The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Deathly Hallows, Chapters 29 and 30

The Harry Potter Reread wishes that all work areas were equipped with blankets and sofas and things. The Harry Potter Reread would like to do all of its work from a pillow fort blanket hut.

This week we’re going to hug Neville and break into school. It’s chapters 29 and 30 of The Deathly Hallows—The Lost Diadem and The Sacking of Severus Snape.

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 29—The Lost Diadem

Summary

Neville spots Ron and Hermione, and swoops in to hug them. Harry notices that Neville looks battered, but when he mentions it, Neville insists that it’s not too bad and Seamus is worse off. He tells Aberforth that a couple more will be Apparating directly into the bar, and asks him to send them down the passage too. Harry thanks Aberforth for saving their lives, then climbs into the passage behind the portrait after his three friends. Ron wonders at the passage, which seems like it’s always been there, but wasn’t on the Marauder’s Map. Neville tells him that all those passages were sealed anyhow, and useless. He is clearly delighted to have them there, and asks if they truly broke into Gringotts and escaped on a dragon; apparently everyone is talking about it, and Terry Boot got beaten by one of the Carrows for shouting about it during dinner. Neville wants to know what else they’ve been up to, but Harry wants information on the school first. Neville tells them that the school is markedly different. The Carrows don’t just teach, they’re in charge of discipline and enjoy punishing the students. Neville says the teachers don’t generally refer anyone to them for disciplinary action, and they all hate the Carrows. The brother, Amycus, teaches DADA—though it’s really just a Dark Arts class now—and that students practice the Cruciatus Curse on kids in detention. Neville refused and has a deep cut on his cheek to show for it, but Crabbe and Goyle are having a grand old time.

The Carrow sister, Alecto, teaches a mandatory Muggle Studies class that teaches students about how Muggles are like animals and how they drove wizards into hiding. Neville has another cut on his face for talking back to her. When Ron questions his decision to challenge Death Eaters, Neville points out that he noticed how much hope it used to give everyone when Harry stood up to people, and that he’s not in too much danger anyhow, seeing as the Carrows don’t want to hurt the pureblood students too badly. He tells them that the only kids who are in serious danger are the ones with relatives stirring up trouble, like Luna getting taken hostage. Neville knew that she was all right because she got a message to him on one of the old Dumbledore’s Army coins. He said that they used them to sneak out and meet up at night to graffiti the walls with things like “Dumbledore’s Army, Still Recruiting.” But things have gotten more difficult of late; Luna disappeared at Christmas, and Ginny was gone after Easter, leaving Neville as the only group leader left. Then Michael Corner got tortured for releasing a first year that the Carrows had chained up, so they stopped a lot of their stunts. But they kept fighting up until a couple week previous, when they decided to try and get to Neville by going through his grandmother. Of course, Neville’s gran wasn’t having that, and went on the run after sending Dawlish to the hospital. She sent Neville a letter, telling him that she was proud of the work he was doing.

But Neville knew once they couldn’t manipulate him that they were going to get rid of him, so he went into hiding. They get to the end of the passage, and Neville pushes open a door. Everyone begins to cry out at Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s arrival. The group engulfs them, hugging them and shaking their hands. Neville gets everyone to back off, and Harry sees that there are over twenty students from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw living in the Room of Requirement, sleeping in hammocks. Seamus explains that they’ve all been safe here since Neville retreated to the room, as he really seems to understand how to ask it for exactly what they need. When he got hungry after the first day inside, the passage to Hog’s Head opened up, leading him to Aberforth. They’ve been there for almost two weeks, with more hammocks and other items cropping up as more people arrive. Neville tells the group that the Gringotts break-in is true, and Seamus ask what they were there to steal, but Harry’s scar flares up as Voldemort realizes that the ring Horcrux is not in the Gaunt’s shack. Harry tells Ron and Hermione that they need to hurry, and explains to the group that they aren’t staying at the school—they need to retrieve something, then leave, and he can’t tell them what they’ve come to get. Suddenly, the group isn’t so happy anymore.

