Still Waiting for Pottermore? – Here’s More DH2

I’ve got about 40 minutes until my potion finishes brewing, so… okay, where were we before I got sucked into Pottermore? As I recall, we were discussing DH2. And I still had a few things left to say.

For me, the movie “worked” all the way up until the final battle with Voldemort. Thankfully, it had worked in a big way to that point from the moody opening, with Snape on the balcony and Harry at Shell Cottage, through the tense conversation with Aberforth, through the the look of heartbreak on Snape’s face when he realizes he must duel McGonnagall (not to mention his quick-thinking in taking out the Carrows and leaving Hogwarts to McGonnagall), all the way through the Battle of Hogwarts, the Pensieve memories, and King’s Cross.

I cried when Hermione blasted Fenrir off the dead body of Lavender Brown, her former rival for Ron’s affections. I cried when Aberforth announced his return to the fight by casting a powerful Patronus. I wept, like everyone else, over the fallen heroes in the Great Hall… and then over Snape’s memories in the Pensieve and Harry’s walk into the Forest.

The first three times I saw the film, though, I did not cry over Snape’s death. I just sat there with my mouth hanging wide open, hyperventilating. Curiously, a few friends who do not like Snape did find themselves crying… and then hated themselves afterward. LOL.

On the fourth viewing, I finally did cry. I think maybe it was because the theater was nearly empty. Snape is the character who resonates most with me, and so his death is the one that is most personal to me. I think I probably just needed some time alone in order to really let loose. And when I finally did, I cried so hard that my eyes were burning with the salt of my tears!

But enough of Snape for now, what I really want to talk about is the big VoldyBattle.

I suppose that any moviegoer would prefer a running-around-the-castle-Wizard Battle over a Harry talk-a-thon. BUT the problem with the sequence for me is that it creates the misperception that Harry could actually match Voldemort in power and skill. I mean… Srsly?

In the book, Harry wins because he understands the situation (the Elder Wand belongs to him) and because he sacrificed his life in the Forest to kill the scarcrux… not because he’s more powerful or more skilled than his antagonist. As a consequence of Harry’s sacrifice, Voldemort really can be killed. All it takes is for Harry to cast a disarming charm at the same moment that Voldemort casts a killing curse. The Elder Wand will do the rest.

Now, none of this is to downplay the significance of what Harry has done. In going into the Forest, he becomes a truly great man, a sacrificial figure, a young man willing to lay down his life in order that the Wizarding World might live. That, imo, is of far more significance than wizarding power or skill.

But the film plays up power and skill – matters in which Harry cannot begin to match Voldemort – and downplays the sacrificial significance of Harry’s walk into the Forest. Though I understand some of these choices from a cinematic standpoint, this is one matter in which I think the film does the book a disservice.

The point is not that Harry wins because he has power. The point is that he wins because he has love.

Well, my potion has finished brewing, and I was supposed to get House points, but the system logged me out, and I didn’t get the points.

(Funny how I never fail to lose points when I melt a cauldron but never seem to gain points when I successfully complete a potion. Argggggg. There’s Beta for you!)

Anyway, I’ve finally said everything I have to say about DH2. So next stop for those waiting is to start in on the Random Re-read. First chapter up is the first chapter in PoA: “Owl Post.” Should be fun!

The Filius Charm

They reached the end of the passageway and saw before them a brilliantly lit chamber, its ceiling arching high above them. It was full of small, jewel-bright birds, fluttering and tumbling all around the room. On the opposite side of the chamber was a heavy wooden door.

“Do you think they’ll attack us if we cross the room?” said Ron.

“Probably,” said Harry. “They don’t look very vicious, but I suppose if they all swooped down at once…”

The Trio have now reached Professor Flitwick’s protection for the Stone, a protection involving keys that have been charmed to behave like a flock of birds.

Filius Flitwick

We have briefly met Professor Flitwick in the classroom. When he first reads Harry Potter’s name on his roll sheet, he squeaks and tumbles out of view. On Halloween, while Hermione famously pesters Ron over the proper way to say “Wingardium Leviosa,” Flitwick claps his hands and cries “Well done!” after she successfully levitates a feather four feet into the air.

Flitwick could not even contain himself from confiding in Hermione that she had received 112% on his exam. And this information – coming on the day that the Trio decide to go through the trapdoor – leads Hermione to conclude that (in terms of potential expulsion, at least), it is positively safe for her to go sneaking around the castle after curfew in order to protect the Stone.

Filius Flitwick is an excitable, and rather charming, little man who makes First Year students demonstrate a capacity for making a pineapple tapdance across a desk. But he’s also quite formidable in his own way. He is a retired Dueling Champion and Head of Ravenclaw – meaning that we should expect a certain amount of ingenuity in his protection for the Stone.

