The mood in the castle as they entered June became excited and tense again. As the third task neared, Harry and Charlie were practicing hexes and counters at every available moment. Harry felt more confident about this task than either of the others, even friends knew it too. Harry had always managed to find his way past monstrous creatures and enchanted barriers before now, and this time he had some notice, some chance to prepare himself for what lay ahead. Tired of walking in on Harry, Hermione, and Ron all over the school, Professor McGonagall had given them permission to use the empty Transfiguration classroom at lunchtime, Charlie and the others coming to support and practice themselves.
“You both are doing well,” Hermione encouraged, looking down her list and crossing off spells both off her list they had learned. “Some of these are bound to come in handy.”
“Bloody hope so...” Charlie muttered under his breath. Harry had been kicking his arse for half an hour and he was exhausted. He wiped the sweat from his brow, looking for Chelsea. She had disappeared a half-hour ago and hadn’t returned. Fred and George lounged in their seats, scribbling away furiously on parchment.
“Come and look at this,” Ron said, he was standing by the window. He had been staring out onto the grounds. “What’s Chelsea doing with Malfoy?”
Everyone quickly rose to see. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were standing in the shadow of a tree below. Crabbe and Goyle seemed to be keeping lookout; both smirking. Malfoy and Chelsea were in a vicious confrontation. Chelsea looked ready to attack Malfoy.
“How do they even know each other?” Harry asked curiously.
“That’s what we’d like to know,” Fred said, “I know everyone knows what a git Malfoy is, but this looks personal.”
“Bloody fucking hell!” Ron gasped. Chelsea slapped Malfoy across the face, a red palm print evident on his pale skin. Chelsea stormed away with Malfoy screaming after her.
“We have to find her!” Charlie turned on his heels towards the door, about to dash it.
“Hold up, mate,” Fred said, “We all know she has been dealing with a lot recently, and who knows how they know each other. Chelsea may have known him before transferring here and she won’t take kindling to us having spied in on that moment, as much as it was bloody awesome. Git deserved it.”
“Agreed. Come on, you two,” Hermione added briskly, turning away from the window, moving back into the middle of the room, “you two aren’t done yet.”
Malfoy handed her another letter nearly daily now. Rookwood seemed to want to guarantee that Chelsea was going to follow through and was keeping this information secret. He reminded Chelsea in every letter that whatever might be going on outside the walls of Hogwarts was not her responsibility, nor should she meddle with it.
Everyone’s nerves grew as June twenty-fourth drew nearer, but none as bad as Chelsea’s. For one thing, she had been lying to her friends for nearly half a year. For another, she had no idea what was going to happen after this final hurdle, and however well or poorly it ended, she would save her friends and the tournament would be over, at last.
Breakfast was a very noisy affair in the Great Hall on the morning of the final task. The post owls flew about delivering mail to various students. Chelsea received what she assumed would be the final letter from her father. It was the same black parchment and silver script, bearing only a time. Chelsea shoved it into her pocket before anyone took notice. Fred waved warmly from the Gryffindor table. A screech owl arrived for Hermione, carrying her morning copy of the Daily Prophet as usual. She unfolded the paper, glanced at the front page, and spat out a mouthful of pumpkin juice all over it.
“What?” said Harry and Ron together, staring at her. Fred, George, and Lee leaned in to listen.
“Nothing,” said Hermione quickly, trying to shove the paper out of sight, but Ron grabbed it. Fred read over his brother’s shoulder, his eyes darkening in anger.
He stared at the headline and said, “No way. Not today. That old cow.”
“What?” said Harry. “Rita Skeeter again?” Harry’s stomach dropped, just what he needed today.
“No,” said Ron, and just like Hermione, he attempted to push the paper out of sight. His face flushed red, and his palms clearly sweaty.
“It’s about me, isn’t it?” said Harry. It had to be at this point. Chelsea knew something was wrong because whispers were traveling across the hall like a fire.
“No,” said Ron, in an entirely unconvincing tone and quite loud. But before Harry could demand to see the paper, Draco Malfoy shouted across the Great Hall from the Slytherin table.
“Hey, Potter! Potter! How’s your head? Are you feeling all right? Sure you’re not going to go berserk on us?” Malfoy was holding a copy of the Daily Prophet too. Slytherins snickered, twisting in their seats to see Harry.
“Oy, Malfoy! Sod off!” Chelsea yelled across the hall before making her way to Harry. In the last few weeks Chelsea had grown quite annoyed with the silver-haired Slytherin and with that came this creeping darkness that seemed to ebb through her veins. Everyone stared as she strode across the hall.
