The Boy Who Lived

I have to confess that I really love Chapter 1. I think last time I wrote about it, I may have said it reminded me in tone a bit of Tolkien’s opening to The Hobbit.

Actually, yes, I did.

In looking back, it appears that I wrote four consecutive blog posts about just this one chapter. In addition to the Hobbit comparison, I discussed the overwhelming presence of owls, drew up a  Chapter map (complete with explanation), and wrote another whole long post about Albus Dumbledore and sundry other issues. I really went “into the weeds” with this chapter when I wrote about it 10 years ago!

But in fairness, this brief introductory chapter accomplishes a lot. It sets up the conflict between the Dursleys and Harry and the recent and future conflicts between Harry and Voldemort, shows the secret world of the Wizards and its fear of being found out, introduces part of our main cast of Wizards, and hints at the recent war with Voldemort.

It’s a writing tour de force, and in it J.K. Rowling announces her presence on the literary stage.

The Power Dynamic

In terms of our broader themes, this chapter sets up various versions of power. We don’t know yet how it’s all going to play out, but we can clearly identify four power centers in the chapter:

Vernon Dursley – Vernon is a non-magical person who abuses power and people and gets “enraged” at anything that deviates from his conception of social norms (such as older people wearing weird attire). Yelling “at five different people” at work in the morning puts him in “a very good mood.” Yet after hearing rumors about the Potters from the “weirdos,” he shrinks into worry and insecurity. With just these small character details, Rowling establishes Vernon as an abuser who will soon be placed in the position of having to foster his “weirdo” nephew (Hint: This will not go well),  but she also establishes him as something of a paper tiger. Just put some pressure on him and watch him crumple.

Voldemort (a.k.a. “You-Know-Who”) – We don’t really meet Voldemort here, just hear about him. But from the conversation between Professor McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore, we find he is a magical person whom Wizards have feared for the past eleven years – feared so much that only Dumbledore will say his name. In fact, Voldemort murdered Harry’s parents the night before… and even tried to kill the boy. On a first read, this is where it gets confusing, because apparently trying to kill the boy made him disappear. Before the night he disappeared, Voldemort clearly possessed astounding powers, but used them to evil purpose. As the story progresses and he finds a way to return, his ill intent will thwart him over and over again. It’s almost like Rowling is saying that “power is not enough.” (Hint: It’s not!).

Albus Dumbledore – Dumbledore is, in many ways, the antithesis of Vernon Dursley and even moreso of Voldemort. He’s an older man, dressed weirdly, yet Professor McGonagall (who can transform herself from a cat into a human being!) defers to him. He speaks gently, consolingly, and with a certain amount of wisdom. He’s also a bit naive. He thinks that if he just explains the situation to the Dursleys in a letter, they will accept Harry and eventually tell him who he is. In addition, Dumbledore has a bit of humility, as we can see from this snippet of dialogue:

“But you’re different” [said Professor McGonagall]. Everyone knows you’re the only one You-Know-Who – oh, all right, Voldemort, was frightened of.”

“You flatter me,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Voldemort had  powers I will never have.”

“Only because you’re too – well – noble to use them.”

McGonagall here effectively establishes Dumbledore as a man whose powers rival Voldemort’s but who restrains himself from using the more ignoble types of power. We will (much) later learn exactly why Dumbledore restrains himself, but for now, it’s simply worth noting that in the first chapter Rowling subtly establishes the possibility that life could have gone much differently for Albus Dumbledore had he just seized all the power he was capable of wielding. Instead, he has chosen a different path and consequently introduces us and the Dursleys to Harry.

Harry Potter – He’s just a baby, but he inexplicably broke Voldemort’s power just the night before. The implication here is that Harry has amazing powers of his own (we will later discover the extent to which this is true), and McGonagall argues that Dumbledore should not give him up to the Dursleys because…

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!”

Dumbledore wisely replies that anonymity with the Dursleys will be better for Harry until “he’s ready to take” the fame thrust on him by the Wizarding World.

Dumbledore is right on the face of it. He’s just missing one major detail: the Dursleys are not the people he hopes they will be. And then he leaves Harry on the doorstep to face his unwilling aunt and uncle.

Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley. . . . He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!”

It is a powerful conclusion to a magnificent opening chapter.

Power, Choice, and Love – Preamble to The Harry Potter Re-Read

I think I originally published this post in 2016 or 2017. I’m hoping to get started again on this re-read, but it may not get into full speed until the summer. 

Regarding the re-read… I considered going through the series backwards, but in looking at the “Dark Lord Ascending” chapter, I decided it might be too dark a place to start. So let’s start back at the beginning.

Main themes this time around: Power, Choice, Love.

Since I’m assuming that you’ve read the series, I won’t be including spoiler warnings, except for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which, as the official “eighth story in the Harry Potter series” will be treated here as canon).

I don’t want to get dragged this time into side-issues like “Is Snape good or bad?” so here are my assumptions, which I believe are backed by canon:

  • Snape was a Death Eater in his youth.
  • By the time we meet him, Snape’s loyalty is to Lily’s memory, to Albus Dumbledore, and later to the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Snape consistently behaves like a jerk to Harry.
SPOILER TIME!!!
  • One of the alt-Timelines in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (CC) has Snape protecting Ron and Hermione and dying an unabashedly heroic and selfless death – an outcome that was canonically possible for Snape, apparently, by the time of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, when the timelines diverged.
  • Harry says to his son Albus Severus at the end of CC that the men he was named after were “great men, with huge flaws, and you know what – those flaws almost made them greater.”
SPOILER’S END!!!

So, these are my assumptions about Snape: He was a deeply flawed man who possessed elements of greatness. You can hate him if you like because of his past and his treatment of Harry, but I am not going to debate his loyalties or his ultimate greatness. I intend to assume them.

Well, that’s enough preamble. I’ll be back a bit later with something to say about “The Boy Who Lived.” :)

Fantastic Beasts and the Glaring Red Herring (spoilers!!!)

When the news first hit that JKR was writing a screenplay based on Newt Scamander’s travels in search of magical creatures, I was like, “Okay. Not exactly the project I would have picked, but I’ll check it out.”

I did scrunch up my face just a bit, though, when Rowling later started pushing Fantastic Beasts as the dawning of the “Age of Hufflepuff.” Not that I have anything against Hufflepuff. My sister is one. So is Newt Scamander. But as a Slytherin with a vested interest in the Slytherin/Gryffindor dichotomy, I did kind of think: “Boring!”

Meanwhile, Rowling did do one of the projects I would have picked – the adventures of Albus Severus Potter. I know a lot of people were put off by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It got labeled “glorified fanfiction,” and even “non-canonical” (though I’m not sure how you can support the “non-canonical” notion when no less an authority than Pottermore called it the official 8th Harry Potter story, and the play’s own website terms it “the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.” That seems pretty definitively canonical to me).

Potter fans were concerned with the play’s alt-timeline depictions of our favorite HP characters. (My response: These were ALT-timelines! Not a problem that the characters are different!). And fans were of course concerned about the play drawing on some classic fanfic tropes. But most of those tropes were in the Alt-Timelines, which is actually kind of clever when you think about it… kind of like in that Sherlock episode that brings in the fanfic as a plot device.

I suspect, though, that there is an unstated issue behind a lot of the concerns – i.e., that the play demonstrated conclusively that Slytherin isn’t all dark wizards and power hungry freaks. Instead, the play gave us an Albus Potter sorted into Slytherin, making besties with (a completely freakin’ awesome) Scorpius Malfoy, and even allowing a malevolent Slytherin prat like Draco to grow up into a fairly decent adult. That’s bound to cause some consternation.

So I’ve got a theory about these projects, and it goes like this: They were part of an elaborate Fake-Out. A Distraction. A Misdirection. A Real-World Red Herring. JKR was playing us, just like she played us with Snape.

No, I’m not saying that JKR was not committed to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child independent of Fantastic Beasts. I’m sure she was. And I’m not saying that Newt Scamander and friends are nothing but misdirection. I strongly suspect that our main cast from Fantastic Beasts will play a crucial role in the wars to come.

