I have a confession to make. This is only my second time ever reading this book cover to cover. I was born in the golden year to be an American Harry Potter fan: 1987. When the first book came out, I was eleven years old. I was Harry Potter. Or I could have been, if my stupid letter hadn’t gotten lost in the mail. The first three books came out annually and I waited for them eagerly, I grew up with the Trio, I worshipped Hermione. The thrice-as-long wait for the fourth book nearly killed me, but I gobbled that one right up, too. It was like coming home to old friends. But by the time the fifth book came out, I was older. More importantly, my peers were older. And meaner. Dumbledore’s death was spoiled for me and I wanted no part in it. I decided to let the series live on with only my happy memories. By the time the last book came out, I was in college, and over my stubborn refusal. I vowed to go back and read the whole series, start to finish like it’s meant to be read, but college and grad school and boring Muggle stuff got in the way, and I just never got around to it. I still quoted it and referenced it and loved it with all my heart, I just didn’t know it in its totality. Since I wanted to do it right, I never watched any of the movies past the fourth, not wanting it to spoil the reading experience I was still determined to have. So when my friend invited me to go to the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows: Part Two, the summer after I finished grad school, I knew the timing was right. I read all of the books and watched all of the movies in less than two months, and made it to the midnight showing with the Deathly Hallows symbol inked (temporarily) on my arm.
But, as I said, this is only my second time reading this book cover to cover. I’ve read snippets here and there. Picked up the book to move it and engulfed a chapter or two on the walk from a shelf to a box. Read quotes and theories and discussions. But never really re-read it. And goodness gracious it is SAD. Sadder than the first time around, because you know their fate, even though they don’t. “When I get married,” said Fred… that’s all it took. My heart shattered. SHATTERED. And it just kept shattering over and over and over.
Anyway, as I believe I mentioned in one of my first posts here, before Harry Potter, I never really understood why people would reread books (there are so many NEW books to read!) but these…these I totally understand. And I can’t wait for next year’s reread.
Enough blabbering. We’ve got things to discuss. Sad things and complicated things and happy things and scary things. The end of one life and the beginning of another.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: THE WANDMAKER
We start with the sad things. Dobby. DOBBY. This whole scene. I cannot. I don’t THINK Ashley hates me, but I keep getting assigned mourning scenes, and I keep being unable to do them justice. I mean DOBBY. But it’s fitting. The first chapter I was assigned for this reread was Dobby’s first, it makes sense it’s my job to say the final goodbye.
When we first met Dobby, he was a little shit. Pardon my French. He hid Ron and Hermione’s letters, got Harry in trouble. Mischief and mayhem, all in the name of keeping Harry from the one place he truly called home. But over the years Dobby proved himself. However misguided his actions could be, whatever mess he ended up making, every single solitary time, he was just trying to help Harry Potter, whose greatness he had heard of, but whose goodness he had not known. But Dobby learned of Harry’s goodness, and Harry learned of Dobby’s greatness. Dobby’s final act was saving everyone’s lives. The least Harry felt he could do was give him a proper burial.
For the first time in the series, when someone chooses to do something the long way, instead of the magical way, it finally makes all the sense in the world. Spade in hand, Harry makes Dobby his final resting place. It’s during this process he’s best able to block out Voldemort’s nagging visions, and he hears Dumbledore’s voice in his head, knowing the old headmaster would attribute this ability to love.
Ron and Dean come out, and instead of asking why he’s not using magic (which Harry was expecting), they get their own shovels and help him dig. The three boys take off articles of clothing and give them to Dobby, bundling him up and closing his eyes. The rest of the gang join them and they have a little impromptu service, a time to say goodbye before lying Dobby to rest.
Harry creates a tombstone for his tiny friend.
“Here lies Dobby, a free elf”
If there’s a house-elf heaven, and if Dobby watched this scene, tears would have streamed from his gigantic eyes and he would have blown his nose on a tea cozy. Because from the first time Harry Potter met Dobby to the last, Dobby had known of his goodness, and valued it far more than his greatness.
As Harry headed back inside, he felt his time running out. He had two people to talk to, and a decision to make: Goblin or Wandmaker, Horcruxes or Hallows.
He chooses to talk to Griphook first, and asks Ron and Hermione to come with them. They looked “oddly relieved” that he’s including them in this plan without begging for once. Harry pauses to ask Hermione if she’s okay, and tells her she was amazing. Which, if you ask me, is the understatement of the century. This seventeen year old girl was being tortured and not only kept secrets secret, but flat-out lied to her torturer. A believable lie. On the spot. She’s perfect.
