The Hungarian Horntail
Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Hungarian Horntail
After the shock of being a Champion wears off, Harry starts worrying about the first task. It is comforting that he can soon talk with Sirius; he and Hermione figure out ways to clear the common room before 1:00 a.m., the time Sirius has said he would talk to Harry a few days hence. But things become more difficult after Rita Skeeter's story about the Tournament is published. Unfortunately, it mostly contains embarrassing and false information about Harry, including that he and Hermione are in love. Harry hopes to reconcile with Ron during detention with Professor Snape, but the article comes out the same day, fueling Ron's belief that Harry is seeking more publicity. About the only high point is when Cho Chang stops by to wish him luck, though Harry is snappish because he mistakenly thinks she is teasing him.
Harry is still having difficulty mastering the Summoning charm, and he practices it with Hermione in the library. Curiously, and to Hermione's annoyance, Victor Krum is frequently there, along with a clutch of girls following him about, hoping for an autograph.
Hermione suggests going to the next Hogsmeade weekend. When pressed, she admits she is hoping to meet up with Ron in the Three Broomsticks. Harry vetoes that particular idea, and will only go under his Invisibility Cloak. Hermione protests but agrees, and once in Hogsmeade, Harry is delighted he can travel without people hurling snide remarks. Hermione thinks he can remove the cloak without being bothered, but Harry points out that Rita Skeeter and her photographer just left the Three Broomsticks. It appears she is staying in the village. Harry suggests she is there to watch the first task.
Hermione steers them into The Three Broomsticks, telling Harry he can avoid Ron, who is sitting with Fred, George and Lee Jordan. Hermione brings Harry a Butterbeer, then spreads her S.P.E.W. notes to avoid looking silly sitting by herself. Hagrid is talking to Professor Moody. Harry waves, then realizes Hagrid cannot see him. Moody pokes Hagrid, and they both come over. Moody, whose magical eye can apparently penetrate Invisibility Cloaks, mutters, "Nice cloak, Potter." Before leaving, Hagrid tells Harry to be at his hut at midnight with his Cloak. This is the night that Harry is meeting Sirius by the Gryffindor fireplace at 1:00 a.m., but he decides he can quickly visit Hagrid and be back in time.
At midnight, Harry, cloaked, slips down to Hagrid's. Hagrid leads Harry to the Beauxbatons carriage where Madame Maxime is waiting. Harry, confused, trails behind Hagrid and Madame Maxime around the Forbidden Forest's edge, finally arriving at a large corral containing four full-grown Dragons. Wizards have to Stun the Dragons to calm them. Charlie Weasley, Ron's older brother, comes over. He is concerned about Madame Maxime seeing the Dragons, but Hagrid says he just thought she would be interested. Harry heads back to the castle, bumping into Professor Karkaroff, who is checking out the tumult. Evidently, assuming Madame Maxime and Professor Karkaroff will inform their respective Champions, Cedric is the only competitor who knows nothing about the Dragons.
Returning to an empty common room, Harry finds Sirius' head floating in the fireplace flames. Harry relates everything to Sirius, who feels there are other concerns. Karkaroff, for one, was a Death Eater, but was released from Azkaban, possibly because he provided the Ministry with names. That could be why Moody is at Hogwarts; it was Moody who arrested Karkaroff. Sirius contradicts Skeeter's article about Moody, which had suggested that events had been overstated; Sirius suspects the attack at his house had happened, and was intended to scare him away from taking the job. And Bertha Jorkins, the Ministry official believed missing in Albania, which is where Voldemort was last thought to be, would have known about the Tournament and could have somehow tipped off Voldemort. Sirius tells Harry that Stunning spells are ineffective against Dragons, but before he can suggest what to use in their place, Harry hears someone coming and Sirius vanishes. Ron appears, and a quarrel erupts, causing Harry to storm off to bed.
In his conversation with Sirius, Harry learns that Karkaroff was a Death Eater who revealed other Death Eaters' names to avoid Azkaban. Moody apparently believes he never fully recanted, and abandoned Dark magic only because he feared severe punishment. According to Sirius, Moody suspects Karkaroff secretly remains devoted to the Dark Lord and would willingly rejoin Voldemort given the opportunity. When Moody first suggested that someone may have entered Harry into the Tournament solely to kill him, the ensuing silence was possibly because there is an unspoken accusation against Karkaroff. However, Karkaroff's being genuinely surprised that Harry was even a student at Hogwarts indicates that he is unlikely to be involved in a pre-planned plot.
