|SIYE Time:4:30 on 21st June 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.
Rating changed for later chapters.
*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 109802; Chapter Total: 2599
Awards: View Trophy Room
Chapter Twenty-One: The Goblet of Fire Part Eight
Lake-Water Is My Favorite Poison
As each day ended, Harry crossed it off on a calender over his bed. February 24th was circled and the words ‘second task’ were written in the circle in Ginny’s handwriting. He was grateful she had circled it, but the fact that there were only a few days left between him and the next task he wasn’t as grateful for.
Technically, there were ten days left, and while that was not much comfort it felt a lot closer. He still had no clue what he would need to find, and how. Hermione had said that ‘come seek us where our voices sound’ meant that the task would be beneath the lake, and ‘an hour long you’ll have to look’ meant exactly what it said. Later, he had realized that it wasn’t very likely that the thing he needed to find would be floating at the top of the lake, but it would be on the bottom. That had not been the least comforting.
How the hell am I going to breathe? He mused one afternoon, gazing absently at a star chart. Beside him, Ginny shrugged, scratched out a name on the chart, and wrote the correct one beneath it. Harry huffed; he crossed his arms on the desk and lay down his head.
It’s a giant lake, he thought, looking up at his girlfriend. Probably miles deep. I can’t just pop up to the surface every few seconds to breathe.
How about when we finish here, we go to the library and look for solutions? Ginny thought as she labeled the last of Saturn’s moons. Harry nodded vaguely, then reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Ginny glanced at him with a small smile, then went back to labelling the chart. Harry ran the back of his knuckles down her hair, watching the light dance off the strands and turn them gold. Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply as she smiled. He pushed his fingers amidst the silky strands and brushed through her hair. Ginny looked down at him, her expression warm.
What are you doing? She thought.
He shrugged. It’s just so pretty.
Ginny blushed, and turned back to the chart. Harry continued combing his fingers through her hair, enjoying the feel of it between his fingers.
You’re beautiful, he thought.
Ginny’s eyes jumped off the page. Her already pink cheeks turned magenta. Huh?
You’re beautiful, he thought. I’ve said that before.
Not — not randomly, she sputtered mentally, looking at him with wide eyes. I mean, I’m not dressed up, my hair’s a mess, I’m not wearing make-up, I’ve got on your old tee-shirt —
Harry sat up and kissed her. She stopped thinking. When he pulled back, she was smiling again.
“You don’t need that stuff,” he murmured.
Her blush became, if possible, deeper. “I — um…”
He pressed his lips to her cheek. You’ve never liked that stuff, why do you think you need it?
Ginny didn’t say or think anything, but simply shrugged. Harry knit his eyebrows. What’s the matter?
Nothing, nothing, I just never thought — I mean, I’m really kind of plain —
No you’re not, Harry interrupted, why would you think that? You’re extraordinary, amazing, brilliant; why would you think that you’re plain?
Ginny looked down at the star chart. I — I don’t know.
Harry kissed her again. You’re beautiful.
She smiled again, still very pink. Thank you, Harry.
He beamed at her. Ginny, smiling shyly, looked down at the nearly-complete star chart. Harry grabbed a quill and pulled the chart towards him. He found Venus, the crossed out the name.
“What are you doing?” Ginny asked.
“Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty,” he said, carefully writing out the new name. “There!”
He pushed it back towards her. She raised her eyebrows, then laughed. He had re-named the planet Ginevra.
“Thank you, Harry,” she said again, pecking him on the cheek. He grinned wider.
“Hey, guys,” Hermione said, dropping into a chair across the table. Both of them looked up with equally pink expressions. She immediately scowled. “You two were supposed to be doing homework,” she said, her tone indicating an impending lecture.
“My fault,” Harry said, trying to head her off. “I got distracted.”
Hermione pursed her lips. “Boys,” she muttered, dropping her armload of books onto the table.
Ginny merely giggled, as she wrote Venus and put her name in parenthesis. Harry lay his arms on the table again and stared at his beautiful girlfriend. Ginny heard him, and blushed again.
Ten minutes later, she had finished the chart and they had started towards the library. Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they walked, and Ginny was still slightly pink.
When they reached the library, they found Madam Pince at the front desk furiously stamping books. A very small third year girl stood before her, looking at her feet in slight embarrassment.
“I should place a limit on how many you can check out at a time, Collingwood,” Pince said as she set a book on the stack of stamped books and took another.
“You already did!” Collingwood protested. “No more than twenty!”
“Well, next time you come, no more than ten!” Madam Pince snapped.
Ginny gave the third year a faint smile of pity and pulled Harry towards the back of the library. Collingwood waved sorrowfully at them as Madam Pince stamped the next book with a loud thud.
“So where should we start?” Harry asked.
Ginny peered sideways at the titles. “I have no idea.”
Harry huffed. “We should have brought Hermione.”
Ginny nodded with a sigh. “We’ll have to ask someone.”
