Mayhem at the Ministry

chapter ten of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Weasleys return home from the World Cup, and a tense week ensues as Arthur and Percy work to help smooth things over for the Ministry. Meanwhile as the kids get ready to return to school, Harry updates Ron and Hermione on his scar hurting, and Harry and Ron each discover their new dress robes.

The Burrow at Ottery St. Catchpole, by Gnatkip

They walked back… up the damp lane toward the Burrow in the dawn light, talking very little because they were so exhausted, and thinking longingly of their breakfast.

(by Gnatkip)


Weasley Family Clock, by prettyannamoon

Harry liked this clock. It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative.


Now, Mum, by gerre

“Now, Mum,” said Fred, looking up at her, a pained look on his face. “If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?”

(by gerre)


Mrs Weasley, by Tealin Raintree

Everyone laughed, even Mrs. Weasley.


about the chapter


I will always love the depths in which Rowling knows her characters, and the ways in which their personalities come across that we generally never give a second thought. For instance, this scene in the living room of the Burrow: Ron and Bill are playing chess; Charlie is working on making a balaclava he’ll need for his job; Ginny is sitting on the floor mending a book (which probably needs mending because it was purchased secondhand); Harry is working on his broom; Molly is pacing as she frets about her husband working too much; Percy is sitting, participating fully in the conversation and trying to get attention for being important; Hermione is reading her new course book; and the twins are conspiring in the corner. It would be so easy to write an entire series without including simple domestic scenes like this, but instead we see the Weasley family as they normally interact, and get one more glimpse into the type of people they all are. It’s scenes like this that let us feel like we know the characters, even those who only appear a handful of times.

The Wizarding World

The Ministry of Magic is a funny place. Despite its apparent enormity, it’s clear that when something major happens, all hands are needed on deck to deal with the problem. And in this case, something of an international PR nightmare, Percy (despite all his eagerness) is spending less time at the office than his father, even though Percy works in the Department of International Magical Cooperation – which presumably is dealing with the problem most directly – and Arthur is in the entirely unrelated Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office! It’s clear, then, that virtually everyone who works at the Ministry is a Ministry Employee first, and a member of their specific department second. And it seems those with the most seniority, like Arthur, are those who are most needed in times of crisis. Or perhaps it’s simply that Arthur is reverting to an old role – I wonder what his job title was during Voldemort’s first reign of terror?

The Power of Magic

Memory Charms are something that have always fascinated me. Specifically, it’s unclear how the wizard casting the spell informs the person’s brain which memory it is that they’re supposed to forget. Somehow the caster must have to think specifically about the incident in question, but couldn’t it very easily go awry? After all, when Gilderoy Lockhart blasts himself with a Memory Charm, his memory is completely erased. Yet Voldemort has informed us that memory charms can also be broken; so it’s not as though the person is actually forgetting so much as shutting off the part of the brain that holds the specific memories. And in the case of Mr. Roberts in this chapter, there also seem to be side effects (“Merry Christmas!”). At any rate, given the seeming complexity, it’s not a spell I’d be particularly thrilled to have performed on myself.

The Boy Who Lived

Over the years there are many, many times that Hermione seems to understand Harry’s moods, and the weight he feels on his shoulders, far better than Ron does. She’s the one who will bring him toast and take a walk with him to talk through all the craziness that is his life, and the two of them often communicate understandings nonverbally that go way over Ron’s head. There’s one big part of Harry, though, that Ron will always understand better – and that’s Quidditch. Thus when Hermione gently tries to tell Ron that she doesn’t think he should be suggesting playing Quidditch amidst a serious conversation, Harry surprises her by wanting to play after all. Between Hermione’s understanding and Ron’s fun and laughter, Harry really needs both of his friends very, very badly.


Molly Weasley’s clock is a very cool object, but over the previous two years something strange has also happened to it. After all, when Harry first saw the clock in CS3, it still told time, albeit in a funny way with things printed on it like “time to feed the chickens” or “You’re Late.” Now, however, it has nothing to do with time, instead having a wand for each family member to tell Molly what they’re doing, as it will throughout the rest of the series. Either clock would be cool to own, but I think it must have been in error that Rowling wrote them differently; I can’t imagine the change was deliberate. Perhaps she knew all along that she wanted Molly to have a magical clock, and debated different ideas of what it could be – and then forgot which one she’d settled on when it came time to write it in again?

On a separate but related note, I find it hilarious that one of the options written on the side of the clock, along with things like “home,” “work,” and “traveling,” is “prison.” It could be there for Arthur’s work, of course -perhaps he had to visit Azkaban regularly in a previous post at the Ministry. Or perhaps the clock was just made that way and Molly bought it from a clock-maker in Diagon Alley. But it would also be funny if Molly had added that spot in more recent years as it became clear what troublemakers the twins are….