It seems contradictory that Sirius tells Harry that dragons are unaffected by Stun spells, and yet the wizard dragon keepers use stun spells to control the beasts. However, a quick glance back at the dragon compound will reveal that each dragon is, in fact, taken down by three to five wizards firing synchronized Stunners. The dragon's tough hide will repel a single stun blast, so several must be simultaneously cast to have any effect; and Harry, being only a single wizard, would find his single stun bolt ineffective.
Cedric Diggory being the only Champion who is unaware that the first task involves dragons is in keeping with his character, and also with the traits of Hufflepuff House. This House, while seldom receiving much glory or producing many notable students, is known for valuing hard work, honesty, and fairness. It appears, however, that these virtues have put Diggory at a disadvantage here, as the other Champions, including Harry, have uncovered valuable information that make them more competitive. While Karkaroff seems to have gone seeking this information, we do not know whether Madame Maxime influenced Hagrid to that end, or whether she, like Harry, was shown this simply because Hagrid thought they would like to see the dragons. The author seems to be suggesting that Hagrid, being smitten with Madame Maxime, is perhaps being even a bit more impetuous than usual, and may be using this as a means to help win Madame Maxime's affection. This would make Hagrid susceptible to suggestions, of course, making it easier for Madame Maxime to convince Hagrid to show her what he knew of the First Task.
As Sirius mentions, the supposed attack on Moody at his home, which the Ministry and the Daily Prophet wrote off as a false alarm, actually did occur the night before his departure for Hogwarts and, knowing his paranoid nature, was probably meant to scare him away from there. As this has been brought up a few times now, we expect that it will be revisited in the story.
There is now a suggestion that Bertha Jorkins' disappearance could be tied to Voldemort, and that he could have somehow extracted information from her (either willingly or unwillingly on her part) about the Triwizard Tournament being held at Hogwarts. Ministry officials, meanwhile, have still not taken any action regarding "poor Bertha's" whereabouts, continuing to pass it off to her simply "forgetting" to return from her holiday. While these facts are presented, more or less baldly, by Sirius, there are no real conclusions drawn from them. Remembering Harry's dream from the first chapter of this book, however, we understand that Sirius' guesses are more accurate than Harry currently believes.
Looking at Bertha's absence and the attack on Moody in isolation this way, we can see that the Ministry is taking the easy course, not hunting for Bertha and dismissing the attack on Moody, rather than actively investigating these occurrences. The younger reader may see something sinister in the Ministry's apparent refusal to search out the facts behind these occurrences, but the adult reader likely will recognize the pattern of civil service behaviour, doing what is necessary to the job rather than what is right.
On a side note, we suggest that the reader should remember Hermione's comment that Viktor Krum seems to be spending a lot of time in the library, and that this annoys her. It may be worth remembering that Hermione is not annoyed by Viktor, but by the bevy of giggling girls that seems to be following him around.
- Why is Cedric Diggory the only Champion who is unaware that the first event involves dragons? What does this say about his character and also about Hufflepuff House in general?
- Why did Harry think Cho Chang was teasing him? Was she?
- Why does Viktor Krum spend so much time at the library? Who does it annoy and why?
- Why does the Ministry believe that the attack at Moody's home was only a "false alarm," while Sirius thinks it was not?
- Could there be a link between Bertha Jorkins' disappearance and Voldemort's last known whereabouts? Explain.
- Why does Sirius think Moody was hired as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?
- Why is Harry having so much trouble learning an apparently simple spell like the Summoning Charm?
- Why, after such a long absence, does the Ministry continue to believe that Bertha Jorkins simply "forgot" to come back to work?
- Could Bertha Jorkins' disappearance be tied to Harry and the Triwizard Tournament, or are false clues misleading readers? Explain.
Although Sirius correctly speculates that the incident at Moody's house is somehow tied to Voldemort, he could not know that rather than it being an attempt to scare Moody away from Hogwarts, it was actually a kidnapping plot to replace the real Moody with the impostor, Barty Crouch, Jr. We have now learned that Karkaroff was a Death Eater, and see that Moody may still suspect him of having Dark proclivities. It actually turns out to be important to the story, in a small way, that Karkaroff betrayed other Death Eaters in order to save his own skin. If he had not done so, Barty likely would have been tempted to trust him with the secret of the impersonation in order to gain at least one ally at Hogwarts. Voldemort, however, does not forgive, and so Barty will not either. The suspicion Barty has of Karkaroff comes through his impersonation, but is explained away by Moody's distrust of anyone who was a Death Eater. Curiously, Barty never reveals his opinion about Snape, except for the single remark "Another old friend".