The group is determined to help. Harry tries to explain that Dumbledore left the three of them a job to be completed alone. Neville insists that this is Dumbledore’s Army, and that everyone in the room had proven loyal and deserved their trust. Just then, the tunnel opens, and Luna and Dean arrive—Neville sent for them, as he’d promised Luna and Ginny that he’d let them know if Harry returned. He had assumed that Harry coming back would mean a revolution to take back the school. Harry and Ron try to explain that this isn’t the reason they’ve returned when Ginny, the twins, Lee Jordan, and Cho Chang show up. They all look to him expectantly. Harry begins to panic at the influx of people, but Ron makes a suggestion: They all can help. Harry doesn’t have to explain that what they’re looking for is a Horcrux. Hermione agrees, pointing out that Harry doesn’t have to do everything alone. It occurs to Harry that perhaps he’s taking on a bit too much of Dumbledore’s tactics, keeping everyone at arm’s length. He addresses the group and explains that they have to find something to help overthrow Voldemort, that it might have belonged to Ravenclaw. Luna quickly points to the lost diadem she told them about earlier. Cho tells them that it was lost centuries ago, and no one’s ever found it. She tells him that she could show him what it’s meant to look like, as Rowena is wearing it in her statue.

Harry’s scar burns again, and he knows that Voldemort is traveling. He decides to go look at the statue, which Ginny insists Luna accompany him for rather than Cho. Neville takes them to the exit, but warns them that it always lets them exit somewhere new to avoid detection, and that they’ll have to be on the lookout for patrols. Harry throws the Cloak over he and Luna and they emerge on the fifth floor. They move as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, even giving the ghosts a wide berth. They finally make it to the Ravenclaw Tower. Luna knocks on the door, and the eagle-shaped knocker asks them a question. Harry wonders why it isn’t a password, but Luna explains that you have to answer a question, and if you get it wrong, you have to wait for someone else to get it right, so that you learn. Luna gets the answer right and the door opens. They enter an airy, circular common room, and walk to the Ravenclaw statue. Harry removes the Cloak and reads the plinth on it. Behind him, Alecto Carrow is waiting, and she touches her Dark Mark.

Commentary

Neville, being the genius that he is, has metabolized the most important thing about Harry’s effectiveness as a leader—that standing up to the people in charge, even if it’s less effective than you want it to be, gives hope. If you actually needed to cite the reason why Harry is the main character of these books (outside the prophecy), it really boils down to that—being willing to stand up so that others can also feel empowered. Harry’s great at that.

Which is part of why this chapter is so discomfiting—Harry doesn’t want to empower anyone right now. He needs to find the Horcrux and get it out of Voldemort’s grasp as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt, to get involved. So rather than being the excellent leader he has shown himself to be in the past, we see him get cagey and begin to withdraw. It’s down to Ron to remind him that they can still use the help of all these people without giving the whole ploy away.

We get a vague picture of how horrific this year has been for Hogwarts students, but the details are still a bit lost. For instance, we have to assume that the school still admitted Muggleborn students this year, but what happened to those kids? Did their parents know what was happening at the school, or were they barred from communication? Were those children allowed to go home for holidays, or kept in the castle? Did any of those families try to flee to a different country? How could the wizarding world convince any of those students back after that year? After all, if this were your introduction to the wizarding world, there’s a good chance that you would retreat from it entirely.

Poor Neville has been taking the brunt of the abuse with Luna and Ginny gone, and bears it while still being purely himself; this fight, if anything, only strengthens every characteristic that makes Neville such a wonderful human being. My issues with his grandmother aside, I do love the idea of Dawlish coming to her house, and Augusta being like “HAHA NOPE.” Also, Neville’s grandmother on the run is a deeply beautiful concept that deserves its own sketch series or comic, something. I hope she left with her giant handbag and vulture hat.

