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The Third Task

- Chapter 31

"On three, right?"
-- Harry Potter

GF31: The Third Task

Harry tells Ron and Hermione about the visit to Dumbledore’s office, Harry practices for the Third Task, Skeeter writes another article about Harry, and Hermione finally figures out how Rita gets her information. Mrs. Weasley and Bill arrive to watch Harry in the Tournament, the four champions enter the maze, monsters attack, Fleur fails, and Krum apparently attacks Cedric. Harry meets a sphinx and solves a riddle, only to be attacked by a huge spider. Harry and Cedric agree to grasp the Cup at the same time, tying for the win.

Interesting facts and notes

As with GF20 and GF26, this chapter begins with Harry's final preparation for the third task. Unlike the soothing pattern established by the other two chapters, of course, "The Third Task" does not end happily in a flurry of scoring and congratulations, but ends simultaneously with the task itself, as Harry and Cedric take the Triwizard Cup together.

Notice that this chapter is a rich source of information about a number of spells, curses, and jinxes used in Defence Against the Dark Arts, as Harry, Ron and Hermione study them while helping Harry prepare.

Harry soon mastered the Impediment Curse, a spell to slow down and obstruct attackers; the Reductor Curse, which would enable him to blast solid objects out of his way...

A good thing, too. Within a year, Ron, Hermione, and three other members of the D.A. will use the Reductor Curse to create a critical diversion at the beginning of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, and Harry himself will use the Impediment Curse on Lucius Malfoy in Neville's defence (OP35).

He was still having trouble with the Shield Charm, though.

Fortunately, Harry got this sorted out before the following June, when he used the Shield Charm to prevent Bellatrix Lestrange from Summoning the prophecy sphere out of his hands, and prevented Dolohov from hitting him with the unnamed spell the Death Eater had just used on Hermione (OP35).


A parallel can be drawn between the slanders Harry suffers in this article, and the sufferings of Frank Bryce at the bar of public opinion back in GF1. While both are publicly acknowledged to have done brave things that earned them permanent injury, at the same time both are alleged falsely to have been mentally affected by their sufferings.

...nobody would be able to see...not even Moody...

Hmm. So one thing that Moody's magical eye cannot perceive is whether a creature is really a witch or wizard in Animagus form.

"Haven't seen this place for five years."

Much debate has taken place over the relative ages of the three eldest Weasley boys, and this remark has been used as evidence many, many times. For the sake of argument, let's recap some of JKR's known statements.

  • Percy has been out of Hogwarts at this point for a year.
  • In (WBD), JKR said that Charlie was two years older than Percy, and that Bill was two years older than Charlie. If Bill here is implying that he graduated five years prior to the events of GF31, those dates fit together.

However, that information conflicts with information elsewhere about the relative ages of the Weasleys, in particular with how long Charlie has been out of Hogwarts. If Charlie were only two years older than Percy, he would still have been at Hogwarts during Harry's first year, and Gryffindor would not have needed a new Seeker!

It might be possible to reconcile this conflict with a cunning enough argument, if either Charlie's or Percy's birthday turns out to be near the cutoff date between school years, such that they wound up three years apart in school but are closer to two years apart in age. That would require facts not currently in evidence, however. One fact we do have in evidence is JKR's statement in (WBD) that she's not good at maths - made immediately before providing the information about Bill's, Charlie's, and Percy's relative ages.

See the page on the Weasley family for more on this topic.

"Rita Skeeter goes out of her way to cause trouble, Amos!" Mrs. Weasley said angrily. "I would have thought you'd know that, working at the Ministry!"

Admirable sentiment, Mrs. Weasley. However, Mrs. Weasley herself isn't immune to Skeeter's smear campaigns, as we will see shortly when Hermione arrives.

"Couldn't remember all the goblin rebels' names, so I invented a few...they're all called stuff like Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean; it wasn't hard."

Since Ron just got through saying he invented the names, it seems doubtful that these "goblin rebels" belong in our non-wizards magical characters list.

"Hello, Hermione," said Mrs. Weasley, much more stiffly than usual.

Here we have another remark that has been used as evidence in many arguments, in this case regarding possible budding romantic relationships, and Mrs. Weasley's opinions about them (and possible inside information as to the feelings of her youngest son). Note that once Harry makes it clear that (despite the insinuations of Rita Skeeter) Hermione is not cheating on him since she isn't even his girlfriend, Mrs. Weasley's issues seem to disappear.

Madame Maxime was concentrating on her plate, and Harry thought her eyes looked red. Hagrid kept glancing along the table at her.

