The Harry Potter Reread is gonna take the bull by the horns, walk it straight over to the castle gate, have it sing the guards a song, then rush the throne room and install the bull as the new monarch. It seems a reasonable way to conduct one’s business affairs.
This week we’re gonna read is really annoying article and probably fight some dragons or whatever. It’s chapters 19 and 20 of The Goblet of Fire—The Hungarian Horntail and The First Task.
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 19—The Hungarian Horntail
Harry is in a panic over the impending First Task. His life has been hell since the Weighing of the Wands; Rita Skeeter published her article and it turned out to be all about Harry rather than the Tournament itself, and most of her quotes and information were simply made up. She quotes Harry claiming that he cries at night about his parents, and suggests that Harry and Hermione are in love. People have done nothing but tease Harry over it, which leads Harry to accidentally snap at Cho Chang in the hallway, thinking that she was one of the other students giving him a hard time.
Hermione has been trying to force Harry and Ron to speak to one another to no avail. Harry won’t try for it until Ron admits that Harry didn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire. He misses his best friend, though—it’s not quite as fun hanging out with Hermione all the time. A trip to Hogsmeade comes up, but Harry decides to go under his Invisibility Cloak; he doesn’t want to run into Ron or get heckled by any of the other students. Hermione protests, as it looks like she’s talking to herself, but they go anyhow. Harry notices Hagrid talking to Moody at the Three Broomsticks. Moody is drinking from his hip flask, as anything that comes from outside sources could be poisoned (or so he told his class the other day).
Moody manages to spot Harry—his special eye can see through Invisibility Cloaks—and he and Hagrid approach. Hagrid tells Harry to meet him at his hut at midnight before they leave the pub. Hermione worries that might make Harry late for his meeting with Sirius tonight, but Harry is very curious about what could make Hagrid ask him to come out so late. He goes to the hut and Hagrid leads him to the other edge of the grounds… right after stopping to pick up Madame Maxime.
What they find are dragons. Dragons are the First Task, or they are part of it at least. Charlie Weasley is there as one of their handlers, and he’s concerned that Hagrid brought Madame Maxime, knowing that she’ll want to tell her champion about it; Hagrid had only been thinking of it as a sort-of date for them. There are four different types of dragons, though the worst by far is the Hungarian Horntail—she has spikes on her tail. For someone reason that Charlie is unaware of, they wanted nesting mother dragons for the task. All their eggs were brought along.
Harry hurries back to meet with Sirius, but not before running headlong into Karkaroff (while under the cloak), who is clearly heading down to find out what is coming for the task. Harry realizes that the only person who won’t know about the dragons is Cedric. He gets back to the common room, and Sirius’ head appears in the fire. Harry gets about three words into their conversation before blurting out everything awful that’s been going on. Sirius then explains to Harry that he has something of the theory for everything going on; Karkaroff was a Death Eater. He got out of Azkaban by giving up names of other Death Eaters and forming a deal with the Ministry. Sirius thinks that Moody was attacked before going to Hogwarts because someone didn’t want him teaching there and keeping an eye on Karkaroff. He’s fairly certain that Voldemort killed Bertha Jorkins because he was last rumored in Albania where she disappeared, and he knows Bertha would have known about the Tournament. This whole thing seems like a great big plot to attack Harry.
Sirius is about to tell Harry how to stop a dragon when someone comes down the stairs and Harry has to tell him to go. It turns out to be Ron, which certainly doesn’t help in their failing friendship department. Harry snaps at Ron and storms off.
Rita Skeeter’s article is every bit as horrible as we’re expecting, and has the awesome effect of not only ruining Harry’s life, but making Hermione’s pretty awful too. It’s never really addressed, but part of me has always wondered if this article in particular was the first time Ron ever (even subconsciously) realized that he had some manner of romantic affection toward Hermione, while also realizing that she might prefer Harry over him. It’s clearly something that Ron has been feeling for a while by Deathly Hallows, and the suggestion does start here. So the damage that Skeeter’s articles do in that regard are extremely far-reaching. It’s an excellent commentary on bad journalism in that way—no matter how outrageous the lies are, just having read them will always affect people’s judgment.
