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Loose Canon:

Well, okay. I’ve reworked and split this essay. And I still haven’t been able to work myself up to doing a full reread of DHs. I truly am not ready to read that book again yet. Or possibly ever.

The bulk of the previous iteration of this essay has been moved over into the ‘Post-Mortem’ essay, in which I try, as much as possible, to confine myself to examining the writing as writing. This article is the one in which I examine the writing as story.

There are just far too many places where the story simply does not hold together.

Not that this is confined to DHs. There were all kinds of bits of story which didn’t add up before Rowling even told us what the final book in the series was going to be called.

Quite a few of these get raked over in some of the other essays in the collection as well. But I think they they need a bit closer examination here.

First off: from an old interview there was that statement that we should expect to discover that Harry’s parents’ line of work was “important”. We did indeed expect to. We did not, however, ever discover any such thing.

Until HBP came out, I was beginning to doubt that we would discover anything of the sort. Although I was still inclined to hedge my bets. It’s obvious that a number of bits of information had been deliberately kept back for the last book. And this could have turned out to be one of them. Certainly as regards to Lily. We’d been tacitly promised another bombshell there.

In the event there was never a peep as to what the Potters ever did that was of any importance whatsoever. Apart from dying. In fact, the Potters (both of them) have been reduced to a pair of snotty, stuck-up, useless young berks. Rowling has since bounced a rather silly plot bunny at us concerning their activities post-Hogwarts, which i refuse to adopt, and it was never shown in the books, nor does it add up to anything we have been told there. The most that can be said is that it does not absolutely contradict anything obvious. “What the Potters did” is simply not in the series.

I had considered that it’s possible that while Rowling still kept to her main plot outline, this issue was something out on a secondary thread that had been snipped, like the Weasley cousin. We that might have still discovered what James, or Lily did for a living (it now appears that Petunia was absolutely right, and they were both unemployed). But I doubted that this information would turn out to be anything that would be required for solving the problems which we knew had been set for the last installment of the adventure.

Second: we have myriad timeline glitches. Such as Albus’s perishing “11 years”. Dumbledore makes this statement toward the end of the first chapter of PS/SS in response to Minerva’s fussing over the excessive jubilation attendant upon the fall of the Dark Lord. He points out that “We’ve had precious little to celebrate for eleven years.” He goes on to underline the matter by stating on the following page that for eleven years he has been trying to persuade people to call He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named by his proper name, Voldemort. (Never mind that his proper name is “Tom Riddle”. We don’t find that out until the end of Book 2. In retrospect this ought really to have served as a warning that the author had little respect for the veracity of the information she would feed us, both on and off the page.)

IF these statements are indeed supposed to have been made on the evening of November 1, 1981, there is no other conclusion to be drawn but that Voldemort had been making a nuisance of himself for the past eleven years. The suggestion is that Voldemort had not been a discernible problem to greater wizarding Britain until eleven years previously, or, some time around 1970.

This time the problem appears to have been one of perception and interpretation. I think that we can now conclude that Albus’s eleven years only refers to the period of time that Voldemort had been regarded as unmentionable. There is nothing in either statement to suggest just how long he had been a problem.

In HBP we were given the new evidence of Cornelius Fudge admitting, in the summer of 1996, saying that the Ministry of Magic had been trying to catch He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for “nearly 30 years”. This reckoning does allow for a period of just under a decade before Voldemort and the Death Eaters’ depredations upon the wizarding world became evident to anyone but Albus Dumbledore. Particularly if we assume that Fudge is including the 13 years that Voldemort was out of commission in this total.

But the whole period of Voldemort’s first rise does NOT translate out to 11 years, from the vantage point of 1981. It just doesn’t. That is only the period that no one would speak of him. Not the time that no one had learned of him. After all everyone demonstrably does know exactly who is meant by the phrase; “You-Know-Who”.

Third: JKR was apparently still building on our original interpretation of the rise-of-Voldemort-in-1970 storyline in PoA when she has Remus Lupin drop his maybe-clue that it wasn’t thought that he would be able to attend Hogwarts, and then Albus became Headmaster (i.e., in the nick of time) and made it all possible. When we were given the information on the Black family tapestry sketch, we were pretty sure that the Marauder cohort first went up to Hogwarts in the Autumn of 1969, but before that point we thought it was probably ’70.

However, now that Rowling has endorsed the Lexicon’s 1960 birth date for the Marauder cohort, it is clear that it does not work after all. If born in 1960 the Marauders would have started Hogwarts in 1971. Not 11, but 10 years earlier, from the vantage point of November 1981.

And Minerva’s earlier statement in OotP that she had been teaching “39 years this December” had already derailed this particular train of evidence. Implying that Albus had in fact been appointed Headmaster in January 1957. Our glimpse of the snow falling outside the window when Voldemort congratulated him on the appointment and asked for the DADA position supported this, as did the information that Tom had only been absent from the wizarding world for a decade after his disappearance not too long after he had finished school. We know that he finished school in the class of 1945.

