The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Goblet of Fire, Chapters 17 and 18

The Harry Potter Reread as never been to finishing school, and thus cannot explain the benefit of being able to balance a book on one’s head. But the reread is pretty sure that it will never need to know that.

We’re about to get into some tense teacher fights and meet the wizard in world’s worst reporter. It’s chapters 17 and 18 of The Goblet of Fire—The Four Champions and The Weighing of the Wands.

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 17—The Four Champions

Summary

Harry is summoned to the next room to join the other champions. Ludo Bagman tells the three others selected that Harry will also be competing. The school heads are furious, but Barty Crouch insists that there’s nothing to be done. Harry will have to compete. Dumbledore asks Harry if he put his name in the Goblet, which Harry denies. Snape refuses to believe him. Moody suggests that something shadier is likely at play—it would take a very powerful wizard to mess with the Goblet of Fire and get it to spit out Harry name (which the person likely did by entering Harry under another school’s name and confusing the Goblet into thinking there were four schools competing).

Crouch gives them the information they will need for the First Task; it will take place at the end of November in front of the school, and it is meant to test daring. They are not giving them any extra information because this task is designed to show how well the champions show courage in the face of the unknown. Because the Triwizard Tournament is so time-consuming, all champions are exempt from their final exams of the year. Dumbledore invites Crouch to stay the night at the castle, but he refuses, insisting that he has to go back to his department. He left Percy in charge while he was away, and he claims that the guy’s a little too enthusiastic about the job.

Everyone parts ways, and Cedric asks Harry how he got his name in the Goblet. Harry insists that he didn’t put it in there, but Cedric clearly doesn’t believe him. Neither does anyone in Gryffindor House when he arrives in the common room and they force a celebration on him.

And neither does Ron. Harry exchanges some nasty words with his best friends before Ron shuts his bed curtains and a huff.

Commentary

So, the biggest mistake in the entire narrative of this book (in my opinion, at least) is never explaining why the contract with the Goblet of Fire cannot be broken. It’s said but never specified, and that’s a huge hole in our understanding of magical items, and a big gap where we’re left to simply make things up. Does the contract magical force participants to show up at each task if they don’t? Couldn’t they just do three innocuous tasks that take five minutes (few games of tic-tac-toe, a memory puzzle, a chess match or two) and start the whole process over again? I’m sure Dumbledore isn’t fighting it as hard as he should because he’s curious as to how everything will play out, but it’s hard to believe that no one could find a way around this. Just a few sentences to explain why that isn’t possible would have done wonders for the plot’s credibility.

That walk down the Great Hall that Harry has to make is perfect. So many teen movies and books and shows have moments like this, with whispers from the classmates and all eyes on the hero. But this version ups the ante because as readers, we know this isn’t just embarrassing. This is bad. Really bad. And everyone is lining up to jump down Harry’s throat for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve always loved how different the reactions of the champions are in this case. Krum is gruff but reserved on the topic, Cedric is politely perplexed. Fleur gets real pissed when she finds out that Harry is going to get to compete, but I find it interesting that she makes no indication that she knows who Harry is. This is either because she simply doesn’t care (which is certainly possible) or because other countries don’t place the same importance on Harry in their history books and such (also possible). Either way, you can’t really blame Harry for being grated over the “little boy” dig. He has already defeated the Dark Lord twice, if you please.

Crouch tells them that the champions get exempt from their end-of-the-year exams, which is… I mean, it’s nice of them, but also kinda dumb? You’re literally giving them permission to slack off for the majority of their lessons that year, and it’s not like the tasks themselves require that much planning or research on their part. On the Hogwarts side of things, that means that you’re exempt from the N.E.W.T.s as the seventh year student, which are essentially placement exams. What we have to assume in this instance is that being a Triwizard Champion opens all sorts of doors that make final exams a moot point. That having that on your CV will allow you to at least get an interview pretty much anywhere you’d like.

Following everyone’s suspicions and threats to pull out of the Tournament, people storm out and Dumbledore suggests that Harry and Cedric go back to their houses and enjoy this excuse to “make a great deal of mess and noise” (which is one of my favorite Dumbledore lines). Cedric doesn’t believe that Harry didn’t enter his own name (awkward), neither does anyone in Gryffindor House (more awkward), and then Ron decides to be a superb ass about things leading to his and Harry’s first real fight as BFFs (the most awkward). It’s interesting that everyone is so convinced on that count, especially considering how frazzled and distressed Harry seems over the whole affair, but we’ll get to more of that below.

