Harry and Hermione went to see. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were standing in
the shadow of a tree below. Crabbe and Goyle seemed to be keeping a lookout;
both were smirking. Malfoy was holding his hand up to his mouth and speaking
“He looks like he's using a walkie-talkie,” said Harry curiously.
“He can't be,” said Hermione, “I've told you, those sorts of things don't
work around Hogwarts. Come on, Harry,” she added briskly, turning away from
the window and moving back into the middle of the room, “let's try that Shield
Sirius was sending daily owls now. Like Hermione, he seemed to want to concentrate
on getting Harry through the last task before they concerned themselves with
anything else. He reminded Harry in every letter that whatever might be going
on outside the walls of Hogwarts was not Harry's responsibility, nor was it
within his power to influence it.
If Voldemort is really getting stronger again, he wrote, my priority is to
ensure your safety. He cannot hope to lay hands on you while you are under Dumbledore's
protection, but all the same, take no risks: Concentrate on getting through
that maze safely, and then we can turn our attention to other matters.
Harry's nerves mounted as June the twenty-fourth drew closer, but they were
not as bad as those he had felt before the first and second tasks. For one thing,
he was confident that, this time, he had done everything in his power to prepare
for the task. For another, this was the final hurdle, and however well or badly
he did, the tournament would at last be over, which would be an enormous relief.
Breakfast was a very noisy affair at the Gryffindor table on the morning
of the third task. The post owls appeared, bringing Harry a good-luck card from
Sirius. It was only a piece of parchment, folded over and bearing a muddy paw
print on its front, but Harry appreciated it all the same. A screech owl arrived
for Hermione, carrying her morning copy of the Daily Prophet as usual. She unfolded
the paper, glanced at the front page, and spat out a mouthful of pumpkin juice
all over it.
“What?” said Harry and Ron together, staring at her. “Nothing,” said Hermione
quickly, trying to shove the paper out of sight, but Ron grabbed it. He stared
at the headline and said, “No way. Not today. That old cow.”
“What?” said Harry. “Rita Skeeter again?”
“No,” said Ron, and just like Hermione, he attempted to push the paper out
“It's about me, isn't it?” said Harry.
“No,” said Ron, in an entirely unconvincing tone. But before Harry could
demand to see the paper. Draco Malfoy shouted across the Great Hall from the
“Hey, Potter! Potter! How's your head? You feeling all right? Sure you're
not going to go berserk on us?”
Malfoy was holding a copy of the Daily Prophet too. Slytherins up and down
the table were sniggering, twisting in their seats to see Harry's reaction.
“Let me see it,” Harry said to Ron. “Give it here.”
Very reluctantly, Ron handed over the newspaper. Harry turned it over and
found himself staring at his own picture, beneath the banner headline:
“HARRY POTTER “DISTURBED AND DANGEROUS”
The boy who defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is unstable and possibly dangerous,
writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. Alarming evidence has recently come
to light about Harry Potter's strange behavior, which casts doubts upon his
suitability to compete in a demanding competition like the Triwizard Tournament,
or even to attend Hogwarts School.
Potter, the Daily Prophet can exclusively reveal, regularly collapses at
school, and is often heard to complain of pain in the scar on his forehead (relic
of the curse with which You-Know-Who attempted to kill him). On Monday last,
midway through a Divination lesson, your Daily Prophet reporter witnessed Potter
storming from the class, claiming that his scar was hurting too badly to continue
It is possible, say top experts at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies
and Injuries, that Potters brain was affected by the attack inflicted upon him
by You-Know-Who, and that his insistence that the scar is still hurting is an
expression of his deep-seated confusion.
“He might even be pretending,” said one specialist. “This could be a plea
The Daily Prophet, however, has unearthed worrying facts about Harry Potter
that Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, has carefully concealed from
the wizarding public.
“Potter can speak Parseltongue,” reveals Draco Malfoy, a Hogwarts fourth
year. “There were a lot of attacks on students a couple of years ago, and most
people thought Potter was behind them after they saw him lose his temper at
a dueling club and set a snake on another boy. It was all hushed up, though.
But he's made friends with werewolves and giants too. We think he'd do anything
for a bit of power.”
