Chapter 4 – And the nightmare begins: part 2

Well hello! Sorry for the late update, everyone - I was pretty ill yesterday and didn't have the brainpower to edit this chapter :P Hope y'all forgive me; I know I have a bunch of PMs to reply to too, I swear I'll get round to it ASAP. Anyway. Here it is x

As soon as they entered, it was clear that the room was intended for brewing potions; numerous cauldrons sat in the centre of the room, with jars filled with all kinds of substances lining the walls. When the pair stepped forward, a slip of parchment floated down in front of them, which Hermione read out loud.

For this challenge, contestants, you must brew a modified potion which will allow you to swim, see, and breathe underwater, as well as alter your appearances to look like those of any creature which would be found in a sea or lake. You must each drink a vial of the mixture to proceed to the next room – remember that whatever you brew will help you through the next challenge, so use what you must to your advantage.

"I'm guessing that the next challenge is underwater." Hermione finally sighed.

"Perceptive." Draco muttered.

"What was that?" she challenged.

"Oh, nothing Granger." He mocked, and sat down at a chair next to one particularly large cauldron.

"What are you doing, Malfoy?" she almost shouted. "We need to brew the damn potion! Get up!"

"For Salazar's sake, they're asking to us to practically create a new potion! We can't just throw ourselves into this like idiots, we have to plan what we're going to do and think about what we actually need to put into the potion to gain the effects we want."

"Oh."

"Yes, "oh"." He sneered. He grabbed a piece of parchment and a pen. "Right. I'm going to write everything down on this."

"Can't I - "

"No, you can't." he answered without looking even looking at her. "Now sit down and shut up."

To her own surprise, she found herself obeying, and ignored his snort of irritation when she leant over his shoulder.

Effects:

Swim well, see underwater, breathe underwater:

Alter appearances: polyjuice adjustment

Possible strengthening and agility: girding potion, invigoration draught, strengthening solution

She thought for a moment. "We've got a lot for strengthening – and that's not even really required. And we have another problem: polyjuice can't be used for animal transformations."

"Hence the word "adjustment"." Draco drawled.

"Fine. I'm not an idiot."

"I beg to differ."

"Oh, shut – I've got it!"

"What, Granger?" he rolled his eyes.

"You've left the whole "underwater" part empty – I know what we can use!"

"I presume you're going to tell me sometime today." He tried to hide his excitement.

She ignored his little jibe. "Gillyweed! Harry used it in the Triwizard Tournament."

"Yes." Draco nodded slowly, adding it to his list and desperately wishing he'd thought of it. "That is, if we can find some."

"We have to." She stated, getting up and looking around the room. "Come on. Let's get started. I have a feeling we're going to be here for a while."

And so followed a few minutes of searching for ingredients in silence, until Hermione tentatively spoke again.

"Malfoy?"

"What, Granger?" he scowled.

"I think that for the appearance alteration, we need to use a "body part" – that sounds strange – from an animal, similarly to polyjuice potion."

"And?" he prompted.

"I…I've found something that might be useful."

"Which is?" he was beginning to become exasperated.

"Crab legs." She winced.

To her surprise, he didn't shout at her, but simply burst out laughing, and the sight of Draco Malfoy actually laughing – genuinely, not mockingly – forced her to crack a smile. Seconds later, the pair were facing each other, desperately trying to stifle snorts but simply laughing harder at each other's failed attempts to do so.

"I don't know why you find that so funny." Hermione finally managed to choke out, wiping a tear from her eye.

"Granger." He snorted. "Imagine yourself as a crab."

"Oh God!" she yelled, and they were off again.

It was probably the built up pressure for the competition that finally caused the pair to crack, but for the thousands of onlookers in the stadium, it simply looked like they'd completely lost it.

"I can just imagine your hair sticking out from the crab's head." Draco stated solemnly.

She stopped laughing. "Too far."

He actually had the decency to look sheepish.

"Maybe not the crab legs then…" Hermione tried.

"God no. We need something that'll work to our advantage, not to look like shark bait."

"Alright, alright!" she put her hands up. "I'll keep looking."

It was a full hour later when they finally looked at their steaming cauldron and the mess surrounding them – an inevitable product from their rushed brewing.

Draco picked up two vials from the table beside them, and filled them with the foul looking concoction, handing one to Hermione. "Bottoms up."

They both tipped their heads back, pouring the mixture into their mouths and shuddering identically as the disgusting taste overwhelmed their senses. Two seconds later, and Draco had turned an interesting shade of green.

"I think I'm going to - " he stopped midsentence and leaned over the still bubbling cauldron, suddenly retching then throwing up violently. When he finally sat up again, he was met by an expression of both horror and amusement from Hermione.

"Well." She started, pointing at the now still cauldron. "Thank Merlin we're done with that." At a second look at his pitiful expression, she felt some sympathy for him. "Sit down for a minute, Malfoy. I'll see if I can open the door. Look, your skin colour's already changing – I guess we'll transform soon enough. I'll have to be quick."

He was too miserable to make some haughty remark, so simply sank into a chair gratefully as Hermione turned away.

She walked to the door, but stopped as she noticed something odd. The shelf next to it only had one plant on it, and as she neared, she had to smother a gasp of realisation. The pot contained a – baby – mandrake, not yet unearthed.

"They'll never guess to use the mandrakes."

Glancing back to make sure that Draco was looking away, she took a quick decision, and grabbed a vine from another shelf. She quickly lifted up her top and secured the pot to her stomach, pulling her clothing back down over it. You could easily see that something was under her clothes, but if she hunched over, it was more easily concealed.