The work of Dumbledore’s Army is a master class is non-violent resistance, and an incredible example to let readers chew on. We basically learn that up until two weeks ago, the group was working to sow quiet discord throughout the school in silent contempt for everything that was going on. I can’t help but imagine Neville and Ginny sitting down with the new Gryffindors and explaining that Hogwarts didn’t used to be this way. It used to be a place of comfort and knowledge. It used to be safe. Without keeping that image of Hogwarts going, there would be nothing to defend.

The irony of Harry’s entrance here is that he doesn’t realize that he’s walked straight into the endgame. He doesn’t understand what he is triggering by sneaking back into the school, Horcrux search or not. The group in the Room of Requirement tell him that they assumed his return meant they were going to fight, and Harry still can’t wrap his head around the inevitability of that truth. He’s too focused on their immediate goal to see that this was always where he was meant to finish this quest.

Too many people were (still are) upset that the whole final book didn’t take place at Hogwarts. Because, even without the camping and questing, this was a series that took place at a school. That is what the Potter books were, they were a bunch of books about a kid in magic school, and deviating from that irked a lot of fans. I will always be baffled by that, because what happens instead is far more important: Hogwarts is the battleground. Hogwarts is where we make the final stand.

If Harry had been at school the whole year, the choice to fight there would have been less resonant. It would have been the obvious progression of events. Instead, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to make their way back to Hogwarts, not fully understanding the impact of that choice. They could never simply waltz in, nab a Horcrux, and creep out under cover of night. They were always going to end this war here. And what’s more, the final act of this war doesn’t take place on a special field or at the gates of a fortress. It takes place at the school. Dumbledore told Harry that help would always be given at Hogwarts to those to asked for it, but now we understand the full breadth of that statement. Hogwarts is more than just an educational facility. Hogwarts is safety, Hogwarts is wonder, Hogwarts is there for you, and counting on you, and a part of you.

Hogwarts is home. For more than just Harry. And whatever else will happen, you fight to defend your home.

So the trio can’t really understand what it means to this little crew of refugees to see them there at last. Liberating the school means more than just taking care of their own, it’s what every single one of them has been waiting to do, instinctively, from the start.

So Harry finally starts asking about the diadem of Ravenclaw, and the kids get to work. Cho offers to take Harry to the Gryffindor common room to see the statue, but that impulse is squashed hard by Ginny. The narrative need is to make sure that Luna is with Harry, her being one of Harry’s core group of confidantes and friends. But it still annoys me that we have to have a moment of Ginny playing jealous girlfriend to get there. They’re in the middle of a war, now’s really not the time to freak out about Cho wanting to help. Especially considering how unfortunately she’s been treated by this group in the past.

The trek to the Ravenclaw common room is a point of departure, highlighting the difference between the school as it was, and as it is now. Before, the Invisibility Cloak was all Harry needed to get around at night, but now everything is a potential danger. They can’t even risk letting the ghosts now what’s happening. The method of entering the common room is easily the best one in the entire school. I wonder if there are any Neville-ish Ravenclaws who can never get the answers right. I really hope there are.

And all of our hand-wringing is promptly rewarded by Harry getting instantly caught by a Death Eater. So that’s fun.

 

Chapter 30—The Sacking of Severus Snape

Summary

Harry is immediately in Voldemort’s head and the Dark Lord knows Harry has been found. He’s brought back by the loud crack from Luna’s wand, as she successfully Stuns someone outside of a D.A. meeting for the first time. The spell wakes the Ravenclaws, who begins to rush down from their rooms. Harry throws the Cloak over them again as the students find Alecto’s body unconscious on the floor. They seem pleased at the idea that she might be dead. Harry checks in with Voldemort and finds that he’s checking on the locket first before heading back to Hogwarts. Amycus Carrow raps on the door to the tower, demanding to know if his sister has Potter. The Ravenclaws don’t know what to do. Harry wonders if he shouldn’t open the door and try to Stun the man when he hears McGonagall’s voice on the other side of the door. She points out that Amycus’ sister asked to be let into the Ravenclaw common room earlier that evening, and wonders why she couldn’t perhaps open the door. Amycus shouts her down and demands that she open it instead. McGonagall answers the riddle and the two burst into the common room. Amycus is in a panic, thinking that Alecto summoned the Dark Lord on accident, and knowing what will happen if they don’t have Harry.

