The dangers of the first task are brought home in a very real way for Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione managed to slip into the Great Hall for breakfast before most of the students were even awake. After eating a light meal, they headed up to Gryffindor Tower so Harry could change into his tournament robes that Winky had made specifically for the contest.
The robes turned out beautifully and Harry was very impressed with Winky’s sewing skills. The robes were black with the gold and red colors of Gryffindor on the trim. His Quidditch number and name stitched in red with a gold border on the back. What surprised Harry was what he assumed to be the Potter Crest on the left breast pocket of his robes. The Hogwarts and Gryffindor House Crests were on his shoulders. Overall, Harry was very pleased with the new robes.
Once he was dressed he strapped his wand into the built in wand holster in the left sleeve and his potions knife went into his right. Harry may not have felt comfortable around Professor Moody but the man did have a point, “Constance Vigilance!” and he was definitely going into a very dangerous situation. Harry figured that it was better safe than sorry. When he was finished strapping on all of his gear, he headed down to the common room to meet Hermione before they headed off to the Champions Tent.
“Your robes look really good Harry.” Hermione said while motioning for him to spin around so that she could see the back too.
“Thanks. Winky did a nice job on them. I’ve never seen the Potter Crest before.” Harry said as he ran his fingers across the emblem.
“What are they made out of?” Hermione queried as she fingered the material. “It feels pretty durable. Is it heavy?”
Harry shrugged his shoulders in thought, “They are heavier than my regular Quidditch robes, but much easier to move around in.” He motioned to the higher cut sides and tighter fit on the chest and shoulders to illustrate his point. Pausing for a moment as he pulled Hermione into the corner of the common room Harry called out; “Winky. Dobby.”
With a twin set of pops, both elves appeared before them. They were both wearing new uniforms with the Potter Crest emblazoned on the left pocket. Dobby was also wearing a pair of mismatched socks in addition to his uniform that made Harry smile. “What can we do for you Master Harry?” asked Winky.
“These robes are great. You did a wonderful job on them. Your new uniforms look good too.” Harry said enthusiastically.
Winky blushed scarlet to the tips of her ears at the praise from her master. “Dobby helped to Master Harry.”
“Thank you Dobby.” Harry said while Dobby gave him a big smile.
Hermione sat down on the floor next to Harry and grasped his hand in hers while shooting him a shy smile. Turning back to the elves, she asked; “What kind of robes are these? Are they magical?”
“Oh yes, Miss Mione! We put many charms on them. They are dueling robes.” Harry was smiling at the elves new name for Hermione while listening to Winkys’ description. “They are spelled to be stronger than regular robes and they will keep Master Harry comfortable no matter the weather.” Winky said excitedly.
“Wow! Thank you both very much. Could you do something like this for Hermione too?”
Seeing a sheepish grin on Dobby’s face Harry knew that the elves were already a step ahead of him.
“We have already started on all of your clothes and we should be done today.” With a snap of his fingers, Dobby was holding one of Hermione’s cloaks for her. “Please Miss, this cloak is already finished.”
“Thank you, Dobby and Winky. You are both very kind to us.” Hermione said to the elves as she put on the offered cloak.
As they stood up to go they both waved goodbye to the elves while thanking them again, leaving behind two very happy Potter elves to go about their day.
Just as they were about to open the portrait hole Neville caught up to them. “Harry, Hermione! Do you mind if I walk down with you to the first task?”
“Of course, Neville. Could you also save me a seat in the stands? I want to escort Harry into the Champions Tent?”
“Sure.” Neville said with a smile as the three of them chatted amiably during their trek to the enclosure for the first task.
The closer they got to the tent the more nervous and tense Harry became. By the time, they entered the tent, Harry was no longer talking, and his palms were sweating terribly. Not knowing what else to do, Hermione pulled him into his designated area of the tent. She gave him a hug while rubbing his back and whispering words of comfort in his ear. “It’s okay to be nervous Harry but I know that you can do this.” When she felt Harry’s shoulders relax a bit she pulled back enough to give him a kiss.
Just as they were deepening the kiss there was a bright flash accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a camera taking a picture. They immediately broke apart and Harry stepped forward to place himself between Hermione and the person that had taken the photo.
