Author Note: Hello once again! This chapter is going in the day after Chapter Nine was validated however a long queue means unfortunately this might take a few days to get through, however the hard work of the staff hopefully means the backlog will go down.
I feel very proud of this chapter, I think overall it is my favourite thus far and I hope you guys feel the same. I found it hard to write but I’m pleased with how it eventually turned out.
This is a bit of a landmark chapter, number Ten! I can hardly believe it. I’ve also just exceeded 2,500 reads and 100 reviews and I am so completely overwhelmed and stunned at the reception of this story. Thank you so, so much to every single person who takes the time to review, every review I get means the absolute world to me and I feel privileged to have you all as my readers.
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10 - Fighting on:
Don't be afraid your life will end;
Be afraid that it will never begin.
Rose Weasley was stood surrounded by four impossibly fast moving rings with absolutely no idea what to do.
Her skin responded in shivers to the coldness of the room which provided ample distraction from her various painful injuries. Her mind whirled with the confusion and chaos around her and she found herself unable to concentrate on anything.
She closed her eyes for a minute, taking deep, measured breaths and visualised everything that was in front of her.
Rose had always been inclined to panic when she was overwhelmed by something but she did have a talent for stepping back and looking at a situation impartially and unemotionally.
She snapped open her glimmering eyes, looking at the challenge she had to complete; she tucked stray strands of hair behind her ears as she thought, suddenly stumbling upon what would hopefully be the answer.
Smiling in relief she withdrew her wand from her jacket and flicked it at the stone rings, clearly saying, “Tardesco”. The rings suddenly slowed to a snail’s pace and Rose let out a sharp breath, finally feeling she was getting somewhere.
From here she tried everything, selecting her favourite animals, related species, types of birds, dangerous creatures, friendly creatures, those with a high Ministry rating and those with a low Ministry rating. Nothing worked as she continued to press down combinations only to have them pop impatiently back up.
She had worn out both her Defence Against the Darks Arts and her Care of Magical Creatures knowledge and she was physically and mentally exhausted. Instead she focussed on Hogwarts, the centre-point of this First Task and the room she was in, the Headmistress’s office.
She closed her eyes thinking over what the significance was of this information but found nothing. Then suddenly, as clear as a flash of bright lightening, it occurred to her. Once again she could have kicked herself for such a blunder when the answer was so obvious.
She was currently in Professor Quila’s office, the core of the school. Despite this she had completely ignored something else which was the core of Hogwarts; something upon which it was founded. Rose carefully scanned the animal engravings on the outer ring and after finding that which depicted a badger, she pressed it down, awash with relief when it didn’t flick back up.
She analysed the second ring, pressing down a serpent, on the third a lion and the fourth, an eagle; the animalistic symbols of the four Hogwarts founders. Rose almost cried out in excitement as the floor of the chamber she was in suddenly ascended violently, not stopping until it was level once again with the familiar office.
The stone rings descended and Rose exited the circle on the floor and grasped finally in her open hand the worn material of the Sorting Hat. Reaching inside it she withdrew a key and a piece of parchment and relaxed as the now familiar transportation sensation took over. Scorpius sat in front of her, slouched happily in his chair.
“You know what, Red. You really are brilliant,” he said with a grin and gestured to the chair in front of him which Rose took gratefully.
The end of the First Task was now in sight, all they had was one more clue; one more challenge; one more key. Rose gently unrolled the last riddle, hurrying as she began to read knowing they had so little time.
“Don’t turn your face, keep your eyes on me,
My creeping feelers don’t need to see,
When I sense you I will snap and bite,
Prepare yourself for a green-fingered fight.”
Scorpius’ brow furrowed as he considered the words of the final clue, taking it from Rose’s hand to read it for himself.
“So the location must be the Herbology greenhouses then,” Rose said. “If it’s “green-fingered” it must be a plant of some kind.”
“Exactly,” Scorpius agreed. “As to what it actually is though... I mean so far the object in question has been connected to the key as well as the location. So we need to know what it is as well.”
The two of them considered for a moment; neither of them was an expert in Herbology.
“What about Devil’s Snare?” Rose said suddenly, remembering Alexandre’s task which she had viewed earlier. Scorpius considered it for a moment, but shook his head.
“The creeping feelers bit definitely fits but what about snap and bite? I’m pretty sure Devil’s Snare has no way of snapping or biting.”
Rose groaned impatiently, eyeing the quickly decreasing timer next to her.
“Fanged Geranium?” Scorpius asked, not sounding entirely hopeful.
