“So... what are you saying?” said Harry slowly. “Karkaroff's trying to kill
“I've been nearing some very strange things,” he said slowly. “The Death
Eaters seem to be a bit more active than usual lately. They showed themselves
at the Quidditch World Cup, didn't they? Someone set off the Dark Mark... and
then—did you hear about that Ministry of Magic witch who's gone missing?”
“Bertha Jorkins?” said Harry.
“Exactly... she disappeared in Albania, and that's definitely where Voldemort
was rumored to be last... and she would have known the Triwizard Tournament
was coming up, wouldn't she?”
“Yeah, but... it's not very likely she'd have walked straight into Voldemort,
is it?” said Harry.
“Listen, I knew Bertha Jorkins,” said Sirius grimly. “She was at Hogwarts
when I was, a few years above your dad and me. And she was an idiot. Very nosy,
but no brains, none at all. It's not a good combination, Harry. I'd say she'd
be very easy to lure into a trap.”
“So... so Voldemort could have found out about the tournament?” said Harry.
“Is that what you mean? You think Karkaroff might be here on his orders?”
“I don't know,” said Sirius slowly, “I just don't know... Karkaroff doesn't
strike me as the type who'd go back to Voldemort unless he knew Voldemort was
powerful enough to protect him. But whoever put your name in that goblet did
it for a reason, and I can't help thinking the tournament would be a very good
way to attack you and make it hook like an accident.”
“Looks hike a really good plan from where I'm standing,” said Harry grinning
bleaky. “They'll just have to stand back and let the dragons do their stuff.”
“Right—these dragons,” said Sirius, speaking very quickly now. “There's a
way, Harry. Don't be tempted to try a Stunning Spell—dragons are strong and
too powerfully magical to be knocked out by a single Stunner, you need about
half a dozen wizards at a time to overcome a dragon—”
“Yeah, I know, I just saw,” said Harry.
“But you can do it alone,” said Sirius. “There is away, and a simple spell's
all you need. Just—”
But Harry held up a hand to silence him, his heart suddenly pounding as though
it would burst. He could hear footsteps coming down the spiral staircase behind
“Go!” he hissed at Sirius. “ Go! There's someone coming!”
Harry scrambled to his feet, hiding the fire—if someone saw Sirius's face
within the walls of Hogwarts, they would raise an almighty uproar—the Ministry
would get dragged in—he, Harry, would be questioned about Sirius's whereabouts—
Harry heard a tiny pop! in the fire behind him and knew Sirius had gone.
He watched the bottom of the spiral staircase. Who had decided to go for a stroll
at one o'clock in the morning, and stopped Sirius from telling him how to get
past a dragon?
It was Ron. Dressed in his maroon paisley pajamas, Ron stopped dead facing
Harry across the room, and looked around.
“Who were you talking to?” he said.
“What's that got to do with you?” Harry snarled. “What are you doing down
here at this time of night?”
“I just wondered where you—” Ron broke off, shrugging. “Nothing. I'm going
back to bed.”
“Just thought you'd come nosing around, did you?” Harry shouted. He knew
that Ron had no idea what he'd walked in on, knew he hadn't done it on purpose,
but he didn't care—at this moment he hated everything about Ron, right down
to the several inches of bare ankle showing beneath his pajama trousers.
“Sorry about that,” said Ron, his face reddening with anger. “Should've realized
you didn't want to be disturbed. I'll let you get on with practicing for your
next interview in peace.”
Harry seized one of the POTTER REALLY STINKS badges off the table and chucked
it, as hard as he could, across the room. It hit Ron on the forehead and bounced
“There you go,” Harry said. “Something for you to wear on Tuesday. You might
even have a scar now, if yon're lucky... That's what you want, isn't it?”
He strode across the room toward the stairs; he half expected Ron to stop
him, he would even have liked Ron to throw a punch at him, but Ron just stood
there in his too-small pajamas, and Harry, having stormed upstairs, lay awake
in bed fuming for a long time afterward and didn't hear him come up to bed.