Harry, whose scar is in a constant state of prickling at this point, goes in to talk to Griphook. Griphook saw Harry bury Dobby, is aware that he saved his own life. Griphook sees Harry’s goodness, too, though he just calls him odd. Harry hopes this weird quasi-compliment will benefit him, because he has a favor to ask, and it’s a doozy: He wants to break into the Lestrange vault. It takes some smooth-talking, but Griphook agrees to think about it.
In the mmmbop it takes to get from Griphook to Ollivander, Harry catches Ron and Hermione up on where his head’s at. Ron looks at him and says, “You really understand him.” (Which I imagine struck him with a weird mix of pride and horror, like how I feel when my friends say it to me after I try to explain Alison DiLaurentis’s motives.) Harry insists that he only understand bits, but understanding your enemy is the first step toward defeating them.
The first thing Harry asks of Ollivander is to identify the wands they took from the Malfoys’ during their escape. (Of note: Bellatrix’s wand is dragon heartstring and unyielding. Which just makes so much sense.) They also have Draco’s and Wormtail’s, which should work fine for Harry and Ron, respectively, because they won them. And wands are weirdly aware objects.
They determine for once and for all that Voldemort must be after the Elder Wand. Gregorovitch had claimed to have it, so Grindelwald took it, and Dumbledore won it in his famous duel. Therefore, it must be at Hogwarts, which explains the flashes of Hogwarts Harry has been seeing through his scar.
Harry finally gives in and watches through Voldemort’s eyes as he breaks open Dumbledore’s tomb and takes the Elder Wand, which sparked to greet its new owner.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: SHELL COTTAGE
Under any other circumstances, Shell Cottage was probably a lovely place. But the wizarding world is at war, and while the ocean can provide him brief moments of quiet, it can’t give him peace. As the days pass, Harry is anxious about the choice he made.
“He could not remember, ever before, choosing not to act.”
It doesn’t help that his strategy is being regularly tested by Ron wondering aloud if it was the right choice and Hermione assuring him that it was. Ron is still back in Book Four because he thinks the sudden appearances of the silver doe and the Sword of Gryffindor and the eye in the mirror could be Dumbledore, for real. That is the one thing Harry is sure of: Dumbledore is really and truly dead.
Griphook approaches them, having finally made his decision. He’ll help them on one condition: he gets to keep the Sword of Gryffindor after. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sidebar and eventually come to the agreement that they’ll say they’ll give it to him, but won’t tell him when. It doesn’t sit well with any of them, but they don’t think they have another option. Harry remembers the slogan, “For the Greater Good,” a slogan Grindelwald used in his horrifying campaign against Muggles. But the line between you and your enemies is often narrower and blurrier than you think.
The three young wizards spend the days plotting away with the goblin, until the day Ollivander leaves Shell Cottage. He especially will miss Luna, who had been “an inexpressible comfort” when they were trapped together in the Malfoy Dungeons, which does not surprise me one single bit. Luna is a light in the darkness, always.
Luna is also more helpful than they realize, because she casually mentions here the lost diadem of Ravenclaw. Alas, as usual, they think Miss Lovegood is just prattling on about nothing. (It’s okay, she doesn’t mind.)
Lupin arrives with the first truly joyful news we’ve heard in quite some time: Tonks had her baby!
It’s a boy! His name is Ted! And Lupin asks Harry to be the godfather!
Death has been rampant, a theme in their lives for too long. From Hedwig to Mad-Eye, from Muggles they never heard of to one of the oldest wizard historians, from headmasters to house-elves, death has been everywhere for months and months. But now, for the first time, new life. A literal miracle, a source of magic in itself. And not just because the baby’s hair changes color daily. They haven’t faced their hardest obstacle, they haven’t suffered their last loss, but by golly does it feel wonderful to get some good news for once.
As the celebration dies down, Bill pulls Harry aside and lets him know that he’s learned a thing or two about goblins. The most important being that goblins believe that ownership belongs to the craftsman. They believe anything goblin-made is rented by wizards, and rightfully theirs when the original owner dies. To drive his point home, he says:
“It would be less dangerous to break into Gringotts than to renege on a promise to a goblin.”
Well then, it’s a good thing Harry wasn’t planning to do BOTH of those things in the immediate future, in rapid succession!
At this, Harry thinks of little Ted and worries that he’s doomed to follow in his own godfather’s footsteps.
(Footnote: This is my last post for the series. Not sure what’s going on with the schoolbooks, so I might be back, but either way, this has been a blast. I loved reading what everyone created, discussing, laughing, and learning together. If I ever do a Harry Potter Reread writing project like this again, the only thing I would do differently is that I would be braver. I loved reading the way you all came up with; new and creative ways to present your chapters, different styles and perspectives. You all have Gryffindor hearts and Ravenclaw wit. I Hufflepuffed out and took the safe route, but I did it all with a smile and a song. Can’t wait to read what else you guys come up with, here or elsewhere. I already know you’re all great, but don’t forget to be good!)