Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ex-SPOILER-amus! Curse of the Dadlak Blog - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" - To The End and Then Some

August 21 - I finally catch up to J.K. Rowling, Harry, my daughter and wife and millions of other readers of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Here are my comments on the last two exciting chapters and the Epilogue.

No spoiler warning this time. If you've come this far with me, you're on your own. But thanks for reading.

Chapter 35 - King's Cross - At first I wasn't quite sure what Ms. Rowling was going for - a near death experience or a trip by a Jesus-like Harry not through hell, but to a Space Odyssey-like setting. In any event, my feeling that "Dumbledore the White" might make an appearance was borne out, though he appears more in an explanatory role than an active one. His presence is comforting to both Harry and the reader (at first). Later on I got bogged down in all the interplay among Voldemort, Harry, Dumbledore and the Hallows.

But getting back to the story, Harry "awakes" from Voldemort's Killing Curse naked and in very diaphanous surroundings. He wishes for clothes and new robes appear. He wonders where he is and the setting develops into an enormous Great Hall, empty except for a small naked child, himself and Dumbledore. Dumbledore confirms that he is dead, but denies that Harry is so. He coaxes Harry to realize that the part of Voldemort's soul that was inside Harry died with the Curse.

Dumbledore explains that Voldemort took Harry's blood to rebuild his own body and in the process Harry became the seventh Horcrux. By doing so he kept Lily Potter's sacrifice alive.

As for the triumph of Harry's wand, Dumbledore has to guess--he speculates that because of the strange relationship between Voldemort and Harry, their wands were twins. When Voldemort attacked Harry, Harry's wand recognized the attacker and responded with some of Voldemort's own dark magic.

This all seems pretty complicated, even in summary. Maybe the bigger message is that there's good and evil in all of us and the trick is to be guided by our better nature, ala Harry, but be ready to use our dark side to combat those who aren't so benevolently inclined.

Dumbledore then moves on to the Hallows. He calls Harry "the better man" and admits that he was tempted by the prospect of becoming the master of Death by possessing them. The Hallows drew Dumbledore and Grindelwald together. The Cloak had been passed down for generations, owned by the Potters just before they died, when Dumbledore "borrowed" it. Once Voldemort killed the Potters, Dumbledore despised both the Cloak and himself.

Dumbledore describes his resentment ove his mother's death, which caused him to have to care for his damaged sister Ariana. The responsibility was a real career-threatener to a young wizard with vast potential. At this point, Grindelwald arrived and captivated Dumbledore with a vision of a wizard-dominated world.

Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore got into a fight. Grindelwald's darkest side was revealed and Ariana was killed. Grindelwald fled. Dumbledore never trusted himself with power, turning down the Minister of Magic post and going to Hogwarts.

Grindelwald raised an army, but Dumbledore won their eventual duel and with it the Elder Wand. He also possessed the Stone and the Cloak, but turned out to be the wrong man to possess the Hallows. Harry was the right one. And now the right one to take on Voldemort in the ultimate battle. The boy who lived now becomes the man who chooses to live.

P.S. Do we ever learn who the infant in the scene is? Harry as a baby?

Chapter 36 - The Flaw in the Plan - The title refers to Voldemort possessing the Elder Wand and Snape's role in its passing, I think, but I'll have to confirm.

Harry "awakes" again, this time at the scene of his "death". Voldemort is down as well. Voldemort orders that Harry be examined to make sure that he is dead. Narcissa comes to Harry and whispers "Is Draco alive?" Parental love is right up there. Harry breathes back, "Yes." Narcissa reports that Harry is dead. Voldemort plays with the "body". Harry plays dead. Hagrid is assigned to carry Harry's body (I had to look back to Chapter 34 to confirm that Hagrid hadn't been eaten by giant spiders--his arm was waving at the end, apparently he was waving). Voldemort shows Harry to his supporters to demonstrate that their leader is dead.

McGonagall, Ron, Hermioine and Ginny keen for Harry. Neville rushes Voldemort. Voldemort offers a position as a Death Eater, but Neville is true to Dumbledore's Army. Voldemort responds by disbanding all the Hogwarts houses except Slytherin and my setting Neville on fire.

Harry wants to act, but has to play dead. At the best possible moment Grawp storms onto the scene, he and Voldemort's giants creating enough havoc for Neville to escape the flames. Neville pulls out the Sword of Gryffindor and decapitates Nagini. (There goes the seventh Horcrux, which should be a problem for the Dark Lord.) Voldemort howls at the loss and a huge battle ensues, first outside and then inside the castle. Even the house elves join the fight.

Bellatrix fires a Killing Curse at Ginny, which prompts Mrs. Weasley to charge and defeat her in a duel. McGonagall, Kingsley and Slughorn battle Voldemort. Voldemort turns his attention to Molly Weasley which causes Harry to emerge from the Cloak and cast a Shield Charm.

At this point the battle is reduced once again to Harry and Voldemort. A shouting match follows, with Harry belittling Voldemort's powers in comparison to Dumbledore's. He tells Voldemort didn't die at his hand, rather in his own chosen manner and that Snape was Dumbledore's man. Voldemort reminds Harry that no matter the circumstancs, that he has the Elder Wand, (the flaw in the plan).

Harry challenges Voldemort (whom he now addresses by the boyhood name Riddle) to consider remorse. He tells him that Snape never beat Dumbledore because Dumbledore's death was planned between them (the flaw in Voldemort's plan). Voldemort counters that stealing the wand from Dumbledore's tomb gave him ownership.

Harry reminds him that the "wand chooses the wizard" and that Draco Malfoy was possessor of the Elder Wand, which Harry took from Draco in battle and that Harry is now the true master of the Elder Wand.

An exchange of curses follows--the ever-popular "Avada Kedavra" and "Expelliarmus", which collide in mid-air. The Elder Wand soars into the air, but Harry catches it with Seeker skill.

Voldemort is beaten--killed by his own reflected curse. Celebration follows. Harry decides to put the Elder Wand back where it belongs (Dumbledore's grave) and to seek some peace and quiet.

Harry, Ron and Hermione all survive--a good outcome for what is ultimately a children's series. Snape died, not unexpectedly as he lived a difficult life. Hagrid survived after appearing not to. Neville proved heroic (as my friend also predicted). Other losses were sad but minor--Hedwig, Dobby, Fred Weasley, Lupin and Tonks. For me, Dobby's death was the saddest in perhaps the entire series.

Epilogue - Nineteen Years Later - Harry and Ginny have married, as have Ron and Hermioine. The Potter children are James, Albus and Lily; Ron and Hermione have Rose and Hugo. Albus, James, and Rose are going to Hogawarts, Albus for the first time. Draco Malfoy and son Scorpius are also at the station. Teddy Lupin, son of Remus and Tonks, is a regular guest of the Potters. His girlfriend is Victoire, daughter of Bill and Fleur. Neville is professor of herbology at Hogwarts. Albus is concerned about which house he'll be assigned to. Harry tells that either Gryffindor or Slytherin would be fine--but that his preference will be considered by the Sorting Hat. It's all a very calm, simple and bucolic scene (maybe Ms. Rowling was going for the anti-Tolkein approach). Harry's scar hasn't pained him in 19 years and all is well.

