The Harry Potter Reread would compose its own theme song, but it knows how incredibly wrong those plans can go.
This week we have reached the end of the middle book in the saga. Welcome to Chapters 36 and 37 of The Goblet of Fire—The Parting of the Ways and The Beginning.
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 36—The Parting of the Ways
Dumbledore asks McGonagall to guard Barty, and Snape to call Poppy Pomfrey down to attend to Moody, then to find Fudge so he can interrogate their prisoner. He takes Harry to his office to see Sirius, and explains what just occurred to the man. Fawkes lands on Harry’s knee. Then Dumbledore asks Harry to recount the evening from his perspective. Sirius tries to prevent it and Harry isn’t terribly keen, but Dumbledore believes that it will only be more difficult if he waits. So Harry begins to tell the tale and finds that he does feels better for it. Dumbledore stops him when Harry mentions his blood being used for the ritual, and asks to see the cut. When Harry mentions that Voldemort could touch him afterward, he fancies that Dumbledore looks triumphant, but quickly dismisses the thought.
Harry has a hard time continuing the story when he gets to the point where his and Voldemort’s wands connected. Dumbledore guesses what happened and explains the effect: Priori Incantatem. He tells Harry that he and Voldemort’s wands have the same core—a tail feather from Fawkes. Ollivander told him that Harry had purchased the second wand the moment he left the shop. Two wands with the same core cannot do battle, and if the owners of said wands try to force it, Priori occurs automatically, requiring one of the wands to regurgitate past spells. Dumbledore guesses that Harry saw shades of the dead, which he insists are echoes of the living. When Harry explains what they did for him and the conversation with his father, Sirius is deeply shaken. Fawkes cries on Harry’s leg and heals his wound. Dumbledore thanks Harry for his bravery, well beyond what one would expect for even an adult wizard. He tells Harry that he will take him to the hospital wing, where Harry can take a dreamless Sleeping Potion and get some rest. Sirius decides to accompany him as a dog.
They arrive at the wing to find Molly, Bill, Ron, and Hermione antagonizing Madame Pomfrey over Harry’s whereabouts. Molly rushes to him when she realizes he’s there, but Dumbledore stops her. He informs them all that they may stay with Harry, but they may not ask him anything about what happened tonight and wait until he’s ready to speak. He then tells Pomfrey that the dog with Harry will also be staying the night, and that he wants the chance to speak with the school before Harry is allowed to leave the wing. Then he leaves and Harry gets into one of the beds. Everyone gathers around him in chairs, and Madame Pomfrey pours him a potion that knocks him out. But he’s woken only a few hours later by McGonagall, Snape, and Fudge storming in (followed quickly by an irritated Dumbledore)—Fudge decided to bring a dementor to the interrogation for his safety and it performed the kiss on Barty as soon as it saw him. Now Fudge will never hear his testimony.
It doesn’t seem to matter, however, because Fudge is certain that Barty was delusional, and that Harry can’t be trusted; he read Rita Skeeter’s article on the boy, and starts taking Dumbledore to task for hiding Harry’s Parselmouth status and his scar pains. Harry tries to tell Fudge what he saw, but when he names the Death Eaters from the graveyard, Fudge tells him that all these people were dismissed long ago. Dumbledore insists that he believes Barty and Harry, and that Fudge needs to prepare for the second coming of Voldemort, something that could make him one of the best Ministers of Magic in history if he acts quickly. Albus wants him to dismiss the dementors from Azkaban, rightly pointing out that they are guarding Voldemort’s supporters and will be useless to the prison once they join him again. He also wants Fudge to send envoys to the giants, so they can gain their trust and keep them away from Voldemort as well. Fudge tells Dumbledore that he’d be dismissed just for bringing up those ideas. He says that Dumbledore is determined to destabilize everything that the wizarding world has worked to build since Voldemort’s downfall.
Dumbledore warns Cornelius that he is blinded by placing an importance on blood purity, and that if he refuses to see what is coming, they have reached a parting of ways. He intends to handle this new threat the way he sees fit, with or without Fudge’s blessing. Fudge is beside himself, as though he’s been personally threatened. Snape tries to drive the point home by showing the Minster the Dark Mark on is arm and explaining why Karkaroff fled this evening. Fudge is disgusted and still unwilling to believe. He tosses Harry’s prize money onto his hospital bed and rushes out.
