Harry Potter and the Goblet of Sevens
Years ago in this column, I wrote “The Seven Battles,” where I pointed out how so many things in the series fall into the pattern of the seven potions: three poisons, two nettle wines, one potion taking you forward toward danger, and one taking you backward toward safety. Among those sets of seven is the seven ingredients Voldemort uses to return to his body.
In a more recent essay, “The Yew Wand,” I came upon another set of seven: the seven spells Voldemort casts that night. That piqued my interest: Where there are two sevens, there are likely to be more. So I went through the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a fine-tooth comb and found seven sevens! In addition to the aforementioned seven spells, there’s one set of seven for each chapter. And they more or less fall into the 3-2-1-1 pattern of the potions riddle. So here we go!
Chapter 31: “The Third Task”
When Harry is in the maze, he encounters seven obstacles that stand between him and the Triwizard Cup.
Two of them don’t really pose a threat to Harry: the boggart transformed into a Dementor and the golden mist. These are the two nettle wines – the obstacles so innocuous that Crouch, Jr., leaves them in the maze instead of blasting them out of Harry’s way.
The three poisons are three deadly creatures Harry encounters (or narrowly avoids) in the maze: the Blast-Ended Skrewt, the sphinx, and the Acromantula. Of the three, only the Acromantula actually harms Harry, but all of them have the potential to. The sphinx is lethal if her riddle is answered incorrectly… or if she were not Confunded by Barty Crouch, Jr.1
The forward potion is Cedric – he technically counts as an obstacle for Harry, as a rival champion. When Harry’s leg is broken and he’s fallen short of getting the Cup, Cedric literally moves him forward… toward danger. Much as the forward potion in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone moves Harry toward a dangerous encounter with Voldemort, so too does Cedric move Harry toward a dangerous encounter with Voldemort.
That leaves the backward potion to be the Imperiused Krum. Here, we look to the language for clues. Cedric claims, “He crept up behind me,” and Harry’s spell “hit Krum in the back” (GoF 627, emphasis mine), so we can say Krum corresponds to the backward potion.
Chapter 32: “Flesh, Blood, and Bone”
As detailed in “The Seven Battles,” the seven in this chapter is the seven ingredients crucial to Voldemort’s resurrection: water, Nagini’s venom, unicorn blood, Babymort, Wormtail’s flesh, Harry’s blood, and Tom Riddle, Sr.’s bone. Please visit that essay for a detailed analysis.
Chapter 33: “The Death Eaters”
There are seven Death Eaters present in the circle whom Voldemort addresses by name, as detailed in “Death Eaters – Part 2: Voldemort’s Resurrection.”
The two nettle wines are Nott and Goyle, Sr., in that neither of them does any damage for the rest of the series. As discussed in my series of essays about Death Eaters, Goyle, Sr., is MIA for the remainder of the series; he’s never named after this scene. Nott is injured at the beginning of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries and is never brought up again.
There are three “killers, waiting hidden in line” (SS 285) – never have those words been more appropriate than describing the Death Eaters! First up is Macnair, whose chosen profession is killing beasts for the Ministry of Magic. In the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Macnair is the one choking Harry to get the prophecy, before Neville jabs him in the eye (OotP 802).
The second killer is Crabbe, Sr., who gets a baby head in the Department of Mysteries. (Once again, I want to give an enormous thank you to Kendall Smiley for her analysis over at the Harry Potter Lexicon.) But earlier in that battle, Crabbe begins casting a Killing Curse at Hermione (he gets as far as “Avada –”), proving himself to be one of the killers (OotP 789).
The third killer is Lucius Malfoy, what with his being the Death Eater general at the Department of Mysteries and the whole Chamber of Secrets business.
The Death Eater associated with the backward potion is Avery: He is the one who is punished in the graveyard for his past sins. Voldemort Crucios him and refuses when Avery begs for forgiveness (GoF 648).
And the forward potion corresponds to Wormtail. Voldemort grants him the silver hand: magic that will bring lots of danger in the future, both to others and to Wormtail himself (GoF 649). “Danger lies before you” should definitely have been on the warning label for that silver hand (SS 285).
Chapter 34: “Priori Incantatem”
When Harry and Voldemort duel in the graveyard and the shades of Voldemort’s victims show up, there are seven people (counting the living and the dead) in the sphere of light formed by Priori Incantatem.
