In The Goblet of Fire before going into the lake no one told Harry what to do. It actually was the whole point that the champions should have guessed themselves about saving someone they love. Bagman didn't specify anything for them before the beginning of the second task:

“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!”

Dobby told Harry that it was Ron they took for Harry to save. But Dobby was not official and it was kinda cheating. So how was this planned by the organizers? They surely knew that both Ron and Hermione were Harry's best friends and there was a possibility they knew about his feelings for Cho. Let's say he is coming down and sees all the "prisoners" - how on Earth he should know whom he should save, given he is pressed on time to do the calculations about other champions? What if he would have chosen Hermione and left? Or worse - Cho to impress her?

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    The whole thing is a test of the champions under pressure (literally and figuratively in this case). The time limit on both the challenge and his gills would force a choice. His choice and circumstances (connections to multiple hostages) would be evaluated - and it was.
    – Radhil
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:21
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    @Radhil But the test is not only about Harry. What if he came first and took the wrong hostage and spoiled the test for others? It would mess up all the set up and how would you judge other champions then? And why the whole set up should be more difficult for Harry then for other participants?
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:32
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    Then he spoiled it. shrug Are you expecting the test to be foolproof and locked up tight? Because the other rampant cheating, and the whole using the last test to kidnap Harry, kind of makes me wonder what you expect.
    – Radhil
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:39
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    @ShanaTar . This is just my theory but I will explain how this was planned by the organizers. Firstly, I think they pick partner from the Yule Ball that had been held in 25 December. But in case of Fleur, people highly think Roger was picked randomly so the judge had to choose another one (maybe). In case of Harry, I think Dumbledore must observe him from the start so he know miss Patil isn't someone that precious to Harry. So he must suggest pick either Ron or Hermione but Hermione is chosen => Ron is the only option. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 1:57
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    For the contestant pick wrong partner. I think the mermaid will said picked wrong and report back to the judge and it will be some minus point to the candidate. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 2:04

3 Answers 3


Well Harry didn't know who to save, as is evident by the fact that he tried to save Hermione right after cutting Ron free. But in doing so he was told by the mermen that Ron was in fact his hostage, and he must leave the others.

He turned back to Hermione, raised the jagged rock and began to hack at several of 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..'

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - The Second Task, p. 433

He would not have been able to save Hermione or Cho before freeing Ron because the merpeople would have stopped him as they did when he tried to save Hermione.

And it was only after threatening them with his wand when they finally stepped back to allow him to free Gabrielle.

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    Makes sense. But then how the merpeople knew who was who? They've never met the champions and even if were given the descriptions, some of the champions modified their appearances (which was expected I assume).
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:53
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    @ShanaTar after the task Dumbledore has a conversation with the leader of the merpeople in their native language so presumably he (or someone else) spoke with them before the task and explained which hostage was for each competitor. As to how they would know exactly which competitor was which - I would say that's good enough for a new question ;)
    – fez
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 16:59
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    He didn't try to save Hermione because he was confused about who he was supposed to be saving (Dobby had already told him). He tried to save Hermione because he took the song seriously and thought they'd suffer actual harm if not saved before the time limit of the task expired. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 20:10

He should have known by process of elimination, and because Ron had no relationship with any of the other Triwizard participants.

Each of the contenders received an egg containing instructions for the next task:

We've taken what you'll sorely miss, An hour long you'll have to look, And to recover what we took,

If Harry assumes that all the Triwizard champions have heard this message, then he can rightly assume that each prisoner of the merfolk corresponds to a Triwizard participant. Gabrielle is naturally Fleur's target. Cho is Cedric's girlfriend, not Harry's, so she is not for him to rescue. That leaves either Ron or Hermione as possibilities. Given that Cho was Cedric's date to the Yule Ball and was therefore his target, Harry could then assume that Hermione, having been Krum's date (and the apparent object of his affections,) was for Krum to rescue. Although both Hermione and Ron are Harry's best friends, it stood to reason that Ron- who does not correspond with any of the other contestants- was for Harry to rescue and Harry alone.

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    But that's a lot of reasoning to expect from a contestant under pressure, and what's more, it's not reasoning that is expected of any of the other contestants.
    – Martha
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 18:47
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    @Martha The Triwizard tournament was not a fair one, given that Maxime and Karkaroff were showing favoritism toward their own champions. (And personally helped them.) As judges for the competition, perhaps they were able to make things harder for the “extra” Hogwarts champion. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 19:23
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    Never thought about the connection between the Yule Ball and the hostages. I mean, Ron was pretty much Harry’s date to the prom too, at least going by amount of time spent together. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 11:51
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    @BlackThorn I don’t think it is, no. I’ve read the books at least seven or eight times, and this connection never occurred to me at all – I’ve always just assumed it was regular old-fashioned attentiveness on Dumbledore’s part (doesn’t miss a trick, that man). I mean, it’s hardly a secret that Ron and Harry are best friends, nor that Cho is Cedric’s girlfriend – Krum and Hermione is the only relationship that wasn’t obvious outside of the ball. Fleur was making out with Roger Davies at the ball, too, but her hostage was her sister, so the ball can’t have been decisive in itself. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 17:49
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    @Martha. Isn't the whole point of being a champion that you can function better than average under pressure? Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 21:45

Harry knew he was supposed to save Ron because throughout the books, he hinted many times that he preferred Ron as a friend over Hermione. For example, in GoF:

"Harry liked Hermione very much, but she just wasn't the same as Ron. There was much less laughter and a lot more hanging around in the library when Hermione was your best friend." -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 19: The Hungarian Horntail

To sum this up, in terms of friends, Harry chose Ron over Hermione. He also knew that Viktor had taken Hermione to the Yule Ball.

"His eyes fell instead on the girl next to Krum... It was Hermione." -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 23: The Yule Ball

And Harry knew that Cedric took Cho to the Yule Ball(giving that he had also asked Cho out).

"'Oh—Cedric,' she said. 'Cedric Diggory.'" -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 22: The Unexpected Task

And Harry did not know Gabrielle before the task.

"Ron was tied between Hermione and Cho Chang. There was also a girl who looked no older than eight..." Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 26: The Second Task

Every other hostage was narrated by name except for Gabrielle.

So, Harry knew to choose Ron, and he immediately chose Ron, based on who the contestants are and the connections of them to the other Triwizard champions.

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    Harry wasn't the one choosing his prisoner, someone chose Ron over Hermione for him. And in any case the song said that he should take back from merpeople something he should "sorely miss". Doesn't matter whom he presumably loved more, he would still "sorely miss" both of them (and maybe Cho as well), so they all match. As for the rest of your answer, as relevant comment by Martha under another answer said: why would additional reasoning would be expected from Harry while other champions didn't have such complications?
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 6:43
  • @ShanaTar by "knew to choose Ron", the answerer surely means as the person whose binds to cut first, not as the person who should be taken from him.
    – TylerH
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 15:30

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