The Third Task
Chapter 31 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Third Task
Harry immediately shares with Ron and Hermione what transpired in Professor Dumbledore's office and in the Pensieve. He also sends Sirius a message by owl post. Though they knew Karkaroff was a Death Eater, this is the first confirmation that Professor Snape was one or that Ludo Bagman was involved. Hermione wonders if this is what Rita Skeeter meant by saying that Bagman had an evil past. Harry is unable to stop thinking about Neville's parents and Mr. Crouch's son, who died in Azkaban.
As Ron and Hermione coach Harry on jinxes for the third task, Ron spots Draco Malfoy outside. His cronies, Crabbe and Goyle are standing guard as Draco apparently talks to something in his hand. Harry suspects he is using a walkie-talkie, but Hermione reminds him that electronic devices do not work around Hogwarts.
Sirius, concerned about Harry finishing the Third Task, sends regular owls with tips and pointers, plus adjurations to ignore what is happening outside Hogwarts. Harry will be safe under Dumbledore's protection, and they can consider other problems once the Third Task is over.
In the latest the Daily Prophet, Rita Skeeter claims that Harry has mental problems, had collapsed, and has pain in his scar. According to Draco Malfoy, Harry is a Parselmouth. Harry takes the article lightly, but wonders how Skeeter knew that he fainted in Divination. There was an open window during class, but Hermione points out it is too far above ground level for anyone to eavesdrop. Something suddenly occurs to her, and she runs to the library.
The Champions and their families are congregating in the chamber off the Great Hall just before the Third Task. Not having any relatives present, Harry is about to leave the Great Hall when he is called to join the other champions. Inside, Harry is pleased to find that Mrs. Weasley and Bill are waiting. Amos Diggory appears upset that Rita Skeeter's first story only mentioned Harry as the Hogwarts Champion. Not even Mrs. Weasley reminding him that Rita delights in making mischief calms him down.
Harry, Mrs. Weasley, and Bill spend the morning touring the Hogwarts grounds. Mrs. Weasley mentions that the Ministry has become suspicious that Mr. Crouch's instructions may not be genuine, and Percy has been called in for questioning. Cornelius Fudge is replacing Percy as a judge. Returning to the castle, they meet Ron and Hermione. Mrs. Weasley is rather cold towards Hermione until Harry, remembering Skeeter's article in Witch Weekly, tells her that Hermione is not his girlfriend. Hermione, meanwhile, has something to tell Harry and Ron, but she has to wait until they are alone. Harry, Bill, and Mrs. Weasley return to the Great Hall for dinner. Harry notices that Madame Maxime's eyes seem red, and Hagrid keeps glancing at her.
As the sky darkens, Professor Dumbledore sends the Champions to the maze. After checking if Harry is feeling confident, Ludo Bagman announces that Professor McGonagall, Professor Moody, Professor Flitwick, and Hagrid will patrol the maze from outside. If a Champion runs into trouble, he can send up red wand sparks. Harry and Cedric, whose scores are tied, enter the maze together, separating at the first intersection. Krum goes next, then Fleur. Harry, navigating towards the maze's center, is already unnerved by its apparent emptiness. A noise behind him is Cedric, still smoking after a run-in with a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Shortly after, Harry successfully defends himself against a Boggart disguised as a Dementor. Harry hears Fleur screaming, but, unable to locate her, continues towards the center, running into a Skrewt. As Harry looks for another route, he hears Krum using the Cruciatus curse on Cedric. Burning a hole through a hedge, Harry Stuns Krum, and sends up red sparks. He and Cedric separate and again head for the center.
Nearing the center, Harry encounters a Sphinx and correctly answers its question. Seeing the Cup, he starts running for it, while Cedric appears from a side passage ahead. Harry spots a giant spider and warns Cedric, and together they defeat it, but Harry's leg is injured. Harry wants Cedric to take the Cup, but Cedric demurs, insisting Harry earned it. Because they have continually helped each other throughout the Tournament, Harry suggests they grasp it simultaneously. Cedric agrees, but as each grabs a handle, a great howling wind whirls them from the maze. The Cup is a Portkey.
While we can't be certain what criteria the Goblet uses in its selection, it seems that the Triwizard Champions were chosen because they are the best representatives of their respective schools. Cedric represents his House's finest traits, embodying Hufflepuff virtues of hard work, honesty, and fair play. Harry, whose name was selected through trickery, still represents much that is good in Gryffindor house: bravery, nobility, and resourcefulness. However, throughout the Tournament, each has demonstrated characteristics apart from those associated with their own House. Harry shows integrity and fairness, first by tipping off Cedric about the Dragons, and now by insisting that he equally share the victory. Cedric is certainly as noble as any Gryffindor, and he has demonstrated increasing cleverness and ingenuity by quickly solving the Egg riddle and developing a successful strategy for the Second Task; Cedric also shows great courage, both inside the maze and with the Dragon. The two boys have helped each other throughout the Tournament, and as they reach the Cup, both feel the other deserves to win; therefore, it is fitting that they agree to grab the Triwizard Cup together, though the outcome is unexpected.
Unlike Crouch, who was talking to a tree, it is unlikely that Draco is suffering from any mental malady when he is seen speaking to his hand. Rather, he is probably engaged in some activity he should not be. We will learn shortly what this is, but for now, it is sufficient to know that he is holding something in his palm, and there is a reason he is talking to it.
