Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dumbledore is what?

I thought I didn't have anything further to clarify about how I view Deathly Hallows, but that was before the two big revelations from Rowling in her Open Book tour in the middle of October. Like many others, I had entered to try to win two tickets to Carnegie Hall. And I knew which of my daughters would be going with me. It would have been Sarah, as October 19 was her birthday. Laura wasn't happy about that announcement, but thankfully, I was spared that bit of sibling rivalry when I did not win the tickets. Not to mention that I saved a lot of money in air fare from Seattle to New York and in hotel costs which looked outrageous when I chanced to look just in case I won.

On October 17, Rowling talked about the Christian themes and imagery and said that she had always intended that they were part of the story, particularly the 7th book. It was quite a vindication for all of us who have been saying that we saw those things early on. So many things fall into place with that knowledge. She was confirming rather than revealing something that was not already in the books. It was there all along and the only reason some didn't see it was that they refused to do so, preferring some other purpose for the characters choices and for the outcome of the story. There are some excellent discussions about this at Hogwarts Professor (John Granger) and at Sword of Gryffindor (Travis Prinzi) so Unless I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands, I won't repost everything here. Well, never say never--I may do it later, but not for a while anyway.

Then we had the question and answer period at Carnegie Hall and of course, the reporters jumped on the only question/answer that was sure to make headlines--in some cities it was on the front page no less. Surely there must be more important things going on in the world than Rowling saying she always thought of Dumbledore (a fictional character in a fantasy series) as gay.

I found myself going from being elated about the religious confirmation to be sorely disappointed about the gay revelation. It only took me about a day to realize that my disappointment wasn't so much that Dumbledore was gay but that there was no clue of it in any of the seven books. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay but by not making that clear (especially to people who have read the books over and over and by that time, I'd even read Deathly Hallows three times), it just didn't matter.

I know that some people have said that they thought certain characters were gay--Lupin being the prime example. And that turned out not to be the case when we learned that he and Tonks were in love and then married and had a child. We see Lupin at his happiest when he comes to announce that he and Tonks have a son, Teddy.

I think many of us thought of Dumbledore as just being too consumed with saving the world to even think about any sex life he had, even one in his youth. He sort of fit that image that I, and many students had, that their teachers have no life outside of school. When I taught school, my 2nd grade students were fascinated that I was getting married, and then they met my husband later. The fascination was, I think, because until then they really thought that I lived at the school. Children just have no reason to think of teachers as having a sex life--and I apparently read the books with that mind-set.

It had no bearing on my reading of Dumbledore's friendship with Grindelwald. That is the way Rowling chose to speak of their relationship--a friendship of two highly talented youth who were busy with their political amibitions to save the wizarding world. There didn't have to be more of an explanation of why Dumbledore was so enthralled with his new friend. He'd finally found someone who was his equal and it was a way for him to escape the responsiblities of his family that must have felt like a huge unfair burden to someone so bright and gifted.

My other disappointment was that Rowling shared this bit of back story at all. As a Christian, I've spent the last eight years defending the books and pointing out to parents that they are stories written with Christian themes--they have nothing to fear from letting their children read the Harry Potter books. But many of those Christians who are Harry-haters are also very intolerant of gays. And one of my first thoughts was that by telling us that Dumbledore was gay, Rowling had undone everything that would reassure those fearful doubting parents who might rethink their decision and let their children experience a wonderful story. *sigh*

Well, it is what it is. Rowling thinks of Dumbledore as gay, so as the author, she must be right. However, I think that she missed her chance to have all the readers see him the same way by not putting that particular detail in the books themselves. If it was important to understanding the story, then it should have been there in the first place. (Personally, I'm glad it wasn't as I don't think it would have been appropriate in a book read by so many young children.)

I came to see after a few days and reading a lot of other people's thoughts, that my biggest disappointment was not that Dumbledore was gay, but that Rowling hadn't included it in the story and saying it after the books were done just seemed pointless and rendered the information useless to the understanding of the story. I've also realized that for all the times I said I wanted all that back story, all the details about all the characters, I don't. If it's not there already, it does not change the way I read it; if it's not there already, it just doesn't matter.

John Granger included links to articles written by Prof. John Mark Reynolds:

Dumbledore Is Not Gay: Taking Stories More Seriously Than the Author

Dumbledore Is Not Hetero: Taking Stories More Seriously Than the Author II

Author's Intent: Taking the Story More Seriously Than the Author Part III

They are well worth reading. I feel that I can now move past this particular bit of information that will not change how I read the Harry Potter stories--and I'm glad that I have come to that place.


Monday, October 1, 2007

More thoughts on the end. . .or perhaps it should be, "the close"

I re-read Deathly Hallows again this month, even going so far as to take it with me in my carry-on when we flew down to Disneyland in the middle of the month for a long weekend with friends. No wonder my bag was so heavy. But it was nice to have it on the plane and in the evenings.

I've come to realize that with the ending of the last book, there are other things to which I'm saying good-bye. One of them is a forum where I've been chatting for a long time, through many iterations, as the original one crashed so many times that we finally gave up and started our own. So, I'm sad to find that the people I found on line back in 2001 are the ones who are most unhappy with Deathly Hallows, which puts me so much at odds with them, that I just can't join in the discussions any longer.

I think most of their problem stems from their convictions that the books should have ended differently, partly due to the second fan fic written by one of the women. I thoroughly enjoyed her first one, but the second one ended up feeling very contrived at the end as she managed to actually make Harry and Snape reconcile and work together in the post-Voldermort era. They all really liked it, but for me, that was the point where she strayed too far from the characters that Rowling created, and I couldn't go there. And then once I read Deathly Hallows, the idea that Snape would have survived and actually change that much was just way too out of character. Frankly, I find it a bit arrogant when said author speaks with such authority on what is wrong with Rowling's writing of the last book. This person's credentials as a writer are extemely limited, in my opinion. She wrote fan fiction, after all--jumping off into a story with established characters and story arc, basing her story on what was created by Rowling. While she did a very good job of keeping the characters "in character" (in the first book and part of the second one), and did some creative things with the plot, it still wasn't her original ideas. And then to criticize Rowling for writing the story the way she wanted is just the height of silliness. I hope that she will get out of fan fiction and actually write her own stories some day, and then her opinion might carry more weight. But I think at this point she is focused on just writing more fan fiction, continuing to hang on to JKR's coattails. But---I don't dare say that to her or to anyone from that forum.

I've tried telling them that I found Rowling's story with Snape compelling and so true to the character she had created, as well as why I really like all the Christian imagery--which they don't. That's surprising as well; some of them are Christians, including the author, some are nothing in particular and some are avowed atheists (which was the reason I left that forum for a while after Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, come to think of it). So, I'm saying good-bye, without really saying it. I've decided to just disappear rather than post some angsty sort of thing that people often post when they say farewell. Whether or not I stay in contact with any of them remains to be seen. The one who created the site with the help of her husband is the only one I've met when they have come to the Puget Sound area to visit her parents. So we'll see. It's always been up to her to give me a call when she's in town. But since I haven't posted there since my birthday, and then only to explain (once again) why I liked DH so much, I think any meeting we have might be a bit awkward and stained.

I've made notes throughout my Deathly Hallows book, with some at the end in the blank pages. I think later I'll go through and just post those comments here. There are still some things I'm sorting through, but one of the things I found most interesting is how much of Deathly Hallows ties back to all the other books, with a little comment here or there. Brilliant. One of the things that I liked best was that none of the characters were perfect. So often in a hero tale, the hero and some of his closest friends are without fault by the end of the story. It makes them much less human, much less real; as a reader, it's very difficult to relate to characters who are perfect and unlike anyone we've ever met or like ourselves.

Well, now that I've got that off my chest, it's time for some tea--blackberry sage, I think.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

What determines who is a hero?

If you haven't found the interesting discussions over at Sword of Gryffindor, you've really been missing out. Travis's latest pubcast is concerning whether Severus Snape can be considered a hero.

Now for Snape--please forgive the extreme length, but I'm one of those who find him to be the most enigmatic of all the characters. (A shape shifter, as Travis defines in his PubCast #34, might be the most appropriate explanation for who Snape is--ever changing, always a problem for the hero, etc.)

No, I don't want to be like him, and I certainly hope I never even meet anyone like him, nor would I have wanted him as a teacher. I am as appalled as Rowling when young girls or women talk of wanting to marry Snape--makes me shudder to think of it. He is not a nice man, no matter how you view him, and he wasn't about to change for anyone, especially since we learn that he wouldn't change (his choice of thuggish friends), even for Lily.

As an adult, Snape doesn't even seem to have friends among his colleagues. They show him respect, but friendship? Hardly. Other than his unique friendship with Dumbledore, and as we found out in Deathly Hallows, his childhood friendship with Lily, Snape led a very solilary life--and probably would have done even if he hadn't turned spy.

I expected to learn more about Snape's life with his parents, but I was absolutely OK with not getting that in this story. Rowling had given us the hints that Snape was from an abusive home, that he was bullied by his peers and that he was a loner. The piece that was missing was that he did have one friend, and apparently it was a real friendship, marred as friendships sometimes are, by the choices that he made.

A side note here--Travis at SoG, quoted from MacDonald. I don't have the quote, but it is something to the effect that, as readers we get out of a story different things, because we bring our own individual experiences to the story and the characters; we may even find something in a story or a particular character that the author did not intend. As individual readers, we sometimes get something completely different out of a story because of our own experiences. And perhaps that's the reason I feel some empathy for Snape. (No, I don't have greasy hair, a sallow skin and a hooked nose and Death Eaters for former friends.) I did, however, have a friend who was, to put it plainly, just odd. Not abused in any way, rather she probably had too many advantages, most of which she did not appreciate. But she was always like a square peg trying to fit into a smaller round hole. We were very different, but for some reason we were best friends for three or four years, and then she made a choice that ended the friendship. The situation was different for Snape, of course, as he loved Lily; whether or not Lily felt the same was never quite clear, but implied. But she at least seemed to love him as a friend. When she told him she couldn't abide his choice of friends, I knew how that felt (even though for Snape it was love, and for me it was a friendship) because I had felt that same disappointment of feeling betrayed by my friend's choice. (She stole my boyfriend, actually--not a good thing for a best friend to do. Turning Death Eater might have been easier for me to accept-- er, well, maybe not.)

