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In the aftermath of the second task, Ron becomes a hero, and Harry receives an invitation to meet Sirius in Hogsmeade the coming weekend. In Potions class, the Slytherins are giggling over Rita Skeeter's "Witch Weekly" article, which says that Hermione is toying with the famous hearts of both Harry Potter and Viktor Krum. While Hermione laughs, she also wonders how Rita could have gotten some of the details she mentioned, including Krum's invitation to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer. Snape separates the three friends as punishment for speaking in class, and from Harry's new seat at the front of the room, he overhears a dialogue between Snape and Karkaroff, who interrupts the class. Karkaroff seems frightened at the appearance of something on his upper arm-but Snape shoos Harry away before he can hear more.
At Hogsmeade, Sirius meets them disguised as Padfoot, his animagus dog form. They trot off to a nearby cave where Sirius has been hiding and living off rats. After a debate as to whether Winky or Bagman was more likely to have conjured the Dark Mark at the World Cup, Sirius confides in the students that Mr. Crouch was ruthless in his crusade against Voldemort, and he was chosen as the next Minister of Magic as a result. However, his own son was convicted as a Death-Eater, given a short trial, and imprisoned in Azkaban, where he soon died. Sirius adds that Mr. Crouch lost everything then, and perhaps hoped now that if he caught another Dark wizard, he could set his career back on track. Sirius seems puzzled about the fact that Mr. Crouch had his elf save him a seat at the World Cup but never showed up to take it. Sirius finally suggests that Ron write to Percy to try to find out more information about his boss. The students part ways with him.
The following morning, Harry, Ron, and Hermione send an inquiring owl message to Percy, and afterwards visit the kitchens to give Dobby several new pairs of socks as thanks for the gillyweed. Dobby is ecstatic, and all of the house-elves are delighted to see and serve them, except for Winky, who is sitting in a corner, filthy, miserable, and drunk from Butterbeer. In a few garbled sentences, she says that her master needs her to help protect his deepest secret. The other elves are embarrassed about Winky's behavior. Hermione is upset and wants Winky's misery to me ameliorated, not ignored. Before they leave, they procure from the elves some food to send to Sirius.
Hermione is receiving hate letters for supposedly breaking Harry's heart, and Hagrid is busy teaching the students how to use nifflers, animals that dig for gold. Ron collects the most Leprechaun gold, and upon realizing that it disappears, asks why Harry didn't mention that Ron owed him for the Omnioculars. Ron is feeling embarrassed about being poor, and Hermione is upset about being persecuted for what Rita wrote. They discuss how she could have overheard the conversations she writes, and Harry suggests that she has somebody bugged. This is impossible within Hogwarts, so Hermione continues to brainstorm.
One evening after Easter, the champions are called down to the fields to hear about their next task, which will be a maze and obstacle course with the Triwizard Cup at the center. On the way back toward the castle, Krum pulls Harry aside into the Forbidden Forest and asks if he and Hermione are romantically involved. Harry tells they aren't, and Krum seems relieved. At that moment, a shabby, ill-looking Mr. Crouch appears in the forest, talking to himself, to trees, and to Harry with an insane sort of desperation, saying in garbled phrases that Bertha Jorkins was his fault, that the Dark Lord was getting stronger, and that he had to see Dumbledore. Harry leaves him with Krum and runs to fetch Dumbledore, but when he and Dumbledore arrive in the forest, they find Krum stunned and Mr. Crouch gone. Hagrid and Moody arrive, followed by Karkaroff, who accuses Dumbledore of treachery, infuriating Hagrid. Harry is sent back to his dorm under Hagrid's supervision and told to remain there all night. Hagrid warns him gravely about associating with foreigners, such as Krum.
Winky's misery complicates Hermione's crusade against the subjection of house elves. The elf who has no master is the only unhappy one, and the other elves are embarrassed that one of their party could be unhappy when there is still work to do. Hermione's drive to liberate these creatures threatens the servile purpose of their existence. Mr. Crouch has turned full circle. Instead of his usual impeccable grooming and dress and speech, he begins raving madly, talking to trees, and clinging to Harry's robes. This situation is amplified by Sirius's unease with the empty spot next to Winky at the Quidditch World Cup. Of all of the things he finds strange about the recent events, this one puzzles him most.
Take a Study Break!