THE FIRST TASK
Harry got up on Sunday morning and dressed so inattentively that it was a
while before he realized he was trying to pull his hat onto his foot instead
of his sock. When he'd finally got all his clothes on the right parts of his
body, he hurried off to find Hermione, locating her at the Gryffindor table
in the Great Hall, where she was eating breakfast with Ginny. Feeling too queasy
to eat, Harry waited until Hermione had swallowed her last spoonful of porridge,
then dragged her out onto the grounds. There, he told her all about the dragons,
and about everything Sirius had said, while they took another long walk around
Alarmed as she was by Sirius's warnings about Karkaroff, Hermione still thought
that the dragons were the more pressing problem.
“Let's just try and keep you alive until Tuesday evening,” she said desperately,
“and then we can worry about Karkaroff.”
They walked three times around the lake, trying all the way to think of a
simple spell that would subdue a dragon. Nothing whatsoever occurred to them,
so they retired to the library instead. Here, Harry pulled down every book he
could find on dragons, and both of them set to work searching through the large
“Talon-clipping by charms... treating scale-rot... ' This is no good, this
is for nutters like Hagrid who want to keep them healthy...
“Dragons are extremely difficult to slay, owing to the ancient magic that
imbues their thick hides, which none but the most powerful spells can penetrate...
' But Sirius said a simple one would do it...
“Let's try some simple spellbooks, then,” said Harry, throwing aside Men
Who Love Dragons Too Much.
He returned to the table with a pile of spellbooks, set them down, and began
to flick through each in turn, Hermione whispering nonstop at his elbow.
“Well, there are Switching Spells... but what's the point of Switching it?
Unless you swapped its fangs for wine-gums or something that would make it less
dangerous... The trouble is, like that book said, not much is going to get through
a dragon's hide... I'd say Transfigure it, but something that big, you really
haven't got a hope, I doubt even Professor McGonagall... unless you're supposed
to put the spell on yourself? Maybe to give yourself extra powers? But they're
not simple spells, I mean, we haven't done any of those in class, I only know
about them because I've been doing O. W. L. practice papers...”
“Hermione,” Harry said, through gritted teeth, “will you shut up for a bit,
please? I m trying to concentrate.”
But all that happened, when Hermione fell silent, was that Harry's brain
filled with a sort of blank buzzing, which didn't seem to allow room for concentration.
He stared hopelessly down the index of Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed. Instant
scalping... but dragons had no hair... pepper breath... that would probably
increase a dragon's firepower... horn tongue... just what he needed, to give
it an extra weapon...
“Oh no, he's back again, why can't he read on his stupid ship?” said Hermione
irritably as Viktor Krum slouched in, cast a surly look over at the pair of
them, and settled himself in a distant corner with a pile of books. “Come on,
Harry, we'll go back to the common room... his fan club'll be here in a moment,
And sure enough, as they left the library, a gang of girls tiptoed past them,
one of them wearing a Bulgaria scarf tied around her waist.
Harry barely slept that night. When he awoke on Monday morning, he seriously
considered for the first time ever just running away from Hogwarts. But as he
looked around the Great Hall at breakfast time, and thought about what leaving
the castle would mean, he knew he couldn't do it. It was the only place he had
ever been happy... well, he supposed he must have been happy with his parents
too, but he couldn't remember that.
Somehow, the knowledge that he would rather be here and facing a dragon than
back on Privet Drive with Dudley was good to know; it made him feel slightly
calmer. He finished his bacon with difficulty (his throat wasn't working too
well), and as he and Hermione got up, he saw Cedric Diggory leaving the Hufflepuff
Cedric still didn't know about the dragons... the only champion who didn't,
if Harry was right in thinking that Maxime and Karkaroff would have told Fleur
“Hermione, I'll see you in the greenhouses,” Harry said, coming to his decision
as he watched Cedric leaving the Hall. “Go on, I'll catch you up.”
“Harry, you'll be late, the bell's about to ring—”
“I'll catch you up, okay?”
By the time Harry reached the bottom of the marble staircase, Cedric was
at the top. He was with a load of sixth-year friends. Harry didn't want to talk
to Cedric in front of them; they were among those who had been quoting Rita
Skeeter's article at him every time he went near them. He followed Cedric at
a distance and saw that he was heading toward the Charms corridor. This gave
Harry an idea. Pausing at a distance from them, he pulled out his wand, and
took careful aim.