My point is that I think we do find ourselves identifying more with some characters than with others. In the beginning of the books, I identified very much with Harry; (again, there was no abuse in my life, only love and a caring family) but I was adopted and didn't know anything about my birth parents. That's where that character identification stopped for me, except that my adoptive dad died when I was ten--so I did somewhat understand how Harry felt about not having parents.

However, the time that Harry spent in front of the Mirror of Erised brought tears to my eyes, as I thought of what I would see. It would be my mother, who had died in 1996, three years before I started reading Harry Potter. And then hearing later that it was Jo's favorite chapter, for much the same reason as mine, resonates incredibly with my own feelings and understanding of what it feels like to be without parents. I miss my mother still, and like Jo, would like just five more minutes with her, or a bit of time looking into the Mirror of Erised.

There are other things in all the books that are particularly poignant to me and that I seem to understand differently than some readers who are younger who have not experienced the death of parents or grand parents. Especially the thestrals--that was another moment when I felt so close to Luna and Neville and Harry, having seen someone die when I was a child. It was my grandfather. Apart from my parents, he was my favorite person in the world, and I was the one who found him when he was dying. So whenever I think of thestrals, I think of that late afternoon fifty years ago.

I know that many readers had problems with the manner in which Snape died, even those who expected that he would. Part of the problem IMO, is that some are too tied to their own theories, especially those who read or write a lot of fan fiction. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with fanfic--I've enjoyed some of it. But when it changes the way a reader understands the author's story and characters, then the fanfic has been damaging. I think that's where some of the dissatisfaction arises, with the cruel way Snape was killed, and that it needn't have happened at all. There was no glory, no heroic sort of scene, and after Harry and Snape looked into each others' eyes--a scene which I found so very powerful, Harry and Ron and Hermione rushed off, leaving this fallen hero alone, in a place that held the unpleasant memories of his childhood enemies.

While I get their point, I think they have missed the bigger point with Snape's death, as well as with the deaths of Sirius in OP, and of Remus and Tonks, and even Fred. In the middle of a war, particularly a civil war being fought on the grounds of their school (the stand-in for their homes), not every death is going to have the honor and significance of Dumbledore's or Dobby's deaths. War is ugly; it is not fair; it is not a respector of the worth of a person's life. And war does not stop and wait while we properly mourn for our beloved and fallen friends and families.

Snape had spent the rest of his life, after Lily was killed, full of remorse, and trying to atone for his unintentional betrayal of the only person he ever loved, or who ever loved him. Sirius had found his friends and his god son and should have had some happiness after twelve years of misery and two years in hiding. Remus and Tonks had finally found each other, and had a son to raise (though, looking at the alchemical imagery of the story, I knew they were toast as soon as they had Teddy). And Fred. Fred, at the moment of reconcilliation with his brother Percy, having a laugh, was killed as well.

Senseless deaths? Some think so, from what I've read on a few forums. All of those characters deserved to live and grow old, or they all deserved to have some sort of glorious death--isn't that what happens in the movies? The good guys all come out on the other side, perhaps injured or scarred, but OK, and the bad guys either die or get what's coming to them. Neat and tidy, and totally unrealisitc.

The best thing about Rowling's books is that she's not writing unbelievable stories with glorious deaths, or allowing characters to live because just because we like them; it wouldn't be at all realistic in the middle of a war if there were no deaths of nice people. And for her readers to feel what that means, if they haven't expereinced the loss of a family member or friend to the tragedy of war, Rowling had to kill off some of the characters we loved, or at the very least, that we respected or for whom we felt empathy.

Of course, I wasn't happy that Snape died--I wasn't happy that any of my favorite characters died either. Those deaths, however, make the point of the senselessness of deaths during war time, the randomness, the unfairness, the injustice of it all. The Epilogue shows us the model (young readers especially), that survivors must go on with their lives; they cannot live in a state of mourning forever. But we also must remember those who died and honor them in significant ways, meaningful ways that remind the next and future generations that honorable people died to preserve their freedoms. Harry naming his son after Albus and Severus, and his comments about Severus being the bravest man he ever knew, was better than any elaborate funeral or monument. By that one act and that one comment, Rowling filled in the missing pieces of Snape's death. Harry venerated him during his final battle with Voldemort, in front of all assembled in the Great Hall, and then he let his son (and all of us) know that he had forgiven Snape and understood just how brave he had been.

I think one of the other things that I took away from Deathly Hallows, was that not every hero has to be acting for the noble reasons we expect from heroes. Harry, who was the hero of the story, did act selflessly to save others, throughout the books. Ron and Hermione had their moments, though they were sometimes heroic because of their loyalty to their friend, rather than acting for the greater good.

Neville turned out to be very much like Harry in his actions, and I loved it. It showed that he very well could have been the "Chosen One", another pointer to our choices being more important in defining who we are.

Fred and George were heroic in their own way; Percy came through in the end. Ginny and Luna were heroes as well. Many of the adults were heroes, but some fought for noble reasons and others fought to save their families or their way of life.

Dumbledore, who had always seemed to have the most pure motives of all, turned out to not be our perfect hero, and often told Harry so. Outwardly, he seemed to be doing everything for the good of all, while in reality, it was much more personal, and so very private, for Dumbledore. He fought, not out of the purity of his heart, but because of the choices he'd made because of the darkness of his heart.

That leads us full circle back to Severus Snape. Snape did many heroic things in fighting against the Death Eaters and Voldemort. In some ways, his sacrifices and deeds far surpassed those of any of the other heroes. He fought his battle without ever receiving the recognition that was his due, except from Dumbledore, and posthumously from Harry.

I wish I could remember who said that heroes are ordinary men who do extraordinary things. It's not the obviously brave and strong who are the real heroes, but those who aren't, those who are flawed human beings, who do something in their life that earns them the distinction of being called a hero. And that's how I see Severus Snape--a loner, a man in need of redemption (as we all are), but a man who in the end, made the right choices to fight against evil. Did he do it for the noble reasons that we saw with Harry or with Neville? No. Severus Snape felt the pain of his own guilt, felt true remorse, and he sought forgiveness from the one person he had loved--Lily. He literally gave his life because he loved Lily, and in doing so he found his redemption. The more I think of it, his death was very much like that of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities. Carton, a character who reminded me of Snape even before I read Half-Blood Prince, acted to save someone he didn't care only because he loved Lucy. And no one knew what he had done at the time of his death. All his imaginings were just that. He could only envision that his name and heroism would be known later. As readers we were left hoping and believing that Carton got the honor and recognition he deserved for his sacrificial death; in Deathly Hallows" we learned that Snape was honored as a hero, in the best possible way.

Let's all raise our glasses to all the heroes of Deathly Hallows, as well as those of the first six Harry Potter books, be they noble and pure of heart like Harry, or the flawed and remorseful heroes--those who are much more like most of us, if we are to be entirely honest.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Albus Dumbledore--not who we thought he was

Until the end of Order of the Phoenix, and until we learn of his family history, I thought it was fairly easy to see Dumbledore as a Christ figure/God figure, or at least something similar, even if he was meant instead to be a metaphorical one.

In the few comments I've read since Deathly Hallows, I think some people are stuggling with the less than perfect, somewhat manipulative image that we now have of our beloved Headmaster of Hogwarts, the one who was so mourned after his death in Half-Blood Prince that people refused to believe he was really dead until J.K. Rowling said that he definitely was, and he was not going to do a

I don't have the same problem with Dumbledore that many seem to have though. And I've been trying to figure out why I don't. Ordinarily, I don't like people who manipulate or use others for their own purpose, and that does seem to be what Dumbledore did with Harry and with Severus. Dumbledore told Harry that he had a "grand plan" when he told him about the prophecy in Order of the Phoenix, though he didn't tell Harry just what that grand plan was. Of course, Harry being the least curious bloke we've ever read didn't ask Dumbledore to spell out the details of that plan. One would think that since the plan seemed to involve Harry pretty heavily that it would have been a reasonable question for him to ask, but no, he didn't.

So in Order of the Phoenix, we see a side of Dumbledore that shows Harry and the reader that this is a very flawed and human man. He admits he has made mistakes, and rather large ones, and he has regrets, and for the first time, Harry realizes that Dumbledore seems old and tired. We just don't know what those regrets are. Then in Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore seems to be back to his former self--all-knowing, wise, mannerly, humorous. Even with his withered black hand, that is mentioned frequently througout so we don't forget it's there, Dumbledore seems stronger again, stronger than after the battle with Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. But then he drinks that nasty green potion in the Cave, and nearly dies then. We see him barely able to return to Hogsmeade without Harry's help, and only revived because his beloved school so obviously needs him. Certainly nothing in any of those actions to tarnish our hero. We don't know what he relived when he drank the poison, but most of us went down the path that it had something to do with wanting to protect the students, etc--a view that put his suffering on a very altruistic plane, rather than any particular personal failing of Dumbledore's. Instead he is reliving his part in the deaths of his family, a horrible thing for anyone to have to live with.

I actually really liked what we learned about Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows. Let me explain--it's not his actions I liked, but that Rowling has created a very real person, rather than the perfect hero. Here we have a man, brilliant and talented, but a very flawed man, who learned early in life what it meant to make the easy choices rather than the right choices, a man who lost his family because he made poor choices, and who lived the rest of his life with the regret that he couldn't go back and make any of it better. Because of the two months he spent with Grindelwald, planning their take-over of the wizarding world, Albus learned what his greatest weakness was--the desire for power.

When he defeated Grindelwald and ended up with the Elder Wand, Albus didn't ever use it to attain the kind of power that he had so desired in his youth. McGonagall alludes to that in the very first book, when she says that Dumbledore is too noble to use the kind of magic that Voldemort used. In reality, it's not because he is noble, rather, it's because he understood that he would have been lured by that kind of power.

At one point Dumbledore had the Elder Wand and the Invisibility Cloak (after James's death), and could have kept both--all he needed was the Resurrection Ring to complete the Deathly Hallows. He gave the cloak to Harry, who had rightfully inherited it from his father, and only told him "Use it well". Dumbledore tells Harry at the end of the first book, Philosopher's Stone, that there are very few wizards who could look in the Mirror of Erised to get the Stone from it; it was because Harry only wanted to keep it from Voldemort, not because he had any desire to use it. It's then that we first see that Harry is "pure of heart", something which Dumbledore repeats, throughout. But it's not until the end of Deathly Hallows that we realize that Dumbledore would have seen something quite different at that point.

