The much-loved Harry Potter series may start off with a bunch of lighthearted magical shenanigans, but by the time we hit book number four, things take a turn for the serious. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry finds himself competing in the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous competition that pits contestants from three wizarding schools against each other in a trio of increasingly treacherous magical competitions. The thing is, he didn’t sign up for this—someone else entered his name. Possibly someone with a dark purpose and a larger plan in mind.
So how exactly do things get dark in the fourth chapter in Harry’s story? Let us count the ways.
1. We meet the Death Eaters.
We already knew there were people who supported Voldemort (the wizarding world’s resident big bad) back when he was powerful. Now we have a name for them, and it’s chilling: the Death Eaters. And it looks like there are still some living among the masses in secret.
2. It gives us a feel for the First Wizarding War.
Harry defeated Voldemort when he was just a baby. But before that, Voldemort’s rise to power was littered with panic, confusion, and mysterious deaths aplenty—and suddenly that dark period is at the front of everyone’s minds.
3. It pits Muggles vs. wizards.
Voldemort’s is driven by a belief that wizards and witches are superior to Muggles (non-magical people) and Muggleborns (witches or wizards with non-magic parents—like Hermione Granger). The events of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire put this conflict front and center, forcing everyone to choose where their loyalties lie.
4. The Triwizard Tournament could be deadly.
Hogwarts is no stranger to danger. But now that the school is hosting a magical tournament that was discontinued for 200 years after the death toll got out of hand, the stakes are higher than ever.
5. The arrival of Professor “Mad-Eye” Moody.
Harry’s new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor used to be an Auror (basically, the wizarding world’s equivalent of a federal marshal), whose entire job involved catching dark wizards. What we’re saying is, he’s a gruff and eccentric oddball who has seen some stuff, and he’s not shy about letting his students know it.
6. We learn that magic isn’t all fun and games.
The imminent threat of rising dark forces throws some of the uglier realities of the wizarding world into sharp relief. Between the Unforgivable Curses—the only three spells punishable by life in wizarding prison Azkaban—and the fates of those who wound up on the wrong side of the Death Eaters all those years ago, we’re given an unpleasant look at what wizards are capable of doing to each other (besides just turning each other’s quills into ravens).
7. The book puts Harry’s orphanhood into fresh perspective.
Harry lost his parents the very night he inadvertently defeated Voldemort. He was a baby; he never really knew them. But now that he might be in over his head with this whole “death tournament” thing, it could not be more obvious that what Harry wants—what he really wants—is a parent.
8. The story is rife with themes of loss. Now, no spoilers, but we may or may not lose a character or two this time around. We DID tell you Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is when things get really real. The events of this novel in particular have far-reaching consequences that have a major effect on the rest of the series—right up to the brand-new two-part play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.