“That’s the other way round isn’t it?” Rose said unhappily. “It will snap and bite but doesn’t have feelers of any kind.”Scorpius sat up suddenly just as the timer showed them their last few seconds. “Venomous Tentacula!” he half shouted at Rose as her body was once more transported. Fortunately she had heard his hastily shouted words and, ignoring the sharp pain still throbbing through her foot, she attempted to run down the numerous staircases to exit the castle. Stumbling blindly forward as her ankle collapsed beneath her Rose fell to the bottom of the current staircase she was on, her head connecting with the bottom step painfully.
She lay with her arms and legs at awkward angles, attempting to revive her tired limbs enough to get moving again. She groaned with impatience, not wanting to stop and be diverted from her goal, only too aware of the blood dripping down her forehead.
She climbed to her shaky feet and proceeded in a stumbling jog down the stairs, at one point even sliding down the banister in an attempt to travel quicker and had never been more pleased to see the large oak entrance doors to the castle as she passed through them. Rose tugged at her sleeve and ripped off a strip of fabric, hastily using it to press to her forehead in an attempt to stop the flow of blood.
Running in earnest now, Rose made her way to the Herbology greenhouses, making for that furthest away from her where the most dangerous plants were traditionally kept. From outside it looked much the same as usual, broad green leaves pressed against the interior of the glass walls making it impossible to distinguish anything.
On arriving, she slid open the old glass door, pushing against it heavily as it only opened halfway and then stopped. Finding it impossible to push it further she slipped through the gap allowed, into the darkness beyond.
Inside reflected none of the light from outside, the entirety of the greenhouse was shrouded in darkness, Rose could barely see her feet through the all-consuming gloom.
She jumped when the door slammed very suddenly shut behind her, simultaneously a light shone at the far end of the greenhouse, illuminating a roughly hewn table upon which stood a flowerpot, a key and a scrap of parchment.
The dull light showed her that her pathway over the uneven stones of the greenhouse floor was entirely clear, but she knew it couldn’t be that easy. Hesitantly she stepped forward, nothing happened. She stepped forward again, nothing.
She broke into a lengthy stride as the sound of something whipping through the air to her right struck her ears almost painfully in the silence.
She twisted herself impossibly quickly, her wand at the ready, towards the darkness beyond through which emerged the hideous snapping fangs and spiky feelers of the Venomous Tentacula. But not just one, behind and beside it emerged hundreds more dragging themselves along the ground using their dark red jagged feelers, their terracotta pots scraping across the hard stone and echoing horribly in the darkness.
From behind her Rose could hear the same sound and knew the terrifying plants surrounded her on all sides as the crescendo of noise smothered her ears.
She broke into a run, forcing her injured leg to move at an incredible speed as she turned herself repeatedly left and right trying to avoid the snake-like arms which were flicking out at her, bringing flashes of pain as they broke the skin repeatedly, clothing being no barrier against its sharp thorns. She had made it half way to the key when a particularly thick and branchy feeler wrapped around her ankles and pulled her to the ground, dragging her kicking and squealing towards it.
Its great head split in half to reveal two rows of spiked teeth which ground together and snapped towards her. She screamed, using her wand to hit the plant with spell after spell but nothing worked; her hands weakly grabbed at the flooring attempting the drag herself away from the plant’s strong grip but she merely grazed and cut the skin as she continued to be pulled towards its hideous jaws. The stunning spells were useless against its thick hide so in one last attempt she shot the only spell she could think of, an ice spell.
She whipped out her arm and pointed it at the plant, yelling “Conglacio!” A feeble flicker of pale blue light emitted from the end of her wand, quickly fading into the darkness as the plant’s bristly arms wrapped around her neck.
She pushed her hand quickly against her throat, attempting to halt her adversary’s terrifying squeeze. She pressed her wand into its thick fleshly branches and cleared her throat, a hacking cough taking over. She gasped for breath, screaming with as much feeling as she could muster, “CONGLACIO!”
The Venomous Tentacula was temporarily immobilised and screeched in its paralysis, its feelers falling limply to the ground allowing Rose to stumble once again to her feet and scrabble back towards the gleaming, glittering key.
She jumped skittishly across the floor avoiding the unstoppable attempts of the numerous plants to trip and harm her once again. As she ran she shot spells blindly behind her in defence, hoping to at least slow her untiring enemies.
The key was still in sight and barely far at all. As exhaustion consumed Rose she battled on, her aching limbs propelling her forwards. The key was almost within her reach.
Just ten more steps, she chanted in her mind...nine...eight...a feeler scratched across her face wildly, catching and cutting the skin...seven...six...she stumbled and shot every spell that sprung to mind into the mass of hideous plants advancing around her...five...four...three...two... she was almost there, she reached out her hand to grasp her goal.
The largest and most terrifying plant of them all loomed out of the shadows and closed its massive toothy jaws around her outstretched arm; she screamed, dropping her wand.
