Deciphering the Clue and The 'Hidden Task"
One Wizard Too Many
Spheres and Ellipses
One week after the First Task found Harry and Hermione at their usual spot in the library working on their latest problem. Namely, that egg.
“It really sounds like a bunch of screaming to me.” Harry winced at the memory of his first opening of the egg. “If that thing gives me tinnitus, I’m suing!”
“It must be some sort of decipherable language. Maybe we’re not doing something right.” Hermione never met an intellectual challenge she couldn’t beat. With Harry’s life at stake, she wasn’t about to back down now.
“What else can we be doing? I get that we shouldn’t just expect to pop that thing open and have it tell us exactly what to do, but having our eardrums blasted out is a bit much!”
Hermione was in full research mode. “Maybe if we slow it down, or change the frequency or something.”
“If that doesn’t work, maybe we can borrow Percy and a set of thumbscrews from Flitch.”
“No Harry. We need to figure out how to change the medium of transmission for this egg.”
“You sure? We could give Barty a little of the ol’ ultra violence.”
“I don’t think I’m cut out to be one of your Droogies, Harry.”
“You sure? You’d look adorable in a little bowler hat.”
“And you’d look disturbing in some oversized codpiece.”
“How do you know it would be ‘oversized’?” Harry arched an eyebrow.
Hermione muttered something that sounded a little like “Boys!” and then continued. “The egg, Harry. Let’s worry about the egg.”
“You might be right. That eye shadow thing always freaked me out a little.”
“You and me both. Now, muggle means to slow the screeching wouldn’t work here. My tape recorder fried two days into First Year from all the ambient magic.”
“Well, there must be some sort of magical means of slowing the noise. Otherwise how would any of the other champions figure it out?”
“I haven’t heard of a charm or anything that would do that. Maybe a pensieve with a slowed playback.”
“Seems complicated. I know Dumbledore has one, but where else does one find a pensieve?”
“True, they are very rare.” Hermione thought for a moment. “Let’s forget what we don’t know for a moment and concentrate on what we do.”
Harry sat up. “Okay, we know it’s a goblin made egg.”
“Yes, but the language isn’t a form of Gobbledygook that we know of.”
“True. In fact, since the translation spell you tried on it apparently did nothing, it’s most likely English of a sort coming from within.”
“Yes, that’s true. It’s probably not sped up English, either. Increasing the speed of speech tends to raise the pitch, but it is often somewhat distinguishable as English.”
“Okay, where does that leave us?”
“Medium, Harry. We need to change the medium of transmission.”
“Well, that might go along with the whole ‘elemental’ theme of the tourney. Air and Fire was the Dragon. I guess that leaves water and earth.”
Hermione snapped her eyes up to meet Harry’s. “That’s it. Both water and dirt tend to distort sound waves. Maybe that’ll render this thing understandable.”
Harry pondered this for a moment. “I’d have to say that ever since I got this darn thing, I’ve wanted to either bury it or drown it!”
“Let’s start with Earth first, that might explain the goblin connection.”
“Yes! To the greenhouses Robin!”
As they got up and left the library, Hermione said. “Why do I have to be Robin? Those tiny shorts just look creepy!”
Harry threw an arm around her waist. “I’m sure you could pull them off though.”
“No Harry. Maybe if you’d said ‘Catwoman’, I could get on board with this thing.”
“Hmm.” Visions of Hermione in a tight cat suit swam through his consciousness.
Hermione knew all the signs of a Harry Potter vapor lock brain. She grinned to herself as she pulled him through the corridors towards the greenhouses.
“Boys are so easy to mess with!”
‘Earth’ proved a red herring, as the partially buried egg continued to screech uncomfortably. The experiment ended when Professor Sprout came around to discover the source of the unholy din, only to find several shattered glass panels from the green house roof and a very homesick batch of juvenile mandrake root. She was somewhat less than polite when she ejected the dirty pair.
“Jeez! I thought Hufflepuffs were supposed to be the nice ones!” Harry agreed with Sprout that the thing was in fact a ‘wailing abomination’, but was slightly offended at her accusations that they we’re behaving in an ‘irresponsible and reckless manner.’ They were working here!
“Well, we did demolish half of the greenhouse. And did you hear how sad those little mandrakes were?”
“Didn’t hear anything after the first five minutes. Really helped dealing with Sprout’s shouting.”
