The Harry Potter Reread is going to swaddle itself in glitter and go out dancing. But to what kind of music? That, dear reader, is up to you.
This week we’re going to find out what happens when a house-elf gets drunk and then get lectured by a criminal on the run. It’s chapters 28 and 29 of The Goblet of Fire—The Madness of Mr. Crouch and The Dream.
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 28—The Madness of Mr. Crouch
Harry, Ron, Hermione send an owl to Percy inquiring about Crouch as Sirius suggested. Then they bring Dobby his socks—he’s over the moon about them. In the kitchens, they find Winky drunk and desolate; she cannot bring herself to accept that she is no longer Crouch house-elf. Hermione insists that people can do their own housework, but Winky tells her that she did much more than housework for Bartemius Crouch. She kept his secrets. When Harry asks what those secrets are, she tells him he’s being nosy. Then she drunkenly passes out by the fire, and the other house-elves cover her up, embarrassed. When Hermione tells them that Winky has every right to be upset and that they should fight for their rights, the house-elves rush them out of the kitchen (with some food Harry requested for Sirius).
Ron gets annoyed with Hermione for the house-elf kerfuffle, leading to them being snippy with each other all day. Harry goes to owlery alone to send Sirius his food and notices Hagrid digging in his yard. Madame Maxime comes over to talk to him, but Hagrid doesn’t seem too interested in talking and she soon leaves him be. Harry watches Hagrid dig into the night, not particularly excited at the prospect of coming back to another tiff between Ron and Hermione.
The next morning, Hermione tells the boys that she’s gotten a subscription to the Daily Prophet, so they stop hearing all the news from the Slytherins. But what comes for her that day is a load of hate mail for “breaking Harry Potter’s heart.” One of the envelopes contains undiluted bubotuber pus, and Hermione has to go to the Hospital Wing to take care of the sores that erupt on her hands. Harry and Ron head on to Herbology, then Care of Magical Creatures where Hagrid has obtained some nifflers for the class to enjoy. They like shiny things, so Hagrid buried a bunch of leprechaun gold (that was why he was digging the previous night) for them to find. Ron’s niffler rounds up the most gold, and he wins a bar of chocolate. Hagrid advises Goyle to stop trying to steal the gold as leprechaun gold vanishes after a while.
Hermione arrives with her hands bandaged. After the lesson she tells Hagrid what happened, and he tells her that he also got lots of hate mail after Skeeter’s article on him ran. He tells her to throw it away without looking at it. They leave Hagrid and Ron gets on Harry’s case—the gold he used to pay Harry back for his omnioculars would have vanished because it was also leprechaun gold. Harry says he didn’t notice, which leads to Ron commenting on how nice it must be to not notice a bunch of gold going missing. Harry points out that they had a lot more to worry about that night. Ron gets gloomy about being poor, so Hermione tries to cheer him by pointing out that his hands aren’t full of pus. She vows to get back at Rita Skeeter.
Hate mail continues to arrive for Hermione; she doesn’t open them anymore, but a few are Howlers and shriek insults at her. Harry insists that it’ll die down, but he’s getting fed up with having to explain that he and Hermione aren’t dating. Hermione still wants to know how Skeeter is managing to hear private conversations when she isn’t allowed on the grounds. She asks Professor Moody if he saw her under an Invisibility Cloak, and he answers in the negative. Harry suggests that she might be bugging people the Muggle way, but Hermione ends that train of thought by explaining that Muggle tech doesn’t work in Hogwarts due to interference from all the magic. She hits the books to try and figure out what Rita is up to.
The workload is getting heavier, and harder to keep up with, but Harry makes sure to keep sending food to Sirius. They finally get a response from Percy at Easter. It comes with a box of Easter eggs from Mrs. Weasley—Harry and Ron’s are huge, but Hermione’s is tiny. She asks Ron if his mother reads Witch Weekly, and Ron confirms that she does for recipes. Percy’s letter is curt and annoyed at their questions. He tells them not to write again unless something serious has happened.
