The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Goblet of Fire, Chapters 15 and 16

The Harry Potter Reread just wants the sun to stay up for longer, is all. It doesn’t seem much to ask, having some daylight during the day. Winter is probably better for wizards.

We’re about to be illegally cursed by a professor and meet some international wizarding students! It’s chapters 15 and 16 of The Goblet of Fire—Beauxbatons and Durmstrang and The Goblet of Fire.

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 15—Beauxbatons and Durmstrang

Summary

Harry wakes up and writes Sirius a letter, telling him that he imagined his scar hurting, so Sirius really doesn’t have to come back. He’s desperate to prevent Sirius from returning and being recaptured or worse. DADA lessons are taking it up a notch, and Moody tests the Imperius Curse on the students so they’ll know what it feels like. Harry is the only one capable of resisting it. Classes are getting more and more challenging and time consuming, as students only have until the end of fifth year to prepare for their O.W.L.s.

A notice is put up telling students that the selections from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving on October 30th. The school begins to buzz with talk of the other schools and who the Hogwarts champion might be. Fred and George are still being secretive about something, and they don’t have any idea how to get around the age limit for the tournament because they still don’t know how the champions will be selected. They do know that the tasks in it are judged, and Hermione informs them that three of the judges are the heads of each respective school. She read it in Hogwarts, A History, which contains no mention whatsoever of house-elves much to her resentment.

Harry gets a letter from Sirius—he’s in the country and hidden, and advises Harry to let him know about everything that’s happening at the school. Harry feels a little relieved. That evening, the two schools’ convoys arrive. Beauxbatons arrives by a gigantic flying horse-drawn house/carriage, and Durmstrang arrives via ship emerging from the lake. The headmistress of Beauxbatons is a giant women (about Hagrid’s size) named Madame Maxime, and the headmaster from Durmstrang is a man called Karkaroff. Durmstrang has brought a very special student in tow as well… Quidditch star Viktor Krum.

Commentary

So, when Harry goes to the owlery to get Hedwig to bring Sirius his next letter, he has to verbally convince her to do it by suggesting that she’s too tired and he should just get Pig to handle it. Which I think is the most explicit Rowling has been thus far in confirming that owls basically understand all of human speech. Hedwig doesn’t just key into what Harry means by his emotional state or how he treats her, she comprehends everything he says. Which I’ve always loved a lot.

Moody starts practicing the Imperius Curse on the students, and they are so lucky that Barty Crouch Jr. has a very specific plan here because, man, he is in such a perfect position to Imperio any old student and never let them go. It’s messed up. I do have to wonder how internally upset he is with Harry’s ability to throw off the curse, considering that he’s been stuck under it for years—it speaks a lot to Crouch Sr.’s force of will, and a lot to how insanely talented Harry is. You know, you forget and then there he is throwing off an Unforgivable Curse when he’s fourteen and it’s being performed on him by a Death Eater. Let’s all slow clap for Harry. Let’s all slow clap and mean it.

On the other hand, Ron is still acting out the commands Moody gave him after he’s no longer under the curse. He has to wait for its affects to wear off. And that’s one humongous window into Ron’s character. His vulnerability to the curse indicates that he’s extremely suggestible, horrifyingly so. So when it seems like Ron is overreacting to what others say, or like he should be able to shake off people’s opinions more readily? He can’t. It’s not naturally in him. Which makes even more sense of his deeply ingrained inferiority complex.

Aaaaand Draco actually kowtows to Hagrid for the first time over remembering how painful being turned into a ferret was. Agrees to come after class to check out the skrewts when Hagrid mentions the incident. Just in case we were wondering exactly how nasty that was on his end.

