The Harry Potter Reread enjoyed its weekend snowstorm, but feels sad whenever it watches the snow melt into giant, sad, grimy puddles. It probably should not be so invested in snow banks. But it’s likely all too late.
This week we’re going to make lots of bad ear jokes and be the victim of a concerned parent attack. It’s chapters 5 and 6 of The Deathly Hallows—Fallen Warrior and The Ghoul in Pajamas.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 5—Fallen Warrior
Harry struggles from his crash, rushing to Hagrid’s side, but the half-giant won’t stir. Then there’s a new voice and a woman shouts to someone named Ted about how they’ve crashed in the garden. Harry wakes up on a sofa, his missing tooth regrown. Ted Tonks is sitting nearby; he’s patched Harry up and encourages him to move slow, asking what went wrong. Harry explains that the Death Eaters knew that he was going to be moved, and Ted mentions the protective charms on the house holding well. Harry realizes that’s the reason why Voldemort vanished before he crashed. He tries to get to his feet to find Hagrid, but Hagrid beats him to it, limping into the room and giving him a hug.
Harry panics at the sight of a woman he presumes is Bellatrix, but it turns out to be Andromeda, Dora’s mother. She demands to know where her daughter is, but Harry doesn’t know. He suggests they take the Portkey to the Burrow so they can find out about what happened to the others. Ted directs them to the Portkey, which is meant to leave in three minutes. Before they touch it, Hagrid asks where Hedwig is, and Harry has to tell him that she went down. Hagrid tries to comfort him, but the Portkey leaves and they’re soon at the Burrow. Molly and Ginny are there, asking about the others—no one has returned yet. Harry explains that the Death Eaters were waiting for them. Hagrid asks Molly for brandy, giving Ginny the chance to tell Harry that Ron, Tonks, Arthur, and Fred should have already returned by now. Lupin and George are next, and though they make it on time, George’s ear has been cursed off. As he’s settled on the sofa, Lupin hauls Harry aside, asking him a security question to be sure he’s the real Harry; he knows someone has betrayed them. (He knows it can’t be someone in disguise as Hagrid because the Polyjuice Potion can only be used by humans.)
Harry points out that Voldemort didn’t know the whole plan, or he’d have known who was the real Harry from the beginning. When Lupin asks how they figured out he was the real Harry, he mentions disarming Stan Shunpike, and Lupin is horrified—he tells Harry that he has to stop using Expelliarmus as a go-to because the Death Eaters are perceiving it as a trademark of his. Harry retorts that he refuses to blow people away like Voldemort does. Hermione and Kingsley arrive, and he moves to make sure that Lupin is safe by asking him what Dumbledore’s last words were to them both. (“Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him.”) They start relating what happened during their flights, which leads Hermione to express surprise over Stan’s appearance, since he was meant to be in Azkaban. Kingsley points out that there’s clearly been a mass breakout from Azkaban that the Ministry is covering up. It also comes out that the person who cursed off George’s ear was Snape. Everyone stares up at the sky, waiting for others to arrive until Harry is called in by Hagrid to see to George. Soon after, Arthur and Fred arrive. George makes a joke about being saintlike, “holey,” which comforts Fred.
Everyone goes back to waiting, watching the skies. Tonks and Ron finally appear; they and a rough time because Bellatrix was determined to get her hands on Tonks, but she praises Ron’s performance under pressure. Kingsley has to head back to Downing Street, and Bill and Fleur finally arrive. Bill gives his mother a brief hug before announcing to the group and Mad-Eye is dead. Voldemort went straight for him, and Mundungus Disapparated out of panic. A curse hit Moody square in the face and he fell. Everyone heads inside and breaks the news to the twins. Bill pours everyone in the retrieval crew a shot of firewhiskey, holding one up for Moody. Once they’ve toasted and drank, Lupin points out the suspiciousness of Mundungus vanishing, but Bill points out that the plan had been his idea—if he was going to give it away to the Death Eaters, why wouldn’t he have given away all of it. Tonks points out that Voldemort did exactly what Moody thought he would do, assuming that he had Harry as the toughest Auror of the group. Harry decides that he doesn’t believe anyone in the group would have betrayed him, and tells the group that the have to trust each other. The twins are pleased with that sentiment, but Lupin points out that Harry is much like his father; believing it the “height of dishonor to mistrust his friends.”
