Chapter 9 : Hold your Head High
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“Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium!” Al mumbled as he, Rose and Scorpius walked up the pathway towards the main building.
“What are you doing?” Rose asked looking very confused.
“It's something my therapist taught me, for controlling anxiety. You think of a song and just keep repeating the lyrics to yourself, over and over...it's supposed to calm you down,” Al answered.
“What song you got?”
“Ode to Joy.”
“Good choice,” Scorpius nodded.
Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, Dein Heiligtum.
Al just kept repeating those lines in his head as they got closer and closer to the main building. It was ironic, considering the lyrics, that he'd be singing that when what he was about to partake in would made joy seem further away than ever before. Maybe that was why he chose it. On some subconscious level, he was trying to pretend that he wasn't alone.
He also had absolutely no idea what the lyrics actually meant given that he didn't speak a word of German. He had just heard the song so many times before that he remembered them by heart.
Deine Zauber binden wieder, Was die Mode streng geteilt,
Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo Dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Al didn't care that they were quickly approaching a large squadron of reporters, he needed to keep his head together and the song was partially doing that.
“Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium!” he sang, a lot louder than before, hoping the increase in sound would increase its effectiveness.
Camera bulbs flashed as the press swarmed around him, yelling every kind of question they could possibly think of at him. Some where about how he was feeling while others were about comparisons towards his father. Most however were about his mental condition and whether or not he had tampered with the Goblet of Fire to make sure he got picked.
The two dozen or so officers from the Japanese Magical Law Enforcement Department did their best to hold them back but these reporters were ravenous. He didn't say a word. He and his friends pushed through the mob and managed to get to the main entrance of the building.
Next to the entrance, several teachers, including Garrick and Lady Talbert were waiting. Han was there, standing next to Watanabe, who was in a deep conversation with Shiori. Scarlet and Blakely were standing just behind Lady Talbert, giving each other words of comfort and hugging every few seconds.
Both Shiori and Scarlet were wearing similar things to Al. Their hands were bandaged and they were clothed in vests and long shorts that had their school symbols on it. Shiori's was of a dragon, interlocked with a sword while Scarlet had a pair of crossed wands covering some kind of badge with a giant 'S' on it. Al felt a little under-dressed with his standard Hogwarts badge on his back, the others looked a lot more stylish.
The group stood behind a small table with large golden gong sitting on it.
Al, Scorpius and Rose approached the group, not knowing what to say.
Watanabe stepped forward, smiling. “Welcome champions. If would all take hold of the portkey, it will transport you to the first arena.”
“Ahh,” Scorpius moaned. “why did it have to be a portkey...”
The students and teachers each placed a hand on the gong which began to glow. A blue whirling light and screaming winds took over before Al felt his feet hit solid ground again.
Suddenly a massive eruption of cheers filled the air. Al looked around to see where they had arrived.
There was a huge, horseshoe shaped stadium to his left, filled to the brim with screaming fans and spectators. In the centre were several private boxes that had a dozen or more very rich looking wizards and witches from different parts of the world. In one box, Al spotted Tamara Zen, the wizarding worlds latest musical queen and teen idol and in the box next to her, the French Minister for Magic and his wife.
There must have been over a thousand people in total, not including the hundred or so Ministry workers that were controlling security and walking along the edges of the stadium. Most of them looked like they were expecting a riot.
In the sky there were dozens of small floating objects whizzing about like metal insects. They looked like Omnioculars that had small helicopter rotors attached to the tops of them. They were some kind of magically controlled camera's that were broadcasting the images they filmed onto different floating screens around the stadium and probably others around the world. They had really gone all out with the live broadcasting thing for this years tournament.
Al turned to his right to see what the stadium was positioned to observe.
A giant pointed mountain of rocks. It was almost a perfect cone shape with a small pointed peak that was at least two-hundred feet of the ground. There were ledges and indents running up the sides meaning that it wasn't impossible to climb but it certainly wouldn't be easy.
“Champions, over here please,” Watanabe said.
Al turned to Scorpius. They both had looks of fear in their eyes and neither knew what to say. They just hugged each other like brothers for a second. This was where they were about to part ways.
Rose, teary-eyed, latched hold of Al, seeming like she was never going to let go. “Good luck,” she whispered. She let go and stepped back.