Fred stared in shock for a second but Harry’s voice broke.
“Let me see it,” Harry said to Ron. “Give it here.”
Very reluctantly, Ron handed over the newspaper. Harry turned it over and found himself staring at his own picture, beneath the banner headline:
HARRY POTTER” DISTURBED AND DANGEROUS”
“Gone off me a bit, hasn’t she?” said Harry lightly, folding up the paper. Annoyance was apparent in the twitch of his brow and the glint of his eyes.
Over at the Slytherin table, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were laughing at him, tapping their heads with their fingers, pulling grotesquely mad faces, and waggling their tongues like snakes.
“How did she know your scar hurt in Divination?” Ron said.
“There’s no way she was there, there’s no way she could’ve heard —”
“The window was open,” said Harry. “I opened it to breathe.”
“You were at the top of North Tower!” Hermione said. “Your voice couldn’t have carried all the way down to the grounds!”
“Well, you’re the one who’s supposed to be researching magical methods of bugging!” said Harry. “You tell me how she did it!”
“I’ve been trying!” said Hermione. “But I... but...” An odd, dreamy expression suddenly came over Hermione’s face. She slowly raised a hand and ran her fingers through her hair.
“Are you all right?” said Ron, frowning at her.
“Yes,” said Hermione breathlessly. She ran her fingers through her hair again, and then held her hand up to her mouth, as though speaking into an invisible walkie-talkie. Harry and Ron stared at each other.
“I’ve had an idea,” Hermione said, gazing into space. “I think I know... because then no one would be able to see... even Moody... and she’d have been able to get onto the window ledge... but she’s not allowed... she’s definitely not allowed... I think we’ve got her! Just give me two seconds in the library — just to make sure!”
With that, Hermione seized her school bag and dashed out of the Great Hall leaving everyone a little confused.
“Oy!” Ron called after her. “We’ve got our History of Magic exam in ten minutes! Blimey,” he said, turning back to Harry, “she must really hate that Skeeter woman to risk missing the start of an exam. What’re you going to do in Binns’s class — read again?”
“See ya, Harry!” George called, slinging his bag over his shoulder, Fred ruffled his hair before following Chelsea to the Dungeon. They had their Potions exam, and none of them were ready.
Harry only nodded before watching his friends leave for the exams.
Chelsea pulled her hair back with a worn blue ribbon with frayed edges. The Potions classroom was boiling in the late June heat, with fires blazing under each cauldron. Chelsea had finished the written portion fairly quickly but was kicking herself as she struggled over this complex potion- Snape had left no measurements. She quickly glanced around the room, Lesedi and Juno were on to the potion, Fred and George had their heads bent over their desks, scribbling fast. Chelsea couldn’t help but notice how cute Fred looked when biting his bottom lip in concentration and the way his brown eyes flitted across the parchment.
She wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt and took a deep breath. Right now was not the time to ogle Fred. She had a potion to brew and hours before she might never see them again.
Draught of Living Death bubbled angrily in front of her, threatening on boiling over if she couldn’t figure out the exact measurement of the next ingredient.
Before she knew it, the bell rung and she believed she successfully brewed one of the toughest potions of her life.
“That was bloody awful,” Elisabeth cried throwing her arms around her roommate’s shoulders, “I don’t think I can walk.”
“Oy, warning next time,” Chelsea chuckled, readjusting her bag so she could carry her friend on her back.
“We have one more bloody year of this class...” Fred sighed.
“That’s because you chose it, idiots.” Juno chucked.
“Not all of us want to be international Quidditch players. Some of us need that bloody class.” George mockingly glared at Fred.
They all laughed on their way back upstairs for lunch.
“Mum! Bill! Whatcha doing here?” Fred asked, beaming at his Mum and brother as he sat around the Gryffindor table.
“Come to watch Harry in the last task! The kid is family.” Bill smiled. Bill caught his younger brother staring at Chelsea, Mrs. Weasley caught it too, a smile soft on her lips.
“Is that her?”
“Who?” Fred asked, eyebrows raised.
“The one you fancy.”
“Oh sod off, she’s just a friend,” Fred joking punched his brother’s shoulder before digging into food.
“Uh huh, if you say so.” Bill joked.
“Don’t look but I think the Beauxbaton champion has not taken her eyes off you in the last ten minutes.” Bill glanced up, peering through his long red hair, a blush spreading across his cheeks. Lunch went smoothly.
Whilst at the Ravenclaw table, Chelsea was hugged tightly by Mr. and Mrs. Tanner, each with tears in their eyes. Throughout the meal Mrs. Tanner became considerably warmer towards Chelsea the more Charlie reassured them everything was okay.
