Author Archives: Alyssa

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.


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.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

The Deathly Hallows, Chapters 2-3: Dumbledore and Dudley

I remember the slight sense of melancholy that punctuated the Deathly Hallows midnight release party in July 2007. It would be the last time we all would gather together in excitement to celebrate our beloved series, the books we had grown up with and grown to rely on. Like Borders, the now-defunct bookstore where they were held, those release parties seem like relics of the past. One has to be careful with nostalgia because it often overlooks anything bad or negative in favor of the “good ol’ days,” but when I look back at my time spent with the Harry Potter books, I know nostalgia isn’t interfering with my memories. Every bit of it truly was the “good ol’ days.” This re-read has allowed me to relive some of those memories—to go back and try to capture the feeling of reading the series for the very first time—and for that I’m grateful. Let’s continue it for a little while longer, shall we?


Our next chapter begins with a bit of melancholy as well. Harry is sorting through his school trunk, deciding what to take with him and what to leave behind. It’s sad to think of Harry unpacking his trunk instead of preparing it for Hogwarts, stuffing in all of his books and ensuring he doesn’t forget any of Mrs. Weasley’s hand-knitted sweaters. It’s for real, guys: we’re not going back to Hogwarts this year.


Oh Harry, you’re going to be so far from home. 😦

This chapter largely focuses on Dumbledore, and we’re given two strikingly different views of his life, although we clearly know which one is true (right??). The first comes from a tribute written by his close friend Elphias Doge in The Daily Prophet. Here’s what we learn about Dumbledore from Doge’s exposition:

  • He was a bit of an outcast when he arrived at Hogwarts due to notoriety surrounding his father, Percival, who had landed a lifelong prison sentence in Azkaban for savagely attacking three young Muggles. Dumbledore never defended his father or had any doubt that he was guilty. Instead, he entered Hogwarts determined to distinguish himself from his father’s transgressions.
  • Dumbledore more than succeeded in his aim of making a new name for himself. He openly supported Muggle rights while at Hogwarts as well as excelling as a student, winning “every prize of note” that the school had to offer.
  • He knew early on that he wanted to be a teacher and spent much of his time helping and encouraging his classmates, including Doge.
  • During his time at Hogwarts, Dumbledore regularly corresponded with Nicolas Flamel, Bathilda Bagshot, and a magical theoretician named Adalbert Waffling. He had articles published in Transfiguration TodayChallenges in Charming, and The Practical Potioneer. Is anyone else dying to read those journals, or am I just the ultimate nerd?
  • Although he was well qualified and poised to take the position of Minister of Magic, he had no desire to be part of the Ministry. It’s clear that wizarding politics are as corruptible as those of the Muggle world, but I wonder how things would have been different if he had worn the mantle of Minister during the events of the books. Would a defensive against Voldemort and the Death Eaters have been initiated sooner, preventing Dumbledore’s own death as well as countless others? I’m inclined to believe he was exactly where he needed to be, at Hogwarts with the Boy Who Lived. Besides, Dumbledore recognized that his desire for power was his weakness, and he probably did much more good at Hogwarts, isolated from temptation, than he would have at the Ministry.
  • His personality differed greatly from his younger brother Aberforth’s, who was a bit hotheaded and preferred to solve disagreements through dueling rather than friendly debate. Despite their differences, however, the brothers were friends. Doge suspects it must have been difficult for Aberforth to live in his older brother’s shadow, mentioning that even Albus’ friends were eclipsed by his fame, which draws an interesting parallel to Harry’s fame at Hogwarts.
  • Just after his graduation from Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s mother Kendra died, leaving him in charge of his younger brother and sister.
  • Just a year later, his younger sister Ariana died as well. Her death affected Dumbledore deeply, as he felt personally responsible for it, and it also caused a rift between him and Aberforth that lasted for many years.
  • Dumbledore went on to make several significant contributions to the wizarding world, including his discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood (we know three of them from the books: a healing aid, oven cleaner, and spot remover—which brings me to the most important question of all: is Mr. Clean actually a Wizard?). He also made many important decisions as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, although what those decisions were exactly is not known.
  • His duel with Gellert Grindelwald in 1945 is famously remembered as the greatest wizarding duel ever witnessed. None has matched it since, and those who saw it reported the terror and awe they felt as the two great wizards battled it out.

Harry realizes how little he knew about Dumbledore’s life before now and feels a sting of regret. Because Harry is our unreliable point of view, this is the first we’ve learned about Dumbledore’s background as well. We knew he was a great wizard who accomplished impactful things based on his interactions with Harry and what little Harry has learned about him from other sources, but this is the first time his emotions have come into play. We knew almost nothing about his family, about the effect of his difficult childhood and the loss of his mother and sister on his psyche, or about the toll that caring for his siblings at such a young age, instead of going off to discover his fortune like his friends, must have had on him.

