A Peculiar Logic
a/n – I was sitting there, minding my own business, listening to a classic rock album and reading through the rerelease of the original AD&D Monster Manual by E. Gary Gygax (a moment of silence as we all turn towards Lake Geneva and roll d100), when I came across the entry for the Sphinx. And then the track changed to track five. Then I thought about the Third Task. And then Luna asked "Why Not?"
Someday I'll have an answer for her.
This is very much a parody, slightly out of character look at what might have happened if a cooler Sphinx had been hired for the Third Task.
As always, JK Rowling owns everything Harry Potter. E. Gary Gygax and TSR brought us the original Monster Manual, though I think the ancient Egyptians would argue that Sphinxes are in the public domain. And Jim Steinman and RCA music own some songs.
Chapter One – Who Knew?
24 June, 1995 – The Maze, Hogwarts School
The screaming had been horrible.
As Harry made his way through the maze, the screams from ahead of him had really unnerved him. Three times now he'd heard screams of horror and pain, and never once had he seen the infamous red sparks that were supposed to signal that a Champion needed to be retrieved from the Maze.
That meant one of two things to Harry. Either it wasn't quite as bad as it sounded and they didn't need rescuing, which was certainly encouraging. However, the little Hermione voice in the back of his head told him to be careful since it could also mean that either they weren't capable of sending up sparks, or that rescue no longer mattered.
Neither of which did much for Harry's peace of mind, though his mental Hermione promised that she'd finally tell him what she was going to say during their first year when he went ahead to face what they thought was Snape.
When did Hermione become such a bloody tease?
And was that a good thing or a bad thing?
Before he could contemplate whether or not the witch in the periwinkle robes was a tease or not, he turned a corner and stopped dead in his tracks.
He'd finally managed to find all of the other Champions, though he was beginning to wish he hadn't.
All three of them were bloody and broken, scattered around the fifteen foot wide marble platform upon which reclined a Sphinx.
A bloody big Sphinx.
About ten feet long, with a body that appeared to have been borrowed from a very large lion, wings that were easily twice the size of the ones on Buckbeak and the torso of a woman. A very well endowed woman if the view Harry could get from where he was standing meant anything, though she was wearing a black teeshirt on her upper torso of all things.
He must have made some noise when he rounded the corner because she looked up and fixed him with a stare with her large golden eyes.
The first thing that crossed his mind was "Give Hermione five years..."
To which the voice in his head took exception and suggested two tops
Harry was shocked out of his reverie as the Sphinx started purring. Purring like the biggest bloody cat in existence, but purring nevertheless.
As he started to step back around the corner, she winked at him and shook her head.
"No point going back, the only way to the center is through me."
Sighing in resignation, Harry stepped forward cautiously. Seeing that there was a square of marble about three feet in front of her platform, he stepped into the middle of it and looked over at the others.
All three were alive, but they were in terrible shape. As shocking as their injuries were, and Harry had a flashback to the one time Crookshanks had toyed with a mouse in front of him, they were eerily silent.
"Can't have them give you any hints on the riddle now, can we," the Sphinx asked matter of factly.
"I suppose not," Harry admitted, grudgingly. Looking up, and trying to keep his eyes focused on the eyes of the Sphinx since Hermione had made a point of mentioning that "my eyes are up here" to Ron every time he focused on her chest, Harry could feel the strange creature sizing him up.
"I hope you do better than these three," she began in an offhand manner. Realizing that he needed to focus on what she was saying, Harry nodded slightly, tightening his grasp on his wand since he was certain if the three older Champions couldn't answer her riddle, then he was about to find out what happens when all four Champions were eliminated.
"In 1645 when all three champions were killed and eaten by the chimera in the maze, the magic of the tournament forced the schools to keep picking champions until at least one of them got through," the Sphinx answered to Harry's unasked question.
