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Life is moving along slowly for Harry these days: his first task is nearing, Ron refuses to speak to him, and to top it off, Rita Skeeter published an article about the Triwizard Champions in which she left out Cedric entirely and spent four pages expounding on Harry's tragic past, attributing quotes to him about crying at night about his parents' death, and noting that he is in love with Hermione. Harry is horrified, and is taunted endlessly. He spends most of his time in the library with Hermione, who is profoundly bothered that Viktor Krum has taken to studying there, drawing along with him a gaggle of admirers. During a Hogsmeade visit, Harry wears his Invisibility Cloak in hope of attaining some anonymity, but Mad-Eye Moody spies him through it and points him out to Hagrid, who tells him to come to his cabin that night at midnight. Harry does as he is told. Invisibly, he follows Hagrid, who escorts Madame Maxime deep into the Forbidden Forest, where several dozen men, including Charlie Weasley, are trying to subdue four dragons. Harry overhears Charlie tell Hagrid that each dragon is a nesting mother, and that the four champions are to get past the dragons as their first task-he notes that one of them, a Hungarian Horntail, is significantly more dangerous than the rest.
Harry dashes off to meet Sirius in the common room at one, and he trips over Karkaroff, who is walking speedily through the woods, presumably in attempt to investigate the first task for himself. Right on time, Sirius's head is sitting in the Gryffindor fireplace. Harry tells him everything, and in return Sirius warns Harry that Karkaroff had been a Death-Eater who ultimately was caught by Moody. Sirius says that Moody was the best Auror in history, and is now at Hogwarts for a reason. Furthermore, he suggests that the fiasco with the dustbins may actually have been legitimate; someone may have tried to stop Moody from coming to Hogwarts. Lastly, Sirius notes that Bertha Jorkins was last seen in Albania, oddly enough, where Voldemort was last sighted; he may have used her for information and disposed of her. Before Sirius can advise Harry on how to get past a dragon, Ron walks into the common room, and Sirius disappears in the flames. Harry is furious at this interruption and throws a "Potter Stinks" badge at Ron's face before charging up to bed.
As the first task nears, Harry and Hermione research ways to subdue dragons, but to no avail; Harry is terrified and considers leaving Hogwarts, but decides against it when faced with the alternative of returning to the Dursleys. The day before the task, Harry warns Cedric about the dragons, since the other champions must have heard from their school-heads by now. Cedric is suspicious, and Moody pulls Harry aside afterwards and commends his decency in evening out the field. Then he advises Harry to play to his strengths, nodding when Harry muses aloud "Quidditch." Harry realizes through this conversation that he must fly past the dragon, and therefore he must have his Firebolt broomstick. He and Hermione spend the rest of the day and night practicing the summoning charm, "Accio!"
The morning of the task, the four nervous champions are led into a tent in the forest, allowed to pluck from a bag a model of the dragon they are to fight, and told that their goal is to get the golden egg. Harry is to go fourth and fight the Hungarian Horntail. He listens as the crowd reacts to the work of the other three champions, and when his turn comes, he walks into the enclosure, summons his broomstick, and flies around the dragon, feeling at ease for the first time in the whole tournament, and getting the egg in what Ron afterwards tells him was the best and fastest of the four methods. All of the champions got the egg eventually, but Cedric and Fleur were charred a bit, and Krum causes his dragon to step on several of her real eggs. Ron and Harry are reunited afterwards, as Ron was terrified for Harry's life and realized that Harry would never put himself in that position just for attention. The champions are told that their golden eggs will clue them in on the second task, which will take place in three months. Harry is relieved and happy as he walks back toward the castle with Ron.
In the Harry Potter books, no matter what the situation, Harry is the underdog who fights the most difficult battles and wins. Although Harry is relieved and thrilled by his victory, he and his fans gain a sense of security regarding his coming two tasks. This series of events is characteristic of all books in this series: because Harry is brave and competent, he overcomes sufficient barriers early in the story, gaining confidence to face more dangerous ones in the end. This is the first stepping-stone of triumph in what turns out to be a bittersweet string of challenges.
Although the champions are instructed to face their tasks without any inside help, each and every one of them have some assistance during the tournament. Moody observes to Harry that as long as the tournament has been around, cheating has been a part of it; we are to understand from his statement that community connectedness is all-important in the wizards' world. Hagrid, out of loyalty to Harry, shows him the dragons; Harry, out of fairness, tells Cedric about them. Moody advises Harry on how to get past the dragons; Hermione, out of genuine concerned friendship, spends a great deal of time helping Harry to prepare. Almost nothing that Harry does in any of these books is achieved alone; he approaches challenges with courage and a basic groundwork of skill. The friendships and connections he has made along the way enable him to succeed.
Harry's conversation with Sirius comes at an opportune time, as he has no parents to ask advice from, and all of his Hogwarts mentors are supposed to stand as "objective" tournament authorities. As the letters have suggested, Sirius is truly playing his role as Harry's appointed guardian, both by giving solid, stern advice, such as the points about Moody and Karkaroff, and also by offering reassurance, his having appeared when he said he would, right when Harry has the most worries about the coming tasks. Sirius is a welcome presence throughout this book, as he is a source of information from the outside world, and a secretive and loyal companion to Harry. Ironically, this escaped accused murderer is the person in whom Harry can most easily confide and trust in.