When Dumbledore and Harry talk at King's Cross, Dumbledore admits that he was tempted by power all his life. It was a failing that he never conquered. When he found the Ring Horcrux in the Gaunt house ruins, Dumbledore, unlike Marvolo or Tom Riddle, realized that it was the Resurrection Stone, the one Hallow he had long sought. He destroyed the Horcrux, but having that third one of the Deathly Hallows in his hand was a temptation that led to his blackened and withered hand that we saw all through his last year.

In Deathly Hallows, in one of the memories that Snape gave Harry, we find out part of the "thrilling tale" that Dumbledore never was able to tell Harry:

It was nighttime, and Dumbledore sagged sideways in the thronelike chair behind the desk, apparently semiconscious. His right hand dangled over the side, blackened and burned. Snape was muttering incantations, pointing his wand at the wrist of the hand, while with his left hand he tipped a goblet full of thick golden potion down Dumbledore's throat. After a moment or two, Dumbledore's eyelids fluttered and opened.

"Why," said Snape, without preamble, "why did you put on that ring? It carries a curse, surely you realized that. Why even touch it?"

Marvolo Gaunt's ring lay on the desk before Dumbledore. It was cracked; the sword of Gryffindor lay beside it.

Dumbledore grimaced.

"I. . . was a fool. Sorely tempted. . ."

"Tempted by what?"

Dumbledore did not answer.

"It is a miracle you managed to return here!" Snape sounded furious. "That ring carried a curse of extraordinary power, to contain it is all we can hope for; I have trapped the curse in one hand for the time being--" (DH, US version, p. 680-1)

It's at that point that we learn the sudden change in Dumbledore's strategy, which up to that point was to let Harry get on with the business of resisting Voldemort in whatever way he could, with Dumbledore giving him bits and pieces of information as he felt Harry needed them. Snape tells Dumbledore that he likely only has about a year before the spell spreads and kills him, that if Dumbledore had called him earlier, he might have been able to buy him more time.

He looked down at the broken ring and the sword. "Did you think that breaking the ring would break the curse?"

"Something like that. . . I was delirious, no doubt. . ." said Dumbledore. (DH, US p. 681)

Even then, Dumbledore doesn't explain to Severus Snape, the only man he seemed to confide in at all, what really had led him to put on the ring. It's when he is talking to Harry at King's Cross that we see the full and complete picture of who Dumbledore was and why he acted as he did:

After another short pause Harry said, "You tried to use the Resurrection Stone."

Dumbledore nodded.

"When I discovered it, after all those years, buried in the abandoned home of the Gaunts--the Hallow I had craved most of all, though in my youth I had wanted it for very different reasons--I lost my head, Harry. I quite forgot that it was now a Horcrux, that the ring was sure to carry a curse. I picked it up, and I put it on, and for a second I imagined that I was about to see Ariana, and my mother and my father, and to tell them how very, very sorry I was. . .

"I was such a fool, Harry. After all those years I had learned nothing. I was unworthy to unite the Deathly Hallows, I had proved it time and again, and here was final proof."

"Why?" said Harry. "It was natural! You wanted to see them again. What's wrong with that?"

"Maybe a man in a million could unite the Hallows, Harry. I was fit only to possess the meanest of them, the least extraordinary. I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it. I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it.

"But the Cloak, I took out of vain curiosity, and so it could never have worked for me as it works for you, its true owner. The stone I would have used in an attempt to drag back those who are at peace, rather than to enable my self-sacrifice, as you did. You are the worthy possessor of the Hallows." (DH, US p. 719-20)

So once again, we have the reason that Dumbledore told Harry on several occasions that Harry was the better man, that his blood was more valuable, that it was Harry who had to defeat Voldemort, and not Dumbledore who was a much more powerful and talented wizard.

What we learn about Dumbledore is that he wasn't perfect and he was tempted by power until the end of his life. Everything that he did, every decision he made, was colored by that knowledge of his own flaws, his own very real guilt. Because he himself couldn't be trusted with power (hence, the reason he never agreed to be the Minister for Magic), he couldn't be sure that anyone else wouldn't fall into the same trap. He didn't confide fully in Harry or in Snape, knowing that each had his own flaws with which to cope. Snape had been lured by the Dark Arts, so how could Dumbledore trust him with a teaching position that might tempt him to return to his Death Eater life, when Dumbledore knew that he himself couldn't be trusted with the thing that tempted him most? Harry had a blind spot where Snape and Draco were concerned, always letting his anger and hatred get in the way of what he knew he should be doing.

What Dumbledore never understood about either of them was that they were very different than he was; Snape's remorse about Lily's death would never have let him return to his Death Eater ways, no matter how much he hated James's memory, and Harry never wanted the power or fame that Dumbledore had sought as a youth. We see Harry trusting his friends, sharing the information he has learned or has figured out on his own, something that Dumbledore was never able to do.

We all have flaws, things in our past or in our personalities that prevent us from being the wonderful beings God intends us to be. Dumbledore showed his remorse and tried to atone for his failings by teaching and guiding young people, by being an exemplary role model for them as Headmaster of Hogwarts. He gave people second chances because he, himself, had been in need of a second chance. He insisted on showing respect for others, no matter what their birth status or whether they were non-human creatures.

Whether he was right or wrong to pursue his "grand plan", we can't really say. Dumbledore did what all of us must do; he recognized his weakness, he felt remorse for his failings, and he tried to atone for his sins and live his life in a way that helped others. That his understanding of what was best for others might not be the same as anyone else's is what we all have to face.

We can't know how best to guide others so that they make the right decisions, without at times, seeming manipulative and controlling. If we have information that will influence another in a direction they take or in their actions, some might see that as being manipulative. The alternative is that we stand back and hope they can figure it out for themselves. Hands off, all round. In Dumbledore's case, he had more information than anyone else about how Voldemort might be defeated. It seems to me that it would have been wrong if he had just stood back and let Harry wander through his years at Hogwarts, hoping that he'd stumble on the secrets by himself.

When we see a child about to do something that we know is dangerous, we don't hesitate to stop them. Is that manipulative? When we see a child who is talented, and we encourage him to pursue that talent, is that being manipulative? Perhaps, but maybe it's just using the wisdom that we've gained through our own experiences and just by living. What Dumbledore did with Harry isn't so very much different than the parent or the teacher who has some knowledge about a child's talent or his limitations and tries to guide him in a direction that will afford him the greatest chance of success.

The stakes for Harry figuring out how to defeat Dumbledore were a bit higher than whether or not our musically talented child continues with those violin lessons, much higher, and in Dumbledore's view, the outcome wasn't something that he could just leave to chance. He had lived all his life with the regret that he hadn't done the proper things for his family and it had ended in a disaster which he could not ever rectify; and here he was, faced with knowledge that no one else had about why Voldemort had chosen Harry and how Voldemort might be defeated once and for all. Should he have told Harry what the grand plan was? Maybe, but what eleven, twelve or thirteen year old--or even a sixteen year old, for that matter-- would have been able to handle that overwhelming information and responsibility?

Instead of Dumbledore as an allegory for God or Christ, we have Dumbledore as a flawed human being, one who lived his life, with regrets and triumphs, just as we all do; a person who, because of his regrets sometimes failed to trust that others, who were not as gifted intellectually as he, would fall victim to the same temptations that had haunted him most of his life--the desire for power. Rather than being disappointed in who Dumbledore turned out to be, I found it encouraging. Here is a hero who is not so different than any of us--one who has made choices, one choice which was devastating, but which set his feet and heart on a life-long path of redemption, as he tried to live the rest of his life as he now knew he should have done. The past could not be undone, as Dumbledore learned when he was once again tempted to try to use the Resurrection Stone, but except for that one last stumble, his choices for the future showed that he had learned from his mistakes, had taken responsibility for them, as he spent his life teaching students, being an example of mercy to all, and in the end, tried to help Severus and Harry accomplish what he, the greatest wizard of all, could not do--defeat the evil that terrorized the world in the form of Lord Voldemort. So even though Albus turned out not to be the perfect person many of us built him up to be, I think what Rowling gave us in Albus Dumbledore was much better.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Philosopher's Stone Echoes, a question posed by John Granger

I've been reading some things at HogPro, Sword of Gryffindor, and a few other blogs, but really haven't been jumping into the discussions.

I've now finished reading ,Deathly Hallows all the way through the second time, and liked it even better when I was wide-awake and had time to think it through. For some reason, as much as I enjoyed a discussion the other night with my daughter, I just don't feel the need to do a lot of on-line analyzing--perhaps it's just that I'm that satisfied with the book and ultimately, with the whole series.

Anyway, John has had a growing list of things to discuss, so I did post my thoughts on the one about "Philosopher's Stone Echoes". Interestingly enough, as I started to re-read, I made notes in the margins and something that I kept jotting down was all the ties between DH and all the other books, and especially things that recalled the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Philosopher’s Stone Echoes
Posted August 1, 2007 (with a few edits and corrections)

I've been re-reading Deathly Hallows and am nearing the end--they are searching for the lost diadem (which I'm quite pleased to say was something that I actually got right, though not with the back story or the way they find it, of course).

On my second read-through, I've been jotting notes in the margins. Often they are about echoes of previous books--odd that I had referred to it with the same phrase that John used. I see them more as an echo than a direct retelling of something. Take a look at Sirius's motorbike, for instance. Hagrid arrives at Privet Drive in PS/SS, riding/flying it, bringing Harry from the wizarding world to the Muggle one. And in DH Hagrid takes Harry from the Muggle world back to the wizarding world on the same bike. Yes, it is somewhat of a disaster, to put it mildly, but that's because there are other things going on. The reason Hagrid brought baby Harry to Privet Drive was also because of a disaster, so it does certainly come full circle on that note.

So while it's an echo--a reminder--we also see how much more complicated and dangerous Harry's life is now that Voldemort has truly returned. But with that motorbike, we are also reminded of Sirius, and that's without any particular exposition; Sirius, though gone, is still in Harry's heart.

The rescue group itself is an echo of Harry's Advance Guard in Order of the Phoenix. This one, unlike the first rescue, is seemingly better planned, even though things go horribly awry. But that's all tied to Dumbledore's advice to Snape that he leak the date--but not the information that there would be multiple Harrys. It's one of those uncomfortable reminders that Dumbledore did have a grand plan and that he did put his plan ahead of everyone, including Snape and Harry, the two who had been most loyal to him.

