The Harry Potter Reread might have an unhealthy obsession with pickles. It once had a pickled green bean and became inconsolable and the thought of not always eating pickled green beans. Pickles. Like that Portlandia sketch only real and tastier.
This week we’re going to find out what happens when wands cross in unexpected ways and find out what Mad-Eyed Moody’s deal really is. Chapters 34 and 35 of The Goblet of Fire are up—Priori Incantatem and Veritaserum.
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 34—Priori Incantatem
Harry is untied and un-gagged, but he can’t bolt for it because of his bad leg. The Death Eaters close their circle around him and Voldemort. Wormtail brings Harry his wand and Voldemort forces him to bow with magic. Then the Dark Lord begins the duel by hitting Harry with the Cruciatus Curse. When he stops, he asks whether or not Harry wants him to do it again. Harry won’t answer, so Voldemort puts the Imperius Curse on him, but Harry resists the curse entirely, shouting at Voldemort. When he tries to hit Harry with the torture curse again, Harry flings himself to the ground and rolls behind Tom Riddle’s gravestone.
Voldemort begins to taunt Harry about hiding, tells him that he’ll end the duel and kill him properly. Harry decides that he cannot die behind this headstone, that he would rather stand and fight and at least try to defend himself. He gets up and shouts the disarming spell right as Voldemort yells “Avada Kedavra!” And their wands make a connection through a bright beam of gold light. Harry can’t let go of his wand and neither can Voldemort. They are both raised into the air and moved to a clear piece of ground away from the graves. The beam of light connecting their wands turns into a golden domed web. Voldemort commands the Death Eaters not to interfere.
Voldemort is trying to break the connection between the wands. Harry begins to hear phoenix song coming from the light, and Harry gets the impression that he cannot let the connection between the wands break, though it’s getting harder to maintain. Beads of light are moving up the web toward Harry, and he gets the feeling that he cannot let those beads contact his wand, so he focuses his mind on pushing them back toward Voldemort. Concentrating like he never has in his life, Harry manages to force one of those beads back onto Voldemort’s wand, which emits screams. Harry sees an apparition of Wormtail’s silver hand, and then suddenly a ghostly (though very solid-looking) apparition of Cedric Diggory. Once he fully emerges, he tells Harry to hold on. He is followed by the shades of Frank Bryce and Bertha Jorkins. They both tell Harry to keep fighting.
The next figure who emerges is Lily Potter. She tells Harry to hold on, to wait for his father, while the other shades are distracting Voldemort. James Potter follows, coming to Harry’s side to tell him that Harry has to break the connection and go for the Portkey. He says that they will be able to linger for a short while to give him time. Cedric asks Harry to take his body back to his family, then James tells Harry to break the connection and run. Harry does as he’s told, darting from curses, evading the Death Eaters. He makes it back to Cedric’s body in the graveyard as Voldemort finally makes it toward him. The Dark Lord is raising his wand as Harry shouts a Summoning Charm, bringing the Cup to him and sending he and Cedric back.
It’s impressive at the start of this book, when we see Harry buck the Imperius Curse. Of course, there’s an extra layer of irony to Moody (who is truly Barty Crouch Jr.) teaching Harry in class how to effectively throw off Voldemort’s influence. But what I love about this moment is Harry finding the true value of being able to hack your way out of this particular curse. It’s not simply about regaining autonomy, not at all. It’s about denying someone control. Because choosing to use the Imperius Curse against another being is all about control, full stop. It’s about being able to play people like marionettes and finding strength in that. Harry throwing the curse off isn’t just inconvenient—it is actively denying Voldemort power.
You know, when I first read this book, Harry’s choice to stand and fight just seemed right and par for the course—because Harry is the hero and we’ve seen him do heroic things before and that’s just how myth works and stuff. But this time it was hard to read. There’s a perspective shift when you’re no longer the age of the main character, and suddenly you’re thinking about being fourteen and facing death at the hands of a monster, surrounded by people who are all older, and stronger, and eager to watch you fail. And the bravery Harry possesses in that moment feels so pointless. He’s too young to have to decide how he would prefer to die.
