Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--book 7 title

I've been posting my thoughts on various forums and have yet to really post much here or on my live journal. So I'm posting both here and my live journal, in an attempt to organize my thoughts on the latest Christmas gift from Rowling--the title for book 7--Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I'm glad to see that John Granger now has a blog (I'll add the link later)--it's a bit easier than a forum to keep up with and accessible to more people.Several things have already been brought up--I think it was Rob (rapierpen) who said that Snape is the Keeper of the Keys for Harry, just as Hagrid was the Keeper of the Keys for Dumbledore. I like that as it brings the relationship between Harry and Snape into sharper focus and importance.The other is that hallows--which can be a verb or a noun, but sounds more like it's a noun in the title of book 7 (DH)--could also refer to things being hallowed in a deadly place--that from Sandra.

A lot of us, including me, have been jumping from graveyard to graveyard with that idea. There's the one that Harry has already visited in GOF where Riddle's family are buried. There's the graveyard--or the one we think he will find--when he visits Godric's Hollow, seeking more infomation about his parents. Then there is the one that Rowling has said is at Hogwarts--the one that Cuaron couldn't put somewhere in the 3rd movie, because that wasn't where it was located. We did see Dumbledore's tomb, but it didn't seem to be part of a graveyard, so there must be one somewhere else. Who is buried there is still unknown. Most likely, the three founders who were still at Hogwarts after Slytherin left. We do know that no other headmasters or headmistresses are buried there, however--Dumbledore was the first. But I've wondered if James and Lily might be buried there--if James did have some family connection to Gryffindor, that might be reason enough, especially given the heroic nature of their short fight against Voldemort.

But the other place that might be a possible place is the Death room at the Ministry of Magic. That veil just begs to be reintroduced. It's one of those things that people discussed for months on forums, but no one ever really asked Rowling about it, except in reference to Sirius's death--was he really dead and could he come back? But never--just what is the veil, how is it used and what does it do and will we see it again?

I think it's likely that Harry will learn something important about his parents when he visits Godric's Hollow. I wonder if that will lead him back to the Ministry. The other room waiting for his discovery is the one that was locked--the one Dumbledore told him was filled with a great and terrible power, reminiscent of part of the story by Charles Williams, Descent into Hell, which I recently finished reading.

Those rooms both were so prominent in OotP, but then have not been mentioned again, or explained. The Death room, with the veil, seems that it could be something connected to Deathly Hallows--either a place where people are hallowed (as a saintly connection), or that the veil is a way to connect with saints of the past. I know, that's all too religious for many people. But it's very hard to go any place with that title without making religious connections. To ignore the meanings of the word, whether it is a verb or a noun, says that Rowling didn't do her research into the word properly. And the one thing we all should have learned by now, is that she is one woman who chooses and uses words very carefully, with the intent that her words will give us all the clues we need--but we will only see the full connection after we've finished the book.

Back to Snape--I always seem to get back to Snape. It's just doesn't seem to fit that he will turn back into the cardboard cutout of a baddie, after all the little hints we've had that there is much more to his story than Harry knows. Rob suggested that Snape is Harry's Keeper of the Keys, and that fits very well with my view that it will be Snape who works along side Harry to defeat Voldemort. But for any sort of cooperation between them--and I'm not looking for friendship, as that would seem out of character for Snape in particular--there has to be a resolution of their anger and hatred. They have to forgive one another; Harry has to forgive Snape for whatever part Snape played in James and Lily's deaths, and Snape has to forgive Harry for being his father's son. As for Snape's role in Dumbledore's death, there has to be more to it than what Harry (and we) thinks he saw on the Tower. Harry can't use the power of the love that Dumbledore kept saying he had with all that anger and bitterness getting in the way. And Snape can't be useful to Harry while he still is filled with hatred for Harry based on Harry's father and godfather.

The other thing that crossed my mind the other day--nothing to do with DH (Deathly Hallows), at least not directly--is that we still don't know what Snape's patronus is. But when I was reading a portion of Order of the Phoenix, there was a brief description of a thestral, as having bat-like wings. Rowling has described Snape as bat-like so many times that many have thought it means he is a vampire (sorry John), but couldn't it mean that his patronus is actually a thestral?

Hagrid describes thestral in OotP (US), on page 446:

". . . they aren' unlucky, they're dead clever an' useful! 'Course, this lot don' get a lot of work, it's mainly jus' pullin' the school carriages unless Dumbledore's takin' a long jouney an' don' want ter Apparate--"

And later, Hagrid gives more information about thestrals, p. 448-9:

". . . good stuff abou' thestrals. Well, once they're tamed, like this lot, yeh'll never be lost again. 'Mazin' senses o' direction, jus' tell 'em where yeh want ter go--"

And there is Snape, who hasn't been used to his full potential in teaching the students, as we saw from the abundent information in his old Potions text; Snape is just out there, waiting to guide Harry along the way in the final stage of his journey/quest. Snape, whose patronus if it is a thestral, is somewhat frightening and sinister, yet not at all evil or frightening when one understands him. It only take knowing the proper way to look at him.


(I've written a bit more on the idea of Snape's Patronus being a thestral in it's own topic, but I've left this part here, because of the thoughtful comments--and I didn't want to lose that part.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

GOBLET OF FIRE--Chapter One through Six

CHAPTER ONE: "The Riddle House"
The changes from the UK versions are the most annoying thing to me, but that's a different rant, and I've gone down that path before.

One of the things I noticed when I was reading along in my US book while listening to Stephen Fry, was the changes in the text. I found it very interesting that the US version consistently uses "murder", while the UK version uses "curse", and also refers to "removing one more obstacle", rather than using the word "death". I'm not sure why they would change that--it seems to me that it changes the tone of the conversation between LV and Wormtail. But in the UK version, it is still clear to Frank that Voldemort had committed murder and intended to commit more. I do find it interesting to compare the differences--I think it can help us in trying to clarify some of the story.

Someone in the Leaky Lounge Reading Group discussion asked about "milking" Nagini, making the point that snakes dont have milk. When they talk about milking a snake they are talking about getting the venom from the snake. No, they don't have milk, but that's the meaning. So here we have Voldemort who killed unicorns and drank their blood in Philosopher's Stone, and now he is surviving and regaining his strength from drinking snake venom. It's one more image that Jo gives us of just how evil Voldemort is--killing the innocent for his own survival, drinking the poison from a snake, and willing to murder anyone who gets in his way. It's a picture of a being who has no humanity, even though he will have human form once again. I find this first chapter chilling.

I also remember when my daughter and I picked up our copy of GOF at midnight back in 2000. She started reading the first chapter out loud as we drove home. And when we got home we both realized that we felt lost. Who was Tom Riddle? We had forgotten the name (hard to imagine now). But we ended up looking back through POA for a reference to TR, and then through COS, where we found it. Until we got there, though, we were feeling very lost in this first chapter. I think it was partly due to the change in the point of view. We had gotten so used to seeing things through Harry's eyes and mind, that to see things from the narrator's point of view felt really odd.

I've read it so many times now, that I tend to forget how jarring that first chapter was. Not only the POV, but the tone of the events. It was a clear shift in the story. Any deaths in the first three books were references to the past; here we see the cold calculating way that Voldemort kills Frank Bryce--no moral struggle on his part, it's actually done in a very casual way, with no more thought given to taking another person's life than most of us would give to turning on a light in a dark room.

GOF is not my favorite book, but it does have some fascinating things in it--and when I am reading it, I always seem to get completely caught up in it all over again.

I'd never given much thought to this chapter starting during the night and ending with Harry's room being filled with light. Jo makes it clear that this is a dream that Harry has while he is asleep, not a day dream, where he has just let his mind wander. It also shows Harry's isolation--he alone sees the events in the dream, yet he has no one with whom to share his visions. That's a stark contrast to most 14 year olds who could either wake someone else in the house or tell someone else about a scary dream in the morning. Harry doesn't have those options--and never really has had the option of sharing any of his thoughts with the Dursleys. Imagine how scary it must have been for Harry when he was little, sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs, if he had a nightmare with no comforting adult to turn to. So, it's no wonder now that he doesn't consider sharing this latest dream with the Dursleys. I think the only reason it's brought up, though, is that it's Jo's way of reminding (or telling, if someone is jumping into the HP books with this one) us that the Dursleys are not fulfilling the role of parental figures for Harry.

It is odd that there is a mention of no cats on the street--but that's one of those things that we don't really see as significant until book 5 when we learn that Mrs. Figg's cats help her watch out for Harry. So why aren't there any cats out when he looks out the window? Voldemort is miles away, and apparently no one perceives that there is any imminent threat to Harry--so the cats aren't needed on the street on that night.

I'm really surprised with all the times that Harry has dreams and can't remember the details at all, that he recalls as much of this one as he does. So, the fact that he can't remember Frank's name is not at all surprising. Harry seems to have one of the worst memories of dreams of anyone--something that I find hard to believe sometimes (as I remember many dreams in vivid detail), and also very annoying. It's likely that he remembers this one because it is such a clear vision of events, rather than the jumble that many of his dreams are. I think we see later that when it is a vision of what is really going on rather than just a random dream, Harry does recall most of it pretty clearly.

Mirrors in HP are always interesting, from the Mirror of Erised to the mirrors that talk at the Burrow and at the Leaky Cauldron, etc. But I think mirrors do something else--they serve as a way for us to see Harry in a different way. He looks at himself in his mirror and sees a skinny boy with unruly hair and his scar--it's a reflection of how he appears to the rest of the world. Usually, even though the story is not told in first person, we are seeing things as though we are sitting on Harry's shoulder and hearing his unspoken thoughts--third person limited omniscience. The point of the mirror here is to give us a more objective view of what Harry looks like. At the end of the chapter, he doesn't look in the mirror before going down to breakfast. He walks by the mirror without looking, more concerned about his inner thoughts that his outward appearance. Harry has more important things to deal with in his life than how the world sees him. That, in a way, might foreshadow much of what happens in this book--at first he is very concerned about what others think of him, but by the end of the book, he is no longer making decisions based on the opinions of those around him.

(These are some additional thoughts I had on the chapter during the discussion at the Leaky Lounge.)
Posted Oct. 25, 2006
It's possible that Harry does have some sort of regard for Aunt Petunia, but I think that really, Jo includes a lot of things to remind the reader of Harry's relationship with the Dursleys--she does that sort of thing a lot in the beginning of all the books. Since Chapter One didn't begin in the usual way, all of those past references were put in Chapter Two.

HealerOne, I completely agree that to understand Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, we have to realize that he is an abused child. It's amazing that he is able to reach out to anyone, after the treatment he has endured in the Dursley's home.

