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The Beetle at Bay

- Chapter 25

“Well, this is your chance to raise the tone of it a bit, isn’t it? Luna says her father’s quite happy to take Harry’s interview. That’s who’ll be publishing it.”
-- Hermione Granger (OP25)

OP25: The Beetle at Bay

There is a mass breakout from Azkaban, a Ministry worker dies under suspicious circumstances, and Umbridge bans the teachers from giving students information unrelated to their subjects. Harry and Cho go on a date to Hogsmeade, and Hermione and Luna Lovegood arrange for Rita Skeeter to interview Harry, with his story to be published in Luna’s father’s paper, The Quibbler.

Calendar and Dates

The chapter begins the morning of the first day of classes following Christmas holidays, speeds through January and half of February and concludes on one of the most solid dates we're given in the books - Saturday, 14 February, Valentine's Day.

Interesting facts and notes

The chapter title is a reference to Rita Skeeter's Animagus form, a beetle with markings around its eyes resembling Skeeter's spectacles.

Each picture was captioned with a name and the crime for which the person had been sent to Azkaban.

The full list of those who escape is not given. In the essay "The Death Eaters: A Guide to Who was Where," author Liam makes some deductions about the identities of the ten escapees. Here's that list:

Antonin Dolohov



Bellatrix Lestrange

Rabastan Lestrange

Rodolphus Lestrange


Augustus Rookwood

Thorfinn Rowle


Antonin Dolohov, read the legend beneath a wizard with a long, pale, twisted face who was sneering up at Harry, convicted of the brutal murders of Gideon and Fabian Prewett.

Hagrid first mentioned the Prewetts as victims of Voldemort's first reign of terror in PS5, when he first explained who Voldemort was. The brothers were featured in Mad-Eye Moody's "team photo" of the original Order of the Phoenix back in OP9, when Moody said that it took five Death Eaters to kill them. This is the first time we have learned the identity of any of the five.

Karkaroff gave the Ministry Dolohov's name during his own trial, alleging that Dolohov was guilty of the "torture of countless Muggles and...non-supporters of the Dark Lord", but as Dolohov had been arrested before Karkaroff came to trial, the information was considered valueless by Crouch senior (GF30).

Algernon Rookwood, said the caption beneath a pockmarked man with greasy hair who was leaning against the edge of his picture, looking bored ...

In the first editions of the British version of the book, the name was incorrectly given as Algernon. This was corrected in later editions.

...convicted of leaking Ministry of Magic Secrets to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

We first heard of Rookwood back in "The Pensieve"; Karkaroff gave his name to the Ministry while trying to talk his way out of Azkaban. Karkaroff's betrayal of Rookwood appears to have been crucial to Karkaroff's success in staying out of Azkaban (GF30).

Bellatrix Lestrange, convicted of the torture and permanent incapacitation of Frank and Alice Longbottom.

From Sirius' remarks earlier (OP6) and the trial in "The Pensieve" (GF30), we now have confirmation that Bellatrix Lestrange was the woman among the three people who were tried alongside Barty Crouch, junior for this crime.

The article and the number of photographs reveal that ten high-security prisoners have just broken out of Azkaban: nine wizards and a witch. Two of the wizards (Dolohov and Rookwood) and the witch (Bellatrix) have just been named, leaving seven of the wizards unidentified at this point. We can deduce from their appearance at the battle of the Department of Mysteries later on that two of the seven unnamed wizards were Bellatrix's husband and brother-in-law.

Speaking to reporters in his private office, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, confirmed that ten high-security prisoners escaped in the early hours of yesterday evening and that he has already informed the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangerous nature of these individuals.

Ministry of Magic worker Broderick Bode, 49, was discovered dead in his bed, strangled by a pot plant.

American readers of the British edition will find this reference a bit surprising, since the term "pot plant" in the US refers to a marijuana plant. In the US edition of the book, the term is "potted plant."

As his speech and mobility improved, Healer Strout encouraged Mr. Bode to look after the plant himself, unaware that it was not an innocent Flitterbloom, but a cutting of Devil's Snare which, when touched by the convalescent Mr. Bode, throttled him instantly.

When Harry next saw Lee, the back of his hand was bleeding rather badly. Harry recommended essence of murtlap.

This little incident actually turned out well in the end. When the Weasley twins had a problem later on with their Fever Fudge prototype, Lee was able to recommend essence of murtlap as a possible solution to the problem; it seems to have worked (OP26).

'Bes' go an' rub a bit more chilli powder on them salamanders or their tails'll be hangin' off 'em next.

Another example of sympathetic magic: hot chili powder is used to treat a fire-dwelling salamander. Of course, we're actually talking about two completely different definitions of "heat."

She lurked by the fire in the heavily perfumed tower room, interrupting Professor Trelawney's increasingly hysterical talks with difficult questions about ornithomancy and heptomology

Ornithomancy and heptomology are telling the future by observing the behaviour of birds and reptiles, respectively.

