Item 1: Revisiting Book 3
At the end of HBP I had to admit to being rather hopeful of the pattern that Rowling appeared to have established for the last three books of her series, in which she would allegedly repeat the themes and actions of the first three books. I was also fairly hopeful about the multiple indications that the events of Book 7 might be expected to reflect the events of Book 3. Most of us liked Book 3. The real question was; how much could we depend upon this. Because it seemed to me that the salient point of the conclusion of PoA was that nobody and nothing died of it. Rowling had already publicly claimed that this was not going to be the case with DHs. And, indeed, with Voldemort in the equation it could hardly be so. But in fact, we do not know of a single death that took place during PoA.
And the final climax of that book was not about the destroying of things but the rescuing of them.
Earlier in the book, Scabbers was believed to have been killed. But he wasn’t. He faked it.
MUCH earlier in the story, Peter Pettigrew was believed to have been killed. But he wasn’t. He faked it.
The Fat Lady really was attacked, but she got away, frightened, but unhurt. Her canvas needed repairs, but she was all right.
Buckbeak was condemned, and scheduled for execution, but he escaped.
And Harry’s primary decisions at the final show-down were to forgive the traitor and to preserve the innocent.
He braved the willow and followed the Grim to rescue Ron.
He couldn’t force himself to kill Crookshanks, even though that meant sparing Sirius Black. (Whom he “hated more than Voldemort” — sound familiar, much?)
He quite deliberately and voluntarily spared Pettigrew, who, by then, he knew had betrayed him and his parents to Lord Voldemort.
He then went on to put considerable effort into saving Buckbeak AND Sirius Black.
And, in reward for this, he managed to connect with the one part of James Potter which still lived on within himself — which is the only part that still mattered.
And he couldn’t have saved himself, or his friends, if he had not done so. They would have never made it from the Willow back to he castle if he hadn’t.
So how much of this could we really expect to see transposed to Book 7?
(Query: how much did Sirius Black owe the cosmic balance for his part in the original werewolf caper? And to whom? For, from what we knew at the time, it certainly sounded like he wronged just about everyone involved in that stunt except Pettigrew. Did he ever repay that cosmic debt? Did he repay it by spending 12 years in Azkaban, or did his debt require that additional year immured in the Black family hell and a quick trip through the Veil?)
Item 2: Book 7 = Book 3?
For that matter; once we’d had some time to think about the situation, it was fun to kick around some possibilities. They couldn’t all be wrong.
HRH might find the Ravenclaw or Gryffindor relic (assuming there was one) in the ruins at Godric’s Hollow, and Harry would destroy it and nothing whatsoever would happen. It hadn’t been a Horcrux after all. Tom never got the chance to turn it into a Horcrux. This throws them into an in-depth discussion about the relics, and someone would finally remember the Locket at Grimmauld place.
Next stop Grimmauld Place.
Rowling’s answer to a FAQ poll that the death of the Secret Keeper “freezes” the status of the secret at the point it was when that death occurs, which denied us the dramatic possibilities of Harry returning to Grimmauld Place to find that he has uninvited guests.
Always spoiling our fun, she is...
(ETA: and she spoiled it even more by rewriting the rules and trying to amp up the “drama” by trying to convince us that he might still get uninvited guests. After having already set the stage up to disallow it. Not buying it Rowling! We know you’re talking through your hat.)
• • • •
Ah, well, let us move on.
The Locket will eventually turn up, but I suspected it would probably lead us all a merry dance through most of the book before it did. It would finally surface. But I was no longer convinced that it would do so in Kreachur’s nest. I suspected that would be altogether too easy, and, more to the point, give us no further leads.
I thought Harry might remember having seen Mundungus Fletcher and the silver goblets with the barman of the Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade.
Next stop Hogsmeade. (Unless Harry insisted on questioning Mundungus in Azkaban.)
We’d get another round of discussion on where things stand, this time possibly including Aberforth, who may by then have been outed as Albus’s brother, and partner in espionage, at least to HRH. Someone brings up the subject of Godric’s sword. Someone else finally remembers that the Hat was also Godric’s originally.
Off to Hogwarts (which is still closed) to question the Hat about where it got the sword. Possibly through the Honeydukes passage.
• • • •
At some point during the trio’s interview with the Hat something wakes the portraits of the ex-Headmasters/Headmistresses. Revelations ensue. Not enough of them, however. In any event Harry will learn something related to the founders via the Hat. Actually I always did think this or something like this would happen in Book 7. I thought it could be significant, but probably not as much as the fans would have liked.
In the meantime the Locket continues to evade us. We may even trip over the Cup unexpectedly before we catch up to the Locket.
In any case, once they do get hold of it, the Locket will turn out to be the real McCoy, and Harry will finally manage to get it open (probably by telling it to open up in Parseltongue. It was Slytherin’s, after all) and let the soul fragment out, without coming to any harm by it. That’s three down that we know of. If they’d already tripped over the Cup, four.
• • • •
Keeping the Book 7 = Book 3 parallels in mind, somewhere in the middle of the book the Cup may turn up à la the Firebolt. Which should be a considerable relief, even if it does throw everyone for a bit of a loop. Or what turns up may not be the Cup, but some other item of importance.
(ETA: it occurs to me that in the book we actually got, this was right about the point in the story that we were suddenly thrown the issue of those stupid Hallows.)
Somewhere in the stretch between Godric’s Hollow and Hogwarts they might get the clues they need to finally guess the identity of Horcrux #5, but the information won’t sink in for a while.