But anyway, back to Philosopher's Stone. Someone (at HogPro) already mentioned the Stone in both the first and last books and that Harry doesn't want to find either the Philosohper's Stone or the Resurrection Stone so that he can use them but instead wants to prevent them from falling into Voldemort's hands, or someone else's who is as evil. The Stones are similar in their purpose. The Philosopher's Stone will enable the user to have eternal life, while the Resurrection Stone will enable the owner to bring someone back, though not in entirely human form. They will return in ghostly form, much as Nearly Headless Nick, who (in OP) told Harry that he had not been brave enough to "go on", that most people would not prefer an existence that is neither here nor there. So both Stones have a sort of commentary about what happens when a person tries to cheat Death, and Harry would not have done either.

Then there are the seven trials in PS. There may be an echo of each one, though I don't think it's all in book 7. And I don't think that some are particularly more than a nod to the trials. The one that stood out to me was the chess reference. When they arrived at Xeno Lovegood's house, it looked like a giant rook (which Hermione thinks of the bird *snort*). And Ron, the chess player, tells her that's a castle. But likely, it is the shape that makes Ron think of a rook. (It also made me think of a book JKR said she liked--"I Capture the Castle".) And when Ron sees it as a rook, we are taken back to all the times he played wizard chess in book 1, and throughout the books, and especially to the chess game when he sacrificed himself to save Harry. It doesn't so much foreshadow Ron sacrificing himself at that moment, but that he has been willing to do so in the past, and will be again.

Then there are the rather humorous references to the seven trials: when they are trapped by Devil's Snare, Hermione is the only one who is free or who knows what it is in PS. She knows that it doesn't like the light or heat, but can't think what to do, and Ron says, "ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT!" (PS/SS, US version, p. 278) In Deathly Hallows, the trio are trying to get into the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, and Ron wishes they had Crookshanks, recalling that the half-kneazle prodded the knot at the base of the tree to make it stop thrashing about. Hermione is the one who this time says, "Are you a wizard, or what?" (DH, p. 651)

It's then that Ron uses the same spell he used to save Hermione from the troll in PS, the very one that gave him so much trouble when he and Hermione were partners in Charms: Wingardium Leviosa.

Throughout Deathly Hallows, Hermione also uses the spell that produces the very same blue flame that she used to distract Snape, when they wrongly thought he was jinxing Harry's broom, and it's the same one that made the Devil's Snare release Ron and Harry.

The potions in PS, which were Snape's protection in the seven trials, are an echo of the green potion in the Cave in HBP, with the explanation coming in Deathly Hallows. The reason I see it as an echo is that in both one and six/seven it was necessary to work out the puzzle of how to get round a potion that is intended to poison the drinker--Hermione works out the puzzle in book one and enables Harry to go on while she can go safely back to get help, while in book seven we learn what the potion made Dumbledore see (not at all what I thought), but also how Regulus solved the puzzle and outsmarted Voldemort. Both puzzle solutions lead to the same thing--a way for Harry to have the opportunity to defeat Voldemort as well as a resolution to some of the hatred between the races--the understanding between the trio and Kreacher (something I never in a million years expected to happen--and one of the nicest surprises in DH).

Another big echo was the return to Gringotts in book seven. We may have been back inside the bank in the books in between, but I don't remember them as anything significant (and without looking, I'd say we weren't there--only references to Harry's money being taken out, once by Bill). But in book one we spent a lot of time there, learning about goblins, about the bank itself, about the rumor that there was a dragon (and there was some fire coming from one of the side tunnels), about what happens to people who try to rob Gringotts. All of that, while being rather exciting and interesting, was as Janet Batchler would say, the set-up for Harry's return to Gringotts in search of the cup, and possibly other Horcruxes.

The goblins, it turns out, are every bit as cruel to other creatures as they complain the wizards are to them. Imagine forcing a creature like a dragon, something huge that lives alone in the wild, to live its life underground and chained, fearing the sound of clankers because its been tortured, never allowed to smell fresh air or see the hills and lakes. They've also devised some pretty awful methods for trapping would-be thieves--the duplicating, burning treasure. (A warning of what happens when one is too focused on acquiring earthly treasures?) Of course, as Ron points out to Griphook, the bank has been broken into--when Quirrell tried to steal the Philosopher's Stone and failed. But Quirrell did come out of that unscathed--at least unscathed by any of the goblin protections. So, the goblins show themselves, just as Voldemort does, to be arrogant in a way that leads to their defeat--defeat, because Harry is able to "steal" the cup from the Lestranges high-security vault, and he, Ron and Hermione escape.

In book one, Gringotts almost seems to hold a place of reverence when Hagrid talks about it. Yet in book seven, we watch the destruction of the only wizarding bank. The protections, the ones set by the goblins, were effective when the goblins were true to their purpose of protecting the treasure of its depositors, but once the bank itself was corrupted by wizards, Death Eaters, not even the goblin protection was enough to stop Harry from doing what was right. So in that way, we came full circle on the bank, with the realization that an institution is only as good as its true purpose and its security is only as good as those who are in charge.

Harry first hears of and sees Hogwarts in book one, of course, when he learns he's a wizard. But in that first book and in HBP as well, we spend over a third of the time NOT at Hogwarts. In fact, in HBP, there is little time spent in the normal everyday activities that we saw in the middle books, except in Slughorn's Potions class which are nearly a complete opposite to Snape's first classes. We, and Harry, spend a lot of time learning things from Snape in HPB, though Harry has no idea that his beloved Prince is the one person he is the most determined to hate.

That's one of the things I really liked in the Epilogue and especially in the chapter, "The Prince's Tale"--finding out that Snape, disagreeable and nasty as he was, was true to his promise to Dumbledore in ways that Harry had never imagined. The character of Snape in the first book was so flat to me--the mean teacher who went out of his way to assert his authority over all the students, not just Harry (but especially Harry), turns out to be a hero, with so much depth to his character. And I couldn't have been more pleased with the way Rowling wrote Snape's story--she didn't turn him into some cuddly warm-hearted character but left him as the flawed, but finally understood and appreciated hero that he always yearned to be.

Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallowsfocused on things in the past and in the future, things that have nothing to do with regular classes and Quidditch (I'm one of the few who didn't miss Quidditch, btw). But the point was that Harry needed to prepare for what he would eventually face, and sitting in the Great Hall for a cozy meal, or having Quidditch practice and games, or sitting around the Gryffindor common room studying and chatting, were the things of his childhood, things to be left behind.

The simplest way to make the point was to deprive Harry of all of those things by not having him return to Hogwarts. By sending the trio on the run, with all the camping and moving and near misses at being caught, Rowling gave us a real picture of the kind of war they are fighting. It's not a neat and tidy one, but one that means the freedom fighters have to go underground, into hiding, very often working in small groups rather than as a large organized (and well cared for) army. I thought of the people all over Europe who hid Jewish families during World War II or helped them to freedom, much to their peril, when the trio was rescued and hid at the Tonks's house before going to Auntie Muriel's or later at Shell Cottage; there were echoes of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, smuggling the slaves to safe houses, with Aberforth smuggling them in and out of Hogwarts and providing the refugees in residence with food and information.

Quite honestly, who would have wanted to spend more time at Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows, given what it's become. When we see Neville and Seamus and all the others, and hear how the place that Harry (and all of us) loved has been desecrated, I was glad we didn't have to see the daily details of that horror. Just imagining them was bad enough.

And of course, we have Neville, who in book one was brave enough to stand up against his friends, showing in book seven that he is brave enough to stand up FOR his friends against all enemies, in ways we never dreamed possible for Neville. Fantastic complete circle, that one. It was especially poignant that it was Neville, standing in front of Voldemort, taunted and humiliated, who was able to pull Gryffindor's Sword out of the Sorting Hat and then, with a courage he hadn't fully realized in the first book, had the courage to do what had to be done, to behead Nagini.

In the Philosopher's Stone, we see Harry being left at the Dursleys, a place where he will wait until he is old enough to take his place in the Wizarding world; in Deathly Hallows, we see Harry forced once again into the Muggle world, apart from the world where he belongs, once again waiting until the right time for him to return, but this time it is with a terror hanging over the heads of all of them, where in the first book it was with a feeling that the terror had gone. The difference between the two books is that we don't know what we are missing of the wizarding world in book one and in book seven, we do. But both are frustrating times for Harry, both show his helplessness, with it being even more frustrating in book seven when he knows what is at stake, what the consequences will be if he fails.

I thought Rowling did an excellent job of tying up all the lose ends. No, she didn't answer every question, but it turns out that was because we, as avid readers, had way too much time and too many questions to answer. There has to be something of mystery left in a book or it reads like an encyclopedia--boring. There has to be something where the reader fills in the missing information. She wrote the story that she wanted to write, and it does seem to come full circle--or more like a spiral, I suppose. Each book comes back around to Harry returning to his Muggle existence, but with more knowledge and understanding of what his life is to be.

With the last book, we see Harry and Ron and Hermione putting all those puzzle pieces from their previous six years together, we see that they have all overcome their short-comings from the first books, and that they have remained the true friends they were meant to be, true to their original goals of doing the right thing, making the right choices, and of making the world a better place to be.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Disappointed? Not in the least: SPOILERS!!!!!!!

Over at Sword of Gryffindor, Travis has a post that addresses the disappointment that some people have expressed. It's excellent, as usual, and the discussion that follows is as well. I decided to just copy my post, as is, because I've put down some of my reactions that I wanted to capture.

Travis, thanks so much for all your insight on the reactions of some who are disappointed. (I actually read a comment somewhere that someone thought this was the worst of the series, which truly baffles me. I can only think that the person didn’t get the book that they themselves would have written–as you pointed out, too tied to their own theories.)

Like most of you I’m still struggling with Crucio. Don’t know if I’ll ever get past that one, but maybe someday. The language? While I didn’t like it, I didn’t let it bother me coming from the kids, but I wish Rowling had given Molly something a different word to express her outrage and grief at what Bellatrix had done and was trying to do to her children. Though, now that I put it that way, I’m not sure what would come out of my mouth were I in a similar position–so maybe I’ll get over that one sooner than I thought.

I’ve said elsewhere that I loved this book. When I finished, bleary eyed from lack of sleep and a lot of crying, I walked around the room just holding the closed finished book close to me. I still couldn’t put it down.

