Aboard the Hogwarts Express
Chapter 11 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Aboard the Hogwarts Express
The next morning, Harry and Ron dress in Muggle clothing to avoid attracting attention at the train station. Mr. Weasley has an urgent message from Amos Diggory at the Ministry. Diggory's floating head is in the fireplace, and he and Mr. Weasley discuss someone named "Mad-Eye" who thought he heard intruders creeping around his house. Mad Eye had booby-trapped his garbage bins to attack trespassers. Apparently Mr. Weasley and Diggory want to prevent this being reported in the news. This person is starting a new job, and the Ministry wants to keep his reputation relatively clean. Bill, Fred, and George evidently recognize Mad Eye's name, as does Charlie, who tells Harry that Mad-Eye Moody was a well-known Auror but is now retired. He still has many enemies, mostly families of those he put into Azkaban; he has apparently become paranoid in his old age.
Mrs. Weasley has arranged for three Muggle taxis to take them to London. Bill and Charlie are also going. They arrive at King's Cross Station and head to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. As everyone says goodbye, Bill and Charlie hint that something interesting will be happening at Hogwarts this year, but Ron, Harry, Fred, and George are unable to get any additional information from them or Mrs. Weasley, who apparently knows the secret.
As the train departs London, Draco Malfoy is overheard in the next compartment saying that he almost went to Durmstrang, another Wizarding school. Hermione comments that it probably would have suited him, there is more emphasis on the Dark Arts there. No one knows Durmstrang's location, as both it and another school, Beauxbatons Academy, conceal themselves, much as Hogwarts does. This surprises Ron, who was unaware that Hogwarts is hidden. Hermione explains various ways it can be done and says it is impossible to Apparate or Disapparate within it.
On the train, the Trio greet old friends like Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, and Neville Longbottom, and the conversation turns to the Quidditch World Cup until Draco enters the compartment. Spotting Ron's embarrassing dress robes, Draco mocks him, then asks if he is entering. Ron has no idea what Draco is talking about. Draco sneers that Ron's father and brother are probably not high enough Ministry employees to know what is going on.
They arrive at Hogsmeade station in pouring rain and head to the horseless carriages that carry students to the castle. Hermione does not envy the first-years their trip across the lake.
Two main plot lines are advanced or initiated. Early on, the character, "Mad-Eye" Moody, a former Auror, is introduced when the Ministry is forced to cover up actions resulting from his paranoia. Moody reputedly sets traps to safeguard his property, and he is likely to attack anyone he considers a threat, though it is unclear who would attack him or why. The Ministry's concern that the public might learn about the incident at Moody's home indicates that his new job is probably a high-profile and closely scrutinized position. Although it is unknown yet just what Moody has been hired for, readers may be able to surmise what it is, based on his previous career and events in the preceding three books.
Hints are being dropped that something mysterious and exciting may be happening at Hogwarts. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, and Charlie clearly know about it, and likely that is what Percy was begging questions about at the Burrow. On the Hogwarts Express, Draco, as obnoxious as ever, indicates that the Malfoy family knows the secret and seizes this as an opportunity to further undermine Ron and his family. The astute reader may be wondering if this is what Ludo Bagman was alluding to in an earlier chapter.
It was mentioned in Chapter 9 that there are other Wizarding schools in Europe, including Beauxbatons, which is apparently in France. Readers should note Draco's comment about almost attending Durmstrang, another magic school. Hermione suggests that it has a slightly unsavory reputation for favoring the Dark Arts. Its actual location is kept secret, but it is likely located in the cold northern regions of East Europe, judging by its students' uniforms that includes fur-lined capes.
It should be noted here that Hermione is, as usual, providing factual data to advance the plot. Hermione's excellent memory and substantial knowledge are used as a way to introduce information into the story line unobtrusively. While the information may not be, strictly speaking, necessary, such as the Durmstrang uniform including fur-lined capes, it does humanize the story by showing interesting facts, thus avoiding the dry recitation or exposition as one or another character went to the library to research this.
- Why does Mrs. Weasley use Muggle taxis to transport the children to King's Cross Station?
- Why doesn't Ron know that Hogwarts Castle is magically hidden, and what does that say about his character in general?
- What might Malfoy mean when he asks Ron if he is "entering"? What other hints have been dropped that something special is happening at Hogwarts this year?
- Based on his former occupation, what new job might "Mad Eye" Moody be starting?
- Why is it so important that Mr. Weasley and Mr. Diggory get the charges against Moody minimized?
- What might the nickname, "Mad Eye," refer to?
- Would Draco Malfoy's character be different if he had attended Durmstrang instead of Hogwarts? If so, how? What are some possible reasons why he did not attend that school?
It will be learned later that the incident with Moody and his trash cans is actually when Wormtail and Barty Crouch Jr. overpower and kidnap him. It is Barty who animates the garbage bins so there will be something to report as having caused the commotion when Ministry Wizards arrive. Evidently Moody's paranoia was well-founded. It is not known if there actually were traps on Moody's property; it is only important that Wizarding officials believe there were, and given Amos Diggory's and Arthur Weasley's reactions to the story given by the impostor Moody, they believe this.
It will shortly be revealed that the Bulgarian Quidditch team's Seeker, Viktor Krum, is a student at Durmstrang. This could indicate the school is located in Bulgaria, or at least draws some of its students from there as well as other near-by countries, although that is only speculation. Krum will have a larger role to play in this book, as he is a potential Champion for Durmstrang in the upcoming Triwizard Tournament. Another Wizard school, Beauxbatons, has also been mentioned, and will provide the third Champion in that tournament. The tournament, in fact, is the pending event at Hogwarts which Bill, Charlie, Percy, Mrs. Weasley, and Draco Malfoy have all alluded to.
Krum will also become romantically interested in Hermione, causing Ron to become jealous. Krum is sporadically seen throughout the series, triggering jealousy attacks in Ron at each appearance. Hermione, knowing her own heart better than Ron knows his, will retain Krum as a friend, but never seriously reciprocates his romantic interest.
- This is the first mention of the Durmstrang Institute. Durmstrang will play a large part in this book, as one of the three schools participating in the Triwizard Tournament. In this book, we will learn of its somewhat unsavoury reputation, and that its current Headmaster, Professor Karkaroff, is a one-time Death Eater. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we will learn that Gellert Grindelwald, the worst Dark wizard to afflict the world until Voldemort came to power, is a graduate of Durmstrang, and that some students there still openly venerate him.
- This is the second time that we have seen the horseless carriages, the first being the previous year. It will be learned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that these chariots are not, in fact, horseless, but are pulled by Thestrals, animals that are only visible to those who have seen death. Harry will be able to see them following his witnessing Cedric's death.