The Weighing of the Wands
Chapter 18 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Weighing of the Wands
Harry wakes up feeling miserable and wanting to talk with Ron, who has already left the dormitory. Everyone in the Gryffindor Common room cheers when Harry enters, so, embarrassed, he heads off for breakfast. Hermione meets him at the portrait bearing toast, and asks him to take a walk. Dreading the crowd in the Great Hall, Harry accepts. As they stroll around the lake, Hermione tells Harry that she knew from his shocked expression when his name was announced that he did not enter himself into the Tournament. Ron's reaction is due to his being jealous over Harry's fame. Hermione suggests Harry write to tell Sirius what has happened. Harry thinks it is too dangerous, but Hermione says Sirius will learn about it anyway, and the Daily Prophet may have already reported his being a Champion.
Harry does write a note to Sirius, and takes it to the Owlery to send it off. Hedwig is too recognizable, so Harry instead uses a school owl. As the offended Hedwig turns her back and stalks away, Harry feels that all of his friends, except Hermione, have rejected him.
During lessons, Harry is unable to avoid other students, and Herbology with the Hufflepuffs is particularly tense. A rather pedestrian house when compared to the other three, Hufflepuff seldom receives any glory, and they feel Harry is stealing what little they had. In Care of Magical Creatures with the Slytherins, Draco Malfoy is his usual insulting self, but he is interrupted by Hagrid. The Skrewts need exercising, and each student is given one on a leash. The creatures are now so large that they drag the students. Hagrid takes Harry aside to ask if he knows who entered his name. Harry, relieved Hagrid believes him, admits he does not.
Draco's taunts are becoming extremely pointed, and his attacks peak when he starts distributing lapel buttons that alternately display slogans reading, "Support Cedric Diggory – the Real Hogwarts Champion" or "Potter Stinks". When a duel erupts between Harry and Draco, their spells collide in mid-air, hitting Hermione and Goyle. Ron is left aghast at Hermione's injury – her front teeth have enlarged to an incredible extent. Professor Snape appears, demanding to know what is going on. He sends Goyle to the Hospital Wing, but claims to see nothing wrong with Hermione, who runs off sobbing. Harry and Ron both shout at Snape over his indifferent treatment towards Hermione. When the echoes die away, Snape penalizes Gryffindor House fifty points, and Harry and Ron each receive a detention.
During Snape's Potions lecture about antidotes, Colin Creevey enters to escort Harry to where the Champions are having their pictures taken. Harry finds Ludo Bagman, a photographer, a witch Harry has never seen before, and the other Champions are waiting for the Wand Weighing ceremony. Mr. Ollivander will verify that their wands are in good working order. The witch is Rita Skeeter, a reporter for the Daily Prophet. Rita pulls Harry into a broom closet and, producing a Quick-Quotes Quill, starts interviewing him. Harry notices that the Quill is recording his comments inaccurately, but before he can do anything about it, Professor Dumbledore interrupts to announce that the wand weighing is about to start.
The five judges – Bagman, Mr. Crouch, Igor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Professor Dumbledore, and the four Champions are introduced to Mr. Ollivander. Ollivander examines the four Champions' wands. First up is Fleur, whose wand is rosewood and contains a Veela hair in its core, which Fleur says is her grandmother's. Ollivander goes on to test Cedric's wand (ash and Unicorn tail hair), Krum's (hornbeam and Dragon heartstring), and Harry's (holly and Phoenix feather). Ollivander declares all are in perfect working order.
When Harry returns to the dormitory after dinner, Ron informs him he has received an owl and that their detentions are set for the next night in Snape's dungeon. As Ron leaves, Harry wants to chase after him, but Sirius' letter is a greater lure. Sirius has more to say than is safe by owl post, and has set a time to meet Harry at the Gryffindor fireplace. Sirius believes Harry's participation in the Tournament is risky and someone probably intends to harm him, but Sirius thinks he should be safe as long as Dumbledore and Moody are there.
