I'ts been a long time since I've posted--and a lot has been going on with Harry Potter since February. I've mainly been keeping up with discussions on other sites, but haven't had the opportunity to weigh in here.
The biggest thing is the release of the cover art for both the US (Scholastic) and UK (Bloomsbury) Deathly Hallows book. They, unlike the cover art for HBP, seem to be of very different scenes from the book. While the UK children's cover has a lot of detail, it doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as the US one. I like Mary GrandPre's artwork in general, and the more I look at the covers for books 5 and 6, and now for book 7, I like it even better. It doesn't give away too much, but once we've read the book, I'm sure it will be such a significant image from the story.
One thing that the two very different covers do have in common, is that no one has a wand on either cover. So wherever the trio and the house-elf (Dobby, more than likely, Kreacher, possibly) are, they aren't using their wands, but we do see something that is like the sword of Gryffindor. The US cover, with Harry is a Christ-like position, shows that both Harry and Voldemort are wandless.
When you look at the faces and posture of Harry and Voldemort, it shows that Harry is open, with his hand facing upwards, reaching towards something or someone. His expression seems to be expectant, as though whatever he sees is welcome. Voldemort also has his hand extended, but as though he is trying to repel something or someone, and the look on his face is one of fear. He also seems to be trying to back away from whatever it is that the two of them see. There is also a marked contrast between the humanity shown on Harry's face and the lack of human-ness on Voldemort's.
Where are they? Many of us think that it is somewhere in the Ministry of Magic, the Department of Mysteries. There are similarities to the Death Room that Harry was in when they were there in Order of the Phoenix. But there are differences as well. The ceiling is the biggest one. Either we are looking at the real sky, which is full of sunshine, perhaps at sunset or sunrise (the sky isn't normally so vivid in the middle of the day), or an enchanted ceiling like we see at Hogwarts. If it's the real sky, then the upper floors of the Ministry of Magic would have to have been destroyed. If it's enchanted, why would it appear this way in a place that seemed so gloomy, especially since Dumbledore had called it the Death Room?
The other possiblitity that I can see is that there is fire surrounding the chamber, wherever they are, though one would expect Harry to look a little more fearful if they were surrounded by fire.
With the arches behind them, and something that looks like spectators in the background, the picture calls to mind a place like the coliseum--and that reminds me of this passage from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", after Dumbledore explained to Harry that the Prophecy was only important because he and Voldemort chose to act upon it:
When I first read that passage, I focused more on Harry's attitude and understanding that what he was doing by choice, but the image of Harry walking into an arena to face Voldemort may have been the more important point.
But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him.
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged
into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena
with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there
was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew--
and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride,
and so did my parents--that there was all the difference
in the world. (HBP, US version, p. 512)
There are so many other possiblities that have been discussed at John Granger's blog, HogwartsProfessor.com, and on Travis Prinzi's Sword of Gryffindor. I won't list them all here, but as you read through the comments, there are links to other posts that are well worth exploring.
Mostly, we are all delighted to have new things to talk about, and to agree and disagree about, as we wait for the 7th and last Harry Potter book. It will be sad, and rather strange, to get Deathly Hallows in my hands on July 21, and read it (straight through, as much as my schedule will allow), but the cover art makes me very hopeful that what we are seeing is a book that shows that love is the way to conquer evil and that there is an underlying Christian theme throughout the books, as many of us have seen and discussed since at least the release of Goblet of Fire back in 2000.
And now I'm going back to my latest re-reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'm trying very hard to keep up with the discussion in the Reading Group at the Leaky Lounge, but it is hard when there are so many exciting things to think about with that artwork staring at me everytime I walk by my computer. Yes, I have the US cover as my wallpaper, and I'll change the screensaver to the UK book art as soon as they update the current one.