C4- The First Task.
"Silver and Black."
"Blue and Green."
"What are they doing?" Hermione asked Ginny.
"We're trying to tell which one of them-" Ginny waved a hand at Tempest and George, "knows the other better- so Fred's reading off random words- and each of them has to say what the other's favourite is. If one gets it wrong- then the other gets to call them out on it and wins a sickle."
"Dream." Fred said.
"Open up a joke shop."
"Wrong," Tempest grinned, "cough up!"
George shook his head, smirking, "Nope, wrong for you too- we're square."
"I'm not wrong, I distinctly remember you saying that-"
"-I wanted to open a prank shop with Fred."
"Damnit!" Tempest scowled.
George leered at her, "so, how'd I get yours wrong?"
"You said mechanic- I said engineer."
The two glared at each other.
Ginny threw her hands up in the air. "Merlin's beard you two!"
The playful tension broke and the two laughed, Tempest pouring herself coffee.
"So, how'd your talk go last night," Hermione said, beginning to butter a piece of toast, "with… you know."
"Oh it went great," Tempest said enthusiastically, selecting an apple from the bowl on the table. "I swear- if the world was ending and there was only one person I could choose to be stuck with it'd be him…"
"Well the rest of us are incredibly flattered that you considered us," Fred said dryly.
Tempest gave a wry smile and took another bite of her apple.
"Well? So, what'd you talk about?"
"Oh- stuff… we kind-of discussed how to deal with the dragons… well not really, we got distracted, but-"
"Oh yeah, the first task," Tempest said, grimacing. "Dragons. Makes Hagrid happy though."
"I could say it differently if you like," Tempest said dryly. "or do you want me to go and find a picture?"
There was silence for a few seconds until George spoke. "Hey Tempest, if you die, can I have your Firebolt?"
"George!" Hermione exclaimed swatting at his arm.
Then it hit her.
Tempest wasn't one to walk around parading her abilities, but she assumed that she was a fairly good flyer, and if she was in the air and the dragon chained to the ground…. Only she wasn't allowed her broomstick was she?
"George- you are brilliant." Then Tempest was turning to Hermione. "I need you to help me learn the Summoning Charm."
On Monday morning, Tempest felt sick. In fact she felt so sick she was almost certain that she had caught some rare disease and would die of it before the dragon had its turn. Hermione was trying to persuade her to go to Madame Pomfrey, but apart from the fact that she felt like she was tied up upside down over a lake of lava with dragons surrounding her and waiting for her to fall, she felt fine.
At breakfast Tempest considered bringing her invisibility cloak to the First Task, then quickly dropped the idea as an image of angry dragon chasing her, cloak on fire, failing about, then tripping and being snapped up for a pre-afternoon snack, crossed her mind.
She finished breakfast with difficulty (everything tasted like cardboard and her mouth felt like it was coated in sandpaper) and as she stood up, she saw Cedric Diggory leaving the Hufflepuff table.
Cedric didn't know about the dragons. In fact, he was the only champion who didn't as far as Tempest knew, after all, Madame Maxime had seen them, and so, she imagined, had Karkaroff, and doubtless they would have told their champions… So tomorrow Cedric would be the only one with no idea of what was ahead.
Should I? Tempest asked herself.
If you kick someone's ass in a fair fight, it's a thousand times more satisfying than if you had the original advantage, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Sirius's said.
It'd be good sportsmanship, Remus spoke.
Minnie raised an eyebrow sternly. How on earth do you know about the dragons already?
What are you, an idiot? Fred and George's voices overlapped. You have the advantage! Did we hit you with a bludger too many times?
It's at times like these, when you hear voices in your head, that you know you're thinking clearly. Luna Lovegood's –a third-year Ravenclaw- voice echoed ethereally around Tempest's mind.
What on earth are you doing in my head!? Tempest yelped.
Sirius's voice then began to argue with Minnie's, while Luna's began humming what sounded suspiciously like God Save the Queen.
"Screw it," Tempest muttered, "Ron, Hermione, I'll see you in the greenhouses," Tempest said as she watched Cedric leave the Hall. "Go on, I'll catch up."
"Tempest, you'll be late, the bell's about to ring-"
"It's fine, just this one thing I have to do- I'll be a minute-"
By the time Tempest reached the bottom of the marble staircase, Cedric was at the top. He was surrounded by a pack other sixth-years, but even though Tempest didn't really want to speak to him in front of them, but when one was faced with a dragon, one wouldn't really care about however many people one would have to speak before.
And when one began referring to oneself as 'one', that was when one knew oneself was in trouble.
Tempest ran up the steps.
"Cedric!" she yelled, causing him to turn in surprise.
"Hey Tempest, what's up? "
"Dragons," Tempest rushed out.
"What?" Cedric asked, his forehead creasing as he frowned. His friends who had begun to walk away stopped and turned back.
"The first task. It's dragons, they've got four, one for each of us and we've got to get past them."
Cedric stared at her and as did his friends, but Tempest kept her eyes on Cedric, seeing a slight flicker of panic behind his grey eyes.
"Are you sure?" Cedric said in hushed voice.