It’s not truly pointless, of course, because what comes to pass is still ultimately down to Harry’s strength of character and Voldemort’s hubris. If Harry wasn’t a nervy Gryffindor, he wouldn’t fight, and the wand connection wouldn’t take place. The reason why the wand connection happens at all is because the wand that chose Harry has the same core that Voldemort’s has. And that wand chose Harry because he’s a horcrux, with a little piece of Voldemort attached to him. If Voldemort respected anything other than he own grandiosity, he might think of these missteps and plan ahead and consider the unexpected, but as always, he’s convinced that he’s got the upper hand.
This is our first contact with Priori Incantatem (the reverse-spell effect), which we will later discover occurred because Harry and Voldemort’s wand cores are both a feather from Fawkes. [Correction: we saw it first when Amos Diggory used it on Harry’s wand at the World Cup. This is our first experience where it is triggered without incantation.] This is likely why Harry hears the air filled with phoenix song, which leads me to wonder how the same effect would manifest with different wand cores—would wands with dragon heartstring from the same dragon create an almighty roar? Either way, it’s special that the feather in Harry’s wand comes from a phoenix he knows and loves well. Perhaps he would not have been so soothed by the song of another bird. (I assume that what Harry is hearing is very much “essence of Fawkes,” which also sounds like the name of a perfume, so someone get right on that and make a killing.)
So here is something that is never really addressed, that Rowling probably doesn’t want to address, but it’s actually pretty important to me from a reading standpoint. The figures that erupt from the wands are not simply echoes of the people they were; they are clearly conscious and aware of events after their deaths. Otherwise the conversations between Lily and James and Harry wouldn’t be so up-to-the-moment and cogent. So… are these actual spirits in the afterlife, forced into some semi-corporeal status? And why does Priori invoke that? And how does that even work? Are James and Lily chilling out with their parents on the spirit plane and suddenly they get sucked through a vortex of light and come out the other end in front of their kid? Lily’s placation that James is coming indicates that she knows what is happening to them and how it works, so clearly she is present in a pretty real sense.
There’s the emotional side to this, which is all bound up in Harry getting to have real contact (in a sense) with his dead parents. This line before Lily emerges is murder every time:
…and Harry knew who it would be… he knew, as though he had expected it from the moment when Cedric had appeared from the wand… knew, because the woman was the one he’d thought of more than any other tonight…
It is one of those rare instances where telling us that Harry has been thinking of his mother has more far impact than going into his head and revealing those moments as they happen in the narrative. We don’t know that Harry has been thinking of Lily, and suddenly having it thrust out in front of us not only hurts, but proves how frightened he is; his life could end any second. He wants his mother.
Presumably, these shades of spirits could have lingered and held Voldemort off without James, and so Lily’s request that Harry wait becomes even more wrenching—they want Harry to see and speak with his father. To know that both of his parents are here to protect him. It’s a double-dose of strength, of comfort; your mother is here for you, now hold on. You father wants to be here too. And if they are fully fleshed out spirits of the afterlife, then this would make even more sense—it’s the only real chance they have gotten to speak with their son following their deaths.
I just… I’m sorry. What Lily and James provide Harry in the moments when he needs them the most… it makes me so damn sad that they never got to raise him. I have a lot of feelings about Potter parents.
Cedric’s request that Harry take his body back is sobering; who knows how terribly it might have been used (or simply forgotten) if Harry had not reached it. And it proves that even in death Cedric is a noble soul. After all, a body is mostly useful in helping families and loved ones find closure in the death. Without his body, it’s entirely possible that the Ministry would never have believed that he died. Or they might have gone so far to suggest that Harry did something to him.
Harry arrives face down in the grass, in shock, clinging to Cedric’s body and the Triwizard Cup. He cannot find it in him to focus until Dumbledore comes to his side and turns him over. He tells the headmaster that Voldemort is back. Fudge is there and realizes Cedric is dead; news of it spreads through the crowd. Harry won’t let go of Cedric, telling Dumbledore that he promised to bring him back to his parents. Albus tries to tell Harry that he can’t help anymore, he has to let go. He picks Harry up and sets him on his feet. The crowd begins to push in on them. It’s chaos, Fudge wants Harry in the hospital wing, Dumbledore wants to keep him there, Diggory’s father is coming over, someone grabs Harry and drags him away back toward the castle.