After lunch, everyone dispersed back to exams. Whiling away the afternoon until the evening feast.
As the hours crept on, Chelsea found herself more and more anxious. There were more courses than usual and she didn’t eat much. As the enchanted ceiling overhead began to fade from blue to a dusky purple, Dumbledore rose to his feet at the staff table, and silence fell.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in five minutes, I will be askingyou to make your way down to the Quidditch field for the thirdand final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Will the champions please follow Mr. Bagman down to the stadium now.”
Harry got up. The Gryffindors all along the table were applauding him; the Weasleys, Chelsea and Hermione all wished him good luck,and he headed off out of the Great Hall with Cedric, Charlie, Fleur, andViktor.
Chelsea had an hour until she had to go to the Astronomy tower, she debating even going to the Quidditch pitch but knowing she may never see her friends again, she walked hand-in-hand with Fred and Elisabeth. Dispute her internal anxieties and fighting back tears, she smiled and laughed.
Mrs. Weasley was delighted to meet her and Bill was surprised her with his kindness and wit.
The Quidditch pitch was completely unrecognizable as they walked into the stands. A twenty-foot-high hedge ran all the wayaround the edge of it. There was a gap right in front of them: theentrance to the vast maze. The passage beyond it looked dark andcreepy.
The stands began to fill; the air full ofexcitement and the rumbling of feet as the hundreds of studentsfiled into their seats. The sky was a deep, clear blue now, and thefirst stars were starting to appear. Hagrid, Professor Moody, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium and approached Bagman and the champions. They werewearing large, red, luminous stars on their hats, all except Hagrid,who had his on the back of his moleskin vest.
Bagman now pointed his wand at his throat, muttered, "Sonorus,” and his magically magnified voice echoed into thestands.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the pointscurrently stand! Tied in first place, with eighty-five points each —Mr. Charles Tanner and Mr. Harry Potter, of Ilvermorny School and HogwartsSchool respectively!” The cheers and applause sent birds from the ForbiddenForest fluttering into the darkening sky. “In the second place, witheighty four points — Mr. Cedric Diggory, of Hogwarts school!“More applause. “In third place — Mr. Viktor Krum, of Durmstrang Institute!” Even more applause. “And in fourth place- Miss Fleur Delacour, ofBeauxbatons Academy!”
Everyone waved to Harry and Charlies from the stands and watched as they hurried into the maze. Dumbledore casted a quick spell and everyone was able to watch the movements of the competitors. Time ticked by and Chelsea’s heart shattered.
“I’ll be back,” she whispered to Elisabeth, fifteen minutes before her deadline, “I need the loo.”
“Hurry back,” Elisabeth said, eyes never leaving the projections before a flash of red light in the air- Fleur was out already.
Chelsea snuck down the stairs, and way from the pitch. Blood pounded in her ears as seconds passed. The Quidditch pitch grew small behind her and the volume of the crowd lessened the closer she got to the castle.
The castle was a ghost land, literally. Only ones in the castle were the House Elves, Ghosts and portraits. Not a single student could be seen.
Chelsea’s shoes echoed with light taps as she made her way higher through the castle. She thought of all the happy memories she made this year, and how happy she had become after the loss. Richie and April would have been proud of her. She had tears running down her cheeks by the time she reached the door of the Astronomy tower. She could hear the soft echo of the tournament leagues away.
“On three, I open this door and everything will be okay,” Chelsea told herself aloud. “One-two-three-”
She grasped the handle and pulled the door open.
“She came. He will be so pleased.” A velvety voice whispered in the shadows. There was another chuckle in the shadows.
“Of course she would, darkness is in her blood. Isn’t it baby girl?”
Chelsea froze as he emerged from the shadows. Chelsea found herself looking at a taller, male counterpart to herself. His brown hair wavy and peppered with grays. His hazel eyes boring holes into her, a smirk resting on his lips.
“Ah- you’re as beautiful as I believed you to be,” He rubbed a dirty hand across her cheek, his pungent breath hot on her skin, “time to go.” He sneered.
His hand caught Chelsea’s and pulled her close behind him, “Lucius, I think it is time.”
Lucius Malfoy smiled, holding out a book before him. “Time to go.”
Chelsea was forced to grab the book and was instantly felt a jerk somewhere behind her heart. Her feet left the ground and she couldn’t let go of the book; it pulled her in a hurricane of wind, and frantic swirls of color. Her father manically laughing at her side.
Hogwarts and her happiness slipped away as she traveled into the unknown.
At least everyone is safe. Or so she thought.