Hermione Granger and The Goblet of Sexism
Chapter Nine: The Wayward Wand / The Dark Mark
They all made their way down the endless purple stairs together. Ron and Harry were still clutching their omnioculars grinning like idiots, and Mr. Weasley turned behind himself to look into the twins’ happy faces.
“Don’t tell your mother you’ve been gambling.” he said seriously.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” said Fred, “we’ve got big plans for this money. We don’t want it confiscated.” Hermione wanted to say something, but she didn’t, she just couldn’t even begin to understand how the Weasley family worked.
Mr. Weasley gave both twins a long look, but then said nothing as well.
The crowd on the way back to the campsites was entirely different than it had been on the way to the stadium. It was the same group of people, all witches and wizards, but whereas it had been filled with anticipation before the match, now it was filled only with jubilance and celebration. Or at least, so it seemed near them, she reminded herself that the Bulgarian supporters might be a whole lot less merry. Once they reached the tents (and it felt like ages) everyone agreed it was much too early to turn in. They all headed into the boys’ tent, and sat around the table in the little kitchen. Mr. Weasley put the kettle on for cocoa, and Hermione sat next to Ginny and listed to her argue spiritedly with her brothers about the match. Soon enough Harry was talking over everyone else about how he’d seen Krum hit and “why didn’t the referee?” and next thing she knew Ginny was dozing off right next to her. When her cocoa started to spill Mr. Weasley said “ah, I do believe it’s time for bed.”
So she helped Ginny up, and together they made their way to their own tent. They could still hear the noise of others celebrating, but somehow inside the tent it was rather cozy, almost homey. Ginny was asleep almost instantly, but as tired as Hermione was, she was awake for a very long time. The match was a lot to digest, and it was more than just the match, it was the entire day. She had lived over half her life in the wizarding world for three full years now, and yet she still felt she didn’t understand it at all.
She wondered, fleetingly, if that dark-haired Bulgarian seeker, Krum, had ever gotten proper care. She hoped that he had. Quidditch really could be quite dangerous, but for those who lived in the wizarding world their whole lives, the danger never seemed too serious. She supposed it would feel rather differently, if you never had to wait very long for anything to heal.
Somehow, she dozed off at last. She never knew whether or not she dreamed.
Then suddenly, she was wide awake, and she could hear shouting all around her. The tent, which had felt so much like a cozy flat, was obviously just a fancy tent in the woods again. The canvas walls moved with the breeze. Ginny was already sitting up in her bed, and she looked petrified. Something was terribly, horribly, wrong.
Suddenly the tent flap was being unzipped. Ginny let out a screech of alarm, but the head that poked into the opening turned out to be her father’s. Arthur Weasley looked as scared as Ginny had, and he barked “girls! Coats on, and get outside, now!” with no explanation.
She tried hard not to imagine what might be going on out there, or why it was so urgent to move quickly. Guessing wouldn’t help her, she would know soon enough.
Hermione sprang out of bed, gave Ginny’s shaking hand a quick squeeze, and found their coats. Both girls slipped on their shoes as quickly as they could, and they were still pulling their coats on as they dashed out of the tent, to meet the gaggle of other Weasleys standing by the boys’ tent.
The sight that greeted them was not one Hermione would have believed.
Several tents were on fire, and more were destroyed on the ground, and a group of wizards in dark, hooded, robes was marching slowly across the field. She knew who they were, or at least who they wanted to be that evening, from her studies. They were dressed, with hoods and masks, every bit the part of dark wizards — the wizards who called themselves “Death Eaters” and supported the wizard so evil other wizards feared to speak his name — and they were all pointing their wants upward, into the night sky. Though, that wasn’t quite right, because they’d also been met by other people, other wizards and witches, in more typical wizarding dress. Some of them had joined ranks… and she felt herself involuntarily shudder at that the thought the ordinary witches and wizards might so easily join up with pure evil. Then she followed the pointed wands upward.
There, in the sky, were four people. Two of them were mere children, one was a woman, and the other was unmistakably Mr. Roberts, the campsite manager from the day before. They were all floating in the air, twisting and turning, obviously struggling against the magic that held them. The crowd of hooded figures was laughing and cheering. The woman was upside down, and she was struggling to push her nightdress upwards to cover her drawers… rather unsuccessfully. It was hard to tell at the distance, but she thought that the woman and one of the children at least, were sobbing.
They were torturing them. They were torturing a muggle family for sport. It could have been her own family. It could have been anyone. She fought down the urge to vomit.
“We’re going to help the Ministry!” Mr. Weasley shouted, and she turned, grateful to have a reason to look away from the horrific spectacle. She realized he was gesturing to his eldest sons, Bill, Charlie, and Percy, who all had their wands out and appeared ready to go. Hermione wanted to help as well, how could she stand by, there were kids up there!
“You lot!” Mr. Weasley continued, “get into the woods, and stick together. I’ll come and fetch you when we’ve sorted this out.”
She glanced towards the woods, and noticed that there were others headed that way, retreating from the light and the noise, looking for cover. She didn’t want to run away, she was a Gryffindor and a muggle born witch! But there was no time to argue, Bill, Charlie, and Percy had already sprinted off towards the chaos, and soon Mr. Weasley hurried after. The crowd was coming closer, and she could see the muggle family more and more clearly.
Then a voice said “c’mon” and Fred grabbed Ginny’s hand, and then they were all following after him toward the wood. They didn’t meet any trouble on their way. When the reached the tree line, without meaning to, she reflexively looked back, and then she noticed that the others had done the same. The crowd had grown even larger, and more of them were hooded than before, or perhaps some had simply pulled up their hoods to avoid being seen by the ministry, who were trying fruitlessly to get to the center of the group. She wondered if they had a plan to get the Roberts family down safely. She pulled her eyes away.
In the woods, the colored lanterns that had lit the path earlier had all been extinguished. With so many people trying to take cover in the darkness of the trees, it was pandemonium. Children were crying, people were shouting, and everyone looked like nothing more than a dark shadowy figure tripping over tree roots. Hermione ran into Ron, then George, and then Ron a second time. He must have hurried ahead, and then she heard him yell out in pain.
“What happened?” she said, and then Harry walked straight into her. “Ron where are you? Oh this is stupid — lumos!”
Reasonable restriction of underage wizardry be damned, she wasn’t going to get herself injured in the woods for no reason when her wand made a perfectly suitable torch. It instantly illuminated, and she pointed the narrow beam of line across the path… and there was Ron, and he was sprawled out on the ground.
“Tripped over a tree root,” he said angrily.
“Well, with feet that size, hard not to,” said a drawing voice behind them. She knew that voice.
