The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Deathly Hallows, Chapters 15 and 16

The Harry Potter Reread would adopt every puppy if it could. Human limitations are so irritating.

It’s time to have an epic falling out and go visit a graveyard! It’s chapters 15 and 16 of The Deathly Hallows—The Goblin’s Revenge and Godric’s Hollow.

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 15—The Goblin’s Revenge

Summary

Harry wakes early the next day, finds an old tree and buries Moody’s eye at the base of it, marking the bark with his wand. On waking the others, Harry and Hermione decide that they should not stay anywhere too long, and Ron agrees, provided their next stop is near food. They Apparate to the outskirts of a small town, pitch their tent and put up enchantments, then Harry heads in under the Cloak to find food. On the edge of town, he is confronted with dementors and has to run back—he couldn’t summon his Patronus. Hermione and Ron are puzzled by this, and Ron begins to complain that they haven’t got any food. Harry feels guilty and ashamed, and Ron begins to go off at him for his failure. Hermione stops the argument, telling Harry to take off the locket. Once he does, he feels instantly better. Hermione asks Harry if he’s been possessed by the thing, but he knows he hasn’t—he remembers everything they’ve done. He won’t leave the locket lying around in the tent, so Hermione suggests that they take it in turns.

They move on to a farm and take some eggs and bread there. (Hermione leaves some money under the chicken coop and worries that it’s stealing.) The trio come to realize that a lack of food makes them all far more irritable and angry. Harry understands the problem given his upbringing, and Hermione manages to keep herself in check, but Ron doesn’t do well without three square meals a day. When he hasn’t eaten and is also wearing the locket, it’s a perfect storm. He keeps asking Harry and Hermione what they have to do next, offering no ideas himself. They go over the information left by Dumbledore, the possibility that Voldemort hid the Horcruxes in places important to him. Hermione figures that there won’t be one in Albania (where he spent his exile) because he’d already made most of the his Horcruxes by that point, and Nagini is always with him. Harry figures there won’t be one at Borgin and Burke (where he worked after leaving school) because they’d have known a Horcrux when they saw one. Harry believes that he hid something at Hogwarts, but Hermione thinks Dumbledore would have found it. Harry is insistent on this point, explaining that Hogwarts was a home to Voldemort. Ron makes a nasty comment about this being You-Know-Who they’re talking about, not Harry; the locket is getting to him. Hermione is still adamant that Tom Riddle never found an object at the school to use, and Harry is forced to give up.

The trio head to London and try to find Riddle’s old orphanage, but it’s been turned into block of office buildings. Harry hadn’t expected a Horcrux to be there anyway, as Voldemort had wanted to escape the place. They keep moving each night, and covering their tracks when they leave. They pass the locket between each other every twelve hours. Harry’s scar keeps prickling, worse when he’s wearing the Horcrux. Ron keeps asking him what he sees any time he winces, and Harry keeps telling him that he sees the face of the man who stole the locket from Gregorovitch. Hermione and Ron appear to be talking about Harry behind his back, and he begins to suspect that they assumed he had some secret plan that he would reveal once they were away from everyone else. He thinks that they’re disappointed in his leadership. The summer turns to autumn, and one night Ron makes a comment about how his mother can make good food out of air. (He’s wearing the locket.) Hermione argues, pointing out that you can’t make food out of nothing, you can only summon it, transform it, or increase it. When Ron says rude things about their meal of fish, Hermione goes off on him for the fact that she’s had to do all the cooking probably because she’s a girl—Ron counters that she does it because she’s supposed to be the best at magic out of the three of them. She tells Ron that tomorrow he can do the cooking and she’ll complain about it, when Harry tells her to shut up: he hears someone.

