Hi, here is the next chapter. Lots of thanks to my beta Reader4972 again for great and quick correction of my chapter. Happy reading.
Challenge of Fire / Challenge of Air
Inside the waiting area of the champions, the ones that hadn't been called up yet, were discussing strategy as they didn't get to see the challenges that the others had to do. After all, the challenges could be repeated. They only knew that Earth and Water had already been done once and therefore could only come up once more. The Hogwarts champions were also quite happy with the number of points that Cedric and Fred had won for them so far. Especially Fred had given them a lead over the other two schools. But they couldn't rest on their early success. They still had four more challenges and then the battle royal to do.
When the champions for the third round were called to go to their waiting rooms, Jennifer stood up and the others wished her good luck. Jennifer hoped that she would be able to continue the good performance of the first two. She walked down the corridor that led to the waiting room for the Hogwarts champion while René Callabier and Ivan Romanov had to walk a bit farther. She walked into the room and the door was closed behind her. She heard Bagman announce that her challenge would be that of Fire. She quickly went over all kinds of fire creatures that they had looked up and any spells that helped deal with fire. The first one that came to her mind was a flame freezing charm.
She saw a red number ten suddenly appear and count down to zero before her gate opened and revealed the arena that she had to work with. She carefully walked into the arena and immediately noticed that it was hot. Much hotter than it had been when she had walked down to the arena from the school. She looked around and saw that several fires were burning all over the arena. She spotted one creature. A salamander that enjoyed a crackling fire. Now she really regretted not having taken Care of Magical Creatures. Well, what did that report from Fred and George say about possible creatures and how to work around them? Salamanders were peaceful and loved rolling in fire. Their skins was resistant to burns and the hotter the fire the more active they got. Next to them they had suspected fire crabs could be used, but there were none of them in sight.
To counter the heat she put a cooling charm on her clothes. It made thinking a lot easier. She looked for possible places where the stars could be hidden. She found one inside the fire that the salamander was in. It was in the middle and as she tried to summon it, it didn't budge. So she needed to get to it in another way. Just how was the question. The salamander wouldn't like it if she extinguished his fire and making it cool to the touch wouldn't be any better. Was there anything she could use? There was a tree with strange berries on it surrounded by a ring of fire, but she didn't know the kind of tree, Herbology had never been her forte, so she put it to the back of her mind.
She saw five walls of fire surrounding a pedestal with another star behind them. Perhaps she should start with that one and ponder how to get to the one the salamander was guarding. They had sharp teeth if you angered them after all. Thankfully the fire walls could be defeated with a flame freezing charm. She then only had to deal with the heat, and the cooling charms took care of that. She just needed to remember to re-apply it after five minutes, which was her current limit. Once she had passed one wall, she had to freeze the next one, which made the previous one regain its heat and power. She had to act very carefully. Finally she was through and she could take the star easily. She had to repeat her performance to get back.
Thankfully the time had given her an idea how to get the star with the salamander. While summoning the star didn't work, she could try other spells, like banishing or levitating it. She first levitated the salamander out of the way, then she tried the banishing charm, which failed. The levitation charm worked though and after dosing the hot star in water from her wand, she could put it into her collection bag. She walked over to a field of strange looking puddles. Once she was closer to them, she noticed the stench. It smelled oily. So it would probably burn if exposed to flames. The question was whether there was a star hidden in one of the puddles.
When she got closer and nothing happened she decided to prod one of the puddles with a stick she transfigured from a rock. It was good that she had used a stick because the substance shot up and pulled the stick from her hand and into the puddle. A wail sounded and from each puddle a small creature jumped out. They were about as tall as her knees, had black hide, sharp teeth and pointy ears. From their backsides spiky tails sprouted and they were currently hitting the ground with their tails.
Jennifer noticed shocked that the hits caused sparks on the ground. Fire stone. She realised that the puddles would catch fire if she didn't do anything. But she didn't know what. Finally she remembered what those creatures were called. Pyrotails. They liked luring clueless people into their territory and if you didn't give them certain fruits, they would ignite their trap fields and burn you. Now she knew what the fruit tree was for, but first she needed to get there. The sparks did what she feared would happen and the puddles caught fire. The cackling from the pyrotails was frightening and she thankfully only got a small burn on her left arm while running away.
She quickly went to the fire ring around the tree and froze it. She got a handful of the blue-orange fruits and headed back. She handed the fruits to the pyrotails and asked for the golden star that they were guarding. For her whole supply of fruits, she got the star. Then, the bell rang and signalled the end of her challenge. She was not happy that she only got three stars, but thankfully she at least had remembered what the pyrotails were. She knew that her performance hadn't been as good as it could have been, but what she had found in this task had sadly been from the classes she hadn't taken at school or which she wasn't good at. Her strengths were Runes and Charms.