She turned, and so did Harry and Ron, and there was none other than Draco Malfoy. He was standing alone, looking completely relaxed in the sea of panic and fear.
Ron shouted something vulgar in Malfoy’s direction.
“Language, Weasley,” said Malfoy, his eyes glittering and his voice dripping with condescension, “Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?” he was looking straight into her face, and he nodded once.
At that moment there was a sound that was almost like a bomb from the campsite, and a flash of green light.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she retorted, her skin crawling.
“Granger, they’re after Muggles,” he said gleefully, “D’you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around… they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.”
Harry snarled “Hermione’s a witch!”
“Have it your own way, Potter,” said Malfoy, still smiling, “If you think they an’t spot a Mudblood, stay where you are.”
“You watch your mouth!” shouted Ron. He was objecting to the term, “Mudblood,” which meant a witch or wizard of Muggle parentage, but really what Malfoy was saying was much worse than the slur.
“Never mind, Ron,” Hermione said to shush him, and she seized his arm just before Ron moved toward Malfoy. Things were getting out of hand.
There was a loud bang, even worse than the last one, followed by screams of fear and confusion.
Malfoy chuckled to himself, “Scare easily, don’t they? I suppose your daddy told you all to hide? What’s he up to — trying to rescue the Muggles?” and the way he said the word “muggles” made it sound, if possible, like a nastier insult than “mudblood.”
“Where’re your parents?” Harry shouted, “Out there wearing masks, are they?”
“Well… if they were, I wouldn’t be likely to tell you, would I, Potter?”
“Oh come on,” Hermione said, “let’s go and find the others.” There was no point to arguing with a bully in the woods, and anyway, she didn’t want to admit it, but she was beginning to feel a bit frightened.
“Keep that big bushy head down, Granger.” sneered Malfoy.
Hermione only said “come on!” and then to her great annoyance she had to pull both Ron and Harry up the path to catch up with the other Weasleys.
“I’ll bet you anything his dad is one of that masked lot!” said Ron, rather hotly.
“Well, with any luck, the Ministry will catch him!” Hermione replied, trying to be sensible. And then she looked around, and said “Oh I can’t believe this. Where have the others got to?” for they were nowhere to be seen in the crowd of people all along the path.
A huddle of other teenagers, also in pajamas, seemed to notice their little group, and a girl with thick curly hair came toward them at once saying “Ou est Madame Maxime? Nous l’avons perdue —”
“Er — what?” said Ron, as though he’d never heard anyone speak French before, which maybe he hadn’t.
“Oh…” The girl turned back to her friends, saying “‘Ogwarts.”
Hermione nodded and said “Beauxbatons,” which was the name of the French wizarding school she supposed they must belong to.
“Sorry?” Harry said.
She blinked at him, trying to be patient. “They must go to Beauxbatons, you know…” he was still staring at her blankly, “Beauxbatons Academy of Magic… I read about it in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe.”
“Oh… yeah… right.”
“Fred and George can’t have gone that far,” said Ron, and he pulled out his wand, apparently also deciding this was no time for silly laws, and lit it as well. She was grateful that now there were two of them searching, maybe they’d find Ginny and the others and…
“Ah, no!” Harry said in a panic, “I don’t believe it… I’ve lost my wand!”
“You’re kidding!” she said, and she and Ron raised their wands to spread out their beams of light in a way more suitable for wand-searching. She wanted very badly to get on and find the others, but they couldn’t exactly leave Harry’s wand in the woods, either.
“Maybe it’s back at the tent,” Ron said hopefully after about a minute.
“Maybe it fell out of your pocket when we were running?” Hermione said, suddenly picturing it lost in the crowded field.
“Yeah, maybe.” Harry said.
And then a rustling noise in the undergrowth nearby made all three of them jump. It wasn’t a wizard, it was the house elf they’d seen up in the Top Box, Winky. She appeared to be having some difficulty extracting herself from a clump of bushes, and then Hermione noticed that everything about her movements seemed a little off. Was she injured? She was moving laboriously, almost as though she were fighting with something — or someone — that was invisible.
“There is bad wizards about!” she said in her squeaky voice, panting as she leaned forward to keep running. “People high — high in the air! Winky is getting out of the way!” Hermione instantly remembered overhearing her mention her fear of heights, and felt terribly sorry for the little elf.
“What’s up with her?” said Ron with some curiosity, “Why can’t she run properly?”
Harry squinted at the little, struggling, elf and said “Bet she didn’t ask permission to hide.”
Suddenly, Hermione couldn’t take it anymore. Harry was probably right, it was hard enough for everyone else to look for safety, but Winky had to contend with magical forces impeding her very movement. “You know, house elves get a very raw deal!” She said, watching Winky with sadness. “It’s slavery, that’s what it is. That Mr. Crouch made her go up to the top of the stadium, and she was terrified, and he’s got her bewitched so she can’t even run when they start trampling tents! Why doesn’t anyone do something about it?”
Ron turned and looked at her blankly, “Well, the elves are happy, aren’t they? You heard old Winky back at the match… ‘House elves is not supposed to have fun’… that’s what she likes, being bossed around…”
She wanted to punch him. Instead she said “It’s people like you, Ron, who prop up rotten and unjust systems, just because they’re too lazy to —”
At that moment, there was another loud bang from the edge of the wood.
“Let’s just keep moving, shall we?” said Ron. She knew very well that he wanted to change the subject, but she also knew that for once in his life, Ronald Weasley was right. They did need to keep moving. They could talk about house elves another time, and they jolly well would.
Through the wood they followed the winding path, deeper into the gloom. There was still no sign of Ginny, Fred, or George, which made her increasingly anxious. They never should have let themselves get separated. They passed a group of goblins counting gold, and they seemed quite calm as they clinked the great big coins together into stacks. They didn’t see many people for a bit, until they walked into a patch of silver light. There they saw a gaggle of young men, talking quite loudly, surrounding three veela. The veela seemed quite disinterested in what the young men were saying.
“I pull down about a hundred sacks of Galleons a year!” said one of them, so loud it was almost a shout, “I’m a dragon killer for the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures.”
“No you’re not!” yelled one of his companions. “You’re a dishwasher at the Leaky Cauldron… but I’m a vampire hunter, I’ve killed about ninety so far—”
A third young man, who was thin and tall and had pretty bad acne, shouted out “I’m about to become the youngest ever Minister of Magic, I am!”
“Did I tell you,” said a voice that, to her surprise, turned out to be Ron’s, “I’ve invented a broomstick that’ll reach Jupiter?!”
