You guys, I did so great on this reread. I didn’t even cry at all while I was reading Chapter 29. I got a little misty, but that’s it! I mentally prepared myself for the moment and stayed strong throughout.
It was these last two chapters that got me. Because the thing is, death isn’t sad. Death is natural, death is inevitable. It’s the loss that’s sad. The knowledge that you’ll never create new experiences with this person. One of the most real, most accurate portrayals of grief I’ve ever seen was in the Buffy episode “The Body” when Anya says, “I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”
One personal story before we jump into the reason we’re all here: When I was five, my Grammie died. Her and my Papa lived around the corner, so we went there every weekend, I was very close to her. I remember hours and hours of playing with her while my parents and grandfather had “grown-up time” in the kitchen. She was more interested (or pretended to be) in playing doctor to stuffed animals, and it meant the world to me. My mom says that when my parents sat me down to tell me Grammie died, I asked two questions: “Why are your eyes leaking?” and “Can I go play now?” I didn’t understand what death meant, the word “dead” was just another word. I must have had a general understanding of the definition, because they say that the next time we went over to visit my Papa, I calmly wandered around the house, checked every room, then came up to them, shrugged, and said, “You’re right, Grammie must be dead, I can’t find her anywhere.” It wasn’t until a few weeks later that it hit me. My mom said we were walking up the front stairs, and I stopped and looked at the flowers Grammie had planted in the front yard and just lost it. I was crying hysterically. I was inconsolable. I guess it had finally hit me that she would never get to see those flowers again, and that “dead” didn’t mean “not here right now,” but “gone forever.”
And that’s sort of what these chapters are for Harry. He’s coming to terms with the fact that Dumbledore, one of the only constants in his life so far, is gone. Forever.
CHAPTER 29: THE PHOENIX LAMENT
At first, Harry doesn’t want to leave Dumbledore’s side. As though being near him might somehow bring him back to life, as though taking his eyes off the headmaster would make it real. But Ginny takes his hand and gently guides him to the Hospital Wing, where the victims of the battle were recovering. Ginny attributes their relatively fortunate outcome to Harry’s distribution of the Felix Felicis – some hexes just happened to miss them, they just kept getting lucky.
The worst off is Bill, who got attacked by Greyback, and has some unhealable wounds. Since werewolves rarely attack when they’re in their human form, not even Madame Pomfrey could be sure of what would come from that. Ron isn’t all that worried – just get Dumbledore, he’ll know what to do.
(Don’t worry about that loud noise, just my heart cracking. Nothing to see here.)
So Ginny has to break the news. Shock ripples throughout the room, and Harry gives his account of what happened. As they settle into their sadness, they hear Fawkes in the distance, singing “a stricken lament of terrible beauty.”
Their reverie is broken by McGonagall, who blames herself for fetching Snape when she heard the Death Eaters had gotten into Hogwarts. This sets off a chain reaction of guilt. Ron, Neville, and Ginny had been standing guard outside the Room of Requirement, but Malfoy bamboozled them with a combination of darkness powder and the Hand of Glory. Hermione and Luna had been outside Snape’s office when Flitwick ran to tell Snape the news. When Snape ran out of his office, he told the girls that Flitwick had fainted, and to take care of him. Everyone is assured by someone else that there was nothing else they could have done, or should have done to not get themselves killed.
They all share what they remember to piece together the events leading up to Dumbledore’s death, kicking themselves for how many times they could have stopped Snape or Malfoy, but never bothering to because they didn’t imagine they were Death Eaters.
When Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Fleur arrive, Mrs. Weasley is happy to see her son alive and trying to talk herself into the fact that she doesn’t mind at all that her son is scarred. She assumes Fleur won’t want to marry him anymore, and says so, but Fleur is horrified by the notion. This proves to Mrs. Weasley that Fleur genuinely loved her son, so they hugged it out.
Harry looked at them and thought the world had gone mad.
To get even madder, Tonks and Lupin start to fight, and Harry realizes, quite suddenly, that it wasn’t Sirius that Tonks had fallen in love with, but a reluctant-to-be-loved Lupin. Lupin says that now is not the time to be discussing something like this anyway, with Dumbledore dead, but McGonagall disagrees, and delivers the line that started by tear-flow this time around.
“Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world.”
McGonagall, the new acting headmistress, takes Harry up to her office – where Dumbledore’s portrait is already hanging. Which I think is kind of cruel?! Like, give the poor woman (and her visitors) a few days to mourn before you put an alive likeness of the guy up? A few hours, even?? Magic can be very insensitive sometimes.
McGonagall asks Harry what he and Dumbledore had been doing, but he insists he can’t tell her. He does tell her that Madame Rosmerta was under the Imperius Curse, but that’s all. Soon, the Heads of Houses and Hagrid join them in the office to discuss whether or not they should close down Hogwarts. McGonagall specifically asks Hagrid for his opinion, because Dumbledore would have, and MY HEART.
The final decision is that they’ll keep Hogwarts open, at the very least until Dumbledore is buried.
