The Deathly Hallows, Chapters 16-17: Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?

I totally forgot I requested these chapters, and then I got all excited when I sat down to write about them. They may seem like odd chapters to get excited about because they’re probably a couple of the most melancholy and macabre in the series. But if you know me—well, I guess you don’t outside the context of this re-read, so I’ll just tell you: I kind of love melancholy and macabre. I’m like a goth kid without all the black.

CHAPTER 16: GODRIC’S HOLLOW

We’re out of the woods in this chapter, but only in the literal sense; we’re not out of danger yet. In fact, we’re walking right out of the woods into the dead-frightening face of danger in these chapters.

The first bit of chapter 16 finds Harry and Hermione hoping that Ron will Apparate back, delaying packing and moving on to another campsite in order to give him time, checking the Marauder’s Map to see if he made his way to Hogwarts. Hermione breaks down, and it’s all very sad and frustrating. Why, Ron, why?! At this point upon my first read-through, I was just as angry as Harry. I mean, Ron promised to go with him, to stay by his side and help him, and now he’s turning his back on that promise and abandoning his best friends. I love Ron, but you’ve got to hand it to Hermione—she remains the loyal one throughout the thick of things, and we all know that Harry wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in these books without her. And by leaving, Ron has inadvertently placed an even bigger burden on Hermione, as now she’s Harry’s only support. Sure, we could blame the Horcrux, but as Ron himself even admits later on, that’s only part of it. The fact is, he does the one thing he’s not supposed to do here: he cracks under the pressure.

Harry is also angry at Dumbledore for failing to provide more information about the Horcruxes. There’s a lot of frustration in this chapter (and, if we’re being honest, this entire book). Harry is feeling desperate and hopeless, and the loss of Ron just amplifies his despair.

The trio-turned-duo continue traveling as the weather grows colder and Christmas trees begin appearing in windows. Hermione finds a strange hand-drawn symbol in her copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Harry remembers seeing Xenophilius Lovegood wearing the symbol around his neck at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, described by Krum as Grindelwald’s mark. Hermione points out that it doesn’t make sense for a dark symbol to be in a children’s book, but it remains a mystery for the time being.

Harry suggests they travel to Godric’s Hollow to explore his past, and Hermione agrees, thinking that Dumbledore may have hidden the Sword of Gryffindor there. Furthermore, Harry remembers the Weasleys’ Aunt Muriel mentioning that Bathilda Bagshot still resides there. Hermione thinks Dumbledore may have entrusted the sword to her, so the two make plans to leave for Godric’s Hollow as soon as they’re ready.

And here we have the scene at Godric’s Hollow, which had me blubbering like a baby. They arrive at night amidst falling snow that casts a muted silence over a place of so much death. Harry and Hermione visit the cemetery to find his parents’ graves, but they first come across those of Kendra and Ariana, Dumbledore’s mother and sister. The inscription on their gravestone reads:

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Their graves are a sorrowful reminder that Dumbledore kept so much of his past a secret from Harry, especially now knowing how much he loved them.

Then, a soft call from Hermione: “Harry, they’re here…right here.”

James and Lily’s white marble headstone, inscribed with:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Harry doesn’t understand the meaning behind the inscription, thinking it sounds like a Death Eater sentiment, but Hermione explains that it means to defeat death by existing beyond it. Harry begins to cry, and Hermione takes his hand, crying too. She sweetly conjures a wreath of roses, and Harry places it on the graves.

Sniff, sniff.

Worth noting: in the cemetery, they also discover a gravestone inscribed with the same symbol worn by Xenophilius and etched in Hermione’s book. The stone is old and weathered, and only the first name can be distinguished: Ignotus.

Potter Memorial

CHAPTER 17: BATHILDA’S SECRET

I was so excited about this chapter upon first read. We were going to meet someone new! And not just anyone, but Bathilda Bagshot, the author of A History of Magic, a staple of wizarding schooling! Hooray, right? …Right?