“Good luck, Potter,” Garrick nodded. Even he couldn't mask the concern in his voice.
The Hogwarts Headmaster ushered the others away as Lady Talbert did the same to Blakely. She looked like she was about to have a heart attack. She was visibly shaking and red-faced from crying.
Al walked over and joined Shiori and Scarlet in front of Watanabe. He rubbed his hands together then split them apart revealing a small green orb with a dragon, similar to the one of Shiori's back, that had appeared in his palm.
“This is a dragon jade, this is what you must retrieve. There is one for each of you. The dragon jades are also portkeys that will transport you back to this spot once you have acquired them. The three dragon jades are positioned at the top most point of the mountain, all you have to do is get there,” he explained.
“That's it, we just gotta reach the top?” Scarlet asked looking a bit apprehensive.
“Nobody said that the mountain would stay still,” Watanabe warned causing the colour to drain out of Scarlet's face. “At the sound of the gong, you will begin.”
A moving mountain. Not even Hermione could have predicted that one. As frightened as he was, Al couldn't resist saying: “Let's rock'n'roll.”
“Good luck, both of you,” Scarlet's trembling face contorted into a smile.
“And you,” Shiori bowed.
Her eyes glanced at Albus. It only lasted a moment but it was obvious that she was nervous as well. Not about the task, but about what might happen because of him. Even now, she still believed that he would bring disaster to them.
Strangely enough this actually served to fill Al with an anger filled courage. The greater the rage inside of him, the less he feared and her attitude was really pissing him off. Albus cracked his knuckles and walked away towards a small yellow circle that was drawn on the ground at the base of the mountain. 'Hogwarts' was written in the centre of it. That was his starting position.
About twenty feet away, around the base of the mountain was a second blue circle that had 'Salems' written inside it, and another twenty feet away was a third with 'Hokkaido'.
Scarlet and Shiori took their positions as the crowed roared with excitement. Al stared up at the mountain that wasn't moving in the slightest at the moment. This two hundred foot pile of rocks was what he had to beat.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Watanabe's magically amplified voice echoed around the stadium. “On behalf of Hokkaido academy of magic, I welcome you to the first task of the Tri-Wizard cup!”
Applauses and cheers broke out again, this time followed by a mass display of fireworks that shot into the sky and exploded into hundreds of dazzling multicoloured lights that zoomed off in
different directions. One of the Omniocular-copters flew down and settled in front of Watanabe's face.
“This task, and the others are designed to test every part of a sorcerer's abilities, mental, physical and magical. Too many wizards are content to sit back and allow magic to do the heavy lifting, this is a luxury that our champions will not be given,” Watanabe said, repeating the clue he had given them earlier. “During this task, they will have to rely on their own bodies just as much as their wits and witchcraft. The goal is simple, retrieve the dragon jades from the top of the mountain. But this mountain is treacherous and does not wish to be climbed. It will throw as many obstacles in their paths as it can. Defeat the mountain, claim the prize, that is the goal.”
Watanabe turned around and faced the three students, waiting in their starting points.
“Champions, prepare yourselves!”
The crowed went silent and the only sounds were of the buzzing rotor-blades of the flying cameras.
The sound shot out across the area and the champions took off, running towards the base of the mountain at high speed. The three of them reached the rocks and began to climb as the packed stadium got to their feet and began cheering like never before.
Albus pulled him self up and over a have outstretched boulder and then reached for the next. Before he could even get forty-feet up the side of it, he was already starting to feel tired. All the muscle he had put on in preparation for the task was also weighing him down and he was cursing himself for being a smoker.
He reached out and grabbed an outcropped rock, using it as a hand hold to hoist himself up to the next piece of flat ground. Once he was up, he glanced to his left to see Scarlet almost dead level with him. She was lighter and more agile but didn't have the same reach that he did. He searched for Shiori but couldn't spot her anywhere. Then he looked up and found her.
She was at least thirty feet higher than they were, moving with incredible speed and elegance towards the top. Her movements were almost cat-like as she leaped from one rock to another, constantly gain ground. She seemed almost superhuman.
His attention was ripped away by a crunching sound from above. He looked up to see a two-tonne boulder heading towards him.
“Shit!” Albus jumped to his right, landing on the cliff next to him as the rock smashed into the platform he was standing on before.
The mountain had started to move.
