“Ignore it,” Hermione said in a dignified voice, holding her head in the
air and stalking past the sniggering Slytherin girls as though she couldn't
hear them. “Just ignore it, Harry.”
But Harry couldn't ignore it. Ron hadn't spoken to him at all since he had
told him about Snape's detentions. Harry had half hoped they would make things
up during the two hours they were forced to pickle rats' brains in Snape's dungeon,
but that had been the day Rita's article had appeared, which seemed to have
confirmed Ron's belief that Harry was really enjoying all the attention.
Hermione was furious with the pair of them; she went from one to the other,
trying to force them to talk to each other, but Harry was adamant: He would
talk to Ron again only if Ron admitted that Harry hadn't put his name in the
Goblet of Fire and apologized for calling him a liar.
“I didn't start this,” Harry said stubbornly. “It's his problem.”
“You miss him!” Hermione said impatiently. “And I know he misses you—”
“Miss him?” said Harry. “I don't miss him...
But this was a downright lie. Harry liked Hermione very much, but she just
wasn't the same as Ron. There was much hess laughter and a lot more hanging
around in the library when Hermione was your best friend. Harry still hadn't
mastered Summoning Charms, he seemed to have developed something of a block
about them, and Hermione insisted that learning the theory would help. They
consequently spent a lot of time poring over books during their lunchtimes.
Viktor Krum was in the library an awful lot too, and Harry wondered what
he was up to. Was he studying, or was he looking for things to help him through
the first task? Hermione often complained about Krum being there—not that he
ever bothered them—but because groups of giggling girls often turned up to spy
on him from behind bookshelves, and Hermione found the noise distracting.
“He's not even good-looking!” she muttered angrily, glaring at Krum's sharp
profile. “They only like him because he's famous! They wouldn't look twice at
him if he couldn't do that WonkyFaint thing—”
“Wronski Feint,” said Harry, through gritted teeth. Quite apart from liking
to get Quidditch terms correct, it caused him another pang to imagine Ron's
expression if he could have heard Hermione talking about Wonky-Faints.
It is a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give
anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up. The days
until the first task seemed to slip by as though someone had fixed the clocks
to work at double speed. Harry's feeling of barely controlled panic was with
him wherever he went, as everpresent as the snide comments about the Daily Prophet
On the Saturday before the first task, all students in the third year and
above were permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade. Hermione told Harry
that it would do him good to get away from the castle for a bit, and Harry didn't
need much persuasion.
“What about Ron, though?” he said. “Don't you want to go with him?”
“Oh... well...” Hermione went slightly pink. “I thought we might meet up
with him in the Three Broomsticks...”
“No,” said Harry flatly.
“Oh Harry, this is so stupid—”
“I'll come, but I'm not meeting Ron, and I'm wearing my Invisibility Cloak.”
“Oh all right then...” Hermione snapped, “but I hate talking to you in that
cloak, I never know if I'm looking at you or not.”
So Harry put on his Invisibility Cloak in the dormitory, went back downstairs,
and together he and Hermione set off for Hogsmeade.
Harry felt wonderfully free under the cloak; he watched other students walking
past them as they entered the village, most of them sporting Support Cedric
Diggory! badges, but no horrible remarks came his way for a change, and nobody
was quoting that stupid article.
“People keep looking at me now,” said Hermione grumpily as they came out
of Honeydukes Sweetshop later, eating large cream-filled chocolates. “They think
I'm talking to myself.”
“Don't move your lips so much then.”
“Come on, please just take off your cloak for a bit, no one's going to bother
“Oh yeah?” said Harry. “Look behind you.”
Rita Skeeter and her photographer friend had just emerged from the Three
Broomsticks pub. Talking in low voices, they passed right by Hermione without
hooking at her. Harry backed into the wall of Honeydukes to stop Rita Skeeter
from hitting him with her crocodile-skin handbag. When they were gone, Harry
said, “She's staying in the village. I bet she's coming to watch the first task.”
As he said it, his stomach flooded with a wave of molten panic. He didn't
mention this; he and Hermione hadn't discussed what was coming in the first
task much; he had the feeling she didn't want to think about it.