“Honestly!” Hermione muttered, almost to herself. It was just like during the match, they were useless around the silvery veela. There was nothing for it, she nodded at Harry, who seemed to have slightly more of his wits about him, and the two of they grabbed Ron by his arms and marched him off into the wood. They didn’t let go until they were away from that silvery light, at which point they appeared to be in the heart of the woods, and quite alone.
“I reckon we can just wait here, you know.” Harry said, “We’ll hear anyone coming a mile off.”
Hermione was about to say that they hadn’t only been looking for cover, they also needed to find Ginny and the twins, but she didn’t get a chance. Because at that moment, none other than Ludo Bagman emerged from behind a tree.
He looked strained and… just odd. He had none of his usual boyishness. He was blinking at them, trying to make out their faces, and he said “Who’s that? What are you doing here, all alone?” sounding as suspicious as Hermione felt.
She exchanged glances with Harry and Ron.
“Well — there’s a sort of riot going on,” Ron said feebly.
“What?” said Bagman, staring.
“At the campsite… some people have got hold of a family of Muggles…”
Bagman swore, and then looked around in frustration. “Damn them!” he muttered, and then without another word, he disapparated with a small pop!”
She peered at the place he had been standing, and said “Not exactly on top of things, Mr. Bagman, is he?”
“He was a great Beater, though,” said Ron, apparently unaware that Bagman’s accomplishments as a Quidditch player weren’t exactly relevant, and he led the way to a small clearing, and sat down on a patch of dry grass next to a tree, saying, “The Wimbourne Wasps won the league three times in a row while he was with them.”
Then Ron took out his small figure of Viktor Krum, and watched it walk around. It seemed for all the world as if all the urgency of the situation had ended, by the way he acted. She glanced at Harry, but he seemed to be relaxing now too.
“I hope the others are okay,” she said slowly.
“They’ll be fine,” Ron said, in a casual tone.
Hermione put her hands in the pocket of her coat. Now that there was nothing else to focus on, she kept remembering the look on the Muggle woman’s face. She couldn’t stand it.
“Imagine if your dad catches Lucius Malfoy,” said Harry, as he lowered himself to the ground beside Ron, “He’s always said he’d like to get something on him.”
“That’d wipe the smirk off old Draco’s face, all right.” Ron said, still watching the tiny Krum walk back and forth.
She took a very deep breath, “Those poor Muggles, though! What if they can’t get them down?”
“They will, they’ll find a way.” Ron’s words did not reassure her.
“Mad, though…” she said, thinking back to the scene at the campsite, “to do something like that when the whole Ministry of Magic’s out here tonight! I mean, how do they expect to get away with it? Do you think they’ve been drinking, or are they just—”
She heard something. Someone was coming near the clearing, and instinctively she looked over her shoulder to follow the noise. It sounded as though whoever it was was sort of… staggering… and then the sound stopped as abruptly as it had started.
“Hello?” Harry called out.
There was only silence in response. Hermione held her breath. Anything could happen. I the death-eaters thought anything like Draco Malfoy (and probably they did) maybe she wasn’t safe after all. To these people, having Muggle parents was the same as being a Muggle yourself. She shivered in the coolness. Harry Potter was up on his feet, peering around the tree. She wanted to tell him to be careful, but suddenly her throat was too dry to speak.
“Who’s there?” echoed out Harry’s loud voice again.
And then there was a cry, it wasn’t a cry, it was a spell. Someone, a voice unlike any other they had heard that evening, was triumphantly crying out a spell she had never heard before.
And then something vast, and green, and glittering shot out of the place where the voice had come from, and flew up over the treetops and into the dark night sky.
“What the—” gasped Ron, jumping to his feet, his figurine momentarily forgotten.
The glittering green light was forming itself into a shape, and it was a horrible shape. A skull, comprise of emerald green stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth, for all the world like it was a long tongue. It was higher and higher, blazing in a haze of smoke. She knew that sign, she didn’t want to know what it was, but she did. She felt she was going to be sick.
And then came the screams. It was as if a horror she had only read about, some fairy tale villain, had come to life. All around them in the wood, people were screaming in panic and fear, calling out for their loved ones, if possible more fearful than they had been running away from the campsite. Harry was looking around in confusion, and then to her horror he called out “Who’s there?” again in his foolish, booming, voice.
She reached for him, and got a fistful of his jacket collar. “Harry, come on, move!” she said as she tugged him backwards, trying to pull him away from the clearing.
“What’s the matter?” he said, resisting.
“It’s the Dark Mark, Harry!” she said, trying to make the boy move, but he wouldn’t budge. She added “You-Know-Who’s sign!” hoping he would get the idea.
“Voldemort’s—?” he said, his green eyes lighting up with recognition.
“Harry, come on!”
Ron, luckily, was already in motion. But Harry was impossible. He was bigger than her, to strong for her to move on his own, and she sighed with relief when he finally seemed to notice now might not be the best time to discuss his lack of knowledge about the dark wizard who had nearly killed him. They took a few hurried steps, and then there was a series of popping noises all around them. At once, about twenty wizards apparated into the clearing, and they all had their wands out, pointing at herself and her friends.
Somehow she had stopped trembling, she felt oddly calm in the panic, as though some other part of her brain had taken over as the situation became more dire. Harry Potter yelled “DUCK!” and pulled herself and Ron to the ground, and just in time, too.
“STUPEFY!” came the voice of the twenty wizards, and there were jets of bright light, blinding in the darkness, from each and every wand. She felt the rush of it push her hair this way and that, and she pulled herself down closer to the ground for protection. In a moment, they’d take a fresh aim, and it wouldn’t matter anyhow, they’d all be stunned.
“Stop!” yelled a familiar voice, “STOP! That’s my son!” It was Mr. Weasley. It was Mr. Weasley and he was running toward them, looking as though his very heart had left his body, and miraculously at least one of the other wizards lowered a wand, and the bright lights stopped.
“Ron — Harry — Hermione!” he said, his voice sounding shaky, “are you alright?”
“Out of the way, Arthur,” said yet another familiar voice. Hermione pulled her head up a little farther. It was Mr. Crouch. They had been attacked by Mr. Crouch, and he looked consumed with rage. She never would have guessed he could look so scary.
“Which of you did it?” he snapped, his eyes darting from Harry, to Ron, to Hermione, “Which of you conjured the Dark Mark?”
Harry, who must have stood up while she was still facing downwards, said “We didn’t do that!” pointing up into the sky at the green green skull.
“We didn’t do anything! What did you want to attack us for?” Ron shouted, and then he turned to his father.
“Do not lie, sir!” shouted Mr. Crouch. His wand was pointed directly at Ron, his eyes were huge with rage, and he said, “You have been discovered at the scene of the crime!”
