A/N: I changed my penname. Do you like the new version? 'Moka-girl' was starting to feel a bit immature considering I'd come up with it when I was thirteen. Tell me what you think of the new name. :)
Special thanks to those who reviewed: Arnold DeVillena, Gensplejs, foxygirlindo, Cat Beats, 1529, Slytherin66, AmericanMuggleborn, Ju2lalune, blassreitter, Lord Romulus Malfoy V, JPElles, monbade, Sparky1368, Shad0wReaper133, turtlepearlove and thirteen anonymous reviewers.
I learnt a lot of things by researching for this chapter. Did you know that a group of moths is called an eclipse? And the kind of tube-like tongue insects like moths and butterflies use to drink is called a proboscis? Fascinating stuff.
In other news, I am sorry it took so long to get this out. I'd thought I would update late August or early September, but that didn't happen. I had to move out, started university and the little time I had was spent updating my other fic, a Harry Potter/The Last of US crossover called Unfaltering Bereavement. But these last weeks I've been working hard to finally write this. Hope you guys like it.
They landed at an intersection with six tunnels all leading to different directions. Viktor immediately ran off, taking the closest tunnel, while Luna and Harry were still regaining their bearings.
"Good luck," said Luna as she tightened her hold on her instrument. Without hesitation, she marched through a tunnel left of the one Viktor had taken.
Once he was alone, Harry wrapped the Invisibility Cloak around his body, his wand at the ready. He went through a tunnel completely opposite to the ones Viktor and Luna had gone through.
The tunnel was illuminated by small red lights floating near the ceiling. There was enough light for Harry to see, but he still muttered a quick Lumos. With the extra glow from his wand, he'd be able to easily see any hidden foes.
During the first minute of wandering around, Harry's tension eased as he encountered no enemies. The stone walls all looked alike and there was absolutely no way to tell the tunnels apart. He passed two other intersections, taking the tunnel to the left every time, before he realized he couldn't continue going on like this.
'If I just continue like this, I'll get lost. I need to find a way to keep my bearings,' thought Harry.
He looked around thoughtfully. He'd reached the third intersection, a fork leading in two different directions. Both tunnels looked identical to such a point that it had clearly been done on purpose by the wizards that had created the area. It didn't take long for an idea to hit him. He pointed his wand at the ground and carved an arrow in the middle of the tunnel, pointing in the direction he was heading for, the tunnel on the left side. That way if he ended up at this intersection again he would know where he would have come from and gone to the first time around.
Harry smiled, content with his idea and confident he would not be walking in circles any time soon. However, when he turned the next corner he came face to face to his first foes, and his tension came back stronger than ever. He'd arrived at the end of the tunnel. It opened up to a large circular cavern filled with a large amount of floating red balls of light set in clusters up by the ceiling. Covering those lights were huge moths as long as Harry's arm. Some were set on the walls, while others were flying around, chasing after some of the moving lights.
The cavern was a dead end, with no way to leave it other than the tunnel Harry had come from. Thanks to the Invisibility Cloak Harry hadn't been noticed by the enormous moths, so he'd be able to leave without any trouble. Unfortunately, as soon as he took a step back to leave, all the lights in the room went off, leaving only those in the tunnel Harry was in, as well as his illuminated wand, shining in the darkness.
Immediately, all the moths turned as one to lock their eyes on the light of Harry's wand. They shrieked, a horrible noise like nails on a chalkboard. All of them dropped from the ceiling, opening their wings to head straight for Harry. Cursing his luck, Harry turned off his wand's light, running back the way he had come from. Hopefully the oversized moths would ignore him in favour of the red lights lining the tunnel.
That wasn't what happened.
Instead, the moths completely ignored the floating lights, aiming for Harry despite his current state of invisibility. They somehow knew where he was anyway.
He ran, heading back the way he came as fast as he could. Minutes passed as he ran, but the moths followed him with unflinching determination, no matter how fast he went. In fact, just as Harry tripped, too tired to go on, two moths dived for him. He ducked, overbalancing himself to the point that his fingers were scraping at the ground to stop himself from falling over. He felt the air shift as the moths missed, flying over his head.