In May, Harry is told to go meet Ludo Bagman after dinner and find out about the Third Task. It turns out that Hagrid is growing a maze on the Qudditch pitch. The champions have to navigate the maze (there will be critters and spells to face inside) and find the Triwizard Cup. Whoever touches it first wins. Once they’ve all been informed, they begin to walk back indoors. Viktor asks for a word with Harry at the edge of the forest, which turns out to be Viktor Krum Grilling Harry Potter on What His Feelings Are for Hermione Granger. Harry is pretty freaked out to be having the conversation, but insists that they are only friends. Viktor is pleased with this and tells Harry that he’s good at flying. Then something moves in the forest.
It turns out to be Mr. Crouch. He’s babbling a message to Percy (Weatherby), but when he sees Harry, he goes into how he made a grave mistake and needs to see Dumbledore. He mentions that Bertha’s death is his fault, something about his son, then about Harry and Voldemort, then slips back into talking to the trees about his wife and son and having dinner with Cornelius Fudge. Harry asks Viktor to stay with him and rushes to get Dumbledore. Snape emerges from the headmaster’s office then, and enjoys telling Harry he’ll have to wait. Luckily, Dumbledore leaves his office a few moments later, and Harry tells him that Crouch is there. Dumbledore follows Harry into the forest, but when they arrive at the spot, they find Viktor unconscious. Albus calls for Hagrid, then wakes him and Viktor claims that Crouch attacked him from behind. Dumbledore tells Hagrid to grab Karkaroff, as Krum is his student.
He also requests that Hagrid find Professor Moody… who turns up on the scene then and there. Apparently he heard about Crouch from Snape. Dumbledore insists that it is essential that they find Crouch immediately, so Moody sets off deeper into the forest. Hagrid returns with Karkaroff, who immediately begins shouting conspiracy theories about how the whole tournament was a ploy. He spits at Dumbeldore’s feet, which gets a rise out of Hagrid. Albus tells him to release the Durmstrang headmaster and take Harry back to Gryffindor Tower. He also makes sure to tell Harry not to send any owls until the next morning. (So he clearly knows that Harry is in touch with Sirius.) Hagrid is furious as he takes Harry back to the tower, insisting that none of the people from the other schools can be trusted. He doesn’t think Hermione should talk to Krum, and Harry certainly shouldn’t. He’s also sure the Maxime was warming up to him again to get information about the Third Task. Harry is happy to bid him goodnight and immediately tells Ron and Hermione what transpired in the woods.
Oh, Hermione. You know you’re not getting it right when the very people you’re trying to help are running you out of town. Listen to them. Find out what they want. You’re even making Dobby nervous. (Although I do agree that covering Winky up with a tablecloth to pretend she’s not there is not cool.) Knowing that butterbeer is alcoholic to house-elves does make me wonder if it is a regular treat for them if they work in more lenient households. The idea of the elves closing up shop for the evening at Hogwarts with butterbeer in hand is kind of adorable.
Then Hermione starts receiving hate mail. Serious hate mail, I mean, we’re lucky this world is magic and most problems can be healed with relative ease because a real-world equivalent to this would probably be permanently damaging. And this basically is a reflection of real life. As soon as someone dates Justin Bieber, the fans go on attack. The parallel is eerie and made more upsetting because we know Hermione. I do wonder if having it shown so frankly in this book ever discouraged fans from reacting in a similar manner toward any women in the public eye. This form of abuse is serious, and often goes unchecked. (Also, this makes me feel much stronger about the wizarding world putting a legal ban on Howlers. They are not okay.)
Of course, we find out that Hagrid got his own set of hate mail, but there’s an extra layer of this-is-the-worst for his because it’s bound up in bigotry. People aren’t railing on Hagrid for supposedly breaking someone’s heart, they’re just encouraging him to die for being who he is. And telling him that his mother is a murderer. People are awesome, right?
Nifflers! They are cute! They are often kept by Goblins to find treasure, and they live in lairs underground. I know that Hagrid kept up with the unicorns because the students liked them so much in his absence, but the fact that he moves on to the relatively harmless nifflers after the fact makes me wonder if the Triwizard Tournament isn’t giving him his fill of dangerous creatures. As an aside, Rowling makes a point of saying that Harry has to remove his watch for the niffler class, so that they won’t eat it. Harry’s watch doesn’t work, but he keeps wearing it anyhow. It struck me as one of those super real things that I remember doing as a kid. I had a watch of my dad’s that was huge for my tiny wrist, but I insisted on wearing it.