At the same time, though, the timing of the play and the film’s focus on Newt both work really well as a blind for what JKR was really up to the whole time  –  developing a story that fans have craved since the release of Deathly Hallows… the oldest core-character tragedy in the HP universe, hidden in the background of the first 6 HP books and brought into the light only in the 7th.

J.K. Rowling was bringing us Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald. And she hid that project in plain sight all the way through the first hour of Fantastic Beasts.

Why?

Well, can you imagine audience expectations going in to Fantastic Beasts if we’d known for the past two or so years that the movie was really setting us up for 1945 and the greatest Wizard Battle of all time? We would have had entire websites devoted to the shooting of the first film, possibly with drones videotaping any elements that fans could get near. We would have seen every bit of the same madness we see each year between seasons of Game of Thrones.

Instead, by hiding Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald behind the Fantastic Beasts front and distracting us with The Cursed Child, JKR could lower the temperature, allow the film to develop in peace, and then surprise and delight fans with this fantastic gift.

And Fantastic Beasts is a fantastic gift.

Here are a few of my first impressions. (I’ll go into more depth when I’ve had a chance to see the film a second time):

I had my eye on the Colin Farrell character from the first time I saw the trailers. He just had that “bad guy” vibe.

From the moment I saw the Grindelwald headlines at the beginning of the film, I kept a very close eye on the Colin Farrell character. I assumed from the start that the headlines were meant to put the audience on alert that Grindelwald could actually play a role in the film. (I hadn’t paid much attention to the Grindelwald/Dumbledore rumors, so I did not actually walk in to the theater with that expectation).

I found the opening hour of the film entertaining enough, and I certainly enjoyed being back in the Wizarding World, but I was finding the plot a bit thin. The sheer creepiness of the New Salem Philanthropic Society added an interesting flavor to the story, but it took the unveiling of the actual threat to get me fully engaged…

The Obscurial. As soon as Newt Scamander started talking about the Obscurus and the Obscurial, the alarms went off. I know the insight I had in that moment was not unique because – from what I can tell – nearly every fan who has seriously read and discussed the books had pretty much the same insight. It went something like this: “Graves is Grindelwald. Graves is looking for an Obscurial so he can use the Obscurus to gain power. An Obscurial is a magic-suppressing child preyed upon by an Obscurus. Grindelwald has seen such a child before. OMG!!! This is all about Arianna!”

And that brings us back to that intriguing moment from the trailer, when Graves (Grindelwald) wondered why (his former friend) Albus Dumbledore was “so fond of” Newt Scamander.

I think I might know. If, by chance, Newt’s interest in helping Obscurial children dated all the way back to Hogwarts, that would certainly endear him to Dumbledore – whether Arianna was technically an Obscurial or not (and I think this movie hints that she was). Whatever the case, though, we can infer that Dumbledore revealed nothing of his own family tragedy, given that Newt believes that the oldest Obscurial lived to age 10. Arianna was 14 (and Credence older still).

I’ll wrap this up with one thought: The aftermath of the first Grindelwald/Dumbledore duel in Godric’s Hollow – the duel that resulted in Arianna’s death –  provides a stark contrast between the two former friends.

Gellert Grindelwald saw the kind of power Arianna wielded and only wanted to harness it for his own benefit.

Albus Dumbledore never forgave himself for Arianna’s death, relinquished his desire for political power, and trained up wizards to fight against the darkness manifest in wizards like his friend.

This is the story behind Fantastic Beasts. And we are going to get to see it unfold!

 

January 2, 2010 – My First Snape Post

It happened about a week after I arrived, but on January 2, 2010, CoS Staff re-opened the sub-forum where members could post canon-based character analysis.