Harry aimed his wand at the moths in front of him and shouted:
Harry didn't have the time to check they were falling to the ground - he was already overtaking the two moths, lungs burning. He was just about as fast as the moths while sprinting, but he was running out of energy fast. Already, he could feel a side stitch from the running. He might ride pegasi as a hobby, but he wasn't used to exercise that involved running this fast for longer than five minutes.
He was too slow.
Just as the thought came to him, one of the moths latched onto him. His cloak fell off, revealing him to the sight of the insect. The moth grabbed hold of his arm, mandibles spreading as a long suction tube came out, piercing into Harry's forearm. He cried out, trying to rip the proboscis out. Another moth reached him, aiming for his thigh. He pointed his wand at it and cried out:
The moth exploded, and the blast was large enough to catch several of the other magical insects. Unfortunately, there were many more. Harry didn't have much more energy to run so he pointed his wand at the eclipse of moths, trying to ignore the stabbing pain from the moth eating his arm.
Harry was thrown backwards by the force of the magic, his wand clattering on the ground. The spell blew the tunnel up, and the moths that managed to escape the charm were killed by the ensuing cave in. Harry was lying on his side, squishing the moth that was sucking the blood from his arm.
With unexpected anger, Harry lunged. His wand lay forgotten on the ground as he ripped one of the creature's wings off. The moth screeched, a terrible noise that made Harry's skin crawl, and ripped its tubular tongue out of Harry's arm. The appendage came back to pierce through Harry's hand, the tip of it coming out on the other side.
Harry cried out in pain as blood ran out of his wound.
Desperate to get rid of the creature, he closed his perforated hand around the tongue to keep the moth from escaping and used his other hand to punch the insect in the eye. It screeched once again, but Harry didn't relent. He punched it one more, and when that didn't do anything he punched it again, and again, and again. He punched it until his fist was screaming at him and the moth was nothing more than pulp.
He leaned back against the stone wall, panting harshly in the silence of the tunnel. The red lights were still shining dimly in the ceiling, illuminating the scene.
The dead moth next to him was the only recognizable insect. All the others had been crushed beneath the rocks of the cave in, with only a limb or two sticking out of the mess, visible here and there.
Harry allowed himself a few seconds of respite to catch his breath before getting to his feet. With a small grimace he ripped the dead moth's proboscis out of his hand, letting the tube-like tongue fall down the the ground. Blood was flowing out of the wound at a steady pace, which wasn't helping Harry's wooziness at all.
He picked up his wand, trying to think of what healing spells he knew. Most of his favourite spells were used for duelling and Harry didn't know much about healing.
Harry pointed his wand at the hole in his hand, hoping he'd be able to fix this. He was not interested in fainting from blood loss any time soon.
"Episkey," Harry murmured, focused on his wound.
The magic did its work and his skin knitted back together. Harry smiled, glad the problem hadn't been that serious. However, when he tried to flex his hand, a surge of pain made itself known. Harry had to grit his teeth to keep himself from making too much noise.
It seemed that while the skin had repaired itself, the bones hadn't regrown. The hole in his hand was still present, albeit covered by a layer of skin that was stopping the blood from escaping. Harry was pretty sure the spell hadn't repaired all of his blood vessels so it was highly likely he was bleeding internally from the badly-healed wound.
"Great," he growled, scowling at his hand. What a great way to begin the TriWizard Tournament.
He picked his cloak up and wrapped it around his body. The gigantic moths might have been able to sense him despite his invisibility, but that didn't mean the cloak wouldn't help him against other creatures. He had no idea how much time had passed, but he had to hurry. Dolores Umbridge had said that he would only be on this level for thirty minutes before being dropped down to the next one, and he was pretty sure a little over ten minutes had passed already. He didn't have much time left to find the clues on this level of the maze.
As he left the scene, he made sure to ground his foot into the mess that had once been the moth responsible for that hole in his hand.
Bloody carnivorous insects.
It didn't take long for him to find the first clue. He encountered no more obstacles after the moths, and so he spent his time carving little signs in the ground to keep track of where he was in the maze while he searched. When he found the first clue, only two or three minutes had passed.
