Okay, I’ve got a new game…

I’m going to post three of my favorite Hagrid moments from PS/SS Chapter 4. You’re welcome to use the Comments thread to post yours.

1. Hagrid:
Context: Hagrid has broken down the door to the hut, and Uncle Vernon has greeted him with a rifle. Then…

The giant squeezed his way into the hut, stooping so that his head just brushed the ceiling. He bent down, picked up the door, and fitted it easily back into its frame. The noise of the storm outside dropped a little. He turned to look at them all.

“Couldn’t make us a cup o’ tea, could yeh? It’s not been an easy journey…”

2. Hagrid and Uncle Vernon
Context: Hagrid has just become the first person ever to tell Harry that he looks like his father but has his mother’s eyes.

Uncle Vernon made a funny rasping noise.

“I demand that you leave at once, sir!” he said. “You are breaking and entering!”

“Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune,” said the giant; he reached over the back of the sofa, jerked the gun out of Uncle Vernon’s hands, bent it into a knot as easily as if it had been made of rubber, and threw it into a corner of the room.

Uncle Vernon made another funny noise, like a mouse being trodden on.

3. Hagrid and Uncle Vernon
Context: Hagrid has discovered that Harry has never heard of Hogwarts or of the Wizarding World

“You never told him? Never told him what was in the letter Dumbledore left for him? I was there! I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley! An’ you’ve kept it from him all these years?”

“Kept what from me?” said Harry eagerly.

“STOP! I FORBID YOU!” yelled Uncle Vernon in panic.

Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.

“Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,” said Hagrid. “Harry – yer a wizard.”

And don’t forget the bit where Hagrid’s rage has Uncle Vernon mumbling something that sounds like “Mimblewimble”!

Okay… your turn!

Harry – Yer a Wizard!

The new chapter starts with a BOOM. Any doubts on what that is all about?

In chapter 1, Hagrid was entrusted with retrieving baby Harry from the ruined house and bringing him to Privet Drive. After 7 days and hundreds of letters, Hogwarts has finally sent the same emissary to deliver a single admissions letter.

For the past 10 years, Harry has been abused, neglected, under-nourished. And now this seeming-stranger comes in to the hut and focuses almost exclusively on him. Hagrid brings Harry a birthday cake, heats him up some sausages, even takes care of the Dursleys for him! Hagrid treats Harry like a hidden Prince.

In the letter left with Harry on the Dursley’s doorstep, Dumbledore had entrusted the boy’s aunt and uncle with the job of telling Harry who he was and what he was. The Dursley’s opted, instead, to hide and even run from the truth. Now, for the first time, Harry meets somebody who knows his story… and isn’t lying about it. Harry is, he learns, a Wizard – a famous boy in the Wizarding World. And his parents didn’t die in a car crash. They were murdered:

“CAR CRASH!” roared Hagrid, jumping up so angrily that the Dursleys scuttled back to their corner. “How could a car crash kill Lily an’ James Potter? It’s an outrage! A scandal! Harry Potter not knowin’ his own story when every kid in our world knows his name!”

You’ve just got to love Hagrid. He’s just so infuriated with the Dursleys for telling Harry nothing of the truth and fabricating falsehoods and depriving Harry of his birthright.

And so it’s left to Hagrid to tell Harry the story that every Wizarding kid knows – or at least the snippets of it that are not confined only to Dumbledore’s personal knowledge. But much of it is speculation. Hagrid speculates that when he killed the Potters, maybe Voldemort was trying to recruit them and it all went wrong, or maybe he wanted them out of the way because they were too close to Dumbeldore. Hagrid doesn’t really know:

“All anyone [other than Dumbledore] knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Halloween ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an’ – an’ – “….

“You-Know-Who killed ’em. An’ then – an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing – he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin’ by then. But he couldn’t do it. Never wonder how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That’s what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh – took care of yer mum an’ dad an’ yer house even – but it didn’t work on you, an’ that’s why yer famous, Harry. No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ’em, no one except you…. an’ you was only a baby, an’ you lived.”

This is really the first explanation we have of why this little boy will be legend. But Hagrid’s got large parts of the story wrong:

  • Harry wasn’t an afterthought. He was the primary target. Harry is the reason Voldemort turned up in the village where they were hiding and killed Harry’s parents before trying to kill him.
  • The scar is far beyond being what you get when a powerful evil curse touches you. It’s a piece of Voldemort’s soul, living in Harry. It will become a connection between Harry and the Dark Lord.

Elsewhere, Hagrid tells Harry taht Voldemort never tried taking Hogwarts  because he was afraid of Dumbledore. Of course, in the Second Wizarding War, he at least thinks he’s taken Hogwarts.