“Barty,” whispered a new voice. Hermione turned, and saw a woman in a long woolen dressing gown, “they’re kids, Barty, they’d never have been able to—”
“Where did the Mark come from, you three?” said Mr. Weasley, cutting the witch off in mid-sentence.”
Hermione gulped, and replied “Over there,” and still in an awkward crouching position, she pointed at exactly where they had first heard that voice. “There was someone behind the trees… they shouted words — an incantation —”
“Oh they stood over there, did they?” said Mr. Crouch, his rage filled voice full of mockery, “Said an incantation, did they? You seem very well informed about how that Mark is summoned, missy—”
Hermione’s mouth fell open. She was being yelled at, and called missy, by a government official, simply because she knew what they all knew: that someone had cast a spell. She looked around, and saw that thankfully, all the other Ministry wizards had turned their attention (and their wands) on the place where she had pointed.
“We’re too late,” said the witch Mr. Weasley had interrupted, “They’ll have Disapparated.” She shook her head in disappointment.
“I don’t think so,” said another voice, this one male and slightly familiar. She looked up, and it turned out to be Amos Diggory, Cedric’s father. “Our Stunners went right through those trees… There’s a good chance we got them…” he marched across the clearing, squaring his shoulders and pointing his wand out before himself.
Someone shouted “Amos, be careful!” but Hermione never knew who it was. Hermione could hear her own heart beating.
“Yes!” Mr. Diggory shouted, a moment later, “We’ve got them! There’s someone here! Unconscious! It’s —” his voice trailed off into silence for a moment, and then picked back up again, “but — blimey…”
“You’ve got someone?” Mr. Crouch shouted after him, “who, who is it?” and Hermione realized, to her surprise, that he sounded as though he didn’t believe Mr. Diggory at all.
Mr. Diggory made quite a lot of noise as he reemerged from the trees, and they all waited with baited breath. When he came into view, he did have someone, in fact he was carrying the someone, but they were very small. Surely it couldn’t have been a kid, someone too young even to go to Hogwarts? No, as he came into view Hermione saw more clearly… the figure in Mr. Diggory’s arms, almost cradled like a baby, was a house elf. It was Winky.
Mr. Crouch was still and silent, it was as though a sudden change had come over him at the sight of the elf. Amos Diggory laid Winky at Mr. Crouch’s feet, and Hermione wasn’t sure if he had done that because Mr. Crouch was leading the investigation, or because Winky was his elf. For a long moment, Mr. Crouch did not react, simply stared straight ahead, but then he finally looked down at the poor helpless creature at his feet.
“This — cannot —be,” he said in a very different voice than his previous shouting, each word halting and troubled. “No—”
Instantly he moved around Mr. Diggory, and made for the place in the trees where Winky had been found. He was searching the ground in a panic.
“No point, Mr. Crouch, there’s no one else there.” Mr. Diggory called out.
Everyone else stood in silence and Mr. Crouch continued to search the trees. The silenced stretched out, and with the worst of the panic over, Hermione finally realized that she was still cold. The night breeze was tickling her bare ankles. She hugged her coat around herself.
“Bit embarrassing,” said Mr. Diggory, finally breaking the silence, “Barty Crouch’s house elf… I mean to say…” he looked down at the unconscious form of Winky, and he did look as though he found the whole thing embarrassing.
“Come off it, Amos, you don’t seriously think it was the elf?” said Mr. Weasley, speaking quietly lest Mr. Crouch overhear them, “The Dark Mark’s a wizard’s sign. It requires a wand.”
“Yeah,” replied Mr. Diggory, “and she had a wand.”
“What?” said Mr. Weasley, a bit less quietly.
“Here, look.” Mr. Diggory help up a wand for Mr. Weasley to see. “Had it in her hand. So there’s clause three of the Code of Wand Use broken, for a start. No non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand.”
Hermione was still shivering and looking down at the poor elf on the bare ground, but she heard Mr. Diggory recite the law, and a question formed in her sharp mind almost instantly. And that question was why. She shook her head, she would have to think about it later, they might still be in danger now, and she couldn’t miss anything. Anyway, these wizards couldn’t seriously think Winky had conjured the Dark Mark, could they? For one thing, the voice Hermione had heard sounded very much like a man’s, and for another Winky was far too timid, even if she did know how, which seemed unlikely.
Then there was another little pop, and another person apparated into the clearing. It was Ludo Bagman, and he stood next to Mr. Weasley looking disoriented and confused. Then he looked up into the sky, and it was as though he was noticing the emerald green skull for the very first time. “The Dark Mark!” he said rather stupidly, “Who did it? Did you get them? Barty! What’s goin on?”
Just then, Mr. Crouch returned to the clearing, empty-handed. His face was still white as a sheet, and his hands and his mustache were both twitching slightly. He didn’t say anything.
“Where have you been, Barty?” said Bagman in his boyish voice. “Why weren’t you at the match? Your elf was saving you a seat too — gulping gargoyles!” Bagman had just noticed Winky’s limp form at his feet. “What happened to her?”
“I have been busy, Ludo.” said Mr. Crouch, and his voice had not recovered and was still halting and jerky, “And my elf has been stunned.”
“Stunned?” said Bagman, “by you lot, you mean? But why?”
No one answered him. Mr. Crouch didn’t, and no one else dared to try. Then it was as though Bagman finally caught up, a looking of comprehension coming over his boyish face quite suddenly as he looked back and forth between Mr. Crouch and Winky.
“No!” he said. “Winky? Conjure the Dark Mark? She wouldn’t know how! She’d need a wand, for a start!” Bagman exclaimed.
“And she had one,” said Mr. Diggory. “I found her holding one, Ludo. If it’s alright with you, Mr. Crouch, I think we should hear what she’s got to say for herself.”
There was no response, but Mr. Diggory pointed his wand at the stunned elf anyway, and said “Ennervate!”
Poor Winky moved only a little, as though she were waking up confused, out of some kind of dream. She blinked her big brown eyes, and it made her look more human, despite her size and other characteristics. Surrounded by tall wizards, she rather shakily pulled herself upward, into a sitting position. She looked up into Mr. Diggory’s face, and there was no mistaking it, she was consumed by fear, maybe even more so than she had been in the Top Box. Then very very slowly, she turned her gaze to the sky, and the great green skull reflected in her large eyes. She gasped in terror, looked wildly around the crowded clearing, and then she began to cry.
“Elf!” said Mr. Diggory, though Hermione was quite sure he knew her name. “Do you know who I am? I’m a member of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!”
Winky was rocking backward and forward on the ground, her breath coming in sharp bursts. She was going into some kind of panic, and she needed help.
“As you see, elf, the Dark Mark was conjured here a short while ago,” said Mr. Diggory in a stern and businesslike manner. “And you were discovered moments later, right beneath it! An explanation, if you please!”
