For each of the four champions, the merpeople had "taken what you'll sorely miss". So they took Ron, Harry's best mate; Hermione, Krum's crush; Cho, Cedric's girlfriend; and Gabrielle, Fleur's little sister.

To us as readers it's pretty clear why these specific people were chosen to be hostages. But how did the organizers of the Tournament know which one person each champion cared deeply about and would do anything to save? As far as the organizers were concerned, they could have equally well chosen Hermione to be Harry's hostage, since she, too, is his best friend. Or even any member of the Weasley family since Harry considers them to be family and would go to any lengths to save them. (Case in point: Harry risks his life in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets just because of a small hope that Ginny is still alive and can be saved. And she isn't even his crush or girlfriend then. She's just Ron's little sister.) For Krum, they could have easily assumed that he would care most for someone in his family, or some friend back in Bulgaria.

How did the organizers know to choose Ron and not Hermione for Harry, and Hermione and no one else for Krum? Did they perhaps bewitch the champions into uttering the name of the person who mattered to each of them the most? Or perhaps they used Veritaserum? Any speculations?

  • 9
    I strongly suspect they just asked around. Teachers aren't entirely thick when it comes to spotting young love, best friends, etc
    – Valorum
    Sep 13 '18 at 6:20
  • @Valorum, perhaps, but "magic" is also a contender. (I don't think they'd need to bewitch the champions, though, and certainly Veritaserum would be out of the question. Seems more reminiscent of the Mirror of Erised, perhaps there's a long-distance version of the same spell!) Sep 13 '18 at 9:01
  • 2
    Keen observation and asking about is a less intrusive method, than magic. Also, magic could help with observation - ask Rita Skeeter!
    – TimSparrow
    Sep 13 '18 at 10:43
  • @Valorum - it's terrifying to find out how much teachers say and know about the kids! (My wife taught for 20 years)
    – FreeMan
    Sep 13 '18 at 15:18

It's certainly plausible that the students were observed by the headteachers (and the Ministry official Ludo Bagman) at the Yule Ball. Harry spent the majority of his time in the company of Ron Weasley, Victor and Hermione came together and Cho and Cedric came together, making them obvious targets.

‘How’s it going?’ Harry asked Ron, sitting down and opening a bottle of Butterbeer.
Ron didn’t answer. He was glaring at Hermione and Krum, who were dancing nearby. Padma was sitting with her arms and legs crossed, one foot jiggling in time to the music. Every now and then she threw a disgruntled look at Ron, who was completely ignoring her. Parvati sat down on Harry’s other side, crossed her arms and legs too, and within minutes, was asked to dance by a boy from Beauxbatons.

What intrigues me is that Fleur came with Roger Davies and yet they chose her sister. Presumably this was at the suggestion of Madame Maxine who'd know that Fleur was unlikely to highly value a boy she'd only recently met over her own sister.

  • the points that you make are valid but given that these people have magic at their disposal, might they not have used that to get infallible knowledge on whom to pick as hostages? Sep 13 '18 at 16:30
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    @BertramWooster - Oh sure, they could have cast the mysterious and rarely used Best-person-to-use-as-a-hostage spell ("Hostagiopickus") or they could just use their eyes. I vote eyes.
    – Valorum
    Sep 13 '18 at 16:33
  • The point that you made about Fleur's hostage not being Davies - might it not be possible that Karkaroff would recommend someone else as a hostage for Krum? Highly possible, I think, since Karkaroff openly disapproved of Krum's interest in Hermione, and he would have known that choosing Hermione as hostage would only boost this relationship forward. Sep 13 '18 at 16:34
  • @BertramWooster - Sure, but who else are they going to pick for him?
    – Valorum
    Sep 13 '18 at 16:36
  • 2
    didn't we first meet Gabrielle as a hostage in the second task? Sep 13 '18 at 16:40

Here's what the song says will be taken (my emphasis):

“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.”

All this means is that the thing taken will be something that the champion will sorely miss. This is open to many possibilities. It doesn't even say that the thing will be a person. In fact, Harry seems to have thought it would be an object:

But Harry wasn’t listening; he was thinking about the merpeople’s song again. “We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss.” That sounded as though they were going to steal something of his, something he had to get back. What were they going to take?

And even when Ron and Hermione were mysteriously called away to McGonagall's office and never came back, he didn't suspect that they were taken for the second task.

Additionally, when Bagman tells the crowd what the Second Task consists of, he simply says that the champions have to recover what has been taken from them:

“Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then. One ... two ... three!”

When Dobby finds Harry he tells him what they've taken:

“Dobby knows, sir! Harry Potter has to go into the lake and find his Wheezy — ”

“Find my what?”

“ — and take his Wheezy back from the merpeople!”

“What’s a Wheezy?”

“Your Wheezy, sir, your Wheezy — Wheezy who is giving Dobby his sweater!”

Dobby plucked at the shrunken maroon sweater he was now wearing over his shorts.

“What?” Harry gasped. “They’ve got ... they’ve got Ron?”

“The thing Harry Potter will miss most, sir!” squeaked Dobby. “ ‘But past an hour — ’ ”

Dobby seems to have decided that the song was referring to what the champion would miss most. However, we have no reason to grant credence to Dobby's interpretation (and perhaps he was just stating the fact that indeed Ron was what Harry would miss most).

This being the case, it does not seem like there was any big need to figure out what to take. They could've taken anything that the champions would want back. Obviously, the more dear the object, the more intense the task would be, but if they could find something easily they might not even bother to expend more effort to find something better.

That Harry's, Cedric's, and Krum's loves were so openly known would be a lucky bonus for the tournament organizers. That they brought in Gabrielle for Fleur probably means that they couldn't easily find anything/anyone at Hogwarts to take from her1, or that Gabrielle was very easily accessible. (Alternatively, once they had taken a person for all the other champions they wanted to keep it consistent and take a person for Fleur too.)

In short, there may not have been any serious methodology by which the hostages were chosen, and the official clue from the egg and Bagman's announcement do not indicate that there should have been.

1. Even though Fleur had gone out with Roger Davies, it is possible that it wasn't very serious, or that they had already broken up. We know that by the Third Task Fleur was already eyeing Bill:

Fleur Delacour, Harry noticed, was eyeing Bill with great interest over her mother’s shoulder. Harry could tell she had no objection whatsoever to long hair or earrings with fangs on them.

And by Order of the Phoenix Davies already had a new girlfriend:

Roger Davies, the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain, was sitting about a foot and a half away with a pretty blonde girl. They were holding hands.

  • From another answer, it appears that (in the movie version) Gabrielle was with the Beauxbatons contingent when they arrived. Do we know for sure whether or not she was already at Hogwarts in the books? It's possible that they restricted themselves to people who were present (meaning grabbing a relative of Krum's from back in Bulgaria would be problematic).
    – RDFozz
    Sep 13 '18 at 17:41
  • It's not mentioned in the books. It would seem strange for her to have come with the students in the beginning because she was probably too young to actually be a student. On the other hand, Fleur does not seem surprised that Gabrielle is there, so perhaps she was there from before.
    – Alex
    Sep 13 '18 at 17:45

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