Poor Harry is missing Ron no matter how angry he is, and again we see the ways in which they really are a trio, and what precisely makes Ron the “best” friend. Hermione is a wonderful person, but she doesn’t loosen up on her own, and Harry is not the sort of friend who can get her to do it. So he finds himself stuck hanging around in the library with Hermione when all he really wants is someone to play a game with him and joke around the other students giving Harry a hard time. Ron is the person who keeps things warm and comfortable, and his absence always destroys that every time.
Hermione is furious that Krum is always in the library, particularly because his gaggle of fans are always at his heels. And what’s more, she takes exception to these girls hanging on Krum because she thinks that he’s not attractive, that they only like him because he’s famous. People in glass castles, Hermione. Two years ago, you were sighing over Professor Lockhart. And at least Krum isn’t actively damaging anyone’s education the way dear old Gilderoy did. Really, she’s probably just more derisive about these girls because recalling how she acted around Lockhart is now HORRIFYING.
Can’t really blame Harry for wanting to go to Hogsmeade under the Cloak, no matter how awkward it is for Hermione. If the entire school is gunning for you and you have the ability to turn invisible, you take it. Harry makes note of some people in town who probably frequent the place because it’s the only all-wizard village in Britain, and he mentions hags, which we’ve heard of only a couple of times. They’re not quite human in Potterverse (the Ministry classifies them as beings, though), and they eat children. Still, no one seems concerned, so maybe they only eat the really little ones? Or they don’t go around doing that in more populated areas? It gets funnier the longer I think about it.
Then Harry’s sitting in The Three Broomsticks, thinking about how great it would be to have a normal year, how much he would love to be hanging out with Ron, talking about the Tournament with everyone else, not panicking for his life. It’s one of the few times we get an internal narrative like this from Harry, a clear acknowledgement that his experiences are not normal, even by a wizarding standard, and how much he wishes they could be for a change. When you consider in hindsight that this is so far from the worst of it, that reflection on his part stings a lot more.
We get another more informed mention of Moody’s hip flask here, which is a handy red herring-clue combo. Harry thinks of the class where Moody explained that he only drinks his own liquid and eats his own food to make sure no one could poison him. Of course, it’s a handy excuse for Barty Crouch, Jr. to drink Polyjuice Potion all the time, made handier by the fact that you can be sure that’s a rule the real Moody probably lived by. Crouch sees through Harry’s Invisibility Cloak because of Moody’s magic eye, and again I’m struck by how well he keeps it together—chances are he didn’t know the eye could see through Invisibility Cloaks, but he plays the whole thing off like it’s no big deal.
Hagrid’s secret meeting turns out to be very helpful indeed, but I’m a little confused as to how the dragons are actually hidden from the school population? Maybe I am just having difficulty with spatial descriptions, but they’re on the far side of the grounds, around the lake and such, which is far, sure, but they’re also SPITTING LARGE JETS OF FIRE INTO THE AIR. I mean, the castle has windows. It’s clearly hard to keep the secret—as soon as Hagrid wanders over with Madame Maxime, Karkaroff spots them and runs after them.
Charlie Weasley is one of the dragon handlers on site, and this is… kind of the most we see of him. We definitely get more time with the rest of his siblings, which is a shame because he has the coolest flipping job. As of Rita Skeeter’s article on last year’s Quidditch World Cup (over at Pottermore), Charlie is still unmarried and unattached, which is certainly an anomaly in his family. Rowling was once asked if Charlie was gay, but she answered in the negative, insisting that he simply wasn’t interested in women. This has led some fans to speculate that Charlie is asexual and aromantic, which is a cool idea. And it’s certainly a group that gets very little representation in fiction, so I’m down with that interpretation. Charlie just loves dragons. Charlie/dragons OTP.
Harry gets back in time to talk to Sirius, and we get the meanest, shortest glimpse of what Harry has truly needed this whole time—an adult who he trusts. The way he just spills everything to his godfather without hesitation shows what Sirius’ true value is to Harry, the chance to believe in an adult figure in his life, someone who takes his concerns and thoughts seriously, who was chosen by his own parents to be his family. We’ve seen Harry keep things from so many people because he’s afraid to worry them, or he’s not certain it’s his place, or he doesn’t trust them enough. Sirius strikes a very important balance that Harry has lacked, and it’s hardly surprising that when he’s given the chance to unload on his godfather, the whole dam breaks.
