Politics, another dance, and the Second Task -- after which, Draco broods.
She Who Must Be Named and her minions own the Potterverse, I just play here.
Harry was not surprised that the Pureblood families who controlled the Wizengamot and much of the Ministry finally fought back after the shock of Voldemort’s death and the situation surrounding it finally sunk in. The lies and misrepresentations Riddle had surrounded his ancestry with, which so many of the Purebloods had been happy to believe (or at least pretend to believe) when they wanted to were now ripped away in a blaze of publicity. The fact the Voldemort, Dumbledore, and Snape were all Halfbloods was then touted as ‘proving’ that only Purebloods could be trusted with power, that these Halfbloods had ‘misled’ the various factions of Purebloods over the years.
Needless to say, the vast majority of the magical population of Britain were not happy to have the prejudices of the ruling elite move away from the Muggle-born and ‘half breeds’ and on to them. By now, there were at least two propaganda newsletters put out by opposition factions from those of mixed Magical/Muggle heritage (or at least there were two which also circulated around Hogwarts). The larger and more frequent one was sponsored by a large number of the families who made their livings dealing as middlemen between the Muggle and magical world, bringing in the food and raw materials needed to allow the magical word to function, as well as the factotums who managed the Muggle investments of the elite Pureblood families, which allowed them to horde their gold and lord it over the rest of magical Britain. A one week strike of the former in late January nearly (and literally) almost starved most of the political elite, who had no idea of how to get food, other than fetching it (or having their house elves fetch it) from the magical suppliers.
This first newsletter demanded that the merchants’ forms of wealth as well as the wealth of other magical professionals be taken into account when political power was divided up, not just old blood status and old money. The second newsletter demanded even more democratic reforms, and included rights for beings of mixed-origins (the partial giants and goblins, like Hagrid and Flitwick, for example, not to mention a number of other types; there were even some mentions of werewolves’ rights) in their demands as well. The second newsletter also proclaimed that the ease with which the Purebloods had swallowed Riddle’s half-baked claims of ‘pure’ ancestry, and the fact that so many Purebloods had allowed themselves to be branded as his slaves, if any thing proved that Purebloods were too stupid and gullible to be trusted with power.
The government, under Madam Bones, was somewhat sympathetic towards the first alternative group, although not totally hostile to a more limited Pureblood agenda. She was also determined not to use violence first, nor to use any trumped-up charges against her political opponents. However, none believed that she would allow any violence go unanswered, and so all sides were being very careful not to step over that line.
Harry, whose money was carefully funneled into the second newsletter through various channels so that no one knew where the money (and about a tenth of the articles) came from, certainly appreciated the lack of violence so far, not to mention the fact that basic rights were not being violated. He did, however, draw up a list of Pureblood leaders to be assassinated in case it became necessary. He was really hoping it would not be.
The economic facts of life were slowly being absorbed by the elite – while they concentrated wealth, it was those who traded between the magical and Muggle worlds who generated much of that wealth. Nearly every single non-magical material and item came almost exclusively from the Muggle world, right down to the cauldrons, all the food, all the ingredients but a few and all the equipment for making both butterbeer and fire whiskey, all the non-magical potions ingredients (and of course all the vials, bottles, and lab equipment) and every bit of equipment save the magic on the snitch and the brooms for Quidditch, just for a few everyday examples. In addition, the ‘import’ taxes on items coming in from the Muggle world supplied the vast majority of the magical ministries revenue around the world. Unless the Pureblood elite wanted to learn how to plow fields, plant, and harvest exclusively through magic, they were as dependent on the modern industrial Muggle economy as any Muggle town.
This was an unwelcome set of revelations, but as winter turned to spring, even the most stubborn Purist knew they were true.
They would still be trying to save their political and economic power and influence, however.
Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, McGonagall was named the temporary Head of the School, and a number of lecturers were brought in to teach Potions and Transfiguration (although McGonagall still taught the First and Seventh years). It took a few weeks, but the students, although jarred by the changes to say the least, adjusted. In short, the academic life ground on. The students, staff, and visitors were at least as interested in both Valentine’s Day and the Second Task as the changing power structure of magical Britain. Valentine’s Day itself was on a Sunday, while the Second Task had been pushed back a few days, from mid-week until the Saturday February 20. A delegation of Sixth and Seventh year girls had asked the Heads of the three schools for an informal dance on the night before Valentine’s Day, which was granted.
