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The Many Faces of Har--er, Adira Potter

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The Many Faces of Har—er, Adira Potter: Chapter 33”

By = Fayanora

 

Chapter Thirty-three: The Second Task

 

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

 

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there. But some canon scenes are just too good to change much.

 

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of Alastair, Adira, and Zoey, and now #Iliana (bold, italic, underlined, and now between hashtags/pound signs because some people's computers don't do the B.I.U.).# , {Tier}, ~Chandra,~ and %Mother% if I get around to it in this chapter.

 

Note 4: She's creepy and she's kooky, mysterious and ooky, she's altogether spooky, she's J. K. Rowling.

 

*FAYANORA*

 

After dinner that evening, Iliana switched to Al early, and Al went off in search of Cedric. He soon found the Hufflepuff boy in the corridor and walked along beside him.

 

“Yes, Al? Did you want something?”

 

“Can we talk privately?”

 

“Er... well, I suppose so. Here, there's a good empty classroom this way.”

 

Al followed Cedric into the spare classroom dusty from disuse – except for a few obvious places where two or more people had disturbed the dust with their bodies, no doubt snogging or something like it.

 

“So what did you want to discuss?”

 

“I figured out my egg. Have you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So you know we have to go into the Black Lake.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well for us, breathing won't be an issue. But Tier isn't having any luck with the kind of anatomy needed to keep warm in cold water, and our warming charm isn't very good. We'd be recasting it every few minutes. Now I'm just trying to survive this thing, which won't happen if I freeze to death of hypothermia in this stupid Task, and I warned you about the dragons. I only did it to be fair, not expecting to cash it in later, but, well, it's getting very close to the Second Task, and we still haven't figured out how to solve the warmth issue. So I'm looking for a little quid pro quo.”

 

Al could feel, before Cedric even said anything, that the older boy couldn't help, even though he wanted to. “If your warming charms aren't up to it, I don't know what to tell you. Except... well, you could cast Impervius on yourself.”

 

“Already thought of that. It wouldn't work. The water wouldn't soak into me, but it would still be pressing against me, sucking the heat out of my body.”

 

“Well... there's nothing in the rules for this Task that says you can't bring other stuff with you. If you could find some artifact or potion to stay warm underwater, that would be allowed.”

 

“Yeah, someone else mentioned that. I haven't found anything yet, though.”

 

“Hey, I know how to use the library pretty well at this point. There are tricks to it, you see. Come, let's go now, maybe I can find you something.”

 

Al shrugged. “Okay,” he said, following Cedric out the door.

 

When they got to the library, Cedric went to the end of one of the bookshelves, and touched his wand to it.

 

“Show me underwater magic,” he said.

 

A bookshelf across the room lit up, and they followed it.

 

“How come nobody's ever shown us this before?”

 

“No idea. Anyway, here we are.”

 

The bookshelf in question went out when Cedric touched it, but several shelves of books slid forward, making themselves stand out from the crowd.

 

Holding his wand to the shelf again, Cedric said, “Show me means of self-warming that work underwater.”

 

All but 10 of the books slid back into place.

 

“That a fourth year student could learn in a month or less.”

 

Whittled down to 4 books, now. Cedric removed his wand and the two of them looked at the books that were there. Two of the books were phantom books, which Cedric explained meant that they were currently checked out. Al recognized one of those as one he had checked out.

 

“Damn, this would've been so helpful first and second year. We could've solved both mysteries in like, five minutes with this. Ruddy substandard education!”

 

Taking the other book off the shelf, Cedric set it down on a table, touched his wand to a part of the book that wouldn't move if the book opened, and repeated his request. The book flew open, pages moving as though in a fast breeze, and landed on a section labeled 'Ye Viking's Arctic Vigour Potion, for keeping warme in cold climes, e'en in frigid water.'

 

“Well this potion looks easy enough to me. What about you, Al?”

 

“Yes. Let's see... sunflower petals, ashwinder eggs, salamander blood, a cube of ice for each of those ingredients, with a base of dandelion root, marshmallow root, honey, and water.”

 

Al put a bookmark in the book and took it over to check out.

 

“Thanks for your help, Cedric. Did you want to use this potion too? I could copy it down for you.”

 

“That's fine. I've been practicing my Warming Charm in the tub, I'll only need to cast it once or twice.”

 

“Okay. If you change your mind, let me know.”

 

Cedric waved goodbye, leaving Al to start the process of making the potion. He only had one place to go for that, though, and he didn't like it. But he decided to risk it. After all, though the man didn't like them, he did try to keep them alive in first year. They shifted back to Iliana first, for an added edge.

 

A few minutes later, Professor Snape heard a knock at his office door. Annoyed but curious who was bothering him this late on a Saturday, when he'd been trying to grade papers, he went to the door and opened it, nearly having a heart attack from the shock of the girl before him. Once he recovered, he got very angry at her nerve. To look like that in the first place, then to hit him with it unexpectedly.

 

“What do you want, Potter?”

 

Iliana cowered a little, thinking maybe this was a bad idea, but pressed on anyway.

 

“I, er... well, about the Second Task, I---”

 

“I am not helping you cheat, girl. Begone!”

 

“That's not what I'm asking for! I just need somewhere to brew a potion.”

 

His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What kind of potion?”