Cedric's bag split. Parchment, quills, and books spilled out of it onto the
floor. Several bottles of ink smashed.
“Don't bother,” said Cedric in an exasperated voice as his friends bent down
to help him. “Tell Flitwick I'm coming, go on...
This was exactly what Harry had been hoping for. He slipped his wand back
into his robes, waited until Cedric's friends had disappeared into their classroom,
and hurried up the corridor, which was now empty of everyone but himself and
“Hi,” said Cedric, picking up a copy of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration
that was now splattered with ink. “My bag just split... brand-new and all...”
“Cedric,” said Harry, “the first task is dragons.”
“What?” said Cedric, looking up.
“Dragons,” said Harry, speaking quickly, in case Professor Flitwick came
out to see where Cedric had got to. “They've got four, one for each of us, and
we've got to get past them.”
Cedric stared at him. Harry saw some of the panic he'd been feeling since
Saturday night flickering in Cedric's gray eyes.
“Are you sure?” Cedric said in a hushed voice.
“Dead sure,” said Harry. “I've seen them.”
“But how did you find out? We're not supposed to know...”
“Never mind,” said Harry quickly—he knew Hagrid would be in trouble if he
told the truth. “But I'm not the only one who knows. Fleur and Krum will know
by now—Maxime and Karkaroff both saw the dragons too.”
Cedric straightened up, his arms full of inky quills, parchment, and books,
his ripped bag dangling off one shoulder. He stared at Harry, and there was
a puzzled, almost suspicious look in his eyes.
“Why are you telling me?” he asked.
Harry looked at him in disbelief. He was sure Cedric wouldn't have asked
that if he had seen the dragons himself. Harry wouldn't have let his worst enemy
face those monsters unprepared—well, perhaps Malfoy or Snape...
“It's just... fair, isn't it?” he said to Cedric. “We all know now... we're
on an even footing, aren't we?”
Cedric was still hooking at him in a slightly suspicious way when Harry heard
a familiar clunking noise behind him. He turned around and saw Mad-Eye Moody
emerging from a nearby classroom.
“Come with me, Potter,” he growled. “Diggory, off you go.”
Harry stared apprehensively at Moody. Had he overheard them?
“Er—Professor, I'm supposed to be in Herbology—”
“Never mind that, Potter. In my office, please...
Harry followed him, wondering what was going to happen to him now. What if
Moody wanted to know how he'd found out about the dragons? Would Moody go to
Dumbledore and tell on Hagrid, or just turn Harry into a ferret? Well, it might
be easier to get past a dragon if he were a ferret, Harry thought dully, he'd
be smaller, much less easy to see from a height of fifty feet..
He followed Moody into his office. Moody closed the door behind them and
turned to look at Harry, his magical eye fixed upon him as well as the normal
“That was a very decent thing you just did, Potter,” Moody said quietly.
Harry didn't know what to say; this wasn't the reaction he had expected at
“Sit down,” said Moody, and Harry sat, looking around.
He had visited this office under two of its previous occupants. In Professor
Lockhart's day, the walls had been plastered with beaming, winking pictures
of Professor Lockhart himself. When Lupin had lived here, you were more likely
to come across a specimen of some fascinating new Dark creature he had procured
for them to study in class. Now, however, the office was full of a number of
exceptionally odd objects that Harry supposed Moody had used in the days when
he had been an Auror.
On his desk stood what looked hike a large, cracked, glass spinning top;
Harry recognized it at once as a Sneakoscope, because he owned one himself,
though it was much smaller than Moody's. In the corner on a small table stood
an object that looked something like an extra-squiggly, golden television aerial.
It was humming slightly. What appeared to be a mirror hung opposite Harry on
the wall, but it was not reflecting the room. Shadowy figures were moving around
inside it, none of them clearly in focus.
“Like my Dark Detectors, do you?” s aid Moody, who was watching Harry closely.
“What's that?” Harry asked, pointing at the squiggly golden aerial.