Back to The Burrow
Chapter 4 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Back to The Burrow
Harry finishes packing his belongings by noon the next day and eagerly awaits the Weasleys' arrival. Uncle Vernon is, of course, worried about the neighbors noticing anything strange happening and starts asking how the Weasleys will be dressed—will it be those odd Wizard's robes or "normal" peoples' clothes? Uncle Vernon also wonders by what means they arrive.
The hour comes and passes. Finally, the Weasleys arrive by the Floo Network, which was specially connected to the Dursleys' fireplace. However, the Dursleys' hearth has been blocked up, and Mr. Weasley has to blast his way through. After this rocky start, Mr. Weasley has no luck in engaging the Dursleys in a conversation, while Fred and George fetch Harry's trunk. Fred drops a bag of toffees, collecting all but one before he, George, and Ron depart for the Burrow. Harry and Mr. Weasley are still there when cousin Dudley finds and eats the toffee. His tongue promptly expands to several feet in length. Uncle Vernon starts attacking Mr. Weasley, who he blames for this outrage, while Aunt Petunia tries to pull the supposed foreign object out of Dudley's mouth. Harry exits for the Burrow as Uncle Vernon starts throwing china figurines at Mr. Weasley.
Although the Dursleys meeting with the Weasley clan is humorously depicted, Vernon and Petunia's steadfast refusal to acknowledge Mr. Weasley and the others' presence symbolizes the deep division that exists between the Wizarding and Muggle realms; it likely represents how many Muggles might react if they knew such a world existed. Vernon and Petunia are particularly resistant to any interaction with magic, and, fearing and loathing what they are unable to understand, they simply choose to ignore its existence as much as possible. Being forced to raise a young wizard in their home only exacerbates their intolerance to anything or anyone different from themselves, which is why Harry is forbidden to acknowledge his own magical abilities while under their roof. The Twins, with their usual mischief, only make matters worse, though they are generally unconcerned whether it is wizard or Muggle who falls prey to their unique pranks. For Harry, any opportunity to escape from this restrictive and unhappy household is a welcome respite, and he is grateful to the Weasleys for arranging his early departure, regardless of how much it angers or offends his aunt and uncle.
This is the second time that we have seen Floo powder used since Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (where it was introduced). Professor Snape may have used Floo powder or something similar to summon Professor Lupin to his study in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The fireplace was certainly not walled up in the first book, because letters were delivered through it at that time. This may be an error on the part of the author, but it is equally likely that during Harry's absence at school, Vernon had all the fireplaces walled up to prevent that sort of thing happening again, and the author simply didn't choose to mention the fact.
- Why do the Dursleys refuse to talk with Arthur Weasley, despite his friendly attempts to make conversation?
- Why is Uncle Vernon so concerned about how the Weasleys will be dressed and how they will arrive?
- There is definitely magic happening here—the Floo powder, the wall being blown apart, figurines being destroyed, and Ton-Tongue Toffees, at the very least. The Ministry chastised Harry two years ago because of a simple Hover Charm performed by Dobby the House-elf. Why are there no such missives this time?
This is the first time Fred and George Weasley have been seen deliberately tormenting other people; granted, Dudley may have deserved it, and the damage inflicted was only temporary. While their pranks will largely remain harmless, there will be occasional episodes that could be described as viciousness in this book, and in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, though in every case seemingly directed at a deserving victim.
Eventually, the Twins' magical abilities are such that the joke products they invent will evolve into defensive weapons that are used by the Ministry in the fight against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Although Uncle Vernon despises anything different from what he knows or is unable to understand, he also truly fears the Wizarding world, though probably not for the same reasons as Petunia. Her feelings are deeper and more complex. As seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, her hatred of the Magical world mostly seems rooted in jealousy over her sister Lily, Harry's mother, being magical while Petunia was not. It is only in the final book in the series that we learn the deepest roots of that jealousy. And while Petunia is mostly motivated by spite that she directs at Harry, her fear is somewhat justified. She knows most wizards are benign and never harm Muggles, but she is also aware that Dark wizards exist, and that Harry, and by extension herself and her family, have been specifically targeted either by Voldemort or his agents. Her hatred and resentment may partially stem from what her sister's unique abilities has left Petunia to cope with.
A few more details about the Floo Network are revealed in this chapter. Not all fireplaces are automatically linked to the Network, and it is a department within the Ministry of Magic that regulates the Floo system. In the next book, we learn that the Ministry can monitor, as well as control, how fireplaces are used on the Network. This plays a role in the fifth book, as Harry must find an unmonitored fireplace to safely contact Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black's ancestral home. And in the seventh book this again becomes a plot point, as Harry is unable to leave Privet Drive via the Floo Network because it is being monitored.
- This is the first time we see original magical artifacts created by the Twins. We will shortly find out that these are to be the basis of their chosen career, innovators in the magical jokes field. The process of financing the start-up of their joke shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, will be a subplot throughout this book, and testing of products for that shop will be a subplot in the next book, as well as something of a bone of contention between the Twins and Hermione. The shop itself will be launched, and we will see it in the following book, at which time we will learn that some of the Weasley products are in use by the Ministry in the battle against Dark wizards.
- The Floo network being regulated by the Ministry is mentioned here. It will become a factor again in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where a discussion with Sirius is nearly intercepted. The interception is explained when Umbridge says that all the fireplaces are now monitored, resulting in Harry breaking into her office twice to try to communicate with Sirius. It also is the reason that Harry cannot use the Floo network to leave the Dursleys' in the final book.