Many of the things that I thought would happen did, though not at all in the way I thought. And I was surprised that I was OK with Harry having that fragment of Voldemort’s soul in him. But the image of a piece of Riddle’s soul, clinging to life, and finding only Harry worked well. I think what I had always objected to was that so many of the theories were too complicated, and I just didn’t think she would get that complicated for Harry’s connection to Voldemort.

One of my favorite ideas was that Harry had unintentionally been using Legilimency all along, and at the end, that’s exactly what he was doing, even though it was never named as such.

I enjoyed all the discussions about Draco-Wolfboy, and still wonder what’s on Draco’s arm (must be the Dark Mark, though, which is what I first thought anyway), and the idea that Madam Pince was Snape’s mother being protected and hidden with a new identity. But what we got for the person he had loved was so much better.

As I kept reading far into Saturday night (I read slowly, savoring every moment), I was so afraid that Snape was going to turn out to be on Voldemort’s side. So having Harry see him die, at Voldemort’s hand, and then Harry going to him, and Snape looking into Lily’s eyes one more time as he gave Harry all the information he’d withheld–that was perfect. I think my favorite chapter will be the one with all those memories compressed into one chapter. It was like Harry stumbling upon Snape’s diary, and suddenly being able to put all the pieces together–the reason that Snape had always always protected him, the reason that Snape had never said anything bad about his mother, the reason that Snape was so unfailingly loyal to Dumbledore. No wonder, years later, after he’d had time to think it all through, he named one of his sons after Dumbledore and Snape, and said Severus was the bravest of them all.

In the winter before HBP, I read “A Tale of Two Cities” and saw Snape written all over Sydney Carton. Carton’s reason for his sacrifice at the end was the same as Snape’s–he did all for the woman that he loved, and in giving his life sacrificially was redeemed. Perfect.

Someone said that Harry accepted Snape too easily. But that was another indication that for all of Harry’s bitterness and hatred that he had directed towards Snape, he did, after all, have a pure heart; he saw how merciless Voldemort was towards Snape, and there was that same part of Harry’s heart that was touched, just as when he felt sorry for the young Tom Riddle and for Draco when he saw him crying in the bathroom. Harry had already experienced feelings of compassion for Snape when he saw his Worst Memory, so that wasn’t at all a shock to me. He had much the same sort of acceptance with Sirius in the Shrieking Shack. And might there not have been a moment as Harry looked into Snape’s black eyes that he was able to see what was really behind them, what Snape had hidden from him all those years? I think so.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part I, of many, I'm sure: SPOILERS!!!!

Note, before you read further: I'm writing this after finishing the whole book, and my assumption is that anyone reading any blog about Harry Potter has read the entire book. If you haven't and you don't want spoilers, you really should stop now and come back later.

Update: I've bolded some comments, simply because I just recently added them.

On Friday, July 20, I spent the soggiest day ever at day camp, (those showers that were predicted were constant rain, sometimes very heavy rain) most of the time just trying to help the campers and couselors get through the day so we could all go home at 3:30 and get into some dry, clean clothes and get warm. No Extended Day with dinner and an evening program, and certainly, no Overnight. We almost made it to 3:30, but by 3 pm, all the campers had called parents and had been picked up, and we left a very muddy, rain-soaked camp by 3:10 pm. Not exactly as I had imagined my last day of being a co-site director after my twenty-one years at day camp. But it is what it is, and it's done. The early end afforded me the opportunity to take a nice hot shower, eat dinner with Terry and have a nap before starting my marathon reading of Deathly Hallows.

I had toyed with the idea of not picking up my copies (one regular and one deluxe version) of the final Harry Potter book at Barnes and Noble where I'd reserved them as soon as they were announced. I had my name on a list at the QFC close to home as an after-thought, thinking it might be the best way to avoid anyone shouting out something that would ruin the experience for me. But while I was at day camp, I talked to one mother and daughter who were going to B&N to get a table so they could be close to the front of the line to get their book. She said I was welcome to join them, and after standing all day at camp, the thought of sitting, at least for a while, was quite appealing. Around 8 pm, I went to the store and picked up my wrist band, talked to Penny and Crystal, who indeed did have a table, and went home to take an hour and a half nap. They were #10 in line, while I was #171. I drank my mocha while I waited, then wandered through the store, with my earphones in, while I listened to Stephen Fry reading Half-Blood Prince. They had activities, but I never even checked them out. By nearly midnight, after a soggy week at day camp, I was feeling pretty anti-social, if truth be told-- and I just wanted to get my books and go home.

My receipt says that I had my books by 12:35; not bad considering where I was in line. One of the clerks told me that they had about twice that number who were there with reservations and about the same number who had shown up without. So there were around 700 people there to buy a midnight copy of Deathly Hallows. When I got out to the car (thank goodness it had quit raining hard), as they weren't taking the time to put the books into bags. Once there, I opened to the first page (skipped the Table of Contents, so I missed the dedication and the page with quotes till much later), and read just the first couple of paragraphs. I had decided that I had so far avoided any spoilers about the story, and I wasn't going to spoil it for myself by looking at chapter titles before starting the book. I drove home in silence. Once I was in my comfy sweats, had my pot of tea and a fire (it's a gas fire-place, so that was easy and quick), I settled in on the sofa with Deathly Hallows.

I never read novels fast, and didn't hurry through this one. I find that, for me, that takes away the enjoyment of the language the author uses, the way the story unfolds, and with Rowling, all the richness of the details. Whenever I hear someone say they finished the book in less than six hours, I'm certain they will be the ones who missed all the finer details and are confused about what happened. They have cheated themselves of fully experiencing the book.

I hadn't got too far till I realized I wanted to make a few notes, so I found one of the HP journals I'd recently purchased. No lengthy notes, just things I wanted to come back to later. I realize now that one of the things I should have been jotting down were the deaths. I tried to make a list at the end, but I am sure I've missed some. She said it was a blood-bath, then she said not really, but there were a lot of deaths, and deaths of some of my favorite minor characters. She definitely didn't mislead us on that one.

And now to the final book:

I'll be sorting out my thoughts for some time, but my first reaction was that I really, really liked this book. I know, you're thinking that it took me a long time to get to that point. Many of the things that I had hoped would happen did, though not in the way I had imagined. I was surprised by the deaths of some. And I was surprised by my reaction to some. I didn't know how much I liked Dobby--that one had me sobbing. Well, I shed a lot of tears over much of this book. I laughed in parts of it, and had some jaw dropping moments as well. I saw specific Christian moments and references, direct quotes from Matthew 6:21, and the other, from I Corinthians 15:26, with Hermione's explanation that it means "living beyond death. Living after death" (DH, US p. 328)

There are more King Arthur ties, and nods to books that Rowling has said she liked--in particular, the scene where Harry follows the Silver Doe, with no clue who it was, reminded me of The Little White Horse, by Goudge, and the look of Luna's house put me in mind of the house in I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. My one concern as I came nearer and nearer the end was that Snape was going to turn out to be exactly as he was presented, and as some were convinced he was when we last saw him in Half-Blood Prince, as a man who had betrayed Dumbledore and fooled him, who had betrayed Harry and all the Order, and as a character who had no remorse or redemption.

For this reason, I think one of my favorite chapters will always be Chapter 33, "The Prince's Tale". It was perfect that Harry learned all of Snape's history and his continual interactions and closeness with Lily and with Dumbledore in one chapter. To have it meted out in small doses throughout the book would have lessened the impact on Harry as well as the reader. Not only did Harry find out that Snape had been his mother's good friend, whom he always loved, but he also learned how and why they separated, and how Snape came to feel that deep remorse that turned him from Voldemort to Dumbledore, a remorse which was life-long and never forgotten. It required no Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Dumbledore, but something more profound-- honesty, compassion, redemption, forgiveness and acceptance. What could be better. Over and over, Harry and we the readers, learned of the trust between the two of them. We learned why Dumbledore never told anyone why he was convinced of Snape's loyalty, but Harry finally learned the answer to the question he had so often put to Dumbledore. Promises made, promises kept. Undying loyalty and respect.

"You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily's son."

"He does not need protection. The Dark Lord has gone---"

"The Dark Lord will return, and Harry Potter will be in terrible danger when he does."

There was a long pause, and slowly Snape regained control of himself, mastered his own breathing. At last he said, "Very well. Very well. But never -- never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear. . . especially Potter's son. . . I want your word!

"My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?" Dumbledore sighed, looking down into Snape's ferocious, anguished face. "If you insist. . ." (DH, US version, p. 679)

In that short scene, Harry learns that Snape really did feel remorse, and the reason was his love of Lily Potter, bourne of a childhood friendship that was damaged by circumstance and choices, but was never forgotten. Harry learns that Snape never did forgive James and hated the connection between James and the baby he promised to protect.

But most of all, we have one of the best examples of what it means to give your word to someone and to never waiver, never go back on it, to never betray a promise. Snape and Dumbledore were both true to their promises to one another, and that's one of the best examples of how we should all live. It should never take an Unbreakable Vow to bind us to fulfilling our promises and obligations. There is an evil to that sort of oath, and I'm glad that Rowling didn't have an Unbreakable Vow between Severus and Dumbledore.

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'; anything beyond that comes from the evil one." --Matthew 5: 37, NIV

Snape's acceptance by members of the Order and by Harry and even by the Hogwarts' staff would have been so much easier had Snape not been so insistant that Dumbledore never tell anyone what he had told Dumbledore and what he asked Dumbledore to promise. That scene explains all the times that Dumbledore gave that cryptic answer to everyone about why he trusted Severus Snape. And it explains why Snape was always so angry at Harry, the boy who lived, looking like his father whom he hated, but with a constant reminder with those green, almond-shaped eyes of the only person Snape ever loved.

Am I disappointed that Severus and Harry didn't have that conversation that I always said I wanted? The one where Snape tells Harry his reasons, and on some level, Harry says he understands and forgives? I thought I would be, but I'm not. It happened, and the name of Harry's son tells us that Harry forgave Dumbledore for the way he used him (Harry) in his grand plan and forgave Snape for the way he treated him while he was a student. The redemption and the forgiveness were there, and that's all the counts for me. And there was that last moment, when Snape looked into Harry's eyes--Lily's eyes--that they may have said all to each other that needed saying. Somehow, that last look from Severus, even though Harry didn't understand what he was feeling, was enough to compel Harry to take all those thoughts and find out what message they held for him. With all the hatred and bitterness Harry had always had towards Snape, I'm not sure that he would have done, had there not been some understanding that passed between them in Snape's last living moments.

