The hospital tent was quiet, and Harry and Severus were the only occupants so far besides Madam Pomfrey, though Severus was quite sure it would fill up as soon as the mess from the stands was cleared up. Even with Albus’s Calming Charm, there were sure to be kids injured from panicking. But right then, Poppy was anxiously waiting on Harry. She came forward immediately when she saw them. “Where are you hurt, Mr. Snape?”
“Look at his face, Poppy. The lamia he fought scratched him,” Severus replied before Harry could do so.
Poppy tisked and shook her head, muttering something derogatory about the tournament. “Come sit here, Harry.” She led him to a camp chair and he sat down. Now that he was off his feet, he felt suddenly exhausted and wanted to do nothing more than sleep. But his face was still hurting and he wanted to know how the other champions had fared against their opponents, but before he could speak, Poppy pressed two fingers to his cheek.
Severus put a hand on his shoulder comfortingly. “Be still, son.”
Poppy waved her wand at him and frowned. “Well, there’s some kind of magical infection going on in there, Severus. That’s why his cheek is swollen and discolored.”
“I figured as much. How will you treat it? A sponge soaked in murtlap and lymetia solution?”
“Precisely.” The mediwitch said. “That should work better than a spell. But first, drink this Pain Reliever, Mr. Snape.” She handed him a squat vial of potion and he made a face but managed to swallow it. Almost immediately, the throbbing dulled.
Poppy busied herself taking out several small sponges, that looked like ones girls used to remove make-up, and began to mix up murtlap and another kind of solution in a bowl. The liquid thickened slightly, turning a strange blue-green color, and Poppy muttered a Warming Charm on it to heat it a bit. Then she placed the sponges in the bowl and let them sit for a minute, letting them become saturated with the solution.
“Mr. Snape, you need to reach into the bowl, take out a sponge, and place it on your face over the scratch and hold it there for ten minutes. You’ll feel a tingling warmth at first. As the infection gets drawn out by the solution, the sponge will change color and become black. I will watch and as soon as the sponge turns black tell you to remove it from your face and put another on and so forth, until all the infection has been drawn out and the swelling should be reduced then also.”
Harry reached in the bowl and took out a sponge and pressed it to his cheek. He winced, for the stuff on the sponge stung and tingled but he kept it on there. In another minute, it had stopped tingling and made his face go numb.
Poppy treated various other scrapes and bruises he hadn’t even realized he had picked up while he held the sponge to his face, healing them in a trice with spells. Harry looked up at his father, who had remained beside him the entire time. “Dad, shouldn’t you be with the other judges? I mean, aren’t the scores supposed to be given out?”
“As long as you are injured, I will remain with you. The scores cannot be given until all the champions are present,” Severus explained. He gently pulled Harry’s head back until it was lying against his chest.
“Is it working?”
“Yes,” his father answered after peering at the sponge. “Keep it on there, Harry. You should start to feel a little better soon.”
Harry sighed softly but obeyed. He almost fell asleep waiting for the sponge to turn black.
“All right, you can remove the sponge and take a fresh one. That one you can leave on for five minutes,” Poppy instructed.
Harry removed the sponge and saw to his astonishment that the formerly white-yellow sponge was now black, as if it had been used to sop up ink. “All that . . .stuff was in me?”
“Yes. Filthy evil creatures, lamias,” sniffed the mediwitch. She took the sponge and banished it.
“Dad, how did you know how to banish her?” his son asked.
Severus shrugged. “It’s always a good thing to know how to banish demons, Harry. Although the Headmaster better have an explanation for this than usual. You could have been killed!”
“So could the other three, Dad. They had dangerous creatures to fight too.”
“True, but they are of age and they chose to participate. You did not.” He gently ran his fingers through his son’s hair, relieved that Harry had survived the first task. He quietly thanked God and Merlin.
There came a sort of commotion at the tent entrance, and then Draco, Ron, Hermione, and Katie burst in.
“Harry, are you all right?” called Draco, his face creased with worry. “I saw that bloody demon scratch you.”
“I’ll live,” he said. He smiled slightly as he felt a small feline body settle upon his lap and Smidgen’s voice whisper in his mind, :Well done, Braveheart! You are a true heir to Prince Manor. For only one with Seelie blood could have withstood the lamia’s enchantment. Hail, Prince Harry Snape-Valinek!:
Thanks, Smidgen. He felt a warm glow of pride suffuse him, for the shimmerling’s regard meant a great deal to him.
