Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism
Chapter Twelve: The Feast / The Triwizard Tournament
Through the gates, flanked with statues of winged boars, and up the sweeping drive the carriages trundled, swaying dangerously in what was fast become a gale. Hermione sat with her knees pressed together tightly, her Hogwarts robes spread over them, her moody cat tucked up in her cloak under one arm. Lightning flashed and lit the interior of the carriage up like broad daylight as they approached the castle, and for just a moment she could see her companions quite clearly.
Then it was dark again, the rain loud on the roof of the carriage as it pulled abruptly to a halt. Compulsively, she pushed her unruly hair out of her face. Harry and Ron jumped out into the downpour in a hurry, and she and then Neville followed behind. They all hurried up the massive stone steps into the entrance of Hogwarts Castle. Then they stepped into the magnificent, torch-lit, entrance hall. On one side was the opulent marble staircase, leading up to the many floors of classrooms and dormitories above, and on the other was the entrance to the Great Hall.
“Blimey,” said Ron, shaking himself like an excited puppy, and sending water droplets every which way, “if that keeps up the lake’s going to overflow. I’m soak — ARRGH!”
A large, red, water filled balloon had just dropped from the ceiling and straight onto Ron’s head, where it exploded. Drenched and sputtering, Ron staggered sideways and collided with Harry, just as a second water bomb dropped. Hermione ducked out of the way just in time, and it missed her, instead bursting at Harry’s feet. She saw his eyes open wide. People all around them shrieked and started pushing one and other, in their efforts to get out of the line of fire. Just then, Crookshanks leapt out from Hermione’s robes, and darted up the stairs. She hoped he remembered how to get to the dormitory, but he’d never yet gotten lost at Hogwarts.
Hermione glanced upwards, towards the ceiling, rather carefully. And sure enough, there was Peeves the Poltergeist. He was different than the castle ghosts, who were all white-ish and nearly transparent. Peeves was something else entirely — a little man in a bell-covered hat and orange bowtie — and he loved nothing more than to harass the students and make mischief within the castle.
“PEEVES!” yelled a stern sounding voice. “Peeves, come down here at ONCE!”
It was Professor McGonagall, transfiguration instructor, head of Gryffindor House, Deputy Headmistress, and an extremely accomplished witch in her own right. Professor McGonagall was one of Hermione’s very favorite teachers, and she was dashing out of the Great Hall to put an end to Peeves’ trouble making. Unfortunately, she skidded on the wet floor and slid right into Hermione, nearly choking Hermione in her attempt to keep from falling.
“Ouch — sorry, Miss Granger —” McGonagall breathed.
“That’s all right, Professor!” Hermione gasped.
“Peeves, get down here Now!” McGonagall continued, straightening her pointed hat and looking upward through her square-rimmed spectacles. Despite the collision, she still looked quite dignified.
“Not doing nothing!” cackled Peeves, lobbing a water bomb at several fifth-year students, who screamed and dived for the Great Hall. “Already wet, aren’t they? Little squirts! Wheeeee!” And he aimed another bomb at a group of second year boys, who looked positively terrified.
“I shall call the headmaster! I’m warning you, PEEVES —”
Peeves stuck out his tongue, threw the last of his water bombs into the air, and zoomed off up the marble staircase, cackling wildly.
“Well, move along then!” said Professor McGonagall, looking around at the crowd of students in various states of dampness. “Into the Great Hall, come on!”
Hermione, Harry, and Ron carefully made their way across the slippery floor of the entrance hall, and through the double doors on the right, Ron muttering furiously under his breath the whole time.
After three years of studying magic, the Great Hall of Hogwarts still took Hermione’s breath away. Fresh from a summer away, she found herself gaping at its grandeur, at the magically suspended candlesticks in midair and the ceiling bewitched to look like the stormy night sky, just as she had the first time she stepped foot in it. Her skin prickled. Thankfully, this time she was much less nervous. It was decorated splendidly for the start-of-term feast, and the plates and goblets on the four house tables were made of pure gold. Hermione made her way with Harry and Ron past the Slytherin table, then Ravenclaw, then Hufflepuff, before arriving at the Gryffindor house table at the far end of the hall. They seated themselves in open spaces on the long wooden benches, right next to Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost.
Like all ghosts, Nick was pearly white and semitransparent. Unlike the other ghosts, Nick’s head had been partially severed during a botched beheading. This evening he was wearing a particularly large ruff, perhaps to disguise it or stop his head from wobbling too much.
“Good evening,” he said, in his usual proper tone, beaming at them.
“Says who?” Harry replied, and he took off his sneakers and poured out the water from Peeves’ water bombs right there on the floor of the great hall. “Hope they hurry up with the Sorting. I’m starving.”
The Sorting of new students in Houses took place at the start of every school year, and it was a big part of the reason Hermione had been so very nervous her first year at Hogwarts. She had wanted desperately to be in Gryffindor house, and had been very relieved when her desire was taken into account in the decision. She thought of the of all the first year students, nervously waiting to be brought in, unsure of the future, just as she had once been.
