The Harry Potter Reread has never mastered the art of gift wrapping, but enjoys fancy wrapping paper. This is a problem. It is a waste of fanciness. Unacceptable.
We’ve arrived at the place where everything actually gets scary! It’s Chapters 9 and 10 of The Goblet of Fire—The Dark Mark and Mayhem at the Ministry.
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 9—The Dark Mark
Everyone is discussing the match back at the tents while drinking hot chocolate. Eventually, they all go to bed and Harry falls asleep dreaming of pulling some of Krum’s moves on the Quidditch pitch. He is woken in the middle of the night by Mr. Weasley—there is a group of wizards in masks who are dragging the Muggle campsite manager and his family through the air, torturing and humiliating them. Other wizards are joining in the fray for fun. The kids all run, while Arthur and the older Weasley boys rush to help the Ministry workers trying to put a stop to it. Once in the woods, the trio run into Malfoy (who seems very pleased), some Beauxbaton students (looking for Madame Maxime), Winky (who is terrified of the sight but having a hard time actually running from it without permission), veela (who are standing around while some wizards try to impress them, and Ludo Bagman (who doesn’t seem to know what’s been going on).
They find a place to slow and sit in the woods, and eventually Harry hears a figure moving in the darkness. He tries to find out who it is, but the person utters a spell that conjures something in the sky—it’s the Dark Mark, Voldemort’s sign. The trio try to run from it, but they’re stopped by a team of Ministry wizards led by Barty Crouch. He’s convinced they’ve conjured it, though no one believes him. Then Amos Diggory heads over to where Hermione indicates the conjurer was, and he finds Winky with a wand. (Non-human magical creatures are not allowed wands, and they are used to create the Dark Mark.)
Amos Diggory interrogates Winky, who is insistent that she doesn’t know how to conjure the Dark Mark. Harry realizes that the wand that she’s carrying is his, and Amos briefly accuses Harry of conjuring the mark before Arthur talks him down. Harry tells them that he lost his wand before he got to the woods, and Winky says that she found the wand abandoned just before she herself was found. Hermione tells the group that the voice that uttered the spell sounded deep and human, so it’s clear that Winky did not conjure the Mark. Barty Crouch is furious and asks Amos to deal with Winky himself, rather than giving her over to the Ministry for questioning. Because she did not obey his orders to stay in his tent, Crouch intends to give Winky clothes, thereby dismissing her from his service. She is mortified. Hermione tries to come to her defense again, but Arthur insists that they all leave immediately.
When they get back to the tent, they find the rest of the family and talk over what happened. It turns out that the Death Eaters—the wizards in masks, people who used to be Voldemort’s supporters—all fled when they saw the Dark Mark. Despite their allegiances, many of the Death Eaters still at large would likely be afraid of Voldemort’s return because they had to utterly denounce him in order to retreat back into society. They were frightened of the Dark Mark. On the other hand, the person who conjured it was likely a Death Eater. Harry’s head is buzzing, and he’s concerned that his scar hurting might be connected with all of this.
While the opening of this book certainly sets a different pace, this is where it comes utterly clear—we won’t be spared anymore. Rowling descriptions here are designed to work for both children and adults. As a child, you might not grasp the subtleties of precisely how disturbing this riot is, but as an adult… it’s horrific. In fact, the nature of the event might make it more disturbing than many more explicit acts of violence in this series.
The Roberts family are going to remain screwed up by this, I don’t care what kind of modification they’ve undergone. Those kids are probably going to wake up in the middle of the night screaming, and not have any idea why, there will be memory problems and confusion and stressors that they can’t place. In addition, we know that powerful memory charms can eventually cause brain damage (which we learn after getting the detail on Bertha Jorkins’ fate), so who honestly knows what kind of condition they wound up in. These people were essentially used as toys, while a large crowd simply laughed and marched on. There is a Klan-like vibe to the Death Eaters that is undoubtedly intentional; the anonymity that those masks and hoods provide them mean that these witches and wizard don’t have to think twice about that display of power. It’s amazing that it doesn’t happen more often, considering.
