Fire Breathing Duck?
Ron Weasley, after beating himself several times at chess, decided to take a break from his strategy session. While lying on his and bed looking lovingly at his egg, he remembered it held a clue to a puzzle. 'Two weeks until the second task. I guess I've given the other competitors enough of a head start. I'll work out this clue now,' he thought. He pulled out the parchment Moody had given him and started mouthing the words.
"Come seek us where our voices sound, we cannot sing above the ground,"
'Well as I told Professor Moody,' He thought. 'That of course means the Prefect's bathroom. Now the next lines.'
"And while you are searching, ponder this: we've taken what you'll sorely miss,"
'What did he say ponder meant? To drink? No… eat? No… wait… to think. Okay, so I need to think about something sorely missed that someone has taken. Sorely? To sore means to fly of course, so it's something I would miss while flying. As keeper I would miss a Quaffle. Well, I wouldn't, but other keepers would. Yeah, that's it. A quaffle. Someone has taken a quaffle. So in the Prefect's bathroom, I need to find it. This is easy! Okay, next clue.'
"An hour long you'll have to look, and recover what we took,"
'An hour? It isn't like the Prefect's bathroom is that large.' Ron thought. 'Maybe it's going to be invisible or something. Still shouldn't be hard. Maybe we have to fight for it. Well, after I've beaten the worst dragon of the lot, the other champions don't stand a chance. Maybe the Veela and I can do hand to hand. I'd have to take it easy on her though, since she's girl. Now the final lines.'
"But past an hour- the prospect's black, too late, it's gone, it won't come back."
"Prospect… what's a prospect? Talking about it turning black, so maybe it's a type of meat in the feast to follow. Of course, that's it! Someone will be cooking our food, and if we take more than an hour, the food will be burnt and they will throw it out. So, in the prefect's bathroom I have an hour to find a quaffle that is hidden and, if I don't find it in that time, I don't get the celebratory dinner. No problem, this is a simple task.'
Barty Crouch Jr. was sitting at his desk, contemplating his dilemma. He needed the ginger haired champion...er…boy…er... idiot to be at the lake and ready to compete in the second task in two weeks. But so far, all attempts to get the over-gassed ignoramus to comprehend what he needed to do had failed. 'And now I can't even get close to him without a splitting headache appearing,' he thought. 'I wonder if I can do a classroom demonstration of the cruciatus curse with him as my volunteer. I really only have to tell the idiot Headmaster it's for the Greater Good and he'd have no problem with it.'
Crouch reached into his supply of Firewhisky and pulled out a bottle. He reached for the glass and started to pour. Then, remembering who he was contemplating, he pulled out his wand and, an "Engorgio" later, the cup had swelled to three times its normal size. 'Better,' he thought and started pouring the drink.
'I can't even put him under the Imperius curse to do the task,' the bogus Defense instructor thought. 'His mind is so weak; he can't even shake off the effects once the curse is lifted. He'd still be jumping in the lake three days later and that would be suspicious even to Dumbledore.' Another glassful of Ogden's finest disappeared. 'I have two weeks; hopefully, I can come up with some plan.'
Lord Voldemort was sitting in his crib... er... Evil Villain Restoration Module, contemplating the information Wormtail had just given him. Though it had taken a while, his loyal servant in the castle had finally reported to him. It wasn't a Tom Weasley after all, but Wormtail's old master Ronald who was competing. Of course, the Daily Prophet had reported the same thing weeks ago. 'It is just so difficult to get a good Death Eater to help me when I need it most,' he thought.
Wormtail had explained how this Ron was the best friend of Harry Potter. He also had explained that the red-haired young man seemed to hold much sway over the Dark Lord's nemesis, as observed the previous year about some dispute over a broom. The evil infant thingy looked again at his servant's missive as he suckled on his bottle of snake venom potion. 'Blah blah blah ... Doing everything in my power to insure your directives are met…blah... blah… Meeting much resistance to instructions by the subject. Blah... blah…Harry Potter will be in the graveyard as you directed. Blah blah…'
As he continued reading, he felt an emptying feeling in the lower part of his body. He looked at the bottle in his hand. 'This stuff really goes right through you,' he thought.
"Wormtail!" Voldemort cried out in his babyish voice.
"Yes Milord?" The hunched henchman answered.
"I need changing and cleaning again," Lord Voldemort replied.
"Yes Milord," Pettigrew replied.
"Your hands had better not be cold this time!" Voldemort threatened.
"Of course not, Milord."
"Wait... Wait! Your hands are cold! CRUCIO!"
Lucius Malfoy was also sitting in his chair, drinking a bottle of Ogden's Finest Firewhisky. He had forgone the glass entirely. He looked again at the new betrothal contract for his son. The toad, uh... woman had agreed to marry his son with the full understanding that he was gay. She fully understood that it was her responsibility to produce a Malfoy heir no matter what methods she had to employ to 'encourage' Draco to cooperate.
'Two hundred thousand galleons,' Lucius thought. The woman knew he was desperate. 'And I suppose since she will have to use an unforgivable like the imperious to do what she needs done, I can understand,' Lucius thought. 'Even if Draco weren't gay, it would likely be needed.'
