The Harry Potter Reread wonders what would happen if it just rick-rolled everyone in one of these posts. That could be fun, right? (No, I’m kidding, I promise. I would never do that to any of you.)
This week we’re gonna tell off an old friend of dad’s and then cleverly infiltrate the Ministry of Magic. It’s chapters 11 and 12—The Bribe and Magic Is Might.
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 11—The Bribe
Kreacher does not return with Mundungus as quickly as Harry anticipates, and he begins to get restless and nervous. Two cloaked men appear outside the house, standing watch, clearly Death Eaters. Hermione says they can’t know that they’re in there, or they would have sent Snape in after them. The three of them start getting restless, and a quarrel breaks out between Ron and Hermione as he keeps unconsciously using the Deluminator while she’s trying to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Harry leaves the room to get away from them, and on his way down to the kitchen notes that someone is at the front door. They get through the jinxes on the door, but Harry trains his wand on the intruder, shouting, which starts Mrs. Black’s portrait up again. Ron and Hermione rush downstairs and they find that it’s Lupin; Harry won’t let him in until he’s proved to be himself, which Lupin praises.
He tells them that he Apparated onto the top step at the door to prevent the Death Eaters from spotting him, not wanting to tip them off—Death Eaters are staking out every location with any relation to Harry in hopes of catching him. They head down to the kitchen and Lupin asks them if they came here right after the wedding. Harry explains what happens and Lupin is disturbed by the Death Eaters’ ability to find him after the Trace had been cut off. Harry asks what happened after the wedding, and Lupin explains that most people were able to Disapparate in time due to Kingsley’s warning. It was a mixture of Death Eaters and Ministry worker who showed up, but he points out that they’re basically the same thing now. Word has it that they tortured Scrimgeour for Harry’s location, but he clearly didn’t give him up, as the wedding raiders didn’t know Harry was there. They found Ron’s ghoul but stayed away from it, then interrogated anyone who was left at the wedding for hours. Only the Order knew Harry had been there at all, so no one gave him away. While they worked at the Burrow, more Death Eaters invaded every Order-connected house. Everyone survived, but Dedalus Diggle’s house was burned down and they used the Cruciatus Curse on Tonks’s family. Lupin tells them that the Death Eaters now have the ability to operate without impunity, with the might of the Ministry to back them up.
Hermione asks if they’re even bothering to give an excuse as to why they’re torturing people for information on Harry. Lupin produces a paper with Harry’s picture, making it clear that they’re suggesting that Harry killed Dumbledore. They have control over the Daily Prophet and the official word is that Scrimgeour retired, putting Pius Thicknesse in charge and leaving Voldemort free to work however he sees fit. Many have guessed that Voldemort has taken over due to the sudden change in Ministry policies, but no one knows who to trust, so no one is speaking out about it. The Ministry has also created a Muggle-born Register, suggesting that Muggle-borns could have only obtained magical abilities by “theft or force,” and inviting them to the Ministry for questioning. Ron can’t believe that people would allow this to happen, but Lupin points out that it’s already underway. Ron suggests that he could school Hermione on his family tree and claim that she’s his cousin—but Hermione points out that as they’re currently on the run with Harry Potter, it can’t matter much. Attendance for young witches and wizards at Hogwarts is now required, and another way of weeding out Muggle-borns.
Lupin asks Harry if Dumbledore did indeed leave him a mission and if he can confide what it is—Harry affirms the former, but can’t chance the latter. Lupin still offers his protection, even if they can’t tell him what they’re up to. Harry considers, but Hermione asks about Tonks. Lupin insists that she’s safe and will be with her parents. His tone is oddly cold, and Harry can’t figure out why Tonks wouldn’t be doing work for the Order. When Hermione gingerly tries to ask if anything wrong, Lupin admits that Tonks is pregnant. While the trio try to congratulate them, Lupin presses on in asking if he can accompany them. When he indicates that James would have wanted him with Harry, Harry disagrees, thinking that his father would want to know why Remus was abandoning his child. Lupin tells him that he made a mistake marrying Tonks. Harry calls him on it all the same, prompting an angry outburst from Lupin who insists that he’s made his wife an outcast, that her family doesn’t approve their marriage, that his child will be like him and would be better off without a father it would be ashamed of. Hermione insists that no child would be ashamed of Lupin, but Harry disagrees. He accuses Remus of stepping into Siruis’s shoes, feeling like a daredevil, being a coward. Lupin is furious, drawing his wand on Harry and knocking him back into the wall before storming out.