With this epilogue, Ms. Rowling doesn't really close the book on the story. Nineteen years are unaccounted for--though with Harry's scar no longer paining him, it's likely that the story of those 19 years would be nowhere near as exciting as the story of the previous seven.

Blogging Potter - My analytical skills need a lot of work, especially on the fly. I also found myself doing plot summaries far too often, sometimes to help myself understand what had happened; other times to move the blog along and get back to reading. I'm sure I would have read the book in three or four days without the blogging process. But as I said at the beginning, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was a once-in-a-lifetime publishing experiecne that warranted more than the three-day read and three-paragraph review (though I'll try to do one of those at the end of the month for Amazon.com).

If you read all the way to here, many, many thanks. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the book, the blog or anything else.

August 18 - The end is in sight. Just Chapters 35, 36 and the Epilogue to go. Here are my thoughts on Chapters 32-34.

Chapter 32 - The Elder Wand - Fred is dead, (that's what I said) but the battle rages on. Giant spiders have been released from the Forbidden Forest to join the dark side. Ron is ready to kill more Death Eaters. Harry and Hermione convince him that destroying Nagini is more important.

Harry's mind-sharing with Voldemort takes us to the Dark Lord's lair. Voldemort challenges Lucius Malfoy's loyalty, saying that Malfoy wants to stop the fight to save his son. Voldemort summons Snape to "perform a service."

Harry has figured out that Voldemort doesn't need to join the fight; that Harry will come to him to destroy Nagini and for the ultimate battle. HH and R try to escape the castle, successfully fighting their way out. Hagrid comes to join them but is . . . get ready . . . consumed it seems by the giant spiders. From somewhere comes a giant aligned with the Dark Lord. Grawp comes from behind the castle to battle it. Dementors advance on our heroes, who are too weak to summon their own Patronuses. Luna, Ernie and Seamus summon theirs, a hare, boar and fox respectively, and the dementors are driven back. With greatest effort, Harry summons his stag, and the dementors scatter. They narrowly escape the monster's footprint and head for the whomping willow, where there's an entrance to a tunnel that they apparently used in Book 3. At the end of the tunnel is Voldemort's lair, where the Dark Lord is meeting with Snape.

He complains to Snape that the Elder Wand holds no special powers for him. He's concerned that he won't be able to defeat Harry in the final battle. He explains to Snape that this is because Snape is the true master of the Elder Wand, having taken possession of it from Dumbledore. Only when Snape is dead will the Elder Wand do Voldemort's bidding. Nagini kills Snape--is this a good thing or a bad thing? Voldemort and Nagini leave the "Shrieking Shack" to take charge of the battle. Harry goes to Snape. Snape is clearly dying, but he manages to say "Take . . . it . . . Take . . . it." before gushing a blue material into the air, which Hermione cleverly conjures a flask to collect. "Look . . . at . . . me." are Snape's last words, but when Harry looks in Snape's eyes, there's nothing there.

Chapter 33 - The Prince's Tale - (or Snape's, the Half-Blood Prince's, backstory) - Voldemort makes a open speech to those still in Hogwarts and to Harry in particular. He calls an immediate retreat and gives Harry one hour to report to the Forbidden Forest. No one new will die if Harry complies. Many will die if he doesn't.

The next scene is in the Great Hall--reminiscent of Atlanta in "Gone With the Wind"--corpses and victims everywhere. Fred, Lupin and Tonks lie dead there. Harry can't bear to witness this, so he heads for the headmaster's office. Harry's plea of "Dumbledore!" proves to be the password for entrance. He pours the blue substance, Snape's memories, into the Pensieve and dives in after them.

Snape's disgorging of his memories answers a lot of questions. His story starts with Snape, Lily Potter (then Evans) and Petunia (later Dursley) growing up in the same neighborhood. Snape is the first one to tell Lily that she's a witch. Lily asks the young Snape if it "makes a difference" that she's Muggle-born. He tells her no. We sense that Snape is OK.

In the next scene, Lily goes to Hogwarts. Petunia writes to Hogwarts to try to get admitted but is rejected. Lily and Snape are still friends as she starts Hogwarts, though she joins Gryffindor and he Slytherin. Lucius Malfoy is a prefect at this time. Lily disapproves of Snape's friends and their "dark magic". Or is he?

A reference is made to the tunnel from the whomping willow to the Forbidden Forest. Snape is happy when Lily calls James "an arrogant toerag".

In an emotional moment, Snape calls Lily "mudblood", which offends her deeply. I mean really?

In the next scene, Harry sees Snape and Dumbledore. Snape thinks that Lily is marked for death. He pleads with Dumbledore to save Lily, even at the expense of her infant son. Dumbledore refuses, but asks Snape what he's willing to offer for his protection of Lily. Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore is hereby established.

However, Voldemort manages to kill Lily (and James), but Harry survives (as we all know). Dumbledore reminds Snape that if he truly loved Lily, his new role is to protect Harry. Kudos to a friend from work who predicted that Snape's love for Lily would play a big role in the last book.

Next we see Snape acting as Dumbledore's agent in Voldemort's court. Then we see Dumbledore and Snape in Dumbledore's office. We learn that Dumbledore is mortally wounded by the Horcrux ring, but that he tempted by its power.

Dumbledore has learned that Voldemort plans to have Draco Malfoy murder him, though he doesn't expect Draco to succeed, just to die trying to punish the Malfoys. Both Snape and Dumbledore think that Snape will be chosen as Dumbledore's next assassin. Dumbledore tells Snape to kill him at some point in the future. He thinks that Snape can kill him in a quick and relatively painless way.

The next part gets complicated as Dumbledore explains to Snape how Voldemort lost a part of his soul to Harry. This part allows Harry to speak parseltongue. Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry must be sent to his death t the hands of Voldemort, which in turn will mean the end of Voldemort. Snape protests and shows Dumbledore and Harry his Patronus, the silver doe.

Dumbledore instructs Snape to give Voldemort the correct date for Harry's departure from Hogwarts (remember back to Chapter 1 or 2?).

In the next scene, Snape suggests the "Seven Potters" ploy to Mundungus. Back in the motorcycle scene, Snape, whom Dumbledore has instructed to play his part well, takes off George Weasley's ear with a spell.

The memories are coming faster now. Harry sees Snape reading an old note from Lily, which he secretes in his robes.

In the final scene from Snape's memory he takes Gryffindor's Sword to the Forbidden Forest, where he will give it to Harry.

