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Chapter 7 : The First Task
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By November, the entire school was in an uproar over the first task, which was at the end of the month. The Champions seemed on edge, but I also suspected that they knew what was in store for them; they seemed more resigned to their fates than nervous. I was terribly curious, of course, but mum wasn’t dropping any hints. Every time I asked her about it she would mime locking her lips closed and shake her head.
Mum had been much more cheerful since that morning in Dumbledore’s office. She was always smiling, she looked well-rested, and best of all, she didn’t get that pained expression when she looked at me anymore. She was like a new person.
The week before the first task we had a Hogsmeade trip, and I brought Lee, Fred, George, and Ron round to meet her properly. I’d invited Harry and Hermione, but they said they had other plans (code, I had learned, for “avoiding Ron”). The twins were infatuated with her, and wouldn’t stop going on about how fit she was, and how cool she was, and how they hoped to marry someone just like her one day. I politely told them, each time they got on the subject, that they’d better shut up or I would likely vomit.
The night before the first task, I was sitting in the Gryffindor common room with the twins, Ron, and Lee, when Hermione burst in, white in the face, and shaking.
“Ruby,” she cried, leaping over an armchair and landing in front of me. “You’ll never believe it. It’s psychotic! Madness!”
“You alright, ‘Mione?” Ron asked, standing.
“No I’m bloody well not alright, Ronald!” she shouted, whirling around and pulling her wand out. “You childish, immature, self-centred brat!”
“Maybe we should lower our voices a bit?” Fred suggested, planting himself between Ron and Hermione and holding up his hands.
Mercifully, we were the only ones left in the common room, so there was no one around to witness the spectacle, but if Hermione kept on screaming I was sure some people would be getting out of bed to see what all the commotion was about.
“Lower my voice?” Hermione screeched hysterically.
“Hermione, what’s going on?” I asked, placing my hand gently on her wand arm.
She shook it off and continued to point past Fred, trying to get a good shot at Ron.
“You saw them,” she spat. “Your brother was here, so I know you went to see them. You knew what it was and you didn’t have the decency to tell him yourself!”
A light flush was creeping up Ron’s neck, turning his ears scarlet.
“What’re you on about, our brother?” Fred asked, standing as well.
“Your brother Charlie! He was here, bringing in DRAGONS,” Hermione shouted. “And Ron saw them. That’s the first task. Bloody – DRAGONS! And Ronald,” she spat his name, “didn’t even have the courtesy to tell his so-called best friend as much!”
“Dragons?” I repeated, dumbfounded. “Seriously, dragons?”
“They must be insane,” I said. “It takes a lot of specialized training to kill a dragon, not to mention more than one wizard. How are seventeen year olds supposed to do it?”
“They don’t have to kill them,” Ron explained. “They just have to get past them, apparently.”
“Well still,” I said. “That’s so dangerous!”
“I know,” Ron nodded.
“Oh, you know, do you?” Hermione cut in. “You know, but you didn’t want to tell Harry? Look, Ron, he didn’t put his name in that bloody cup, alright?”
Ron shrugged and sat down.
“Well you might be interested to know that he has a plan in place,” Hermione continued, breathing hard through her nose. “And with a bit of luck, he won’t die!”
And with her head held high, she stormed off to her dormitory.
“Well,” said George after a brief silence. “That’ll be interesting.”
“Interesting?” I repeated. “George, she’s right, someone could die!”
“I didn’t mean the dragons,” George began.
“He meant what’s going to happen with Ron and Hermione,” Fred qualified.
“Though in fairness, that could end in bloodshed, too,” George concluded.
Ron shot his brothers a dark look and ambled off to bed, grumbling under his breath the whole way.
“Well I’m off up, too,” Fred announced, standing.
“Me, too,” George agreed.
“I’d better head back as well,” I said, stifling a yawn. “See you lot tomorrow.”
“I’ll walk you,” Lee offered.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, making my way towards the portrait hole.
“I’d like to,” Lee persisted. “I could use a stroll.”
“Well alright,” I agreed. “If you really don’t mind.”
I turned back to wave to the twins, and George grinned and shot me an over-the-top wink, while Fred’s face was expressionless. Weird. Shrugging, I joined Lee in the corridor.
“Excited for the task?” he asked.
“I suppose, in a way,” I said. “I’m also scared shitless.”
“Same,” he replied. “I still can’t believe there’s no way Harry could get out of it. He’s way too young…”
“Well didn’t you, Fred and George all want to compete, too?”
“Well, yeah,” Lee allowed. “But we’re almost seventeen. I’ll be seventeen in March, and the twins in April, so we’re basically there. But Harry…”
“He’s a kid. I mean, he’s a year younger than me, for goodness sakes!”
“But it’s not like he hasn’t handled himself before,” Lee pointed out. “Out of anyone, I think he’s got the right track record for the gig.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said reluctantly.
We had arrived at my door.