The Sneakoscope isn’t going off, and Hermione assures Harry that she cast all the necessary charms, so whoever is speaking shouldn’t be able to see or hear them. The newcomers head down to the River, but they can’t hear what they’re saying. Hermione hands out Extendable Ears to make it easier. The other are getting fish from the river, and not all of them are speaking English. A fire appears, and once the trio hear their names (two of them are Griphook and Gornuk), they realize that some of them are goblins. The other three are men—who turn out to be Ted Tonks, Dean Thomas, and Dirk Cresswell. Dirk was on his way to Azkaban, but he thinks that the guy taking him there (Dawlish) was Confunded and he managed to escape. Ted asks about the goblins, seeing as he most wizards assume they’re on Voldemort’s side. The goblins inform him that they have no sides here; this is a wizards’ war. They fled because Gringotts is no longer under sole control of the goblins, and they refused to be commanded by wizards.

Griphook and Gornuk have a little private joke between them, however—it seems that Griphook got a bit of revenge before he left. Ted and Dean are confused, but Dirk fills them in; it turns out that Ginny and a few others tried to steal the sword of Gryffindor from Snape’s office at Hogwarts. Snape caught them and decided that the sword wasn’t safe at Hogwarts. After getting permission from Voldemort, he sent the sword to Gringotts. Or he thought he did… Griphook informs them that the sword sent to Gringotts was clearly a fake, one that only a goblin would recognize since it was goblin-made. Griphook didn’t tell the Death Eaters that they had the wrong sword. Dean asks after the students, and Griphook tells him that they were cruelly punished, but not seriously injured. The conversation then turns to Harry, and who of them believes that he’s really Chosen and doing the right thing. Dirk isn’t too convinced, but Dean and Ted tell him to stop reading The Daily Prophet and start reading The Quibbler. Apparently, since Harry went on the run, Xenophilius’s magazine has been full of stories that the Prophet won’t cover, and advises everyone who wants to fight Voldemort to help Harry. Dirk suggests that perhaps the Ministry has already caught Harry and killed him.

The group eventually departs to sleep among the trees where they have better cover. Hermione grabs Phineas’ portrait from her bag, as she figures that he would have seen someone swap the sword out for a fake one if it happened in Dumbledore’s office. Hermione politely asks Phineas for a talk, then immediately blindfolds him once he steps into frame. Phineas demands its removal until he hears Harry’s voice, though he continues to insult each of them in turn. Phineas does tell them that Ginny was helped by Luna and Neville, and that their punishment was simply to do detention in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid. Over the course of the conversation, they learn that because the sword is goblin-made it does not require cleaning; in fact, it repels most things, “imbibing only that which strengthens it.” Harry asks if Phineas can bring Dumbledore’s portrait figure to speak with them, but he informs them that portraits in Hogwarts cannot travel outside the castle unless it’s to another portrait of their own. Hermione asks when the sword was last taken from its case before Ginny came along, and Phineas tells them that Dumbledore used it to “break open a ring.” Harry asks if Snape knows about this, but Phineas assures them that he does not, and leaves in a huff.

Harry and Hermione are over the moon with what they’ve learned: the sword can destroy Horcruxes because it’s impregnated with basilisk venom. They figure that Dumbledore switched out the swords himself because he knew that the Ministry wouldn’t let Harry have the real one, and that he must have left the true sword somewhere for him to find. They go over possible locations like Hogsmeade or the Shrieking Shack. When Harry asks Ron for his opinion, he finds his friend in the shadow of the tent looking dour. Ron is feeling left out, but more importantly, he’s angry that they have to find something else. He thought they’d have done something by now, that they’d be closer to achieving their goal, that Harry had more of a plan. Harry counters that they both knew what they were signing up for by coming with him, and that he told them everything that Dumbledore told him. He tells Ron that he knows they’ve been talking about him. Ron says that Hermione was disappointed in him too, and Hermione insists that isn’t what she said and begins to cry. Harry asks Ron why he’s still there, and suggests he go home. Ron says he might, and points out that Harry didn’t care that Ginny was sent to the Forbidden Forest because he thinks he’s seen so much worse. Harry says they were safe because they were with Hagrid, but Ron insists Harry doesn’t care, and that Phineas’ words might mean that another one of his family got hurt. Hermione points out that he probably was referring to George or the ghoul Ron has pretending to be him, but he’s not hearing it. He points out that Harry and Hermione don’t have to worry about their families, so Harry tells him to go home and let his mother feed him.