Conversely; #5 might only turn up in the final confrontation. I was beginning to suspect that Harry would be forced into the final face-off long before he was ready for it.
And that it might play well if at the showdown Harry should turn out to have custody of one of the last two Horcruxes and Voldemort the other.
(ETA: well, they did. Although the snake was slithering around a battlefield by that point.)
• • • •
At that point, we had no idea what Horcrux #5 might be, although Dr John Granger’s hypothesis that it was Voldemort’s wand sounded awfully tempting. Rowling had held back any real information on this one for Book 7. (ETA: considering the rewrite the Horcruxes were given which turned them all into One Ring clones, even if #5 had been a wand, it wouldn’t have been one that anyone would be using.)
Unless, of course, you wanted to make an argument for that extravagantly cursed silver-and-opal necklace that kept crossing our path. You probably could. (What happened to it btw?) It’s got a history attached to it. It’s got a fair degree of grandeur. We don’t know how long it was sitting in a display case at Borgin & Burkes. One could make a case for Tom having turned it into a Horcrux just before he decamped the first time, and given the curses on it nobody is likely to have wanted to get close enough to it to have subjected it to much examination. But I couldn’t really see him leaving one of his Horcruxes in a display case where it might be sold and he would lose track of it. Or a shop window, either.
In any case, if #5 wasn’t the wand, it would still probably turn out to be somewhere in Great Britain, and HRH will be able to track it down, and Harry would disarm it as well.
Or IT would be the item to play Firebolt. That was a possibility, too.
And if it was a wand, we may get some kind of information related to it from Mr Olivander who will turn out to have been living in hiding for the past year.
• • • •
By that point they would now be either 4 or 5 down, with only 1 (or 2) to go. And, in trying to figure out how they are supposed to get at the Snake, they FINALLY start asking themselves why Harry was able to destroy the rest of them without taking any hurt when even Dumbledore couldn’t manage that. And eventually they figure out that the last one isn’t the snake.
And there really just was no plausible explanation for Harry’s being a Parselmouth, or his connection to Voldemort without factoring in the probability of Harry being the unintended repository for one of Voldemort’s soul fragments.
So how do they get the last soul fragment out of Harry?
• • • •
Back to Hogwarts to interview the ghosts as to where the soul resides in a living person. Does it permeate the whole body, or reside in the heart, or the head, or where? The fragment is lodged in Harry’s forehead. (Probably embedded in his skull, right under the scar.)
Because the real “crux” of the matter is how do you disarm the 6th Horcrux if you are carrying the fragment around in your forehead.
And, one of the disadvantages of making a Horcrux from a living creature, is that living creatures die.
But, technically, the 6th Horcrux is Harry’s skull.
It will still be his skull even if he isn’t living.
Sacrificing himself by walking through the Veil, to bring his enemy down would certainly be one way to neutralize it.
Or — we were led to believe — standing there and letting Voldemort kill him should do it. This is the script that carries the biggest *bang* factor to most of the fans. But the problem with that solution is that it wouldn’t necessarily accomplish it.
Unless wizards routinely practice cremation — as was suggested by Dumbledore’s funeral pyre — Harry’s skull would still be left, safely buried, on this side of the Veil, so simply killing Harry wouldn’t automatically solve the problem.
And I wasn’t convinced that Rowling had the guts to pull this one, anyway.
(ETA: well, she did, just not for keeps.)
On the other hand, the fact that Voldemort didn’t intend for Harry to be a Horcrux means that there are probably no protective curses laid on that one. All it might take to get the soul fragment out of Harry would be to cut the scar open and let it out.
Or banish it with an exorcism.
(Which we do have reason to believe exists in the Potterverse. It was being discussed in relation to Peeves all the way back in Book 1.)
But, like I say, it turned out that she’d given herself a number of chicken-outs for getting rid of this particular Horcrux.
For that matter, neither of the following possibilities is completely satisfactory either, but either one might work.
Item 3: Alternate Extrapolations
The less satisfactory version is that by questioning the Hogwarts ghosts they discover that the soul normally resides in the heart and not the head, which sends them to the DoM for Harry to slice the scar open, and possibly to carefully stick his forehead through one of the holes in the Veil. There’s all kinds of interesting ways that could go wrong.
This would make a good jumping off point for a final 3–4 chapters of the book and the departure point for that spirit quest that seemed so likely at the end of OotP. (It seemed a good deal less so at the end of HBP, but it was still not completely out of the picture as a possibility.)
A somewhat more satisfactory, but far less probable direction would be to discover that the Dementors aren’t as black as they’re painted.
Which would either leave Harry forced to face his worst fear — which is the Dementors — not Voldemort, if you recall, and to have to permit one to approach him and *kiss* it off him, hoping that he can manage to drive it away before it goes for his own soul, or, worse, having to trust it to take no more than what he is offering and to withdraw when it has it.
That could be highly dramatic, but it’s not a good jumping-off place for the last leg of any extended spirit journeys. There is probably no spirit quest in this scenario. In this version that would be the point at which all hell breaks loose in the final face-off.
I was pretty sure that even if I was overestimating Voldemort’s wits and he hadn’t figured out that Harry had possession of his final soul fragment, he would still be perfectly capable of rolling up to the final showdown with a Dementor in tow, since by then he must have been told that the kid is particularly vulnerable to them.
• • • •
So the resulting scene plays out:
HRH are at the showdown. Which I still thought was most likely to be at the DoM. Perhaps Harry was preparing to stick his forehead through the Veil after all.
