During the second task for the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Fleur was unable to continue and had to pull out. Harry was able to get second place because he saved Fleur's sister Gabrielle along with Ron.

But was Harry's concern about Gabrielle misplaced? What would have happened if the time limit had been exceeded and she was still under water? If Gabrielle's life was in danger because of the exceeded time limit, what made Harry think the schools couldn't or wouldn't save her?

  • 23
    People had apparently died in the TWT, what makes you think Harry wouldn't have thought that Gabrielle would die?
    – Möoz
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 3:06
  • 2
    @Mooz i thought that comment was referring to the competitors who enter into the Tournament knowing the risks and possible death
    – Memor-X
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 3:11
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    @Memor-X I think that was referring to the need for practicing safe methods. After all, even athletes irl get hurt all the time due to idiocy or not practicing proper safety recommendations. I believe the comment was more about people being reckless and getting hurt. After all, considering it's all controlled by the school and it's a sporting event, why wouldn't the professors pull someone from the competition or shut it down the instant someone got gravely injured to the point of near-death? No need for people to die for the sheer purpose of sports. They aren't savages.
    – user64742
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 5:14
  • I am a bit late to the party, but i think the 'time limit' aspect of the question is a bit misleading. I think Harry trusted enough Dumbledore and didn't think he ordered the merepeople to slaughter their hostages when the time was up and if someone tries to answer the question keeping the time limit aspect in mind then the answer would be 'yes, it was misplaced' while if worded a bit differently, emphasising Harry's suspicion that someone wants him dead and is tampering with the challenges and ppls lives are in danger, the answer may be different to 'no, it wasn't misplaced'.
    – user68762
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


Well we know for a certainty that it was misplaced.

When Ron and Harry surface with Gabrielle we have this:

'Harry, you prat,' said Ron, 'you didn't take that song thing seriously, did you? Dumbledore wouldn't have let any of us drown!'

'But the song said -'

'Only to make sure you got back inside the time limit!' said Ron. 'I hope you didn't waste time down there acting the hero!'

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - pp.436-7 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 26, The Second Task

Later this is categorically confirmed:

At first, he gave what seemed to be the truth; it tallied with Hermione's story, anyway - Dumbledore had put all the hostages into a bewitched sleep in Professor McGonagall's office, first assuring them that they would be quite safe, and would awake when they were back above the water.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - p.442 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 27, Padfoot Returns

And, in actual fact, the time limit was exceeded and Gabrielle was still under water:

'Mr Harry Potter used Gillyweed to great effect,' Bagman continued. 'He returned last, and well outside the time limit of an hour. However, the Merchiftainess informs us that Mr Potter was first to reach the hostages, and that the delay in his return was due to his determination to return all hostages to safety, not merely his own.'

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - p.440 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 26, The Second Task

So why did he do it?

Harry actually does feel quite embarrassed about this. But it is understandable.

Harry felt both stupid and annoyed. It was all very well for Ron; he'd been asleep, he hadn't felt how eerie it was down in the lake, surrounded by spear-carrying merpeople who'd looked more than capable of murder.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - p.437 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 26, The Second Task

Another reason is, of course, hinted at by Hermione in another context:

'You ... this isn't a criticism, Harry! But you do ... sort of ... I mean - don't you think you've got a bit of a - a - saving-people thing?' she said.

He glared at her.

'And what's that supposed to mean, a "saving-people thing"?'

'Well ... you ...' she looked more apprehensive than ever. 'I mean ... last year, for instance ... in the lake ... during the Tournament ... you shouldn't have ... I mean, you didn't need to save that little Delacour girl ... you got a bit ... carried away ...'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.646 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 32, Out of the Fire

We actually return to this episode a few times in the series, as we've just seen. Another example is:

''Arry, you saved my sister's life, I do not forget.'

This was not, strictly speaking, true, but Harry decided against reminding her that Gabrielle had never been in real danger.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - p.412 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 25, Shell Cottage

  • 8
    To be fair, we know lots of characters think his concern was misplaced, including himself after the fact. Given the sheer number of dangerous and outright deadly scenarios the kids were exposed to throughout the series, though, (generally through the negligence or malice of adults, even moreso than their own actions) it would not be at all surprising that Harry should react as if the danger was real, and it would also not be surprising if there was actually some overlooked possibility of danger. Responsible, those adults were not.
    – Megha
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 1:19
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    @Megha I think, given all that Harry knew about the Tournament, the song, the atmosphere under there, Dobby's dire warnings, and everything else, Harry's response was totally understandable. And clearly most of the Triwizard judges felt that he had displayed great moral fibre, rather than idiocy and credulity. But, by the terms of the question, his concerns were completely misplaced, there was no danger of anyone drowning and, in the cold light of day, it was arguably pretty silly to think that Albus Dumbledore would have allowed a little girl to die because Fleur got caught by Grindylows
    – Au101
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 1:25
  • @Au101 I agree with you that it was misplaced but if it was misplaced, surely the judges wouldn't have rewarded him for it. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:29
  • I have to point out that most of these points would also be consistent with a genuine risk if Dumbledore sometimes lied and was also quite irresponsible when it came to student safety, and iirc there's a whole series of web cartoons highlighting examples of that ;)
    – tardigrade
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 12:36