Posted Oct. 26, 2006
I found this definition on an English class site--looks like it's taught at Purdue:

In THIRD-PERSON LIMITED OMNISCIENCE, the narrator frequently limits the revelation of thoughts to those of one character, presenting the other characters only externally. As a result, the reader's experience is conditioned by the mental state, the qualities of perception, ignorance, or bias of the filtering or reflecting mind.

For a more complete comparison of this POV, here's a link.

Where this becomes important in all the Harry Potter books, is that we are constantly seeing just what Jo wants us to see, through Harry's eyes, or as some have said, through the Harry filter. We get that in this particular chapter. We saw what happened at the Riddle House with Frank Bryce in Chapter One, but in Chapter Two, we only see Harry's memory of what he saw in the dream, his interpretation of it, and Harry's thoughts of who will react in what way if he tells them about the dream and his scar hurting. When Harry is ready to move on, then we must go with him. Harry has opinions that are sometimes right and sometimes not, but we keep accepting his POV as fact, when it is sometimes not a complete or accurate picture.

Posted Oct. 27, 2006:
(Someone brought up the issue of Christmas and Easter and christenings, and how that realtes to Sirius being Harry's godfather. As religion in general, is not to be discussed, I posted this, while trying to be politically correct--something I don't necessarily do well.)
Ok, I'll try tiptoeing around this one. I think that by having Harry christened and his having a godfather, it is more of an indication of tradition than anything else. No matter what Jo's religious beliefs are or aren't (and she's stated that in quite a few interviews), it is a tradtional thing to do.

No, I'm not British, but I'm basing this on what I've read and heard from people who are. In one of the sessions at Lumos that was about religion, there was a lady in the audience who was British. She addressed the whole religion issue, and explained that while Americans see Christmas and Easter as an indication of Jo's Christian beliefs, it is much more a social tradition to do certain things--the recognition has become very secularized. And aside from celebrating those two holidays, most people (in the UK) claim membership in the Church of England, are baptized (christened), get married there, and have their funerals there. Whether or not they attend on a regular basis is a different issue entirely.

That puts the whole point of Harry having a godfather in a different light, as far as I'm concerned. It says a lot more that James and Lily wanted someone designated to care for Harry if something happened to them, which is the point of a godfather. And that's really the only indication that Jo has given with that particular reference. I have some personal opinions about the whole thing, but they really belong in a different thread. It just seems like whenever this comes up, we need to keep in mind that we don't know her intent, but what we are reading is well within the guidelines of just following British tradition.

Posted Oct. 29, 2006:
(by madamros at Leaky Lounge)
Well, I am British, and yes, Christmas and Easter are traditionally-celebrated - religious or not. Weddings - if you want the big white wedding, then church it is. But Christenings - well, some people view them as one of the traditional things you do (and it sure helps if you want to send your child to a Cof E /Roman Catholic school - which tend to have better results than non-religious schools - slap my wrists for my cynicism!), but I wasn't christened, neither was my partner, and neither are our children. I went to a christening a couple of weeks ago - it was the first one I'd ever been to - I hardly know anyone who has had their children christened (and did I feel like a hypocrite!) - I can't easily imagine anyone having their child christened if they didn't mean it - but maybe that's me - making promises like that would make me feel extremely uneasy.
I agree that mentions of Christmas and Easter cannot be taken to indicate anything religious.

(And she added this about godparents:)
I'm going to disaree with you slightly there. A godfather is supposed to provide religious guidance, according to the traditional christening ceremony. They help to keep the child on the right religious path, and it has very little to do with taking care of them in any other sense. I agree that Lily and James would have wanted to designate someone to care for Harry if anything happened to them, but you don't need a christening ceremony for that. . . . In those troubled times, with James and Lily being high up on Voldemort's most wanted list, you'd expect them to have designated someone to look after Harry. Then again, Sirius was probably fairly high up in Voldemort's 'pack of cards' too - so did the Potters make Dumbledore the ultimate arbiter in who got to look after Harry? Certainly Dumbledore is the one who decided to place him at the Dursleys - Harry could have had a home with the Weasleys, or with any other wizarding family, but Dumbledore placed him with his only direct blood relative, Petunia (and Dudley is also a blood relative!).

Posted Oct. 28, 2006
--even in cases of proven child abuse, the abused child is sometimes horrified to find they are being taken away from the parent. Harry jumps at the chance to go live with Sirius after a very short time. However, children can also be very good judges of character when they follow their instincts. Harry is more used to relying on his own assessments of people and situations than most kids his age. The Dursleys never nurtured his trust in them, and they seem to have prevented much interaction with any other adults that might have become mentors or confidants for Harry while he was on Privet Drive. They seem to even hide him from the neighbors, with only Mrs. Figg being mentioned as an occasional baby-sitter. And her hands seem to have been tied by Dumbledore's wish for her to watch him, but not to interfere--as she said, had she been too friendly, the Dursleys would have cut off the connection.

I think Harry's willingness to move to a home with a relative stranger (who must have still looked a bit scary), is another indication of his strong desire for a family and a home life where he could feel safe and welcome, as he knows Ron and Hermione do when they go to their homes. Very sad, indeed.

It is possible that having Sirius as the godfather does have some sort of magical contract associated with it, but I don't think we have enough information from the books to really know--there's another question for Jo to answer--just how many binding magical contracts are there in the wizarding world?

Why does Harry think what it would be like if he were to tell the Dursleys about his scar hurting. I understand that, to Harry, that's an indication that Voldemort is nearby--which is what he has experienced in the past. So perhaps that's the reason that he focuses on the scar and not on the disturbing images and message from the dream. He realizes that his scar is hurting after he is awake, and the dream has already started to fade away, as dreams often do. Disturbing as that dream was, once once he realizes it's a dream, it seems to lose some of its threat and terror, and the very real pain in his scar becomes more important.

CHAPTER THREE: "The Invitation"
(Questions from Leaky Lounge, with my responses.)

1. We see a different side of Dudley this year. His parents are actually trying to do the right thing by him … or are they? What do you think of the diet and the whole family’s attitude towards it?
Well, they are only doing it because they are forced to put him on a diet. I don't think either Vernon or Petunia have any idea of what they really should be doing in raising Dudley. I'm not surprised that Petunia makes everyone eat the same thing--she knows from experience that if she allows any non-Dudley-appropriate food in the house, that Dudley will do whatever he wants and that will be to not stick to the diet. Petunia is now having to deal with the monster she created--she was like the parents you see in the store, with the child who throws a tantrum to get whatever they want and the parent buys it just to get the child to be quiet--and thus stop the embarassment. That tactic has been working for Dudley for all his life, and this summer, being denied his favorite foods must be a horrible blow to him.

2. The letter sent by Mrs. Weasley appeared most innocuous, the envelope amusing. Why was Uncle Vernon so offended by it?
But there's nothing normal about it--all those stamps? And then to have the mailman hand deliver it because he thought it was funny, was probably more than Vernon could stand. For someone who wants to be normal in every way, and to appear to be better than everyone else, having something odd single him out, was just too much.

3. For the second year in a row, Harry has played “Let’s make a Deal” with Uncle Vernon. Compare the “Aunt Marge deal” with The World Cup deal”. How do you feel Harry came out this time? What made the difference?
Harry's getting better. He's learned to be more tactful with Vernon, and certainly understands how Vernon thinks--better than he did at the beginning of POA. Then, he was very sarcastic with Vernon, now he makes it seem that he really doesn't care. If Vernon had realized how much it did matter to Harry (pleading and begging), Vernon might have said no, just as another way to punish Harry for existing.

4. It appears the Weasleys are planning on rescuing Harry whether or not he has permission. Why? What else might be going on here?
It's likely that they have cleared this rescue with Dumbledore. If so, Dumbledore has probably decided that Harry has been at the Dursleys long enough for the protection to continue (as we find out in the 6th book). And I think the Weasleys, who love their children and think of Harry as part of the family, have started to realize that Harry is not living in a place that is filled with happy family moments.

Some of the funniest moments in this chapter were unfortunately left out of the movie. And when you look at it, this chapter is full of set-ups surrounding Fred and George and their inventions and desire for a joke shop. Too bad. I'm sure it seemed like a frivolous chapter for the movie, but there really is a lot of insight into the characters in this chapter. It's one of my favorites--especially since it makes me laugh in a book that has so much darkness in it.

CHAPTER FOUR: "Back to the Burrow"
I've always loved this chapter because it makes me laugh--and it was such a shame it was left out of the movie, as it gives us more insights into Harry's relationship with the Dursleys, and with the Weasleys.

Questions posted at Leaky Lounge Reading Group:

1. The Weasleys, who said they would pick Harry up at 5:00, didn’t arrive until 5:30. What kept them? What might they have been doing during those thirty minutes?

As to why the Weasleys are late, I just assumed that it was one of their typical days where they seem to be running behind. Think how long it would have taken if all the Weasleys had come to collect Harry. I suppose the reason that the twins came along was to help with whatever luggage Harry had, and Ron would come because he's Harry's best friend. However, I'm sure the real reason the twins came was to get a good look at Dudley and to do just exactly what they did. The other reason they might have been delayed is that, since it's not normally allowed for connections between wizard and muggle fire places on the Floo Network, perhaps it took longer to make the connection. And just who was the contact that Arthur had that would do that for him? Isn't there a mention in book 5 about a specific person who works on the Floo Network who answers to Umbridge? Could it be the same person?

2. The Dursleys treat Mr. Weasley with a cold shoulder. Usually, such treatment is very rude, but were they justified this time, given that Mr. Weasley had just blown up half of their living room? Should Mr. Weasly of attempted to teach the Dursleys manners, or was he out of line with this action?

I would not be at all happy to have someone come bursting out of my fireplace, not to mention that it would be quite scary. So I can understand the Dursleys being less than thrilled. However, Vernon was always going to be rude to Mr. Weasley, no matter when or how he arrived, or how he was dressed. We get that indication from the questions he asks Harry when he wants to know what kind of car they drive and if they will put on normal clothing. From everything we have seen, Vernon lives his life to impress others by showing that he is superior. So dressing up in his best suit and waiting for them in the spotless living room is just one more way that he can show he's better than any wizards.

Whether or not we try to teach another adult proper manners is always a touchy subject. It's very difficult to do that in a way that isn't offensive. But I think that Arthur, who wouldn't think of not saying good-bye to his children or to anyone else, is so shocked by Vernon's behaviour that he just couldn't help saying something. And good for Arthur--it's one of my favorite moments when he sticks up for Harry. That is something that Harry hasn't had in his home life--a parent who takes his side when he is treated badly. It not only sends the message to Harry that he does not have to tolerate such shabby treatment, but it also sends the message to Vernon (and to Petunia as well) that said shabby treatment has been noticed. The scene in HBP when Dumbledore talks to the Dursleys is an echo of this one; Arthur is teaching the Dursleys manners regarding their treatment of Harry, while Dumbledore later instructs them on manners in general (inviting a guest in, drinking what's offered, treatment of Harry and of Dudley). Too bad the Dursleys didn't seem to get the point of Arthur's lesson.

