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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (page 26)


Meanwhile Professor Binns, the ghost who taught History of Magic, had them writing weekly essays on the goblin rebellions of the eighteenth century. Professor Snape was forcing them to research antidotes. They took this one seriously, as he had hinted that he might be poisoning one of them before Christmas to see if their antidote worked. Professor Flitwick had asked them to read three extra books in preparation for their lesson on Summoning Charms.

Even Hagrid was adding to their workload. The Blast-Ended Skrewts were growing at a remarkable pace given that nobody had yet discovered what they ate. Hagrid was delighted, and as part of their “project,” suggested that they come down to his hut on alternate evenings to observe the skrewts and make notes on their extraordinary behavior.

“I will not,” said Draco Malfoy flatly when Hagrid had proposed this with the air of Father Christmas pulling an extra-large toy out of his sack. “I see enough of these foul things during lessons, thanks.”

Hagrid's smile faded off his face.

“Yeh'll do wha' yer told,” he growled, “or I'll be takin' a leaf outta Professor Moody's book... I hear yeh made a good ferret, Malfoy.”

The Gryffindors roared with laughter. Malfoy flushed with anger, but apparently the memory of Moody's punishment was still sufficiently painful to stop him from retorting. Harry, Ron, and Hermione returned to the castle at the end of the lesson in high spirits; seeing Hagrid put down Malfoy was particularly satisfying, especially because Malfoy had done his very best to get Hagrid sacked the previous year.

When they arrived in the entrance hall, they found themselves unable to proceed owing to the large crowd of students congregated there, all milling around a large sign that had been erected at the foot of the marble staircase. Ron, the tallest of the three, stood on tiptoe to see over the heads in front of them and read the sign aloud to the other two:

TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT

THE DELEGATIONS FROM BEAUXBATONS AND

DURMSTRANG WILL BE ARRIVING AT 6 O'CLOCK

ON FRIDAY THE 30TH OF OCTOBER. LESSONS WILL

END HALF AN HOUR EARLY—

“Brilliant!” said Harry. “It's Potions last thing on Friday! Snape won't have time to poison us all!”

STUDENTS WILL RETURN THEIR BAGS AND BOOKS

TO THEIR DORMITORIES AND ASSEMBLE IN FRONT

OF THE CASTLE TO GREET OUR GUESTS BEFORE

THE WELCOMING FEAST.

“Only a week away!” said Ernie Macmillan of Hufflepuff, emerging from the crowd, his eyes gleaming. “I wonder if Cedric knows? Think I'll go and tell him...”

“Cedric?” said Ron blankly as Ernie hurried off.

“Diggory,” said Harry. “He must be entering the tournament.”

“That idiot, Hogwarts champion?” said Ron as they pushed their way through the chattering crowd toward the staircase.

“He's not an idiot. You just don't like him because he beat Gryffindor at Quidditch,” said Hermione. “I've heard he's a really good student—and he's a prefect.”

She spoke as though this settled the matter.

“You only like him because he's handsome,” said Ron scathingly.

“Excuse me, I don't like people just because they're handsome!” said Hermione indignantly.

Ron gave a loud false cough, which sounded oddly like “Lockhart!”

The appearance of the sign in the entrance hall had a marked effect upon the inhabitants of the castle. During the following week, there seemed to be only one topic of conversation, no matter where Harry went: the Triwizard Tournament. Rumors were flying from student to student like highly contagious germs: who was going to try for Hogwarts champion, what the tournament would involve, how the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang differed from themselves.

Harry noticed too that the castle seemed to be undergoing an extra-thorough cleaning. Several grimy portraits had been scrubbed, much to the displeasure of their subjects, who sat huddled in their frames muttering darkly and wincing as they felt their raw pink faces. The suits of armor were suddenly gleaming and moving without squeaking, and Argus Filch, the caretaker, was behaving so ferociously to any students who forgot to wipe their shoes that he terrified a pair of first-year girls into hysterics.

Other members of the staff seemed oddly tense too.

“Longbottom, kindly do not reveal that you can't even perform a simple Switching Spell in front of anyone from Durmstrang!” Professor McGonagall barked at the end of one particularly difficult lesson, during which Neville had accidentally transplanted his own ears onto a cactus.

