The thing that strikes me the most about Goblet of Fire, more than any of the other books, is the concept of family. Throughout the entirety of the book, we are exposed to a variety of different family connections and archetypes, and we even get a chance to explore the surrounding contexts – the causes and long-reaching effects of each. It’s not, as I mentioned at the beginning of the book, just the difference between the Dursleys and the Weasleys. There’s a lot more we get shown.
Consider the casual overconfidence and blatant pride of Amos Diggory, desperate to recapture some sort of glory. Does he feel slighted that Harry Potter overshadows his own son? He certainly interjects himself into any real or perceived conflict between the two. We can see the well-meaning but still overbearing parenting style reflected on Cedric, who clearly wants nothing to do with it. If Cedric’s going to beat Harry it has nothing to do with lost honor and everything to do with being fair and friendly.
Consider the carefully hidden shame of Barty Crouch Senior, who places so much importance on his own image that he ignores the signs of his own son who is seeking out whatever attention he could. Barty Senior makes one attempt at holding his family together – but still without dragging his own name into the mud – and thus creates a web of lies that grows more monstrous and misshapen with each added strand… until the entire thing collapses under its own weight and smothers him to death.
Consider the little we learn of Thomas Riddle Senior, who was forced into a relationship based on lies and coercion. A flawed man who was subjected to the darkest parts of desire and magic, the depths of which we don’t even find out for another two books, but is revealed to us by Voldemort himself so we know it’s a bit biased. There is no love in that union, and what little love there may have been towards the child is swept away by the orphanage and Tom Junior’s own warped psyche.
Harry has all these examples laid out for him this year, and he learns a great deal. He learns about the interactions between people and how lasting even the smallest gesture can be.
But on top of all that, he also learns about family from the Weasleys. It’s Bill and Molly, showing up for the family seats for the Third Task. It’s Molly sending him Christmas presents for four years, ever since hearing that he might not have anyone else. It’s the twins taking him under their wing, both in Quidditch and in pranking, the two things they love best, and training him like he belongs. It’s Arthur, warning him of the dangers of vengeance and the slippery slope it would take him down, and soon it will be Arthur again who stands with him against the consequences of his actions, justified as they might be.
The Weasleys look after Hermione as a friend of the family, as evidenced by the tickets to the World Cup and the multiple offers of shelter during the summers. But they look after Harry as family.
Good morning. My name is Kevin, and these are my massive Weasley feels.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: THE PARTING OF THE WAYS1
the Tenth Doctor Barty Crouch is finished with his exposition song, it’s time for Harry to share his experiences in the graveyard. But what Dumbledore does here is absolutely crucial for Harry: he brings Sirius there to listen with him. Harry – a scared fourteen-year-old boy – faced Voldemort alone, and came back wounded, with a dead body in tow. When he relives it, as painful as Dumbledore knew it would be, Harry doesn’t do it alone. He has his surrogate father figure with him, not only as an important Order member, but as emotional support.
To clarify: Dumbledore listens to the story to analyze it for anything he can use. He knows he couldn’t (and as he explains at the end of Order of the Phoenix, believes he shouldn’t) be there for Harry emotionally during this time, and as cold as people will claim Dumbledore to be, he anticipates it and takes steps to provide the next best thing. He makes sure Harry has support and love, regardless of the fact that he feels that he shouldn’t be the one to give it.
“I will say it again,” said Dumbledore as the phoenix rose into the air and resettled itself upon the perch beside the door. “You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you tonight, Harry. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers. You have shouldered a grown wizard’s burden and found yourself equal to it – and you have now given us all we have a right to expect.”
It’s this particular turn of phrase that’s stuck with me for these thirteen years. “Given us all we have a right to expect”. Fascinating how all of Dumbledore’s actions, before this point and after, hinge upon this declaration. The only expectation is for Harry to have the same courage as his father, who thrice defied Voldemort and finally stood and faced him, knowing he wouldn’t win, knowing that his death would only slow Voldemort down. The expectation that Harry would face death itself and not turn away. Everything up to this point has been Dumbledore shielding Harry from anything beyond this. Everything after is asking Harry, as an equal, to join him.
Thankfully, one recitation is enough to sate Dumbledore’s curiosity, and he takes Harry to the hospital wing so he can have a Dreamless Sleep potion. I remember that back then, it took me a distressingly long time to realize that it was to give Harry at least one night without immediate nightmares, and how can anyone accuse Dumbledore of being cold and heartlessly manipulating Harry at this point? More to the point, he leaves him under Molly Weasley’s care, and for the rest of the chapter, my heart is about one step away from exploding.
I’ve never been in the hospital overnight. I’ve only had one major injury in my life, and even then it was the simple matter of two weeks of painkillers and getting my foot wrapped up. But I come from a large family, and I’m way too familiar with the process. I know for a fact that if something did happen to me that required an overnight stay, I’d have family that would stay with me. My wife, my parents (who are also very familiar with extended hospital stays), anyone else who may be in town at a given moment.
Harry hasn’t had that before. And while we may never know if Petunia Dursley would have stayed with him – since his uncontrolled underage magic has saved him on at least one occasion – we also know that there wouldn’t have been anyone else. Until now.
Molly Weasley treats him like her seventh son. It’s been alluded to up until now, but this is the first time it’s actually come into focus. And from this point on, it doesn’t have to be said.
Harry doesn’t finish the entire potion and is rudely woken up by Minister of Magic Cornelius, who has brought a dementor into Hogwarts despite Dumbledore’s standing orders. Said dementor immediately eats the soul of Barty Crouch Junior, rendering him unable to testify in public court and thus able to corroborate Voldemort’s return3.