Harry scowled. “I’m not speaking to Pince,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. He was still miffed about last week when she interrupted the two of them snogging. Ginny rolled her eyes, reminding him mentally that the library had been about to close anyway, and looked around for anything to indicate where spells that allowed a person to breathe underwater were.
The third year girl who Madam Pince had been irritated with walked past them with her stack of books tall enough to cover half her face. Ginny glanced at her, then at Harry. He shrugged.
She’s probably as knowledgeable as Hermione about the library, considering what Madam Pince said, he thought.
“Hey, Collingwood!” Ginny called after the third year. The third year jumped and the books on the very top of her stack toppled off to the floor. Ginny stepped forward and picked them up.
“H— hi,” the girl stammered. “Erm…”
“We were wondering if you knew where spells about breathing underwater would be,” Ginny said.
The girl’s eyelids blinked rapidly behind a pair of glasses in plastic blue frames. “Oh, um, magic concerning underwater life is over there in section B,” she pointed towards the beginning of the library, “there’s charms about air in section C4,” she pointed up to the second level, “and creatures and plants that provide alternate methods of breathing three cases that way,” she pointed right. Her voice had a funny ring to it, Harry thought, other than her obvious nervousness.
“Oh, okay, thanks,” Ginny said, setting the books Collingwood had dropped on her stack. “See you.”
Collingwood nodded vaguely, her eyes still very wide, expressing that she doubted they would ever speak to her again and that she was still shocked that they had. Harry waved to her as Ginny led him to the right, towards magic concerning underwater life, as the skittish third year had put it.
Ginny examined the titles and selected a few. Harry glanced around and grabbed one at random. He glanced at the back cover, then put it back and grabbed a different one.
“We want something that is easy to get,” Ginny said, cracking open one of the books. Harry nodded in affirmation. “But not something that will have any adverse effects.”
“Right,” Harry said.
They spent the next two or so hours searching the books without luck. At seven o’clock, they checked out stacks of books and dumped them in Harry’s dorm before going back down for dinner. After dinner they returned to the common room and got both the books and Hermione. When the clock struck ten, Hermione insisted going to bed. They had an early Herbology lesson again, more studies of that vine Sprout so loved. Next day, with eight days left, Harry returned the unhelpful books to the library with Ron and checked out ten more during their free period while Ginny and Hermione went to Arithmency. After classes, the four of them joined at a table in the back of the library, Ron and Hermione awkwardly avoiding each other’s gazes, and set to work. Unfortunately, they had just as much luck as the day before. Meaning none. The next day was almost the same, as was the next. Saturday Harry overslept and barely made it to lunch before hitting the books. He was beginning to panic. The task was Thursday, and he still had no clue how he was going to breathe or what he was supposed to find. Sunday they tried the mermaid section again to see if there was anything there. There was not. Monday Harry considered asking Madam Pince, and Hermione did, but the vulture of a librarian said she could not assist him. Harry thought that was really quite annoying because she helped Ginny and Hermione just a few weeks ago. Tuesday, Ginny and Ron got themselves two days of detention from Snape after Ron made their cauldron explode, and still no method of breathing underwater. Harry tried asking Flitwick, who apologetically said he could not help and to tell Ginny not to try. Sirius came by after dinner and told them that there was a spell he’d learned in sixth year, the Bubble Head charm, that could work but when Hermione looked it up the difficulty was far beyond Harry. Ludo Bagman stopped by to wish Harry luck. On Wednesday, Harry really was panicking.
“It’s hopeless!” he cried, letting his head fall onto the table with a thud. “I’ll just have to fail or drown.”
“You’re not drowning,” Ginny said determinedly. “We will find something.”
“We’ve been through every book,” Harry grumbled.
“Not every book,” Hermione corrected.
“Just most of them,” Ron added. Harry did not smile.
“We have 16 hours left,” he said. “And no spell. I still don’t know what the hell I’m trying to find!”
Hermione passed him a thin paperback book. “Here, this is a detection spell. I asked Mr. Bagman if they would tell who exactly what you were looking for before the task, and he said that they probably wouldn’t but that he would be willing to let you know given your circumstances.”
Harry nodded sharply. “Great. How’s that spell work?”
“It’s very simple,” Hermione told him. “We’ll keep looking for a way to help you breath, you read this and familiarize yourself with it. It’s very similar to the Summoning charm.”
Harry picked up the book and opened it. Ginny touched his shoulder and thought: We will find something. He nodded again.
Two hours later, they packed up temporarily to go to dinner. Harry had gotten half-way through the book on the detection spell and was mumbling the incantation under his breath when Ludo Bagman walked up to them.
“Hullo, Harry, Miss Weasley,” Mr. Bagman said genially. Ginny smiled tightly and slipped her arm through Harry’s.
“Hi,” Harry replied. Mr. Bagman smiled at Ron and bowed to Hermione, then turned back to Harry.
“How are you coming with the task?” Bagman asked.
Harry shrugged. “Getting there.”
“Ah, well, the task is tomorrow morning,” Bagman said, flashing his yellowed teeth. “I do hope you’re close.”