“Oh, Harry! We were so worried about you!” Hermione cried, rushing over to hug him. She glanced up at Professor Snape, who stood behind his son and said in an awe-filled voice, “Professor, the way you banished that . . .lamia, I think it’s called . . .was simply . . .amazing! It was like . . .like watching Moses part the Red Sea or . . .or Arthur pull the sword from the stone, sir!”
Astonished, Severus raised both eyebrows. “Miss Granger, surely it was not that miraculous.”
“Oh, but it was, sir!” Hermione gushed. “Everyone was going mad up there, it was like pandemonium and people were sure we were going to die and then you came and . . .”
“Just kicked its scaly arse back to hell,” Ron finished, also giving the Potions Master a worshipful look. “It was bloomin’ awesome.”
“Three cheers for Professor Snape and Harry,” said Katie, she was bolder than Hermione even, for she hugged and kissed Harry and then dared to hug the professor as well.
And Severus did not say anything, much to the others’ shock. At first he had felt as if he were an island in the midst of a very noisy sea of teenagers, but then he felt an unaccustomed feeling of . . .satisfaction start somewhere in the vicinity of his chest and spread outward. Rare it was for any save Slytherins to show this much appreciation for him and it felt good to be recognized for something other than the bat of the dungeons for once.
“Ahem, Miss Bell.”
“Oops, sorry, sir!” Katie blushed and drew away, but Harry could tell she was not really sorry at all. She looked down at him. “Harry, your face looks awful. Does it hurt much?”
“Not so much now,” he lied gallantly, for it still twinged sharply. “Were any of the others hurt?”
“Diggory got a cut arm from the manticore, didn’t move quick enough,” Draco reported. “Krum got singed from the chimera but he’s all right. And Fleur came out of it with a torn robe.” He eyed his brother. “Since you faced the toughest of the lot, looks like you had the worst injury.”
“Big surprise there.” Ron chuckled. “It wouldn’t seem right if Harry didn’t get injured at least once a year.”
Severus scowled. “A record I am trying to break him of, Mr. Weasley. So please do not encourage him.”
Ron flushed and muttered a “Yes, sir.”
“I wonder if you’ll get your name in the paper, Dad, for being a hero?” Draco asked. “I mean, to banish a lamia is pretty tricky. I don’t think Lucius could have done it half as quick, or Dumbledore either.”
Severus rolled his eyes. “Enough with the flattery, Draco. You’re not getting your Christmas present early.”
“Aww . . .Dad!” groaned Draco, playing along.
The others snickered and Draco pretended to glare at them.
Suddenly, a reporter with a camera bust into the tent and went to snap Severus’s picture. “Professor Snape, a moment of your time, please. I’m Alan Morris from The Quibbler and I would love to hear your thoughts on your heroic deed today.”
“I simply did what any wizard in their right mind with the magic to do so would have done,” Snape coughed uncomfortably. “I averted a threat and protected those under my care.”
The young reporter scribbled frantically. “That’s great, sir. Where did you—?”
“Mr. Morris, now is not the time to do interviews. I am a judge on the panel and as such I have to report back there as soon as my son is healed. Maybe later we can arrange something?”
“Oh, yes. Definitely, sir. Right, later on. Um . . .what time, sir?”
“My office, after dinner.” Severus said quickly.
Morris nodded, all starry-eyed, and left, nearly dropping his quill and notepad.
“Looks like you’re a celebrity too now, Dad,” Harry couldn’t resist teasing the other man.
“Time to change your sponge, Harry,” Madam Pomfrey reminded him.
Harry repeated the process with the remaining sponges and solution, until his cheek was no longer purple and swollen and all the infection had been drawn out. During that time, Ron filled him in on how the others had battled their mythical monsters.
“You shoulda seen it, Harry. Cedric was the best after you. He conjured some kind of glowing rope and called up his broom and then he threw the loop around it’s stinger and wrapped the other part about its front feet and yanked it down on the ground. But then he came close to tie it tighter or something and it slapped him with its paw, but other than that he was great. Got the scroll case in record time.”
“Fleur too. She Stunned the darkhound and grabbed the case, but then the dog shook it off, don’t ask me how, and grabbed hold of her robe and nearly bit her, but she managed to get away and left it with just a piece of her robe,” Draco said.
“Krum wasn’t half-bad either. He used some kind of spell that hit the chimera’s lion head right in the eye and blinded it,” Katie continued. “Then he froze the rear half with a Freezing Hex, but he forgot about the goat head being able to breathe fire and it caught him when he ran past it to grab the case.”
