When I first read this chapter in 2000, it blew my mind. Because that phrase has lost most of its impact due to overuse, however accurate to my experience, it is also inadequate — but I promise my reaction at the time lives up to the initial promise of that image. When I was done reading this chapter, my brain was spinning so fast with the narrative joy of it, I probably ended up on the floor a little comatose. Jo had pulled off a version of the long con in Prisoner of Azkaban with the character of Sirius. We think he’s a scary bad wackjob for the entire book, only for her to completely turn that image on its head at the climax. Sirius becomes instead a character we love so much it hurts inside, and not just because of what he represents of Harry’s (and his parent’s) past, but because of what he represents for Harry’s future.
She does the exact opposite with Professor Moody/Barty Crouch, Jr., and she adds into the mix a little something extra.
I have chosen to write this post using a fuck-ton of Tenth Doctor GIFs for two reasons: 1) David Tennant’s face makes my insides turn into puddles of goop; 2) We know he’s a fan; and 3) because as much as I love him, his version of the Crouch Jr. character in the Goblet of Fire movie was a misfire in almost every way possible. I actively choose to believe his weird tongue flicking thing is the fault of director Mike Newell, and that the filmed version of this chapter, in all its bastardized, poorly-timed awkwardness a fault of both Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves. Everything that I love about this chapter is either missing or ruined. And I suppose this is my poor attempt to fix it.
CHAPTER 35: VERITASERUM
Something I think the movie got very right is the scene immediately following Harry’s abrupt return from the graveyard with Cedric’s body. The chaos and the noise and the confusion (and the sorrow) were all elegantly conveyed (and the score in that scene always makes me tear up). Jo’s words paint us a picture of a shell-shocked Harry, unable to really process what’s going on around him. But she writes it in such a way that we as her readers can piece it all together. This scene is a masterpiece of organized chaos. Everything is from Harry’s perspective so we don’t know exactly what’s going on, but if you go back and re-read it, it’s clear what’s happening.
Harry refuses to let go of Cedric’s body — it’s all he can focus on at the moment, and it takes some persuasion from Dumbledore before he relinquishes his hold. Dumbledore’s is the first face he sees upon his return. The rest is noise and screaming and hurried comments, people muttering, “Diggory’s dead.” Cedric’s parents are in the crowd.
In the confusion, Harry hears a voice telling him to get up and leave with the speaker, but Dumbledore urges Harry to stay put. Once Dumbledore is out of sight, the voice is back, telling Harry to come up to the castle away from the confusion, to rest and drink a nice cup of hot tea (which in England has a magic all its own).
Harry makes a feeble attempt to remain where he is, saying to the voice, “Dumbledore said stay.”
The voice turns out to be Moody, whom we love (and so does Harry), so it doesn’t take much for Harry to give in and follow him to the castle. Moody’s gruff, seemingly kind voice, ushers him into the castle with the promise of comfort and safety.
At this point in the narrative, we mostly view Moody as a scary man with a gooey caramel inside. He’s tough and he knows his business, but he has gone out of his way to be kind to Neville, has helped Harry on multiple occasions ranging from the Triwizard Tournament tasks to personal life advice. He’s also a damn good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. We feel safe with him. Harry feels safe with him. This is the genius of both Rowling’s plotting and ‘Moody’s’ deviousness and devotion. He hides in plain sight, and everything he does has a double entendre of meaning loaded into it. He uses Moody’s reputation to his advantage, disguising his machinations as kindness and competence. We’ve touched on this in previous posts, but all of Moody’s actions in this book are tainted with a dark edge.
For right now, we don’t know that yet, and neither does Harry. But then we as readers start to catch on to something funky. Moody is slipping character in his excitement.
He starts calling Voldemort ‘the Dark Lord.’ Harry doesn’t notice. Moody’s comfort turns slowly to impatient interrogation. He very clearly wants to know exactly what happened in the graveyard. Harry doesn’t notice. Moody has taken Harry to his office and locked the door behind him. They are alone, and Harry is entirely at his mercy. Harry still doesn’t notice. But we do. And then this:
“How did he treat them?” Moody asked quietly. “Did he forgive them?”
Suddenly Moody ignoring Dumbledore is looking like a very bad omen indeed. Moody’s question finally rouses a reaction from the nearly stupefied Harry. And we just know that shit is about to get unbelievably real. Because it’s time for Moody to have his Villain Monologue.
Belatedly, Harry remembers that he learned tonight there was a Death Eater at Hogwarts, which sends warning signals to his lizard brain. And then, in rapid fire succession, we learn directly from Moody that:
1. Moody knows who the Death Eater at Hogwarts is.
2. Moody is the Death Eater at Hogwarts.
3. Moody put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire.
4. Moody fired the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup because he was pissed at all the cowardly Death Eaters walking free.