Chapter 34 - The Forest Again - From all of what he's heard, Harry interprets that his job is to die at Voldemort's hand, eliminating himself as one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Harry realizes that someone else will have to kill Nagini the snake to finish Voldemort. He thinks of Ron and Hermione, but happens first on Neville, and tells him that Nagini must be killed, by Neville if Ron and Hermione aren't around for the job.

Wearing the Invisibility Cloak he passes Ginny, but he doesn't talk to her. Harry becomes very aware of his own life, thinking as he does that the end of it is soon imminent. He then cracks the Resurrection Stone (inside the Snitch). Mom and Dad, Sirius and Lupin all appear. Harry apologizes to Lupin for his death so soon after the birth of his son. Harry asks that they all "stay close" to him.

Death Eater sense Harry's presence, then deny it. Under the Cloak, Harry follows them into the forest to meet Voldemort.

They find Voldemort accompanied by his senior followers--Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and Bellatrix, among others.

They are all talking about how Harry hasn't come to meet the one hour deadline, but Hary makes himself known. Hagrid is tied up in a tree at the scene. (I had to check back to see how Hagrid was still arrives--in his last scene he's seen waving an arm above the swarm of giant spiders---apparently he escaped them at worst and trained them at best). He yells for Harry to save himself. Harry stands firm and takes Voldemort's worst curse head on.

August 17 - I'm reading Chapter 32. Only five chapters and the Epilogue left. Here are summaries of Chapters 29-31.


Chapter 29 - The Lost Diadem - I wasn't alone wondering what a diadem is, though I think I've seen the word on a spelling bee list.

The chapter begins with Neville telling Harry about the new world at Hogwarts as HH and R meet Dumbledore's Army and others in the Room of Requirement. The Carrows, Amycus, Professor of Dark Arts, and sister Alecto, Professor of Muggle Studies ride herd at Hogwarts, which is now under the headmastership of Severus Snape. Neville's Gran vehemently resists the new order and as a result, Neville is now a full-time member of the resistance.

Dumbledore's Army thinks that HH and R have returned to stay, but of course, they're on a mission to find the "last" Horcrux. Harry goes to Ravenclaw tower in search of a clue which he thinks he might gain by seeing the diadem on the head of the statue of Rowena Ravenclaw. Harry and Luna find the statue, but they are met by Alecto Carrow, who immediately alerts Voldemort.

Chapter 30 - The Sacking of Severus Snape - Luna alertly stuns Alecto. Amycus comes to the "rescue" of Alecto, but is held up by the Ravenclaw tower door, which asks him to solve a riddle. He can't, but Minerva McGonagall can in her first appearance in 591 pages. In the discussion inside, Amycus spits at McGonagall. Gallantly, Harry comes out from under the Cloak to defend McGonagall's honor. An imperius curse subdues the Carrows, but Snape comes on the scene. Snape and McGonagall battle, with Professors Flitwick and Slughorne coming to their colleague's aid. Snape flees out a window, changing into a bat to fly away.

McGonagall agrees to evacuate the younger students from Hogwarts to Aberforth's and to secure it with the staff and older students while Harry searches for whatever he's trying to find.

At some point in all this, Hermione and Ron go missing (they had a task of some sort). Harry starts looking for them, but McGonagall reminds him of why he's there.

Chapter 31 - Battle of Hogwarts - You knew this was coming, but while everyone deploys for battle, Harry searches Hogwarts for the diadem. Nearly Headless Nick gives him a lead--talk to the ghost of Ravenclaw, the Gray Lady. She agrees to help when she realizes that he's not just looking to improve his grades (the diadem is supposed to increase wisdom). Sadly, to her knowledge, the diadem was hidden in a hollow tree in Albania. Harry figures out that Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle, returned the diadem to Hogwarts when he asked Dumbledore for a job.

At this point, Hagrid literally crashes back into the picture accompanied by his boarhound, Fang. Grawp gave him a boost. Harry, Hagrid and Fang go off in search of the diadem. On the way, the ruins of two stone gargoyles create a mental picture of three statues for Harry--Rowena Ravenclaw's at Lovegood's house; the felled gargoyle; and a statue of a warlock adorned with a wig and tiara that Harry saw in the "Room of Hidden Things" during his reckless youth exploring Hogwarts. (This connection seemed a little flimsy to me). Sir Cadogan leads Harry by way of wall paintings. At end of a hall me meets Aberforth, who suggests leaving some Slytherin students behind as hostages. Harry rejects the idea.

At this point, Ron and Hermione burst on the scene with the skull of a dead basilisk, which Ron lured with first year parseltongue. Using it they "killed" the Hufflepuff cup, their fourth defeated Horcrux (the diary, the locket, the ring, the cup).

On the way to the diadem Harry remembers that the Hogwarts house elves should be evacuated too. At this point, Ron and Hermione somewhat inexplicably ("it's now or never," says Ron) have their big kiss (but isn't love that way). Harry breaks it up with an "Oi!"

Sure enough, the diadem is right where Harry remembered it, hidden (as junk) in plain sight in a room that Riddle thought was secret, but that many Hogwarts students knew just as well. And sure enough too, it's not that easy, as Draco Malfoy and his henchmen Crabbe and Goyle are already there. Crabbe and Goyle aren't sure what a die-dum is, but they're willing to wreck the room to keep Harry from getting it. Malfoy resists their destructive instincts, but Crabbe tells Draco that he's no longer calling the shots. Crabbe tries to kill Harry with a Crucio, which misses Harry but hits the bust wearing the diadem. Hermione retaliates with a spell that Malfoy pulls Crabbe away from. A moment's confusion by the bad guys allows Harry to use "Expelliarmus!" (my favorite spell) to disarm Malfoy and Goyle. But Crabbe fires "Avada Kedavra"s Hermione's way, the last one of which sets the whole place on fire, with the fire chasing our heroes. HH and R fly out of the inferno on old brooms. Harry rescues Malfoy and Goyle (what a guy!). Crabbe isn't so lucky. Harry grabs the diadem from the ruins on the way out. On the outside it falls apart. The fiendfyre (the cursed fire) has destroyed it. Five down! (Nagini the snake may be Number Six).

Saved once again, there's little rest as the battle comes to them. Fred and Percy Weasley back into view fighting Death Eaters. Minister of Magic Thicknesse is turned into a sea urchin. But at think point, all hell breaks loose as the Hogwarts castle suffers a massive attack. Both Harry and Hermione are injured but alive. Fred Weasley is dead, casualty number three (four or five if you count Wormtail and Crabbe).

August 15 - I'll blog Chapters 25-28 tonite. I'm reading Chapter 29. Less than 200 pages left. Still a lot of work to do for Harry and the gang.


Chapter 25 - Shell Cottage - Harry second-guesses himself for pursuing Horcruxes rather than trying to prevent Voldemort from getting the Elder Wand. Hermione supports him.