Scarlet had her wand stretched towards the sky and had just blasted a boulder to dust before it could crush her like a bug.
Across from her, the rock under Shiori's foot suddenly shot back into the mountain causing her to fall. She managed to clamp her hand around the ledge of a platform before plummeting to her death. She pulled herself up and again, began to climb.
Albus and Scarlet did the same, racing over the jagged stones as fast as the could while heavy rumble came from inside.
The mountain went into overdrive.
Everywhere, rocks were moving in an out of the main body while others were being detached and allowed to fall. It had turned into a two-hundred foot stone clock, with pieces moving and spinning, sliding up and down like enormous gears.
Albus scrambled over another platform just as it began to slide itself back into the main body. He jumped up and caught the ledge above him, hoisting himself up.
He was about half-way but Scarlet and Shiori were well ahead of him. Scarlet had a twenty foot lead on him, while Shiori was only about fifty feet from the summit. Everywhere, little Omniocular-copters flew around them, capturing every second of the action.
Scarlet had found a winning tactic. She was freezing the moving rocks with a spell that Albus didn't know. It only kept them still for a moment but it was long enough for her to move past them. Shiori was actually making it look easy, the way she ducked and dived past falling boulders, then skipping to the next, always getting higher.
Albus looked around, trying to think. He looked to the very top of the mountain and saw the upper rocks flipping over, then folding back into themselves. That was his chance. He grabbed is wand and aimed it up at the summit.
“Incarcerous!” a heavy brown rope shot from the end of his wand and he threw his out out, snagging one of the ends before the hole thing could fly away. He hit is wand at its tip, casting a sticking charm on it, then shouted; “Wingardium Leviosa!” while aiming at the summit again.
The rope was blasted through the air and the end collided with one of the newly formed boulders at the top of the mountain. He gripped hold of the other end, waiting for the boulder to start moving, but it just lay dormant.
The sound of gravel shifting came from below and the platform he was standing on started to slide back into the mountain.
“No, no, come on!” he shouted desperately.
He was forced into the side of the rocks, with only his tip-toes still on the sliding stone.
Suddenly the boulder he had attached his rope to moved and began to spin. Albus was yanked upwards like a yo-yo. He shot through the air and actually flew over the summit by a few feet before crashing down on the her ground below.
He groaned and got to his feet as quickly as possible. He spotted the three dragon jades, sitting on a wooden platform at the centre of the summit. He bolted towards them as fast as he could.
He lost sight of them for a second as a huge streak of black hair flew in front of him. Shiori had just jumped eight feet into the air and sailed right over him. She hit the ground on her feet, charged forward and grabbed one of the dragon jades, disappearing in a blue flash.
She had won the first task.
“What the fuck?!” Albus blurted. A racehorse couldn't jump that high!
Albus didn't have time to think about it. He moved forward and reached for one of the two dragon jades left.
Albus spun around to see Scarlet being tripped up by one of the spinning boulders. Her wand flew out of her hand and she fell and slid down the side before grabbing hold of a tiny ledge.
His gut plummeted. She was in trouble.
He looked to the dragon jade, then back at Scarlet who was clinging to the side for dear life.
He ran back over to the robe he had conjured, used his wand to unstick the end and pulled it away from the boulder. He attached the sticky end to the wooden platform then ran towards the ledge where Scarlet was dangling.
There was a fifty-foot drop below her.
“Grab the rope!” he yelled, dropping the slack next to her.
She reached out with her fingers to grab it when suddenly the earth shifted beneath Al's feet. He fell and slid down the side just as she had. The movement caused Scarlet to loose her grip and the two plummeted down.
Instinct took over. Albus's grip around the rope in his left hand tightened like a vice as he reached out and grabbed Scarlet by the wrist. The rope torqued and they jolted to a halt.
“AHHHHHH!” Albus cried out. Something had torn inside his left shoulder and electric shocks of the most intense pain he had ever felt ripped through his body. It felt like his arm was being torn off.
Somehow, his grip on the rope only got stronger. So strong that it caused blood to seep from his palm where he had obviously ripped through the bandages and into his own skin.
He managed to fight the pain long enough to look down. Scarlet, white-faced with terror and adrenaline was looking up at him. There was nothing below her but jagged rocks and certain death, death for both of them.
“Let me go!” she screamed, tears flooding from her eyes. “Let me go or we'll both die!”
