Mayhem at the Ministry
Chapter 10 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Mayhem at the Ministry
The Twins, Harry, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Percy, Charlie, Bill, and Mr. Weasley catch an early Portkey back home. At The Burrow, Mrs. Weasley is overjoyed they are safe. After reading about the riot in the Daily Prophet, she is relieved that her cross parting words to Twins were not the last thing she ever said to them.
The Daily Prophet's main story is slanted to put the Ministry in the worst possible light; Percy says the reporter, Rita Skeeter, has it in for the Ministry. And while Mr. Weasley has been quoted more or less accurately, his words were deliberately skewed. He feels it is his responsibility to help patch things up. Percy offers to go to the Ministry with him, claiming Mr. Crouch will need him. Harry, meanwhile, tells Ron and Hermione about his scar hurting three days ago and his dream. He says that he is expecting a response from Sirius about what he should do.
Over the next two weeks, Percy and Mr. Weasley deal with riot fallout. Percy laments the many Howlers that have scorched his desk. All demand compensation for losses at Quidditch World Cup. One Mundungus Fletcher demands compensation for a twelve-bedroom tent, even though he was actually sleeping under a cloak. Spying Fred and George hunched over a piece of parchment. Mrs. Weasley demands to know if they are working on Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, but Fred dodges the question. Mr. Weasley mentions that Rita Skeeter has learned about Bertha Jorkins' disappearance. Mr. Weasley mentions that if Skeeter knew that Mr. Crouch's House-elf had been found with the wand that cast the Dark Mark, it would be headlines for a week. This sets Hermione off about House-elves being slaves, but her rant is interrupted by Mrs. Weasley sending everyone off to finish packing.
Among some parcels, Ron finds an ancient dress robe, edged with lace. Mrs. Weasley says it is for formal school occasions. She also says she bought one for Harry; Harry is greatly relieved to find that his robe is new and quite nice. Mrs. Weasley explains that they can only afford second-hand for Ron, causing him to furiously lament later, "Why is everything I own rubbish!"
The Weasley family is spotlighted here, including Ron, who is continually embarrassed and anguished over being poor and having to buy used textbooks and other lower-quality chattels. This time, he is humiliated and demoralized when Mrs. Weasley buys him hideous, ancient dress robes for formal school occasions; Mrs. Weasley's well-meaning, but misguided, attempt to provide for her youngest son's material requirements goes awry when she utterly fails to comprehend Ron's emotional needs, and that teenagers, even wizard ones, desperately desire to fit in with their peers, not be different from them. She has unintentionally made Ron a more tempting target to his detractors. Ron becomes more upset when he sees that Mrs. Weasley selected presentable dress robes for Harry because he can afford them. This contrast between Ron's relative poverty and Harry's inherited wealth has appeared several times in this book, and is likely to continue through this and subsequent books, and could strain their friendship. Though Ron is sometimes jealous over Harry's affluence, he has yet to realize that Harry lacks and desperately desires what Ron takes for granted: a loving, supportive, and stable family. And while Ron will always have an opportunity to improve his lot in life if he so chooses, Harry can never hope to regain his lost parents.
Meanwhile, Mr. Weasley finds himself in a difficult position at work after Rita Skeeter deliberately misconstrued him in her skewed article; now he must protect himself by attempting to repair damage inflicted on the Ministry of Magic. Percy's growing pompousness only makes matters worse. Even though his boss, Mr. Crouch, continually forgets his name, Percy convinces himself that he is needed at work to help handle the fallout following the World Cup riot. Adding to the Ministry's woes is Skeeter's discovery that Bertha Jorkins is missing, though, incredibly, Ministry officials have taken no action regarding this.
The author often introduces new characters in passing, then expands their roles in subsequent books. We have noted this before with Sirius Black, briefly mentioned in the first book, before being introduced in the third book, where his role grew significantly. It is possible that Rita Skeeter, introduced in this chapter, may also have a larger role in events than expected. The reader should compare Black being mentioned at the start of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with Skeeter being talked about in this chapter, to see if there are similarities in the portrayal that hints at the character being groomed for a larger role.