And now for the final crucial piece of information. After failing to kill the boy, Voldemort disappeared:

“Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. ‘Cause somethin’ about you finished him, Harry. There was somethin’ goin’ on that night he hadn’t counted on – I dunno what it was, no one does – but somethin’ about you stumped him, all right.”

This is one bit that Hagrid gets very nearly right. Something did stump Voldemort. Hagrid just doesn’t know what. Despite Hagrid’s enlightenment, much of Harry’s story is still obscure. But for the first time, Harry finally connects the flash of green light to the “high, cold, cruel laugh” that he heard on the night his parents were murdered.

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 3

We last left off with the Dursleys about to make a run for it, after the great letter-down-the-chimney assault. Let’s join them…

On the Lam

Sunday, Day 6: On Day 6 (the day “one less than perfection”), the Dursleys make a run for it, attempting to escape the letters…

Dudley was sniffling in the back seat; his father had hit him round the head for holding them up while he tried to pack his television, VCR, and computer in his sports bag.

They drove. And they drove. Even Petunia didn’t dare ask where they were going. Every now and then Uncle Vernon would take a sharp turn and drive in the opposite direction for a while.

“Shake ’em off… shake ’em off,” he would mutter whenever he did this.

Best moments: Dudley’s packing sense, Uncle Vernon’s muttering. And it just keeps getting better!

Monday, Day 7: Harry is a bit disoriented by the week’s events, so he doesn’t really realize it yet, but this 7th day of letters is also the day before the last day of the 7th month – the day of his 11th birthday. Keep in mind the dying days of the 7th month. It will become important later in the series.

And there are many other 7s in this series: 7 years, 7 Weasley children, 7 players in Quidditch, 7 Potters, 7 intended parts to Voldemort’s soul. And of course, 7 is said to be the most magically powerful number. But of course, all of that is yet to come. Right now, Harry has not even been introduced to the Wizarding World… though the Wizarding World is doing its best to introduce itself to him!

On this 7th day of letters from no one, the Dursleys find that none of their previous attempts to outrun the letters have succeeded. 100 or so letters await Harry at the hotel desk. After hours of driving aimlessly, Petunia sensibly asks Vernon if it might not be a good idea to go home. Instead, Uncle Vernon…

… drove them into the middle of a forest, got out, looked around, shook his head, got back in his car, and off they went again. The same thing happened in the middle of a plowed field, halfway across a suspension bridge, and at the top of a multilevel parking garage.

“Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Dudley asked Aunt Petunia dully late that afternoon.

Finally, he finds a wave-crashed island offshore with a damp and battered shack. Certainly, no post can arrive there. Yet in what Daggerstone has called “Decidedly THE funniest Deus ex machina,” with less than one second to go to Harry’s birthday, Harry hears a…


The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

The Wizarding World will not be dissuaded.

Best moment: Dudley inquiring after his father’s sanity.

Next time: “Harry – Yer a Wizard”

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 2

Well, I did it! I didn’t finish The Flight of the Dursleys (had to go to sleep), but at least I got it started. All things considered, I call that a WIN!

So, let’s keep going, shall we? Before falling asleep last night, I had just started with the letters

We were last on Day 2 – after Ickle Dudley Wuddykins’ snit, but before the morning post.

The Letters: A Brief Chronology (cont’d)

Wednesday, Day 2: Another single letter arrives. But significantly, it is addressed to Harry’s new location: “The Smallest Bedroom.” Someone knows he has moved.

Best moment? The three-way battle for the letter in which “everyone got hit a lot by the Smelting Stick.”

Thursday, Day 3: Harry is so determined to read the post that he tries sneaking outside before anyone else awakes.  Uncle Vernon is so determined to keep him away from the post that he camps out by the mail slot in a sleeping bag. The unknown sender is so determined to get Harry his letter that three letters arrive!

Best moment? Uncle Vernon staying home from work to nail up the mail slot:

“Oh, these people’s minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,” said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.

Note to self: What a novel use for fruitcake!

Friday, Day 4: Twelve letters arrive, pushed through every crevice available. Uncle Vernon stays home to board up the cracks.

Best moment? Uncle Vernon humming “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” while nailing stuff up… and jumping at small noises.

Saturday, Day 5: Well, things just escalate and escalate and escalate:

On Saturday, things began to get out of hand. Twenty-four letters to Harry found their way into the house, rolled up and hidden inside each of the two dozen eggs that their very confused milkman had handed Aunt Petunia through the living room window. While Uncle Vernon made furious phone calls to the post office and the dairy trying to find someone to complain to, Aunt Petunia shredded the letters in her food processor.

“Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?” Dudley asked Harry in amazement.

A few things here. The milkman seems to have been confunded. So this means that Wizards are taking a very direct and active role, interacting with Muggles, in order to get a single letter to Harry. Not to mention that the number of letters has doubled since the day before. We are now up to two dozen letters, along with the two dozen eggs.

Best moment? Aunt Petunia shredding letters in the food processor.
Who knew those things had so many uses?

Sunday, Day 6: No post today! Well not through Muggle Mail at least. But Muggle Mail has never stopped the owl post. 30-40 letters come zipping down the chimney like bullets, and Uncle Vernon decides to make a run for it.

Best moment? Uncle Vernon “trying to speak calmly but pulling great tufts out of his mustache at the same time” and looking “so dangerous with half his mustache missing that no one dared argue” when he ordered them to pack.

I’m going to leave off the Dursleys on the lam for our next entry. Hope to see you then!

(to be continued)

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 1

Okay, I did it. After a couple of weeks of personal trauma (including the loss of a beloved pet and two rounds of blizzard), I finally forced myself to re-read “The Letters from Nowhere” – the chapter in which Harry’s acceptance letters arrive from Hogwarts. Please bear with me while I make my re-entry into writing up the re-read. :)

I’m going to approach this first post a bit differently. In order to get writing again, I’m just going to do scattershot impressions rather than create crafted writerly paragraphs. Are you good with that? Here we go…

I really love this chapter. For starters, it’s our second close-encounter with this place they call Hogwarts. We know that those wizardly types in the first chapter had to come from somewhere, and two of them were called “Professor,” but we didn’t know Professor of what, or Professor from where. And really, at the end of this chapter, we still don’t know… because Harry’s uncle won’t let him touch those letters!

The whole letters incident is really hilarious, and it shows the incredible tenacity of the Wizarding World, and the incredible tenacity of the Dursleys in trying to avoid it!

Poor Dudley

Before looking at the letters, it might be nice to take a moment to think about poor Dudley. This is a really miserable chapter for Harry’s cousin, maybe moreso even than it is for Harry, who is accustomed to irrational behavior and abuse. But Dudley is used to being the center of attention and having all his whims met.

At the beginning of the chapter, Dudley is strutting around the house in his new school uniform with his new “Smelting Stick.” But once the letters arrive, Dudley gets shuffled to the side. In the attempt to keep the letters away from Harry, Uncle Vernon tosses Dudley (along with Harry) out into the hall by the scruff of his neck, gives Dudley’s overflow toy room to Harry (out of blind terror that the first letter came addressed to Harry at “The Cupboard Under the Stairs”), even wrestles his son to the ground when a new letter arrives. Later, when Vernon decides to flee the house, he hits Dudley on the head for taking too long to pack, and Dudley misses all his favorite TV shows on an empty stomach and even has to sleep in a horrible wet shack on a rock offshore! You almost feel some sympathy for the poor brute of a boy.

The Letters: A Brief Chronology

So now, on to the letters…

Tuesday, Day 1: Blind panic sets in at the Dursleys from the moment Uncle Vernon grabs Harry’s letter out of his hand and reads it. From the Dursleys’ point of view, a letter from these still-mysterious senders is nothing short of a catastrophe. Petunia’s voice is “quivering.” Vernon talks about “dangerous nonsense.” Dudley is forced to listen in at the keyhole (Shades of Death Eater Snape listening in on Trelawney’s prophecy). And Harry gets moved upstairs, out of the cupboard and into a bedroom.

Wednesday, Day 2:

Next morning at breakfast, Dudley was in shock. He’d screamed, whacked his father with his Smelting Stick, been sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the greenhouse roof, and he still didn’t have his room back.

And that’s all before the next letter arrives!

(To be continued…)

Snowmageddon, Severus, and the “Betrayal” of Snape

Well, I’m back. We did have to put Rusty down yesterday. To celebrate his life, we will be looking for a pair of (boy and girl) kittens to name Severus and Minerva. Don’t worry, though. They won’t be treacly Umbridge kittens!

I’m still not quite up for a bit of “Flight of the Dursley’s” slapstick, but I am starting to recover enough from the Rusty trauma to write about Severus Snape.

Did Severus Snape Betray the Order of the Phoenix?

If you have read this blog before, I’m sure you already know my answer to this question. However, I have recently encountered an argument insisting that since Snape was not reporting to any living member of the Order, the information he passed to Voldemort in “Dark Lord Ascending” was an act of betrayal. Never mind that he was taking orders from Dumbledore’s portrait. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement.

Here is the Snape-Betrayal argument, along with my response.