"No, we're facing fluffy pink unicorns that try to defeat us by overwhelming you with their all-encompassing sense of cuteness-" Tempest's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "then offer us milk and cookies and invite us to their tea party... yes I'm sure."
Cedric was blinking rapidly. "So… but… they… but… But how did you find out then? We're not supposed to know…"
"Never mind." Tempest interrupted. "I'm not the only one who knows, Fleur and Krum will know, Maxime and Karkaroff both saw the dragons too."
Cedric studied her as though she had just fallen from the sky. "Why are you telling me?"
Tempest stared at him. "Would you have preferred it if I'd kept it to myself and you had a heart attack on the day? I mean, I'm good with that- but I'm pretty sure you'd mind."
Cedric stared for a moment longer, then blinked again, and let out a laugh that was more just noise than an actual sound of humour.
"No, uh, yeah, then… thanks… Tempest."
"Don't worry about it," Tempest replied. "-well, do worry about the dragons- just not this… I have to go now though- Herbology-"
"Yeah- Charms for me… I'll see you then?"
"Yeah! Bye!" Tempest called.
She hurried back down the stairs and back through the Great Hall on her way to the greenhouses.
She slammed through the glass doors of greenhouse two interrupting Professor Sprout's demonstration of how to prune a Flutterby Bush, and quickly sat down to Hermione and Ron with a quick apology to Professor Spout.
"Where did you go?" Hermione hissed, "If you think that I'm going to take notes for you-"
Tempest shook her head. "Hermione, when have I ever asked you to take notes for me? That's Ron's job!"
"Hey!" protested Ron, who then quailed as Tempest shot him a look.
"You know it's true Ron."
He shrugged and had the grace to look sheepish as Tempest continued.
"I went to tell Cedric about the dragons."
There was silence. Then:
"Why on earth would you help that Hufflepuff wanker?!" Ron exploded.
Professor Sprout, the head of Hufflepuff house, cleared her throat loudly.
Tempest swatted Ron over the head with her textbook. "Done yet? And we all cheated to find out about the dragons- I kinda feel that as the only person who didn't cheat, Cedric should get props for that… by cheating."
Tempest laughed, turning to Hermione. "I'll let you chew on that for a while, Ron, in the meantime, I'll focus on the dragon, Hermione can continue to write notes for you , and Professor Sprout can keep glaring at us from across the room, and could someone please stop that plant from eating my bag- thanks."
Now with a giant fire-breathing, spike-covered, temperamental, female dragon looming over her, the rest of the day she was so distracted that in Potions she did a Neville, melting her cauldron and dissolving her desk into some sort of orange slop. In Divination she snapped and threw her glass ball out the window and even in Transfiguration she earned Minnie's disapproval by turning her hedgehog a beautiful shade of green instead of into an ashtray. Gryffindor was down forty points by the end of the day.
Lounging on a couch in the Gryffindor Common Room, Tempest stared blankly at the green hedgehog lying on her chest, nibbling serenely on a piece of lettuce.
Minnie had said that regardless of the First task tomorrow, she still had extra homework to turn the hedgehog back to brown then into an ashtray.
Tempest was so desperate she had begged Hermione to help her, but for the first time, Hermione had been able to do nothing. Somehow, Tempest had managed to make the colour permanent.
So nothing short of dipping the hedgehog into a vat of brown muggle dye would change the hedgehog back to brown.
Tempest imagined that she would rather have faced the dragon right then and there rather than the bout of playful teasing the twins had subjected her to as they came into the common room and found the hedgehog headed girl facing an actual hedgehog.
On top of all of that, Tempest still hadn't managed to master the Summoning charm. In fact it was becoming so hopeless, and even Ron had managed to summon a bar of chocolate straight from Fred's hand to his own before Tempest did, that Tempest was giving up on the idea.
She could just improv on the day, and if it failed… well the dragon keepers would probably save her before she could get completely killed…
Tempest shook the evil thoughts from her mind, angry and frustrated, she jabbed her wand at the hedgehog and muttered, "Accio."
To her amazement, the hedgehog squeaked and zoomed forwards, hitting Tempest in the nose and coming to a rest on her forehead.
Tempest picked the hedgehog off her face, then almost dropped the critter in shock. "I did it!" she yelled.
"You did it!" Hermione seemed just as ecstatic as Tempest, although it could just have been sheer exhaustion.
"I did it! Thank you Hermione!" Tempest grabbed Hermione's hands and danced the two of them around the room, the hedgehog perched on Tempest's shoulder.
George stood up with Fred, rubbing his eyes. "Finally," he mumbled, "Great… Now I'm going to bed, G'night Hedgy… Hedgy Jr…"
And the two vanished up the staircase that led to the sixth-year boy's dormitories.
Tempest flopped down back on the couch beside Hermione and slung an arm around both her and Ron's shoulders. "Thanks." She huffed in exhaustion.
"Don't get cocky yet Tempest," Hermione said sternly, even though the smile was still on her face, "do it one more time, just to make sure."
"You're the face of optimism," Tempest grinned, but she pointed her wand at Hermione's copy of Hogwarts a History on the coffee table with new confidence, and it sailed neatly into Tempest's hand. "There you go!"