“I — I — I is not doing it, sir!” Winky gasped breathlessly. “I is not knowing how, sir!”
“You were found with a wand in your hand!” Mr. Diggory nearly shouted, holding the wand up almost triumphantly.
“Hey!” said Harry’s voice next to Hermione, “that’s mine!”
Hermione turned to look at Harry, and then to peer in the darkness at the wand and see if she could recognize it.
Mr. Diggory said, “Excuse me?”
“That’s my wand!” Harry said. “I dropped it!”
“You dropped it? Is this a confession? You threw it aside after you conjured the Mark?”
“Amos, think who you’re talking to!” snapped Mr. Weasley impatiently, “Is Harry Potter likely to conjure the Dark Mark?”
“Er — of course not,” mumbled Mr. Diggory. “Sorry… carried away…”
Hermione blinked. It wasn’t that she wanted her best friend to be accused and questioned. But if the likelihood of the thing didn’t matter for Winky, why on earth did it suddenly matter when it came to Harry Potter? How could magical law enforcement even function?
“I didn’t drop it there, anyway,” said Harry, innocently unaware of the injustice. “I missed it right after we got into the wood.”
“So,” said Mr. Diggory, his voice turning nasty again as he turned back to Winky. “You found this wand, eh, elf? He said elf as though it were a particularly nasty word, “And you picked it up and thought you’d have some fun with it, did you?”
“I is not doing magic with it, sir!” said Winky in a desperate squeak, with tears streaming down her face and terror in her eyes. “I is… I is… I is just picking it up, sir! I is not making the Dark Mark, sir, I is not knowing how!” It might have been the saddest thing Hermione had ever seen.
Hermione swallowed, and knew she had to find her voice. “It wasn’t her!” she said, “Winky’s got a squeaky little voice, and the voice we heard doing the incantation was much deeper!” Desperately, she turned to Harry and Ron, because they had heard it too. “It didn’t sound anything like Winky, did it?”
“No, it definitely didn’t sound like an elf.” said Harry, and relief washed over Hermione.
“Yeah, it was a human voice.” Ron agreed. Surely with three witnesses…
“Well, we’ll soon see,” Mr. Diggory said nastily, “There’s a simple way of discovering the last spell a wand performed, elf, did you know that?”
Poor Winky was trembling all over,s he shook her head frantically, which caused her large ears to flap. Hermione felt helpless again. Then Mr. Diggory raised his own wand, and placed it tip to tip with the found wand, Harry’s wand.
“Prior Incantato!” he roared into the night.
Hermione had never seen this particular spell performed before, but all at once, a smokey shadowy form emerged from the place where the two wands touched… and it was a great skull as well, with the same snake where the tongue ought to be. Hermione heard herself gasp. How could that be?
“Deletrius!” Shouted Mr. Diggory, causing the smokey skull to vanish as quickly as it had appeared. Then he looked savagely at Winky again. “So!” he said, almost as loudly as he had performed the spell.
“I is not doing it!” Winky cried out in her tiny voice, still convulsing in abject terror, “I is not, I is not, I is not knowing how! I is a good elf, I isn’t using wands, I isn’t knowing how!”
“You’ve been caught red-handed, elf! Caught with the guilty wand in your hand!”
“Amos!” shouted Mr. Weasley, nearly as loudly as Mr. Diggory, “think about it… precious few wizards know how to do that spell… Where would she have learned it?”
“Perhaps Amos is suggested,” said Mr. Crouch, and his usual coolness had returned to his voice, “that I routinely teach my servants to conjure the Dark Mark?”
Nothing about this argument made any sense at all. Was this seriously how government officials handled these things?
Amos Diggory spurted out a helpless “Mr. Crouch… not… not at all…”
“You have now come very close to accusing the two people in this clearing who are least likely to conjure that Mark! Harry Potter — and myself!” he took a breath, and then said, his voice now dripping with condescension, “I suppose you are familiar with the boy’s story, Amos?”
“Of course — everyone knows…”
“And I trust you remember the many proofs I have given, over a long career, that I despise and detest the Dark Arts and those who practice them?” Mr. Crouch’s eyes were bulging nearly out of his head with anger now.
“Mr. Crouch, I — I never suggested you had anything to do with it!”
“If you accuse my elf, you accuse me, Diggory! Where else would she have learned to conjure it?”
“She — she might’ve picked it up anywhere —”
“Precisely, Amos,” Mr. Weasley cut in, “She might have picked it up anywhere… Winky?” he turned to the elf a bit more kindly than the others had done, but she still flinched, and Hermione couldn’t blame her, “Where exactly did you find Harry’s wand?”
Winky looked up at him in horror, her hands busy twisting the hem of the tea towel she wore instead of real clothing. In a tiny voice, hardly a whisper, she said, “I — I is finding it… finding it there, sir… in the trees, sir.”
“You see, Amos?” Mr. Weasley said as though he had solved the case by some sort of brilliant detective work, “Whoever conjured the Mark could have Disapparated right after they’d done it, leaving Harry’s wand behind. A clever thing to do, not using their own wand, which could have betrayed them. And Winky here had the misfortune to come across the wand moments later and pick it up.”
“But then, she’d only have been a few feet away from the real culprit!” Diggory barked again, “Elf? Did you see anyone?”
At this, Winky began to tremble worse than ever. She looked positively miserable as her eyes flicked from face to face, and she seemed to be having trouble making herself speak at all. She took a great gulp of air and managed to say, “I is seeing no one, sir… no one…”
“Amos,” said Mr. Crouch curtly, “I am fully aware that, in your ordinary course of events, you would want to take Winky into your department for questioning. I ask you, however, to allow me to deal with her.”
It registered to Hermione that she was witnessing one member of the wizarding government asking another member of the government to flagrantly break a law. Mr. Diggory looked displeased, but he didn’t say no. Hermione didn’t want Winky to go in for questioning (hadn’t Diggory berated her enough?) but this was such a breach of ethics…
“You may rest well assured,” said Mr. Crouch in his cold voice, “that she will be punished.
At those words, Winky loooked up into his eyes, her own eyes filled with tears again. “M-m-master… M-m-master, p-p-please…” she said desperately.
Mr. Crouch looked back at her, his eyes cast downward, and it was a cold, pitiless gaze. He didn’t care for Winky one bit. Then he looked up, not addressing her, but speaking to no one in particular, “Winky has behaved tonight in a manner I would not have believed possible. I told her to remain in the tent. I told her to stay there while I went to sort out the trouble. And I find that she disobeyed me. This means clothes.”