He entered a circular room not unlike the one the moths had been in. There weren't any enemies to be seen. In the centre of the room was a large basin held up by a statue of an octopus. The basin was emitting a strong blue light, the only thing to illuminate the room. After being surrounded by red lights in the maze for so long, Harry was glad for a change.
Harry approached the basin cautiously. It contained three scrolls held in filigree metal cases. The clues.
He picked one up and stuffed it into one of his pockets. However, when he reached for one of the other scrolls, the octopus statue's eyes lit up in white.
"Only one," the statue said.
"All right," said Harry, taking a cautious step back.
He circled around the statue warily and left the room through another tunnel, taking care to mark his path as he went.
This tunnel, like all the others, was lit up with red lights. Harry was beginning to suspect that the lighting system had a specific meaning. Red meant there was a chance of encountering foes, and blue light was meant for rooms with clues in them. He couldn't be sure if his theory was right yet, but it seemed likely that the ones in charge of designing this underground area had used varying colours to differentiate between regular places and rooms with clues.
He bit the inside of his cheek as another wave of pain came from his hand. He could feel the place where the bone was missing, that little space in his hand that was completely empty.
Is the hole filled with blood, Harry wondered, or did my spell manage to make flesh grow where bone is meant to be?
He really hoped his hand would be fine until the task was over.
Ever since beating the moths, Harry had been walking at a much brisker pace than before. He didn't have much time left, so he was going as fast as he could without making any noise to betray his location. He had yet to encounter Viktor or Luna, which was a good indication as to how large this maze had to be.
He reached yet another intersection, which further scrambled his mental map of the area. Before continuing, he used his wand to carve a little arrow to keep track of where he'd been, and then he took the right turn.
Barely twenty steps later, he came face to face with a large spider, so big it came up to chest level. The creature seemed to be patrolling the tunnel, advancing towards Harry. Thankfully, the Invisibility Cloak worked against this creature and it didn't notice Harry.
It was an acromantula, Harry realized, remembering learning about it in class a year ago. It was an Asian species and was not native to Europe as it lived in jungles. The creature had probably been imported from a far-away land for the sole purpose of being a part of the tournament, considering Harry was pretty sure none lived in the United Kingdom.
Harry walked backwards slowly, keeping his eyes on the spider and glancing back from time to time to ensure he didn't bump into anything. Luckily the creature was moving quite slowly, unaware of there being prey nearby.
Finally, Harry reached the intersection he'd been at barely a minute ago. He could either go back where he came from and end up in that room he'd gotten his first clue from, or he could take the second tunnel of the intersection, which might have even more enemies waiting for him. Considering he didn't have much time left, Harry decided to take the risk and head for the unexplored tunnel.
The acromantula came very close to him and for a second he feared it was going to go the same way, but the creature instead headed in the direction of the room with the clues.
Shoulders dropping in relief, Harry hurried forward, leaving the spider behind.
The eerie red lights and the oppressing silence only served to remind Harry that past tournaments had had a high death toll. He was anxious, constantly looking over his shoulder in case something tried to sneak up on him.
He ached to make some noise, to fill the silence so that the place didn't feel so dead. He wanted to talk, he needed to say something—
Harry narrowed his eyes and conjured some water with a flick of his wand. It came out in a small spray and he aimed it right at his own face. The cold water did exactly what he'd hoped for — it cleared up his mind, getting rid of a fog that he hadn't even realized was muddling up his thoughts. Harry blinked droplets out of his eyes.
Someone had placed a spell on him. He was pretty sure that either those moths had some sort of venom that affected the mind, or there was a spell designed to affect people in the maze, to make the let their guard down and do something to make it easier for the foes in the maze to find the affected people. The latter was much more likely, but Harry couldn't ignore the risk of those moths having some sort of psychoactive venom.
Whatever it had been, he'd taken care of it.
Harry began walking again, moving as fast as possible. He was pretty sure he only had around five minutes left, though he couldn't be sure. He needed to move quickly before he ran out of time. It did not help that his hand was aching fiercely and it looked like it was changing colour. He was sure his hand was filling up with blood from his ruptured veins and very soon the skin he'd grown over his gaping wound would bloom into an ugly bruise.
