“Over there,” said Hermione shakily, pointing at the place where they had
heard the voice. “There was someone behind the trees... they shouted words—an
“Oh, stood over there, did they?” said Mr. Crouch, turning his popping eyes
on Hermione now, disbelief etched all over his face. “Said an incantation, did
they? You seem very well informed about how that Mark is summoned, missy—”
But none of the Ministry wizards apart from Mr. Crouch seemed to think it
remotely likely that Harry, Ron, or Hermione had conjured the skull; on the
contrary, at Hermione's words, they had all raised their wands again and were
pointing in the direction she had indicated, squinting through the dark trees.
“We're too late,” said the witch in the woolen dressing gown, shaking her
head. “They'll have Disapparated.”
“I don't think so,” said a wizard with a scrubby brown beard. It was Amos
Diggory, Cedric's father. “Our Stunners went right through those trees... There's
a good chance we got them...
“Amos, be careful!” said a few of the wizards warningly as Mr. Diggory squared
his shoulders, raised his wand, marched across the clearing, and disappeared
into the darkness. Hermione watched him vanish with her hands over her mouth.
A few seconds later, they heard Mr. Diggory shout.
“Yes! We got them! There's someone here! Unconscious! It's—but—blimey..
“You've got someone?” shouted Mr. Crouch, sounding highly disbelieving. “Who?
Who is it?”
They heard snapping twigs, the rustling of leaves, and then crunching footsteps
as Mr. Diggory reemerged from behind the trees. He was carrying a tiny, limp
figure in his arms. Harry recognized the tea towel at once. It was Winky.
Mr. Crouch did not move or speak as Mr. Diggory deposited his elf on the
ground at his feet. The other Ministry wizards were all staring at Mr. Crouch.
For a few seconds Crouch remained transfixed, his eyes blazing in his white
face as he stared down at Winky. Then he appeared to come to life again.
“This—cannot—be,” he said jerkily. “No—”
He moved quickly around Mr. Diggory and strode off toward the place where
he had found Winky.
“No point, Mr. Crouch,” Mr. Diggory called after him. “There's no one else
But Mr. Crouch did not seem prepared to take his word for it. They could
hear him moving around and the rustling of leaves as he pushed the bushes aside,
“Bit embarrassing,” Mr. Diggory said grimly, looking down at Winky's unconscious
form. “Barty Crouch's house-elf... I mean to say...”
“Come off it, Amos,” said Mr. Weasley quietly, “you don't seriously think
it was the elf? The Dark Mark's a wizard's sign. It requires a wand.”
“Yeah,” said Mr. Diggory, “and she had a wand.”
“What?” said Mr. Weasley.
“Here, look.” Mr. Diggory held up a wand and showed it to Mr. Weasley. “Had
it in her hand. So that's clause three of the Code of Wand Use broken, for a
start. No non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand.”
Just then there was another pop, and Ludo Bagman Apparated right next to
Mr. Weasley. Looking breathless and disorientated, he spun on the spot, goggling
upward at the emerald-green skull.
“The Dark Mark!” he panted, almost trampling Winky as he turned inquiringly
to his colleagues. “Who did it? Did you get them? Barry! What's going on?”
Mr. Crouch had returned empty-handed. His face was still ghostly white, and
his hands and his toothbrush mustache were both twitching.
“Where have you been, Barty?” said Bagman. “Why weren't you at the match?
Your elf was saving you a seat too—gulping gargoyles!” Bagman had just noticed
Winky lying at his feet. “What happened to her?”
“I have been busy, Ludo,” said Mr. Crouch, still talking in the same jerky
fashion, barely moving his lips. “And my elf has been stunned.”
“Stunned? By you lot, you mean? But why—?”
Comprehension dawned suddenly on Bagman's round, shiny face; he looked up
at the skull, down at Winky, and then at Mr. Crouch.
“No!” he said. “Winky? Conjure the Dark Mark? She wouldn't know how! She'd
need a wand, for a start!”
“And she had one,” said Mr. Diggory. “I found her holding one, Ludo. If it's
all right with you, Mr. Crouch, I think we should hear what she's got to say
Crouch gave no sign that he had heard Mr. Diggory, but Mr. Diggory seemed
to take his silence for assent. He raised his own wand, pointed it at Winky,
and said, “Ennervate!”
Winky stirred feebly. Her great brown eyes opened and she blinked several
times in a bemused sort of way. Watched by the silent wizards, she raised herself
shakily into a sitting position.
