The Sugar Quill
Author: alphabet (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The First Task  Chapter: Default
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The First Task

Many thanks to B Bennett.  Your input, as always, is invaluable.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Ron!”

 

Ginny skidded to a halt in the Gryffindor common room, garnering several startled looks at her sudden entrance, all of which she ignored.  She looked around frantically for her brother. “Ron?” she called again.

 

He looked up from the fire at which he’d been moodily staring. “What?” he asked grumpily.

 

She rushed over to him. “Ron, you have to tell Harry—”

 

“Tell him yourself,” he interrupted.

 

“Don’t be silly. He wouldn’t believe me. Now listen; this is serious.”

 

He looked back at the fire.

 

She lowered her voice. “I was heading over to Hagrid’s cottage and I heard Charlie.”

 

“Charlie? Who are you—you mean our brother?” He looked over at her. “You’re sure?”

 

 “Yes. And he and Hagrid were talking about dragons.”

 

Ron rolled his eyes. “If Charlie’s there, and if he’s talking to Hagrid, then dragons are bound to come up, Ginny. Think about it.”

 

“But—”

 

“What would Charlie be doing here, though? And why’d he visit Hagrid instead of us?”

 

“Ron—”

 

“Let’s go find Fred and George and go see—”

 

She pulled him closer. “Listen. Their first task is dragons.”

 

What?”

 

Again, she was on the receiving end of startled looks.

 

“Be quiet,” she hissed. “Dragons. I don’t know exactly what, but—you have to warn him! I mean, he’s gonna be facing—”

 

“Dragons. I caught that.” He stared back at the fire, then shook his head. “I can’t.”

 

Ginny stared incredulously at him. “Swallow your pride and help him. Don’t be like this.”

 

“No, it’s not that. He wouldn’t listen to me. You tell him.”

 

“He won’t believe me.”

 

“Sure he will.”

 

“You didn’t even,” she scoffed.

 

He couldn’t deny it. “But if I told him, he definitely wouldn’t believe me.”

 

“Come on. You’re his best friend.”

 

“I was. But he’s not going to make up with me now—that is, if he ever would have.”

 

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked, but she was dreading his answer.

 

“Harry went off somewhere last night. After a while, I went looking for him. He was, well, right here, actually. Anyway, it ended up with him throwing one of those at me.” Ron gestured to one of the POTTER STINKS! badges lying around.

 

“Why?” she asked.

 

“I’m really not sure. I didn’t start it—that time.”

 

“So you won’t even tell him?”

 

“You aren’t listening! He won’t believe me. If I told him dragons, he’d prepare for...newts or lizards or something.” He sighed. “Besides, he’s Harry Potter.  He probably already knows.”

 

She glared at him. “Ron!  What if he doesn’t?  You’re just going to throw him to the dragons?”

 

“Who d’you suggest we tell, then?” he retorted. “‘Oh, by the by, it’s going to be dragons; you wouldn’t mind telling Harry for us?’”

 

“We can tell—” She broke off and they stared at each other a moment before exclaiming, “Hermione!” together.

 

“I’ll go check in girls’ rooms and you check the library,” Ginny ordered.

 

“Yeah, okay,” Ron agreed.

 

They separated. Ron was so caught up in his search that he didn’t notice the figure in front of him.

 

He actually stopped breathing when he realized he’d hit Mad-Eye from behind. Maybe he’ll only turn me into a ferret, he thought hopefully. And if McGonagall will stop him again…

 

“Sounded like an elephant coming down that hall, Weasley,” Moody growled. “You can’t sneak up on people tromping about like that.”

 

Ron felt weak with relief.  Better to be called an elephant than be a bouncing ferret. “I wasn’t trying to. Sneak, that is. I’m trying to find Hermione, actually. Have you seen her, Professor?”

 

“She and Potter went outside about half an hour ago.”

 

“I’ll never find them,” Ron groaned.

 

“Suddenly in a hurry to be friends again?” Moody inquired.

 

“No—I mean, yes—I mean...” He trailed off.

 

“Well, boy? Say what you mean.”