When the Minister of Magic arrives, Harry scurries back to his room, where he thankfully finds Ron alone. He briefly fills him in on the horcrux adventure and lets him read the note. Ron wondered who R.A.B. could be, but Harry doesn’t have him in him to wonder. In fact:
“He doubted that he would ever feel curious again.”
HARRY IS NOT CURIOUS. If that’s not a sign that he is feeling thoroughly defeated, I don’t know what is. As I said in my Goblet of Fire post, Harry’s curiosity is what fuels his whole story! He can’t be incurious!
Just as Harry believes he has reached the end of his curiosity, Fawkes reaches the end of his mourning song, and leaves the grounds of the school.
“Just as Dumbledore had left the school, had left the world…had left Harry.”
CHAPTER 30: THE WHITE TOMB
In the days leading up to Dumbledore’s funeral, some kids are sent home, some refuse to leave, and Hogsmeade begins to overflow with witches and wizards coming from far and wide to say their goodbyes.
At one point, when our Trio is alone once again:
“Hermione leaned forward toward Harry with a most Hermione-ish look on her face.”
Best sentence ever? Best sentence ever. At first Harry thinks she has information about R.A.B., because he has come to the conclusion that he must find the rest of the horcruxes, that it’s up to him to stop Voldemort. But Hermione’s news is about the Half-Blood Prince. As is always the case, Hermione had been right all along – Eileen Prince was Snape’s mother, and he was proud of being half a Prince, the pure-blood side of this family.
Harry compares him to Lord Voldemort and still doesn’t understand why Dumbledore trusted him. He regrets not turning in the Potions book when Hermione first told him to (or told him to the hundredth time, even) but his friends assure him that even when they didn’t trust Snape, none of them anticipated he was capable of this.
Related, Harry doesn’t believe that Malfoy would have followed through with killing Dumbledore. Even through his pain and rage, he remembers and values the fact that when it came down to it, Malfoy had lowered his wand, and Snape was the one who killed an unarmed Dumbledore.
Everyone showed up for Dumbledore’s funeral – anyone who was ever named (like Madame Maxine), and even some who weren’t (like the barman of the Hog’s Head). Even some that really had no business being there – like Rita Skeeter and Umbridge.
Harry was trying to pay attention to the preacher-wizard* giving a speech, but only an odd word or two made it back as far as they were sitting.
*we may have discussed this before, but are there religions within wizardry beyond ‘believing pure-bloods are the only wizards that matter’ and ‘sensible wizards’? Are they the same religions muggles have? If not, do muggle-born wizards retain their religion? I know they celebrate Christmas, but it seemed to be more of a tradition than a religious rite. Anyway, back to the funeral.
“He suddenly remembered Dumbledore’s ide of a few words, ‘nitwit,’ ‘oddment,’ ‘blubber,’ and ‘tweak,’ and again had to suppress a grin…What was the matter with him?”
Harry has never been to a funeral before, he hadn’t even really had a chance to have enough positive memories of Sirius for something like this to happen when he was mourning his godfather. But it’s totally normal to be flooded with happy memories when you’re remembering the life of someone you loved. It’s not a crime to smile in the wake of loss.
After the ceremony, Harry breaks up with Ginny so she won’t get hurt while he’s off hunting horcruxes. She understands, and frankly isn’t surprised (because she’s a boss) but lets him know that she’d be more than willing to risk it (because she’s a boss). He can’t ask her to do that, so they part ways.
The Minister of Magic corners him again, being just as shifty as he had been at the beginning of term, but Harry’s responses were the same.
“He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him,” said Harry, smiling in spite of himself.”
And of course…
“Dumbledore’s man through and through.”
Afterwards, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that even if they don’t close Hogwarts, he won’t be coming back. This takes Ron a little by surprise, but Hermione saw this coming. Harry tells them that there are at least four more horcruxes, and he has to destroy them if he has any hope of killing Voldemort once and for all. Ron says they’re coming with him, obviously, and Hermione agrees. Harry is legitimately shocked – and I don’t know if it’s because he was so wrapped up in his grief and anger, or because he really did underestimate the depths of Ron and Hermione’s loyalty. I think he probably knew that if he asked them for help, they’d help him, but for some reason he didn’t think they would volunteer themselves for this. (Though I suppose I can see never expecting Hermione to quit school for ANY reason…)
Harry asks them if they’re sure, emphasizing the danger of it.
“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”
I do have to say, I absolutely loved this scene in the movie. They got a lot wrong, but I think they really got this right. I do wish they had involved Ron in the conversation, but Emma Watson played it brilliantly – the, “of course we’re coming with you,” mentality; because as far as they’re concerned, there was never any other option.
Harry has to go back to the Dursleys one last time, because he promised Dumbledore he would, but then he’s off. Ron points out that he also has to go to the Burrow for Bill and Fleur’s wedding.
Harry had almost forgotten, but the thought of it calmed him. Despite the impossible road they had ahead of them, he took comfort in one thing:
“…there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.”
And there’s still one last golden book of awesome for us to enjoy in this reread! See you in Deathly Hallows!