 

Chapter 18—The Weighing of the Wands

Summary

When Harry wakes up, Ron has already left for breakfast. Harry isn’t too keen on going to eat in the Great Hall in front of everyone, but luckily Hermione figures that one—she brings him toast and invites him on a walk. While strolling through the grounds, Harry asks about Ron, and Hermione informs him that he’s jealous; Harry is always the one in the spotlight, and this has just been one time too many. Harry can’t believe that Ron can’t tell the truth on this one, and he’s furious about it. Hermione tells Harry that he should write to Sirius about this because he asked to be kept apprised on anything going on with him. He sends a letter off with another school owl, since Sirius told him to keep changing them. Hedwig gets angry at Harry for it.

Classes start back up and the entire school doesn’t seem to believe Harry’s story. All the students are cross with him, giving him a hard time. Luckily Hagrid believes Harry’s story, but Ron still won’t talk to him. When they get to Potions next week, all the Slytherins are sporting badges encouraging students to support Cedric—the real Hogwarts champion—and claiming that Harry stinks. Draco offers one to Hermione, making another crack about her being a mudblood, and Harry draws his wand. The two attack each other at the same time, but their spells ricochet. Harry’s hits Goyle, who sprouts boils all over his face, and Draco’s hits Hermione, whose front teeth start growing uncontrollably. Snape sends Goyle to the hospital, but claims he can’t tell the difference in Hermione. She rushes to the hospital wing in tears. Ron and Harry start screaming at Snape, who deducts point from Gryffindor and gives them both detention. Harry wonders if that means if he and Ron have made up, but Ron doesn’t sit with Harry.

Snape is clearly planning to let students test their antidotes on Harry by poisoning him, and Harry is thinking of terrible things he wants to happen to Snape. Colin Creevey bursts in and insists that Harry is needed because the tournament champions are being gathering for photos and such. It’s actually the Weighing of the Wands Ceremony, where each champion’s wand is checked to ensure it works properly. A woman is there from the Daily Prophet—Rita Skeeter, the same women who has been writing those defaming pieces about Arthur and other Ministry workers. She insists on getting a chance to talk to Harry alone. Taking out a Quick Quotes Quill, she starts asking Harry and variety of inappropriate questions, while the quill does work to describe the interview quite differently than it is actually going. She also believes that Harry entered the Tournament of his own volition. Dumbledore rescues Harry from any further questioning.

The Weighing of the Wands begins, with Mr. Ollivander presiding. He checks each wand, and notes their various qualities. Fleur’s has the hair of a veela in it—one of her grandmothers. Once he’s done, Dumbledore tells the students they may leave, but Skeeter insists that they all stay for photos, and insists on getting individual ones of all the champions. Harry eats at the end of the Gryffindor table alone that night. When he gets back to the dorm room, Ron points him to an answering letter from Sirius and tell him that they have detention with Snape tomorrow night. Then he walks off.

Sirius’ letter asks Harry if he can be ready to talk face to face on the 22nd of November. He assures Harry that he knows the boy can take care of himself and that it would be hard to hurt him with Dumbledore and Moody around… but he acknowledges that clearly someone is trying to do so anyway.

Commentary

Hermione is the best, and Harry is so damned lucky to have such a good friend who knows when he’d rather not be around people. Because isn’t that something that everyone can relate to, and something that friends (during childhood especially) can be pretty tone-deaf about. It one of those instances where Hermione is completely insightful into her friends’ characters—something that isn’t always the case on her end. She knows exactly why Ron is being so stubborn over this particular perceived slight. No one is really wrong to feel the way they feel here, and that makes it hurt a lot more. Ron has plenty of reason to feel hurt, even if his suspicions aren’t founded, Harry has every reason to wish Ron would just get over himself and help when he needs it more than ever.

One of my favorite characteristics in Hermione is her unwillingness to mediate between Harry and Ron during the majority of their dustups. She firmly believes in the two of them sorting out their own nonsense, when other friends would take the opposite tack in similar scenarios. Hermione just doesn’t have room in her brain for the drama, and I love that about her. She’ll lend an ear, she’ll try to foster some understanding, but she’s not there to be a go-between when they can’t be bothered to act mature about these sorts of things.

Harry gets all angry and decides to throw some toast for his trouble, which leads to this bit in the narrative:

“Okay, okay, I’ll write to him,” said Harry, throwing his last piece go toast into the lake. They both stood and watched it floating there for a moment, before a large tentacle rose out of the water and scooped it beneath the surface. Then they returned to the castle.

Hogwarts. Best school. Hogwarts.

The giant squid leads the most interesting life of anyone on campus—I’d love to know what sort of delicacies it has sampled over the years from various picnics and breakfast strolls. Pretty much any aside featuring the squid as a aspect of daily life at Hogwarts is perfect. I imagine the squid has an assortment of favorite students that it hangs with, and its probably so sad every time another year graduates and it has to say goodbye all over again. Giant squid is probably a campus meme, the likes of Chuck Norris.