McGonagall wants to know why he would think Harry would come to Ravenclaw’s common room when he’s not in that house, and Amycus tells her that they were told he might show up there. He suggests that they blame the students for the mistake and let Voldemort take it out on them, something that McGonagall tells him she won’t allow. Amycus tells McGonagall that she has no say in what happens at the school any longer, then spits in her face. Harry takes the Cloak off himself, tells Amycus that he shouldn’t have done then, then casts the Cruciatus Curse on him. Amycus writhes in pain before falling to the floor, unconscious. McGonagall is shocked (though she has enough wits to inform Harry that his actions were foolish), but Harry doesn’t have time to waste and informs her that Voldemort is on the way. Luna pulls off the Cloak then, asking if they’re allowed to say the name now (nearly giving McGonagall a heart attack), and Harry tells her that it hardly matters now. McGonagall demands that he leave. Harry asks if she knows where the diadem of Ravenclaw is, telling her that he has something in the castle that he must find, and he’s pretty sure that’s it.

Amycus nearly comes to, so McGonagall casts the Imperius Curse on him, and gets him to bring her his and Alecto’s wands before lying down on the floor next to his sister. McGonagall binds them together. Harry sees that Voldemort has found the cave empty of the locket, and tells McGonagall to clear the castle of students while he searches it, that he acting on orders from Dumbledore. When McGonagall hears that, she tells Harry that they will secure the castle while he performs his search, convinced that she and other teachers can hold the school for some time provided that they deal with Snape first. Harry suggests that they evacuate some students out through the Hog’s Head passage, telling her that it’s unlikely that Voldemort’s followers will care much about the town if they’re focusing on Hogwarts. McGonagall agrees, then binds the Carrows up further in a net and lets them hang in midair. She sends three Patronuses about the school, and Harry and Luna follow her through the corridors under the Cloak. Suddenly, Snape appears from behind a suit of armor. He asks where the Carrows are, aware of Alecto’s Dark Mark summons. McGonagall feigns ignorance, claiming that she was only out because she thought there was a disturbance.

Snape asks if she’s seen Harry, and McGonagall quickly sends a Stunning Charm at him, but Snape is faster and puts up a Shield Charm. McGongall tries to lasso him with fire from a nearby torch, but Snape turns it onto a serpent, which McGonagall then turns into daggers, and Snape only escapes them by getting behind one of the suits of armor again. Professors Flitwick, Sprout, and Slughorn are on the scene then, and Flitwick enchants the armor to come to life, saying that Snape will “do no more murder at Hogwarts!” Snape gets free of the armor and sends it flying back toward them—it crashes into the wall and breaks into pieces. Snape runs and the other teachers pursue, but moments later McGonagall shouts “Coward!” Harry and Luna run into the nearby classroom, and she tells them that Snape jumped. Harry pulls off the Cloak, asking if he’s dead (all while Sprout and Flitwick are shouting over his appearance in their midst), but McGonagall says he had his wand and appears to have learned flight like Voldemort. Harry sees Snape heading toward the perimeter of the grounds. Slughorn catches up to the group, asking for an explanation. Harry tells McGonagall that they have to hurry, as Voldemort is on his way, so she explains the situation to the teachers.

McGonagall tells them that they must collect their Houses for evacuation, but if any students are of age and want to fight, they should be allowed. Sprout is first to rush out on the order, muttering about the plants she plans to bring to the school’s defense. While Flitwick gets to work on his own protections, Harry asks him if he’s ever seen Ravenclaw’s diadem, which he answers in the negative. As McGonagall beckons Luna and Harry to come with her, Slughorn finally gives his opinion on the situation, saying that he thinks the plan isn’t a good one, and that anyone left behind will be in danger when Voldemort finally makes it inside. McGonagall tells him that he’s free to leave with his students, but if any of them work against this resistance, they will all duel to kill. She tells him that Slytherin House has to “decide upon its loyalties,” and to wake his students at once. Harry and Luna follow McGonagall out into the corridor as she begins her protective enchantments. Filch comes into view shouting about students out of bed, and she tells him to do something constructive and get Peeves. McGonagall brings every statue and suit of armor to life and commands them to protect the school, then tells Harry and Luna to fetch their friends and meet with everyone else in the Great Hall. As he and Luna run by, students begin shouting at the sight of him.