The person who has Harry is Mad-Eye Moody. He asks Harry what happened to him, and Harry tries his best to explain. Moody gets Harry into his office, locks the door, gets him to drink something peppery. He keeps asking Harry very specific questions about Voldemort’s resurrection. When he asks about the Death Eaters, Harry remembers that he has to tell Dumbledore about the Death Eater at Hogwarts. He assumes it’s Karkaroff that Voldemort was talking about, but Moody laughs that off, saying that Karkaroff fled when the Dark Mark started to burn. He is the one who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire.
Harry is stunned, doesn’t believe him. Moody wants to know if Voldemort forgave the Death Eaters who never went looking for him, who ran when he fired the Dark Mark into the sky at the Quidditch World Cup. He hates Death Eaters who went free, like he said—because they abandoned their master. He put Harry’s name in the Goblet under a different school, nudged Hagrid about showing him the dragons, kept threats away, clued him in on how to beat the first task. He told Cedric to open the egg underwater so the information would get passed to Harry, he gave Neville an Herbology book that Harry could have used to find out about gillyweed, he staged a loud conversation with McGonagall in front of Dobby so that he would bring Harry the gillyweed. He walked the perimeter of the maze, getting rid of obstacles, Stunning Fleur and putting the Imperius Curse on Krum so he’d get rid of Cedric.
Behind Moody, the figures in his Foe-Glass and getting sharper and closer….
Moody appears to be going mad from excitement—Voldemort had wanted to kill Harry and failed. Now he will do it, and be the most valued supporter of all. He tells Harry that he and Voldemort have a lot in common; they had terrible fathers who they were named after, and they both killed those fathers to help a Dark Order into being. Harry tells him he’s crazy and Moody reels back to kill him, but the door is blown open by Dumbledore, knocking Moody unconscious. Harry has a moment to realize why people say Albus is the only one Voldemort truly fears, just from the look on his face. He is flanked by McGonagall and Snape, and they enter the room to survey the scene. They are also perfectly visible in the Foe-Glass now.
McGonagall makes to remove Harry, but Dumbledore wants Harry to understand what has transpired tonight and insists that he stays. He tells Harry that this man crumpled on the floor is not Alastor Moody, that the real Moody would have never taken him from Albus’ sight. He takes not-Moody’s hip flask and keys off of him. Then he tells Snape to fetch the strongest truth potion he has, and to retrieve Winky from the kitchens. He also asks McGonagall to fetch a black dog hanging out in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and to tell the dog that he will be with him soon. They do as they’re asked. Dumbledore starts going through all the locks on Moody’s trunk. Each lock opens an entirely different trunk within the same case, and the final one reveals a room where the real Moody has been housed the whole year; he was kept alive to emulate and to use his hair for Polyjuice Potion (which was kept in Moody’s hip flask), and controlled by the Imperius Curse. Dumbledore figures than in the evening’s excitement, the imposter may have forgotten to take the potion as often as he should, however…
He and Harry and wait, and suddenly the man morphs into a different person—Barty Crouch Jr.
Snape and McGonagall are back in short order, and Winky is horrified to find Barty there. Dumbledore takes the Veritaserum from Snape, pours a few drops into Barty’s mouth and wakes him. Then he forces him to spill the entire story: Barty Crouch’s mother was dying and asked Crouch Sr. that they rescue her son from prison as a final favor. When they came to visit him in Azkaban, they gave them both Polyjuice Potion so that he could become his mother and vice versa. Because the Dementors are blind, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway. Barty’s mother drank Polyjuice Potion in Azkaban until she died shortly after her arrival. It was believed Barty had died and was buried at Azkaban. On returning home with his father, Crouch Sr. staged his wife’s death. Barty wanted to return to Voldemort’s side, but Crouch kept him controlled using the Imperius Curse and hidden under an Invisibility Cloak night and day. Winky took care of Barty, and convinced Crouch to give him treats when he behaved well. Bertha Jorkins discovered that he was alive when she came by to have Crouch sign some papers and he was not home. While she waited inside for him to return, she heard Winky talking to Barty and figured out who he was. She confronted Crouch and he put a strong Memory Charm on the woman, permanently damaging her.