3. Harry mentions that he doesn't really mind when he gets no goodbye from the Dursleys... Do you think this is true?

I'm sure on some level that Harry does mind that Vernon and Petunia don't even bother to say good-bye. But by now he is used to it, so it can't be a surprise. As others have said, I think he's more embarrassed that Arthur now sees how badly he is treated.

4. Aunt Petunia throws herself on top of Dudley to 'protect' him. It's the first time we see Petunia be anything like her sister. Compare this act of protection to Lily's act of protection for Harry.

Petunia does show how much she cares for Dudley--but then she thinks she is doing that all the time when she caters to his every whim. I wonder if Dudley had really been in mortal danger if Petunia's protection would have had the same kind of effect that Lily's protection did for Harry? I think mainly it's an example of what most mothers would do if they really felt that their child was in danger, and nothing more.

5. Ah, yes, the Ton-Tongue Toffees…did Dudley get his “just desserts”? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. :wink: )

This scene is so funny in the book, but probably would have looked too fake in the movie. I still missed it, though. Mainly because we get one more example of the twins being just out-of-bounds with their behaviour. Not so much that it crosses the line of being cruel--or at least, not in this case, since it's Dudley, and by now, we don't like him at all. However, when I think about his tongue swelling and his parents trying to rip it out and crushing him, it is rather an awful thought that he could have suffocated before Arthur was able to reverse the spell. So it could have been a real disaster. But then, once that thought passes, I go back to laughing and feeling like greedy, piggy Dudley did get his "just desserts" (I love that, btw, Islwyn. :thumbup: )

CHAPTER FIVE: "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes"

Posted Oct. 29, 2006:

~ Bill and Charlie, even though older than the others, still seem to have the same sense of fun that the other Weasleys do, while Percy seems even more fussy than last year. What do we learn about these characters from this introduction to them?

Bill and Charlie are great. We finally get the whole Weasley family. Bill and Charlie, though now out of the house and working, are clearly love their family and have that special bond of the oldest brothers. And what we find is that Percy is the middle child--the one who doesn't feel that he has a proper place in the family, so he tries to carve out his spot as the one who did everything right at school and is now efficient in his job. With Bill and Charlie having been successful at school, and now having jobs that make then happy and make their parents proud, Percy has a lot to live up to. Of course, there are the twins who are a constant reminder of everything that Percy doesn't want to be. At school, people have talked about Bill and Charlie and when they were at Hogwarts, and everyone knows the twins because they are constantly getting into trouble. But in the Weasley family, because they are twins, they hold a special place--and they have each other, further isolating Percy. Ron, as the youngest boy, feels some of the same pressure that Percy feels--he has older brothers who have set a high standard in their family--Bill, Charlie and Percy because of their successes, and the twins because they are just cool. Ginny has a unique place in the family--the baby and the only girl. So that leaves Percy as odd man out--and this chapter points it out vividly, for the first time. (We've had hints of it before, but not nearly as strongly as this one.)

Percy reminds me of people who want so much to be respected that they will go to any lengths to garner that respect, and we see this in his obsession with getting things done for his boss. I feel sorry for Percy, but to be honest, it doesn't make me like him any better--probably because I know how horrid he's going to be about Harry later on.

~ What do you think was “the Point” Mr. Weasley was trying to get across to the boys about Muggle-baiting?

Arthur is constantly reminding his family--and everyone else, including us--that we shouldn't take advantage of others. In the case of wizards being able to do magic and Muggles not having a clue about it, the Muggles are easy prey for wizards who want to belittle or victimize others. So the whole speech about Muggle-baiting is a lesson for the boys (and us) that it's wrong to do that sort of thing. However, Arthur misses the point that his sons already have learned that particular lesson; they tell him that they didn't leave the toffees for Dudley because he was a Muggle but because he's such a git in the way he has always treated Harry. They're judging Dudley be his actions, not by what he is.

~ Mrs. Weasley is very worried about the twins' lack of seriousness, their poor performance on their O.W.L.s, and their constant antics. What do you think about her concern?

Like any mother, Molly wants to make sure that her children grow up to be responsible adults. And wanting to open a joke shop sounds like something that won't last as an occupation or won't be sufficient to provide them with an income. After all, there are already joke shops in Diagon Alley as well as in Hogsmeade, so the twins have some built in established competition. Given that we later learn of the emphasis that the teachers place on their OWLS and NEWTS, it's no wonder that Molly is concerned that the twins didn't do well. Sometimes it is hard for a parent to accept that a child has a talent that isn't easily measured by standardized tests, and I think that's part of Molly's problem. Living with a creative child who doesn't do things in the conventional way can be very frustrating, and poor Molly has two of them to contend with.

Arthur, with his own fascination for unconventional wizard things, is sometimes like another one of the children. Molly gets stuck being the parent who tries to keep everyone headed down the proper path of getting their education and being successful. It's just that the twins have a different view of what success is--and they see that it doesn't have to be boring and serious all the time, as Percy seems to think.

~ Harry, at last, is in a place and time that he feels ‘at peace’. Why? What are the components of the situation that brings him this peace of mind? Any foreshadowing here?

Yes, when we were talking about Harry having a home, I had forgotten that Molly does treat him like one of the kids, but I wonder if it's because she is so distracted with all the things the twins are doing at the time. Getting Harry to the Burrow was a rather chaotic affair.

I hope that Harry's sense of peace is foreshadowing that someday he will be at home, either at the Burrow, or some place equally safe and loving. I also noticed that the smells of grass and honeysuckle are mentioned. In HBP, when they are smelling the Amortentia potion, I Hermione smells freshly mown grass, which is one of the smells mentioned in this scene--foreshadowing that smells of the Burrow will be important to her, at least, later on.

This chapter is full of set-ups for the rest of this book and for some things in future books. There is talk of the World Quidditch Cup, and of things that will be going on at Hogwarts, although there's not much of it in this chapter. We get Bagman as the sports hero who has got tickets for them. And Bertha Jorkins is tied to being in Albania. Dumbledore mentioned back in COS that he'd had reports that Voldemort was in the forests of Albania--we should get a clue there, but we didn't, and neither did Harry. With all of Percy's fussing about Mr. Crouch, we're given a beginning picture of what kind of person Crouch is. And at least, he would care that one of his employees had gone missing, unlike Bagman, who seems to readily dismiss it.

For me, this was just the beginning of my not trusting Bagman, though I always thought he'd turn out to be more sinister than just a cheating gambler who'd made foolish risky bets. I think in this one it was the easy way that he just seemed so uncaring about the welfare of Bertha Jorkins. Even though she doesn't have a stellar reputation in the MoM, it still seems that Bagman should be paying more attention to the whereabouts of people who work for him.

'MomofMoo' post='993248' date='Oct 30 2006, 10:53 AM']
Bill and Charlie, even though older than the others, still seem to have the same sense of fun that the other Weasleys do, while Percy seems even more fussy than last year. What do we learn about these characters from this introduction to them?

I wonder if Percy feels lost in his own family. Maybe he doesn't feel as physically able to compete with his older brothers or the twins (2 against 1) and competing against Ron wouldn't be a competition in an older brother's mind. So he decided to be book smart and a stickler for the rules. And when that still didn't get him the place he felt he deserved in the family, he began to look for it outside the family. I think maybe he is the middle child personified - desperate to be different in order to be recognized as such.

My point, in an earlier post, exactly. All the other children have their distinctive position in the family, but Percy is the one in the middle, who can easily get lost in the shuffle of all those Weasley children. He's not apparently good enough at Quidditch to make a name for himself there--do we ever even see him play? So Percy studies hard, which earns him a lot of praise from his parents, and then he is the only one who wants to follow in his dad's steps by working at the Ministry, which is another way of being recognized by his father. Percy's downfall is that he lets his ambition rule his actions rather than his common sense.

Ophus, I see what you are saying, but the big difference between Percy and all the rest of the Weasleys is that his sense of what is important and proper is completely out of balance. What happens at work has become much more important than what happens to his family. It's not healthy when a person places position at work and money ahead of all concerns for people, and that's where Percy is headed.

'madamros' post='992852' date='Oct 30 2006, 03:44 AM']
Yes, but was Crouch [i]really[/i] concerned about Bertha? Or did his concern stem from his knowledge that she knew his secret? Because when we finally meet Crouch, he doesn't seem the 'caring deeply about his employees' type, does he?

madamros, I see your point about Crouch's real intentions. Even though in this case, his concern is, as you said, more likely to be about what Bertha can tell if she is found, everyone seems to think it's in character for Crouch to be worried about a missing person. What I was trying to get at is the contrast between Crouch and Bagman that we get from this scene. And no matter what Crouch's motives are, he and Bagman do approach problems in a very different way; Crouch actually tries to do something, where Bagman is laid back and content to let the situation work itself out.

CHAPTER SIX: "The Portkey"

Posted Oct. 30, 2006:
'Islwyn13' date='Oct 29 2006, 10:30 AM' post='992194'
At Oh-dark-thirty the next morning, Harry, Ron, Fred and George are awakened by Mrs. Weasley.

I love it--I thought my husband was the only one who used the phrase O-dark-thirty. :lol:
Possible Questions for Discussion:
1. We have another confrontation between Mrs. Weasley and the twins. Why is she really so upset? Is it the Ton-Tongue toffees themselves or is it the disrespect they’re showing for her and Mr. Weasley by disobeying them? Or both? Or something else?

I think it is the disrespect. She has repeatedly told the twins how she feels about their inventions, and has already done things to stop them from selling them, and now she finds out that they are once again disobeying their parents. It might also be that, given what happened to Dudley, they might not want the twins selling those to anyone in the wizarding world--think of the repercussions if some wizard's child got hold of one. But mainly, I think she's just really angry at their flagrant disobedience.

2. The Ministry of Magic officials have to do a lot to help thousands of wizards arrive at the QWC site without Muggles noticing. Even if such huge gatherings of wizards don’t regularly get together, why does the wizarding community of Britain not have a magical place in which to hold such gatherings? They’ve had hundreds of years to come up with a place.