“Hiya, Harry!” a voice called down the table towards Harry Potter in excitement. It was Colin Creevy, a third year Gryffindor who seemed rather taken with Harry. Hermione leaned back slightly, so the two boys could see each other.
“Hi, Colin.” Harry said, still sounding annoyed.
“Harry, guess what? Guess what, Harry? My brother’s starting! My brother Dennis!”
“Er — good,” Harry replied.
“He’s really excited! I just hope he’s in Gryffindor! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Harry?”
“Er — yeah, alright.” said Harry.
Colin could be a bit annoying, but it was sort of nice that he wanted his little brother in the same house as him. Hermione wondered vaguely what it would have been like to have a sister or a brother, and if she would have wanted them in the same house as her. She’d always been happy as an only child, but…
Harry turned to her “Brothers and sisters usually go in the same Houses, don’t they?”
“Oh no,” she said quickly, trying to snap herself out of her thoughts. It was stupid anyway, if she had ever had a sibling, odds were they would have been non-magical, and not gone to Hogwarts at all. Harry was looking at her confusedly, no doubt thinking of all seven Weasleys all being in Gryffindor. “Parvati Patil’s twin’s in Ravenclaw,” she added, “and they’re identical. You’d think they’d be together, wouldn’t you?”
He didn’t say anything.
She glanced up at the staff table, and did a quick headcount. “Where’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” she said.
In her three years at Hogwarts, they had had a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher every single year. The first had turned out to be in the service of Lord Voldemort, the second had turned out to be a thoroughly disappointing fraud who never should have been allowed to teach in the first place, and the third had been a highly capable instructor who also happened to be a werewolf. He’d resigned at the end of last year, when the secret of his condition had been exposed.
However, this year, the seat usually occupied by the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher appeared to be empty. She scanned the rest of the table, from tiny Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, to Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy department. And there was of course Professor Snape, head of Slytherin House and Potions Master. Potions would have been a really fun and fascinating subject, if only Snape weren’t such a bad instructor and so hell bent on favoring students from his own house, and he also had a rather weird and intense feud with Harry Potter. It seemed quite unprofessional, really, to be that threatened by a student. But she would need a good understanding of potions if she was to do well in the wizarding world, so she mostly kept her head down and tried to ignore the nonsense. That strategy had served her well so far, in her second year, she had successfully brewed a Polyjuice Potion, a complex and advanced potion that some adult witches and wizards couldn’t quite handle, which allowed the drinker to take on the physical appearance of another.
McGonagall must have still been in the entrance hall, and of course Hagrid would come in with the first years, since it was his job to take them across the lake. In the center of the staff table sat Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, who was quite famous in his own right. He was very old, though she did not know his exact age, and his sweeping silver hair and beard were shining in the candlelight.
But no, there was no new face anywhere at the staff table.
“Maybe they couldn’t get anyone!” she said to no one in particular.
“Oh hurry up!” Ron moaned from on Harry’s other side. “I could eat a hippogriff.”
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the doors of the Great Hall opened, and a sudden silence fell. Professor McGonagall entered, leading a long line of first years, all soaked through completely, up to the top of the hall. They looked to be shivering, and she felt for them. Maybe the one’s from wizarding families had some idea what to expect, but for kids from muggle households, they were starting not only at a new school, but in an entirely new world. The student at the very end of the line of first years was wrapped in something furry and enormous, which if she wasn’t very much mistaken was Hagrid’s moleskin overcoat. He looked less terrified than the others, more enthralled and delighted, as though he were taking everything in.
He also looked a bit like Colin Creevy. And indeed, he caught Colin’s eye, gave a double thumbs-up, and mouthed “I fell in the lake!” while positively beaming.
Professor McGonagall now placed a three legged stool on the floor before the row of first year students and, on top of it, an extremely old, dirty, patched witch or wizard’s hat. The first years stared at it, and so did every other person in the Great Hall. There was a moment of total silence and anticipation, and then a long tear near the brim opened wide, as though it were a mouth, and the hat broke into song:
A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown
Whose names are still well known:
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.
They shared a wish, a hope, a dream,
They hatched a daring plan
To educate young sorcerers
Thus Hogwarts School began.
Now each of these four founders
Formed their own house, for each
Did value different virtues
In the ones they had to teach.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prived far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.
While still alive they did divide
Their favorites from the throng,
Yet how to pick the worthy ones
When they were dead and gone?
‘Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me
So I could choose instead!
Now slip me snug about your ears,
I’ve never yet been wrong,
I’ll have a look inside your mind
And tell where you belong!
The Great Hall erupted with applause as the Sorting Hat Finished its song.
“That’s not the song it sang when it sorted us,” said Harry, looking a bit confused, but clapping all the same. Hermione remembered that Harry had missed seeing the sorting in their second and third years.
“Sings a different one every year,” Ron explained. “It’s got to be a pretty boring life, hasn’t it, being a hat? I suppose it spends all year making up the next one.”
Professor McGonagall was now unrolling a large scroll of parchment. At Hogwarts, nearly everything was written on parchment, and Hermione couldn’t recall ever having seen a scrap of regular paper in the whole castle.
