For the next couple of weeks after the first task, Newt found himself with a sudden increase in respect shown towards him. He had not only surprised everyone by walking away from an encounter with a dragon completely unscathed but had also managed to complete the task with the highest score so far. Ok, so his technique had been lacking in flare compared to the other champions but there was no denying just how impressive it had been to watch the young Hufflepuff simply walk up to a Hungarian Horntail and ask for the egg, seemingly taming her in the process. There had been accusations that his dragon had been pacified before the task to reduce the risk of any fatal incidents, but these were quickly disputed by anyone who had been to see the dragons since.
Now that it had been revealed that there were dragons being temporarily housed on the grounds, many of the students and staff had been to see them. The large paddocks where the dragons and their handlers were staying had been modified so that they could be observed from a very safe distance. There weren’t many who wanted to miss the opportunity to see dragons again. The handlers had been having a hard time of it; nesting mothers had even shorter tempers than usual, which was saying something for a dragon. Ideally, they would have been left alone at this time, allowing the mothers and their young plenty of space. The Hungarian Horntail had been especially ruthless towards anyone who tried to get too close. Two of her handlers had experienced near-fatal consequences when she had unexpectedly let loose a blaze of fire and they had momentarily forgotten about the anti-apparition wards on the grounds. Thankfully, the other handlers had been able to assist them in escaping the dragon’s wrath, allowing them to get out of range before she was able to catch anybody in her inferno.
All the new attention Newt was receiving was becoming increasingly difficult to handle, so he had taken to hiding in his cupboard with his creatures whenever possible. Still, he had to emerge for lessons and meals. Leta had pulled him out a few times and resorted to bringing him something to eat if she had to. It had also been made clear to him by the Head of Hufflepuff House that if he wasn’t in the Hufflepuff dormitory by curfew then he would find himself with a lot of detention and his permission to go to the paddocks revoked.
That was the only thing that made all the new attention worthwhile; seeing the dragons. Newt had been to see them early one morning, when there were very few other people gathered. One of the Horntail’s handlers had recognised his coat and called him closer for a chat. They had been impressed with the way Newt had gained the Horntail’s trust, this handler especially since he didn’t particularly like the way the dragons were being forced to be a part of the Tournament. Newt could relate to that, and he found himself having a brief but interesting conversation about the dragons nearby, before the handler had invited him back for a closer look later when there were no other students; as long as he could get permission from a professor who would also be willing to supervise. Naturally, Professor Dumbledore agreed instantly.
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It didn’t take long before the novelty of Newt’s success wore off, what with his lack of social skills and general aversion to interacting with large numbers of people or indeed people in general. But while they were beginning to ignore him again, there had also been less instances of students hassling him. Newt hadn’t seen much of Sidney and his friends lately either.
Newt had wasted no time in looking at the egg he had collected from the first task. He soon found the hinges and realised that it must open. Except that when he had finally opened the egg, the wailing that filled the room was so piercing that he had shut it again and not opened it for another two days. The next time he heard the sound he was ready for it but couldn’t understand what it was or what it meant. There were no other markings or identifying features that could provide a clue. It was odd, Newt felt like he should know what the sound meant, but he had no idea what it was.
A week later, as he was walking around the lake seeking some peace and quiet, he was suddenly struck by inspiration. He had read about merpeople in his second year after he had found out the Hogwarts lake had a large colony living somewhere in its depths. They could only be understood underwater, while above water their language became a high-pitched screech.
Bolstered by this sudden revelation, Newt hurried to the cupboard to collect his egg and dashed back outside across to the bank where he had been moments before. He took the time to remove his coat, shoes and socks before wading out into the murky lake. Once the water was as high as his midriff, Newt fumbled with the egg and finally opened it. As the wailing filled the air, Newt took a deep breath and submerged himself and the egg into the lake.
Singing. Newt was surrounded by singing. It was a beautiful, ethereal voice. As Newt focused on the words, he realised that he had missed the first part and would have to wait for it to begin again. Eventually, after resurfacing a few times for air, Newt had the song memorised in full.
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,
An hour long you’ll have to look,
And to recover what we took,
But past the hour – the prospect’s black,
Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.
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Newt made his way back to dry land. The egg was slippery and he nearly dropped it, but he didn’t want to linger in the water. The song had attracted the attention of several beings in the lake. They hadn’t come close enough for Newt to make out clearly, but he had a fairly good idea of what they were, and he had opted to leave his wand in his coat pocket. The sun had begun to set and now that he was leaving the water, he realised just how cold it was.
Newt froze where he was, still ankle deep in the lake. He recognised the voice as his Charms Professor, a middle-aged man with long greying hair and an impressive moustache, who was generally good tempered but who had little time for nonsense or fools.
“What do you think you are doing!” Professor Stump’s voice rang out as he marched across the lawn towards him. As he neared, Newt could make out the disapproving scowl aimed at him. “Well? Get out of the lake boy!”
Newt continued out of the lake and collected his things. “Good evening, Professor. I had a theory that I needed to test regarding my egg.”
Professor Stump looked at Newt, taking in his sodden appearance and the golden egg that Newt was carrying. “Swimming in the lake is strictly forbidden, not to mention an exceptionally stupid idea given it’s December! Fifty points from Hufflepuff, and you’re to go straight to the Hospital Wing to ensure you aren’t going to get ill from this excursion, before returning to your dormitory for the rest of the evening.”
Newt trudged off back to the castle, dripping as he went, but confident that his newfound knowledge had been worth the trouble.