 

“It's called Ye Viking's Arctic Vigour Potion. It's to keep me warm under the Black Lake during the Second Task.”

 

Professor Snape was impressed despite himself that the Potters had thought of a potion for that task.

 

“It is pronounced The Viking's Arctic Vigour Potion,” he corrected automatically. “Back in those days, the TH sound was made with a rune called 'thorn,' but since printing presses did not have the letter thorn, the Y was used because of their similarity in shape. Let me see that book.”

 

Reluctantly, she handed it over. He read the page in question.

 

“Yes, this potion is simple enough even a first-year could manage it, I think. But it has a very short shelf-life, only three days before it becomes useless sludge. I commend your willingness to be prepared, Potter, but you would have to wait until, preferably, the day before the Task to brew this. And frankly, I do not wish to see you waste valuable potions ingredients practicing this potion beforehand. However...” he looked thoughtful for a moment before continuing, “I see no reason you shouldn't try the day before the Task. Come to my office after dinner on the 23rd of February and I will supervise your attempt.”

 

“You will? Sir?”

 

“Yes. In fact, this recipe is severely out of date, and the side effects of this version would be painful indeed. I can think of half a dozen ways to improve on it just off the top of my head, minimizing the side effects and increasing the stability of the potion. When you come in on February 23rd, I will provide you with an improved version of the potion for you to brew.”

 

“I... er, doesn't that violate the rules of the Tournament, sir?”

 

He considered her in that slow and deliberate manner of his.

 

“No, I don't think it does. You came to me with this potion. It is unsafe as written here, so it is my duty to my students to see to their safety. Besides which, remember which House I am in, Potter.”

 

“'Those cunning Slytherins will use any means to achieve their ends,'” she quoted.

 

“Quite,” he agreed. “Now, I will need this book so I can write down its version of the potion before I improve it. I will hand it back to you after our next class, Miss Potter.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“You are welcome. You are now also dismissed,” he said, closing the door before she could respond.

 

~

 

With the dilemma of keeping warm underwater in February solved, as long as Snape didn't change his mind before then, the next several weeks went by pretty smoothly. They focused on schoolwork and on designing a tasteful bathing suit for the Second Task, or bathing suits plural, really, since they couldn't be sure something wouldn't go wrong and end up having to do the Task as Zoey or something or someone even more peculiar, like that time two of them had tried to come Out at the same time and instead became a weird deformed mix of the two of them.

 

They also practiced as many of the underwater defensive spells as they could, from the books Moody had suggested. Further, now that they knew Cedric's trick to finding books faster in the library, they could find useful books a lot faster, and being so prepared was having a calming effect on them.

 

What was more, their sleep had improved. Before finding the warming potion, half their nights had given them less than adequate sleep, but now with that problem solved, they only had one night like that a week.

 

Dumbledore's occlumency lessons went better, too. Before, they'd had more intrusions, seeing flashes of scenes from their past, and even one odd vision of Sirius's library, but dark like it was night, which was confusing until visions of Aunt Marge's dog chasing them up a tree drove it out of their mind.

 

But at last, the weeks went by and it was the 23rd of February. Deciding to go as Iliana again because he seemed to treat her better than the others, they went to his office that night and knocked on the door.

 

Expecting them, and emotionally prepared for anything, Professor Snape was actually somewhat relieved it was Iliana. Adira would have been acceptable, too. He was just glad it hadn't been the one that looked like Black, or the hyperactive child. Teaching 11 year olds was difficult enough without having to tolerate six year olds, too.

 

“Come in, Miss Potter,” he said curtly.

 

She did, and he closed the door with his wand.

 

“The improved version of the Arctic Vigour Potion is on this piece of parchment. Do you have the book with the original version, to compare and contrast the two versions?”

 

“Er, no. I didn't know that was necessary.”

 

“Yes, I knew you did not. In fact, you returned the book, which is why I checked it out again. Here it is. The potion is on page 324. Compare and contrast the two versions, since you might as well learn something while you are here. When you have done that, close the book and use the updated version of the potion on the parchment. And after the Second Task is done, I will expect 15 inches of parchment or more on an essay about the improvements to the potion. It will be extra credit.”

 

Iliana blinked. Extra credit? Snape never gave extra credit.

 

As though reading her mind, Snape said, “Your performance in my class is moderately better than the performance of other students in your year. And I have been observing you and your... companions... long enough to realize that you, Miss Iliana Potter, are better at Potions than the other... companions. I may be strict, and I may be less than social, but I do like to encourage talent. I do not know how it is you have more talent than your companions, but perhaps if I encourage you, I will learn the answer to that.”

 

She blinked again. This was the second time she could think of that Snape had complimented her, in his own peculiar way. And here, in the absence of other witnesses, it seemed he felt relaxed enough to be kinder and gentler, in the same way that a tornado is kinder and gentler than a category 5 hurricane.

 

“Er... yes sir. Thank you, sir.”

 

“Your ingredients are lined up here on this shelf,” he said, pointing at a mostly-empty shelf with the ingredients for the warming potion laid out.

 

“Now get to work. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. I doubt you will, as the complexity of the modified potion is still within your skill level, but I would rather be annoyed by a question than have to put out a fire.”

 

“Understood, sir.”

 

He sat down, as did she, they both got to work.