We usually don’t get much detail on Transfiguration classes, but we get a few bits of info in this chapter. Namely that Dean Thomas cannot transfigure a hedgehog into a pincushion, and that Neville kind of sucks at Switching Spells (the act of switching a part of something with the part of another something, to my understanding—hence Neville switching his ears onto a cactus). In terms of hierarchy, I would assume that it’s harder to transform a living thing into an object than it is to transform one object into another object. But more importantly, I have to wonder what the advantage is to transforming living creatures into objects in the first place. It’s more difficult, so that warrants its practice at school as part of a growing skill set, but in what situation is it beneficial to turn a hedgehog into a pincushion if you could find, say, some cotton balls? I understand that basic aspects of one object will typically transfer into another, so you wouldn’t want to turn a rock into a pincushion (because it would probably be too hard to stick pins into), but I also doubt that you have an abundance of hedgehogs at your disposal on a daily basis. So unless you’ve got lots of bugs or mice that need getting rid of…

Ew. Anyway.

Yet again we watch Hermione try to convince people over to her elvish crusade in vain. And while Fred and George aren’t actually correct about everything being fine and dandy in house-elf land, George does make the smartest suggestion of the evening—that Hermione actually talk to the house-elves. Which she hasn’t done, and is a huge oversight on her part as an activist who is pursuing any kind of social reform.

But she is learning. Perhaps the most important lesson Hermione has received straight off the bat comes at the hand of Hogwarts, A History… a seemingly comprehensive book that contains no information on house-elves whatsoever. Which means that Hermione has finally realized that you cannot trust all books equally, Just because something was written down and published does not automatically make it true beyond a doubt, and authors have their own biases that can even come through in big, old informational tomes.

The entrances of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are fun and showy in exactly the right ways. But most importantly, the horses from Beauxbatons are raised to drink nothing but single-malt whiskey, which makes no sense whatsoever but who cares, and also makes me want to shout DRUNK MAGICAL HORSES out the windows.

 

Chapter 16—The Goblet of Fire

Summary

The students from Beauxbatons sit at the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall, while Durmstrang chooses to sit with the Slytherins. The Beauxbaton students seem incredibly uncomfortable with the temperature of the castle, and one student in particular laughs aloud at Dumbledore’s welcoming speech. That same student comes over to the Gryffindor table to ask for the bouillabaisse soup—and she highly resembles a veela in appearance and affect on the male population. (This is Fleur Delacour.)

Dumbledore explains that the selector of the school champions is not a person—it’s a thing. The Goblet of Fire will select from the names dropped inside of it. To prevent anyone under seventeen from entering, Dumbledore will place an Age Line around the Goblet. Fred and George figure that can be easily fooled with an aging potion. Dumbledore warns that the Goblet creates a binding magical contract; if it issues your name, you must participate in the Tournament, and the tasks will be incredibly dangerous. As they are all leaving the feast, Karkaroff sets eyes on Harry and is stunned. Moody gives him a hard time and urges him on his way. Clearly there is some bad blood between them.

Fred and George try the aging potion gamut and end up with long white beards for their trouble. They aren’t the only ones to try it either, as Dumbledore amusedly points out. Angelina Johnson from Gryffindor drops in her name, and Warrington (Slytherin) and Diggory (Hufflepuff) are rumored to have entered as well. All the students brought from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang enter their names. Both schools are staying housed in their modes of transport.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to visit Hagrid for lunch, and he does his best not to tell them anything he knows about the Tournament. He’s also dressed in a manner that he would probably consider “nice” in a suit and tie and so forth; he’s trying to impress Madame Maxime. Hermione tries to get Hagrid to join S.P.E.W., but he refuses on the grounds that it would make the house-elves unhappy to be freed or paid for work. Hermione is incredibly cross—she hasn’t had much luck getting people to join or listen so far.

They head back to the Great Hall and the Goblet of Fire spits out the names of the champions to compete for the Triwizard Cup. For Durmstrang—Viktor Krum. For Beauxbatons—Fleur Delacour. For Hogwarts—Cedric Diggory.

And then without warning, a fourth name is issued from the Goblet—Harry Potter.

Commentary

Well. Crap.

Okay, first, more information on wizarding schools: So we know that there are at least four in Europe, and we know three of them well. There is also one in Japan (Mahoutokoro), one in Brazil (thus far unnamed), Russia (Koldovstoretz), and one in Africa (Uagadou). Apparently, Uagadou selects their pupils by Dream Messenger, which leaves a token in the hand of the prospective student while they’re sleeping. Which is badass. It has been assumed that the Salem Witches’ Institute is a North American school, but we don’t actually get any evidence of that. The women who are at the Quidditch World Cup under their banner are all middle-aged women, who seem kind of New Age-y.