“Very close,” Ginny said. “We just paused to get some dinner.”
“Ah, very good,” Bagman clapped his hands together with an even wider smile. “Well, just let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.” He winked at Harry and stepped away, touching Ginny’s shoulder as he passed her. Ginny shrunk back from him and laid her head on Harry’s shoulder. He raised an eyebrow at her, but she just shrugged.
“Come on, I’m starving and Snape said we’ve got to show up by seven,” Ron said, striding into the great hall. Hermione rolled her eyes as she followed him.
Harry loaded up his plate with potatoes and chicken; Ginny added green beans and carrots before he could fill the empty space with gravy. He scowled at her playfully and she smirked. Rolling his eyes, he speared a carrot on his fork.
“You two,” Hermione muttered at them.
“Who, us?” Harry said.
Ginny stuck out her tongue at her friend. Hermione rolled her eyes again, then grabbed a spoon from Ron before he could take a fourth scoop of stew.
Choosing to ignore his friends beginning to argue again, Harry tucked into his dinner. When they finished ten minutes later, he asked Hermione what she knew so far. She opened her mouth and launched into an extensive recap. Halfway through, Professor McGonagall walked up behind them.
“Miss Weasley, Miss Granger?” the teacher said. “I need you too to come with me for a moment.”
Hermione nodded and hastily swallowed her last bit of stew. Ginny glanced at McGonagall with a frown. “May I ask why, professor?”
“It’s nothing, I just have to talk with you,” McGonagall answered. Harry wondered why her gaze trailed on the ground, and her expression seemed to fighting something grim. “I shan’t keep you long.”
Ginny sighed and pushed back her plate. “Okay, we’re coming. Harry, finish quickly and go back to the library. I’m sure that spell is just in the next book.”
“Right,” he said without much confidence. Ginny kissed his cheek and stood up. Hermione was already standing, and the two of them followed Professor McGonagall out of the hall.
Ron shoveled a mouth full of mashed potatoes into his mouth. “Wha ew ‘ecko’ de wants?” he mumbled around the potatoes. Harry, used to Ron’s habit of speaking with his mouth full, simply shrugged.
“I’ve got no clue,” he said.
Ron glanced at his watch and let out a garbled curse. He swallowed rapidly and shot to his feet. “It’s almost seven,” he said after swallowing. “I’d better go, before Snape decides to poison me. See you, Harry, best of luck!”
Ron grabbed his bag and took off towards the dungeons. Harry sighed and pushed aside his plate. He wasn’t hungry anymore. He felt more like he’d eaten a bundle of worms rather than chicken, potatoes and vegetables. He draped his school bag over his shoulder and started back towards the library.
He sat down and began reading again. He figured the detection spell was easy enough, so he got back to trying to find a way to breathe. Not long after he sat down, Ginny told him mentally that she would be running to Snape’s office the minute McGonagall was done with her and that her detention lasted until ten. He acknowledged her with a grunt and kept reading.
At eight o’clock, Madam Pince came round with her feather duster to kick him out. She wouldn’t let him check any of the books out, saying that he had exceeded his limit, but he figured she was just being irritable as normal. Being that he still hadn’t found anything, he ran back up to the tower and swapped his school bag for his invisibility cloak. He snuck back inside as Madam Pince was closing up and moved swiftly and silently back to his table. At nine, he had no update from Ginny but her detention wasn’t finished yet, so he kept reading fervently. Around ten, he was rather frantic and tossed aside another book. Ginny was probably being kept late by Snape, he figured. He glanced at his watch every few minutes and began to worry around eleven. She would have told him if she was going to be really late. Despite his panic about the task and worry over Ginny, he began nodding off around 11:30, and sometime around twelve he closed his eyes for just a moment until something started poking him in the shoulder.
“No,” he muttered. “I’m reading, I’m reading.”
“Harry Potter must be getting up, sir!”
“I am reading, Hermione, leave me alone!” he grumbled, trying to bat her away.
“I is not Miss Granger, sir.”
Harry cracked open one eye and peered around. The library was much brighter than it had been a few seconds ago. He found the source of the noise and the poking, about two inches from his face.
“Dobby!” he said, sitting up. “What are you doing here?”
“I is working at Hogwarts, now sir,” Dobby told him. “But there is being no time for that, Harry Potter must be going to the lake! Harry Potter must be going to save his most precious!”
“What?” he said.
“The second task, sir!”
Harry shook his head. “No, no the task doesn’t start until ten.”
“It is ten til, sir!”
Harry’s heart skipped beat. “What?”
“It is being ten minutes until ten o’clock,” Dobby squeaked. “Harry Potter must be going now to go save his most precious! Here, Dobby is taking something for you.”
Harry, completely flabbergasted, took the squishy green glob that the elf pushed into his face. “What? What’s this; what am I going to save?”
“This is being gillyweed, sir,” Dobby said. “Dobby is hearing Master Moody and Madam Sinister discussing it last night, and Dobby is hearing Mr. Bagman telling someone on the Floo that Harry Potter isn’t ready for the task yet, so Dobby is stealing this from Madam Sprout to help Harry Potter!”
