The crowd is laughing behind you, jeering at you for standing unmoving like an idiot, half submerged in the black water. Their reaction is nothing new. At least they are not going to be able to hex you right under the eyes of the judges.
The lower half of your body burns from the cold, you can barely feel the robe clinging to your skin, only its weight pulling you down. February is one of the coldest months in the Highlands and yet you will have to swim, nothing is ever easy in this world. Things rarely make sense. The jeering is getting louder, you can even make out Malfoy’s voice over the rest but you ignore them all, waiting. Dobby wouldn’t do you wrong after all this time, the gillyweed will work.
You chew the rubbery, slimy mass and finally can delay it no longer. You swallow. Swallow twice for it threatens to come right back up and it’s not all the fault of the awful texture, you have to swallow your fears with it.
Your throat hurts and a pressure in your chest screams at you to breathe. Breathe! You don’t think of it. You just do it. You plunge into the frigid water, your skin immediately turns to ice. Wasn’t it already? Can it get colder? Breathe! The first gulp of water feels wrong — you’re not going to drown, Dobby wouldn’t...— water rushes down your throat, into your lungs and out. It is not natural for humans to breathe underwater but it easily passes through your lungs and out of the slits that had appeared at the last swallow of the rubbery gillyweed.
Much needed oxygen clears your head. You have gills. Webbed fingers and toes compliment your new organs and — oh thank god — even the water temperature feels manageable now. You can open your eyes without fearing instant blindness to be your lot. They would love that. They would love you not being able to see who shoved you in the halls or hexed you at breakfast.
No, that’s stupid. If you were blind they would send you home and god knows what Aunt Petunia would think of that.
Perhaps Madam Pomfrey would have a cure...you shake your head and gulp more water, your head not as clear as you thought. Which way? How much of the hour is left? What do you have to retrieve? Please let it be a what and not a who. You shake off the thought.
There is barely any sound and that suits you fine, has anyone ever decided to just stay in the lake? Hermione would know, you make a mental note to ask her later. There’s not much to look at, weeds, mud, and stones so it would probably be a boring existence but boring can be good too. Difficult to find your way also, how can you get lost in the water. No, relax Harry, you’re not lost. Just swim. Pick a direction. Any direction. And pray the giant squid isn’t guarding whatever they took. Would Mrs. Weasley’s sweater be considered something of value? Probably only for you. Ron sure hadn’t looked impressed.
Weeds, mud, stones, and grey water. You kick your feet to go faster, worrying about the time. Your robe billows open and close with the movement, reminding you of the bell shaped hood of jellyfish. You’ve only seen them on the telly that one time but they were fascinating to watch. If you did decide to stay in the lake the robe would probably be the first thing to go. Would your clothes disintegrate? Slytherins had a window into the lake, they might have fun seeing you bob around in all your glory. Snorting water through your nose hurts just as much inside the lake as out.
Weeds, mud, stones, darting schools of little silver fish and something grabbing hold of your foot! You kick out and twist around to see, your heart hammering in your ears — a grindylow’s long fingers is wrapped fast around your ankle. You kick out again when you see the water demon’s sharp teeth and fumble for your wand in your robes. Idiot! You should have been holding it already!
Relashio! You shout, but no sound comes, only a bubble of air spilling from your mouth. Your wand shoots boiling water instead of sparks at the little demon but it works and he releases you. You kick yourself away, but there’s others and you kick and swear bubbles and shout Relashio again and again, until finally you get away completely. Hurrying now, you swim away from the weeds before others could find you. Stop thinking of damn jellyfish you can die here! Wizards have died before in the Tournament and you’re nothing special no matter what anyone says!
“All right there, Harry?” A clear voice in your ear gives you another mini heart attack and you twist around a second time to see Myrtle.
Myrtle! You shout your relief out and she giggles at the bubble of air that comes instead of sound. How do the merpeople manage to talk?
“You want to be going that way,” Myrtle points. “I would go with you but they don’t like me and always chase me away.” She affects a pout but you ignore that, used to her by now.
