What If? ... Another Goblet Of Fire Alternative
The Second Task
By Chem Prof
One thing that I found completely implausible about the second task in the book was Hermione not finding the Bubble-Head charm. Given that two other champions used it, and in Book 5 many students
in Hogwarts use it when dungbombs and stink pellets are set off in the corridors, it is inconceivable that she’d not learn of it. Another other ridiculous scene was Harry wading into the lake still
wearing his robes. (And at least one of the other champions did as well - Krum was the only one mentioned wearing swimming trunks, Fluer was wearing robes, no information was given about Cedric).
In this instance the movie was much more realistic.
In this retelling, then, Harry gets serious about the task sooner, and is better prepared. This leads to an assumption that, though quite reasonable, he failed to make in the book, and the task turns out somewhat differently.
(GOF Ch 25 & 26)
The morning following the Yule Ball, Ron approached Harry and Hermione in the common room, looking sheepish.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, not looking either of them in the eye. “I didn’t mean what I said last night.” Harry was about to say something conciliatory, but when he glanced over at Hermione he could see she wasn’t buying it.
“Didn’t mean what, exactly?” she demanded coldly. “That you think I betrayed Harry by going to the ball with Viktor? Or that you’re revolted at the thought of going out with me?” Ron had started to shake his head, but was now staring at his shoes and beginning to turn red. “Or,” she continued, heating up now, “that you think your sister and I are having sex with Harry?”
By this point Ron was glowing bright crimson, and Harry was feeling his own face warm up at her last query. After a few false starts, opening and closing his mouth without any sound coming out, Ron finally managed a response “All of it.”
Hermione pressed on, feeling that Ron had gotten away with this sort of thing too often. “In my experience people usually mean what they say,” she insisted. “Or there’s at least some basis for it.” Ron was clearly uneasy with the direction this conversation was going, and began shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. “The same thing happened last year,” Hermione reminded him. “It seems to me that there must be something fundamental about me that annoys you. Maybe you just manage to suppress it most of the time because you want my help with homework.”
“That’s not true!” Ron protested weakly.
In her agitated state Hermione now rounded on Harry. “And I suppose you’re going to take his side?” she challenged.
Harry looked at her, a bit taken aback. “I didn’t last night,” he reminded her.
Hermione immediately softened and smiled at him. “No, you didn’t,” she agreed
“I guess I’m in the same position you were in last month when you were trying to get us to make up,” Harry reasoned carefully. “I’m not taking his side, I’m trying to help my friends work things out between them.”
“Yeah, and that worked out so well,” Hermione shot back sarcastically, but managed a smile for his making the effort.
“Well, you were working with two pretty stubborn gits,” he admitted with a grin.
“Like you are right now?” Hermione responded with a sigh. “All right, for your sake I’ll try to be civil. But I really don’t want to have to put up with this anymore.” They both turned to Ron, who nodded with a mixture of remorse and relief.
“Okay, let’s go get some lunch,” Harry suggested, realizing this was the best he could expect for now. So having settled on this uneasy truce, the trio headed for the portrait hole.
Hermione wanted to go home for the final week of the holiday to be able to spend at least some of it with her parents, so she left that afternoon, catching the Knight Bus from Hogsmeade. For his part, Harry decided to take this opportunity to visit the prefect’s bath and open the egg. It turned into more of an adventure than he’d expected.
Once he discovered that a song was involved, he knew that Hermione would want to know the exact wording, so he climbed out of the bath to search for a quill. Unfortunately he hadn’t brought one with him (who takes a quill into the bath?) so he had to put his bathrobe back on, run back to his dorm, and return to the bath. It took several dunkings before he got it all completely down, and having to deal with wet parchment in addition to fending off a voyeuristic Moaning Myrtle, it was long past curfew when he finished. On top of everything else, on his way back to the common room he had an unpleasant encounter with Filch, Snape, and Moody and it cost him the Marauder’s Map when Moody decided to ‘borrow’ it. By the time he finally returned to his room he was annoyed and grumpy, to say the least.
In Hermione’s absence, Ron ended up bearing the brunt of his ire. Given how badly he’d irritated Harry the previous day, though, he took it without complaint, and attempted to focus Harry on interpreting the clue.
Come seek us where our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching, ponder this:
We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And to recover what we took.
But past an hour - the prospect's black
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back"
“So, what do you think they’ll take that you have to recover?” Ron wondered.
Harry shrugged. “I don’t actually own that much stuff that I care about. I’d say what I’d miss the most are the invisibility cloak and my Firebolt. Since not that many people know about the cloak – Dumbledore does, but I imagine he’d want to keep it secret – I’m guessing it would be the Firebolt.”
When Hermione returned she was quite excited to hear of Harry’s new discovery. She agreed with his conclusion about needing to retrieve a treasured object from the merpeople in the lake, and immediately set about finding a charm that would allow him to breathe underwater.
