Re-Reading Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire ch. 2-5

This is the first time and – if I remember right – the only time in the Harry Potter series that the Weasleys and the Dursleys meet. What happens when they do is fascinating!

It’s hard to imagine people with less in common than the Weasleys and the Dursleys. Apart from, obviously, the fact that one family is made up of wizards and the other proud to be muggles, the Weasleys are warm and loving, while the Durselys are cold and snobbish. The Weasleys are poor, while the Dursleys tend to judge others by how much money they have and what kind of cars they drive. The Weasleys have seven children of their own and still find room in their hearts for Harry, while the Dursleys – his blood relatives – treat him like dirt.

When the Weasleys come to pick Harry up for the Quidditch World Cup, it’s clear the Dursleys are scared out of their minds. It’s kind of ironic, given that they’ve only ever met good witches and wizards, but they really do seem convinced that all those with magic are terrifying freaks of nature. The Weasleys, on the other hand, seem bewildered, curious, and perhaps a bit appalled. Harry notices that Mr. Weasley seems to pity Dudley, while the twins just think he’s a spoiled brat and leave a piece of chocolate for him to find – chocolate that’s enchanted to make his tongue grow and grow and grow …

It’s nothing they wouldn’t have done to an unpleasant classmate at Hogwarts, but Mr. Weasley certainly doesn’t see it that way. That’s another thing that makes the Weasleys different from the Dursleys. While they know as little about the muggle world as the Dursleys do about the wizarding world, Mr. Weasley has made a career out of making sure other wizards respect muggles and leave them alone. He’s outraged to find his sons antagonizing a muggle with their joke products, even if it’s not because he’s a muggle. Later, when Voldemort’s followers use magic to terrorize a family of muggles at the Quidditch World Cup, it will become clear why he has such a strong reaction to this.

In a way, the Dursleys have a lot in common with the darker side of the Wizarding World. They’re not the muggle equivalent of the Death Eaters, by any means – the Second Salemers come closer to that – but they’re not so different from the snobby wizard families that see muggles as beneath them and muggle-borns as unworthy to learn magic. They, too, have judged other people simply for being different without bothering to learn anything about them.

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Re-Reading Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire, ch. 1

It’s strange how easy it is to take future knowledge for granted when re-reading a book you’ve read again and again. Take, for example, the first chapter of Goblet of Fire. A first-time reader will have never met the other Tom Riddle yet. While the name should of course be familiar, and a reader with a good memory might recall that Voldemort was named for his father, there’s no assumption yet that he murdered his muggle father and grandparents, or that it’s in their abandoned house that he’s lurking for the moment, scheming to return.

The mystery of the Riddles’ death is sort of a foregone conclusion, if you’ve already finished both Goblet of Fire (for the Unforgivable Curses) and Half-Blood Prince (for the Tom Riddle backstory). But while the first-time reader might guess it’s unlikely they were killed by a muggle gardener, and even pick up on the clues that it was Voldemort, they wouldn’t have the certainty of how and why he murdered them. The medical report – “none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, suffocated, or (as far as they could tell tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health – apart from the fact that they were all dead” – is a perfect description of Avada Kedavra, but since that won’t be explained until later in the book, here it’s just a hint that they were killed by magical rather than muggle means.

The “teenage boy, a stranger, dark-haired and pale” who the Riddles’ gardener describes to the police is undoubtedly the younger Tom Riddle. That much is evident from the start. I’ve written before about young Voldemort’s tendency to frame others for his crimes, and here, not one but two innocent people take the blame. The muggles accuse Frank, the gardener, while the wizards believe Tom’s uncle, Morfin Gaunt , to be guilty. But that won’t be revealed until Half-Blood Prince. For now, the only thing linking these murders to the magical world are the strange circumstances and the links with the boy who grows up to be Voldemort.

On the other hand, the things that confuse Frank as he listens in on Voldemort and Wormtail’s conversation make perfect sense to anyone who’s read the three books before. We know who these two men are, and we instantly recognize Harry Potter’s name. “Quidditch” and “muggles” are not nonsense words for us. We may not recognize Bertha Jorkins’ name, but we have no reason to believe – as Frank does – that the two men are speaking in some kind of code. Listening in on their conversation gives us important clues as to what is coming, most importantly that Voldemort is after Harry again and that he has a plan to get him away from the protection of Hogwarts.