But Minerva’s statement does not absolutely establish the date that Albus became Headmaster, since the real missing piece in this particular puzzle was the date at which Riddle murdered Hepzibah Smith and absconded with the locket and the cup. And we do not have that date.

But he had certainly returned to the ww by the early 1960s.

At this point I do not see any compelling reason for why Rowling decided to shift the timeline — if she in fact did, and hadn't simply lost track of it. It would appear to me that Tom Riddle could have just as well been off on his own until 1970 and Minerva have been teaching for 25 years that December. But with the HBP addition of Galatia Merrythought into the puzzle and the recurrence of the (at that time) still unqualified factor of the Dark wizard Grindelwald, it seemed likely that Minerva’s date of hire is irrelevant anyway. 1945 could have merely been the year that Albus switched from teaching Transfiguration to teaching DADA.

But I would not have claimed that we would get any hint of Rowling’s reasons for any such change in Book 7. And I was halfway convinced that this really was a change. Not just a careless mistake.

Now, of course, it might be either.

Remus’s actual statement, however, can no longer be taken as evidence of anything more than the fact that he was probably not really aware of all the circumstances involved in the arrangements made for the purpose of permitting his attendance at Hogwarts.

And, of course as a possible hint that Remus Lupin is not the most reliable of information sources.

Fourth: also in PoA we have a statement made by Sirius Black that at the time the statement was made, at the end of Harry’s 3rd year, Voldemort had been in hiding “for 15 years.” This statement does not connect to any even remotely plausible scenario. Or at least not one for which we have any information. I have been recently informed by a correspondent that this statement has since been corrected in later editions of PoA to 12 years. If this is the case (and I have no reason to doubt it, I just haven’t got out to a bookstore to confirm the statement) the objection may be more or less dismissed, except as a rather stupid comment to have been made in the first place.

While it still stood, the statement would have been made the evening of June 6, 1994, postulating that Voldemort had gone into some form of hiding some two years before his defeat, right about when I believed the first Trelawney Prophecy may have been made. (Its earliest plausible date, in any case.)

In the wake of HBP I could see no way in which Lord Voldemort had not already been living as a fugitive “in hiding” for, at the very least, Albus’s “eleven years” prior to 1981, or — more probably — since his return to the wizarding world at the end of this 10-year exile. Which could be anything up to 20 years before Sirius claims he went into hiding. We’ve also got that “nearly 30 years” that Fudge claims that the Ministry has been attempting to capture him to be considered as well. Wasn't he hiding then?

One has to admit that if one dismisses the 12 years that Voldemort had been absent from Sirius’s reckoning, and reading it as stating that the Dark Lord had been dodging the law for 15 (or 12) years before his defeat at Godric’s Hollow, and Fudge was including the period of Voldemort’s absence in his total, then the numbers just about match. But if Rowling had meant that, she ought to have phrased it differently! She is marketing this to 9-year-olds, after all. And kids can count. All these screwy reckonings are just too convoluted by half.

Fifth: we’ve also got Sirius’s later statement that at some point during his first rise Lord Voldemort suddenly “revealed” his “true goals” and everyone, even his own supporters, was appalled. This statement was not made until early in OotP but it now seems to connect to nothing. Indeed, this is another statement that makes no sense inside the story whatsoever. Or at least not in the manner that Sirius implies it. On the face of it, it appears to set up us up for the tragedy of the murder of Regulus Black on Voldemort’s orders. However, in the wake of DHs we find that not only was Regulus Black not murdered on anyone’s orders, but that absolutely nothing that Sirius had to say about his death turns out to have been supported by the “official version” that we were later given by Kreachur.

From some of his other statements, we could once reasonably be able to postulate that there was a point wherein the social and political conditions of the ww during the last years of Voldemort’s first rise had reached such a state that formerly Ministry-supporting persons from the social factions that had produced the bulk of Voldemort’s followers (which, remember, still only consisted of 5–6 dozen actual Death Eaters, tops) might very well have found themselves being gradually forced into opposition to the policies and practices of the Ministry of Magic. In fact, now finding themselves strongly disapproving of the measures that the Ministry was taking to address the threat posed by Lord Voldemort.

Particularly since the fact that those particular factions were known to have produced so many of the enemy’s followers might have ensured that many of their members were being subjected to Ministry suspicion, unjustly. And we already know that the Ministry policies toward the end of the VoldWar I were to shoot first and make excuses later. Innocent people were being scapegoated.