Hermione tries to tell Harry off for what he said. When Harry snaps at her, Ron snaps at Harry for it, then Hermione tries to stop them all from fighting. Harry insists that parents should never leave their children unless they must. He admits that he shouldn’t have called Remus a coward, but insists that it might be worth it if it makes the man reconsider his decisions. Ron and Hermione don’t respond, and Harry wonders if his father would have agreed with how he just treated his old friend. He goes to read the paper Lupin left to take his mind off of everything, and comes to a picture of Dumbledore’s family and an excerpt from Skeeter’s book. It details how Kendra moved her family to Godric’s Hollow after Percival was imprisoned, and ignored all her neighbors. Bathilda Bagshot is quoted, saying that the first year, she only ever saw Albus and Aberforth, and would have never known about Ariana if she hadn’t seen Kendra walk her once around the lawn late at night. Skeeter suggests that Ariana was being imprisoned by her mother for being a Squib, since this all occurred when Ariana was about seven, the point in time when it would be clear whether or not she had magical ability. Everyone in the family kept the secret, with Albus and Aberforth telling everyone that their sister was too frail for school.
Suddenly, Kreacher is back with Mundungus. Hermione disarms the man, then Ron tackles him to the floor to keep him from fleeing. Harry trains his wand on him as Kreacher apologizes for the delay, citing Mundungus’s many hide-outs and accomplices for the trouble. Mundungus assumes this is about his running during Harry’s transport away from Privet Drive. When Harry makes it clear that it’s about something he took from the house, and Mundungus insists that Sirius “never cared about any of the junk,” Kreacher hits him over the head with a saucepan. Harry tells Kreacher to stop, that he can help to persuade Mundungus if he continues to be difficult, but they need him to stay conscious. He asks about the locket and Mundungus tells him that he had to give the thing away… to a woman with a bow on her head who looked like a toad. Harry burns Mundungus’s eyebrows off by accident in shock.
Remus arrives, helpfully pointing out how the trio might Apparate from the house without being detected, which ends up being incredibly useful. There’s another quick word on how the Ministry goes through all magical wills (to check over items left to others and so forth), and while you sort of expect it for Dumbledore’s will, being reminded that practically all wills are a matter of Ministry surveillance and consideration seems incredibly invasive to me. The government has some say in taxing inheritance and such in the Muggle world, but the government being allowed to go through your stuff? It’s nice that they’re trying to prevent dangerous objects from getting passed on in theory, but wow, you forget how closely the Ministry is monitoring its magical population long before Voldemort even takes power.
Remus is essentially here to inform the reader that all hell has broken loose and everything is ruined forever, the end. Voldemort’s followers have control of the government and are already turning it into a modern wizarding Nazi party, complete with rounding up Muggles for “questioning,” and insisting that all Muggle-borns have somehow “stolen” magic. (Ron’s insistence that he try to pass Hermione off as his cousin is sweet, but certainly not viable given their current position.) It’s the sort of framework that is surprising in its aggressiveness and the sudden nature of its takeover… and yet isn’t at all. Remus’ commentary about how everyone is simply whispering to each other about the coup, too afraid to speak up, is also frightfully real.
And then we get to all the stuff with Lupin and Tonks, and… you know, I was really upset about it until I had a sort of thunder-strike revelation, and now I think I’m fine with it? So here’s what I was mulling over: First off, Remus distances himself from his wife and child and much as possible. His exact words are “Tonks is going to have a baby.” Now, while I know some people snigger when couples use the phrase we’re having a baby because there is exactly one person in the relationship who will be giving birth, saying my wife is having a baby and grimacing makes it pretty clear just how much you want in on that party. Remus also tells Harry that he shouldn’t have married Tonks and has regretted it ever since. This spirals into a tirade about how horrible it is that he’s made his wife an outcast, and how he’s terrified that his child will be a werewolf, and how Tonks’ family are “disgusted” with the marriage, and on and on and on.
Being a werewolf who has to deal with daily prejudices from the wizarding community has clearly scarred Remus. Being a werewolf during wizarding war time before has also left scars. All of these fears are valid, and his breakdown is completely warranted. His comment about Tonks’ family is particularly telling because we never get any indication from Ted or Andromeda that they take issue with the marriage at all. So it possible (probable?) that he’s imagining a large portion of their animosity. And all of this is very sad.
