Chapter 10 : The Second Task
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I wriggled back further into the covers, trying to find the warmest spot and drift back to sleep, and realized that there was something very warm wrapped around me. Propping myself up on an elbow, I twisted round to see the outline of someone lying next to me, their arms around me, breathing slowly and deeply. I squinted through the darkness and realized it was Fred. He must have moved me into the bed after Hermione left – how had I not woken up? I guess I had been pretty exhausted, but still, you’d think that would’ve roused me.
I turned back over, pulling the covers right up to my ear, and snuggling back into Fred’s arms. It really was very comfortable…
I groaned and pulled my covers over my head.
“Ruby, come on.”
Curling into a ball, I tried to block out the voice that seemed intent on rousing me.
“I’ve got sausages…”
I sat up, letting the covers slide off my face. Fred was perched on the edge of the bed, grinning at me.
“Morning,” he said cheerfully. “How’d you sleep?”
“Really well,” I yawned. “What about you?”
“Ditto,” he said. “I’ve got breakfast out here, if you want it.”
I shrugged, and said, “I guess I could eat,” just as my stomach rumbled audibly. Fred smirked.
“Just…’scuse me for a minute,” I said, clambering out of the bed and dashing into the bathroom.
I squinted at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. My hair was a disaster, and I looked paler than usual, but aside from that I looked almost normal. It seemed impossible that I wasn’t physically changed; I felt like I had become a completely different person since the night of the ball.
I rinsed my mouth out, washed my face, and went to join Fred in the common room. There were two breakfast trays sitting on the coffee table, and the smell drifting from them was absolutely mouth-watering. I realized with a jolt that I hadn’t eaten since Christmas morning, two days earlier. No wonder I was so hungry.
Later, once we’d finished eating, we met George and Lee on the Quidditch pitch. Fred and George took off flying, but Lee and I stayed sitting in the stands, watching them whip back and forth, shouting to each other. Lee pulled me into a hug, and I rested my head on his shoulder. He didn’t try to get me talking, and I was grateful. I needed to plan my next move.
By the time we went back in for lunch, I had it all worked out. I would talk to Harry and get all the facts. That way I would know whether or not mum was in the wrong. It would be easy enough, I figured, to straighten it all out with Harry first – with mum it was likely that I would get too emotional and the story would become skewed. So I resolved to find Harry and get it all out in the open.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the Boy Who Lived had other ideas. Whenever I tried to speak to him, he would make an excuse or duck out; he avoided me in the halls; even Ron and Hermione had started to avoid me – I suspected they had been instructed not to say anything.
Meanwhile, my mother was trying to get me to come see her and talk about it, but I couldn’t face her yet. I was still too angry. She owled me almost daily, trying to reason with me. There was no point in lying, so I told her what I’d heard (leaving Harry out of it, of course – he didn’t need to be made an enemy by one of the Triwizard officials), and that I needed time to think things through.
By the time the second task rolled around, I hadn’t spoken properly to my mother in over two months, and I knew nothing else about my father. So far my plan wasn’t going all that well.
Fortunately, Lee, Fred, and George were keeping me busy and somewhat distracted. We had begun studying for our end-of-term exams (well, I had, and Lee joined me occasionally. The twins didn’t seem too fussed about it, honestly), and as practice for our practical exams, I had started to duel them each, and give them pointers. While this was an excellent exercise for all involved, it also resulted in a few hard-to-explain injuries. For example, we were duelling in an empty classroom one day, and – completely by accident, I swear – I’d knocked Lee out and given him a pair of antlers. Just as I was getting ready to fix him, McGonagall walked past. I had been expecting that she might give me detention, or worse, send me to Dumbledore. Surprisingly she just pursed her lips, rolled her eyes, and muttered something that sounded like, “Munroes”.
On the brisk February afternoon of the second task, I crowded in on the shore of the Black Lake with the twins and Lee. The four of us huddled together under a large flannel blanket passing a thermos of tea back and forth. Three of the champions were already in position by the judges’ table, but Harry was missing, causing a great deal of excitement among the students and staff. Also missing, though slightly less conspicuous, were Ron and Hermione. I pointed this out to Fred, who shrugged, unconcerned, and bellowed something incredibly rude at Cedric Diggory. He looked over towards us and I shook my head, pointing to Fred and mouthing an apology. Cedric grinned and came over.
“Hey, Ruby,” he called, stopping in front of the crowd. “Alright?”
Cedric had been checking up on me since my fainting spell at the ball, much to Fred, George, and Lee’s displeasure.
“I’m great, thanks,” I replied. “You all set?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Diggory, what are you doing?” McGonagall’s voice sliced through the chilly air. “Please return to the champions’ positions at once!”
“Just a minute, Professor,” Cedric called over his shoulder. He turned back to me. “Listen, Ruby, d’you have any idea where Harry is?”
I shook my head, frowning.
“None. Is anyone looking for him?”
“Flitwick went up to the castle a few minutes ago,” Cedric replied. “I’m sure he’ll turn up.”
“Yeah,” I replied, not entirely convinced.
Cedric returned to where the rest of the champions waited. I turned to Lee to say maybe one of us ought to go and look for him, when suddenly Harry came hurtling out of the trees and lurched to a stop, clutching his side. Bagman appeared at his side moments later, muttering something in his ear. Within seconds the whistle blew, and they were off.
