The Second Task

chapter twenty-six of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry tries but fails to find a way to breathe underwater – but when the second task is set to begin, Dobby wakes him up and gives him gillyweed. Harry uses it in the second task, where he is the first to reach the merpeople but stays behind to ensure all the captives are rescued, and though he feels like a prat afterwards, he ends up tied for first with Cedric.

Pansy, Millicent, and Baby Unicorns, by Heather Campbell

Today [Hagrid] had managed to capture two unicorn foals…. even Pansy Parkinson had to work hard to conceal how much she liked them.


Grindylow, by Laurence Peguy

Harry twisted his body around and saw a grindylow, a small, horned water demon, poking out of the weed.


Mermaids are Ugly, by Cambryn

The merpeople had grayish skin and long, wild, dark green hair.

(by Cambryn)


The Second Task, by gerre

Behind them rose a crude sort of statue; a gigantic merperson hewn from a boulder.

(by gerre)


The Second Task, by Mudblood428

Their heads were lolling onto their shoulders, and fine streams of bubbles kept issuing from their mouths.


Merperson, by Laurence Peguy

“You take your own hostage,” one of them said to him. “Leave the others….”


Second Task, by Sheena Kristen Sy

“She’s my friend too!” Harry yelled, gesturing toward Hermione, an enormous silver bubble emerging soundlessly from his lips. “And I don’t want them to die either!”


Second Task, by Alicey

Harry kicked his legs so hard and fast it felt as though his muscles were screaming in protest; his very brain felt waterlogged, he couldn’t breathe, he needed oxygen, he had to keep going, he could not stop-

(by Alicey)


about the chapter


I always wonder what the Hogwarts professors thought as Harry spent days frantically scouring the library, looking for a charm. I mean, he wasn’t exactly discreet about the fact that he had no idea how to complete the task. It’s sort of amazing, if you think about it, that none of them helped him – how hard would it have been for Flitwick to slip a mention of the Bubble-Head Charm into one of his classes, for example? But knowing how much Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, and their colleagues care about their students, it’s not hard to imagine these being some pretty tense days for them too, as they wondered whether Harry would manage to pull the thing off.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

I love that Hagrid elects to continue Professor Grubbly Plank’s unicorn lessons – right after he gets a visit from Dumbledore. What do you suppose are the odds that Dumbledore had something to do with this decision? Can’t you just see the headmaster coming down to convince Hagrid to return to work, and at the same time casually slipping in, “oh yeah, and those Blast-Ended Skrewts? Maybe not the best idea….”

The Power of Magic

I wonder how the professors determined who each champion would “miss most?” It’d be obvious to anybody who’s been watching Harry this year that Ron is the most important person in his life, and Fleur’s sister seems like a no-brainer as well. But both Cedric and Krum have only been dating their respective girlfriends for a couple of months – are they really the people they’d miss most in the world? And how on earth did the professors determine that? It’s possible they used some kind of complex magic, but I think it’s more likely they just used the people who were most readily available (for instance, Cho rather than, say, Cedric’s father), except in Fleur’s case as she didn’t have anyone particularly important to her at Hogwarts.

Life at Hogwarts

Think for a moment of what this event must have been like for the Hogwarts students and teachers who aren’t champions (or hostages). They’re sitting out by the lake – in February – and for a full hour they just sit there, watching the lake’s tranquil surface and wondering what’s going on underneath. Not a very exciting spectator sport, eh?. And considering Dumbledore has to hear from the merpeople to find out what happened, it also seems safe to assume nobody’s getting any kind of updates. Seems pretty boring, if you ask me, no matter how much you care about the outcome. Not to mention darn cold.

The Boy Who Lived

No matter how cold the water is, and no matter how much adrenaline is pumping though his system, the fact is that when Harry reaches the hostages, it’s only been forty minutes since he woke up for the day, panicking, with no idea how he was going to perform this task. It’s no wonder he’s not thinking straight enough to realize that unclaimed hostages won’t be left to die! Who thinks straight when they’ve been awoken suddenly and then instantly thrown into a task? Meanwhile the other champions have all had days (weeks? months?) to plan, gear up, calm their nerves, and probably have their wits about them enough to realize pretty quickly that Dumbledore isn’t going to let hostages drown. Harry may have been a bit thick on this one, but I can’t entirely blame him.