The gifting of proper clothing, Hermione recalled, was the one way a wizard could set a house elf free. The strange rags they always wore (like the tea towel Winky was now clutching) were, as Harry had once said to her, “a mark of their enslavement.”
“No!” Winky’s shriek pierced the night, and she prostrated herself at Mr. Crouch’s feet. “No master! Not clothes, not clothes!” she seemed, if possible, more frightened of this possibility than of anything else that had happened thus far. She was sobbing and clutching her tea towel as though it were the only thing in all the world that mattered to her.
“But she was frightened!” Hermione heard her own voice say, “Your elf’s scared of heights, and those wizards in masks were levitating people! You can’t blame her for wanting to get out of their way!” she may not have understood why Winky wanted to remain employed by Mr. Crouch, but she could clearly see that was what the elf wanted, and that she was still being treated unfairly, despite her innocence.
Mr. Crouch took a step backward, away from Winky. He looked at the creature who had worked for him for goodness knows hold long as though she were nothing more than something disgusting stuck to his shoe. Then, to Hermione’s surprise, Mr. Crouch’s cold gaze met her own.
“I have no use for a house elf who disobeys me,” he said coolly, “I have no use for a servant who forgets what is due to her master, and to her master’s reputation.”
All of the humans in the clearly were silent, but it was far from quiet. Winky sobbed so loudly that it echoed, it filled up the whole night, her grief was big enough to fill up the whole world. Hermione wanted to cry with her, wanted to reach out to her, tell her she would find a way to help… somehow.
Then Mr. Weasley said “Well, I think I’ll take my lot back to the tent, if nobody’s got any objections. Amos, that wand’s told us all it can — if Harry could have it back, please —”
Amos handed the wand back to Harry, and Harry put it in his pocket.
“Come on, you three,” Mr. Weasley said. Ron and Harry moved toward him, but Hermione couldn’t take her eyes from Winky as she sobbed. Then Mr. Weasley said “Hermione!” and she knew she had to go, she knew there was nothing, she, a fourth year muggle-born witch, could do. Bitterly, she put one foot in front of another, and followed.
After they’d walked out of the clearing, and onto the path, she said “What’s going to happen to Winky?”
“I don’t know,” was all Mr. Weasley said in reply.
Hermione sucked on the cool night air. “The way they were treating her! Mr. Diggory calling her ‘elf’ all the time… and Mr. Crouch! He knows she didn’t do it and he’s still going to sack her…” for that was what it was as far as Winky was concerned, a sacking, she was sure of it, “He didn’t care how frightened she’d been, or how upset she was… it was like she wasn’t even human.”
“Well, she’s not.” Ron said callously.
“That doesn’t mean she hasn’t got feelings, Ron.” she said, desperate to make him see, “It’s disgusting the way —”
“Hermione, I agree with you,” Mr. Weasley cut her off abruptly, “but now is not the time to discuss elf rights. I want to get back to the tent as fast as we can.” Then he looked around as though he had only just noticed something, “What happened to the others?”
“We lost them in the dark,” Ron said. “Dad, why was everyone so uptight about that skull thing?”
With the practice that only came from being Ronald Weasley’s friend, Hermione forced herself not to groan.
“I’ll explain everything back at the tent,” Mr. Weasley said.
When the reached the edge of the wood, their progress was impeded. A large crowd had gathered, probably of others emerging from the wood, and looking for answers. Many of them must have recognized Arthur Weasley as a Ministry official, because all at once they surged forward.
“What’s going on in there?”
“Who conjured it?
“Arthur — it’s not — Him?”
“Of course it’s not Him,” said Mr. Weasley impatiently. “We don’t know who it was; it looks like they Disapparated. Now excuse me, please, I want to get to bed.”
He led them through the terrified crowd and back into the campsite without another word. All was quiet now, the masked and hooded figures had gone, though the evidence still remained in the form of smoking and crushed tents. Thankfully, their two tents remained standing, and Charlie’s head was poking out of the boys’ one.
“Dad, what’s going on?” he called through the darkness, “Fred, George, and Ginny got back okay, but the others —”
Hermione heaved a sigh of relief that Ginny and the twins had made it back to the tents.
Mr. Weasley said “I’ve got them here,” and he bent down to enter the tent himself, with Harry, Ron, and Hermione following after.
It was brighter inside the tent, and it still smelled of cats. Bill was sitting at the little kitchen table, holding a bedsheet to his arm, which was bleeding profusely. Charlie sat beside him with a large rip in his shirt, and Percy was sporting a bloody nose. Ginny, Fred, and George, however, seemed unhurt, though all had the same wide eyed expression.
“Did you get them, Dad?” Bill said, sharply, “the person who conjured the Mark?”
“No.” Mr. Weasley said, suddenly sounded exhausted, and lowering himself into a chair. “We found Barty Crouch’s elf holding Harry’s wand, but we’re none the wiser about who actually conjured the Mark.” he looked older than he actually was.
“What?” said Bill, Charlie, and Percy together.
“Harry’s wand?” said Fred.
“Mr. Crouch’s elf?” said Percy, sounding thunderstruck.
With much talking over each other, Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Mr. Weasley, all explained what had happened to the others. They listened with their mouths agape, and when they’d finally finished the tale, Percy looked indignant.
“Well,” he said, “Mr. Crouch is quite right to get rid of an elf like that! Running away when he’d expressly told her not to… embarrassing him in front of the whole Ministry… how would that have looked, if she’d been brought up in front the Department for the REgulation and Control—”
“She didn’t do anything!” Hermione cut him off, she couldn’t help it, “she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Percy looked shocked, but she didn’t care.
“Hermione, a wizard in Mr. Crouch’s position can’t afford a house elf who’s going to run amok with a wand!” he said. She knew he wanted to defend the boss he admired, but this was too much.
“She didn’t run amok! She just picked it up off the ground!” she said, and everyone stared at her.
“Look, can someone just explain what that skull thing was?” Ron cut in, “It wasn’t hurting anyone… Why’s it such a big deal.”
She took a deep, steadying breath. “I told you,” she said, hoping she sounded calm and patient, “It’s You-Know-Who’s symbol, Ron.” he looked at her blankly, so she added, “I read about it in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.”
“And it hasn’t been seen for thirteen years,” Mr. Weasley added in a rather quiet voice. “Of course people panicked… it was almost like seeing You-Know-Who back again.”
“I don’t get it,” said Ron, and it was hard to believe he had grown up his entire life around witches and wizards, “I mean… it’s still only a shape in the sky….”