Interesting question. I had not thought of wizards having any sort of permanent place for things like the QWC. I guess I just assumed that they would move things around as a way of evading the prying muggle eyes--though Hogwarts is pretty stationary, now that I think of it. Or it could be that they had a place, but it was sold or taken over by Muggle developers and they've had to move to a new location.

3. We meet Cedric Diggory again here on this hill, and his father, Amos, for the first time. What were your impressions of them? What were your impressions of how Harry was greeted by Mr. Diggory?

It wasn't until the second or third reading that I really liked Cedric. I think it's mostly from the cool reaction of the twins. But Cedric is quite polite and modest here. Amos comes across as a father who is very proud of his son's accomplishments, but in a way that suggests he is probably enjoying Cedric's reflected glory. (I have a nephew who brags about his son in much the same way, and it's so annoying--makes it hard sometimes to be happy about my great-nephew's accomplishments.)

Amos is just so...... pompous when he talks to Harry. He clearly isn't considering Harry's feelings when he makes those thoughtless remarks about Cedric being the better flier. And something I just realized, is that Amos is very like Uncle Vernon in the way he talks about how wonderful his son is. The difference is that Amos does really have a nice son to be proud of, while Vernon just has Dudley. But this is another set-up for what happens later in the book--here we get a glimpse of what a nice person Cedric really is, how much his father puts him on a pedestal, and that, despite Amos being somewhat of a git to Harry, he seems to have a loving relationship with his son.

4. We also learn that the Lovegoods (i.e. Luna) live near the Weasleys. Any significance to that?

It is interesting that we get the Lovegoods in this chapter, but no mention of Luna's first name, and the Fawcetts, who have yet to appear in the books. I keep waiting for a Fawcett to at least get sorted. From the conversation that Arthur and Amos have when they meet and are looking for the Portkey, it doesn't seem to me that they live that close together--at least not close enough to do much socializing. They are just in the same part of the country, much as I'm near enough to Seattle, Olympia and Portland, but that doesn't mean that I routinely run into people from any of those cities.


*CHAPTER ONE: Owl Post (August 14)
We see a little bit different side of Harry than we normally see during the school year in this first chapter. Instead of waiting until the last minute to do his homework, as he seems to do often, he is beginning on his readings and essays with a month left before school begins. Why? Is it merely that he misses Hogwarts, or is it something else as well?

At the beginning, when Harry is studying secretly, it’s a sign that he is maturing in several ways; he is taking more responsibility for doing his school work, and he is quietly standing up to Uncle Vernon’s unreasonable rules for Harry. That’s just the beginning, as we see him try to control his behaviour in the presence of Aunt Marge, albeit not successfully.

Another of Harry’s rule breaking has to do with his receiving birthday presents without the Dursleys knowing about it. Ron sends him a Pocket Sneakoscope that he bought when his family traveled to Egypt to visit Bill, who works there as a curse breaker. Later the Sneakoscope whistles at seemingly odd times, and Ron dismisses it as being cheap and likely defective. There’s a bit of misdirected narrative there, as we dismiss any warning it might give as well.

Harry is introduced as a unusual boy. Is this preparing us for his being singled out or just a way of making him stand out as our protagonist?

It’s the same sort of thing that Rowling uses at the beginning of each of the first books—a way of setting us up to accept that Harry isn’t just some ordinary teen. There are things that make him unusual, and it’s also our signal that he is our hero of the story.

Introduced to the Pocket sneakoscope... Which is interestingly busy during the Weasley's family dinner…

Yes, the Sneakoscope is quite interesting—everyone dismisses it’s whistling as being something else. Perhaps if they’d paid better attention, they might have pinned the busy-ness down to Scabbers always being present. Of course, with the twins around, and given that they are frequently doing things they shouldn’t, that might have taken a while.

What connections can we make to the Weasley family being in Egypt? Anything?

I don’t think we know the extent of the importance of the Weasleys being in Egypt, but it’s a nice set-up if Rowling wants to bring in any Egyptian legends or artifacts. The one thing that it does is show that the wizarding world is interested in all the world, not just in England, as Bill is working there for Gringotts.

Is all the information on witch burning and tombs and curses just an interesting addition or is there more to it?

It seems at the moment to just add some interest to the story, but it might be too early to say whether there is more to it than that.

Hermione sends Harry a gift he would actually like, which is something he doesn't expect. Why, especially when the books that she has given are ones that Harry would enjoy? Is this merely characterization for Hermione as a bookish person, or is it something else?

From Hermione, Harry receives a book that he actually likes, about Quidditch broom care. Who would have expected Hermione to choose such a practical gift for Harry? I think it’s an indication that our bookish Hermione does think that books make very good gifts, but that she is also very aware that the book should be interesting to the person receiving it—and what better gift for Harry than something to do with Quidditch.

Capturing and controlling the Monster Book. Foreshadowing?

Once again, we see Hagrid’s fascination with the Monster Book of Monsters. Harry can’t open it, and finally straps it shut, wondering what on earth Hagrid could have been thinking. He’ll soon find out, but I wonder if this is the last we will see of this book. So far, it hasn’t made a reappearance.

*CHAPTER TWO: Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake
– How has Harry's relationship developed with the Dursleys?

By the time we see Harry in POA, he is starting to take a stand with the Dursleys, all the while trying to remain as respectful as is possible. He still complies, for the most part with their rules, but barely.

– There is a lot of reference to violence towards wrong doing (beating criminal boys at St. Brutis’s; hanging criminals). In both cases this suggestions refer to people who have actual done no crime (Harry and Sirius): is the author making a point of investigating details before convicting a person?

I’m sure that given Rowling’s background of having worked for a time for Amnesty International that she is definitely making her views known about corporal punishment and the treatment of the accused—it’s amazing that she is able to comment on such serious subjects with a sense of humor, while not watering down her view of it all.

- Uncle Vernon thinks that the fugitive Black is an untrustworthy layabout, and makes a connection to Harry's appearance... Is this normal concern for the news, or another indication that Vernon isn't a good judge of character?

Vernon’s main concern is conforming to what is considered “normal”, and Sirius definitely doesn’t look normal in his prison pictures. Since Harry doesn’t look like Dudley, then Harry must not be normal either, as far as Vernon is concerned. But no, Vernon is not at all a good judge of character—he doesn’t really pay enough attention to what other people say to ever get past their appearance.

– In CoS we learnt about wizards giving great importance to blood lines; here we have Aunt Marge lecturing on breeding and "bad eggs". Is this the flip side of the coin?

I hadn’t really thought of connecting the two, but there are parallels in the wizarding community and the muggle world—prejudice crosses that line with no trouble at all. And for the same reason; people are judged by their backgrounds rather than by the person they are or by their actions.

– In this chapter we watch Harry enduring to live a lie. Interestingly, this "lying" affects him more than the lies he tells to Snape. Why is that?

In living the lie with the Dursleys, Harry has to deny everything that makes him the person he is; he’s not allowed to talk about what he really does at school, what he thinks, who his parents were or how they really died. That would be very difficult, especially since it means he has to constantly endure personal jabs from Marge, with the Dursleys smirking over his misery.

- The Dursleys are watching the news with Dudley?? I thought that in later books they thought it was something no boy wanted to do? When Dudley's attention is fixed on the television, what is HE watching?

Dudley certainly wasn’t watching the news. He had his favorite shows to watch, and likely only watched with his parents because he was too young to be out with his friends. As we see later, though, whatever Dudley does is the proper thing that boys should be doing.

- While significantly different from the other woman who we see hide behind "cute" fashion, Aunt Marge and Aunt Petunia use childish words in reference to Dudley. Are these characters something to be feared like Umbridge, or is it something else? How do these women show what Jo DOES respect in women? (or not, obviously)

Petunia, Marge, and Umbridge are the kind of women who don’t understand or really respect children, especially teens. By talking baby talk to Dudley, his mother and aunt are mentally trying to pretend that he is still the same little 4 year old that they could control—they don’t have to have a real conversation with him--although, I have had some rather interesting conversations with four year olds. After all, if they talk to Dudley like the 13 year old that he is, he might have an opinion that is not the same as theirs, and they wouldn’t have any idea how to respond.

As for Umbridge, it’s clear from the first lesson, that she has no idea how to talk to the students. By treating them like they are five years old, she feels that she still has the kind of control that one would have with a classroom full of five year olds. Sadly, she wouldn’t have any more control over the five year olds than she does over the fifteen year olds—kids of any age can see right through people who are as phony as Umbridge. Her manner of speech is probably her way of trying to cover up just how insecure she really feels.

- Why did Harry make the glass explode now? He says himself that he hasn't done any uncontrolled magic in a while... why is this time different?

Harry lost his temper, and didn’t really have control; it seems that that was how he did magic before he went to Hogwarts—uncontrolled anger or fear seems to set things in motion without Harry having any knowledge that it is going to happen.

- Aunt Marge asks Harry's father's job, and Vernon says that he was unemployed. It is quite apparent he is lying... this topic has been sidestepped a few times now, hasn't it? Do we have any clues in previous books?

We know only that Lily and James were highly respected and very talented. We also see that they had enough money to easily provide for their son—just where that money came from, we still don’t know. I have the impression that James inherited money from his parents.

*CHAPTER THREE: The Knight Bus

Interesting… whose name does Harry draw from thin air? Neville Longbottom’s. Funny moment, foreshadowing, or something else?

I did think it was funny that Harry picked Neville’s name. But I think really it’s a very clever way to start connecting Neville with Harry, so when we learn about the Prophecy, it won’t be so much of a shock to hear that the two are closely linked.

Discussion Points
– Does Sirius appear to make Harry call the Knight Bus?

I think Sirius was just there, trying to get a glimpse of Harry before he headed north to Hogwarts. We find out later that he turned up to watch Harry play Quidditch. I think in this case, he just wanted to reassure himself that Harry was still safe--and what does he find--that Harry is anything but safe, out on the street at night, alone, with no idea of what to do or where to go. Of course, Sirius at that point is in no position to do anything to help Harry.

– Does the comparison of Sirius to a vampire hold any special information?

We don’t get a look at a real vampire until HBP, so I’m not sure why the comparison here. It’s more of a way to misdirect us, so we won’t immediately make the connection of Sirius with the big black dog that keeps showing up.

– Did Mrs. Figg alert Dumbledore and perhaps even know that Harry has been picked up by the bus?

She might have been the one to tell Dumbledore—possibly one of her cats spotted the whole thing and alerted her.

– How does Hedwig know when and where Harry is?

Ah, yes. Hedwig always knows just where Harry is, knows just where to take letters to people with just the name and no location specified. It’s one of those things that Rowling just expects us to accept as the way things work in the wizarding world. The only explanation that is given in the books is that is just something that owls in the wizarding world can do, and do very well.