Voldemort shows up with Snape, and probably Pettigrew. Bellatrix will have gotten hers earlier in the book. Or, maybe she’d be there instead of Peter, although Peter was more likely to have survived to that point. Peter was a survivor. But whichever of the two of them it was, they would finally bite it. Voldemort would be disarmed, but that’s not likely to slow him down a lot.
Voldemort then sets the Dementor on Harry, who by now knows he is carrying the last soul fragment, so he stands firm to let it take him.
The Dementor swoops down and Kisses the scar off of Harry’s forehead and either withdraws voluntarily, or is driven off — either by Hermione & Ron, or (my preference) by a phoenix Patronus that various members of the Order have been reporting having seen at key points of the book. They have been entertaining the hope that Dumbledore is not dead upon the strength of it, for Albus’s Patronus had always taken the form of a phoenix. (But then, we have also been informed that after a period of emotional upheaval, a wizard’s Patronus can change.)
(ETA: what, by the way happened to that thread? Nobody actively in play in the series, other than Tonks ever got a Patronus that changed. If you aren’t going to use it for anything why bring it up?)
Harry has collapsed from the Dementor’s proximity, Ron and Hermione close in to guard him with their lives, when Fawkes himself suddenly appears, singing his head off, which distracts Voldemort from whatever he is doing. (Trying to find and take charge of Pettigrew’s wand, probably.) Snape, seeing that the scar is now gone, turns on Voldemort and sends him through the Veil. Fawkes finishes his song and lands on Snape’s shoulder.
By the time Harry wakes up, Snape is reinstated with the Order and with Aberforth to vouch for him and some Pensieve evidence left by Albus, has been granted a full pardon. There is even some kind of a half convincing reason for why Dumbledore thought it would be necessary for Harry to hate Snape. Because even allowing for the fact that in Year 1 Snape knew he was under observation by QuirrellMort, Snape certainly went out of his way to go on making sure that Harry would continue to do so.
And Harry is left just having to deal.
Did I seriously think it was going to go this way? No. But the extrapolation hit all the high points.
And I still thought that the final showdown might be in the room of the Veil.
Item 4: Priori Incantatum
Quite a few fans were convinced that we might get another Priori Incantatum situation at some point before the end of the series. Considering the importance of the first one, in GoF it would not have been astonishing to get a reprise. Although to be frank, another Priori Incantatum probably wouldn’t be much help with anything. The first one made for a splashy visual effect, but the wand’s “log” seems to have skipped right over the curse that rebounded, so we got no actual information towards solving our underlying problem regarding the Harrycrux from it. Although the distraction it provided served to delay matters long enough for Harry to get some other information that was of use, at the time.
But upon consideration, the whole device really made very little sense. Those weren’t ghosts, they were echoes, they weren’t the “real” people. And there is also no satisfactory explanation as to how they would have known about the round-trip portkey. I’d have said Rowling was being completely muzzy-minded on that one, except that there might yet be some explanation lurking in the background to be unveiled in the final book. (ETA: as if.)
Even the order that the echoes of Harry’s parents showed up was initially backwards, and several editions had been printed before JKR corrected it. (My GoF HB has James appearing before Lily. The pb has this corrected.) In all, it was a flashy, clumsy, confusing piece of business which I really didn’t think had been properly thought through. I would have been just as glad not to see it return.
My very earliest solution to the problem of getting rid of Voldemort without directly killing him would have been to hit him with an Obliviate and then steer him through the Veil under his own power. If this was the way it went, once the Dementor takes off the scar, Snape (and Pettigrew?) could Obliviate Voldemort and hustle him through the Veil. It ought to work, too. But even I had to admit that it was a bit thin on the *bang* factor.
And none of this offered much opportunity for the spirit quest I had originally been convinced was on the menu, but by the end of HBP Rowling had removed or ignored a lot of the reason I’d been expecting a spirit quest in the first place.
Item 5: Final Confrontation
So, okay let’s give that final confrontation scenario a bit more examination, shall we? New improved version. [Snippets of this and the following segment have been repeated in the second part of the Exeunt Albus essays, but not all of it.] And from our first look at the cover illos of the mass market edition of the final book (which were made public before the book was actually released) it really looked as if it wasn’t going to happen this way at all.
This particular version takes the Wand Horcrux option, and concentrates on the Book 7 = Book 3 parallel. I thought it might turn out to be pretty far off-base. It was still one of my favorites. But the official cover illo didn’t support it.
After Harry settled the Locket and the Cup, and may have figured out the scar, he and his friends wind up under attack by Voldemort. Long before they are ready for it.
Pettigrew will be a part of the ambush. Snape will be as well. The more I considered it, the more certain I was that we could count on Snape being in at the death however the final confrontation played out.
I was no longer so convinced of the location. It could even be at Hogwarts. But that locked door in the DoM was still nagging at me, as was the Hall of the Veil.
Perhaps the trio have taken a sidetrack to the DoM in a desperate mission to get the Locked Door open (or convince whoever has the keeping of the key to that door to use it) and vanquish the wall-to-wall Dementors.
They’ve either got two more of the Horcruxes down, and no idea where to look for the last two. Or, they may have no idea where to look for #5 and no idea what to do about #6, which they have already figured out. But the Dementor situation has reached a point that unless it can be addressed, they aren’t going to be able to continue to hunt out and/or deal with the last two Horcruxes.