He'd had to take out a loan from Gringotts to pay the price, but that was of little concern. Once the two of them were married, Draco, being the man…uh… male in the house would control access to the family funds and Lucius was sure he could get Draco to pay back the loan. A smile played across the elder Malfoy's face because he knew this betrothal contract was iron clad. The two of them were to be married immediately following the second task by the Minister of Magic himself. 'Nothing short of death will stop this marriage and future heirs,' Lucius thought as he finished off the rest of the bottle and reached for another one.
At the Ogden's Firewhisky production facility, the manager looked at another order from Hogwarts. 'This is the fourteen hundredth bottle order this school year,' he thought. 'What are they doing at that school? Actually, it's none of my business. But between Hogwarts and Malfoy Manor, this has been one profitable year. I think it's time I raised my prices.'
It was a Monday afternoon and Hermione was studying in the library. Harry was in his double Divination class and wouldn't be around until almost dinner time. Fred and George found her there, studying for her Arithmancy class.
"We need your help," Fred said quietly as he looked around for Madam Pince.
Hermione looked up from her book and studied the twins carefully. She trusted the twins, but when it came to the two of them, trust took on a whole new meaning. Hermione knew she could trust them with her life, but not so much with her lunch or anything else that could be used against her in pursuit of their latest prank. "What can I do for you that isn't providing an alibi?" She asked finally.
"We want to get Ron's egg away from him and have a little fun," Fred stated with a grin, not taking offense at the alibi statement.
"But he doesn't ever let it out of his sight," George continued, smirking amusedly at Hermione's constant, not undeserved, suspicion of them.
"He even sleeps with it."
"Takes it to the bathroom with him."
"He even showers with it."
"He keeps talking to it. Saying things like 'I'll never be clueless again.'"
"Of course, he can say that all he wants, but we know the truth."
"So what do you want me to do?" Hermione asked.
"We thought you might change your switching spell to go into the egg."
"What good would that do?" Hermione asked. "That was originally for the sake of the other Gryffindors. The last thing I want to do is risk that following Ron back into the common room or, worse, in Harry's clothes."
"Well, we wondered if you could actually make it more of a banishing charm so the... uh... air would continually go in," George explained.
"But nothing comes out," Fred continued the explanation. "That way, your boy toy is completely safe from the odorous cling."
"Eventually, the egg would have to open due to the pressure and even Ron wouldn't be able to deal with that concentration of smell and noise."
"We hope he'll abandon it for a while, giving us a chance to modify it."
Hermione was certain that the twins were severely underestimating their brother's capability of dealing with the smell. Just his inability to smell his own breath should prove that point. "What do you want to do to his egg?" Hermione asked.
"You know how it wails when he opens it?"
Hermione nodded. A couple of weeks back, Ron had been walking around with it open all the time, muttering something about him finally having a clue. Fortunately, it stopped a few days later.
"We want it to start yelling 'Chudley Cannons suck' and a few other choice insults whenever he opens it."
"But from what I understand, the Chudley Cannons do suck," Hermione stated, knowing she wasn't exactly a Quidditch authority.
"True, but our brother hasn't figured that out yet."
"What if the egg were to burst open while in Harry's dorm room?" Hermione asked. She wouldn't want to be cause for any of her boyfriend's suffering. Or his misery since she wouldn't come near him while the smell clung to him.
"We'll make it up to him if it does, Hermione," George said.
"We'll give him some Canary Creams and Horntail Honeys to give to his cousin, and other stuff we've been inventing," Fred said. Then his voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "We even have one of the Veela figurines left we'll let him have as long as..." his head spun as he looked around the library before continuing in a barely audible voice, "as the Beauxbatons champion doesn't find out."
"I really don't think he needs the Veela, and do you think his cousin would take another piece of candy from Harry?" Hermione asked.
"With the right compulsion charms? Yes." George said with a smile. "Ron ate a whole box of them on Christmas day, remember?"
Hermione smiled. Just the mention of Christmas day brought back the memory of the Yule Ball and how perfect it had been with Harry.
Fred and George saw the smile and exchanged a significant glance. They had noticed that mentioning Christmas day to Hermione instantly put her in a good mood and this had been their ploy to get what they wanted.
"Okay guys, I'll see what I can do." Hermione said still smiling. "I want the Veela figurine, though. But you have to make it sprout pimples and then turn into a Canary." It would be another reminder of her defending Harry and of his love for her.
"Sure, we can do that. But you know you'll have to do one other thing, Hermione." Fred said.
"And what would that be?" Hermione asked, suddenly looking cautiously at the twins again.
"Just make sure Ron is sufficiently jealous." George replied. "To insure a proper filling of the egg, of course."
"We think you and Harry have developed a sure fire way to do that."
The smile, along with a dreamy look, returned to Hermione's face as she thought of the snogging she and Harry would be doing soon to help out the twins. She blushed a little as she could already taste her boyfriend's lips on hers. "I think Harry and I might be able to do something."
"Thanks Hermione. We knew we could count on you." George said.