“When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool,” McGonagall said to the row of nervous eleven year olds. “When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table.”
“Ackerley, Stewart!” she said in her official sounding voice.
A boy walked forward, visibly trembling all over, picked up the ancient hat and nervously placed it on his head, and sat on the stool.”
“RAVENCLAW!” shouted the hat.
Stewart Ackerley took off the hat, and hurried to the Ravenclaw table, where everyone was applauding him. It was such a good feeling, to be wanted by one’s house. When Hermione turned to see who was to be sorted next, she noticed that Harry Potter was still staring at the Ravenclaw table…
The table on the other side of the hall erupted with cheers as well. Slytherin had a bad reputation. Fred and George Weasley were hissing softly at Malcolm Baddock as he sat down.
Hermione remembered her own sorting rather well, how the hat had whispered in her ear, suggesting that Ravenclaw might be a good fit, but when she was certain she wanted Gryffindor that hat had put her there instead. She’d heard a similar story from Harry, that the hat had considered putting him in Slytherin, but he didn’t want to go there, so he went to Gryffindor. She wondered if that was so for everyone. Hufflepuff had very little reputation, so it was hard to image the nervous youngsters before her specifically wished to go there, but maybe she was missing something…
Tiny Dennis Creevey, still wearing Hagrid’s massive overcoat, beamed wildly as he took off the hat, and placed it back on the stool. The entire Gryffindor table — and Hagrid as well —erupted in applause now, and Dennis nearly ran to join his brother Colin.
“Colin, I fell in!” he said in a squeaky little voice, climbing onto the bench. “It was brilliant! And something in the water grabbed me and pushed me back in the boat!”
“Cool! It was probably the giant squid, Dennis!” Colin’s tone mirrored his younger brother’s enthusiasm.
“Wow!” said Dennis, clearly overwhelmed by his recent brush with the giant sea monster.
Hermione turned back to watch the rest of the sorting, while the brothers continued to chat. The first years, some looking more frightened than others, continued to step forward one at a time, and place the hat on their heads. As they did so, the line of students behind it slowly dwindled.
“Oh hurry up,” Ron moaned, grabbing at his stomach.
“Now Ron,” said Nearly Headless Nick, “the Sorting’s much more important than food.”
“‘Course it is, if you’re dead…” snapped Ron.
Choosing to ignore the gab, Nick said “I do hope this year’s batch of Gryffindors are up to scratch,” then he stopped to applaud as “McDonald, Natalie” became a Gryffindor. “We don’t want to break our winning streak, do we?”
Each year at Hogwarts, there was an Inter-House Championship, awarded based on points given out to students by the staff. And for three years now, Gryffindor had won.
And finally, with “Whitby, Kevin!” (“HUFFLEPUFF!”), the sorting came to an end. Professor McGonagall picked up the hat and the stool, and carried them away with rather less ceremony than they had been brought in.
“About time!” cried Ron, seizing his knife and fork.
Professor Dumbledore had gotten to his feet, and now he was smiling all around the hall, his arms opened wide as he grinned at the students.
“I have only two words to say to you,” said the old venerable wizard, “Tuck in.”
And then the empty serving dishes before them magically filled themselves with heaps and heaps of delicious food. It was how every feast at Hogwarts began, yet it always took Hermione’s breath away at the start-of-term feast, when she was finally back in the castle after a summer at home. She wondered if she would ever get tired of it.
“Hear, hear!” cried Ron and Harry, in unison at the top of their voices, as the food appeared before them. Then they all began to serve themselves, loading up their plates with whatever they liked best. Nearly Headless Nick, ever jealous of the living, looked on mournfully.
“Aaah, ‘at’s be’er,” said Ron, his mouth positively full of mashed potato.
“You’re lucky there’s a feast at all tonight, you know,” said Nearly Headless Nick. “There was trouble in the kitchens earlier.”
“Why? Wha’ ‘appened?” said Harry, his own mouth nearly as full as Ron’s.
Hermione took a bite of chicken, only half listening.
“Peeves, of course,” said Nearly Headless Nick, shaking his head so that it wobbled dangerously. “The usual argument, you know. He wanted to attend the feast — well, it’s quite out of the question, you know what he’s like, utterly uncivilized, can’t see a plate of food without throwing it. We held a ghost’s council — the Fat Friar was all for giving him a chance — but mostly wisely, in my opinion, the Bloody Baron put his foot down.”
The Bloody Baron was the ghost of Slytherin house, a gaunt and silent specter covered in silver bloodstains. He terrified many of the younger students, and he was the only one who could ever control Peeves.
“Yeah, we thought Peeves seemed hacked off about something,” said Ron darkly, looking around the table for something, “So what did he do in the kitchens?”
“Oh, the usual,” said Nearly Headless Nick casually. “Wreaked havoc and mayhem. Pots and pans everywhere. Place swimming in soup. Terrified the house-elves out of their wits—”
At the word house-elves Hermione felt her skin prickle all over. She had been reaching for her pumpkin juice, but she suddenly stopped and the back of her hand brushed the golden goblet… she was only partially aware of it, however, because this was far more urgent.
