The Portkey

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Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Portkey← Chapter 5 | Chapter 7 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

It is far too early the next morning when Harry is awakened by Mrs. Weasley. He, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and the Twins are traveling with Mr. Weasley, while Percy, Bill, and Charlie will meet them there. Fred and George wanted to Apparate like the older boys, but they are not licensed yet, and without training, they would probably get splinched—leaving parts of themselves behind. Ginny and Hermione complain about the early hour, but Mr. Weasley explains they have a bit of a walk ahead. Harry wonders if they are walking to the Quidditch World Cup. Mr. Weasley starts to explain, but Mrs. Weasley, who has discovered Ton-Tongue Toffees hidden in George's pockets, interrupts. She confiscates all the hidden toffees in the Twins' pockets and cuffs with the "Accio" charm.

Mrs. Weasley, who is staying behind, remains in a bad humour, and neither she not the twins speak to each other before the twins shoulder their bags and stride off.

During the chilly morning walk, Mr. Weasley explains the huge logistical problem in locating a site for approximately one hundred thousand wizards to gather. The Ministry of Magic created a stadium in the backwoods, charming it to look unappealing to Muggles. Transporting so many people without being noticed was also a problem, so the Ministry has arranged for wizards to arrive at camp sites around the stadium over several weeks, with those getting cheaper tickets arriving earlier and staying longer. Additionally, two hundred Portkeys have been located around Britain for those who cannot or will not Apparate. They are using the one at Stoatshead Hill.

At Stoatshead Hill, they meet Cedric Diggory, and his father, Amos. Mr. Diggory makes a big fuss over his son being the Seeker in the only Quidditch match in which Harry's team was beaten the previous year, though Cedric is more modest. Mr. Diggory mentions that the Lovegoods have already left, and the Fawcetts were unable to get tickets. Mr. Weasley checks his watch and has everyone hold onto an old boot. As the countdown reaches zero, Harry feels himself being yanked rapidly through the air, landing hard on the ground. A voice says "Seven past five from Stoatshead Hill."

Analysis[edit]

While the Quidditch World Cup may seem more like an interesting and fun diversion to open the story, its importance in introducing a critical and ongoing theme, mutual cooperation, cannot be overemphasized. The World Cup is far more than a mere sporting event—it is a means to unite wizards from many countries. Organizing such a huge international event is a massive venture, requiring extensive planning, collaboration, and coordination among the world's magical populations. It is probably the most difficult wizard undertaking to be kept hidden from Muggles, though, as will be seen, there are occasional security leaks. And while there are the usual rivalries among the teams and fans, it is the commonly shared passion for the sport that bonds the magical community together in a peaceful setting that helps build lasting global recognition, understanding, and harmony. Harry relishes this experience, yet he still fails to realize that if Voldemort is to be defeated, it must be accomplished through a similarly united effort, rather than by one person alone.

More is learned here about Cedric Diggory, who was introduced in the previous book and will play a significant role in this one. Cedric, a Hufflepuff, strongly believes in honesty and fairness, to such an extent that he offered to replay the Quidditch match against Gryffindor (in the previous book); he felt Hufflepuff's win was invalid because the Dementors interfered. His strong ethical sense will play a strong role throughout the story. We can already see differences between Cedric and his father, Amos, and it may be interesting to compare their personalities. It is possible that Cedric and Amos are intended as a contrast to Harry's feelings about his own father, James. Cedric and Amos are quite different people; though both are competitive, Cedric steadfastly believes that virtue and fair competition are paramount, while Amos shades more towards the Slytherin view that advantages are to be taken. Harry should be able to observe here that fathers and sons can be quite different from one another, but, very soon, he will fail to apply this lesson to himself.

We are also shown the Accio spell, which is used for summoning items. Harry may find this particularly useful later on, and it is likely to be used repeatedly throughout the series.

