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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (page 10)


“You've been ages,” said George when they finally got back to the Weasleys' tents.

“Met a few people,” said Ron, setting the water down. “You've not got that fire started yet?”

“Dad's having fun with the matches,” said Fred.

Mr. Weasley was having no success at all in lighting the fire, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Splintered matches littered the ground around him, but he looked as though he was having the time of his life.

“Oops!” he said as he managed to light a match and promptly dropped it in surprise.

“Come here, Mr. Weasley,” said Hermione kindly, taking the box from him, and showing him how to do it properly.

At last they got the fire lit, though it was at least another hour before it was hot enough to cook anything. There was plenty to watch while they waited, however. Their tent seemed to be pitched right alongside a kind of thoroughfare to the field, and Ministry members kept hurrying up and down it, greeting Mr. Weasley cordially as they passed. Mr. Weasley kept up a running commentary, mainly for Harry's and Hermione's benefit; his own children knew too much about the Ministry to be greatly interested.

“That was Cuthbert Mockridge, Head of the Goblin Liaison Office... Here comes Gilbert Wimple; he's with the Committee on Experimental Charms; he's had those horns for a while now... Hello, Arnie ...Arnold Peasegood, he's an Obliviator—member of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, you know... and that's Bode and Croaker ...they're Unspeakables...”

“They're what?”

“From the Department of Mysteries, top secret, no idea what they get up to...”

At last, the fire was ready, and they had just started cooking eggs and sausages when Bill, Charlie, and Percy came strolling out of the woods toward them.

“Just Apparated, Dad,” said Percy loudly. “Ah, excellent, lunch!”

They were halfway through their plates of eggs and sausages when Mr. Weasley jumped to his feet, waving and grinning at a man who was striding toward them. “Aha!” he said. “The man of the moment! Ludo!”

Ludo Bagman was easily the most noticeable person Harry had seen so far, even including old Archie in his flowered nightdress. He was wearing long Quidditch robes in thick horizontal stripes of bright yellow and black. An enormous picture of a wasp was splashed across his chest. He had the look of a powerfully built man gone slightly to seed; the robes were stretched tightly across a large belly he surely had not had in the days when he had played Quidditch for England. His nose was squashed (probably broken by a stray Bludger, Harry thought), but his round blue eyes, short blond hair, and rosy complexion made him look like a very overgrown schoolboy.

“Ahoy there!” Bagman called happily. He was walking as though he had springs attached to the balls of his feet and was plainly in a state of wild excitement.

“Arthur, old man,” he puffed as he reached the campfire, “what a day, eh? What a day! Could we have asked for more perfect weather? A cloudless night coming ...and hardly a hiccough in the arrangements... Not much for me to do!”

Behind him, a group of haggard-looking Ministry wizards rushed past, pointing at the distant evidence of some sort of a magical fire that was sending violet sparks twenty feet into the air.

Percy hurried forward with his hand outstretched. Apparently his disapproval of the way Ludo Bagman ran his department did not prevent him from wanting to make a good impression.

“Ah—yes,” said Mr. Weasley, grinning, “this is my son Percy. He's just started at the Ministry—and this is Fred—no, George, sorry—that's Fred—Bill, Charlie, Ron—my daughter, Ginny and Ron's friends, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter.”

Bagman did the smallest of double takes when he heard Harry's name, and his eyes performed the familiar flick upward to the scar on Harry's forehead.

“Everyone,” Mr. Weasley continued, “this is Ludo Bagman, you know who he is, it's thanks to him we've got such good tickets—”

Bagman beamed and waved his hand as if to say it had been nothing.

“Fancy a flutter on the match, Arthur?” he said eagerly, jingling what seemed to be a large amount of gold in the pockets of his yellow-and-black robes. “I've already got Roddy Pontner betting me Bulgaria will score first—I offered him nice odds, considering Ireland's front three are the strongest I've seen in years—and little Agatha Timms has put up half shares in her eel farm on a weeklong match.”

“Oh ...go on then,” said Mr. Weasley. “Let's see ...a Galleon on Ireland to win?”

“A Galleon?” Ludo Bagman looked slightly disappointed, but recovered himself. “Very well, very well ...any other takers?”