"So the twins want us to make Ron even more jealous?" Harry asked later in the evening. "Just so they can get that blasted egg?"
"Yes, but do you really need a good excuse to kiss me?" Hermione asked. She had worked out the banishing charm on the egg a little earlier.
"Now that you put it like that, no, I guess not."
"Good. Now shut up and get on with it, Mister Potter."
"Yes dear," The boy-who-kissed said to his girlfriend, and then followed her orders.
That evening when Ron entered the common room, the two of them were engaged in a more heated snogging session than usual.
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
There was now a slight hiss at the end of each flatulence expulsion as the air was banished but nothing replaced it, causing the air surrounding the area to rush in. It also pushed Ron a few inches forward every time.
"Hello Ron," Hermione said, not taking her eyes from her boyfriend's emeralds. She gave Harry another passionate kiss.
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
"I know what you two are trying to do," Ron accused. "You're trying to make me jealous" - "PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..." - "so I break that stupid contract and Harry gets my spot back in the tournament."
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
"I've told you Ron, I don't want to complete in the tournament," Harry replied, still gazing into almond colored eyes.
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
"Yeah right!" Ron replied as he continued to watch his old friends kiss. "Well it's not going to work." - "PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..." – "There is no way I'm going to get jealous of you two."
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
"I'm a champion! And as soon as I get that trophy and the galleons, I'll have eternal glory." Ron's eyes glazed over as they did when Harry first made the offer.
"Great Ron," Harry replied and he continued to stare into his girlfriend's eyes that had nothing but love in them for him. He brought his lips to hers again.
"PPPPPWWWWWTTTTT PPPPWWWWTTTT PPPWWWTT! – hisssss..."
"It's not going to work, guys," Ron said as he stomped up the steps with his egg fully in hand. The sounds of this jealousy diminished with every step.
"Eternal glory?" Hermione asked. "How many Triwizard champions have you heard of?"
"Only those that we read about in the books earlier," Harry replied. And then with a thoughtful look, began to muse, "Come to think of it, I can't even remember those names."
"So much for eternal glory," Hermione snorted.
"I much prefer to be eternally yours," Harry said, earning him a kiss that kept a dreamy look plastered on his face for the next week.
It was a week before the second task, and though Harry and Hermione had done their best to get Ron as jealous as possible, and by the cacophony of sounds that were constantly heard in the Gryffindor Tower, their best was pretty darn good, the egg had yet to yield. At every flatulence emission, Harry, Hermione and the twins glanced at the egg to see if that would be the one that made the difference, but nothing so far. Unbeknown to them was the fact that the egg was goblin-made, and goblins take pride in making sturdy, quality items.
Draco Malfoy's day had started out decent. All of his bandages had been removed earlier that morning. A comb over and liberal amount of hair gel had allowed him to convince himself that no one would notice he was missing over half of his hair. 'At least the hair isn't pink anymore,' he thought. He decided having no eyebrows was better than just one, so he cut the other one off as well. The ear he couldn't do too much about until he had enough hair grown out to cover it. But at breakfast, his life fell apart. At the Slytherin table where he sat alone again, he had received a package from his father. Upon opening it, he had discovered his father had entered into a new betrothal agreement for him. His attention was then taken by the accompanying letter.
I am sorry that your mother and I never knew of your sexual preferences before reading of your admissions in the Daily Prophet. At least now I understand why Severus never married. I must admonish you in the extreme to avoid further relations with your Head of House. Bringing further scandal to the Malfoy name needs to be avoided, especially during these times.
Now to the news I needed to discuss. I understand your preferences in this matter, but it is imperative for you to produce the heir of the Malfoy line. I took the opportunity of arranging this latest marriage for you with a Ms. Dolores Umbridge. She is highly regarded by our current Minister of Magic and, though she is a bit older than you, I feel you two can have some kind of relationship. I hope you can see by the accompanying photo that she is appropriately un-womanly enough for you to hopefully develop some feelings for her. She knows of your preferences and has agreed you may have as many male partners as you desire as long as they are from respectable pureblood families.
The wedding will be immediately following the Triwizard tournament's second task. I have already arranged for travel plans for you and your wife to a remote island in the Mediterranean where you can enjoy quality time getting to know each other. Your bride says she already has her bikini picked out.
'Bikini?' Draco thought. 'Maybe this won't be so bad. Even if she's ugly, if her body is nice enough for a bikini…' He quickly pulled the accompanying photo out of the envelope to look at the future Mrs. Draco Malfoy and promptly threw up. An hour later, he managed enough energy to stumble back to his bed in his dorm, where he laid down and cried. His father had been correct in one part. Draco had developed feelings for his bride-to-be already; a very, very deep feeling of revulsion. Later, he fell back to sleep where dreams of the beautiful Millicent Bulstrode enticed the young Slytherin. Beautiful, when compared to his new betrothed, that is.
Millicent Bulstrode had had her dreams shattered by the young Malfoy. She had been in a constant state of depression ever since the incident earlier. A letter from her father had changed all of that in a matter of minutes one morning, a week before the Triwizard second task.