But we get absolutely no indication that Voldemort himself was out in public holding rallies and addressing crowds, and trying to gain popular support — or making any kind of public statement at all. Not if the Ministry had identified him as a terrorist leader and has been trying to catch him for nearly 30 years, as of the summer of ’96. He was an outlaw. Period. Not an “opposition leader”. Nobody who wasn’t already one of his marked Death Eaters had probably ever actually met him, or heard what he had to say on any subject whatsoever. All of his recruitment was strictly through word-of-mouth, passed by his followers to their own families and the people they thought could be useful, and in whose discretion they could feel confident. His assumed “message” was whatever they chose to represent it as.

And then Rowling had no better sense than to try to float the statement that; “ha, ha, fooled you all!” and tried to retrofit the “opposition leader” scenario back into the picture with Regulus Black’s fanboy scrapbooks — which I find flatly unbelievable. There were no scrapbooks. The history that she gave us in HBP, from Fudge’s statement in Chapter 1 to the official Riddle backstory, does not admit the possibility of there being any such scrapbooks. Either Book 6 is a lie from start to finish, or it is Book 7 that is the lie. I know which view I find earlier to accept. But the end result is to conclude that Rowling's approach to storytelling is inherently dishonest.

But we’re the ones who are left having to try to piece together something that functions as a story. Well, know that some of Riddle’s followers are totally delusional. And most of the rest were deliberately deceived. And it has been borne in on us over the course of the series that the bulk of his recruitment drive was being presented by schoolchildren to schoolchildren.

But all of this is still merely a retrofit to try to bring the underlying incompatibility of Sirius Black’s statements into compliance with what we later learned in HBP about the official Riddle backstory. And Sirius Black’s original statement postulates a turning point in Voldemort’s first rise that I just cannot now believe ever actually took place.

Sirius Black wasn’t a Death Eater. He wasn’t one of Albus’s spies. He’d been out of touch with his own family for close to 5 years when he was sent to Azkaban. He wasn’t in a position to actually know what was happening inside the Death Eater organization. He was making sweeping statements off the top of his head about matters that he hadn’t got a clue about.

If he had this habit of shooting off his mouth in such a manner before his arrest, perhaps it isn’t so astonishing after all that a lot of people believed he had actually been involved with the DEs.

But I no longer believe that Voldemort ever made any grand revelation to his followers which gave them a sudden horror of what they had signed up for. I think that it is much more likely that some of them, like Regulus bought the package on what Voldemort was all about on Bellatrix’s say-so (or that of one of Tom’s other “recruiters”). Reggie signed up, and fairly quickly discovered that Bella was a maniac, and when the Dark Lord’s fun and games swung round to using him and his House Elf as the target, he realized that he’d trapped himself.

Sixth: we’ve got Remus’s absurd statement that “last time” Voldemort’s forces outnumbered the Order “20 to 1”.

Well, Voldemort was turning out to have once had more forces to call upon than we had heard about by the end of OotP. And he was gradually bringing some of them back online. But it’s still an overstatement. Viewed factually, that is.

The Order of the Phoenix consists of a couple of dozen people. Possibly more than that originally. Over the 2 years that the Order is known to have been active they had a high casualty rate, thanks to Pettigrew. They’ve picked up a number of new ones for this round. But there are still around a couple of dozen.

Voldemort had about 50–60 Death Eaters. He could also call upon something under 100 Giants (although I doubt there ever were more than about five actually on call), an undetermined number of werewolves (once a month) and that he maintained an “army” of Inferi. Since I suspect that the “army” of Inferi probably didn’t outnumber the Death Eaters, that doesn’t really look to me like 20 to 1 even if he called them all out at once on the night of a full moon.

Even when you factor in an undetermined number of Imperio’ed puppets. Which would certainly pad his numbers in an actual fight.

And in the first time round he didn’t have the Dementors. If he did I absolutely cannot see the Ministry turning Azkaban back over them after the first defeat at Godric’s Hollow. Even Fudge isn’t that foolish.

What makes a lot more sense to me is that during VoldWar I, Order members were being attacked by largish groups on an individual basis.

It’s not that difficult to be outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts) if there are only one or two of you, and you have been ambushed.

Remus does make a reference to the Order members being picked off “one-by-one”. That fits.

And for that matter, how many “hit wizards” and Aurors does the DMLE employ? I doubt it added up to 100.

But Voldemort didn’t quite have the same forces this time. He has fewer Death Eaters. He’s spun the Inferi off to guard his favorite Horcrux. At the end of HBP, close to 1 in 4 of his old troops had either been captured or killed. And we can’t really count on his having managed to reel in ALL the potential ones who have finished school since his defeat at Godric’s Hollow. In fact we cannot even count on his having reeled in any of them.

There just aren’t as many Giants. (And he ended up with no more than two of them in the end.)

There probably are more werewolves (how many must Greyback and his pack have created over the last dozen years?), but they are still only really useful once a month, and while transformed they’re as dangerous to the DEs as they are to everyone else — and they’d now lost their leader.