 

Looking over the two versions, there were indeed several differences between the old version and the new version of the potion, written down in Snape's distinctive scrawl. He had added lavender, peppermint, and concentrated lemon juice to the potion, as well as a milligram of powdered hematite. Some of the instructions for stirring, the order of ingredients, or the times to let the mixture simmer – among other things – had been altered as well. The hematite, for one, had to be dissolved in a drop of diluted bundimun secretion before being added to the potion. Snape had provided a small container enspelled to hold the hematite and bundimun solution in suspension so none of it would be wasted by sticking to a surface.

 

She was about to put the book away and start on the new version of the potion when she thought of something.

 

“Sir?”

 

“What is it, Miss Potter?”

 

“Why peppermint? Isn't it a pain reliever?”

 

Snape set his quill down and turned to look at her properly.

 

“Yes, it is. What are its other properties?”

 

“Um... an antiseptic.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And... doesn't it help with intestinal gas, too?”

 

“Yes, peppermint has an effect on gas, from a purely Muggle herbal standpoint. But it has magical properties as well, which tend to be similar in nature to its Muggle properties. How might it interact with the other ingredients in the potion?”

 

“Well... the salamander blood is a powerful elemental agent, and magical catalyst.”

 

“Indeed it is.”

 

“So... interacting with peppermint... it might have magical effects on other gases, too.”

 

“What would be the benefit of such a thing, Miss Potter?”

 

“Um... well I don't know if it applies to someone using gills to breathe, and I don't know if the lake is deep enough to need it, but if you gave this to someone diving deep in the ocean, I suppose it could have a magical effect on the nitrogen in the blood, preventing nitrogen narcosis, AKA the bends.”

 

“Exactly my thought as well. You see, I had more than tomorrow's adventure in mind when I improved this potion. It is quite an interesting potion, by the way, and I'm contemplating adding it to my curriculum.”

 

“Sounds like a good addition to me, sir.”

 

“Thank you for your input, Miss Potter. Now, please do brew the spell before curfew. I do not wish to have to write you a note for Mr. Filch, if I do not have to.”

 

“Just one more thing, sir, if it's okay?”

 

“What is it, Miss Potter?”

 

“Well you mentioned its short shelf-life, so I was wondering if the addition of peppermint, honey, and lemon juice might be intended to increase its shelf-life, sir? Because the first two are antiseptic, and lemon juice is a natural food preservative.”

 

“Excellent deduction, Miss Potter,” he said with a small grin. “Five points to Griffindor. Now please do get back to work.”

 

She blinked again, stunned at the points given rather than taken, but then nodded and got to work on the potion.

 

~

 

When she got back to the Griffindor common room with several vials of the warming potion, which looked like liquid fire but more yellow than red, she found Ron waiting for her.

 

“Oy, where were you?”

 

“Getting something I need for tomorrow,” she said.

 

“Ah, okay.”

 

“Where's Hermione?”

 

“Dunno. Fred came down here earlier to tell her McGongall wanted to see her for something.”

 

“Ah, I think I know what that's about. She must be my hostage.”

 

“Hostage? Whadda ya mean, 'hostage'?”

 

“Oh yeah, Moody told me the thing the merpeople are going to take, that we Champions have to get back, is hostages. But Dumbledore is personally ensuring their safety.”

 

“Really? Well okay, if Dumbledore says they're alright, then I won't worry.”

 

“Me neither. Anyway, I'm tired. Snape didn't want me to just make his improved version of the warming potion, he had me comparing the two. And he says that after the Second Task, I have to write an extra-credit essay for him about the improvements.”

 

“Oy, he gave you extra work? And he's actually going to give you extra credit for it? Someone's used Polyjuice Potion to replace Snape!”

 

She laughed. “I doubt that. He's still difficult to tolerate, snappish, and grumpy. Just less so, when it's just him and me. Don't tell anyone I said that, he'll probably go mental if he finds out.”

 

Iliana yawned. “Anyway, like I said, bedtime. I have to put these potions vials in that little bag of mine, so I know where they are.”

 

Ron yawned too. “Sleep sounds good to me, too. See you in the morning!”

 

“Assuming I haven't become someone else, of course.”

 

Ron laughed.

 

~

 

In the morning, they woke up as Adira, which – as complications went – was pretty mild. She and Iliana were about the same size, after all, and they'd planned for this possibility, so as she got dressed, she put her one-piece bathing suit on underneath her robes, and strapped the little vials of potion to her arms in case of emergency. With that done, she tried calling Sirius on the two-way mirror, but he didn't pick up. Since it was 7 in the morning, she assumed he was still sleeping, or else was too busy on his motorbike to answer, since the Second Task was at 9:30 that morning.

 

After breakfast, she walked down to the Black Lake with some of the other people, to check out the place. There were stands for the audience, the lowest of these about 10 feet off the ground, to get a good look at the water where the images of the Champions would be projected.

 

Over her shoulder, so to speak, Iliana was looking for Luna. The longer it took her Ravenclaw friend to show up, the more worried she became. At last, though, Luna showed up, holding aloft a sign saying “Potter for the win!” with an animated drawing of several people from their collective diving into the lake and coming out triumphantly with boxes of treasure.

 

She ran into Lupin on his way into the stands.

 

“Remus! Er, I mean Professor Lupin, sir!”

 

Lupin turned to Adira. “Yes, Adira?”

 

“Have you seen Sirius?”