Beauxbatons (the name translates pretty literally to “beautiful wands”) only accepts students from France, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. So students who don’t want to go to Hogwarts in the U.K. could apply to Durmstrang, but not Beauxbatons. Hogwarts is typically friendly with the school, but the Triwizard Tournament brings out their competitive sides because they are nearly neck and neck in how many Tournaments they have won. Beauxbatons is located in the Pyrenees mountains in a chateau surrounded by gardens. The students standing up at the arrival of their headmistress and not sitting down until she is seated is tradition and expected at every meal. Interestingly, they don’t take their O.W.L.s until sixth year, rather than fifth. And the horses that pull their coach are bred at the school. Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle are alumni… from, you know, centuries ago.

Durmstrang is located in the upper north of either Norway or Sweden—likely Norway from the surrounding landscape that Krum later describes. Igor Karkaroff became headmaster at some point after his release from Azkaban (post-1981), and was incredibly unpopular in the position. Many parents withdrew their children from the school due to his emphasis on the Dark Arts, and his tendency to treat the students like servants. Durmstrang has castle grounds that are smaller than Hogwarts (four stories high), and they only light fires for magical purposes. Which is silly, but they have to prove that Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are basically polar opposites, right? All the comforts vs. none. Powder blue vs. bloodred robes. Silk vs. heavy matted furs. Fancy carriages vs. ghost ships.

There are interesting attempts at alignment that Rowling gives right off the bat; Durmstrang sits with Slytherin to let you know that they’re interested in Dark Arts and acquainted with the murkier side of wizard-kind. Beauxbatons sits with Ravenclaw, perhaps conjuring up associations of precision, intelligence… and some snobbery. Which is certainly what we get from Fleur Delacour. We’ll get more into her characterization as the book goes on, but this initial cattiness is particularly irritating because it’s not like Beauxbatons is located on a tropical island. (Not that I’m saying Scotland is a generally warm and sunny place. I’m well aware that it’s not. At all.) Why don’t they have coats, as Hermione asked? They knew where they were going.

Dumbledore creates the Age Line for the Goblet, and while I get that it basically works, considering how many variables are happening here—Karkaroff’s former Death Eater status, the Quidditch Cup incident, just having Harry Potter at school—maybe he should have put other measures in place? Any other measure? I mean, this is really where the wizarding world could benefit from recording devices or anything remotely similar. Even a “we’re using a magical camera to snap pictures of anyone who puts a name into the Goblet!” Or just… have people guarding it? But you know, they’re wizards and they want magic to do everything. And Dumbledore’s spell works to perfection… it’s just only devised for students that might want to cheat. Not dangerous adult wizards.

I do like the beards, though. And that the girls who try to cross the line get them too. It’s in perfect keeping with Dumbledore’s particular sense of humor. Totally forgot that Angelina entered! And really, she would have been an amazing champion. But then I remember that she would have died, so no. It’s all good.

Hagrid’s crush on Madame Maxime. It’s designed to be cute at the start, but I’ve always found it kind of sad from the beginning. Hagrid has been denied a sense of belonging all his life. He sets eyes on Madame Maxime and instantly falls for her because she is basically “just like him”: another half-giant with a soft spot for big beasts. That doesn’t really make them much alike, but it’s enough for him. It’s the childlike naiveté you expect from Hagrid, but it stings more here.

And then we get to the Great Hall and the Goblet is doing its thing (it’s a pretty cool magical object all on its own) and it’s all fun and excitement and you just knew something had to go wrong, obviously. The book isn’t called Harry Potter and the Year He Peacefully Watched the Triwizard Tournament. So we’ll get into his walk of shame and all the confusion that comes after next week.


Emily Asher-Perrin is pretty sure she’d be able to throw off the Imperius Curse if she were asked to get near spiders. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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