No, not hooray. Not at all. If you’re afraid of snakes, then this was not a good chapter for you.

Godric’s Hollow has been turned into a memorial of sorts for the Potters. A statue of James and Lily holding an infant Harry stands in the town square, disguised as a war memorial to Muggles. In front of the Potters’ old cottage, Harry and Hermione discover a sign that reads as follows:

On this spot, on the night of 31 October 1981, Lily and James Potter lost their lives. Their son, Harry, remains the only wizard ever to have survived the Killing Curse. This house, invisible to Muggles, has been left in its ruined state as a monument to the Potters and as a reminder of the violence that tore apart their family.

Wizards have paid tribute through notes written all over the sign, which Hermione finds disrespectful but Harry appreciates.

An elderly woman suddenly approaches. She doesn’t say anything, but she can obviously see them through the Invisibility Cloak, which Harry thinks is odd. He asks if she’s Bathilda Bagshot, and she nods, then beckons them toward her house. The outside is overgrown and the inside is musty and covered in dust, which should be our first clues that something is not quite right. (Actually, the fact that Bathilda could see through the Invisibility Cloak should have been our first clue.) Inside, Harry discovers a photograph of a young blonde man identical to the one in Rita Skeeter’s book. He presses Bathilda for details, but she says nothing, prompting Harry to wonder how Rita managed to squeeze any information out of her. Harry tells Hermione that the he recognizes the man in the photo from Voldemort’s mind, and that he’s the same man who stole the item from Gregorovitch. As Harry follows Bathilda upstairs, he pockets the photo, thieving the thief.

Upstairs, Harry’s scar prickles and the room darkens. He feels a jolt of sheer joy and hears what he thinks is his own voice saying, “Hold him!” Bathilda’s mouth gapes open and a giant snake hideously crawls out from her neck, shedding her lifeless body like its skin. It’s Nagini, and Voldemort is close behind. The giant snake bites Harry’s arm, sending his wand flying. Hermione runs upstairs after hearing the commotion, and Nagini lunges at her, just barely missing. Harry grabs both his wand and Hermione, leading them out the window and Disapparating JUST as Voldy shows up and reaches for them. Phew!

Nagini

Nope nope nope

It’s not over yet, though. Harry’s mind mingles with Voldemort’s once again, and he relives the entire night of his parents’ death through Voldemort’s eyes. Before, Harry had only snippets of memories that were overwhelmed by a green flash. Now, he sees it all. He sees the trick-or-treaters on an ordinary Halloween night. He sees a young boy playing happily on the floor. He sees a dark figure arrive. He sees his father yelling for his mother to take Harry and go while he holds Voldemort off. He sees his mother’s body fall, crumpled, to the floor. He sees that bright flash of green light again…

Finally, in the present, he sees Bathilda’s house as Voldemort picks up the picture of Gregorovitch’s thief dropped by Harry during their escape.

He awakens from the nightmare of his parents’ deaths to Hermione’s frantic pleading. He’s been out for hours, and Hermione has once again demonstrated her constant resourcefulness by taking care of everything. She used a hover charm to get him into his bed, a severing charm to remove the locket Horcrux from where it had seared itself onto his neck, and the Dittany spell to heal his snakebite. Despite all this, she did something wrong. Back at Bathilda’s, she cast Confringo, an exploding spell that ricocheted and broke Harry’s wand beyond repair. Harry is upset but tells Hermione he doesn’t blame her. He borrows her wand and takes the first watch, wanting to be away from her for the first time in a long time, while she remains in the tent, sobbing quietly to herself.

I think sadface is the best way to end this: 😦

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One thought on “The Deathly Hallows, Chapters 16-17: Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?

  1. Ashley says:

    I like snakes! I mean, as long as they’re tiny and can’t kill me, or far away or behind glass or on my TV. I spent ten minutes baby-talking to the weensy boa constrictor babies at PetCo last week.

    But Bathilda having a giant snake come out of her mouth and then disintegrating, well, I think you put it accurately: NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Legilimens!

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