But, on a reread, I don’t believe that he and Tonks are well-suited to each other. And I think that might be the point.
Thing is, James and Lily Potter also got married and had a baby super fast while a war was going on. This is a thing that happens in wartime, and often. But it’s also a thing that James and Lily clearly wanted. There’s never any indication that they regret marrying each other, or having a son, despite the many risks that came with it. Remus has stated clearly, on more than one occasion, that he thinks marrying Tonks is/was a bad idea, and is mortified that she’s pregnant. So Teddy is an accident at best, or Tonks deliberately decided she wanted to get pregnant without consulting her partner at worst. They clearly hadn’t discussed their plan for children (if they wanted any, how many, what precautions, what they would do if Tonks got pregnant while the war was on) before or after they got married, or Remus would not be so terrified. The point is that Tonks is of the same mind as James and Lily—who knows how long we’ve got, we might as well live our lives to the fullest. And Remus is of the opposite mind. These two people may love each other in the here and now, but they don’t seem at all aligned when it comes to anything they want. And that makes me think that down the line, if they had both made it out of the war, their marriage might have easily failed.
But instead, they both pass by the end of this war. And what is left as a testament to their lives is a child. A child who is deeply loved by his family and his extended family, who has the wit and mischief of both his parents, and a lot of love in him to match. So maybe Rowling didn’t intend for Remus and Tonks to be a perfect couple, like so many of the couples in this universe. Maybe the point is that whatever their relationship’s flaws, something beautiful came out of it. Teddy came out of it. Somehow, that makes their whole arc sit a little better for me.
However, I do love that Harry isn’t willing to let Remus play the “I knew your dad and have an idea of what he’d want” card this time, and I love that he tells Remus off. Because whatever he’s feeling, Harry’s right; he cannot simply walk out on his family because things are becoming evermore dangerous and frightening. That’s when he’s needed the most. And if there’s one thing Harry Potter stands firmly on, it’s kids having families.
(I envisioned an alternate universe where Harry left off being an Auror, and instead devoted his life to the welfare of magical children. Like, running adoptions for magical kids abandoned by scared Muggle parents, and making sure that all wizarding kids have loving homes. I think I broke me.)
Then Harry reads the snippet from Skeeter’s article, and I’m actually annoyed at the narrative she weaves, even just from a reporting standpoint. So, she claims that Kendra Dumbledore moves her family to Godric’s Hollow to escape their community after her husband is sent to prison, then claims that the reason she’s doing so is because Ariana was a Squib and she didn’t want anyone to know. But… but she also moved because her husband was sent to prison, right? Isn’t that the first thing you were suggesting, Rita? I’m confused. Would they have stayed where they lived if Percival hadn’t been imprisoned, and allowed everyone to find out Ariana’s secret? I get that she’s trying to paint Kendra as this evil woman, but she’s not painting the picture concisely enough.
Then Kreacher reappears with Mundungus, and nothing will ever be better than Kreacher asking to hit him with a saucepan again. Because the visual is beautiful and also because Mundungus deserves it. Although having a run-in with Umbridge should maybe count as some form of penance because we can’t wish that on anyone.
Chapter 12—Magic Is Might
Grimmauld Place continues to get visitors who seem fascinated by the lack of number 12 on the street, continuing to stare between numbers 11 and 13. The citizens around find it odd on occassion, but largely don’t notice. August passes by without incident. On the first of September, there are quite a few people there, waiting and watching. They seem to perceive something exciting before going back to their usual disappointment. Harry appears inside Grimmauld Place—he has just Apparated to the front step and lost his balance, giving the Death Eaters a look at his elbow. He has a copy of the Daily Prophet, and takes it to the kitchen, a place that is now beautifully scrubbed and cared for by Kreacher. The house-elf advises Harry to takes off his shoes and wash up before dinner. Harry shows Ron and Hermione the front page of the newspaper, which confirms that Snape has been made Headmaster of Hogwarts. the article also reveals that Alecto Carrow will take up a position as Muggle Studies teacher, while her brother takes on DADA. Hermione leaves the room in a rage, while Ron insists that the other professors won’t stand for it. Harry figures they’ll stay to try and protect the students.