“Thanks for walking me over, Lee.”
“Thanks for letting me,” he laughed.
He hugged me quickly, patting my back in a slightly awkward manner, and then turned and walked down the hall. I pushed my door open and stepped inside, dropping my bag on the floor, and headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth, braid my hair, and wash my face.
As I climbed into bed a few minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. Grumbling, I crossed the floor and peered through the peephole.
I pulled the door open. Lee was standing in the doorway, breathing hard.
“Why are you always out of breath when you show up here?” I wondered.
Lee didn’t seem to be able to speak; he was glaring at me and practically panting.
“Are you okay?”
I stepped over the threshold into the hall, and in an instant his arms were around me. His lips found mine, kissing me with an edge of desperation. My hands wound into his hair, pulling him closer, as he pressed me against the cool stone wall. His lips parted mine, and I grazed his bottom lip with my teeth softly; his tongue brushed mine – a moment later he pulled away.
“I…” he released me and backed away, gasping for air. “Sorry. I’ll see you…”
And before I could utter a word, he turned and ran down the hall.
There was a crispness in the air as I made my way to the arena for the first task with Ron and the twins. (Lee was notably absent; I hadn’t seen him at breakfast either.) Fred and George were discussing their bets for the outcome of the task with just a hair too much vigour, and I was certain that they knew what had happened the night before.
Hermione joined us as we found seats in the stands, though she avoided Ron altogether and sat beside me, twisting her hands anxiously in her lap.
“Hermione,” I said. “He’ll be great. He’s got it down.”
“I know,” she muttered, though her brow remained furrowed and her fists clenched.
I patted her shoulder gently and turned back towards the twins.
“So what did he tell you?”
Fred and George raised identical eyebrows in confusion.
“What?” asked George.
“Who?” asked Fred.
“Lee!” I said.
I whipped round to see Lee sitting on the bench behind me, his dreads held back by an elastic, and a grin adorning his face.
“Merlin,” I sighed. “How long have you been sitting there?”
“Just got here,” he replied easily, dropping into the seat next to me. “Shove over,” he added to the twins.
As they shuffled along the bench, a voice rang out over the stadium, inviting us all to watch as Cedric Diggory faced his dragon.
“Ruby, I really need to talk to you,” Lee murmured in my ear.
“Right now?” I asked, watching anxiously as Cedric stepped into the sunlight.
“Yes,” Lee hissed, grabbing my arm.
“Oh… Alright, but you’d better make it quick!”
I followed him from the stands, ignoring Hermione’s cry of “Where are you going?”. After a few minutes he stopped and pulled me behind a tree, out of sight.
“Lee, if this is about last night,” I began.
“No, just let me talk.” He held up a hand. “I want to apologize.”
“Honestly don’t worry about it,” I stopped him. “It’s forgotten.”
“No, that’s the thing – ”
Lee was interrupted by a massive roar from the crowd; I could hear the magnified voice shouting something. Cedric must have gotten past his dragon.
“Really, it’s all good. Let’s go and watch the task.”
“No, Ruby, listen for one second.”
I sighed and leaned back against the tree. What if Harry was facing his dragon up there? I’d never forgive myself if I missed it.
“I don’t know what happened last night,” Lee said. “I was totally crazy, and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t just have come out with this sooner, but – ”
“Lee,” I interrupted him. “Just wait, I think I should say this first.”
“I’m not into you,” Lee blurted, at the exact same moment that I said, “I don’t like you like that.”
He stared at me for a second.
“Wait,” I said, holding up a hand. “What?”
“No,” Lee said. “What?”
“Then why did you kiss me?”
“I…” Lee trailed off. “I was sort of…testing something.”
“OH!” I smacked him in the chest.
“Ouch!” he complained.
“You kissed me for some stupid bet? Was it Fred and George? Whose idea was it? When I get hold of him I’m going to rip him a new – ”
“No, you idiot,” Lee cut me off. “It wasn’t a bet or anything.”
“Oh,” I said, abashed. “Sorry I hit you, then.”
“No worries,” he said, though he didn’t look entirely convinced of it as he rubbed his chest gingerly.
“So why’d you do it, then?”
“Come on,” I said cajolingly. “Whatever it is, you can tell me. We’ve reached that point, I think.”
He looked down, scuffing his shoe on a root that was sticking up near his foot.
“Lee, for pity’s sake, tell me, and then it’ll be off your chest and we can go back to the task!”
“Alright, alright,” he relented. “Okay, Ruby, but you’re the first person I’ve ever said this to, so just…be sensitive of that, okay?”
“Cross my heart,” I promised. “What is it?”
“I think…” Lee swallowed hard. “I think I’m gay.”
A roar exploded from the arena behind us and I jumped – the second contestant was through.
Lee shrugged and looked down at his shoes.
