The months leading up to the Second Task were fairly uneventful for Harry as most of the students decided to pretend that Harry did not exist; a few would actually leave the room if he entered it, unless they had to be there for classes.
The only notable event was when Diggory approached Harry about the egg but before he could say anything Cho Chang and her friends dragged him away.
So it was on the day of the Second Task that Harry made his way down to the lake, the secret of the golden egg unsolved.
The students were being to fill in the seats along the shore of the lake while the judges sat at a gold-draped table at the water’s edge.
Harry nodded a greeting to Diggory and Krum who had already arrived for the task.
“Did you get my message?” Diggory asked Harry softly.
“Message?” Harry replied
“About the egg. I gave it to 6th yr. Gryffindor boy. Brown hair. Glasses,” Cedric said. “He promised he would give it to you.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll probably get it tonight or tomorrow then.”
“Now that we’re all here, we can begin,” Bagman said from his seats. “Now does everyone know what they’re to do?”
Harry shook his head while the other Champions nodded in agreement.
“Couldn’t figure out the egg, huh?” Bagman said in surprise. “Well it’s quiet simple. Something or in this case someone that is precious to you has been taken and put at the bottom of the lake.”
“Someone?” Harry gasped.
“Oh they’re quite alright. They’re enspelled to be safe until rescued,” Bagman explained
“And who are they?” Cedric growled.
“Yes, who,” Fleur demanded.
“Well in your case, Miss Delacour, I believe it was your sister. Mr. Diggory it was that lovely lady you attended the Yule Ball with. Mr. Krum, your precious person is named Granger. And Mr. Potter, it was your best friend Mr. Weasley,” Bagman explained.
Harry snorted. “Ex-best friend,” he said softly.
Bagman either didn’t heard Harry or he heard it and ignored it as seem to be the nature of magical people when presented with facts that disagreed with what they believe is true.
“Now let’s get this task started,” Bagman said as he pointed his wand to this throat and said “Sonorus.” The spell acted like a Muggle megaphone and amplified Bagman’s voice. “Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then. One… two… three!”
Bagman blew the whistle. The other Champions started to do what they had to rescue their loved ones while Harry stood there, staring out across the lake.
As the other Champions disappeared under the water, all eyes turned to Harry.
“Harry,” Dumbledore said from his seat among the judges. “Don’t you think you better go?”
“Go where?” Harry asked innocently.
“To try to complete the second task; to rescue your friend,” Dumbledore replied.
Harry looked out at the lake then at Dumbledore. “Do you know how cold that water is? It’s winter! It has to be freezing and you want me to go swimming in it! I don’t even know how to swim!”
“You still need to compete, Mr. Potter,” Bagman said.
Harry narrowed his eyes at the man. “Are you trying to kill me? You’re probably hoping I’ll die from hypothermia.”
“Hypothermia?” Bagman echoed in confusion.
Harry sighed and shook his head. “You’re a Pureblood, ain’t you?”
“You’re magic will protect you from the cold water, Harry,” Dumbledore said in a reassuring tone. “But you really need to hurry up. The other Champions have a fairly good head start by now.”
“Fine but if anyone complains about my effort they can… well they can go jump in the lake,” Harry snapped before turning back to the lake and raising his wand. “Accio Ronald Bilius Weasley!”
Everyone held their breath as they waited to see if Harry’s magic could summon the youngest Weasley boy.
Harry shrugged his shoulders after a moment before turning back to the judges. “I tried. I’m going back inside now since its cold out here. Have fun rescuing him.”
“That’s it! That’s all you’re going to try!” someone shouted from the crowd of on-lookers.
Harry turned to look at the crowd. “Well it’s not like they teach 4th years anything about self- transfiguration. Of course if I had some Muggle scuba gear I could go down there but the use of Muggle items is frowned upon even through there are no rules against it. And besides that, it’s not like Weasley was a friend. And to top it off, I was not the one to enspell and put him and the others at the bottom of the water. Have fun watching the lake for the next hour.”
And with that Harry walked off towards the castle, leaving a stunned crowd behind him.
The next day Harry received a howler from Mrs. Weasley.
It was a little over a week after the Second Task that Harry received an owl post.
‘Be at stile at end of road out of Hogsmeade (past Dervish and Banges) at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Bring as much food as you can.’
Harry sighed wearily as he stuffed the message into his pocket.
“Is everything alright, Harry?” Neville asked from across the table. He was one of the few students who were willing to talk to him.
“Everything is fine, Neville,” Harry replied as he stabbed at his food with his fork.
Neville eyed Harry wearily. “If you say so.”
The two boys sat in silence, eating their breakfast before Harry says, “Hey Neville?”
“Why do you talk to me?” Harry asked. “I can’t imagine that the other students are too happy about it, about you talking to a cheater.”
Neville snorted. “You’re not a cheater; Harry and anyone who says you are is an idiot. I saw your face when your name came out of the cup. You were shocked as everyone else. And I had Gran send me the rule book on the tournament and you’re right there is no rule against using Muggle items in a task. Beside that Pure-bloods and Half-bloods know its best not to mess with me. Most of the Muggle-born were quick to notice and follow their lead.”