Silence descended upon the students as the champions made their way into the water. Cedric, Krum, and Fleur had all disappeared almost instantly, but Harry stood, knee-deep in the black water, seemingly waiting for something to happen.
I heard a giggle from somewhere behind me, and turned to glare at a fourth year Slytherin girl with a squished-looking face.
“What’s he doing?” Lee muttered.
“Dunno,” Fred replied in an undertone. “Merlin, I hope he isn’t going to forfeit.”
“He won’t,” I said with a great deal more certainty than I felt.
The buzz of chatter and laughter was spreading through the crowd now, and I could see Harry blushing. Then, suddenly, I saw it.
“Look!” I cried.
Harry had suddenly thrown himself forwards in the water, but not before I’d seen his webbed fingers grasping at his throat – at his gills!
“Gilliweed!” I exclaimed.
“How’d he get that?” Fred wondered.
“Must’ve been on our last Hogsmeade visit,” Lee said. “There’s no way he’d ask Snape to get it from his stores.”
The champions had an hour to retreive their stolen item, which is too long to ask a bunch of kids to wait in silent anticipation, so after about five minutes Lee broke out his chess set and he and I watched Fred and George play, before taking a turn ourselves. In the midst of a struggle between two of my bravest pawns and Lee’s only remaining bishop, though, we were distracted by the return of Fleur – seemingly without her stolen object. She seemed a bit battered, and as Madam Pomfrey helped her into a blanket Ludo Bagman’s voice echoed across the lake to us.
“Ms. Delacour has, regrettably, been forced to abandon the task prior to completion after being attacked by Grindylows. She has not sustained serious injury, but will not continue in the task.”
“She doesn’t look too happy,” George said, peering across the lake. “What d’you reckon’s wrong?”
“I guess whatever they took is probably pretty important to her,” I said, shrugging.
“Probably her mirror,” Fred laughed.
Lee and I returned to our game, which wrapped up within minutes. Having beaten Lee once again, I glanced at my watch. The hour was almost up, but there was no sign of the other champions. My stomach squirmed nervously.
“Time!” cried Lee, startling me. “Where are they?”
No sooner had he spoken, ripples appeared in the surface of the lake, and Cedric appeared, supporting a very wet but cheerful-looking Cho Chang.
“They took people?” I asked, dumbfounded. “That is completely mental.”
“Dumbledore wouldn’t let anyone get hurt, though, Ruby,” Fred pointed out.
Cedric and Cho were helped back on to dry land by several of the people waiting around the judges’ table, including my mother. Madam Pomfrey began to take care of them as Viktor Krum emerged from the lake, with a firm grip on –
“Is that Hermione?” George asked, squinting.
“I think it is,” Lee said, laughing. “That is too good!”
“Don’t laugh,” I scolded him. “I think it’s sweet.”
Hermione didn’t appear to be paying much attention to Krum, though, and was instead frantically talking to Bagman, who was looking almost as worried as her.
“Where – ” George began.
“In the name of Merlin’s curliest wig,” Fred continued.
“Is Harry?” George finished.
We weren’t the only ones anxious for Harry’s return. Across the lake, Hermione looked positively beside herself.
“He’s well outside the hour,” Lee said, checking his watch again.
“Blimey,” said George. “You don’t reckon – ”
“I think they must have,” Fred said, realization dawning on his face.
“They can’t have,” George said, shaking his head.
“Well, they took Hermione and Cho, didn’t they?” Fred replied, angrily.
“What are you two on about?” Lee asked.
“It’s Ron,” George said simply. “He’s Harry’s stolen thing. He must be.”
At that moment, a roar went up from the crowd, and I looked back out at the lake. Three heads were floating on the water, black-, ginger-, and sliver-haired. I sighed in relief and cheered with the rest of the students.
Harry and Ron helped the silver-haired girl (clearly Fleur’s sister) out of the water, then climbed up themselves. They were immediately seen to by Madam Pomfrey. Dumbledore had come to the edge of the water and was speaking in a strange, shrieking tongue to what appeared to be a Merman.
“That’s Mermish!” I exclaimed excitedly.
Apparently the Mer-person had some important information to share, because Dumbledore motioned the other judges over briefly, before Bagman began shouting out the scores. Fleur received half marks, because of the Grindylows; Cedric came in first, with forty-seven points (I cheered politely, but Fred, George, and Lee remained stonily silent.); Krum was awarded forty-five points; and apparently Harry had found the hostages first, but was reluctant to leave without Hermione, Cho, Fleur’s relation, and Ron as well, so he got forty-five points for “moral fibre”, despite getting back to the surface so late.
As we walked back into the castle, Fred and George were chanting “moral fibre, moral fibre” at the top of their lungs, and Lee, who had linked arms with me, rolled his eyes affectionately.
I turned to see my mother walking briskly towards us, making her way through the throng of students.
“Bugger,” I muttered. “Hurry up, Lee.”
“Ruby, don’t you think it might be time to…” Lee trailed off at the look on my face. “Never mind.”
I made a beeline for the marble staircase, camouflaging myself amongst the hundreds of black robes. Glancing back, I saw her standing in the middle of the steps, looking frustrated. Well, served her right.
“Come on,” Fred said cheerfully, seeing my grim expression. “Party in Gryffindor tower.”
A/N: Hello! I'm sorry it's been so long, but I hope you like the new chapter. Let me know in a review please!! kisses
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by safire smith