We now know where he kept the Inferi. If Harry would pull his head out and tell somebody, they could clear that nest out right now. In fact, Harry could have reasonably trusted that piece of information to Scrimgeour and let the Ministry get the glory of having actually done something productive for a change. (Or trade the information for turning Stan Shunpike loose — although the more I think about it, the more likely it seems to me that Shunpike had been recruited. He was in a good position to pass information on peoples’ movements.)

However; as I say, I don’t think we’d ever gotten any indication that the last time round he had the Dementors.

The Ministry would hardly have taken them back and trusted them up through OotP if he had.

I wasn’t altogether convinced that he really had the Dementors now.

They’d left Azkaban.

They were roaming around at large and attacking people.

And Voldemort clearly found this very helpful.

But I doubted that it was exactly on his orders.

I didn’t think the Dementors were taking orders from anyone these days.

****

But, still, even with all of the screwiness and contradictions in HBP, after she left us alone with it for a couple of years, to look at it from different angles, and to chew on it, and to digest it a bit, the fact is that some of us had managed to sort it out into a configuration that just about made sense.

And then she dropped DHs on us. And our list of things to quibble over expanded exponentially.

And more than five years further down the track, DHs is still completely indigestible. There is no nutritional value there.

If Rowling had deliberately sat down and asked herself; “Now. How many of my previously-stated ‘rules’ can I break in the course of this book, just to wind people up?” she could have hardly bettered the performance.

I’m not going to go into the characters, who suddenly started acting either like aliens to themselves, or like cartoons, or to fret unduly about why the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1692 is suddenly moved forward to 1689. But there is something seriously off about the caliber of the reasoning deployed to deliver the story. And all sorts of things that have suddenly been sprung upon us seem to have been abruptly sprung upon us for no purpose.

For example: why the hell didn’t we know who Charity Burbage was? Hermione sat in her class through all of Year 3, Rowling couldn’t once have dropped the name; “Professor Burbage” in passing, so we might have at least recognized it, and the woman wouldn’t have come across as a complete redshirt?

This is the kind of thing that convinces me that Rowling doesn’t have a scrap of respect for her characters, and doesn’t give a damn about any of them. They’re all just little Imperiused puppets to her.

And then there is the skewed logic that doesn’t even seem to try to hold together.

Example: that whole exciting decoy flight from #4 Privet drive was supposedly forced upon us because with the suspected infiltration of the Ministry, if Potter had used the Floo network or Apparated, the Ministry (and the infiltrating DEs) would “have him”. We are directly informed of this in Chapter 1.

In Chapter 11, however, we are told — just as directly — that it is impossible to track someone who has Apparated unless you grab hold of them as they do it without their knowing. Or in other words you can only track a Disapparating wizard by latching on and following him. (And taking a major risk of splinching since he isn’t preparing to Apparate you.)

This was obviously done to set us up for the fact that one of the DEs would do exactly that and force them out of their refuge at #12.

Only, now it raises the question of why Harry couldn’t have Apparated side-along to the Weasleys’ with an Order member from some other location. Mrs Figg’s house perhaps. No one could have grabbed hold of them to track them. Not unless there was a DE in an invisibility cloak hiding in her sitting room. Or one of them is a cat Animagus.

And besides. It’s portkeys that the Ministry authorizes. The Ministry issues Apparation licenses, but it doesn’t oversee Apparation.

Although Magical reversal squads supposedly are alerted in the case of splinching. Or are they? Why didn’t a magical reversal squad respond to Ron’s splinching?

For that matter why couldn’t Harry have simply left with the Dursleys and gone with them to a neutral point somewhere well away from #4 and side-alonged with someone else when the Dursleys did? If it was safe for them why wouldn’t it be safe for him? I seriously doubt that anyone sitting in a Ministry office could be able to tell who was being side-alonged when someone else is Apparating. Even if there is a master log of Apparations. And if there is, why didn’t anyone ever compare it with the dates of the DE’s known activities in the past? Presumably the log records who is doing the Apparating by name? And if it records destination, (or departure point) why didn’t someone send Aurors to the identified site to arrest them?

At most Thicknesse only was monitoring #4 itself. They could have gotten away from there easily enough. That whole trip wasn’t even necessary. It was as illogical and contrived and poorly planned as something I would expect from a fanficer who was still in High School. And a lot of fanficers in High School could have come up with something a good deal more convincing.

Why not send Hedwig off the day before, with a letter to Professor McGonagall to tell her that he will not be back in the fall, and would she keep Hedwig until further notice? Get the bird out of the way with an innocuous message that would give nothing significant away, that the DEs would just read and let continue on its way, and get rid of the silliness of half a dozen people escaping from #4 with stuffed birds in cages.

(Answer: since Rowling had nothing for the bird to do in this story, she had to either kill her or make other arrangements. She decided could manage some additional cheap tear-jerking by killing her. Why couldn’t Hedwig have earned her keep at the Weasleys’? I doubt that Errol is still around. For that matter, why couldn’t Ginny take Hedwig to Hogwarts?)