Lupin and Bill leave to retrieve Moody’s body before the Death Eaters can get hold of it. Once they’re gone, Harry insists that he can’t stay there and keep putting them all in danger. There’s a bit of an argument over it until Molly tries to distract Harry by asking after Hedwig and suggesting that they put her up with Pigwidgeon. He can’t bear to tell Mrs. Weasley the truth, so he drinks the last of his firewhiskey. Hagrid points out that Harry’s escape will give people a great deal of hope, fighting him off the way he did. Harry points out that he didn’t—his wand acted of its own accord. Everyone insists that Harry probably just did magic he didn’t understand because he was under duress, frustrating him because he knows that’s not true. Then he has a flash of Voldemort talking to Ollivander, suggesting that the wand maker lied about another person’s wand working against Harry’s. Ollivander cannot understand why it didn’t work, and is subjected to Voldemort’s fury. The flash is over, and everyone is still there telling Harry to stay. He goes upstairs with Ron and Hermione and tells them what he saw. Hermione is upset—the flashes were supposed to have stopped and Harry needs to keep Voldemort out of his head. She warns him again to close his mind, the way Dumbledore wanted him to.
We finally meet Tonks’ parents, who we will hear more about in this book, of course. I really do wish that we got more time with Andromeda because she deserves a lot more time than she gets. She’s the middle sister of the Black family, one of the few stereotype-bucking Slytherins, and Sirius’ favorite cousin. And her story is perhaps the most tragic of anyone’s in this series outside of Neville; she rejects her upbringing, follows her heart, refuses to be like the rest of her family. And in the end, she loses nearly everyone who matters to her. Yeah, I’m gonna step back from this until it comes up again because currently my heart cannot take it.
Hagrid asks after Hedwig, of course. In some ways it means the most to have him be the only person who really gets to talk to Harry about it—after all, Hedwig was a gift from him, and he does love his magical creatures. Having him be the person to remind Harry that she had a lovely life just lessens the blow a bit.
Once Harry and Hagrid reach the Burrow, we get a long chapter full of tension and it’s pretty much the worst (in terms of feeling, not quality). It’s also expertly played out as we wait and wait with the characters, desperate to find out who isn’t going to make it. The fake-out with George is especially cruel given the endgame, though it does a great job of reminding us how important the twins are to the general group dynamic; though they aren’t always the kindest, their brand of humor is desperately needed, even more so in such difficult times. The fact that George can so easily toss out one-liners once he wakes is all about lightening the tension for the reader as much as the characters.
Harry’s chats with Remus in this chapter just break my heart. In fact, Remus’ whole character arc in this book breaks my heart. It occurs to me that his behavior is probably very similar to how he acted during the first war, and that he’s meant to be a sort of spiritual opposite to James in that regard. We can make the argument that James comes from a privileged position, and therefore it’s easier for him to trust; Lupin has to deal with the worst side of humanity far more often than James ever did. But then you have Harry, who doesn’t have James’ charmed life as an excuse, making it more of a marked difference in personality. At the end of the day, Harry has to believe the best of his friends and compatriots. It’s true that James made a mistake in trusting Peter, but suggesting that trust was a weakness, a blindspot, is missing the point. The fact that James Potter trusted Peter wasn’t wrong—first off, James bears some fault for not being entirely good to Peter all their lives. So trust isn’t the flaw in James’ relationships. But more to the point, Harry doesn’t trust people as a point of “honor,” the way Lupin puts it. Harry trusts out of love. There’s a certain aspect of crappy old-school nobility to James Potter that Harry utterly lacks. So I’d argue that Remus makes a mistake in conflating them here.