“They're a bit young to be gambling,” said Mr. Weasley. “Molly wouldn't like—”

“We'll bet thirty-seven Galleons, fifteen Sickles, three Knuts,” said Fred as he and George quickly pooled all their money, “that Ireland wins—but Viktor Krum gets the Snitch. Oh and we'll throw in a fake wand.”

“You don't want to go showing Mr. Bagman rubbish like that,” Percy hissed, but Bagman didn't seem to think the wand was rubbish at all; on the contrary, his boyish face shone with excitement as he took it from Fred, and when the wand gave a loud squawk and turned into a rubber chicken, Bagman roared with laughter.

“Excellent! I haven't seen one that convincing in years! I'd pay five Galleons for that!”

Percy froze in an attitude of stunned disapproval.

“Boys,” said Mr. Weasley under his breath, “I don't want you betting... That's all your savings ... Your mother—”

“Don't be a spoilsport, Arthur!” boomed Ludo Bagman, rattling his pockets excitedly. “They're old enough to know what they want! You reckon Ireland will win but Krum'll get the Snitch? Not a chance, boys, not a chance... I'll give you excellent odds on that one ... We'll add five Galleons for the funny wand, then, shall we...”

Mr. Weasley looked on helplessly as Ludo Bagman whipped out a notebook and quill and began jotting down the twins' names.

“Cheers,” said George, taking the slip of parchment Bagman handed him and tucking it away into the front of his robes. Bagman turned most cheerfully back to Mr. Weasley.

“Couldn't do me a brew, I suppose? I'm keeping an eye out for Barty Crouch. My Bulgarian opposite number's making difficulties, and I can't understand a word he's saying. Barty'll be able to sort it out. He speaks about a hundred and fifty languages.”

“Mr. Crouch?” said Percy, suddenly abandoning his look of poker-stiff disapproval and positively writhing with excitement. “He speaks over two hundred! Mermish and Gobbledegook and Troll...”

“Anyone can speak Troll,” said Fred dismissively. “All you have to do is point and grunt.”

Percy threw Fred an extremely nasty look and stoked the fire vigorously to bring the kettle back to the boil.

“Any news of Bertha Jorkins yet, Ludo?” Mr. Weasley asked as Bagman settled himself down on the grass beside them all.

“Not a dicky bird,” said Bagman comfortably. “But she'll turn up. Poor old Bertha ...memory like a leaky cauldron and no sense of direction. Lost, you take my word for it. She'll wander back into the office sometime in October, thinking it's still July.”

“You don't think it might be time to send someone to look for her?” Mr. Weasley suggested tentatively as Percy handed Bagman his tea.

“Barty Crouch keeps saying that,” said Bagman, his round eyes widening innocently, “but we really can't spare anyone at the moment. Oh—talk of the devil! Barty!”

A wizard had just Apparated at their fireside, and he could not have made more of a contrast with Ludo Bagman, sprawled on the grass in his old Wasp robes. Barty Crouch was a stiff, upright, elderly man, dressed in an impeccably crisp suit and tie. The parting in his short gray hair was almost unnaturally straight, and his narrow toothbrush mustache looked as though he trimmed it using a slide rule. His shoes were very highly polished. Harry could see at once why Percy idolized him. Percy was a great believer in rigidly following rules, and Mr. Crouch had complied with the rule about Muggle dressing so thoroughly that he could have passed for a bank manager; Harry doubted even Uncle Vernon would have spotted him for what he really was.

“Pull up a bit of grass, Barry,” said Ludo brightly, patting the ground beside him.

“No thank you, Ludo,” said Crouch, and there was a bite of impatience in his voice. “I've been looking for you everywhere. The Bulgarians are insisting we add another twelve seats to the Top Box.”

“Oh is that what they're after?” said Bagman. I thought the chap was asking to borrow a pair of tweezers. Bit of a strong accent.”

“Mr. Crouch!” said Percy breathlessly, sunk into a kind of halfbow that made him look like a hunchback. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Oh,” said Mr. Crouch, looking over at Percy in mild surprise. “Yes—thank you, Weatherby.”

Fred and George choked into their own cups. Percy, very pink around the ears, busied himself with the kettle.

“Oh and I've been wanting a word with you too, Arthur,” said Mr. Crouch, his sharp eyes falling upon Mr. Weasley. “Ali Bashir's on the warpath. He wants a word with you about your embargo on flying carpets.”