Seeing the sharp look on his face, she reared up and started laughing, which did very interesting things to the shirt she was wearing and terrible things to Harry's focus until he could imagine Hermione huffing in annoyance at him being so easily distracted and he turned his attention back to the Sphinx.
"Very good," the Sphinx complimented. "No wonder Miss 'I'm French so you have to take me seriously' from Beauxbatons was so annoyed with you." Pausing for a moment, she added, "and no, I wasn't reading your mind. If you weren't wondering what would happen if you ended up like the others, then you're not as smart as you look."
Blushing, Harry shuffled his feet for a moment. Seeing that she was still studying him, he smiled. "It's a riddle, correct?"
"At least someone reads the classics," she replied. Tilting her head to the side, she smiled. "Muggleborn?"
"Muggle-raised," was his reply.
"Figures," she snarked. "Well, since you're the last one to get to me, win or lose as soon as you're sorted the red sparks will go up for these three." Pausing for a moment, she added slyly, "And you if you need it, of course."
"Of course," Harry countered in, what he hoped, was a confident voice. "We might as well get started."
"You do know you can withdraw" she asked. Seeing the blank look, she chuckled. "Just send up the sparks and they'll collect all of you. Since the four of you are alive, the rules will probably have us back here tomorrow to start again."
Shaking his head, thinking of the things that Hagrid could add to the maze once he'd seen how they did and not wanting to find Fluffy standing somewhere, Harry bowed slightly to the Sphinx.
"Gryffindors to the fore and all that," he said with a gleam in his eye. "Not to doubt your skills, but after a basilisk …"
Trailing off, Harry was surprised to see mirth in her eyes. "Oooh. Psyops. I like that. Haven't had anyone try to bluff me like that since I was on retainer with Gringotts Verona and some joker tried to convince me he had a Cerberus for a pet."
"I wonder when Hagrid was in Verona," Harry asked aloud. Seeing the questioning look on her face, he smirked. "Our Care of Magical Creatures professor has a Cerberus that he named 'Fluffy' if you can believe it." Pausing for a moment, he added, "And the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets was at least sixty feet long"
"Chamber of Secrets?"
"Yea, my second year."
Muttering something about 'hazard pay' she shook her head. "That Dumbledore fellow swore you weren't 'that' Harry Potter." Growling in frustration, her tail was lashing back and forth. "Manipulative old bastard."
"Welcome to my life," Harry quipped. Feeling a bit sorry for her, he gently prodded, "A riddle?"
"Yes, yes." Shaking her head, which once again did interesting things to the black teeshirt, the Sphinx folded her arms across her chest, fixed him with her best 'I'm serious' look and began.
"Knowing that 'two out of three ain't bad', if you had failed to find gold at the beach, oil in Trafalgar Square, and your significant other were to leave you in the middle of a blizzard, what could you give her and what couldn't you?"
Staring in disbelief, Harry's eyes grew wide. Looking down at the others, he could see the looks of resignation and knew that this was the riddle that had defeated them all. Well, this riddle and the one and a quarter tons of Sphinx who was sizing him up as if he were afters.
As he shook his head in disbelief, thinking that there had to be a catch, he finally noticed what was emblazoned on the shirt. The concert teeshirt. The concert teeshirt from 1978. The concert teeshirt from 1978 with a jet propelled motorcycle with a horse's skull rocketing out of a graveyard.
Ignoring the suddenly laughing voice of Hermione in his head, Harry looked the Sphinx in the eye and began.
"I could tell her that I wanted her, I could tell her that I needed her, but …"
Taking a deep breath, he finished by singing, "… but there ain't no way I'm ever going to love you."
Inclining her head, the Sphinx gestured to the path that went on deeper into the maze.
As Harry stepped up and passed her, he paused for a moment and then turned around.
"So I can just go?"
Looking puzzled, she furrowed her brow for a second before simply answering, "Yes."
"I bet you say that to all the wizards."
a/n2 – At least she didn't ask what was in her pockets.