"Tempest, I really think you've got it!" Ron said with a bit too much enthusiasm, as Tempest summoned Nyx from across the room, settling the cat in her lap.
"As long as it works tomorrow…" Tempest said, comparing the distance of about two meters to around two hundred, give or take another hundred… "it's a lot further away…"
"I doesn't matter." Hermione said with sudden Minnie sternness. "Just as long as you're concentrating really, really hard on it, and have the right focus, you'll do fine. Now Tempest, we'd better get some sleep, it's almost midnight right now…"
Tempest had been concentrating so hard on learning the Summoning Charm and turning Hedgy Jr into an ashtray, that some of her blind panic about the First Task had left her. It returned in full measure, however, on the following morning. The atmosphere in the school was one of great tension and excitement. Lessons were to stop at midday, giving all the students time to get down to the dragons' enclosure - though of course, they didn't yet know what they would find there.
Tempest felt rather lethargic.
Time had obviously rejected all of Tempest's offers of friendship as one moment she was at breakfast, downing cups of coffee , and the next she was seated at the Gryffindor table at lunch a coil of snakes writing in her stomach. In less than ten minutes she would have to go down to the champions tent….
Tempest looked up to see Minnie hurrying to her with most of the Great Hall watching her. "Miss Potter, the champions have to come down into the grounds now… you have to get ready for your first task."
"Oh." Tempest stood. She plucked Hedgy Jr off her shoulder and gave him to George. "Okay. Um. For the record, if I die, I want to be cremated- my Will's written on the back of an old potions essayat the bottom of my trunk… so… bye…"
Tempest was mobbed, and dragged into a tangle of limbs that could barely be called a hug. She found she didn't care.
"We spent the better part of an hour yesterday trying to figure out what to say," Ginny began.
"-and we came up with something that we think you'd appreciate-" Fred continued.
"-after all, you're not one for sappy goodbyes-" Ron said.
"-but we do love you-" Hermione reassured.
"Don't screw up." George finished. "that would be bad."
"Really bad," Tempest said wryly.
Tempest left the Great Hall with Minnie, feeling the weight of the stares from everyone in the Great Hall. Minnie didn't seem like herself either, she looked just as nervous as Hermione had been before.
"You… Are…" Minnie seemed to have trouble shifting from Professor McGonagall back to Minnie. "Are you alright Tempest?" she managed as they walked out down the steps into the cold November afternoon.
Tempest didn't even bother answering, only giving a short laugh.
There was silence for a few more seconds, and then Minnie spoke again. "You still have the hedgehog?"
"Yeah, named him Jr- you said to keep him till I'd managed to get him brown again, and turned into an ashtray… so…"
Minnie sighed in her usual exasperated way. "Trust you, Tempest."
Tempest's throat was too dry now to even force a laugh.
They were silent again as they entered the Forbidden Forest- Forbidden as it was, it seemed to Tempest like she spent most of her time in it.
Minnie placed a hand on Tempest's shoulder. "Now, when you're there… Don't panic. Just keep calm, and we have wizards standing by to control the situation if it gets out of hand. The main thing to do is just do your best, and nobody will think any worse of you if… well…"
"If I fail or die?" Tempest said quite blandly.
"Pretty much." Replied Minnie.
They were walking towards the place where the dragons were, around the edge of the forest, but when they approached the clump of trees behind which the enclosure would be clearly visible, Tempest saw a tent had been erected, it's entrance facing them, screening the dragons from view.
"You're to go in here with the other champions," Minnie said, her voice trembling only slightly, "and wait your turn, Mr Bagman is in there… he'll be telling you the… the procedure…" Minnie paused for a moment, staring at Tempest, as though struggling to find words. Eventually, she settled for a strangled; "Good luck."
Tempest's lips tugged upwards into a mirthless smile. "Thank you." She said, her voice hollow.
Tempest went inside.
Fleur was sitting in the corner on a wooden stool, not smiling or looking nearly as composed as usual, but rather pale. Krum looked surlier than usual, which Tempest assumed was his way of showing stress, and Cedric was pacing. All three looked up as Tempest entered, Fleur and Cedric managing small rather forced smiles which Tempest struggled rather unsuccessfully to return.
"Tempest! Here you are!" Bagman said happily, looking around. "Come in, come in, now we can get started!"
Bagman looked very out of place and much too colourful standing among all the pale-faced champions. He was wearing his old Wasp robes which were stretched a bit too tight around the middle. "Well, now we're all here- time to fill you in!" Bagman said brightly. "When the audience has assembled, I'm going to be offering each of you this bag-" He held up a small bag of purple silk and shook it at them- "from which you will each select a small model of the thing you are about to face! There are different- er-varieties, you see. And I have to tell you something else too… ah, yes… your task is to the collect the golden egg!"
Glancing around, she saw no one looked overly confused, proof that Karkaroff and Maxime had indeed told their champions about the dragons.
But then they had volunteered for this, they had known the risks after all…
And in what seemed like the next second, hundreds upon hundreds of feet could be heard passing the tent, their owners talking excitedly, laughing, joking- because they wouldn't be in danger, they would just be watching the good show. Tempest could even hear her own name being said- people were placing bets on how long she would last.
