This is my second to last of these reviews. I have actually enjoyed engaging with these books on a different level. Normally when I read them, I just zoom through and enjoy. I don’t usually stop to analyze.
Speaking of not stopping to notice things, look to your left. I have looked at that image for several months now and I am only now noticing that it can be either a book (like the Prince’s Potions book) OR Dumbledore shooting sparks with his wand (the fire from the cave). It’s neat.
Anyway, let’s get to talking about what a colossal dingus Ron is for a large portion of this book.
“But for heaven’s sake — you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!”
Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”
I like the way this nudges us as readers into remembering the mindset that I think is really common if actual tangible magic isn’t a possibility (so, like for all of us as well as the muggles). Magic as an idea is a fantasy, a cure-all and fix-it. But the reality of emotionally complex and messy human beings running around with fearsome powers is not so simple. Magic can break as easily as it can fix, and countering it isn’t as simple as wishing things to be true. Whenever people rag on this series for being juvenile, it makes me genuinely angry, because I think it does a bang-up job showing what a complicated society full of magic users would actually be like, how magic amplifies or changes problems we encounter IRL, like racism and classism, even if it doesn’t make use of violence or swearing or sex. But, it really doesn’t even need to!
“You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?”
I do wonder sometimes how Snape did this. But mostly I wanted to highlight this scene for the doubt it is able to sow in the reader. For the first time, we’re seeing Snape out of context, and he is extremely convincing. He has an answer for everything to Bellatrix and Narcissa, and he had to, because Voldemort is so powerful. I was CONVINCED that Snape was actually evil going into the seventh book, largely on the back of this scene (and what happens at the end of course). (Oh, and also because of how cruel he was to Hermione in book four.) I have since come around on the idea that Snape isn’t a villain, but a complex human with serious flaws. At this point in the book, though, before he kills Dumbledore, we’re meant to read this scene for clues as to how Snape might be conning those on Voldemort’s side, how he might be manipulating things to his advantage, and using it to secretly work for Dumbledore instead, but we’re also meant to have a wiggly little doubt that Snape might actually be conning Dumbledore. The killing of Dumbledore is meant to undermine that instinct and reverse it, but on re-read, you know that’s actually what’s happening. This is one of the reasons I love re-reading books, because they change with your knowledge of things.
“You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”
Both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon looked around instinctively, as though expecting to see someone other than Dudley squeezed between them.
I love this, because while Dudley wasn’t “abused,” the way his parents treated him has in no way prepared him for life in the real world, at least a world in which people will like and respect him, where he will make lasting relationships with other people, and be able to find life fulfilling without being coddled and pampered and given everything he ever wanted without having to work for any of it.
“I have no time to explain now,” said Dumbledore. “It is a thrilling tale, I wish to do it justice.”
He smiled at Harry, who understood that he was not being snubbed, and that he had permission to keep asking questions.
Which! Is! An! Improvement! Over! Last! Book! Dumbledore still has issues with trust and secrecy, but he’s genuinely trying to be open with Harry now, and treating him more like an equal.
“A wise decision, on the whole,” said Dumbledore. “Although I think you ought to relax it in favor of your friends, Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger. Yes,” he continued, when Harry looked startled, “I think they ought to know. You do them a disservice by not confiding something this important to them.”
“I didn’t want — ”
“— to worry or frighten them?” said Dumbledore, surveying Harry over the top of his half-moon spectacles. “Or perhaps, to confess that you yourself are worried and frightened? You need your friends, Harry. As you so rightly said, Sirius would not have wanted you to shut yourself away.”
See now this is interesting. He’s giving counsel to Harry that is both like and not like him. Dumbledore has always had allies, but has never fully confided in any of them. He’s a bit of a loner, as we’ll see (rather ironically, when we get to his comments about Voldemort below), but he is capable of making friends and feeling love. But he’s also let his vast intellect make a divide between himself and most people, and his background (which we’ll get to in book seven) has made him prefer to work alone under cover of secrecy, because secrecy means protection. He will extend generous faith to many that others don’t deserve believe it (Harry, Hagrid, Snape), and yet he holds things back even from those closest to him. Snape was let in on the secret of the curse that was killing him only by necessity, and Dumbledore let him know only the bits of his final plan that he needed to know. He was in the dark about what Harry and others were doing. And Harry at the end of this book and throughout seven realizes how truly little he knew about Dumbledore, because he played things so close to the chest and never offered anything up.
