Chapter 33 – The Death Eaters
- We may have met Voldemort face-to-face in Philosopher’s Stone, and his earlier self in Chamber of Secrets, but now we’re finally getting a good look at him at his peak. There can be no doubt how dangerous he is; addressing his Death Eaters, he comes across as intelligent, confident and chilling – you can easily imagine his voice as he speaks.
- What happened to Voldemort’s wand after he disappeared, and how did he retrieve it?
- The details of how Voldemort survived his curse rebounding, and how he subsequently regained a weak physical form, are kept vague. Of course, we do eventually get an explanation for the former, but I’d like to know more about how the latter worked.
- As with Prisoner of Azkaban, the whole story is kicked off by a big coincidence: Voldemort and Wormtail just happen to encounter the one person who both knows about the Triwizard Tournament and that Crouch Jr is alive and accessible. And as plenty of other people have said, the whole plan to deliver Harry to Voldemort via the Triwizard Cup seems unnecessarily long and complicated when surely Moody could have just turned any object into a Portkey and gotten Harry to touch it at any time. Maybe the revival potion took a long time to prepare so Harry couldn’t be sent until the end of the school year; maybe there was no guarantee that Harry would trust Moody/Crouch enough; maybe Voldemort thought that using the Triwizard Tournament would be less likely to attract a thorough investigation than Harry disappearing on an ordinary day.
- Perhaps the worst thing in this scene are the Death Eaters’ reactions as Voldemort taunts and tortures Harry: they’re watching a fourteen-year-old boy being viciously toyed with, with the intent of killing him, and they’re all laughing and jeering.
Chapter 34 – Priori Incantatem
- This is a relatively short but extremely intense chapter, where Harry acquits himself extremely well. He still has the will to resist the Imperius curse, and in the certain knowledge that he’s going to die, he chooses to stand tall and look death in the eye. When the wand effect kicks in, we get a feeling of hope amongst the tension – with the phoenix song and the shadows of Voldemort’s victims, Harry is suddenly no longer alone. In the end, he escapes – but that was only the first battle of the coming war.
Chapter 35 – Veritaserum
- As Harry returns to Hogwarts, his mind is all over the place, reflecting the well-written horror and confusion surrounding him.
- As Moody takes Harry away, you can see the worrying signs, like how he suddenly starts referring to Voldemort as “the Dark Lord” – and then comes the reveal. This is, once again, an excellent twist that provides a big shock: as Harry thinks, the idea of Moody being loyal to Voldemort really does make no sense until we find out who he really is.
- I love the description of Dumbledore as he bursts into the room – “there was cold fury on every line of the ancient face; a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he was giving off burning heat.” There can be no doubt what this normally benevolent figure is capable of. Dumbledore is only ever described as being angry a few times in the series, so when he is, it’s very striking.
- Under the influence of Veritaserum, Crouch Jr proceeds to give his long explanation that makes everything neatly fall into place – aside from the aforementioned coincidence and overcomplicated plan, this is really well-constructed writing, and Crouch himself has been impressively clever.
- It feels awful that ultimately, Mrs Crouch’s love for her son is responsible for Voldemort’s return and the start of the second war – a dark reflection of how Lily Potter’s love for Harry has served to protect him from evil thus far. And even that protection has now been twisted around and utilised by Voldemort.
- I find myself imagining just how Crouch Jr ended up joining the Death Eaters. Obviously his workaholic father never cared for him, and despite his intelligence, perhaps he found it hard to make friends at Hogwarts too. He would be quite vulnerable to being radicalised: joining the Death Eaters would not only be the ultimate way to stick it to the old man, but he could also gain a sense of family from them – he happily imagines being “closer than a son” to Voldemort, whom he would appear to see as a substitute father!
- I like how the two main qualities of Bertha Jorkins’ character that Sirius described – she was very nosy, and she never knew when to keep her mouth shut – combine and lead directly to her finding out about Crouch Jr and getting her memory damaged by Crouch Sr.
Chapter 36 – The Parting of the Ways
- The last few chapters are certainly emotionally hard-hitting: I was feeling almost as shaken as poor Harry from the bombardment.
- There’s enough emphasis on Dumbledore’s “gleam of triumph” – at the mention of Voldemort using Harry’s blood to resurrect himself – that you don’t forget it. I had assumed that having Lily’s protection in his veins would end up hurting Voldemort in some way.
- Did the Dementor give Crouch Jr its Kiss because it recognised him as an escaped prisoner? Or had it somehow sensed that Voldemort was back, and was aiding him by silencing a key witness?
- It’s very disheartening to watch things continue to fall apart, as Fudge refuses to accept that Voldemort is back – though watching Dumbledore take control as best he can provides reassurance. Good old Dumbledore; if anyone can see us through, he can.
- The moment at the end of the chapter where Mrs Weasley hugs Harry – “he had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother” – is an understated emotional moment but I like it a lot. Mrs Weasley outright states in the next book that she practically sees Harry as another son, but this – and the fact that she came to Hogwarts to see him – already says it all.
Chapter 37 – The Beginning
- “He felt as though all three of them had reached an understanding they didn’t need to put into words” – again, simple but very heartfelt, showing just how strong the bond between Harry, Ron and Hermione now is after four years.
- There’s no mention at all of who won this year’s House Championship, and in fact there never will be again. Students will continue to win and lose points, but Harry will have more important things to think about at the end of the coming years.
- It’s actually surprising that we never see Ludo Bagman again and never find out what happened to him after he “made a run for it” – you get used to loose ends eventually being tied up in these books.
I said at the start that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favourite book in the series. Upon re-reading, that has not changed – if anything, I like it even more.
Reading it certainly feels different than the previous three books. The significantly increased size of the book gives Rowling a lot more room to play around. It’s less concise and congested, and the story itself is operating on a bigger scale: the wizarding world itself is expanded as we learn about magical societies outside Britain; and there are many more subplots, which aren’t essential to the main plot but still add more weight to both the universe and the characters in it. There are more differences between the larger books and their respective films, than the earlier ones – not just because more material needs to be cut, but because due to the reduced conciseness, more can be cut.
What else can be said about how good this one is? Well, the whole story is, for the most part, expertly constructed and delivered. Every little thing has meaning, even if it’s just to emphasise something about a character: that’s a good lesson for writers to take away from this book. The lighter and darker sides to the story are blended together very well. We are seeing our heroes starting to properly grow up. The climax and its aftermath are the most emotive part of the series so far.
And with the return of Voldemort, the story now has a general aiming point: to win this new war and defeat him for good. “The Beginning” seems a strange title for the last chapter of a book, but it’s very appropriate here.
Meanwhile, tomorrow Rachel, Jeremy, Abby and I will be getting together on Google Hangouts again for another film discussion – this time on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!