Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Major Events/Second Task

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event
Triwizard Tournament - The Second Task
Location Hogwarts, the lake
Time Period Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 24 February
Important Characters Harry, Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, Ron, Hermione, Cho Chang, Gabrielle Delacour

Overview[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

The Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament is to rescue something dear or important to the Champion which is being held by Merpeople deep in Hogwarts' lake.

Event Details[edit]

The golden egg, which the Champions had each retrieved from the dragons in the First Task, holds a clue for the Second Task. Opened, Harry's egg is empty, but emits a screeching sound that seems to remind Neville of someone being tortured. The champion must decipher the sound's meaning, then find a way to complete the task described in it.

The correct way to decipher the egg is to open and listen to it underwater; the screechy sound is actually a song sung by Merpeople, who have high, thin, and screechy voices, making the egg's song incomprehensible when listened to in air. Submerging the egg deepens the sound to where it can be understood. Harry had tried all sorts of things to understand this clue, including, in a fit of pique, throwing it across the room; it was only the hint that he received from Cedric, who told him to take a bath with the Egg, that allowed him to discover the secret. Though dismayed by the way Cedric's suggestion is couched, Harry eventually visits the Prefect's Bathroom, where he deciphers the clue in the Egg with some small assistance from Moaning Myrtle, who appears, to Harry's dismay, while Harry is in the bath.

According to the song in the Egg, Harry would have only one hour to rescue something dear to him that would be held deep beneath the lake at Hogwarts by the merpeople. Harry, Hermione, and Ron spend pretty much all of their spare time, from the time Harry deciphered the egg, until the night before the Task, in the library looking for ways Harry could breathe underwater for an hour. When Hermione and Ron are called away, Harry continues his search, eventually falling asleep in the library. He is awakened by Dobby, with only ten minutes to go before the Task. Dobby has overheard some teachers talking about the Task, and has brought Harry some Gillyweed, that will allow him to breathe underwater. Harry hopes that Dobby is correct, and runs off down to the lake shore. There, he is somewhat startled to find that Percy is once again filling in for Mr. Crouch.

On the signal, all four Champions enter the lake. The Gillyweed gives Harry gills and grows his hands and feet into flippers. Swimming under water, Harry is somewhat lost but aims downward, assuming that the Merpeople will be in the depths of the lake. In his journeys, he encounters Myrtle, who points him in the correct direction, and grindylows, who unsuccessfully attempt to hold him.

It turns out that the "something dear" for each of the champions was another person. This was why Hermione and Ron had left Harry alone in the library; Professor McGonagall had brought them to her office so that they could be placed in an enchanted sleep and handed over to the Merpeople.

Fleur Delacour failed to finish the second task because she was attacked by the grindylows. Because Delacour failed to finish, she never retrieved her younger sister, Gabrielle. Harry, who reached the hostages first, possibly due to some assistance from Moaning Myrtle, was afraid that the song was literal truth, and that the hostages would not be returned if they were not rescued within the allotted hour. He attempted to save all of the hostages, and was prevented from doing so by the Merpeople. Cedric, and then Krum, arrive and retrieve their hostages, but when Fleur failed to show, Harry threatened the Merpeople with his wand, and retrieved Gabrielle in addition to Ron. Harry's choosing to try and save the other hostages earned him extra points from the judges for "moral fiber."

Final scores, out of 50, for this Task were assigned as follows:

  • Fleur Delacour - 25 points
  • Cedric Diggory - 47 points (he had started this Task with 38 points, ending it tied with Harry for first, with 85)
  • Harry Potter - 45 points (he had started with 40 points, ending tied with Diggory for first with 85 points)
  • Viktor Krum - 40 points (he had started with 40 points, ending in second place with 80)

Notable Consequences[edit]

The Champion with the highest standing after the second task will be allowed to enter the Third Task maze first. Harry and Cedric, having the highest standings, enter the maze together before the other Champions.