"We have another challenge finished. Miss Fallmouth got three stars, Mr Callabier got four and Mr Romanov all five. Sadly, all three of our champions got a bit burned during this challenge, but nothing that our healers couldn't deal with easily," Bagman announced. "Now let's see what our five judges give for points."
"There we have it Miss Fallmouth got sixteen points, plus her stars makes it nineteen. Mr Callabier got eighteen plus four stars makes twenty two. And Mr Romanov got nineteen plus his stars makes twenty five," Bagman called out. "The arena will be changed again now."
The creatures were summoned back to their cages and the fire set-up returned to being a sphere with a swish of a wand from one of the Ministry personnel. It was collected again and all eyes concentrated on the Minister to find out if the next challenge would be the one of air or a repeat of a previous one. The sign over the Minister's loge showed that it was air. Many thought it was probable that the organisers wanted to ensure that each element was at least done once. The crowd got really excited. The next group of champions was shown on the screen and Harry Potter-Black was among them. Most of the spectators were really eager to see the Boy-Who-Lived, who was also the adopted son of the Minister, in action.
Harry breathed in deeply. It was his turn and from the sign over the door he had coincidentally got the challenge of air, the element he had researched for the group. He waited for the countdown to finish and the gate opened for him. The first thing he did was looking around. He saw a black hippogriff standing guard in front of a group of ten clay pots that dangled from strings about three metres high in the air. There was a pit from which strong gusts of wind shot up every few seconds, he could spot a sparkly field high over his head and he thought he saw the shadow of a bird behind some stones. He knew that they had all agreed to try summoning a star in the beginning to cover the obvious. It was a bit of advice that Fred and George had given the group. People nearly always overlooked the obvious solution and that made pranking them so easy for them.
"Accio golden stars," Harry called out and while no star flew towards him, he heard two of the pots rattle.
So there were stars in there that weren't protected against summoning. He caught a reflection of sunlight from the sparkly field, so there was probably one star in there. He needed to get into the air and the easiest way to do that was getting the cooperation of the hippogriff. He knew how he had to behave, but it was even easier if you have something to feed the hippogriff.
"Accio dead ferret," Harry again used the summoning charm and this time, from a distant corner of the arena, a bag with three dead ferrets flew into his arms.
He approached the hippogriff and bowed, not blinking like Hagrid had taught him in his first ever Care of Magical Creatures class. The black hippogriff bowed to Harry after a few seconds. Harry went closer and petted its head and beak.
"Would you help me get the stars I need? You can have one of the ferrets now and one after we're done?" Harry asked and got an agreeing squeak from the half bird half horse.
He threw a ferret at the hippogriff and climbed onto its back. He thankfully knew what to expect flying on one and got the majestic creature to hover under the two pots that had rattled. He opened the lids and quickly secured the stars. Out of curiosity if there would be useful things in the other pots he looked into all of them and pocketed a handful of black peas that had been in one pot. The other pots only held sand or water. He then continued to fly up to the sparkly field. When he was close to the field, he noticed that there were tiny fairies that caused the sparkly effect. Harry knew from his research that fairies could get nasty if you angered them. The star was in the middle of the group and hung in a bubble of some kind.
"Hello, my name is Harry," he introduced himself. "Would you please give me the star that you're guarding?" He asked kindly.
"Only if you give me a treasure," the leading fairy said.
"What kind of treasure do you like?" Harry asked, remembering that different tribes of fairies had different likes and that you couldn't assume anything with them.
"I like red flowers," she answered.
Harry nodded. He looked around. The arena had high walls and there was no vegetation besides grass on the ground. If the organisers wanted the champions to be able to solve the tasks without injuries, there had to be a red flower somewhere. Finally Harry spotted it high up at a ledge. He directed the hippogriff there and it was a balancing act to get it, but he managed. Seeker training made you nimble and enabled you to grab tiny things in one try while flying. He was about to fly back down, when he spotted a star sign on a rock. He looked around and four other rocks also had that sign. He had heard about group enchantments from Hermione. What had she said? Damn, that had been part of the information about what kinds of puzzles the organisers could come up with. Finally he remembered. You had to find all pieces of a puzzle, those marked with a special sign, and put them in the area that had the same sign. Once all marked pieces were in the area, a hidden compartment would open and reveal a treasure.
Harry collected the stones with the stars and looked for the target area. It was a bit away and he had to keep balance of all the stones in his arms. Thankfully the hippogriff was easy to stir and understood verbal commands as well. Harry put all the stones in the area, which was made more difficult as he had to levitate all the stones into hoops forming a circle at the same height. He needed a few tries to make all stones hover in the centre of each hoop to make a flap sprang open on a pedestal below the ring and let him grab the third star. He put it into his collection bag. Then, he flew back to the fairies and handed their leader the red flower that he had collected. She smiled happily and handed Harry the star that her tribe had guarded. Harry knew that his time was running out and flew over to where he had seen the shadow of the bird.