– Harry and Sirius are paralleled through Stan's small talk. Is the author already setting up the closeness between the characters in the later books?

We get a lot of information out of that talk that Harry has with Stan. It doesn’t ever feel like we’re getting a set-up for the closeness between Harry and Sirius—more it’s the set-up that we are not to trust Sirius Black. It’s one of the nicest bits of mis-direction by Rowling.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Leaky Cauldron (August 21)
– Motherly Mrs Weasley
- Keeping Information from Harry
- Interesting that one witch or wizard notes that he or she wouldn’t allow the children out along while Sirius Black is on the loose, isn’t it? So why has Fudge allowed Harry to stay alone in Diagon Alley?
– 'Join forces with whom you want to avoid': Foreshadowing of something to come (i.e. Snape or the Ministry)?

- Harry sees the Grim on the front of one of the Divination books. What significance (other than just creepy lookin’?) does the Grim have in mythology? In other cultures?
- To what does the mirror answer when it says Harry is fighting a losing battle- his pondering aloud for his life, or the straightening of his hair?
- We see in this chapter, via Harry’s spying, that Mrs. Weasley has utter faith that Dumbledore will keep Harry safe. Why?

- Hagrid finds something less dangerous than others do.
- The possibility that Harry may not make it is highlighted when he looks at [i]Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst Is Coming[/i]
- Magical creatures are smarter than regular animals.
- Percy is an outsider within the group of Weasley children.
- Seven- there are seven Weasleys at the dinner table in the Leaky Cauldron (plus Harry & Hermione)

* * * * *

Well, I did think that Scabbers was a bit weird, being ordinary and living to 12 years old. However, we used to have a rabbit and all the books say they live 2 or 3 years. Ms. Twitchel was at least 9 when she died and might have been older, as we found her in our yard eight years before that--so we guessed she was only about a year old when we got her. I guess that's the reason I just accepted that Scabbers could be living an unusually long life for a rat.

But the sneakoscope going off on the train made me think that it was because of Lupin. He was very suspicious even being in the students part of the train and then seeming to sleep through all the commotion just didn't seem right. Even if he were exhausted, which he might well have been, you'd think he'd wake up with all the times the door to the compartment opened--sounds you aren't used to hearing generally make a person wake up. However, I'm so glad it wasn't Lupin setting it off--I love him as a character and really was glad that POA wasn't the only book where he made an appearance.
* * * * *

Yes, I think there's much more to Florean than has met our eyes so far. Harry was allowed to stay at the Leaky Cauldron, alone, and could wander about Diagon Alley for two weeks, alone. However, even he suspected that it was only because there were a lot of wizards there to keep an eye on him. I'd guess that Florean is one of them, and having an ice cream shop, it would be easy to get Harry to spend extra time there. It's also possible that, while Florean has never been listed as being in the Order, that Dumbledore has a "number of useful spies", and Florean might just be one of them. Everyone seems to know about the Order, and there doesn't seem to be much effort to hide who it's members are, so it would be helpful if Dumbledore had people on the look out that others didn't know about.

And I agree--for an ice cream store owner, he is very knowledgeable. The other thing is, if that's all he does, then why would the Death Eaters bother with him when they are going after people who seem to have much more importance in the wizarding world.

I love all the details in the early books that just seemed like added fluff to make the story more interesting or funny. After I read HBP I went back to Chamber of Secrets, which had never been my favorite, because there seemed to be a lot of things that just didn't make sense. But now that they do, I like COS much better.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Final updates for Chamber of Secrets posted

I finally finished posting my thoughts on Chamber of Secrets--check the link on the side to Chapters 15 through 18. I've added some notes at the end--things that I thought of as I re-read this book for the gazillionth time, I think. I find it nearly impossible to confine my thinking to only the current book, as I now see many tie-ins from the second book to, especially, the 6th book.


Monday, October 2, 2006

Who was Harry in the Half-Blood Prince?

He certainly wasn't the innocent 11 year old we remember from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, pure enough of heart to only want the Stone to keep it from Voldemort, with no thought of using it for himself.

Nor was he the timid Harry we watched in Chamber of Secrets when most of the school avoided him, thinking he was the heir of Slytherin and the one responsible for opening the Chamber and unleashing a monster on the school. We saw Harry grow into a young boy who was brave enough to save his best friend's sister, even though his chance of survival wasn't particularly good.

HBP Harry was not the Harry we watched in Prisoner of Azkaban--the one who learned a powerful bit of magic that he could use to protect himself against the dementors; he was powerful enough to produce a patronus that drove away hundreds of dementors, saving Sirius, Hermione, and himself. Yet, there was still an earnest innocence about Harry in his third year. Unassuming, putting others first, willing to hear out Professor Lupin and Sirius, when they gave every appearance of being the bad guys. Harry was fair and just, granting a reprieve to Pettigrew, even after he learned that it was Pettigrew who was responsible for Harry's parents' deaths. No rash decisions.

Goblet of Fire Harry was growing up. He had more confidence, as he should, by the time he entered the maze at book's end. Harry had been through a lot--again accused of cheating, of breaking the rules to get his name in the Goblet of Fire. But through it all, we saw Harry putting others first--sharing information with Cedric, helping all the hostages in the second task, helping the others in the Maze when he could, willing to share the prize with Cedric, caring enough to bring back Cedric's body. In the end, we saw a Harry who confronted Voldemort in a way he would never have done three years previously.

Then we had Order of the Phoenix Harry, who was angry at everyone most of the time for everything. Many people didn't like this Harry. I wouldn't say that I liked him, but I did think it was about time he got there. Even teens who don't have any tragedy in their family get to the point of feeling that "It's not fair. Why me? No one understands me. My life is so much harder than anyone's else's." And so we spent the 5th book seeing that Harry wasn't nearly as happy as we all wanted him to be. And why should he be? Parents killed when he was a baby, learning that he should have died along with them; robbed of any sort of normal childhood or life as he's persued by a murderous lunatic. I doubt that most adults would be able to keep a cheery disposition, let alone a teenager who was only 15.

To top that off, this is the book where everything that identifies Harry as Harry is stripped away from him--quidditch, the vision of his father as a wonderful person, questioning the relationship between his parents before they married, his new-found godfather Sirius--the first person who could offer him hope of living away from the Dursleys. All of it was taken from him. Then after Harry was tricked by Voldemort, he led his friends nearly to their deaths, as well as his own. What can possibly make things worse? Harry learns of the Prophecy from Dumbledore--and that Dumbledore could have shared that information with him the first time Harry asked when he was eleven. So even his trust in Dumbledore wavers; his image of Dumbledore being perfect is tarnished. But at the end of the book, we start to see a stronger Harry emerge as he heads home for another summer with the Dursleys--not happy, but resolved in what he must do.

That brings us to Harry as we found him in Half-Blood Prince. He has a certain air of confidence that he didn't have before. That's a nice change. He's determined to defeat Voldemort, as Dumbledore walks him down memory lane to see the transformation of Tom Riddle to Lord Voldemort.

Harry is only one year from coming of age, in the wizarding world. He's learning to think for himself, he confides only in trusted friends and his mentor, Dumbledore. But there is something in HBP that we haven't seen before in Harry--a darker side. He's not always choosing to do the right thing. And much of it centers around the used Potion book that he gets from Professor Slughorn, the current Potions teacher.

This is something that we've recently been discussing at HogwartsProfessor.com. While I agree with some that Harry's use of the book is cheating, and with some that using the book was more of a way to move the plot along, I found that I was somewhat undecided about Harry and the Prince's Potion book.

I agree with Mary that Harry's use of the book essentially was cheating. Harry was doing work and presenting it as his own when it was not--maybe lying would be a better way to describe it. If he'd been honest about where he got the ideas, he might still have been able to brew the potions, but he never gave proper credit to the inventor--and that wasn't fair of Harry. And I think what aggravates many people is that Harry got away with his dishonesty--until the very end.

However, along with Sluggy reminding us that Lily was brilliant at potions and our own realization that the Prince was also a brilliant Potions student, we found, in the end, several other things--and I think this may have been the main reason for Harry using Severus's Potions book:

When Harry and Severus weren't spending all their time hating one another:

1. Harry was able to learn quite well from Snape's instructions, even though he'd convinced himself that he couldn't learn anything from Snape--part of the problem with Harry learning Occlumency in OotP.

2. Snape was able to give instructions that were precise and informative enough to be followed, without having to demonstrate them.

3. Without Snape badgering Harry in Potions class, Harry was able to do quite well--even though he was following different directions than those in the official book.

(Is that, in and of itself, really such a bad thing? Education is not just teaching students to repeat what's been done over and over, but is supposed to help them explore and learn from more than one source. Choices again.)

And where does that leave us? Well, it left me thinking that it's not an impossible idea that Harry and Severus could work together in some manner, if they could but put aside their mutual animosity--a tall order indeed, I'll admit. However, I think that's precisely one of the many things that has to happen for Harry to be able to defeat Voldemort in book 7.

Harry is going to need help from someone, now that Albus is gone, that leaves Snape as the one in the best position to fill Harry in on the rest of Voldemort's backstory (if we need more of that). Snape is also well-connected in the Death Eaters and can give Harry all sorts of useful inside information on what they are doing, where they are, what their vulnerabilities are. He can help set a trap for Voldemort. There are so many possibilites, but the two of them have to quit being so stupid as to carry on an old feud that goes back to Snape's childhood, especially one that didn't involve Harry.

And on another level, as much of a prat as Harry was in HBP, his behaviour was a reminder that he is not an adult. He has moved closer to adulthood, but he is still a teen, and teens don't always make good choices. If Harry had suddenly started being perfect and responsible throughout most of the book, we would be accusing Rowling of not being true to the character--Harry would suddenly be Hermione, instead of Harry. Instead, he was a typical 16 year old, sometimes showing the glimmer of the adult he will someday become. One day a sixteen year old will make seemingly wise, very grown-up choices, and the next, they are back to being irresponsible, acting like spoiled selfish four year olds. To expect something different from Harry is to ask that he becomes a super-hero sort of character, and that's not at all what Rowling is writing. She has created Harry as a real person, with a good heart, but one who is not perfect and who can let his new image of himself turn to arrogance.

It was very hard to watch Harry doing some of the same thoughtless things that his father and Sirius had done when they were fifteen--they were bullying prats and not admirable at all. But I don't think we should be that surprised by it--Harry will go back to being himself. It works that way with some people; it's as though they have to get all the nastiness out of their system and they do it all in one year. Harry seems to have done that in HBP.

By the end of HBP (which I really see as the middle of the last part of the story), Harry is strong enough to stand up to Scrimgeour, and even to Professor McGonagall. He has a clear purpose ahead.