I'll revisit this in a few days as well as other parts of the book, particularly Luna and Neville, and very surprisingly, Kreacher and Dobby. The only one I missed was Fawkes--I really thought we would see him again, but perhaps his absence was one more definite marker that Dumbledore was dead and was not coming back.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some last minute thoughts

I really had hoped to get the chance to put down my thoughts on the rest of Order of the Phoenix and on Half-Blood Prince, but clearly, it's not going to happen. I'm at day camp this week, and the only thing that would allow me to do that is if we get rained out on Friday--which we did today. OK for me, but not for the kids.

So, I've been listening to a borrowed audio book of Stephen Fry reading HBP, even though I just finished re-reading it last week. It's great as an audio book--I actually like it much better when I listen to it than when I just read it. I don't really know why either. So, I'm doing that when I could be writing. Well, no, I couldn't. I've been listening while I paid the bills, ironed shirts for my husband, sorted day camp pictures--so no, I wouldn't be writing anyway. Listening to HBP has also allowed me to NOT hear anything on TV that might be a spoiler (the rumoured leak/hoax/whatever), though when I was waiting for the weather on the noon news, I heard the start of a news story on the leak and promptly stuffed my fingers in my ears like a seven-year-old, rushed into the room and turned off the TV. I certainly hope the world doesn't fall apart in the next two days when I'm not watching it--like my seeing it would make a difference anyway.

What I have been doing when I'm not listening is reading over at HogwartsProfessor and Sword of Gryffindor. There are a lot of interesting discussions there. There's plenty there to keep all of us busy, with links to other sites as well.

Well, time for another few chapters of HBP before I turn in for the night--and maybe a nice cup of tea, sugar and milk, please.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Even though it says this was posted on July 12, I didn't write this until August 15, which is the reason I talk about having already read Deathly Hallows. I was not one of those people who read what was posted before the book was released--far from it. That last week I didn't go near the internet, except for a few trusted sites that were not posting any spoilers, whether they were real or not; I barely checked my email, and didn't listen to the news or read the newspapers. The date here just shows that my intention was to post something before the last book--something that obviously didn't happen.

I had hoped to finish or at least post some thoughts on Half-Blood Prince before I read Deathly Hallows, but that didn't happen. Since I've now read DH twice, I feel the need to revisit HBP. My reading of it now, however, will always be different than my original feelings about HBP. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, though. It was a book that I found, at once, fascinating and frustrating, making it ultimately one of my least favorites of the series. Now, however, I find that Rowling was very right in saying that HBP was really the first part of the last book, and viewing it in that way changes a lot. I've also found that listening to Stephen Fry reading HBP is even better than reading it--his interpretation of what the characters were feeling is excellent, and gave me new insight into the depth of Dumbledore's pain in the Cave as well as the grief of all the Order after Dumbledore's death.

In Half-Blood Prince, not only do we see a very different Dumbledore, but we see a different Harry. Dumbledore is suddenly talking to Harry, all the time, and on a much more collaborative level than we have ever seen. First it's Dumbledore who comes to collect/rescue Harry from the Dursleys, and Dumbledore who gives the Dursleys a needed lesson in manners as well as child rearing. It's then Dumbledore who takes Harry along on a mission to secure a new Hogwarts teacher, when it seems the most unnecessary thing for him to do. It's Dumbledore, then, who says that Harry will be having private lessons with him throughout the year, and no, it won't be to repair the failed attempt at Harry learning Occlumency. And it's Dumbledore, who leads Harry through the Pensieve memories in an attempt to learn more about what Voldemort has done and might be planning to do, as well as Dumbledore who further reiterates that he completely trusts Severus Snape, even after Harry learns that it was on Snape's word that Voldemort sought out Harry's parents and himself to kill.

(One side note, here, though, about Occlumency--and a spoiler if you haven't read DH, which I assume people now have. Even though Harry was abysmal at it with Snape, and could never keep Snape from probing his own thoughts, I always thought that Harry had had enough Occlumency lessons to understand how it was supposed to work and what he needed to do. I was glad to see that all that time spent with Snape wasn't wasted when Harry was able to use Occlumency, but more important, Legilimency in DH. Occlumency always seemed to be the negative of the two old forms of magic--one, closing your mind, while the other opened the mind and gave one the ability to move forward, using information and intuition.)

So much of HBP is Harry's time with Dumbledore, distracted by Harry's time with the Prince--who, it turns out, is the very person he has decided he hates the most--Snape. He spends a lot of time with the Prince, when he pours over the Advanced Potions book, with Snape's notes written everywhere. (Hermione occasionally points out that he could have got that information from Snape in their Potions classes if he had paid better attention.) Harry is convinced that the Prince was the most brilliant student ever, to come up with all these wonderful hints at potion brewing, which work better than the book's intstructions, not to mention all the useful spells, which Harry often tries without having a clue about the consequences. Some are funny--Ron being lifted upside down as a wake up call one morning, and the idea of Filch not being able to talk, or Crabbe (or was it Goyle) having toenails too long, making it hard for him to walk.

It's funny, until Hermione points out that hanging someone upside down for sport is not that different than what they saw the Death Eaters doing at the World Cup. And then it's not funny at all. Nor is the memory that Harry saw his dad doing the same thing to Snape in Snape's Pensieve memory. Or Snape's constant taunting of Harry that his dad and Sirius were known for hexing people in the halls just because they could.

Suddenly we see a side of Harry that made me--and others, some of whom still haven't got past it--very uncomfortable. I'm not sure that I'm really 'past it' either, but I have come to see it differently than when I first read the book. I found it much easier to be sympathetic to a yelling, angry, depressed Harry in Order of the Phoenix than to embrace this new adventurous Harry, who had become somewhat of a bully. And truth be told, I still don't like it that Harry "went there". In one way, it seems so inconsistent with Dumbledore always saying that Harry was so pure of heart. None of that seemed very pure of heart to me, and still doesn't.

Perhaps, though, that's where the definition of pure of heart becomes more important. I read it, especially after Harry was so distraught over seeing James and Sirius being bullies, and Harry clearly understanding Snape's point of view, that it meant Harry was above any of the sort of things that teens often try out--and then come to realize they were wrong, and they grow up and wouldn't think of doing those kinds of things once they are adults.

It doesn't excuse James and Sirius (who apparently were bullies for most of the time they were at Hogwarts, starting apparently with Snape on their first train ride to Hogwarts), but it does show that Harry was not perfect. He was not above temptation--the temptation to reap the public praise from Slughorn of being a brilliant Potions student--especially after all the humiliation he suffered at Snape's hands in the class. He found a way to "pay back" some of those who had bullied him for the previous five years, by using some of the Prince's spells on them. Right behavior? Good choices, on Harry's part? Absolutely not. Understandable, maybe.

The most disturbing use Harry makes of the unexpected windfall of spells from the Prince is when he uses Sectumsempra on Malfoy. It was one of those moments that happens to people, a moment when our common sense is driven to the back of our minds and we make the mistake of lashing out at someone because of fear and anger, without considering the consequences; Harry experienced a moment of sudden fear and anger (Malfoy was trying to Crucio Harry, and he knew what that felt like already), and having the Sectumsempra spell lurking in the back of his mind, having wished he could try it out to see what it did, it's not surprising that Harry used it on Draco, who had taunted Harry and his friends from their first year. It does not excuse Harry in any way. But what happens afterwards is more important, I think.

Harry is horrified to see what the spell does, he immediately regrets his use of it, and only wants to help Draco (which, lost in the moment, was Harry's instinct in the first place when he saw Draco crying), though of course, there is nothing that he could have done. As Snape tells him, that was powerful Dark Magic, and Harry would have no way of knowing the counter-curse. Snape arrives, and is able to partially heal Draco, then turns on Harry. Harry offers no excuses for his exceedingly poor choice; he obeys Snape's order to stay there. He does hide the Prince's Potions book, and tries to get Snape to give him some other punishment, other than missing the last Quidditch game. But mostly what we see is that, even though Harry resents Snape and the detention Snape came up with, Harry does know and accept that what he did was so very wrong, and he regrets his foolishness in trying out that spell on anyone, even on Draco.

When Dumbledore talked about the purity of Harry's heart, then, he didn't mean that Harry was always going to be a perfect little boy, always doing the right and proper things, leading a goody-two-shoes kind of life. What he meant was that Harry, who is human (an everyman), will make mistakes, but that he will make the right moral choices in the end because he is filled with love. Dumbledore understood, that even when Harry was angry with him in his fifth year, there were reasons for Harry's anger; we all have to deal with all of our emotions, not just the positve ones. To deny that we have a full range of emotions, is to deny that we are human, and as human beings, none of us are perfect. Not even Harry. Just as Harry has a pure heart that leads him to accept people and other creatures for who they are and not for their status in the wizarding world, he also had to work through his own faults and short-comings. In Half-Blood Prince, we see Harry coming to terms with who he is, his strengths as well as his weaknesses. That's a step on his journey that is crucial to his fight against the evil of Voldemort.

Dumbledore, early in his adult life, we learn in Deathly Hallows had to understand his own weakness, his desire for power. Harry doesn't have that same desire for power, but he has to learn in HBP that he must stay focused on his true quest and that wanting and seeking revenge will not help him. When he cast the Sectumsempra against Draco, there must have been a moment as he cast that spell, very brief, when Harry felt that he was paying back Draco for the ways Draco had mistreated and humiliated him. But even though he doesn't like Draco later, nor forgive Draco his fascination with the Dark Arts, Harry does see Draco in a new light after that, a light that has the glimmer of forgiveness, and at least of compassion for what became of Draco, who was trapped more by the choices of his family before being trapped by his own choices.

Half-Blood Prince is very much the first half of the end of the story. When viewed in that way, it's much easier to see that Harry had to work through his own imperfections, just as Dumbledore did. One of the tragedies of not coming to terms with our own faults is that we live a life of regret, bitterness and hopelessness, which is what we later learn happened to Severus Snape, the "Prince" to whom Harry owed so much. Just how much, and why, Harry doesn't learn until much later.


Note: I may come back to edit this later, but I wanted to get some of this down before I completely move away from the sixth book.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Part III

As I've said before, Occlumency and Legilimency are the two ideas that I find most intriguing. It may well be that Rowling is done with them, but even so, the idea that one wizard can have access to another's mind, see what memories of thoughts and past actions lurk there, and also have the ability to plant false visions is such an incredible notion. It goes way beyond the idea of mind control, of the usual sort. As Snape tells Harry, Occlumency is very subtle, and not easily learned or understood.