Before the day was out he also noticed something else – Hermione’s attitude toward Ron had not thawed a bit while she’d been away, if anything she was even more distant. When he asked her about this in the library she was perfectly upfront with him about her feelings and shared with him what she was thinking.
Her week at home had allowed her to sort some things out, she told him, and one of her conclusions had been that she was no longer going to tolerate Ron’s insults. Part of this resolve had come from talking with her mother, who had wondered why she was even friends with someone who would treat her so badly. When Harry pointed out that Ron had his good points too, she acknowledged this, and admitted that her mother had formed her opinion after listening to her complain for several days.
Hermione also mentioned that her parents, particularly her father, were uncomfortable with her dating Viktor. They cited the fact that he was three years older, a professional athlete, and had fan girls chasing after him – her father used the term ‘groupies’, a reference to the overly enthusiastic females who hung around footballers. She had assured her parents that her date with the world famous seeker had been a one time thing. (Her mother had expressed surprise that she hadn’t gone to the ball with Harry, but she didn’t tell him that.)
But as far as Ron was concerned, she made it clear to Harry that she didn’t want to put him in the position of having to choose between his best friends. She understood that he’d want to spend time with Ron, and she’d tolerate his presence when the three of them were together even if she would no longer make an effort to be nice to him until there were clear signs that his behavior had improved.
Another change in the group dynamic that Harry soon became aware of was that Hermione began drawing in other students, such as Neville, but particularly Ginny. Whether it was a way to buffer herself from Ron, or whether she was still playing matchmaker, he wasn’t sure. It was also possible that Ginny considered her date with him to be an invitation to assume a greater role in his life. He didn’t mind too much, since he enjoyed her company, as long as she didn’t take it the wrong way.
Within a week Hermione discovered something called a Bubble-Head charm, which enclosed the user in a protective bubble of breathable air. It seemed perfectly suited to the task, but it had a major drawback. It was a NEWT level charm, and difficult to master. It took Hermione the better part of a day to get even a faint bubble to form, and it quickly collapsed. Harry couldn’t manage it at all.
It was in mid-January, on their way back from a Hogsmeade visit, that a sequence of events occurred that led to a breakthrough. As they passed by the Durmstrang ship moored in the lake, they spotted Krum on the deck in swimming trunks, and while they watched he dove into the water.
“I wonder what spell he’s using,” Hermione mused aloud. “It didn’t look like he cast a Bubble-Head.”
“Forget the spell!” Ron blurted out. “He just dove into the lake in the middle of winter. It’s ice cold! If Harry has to do that he’ll freeze!”
Hermione overlooked the fact that Ron had once again dismissed one of her comments. “That’s right,” she agreed, turning to Harry. “You’ll need a wetsuit or something. And you said you don’t even have a swimsuit.” Harry nodded his agreement, somewhat dismayed. In the rush to find a way to breathe underwater, he hadn’t even thought about how cold the water was going to be, or what he’d wear.
Hermione picked up on his apprehension. “Well, that’s fixed easily enough,” she assured him. “We can order you something and have it shipped here. If necessary, I can give Mum your size and she can pick up what you need and send it back with Hedwig.”
“What’s a wet suit?” Ginny asked as they entered the castle.
“It’s what scuba divers wear to keep them from getting cold when they’re underwater a long time,” Hermione answered. “In really cold water they use something else called a drysuit, but I think it would be too bulky to be practical for Harry. If we add a warming charm, the wetsuit should be good enough.”
“You mean muggles have invented a way to breathe underwater?” Ron asked in amazement. “Why doesn’t Harry use that?”
“They use a big tank of air called an aqualung,” Harry explained. “But we wouldn’t be allowed to take something like that into the lake with us. It’s just supposed to be us and our wands.”
“Couldn’t you summon one like you did the Firebolt?” Ron persisted. Harry shook his head.
“Too complicated to use,” he replied glumly. “By the time I figured out how it worked, the hour would be over. Besides, muggles spend hours and hours training to learn how to use them safely. I’ll just have to keep working on the Bubble-Head charm.”
“But it didn’t look like Viktor was using one,” Hermione reminded them as they climbed through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. “I wonder what his plan is.”
“Why don’t you just ask him?” Ron shot back in a thinly-veiled jibe. “After all …” Responding quickly, Harry immediately steered Hermione to a nearly empty corner in the back of the room while Ginny shut her brother up with a glare and dragged him over to the fireplace, her hand curled threateningly around her wand.
“Sorry,” Harry murmured to Hermione as he let go of her and settled into an armchair next to Neville. Hermione shook him off.
“Not a problem,” she responded as she took a seat of her own. “Thanks for breaking us apart before anything happened. It’s best if I ignore him.” After taking a few deep breaths to calm herself down, she looked over at him. “Do you want to practice some more?”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Harry agreed. He drew out his wand and began attempting to cast the spell.