And so long as we still are escaping from Privet Drive: we were told years ago in ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ that there is no spell or charm which will enable a wizard to fly unassisted. And yet during the escape, we see Tom Riddle flying around like Superman. What’s up with that?

No. I’m sorry. I just don’t believe it.

To say nothing of Harry Potter and His Amazing Auto-Wand, which more properly belongs in the second of the balognium essays, below.

(Or the grazing Thestral. We know they like fresh meat, but they also were foraging in rubbish bins in London. They probably eat anything. A pity that Hagrid, who used them for a lesson, didn’t bother to tell us so. Still, a creature with fangs is not really likely to graze.)

****

We are also expected to believe that the Harry who mended Demelza Roberts’s split lip from a collision in Quidditch practice without problems in HBP suddenly doesn’t know how to heal wounds by Chapter 2 in DHs.

Or (all together now) the brilliant Hermione Granger who can rewrite her own parents personal histories and pack them off to Australia by chapter 6, and yet claims she doesn’t know any memory spells a handful of chapters later. This is one of the reasons I am convinced the book wasn’t actually edited at all. This would have been an easy fix. She could have truthfully claimed that she didn’t know Obliviate. You don’t create a whole new history for someone with an Obliviate.

****

Plus, we have finally had the “Dark wizard Grindelwald” brought up in (well, it’s Skeeter, so you can’t exactly call it polite) conversation. We have now officially even been informed of Albus Dumbledore’s “spectacular” duel with Gellert Grindelwald. It’s about time.

Only; excuse me? A supposed “war” with the Dark wizard who has allegedly conquered most of Eastern Europe is settled in a single, two wizard, one-on-one duel?

You know, I would have thought that he’d have had, oh, something like an army to support him in this so-called war. Am I being unreasonable here?

Is that how wizarding wars are traditionally fought? The two sides each pick a champion and they just duke it out between the two of them? And everyone just agrees to accept the outcome? Nobody on the losing side goes on fighting?

Or had Grindelwald’s bid for world dominance already failed, and it was just that nobody could capture him or convince him to turn himself in?

For five years?

That’s how long people had been begging one of the local High School teachers to come and solve their foreign wars problem for them. Single-handedly, evidently. (What is wrong with this picture?)

I mean, extrapolate that into people nagging McGonagall (whose time at school certainly overlapped his before Rowling pulled another; “Ha, ha, fooled you!” and suddenly jettisoned her statement that McGonagall was about 70 at the end of GoF, and, out of left field, rewrote her history to post on Pottermore retrofitting her a couple of decades younger) to solve their Tom Riddle problem and see how well it plays. The whole concept is just so wrong on so many levels it makes my brain hurt.

****

I will have to admit that Rowling did manage to surprise me once in DHs. It was in Chapter 2. And it was a straightforward “Fool me twice, shame on me” moment, too. It was about the last time that anything in the book really surprised me, though.

But I did get suckered into the belief that after Harry had been triumphantly proved to be telling the truth over the course of OotP, that the Ministry would believe him at the end of HBP. The Prophet article with its insinuations that Harry had been seen running from the scene from which Dumbledore had fallen from the tower yanked the rug right out from under me. Rowling can still do it when she keeps things more or less in scale.

Of course it does raise the question of why no one accused Harry of murdering Cedric Diggory over the course of OotP. Which, if Voldemort had supposedly not returned — as the Ministry was claiming — is certainly the first alternative explanation one might have expected people to leap to. Particularly given that the DADA professor at that point had been teaching all of the Hogwarts students *Unforgivables* all year. And it would certainly have been an easy way to get him out of the picture if the Ministry chose to do it. Just bung him into Azkaban for murdering a fellow student and Bob’s your uncle...

Of course that would have brought the whole series to a screeching halt.

****

And next, in Chapter 6, Rowling subjects us to a shabby little attempt to rewrite HBP.

“Dumbledore was sure Riddle already knew how to make a Horcrux by the time he asked Slughorn about them.” Er, no Harry, he didn’t tell us — or you — that. Or at least not at any point in any conversation to which we were a party. He certainly wasn’t thinking that at the time Tom was asking about it, although he may have come to that conclusion later.

For that matter, Tom probably had already come across the book on creating a Horcrux before his conversation with Slughorn. But he didn’t come across it in the Hogwarts library.

Rowling clearly either doesn’t remember, or she wants us to forget that she already had Sluggy tell Tom that the subject of Horcruxes was banned by the time Tom was asking him about them, and to not mention their conversation to anyone, accordingly. I know what I read. And I can pick up HBP and read it again any time I please, because the conversation really is in there. And what Slughorn says is that Tom won’t find any references to Horcruxes in the Hogwarts library because the subject has been banned.