Harry has become a near outcast among many students, especially Hufflepuff, who seldom excel in anything and now feel that Harry has deliberately undermined their Champion, Cedric Diggory, thus lessening their House's chances for glory. About the only student who believes someone else entered him in the Tournament is Hermione. Harry feels alienated, just as he did during his second year when many believed he was the Heir of Slytherin and responsible for the attacks on Muggle-borns. At least Ron, as well as Hermione, was on his side then, but without Ron's support now, his peers' disdain is almost unbearable.
Ironically, even though most Gryffindor students believe Harry cheated to enter the Tournament, some are ecstatic to have a Champion represent their House, contentedly basking in Harry's reflected glory and unperturbed with how or why he was entered. They also seem unconcerned or oblivious that Harry could be in mortal danger. Even though Harry is uncomfortable at having more unwanted attention heaped on him and upset over being called a cheater, especially by Ron, he is nonetheless excited about competing in the Tournament; it is an opportunity to impress Cho Chang.
Like Hagrid and Hermione, Sirius believes Harry was railroaded into the Tournament, but his opinion that Harry should be safe seems overly optimistic, as someone has already penetrated Hogwarts' security by planting Harry's name into the Goblet. And though Sirius feels relatively assured that Dumbledore and Moody can protect Harry during the Tournament, Dumbledore's powers seem somewhat less than invincible to us.
While Hagrid and Sirius's belief in Harry's innocence stems from loyalty and trust, Hermione's reason is more analytical: she observed from Harry's shocked expression when his name was announced that it was an utter and unwelcome surprise. Ron, also watching Harry, failed to perceive what Hermione did; this is another indication, if one is needed, of Ron's immaturity and his lack of emotional sensitivity and awareness.
The widening rift with Ron actually brings Harry closer to Hermione, who he has always considered a close friend, but never quite the same as Ron. This is hardly surprising, as Harry would naturally feel more at ease among his own gender. Now, however, Hermione helps fill a void while assuming a new role, demonstrating her unwavering loyalty, trust, and support. Hermione has never doubted Harry's word, and despite her somewhat overbearing and bossy nature, she is always concerned with Harry and Ron's well-being, and she has always offered solid and logical, if overly cautious, advice. Harry and Ron have tended to be dismissive of her counsel in the past, especially if it interfered with their (sometimes prohibited) activities. Without Ron's presence, however, Harry is more receptive to her input. Hermione and Harry also have much in common: both were raised as Muggles, learning about their magical abilities late in childhood and having to adapt to a strange, new world. Also, each being an only-child creates a stronger bond between them, and they gradually, and perhaps unknowingly, become as brother and sister, whereas Ron, who has many siblings, mostly considers Harry his "best friend."
Harry experiences his first encounter with Rita Skeeter, a reporter he already knows by her less-than-stellar reputation. She immediately isolates Harry for an interview, rendering him virtually powerless as she pumps him for information and purposely misquotes him, despite his protests. Even before interviewing Harry, she has apparently prefabricated just how he will be portrayed in her embarrassingly inaccurate article. While she is supposedly interviewing all the Champions, we can already see that her article will be embarrassingly centered on Harry. Skeeter not only shows here how a single individual can abuse the truth, causing immense personal damage, but she also represents how easily a powerful entity like the news media can insidiously manipulate the general public's opinions and perceptions with calculated lies and manufactured misconceptions on a much grander scale.
The wand weighing ceremony should also be noted, and though it plays little significance to the plot, it is interesting for other reasons. As readers learned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the wand chooses the Wizard, though it is never explained why. Wands are made from nearly every tree type, and the author has chosen the wood for each character's wand based on its symbolic connotation. Harry's wand, for instance, is holly, which is believed to repel evil. Holly also represents protection, joy, happiness, masculinity, and overcoming anger. Christians also believe that the holy cross was made from holly. The word holly is derived from "holy". Krum's wand is hornbeam, a wood that represents strength, stubbornness, passion, moral fibre, ethics, and loyalty. It is also associated with a person who is considered the "salt of the earth" or a "common man". Rosewood, which is what Fleur's wand is made from, represents inner beauty, kindness, and gratitude, while Cedric's ash wand symbolizes adaptability, prudence, modesty, sacrifice, and sensitivity.