And now that he could see it properly, he realised that it wasn't a normal bird. It was a storm crow. That kind of bird had the ability to call tornadoes, hurricanes and any other kind of storm with just a flap of its wings. Thankfully, Care of Magical Creatures was one of Harry's favourite classes and Hagrid sometimes brought the more dangerous variety of animals into class. While he hadn't shown them a real storm crow, he had taught them about them. Storm crows loved black peas. So Harry got the ones that he had collected before from the pot and held them out for the crow. It looked distrustful at first, then it quickly snapped up one pea. Once it was convinced that they were the real thing, it picked at the offered peas eagerly and Harry could carefully grab around the eating crow and collect the last star. Storm crows couldn't be tamed, they could only be appeased and distracted. Finally, when the crow was done eating the peas, Harry flew back to the ground. The timer rang just before he and the hippogriff had landed.
"My son is amazing!" Sirius gushed happily. "That was a prefect demonstration how you do this challenge!"
"He really was incredible. No wonder that he gets perfect marks in Care of Magical Creatures. Have you seen how he got the hippogriff on his side and how he handled the storm crow? I've never seen anybody be that comfortable while flying on a hippogriff," Remus added.
"Hagrid showed his class hippogriffs as their first creature. And Harry got to ride the one that he practiced with, so he knows the sensation. But I'm truly impressed with how he handled the storm crow. And levitating seven stones at the same level takes a lot of control over your magic," Sirius pointed out.
"That's true. You have to split your concentration and distribute the magic evenly. I guess this challenge will give Harry a lot of points. I didn't understand why Fred Weasley didn't get full points either. He did the water challenge perfectly without injuries," Remus commented.
"You know that Karkaroff's replacement, Rissof, scores all students that don't belong to Durmstrang worse than his own. That's why he only gave three points, and perhaps Rufus didn't think the way Fred dealt with the challenge was worth full five points and therefore only gave four. But overall his scoring was fair, so it doesn't matter in comparison to the others. I guess he wanted to see more spells being actively used and not using the kappa for most of the work, even if that was the joker in the task," Sirius assumed.
"What do you think Harry will get?" Remus asked.
"Rissof will never give full points, that much is clear. I don't know about the others. He has all stars, so probably there will be some that will award full points. We'll see. But I think the hippogriff is really happy about the remaining ferrets. I wonder how Harry thought of summoning them. It made the hippogriff a lot more docile. Without the ferrets, they were trained to only not attack the champions, if they performed the approaching method correctly that is, when they get the stars in the pots. I find it telling that neither Fleur Delacour nor Nikolai Smirnov thought about inspecting all pots. While Nikolai's method of shooting them down worked and he found one star, he stopped after that and missed the second one and he ignored the peas, which cost him the star that the storm crow guarded. And the fact that it blew him away and into a wall only proves that," Sirius commented.
"That's true. He only got three stars thanks to that. And one was a coincidence as he fell through the fairy field and grabbed the star after being blasted by the crow," Remus agreed. "Fleur at least charmed the fairies to give her the star. I never knew that a part-veela could influence fairies like that. And her charming the crow to sleep was ingenious. She avoided injuries that way, even if she didn't realise that the hippogriff could have given her an easier time to get to the stars higher up. But her way of levitating a stone on which she stood was good."
The two watched while Harry let the hippogriff have the remaining ferrets, happy over the help the creature had given him in the challenge.
Harry was really happy. He had got twenty eight points. The three points from Rissof were totally unfair, but Sirius had warned him about how Durmstrang taught the dark arts and that the headmaster had worked under Igor Karkaroff for years. With a former Death Eater leading the school there was bound to be some resentment against him. Well, at least Harry got full marks from the other four. He went over to the second tent where the champions that had finished their tasks were assembled. They got to watch how their team members did the challenges and there were drinks on tables that they could take if they wanted. Those that got injured were also treated, but as the danger level was fairly low overall, there were only few of them. The worst ones had been burns in the fire challenge so far.
Harry found out from the score board that Fleur had got twenty points for her performance plus four stars made twenty four and Nikolai got fourteen plus three made seventeen. Harry was happy to have won a round for Hogwarts. He went over to Fred, Cedric and Jennifer and exchanged experiences about their challenges. Once the points that this group had won for their schools were added to the overall scores, Harry watched how his Pa stood again and threw the next sphere down into the arena. It unfolded an area that had to be the Earth challenge.
"Oh, that's my challenge again," Cedric recognised it immediately.
"We can only hope that Daphne realised that the niffler will save her a lot of work," Fred commented.
"Hey, Professor Kettleburn never really covered them and we didn't talk about their traits during our information exchange sessions either," Cedric defended himself.
"Well, Hagrid showed them to us in class and Daphne takes COMC," Harry commented. "So she should realise it."
The other two nodded at that and watched how the creatures were let into the arena again before the gates opened. Harry got to watch how all three of the competitors did at the same time, which was really neat.
And that were the next two challenges. Only two to go before the battle royal. Till next time.