Dumbledore tells everyone they must prepare and asks Molly if he can count on her and her husband. She responds in the affirmative, noting that the reason why Arthur has never done well at the Ministry is because of his love for Muggles; Fudge thought he lacked wizarding pride. Bill goes to notify Arthur so he can begin quietly contacting people in the Ministry who will stand against Fudge. Dumbledore asks McGonagall to call Hagrid and Madame Maxime (if she wishes to come) to his office as well. He then tells Madame Pomfrey to retrieve Winky from Moody’s office and have Dobby look after her. Then he requests that Sirius turn to his true form. Molly panics, but Ron tells her it’s fine.
However, the true reason for having Sirius show himself is for he and Snape to realize that they’re both completely trusted by Dumbledore, and will have to work together. They are quite displeased, but Dumbledore makes them shake hands. Then Albus asks Sirius to go alert “the old crowd” and lie low at Remus Lupin’s for some time. Harry isn’t happy to have Sirius gone so quickly, but he has to let him go. Dumbledore is deliberately vague on what he is asking of Snape, but they are both clearly prepared for this event, and Snape agrees to his service without hesitation. Albus wishes him luck and he departs as well. A little while later, he leaves to attend to the Diggorys.
Molly Weasley tells Harry to take the rest of the sleeping potion and try to think of something else… like what he might buy with the winnings. Harry admits that he doesn’t want the gold, that it should have been Cedric’s. With that, he suddenly feels the beginning of tears coming up on him. Molly insists that it wasn’t his fault, and he tells her that he told Cedric to take the Cup with him. Molly wraps her arms around Harry, in a motherly way that Harry has never experienced before in his life. He tries to fight against breaking down, until Hermione breaks up the moment by making a loud slamming noise; she’s holding something in her hand and apologizes. Molly gives Harry the potion again and his time he drinks it, dropping off to sleep.
The cycle of Harry’s emotions in this chapter are an excellent representation of how a person responds to untenable stress. He wants to keep everything close to the vest, but Dumbledore is smart—the knows that it’s best to get the facts while they’re freshest in Harry’s mind and that he isn’t like to get more open the longer he sits on the information. So Sirius is doing the right thing in trying to be a protective parental figure, but Dumbledore requests are wiser and better for the cause, of course.
Fawkes’ reassurance and Sirius presence in dog form really put me in mind of therapy animals on this reading. They function very similarly for Harry, giving him courage and shoring him up. Which makes me think back to the Marauders as a group, and I can’t help but wonder if Sirius didn’t use his Animagus form in a similar fashion while Remus was recovering from full moons and the like. And now I’m tearing up and everyone should just leave me alone in this glass case of emotion.
There is the famous line in this chapter where Harry tells Dumbledore that Voldemort could touch him that there’s a “gleam of something like triumph” in Dumbledore’s eyes and it’s relevant because at the time, fandom exploded with theories about SEKKRITLY EBIL DUMBLEDORES. Seriously, this was a theory right up until… well, for some people it never really died, but the idea that Dumbledore was on Voldemort’s side perpetuated pretty much until people realized what that look meant. We now know that Albus is happy on account of Voldemort unknowingly binding Harry to life in order to overcome this particular no-touching boundary. At the time, things were not so cut and dry.
It also occurred to me that Dumbledore probably wasn’t entirely sure on the Harry-is-a-horcrux front until Ollivander wrote him about Harry purchasing the brother wand to Voldemort’s. At that point he must have hit a big red button that set off a siren-or-something and started shouting “Batten the hatches! It’s all happening! Everybody hold it down for the next few years, it’s about to get craaaaaaazy!”
There is another silly continuity error when Dumbledore takes Harry to the hospital wing and tells Harry that he’ll wait for him to get in bed. He then proceeds to say some stuff and leaves well before Harry even approaches getting in bed. Sorry, it was just funny. To me.
I wonder a lot about Fudge’s thought process on this one. Did he go in there planning to let the dementor kill Barty? What were their instructions? Or was it truly an accident that he simply didn’t care about? I think it’s a real mistake to underestimate Fudge, no matter how mild he appears to be, so I can’t help thinking it’s all entirely intentional. In addition, when Dumbledore really lays into him, we get our first major indication that Fudge is a lot more about the blood purity than we were originally exposed to. Which seems to come out of nowhere until Molly confirms it by way of Arthur’s lack of mobility at the Ministry and suddenly you’re like, AHA. I see how this works. And it comes clear that Fudge really is a weasel pretending to be a bunny rabbit.