 

“Hmm...” he said, looking around. “Come to think of it, I haven't. Which is odd; he told me he would be here. 'Right in the thick of things,' he said.”

 

“When did he say that?”

 

“Just last night. He came over to Hogsmeade to stay in the inn for the night, and sent me an owl to meet him there, which I did. I haven't seen him since. Silly Padfoot, though, he's probably overslept.”

 

“Oh. Well is there any way you can wake him up before it's too late? I don't want him to miss this.”

 

“I wouldn't worry, pup. Padfoot won't be late. Go on, it looks like Bagman is gathering the Champions.”

 

She nodded and walked over to Bagman. Adira took her shoes and robes off, and set them on a nearby bench provided for that purpose. The other Champions disrobed as well. They all stood there in the chilly February air in their swimsuits. Adira shivered. Her primary dose of warming potion lasted two hours, and she had several emergency doses. She was cold enough already that she took a small sip of one of the smaller potions.

 

The effect was immediate, feeling like drinking hot cocoa after playing in the snow all day, but it moved through her torso and into her arms and legs. It was pleasant at first, but then it kept going, until she was sweating.

 

Of course, she thought in annoyance, it's designed to be used in cold water. Of course I'm overheating in the air.

 

“Oh good, you're here. Did you all, er, work out what you're doing today?”

 

The four of them nodded, but Fleur looked distracted. She kept looking all around for something or someone, especially up in the stands, which she could barely see from this angle.

 

“So you all worked out, then, that you must go into the Black Lake to fetch what has been taken from you?”

 

They nodded again.

 

“Good. But let us review the song anyway. Here is a translation:

 

“Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you’re searching ponder this:
We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss,

“Two hours long you’ll have to look,
And to recover what we took,

“Around obstacles, past creature guards,
Whirlpools and magic wards,

“But past two hours — the prospect’s black,
Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.”

 

They all nodded again. Adira had to wipe sweat from her head and neck with her robes.

 

“Excellent, so you have two hours. If you go over two hours, you get penalized on points. There are obstacles down there, which were not easy to set up, I'll tell you that. Be on alert. Nothing down there should kill you, but it's still risky. Especially depending on what you plan to do to breathe down there.”

 

“We understand, Mr. Bagman,” Krum said.

 

“Good. Well you have a few more minutes til we begin, and I need to commentate. Oh I almost forgot, I have to cast a spell on you so the spectators can see what you're doing down there.”

 

He pointed his wand at them, and on each of them he cast Video per aquam.”

 

“There, now I really must be going.”

 

“Meester Bagman, please; where is Gabrielle? She was to be here, but I 'ave not seen her.”

 

“Oh that reminds me, the thing you're each to retrieve: the merpeople are holding one human hostage per each of you, you must rescue your hostages within two---”

 

“'OSTAGES? Gabrielle! Gabrielle!”

 

“Woah, Fleur,” Adira said, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Calm down. They're in no danger. Dumbledore is personally assuring their safety.”

 

“Dumbledore eez keeping them safe? Eez this true, Meester Bagman?”

 

“Yes, it is, Miss Delacour. Now really, I do need to be going.”

 

“I'll calm her down, Mr. Bagman. You go.”

 

Fleur was breathing hard, and while Fleur was calmer than she'd been a moment ago, Adira could feel she was on the edge of a panic attack. Bagman was already gone, and so Adira did as she promised and tried to help Fleur calm down, while fighting the heat of the potion.

 

“It's just a game, Fleur. Gabrielle will be fine. She's safe. Remember that. Now take a deep breath in, hold it, then let it go. Again, breathe in, hold it, let go.”

 

Fleur did as instructed, and it was working. Finally, Fleur sighed and nodded. “I will remember that. Thank you... er...”

 

“Adira Potter.”

 

“Thank you very much, Adira,” she said.

 

Fleur calmed down just in time for Bagman's magically magnified voice to ring out over the cheering crowd and down to the Champions.

 

“Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely two hours to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then. One … two … three!”

 

The whistle echoed shrilly in the cold, still air; the stands erupted with cheers and applause. Adira waded into the water up to her waist, checking her wand in the holster attached to the hip of her swimsuit. The small sip of potion she'd swallowed was already starting to wear off. But before she took the main dose, she paused, concentrating, calling on Tier. In a few short moments, she felt him shake their head and transform their body. Her lungs collapsed, sealing up. From her neck sprouted gills. And then she collapsed into the water, for he had turned her legs into a dolphin-like fluke, while a dorsal fin sprouted from her back and her arms changed into partial fins, leaving her hands human so she could use her wand.

 

She couldn't breathe in the air now, so she leaped into the water, taking in a great mouthful of water, which felt like the breath of life. She swam around a little bit to get the feel of the modifications. It was only then that she noticed he'd pulled her glasses Inside, and given her underwater vision, complete with a nictitating membrane like a second, transparent eyelid so she could see where she was going without getting silt in her eyes.

 

But of course, with that sip of potion wearing off, the water was getting cold. So she surfaced long enough to take the primary dose of the potion, Vanishing the bottle when it was empty. Again the warmth spread through her whole body, but this time she felt neither too cold nor too warm. With that out of the way, she dived down into the water's depths.