 

That eye was very unnerving. “I have to warn him,” Ron blurted, then mentally kicked himself.

 

Moody’s eyes narrowed. “Warn him? About what? What do you know?” he asked intently.

 

“I—I—” Ron couldn’t think of a convincing lie, especially not with that eye fixated on him. “I just—I know that—that they have to face dragons.  The Champions do.  In the First Task.”  Stop babbling.  He took a steadying breath. “I need to find Harry.  Harry needs to know that little piece of information a lot more than I do.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why?” he repeated. “Because Hermione’s the spell whiz. Harry’s just good at Quidditch.” One of Moody’s eyebrows raised and Ron hastened to elaborate. “Well, he’s good at more than that. I just mean...come on. Is that what they have to do? Play Quidditch against the dragons? Unless there’s a Snitch for him to find—”

 

Moody’s eyes lit up a little. “Go find Miss Granger,” he interrupted and thumped away.

 

Ron stared at his teacher’s back for just a moment before hurrying off, to obey—very glad he wasn’t an amazing bouncing animal.

 

After an hour of searching, though, he had to give up. He made his way back to the common room, where Ginny nearly tackled him. “She said they already know! They’ve been working on it. They—well, he, anyway—he found out last night.”

 

“He did?  How—never mind.  Should’ve known he’d have known.  He always does.”

 

Ginny bit her lip. “Hermione said thanks,” she offered.

 

“Just to you, I hope.  Not like I did anything.”

 

“You tried—”

 

“Doesn’t Mum say that trying isn’t worth anything?”

 

“Ron...” she started, then, as he left his chair, “Where are you going?”

 

“I’m going to...go be somewhere else.”

 

“But—”

 

Ron turned away and headed for the door.

 

Ginny touched his arm. “I bet he’d be glad to make it up,” she said. “If you just apologize...he won’t hold a grudge.”

 

Ron rolled his eyes. Lovestruck girls, he thought scornfully as he made his way to the lake. But he couldn’t get those dragons out of his mind. Sure, the contestants would be supervised, but he remembered well the consequences of the bite he’d received from Norbert—and Norbert had been only a baby.

 

He finally went back to the common room, in a completely foul mood.

 

He was still grumpy by the time Divinations rolled around the next day. Professor Trelawney was rambling on again about Harry’s death, but as Ron now knew how possible that could really be, he found it in no way funny.

 

“Well, that’s good,” Harry said loudly, making Ron blink. “Just as long as it’s not drawn-out. I don’t want to suffer.”

 

Ron glanced over at Harry, a small smile on his face, but Harry looked away, intensely preoccupied with staring at the table.

 

Ron supposed he deserved that and kept to himself. But then, all too quickly, it was time for the Champions to face the dragons and Ron just couldn’t take anymore.

 

Hermione couldn’t stop a huge grin from crossing her face when he asked if she knew where Harry was. “Well, finally,” she said briskly. “But he’s already in the tent and really nervous about the dragons. Besides, I don’t think we’re allowed to talk to him, but then, we wouldn’t want to throw his at him right now, anyway. We’ll wait until after and then make it right.”

 

Ron felt suddenly nervous. “What if—” he started.

 

Hermione looked suddenly grim. “If you two want to keep your health, you’ll be friends again by dinner,” she told him with a voice hard as rock. She turned and glared at him. “What are you laughing at?”

 

“Nothing. Nothing at all,” he assured her. “Let’s go watch.”
~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Obscenely long A/N because I’ve gotten questions from this story:
At the end of GoF, Moody!Crouch explains how he tried to help with the merpeople and the Third Task, but it doesn’t say anything about how he got the idea to have Harry summon his Firebolt against the dragons.  Could he have come up with it on his own?  Of course, and that’s probably what happened.  But what fun would that be?  I decided to have Ron unintentionally slip him the idea with his “unless there’s a Snitch to catch” comment. In my world, Crouch was going to do something else, but after Ron mentioned the Snitch, he decided that would be better. After all, in his “good, general advice,” he says, “You’re a damn good flier from what I’ve heard.” So I had Ron be the one who told him that.
Thanks, and please review.

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