“I was pretty sure, and then, last night…” he shook his head. “Well, if I ever was going to like a girl, it’d be someone like you, someone beautiful and smart and fun... and then I was kissing you, and…nothing.”
“Oh, well, thank you,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“Sarcasm’s really not what I need right now,” Lee pointed out.
“Oh, bugger, sorry,” I said hurriedly. “Erm… I’m glad you’re gay!”
Lee raised his eyebrows at me and it looked like he was fighting to keep a smile off his face.
“You’re glad I’m gay?” he repeated.
“Yes!” I said emphatically. “I’ve always wanted a gay best friend, so if you’re good, I’m good.”
Lee chuckled, and stepped forward to hug me. With our arms still around each other we walked back to the arena.
“You know, I’m not surprised you’re gay,” I said pensively. “If I was a bloke who’d spent the entirety of my teenage years around Fred and George Weasley, I’d be gay too.”
“Well I’m glad you’re in that boat with me,” Lee laughed. “Though, in case you were wondering, I’m not in love with Fred, or George.”
“I was, a bit,” I confessed.
“Nope,” Lee confirmed, grinning. “They’re not really my type.”
“What is your type?” I wondered.
“I’ve been out five minutes, you want me to have that figured out?”
As we took our seats again, I noticed that Hermione and Ron were sitting side by side. Hermione grabbed my hand frantically.
“You’ve missed everyone but Harry,” she gabbled. “He’s up next… Will you look at that thing?”
It would’ve been hard to miss Harry’s dragon – it was a monstrosity, even as dragons go. I looked away across the stadium to where my mother sat, flanked by Ludo and Crouch. She caught my eye and grimaced.
Hermione suddenly squeezed my hand and I looked down to see Harry walking out into the open. He looked impossibly little.
Hermione seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because she began to mutter to herself under her breath.
“He’ll be alright. He’s got a plan. He’ll be fine. It’ll all be fine.”
Harry was a tiny figure from where we sat; I could barely make out his face, let alone hear the words he shouted as he raised his wand in the air, but next to me Hermione was bouncing her legs furiously.
“Come on, come on,” she muttered.
Then , from just above us I heard the whistling of an approaching object, and looked up just in time to see the Firebolt whipping through the sky towards Harry, who leapt astride it and took off as the crowd roared its approval.
“YES!” Hermione screamed, leaping to her feet.
Ron was on his feet, too, next to her, looking slightly green.
“COME ON HARRY!” Hermione bellowed, clutching at her face so hard I thought she was likely to give herself some scars of her own.
“Great Scott, he can fly,” Bagman’s voice echoed across the arena.
It was true. Seeing Harry in the air, it was as though he’d been born to fly. He dodged the horntail’s flaming breath and swerved around her head. The dragon followed him, swinging her head in wide circles. Maybe she would just get dizzy and keel over? But no, Harry plunged downwards – Hermione screamed – and the spike on the end of the dragon’s tail caught his shoulder. Harry barely flinched, so I knew he must be alright, but I could hear Ron panicking.
“Is he alive? Bloody hell, he’s going to die, he’s going to bleed to death – ”
But Harry was fine. He was weaving back and forth above her, trying to coax her away from her eggs. It seemed to be working, for the dragon roared impatiently as he flew higher, and finally unfurled her wings and lunged after him.
I screamed with Hermione as Harry dived, hurtling towards the now-unprotected eggs faster than lightening. The crowd was in a frenzy as he pulled out of the dive, nearly unscathed, clutching the golden egg. Bagman’s voice was booming out over the stands, but I couldn’t hear as Hermione turned to me, still screaming, and threw her arms around me.
Next thing I knew I was being hugged by the twins, and over Fred’s shoulder I saw Ron and Hermione with their arms tightly around one another. I was glad that fight was over; things were better when the trio was together.
Hermione turned and grabbed me by the wrist, pulling me out of the stands towards the champions’ tent with her and Ron. The twins and Lee followed close behind me, and we waited just outside while Ron and Hermione ducked in. I expected Ron was ready to be friends with Harry again; there’s nothing like watching someone almost get killed to make you realize how much they mean to you.
They were inside for barely a minute when Hermione came running out again in tears.
“Hermione!” I exclaimed in alarm. “Are you alright?”
“Sometimes,” she said, dabbing furiously at her eyes. “I just wish I was friends with more girls! Boys are so – bloody – stupid!”
“Have they not made up yet, then?” Fred wondered, handing her a handkerchief as we walked back towards the school.
“They just did,” Hermione sniffed. “But they’re just… oh, never mind.”
I laughed and pulled Hermione in for a hug.
“Quit crying, Hermione. It’s all over.”
“Party in the Gryffindor common room,” added Fred.
“Coming, Munroe?” George asked.
“Think I might, yeah,” I replied, grinning.
A/N: Hello beautiful people! Thanks for reading! I love each and every one of you. Please please review! I love your reviews. They make my day! love and kisses xxox
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by safire smith