Harry continues his negotiation with Griphook in the Gringotts caper to get at whatever Horcruxes might be in the Lestrange vault. Griphook asks for the Gryffindor Sword. Harry agrees, but without specifying when that will happen (he wants to use the sword in the vault).

Griphook accuses Godric Gryffindor of stealing the Sword from the Goblins, way back when.

Lupin arrives at Shell Cottage to announce the birth of Teddy Remus Lupin. He asks Harry to be godfather. Harry accepts and then wonders if he'll be the kind of crazy godfather ot Teddy that Sirius was to him.

Bill Weasley gives Harry a lesson in Goblin economics as they relate to the Sword. The Goblins consider a sale to be more of a long-term rental to be reversed upon the death of the customer. This does not comfort Harry.

Chapter 26 - Gringotts - The gang prepares for the break-in at Gringotts. Hermione has the key disguise as Bellatrix Lestrange, which she accomplishes with polyjuice potion. Ron has a less elaborate disguise as an unknown Bulgarian wizard. Harry hides under the Invisibility Cloak.

When they get to Diagon Alley they see lots of "Number One Undesirable" posters with Harry's picture. The mood has changed everywhere. Death Eater Travers joins the group. He questions "Bellatrix" about why she's not held up in Malfoy Manor. Hermione provides an arrogant enough excuse to convince Travers that she's really Bellatrix.

An Imperius curse gets them past the Goblin guards. However the Thief's Downfall, a waterfall that washes away all their magical concealments, leaves our heroes completely exposed. Beyond the waterfall a dragon serves as the last line of defense for the vault. Imperius gets the Clankers (jangling metal that will subdue the dragon) away from the Goblin and they get inside the vault.

There Harry finds the Hufflepuff Cup (a Horcrux), but the vault has been cursed such that everything inside burns and multiplies when touched. Harry "spears" the cup with his sword, but the exploding number of items in the vault knocks it off. Harry goes for the falling cup like it was a Golden Snitch. Griphook regains the Sword. Disappointing, but not a bad trade.

A "relasho" curse frees the dragon just as the vault is about to consume our heroes. They climb aboard the dragon and flee Gringotts, moving aside rock with dragon fire and a steady stream of curses from Hermione. By my count, the dragon flight marks our heroes' sixth hairsbreadth escape.

Chapter 27 - The Final Hiding Place - HH and R leap off the dragon into a shallow lake. About the same time, Voldemort learns of the lost Cup and kills the reporting goblin on the spot. Voldemort begins to worry that Harry will get all the Horcruxes. He decides to revisit all the Horcrux hiding places and to redouble protection. He worries about the loyalty of all his senior staff, including Snape.

Harry senses Voldemort's plan and that the last Horcrux is hidden at Hogwarts--the final hiding place (last? I'm counting only four discovered--diary, ring, locket, cup). The set-up for the final battle may be in place.

Chapter 28 - The Missing Mirror - It turns out that the eye in the mirror shard from Chapter 1 (and other times) was not that of Albus Dumbledore, but of his brother Aberforth Dumbledore. Now a barman in Diagon Alley, Aberforth saves the trio from Death Eaters and dementors. Harry has to use his stag Patronus to ward off the dementors. Aberforth convinces the Death Eater patrol that the stag was his Patronus, a goat, going out for a late-night walk.

We learn where Hagrid's been all this time--hiding in a cave with Grawp. Things indeed are tough.

Aberforth advises Harry to get away from Hogwarts. He doesn't favor Voldemort, but thinks the battle is lost. He's quit the Order of the Phoenix. He tells a story that casts more doubt on the motives of Albus Dumbledore by telling the story of their sister Ariana. Ariana was attacked by Muggle boys (raped?) as a young child. After the attack she was uncontrollable so Aberforth kept her out of sight. One day when Aberforth was out, Ariana accidentally killed their mother. Albus then took over care of Ariana. About this time, Grindewald began visting Albus and talk began about a new order with wizards ascending and ruling over Muggles. A fight erupts among Albus, Aberforth and Grindenwald. Ariana is accidentally killed during the fight. Aberforth blames Albus. Harry thinks that Grindewald was the villain as he remembered Albus crying to save the life of his brother and sister during their last time together.

Harry decides to trust Dumbledore. He expresses his determination to defeat Voldemort and convinces Aberforth to help. A portrait of Ariana in Aberforth's room turns out to be a secret passage into and out of Hogwarts. At the end of the chapter, Neville Longbottom steps out of the picture, bruised and bloody, to welcome Harry back to Hogwarts. Neville's reappearance is the most welcomed since Dobby's. These are true, if somewhat meek and clumsy, friends of Harry.

I've been thinking that this chapter in particular reads like a tribute to resistance fighters--maybe in World War II; maybe elsewhere in the world. Harry "gets by with a little help from his friends", not with the help of the mighty Order of the Phoenix, at least so far.

August 13 - I'm into Chapter 26, but will blog 22-24 tonite so as to not get too far behind.

Chapter 22 - The Deathly Hallows - Our reunited heroes discuss whether the Deathly Hallows are real or a story meant to teach young wizards and witches a lesson. Harry comes down on the side of "real", particularly when he surmises that the Resurrection Stone is inside the Snitch that Dumbledore willed to him. Hermione remains unconvinced.

We also meet Radio Free Potter, known here as Potterwatch--the voice of the resistance that is fighting Voldemort, his followers and the Death Eaters.

Harry goofs near the end of the chapter by speaking the name of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Soon after his return, Ron told Harry and Hermione about the Taboo and that Snatchers chase down those who speak the Dark Lord's name aloud. I guess we know who we'll see next.

Chapter 23 - Malfoy Manor - The action picks up in the best chapter of the book so far. Harry is disfigured by the Snatchers. He, Hermione and Ron all try to adopt false identities, but an article in The Prophet reminds even the stupid Snatchers who they've caught (though they're not 100% sure about Harry). The Snatchers take HH and R to Malfoy Manor to await Voldemort, where they're thrown into a dungeon. To their surprise and somewhat relief, they meet Luna, Dean and Ollivander in the dungeon. They're happy to find Luna since they've been envisioning her at Azkaban. Lucius, Bellatrix and Narcissa are all at the manor.

After a hiatus of almost five books (my daughter says he has appeared briefly in at least one other), who should show up but Dobby. Ever loyal to Harry Potter, whose subterfuge freed him from Lucius Malfoy, Dobby first disapparates to Shell Cottage (home of Bill and Fleur Weasley) with Luna, Dean and Ollivander. While Dobby is out, Harry and Ron defeat Wormtail, sent below to check on the prisoners. Wormtail actually kills himself after he shows Harry mercy while trying to strangle him (Harry reminds Wormtail that he once saved his life.)

When Dobby returns, Hermione is being tortured and Harry and Ron are tied up. Dobby creates havoc as only he can by crashing a chandelier atop Hermione and her tormentor. In the confusion, Dobby disapparates again, this time with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but Bellatrix impales him with a silver knife just as Dobby is fleeing the scene.

