The Harry Potter Reread has come upon its first sampling of holiday cookies. If it is difficult to understand, that’s probably because it’s talking with its mouth full. Shame on the Reread.
We’re going to have a nice dinner and some shouting and eventually take a hike at dawn. It’s Chapter 5 and 6—Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and The Portkey.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 5—Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
Harry asks Fred and George what they fed Dudley, and they tell him about their Ton-Tongue Toffee, which they’ve spent months creating. Harry meets the older Weasley boys, Bill and Charlie. Arthur Weasley makes it back to tell the twins off, and accidentally makes mention that he’ll tell their mother… which causes Molly to appear. While she’s busy shouting down her offspring, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny head upstairs only to be stopped by Percy. He’s very annoyed at all the noise while he’s trying to get work done for the Ministry of Magic. Percy is now working at the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
Ron and Ginny tell Harry about Fred and George’s business venture—Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. They have order forms for the items they’ve been making, and told Molly that they wanted to open a joke shop after finishing school. Molly is beside herself over it.
The kids help to set the tables outside and sit down to a lovely dinner with the whole family. Ron quietly asks about Sirius, and Harry tells his friends that he has heard from his godfather… but he decides not to tell them about his scar hurting.
So, one of the things that Arthur brings up when he lays into the twins is how his department at the Ministry is constantly working to ensure that Muggles aren’t mistreated by wizards. Which begs some very interesting questions about how Muggles are viewed in the wizarding world in general, and what sort of “mistreatment” they can expect. It’s not all that surprising, I think; if you had a great deal of power that most of the population was not aware of, you’d be bound to misuse it pretty frequently, either by accident or design. And it seems likely to me that the prank Fred and George pull is actually on the mild end of what wizards ordinarily do to non-magic peoples.
It’s one thing to have departments dedicated to fixing accidents that are bound to occur from having the Muggle and wizarding communities fitting alongside one another without contact, but they’re doing a lot more than accident control. The Ministry is probably constantly modifying the memories of people who encounter drunk wizards angling for a bit of fun. Pretty creepy-making, the longer you think about it. We’ve probably all had our memories modified at some point…
Bill! Charlie! Bill and Charlie! Aw. I luv you guys. I also love how Rowling’s (and thus Harry’s) perception of “cool” is pretty gosh darn dated at this point. Bill has long hair and an earring. Aw, yeah. Sizzle.
Regardless of what you may think of the Weasley twins’ product line, there is a very clear parallel here for creatives and entrepreneurs who are children in more traditional families. The way that Molly goes on about how Fred and George are wasting their potential is akin to someone bemoaning their kid’s choice to become a comedian or a painter or the owner of a cupcake shop. Mrs. Weasley wants her kids to be successful, and in her mind “success” equates to a respectable job with benefits that will impress Old World sensibilities. So far her kids have done well in that arena: Bill works for the bank no matter how he dresses, Percy is now working for the Ministry, and Charlie works with dragons (which in my mind would equate to something like a marine biologist in the Muggle world—cool, but still respectable and “serious” work).
So I feel for the twins here. They are trying to strike out and do something entirely against the grain for their family. And really, all types of parents are capable of doing this, expecting their children to model their sense of self-worth on what’s important to them. (My parents are creative types—my mother actually wanted me to be an actor, and was dead certain that this “obsession with sci-fi and fantasy” wasn’t going to help me much in life, for example. Ha.) It’s one of the few places where I feel like Molly Weasley falls down as a parent. I understand she’s a little old-fashioned, but her fury over Fred and George’s lack of O.W.L.s is a narrow view to take. Of course, this plays into a problem that a sizable portion of the world has with their schooling systems, where we are expected to consider tests the arbiter of academic achievement and intelligence… but if we go down that road, we’ll be here all day.
Ugh, Percy, you’re back and I didn’t miss you. Look, the guy’s got a large and rowdy family, and the twins cause trouble on the hour. That’s a pain, I’ll grant him that. But his whole family is home, they’ve got guests, and he’s busy telling everyone off for walking up and down stairs. You know what, Percy, if it’s such a big deal, you could MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE. (I’m not saying that would be easy, I’m saying that he’s not very appreciative on the lack-of-rent front.) They’re already catering to you by shoving everyone into the same rooms and giving you space all to yourself for work. Meet them halfway, Perce. Turn on some music to block out the noise, or write your report out in the backyard while people are in the house.