Another thing worth pointing out is the fact that Harry once again got a leg up on his competition by being friendly to those who most wizards ignore. Not just Dobby, who provides him with the means necessary to do the task at all, but also Moaning Myrtle, who helps him with the egg and then points him towards the mermaids in the lake (so he’s first to their village!). Voldemort will later belittle Harry for having help with his accomplishments, but he will miss the fact that these characters wanted to help Harry because of the way he treated them. It really still comes down to Harry, and it gives him a huge advantage in more ways than he realizes.

31 Responses to “The Second Task”

  1. I’ve always wondered the same thing about the spectators watching the tasks. It would have been more exciting for them, surely, if there was some magical means of watching the champions, but I guess JKR was more concerned with telling Harry’s story. I can’t help felling sorry for them though!

    Also, the artwork for this chapter is absolutely gorgeous, especially the last one by Alice Wack. It really captures how creepy it must have been for Harry down in the lake.

  2. I agree that the Triwizard Judges etc had to use the people available in order to pass the second task. However, at 17, most of the time the boyfriend/girlfriend IS who the champions might most “sorely miss”. Fleur is a no-brainer of course. Makes you wonder if she would have been as frantic if say, Roger Davies had been down in the bottom of the lake instead of her little sister, doesn’t it?

    And think about all the help Fleur gave Harry from then on BECAUSE Harry ‘saved’ Gabrielle. Random acts of kindness like that have far-reaching effects, no?

  3. The picture of the Grindylow is so perfect by Laurence Peguy, so detailed. And I had to look at the second one by her for a few seconds before I realised which way it went – very artistic.

    Yeah I was thinking the same thing, the second task would have been really boring to watch and it’s quite cute that Harry would miss Ron the most. Power of friendship isn’t it?

    And it’d be really interesting to know what the professors think about everything, I mean, how are they feeling that they can just give Harry the answer to this task?

  4. Wow, these pictures are sooo beautiful! I can’t say which one I like most!
    Also very good “about the chapter”. I think this is one of the best companion chapters. Very well done!

  5. I wondered the same thing about the spectators… I mean even in the movie it looked pretty boring…When you talk about the person they would miss most± Isn´t it possible that you have to read this line with the same skepicism as the line about the hostages drowing and never returning?
    Love Laurence Peguy’s drawing!

  6. The underwater drawings are really good. Particular Alice’s Alicia’s and Laurence’s.

  7. The Life at Hogwarts section raises the point of how the spectators keep their interest alive during the long time in which nothing visible happens. But what about the usual convention in stories about magic: that story time doesn’t run at the same rate as, let’s for convenience call it Muggle time. Which means that when you enter the magical world, any magical world, you keep to its time rules. The hour you have in which to complete your task is its hour. When you’re finished, you could have aged several years but you come back to your ordinary world maybe a second older than when you left, but not more. See what I mean? Harry and the other champions seem to spend an hour, but from the spectators’ point of view it could be very much less … not of course instantaneous because then there would be no winner! But close. And the same could well apply to the final task. Just a relatively small period of time for the spectators to wait, alarming glimpses of flashes of magic light, time for the band to play (one of the few movie innovations that really works) and “in less time than it takes to tell” it’s all over.

    I haven’t thought this through properly and it might be full of holes; but it seems a pity to waste a good lightbulb moment!

  8. Deborah Hubbard, this is very Narnia of you! It’s an interesting theory, but other than Hermione’s time-turner in the third book we never remotely get an indication that this might be true of time in the Harry Potter universe. J.K. Rowling had thousands of pages in which to mention it and didn’t, so my assumption is that, in the wizarding world, an hour is an hour. If we don’t start with the assumptions Rowling presents, our theories get pretty insane pretty fast.