“We can always ask Neville for the appropriate ‘I’m sorry’ gift later. Now, back on task.”
“Earth was a bust, that only leaves water. Assuming that the morons running this mess know what they’re about.”
“Yes, we have to dunk it. Where, though?”
She looked over the broad expanse of lawn towards the Black Lake.
“Oh no, that bloody lake looks cold!” Harry just knew he’d be the one to go in with it. That, and the fact it was already half way through December in the Scottish Highlands made the lake an unattractive option.
“Where else? I know the ladies in Gryffindor tower doesn’t come equipped with a bath, not that you’d ever be allowed in.”
“Yeah yeah, ‘stopped at the gates of heaven’, as it were.”
“Sinners need not apply. And yes, I’m talking about you.” She smirked.
“You wound me, you really do. Okay, no bath tubs that we know of. Swimming pools?”
“I’ve never seen one here. ‘Hogwarts, a History’ is also mum on the subject.”
“Maybe we could conjure a tank, or a large bucket.”
“It would have to be pretty big; one of us has to stick our head in with it.”
“That would be a good way to get all this dirt out of our hair!” The pair had tried burying the egg and listening to the top of the mound. It left them with nothing but filthy locks and splitting headaches.
Hermione paused for a moment. This was classic Hermione body language for ‘I might have something’. Harry watched her intently.
“I’ve heard rumors of a really big tub in the castle, but only rumors.”
“Anything ornate and luxurious must either belong to the Slytherins or Dumbledore.”
“No, this one would be open to certain classes of students from all houses.”
“Good. I don’t fancy using Dumbledore’s little Jacuzzi!”
“Yes, I’ve heard the price of admission to that little attraction is a bit steep.” Even Hermione had heard the rumors about several well built seventh year boys being invited into the Headmaster’s quarters for ‘consultations and career counseling’.
“Ugh, need some brain bleach here! But seriously, what do you mean ‘certain’ students?”
“I mean Prefects, Harry. School prefects have their own bathroom. The rumors talk of a very large tub available for their use. We need that tub.”
Harry liked where this was going. Anything that involved breaking and entering, with the possibility of some co-ed nudity thrown in was just fine in his book.
“Yes, we do. But how? It probably has a password protected door, like the common rooms.”
“We just need that password then, don’t we?”
“Okay. I could grab one of the prefects and beat it out of him! That Flint from Slytherin looks like a squealer. A few bludgeoning hexes and then I could conjure a cricket bat and work over his knees.”
Hermione sighed. Trying to curb his violent tendencies was proving to be a full time job!
“Harry! No! No beating on Flint. Bad Harry! That’s an extremely bad idea.”
“Well, what would you suggest, Miss ‘Give-peace-a-chance’?”
“Think Harry; what prefects out there might possibly owe you a favor?”
“I don’t know. Flint maybe, for not beating him into a pulp with a bat.”
“No. Think about one who you’ve helped recently, one who is also in this tournament?”
“Okay, I get it. I guess I can ask Cedric. If he tries to pull that whole ‘I don’t cheat!’ thing, I might have to hit him with a cricket bat, though.”
“Yes, ask Cedric. And please refrain from hitting anyone with a cricket bat!”
The next day, Professor McGonagall cornered Harry after Transfiguration.
“Mister Potter, remain behind for a moment please.”
Harry shared a look with Hermione that basically said, ‘wait up for me, and if you hear screaming, come in with wand blazing.’ They found they could share a great deal with just brief looks.
Hermione left and Harry approached the Scotswoman.
“What’s this I hear about you and Miss Granger wrecking Greenhouse number three?”
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, sorry about that. It’s my fault. We were just trying to figure out that egg and caused a little collateral damage. Won’t happen again.”
McGonagall sighed. “See that you don’t, Mister Potter. Why didn’t you go to your faculty advisor for help?”
“No offence to Professor Moody, ma’am, but the guy is difficult to be around for any period of time. That eye makes me dizzy, and he is just really weird!”
McGonagall was not amused. “Mister Potter! Alastor Moody is a highly decorated auror! He has been places and seen things that would curl anyone’s toes!”
“Be that as it may, I believe Miss Granger and I are on the verge of a breakthrough concerning the egg.” Harry realized he could probably ask McGonagall for help getting a tank of water, but he didn’t really trust his head of house much these days. He also really wanted to see Hermione either nude or in a swimsuit. Either would be great, really.