“What are you working on?” Neville inquired. “That doesn’t look like anything we’re learning in Charms.”
“It’s the Bubble-Head charm,” Hermione answered promptly. She leaned toward Neville and lowered her voice. “Harry needs to be able to breathe underwater for the Second Task.”
Neville cocked his head curiously. “Does it have to be a charm?”
Hermione stared at him for a moment, then frowned and shook her head. “No, I suppose it doesn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t consider the possibility, but there could be a potion he could take. Transfiguration is another option, of course, but we won’t take up human transfiguration until sixth year.”
Neville shook his head. “Actually, I was thinking of a magical plant,” he revealed. “I’ve been reading this book Professor Moody gave me, and there’s an underwater plant called gillyweed that grows in the Mediteranean. It’s supposed to allow you to breathe underwater. You grow gills and …” To Neville’s shock he was cut off when Hermione leapt at him and gave him a massive hug.
“Neville, that’s perfect!” she squealed, drawing curious looks from the other students present. A few of them raised their eyebrows at the sight of Hermione hugging Neville, but before any rumors could get started Harry nudged her aside and threw his own arm around his roommate’s shoulders.
“Yeah, that’s great,” he enthused. “Where can we get some?”
By the middle of February Harry was feeling pretty good about his preparations. Hermione had persuaded him that a thin wetsuit called a diveskin would be best for coverage and flexibility. It had long sleeves and long legs, but was light enough that it wouldn’t hinder his normal activities. By having Harry add a warming charm they solved the temperature problem. Hermione had also ordered a swimsuit for him to wear under it. She ignored his protests at how tight it was, pointing out that it was the only way it would fit under the diveskin. From the smirk on her face as she made this argument, he suspected that she had an ulterior motive in having him own such brief swimwear, but neither of them was ready to admit this aloud.
The gillyweed was more difficult to obtain. In the end, Hedwig had to make a trip all the way to the Mediterranean coast; fortunately she returned a week before the task was due to take place. Hermione speculated that Fleur might be planning to use the magical plant as well. Since Beauxbatons was located in the south of France, she was likely to be aware of it as well.
Harry had even had time to test everything out in the prefects’ bath the weekend before the task, experimenting with dosages of the gillyweed. By the eve of the event, he was ready. Hermione persuaded him to work on the Bubble-Head charm some more, just in case he needed it as a backup. She’d managed to produce a bubble that would last several minutes, but his always collapsed within seconds of their formation. So the two of them settled once more into their chairs in the corner of the common room, to see if he could get it to last longer. At nine pm she was called to McGonagall’s office, and she told him to keep at it until she returned.
Focusing intently on his task, Harry cast the charm. The bubble formed, then dissolved. Again. And again. Then it failed completely. Another two successes. He began to keep score, trying to see how many successes he could get in a row without a miss. He didn’t count any bubbles that didn’t last for more than a second. On and he strove, not noticing the room gradually empty out as the students retired to their dorms.
“Harry, wake up! You’re going to miss breakfast!” Harry’s eyes shot open to see Neville leaning over him, shaking him by the shoulders, and realized that he had fallen asleep in the common room.
“What? Oh, thanks Neville. What time is it? Where’s Hermione?” Harry sat up, straightening his glasses, and as his mind started functioning, he wondered why Hermione had let him fall asleep in the chair.
“It’s nine o’clock,” Neville responded anxiously. “The Second Task starts in half an hour.” Now Harry was really concerned. What had happened to Hermione? There was no way she’d have let him oversleep like this.
“Hey Lavender,” he called out to his blonde classmate. “Have you seen Hermione this morning?”
Lavender broke away from the girls she was talking with and walked over to him. “No, I haven’t,” she replied. “She must have come up last night after Parvati and I were asleep, and left again this morning before we woke up.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Harry protested. “Why wouldn’t she …” He broke off as an awful thought struck him, twisting his stomach into knots. “Oh no!” Without another word he jumped up and ran across the room, dove out the portrait hole, and raced down to the Great Hall. Just as he was about to push through the doors he ran into Cedric coming out, looking grim.
“Cedric! Hermione’s missing!” he gasped.
To his dismay, the Hufflepuff champion only nodded. “So is Cho.”
“Then they’re …” Harry stammered, not wanting it to be true.
“…what we have to rescue from the lake,” Cedric confirmed in a low tone as he pulled Harry to a private corner.
“I thought it would be my Firebolt,” Harry moaned.
“Yeah, me too,” Cedric agreed. “I figured either my broomstick or the watch I got from my dad for my seventeenth birthday. But I guess we were wrong.”
“But how can they do that!” Harry cried, beginning to panic. “How can they put a real, live person in danger like that? We’ve got to get them out of there!” He looked like he was about to take off for the lake then and there before Cedric pulled him back and shook him by the arms.
