merpeople swam like lightning and pointed their tridents at Eponine's throat, hissing and growling.

"But she's my friend too!" he said.

"Only one!" one of them said.

Soon, a roar came and there was a shark's head appeared, scaring Harry and Eponine. Soon the shark's head had half of a human body. It was burgundy red and had Krum's name on the back. Of course! Only he would think of something brilliant like that. Soon, Cedric rescued Cho and they swam to the surface. The only one left was Fleur's sister: Eponine and Harry scanned the water (she using her telepathy could hear panicked French from a distance, which she was sure was Fleur's thoughts).

Harry used his Severing Charm to free the young girl and they swam up to the surface. Suddenly, a mob of grindylows: water demons with tentacles and pointed fangs grabbed Harry. Eponine began to panic when she saw her friend being dragged down.

Take them! I'll be fine, 'Ponine! His thoughts spoke.

She would not leave her friend behind. She pushed the three hostages towards the surface and dove back to fight off the grindylows. They bit and grabbed her hair, laughing…Harry used a spell to stun them and they suddenly swam away. Eponine could feel her lungs fill up with water. Harry grabbed her wrist and raised his wand, screaming with all the strength he had:

"ASCENDIO!"

Soon, the two of them rocketed up towards the surface. Eponine and Harry coughed as they got their first wonderful breath of cold, fresh air after one hour of being underwater.

"You could've just left me," he said. "I would've fought off the grindylows."

"I didn't want to!" she replied. "A best friend never leaves a fallen one behind."

They swam together towards the docks and heard a rouse of cheers. They were pulled out of the water by their friends, wrapping them in towels, shivering. The crowds were making so much noise; shouting and screaming.

"You saved 'er!" said Fleur breathlessly. "Even though she wasn't yours to save." She kissed Harry on the cheeks. "And you! You 'elped!" She kissed Ron on two cheeks, which reddened. Then, she kissed Eponine's cheeks.

Dumbledore announced the scores of the champions.

"Cedric Diggory, who used the Bubble-Head Charm, was the first to return with his hostage. We award him forty-seven points. As for Harry Potter and Eponine Black, who both used gillyweed to great affect, both returning last. However, the Merchieftainess inform us that Mr. Potter was delayed in his return was due to their determination to return all hostages to safety, not merely their own…along with Miss Black who helped her fallen teammate. Therefore, they both score forty-five points each."

"Second place!" said Hermione among the cheers.

"Now the third and final task will take place on the twenty-fourth of June," continued Dumbledore. "The champions will be notified of what is coming one month beforehand."

XXX

Crouch approached Eponine and Harry to congratulate them…as soon as his hand touched Eponine's shoulder, she saw a terrible vision, seeing through a first person's eyes: walking through the mist and suddenly a garbled voice shouting and a flash of green…falling, just falling to the ground, staring at the sky…

"Black, are you alright?" he asked.

"Yea…fine…" she lied. "I better go see Madam Pomfrey…those grindylows roughed me up."

"Yes, yes, of course. Take care of those bites. I've heard your story many times. Tragic, really...to lose a family. I have heard about your father's imprisonment and evasion from the law...and your mother to die so young. I am terribly sorry for your ordeal. But I am sure they would both be proud of you."

She smiled a little. "Thank you, sir."

She went to see Madam Pomfrey to tend to her wounds, wishing that her dad could be here to watch her. After that, she joined her friends at Hagrid's cabin. While they strolled in the woods, Hagrid reminisced about them when they first arrived at school.

"Well, 'Ponine's a latecomer, but still, you all were a bunch of misfits. Here we are, four years later."

"We're still a bunch of misfits," said Ron.

Soon, their talking became silent and Eponine felt so cold. She kept seeing a shocked expression, flashes of green light and black crows cawing and a black hat rolling away, continuously flashing in her mind, making her feel dizzy. She tripped on a tree root, scraping her knee.

"'Ponine, you alright?" asked Ron.

"Something's not right," she said.

"What...what is it?" asked Hermione.

She looked up and saw a frozen Harry, staring down at something on the ground. She got up and went to him and there at the base of a tree was a body...It was Mr. Crouch! He had the same shocked expression, his black hat a few feet away while crows fluttered and cawed overhead.