What’s particularly frightening are the non-Death Eaters joining in (either because they’re not really paying attention to what’s happening over their heads or because they simply don’t care—either seem likely). Apparently, the wizarding world knows the Dark Mark, but doesn’t necessarily recognize the masks and accouterments of Voldemort’s supporters? Either way, it’s the riot mentality of sports fans that Rowling seems to be playing on. Football matches in the UK have caused countless deaths and injuries in the past due to crushes at stadiums, and it’s the herd aspect to this abuse that adds an extra layer of terror to the event. People think this is funny. They think it’s a good time, they are actively preventing the Ministry workers from getting to the Death Eaters and putting an end to it. Some of the match-goers are upset, some of them have their property destroyed, but there is still a crowd of people who are completely fine with what’s going on here. People who aren’t followers of Voldemort at all.
It makes sense of Ron’s reaction to the whole thing; he doesn’t understand that Death Eaters are the ones in charge here (he has clearly never seen the masks either, but then again, he’s too young to even know about the Dark Mark), but he has enough presence of mind to call it “sick” and be appropriately mortified. But the biggest problem with this whole scenario is how poorly handled it is. The Quidditch World Cup is well known for breaking out into all sorts of trouble every time it occurs (Rowling has given several histories to that effect on Pottermore), and the Ministry barely has enough people on hand to deal with the Death Eaters themselves, let alone the confusion that results from their “fun.” There is no game plan on how to evacuate the area, where everyone should meet in case of an emergency, staff rounding up the kids who get separated from their families. I mean, can we have a talk about how this is one of the biggest international events of the wizarding world and everyone basically runs into the woods for a while and hopes that everything will be cool? This is insane.
The range of people the trio run into on their trek into the woods only clarifies the point. They see some Beauxbaton students, which I assume are at the World Cup on a school trip before the Tri-Wizard stuff starts up? They’re looking for Madame Maxime, so that seems most likely… We’ve got the veela, who are again distracting droves of guys, which could technically endanger their lives right now, I’m just saying, this is still really a problem. We’ve got Bagman, a major Ministry official who can’t keep track of anything going on because he’s too embroiled in his own criminal activity. The goblins are just hanging out in the woods not giving a crap, and you can’t exactly blame them since we’re learning that basically everyone who’s not a human is treated like utter garbage by wizard-kind at large.
And that’s before we get to Winky’s treatment here.
So… Amos Diggory is way more of a jerk than I remembered. He grills this terrified tiny being, and you honestly have to wonder if the Ministry bothers to train these guys on interrogation because he’s so bad at it, it’s (upsettingly) laughable. Arthur has to remind him that it seems super unlikely that Harry Potter would want to conjure the Dark Mark because nobody has a shred of sense, they’re just desperate to point the finger. Winky is so distraught that we get this observation on Harry’s end:
Harry was reminded forcibly of Dobby in his moments of terrified disobedience.
People keep telling Hermione that the house-elves are so happy with their positions, as though seeing Winky destroyed over Mr. Crouch firing her proves it. What no one manages to put words to (even Hermione, who is going to do her best to try as these books go on) is the psychological terror that is regularly inflicted on house-elves as a species. The amount of conditioning and emotional manipulation that must go into keeping house-elves “happy” with their lot. The fact that Dobby manages to break ranks as much as he does is nothing short of a miracle. (And if we take into account how he transfers loyalty to Harry, we could argue that he doesn’t break that far from the system he was born into at all. The only difference is that he was able to choose Harry.) Winky has been systemically abused into believing that this family is her life. She has been taking care of Barty Crouch Jr. under the Imperius Curse for over a decade now, and she loves him. Even when Barty Crouch betrays her after she takes the fall for his son, she truly believes she has failed him and the whole family.
And then on top of it, Crouch has the ability to tell Amos Diggory that he should be allowed to dispense justice himself, deliberately getting in the way of their legal system so no one discovers his secret. Harry catches on pretty quick; he realizes that Crouch is too important to question or go against. Everyone is complicit in the corruption.
And what of Barty Crouch, Jr.? He comes out of that Imperius Curse and his first instinct upon seeing those Death Eaters having a ball is to scare them all off by casting the Dark Mark. Coming to the story again, you recognize how important these moments are—without his presence at the Cup, without this sequence of events, the end of the book might have never come to pass at all. Here is truly where the war begins again. And all it took was one stunted young man bucking his father’s hypnosis. It makes you consider how fragile peace truly is.
