During the interminable hours that are spent rocking my teething son back to sleep in the middle of the night, I’ve taken to re-reading old books on my Kindle. As I made my way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with my son fussing, squirming and, eventually, sleeping in my arms, I couldn’t help but notice that the adults in Goblet do a terrible job of protecting the children in their care. I mean, look at this foolishness…
1. Arthur Weasley sends Harry and Co. into the woods at the Quidditch World Cup.
Throughout the entire Potter series, Arthur Weasley is a kind, caring paternal figure for both his own gaggle of children and the orphaned Harry. He is also, from time to time, an idiot. This is one of those times. When Death Eaters show up at the Quidditch World Cup, intent on torturing some muggles and just generally killing the buzz of a week-long party, Arthur jumps into the fray to stop the madness. His actions are depicted as mildly heroic—he’s standing up for decency and equality!—except that he completely abandons the children in his care to do so, an act that is all the more unfathomable when considering that one of those kids—Harry fucking Potter!—is constantly fighting off attempts to murder and maim him, usually from Voldemort and those same Death Eaters that have just showed up. Rather than stay with a group of children who clearly need his protection, Arthur sends them into the woods and says he’ll find them later, despite “blindly into the woods” being exactly where you wouldn’t want a bunch of kids you were responsible for to go wandering.
2. The entire Hogwarts staff fails to notice that their old friend Mad-Eye Moody is an impostor.
The big twist of Goblet is that Moody, who seems to be watching out for Harry, is actually Barty Crouch, Jr.—a card-carrying Death Eater—in disguise. An exhaustive use of Polyjuice Potion would have allowed Crouch to look like Moody but it would not have let him know everything about the man he was pretending to be. Which really seems like it should have been a problem at Hogwarts where seemingly every member of the staff, especially noted Greatest Wizard in History Albus Dumbledore, has a long and storied past with Moody. Didn’t any other professor ever say, oh, anything to Moody about their shared experiences? Did Dumbledore ever interview him or even speak to him? At the end of the book Crouch explains that he grilled Moody “about his past” so as to better impersonate him but there’s a difference between knowing a few basic facts and being able to carry on a conversation with someone you’ve never met as if they’re an old friend. It feels like Dumbledore, Hagrid or McGonagall should’ve seen through this pretty easily.
3. Dumbledore makes Harry actively compete in the Triwizard Tournament.
Spare me the spiel about the Goblet of Fire being a binding magical contract. Even if Harry really were bound to compete in the Tournament despite the fact that his name had been entered fraudulently—which, to be clear, has extremely troubling connotations for how wizarding law works—there was nothing that said he had to try to win the damn thing. In the second task, Harry’s heroism is played for laughs when he tries to save four people who he thinks are going to drown. The joke, of course, is that Dumbledore would never intentionally let innocent kids get hurt in this silly contest, a position that’s further reinforced when Fleur Delacour is attacked by grindylows, fails to achieve her goal and suffers the fate of … nothing. The grindylows let her go and she just kind of hangs out after that. Why exactly didn’t Dumbledore coach Harry to do this? Instead of battling a rampaging dragon he could have hidden behind a rock, waved a white flag, taken a zero and moved on. By withholding this strategy, Dumbledore might as well have entered Harry’s name himself.
4. Voldemort monologues instead of killing Harry.
Just kidding! But as adult failures go in this book, Voldemort channeling his inner Bond villain and monologuing instead of killing the kid he’s been hunting for a decade and a half seems like a pretty serious misstep.
4. Cornelius Fudge lets the dementors have Barty Crouch Jr. without a trial.
On the other hand, the ever-bumbling Fudge could have used a little monologuing here as his inattentiveness leads to Barty Crouch Jr. having his soul sucked out by a dementor. That this sentence is carried out without a trial is a miscarriage of justice on its own but even worse is that, without Crouch’s testimony, Fudge is able to continue to deny the return of Voldemort, thereby endangering not only Harry and his friends but essentially every child (and adult) alive. Way to go, Minister.