I am truly sorry that your betrothed betrayed your trust and your marriage will not happen. But as you know, the betrothal price was twenty-five thousand galleons which, because of the public admittance of your past betrothed of having had an affair with your Head of House, is in default to our family. Since you are the one who was wronged, I turn the entire amount over to you. I had the money placed into your vault the morning I sent this owl.
Again, let me say how sorry I am, my dearest Millie. But I did stumble upon a bit of information that might make you feel a little better. I was at the Ministry yesterday and found out that your past betrothed's father has negotiated a new contract with a current Ministry employee by the name of Delores Umbridge. Why would this cheer you up, you might ask? To answer that question, please inspect the enclosed photo of young Malfoy's new bride to be.
I only wish you the best Millie. With all my love,
Millicent reached into the envelope and pulled out a photo and one word came to mind: "Ribbit."
A woman scorned is a vengeful creature and Millicent had been scorned. It didn't take long for her to make copies of the photo and pass them around Slytherin's common room; from there the photo was leaked to a Ravenclaw, and within the next day, the whole school knew of Draco Malfoy's new bride-to-be. The castle was soon filled with the sound of toads where ever the Heir of Malfoy went. The twins came through again with little frogs that hopped behind Draco where ever he went. He found out the hard way that if he tried to destroy them with magic, they would immediately divide and become two. By the end of the day, Draco was being followed by over fifty little frogs ribbiting the whole way.
It was a week before the final task and Barty Crouch Jr. noticed the youngest champion seemed to be in a good mood as he wandered the halls with his golden egg firmly under his arm. The headache from the sight of him was less than it had been previously, so the Death Eater decided to try to again.
"What have you done about the clue?"
"Solved it, sir," Ron replied. "Wasn't that hard once I really thought about it."
'Was it possible?' Moody thought, swearing he heard an angelic orchestra tuning their instruments in preparation. 'Could he actually have figured it out? Only one way to find out.' He mentally tried to prepare himself and then finally asked the question, "What do you think it is then?"
"Why should I tell you?" Ron asked. "You might tell the other champions."
The headache immediately started getting worse and Moody thought a string could be heard breaking. "Look Weasley, I'm not going to tell any other champion, I'm... I'm just trying to give you a hand since you're the youngest."
Ron considered his Defense Professor's words for three seconds before his thoughts were interrupted by thoughts of his next meal and he developed a smile. He turned and started to go find food. Moody's hand shot out and grabbed him. "The answer?"
"Oh… yeah." Ron said. "As I said, it was easy once I actually started to think about it. I know that I have to find a quaffle in the Prefect's bathroom in less than an hour or my food will burn and I won't get to eat."
Barty Crouch Jr.'s mouth dropped open as he stood there, unable to comment as the little angels in the orchestra began to scream in agony as they died horrible deaths. His mind whirled to find any possible way the clue could actually have been interpreted in that manner. Seconds became minutes as no answer came to mind. The headache went from sharpened pain to 'how can there be this much pain in the world' level in a very short time. Crouch slumped against the wall, then slid down until he was sitting on the floor. His unfocused gazed locked onto the red hair of the one person he wanted to kill more than any other. Through the pain, only one thought emerged. 'How can there be this much stupidity locked inside of a single mind?'
Ron watched his defense teacher slump to the ground and smiled. 'He's amazed at my ability to solve it without his help. He'll never underestimate me again.' He trotted off down the hallway headed for the kitchens while wondering what prospect tasted like.
When Crouch finally was able to stand again, he promptly canceled all of his classes. He knew he would be too busy consuming Firewhisky. It took seven bottles to finally get the images of Ron Weasley out of his brain. But in his drunken state of mind, he finally came up with a solution. Pulling out a quill and parchment, he jotted down a note and finally stumbled to the owlry where he tied the letter and a small package onto an owl's leg.
The next morning, an owl landed in front of Ron as he was finishing off his seventh helping of eggs and bacon. The owl had a letter and a package. He quickly opened the letter and looked at it. He noticed the writing was barely legible and ink was smeared, but then he saw what was written.
Dear Ronald Weasley, or shall I say Sir Handsome,
I am a secret admirer of yours. I think not only that you are you very handsome, but your heroics during the first task were admirable. I know as intelligent as you are that you have already solved the clue that was in the egg, but in case you haven't, I would like to offer my assistance. My father works in the Magical Games and Sports part of the Ministry and I overheard what needs to be done. The day of the second task, they are going to take something that you hold most dear and hide it in Black Lake. During the task, you will have an hour to recover what they took. Now in the package I've enclosed are three doses of something called Gillyweed. Right before the task you will need to eat it and it will let you breath underwater for the hour. DO NOT EAT IT UNTIL THEN!
Good luck my champion,
Your Secret Admirer and number one fan
Ron looked around the Great Hall for anyone looking at him. Several girls were looking at him and giggling. Though Ron didn't realize it, they were looking and giggling because in his attempt to eat breakfast, hold his egg and read the letter, he had smeared a good portion of the breakfast across his face and into his hair. Ron looked again at the letter. 'Of course, if I'd looked at the clue one more time, I'm sure I would have figured it out.'