“Who put your name in the Goblet of Fire, under the name of a different school? I did. Who frightened off every person I thought might try to hurt you to prevent you from winning the tournament? I did. Who nudged Hagrid into showing you the dragons? I did. Who helped you see the only way you could beat the dragon? I did.”
Harry refuses to believe Moody, so deep is his belief that Moody is good. Our reaction is a bit more complex.
Moody, in good villain fashion (and in the spirit of Agatha Christie), then lists all the shiz he pulled, which has the effect of causing us to question everything we’ve ever learned about everything:
5. He planted that supposed make-him-feel-better book with Neville early on so that when Harry asked for help in the second task Neville would be in the position to give it. Probably didn’t give a rat’s ass about Neville.
6. He was the one who originally gave the hint to Cedric about putting the egg in the bath. He knew Cedric was decent and could be manipulated to pass it on to Harry. He then staged a loud conversation in the teacher’s lounge so Dobby could overhear and help a stuck Harry.
7. He was stalking around the outside of the maze, removing obstacles, and Imperiusing the other champions.
8. He was the one who turned the cup into a portkey.
This is the point when Dumbledore WHAMS his way into the office like the fabulous and scary gay wizard that he is. He, Snape, and McGonagall stupefy Moody, and explain to Harry that Moody is not Moody at all. He has never been Moody, not since the night with the bins and the cat before school even started. He then unlocks the trunk that has been sitting inconspicuously in Moody’s office all year, and they find the real Alastor Moody imprisoned and weak at the bottom. The imposter has been keeping himlocked in his own trunk for polyjuice potion fuel.
Dumbledore sends McGonagall to fetch Sirius and lead him to his office, and also to fetch Winky from the kitchens and bring her to them. He sends Snape to fetch his strongest truth serum. And when they both return, they feed the impostor Veritaserum. And what he says? I gotta tell you. I did not see it coming. Jo is very clever. Very, very clever.
Moody is really Bartemius Crouch, Jr., the Death Eater everyone thought long dead in Azkaban. Crouch tells them everything: how his father broke him out of Azkaban as his dying mother’s last wish, how he kept his son imprisoned with the Imperius curse, how it was Winky’s job to take care of him, how Bertha Jorkins found out about him by accident and Crouch Sr. put such a powerful memory charm on her that it broke her mind. How Pettigrew then happened to run into Bertha in Albania and bring her back to Old Voldy, where he was able to break Crouch Sr.’s memory charm and find out about his most devoted servant, and about the Triwizard Tournament. How they finally came to free Crouch from his father, putting Sr. under the Imperius curse. How Voldy needed a faithful servant at Hogwarts to guide Harry through the tournament, that he was too closely guarded, too well protected by Dumbledore to get to him otherwise. How Crouch Jr. kidnapped Moody and replaced him. How Crouch Sr. escaped, and half-crazed by the Imperius curse, came to Hogwarts to warn Dumbledore. How Crouch Jr. killed his father, transfigured his body into a bone, and then buried it in the woods. Harry saw Crouch Jr. that night breaking in to Snape’s stores not Sr.
I’m listing it out like that because IT’S FLIPPING NUTS.
Crouch finishes off his (this time forced) villain monologue with a satisfied smile on his face. Guy seriously has it bad for Voldemort.
“My master’s plan worked. He is returned to power and I will be honoured by him beyond the dreams of wizards” The insane smile lit his features once more, and his head drooped onto his shoulder as Winky wailed and sobbed at his side.
Crouch’s smiled looked nothing like this:
P.S. Guys, serious question for you: in the GOF movie, what the hell is up with that part where Dumbledore makes Harry show Crouch the cut on his arm where Voldemort took his blood? I don’t get it at all, and I really don’t like not getting things.
Also, just because I found some more Ten GIFs and didn’t get to use them, I’m going to use them anyway. You’re welcome in advance.
Also this because it makes me laugh.
- Dumbledore telling McGonagall to bring a dog to his office, and specifically instruct the dog to wait and he will be with him shortly, is never not hilarious.
- We learn that one of Rowling’s many red herrings, Karkaroff, fled in terror when he felt the Dark Mark appear on his arm. Crouch seems confident Voldemort will hunt him down, which we get confirmation of in the next book.
- I really mean it about hating Crouch Jr. in the movie. And it’s not just that it’s awful on its own, but that that scene could have been SO GOOD. So much lost potential.
- Happy Friday, everyone.
- P.S. If you are mad I used all these Doctor Who GIFs because you don’t watch Doctor Who, I don’t feel bad for you at all. It’s your fault. You need to watch Doctor Who.