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 seven 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

The Harry Potter Re-Read starts today! I promised that we would be back, and we are. I just needed to get through the holiday season and the start-of-semester season first.

Regarding the re-read… I considered going through the series backwards, but I took a look at the “Dark Lord Ascending” chapter this morning and decided it might be too dark a place to start. So we’ll start 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.” :)

Living Together in Harmony?

Are you ready for some Harmony?

If my HP-related feeds this morning are any indication, JK Rowling’s latest bombshell is the spark that could re-ignite the fandom. What was the bombshell, you ask? Just that little tidbit that she now regrets the Ron/Hermione relationship.

According to those who participated in the HP fandom pre-Deathly Hallows, the “Shipping Wars” made the infamous “Snape Wars” pale by comparison. According to Morgoth (founder of the Chamber of Secrets forum), reading through Shipping War threads was like reading lengthy dissertations in which even the footnotes had footnotes.

So what’s with the “Harmony” at the top of my message? It’s the name of the Harry/Hermione ship. Followers of this ship are known as “Harmonians.” JKR just give this ship new life. No, she didn’t come out and say that Hermione should have ended up with Harry, but that IS how the Harmonians will read it.

Last night at supper, I was in the process of saying to my husband, “And this is just sooooo irresponsible. JKR knows about the Shipping Wars. She knows what happened the last time Harry/Hermione was on the table.”

And then, in mid-sentence, I stopped and turned around and said… “But wait. All the forums are closing. There’s really NO PLACE anymore for engaging in a Shipping War. What if…. What if this is all just a ploy to bring back the forums? What if she did this just to give fans something to buzz about?”

One little comment re-opens the Shipping debate… and also sparks questions about “What constitutes canon?” Will those Hermione/Ron shippers who have been so certain that any random utterance out of JK Rowling’s mouth is canonical gold still believe that point now that she has demolished their ship with a single random utterance?

Anyway, get ready for the fireworks. It looks now like the Chamber of Secrets may not be closing…

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.44.19 AM


Battle of Hogwarts – 15th Anniversary

On May 2, 1998, the Battle of Hogwarts was fought. Each year, Expecto Patronum! honors all the brave men, women, Headmaster portraits, and magical creatures who helped in the fight against Lord Voldemort for the future of the Wizarding World, especially:

  • Harry Potter – who personally faced Lord Voldemort twice that night… and prevailed
  • Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – who stood beside Harry throughout his Quest and provided much-needed support during the Battle
  • Luna Lovegood – for keeping Dumbledore’s Army alive and helping Harry into Ravenclaw Tower
  • Neville Longbottom – for keeping Dumbledore’s Army alive and slaying Nagini
  • Ginny Weasley – for keeping Dumbledore’s Army alive and giving Harry inspiration
  • The Portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black – for locating Harry in the Forest of Dean
  • Severus Snape – for getting the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry in the Forest of Dean and for using his dying moments to offer the memories that would help Harry to defeat Lord Voldemort
  • The Portrait of Albus Dumbledore – for providing much-needed guidance to Headmaster Snape
  • Aberforth Dumbledore – for helping Harry, the Order, the DA, and many others get in to Hogwarts from the Hog’s Head and for then fighting in the Battle alongside many other citizens of Hogsmeade
  • The Members of the DA, the Order, the Gryffindor alumni, the Slytherins who returned with Slughorn, and the citizens of Hogsmeade – for standing up to fight
  • The Magical Creatures who fought – particularly Kreacher and the House Elves, the Centaurs of the Forbidden Forest, and Grawp
  • Minerva McGonnagall, Horace Slughorn, Filius Flitwick – for leadership during the Battle and for directly battling Voldemort
  • Molly Weasley – for destroying Bellatrix Lestrange
  • Hagrid – for being true of heart
  • Peeves and Trelawney – for their unique contributions

And now, we’d like to honor the fallen heroes:

Severus Snape


Credit: Look… at… me by ~FabiolaCapo

Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks


Credit: Remus x Tonks: Pale and Still by ~Kitoky

Fred Weasley


Credit: the death of Fred by *viria13

Plus Colin Creevey and the 50 or more unnamed dead.

Thank you!


We are celebrating the 15th Anniversary with new fanart. If you have any Battle of Hogwarts fanart that you particularly like, you are encouraged to share it in the Comments thread!

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 15 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. There’s also probably some stuff I’m missing. :)

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 10: THE QUIDDITCH FINAL

Scene 1 (“Gryffindor Wins the Cup”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Nice artwork with Harry lifting the Quidditch Cup, banners waving, and streamers coming down.
    • COLLECT binoculars from the Gryffindor female in back of the waving Gryffindor arm.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT 5 Galleons – from the stands to the right.
    • COLLECT Chocolate Frog Card for Leopoldina Smethwyck (the first British witch to referee Quidditch) – from further down the field past the waving banner to the left.

Okay… so where is the Wolfsbane Dust Chocolate Frog Card that I’m hearing about?

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

    • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
    • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 11 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. There’s also probably some stuff I’m missing. :)

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 11: THE FIREBOLT

Scene 1 (“The Firebolt Is Confiscated”)

I think I may have messed up the Zoom levels in this chapter, so if commenters can verify or correct the zoom levels, I would be very grateful.

After this chapter, I will take a break until I have finished teaching my class. I should return in about 7-8 hours.

  • Zoom 1:
    • Stephen Fry reads this dialogue-heavy scene and uses a delightful “McGonnagall” voice to read her lines.
    • COLLECT Chocolate Frog Card for Dunbar Oglethorpe (next to books to the left of the gobstones). Oglethorpe was the Chief of Q.U.A.B.B.L.E. – a Quidditch “betterment” league for Britain.
    • Move cursor to make Hermione pull the book up over her face.
  • Zoom 2:
    • UNLOCK “Gobstones” (JKR-Exclusive Content) – found on table in back of Ron. By moving your cursor, you can also get a gobstone on the table to squirt gunk. I’ve always wondered about Gobstones, since I knew that Severus Snape’s mother was an avid player while at Hogwarts.
    • COLLECT Spellotape (from the chair to the right, near McGonnagall).
    • COLLECT Homemade Mince Pies from the table next to the gobstones.
    • From the Comments:
      • COLLECT a bauble from the Christmas tree. (Thanks, Annie and Elizabeth!)

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

    • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
    • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 9 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. There’s also probably some stuff I’m missing. :)

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 9: GRIM DEFEAT

Scene 1 (“Gryffindor Versus Hufflepuff”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Dementor voices and rain noises. See Dementors on the ground looking up at Harry. I don’t think there’s anything to find here.
  • Zoom 2 (pulls back and moves frame up into the sky):
    • Stephen Fry or Jim Dale reads the scene from the audiobook. Selection ends with Harry remembering his mother’s scream.
    • Move cursor to get Harry to chase the snitch.

That’s all! There does not appear to be anything to collect in this chapter.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

  • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
  • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.