You call bubbles of thanks and more bubbles asking what was it they had taken from you. What is the thing you value, for there are a lot of things by now, more than just Mrs. Weasley’s sweater. She does not understand and the passing time make you wave goodbye to hurry off in the direction she said. You dive ever deeper into the Black Lake.
Weed, mud, stones, and crude buildings stained with algae looming suddenly out of the dark water. You hear snatches of song from the egg and breathe a sigh of relief, you must be close, it would not be much longer now. You swim through the buildings and Merpeople, with their gray skin and yellow eyes, guard your way. You watch their spears warily but they are smiling, showing broken yellow teeth. Perhaps you will not come live under the Lake. You swim past them to the middle of their village. Finally!
Placed in an enchanted sleep, then tied with ropes of weed to the tail of a stone Merperson are your two best friends, Cho Chang, and the little girl must be Fleur’s younger sister Gabrielle. Ron must be for you and Hermione for Krum. Really? Krum? You stupidly wonder if Hermione had time to tell the Merpeople that her parents were dentists. Thinking of the knife Sirius had given you last Christmas, useless if kept locked away in your trunk, you tug at Ron’s ropes. It would need more effort than that and you curse a stream of soundless bubbles. You try Hermione’s ropes but hands grab you away.
“You take your own hostage,” a Merman orders in a harsh croaky voice. “Leave the others.”
Come ON! You shout more bubbles when they refuse to lend you a spear and you have to hack at Ron’s ropes with a big rock. You are feeling done with this task now, it cannot end soon enough for your liking. Where were the others? What were they playing at taking so long! You leave Ron floating beside you, not willing to go yet with Hermione and the rest still very much in danger.
Cedric comes first, a big bubble around his head distorting his face. He takes out a knife and releases Cho easily, miming something at you before he swims away with her. It sounded like ‘Fleur and Krum are coming now’ but you look around and see no one. You decide to wait, the little girl looks deathly pale and just because the Merpeople were laughing didn’t mean everything was going to be fine and dandy. Laughter was not always a positive thing.
Krum gives you a good scare. He has transformed himself into a big shark head with arms and legs (Swimming trunks! You feel like a right idiot in your robes.) and you hit him with your rock when he tries to bite the ropes off of Hermione. Wouldn’t she have something to say to that if she woke up with half an arm missing! He takes your rock and hacks her rope off faster than you had done Ron’s and swims off with Hermione without a thanks. You wait for Fleur.
A pressure is building in your chest and your watch is not working anymore. Time! Whatever must have happened, you don’t believe Fleur will be coming now and you move to release her sister. This time you are ready for the grabbing Merpeople and you point your wand at them, shouting at them to leave you be or you will boil them! They must understand you, for they scatter at the count of two, letting you release the girl.
You kick upwards, desperately holding on to the two. They are so heavy, sacks of potatoes would be easier to manage but you struggle on.
Halfway up your webbed feet disappear back into normal toes, your fingers next and your chest strain to breathe. The water in your mouth taste like fluid again and you swallow. Cough. Wish you could just die. You might have given up here too if it wasn’t that others depended on you. Above your head you could see daylight filter through the murky water and you kick harder than ever. Merpeople guard your ascent. Would they help if they saw you sink back? Would they at least save Ron and the girl? You kick hard, your muscles fueled by fear and finally your head breaks through the surface to suck in cold, welcome air.
Sound is the first thing you recognize — the crowd at the shore going wild — and you blink against the sudden brightness of the sun. Next to you Ron and the girl expel spouts of water, blinking confused. All around you the green haired Merpeople pop up, smiling, then they start singing their screeching song. Yeah. Time to go.
It’s over. Another task done. Another task survived. You swim back to the shore, aware again of the cold freezing your very bones. On the bleachers the crowd stamp their feet and cheer madly. Swimming beside you, helping with the girl, Ron complains about you wasting time, playing the hero, “What were you thinking, Harry. Dumbledore wouldn’t have let Fleur’s sister die!”
Ron calls you a prat.
You place third.