Chapter 55: The Triwizard Tournament begins
The judges left us, four teenagers, in the face of imminent death and torment. The others aren't talking, Cedric is the first to leave. I decide to not freak the others out, so I just peacefully sit until they leave. As soon as the final cannon blast leaves me as the only remaining occupant of the tent. I jump to my feet and pop the Elder Wand out to start layering on fire repellent charms across my body, for what little help they might provide.
Trouble with dragonfire is the heavy magic that laces every breath. Goblins covet dragon-tempered metals, as the fire does imbue metals with certain properties when the dragon is playing ball. If the dragon isn't friendly, then you're just stuck with very very destructive burns that don't like to heal.
I suspect this horntail is not very friendly.
The cannon finally sounds, signalling the start of my challenge. I take a final steadying breath as I leave the tent. The sound of the gathered crowd barely reaching me over the sound of my blood rushing in my ears. For a moment, the whole world seems silent, the craggy stadium spread out before me, golden egg sitting on it's dais.
The rattling of chains and heavy thuds on the ground reach my ears before the sight.
The Hungarian Horntail.
It's climbs up the small incline and perches itself above the faux-next. Easy to sneak another egg in there with a few charms when you've gotten a nesting mother at the ready. Quite possibly one of the most dangerous animals on Earth in it's most dangerous state, and I'm the would-be thief. It crouches low over the nest and snarls at me.
Her eyes meet mine, dangerous and calculating. My holly wand slips out of the holster into my left hand, Elder joining in the right. The eyes narrow, a short puff of smoke releasing from her nostrils. She curls possessively around the nest.
My mouth tugs into a smile.
She immediately roars with ear splitting volume. I duck into a low valley of rocks, hurling a hex over the top, withdrawing my hand just in time as the fire bursts over the head, the heat already making me regret ever being born. I spin my wand, conjuring a pair of lions to leap up onto the middle platform, aiming for Her. The Elder twists in my hand as I regain vision on Her, a gout of water blasts forward like a geyser. The reaction is more fire, naturally. The scalding hot cloud of steam gets larger until I make it to more cover and stop the endless stream. I negligently wave my wand to transfigure a pair of nearby rocks into a flock of giant birds, which soar into the sky. They're only really good for one kamikaze hit, but it's handy to have.
A swish of Elder and a large tree begins to form out of the rock as I reinforce it with my holly. The task is interrupted as powerful gusts from Her wings disperse the steam just as quickly as it formed. My wands vanish, leaving my hands free to make a sharp downward slash. She gets a quick glance at me before the giant bird cracks into her skull. Distracted for a moment, her newest gout of fire is poorly aimed, allowing for me to run away back toward the entrance. My wands appear again, forming circles in the air as I steady my footing, sweating profusely. Thick chains begin to form from the smoke-obscured areas and lash around the legs and neck of the dragon. She snarls viciously as fire spouts from her slowing clamping jaws. I take a quick glance at the golden egg, now slightly less protected.
Then things start to go badly.
The anchoring chain, heavily warded to be utterly unbreakable, breaks.
Then my chains vanish.
I bring both wands up, then they vanish as I dive to the side to dodge a freshly enraged breath of dragonfire. I hit the ground beneath me with my palms, causing a pulse of magic to throw me spiralling into the air just a second before the very horned tail smashes the rocky patch I'd been laying on. I make two whipping motions to cause the remaining rock-birds to make their final dash into the beast.
Fun Fact: The Hungarian Horntail is considered to be one of the most dangerous breeds of modern wyverns. Hagrid would claim otherwise, but he rarely has a matching opinion with magizoologists. Despite this, he definitely agrees with their level five classification. Which includes werewolves and basilisks. How dangerous can they really be?
'NEVER ENGAGE IN AIR' is very clearly marked on all official documentation.
I drop down to the floor, landing neatly on a cushion of magic, as the horntail takes flight. It's bite misses me by mere inches, the face and jaw now heavily cut by the bird's onslaught. It twists in the air, swiping it's tail at me. My luck runs dry as the spiked mass catches me in the chest.