I’d prefer that they get the door open first, Thereby taking out the worst of Voldemort’s current allies. By that point the Giants may already have been bought off, or fought off, or have decided; “well bugger this for a lark” and gone home in disgust, and the werewolves may have been neutralized as well (not that Rowling had ever managed to convince me that the werewolves had ever been of the slightest use to anyone). There were only about 3 dozen DEs by the end of HBP. And there’s no telling who — apart from Voldemort and Harry — know where he’s stashed the Inferi.
Anyhow, Voldemort ambushes them.
Somewhere in the “Yo’ Mama!” stage of the confrontation, Pettigrew would be goaded into grabbing Voldemort’s wand and crushing it, the way we saw him crush a twig into powder back in GoF, to get back at the way he has been used, and (as an afterthought) to pay off his debt to Harry. This is Pettigrew’s little blaze of glory. A protective curse on the wand Horcrux will zap him right out of the picture, giving him a default hero’s death for real.
However, Voldemort, disarmed, is not all that much less dangerous than Voldemort armed. His nastiest abilities don’t require a wand. And he’s already learned that trying to possess Harry doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.
This time he goes for Ron.
To force another hostage situation.
AAnd Ron has no defense against it.
• • • •
We don’t know what becomes of Voldemort’s current body when he has taken possession of somebody else’s. Harry was in no condition to observe when Voldemort tried it before, with him, and Dumbledore didn’t bother to explain it.
It is possible that the trio will have already discovered an “exorcism” spell in the course of dealing with the Horcruxes, and have held back from turning it on Harry because they have figured out that it is only by his harboring one of the soul fragments that makes it possible for him to deal with the other Horcruxes, and, until this point, they’ve known that there was still another one of them out there to have to deal with.
And, like I say above; we do have reason to believe that the general principle of exorcism exists in the Potterverse. We heard the matter being discussed in relation to Peeves all the way back in PS/SS.
Hermione could certainly throw the exorcism spell at Ron. For that matter, she could throw it at Harry and finally get him clear of fragment #6, which in Voldemort’s immediate proximity will, as usual, be giving Harry a lot of trouble. But she will only be given one shot at either, and this is the kind of nightmare choice which might cause her to freeze.
Plus, of course, Voldemort/Ron is armed and exceedingly dangerous. And Harry is half disabled from the usual Voldemort-proximity headache. Hermione may have all she can do just to defend herself.
But, as we all realized by then, the story isn’t just about the kids.
Somewhere in the altercation somebody (can you say “Snape”? There, I was sure you could) will throw a well-aimed slicing hex or, more likely, a nicely calibrated Sectumsempera at Harry’s scar, releasing the soul fragment embedded in his skull beneath it. This would carry the advantage of — right up to the final moment — concealing the fact that Snape is not really on Voldemort’s side. To everyone present, it would look like an attack on Harry.
But if Harry — who is already going to be half-disabled by the usual headache — manages to retain consciousness, (and getting the fragment out of his skull may clear his mind, even if his he does have his forehead sliced open and blood running down his face into his eyes) he may be the one to destroy the (vacant?) simulacrum which was designed to house the 7th fragment, and which his blood helped to create. If the rest of the fragments have now all been canceled, this may drag the 7th through the veil after the others, will-he or nil-he, which would release Ron.
And, if not, he and/or Hermione may finally get the chance to use the exorcism spell, which finally does the trick.
And most of this could all still happen even if the confrontation doesn’t take place in the room of the Veil. Although in that case they would definitely need the exorcism spell to get Tom to turn Ron loose.
Like I say, I hadn’t much expectation of this one.
Item 6: Book 3 Revisited (Yes, Again)
This next segment is also repeated, in essence, in one of the essays concerning the murder of Albus Dumbledore. But it builds upon the arguments which have been raised in a number of the points above. So I am not deleting it here. It also relates to the Book 7 = Book 3 interpretation which I honestly thought was driving the pattern of the last three books in the series.
The official climax of PoA was the race back through time to save Sirius Black and Buckbeak. In the course of it we got the mass Dementor attack in which Harry discovers his true “Patron,” his protector, and it turns out to be himself.
But the thing that really connects with the reader, the part of the book that sticks in the mind long after finishing it, isn’t so much the epiphany by the lake, but the confrontation and revelations in the Shrieking Shack, earlier. The whole course of action of PoA led up to that confrontation in the Shack. Pettigrew’s escape and the rescue of Sirius Black (and Buckbeak) feel almost like an afterthought.
If Book 7 is a reflection of PoA there is no way that Rowling is not going to give us a replay of the confrontation in the Shrieking Shack. It’s just too major an element to omit.
• • • •
I thought that all through HBP Rowling was moving furniture to get the stage set to throw us back into the same frame of mind that we had been in at the opening of PoA.
She had a much easier job of setting the scene in PoA. Back then she could arbitrarily introduce Sirius Black, who we’d only heard mentioned once in the whole series, as “the enemy” without a jot of background. Absolutely nobody questioned the assertion that Sirius Black was Harry’s enemy from page 1. Any remaining background on the subject she gave us later, over the course of the book.
Black was the enemy; the first time he saw Sirius’s picture, Harry thought that he looked just like a vampire; he was Voldemort’s second-in-command, he had betrayed Harry and his parents to his Master, he had murdered Peter Pettigrew (the Potters’ true friend) — along with a dozen Muggles, in front of a whole street of witnesses, and now he was stalking Harry. And by the time the two of them came face to face Harry hated him more than he hated Voldemort.
Sound familiar, much?
If this is what she was up to — and I was confident that it was — it was a much more tricky balancing act than she had back in PoA.
