In Chapter 21, we find an old friend at Hogwarts. Let’s go!
I’m so glad the boys are friends again! It makes my heart happy! Ron is doing everything he can to be very positive and upbeat as though he is making up for lost time. As they are up in the owlery borrowing Pig to send a message to Sirius, Ron even says that he thinks Harry can win the whole tournament now, especially since he aced the First Task. Hermione doesn’t want to be so blasé about it.
“Harry’s got a long way to go before he finishes this tournament,” she said seriously. “If that was the first task, I hate to think what’s coming next.”
She right, you know. The First Task expected teenagers to fight a dragon. Harry did well, but they don’t need to take that for granted either.
Back up in the common room, there is a full blown party going on to celebrate Harry’s performance in the First Task. Lee Jordan, the twins’ friend, tells Harry to open the golden egg to see what’s inside. Everyone wants to see what the clue to the Second Task might be, but when Harry opens it, it’s not exactly easy to decipher.
It was hollow and completely empty — but the moment Harry opened it, the most horrible noise, a loud and screechy wailing, filled the room.
No one seems to know what this noise is, although there are a few ideas. Seamus thinks it’s a banshee. Neville thinks it’s someone getting tortured with the Cruciatus Curse. None of these options sound particularly appealing.
Hermione takes this chance to ask Fred and George if they had gotten the food for the party from the Hogwarts kitchens, and how exactly to get in there. Fred and George are not stupid — they know about S.P.E.W. and know she wants to go to the house-elves themselves. No one is taking Hermione seriously about this. The twins are worried that if she irritates the elves, they might not be as apt to give anyone free food.
As the year turns to winter, Hagrid’s skrewts are not doing so well. They only have ten left because they enjoy killing each other. After a particularly difficult class, who should show up, but Rita Skeeter. She is very interested in these creatures, as she had never heard of them before, and starts asking Hagrid questions. DON’T TALK TO HER, HAGRID! NOTHING GOOD WILL COME OF IT!
In Divination class, Harry and Ron are still doing well by predicting their grisly deaths, although they can’t stop laughing during lectures, which irritates Professor Trelawney.
“I would think,” she said, in a mystical whisper that did not conceal her obvious annoyance, “that some of us” — she stared very meaningfully at Harry — “might be a little less frivolous had they seen what I have seen during my crystal gazing last night. As I sat here, absorbed in my needlework, the urge to consult the orb overpowered me. I arose, I settled myself before it, and I gazed into its crystalline depths . . . and what do you think I saw gazing back at me?”
“An ugly old bat in outsize specs?” Ron muttered under his breath.
Harry fought hard to keep his face straight.
“Death, my dears.”
Yeah, like Harry says, this may have been impressive if she hadn’t done it so many times before hand. But the boys have other things to worry about — Hermione has gone missing. They check the library, but only see Viktor Krum skulking around there with a gaggle of girls following. They run into her on their way back to the common room and she is very excited about something. They run downstairs to an area they hadn’t been before. Harry realizes that it bears a striking resemblance to the place where Fred and George had mentioned in their description of the entrance to the kitchens.
Ron doesn’t want to go in there and bother them, but Hermione says that this is not about S.P.E.W. As they enter the kitchen, Harry is bowled over by a familiar shape. It’s Dobby! Dobby is working at Hogwarts now! He’s still a free elf, as evidenced by his weird assortment of clothing, including a tea cozy hat, a pair of children’s soccer shorts, a tie, and mismatched socks. Dobby tells Harry that Winky is also at Hogwarts, although Winky is not doing so well. They find her seated by the fireplace, but when they try to talk to her . . .
Winky’s lip quivered. Then she burst into tears, which spilled out of her great brown eyes and splashed down her front, just as they had done at the Quidditch World Cup.
According to Dobby, they have been at Hogwarts for a week. He hadn’t been able to find work until now because, as a free elf, he expects to be paid. The other elves in the kitchen look offended by this whole concept. When Dobby found out that Winky had also been freed, he got the idea to try Hogwarts, and Dumbledore agreed to hire them. Dobby is getting paid, but Winky refused it. She is ashamed of being turned away by her master and is still completely loyal to Mr. Crouch, despite his treatment of her.
According to Dobby, it is part of their enslavement that house-elves can’t speak badly about their masters, although Dumbledore does not make them adhere to this rule. Dobby, however, would never say a bad word about Dumbledore — he’s far too grateful to be there. Harry asks Dobby if he can speak badly of the Malfoys now, which technically he could. He tells Harry that they were “bad Dark wizards,” but immediately has to punish himself for doing it. I guess old habits are really hard to break.
Winky is still worried about how Mr. Crouch is getting along with out her. Her entire family has been watching over the Crouches for generations and she feels nothing but shame for being freed from them. Hermione tells her that Mr. Crouch is fine, that he and Mr. Bagman have been at Hogwarts, but Winky says that her master doesn’t like Mr. Bagman, that he’s a “very bad wizard.” Winky won’t elaborate on that though because she is still determined to keep Mr. Crouch’s secrets.
As they leave, Hermione is happy about the turn of events. She hopes that the other elves will see how happy Dobby is to be free (and how happy Winky will hopefully be, once the shock has worn off) and want to follow in his footsteps. They do wonder what Mr. Crouch had said about Bagman to make Winky think he’s such a bad wizard but can’t come up with anything other than he’s not a very good Ministry employee, since he goofs off so much. That’s not really much to go on at all.
See you next time for Chapter 22!