Ron finds out about the impermanent nature of leprechaun gold and gets frustrated with Harry for not telling him. And while you can’t help but side with Harry when he points out that gold would be the last thing on his mind when there were Death Eaters at the World Cup, this is also the first time Ron says out loud that being poor sucks. The first time he just straight-up admits to it. Hermione tries to one-up him in an effort to make him feel better, but they’re both kind of feeling the world’s weight today.
Harry suggests that Rita Skeeter could be bugging people like government agencies do on the television, but Hermione explains that Muggle technology doesn’t really work at Hogwarts because all the magic in the air prevents it. My first thought was, could you imagine Hogwarts in this day and age? Being a Muggleborn student who grew up with smartphones and laptops and suddenly being denied access to the world as you understand it? Probably traumatizing. Bet you anything that they have a support group: You’ll Be Okay Without the Internet, First Years.
But my other more-obvious question becomes—is this why the wizarding world seems so behind the times? If you’ve got a magical household, does that make cable TV a pipe dream? Even if the interference is minor, wouldn’t it be strange? You have a magical child and discover that whenever they come home for school holidays, your phone reception goes down the drain? It implies that the wizarding world can’t simply adapt Muggle innovations for their own use; a lot of work and thought has to go into creating viable alternatives. Wizarding radio is probably an entirely different beast from its Muggle progenitor. They provide essentially the same entertainment, but getting wizarding radio programs through the ether is probably not quite so simple as knowing a thing or two about radiowaves themselves.
We get to the Easter gifting, and Molly is being outrageously petty here. She’s letting Hermione know she’s fallen out of favor, but she won’t bother to ask about the article and what it says—and that’s knowing that Rita has already caused trouble for Arthur at work. So she’s basically falling prey to the gossip machine and reacting like a teenager rather than an adult. Boooooo. Molly, I know Harry is your surrogate son, but he can take care of himself in the dating world. Also, Hermione is fourteen.
The thing that’s most aggravating about Percy in this particular situation is that it’s clear he’s ignoring all signs of things being fishy because he’s just enjoying his new position of power too much. It’s obvious that things are off where Crouch is concerned, and Percy’s response is to stick his fingers in his ears and gripe about how he’s the one with all the awesome responsibility now, and he’s far too important for people to be bothering. It’s everything he ever wanted, and he’s ignoring vital information in favor of it. Like he does. And will continue to do. This is why too much ambition in a Gryffindor is terrible. (Makes me wonder if the ambition is a more recent development for Percy. Maybe when he was sorted, he was more chill about everything.)
We get the lowdown for the final task, and then Harry’s being taken aside by Krum who is all “What are your intentions toward my lady?” and poor Harry is tiny and younger and generally amused/horrified that Viktor Krum is taking him seriously as a contender for Hermione’s affections. I think my favorite part of this conversation is that when Viktor points out that Hermione talks about Harry a lot, Harry’s response is simply, yes, because we’re friends. It’s so rare to find good story examples of male-female friendships where there’s not really any consideration toward romance, but Harry never wavers on that one. Never. And he also doesn’t distance himself from Hermione because everyone is tossing around rumors about them dating. He’ll set them straight, but he never lets that muck up their friendship. Harry’s opinion basically boils down to what is wrong with all you people, it’s like you’ve never seen friendship before. I love you, Harry. (In a friendship kind of way.)
Rowling is really good at letting the little explosions happen without giving the whole plot away. When Crouch emerges, it seems as though we’ll be getting some answers, but all we get are more clues. Clues galore, clues about Bertha, and Barty Jr., and Harry and Voldemort. We’ll later find out that Barty Sr.’s faltering grip on sanity is the result of being held under the Imperius Curse at Voledmort’s behest, and that gives you a pretty good window into how sharp Barty Jr. had to be if he was under the curse for years and still managed to come back from that—and fool everyone into thinking he was a different person. Barty Crouch Jr. might have actually been a proper genius, if people hadn’t messed so badly with his mind.