“Ron, You-Know-Who and his followers sent up the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed,” Mr. Weasley said gently, “The terror it inspired… you have no idea, you’re too young. Just picture coming home and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and know what you’re about to find inside….” Mr. Weasley seemed lost in the memory, and he even winced slightly. “Everyone’s worst fear… the very worst…”
There was a silence. Bill removed the sheet from his arm to check his cut, and then said, “Well, it didn’t help us tonight, whoever conjured it. It scared the Death Eaters away the moment they saw it. They all Disapparated before we’d got near enough to unmask any of them. We caught the Robertses before they hit the ground, though. They’re having their memories modified right now.”
Hermione shivered at the words “memories modified” and she found herself lost deep in thought, as Mr. Weasley explained what Death Eaters were to Harry and Ron, two boys who seemed perpetually terrified of learning any history. She thought of poor Mr. Roberts, his brain already addled from a few too many memory charms. And his poor wife! And the kids! And then she thought of Winky… and what on earth would happen to her now. She winced when she heard Harry Potter say “Voldemort,” four years in the wizarding world had taught her to fear that name. She looked up from her thoughts…
“Sorry, what were You-Know-Who’s supporters up to, levitating Muggles?” Harry was saying, “I mean, what was the point?”
“The point?” Mr. Weasley said with a hollow laugh. “Harry, that’s their idea of fun. Half the Muggle killings back when You-Know-Who was in power were done for fun. I suppose they had a few drinks tonight and couldn’t resist reminding us all that lots of them are still at large. A nice little reunion for them.”
However worried she was for the Roberts family, Hermione was suddenly overcome with the feeling that it was a great relief they had survived at all.
“But if they were the Death Eaters,” Ron said, looking puzzled, “Why did they Disapparate when they saw the Dark Mark? They’d have been pleased to see it, wouldn’t they?”
Bill caught Hermione’s eye across the tiny table, and rolled his eyes ever so slightly, “Use your brains, Ron,” he said loudly. “If they really were Death Eaters, they worked very hard to keep out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people. I bet they’d be even more frightened than the rest of us to see him come back. They denied they’d ever been involved with him when he lost his powers, and went back to their daily lives…. I don’t reckon he’d be over-pleased with them, do you?”
“So…” Hermione began, thinking, “Whoever conjured the Dark Mark… were they doing it to show support for the Death Eaters, or to scare them away?”
“Your guess is as good as ours, Hermione,” said Mr. Weasley, and again that tired look took over his entire face, aging him ten years. “But I’ll tell you this… it was only the Death Eaters who ever knew how to conjure it. I’d be very surprised if the person who did it hadn’t been a Death Eater once, even if they’re not now…. Listen,” he said abruptly changing his tone, “it’s very late, and if your mother hears what’s happened she’ll be worried sick. We’ll get a few more hours sleep and then try to get an early Portkey out of here.”
Hermione’s head was buzzing as she walked back to the other tend with Ginny. She’d never thought about the possibility of a person being a Death Eater… and then, what, changing sides? And though she’d read and read and read everything she could about the wizarding world, she knew frighteningly little about house elves. She climbed into her bed, and tried to close her eyes, but all she could see was Winky’s tear streaked face.
They would leave early in the morning, because Mrs. Weasley would be worried. Of course, Hermione’s own mother had no idea that there was anything to worry about. Hermione suddenly wished that she did, she wished for all the world that there was no wizarding world, and no muggle world, just one world that people could share without secrets. But even that, she thought sadly, probably wouldn’t help the house elves.
Deconstruction / Notes On The Source Text
Phew, alright, that was a very long chapter, and a lot happened and there’s a lot to unpack here. In one way, that’s good, it’s more fun than a damn quidditch game. But in another way, well, let’s roll up our sleeves, so to speak.
First of all, I’ve noticed that I’m falling into some habits with the rewrite, at least one of which I’d like to explain. I think it’s important, because people often comment talking about how they remember the story, or “wow so and so sounds like a jerk” or whatever, and there are some differences between my version and Rowling’s version.
What I’m not changing: Dialogue, or at least the text part of the dialogue. I’m also not moving any plot points or changing any settings. What happens in Hermione’s version of events is more or less what happens in Harry’s version (although, obviously, when they’re apart from each other, I have to make stuff up and extrapolate things, which is what makes this fan-fic, and also what makes it fun).
But because it’s from Hermione’s perspective, I am taking quite a bit of liberty with how I describe things. In one of the earlier chapters, nearly everything Percy Weasley said had a negative adjective attached to it in the original text. It was all “Percy said pompously” and “Percy said with annoyance” and I took all of that out. But I also adjust some punctuation within the dialogue from time to time (I try to keep it to a minimum, but sometimes it really really needs it) and really think about all of the language AROUND what is being said. What does the scene look like? What’s Hermione’s relationship to these people? How does she view these events? How is her perspective different than Harry’s?
And one thing I have done the vast majority of the time, and I think this is worth talking about, is that Hermione thinks of people as people, regardless of their magical status. In the books, as soon as Harry crosses the threshold into the wizarding world each year, he starts referring to all men as “wizards” and all women as “witches” (groups of mixed gender are “wizards”) and if someone is obviously non-magical he’ll refer to them as a “muggle” almost every time. Harry does this because he wants to assimilate into the magical world, and he wants to assimilate fully. He doesn’t like his non-magical life, so when he’s away from it, he’s trying to forget that it exists. He feels very strongly that this is his world, this is where he belongs, and so as clueless as he is, he’s tried to adopt the native customs and prejudices.
Hermione wants to assimilate too, in fact she needs to. But for her, it’s different. For one thing, she still has a positive relationship (more or less) with her non-magical parents, and presumably she interacts with other non-magical people throughout the holidays as well. She has to have a foot in both worlds, there is no other option, and she can’t think of her parents in the derogatory way Harry is able to think about the Dursleys. Her internal dialogue, and the way she views the world, retains a lot of her non-magical upbringing. She also is in a very different position than Harry, in terms of privilege and politics. Harry is “half-blood” but even the most ancestry obsessed wizards would take him with open arms if only he’d play by their rules. There are no such doors open to Hermione. If Voldemort’s followers take over, she will be considered no better than a muggle, possibly even worse. So from Hermione’s perspective, everyone is a person first, and magical or non-magical second.
This has been a really fun thing to change in the text. And the surprising thing (to me) is it totally changes the tone of many scenes. I thing that has always gotten under my skin about this series, I suppose, is that the books really do go out of their way to make the point over and over again that muggles are inferior. Even wizards who are very pro muggle-born WITCHES AND WIZARDS engage in a lot of muggle mocking and dehumanizing. They seem blissfully unaware that when they talk about muggles as though they were helpless infants, the people they are talking about are their friends’ families. Which brings us to another point…
The muggles being toyed with in this chapter, they aren’t something horrific Hermione sees from afar. She’s very aware that they could easily be her. So that’s a very different experience, and that matters.
