Hermione claims Skeeter can’t hurt her because her parents don’t read the Daily Prophet as they are Muggles. However, after an article in Witch Weekly, not even Muggle-borns can evade the rule of rumor in the Wizarding World.
The article spins a false story about a Harry-Hermione-Viktor Krum love triangle. Unfortunately, Hermione doesn’t seem concerned by it when it first was published. She treats a publication like Witch Weekly as tabloid. But then the hate mail comes in. The result is Hermione’s admission to the hospital wing. One of the letters contained bubotuber puss, which can cause nasty things to the skin when undiluted. The public thinks Hermione is toying with Harry and Krum’s affections. Try as she did to ignore the letters, it is hard to keep Howlers from exploding in the middle of the Great Hall for all to hear. Rumor spreads so effectively that it even shapes the opinion of those who don’t even read Witch Weekly.
What is worse, the lie about the love triangle pollutes (even for a moment) the relationship between Molly and Hermione because Mrs. Weasley reads Witch Weekly. Her coldness towards Hermione is supported by Charlie’s summary before the First Task. He tells Hagrid that Molly thought the age restriction for entrees to the tournament would keep minors safe. She believes the Daily Prophet article Skeeter wrote after the Weighing of the Wands — the one about Harry as champion, not even mentioning Cedric. “[Molly]’He still cries about his parents! Oh bless him, I never knew!'” (328-329) Thankfully, Hermione gets her revenge after Skeeter made her a target. She discovers Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus, who can turn into a beetle. It is not mentioned, but Hermione knows the penalty for changing one’s form illegally. It appears the rule of rumor favors no side, not even one of its best champions of gossip and fabrication.
As soon as Harry’s name came out of the Goblet of Fire, the ink would dry for his presumed status as a glory hog. What is worse, the rule of rumor drives a wedge between Harry and his best friend. Nobody, from Skeeter to Diggory, believe he did not purposefully enter the tournament . . . including Ron. Immediately following the champion selection, Harry retires to Gryffindor Tower to find Ron is jealous of Harry for competing for the ten-thousand galleon prize money and skipping end-of-year exams. There is little room for individual attention and recognition when competing with his six siblings. Whereas Harry, scared about how his name got in, is crestfallen at “one of the few people he had been sure would believe him” (287).
There are only two instances during this absence of Ron when Harry feels a sense of comfort. When he visits Hogsmeade he wears his Invisibility Cloak and describes it as being “wonderfully free.” “He watched other students walking past them as they entered the village, most of them sporting Support Cedric Diggory! badges, but no horrible remarks came his way for a change, and nobody was quoting that stupid article” (318). The rule of rumor has become such a burden on this fourteen year-old that he would rather be invisible than walk in plain view. The second moment is when he speaks to Sirius in the fire of the Gryffindor Common Room. His godfather asks how he is, and Harry can’t even lie. “Before he could stop himself, he was talking more than he’d talked in days — about how no one believed he hadn’t entered the tournament of his own free will, how Rita Skeeter had lied about him in the Daily Prophet, how he couldn’t walk down a corridor without being sneered at — and about Ron, Ron not believing him, Ron’s jealousy” (331).
It takes seeing Harry face-to-face with a Hungarian Horntail for Ron to admit: “whoever put your name in that goblet — I — I reckon they’re trying to do you in!” (358) After the “prodigal son return”, everything Harry complained about to Sirius becomes impotent to Harry. “And it wasn’t just Ron . . . those weren’t only Gryffindors cheering in the crowd. When it had come to it, when they had seen what he was facing, most of the school had been on his side as well as Cedric’s. . . . He didn’t care about the Slytherins, he could stand whatever they threw at him now” (360).
I find it really telling this is one of the themes of the story: The perfect shield against the rule of rumor is friendship. I apologize for sounding so cringy, but I cannot phrase it any other way. Harry realizes that as long as the people closest to him (the people in his life who matter) believe and support him, everybody else can bugger off. It’s a good take-away from Goblet.
The rule of rumor shows its ability to seed and flourish in many different environments. The media grows in its importance to deliver exposition and world-building while shaping how the public perceives events and figures in the reprisal of Voldemort’s terror. Truth becomes canvas with the public as audience. Whoever paints the most elaborate, convincing, and (in most cases) frightening picture sways the masses. It is an almighty task of sorting what is known and what is truth.
***This post is part of my Perusing Potter – a series of exploring the known and not-so-known aspects of the Harry Potter Series***