She caught sight of Mr. Diggory's feet, and slowly, tremulously, raised her
eyes to stare up into his face; then, more slowly still, she looked up into
the sky. Harry could see the floating skull reflected twice in her enormous,
glassy eyes. She gave a gasp, looked wildly around the crowded clearing, and
burst into terrified sobs.
“Elf!” said Mr. Diggory sternly. “Do you know who I am? I'm a member of the
Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!”
Winky began to rock backward and forward on the ground, her breath coming
in sharp bursts. Harry was reminded forcibly of Dobby in his moments of terrified
“As you see, elf, the Dark Mark was conjured here a short while ago,” said
Mr. Diggory. “And you were discovered moments later, right beneath it! An explanation,
if you please!”
“I—I—I is not doing it, sir!” Winky gasped. “I is not knowing how, sir!”
“You were found with a wand in your hand!” barked Mr. Diggory, brandishing
it in front of her. And as the wand caught the green light that was filling
the clearing from the skull above, Harry recognized it
“Hey—that's mine!” he said
Everyone in the clearing looked at him.
“Excuse me?” said Mr. Diggory, incredulously.
“That's my wand!” said Harry. “I dropped it!”
“You dropped it?” repeated Mr. Diggory in disbelief. “Is this a confession?
You threw it aside after you conjured the Mark?”
“Amos, think who you're talking to!” said Mr. Weasley, very angrily. “Is
Harry Potter likely to conjure the Dark Mark?”
“Er—of course not,” mumbled Mr. Diggory. “Sorry... carried away..
“I didn't drop it there, anyway,” said Harry, jerking his thumb toward the
trees beneath the skull. “I missed it right after we got into the wood.”
“So,” said Mr. Diggory, his eyes hardening as he turned to look at Winky
again, cowering at his feet. “You found this wand, eh, elf? And you picked it
up and thought you'd have some fun with it, did you?”
“I is not doing magic with it, sir!” squealed Winky, tears streaming down
the sides of her squashed and bulbous nose. “I is... I is... I is just picking
it up, sir! i is not making the Dark Mark, sir, i is not knowing how!”
“It wasn't her!” said Hermione. She looked very nervous, speaking up in front
of all these Ministry wizards, yet determined all the same. “Winky's got a squeaky
little voice, and the voice we heard doing the incantation was much deeper!”
She looked around at Harry and Ron, appealing for their support. “It didn't
sound anything like Winky, did it?”
“No,” said Harry, shaking his head. “It definitely didn't sound like an elf.”
“Yeah, it was a human voice,” said Ron.
“Well, we'll soon see,” growled Mr. Diggory, looking unimpressed. “There's
a simple way of discovering the last spell a wand performed, elf, did you know
Winky trembled and shook her head frantically, her ears flapping, as Mr.
Diggory raised his own wand again and placed it tip to tip with Harry's.
“Prior Incantato!” roared Mr. Diggory.
Harry heard Hermione gasp, horrified, as a gigantic serpent-tongued skull
erupted from the point where the two wands met, but it was a mere shadow of
the green skull high above them; it looked as though it were made of thick gray
smoke: the ghost of a spell.
“Deletrius!” Mr. Diggory shouted, and the smoky skull vanished in a wisp
“So,” said Mr. Diggory with a kind of savage triumph, looking down upon Winky,
who was still shaking convulsively.
“I is not doing it!” she squealed, her eyes rolling in terror. “I is not,
I is not, I is not knowing how! I is a good elf, I isn't using wands, I isn't
“You've been caught red-handed, elf!” Mr. Diggory roared. “Caught with the
guilty wand in your hand!”
“Amos,” said Mr. Weasley loudly, “think about it... precious few wizards
know how to do that spell... Where would she have learned it?”
“Perhaps Amos is suggesting,” said Mr. Crouch, cold anger in every syllable,
“that I routinely teach my servants to conjure the Dark Mark?”
There was a deeply unpleasant silence. Amos Diggory looked horrified. “Mr.
Crouch... not... not at all.
“You have now come very close to accusing the two people in this clearing
who are least likely to conjure that Mark!” barked Mr. Crouch. “Harry Potter—and
myself. I suppose you are familiar with the boy's story, Amos?”
“Of course—everyone knows—” muttered Mr. Diggory, looking highly discomforted.
“And I trust you remember the many proofs I have given, over a long career,
that I despise and detest the Dark Arts and those who practice them?” Mr. Crouch
shouted, his eyes bulging again.