Dumbledore urging Harry to confide everything in Ron and Hermione is surprising for how it goes against what Dumbledore himself would have done in Harry’s place, but it’s also telling that he knows it’s something Harry needs. I’m going to stop there, though, because this is something I don’t want to beat to death before we get to a certain part in Deathly Hallows.
“All right, all right… What is your dearest ambition?”
“To find out how airplanes stay up.”
Mrs. Weasley nodded and turned the doorknob, but apparently Mr. Weasley was holding tight to it on the other side, because the door remained firmly shut.
“Molly! I’ve got to ask you your question first!”
“Arthur, really, this is just silly…”
“What do you like me to call you when we’re alone together?”
Even by the dim light of the lantern Harry could tell that Mrs. Weasley had turned bright red; he himself felt suddenly warm around the ears and neck, and hastily gulped soup, clattering his spoon as loudly as he could against the bowl.
“Mollywobbles,” whispered a mortified Mrs. Weasley into the crack at the edge of the door.
Ten bucks says this question was Mr. Weasley’s choice. He, of course, remains oblivious. But this is an adorable detail and I love it. I can just picture her sticking her face as far into the crack of the door as she can get in a vain effort for Harry not to hear.
The door opened again and Mrs. Weasley popped her head in. “Ginny,” she whispered, “come downstairs and help me with the lunch.”
“I’m talking to this lot!” said Ginny, outraged.
“Now!” said Mrs. Weasley, and withdrew.
“She only wants me there so she doesn’t have to be alone with Phlegm!” said Ginny crossly. She swung her long red hair around in a very good imitation of Fleur and pranced across the room with her arms held aloft like a ballerina.
We really don’t get enough of Ginny in these books. She’s extremely sassy, no wonder she and Harry end up together. They will be the Sassy Marrieds; that is my head canon. But because she doesn’t hang out with the Trio very much, we don’t get a lot of her.
They’re definitely owls,” said Ron hoarsely, jumping up to join Hermione at the window.
“And there are three of them,” said Harry, hastening to her other side.
“One for each of us,” said Hermione in a terrified whisper. “Oh no… oh no… oh no…”
She gripped both Harry and Ron tightly around the elbows.
The owls were flying directly at the Burrow, three handsome tawnies, each of which, it became clear as they flew lower over the path leading up to the house, was carrying a large square envelope.
“Oh no!” squealed Hermione.
This just gives me flashbacks to every time in school we got results for big exams and things. Weirdly they are not all unpleasant memories. I was an arrogant little nerd who almost always got A’s. And I wasn’t like Hermione all perfectionist about it. I was just like, yes, this is my due. When I got my first D on an essay in college, I cried from shock. Growing up is fun.
WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT
YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT
THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION
THAT’S GRIPPING THE NATION!
Harry started to laugh. He heard a weak sort of moan beside him and looked around to see Mrs. Weasley gazing, dumbfounded, at the poster. Her lips moved silently, mouthing the name “U-No-Poo.”
“They’ll be murdered in their beds!” she whispered.
I love Fred and George so much. They are the only ones who attempt to defeat Voldemort through poop jokes. But seriously, though, they provide a service. They take something incredibly frightening and by poking fun at it make it slightly less terrifying. They are the heroes we all need.
Hermione had managed to squeeze through to a large display near the counter and was reading the information on the back of a box bearing a highly colored picture of a handsome youth and a swooning girl who were standing on the deck of a pirate ship.
“‘One simple incantation and you will enter a top-quality, highly realistic, thirty-minute daydream, easy to fit into the average school lesson and virtually undetectable (side effects include vacant expression and minor drooling). Not for sale to under-sixteens’. You know,” said Hermione, looking up at Harry, “that really is extraordinary magic!”
You know the reason for the age warning right.
Mr. Weasley looked taken aback. After a moment he said, “Harry, I doubt whether You-Know-Who would allow a sixteen-year-old–”
“Does anyone really know what You-Know-Who would or wouldn’t do?” asked Harry angrily. “Mr. Weasley, I’m sorry, but isn’t it worth investigating? If Malfoy wants something fixing, and he needs to threaten Borgin to get it done, it’s probably something Dark or dangerous, isn’t it?”
I really want to dig in to why no one believes Harry this book when he’s right about everything. Seriously, everything. And if someone had really taken Harry’s concerns seriously, things might have turned out very differently.