Moreover, it almost doesn’t matter because all that Fudge really cares about is his career, his popularity. Fudge is the champion of status quo, and nothing makes it more obvious than his response in the hospital wing. He won’t believe Voldemort is back because he can’t believe it. Because he has literally no capability in a crisis, and he knows it. He’s a peacetime politician. He cannot function in a war, he cannot make truly difficult decisions. He acts as though he has given Dumbledore leave to do as he sees fit, but the answer is, he’d rather Dumbledore took care of the school and the rest on his behalf. And then blame Albus if his plans don’t work out perfectly. Cornelius Fudge has a line of scapegoats, and he’s more than happy to use them. Dumbledore is demanding that he get rid of them all, and Fudge is naturally incredulous. It would make him accountable, the last thing he wants on this earth.
I noticed this time around that when Harry starts naming Death Eaters (starting with Malfoy), Snape makes a movement, but stops and looks to Fudge’s reaction. It doesn’t seem as though he’s moving to stop Harry, so I wonder what that’s meant to indicate? Perhaps he was simply planning to tell his part of the story with the Dark Mark, and then allows Harry to continue instead. Of course, Dumbledore asks Snape to do as he was prepared to do, which will lead to miles of speculation over the next three books. Harry pegs precisely what Snape is doing for Dumbledore in the very next chapter, but that didn’t stop the rumor mills from condemning Snape for double-crossing right from the start.
Albus also asks that Sirius contact “the old crowd,” which we will find out in the next book is the titular Order of the Phoenix. Then Sirius is meant to retire to Remus’ shack in the woods for a while until they’re summoned again. There were so many fanfics that came from that directive, you guys. SO. MANY. I probably read, like, half of them. I could not stop myself.
And then we have what is, to my mind, one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series, where Molly hugs Harry like a real mother, and Harry has the presence of mind realize that’s what it is. The moment is simultaneously horrible (because Harry has never been held that way) and wonderful (because his mother is precisely what he has been longing for all night, and at least he gets that in some form). But that moment is interrupted by Hermione getting her hands—quite literally—on Rita Skeeter.
We’re lucky (for a definition of lucky) that she didn’t accidentally squash the woman, really.
Chapter 37—The Beginning
Harry remembers very little of the following few days. He does meet with Cedric’s parents—they don’t blame him for what happened. Harry tries to give them the gold, but Mrs. Diggory refuses it. Ron and Hermione tell him that Dumbledore spoke to the school and asked everyone to leave Harry alone and not question him about the third task or what happened following it. The students are clearly developing theories anyhow, and some of them have read Skeeter’s article, of course. Harry doesn’t care much, pleased to spend his time with Ron and Hermione. Ron tells Harry that his mother asked if Harry could go directly to their house for the summer, but Dumbledore said that he wanted Harry with the Dursleys for the start of it, though he wouldn’t explain why.
The trio go to visit Hagrid, who was having tea earlier with Maxime (who he calls Olympe now). He tells them that he knew it was only a matter of time before Voldemort would come back, and that Dumbledore’s plan is to head him off so he is brought down before getting a good foothold. Hagrid says that they’ll just have to fight, meet it all as it’s coming. He tells Harry that he knows what happened after the third task, and that Harry did as well as his father would have, the highest praise he can offer. Harry asks if he and Madame Maxime are doing something for Dumbledore about Voldemort over the summer (since they were summoned before), but Hagrid can’t say.
Harry is dreading the end-of-the-year feast, not only because he doesn’t want to go back to the Dursleys, but because he’s been avoiding the Great Hall while full ever since the third task. When he arrives, he sees that the hall is draped in black as memoriam to Cedric. The real Alastor Moody is sitting at the staff table now, jumpier than ever, though it’s hardly a surprise. Harry wonders what Snape’s real duty is on Dumbledore’s behalf, if he’s pretending to be a Death Eater again.
Dumbledore gets up to make a speech, and first asks the students to lift their glasses in honor of Cedric. He then goes on about Cedric’s virtues, the ones that Hufflepuff House deeply admires. And he tells the students that because their lives have all been touched by Cedric, the student body deserves to know how he died.
So he tells the school that Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort.
