The Harry Potter Reread still hasn’t gotten rid of its Christmas tree. It’s sort of brittle but it looks quite nice. Still. It’s spring now. Really no excuse at this point.
This week we’re going to destroy a Horcrux and reunite with some old friends. It’s chapters 19 and 20 of The Deathly Hallows—The Silver Doe and Xenophilius Lovegood.
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 19—The Silver Doe
Hermione eventually takes over the watch, but Harry’s sleep is fitful and full of nightmares. He gets up before dawn and suggests that they move out early. Hermione is eager to leave, feeling as though she’s seen a figure in the distance—though she insists that it’s probably her imagination. She then suggests that they leave under the Invisibility Cloak just in case. They pack up and are gone quickly, ending up in the Forest of Dean, another place where Hermione used to go camping with her family. Harry has another bad night of sleep, and when he takes up watch finds himself jumpier than ever, on high alert. He thinks of taking out the Marauder’s Map to look for Ginny, then remembers that she’ll be at home for Christmas. Several times he’s sure that he hears or sees something moving in the distance, but attributes it to birds and other woodland creatures.
Suddenly, a silver light appears ahead and comes closer. Harry jumps to his feet, but does not cry for Hermione’s help, waiting until a doe made of light appears. Harry and the doe stare at each other, and then she turns to leave, so Harry follows after her, certain that she cannot be the result of Dark Magic. She seems familiar to him somehow, and he knows that she came for him. He follows her for a little while until she turns and stops to look at him. Then she vanishes. Harry is frightened once she’s gone; her presence was an indication of safety. He lights Hermione’s wand and looks around for why she might have brought him here, discovering a frozen pool. Something silver and red glints beneath the ice, and Harry realizes that it’s a sword of Gryffindor. He wonders how it could have gotten there, if magic had drawn them here, or if someone had placed the sword there for him to find. He tries to call it with a Summoning Charm to no avail, and remembers that the sword only came to him in a time of need and thinks to mutter for help. Nothing happens. Harry then recalls what Dumbledore said about only true Gryffindor’s being able to retrieve the sword, and thinks back to the Sorting Hat’s song: “Their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindors apart.”
Harry knows what he’ll have to do, and strips off his clothes, then cracks the ice with Hermione’s wand, thinking he’ll have to submerge himself completely to get to the sword. He jumps in and feels his entire body scream with protest, then dives down to grab the sword. As soon as his fingers close around the hilt, the chain of the Horcrux goes tight around his neck, throttling him. Harry tries to fight back, but only ends up against the side of the pool, and fancies that he can feel Death closing its arms around him… but instead is deposited on the shore, hearing someone else’s panting and coughs. Ron is standing next to him holding both the sword and the locket, asking Harry if he’s crazy for not taking the Horcrux off before diving. Harry can’t answer, too afraid that Ron is a figment, and begins pulling his clothes back on silently. Harry figures that Ron cast the doe, but Ron says he didn’t and thought it was Harry. Harry reminds him that his Patronus is a stag. He asks why Ron is there, and Ron says that he means to come back if Harry will have him. Harry asks how Ron found them, and Ron tells him it’s a long story, and that he’d planned to nap under a tree that night until he saw the doe and Harry. Harry asks if he saw anyone, and Ron tells him that he saw a figure by two oak trees close by, but couldn’t check it out because Harry had gone into the pool and not come out.
Harry checks over by the trees and finds no evidence of anyone lingering there. Ron asks how the sword got into the pool, and Harry figures that whoever cast the Patronus put it there. Ron wonders if it’s the real sword, and Harry tells them that there’s only one way to know; he takes the locket and lays it out on a flat rock. When Ron offers him the sword, Harry tells Ron that he should do it, knowing that’s the reason why it was Ron who pulled the sword from the pool. He tells Ron that he’s going to open it using Parseltongue, and that Ron has to stab it quickly because it will likely try to fight back the same way Riddle’s diary did. Ron asks Harry not to open it, panicking. He insists that the locket affected him worse than Harry and Hermione, and that it made him think terrible things. Harry calls Ron by name and asks him to get rid of the thing. It galvanizes his friend, and Harry opens the locket, revealing two eyes, Tom Riddle’s eyes. It begins to speak to Ron, telling him that it knows of his hopes and fears, and that both could come true. It talks of how Ron is least loved both in his family and by the girl he loves, how he is constantly overshadowed. Then it produces simulacrums of Harry and Hermione who jeer and mock him. Fake Harry tells Ron that they were happier without him, that Ron’s mother would have traded to have him as a son instead. Fake Hermione tells Ron that no one could possibly care about him when Harry is around; then the two of them kiss. Harry tells Ron to stab the thing, and when Ron looks toward him, there’s a flash of red in his eyes. He brings the sword down on the Horcrux and it screams.