Gritting his teeth, he moved on until he arrived to the next large room. This one held yet another enemy, a large purple snake that Harry recognized as a particularly vicious breed from Kenya. It was muttering things in English, talking about finding food and eating it in gruesome ways. It was a bit surprising, because Harry's teacher had never said that this magical breed could talk English.
The room was large and Harry was still covered in his cloak. He used the scent-hiding spell Fleur had taught him and crossed the room, staying close to the walls and away from the snake, which was in the middle of the cavern.
"Rip their limbsss off and ssswallow their ssscreamsss..." the snake was hissing, eyes on the tunnel Harry had just come from. Harry's heart was beating fast, imagining all too well what the creature would do if it noticed him.
With a few more steps, Harry was on the other side of the room. He went through the tunnel behind the snake without stopping to mark his path, knowing it was too risky with a foe so close. As he advanced, he started to breathe easier with the knowledge that the distance between him and that man-eating beast was increasing.
He remembered hearing that this tournament was a safer version of the tournaments that had been banned in the past, those with the high death toll. He wondered how much worse it had been for champions during that time.
Harry arrived at another intersection, but he noticed that he'd already left a mark here. There were three possible tunnels he could choose from without counting his own, and the arrow on the floor indicated that he'd come from the left tunnel and had gone through the middle one. So that left the third tunnel, on the right.
Increasingly aware that he had very little time left, Harry turned his hurried walk into a jog, no longer caring if he was heard. He needed to find the second clue before he was dropped to the next level.
And then, as if the maze had heard his prayers, the next room he reached was lit up by a blue glow. In the centre of the room was yet another basin, but this time the statue holding it up was a lion on its hind legs.
Suddenly, an echoing voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once announced:
"Time left: Ten seconds."
Harry ran over to the basin, his shoes tapping loudly against the ground has he did so. When he arrived, he noticed that there was only one scroll left, meaning Luna and Viktor had already found this room. He picked up the clue and placed it in one of his pockets. He didn't put it in the same pocket as the other clue, preferring to avoid keeping his valuables all in one place.
Harry sighed, turning around. He'd found two clues, and now only the two clues of the next level were left. Unfortunately, when he turned around he caught sight of the tunnel he'd just come from. There was a rather familiar purple snake there.
"I can hear you, little meatsssack," hissed the snake, eyes on Harry.
He was still covered by his cloak, so he should be able to leave. Harry took a step back, but he stumbled into the stone basin, which fell out of the stone lion's paws and shattered on the ground.
The snake's eyes snapped over to Harry, and it opened its mouth wide, hissing in a threatening manner.
The purple creature began slithering to the centre of the room, looking at that stone basin and searching for Harry.
Harry abandoned stealth and ran, figuring that as long as he evaded the snake until the end of the countdown, he'd be safe.
The snake sprang forward and Harry threw himself on the ground, feeling the beast's jaw snap closed inches away from his face.
Harry rolled away, but the snake followed.
Once again, the snake lunged.
The ground disappeared, and both Harry and the snake fell down to the second level.
The drop seemed impossibly long. When Harry finally landed, he hit the ground so painfully that he felt the improperly healed wound in his hand open up again. The skin ripped apart, and all the blood that had accumulated in the hollow space in his hand began flowing out.
"I can sssmell deliciousss food..." hissed the snake in an unnervingly cheerful tone.
It looked like it was still regaining its bearings from the fall, so Harry took the opportunity to go on the offensive.
"Confringo!" he exclaimed, aiming for the creature's head.
A jet of light shot out of his wand, but it dispelled the moment it touched the snake.
The animal was resistant to magic, which meant he couldn't use offensive spells on it.
"You think your tricksss and your lightsss will work on me, sssilly little meatsssack?" asked the snake. "Better humansss have tried and sssucumbed to my fangsss." And without warning, the snake lunged for Harry's face.
With unsuspected speed, Harry leapt to the left, narrowly missing the snake's gaping maw. He pointed his wand at the snake, eyeing it warily as it turned around to face him again. How was Harry meant to fight if offensive spells were useless? Harry's eyes narrowed in thought as he remembered how he'd deal with the moths on the first level. Perhaps...
The snake dove for Harry's midsection, and Harry forgot to think.