Up to this point, Snape has given Harry a lot of information about the lessons he is about to teach him, but as they are ready to begin, Snape starts by first removing three memories from his mind and placing them in Dumbledore's Pensieve (which, just as an aside, because I've been re-reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, is a neat anagram for Pevensie--the name of the children who venture to Narnia).

Harry has no idea what memories Snape has placed there, but that really is the least of his worries, as Snape faces Harry with his own wand, and tells Harry to stand and take out his wand. Snape tells Harry that he may use his wand to disarm him or to defend himself in any way he can think of. When Harry asks what Snape is going to do, Snape tells him:

"I am about to attempt to break into your mind," said Snape softly. "We are going to see how well you resist. I have been told that you have already shown aptitude at resisting the Imperius Curse. . . . You will find that similar powers are needed for this. . . . Brace yourself, now. . . . Legilimens!" (US, Chapter 24, p. 534)

Fascinating, but just who told Snape all of that about Harry being able to resist the Imperius Curse? Did that information come from Barty Crouch, Jr, when he was the fake Moody? Doesn't seem likely, as the two of them were barely civil to one another. Did Dumbledore know that? Maybe. Or did one of the Death Eaters who were in the graveyard mention it to Snape--possibly Lucius Malfoy or Peter Pettigrew? That seems more likely than the information coming from Barty Jr, who had no use for Snape, and no reason to share classroom antecdotes as they sat around the staff room. Of course, the other explanation is that Dumbledore who seems to somehow know about a lot of things that are happening around Hogwarts learned that information from one of the students who saw Harry resist the Imperius Curse in fake Moody's class, and I rather hope that is the explanation for Snape's knowledge of Harry's abilities.

Harry didn't feel ready for the mental attack, even though Snape did give him warning. He was plunged into his own memories--humiliations at the hands of Dudley and the Dursleys and Aunt Marge's stupid dog, Ripper, his memory of the Sorting Hat telling him he would do well in Slytherin (I wonder if Snape knew that before), Hermione in hospital with evidence of Polyjuice gone bad, a hundred dementors closing in by the lake. Finally, Cho floats into his mind under the mistletoe, and Harry fights back, feeling that that particular memory is private and he won't allow Snape to see it.

He finds himself on the floor, after he stopped Snape with a Stinging Hex, unknowingly. These lessons, while they could have been so useful to Harry, seem doomed from the beginning. Rather than encouraging Harry, Snape criticizes with "You let me get in too far. You lost control." (US, p. 535)

Harry, as would anyone, wants to know just what Snape saw of those memories. Snape saw flashes of them and asks about the dog, a subtle way to focus on something he knew was humiliating for Harry.

But then Snape gives Harry an almost-compliment:

"Well, for a first attempt that was not as poor as it might have been," said Snape, raising his wand once more. "You managed to stop me eventually, though you wasted time and energy shouting. You must remain focused. Repel me with your brain and you will not need to resort to your wand." (US., p. 535)

This is probably the most instruction Snape gives about how to do Occlumency. But Harry isn't listening, he's frustrated by the process, and that it's Snape who is breaking into his mind. This really is the first time that Harry is presented with the idea of non-verbal and wandless magic, which are crucial in Half-Blood Prince. It's a new concept for Harry, and it might have helped had Snape taken the time to explain it in a calmer, friendlier manner. Yes, well, not likely, considering that it's Snape and Harry, eh?

These lessons are so different than the Patronus ones that Harry had with Lupin, who was kind, encouraging, and supportive. But then, we often see that teaching styles reflect the teacher; Lupin is kind and supportive, and his gentleness shows in his teaching style, making the students want to learn. Snape, on the other hand, has never been nice to anyone, except his favored Slytherins. I've always wondered whether he is as nice to them when no one else is around. My guess is that he can turn on them, just as easily, if they step out of line or fail to meet his high expectations.

It's just hard to know whether this really indicates that Snape is an all round nasty git, going out of his way to torment Harry, or whether he doesn't have the ability to impart his considerable knowledge to students, which isn't likely, in that most of the 5th years do fairly well on their Potions O.W.L.s, so they must have learned something from him, as Slughorn says later. I don't think we can even consider that the problem at the beginning of the Occlumency lessons is due to Snape's hatred of James and Sirius, not yet anyway--Snape is just as nasty to other students as well, and had the reputation for being so before Harry and company arrived at Hogwarts. There are teachers who seem to think that by being harsh they will force the students to toughen up, to learn the subject matter, and for some I suppose that does work. For most people, however, a little kindness goes a long way towards a student working harder in order to please a teacher. Hermione is probably the only one who works hard at Potions in spite of Snape being mean to her. The main problem at the beginning of the Occlumency lessons is really Harry's attitude.

Snape tells him to clear his mind, and he can see that Harry is not doing it. Harry's anger is front and center, blocking any chance of his understanding how rare magic works. Snape has another go, and this time memories of the dragon, his father and mother waving at him from the Mirror of Erised, and Cedric lying dead flash through his mind. It's at that point that he yells NO! and stops the process.

The use of Legilimency is really disturbing, when I think about it. It is forcing Harry to relive the worst memories of his life, or the saddest ones, the ones that cause him sorrow and regret. Yet instead of giving him a break, as Lupin might have done, Snape allows his own frustration to enter in:

"Get up!" said Snape sharply. "Get up! You are not trying, you are making no effort, you are allowing me access to memories you fear, handing me weapons!"

Harry stood up again, his heart thumping wildly as though he had really just seen Cedric dead in the graveyard. Snape looked paler than usual, and angrier, though not nearly as angry as Harry was.

"I --am --making --an --effort," he said through clenched teeth.

"I told you to empty yourself of emotion.!"

"Yeah? Well, I'm finding that hard at the moment," Harry snarled.

"Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord!" said Snape savagely. "Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily--weak people, in other words-- they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!"

"I am not weak," said Harry in a low voice, fury now pumping through him so that he thought he might attack Snape in a moment.

"Then prove it! Master yourself!" spat Snape, "Control your anger, discipline your mind! We shall try again! Get ready, now! Legilimens!" (US, p. 536)

Snape was paler than usual. Why? Because he is reliving these memories, right along with Harry. If Harry weren't so blinded by his anger, it might occur to him to wonder just how Snape knows all that about Voldemort using a person's saddest memories against them. It doesn't seem likely that Snape would be so passionate about this particular reason for learning Occlumency if it were only an academic lesson he himself had learned. It seems entirely possible that he was the victim of Voldemort penetrating his mind, seeing sad memories and his emotions, regrets over past choices and mistakes. When Snape talks about weak people who allow themselves to be easily provoked, I'm reminded that that's a very appropriate description of Snape at the end of Harry's third year when he learns that Black had escaped and he wouldn't have his revenge after all. It turns out Snape isn't as good at hiding his own emotions either. But in this particular instruction, he is giving Harry the reason to learn Occlumency, just not the proper incentive.

The third attempt proves even more interesting. Harry still isn't able to block Snape at the beginning, and they both see Uncle Vernon hammering the letter box shut, the dementors approaching across the lake (should have been quite a revelation to Snape, as he was still knocked out at the time and missed all that), and then Harry is back in the passageway with Arthur, who leads him down a flight of stone steps before Harry can go through the plain black door. Snape has actually, it turns out, stopped the memory. But now Harry's scar is prickling.

So what was going on there? Harry now knows where that door is--but is it because Harry found his way into Voldemort's mind, or did Voldemort find his way into Harry's at that moment. The fact that Harry is with Arthur and they detour down the steps seems more likely that Harry is making the connection be intruding into Voldemort's memories.

Rather than answering Snape's question about what happened in that memory, Harry asks one of his own--"What's in the Department of Mysteries?" Not at all what Snape expected.

"And why," said Snape slowly, "would you ask such a thing?"

"Because," said Harry, watching Snape's face closely, "that corridor I've just seen --I've been dreaming about it for months --I've just recognized it --it leads to the Department of Mysteries. . . and I think Voldemort wants something from --"

"I have told you not to say the Dark Lord's name!" (US, p. 537)

Does Snape suspect that the "Dark Lord" might be watching the exchange betweent the two of them or that he might see this scene later in Harry's mind? By stopping Harry, Snape ensures that Voldemort will only see that Snape stopped Potter from saying his name, and that he, Snape, showed the proper reverence.

Harry's scar "seared again", and Snape composes himself before continuing. If Voldemort is indeed able to see any of these lessons, then Snape, as a spy, must be extremely cautious; it's all right for him to appear to teach Harry per the instructions from Dumbledore and Voldemort would understand that, but it's never all right for a loyal follower to show any sign of irrevernce or to allow it from anyone else.

If Snape actually tells Harry what is there, then Voldemort would have access to that revelation as well, more likely through Harry's mind than Snape's. So Snape tells him nothing. Rather than being seen as secretive, this might well be meant to protect Harry.

"There are many things in the Department of Mysteries, Potter, few of which you would understand and none of which concern you, do I make myself plain?" (US, p. 538)

Harry's scar is still prickling as Snape tells him to return on Wednesday, and to rid his mind of emotion every night--empty it, make it blank and calm. . . And be warned, Potter. . . I shall know if you have not practiced. . ."(US, p. 538)

Harry rushes off to find Ron and Hermione in the library. (As an aside, we once again have mention of Madam Pince in close proximity in the book to Snape--is that a connection that we are to make? Another subject, entirely.)

With this new information about where that corridor and door are located, Hermione figures out that was the reason Podmore was there, though they don't yet know that he was trying to prevent Voldemort's entrance.

Typical of Hermione she asks again if he is all right, and he admits that he doesn't much like Occlumency. Well, who would really. It's an invasion of one's private thoughts, memories that might be so painful a person hasn't thought of them for years, or of memories that are so private one would not even write them in a journal for fear that someone else might find them. And here Harry has to stand, in front of the one man he resents and hates the most, letting him have access to those very thoughts. Hermione describes it as having one's mind attacked over and over again. A mental attack is presented as being much more invading and cruel than a physical attack would be.

After going back to the common room and seeing Fred and George with their headless hats, Harry decides he's had enough and goes to his dormitory for some much needed sleep. But he immediately is plunged into a waking vision, with his scar feeling like it is splitting. This one however, isn't something frightening, but one in which Voldemort is jubilant. Now, has Voldemort planted this in Harry's mind? I don't think so. I think in Harry's heightened state of mind after the session with Snape, Harry has once again entered Voldemort's mind by using Legilimency, something he doesn't even know that he can do.