“I enjoyed the meetings too,” said Luna serenely. “It was like having friends.”
Luna makes me so sad and so happy at the exact same time.
“Hi, Harry, I’m Romilda, Romilda Vane,” she said loudly and confidently. “Why don’t you join us in our compartment? You don’t have to sit with them,” she added in a stage whisper, indicating Neville’s bottom, which was sticking out from under the seat again as he groped around for Trevor, and Luna, who was now wearing her free Spectrespecs, which gave her the look of a demented, multicolored owl.
“They’re friends of mine,” said Harry coldly.
“Oh,” said the girl, looking very surprised. “Oh. Okay.”
And she withdrew, sliding the door closed behind her.
“People expect you to have cooler friends than us,” said Luna, once again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty.
“You are cool,” said Harry shortly. “None of them was at the Ministry. They didn’t fight with me.”
One of my favorite things about Harry is how, aside from when people are going after him for things aren’t true and calling him a liar, he doesn’t really care what people think about him. He enjoys the odd fantasy about people looking up to him (the fantasies about Cho and the Triwizard Tournament come to mind) but in his actions he is constantly surrounding himself with people who are genuine and have the right priorities (as he sees them). He doesn’t care that the Weasleys are poor. He doesn’t care that everyone thinks Neville is a disaster. He doesn’t care that Luna is . . . Luna. He doesn’t care that Lupin is so ragged and a werewolf, or that Hagrid is a half-giant. All he wants, most likely because he was deprived of it in his early life, is genuine human connection. If that comes from someone cool or uncool, he doesn’t really care. Or, rather, what he thinks of as cool and what is generally considered cool are different. He has this rock solid base at the core of him, where he knows the things that are really important.
“Why do you want to continue with Transfiguration, anyway? I’ve never had the impression that you particularly enjoyed it.”
Neville looked miserable and muttered something about “my grandmother wants.”
“Hmph,” snorted Professot McGonagall. “It’s high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she’s got, rather than the one she thinks she ought to have—particularly after what happened at the Ministry.”
Neville turned very pink and blinked confusedly; Professor McGonagall had never paid him a compliment before.
“I’m sorry, Longbottom, but I cannot let you into my N.E.W.T. class. I see that you have an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ in Charms however—why not try for a N.E.W.T. in Charms?”
“My grandmother thinks Charms is a soft option,” mumbled Neville.
“Take Charms,” said Professor McGonagall, “and I shall drop Augusta a line reminding her that just because she failed her Charms O.W.L., the subject is not necessarily worthless.” Smiling slightly at the look of delighted incredulity on Neville’s face, Professor McGonagall tapped a blank schedule with the tip of her wand and handed it, now carrying details of his new classes, to Neville.
It really seems like most of Neville’s confidence problems come from people expecting him to be something he’s not, and reacting negatively to the person he actually is. Neville is a precious brave cinnamon roll who likes Charms and Herbology. He’s quiet but brave, forgetful but loyal with a good head on his shoulders. And once people begin encouraging him in the things he has talent for, he just blossoms. It’s one of my favorite things about the series, how we just quietly trace his trajectory as the Almost Harry throughout the series.
“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing non-verbal spells, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry stiffly.
“There’s no need to call me ‘sir,’ Professor.” The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying. Several people gasped, including Hermione. Behind Snape, however, Ron, Dean, and Seamus grinned appreciatively.
Sassy Harry strikes again.
“What’s Dumbledore playing at, anyway, letting him teach Defense? Did you hear him talking about the Dark Arts? He loves them! All that unfixed, indestructible stuff—”
“Well,” said Hermione, “I thought he sounded a bit like you.”
“Yes, when you were telling us what it’s like to face Voldemort. You said it wasn’t just memorizing a bunch of spells, you said it was just you and your brains and your guts—well, wasn’t that what Snape was saying? That it really comes down to being brave and quick-thinking?”
Harry was so disarmed that she had thought his words as well worth memorizing as The Standard Book of Spells that he did not argue.
I like the way that this make Harry think about the ways he and Snape, someone he hates, are alike rather than different. This happens with Voldemort as well, but it’s always personal with Snape. They have such a complicated dynamic.
“Have you ever taken it, sir?” asked Michael Corner with great interest.
“Twice in my life,” said Slughorn. “Once when I was twenty-four, once when I was fifty-seven. Two tablespoonfuls taken with breakfast. Two perfect days.”