Archived from J.K. Rowling's website: Dumbledore as Wizard of the Month!

Archived from J.K. Rowling’s website: Dumbledore as Wizard of the Month!

Next, Harry learns that Rita Skeeter has written an upcoming exposé on Dumbledore, which contradicts what Doge wrote and paints our headmaster in a less than flattering light, while also managing to attack Harry in the process. Here’s what her preview “reveals”:

  • Ivor Dillonsby had already discovered eight of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood before letting Dumbledore borrow his papers.
  • Grindelwald surrendered to Dumbledore and the duel never happened—Skeeter hyperbolizes that he conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand.
  • Harry is implicated in Dumbledore’s death—Skeeter says he was seen running away from the scene moments after Dumbledore’s fall, and she mentions that his testimony against Snape stems from a personal grudge.

Harry is expectedly furious, but he has bigger fish to fry, and there’s not much he can do at this point anyway. Skeeter’s exposé seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things, like an annoying itch that won’t go away. Harry is well acquainted with the Wizarding tabloids by now, and this is the beginning of book seven! Characters we love are going to die, emphasis on the plural. I don’t know if I can go through this a second time! Deathly Hallows is actually the only book in the series I haven’t read more than once, and there’s a reason for that—six of them, to be exact.

At the end of the chapter, Harry catches a glimpse of a light blue eye—identical to Dumbledore’s—in the shard of mirror that Sirius gave him. Checking it again, he sees only his reflection, but you can bet this little piece of information stayed in the back of my mind throughout the rest of the book, a pinprick of hope amidst everything that’s about to happen.


Not much happens in this chapter, but it’s significant because Harry not only helps ensure the Dursleys’ safety despite their cruel treatment of him for practically his entire life, but he also makes amends with Dudley. In the previous chapter, Harry trips over a teacup that was left outside his door. He suspects Dudley left it there as a booby trap, but this chapter reveals it may have been a peace offering of sorts.

Harry’s relationship with Dudley has always been a typical childhood one between a scrawny kid and his bully. Not to say that there’s anything okay with bullying, but when it comes to the Dursleys’ treatment of Harry, Vernon and Petunia are the real villains. They can be blamed for Dudley’s behavior based on his upbringing and Harry’s in comparison. How else could Dudley have been expected to behave, when he grew up with parents who coddled him while endlessly berating Harry in front of him? It’s only after seeing Harry leave Privet Drive, taken out of the context of his mistreatment and viewed objectively, that Dudley finally sees what he did was wrong.

Dudley is the same age as Harry, which implies he’s matured a great deal. It’s normal for teenagers to remove their parents from the pedestals they kept them on throughout their childhood, and to begin to realize how their own thoughts and views might differ from what they’ve been taught. For Dudley, this realization comes with remorse and concern for Harry. We can perhaps assume that Harry’s rescue of Dudley from the Dementors in book 5 may have led to his change of heart, especially since Dudley specifically mentions it to Harry in this scene. Dementors can have a severe and lasting effect on a person, and I think they affected Dudley deeply.

It’s a touching moment, when Dudley tells Harry he doesn’t think he’s a waste of space. That moment is also an indication of the weight of everything that’s about to come. If Dudley understands it, then it’s bound to be some serious shit, you guys.

Dementors are the least of your worries now.

Dementors are the least of your worries now.

Tagged , , , ,

The Half-Blood Prince, Chapters 10-11: Crime Scene Investigation: Hogwarts

Fun fact: Until Deathly Hallows came out, Half-Blood Prince sported my favorite cover art in the series. It was the least colorful of the bunch, but those swirly greens and purples hinted at something mysterious. This was going to be a book to pay close attention to.


Hermione is expectedly angry about Harry using the Prince’s book, considering it’s pretty much cheating, and once again we’re reminded that she lets quite a bit slide when it comes to Harry and Ron. She definitely doesn’t remain quiet about her feelings, though, letting them know exactly what she thinks about the situation, although she also knows it will do nothing to dissuade them. In this case, there’s another layer to Hermione’s disdainful feelings because she resents the fact that Harry is doing better than her in Potions, which has never, ever happened before. Still, she remains as loyal as ever. It’s clear by this point that she values her friendship with Harry and Ron more than she values following the rules, and their disapproval would be worse than the disapproval of her superiors. She begrudgingly attempts to help Harry solve the mystery of the Half-Blood Prince. When she suggests that the Prince doesn’t have to be male, which is exciting and actually quite clever considering Prince could be a surname, Harry asks, “How many girls have been princes?”

Challenge accepted, Harry. I scoured the Internet and did, in fact, manage to find a female Prince. Do with that what you will.