Ron has come to check on him because Hermione was worried about him. "She says your defenses will be low at the moment, after Snape's been fiddling around with your mind. . ." (US, p. 542)

Evidently, in usual Hermione fashion, she has reserched Occlumency, and this isn't a result of Snape doing something that he shouldn't, but a normal, and even, expected result of learning the process.

Harry, however, feels that his mind has been weakened rather than strengthened, as he wonders what it is that has made Voldemort happier than he has been in fourteen years.

It's a good question, but I wonder if Harry would have the same concern if he were being taught by Dumbledore, whom he trusts, rather than by Snape. The connection that Harry has to Voldemort's mind has been opened even more, as this happened while he was awake. It never occurs to Harry, because it was Snape doing the teaching, that the lessons were Dumbledore's in the first place and that Dumbledore must think the benefits of learning Occlumency outweigh the risks.

One very good thing did come out of that first lesson, well several, actually. Harry was able to block Snape part of the time; Snape now knows that Harry is gaining access to Voldemort's thoughts and knows where those thoughts are focused. We learn later that he had passed that information along to Dumbledore. If Snape weren't loyal to Dumbledore, wouldn't he just keep that information to himself? Knowing that Voldemort is intent on gaining access to the Department of Mysteries confirms what Dumbledore suspects--Snape could easily have left that out, or could have changed it to some other place, had he wanted to misdirect Dumbledore.

If it really is Legilimency on Harry's part that is opening the mental door between him and Voldemort, then Dumbledore and Snape are approaching it from the wrong direction, it would seem. Yes, Harry should learn to block Voldemort from entering his mind, but they should also be teaching Harry how to stop himself from entering Voldemort's mind, or how to recognize what he is doing.

* * * * * * *

As the Occlumency lesson continue--at least two times a week, it seems, Harry thinks they are getting worse rather than better. His scar prickles all the time, he senses Voldemort's emotions of annoyance or cheerfulness. Harry traces this increased connection back to the first Occlumency lesson. That could be the reason, but we have so much experience with Harry jumping to the wrong conclusion, that I always think there must be something going on that is just under our radar. The first lesson Harry had with Snape was shortly after the time that Harry saw Arthur being attacked--it could be that's the reason the mental connection is stronger and more evident. Hermione encourages Harry to work harder. Ron, however, thinks that Snape isn't really trying to help Harry.

One thing here--with all that Snape saw in that first lesson, think how much more of Harry's private thoughts he has now seen after at least several weeks of lessons. Hermione reminds Ron of his track record on assessing Snape's loyalty, which is zero, and Ron brings up Snape's Death Eater past.

Several months after the start of his Occlumency lessons, Harry, once again letting his hatred of Snape and Umbridge prevent him from clearing his mind, falls into his odd dreams, ordinary at first, but then turning towards that corridor with the black door at the end. Rather than wanting to stop the vision, Harry was keen to get through that door, and was interrupted this time by Ron's loud snores.

He knew he should not have seen the door, but at the same time, felt so consumed with curiosity about what was behind it that he could not help feeling annoyed with Ron. . . . If he could have save his snore for just another minute. . . (US, p. 577)

After the interview in The Quibbler, and Umbridge's ban on it, which results, as bans often do, in everyone in the school reading it, Harry heads off for a night's sleep, wishing that his headache would subside.

He is at once plunged into Voldemort's mind, as though he is Voldemort. It's Rookwood who is kneeling at his feet. Voldemort now knows he was given faulty information from Avery that Bode would be able to remove it. Rookwood, having worked at the Ministry, knew that was not possible.

"You have done well to tell me this," said Harry (who is really Voldemort). "Very well . . . I have wasted months on fruitless schemes, it seems. . . But no matter. . . We begin again, from now. You have Lord Voldemort's gratitude, Rookwood. . ." (US, p. 585)

So, this is another time that Harry seems to have initiated the connection, rather than the other way round. Voldemort wouldn't want Harry or the Order to know that he hadn't been making proper progress on whatever his scheme is. Rookwood promises to help Voldemort, presumably with more information about how to "remove it", and Avery, the one with the faulty information, is summoned. As Harry/Voldemort waits, he turns towards a cracked mirror (there are a lot of those throughout the books), and sees "A face whiter than a skull. . . red eyes with slits for pupils. . ."

That's enough for Harry to be horrified and break the connection. Harry tells Ron "I was You-Know-Who," After explaining the rest of the vision to Ron, it's Ron who says that Harry should tell someone. Harry, though, is now completely annoyed with Dumbledore for ignoring him, and doesn't feel there is anyone else he can tell. And as he tries to go back to sleep, he know that Avery is being punished, so the vision apparently continued.

A few weeks later, Harry is once again in an Occlumency lesson with Snape, and things are not going well. By now, he should have made some progress; Harry knows that, but having Snape point it out is even more aggravating.

Harry has had to yet again relive a memory of being bullied by Dudley and his gang, when Snape asks what that last memory was. But it's not the memory of Dudley that has caught Snape's attention.

"No," said Snape softly. "I mean the one concerning a man kneeling in the middle of a darkened room. . . ."

Harry tries to avoid Snape's eyes but Snape persists:

"How do that man and that room come to be inside your head, Potter?" said Snape.

"It --" said Harry, looking everwhere but at Snape, "it was --just a dream I had."

"A dream," repeated Snape.

(Harry once again tries to avoid making eye contact with Snape.)

"You do know why we are here, don't you, Potter?" said Snape in a low, dangerous voice. "You do know why I am giving up my evenings to do this tedious job?"

"Yes," said Harry stiffly.

"Remind me why we are here, Potter."

"So I can learn Occlumency," said Harry, now glaring at a dead eel.

"Correct, Potter. And dim though you may be" --Harry looked back at Snape, hating him --"I would have thought that after over two months' worth of lessons you might have made some progress. How many other dreams about the Dark Lord have you had?"

"Just that one," lied Harry. (US, p. 590-591)

Of course Snape know that Harry is lying. And he doesn't need Occlumency for that one. But this confrontation goes from bad to worse. At this point, it's important to note that if the two of them had a better relationship, one based on trust and cooperation, Harry would probably be doing better, or might have gone to Snape earlier after the dream of Rookwood and Avery. It's also evident later that Snape did tell Dumbledore about this particular vision of Harry's.

And then Snape makes it worse. He's not yelling at Harry, but he does lose control in that he allows himself to taunt Harry in a way that he knows will result in less effort on Harry's part. This is one of those points where Snape really needs to be the mature adult, but reverts to using school boy tactics to attack his opponent where he is most vulnerable.

"Perhaps," said Snape, his dark, cold eyes narrowing slightly, "perhaps you actually enjoy having these visions and dreams, Potter. Maybe they make you feel special --important?"

"No, they don't," said Harry, his jaw set and his fingers clenched tightly around the handle of his wand.

"That is just as well, Potter," said Snape coldly, "because you are neither special nor important, and it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters."

"No --that's your job, isn't it?" Harry shot at him.

He had not meant to say it; it had burst out of him in temper. for a long moment they stared at each other, Harry convinced he had gone too far. But there was a curious, almost satisfied expresion on Snape's face when he answered.

"Yes, Potter," he said, his eyes glinting. "That is my job. Now, if your are ready, we will start again. . . ." (US, p. 591)

This time, the memories are of dementors coming towards him, but Harry, concentrating hard, can still see Snape's face, and manages a shield charm--"Protego!" Harry's mind is now filled with memories that are not his:

-- a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner. . . A greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies. . . . A girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick--

"ENOUGH!" (US, p. 592)

Snape's reaction here is amazing to Harry. Snape has repelled him, but rather than further lashing out at Harry, he says:

"Well, Potter. . . that was certainly an improvement. . . " Panting slightly, Snape straightened the Pensieve in which he had again stored some of his thoughts before starting the lesson, almost as though checking that they were still there. "I don't remember telling you to use a Shield Charm. . . but there is no doubt that it was effective. . ."

Not at all what Harry expected, since he's fairly certain that those memories were Snape's childhood memories.

it was unnerving to think that the cring little boy who had watched his parents shouting was actually standing in front of him with such loathing in his eyes. . . (US, p. 592)

Is the loathing because Harry saw the memory or because of the memory itself? Or is it a combination of both? The last thing Snape, who admonished Harry about controlling his emotions, would want is to be reminded of a time when his own emotions might have been out of control. In one way, he's likely pleased to see that Harry has made progress--it had to be frustrating to keep working with him, knowing that nothing was happening. But now Snape, whether he controls his emotions or not, must feel that he has handed weapons to Harry--his own humiliating childhood memories that Harry could use against him. James certainly would have done; Snape thinks that Harry is just like James so he must expect him to be delighted with something he can spread to the other students.

Harry knows that he's in for retaliation, and Snape doesn't disappoint. This time Harry is immediately in the corridor, but the door opens and he's in the circular room, looking for the door he needs to take.

Snape is now irate and demands that Harry explain. Harry, finding himself unceremoniously thrown to the floor, honestly tells Snape that he has no idea what just happened. That's a vision that he has never seen before.

"You are not working hard enough!"

For some reason, Snape seemed even angrier than he had done two minutes before, when Harry had seen into his own memories.

"You are lazy and sloppy, Potter, it is small wonder that the Dark Lord --"

"Can you tell me something, sir?" said Harry, firing up again. "Why do you call Voldemort the Dark Lord, I've only ever heard Death Eaters call him that --" (US, p. 593)

Oh, how we'd like the answer to that question, but that's the unfortunate moment that Umbridge is in the process of sacking Trelawney, and Snape rushes off to see what's going on, followed by Harry.

So, why is Snape so angry over this vision? If Harry hasn't seen it before, then it means that he is sharing that mental connection with Voldemort right at that moment. It's still not clear whether it's because Voldemort is using Legilimency on Harry or whether it's Harry who is invading a mind. Snape most likely thinks that it's Voldemort's doing, and is understandabley angry with Harry. Not only is Harry's mind at risk, but so is Snape's. If it's Harry making the connection, then it's still undesirable. The point of the Occlumency lessons is for the mental connections to be blocked, so that Harry's mind is not so connected to Voldemort, and Harry is clearly not working hard enough. He wanted the door to open, and he wanted to go further, and now Snape has seen that desire first hand.