29 Responses to “Mayhem at the Ministry”

  1. I think that you can say that Hermione understands the serious stuff Harry’s dealing with indeed far better than Ron, but at the same time, Harry has Ron for the fun, for not forgetting that he’s just a teenager. Thanks for pointing that out! I hate it when I read or hear people say that Ron is disposable.

  2. Without Ron, Harry Potter would be a series of deeply bleak and tragic books.

  3. I guess the end of the series isn’t that tragic, but all the same Ron & his family provide almost all of the ‘funny’.

  4. Your analysis of the way the Ministry works is brilliant! I think you’re spot on with the whole ministry-wizard-first-seniority-matters -idea. It works well with the communial world of wizards and witches.

    Memory Charms seem to me to be somehow related more to the Imperius Curse (the way it is perfomed makes no mention of the commands being sent) than Legillimency (direct mind-to-mind contact). Perhaps the intention somehow matters most; a wizard casts the spell to obliviate a specific memory and the spell does the work, without direct direction from the caster.

    With Lockhart, I suppose the removal of his memories was due to the combination of a wand wrong for him, a broken wand at that, and his desire to “make them lose their minds” – in short, he was trying to remove Harry and Ron’s memory completely, and Ron’s malfuntioning wand made it permanent.

  5. We get a glimpse of Mundungus Fletcher’s character in this chapter.

  6. You spelled Molly as Mollie in the paragraph under “about the chapter.” :)

  7. Ahh, that one always gets me, as I have a friend who spells it -ie. But thanks again, it’s fixed :)

  8. The repetition of common things makes a life and it’s very interesting that JK write so many, like when she describes the food (both Molly’s and Hogwarts’), the study sesions, the scenes in the common room. That routine makes everything a little more interesting just because we all have a routine too and you can relate to that. And, as you said Josie, it makes you feel that you know the characters.

    Ron is no disposable, after all, they are a trio and Hermione is the sensible, but also the sensitive one.

  9. I have a question. Isn’t it true that in Camber of Secret, when Harry first visits the Burrow, he notices a rather unique clock. But the clock in that chapter said things like “Time to Feed the Chickens” and things like this. Now, as Harry enters the Weasley home for the second time (and every time after this) when Harry mentions the clock it has pictures on it and describes what the Weasley’s are doing, like “At School,” “Work” and “Mortal Peril.”

    Am I confused about something or was this a mistake?

  10. Lilly, you’re right about the change. I don’t know whether it was a mistake or just Rowling changing her mind, but this chapter does make it sound as though Harry’s seen the clock before, so it could just be an error. I remember noticing this once before but apparently forgot when I was writing about this chapter – good catch!

  11. About what Arthur’s job would have been during Voldemort’s reign, I would assume it would still be Misuse of Muggle Artefacts, though with all the muggle baiting for fun that the Death Eaters did, it would have been a much more important job.

  12. As it’s a magical clock, maybe it decided to change? :-)

  13. In the case of Mrs Weasley’s clock, weren’t there two different clocks? One which told the time up on the mantle or wall (I’m going by memory), while another, more mobile clock tells Molly what her family is up to. Maybe that was just speculation on the fanbase’s part so as to have an explanation for the discrepancy, but just like muggles are likely to have multiple clocks, or technological devices which have similar qualities, presumably wizards would be just the same.

  14. Isn’t it possible that the clock told about both the family members and the time? Maybe it has two parts (like the these: or, like some clocks do for the time and the temperature. And the time is never brought up again because it’s infinitely less important than the location of Molly’s family.
    It’s a long shot, but I always have a hard time admitting JKR might have made a mistake…

  15. clabwag, it’s certainly a possibility, but you’d have to do some backbends with the text. Here’s the quote I’m looking at, from GF10:

    Mrs. Weasley glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. Harry liked this clock. It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative. It had nine golden hands, and each of them was engraved with one of the Weasley family’s names….

    It’s written in a way that makes it seem more like something we’ve seen before than a new introduction.

    Also, it’s a grandfather clock here, but in HBP Molly will throw the clock on top of her laundry so she can carry it with her from room to room. So… there are certainly some inconsistencies. :)

    Ragmar Dorkins – I totally understand your sentiment here, too. And I’m all for making backbends to explain away likely mistakes. I just brought it up on this one because the backbends we’d have to do to make the text make sense start reaching the point of outlandish….

  16. Ah, of course; I knew I was probably grasping at straws, there. In the case of how it is introduced there could be an argument for it having been written in to an earlier book but during the editing process getting the chop, only to be deemed important later, and thus left as-is in Goblet of Fire, overlooking the lack of prior appearances.

    The way time and clocks, specifically, are used throughout the series is fascinating, to say the least. Our first encounter with Dumbledore has him looking at a face made up of planets, which is perfectly acceptable by McGonagall’s reaction. I was wondering if, as you’ve discussed elsewhere, the fact there is no study of basic maths or similarly common subjects, while Astronomy is deemed essential, meant the wizarding world assumed a basic knowledge of the planets and stars above how to read a clock. With that in mind, the thought of having a clock which tells you what to do, rather than a specific time, would reveal exactly how the wizarding world operates – working by what a magical object says, or even where Saturn is in relation to Jupiter, instead of the movement of the sun.