 

Silence pressed upon her ears as she soared over a strange, dark, foggy landscape. She could only see ten feet around her, even with the improved eyesight, so that as she sped through the water new scenes seemed to loom suddenly out of the oncoming darkness: forests of rippling, tangled black weed, wide plains of mud littered with dull, glimmering stones. She swam deeper and deeper, out toward the middle of the lake, her eyes wide, staring through the eerily gray-lit water around her to the shadows beyond, where the water became opaque.

 

Small fish flickered past her like silver darts. Once or twice she thought she saw something larger moving ahead of her, but when she got nearer, she discovered it to be nothing but a large, blackened log, or a dense clump of weed. There was no sign of any of the other champions, merpeople, Hermione — nor, thankfully, the giant squid.

 

Adira swam above some green weeds, remembering the song, wary. Despite this, she was taken by surprise when something grabbed one side of her fluke. She jerked in surprise, turning to see what it was, and spotted grindylows. They were trying to drag her down, but couldn't find much purchase, since she'd left her robes behind, and the swimsuit was closer to her arms than her fluke was.

 

She shouted, casting one of the spells she'd learned for underwater defense. All that came out of her mouth was an air bubble, but a moray eel came out of her wand and bit the grindylow that had her ankle. She cast the spell a couple more times, more eels attacking the grindylows until they vanished back into the weeds. Their task complete, the eels vanished into nothing.

 

Adira slowed down to look around, take stock of her surroundings. She was deep under the lake now, though how deep she didn't know.

 

“Harry?”

 

Panic gripped Adira's heart like a heart attack as she whipped around, pointing her wand at the sudden voice.

 

Moaning Myrtle floating hazily in front of her, gazing at her curiously through her thick, pearly glasses.

 

“Myrtle?” she tried to shout, but again just made an air bubble. Moaning Myrtle actually giggled.

 

“You look different, Harry. I haven't seen you in my bathroom for ages. Wait a moment... are you a girl, now?”

 

Adira nodded. She mouthed 'Tell you about it later. Can't really talk here.'

 

“Oh yes, I understand. I do hope you do, it's been lonely lately. Everyone avoids my bathroom.”

 

'Sorry about that,' Adira mouthed.

 

“Anyway, Harry... or, I suppose you have a different name, being that you're a girl now. Well whatever. You'll want to go that way, it's where the merpeople village is. But they don't like me, so I can't go with you. Also, it's protected by things, now. Must be part of this Triwizard Tournament. I must say, I never thought I'd live to see it played again. In a manner of speaking, I mean.”

 

'Thank you, Myrtle,' she mouthed, giving her a thumbs-up too, just in case.

 

“Good luck!” Myrtle said back, before leaving.

 

Adira swam for what felt like at least 20 minutes, over vast swaths of mostly barren mud, til finally she heard a bit of haunting mersong.

 

“Two hours long you'll have to look,

And to recover what we took.”

 

Adira swam faster and soon saw a large rock emerge out of the muddy water ahead. It had paintings of merpeople on it; they were carrying spears and chasing what looked like the giant squid. She swam past the rock, only to jerk back and grab it, trying not to get sucked in by a whirlpool that had come out of nowhere.

 

Her fingers clutched at the slippery stone, trying to pull away from the whirlpool, but it wasn't working very well. Then she remembered her body's current configuration, and beat the water with her powerful flukes as hard as she could, breaking free of the swirling waters back into the calm abyss.

 

There were other stones in the area, she found as she swam around looking for another way into the village. One stone that looked promising she approached with caution, and good thing too, because rushing out from behind the stone was... a horse.

 

Or rather, it looked like a horse, but its mane was made of bullrushes, so Adira knew it had to be a kelpie.

 

The kelpie wasn't making any threatening moves. In fact, it was getting down on its haunches, lowering itself in invitation to ride. But she'd read about kelpies, they couldn't be trusted. Ride one, and it would eat you. And since she didn't know the Placement Charm, there was no way to render it docile. Since she also didn't know if it would attack her if she tried to get past it, she swam away instead. Luckily, it did not follow her.

 

Adira didn't have much luck at the other stones she found, either. One set of stones would push her away with a strong outward current if she tried to go through them or over them. Another set looked okay, but something felt wrong to her. She didn't know how to test it, so she kept going. She was barely gone when she felt panic from someone else back where she'd been. She swam back to see what was wrong.

 

Cedric was trapped in some invisible spell that had been woven between the two stones. He had a bubble on his head, distorting his appearance, but she was certain it was him. She thought a moment about what to do. He didn't appear to be in any danger; it would just be inconvenient for him, and he would likely not free his hostage. Still, she wasn't sure.

 

The question, however, was soon answered, for Cedric relaxed, apparently giving up, and the spell let him go. Moving quickly, Adira swam away as fast as her fluke would take her.

 

After a few more attempts with stones that had traps built into them, she found one that looked like a large door, with three concentric rings on it, like a dart board, but with lines through the rings like an eight-armed star. Inside the sections created in the rings by these lines were diamonds. On the ground before the door were 24 diamond-shaped stones with numbers on them, the same amount of stones as spaces in the rings. She considered that a moment, then swam up to try to go over the stone. It looked clear, but there was a solid, invisible barrier in the way. She swamp up even more. The barrier just kept going, possibly all the way to the surface, so she went back down to consider the puzzle.