Stepping towards the couple, Rita Skeeter had a sickly sweet smile on her face. “Harry Potter" she cooed as she stepped up and began walking slowly around the pair, her quick quotes quill was moving furiously across the notepad in her hand while she gazed hungrily at the pair of teenagers.
Viktor Krum was stepping forward to intervene on their behalf when a raised palm, and a nod of acknowledgement, from Harry Potter stopped him.
Rita caught the gesture and her smile was practically predatory as her gaze drifted between the three teens while her quill was moving even faster across the notepad.
Harry was dreading the article that he was sure would be in tomorrow’s Daily Prophet. Before Harry could respond, Dumbledore walked into the tent followed by Barty Crouch, Ludo Bagman, Igor Karkaroff, and Madam Maxine.
Albus Dumbledore paused for a moment as he entered the tent, taking in the scene in front of him. He was not surprised to see Rita Skeeter there. What did catch him off guard was how close Harry and Hermione were standing to each other while glaring at Rita. None of this showed on his face as he strode to the middle of the room while motioning to all of the champions to join him. “Miss Granger, would you please go join your classmates. The first task will be starting shortly.”
Hermione nodded in acceptance of Dumbledore’s demands. She gave Harry a quick hug and a whispered message before departing. “Now then, Mr. Crouch will explain the task to everyone and then we can get started. Dumbledore said with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes.
By the time Mr. Crouch was finished with his instructions, Harry found his nervousness returning. He was going to be the final participant for the day and he had drawn the meanest dragon of the lot, the Hungarian Horntail. Trying to calm himself down, Harry focused on his bond with Hermione. He could feel her nervousness but also her strong belief that he would succeed in the task. Taking a deep breath, Harry drew strength from Hermione’s belief and love in him. Albus Dumbledore had been watching Harry out of the corner of his eye when he noticed a change in his body language. The nervous stance from a few moments ago was gone and in its place was a tense, but determined posture. Turning his gaze upon Harry fully, Dumbledore noticed the robes that he was wearing. The Potter Crest was plainly visible along with the Gryffindor and Hogwarts Crests on his shoulders. He recognized the high quality dueling robes and he figured that Sirius Black had obtained them for Harry. The question was how did he get them to him? Harry had not received any packages via Owl Post that Dumbledore was aware. Nor had he met up with Remus during the last Hogsmeade weekend.
Pondering the mystery that was Harry Potter, Albus decided that he would need to keep a closer eye on the boy from now on, as he made his way out of the tent towards the judge’s box.
Forty-five agonizing minutes later, it was finally Harry’s turn to face a dragon. He cautiously stepped into the enclosure so as not to startle it. His first reaction upon seeing this particularly large beast was shock. This really drove home the point of how dangerous the tournament was and that someone really wanted him dead.
Shaking off his momentary shock, Harry slowly edged into the enclosure to better survey his options. He noticed that the noise from the crowd was agitating the already irritated dragon.
“Great.” Harry muttered to himself. The last thing that he wanted was an irritated, nesting, dragon. He brought his wand up slowly and quietly intoned “Accio Golden Egg.” Nothing happened. The egg must have been charmed against summoning. Not willing to change tactics just yet, Harry took careful aim and sent a quick “Finite Incantatem.” at the golden egg.
The dragon bristled as it felt a second spell flash by her. Her protective instincts reared up and she spread her wings and roared at Harry before unleashing a huge ball of fire right at him. The speed of the fireball startled Harry so badly that he barely made it to safety by diving behind a large boulder. The flash of heat was intense, he felt like his face, and hands were sunburned. Doing his best to ignore the heat, Harry crept to another rock while staying low to the ground.
Peering around the edge of the boulder, Harry saw that the dragon was still watching the spot where he had been. Taking careful aim, he whispered “Accio Golden Egg!” To his complete surprise, the egg flew directly into his hands. Unfortunately, the Horntail’s keen eyesight caught the flash of movement as the egg zoomed out of the nest.
With a roar of rage, she sent another burst of flames at the thief and began stalking towards her prey. When the fireball had dissipated, the dragon whipped her, spiked, tail towards his hiding spot.