Harry glanced down at the green glob. “What do I do with it?”
“You must be swallowing it, sir, so you can be breathing water,” Dobby said. “Now, come! You must be running!”
Harry stood up, his knees popped and he felt his lungs tighten. “It’s nine fifty,” he muttered, looking down at his watch. He swore, very, very loudly. “Dobby, what did you say I was going to save? My most what?”
“Your most precious, sir!”
“You’ve said that to me before,” Harry said, suddenly recalling the night two years ago when the elf put him in the hospital wing. “What is my most precious?”
“The thing you’ll miss most, sir, they that you love most!”
Harry gaped at the elf. “What does that mean, though?”
“You must be going, sir, it is nine fifty-three!”
“What is my most precious!”
“Miss Wheezy, sir!” Dobby said, almost exasperated.
Harry’s stomach dropped. “Ginny?” Ginny? Ginny!
Her voice was silent.
Harry took off, not paying attention to what Dobby was shouting after him. He sprinted from the library, jumped down half the stairs, and bolted from the Entrance Hall. He ran out onto the grounds and spotted the crowd at the edge of the lake. Harry put in a burst of speed, clutching the ball of green weeds in his closed fist.
Harry skidded to a halt in front of the judges table as a clock on it struck nine fifty five.
“Harry, my boy!” Bagman cried, sounding very relieved. “We were worried that you wouldn’t make it.”
He nodded vaguely, leaning on his knees while he tried to catch his breath. Bagman clapped him on the shoulder and pushed him towards the waters’ edge where Cedric, Krum and Fleur were standing.
“Know what you’re going to get?” Bagman asked in a whisper. Harry nodded, his jaw clenched. Bagman patted his shoulder again and turned away.
He was barely listening as Bagman announced the rules of the task. His heart was beating rapidly in his chest as he inhaled and exhaled sharply. He heard a loud blast, and saw Cedric, Krum and Fleur run into the lake. Harry started forward, then paused to rip off his shoes and socks. He discarded his over-robe as well, leaving him wearing trousers and his white uniform shirt. The water was bitterly cold, but his chest felt colder. He waded in until his hips, then raised the glob of slime to his lips. He threw it back, swallowed despite the nauseating feel of it, and waited.
He suddenly could not breathe. Not that it had been easy before, but he literally felt like something had shut off his airways. He gasped for a moment, then his brain screamed instinct at him and he dived.
Water filled his mouth and he felt his body begin to process the oxygen in it. He touched his mouth, then his nose, then his neck to see how he was breathing and found there were ridged slits in his neck. Gills. Then he noticed that his hands were webbed and his feet had elongated into flippers. Harry blinked and his eyes felt perfectly normal. He began to swim.
He had no idea where Ginny would be, but near the bottom made sense, so he swam down and forward, towards the center of the lake. The water got colder, but he ignored it. He kicked his legs furiously, propelling himself rapidly through the water. He didn’t see either of the other champions, nor did he care. A tentacle drifted past him and then the giant squid floated in front of him, but he simply swam under it. He had to go forward, towards the darker water.
Eventually, he reached the bottom and looked up. The surface far above him looked faint, but that did not matter just then. He looked around, and took off to the right. He had no idea where he was going, but somehow he knew Ginny was in that direction.
He swam around sunken statues and strands of kelp. His flipper feet propelled him forward much faster than what was normal and his brain focused on only one thing: Ginny.
Where are you? He thought.
Harry closed his eyes, carefully treading the water to remain still, and focused. Ginny was close, only a few minutes swim from him, and towards the middle of the lake. He opened his eyes and looked around. Where was the middle of the lake? As he had been treading water, he had turned around several times and he couldn’t remember what direction he had come from. He tried to run his hands through his hair in frustration but found that the webbing between his fingers didn’t allow for him to comb his hair.
“Ginny!” He shouted, but the word dissipated in a bubble of air.
Harry turned his face upward. He scanned the far distant surface of the lake and found a spot of light to his left. He glanced at his watch and found it frozen at 10:02. How long had he been under the water? It couldn’t have been more than half an hour, so it was sometime around 10:30. That meant that the giant spot of light was to the east. He swam upwards a ways, looking for the mountain chain that ringed the lake. The mountains were behind him. They had been directly in front of him when he went into the water, so he had gotten turned around somehow. Now, facing the mountains, he found the sun behind him to the right. He needed to go southwest.
Harry kicked off towards the southwest. An instinct inside him told him to go right, so he curved in that direction.
“An hour long you’ll have to look….”
Harry paused. That was mersong. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew it was mersong and he knew it was coming from the south.
“And to recover what we took…”
Harry swam faster.
“Your time’s half gone, so tarry not. Lest what you seek stays here to rot.”
Harry kicked his legs violently. He tore through patches of kelp; a grindylow shot out of one particularly thick bundle of the algae, looked at him, and shot back out of sight. Harry ignored it completely. His heart was pounding in his chest.