She felt the teeth, sharp as daggers, pierce her skin as her other hand groped wildly on the floor for her missing weapon.
As she felt wet warmth dripping down the length of her arm she finally closed her fingers around the thin uneven handle of her wand. She weakly pointed it at the plant and screamed the spell, her voice breaking with exhaustion. The plant recoiled and froze, falling limp, leaving Rose to hastily rip the razor sharp fangs from her tender skin, gasping and choking in pain as she did so.
She grasped in front of her in chaotic desperation, feeling the legs of the table and pulling herself onto her knees, she finally felt in her hand the cold hardness of the golden key and the flowerpot. Her eyes fixed on the parchment, etched on it in italic script were the words: “Congratulations. You have completed the First Task.”
She fell back onto the floor anticipating the pain as she hit the stone but was relieved when the ground was soft and spongy. A rush of noise met her ears, the cheering and gasps of hundreds of people as she turned her face to the side, feeling the grass of the Durmstrang grounds tickling her cheek.
She was back; she had made it.
She kept her eyes tightly closed as blood from her numerous head scratches and wounds dripped down her face, covering her eyelids. Her arm was burning from the excruciating pain the Venomous Tentacula’s bite had caused; her legs unmovable from the Grindylow’s teeth. She felt a sudden pressure on her arm, a hand.
“Rose? Rose can you hear me?” a voice said loudly in her ear, Scorpius’ voice.
Rose opened her mouth to speak but succeeded only in allowing the metallic tasting liquid to ooze into her mouth, so instead squeezed the hand he had now clutched around hers.
She felt herself lifted into his strong arms and held his shirt front tightly in her hand, not wanting to let him go.
Now that she had finished the final challenge of the First Task, she gave in to the overwhelming emotions she had been keeping tightly held inside her and now that she no longer had people to impress, people to fight for, she let the tears fall.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Scorpius ran faster than ever before in his life, holding Rose’s body tightly against his to try and dull the impact of his movements on her pained body. He could feel her shuddering as she sobbed, barely holding on to consciousness.
The medical tent Madam Roux had put up wasn’t far away but it felt like miles as he stumbled over the uneven ground, his breathing harsh. Just as Scorpius reached the tent Madam Roux emerged and Professor Quila and several Ministry officials apparated in front of him, worry etched on their faces.
Scorpius felt Rose go limp in his arms, her shuddering stopped.
He laid her gently on one of the pure white beds which was set up in the cavernous tent. The minute she made contact with the delicately folded sheets blood swept through the fabric, soaking it.
Scorpius stared, transfixed as the crimson liquid travelled in tiny lines around Rose, reaching the farthest corner and drenching completely the delicate cotton immediately around her.
The two colours contrasted horrifically; the red of her blood seeping into the white of the sheets; the deep cherry of her hair framing her ashen face; the scarlet of her Gryffindor robes against the surgically clean ivory of Madam Roux’s uniform. Red and white, sweetly embracing each other in the traditional representation of death.
Scorpius let out harsh choking breaths as he watched as Madam Roux slowly waved her wand over Rose’s lifeless body, muttering indistinctly under her breath. Scorpius could dimly hear noise approaching the tent, loud, tense voices, and heard as the make-shift door of the tent – a piece of white material – was whipped aside and somebody entered Rose’s cubicle.
Hermione Weasley ran into the room, her eyes wide with fear, watering with the obvious tears threatening to fall. Scorpius recognised her from the numerous Ministry functions his and Rose’s parents had attended together. Hermione’s position as the head of muggle-wizard relations and the numerous new reforms she had put into practice made her a regular in the Daily Prophet and therefore instantly recognisable.
She ran to her daughter’s side, placed a hand over hers and hastily ran her eyes over the limp body before her looking for any sign of life. Madam Roux quickly pushed her back from the bed.
“Mrs Weasley please, I need space to work.” Her face was a picture of focussed determination as she sent numerous spells into the body in front of her. The nurse suddenly flicked her wand into the air creating a ghostly owl Patronus and sending it away, she was obviously sending a message but what it said and to whom it was sent Scorpius neither knew nor cared. A few unbearably long minutes later a Patronus returned, Scorpius recognised its graceful bird form but his cluttered mind didn’t pause to analyse it.
He numbly felt somebody’s hand on his arm; he looked briefly to the side seeing Professor Quila. “You need to sit down, Mr Malfoy. There are some chairs out here,” she said gently trying to guide him away from the bed.
He resisted her, not wanting to leave Rose’s side.
Hermione stood beside him, until now she hadn’t even noticed that Scorpius had been standing there, but now she saw him she was shocked. His face was white with fear, his eyes fixed unmoving on the bed in front of him; his hands and t-shirt covered in Rose’s blood; his whole body perceptibly shaking.
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