While I am sure that the organizers of the challenge (Dumbledore and the representatives of the ministry) did everything to ensure the safety of the participants, and they never intended to cause any harm to them, regardless if the champions managed to rescue them or not, (and Au101 proves it brilliantly in his answer) I still think that

Harry was certainly justified to think they were in danger.

After all, Harry was present when fake Moody said after Harry was chosen by the goblet:

“Maybe someone’s hoping Potter is going to die for it,” said Moody, with the merest trace of a growl.


“Because they hoodwinked a very powerful magical object!” said Moody. “It would have needed an exceptionally strong Confundus Charm to bamboozle that goblet into forgetting that only three schools compete in the tournament…
-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - The Four Champions

That is, Harry entered the tournament involuntarily, suspecting that he is being targeted by a dark wizard who is hiding at Hogwarts, someone powerful enough to tamper with magical objects.

Harry also knows that in the past the Triwizard Tournament was discontinued due to an impressive death toll:

"...champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities—until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued.
-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - The Triwizard Tournament

And after Harry had encountered a Hungarian Horntail in his first challenge he knew from personal experience that the challenges are no joke, they take place in a dangerous environment, where the lives of the participants may be in danger, even with all the safety precautions.

Add to this the presence of a powerful dark wizard, probably a follower of Voldemort or maybe even Voldemort himself, and Harry's concern becomes understandable and it's clear why he would want the unconscious hostages of the Merpeople, who cannot defend themselves - a little girl, and his friend Hermione - out of the water and in safety as soon as possible, even if they're not his responsibility.

After watching the first task even Ron arrived at the conclusion that someone is targeting Harry:

“Harry,” he said, very seriously, “whoever put your name in that goblet-I—I reckon they’re trying to do you in!” “Caught on, have you?” said Harry coldly.
-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - The First Task

And after all, when Voldemort targeted Harry the first time, two people died as collateral damage.

TL;DR: Harry had a very good reason to suspect that the lives of the participants were in danger and act accordingly.

  • 4
    Adding my two cents: the incident with the Horntail would reasonably cast doubts on the organizers' ability to effectively enact safety measures. After all, if they can't reliably restrain a dragon they'd been working with for some time, who's to say the spell keeping the hostages safe won't similarly malfunction?
    – Morgen
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 15:36
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    Most of this answer demonstrates that Harry was in danger during the Tournament. Harry himself had no grounds for thinking that bystanders would be harmed as collateral damage. Task one was dangerous, but only for the contestants. In task two Harry clearly wasn't worried about dark wizards since he hung around the Merpeople for so long acting the hero. He merely believed the captives were in danger because he wasn't thinking straight. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 18:59
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    @TheDarkLord nice try, Voldemort, but Harry had every reason to suspect you and your death eaters don't care about hurting other people when trying to take him out. James and Lily potter are the proof of that and eleven-year old Ginny Weasley who almost died. And the first challenge had no hostages to be freed from the dragons, so whats your point? As about 'acting the hero' - what you mean?
    – user68762
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 19:59
  • If Harry was concerned about dark wizards attacking him during the task then his first impulse would be to get out of that situation asap. Instead he stuck around "acting the hero", trying to 'save' everybody. That may be an understandable human response but it wasn't rational. To think that the hostages were in true danger was to assume that the Tournament organisers were nonchalant about the safety of bystanders. Thinking rationally, it's apparent that all of the tasks are designed to be dangerous, but only for the participants. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:56

Caring about other human beings is never misplaced in my opinion, especially in Hogwarts. We have to face the truth: since the first year, Harry had to fight Voldemort, some Acromantulas, a giant snake and definitely too many Dementors in a school that should have been the safest place for children, but was not because the adults of the wizarding world are quite irresponsible.

So, yes, I don't think Dumbledore would have let a little girl drown for the sheer purpose of sport, but the time was clearly exceeded when Harry came back from the lake, and no one went into the water to check if the situation was OK, and no one had the idea to surface the prisoners automatically after time was up. So what happens if Harry doesn't come back until the next day, do the prisoners stay in the lake no matter what?

And please, Fleur had to give up and was terribly afraid of something happening to her little sister, why didn't Dumbledore tell her there was no danger? That's cruel...

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