The night before the second task, Harry, Hermione, Fred and George had to admit defeat in getting the egg to burst. Harry and Hermione had done their best and the twins had to admit from the sounds being emitted constantly from their brother, their best had been pretty good, but the egg never burst. For their efforts, the twins did give Harry the candy for his cousin and Hermione the little Veela figurine.
The night before the second task, Cedric and Cho Chang were going over the next day's task. Neither of them was sure what item would be taken from Cedric for him to find. He went over the bubblehead charm again and again. And just to make sure he would have a backup plan if the charm failed, Cho helped Cedric practice holding his breath for as long as possible. Of course, the practice of this part was providing much enjoyment for the both of them since the method was to only breathe through your mouth and then they would cover each other's' mouth with their own for as long as they could go without interruption.
It was later that evening that Marietta Edgecombe had been sent to tell Cho that Professor Flitwick needed to see her. Right after she left, a house elf popped into the room holding an envelope by its corner. Upon seeing the recipient was in the room, he dropped it immediately and apparated away.
Cedric looked at the envelope and noticed there was no name written on the outside. Wondering if this was something to notify him of what they would be taking; he opened it quickly and read:
Cedric, my fellow Hogwarts champion,
Just wanted to know if you're up to a late night party and wand polishing tonight? I've invited Krum and the Veela as well. I'll expect you at 11PM in the Gryffindor Tower.
Cedric threw down the letter and pulled out his wand and quickly practiced his banishing charm. 'Definitely not what I would miss the most. Too bad they aren't taking the thing I would miss the least,' Cedric grumbled, and then a thought struck him. 'Cho? Would they actually take a person?'
The night before the second task, Krum was concerned. He knew he had to go into the lake the next day, but the Aquavirius Maggots Luna had told him about had him worried. He opened his trunk and pulled out the bottle of pink toenail polish she had given him and started to put it on. 'I'm glad Luna told me that this will keep the maggots away,' Krum thought as he continued to apply the polish. 'I can only transform into a half shark tomorrow. My toes must still be visible.'
A few minutes later, a house elf popped into his cabin on the ship holding a letter by its corner. Upon seeing the recipient was in the room, he dropped it and apparated away. Krum, with the bits of cotton between his toes, waddled over and picked up the letter. 'Wonder if it is about what they will take from me.' Krum, like Cedric, didn't know what he would miss the most. 'My broom, maybe,' he thought. He opened the letter and read:
Victor, my good friend,
It's the night before our second big day. I'm holding a party and wand polishing get-together tonight. I'll be expecting you at 11PM in the Gryffindor Tower. If you want to bring your broomstick and your balls, I'll polish them for you.
'I might not know what I would miss the most, but I sure know what I would miss the least,' Krum thought as his own letter incinerated in front of him from a burning hex and, like Cedric, it made him think. 'Would they take a person? Would they take Luna?' Krum immediately started applying the toenail polish with more vigor.
The night before the second task, Fleur was sitting in her cabin in the Beauxbatons carriage looking in a mirror. Though the pimples had finally faded away and her perfect complexion had returned, this evening it was more of a self-reflection she was contemplating. The laughter from the other Beauxbatons girls from the last month was still ringing in her ears. Every time she had ventured into the common area of the carriage, she would hear 'TA WEET'.
Overall, her experience with the Granger witch had been life changing. For once in her life, Fleur had been on the receiving end of the abuse she had always before gladly heaped onto others and, though at first she had been extremely angry and had vowed revenge, over time, her self-imposed isolation had caused the young Veela to reflect on her life and she found she didn't like what she had become. She finally realized that the more enemies she made, the more chances of making an enemy who is stronger and smarter than herself and that could only lead to a life of problems. As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she remembered how Harry Potter had broken her power because of the love he had for his lady.
'I want someone to love me that way. Someone to love me for who I am and not lust for me for what I am,' she thought to herself. That night, she had made another vow, one to thank the young witch that had helped her see what she herself could never have seen without help.
With all the time she had had, the egg hadn't been a real problem to crack. She thought that her old self would have just walked to the lake and, using her allure, convinced forty young men to jump in the lake and go find her missing object, whatever it may be. 'Not now,' she thought. 'I will do this. I've got my bubblehead charm ready to go. I just wish I knew what they were going to take of mine.'
She looked around her room and couldn't see anything that she would sorely miss. She had even talked it over with her father and sister when they had come earlier in the day. She had seen the Hogwarts Headmaster looking at her on occasions during that time, but could not figure out what he might have been looking at. When she turned away from the mirror, a house elf popped into her room holding an envelope by the corner. Upon spotting the recipient was in the room, he immediately dropped it and apparated away.
'I wonder if this has to do with what they are going to take from me,' she thought and opened the letter and read:
Hey Veela chick,
Party tonight, Gryffindor tower at 11PM. If you're nice, I'll let you help me polish my wand.
Your handsomest Co-Champion,
PS. We still have that date to go on; sorry we didn't hook up for the Yule Ball.
