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The First Task

- Chapter 20

"Great Scott, he can fly!"
-- Ludo Bagman

GF20: The First Task

Harry and Hermione unsuccessfully try to find a spell to use against dragons. Harry warns Cedric Diggory about the dragons, the (fake) Professor Moody gives Harry a hint, and Hermione helps Harry learn to cast a Summoning Charm. The first task is to get past a dragon and collect a golden egg; each champion succeeds in turn, Harry being the quickest. Ron and Harry finally make up, and Ludo Bagman tells the champions that the clue to the next task is in each golden egg.

Calendar and Dates

The action of the chapter takes place from the morning of 22 November through the afternoon of the 24th. The dates of the week given in the chapter are consistent with Hallowe'en having been a Saturday.

Sunday 22 November Monday 23 November Tuesday 24 November
Harry tells Hermione about the First Task; they spend the day researching dragons in the Library. Harry tells Cedric about the First Task, the fake Moody gives Harry some good, general advice. Hermione tutors Harry in Summoning Charms (taking time out for Harry's Divination and Hermione's Arithmancy classes). Harry and Hermione practice Summoning Charms in the Gryffindor Common Room until 2 a.m.
Classes end at noon.
The First Task.

Interesting facts and notes

This chapter sets up a pattern that is also followed by "The Second Task", in that it begins with Harry's final preparation for the task, shows the task itself, then ends in a congratulatory haze of relief after the scoring. This chapter is also reminiscent of the extended library searches and study sessions of Harry's first year, right down to the pile of library books about dragons.

Harry pulled down every book he could find on dragons...

...and as he discovers almost immediately, he's put himself in the same position as Hagrid was during Harry's first year: he's just got hold of a lot of books written back when dragon keeping was legal, when there was a market for books about looking after them.

"Talon-clipping by charms...treating scale rot... This is no good, this is for nutters like Hagrid who want to keep them healthy..."

This is apparently in reference to Men Who Love Dragons Too Much, the book Harry throws aside a moment later.

"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...but Sirius said a simple one would do it."

Actually, this information that Hermione's reading, taken together with one of the remarks from Men Who Love Dragons Too Much, is suggestive. While a dragon's hide is too difficult to penetrate magically, other parts of a dragon - such as the talons - can be affected by magic.

...Hermione whispering non-stop at his elbow.

Apparently thinking aloud like this is a habit of Hermione's under certain kinds of stress; she did the same thing at the beginning of her first year before facing the Sorting Hat, running through various spells she'd read about and wondering what she'd need for the as-yet unknown test (PS7).

"...the trouble is, like that book said, not much is going to get through a dragon's hide...I'd say Transfigure it, but with something that big, you really haven't got a hope..."

Putting this information together with various observations about giants made during Harry, Ron and Hermione's fifth year, we notice a general principle: the bigger the magical creature, the more difficult it is to affect by magic. Also, natural armour on a magical creature (such as that of the Blast-Ended Skrewts) tends to protect the creature from magical as well as physical attack.

He stared hopelessly down at the index of Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed... instant scalping... but dragons had no hair... pepper breath... that would probably increase a dragon's firepower... horn tongue... just what he needed, to give it an extra weapon....

If Viktor Krum's fan club hadn't shown up at this point, though, Harry might've found something like the Conjunctivitus Curse in the book. Judging from the other champions' performance in the first task as well as Olympe Maxime's defence of Hagrid from giants the following year, that one is a fairly standard way of dealing with very large, tough magical creatures.

Cedric was at the top. He was with a load of sixth-year friends.

Since Cedric Diggory and his friends are on their way to Charms class together, judging from his request to them a moment later to explain to Professor Flitwick why he's running behind, Cedric is in sixth rather than seventh year. That is, he's in the same year as Angelina Johnson and the Weasley twins Fred and George, so (like Angelina) his seventeenth birthday must have fallen between 1 September and 31 October.

He wanted to skip Divination to keep practicing, but Hermione refused point-blank to skive off Arithmancy...

Since all the Gryffindors of Harry's year except Hermione (who of course dropped it) take Divination, and since this tells us that the two classes take place at the same time on the schedule, none of the Gryffindors of Harry's year apart from Hermione take Arithmancy. We can deduce from this that her Arithmancy class is probably shared with students from at least one other House.

Secrecy Sensor. Vibrates when it detects concealment and lies...

Mr Filch used one on most incoming and outgoing people during Harry's sixth year, and it sounds like the "security wand" used by watchwizard Eric Munch at the Ministry of Magic (OP7).

No use here, of course, too much interference

This is a point on which the properties of a Secrecy Sensor appear a bit murky; the same kind of device in HBP could detect magical concealment but not items that had been non-magically disguised as something else (e.g. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes owl order service).

That's when I open my trunk.

Which is where the real Alastor Moody has been imprisoned, of course (GF35).

Harry about to take dragon egg.

Exceptional character moments

Harry, who would rather face a dragon than leave the only place where he's ever been happy.

Harry's panic becoming manageable once he finally has something concrete to do to prepare for the first task - and is submerged completely once he has actually begun acting against the dragon.

Ron finally realising that Harry isn't doing the task just for the glory - he is in danger.

Harry ignoring Rita Skeeter's questions about how he feels.

Memorable lines

Harry got up on Sunday morning and dressed so inattentively that it was a while before he realized he was trying to pull his hat onto his foot instead of his sock.

"Great Scott, he can fly!" yelled Bagman, as the crowd shrieked and gasped. "Are you watching this, Mr Krum?"

"Harry, ....whoever put your name in that Goblet – I – I reckon they're trying to do you in!" [Ron]

"Congratulations, Harry! ....I wonder if you could give me a quick word? How you felt facing that dragon? How you feel now about the fairness of the scoring?"
"Yeah, you can have a word ....Goodbye." [Rita and Harry]

Words and phrases

GF 20 — The First Task
Abbreviation GF20: The First Task
Canonicity Primary Canon


Note that references to the Triwizard tasks are not capitalized in the UK editions, although they are capitalized in the US editions. Except where we refer to the chapter titles themselves, we are following the UK convention of not capitalizing "first task", "second task", and "third task".

Related images:

Harry about to take dragon egg.   Chinese Fireball Dragon protecting her egg.  Hungarian Horntail dragons breathing fire.        

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The Harry Potter Canon