After learning Sirius Black was his godfather in Prisoner of Azkaban, for the first time ever Harry had a confidant akin to a parent. Unfortunately, Sirius was still at large for the murders he didn’t commit, so the pair resorted to sneaky letters, codenames and occasional and quite literal fireside chats, with Sirius using Floo Powder to pop his head in the Gryffindor common room fireplace.
As the events of Goblet of Fire proved extra stressful, Harry sought Sirius’s advice a lot, which was heartening to see. Especially considering the closest thing Harry had to a fatherly chat with Vernon Dursley was… well, there was nothing even close, really.
Harry was truly thrilled when he learnt that he had been invited to go to the Quidditch World Cup. He was finally immersed in a place that celebrated one of his favourite things since becoming a wizard. However, disaster quickly struck when Death Eaters flocked to the event and caused deep, unbridled terror – punctuated rather horribly by the Dark Mark in the sky; a sinister skull with a snake for a tongue. Although Voldemort had always been present in Harry’s life, this was the first time he really saw how powerful Voldemort could be when his followers were out in the world.
The wizarding world expanded before Harry’s eyes in his fourth year when he learnt of two neighbouring wizard schools – Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. It almost seemed silly for Harry to realise that Hogwarts wasn’t the only place of magical learning, and he discovered that every wizard school had its own secret location, its own traditions, and even its own favoured wandmakers. Of course, Hermione already knew about all of them thanks to reading An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe.
The Triwizard Tournament, as Dumbledore put it, was established as a ‘friendly competition’, although it hardly looked that way. Fighting dragons, having your closest friends kidnapped and then battling through a maze full of dangerous surprises? It wasn’t exactly The Crystal Maze, was it? Nonetheless, it was this tournament that introduced Hogwarts students and teachers to their Beauxbatons and Durmstrang counterparts.
The clue was in the name: the Triwizard Tournament was supposed to be a competition for three champions, chosen by the eponymous goblet. So when Harry Potter was also picked to compete, it was not only shocking but also put more pressure on Harry than he could have ever imagined.
Although the Goblet of Fire picked Harry to be a Triwizard champion very much against his will, Ron thought Harry put his own name forward and the pair promptly fell out. Ron wrestled with his jealousy of Harry’s notoriety and Harry felt more alone than ever. Facing the tournament wouldn’t be half as bad with his redheaded, wise-cracking friend saying ‘bloody hell’ in the background – being without his best friend forced Harry to see things in a whole new light.
As Harry would attest, fighting a Hungarian Horntail is one thing, but trying to ask a girl out on a date to the Yule Ball is a whole other kettle of fish. As well as all the other mayhem surrounding Harry in his fourth year, he also had to deal with perhaps his greatest nemesis of all: adolescence. Reading about Harry being rebuffed by Cho Chang, and about him and his fellow classmates squirming at the pressures that come with ‘wooing’ (especially Ron), is an amusing escape from the other horrors that arose in Goblet of Fire.
Mad-Eye Moody proved to be a far different Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher than Professor Lupin, and Harry and his classmates swiftly went from Boggarts to Unforgiveable Curses. Mad-Eye frightened the heck out of his students with demonstrations of the Imperius Curse (which can control the victim), the Cruciatus Curse (which causes the victim unbearable pain) and Avada Kedavra (the Killing Curse). Harry finally learnt the specific spell that killed his parents and why his memories of the event were always shrouded in green light. Suffice to say, he came out of the lesson a little shaken, as did Neville, who we later learnt also had a tragic past marred by these terrible spells.
After a year of immeasurable pressure, Harry’s experience in the Triwizard Tournament ended truly horrifically when it turned out that the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey, Mad-Eye Moody was actually the Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr disguised through Polyjuice Potion, and he and Cedric had been transported to a dreaded graveyard.
Harry’s fellow Hogwarts champion Cedric Diggory was callously killed in front of him. After the traumatic experience at the graveyard, Harry had to take Cedric’s body back to his devastated family, and immediately blamed himself for his death. Cedric – as kind as he was popular, handsome and brave – deserved better, and seeing someone die in such an abrupt and pitiless way had a huge impact on Harry.
Seeing Cedric die was only the beginning of one of Harry’s worst-ever memories. Once alone, Harry found himself in the hands of Peter Pettigrew, the man who betrayed his parents and only narrowly escaped Sirius and Lupin’s wrath the year before.
Things went from bad to worse as Harry was forced to take part in a ritual that would use his blood to restore Lord Voldemort, all the while tied to Tom Riddle Sr’s grave. Surrounded by Death Eaters, Harry was forced to duel the Dark Lord, and saw echoes of Voldemort’s previous victims, including Cedric and his parents, encouraging him to hold on and escape. How Harry came back from such a desolate moment is beyond us, and as Dumbledore said himself: ‘You have shouldered a grown wizard’s burden and found yourself equal to it.’
The scene in the graveyard could not have been more sharp or vivid to Harry, and yet he was stunned to learn that not everyone believed his story. Most surprising of all was Cornelius Fudge’s reaction – he avoided the concept of Voldemort’s return entirely. Thus began a ‘parting of the ways’, the Minister for Magic with his head in the sand and a defiant Dumbledore preparing for battle. Harry, as he often reluctantly had to be, found himself the catalyst of an impending battle, and suddenly his happy first few years of Hogwarts, full of owls, laughter, Quidditch and chocolate, seemed very far away.