Wow. A whole sub-forum dedicated to serious character discussion!
ahem

At any rate, here is my first post written for the sub-forum where I spent a good part of my CoS experience…
before the place devolved into a never-ending battleground between warring factions

Originally Posted by TGW
The way she sent him to his death cheerfully and willingly (in the Forest) somehow makes me think that if Lily would understand why Snape needed to be harsh to Harry most of the time. Snape was in a war and so was Harry. Snape was behaving with the knowledge that Voldemort was coming back. Snape’s job to protect Harry and his usefulness depended upon his act being perfect. He needed his distance from Harry so that Voldemort could not ask him to misuse that trust.Lily could say that Snape was harsh and that he could/should have been sweeter to Harry if his love for her was true. Though that would IMO make her very shallow and superficial. I hope Lily would understand that Snape’s role as a spy would need him to be necessarily different to protect himself and others.

This is also my take. Harry was born in the middle of a war. He would also be destined to become the focal point in the second war that Dumbledore and Snape knew was coming. It made no sense at all in such a context for Snape to treat Harry or any of the Gryffindors kindly in his class. The Gryffindors did potions with the Slytherins, and there were three children of Death Eaters in the class. If Snape had been fair, news would quickly have gotten back to the Death Eaters, and Snape’s own role as a spy would have been compromised. We know for a fact that Dumbledore wanted Snape to play his role convincingly.

Not only that, but Harry needs to be toughened up in order to survive. Everything Snape does – including expressing frustration with Harry’s lack of seriousness – could be read as helping Harry develop survival skills – you know, like a drill sergeant.

Snape is a very skilled, and not a terribly patient, man. He does have some serious issues with Harry, as seen in the memories of his conversations with Dumbledore. But I think “hate” is way too strong a word. He finds the boy very frustrating and often infuriating. But he never wavers in doing his duty by him.

Originally Posted by TGW
He did see Harry in a better light. That was why he passed on the message to Harry (about his walk in the Forest) and gave his very personal memories IMO.

For me, the key is the personal memories. Why would such an intensely proud and private man give such personal memories to a boy he truly hated? In the end, he gave Harry the greatest gift anybody could give him – memories of his mother. And Harry appears to recognize this as a gift. Snape did not just give Harry Dumbledore’s orders for meeting Voldemort. He gave him what was truly in his own heart.

Another key is the Silver Doe in the Forest of Dean. This is a sort of spectral embodiment of Snape’s soul. And Harry recognizes it as benign, not knowing who it belongs to. It may have taken the same form as Lily’s Patronus, but it is Snape’s Patronus, not Lily’s. His soul has has been repaired from whatever damage he did to it by becoming a Death Eater.

Originally Posted by TGW

All I can see from this was that Snape did not answer Dumbledore’s query; instead he changed the subject to tell Dumbledore that he loved Lily and also to show off his Patronus, which would help us connect with the Sliver Doe. This says nothing positive or negative about his feelings for Harry IMO.

Even if it is to be read in the most negative light, it says nothing about where Snape stands a year later, after he has taken on the horrifying final mission Dumbledore has given him. I think the text shows Snape’s motives being progressively purified. The final mission is not one that can be undertaken strictly for love of Lily. It has to be taken on in order to defeat evil. And in the process, we see Snape embrace good. What else can account for the fact that in the Battle Over Little Whinging, Snape nearly blows his cover simply in order to save the life of one of the Marauders? That is a completely selfless act… and one that makes him even more hated because of the damage accidentally done to George.

The following is speculation, but it seems likely to me that Snape’s constant exposure to Voldemort and the Death Eaters makes him more committed than ever to doing the right thing for its own sake. He has developed a strong enough moral compass in his years at Hogwarts to see Voldemort and his former Death Eater friends the way Lily saw them – as the evil that they truly are. The evidence in the text indicates (to me, at least) that Snape is determined to do what he can to bring Voldemort down, even after he knows that Lily’s son must allow Voldemort to kill him in order to make that happen. Even in dying, Snape’s first thought is toward completing the mission.

Originally Posted by TGWI don’t think Snape hurt Harry. Angered him, made Harry hate him, made Harry wish for his death (in HBP) but I don’t think Harry was hurt by Snape. And I also don’t think Snape left it to Dumbledore to counter anything. He IMO took it upon himself to set right all the misunderstanding Harry had through the memories. I think Harry understood.

Exactly. And another dimension to the memories… We see a definite progression in how Snape regards Harry.