Harry was glad to see that, while pink was the predominate color of the decorations, there was less of it, and in more shades, than there had been back when Lockhart had been in charge two years before. The music was supplied by the Wizarding Wireless, along with a bank of magical speakers. While there was slightly less dancing than at the Yule Ball, most of the students seemed to enjoy it more. Harry, not to mention Neville and Ron, were pleased that Draco Malfoy seemed more and more nervous as the Second Task approached, and so spent most of the dance sulking in a corner, with no one staying with him the entire time, and only Goyle and Bulstrode spending some time with him. No one was willing to partner the Slytherin champion.
In the Slytherin dorms, nothing succeeded like success and power. Draco had had little success that year, and was especially seen as letting down the pro-Purebloods in the First Task. With his father, mentor, and would-be Dark Lord all dead, Draco had few cards of his own to play, unless he could have some real success in the Second Task. True, in a few years he would succeed to the Malfoy estate, still the largest magical family fortune in Britain, but there was no way to know if Draco would use it, lose it, or just plain misuse it. There was also, of course, the chance that Draco might not see the end of the Tournament, if the last two Tasks were as dangerous as the First. In short, the pressure was on Draco to at least not embarrass himself, and Slytherin and the Purebloods, in the Second Task, and he was not reacting well to that pressure.
The four champions of course had a rough idea of what the Second Task would be. However, the evening before it was held, an International official called them together to outline more precisely what was expected. There was a map of the Lake displayed. “You will gather at the school landing on the Black Lake by nine o’clock,” she said. “At precisely nine, you will start. You will have to row or paddle, without using magic, a supplied boat to this location, the second deepest part of the lake and then dive to the bottom. You may get down there however you will, so long as you do not use anything other than your wand to aid your breathing or propulsion.” Draco was disgusted by the idea of actually having to row a boat.
“There you will collect a token, which will also measure the time it took to reach that point and that will complete the leg. You may only take the one with your name on it. Taking another’s, or in any way interfering with one or the other champions, will disqualify you. First to take theirs will get ten points. Second will get a maximum of eight, third six, fourth four. Depending on the times, those score may be lower. You will then swim to this point. There, you will press the token on to one of the brooms which will be there.”
“What kind brooms?” Viktor grunted out.
“Ah. Hogwarts will be supplying four Nimbus 2001s; from one of the House Quidditch teams I understand.” Harry smirked at that, while again Draco looked disgusted.
“You will then take your broom on an obstacle course. The time between collecting your token and touching it to the broom will be scored the same way, as will your time on the course. However, points will be deducted from your scores for missing any of the stations on the course, while fractional points will be deducted for hitting any of them. The course will take you to the Quidditch stadium, where you will make five laps in a clear tunnel, with a five meter diameter. If any of you are still close to each other at that point, that might provide for an interesting finish. Finally, your overall time on the third leg will in a sense count double, one score for total time, one for how well you got through the entire course.” The four nodded their understanding.
“At that point, you should have accumulated two single sets of scores and the double overall score for the last leg. The total will be added to your scores from the first task to establish your overall standing. That will be important in the Third Task, as you will have a staggered start based on your points. Any questions? Then good luck.”
“What are you wearing, Mister Potter?”
“It’s called a ‘wet suit.’ It will keep me warm, and does not aid my breathing or propulsion,” Harry answered.
The official sighed. “I take you like being difficult?”
“No,” Harry retorted, “I just try not to limit my thinking.”
After a brief conclave, Harry’s wet suit was allowed. Viktor was glaring at him, obviously wishing he had thought of the same thing, while Draco and Fleur were slightly confused by Harry’s outfit. All three were wearing nineteenth century bathing costumes, right down to the stockings and clogs.
The group was surprised to see they did not actually have boats to row, but canoes to paddle. It turned out Harry was the only one who had ever handled a canoe, and he made it to the float marking the dive spot first. He merely put on the bubble head charm and dove straight in, using a charm to make him heavier. The three others had to apply warming charms before leaving their canoes once they got there. Viktor was only a few seconds behind Harry, while Fleur was a few minutes behind them. Draco was a short ways behind Fleur, in part because he had wasted so much breath complaining the whole way.
Harry, Draco, and Fleur had each gone for the basic bubble head charm; Viktor had to get into the water to transform the upper part of his body into that of a shark. Fleur, coming third, made of the mistake of trying to apply the bubble head charm while already in the water. Draco, seeing that, tried to place his before getting in. However, he accidently tipped his canoe over at that point, which slowed him down even further..
Harry, Viktor, and Fleur had realized that the float was not directly over where the tokens were. Whereas Harry was swimming across the surface of the lake to that spot before weighing himself down, the next two went to the bottom at first and then had to make their way through the weeds. Draco, well behind Viktor and slightly behind Fleur, remembered from Lupin’s lessons that there were grindylows in the weeds just below them, and decided to take a middle course, swimming in the middle of the murky depths.
