I was actually really enjoying my contrariness and bulking up on fanfic in assorted fandoms (incl. HP). Plus my flist was mostly being very good about cut-tagging, but i got a definite Harry/Draco vibe, which disinclined me to read the book like whoa.
But i did read it. And here is my running commentary as i read. Unspoiled by anything except hearsay about that afore-cuttagged vibe.
Chapter 1: The book starts in the Muggle world, per usual, but it doesn't start with Harry; it starts with the government. (Also, wow, hearing about a bad week in London so soon after london_070705, is rather shaking.) This is bigger than Harry. This crosses the Muggle/Wizard divide and goes high up into the ranks of government.
I am certain that Snape is on Dumbledore's side. He has been painted as vile and Dumbledore has a history of putting Harry in harm's way, but i absolutely believe Snape is on Dumbledore's side.
Chapter 3: Now we finally get to Harry.
[And now it turns into responses to passages rather than whole chapters. I am reading the UK edition, so i don't know if my page numbers will match your US editions.]
‘No, we got wind of a nasty Backfiring Jinx down in Elephant and Castle, but luckily the Magical Law Enforcement Squad had sorted it out by the time we got there ...'My immediate thought when i read "Elephant and Castle" was, "Wait, was that one of the places that got bombed?" (It wasn't.)
Harry did not really listen. A warmth was spreading through him that had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them.There was a scene like this in a previous book, but this still makes me so happy.
‘I enjoyed the [DA] meetings, too,' said Luna serenely. ‘It was like having friends.'Luna kills me. I love her.
I implore you, should you notice anything strange or suspicious within or outside the castle, to report it to a member of staff immediately.*cough* "See something, say something."
‘But you think you're right?' said Harry.
‘Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.'
‘Sir, am I allowed to tell Ron and Hermione everything you've told me?'I feel like, when Dumbledore agrees to this, that this is the real beginning of honesty in this book.
‘What?" said Hermione defensively.Hermione lurves Ron. Boo.
‘If you ask me,' said Harry quietly, ‘McLaggen looks like he was Confounded. And he was standing right in front of where you were sitting.'
‘Oh, all right then, I did it,' she whispered. ‘But you should have heard the way he was talking about Ron and Ginny! Anyway, he's got a nasty temper, you saw how he reacted when he didn't get in – you wouldn't have wanted someone like that on the team.'
‘No,' said Harry. ‘No, I suppose that's true. But wasn't that dishonest, Hermione? I mean, you're a prefect, aren't you?'
There were many crossings-out and alterations, but finally, crammed into a corner of the page, the scribble:Levicorpus? Instantly made me think of the opening of hesychasm's A Place to Be.
‘She wouldn't even stay alive for her son?'Doesn't he want him to feel for TR-V? I'm not sure how i read Dumbledore here.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows.
‘Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?'
The younger Albus Dumbledore's long hair and beard were auburn. Having reached their side of the street, he strode off along the pavement, drawing many curious glances due to the flamboyantly cut suit of plum velvet that he was wearing.After my initial gay! reaction, i remembered the recently-reread Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
From Chapter 14: Mr. Willy Wonka:
Mr. Wonka was standing all alone just outside the open gates of the factory.
And what an extraordinary little man he was!
He had a black top hat on his head.
He wore a tail coat of a beautiful plum-colored velvet.
‘I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly self-sufficient, secretive and apparently, friendless?The aloneness of both HP and TR-V.
But he was not sure how he felt about it ... he and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they didn't split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?
It's just because she's Ron's sister, he told himself. You didn't like seeing her kissing Dean because she's Ron's sister ...Harry/Ginny = why? I see it in fanfic, but Ginny got over her crush on Harry a while ago and Harry never had any particular interest in her. Is this just a convenient device to get Harry paired up and keep the close-knit groups we've had (i.e. not bringing in any outsides)? [Though i will give her points for having foreshadowed this on the Hogwarts train with Harry looking for people to sit with and feeling hurt when Ginny, with whom he had spent nearly the entire summer, ditches him for other friends without a thought.]
But unbidden into his mind came an image of that same deserted corridor with himself kissing Ginny instead ...
... but then he saw Ron ripping open the tapestry curtain and drawing his wand on Harry, shouting things like ‘betrayal of trust' ... ‘supposed to be my friend' ...After Ginny's talk about Ron never having snogged anybody, i'm tempted to read Ron as gay. I know JKR won't do it and it's just my fandom-ed brain.
‘I wanted Ron to think I'd done it, so I faked it when I knew you were looking.' He looked at Ron, ‘You saved everything because you felt lucky. You did it all yourself.'I was so angry when i thought Harry had slipped Ron some of his Felix Felicis. So wrong on so many levels. Not only illegal and breaking the rules, but so not helpful in the long run since you've got a whole season of games to play. (Incidentally: Harry selecting Ron for the Quidditch team. Hagrid as Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Discuss.) The fact that they don't do the easy cheat is i think a sign that the kids are growing up.