Harry had barely managed to avoid the second blast of fire and he now realized that there was an enraged dragon between him and the exit from the enclosure. He never saw the spiked tail sweeping towards him from the side until it was too late. His shoulder exploded in pain when as he was tossed clear across the arena. Getting shakily to his feet, Harry thought that he was really in trouble now.
The dragon had murder in its eyes and it was making its way towards him. “Accio Firebolt!” Harry yelled as he began to shuffle backwards, never taking his eyes off the dragon. Fortunately for Harry the chain around the dragon’s neck prevented it from coming any closer. However, its tail could still reach him and it was doing its best to smash him into a pulp.
He dove behind another rock to give him some cover from the dragon’s tail. The dragon roared in fury and lunged towards his hiding place. The chain pulled taught for a second before there was a loud metallic snap. Realizing that the dragon had broken free of its bonds, Harry prepared to dart out from his now compromised position.
Just as he was about to make his mad dash, his Firebolt came zooming into the enclosure. Without missing a step, Harry jumped onto the broom and rocketed into the air as fast as his broom would go.
With another loud roar, the dragon launched itself into the air in pursuit of her prey. Harry heard the roar of the dragon and he chanced a glance behind him. Gaining on him quickly was an enraged Horntail. He knew that he could not reach the Forbidden Forrest before he the dragon caught up to him and there were no clouds in the sky for him to shake his pursuer. That meant that he had to head for the castle.
Pulling his broom into a sharp turn, Harry realized that he was more mobile but not faster than the Horntail. The dragon screeched in frustration as it shot past him. Harry put on a burst of speed and dove towards the bridge that connected the castle to the surrounding hillside.
The dragon had recovered from overshooting its mark and was diving to catch up with him. Harry briefly wondered where the dragon keepers were. He was beginning to feel the effects from the wound in his shoulder. It was getting difficult to hang onto the broom with his left hand. Blood was running down his arm and making his hand, and the broom handle, slick. Knowing that he was running out of strength fast, Harry had to end this insane chase or he would end up dead.
The stone archways of the bridge were looming in front of him and he knew that it was now or never if he wanted to survive this encounter. Pushing his Firebolt for more speed, Harry dove at the bridge, willing the dragon to follow closer. He pulled up just feet from the bridge and darted towards the castle. In his weakened state, Harry could not get the tail end of his broom level in time and it clipped the walkway. The impact knocked him off his broom head over heels.
There was a mighty crash behind him and stone flew up in every direction. The dragon had been unable to pull out of the dive and had crashed into the bridge too. It was making a horrible wailing noise as Harry pulled himself to a sitting position. Cradling his injured arm, he cautiously stood up to face the dragon.
Even though the Horntail had been trying to kill him, Harry felt sympathy for the beast. She had only been trying to protect her eggs. The dragon had two obviously broken wings and that was very bad. Harry remembered learning about Norbert from Hagrid and some other facts from the book that Moody had recommended, “Dancing with Dragons.” He knew that the injuries were fatal. A dragon would not let anyone close enough to attempt to fix its wings and they were not the type of creature that could adjust to such a severe injury.
Sighing in resignation, Harry prepared himself for an unpleasant task. He could see the agony in the Dragon’s eyes. It had stopped wailing and now had laid its head down on the damaged walkway, accepting its fate. It barely moved as Harry walked into its field of vision.
Pulling out his sliver potions dagger, Harry set it on the ground in front of him. He gave his wand a sharp jab towards the knife and said “Engorgio.” When the knife had grown to just over six feet in length and four inches in width, he canceled the spell.
Pausing a moment to gather himself; Harry looked into the dragon’s eyes. Holding its gaze, Harry said, “I’m so sorry.”
With a quick swish and flick of his wand, he levitated the knife turned sword above the dragons head. Harry hesitated for a moment before he made a quick slashing movement straight down, banishing the blade as hard as he could directly at the dragons head. The sound of the blade piercing the dragon’s skull and driving deep into the stone was like a physical blow to Harry.