It was Winky who convinced Crouch to let Barty attend the Quidditch World Cup. She begged him for months, insisting that he loved Quidditch, and that his mother had not saved him to be imprisoned his entire life. He went under his Cloak and sat in the top box next to Winky, where she claimed that she was saving the seat for Crouch. But Barty was beginning to learn how to buck the Imperius Curse. He came out of it during the match and stole Harry’s wand while Winky was covering her eyes, terrified to be up so high. Then when the Death Eaters—the ones who never went to Azkaban, who turned their backs on the Dark Lord—started terrorizing the Muggles in the crowd, Barty wanted to attack them for being so disloyal. Winky, frightened by his anger, used House-elf magic to bind him to her, and dragged him into the forest. Barty couldn’t get back to the camp, so he did the only thing he could, casting the Dark Mark in the sky. When the Ministry wizards arrived, they shot Stunning spells that broke the bond between Winky and Barty. He was still invisible under his cloak and she was questioned, then dismissed by Crouch for failing at her job.
Barty and Crouch lived alone in their house until Voldemort arrived. The Dark Lord knew from his interrogation of Bertha Jorkins that Barty was ready and willing to serve him. He planted Barty at Hogwarts after Barty and Wormtail subdued Moody. He was the one who greeted Arthur when he came around about the dustbins. He kept Moody around to learn about his past and ticks. He stole boomslang skin from Snape’s stores for the Polyjuice Potion.
But Crouch began to wake under the Imperius Curse back home. Wormtail lost the man, and Voldemort guessed Crouch was heading to Hogwarts. Barty used the Marauder’s Map to figure out what was going on. When Crouch showed up on the grounds, Barty used his Invisibility Cloak to head him off in the forest, but Krum and Harry showed up. When Harry ran for Dumbledore, he stunned Krum and murdered Crouch. He hid the body in the forest with the Invisibility Cloak over it, then doubled back to meet Dumbledore and Harry, claiming Snape had sent him. Once everyone had gone, he went back to his father’s body, Transfigured it into a bone, and buried it in front of Hagrid’s cabin. For the final task, he turned the Triwizard Cup into a Portkey, and now will be rewarded by Voldemort as he is returned.
Barty Crouch Jr. smiles as Winky sobs at his side.
There is a great big continuity error here that drives me nuts. So, Harry has one hand on Cedric in the last chapter, and in his other hand he has his wand, which he uses to call the Cup to him. When we start in this chapter, Rowling says that Harry has his hands on exactly two things—the Cup in one hand, and Cedric in the other.
Where did Harry’s wand go? He could have maybe caught the Cup with the wand still in his hand, but Rowling says precisely not that. It’s just a silly mistake that bugs the heck out of me.
That aside, Rowling does such a fantastic job of describing how shock affects a person at the start of this chapter. Harry’s inability to engage with the world around him, not even hearing or noticing his surrounding until Dumbledore shakes him out of it. And no one handles it particularly well, but especially not Fudge (surprise!). Harry’s unwillingness to let go of Cedric is part of that shock, which Dumbledore instantly realizes; he has to assure Harry that he can do no more than he has already done before Harry will feel comfortable letting go. The whole scenario is honestly a nightmare from every standpoint. That Harry is surrounded by people, that everyone can see Cedric’s body, that the whole student body is there and no one can possibly give them correct information. It’s just a giant game of telephone with everyone panicking.
(So here’s a question… why does the Cup dump them at the stands on their return trip? You’d think it would just take you back to the place in the maze where they found it. So that’s probably just some handwaving to make everything immediate. Unless there’s some sort of notification attached to the Cup? Once it’s been touched, the winner gets transported out by Dumbledore, or something?)
