“Fair enough,” said Ron, grinning.
“Oooh, thanks, Harry,” said Hermione. “And I'll get us some programs, look—”
Their money bags considerably lighter, they went back to the tents. Bill,
Charlie, and Ginny were all sporting green rosettes too, and Mr. Weasley was
carrying an Irish flag. Fred and George had no souvenirs as they had given Bagman
all their gold.
And then a deep, booming gong sounded somewhere beyond the woods, and at
once, green and red lanterns blazed into life in the trees, lighting a path
to the field.
“It's time!” said Mr. Weasley, looking as excited as any of them. “Come on,
THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP
Clutching their purchases, Mr. Weasley in the lead, they all hurried into
the wood, following the lantern-lit trail. They could hear the sounds of thousands
of people moving around them, shouts and laughter, snatches of singing. The
atmosphere of feverish excitement was highly infectious; Harry couldn't stop
grinning. They walked through the wood for twenty minutes, talking and joking
loudly, until at last they emerged on the other side and found themselves in
the shadow of a gigantic stadium. Though Harry could see only a fraction of
the immense gold walls surrounding the field, he could tell that ten cathedrals
would fit comfortably inside it.
“Seats a hundred thousand,” said Mr. Weasley, spotting the awestruck look
on Harry's face. “Ministry task force of five hundred have been working on it
all year. Muggle Repelling Charms on every inch of it. Every time Muggles have
got anywhere near here all year, they've suddenly remembered urgent appointments
and had to dash away again ...bless them,” he added fondly, leading the way
toward the nearest entrance, which was already surrounded by a swarm of shouting
witches and wizards.
“Prime seats!” said the Ministry witch at the entrance when she checked their
tickets. “Top Box! Straight upstairs, Arthur, and as high as you can go.”
The stairs into the stadium were carpeted in rich purple. They clambered
upward with the rest of the crowd, which slowly filtered away through doors
into the stands to their left and right. Mr. Weasley's party kept climbing,
and at last they reached the top of the staircase and found themselves in a
small box, set at the highest point of the stadium and situated exactly halfway
between the golden goal posts. About twenty purple-and-gilt chairs stood in
two rows here, and Harry, filing into the front seats with the Weasleys, looked
down upon a scene the likes of which he could never have imagined.
A hundred thousand witches and wizards were taking their places in the seats,
which rose in levels around the long oval field. Everything was suffused with
a mysterious golden light, which seemed to come from the stadium itself. The
field looked smooth as velvet from their lofty position. At either end of the
field stood three goal hoops, fifty feet high; right opposite them, almost at
Harry's eye level, was a gigantic blackboard. Gold writing kept dashing across
it as though an invisible giant's hand were scrawling upon the blackboard and
then wiping it off again; watching it, Harry saw that it was flashing advertisements
across the field.
The Bluebottle: A Broom for All the Family—safe, reliable, and with Built-in
Anti-Burgler Buzzer ...Mrs. Shower's All Purpose Magical Mess Remover: No Pain,
No Stain! ...Gladrags Wizardwear—London, Paris, Hogsmeade...
Harry tore his eyes away from the sign and looked over his shoulder to see
who else was sharing the box with them. So far it was empty, except for a tiny
creature sitting in the second from last seat at the end of the row behind them.
The creature, whose legs were so short they stuck out in front of it on the
chair, was wearing a tea towel draped like a toga, and it had its face hidden
in its hands. Yet those long, batlike ears were oddly familiar...
“Dobby?” said Harry incredulously.
The tiny creature looked up and stretched its fingers, revealing enormous
brown eyes and a nose the exact size and shape of a large tomato. It wasn't
Dobby—it was, however, unmistakably a house-elf, as Harry's friend Dobby had
been. Harry had set Dobby free from his old owners, the Malfoy family.
“Did sir just call me Dobby?” squeaked the elf curiously from between its
fingers. Its voice was higher even than Dobby's had been, a teeny, quivering
squeak of a voice, and Harry suspected though it was very hard to tell with
a house-elf—that this one might just be female. Ron and Hermione spun around
in their seats to look. Though they had heard a lot about Dobby from Harry,
they had never actually met him. Even Mr. Weasley looked around in interest.
