J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (page 39)

And then, after about fifteen minutes, Harry heard the deafening roar that could mean only one thing: Cedric had gotten past his dragon and captured the golden egg.

“Very good indeed!” Bagman was shouting. “And now the marks from the judges!”

But he didn't shout out the marks; Harry supposed the judges were holding them up and showing them to the crowd.

“One down, three to go!” Bagman yelled as the whistle blew again. “Miss Delacour, if you please!”

Fleur was trembling from head to foot; Harry felt more warmly toward her than he had done so far as she heft the tent with her head held high and her hand clutching her wand. He and Krum were left alone, at opposite sides of the tent, avoiding each other's gaze.

The same process started again... "Oh I'm not sure that was wise!” they could hear Bagman shouting gleefully. “Oh... nearly! Careful now... good lord, I thought she'd had it then!”

Ten minutes later, Harry heard the crowd erupt into applause once more... Fleur must have been successful too. A pause, while Fleur's marks were being shown... more clapping... then, for the third time, the whistle.

“And here comes Mr. Krum!” cried Bagman, and Krum slouched out, leaving Harry quite alone.

He felt much more aware of his body than usual; very aware of the way his heart was pumping fast, and his fingers tingling with fear... yet at the same time, he seemed to be outside himself, seeing the walls of the tent, and hearing the crowd, as though from far away.

“Very daring!” Bagman was yelling, and Harry heard the Chinese Fireball emit a horrible, roaring shriek, while the crowd drew its collective breath. “That's some nerve he's showing—and—yes, he's got the egg!”

Applause shattered the wintery air like breaking glass; Krum had finished—it would be Harry's turn any moment.

He stood up, noticing dimly that his legs seemed to be made of marshmallow. He waited. And then he heard the whistle blow. He walked out through the entrance of the tent, the panic rising into a crescendo inside him. And now he was walking past the trees, through a gap in the enclosure fence.

He saw everything in front of him as though it was a very highly colored dream. There were hundreds and hundreds of faces staring down at him from stands that had been magicked there since he'd last stood on this spot. And there was the Horntail, at the other end of the enclosure, crouched low over her clutch of eggs, her wings half-furled, her evil, yellow eyes upon him, a monstrous, scaly, black lizard, thrashing her spiked tail, heaving yard-long gouge marks in the hard ground. The crowd was making a great deal of noise, but whether friendly or not, Harry didn't know or care. It was time to do what he had to do... to focus his mind, entirely and absolutely, upon the thing that was his only chance.

He raised his wand.

“Accio Firebolt!” he shouted.

Harry waited, every fiber of him hoping, praying... If it hadn't worked... if it wasn't coming... He seemed to be looking at everything around him through some sort of shimmering, transparent barrier, like a heat haze, which made the enclosure and the hundreds of faces around him swim strangely...

And then he heard it, speeding through the air behind him; he turned and saw his Firebolt hurtling toward him around the edge of the woods, soaring into the enclosure, and stopping dead in midair beside him, waiting for him to mount. The crowd was making even more noise... Bagman was shouting something... but Harry's ears were not working properly anymore... listening wasn't important...

He swung his leg over the broom and kicked off from the ground. And a second later, something miraculous happened...

As he soared upward, as the wind rushed through his hair, as the crowd's faces became mere flesh-colored pinpnicks below, and the Horntail shrank to the size of a dog, he realized that he had heft not only the ground behind, but also his fear... He was back where he belonged...

This was just another Quidditch match, that was all... just another Quidditch match, and that Horntail was just another ugly opposing team.

He looked down at the clutch of eggs and spotted the gold one, gleaming against its cement-colored fellows, residing safely between the dragon's front legs. “Okay,” Harry told himself, “diversionary tactics... let's go...”

He dived. The Horntail's head followed him; he knew what it was going to do and pulled out of the dive just in time; a jet of fire had been released exactly where he would have been had he not swerved away... but Harry didn't care... that was no more than dodging a Bludger.

“Great Scott, he can fly!” yelled Bagman as the crowd shrieked and gasped. “Are you watching this, Mr. Krum?”