‘The library is now closed,' she said. ‘Mind you return anything you have borrowed to the correct – what have you been doing to that book, you depraved boy?:) I have never loved Madam Pince more than in that moment.
‘It isn't the library's, it's mine!' said Harry hastily, snatching his copy of Advanced Potion-Making off the table as she lunged at it with a clawlike hand.
‘Despoiled!' she hissed. ‘Desecrated! Befouled!'
‘It's just a book that's been written in!' said Harry, tugging it out of her grip.
She looked as though she might have a seizure
‘Oh, no, I'd love to go with you as friends!' said Luna, beaming as he had never seen her beam before. ‘Nobody's ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow? For the party? Should I do mine, too?'
Page 294-ish, the news that Hermione is taking McLaggen to Slug's party... i rather wanted to see fic with her having hot angry vengeful sex with him.
‘I don't think you should be an Auror, Harry,' said Luna unexpectedly. Everybody looked at her. ‘The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy. I thought everyone knew that. They're working to bring down the Ministry of Magic using a combination of Dark magic and gum disease.'
The end of Chapter 15... despite what i said in Chapter 2, i almost wholly believed that Snape was an active Death-Eater in this scene.
Ron and Lavender had been saying a thoroughly non-verbal goodbye just behind him at the time.
Fred, George, Harry and Ron were the only ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as he pulled up carrots for Christmas dinner. Stupefied, painted gold, stuffed into a miniature tutu and with small wings glued to its back, it glowered down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet.
‘Promise me you'll look after yourself ... stay out of trouble ...'
‘I always do, Mrs Weasley,' said Harry. ‘I like a quiet life, you know me.'
‘He accused me of being "Dumbledore's man through and through".'And here my reading stopped for the day. (In the middle of a chapter, i know.)
‘How very rude of him.'
‘I told him I was.'
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Behind Harry, Fawkes the phoenix let out a low, soft, musical cry. To Harry's intense embarrassment, he suddenly realised that Dumbledore's bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared hastily at his own knees. When Dumbledore spoke, however, his voice was quite steady.
‘I am very touched, Harry.'
They were temporarily detained by Peeves, who had jammed a door on the fourth floor shut and was refusing to let anyone pass until they set fire to their own pants. Harry and Ron simply turned back and took one of their trusted short cuts.Oh my poor Neville.
He broke off as Neville entered the dormitory, bringing with him a strong smell of singed material, and began rummaging in his trunk for a fresh pair of pants.
he [Harry] was rapidly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy.I read dorrie6's H/D ship manifesto around the time this book came out, and she talks a lot about Draco's obsession with Harry and Harry's relative indifference to Draco, so when i heard about the H/D vibe of Book6, i was waiting for something like this.
‘And now Harry Potter's having an argument with his Keeper,' said Luna serenely, while both Hufflepuffs and Slytherins below in the crowd cheered and jeered. ‘I don't think that'll help him find the Snitch, but maybe it's a clever ruse.'I've mentioned my love for Luna, right? :)
‘I mean, he's sensitive, people bully him, too, and he feels lonely and hasn't got anybody to talk to, and he's not afraid to show his feelings and cry!'I call Neville. Though Voldemort or Malfoy aren't out of the question. Well okay, i suppose the former is.
A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul.The locket and cup!? Also, i so thought of Andrea 13's Sorting Hat series.
‘you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature.'Interesting.
‘But how do you do it?'
‘By an act of evil – the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart.
Page 473: the suggestion of Nagini as a Horcrux - can i just mention what a terrifying name Nagini is? Kipling's "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" was clearly formative for me.
‘Yes, Harry, you can love.' [...] ‘Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing.Cue Meg's showdown with IT in A Wrinkle in Time.
You know, i don't usually have any particular feelings toward Harry, but i really genuinely like him at the end of this chapter.
And okay, end of Chapter 24 and into the next chapter, i actually like Harry/Ginny.
‘If I tell you to leave me, and save yourself, will you do as I tell you?'Is this the part when we know it's Dumbledore who will die in this book? (‘Cause okay, the one other "spoiler" i had going in? NYT headlines in your e-mail box: "A harrowing denouement that sees the death of yet another important person in Harry's life renders this the darkest and most unsettling installment yet." This said to me that people's suspicions that Snape would die were wrong -- though Snape dying would certainly make sense given his plotline in this book.)
‘It has known magic,' Dumbledore said simply.*shivers*
I love this whole chapter really.
Voldemort's mistake ... age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youthI feel like that's Dumbledore's most frequent mistake with Harry. And i think Dumbledore knows it.