Also, Harry’s point about not blasting people out of his way, about not stooping to Voldemort’s tactics, is on point. Being merciful may not always be considered a “smart” move in wartime, but Harry has to make very clear, decisive choices about the kind of hero he wants to be. Obvious or not, making the choice to put life first, to limit collateral damage, is heroism of the highest order. It may not be the most realistic aspiration, but it’s the only thing that makes sense given the themes of the series and the lessons Harry has absorbed over the course of his education.
We find out that Moody is our fallen warrior, and I have to admit, it hit me worse the first time. On a reread it just makes sense—the old guard, the toughest most paranoid bastard of the lot, the one who probably always expected to go down this way. The only reason it really stings is because they’ve lost his expertise. (Also Mundungus being such a freaking coward about it, but we’ll get to him later.) One thing that bugs me? Rowling just tacks on that Tonks was Moody’s protégée as an Auror to give reason for her being hit so hard by it. That’s a great piece of info that I would have loved to know a lot more about two books ago. Can you imagine gruff “constant vigilance” Moody trying to train clumsy lil Tonks? It’s great, and should get so much more than a passing mention.
Harry’s flash to Ollivander confirms that the man has been in Voldemort’s custody all this time (yeesh) and that Voldemort is concerned about the wand connection he and Harry had in the fourth book. I should clarify my stance on Harry’s wand acting all on its own, since there was a lot of talk in the comments about that particular move. It’s important that Voldemort have a reason to go after the Elder Wand, and it’s important to add fuel to Harry’s concern that he’s not good enough to beat him. That said, I think that the narrative could have given us that moment without the wand just erupting on its own. The biggest problem is the idea of the wand literally moving on its own. If Harry had just flicked the thing in Voldemort’s direction without thinking and that spell had erupted, that would have worked for me. If the Horcrux aspect in Harry was acting through it, that also would have worked for me. But having the wand act as a semi-sentient object that literally moves itself doesn’t work for me without more information on wand lore being present in the books.
And then we have another fight about Harry not letting Voldemort near his brain again. I’d love to count up how many times people tell Harry off for that. It’s a lot.
Chapter 6—The Ghoul in Pajamas
Everyone is still in shock over Moody’s death, and Harry is determined to leave faster as a way of assuaging the guilt he feels over it. Ron continues to point out that he can’t leave before the Trace on him is broken, but it’s only in four days. Ron further insists that they must stay for the wedding, which is the day after. He tells Harry that Mrs. Weasley has been trying to get information out of him and Hermione, to figure out what they’re planning. Lupin and Mr. Weasley asked too, but when they told them that Dumbledore told Harry to confide in only them, they stopped badgering. True to form, Molly corners Harry a few hours later, asking Harry why the three of them are abandoning their educations. When Harry won’t tell her what they’re going to be up to, she insists that she has a right to know, and so do Hermione’s parents. Harry explains that they don’t have to come with him, but they’ve decided to, at which point Mrs. Weasley tells Harry that he likely misunderstood Dumbledore, and that there’s no way he specifically has to do the task Dumbledore set. Harry tells her calmly that she’s wrong, so Molly’s next plan of attack is to keep the trio fretfully busy in the preparations for the wedding. It works well to keep the three of them apart, preventing them from talking.
Ginny admits to Harry that Molly’s tactic is an attempt to delay their departure. Harry gives an aside about the idea of someone else killing Voldemort, tipping his hand to Ginny. Before they can talk, a few Order members pour in. The Burrow has been acting as HQ since Grimmauld Place’s Fidelius Charm was been weakened; with the death of Dumbledore, the Secret-Keeping duties passed to all twenty people whom Dumbledore had given the location to, which gave too many opportunities for Death Eaters to get it out of someone. Harry points out that Snape probably would have told them by now, but Arthur tells him that Moody left some curses about in case Snape showed up. At dinner, they discuss the state of the news—no one has reported on Alastor’s death and they couldn’t find his body so there was no funeral. Harry points out that no hearing has been called about all the underage magic he used in escaping the Death Eaters, and Arthur suggests that it’s because the Ministry doesn’t want people to know that Voldemort attacked Harry. Ron can’t understand why no one at the Ministry will stand up to him, but Arthur tells him that everyone is terrified that they’ll put themselves and their families in danger. He doesn’t believe that the Hogwarts Muggle Studies teacher has resigned, and hopes that Scrimgeour is spending all that time locked up in his office thinking of a plan.