Harry soared higher in a circle; the Horntail was still following his progress; its head revolving on its long neck—if he kept this up, it would be nicely dizzy—but better not push it too long, or it would be breathing fire again—

Harry plummeted just as the Horntail opened its mouth, but this time he was less lucky—he missed the flames, but the tail came whipping up to meet him instead, and as he swerved to the left, one of the long spikes grazed his shoulder, ripping his robes—

He could feel it stinging, he could hear screaming and groans from the crowd, but the cut didn't seem to be deep... Now he zoomed around the back of the Horntail, and a possibility occurred to him...

The Horntail didn't seem to want to take off, she was too protective of her eggs. Though she writhed and twisted, furling and unfurling her wings and keeping those fearsome yellow eyes on Harry, she was afraid to move too far from them... but he had to persuade her to do it, or he'd never get near them... The trick was to do it carefully, gradually...

He began to fly, first this way, then the other, not near enough to make her breathe fire to stave him off, but still posing a sufficient threat to ensure she kept her eyes on him. Her head swayed this way and that, watching him out of those vertical pupils, her fangs bared...

He flew higher. The Horntail's head rose with him, her neck now stretched to its fullest extent, still swaying, hike a snake before its charmer...

Harry rose a few more feet, and she let out a roar of exasperation. He was like a fly to her, a fly she was longing to swat; her tail thrashed again, but he was too high to reach now... She shot fire into the air, which he dodged... Her jaws opened wide...

“Come on,” Harry hissed, swerving tantalizingly above her, “come on, come and get me... up you get now..”

And then she reared, spreading her great, black, leathery wings at last, as wide as those of a small airplane—and Harry dived. Before the dragon knew what he had done, or where he had disappeared to, he was speeding toward the ground as fast as he could go, toward the eggs now unprotected by her clawed front legs—he had taken his hands off his Firebolt—he had seized the golden egg—

And with a huge spurt of speed, he was off, he was soaring out over the stands, the heavy egg safely under his uninjured arm, and it was as though somebody had just turned the volume back up—for the first time, he became properly aware of the noise of the crowd, which was screaming and applauding as loudly as the Irish supporters at the World Cup—

“Look at that!” Bagman was yelling. “Will you look at that! Our youngest champion is quickest to get his egg! Well, this is going to shorten the odds on Mr. Potter!”

Harry saw the dragon keepers rushing forward to subdue the Horntail, and, over at the entrance to the enclosure, Professor McGonagalh, Professor Moody, and Hagrid hurrying to meet him, all of them waving him toward them, their smiles evident even from this distance. He flew back over the stands, the noise of the crowd pounding his eardrums, and came in smoothly to land, his heart lighter than it had been in weeks... He had got through the first task, he had survived.

“That was excellent, Potter!” cried Professor McGonagall as he got off the Firebolt—which from her was extravagant praise. He noticed that her hand shook as she pointed at his shoulder. “You'll need to see Madam Pomfrey before the judges give out your score... Over there, she's had to mop up Diggory already...”

“Yeh did it, Harry!” said Hagrid hoarsely. “Yeh did it! An' agains' the Horntail an' all, an' yeh know Charlie said that was the wors'—”

“Thanks, Hagrid,” said Harry loudly, so that Hagrid wouldn't blunder on and reveal that he had shown Harry the dragons beforehand.

Professor Moody looked very pleased too; his magical eye was dancing in its socket.

“Nice and easy does the trick, Potter,” he growled.

“Right then, Potter, the first aid tent, please...” said Professor McGonagall.

Harry walked out of the enclosure, still panting, and saw Madam Pomfrey standing at the mouth of a second tent, looking worried.

“Dragons!” she said, in a disgusted tone, pulling Harry inside. The tent was divided into cubicles; he could make out Cedric's shadow through the canvas, but Cedric didn't seem to be badly injured; he was sitting up, at least. Madam Pomfrey examined Harry's shoulder, talking furiously all the while. “Last year dementors, this year dragons, what are they going to bring into this school next? You're very lucky... this is quite shallow... it'll need cleaning before I heal it up, though...”

She cleaned the cut with a dab of some purple liquid that smoked and stung, but then poked his shoulder with her wand, and he felt it heal instantly.

“Now, just sit quietly for a minute—sit! And then you can go and get your score.”

