Chapter 1 : A Nightmare
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Cho Chang faced the entrance of the maze as the hedges grew behind her, obscuring the light from the flickering torches. She was alone.
It’s just a maze, Cho, she thought, trying to calm her racing heart. Just a maze. You can do this.
She took a step forward and raised her wand, “lumos.” Her wand tip lit and she took a shaky breath, reaching up with one hand to push her black hair from her eyes. She had no choice but to move forward. There was no going back now. She was a Hogwarts Champion. She squared her shoulders and ventured farther into the maze, her heart still pounding in her ribcage. The beat felt shaky and her palms began to sweat. The faint light from her wand tip did nothing to comfort her in the gloom of the maze. She was alone, weak, and unprepared.
“Ten inches,” Ollivander said thoughtfully. “Fig with a unicorn tail hair at its core…well-balanced, good for Charms...”
Cho snorted at the memory of the day she bought her wand. Good for Charms, indeed! How was that supposed to help her in the maze? At least she hadn’t encountered anything yet, she thought. That much was a relief.
Somewhere to her right, a branch cracked loudly and she suppressed a scream. She wasn’t cut out for this. Gripping her wand more tightly, she whipped around to confront the sound and came face-to-face with one of Hagrid’s massive blast-ended skrewts. The skrewt’s eyeless face swiveled towards her and it began to scuttle in her direction, its legs clicking menacingly as it moved. The sting on its back waved through the air, and Cho knew that it could pierce her like a bug on a pushpin if she wasn’t careful.
This isn’t happening, Cho thought, stumbling away from the skrewt. Unexpectedly, she blundered into a strange green mist that burned her throat and stung her eyes. She squeezed them shut for a moment and felt the panic of her situation wash over her. When she opened her eyes, her mind began to play tricks on her, morphing the blast-ended skrewt into a menacing dragon that couldn’t logically fit in the maze.
Cho screamed and continued to back away, tripping over a root in the ground and sending herself sprawling onto her back. Pain shot through her and she clenched her teeth, frantically trying to think clearly.
What did Hagrid say about dragons? she thought desperately. How do I fight this thing? I have to know what it is…which species were brought in for the tournament? Welsh Greens, Swedish Short-Snouts, Chinese Fireballs, Hungarian Horntails…Some are immune to certain kinds of magic. She took a deep breath and stared straight at the beast approaching her as she tried to work through her thoughts. This is the Fireball. She assessed the massive lizard in front of her as a plume of smoke began rising from its wide, panting mouth. In the darkness of the maze, she could still see rows and rows of glittering, razor-sharp teeth lining its jaw. Its eyes with their tall, slit-pupils narrowed in her direction. Cho raised her wand and fired the first spell that came to mind towards the dragon.
The conjunctivitis curse hit the dragon in the face and it roared in anger, shooting a pillar of fire out of its mouth and nose. Cho felt the heat on her face as she stood again and fired the same spell at her opponent. Her surroundings spun when she found her feet, and she reached up to grab her head. With her second spell, the dragon had fallen to the ground and blood was trickling slowly from its mouth.
Cho stumbled forward and rummaged in her robes. Of course she didn’t have a vial. Dragon’s blood was incredibly useful, though, and she couldn’t pass up an opportunity that collecting this might help her further along in the maze. Once she was sure that she didn’t have a vial in her robes, Cho sighed and picked up a fallen branch. The transfiguration spell that she was about to do was complicated, but she wanted to try. Pointing her wand at the branch, she screwed up her face and began murmuring the incantation. Slowly, the branch began to quiver and lose its shape, reforming as a glass vial large enough for Cho to collect the dragon’s blood in.
Professor McGonagall would be proud, she thought, approaching the dragon’s face and leaning down to collect the oozing blood. So would Professor Snape, for that matter.
“The twelve uses of dragon’s blood,” Snape had once said, “will help in many different situations throughout a wizard’s life. Dragon’s blood is a rare, expensive substance, but when acquired, it can be most useful. It can be used to clean wounds, thicken potions, remove stains, poison household pests, reduce pain in injuries…”
Cho couldn’t remember what else he had said, but she knew that dragon’s blood could come in handy further in the maze. As she leaned down beside the dragon, her head spun again and she dropped to her knees in dizziness. Looking to her side, she could still see the green mist that she had blundered into earlier, but now that she was no longer in it, the hallucinatory effects began to fade. The dragon began shrinking back into a skrewt before her eyes. It had keeled over onto its back and was twitching slightly, but Cho could tell it was dying. She dropped the vial in her hand in surprise and it shattered on the ground, the musical tinkling of breaking glass sounding ominous in the darkness. The dragon was gone—it had never truly been there. Her dragon battle was over.
For a moment, Cho knelt beside the dead skrewt catching her breath. Everything that had happened in the last half hour had questioned all the things she knew about magic, and she still had to reach the center of the maze and the Triwizard Cup.
Up you get, Cho, she thought drily, forcing herself to her feet. Her knees were wobbling from the after-effects of the green mist and she glared at it as she turned away. She would find another way to the center, rather than be forced to hallucinate again.