“Harry! Calm down!” the older boy instructed. “Have you got a plan?” Harry nodded quickly, remembering the strategy he and Hermione had worked out. Hermione! “Then don’t panic, stick to your plan, and she’ll be all right,” Cedric continued. “Understand?” Harry took a deep breath and nodded again, turning once more toward the large double doors of the castle entrance.
“Don’t you need to change first?” Cedric reminded him. Looking down at himself, Harry realized he was still wearing the clothes from yesterday that he’d slept in all night and nodded sheepishly, then turned and sprinted back up to Gryffindor tower.
“Right, the plan,” he mumbled aloud as he ascended the stairs. “Her first instruction was to get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. So much for that part.”
Up in his dorm room he quickly donned his swimsuit and diveskin, tucked his wand into the pocket Hermione had added to one sleeve, grabbed the gillyweed they’d carefully measured out the day before and stuffed it into another pocket, threw his winter cloak over himself, and hurried back out again. He briefly wondered where Ron was but didn’t dwell on it, as he was too worried about Hermione. Flying past several clusters of students still walking down to the lake, he arrived at the starting point with only five minutes to spare.
Pausing to catch his breath, he looked around at his fellow competitors. Cedric gave him a nod, his face set in determination. Krum merely glanced his way briefly then returned his gaze to the lake. The professional quidditch player, who was undoubtedly used to competitions like this, had his game face on. By contrast, Fleur was pale, even more so than she’d been before the first task, and was trembling slightly. Harry took several deep breaths and tried to focus his thoughts on the task at hand. He needed to find Hermione at the bottom of the lake in under an hour. He could do it. He had to do it!
Harry barely heard the instructions from Bagman as he announced the conditions of the second task ‘… an hour to recover what was taken from them …’. At the starting whistle all four champions dropped their cloaks. Harry quickly began stuffing his gillyweed into his mouth and chewing on it while wading into the water. To his left he noted that Cedric was wearing what resembled old-fashioned men’s swimwear from the 1920’s, with tank top and mid-thigh trunks. Krum wore similar trunks but was bare-chested. Fleur, farther down the line, was in a more modern, rather revealing one-piece suit that had the male half of the crowd leaning forward in their seats. Apparently she was going for an alluring look at the expense of warmth.
Krum pulled out his wand and dove in first, casting a spell as he broke the surface of the water, but Harry couldn’t see what it did. Cedric, as expected, cast a Bubble-Head charm and followed. Fleur was also chewing gillyweed, while casting a warming charm on herself. She caught Harry looking at her and nodded to him before diving in. Harry finished chewing and swallowed, feeling the gill transformation begin. He submerged right behind her, but quickly lost sight of the beautiful French champion in the murky water.
Approaching the mervillage Harry was glad for the ‘home pitch advantage’ that he was experiencing in this task. He’d been able to deal with the grindylow threat from having been taught about them in third year Defense Against the Dark Arts, and the giant squid had recognized him from the times he’d tossed food scraps into the lake and given him a free pass. Even better, Moaning Myrtle had appeared along the way and offered directions.
Finally, as the songs of the watching merpeople taunted him about running out of time and losing his best friend forever, he spied a line of figures floating just off the bottom of the lake, tied to a statue. Cursing the poor visibility, he strained to make them out. The first was a small girl with long silvery blonde hair. The second … Hermione!
Kicking hard, he sped toward her with his wand out, only to have his path blocked by a fierce looking merman holding a spear. Apparently there was one more obstacle to be overcome.
Expeliarmus! No sound emerged as he mouthed the words, but the beam of light flashed from his holly wand nevertheless and the surprised merman’s spear sailed from his hands. But to Harry’s consternation three more took his place. Backing up in frustration, Harry took a moment to size up the situation. Just how many was he expected to fight off? As he looked on he could see Cho Chang on Hermione’s other side and a red-haired figure beyond her.
Expeliarmus! Stupefy! Stupefy! Three more spells streaked toward his opponents, and they were dispatched as well, but once again they were reinforced. Frustrated, Harry began to circle around trying to put Hermione between him and his guards, thinking he might be able to cut her loose and summon her to himself before they could react. From his new vantage point he could now make out the fourth hostage – Ron.
Ron? He rubbed his eyes and looked again. What was Ron doing here? Harry ran the words of the clue back through his mind. ‘… what you’ll sorely miss’. Hermione and Ron were his best friends, and it was certainly true that his friends were what he valued most in his life. Was he supposed to retrieve both of them? Then what about Krum? Was his hostage elsewhere in the village? Fighting back the nagging feeling that he was missing something, he kicked his feet and maneuvered closer to Ron. This time the mermen made no move to stop him.
Suddenly out of the gloom Cedric appeared, his head distorted by an enormous bubble, and he headed straight toward Cho. Straight and completely unhindered! A Diffindo cut her loose and he grabbed hold of her arm. After giving Harry a wave of encouragement he kicked off the bottom and began to rise to the surface.