“Hmm. Hopefully this ‘breakthrough’ won’t involve any further damage to school property. And just so you know, the Ministry had to re-do their budget to cover the expense of one deceased Hungarian Horntail.”
“Glad to see the bean-counters on top of it, ma’am.”
“Mister Potter. This is no laughing matter! Several departments had to take cuts to make up for the shortfall.”
Harry sighed. “Let me guess, probably the DMLE and anything having to do with Muggles, right?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Ma’am, if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year; it’s that you can count on Pureblood Wizards to act in defiance of logic and common sense every time.”
McGonagall gave him a gimlet eye. “What do you mean?”
“Well, the accountants inform the managers of the shortfall, and what to the bosses say? ‘Cuts? We can’t cut the free food and other perks for the Wizengamot members! Nor can we reduce the Minister’s honor guard! What about the expenses of the Triwizard Tournament? Nope, can’t look bad to the dirty foreigners! Why don’t we cut the budget of the aurors who keep us all safe? And what about the pittance we spend in dealing with the sixty million non-wizards who live in on Great Britain! Yeah, cut that. Who cares about a population that outnumbers us a hundred to one?’ Now, does any of that sound reasonable to you?”
Professor McGonagall looked a bit chagrined. “You may have a point, Mister Potter. But these are the officials who run our world, and they deserve respect.”
“Ma’am, they can have my respect when they prove themselves to be more mature than a lot of spoiled children. So far, I’m not impressed by their progress.”
McGonagall saw she wasn’t gong to win that argument anytime soon.
“Well, on to other topics. I am to inform you of the Yule Ball to be held this year.”
“Thanks, I guess. But why me?”
“Because, Mister Potter, it is traditional for Champions to open the Ball with a dance; typically a waltz.”
“Ah. Does this include ‘Unwilling Competitors’, as well?”
“Yes, Mister Potter, it does.”
“I see. And attendance is mandatory, I suppose?”
“Well, I suppose I must be about finding my date for this occasion. Good day, Professor.”
The dour Scotswoman nodded as he turned and left the classroom.
“Well, there was no screaming or the sound of spellfire. Am I to assume everything went well?”
Hermione was waiting in the corridor, full of questions as always.
“Yes Hermione, Professor McGonagall apparently didn’t feel the need to eviscerate me today.”
“I wasn’t worried about McGonagall being the aggressor, Harry.”
Harry turned to face his best friend, a hand placed dramatically on his chest.
“Miss Granger! I’ll have you know I’m not a barbarian! You must think me an ogre or some such!”
“You, a barbarian? Sounds like an insult to Vandals and Visigoths everywhere!”
“Ordinarily I would be terribly offended by that remark. Luckily for you, you’re too darn cute to make it stick.” The kiss on the cheek following the statement managed to temporarily disarm Hermione.
After a brief blush, she asked. “So what did the Professor want?”
“Well, after a short harangue about how we wrecked the greenhouse, with a brief discourse on how dragons and anti-tank weapons don’t mix; she brought up another hidden task associated with the Triwizard.”
“Oh? What would that be?”
Harry looked aggrieved. “I’m not sure I should tell you. It’s fraught with danger and may serve to give you nightmares!”
Hermione steeled herself. “Harry, you can tell me. I have your back all the way on this.”
“That’s good, because it involves you as well.”
“Yes. You. It’s perilous, very public, and we have to do it together.”
“Gryffindors go forward Harry. What is it?”
Harry got down on one knee and took her hand.
“Hermione Granger; will you do me the unparalleled honor of attending the Yule Ball with me?” He kissed her hand and gave her his best beseeching look.
Hermione just looked at him for a moment before speaking.
“Two things. First, you’re a prat.” She smacked his arm. “If you scare me like that again, you’ll learn what real danger is.”
She pulled him to his feet. “Second, yes. I’d love to go to the ball with you.”
She then gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Harry hugged her back and resisted giving her a heart-stopping snog. They were getting there, but just weren’t there yet.
“If I could ask you for a favor, though?”
“Hmm?” She was muffled a bit from his robes.
“You might have to teach me how to dance, if you could?”
She looked up at him and smiled.
“So that’s the danger to which you we’re referring? Harry Potter’s big clunking feet?”
He grinned back. “Told you it was fraught with peril.”
She sighed. “The risks I run for you.”
He laughed. “My hero!”