So we get to the badge bit, which is crappy enough because it shows how much the house mentality really damages Hogwarts. The main reason Harry is being given a hard time is due to the misconception that he’s out to steal Cedric’s thunder, and that’s compounded by the fact that he’s a Hufflepuff and their house gets so little recognition. The Gryffindors always look after their own, so they’re being good to Harry, but everyone else is climbing on the wagon. Which is ridiculous because even if Harry had managed to get his name into the Goblet on purpose, it’s sure as hell not his fault that the Goblet spat out two names for Hogwarts.

And all that’s bad enough, but then Harry gets into his fight with Draco, and Snape manages to prove yet again that he is THE WORST. JUST, FIRE HIM. JUST, STAB HIM WITH A SPORK.

It’s bad enough that he tries to make Hermione feel bad for being a good student, that he constantly shames Neville for sucking in his class, that he favors Slytherins who spend their time bullying their classmates. Now he has officially body-shamed a female student. And you know, Snape had to deal with some real crap at school when he was a kid, but it just constantly amazes me how his choices are to brush that off onto other students when he is in a position of power. Bad enough to retaliate as a fellow student and stoop to a bully’s level—at least that is understandable, even if it isn’t the right thing to do. But to take that mentality into adulthood and take pleasure out of belittling a fourteen-year-old girl, one of his best students (whether he wants her to be or not), someone who wasn’t even the target of this particular hallway scuffle, whose only involvement was being the target of slurs to begin with… I don’t really have words (not appropriate ones, anyway).

You really do have to love Harry and Ron for being adult enough to put aside their fight to both defend their friend against that abuse, however. The fact that they aren’t capable of contesting Snape’s decisions in light of his behavior is one of the most problematic aspects to Hogwarts education. There should be a recourse for students who are subjected to that sort of demeaning treatment from their professors, but it’s clearly not done. Yet again, we see that the kids are growing up, showing more of that teenaged rebellious flavor; in previous books, Harry would have tried harder to move beyond the incident, but this time, he simply can’t push the injustice of it from his mind.

Which is why it’s so vindicating to get Harry dismissed (since he’s about to get poisoned anyway) to the Weighing of the Wands ceremony. Where we get some very important info and introductions—specifically our first dose of Rita Skeeter. Based on tabloid terrors and poison pen biographers like Kitty Kelley, this introduction leaves no room for doubt where Skeeter is concerned; she’s dangerous, primarily because she has a far reach and no qualms about printing lies provided that they will be popular ones. She has to suck on the end of her Quick-Quotes Quill before putting it to paper, which makes me assume that that’s how a magic-user connects with the object? It seems likely that the use of such quills is known to bring about inaccurate reporting, or Rita likely wouldn’t make a point of hiding the quill so often.

We find out immediately that she has been publishing lies about Dumbledore at the last conference he attended, but the headmaster is delightfully unconcerned about her libel. It’s comforting to know that he cares so little, but it’s a false sense of security, ultimately—the book that she eventually writes about him is damaging to his legacy, and her article on Harry certainly sets back the fight against Voldemort by the beginning of next year.

The Weighing of the Wands is fun because it is our second contact with Ollivander, and we learn a bit about the champions through their tools. We find out that Fleur is, in fact, part veela (through her mother’s mother), and that the core of her wand is a hair from her grandmother’s head. Ollivander proves he’s as particular about his craft as ever, insisting that he doesn’t use veela hair for his wand cores. (He basically give both of the foreign wands a hard time for not being “the way he would have done it,” but there’s no real surprise there.) Interestingly, he notes that Fleur’s wand in inflexible, while Cedric’s is “springy.” Rowling has stated that wand flexibility denotes the relative flexibility of the user, so that gives you a pretty good idea of Fleur and Cedric’s personalities right there. Krum, also, has a wand that Olivander describes as “rigid.” Since Harry’s wand has been described as supple, we have an interesting divide here; both of the Hogwarts champions are far more flexible people than their fellow champions.

It’s clear from the photoshoot and Rita’s general slimy-ness that things are going to get even rougher for Harry once the news of the Tournament goes public. Thankfully, he gets a letter from Sirius, which asks that they meet up and talk in the Gryffindor common room in a couple weeks. People have a tendency to give Sirius a hard time for encouraging recklessness in Harry through his own recklessness, but it strikes me this time around that Sirius’ reply to Harry letter is actually quite soothing. He never suggests that Harry should panic or makes it seem as though he’s horribly worried. He indicates the opposite, in fact, says that’s he sure Harry can look after himself and reminds him that Dumbledore and Moody’s presence make him a hard mark to hit. It’s not giving Harry a false sense of security, but it’s also not throwing him into an unhelpful panic. So Sirius scores some Good Godfather Points this round.


Emily Asher-Perrin hasn’t had an excuse to bust out her wand in a while, which is a problem that needs to be remedied. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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