The beauty of his protective Charm – aside from the sheer physical beauty of the metallic flock – is that it involves both consideration in working out the task and performance in catching the right key.

In fact, in their initial analysis of the task, Harry and Ron get it all wrong. The keys (which they still think are birds) are not charmed to attack. They are charmed to perform like hundreds of Golden Snitches. That is, they will fly swiftly away from whoever tries to catch them. Consequently, identifying and then catching the right key requires Seeker skills.

The Task

Here’s a short breakdown of the (not-necessarily-sequential) elements involved in the successful performance of this task:

  • To identify the relationship between the winged objects and the door that must be passed through (i.e., recognize that the objects are keys, not birds).
  • To identify the exact key – among hundreds – that must be caught in order to pass through the door.
  • To find and mount a broom – and be a good enough flyer to stay mounted while zooming around trying to catch the right key.
  • To figure out a strategy for catching the key. This final element requires speed, agility, and (in the case of the Trio) teamwork.

The Golden Snitch

As mentioned above, performing this task successfully requires Seeker skills, and (as the text reminds us) it was “not for nothing” that “Harry was the youngest Seeker in a century.”

The entire purpose of Harry’s position at Quidditch is to catch the Golden Snitch. But what exactly is the Snitch?

Okay, we know that it’s a small, winged metal ball. But more than that, it’s a small, winged metal ball that mimics the size, shape, and swift, erratic movements of the Snidget – a bird so fast and so talented at hiding itself from predators that few Muggles have ever seen it. Classified as a Magical Creature, the Snidget has a XXXX MoM rating thanks to the penalties now attached to its capture or injury.

But how and why did those penalties come into existence? Well, around the early 11th century, hunting the elusive bird became a favorite sport among Wizards and Witches. Snidget hunting finally crossed paths with Quidditch in the late 13th century when a Wizarding official released a Snidget into a game of Quidditch. From that time on, the Snidget hunt became a part of the game – excellent for Quidditch, but not so excellent for the small bird.

What happened next is the element that appears to have inspired Filius Flitwick’s Charm. According to Kennilworthy Whisp’s Quidditch through the Ages:

The invention of the Golden Snitch is credited to the wizard Bowman Wright of Godric’s Hollow. While Quidditch teams all over the country tried to find bird substitutes for the Snidget [which was now on the brink of extinction], Wright, who was a skilled metal-charmer, set himself to the task of creating a ball that mimicked the behavior and flight patterns of the Snidget. That he succeeded perfectly is clear from the many rolls of parchment he left behind him on his death (now in the possession of a private collector), listing the orders he had received from all over the country.

Filius Flitwick almost certainly found inspiration for the performance of the enchanted keys in the performance of the Golden Snitch:

[Each of the members of the Trio] seized a broomstick and kicked off into the air, soaring into the midst of the cloud of keys. They grabbed and snatched, but the bewitched keys darted and dived so quickly it was almost impossible to catch one.

We don’t know from the passage if Flitwick gave the keys’ wings the rotational joints found in the wings of Snidgets (and by extension, Snitches), but it seems reasonable to assume that the idea of charming metal to perform like swift, elusive birds (catchable only on broomstick) would be inspired by the greatest of all Wizarding sports.

When Birds Attack!

So let’s go back to the question that Ron asked earlier about whether or not the “birds” would attack. As a consequence of the anxiety his question stirred,

[Harry] took a deep breath, covered his face with his arms, and sprinted across the room. He expected to feel sharp beaks and claws tearing at him any second, but nothing happened.

Compare Ron and Harry’s anxiety with the charmed bird attack that actually does occur in HBP.

In 6th year, when Lavender Brown makes her play for Ron’s affections, Hermione consoles herself in an abandoned classroom by conjuring birds out of thin air… then sets the birds on Ron when he comes into the classroom with Lavender:

Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.

Given this later incident, I think it rather signficant that it’s Ron who asks in PS/SS if Flitwick’s “birds” will attack. It serves as foreshadowing for that moment nearly 6 years later when a very hurt and jealous Hermione finally does set birds on Ron – birds that she conjured as practice for Flitwick’s NEWT-level Charms class.

So my question is this: When Hermione set those birds on Ron, might she (consciously or unconsciously) have remembered Ron’s concern about being attacked by charmed keys that initially appeared to be birds?

Regardless of the answer to that question, there is nothing vicious about Flitwick’s flock of keys. The Charms protection for the Stone seems (like Flitwick himself) rather more genial than the Devil’s Snare. Yet it still requires considerable thought and skill to achieve a successful outcome – qualities that one would expect from a spell produced by the Head of House for Ravenclaw.