If Slughorn was being truthful in his statement that the subject had been banned, and that Tom would not find any further references to it in the Hogwarts library — and it is difficult to believe that he would be arbitrarily lying about something that could be so easily proved false — then the whole conversation in DHs of how Tom had managed to get hold of the forbidden book before Albus removed it from the library is completely out in left field. If the subject of Horcruxes had already been banned by the time Tom was asking about it — which was well before Albus became Headmaster, and Albus really had the authority to remove it from the library himself, then either Albus had ramrodded the issue through despite any protests from Dippett (although why anyone would have raised objections to banning that subject is also debatable, surely it would only be of use to someone who was trying to destroy one, and you don't leave that job to schoolchildren — or do you?), or the whole staff had agreed to the suppression of that subject. In any event, unless Sluggy is lying, the book had already been removed from the library. Given what we now know about Albus, I certainly wouldn't have put it beyond him to have removed it and stowed it in the Room of Hidden Things without Dippett’s knowledge. But I don’t seriously think that he had. The subject had been banned. The book had been removed. Rowling is trying to cut corners and deny what she has already written, because what she had written was now inconvenient. Not for the last time, either.

If Albus had successfully agitated to get the subject banned, and this campaign took place before he became Headmaster, then it would not have been Albus, but Professor Dippett upon whose authority the books were removed from the library. And I am not convinced that Dippet would have simply handed them over to Albus for safekeeping. In fact he could hardly have done that if Tom had somehow managed to get hold of them anyway.

I am unsure of just what Rowling meant to accomplish by this attempt to pretend that she had not really written what she clearly did write. Because it would appear to serve no purpose other than to confuse the issue, and anger those readers who object to being blatantly and disingenuously lied to.

Because she did eventually also make a point of giving us the information that Tom did know about the Room of Hidden Things, even if she waited until nearly the end of the book to do it. That information, even given so much later, renders the whole issue of who had managed to get hold of the book when, unnecessary.

The obvious line of reasoning is that Albus raised a stink about the subject being accessible to the students. Dippett agreed to this, and banned it, removing any book on the subject to the Room of Hidden Things (he certainly didn’t want them in his office), burying them in there among centuries of other banned subjects and materials. Slughorn told Tom the subject was banned, and Tom, who if he hadn’t found the information already, almost certainly already knew about the Room of Hidden Things — having probably charmed the information out of one of the Hogwarts ghosts — went there to collect the references he was looking for. Probably with a simple “Accio”, as later Hermione did. He returned the book(s) when he was finished with them, and some years later when Albus was appointed Headmaster, and had reason to start mulling over what Tom had been up to, he retrieved the books and removed them to his own study where they would be even less likely to be found by a student. By then of course it was already far too late.

Which renders Harry’s claim that Sluggy had not said, what we all can go back and read that he had said, an authorial lie to no purpose whatsoever — other than to make us aware that the author is lying.

****

The other unnecessary issue raised in that particular conversation was to insert the question of how the Diary had managed to possess Ginny, and to extend this principle to all Horcruxes. This added confusion by complicating another issue which did not require it.

We had already been told in HBP (and had it implied to us several books earlier) that the Diary was designed as a weapon. This made it unique among Horcruxes. In fact Albus claimed in HBP that the fact that the Diary was designed as a weapon as well as a Horcrux made it particularly disturbing.

But if any Horcrux will reach out and take possession of whoever is in contact with it, what is so uniquely disturbing about the fact that the Diary reached out and took possession of Ginny Weasley? Isn't that now just what Horcruxes do?

It all worked much more smoothly when the other Horcruxes were merely inert safeguards against death, and the Diary was somehow something worse. For one thing it would have not raised the question of whether Dolores Umbridge had been acting under any prompting other than her own general nastiness from being in contact with the Locket over the previous year.

Yes, that’s right. Umbridge had been in contact with the Locket for something like a year. Mundungus Fletcher had stolen it from the house before Harry sent Kreachur off to the Hogwarts kitchens the summer previously. The Diary had eaten up Ginny Weasley within about three months.

We were given no indication that Umbridge had been possessed, after all, and if Rowling was going to gratuitously raise that possibility it is a question that ought certainly to have at least been asked.

Although I have to admit that this issue raises some absolutely *fascinating* possibilities related to the question of why Tom Riddle found that he didn’t want to go on wearing the Ring after he turned it into a Horcrux. Particularly when you stop and think of what that ring was capable of before he gave it an interactive interface.

Tom Riddle doesn’t LIKE to be visited by echoes of the dead, you know. We saw that in the Little Hangleton graveyard...

If Rowling had resisted the impulse, we would have also been spared that incredibly lame replay of Frodo and Sam and the One Ring over the course of the endless camping trip. That was something else that was completely unnecessary. And while I am sure that fans of Christopher Lee and Vincent Price heartily enjoyed the little production of “The Last Temptation of Ron B. Weasley”, I will have to admit that I found that to be cheesy and unnecessary as well.

e.g., Isn’t “Return of the King’ the volume of LOTR that Rowling claims she never finished? Maybe if you cannot finish a book it isn’t the best source of elements to lift and insert into your own stories.