On a more positive note, people seemed to be betting rather highly on her- far more than was being put on Fleur or Cedric- she was tied with Krum. Tempest was unsure whether she was flattered, or bad for Fleur and Cedric. Admittedly she had more NDE's (near death experiences) than them- but they had far more schooling and technical knowledge than she did.
Feeling slightly sick, Tempest wanted to sit down, but then Bagman was opening the neck of the purple silk sack and waving the champions over to form a circle around him.
"Ladies first," he said, offering it to Tempest.
She dipped her hand into the bag and winced as she came in contact with something sharp. She gripped it, feeling it squirm, and pulled it out, her heart sinking as she saw what she held.
"The Hungarian Horntail," Bagman whispered and Tempest watched as the miniature dragon paced two and fro on her hand, releasing a short burst of flame. There was a tag with a number four written on it tied around the dragon's neck.
Fleur went next and pulled out a tiny perfect model of the Welsh Green with a number two around its neck.
Krum had the Chinese Fireball with a number three and didn't react at all, merely stood there with the dragon winding its way around his fingers and stared moodily at the wall opposite.
Cedric was last, and he pulled out the bluish-grey Swedish Short-Snout, with a number one.
"Well there you are!" said Bagman, breaking the tense silence, "You have each pulled out the dragon you will face, and the numbers refer to the order in which you are to take on the dragons, do you see? Now I'm going to have to leave, because I'm commentating. Mr Diggory, you're first, just go out into the enclosure when you hear a whistle, alright? Now, Tempest, could I have a quick word outside?"
"Okay…?" Tempest answered, following him out of the tent. They walked a short distance away from the tent into the shelter of the trees, and then Bagman turned to her with a fatherly expression on his face.
"Are you feeling alright Tempest? Anything I can get you?"
"What?" Tempest said, "I mean, well, no, not really, the task's going to begin soon anyway…" she glanced down at the Horntail that she was still holding.
"Got a plan though? Because you are the youngest, and a girl-" Bagman said, lowering his voice, "No one would have to know if I gave you a few pointers, and if there's anything I can do to help-"
"No thank you-" Tempest bristled.
There was a sudden blast of a whistle, and Bagman started. "Good lord, I've got to run! Goodbye Tempest!" he exclaimed and rushed off.
Tempest walked back to the tent and saw Cedric emerging from it, looking positively sick. "Good luck," Tempest mumbled, and she thought Cedric shot her a grateful look, only her vision seemed to be shifting, so she couldn't be sure.
Tempest went back inside to Fleur and Krum, not even looking around for a chair, sitting down on the dirt ground, leaning her head back on the side of the tent. Seconds later they heard the roar of the crowd, which meant Cedric must have entered the enclosure and was face to face with the living counterpart of his model.
Tempest felt worse and worse as she sat there and listened. At some point Fleur had sat down on the ground beside her looking just as bad as Tempest felt, and the two listened as the crowd screamed, yelled, and gasped like one giant single living being as they watched Cedric do whatever he was doing to get past the Swedish Short-Snout.
Krum was still staring at the ground. Fleur was tense as a rail, her hands clenched in tight fists at her side. She was next, Tempest realized, after Cedric, she would be next, and then Krum… and then herself…
Suddenly Tempest's plan didn't seem so great after all.
Bagman's commentary was making the whole thing even worse, as he gasped along with the crowd and yelled out lines that made horrible images form in Tempest's mind. "Oooh, narrow miss there, very narrow…" "He's taking risks this one!" "Clever move- pity it didn't work…"
After fifteen minutes of that torture, Tempest heard the deafening roar of both the crowd and the dragon, that meant only one thing: Cedric had gotten past the dragon and retrieved his golden egg.
"Excellent performance!" Bagman was shouting, "and now the marks from the judges!"
He did not shout out the marks though, so Tempest assumed that the judges perhaps were showing them to the crowd. There was another massive cheer and then the whistle blew again.
"One down, three to go! Miss Delacour, if you please!"
Fleur was trembling from head to foot as she stood and dusted off her clothes.
"Good luck Fleur," Tempest said, as the girl reached the flap of the tent.
Fleur turned back for a split second. "Thank you." And the words seemed heartfelt.
Tempest was left alone in the tent with Krum, and although she badly wanted to break the awful silence, he did not seem to want to, so she remained seated, staring at the canopy of the tent above. She felt positively sick, why had she eaten lunch at all? She was going to throw up, make a fool of herself, get killed….
The same process began again, the crowd responding to whatever Fleur was doing, Bagman yelling out things that really weren't helping… "Oh I'm not sure that was wise!" "Oh nearly! Careful now… good lord, I thought she'd had it then!"
Ten minutes later, when Tempest was ready to stab Bagman- consequences be damned- she heard the crowd burst into applause again, and she knew Fleur must have been successful too. There was a pause while Fleur's marks were being shown, and then more clapping… Then the whistle.
"And here comes Mr Krum!" cried Bagman, and as Krum stood, Tempest felt an urge to wish him good luck too.
"Good luck!" she called.