I want to read stories of people taking Felix Felicis all day long. There should just be a book length compilation of different ways that could go. I’m obsessed with it.
“Hang on,” said a voice close by Harry’s left ear and he caught a sudden waft of that flowery smell he had picked up in Slughorn’s dungeon. He looked around and saw that Ginny had joined them. “Did I hear right? You’ve been taking orders from something someone wrote in a book, Harry?”
She looked alarmed and angry. Harry knew what was on her mind at once.
“It’s nothing,” he said reassuringly, lowering his voice. “It’s not like, you know, Riddle’s diary. It’s just an old textbook someone’s scribbled on.”
“But you’re doing what it says?”
All right I semi-take back what I said above that Harry is always right in this book. He does have blind spots, and one of them is being a little heedless of danger. He’s right that this book is not a threat in the way that Riddle’s diary was. He’s still got his own mind, and the book is very helpful. But he doesn’t truly know who the Prince was as a person, and begins to trust him as he trusts himself, that is to say, as someone who would never willingly harm someone. It never even crosses his mind that the Prince could betray him like that. (See below when he uses Sectumsempra on Malfoy.)
“I was better than that McLaggen anyway,” said Ron in a highly satisfied voice. “Did you see him lumbering off in the wrong direction on his fifth? Looked like he’d been Confunded . . .”
To Harry’s surprise, Hermione turned a very deep shade of pink at these words. Ron noticed nothing; he was too busy describing each of his other penalties in loving detail.
This is one of the rare instances where Hermione uses magic for personal reasons. Actually it might be the only one? Unless you count her using magic to straighten her hair in Goblet of Fire. It’s definitely the most morally questionable thing she does in the books (which is justified later by Harry saying he wouldn’t have put McLaggen on the team anyway as he wouldn’t have meshed well with the team).
On the other hand, the Prince had proved a much more effective teacher than Snape so far.
Ohhhh, the irony.
For a split second, Harry hesitated. Professor McGonagall did not invite confidences; Dumbledore, though in many ways more intimidating, still seemed less likely to scorn a theory, however wild. This was a life-and-death matter, though, and no moment to worry about being laughed at.
“I think Draco Malfoy gave Katie that necklace, Professor. ”
On one side of him, Ron rubbed his nose in apparent embarrassment; on the other, Hermione shuffled her feet as though quite keen to put a bit of distance between herself and Harry.
All right, real talk, and I would like feedback and your ideas, please. WHY WHY WHY does no one believe Harry about Draco Malfoy? He is 100% right. Obviously Dumbledore is a bit of a different case because Dumbledore knows Malfoy has been tasked with killing him, but as Dumbledore himself notes in this book, when he makes a mistake, it tends to be “correspondingly huger”. But aside from Dumbledore, any time Harry brings up his theories about Malfoy being a Death Eater, and behind the various murder attempts that almost take out Katie and Ron, et al, as shown in the quote above, they go so far as to be embarrassed by him, as if his theory is so wild they by association are tainted by it. Why are they so sure he is wrong? Why does the idea of Malfoy doing these things inspire such scorn? I really can’t figure it out.
“Firstly, I hope you noticed Riddle’s reaction when I mentioned that another shared his first name, ‘Tom’?”
“There he showed his contempt for anything that tied him to other people, anything that made him ordinary. Even then, he wished to be different, separate, notorious. He shed his name, as you know, within a few short years of that conversation and created the mask of ‘Lord Voldemort’ behind which he has been hidden for so long.
“I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly self-sufficient, secretive, and, apparently, friendless? He did not want help or companionship on his trip to Diagon Alley. He preferred to operate alone. The adult Voldemort is the same. You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one.
I don’t really have anything to add to this, except to say that I think it’s the key element of Voldemort’s characters, that he’s a loner who not only doesn’t understand human connection, but actively rejects it.
It was not as though he was really surprised, thought Harry, as he wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling him; he had had an inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But he was not sure how he felt about it . . . He and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they didn’t split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?
Harry is precious and prescient, and this is a very teenager moment.
Harry awoke next morning feeling slightly dazed and confused by a series of dreams in which Ron had chased him with a Beater’s bat, but by midday he would have happily exchanged the dream Ron for the real one, who was not only cold-shouldering Ginny and Dean, but also treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy, sneering indifference. What was more, Ron seemed to have become, overnight, as touchy and ready to lash out as the average Blast-Ended Skrewt. Harry spent the day attempting to keep the peace between Ron and Hermione with no success; finally, Hermione departed for bed in high dudgeon, and Ron stalked off to the boys’ dormitory after swearing angrily at several frightened first-years for looking at him.