Parseltongue, the ability to converse with snakes, has long been considered
a Dark Art. Indeed, the most famous Parselmouth of our times is none other than
You-Know-Who himself. A member of the Dark Force Defense League, who wished
to remain unnamed, stated that he would regard any wizard who could speak Parseltongue
“as worthy of investigation. Personally, I would be highly suspicious of anybody
who could converse with snakes, as serpents are often used in the worst kinds
of Dark Magic, and are historically associated with evildoers.” Similarly, “anyone
who seeks out the company of such vicious creatures as werewolves and giants
would appear to have a fondness for violence.”
Albus Dumbledore should surely consider whether a boy such as this should
be allowed to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. Some fear that Potter might
resort to the Dark Arts in his desperation to win the tournament, the third
task of which takes place this evening.
“Gone off me a bit, hasn't she?” said Harry lightly, folding up the paper.
Over at the Slytherin table, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were laughing at him,
tapping their heads with their fingers, pulling grotesquely mad faces, and waggling
their tongues like snakes.
“How did she know your scar hurt in Divination?” Ron said. “There's no way
she was there, there's no way she could've heard—”
“The window was open,” said Harry. “I opened it to breathe.”
“You were at the top of North Tower!” Hermione said. “Your voice couldn't
have carried all the way down to the grounds!”
“Well, you're the one who's supposed to be researching magical methods of
bugging!” said Harry. “You tell me how she did it!”
“I've been trying!” said Hermione. “But I... but...”
An odd, dreamy expression suddenly came over Hermione's face. She slowly
raised a hand and ran her fingers through her hair.
“Are you all right?” said Ron, frowning at her.
“Yes,” said Hermione breathlessly. She ran her fingers through her hair again,
and then held her hand up to her mouth, as though speaking into an invisible
walkie-talkie. Harry and Ron stared at each other.
“I've had an idea,” Hermione said, gazing into space. “I think I know...
because then no one would be able to see ...even Moody... and she'd have been
able to get onto the window ledge... but she's not allowed... she's definitely
not allowed ...I think we've got her! Just give me two seconds in the library—just
to make sure!”
With that, Hermione seized her school bag and dashed out of the Great Hall.
“Oi!” Ron called after her. “We've got our History of Magic exam in ten minutes!
Blimey,” he said, turning back to Harry, “she must really hate that Skeeter
woman to risk missing the start of an exam. What're you going to do in Binns's
Exempt from the end-of-term tests as a Triwizard champion, Harry had been
sitting in the back of every exam class so far, looking up fresh hexes for the
“S'pose so,” Harry said to Ron; but just then. Professor McGonagall came
walking alongside the Gryffindor table toward him.
“Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber off the Hall after
breakfast,” she said.
“But the task's not till tonight!” said Harry, accidentally spilling scrambled
eggs down his front, afraid he had mistaken the time.
“I'm aware of that, Potter,” she said. “The champions' families are invited
to watch the final task, you know. This is simply a chance for you to greet
She moved away. Harry gaped after her.
“She doesn't expect the Dursleys to turn up, does she?” he asked Ron blankly.
“Dunno,” said Ron. “Harry, I'd better hurry, I'm going to be late for Binns.
See you later.”
Harry finished his breakfast in the emptying Great Hall. He saw Fleur Delacour
get up from the Ravenclaw table and join Cedric as he crossed to the side chamber
and entered. Krum slouched off to join them shortly afterward. Harry stayed
where he was. He really didn't want to go into the chamber. He had no family—no
family who would turn up to see him risk his life, anyway. But just as he was
getting up, thinking that he might as well go up to the library and do a spot
more hex research, the door of the side chamber opened, and Cedric stuck his
“Harry, come on, they're waiting for you!”
Utterly perplexed. Harry got up. The Dursleys couldn't possibly be here,
could they? He walked across the Hall and opened the door into the chamber.
Cedric and his parents were just inside the door. Viktor Krum was over in
a corner, conversing with his dark-haired mother and father in rapid Bulgarian.
He had inherited his fathers hooked nose. On the other side of the room, Fleur
was jabbering away in French to her mother. Fleur's little sister, Gabrielle,
was holding her mother's hand. She waved at Harry, who waved back, grinning.