Krum stared at her for a second, his expression inscrutable, then he said: "And to you too." And then he was gone.
Tempest felt oddly connected and disconnected from the rest of her body as Krum's round began. It was like she had retreated into herself and was watching her own actions through a television screen…
"Very daring!" Bagman yelled, and Tempest heard the Chinese Fireball make a horrible screeching roaring sound while the crowd gasped. "That's some nerve he's showing! Excellent spell… and it's hit! And… yes… He's got the egg!"
Tempest didn't know whether or not to feel relieved that the moment was finally there. There would be no more horrible waiting… But still, Tempest wouldn't have minded if the moment never happened….
The whistle blew, and Tempest stood, worried her legs wouldn't support her as she staggered out of the tent, sure she was as white as a sheet.
Before, the world had seemed to be in black and white, but as she reached the enclosure, colour returned with a vividness that almost blinded her.
There were hundreds and hundreds of faces staring at her from the stands, and then there was the Horntail.
It seemed even more bigger and vicious than the last time Tempest had saw it, and it was crouched low over her clutch of eggs at the other side of the enclosure, her wings half-furled, and her yellow eyes on Tempest. Tempest's eyes were drawn to the Horntail's tail, which the Horntail was thrashing against the ground, leaving huge deep gouge marks in the rock.
The crowd was yelling, and Tempest didn't really know whether it was in her favour or not, because her ears seemed to have been stuffed with cotton wool, and she didn't realize that the Horntail was swinging its tail towards her, until her brain registered the fact that there was a potentially fatal object sailing through the air in her direction and she wasn't moving…
Tempest dove to the side as her muscles unfroze, feeling the tail miss her by inches, slamming into the ground mere centimetres from where she lay. She could hear the voice of Ludo Bagman booming around the pitch, but indistinguishable with the roaring of the dragon.
She flung out an arm, "Accio Firebolt!" she yelled, just as she was forced to execute a clumsy roll to the side as the Horntail's teeth snapped just above her head.
Tempest rolled to the side again as the tail slammed down by her again, and suddenly the dragon seemed to be right on top of her. The teeth were snapping at her, while the tail kept missing her by inches… Tempest couldn't see the egg, raw instinct telling her to get away from the dragon…
Tempest lunged forwards through two of the Horntail's legs, managing to find an empty pocket of space, just as the tail whistled towards her.
She ducked, and the next moment there was an intake of breath from the dragon, and suddenly a torrent of fire was sent straight to where Tempest was standing.
There was a chorus of gasps and screams as Tempest reacted without thinking. "Aguamenti!" she yelled, bringing up her wand in a sweeping motion, and a wave of water materialized from the air, the fire met the water, and a blast of steam exploded around them, blinding Tempest and knocking her backwards.
The tail swung again at Tempest, and without time to move, she brought her wand upwards, and yelled- because for some reason it seemed like yelling was appropriate- "Reducto!"
The tail was blasted away from her, and the Horntail roared in fury.
"..and this is amazing folks, Tempest Potter, the youngest Triwizard champion is duelling the dragon!"
Tempest didn't know about the 'duelling' part, but as the dragon lunged again, Tempest had to duck down behind a clump of rocks as the dragon breathed fire again, heating up the rocks until they were cherry red.
The sky went dark, and Tempest bit back a scream as she saw the Horntail pounce.
She flung herself to the side, landing heavily on the rocks, the sharp edges digging into her skin, as the dragon lunged for her, Tempest made a slashing motion with her wand, "Tempestas!"
The gust of wind caught the dragon's half-extended wings, sending the dragon slamming backwards into the wall of the enclosure.
Tempest scrambled to her feet, glancing over at the pile of eggs.
But they were too far away, and the dragon had already recovered, lunging for Tempest again, forcing her to flatten against the ground.
She was sweating now- well she had been before, only now it was pouring off her in sheets and it didn't feel like she was trying to get past the dragon, more like stay alive…
Where was her Firebolt?
The dragon's paw with claws extended stretched out for her, and Tempest threw herself to the side, bruising her ribs, but managing to find her feet, staggering upright. And then, out of the corner of her eye she saw her broom curing through the air, coming straight towards her…
… the Horntail's tail slammed into her side, the spikes tearing through her shirt, and sending Tempest flying across the arena…
There had been a sickening crack when the tail hit her, and Tempest's side exploded in pain, her mind screaming along with the crowd….
…..and then suddenly she hit something that was not the side of the enclosure, but her Firebolt…
Tempest's fingers hit her broom, and closed around the end of it, somehow managing to sling her leg around it in mid-air, and with all the strength left in her arms, she pulled herself upright, and urged the broom upwards, breathing heavily, chest burning, but alive.
The right-side of her body was on fire, then on inspection, was literally on fire (she doused herself with water- her hair still smoking), but she was on her broom, and for the first time in the arena, she felt safe.
"Amazing! The Miss Potter has managed to mount her broom in mid-air, what will she do next? Amazing flying too! This girl has skill, Mr Krum, are you watching this?"