“Serves him right, the overconfident booby,” Hermione sniffed. “That’ll count against him in the standings, right, Professor?”
Snape nodded briefly, examining Harry’s cheek again. It was nearly back to normal. The entire procedure had taken fifteen minutes.
As soon as Poppy had pronounced him free to go, Mr. Crouch came by to see how he was getting on. “Everything all right in here, Mr. Snape?”
“Fine, sir,” Harry said respectfully.
“We were just leaving,” Severus said smoothly.
“Nothing too serious, was it?”
“No, sir, just a scratch,” Harry said, it was the truth.
“Good! Good! We’ll be moving on now.” Crouch chivvied them through the tent and up to the dais where the other champions waited and Severus took a seat on the judges’ panel.
“And now, it appears that our champions are safe and sound and have each passed the first task,” Bagman announced, using a Sonorous Spell. “Let’s see how the judges rated them. Fleur Delacour!”
The French girl waited nervously.
McGonagall shot an 8 into the air in a silvery loop. The Beauxbatons contingent cheered madly.
Next it was Crouch’s turn. He gave her an 8 as well.
Then came Bagman. He gave her a 9.
Dumbledore gave her a 9.
Lastly, Snape drew his wand. A silvery 8 hung in the air.
Everyone was cheering and clapping madly.
“Well done, Miss Delacour!” Bagman clapped. “Next up, Mr. Diggory!”
Cedric received 9’s from everyone except Bagman, who gave him a 10.
Then it was Krum’s turn. He received 7’s from McGonagall and Crouch, 8’s from Dumbledore and Bagman, and Severus gave him a 5 for not remembering that a chimera’s main weapon was fire.
There were hisses and boos from the Durmstrang contingent, and Karkaroff glared daggers at the Potions Master.
Finally it was Harry’s turn and everyone waited, still and hushed for the judges’ rating.
Dumbledore shot a 9 into the air.
Then McGonagall gave him a 9 as well.
Bagman swirled his wand and out popped a 10.
Ten? Harry frowned. “But . . .I wasn’t perfect.”
“You survived that she-devil, didn’t you?” Cedric reminded him. “That’s perfect in my book, Harry. I sure wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
“Nor I, mon ami,” agreed Fleur.
Krum merely grunted and turned away, sulking.
Severus was next. He made one brief motion and a 10 came out of his wand also.
Harry was stunned. He knew, no one better, just how tough his father was on his own. Others might think he favored his son, but Harry knew better.
Cedric did too, for he was gaping like a landed trout.
Up in the stands, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Katie were screaming, “Go, Harry, go!”
Crouch shot up his rating.
It was a 9.
Harry was now first in the standings.
The others congratulated him, though Krum did it sullenly, clearly he was not accustomed to losing gracefully.
A huge cheer erupted from the stands as they saw the two Hogwarts students were placed one and two.
But it was still anyone’s game at this point.
Harry looked down at the scroll case in his hand and wondered what it contained.
* * * * * *
He had his answer a few moments later when Mr. Crouch led them into a tent and told them quietly that, “Each case contains a scroll written in a different ancient language. Your task is to translate the scroll, figure out the riddle upon it, and then speak your answer to the creature who invented the Riddle Game during the ancient days. Does anyone know what creature I’m talking about?”
None of them answered for a moment. But Harry was thinking hard. Severus had made him study mythology over the summer and he recalled reading about a Greek myth involving Oedipus and . . .”The Sphinx!” he cried out. “The Sphinx is the creator of riddles.”
“Very good, Mr. Snape! I see you’ve studied your Greek mythology.” Crouch said approvingly. “You have until February 24th at half past nine to complete the riddle challenge and speak your answers to the Sphinx.”
“Is it a real Spinx, sir?” asked Krum.
“Of course it’s real, Mr. Krum!” Crouch said irritably. “We have imported her from Luxor in Egypt, courtesy of Charlie Weasley, who made friends with her there on a trip one year. She is the genuine article, doubt it not.”
“What will happen eef we cannot answer ze riddle? Or answer incorrectly?” asked Fleur.
“Then you will be disqualified. Points will be given on how well you translate your scroll and how fast you answer the riddle correctly, or come close to the correct answer. Those who answer correctly will receive the Sphinx’s prize of “that which you love best”. Only the Sphinx knows the correct answers to the riddles, as it was she who made them up.”