 

On each diamond-shaped stone was a number. She examined the door more closely, and saw that there was writing beneath the rings, which said in English, 'Write, Champion, and enter.' She wondered if Dumbledore had come up with this one, as it sounded like the riddle in The Lord of the Rings, to enter Moria. But there weren't any letters, just numbers.

 

Someone swam next to her. Adira turned and saw Cedric. Cedric examined the puzzle, too, and she began to ignore his presence.

 

Okay guys, I need your help, she thought at the others.

 

Maybe it's an alphanumeric code? Suggested Al.

 

She picked up some of the pieces and looked at them, then back at the puzzle.

 

~Write, Champion, and enter.~ Chandra thought. He found the appropriate numbers to spell out Champion: 3, 8, 1, 13, 16, 9, 15, and 14.

 

But how? Adira thought. There's 24 tiles and 24 spaces, and the spaces are in three rings. 'Champion' is only eight letters.

 

Maybe we spell the letters out in the innermost ring?

 

She tried that, putting the tiles for that sequence of numbers in the available spaces, starting with the '3' at the top of the innermost ring. Nothing happened.

 

Cedric, however, seemed to have figured out what she was thinking, and picked up the other tiles to look at them, and tried finding tiles to add up to the different numbers. This was impeded by the limited number of tiles and by the different size of the tiles in the different rings, which limited the outer ring to digits zero through seven, the middle ring to digits 1, 2, 2, 5, 8, 10, 11, and 12, and of course the innermost ring they were pretty sure they knew already.

 

After trying a few combos, it became plain there was only one solution, and before long they had it worked out. One plus two made three, three plus five made eight, zero plus one was one, two and eleven made thirteen, and so on. When they got the last piece in place, adding six and eight to make fourteen, the door slid back and rolled to the left side behind one of the boulders.

 

The two of them swam in through what was now the only entrance, unless you wanted to brave a kelpie or swim against a current, and the door rolled and slid back into place behind them, probably dropping all its tiles, too. Krum and Fleur would just have to do the puzzle themselves.

 

A cluster of crude stone dwellings stained with algae loomed suddenly out of the gloom on all sides. Here and there at the dark windows, Adira saw faces. Strange faces.

 

The merpeople had grayish skin and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks. They leered at Adira and Cedric as they swam past; one or two of them emerged from their caves to watch them better, their powerful, silver fish tails beating the water, spears clutched in their hands.

 

She swam on, the houses getting more numerous; there were gardens of weed around some of them, and she even saw a pet grindylow tied to a stake outside one door. Merpeople were emerging on all sides now, watching them eagerly, pointing at Adira's fin-like arms, her gills, and her fluke, talking behind their hands to one another. Adira sped around a corner and a very strange sight met her eyes.

 

A whole crowd of merpeople was floating in front of the houses that lined what looked like a mer-version of a village square. A choir of merpeople was singing in the middle, calling the champions toward them, and behind them rose a crude sort of statue; a gigantic merperson hewn from a boulder. Three people were bound tightly to the tail of the stone merperson, and Hermione was not among them, though there looked to be a gap where someone else had been.

 

Cho was also there, and Cedric swam toward her. There was also a little girl about age 8 with a cloud of silvery hair just like Fleur's, who Adira presumed was Gabrielle. And then there was Sirius, tied between Cho Chang and the gap between him and Gabrielle.

 

Adira froze, her heart seeming to stop at the sight of her godfather tied up, head lolling in the water. Almost like he was dead. She felt panic rise, and tried to tell herself it was just a game. She swam forward, checking Sirius for a pulse. It was barely there.

 

Probably the effect of the enchantment. He doesn't need to breathe if his heartbeat and metabolism are almost nonexistent.

 

They, you mean. All of them are like that, Adira thought as she watched Cedric struggling to cut Cho's bindings with a knife. Adira smacked her head, feeling foolish for not bringing a knife.

 

The 'ropes' were actually some sort of weed, thick and slimy. She got out her wand and thought hard about what to do. Cedric got Cho free and began to swim upward with her. There was no time left, so she carefully used 'diffindo' on the ropes, freeing Sirius. Adira cast a Featherlight charm on him and tied him to her waist with some of the weed ropes.

 

Instead of going, though, she looked back at Gabrielle. It was just a stupid game, she reminded herself, but adults had a history of letting her down. Except for Sirius, so far. Could she trust that Dumbledore would keep this little girl safe?

 

“Get moving,” one of the mer-people said to her.

 

'What about her?' she tried to say, gesturing at Gabrielle.

 

“You take your own hostage,” one of them said to her. “Leave the others.”

 

She looked back toward the puzzle door, wondering where Fleur was. She didn't know how Krum had gotten in here, unless he'd found and solved the puzzle door long before she got there, but Fleur was missing, and Adira didn't really trust adults enough to bet a little girl's life that it was safe.

 

“Your task is to retrieve your own friend … leave the others.”

 

She couldn't read these mer-people for some reason; their emotions were hidden from her.

 

Using her wand, she started carving words into the lake bottom.

 

“We cannot read your writing.”

 

She stopped, at a loss for how to communicate. Then, she took a chance they could read lips and mouthed, 'Her champion missing. I'm rescuing her.'

 

“Take your own hostage and GO!” shouted the mer-person.

 

'I don't trust you and I don't trust Dumbledore this much,' she mouthed. 'I'm taking her.'

