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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?” said Hermione pleasantly. “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.

Antonin Dolohov...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).

Augustus Rookwood...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.

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).

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.

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

Other Canon Notes

Characters (notes or unnamed):

  • (unnamed) girl kissing Roger Davies
  • (unnamed) Muggle Prime Minister



Characters Introduced


Pensieve (Comments)

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