She finally swallowed, trying not to feel guilty, and tested the door. She could open it.

"Malfoy." She called. "Let's go."

He got up, and walked over shakily. The transformations of the potion were slowly taking place, and at the moment, he looked part human, and part shark. Still with legs, of course.

"Okay."

ooooo

The second they opened the door, they were sucked into the next room, the door slamming shut behind them. From the note in the earlier challenge, they'd both expected their most difficult trial yet, but when Hermione actually looked around the room, she felt both relieved, and furious.

In front of then was a twenty five meter swimming pool, stretching to the other side of the room where the next door was. The bottom of the pool was clearly visible – it was shallow, and there was no way that they needed any help to get across.

"It was a trick!" she screeched, breaking the silence. "A joke! All along! They purposely made us waste our time, creating a more complicated potion! We just have to swim across this stupid, stupid pool!" she kicked the wall, trying not to cry out with frustration. "I'm going in." she bent her legs to dive, but was hauled back by Draco.

"Wait, Granger." He stammered. "Don't get carried away. Anything could happen; wait for the full transformation from the potion first."

"We're wasting time, Malfoy! Let's go!"

"NO!" he yelled, backing away. When she turned to face him, she realised that he looked genuinely terrified.

"Malfoy?" she tried.

"I - " he mumbled something inaudible.

"What?"

"I can't swim." He finally said, not looking up.

When she just looked at him in silence, he finally forced himself to face her. He was expecting some demand for explanation, but instead, she sat down against the wall, and motioned for him to do the same.

"Okay."

And they waited in silence, side by side, until all that was left of their human bodies were their legs. Hermione/shark (it was hilarious to see them like this, in a twisted, disturbing sort of way) stood up and went to the edge of the pool, with – what was left of – Draco following. He did notice what he though was something strapped to her stomach, but put it down to nerves playing with his mind, and at the same time, they jumped into the pool.

Nothing happened.

And a minute later, they'd both leapt out of the water on the other side, back to their original bodies, and completely dry.

Hermione faced Draco. "You fine?" she asked it lightly, as though she wasn't really concerned – and in that moment, he couldn't help but appreciate that she was understanding. She'd saved him from humiliation, having to explain himself. Why? He wasn't sure.

"Fine." He answered gruffly, and she nodded, pushing the door open to the next room.

ooooo

The second they entered, they were bombarded with the sound of incessant screeching, and suddenly attacked by a swarm of blue creatures. Draco and Hermione were both lifted up by the creatures and thrown around the room, constantly trying to block out the shrill pitch of the electric blue blurs. When Hermione finally came to her senses, she realised that they were being assaulted by pixies, who were blocking their escape from the room. Every time they tried to make for the door, they were thrown back again.

"PIXIES, MALFOY!" she yelled over the noise.

"I REALISED!" he bellowed back, and so followed an agonising for them, but hilarious for the audience seemingly never-ending minutes of being thrown about by midgets. It was only when Hermione felt the bulge under her clothing that she remember the mandrake, and she struggled, freeing her arms from the pesky pixies to remove the pot from under her top.

"MALFOY!" she shouted to get his attention. "PLUG YOUR EARS!"

"WHAT?" he yelled.

"JUST DO IT! PROPERLY!" she screeched, and only when he obliged did she stick her fingers in her own. Awkwardly using her elbows as best as she could, she grasped the baby mandrake and wrenched it out of the pot.

The pair were only lucky that their fingers blocked the ear splitting shriek the plant emitted, and in unison, each and every pixie thudded to the floor. Draco, looking utterly dumbfounded at the thought of Hermione simply producing their distraction out of nowhere, finally came to his senses, and followed her to the door. With their hands being occupied, Hermione kicked it open, and they fled through their escape route.

ooooo

They found themselves in a silent central chamber, and Draco immediately turned around to face Hermione.

"How – where - "

"I'll explain later!" she urged.

He looked as though he was about to say something else, but changed his mind at the last moment.

The pair looked around the chamber without speaking. Intricate stone work arched above their heads, and they could see that five different doors led into the room. In the middle of the room hung what appeared to be chunky padlocks in different colours, suspended in mid-air.

"We must be the first here." Hermione whispered.

"The central chamber." Was Draco's response.

Silence.

"How in Merlin's name do we get out of here?"

"Come on, come on, think." Draco paced, practically thumping his head repeatedly.

All of a sudden, the door directly opposite theirs swung open, and the Patil twins rushed in. They only took a second to survey the room, until Padma's eyes widened and she grabbed Parvati's arm, dragging her to the middle of the room where the padlocks were.

"Come on!" Hermione realised that Padma had figured out how to escape, and she in turn dragged Draco towards the centre as well, but it was too late.

Padma had clasped the key from around her neck – her oh-so-important escape route - and simply slotted it into the lock nearest to her. Immediately, the lock opened, and some sort of gap opened up in the air, which the twins immediately disappeared into. By the time Hermione had copied, fumbling with her own key, they were gone, and with a frustrated sigh she pulled Draco through the gap that opened up before them, ready to face whatever came after their first round completion.

She had a feeling it was only going to get worse.

Yay! We finally get to the crack...next chapter is some stupid fun. Just wanted to say thank you so much to all of you who reviewed etc. - and especially to the guest reviewers (I can't PM you :P). I was shocked by the stats page for this story...in three chapters we've already got half the number of views Uncovered has which is just amazing. So yes: I'm so grateful to all of you. Thank you for your support, it's really appreciated.

Love y'all,

Tris xx