And Sirius is actually pretty close to mark on his predictions, which lets you know how sharp of a man he was and still is. It also makes it likely that Dumbledore knows all the same things—since it seems impossible that Sirius could put all these pieces together when Albus couldn’t—which makes it pretty clear that he’s letting this all play out as it will.
Ron interrupts and Harry snipes at him in a nasty way—a ’yeah let’s get you a scar so you can be famous too since that’s all you care about’ kind of way—and it’s probably good for Ron, really. The fact that he’s sort of stunned by Harry’s comeback, that he doesn’t come back to bed, indicates that those words probably landed and that he needed to hear them.
Chapter 20—The First Task
Harry wakes up the next morning and tells Hermione about everything that happened last night. She is concerned about Sirius’ Karkaroff theory, but she determines that they need to get Harry through the First Task before they think of the rest. They pour through books in the library, but can’t come up with anything particularly helpful. Krum keeps coming in and going through the stacks, attracting gaggles of fans that annoy Hermione.
Harry decides that Cedric needs to know about the dragons, and rips his book bag before class to talk to him alone. Cedric can’t figure out why Harry would tell him about the task, but Harry insists that it wouldn’t be fair for everyone to know but him. Moody catches Harry talking to Cedric and takes him into his office. He tells Harry that what he did was decent, and that it’s not a big deal anyhow—cheating has been part of the Triwizard Tournament forever. He gives Harry some general advice; to stick to his strengths, and to use simple spells to get him what he needs. Harry thinks of flying, and realizes that he needs his Firebolt to do the task. In order to get his Firebolt, he has to master a Summoning Charm… the very charm he’s been having trouble with.
He practices with Hermione most of the day, except during Divination, where Professor Trelawney keeps predicting the deaths of kids born in July (at least she knows when Harry’s birth month now?) Harry makes a snarky remark to her, and Ron almost laughs, but Harry isn’t interested in dealing with him. He finally seems to have the Summoning Charm down by the middle of the night. The next day, time passes in the haze. Eventually, Harry is pulled out of the Great Hall by McGonagall, and brought to the tent where the champions are waiting. Ludo Bagman is the announcer for the task, and he has a bag with small models of each dragon that they have to pick blindly. They have to collect a golden egg after getting past their dragon Harry is going fourth—and he gets the Hungarian Horntail. (Because of course he does.)
The first three champions go, but Harry can’t see them, can only hear the commentary as he fails to calm his nerves. His Summoning Charm for the Firebolt goes perfectly, and Harry’s fear dissolves—he begins to think of the task like a Quidditch game. He manages to draw the Horntail away from the eggs, and nabs the egg faster than any of the other champions. He goes to the medical tent to see to his only injury, and Ron and Hermione show up. Ron tells Harry that he reckons whoever put his name in the Goblet was trying to get him killed and they make up instantly, Hermione telling them they’re idiots and running off in tears at the reconciliation.
Harry gets excellent scores from everyone except Karkaroff, who only gives him a four out of ten. Harry could care less because he’s got Ron back, and most of the school seems to have forgiven him. He’s tied for first place with Krum so far. Back at the champion’s tent, Bagman comes in the tells them that the eggs they retrieved contain a clue that will help them prepare for the Second Task, which comes at the end of February. Harry leave with Ron, and Rita Skeeter waylays them, but Harry blows her off and heads back to the castle with his BFF.
So Harry tells Hermione about dragons and about Karkaroff, and he’s just panicking about the whole caboodle because why wouldn’t you? And Hermione is like, sure, but if you don’t defeat the dragon, it’s not really gonna matter if Karkaroff is here to kill you, so let’s focus on that, okay?
Hermione Granger’s practicality is maybe the most important thing in this entire series, and it makes me re-love her more with every page I turn.
And after Hermione is done being awesome, it’s Harry’s turn to be equally awesome by taking Cedric aside and warning him about the dragons. Which just, Harry, I need you to stop being so damned decent as a human being, I know you’re the hero and all, but jeez. Even Cedric is having a hard time believing how golden you are, and he’s pretty princely himself.