To Harry’s dismay, Ron’s new aggression did not wear off over the next few days. Worse still, it coincided with an even deeper dip in his Keeping skills, which made him still more aggressive, so that during the final Quidditch practice before Saturday’s match, he failed to save every single goal the Chasers aimed at him, but bellowed at everybody so much that he reduced Demelza Robins to tears.
Let us name the ways that Ron is actually a bridge troll. I don’t know if this is the consensus opinion, but as far as I’m concerned, Ron’s behavior in this stretch of months is worse than what he does in Deathly Hallows in abandoning Hermione and Harry out of feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. At least there they were in real peril, and he was having his worst qualities brought out by wearing the Horcrux. Here, it’s just Ron, and there is no inciting factor but his own insecurity, and his toxically masculine response to bluster through it with aggression and anger. On top of that, his behavior emotionally is cruel and immature. One minute he and Hermione are on the cusp of a romantic relationship, the next because he finds out that she used to snog Viktor Krum (of course she did, you dolt!), she’s suddenly anathema to him. (Also, I do want to point out once again that Ron totally had a crush on Krum, which makes it worse.) In short, Ron needs therapy. I hope as an adult he really got these qualities under control. I like to think his betrayal of H&H in book seven was a wake-up call, and I hope that’s the case. (Cursed Child Ron doesn’t count as anything. That is not canon.)
“What did you have to imitate her for?”
“She laughed at my mustache!”
“So did I, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I have always enjoyed the way this line effectively cuts through Ron’s bullshit.
“You’re making Stan a scapegoat, just like you want to make me a mascot. ”
They looked at each other, long and hard. Finally Scrimgeour said, with no pretense at warmth, “I see. You prefer—like your hero, Dumbledore—to disassociate yourself from the Ministry?”
“I don’t want to be used,” said Harry.
“Some would say it’s your duty to be used by the Ministry!”
“Yeah, and others might say it’s your duty to check that people really are Death Eaters before you chuck them in prison,” said Harry.
I wonder whatever happened to Stan Shunpike. Did they wipe his record after they let him out of Azkaban? Do you think he still works on the Knight Bus?
But Ron, who did not appear to be listening to the toast, had already thrown the mead into his mouth and swallowed it.
Malfoy’s attempt to poison Dumbledore gets to Ron instead. I like this whole sequence because it’s so unexpected. A humorous intro, with Ron already essentially being poisoned by Romilda Vane’s love potion, with him acting hyperfocused on this girl he’s never met (“Harry, do you know her? Can you introduce us??” etc), you don’t expect something so serious to accompany that, but that’s exactly why it works. It’s a literary bait and switch.
Harry, however, had never been less interested in Quidditch; he was rapidly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy.
The line that launched a thousand fics. Look, I get it, Drarry shippers. I sympathize with your instincts. I just also happen to believe there are very few characters with less sexual tension than these two. Harry genuinely loathes Malfoy, deservedly. He doesn’t outwardly loathe him but also secretly want to bone him. Malfoy may clean up his act later in life, but he’s not a tragic little sad romantic hero here or anywhere in these books. He’s a straight up cruel bully (and a bigot, and probably a racist/speciesist, and probably a little misogynist in training) who feels no remorse. And the only thing that is forcing him to mature is the threat of being murdered by the worst villain of all time. Really great guy. Superb. So sexy. (Now, his son Scorpius on the other hand, very much yes there is evidence that he and Harry’s son Albus could be into each other. I know I disavowed that play up above but I will make an exception for this one thing because I like it so much.) Contextually, here, in the actual text, Harry is obsessed with Draco Malfoy because he knows he is right that Malfoy is up to something, and no one will listen to him about it. His conviction causes him to double down, and he channels his feelings of powerlessness into defeating the one enemy that may be within his grasp.
“And that’s Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle,” said a dreamy voice, echoing over the grounds. “He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose—it looked like it. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor, I expect he regrets that now he’s playing them—oh, look, he’s lost the Quaffle, Ginny took it from him, I do like her, she’s very nice. . . “
One complaint I have is that there is never enough Luna. I could read pages of this nonsense commentary.