It took a lot of willpower for the new and improved Fleur Delacour to not destroy her own room. After destroying the letter, she promised herself that if the idiot slapped her on the rear again, he would not live through the event.
'I just wish they would take what I would miss the least. But I definitely wouldn't go looking for it,' Fleur thought and her own mind put pieces together. 'They wouldn't take a person, would they? Gabrielle? My sister is the only one who ever even speaks to me.' The new and improved Fleur realized now why that was so, but it was her sister that she loved most dearly.
The house elf that had been required to deliver the envelopes came back to the kitchen after his mission was complete and, after scrubbing his hands thoroughly to rid himself of any trace of Ron Wheezy, he joined Winky in butterbeer after butterbeer.
Ron Weasley was outside the portrait hole at ten forty-five PM, waiting for his guests to arrive. When eleven had come and gone, he thought, 'They're all just trying to be fashionably late.' By twelve, he started wondering if the stupid house elf did what he was supposed to do and, finally, at one AM, he came to the conclusion all the other champions were still busy trying to figure out the clue and didn't have time to join him that evening. 'Tomorrow is going to be my day,' he thought for not the first time.
Later that night, the Headmaster made his way into the fourth year Gryffindor boy's dorm and, after casting a sleeping charm into the room to ensure everyone stayed asleep, he started looking for the golden egg to be the hostage. After he was unable to find it in Ron's trunk or around his bed, he silently cast, "Accio golden egg." It instantly flew out of the curtains surrounding the bed with the redheaded champion's arms still firmly wrapped around it. Dumbledore cast the body bind curse causing Ron's body to snap into a vertical position, finally letting go of the egg. Then he levitated the champion back into the bed, undid the body bind, and closed the curtains. He then picked up the egg and left.
'That's my last hostage; I've already kidnapped Miss Chang, Miss Delacour and Miss Lovegood. Now I just need to put them all under the frigidly cold waters of the lake until tomorrow,' the Headmaster thought as he walked away. 'Nothing like kidnapping people to bring about international cooperation. The things I do for the Greater Good.'
The morning of the second task, Ron awoke feeling a little stiff and that something was amiss. It only took him several seconds to realize what the problem was.
"MY EGG!" He screamed. "WHO TOOK MY EGG?" He looked over at Harry's bed and saw the messy-haired Boy-Who-Lived waking up from his screaming. "You did it! You're jealous of me being champion and you took my egg!"
Harry shook his head to clear the cobwebs created by being awakened by a screaming lunatic while dreaming of his gorgeous girlfriend. Looking over at Ron he said, "I have no clue what you're talking about Ron. I've been asleep the whole time." Harry scratched his head, still trying to awaken fully.
"Yeah right! You just can't stand anyone else having any glory."
"Ron, for the last time, I am not jealous of you. I have no reason to be jealous of you. I have everything I could possibly want in life right now." Harry replied. "I have a beautiful girlfriend who loves me…"
Something happened that hadn't happened in a while. A smell exploded throughout the room. Harry, Neville, Seamus and Dean Thomas were all unprepared. They were all almost overcome before their survival instincts kicked in and they grabbed for their wands.
'What happened to the banishing charm?' Harry wondered. All ideas of returning to sleep quickly vanished from any of the other occupants of the room. While Ron continued throwing out wild accusations of who stole his egg, from reiterating that Harry had stolen it out of jealousy, to the Minister of Magic grabbing it to keep Ron from becoming a threat to his administration, Harry took a quick shower and rushed out of the dorm room looking for the woman he loved. He hoped she might have some answers.
Fortunately, she was already awake herself, waiting in the common room. Harry gave her a quick kiss and pulled her out of the portrait hole. He quickly told her about the missing egg and the fact the smell had returned.
"That can only mean the egg isn't in the castle anymore," Hermione explained. "It's like the switching spell. Once it is out of range, the spell will fail."
"Any ideas on who might have taken it?" Harry asked. "He thinks I took it because I'm jealous of him."
Hermione snorted. "As if that would ever happen."
"That's what I told him. I said I had everything that I could ever want, including the most beautiful girl who loves me..."
"Hence the smell this morning, I presume?" Hermione asked as she smiled at her boyfriend.
"Yes." Harry admitted.
"Well, we'll just have to stay away from him until the second task is over," Hermione said. "If the egg isn't found by then, I'll adjust the spell."
"Have any idea what the task is going to be?"
"Well, obviously because of all the stands that were built near Black Lake, it's going to be there." Hermione said. "I hope Ron's better prepared this time."
A memory came to Harry at that moment. It had been just a muttering by Madam Pomfrey but, for some reason, it came through crystal clear.
"Got to double my supply of burn ointment and better get a reverse drowning potion brewing…"
"Hermione, I think Ron has to do something that he might drown trying to accomplish."
"Why would you say that?" Hermione asked.
"Remember when Madam Pomfrey asked who I was having replace me?" Harry started. "When I told her it was Ron, she started saying something about burn ointments and anti-drowning potions."
"Then she knew about the dragons, hence the burn ointment and the anti-drowning potion…" Hermione's voice had dropped to a faint whisper. "Should we tell him?"