And we finally get our big reveal, and honestly… I can’t remember what I thought when I first read it. I don’t remember if I really thought Moody was bad there for a while before the potion wore off, or if I kind of guessed the Polyjuice angle and assumed he was someone else. I probably bought it, knowing me. That Moody was just evil. He’s just rambling like a whacko at this point, so anything seems possible.
I do love that everything that Harry does in regard to the Tournament, Barty frames as a failing. But not even just by making it seem bad, it’s that Barty literally misunderstands the reasons why Harry acts the way he does most of the time. He insists that Harry’s pride and independence prevents him from asking anyone about the second task, but really, Harry has been told that he’s not supposed to ask for help and he’s taking the rules too seriously. He lets Ron and Hermione help because he knows they won’t admit to it and get him or anyone else in trouble. Not saying that Harry has no pride or independence, but Barty reads him all wrong.
Barty does mention that when he kills Harry, Voldemort will welcome him back with open arms and he will be “closer than a son” to the Dark Lord, and remember what I said about Barty replacing his dad with Voldemort as a father figure? It’s still creepy.
The Foe-Glass, on the other hand, is used to spectacular effect in this section, and I really wish it had been used properly in the film because it’s such a great visual and tension builder. Another great tension builder is BAMF Dumbledore, who is so displeased with the evenings proceedings that he actually frightens Harry for the first time, and we get an idea of just how bad it would be to make the man properly mad. But then he’s back to giving really weird instructions to Snape and McGonagall and things start to feel more normal. (Poor Sirius. Waiting in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch. Freaking out.)
They find the real Moody, and it occurs to me this time around how entirely horrible this is for Alastor. I mean, this is basically everything his paranoia was built to avoid, and he still got stuck in a trunk and sedated for the better part of the year while a servant of Voldemort ran around in his clothes. This is literal hell for Alastor Moody. Even his constant vigilance couldn’t save him. I’m sort of surprised and impressed that he makes it out the other side of this.
The other aspect of this that really smarts is when I look at how Barty treats Moody, and then how Crouch treated Barty, and how Barty is literally replicating the pattern of his own abuse, and that just proves that Crouch Sr. is basically the worst. And also that YOU DON’T KEEP PEOPLE LOCKED INSIDE THEIR OWN HEADS UNDER INVISIBILITY CLOAKS, HOW DID YOU EVER IMAGINE YOU WERE DOING EVERYONE A FAVOR. It’s just a crash-and-burn from beginning to end. If Crouch had been gifted with anything more than a sliver of empathy, we might have avoided so much terror and pain. But instead, Barty gleefully uses the tools of his own imprisonment against another person, and it’s probably cathartic for him. It’s horrible, but true.
Then you hear Barty go on about how crappy all the other Death Eaters are, the ones who didn’t go to prison for Voldemort, and you wanna be like, Barty. Barty. You begged your dad not to send you to Azkaban, you didn’t pull a Bellatrix here, and by the way, you were probably in there for like SIX MONTHS. Barty, stop. Barty, please. Granted, he would have fled in search of the Dark Lord if his dad hadn’t kept him locked up, so he’s got a one-up on the rest of the Death Eaters there, but still…. It’s actually possible that Barty wouldn’t have wanted to go back to Voldemort if his father had shown him some compassion, so the point is sending your kids to Azkaban gives them a reeeeaaaalll chip on their shoulder. Who’d’ve thought?
We find out that the reason Barty didn’t cause more damage at the World Cup is because Winky bound him to her using house-elf magic, at which point you get a real sense of just how powerful the elves are. Winky doesn’t need a wand for that, she just does it. And this would be why wizards are afraid of house-elves gaining too much power. Because magic is internal to them, and that’s frightening. It’s also the antithesis to how magical humans are taught.
We find out how Barty hid his dad’s body, and then I start thinking about how freaking easy wizard murder is, and it makes my head spin. They need magical forensics. Something that helps you identify transfigured things as human body parts. I mean, come on. This is nuts. Where’s my CSI: Diagon Alley? Because that’s just begging to be done.