Tempest pulled the broom higher, circling the Horntail's head, the cheers of the crowd urging her on. She was safe for now, the Horntail was still on the ground, and she was out of reach…
The golden egg was right beneath the Horntail's belly, it would be too dangerous to swoop in now… If she could just get the Horntail into the air… It might just…
Tempest began to circle, swooping down and flying dangerously close to the dragon's head, hovering closer and closer, but not close enough to be caught by the paws of the Horntail, or the vicious teeth.
Come on… Tempest urged, and then with a roar of frustration, the Horntail released a jet of flame, which Tempest blocked with another Aguamenti, and then took off.
The dragon's wings unfolded, and it reared up, teeth bared.
Tempest could see the muscles in the Horntail's scaly legs bunch, and then with a roar, the Horntail sprung forwards and upwards, and Tempest had to dive to the side, amazed at the speed of the dragon.
Tempest gritted her teeth as she flew higher, not so fast as to discourage the dragon, but fast enough to not be caught.
Come on… Come on… A bit higher…
And then with a final bellow, the Horntail lunged at Tempest, almost losing her grip on her broom.
Higher and higher she circled, until the clouds were surrounding Tempest and her clothes were wet and cold, sticking to her like a heavy, restrictive coat.
The dragon still followed, roaring and breathing fire, but Tempest had it now….
With a final burst of speed, Tempest dove to the left, shooting straight down, past the teeth of the dragon, weaving around a burst of flame, missing the wicked tail by centimetres, and hurtling back down to the ground trailing fire from her clothes and hair… icy daggers seemed to stab into her eyes, Tempest gritted her teeth.
With morbid amusement, she remembered watching Krum do the Wronski Feint at the Quidditch World Cup, and wanting to practice it herself. Well she was practicing it now alright.
The world had gone silent and cold, only the slick grip of the broom beneath her finger tips and the sight of the glint of gold below her…
She was so close, thirty meters, twenty, ten…
The egg was in in front of her, and Tempest had it, the metal cold against her chest as she hugged it to herself, the other hand griping the handle of her broomstick, and she shot upwards, breathing heavily from exertion.
The cheers were deafening and ringing in Tempest's ears as the Horntail appeared above the enclosure, and the keepers stunned it, sending it crashing down the ground, making the stands shake.
Tempest was dazed, dazed that it had worked, dazed that it was over…
She landed, and she could see the people from the stands flowing out over the seats and running towards her, screaming and cheering.
"…and the youngest champion, Tempest Potter has retrieved her egg with the fastest time! Now if we…." Bagman's voice faded out, as Tempest blinked vaguely.
Tempest wanted to grin, to smile, to hold the egg above her head and just yell in relief… only it seemed like all her senses had just returned, and she was aware of the fact that even though the fire in her hair had gone out, the right side of her body was numb with pain, and covered in blood….
…and then just as the first people in the crowd reached her, Tempest mumbled something incoherent and collapsed.
Tempest came to, the world swimming before her eyes.
Five pairs of eyes were surrounding her, and Tempest groaned, closing her eyes again.
"Dragons!" Complained the voice of Madam Pomfrey, "Setting a band of children against them… what has the world come to..?"
Tempest cracked an eye open to see the anxious face of Hermione. "Wazzup Hermione?" Tempest muttered hoarsely.
"Well you passed out, and then Madam Pomfrey said that you had broken a few ribs… She's knitted your bones, and got you bandaged up now… how are you feeling?"
Tempest opened both eyes, seeing Madam Pomfrey bustling over to Cedric, who was sitting on a chair in another tent, whereas Tempest was lying on a makeshift stretcher with Ron, Hermione, and the twins peering down at her.
"Like a museum exhibit," Tempest sighed, trying to roll over, biting back a hiss of pain. "What's with the staring?"
"Well, you just survived an encounter with a dragon," Fred said, waggling his eyebrows at her. "I think that qualifies as a reasonable validation for staring."
"Oh-" Tempest groaned, sitting up and clutching at her head. "Too many long words…"
George laughed clapping her on the back-
"-what the hell, George?" Tempest wheezed.
"Oh, sorry Hedgy-" George said, as Tempest winced violently, glaring at him through watering eyes.
"Sorry! But I just made fifteen galleons betting on you- so thanks!"
Tempest laughed, then winced again. "Happy to help… and you only bet fifteen?" she shook her head. "I'm hurt."
"Nah, I bet thirty- but the other fifteen are for if you win-"
"Enough with the betting," Ron cut in, "you were AMAZING, Tempest- Cedric took a pretty nasty gash to his shoulder, and Krum almost got trampled by his dragon, so really, you were one of the best!"
"Great to hear," Tempest mumbled, not really caring what score she got, so long as she could curl up in bed later and sleep.
"You alright to stand?" Hermione piped up. "The judges will be doing your score anytime now."
Tempest groaned, and then nodded, letting Fred pull her up.
Madam Pomfrey was at their side quicker than Tempest's eyes could focus. "Miss Potter! Sit down! You cannot go outside like that- you were just mauled by a dragon, at this rate there will definitely be scaring and you are in no state-"
"Madam Pomfrey," Tempest said, attempting to keep her words from turning in to the mush she felt like they were, "I was just mauled by a dragon- like hell I'm going to walk away from this with nothing but experience-"
Madam Pomfrey did not seem impressed, "Unlikely that you will be able to walk with that mind-set," she huffed, "but alright- be back here in five minutes, or I will be coming after you, Miss Potter."