Harry backs away, retrieving Hermione’s wand as Ron drops to his knees and covers his head with his hands. He kneels by his friend, who has been crying, and tells him that Hermione cried for at least a week after he left, how they barely spoke some nights. Then he tells Ron that he loves Hermione like his sister, and believes that she feels the same, and that he thought Ron knew that. Ron apologizes for leaving, though Harry insists that he’s pretty much made up for it in the past few minutes. They wander back and find they tent, Harry heading in first and waking Hermione. When Ron appears, Harry tries to back off and blend into the tent, but Hermione response is to begin punching Ron in earnest, furiously. She asks Harry for her wand, which he refuses to hand over, casting a Shield Charm between the two of them. Hermione shouts about how she begged Ron to come back, saying it’s ridiculous for him to think he could return and just say sorry, that for all he knew they could have been dead. Ron tells her that he knew they weren’t because the Prophet and the radio are searching everywhere for them.
He tells her that he wanted to come back right after he Disapparated, but he was caught by a group of Snatchers: gangs who are rounding up Muggle-borns and blood traitors for the Ministry for gold. He got caught by a dim group of them and claimed to be Stan Shunpike. While they argued about his identity, he manages to steal one wand, then Disarm the guy carrying his, and Disapparated again. He Splinched himself, losing a few fingernails, which Hermione laughs off, citing what happened to them at Godric’s Hollow as far more horrific. Ron is shocked at that news, and Harry insists that Ron just saved his life, but Hermione only wants to know Ron found them. He pulls out the Deluminator, and tells her than he heard Hermione’s voice come from it, calling his name and talking about a wand. Harry realizes that it was the first time Hermione said his name after he left, when she mentioned his wand breaking at school. Ron says he took the Deluminator out of his pocket and clicked it, and a light appeared outside the window where he was, then waited for him before flying into his chest, right next to his heart. He knew it would take him to the right place, so he Disapparated and ended up where they were, but the protection spells worked too well, and he couldn’t find them. When he realized they’d left without him, he clicked the thing again and Disapparated again, ending up in this woods. He waited for one of them to appear, and then saw the doe.
Ron and Harry then have to explain what happened with the doe and the pool and the sword, though they ghost over what Ron heard from the locket. Harry pulls down the Shield Charm and asks Ron for the spare wand he got from the Snatchers, telling him about his broken wand. Hermione heads to bed, and Harry tells Ron that was about the best he could hope for. Ron agrees, remembering the birds she sent after him last year. Hermione tells him that she hasn’t ruled them out from under her blankets, and Ron smiles.
Harry and Hermione leave the current camp site, and Hermione tells them they’ve just arrived in another forest where she used to camp with her parents, and… I have to wonder how those trips went? Being a kid who was pretty indoors-y and bookish like Hermione, I can tell you that I would have heartily complained if my parents had ever tried to take me camping, particularly in a remote area. (I enjoy camping quite a bit now, but only if I can get a shower in when I need one, so I guess things haven’t changed overmuch.) Did Hermione like camping with her parents? Or is this just one case of parents dragging their kid off to do something they like, and the trio being super lucky that Hermione couldn’t wriggle out of it?
The doe Patronus. Okay, I have a lot of question here, the primary one being… how did Snape come to associate that animal with Lily? Because there are a few options here, and the first one that comes to mind is Lily’s Patronus being a doe. On the other hand, we don’t know that Snape ever saw her Patronus, and it’s made even more unlikely for the suggestion that the Patronus Charm is not taught at any school level. (Perhaps he saw her fighting early in the war and saw it then?) Then there’s the fact that associating Lily with the doe is a direct reference to her love for James—the doe Patronus is a correlation with James’ Animagus form (as well as his own stag Patronus). But it’s unlikely that Snape knew about James’ Animagus form, as we know he doesn’t hear about Sirius or Peter’s Animagus forms until adulthood. So where does this association stem from? And moreover, isn’t it kind of messed up that this deep connection Snape feels with Lily through his Patronus is ultimately also a reference to the man he hates? And does he ever think about that or even know that connection exists?
So many questions.
We do get a striking parallel to Prisoner of Azkaban in the doe Patronus; just as Harry’s stag Patronus is meant to be a manifestation of James, the doe is a manifestation of Lily. Harry can feel it instantly, and in this case, there’s no time travel confusion to make the connection in his brain for him, to muddy the lines. Harry looks at that doe and finds her familiar. He feels safe with her, he believes she will answer his questions, that she is there to guide him. The Patronus is in Snape’s power, sure, but in that moment, she is also Lily on a practically spiritual level. And Harry knows.