Ron and Harry draw wands on each other, but Hermione casts a shield charm with her and Harry on one side and Ron on the other. Harry knows that his friendship with Ron has broken, and tells him to leave the Horcrux behind. Ron drops it in a chair and asks Hermione if she’s staying or coming with him. When she tells him that she’s going to stay like she promised, Ron says “I get it. You choose him,” and storms out into the rain. Hermione’s shield charm prevents her from being able to get to him fast enough; she follows him outside and comes back a few minutes later soaking wet, telling Harry that Ron has Disapparated. Then she curls up in a chair and cries. Harry puts on the locket, throws Ron’s blankets over Hermione, then climbs into bed and listens to the rain.

Commentary

Harry thinks that Moody would have appreciated that his eye was buried rather than stuck in Umbridge’s door, but I think we all know that he’d have been furious with Harry for nearly getting them all captured for the sake of sentimentality. All the same, it really comes back to the true point of grief—mourning is not for the dead, it’s for the people who are mourning. It’s meant to make the ones impacted by the death feel better. So I suppose it’s just as well that Harry did it because I’m not sure all the internalized anger would be worth it had he not taken Moody’s eye back.

Okay, can I ask a basic vocabulary question? What is the actual difference between the terms “Apparate” and “Disapparate”? I feel as though the narrative is trying to make a distinction, but it doesn’t really make sense. I believe the difference is sort of the idea that “Apparate” is to go somewhere, and “Disapparate” is to depart from somewhere. But that’s… sort of all down to the perspective of the person who is doing and/or observing the Apparating, right? Am I totally missing the point here? Or is this one of those situations where it’s silly that “irregardless” is a word because “regardless” means the same thing and has fewer syllables? Because it seems that way to me.

The irritation we observe from the trio’s occasional starvation in the woods is a fascinating study in expectations, and Rowling does a perfect job of explaining how that works. A lack of food bothers Harry, but it’s also something that he was accustomed to on occasion, due to his life at the Dursleys. So the absence of dinner doesn’t upset his mental state too horribly because he’s already developed coping mechanisms for dealing with a lack of food. Hermione is less accustomed, but is also the most logical of the trio. So while a few missed meals might make her snippy and angry, she’s aware of where that irritation is coming from, and mostly stays silent. Ron, on the other hand, is not only accustomed to being regularly fed, but has built a comfort system around food. Ron eats often and associates food with a sense of family and safety. Removing that completely obliterates his baseline. And, of course, wearing a Horcrux brings it out even more. It’s easy to say that he should have put more thought into what was behind his behavior, or that he should have been able to put his emotions aside for the sake of the quest. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do that at seventeen.

Man, not saying Voldemort’s name makes sense when Ron requests it right after being injured, but it seems silly to me that everyone keeps to it. I guess it might just become force of habit. It just seems a teeny bit too lucky….

We get a lot of major setup in the chapter due to the round-the-fire chat between Dean, Ted, Dirk, Griphook, and Gornuk. It’s an interesting info dump, however, particularly because we’re also getting an idea of what it’s like to be on the run as people who don’t have a mission from Dumbledore, people who are just trying to survive. Dirk Cresswell is a name that we heard from Slughorn in the previous book, who was one year behind Lily and James at Hogwarts. He eventually became Head of the Goblin Liaison Office, which is why he can understand and speak the goblin language. I find it interesting that Ted and Andromeda didn’t have any plan beyond ‘I guess you should go hide in the woods,’ though. Seems that Andromeda should have some kind of connections she could pull on to help him, unless literally all of them have been severed due to their marriage.