Tempest gave her a quick smile that she hoped didn't look too pained and made it out of the medical tent alone before staggering sideways into Hermione and half-strangling her as she tried to right herself.
"Wow, Temp- urgh- chok- ah- help-"
"Sorry," Tempest said breathlessly as Fred righted her. "Stupid. Son. Of. A. Bitch. Ribs."
George grinned over at Fred as the two slung one of Tempest's arms around each of their shoulders. "That's the spirit… was starting to worry for a moment… you hit your head too when you fell too…"
That explained the headache.
"Oh- speaking of- my Firebolt-"
"-already ahead of you," George reassured, "it was right beside you in the tent… although I completely understand how you made the link between hitting your head and your Firebolt."
"I'll give you the glorious insights to my mind later, when there aren't platypuses swimming around the edges of everything-" Tempest said, flapping the hand that was attached to the arm draped around Fred's neck.
"Platypuses?" Hermione echoed, "why platypuses?"
"One of the many more insights into Hedgy's mind," George supplied helpfully.
Tempest rolled her eyes. "So how'd the other's do?"
"Well in my opinion," Ron began. "you were the best, no competition-"
Tempest snorted loudly in response, then waved him on.
"-I mean that," Ron glared, "Diggory did this weird thing where he turned a rock into a dog, I think to distract the dragon, and it sort of worked… he got close to the egg then the dragon decided it liked Diggory more- and he got roasted-"
Hermione coughed pointedly.
"Oh fine- well he was on fire, and I don't know after, but he got his egg… blah, blah, blah…"
"Why don't I tell it, Ron?" Hermione cut in patronizingly, "We're nearly at the enclosure anyway."
Ron huffed loudly.
"Right, so Delacour was next," Hermione continued, "She cast a Mentis Quietem charm-"
Tempest exchanged amused glances with Fred and George.
"-which put the dragon into a trance, except it started snoring?" Hermione glanced around for confirmation, then nodded to herself and continued on, "which set her on fire… she put it out with an Aguamenti though… Krum… I would have thought that he'd have considered the flying thing too… but he used a Conjunctivis Curse, shot it straight at his dragon's eyes… after our biased opinion of you being best- even though you probably were-"
Tempest rolled her eyes again, although secretly slightly flattered.
"-he was next best… the spell made the dragon stagger around quite a bit and it trampled on most of the eggs, he had points taken off for that- you weren't meant to damage them… I suppose you'll get points taken off because you were injured too…"
"Yeah I guess…" Tempest shrugged as best she could with her arms suspended. "But the next task I sure as hell am going to do everything and anything to come first, consequences be damned."
"I thought you weren't going to concentrate on winning so much as surviving?" Fred said.
"I wasn't," Tempest answered, her jaw tightening before she gave a thin lipped smile. "then I got shredded by a dragon, and I'll be damned if I'm taking that sitting down… I'm not just going to survive, I'm going to bloody well win this fucking thing. I'm not saying I will, guaranteed 100%, but I'm going to give it a damn good shot."
"And there's Hedgy!" George cheered in Tempest's ear, partially deafening her. "I knew it'd kick in sometime!"
"What would?" Tempest said, "I'm pretty sure facing off a dragon as a wakeup call wasn't in my coffee this morning… unless it's the caffeine going to my head… which I'm not sure it does…"
"Alright- before you start rambling, Hedgy, I meant, you're an extremist."
"It means that you-" George stopped as they reached the enclosure, and Tempest, momentarily taken aback at the sheer size of the audience that had been present before. Although put anything next to a dragon- that'd make it look smaller.
Unless it was another dragon of course.
That'd probably just double the size.
"You okay to stand on your own?" Fred's voice was saying.
"Huh? Oh yeah, thanks," Tempest unslinging her arms from around the twin's necks. Standing. She could manage that.
The judges (five of them) were seated at the other end of the enclosure, on raised seats draped with gold.
"It's marks out of ten from each one," Hermione piped up helpfully. "the highest possible score is fifty."
"I can add, Hermione," Tempest laughed, then winced. "Thanks though."
"Oooh, first one!" Fred interrupted, pointing.
Madam Maxime had stood, and raised her wand in the air. What looked like a long silver ribbon shot out of it, and twisted itself into a large figure eight.
"Not bad!" Hermione cheered, "I suppose she took off marks for your side- and considering she's your competition that's very generous…"
Crouch was next, and he shot a number nine into the air.
"Doing well!" Ron yelled.
Next was Dumbledore, and he shot up a nine too.
The twins were doing an odd dance that was a mix of yelling in triumph, running in circles, and clapping each other enthusiastically on the backs.
Ludo Bagman stood, and a ten appeared in the air.
The crowd went wild, roaring her name, and Tempest could only blink twice. "Huh. That…"
"I know," Hermione said, over the yells of the crowd. "you were injured… Not that I don't think you should have gotten a ten, but fairly speaking-"
"Oh shut up, Hermione!" Ron yelled, "this is great!"
