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Complete, detailed, and amazing Reader's Guides
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Chapter Six:
The Portkey

"It's been a massive organizational problem."


Synopsis by William Silvester
Notes and links by Michele L. Worley

U.S. hardcover edition: pages 65 - 74
U.K. hardcover edition: pages 62 - 69
U.K. paperback edition: pages 76 - 85
Timeframe: Monday xx August, 1994 [Y14]

In which Apparition is discussed, Fred and George are caught with toffees, and everyone sets off via Portkey for the World Cup site.

The Portkey, GF6, by Mary GrandPré

Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:

This chapter marks Harry's first encounter with a Portkey, as well as our first encounter with a Summoning Charm, each of which will be a crucial plot device later on.

Various remarks passed in idle chatter about wizarding travel in this chapter provide the reader with quite a bit of information about Apparition and Portkeys.

Harry knew that Apparating was very difficult; it meant disappearing from one place and reappearing almost instantly in another.

The "almost instantly" qualifier is interesting. Where is someone between here and there during Apparition? Does the time lag between Disapparating and Apparating vary depending on the distance travelled - that is, the farther one travels, the longer the time lag between disappearing and reappearing? Or is it pretty much constant, regardless of the distance travelled?

"Why can't we Apparate too?"
"Because you're not of age and you haven't got your test," snapped Mrs. Weasley.

In the U.S., we'd say that the twins hadn't passed their test. This tells us that a witch or wizard must be of age - that is, at least seventeen years old - to obtain a licence to Apparate.

"The Department of Magical Transportation had to fine a couple of people the other day for Apparating without a licence."

As we will see the following summer, the Department of Magical Transportation includes the Apparition Test Center, which is presumably the authority responsible for issuing Apparition licenses to those witches and wizards who can pass the appropriate tests.

"This pair I'm talking about went and splinched themselves."

The term "splinch" (which appears to be a wizarding dialect word, not normally in use by Muggles) somewhat resembles the standard English word "splice", which means to take two separate things (usually things that come in strands, such as ropes or DNA) and weave them together to make one thing.

"Er - splinched? said Harry.
"They left half of themselves behind...So of course, they were stuck. Couldn't move either way."

We aren't given a fuller description of exactly what leaving "half of themselves behind" entails (Harry's mental image of random body parts may not be apt). More about this below.

Interesting that the victims couldn't sort themselves out magically without help. Perhaps they weren't in a position to reach their wands after they'd been splinched.

"Had to wait for the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad to sort them out."

This is the same outfit that dealt with the puncturing and memory-modification of Marge Dursley the previous summer.

Harry had a sudden vision of a pair of legs and an eyeball lying abandoned on the pavement of Privet Drive.
"Were they OK?" he asked, startled.
"Oh yes," said Mr. Weasley matter-of-factly.

It's questionable whether Harry's mental image of splinching is correct, since the culprits who suffered it on this occasion weren't killed. If body parts had been left strewn over the landscape at random, it would seem more likely for the victim to have bled to death.

Possibly - just possibly - Apparition is related to wizard space in some way. Perhaps in a wizard space sense a splinched body is intact, but some of it is stuck "elsewhere", as it were, with part at the origin point, part "in between" (wherever someone goes in that time lag between disappearing and reappearing), and part at the destination point.

"But they got a heavy fine..."

In addition to Apparating without a license, the culprits were responsible for Muggles having witnessed the use of magic. Compare this with Harry and Ron's escape with the Ford Anglia at the beginning of their second year, which also resulted in a fine (CS5).

"Charlie had to take the test twice," said Fred, grinning. "He failed first time, Apparated five miles south of where he meant to..."

So it's possible to make different kinds of errors when Apparating. Splinching is one kind of error, but even if one manages to avoid that, it's possible to Apparate to an unintended location.

"We spent six months developing these!"

Since the toffees (like Canary Creams) only take effect once eaten, they would seem to be due to Potions work - along the lines of the Skiving Snackbox's contents - more than to Charm work. It was probably difficult to get the recipe correct so that only the target's tongue would be affected and not the rest of the body.

Only a dull, greenish tincge along the horizon to their right showed that daybreak was drawing closer.

Since they're heading from the Burrow to Stoatshead Hill, that tells us, this would seem to indicate that Stoatshead Hill is north of the Burrow.

"So we had to find a nice deserted moor, and set up as many anti-Muggle precautions as possible."

A textbook solution to the problem of setting up a Quidditch pitch, straight out of Quidditch Through the Ages, in fact.

"People with cheaper tickets have to arrive two weeks beforehand."

Since the Bagmans arranged for the Weasleys' tickets to be in the top box, this wasn't an issue for the Weasleys. Stop and consider the World Cup campsite situation in this light, however (apart from pitying the poor devils from the Ministry of Magic who are trying to make everything look as Muggle as possible). The campgrounds have been steadily filling up over the last two weeks with witches and wizards from all over the world and from all walks of life. No wonder Mundungus' name turns up later on - it would be a perfect cover for all sorts of "business opportunities".

"...Portkeys. They're objects that are used to transport wizards from one spot to another at a prearranged time."

This description, not surprisingly, seems to have been oversimplified a bit; Arthur is just describing the kind of Portkey that they'll be using on the current occasion. Much later in the story we will encounter a Portkey that is not set for a specific time, but that is triggered by touch.

...where a large black mass rose beyond the village of Ottery St. Catchpole.

So Stoatshead Hill is on the far side of Ottery St. Catchpole from the Burrow, where the Burrow is on the southern side of the village and the hill is on the northern side.

"What sort of objects are Portkeys?" said Harry curiously.
"Well, they can be anything," said Mr Weasley. "Unobtrusive things, obviously, so Muggles won't go picking them up and playing with them..."

In fact, it would seem that a Portkey can be any inanimate object enchanted with an appropriate Portus spell (OP22). And as Harry is to learn to his cost during the Third Task, a Portkey doesn't have to be an unobtrusive thing...

"...stuff they'll just think is litter..."

This would be one reason why the Ministry is so careful at the World Cup to retrieve all the Portkeys as they're brought in. It would be a bit awkward to have to deal with Muggle trash collectors turning up by accident, for instance.

"I said to him, I said - Ced, that'll be something to tell your grandchildren, that will...you beat Harry Potter!"

This line is only really memorable on a second reading, after the reader knows what will befall Cedric later on.

Characters introduced in this chapter:

Characters returning in this chapter:

> Characters mentioned in this chapter:

Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:

Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:

Exceptional character moments:

  • The twins' attempts to salvage their Ton-Tongue Toffee product development, which took six months.

  • Molly catching the twins trying to smuggle toffees out, and bawling them out for developing the toffees when they were supposed to have been studying for their OWLs the previous year.

  • Amos Diggory's pride in his son's achievements in Quidditch, and obliviousness to the awkwardness his innocent bragging is causing between Cedric and the Gryffindor players present.

Spells:

Links and Resources:

Memorable lines:

  • "Ced's talked about you, of course," said Amos Diggory. "Told us all about playing against you last year...I said to him, I said - Ced, that'll be something to tell your grandchildren, that will...you beat Harry Potter!"

Strictly British:

Timelines/Calendar:

This chapter is set on the same day as the next two chapters, the day of the Quidditch World Cup. From Ron's earlier letter to Harry, we know that this is a Monday.

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