Harry's decent showing and ethical behaviour in this Task lead the other Champions to believe that Harry is, in fact, a worthy contender. His remaining tied for first place would indicate that his showing in the First Task was not a fluke, and should result in his receiving more respect from the other Champions.

Fleur kissing Harry and Ron somewhat reinforces Ron's infatuation, and upsets Hermione. It is possible that this contributes to Krum's belief that Harry and Hermione are a couple; it is entirely possible that he believes it is Fleur kissing Harry that Hermione is scowling at, rather than her kissing Ron.

The fact that Hermione is the hostage that Krum is to rescue does rather point up that Krum has romantic intentions towards Hermione, and not just friendship. We can also see, by her reaction after the Challenge, that she does not share those feelings.

We see again how Harry's friendships act to save him from the situations he gets himself into. In the next book, he will protest that every time he has gotten into a sticky situation, it is only by means of help from his friends that he has been able to survive. This is true in this Task as well, where it is only the last-minute effort by Dobby that gives Harry any chance at this Task at all.

Analysis[edit]

As we almost expect, Ludo Bagman once again clumsily tries to assist Harry in this task, asking if he has solved the riddle of the Egg when they meet at the Three Broomsticks before Christmas. Any help he could give is forestalled by the arrival of the Twins, and Ludo's immediate departure, followed by goblins. Harry has no qualms about telling Ludo that he needs no help, although later when he says the same thing to Hagrid, he somehow feels that he is betraying Hagrid's faith.

While each task is designed to measure a champion's physical capabilities, it is also meant to test their magical ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and strategic abilities. Harry actually did little to prepare for the second challenge, eventually relying on others for help, although most likely so did the other champions. With some assistance from Professor Moody, Harry was resourceful in retrieving the dragon's egg in the first task, but he made few attempts to decipher its hidden meaning; a necessity for completing the second challenge. Cedric Diggory finally provides Harry a hint to solve it, but this only reveals that there is yet another step Harry must overcome. He again procrastinates to find a solution, and it is only because Dobby helps him minutes before the event begins that he is able to compete.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. Viktor's and Cedric's hostages are their respective love interests; Harry's is Ron; Fleur's is her younger sister. What does this tell us about the Champions?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Although we have no understanding of this as yet, once again Professor Moody has interfered to improve Harry's chances. In fact, Moody attempted interference twice, once without success. When Neville suffered a partial breakdown following the Defence Against the Dark Arts class earlier in the year, Moody had given him a book about the properties of magical Mediterranean water plants. While Moody had assumed that Harry would ask Neville for help, and Neville would have been able to tell Harry about Gillyweed, that did not happen; Harry never asked Neville, instead relying on Ron and Hermione. When it appeared that Harry was not going to find that answer, Moody arranged to summon Dobby to the staff room, and then mentioned Gillyweed in conversation with Professor McGonagall. Dobby then, as expected, stole some Gillyweed from Professor Snape's stores and presented it to Harry.

Ludo, of course, is still trying to improve Harry's chances of winning the Tournament because of his own bet with the Goblins. It is likely that the Goblins are keeping an eye on Ludo in order to protect their bet; they likely worry that he may try to make a run for things, or possibly try to throw the match, which in fact he is trying to do but is running up against Harry's sense of fair play. We have seen that Ludo earlier gave Harry 10 out of 10 on the First Task, and we can safely say that he will have done the same in the Second, although the scores are not broken out by judge. Given Harry's score of 45, and Karkaroff's opposition to Harry getting points for "moral fiber", we must assume that at least one, and possibly three or four, of the judges gave Harry full marks. It's safe to assume that Ludo has again given Harry top marks to protect his investment.

We will learn that Neville's breakdown, and his reaction to the Merpeople song in the Egg, are actually related. Neville's parents, we will learn later in this book, were tortured to madness by Death Eaters, possibly in Neville's presence, using the Cruciatus curse. It is Moody's use of this curse in the first Defence Against the Dark Arts class which triggers Neville's episode. We will learn also at the end of this book why Moody has particular reason to remember this.