“Sorry,” Harry told the elf, “I just thought you were someone I knew.”
“But I knows Dobby too, sir!” squeaked the elf. She was shielding her face,
as though blinded by light, though the Top Box was not brightly lit. “My name
is Winky, sir—and you, sir—” Her dark brown eyes widened to the size of side
plates as they rested upon Harry's scar. “You is surely Harry Potter!”
“Yeah, I am,” said Harry.
“But Dobby talks of you all the time, sir!” s he said, lowering her hands
very slightly and looking awestruck.
“How is he?” said Harry. “How's freedom suiting him?”
“Ah, sir,” said Winky, shaking her head, “ah sir, meaning no disrespect,
sir, but I is not sure you did Dobby a favor, sir, when you is setting him free.”
“Why?” said Harry, taken aback. “What's wrong with him?”
“Freedom is going to Dobby's head, sir, “ said Winky sadly. “Ideas above
his station, sir. Can't get another position, sir.”
“Why not?” said Harry.
Winky lowered her voice by a half-octave and whispered, “He is wanting paying
for his work, sir.”
“Paying?” said Harry blankly. “Well—why shouldn't he be paid?”
Winky looked quite horrified at the idea and closed her fingers slightly
so that her face was half-hidden again.
“House-elves is not paid, sir!” she said in a muffled squeak. “No, no, no.
I says to Dobby, I says, go find yourself a nice family and settle down, Dobby.
He is getting up to all sorts of high jinks, sir, what is unbecoming to a house-elf.
You goes racketing around like this, Dobby, I says, and next thing I hear you's
up in front of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures,
like some common goblin.”
“Well, it's about time he had a bit of fun,” said Harry.
“House-elves is not supposed to have fun, Harry Potter,” said Winky firmly,
from behind her hands. “House-elves does what they is told. I is not liking
heights at all, Harry Potter”—she glanced toward the edge of the box and gulped—”but
my master sends me to the Top Box and I comes, sir.”
“Why's he sent you up here, if he knows you don't like heights?” said Harry,
“Master—master wants me to save him a seat, Harry Potter. He is very busy,”
said Winky, tilting her head toward the empty space beside her. “Winky is wishing
she is back in master's tent, Harry Potter, but Winky does what she is told.
Winky is a good house-elf.”
She gave the edge of the box another frightened look and hid her eyes completely
again. Harry turned back to the others.
“So that's a house-elf?” Ron muttered. “Weird things, aren't they?”
“Dobby was weirder,” said Harry fervently.
Ron pulled out his Omnioculars and started testing them, staring down into
the crowd on the other side of the stadium.
“Wild!” he said, twiddling the replay knob on the side. I can make that old
bloke down there pick his nose again ...and again ...and again...”
Hermione, meanwhile, was skimming eagerly through her velvetcovered, tasseled
“'A display from the team mascots will precede the match,"' she read aloud.
“Oh that's always worth watching,” said Mr. Weasley. “National teams bring
creatures from their native land, you know, to put on a bit of a show.”
The box filled gradually around them over the next half hour. Mr. Weasley
kept shaking hands with people who were obviously very important wizards. Percy
jumped to his feet so often that he looked as though he were trying to sit on
a hedgehog. When Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic himself, arrived, Percy
bowed so low that his glasses fell off and shattered. Highly embarrassed, he
repaired them with his wand and thereafter remained in his seat, throwing jealous
looks at Harry, whom Cornelius Fudge had greeted like an old friend. They had
met before, and Fudge shook Harry's hand in a fatherly fashion, asked how he
was, and introduced him to the wizards on either side of him.
“Harry Potter, you know,” he told the Bulgarian minister loudly, who was
wearing splendid robes of black velvet trimmed with gold and didn't seem to
understand a word of English. “Harry Potter ...oh come on now, you know who
he is ...the boy who survived You-Know-Who ...you do know who he is—”
The Bulgarian wizard suddenly spotted Harry's scar and started gabbling loudly
and excitedly, pointing at it.
“Knew we'd get there in the end,” said Fudge wearily to Harry. “I'm no great
shakes at languages; I need Barty Crouch for this sort of thing. Ah, I see his
house-elf's saving him a seat... Good job too, these Bulgarian blighters have
been trying to cadge all the best places ...ah, and here's Lucius!”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione turned quickly. Edging along the second row to three
still-empty seats right behind Mr. Weasley were none other than Dobby the house-elf's
former owners: Lucius Malfoy; his son, Draco; and a woman Harry supposed must
be Draco's mother.
