This is it. The big event. Probably the most dramatic scene in the entire Harry Potter series: the return of Voldemort. What a way to end The Goblet of Fire*! What a way to set up the rest of the series! Harry’s face-to-face with his mortal(ish) enemy, he’s tired, beat-up, and tied to a gravestone. Whatever will happen?!?
Boy, he does like to be the centre of attention, doesn’t he. Nattering on and on. Still, I guess he hasn’t seen his mates for more than ten years, you can understand him wanting to catch up. But he obviously hasn’t read his Evil Overlord’s Handbook – he’s giving Harry a chance to get his bearings and his breath back. And then… and then! … he proposes to defeat him in a “fair” fight (surrounded by his minions and with Harry somewhat tatty about the edges). *sigh*.
Okay, I’m being nit-picky. It’s very hard to contrive a scenario where the villain is doing everything right and the hero still triumphs through their own skill/planning/etc. as opposed to luck or deus ex machina. It could have used some streamlining, but it’s still a brilliant finale (and seemed to work pretty well in the film version, too). On first read, I didn’t notice the pacing as I was too engrossed in the story, and the “Oh noes, how will Harry escape this one!” jitters.
But I also feel that, in some ways, this is where problems start to emerge for the series. Maybe it’s the proverbial editors-too-daunted-to-suggest-changes/corrections-to-famous-author problem, but it also didn’t help that – while previous books had popped up annually – there was a three-year gap before The Order of the Phoenix. The biggest cliff-hanger of the series followed by the longest wait. People got impatient. Something called “fanfiction” became popular** on this new-fangled “interweb” thingy. Anticipation built; and once that happens, the eventual product can never live up to the hype.
Of course, I feel Order of the Phoenix has other issues as well, but I’ll get to those another time.
* Although, to be fair, again the actual scene is comparatively short, and there’s still around 50 pages (nearly 10% of the book) after Harry escapes.
** And still is. There are hundreds of thousands of fan-written Harry Potter stories out there. Some of them are even good (~1% so potentially several thousand; see also Sturgeon’s Law, obvious corollary).