Chapter 3 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Invitation
Harry enters the kitchen where Aunt Petunia is serving Dudley a grapefruit quarter. Dudley has been on a diet since his school wrote a letter saying they did not have any knickerbockers large enough to fit him. To make it easier for Dudley, Aunt Petunia has put the entire family on a diet. A hungry Harry had requested help by owl post and has received snacks from Hagrid, Hermione, and Ron that he stashed under the floorboard upstairs. They and Sirius Black had also each sent him cakes for his birthday, now two weeks past, and he still has two left.
A letter arrives from Molly Weasley, which was surprisingly sent through Muggle mail rather than by owl post. To Uncle Vernon's dismay, the envelope is nearly completely covered in stamps, and the postman has rung because this is unusual. Mrs. Weasley invites Harry to attend the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasley family, and suggests he stay with them until school starts. This creates a quandary for Uncle Vernon: if he lets Harry go, it will be something fun for him, which he always tries to prevent; however, it also means Harry would be gone a good two weeks earlier than Vernon and Petunia could have hoped for, since they hated having Harry in their house.
After a long discussion, Uncle Vernon is about to forbid Harry to go the Weasleys when Harry deliberately mentions that he has to finish his letter to Sirius Black. He says his godfather has not heard from him in a while and might be getting worried. Suddenly afraid, Uncle Vernon grants Harry permission to go to the Weasleys. When Harry returns to his room, he finds owls waiting. Ron sent a letter via his tiny owl, saying that they will come and get him whether the Dursleys like it or not. Harry sends a reply saying that he has permission. Hedwig, his own owl, has returned from hunting, so Harry finishes his message to Sirius, explaining where he is going, and gives it to Hedwig.
While the story is advanced somewhat, it is cousin Dudley and Uncle Vernon that are highlighted here. In addition to his increasingly abusive and bullying personality, Dudley, who rarely exhibits restraint in anything, has grown so fat that he is unable to fit into his school clothes. (For US readers, we note that knickerbockers are a particular type of short trousers, evidently forming part of the school uniform and possibly only available through the school.) Mortified, Petunia not only puts Dudley on a diet, but the entire family as well, feeling that Dudley should not have to suffer alone, even though Harry is perpetually under-nourished. Without his friends' assistance, Harry might literally starve. Additionally, there are some visible changes in Uncle Vernon's behavior; as Harry grows older, Vernon, knowing what wizards are capable of, begins showing fear, if not necessarily respect, towards Harry. His underlying motivation continues to be to make Harry's life as miserable as possible, but now he does so with more passive-aggressive behavior. Aware that his status in the household has begun to increase, Harry is not averse to using his new-found power judiciously to obtain what he wants, though from what we see here, he does so sparingly and apparently not in a malicious or harmful manner.
- Why does Aunt Petunia insist on putting the entire family on a diet when it is Dudley who is overweight?
- Why is Uncle Vernon conflicted over giving Harry permission to visit the Weasleys?
- Why does Harry mention that he is writing to his godfather? What is Uncle Vernon's reaction?
- How and why has the relationship between Harry and Uncle Vernon changed?
- Why did Molly Weasley send the Dursleys a letter using Muggle mail service rather than Owl Post? Does it make a difference?
There is surprisingly little in this chapter that has any bearing on what will happen in the future of this book or of the series. It is true that Harry's letter, when it reaches Sirius, will cause him to try to return to England to confer directly with Harry; and similarly, and as we now expect, Harry will attend the Quidditch World Cup. Apart from that, the only change that might be signaled by events in this chapter is in Dudley: over the next year, his diet will prove effective in causing him to lose weight, but true to his nature as a bully, he will take up boxing and become an urban tough.