With Dean, we have a situation where traditional prejudices come into play alongside the magical ones; Dean can’t prove his blood status because his father was never around. So we have the stigma of a single-parent household compounded by the stigma of being a Mudblood or Muggle-born. And I have to assume that’s very deliberate on Rowling’s part considering the time she spent as a desperate single mother herself. With Griphook and Gornuk we’re dealing with the prejudice that goblins have always faced from the wizarding community compounded by a recent slight—Ludo Bagman’s bet with them during the Quidditch World Cup three years back. (It’s never made precisely clear which goblins Ludo made the bet with, but it does seem that they take it as a slight all together as a community.) The sting of that encounter is still so great that they aren’t interested in taking a side during the war. There’s a lot more to unpack here when it comes to the goblins, which I’ll get to it a bit later when we see Griphook again.

Then we get to our reunion with Phineas, and I come to a practical magical question—if he cannot remove the blindfold Hermione gives him on his own, how does it come off? Does it vanish once he exits that particular frame and returns to his Hogwarts one? I’d like some specifics there, since we know that Hermione continues to use the blindfold trick on him.

We also find out that the sword of Gryffindor is imbued with the basilisk venom because goblin-made things only absorb what make them stronger. Which is another perfect example of how the wizarding world overlooks other kinds of magic to its detriment. Knowing that piece of info would have been extremely useful all the way through this series. Remembering that house-elves can travel to places where wizards cannot is an extremely useful bit of information. And in most cases, when Harry and his friends learn this sort of information it’s simply by being kind to the people that other magic-users would overlook or abuse. (Or, in Phineas’ case, putting up with said abuse.) The acknowledgement is literally all it takes.

Of course, we have the horrible falling out with this chapter. It feels a bit like a slap in the face—we’re set up for tempers and tensions running high, but not for Ron to literally up and leave Harry and Hermione in the middle of the woods. When it comes to the atmosphere, I think that this bit is the perfect summation of what’s truly happening here:

The rain was pounding the tent, tears were pouring down Hermione’s face, and the excitement of a few minutes before had vanished as it if had never been, a short-lived firework that had flared and died, leaving everything dark, wet, and cold. The sword of Gryffindor was hidden they knew not where, and they were three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead.

That pretty much spells it out in the ugliest terms possible. Fine, they’re of age according to the wizarding world. They’re still just teenagers on an seemingly impossible quest to save the world from a murderous tyrant, with nothing to go on, who keep on-and-off starving in the woods. Plus, they have to carry around an object that’s basically designed to make them the worst versions of themselves. And Ron’s concern over his family certainly isn’t unfounded, though he’s wrong to suggest that Harry and Hermione have less to lose. (And I’m still constantly amused by Ron getting angry at Harry for not worrying about Ginny in the Forbidden Forest, citing Harry’s detachment since “he’s seen worse” because RON YOU KEEP FORGETTING THAT YOUR SISTER WAS POSSESSED BY VOLDEMORT I PROMISE THE FOREST ISN’T AS BAD.)

Also, I can’t help but get a little pissy over Hermione’s suggestion that perhaps she’s the one who always has to do the cooking because she’s “the girl” and Ron’s retort that she’s expected to do it because she’s “the best at spells.” Because he fails to realize that the two are connected. Hermione has always placed a lot of her self-worth on being the clever one, making that the currency she used to gain and preserve her friendships. And they over-rely on it. And they fail to recognize that there’s a connection between being female and needing to feel “useful” and show others that you’re the best (because if you don’t prove it, you are likely to be dismissed outright as a human being). Of course, the locket is in play, but underlying the meanness of Ron’s words is a failure to grasp his own gendered expectations—hell, he even compares Hermione’s cooking to his mother’s.

The Shield Charm that Hermione puts up between Harry and Ron could seem like a heavy-handed metaphor—the chasm that has formed between Ron and them—but comes to mean something a bit subtler when you take into account that the charm prevents Hermione from reaching Ron before he vanishes; they can’t get through to him, that’s more where the metaphor lies. And even though things will turn out all right in the end, Harry’s feeling that something has “broken” between them is an all-too-real sensation that many people recognize. That one unforgettable fight where you say too many hurtful things out of fear, and it’s impossible to forget.