Snape-Betrayal Point 1:

Neither Snape nor Dumbledore’s Portrait is working with or for the Order. Therefore giving information to Voldemort without informing living members of the Order is an act of betrayal.

My response:

  • Headmasters’ portraits have the imprint of the deceased Headmaster’s thoughts and memories.
  • The purpose of the portraits is to provide counsel to future Headmasters, from the “voice” of the deceased Headmaster. They occasionally provide counsel to others.
  • Harry regards Dumbledore’s portrait as having the same authority of wisdom as Dumbledore himself, as we see in Harry’s visits to the Headmaster’s office at the end of DH.
  • Dumbledore founded the Order of the Phoenix, and the Order would not have existed in either war without Dumbledore’s initiative.
  • Snape’s job was to serve as a spy, and Dumbledore was a brilliant Spymaster and wartime Strategist.
  • Both Snape and Dumbledore were accomplished in the arts of Occlumency and Legilimency.
  • There is no evidence in the text indicating that anybody else in the Order is an accomplished Occlumens, Legilimens, Spymaster, or Strategist. Failure in any of these areas would almost certainly have proven catastrophic for the anti-Voldemort forces.
  • Given that the portrait is the imprint of the Headmaster’s thoughts and memories, it is clear that Dumbledore planned before his death to continue to serve as Spymaster for Severus Snape on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix.

Essentially, Dumbledore founded the Order, he clearly planned to continue his work for the Order after death, and it is crucial that he keep his plans secret from the other members of the Order unless there is some other unknown member of the Order who is an accomplished enough Occlumens to withstand a session of Legilimency with Voldemort. (Since there is zero evidence that such an Order member exists, my assumption is that there is no such member).

In other words, Snape is working for the Order in a top secret role. While this would not be possible in the Muggle world, Headmasters’ portraits make it possible in the Wizarding World.

Additionally, if we assume that Severus Snape was wrong to follow orders from a portrait with regard to the Battle over Little Whinging, then we should also assume that he was wrong to get the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry in the Forest of Dean – on the word of two Headmasters’ portraits. And yet, if he had failed to get the sword to Harry at that time, what would the outcome have been with the locket Horcrux? It was already destroying the trio. It is quite likely that Voldemort would have triumphed in the end without Harry receiving the sword at that specific time.

Snape-Betrayal Point 2:

Since Dumbledore is dead, Snape is not working for the Order. He’s only working for (dead) Dumbledore and is not really a double agent.

My Response:

See above. Also, this is clearly not how Harry sees it once he has seen the memories. The portrait is conveying the overall game plan Dumbledore hatched before his death, while he was leader of the Order. Harry regards Snape in retrospect as working for the Order, not independently of it and not against it.

Snape-Betrayal Point 3:

The only purpose for Snape giving the information to Voldemort was to get himself in good with Voldemort, not to protect the Order or Harry.

My Response:

Actually, that’s exactly what spies do in order to protect those they are protecting. It is a pretend betrayal and the entire purpose is to protect Harry and help defeat Voldemort, over the longterm.

Actually, this entire scenario is parallel to the work of a British double agent during WWII with regard to D-Day. He was told to give the Germans real information that they in turn would not be able to use effectively, in order to establish the credentials of the double agent with the Germans – just as the 7 Potters tactic that Snape passes on to the Order similarly prevents Voldemort from using Snape’s real information effectively but helps establish Snape’s bona fides as a Death Eater.

Snape-Betrayal Point 4:

Dumbledore and Snape had a different agenda than the Order, and it involved callously using the lives of Order members as canon fodder. Dumbledore and Snape should have communicated their plans to the Order and coordinated with the Order.

My Response:

Well canon fodder, sorry, is part of war. This is what war commanders do, and Dumbledore clearly hatched his general game plan while he was indisputably war commander for the anti-Voldemort side. Unfortunately, every member of the Order is expendable if it means the success of the war effort – even Dumbledore and Snape.

And why should Dumbledore and Snape have set up any plans to communicate and coordinate with members of the Order? Spy work is always kept secret. Snape’s mission was too sensitive to reveal to other members of the Order – short of the Order possessing another accomplished Occlumens, Spymaster and Strategist. It was strategically crucial that he appear to be Voldemort’s man. It was strategically crucial that nobody know this because otherwise the secret could have been betrayed, even unwillingly, by somebody who could not stand up to Voldemort’s Legilimency – basically, I think, any other member of the Order.

Snape’s action, in my opinion, is no betrayal. It is crucial for defeating Voldemort in the long strategy.

Okay, short of some new catastrophe beyond the Snowpocalypse, I will finally be back this week with “The Flight of the Dursleys.”