He knows that the Ministry and many of the parents will be horrified to know that he has told them this. But Dumbledore insists that telling them otherwise would be an insult to Cedric’s memory. The students are transfixed, with the exception of Malfoy, who is talking to Crabbe and Goyle quietly. Then Dumbledore tells the students that Harry managed to escape Lord Voldemort, bringing back Cedric’s body at great personal risk. He honors Harry, raising a glass to him. Most of the students go along, many of the Slytherins excepted. Dumbledore talks of the Triwizard Tournament, which was created to foster international relationships in the magical community, and points out how especially important this is now. He tells the students of all the schools that they are welcome back to Hogwarts at any time, and their unity is strength in the coming fight. He warns them of the dark times ahead, and closes with these words:
“Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember, what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”
On the final day, as the trio are waiting for the carriages to take them to the train, Fleur stops by. She tells Harry that she hopes to see him again; she wants to get a job in England to improve her English. Krum also comes to say goodbye, asking to have a moment with Hermione alone. When they return, Krum mentions that he always liked Diggory, who was always polite, even given his school reputation and headmaster. Ron can’t stop himself from asking for an autograph before he goes. On the Hogwarts Express, Harry notices a copy of the Daily Prophet, but Hermione assures him that no real information has appeared. She’s convinced that Fudge is forcing them to keep quiet about what happened. Harry points out that Rita Skeeter will never keep quiet, but Hermione has her own secret to tell; she figured out how Rita was getting the drop on them all year.
Rita Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus. A beetle, in fact, who has been hanging around listening to everyone everywhere—there was a beetle on the statue when Hagrid talked to Olympe, one in Hermione’s hair after the second task when Krum was speaking to her, Draco was holding her in his hand earlier on. Hermione’s got Skeeter sealed in a glass jar with an Unbreakable Charm on it so she can’t transform back, and told her she will let her out in London… provided she stops writing for a whole year. And of course, Hermione always has the ability to blackmail her on the illegal Animagus thing if she starts up again.
Draco comes in and tries to menace them with Crabbe and Goyle, insisting that he’d wanted Harry bad in first year (oh god, that was supposed to be “warned Harry back in first year” but the typo is too good and I haven’t the heart to change it now), that he was on the losing side of this war now, but he’s quickly dispatched by the trio and the twins who snuck up behind them. They drag the mean trio into the hall and come into the compartment to play Exploding Snap. Harry eventually gets up the guts to ask who they were blackmailing earlier. The twins admit that it was Ludo Bagman; he’d paid them for their bet with leprechaun gold, which of course vanished. They thought it was an accident until they informed him and he kept ignoring them. Eventually he told them that they were too young to gamble, so he wouldn’t give them their winnings. So they asked for the bet money back and he wouldn’t give that up either. It turns out the Bagman was deep in debt with the goblins, and they shook him down following the World Cup. He tried to get it all back by betting against them that Harry would win the Triwizard Tournament. (That was why he was always trying to help Harry win.) But the goblins insisted that because Harry technically tied with Cedric, he lost. So Bagman’s on the run and Fred and George are out their savings.
As the train pulls up and the kids clamber out, Harry stops the twins and gives them his prize money. They don’t want to accept, but he tells them that he doesn’t want it. He does stipulate that they not tell their mother where it came from, and that they buy Ron new dress robes. He tells them to make some laughs, since everyone’s bound to need them soon. Molly hugs him goodbye, Hermione kisses him on the cheek (which is new), and the twins thank Harry as he heads off with Uncle Vernon, determined to meet whatever comes next.
The title of this chapter is “The Beginning,” which seems like it should be optimistic, but isn’t really. The beginning here isn’t exactly a happy one, unless we look at it from different angles. The beginning of the end of Voldemort, perhaps, or the beginning of international magical cooperation.
The whispers in the hallway are all a precursor to the real student divide we’re going to see in the next book over Harry and Voldemort and what anyone is prepared to believe. So we get a little murmur before the storm hits here, though we’re not really aware of it. Of course, Dumbledore won’t explain why Harry can’t go directly to the Weasleys, and that reason is manifold. For one, he clearly wants the protection the Dursley house will provide, and he also wants to wait until the Order headquarters are set up. But again, it just seems mean for the time being, which sucks.
Hagrid’s advice at this point in time is striking because it’s plain, but incredibly wise. That Hagrid has such wisdom isn’t really the surprising part. It’s more the fact that Hagrid is emotional, especially where Harry’s safety is concerned, and you’re expecting more of a breakdown over seeing Harry whole and relatively unharmed. Instead, Hagrid gives the best possible words for weathering what’s ahead; it’s coming for us whether we like it or not, and we’re going to handle it. Because that’s what we do. You can’t help but wonder if having Harry around hasn’t helped Hagrid to grow somewhat. It’s easy to see the ways that Hagrid affects him, but you don’t often think of the reverse.