She bustled out of the tent and he heard her go next door and say, “How does it feel now, Diggory?”

Harry didn't want to sit still: He was too full of adrenaline. He got to his feet, wanting to see what was going on outside, but before he'd reached the mouth of the tent, two people had come darting inside—Hermione, followed closely by Ron.

“Harry, you were brilliant!” Hermione said squeakily. There were fingernail marks on her face where she had been clutching it in fear. “You were amazing! You really were!”

But Harry was looking at Ron, who was very white and staring at Harry as though he were a ghost.

“Harry,” he said, very seriously, “whoever put your name in that goblet—I—I reckon they're trying to do you in!”

It was as though the last few weeks had never happened—as though Harry were meeting Ron for the first time, right after he'd been made champion.

“Caught on, have you?” said Harry coldly. “Took you long enough.”

Hermione stood nervously between them, looking from one to the other. Ron opened his mouth uncertainly. Harry knew Ron was about to apologize and suddenly he found he didn't need to hear it.

“It's okay,” he said, before Ron could get the words out. “Forget it.”

“No,” said Ron, “I shouldn't've—”

“Forget it, “Harry said.

Ron grinned nervously at him, and Harry grinned back

Hermione burst into tears.

“There's nothing to cry about!” Harry told her, bewildered.

“You two are so stupid!” she shouted, stamping her foot on the ground, tears splashing down her front. Then, before either of them could stop her, she had given both of them a hug and dashed away, now positively howling.

“Barking mad,” said Ron, shaking his head. “Harry, c'mon, they'll be putting up your scores...”

Picking up the golden egg and his Firebolt, feeling more elated than he would have believed possible an hour ago, Harry ducked out of the tent, Ron by his side, talking fast.

“You were the best, you know, no competition. Cedric did this weird thing where he Transfigured a rock on the ground... turned it into a dog... he was trying to make the dragon go for the dog instead of him. Well, it was a pretty cool bit of Transfiguration, and it sort of worked, because he did get the egg, but he got burned as well—the dragon changed its mind halfway through and decided it would rather have him than the Labrador; he only just got away. And that Fleur girl tried this sort of charm, I think she was trying to put it into a trance—well, that kind of worked too, it went all sleepy, but then it snored, and this great jet of flame shot out, and her skirt caught fire—she put it out with a bit of water out of her wand. And Krum—you won't believe this, but he didn't even think of flying! He was probably the best after you, though. Hit it with some sort of spell right in the eye. Only thing is, it went trampling around in agony and squashed half the real eggs—they took marks off for that, he wasn't supposed to do any damage to them.”

Ron drew breath as he and Harry reached the edge of the enclosure. Now that the Horntail had been taken away, Harry could see where the five judges were sitting—right at the other end, in raised seats draped in gold.

“It's marks out of ten from each one,” Ron said, and Harry squinting up the field, saw the first judge—Madame Maxime—raise her wand in the air. What hooked like a long silver ribbon shot out of it, which twisted itself into a large figure eight.

“Not bad!” said Ron as the crowd applauded. “I suppose she took marks off for your shoulder...

Mr. Crouch came next. He shot a number nine into the air.

“Looking good!” Ron yelled, thumping Harry on the back.

Next, Dumbledore. He too put up a nine. The crowd was cheering harder than ever.

Ludo Bagman—ten.

“Ten?” said Harry in disbelief. “But... I got hurt... What's he playing at?”

“Harry, don't complain!” Ron yelled excitedly.

And now Karkaroff raised his wand. He paused for a moment, and then a number shot out of his wand too—four.

“What?” Ron bellowed furiously. “Four? You lousy, biased scum-bag, you gave Krum ten!”

But Harry didn't care, he wouldn't have cared if Karkaroff had given him zero; Ron's indignation on his behalf was worth about a hundred points to him. He didn't tell Ron this, of course, but his heart felt lighter than air as he turned to leave the enclosure. And it wasn't just Ron... those weren't only Gryffindors cheering in the crowd. When it had come to it, when they had seen what he was facing, most of the school had been on his side as well as Cedric's... He didn't care about the Slytherins, he could stand whatever they threw at him now.

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K.Rîwling
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