You know it’s bad news to leave Viktor alone with Crouch, but it’s really not like Harry has better options in this scenario. Then Snape has to show up in the chapter, just to be his usual worst self, but at least Harry gets to Dumbledore in the end. They gets into the forest and then Hagrid is summoned and then Moody shows up very conveniently, claiming Snape told him all about it. That whole tale and his immediate appearance should raise all the flags, but we’ve already been conditioned to accept Moody’s paranoia as an answer for just about everything. He’s billed himself as the man ever on high-alert. And when he shows up, we just go with it.
So then Dumbledore basically lets Barty Crouch Jr. stroll into the woods and kill his dad. It’s often easy to overestimate Dumbledore’s grasp on the overall narrative of the series—in some minds, he’s practically thought of as omniscient—but honestly? I don’t think he knows as much as he appears to. I think he’s just incredibly uncanny and has excellent intuition. Fact is, Barty Crouch Jr. stands right next to him this entire year, and Dumbledore never divines it. He sends Barty out into the woods after his father, thinking that he’s just sent a trusted friend into the woods to find a lost man. It lets us know two things; Barty Crouch Jr. is very very good, and Albus Dumbledore is far from a demigod with a wizard chess board featuring Harry and Voldemort on opposite sides.
Karkaroff shows up and starts going off about conspiracy and how they can forget international cooperation with what’s going on. And I get that he’s the head of Durmstrang, but seriously… where is Karkaroff even from? For all we know, Karkaroff was born in the U.K. He was there when Voldemort rose the first time around, and he was tried by the Ministry in the U.K. for his crimes. His name is the only thing that would indicate a different heritage, which still doesn’t make an open-shut case of the thing. I guess we have to assume he has some pull outside of the U.K., but even so, he’s not exactly a likable guy. His threat doesn’t seem like a big deal—apart from how it sets off Hagrid.
Hagrid is furious for the slight against Dumbledore, he tells Harry not to trust any of these “foreign peoples” anymore, and you begin to realize how fragile this whole thing truly is. Hagrid, who has experienced prejudice throughout his life, is falling pray to it the same as everyone else. This is how the First War went. This is what Voldemort managed to do to the wizarding world… and it wasn’t really hard at all. It could easily happen all over again, if this is how tenuous those bonds are. Dumbledore was right to try and foster cooperative relationships, but you have to figure that he saw this coming, that his true hope was that the students from each school would see past it and make friends. The adults in this war are already too rigid in their beliefs, too suspicious to make the changes needed.
Chapter 29—The Dream
The trio talk long into the night about what Harry saw, and are still trying to parse it out come morning. Harry is certain of one thing, though—Crouch sounded clearest when he was talking about Voldemort gaining strength. They head to the Owlery to send a letter to Sirius, and Fred and George come up behind them, having a talk about blackmailing someone. They try to pass it off when they encounter the trio, but Ron is concerned about this apparent plot. The twins tell him to mind his own, and Ron voices his worries to Harry and Hermione; he knows that they really want to start that joke shop of theirs for real, and he’s scared of what they might do to get it.
Hermione wants to find out if Moody caught Crouch last night, but Harry reckons it’s too early to wake him. They go to History of Magic before cornering Moody, who tells them that he didn’t find Crouch. He used the Marauder’s Map, but it was no use; when Hermione tries to figure out other ways he could have left the grounds, Moody tells her she has the makings of an Auror too. He warns the trio to keep their mind on what really matters right now—the final task. And he advises Ron and Hermione to stick close to Harry.
Harry gets a letter back from Sirius, scolding him for being out at night and putting himself in danger like that. Harry is annoyed, but Hermione insists that Sirius is only concerned for his well-being. Harry thinks that it doesn’t make sense that the person after Crouch wouldn’t have just offed him too in the forest, but Hermione agrees with Sirius—the easiest way to hurt Harry and make it seem accidental is during the Triwizard Tournament. He needs to start training up for it. He begins by practicing Stunning Spells (on poor Ron), and gets ready to dive into hexes, but he’s got Divination first. As Trelawney is going on about the position of Mars (relevantly known as the God of War, according to the Romans), Harry gets sucked into a dream. Voldemort has decided not to kill Wormtail for a recent blunder because he has just received word by owl that the person he was concerned with is dead. Instead, his snake Nagini will have to forgo a meal of Peter Pettigrew in favor of eating Harry Potter.