“She's gone,” said Hermione, looking right through Harry toward the end of
the street. “Why don't we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks,
it's a bit cold, isn't it? You don't have to talk to Ron!” she added irritably,
correctly interpreting his silence.
The Three Broomsticks was packed, mainly with Hogwarts students enjoying
their free afternoon, but also with a variety of magical people Harry rarely
saw anywhere else. Harry supposed that as Hogsmeade was the only all-wizard
village in Britain, it was a bit of a haven for creatures like hags, who were
not as adept as wizards at disguising themselves.
It was very hard to move through crowds in the Invisibility Cloak, in case
you accidentally trod on someone, which tended to lead to awkward questions.
Harry edged slowly toward a spare table in the corner while Hermione went to
buy drinks. On his way through the pub, Harry spotted Ron, who was sitting with
Fred, George, and Lee Jordan. Resisting the urge to give Ron a good hard poke
in the back of the head, he finally reached the table and sat down at it.
Hermione joined him a moment later and slipped him a butterbeer under his
“I look like such an idiot, sitting here on my own,” she muttered. “Lucky
I brought something to do.”
And she pulled out a notebook in which she had been keeping a record of S.
P. E. W. members. Harry saw his and Ron's names at the top of the very short
list. It seemed a long time ago that they had sat making up those predictions
together, and Hermione had turned up and appointed them secretary and treasurer.
“You know, maybe I should try and get some of the villagers involved in S.
P. E. W.,” Hermione said thoughtfully, looking around the pub.
“Yeah, right,” said Harry. He took a swig of butterbeer under his cloak.
“Hermione, when are you going to give up on this spew stuff?”
“When house-elves have decent wages and working conditions!” she hissed back.
“You know, I'm starting to think it's time for more direct action. I wonder
how you get into the school kitchens?”
“No idea, ask Fred and George,” said Harry.
Hermione lapsed into thoughtful silence, while Harry drank his butterbeer,
watching the people in the pub. All of them looked cheerful and relaxed. Ernie
Macmillan and Hannah Abbot were swapping Chocolate Frog cards at a nearby table;
both of them sporting Support Cedric Diggory! badges on their cloaks. Right
over by the door he saw Cho and a large group of her Ravenclaw friends. She
wasn't wearing a Cedric badge though... This cheered up Harry very slightly.
What wouldn't he have given to be one of these peophe, sitting around laughing
and talking, with nothing to worry about but homework? He imagined how it would
have felt to be here if his name hadn't come out of the Goblet of Fire. He wouldn't
be wearing the Invisibility Cloak, for one thing. Ron would be sitting with
him. The three of them would probably be happily imagining what deadly dangerous
task the school champions would be facing on Tuesday. He'd have been really
hooking forward to it, watching them do whatever it was... cheering on Cedric
with everyone else, safe in a seat at the back of the stands...
He wondered how the other champions were feeling. Every time he had seen
Cedric lately, he had been surrounded by admirers and looking nervous but excited.
Harry glimpsed Fleur Delacour from time to time in the corridors; she looked
exactly as she always did, haughty and unruffled. And Krum just sat in the library,
poring over books.
Harry thought of Sirius, and the tight, tense knot in his chest seemed to
ease slightly. He would be speaking to him in just over twelve hours, for tonight
was the night they were meeting at the common room fire—assuming nothing went
wrong, as everything else had done lately...
“Look, it's Hagrid!” said Hermione.
The back of Hagrid's enormous shaggy head—he had mercifully abandoned his
bunches—emerged over the crowd. Harry wondered why he hadn't spotted him at
once, as Hagrid was so large, but standing up carefully, he saw that Hagrid
had been leaning low, talking to Professor Moody. Hagrid had his usual enormous
tankard in front of him, but Moody was drinking from his hip flask. Madam Rosmerta,
the pretty landlady, didn't seem to think much of this; she was looking askance
at Moody as she collected glasses from tables around them. Perhaps she thought
it was an insult to her mulled mead, but Harry knew better. Moody had told them
all during their last Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson that he preferred
to prepare his own food and drink at all times, as it was so easy for Dark wizards
to poison an unattended cup.