Thoroughly irritated now, Harry shot his own Diffindo at the ropes holding Ron down, cutting him free, then turned back to Hermione. Once again the mermen moved to block him, and he began to consider using some more powerful hexes. He wondered what these ugly half fish creatures would think about having their statue blown up with a Reducto curse. Another flurry of stunning spells created an opening, and he slipped in another cutting hex to sever Hermione’s bonds. Now, if he could only get her away from the remaining mermen guards and get out of here!
Without warning something massive crashed into him from behind, knocking him off balance, and he looked up to see a creature with the head of a shark moving straight for Hermione. Reacting on instinct, he immediately fired a Banishing charm at it, knocking it away from her and slamming it into the statue. The creature, which Harry now recognized as a human with a shark’s head, gathered itself and turned to glare at him (inasmuch as a shark can glare) while the protective screen of armed merman closed ranks between them, with Hermione on the other side.
After staring for a few more seconds, the creature turned away from Harry, took hold of Hermione’s limp form, and started swimming upwards. By now Harry had recognized the swimming trunks and realized that this was Krum, who had performed a partial self-transfiguration.
Then the further realization finally struck him about the reason for the mermen’s interference – Hermione was Krum’s hostage, not his. He slumped back against the statue in shock, his mind screaming its refusal to accept this heresy. How could anyone in their right mind think that Hermione was more important to Viktor Krum than she was to Harry Potter? It was inconceivable. But there it was, the proof even now ascending out of view toward the surface. Now he needed to regroup his thoughts and finish the task.
Harry retrieved Ron, who had drifted off a little ways during his battle with the mermen, and then turned back to look at the other hostage. From her appearance this was likely Fleur’s little sister. But where was Fleur? What would happen to this girl if the French champion failed to arrive in time? Harry glanced at his watch, and groaned. It had stopped. I’ll have to remember to get a waterproof watch the next time I do this , he thought with a mirthless chuckle. He reluctantly decided to wait just a little bit longer.
Up on the dock, Hermione had been quickly wrapped in a blanket, her soggy robes and outer clothing removed. As soon as Madame Pomfrey released her she hurried to the edge to peer anxiously into the water. As time passed and there was no sign of Harry and Ron, she grew more and more nervous. At the same time she was growing more and more annoyed with Viktor’s attention.
Upon reaching McGonagall’s office the previous night she had been informed that she and Ron were to be hostages for their champions. By the time she worked out that Ron was for Harry and she evidently was for Viktor, she didn’t have a chance to object before Dumbledore cast the spell to put her into an enchanted sleep. The next thing she knew she was in the lake and Viktor was pushing her out of the water onto the dock. Already put out not only that the professors had chosen Ron instead of her as Harry’s hostage, but even more so that she’d been selected for a guy she hardly knew, she now steadfastly ignored his attempts to ask her something.
Looking up into the stands, she caught Neville’s eye, and her fellow Gryffindor put up one finger, then five. Harry had been in the water for an hour and five minutes. When they’d calculated the amount of gillyweed he would use, they’d allowed for a ten minute margin of error. Shaking her head in her mounting concern, she moved over to where Cedric was standing and asked him if he’d seen Harry down at the bottom of the lake.
“Actually, he got there first,” the older boy informed her. “When I arrived he was fighting against a half dozen armed mermen trying to get to you. For a while I was worried that I’d have to fight them too, but they didn’t try to keep me from Cho.”
“Wait, he was fighting to get to me?” she interrupted. Cedric nodded.
“He thought you were his hostage,” he replied. “So did I. We figured it out this morning when you and Cho were missing. Or at least we thought we did. I guess it was actually Weasley, huh?” Hermione nodded irritably, still peeved at the selections. “Harry was amazing, though,” Cedric continued, “the way he was knocking out those guys right and left. I wonder why he’s not back yet.”
Hermione felt a warm glow well up inside her at the thought of Harry fighting through a host of armed warriors to rescue her, but pushed it away as another realization struck her. Fleur was back without her hostage. And Harry was still down at the bottom of the lake, even though he’d undoubtedly already freed Ron.
Harry Bloody Potter and his infuriatingly noble saving-people-thing!
Harry decided that he couldn’t wait any longer. Taking the mermen guards by surprise, he quickly shot a cutting hex at the little girl’s bonds and grabbed her arm before they could react. Reaching out to Ron with his other hand, he began kicking for the surface. He soon discovered that his passengers, with their heavy waterlogged robes, were slowing him down dramatically, so he stopped for a second to vanish the burdensome garments, reasoning that they were under some protective spell and wouldn’t be affected by the cold. This left Ron in his shirt and trousers, but to his dismay the little girl was only wearing underwear beneath her robes. Averting his eyes in embarrassment, he resumed his journey upward.