Where are you? He thought more forcefully.
He darted around a strand of kelp and stopped. Just ahead of him was a clearing in the underwater vegetation. There were little stone huts with what looked like gardens in front, roads lined with small pebbles, sunken objects and statues covered in algal slime from the world above. And amongst these things were the merpeople.
They looked nothing like they did in storybooks. For one thing, they weren’t pretty. For another, they were ugly. Their skin was gray and clung to their skeletons, their hair looked just like the kelp they’d been swimming in, and their teeth were sharply pointed and stained yellow. All of the adults were carrying tridents and were watching Harry with narrow, yellow eyes.
Harry hesitantly moved forward. He searched the little village and found a large statue near what was probably the center. Near the statue was a splotch of bright red.
Harry shot forward. A merman jumped out of his way as he cut through the water. He vaguely registered the mermaid singing her warnings to the champions as Ginny came into view. There was an algae bound rope tying her to the statue, along with two other girls; the Asian Ravenclaw, Cho Chang and a small girl with silvery blonde hair. Maybe she was Fleur’s sister. All three girls were dressed in white robes and their bodies were limp, asleep.
Harry entered the town center and passed the mermaid. He could sense Ginny’s sleep, but at the same time her mind was anxious.
He didn’t know why, until he reached out to touch her and her eyes opened. She gasped, coughed, and began to choke.
Mid-morning was his least favorite time of day. Mid-morning, the sun leeched through the grimy windows and illuminated the cold tile floor, the desk strewn with papers and the thin mattress that served as his bed. Mid-morning he would open his eyes and remember every other morning before the incident, when she would wake him up in whatever way she thought would be most ridiculous or embarrassing for him, though why she kept trying when they were married confused him. And then he would remember that last morning when she’d woken him up with breakfast and roses and they’d forgotten all about the food to focus on each other. After remembering that with a sad smile, he would remember what had happened mid-afternoon that day, and then the rest of the present day was ruined, not that they ever had good prospects.
How long had it been then? Ten years? Twenty? He didn’t even know what year it was then, so how could he tell. He had tried counting days but there had been so many, so many long, tiresome days that he’d forgotten. In the beginning, he could see her and hear her voice in the cell across from him, and when they stretched enough they could touch the tips of their fingers together. She couldn’t see him, however. She couldn’t see anything anymore.
Now there was only the musty papers written in merged dialects of Greek, scrambled and encoded to prevent anyone from reading them. The code was not made by magic, but had been devised by the mind of someone incredibly brilliant and even more paranoid. He had only just finished translating it into English, but the code stumped him. He feared he wouldn’t be able to break it, which meant he would never see his wife again.
Ginny’s lungs struggled for air and received only water. There was sudden panic in her mind and even more in Harry’s. She couldn’t breathe. They were underwater. She was drowning.
Harry’s body acted on its own; he grabbed her arm and forced his mouth over hers. Water passed through his gills and he exhaled into her mouth. Ginny spat water into his, he pulled back and pushed out the water, then pressed his lips over hers again, exhaling as forcefully as he could.
Don’t try to breathe, he thought. Keep your mouth closed.
Her eyes were wide but she nodded. Harry inhaled and placed his mouth over hers. Second-hand air filled her but there was still panic. Harry looked around for a way to cut her from the statue. He exhaled into her mouth, drew his wand, and jabbed it at the rope. It snapped immediately and Harry started to kick his legs. He wrapped one arm around Ginny’s waist and she wrapped both of her arms around his chest. He breathed for her again and swam as fast as he could towards the distant surface. Ginny tapped his back every few seconds and he exhaled into her mouth but he could tell that it was working well. Halfway up, she was going limp again. Harry pressed his mouth over hers and held her head in place, inhaling through his nose and exhaling into her mouth, but her mind was still slowing. His leg kicked faster and the panic grew. Ginny was getting more and more limp in his arms.
Stay with me, Gin, he thought, exhaling into her again.
Stay with me, we’re almost there!
Harry exhaled into her again. There was too much water in her lungs. She was still drowning. His legs were aching from swimming and Ginny’s weight was not helping.
I’m not… that heavy…
Harry exhaled into her mouth. No, you’re lighter than feathers. Focus on me.
You’re a great kisser…. Ginny coughed suddenly and water shot into her mouth. Harry sealed his lips over hers quickly and exhaled.
Stay with me, please, love…
Ginny touched a hand to his face and tried to kiss him. No, I need to breathe for you, he thought. Ginny pressed her lips against his anyway, making it difficult for him to exhale her oxygen. Ginny! His swimming slowed; he pulled back to focus on getting to the surface, then put his mouth over hers again so he could keep breathing into her. She was so limp.
Harry’s free hand broke the surface and at the same time his gills closed together. With one last, powerful kick, both his and Ginny’s heads burst out of the water and he gasped for breath. It was suddenly odd to be breathing air instead of water, but that wasn’t what he was concerned with. Ginny’s head was lolling onto her shoulder, her mouth still under the water.