Harry comes to and finds that he has been screaming on the floor of Divination, clutching his scar. Trelawney wants him to stay and encourage the Sight, but Harry rushes from the room, saying that he wants to go to the Hospital Wing. Instead he heads straight for Dumbledore’s office. He doesn’t know the password, so he just names as many candies as he can think of until the right one comes up. (It’s Cockroach Cluster.) When he reaches the office door, he can hear Dumbledore having a discussion with Cornelius Fudge and Moody. Fudge refuses to believe Dumbledore’s suggestion that Bertha Jorkins’ disappearance might be linked to Crouch’s fate—it would seem that Crouch is missing or dead from their conversation. Fudge implicates Madame Maxime for the crime since Crouch was found (by Harry and Viktor) near the Beauxbatons carriage, insisting that Albus is too lenient in how he thinks of her kind due to Hagrid. Moody pauses the conversation, noting that Harry is standing outside the door.
One of the best interactions in the book:
“What’re you doing here?” Fred and Ron said at the same time.
“Sending a letter,” said Harry and George in unison.
“What, at this time?” said Hermione and Fred.
Something that interests me; when I first read these books it was very easy for me to think of the twins as essentially one unit. And by and large, society often does that with twins, thinks of them as two halves of a whole rather than two separate people who happen to look alike. Fake science reinforces this idea, making twins out to be magical psychically connected beings, and fantasy loves to play on that trope. But the Weasley twins aren’t a part of that. And on this reread, it’s much more obvious to me how Fred and George differ from one another. Fred is by far the more devious of the two, the more willing to get his hands dirty. George just kind of goes along with it, and he’s more cautious by nature. This is obvious to other members of the family too; Ron knows that Fred is the one pushing the blackmail angle when he overhears them, and that’s without seeing who is speaking. He knows Fred from George in that conversation because he knows them as individuals, not just a set.
This is Ron’s second point in the book where he shows concern over family members going too far to get what they want. It’s good for sowing suspicion, but it also gives us a clear window into Ron’s frame of mind, currently. He’s not the first person to go gloom-n-doom on everything, but he’s not vacant about these matters. Things are getting worse and he feels it, even among the ranks of his own family.
The trio go to question Moody, and we get more clever misdirection. Moody tells Harry to prep hard for the final task, and it seems as though he’s just giving good advice, looking after Harry’s well-being. But of course, he needs Harry to win this thing. So he pushes Harry to refocus his energies entirely on the Triwizard Tournament and away from anything that happened with Crouch. Everything is swimming along just perfectly for Crouch Jr.
Sirius’ letter here is incredibly important, again because of what happens in the coming book. I won’t delve too far, as I said, but Sirius is doing what any good guardian should in this case. He’s telling Harry that what he did was dangerous, that he needs to be more cautious, that he wants a promise that he’ll be more careful in the future. His concern is entirely parental in nature, and it comes across clear and stern. Harry, stop putting your life at risk. Your godfather says so. That Harry doesn’t respond well to it isn’t much of a surprise, given that he’s never had a parental figure with enough clout to listen to before this. But it matters that Sirius instinctually goes there.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s more than just “incense” clouding the air in Trelawney’s classroom. It’s not just me, right? This seems totally plausible?
And then Harry has the dream that’s not actually a dream at all, and he does the right thing—he decides he should go directly to Dumbledore. And that necessitates him guessing a bunch of candies to try and get into the headmaster’s office. Mostly, I’m just tickled at the fact that Albus never veers from candy names. Also, the implication is that he might actually like Cockroach Clusters if he’s using them as a password. (They’re probably like chocolate covered ants anyhow. Not really that far out.)
The conversation between Dumbledore, Fudge, Moody is distressing on several levels, but mainly because this is one of our first clear glimpses of how Fudge will handle the upcoming crisis. Which is to basically insist that nothing is connected, everyone is crazy and fear-mongering, and also that prejudice is the Word of the Day! Dumbledore, it should be obvious that Madame Maxime is the culprit here. She’s, you know… different. I mean, fine, I falsely accused Hagrid last year and sent him to prison, but Maxime is really different. You know.
And Dumbledore’s response is that she’s good at her job and stuff and also an awesome dancer because WHAT THE HELL, FUDGE, THAT’S WHY.
UnSadly, this little convo is cut short because Moody can see through doors and stuff. Good timing, Harry.