Mr. Weasley heaved a deep sigh.

“I sent him an owl about that just last week. If I've told him once I've told him a hundred times: Carpets are defined as a Muggle Artifact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects, but will he listen?”

“I doubt it,” said Mr. Crouch, accepting a cup from Percy. “He's desperate to export here.”

“Well, they'll never replace brooms in Britain, will they?” said Bagman.

“Ali thinks there's a niche in the market for a family vehicle, said Mr. Crouch. “I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve—but that was before carpets were banned, of course.”

He spoke as though he wanted to leave nobody in any doubt that all his ancestors had abided strictly by the law.

“So, been keeping busy, Barty?” said Bagman breezily.

“Fairly,” said Mr. Crouch dryly. “Organizing Portkeys across five continents is no mean feat, Ludo.”

“I expect you'll both be glad when this is over?” said Mr. Weasley.

Ludo Bagman looked shocked.

“Glad! Don't know when I've had more fun... Still, it's not as though we haven't got anything to took forward to, eh, Barty? Eh? Plenty left to organize, eh?”

Mr. Crouch raised his eyebrows at Bagman.

“We agreed not to make the announcement until all the details—”

“Oh details!” said Bagman, waving the word away like a cloud of midges. “They've signed, haven't they? They've agreed, haven't they? I bet you anything these kids'll know soon enough anyway. I mean, it's happening at Hogwarts—”

“Ludo, we need to meet the Bulgarians, you know,” said Mr. Crouch sharply, cutting Bagman's remarks short. “Thank you for the tea, Weatherby.”

He pushed his undrunk tea back at Percy and waited for Ludo to rise; Bagman struggled to his feet, swigging down the last of his tea, the gold in his pockets chinking merrily.

“See you all later!” he said. “You'll be up in the Top Box with me—I'm commentating!” He waved, Barty Crouch nodded curtly, and both of them Disapparated.

“What's happening at Hogwarts, Dad?” said Fred at once. “What were they talking about?”

“You'll find out soon enough,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling.

“It's classified information, until such time as the Ministry decides to release it,” said Percy stiffly. “Mr. Crouch was quite right not to disclose it.”

“Oh shut up, Weatherby,” said Fred.

A sense of excitement rose like a palpable cloud over the campsite as the afternoon wore on. By dusk, the still summer air itself seemed to be quivering with anticipation, and as darkness spread like a curtain over the thousands of waiting wizards, the last vestiges of pretence disappeared: the Ministry seemed to have bowed to the inevitable and stopped fighting the signs of blatant magic now breaking out everywhere.

Salesmen were Apparating every few feet, carrying trays and pushing carts full of extraordinary merchandise. There were luminous rosettes—green for Ireland, red for Bulgaria—which were squealing the names of the players, pointed green hats bedecked with dancing shamrocks, Bulgarian scarves adorned with lions that really roared, flags from both countries that played their national anthems as they were waved; there were tiny models of Firebolts that really flew, and collectible figures of famous players, which strolled across the palm of your hand, preening themselves.

“Been saving my pocket money all summer for this,” Ron told Harry as they and Hermione strolled through the salesmen, buying souvenirs. Though Ron purchased a dancing shamrock hat and a large green rosette, he also bought a small figure of Viktor Krum, the Bulgarian Seeker. The miniature Krum walked backward and forward over Ron's hand, scowling up at the green rosette above him.

“Wow, look at these!” said Harry, hurrying over to a cart piled high with what looked like brass binoculars, except that they were covered with all sorts of weird knobs and dials.

“Omnioculars,” said the saleswizard eagerly. “You can replay action ...slow everything down ...and they flash up a play-byplay breakdown if you need it. Bargain—ten Galleons each.”

“Wish I hadn't bought this now,” said Ron, gesturing at his dancing shamrock hat and gazing longingly at the Omnioculars.

“Three pairs,” said Harry firmly to the wizard.

“No—don't bother,” said Ron, going red. He was always touchy about the fact that Harry, who had inherited a small fortune from his parents, had much more money than he did.

“You won't be getting anything for Christmas,” Harry told him, thrusting Omnioculars into his and Hermione's hands. “For about ten years, mind.”

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 138860 times

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