The First Task
Chapter 20 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The First Task
The next morning, Harry drags Hermione off for another walk around the lake, during which he relates what he learned from Hagrid and what Sirius told him. Returning to the library, they search for a simple spell to defeat a Dragon, but find nothing. Krum's arrival in the library annoys Hermione, and she and Harry return to the Gryffindor common room.
Realizing that only Cedric is unaware that the First Task involves Dragons, Harry trails him through the halls and charms his bag to fall apart, spilling his books. Harry runs up and tells him about the Dragons and that both Fleur and Krum know. Professor Moody later commends Harry for his fairness. Cheating is also a Tournament tradition. Moody tells Harry to play to his strengths, though Harry believes he has none, apart from Quidditch; Moody comments that Harry is an excellent flyer and suggests using a simple spell to, get what he needs. Harry understands, and he and Hermione practice a Summoning Charm before the First Task next afternoon. They practice through lunch and after dinner. Finally, at two in the morning, Harry seems to have the spell working properly.
Practicing the spell the day before had eased Harry's nerves, but they return full force before the First Task begins. Professor McGonagall escorts him to a tent where the other Champions are waiting, along with Ludo Bagman. Each Champion draws a token representing what they will face; their task is to retrieve a golden Egg. Fleur draws a Welsh Green Dragon, number 2; Krum, a Chinese Fireball, number 3; Cedric, a Swedish Short-snout, number 1; and Harry, the Hungarian Horntail, number 4. The other Champions' expressions reveal they knew what they were facing. Ludo takes Harry aside to ask if he is OK or if he can get him anything. Harry responds he is fine, he has a plan. The first whistle sounds for Cedric's Task, and Ludo bolts – he is supposed to be commentating.
Harry waits, listening to the roaring crowd. The commentating tantalizes, but reveals little about what is happening. Finally, it is Harry's turn. In the enclosure is the Hungarian Horntail and the golden Egg. Harry casts the Summoning spell, bringing his broom, much to his surprise. He flies over the Dragon's head, baiting it. When it lunges, he swoops down and grabs the Egg, though he is slightly injured by its spiked tail. Hermione and Ron enter the first aid tent where Harry is being treated. Ron is finally convinced that Harry never cheated to enter the Tournament and the two boys reconcile. The judges post Harry's scores: 8 (from Madame Maxime), 9 (from Crouch), 9 (from Dumbledore), 10 (from Ludo), and 4 (from Karkaroff), tying Harry for first place with Krum. Charlie Weasley runs in to congratulate Harry, then leaves to send Mrs. Weasley an owl about the outcome, and says Mr. Bagman wants the Champions back in the tent.
Ludo informs the Champions that the next task takes place the morning of February 24th; the golden Eggs they captured contain a clue. Harry and Ron head back to the castle, running into Rita Skeeter, who asks Harry for a few words. Harry refuses to comment.
Harry attempts to research ways to defeat a Dragon, but, in what will become a familiar pattern, he becomes so terrified that he briefly considers running back home to the Dursleys, though he quickly abandons this idea. Instead, he accepts help from others, and in this, and nearly all future endeavors, Harry will learn to rely on and trust his friends and allies. This shows that, despite his many talents, he is, in essence, the sum of many parts. Also, while Harry and Hermione research ways to defeat Dragons, it never seem to occur to either that Harry could probably learn much just by secretly observing how Charlie Weasley and the other handlers keep the fiery beasts under control. Even if Harry felt it would be cheating to go back and watch, when Hagrid first showed him the Dragons, Harry could see how the handlers used certain Stunning spells to control the animals. Although Sirius tells Harry that Stunning spells are ineffective, this still might have given Harry at least some ideas on how to subdue one or to better understand Dragon behavior.
And while Harry wants to win the Tournament, he wants to do so without any inequitable advantages. Cedric's ignorance about the Dragons while the other Champions are using ill-gotten information to prepare their strategies represents an uneven playing field to Harry. It would never be a true victory if another Champion was at an unfair disadvantage. Moody commends Harry for his honesty and fairness, which Moody has already shown are traits he values in himself, as well as others. Cedric is also grateful, and it is probably something he himself would have done if their situations had been reversed.
A few additional noteworthy points:
First, Moody seems to be handing the first task to Harry. While it does take Harry some time to realize what Moody is hinting at, Moody has provided Harry a tool that will serve him better than any other Champion. It would seem logical that Moody might similarly guide Cedric Diggory, also a Hogwarts student, but he apparently does not. Whether Moody has any special reason for wanting Harry to win is unknown, though he could be motivated by his concern over how and why Harry was entered into the Tournament. Additionally, as Harry is the youngest and least trained among the Champions, Moody could be attempting to "level the playing field" by preferentially giving Harry assistance.
Second, Ludo makes a clumsy attempt to assist Harry with the challenge, then assigns him a perfect score, which Harry feels is unwarranted. It seems Bagman also wants him to win, but why is unclear.
Finally, Rita Skeeter continually appears from nowhere, even though it is learned later that she has been banned from the school.
It should be noted that the book's actions apparently take place in 1994 and 1995; but the first task's date, November 24th 1994, is not a Tuesday but a Thursday, which is consistent with the day of the week mentioned in Chapter 15. This does not affect the story in any way; the fact that there is this conflict is provided more as a curiosity than as something scholars need to concern themselves with.
- Why does Harry tell Cedric Diggory about the Dragons?
- Why does Moody give Harry advice about the first task? Is Moody breaking the rules?
- Why does Harry ignore Ludo Bagman's advice and feel that the high score Ludo gives him is unwarranted?
- Why does Ludo Bagman give Harry unsolicited advice and a perfect score?
- Harry usually masters basic spells quickly. Why then is the Summoning charm so difficult for him to learn?
- What clue might be hidden in the Golden Egg?
Of note, Harry apparently stops reading the Dragon book just before the passage containing the spell he needs. The passage he does read aloud from Men Who Love Dragons Too Much goes: "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." The next passage would probably discuss their one weak point, which Sirius later identifies as their eyes. In a later message from Sirius, we learn that if their conversation had not been interrupted, Sirius would have suggested using the Conjunctivitus curse to blind the Dragon. This is what Krum did, but the blinded Dragon, flailing about, broke some of her own eggs, losing Krum points. Curiously, though Harry observed first-hand how Charlie Weasley and the other handlers subdued and controlled the caged Dragons with Stunning spells, he fails to consider how he might be able to incorporate their techniques into his strategy.
We will later learn that Ludo is trying to recoup his losses on the Quidditch World Cup by betting on Harry to win the Tournament. His clumsy offers to assist Harry, which will be uniformly rejected, are an unethical attempt to influence the Tournament's outcome, made worse because he is a Tournament judge. Moody also intends for Harry to win the Tournament; offering Harry a strategy to complete the First Task is his most overt attempt in his role as a trusted mentor to ensure Harry's victory. Moody's other assistance will be less obvious to Harry, revealed only when Moody explains it following the Third Task.
It is only Harry's inherent honesty and belief in fairness that prompts him to share information about the Dragons with Cedric, and also to reject Ludo's proffered assistance. In a future chapter, Cedric reciprocates Harry's fairness towards him: when Cedric solves the Egg's riddle before Harry does, Cedric will pass on an important hint to Harry.