****

I’m not sure I buy that Albus deliberately let his legacies to the trio pass through Ministry hands, but I suppose we’ll just have to accept it. But, really, with both the Hogwarts Staff and the Order at his command, and knowing he was going to be dead by the end of the year, you would think he could have found some rather more trusted messenger.

And of course we wouldn’t have needed the utter nonsense of learning that the school’s athletic equipment possesses “flesh memory”, in that case. How ever would we have coped without knowing that?

****

And of course we all had to wait until all three of the trio were legally adults to learn that wizards have their own children’s tales. She just couldn’t introduce that novel concept in Book 1. Oh nooooo...

****

Which brings us to the wedding.

I will admit that it is rather fun to note that Luna recognized Harry immediately despite Polyjuice.

From the description, one wonders whether the Weasley’s Aunt Muriel is related to Irma Pince. (One of the people online insisted that Aunt Muriel had shown up at her wedding. This comment was met by the sally that Aunt Muriel shows up at everybody’s wedding.)

*sigh* Maths. Elphias Doge claimed in the obituary he wrote for Albus that he had left on the Grand Tour alone, after Kendra’s funeral, and returned later to find that his friend had sustained another tragedy. Now he is claiming to have attended Ariana’s funeral which was two months after Kendra’s.

And infodumps galore.

Oh, I get it. Scrimgeour is supposed to be our token example of how a character can be on the right side without being nice. Or even particularly good. As well as being rather hateful. Nice to finally have that clear.

****

Finally! Finally, (even if we aren’t told about it for several more chapters) we get a rational justification for why people might reasonably be reluctant to mention Lord Voldemort by name.

Of course the reason was never valid until the DEs actually took over the Ministry, since he needed the Ministry’s full resources before he would be able to impose it, and he never seems to have come close to taking over the Ministry during his first rise. But I just guess everyone was getting into practice against the day he would...

Er, Moody? Would you explain to me how subjecting Snape (or anyone else) to a tongue-tying curse is supposed to slow down a master of nonverbal magic? Any master of nonverbal magic? That’s standard sixth year curriculum, after all.

Which reminds me. What happened to nonverbal spellcasting? Wasn’t that supposed to be somehow important? Everyone in this book appears to have forgotten that lesson.

And an Albus-boggart/surrogate seems a very lame security measure.

Also; Moody’s dead. His spells are still working? What is that supposed to tell us?

Maths again? Or a little hint that being dead hasn’t crimped Albus’s style when it comes to lying? Lily’s letter states that James is getting antsy about Albus not having returned his cloak by the time they held Harry’s first birthday tea. At King’s Cross Albus claims to have borrowed it only “a few days” before the Potters were killed.

Or is this just a hint that no one bothered to edit the manuscript at all?

****

Kreachur’s Tale.

Oh ghod, of all the irrational stupidity. It’s small wonder the Black family is all but extinct.

So, let me get this straight: Regulus boasted, in writing, of his intention to destroy the Locket, then suicided (unnecessarily, since it sounds like he didn’t have to die. Kreachur could have taken him home to recover) in a grand gesture, in order to to steal it, and made no attempt to destroy it whatsoever. Leaving it up to his House Elf to actually perform that task.

Yup. Sorted too soon, all right.

****

And we’ve lost track of the timeline again. Kreachur certainly spoke with “Miss Cissy” back in OotP, but “Miss Bella” was still in Azkaban until after Kreachur returned to #12. The break-out wasn’t until the end of the Christmas break. And Kreachur had turned up at #12 again by then.

And of course the DEs posted out in the square looking at the house and not seeing it, have shown up because people inside the house have been talking about Voldemort. Nothing to do with Snape at all. (If Snape had told them about #12 they would have seen it. Nobody remembers that.)

The Trace: which evidently cannot be placed upon an adult. So will someone please explain to me why having the Trace — signaling underage magic — go off in the Riddles’ sitting room should send Morfin Gaunt to Azkaban? Morfin is well beyond the age of setting off the Trace. (This one was pointed out to me by a correspondent. Thank you very much.) I guess the Trace somehow wasn’t in use in ’42. Despite it's being in response to legislation adopted in the 19th century.

****

And it was at this point, the point that Remus was delivering his infodump on the fall of the Ministry, that I was thrown out of the story completely. I never properly got all the way back in.

“Voldemort is playing a very clever game.”

No he isn’t. There is nothing clever about this pot of bilge.

Political coups simply do not take place in a week without protest.

How stupid does this author think I am?

I flatly don’t believe it. Any of it. That is not what happened.

This is no longer a “story”. This is a dirty lie.

****

Oh, what’s the use?