There are so many interesting things going on in this chapter without even considering the emotional importance of Ron’s return. For example, we know by the end of the book that Dumbledore’s portrait impresses upon Snape the importance of the sword being gained through valor, and also that he insists that Snape keeps himself hidden so that Voldemort has no chance of finding out who helped Harry. And Snape does everything he can to arrange the scenario just right. But he still has no control over who the sword picks for a given task. So even though he leaves the sword for Harry to find, the sword calls on Ron in this moment. He is the one who can fish it out of the water, he is the one who has to destroy the locket.
On the other hand, nothing makes me laugh more than Harry stripping down to jump in the water, being all This is really what I have to do to prove my Gryffindor-ness? You know, I’m beginning to think that I picked the wrong house. This is just tedious, come on.
Of course, we finally come to the point where all of Ron’s baggage hits the floor and he has to face what truly frightens him. And sure, some of this stuff might seem like teenage triviality by comparison, but there are a few things that really stand out to me. For example, Ron believes that he is the least loved of all his siblings, something that we’ve never really had chance to consider. And it makes sense—Ron is the last Weasley son born before Molly finally got what she wanted: a daughter. Everyone in the family knows this, it’s the Weasley story. So from Ron’s perspective, he was the last failure before his family got the prize, his perfect little sister. He has plenty of other brothers, but they all have distinct personalities as far as he’s concerned, they all contribute something. The only other one who is currently viewed as a disappointment is Percy, though even that’s not true in Molly’s eyes, as she’s constantly bawling over his lack of presence.
Ron truly believes that he’s a waste of space. One last boy in a family full of them, one unimpressive friend when there are better ones all around him, one more mouth to feed who then goes and abandons the people he cares about when that food doesn’t present itself. This stuff isn’t new for Ron, it’s entrenched. And it’s not in one area, it’s in every facet of his life. That doesn’t mean that his failings are any less real, that he has nothing to work on. But this is a lot to overcome and keep hidden away,
Nothing ever makes me happier than this exchange:
“You’ve sort of made up for it tonight,” said Harry. “Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.”
“That makes me sound a lot cooler than I was,” Ron mumbled.
“Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was,” said Harry. “I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”
Simultaneously they walked forward and hugged, Harry gripping the still-sopping back of Ron’s jacket.
You can tell they’re growing up because they both move in for the hug without being weird about it. Then it’s back to camp and we get Hermione’s understandably less forgiving reaction, and Ron’s explanation about the Deluminator. The thing that interests me is that he hears Hermione when she calls him name. Which makes me wonder if he ever would have found them if she hadn’t. It strikes me as a kind of failsafe perhaps; Ron is allowed to come back to his friends, but only provided that he’s truly wanted by them. On the other hand, Hermione had been avoiding Ron’s name to avoid upsetting Harry, so that might not have worked out for the best….
These are our first proper words on the Snatchers too, which sounds like a horrible thing to face alone, but has the added value of Ron coming back with an extra wand. Well, it’s not actually that much of an advantage, but, you know. Take what you can get, kids!
Chapter 20—Xenophilius Lovegood
Hermione continues to give Ron the cold shoulder, and Ron is quiet and somber near in response. When he’s only around Harry, he gets considerably more cheerful, happy that they’re finally destroyed a Horcrux and have the means to do so again. While Ron and Harry are out looking for blackberries that don’t exist, Harry fills him in on everything they’ve done, including what happened at Godric’s Hollow. Ron asks him how he found out about the Taboo, not using Voldemort’s name. Harry tells him that they’ve just made it a habit, and goes to say the name aloud, but Ron stops him; it turns out that the Death Eaters have jinxed the name so they can track anyone who uses it—that’s how they were discovered in Tottenham Court Road. Using the name got Kingsley discovered, and now he’s on the run. Ron wonders about who could’ve cast the doe Patronus and briefly wonders if it could somehow be Dumbledore, but Harry puts the kibosh on that idea, though he understands why Ron would want it. Ron suggests that perhaps Dumbledore did leave them clues after all, though, figuring that he must have known Ron would run out on them. Harry corrects him—Dumbledore knew he’d want to return to them. Harry asks if Ron has heard about Skeeter’s book, and Ron says that people are talking about it quite a bit, though it’d be a bigger deal if Voldemort weren’t currently in power, making saying things against Dark Magic unwise. He doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal since Dumbledore was so young, but Harry corrects him on Dumbledore being their age at the time, and Ron senses he should drop the subject.
Harry sets about using the new wand by trying to enlarge and shrink a nearby spider, but the wand simply isn’t working for him. Hermione insists that he simply needs to practice, but Harry is sure it’s because she still feels guilty over breaking his wand. That night, Ron tries to tune his radio, saying that there’s an underground program that tells people what’s really going on, but it has a changing password, and he didn’t get the last one. Hermione approaches and tells them that they need to go see Xenophilius Lovegood. She points out Albus’ signature on the letter to Grindelwald, noting that the ‘A’ of his name is done up as the same symbol that Krum took offense to. She thinks it’s more important than they know, and the only person they can talk to about it seems to be Luna’s father. Harry isn’t keen on the idea, but Ron wants to side with Hermione to get in her good graces and puts it to a vote. Harry reluctantly agrees, and they head to Ron’s hometown, knowing that the Lovegoods live nearby.
