Merpeople in the Triwizard Tournament

Harry must free Ron from the merpeople in the second Triwizard challenge

Extract from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling

The merpeople had greyish skins and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks. They leered at Harry as he swam past; one or two of them emerged from their caves to watch him better, their powerful, silver fishtails beating the water, spears clutched in their hands.

Harry sped on, staring around, and soon the dwellings became more numerous; there were gardens of weed around some of them, and he even saw a pet Grindylow tied to a stake outside one door. Merpeople were emerging on all sides now, watching him eagerly, pointing at his webbed hands and gills, talking behind their hands to each other. Harry sped around a corner, and a very strange sight met his eyes.

A whole crowd of merpeople were floating in front of the houses that lined what looked like a mer-version of a village square. A choir of merpeople were singing in the middle, calling the champions towards them, and behind them rose a crude sort of statue; a gigantic merperson hewn from a boulder. Four people were bound tightly to the tail of the stone merperson.

Ron was tied between Hermione and Cho Chang. There was also a girl who looked no older than eight, whose clouds of silvery hair made Harry feel sure that she was Fleur Delacour’s sister. All four of them appeared to be in a very deep sleep. Their heads were lolling onto their shoulders, and fine streams of bubbles kept issuing from their mouths.

Harry sped towards the hostages, half expecting the merpeople to lower their spears and charge at him, but they did nothing. The ropes of weed tying the hostages to the statue were thick, slimy and very strong. For a fleeting second he thought of the knife Sirius had brought him for Christmas – locked in his trunk in the castle a quarter of a mile away, no use to him whatsoever.

He looked around. Many of the merpeople surrounding them were carrying spears. He swam swiftly towards a seven-foot-tall merman with a long green beard and a choker of shark fangs, and tried to mime a request to borrow the spear. The merman laughed and shook his head.

‘We do not help,’ he said in a harsh, croaky voice.

‘Come ON!’ Harry said fiercely (but only bubbles issued from his mouth), and he tried to pull the spear away from the merman, but the merman yanked it back, still shaking his head and laughing.

Harry swirled around, staring about. Something sharp ... anything ...

There were rocks littering the lake bottom. He dived and snatched up a particularly jagged one, and returned to the statue. He began to hack at the ropes binding Ron, and after several minutes’ hard work, they broke apart. Ron floated, unconscious, a few inches above the lake bottom, drifting a little in the ebb of the water.

Harry looked around. There was no sign of any of the other champions. What were they playing at? Why didn’t they hurry up? He turned back to Hermione, raised the jagged rock and began to hack at her bindings, too –

At once, several pairs of strong grey hands seized him. Half-a-dozen mermen were pulling him away from Hermione, shaking their green-haired heads and laughing.

‘You take your own hostage,’ one of them said to him. ‘Leave the others ...’

‘No way!’ said Harry furiously – but only two large bubbles came out.

‘Your task is to retrieve your own friend ... leave the others ...’

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

Cho’s head was on Hermione’s shoulder; the small silver-haired girl was ghostly green and pale. Harry struggled to fight off the mermen, but they laughed harder than ever, holding him back. Harry looked wildly around. Where were the other champions? Would he have time to take Ron to the surface, and come back down for Hermione and the others? Would he be able to find them again? He looked down at his watch to see how much time was left – it had stopped working.

But then the merpeople around him started pointing excitedly over his head. Harry looked up and saw Cedric swimming towards them. There was an enormous bubble around his head, which made his features look oddly wide and stretched.

‘Got lost!’ he mouthed, looking panic-stricken. ‘Fleur and Krum’re coming now!’

Feeling enormously relieved, Harry watched Cedric pull a knife out of his pocket and cut Cho free. He pulled her upwards and out of sight.

Harry looked around, waiting. Where were Fleur and Krum? Time was getting short and, according to the song, the hostages would be lost after an hour ...

The merpeople started screeching excitedly. Those holding Harry loosened their grip, staring behind them. Harry turned, and saw something monstrous cutting through the water towards them: a human body in swimming trunks with the head of a shark ... it was Krum. He appeared to have Transfigured himself – but badly.

The shark-man swam straight to Hermione and began snapping and biting at her ropes: the trouble was that Krum’s new teeth were positioned very awkwardly for biting anything smaller than a dolphin, and Harry was quite sure that if Krum wasn’t careful, he was going to rip Hermione in half. Darting forwards, Harry hit Krum hard on the shoulder, and held up the jagged stone. Krum seized it, and began to cut Hermione free. Within seconds, he had done it; he grabbed Hermione around the waist and, without a backward glance, began to rise rapidly with her towards the surface.

Now what? Harry thought desperately. If he could be sure that Fleur was coming ... But still no sign. There was nothing for it ...

He snatched up the stone, which Krum had dropped, but the mermen now closed in around Ron and the little girl, shaking their heads at him.

Harry pulled out his wand. ‘Get out of the way!’

Only bubbles flew out of his mouth, but he had the distinct impression that the mermen had understood him, because they suddenly stopped laughing. Their yellowish eyes were fixed upon Harry’s wand, and they looked scared. There might be a lot more of them than there were of him, but Harry could tell, by the looks on their faces, that they knew no more magic than the giant squid did.

‘You’ve got until three!’ Harry shouted; a great stream of bubbles burst from him, but he held up three fingers to make sure they got the message. ‘One ...’ (he put down a finger) – ‘two ...’ (he put down a second) –

They scattered. Harry darted forwards and began to hack at the robes binding the small girl to the statue; and at last she was free. He seized the little girl around the waist, grabbed the neck of Ron’s robes, and kicked off from the bottom.

It was very slow work. He could no longer use his webbed hands to propel himself forwards; he worked his flippers furiously, but Ron and Fleur’s sister were like potato-filled sacks dragging him back down ... he fixed his eyes skywards, though he knew he must still be very deep, the water above him was so dark ...

Merpeople were rising with him. He could see them swirling around him with ease, watching him struggle through the water ... would they pull him back down to the depths when the time was up? Did they perhaps eat humans? Harry’s legs were seizing up with the effort to keep swimming; his shoulders were aching horribly with the effort of dragging Ron and the girl ...

He was drawing breath with extreme difficulty. He could feel pain on the sides of his neck again ... he was becoming very aware of how wet the water was in his mouth ... yet the darkness was definitely thinning now ... he could see daylight above him ...

He kicked hard with his flippers and discovered that they were nothing more than feet ... water was flooding through his mouth into his lungs ... he was starting to feel dizzy, but he knew light and air were only ten feet above him ... he had to get there ... he had to... 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 –

And then he felt his head break the surface of the lake; wonderful, cold, clear air was making his wet face sting; he gulped it down, feeling as though he had never breathed properly before, and, panting, pulled Ron and the little girl up with him. All around him, wild, green-haired heads were emerging out of the water with him, but they were smiling at him.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling

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