Then his luck ran out. He felt the reverse transformation begin as his gills started fading away and the webbing between his fingers and toes disappeared. Thinking quickly he shot Banishing spells at Ron and the little girl, sending them rocketing toward the surface. Unfortunately he didn’t know any charms that would do the same thing to himself. While kicking as hard as he could he pointed his wand at his head and spoke the Bubble-Head incantation.
A small bubble formed and he took a deep gulp of air to fill his lungs and exhaled, but as soon as he did the bubble collapsed. Still kicking furiously, he tried the charm again. This time it failed.
Standing helplessly beside Cedric at the edge of the dock, still wrapped in her blanket, Hermione turned once more toward Neville. This time he held up one finger followed by ten. Harry’s time had run out.
“Cedric, cast a Bubble-Head charm on me, I’m going down after him,” she demanded. She would have done it herself, but her wand had been taken from her when she’d been put into the enchanted sleep.
“What! You can’t do that!” he protested. Suddenly there was a disturbance in the water as Ron and a little girl popped to the surface. While several hands reached out to pull them up to the dock, Hermione quickly scanned the water for any sign of Harry. Nothing.
“DO IT NOW!” she screamed at Cedric. Startled, and realizing that a furious Hermione Granger was something he didn’t want to deal with, Cedric complied. As soon as the bubble formed around her head, Hermione dropped her blanket and dove into the frigid water.
When she’d been taken up to McGonagall’s office the previous night, she’d been dressed as she normally was during the winter. Under her robes she wore a skirt and jumper, and layered beneath those she also wore tights and a camisole over her underwear for extra warmth in the cold, drafty castle. Pomfrey had removed the skirt and jumper when she came out of the lake, leaving her in the tights and camisole. Now, as soon as she hit the water she instantly regretted not also asking Cedric for a warming charm, because the frigid chill shot right through to her bones. But she forced it out of her mind in her desperation to find Harry, and swam downward as hard as she could. (Later, after it was all over, it would occur to her to wonder how it was even possible for her, and Cedric earlier, to dive below the surface with large air bubbles around their heads. The extra buoyancy should have prevented it. After some fretting, she would ultimately conclude that somehow magic had triumphed over physics.)
After what seemed like an eternity, she spotted Harry below her, his mouth shut tightly trying to keep himself from inhaling any water. His wand was pointed at his head and his legs were still kicking weakly, but without much energy. Putting on an extra burst of speed she caught him and immediately pressed her mouth to his.
Harry was certain that he was a goner. After all the times he’d nearly died at Hogwarts, it seemed ironic that he would end up drowning in the lake. As his vision began to go dark around the edges when his brain started to shut down for lack of oxygen, he found that his thoughts were of regret. Regret that he wouldn’t see Sirius or his friends again. And oddly enough, he felt regret that he’d let Hermione down after all she’d gone through to help him prepare for this task.
Suddenly someone grabbed him, and he felt a pair of lips on his, forcing his own apart. Startled, he relaxed his effort to keep them sealed and air was forced into his mouth, and he gratefully inhaled the life-giving substance. After a long, sweet, deep breath his mind cleared enough to realize that it was Hermione’s mouth locked onto his. When she pulled away to take another breath, he discovered that both of their heads were enclosed in a single bubble of air and he was able to breath freely on his own.
Without consciously realizing it, he’d wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close up against his body, and now that he was regaining his senses he could feel that she was cold. Without another thought he aimed his wand at her and cast a warming spell. Neither of them had yet to say anything – her face was now pressed up against his, cheek to cheek – but she communicated her thanks with a squeeze, which he returned. As he became more aware of what was happening, he noticed what she was wearing – he could feel her body quite clearly through the tights and especially the wet camisole – and he pulled her even closer. And it struck him that this felt very nice. Now completely entwined, they broke the surface
Immediately, those waiting on the dock sprang into action. Cedric pulled Harry out while Krum grabbed Hermione and hauled her up next to him. He took the opportunity to look her up and down, noting with pleasure how her wet camisole and tights clung to her, revealing every curve. In particular her nipples, being both cold and wet, were rock hard and in prominent display. But she ignored this completely and clutched hard at Harry. When someone tried to wrap blankets around them, neither would let go of the other and they ended up wrapped in the same blanket.
Hermione was nearly hysterical now that the danger was past, sobbing into Harry’s shoulder and babbling incoherently. She relented enough to allow someone to give them another blanket, so that they each had their own, but as soon as it was secured she wrapped herself around him once more, which he accepted without hesitation. As he held her in his arms he leaned in close and whispered fervently, “Thank you.”
“I thought I was going to lose you,” she sniffed. “I couldn’t bear that thought and I … I didn’t know what else to do!”Harry gave her a squeeze to show he understood, and pressed a soft kiss on the top of her head. Hermione shivered, not entirely from the cold. Boldly, she reached up and tugged down the zipper at his throat, opening the diveskin part way, and laid her head against his chest.