My next conscious thought is along the same line as I hear roars of draconic pain nearby. Did I just black out? My everything hurts as I roll over, sitting up quickly. I see that the tree I started to grow earlier now bears a striking resemblance to the Whomping Willow. Hah. 'striking'.
A glimmering field of force slowly crackles around me as I sit up, fizzling away altogether as I use a nearby boulder to steady myself up to my feet. The reflexive shield seems to have taken the brunt of the impact, but my body being thrown and landing still hurt just as much. I spare a quick glance down to my left arm, confirming it's bloodied appearance and general lack of functioning bones.
The Elder Wand never left my hand? I don't remember calling it out again. With a quick wave, my left arm is very sloppily healed to try and mitigate any more damage caused by it's continued use. It's little more than fusing the bones into an 'L' shape. These things really should not be rushed.
Bodily health ignored, I turn my attention back to the elephant, or dragon, in the room.
I point the Elder Wand, now slick with my blood, and send spells into my tree, trying to repair some of the damage to it's craggy rock form. The full effect of dragonfire is immediately obvious as the drain from the spells is enormous. I switch tactics back to firing spells at the dragon's near-immune hide. It soon has a couple of new gashes in the skin, but they are surface damage at best. It won't slow her down enough for me to have a good chance at the egg. Something has enraged this dragon long before I started to actively battle it.
As the tree starts wind it's branches around the dragon's gargantuan form, it suddenly shatters in a great blast of super-hot fire. My wand twitches to block the larger parts from hitting me, leaving only a smattering of pebbles to beat against me. The dragon, now free of restraint and royally pissed off, begins in inhale a great breath just as I make it to the nest not far from her feet. I manage to scoop the egg up and protectively hug it against my chest with my busted arm. It's actually been forged with real gold over this summer.
I make it about three steps before the fire comes. Epic "wand versus dragon" push fight? Not today. I decide to utilise the lack of anti-apparation ward and vanish on the spot.
Now, there are many many reasons to not apparate while injured. There are many reasons to not apparate while within a larger anti-apparation jinx from within a deadzone to another part of that zone, or to apparate under duress, or in the presence of a dragon, or whilst holding an unknown magical artifact of gold and egg form. All of this goes through my mind as I squeeze into that little tube that all capable apparation users know, the last realisation after my 'triumph' of escaping is that apparation cannot safely transport the user through dragonfire. Who knew?
I land hard on my knees, on fire, flourishing with my free hand to extinguish myself, when final discovery comes to me. I am on fire. Most of my clothes are on fire, which unfortunately includes my pocket currently containing a highly unstable, and highly flammable material. It's all I can do to throw the bag away before diving to the floor to deal with the flames.
A great boom erupts from behind me. All the sounds around me muffle as thick black smoke fills the space, the vanishing dragon climbing over to me is last vision as I clench my eyes closed and crawl for cover. The hot smoke fills my lungs as the thorned tail crashes down beside me. The air stings my eyes as I try and see where I am, only seeing the retreating tail sliding away as I run blindly.
The ground changes. Still rock, but this hasn't been places here by wizards. Natural stone untouched for centuries. The smoke clears before me as I wave the Elder Wand, but the sky remains completely obscured. I notice a crack in the wood. Small, but as if one of the nodules has been split from pressure. The blood that had previously been coating the length is now being drawn into the fissure.
I look around, noting now the rock curves as the sides of what appears to be a tunnel I've found myself in, dark and rough. Where am I? I walk carefully into the smoke.
A great roar from above and the area is lit up with intense heat. The sounds of the crowd return as the sky spills through for but a moment. The dragon's great wings push away the black smoke as it spills more fire upon me. I bring the wand up sharply and a wall erupts from the ground to stop the flames. The wand vibrates from the force of the spell as I back into the smoke.