The direction she chose seemed to be carrying her deeper into the center of the maze, and her heart began thumping in her chest once more. Another left turn, another right turn, right again, left now…
I have to be getting close, Cho supposed silently. She swallowed hard as she turned another corner, always worried she was going to stumble into another mist or be faced with another massive blast-ended skrewt. Instead, when she turned the corner, a table lay in the middle of a courtyard. Other corridors of the maze branched off of the place she now stood, but Cho approached the table curiously. On it stood several objects that she didn’t recognize, and a few that she knew at once.
A large sneakscope was placed in the middle of the table. To its left was a dark, cloudy mirror—a foe glass. More items cluttered the surface of the table, but Cho’s attention was drawn to the dark detectors. As she reached for the foe glass, the sneakscope lit up, whirling around and emitting a loud whistling sound. Cho’s stomach felt like a rock had been dropped into it. She spun away from the dark detectors, searching for the person who had set off the sneakscope.
Nothing around her moved. Her breath was coming in short gasps as she turned back to the table. Now, the foe glass was drawing her in even more strongly than before. She reached for it again, but the moment her hand touched the gilded frame, there was a jerk behind her navel and she felt herself spinning out of the maze, away from Hogwarts.
Cho’s feet hit the ground hard and her knees gave out. The foe glass slipped from her hand and shattered on the ground at her feet. All around her rose gravestones of all shapes and sizes, dwarfing her and casting evil, sinister shadows by the light of the moon.
“Hello?” Cho called out, now shaking worse than ever. This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t supposed to happen. “Hello?” she called again.
A figure stepped towards her out of the darkness, a long cloak obscuring its form, and a hood pulled down over its face.
“Avada Kedavra!” it shouted unexpectedly.
Cho’s eyes widened as a beam of green light shot towards her. She stumbled backwards, tripping over a rock and beginning to fall. Before she hit the ground, Cho’s eyes shot open and a scream bubbled its way through her lips.
“Miss Chang?” a worried voice asked as Cho spun from side to side, trying to place her surroundings. She was in the Hospital Wing. It was very late.
Madam Pomfrey hurried towards her from her office.
“I was worried you would react badly to the sleeping draught,” the matron muttered, placing a cool hand on Cho’s sweaty forehead. “Did you have nightmares?”
Reality came crashing back to Cho. She wasn’t in the Triwizard Tournament. She had no idea what had been in the maze during the Third Task…only what she had heard from rumors about what Harry Potter had said…his story about how Cedric had died.
The panic attacks that had put Cho in the Hospital Wing in the first place began to come back. Her chest tightened and her throat closed up. Tears sprung to her eyes. She was alone. She was completely alone.
You can still do this, Cho, a voice murmured in her head. To Cho, it sounded reassuring. It sounded like Cedric. You can do this. You’ll never really be alone.
Madam Pomfrey bustled off to fetch another potion, and Cho let the tears fall from her eyes.
“I don’t want to do it without you,” she whispered, her voice shaking as she leaned forward to hug her knees. Her dark hair fell in a curtain around her face, hiding her from the world. “Come back…”
In her mind, she could see Cedric smiling.
Don’t be afraid, she thought he would say. You’re a brave girl, Cho Chang. And you can do this without me. I promise. I’ll always be with you, but you are enough. You are brave enough. You are strong enough. I believe in you.
“What if I don’t believe in myself?” Cho murmured, her face contorting in sadness and pain.
Now, don’t say that, Cedric would say. You can do anything. You slay dragons, love. That’s got to count for something.
“It wasn’t really a dragon…and it was just in a dream,” Cho muttered mutinously. She didn’t want her mind trying to convince her that she was better than she really was.
Believe in yourself. It’s all about your perceptions. You can do this. You can do anything.
Slowly, Cho nodded. She knew that that was what Cedric would have said. He was right, as always. Finally, as Madam Pomfrey crossed the Hospital Wing towards her bed once more, Cho took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
Cedric was right. Or maybe she was right. Whatever had prompted the reassuring voice in her head, Cho finally believed it. She slayed dragons. She was enough. She could do this.
Author's Note: Well, here is my entry for Task #1 of the HPFF House Cup 2012! Let me know what you think in a quick review. I would love your opinion. I've never written anything like this, let alone written about Cho. What do you think?
- features your House’s Champion (5 points)
- mentions at least 4 specific breeds of dragon (5 points)
- mentions at least 1 Unforgivable Curse (5 points)
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt (5 points)
- features a dragon (10 points)
- mentions a Sleeping Draught (10 points)
- mentions 2 of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (15 points)
- includes mention of at least 5 of the 12 uses for dragon's blood (15 points)
- mentions at least 2 of the following types of Dark Detectors: Foe-Glass, Sneakoscope, Secrecy Sensor, or Probity-Probe (15 points)
- features a theme of flourishing in the face of adversity (25 points)
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand, as provided by your Head of House (25 points)