Ginny, he thought, shaking her. Her head fell backwards, bringing her mouth out of the water, but she did not respond.
“Ginny,” he said aloud, now struggling to keep his own head above the water. A wave broke over their heads and he coughed as water entered his nose. He looked around for sight of the shore and saw a boat coming towards him.
“Help!” he shouted. “Help!”
He saw Ludo Bagman in the boat, along with Dumbledore, Karkaroff and Maxime as well as Mr. Crouch. Harry waved his hand through the air, screaming himself hoarse. Ginny was still motionless; he couldn’t tell if she was breathing or not.
Wake up! He thought, shaking her more. His panic growing, he tried to swim towards the boat but his skills at swimming had diminished greatly since the effect of the green slime had worn off. He struggled to keep Ginny above the water, swallowing a lot of water along the way. The taste was foul in his mouth but he didn’t care. Ginny was not moving.
A hand gripped his shirt and pulled him up; Harry grabbed at Ginny’s arms but whoever was hauling him had added their other hand; they were very strong. He lost his grip and Ginny drifted away, falling face forward into the water.
“Ginny!” he shouted. Someone else grabbed her arm and yanked her face from the water; Bagman got his hands under her arms and lifted her up. The white cotton dress clung to her frame and the sleeves were pushed past her elbows; on her left arm a corner of a ‘W’ was visible. Harry grabbed her around the waist as soon as Bagman had hauled her into the boat.
“She’s not breathing,” he muttered.
“Harry, step back,” someone behind him said.
“She’s not breathing!”
“Harry, move out of the way!”
Someone grabbed his arm and wrenched him off of Ginny’s limp body; Dumbledore was kneeling beside her and waving his wand over her chest. Harry watched with wide eyes. Her chest was still, too still. Dumbledore jerked his wand upward and Ginny suddenly turned over, vomiting lake-water all over the deck of the boat. Coughing, she looked up and reached for Harry. He pulled himself out of the grip of whoever was holding him and wrapped his arms around her. Her body was shaking violently and she was still spitting up water.
“H-Harry?” she mumbled.
“You’re all right,” he said, “you’re okay.”
“I — I saw him,” she whispered in his ear. I saw him…
Harry pressed a kiss to her forehead. It’s okay, Ginny, you’re okay.
I saw him, Harry!
It wasn’t real, he thought.
Ginny’s eyes were wide still, but slowly, she nodded her head. She gripped his arms tightly, and pressed her body into his chest. She was taking deep, ragged breaths and she was still coughing up water.
“How did she wake up?”
Harry looked up. Barty Crouch was standing over him, looking both worried and angry. Dumbledore did not answer immediately; Karkaroff and Maxime both had unreadable expressions — his was very tense while hers looked almost thoughtful —, and Bagman spluttered incoherently. His eyes were focused on Ginny, and Harry felt a sudden desire to get her a blanket. He looked around and saw towels behind him; he grabbed one and draped it over her shoulders. Bagman’s gaze still did not move.
“How in the name of Merlin did that spell not work?” Crouch demanded. “You promised the children that they would be perfectly safe, yet this girl has almost drowned. Answer me that, Ludo!”
Harry glanced at the former Quidditch player. He was still babbling.
“Dumbledore, where is the fourth champion?” Crouch asked. “We have Mr. Krum and Mr. Diggory and their hostages, where is Miss Delacour and her sister?”
“The hour is up,” Karkaroff said. “She failed.”
“Miss Delacour is on the shore with Madam Pomfrey,” Dumbledore said. “Her sister will be returned to her shortly.”
“I thought that the hostages would be lost if we failed!”
Harry turned and realized suddenly that Diggory was sitting behind him. As was Cho Chang, wrapped in a towel, and behind them were Krum and —
“Hermione?” he said. She pressed a finger to her lips then waved, mouthing ‘Later!’
Crouch still did not look pleased. He turned back to Bagman and glared at him with thin lips.
“I — I — I don’t know!” Bagman protested. “I tested the charm myself before placing it on the girls; it should have kept her asleep! I do not know how to explain this!”
Ginny coughed up one last mouthful of water, then closed her eyes and leaned against Harry’s chest. Her mind was weary, and her body was exhausted. He locked his arms around her and pulled her onto his lap so she could curl up more comfortably.
Madam Maxime suddenly came around Harry and Ginny; she grabbed a towel and put around his shoulders, then got another and put it around Ginny’s legs. She touched Harry’s hair, then backed away and stood watching them with a curious expression. Harry tried not to feel awkward, but the other adults were not paying attention to them or the half-giant French woman.
“She should have remained asleep until she came above water, I have no explanation as to why she didn’t!” Bagman insisted.
“But there must be one!” Crouch shouted back.
“I believe I have it,” Dumbledore said softly. Both men went immediately silent and stared.
“And?” Crouch said after a moment’s silence.