Sirius telling Harry not to worry about anything happening outside the school seems rather odd; that type of insularity in a school environment happens normally anyway. However, Sirius' belief ought to be right; Dumbledore should be able to protect Harry, though recent, and even past, events make this seem less than certain.
Also, while the maze makes for a difficult and interesting obstacle the Champions must maneuver, the author may also have chosen it for its mythic symbolism. In mythology, a labyrinth, or maze, represents a difficult challenge or quest that the hero must overcome by navigating a convoluted and dangerous path leading to its center where whatever is being sought awaits. Magic and battling strange, dangerous creatures often play a significant role in these epic myths, just as it does in our story. In this task, each Champion must enter the maze alone, away from the cheering crowd, and with almost no advance information regarding what they will encounter; this challenge is less about competing against one's opponents than it is about confronting and overcoming one's own personal frailties. That the Third Task begins at dusk adds an additional eerie twist, as what lies inside becomes even more intangible, less definable, and increasingly terrifying when cloaked in nightfall. And while darkness can represent evil and oppression, it also symbolizes fear and uncertainty, which often seem magnified at night and less daunting by day. It can also represent the unknown, transition, and also life – darkness preceding birth. The maze could also be interpreted as a metaphor for Harry's life. His late induction into the Wizarding world was much like entering the maze at twilight—he was faced with murky, unknown paths, difficult obstacles, and occasional dead ends, forcing him to retrace his steps and find alternate routes. Harry is navigating a tangled emotional labyrinth, searching for a center containing answers about his parents, Voldemort, and himself.
- What might Hermione know that she wants to tell Harry?
- Why are Madame Maxime's eyes red? Why does Hagrid keep looking at her?
- Why does Harry insist that he and Cedric grab the Triwizard Cup at the same time? What does Cedric think?
- Why is Draco talking to his hand? Is he going mad like Mr. Crouch?
- Why is Sirius confident that Harry is safe at Hogwarts, even though he suspects someone wants to kill him? Is Harry really safe? Give examples of whether he is or isn't.
- Mrs. Weasley tells Amos Diggory that Rita Skeeter likes to create trouble by printing lies about Harry. Why then does she continue to believe Skeeter's story about Hermione?
- Why would Krum attack Fleur and Cedric? Did he also intend to harm Harry?
- Why would the Triwizard Cup be a Portkey? Where might it be transporting Harry and Cedric to?
- Even though Harry and Cedric were sorted into different Houses, they both have many qualities that reflect the other's House. Compare and contrast these qualities.
- Why might the author have chosen to use a maze for the third task, and what could it represent?
Note that Mr. Crouch's son having died while imprisoned in Azkaban is mentioned here again. However, we will learn shortly that someone other than Barty actually died in Azkaban. This mistaken belief being reiterated here is almost certainly meant to heighten our surprise when it is discovered what Barty has been doing since his supposed death.
Sirius now admits that someone at the school may be trying to kill Harry; likely Dumbledore is thinking this also, but neither suspects it is Barty Crouch, believing he is dead and unaware that the real Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody has been kidnapped. Given this belief, though, it is odd that Sirius is ordering Harry to stay at the school and play out the Tournament. If someone entered Harry in the Tournament solely to get him killed, it would seem to be advantageous to Harry if he deliberately failed the three Tasks in such a way as to avoid any risk. Harry, however, seems unable to give any mission less than his full effort, regardless of any danger. Sirius' opinion here seems faulty, and it could be an early indication that his still-fragile mental state is deteriorating, affecting his judgment. This becomes more apparent in the next book. Sirius may also be considering that Harry is magically bound to compete, and it is unknown what might happen should he attempt to abandon the Tournament or otherwise alter his performance in it.
Harry thinks the Maze is easier to navigate than he expected. Barty Crouch confesses later that he deliberately eased Harry's path through it, while attempting to eliminate Harry's competition by controlling Krum. Barty, like Ludo, intended Harry to win the Tournament and be the first to reach and touch the Cup, a Portkey, to transport Harry to an as-yet unknown destination. It will turn out that Barty had been helping Harry throughout; it is possible that Harry would have ended up winning the Tournament even with last-place showings in the first two Tasks. Knowing the nature of the third and final Task, Barty likely believes that even without the advantage of an early entry into the maze, Harry can be assisted to a win. This actually seems to be the case, as Barty manages to eliminate two other competitors before Harry reaches the center of the maze.
We should mention that Ludo's motivation is gambling; most unethically for a Tournament judge, he actually is betting on Harry to win. Barty's motivation is more evil: his intent is to arrange to have Harry carried away from Dumbledore's protection.
Draco is talking to his hand because he is holding Rita Skeeter, who is in her beetle Animagus form. Draco has been passing information to her about Harry and others that she uses in her articles. She was also present, transformed, when Harry had his nightmare in the Divination tower, witnessing that event directly. Because the word "bugged" was frequently mentioned, it prompted Hermione to conclude that Skeeter may be an illegal Animagus, transforming into an insect. Hermione presumably goes to the library to research whether such a transformation is even possible. Though she has confirmed this by the time we see her at lunch, the author has arranged events so that Hermione is unable to share her discovery with Harry and Ron, and apparently chooses not to discuss her discovery with Ron alone.
This chapter is largely preparation for the Third Task, and the Third Task itself. Very little in this chapter has connections outside this book.
- Rita Skeeter, here being held in Draco's hand, has visited the Hogwarts grounds in her beetle form on several occasions. Hermione will trap her in this form at the end of this book, and will use her unregistered status as a lever to prevent her writing nasty things about Harry in the next book.