That which we love best? What could that be? A person or an object? Wondered Harry.
“If there are no further questions, you may go. Well done and good luck! I assume you will all be spending much time in the library.” Crouch waved them off.
Harry left and joined his friends and they all started to walk back to the castle together. As they rounded a clump of trees along the path, a witch jumped out to confront Harry.
It was Rita Skeeter. “Harry, do you have time to give me a word or two? How did it make you feel, completing that task against one of the deadliest creatures alive, a myth made flesh? How do you feel about your scores? Do you feel satisfied? A word if you would?”
Harry drew up short. Then he said, in his most annoyed Snape-like tone, “A word, Ms. Skeeter? I’ll give you two—no comment.” Then he spun and walked off, flanked by Draco and Ron with Hermione and Katie trailing.
That’s telling her, Harry! Katie thought and gave the reporter a glare.
* * * * * *
The friends all decided to go out to Hogsmeade to celebrate Harry’s success that evening. Their group would include the two brothers, Hermione and Katie, Ron and Zara and Crabbe and Goyle with Jeanette and Gabrielle. But first, they all wanted to get a gander at Harry’s scroll.
Harry carefully undid the silver clasps upon it, which were in the shape of a Greek key pattern. He took out the scroll, unrolling it carefully.
Upon the scroll in deep carnelian ink were words that he could not read. “Uh . . .I don’t have a clue what language this is in.”
Hermione peered over his shoulder.
“Well, genius?” Harry asked after a moment.
“I . . .I think it’s Greek. But I’m not one hundred percent sure, Harry.”
Ron mimed a heart attack. “You mean there’s something you don’t know?”
Hermione glared at him. “Ronald, please! Harry, this looks like Greek to me. Only thing is, I can’t read it. I never had time to learn Greek before coming to Hogwarts. I chose to learn Latin instead, since most spells are Latin based according to Hogwarts:A History.”
“She chose to learn Latin instead,” Ron repeated, shaking his head. “Bloody hell!”
Draco cuffed him lightly on the back of the head. “Watch it, Weasley. That’s my girlfriend you’re making fun of.”
“Calm down, Draco. He doesn’t mean anything by it,” Hermione said. “Like you and Harry don’t.”
“Oh,” Draco felt like an uptight arse now. He threw an apologetic look at Ron.
“So . . .who knows Greek that I can ask if this is the real thing?” Harry wondered.
“Dad might know, but he’s a judge and can’t help you,” sighed his brother.
“What about Uncle Phil?” suggested Katie.
Harry beamed. “Brilliant! I should have thought of that. I mean he’s a thousand years old, he must know every language there is.”
They were lounging about in Harry’s dorm room, having retreated there to get some peace and quiet.
“Not quite every language, Harry,” came a dry amused voice and then Phil appeared in the room like a wraith, his violet eyes sparkling. “Though when I was a boy it was required for every wellborn son to learn his Sophocles and Caesar.” He walked over and Harry handed him the scroll. “By the way, you fought like a Snape today, Harry. Good job! Looks like I didn’t do so bad teaching you after all.”
“No, sir. You were how I was able to survive,” Harry admitted. “I owe you.”
“Nonsense, boy! Family owes no debts,” Phil said. Then he examined the scroll. “Hmmm . . .this is a very ancient form of Greek.”
“Can you read it, Uncle Phil?” asked Draco.
“Yes, but it’s not as easy to read as the Greek I learned. But then, such is the nature of a Riddle Challenge. I suggest you go to the library here and start by trying to find a primer on ancient Greek and go from there.”
“But, can’t you just . . .” Harry began.
“No. That would be cheating,” the vampire said firmly. “Part of a Riddle Challenge is research, Harry.”
“I can help, Harry,” offered Hermione. “I can find the books for you.”
“Okay.” Harry said. “Listen, I’m kind of tired, so I think I’ll take a nap before dinner.” He tucked the scroll back in the case and put it in his trunk.
With that, everyone left, except Phil paused to offer some advice. “Harry, you’re smart. You have the brains of both your mother and father. You will succeed. I have ever confidence in you.”
Then he disappeared, leaving his nephew alone to sleep, knowing that Smidgen was perched upon the top of the bed hangings, weaving peace and pleasant dreams about the heir to Prince Manor.
* * * * *
An hour later:
“How is it that you permitted that idiot Bagman to use a lamia as one of the creatures the champions had to face, Albus?” demanded a very angry Severus. “You know what that creature is! How could you allow the demon that devours children here at the school!”