Three of them, the poisons, are the shades of people whose deaths really hurt Harry: Cedric, Lily, and James. The other two shades, Frank Bryce and Bertha Jorkins, have very little emotional impact on Harry – they’re the nettle wines. Voldemort is the forward potion, representing danger for Harry. And Harry himself is the backward potion, just trying to get back to the safety of Hogwarts Castle.
Chapter 35: “Veritaserum”
Harry goes from one gathering of seven to another, but this time, they’re all still alive. When Barty Crouch, Jr., is unmasked and regales us with his tale, he is one of seven people in the office – and for the purposes of lining it up with the potions riddle, we’ll be looking at the seven people from Barty’s point of view.
The three poisons here are Crouch’s three enemies, helpfully appearing in the Foe-Glass: Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape (GoF 679). The two nettle wines are the people who are not in a position to do Crouch any harm or to do much of anything else: a thoroughly shell-shocked Harry and an unconscious Mad-Eye Moody.
Representing the backward potion going toward safety is Winky, whose main priority in this scene is protecting Master Barty. She is the only one trying to deter him from saying anything incriminating: “Say no more, Master Barty, say no more, you is getting your father into trouble!” (GoF 684).
Ironically, Barty Crouch, Jr., himself is the forward potion: Having taken Veritaserum, every time he talks, he is moving steadily toward danger. By confessing, he is ensuring he will be punished for his crimes, even though the punishment itself – the administration of the Dementor’s Kiss – comes as a nasty surprise to all seven people in the room.
Chapter 36: “The Parting of the Ways”
Harry seems to find groups of seven wherever he goes that fateful night. When he finally makes it to the hospital wing, there are seven people there fussing over him.
Three poisons… three killers waiting hidden in line… are Ron, Hermione, and Sirius. As weird as it is to think so, in a roundabout way, they contribute the most to Harry nearly getting killed that night. By helping him prepare for the Triwizard Tournament all year, they contribute to Harry getting to the Triwizard Cup and being transported to the graveyard. Yes, it’s convoluted, and I’m not trying to blame them in any way… but I think it’s a pretty neat way to mark them as the three poisons.
Two of the people at Harry’s bedside are just kind of there, without as much of a personal connection to Harry: Bill Weasley and Madam Pomfrey. They’re our two nettle wines.
And that leaves Dumbledore and Mrs. Weasley. This seems entirely clear-cut. Molly is the backward potion, constantly mollycoddling Harry and trying to keep him safe. Dumbledore is the forward potion, endangering Harry with all of his epic schemes.
Overall: Voldemort’s Spells
And this brings us back around to what prompted a deep dive into this soup of sevens: the seven spells Voldemort casts during the Goblet of Fire climax. Since the climax lasts six chapters, we need one overall set of seven to make it seven sevens, and I think this fits the bill.
The three poisons are the three Cruciatus Curses that Voldemort casts at Harry. The first two hit him. The third one Harry dodges, but the intent is definitely still poisonous. The two nettle wines are the other spells Voldemort hits Harry with, which don’t really have a big effect on Harry: first Voldemort makes Harry bow, then he casts an Imperius Curse that Harry manages to fight off.
The remaining two spells from Voldemort are the Cruciatus Curse he casts on Avery and the creation of Pettigrew’s silver hand. As discussed in the section for “The Death Eaters” (Chapter 33), the Cruciatus Curse on Avery represents the backward potion: It’s about Voldemort getting retribution for the past. Pettigrew’s silver hand, which is the source of so much danger in the future, is the forward potion.
And that concludes our journey through another seven sevens in this series! Researching this essay just made me convinced that there are sevens literally everywhere in this series, buried just underneath the text. So have you spotted any compelling sets of seven? Or do you think I’ve gone totally batty and am just seeing sevens all in my mind? Either way, this is probably not the last such essay about sevens that will make its way to the Three Broomsticks.
1One of the coolest theories I read back in the day was Moose_Starr’s “The Sphinx and the Spider” over at Leaky’s Scribbulus. It argues that the answer to the sphinx’s riddle is actually “dementor” and the sphinx accepts Harry’s incorrect answer because it has been Confunded by Crouch, Jr. (because if we’re being honest, it’s unlike him to entrust the Dark Lord’s resurrection to Harry’s dubious riddle-solving prowess).