When they went down to breakfast on the morning of the thirtieth of October, they found that the Great Hall had been decorated overnight. Enormous silk banners hung from the walls, each of them representing a Hogwarts House: red with a gold lion for Gryffiindor, blue with a bronze eagle for Ravenclaw, yellow with a black badger for Hufflepuff, and green with a silver serpent for Slytherin. Behind the teachers' table, the largest banner of all bore the Hogwarts coat of arms: lion, eagle, badger, and snake united around a large letter H.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down beside Fred and George at the Gryffindor table. Once again, and most unusually, they were sitting apart from everyone else and conversing in low voices. Ron led the way over to them.

“It's a bummer, all right,” George was saying gloomily to Fred. “But if he won't talk to us in person, we'll have to send him the letter after all. Or we'll stuff it into his hand. He can't avoid us forrever.

“Who's avoiding you?” said Ron, sitting down next to them.

“Wish you would,” said Fred, looking irritated at the interruption.

“What's a bummer?” Ron asked George.

“Having a nosy git like you for a brother,” said George.

“You two got any ideas on the Triwizard Tournament yet?” Harry asked. “Thought any more about trying to enter?”

“I asked McGonagall how the champions are chosen but she wasn't telling,” said George bitterly. “She just told me to shut up and get on with transfiguring my raccoon.”

“Wonder what the tasks are going to be?” said Ron thoughtfully. “You know, I bet we could do them, Harry. We've done dangerous stuff before...”

“Not in front of a panel of judges, you haven't,” said Fred. “McGonagall says the champions get awarded points according to how well they've done the tasks.”

“Who are the judges?” Harry asked.

“Well, the Heads of the participating schools are always on the panel,” said Hermione, and everyone looked around at her, rather surprised, “because all three of them were injured during the Tournament of 1792, when a cockatrice the champions were supposed to be catching went on the rampage.”

She noticed them all looking at her and said, with her usual air of impatience that nobody else had read all the books she had, “It's all in Hogwarts, A History. Though, of course, that book's not entirely reliable. A Revised History of Hogwarts would be a more accurate title. Or A Highly Biased and Selective History of Hogwarts, Which Glosses Over the Nastier Aspects of the School.”

“What are you on about?” said Ron, though Harry thought he knew what was coming.

“House-elves!” said Hermione, her eyes flashing. “Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts, A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!”

Harry shook his head and applied himself to his scrambled eggs. His and Ron's lack of enthusiasm had done nothing whatsoever to curb Hermione's determination to pursue justice for house-elves.

True, both of them had paid two Sickles for a S. P. E. W. badge, but they had only done it to keep her quiet. Their Sickles had been wasted, however; if anything, they seemed to have made Hermione more vociferous. She had been badgering Harry and Ron ever since, first to wear the badges, then to persuade others to do the same, and she had also taken to rattling around the Gryffindor common room every evening, cornering people and shaking the collecting tin under their noses.

“You do realize that your sheets are changed, your fires lit, your classrooms cleaned, and your food cooked by a group of magical creatures who are unpaid and enslaved?” she kept saying fiercely.

Some people, like Neville, had paid up just to stop Hermione from glowering at them. A few seemed mildly interested in what she had to say, but were reluctant to take a more active role in campaigning. Many regarded the whole thing as a joke.

Ron now rolled his eyes at the ceiling, which was flooding them all in autumn sunlight, and Fred became extremely interested in his bacon (both twins had refused to buy a S. P. E. W. badge). George, however, leaned in toward Hermione.

“Listen, have you ever been down in the kitchens, Hermione?”

“No, of course not,” said Hermione curtly, “I hardly think students are supposed to—”

“Well, we have,” said George, indicating Fred, “loads of times, to nick food. And we've met them, and they're happy. They think they've got the best job in the world—”

“That's because they're uneducated and brainwashed!” Hermione began hotly, but her next few words were drowned out by the sudden whooshing noise from overhead, which announced the arrival of the post owls. Harry looked up at once, and saw Hedwig soaring toward him. Hermione stopped talking abruptly; she and Ron watched Hedwig anxiously as she fluttered down onto Harry's shoulder, folded her wings, and held out her leg wearily.