Dobby's death in the last paragraph of Chapter 23 is the most touching scene in the book so far. His dedication to Harry and heroism at the time of need are inspiring--all because Harry slipped a sock into a book to set Dobby free. The counterpoint of those two scenes is beautiful and rewards the reader whose worked his way through the entire series.

Before Dobby's rescue the goblin convinces Bellatrix, et. al. that the sword of Gryffindor recovered by the Snatchers (along with Harry and crew) is a fake. This is key for what comes next, and also to prevent Bellatrix and crew from using the powers of the sword in their fight against Harry.

Major question from Chapter 23--how did Dobby know where to go? I first laid it off to elfin magic, but later Harry asks the same question.

Chapter 24 - The Wandmaker - Harry begins his time at Shell Cottage by giving Dobby a proper burial, with a grave dug by hand and an engraved headstone, "Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf". He then gets back to business, considering the weighty question of Horcruxes or Hallows (it's clear by now that the three Deathly Hallows aren't Horcruxes, and can in fact be used to capture the Horcruxes). He wonders if it's right to follow Dumbledore's instruction to destroy Horcruxes, or to pursue the Hallows. Harry is definitely attracted by the power of the Hallows (Tolkien's ring?) .

To determine what to do next, Harry interviews Griphook the Goblin and Ollivander the wandmaker. He wants Griphook to get them into Gringotts bank to search the Lestrange (Bellatrix) vault for more Horcruxes. Griphook asks for time to think about their request. Ollivander tells them much about wands, including the history as he knows it of the Elder Wand. He thinks that Harry can be competitive with Draco's wand (which he acquired by force at the manor), but that the thought of the Dark Lord with the Elder Wand is "formidable". However, the trail of the Elder Wand ends with Dumbledore. As Harry recognizes where the Elder Wand is, Voldemort is destroying Dumbledore's grave to retrieve it from the coffin, having used the Cruciatus Curse to torture info from Ollivander. Still Harry decides to pursue Dumbledore's path and find and destroy the Horcruxes.

Just 250 pages to go, and Harry's still at least three Horcruxes short with the prospect of Voldemort becoming even more powerful with the acquisition of the Elder Wand--maybe four or five runs down going into the 7th inning? This should be some comeback.

August 11 - Chapters 19-21 are now behind me. I read them in the car while waiting for my wife and daughter to go shoe shopping after lunch.


Chapter 19 - The Silver Doe - Things are finally starting to look up for our hero. The silver doe, a Patronus with unknown origins, visits Harry and Hermione in the Dean Forest, their landing point after they apparate out of Godric's Hollow. The doe leads Harry to a frozen pond, at the bottom of which appears Gryffindor's Sword. Harry strips down for the icy plunge, but fails to remove the locket and its chain. While he's under water, the chain tries to strangle him. Once again, it looks like the end, but this time, none other than Ron comes to the rescue, back after his brief hiatus. Harry realizes that they can take out a Horcrux if Ron will smash the locket with the sword. Ron is reluctant, but does it, even in the face of Voldemort/Harry and Voldemort/Hermione spirit figures shouting his deepest fears about his mother and Hermione.

When Ron and Harry return to camp, Hermione is furious and lashes out at Ron. She cools down a little when she hears how Ron saved Harry. Most thoughtfully, Ron has a new wand for Harry.

The identity of the wizard behind the silver doe seems like a key piece of information. Harry thought it was Ron and vice versa--others are ruled out as well, but no one identified. Still, as Ron points out, someone other than Ron and Hermione is on Harry's side and doing something about it.

Chapter 20 - Xenophilius Lovegood - I was delighted to see this chapter title as Xenophilius in his appearance at the wedding seemed like the most intriguing new character in the book. I'm surprised he hasn't shown up in some capacity on the Hogwarts faculty.

Before HH and R reach Lovegood's, Ron reveals some of what he's learned on the outside. "The Taboo" (on speaking Voldemort's name) helps Voldemort track and identify those working against him, since the likes of Dumbledore and Harry have been the only ones to speak his name over the last few years.

I would love to see a picture of Lovegood's house--in writing it's the most fantastic place outside of Hogwarts yet--right out of a Dr. Seuss book. Is that giant thing on the wall a Snorkack or an Erumpment horn (which Hermione recognizes as a Class B Tradeable Material (very dangerous)? The answer turns out to be important. The creativity headgear with the Wrackspurt siphon and the Dirigible Plum (KEEP OFF THE DIRIGIBLE PLUMS) seems especially Seuss-like, with a little Lewis Carroll thrown in--something the Mad Hatter would have loved.

Ron seemingly shames Lovegood into helping, though we later learn why Lovegood is so reluctant.

Finally on Page 404 comes the first mention of the Deathly Hallows--turns out that the symbol that Xenophilius's wore around his neck at the wedding was the sign of the Deathly Hallows. On to Chapter 21 and more answers.

Chapter 21 - The Tale of Three Brothers - The tale that Lovegood tells HH and R to explain the Deathly Hallows is also in the Beedle the Bard book that Dumbledore left to Hermione (it was inscribed with the sign as well).

Are the Hallows (the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility) more Horcruxes? It sure would be convenient, finding out about three of them at once.

When the Hallows are unified, their owner becomes the Master of Death. The sign of the Hallows appeared on the gravestone of the Peverells in the Godric's Hollow cemetery.

According to Lovegood, the Peverells are the three brothers of the story, which is more than just a story.

HH and R discuss which Hallow is best. Hermione likes the Cloak, the one that gave the best result in the story. Harry prefers Resurrection Stone because it could bring his beloved parents, Sirius and Dumbledore back from the dead. Ron wants the wand--no more Quidditch losses for him.

At this point we learn that The Quibbler is printing "Wanted" posters of Harry. Voldemort has kidnapped Luna and demanded such as ransom with Luna being released when Lovegood turns over Potter. Lovegood is ready when the Death Eaters arrive.

Hermione saves the day, turning the power of the Erumpent horn on the Lovegood house and the Death Eaters. By my count this is narrow escape number four (the motorcycle ride, the snake, the frozen pond and Lovegood's house).

All the years of dedicated study have made Hermione the best magician of the group. I think we'll see Luna again and she'll be a major player in whatever happens. The pictures of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Ginny make me think that Neville and Ginny, the two most prominent characters uninvolved so far in Year 7, will also be a part of whatever happens.

August 9 - I read Chapters 16-18 a few days ago and then stopped because I couldn't keep up with blogging from the road. I bought "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See at the airport. It's a wonderful book and I'll probably spend the next couple days finishing it before resuming HP and the DH with Chapter 19.

That said, here are my thoughts on Chapters 16 through 18.