"Ssstop!" Harry shouted, folding his hands out, palms facing the snake. He had no idea why he hadn't just avoided the attack. Either fear was making him stupid, or there was also a psychoactive spell on this level that only a splash of cold water would get rid of.
Amazingly, the snake did stop.
"A ssspeaker?" it asked, its head rearing back in surprise.
Harry didn't stop to question his luck. He pointed his wand at the ceiling and cast a spell:
The stone exploded, raining enormous chunks down on the snake. The animal shot forward, trying to avoid them, but one of the largest rocks fell down on the snake's tail, crushing it. The creature was pinned.
"A ssspeaker would attack itsss own alliesss?!" The snake was moving in a frenzy, trying to escape. "Traitor to the snakesss! Trait—"
Harry levitated a big chunk of grey rock and dropped it on top of the snake's head. Unfortunately, despite being pinned down the creature was still capable of moving out of the way to protect its head from being crushed. The reptile hissed angrily, straining towards Harry with murder in its eyes.
This was getting out of hand. Why did Harry need to kill the snake? The animal was out for the count and incapable of freeing itself. Also, killing it was a waste of time, as Harry Harry needed to spend every moment he had looking for the third and fourth clues instead of fighting foes.
Harry sighed and bent down to pick up his bloody Invisibility Cloak with his wand hand, ignoring the pain from his other hand, which hadn't stopped bleeding. He wasn't feeling the kind of acute agony that made one cry out. Instead, it was a duller feeling, a constant and unrelenting pain that chipped away at his pain tolerance until he couldn't take it anymore.
"I'll tear you to piecesss and pain the wallsss with your blood!" the snake was hissing.
Harry groaned, pulling his Cloak on with one hand. "Just shut up, will you?"
The novelty of a talking snake had worn off fast. Now he just wanted it to stop talking.
With one last glance towards the snake to ensure it was still pinned in place, Harry left the room, taking the closest tunnel to leave.
While he walked, Harry raised his hands, intending to try to use a healing spell again, but he realized abruptly that he could see his arms despite wearing the Invisibility Cloak. There were large red stains forming the vague outline of his wounded hand and part of his arms, and smaller splatters around his body. The blood from his wound had soaked through the fabric, which was only meant to hide what was under it, not what was in it.
"Merde," he swore. "This just had to happen, didn't it?"
He tried using a cleaning spell, but the cloak was impervious to magic, so there was no effect. Harry growled in annoyance and took the cloak off. He folded the cloak together until it was as small as it could be, and then stuffed it in one of his pockets. Luckily the material of the Invisibility Cloak was quite thin, and its volume meant it was easy enough to hide in his pocket. Now that he thought of it, considering how thin the cloth was, it could have ripped while he was fighting that snake. It must have stayed intact through sheer luck. He just hoped he'd be able to get the stains out.
Putting the issue at the back of his mind, he focused on his wounded hand. He used the same healing spell as he'd used before. This time, the skin grew back only partially, as applying a healing spell on the same place twice usually made it less effective the second time. Only a small portion of skin grew back, and it was not enough to close the wound and keep the bleeding internal only. Harry was no healer, and it showed. The entire area around his wound looked bruised and raw. The steady leak of blood only made it appear worse.
Harry advanced quickly. He had been lucky to find the second clue at the last minute but he could not rely on luck again for this level. He planned on trying to explore this whole second level as fast as possible to find the third and fourth clues early. Afterwards he would wait somewhere safe until the task ended. That way he had a margin of extra time if something went wrong.
He passed two intersections, marking a little arrow in the ground each time, before he reached the next room. As always, it was a large circular room. There were no foes in it. Instead, the bright blue light of a basin containing clues illuminated the room. Viktor was there already. The left side of his face was swollen from a nasty hit with a trickle of blood flowing down his cheek, indicating that Harry hadn't been the only one to encounter trouble. Viktor was retrieving a clue, and he nodded at Harry when he saw him.
The older teenager's eyes caught sight of Harry's wound, and he raised a brow.
"Be careful to not bleed out," said Viktor as he put his clue in his pocket. His tone was neither sympathetic nor caring—he was just blandly stating a fact. Then again, Harry was an opponent, so Viktor was probably glad he was doing better than Harry.
Harry looked down at his wand, then back at Viktor. "I could say the same about your face. Are you all right?"