Then he saw Mrs. Weasley and Bill standing in front of the fireplace, beaming
“Surprise!” Mrs. Weasley said excitedly as he smiled broadly and walked over
to them. “Thought we'd come and watch you. Harry!” She bent down and kissed
him on the cheek.
“You all right?” said Bill, grinning at Harry and shaking his hand. “Charlie
wanted to come, but he couldn't get time off. He said you were incredible against
Fleur Delacour, Harry noticed, was eyeing Bill with great interest over her
mother's shoulder. Harry could tell she had no objection whatsoever to long
hair or earrings with fangs on them.
“This is really nice of you,” Harry muttered to Mrs. Weasley. “I thought
for a moment—the Dursleys—”
“Hmm,” said Mrs. Weasley, pursing her lips. She had always refrained from
criticizing the Dursleys in front of Harry, but her eyes flashed every time
they were mentioned.
“It's great being back here,” said Bill, looking around the chamber (Violet,
the Fat Lady's friend, winked at him from her frame). “Haven't seen this place
for five years. Is that picture of the mad knight still around? Sir Cadogan?”
“Oh yeah,” said Harry, who had met Sir Cadogan the previous year.
“And the Fat Lady?” said Bill.
“She was here in my time,” said Mrs. Weasley. “She gave me such a telling
off one night when I got back to the dormitory at four in the morning—”
“What were you doing out of your dormitory at four in the morning?” said
Bill, surveying his mother with amazement.
Mrs. Weasley grinned, her eyes twinkling.
“Your father and I had been for a nighttime stroll,” she said. “He got caught
by Apollyon Pringle—he was the caretaker in those days—your father's still got
“Fancy giving us a tour, Harry?” said Bill.
“Yeah, okay,” said Harry, and they made their way back toward the door into
the Great Hall. As they passed Amos Diggory, he looked around.
“There you are, are you?” he said, looking Harry up and down.
“Bet you're not feeling quite as full of yourself now Cedrics caught you
up on points, are you?”
“What?” said Harry.
“Ignore him,” said Cedric in a low voice to Harry, frowning after his father.
“He's been angry ever since Rita Skeeters article about the Triwizard Tournament—you
know, when she made out you were the only Hogwarts champion.”
“Didn't bother to correct her, though, did he?” said Amos Diggory, loudly
enough for Harry to hear as he started to walk out of the door with Mrs. Weasley
and Bill. “Still, .. you'll show him, Ced. Beaten him once before, haven't you?”
“Rita Skeeter goes out of her way to cause trouble, Amos!” Mrs. Weasley said
angrily. “I would have thought you'd know that, working at the Ministry!”
Mr. Diggory looked as though he was going to say something angry, but his
wife laid a hand on his arm, and he merely shrugged and turned away.
Harry had a very enjoyable morning walking over the sunny grounds with Bill
and Mrs. Weasley, showing them the Beauxbatons carriage and the Durmstrang ship.
Mrs. Weasley was intrigued by the Whomping Willow, which had been planted after
she had left school, and reminisced at length about the gamekeeper before Hagrid,
a man called Ogg.
“How's Percy?” Harry asked as they walked around the greenhouses.
“Not good,” said Bill.
“He's very upset,” said Mrs. Weasley, lowering her voice and glancing around.
“The Ministry wants to keep Mr. Crouch's disappearance quiet, but Percy's been
hauled in for questioning about the instructions Mr. Crouch has been sending
in. They seem to think there's a chance they weren't genuinely written by him.
Percy's been under a lot of strain. They're not letting him fill in for Mr.
Crouch as the fifth judge tonight. Cornelius Fudge is going to be doing it.”
They returned to the castle for lunch.
“Mum—Bill!” said Ron, looking stunned, as he joined the Gryffindor table.
“What're you doing here?”
“Come to watch Harry in the last task!” said Mrs. Weasley brightly. “I must
say, it makes a lovely change, not having to cook. How was your exam?”
“Oh... okay,” said Ron. “Couldn't remember all the goblin rebels' names,
so I invented a few. It's all right,” he said, helping himself to a Cornish
pasty, while Mrs. Weasley looked stern, “they're all called stuff like Bodrod
the Bearded and Urg the Unclean; it wasn't hard.”