Chapter 16 - Godric's Hollow - The story had to find its way here--birthplace of both Godric Gryffindor and Harry Potter, early home of Dumbledore, and burial site of Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter. It looks like Year Seven at Hogwarts is almost a total loss as Harry and Hermione spend Christmas Eve in Godric's Hollow. Grindelwald's mark becomes more and more important, though I'm losing some of the details having read this chapter going on five days ago. Harry and Hermione become convinced that Dumbledore left the sword of Gryffindor with Bathilda Bagshot. The end of the chapter finds Hermione creating and Harry laying a Christmas wreath on his parents' graves--both of whom died at the young age of just 21. I always pictured them being older. The death date of October 31, 1981 also places Harry's story in time--starting in 1991 and proceeding to Christmas 1998 at this point. Whether just thrown together by circumstance or something more is developing, Harry and Hermione seem to be drawing closer together at this point, now that both have accepted that Ron is gone. I predict that we've not seen the last of Ron by a long shot.

Chapter 17 - Bathilda's Secret There are lots of surprises for Harry in this chapter. Bathilda is not what they hope to her to be--rather than Dumbledore's guardian of Gryffindor's sword, she reveals herself as a Death Eater in snake form (her apparently unintelligble babble being parseltongue) for Harry to survive, but this time at a high cost as Hermione breaks Harry's wand in the course of cursing "Bathilda" and saving Harry's life. I guess we'll learn more about whether Harry or his wand has the most powerful magic.

Harry also does some channeling of Voldemort--back to the hideous day when James and Lily were killed. Voldemort uses the some unsatisfying curse "Aveda Kedavra" (awfully close to Abracadabra, don't you think) to kill James and Lily.

Chapter 18 - The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore - Harry and Hermione get an unexpected look at Rita's expose on Dumbledore as she's sent a pre-publication copy to Bathilda, a primary source of sorts--the inscription "You said everything, even if you don't remember it" made me laugh. A picture in the book further links Dumbledore at an early age with Gellert Grindelwald, the second most dangerous dark wizard of all time. Dumbledore and Grindelwald exchange a letter about "The Greater Good", the theory that everyone including Muggles would be better off under pureblood wizard control (another Nazi/Aryan parallel it seems). Rita also continues to cast doubt on the circumstances of the death of Dumbledore's sister Ariana, reporting that Dumbledore's brother Aberforth accused Albus of causing her death. Having seemingly lost Ron, his wand and his faith in Dumbledore and having gained only the locket, Harry seems to be falling further and further behind in his race to defeat Voldemort in now just under 400 pages.

August 4 - I read Chapters 10 -15 mostly during travel on the 3rd. Here are my thoughts.


Chapter 10 - Kreacher's Tale starts with HH and R searching Grimmauld Place. Harry discovers that Sirius' room has been previously searched by others. There he finds half a letter from Harry's mother to Sirius.

We meet a historical character, Death Eater, Regulus Arcturus Black, Sirius' brother, R.A.B. of the locket. However, they can't find the locket. Harry orders his inherited house elf Kreacher (a good name to pronounce) to help. Kreacher admits that he had the locket, but that Mundungus Fletcher stole it. Harry has to tackle Kreacher to prevent the house elf from beating himself with a fireplace tool. He demands that Kreacher tell the whole truth--hence Kreacher's tale of the chapter title.

The Dark Lord took Kreacher to a black lake, where he made Kreacher drink poison that is in the lake. The DL then drops the locket into the empty lake basin (Kreacher was very thirsty it would seem). However, Kreacher escapes the lake using his underestimated elf powers. Regulus tells Kreacher to switch lockets--replacing the one in lake with a fake. Kreacher brings the locket home, but can't open it.

Harry sends Kreacher to find Mundungus. Harry gives the fake locket to Kreacher, which of course overwhelms Kreacher emotionally--still it's not a sock and doesn't give Kreacher his freedom. You get the feeling that Harry will free Kreacher some day.

Chapter 11 - The Bribe - The title event of the chapter comes on the last page. Remus Lupin tries to hook back up with HH and R. Harry is now a fugitive of sorts as the Ministry of Magic advertises that he is needed for questioning regarding Dumbledore's death. A full-blown coup is on at the Ministry, although it's being covered up with stories about the resignation of certain individuals. The Ministry has formed the Muggle-Born Registration Commission. Muggles are beginning to look more and more like Jews.

We also learn that the recent marriage of Remus and Tonks is on the rocks. Remus senses that werewolves are lower than Muggles in the magical caste system.

The Daily Prophet publishes an incendiary excerpt from Rita Skeeter's book about Dumbledore. Finally we learn the nature of the bribe--Mundungus has given it to Dolores Umbridge (boo!!) to avoid a fine for trying to sell it without a license.

Chapter 12 - Magic is Might - HH and R take us inside the infamous Ministry of Magic, the odious nexus of bureaucracy and evil. The chapter starts with their preparations. Hermione's handbag owes its design to a wonderful witch who might have trained at Hogwarts--Mary Poppins.

Headline - Serverus Snape now headmaster at Hogwarts--fun times coming up for all.

New security measures at the MoM require our heroes to flush their way into the building. Despite being literal bathroom humor, this is the funniest scene in the book so far.

Polyjuice potion is playing an ever-increasing role. After creating the seven Potters, it allows HH and R to enter the MoM relatively unnoticed by taking on the identities of MoM staffers.

The title of the chapter refers to sign above the entrance to the Ministry -Magic is Might, eerily similar to the Nazi slogan, Arbeit Macht Frei "Work Sets You Free", that appeared on a banner above the entrance to the park.

Chapter 13 - The Muggle-Born Registration Commission - It seems like HH and R's targets to mimic at the MoM are chosen at random. Hermione becomes Mafalda Hopkirk and is almost immediately to assist Dolores Umbridge (boo!), the Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission with the case of Mary Cattermole. Quite coincidentally it seems, the puking pastille convinces Mary's husband Reg Cattermole to go home for the day, even though his wife is on trial. Ron gets some of Cattermole's hair and assumes his identity. Harry can afford a slight power trip as he assumes the identity of funtionary Albert Rumcorn (Rumsfeld?). Harry spooks around a good bit with the help of his disguise and the invisibility cloak, an old standby. He finds Arthur Weasly's file in the new Minister's office, in which Harry finds himself referred to as the No. 1 Undesirable. He also finds the eye of Mad Eye Moody installed in Umbridge's door as a peephole. This is a bad sign for Moody.

As helpful to our heroes as polypotion juice are the trusty patroni (patronuses?) A stag and an otter play a big role in the rescue of the Muggle-borns from the Registration Commission--an obvious kangaroo court. Harry does use a new trick to throw off new Minister of Magic Pius Thicknesse (a reference to Pope Pius's infamous refusal to stand up to the Nazis during World War II?). After all of this, Harry brilliantly concludes that the sword is a horocrux. Harry also manages to free all the Muggle-borns awaiting trial in Umbrage's kangaroo court.