Upon Apparating to Ottery St. Catchpole, Ron comments on how strange it is to be close to home and not visit. Hermione insists that it hasn’t been long since he was there for Christmas, but Ron tells her that he was with Bill and Fleur instead, and that they spent the holiday with him. Bill didn’t tell his family about what Ron had done, though he wasn’t too happy about it either. They walk a ways and don’t find the Lovegood homestead, so they Apparate a few miles north and eventually come to a home shaped like a large black cylinder that Ron likens to a chess rook. They find notices on the gate showing this to be the Lovegood family residence, and knock on the door. Xenophilius answers in a nightshirt, looking frazzled and unkempt. Harry asks if they can put some questions to him, but he doesn’t seem keen on the idea. He lets them in all the same and they enter into the hyper-cluttered, vibrantly-colored circular home. He takes them upstairs to a living/workroom mashup, and Hermione notices a very dangerous Erumpent Horn on the wall, which Xenophilius claims is the horn of a Crumple-Horned Snorkack that he got Luna for Christmas. He covers up the printing press that is currently churning out copies of The Quibbler.
Harry asks Xenophilius for help again, and again he seems reluctant to offer it. Ron point out that his own magazine insists that it’s everyone’s duty to help Harry, and Hermione wants to know what Luna would say. Xenophilius says that he will call Luna up from the stream where she’s fishing for Freshwater Plimpies, and then he’ll help. Harry looks around the room, and eventually discovers a headdress being built into a bust of Rowena Ravenclaw. When Xenophilius returns with a tea tray, he indicates that Harry has found his pet project, and tells them what each item on the headdress is for. He then offers them all infusion of Gurdyroots, telling them that Luna is on her way back as they speak. Harry asks about the symbol that Xennophilius was wearing at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, to which he replies:
“Are you referring to the sign of the Deathly Hallows?”
The advantage of Ron being in the outside world for a bit is that they get vital information from him; the Snatchers, the Taboo, the public opinion on Dumbledore, the frantic search for Harry. Additionally, Ron reveals that he didn’t go home to his family for Christmas, that he stayed with Bill and Fleur because he didn’t dare go home and tell his family what he’d done. His exact words are, “Bill’s always been decent to me. He — he wasn’t impressed when he heard what I’d done, but he didn’t go on about it.”
Now, I know that there’s a fair age gap between the younger and oldest Weasley siblings, but… Ron’s description of Bill is that his brother has always been “decent” to him. Not kind or good or nice. Decent. And again, I’m struck by how worthless Ron must feel, to have to take refuge with the sibling who is “decent” toward him because he knows the family members that he’s closer to will bring more disappointment to bear than he can handle. What Ron did was wrong, absolutely—but he wouldn’t even come home for Christmas out of fear. Which gives you a clear indication of where he believes he stands.
So… knowing that Luna ends up marrying Rolf Scamander (Newt’s great-grandson), it’s infinitely bemusing to think that Hermione could identify the horn on the wall from Newt’s book. Rowling has said that Luna doesn’t depart too far from her father’s way of thinking, though she does eventually maybe admit that some of his ideas aren’t quite right. And it’s interesting to me because while Luna has her own beautiful brand of weariness, Xenophilius strikes me more as a New Age hippie dad who is far too desperate to believe in all the strangeness he subscribes to. (I say that with a wealth of experience in New Age hippie parents under my belt. My mom used to try to help heal my colds with crystals. I kid you not.) Xenophilius’ insistence on subscribing to these fancies is actually dangerous in more way than one. I find myself wondering if the death of his wife made him more insistent, put him more out of touch. It seems likely; while Luna’s mother was clearly an experimental sort of person, we get an impression that she was a bit more put together.
Aside from all this, we know that something is off from the beginning, and it’s not too difficult to guess what. Luna’s absence, Xenophilius’ sudden disinterest is helping Harry, the covering of his printing press. The trio really need this information, but it’s odd that they’re not more concerned. Xenophilius seems nervous but never addresses those nerves at all. It’s an awkward setup from the start.
The headdress Xenophilius is making is incredible, and I do love the fact that we finally find out that the radishes on Luna’s ears are not radishes at all as a result; they’re Dirigible Plums, “to enhance the ability to accept the extraordinary.” No wonder Luna wears them as jewelry.
Finally, Harry asks about the symbol Xenophilius was wearing at the wedding, and he says the thing. You know, the line that brings up the title of the book, so. Yeah. We got to an important part. It’s like a literary mic drop.