Harry had the least resistance by swimming at the surface, but once he reached his approximate destination, he had to sink/swim more-or-less straight down. Viktor’s form was the fastest. The two advantages roughly cancelled each other out, and they reached the tokens at nearly the same time, Harry just missed edging Viktor out, mostly because he had had a quicker start plus the bubble head had taken far less time than Viktor’s transformation. Still, Viktor won the race to the tokens by a fraction of a second. Viktor would also manage to reach the shoreline quicker than Harry. Again, however, Harry was able to just come out of the water and sprint towards his broom, touching it first, while Viktor had to transform. Harry therefore was taking off just as Viktor was reaching the next broom.
Meanwhile, Fleur had swum too close to the weeds, and had been forced to fight of some grindylows. Draco had gone off-course, but had glimpsed Viktor and Harry leaving the token site. Draco managed to reach the tokens and leave just after Fleur had left. That made the score of the first leg Viktor 10, Harry 8, Fleur 5, and Draco 3. Draco should have had a slightly stronger stroke than Fleur, but while he was slightly stronger, Fleur was in better condition. Fleur, however, again made the error of swimming too deeply, giving her a much longer distance to swim. Draco just got to the brooms a few seconds ahead of Fleur. Still, both had made decent times, so after the second leg Viktor and Harry were tied at 18, with Fleur and Draco tied at 9.
None of the four racers would miss any of the stations in the broom race – some were hoops to fly through or bars to fly under, others were obstacles to fly around, usually a combination. As good a flyer as Harry was, the professional Viktor had more experience. However, he, like Draco and Fleur, had forgotten to renew the warming charm on his bathing costume. The flight would eventually dry them out, but it was very chilly to do so, and the water weight affected their balance. At the same time, the combination made them both a bit clumsier. Harry flew the course without a single touch, while Fleur only brushed against two of the obstacles. Viktor, more used to muscling over other fliers than pure finesse, slightly brushed against several, while Draco did the same and actually knocked his foot against one hoop.
The finish was everything anyone could ask for, as Harry and Viktor corkscrewed around each other in the tunnel, trying to come out ahead. In the end, Viktor edged Harry out in a photo finish by just over an inch. Had the other two started with them, Draco would have been just over a length behind Harry, Fleur half a length behind Draco.
In the end, half their flying scores came from their timed finish, with Viktor gaining 10 points, Harry 8, Draco 6, and Fleur 4. The other half came after their deductions were made from 10 possible points for skill: Harry 10, Viktor 8.5, Fleur 8 5, and Draco 7.5. Harry therefore ended the Second Task with 36 points, with a total of 75; followed by Viktor with 36.5 and 61.5 overall; Fleur with 21.5 points in the Second Task and 39.5 total; and finally Draco, with 22.5 and 28.5 total.
Harry was very satisfied, even if Viktor had technically won both the event and their race. Harry had flown slightly better, although not quite as fast. Draco was also somewhat satisfied with his showing. He had placed third and had in no way embarrassed himself, other than floundering a bit in the canoe and in the water trying to get the bubble head charm in place, and getting slightly lost.
Draco tried hard to ignore those bits, and concentrate on the fact that he had managed a third.
Neither Viktor nor Fleur were in any way satisfied; Viktor because Harry had slightly shown him up, Fleur because in parts of the event she had just been out-muscled and had come in fourth mostly due to poor strategy . She knew she was an excellent flyer, and felt that if the entire event had only been a more complex obstacle course, she would have had a chance to have placed higher. Still, she had not in any way done badly, just not well enough.
To say there were celebrations in the Gryffindor common room would barely scratch the surface.
In Slytherin, Draco brooded.
The entire year had been awful, so far as Draco was concerned. From the death of his father onwards, it seemed as if there had been one embarrassment or disaster after another. When his name had come out of the Goblet of Fire, dreams of power and fame had stayed in his head, dreams of becoming the Right Hand of the Dark Lord (at least until he could figure out a way to replace the Dark Lord with himself) and vanquishing those inferior beings who were daring to challenge the Purebloods’ right to rule – until he had seen a full-grown dragon up close and angry.
Granted, his acceptable finish in the Second Task had brought a few of those dreams back, but how to push those dreams forward? What might take the anti-Purebloods down a notch, besides a Malfoy as champion?
The answer was simple.
The death of Potter, of course.
Even Draco could not persuade himself he could take out Harry Potter in a face-to-face fight to the death. For the entire year, Scarhead just had an aura of danger about him which Draco had been unable to ignore since that confrontation the evening of September 1.
So, for the moment, Draco just dreamt of hexing Potter in the back during the Third Task if the opportunity arose.
For the moment.