Chapter 10—Mayhem at the Ministry
Arthur gets the whole crew back home early in the morning. When they get back to the Burrow, Molly is in tears, overwhelmed to have them all home and safe. She pulls the twins into a hug, distraught over the fact that she had yelled at them before they left when they could have been killed. Arthur looks at the Daily Prophet report on the event and finds a hatchet job done by Rita Skeeter. He is mentioned (not by name) in the article and feels he needs to go into the office to smooth things despite Molly’s protests. Percy goes with him. Harry gets Ron and Hermione upstairs and tells them about his scar hurting, and the letter he wrote to Sirius. Ron suggests a game of Quidditch to get Harry’s mind off of things.
Later on, the twins are clearly up to no good and hiding it from their mother. Arthur Weasley is working all hours, trying to put out the Ministry fires caused by the World Cup. Hermione and Percy get into an argument about Barty Crouch’s treatment of Winky, and Molly sends the kids upstairs to check their packing in order to break up the argument. While they’re looking over things, Ron notices some weird-looking robes that he assumes are a dress for Ginny. Molly explains that they’re dress robes that were required for formal events that year. She bought some for Harry that look nice and green, but Ron’s are used and covered in moldy-looking lace. Ron bemoans the state of everything he owns.
So there’s hugs and worry all around (poor Molly), and we get our first mention of Rita Skeeter! In her smear article following the Cup and the incident that occurred. And while she’s introduced as a nuisance who makes everyone look bad, reading this time around… I mean, she’s not really wrong about how the Ministry handled that, is she? I don’t think she is. Obviously, she’s not a bulwark of integrity (as we’ll later find out), but I can’t really be too miffed in this instance. They screwed up. They should be taken to task for it.
Harry clues Ron and Hermione into what’s really been going on with him, and I’ve always really loved that bit where Ron is like “let’s play a nice game of Quiddtich” and Hermione is like “ugh, Ron, so insensitive” and Harry’s like “no, I totally want to play Quidditch.” Hermione boils it down to a boys thing, but it’s really just a common coping mechanism. Harry needs to forget about everything for a while and just feel like a normal magical kid. Ron gets that. BFF Powers at Maximum!
Then the whole family is sitting around later and Percy is talking about how people keep sending Howlers to his office, and I’m suddenly thinking about how rude people can be via email when they can’t put a face to the person answering their letter, and you just think wow, nothing ever changes. And then we get our first official mention of Mundungus Fletcher, who is claiming that he lost a lot more property than he had at the campsite. So we kind of know what to expect of him later.
Fred and George are clearly at it again with their business plans, and Molly tries to give them a hard time over it, and this happens:
“Now, Mum,” said Fred, looking up at her, a pained look on his face. “If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?”
Everyone laughs and you remember that for all they can be pains in the butt, this is what makes the twins special. This is why they’re so important to the Weasley family. And then you realize that Fred said that, and Rowling didn’t even know at this point that there would later be an added relevance to Fred making a joke like that, and you know what, don’t look at me I’ll be over here crying forever.
Molly is able to get gold out of Harry’s vault at Gringotts, and I do wonder how that follows. It’s not like Harry could give her his debit card and pin number, or wrote a note saying she was allowed. The goblins are super serious about security, so I really am starting to wonder how the banks work. It’s not like they feel a great need to make this all an easy system for wizards, after all.
This chapter is full of excellent touches that Rowling gets better at weaving through in the later books. For example:
The rain sounded even louder at the top of the house, accompanied by loud whistlings and moans from the wind, not to mention sporadic howls from the ghoul who lived in the attic.
You know, he’s just up there. Doing his thing. And this might be one of my favorite lines in the whole series:
He was just piling underwear into his cauldron when Ron made a loud noise of disgust behind him.
I… everything about that sentence is beautiful. Cauldron full of underpants. Someone make me an oil painting, stat. Hashtag wizerdlyfe.
Then we get to the dress robes kerfuffle, and Ron grumbles about the state of everything he owns as he prevents Pigwidgeon from choking on owl treats. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but you can see how this moment is a very subtle set up for all of Ron’s jealousy issues coming in this book. It’s a great way of tipping us off without making it too obvious.