In regard to said report, on the other hand, we get our first mention of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, which gives a clue to one of the book’s central themes. We also hear for the first time about Mr. Crouch, Percy’s boss. Percy’s report is sort of humorous in that the worries of the wizarding world where international trade is concerned are pretty much the same as everyone else’s—oh no, this foreign product is different from ours and needs regulation! Let’s grump about it!
So, I was thinking about some of the magic that we see in this chapter, and it raises interesting questions about wizards and economics and just how things work. Molly is cooking, and when she adds sauce to a pan, it comes out of her wand. Now, is the sauce sitting somewhere in the kitchen, and she’s basically transporting it from A to B by using her wand? Are the separate ingredients for the sauce sitting around the kitchen and Molly is using magic to blend them together and dispense a sauce? Or is she literally creating the sauce out of magic? Same thing goes for the tablecloths that Bill puts on the dinner tables—did they exist and he’s just nabbing them from another part of the house? Or did he literally materialize them out of thin air? I feel like we have to assume it’s the former, otherwise wizards never really could be poor. With proper magical training, they could materialize most of what they need.
Also, with Bill and Charlie banging those tables together before dinner, it’s a wonder that the twins get such a bad rap by comparison. I get the impression that Bill and Charlie were plenty of trouble, just much better at hiding it. Which makes sense of a lot in the Weasley lineup, really.
Chapter 6—The Portkey
The kids are woken well before dawn to make it to the Quidditch Cup. Because they can’t Apparate (like Bill, Charlie, and Percy) the group has to go with Arthur to a Portkey—a magical object with the ability to transport anyone who touches the object at a designated time to a designated location. As they’re walking, Arthur explains to Harry the logistical difficulties in getting the Quidditch Cup together; it’s difficult to have so many wizards in one place. The Ministry had to choose the site carefully and stagger the arrivals.
They arrive at the special hill in the dark (to avoid attention from Muggles) and find Amos Diggory and his son Cedric. Amos is pretty stoked that his son beat Harry in that one Quidditch match last year, while Cedric clearly is keen on his dad not boasting about him to polite company. Everyone touches the Portkey (an old moldy boot), and at the appropriate time, they are all transported to the Cup. Only Arthur, Amos, and Cedric are left standing after the journey.
So Apparating is interesting in that it’s clearly an awesome way to travel, but just difficult enough that it’s not practical for everyday use by everyone. My assumption is that they don’t bother with side-along apparition for the whole group because it would be a bit too taxing when the Portkey is available on the other side of town? Still, too bad. I do love that basically every form of wizard travel aside from flying is horrible the first time around.
I would like to point out something that has always irked me: Arthur says that they have to stagger the arrivals to the Quidditch Cup, and that people with the cheapest tickets were told to arrive two weeks beforehand. Um… if they’re going for the cheap tickets, they probably can’t afford to take two weeks off of work and then some, once you factor the Cup in? The hell? The people with the good seats should be arriving ahead of time? Who created this system? Idiots. That’s who.
Okay, so the Portkeys don’t work if you aren’t touching them at the correct time, which is a good failsafe for preventing Muggles from getting snapped somewhere via magic. But that doesn’t stop some random kid from picking the object up and taking it home. I know that they chose items that look like garbage, but curious childrens will pick up and carry home all sorts of weird junk. This isn’t a complaint so much as I want someone to arrive where a Portkey is located and not be able to find it. And then find out that some kid has buried it in the woods with a bunch of weird toys.
And then here’s Amos Diggory and his son Cedric, and Amos is so obsessed with the brilliantness of his kid, and he brags about it in a kind of annoying way really, and then he says:
“I said to him, I said — Ced, that’ll be something to tell your grandchildren, that will…. You beat Harry Potter!”
Except he won’t have any grandchildren because—ROWLING, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, WHY DO YOU LIKE PAIN. DO MY TEARS FEED YOUR CREATIVITY? I THINK THEY DO.
So yeah. We basically get the setup that Cedric is a sharp, pretty modest kid with an unflagging sense of fair play, his dad’s got a great big ego where it comes to his son, and… blerg, this is gonna be full of nail-biting sadness. This is the worst.
On the upside, this is the first mention we get of the Lovegoods? They’re already at the Cup site, waiting for other people to arrive. And then everyone gets a nauseating Portkey trip, and the match is imminent.