Bathtime riddles

Moaning Myrtle appears at a rather inconvenient time for Harry

Extract from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling

Harry stretched out his arms, lifted the egg in his wet hands and opened it. The wailing, screeching sound filled the bathroom, echoing and reverberating off the marble walls, but it sounded just as incomprehensible as ever, if not more so with all the echoes. He snapped it shut again, worried that the sound would attract Filch, wondering whether that hadn’t been Cedric’s plan – and then, making him jump so badly that he dropped the egg, which clattered away across the bathroom floor, someone spoke.

‘I’d try putting it in the water, if I were you.’

Harry had swallowed a considerable amount of bubbles in shock. He stood up, spluttering, and saw the ghost of a very glum-looking girl sitting cross-legged on top of one of the taps. It was Moaning Myrtle, who was usually to be heard sobbing in the S-bend of a toilet three floors below.

‘Myrtle!’ Harry said in outrage. ‘I’m – I’m not wearing anything!’

The foam was so dense that this hardly mattered, but he had a nasty feeling that Myrtle had been spying on him from out of one of the taps ever since he had arrived.

‘I closed my eyes when you got in,’ she said, blinking at him through her thick spectacles. ‘You haven’t been to see me for ages.’

‘Yeah ... well ...’ said Harry, bending his knees slightly, just to make absolutely sure Myrtle couldn’t see anything but his head, ‘I’m not supposed to come into your bathroom, am I? It’s a girls’ one.’

‘You didn’t used to care,’ said Myrtle miserably. ‘You used to be in there all the time.’

This was true, though only because Harry, Ron and Hermione had found Myrtle’s out-of-order toilets a convenient place to brew Polyjuice Potion in secret – a forbidden potion which had turned Harry and Ron into living replicas of Crabbe and Goyle for an hour, so that they could sneak into the Slytherin common room.

‘I got told off for going in there,’ said Harry, which was half- true; Percy had once caught him coming out of Myrtle’s bath- room. ‘I thought I’d better not come back after that.’

‘Oh ... I see ...’ said Myrtle, picking at a spot on her chin in a morose sort of way. ‘Well ... anyway ... I’d try the egg in the water. That’s what Cedric Diggory did.’

‘Have you been spying on him, too?’ said Harry indignantly. ‘What d’you do, sneak up here in the evenings to watch the Prefects take baths?’

‘Sometimes,’ said Myrtle, rather slyly, ‘but I’ve never come out to speak to anyone before.’

‘I’m honoured,’ said Harry darkly. ‘You keep your eyes shut!’

He made sure Myrtle had her glasses well covered before hoisting himself out of the bath, wrapping the towel firmly around himself and going to get the egg.

Once he was back in the water, Myrtle peered through her fingers and said, ‘Go on, then ... open it under the water!’

Harry lowered the egg beneath the foamy surface, and opened it ... and, this time, it did not wail. A gurgling song was coming out of it, a song whose words he couldn’t distinguish through the water.

‘You need to put your head under, too,’ said Myrtle, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying bossing him around. ‘Go on!’

Harry took a great breath, and slid under the surface – and now, sitting on the marble bottom of the bubble-filled bath, he heard a chorus of eerie voices singing to him from the open egg in his hands:

‘Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you’re searching, ponder this:

We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss,

An hour long you’ll have to look,

And to recover what we took,

But past an hour – the prospect’s black

Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.’

Harry let himself float back upwards and broke the bubbly surface, shaking his hair out of his eyes.

‘Hear it?’ said Myrtle.

‘Yeah ... “Come seek us where our voices sound ...” and if I need persuading ... hang on, I need to listen again ...’ He sank back beneath the water.

It took three more underwater renditions of the egg’s song before Harry had it memorised; then he trod water for a while, thinking hard, while Myrtle sat and watched him.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By J.K. Rowling