Let me just get right to the nitty-gritty on this: I spent the last maybe 100 pages of this 732-something page book damn near in tears. It’s just so emotional to me and to use a wrestling term, a big “mark out” moment, i.e., I’m excited and adrenaline-filled seeing the events of the last 600 pages and really, the last three books, culminate into this singular moment.
And that singular moment is the return to form, literally, of Lord Voldemort. Through the help of yet another dastardly Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Mad Eye Moody, who is really Bartemous Couch, Jr., son of one of the most well respected Ministry of Magic members and also Death Eater, meaning a follower of Voldemort, Voldemort returns by having Couch get Harry Potter to him.
It’s dark because Harry Potter brings another Hogwarts member with him, Cedric Diggory, both of whom were competing in the Triwizard Tournament, a tournament meant at bringing different foreign wizarding members together, and Voldemort has Diggory killed instantly.
And now, in a field thousands of miles away from Hogwarts and more importantly, Dumbledore, Harry is left to fight to the death with Voldemort with 30 of Voldemort’s Death Eaters surrounding them. I mean, Harry Potter, at 14 with a bum leg, after having already survived Voldemort three times, has to now duel with Voldemort in full form. The darkest, most powerful wizard (aside from Dumbledore) that’s ever lived. A wizard that killed his parents in an instant. That killed far more prepared and better able wizards than Harry.
And yet, he goddamn fights him! He comes behind the tombstone, after having ducked Voldemort and thinks in his head, I’m going to go down fighting on my feet like my father. It makes me well up with tears just now thinking about it. The courage he has in the face of quite literal death is amazing. This whole scene is why the fourth book was my favorite for the longest time.
Before all of this, Voldemort wants to mock Harry by telling him he has to bow before they duel and Harry won’t, so Voldemort magics the bow and says, “Bow to death, Harry.” Ugh, so great, so evil.
But then, because their wands came from the same phoenix, something wild happens when they do spells on each other and the last victims of Voldemort come back in ghost form, which include Harry’s dead parents, which again makes me well up with tears and they help him to escape back to Hogwarts.
Harry survives an encounter with the Dark Lord once again.
Then one of my favorite elements of the whole story is how Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, reacts to the news of Lord Voldemort’s return to his body: he doesn’t believe it. He doesn’t believe Harry or Couch or Dumbledore. Fudge doesn’t want to incite panic and he most certainly doesn’t want to believe that what they’ve worked more than 13 years to rebuild is all for naught, as Voldemort is back.
For once, the analogy works: Fudge is your Neville Chamberlain of the Harry Potter universe.
So, that sets up the following book because Dumbledore is clearly going to be pitted against Fudge and the Ministry of Magic, as he rounds up people that will believe him that Voldemort is back and prepare to fight.
Four other things that readily come to mind that I liked that I liked J.K. Rowling weaving into this story: 1.) Hagrid and his being a half-giant. It’s the first time we get some real backstory into Hagrid’s life growing up. His father was a regular man, but his mother was a giant (which is, uh, weird to picture). Which bleeds into a discussion of…2.) House elf rights. Hermione is determined that the house elves of the wizard world receive their proper wages, vacation time and freedom. But of course, elves seem happy to be doing what they’re doing, but it’s interesting. 3.) The media also gets some commentary here, as Rita Skeeter, an Animagus, meaning she can turn into a beetle, manages to get scoops on events unfolding in Hogwarts and then she distorts them for sensationalism. This’ll play a bigger role going forward in Book 5. 4.) Some romance. It’s clear that Ron and Hermione like each other, but it’s not full-fledged yet, just a lot of jealous spouted off. Harry hints at liking an older girl named Cho Chang.
We also had the first real rift between Ron and Harry, which was nice to see fleshed out. Ron is tired of being poor and more importantly, of being in the shadow of Harry. When Harry gets into the Triwizard Tournament, which wasn’t his doing, Ron thinks Harry wanted more glory than ever before and they don’t talk to each other for weeks. It was some nice character development added to Ron and to their friendship, I felt.
This is the longest book in the series up to this point and I wish it were longer. It’s just too much fun to be in these characters’ heads and in this wizarding world.
And this book was loaded with great quotes, so, as usual:
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – Dumbledore
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” – Dumbledore
“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.” – Dumbledore, in his end of the year speech to the school and it was great
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” – Not sure
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” – Dumbledore, addressing the need for the entire wizarding world, regardless of their differences, to come together to take on Voldemort
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – Dumbledore
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” – Dumbledore, again on the need for cooperation
“Time will not slow down when something unpleasant lies ahead.” – Harry Potter (ain’t that the truth?)
“Curiosity is not a sin…. But we should exercise caution with our curiosity… yes, indeed.” – Dumbledore
“What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” – Hagrid (I just love this sentiment because J.K. is already setting the seeds for big events in Book 5)
“I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.” – Dumbledore (again, ain’t that the truth?)