When the reach the Room of Requirement, it is far more crowded than when they left; the Order of the Phoenix is present, as well as Harry’s old Quidditch teammates. Harry explains the the situation, and everyone surges past him into the castle to fight. The only people left int he room are the Weasleys; Molly is adamant that Ginny leave, not being of age. Bill tries to help Ginny see sense, but Ginny is horrified at the idea of sitting home alone while her entire family is there fighting, and turns to Harry for support. When he won’t offer it, she turns away from him. A she retreats toward the tunnel, someone else tumbles out of it—it’s Percy, who is there to fight, but was clearly not expecting to be confronted with his entire family on the other side. Fleur very obviously tries to give the family space by asking Lupin loudly about how Teddy’s doing. Percy shouts to his family that he was awful, a sentiment that Fred helpfully finishes for him. He shakes his brother’s hand before Molly shoves him aside to hug Percy. He apologize to Arthur, who quickly rushes to hug him as well. He explains that he’d been wanting to come back for a while, but had to be very careful with how the Ministry kept imprisoning traitors. He’d been in touch with Aberforth, who informed him about what was happening. He goes to shake hands with Fleur as everyone heads upstairs.

Ginny tries to sneak up as well, but Molly catches her. Lupin suggests that she stay in the Room of Requirement so she can be on the scene, but not in the battle. Molly wants to protest, but Arthur agrees. Harry asks where Ron and Hermione are, and Ginny tells him that they mentioned the bathroom after he left. He doesn’t see them in the Room of Requirement bathroom. Suddenly his scar sears, and the Hogwarts gates through Voldemort’s eyes.

Commentary

Luna Stuns Alecto, and Amycus comes running, followed by McGonagall, and here we get Harry’s only use of an Unforgivable Curse that he really really means. And this is the one place where it niggles, for me. When Harry used the Killing Curse on Bellatrix [EDIT: ugh, sorry everyone, my brain was soup yesterday, and I conflated the heck out of this. Harry tried to use the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix], it was in a moment of extreme grief, and he’s nowhere near meaning it enough to do any damage. It’s almost like when a kid gets really upset and says “I hate you and I wish you would die!” Not a good thing to say, but not really something that is supposed to have weight.

I noticed some rereaders were bothered by the fact that I didn’t harp on Harry’s use of the Imperius Curse, but to be honest… I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal in context. This might have to do with how I always interpreted the Unforgivables as a set, since I don’t think of them as being anywhere near equal. They are all horrific for their potential to do great harm, but the Imperius Curse is different from the other two because it is possible to use it less maliciously. Murder is murder, and torture is torture. There’s no ambiguity there. What earns the Imperius Curse its “unforgivableness” is its ability to render your own free will useless. From a stance of pure right and pure wrong, it’s obviously a terrible thing. That said, Harry’s use of it was impossible to avoid in their situation, and he did as little harm possible to the two people he used it on. I don’t like adhering to the old adage “war is war” as a reason for anything, because it becomes an easy excuse for any number of abuses. But if we really want to talk about his personal intent-to-do-harm, it is again not one of those moments.