• • • •
Back in PoA we hadn’t anything but the apparent flip-flop of Sirius Black having gone from being James Potter’s “inseparable” best friend to the official Ministry viewpoint of his being Voldemort’s 2nd-in-command without anyone ever having suspected a change in allegiance to make us suspicious. I mean, really, looked at logically, the Ministry’s claims made absolutely no sense, and, given the eavesdropping in the Three Broomsticks, it’s clear that not everyone in the wizarding world really bought their story, either. But none of us ever questioned it over the course of the book. We were nowhere near as aware of just how unreliable a narrator Rowling could be back then
But this time she had built up six whole books of apparent familiarity with the character that she was now shoving into the Sirius Black role, and while she might misdirect us all over the landscape she could not altogether make us forget that we’d been watching Snape for several years now.
She had hedged her bets by holding back information about him, and not really giving us much to work from in trying to interpret him. But we knew even less about Remus Lupin, and yet had far fewer suspicions of there being any mystery about him to solve.
If we were building towards another Shrieking Shack revelation/reversal, then what she did over the course of HBP was to deliberately weight the scales in the opposite direction in order to tear down the confidence that the reader had built up in his character over the previous 5 books. By the opening of the last book, we were supposed to hate Snape as much as Harry did.
• • • •
And I suspected that over the course of Book 7 we would be given even more apparent reason to do so.
We would learn more of Snape’s history through the lens of a number of 3rd-parties’ current biases — now that they believed him to be a traitor, and a murderer, and Lord Voldemort’s second in command — and the surface reading of this information would not show in Snape’s favor.
We would almost certainly get some sort of equivalent to the Three Broomsticks eavesdropping scene with information that will sound very bad indeed, but like the discussion in the Three Broomsticks, will ultimately prove nothing but that people are determined to interpret what they see according to their biases. I suspected that whatever interaction Snape might have had with Lily Evans (if any) could finally surface during this sequence. As presented, it would not do Snape any credit. (ETA: Yup. The overheard fishing trip conversation of Ted Tonks and his companions. It was a far less convincing piece of work than eavesdropping on Fudge and the teachers in the Three Broomsticks had been.)
But, just to make a tentative prediction: I thought that despite Voldemort (who I suspect may be flitting in and out of sight as much as the Grim did in PoA — with entirely different motivations) and the hunt for the Horcruxes, and the probability that the story was going to be wall-to-wall with Dementors, I was also pretty much convinced that Snape’s role as a fugitive in Book 7 was going to take a central position. Book 7 was going to be as much about Severus Snape as PoA was about Sirius Black
And just what did we finally learn in the Shrieking Shack the first time?
We learned that the enemy we’d been dodging all through the book wasn’t the enemy. He wasn’t the traitor. He wasn’t the one who betrayed Harry’s parents. Or certainly not intentionally, although his actions contributed to that betrayal. And, all along, he had been trying to protect Harry, not kill him.
The real traitor had been someone else entirely, someone whom everyone had trusted. Someone everyone believed to have been foully murdered by Sirius — before multiple witnesses — long ago. And it was that murder which had made him a fugitive.
• • • •
Which finally convinced me that those of us older fans who for some years had been convinced that somehow Peter Pettigrew was going to prove to be monumentally significant to the resolution of the series may have been a bit off-target.
Oh, Peter would no doubt be awarded his little Gryffindor moment, and probably go out in a teeny blaze of glory. In any event, he was toast. But it wasn’t Peter Pettigrew himself that was significant, it was his former rôle.
And in the final reckoning, Albus Dumbledore would be playing that rôle.
• • • •
I was trying to project the final conclusion of the story arc according to what I interpreted as an underlying pattern to the series as it had already played out to that point. And Snape being “Dumbledore’s man” fit that pattern better than any other possible interpretation.
Indeed this was a major component of this particular pattern. If Snape was not on Dumbledore’s side, it all fell apart. If Snape was not Dumbledore’s man, then I had misinterpreted the whole pattern of the entire series.
So I had a good deal invested in this interpretation, and to that point Rowling hadn’t given us anything to significantly contradict it.
I realized that I might turn out to have been taking a scenic cruise down the Martian canals again, but I really was discerning a pattern there. And I saw far too many indications that the pattern really was there to be able to dismiss the “Snape is Dumbledore’s man” component of the pattern any more than I could dismiss all of the indications that Harry was the 6th Horcrux.
The most prominent indication of the pattern that I was seeing at that moment was that — based upon the last two books and their echoes and reflections of the first two books — I WAS CONVINCED that we were being set up to watch Book 7 echo and reflect major elements, and indeed the primary thrust of PoA. And just about all of the events over the course of HBP had conspired to put Snape into the position of stepping directly into the rôle previously portrayed by Sirius Black. I mean, really, could anyone claim that Snape’s position at the end of HBP, was significantly different from Black’s position at the opening of PoA?
And yet the “great revelation” of PoA was that — all indications notwithstanding — Sirius Black was NOT the traitor. He was NOT the enemy. He was trying to PROTECT Harry, not to kill him. The “traitor” was someone whom everyone had trusted and who was believed to have died at Black’s hand, long before.
I was confident that this pattern would repeat in Book 7.
Ergo: Snape was Dumbledore’s man.
Dumbledore may be dead, but he was not gone.
Dumbledore had deliberately enabled the partial Prophecy to escape.
Item 7: The Shrieking Shack
So, just for fun, let’s literally bring back the Shack.