He sank to his knees in front of the dead beasts face. Sobbing, Harry cried out in a strangled voice, “I’m so sorry.” before slinking into unconsciousness from his injuries and exhaustion. He awoke a short time later lying in a puddle of blood, his own and the dragons. Struggling into a sitting position, he began to take stock of his situation.
Harry knew that he needed medical attention soon. His shoulder was still bleeding and he was sure that he had some other injures as well. Summoning his broom to him, he climbed on and took off towards the Champions Tent.
As he crested, the hill and the stands came into view he realized that someone must have spotted him because he could hear the noise from the crowd getting louder. Harry landed roughly next to the Champions Tent where he met Madam Poppy Pomfrey, Professor McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, and the rest of the judges. Looking around the gathering crowd he croaked out; “Where’s Hermione?” before he collapsed into a heap at their feet.
The teachers were shocked at Harry’s appearance. He was covered in blood, and not all of it his own. Professor McGonagall’s stern façade cracked as Harry collapsed. Madam Poppy Pomfrey immediately began checking over his injuries.
With a quick flick of her wrist, Minerva McGonagall conjured some privacy screens around them. Assuring herself that Madam Poppy Pomfrey had things under control, she swept out of the enclosure to locate Ms. Granger, only to see her running towards her with tears in her eyes and Remus Lupin not far behind.
Hermione had been a nervous wreck when Harry had flown off with the dragon in hot pursuit. She was furious when the dragon handlers were unprepared. They did not have any brooms standing by to pursue the dragon. Her worries grew the longer Harry was gone. When she saw him flying towards the Champions Tent she felt a wave of relief wash through her. That quickly turned to fear when Harry collapsed upon his return. Breaking into a run, she headed towards him as fast as she could, hoping that he would be all right.
Professor McGonagall moved to intercept the obviously upset witch. “Ms. Granger.” She called out while stepping directly into Hermione’s path. She was completely surprised when Hermione did not even slow down, she just ran around her and into the screened off area where Harry was being treated. Before she could turn around Remus Lupin was standing in front of her motioning into the enclosure. “Remus?” she asked in surprise.
“I’m going in Minerva.” Remus said as he stepped by, leaving her to follow him inside.
Hermione paled at the scene in front of her. Harry was unconscious and covered in blood. Madam Poppy Pomfrey was pouring potions into the wound on his shoulder while muttering a healing charm. Hermione was hugging herself and rocking back and forth while Professor Dumbledore looked on in silence.
Remus stepped up to Hermione and pulled her into a hug. She flinched at the initial contact in surprise before breaking down in silent sobs in his arms, never taking her eyes off Harry’s prone form.
Madam Poppy Pomfrey was working as fast as she could on Harry’s wound. He had lost a lot of blood and his shoulder was dislocated. She would worry about the joint once she had Mr. Potter out of immediate danger. The potion was making the wound hiss and pop as it cleaned out the debris. While the potion was doing its job, she began pouring a blood restorative potion down his throat. Satisfied that the potion was working she turned her attention back to the still bleeding gash. When the cleansing potion was finished working Poppy began closing the wound. Mr. Potter was going to have a large scar to remember this task afterwards. Wounds from a dragon were magical and very hard to heal without scarring.
Not as happy as she could have been with the results, there was a long ropey purple scar on his left shoulder; at least the wound had closed. With a sigh, she turned her attention to the dislocated joint. With a wave of her wand, there was a loud snap as Mr. Potter’s shoulder popped back into place.
Taking a moment to survey the unconscious boy in front of her, Poppy Pomfrey sighed in relief. Harry had lost a lot of blood but he would pull through just fine. Turning to face Professor Dumbledore, she was surprised to see Remus Lupin and Hermione Granger standing next to Minerva. “He is going to be fine. He will be a bit sore for a few days and should take it easy. I’m ready to move him to the hospital wing now.”
Hermione stepped forward and grasped Harry’s right hand while he was being levitated onto a stretcher. She was silent during the walk up to the castle, never letting go of his hand. When they had neared the stands, the reporters were shouting questions out to Madam Poppy Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore. Ignoring the reporters, Hermione noticed that the headmaster stayed behind to answer some of their questions while Remus followed them up to the castle looking relieved.