At first, he’s just a thing to be exchanged for the life of the mother. Then he’s the boy who survived when Lily Evans died… but who Snape vows to protect regardless. Throughout the memories, Snape keeps on and on about James Potter’s son. But in the last conversation before Dumbledore’s death, he refers to Harry as Lily Potter‘s son.

Note the distinction here. Not only has he shifted from thinking of Harry as James’ son, he has also shifted from thinking of Lily by her maiden name. He now calls her “Potter.” He has fully acknowledged that she was James’ wife and that Harry was her son.

Note also that when he first hears of Lily’s death, he cannot bear to think of her eyes in Harry’s face. But in his last few seconds of life, he requests to look at Lily’s eyes in Harry’s face. It would have no power if we didn’t know that Snape had refused so strongly to see Lily in Harry. In that case, we could read it (as the Snape naysayers do) as just an obsessive desire to look into Lily’s eyes.

But knowing that Snape initially could not bear to think of Lily’s eyes in Harry’s face, we can see rather that Snape here is seeing Harry as he is… not as what he expects to see. (to paraphrase Dumbledore). And he is acknowledging – to Harry – that he recognizes Harry’s full identity. And this, of course, is underscored by the fact that he gives Harry memories of his mother.

Pottermore: I Just Solved Snape’s Logic Puzzle

Sorry I’ve disappeared into Pottermore for the past couple of days. I will be back tomorrow, I think – or possibly Monday – to write up my general thoughts.

In the meantime, I just wanted to let everybody know that on Pottermore, you will have an opportunity to solve Snape’s Logic Puzzle. And when you get to that point in the story, you will find that one of my two final solutions is correct. :)

If you have visited Solving Snape’s Logic Puzzle, then you will know that figuring out the single final solution is impossible without actually seeing the layout of the bottles. You can only narrow it down to two potential positions for the “Forward” potion. (No such problem exists for the “Backward” potion).

I’m not going to reveal right now which one of my two solutions is the correct one. I’d like to give you an opportunity to solve the puzzle for yourself when you get to Pottermore.  But I will say this: while it was a solution I anticipated, it was not the solution I expected… though I think it was kind of the solution I was hoping for.

Feel free to use my Logic Puzzle notes when you get to Pottermore. Goodness knows I did!

Waiting for Pottermore DH2: The Taunting

A fifth batch of emails has been sent out, and there’s still not one for me.

So with that in mind, Expecto Patronum! continues the “Waiting for Pottermore” series…

Note: While we continue the never-ending wait for the Pottermore email, we carry on bravely with our discussion of the DH2 movie…

“Severus Snape wasn’t yours,” said Harry. “Snape was Dumbledore’s. Dumbledore’s from the moment you started hunting down my mother.”

I, and a lot of people, waited for that line in the movie…
and it never came.

After thinking about it, though, I have a theory about why the filmmakers cut it.

It was redundant.

In the book, Harry needs to say it out loud (or think it internally) so that the reading audience gets the point of what he sees in the Pensieve. Yet even with several pages of Harry circling around Voldemort, proclaiming that Dumbledore planned his death with Snape, there remains a tiny contingent of readers who still insist that Snape was truly working for Voldemort and that Harry was merely taunting Voldemort with Snape’s loyalties. He didn’t really mean it. *shrug*

In the movie, though, it’s kind of impossible to miss, or explain away, Snape’s true loyalties. Film is a visual medium, and here is what the viewers (and Harry) get to see…

"You have your mother's eyes"


"... and you're special"


"He doesn't need protecting..."


"So... the boy must die?"


Sure, Severus cradling Lily’s body at Godric’s Hollow is extra-canonical. And sure, Severus never actually says “You have your mother’s eyes.” But movie-only viewers don’t have the advantage of reading the text… over and over and over again… and thinking about its implications. They need to have things spelled out visually. And this approach to the backstory does have JKR’s highest blessing:

“They do it perfectly in the film, that was a place I was very glad they were faithful to the book. Snape’s journey is important, it’s such a lynchpin of the books, the plot can’t function without Snape.” ~ J. K. Rowling

After witnessing the series of images from Snape’s demise through the Pensieve memories, the viewing audience has no question that Severus loved Lily from the time he was a child or that he had been working for Dumbledore – and against Voldemort – ever since the Dark Lord started hunting her down. Viewers don’t need Harry to tell them that. And so, in the movie, he doesn’t.