Shrugging nonchalantly, Viktor stepped towards the tunnel Harry had come from. He brushed past Harry and said, as he left: "I vill be."
Harry was left alone. He headed towards the centre of the room and grabbed one fo the clues. Of course, he did that with his wand hand. The other one was pretty much useless and it would be too painful to use it.
There were three tunnels leading out of the room. The one Harry had come from as well as two others. Presumably, Viktor had come from one of the two others, meaning any foe that tunnel in question would lead to would have already been dealt with by Viktor. Harry didn't know which one was the right one, so he picked the tunnel that had been directly behind Viktor when he'd been picking up his clue and hoped it was the right one.
Harry carved an arrow in the ground to show where he'd come from and where he was headed off to, and then he left.
The tunnel he had chosen was exactly like all the others—dark, with only a few red lights above Harry's head, providing barely enough light to see. This time Harry knew better than to use Lumos, knowing there might be other creatures similar to the moths from the first level lurking around on this level. Dolores Umbridge and Bartemius Crouch had probably deliberately chosen animals with great sensitivity to light in order to catch champions using spells to illuminate their surroundings.
It took approximately one minute to arrive to the next room. Like all rooms so far, this one was big and circular, with a lot of red estellettes floating around the ceiling. There was nothing in the room, and the only peculiar thing about it was the amount of tunnels to choose from. The room was some sort of massive intersection with over a dozen tunnels.
All the tunnels were similar so Harry would have to rely on luck and hope to choose a good one. He decided to take a tunnel directly opposite himself. So he leaned down to magically carve an arrow in the ground, wincing when his wounded hand protested the movement. Harry then straightened up, absent-mindedly resolving to improve his skill at healing magic, and headed towards the tunnel he'd chosen.
Harry was feeling quite content, wound notwithstanding. He'd found three clues out of four and he still had plenty of time to find the last one. As long as he didn't become hideously unlucky, he should be able to pass this task rather easily.
He would probably not receive a score as good as Viktor's but hopefully he would have beaten Luna. While the girl was probably more competent than she seemed (she had to have been chosen by the Goblet of Fire for a reason, after all), Harry reasoned that with his talent at offensive and defensive magic he should be doing better than her and would probably end up in second place. If he hurried, he might even find the last clue before Viktor, if the young man hadn't found it already.
A sound made Harry stop walking, suddenly wary an enemy might be nearby. The tunnel didn't follow a straight path and had a lot of twists and turns, so he advanced slowly, peeking behind each bend before he passed them until he finally found the source of the noise.
The room he'd arrived to had an enormous sphinx in the corner, looking blankly at a wall. It hadn't seen him yet, so Harry had the choice between confronting it directly or trying to use the element of surprise against it somehow.
"I can sense you..." whispered the sphinx, its voice coming from everywhere at once.
Direct confrontation it was, then.
Harry entered the room cautiously. A sphinx normally didn't attack on sight. It always asked the answer to a riddle, and only if the answer was wrong would it attack.
The beast itself was large. It had the body of a lion but the head of a woman. Its eyes were completely white, though blindness evidently didn't handicap it if it was capable of noticing Harry so easily. It probably used its sense of smell to detect others.
"Will you... answer my riddle...?" asked the sphinx, turning its head towards Harry.
"Do I have a choice?" asked Harry. He figured it was a good question to ask. Usually the myths said a sphinx only got aggressive if one answered wrong. Would the same happen Harry just left without listening to the riddle?
The creature's expression did not change, its human face staying completely smooth. It was rather unnerving to see. "You shall answer... or I shall feast upon you... If you run from me... you shan't live long..." It had a strange, breathy way of talking, pausing in the middle of its sentences despite not looking like it had any trouble breathing.
"What's you riddle, then?" asked Harry, keeping his wand out in case of any problems. The claws of that sphinx did not look particularly reassuring.
The creature raised one of its paws, and it came down on the ground with such force that Harry's grip on his wand tightened until his knuckles were white. The sphinx was turning around so that it faced Harry head on.
"You use a knife to slice my head..." said the sphinx, "and weep besides me when I am dead... Who am I?"