  9. I thought there’d be a hole … but I’m not totally sure, Josie! Hermione’s Time-Turner enables her to change time to suit herself: isn’t that different? And if you think about Hogwarts having staircases which go somewhere different on Fridays, doesn’t that indicate something about time as well as space? I hope it does, in common humanity! Otherwise the band (which probably doesn’t exist either …) would need to know an awful lot of good sing-along tunes. Or (equally uncanonical) perhaps some impartial adult (not Lee Jordan or Luna!) could do a live commentary? And since there must be a way of knowing what goes on out of sight, to ensure fair play, there should be some kind of wizarding CCTV available?

    It’s getting worse, isn’t it? Thanks for the fun!

  10. “Where There’s a Wand, There’s a Way” – I love word-plays.

    JKR does a good job of making Harry’s journey in the lake seem like an hour without it getting boring.

    Something you might not have noticed but is worth remembering is the water beetle in Hermione’s hair.

  11. This chapter has my all time favorite Harry Potter quote ever, “Your Wheezy, sir, your Wheezy – Wheezy who is giving Dobby his sweater!…The thing Harry Potter will miss most, sir!…Dobby cannot let Harry Potter lose his Wheezy!”
    I laugh so hard every time I come to that part. I wish someone had drawn something in connection with that quote.

  12. I wonder if there wasn’t some kind of “entertainment” (for lack of a better word) for the spectators during the hour. Speeches from the esteemed guests maybe? Otherwise, I agree, it would have been cold and boring.

  13. One more thing I wanted to mention… does anyone know the official reason why Fleur’s 8-yr-old sister would be at Hogwarts at all? She left her own family and country to go to watch the Triwizard tournament? It’s not like she was 11 and had started school already so she accompanied her sister for the year, right? (Or do they start earlier in France?)

  14. Anna, i always assumed Gabrielle was brought in from Beauxbatons just for the second task, because Fleur wouldn’t have had anybody at Hogwarts to fill the role of the person she would miss the most. There’s no mention of her being present at other times of year, until she comes with her parents for the Third Task.

  15. re: Gabrielle.

    I agree that’s a bit of a stretch to have her come from France on her own only to almost drown in a lake. All for the sake of the Tournament.

    On the other hand, I can kind of see Fleur not being the “bestest” of friends with the other girls from her school, so there really was no one ready to use.

    Since the Tasks were pre-ordained, it might be that Mme Maxime contacted the Delacours right after Fleur was selected as a Champion, to arrange for Gabrielle’s trip.

    In any case, this is one of the few instances in which the movies managed to make sense, having Gabrielle a little older and part of the actual Besuxbatons delegation. And although Dobby’s “Wheezy” bit is hilarious, Neville’s “I killed Harry Potter” bit is genius!!

  16. Is there any evidence that the Hogwarts teachers knew in advance what the 2nd task involved? If they did not know more than say a day or two ahead of time, and Harry would never ask them for help, they would not be able to give him any hints. Mad-Eye obviously knows, but not necessarily all of the other teachers, maybe just Mad-Eye and McGonagall.

  17. Could the spectators not be watching a big screen on which maps of the lake and maze for the 2nd and 3rd tasks respectively show something like red dots for where each champion is, along with what challenges they’re facing, and the red dots turning green if they get past?. Ludo Bagman could be outside in the 3rd task going: “And Krum and Diggory have met each other in the maze…now Potter joins them…oh, my word! Diggory’s sent up red sparks, Krum must be injured…”; “Potter and Diggory appear to be about to take the Cup together! I say, what an unexpected feat of sportmanship…we’ll see in a minute…but I don’t understand…where are they? They should have come out to the front by now….”

  18. I agree what was said in the post itself about the Bubble-Head Charm and Flitwick not mentioning it in class but something still bothers me about it. Hermione could not find it in the library but when Fred and George left school a yaer later people were performing the charm between classes because people kept dropping Dungbombs (I think). I figured the library would have to fail at least once but how did people find it the following year?

  19. Jeremy, it’s possible the whole reason people thought of it the following year is because they watched it used in the Second Task. Remember what Lupin says in book six (talking about Levicorpus), that spells go in and out of fashion, especially among students – Levicorpus was common when he was at school, but a generation later nobody has a clue what it is. Like slang in the Muggle world….