I think in book 7, something will happen to make Harry realize that he doesn't (and didn't) have all the answers about Draco or about Severus. And through that realization, Harry will gain the wisdom that he was lacking in Half-Blood Prince. Just what that will be, I've no idea. But Jo Rowling has led us this far along Harry's path, and I trust that she will get us to the end in a way that will show Harry as the true, pure-of-heart hero that we met in Philosopher's Stone nearly ten years ago.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

CHAMBER OF SECRETS: Chapters 15 through 18

CHAPTER 15: Aragog
Everyone is more fearful; security in the hospital wing is increased, preventing Harry and Ron from visiting Hermione. Draco Malfoy, however, is pleased. In Potions class he's bragging that his father got rid of Dumbledore. He hopes they'll get a new headmaster who won't want the Chamber of Secrets closed. As Snape sweeps about the classroom, Malfoy suggests--"Sir, why don't you apply for the headmaster's job?"

"Now, now, Malfoy," said Snape, though he couldn't suppress a thin-lipped smile. "Professor Dumbledore has only been suspended by the governors. I daresay he'll be back with us soon enough."

"Yeah, right," said Malfoy, smirking. "I expect you'd have Father's vote, sir, if you wanted to apply for the job--I'll tell Father you're the best teacher here, sir--"

Snape smirked as he swept off around the dungeon. . ." [COS-p. 267]

Until I was later convinced that Snape was on the good side and loyal to Dumbledore, I always read this as confirmation that Snape was pleased with Draco's idea. However, the smirking by Draco and Snape and Snape's pointedly tactful answer just seems to be shouting that we should look for an alternative meaning in Snape's words. His final smirk at Draco's suggestion that he apply for the job and that Draco will tell his father Snape is the best teacher, could be Snape's satisfaction that he has fooled Draco and that his loyalty to Voldemort is being confirmed to Lucius. Snape could very well be please to know that his spy status is still intact.

Herbology class is now a somber affair, with Justin and Hermione missing. Ernie, so critical of Harry before, has finally realized that the attacks couldn't have come from Harry and offers his apology, which is accepted by Harry, but not by Ron.

Harry then spots spiders heading towards the Forbidden Forest. (Note: the US book is different than the UK audio book here, which has less detailed explanations of what they see.) There is an apparent error in the UK audio also. "At the end of the lesson Professor Snape escorted the class to their Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson." [UK audio, Stephen Fry] The US book says "Sprout", which makes more sense.

Harry and Ron plan to use the invisibility cloak to go into the Forest, taking Fang along. Ron mentions that there are supposed to be werewolves in the Forest; Harry ignores that and says there are good things, like the centaurs (that's not what Umbridge would say of them) and unicorns.

Lockhart, unlike all the other teachers and students, is convinced there's no longer any danger, saying the Minsiter for Magic wouldn't have taken Hagrid without being convinced of his guilt. Ron scoffs, is admonished by Lockhart that he knows more than Ron. Harry reminds Ron they "weren't there, remember?" It's only Hermione's absence that seems to give Ron the strength to agree to a trip into the Forest that night.

As they wait for the common room to clear, Ginny sits watching Fred and George play Exploding Snap with Harry and Ron, looking subdued as she sits in Hermione's chair.

Harry and Ron get to Hagrid's hut, leave the cloak there and take Fang into the Forest after finding two spiders going in. They're surprised to find something big that appears with a blaze of light--it's the car, turned wild by its time in the Forest.

Here's another enchanted object that seems to be able to think for itself--some are evil, some are good, just as is true with wizards. As they discuss the car, they've unknowingly been found by something else in the Forest, far more sinister--the spiders. All three of them are captured and taken to Aragog, who is now very old and blind, the accromantula that Hagrid had raised when he was a student in his third year. Aragog only talks to them because Harry says they are friends of Hagrid, who he tells Aragog, is now in trouble because they think he's set a monster loose in the school.

"But that was years ago," said Aragog fretfully. "Years and years ago. I remember it well. that's why they made him leave the school. They believed i ws the monster that dwells in what they call the Chamber of Secrets. They thought that Hagrid had opened the Chamber and set me free."

". . . . I was not born in the castle. I come from a distant land. A traveler gave me to Hagrid when I was an egg. Hagrid was only a boy, but he cared for me, hidden in a cupboard in the castle, feeding me on scraps from the table. Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man. When I was discovered, and blamed for the death of a girl, he protected me." [COS-p. 277-8]

Hagrid still visits him, provided him with a wife, Mosag, and now they have a large family. Aragog, out of respect for Hagrid, never attacked anyone. he was only in the cupboard in the castle, while the girl's body was found in a bathroom. "Our kind like the dark and the quiet. . ."[COS-p. 278]

Hmmm, sounds like Snape, doesn't it--always closing the shutters, spending time in the dungeons.

Even though the other spiders are threateningly near, Harry, who was used to ordinary spiders from his years in the cupboard beneath the stairs at the Dursleys, asks who killed the girl.

"The thing that lives in the castle," said Aragog, "is an ancient creature we spiders fear above all others. Well do I remember how I pleaded with Hagrid to let me go, when I sensed the beast moving about the school."

When Harry asks what the monster is:

"We do not speak of it!" said Aragog fiercely, "We do not name it! I never even told Hagrid the name of that dread creature, though he asked me, many times." [COS-p. 278]

Harry, sensing he won't get more information from Aragog, says it's time for them to go. Aragog, however, is perfectly willing to let them be the next meal for his family--clearly, his loyalty is only to Hagrid.

They manage to escape with the help of the Ford Anglia. Ron, terrified by the encounter, can see that the venture into the Forest served any purpose. But Harry points out that they know now that Hagrid was innocent.

Harry finally puts the clues together after they return to their dormitory.

"Ron--that girl who died. Aragog said she was found in a bathroom," said Harry, ignoring Neville's snuffling snores from the corner. "What if she never left the bathroom? What if she's still there?" . . .

"You don't think--not Moaning Myrtle?" [COS-p. 282]

Once again, we see that Rowling has given us a character who seemed to be there just to add a bit of humor. Yet this particular character is now the key to helping them solve the current mystery--and she returns in other books as well.

It's no wonder we, as careful readers, have all learned to look at every detail so closely--that's where Rowling so cleverly hides her clues--right there in plain sight.

CHAPTER 16: The Chamber of Secrets
Just when Harry and Ron have a real clue to help them solve the monster mystery, they are jolted back to reality when McGonagall tells them their exams will begin in one week, on the first of June. Dumbledore’s instructions, she tells them, were to keep the school routine normal. Harry can’t think of anything useful he’s learned and Ron is dismayed to think he’ll have to use his broken wand, which at the moment is whistling.

Three days before the first exam (May 29?), McGonagall announces that the Mandrakes are ready which means the Petrified people can be revived that night. Harry and Ron are relieved to think it won’t matter that they hadn’t been able to talk to Myrtle

Ginny joined them, looking scared and rocking backwards and forwards, reminding Harry of Dobby when he was ready to reveal forbidden information. But just as she was ready to talk, Percy joined them, essentially telling Finny to leave, as he wants to take her place.

When Ron says she was about to tell them something important, Percy dismisses it and our attention is misdirected, as he implies with much embarrassment, that Ginny’s secret was something she saw him doing.

“I asked her not to mentions it to anybody. I must say, I did think she’d keep her word. It’s nothing, really, I’d just rather—“ [COS-p. 287]

Harry still wants to talk to Myrtle and their chance came when Lockhart, more convinced than ever that the danger is passed, was persuaded to let them got to their next class alone. Harry and Ron let the rest of the Gryffindors go ahead, but as they hurry towards Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, they’re stopped short by McGonagall. They stammer that they just wanted to go see Hermione.

“. . . Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady eye. “Of course, I realize this has been hardest on the friends of those who have been. . . I quite understand. Yes, Potter, of course you may visit miss Granger. I will inform Professor Binns where you’ve gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my permission.” [COS-p.288-9]

There was nothing for it, then; they had to go to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey let them in but they realized she was right—there wasn’t much point in trying to talk to a petrified person.

They see a crumpled piece of paper in Hermione’s fist and carefully pull it out.

It was a page torn from a very old library book. . .

“Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken’s egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.” [COS-p. 290]

Beneath that, Hermione had written “Pipes”.It suddenly makes sense—it’s a giant serpent, using the plumbing, which is the reason Harry can hear and understand it, as he speaks Parseltongue. The entrance to the Chamber must be in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. In a rare moment, Harry and Ron decide they must tell McGonagall and head for the staff room.

CHAPTER 17: The Heir of Slytherin
Harry once again faces Voldemort alone, or so he thinks when he finds himself in the Chamber of Secrets. Ron and Lockhart are left behind and Harry goes alone to try to find and rescue Ginny. The description in the beginning of the chapter is vivid, with a feeling of evil surrounding Harry. When he finally sees the statue of Slytherin, it is described as having a “monkey-like” (UK audio CD) face. (Later, in HBP, there is a similar description of Marvolo Gaunt, US version, p. 202):

“This man was shorter than the first, and oddly proportioned; his shoulders were very broad and his arms overlong, which, with his bright brown eyes, short scrubby hair, and wrinkled face, gave him the look of a powerful, aged monkey.”

Harry determines that Ginny has not been petrified because her eyes are closed, but she is “white as marble, and as cold”. (The next time we see white marble, it is Dumbledore's tomb.) Riddle is there, calm, blurred around the edges, but not a ghost, as Harry thinks he might be. It is in this chapter that we first see the result of a Horcrux and get a glimmer of how it functions, but because we don’t know what it is at this point, much of this chapter seemed confusing the first time I read it—and every time until Half-Blood Prince came out, actually.

What do we learn in this chapter?

--Riddle here is sixteen, not a ghost but not restored to himself yet. He does have enough of a body to pick up Harry’s wand, however.

--Riddle says that he is a memory, “preserved in a diary for fifty years.” [COS-p. 308]

--Riddle tells Harry that he won’t need his wand and that he, Riddle, has been waiting to meet Harry for a long time.

--Riddle explains how Ginny pouring her secrets into the diary was just what he needed. The more she bared her soul to the diary, the more strength Riddle gained from it.

The description of Riddle’s eyes as he looks at Harry is: “There was an almost hungry look in them.” [COS-p.309] This is similar to the look on Tom Riddle’s face when he visits Hepzibah Smith and she shows him Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s cup.

In Riddle’s description of Ginny writing in the diary, Riddle shows his lack of compassion in that he was bored with “the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl”. She was honest and trusting, yet he was unmoved by any genuine emotions of another person.