Hermione’s reaction is the emotional one this time, and she rightly sits down to have a good cry. Harry’s reaction, though, which is a bit more akin to shock in this circumstance. He takes care of Hermione with whatever inclination is left in him, then detaches and focuses on outside factors (the rain) that require no engagement on his part.

 

Chapter 16—Godric’s Hollow

Summary

Harry wakes the next morning hoping that the fight was a dream, but quickly sees Ron’s empty bunk. Hermione doesn’t speak to him as he gets out of bed. He has to keep reminding himself that Ron has left and isn’t returning—once they leave this camp, Ron won’t be able to locate them anyway. Hermione packs slowly, and keeps looking up as though she expects Ron to appear. They delay leaving an hour longer than they usually would. Finally, Hermione grabs Harry’s hand and Disapparates. Once they appear in a new location, she lets go of Harry’s hand, sits down on a nearby rock and begins to sob. Harry can’t comfort her; he’s too caught up in remembering Ron’s contempt for him before leaving. He casts the protective spells around the camp to save Hermione the trouble. She avoids bringing up Ron for the next few days, sensing Harry’s anger, but he hears her cry at night. Harry checks that Marauder’s Map, waiting to see Ron reappear at Hogwarts, but it never happens. He takes to staring at Ginny’s dot instead. He and Hermione keep trying to think of places where Dumbledore might have hidden the sword, but Harry is forced to concede that Ron was right—he was left with nothing to go on. Harry assumes that Hermione is going to leave soon, too.

Hermione brings out Phineas’ portrait most evenings. Despite his insistence that he would never visit them again, he does come back from time to time and consent to being blindfolded just to be able to talk to them. Harry can’t help but enjoy his visits for the extra company, though he and Hermione have to be careful not to say a bad word about Snape, since Phineas loves him. He gives them hints about the atmosphere at the school, indicating that Snape is coming up against a certain level of mutiny among some of the students, and that he brought back Umbridge’s rule about prohibiting large student gatherings. Harry figures that Ginny, Neville, and Luna are trying to continue Dumbledore’s Army. It makes Harry so homesick for Hogwarts that he briefly entertains the fantasy of going back and joining the students and trying to bring down Snape and letting other people be in charge. Then he remembers his title of Undesirable Number One. Phineas tries to slip in questions about their whereabouts once in a while—every time he does it, Hermione shoves him back into her bag and he refuses to appear for a few days.

The days gets colder, and they keep heading to more inhospitable climes to avoid detection. It’s nearing Christmas when, after a rare good meal where neither he nor Hermione have been wearing the locket, Harry tries to broach a subject only to get waylaid by Hermione’s research. It seems that there is a symbol in her copy of Beedle the Bard, one that has been drawn in the book, but it’s not a rune and she can’t find it in her Spellman’s Syllabary. Harry recognizes it as the symbol that Luna’s dad was wearing at the wedding, and tells her about what Krum said, how it’s Grindelwald’s mark. Hermione insists that she never heard word of Grindelwald using a mark in what she’s read about him, and wonders why this symbol would have been drawn in a book of children’s stories. Harry wonders why Scrimgeour didn’t notice it when the Ministry was checking the book before handing it over. Harry finally gets up the courage to try again and asks Hermione about going to Godric’s Hollow. This time her answer is unexpected—she agrees that they should go, thinking Dumbledore might have hidden the sword there. She points out that Godric’s Hollow was Gryffindor’s birthplace, which Harry did not know, and takes out her copy of History of Magic to look it up. She reads out the section on the Hollow, which talks of magical families banding together in certain communities around England for mutual protection once the Statute of Secrecy came about in 1689. Godric’s Hollow is one of the most famous of these locations.