“Severus, please calm down. This tea service is very old, it belonged to my great-great grandmother,” Albus began soothingly.
“Who is probably turning in her grave to see the risks you take with your students!” rebuked the furious professor. Oh, but he had had it with Dumbledore’s cavalier attitude when it came to such things.
Albus had the grace to look ashamed. “No doubt. I fear I take after my father’s side of the family. But I assure you, Severus, that I did take into account that the creatures were properly restrained. And the other creatures were difficult to face, but not impossible. And that is the nature of the tournament. To challenge the wizard both physically and mentally and magically. Ludo had the lamia under a binding while she was inside the enclosure and she did not escape, so it was properly done.”
“Because it suited her to remain where she was. His binding was flawed, Albus. Otherwise she never would have been able to shatter it. And then he couldn’t even banish her.”
“It was an unfortunate oversight on my part, Severus,” Albus admitted heavily. “Thank Merlin you were there and reacted as quickly as you did, otherwise the consequences might have been unthinkable.”
“Indeed. People might have died. My son might have died.”
“I am sorry, old friend. If there were a way I could release Harry from the tournament . . .” Dumbledore looked genuinely distressed, and Severus knew it was not an act. The old archmagus really cared for Harry.
“I know you can’t. Any more than I can.” Severus admitted bitterly. “I can only watch and pray he comes through this mostly intact. I know as well that Bagman and Crouch are running the damn tournament and you have very little say in what they do with the challenges. But that doesn’t make it easier to accept the fact that my son might meet his death in this damn contest.”
“I know, my boy. I . . .would be the same if it were my son. Parenthood is never easy, but in the end, it’s worth it.”
Severus nodded. “Yes. Though there are times I wish I could lock them up in a room somewhere until they’re twenty and they’ve outgrown the need to make me insane.”
“Every father’s fondest wish,” chuckled the Headmaster. “This next task is not physically dangerous. It is a challenge of the mind.”
He quickly explained what the task was.
Severus wasn’t really happy about it, but since it was too late to kidnap Harry and run away to Prince Manor, he had to accept it. “Make sure the Sphinx is kept under control, Albus. Or else I shall be tempted to Stun you and feed you to a manticore.”
“Fear not, Severus. The Sphinx does not kill children, that is a myth. She simply lives to invent and challenge people with riddles. And I know Harry has inherited both yours and Lily’s brains. I expect he will do well.”
“Tea, Severus? Lemon drop?”
Severus declined the lemon drop but accepted the tea, he really needed something to calm his nerves. Though he refused to admit it or show it, he had been terrified when Harry had faced the lamia and it had broken loose. He still did not know how he remembered the words to that banishment spell. He had almost been too afraid to concentrate properly.
It’s over, Snape. Just let it go, he told himself firmly. “What is the third task?” he couldn’t resist asking. Curiosity, your name is Severus Snape.
“I do not know.” Dumbledore said honestly. “Barty and Ludo prefer to keep me in the dark, I think perhaps they don’t trust me.”
Severus mumbled something that sounded like, “Imbeciles!” under his breath.
Then he picked up his tea and sipped it, wondering what his offspring were up to.
* * * * *
Severus’s sons were currently engaged at a somewhat loud party in The Three Broomsticks. They toasted one another with their glasses and whatever else they happened to drink. They were having a good time, smiling and laughing and simply enjoying themselves, when a tall shadow loomed over them.
Everyone looked up to see Viktor Krum standing there, his hands in his pockets, a sneer upon his face.
Hermione was looking at him with an expression of horror on her face. “What do you want, Krum?”
“Vhat I’ve always vanted. Respect.”
“Go somewhere else to find it,” Draco barked sharply.
“Vatch your tone, little snake.” He eyed Hermione. “My-nonny, doesn’t it bother you that you are stuck vith a little boy instead of a man? Like his coward cheating father, who fixed ze results of the tournament.”
“My father is no such thing!” Draco was on his feet, shouting.
“No? Prove it.”
Harry rose too, his blood boiling. “Go back to the castle, Krum. Your fan club’s waiting.”
Viktor went beet red. Then he lunged at Draco and knocked Harry sprawling.
In over two seconds, there was a brawl going on, since the place was full of customers who were inebriated and spoiling for some action.
I know . . I know . . .a cliffie, but hey at least it'll give you something to predict till I write the next one.
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