‘There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness. Lord Voldemort, who of course secretly fears both, disagrees. But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.'*love*
Also, having recently read the scene wherein Dumbledore insist on calling Voldemort Tom, seeing him refer to him as Voldemort was interesting. It is well-established that he is one of the few who never feared to say "Voldemort." Perhaps it was in part because to Dumbledore, he will always be Tom Riddle. (Incidentally: we have totally never seen demonstration of this legend that Dumbledore is a powerful enough mage that Voldemort fears him. Given the backstory we've gotten in this book, one wonders if perhaps it's largely psychological for Voldemort, that when he sees Dumbledore he is back to that boy whose wardrobe Dumbledore set on fire.)
don't worry... 'Cue crying. (Though i didn't actually cry. Rather surprising given my tendencies of late.)
‘I am not worried, Harry,' said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. ‘I am with you.'
‘I haven't got any options!' said Malfoy, and he was suddenly as white as Dumbledore. ‘I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!'Wow. Amazing. Brill. See also below.
‘I appreciate the difficulty of your position,' said Dumbledore. ‘Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realised that I suspected you.'
‘No, Draco,' said Dumbledore quietly. ‘It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.'*love*
"To forgive is an action of compassion, Buffy. It's not done because people deserve it. It's done because they need it." -Giles, "I Only Have Eyes For You"
Also, i actually really feel for Draco during his desperate "But i did it's" of this exchange.
‘Jokes? No, no, these are manners,' replied Dumbledore.
When Snape showed up, i knew he would have to kill Dumbledore, that Dumbledore would want him to. It wasn't until sometime later that i remembered that of course the Unbreakable Vow would require him to do so once he showed up. I hit ‘Snape's pale face, illuminated by the flaming cabin, was suffused with hatred just as it had been before he had cursed Dumbledore' on page 563 and had to go back and realized i had skipped ‘Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face' on page 556. It wasn't until i hit that moment on page 563 that i realized Snape really was a Death-Eater. Mostly, i was disappointed with JKR.
Also: Harry's impulsive always-been-wrong-in-the-past actually saves the day? Boo. I don't have oyceter's issues with the rule-breaking, but it definitely grated as time went on (and as i grew up).
Page 569: So who's R.A.B.?
Page 574: Wait, Snape's professed regret at the death of the Potters was the reason Dumbledore trusted him "iron-clad"? You've got to be kidding me. Worst moment of writing ever.
As he lay there, he became aware suddenly that the grounds were silent. Fawkes had stopped singing.I actually think that's the saddest moment yet.
And he knew, without knowing how he knew it, that the phoenix had gone, had left Hogwarts for good, just as Dumbledore had left the school, had left the world ... had left Harry.
The penultimate page, when Harry talks about setting out on his own, i thought of Stuart Little (because Joe had mentioned it recently) and i also thought that now, Harry was truly an adult. (Fitting since as Dumbledore pointed out near the beginning of the book, in the Wizarding world, children come of age at 17.)
I was glad that they insisted on going with him, even though i knew JKR couldn't have pulled off a Harry-solo-quest book (it just wouldn't fit with). And wow, i keep being reminded of hesychasm's fic A Place to Be.
So, sum up:
I never cried. I still see Harry/Draco not at all. Ditto Sirius/Remus (though i had a giggle moment thinking of all the ‘shippers when Tonks says she loves Lupin; ‘Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world'? weak excuse for pairing up everybody you could find, JKR; i'm half-inclined to think she got sick of all the crazy ‘ships she saw getting ficced, plus the incessant questions about who was gonna get together, and decided to just settle it all). A barely-of-age Wizard and his two likewise-aged buddies are gonna find and destroy 4 Horcruxes, done by one of the most powerful Wizards ever, plus defeat said Wizard, in the final book of the series. Forgive me if i am not optimistic about JKR's ability to pull this off. She has brilliant plotting moments at times, but i have been severely disappointed by her during this book as well. I read so much fanfic this week, and i felt a touch ashamed since i'm not even that engaged in the source text, but i maintain that the created world is interesting enough that people can bring amazing stuff out of it.
switchknife gushed, felt high after finishing the book, but i feel markedly indifferent.
Oh, Jessie said she would be interested to hear what i thought of Hermione in this book. I think she got shafted in terms of pagetime, but as i made that statement i realized that this book is more about Harry than any of the previous books, that this is in some ways, Harry's book -- which is interesting given my comment on the opening of the book. (This is perhaps another example of JKR's failing as a writer.)
I used Firefox's "copy link location" to put all my flist's reactions to the book in a word processing document, so of course i'll be going back and reading and responding to those next.
The Shameful Secrets Fest: Comment anonymously with some (Harry Potter) fic pairing or premise that you're ashamed to admit that you want to read. Then look through the list of everyone else's requests and pick one to write. HBP spoilers at the link.Edit: so i checked it out and wow, i could only skim the list, my stomach was turned so frequently. Congratulations HP fandom, you have managed to squick me like whoa, something i previously thought nigh on impossible.