More fun than a poke of Pygmy Puffs. More tears than Fawkes can fathom. That about sums up this splendid ride that Alice has taken us all on. Thank you, madam, for hosting this misfit band of international readers. This series contains just about everything one can want in a book, and this last section for today's discussion is the most intense of all. There really is too much but we must try...
Let's start on a happy note, shall we? Let's celebrate Neville's return:
Let's start on a happy note, shall we? Let's celebrate Neville's return:
- But seriously: how many of you were also thinking in this first chapter, "Go on, Harry. Tell at least Neville and Luna and Ginny what y'all are up to." Seriously, he's spent half the book being frustrated that Dumbledore never gave him the full picture, so why not rely on these most trustworthy of characters now that he knows the end is nigh?
- I *love* the Ravenclaw password system. But it's not very practical, is it? How would ickle firsties know how to answer the questions? Or do we suppose that the eagle door knocker adjusts its questions according to the person knocking?
- Does anybody else find it strange that Harry abandons his trademark Expelliarmus for Crucio when he leaps to McGonagall's defense? Not only is it going from a defensive to a completely offensive spell (pun intended), but going from a passive one to a very, very aggressive, not to mention illegal, one.
- "The time has come for Slytherin House to decide upon its loyalties." I have always thought that this line was completely unfair. Yes, you'll find me to be a Slytherin apologist, so clearly I will take sides here, but when in the course of the series have we ever seen the Slytherins get a truly fair shake when it comes to Harry and his merry band of Gryffindors? No matter whether the Slytherin students support Voldemort or not, many of them are being asked to take up arms against their family members or to leave. They are the House that the remaining three houses loathe and make no secret of doing so. They are the House whose end of year House Cup was taken away from then at the last minute by the headmaster, the very person who should be maintaining more neutrality than even the teachers. If Hogwarts itself has shown no loyalty to the Slytherins, why should they choose otherwise? We as readers know all about Harry and what he stands for and his chance to save the world, but the Slytherins themselves are not privy to such information.
- Percy's reconciliation with his family: brings me to tears every time, and oh, how I ache for them to have more time together before the Weasleys are rent asunder.
- I love Harry's flash of insight about the no wizard in living memory to figure out about the diadem. That was very clever of him, indeed, and a major leap in intuition. However, since he saw Voldemort in his vision thinking about where his horcrux was in the Room of Hidden Things a, why didn't they just go straight there to find the diadem?
- These professors have some seriously whack ideas. Bopping the Death Eaters on their heads with crystal balls? That's just silly, but okay, I'll buy it. But fighting Death Eaters with mandrakes? Um, how is that going to work? The Order and the students are all going into battle with earmuffs on, which is ridiculously dangerous? Otherwise wouldn't the mandrakes disable both sides with their screams?
- I call shenanigans on Ron's ability to mimic Parseltongue well enough to break into the Chamber. It was quite brilliant of him to think of the idea, but I'm just not buying it.
- Ooh, Fiendfyre. Very interesting. Did anybody notice that in the film, the Fiendfyre takes the forms of the four House mascots? I did not notice that until I started looking for gifs.
- And in other news, we finally see Drarry on a broomstick together.
- Okay, wow. Snape gets the most ignominious death EVER. I assumed for a long time that he would have to die to satisfy the story arc, but I really, really, really was hoping for something more badass than that. Just sayin'.
- Frankly, Dumbledore, YOU disgust me. I have a whole essay about it here that I wrote back in 2011. But here are the most relevant parts: Like many people, including Harry himself, I was surprised to learn of Dumbledore's past, but rather than being disappointed in him, it made him far more interesting in my eyes. Hard-won wisdom, experience, and self-knowledge make for a better character any day in my book (and make me curious what we would learn if given a glimpse of, say, Gandalf's youthful indiscretions). It's no wonder, then, that in books 1-6 and the backstory we get there that Dumbledore comes across as powerful, wise, and good--it's because he has spent decades reflecting on his past and honing those worthy qualities in atonement.
