Re-Reading Harry Potter: Hermione and House Elves

houseelvesLook at this very cool House Elf Abolitionist Badge you can buy on Etsy!

I love Etsy.

That said, Hermione’s heart is in the right place, but she has it wrong about house elves, which is just one of the thoughts I have about chapters 21-25 of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

Harry has successfully managed to beat the dragon in the first task, and he is trying to work out the egg clue for the second task, but it just sounds like wailing. Seamus Finnigan says it sounds like a banshee, which is what his boggart is. Neville says it sounds like someone being tortured and wonders if Harry will have to fight the Cruciatus Curse. He has been much preoccupied with this curse, for obvious reasons, and it begs the question: Did he remember, somewhere in the back of his mind, his parents’ torture? He would have been quite young, but it is possible that such an event left an impression on him.

I mentioned Hermione and house elves. As I said, she has good intentions, but house elves do not seem to want to be free, at least not for the most part. Winky is devastated when Crouch frees her, and she never really gets over it. She is so determined to view Dobby as the example instead of an exception to the rule. She can be quite stubborn when she thinks she’s right. On the other hand, Hermione is right. House elves are treated like slaves, and the fact that they seem to like it is ignorance. Even Dobby, the most “forward thinking” elf in terms of his conception of freedom, talks Dumbledore down from a larger paycheck and more benefits. So what do you do? How do you free a people who doesn’t want to be free? How do you educate them about their choices? The issue of house elves is not really resolved in the books, but I would be interested to learn more about them on Pottermore. I hope the issue of house elves is addressed when they release this book on Pottermore.

Harry faces his first major dating challenge and has to confront the dilemma of how to ask a girl out. He sets his sights on Cho Chang, with whom he has a few things in common: she’s a Seeker for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, so at least there is Quidditch to talk about. I have always liked the actress who played her in the movies. Her wonderful Scottish accent! At any rate, of course, she already has a date, and Ron and Harry grow more desperate until Ron is even willing to go with Hermione. I love her response. And I love how gorgeous she looks at the ball. They wind up, of course, with the Patil twins, and Dean Thomas even remarks that he can’t figure out how they managed to get dates with the prettiest girls in their year. Interesting that Neville thinks to ask Hermione out before her two best friends. He seems to be able to appreciate her as a girl and as a friend before they can. As Ron relates, “He told me after Potions! Said she’s always been really nice, helping him out with work and stuff.” Ron thinks Hermione has made up a date to avoid going with Neville.

I have to admit I’ve always found it kind of odd that Viktor Krum asked Hermione out. I mean, she is quite a bit younger than he is, and it’s hard to see what might attract him. I suspect he is a much more serious student than his pro-Quidditch-player background would suggest. I was glad Rowling brought Krum back later in the books. I liked him.

Fred winds up asking Angelina Johnson to the ball. Their relationship is never really elucidated in the books, but Rowling has hinted that they dated for some time because she refers to Angelina as Fred’s ex. That’s not the kind of terminology you use to describe someone with whom you went to one dance. Later on, George winds up marrying Angelina. She has intimated that it is not the healthiest thing to marry your brother’s ex under the circumstances, but also perhaps that George and Angelina came together in their grief over Fred, and they did name their son Fred (they also had a daughter Roxanne).

One last note about the whole date-procuring fiasco. Parvati Patil’s best friend is Lavender Brown, and when Harry asks Parvati to the ball, he initially asks if Lavender will go with Ron, but Lavender already has a date with Seamus. So funny that later on, Lavender will be Won-Won’s first girlfriend.

Later, Hermione has a great time at the ball until Ron ruins the end of her evening by being a jealous jackass. Viktor describes Durmstrang. It sounds sort of stark and cold. Karkaroff is prompted to quiet Viktor so as not to reveal Durmstrang’s secrets, after which Dumbledore and Karkaroff have a short discussion about their school’s secrets, and Dumbledore’s reaction always makes me laugh: “Oh, I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts’ secrets, Igor.” He describes finding the Room of Requirement when he had to use the bathroom. It had been full of chamber pots. In pondering the room’s appearance, he speculates finally that it might only appear when “the seeker has an exceptionally full bladder,” which is the closest explanation to the truth.

Then the Weird Sisters take the stage, and this one aspect of the books that I felt was really well represented in the films. Of course, the filmmakers were able to convince Jarvis Cocker to be the Weird Sisters’ lead singer and write songs for the film.

A side note: Rowling included the passage when Viktor is trying to learn to say Hermione’s name in order to address frequent questions from readers about how to pronounce it. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Ron and Harry overhear Hagrid admitting he is half-giant, and he notices the Rita Skeeter beetle for the first time. She’s a great character, isn’t she? I hope we learn more about her background on Pottermore. My bet is that she was a Slytherin because she doesn’t seem to mind bending the rules—at all—when she’s after a story. She doesn’t strike me as particularly brave, so Gryffindor is out. She is not kind and loyal, so Hufflepuff is out, too. She might possibly be a Ravenclaw because she does have some brains, but I think her ambition and hungry story-seeking is much more dominant in her personality, so my vote is Slytherin. Do you ever try to figure out what House characters whose Houses are not revealed in the series are in?

Naturally, Skeeter prints the news about Hagrid’s mother. Hagrid retreats to his cabin, and he doesn’t come back to work until the trio visit him. They find Dumbledore already there, trying to convince Hagrid to come back to work. Dumbledore says, “Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” Isn’t that the truth? I love Dumbledore. I have always wondered exactly what inappropriate charms Aberforth was practicing on that goat.

In the next chapter, “The Egg and the Eye,” we learn more about the limitations of the Maruader’s Map. It does show everyone, even if they are magically concealed under an invisibility cloak or Polyjuice Potion, but it does not distinguish among people with the same name. Bartemius Crouch, Sr. or Bartemius Crouch, Jr. would both just read Bartemius Crouch, which is why Harry naturally assumes Barty Sr. is poking around Snape’s office. Why on earth would he assume it was Barty Jr.? Who would? But Barty Jr. realizes that the map could reveal his big secret and asks Harry if he can borrow it.

I always found it interesting that when Moody/Crouch arrives when Snape and Filch have found Harry’s egg, and Filch is about to reveal that someone has broken into Snape’s office to Moody, Snape hisses at Filch to “Shut up!” Snape doesn’t trust Moody. Now you could go the obvious route and note that as a former Death Eater, Snape likely tangled with Moody in some capacity, but I have a hunch that he knows something is up with Moody, but is not sure what. Possibly he is more attuned to the effects of Polyjuice Potion than others might be, being the Potions Master. I think it likely he hasn’t figured out that Moody is really Barty Crouch, Jr., though, but that he thinks there is something not quite right with the guy. Snape has pretty good instincts, when he doesn’t let his prejudices blind him, and he does seem to pick up on things that others miss. He did, after all, figure out Lupin was a werewolf back in school.

Interesting that Moody/Crouch suggests Harry consider a career as an Auror. I think it’s the first time Harry ever thinks about it, and even though the suggestion comes from a madman, he winds up doing exactly that with his life later. I still contend that no matter how insane Moody/Crouch was, he was still one of the best DADA teachers Harry had. Even Dean Thomas later says they learned a lot from Barty Jr. despite his being a maniac.

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One thought on “Re-Reading Harry Potter: Hermione and House Elves

  1. I love the school dance section of this book. It's so much like real school dances I remember from middle and high school (before I gave them up as a bad lot). Right down to Ron and Hermione having a loud shouting fight afterward.

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