“There are house-elves here?” she said, vaguely aware that her juice had spilled, but there was magic for that. “Here at Hogwarts?” she demanded of Nearly Headless Nick.
He looked surprised. “Certainly…” he said, “the largest number in any dwelling in Britain, I believe. Over a hundred.”
It had never been mentioned. In three years at Hogwarts this was the first she’d heard of it… even when Harry had befriended Dobby no one had ever mentioned…
“I’ve never seen one!” she said, a little breathlessly.
“Well, they hardly ever leave the kitchen by day, do they? They come out at night to do a bit of cleaning… see to the fires and so on…” Nick was talking as though it were the most normal thing in the world. “I mean, you’re not supposed to see them, are you? That’s the mark of a good house elf, isn’t it, that you don’t know it’s there?”
She thought about it. She didn’t really know all that much about house elves, except that both Dobby and Winky had been severely mistreated, and no one seemed to care. She could bear to think that the same thing was going on at Hogwarts, her beloved Hogwarts! Yet, Nick was so calm, perhaps it was different within the castle.
“But they get paid?” she said, hopefully. “They get holidays, don’t they? And — and sick leave, and pensions, and everything?”
And then Nearly Headless Nick laughed right in her face. He laughed so hard that his ruff slipped and his head flopped to the side, dangling on the inch or so of ghostly skin and muscle that still attached it to his ghostly body. The boys both looked suddenly away from the conversation. Hermione just stared at Nick.
“Sick leave and pensions?” he finally said, pushing his head back into place and securing it once more with his ruff. “House elves don’t want sick leave and pensions!”
It was as though she could see Winky’s pleading, terrified, shaking face, right before her own. She looked down at her plate, her hardly touched dinner, and she felt she was going to be sick. Over a hundred was what Nick had said, a hundred little people like Winky, magically tied to Hogwarts Castle, prevented from disobeying no matter what… all so Hermione could have a comfortable meal. She had quite lost her appetite, and she slowly pushed the plate away.
“Oh c’mon, ‘Er-my-knee!” said Ron, thickly through a bite of Yorkshire pudding. “Oops — sorry, ‘Arry —” he said when he realized he had sprayed Harry with chewed food. He swallowed hard, and looked earnestly at Hermione. “You won’t get them sick leave by starving yourself!” he added.
Even if he was right, she couldn’t eat another bite. “Slave labor, that’s what made this dinner. Slave labor.” the words felt impossible even as she said them. How could it be true? And at Hogwarts, of all places?
Through the rest of the meal, she watched the rain on the windows, and thought about poor Winky, and how she was getting on. No one else seemed very interested in her, or what might become of her next. Harry and Ron ate happily… Perhaps it simply hadn’t sunk in yet how horrible it was. Well, Harry at least would come to his senses, once he thought about poor Dobby and all he had been through. Another loud clap of thunder shook the windows, and lightning flashed across the bewitched ceiling, illuminating the golden plates as the remains of the first course vanished. They were replaced, as they were at every feast, instantly, with puddings.
Only this time she didn’t find it nearly so wonderful.
“Treacle tart, Hermione!” said Ron, smiling and trying to entice her to eat. “Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!”
She just looked at him, wondering how on earth one boy could be so completely clueless.
Finally, mercifully, even the puddings were through, and the last crumbs faded off the plates, leaving them sparkling clear. Albus Dumbledore got to his feet again, and the buzz of chatter filling the Hall ceased. It said something about Dumbledore, that a crowd of excited young people would almost always quite down to listen to him speak.
“So!” he said, smiling around at everyone. “Now that we are all fed and watered…”
Hermione let out a small, involuntary, sigh.
“I must ask once more for your attention, while I give out a few notices.” Dumbledore went on. “Mr. Flinch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle has this year been extended to include Screaming Yo-yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs. The full list comprises some four hundred and thirty-seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch’s office, if anybody would like to check it.”
The corners of Dumbledore’s mouth twitched just ever so slightly. “As ever, I would like to remind you that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to all students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year.”
“It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year.”
Predictably, there was quite the uproar at this news. Harry Potter nearly shouted “WHAT?” and Fred and George looked like the might fall over. Ron didn’t even play quidditch at school, but he looked equally horrified.
“This is due to an event that will be starting in October,” continued Dumbledore, and the sounds of the dumbfounded students died down again, “and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers’ time and energy — but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts —”
But at that moment, a great earsplitting roar of thunder drowned out Dumbledore’s voice, and then the doors of the Great Hall opened with a loud bang.
Everyone turned. In the doorway stood a man, leaning upon a long staff, and shrouded in a black traveling cloak. A fork of lightning suddenly flashed across the ceiling. The man lowered his hood, shook out a mane of grizzled, dark gray hair, and then began to walk laboriously toward the other end of the Hall, and the teacher’s table.
There was a dull clunk that echoed through the massive Hall on his every other step. Every set of eyes seemed to be following the man, but his face was still downward, and in shadow. Finally, he reached the end of the top table, and turned right to make his way toward Dumbledore. Another flash of lightning crossed the ceiling, illuminating the Hall.