Fudge and Dumbledore all but have a blazing row right there in the hospital wing, and gone is the affably bumbling Minister who owls Dumbledore constantly for advice on how to run the nation. In his place is the willfully-ignorant Minister who, after being called out on how Rita Skeeter’s articles have swayed his opinion towards Harry and Dumbledore, immediately gets the idea to launch a massive smear campaign about both of them4.
“I see no evidence to the contrary!” shouted Fudge, now matching her anger, his face purpling. “It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!”
(I apologise, there will be a lot of pulled quotes from these chapters because there just so many great ones to choose from.)
It’s interesting to note that Dumbledore is more transparent during this chapter than he is throughout the remainder of the series. He flat-out tells Fudge exactly what his plans are – though they begin as a plea for Fudge to take these actions himself. Remove the dementors from Azkaban. Make peace with the giants. Block the formerly accused Death Eaters from any power they currently have.
“I tell you now – take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Fail to act – and history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild!”
When not even this uncomfortably prophetic admonishment sways Fudge, Snape rolls up his sleeve to show him why getting drunk with the Lestranges is a really bad idea.
After Cornelius flounces away5, we get treated to the following rapid-fire tactical responses:
- Molly, already familiar with the Order because of her brothers7, is immediately tasked with SOMETHING.
- Bill Weasley is sent to get Arthur up to speed, because Bill is awesome.
- Winky the elf is cared for because Albus Dumbledore is a Friend To All Living Beings.
- Hagrid and Madame Maxime get sent to do something that Hagrid can’t talk about but totally has to do with trying to make peace with the giants.
- Sirius is chosen as the messenger to “the old crowd” who probably still think he’s a dangerous criminal murderer. Albus I think there is a slight flaw in your plan
- Snape gets to lie to Voldemort’s face, especially considering the whole “I believe he has left me forever, he will be killed of course” aspect.
Soon, the Delegation of Duties To Save The World is completed, a nosy reporter is caged, and Harry goes back to sleep.
Sleep well, Harry. You will wake up in a changed world. Nothing will ever be the same again.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: THE BEGINNING
I just did the math, and assuming that a Galleon is about the same weight as a gold coin in standard tabletop games, Harry’s prize money weighs about 20 pounds. And that’s erring on the optimistic side; the amount of gold in a Galleon to be worth roughly 5 GBP in 1995 (J.K.’s handy exchange rate) would mean that it could be closer to 30-40 pounds.
Of course, it doesn’t even come close to how much it’s weighing on his soul. The most heartbreaking part of this book, even more than Cedric’s death, is the fact that despite not being the sole champion (tie, remember), despite not even wanting to participate in the first place, nobody will take the money from him. Molly Weasley won’t take it, since they’ve never considered money to be more important than family. Not even the Diggory family would ease the burden, despite the fact that they could easily and legally claim half of it.
Dumbledore does not disappoint in any way, and gives the speech to end all speeches at the end of term feast. And though I’m not going to type the whole thing out, there’s one specific part that stands out the most – so much that they even pulled a soundbyte for the teaser trailer’s hard-hitting stinger.
“It is my belief – and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken – that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. A week ago, a student was taken from our midst.
“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.”
I don’t know if I can add anything to that. Certainly not without detracting from such a powerful closing statement, one that truly defines not only Albus Dumbledore, but his legacy in the world, and the journey that Harry has been on from day one and will continue until Nineteen Years Later.
Indeed, the book could have ended on this note, and it would have been a powerful ending. But we get taken even further than a powerful closing speech, which I believe is the real lesson to take away from this chapter.
Because while horrible things may happen, life goes on. Friendships are made and changed, rivalries are put aside, reporters are blackmailed8. Harry is even able to make the first steps in emotional recovery from this trauma and forces the world to associate his burden not as survivor’s guilt, but as hope for happiness in the future. I may be reaching a bit, but I really do believe that it’s not coincidental that once it changes hands, the gold changes from blood money to an exciting investment. Weasley Wizard Wheezes won’t just be random explosions at home and Neville distractingly turning into a canary.
The world may be changing, but it has changed before and will again. Life goes on.
Oh, and one more thing happens:
- Thirteen years and I just now noticed2, as I was attaching the file to this post even, that the Dark Mark represents a literal interpretation of Parseltongue. Because of course that’s what Voldemort is going to use to identify himself: his most important familial connection and defining attribute. Even after reading Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows I didn’t make that connection, thinking even at the time that he just picked a scary symbol, but no, that’s exactly the kind of man he is, of course he’d take every opportunity he could to emphasize what he considered the best part of his blood.
- I’m not even kidding. It took me trying to come up with an alt-text pun for that image for me to realize this.
- And incidentally, also covering up that little bit about “our natural allies”.
- I’m pretty sure this is the point where he decides to have a more direct hand in school affairs, as well. Which begs the question: How involved was Fudge in his own decisions? We already know he’s a bit of a doormat, and Umbridge has been running her own agendas ever since she took a political office. How far does this rabbit hole of a figurehead puppet government go?
- Whilst throwing a bag full of a thousand gold coins at a boy who is RECOVERING IN A HOSPITAL BED. Well done, Cornelius. Even if there are charms to fit such huge amounts of metal – I’m just going to keep assuming that the “size of hubcaps” thing was a bit of rhetoric from Mr. Roberts, magically expanded wallets aside – and even if the weight was reduced, it’s still a bag of hard, heavy, knobbly things being thrown at a weak and sick boy who is, I repeat, recovering in a hospital bed. Where’s Rita Skeeter when you need her6?
- On the balcony, listening to everything, but that’s not important right now.
- Which is something that I desperately need more information about. Gideon and Fabian Prewett were huge names back then, and their deaths were more or less the cause of Molly’s overbearing and overprotective nature towards her children and Harry.
- You know, kid stuff.
Header image taken from the Harry Potter Wikia