As Harry watched, he saw Hagrid and Moody get up to leave. He waved, then
remembered that Hagrid couldn't see him. Moody, however, paused, his magical
eye on the corner where Harry was standing. He tapped Hagrid in the small of
the back (being unable to reach his shoulder), muttered something to him, and
then the pair of them made their way back across the pub toward Harry and Hermione's
“All right, Hermione?” said Hagrid loudly.
“Hello,” said Hermione, smiling back.
Moody limped around the table and bent down; Harry thought he was reading
the S. P. E. W. notebook, until he muttered, “Nice cloak, Potter.”
Harry stared at him in amazement. The large chunk missing from Moody's nose
was particularly obvious at a few inches' distance. Moody grinned.
“Can your eye—I mean, can you—?”
“Yeah, it can see through Invisibility Cloaks,” Moody said quietly. “And
it's come in useful at times, I can tell you.”
Hagrid was beaming down at Harry too. Harry knew Hagrid couldn't see him,
but Moody had obviously told Hagrid he was there. Hagrid now bent down on the
pretext of reading the S. P. E. W. notebook as well, and said in a whisper so
low that only Harry could hear it, “Harry, meet me tonight at midnight at me
cabin. Wear that cloak.”
Straightening up, Hagrid said loudly, “Nice ter see yeh, Hermione,” winked,
and departed. Moody followed him.
“Why does Hagrid want me to meet him at midnight?” Harry said, very surprised.
“Does he?” said Hermione, looking startled. “I wonder what he's up to? I
don't know whether you should go, Harry...” She looked nervously around and
hissed, “It might make you late for Sirius.”
It was true that going down to Hagrid's at midnight would mean cutting his
meeting with Sirius very fine indeed; Hermione suggested sending Hedwig down
to Hagrid's to tell him he couldn't go—always assuming she would consent to
take the note, of course—Harry, however, thought it better just to be quick
at whatever Hagrid wanted him for. He was very curious to know what this might
be; Hagrid had never asked Harry to visit him so late at night.
At half past eleven that evening, Harry, who had pretended to go up to bed
early, pulled the Invisibility Cloak back over himself and crept back downstairs
through the common room. Quite a few people were still in there. The Creevey
brothers had managed to get hold of a stack of Support Cedric Diggory! badges
and were trying to bewitch them to make them say Support Harry Potter! instead.
So far, however, all they had managed to do was get the badges stuck on POTTER
STINKS. Harry crept past them to the portrait hole and waited for a minute or
so, keeping an eye on his watch. Then Hermione opened the Fat Lady for him from
outside as they had planned. He slipped past her with a whispered “Thanks!”
and set off through the castle.
The grounds were very dark. Harry walked down the lawn toward the lights
shining in Hagrid's cabin. The inside of the enormous Beauxbatons carriage was
also lit up; Harry could hear Madame Maxime talking inside it as he knocked
on Hagrid's front door.
“You there, Harry?” Hagrid whispered, opening the door and looking around.
“Yeah,” said Harry, slipping inside the cabin and pulling the cloak down
off his head. “What's up?”
“Got summat ter show yeh,” said Hagrid.
There was an air of enormous excitement about Hagrid. He was wearing a flower
that resembled an oversized artichoke in his buttonhole. It looked as though
he had abandoned the use of axle grease, but he had certainly attempted to comb
his hair—Harry could see the comb's broken teeth tangled in it.
“What're you showing me?” Harry said warily, wondering if the skrewts had
laid eggs, or Hagrid had managed to buy another giant three-headed dog off a
stranger in a pub.
“Come with me, keep quiet, an' keep yerself covered with that cloak,” said
Hagrid. “We won' take Fang, he won' like it...
“Listen, Hagrid, I can't stay long... I've got to be back up at the castle
by one o'clock—”
But Hagrid wasn't listening; he was opening the cabin door and striding off
into the night. Harry hurried to follow and found, to his great surprise, that
Hagrid was leading him to the Beauxbatons carriage.
“Shhh!” said Hagrid, and he knocked three times on the door bearing the crossed
Madame Maxime opened it. She was wearing a silk shawl wrapped around her
massive shoulders. She smiled when she saw Hagrid.