Karkaroff was last, and across the enclosure, Tempest saw his brow knit like he was thinking. As last, Tempest didn't exactly expect Karkaroff to be generous with his score, he wasn't likely to be as fair as Madame Maxime… and it was a five.
Actually higher than Tempest had expected to get- the lowest number possible for Karkaroff to give without seeming like too much of a biased dick. Tempest was expecting a three.
However, Ron and the twins weren't taking it so well. "WHAT?" Ron hollered up at Karkaroff, going unheard, "FIVE? You lousy biased bastard- you gave Krum ten!"
Tempest stifled a laugh (they hurt) and grabbed Ron's arm, "You can yell later, Ron- as it is, I'm ecstatic, but more importantly, I can see Skeeter in the stands, I feel like I'm going to fall over again, and like hell I'm doing it in front of her… C'mon."
Tempest said a quick goodbye to the twins, who shot off to collect their bets, and Tempest supplemented them with Hermione and Ron for walking sticks. It worked, but with both being a great deal shorter than the twins, it was not as easy to walk when being supported by people shorter than herself.
Minnie had said several times as soon as Tempest had hit her growth spurt, that she had inherited her father's genes, shooting straight up, and becoming tall, gangly and awkward.
All Tempest knew was that it was a great excuse to sit at the back for every class.
She passed by a few people, congratulating, and fussing over her in turn.
"You're tied for first place, Tempest!" Charlie said, rushing out of seeming nowhere to seize her hands. "Tied with Krum, you're winning! Or joint-winning… whatever! I've got to run now, I've got to send Mum an owl, I swore I'd tell her what happened, and you were excellent! By the way, they told me you had to hang around for a bit Tempest, Bagman wants a word, back in the champion's tent! I'll see you!"
Tempest sighed and closed her eyes. "Cannot catch a break. Seriously guys… you can let me go now," she said, after tripping over another tree root for the third time in a row. "I think I can manage from here."
"You sure?" Hermione asked, as Tempest waved them off.
"Yeah, no- you should head back up to the school- Madam Pomfrey will probably be holding me back after anyway…"
Tempest entered the tent, greeted by Cedric and Fleur, who from what Tempest had heard, were tying for second… Two ties.
For an inexplicable reason, Tempest found it hilarious.
Cedric had a bandage wrapped around his arm and an odd orange past covering the side of his face which Tempest assumed was for his burns. Fleur seemed relatively unharmed, the only visible signs of her encounter with the dragon was her usually immaculate hair mussed and slightly singed. Krum looked the same as ever.
"Well done, all of you!" Bagman started, bouncing through the tent entrance and looking for all the world as though it was he who had just gotten past a dragon. Minus the injuries though.
"Now, just a quick few words. You've got a nice long break before the second task, which will take place at half-past nine on the morning of Febuary the twenty-fourth- but we're giving you something to think about in the meantime!"
"Oh yay," Tempest muttered.
"-if you look down at those golden eggs you're all holding, you will see that they open … see the hinges there?"
Tempest glanced around at the three other champions holding their eggs. Shit. Tempest didn't know where hers was, she had been holding it along with her Firebolt when she landed… she hoped the twins had gotten the egg too… it was probably still in the med tent.
"-solve the clue inside the egg- because it will tell you what the second task is, and enable you to prepare for it! All clear?" Bagman glanced around at the four stony faces regarding him. His 12 watt beam faded slightly, and he went on. "Well… off you go then!"
Tempest sighed heavily, and walked off to the medical tent.
Madam Pomfrey fussed over Tempest, shoving potions for pain and blood loss down her throat, then some for dizziness, another for shock- until Tempest stopped keeping track, settling for eyeing each mixture warily before surrendering and swallowing.
"It's good for you," Madam Pomfrey reprimanded Tempest, seeing the look on her face.
"I feel like I'm going to throw up," Tempest replied.
"It'll pass once you walk around a bit," Madam Pomfrey said briskly. "Knowing you, you'll want to walk around outside… So before you ask, yes, if you can, you may walk back up to the castle yourself, get a few things from your dormitory- then come straight to the hospital wing, where you will be staying for a while- and stop giving me that look young lady. Magic's magic, but those spikes did a lot of damage, and if you're running around the castle, it could get worse."
Ordinarily, Tempest would have fought against the idea of being confined to a room much less a bed, with more vehemence than she had against the dragon- but drugged with all the potions, all she managed was a legarthic nod. "Kay. Thanks."
Feeling floaty as she was, the potions worked very well as painkillers, and carrying her egg and Firebolt, Tempest made it halfway back to the school before she ran into trouble- namely- Skeeter.
She was wearing acid-green robes today, and a quill that Tempest recognized to be the Quick Quotes Quill was almost blended in with them. "Congratulations Tempest!" she said, beaming at her. "I wonder if you could give me a word? How did you feel facing the dragon? Holding your own against the older- and more experienced- champions?"
Tempest stared at the woman.
"How about a picture?" Tempest suggested suddenly. "I heard they're worth a thousand words."
Shoving her middle finger in Skeeter's face, Tempest gave a maniac grin. "I hope that'll carry you till we meet again."
And Tempest kept walking.