Ron points out the large number of Death Eaters in front of the house, thinking how absurd it is that they seem to expect the trio to leave the with their trunks packed for school. The Hogwarts Express already left six hours ago. Hermione comes back with a painting, which she proceeds to shove into her bag—Phineas’s portrait, which she notes that Snape could use to spy on the house. Harry watched the front of the Ministry for seven hours, but did not spot Umbridge, though he saw Ron’s dad. Ron insists that Umbridge probably doesn’t use the entrance, but the Floo Network, since she’s too important to just walk in. Hermione makes mention of certain wizards in navy blue robes, and Ron tells her that they’re Magical Maintenance, because they always wear those colors. Hermione tells Ron off for not letting her know that earlier, since they need every detail possible if they’re ever going to break in. Harry suggests that they do it tomorrow, shocking Ron and Hermione. He insists that they’re not going to be much better prepared than they are now, and they shouldn’t risk that locket getting farther away. They’ve done their due reconnaissance, and they have a plan. Ron wants just he and Harry to go, to which Hermione insists that Ron shouldn’t go either and that it’s really most dangerous for Harry to go. Harry makes a joke about staying behind, then feels pain in his scar.
He ducks to the bathroom and has another vision, Voldemort approaching a house, still searching for Gregorovitch. The woman in the house tells him that he doesn’t live there, and he kills her. Harry comes back to himself while Hermione pounds on the bathroom door. He lets she and Ron in, and they inform him that he was yelling. Harry explains what he saw and Hermione once again scolds Harry for not trying to shut the connection. He tells her that he’s lousy at Occlumency and thinks perhaps that it’s better to know what Voldemort is up to. Hermione wonders aloud if Harry likes having that connection, which Harry shuts down right quick. He tells her that he wants to know why Voldemort is after Gregorovitch and tells them both what he knows about the man, that perhaps Voldemort is seeking him out to find out why Harry’s wand did what it did. Hermione insists that Harry is the one who acted, but Harry is sure she’s wrong and that Voldemort clearly thinks so too. Ron tells Hermione to drop the subject, suggesting that they go over tomorrow’s plan. They get it down, and Harry barely sleeps that night.
Hermione has all the necessary items at hand (including many Weasley products), and after breakfast they Apparate to an alley near the Ministry. They wait under the Invisibility Cloak until a gray-haired witch appears, and Hermione quickly stuns her. They tuck the witch—Mafalda Hopkirk, assistant at the Improper Use of Magic Office—into a dark passage that leads to a theater’s backstage area, and Hermione takes some of her hairs for Polyjuice Potion, transforming into her. A Magical Maintenance worker appears, and Hermione foists a bag of sweets on him, even though he insists that he doesn’t feel well. As soon as he tries a pastille, he proceeds to vomit. Hermione plucks a few of his hairs and insists he can’t go into work. The man seems determined, but eventually is forced to concede and Disapparates. Hermione points out that it would have been less messy to stun him too, but Ron is adamant that too many unconscious people would seem fishy. He transforms in the maintenance worker. He notes that it’s strange that guy wasn’t wearing his blue robes, seeing how keen he was to get to work. Hermione tells Harry to wait while they get his hairs, and they reappear ten minutes later. They don’t know who they got the hair from, but he went home with a horrible nosebleed.
They take Mafalda’s tokens, then head out of the alley and separate down two flights of stairs, one for men and one for women. They head into a public toilet facility, one wizard calling to Ron (who is called “Reg Cattermole”) about how ridiculous it is that they currently have to go into work this way. Harry and Ron realize that they’re meant to flush themselves down the toilets. They end up coming out of the Ministry fireplaces, and Harry notes that the Atrium is darker than he remembers. The old fountain has been replaced by a black stone statue, featuring a witch and wizard on ornate thrones. The statue reads: MAGIC IS MIGHT. Someone crashes into Harry on their way out of the fireplace behind him, but seems frightened after mouthing off. Harry rejoins Ron and Hermione, and they talk in low voices. Hermione points out what the wizard and witch are actually sitting on in the statue—naked mounds of humans, Muggles. The trio move toward the lifts when Yaxley appears and calls to Ron (or the guy he thinks that Ron is). He tells him that he needs someone to sort out his office, where it’s raining. When Ron nervously laughs. Yaxley asks if he thinks it’s funny, reminding him that he’s about to go downstairs and interrogate Cattermole’s wife. He tells Ron that if he doesn’t fix up the office, his wife’s Blood Status will be in more doubt than before. He heads off to another lift, and no one bothers to get into the one the trio board. Ron tells Harry and Hermione to keep going without him, intent on fixing the office to help save Cattermole’s wife. Hermione gives him ideas for how to stop the rain or protect Yaxley’s belongings from it.