An audible gasp rang through the crowd of students.
The lightning threw the man’s face into sharp relief, and it wasn’t the sort of face Hermione had expected. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen before, and she wondered how on earth a person could come to look like that. His entire face, all over, was covered in scars, his nose appeared to be missing a piece somehow, and even his mouth looked… damaged. But his eyes were the most arresting of all.
One of his eyes was quite ordinary, it looked dark from this distance, as one would expect. But the other was too large, round as a coin, and a vivid electric blue. And to make it even more alarming, the blue ey was moving ceaselessly, and without blinking, quite independently of the other eye. She remembered reading once, ages ago, that human brains liked symmetry. Well, this man was anything but symmetrical. As the thought that, the blue eye rolled right over, pointing back into the man’s head, and all the students could see the bare whiteness of the opposite side.
She felt Harry squirm by her side.
The stranger reached Dumbledore, and he stretched out a hand that was as badly scarred as his face. Dumbledore shook it, muttering something softly, though she couldn’t quite make out what. The stranger shook his head in reply, and said something in an undertone. Dumbledore nodded, and gestured the man to the empty seat on his right-hand side.
The man took his seat, and shook his mane of gray hair once again. Thought all the food had gone from the other tables, there were a few dishes left on the staff table, and at once he reached for one of them. It was a plate of sausages, and to Hermione’s surprise, he raised them to his nose and sniffed. He then took a small knife out of his pocket, speared a sausage on the end of it, and began to eat. All the while, his bright blue eye was still darting all around the Great Hall.
“May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” said Dumbledore with a smile into the stunned silence. “Professor Moody.”
It was so silent in the echoey, cavernous, Hall, that you could have heard a pin drop. Then Dumbledore and Hagrid broke into enthusiastic applause, though she noticed the rest of the staff table didn’t join them. Was it his looks, or something else?
“Moody?” Harry said, reaching over Hermione to talk to Ron in an undertone. “Mad-Eye Moody? The one your dad went to help this morning?”
Evidently, Ron and Harry knew something about this new teacher that she had missed. Well, this was a first.
“Must be,” Ron said, leaning in to talk to Harry so she had to lean way back on the bench to get out of the way.
“What happened to him?” she whispered, hoping for some kind of information. And then, in spite of herself, she said, “what happened to his face?” for as rude as it was to stare, she could not stop looking into that scarred and battered face.
“Dunno.” was all Ron whispered in reply. He was peering up at Moody as well.
For his part, Professor Moody seemed indifferent to the reaction of both the students and the other teachers. Ignoring the jug of pumpkin juice in front of him, he reached into his traveling cloak, pulled out a hip flask, and took a long draught from hit. Hermione thought she saw Professor McGonagall raise her eyebrows just slightly, but she couldn’t be sure.
In the piercing silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat.
“As I was saying,” he said, with a smile as though there had been no interruption at all, “we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.”
“You’re JOKING!” shouted Fred Weasley.
The tension that had filled the Hall ever since Moody’s arrival suddenly broke. Nearly everyone laughed, and Professor Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively.
“I am not joking, Mr. Weasley,” he said, still grinning, “though now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar…”
Now it was Professor McGonagall’s turn to clear her throat.
“Er — but maybe this is not the time… no…” he looked down at his hands, “where was I? Ah yes, the Triwizard Tournament… well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely.”
Hermione bristled involuntarily. He meant muggle-borns, of course. He meant that witches and wizards with non-magical families couldn’t possibly know the great history of dangerous and lethal sporting events in the wizarding world…
“The Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beaubatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities — until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued.”
“Death toll?” she said. Because truth be told, she had only read a little bit about the Triwizard Tournament, and Dumbledore was making it out to be even more dangerous than she had realized. However, she looked around her, and no one else looked anything but excited. She couldn’t, for the life of her, understand it. Harry and Ron were both grinning like idiots, and most of the Gryffindor table seemed to be whispering to one and other.
“There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the tournament,” Dumbledore continued, “none of which has been very successful. However, our own departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Game and Sports have decided the time is ripe for another attempt. We have worked hard over the summer to ensure that this time, no champion will find himself or herself in mortal danger.”
“The heads of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving with their short-listed contenders in October, and the selection of the three champions will take place at Halloween. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard Cup, the glory of their school, and a thousand Galleons personal prize money.”
“I’m going for it!” Fred Weasley hissed down the table, his face lit up with enthusiasm at the prospect of such glory and riches. He was far from the only one in the hall announcing his intentions to his friends. For herself, Hermione never once considered trying to represent all of Hogwarts. How could she? But it would be nice, perhaps, to meet a few witches and wizards who weren’t from Britain. Yes, that would be a bit of perspective.
“Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts,” he said, “the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only students who are of age — that is to say, seventeen years or older — will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. This —” Dumbledore had to raise his voice slightly, to speak over the sudden rush of noise as all throughout the Hall those would-be champions who were not yet seventeen made their displeasure known, “— is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take, and it is highly unlikely that students below sixth and seventh year will be able to cope with them. I will personally be ensuring that no underage student hoodwinks our impartial judge into making them Hogwarts champion.” He looked right at the Gryffindor table, right at Fred and George, who both looked furious. “I therefore beg you not to waste your time submitting yourself if you are under seventeen.”