“If I say it myself, Harry, I’ve always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted. . . I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her. . .” [COS-p.310]

Harry doesn’t understand, and neither do we at this point. But in this chapter we get the explanation of how the Horcrux works, I think. Riddle, we learn later, put a piece of his torn soul into the diary, which was a preservation of his sixteen year old self. But even those two things together—the memory of sixteen-year-old Tom and the Horcrux—were not enough to bring Riddle back to human form. Something else was needed; a body and a soul.

Ginny provides both. In putting some of her soul into the diary—into the memory Tom Riddle—Ginny allowed the partial incomplete Riddle access to her complete soul. But he instead put some of his soul back into her, including his memories of the Chamber of Secrets and apparently his ability to speak Parseltongue, though we don’t know whether she has retained that particular ability. Ginny’s innocence was taken from her when she was overtaken by the evil of Tom Riddle’s soul. Riddle was able to take her over because of the darkness of her own thoughts and fears. Evil feeds on the dark, not on the light. Had Ginny been content and happy, would Riddle have been able to use her in the same way? Very likely he would not, though he probably would have tried to put doubts and fear into her thoughts by his diary responses.

Ginny has periods of time where she doesn’t know what she was doing, but she sees evidence that leads her to understand that somehow she is the one causing the havoc at Hogwarts. And she ties it all to the diary and disposes of it. Had Harry listened to Ron, the diary would have lain on Myrtle’s bathroom floor for a long time. However, the monster was already loose, so the story couldn’t just end there.

Riddle tells Harry that he was delighted when it was Harry who picked up the diary and then figured out how to work it, because he (Riddle) had wanted to meet him. But why? Sixteen-year-old Riddle would not have known anything about Harry Potter. Did he actually have any knowledge of the present before Ginny began writing that the older Voldemort had vanished? Likely not, and we get that in this chapter as well.

“Well, you see, Ginny told me all about you, Harry,” said Riddle. “Your whole fascinating history.” His eyes roved over the lightning scar on Harry’s forehead, and his expression grew hungrier. “I knew I must find out more about you, talk to you, meet you if I could. So I decided to show you my famous capture of that great oaf, Hagrid, to gain your trust—“ [COS-p. 311]

At this point Harry realizes that Riddle framed Hagrid, and that he was wrong to doubt Hagrid’s innocence. But rather than understand that Harry is loyal, Riddle completely misses it. He only laughs and is pleased that his ruse worked on Armando Dippet, because Hagrid was not a model student. We also get a glimmer of Riddle’s need for recognition. It is one of the things that has motivated him since childhood. He wanted to be different, to stand above the rest, to be recognized for his achievements.

“. . . even I was surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid couldn’t possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance. . . as though Hagrid had the brains, or the power!” [COS-p. 312]

Will Harry remember this attitude of the young Riddle when he next confronts Voldemort? Knowing what motivates a manipulative person very often gives us clues in how to respond to them.

Riddle, however, was smart enough to know that Dumbledore was watching him and that continuing with the Chamber of Secrets was too risky. At that point he preserved his sixteen-year-old self in a diary “so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.” [COS-p. 312]

Now that he knows about Harry, Riddle’s focus has changed and Harry is his new target. He decided to use Ginny, who he saw as one of Harry’s best friends, to lure Harry to the Chamber of Secrets, knowing that Harry would try to rescue her. Ginny, at that point, fought against Riddle, which seems to say that even though he had obtained enough of her soul to allow him to act without her, she still had some strength to fight against the evil that was trying to consume her.

“But there isn’t much life left in her. . . She put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at last. . . I have been waiting for you to appear since we arrived here. I knew you’d come. I have many questions for you, Harry Potter.”

Riddle wants to know how baby Harry defeated the “greatest wizard of all time”. . . .“How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort’s powers were destroyed?”

There was an odd red gleam in his hungry eyes now.

Harry wants to know why he cares, as

“Voldemort was after your time. . .”
“Voldemort,” said Riddle softly, “is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter. . .” [COS-p. 313]

So, we have diary Tom who has learned his own history as it is tied with Harry’s history, all through the writing of Ginny. That should tell us that the Horcrux that was encased in the diary is not sufficient for an existence on its own. Diary Tom—the memory—with the piece of Voldemort’s soul still had to have a more complete body and soul to return. Even though that piece of Voldemort’s soul seems safe it is too small to exist without the other pieces or without a whole soul.

Rowling draws some very interesting tangible images of what a soul is, and of what someone’s memory is. By writing in a diary or a journal, a person puts a bit of himself into the pages, to be preserved there. It is only when someone else reads it that the person “comes back to life”. When we read the writings of others, years after they are gone, their preserved memories can lead us to follow in their footsteps or to complete their work. This even goes back to the first book and Nicholas Flamel, who recorded his work on the search for the Philosopher’s Stone. We need to take care just what we do with a diary that we find, with someone else’s memories. We can learn from them, or we can be taken over by them, if we are not careful to protect our own unique self. And how safe is it to pour out your soul in a diary, if there is a risk that someone else can gain access to it? Too much information can be deadly to the writer of the diary if the diary falls into the hands of someone who will use the information against us, or it can be used for good, as in the case of Anne Frank's diary, that gave the world a glimpse of what it was like to live a hidden life to escape the Nazis in World War II.

The chapter leaves the diary discussion here and moves to Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore. Riddle knows that Dumbledore is gone and takes credit for only his memory being required to banish Dumbledore. Harry, grasping for anything, echoes what Dumbledore said—that he isn’t really gone as long as there are those who are loyal to him. We hear the same thing from Harry at the end of HBP when Harry is talking to Scrimgeour.

The music that they both hear has an opposite effect on them. It is

“eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly; it lifted the hair on Harry’s scalp and make his heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size.” Riddle has frozen. [COS-p.315]

In "Looking for God in Harry Potter", John Granger points out that the phoenix song is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, with the phoenix being a symbol of Christ. From "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", we learn that the “phoenix is a gentle creature that has never been known to kill and only eats herbs.” We also see that “phoenix song is magical; it is reputed to increase the courage of the pure of heart and to strike fear into the hearts of the impure. Phoenix tears have powerful healing properties.” [FB-p. 3]) It should not surprise us that Harry finds reassurance in hearing phoenix song and in seeing Fawkes, nor that Riddle does not. Riddle sees no use at all in the phoenix and the Sorting Hat, ignoring them, while moving on to the question he wants answered—how Harry survived the killing curse.

Harry tells him the truth, that he doesn’t know why Riddle didn’t survive, or why he, Harry, did. He only knows that his mother died to save him. He also tells Riddle what has become of him:

—“And I’ve seen the real you, I saw you last year. You’re a wreck. You’re barely alive. That’s where all your power got you. You’re in hiding. You’re ugly, you’re foul—“ [COS-p.316]

What a good description of what happens to those who only seek power at the expense of their soul. They may be powerful for a while, but in the end, their power leaves them in a state of existence that separates them from the rest of humanity, and imperils their immortality.

Riddle looks for commonalities between himself and Harry, still trying to understand how someone ordinary could defeat someone so extraordinary. He acknowledges that sacrificial death is a powerful countercurse, but says that after all, there is nothing special about Harry, in his way of thinking.

The battle ensues, with Riddle calling upon Slytherin’s monster—the serpent symbolizing evil. Harry has only the weapons given him by Dumbledore, which Riddle dismisses.

Harry sees the serpent and sees Fawkes attacking it. It’s a clear visual image of good fighting evil, of Christ fighting against Satan. Riddle keeps trying to get the basilisk to go after Harry rather than the bird, but blinded, the basilisk is confused, though still deadly.

Harry asks for help two different times—“someone—anyone” and later he thinks, while hiding under the Sorting Hat—“Help me—help me. . .Please help me—“ [COS-p. 319] No voice answered him, instead help came in a physical form. The Sorting Hat tightened and something hard dropped on his head—a sword. We learn later it is the silver, ruby encrusted sword which belonged to Godric Gryffindor. How appropriate that in this good versus evil battle between Riddle and Harry, we have each one using the weapon that belonged to two of the founders, Slytherin and Gryffindor.

Even though Harry killed the basilisk with the sword, he was wounded when the basilisk’s fang sank into his arm. Fawkes is beside him, and Harry believes he is dying. Riddle confirms it when he says, “You’re dead, Harry Potter. . . Dead. Even Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he is doing, Potter? He’s crying.”

Riddle is content to watch Harry die, another indication of his lack of remorse or of any connection to other people—they exist only for his benefit and convenience.

“So ends the famous Harry Potter,” said Riddle’s distant voice. “Alone in the Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry. . . She bought you twelve years of borrowed time. . . but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must. . .” [COS-p. 321]

As Harry thinks that dying isn’t so bad, and finally sees that the mortal wound has healed, Riddle suddenly realizes what is happening and tries to scare off the phoenix. It’s typical of Riddle that, once again he has forgotten the healing power of phoenix tears. Still holding Harry’s wand, Riddle intends to use it to kill Harry. But Harry has the basilisk fang and plunges it into the diary, destroying the memory (and the Horcrux, we find out later) of the young Tom Riddle.

CHAPTER 18: Dobby's Reward
I’ve always thought it a shame that of all the scenes left out of the movies that it was particularly sad that this one was so abbreviated. In the movie we only see Ron and Harry return with Ginny to Dumbledore’s office (and a memory-less Lockhart). But, of course, Mr. And Mrs. Weasley, informed of their daughter’s abduction by the monster, would be at the school—something left out of the movie. They, as any parent would be, are thrilled beyond belief that she’s alive. And rather than Dumbledore’s office, Fawkes has led them to McGonagall’s office.

Including the Weasley parents in the scene allows for Rowling to include the reminder about things that are dangerous objects, as well as getting the full story of what happened. McGonagall is calming herself while Professor Dumbledore beams, as he often does when Harry comes through some harrowing experience. Fawkes settles himself on Dumbledore’s shoulder as Harry and Ron are hugged by Mrs. Weasley. They all want to know how the boys saved Ginny.

Placing the Sorting Hat, the ruby-encrusted sword, and the remains of Riddle’s diary on the desk, Harry recounts their journey in finding and rescuing Ginny. He tells:

-of hearing the disembodied voice
-of Hermione realizing it was a basilisk in the pipes
-how he an d Ron followed the spiders into the Forest where Aragog told them where the last victim died
-how they guessed it was Myrtle, and
-that the Chamber of Secrets entrance was in Myrtle’s bathroom

McGonagall acknowledges that they figured it out, “breaking a hundred school rules into pieces along the way, I might add—but how on earth did you get out of there alive, Potter?” [COS-p. 328]

Harry tells them of Fawkes’s timely arrival, bringing him the Sorting Hat with the sword, all the while avoiding the mention of the diary and Ginny. The diary has been destroyed, so how can they prove that Riddle was the one controlling Ginny?