 

The mer-people charged forward with their spears, and Adira slashed through the water with her wand, casting another underwater defense spell that created a large and powerful current that tossed the mer-people backwards in a heap of screeching bodies. Wasting no time, she cut Gabrielle's ropes with her wand and cast a Featherlight Charm on her, too. She tied Gabrielle to her waist next to Sirius and swam upward, going slower than she could in case the ropes snapped from too much sudden force, and working her way up to top speed, casting the same spell behind her every now and then, or occasionally summoning more eels, including some electric eels.

 

She ended up swimming so fast that she splashed into the air. Luckily, the ropes holding Sirius and Gabrielle to her were slack enough they didn't go flying, too. It would've been horrible if she'd gone to all that trouble just to Gwen Stacy them like an underwater Spider-Man at the end.

 

Tier switched them over to lungs again, and Adira breathed in the cold February air gratefully. She gulped it down, feeling as though she had never breathed properly before, and, panting, pulled Sirius and the little girl up with her. All around her, wild, green-haired heads were emerging out of the water, but they were smiling at her.

 

The crowd in the stands was making a great deal of noise; shouting and screaming, they all seemed to be on their feet; Adira had the impression they thought that Sirius and the little girl might be dead, but they were wrong … both of them had opened their eyes; the girl looked scared and confused, but Sirius blinked, looked around, and said, "I can't believe that in all the years I spent exploring Hogwarts, this is the first time I've been in the Black Lake. How're you doing, pup?"

 

“Better. And you?”

 

“Good. Say, what'd you bring the girl for? Didn't you know we were safe the whole time?”

 

“Adults have been letting me down most of my life, present company excluded, and Fleur was nowhere to be seen. I couldn't take the risk it was safe. Even if it's true that Dumbledore was ensuring your safety.”

 

Sirius looked at her in concern. “I wouldn't have agreed to this if I thought there was a chance of getting hurt, Addy.”

 

“Yeah, well... I didn't know that. And I probably still would have rescued her, too. Also, you weren't awake. It was creepy down there, especially with all those spear-wielding mer-people.”

 

“Mer-people aren't bad, Addy. They were just doing what they'd agreed to, playing a role. They wouldn't have hurt anyone.”

 

Adira sighed. “I'm too tired to argue the point now. Help me with her, will you? I don't think she can swim very well.”

 

She looked more carefully at Gabrielle, and figured out what the problem was: she was freezing cold. Even Sirius was starting to shiver.

 

“Here, drink this,” she gave a vial of potion to Gabrielle. “It's a warming potion. Just a sip, now, you only need it for a few minutes.”

 

Gabrielle sipped it, and handed it back, her shivering stopping immediately. Adira gave the vial to Sirius, who took his own sip.

 

As the three of them swam back to shore, Sirius asked, “Just out of curiosity, why only a sip if it's just a warming potion?”

 

“It's formulated for arctic waters. Drinking it when you're not in freezing water will make you sweat like mad. I nearly passed out from the heat of it, but it was better than freezing in the February air.”

 

Adira could see Madam Pomfrey fussing over Hermione, Krum, Cedric, and Cho, all of whom were wrapped in thick blankets. Dumbledore and Ludo Bagman stood beaming at Adira and Sirius from the bank as they swam nearer. Even Ron came down to meet them. Meanwhile Madame Maxime was trying to restrain Fleur Delacour, who was quite hysterical, fighting tooth and nail to return to the water.

 

“Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Is she alive? Is she ’urt?”

 

“She’s fine!” Adira tried to tell her, but she was so exhausted she could hardly talk, let alone shout.

 

“Padfoot!” shouted Lupin, looking worried.

 

Sirius crawled out of the water and shook himself off like a dog, but less effectively.

 

“Not to worry, Moony old pal, I'm fine.”

 

The two friends hugged, and when they pulled apart, Lupin began chiding Sirius for going along with this nonsense and worrying him needlessly.

 

Dumbledore and Bagman were pulling Adira upright, a task made much easier once she was back to normal human form; Fleur had broken free of Madame Maxime and was hugging her sister.

 

“It was ze grindylows … zey attacked me … oh Gabrielle, I thought … I thought …”

 

“Come here, you,” said Madam Pomfrey. She tried to give Adira some pepperup potion, but Adira pulled back.

 

"I took a warming potion, Madam Pomfrey. I'm fine, honestly."

 

"It does more than warm you, now come here," she said, and Adira finally let her take the hot potion. Steam gushed out her ears.

 

“Adira!”

 

Adira turned her head, still squeezing water out of her hair with her hands, and saw Luna coming toward her.

 

“Hey Luna,” she said with a smile.

 

“That was very interesting. I don't think I've seen a real mer-person before, except in books.”

 

“Yeah, I hadn't even seen them in books before, I had no idea what to expect.”

 

“What was that potion you used?”

 

“It was a warming potion made to be used in freezing-cold water. Found it in a book, and Professor Snape improved on it when we came to him to ask if we could use the potions lab to make it, because he said that the original version was unsafe. In fact, he made Iliana study that potion enough that she thinks she knows why he had to improve it. His improvements increased the range of water temperatures the potion is useful in, and cuts down on the side effects. Which, if her analysis is correct, means the original side effects would have had me boiling alive in the relatively warm water of the Black Lake.”