The twins glowered back at the smiling Dumbledore.
“The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving in October and remaining for the greater part of this school year. I know that you will all extend every courtesy to our foreign guests while they are here with us, and will give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champion when he or she is selected. And now, it is late, and I know how important it is to you all to be alert and rested as you enter your lessons tomorrow morning.” he smirked somewhat sardonically. “Bedtime! Chop chop!”
And then Professor Dumbledore sat down again, and turned once again to talk to Professor — Mad Eye — Moody. There was a great scraping of benches as hundreds of students all rose to their feet, and swarmed towards the double doors, headed for the entrance hall, and then their respective house dormitories.
“They can’t do that!” said George Weasley, who had not yet joined the crowd moving toward the doors, but was still standing glaring at Dumbledore. “We’re seventeen in April, why can’t we have a shot?”
“They’re not stopping me entering,” said Fred, with an ugly scowl. “The champions’ll get to do all sorts of stuff you’d never be allowed to do normally. And a thousand Galleons prize money!”
Ron was standing near his brothers, also not moving, looking dreamy and far away. “Yeah… Yeah, a thousand Galleons…”
“Come on,” she said, inching towards the huge double doors, slowly beckoning them all forward, “we’ll be the only ones left here if you don’t move.”
And to her astonishment, they actually followed her. Soon she was walking with Fred, George, Ronald, and Harry, as they debated the ways in which Dumbledore might stop those who were under seventeen from entering the tournament.
“Who’s this impartial judge who’s going to decide who he champions are?” Harry asked the others.
“Dunno,” said Fred thoughtfully, “ but it’s them we’ll have to fool. I reckon a couple of drops of Aging Potion might do it, George…”
“Dumbledore knows you’re not of age, though,” said Ron.
“Yeah, but he’s not the one who decides who the champion is, is he?” said Fred shrewdly. “Sounds to me like once this judge knows who wants to enter, he’ll choose the best from each school and never mind how old they are.” Fred was probably right, though privately Hermione hoped he wasn’t. “Dumbledore’s trying to stop us giving our names.” he said.
“People have died, though!” she said, as they walked through a door concealed behind a tapestry, and started up another staircase on their way to the Gryffindor common room.
“Yeah,” said Fred, dismissively, “but that was years ago, wasn’t it? Anyway, where’s the fun without a bit of risk? Hey, Ron, what if we find out how to get ‘round Dumbledore? Fancy entering?”
“What d’you reckon?” Ron asked, turning to Harry. “Be cool to enter, wouldn’t it? But I s’pose they might want someone older… Dunno if we’ve learned enough…”
“I definitely haven’t,” came Neville’s voice from behind them, catching up. It was the most sensible thing she’d heard since Dumbledore had finished making his announcements.
“I expect my gran’d want to me try, though…” Neville continued, sounding a bit gloomy. “She’s always going on aobut how I should be upholding the family honor. I’ll just have to — oops!”
And Neville’s right foot sank clear through a step, halfway up the staircase. There were quite a few of these trick stairs at Hogwarts, and while many of the older students had learned precisely where they were (and tended to jump over this particular step) Neville was always forgetting exactly which one was which. He gave an embarrassed smile as Ron and Harry seized him under the armpits and pulled him out. Meanwhile, a suit of armor at the top of the stairs creaked and clanked, laughing wheezily.
“Shut it, you,” said Ron, banging down the armor’s visor hard as they passed. Finally, they made their way to the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, which was concealed behind a large portrait of a fat lady in a pink silk dress.
“Password?” she queried.
“Balderdash,” said George with confidence. Then he added, “a prefect downstairs told me.” The password changed at the start of each term, so many students didn’t yet know what it was.
The portrait swung inward, to reveal the wide hole in the wall which was the entrance. They all took it in turns to climb through, and were met with the sounds of a warm, crackling fire. As Hermione pulled herself into the circular common room, outfitted with squashy armchairs and old battered tables, she remembered that that fire had almost certainly been lit by a house elf.
“Slave labor…” she said under her breath.
She was embarrassed to admit that she had never given such comforts much thought before. When she had first started at Hogwarts, four years ago, it had all been part of the magical charm of the place. She hadn’t grown up with any servants or even a visiting cleaning lady, and she’d always been part of the household chores back at home, but here at Hogwarts there never seemed to be any such work to be done. If she had ever wondered how the sheets were always so fresh, the fires always bright and merry, the dishes always spotless, she supposed it was just part of the magic of it all. It was a shock to learn that, far from a few benign spells that kept things tidy and in order, it was a different sort of magic: an entire race of magical beings, enslaved to do the work no humans in the castle wanted.
Ronald and Harry were both looking at her with trepidation. She knew they didn’t want to talk about it.
“Well, goodnight then.” she said, as normally as she could, and made her way towards the staircase on the righthand side of the room, which led up to the girls’ dormitories.
Up the spiral stairs she marched, trying hard not to notice her hungry stomach, until she found the door marked “fourth year.”
