Revisiting Harry Potter: “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.”

Here is my main complaint with this section of the book, which I otherwise love very much: How’s Harry going to use the Cruciatus curse on the Carrow sibling who spits in McGonagall’s face? (I find the Carrows boring and have not bothered to learn their names.) He was unable to do this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange two seconds after she killed Sirius Black, but somehow he can manage to do it just because some Death Eater insults one of his teachers? Number one, that is bullshit. Number two,

don’t torture people. Torture is wrong, and Harry could have accomplished the same effect of punishing the Carrow sibling by just Stunning him/her. I wish McGonagall had said something, like, “Hey, do not torture that Carrow sibling, you war criminal.” I guess we’ll just have to assume that Luna mentions this incident to Hermione later, and Hermione fusses at Harry for us.

Okay. Now that I have gotten that out of the way I shall proceed with talking about Percy, who redeems himself by returning at last! I always knew he would. I knew it because of that time he splashed out in the water to come get Ron. All along Percy really loved his family. I admit that I was hoping Percy would come back, redeem himself, and die nobly in battle. That would take care of Weasley family deaths without one of the twins having to die, something I was deeply concerned about before the seventh book appeared. Instead Fred Weasley dies, and it was heartwrenching, especially when, oh God, especially when Percy is lying across Fred’s body so nothing else can happen to it, and he won’t let go–

The whole Battle of Hogwarts is a pretty great set piece. Although it goes on for a long time, and there’s a lot of events occurring, it doesn’t feel long at all. It feels frantic and disorganized in a really wonderful way. One second Professor Trelawney is throwing crystal balls on Fenrir Greyback’s head (woot), and the next second Neville Longbottom’s grandmother has come to fight alongside him because she hates evil and is proud of her wonderful grandson. The last Horcrux gets destroyed in the Room of Requirement, and Harry’s almost too busy to notice.

This is not the time or place, but sometime later I’d like us all to think about how great a spell Glisseo is. Have we seen that one before Hermione uses it to escape from some Death Eaters? It is awesome. I love slides. If I were a wizard, I’d never ever walk down stairs. I would always make them into slides. That is a much more fun way to get from one floor to another. Does it only work on straight staircases? Or if you are up several floors and you have a staircase with landings, will they turn into one big curvy slide?

Did anyone feel like it was kind of a cheat to have Dumbledore show up and explain everything at the end? As I recall, I thought that it should feel like a cheat, but I was so happy to have Dumbledore back again that I didn’t care. I wanted that chapter to keep going on and on forever, because I do not tire of Dumbledore telling Harry how to understand the world. This chapter also felt very — momentous in the scheme of things, just like, it felt like a chapter that JK Rowling had been waiting twenty years for us to read.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

And then Harry comes back to life and we are treated to the spectacle of Mrs. Weasley getting Bellatrix because Bellatrix threatens Ginny! That part! How she is all,

and kills Bellatrix LIKE A BOSS. You always see Mrs. Weasley when she’s mothering and taking care of everyone, and she is amazing at that, but I liked to see this from her as well. You knew Mrs. Weasley had this in her. When she says that Bellatrix will never touch their children again, I cried three tears from my eyes. Writing about it is making me sniffly.

Oh Neville

I know. This should have been a section all along. I’m sad that it wasn’t. I love Neville and he has wonderful moments in each of the books, because JK Rowling is a genius and she knew all along that Neville was going to save the motherfucking day. It says so much about Neville that Harry can hand over this task to Neville and trust that it’s going to get done.

“Just in case they’re — busy — and you get the chance–”

“Kill the snake?”