Chapter 14 is titled simply The Thief. We don't learn his identity in something of a surprise--only that he is a young, blonde man. The chapter begins with a new word -- splinched -- to have a large hunk of tissue cut out as a whole piece. From the MoM, HH and R escape to the woods adjacent to the witch convention rather than to the Forbidden Forest of just a few years ago. The thief of the title stole a wand many years ago. It seems like the wand could easily be a horcrux. Harry's wand becomes a source of speculation. Is it Harry or the wand? (like MJ or the shoes).

Chapter 15 - The Goblin's Revenge is one in which we learn enough. The horcrux locket appears to be like Frodo's ring. It corrupts everything it touches. The kids learn to take turns carrying it. Harry's plan is to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor - bequeathed to him Dumbledore. He figures out that it's the destroyer of horcruxes. Its power is increased by enemy blood. He also deduces that a snake is Horcrux 6.

We also meet Xeno Lovegood of the publication "The Quibble"; their quibble is with the Ministry.

Our young fugitives meet Tonk's father (on the run) and Dirk Cresswell, on the run from his unfair imprisonment at Azkaban.

Near the end of the chapter we learn that Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasly were caught trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor. I heard one guess of a big role for Neville. I'm not sure than an off-camera shot in Book Seven will get him there.

Addenduarum! This curse is used after posting late at night and missing several important points about a particular chapter. The most critical omission about Chapter 15 is that Ron checks out (goes home, that is) after he and Hermione continue to have "doubts about the mission", as HAL9000 said in "2001." He's beginning to think that Harry is leading them on a wild goose chase. "I thought you had a plan," and "Didn't Dumbledore tell you anything? (my paraphrase) are two concerns he expresses. Of course, Hermione is crushed, such that 3 minus 1 barely equals two.

I also failed to explain the meaning of the chapter title. HH and R overhear the story of the sword from two new characters, Griphook and Gornuk, goblins from the Gringotts bank. The sword being held at Hogwarts and subsequently moved to Gringotts after the attempted theft is a fake. The whereabouts of the real sword, which was forged by goblins are still unknown.

August 3: I got reading done last night and at the physical therapy office and the haircut place today, finishing Chapters 8 and 9. I just noticed the "sticker price" on the book--$34.99--maybe the highest I've ever seen for a popular novel--bordering on coffee table book territory. I don't think my daughter paid nearly this much at Wal-Mart. Also, the stats on first printings and cover price are fascinating. Initial printings - 50,000; 250,000; 500,000; 3.8 million; 8.5 million; 10.8 million; 12 million. Popularity exploded between Books 3 and 4. Cover prices - $16.95, $17.95, $19.95, $25.95, $29.99, $34.99. Similarly, the price jumped the most between Books 3 and 4. The first movie came out about the same time--between Books 3 and 4, which probably increased interest in the series. Interesting how Scholastic snuck those extra 4 cents in there between Books 4 and 5.


Chapter 8 - The Wedding - Maybe it's getting too late in the game for Rowling to come up with much that is new, but I was disappointed by the wedding of Bill and Fleur, which seemed very Muggle-like to me. Another possibility is that keeping scenes like this short is how she held "Hallows" to less than 1,200 pages.

Eschewing spectacle (although I'm anxious to see Emma Watson as Hermione in the Book 7 movie arrayed in her gown--she was so beautiful at the Yule Ball in "Goblet of Fire"), Rowling uses the wedding to advance the plot, particularly Harry's growing doubts about Dumbledore as he listens while disguised as Ron's "Cousin Barny" to 106-year old Auntie Muriel talk about Dumbledore's past. Daily Prophet writer Doge is also there to support the positive view of Dumbledore.

We also learn more about the mysterious Gregorovitch from surprise wedding guest Victor Krum. Turns out that he's a wandmaker.

We also meet the strange (even by wizard standards, it seems) Xenophilius Lovegood, whom Victor accuses of being in the thrall of Voldemort, as evidenced by an amulet he wears--the sign of Grindelvald, a Dark wizard defeated by Dumbledore. Our heroes rather like Lovegood, both for his eccentricity and for being the father of their friend Luna.

The term "squib" (a Muggle born to wizard/witch parents, I presume) makes its first appearance (at least in this book) in reference to Dumbledore's sister Ariana.

I would have loved to see Hagrid's love Madame Maxime, the headmistress of Beauxbatons, attend the wedding as his guest. They were so adorable together in "Goblet of Fire."

The chapter (and wedding reception) ends with the appearance of a Patronus, a lynx who announces the death of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgouer. Rufus, we hardly knew ye.

Chapter 9 - A Place to Hide - Our young heroes skedaddle from The Burrow as Harry's disguise potion wears off and Ron and Hermione long to get out of their dress clothes. They end up in Muggleland--Tottenham Court Road in a dingy diner that turns out to be the literal Highway Cafe of the Damned (both a song title and album title by the irrepressible Austin Lounge Lizards). Ron insults the cappucino and a battle with two Death Eaters disguised as fellow cafe patrons ensues. Off to lunch myself. More later.

Having survived another encounter with Death Eaters (in a cafe, no less), our heroes zip over to their second "place to hide"--Grimmauld Place, the family home of Harry's late godfather Sirius Black. It's whereabouts are well known to the wizard world (including the feared Severus Snape), making it not much of a hiding place. There they communicate with the dead, thought-dead and near-dead for awhile before brushing their teeth and going to sleep.

I'll read more while I'm on the road and in the air this afternoon. Hopefully, there'll be an available computer where I can post more at my destination.

August 2 - I didn't get much reading done today (Chapter 7 only thus far) but I did find a website with short synopses (that sounds redundant, but these are really short) of Books 1-6.


This helped me with some of my continuity issues from "Half-Blood Prince".


Chapter 7 - "The Will of Albus Dumbledore begins with Harry recounting a mysterious dream about someone named Gregorovitch that he thinks works for Voldemort. Next, young love makes its first appearance as Harry and Ginny share a brief kiss before being interrupted clumsily by Ron. Harry might not risk himself for the Worsleys, but Ginny is another matter. Rufus Scrimgouer, Minister of Magic, bursts on the scene with Arthur Weasley, bearing bequests from Dumbledore's will, which the Ministry has held for six months per policy. To Scrimgouer and Ron's surprise, Ron gets a deluminator (can suck the light from a room), Hermione gets a book of magical children's stories by Beedle Bard, and Harry gets two gifts--an old Snitch and the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Harry can't claim the last bequest as it is an historical artifact. Scrimgouer is very suspicious about why Dumbledore has bequeathed these items, and the kids are almost as puzzled. Scrimgouer, like most at the Ministry except Arthur, seems like he's on the wrong side. Still that doesn't provide much protection--he could be an early "bad guy" casualty in the war. Swirling around Chapters 6 and 7 are the preparations for the wedding of Fleur Delacour (French contestant for the Goblet of Fire) and Bill Weasley. Though many weddings are magical, we've never experienced an authentic magical wedding. This could be fun.