Harry pulled off Sirius's reply and offered Hedwig his bacon rinds, which she ate gratefully. Then, checking that Fred and George were safely immersed in further discussions about the Triwizard Tournament, Harry read out Sirius's letter in a whisper to Ron and Hermione.

Nice try, Harry.

I'm back in the country and well hidden. I want you to keep me posted on everything that's going on at Hogwarts. Don't use Hedwig, keep changing owls, and don't worry about me, just watch out for yourself Don't forget what I said about your scar.

Sirius

“Why d'you have to keep changing owls?” Ron asked in a low voice.

“Hedwig'll attract too much attention,” said Hermione at once. “She stands out. A snowy owl that keeps returning to wherever he's hiding... I mean, they're not native birds, are they?”

Harry rolled up the letter and slipped it inside his robes, wondering whether he felt more or less worried than before. He supposed that Sirius managing to get back without being caught was something. He couldn't deny either that the idea that Sirius was much nearer was reassuring; at least he wouldn't have to wait so long for a response every time he wrote.

“Thanks, Hedwig,” he said, stroking her. She hooted sleepily, dipped her beak briefly into his goblet of orange juice, then took off again, clearly desperate for a good long sleep in the Owlery.

There was a pleasant feeling of anticipation in the air that day. Nobody was very attentive in lessons, being much more interested in the arrival that evening of the people from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang; even Potions was more bearable than usual, as it was half an hour shorter. When the bell rang early, Harry, Ron, and Hermione hurried up to Gryffindor Tower, deposited their bags and books as they had been instructed, pulled on their cloaks, and rushed back downstairs into the entrance hall.

The Heads of Houses were ordering their students into lines.

“Weasley, straighten your hat,” Professor McGonagall snapped at Ron. “Miss Patil, take that ridiculous thing out of your hair.”

Parvati scowled and removed a large ornamental butterfly from the end of her plait.

“Follow me, please,” said Professor McGonagall. “First years in front... no pushing...

They filed down the steps and lined up in front of the castle. It was a cold, clear evening; dusk was falling and a pale, transparent-looking moon was already shining over the Forbidden Forest. Harry, standing between Ron and Hermione in the fourth row from the front, saw Dennis Creevey positively shivering with anticipation among the other first years.

“Nearly six,” said Ron, checking his watch and then staring down the drive that led to the front gates. “How d'you reckon they're coming? The train?”

“I doubt it,” said Hermione.

“How, then? Broomsticks?” Harry suggested, looking up at the starry sky.

“I don't think so... not from that far away...

“A Portkey?” Ron suggested. “Or they could Apparate—maybe you're allowed to do it under seventeen wherever they come from?”

“You can't Apparate inside the Hogwarts grounds, how often do I have to tell you?” said Hermione impatiently.

They scanned the darkening grounds excitedly, but nothing was moving; everything was still, silent, and quite as usual. Harry was starting to feel cold. He wished they'd hurry up... Maybe the foreign students were preparing a dramatic entrance... He remembered what Mr. Weasley had said back at the campsite before the Quidditch World Cup: “always the same—we can't resist showing off when we get together...”

And then Dumbledore called out from the back row where he stood with the other teachers—”Aha! Unless I am very much mistaken, the delegation from Beauxbatons approaches!”

“Where?” said many students eagerly, all looking in different directions.

“There!” yelled a sixth year, pointing over the forest.

Something large, much larger than a broomstick—or, indeed, a hundred broomsticks—was hurtling across the deep blue sky toward the castle, growing larger all the time.

“It's a dragon!” shrieked one of the first years, losing her head completely.

“Don't be stupid... it's a flying house!” said Dennis Creevey.

Dennis's guess was closer... As the gigantic black shape skimmed over the treetops of the Forbidden Forest and the lights shining from the castle windows hit it, they saw a gigantic, powderblue, horse-drawn carriage, the size of a large house, soaring toward them, pulled through the air by a dozen winged horses, all palominos, and each the size of an elephant.

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 138879 times

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