Once Harry was on a bed, Madam Poppy Pomfrey cleaned him up and dressed him in a fresh gown. Harry was still a bit pale but the color was slowly returning to his face. Hermione took a seat in the chair adjacent to Harry’s bed and laid her head down next to his right hand and began to cry as her emotions finally caught up to her.
She must have fallen asleep because she awoke to a hand stroking her hair. Look up she felt a wave of relief flow through her as she realized that it was Harry running his fingers through her hair. “Harry?” Hermione called with a hitch in her voice.
With a nod and a small smile, Harry motioned with his good arm for her to give him a hug. Feeling Hermione shaking while she hugged him, he gently rubbed her back until she was able to compose herself. “Hey. Its okay; Hermione. It’s over now.” Harry said softly.
She leaned back grasping his hand again and gave him a watery smile. “I was so scared when the dragon broke free and chased after you. What happened?”
Before Harry could answer her question, Albus Dumbledore strode up to them and said, “Indeed, Miss Granger. We are all wondering the same thing.”
Harry gazed up at Dumbledore, annoyed that he had interrupted his time with Hermione. However, he also understood that he would have to give the headmaster an explanation eventually. With an audible sigh, Harry began retelling the details of his ordeal.
Dumbledore remained quiet while Harry recounted his adventure. He noticed that Harry held onto Miss Granger’s hand and that she would occasionally rub his forearm during a difficult part of his story. “What happened to the dragon Harry?” Dumbledore asked. He knew that the dragon was dead but he wanted the details of how.
Harry looked to Hermione and she gave his hand a reassuring squeeze while pushing feelings of love and support through their bond. He gave her a brief smile and turned his attention back to the headmaster. “It’s dead sir.” Harry stated in a flat tone of voice.
Hermione, Remus, and Madam Poppy Pomfrey all gasped but Dumbledore nodded his head as if confirming a fact. “And how did the dragon die Harry?” his tone of voice held a hint of regret at the loss of life.
Harry was annoyed and sympathetic with Dumbledore at the same time. He understood that a magnificent beast had died, by his own hand even, but he was slightly angry because it felt like the headmaster was accusing him of killing the dragon for no good reason.
“I didn’t have a choice sir.” Harry said with a hint of regret tinged with annoyance in his voice.
“There is always a choice Harry. Why didn’t you just run away?” Dumbledore pressed.
Hermione felt the flash of outrage, fury, and disbelief come from Harry. His face only showed a look of regret but she knew that Harry really did not want to slay the dragon at all. Before she could say anything to the headmaster in his defense, Remus Lupin spoke up.
“Albus! Harry’s health is our main concern here, not why he did not run away. Did it ever occur to you that maybe Harry didn’t really have any other choice?” Remus said in a slightly enraged tone.
Harry and Hermione each gave Remus a small nod of thanks before turning their attention back to the exasperating headmaster.
“Remus, you know that there are always choices and this situation is no different. Mr. Potter could have spared the dragons life instead of taking the easy path.” Dumbledore spoke with a slightly holier than thou attitude.
“EASY!” Harry roared, sitting up straight in the hospital bed glaring in disbelief at the old man in front of him. “That was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do in my life! The dragon was dying in front of me. Both of its wings were badly broken from crashing into the bridge. She was keening in pain and in the end she just put her head down on the ground and whimpered.”
Harry paused to wipe away the tears that had com unbidden to his eyes. Continuing in a voice just above a whisper Harry said, “I did it to end her suffering. She was only protecting her eggs for your stupid tournament! Do you even care that I almost died or are you more worried about the fact that I had to kill the dragon?”
Exhausted, Harry sunk back into the bed and turned away from Dumbledore. Silent sobs wracking his body. Hermione shot the headmaster a furious glare before pulling Harry into a loving hug.
“Perhaps you should leave, Albus.” Minerva McGonagall said from behind everyone. She had entered the hospital wing in time to hear Remus rebuke her superior. She was a little bit appalled at Albus’ behavior towards Mr. Potter since this entire fiasco of a tournament began.
With a sigh, Albus Dumbledore nodded to the professor and swept out of the hospital wing, closing the doors behind him as he left.