Fleur points out that they have to disguise Harry for the wedding to be certain that no one will slip and say something about him. Molly asks if Ron has cleaned his room, which leads to a tiff, and when Harry volunteers to help, Molly tells him that she’d rather he helped Arthur muck out the chickens, and assigned Hermione to sheet-changing duty. It turns out that Arthur is using the coop to house the remnants of Sirius’ motorbike, which Ted Tonks sent along. So he sends Harry back to the house, where Ron and Hermione are hanging out in the still-dirty bedroom. (Molly forgot that she had already asked Hermione to change the sheets the day before.) Ron is theorizing that Moody could have survived, but Hermione keeps bogging him down with facts. Harry suggests that the Death Eaters probably dealt with his body similarly to how they dealt with Barty Crouch, which gets Hermione crying. Before Harry can apologize, Ron has bounded out of bed to comfort Hermione, using magic to pull the grease from his cleaning handkerchief and offering it up. Ron points out that Moody would want them to learn from his death, and that he’s never trusting Mundungus again.
Hermione is trying to sort their books, which ones they should take and which ones they can leave behind. Harry again tries to tell them hat they don’t need to accompany him, and they both tell him to shut up. When he persists, Hermione explains all the preparations she’s been doing; packing for days, smuggling Polyjuice Potion, and modifying her own parent’s memories so they move to Australia and don’t remember they have a daughter. Ron again comforts Hermione, looking reproachful at Harry, which is a first. Harry apologizes, and Hermione assures him that they both know the risks of accompanying him perfectly well. Ron opens a hatch in his ceiling and shows Harry up to where the ghoul in their house sleeps. He’s dressed in pajamas and has red hair now. Ron takes Harry back down to his room and explains that if anyone comes looking for him when he doesn’t show up to school, his family will be able to show them the ghoul and tell them that Ron has spattergroit, a highly contagious disease that prevents you from talking. His father and the twins transformed the ghoul for that purpose, and Hermione hopes that people will assume that, as a muggle-born, she’s simply fled the country with her parents. Harry finally understands that they’re coming with him, and is overcome.
Hermione asks where they’re going when they leave—she knows Harry wants to go to Godric’s Hollow, but wonders if they shouldn’t be tracking down the Horcruxes first. Harry points out that he doesn’t really know where to look for them yet. Hermione points out that Voldemort might have people watching the place. Ron wonders if the “R.A.B.” who took the locket really did destroy it, giving them one less to deal with, but Hermione insists that they still have to track it down to find out. She’s been doing research on how to destroy them; after Dumbledore’s funeral, she did a Summoning Charm and retrieved all books concerning Horcruxes from his office. One of the books appears to be where Tom Riddle got his information on making Horcruxes, titled Secrets of the Darkest Art. It turns out that there is a way to mend your soul after creating a Horcrux… by feeling remorse. The pain of doing this can destroy you. When it comes to destroying them, the basilisk fang Harry used was one of the few surefire ways to do it. You can only destroy a Horcrux with something so powerful that it can’t repair itself. The basilisk venom worked because there’s only one known—and incredibly rare—antidote. Very few things are that powerful and they’re all dangerous to carry around.
Ron asks why the bit of soul in a Horcrux couldn’t just jump to another vessel, and Hermione tells him that it’s because a Horcrux is the opposite of a human being—it relies on its container for survival. But it can possess someone who gets too emotionally close to it, like the diary did to Ginny. Harry realizes that he never asked Dumbledore how he destroyed the ring Horcrux, and is instantly angry with himself. The door slams open and Mrs. Weasley is there to break them up again.