All four champions were clustered together now. Cedric was hovering protectively over Harry and Hermione, wanting to be certain they were going to be okay. Fleur, who had been in a panic fearing that her sister would be lost at the bottom of the lake, had seized her as soon as she emerged and had yet to release her, but looked up at Harry with shining eyes.
“Merci! Merci!” she said breathlessly. “You saved ’er.” Krum was still standing next to Hermione, looking put out at being ignored. Seeing that she had finally calmed down, he tried to pull her off of Harry but she pushed him away again.
This last effort reminded Harry of what he’d discovered at the bottom of the lake. “Are you in love with Viktor?” he asked hesitantly.
“No!” she shot back quickly. “Not at all.”
“Then why were you the one he’d miss the most?” he complained, still upset about having to watch helplessly as the Bulgarian swam away with her.
“I have no idea,” she assured him. “Other than the ball, I’ve only talked with him in the library.”
Fleur, having regained her composure, approached Harry, bent down, and kissed him twice on each cheek. As his face turned beet red, Hermione began to scowl but then relaxed, realizing how upset the French champion had been about her sister and how grateful she was now. And besides, Harry still hadn’t let go of her, nor had she relaxed her grip on him.
As things began to settle down, the group of champions and their hostages turned their attention to the judges, who were engaged in an intense discussion. The crux of it was whether Harry should be disqualified because he had received assistance at the end from Hermione. At this point Harry lost his cool.
All of the emotion of the day – the horror of learning Hermione had been taken, the frustration at the bottom of the lake, the terror of running out of air before reaching the surface, and the relief when Hermione had appeared and literally given him the breath of life – finally bubbled over as his temper erupted.
“I wouldn’t have needed any assistance if I hadn’t had to fight off half the mermaid village to get to the hostages,” he blurted out loudly as he closed the distance to the judges’ stand. “They let the others just swim right up without doing anything!”
Dumbledore turned from where he’d been conferring with Bagman and peered over his glasses at his student. “The mermen guards were merely seeing that you took the correct hostage. They would have prevented you from interfering with the others.”
“How was I supposed to know that Hermione wasn’t my hostage?” Harry shouted back. “It should be obvious to anyone who knows us that she’s someone I’d sorely miss!”
“Mr. Weasley was selected because he is your best friend,” Dumbledore returned with the patience of a teacher correcting a student. “You should have …”
“Hermione’s been my best friend this year!” Harry disagreed hotly. “Ron wouldn’t even talk to me last term. And how would anyone figure her for Krum? They only went on one date. If we were supposed to rescue our Yule Ball dates why wasn’t Ginny down there instead of Ron? Davies wasn’t there either.”
“Nevertheless, when considering all four hostages, you should have realized that Mr. Weasley couldn’t be there for anyone other than you,” Dumbledore persisted. “Each of the other hostages had an obvious connection to one of the other champions.”
“Well, why couldn’t Krum rescue Ron?” Harry retorted sarcastically. “He’s a quidditch star and Ron’s the world’s biggest quidditch fan. He’d probably miss his fans, wouldn’t he?” This got a loud laugh from the watching students in the stands. The crowd was certainly enjoying this confrontation much more than staring at an empty lake for an hour.
At this point Hermione managed to pull Harry away from the judges. He went without protest - he’d made his point and needed to calm down. But he couldn’t resist grumbling loudly that the champions were risking their lives in this tournament, and now their friends’ lives were in danger as well, so they at least deserved competent organizers. And anyone who thought that Krum would miss Hermione more than he would was completely mental.
Ron, who hadn’t said anything up to this point for fear of antagonizing his friend further, now spoke up. “Harry, why did you bring up the girl?” he wondered. “You didn’t take that song thing seriously, did you? Dumbledore wouldn’t have let any of us drown.”
Harry stared at him blankly for a moment, then looked to Hermione, who nodded uncomfortably. “Dumbledore assured us when he put us into the enchanted sleep that we’d be quite safe, and would awaken when we were back above water,” she explained.
Harry then turned to Cedric and Fleur inquiringly. Cedric shrugged while Fleur nodded and confirmed that she’d been fooled too, which was why she had been so frantic before Harry had returned with her sister, and why she was so grateful to him. She added that as far as she was concerned, the fact that Gabrielle wasn’t actually in danger didn’t make him any less of a hero.
“But why would the song have said that then, if it wasn’t true?” Harry complained.
“Perhaps it was to make the task more difficult by making it more stressful,” Hermione suggested. “It might be that they thought it would be more challenging that way.”
Cedric had been silently observing this exchange, and now came to a decision. Striding back to the judges stand he announced loudly that as far as he was concerned, Harry had won the event. Fleur was right behind him, echoing his sentiment. When everyone turned to Krum, though, he merely scowled and looked away.
Despite Cedric’s noble gesture, however, not all the judges agreed. Although Dumbledore proclaimed that Harry’s actions in wanting to return all the hostages safely showed moral fiber, his scores ranged from 0 to 10, for a total of 37 points. Cedric received 45, Krum 40, and Fleur 25, leaving Harry now third in the overall standings.