Some happened. Albus felt something shoot through his body that he hadn't felt in over two years. That unstoppable defiant fury that had fuelled him to almost kill three Hogwarts students. It didn't overwhelmed his pain, instead it fed of it. All the agony he was in was making him stronger. Albus looked down at Scarlet with blood rage in his eyes.
“No one dies today!” he growled.
Albus let out a roar of fury as he, against all possibility, actually began to pull Scarlet up with one arm. His veins and muscles bulged as if they were in danger of exploding. His hand was still gripped around her wrist like a rabid dogs jaws as he continued to pull. She reached out and grabbed hold of the rope.
Scarlet looked down to see his wand tucked into his belt and snagged it.
She hit the rope with the wand and it instantly changed to a white, rubbery, elastic cord. The two of them fell thirty-feet and the cord stretched before it reached it's yield and bounced back. They flew upwards, through the air, over the trick boulder and slammed into the ground, hard.
Albus let out another scream of agony as his shoulder collided with the stone floor. Scarlet scrambled to her feet, grabbed Albus by the collar and began to drag him towards the dragon jades but he was too heavy and she couldn't move him.
She got up and ran over to the jades, Al's wand still in her hand.
“Albus!” she yelled before using his wand to knock the jade towards him.
She disappeared in a flash of blue light after grabbing the third jade as the second rolled across the floor. Exhausted and in unbelievable pain, he outstretched his hand and his fingers touched its edge.
He shot through a vortex of light and noise before landing back on the ground.
Instantly the sounds of the crowed filled his ears and people began rushing towards him.
“Careful with his shoulder! I heard something pop!” he heard Scarlet yell.
His adrenaline outburst had faded and now the pain from his arm that he had been able to fight his way through was returning with a vengeance. His vision was dazed and his body was numb. He couldn't make anything out until a crop of blond hair was looking over him.
“You're all right, you did it! We've got you! Get the healers!” Scorpius ordered.
His vision began to return as Scorpius slowly propped him up.
“It's all right, Potter, you're going to be fine,” Garrick's voice said, coming from behind.
More and more people crowed around him, most speaking in Japanese.
“We need to get him to the hospital, now!” someone said.
Scorpius picked Albus up by his uninjured shoulder and propped his weight onto his body. Albus's left arm hung at his side, lifelessly. Corpses had looked better than he did.
“Did I win?” Albus asked, groggily.
“Nah, you didn't win, but you're gonna be fine,” Scorpius said quickly. He was looking shaken but happy.
“Where's Rose?” Al asked.
“She couldn't stay...she couldn't stand to watch...” Scorpius trailed off.
He didn't loose any respect for his cousin. When Rose loved someone, she loved them completely. It must have been torture for her to watch him go through that.
Albus's vision finally returned. He saw the crowed stadium full of people, all looking directly at him. Auror's, ministry officials and teachers were all gathered around him. No one was cheering, they were all just staring at him, murmuring amongst themselves. Then something very strange happened.
Somebody started clapping.
Al struggled lifting his head to see who it was. It was Scarlet. Behind her, Blakely was standing, teary eyed and red faced but looking over joyed. She began to clap too.
Then, like an infection, it began to spread around the whole arena. Everywhere people began to applaud and cheer and then the chanting started. “Albus! Albus! Albus!”
“Are they cheering me?” Al slurred.
They were cheering him. Albus. They weren't yelling Potter, they were yelling Albus.
“Yeah...creepy isn't it,” Scorpius smiled.
“Yeah, can we go now, it's freaking me out...”
“Hold on to me,” Scorpius said, carrying Al's weight as they stumbled towards the healers.
Al glanced to his right to see Shiori, a towel draped over her shoulders and a large body of Hokkaido students and teachers around he. She was ignoring their chatter completely and staring straight at him.
She looked at him as if he was a new species being seen for the first time. Then, very gracefully, she bowed her head to him.
“Oh...so that's all it takes...” Al grinned.
He had lost the first task but won something else; respect.
A/N - So...what did you guys think of the first task. I know it was over kind of quickly but I thought, since it was pretty face-paced action, it shouldn't be too long. Anyway, feedback is always welcome and thanks to everyone that has read & reviewed. :D
Song: Ode to Joy - Beethoven's 9th symphony. - Ludwig Van Beethoven.
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