It was a stone room, with three rather large four poster beds with crimson hangings. It seemed to be just the right size for the three beds that occupied the room, and Hermione supposed that it would have magically expanded had their been more girls in Gryffindor that year.
Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, the two other occupants of the dormitory, were already there. When Hermione entered, they glanced at her, and waved silently. They were best friends, and they were sitting on Lavender’s bed in their pajamas, chatting about their summers.
Somehow, over the summer with her eagerness to return to school, she had forgot how awkward she always felt around Lavender and Parvati. It wasn’t just that they both came from wizarding families, though that was certainly true (and Parvati’s twin sister, Padma, was at Hogwarts as well, in Ravenclaw house). It was that Lavender and Parvati both made sense in Gryffindor, and they made sense together. It made all the sense in the world for two fourteen year old girls to be happily chatting together, about where they’d gone on holiday, cute muggle boys they’d seen, the latest fashions in dress robes.
Whereas, Hermione Granger? She didn’t exactly make sense anywhere.
Her trunk was already at the foot of her four-poster, and Crookshanks was curled up in the very center of the bed, as though he was trying to take up as much room as possible. As quickly as possible, trying to make herself small, she pulled off her long witch’s robes and threw on her nightgown. Then she climbed into her bed, gave a falsely cheery “goodnight!” to the room at large, and closed the bed curtains.
In the dark of the crimson hangings, she pushed her snoring cat a little to one side, and cuddled up to him. He was a weird cat. Instead of scampering away, he gave a little grunt, and then started purring. The bed was immensely comfortable. She hadn’t realized how tired she was, not until now.
Just before she drifted off to sleep, she thought “I’ve got to do something about all those poor elves.
Deconstruction / Notes
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.
This chapter is 17 pages in the google doc I’m working on it in and let me just say, it’s too long. I’m not sure what could have been done about that exactly, because obviously there’s a lot to fit in at the feast and what have you. But my god, seventeen pages. I just checked, and chapter four was a whopping SEVEN.
Ok, we talked about this in the comments last week (if you don’t read the comments, you may want to, lots of good analysis in there, and not just mine) but Crookshanks. Where the hell is Crookshanks? I added a Crookshanks bit in here, because it desperately needed it, but it isn’t in the original text. He’s in Hermione’s robes, scratching her, not riding in his traveling basket for reasons we are never told… and then he’s just… gone. I don’t have my other books handy at the moment, but I believe at some point we’re told that the luggage is magically transported to the dormitories for them. Ok, fine. But is a cat luggage? An owl in a cage, I guess I can kind of see… But a cat? And not just a cat, but a loose cat? The treatment of pets at Hogwarts is really troubling, once you actually look at it and try to parse out what is happening.
Also, I love Professor McGonagall and so does Hermione, and I won’t hear a word against her. Just so you all know. I loved writing McGonagall here and I look forward to more scenes with her because she is generally reasonable and responsible and in my dreams she is promoted to Headmistress immediately because she is already doing the work goddamn it.
Other than that, there’s potentially a lot to unpack in this chapter, and I frankly don’t have the bandwidth to get into the teeny tiny details of everything. I think many of the descriptions of Moody are borderline ableist (except the ones that are blatantly ableist) and I think that the treatment of Hermione as being nervous about the Triwizard Tournament is basically gaslighting. In this chapter we have these two things — the Triwizard Tournament and professor Moody — introduced for the first time. Both are going to seriously drive the plot for the rest of the book, so we’ll have plenty of time to pick them apart.
Instead, we need to talk about house elves yet again. Because this is important, and I think that this chapter, the moment when Hermione realizes that there are, in fact, house elves living and working at Hogwarts, is a huge character defining moment for Hermione Granger. Hermione may be brainy as all get out, but she also loves justice and fair play as much as any Hufflepuff. And she loves Hogwarts damn near as much as Harry Potter does, and she assumed that the things she had learned about it were true and that it was a good and fair place where she could feel (relatively) safe. It is therefore major for her to discover, now, at the start of her fourth year of school, that the school is entirely reliant on a slave class of non-human people.
You may be wondering how Hogwarts can even have house elves, since as they’ve been previously defined they are bound to serve one family forever more. Who is the master of the Hogwarts house elves? Put those thoughts out of your mind, we will never have an answer. This is just going to be one of those incredibly frustrating thing that makes no sense and, if you are like me, you’ll stay up late trying to find a way you can make it make sense. So far, I have been unsuccessful. Institutional house elves, as far as I can tell, make no sense with the mythology of elves we are given. The only way they would make any sense is if they were all more or less free, not serving at Hogwarts because they are bound but because they enjoy serving in a beautiful castle. But we’ll find out later that this is very much not the case. No explanation about who these elves “belong” to will ever be given.
Hermione will make grave errors in her activism for house elves, of course. But right now, she is just a fourteen year old girl who suddenly discovered that the place she loves isn’t so lovely after all.