Harry tells Hermione that Bathilda Bagshot also lives at Godric’s Hollow. Hermione considers this, then gasps so loud that Harry assumes they’re under attack. She puts it to Harry that perhaps Dumbledore gave the sword to Bathilda for safekeeping. Harry doesn’t think it all that likely, but is willing to go on possibility for the sake of getting to go there. Hermione starts making plans of how they might disguise themselves, but Harry is caught up in the idea of finally returning home for the very first time since his parents’ deaths. After Hermione goes to bed, he takes the photo album Hagrid gave him from her bag, and stares at the pictures of his parents. Hermione insists on a long prep period, obtaining new hairs for Polyjuice Potion and practicing Apparating under the Invisibility Cloak. Some time later, they take Polyjuice Potion and head to Godric’s Hollow under the Cloak. Hermione begins to panic about the footprints they’ll leave in the snow, but Harry suggests they take off the Cloak and walk around unhindered. They make it to the town square, and Hermione realizes that it’s Christmas Eve. She points to the graveyard behind the church and suggests that Harry’s parents would likely be buried there. As Hermione pulls him across the square to take him there, she stops at the foot of what appeared to be a war memorial. But as they pass the obelisk, it transforms into a statue of baby Harry and his parents.

Harry and Hermione make it into the graveyard. They find many tombstones of magical folk, including Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, whose epitaph reads: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Harry thinks that it would have mattered a great deal to him if Dumbledore had brought him here, given the connection they both had to this graveyard. Harry cannot figure out what the words on the tombstone mean, and wonders why Dumbledore chose them. Hermione comes across a tomb that bears the sign they found written in her book, but it’s heavily worn down. They read the name Ignotus on it. Harry wanders about looking for his parents, but Hermione is the one who finds them, two rows back from the Dumbledores. Below their names, the grave reads: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Harry is perturbed by this, associating that kind of thinking with Death Eaters, but Hermione assures him that the sentiment is about living beyond one’s death. Harry begins to cry and doesn’t bother to stop himself. Hermione takes his hand and holds it tight, and he squeezes back. He begins to berate himself for not bringing anything to the grave, but Hermione creates a wreath of Christmas roses, which Harry puts down. He wants to leave immediately, and putting an arm about Hermione’s shoulder, they begin to leave the graveyard.

Commentary

This chapter covers a great deal of ground in a limited time period, which brings me to complaints I recall that fandom had about this book being nothing but a “camping in the woods story.” It doesn’t seem fair because Rowling actually does the exact opposite of what most into-the-woods yarns do—rather than have the characters press through the woods to learn and change, the woods are a sticking place. They are molasses. Rather than a load of tests and trials to make it through the proverbial woods, we linger more on the emotional impact of the journey. Harry and Hermione hesitate in leaving the campsite at first, knowing that Ron will never be able to find them once they move. When it’s final and they’ve arrived at a new place, Hermione breaks down and Harry puts up the protective enchantments in her stead. It’s a strange double standard at work here; on the one hand, Harry is sensitive enough to realize that Hermione needs space and time to grieve over Ron’s absence, and he gives it to her. He takes care of things.

But what Hermione is required to do in the previous chapter and this one is so much more. We can put that down to having a more stable sense of self than Ron, and having a far better home life than Harry ever did, but the amount of emotional space that Hermione holds on everyone else’s behalf is more than she deserves to bear. Sure, she gets a cry in, but then she makes sure not to bring up Ron because she knows it will upset Harry. She holds her tears until nightfall so her pain doesn’t distract or bother him. She takes care of Harry every time he freezes up at Godric’s Hollow, creates a wreath of roses for his parents, and holds his hand while he sobs. I don’t think that any of this is unreasonable—Hermione is a good friend, and this is what good friends do. But because Ron is going through a period of development, and Harry is the main character, the narrative sort of neglects what’s going on with Hermione. How she feels. What she’s working through. What it means for her to stick with Harry, only to lose someone she loves in the process. Hermione’s heartbreak matters. Fine, maybe you don’t buy Ron and Hermione lasting as a couple, but that doesn’t matter. Hermione is still hurting because the boy that she loves abandoned her, and I want the story to acknowledge that her pain is equally relevant.