Fleur’s family arrives the next day and everyone gets along famously. They’re happy to help with preparations, though there isn’t enough room for everyone in the house. Molly keeps trying to maneuver the trio apart, and expresses a certain amount of fatigue at having to deal with so much security around the wedding. Harry apologizes, and Mrs. Weasley goes back on the comment instantly, asking him how he wants to spend his birthday. Harry asks that they don’t make a fuss, so she plans to invite Remus, Tonks and Hagrid. Harry feels entirely guilty over the pain he’s causing her, and the inconvenience.
So we have to talk about the Trace because it’s annoying and confusing and also really unfair if you think about it for too long? Okay, so the point is that the Trace cannot be put on an adult magic user at all, so it can’t be extended in Harry’s case. No idea why not, but that’s just how it works. The point is that the Ministry trusts magic-using parents to discipline their own children if they use magic at home (because they can’t separate who is using magic in the household, only that it’s happening around an underage kid). Which is hugely unfair on both sides—what if a magical parent is hugely irresponsible? Why do we assume that non-magical parents can’t properly discipline their kids in this regard? What if you have one magical parent and one non-magical parent, and the non-magical parent is the one at home when he kid does something? The whole thing is ridiculous. But the point is that the alarms went off where Harry was concerned as soon as everyone landed at Privet Drive, probably. Harry points out that the Ministry should be hauling him in for it, but obviously they won’t because they don’t want publicity around the event.
Molly Weasley is so panicked for all these kids that she’s actually strayed into the realm of flat-out delusions. Insisting that Harry misinterpreted Dumbledore, believing for one second that Dumbledore would never ask anything too dangerous of Harry, it’s just the logical conclusion to how she’s been handling her fears from the start. She’s never been able to stomach the idea of these kids being part of the war, and now she’s pushing as hard as she can to make it not true. On the one hand it’s pretty darn annoying, on the other hand, it’s important to see that not every adult is willing to just accept the road that has been paved for these children. Not everyone can simply nod their head and agree because “Dumbledore said so.”
A lot of arguments at this point read that way; there are always two levels. Ron’s argument about cleaning his room is childish, sure. But there’s also the aspect of really, I have to clean my room before I’m meant to go off and save the world? This is really what’s important right now? Are you kidding?
We find out that Ted Tonks sent over Sirius’ bike, and I remember my relief when I heard that parts of it had been salvaged the first time I read. Sirius’ motorbike has a certain totemic status at this point, a hint of indestructibility to it. It needs to survive. It’s confirmed that Harry gets it later. I like to think that Ginny takes it out once in a while, and that it’s eventually given to little James or Lily as an end-of-school gift. Or something. *sniffle*
We get a nice long Horcrux infodump here, full of important stuffs that Hermione has collected, and interspersed with Ron clearly trying to be as lovely and supportive and boyfriend-y as possible. It’s sweet, particularly in the face of such horrible danger. And more importantly, it’s needed on her end when we find out what Hermione has done to her family to keep them safe. Sure, she can find them and lift the spell eventually, but the idea of erasing herself from her family’s memory… there really isn’t any way to parse through that. To imagine it, to truly sit in Hermione’s place and think about how that would feel. Clearly, Ron already knows what she’s done, and it’s likely that they’ve already had a long talk about it before everyone came to fetch Harry. I imagine that Ron was pretty well shocked—family is #1 for the Weasleys and I’m sure he was plenty horrified on her behalf.
I also love Hermione’s brief panic over the insistence that she hadn’t stolen the books on Horcruxes, which is made funnier by the fact that you know Dumbledore expected her to retrieve them.
It sort of seems like a make up for all the discomfort of the last book that Fleur’s family are so wonderful and everyone gets on so well leading up to the wedding. Molly’s attempt to make up for accidentally groaning over the security problems in Harry’s presence by bringing up his birthday is appropriately awkward, and strikes me as a really pointed way to end the chapter; after spending so much time being exasperated at Molly’s worry, at her controlling nature, Harry is the one to remind the reader that she’s being put through hell. He feels horrible to putting her family in danger, for knowing that he’s about to take Ron away, for making the wedding difficult to prepare. And it means so much that he thinks of it, that doesn’t hold anything against her. That he wants to make her life easy again because he loves her so much.