Harry Potter, of course, is discovering this for the very first time as well. He saw the horrible conditions Dobby was in, so he knows how bad things can get for elves. He, at least privately, is aware that the treatment of Winky has been incredibly unfair. Yet he is shown to have no emotional reaction whatsoever to the news that a hundred house elves are bound to the castle he views as his home.
As an aside here, when I first read this series, I didn’t actually like it at all. And one of the reasons I didn’t like it was that there are so many moments like this. The whole series is filled with revelations that really shouldn’t be revelations, things that seem like they should just be known. Like in book three, when everyone consistently refers to dementors as “the Azkaban guards” until the word “dementor” is uttered once and then they are never once referred to in such a way again. If Nearly Headless Nick can so casually mention the house elves now, it seems very unlikely that they’ve never come up in three years. These books are positively full of moments like these, big reveals of things that “have been this way all along” but our POV character never knew for… reasons. Harry’s outsider status gives the reader a glimpse into the magical world that makes sense to them, but the formulaic nature of these reveals starts to feel a bit tired a few books in. It’s like each book requires that early on, we learn a new thing about the magical world, and by the end of the book it will play a major role. The dementors were certainly like that, as was Dobby himself, and we’ll see a similar pattern with the Thestrals in book five.
But here it doesn’t really work, even as that sort of cheap trick. Why? Because the existence of house elves at Hogwarts will always only be a side story, a minor interest of Hermione’s that everyone else won’t be bothered to think too much about. Hermione Granger’s obsession with house elves will become more and more of a joke as time goes on, and less and less integral to the plot (at least in this book).
So, we’ve set up this massive reveal that actually doesn’t make terribly much sense. And we’re only going to use it to… make fun of the nerdy girl.
And it starts now. Here is Hermione Granger, a fourteen year old idealist and intellectual, a girl desperately trying to fit in and make sense in the magical world while also being true to herself, a girl trying to strike an impossible balance. And after seeing a house elf cruely abused — what was it, a week ago now? — she’s suddenly learned that her entire school, her beloved temple of learning, runs on the labor of house elves who are unpaid and enslaved. She is overcome with emotion, suddenly, she can’t eat. This isn’t a case of teenage girls not eating in books because girls don’t eat when they’re upset! She’s just learned that the meal that is before her, the luxury of a feast, is the product of slavery. The Hogwarts kitchen is filled with a hundred Winkys. She’s realizing that she is complicit in oppression, and she suddenly cannot bring herself to participate.
That’s a very reasonable response, as far as I’m concerned, even if it isn’t sustainable. It brings to mind the saying “no ethical consumption under capitalism” for me, because if you try to consume ethically, eventually you’ll be overwhelmed with how impossible it is (or at least I am, I may be projecting). Tomorrow morning, Hermione will realize that this is the food that is available at Hogwarts, that circumventing that system is impossible, and won’t help dismantle it. But for now, this evening, she can’t bring herself to take another bite.
And Ronald Weasley, a young man who is supposedly her friend, mocks her for this. The criticism of Hermione is always that she’s too bookish, too well read (until you need her massive store of information, of course). But here we have a very earnest display of emotion and passion, a simple response that isn’t intellectual or very well thought out at all, it’s automatic, “if I think that’s wrong, I can’t do it.” And Ron thinks that’s very funny. It’s mean, it’s cruel, and I think it betrays something about our trio of friends here. Hermione is friends with Harry, and Ron is friends with Harry, but are Ron and Hermione friends? Or do they just tolerate each other to keep Harry’s friendship, until they eventually develop feelings for each other?
Ok, one more thing before my brain has to leave the potterverse for awhile. Let’s talk about the dormitories.
So typically, for these re-writes, I’m not looking a ton of stuff up, and especially not online. I’m going from my memory of the series, and from the physical books themselves, and primarily just the chapter at hand. But every once in awhile, I have a question and I need it answered before I can move forward.
That happened at bed time. Because I could not, for the life of me, remember who all slept in Hermione’s dormitory. I could think of Parvati and Lavender, but it seemed like I must be missing someone. So, I googled. Harry Potter wikia lists the known dormitory residents as:
Two unknown Gryffindor girls
Oh. I tried to look on Pottermore to see if this was confirmed anywhere, but I couldn’t find anything at all about the girls’ dormitory residents. But if it is true, if it was written to be a dorm with five pupils in it (just like on the boys’ side) and two of them are never mentioned by name in text, that’s a problem. Hermione is Harry’s second best friend in the universe, it seems utterly impossible that she could sleep in the same room as four people, and over the course of six years at school, Harry only ever learns the names of two of them. And even without that, they’re in Gryffindor in the same house, which means they have classes together every single day. So what we have here is either a case of very very bad writing (oh, I guess there are more girls, Harry can’t be bothered about them) or a case of the fandom assuming that there couldn’t possibly be only three girls in the dormitory.
And this is one of those cases, where for this project, as a writer, I had to make a decision. And I just couldn’t put two more girls in that dorm and otherwise keep the story as-is. There was no possible way it could have worked, and anyway, variation in class sizes does make a bit of sense.
So for the purposes of our story here, there are only three fourth year Gryffindor girls. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil are, of course, best friends. So Hermione is, once again, isolated.