“I believe he had several reasons, though he confided none of them to Professor Dippet,” said Dumbledore. “Firstly, and very importantly, Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the first and only place he had felt at home. “
Harry felt slightly uncomfortable at these words, for this was exactly how he felt about Hogwarts too.
This pops up several times in the series, and it always works. Talk about how Harry and Voldemort are similar (anxiety about this mostly coming from Harry), nearly always leads to the more important question of how they are different. Harry is so cute though. He spends time worry about it, how he sees bits of himself in Voldemort and vice versa, but he never stops to think, Well, would I murder a bunch of people for power?
“Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job,” said Dumbledore. “The aftermath of our little meeting proved that. You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort. “
One question I have about this timeline. How long was Quirrell there? The only way I can make this year curse thing work in my head is if Dumbledore means a calendar year not a school year. It’s very much implied that Quirrell was already teaching at Hogwarts when Harry arrived, but he can’t have been there very long if that’s the case. Did he come end of year? Why did that happen? What happened to the previous teacher mid-year? Was this just a mistake on Jo’s part? (It probably was, but I’d like to see a fanwank of it if someone knows where one can be found.)
“I’m telling you, the stupid Prince isn’t going to be able to help you with this, Harry!” said Hermione.
One of the rare instances of Hermione letting her jealousy color her judgment. She’s not wrong that the Prince isn’t wholly good, but she’s also not right either. She tells Harry she doesn’t like him using the book because it’s dangerous, but there’s no doubt she also doesn’t like that Harry is outperforming her, that anyone is outperforming her, for the first time. I also like her reaction to the Prince because it reveals different types of intelligences. Snape (who is the Prince) has an innate, almost intuitive way, with Potions. He takes shortcuts and makes improvements. Hermione isn’t an improviser, she’s a rule-follower. She can understand clearly things that are already known, but she has a hard time with things that haven’t been imagined yet.
He waited until he was right behind her before bending very low and whispering, “Hello. . . you’re very pretty, aren’t you?”
I just like this. Harry is such a creep.
Was it his imagination, or did Malfoy, like Tonks, look thinner? Certainly he looked paler; his skin still had that grayish tinge, probably because he so rarely saw daylight these days. But there was no air of smugness, excitement, or superiority; none of the swagger that he had had on the Hogwarts Express, when he had boasted openly of the mission he had been given by Voldemort . . . there could be only one conclusion, in Harry’s opinion: the mission, whatever it was, was going badly.
Look, I’ve already said this, but he’s not wrong!
“So, when the prophecy says that I’ll have ‘power the Dark Lord knows not,’ it just means—love?” asked Harry, feeling a little let down.
“Yes—just love,” said Dumbledore. “But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him—and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!”
“But it comes to the same—”
“No, it doesn’t!” said Dumbledore, sounding impatient now. Pointing at Harry with his black, withered hand, he said, “You are setting too much store by the prophecy!”
“But,” spluttered Harry, “but you said the prophecy means—”
“If Voldemort had never heard of the prophecy, would it have been fulfilled? Would it have meant anything? Of course not! Do you think every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been fulfilled?”
“But,” said Harry, bewildered, “but last year, you said one of us would have to kill the other—”
“Harry, Harry, only because Voldemort made a grave error, and acted on Professor Trelawney’s words! If Voldemort had never murdered your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for revenge? Of course not! If he had not forced your mother to die for you, would he have given you a magical protection he could not penetrate? Of course not, Harry! Don’t you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!”
“It is essential that you understand this!” said Dumbledore, standing up and striding about the room, his glittering robes swooshing in his wake; Harry had never seen him so agitated. “By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job! It is Voldemort’s fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that you even understand the snakelike language in which he gives orders, and yet, Harry, despite your privileged insight into Voldemort’s world (which, incidentally, is a gift any Death Eater would kill to have), you have never been seduced by the Dark Arts, never, even for a second, shown the slightest desire to become one of Voldemort’s followers!”
“Of course I haven’t!” said Harry indignantly. “He killed my mum and dad!”
“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!” said Dumbledore loudly. “The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort’s! In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart’s desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror? Voldemort should have known then what he was dealing with, but he did not!
“But he knows it now. You have flitted into Lord Voldemort’s mind without damage to yourself, but he cannot possess you without enduring mortal agony, as he discovered in the Ministry. I do not think he understands why, Harry, but then, he was in such a hurry to mutilate his own soul, he never paused to understand the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole. ”
“But, sir,” said Harry, making valiant efforts not to sound argumentative, “it all comes to the same thing, doesn’t it? I’ve got to try and kill him, or —”
“Got to?” said Dumbledore. “Of course you’ve got to! But not because of the prophecy! Because you, yourself, will never rest until you’ve tried! We both know it! Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!”
Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and thought. He thought of his mother, his father, and Sirius. He thought of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.
“I’d want him finished,” said Harry quietly. “And I’d want to do it. ”
“Of course you would!” cried Dumbledore. “You see, the prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the prophecy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal. . . In other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the prophecy. He will continue to hunt you. . . which makes it certain, really, that —”
“That one of us is going to end up killing the other,” said Harry.
But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew—and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents—that there was all the difference in the world.
I’m sorry, I had to quote this whole thing because I couldn’t find a way to cut it down. It’s the pivotal moment of the whole series, where you really see what’s at stake, and you see the philosophical underpinnings of what both Harry and Voldemort represent in terms of the narrative, and beyond the narrative. I love the idea here, how it’s one of the few instances in the series that actually plays with subverting a trope (prophecy, “the chosen one”), that without Voldemort’s actions, Harry would have just been a normal kid, perhaps a very different one. But with the early loss of his parents, and ten years of abuse and deprivation in the care of the Dursleys, Harry is uniquely suited to be the type of person who has absolutely zero desire to take part in things that compromise the things he values so dearly (the things he was deprived of). It’s just so NEAT. And I mean that in many senses of that word.
“No one can help me,” said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. “I can’t do it. . . I can’t. . . It won’t work. . . and unless I do it soon . . . he says he’ll kill me. . . ”
And Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, that Malfoy was crying—actually crying—tears streaming down his pale face into the grimy basin.
With all I’ve said about Malfoy, I do want to take a moment here to acknowledge that even though I think he is a little shit stain, this moment does remind us that Malfoy is still human (still capable of redemption should he want it). I also think it acts similarly for Harry. He hasn’t pictured Malfoy as any sort of victim until now, but more of a mastermind, cackling into has hands as he plots. This is really the first time he sees the situation clearly, that even though Harry is right about Malfoy’s actions, he isn’t right about his motivations.
“And get the book? Yeah, I am,” said Harry forcefully. “Listen, without the Prince I’d never have won the Felix Felicis. I’d never have known how to save Ron from poisoning, I’d never have —”
“— got a reputation for Potions brilliance you don’t deserve,” said Hermione nastily.
“Give it a rest, Hermione!” said Ginny, and Harry was so amazed, so grateful, he looked up. “By the sound of it, Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgivable Curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!”
“Well, of course I’m glad Harry wasn’t cursed!” said Hermione, clearly stung. “But you can’t call that Sectumsempra spell good, Ginny, look where it’s landed him! And I’d have thought, seeing what this has done to your chances in the match—”
“Oh, don’t start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny, “you’ll only embarrass yourself. “
I’ve thought about this passage a lot, and what’s really going on under the surface. Hermione and Ginny normally get on really well, so it’s strange to see them clashing. What I’ve decided is that Ginny is letting her feelings for Harry take precedence in this moment, and takes his side. Maybe there’s a more nuanced explanation, but it works for me. (Also, maybe she’s just a bit better at reading the situation, since Hermione can’t be rational where the Prince is concerned. Harry knows he did a bad thing, and very much feels terrible about it. He doesn’t need to be lectured on top of it, when he’s already punishing himself quite a bit.)
“We won!” yelled Ron, bounding into sight and brandishing the silver Cup at Harry. “We won! Four hundred and fifty to a hundred and forty! We won!”
Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.
I just wanted to include this here because it’s so much better in the book than that nonsense in the film. I have never understood a lot of the adaptation choices in the 6th movie, but this was one of the top two bad ones. The scene in the book is perfect as is! There was no narrative need to change it, and especially not to something so creepy.
“Watch it,” he said, pointing warningly at Harry and Ginny. “Just because I’ve given my permission doesn’t mean I can’t withdraw it—”
“‘Your permission’ “, scoffed Ginny. “Since when did you give me permission to do anything? Anyway, you said yourself you’d rather it was Harry than Michael or Dean.”
“Yeah, I would,” said Ron grudgingly. “And just as long as you don’t start snogging each other in public—”
“You filthy hypocrite! What about you and Lavender, thrashing around like a pair of eels all over the place?”
“Thrashing around like a pair of eels” is such a good descriptive image.