(Although it had occurred to me that if the Shack itself wasn’t on the menu, that house in Spinner’s End would make an excellent stand-in. We might find ourselves paying a visit to Great Hangleton — or wherever Spinner’s End is — after all.)(Note: at this point we had never heard of Cokeworth.)
It turns out to be remarkably easy to do a simple round of recasting and play the scene almost without change.
Snape has been glimpsed briefly over the course of the book, crossing the trio’s path at 2 or three points of the action. Once into the run-up to the climax, they encounter him a final time and get closer than they had before. He disapperates. The trio manage to follow, and they find themselves in the Shack, which is outside the Apparition barriers of Hogwarts. Snape basically lets them corner and disarm him, they have him down.
Harry of course is throwing accusations of everything Snape ever did to fit up him and his parents. Snape hears him out, agreeing with every point, very much playing the Sirius Black part. Harry is working himself up to kill him, as he had prepared to kill Sirius (he’s still never killed anyone before), when Fawkes shows up and sits on Snape’s chest and won’t budge.
And then Snape tells them that everything he did —
“Was done on my orders.” Says ghostly!(or possibly Portrait!)Albus, from behind the trio.
Following this bombshell comes the big explanation that to deploy the Prophecy seemed the only way that they could trick Voldemort into setting up the conditions of his own destruction.
Because when the final reversal came, I was convinced that Albus would be there to share in it. It would not be all about Snape, alone.
That seemed to be about the only way that Rowling would be able to keep Snape from walking away with the whole book. And it would be Harry’s choice as to how to take this information that finally “revealed” to us what he is.
Oh, yeah, Harry would forgive them. Even though the decision to turn the Prophecy loose was wrong, and unworthy, and Albus and Severus admit that it was wrong and unworthy. By that time Harry would realize that the stakes were much higher than just himself and his parents. And he will probably also realize that Sirius Black had managed to bollix up everyone’s careful plans.
And the decision to forgive will give him the insight and possibly whatever other information he would need in order to finally answer the riddle posed by Tom.
Item 8: On the Deaths of Great Wizards
Or, probably not.
So I am back to the tangent that the LiveJournalist beta_elf originally sent me off on. Just a couple more relevant points to get through and I will be addressing it.
The following is another piece which has also been repeated in the essay of ‘Exeunt Albus: Showtime!’ There’s some additional expansion over there.
Since HBP came out I’d had time to think over a couple of other side issues that had occurred to me regarding the established traditions pertaining to the deaths of great wizards in literature and folklore.
Merlin, Gandalf, whoever; their official deaths all seem to have something in common.
They don’t leave bodies.
Usually nobody actually sees them die. Or, not and have them stay dead, anyway.
Instead, they usually just disappear.
Typically in some manner shrouded in Mystery.
What strikes me as being most in character for the end, or perhaps I ought to say the departure, of a Great Wizard, would be for him to reappear briefly *after* the hero has completed his great task, and to take a highly visible part in mopping up the stray odds and ends and seeing to it that justice is done to all of the active participants —
— and then to slip away quietly without fanfare. Generally in some mysterious manner, leaving people to make up their own explanations and probably spin some goofy legend that if the need were ever great enough he might be back.
Indeed, what would fit very well for Albus, or, more likely, Ghostly!Albus, would be for him to make his rather subtle personal farewells to individuals, in the course of circulating at some crowded, overblown Ministry wrap-up, and for Harry to lose sight of him, suddenly realize what he must have done, and race down into the Department of Mysteries too late to see anything but the Veil still fluttering in the wind of his passing.
And it occurs to me that this would also march very well with Rowling’s established, preferred, structure for the conclusion of her books, as well. I was not convinced that we wouldn’t get something along those lines. No, not convinced at all.
Item 9: So Close to the Dead
I’d also been giving more thought to the issue of that spirit quest.
Namely that we might end up getting one, after all.
After OotP I was absolutely convinced that we were going to get one. But I had been a good deal less certain of that since HBP came out.
It was still a long way from a sure thing. And if we did go there then I honestly didn’t think that Rowling had done as solid a job of setting it up as she really needed to. She’d left the matter far too late to suddenly be introducing the whole concept now. At least with the Horcruxes, you could see, in retrospect, that she really had scattered legitimate clues pointing to them all the way through the series. I didn’t see a lot of indication that wizards have ever traveled beyond the Veil and back in the series as it stood.
On the other hand, the Accio Quotes site had recently managed to unearth and post an interview from 2000 in which Rowling made her famous “dead is dead” statement, and further went on to state that in the 7th book we would find out “just how close you can get to the dead”.
The quote did sound a lot as if she could be referring to a Veil scenario. If your mind is geared for Veil scenarios, anyway. It certainly suggested that at least one of the significant players in the issue was likely to be someone who was already dead.
And this quote was made in 2000. Right after GoF came out.
— which rather abruptly harks back to those hitherto unexplained “echoes” from the Priori Incantatum sequence of GoF, doesn’t it?
None of whom had ever manifested as ghosts (and Frank Bryce, as a Muggle, wouldn’t have been able to, according to Nearly Headless Nick).
Well we had any number of candidates for potential revenants, didn’t we? But it was hard to believe that she could be talking about anyone other than Albus. With a certain strong secondary possibility of Lily.
Despite the fact that I did draft out one possible scenario for a spirit quest, which now lives over in the ‘Redeeming the Potterverse’ essay, and a modified version of it is still taking up space in the ‘The Pachyderm in the Parlor’ essay, I was still not prepared to bet the farm on the chance that we were going to get a spirit quest before we could wrap up the problem of Tom Riddle.