- Why did Harry wait until now to tell Ron and Hermione about his dream?
- How are the Twins able to manipulate Mrs. Weasley's relief over their safety to their own advantage?
- Why is Ron upset with Mrs. Weasley? Why does Mrs. Weasley fail to understand why he is upset?
- Why is Ron and Harry's friendship strained even further after Harry receives his dress robes?
- Why has no one been searching for the missing Bertha Jorkins?
- Is Percy's claim that the Daily Prophet and Rita Skeeter have it in for the Ministry correct? If so, why, and what evidence supports this?
The Twins manipulate Mrs. Weasley's relief that they are safely home to help defuse further questions about Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The letter the Twins are writing is likely to Ludo Bagman, informing him that his payment (in Leprechaun gold) has vanished, and demanding non-vanishing payment. Even though they were not working on another Weasley's Wizard Wheezes order form as Mrs. Weasley suspected, it would have been equally precarious for them to admit to their mother what it actually was. Not only was it connected with the Wheezes enterprise, it also involved gambling, which the Twins are forbidden to do. By invoking her earlier relief for their safety, Fred is able to deflect Mrs. Weasley's inquiry about the parchment, without admitting what it is.
Mr. Crouch continually forgetting Percy's name and his other odd behavior, as described here in passing, may stem from something other than him being an eccentric and inattentive boss. At the end of the book, it will be revealed that Peter Pettigrew, using the Imperius curse, had been controlling Mr. Crouch in order to assist Barty Crouch Jr. in his attempts to force the Triwizard Tournament's outcome in Voldemort's chosen direction. However, it is unclear exactly when this curse is applied. It is certain it was done before the start of the school year, as we are later shown that Crouch was under control before Moody was subdued, and it must have happened after Harry's dream as Pettigrew and Voldemort were then in Little Hangleton, while Crouch was still in London; so while it is safe to assume that Crouch was taken over sometime during this fortnight, we are unable to see exactly when his behaviour changed. While it may be suggested that Barty's increased freedom, which allowed him to attend the Quidditch World Cup, could have been the result of Mr. Crouch being under the Imperius curse, on examination this seems less likely; Winky, defending her master's secrets, almost certainly would prevent any attack on Mr. Crouch. Voldemort's repeated dismissal of the magical powers of what he deems "inferior races" such as house elves would cause him to dismiss Winky as a factor in Crouch's defence, with possibly fatal effects on his agents. Clearly Winky must be eliminated from the Crouch household, and not through Voldemort's efforts, before the Imperius curse can be applied to Mr. Crouch. Thus, Winky's dismissal in this chapter actually is a plot requirement, and must be completed before Mr. Crouch can be placed under the Imperius curse. Almost certainly, Crouch's failure to correctly identify Percy in this chapter is due entirely to his own nature.
As she has done with other characters, Rowling introduces the Daily Prophet journalist, Rita Skeeter, only by name, hinting that Skeeter will later play an important role. In fact, Skeeter will have a large role in this book, writing embarrassing and false stories about Harry and Hermione in particular. An unethical and ruthless reporter, Skeeter employs any means to uncover a story that she then pads with juicy lies, exaggerated facts, and fabricated sensationalism to enthrall her readers and boost her paper's circulation. Skeeter's slanted articles have further inflamed the already wide-spread fallout following the suspected Death Eater attacks at the World Cup, though it remains unclear if she actually is biased against the Ministry of Magic, as Percy claims, or merely seeking notoriety any way she can. Regardless, she shows little interest in reporting the truth, and even less consideration for those victimized by her falsehoods. And while Skeeter freely abuses veracity, her character also reflects just how prevalently the truth is skewered and manipulated by other characters in the series, often to malign Harry and Dumbledore, or to benefit and protect themselves, even if it is at others' expense. At the end of this book, Hermione manages to nullify the acid in her quill for a year, though Skeeter still plays a role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With her nasty writing style fully restored, she indirectly, through interviews and her own writing, plays a fairly major part in the series' final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In that book, Skeeter's acid quill poses questions that Harry will need to answer, primarily about Dumbledore.