Continue reading

Tagged ,

The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 28-29: School’s Out Forever


So, this post is very late, and I was afraid for a while that I wasn’t going to be able to write it at all, which makes me sad because these are two of my very favorite chapters in the whole series. I love them so much that I actually specifically requested them from Ashley, our fearless leader. Then I had to go and get sick this week, probably due to the insane weather here in east Tennessee, which can’t decide whether it wants to be below freezing or just kinda warm and rainy. But I’m not going to let it stop me! I’m going to relive my warm and fuzzy Harry Potter memories! This is called the Harry Potter Medicinal Re-Read, after all!


After Dumbledore’s FUCKING AWESOME exit , everybody’s worst nightmare comes true and Umbridge serves as interim headmistress. Because Dumbledore is still FUCKING AWESOME, though, she can’t get into his office because it’s sealed itself off to all but the true headmaster. That’s right, Umbridge: suck it. With Dumbledore gone and Umbridge in charge, as you can imagine, everything goes to shit. Umbridge has appointed Draco and a bunch of other unpleasant Slytherins as her “Inquisitorial Squad,” who are like prefects from hell.


Now, Fred and George have always been at the top of my list of favorite characters, but I think these chapters are what really cemented my love for them. They basically decide that without Dumbledore, full-time school is now useless to them, so Umbridge and her enforcers can suck their pygmy puffs. They’re entrepreneurs! They’ll have their own business up and running in less than a year.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

The Goblet of Fire, Chapters 30-32: Death Once Had a Near-Voldemort Experience

It’s been over a month since I last wrote here, and–not gonna lie–I sort of lost track of time. Last night (or early this morning, actually) I was studying for finals when it suddenly hit me that there was something else I was supposed to do. Then I remembered it was my turn to write about Harry Potter! I frantically tried to squeeze in my post between studying and finals, and it didn’t quite work out. Honestly, though, I’m glad because I wouldn’t have been able to do these chapters justice if I had tried to hurry this post. Now I’m finally home, I’m officially done with the semester, and I’ve got nothin’ but time.

(Also, I desperately need to catch up on all of your posts, fellow re-read writers! Which I will be doing over the next few days, so you’ll be seeing comments from me on older posts. Finals took over my life for a while, but now that they’re over I can spend time doing other things on the internet besides researching medieval feudalism and Python scripts! Yay!)


This is the chapter in which Harry discovers a bowl filled with silvery stuff that allows him to see inside Dumbledore’s mind. This is also the bajillionth instance in which I found myself thinking, “Huh, that would be really useful… Why doesn’t magic exist?!” Not only is the Pensieve a cool idea, but it’s also really helpful as a literary device because it allows J.K. Rowling to give us insight into impactful story events without losing Harry’s point of view or making us suffer through an infodump. As usual, I am in awe of J.K. Rowling’s brain. I wish I had access to her Pensieve.

Through Dumbledore’s memory, we learn that: a) Ludo Bagman unknowingly gave information about the Ministry of Magic to a Death Eater named Augustus Rookwood, who worked in the Department of Mysteries, b) Snape was a Death Eater, and c) Neville’s parents were tortured to the point of insanity by Barty Crouch, Jr. and the Lestranges. For the first time, we see a real correlation between Harry and Neville. They both lost their parents due to tragic circumstances involving Voldemort either directly or indirectly. We don’t know yet just how significant the similarities between Harry and Neville are, but we can be sure that Harry feels a deep empathetic connection to Neville from this point forward. The purpose of Rowling’s exposition here is to establish sympathy for Neville–not just the sympathy we already feel for the poor, socially inept boy, but a larger, more significant sympathy that carries a weight of meaning. There is more to Neville Longbottom than it seems, and this chapter is when Rowling begins to scratch the surface.

Another one of Neville's secrets: he's a hottie.

Another one of Neville’s secrets: he’s a hottie.

After Dumbledore pulls Harry out of the Pensieve and explains to him what the heck just happened, they discuss Harry’s dream and Neville’s parents. Harry is surprised to learn that Dumbledore has been communicating with Sirius and thus already knows about the dream. He explains that Harry’s scar will hurt whenever Voldemort is nearby or feeling strong emotions, which is really going to suck later on. He also makes Harry promise to keep the truth about Neville’s parents to himself, as it’s Neville’s story to tell and not anyone else’s.

Dumbledore Witticism of the Day: “Curiosity is not a sin. But we should exercise caution with our curiosity… yes, indeed.”

Something I’ve wondered about here: the purpose of the Pensieve is to store excess memories in order to retain them and revisit them later. Presumably, there are numerous memories swirling around in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, so how is it that Harry happened to stumble into the exact memories that were relevant at the time? Did Dumbledore pull those memories to the surface of the Pensieve just before Harry arrived?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,