I sort of want a short story from Phineas’ perspective as he tries to wheedle Harry and Hermione’s location out of them during these little chats they have. But far more than that, I want an entire book dedicated to Ginny, and Neville, and Luna running Dumbledore’s Army from inside the school and constantly protesting Snape’s authority. Because while Harry’s quest is the core of the narrative, what the kids in Hogwarts are doing is actually a useful form of protest that young people should know about. Show us the quiet rebellion. I’m not a big fan of “and here’s the entire story from a different character’s perspective” books in general, but I am 5000% into that one.

We get more confusion over the Deathly Hallows mark, which makes me wonder a bit about the symbols origin…. For the children’s story of their creation to be so well known and the symbol of them to be barely known at all, it almost strikes me as a Holy Grail type story. There’s a version you tell to the kids about Galahad, and then there’s the serious adult versions of the story, which may come with learning about secret societies and stuff. Kinda creepy, really.

Harry has the opportunity to consider home when he realizes that he’s going back to it for the first time, and his train of thought meanders down a what-might-have-been path. He thinks of living in that home with his family, of coming back for holidays and inviting friends over to his house. Given the magical community at Godric’s Hollow, we can only imagine just how different Harry’s life would have been had he grown up there. He would have had friends in the area, lived in a nice town where his ancestors came from. (It strikes me that Harry probably would have had both magical and Muggle friends, since the town is fairly mixed up and Harry’s a friendly kid. Plus, Lily likely would have encouraged it.) There are so many predictions about how Harry might have turned out if his parents hadn’t died, and lots of them turn on the worry that James might have spoiled Harry too much and allowed him to be a bully. But I’m more interested in what Harry is thinking of—having a family and growing up loved, having a home to come back to and a community to call his own.

Harry and Hermione head to Godric’s Hollow, and I’m still fascinated the by double memorial in the town square. Not because of its subject, but because now I’m left wondering how many memorials and such also double as wizarding memorials. It seems likely that most of them could, especially considering how Muggle and magical wars tend to coincide. When they get to the graveyard, Harry looks on the graves of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, and thinks how much it would have meant to him if Dumbledore had taken him there. He wishes that he’d been allowed that bond, that Albus had trusted him enough to want to share his past.

This puts me in mind of an interview where Rowling discussed Harry’s paternal figures. And she didn’t mention James, Sirius, or Remus, but rather Hagrid and Dumbledore. Her thoughts came down to this idea that Harry had two father figures during his time at school; one was deeply loving, but not very wise; one was the sagest man alive, but distant emotionally from him. And what we see is Harry yearning for that aspect of Dumbledore throughout this entire book. He wants to feel more connected to Albus, wants to believe that he mattered to him like a son. And in a way he did. But there were many reasons that Dumbledore withdrew from that emotional bond, reasons that Harry is not yet prepared to understand. And I actually really enjoy the way that unfolds in this book; it’s a satisfying emotional arc that has its own element of mystery to it.

When Harry is grieving at his parents grave, he finds himself understandably overcome, and is struck by the impersonal nature of it, again the lack of connection:

And tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot and then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off or pretending? He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes the place where the last of Lily and James lay, bones now, surely, or dust, not knowing or caring that their living son stood so near, his heart still beating, alive because of their sacrifice and close to wishing, at this moment, that he was sleeping under the snow with them.

What strikes me this time around is that… we know that isn’t the case. By the time we get to the Resurrection Stone at the end of this book, we know they care. That they’re near. That they are within him and without, and that they love him every second.

But as he does not know, he is lucky to have Hermione there to hold onto and keep him afloat.

Emily Asher-Perrin is very sad about sadness now. You can bug her on Twitter andTumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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