Ok so obviously we’re going to talk about house elves this week but I have one other thing first. Wizard government. What is going on with that?
Recently, my wife and I were watching Legend of Korra, the sequel to Avatar the last Airbender. I mostly don’t enjoy it! And one of the reasons for that is that it is an especially blatant example of something I notice in fiction a lot: really inconsistent and nonsensical fictional governments. In one seasons, all of the decisions are made by a council of five members, but they vote on things that aren’t clearly explained and if one member is absent they just don’t get a vote so the system is super easy to rig. In the next season, there is a president and he calls all the shots, even though he wasn’t even mentioned in the first season. It’s a total mess, and it’s so messy that I can’t even focus on the plotlines because I’m so distracted that they’re going all wibbly-wobbly with something that could be relatively simple.
The Ministry of Magic isn’t quite that bad… but it’s not great, either. You can read it either as incredibly poorly written, incredibly corrupt, or a combination of those things. Presumably, since their government appears to be at least loosely based on the British system, they have some kind of laws in place for when a person or creature is suspected of a crime. Presumably, there is some kind of investigation protocol. Presumably, at least some of these details are slightly more than just tradition or “well, usually we do it this way, but it doesn’t really matter.” That casualness is dangerous when it comes to government, because it can easily turn into “well, usually private citizens have rights, but it doesn’t really matter.” And it DOES turn into that, it happens all the time.
So, you have what happens here. They’re at a massive international event, and a crisis occurs… and there’s no plan, no system, no one knows what they’re goddamn job is. It’s just “all hands on deck” to fight the death eaters (which happens conveniently off camera, because that fight also makes no sense, it’s not a fist fight why did the Weasley boys sustain the injuries they did and not magical ones?) and then a rather random assortment of Ministry employees come upon the place where the Dark Mark was conjured in the forest. I’m sorry, but where is magical law enforcement? Maybe some of the nameless faces in that group happened to be them? Why are we referring to Crouch, Diggory, and Weasley, for all of our decisions about a law enforcement matter? I mean sure, if they suspect Winky, she’ll probably be transferred to the Department for the Control and Disposal of Magical Creatures, but they haven’t even agreed she’s a suspect yet.
Instead of investigating, or gathering evidence to investigate later, they just argue about it in the woods in front of a group of teenagers. And all of their decisions are based on prejudice. Diggory suspects Winky because he does not like elves, that’s clear. He only backs down out of fear of insulting Crouch. When Harry is brought up, he’s instantly cleared because “you’re aware of the boy’s story, aren’t you?”
This is a terrible non-system that will never be effective. This is how you get innocent people in jail and guilty people walking free. And given that the wizard prison is basically a massive torture chamber… This has some very serious implications.
Of course, I’m talking about all of this in-world, from a Watsonian perspective rather than a Doylistic one. One of my favorite things about Ana Mardoll’s deconstructions is her insistence that authors make decisions in their writing, and we are allowed to talk about why they made the decisions that they did, and if those decisions were not the best. We don’t have to perform the mental gymnastics to make it make sense if it doesn’t make sense.
Except, because I’m doing this as a re-write working within the confines of the seven book canon, I have to think in a Watsonian way. I have to do those backflips to accept this as reality so I can work with it. It’s frustrating. I think in part, the wizarding government is just poorly written (and don’t get me started on their economy and the runaway inflation rate). And I like the series a lot, but no author is without their flaws and weaknesses! But since the definition of this project requires not changing the plot… I have to work with it as it is.
Which brings us to… house elves. I don’t even want to write about them, to be quite honest. I had the way they’re used in the series, but in this book in particular. I really can’t think of anything, any way to make it defensible, that Rowling started this out with a LITERAL slavery plotline… and then jumped to “but they’re happier being slaves than free and Hermione’s just a bit uppity and won’t listen to reason.” Like, the argument has been made over and over again that slavery was someone better for enslaved people historically… usually by slaveholders or people who benefit directly from slave labor. It is inexcusable to write a series of books that say “that may be so, but it just so happens that in this one imaginary case that I brought up, slavery really WAS better!”
House elves are most likely based on brownies, which are a specific kind of fae/elf thing that does housework. My understand of brownies (and this is from a book I no longer have, so unfortunately no link, and I may be way off base here) is that they help with housework, mostly at night, and stay away from people. Unlike some other kinds of fae though, they don’t like thank yous, and thanks and tributes to them just offend them. If you thank a brownie, they’ll just take off, and then you have to do your own chores. But that bit is key, brownies come and go as they please… and they can take up with a new household quite easily. They don’t like “being bossed around” they just like doing housework.
So Rowling took that mythology (or something similar) and twisted it into a reality where wizards are in control and the elves are literally enslaved… but they like it. No. No, no, no no, no.
Everything about the way house elves are written, even when they are being verbally abused, is written to make them less sympathetic. They’re written like goddamn cartoons. Rowling can’t write Winky crying her eyes out without mentioning that her nose is “bulbous” and her ears are “bat-like.” House elves may not be humans, but they certainly are people. Time and time again, the text will begin to make that clear… and then undermine it.
Hermione Granger can’t do that, though, she can’t turn her back on these weird creatures just because they make no sense. She’s going to try to help, and she’s going to get hell for it.
I’m going to level with you here. This is only my second “reading” of this book. Typically, I take my Harry Potter in audiobook format, I’m especially fond of the Stephen Fry readings (although I lost all of my audiobooks when I lost my ancient computer so *sobs forever*). This means that I more of less have the series memorized and can rattle whole scenes off by heart. It also means that I apparently just zone out and focus on something else during each and every house elf scene, because house elves make me extremely uncomfortable. I do not find them cute or humorous in the slightest, and I have a kind of cognitive dissonance over a series that I love so much (I swear it, I really do love it) including such awful plot arcs of joyous exploitation.
I realized that writing out the Winky scene in this chapter, because as well as I think I know these books, I didn’t really know that scene. I knew vaguely that Mr. Diggory was unfair to her, that she cried and was scared, and that at the end she was forcibly freed/fired. But I wasn’t actually ready for it to be as bad as it was.
It is really really bad! And I cannot imagine that anyone could witness that without being overcome with sympathy for her. Ron’s acceptance that this is just the way things are is abominable, but so is Mr. Weasley’s “I agree, but it’s neither the time nor the place” attitude (because there never will be a right time or place to improve conditions for elves for Mr. Weasley, will there?). And the fact that Harry, who is supposedly some kind of hero, could see that, a scene that was in large part created by his dropping his damn wand in the woods… and go on to think that Hermione is unreasonable for trying to change the systems that oppress elves, is absolutely horrifying.
Hermione is right.