Once again, the sounds are cut off. Only my heavy breathing and feet slapping on the stone reverberate off the walls. The tunnel walls slowly open wider and wider until they are consumed by the smoke as I talk into a larger space. A large smoke dome, leaving only a raised area in the middle, a cloud of dark purple smoke in the centre. I feel drawn to continue, whispers of voices incomprehensible as I approach the foggy area.
The spiked tail swings through the smoke, which is now much less dense in the arena, and I force my arm up to create a shield of silver energy. The great slam shakes through my body before the tail withdraws. The dragon lets out a roar in rage and begins to claw at the shield, each slam pushing me down to my knees. The creaking of the tree snatches my attention, but the tree was destroyed? My eye flick to the Elder Wand. Each impact causes the wand to emit a cracking sound, the broken nodule forces new wood to appear from the bloodied fissure in it's body. The extension protrudes out like breaking ice with the dragon's tail beating against the shield.
A second length of the wand is starting to grow from just beyond where I grip the handle.
The smoke is pulled inwards as the dragon takes flight again. Once more I find myself in the other place. A figure stand before me. Cloaked from head to toe in black fabric.
"Could it be?" A voice hisses. I take a step back.
The beating of great wings, the feeling of sunlight on my skin, the crowd of Hogwarts once more. My vision goes dark again as I move backwards.
"The Conductor." The voice of the figure echoes all around me. "And the creature that now consorts with them." Easily a meter taller than me, the figure looms over me.
"Who are you?" I point the wand at him. "Why am I here?"
"Why do you walk this domain? Surely The Conductor… Oh, you know not the methods?… My my." I get the impression the creature is shaking it's head.
A whoosh of ashes and I'm deposited onto my back in the arena once more, but only for a brief moment for fire to be thrown at me before I appear back in the rocky cavern.
"Consort." A skeletal hand latches onto my wrist. The Elder Wand vanishes from my grip just in time. The creature growls. It's other long arm reaches out towards me, stopping short as the ethereal visage of the Invisibility Cloak appears around me. The creature screeches and rushes backwards. "The Armour." The angry hiss erupts loudly from every direction. I fire an explosive hex at the figure, which it catches on it's arm, blowing it away from me and screeching loudly again.
I see dragon tamers running into the area, methodically firing stunning hexes and the sleeping charms used to subdue dragons.
The flash of black returns with barely a breath and before me stands the figure. Skin pulled taught on his cheeks, eyes sunken deeply into the skull as if no moisture exists within this place.
"Centuries I have waited." He speaks. "My folly left me trapped, and here The Conductor is. Perhaps unwittingly, but The Consort appears to have succeeded where I failed." How is he here? How am I here? "Reunited at last, The Three have opened the passage once more. And now..." He kneels down, coming face to face with me. "...Now it is time. Release me, Consort!"
The mighty form of Ekrizdis, Creator of Azkaban, snarls at me with his inhuman visage.
I look down at the new form of the Elder Wand, a long gnarled branch nearing two feet long. 'The Conductor' he called it? Without thinking, I blast him and run.
"You cannot escape me, Peverell! You do not have The Anchor!"
"He's back!" Instruments begin to play, the cheers of the crowd. All remnants of the smoke dissipated. "Harry Potter has retrieved his golden egg amongst the smoke!" Ludo Bagman's cheerful voice booms over the crowd, apparently not waking the now sleeping dragon.
The Elder Rod in one hand, egg in the other, I leave the arena. The Invisibility Cloak has formed around my shoulders during the battle, but the death stick is no longer in it's compact wand form. The two prongs now spread out from just past the handle and nearly meet as they move back toward each other, nearly forming a long triangular shape now.
I'm mutely aware of Hermione slamming into me for a hug as I evade the healer's tent in favour of walking towards the castle, followed by a crowd of well-wishers.
"Harry? What's wrong?" Hermione manages to stop me walking and shots over the noise. "You look like you've seen a ghost." I can't help but mirthlessly smile a bit at that.
"If only it were so simple."
A/N: I'm very proud of this, and happy that it has reached us all in such quick time since the last one. Hopefully I haven't kept you all waiting too long!
Stay safe, Stay happy. Enjoy!