I’m disappointed, of course, to find one of my favorite moments missing. But I’m appeased by the recognition that it was not necessary to show it. How about you?

Let us know in the comments.

Waiting for Pottermore DH2: choices, choices, choices

Note: While we wait for the Pottermore email, we continue our discussion of the DH2 movie…

But first… you need to know about the most deeply horrible, astonishingly EVOL poll in the history of humankind:

It’s the Anglophenia Fan Favorites poll, in which we are given the choice of voting between Alan Rickman and Benedict Cumberbatch or between Colin Firth and David Tennant.

In fandom terms, that translates:

Professor Snape (or Colonel Brandon/Alexander Dane/Hans Gruber/ Sheriff of Nottingham) VS. Sherlock Holmes.

and…

Mr. Darcy VS. Barty Crouch, Jr. / The Tenth Doctor

Yikes! Those are choices that really hurt – probably at least as much as the choices the filmmakers had to face in translating the second half of Deathly Hallows to the screen.

Choices that hurt

Let’s say you’re doing a book that fans are passionate about. There are moments that fans have been dying to see…

Fred’s death, for example. Or Snape’s loss of Lily’s friendship. Or Dumbledore’s backstory. Or Snape saving Lupin’s life and telling the portrait not to say “Mudblood.” Or Harry taunting Voldemort with Snape’s true loyalties and giving Riddle one last chance at remorse.

But you’ve got this other audience to account for… the audience that never reads the books and only sees the movies and that could care less about the intricacies of wandlore.

How do you make a movie that gives the book-fans enough of what they want to see and is still comprehensible for the movie-only fans? That’s the dilemma that the filmmakers were faced with. And they left every single one of those “dying-to see” moments out… yet managed to leave most fans feeling satisfied.

Let’s talk about a few of those choices…

The Mudblood Incident

One of the key complaints I’ve heard from one small corner of the fandom is that the film’s portrayal of “The Prince’s Tale” makes Severus Snape look like an innocent victim by failing to present the “Mudblood” incident or its aftermath.

Okay, I personally wanted to see this material on the big screen, but after giving it some thought, I realized that it presents a devil’s snare of potential difficulties. Here is what I wrote about it on the CoS forum:

I would have liked to see them include the “Mudblood” incident too, but in thinking it over, I realized that its inclusion is fraught with all sorts of potential difficulties for other characters – difficulties that I doubt the filmmakers wanted to unleash, particularly given the raw emotional power of Rickman’s overall performance.

As soon as Rickman’s Snape starts showing the depth of his pain, he’s got the audience in the palm of his hand. If the pain had started sooner, beneath the portrait of the Fat Lady [when Lily cut off their friendship], it could have swayed movie-only audience opinion in directions that the filmmakers would not have wanted – like against Lily, for instance. That wouldn’t be fair, since he used the word [Mudblood] on her, but film is an essentially emotional medium, and film audiences love redemption stories – especially when a character is in love. Film audiences generally want to see all but the most monstrous characters given a second chance after they’ve blown it in a big way.

In that context, the filmmakers probably made the right decision to cut the incident. They could not really tell which character(s) would get hurt the most by showing it, and filmmakers like to know exactly what audience impact will be.

There are additional problems with its inclusion as well. David Yates used a portion of SWM (“Snape’s Worst Memory”) in the OotP movie, but he did not incorporate the “Mudblood” incident. Adding it for DH2 would require re-shooting the earlier scene or working some digital magic to insert Lily into it. And that, of course, would mean casting a third actress to play Lily’s part – and getting Alec Hopkin (Teen Snape) back to utter the unforgivable word. (ETA NOTE: The additional material with a third Lily that was originally shot for OotP and then cut would not help since Harry is in the frame – in completely the wrong clothes and without all of the battle grime and gore that we see in TPT).