We come to Dumbledore’s speech about Cedric and the reality of everything that occurred in the final pages of this book just comes crashing down. That’s right, a boy died. An innocent boy. And we have nothing to celebrate at the end of this year. We only have people to remember and honor.
Dumbledore is just so damned smart here, though. He’s literally shaping the war in a few paragraphs. He tells the kids why they have to know about Cedric, he tells them Voldemort is back. He tells them, the authorities in your life do not trust you to make your own decisions about this information, but I do. I trust you to listen and know and make good choices. And I also trust you to respect Harry, who is not a liar, as others in power will have you believe. Harry is a hero, and I am marking him as such. It’s genius on a manipulative level, and you know he’s conscious of every string he’s pulling. Which makes it even more remarkable for the fact that it still lands on an emotional level. You know you’re being forced to feel things, but Dumbledore says “Remember Cedric Diggory” and you do. And you will. And it will always hurt.
We get our farewells from Fleur and Krum which are bittersweet, but hopefully a mark of the exact cooperation the Dumbledore was championing. And then we’re on the Hogwarts Express and we get an answer to the Skeeter mystery. And it’s been said before by other people, but THIS IS WHY YOU DO NOT MESS WITH HERMIONE GRANGER. Because damn. Whoa. I can’t say I feel bad for Rita regardless, but that is not messing around. Respect.
And then Malfoy creeps in like a gleeful little slug, and man, you know at this point Lucius would actually be like “Son, you keep your damn voice down,” but Draco doesn’t exactly realize that he’s not a member of the favored party here. Karma is going to kick him in the pants pretty darn fast. Like it kicked Ludo Bagman’s, whose story finally comes out via the twins. It’s a super-neat completion, having Harry hand over his prize money to the twins, but it feels so just in that moment. Harry honestly doesn’t want that money, and you can’t blame him. The twins got screwed over and are in need of a benefactor. And more to the point, Harry is showing a real wisdom beyond his years here. Everyone could use a laugh. Your need to laugh doesn’t diminish in the face of terrors, it multiplies. The twins need to provide that. And Harry puts a cherry on the deal by finding a way to get Ron some nice dress robes without making it awkward on his end. So the book finds a way to end on a brighter note than it might have.
Which is something at least, because next year is gonna be a doozy.
This book is oddly complicated in ways that it doesn’t need to be, but it’s so important in establishing something essential to any war story—the atmosphere leading up to it, the feeling in the air before it begins. This is the book that makes it utterly clear that the wizarding world is far from out of touch—it is broken. It is mired in prejudice, old-fashioned thinking, and refusal to believe that anything could do with an overhaul. Without making any of this clear, Voldemort would not feel like a viable threat, and his return would not seem worthy of recount. But we see how the Minister of Magic reacts to real danger with perceived threats to his station. We see how Rita Skeeter’s articles affect public opinion. We observe the whispers and the lies among the students and teachers alike. And we know that this is only the start.
Cedric Diggory’s death is meant to drive that home for us, and it is more devastating for the precise fact that we don’t know him. Knowing Cedric is not supposed to be what makes us mourn him—in fact, it is the opposite. It’s realizing that we never will.
But Dumbledore is the one currently drawing the battle lines, and that has to change if Harry is going to step out and become the hero. So the next two books will lead us there, to the formation of Harry Potter from opposition tool into a commander. But given his start in this book, we have to assume that it’s going to be a bumpy road.
This was the first Harry Potter book released when Potter fandom was at fever pitch—if I’m not mistaken, this was the book with the first widely spread midnight release, and it would only get worse from here. So for all that Goblet of Fire could do with a bit more editing, a few fewer pages, it is fitting that there is so much of it. Because when fandom was in the midst of these books, it hardly mattered. We didn’t want tighter pacing and fewer outlying plot threads. We wanted more of everything. All 700+ pages of GoF were a gift, and frankly, I still can’t be bothered to tear it up over a few continuity errors and extra twists.
And now we’re going to move on to Harry’s first real fight—the fallout from the Triwizard Tournament. Order of the Phoenix is next, but first a pitstop at the Goblet of Fire film… and what a special snowflake that is.