I don’t believe this book. I don’t want to believe this book. This book is a bloody insult. It is a 759-page “fuck you” note.

It isn’t just a case of the characters all succumbing to idiot plot disease (i.e., the plot only works if someone, or everyone, starts acting like idiots) but that the explanations for what actually happen don’t make sense according to rules which either she already set up, or which are intrinsic to the nature of the elements she chose to use to facilitate it.

Voldemort stuffs a giant snake into a corpse to have it masquerade as an old woman, and the snake is able to make the corpse walk bipedaly. Now how is that supposed to work? What is this, Tom Riddle and his amazing trained walking snake? Since when does a snake understand how to operate limbs? And don't tell me it was the Horcrux inside the snake doing it, either. If it had to be done magically (and a lot of luck doing it any other way) Tom has already groused to us about the fact that snakes can't handle wands. Not even when you are possessing them.

(And how long was that poor snake stuck in a corpse, in a village, waiting for Harry Potter to show up? It’s winter. With snow on the ground. What’s keeping the snake awake? Someone report this to the RSPCA.)

And the snake can see, or at least sense H&H through the Cloak, too (Along with Moody, Albus and Peeves, real fine protection there). No explanation for that of course.

Unless Rowling just suddenly remembered that it is supposed to be a snake, and that snakes have amazing senses of smell.

While we’re at it, We are directly told that none of the snakes that Tom had possessed in Albania lived very long afterwards, and Quirrel was dying before Tom had held him for a year. Helloooooo, making a snake a Horcrux is a *permanent* form of possession. Why is the snake still alive four years later. We’re forced to make an exception for Harry, but I’ll be damned if I'm going to strain myself making one for the snake.

So now we have a cold-blooded snake staking out a graveyard, in the snow, until someone just happens to show up to visit the Potters’ grave, and hurrying home to put on her Bathilda disguise and hobble out to intercept the visitors at the Potter house. What if they had gone to the house first?

Snape’s Patronus is a silver doe in honor of the woman who rejected him and whom he inadvertently got killed. Er, would somebody please explain to me how this constitutes “a single, very HAPPY memory”? This is Snape we’re talking about, not Bellatrix. Or Umbridge.

(We couldn’t have seen the Deluminator in action even once since Book 1 Chapter 1?)

Oh, wonderful. Voldemort now not only can fly like Superman, he can force himself through an arrow-slit window “...like a snake and landed, lightly as vapor, inside the cell-like room—” Well, of course it’s “cell-like”. This is a prison, and it’s a CELL. Is that supposed to sound dramatic? It doesn’t. What is this story? Who is this villain? Did somebody rip out a few pages of ‘Dracula’ and stick them in here by mistake? (Well, it certainly was a mistake, even if it was done on purpose.) Will Tom be crawling down the outside of the tower — head first — next?

Ta-daa!! Harry manages to capture himself by speaking The Name, which breaks all protective spells. Er, how many times did Harry say the forbidden name while they were all staying in #12, again? This tracing spell was already a factor back then. It’s presumably how the DEs got onto them so fast in Tottenham Court Road, after all. You can’t even tell us that speaking the name demolishes all protective spells except Fidileus and pretend to be making sense can you?

Excuse me, but Wormtail’s own silver hand strangles him for failing to kill Harry Potter? I thought the whole point was that none of the DEs were supposed to kill Harry Potter? That Voldemort needed to do it himself.

Oh. Now Snape is flying through the air like Superman, too. Isn’t that just wonderful. It’s not even something that we merely have to politely avert our eyes from because it’s Riddle. Maybe he’ll be the one crawling down the outsides of buildings, head first next.

The Snape-shaped hole in the window? Oh, Puh-leez! I don’t know where Rowling’s dittoheads get the nerve to kick such up a fuss when the people who are troubled by this book call it cartoonish. What division of Warner Bros. does Rowling think is going to be turning this into a movie? The animation division? Is Snape going to be played by Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote?

(Someone on the DHs sporking community on Lj has dubbed this whole book ‘Harry Potter and the Snape-Shaped Hole’. That kind of says it all, doesn’t it?)

(That DHs sporking community is greatly recommended for those who are likely to appreciate it. This essay barely scratches the surface of the awful that is DHs.)

Ron and Hermione reappear with their arms full of Basilisk fangs. Excuse me, but venomous snakes only have 2, count them, 2 fangs. Fangs are not just big pointy teeth.

Ron Weasley can suddenly mimic Parseltongue well enough to open a door, but not well enough for an actual Parselmouth (Harry) to understand the noise he makes as language? Right.

And I just cannot go any further with this. I’m sure there are additional examples in the last five chapters. But I have had all I can take. My brain hurts.

****

Although I have to admit I really appreciate the verdict of the “list mom” one of the discussion boards I hang out on. She says; “This is my favorite book in the series! It’s so messed-up we can talk about it for YEARS!”

And y’know what? We have.