But, neither was I going to find myself taken aback or even particularly surprised in the event that we did.
But I did now tend to suspect that all four of our “cardinal characters” were going to be present, in some form or other, at the final confrontation.
And I finally realized that we may all just have been barking up the wrong tree with our expectations that any such spirit quest must, of course, be embarked upon through the Veil.
The Potterverse probably has more than one gateway into the spirit world.
And just which god is the Lord of openings? Of gateways? And who has stood as gatekeeper — throughout the *whole bloody series* — to the reading that there is *more going on* in this story than Harry ever realizes?
I thought we might need to explore yet another of those myriad possibilities.
Item 10: Lessons Taught in a Shack (Yes, Again)
I contend that Sirius Black did not “redeem” himself at the end of PoA. He did not need to redeem himself. What he needed to do was to get to Harry and tell him the truth of who the Marauders all really were and what had actually happened all those years ago. He was the appointed Messenger. Harry needed that truth. Without it, the party would not have ever made it back to the castle with their souls intact. Sirius gave Harry the key to connect with James, and to have that epiphany by the lake which enabled him to produce a Patronus that would vanquish a hundred Dementors.
Until Harry had spoken with Sirius Black, James Potter was just a story. Now he was a person.
Sirius gave him another key as well, the following year. A key that failed.
Harry lost that second key by trying to use it to pry open the Locked door in the DoM. That door is not going to be pried open by any tricksy, all-purpose, generic, pseudo-key. And I no longer believed that door could really be opened by any single “lone hero” either.
And, for the record, I didn’t think that Snape was going to redeem himself in DHs. I didn’t think that he was going to turn out to need to “redeem” himself any more than Sirius Black did in PoA.
But I also didn’t think that Harry was going to get that Locked door in the DoM open without him.
Even though he already had the proper key.
Item 11: The Locked Door
Oh yes. He did.
When you stop and think about it, it’s obvious. Every bit as obvious as that the way to get Slytherin’s Locket open was to hiss “open up” at it in Parseltongue.
What, after all, is behind that door? And why will they need to get it open?
Why, to release the power to vanquish the Dementors, of course. It is fairly obvious that what is behind that door is something that mere Dementors cannot touch, and cannot ever conquer.
What vanquishes Dementors?
It abruptly seemed to me that what it would take to get that door open is the Patronus Charm.
And probably not just one of them, either. In fact that door may require that the need be great enough that at least two enemies must lay aside their grievances and work in concert to get the damned door open.
PoA, after all wasn’t about redemption. It was about forgiveness.
— Which would FINALLY make sense of why it has always seemed to be so bloody necessary for Harry to hate Snape!
Because although it was clearly necessary for Snape to act like he hated Harry in Year 1 — given that he was being observed all year by the Dark Lord — it hasn’t made much sense that Harry should have to make a career of hating Snape, who has kept on saving his sorry arse for 5 years afterwards.
And Snape has colluded in keeping that particular pot boiling with little nudges and jabs and snotty remarks all along the way, and while Albus had always — right up to that scene in his office before he and Harry left on a Horcrux hunt — insisted that Harry always show the proper forms of respectful address toward Snape, he had never done zip to derail the general hate-fest between them, only reserving his statement that HE trusts Professor Snape — and never explained why.
Harry may need to hate Snape in order to be able to meet him as an enemy, and work in concert with him to get that door open.
And by the time the pair of them are standing before that locked door, if my interpretation of the Book 7 = Book 3 pattern is on target, Harry will have already pursued Snape to whatever location is going to stand in for the Shack, Snape will have revealed his great secret, and Harry will finally be prepared to trust Snape.
(Thank you beta_elf.)
Item 12: The Unlocked Door
Of course once he sees Snape’s Patronus and recognizes it — which I agree, he probably will — and realizes just who has been helping him all through the Horcrux hunt, he will have to do a major bit of retrofitting of what he knows, and what he believes. But they’ll have got the door open by then, and will first have to deal with what they’ve turned loose.
By then I was wondering whether being caught broadside by the Power That Is Not Named as it escapes might not turn out to be the point of departure of that spirit quest that had seemed to be so likely, on and off, since we all first read OotP. The embarkation point for that quest might not be the Veil after all. In the Potterverse, there are probably more ways in and out of the spirit realm than we’d been shown yet.
And the power to vanquish who knows how many Dementors would certainly be capable of knocking out a couple of wizards who were standing directly in its path. At least for a few hours. And if it knocks them into the spirit realm they would need to find their way out.
They would need to do it together, and they would be likely to meet people in there who have further information that they still need. And perhaps one or two of those may at least briefly accompany them outside of that realm.
After all, Albus came out and told us that those we love never really leave us. And I at that point was convinced that both Harry and Snape sincerely loved the old man.
Given that in the end it has always come down to Harry facing Tom alone, before any help arrives, the two of them might get separated at some point, each faced with their own tests and trials, and we would only be shown Harry’s.
Harry and Snape might only come face to face after returning to the material world. And they might not necessarily do that at the same time.
Or, Rowling might, in defiance of all expectations, decide to turn tradition on its head and NOT demand that Harry face down his enemy and vanquish him entirely on his own, with only his own resources. If her message is that it is human attachments which make us human, Harry might need only to stop Voldemort, and hold him at bay until help arrives. He’d done it before. And help had always come.
But, in either case, Snape would probably reach the place of the final showdown at least in time to see the end for himself, and certainly in time to make an emergency intervention to restore Harry, when Tom was finally vanquished. If such an intervention was needed.