As always, Dumbledore leads Harry into that part of the story. “What interests me most,” said Dumbledore gently, “is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania.” [COS-p. 328]

At this point we should have asked what sources Dumbledore has who know what’s happening so far away, and more importantly, if this means Voldemort can exist in more than one place and one form at the same time. If sixteen year old Riddle was getting strength by robbing Ginny of hers, was the vapor version of Voldemort also gaining strength; are the soul fragments connected in any way, or only when Voldemort tries to put them back together?

But as it’s only the second book, we aren’t yet aware of how important small details are; we, like Harry, are more worried about what will happen to Ginny now and whether she, Harry, and Ron are about to be expelled for all their recent spate of rule-breaking.

After Harry explains that Riddle wrote in the diary when he was sixteen, Dumbledore looks at its soggy burnt pages—
“Brilliant,” he said softly. “Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen. . . Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I taught him myself, fifty years ago at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving school. . . traveled far and wide. . . sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here.” [COS-p.329]

That Dumbledore is aware of Lord Voldemort’s transformations indicates that he had been investigating Riddle for some time, though we don’t know how long or with whom he shared the information he had learned—with McGonagall? Snape? the old Order members? or no one? After Voldemort’s defeat when he tried to kill infant Harry, did the Order continue to meet for a while, or did they disband? They don’t seem to be meeting now—in fact they seem to be somewhat scattered, but how long did it take before that happened?

We also don’t know when Slughorn became aware of the connection between his favored student and the evil wizard he became. Perhaps Slughorn is one who, like Dumbledore, followed Voldemort’s downward spiral into evil and the Dark Arts.

Another wizard who might have followed Tom Riddle’s transformation to Lord Voldemort might have been Ollivander. Perhaps that explains the eerie comment that he made to Harry about the connection between Voldemort’s and Harry’s wands, and later, Ollivander’s disappearance. If Tom Riddle bought his wand as a young boy, then Ollivander would have to know what became of Tom—or it means that Lord Voldemort bought his wand after his transformation. That doesn’t seem likely, however, that he would be able to wander into Diagon Alley on a wand buying trip. Either way, he seems to know too much about Voldemort for his own safety.

Harry, Ron and Ginny are admonished by Mr. Weasley, who had previously warned them “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. . . A suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic—“ [COS-p. 329]

Ron had pretty much told Harry the same thing when they first found the diary. Ron can sometimes be rather rash, so it’s good to know that he actually has heard his father’s warnings.

Ginny is sent off to the hospital win, with no punishment. “Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort,” according to Dumbledore, who also recommends bed rest and a “steaming mug of hot chocolate.” [COS-p.330]

Dumbledore sends Minerva off to arrange a good feast, leaving Ron and Harry awaiting certain punishment. Rather than the promised expulsion for further rule breaking, Dumbledore says they will receive Special Awards for Service to the School, plus two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor. Interesting that they receive the same Award that Tom Riddle was given fifty years before, and that both have to do with catching the monster in the Chamber of Secrets.

Lockhart has been silent throughout the return, his memory lost: “Impaled upon your own sword, Gilderoy!” [COS-p.331] Ron then takes Lockhart off to the hospital wing.

Dumbledore starts by thanking Harry—and we’ll see references to this in later books. “You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that would have called Fawkes to you.” [COS-p. 332]

Harry finally voices his concerns about himself and Tom Riddle’s similarities. All the doubts he has had from the Sorting his first year finally surface.

“You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly, “because Lord Voldemort who is the last remaining descendant* of Salazar Slytherin—can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure. . .”

“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.

“It certainly seems so.” [COS-p. 333]

That is the passage that many people refer to for the Harry-is-a-Horcrux, or his scar is, argument. I still don’t think that’s the case, but I admit that I may be very wrong about that. I don’t think that one’s talents/abilities are the same as one’s soul, and for Harry or the scar to be a Horcrux, it must be part of Voldemort’s soul that was transferred. The means for that to happen take some very elaborate circumstances, and explanations, and I don’t think Rowling would get that complicated.

So, why, when the Sorting Hat clearly said Harry would have done well in Slytherin, isn’t Harry just like Riddle? And why is his Gryffindor placement correct? Only because Harry, who had heard bad things about Slytherin from Ron and Hagrid, asked not to be put there.

“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” [COS-p. 333]

*Note: I have the hard back US version of Chamber of Secrets, the audio book read by Stephen Fry and the US paperback that was published a year later. In the hard back version and on the audio book, the word is “descendant”, but in the paperback version, it says “ancestor”. When asked about the discrepancy, Rowling said something about it being a deliberate mistake, and in later printings, I think it was changed back to descendant. The two words refer to relatives of a person, but they are very different.

According to Webster’s Dictionary:
a person who is an offspring, however remote, of a certain ancestor, family, group, etc.
Ancestor: 1. any person from whom one is descended; forebear. 2. an early type of animal from which later kinds have evolved. 3. in law, the person from whom an estate has been inherited.

Those are not interchangeable terms—it doesn’t make sense that Tom Riddle can be both the last descendant and the last ancestor of Salazar Slytherin, who lived one thousand years before the present day story. I’ve never been able to make sense of this, but maybe we will get an answer with the seventh book—or maybe not.

As proof that Harry’s placement was correct, Dumbledore points Harry to the silver sword, ruby-encrusted, with the engraved name: Godric Gryffindor.

“Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry,” said Dumbledore simply. [COS-p. 334]

Gryffindor House reference, or heir of Gryffindor? We still don’t know. Dumbledore does make a side comment about needing a new DADA teacher—“Dear me, we do seem to run through the, don’t we?” [COS-p. 334], when he says he will have to draft an advertisement for the Daily Prophet, as he’s sending Harry off for food and rest.

However, Harry’s exit is postponed by the arrival of Lucius Malfoy, obviously furious, and followed by a cowering Dobby. Lucius is irate when he learns Dumbledore has returned. Once the other eleven governors heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed, they sent owls telling Dumbledore they wanted him back at Hogwarts. They also let him know that Malfoy had threatened to curse their families if they hadn’t gone along with Dumbledore’s removal. It seems that there are limits to Lucius’s ability to intimidate and control others, after all.

When Lucius asks if the attacks have been stopped, Dumbledore tells him they have been and that it was the same person responsible as the last time. Showing Malfoy the diary, our attention, and Harry’s, turns to Dobby, who is trying to tell Harry something—surprisingly he’s still with the Malfoys; for all the times he’s had to punish himself, they are much more reluctant to rid themselves of an unsatisfactory house elf than we see later with the immediate dismissal of Winky by Barty Crouch, Sr.

Dumbledore makes it clear to Lucius that he knows the diary was the cause of Ginny’s actions, which was a clever plan to discredit Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act.

Harry, finally figuring out Dobby’s clues, asks Malfoy if he doesn’t want to know how Ginny got hold of the diary.
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?” he said.

“Because you gave it to her,” said Harry. “In Flourish and Blotts. You picked up her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn’t you?”

He saw Malfoy’s white hands clench and unclench.

“Prove it,” he hissed.
“Oh, no one will be able to do that,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. “Not now Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you, Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort’s old school things. If any more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will make sure they are traced back to you. . .” [COS-p.336-7]

Lucius, kicking Dobby along, leaves. It is then that Harry sees a way to help Dobby; by putting the ruined diary in his own sock, he gives it to Malfoy out in the corridor. Malfoy throws it at Dobby, which of course, means that he has given Dobby clothes—an insignificant sock was enough to free him—something that Lucius realizes too late.

He lunges at Harry and is stopped by Dobby’s wandless powerful elf-magic, which sends Malfoy hurrying off after he crashes down the stairs. This is a definite commentary of what happens to the oppressed when they are freed from bondage—any previous loyalty to Dobby’s master is put aside as he shows his gratitude for being freed. Dobby disappears with a crack—disapparation inside Hogwarts. Clearly, many of the rules of what can and can’t be done do not apply to house elves.

(In the movie, the difference is that Lucius draws his wand on Harry as he lunges towards him, and begins to utter something that we recognize from the later books as the Avada Kedavra curse. I’m not sure why this was included in the movie, but it seems to be one of those changes that was approved by Rowling.)

The book ends with everything being put right—Hagrid comes back from Azkaban, the petrified people are restored, Gryffindor wins the House Cup (due to the four hundred points from Harry and Ron). Exams are cancelled—disappointing only Hermione. Dumbledore announces that Lockhart had to go away to get his memory back, disappointing no one.

Lucius Malfoy was sacked as a governor, though we later learn that he still has control and influence in the Ministry of Magic.

Ginny seems to have fully recovered. On the train ride back, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and the twins spend their time together, with Harry returning once more to the Dursleys. His attitude was much different than it was at the beginning of the book—a contrast we see in each book, as Harry grows a little each year.


Some final thoughts on Chamber of Secrets as it relates to the rest of the series (through book 6):

When Dumbledore warned Lucius about Voldemort’s old school things, it made me wonder just what else he might have had and whether it is possible that he had already sold some other of Voldemort’s things to Borgin and Burkes.

But then I wondered again about the origin of the Prince’s Potions book. Is it possible that the book and the nick name didn’t come from Severus’s friends or mother but rather directly from Voldemort? What better way to recruit a student who is interested in and knowledgeable about the Dark Arts than to pass along one of his old text books? The writing and the notes in the Potions book seem to be from Snape, not from Voldemort, or from Snape’s mother—he does claim that the spells written in the book were his own inventions.

However, Half-blood Prince has always seemed like an odd name for Snape to give himself, or even for his mother to give him; it is possible that the nick-name came from someone else.

If Eileen Prince was at school with Tom Riddle, he might have known her and found her useful—another instance of his charming people when he needed to do so. It is also possible that he might have looked her up or run into her later. If he learned that she had a son—who was promising, but a half-blood like himself—Voldemort might have thought his attention and flattery would win him an early follower.

My thought here is that, in Chamber of Secrets, we see that Tom Riddle was able to appear friendly and charming, as he did to both Ginny and Harry through the diary, because he wanted to use them. Voldemort later tells Harry that he was always able to charm those he needed. If he met a young Severus Snape, fascinated by the Dark Arts even before he went to Hogwarts, he might have thought that nurturing his trust at an early age would be advantageous later—what better way than the friendly personal gesture of passing along his old Potions book to this Hogwarts student, who from all indications was a loner. It would be much easier for Voldemort to control a student who is not popular, not constantly surrounded by many friends—all he had to do was make Severus Snape feel important and special.