“Mr. Crouch, I—I never suggested you had anything to do with it!” Amos Diggory
muttered again, now reddening behind his scrubby brown beard.
“If you accuse my elf, you accuse me, Diggory!” shouted Mr. Crouch. “Where
else would she have learned to conjure it?”
“She—she might've picked it up anywhere—”
“Precisely, Amos,” said Mr. Weasley. “She might have picked it up anywhere...
Winky?” he said kindly, turning to the elf, but she flinched as though he too
was shouting at her. “Where exactly did you find Harry's wand?”
Winky was twisting the hem of her tea towel so violently that it was fraying
beneath her fingers.
“I—I is finding it... finding it there, sir...” she whispered, “there...
in the trees, sir.
“You see, Amos?” said Mr. Weasley. “Whoever conjured the Mark could have
Disapparated right after they'd done it, leaving Harry's wand behind. A clever
thing to do, not using their own wand, which could have betrayed them. And Winky
here had the misfortune to come across the wand moments later and pick it up.”
“But then, she'd have been only a few feet away from the real culprit!” said
Mr. Diggory impatiently. “Elf? Did you see anyone?”
Winky began to tremble worse than ever. Her giant eyes flickered from Mr.
Diggory, to Ludo Bagman, and onto Mr. Crouch. Then she gulped and said, “I is
seeing no one, sir... no one..
“Amos,” said Mr. Crouch curtly, “I am fully aware that, in the ordinary course
of events, you would want to take Winky into your department for questioning.
I ask you, however, to allow me to deal with her.”
Mr. Diggory looked as though he didn't think much of this suggestion at all,
but it was clear to Harry that Mr. Crouch was such an important member of the
Ministry that he did not dare refuse him.
“You may rest assured that she will be punished,” Mr. Crouch added coldly.
“M-m-master...” Winky stammered, looking up at Mr. Crouch, her eyes brimming
with tears. “M-m-master, p-p-please...”
Mr. Crouch stared back, his face somehow sharpened, each line upon it more
deeply etched. There was no pity in his gaze.
“Winky has behaved tonight in a manner I would not have believed possible,”
he said slowly. “I told her to remain in the tent. I told her to stay there
while I went to sort out the trouble. And I find that she disobeyed me. This
“No!” shrieked Winky, prostrating herself at Mr. Crouch's feet. “No, master!
Not clothes, not clothes!”
Harry knew that the only way to turn a house-elf free was to present it with
proper garments. It was pitiful to see the way Winky clutched at her tea towel
as she sobbed over Mr. Crouch's feet.
“But she was frightened!” Hermione burst out angrily, glaring at Mr. Crouch.
“Your elf's scared of heights, and those wizards in masks were levitating people!
You can't blame her for wanting to get out of their way!”
Mr. Crouch took a step backward, freeing himself from contact with the elf,
whom he was surveying as though she were something filthy and rotten that was
contaminating his over-shined shoes.
“I have no use for a house-elf who disobeys me,” he said coldly, looking
over at Hermione. “I have no use for a servant who forgets what is due to her
master, and to her master's reputation.”
Winky was crying so hard that her sobs echoed around the clearing. There
was a very nasty silence, which was ended by Mr. Weasley, who said quietly,
“Well, I think I'll take my lot back to the tent, if nobody's got any objections.
Amos, that wand's told us all it can—if Harry could have it back, please—”
Mr. Diggory handed Harry his wand and Harry pocketed it.
“Come on, you three,” Mr. Weasley said quietly. But Hermione didn't seem
to want to move; her eyes were still upon the sobbing elf. “Hermione!” Mr. Weasley
said, more urgently. She turned and followed Harry and Ron out of the clearing
and off through the trees.
“What's going to happen to Winky?” said Hermione, the moment they had left
“I don't know,” said Mr. Weasley.
“The way they were treating her!” said Hermione furiously. “Mr. Diggory,
calling her 'elf' all the time... and Mr. Crouch! He knows she didn't do it
and he's still going to sack her! He didn't care how frightened she'd been,
or how upset she was—it was like she wasn't even human!”
“Well, she's not,” said Ron.
Hermione rounded on him.
“That doesn't mean she hasn't got feelings, Ron. It's disgusting the way—”
“Hermione, I agree with you,” said Mr. Weasley quickly, beckoning her on,
“but now is not the time to discuss elf rights. I want to get back to the tent
as fast as we can. What happened to the others?”