 

“Professor Snape likes it when people have talent in his class. It took him some time to get used to me, and he wasn't very nice to me for the first year and a half, but after that he got a lot better.”

 

“Really? So it's not just us? I thought it was because Iliana looks like my mom.”

 

“Not just that, probably. Like I said, he's been nicer to me. Lets me experiment with potions as long as I make them according to his method at least once, and also I have to hand in a written analysis of my results when I'm done, which includes theories before the experiments about what I think will happen.”

 

“You experiment with potions?”

 

“Oh yes. I've known about the magical properties of hundreds of plants and animals since before I came to Hogwarts. Most of the potions he had us making even in second year were ones I had already been making for Daddy for years.”

 

“Wow. Maybe you and Iliana should work together on Potions, help each other out.”

 

“I would like that. I like spending time with Iliana, she's a lot of fun. So are all of you, of course, but her especially.”

 

“She's quite fond of spending time with you, too, Luna. Oh, by the way, there's something in your hair.”

 

Adira flicked a fat beetle out of Luna's hair and watched it fly away.

 

Hermione came over with Krum then.

 

“You did pretty good on that puzzle, I hear, Adira.”

 

“Yeah, Cedric helped though.”

 

“Still, you figured out the objective before he did.”

 

“Six heads are better than one,” she said. “So to speak.”

 

“You were well outside the time limit, though. More so than Cedric. You and Cedric came through the puzzle door at the same time, so that's confusing.”

 

“I was concerned for Gabrielle, Fleur's sister. I don't entirely trust adults, even Dumbledore, after the life I've had. Plus, seeing Sirius like that...”

 

“Oh. Well I understand. But Dumbledore wouldn't have let us drown.”

 

“Yes, yes.”

 

Dumbledore, for his part, was conversing in Mermish with the mer-people. After that, he got into a huddle with the other judges to convey his findings. They were still talking when Fleur joined Adira and Luna. Fleur had many cuts on her face and arms and her robes were torn, but she didn’t seem to care, nor had she allowed Madam Pomfrey to clean them.

 

“Look after Gabrielle,” she told her, and then she turned to Adira. “You saved ’er,” she said breathlessly. “Even though she was not your ’ostage.”

 

“Yes. I had a difficult childhood, that led me to not entirely trust adults. Not even Dumbledore,” she repeated for the umpteenth time.

 

Fleur bent down, kissed Adira twice on each cheek (she felt her face burn and wouldn’t have been surprised if steam was coming out of her ears again, even though she knew it was the custom in some countries to greet friends and family like that).

 

Just then, Ludo Bagman’s magically magnified voice boomed out beside them, making them all jump, and causing the crowd in the stands to go very quiet.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our decision. Merchieftainess Murcus has told us exactly what happened at the bottom of the lake, and we have therefore decided to award marks out of fifty for each of the champions, as follows...”

 

What followed then was a list of the points. Fleur got 25 points for using the bubble-head charm and giving it her best, even though she got waylaid by grindylows. Krum got back first, well within the time limit, thanks to his use of human transfiguration (he had turned his head into a shark head) and the Placement Charm to subdue the kelpie with a bridle, so he got 50 points. Cedric was five minutes shy of being out of the 2-hour time limit, and got 47 points for his trouble.

 

Then there was Adira. She was commended for putting her natural transformation powers to good use, as well as using the warming potion to keep from freezing. She had been outside of the time limit, but it was interpreted as misplaced bravery, and she was awarded 45 points for 'exceptional moral fibre.' So third place out of four, but she didn't care; all she cared about was surviving. She had completed the Task, that was good enough. Though the points bonus was a plus.

 

“Where does that leave us, in all?”

 

“I believe that puts you in second place, tied with Cedric. Viktor is at first place so far, mostly thanks to today,” said Hermione. “Then Fleur at third place.”

 

“Well, tied with Cedric at least makes sense. And there's a justice to it.”

 

“The third and final task will take place at dusk on the twenty-fourth of June,” continued Bagman. “The champions will be notified of what is coming precisely one month beforehand. Thank you all for your support of the champions.”

 

“Well that's a relief,” Adira said. “I can take a little break, more or less, until then. By the way, Fleur, if it ever comes up again, grindylows have a very weak grip and brittle hand bones, so target their hands.”

 

“Thank you, Adira. I will remember zat.”

 

 

 

Notes: Being a neopagan, I had some ideas about what to put in a warming potion, and did some research as well on DuckDuckGo, my preferred search engine. Some of the ingredients, like salamander blood, ashwinder eggs, ice, and sunflower petals, were obvious to me and required no research. My research was mainly for preservatives and balancing agents, except the hematite, as I already knew it was a good stone for grounding. And it's just an iron oxide, so it's not toxic. The lavender was included for its calming properties, since I figured keeping calm under that much black water might be an issue.

 

Yes, I went back and edited the song in the previous chapters, because I always intended it to be two hours due to the obstacles, but mistakenly left “an hour long” on one line.

 

According to Google Translate, Video per aquam means “I see through water.” If it's mangled, I can't tell, because I only speak English.

 

It was difficult, and took me over an hour, but yes, I designed that ring puzzle. I tried to come up with something where the middle and outer rings had a logical and fixed set of digits, which can be seen in the 0-7 of the outermost ring, but my math skills and patience weren't up to something that clever.