I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I read these chapters for the first time. It was the afternoon after the book had been released. I’d stayed up as late as I could stand the night before but only gotten about a chapter or two in before passing out — I’d worked the midnight release party at Barnes & Noble, which was horrible and tiring and stressful, and hadn’t gotten home until 2:30 AM. I’d also gotten a bit of a late start that morning. I don’t think I woke up until around 10 AM. So this is why I was only on chapter twenty at this point. So there I was, sitting on my kitchen floor (linoleum, covered by a rug I still own to this day, and that reallllly needs replacing). My butt hurt but I didn’t want to move. I was cooking one of those soup-in-a-bag things you can get at the grocery store. It was chili (I would never make this again, as a point of interest). I was wearing my favorite sweatpants and a U of A t-shirt. My mouth was probably open and drooling.
I suspect that I remember so much detail of this because these chapters instantly became one of my favorite things about this series. I LOVE fairy-tales. I can remember where I was and what I was doing while reading other books for the first time, but I’m pretty sure this is the only instance in my memory that I can remember individual chapters. Anyway, all that is to say I totally assigned myself these chapters, but now that I’m confronted with writing about them, I find myself completely incable of expressing exactly what it is I love about them.
So I re-interpreted them as a fairy-tale instead. No idea how this is going to turn out.
– – –
This man, who possessed the unlikely name of Xenophilius Lovegood, was not like other men. Other men loved their daughters, for sure, and other men had professions that made them proud, woke them up in the morning, and gave them energy for the day. Other men like a nice cuppa and a long sit. So, yes, if we must be honest, he was like other men in some ways. All men are like all men at their elements. But we are not speaking of elements. We are speaking of Mr. Lovegood, and what made Mr. Lovegood different from most men is that he possessed the rare ability to believe in that for which there is no proof. To really and truly believe.
Because Mr. Lovegood lived in a world where magic was real, and that he himself could turn a teacup into a mouse in the blink of an eye, it is all the more remarkable that he still found things to believe in that even his fellow wizards, learned in the ancient ways of magic and mystery, scorned as real. It was because he insisted upon believing in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks and and Nargles and did odd things like growing dirigible plums in his garden and building wrackspurt-siphoning headdresses that he and his family were looked upon as oddities, and only rarely mocked or laughed at. Whether or not Mr. Lovegood was aware of his reputation only Mr. Lovegood knew, and he wasn’t telling. All the same he married a woman who saw the world in the same way, and together they taught their daughter, Luna, the same.
But in fact, Mr. Lovegood’s ability went beyond believing in nargles and wrackspurts. He believed in his vision of the world so strongly that he also possessed the ability to ignore or co-opt any evidence to the contrary. This type of man is thought insane at worst, out of touch at best. But that type of man, when he has kindness in his heart, is also a good man to have by your side when things go badly. He will stand by you until the end, for he is used to having the unpopular opinion, and nothing will dissuade him.
Well, almost nothing.
Mr. Lovegood could not be swayed with criticism. He could not be swayed by fear. He could not be swayed by scorn or laughter. Not being dead wrong about almost everything. Not his marriage nor the birth of his daughter. Not even the death of his wife at the hands of the experiemental magic she practiced, not even knowing his daughter had witnessed her mother’s last moments. Xenophilius Lovegood was thoroughly himself.
And yet he loved his daughter. This was his undoing.
For when Luna was not quite grown a great war broke out in the wizarding community, and most wizards (the Lovegoods included) found themselves in the position of having to choose one of three options: choose the side of evil, choose the side of good, or do nothing. The Lovegoods, the both of them, chose good. Mr. Lovegood was proud of his daughter, who was friends with the famous Harry Potter, a young boy who had somehow become He Who Must Not Be Named’s greatest enemy. So because it was the right thing to do, Mr. Lovegood publically declared himself for the Potter boy, and urged others to do the same.
And then one day the Death Eaters came. We have your daughter, they said, and you will do what we say. And so he did. He stopped publishing pro-Harry Potter editorials in his magazine, The Quibbler. He stopped going out in public. He very nearly stopped eating. And he worried about Luna every moment of the day he wasn’t trying to think about ways to bargain her back into his arms. The Death Eaters, like other wizards, had no use for wrackspurt-siphoning headdresses. They sought Harry Potter above all, a thing which Mr. Lovegood had no power to deliver.