In addition, I think that the complaint that the exclusion of the Mudblood incident makes Snape look like an innocent victim is a product of very short-sighted thinking. What is most visually striking about the incident (and film is a visual medium) is watching James Potter and the Marauders launch an unprovoked attack on Severus Snape. In all likelihood, including the incident in the film would make Snape look even more like a victim.

Little James is puckishly cute as he runs through the halls tipping over his “victims'” school books.

This James, though, is hardly “cute” as he attempts to remove “Snivelly’s trousers”:

I would humbly submit that the filmmakers just didn’t want to go there with James, particularly given that they will later need to present him sympathetically in the Forest… and there’s really very little story to get the movie-only crowd to buy in to that sympathetic portrayal once the filmmakers re-unleash SWM. It’s hard enough already for many book readers to make the leap of faith into believing that James simply changed, and book readers have information that the movie-onlies don’t possess.

The choice the filmmakers made, then, was to make nobody look very much like the victim, and nobody look very much like the perpetrator. For purposes of the film, it was probably a wise choice.

Weasley Loss and Gain

Some book fans are angry at not seeing Fred die. And one big question many fans have asked is, “How the heck did Percy get there?”

That’s a good question! But there are actually other people whose return is a bit confusing – for instance Cho Chang (what’s she doing there in the Room of Requirement when she graduated the year before?) and Luna Lovegood (how’d she get there ahead of Harry, when she’d last been seen at Shell Cottage?). In the case of the Ravenclaw girls, my assumption is that they are there mainly to answer Harry’s question about the lost diadem. And yes, they are supposed to be there, even if the film never quite lets us know how they arrived.

Percy, though, has one of the book’s more dramatic entrances into the Room of Requirement, and we never see that drama in the film. I do think, though, that the filmmakers’ decision (while perhaps making Percy’s sudden appearance confusing for book fans ) actually makes matters less confusing for the general movie audience. Percy’s estrangement from his family has never become an overt plot point in the films. We do see Percy doing Ministry duties at cross-purposes to Harry and Dumbledore, but that’s about as far as that subplot goes. And let’s face it, without the subplot, many movie-only fans probably don’t really remember who Percy is anyway.

So, that nixes Percy’s big entrance because the big entrance would simply not make sense. And sorry, but if we nix Percy’s big entrance, we also nix witnessing Fred’s death. Yeah, we could still see Fred die, but we wouldn’t see it in the context of his welcoming Percy back into the family and later Percy throwing himself on Fred’s dead body.

If we remove Fred’s death from the context of Percy’s return, we may as well see Fred lying already dead in the Great Hall. And that is the choice the filmmakers made. Rather than go for overkill by showing Fred die on the screen and then show his family mourn, the filmmakers went the more subtle route of showing him already dead, surrounded by his family.

Whether we actually see Fred die or not, this scene still has tremendous emotional impact. I have not gotten past it once without breaking into sobs.

Dumbledore’s Backstory

King’s Cross is a big disappointment to many people. The wandlore, the backstory, Dumbledore’s remorse – all of it is missing.

Most of the essentials, though, were presented in DH1. And when the filmmakers decided (ACK!!!) to negate Grindelwald’s big moment of defiance and remorse, they couldn’t exactly go deeply into the Grindelwald plot in King’s Cross. In fact, I predicted in November that this would happen.

At least Ciaran Hinds’ fabulous performance – bringing to life Aberforth’s hundred years of bitterness – implicitly verifies the depth to which Albus Dumbledore had sunk in his youth. If we want to know more detail about the manner in which Albus’ choices sacrificed his sister’s life, we can always consult the books – or at least the nearest Potter fan. :)

Honestly, though, I did miss the King’s Cross wandlore. I suppose I experienced a bit of it vicariously through the interaction between Harry and Ollivander at Shell Cottage. But after all we’ve seen of the wand, would it truly have been too much information for the general movie audience if Harry had briefly discussed the Elder Wand with Dumbledore?

Well, at nearly 1500 words, this post has now gone on too long (thanks for making it this far with me!). So  I think I’ll devote my next DH2 post entirely to the element I missed the most… and why I think it made sense for the filmmakers to cut it.

Until then…