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  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  ( Harry Potter - 4 )

  J. K. Rowling

  In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling offers up equal parts danger and delight—and any number of dragons, house-elves, and death-defying challenges. Now 14, her orphan hero has only two more weeks with his Muggle relatives before returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yet one night a vision harrowing enough to make his lightning-bolt-shaped scar burn has Harry on edge and contacting his godfather-in-hiding, Sirius Black. Happily, the prospect of attending the season’s premier sporting event, the Quidditch World Cup, is enough to make Harry momentarily forget that Lord Voldemort and his sinister familiars—the Death Eaters—are out for murder.

  Readers, we will cast a giant invisibility cloak over any more plot and reveal only that You-Know-Who is very much after Harry and that this year there will be no Quidditch matches between Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Instead, Hogwarts will vie with two other magicians’ schools, the stylish Beauxbatons and the icy Durmstrang, in a Triwizard Tournament. Those chosen to compete will undergo three supreme tests. Could Harry be one of the lucky contenders?

  But Quidditch buffs need not go into mourning: we get our share of this great game at the World Cup. Attempting to go incognito as Muggles, 100,000 witches and wizards converge on a “nice deserted moor.” As ever, Rowling magicks up the details that make her world so vivid, and so comic. Several spectators’ tents, for instance, are entirely unquotidian. One is a minipalace, complete with live peacocks; another has three floors and multiple turrets. And the sports paraphernalia on offer includes rosettes “squealing the names of the players” as well as “tiny models of Firebolts that really flew, and collectible figures of famous players, which strolled across the palm of your hand, preening themselves.” Needless to say, the two teams are decidedly different, down to their mascots. Bulgaria is supported by the beautiful veela, who instantly enchant everyone—including Ireland’s supporters—over to their side. Until, that is, thousands of tiny cheerleaders engage in some pyrotechnics of their own: “The leprechauns had risen into the air again, and this time, they formed a giant hand, which was making a very rude sign indeed at the veela across the field.”

  Long before her fourth installment appeared, Rowling warned that it would be darker, and it’s true that every exhilaration is equaled by a moment that has us fearing for Harry’s life, the book’s emotions running as deep as its dangers. Along the way, though, she conjures up such new characters as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, a Dark Wizard catcher who may or may not be getting paranoid in his old age, and Rita Skeeter, who beetles around Hogwarts in search of stories. (This Daily Prophet scoop artist has a Quick-Quotes Quill that turns even the most innocent assertion into tabloid innuendo.) And at her bedazzling close, Rowling leaves several plot strands open, awaiting book 5. This fan is ready to wager that the author herself is part veela—her pen her wand, her commitment to her world complete.

  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  To Peter Rowling,

  in memory of Mr. Ridley

  and to Susan Sladden,

  who helped Harry

  out of his cupboard.

  1. THE RIDDLE HOUSE

  The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there. It stood on a hill overlooking the village, some of its windows boarded, tiles missing from its roof, and ivy spreading unchecked over its face. Once a fine looking manor, and easily the largest and grandest building for miles around, the Riddle House was now damp, derelict, and unoccupied.

  The Little Hangletons all agreed that the old house was “creepy.” Half a century ago, something strange and horrible had happened there, something that the older inhabitants of the village still liked to discuss when topics for gossip were scarce. The story had been picked over so many times, and had been embroidered in so many places, that nobody was quite sure what the truth was anymore. Every version of the tale, however, started in the same place: Fifty years before, at daybreak on a fine summer’s morning when the Riddle House had still been well kept and impressive, a maid had entered the drawing room to find all three Riddles dead.

  The maid had run screaming down the hill into the village and roused as many people as she could.

  “Lying there with their eyes wide open! Cold as ice! Still in their dinner things!”

  The police were summoned, and the whole of Little Hangleton had seethed with shocked curiosity and ill disguised excitement. Nobody wasted their breath pretending to feel very sad about the Riddles, for they had been most unpopular. Elderly Mr. and Mrs. Riddle had been rich, snobbish, and rude, and their grown up son, Tom, had been, if anything, worse. All the villagers cared about was the identity of their murderer—for plainly, three apparently healthy people did not all drop dead of natural causes on the same night.

  The Hanged Man, the village pub, did a roaring trade that night; the whole village seemed to have turned out to discuss the murders. They were rewarded for leaving their firesides when the Riddles’ cook arrived dramatically in their midst and announced to the suddenly silent pub that a man called Frank Bryce had just been arrested.

  “Frank!” cried several people. “Never!”

  Frank Bryce was the Riddles’ gardener. He lived alone in a run down cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House. Frank had come back from the war with a very stiff leg and a great dislike of crowds and loud noises, and had been working for the Riddles ever since.

  There was a rush to buy the cook drinks and hear more details.

  “Always thought he was odd,” she told the eagerly listening villagers, after her fourth sherry. “Unfriendly, like. I’m sure if I’ve offered him a cuppa once, I’ve offered it a hundred times. Never wanted to mix, he didn’t.”

  “Ah, now,” said a woman at the bar, “he had a hard war, Frank. He likes the quiet life. That’s no reason to—”

  “Who else had a key to the back door, then?” barked the cook. “There’s been a spare key hanging in the gardener’s cottage far back as I can remember! Nobody forced the door last night! No broken windows! All Frank had to do was creep up to the big house while we was all sleeping…”

  The villagers exchanged dark looks.

  “I always thought that he had a nasty look about him, right enough,” grunted a man at the bar.

  “War turned him funny, if you ask me,” said the landlord.

  “Told you I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of Frank, didn’t I, Dot?” said an excited woman in the corner.

  “Horrible temper,” said Dot, nodding fervently. “I remember, when he was a kid…”

  By the following morning, hardly anyone in Little Hangleton doubted that Frank Bryce had killed the Riddles.

  But over in the neighboring town of Great Hangleton, in the dark and dingy police station, Frank was stubbornly repeating, again and again, that he was innocent, and that the only person he had seen near the house on the day of the Riddles’ deaths had been a teenage boy, a stranger, dark haired and pale. Nobody else in the village had seen any such boy, and the police were quite sure Frank had invented him.

  Then, just when things were looking very serious for Frank, the report on the Riddles’ bodies came back and changed everything.

  The police had never read an odder report. A team of doctors had examined the bodies and had concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangles, suffocated, or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to