Until the day Harry Potter and his two friends showed up on Mr. Lovegood’s front door asking for help.
Unused to subterfuge, he did a poor job of disguising his unease, his impatience to separate himself from their view and call the Death Eaters to his strange-looking house on the hill so he could trade these three for his Luna. The boy and his friends did not notice. They were tired and curious, and had grown to expect odd behavior from someone with the last name of Lovegood. And Xenophilius’s previous interaction with the boy was so brief , he had no way of knowing how Mr. Lovegood normally behaved. He sat the three of them in his parlor and left the room to make tea, where he promptly contacted the Death Eaters to come at once. They would be here within the half hour. He would need to stall the three fugitives until then. He gave no thought towards the repercussions of his actions. He only wanted Luna. Nothing else mattered, certainly not the three children — other people’s children — in the other room.
He needn’t have worried about stalling them or distracting them. In fact, the three were there for one purpose, to find out information on what was perhaps the only thing besides Luna that had really mattered to him in the years since the death of his wife: The Deathly Hallows. He didn’t even stop to question what seeking the Hallows had to do with defeating the Dark Lord. Would not the person who possessed all three Hallows be the master of death?
He tried to explain The Quest, but the children were not understanding. He showed them the symbol: the line, the circle, the triangle. Finally, as a way to simplify it, he had the girl read out “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”
For the first time in his memory, the tale failed to hold his interest. He was too concerned with looking out the window, wondering just exactly when the Death Eaters would show up. When he would have to turn these three innocent children over to them for just a chance at getting his Luna back.
After the story was over and the three were satisfied with his explanation, he again left the room under some excuse, claiming that Luna would be back from catching plimpies very soon. But it was a mistake to leave them on their own. The boy — Harry — found Luna’s empty room, and the latest edition of The Quibbler falling off his printing press gave him away. The children tried to make a run for it. He tried to explain, but couldn’t find the words. The children were going to get away, and his heart fell in despair.
“They have my Luna,” he said, as from the corner of the eye he spotted broomsticks out of the window. He shot a Stunning spell at the children, but missed and hit the horn of the Crumple-Horned Snorcack instead — the one the girl had insisted was an Erumpent horn. It seemed she had been right after all. How many other things in his life had he believed in so wrongly?
And then the Death Eaters came. They did not believe that Harry Potter was in his house. They scorned him and mocked him. He didn’t mind. He only hoped they wouldn’t punish his daughter for his mistake. Then, a blast in the ceiling above and two of the children fell through. He heard a Death Eater gasp as the clear face of Harry Potter was visible through the dust, just before they disapparated. Even though he had betrayed them, the children had remembered his earlier words and actions back from before he had been broken. They had shown their faces deliberately, so he could avoid punishment. Though he could not be that man who did the right thing and spoke his mind at all costs any longer, it seemed that man and the things he had done still had the power to save him anyway.
And then he was alone again, the Death Eaters gone back to their master. He sank to his haunches in the wreckage of his house, buried his head in his hands, and wept. He would believe against all the odds that one day his daughter would be returned to him, and he would continue to believe it until it was so.
- Hermione spends the beginning of chapter twenty being extremely grouchy with Ron as punishment. I really can’t blame her.
- Ron and Harry, on the other hand, are in really good moods. Like, good to the point of obnoxious, and Ron is taking every opportunity to get back in Hermione’s good graces.
- Ron leaving the group allows Jo to fit in some stuff that’s happening in the outside world that the Trio might otherwise have been unaware of. The most important of these things is of course, The Taboo. Voldemort’s name is now jinxed as a way to find people against him, since they’re the ones most likely brave enough to say his name. This is how the Death Eaters found the Trio on Tottenham Court road at the beginning of the book.
- I love the bit where Ron confesses to Harry that he doesn’t think Dumbledore making them work for it is frustrating anymore, since he obviously knew Ron would abandon the Trio at some point, hence giving him the Deluminator. But Harry’s response is my favorite: “No, he must have known you’d always want to come back.”
- The blackthorn wand will not be tamed! That, or wandlore or something.
- “Death’s got an Invisibility Cloak?” Harry interrupted again.
“So he can sneak up on people,” said Ron. “Sometimes he gets bored of running at them, flapping his arms and shrieking…”