July 31, 2007 – I got my turn with the last tale of the young wizard of wizards and the Hogwarts gang this evening. My daughter bought “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at Wal-Mart just after midnight on Saturday, July 21, its first day of sale. She spent most of the next 30 or so hours awake reading its 758 pages. On Sunday, July 22 she passed the heavy, dustjacketless volume on to my wife who read it on and off for the next ten days. During this time, I was wading through “Breach of Faith” by New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Jed Horne, a book about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans and its citizens, both during the storm, the ensuing flood and in the following year. The timing worked out well as Kay finished HP just hours before I finished B o F. I felt like a publishing phenomenon of this magnitude should get more than a three paragraph review on Amazon (joining more than 1,000 other reviews so far). So here goes with "Harry Potter and the Curse of the Dadlak Blog."

August 1, 2007 – As I write this I’ve read the first three chapters (make that six). Unlike some other readers, I didn’t prepare for the experience by rereading Years 1-6. I haven’t even seen the movie version of “Order of the Phoenix” yet. What I remember most about Year 6, “The Half-Blood Prince," is that Harry still has about five or five-and-a-half of seven challenges or demons or something to overcome, and his most able supporter, the estimable Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore is dead. I figured that J.K. Rowling would need at least 1,000 pages to cover so much remaining ground, even without a 300-or-so page preamble (such as the account of the Quidditch Olympics that preceded the real story in “Goblet of Fire”). Based on this analysis, the 758 pages of “Deathly Hallows” should be a blistering action-packed adventure.


In Chapter 1 - The Dark Lord Ascending, Rowling indicates straight away that she means business. Voldemort assembles his team to tell them that he assigns himself to the task of killing Harry Potter. No lurking around in the shadows for the Dark Lord this time. He also embarrasses Lucious Malfoy both by taking his wand to help with Potter’s disposal (without offering his own wand in return), and by belittling a marriage between Malfoy’s niece and a “mudblood”, even while the Malfoy’s house Voldemort and host the meeting. Malfoy commits to cleaning up that mess. Racial purity, a theme in “Half Blood Prince” looks like it will become an even stronger theme here as Voldemort starts resembling Hitler. Former Hogwarts Muggle Studies professor, Charity Burbage (naming characters is among Rowling’s best talents) finds herself unconscious and suspended above the meeting table. She committed the irredeemable sin of promoting wizard-Muggle cooperation, and for it she gets eaten by Voldemort’s pet snake (off-camera, but still “ick!”). Severus Snape makes an obligatory appearance at the meeting as we wonder where his true loyalties lie—not to Ms. Burbage as he turns a cold eye to her entreaties for rescue. Voldemort’s henchman Wormtail is also keeping a “prisoner” who moans during the meeting, but whose identity we don’t yet learn.

In Chapter 2 - In Memoriam Harry comes back on the scene, living once again at the Dursleys’, number four Privet Drive. In back issues of the Daily Prophet he reads conflicting “tributes” to his mentor Dumbledore—selfless hero, as Harry has always assumed and experienced, or scheming opportunist, as intimated by muckraker Rita Skeeter in a tease for her new book. While rummaging through a trunk of items from Hogwarts days, Harry cuts his finger on a broken mirror, one in which he thinks he sees the eye of Dumbledore. Good to know the old wizard is still looking out for our hero.

Chapter 3 - The Dursleys Departing may or may not be our final look at Harry’s portly Muggle foster family as they make their usual "early-in-the-book" appearance. Harry’s convinced them that at age 17 he’ll lose his protection as a juvenile and come under direct attack by Voldemort (this should be rough—I thought he was being attacked pretty vigorously up ‘til now) and that the Dursleys could be targeted as well—perhaps even kidnapped to flush Harry out to come to their rescue (would he, really?). This idea seems preposterous until Dudley admits that Harry isn’t a “waste of space” to him. (“Diddy” as Petunia calls him, recalls that Harry saved his life from dementors (I forget which book this was in)).

Rowling takes a light shot at blustering conservatives, of whom Vernon is certainly one, when she has him say that the Ministry of Magic will protect him (a strange point of view given Vernon’s distrust of both government bureaucracy and magic). Harry reminds Vernon that the Ministry has been infiltrated and can’t be trusted. In the Order of the Phoenix’s version of the Witness Protection Program, the Dursleys leave Privet Drive for parts unknown. Under different cover, Harry prepares to leave as well.

Chapter 4 - The Seven Potters - I discovered an error in my earlier posts--the Dursleys are Harry's aunt and uncle, not foster parents. And Harry is protected until age 17 not by the state but my his late mother's charm.

The seven Potters scheme is a nice touch--invisibility via expanded visibility. Saddam tried a form of this in Iraq, building two dozen or more palaces and filling them with activity so that no one could be sure which one he was in at any given time.

The first important character to die is an owl. Nice of Rowling to ease us into the concept of death.

What is a threstral? (answered in Chapter 5 it turns out--flying creatures with batlike wings)

Who is Selwyn--a name called out during the flying chase scene involving Harry, Hagrid and Voldemort.

Harry uses "expelliarmus" curse to drive off Voldemort. Pretty close to my blog title, and the pun I was going for. This all on memory. Not bad.

Chapter 5 - Fallen Warrior - Ted Tonks is introduced--father of Nymphadora Tonks, the niece of the Malfoys who married the mudblood Remus.

Harry reinforces the "good guys" vs. "bad guys" dichotomy--he "won't blast people out my way just because they're there."

Snape loyalty test, Part II - he curses off George Weasley's ear, making him "holey", which Rowling acknowledges to be a very lame pun. Snape also told Voldemort of the date change for Harry's rescue. Who told Snape? Snape has got a lot of "splainin'" to go in the words of Ricky Ricardo--first the death of Dumbledore, and now these transgressions. If he's Harry's friend, I'd hate to meet an enemy.

"Mad-Eye" Moody is the second to die (first human)--though they don't recover his corpse, so I'm not counting him out for good. Still the chapter title is "Fallen Warrior", so maybe Mad-Eye is really gone.

Chapter 6 - Ghoul in Pajamas - Two references to the challenges left for Harry and friends from Year 6--horcruxes and the initials R.A.B. I hope Rowling will provide more background information for those of us who haven't studied "Half Blood Prince" more recently than when it was published in 2005. They do refer to their being five horcruxes left to destroy--consistent with my recollections about how much work was left--Tom Riddle's diary was one; Dumbledore's ring another, it appears.

The ghoul of the chapter title is a ruse intended by Ron to confuse those who will be looking for Harry, Ron and Hermione as they disappear to destroy the horcruxes. The pustule-covered, red-haired ghoul is supposed to be Ron suffering from some rare and highly contagious disease. Pretty good thinking for Ron, but bound to go awry at some point.

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