"Think he would believe us?" Harry asked. "You know what he would say."
"That we were just trying to get him to give up his spot. If Madam Pomfrey is prepared, he'll be fine."
"I hope so. Hopefully Ron doesn't do anything stupid." Harry commented.
Hermione looked down at the ground as a worried expression passed over her face. 'Uh oh,' she thought. 'This could be bad.'
Ron Weasley was frantic as no one could tell him where his egg was. He was so concerned he was only able to eat four platefuls of food at breakfast. He kept looking around the Great Hall for any sign of the golden egg. He knew someone there was jealous of him and had taken it.
'I'll ask Moody,' he thought. 'With that magical eye of his, he'll find it for me.'
Deep under the waters of Black Lake, three hostages and a golden egg were tied to strands of water plants. Throughout the early morning hours, the increased pressure of the water weakened the seals of the goblin-made egg.
At nine thirty that morning, Ron Weasley was in his dorm readying himself again. 'Polished Wand? Check. Gilly whatever it is? Check. Book? Got it. Snack?' Again he patted down his robes before remembering he had his snack right after breakfast. When he opened Harry's trunk, he found a bag full of creams. 'Those look like Canary Creams. I better not take those,' he thought as he picked up the bag and put it in his robes.
At ten o'clock, he was with all the other champions beside Black Lake. As he looked over the stands to see if he could find his secret admirer, he noticed Draco Malfoy dressed in dress robes standing next to some ugly old lady. As Ron looked closer, he realized Draco wasn't actually standing, more like propped up against a tree as he stood rigidly with his hands down at his sides. His eyes continued to wander around the stands until they came to rest on Hermione again sitting in Harry's lap. The frosted breathes aimed at each other as they stared not at the champions or the lake, but at each other.
"PPPWWWWT TTTPPPPPPPWWWTTTT PPPWWWWTTTT PPPPPPPWWWTTTT! – hiss..."
Harry and Hermione heard the flatulence and, more importantly, the hiss at the end and breathed a sigh of relief. They knew the egg was somewhere nearby.
Deep below the waters, the additional pressure was enough to cause a single bubble of gas to escape from the pressure weakened golden egg. As it traveled up toward the surface, it came in contact with a tamed pet Grindylow which immediately went into convulsions and died. The merchild who had been swimming with his pet immediately swam back to his parents' house and cried about what had happened.
"Welcome all to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament here at Hogwarts," Dumbledore proclaimed from a 'Sonorous'-enhanced voice. "For this task, the champions will be spending all of their time underwater so you, the guests, will get to view the wonderful view of this lake while sitting outside on a cold February day, waiting for something to happen."
Hermione looked at Harry with a questioning look followed by, "I could be inside, warm in a library and studying, but I'm required to come out here on one of the coldest mornings of the year and do nothing for however long this is going to take?"
"Doesn't sound too bright, does it?" Harry asked. "I wonder who came up with the events?"
"Whoever it was is a bloody idiot," Hermione replied as she looked around. "The least they could have done is warm the stands." She pulled out her wand and, with a couple of deft motions and a muttered spell, the bench they were sitting on started warming. "That'll keep us warm."
"Until it does, I'll do my best to keep you from freezing, my love." Harry said as he wrapped his arms more tightly around his girlfriend.
"Maybe I should remove the warming spell then," Hermione said as her body got closer to his. Looking into Harry's eyes, she whispered, "My lips are cold too, Mister Potter."
"My mistake. I shall take care of that right now, my dear," He replied and started warming her lips and her tongue. As the kiss progressed, Hermione found the rest of her body warming pleasantly as well.
Ron was still looking into the stands for the secret admirer and saw the passionate kissing Harry and Hermione were engaged in.
"PPPWWWWT TTTPPPPPPPWWWTTTT PPPWWWWTTTT PPPPPPPWWWTTTT! – hiss..."
The egg released a stream of bubbles this time. A school of fish passing overhead were the unsuspecting victims as they swam into the bubbles. Several of them died instantly and floated to the surface.
The merfather who was investigating the death of his merchild's pet grindylow witnessed the death and immediately reported what he saw to the merperson council. The merpeople had been assured there were no dangers to be had with holding the hostages.
"Now sit back and continue to enjoy this very cold February day while we finish the last minute preparations and get this event under way," Dumbledore continued in his speech.
"PPPWWWWT TTTPPPPPPPWWWTTTT PPPWWWWTTTT PPPPPPPWWWTTTT! – hiss..."
"PPPWWWWT TTTPPPPPPPWWWTTTT PPPWWWWTTTT PPPPPPPWWWTTTT! – hiss..."
Ron's focus was entirely on the couple in the stands.
More bubbles poured out of the middle of the egg and the emergency merperson council meeting was held immediately.
"Now we have taken from each of the champions that which they will miss the most," The Headmaster said. "From the Beauxbatons champion, we have taken her little sister," Dumbledore remember the crying child he had had to stun before putting her under the magical spell.
"Where is my sister?" Fleur demanded. "Who gave you permission to take my sister? My father doesn't know anything about it!"