And then we have this moment. Which is absolutely intent-to-do-harm all the way. Moreover, it’s deeply uncomfortable because it’s a laugh moment. Harry is like ‘oh yeah, Bellatrix wasn’t kidding, you have to mean these curses’ while McGonagall splutters about his sudden reappearance. There’s the added layer of Harry not being able to use that curse until someone flat out disrespects Minerva McGonagall, which lets us know just how much she matters to Harry. And that’s meaningful. But it doesn’t change the fact that Harry just used the torture curse on someone out of desire to hurt them. We have already been made aware that the Carrows have essentially been torturing students all year, so Harry’s anger toward them is certainly understandable. And the first time I read the book, I liked this moment because it made perfect sense to me that the one thing Harry Potter wouldn’t stand for was someone mistreating our beloved Professor McGonagall. But in retrospect, there’s no meaning, no payoff, no nothing. This isn’t supposed to represent a moment where Harry crosses a line, even though it can’t not be that. But it happens, and we read it, and then it’s never really commented on again.

Of course, McGonagall is a boss in dealing with Snape, and then we get the four Heads of Houses together again for another round of Let’s Embody the Founders. McGonagall is first into the fray, Sprout is keen to help and fiercely loyal, Flitwick is willing to join them but realistic about how long they can expect to hold Voldemort off, and Slughorn is like this is a terrible idea wwhhhyyyyyy. (This makes me wonder about how the founders truly did react to situations like this. While you can argue that Slytherin’s pureblood creed creates people like Voldemort, we don’t know that Slytherin himself would be super into how Voldemort has gone about things. Maybe he would want to fight an enemy at Hogwarts’ gates. Or maybe he’d feel like Slughorn, and want to get out ASAP.) McGonagall tells him off for trying to back out, and while it’s fair for her to inform him that he needs to decide where he stands, you really can’t blame him for being terrified and reticent to do so. In addition, McGonagall tells him that she and everyone else will straight up murder any Slytherin students who stand in their way.

Okay, again, they are at WAR in all caps, full stop. And this is potentially the end of that war, and things are dire as they’re ever going to be. McGonagall needs to be honest, and needs to encourage any Death Eater-sympathizing students to stay out of the way. If she tells Slughorn this, she knows he will relay that information, as Horace Slughorn is not the kind of guy who would want those kids to get hurt. On the other hand… that is just about the coldest thing I’ve ever heard. Way to bring the reality of this situation out into the very ugly light of day. (In addition, there’s the problem of how Slytherin House is handled here overall, which we’ll get into in the upcoming chapters.) That said, I’m so glad Slughorn is there for the Slytherins. Snape certainly can’t be, and they deserve to have someone around with their best interests at heart.

Can I talk about how the statues and armor coming to life always makes me cry? It does. Buckets. Hogwarts protecting its kids, the teachers protecting the kids, the school physically taking on that burden. Destroys me every single time. I might have mentioned before in some fashion that I’m actually a big fan of anthropomorphizing homes in fiction, which is absolutely a thing in SFF—spaceships and castles and old houses having spirits of a sort. It’s not everyone’s thing, but it’s definitely mine, and this is a pointed place where Hogwarts literally comes to life to defend the students.

We have to get into some Weasley family drama before this whole thing gets going because the entire family is in this fight, and it’s understandable that it’s terrifying. Because sure, the chance of the entire family dying here are slim, but having so many family members pretty much guarantees a higher probability of someone getting hurt. And while Molly’s terror at the thought of losing her only daughter and youngest child is fair, Ginny is also right—willingly going to sit at home and wait to hear word on everyone she cares about is not a kind thing to ask of anyone.

And then Percy bursts in on the scene, and whatever his flaws, you have to love him in that moment. (You also have to wonder what this year has been like for him, given the atmosphere, and what he had to do to remain on the Ministry’s good side this entire time. It was an undoubtedly awful year for him to finally wake up.) Then you realize that Fred is the one who teases him here, and Fred is the one who shakes his hand, and this is important because these are some of the last words they will ever speak to each other. Much harder to read when you know what’s coming.

On the other hand, Remus and Fleur are perfect, and the most-unsubtle people in the world.

We get a quick word about the bathroom that Harry doesn’t get yet, and then we see Voldemort at the gates. The Battle of Hogwarts is about to begin.

Emily Asher-Perrin is crying about statues though, wow, that’s great. You can bug her onTwitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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