  17. Perhaps there can be two different clocks? One for the time to carry around doing chores and stuff, the other the big grandfather clock?

    Still a stretch, but…

  18. I believe there’s more than one clock. It wouldn’t be a stretch at all, seeing as they both serve completely different purposes. Also, one is a grandfather clock and the other is described as being ‘on the wall’.

  19. I too always assumed there were two different clocks. After all, the one Harry sees in CoS was on the mantlepiece in the kitchen and the one he sees in GoF was a grandfather clock in the living room. Two different kinds of clock and two different rooms. I think in HBP Jo just forgot which was the shelf clock and which was the grandfather. Josie, your quote above doesn’t necessarily imply that we’ve seen it before, only that Harry has. He’s bound to have noticed it by that time even if we the readers haven’t been informed of it until now.

  20. i like the idea of the two clocks… but whose the say there isnt a shrinking spell mrs weasley could have used to make the grandfather clock smaller and more portable? there’s nothing really to support this.. just an idea.

  21. i don’t think having two clocks is much of a stretch, if you think about all of your own houses we have a different clock in every room, well there is in mine (excluding the loo and bathroom). Also, with it being a grandfather clock there are the smaller grandfather clocks but also Molly’s a witch and shrink it anyway to carry around in her Anxious state, just to make herself feel better. Plus here Harry is in the livingroom when he points out this clock, doesn’t he point out the chore clock when he’s in the kitchen getting breakfast? two entirely different rooms

  22. Emma, I agree that an explanation like that is possible, and certainly fits the situation present in the books. I just think that the likelihood that this was what Rowling *intended* is remote. It just requires too many backbends, and there’s basically no evidence to support it written into the two chapters. That’s why I pulled it out as a probable mistake, even if it’s not one that, strictly speaking, has no explanation. Does that make sense?

  23. Something unrelated that i just noticed is that on the school list it tells the students to get dress robes, but dowsnt explain why. Does it tell all seven years or just fourth through seventh? And if it is only the older students, how did studnets like Ginny who were invited get dreas robes. If they were all told to get dress robes, that seems like a guge waste for the younger students who didnt go, and the older students, for that matter?

  24. I agree with elizabethauthor, the quote just makes it show that Harry’s seen it before. In the time Harry’s spend at the Burrow, we haven’t been inside his head every day and every moment. In fact, if I remember correctly, in CoS, he says something like how the next few weeks were his most enjoyable for the summer holidays, because Jo needs to advance the story in a timely fashion. I think it’s highly possible Harry saw the grandfather clock within this time period, and now is just when we’re seeing it for the first time ourselves. And I also agree that she could have just shrunken in the grandfather clock and carried it around. She is a witch after all.

    One thing I’ve always wanted to know is just how to read the time of those planet clocks/watches! I think Harry receives one in either HBP or DH (I can’t remember which) doesn’t he? I suppose I could be mixing this up with one of the many fan fictions I’ve read, but I was so sure it was in canon. Anyway, Harry seems to have no trouble reading it, either way. I’m sure it has to do with astronomy classes, I just would find it so fascinating to get to learn how to read them! They’re so cool!

  25. I think, like others, that they are two separate clocks. But while on the subject of clocks, I just wanted to point out that there was a goof in the second movie (I don’t believe the goof is in the book). The clock with the family members’ whereabouts is introduced and it includes “The Dentist.” In Goblet of Fire (when Hermione gets her teeth engorged and then shrunk again, she mentions that her parents don’t think that teeth should be magically enhanced) and Half-Blood Prince (Slughorn asking Hermione about the profession), it is shown that the Wizarding World has no dentists. Just thought that was an interesting little thing to think about.

  26. My random theory about the clock is that there are two seperate clocks! The one that says “time to feed the chickens” etc seems to be hanging in the kitchen (?) While the other one is, at one point, embeded in the grandfather clock, yet later Molly seems to remove the clock face and carry it around. I’m not sure if this is true, but it’s a theory that explains it, I think… and JKR may have just mde a mistake, but it’s fun to try and justify it!!

  27. During a recent re-read of this book, I realized that the piece of parchment that Fred and George were working on was thier first letter to Ludo Bagman.

  28. I’m wondering why Mrs. Weasley couldn’t have just looked at this clock while she was so worried about her family at the World Cup. True, she might have seen them “In Mortal Peril” at some point, but if she had kept looking, she would have seen them all “Travelling” safely home, wouldn’t she?

  29. The clock Harry mentioned in CoS is in the kitchen though, this one is in the living room. I always thought it were two different clocks.

    I’m more concerned with Molly being able to carry the grandfather clock around with her later on – but then, perhaps it’s shrunkable.

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