  20. I always thought “who you’d miss most” is who ever you brought to the dance.

  21. Emily, that’s only true for two of the four champions.

  22. I agree with Jeremy. Shouldn’t they have found something in the books? I find it hard to believe that the library would be so devoid of that kind of information, like the bubble-head charm. Or that they just missed it when it seems that they went through about 100 books.

    Also, what’s the difference between becoming an animagus and transforming yourself into an animal like Krum did? Is it just easier?

  23. Josie, in “The Power of Magic” you said “Gabrielle’s sister” and I know it could work either way, but did you mean to say “Fleur’s sister”? Just being nit-picky I guess, but I thought I’d bring it to your attention either way.

    Ari, I think becoming an Animagus becomes instinctual. With human transfiguration you need a wand to perform a spell, and you don’t need to register yourself or anything. And as we can see in this chapter, it can go wrong if you don’t do it properly. But I figure once you’ve become an Animagus, you can transform at will, and quite easily after the first time.

    I also like to believe that there was some magical means of “seeing” what was going on underwater. They have to keep the students entertained somehow, and they did come out to the lake to watch the Task. I’d feel like it was a ripoff that I had to give up watching Quidditch that year, just to sit and watch a lake, and then a large hedge maze.

    And I also like how Harry’s involvement with those most wizards take for granted really help him out throughout the years. It’s kind of like karma, huh? He’s reaping the rewards for being a good person.

  24. Casey, I *did* mean Fleur’s sister. What a bizarre mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.

  25. In reference to the Bubble-Head Charm, while, I’ll agree with the previous poster and say that it’s quite possible that the spell just came in fashion while watching the challenge, I’d like to put forth the idea that they simply missed that spell in the books because of how they were searching.

    Harry (and most likely Ron and Hermione) was skimming through these books looking for references to water or water-breathing (“Harry’s heart gave a huge leap every time he saw the word ‘water’ on a page, but more often than not it was merely ‘Take two pints of water,…'”).

    After all, just because it *can* be used to breathe under water, doesn’t mean that was the spells original intent (and in the ancient books, the spell would be listed under or described as a useful for the original purpose of the originator of the spell).

  26. i think i remember reading somewhere that when people learn how to be an animagus, the animal they transform is based on their personalities? so maybe with wand they can transform into any animal they’d like

  27. I can’t help but wonder how hard it really is to understand Mermish. I mean, they make a big deal out of Dumbledore being able to speak it, but wouldn’t you just have to stick your head underwater and you’d understand what they’re saying, like with the song in the egg? That would at least help one side of the conversation… on the other hand, the Merpeople in the lake doesn’t seem too good at making themselves understood, so maybe the egg is the only thing working that way…

  28. Back in Chapter 17, one of the rules that was stated was “The champions are not permitted to ask or accept help of any kind from thier teachers to complete the tasks in the tournament.”

  29. Does the Bubble Head charm have an infinite supply of air? Otherwise, would it not be just like sticking a bag on your head and soon

  30. Nice theory Rtozier!
    And Josie, the boy who lived bit makes a lot of sense!!

  31. Librarian’s simple answer for why the Bubble-headed Charm was not found by Harry and his ‘research assistants’, is that whoever used the charm (Cedric? Fleur?) had already found the relevant book, and was borrowing it. Cedric and Harry were sharing information regarding clues, but not how to deal with the known challenge directly.

    We are talking real books, written or printed on parchment or paper, in this library. And in these years even in the Muggle world, the only way electronic text was available was by reading it on a computer screen. So, one book (if that is all there was) in use by one other user, in another house, Cedric in Hufflepuff, or Fleur in Ravenclaw. There is the answer. And if both of these other champions used it. Well, Cedric has the book from Hogwarts library. Fleur, who comes later to improve her Eenglish, would probably have found a book Mme Maxime brought for just this purpose from Beauxbatons school over the holidays.

    A year later, everyone knows about this charm because of its use during the second task.

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