Not surprisingly, Hagrid (not knowing of Skeeter's abuse of her Animagus abilities in information gathering) appears to have believed that Madame Maxime betrayed his trust in her when his family history appeared in Rita's articles earlier in the year. At that point, he seems to have given the lady a cold shoulder.

The development of the relationship between these two is interesting. When she first arrived at Hogwarts, Maxime appeared simply to have been using Hagrid to gather information on her champion's behalf, judging from Maxime's behaviour prior to the First Task. But now the tables have turned, and it seems that Maxime has developed enough genuine feeling for Hagrid to be upset by her estrangement from him, particularly since it is based on the false belief that she betrayed him.

Harry didn't know why, but the lack of obstacles was unnerving him. Surely he should have met something by now?

Not surprisingly, Harry's got good instincts. As we learn later, the fake Moody has tipped the odds in Harry's favour by cursing obstacles out of his way to help ensure that Harry reaches the Portkey/Triwizard Cup before any of the other champions.

He was still hesitating when a scream shattered the silence.
"Fleur?" Harry yelled.

According to the fake Moody later on, he Stunned Fleur; presumably that is what just happened. However, that doesn't fully explain the scream. She wouldn't be able to scream after she was Stunned, and if she had seen her attacker clearly before being Stunned, it would not have been safe for Moody to leave Fleur alive with that memory. We are not told of any possible memory charms on Fleur later. On the other hand, the fake Moody expects at this point to have Voldemort restored to power by night's end, so perhaps he felt it unnecessary to tidy up after himself in this instance.


We later learn from the fake Moody that he cast the Imperius Curse on Krum so that Krum, in turn, was compelled to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Cedric.

Why not simply have Krum Stun Cedric instead? That would have been quiet, unless Cedric saw his attacker at the wrong moment.

"Can I hear the riddle?"

The riddle (see below) actually consists of several smaller riddles tied together, and serves as a clue to the final challenge facing a champion approaching the center of the maze.

Harry and Sphinx in Triwizard Tournament.

First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.

Harry comes up with the answer to this a few moments later: 'a spy'. The nature of the riddle may also bring Severus Snape to mind for the reader, if not for Harry, but if that is JKR's intent, the significance is not immediately apparent.

Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?

Harry manages to solve the master riddle without deciphering this clue. His friendless early childhood would not have exposed him to riddle-games much; this is actually a typical sample of a class of riddles designed to suggest that they refer to actual things or abstract concepts, when the riddles actually refer to letters of the alphabet. If the words containing the target letter are chosen carefully enough, and if the riddle is constructed cleverly enough, the riddle can be completely fair while managing to decoy the victim into unproductive approaches to the answer.

The answer to this clue is 'the letter d' - the last letter of 'mend', and the two middle letters of 'middle'.

And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search for a hard-to-find word.

Harry tumbles to this one - 'er' - after making the noise himself a few times trying to solve it. :)

Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?

'Spy' + 'd' + 'er' = 'spider', of course; the final line of the master riddle merely acts as confirmation. Note that the riddle also serves as a warning about the acromantula guarding the Triwizard Cup.

Exceptional character moments

Hermione, telling Harry curtly not to worry about the fact that she and Ron are concentrating on helping him prepare for the Third Task rather than studying for their end-of-year exams. That girl has got her priorities in order, after all.

Hermione and Ron, both trying and failing to protect Harry from seeing Rita Skeeter's latest article.

Draco Malfoy, giving Rita Skeeter an exclusive interview revealing Harry's status as a Parselmouth - which is later thrown in Harry's face by Fudge - then taunting Harry about Rita's insinuations about Harry's sanity.

Harry's matter-of-fact acceptance that he has no family worth the name - as far as the Dursleys are concerned, at any rate.

Cedric, of course. After defending Harry in front of his father earlier, he makes the supreme gesture - he refuses to take the Cup, "walking away from the sort of glory Hufflepuff House hadn't had in centuries". And, sadly, just as the reader begins to see that Cedric is an exceptionally fine person...

Harry rises above his first impulse to accept Cedric's offer, and makes a noble gesture himself: tying for the Cup rather than an outright victory for either champion. A beautiful gesture of inter-House unity, only to be so savagely turned against both boys within a few minutes (a character-revealing moment for Voldemort, that).

Memorable lines

...he imagined how it must feel to have parents still living, but unable to recognize you. He often got sympathy from strangers for being an orphan, but as he listened to Neville's snores, he thought that Neville deserved it more than he did.

"Yeah...we've helped each other out, haven't we? We both got here. Let's just take it together."

Characters Introduced

GF 31 — The Third Task
Abbreviation GF31: The Third 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 and Sphinx in Triwizard Tournament.  

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Tags: competitions/competitors families fear practice riddles slander

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The Harry Potter Canon