Another wizard gets into the lift, calling Harry “Albert.” He leans over and tells Harry that he did a good job with Dirk Cresswell from Goblin Liaison, and then mentions to Harry that he’ll probably get the job now. Hermione shoves Ron off the lift at level two after the others. Once they’re alone, Hermione wonders if she shouldn’t go after Ron—but then the doors open on level one, and four people are standing in front of them… one of them being Dolores Umbridge.
Is this the first time we’ve ever switched perspective mid-book? I think it might be. It’s sort of weird, particularly since it doesn’t last. I almost wish Rowling had zeroed in on a specific person, perhaps one of the people living at 11 or 13 Grimmauld Place, who were noticing all the strange people hanging around, just to focus it up a little.
The difference in Kreacher makes me want to cry. I sort of doubt that Harry would “order” the house-elf to clean himself up, which makes me assume that Kreacher changed his towel and scrubbed himself up because he’s happy and has people to take care of. Which then just leads to thoughts of Kreacher letting everything fall into disarray and never taking a bath because he’s miserable and depressed and lonely and my heart can’t take it. He’s cooking the trio amazing food, and knows Harry’s favorite dessert. He seems far more cogent as well, seeing as he spent over a decade talking to himself in that house. Even Ron’s perspective has shifted on Kreacher entirely, proving how transformative this shift in behavior toward house-elves might become in the future with proper legislation and so on.
The news that Snape is headmaster can hardly come as much of a surprise, but I remember being a bit shocked over the appointment of two Death Eaters to the staff (until I got to what they were teaching). Harry is, of course, correct in assuming that the other teachers will stay on board and try to keep calm so they can protect the other students. While we know that the atmosphere at Hogwarts is horrific during the school year, I can’t help but wonder how McGonagall managed to keep the utter disdain off her face every time Snape gave her an order. He must have been able to feel the burn of her irises all the way in the headmaster’s office.
I really do love Harry’s joke to lighten the mood as soon as Ron and Hermione begin to quibble about who should be allowed to go on the mission:
“You’re on the list of Muggle-borns who didn’t present themselves for interrogation!”
“And you’re supposed to be dying of spattergroit at the Burrow! If anyone shouldn’t go, it’s Harry, he’s got a ten-thousand-Galleon price on his head—”
“Fine, I’ll stay here,” said Harry. “Let me know if you ever defeat Voldemort, won’t you?”
It occurs to me that Harry’s eventual choice to let Voldemort in during these flashes of violence is his first real deviation from what Dumbledore wanted of him. And it does end up being useful, as dangerous as it is. So while Hermione is correct that it could backfire, Harry’s decision to go with his strengths (as Rowling says, you have to be pretty good at separating out your emotional self if you’re going to be good at Occlumency, something that Harry is always going to suck at) is ultimately correct.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been doing some seriously productive recon on the Ministry, particularly given their copious limitations. They get a fairly solid plan together, and Harry convinces them to act quickly. As a tactical move, I’d agree with him; the longer they wait, the worse everything gets. I love the fact that the entire operation is essentially being run on Weasley products (with the helpful addition of Polyjuice Potion, yeah, it’s getting a little silly how much they have to rely on it). The irony of Harry not knowing what investment in the twins’ business would truly buy him down the line can’t be lost on the reader. I do assume that without the other sides of the candies, both Harry and Ron’s body doubles had to go to St. Mungo’s right quick.
We know something is off pretty quickly when Ron makes the comment that his maintenance worker isn’t wearing his usual blue robes for the day. But they press on, and I’m sort of surprised that they didn’t at least come up with a shortlist of who Harry’s choices might be for transformation. As is, they get lucky. Voldemort certainly isn’t one on for slow takeovers or subtlety; the Ministry workers now have to enter through toilets, and that statue… whoa. Just putting it all out there, huh? Then we get that conversation in with Yaxley to Ron about his wife, and get an even better impression of the current culture in place at the Ministry. Poor Ron insists on heading down to fix Yaxley’s office to at least give Cattermole’s wife a fighting chance (if she truly has one at all), because there’s absolutely no way that Ron Weasley is going to let someone lose their family over him.
Of course, while the plan seems like it’s about to all go to hell, we come smack face to face with precisely the person the trio have been searching for. It’s weird to be glad to see Umbridge… not glad glad obviously, but glad in a that-means-something’s-gonna-happen glad.