“‘You’re leaving the school tonight and I’ll bet you haven’t even considered that Snape and Malfoy might decide to —”
“To what?” asked Dumbledore, his eyebrows raised. “What is it that you suspect them of doing, precisely?”
“I . . . they’re up to something!” said Harry and his hands curled into fists as he said it. “Professor Trelawney was just in the Room of Requirement, trying to hide her sherry bottles, and she heard Malfoy whooping, celebrating! He’s trying to mend something dangerous in there and if you ask me he’s fixed it at last and you’re about to just walk out of school without—”
“Enough,” said Dumbledore. He said it quite calmly, and yet Harry fell silent at once; he knew that he had finally crossed some invisible line. “Do you think that I have once left the school unprotected during my absences this year? I have not. Tonight, when I leave, there will again be additional protection in place. Please do not suggest that I do not take the safety of my students seriously, Harry. “
Earlier in the book Dumbledore talks about his mistakes when he makes them being correspondingly huger because he is so smart. This is one of those times.
“It’s going to be all right, sir,” Harry said over and over again, more worried by Dumbledore’s silence than he had been by his weakened voice. “We’re nearly there. . . I can Apparate us both back. . . don’t worry. . . ”
“I am not worried, Harry,” said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. “I am with you. “
“There is little time, one way or another,” said Dumbledore. “So let us discuss your options, Draco. ”
“My options!” said Malfoy loudly. “I’m standing here with a wand–I’m about to kill you—”
“My dear boy, let us have no more pretence about that. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first Disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means. ”
“I haven’t got any options!” said Malfoy, and he was suddenly as white as Dumbledore. “I’ve got to do it! He’ll kill me! He’ll kill my whole family!”
“I appreciate the difficulty of your position,” said Dumbledore. “Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realized that I suspected you. ”
Malfoy winced at the sound of the name.
“I did not dare speak to you of the mission with which I knew you had been entrusted, in case he used Legilimency against you,” continued Dumbledore. “But now at last we can speak plainly to each other . . . no harm has been done, you have hurt nobody, though you are very lucky that your unintentional victims survived . . . I can help you, Draco. ”
“No, you can’t,” said Malfoy, his wand hand shaking very badly indeed. “Nobody can. He told me to do it or he’ll kill me. I’ve got no choice. “
“Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban . . . when the time comes we can protect him too . . . come over to the right side, Draco . . . you are not a killer . . . ”
Malfoy stared at Dumbledore.
“But I got this far, didn’t I?” he said slowly. “They thought I’d die in the attempt, but I’m here . . . and you’re in my power . . . I’m the one with the wand . . . you’re at my mercy . . . ”
“No, Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now. “
I really love that Dumbledore’s last act in life was to show compassion for his would-be murderer. Dumbledore was a complicated, flawed man, but he could be very wise and kind.
“Dumbledore gone,” whispered Mr. Weasley, but Mrs. Weasley had eyes only for her eldest son; she began to sob, tears falling onto Bill’s mutilated face.
“Of course, it doesn’t matter how he looks. . . it’s not r-really important. . . but he was a very handsome little b-bo. . . always very handsome. . . and he was g-going to be married!”
“And what do you mean by zat?” said Fleur suddenly and loudly. “What do you mean, ‘he was going to be married?'”
Mrs. Weasley raised her tear-stained face, looking startled. “Well—only that—”
“You theenk Bill will not wish to marry me anymore?” demanded Fleur. “You theenk, because of these bites, he will not love me?”
“No, that’s not what I—”
“Because ‘e will!” said Fleur, drawing herself up to her full height and throwing back her long mane of silver hair. “It would take more zan a werewolf to stop Bill loving me!”
“Well, yes, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Weasley, “but I thought perhaps—given how—how he—”
“You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per’aps, you hoped?” said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. “What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave! And I shall do zat!” she added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasley aside and snatching the ointment from her.
Such a good reversal of expectations. And I love how much Fleur’s ego is in play here. They’re worried about Fleur not loving Bill anymore, but she assumes they’re worried he won’t love her, and that in turn shows them how much she really does love him. It never even crossed her mind to abandon him.
There was so much he had never asked him, so much he should have said . . .
A sentiment that we will revisit extensively in the last book.
And Harry saw very clearly as be sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon for ever the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one: that the shelter of a parent’s arms meant that nothing could hurt him. There was no waking from his nightmare, no comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his protectors had died and he was more alone than he had ever been before.