Wood alone is unable to empower a wand. Presumably, its core material magically fuses with the wood it is embedded into, activating the wand's power. It also seems to become somewhat sentient, allowing it to bond to a wizard who shares similar qualities. Magical creatures provide the core material; Mr. Ollivander's wands only contain Unicorn hair, Phoenix feather, or Dragon heartstring, though other wandmakers use additional substances. Harry's wand contains a Phoenix feather. A Phoenix is a mythical bird that continually dies by bursting into flames and is then reborn from its own ashes, an act symbolizing resurrection and purity. Krum's wand contains Dragon heartstring, and though a Dragon is often associated with evil and destruction, in many cultures it represents qualities such as strength, wisdom, purification, renewal, and power. The Unicorn hair in Cedric's wand represents purity, innocence, loyalty, and moral virtue. Unicorns are sometimes seen as guardians. Fleur's wand confirms Ron's suspicions that she is part Veela. The hair forming its core belonged to her Veela grandmother, making Fleur one-quarter Veela. This wand's core is apparently unusual and may reflect the Veelas' more temperamental and volatile natures. As seen earlier in this book, the Veelas' real appearance is far different than the images they can project. The Veela hair may also represent transformation, adaptability, and even deception and seduction. Being that the hair belongs to someone closely related to Fleur, it may also symbolize family power, generational legacy, unity, and loyalty.
There is additional information about magic wands and their characteristics, along with some other points of Wand lore, in the main article on Wands.
- Why does Hermione encourage Harry to write to his godfather, despite the risk to Sirius?
- Why is Hufflepuff House particularly angry that Harry is a Triwizard Champion?
- Why are the wands weighed and inspected?
- Why does Sirius think it is safe for Harry to compete in the Tournament, even though he believes someone wants to harm him? Is Harry actually safe?
- Why does Hermione believe Harry's story?
- Why are Gryffindor students so ecstatic that Harry is a Champion, even though they believe he cheated to enter the Tournament? Why do most other Hogwarts students treat him as an outcast?
- Considering her reputation, why is Rita Skeeter allowed to interview the Champions?
- Why does Snape send Goyle to the Hospital Wing, but not Hermione? Why is she so upset about it?
The author once again draws the reader's attention to Snape teaching about antidotes. Though Harry dislikes Potions, mostly because Snape makes it so miserable for him, his knowledge about this subject will prove crucial in the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
It should be noted that though a rift developed between Harry and Hermione following Harry's Firebolt being confiscated in Prisoner of Azkaban, it was entirely Harry's decision to avoid her; Hermione has stayed a true friend to Harry throughout, and will continue to do so until the series' end. Ron has allowed jealousy to create a rift between him and Harry, and it continues until Ron realizes Harry's life really is at risk. During their secret mission in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron will desert Harry and Hermione, on what might be considered petty matters, keeping the Trio separated for some months. It is reasonable to assume that Ron's behavior is intended to reflect his character and immaturity relative to Harry and Hermione.
- We have already seen that Ron is susceptible to the charms of the Veela, and we now understand why Fleur has such an effect on him. Fleur will end up marrying Ron's brother Bill, but at least until that wedding, Fleur will continue to have the same effect on Ron. It is uncertain whether Bill is equally susceptible to Fleur's glamour.
- This chapter includes our first direct exposure to Rita Skeeter's style of journalism. Rita's sensationalistic brand of writing will torment Harry shortly, but will also be focused on Hermione and Hagrid in this book, and on Dumbledore posthumously.