And, at the very end of the adventure, after Harry had passed all of his tests, Albus would also reveal himself; returning from some unknown place outside the laws of Time, if only briefly, to “Explain it All” for that one final wrap-up.
Or, perhaps, just a little bit sooner than that.
For I had begun to wonder whether, in the end, Tom would finally be forced to realize just what a fool he had been, and what folly piled upon folly he had committed, and the value of what he had thrown away. And whether that, in itself, might be what tilted the balance to Harry’s victory. For we knew that Rowling was never going to allow Tom to win, and it was very hard to believe that she really intended for Harry to actually kill him.
But, it did seem that he had be brought to admit that he has been wrong.
I had even begun to wonder if, in the end, Albus would offer to accompany Tom through the Veil. Either in a typical last act of kindness, or possibly, just to make sure that he finally went.
Item 13: Conclusion
I did, at any rate, confidently expect Snape to survive VoldWar II.
I mean, face it, Harry may or may not be forced to kill Lord Voldemort to get him settled, but he wasn’t going to be gratuitously murdering Severus Snape. Even if he did manage to end up continuing to hate him. (Which I was inclined to doubt.)
And if Harry didn’t kill him, I very much doubted that anyone else was going to get the chance to do it. After all, Snape was one of the four cardinal characters of the series. He was not going to be taken out of action by some random spear carrier.
No one other than Harry really had the literary authority to kill Snape. No, not even Tom. Tom didn’t care enough about Snape to have the right to kill him.
No. I thought that Snape would certainly see Tom out.
But that didn’t necessarily mean that he was going to stick around for happily ever after. He might have dedicated himself so completely to the “great work” to be unable to see anything meaningful beyond it.
It could well be Snape who willingly followed Albus through that Veil.
— Although, I don’t know; I did think it might be rather fun if Snape were to end up riding Buckbeak off into the sunset never to be seen again.
Hi-Yo Buckbeak! Away!
(“Who was that unmasked man?”)
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Addenda: October, 2021
A grousing session with a correspondent in the UK regarding the anticlimax that Harry’s final showdown in the Great Hall with Tom blowing himself up had turned out to be, when the actual confrontation complete with Albus Dumbledore “explaining it all”, had already upstaged it some chapters earlier, prompted me into an exercise in “moving furniture”. Resulting in the following extrapolation.
One of the things that set us off was Rowling’s quotes, from an interview before DHs came out which claimed that books 6 & 7 were supposed to be two halves of the same issue.
That certainly didn’t match what I was getting out of those two books in the series. My correspondent responded that if you squint, you can just about say that books 6 & 7 are two halves of the problem posed by the Horcruxes.
Well, yeah, I suppose if you squint, 6 & 7 are all about the Horcruxes, Which is an entirely different story than the one she was telling us through books 1-5.
But it sure doesn’t *read* like two halves of the same story.
And she did everything she could think of to *keep* us from reading it as two parts of the same story by suddenly burying the whole action in the stupid Hallows and Albus’s foolishness of 100 years earlier.
We could have happily have done without the Hallows altogether. But I suspect Rowling thinks that it’s only fantasy if there is a fabulous magical artifact somewhere in the middle of it. Or leaping out of nowhere to solve the whole problem.
My correspondent was absolutely right that having Harry passively stand there and watch Tom blow himself up again was a completely unbelievable tag-on which in its way was as unsatisfying as the epilogue. Particularly since the explanation she tries to give us for how it worked was so monumentally stupid and unconvincing.
But Rowling was in love with the scene of Harry being escorted through the forest by his beloved dead, to meet Tom and give himself up. And she couldn’t see any way to keep that scene and destroy the last horcrux in the final climactic scene both.But Rowling was in love with the scene of Harry being escorted through the forest by his beloved dead, to meet Tom and give himself up. And she couldn’t see any way to keep that scene and destroy the last horcrux in the final climactic scene both.
Most of the fans did find the forest escort moving, but a lot of them were really disturbed and rather offended by the way all four of the escorts were acting like “Death’s cheering squad” during it. (My own take on that, is that anyone who is called back via the Resurrection Stone is probably going to talk like that. Why should they be afraid of Death?)
But, if we could have dropped that scene, she might then have had to have actually written something about a vast magical battle (which she did everything she could to avoid, and I can hardly blame her for that, because the whole concept is completely unworkable.) with Neville’s slaying the snake as climax 1.
Quite possibly in the Great Hall, after Tom and at least a few of his lieutenants manage to force their way into the castle.
(Okay, let’s avoid having to write a completely implausible magical battle, by following Harry into the Pensieve. Have him kicked out of it just in time to hear the noise of Tom and some lieutenants smashing the main doors open.)
Harry gets down from the Headmaster’s office just in time to watch Neville kill the snake, and to distract Tom from murdering Neville by offering him the target he’s been really wanting for the past 16 years.
Tom curses Harry and throws them both into the Celestial King’s Cross station, pretty much as in canon.
And that’s when the beloved dead turn up with pep talks. Albus eventually wanders in and tells Harry that he has the choice of going back. You can’t kill two separate entities with one AK. The rest of the team tells him that it’s fine, they’ll still be there, they don’t mind waiting.
And he returns to Hogwarts.
When Harry regains consciousness, Tom stops breathing.
People might still do a bit of puzzling as to why, but it’s less of a conundrum than trying to explain how an “unblockable” death curse managed to reflect off of another *spell*, which hasn’t ever even been described as a shield spell. And avoids the codswallop of the hawthorn wand altogether.