We have heard that the Triwizard Champions are supposed to perform all tasks without any outside assistance, and cheating is strictly prohibited, but despite these injunctions, there seems to be an unspoken tradition and expectation that some underhandedness occurs. Harry, despite being a talented wizard, is the youngest and least experienced contestant. He knows he needs help and freely uses what Hagrid shows him, listens to the (interrupted) advice from Sirius, uses Moody's hint in the next chapter, and will be coached by Hermione, all to help him develop a strategy, though it could be argued that, with the possible exception of Hagrid's invitation and Moody's rather pointed hint, this is not technically cheating. And though he accepts help from Sirius, Hagrid, Moody, and Hermione, he steadfastly refuses any assistance from Ludo Bagman, considering it unethical for a Tournament official to offer a Champion advice. Cedric, meanwhile, apparently does little or nothing to prepare while patiently awaiting the first event, completely clueless regarding what it entails. Even though Hufflepuff's traits are admirable, their integrity can also breed complacency and naivete, as well as shows a certain lack of ingenuity and initiative, thus allowing their more resourceful (and perhaps somewhat devious) opponents to seize the advantage. Cedric is certainly portrayed as being an admirable match for Hufflepuff's stated house characteristics.
As noted, Harry's being shown the Dragons was not his own scheme; he had no idea where Hagrid was taking him or why, any more than Madame Maxime seemed to. It is possible that showing Harry the dragons was an idea Moody planted into Hagrid's mind; it is less likely that Madame Maxime would have suggested this to Hagrid, as she apparently knew nothing about it, though we can safely assume that having seen the Dragons, she likely ignores the rules and freely shares this information with her student, Fleur Delacour.
We will discover that Moody has an ulterior motive, just as Bagman does, to ensure that Harry completes the third and final Challenge. Moody's assistance, however, is far better concealed than Bagman's, and Harry can reject Bagman's proffered help, but is unable to reject Moody's, as he fails to notice it is being given to him. Harry also inherently trusts Moody, a Hogwarts teacher, and to some extent Harry's mentor. Bagman is an outsider, and Harry has no reason to place any trust in him.
Moody's magical eye being able to see through Harry's invisibility cloak will prove important later in this book. Harry, on an expedition to determine the secret of the Egg for the Second Task, will end up trapped in a trick staircase; Moody will rescue him from Snape when the Egg, screeching as it does when it is opened, attracts them both.
Early on, Cedric Diggory, a decent and honest young wizard, seems to lack initiative and inventiveness, though this changes as he competes in the Triwizard Tournament. Harry, aware that Cedric alone has not benefited from early knowledge of the First Task, and wanting to be fair, tips off Cedric about the Dragons; but their situations are reversed before the second challenge when Harry needs another helpful push. A magical Egg, captured by each Champion during the first event, holds a vital clue to completing the next task. However, Harry, who often procrastinates until he is prodded, does little to decipher its hidden meaning, while Cedric quickly solves the riddle. In gratitude for Harry's previous help, Cedric gives him a valuable hint, though Harry will again procrastinate in utilizing this information, driven somewhat by his jealousy over Cedric's relationship with Cho Chang. In this case, Cedric's honesty and fairness are not a disadvantage and shows that Hufflepuff's attributes can be used effectively. It is likely that, given time, Cedric's talents would have far exceeded Hufflepuff's usual standards. Unfortunately, this opportunity will tragically be cut short.
We have commented, in the Analysis, about Viktor spending time in the library. We will find out at the Yule Ball that Viktor actually is trying for a romantic relationship with Hermione. This will upset Ron, who is jealous but doesn't yet recognize the fact. Viktor is quite persistent and will keep trying to get Hermione to be his girlfriend at least until early in the final book of the series. Hermione, who has silently set her sights on Ron, will prove resistant to his attempts, but will not send him away, feeling perhaps that having friends in other magical schools might prove useful.
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Muggle Prime Minister recalls that the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, had earlier reported that they were importing three dragons and a sphinx, who we see later in this book. Whether this was before or after Harry had become a Champion is never made clear, but we note that the fourth dragon is a Common Welsh Green, a domestic dragon, meaning that of the four dragons we see here, only three are imports.
- Viktor hanging about in the library is the first indication we have that he has set his romantic sights on Hermione. Hermione and Viktor will be seen together a few times in this book, and will communicate by Owl Post throughout the next two. Viktor will finally have his hopes dashed in the final book of the series, when Ron declares himself as Hermione's boyfriend.
- There is some development of the relationship between Hagrid and Olympe Maxime in this chapter. Hagrid was, as we recall, smitten with Madame Maxime as soon as he first saw her, just before Hallowe'en; this relationship will continue, in its uneven way, until at least Dumbledore's funeral.