It seemed to Harry that Umbridge was steadily depriving him of everything that made his life at Hogwarts worth living: visits to Hagrid's house, letters from Sirius, his Firebolt and Quidditch.

This is, of course, the entire theme of this book. Everything that Harry relies on to be a strong, powerful wizard and in his mind, to be able to face Voldemort, is being stripped away. By the end, even Harry's "saving people thing," as Hermione calls it, will be lost as his urgency to rescue Sirius results in his godfather's death.

On the morning of the fourteenth he dressed particularly carefully.

So this Hogsmeade weekend day actually is Valentine's Day, not just the closest weekend.

Since Hallowe'en of Harry's second year was in 1992 (CS8), the Valentine's Day in this chapter is 14 February 1996. Unfortunately, an actual 1996 calendar reveals that in fact that day was a Wednesday, not a weekend day at all. One more discrepancy between the HP universe's timeline and the actual calendar.

"I can't come into Hogsmeade at all, Angelina wants a full day's training."

Ouch. Quidditch practice interfering with a Hogsmeade weekend. I wonder if this was one of the issues that led to the end of Ginny's relationship with Michael - that she had to put Quidditch practice before any possible date with him in Hogsmeade, despite the occasion. Possibly her defeat of Cho in Gryffindor / Ravenclaw caused only the last of several Quidditch-related arguments between Ginny and her Ravenclaw boyfriend. That is, however, pure speculation on my part.

Story-construction-wise, Quidditch practice serves as a tidy excuse for not having Ron present at the Skeeter meeting later on. I suspect that his presence would have been an unnecessary complication - he would have said or done something to make the situation even more complicated than it already was.

Furthermore, of course, while Skeeter currently daren't insinuate anything about Hermione's personal life, she is certainly on the lookout for anything she can use later. The obvious move for Skeeter to make in revenge against Hermione, sooner or later, is to invent a Harry/Hermione - Ron/Hermione triangle scandal along the lines of the Harry/Hermione - Krum/Hermione scandal she fabricated in Goblet of Fire. Nothing good can come of anyone bringing Ron's friendship with Hermione to Rita's attention.

... a large gang of Slytherin girls passed them, including Pansy Parkinson.
'Potter and Chang!' screeched Pansy, to a chorus of snide giggles. 'Urgh, Chang, I don't think much of your taste… at least Diggory was good-looking!'

a number of golden cherubs that were hovering over each of the small, circular tables, occasionally throwing pink confetti over the occupants.

Cherubs in folklore are actually lesser angels. The name is derived from cherubim, huge and impressive winged angels which appear in the Bible. Over time, the image of the Roman god Cupid, who was depicted as a chubby boy with wings wielding a magical bow and arrow, was conflated with the idea of cherubs.

Here in Madam Puddifoot's, the cherubs overhead are undoubtedly intended to represent Cupid. They also seem to be living beings, although it's difficult to determine from the description just what sort of creatures they are. They never appear elsewhere in the entire series, although dwarfs dressed as Cupids do show up in Lockhart's bizarre Valentine's Day celebration in book two.

Cupid about to shoot bow and arrow.

He felt his face growing hot and tried staring out of the window, but it was so steamed up he couldn't see the street outside. To postpone the moment when he would have to look at Cho, he stared up at the ceiling as though examining the paintwork and received a handful of confetti in the face from their hovering cherub.

Harry and Cho Chang at tearoom.

She was sitting at a table with the unlikeliest pair of drinking mates he could ever have imagined: Luna Lovegood and none other than Rita Skeeter, ex-journalist on the Daily Prophet and one of Hermione's least favourite people in the world.

The Quick-Quotes Quill was actually in her hand and halfway to her mouth when the rapturous expression on her face died.

'So the Daily Prophet exists to tell people what they want to hear, does it?' said Hermione scathingly.
Rita sat up straight again, her eyebrows raised, and drained her glass of Firewhisky.
'The Prophet exists to sell itself, you silly girl,' she said coldly.

Stark honesty from one of the most dishonest characters in the entire series.

Exceptional character moments

We learn that Cho is jealous, and consequently has issues with Hermione's friendship with Harry.

Hermione's talents at blackmail are once again honed on Rita Skeeter.

Memorable lines

"If we can't trust Dumbledore, we can't trust anyone."

"What did she want to talk about Cedric for anyway? Why does she always want to drag up a subject that makes her act like a human hosepipe?"

Rita stared at her. So did Harry. Luna, on the other hand, sang, "Weasley Is Our King" dreamily under her breath and stirred her drink with a cocktail onion on a stick.

"Of course, the Prophet might give you rather a lot for an insider's account of life in Azkaban...."

Words and phrases

Characters Introduced


Related images:

Pensieve (Comments)

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