Harry looked at Neville in confusion. “I guess I’m missing something.”
“Who am I, Harry?” Neville asked.
“Neville Longbottom,” Harry’s confusion was evident in his voice.
Neville nodded his head. “I’m Neville Longbottom, son of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Heir to the Longbottom name which mean while Malfoy has power through money and occasional blackmail, I’ll have more power than he will when I come of age.”
Harry shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“The Longbottom family is an old family, Harry, even older than yours,” Neville said. “My Gran says a Longbottom has been behind every leaders rise to power and behind their fall. If my mum and dad hadn’t been… hadn’t been hurt then Fudge would never have come to power nor would Malfoy have been able influence the Ministry like he does.”
“So they’re scared of you getting revenge when you’re the Head of your family?” Harry asked.
Neville shook his head. “They’re more afraid of what their family will say if they do something.”
“But Hermione. Draco? And Snape?” Harry sputtered.
Neville shrugged his shoulders. “You mean the full body-bind? She’s a Muggle-born and beside she did it for the right reason. As for Snape… well he makes me nervous,” he admitted. “Besides as long as Dumbledore is on his side, no one can touch him. Draco is a prat.”
Harry looked at Neville for a long moment before asking, “So did the Sorting Hat want to put you in Slytherin too?”
The next day, Harry walked down the winding lane that led to the countryside surround Hogsmeade. The lane soon tapered down to a footpath that led to a set of stairs placed so that people could easily climb over the stone fence that the local farmer had built to keep his livestock on his land.
On the top most step was a huge black dog, with a newspaper in its month.
“Hello, Sirius,” Harry said when he reached the stairs.
The dog sniffed at Harry and the bag of food Harry had brought along. With a wag if his tail the dog turned and walked off in the direction of the mountain. The dog stopped after a few yards and looked back at Harry to see if he was following.
Harry climbed the stairs over the fence and quickly caught up with the dog.
It was a little over a half hour later when they reached a narrow fissure in the rocky outcropping. The dog easily slipped inside and with a wary sigh so did Harry.
Inside the fissure widened into a cave that was dimly lit by what appeared to be magical lights. Near the back wall of the cave were a couple blankets that undoubtly served as a bed and the remains of a fire. But what surprised Harry was what else was in the cave. At the far end of the cave was a hippogriff, Buckbeak; the one who had carried Sirius off to freedom last year.
Harry looked back at the dog but instead found his godfather Sirius in its place.
“Chicken!” Sirius licked his lips.
Harry handed over the bag of food. Sirius tore it open and practically threw himself on the food.
“Thanks,” Sirius said between mouthfuls. “I’ve been living on what I can catch, rats mostly. Can’t steal too much food from Hogsmeade without drawing attention to myself.”
Harry nodded his head before wandering over to Buckbeak, allowing Sirius some time to eat his fill. When Sirius was done and had wrapped the leftovers up, placing them near his bedroll.
“I thought you were someplace safe, someplace far from here,” Harry said from where he was petting Buckbeak.
“I was but I couldn’t stay there if I ever want to win my freedom,” Sirius answered. “Besides you’re here. And I promised James that I would take care of you and I can’t do that while I’m hiding away from everyone.”
“I can take care of myself,” Harry replied without a thought.
“But you shouldn’t have to,” Sirius replied as he placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Harry looked away as he took a deep breath to steady himself. “So what do you think of the tournament?”
Sirius studied Harry for a moment before saying, “Well I wish you weren’t in it but aside from that I think you’re doing pretty well.”
“Really,” Harry said in surprise.
“Of course,” Sirius answered. “You beat a dragon without hurting it or yourself! They’re just pissed that they didn’t think of it.”
“And the second task?” Harry asked.
Sirius sighed as he sat down next to Buckbeak. “Dumbledore wrote me about how you’re doing in the tournament and how upset he was about you using Muggle items and not trying to rescue Ron. He wanted me to talk some sense into you,” he explained. “Well I say screw him!”
Harry’s eyes grew wide and his mouth hung open as he stared at his godfather in shock.
“Harry I have a motorcycle that flies and do you know why,” Sirius said. When Harry shook his head no, Sirius continued on. “Because flying down the road, inches above the road and certain death is a hell of lot more fun that flying on a broom. Now don’t get me wrong, flying on a broom is great but it’s nothing to a riding a bike. But the wizard world won’t expect things like that because it’s not the wizard way. Of course the wizard way means nothing ever changes. I was just starting my first year at Hogwarts when the wizard radio became acceptable. And don’t get me started on music. You won’t believe the scandal when someone figured out a way to listen to Muggle rock and roll in Hogwarts. My parents were so disappointed in me.”
“So we’re alright?” Harry asked tentively.
Sirius nodded his head. “Just get out of this alive and we’re good.”
Harry smile, the first honest smile he’d had since this all began. “Good because I have a plan…”
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