Immediately, Harry discarded the first options that came to mind. These kinds of riddles were usually quite obvious once you knew the answer, but hard to guess without knowing it. Perhaps the sphinx was talking about a killer's victim? But no, killers did not necessarily use knives, nor did they always regret their action to the point of weeping besides their victim.
The answer to the riddle was obviously something that would always, no matter the situation, cause one to cry after it was sliced. So there was no control over the action of crying. If even someone not prone to crying would weep, then that meant...
Harry's eyes widened.
"An onion! The answer is an onion!"
At first the sphinx didn't react, but then it inclined its head in a nod. "Correct... You may pass now..."
Felling rather proud of himself, Harry passed the sphinx and left the room through the lone tunnel on the other side.
This tunnel, unlike the last, did not go in twists and turns. It seemed to form one large arc. When Harry finally arrived to the next room after quite a bit of walking, he was dismayed to realize that the whole trip to and from the room of the sphinx had only brought him back to the large intersection with over a dozen tunnels. He could still see his arrow in the ground, pointing at the tunnel that had lead him to the sphinx. It was the first time since the beginning of the task that he'd accidentally come back to a place he'd already passed through.
It didn't matter much, anyway. There were plenty of other tunnels to choose from. Meeting that sphinx might've been a waste of time, but he should still be able to make it in time. He only had one clue left to find, after all.
So he took another tunnel, carefully marking his path with an arrow as always, and tried to ignore his irritation at the loss of time. Instead of focused on trying to heal his hand as he walked, but he didn't know any spells that could regrow the bone that had been punched out by that giant moth's tubular tongue. So instead he had to grit his teeth and continue marching on, trying to comfort himself with the knowledge that a professional would heal his hand as soon as the task was over. He estimated that about 15 minutes were left until then. He just hoped he wouldn't faint from the blood loss beforehand.
Finally, he arrived to the next room, only to stop dead when he saw its contents.
The sphinx turned towards Harry.
"Back... for another riddle...?"
How was this possible? There were only two tunnels leading to this room, and Harry had gone through the two of them the first time already. There was no way he could've come back to this room by accident.
Harry's eyes narrowed. There was likely a spell on that large room with the dozen of tunnels. It had to be some sort of trap designed to slow down a champion by making them face the sphinx several times.
"Yes," he answered, rather impatient. "What is your riddle this time?"
The sphinx took a step closer to Harry. The young man had to restrain himself from instinctively stepping back.
"I have streets but no pavement... I have cities but no buildings... I have forests but no trees... I have rivers but no water... What am I?"
Were the riddles getting harder, or was it just him? How was he meant to know the answer to that.
Harry tried to find a way to solve the riddle, but he had no idea how to even start. A forest was named thus because it had a lot of trees. How could something have forests but no trees? The sentence contradicted itself.
"Could you repeat it, please?" he asked.
"Only this one time..." said the sphinx. It then slowly repeated the riddle.
Harry concentrated on memorizing the words, hoping a solution would come to mind. It didn't.
He thought back on the last riddle. It had led him to think it was about a person, a victim of murder. There was a certain amount of wordplay to it, and he had needed to carefully analyse the words to find the right answer. So he did it once again.
If something had a river but no water, then evidently the river wasn't a real one. That meant it had to be a picture, or a drawing. However, a picture didn't necessarily always have streets, cities, forests and rivers at the same time. What did Harry know that represented all of those elements at the same time in an image? It had to be something more detailed than just saying 'an image'.
And suddenly, he knew.
"It's a map," he said, sure he was right.
"Correct once again..." said the sphinx. "You may go..."
Harry nearly ran towards the tunnel behind the sphinx. Sure enough, it was the same he'd taken before, curving in an arc and leading straight back to the room that served as a big intersection of tunnels. This intersection was a trap meant to make whoever passed through it lose time. The only way out was to explore the other tunnels, so Harry marked his path and tried yet another tunnel.
And yes, just as Harry had expected, despite having taken another tunnel he was lead back to the room with the sphinx, which only had one way in and one way out. There was obviously magic at work to keep him away from the rest of the maze.
The sphinx was there to greet him again.
"Back... so soon...?"
Harry threw his arms up in exasperation and swore.
"Putain! Not this again!"