Not-Moody grabs Harry and brings him to his office, and it really shouldn’t be any wonder that Harry becomes an Auror when nearly every Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is constantly dragging him aside for private chats. We get a clue or two here, including a glimpse of the trunk that the real Moody is locked in, and his Foe-Glass for seeing enemies. I’m going to assume that this belongs to the real Moody, since it seems strange that Barty just has one lying around to pack and take with him. But the Foe-Glass doesn’t show just Alastor Moody’s enemies, it’s not coded to him or anything—in fact, we’ll later find out that Barty Crouch, Jr.’s enemies are the ones lurking like shadows in the background. So is it about proximity? Or whoever owns the thing at the time? Crouch tells Harry that he’s only in trouble when he sees the whites of his enemy’s eyes in the glass. I assume that would mean they were close to catching him, because if general nearness were the key, they would be creeping up on him all the time. Handy thing for Barty Crouch to have on this particular mission.
He tells Harry that cheating is tradition in the Triwizard Tournament, which is only vaguely interesting when we’re seeing daily examples of the corruption in wizard society anyway. On the other hand, he also points out that one of the reasons why Maxime and Karkaroff want to win is to prove that Albus Dumbledore is “only human.” Which suggests that aside from getting glory for their schools, the Triwizard Tournament is often a very personal competition between school headmasters. It makes more sense with this lot, but I do love the idea of that being an aspect of the tournament every time.
Of course, once Harry gets his advice from Moody, he realizes that the one spell he needs is the very one he’s been blocked on because, yay, dramatic tension! I love that it doesn’t occur to Harry that he could probably cheat a bit more by setting his Firebolt on the grounds behind a bush, so it didn’t have too far to fly to him. He and Hermione start power practicing that Summoning Charm, and Hermione’s dedication to the cause flies out the window when she won’t skip class just this once to make sure Harry has all the practice time he needs. Hermione, there is an actual chance that if you don’t skip this one Arithmancy class, HARRY WILL DIE. She’s lucky, and he doesn’t, but I just feel the need to point out that if there were ever a time to skip one class, that was probably it.
We’ve been told so many times that Harry just the Very Very Best at flying, but I don’t really feel like it ever registers the way it’s supposed to until the First Task. This is the first example we get of Harry flying strategically, using his brain rather than just having it all “come naturally.” It’s all just spins and dives and whirls at the Quidditch matches, but here it’s clear that Harry has a brain and he uses it when he’s in the air. It’s not all instinctual. And overlaying the Quidditch metaphor onto the First task is a frankly brilliant move, moreso for being something that just comes to him on the spot.
And then he and Ron make up because Ron finally realizes that the danger is reeeeaaaallll. And Harry doesn’t even want an apology anymore because all that matters is having his best friend back and if you don’t love them you’re wrong, you should all be crying like Hermione. (She’s right, and they are so stupid, and that meltdown is so real because watching friends make up is maybe one of the most relieving feelings in the universe.)
It’s fun to hear about how the other champions went about the task as Ron gives Harry the blow-by-blow, but I got a little stuck when I realized that Krum blinded his dragon, so she stomped around blindly and crushed her eggs. Krum accidentally got that dragon to squash her babies. Cry.
We know that we’re getting weird bias from Ludo Bagman (he offers to help Harry in the most indiscreet way possible), and it’s really just a miracle that this guy is allowed near anything remotely official because he’s basically an out-and-out crook. But then we get clear intentionally biased judging from Karkaroff, and it makes me wonder if the scores are weighted, or if there’s anything else in place to prevent that bias from screwing too badly with the scoring. We don’t really get any indication of that, but it just seems bonkers that there wouldn’t be. Honestly, the fact that the heads of the schools are judges at all is pretty much BS.
But it doesn’t make any difference because Harry doesn’t care, because Harry has Ron and everyone just be happy and hug someone you love today and wrap yourself in a warm blanket of friendship.
Emily Asher-Perrin is already wrapped in a warm blanket of friendship and intends to stay under it for the rest of the day. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.