It is Rowling's attention to detail that helps make the Harry Potter books such an intriguing adventure. One hundred thousand wizards are expected to attend the World Cup. Exactly how do so many people travel to such an event without alarming Muggles or revealing the Wizarding world's existence? Harry's introduction to the Portkey demonstrates one way wizards are transported, though, as readers have seen, there are other methods, each with its own limitations. The author's explanation as to how this particular logistical puzzle is managed, while not critical to the storyline here, shows she understands her characters' needs and makes the story more complex, textured, and believable.

We will note that the number of wizards expected for this event can lead us to some conclusions about the wizard population of the world. There is some speculation in the article on Hogwarts about the population of the school and what this means about the number of wizards in the world. In that article, we speculate that the number of wizards worldwide could be either about three hundred thousand, or one million, based on the assumptions we choose. If we are expecting a hundred thousand wizards at this event, a world total population of only three times that seems an unreasonably large attendance rate at any single event; that a solid one third of all the wizards in the entire world would attend seems unlikely in the extreme, particularly given that approximately half of them would be arriving a week or more early, and staying a week or more after the end of the event, based on what Mr. Weasley tells us. The commerce of the Wizarding world would be severely upset by such a mass exodus. Attendance by one tenth of a world Wizarding population of one million is still alarmingly high, but seems less likely to cause an economic failure.

We will further note that in the Muggle world, as of 2012, there are only eleven stadiums capable of holding 100,000 spectators, six of which are in the United States.

Readers should, perhaps, make a mental note regarding how Portkeys work, as they are also quite likely to be seen again.

The Lovegood and Fawcett families are mentioned here, though not actually seen. The author often introduces characters, objects, or places by name prior to their actual appearance, often several books before. Sirius Black was merely mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone before appearing in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, playing a crucial role. Rowling may want readers to have an early indication that some seemingly insignificant characters may become important later in the storyline.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why is Mrs. Weasley angry at finding a toffee in George's pocket?
  2. How does the Ministry keep the arrival of over one hundred thousand wizards secret from Muggles?
  3. Why does Mr. Diggory make such a big fuss about Cedric?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why would Mrs. Weasley stay behind?
  2. Considering the logistical difficulties, why does the Wizarding community choose to undertake such a huge international event?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

The Portkey, which Wizards use to travel from one location to another, becomes a device that will unexpectedly transport Harry and Cedric Diggory into a deadly situation. Creating Portkeys is apparently regulated by the Ministry. Perhaps this is why Portkeys are only used seven times in the entire series: four times in this book (to the World Cup and back, and to the cemetery and back), twice in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (from Dumbledore's office to Headquarters, and from the Ministry to Dumbledore's office), and once in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (from the Tonks' house to The Burrow – though apparently there are five or six other unseen Portkeys in use in that last episode). The Floo Network and Disapparating seem to be more common transportation methods, though, as Mr. Weasley points out, many Wizards avoid Disapparating because Splinching is an inherent risk.

Based on nothing more than the name, we assume that "the Lovegoods" mentioned in this chapter refer to characters which we will see in future books. Luna Lovegood, the Trio's rather odd schoolmate and future fellow Dumbledore's Army member, will be introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The family also includes Luna's widowed father, Xenophilius, who appears in the final book. The Lovegoods will be invited to Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's wedding, which will play a significant part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Both characters play important roles in that book. Mention in this chapter is apparently intended to indicate that the Lovegood household is within walking distance of Stoatshead Hill, and thus within range of the Burrow; this point will prove important in the final book, as it will mean that Ron knows where to find his home.

The Fawcett family plays no particular role in the book, though there is a student, identified only as Fawcett, who has a small part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Connections[edit]

  • Mention of the Lovegoods here establishes that their home, like the Fawcetts' and the Diggorys', is within walking distance of The Burrow. When discussion with Xeno Lovegood becomes necessary in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is only because of this physical closeness that Ron is able to find the Lovegood home. This careful mention of the Lovegood family at this point indicates that the plot was at least well enough developed to require the existence of the Quibbler, and its anti-Ministry stance, in future books. It also suggests that the author had already determined that this would result in Harry's needing to visit Xeno in the final book.