Dumbledore stayed silent a moment longer, his eyes fixed on Ginny’s tired and still frightened face. “Miss Weasley is a very unique individual,” he began. “She has had… experiences that have made her resilient to certain magics. Magics such as ones governing her behavior.”
Ludo frowned, but Crouch looked as if he suddenly understood. “Oh, yes,” he said. Harry could almost see him remembering an event two years before where several students were petrified by a giant snake and two nearly killed.
“So I believe that Miss Weasley’s will did not register exactly that she was a willing participant in the task, and therefore struggled to break the enchantment. She has been tricked into allowing spells to be cast upon her in the past.”
“What do you mean?” Karkaroff spoke for the first time.
“It is a long story, Igor,” Dumbledore said simply. “For the moment, we should both be impressed by Miss Weasley’s strength of will and keep in mind that we should not put her in such a situation again.”
Crouch nodded stiffly and Ludo Bagman muttered something under his breath. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the towel over her head. I saw him, Harry.
Harry kissed her forehead and rubbed her shoulder. It’s all right, love, he can’t hurt you.
She shook her head at him. I’m not worried about me. He’s alive, Harry.
Harry frowned at her. Wait, who are we talking about?
Ginny opened her eyes and fixed them on his. There was a manic glint in them that worried him. Voldemort.
He’s coming back!
Harry glanced at Dumbledore, now frightened himself. How do you know?
Ginny bit her lip. Those dreams I’ve been having, I never really thought about them much but I dreamt that I was going to be trapped underwater and you were going to save me by giving me air; I dreamt that you would be put into the tournament; I dreamt that you’d fight a dragon. All those things came true. I even got stuck in this stupid dress that I dreamt I was wearing!
Okay… so how do you know Voldemort is coming back?
While I was under the water, I could see him… I dreamt about him before; he’s doing this, he somehow got you put in the Tournament I know it!
Harry kissed the top of her head again in an effort to calm her down. We have to tell Dumbledore.
She nodded vaguely. Do you think he’s going to do anything? He hasn’t worked very hard on finding out about our bond, or about Tom’s memories, or anything else we’ve told him.
He’ll figure it out, Harry assured her. She bit her lip again but did not reply.
The boat must have been moving without being controlled and without their noticing for at that moment it bumped into a dock that Harry didn’t remember being there that morning. Bagman jumped out and tied off the boat before helping Diggory get up and out of the boat, then Cho and Hermione and then Krum. Karkaroff got out without taking Bagman’s outstretched hand and Madam Maxime did not take the offered help either. Dumbledore stepped over and helped Ginny to her feet, then Harry. They exited the boat and Dumbledore led the two of them along with the other dripping champions and hostages to a tent on the shore. Karkaroff strode off immediately and Madam Maxime passed them on her way to the tent. Bagman came up behind Harry and Ginny and offered Ginny his arm to lean on; she was still shaking. Ginny declined with a shake of her head.
In the tent, Madam Pomfrey immediately shoved Pepper-up potions under their noses. Harry was about to drink his when Dumbledore said that Ginny had woken up before reaching the surface.
“What?!” the matron demanded. She grabbed Ginny’s arm and pushed her into a chair before Dumbledore could answer and began casting numerous spells. Harry gulped down the potion and sat down beside his girlfriend.
Hermione plopped into a seat beside Harry with a sigh. Ginny waved vaguely at her, but Madam Pomfrey reprimanded her to remain still.
“What happened?” Hermione asked in a hushed tone.
Harry shrugged. “I reached out to take her hand, and she just woke up. Started choking immediately.”
“How did she not drown?” Madam Pomfrey asked with shock in her voice.
“I gave her air,” he said. “Mouth-to-mouth until we reached the surface.”
Madam Pomfrey raised her eyebrow. “How did you know that would work?”
Harry glanced at Ginny, then shrugged again. “I just did.”
The matron looked mildly impressed for a moment, then quickly stifled it. “Drink that potion, Miss Weasley,” she said in a scolding tone. Ginny rolled her eyes and raised the steaming goblet to her lips.
The four of them looked up to see Ron, Fred, George and Percy running towards them. Or rather, Ron, Fred and George were running. Percy was walking speedily.
Ron collided with Ginny’s chair and engulfed her in a bear hug, making her grunt with surprise; Fred and George went around her to hug her from the back and Percy tried not to skid as he stopped to wait his turn.
“You drowned!” Ron shouted. “They said you drowned!”
“No,” Ginny croaked from under one of the twins’ arms, “almost though. It’d be nice if I had air.”
Instantly all three boys let go. Harry had never seen any of them look so worried.
“What the hell happened?” Percy demanded.
“Perce!” Ginny said in shock.
“Wow, he does know the ‘h’ word,” George said in even more shock.
“Where did you come from?” Harry asked.
“Back away!” Madam Pomfrey shouted. “Away from my patient!”
Ron, George, and Fred jumped back and lined up beside Percy. Madam Pomfrey glared at them, then at Ginny until she raised her goblet to drink what was left in it.
“But what happened?” Percy asked again.