Harry and Draco Malfoy had been enemies ever since their very first journey
to Hogwarts. A pale boy with a pointed face and white-blond hair, Draco greatly
resembled his father. His mother was blonde too; tall and slim, she would have
been nice-looking if she hadn't been wearing a look that suggested there was
a nasty smell under her nose.
“Ah, Fudge,” said Mr. Malfoy, holding out his hand as he reached the Minister
of Magic. “How are you? I don't think you've met my wife, Narcissa? Or our son,
“How do you do, how do you do?” said Fudge, smiling and bowing to Mrs. Malfoy.
“And allow me to introduce you to Mr. Oblansk—Obalonsk—Mr.—well, he's the Bulgarian
Minister of Magic, and he can't understand a word I'm saying anyway, so never
mind. And let's see who else—you know Arthur Weasley, I daresay?”
It was a tense moment. Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy looked at each other and
Harry vividly recalled the last time they had come face-to-face: It had been
in Flourish and Blotts' bookshop, and they had had a fight. Mr. Malfoy's cold
gray eyes swept over Mr. Weasley, and then up and down the row.
“Good lord, Arthur,” he said softly. “What did you have to sell to get seats
in the Top Box? Surely your house wouldn't have fetched this much?”
Fudge, who wasn't listening, said, “Lucius has just given a very generous
contribution to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Arthur.
He's here as my guest.”
“How—how nice,” said Mr. Weasley, with a very strained smile.
Mr. Malfoy's eyes had returned to Hermione, who went slightly pink, but stared
determinedly back at him. Harry knew exactly what was making Mr. Malfoy's lip
curl like that. The Malfoys prided themselves on being purebloods; in other
words, they considered anyone of Muggle descent, like Hermione, second-class.
However, under the gaze of the Minister of Magic, Mr. Malfoy didn't dare say
anything. He nodded sneeringly to Mr. Weasley and continued down the line to
his seats. Draco shot Harry, Ron, and Hermione one contemptuous look, then settled
himself between his mother and father.
“Slimy gits,” Ron muttered as he, Harry, and Hermione turned to face the
field again. Next moment, Ludo Bagman charged into the box.
“Everyone ready?” he said, his round face gleaming like a great, excited
Edam. “Minister—ready to go?”
“Ready when you are, Ludo,” said Fudge comfortably.
Ludo whipped out his wand, directed it at his own throat, and said “Sonorus!”
and then spoke over the roar of sound that was now filling the packed stadium;
his voice echoed over them, booming into every corner of the stands.
“Ladies and gentlemen... welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred
and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!”
The spectators screamed and clapped. Thousands of flags waved, adding their
discordant national anthems to the racket. The huge blackboard opposite them
was wiped clear of its last message (Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans—A Risk
With Every Mouthful!) and now showed BULGARIA: 0, IRELAND: 0.
“And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce... the Bulgarian National
The right-hand side of the stands, which was a solid block of scarlet, roared
“I wonder what they've brought,” said Mr. Weasley, leaning forward in his
seat. “Aaah!” He suddenly whipped off his glasses and polished them hurriedly
on his robes. “Veela!”
“What are veel -?”
But a hundred veela were now gliding out onto the field, and Harry's question
was answered for him. Veela were women... the most beautiful women Harry had
ever seen... except that they weren't—they couldn't be—human. This puzzled Harry
for a moment while he tried to guess what exactly they could be; what could
make their skin shine moon-bright like that, or their white-gold hair fan out
behind them without wind... but then the music started, and Harry stopped worrying
about them not being human—in fact, he stopped worrying about anything at all.
The veela had started to dance, and Harry's mind had gone completely and
blissfully blank. All that mattered in the world was that he kept watching the
veela, because if they stopped dancing, terrible things would happen.
And as the veela danced faster and faster, wild, half-formed thoughts started
chasing through Harry's dazed mind. He wanted to do something very impressive,
right now. Jumping from the box into the stadium seemed a good idea... but would
it be good enough?