Harry didn’t care – he had done what he thought was right, and the people whose opinions mattered most to him agreed. Cedric and Fleur insisted on walking back to the castle with him in a show of solidarity. It made for an interesting sight, with Gabrielle clinging timidly to Fleur, Cho latching onto Cedric with pride, Hermione still holding tight to Harry, Ron right behind him, and Krum following several paces back, still hoping to have a word alone with Hermione. But the loud cheering of three of the Hogwarts houses, joined by the students of Beauxbatons, left no doubt about how the bulk of the onlookers felt about the day’s events.
When at last they came to Gryffindor tower, Harry and Hermione finally let go of each other in order to go up to their respective rooms to change their clothes. As they parted they caught each other’s eyes and an understanding passed between them. Both of them realized that things had changed that day – statements had been made, emotions had been unleashed, long repressed feelings released. They didn’t need to talk about it, not yet anyway. They just knew. And that was enough for now.
Unfortunately, they would not be allowed the opportunity to explore their relationship at their own pace. There had been too many witnesses to their display, especially the unseen Rita Skeeter, whose lurid exposé in the pages of Witch Weekly of their ‘love triangle’ with Viktor Krum had caused Hermione to become the recipient of the ire of witches across the country, including Molly Weasley. And they both knew that any move at all on their parts that even hinted of their being a couple would make things even worse.
It was in a deserted classroom two weeks later that they met and came to a decision. They both openly shared their feelings about how much they meant to each other, and acknowledged that they had become much more than friends. But each was reluctant to go any further, Harry because he didn’t want Hermione to get hurt, and Hermione because she didn’t want Harry distracted in his preparation for the final task.
With a heartfelt hug they both agreed that things were just too crazy right then to get into a serious relationship; after the tournament was over they would see what might develop. But for now, to the rest of the world they’d continue to be best friends.
“Just as long as you know that I’m not going to stop doing things that show you affection, Harry Potter,” Hermione teased as they made their way, arm in arm, back to their dorm.
Harry stopped and turned to her with a look of mock horror. “Hermione, I would never give up your hugs,” he vowed solemnly. But try as he might, he couldn’t resist a grin. Hermione, of course, couldn’t resist giving him one of those selfsame hugs.
“Good, as long as we’re in agreement, then,” she declared firmly with a smile. And as she did their gazes locked – green eyes with brown. It didn’t matter what they called it. They were together. This just felt right.
1) In my other stories I’ve consistently had wizarding fashion lagging behind muggle fashion by 50 to 100 years, and this would be the same with swimwear. So technically, I shouldn’t have had Fleur
in a modern swimsuit. But after rewatching the GOF movie and seeing that great looking silvery white one-piece suit again, I couldn’t resist using it in this story.
2) I have the hostages at the bottom of the lake in a line – Ron, Cho, Hermione, and Gabrielle – which is different than in the book. It’s also the same order I had the champions line up in at the start. My reasoning was to place them in the same order in which they entered the Great Hall for the Yule Ball – Harry (Ron), Cedric (Cho), Viktor (Hermione), and Fleur (Gabrielle). However, Harry happened to approach the mermaid village from the opposite direction and so saw Gabrielle and Hermione first, which led to the events unfolding as I described.
3) My scuba training would not allow me to write Harry holding his breath while ascending. That’s one of the most important things divers learn. If he’d had a full breath, he could have ascended on that one breath, but would have needed to keep exhaling all the way up. (The volume of air in one’s lungs expands by a factor of 4 when going from a depth of 100 feet to the surface – if you don’t continue to exhale your lungs will rupture and you’ll die. Scuba certification courses are quite emphatic on that point. But Harry probably wouldn’t know that, so he might have been in serious trouble. I got around this by having him exhale right before his Bubble-Head charm failed, so his lungs were empty instead of full.
4) Another problem with the book was that they started and ended the task from shore. So, after rescuing the hostages and surfacing in the middle of the lake, they would have had to swim all the way back to shore, a difficult task in any case but nearly impossible when exhausted. The movie did it better, putting everything on platforms out in the middle of the lake. I decided to compromise, having the contestants start from the shore, but finish out in the lake. Assume that Dumbledore and the other officials magically created platforms and stands out in the lake and moved the spectators there during the time the champions were underwater.
5) How could Cedric get 47 points for the task in the book? The score is out of 10 points from each of five judges, and if he was a minute over the time limit, no one could legitimately give him a 10. So his maximum possible score would be 45. (In case you’re wondering, in my version Harry got 10’s from Dumbledore and Bagman, 9 from Percy, 8 from Maxime, and 0 from Karkaroff.) So at the end of the Second Task, Cedric has a total of 83, Krum 80, and Harry 78. We were never told what score Fleur received in the First Task, but let’s assume her total is now 60 (35 + 25).
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