CHAPTER 21: HERMIONE’S SECRET
The chapter begins in media res, with Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, commending Professor Severus Snape on a job well done and promising him the Order of Merlin, First Class for rescuing the Confunded children and single-handedly capturing mass murderer Sirius Black.
I think this chapter begins so brilliantly; we, as readers, are confused by this sudden re-write of recent history because Harry is confused, overhearing snippets of conversation as he slowly regains consciousness in the Hogwarts hospital wing. But once fully awake he and Hermione jump immediately to Sirius’s defense, their pleas falling on deaf ears, for “[t]here is not a shred of proof to support Black’s story, except [their] word–and the word of two thirteen-year-old wizards will not convince anybody.”
So many of the stories we read and watch concern The Truth and the search for it as a life’s ultimate goal, that no matter the result it’s important to us as humans that it is revealed. The two that come most immediately to mind, for reasons of I JUST WATCHED/READ THEM, are The X-Files and Mulder’s obsessive need to learn what’s out there, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and Tris’s quest to discover and disseminate the truth about her community. No matter what ultimately happened to Mulder and Tris, they’re deemed heroic characters for their value of the truth above all else, even though securing the evidence of their respective truths didn’t really help either of them all that much.
This, too, is a chapter about The Truth, especially the hard truth that sometimes in life The Truth is not enough. (Man, how relevant is this right in this particular moment of United States history?) Because even Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard to have ever lived, has no power to make other men see the truth. Especially an inconvenient truth. No, what we need is more time.
And this is when everything you thought you knew about this series was chucked clear off the Astronomy Tower, because wizards CAN GO BACK IN TIME. Well, Hermione can anyway, and her insistence on proper semantics about time travel cracks me up:
“There must be something that happened around now he wants us to change,” [Harry] said slowly. “What happened? We were walking down to Hagrid’s three hours ago. . . .”
“This is three hours ago, and we are walking down to Hagrid’s,” said Hermione.
When the truth is not enough, we need more time. And action. And if there’s one thing Harry’s good at, it’s action. He quickly figures out that they’re meant to save Buckbeak from execution, fly him up to Professor Flitwick’s office, rescue Sirius before the Dementors get to him first, and then watch as Sirius flies away on Buckbeak, saving both of their lives. All without being seen. What we need is time, action, and
an Invisibility Cloak a shitload of luck.
And this is when we learn that time travel is for the young, because Harry and Hermione need to remember everything they did three hours ago in excruciating detail to ensure they remain out of sight, and legit, I can’t even remember what I did three minutes ago. (Write the last paragraph, probably.) Luckily Harry and Hermione are not old and decrepit like me, and manage to rescue Buckbeak and retreat safely into the Forbidden Forest, where they watch the rest of the last chapter’s events unfold. Harry admits to Hermione that he thinks he saw his father conjure the Patronus that saved them from the Dementors. I cry like a baby. Harry runs to the lake to witness his father rescue them from the Dementors. I cry like a baby. Harry suddenly realizes that his father didn’t rescue them from the Dementors, he rescued them. I cry like a baby.
The Patronus turned. It was cantering back toward Harry across the still surface of the water. It wasn’t a horse. It wasn’t a unicorn, either. It was a stag. It was shining brightly as the moon above . . . it was coming back to him. . . .
It stopped on the bank. Its hooves made no mark on the soft ground as it stared at Harry with its large, silver eyes. Slowly, it bowed its antlered head. And Harry realized. . . .
“Prongs,” he whispered.
I cry like a baby.
CHAPTER 22: OWL POST AGAIN
“An easy mistake to make,” said Dumbledore softly. “I expect you’ll tire of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James. Except for the eyes . . . you have your mother’s eyes.”
This chapter deserves a lot more than I can really give it right now, because it introduces so many themes that are central to the rest of the series, especially the loss of loved ones and their continued impact on our lives after they’ve gone. But I lost my own Winston six months ago today, and I can’t really see straight (let alone think straight) for all the crying like a baby, so I think I’ll just leave this picture here as a placeholder.
I miss you, buddy.