Dumbledore ignored the comments as he continued. "From the Durmstrang champion we have taken one of our own students, a Miss Luna Lovegood, that he seems to have grown fond of."
"If a single hair of my Luna is injured, old man, you'll have me to answer to," Krum said fiercely as his pink toenails glinted in the morning sun.
"From Hogwarts' first champion Cedric Diggory, we have taken a Miss Cho Chang."
"And if anything happens to her, I will join Victor in his revenge," Diggory said.
"And finally from Hogwarts' second champion Ronald Weasley, we have taken his golden egg."
"MY EGG! WHERE IS MY EGG!" Ron cried out as he ran over to the Headmaster and started pulling on his robes and crying.
"Each of these hostages are currently in the lake somewhere and it's up to the champions to find them," Dumbledore continued as he pulled his robes out of Ron's hands.
Upon hearing his egg was in the lake, Ron jumped up and ran into the water and started looking around.
Bagman started lining up the champions beside the lake, pulling Ron out of the water to do so. "MY EGG! I have to get to MY EGG!"
The council came to the immediate determination that the air breathers were in default and the merpeople would no longer help in the contest. They immediately started cutting the hostages loose. One of the merpeople knocked the egg as they were slicing the vines of the water plant holding it and a stream of bubbles came pouring out of it. A few came in contact with that merperson and he immediately started to convulse. Only the prompt arrival of a merperson medical team saved his life.
The rest of the merpeople realized they needed the egg out of the lake quickly but none would venture near it for fear of their lives. As the other hostages were being pulled toward shore, a call was sent out for the lake's emergency removal system.
Lucius Malfoy was keeping an eye on his son. He had already tried to run away four times this morning. Finally, Lucius had to put his son in a body bind and carry him down here to the lake in preparation for his wedding. Currently, he was propped up against a tree next to his lov… well, next to his future bride. 'Nothing can go wrong now,' he thought. Unfortunately for Lucius, Karma had just left his Karate class and was ready to kick Lucius's arse.
"The second task will start on my whistle. They have precisely one hour to recover what has been taken from them."
Ron, remembering the instructions given to him from his secret admirer, pulled out the gillyweed doses and crammed them in his mouth. Not just one, but all three of them. He also pulled out the bag of creams and shoveled several of those in his mouth as well to tide him over until the event was finished.
"On the count of three, then! One... two..."
Bagman's voice fell silent as heads started bobbing out of the water. Merpeople started shoving hostages onto the shore.
Ron saw all the hostages, but not his egg. "WHERE'S my…" The rest fell silent as the strangest thing happened. The mixture of Gillyweed, Canary Creams and Horntail Honey's turned the fourth champion into a five and a half foot tall, fire-breathing duck which had to keep ducking its head under the water to breathe. "QUACK! QUACK!"
Dumbledore spent several minutes conversing with the merperson who seemed to be in charge. The merperson was violently shaking his head while pointing at the middle of the lake, and when that didn't seem to get the point across, he violent shook his fist. Finally, the Headmaster joined the other judges in a meeting before he finally announced, "The Merpeople have informed me that a serious contamination issue has developed in the lake making it unsafe for the hostages or the champions to be there. Therefore, the second task is canceled."
The five and a half foot duck continued swimming around, breathing fire and ducking his head under the water all while quacking its head off as it looked for its golden egg.
The giant squid had finally made it to the mermaid village and was gingerly prodding the egg which still released a bubble or two every time. After several more prods, the squid attached a sucker to the egg and started swimming toward the surface.
Lucius wasn't too disappointed to have the event canceled as it meant he could get his son married and off on his honeymoon an hour earlier. That would give him more time to find a nice bottle of Firewhisky to help him forget. He pulled out his wand and cast the counter to his son's body bind, but before Draco could run, he had cast a leg locking curse.
"We are gathered here on this cold February day to unite this boy and this delightful lady who is always helping me in the Ministry in marriage," the voice of Minister Fudge rang out.
In the middle of the lake, the tentacle of the squid broke the surface of the water and a golden object flew away from it directly for the air breathers on the shore.
"Do you, Delores Umbridge, take this boy to be your husband?"
"I – URK!"
The golden egg's flight path had taken a perfect arc. After it made its way to the top of its ascent, the descent to the ground was blocked by the head of the bride-to-be. Upon contact, the egg had split entirely open and the last two weeks' worth of gas spilled out around the wedding party. Once the air had been cleaned, Madam Pomfrey was called to check on the toad... er... woman in white. It didn't take Poppy long to determine that Dolores Umbridge had croaked.
Lucius kicked the egg that had caused all of his problems and sat down and cried.
The egg rolled over toward the water where the five and a half foot duck climbed out and sat upon it to make sure no one else stole it from him. Every so often, he had to climb off and go put his head under the water and return to sit on it some more. Since Ron had consumed all of the gillyweed at once, it was several hours before he transformed back and was able to leave the lake. The last words he heard as all the other people started back up the hill to the castle caused him to begin crying.
"The feast will start in just a few minutes."
"QUACK QUACK QUACK!"