So why on earth does he not treat Snape with the compassion we would expect to see in those pensive memories? After all, we've just learned that 18-year-old Dumbledore was best friends (we find out later from Rowling after the series has been published that they were probably lovers) with
HitlerGrindelwald, that he subscribed to his plan for the master humanwizarding race ("Muggles forced into subservience" is a direct quotation), and he was quite ready to throw over his own siblings and follow Grindelwald's hallows hunt--not to mention he possibly killed his own sister. So it felt like a punch to the solar plexus for older-and-wiser Dumbledore to say to Snape, who in 1981 could not have been older than 21, "You disgust me." Really, Dumbledore? Snape disgusts you? For wanting the only person he ever loved to be kept guarded from Voldemort? Because he didn't automatically beg to save James Potter, the boy who nearly got him killed a few years earlier but was only given detention for it because *you* didn't want to let the wizarding world know you had allowed a werewolf into Hogwarts? Frankly, Dumbledore, you disgust me for saying that when at almost the same age you were fucking Grindelwald, subscribing to his anti-muggle policies, and wanting to bring back your dead mother so she could watch over your younger siblings and relieve you of your adult responsibilities. To exaggerate slightly and put it more bluntly, Dumbledore was well on his way to becoming one half of a two-man Death EaterSquad team, all in the name of The Greater Good, and yet in his older & wiser years isn't able to empathize with Snape's youthful mistakes?!
[sidebar: why couldn't Dumbledore have just been gay in the books instead of being outed after the last book had been published? I do not think lowly enough of Ms. I'm-Wealthier-Than-God Rowling that she was worried that she wouldn't sell as many books if a main character were gay, so what was the reason?]
And as if that weren't enough, Dumbledore makes a second knife-thrust to the heart when he says "Perhaps we sort too soon." Why, Albus? Because Slytherins are second-class citizens? Incapable of doing good in the world? Because only Gryffindors can be brave? Because Slytherins, unlike Gryffindors, don't deserve a second chance when they recover from their adolescent foolery?
It's not that I don't respect Albus for his teenage failings. We all do things in our younger lives that as adults we are not particularly proud of, and we commit acts in pairs or groups that we wouldn't dream of doing on our own. In fact, Albus's dabbling with anti-muggle policy in his youth makes him a far more interesting character in my eyes, and I admire his fortitude and redemption in later life all the more. Which is why I cannot forgive his lack of empathy towards Snape in these pensieve memories. If it's because Snape reminds Albus of his own teenage self, then it's all the more reason for me to want to bitchslap ol' Dumby.
- Ahem. I digress. "I open at the close." Very poetic. I love the scene of Harry with his color guard on the way to his death. I mean, it kills me, but I love it. I love it for its own merits as well as because it reminds of the scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan is walking toward his own death, accompanied in the cold of the night by Lucy and Susan. And then when Harry asks, "You'll stay with me?" and James responds, "Until the very end," I totally lose it. It's a lot like this:
- And because it just wouldn't be a Harry Potter readalong without it, I must draw attention to one of my favorite "wand" references: "He picked up the holly and phoenix wand and felt a sudden warmth in his fingers, as though wand and hand were rejoicing at their reunion." Yeah, I just bet they were.
- Neville has his moments of awesomeness. Narcissa Malfoy has her moment, too, and though it's less awesome, I want more than ever her back story.
- That epilogue. I. Can't. Even. I know y'all are rolling your eyes at me by now, but I have a really good fanfic downloaded called Coda to an Epilogue: 20 Year Later, or the Kids Are All Right. It's about 90 pages long, so I cannot post it, but I can email it. Let me know if you'd like me to send it to you. It's completely canon-compliant as far as I recall, and it puts closure on the wizarding world in a way that JKR's epilogue does not: Young James Potter acts a lot like his eponym, young Albus Severus gets sorted into Slytherin and becomes best friends with Scorpius, and Draco marries a tough freedom fighter from Portugal. Plus sewers and alligators. And lots of humor.
- I am so sad that the end is here for this readalong. I think, above all, that is the main reason I read fan fiction--it allows me to linger in this world a little longer. Thank you, JKR. Thank you, Alice.
- This YouTube video is a little long, but it's a good way to bid Snape adieu.