“Dumbledore thinks Ginny’s subconscious overcame the enchanted sleep because it didn’t recognize that she had agreed to participate in the task,” Hermione answered.
Ginny nodded, but didn’t add to that because she was still drinking the Pepper-up potion. Madam Pomfrey glanced at Harry and scowled to see that his wasn’t finished either. Quickly, he took a large gulp. She nodded and drifted away to attend to another patient.
“Why would it?” Ron asked.
Hermione raised her eyebrows. The boys still looked confused.
“Because I was possessed multiple times a few years ago,” Ginny said, setting down her empty goblet. Harry thought it helped her to finish that Ron had knocked it out of her hand and caused most of it to spill on the ground.
All four boys looked suddenly guilty. Ginny smiled dryly at them.
“Easy to forget when it isn’t you,” she muttered. She rubbed the inside of her left arm, her gaze drifting to the ground. Harry reached over and grasped her hand in both of his, stopping her from at least dwelling physically on the scar.
Everyone was staring at their feet in awkwardness now. Each Weasley boy looked up briefly at different moments as if to say something, but they never had anything worth saying, so they looked back down at the ground.
“What are you doing here, Percy?” Ginny asked finally, looking up at him.
“Oh.” Percy blushed. “Er, Mr. Crouch requested I come to assist him,” he answered. “I remained on shore while he went out on the lake in the boat.”
“Of course,” Ginny muttered. “Does he know your name yet?”
Percy opened his mouth to answer when the man himself stuck his head in the tent and shouted “Weatherby! Come here!”
George, Ron, Ginny and Fred burst out laughing. Harry and Hermione chuckled slightly while Percy turned beet red.
“Yes, sir!” he called back, turning on his heel and marching out of the tent.
Ginny suddenly started coughing and Madam Pomfrey rushed over instantly. “Away, away! You may speak to her later!”
The remaining Weasley boys backed away until Madam Pomfrey stopped glaring at them. The matron pulled a bottle of potion from nowhere and poured it into Ginny’s goblet. “I will need you to spend the next few days in the Hospital Wing, so I may observe you.”
“I have to stay with her,” Harry said instantly.
Madam Pomfrey opened her mouth, probably to rebuke him, when Dumbledore touched her shoulder. “Given their circumstance, Poppy, I would allow him to stay in the Hospital Wing as well.”
“What circumstance?” Madam Pomfrey asked.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. The Matron pursed her lips, but jerked her head up and down. “Very well, Albus, but you will need to explain yourself later,” she said stiffly. She turned to Ginny and scowled. “Drink, Miss Weasley, drink!”
Ginny sighed but raised the goblet to her mouth. She made a face as she took a gulp. “Merlin, what is this?”
“A Replenishing Potion,” Madam Pomfrey said. She turned away and bustled across the tent to where Diggory and Cho Chang were seated.
Professor Dumbledore turned his gaze onto Harry and Ginny. “You are required to remain here until my fellow judges have agreed on scoring, but once you have received your score, Harry, I will escort you to the Hospital Wing personally. Madam Pomfrey will not be able to return to the castle immediately so we will have up to fifteen minutes in privacy. I will have questions for you both and new information.”
And the Headmaster left the tent. Ginny turned to Harry with raised eyebrows.
Questions? New information? Nearly drowning? Today is our day, isn’t it?
Harry suppressed a snort and took her hand. I’m curious what he has to tell us.
Ginny nodded slowly. “Indeed.”
Hermione looked between the two of them with total confusion written across her face. “You two make no sense,” she muttered.
All three of them looked up; the five judges were visible from the tent entrance, Ludo Bagman standing before the rest with his wand touched to his throat, amplifying his voice.
“The judges have prepared the scores,” Bagman said. “Three of our four champions completed the task, as Miss Delacour did not reach her hostage and will not receive points. She is in fourth place with 36 points from the first task. Mr. Diggory returned with his hostage just outside the time limit, and was given 32 points, leaving him in third place with 74. Mr. Krum arrived with his hostage only moments before the limit and was given 42 for a total of 77. Mr. Potter returned more than 20 minutes outside the time limit.”
Bagman glanced at the other judges and continued. “However, the mer-chief reports that Mr. Potter was the second to arrive at the village. His hostage, due to unforeseen complications, woke up prematurely and was unable to breathe. Mr. Potter prevented his hostage from drowning by giving her second-hand air. Our judges deemed this very courageous and a show of remarkable cool under pressure and have given him 40 points, added to what he was given at the first task, a total of 79 points.”
Harry and Ginny met eyes. Slowly, both of them began to grin and Ginny grabbed Harry in a hug.
“You’re in first place!” Hermione shouted.
“You might actually win this thing!” Ginny beamed at Harry.
“The important thing is, you’re not dead,” Harry said. “But that is nice too.”
Ginny kissed Harry quickly; quickly because Madam Pomfrey rushed over saying “No no no, you must be calm!”
Ginny scowled as she took another gulp of her Replenishing Potion.
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