“Kill the snake,” Harry repeated…

But Neville seized his wrist as Harry made to move on.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

NEVILLE. To get an assignment like this and be all,

He not only kills the snake, he does it while he is also on fire. Neville you beautiful genius.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

I am on record as saying that I love it when Harry has a thoughtful moment and chooses what kind of person he’s going to be. He can be impulsive so it’s great to see him thinking matters over in a self-aware manner and making a choice. I love it that we get to see him deciding he doesn’t want to be Dumbledore and keep everything a secret from everyone. Although, I don’t really understand why everyone can’t just know about the Horcruxes by the time Harry gets to Hogwarts? There’s only two left, and since Voldemort is heading for Hogwarts right now, it seems like you’d want as many people on Horcrux duty as possible. Wouldn’t you?

For Harry’s final adulting trick, he names his kid after Severus Snape. That is — an amazing feat of grace and forgiveness. I hope that wherever Snape is right now, he appreciates the gesture.

On the other hand, won’t that be a really, really awkward conversation to have with the kid? “That’s right, son, when we ran out of your grandparents’ names, we went ahead and named you after the guy who was responsible for their deaths.” I would not want to be named after Severus Snape. That dude sucks. He did some helpful stuff, but he mostly was terrible and a bully. If I were Ginny I’d have put my foot down on that one. The world is full of names. Plus, if you’re going to name your child Albus (how cute is it that his nickname is Al?), you should give him a really super normal middle name. If he ever decides he’s tired of Albus as a name, he should have a backup plan.

Y’all! I am so sad the readalong is ending! I know we have a wrap-up post next week, but I will no longer have this forum in which to talk about the many, many feelings and thoughts I have about the Harry Potter books. What will I do with myself? What will happen next time I reread them and I have feelings to share? (I reread these books like once a year. Don’t judge.) Alice, thanks so much for hosting this readalong. It has been great.

30 thoughts on “Revisiting Harry Potter: “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.”

  1. I love how chaotic the battle at Hogwarts is cos seriously, isn’t that how it should be?

    ALSO super agreed that Dumbledore coming back to explain things was a cheat but I don’t care cos Dumbles is (kinda) back thank you, I needed that after the walking-to-his-death-with-his-parents-and-pseudo-parents bit.

    Poor Albus Severus. He can’t even use his initials when he gets tired of his names.

    • I know! I missed Dumbledore every moment and I wanted him back and then he was back.

      Hahahaha, he SURE CAN’T. Also his initials spell ASP sooooo…that’s a bummer.

  2. Ok, so I would have preferred it if Percy had died too, but it would have been WAY less sad, right? Like, there was pretty much no point in killing HIM, because no one would have cared. Harsh but true, I know.

    “Did anyone feel like it was kind of a cheat to have Dumbledore show up and explain everything at the end?” I definitely didn’t, because that’s what he does in ALL the books! I feel like we pretty much needed that. And also, yeah, the being happy to have Dumbles back again. Oh yeah.

    • I would have cared! I would have! It would have been really sad because he’d just come back and said the decentest thing he could have said, and I would have been sad. And everyone would have been sad. It would have been heartrending.

  3. Dude. McGonagall calling Harry a war criminal in a disapproving but affectionate tone is now what officially happens in that scene. Done and done. Her scream of pain when she thinks Harry is dead just SLAYS me. Like, she was always so buttoned up and together because all the males are falling apart all over the goddamn place, but she loved Harry too – he belongs in HER house (that’s also a fantastic moment).

    Fred’s death is OF COURSE more pathetic (in the pathos sense, not in the “that’s so pathetic” sense), because Percy’s prodigal son actions earned him a noble death during battle, somehow? AGGHHHH I’m choking up thinking about him refusing to let Fred’s body go. Do not want.

    I’m so glad we did this all together. The last time I read the books in 2007, I was surrounded by people who were like, “Harry Potter is for BABIES, why are you crying?” BOO those people.

    • Hahahaha, thank you. I appreciate your acceptance of my proposed revision in the text.

      Whoa! Who was saying this to you in 2007? Nobody said that to me in 2007. On the other hand they could not see me weeping because all the weeping happened in the wee hours of the morning…

  4. Part of what I love about Snape is that no, I’m pretty sure he would not have been touched by Harry naming his son after him. Snape genuinely doesn’t care about anything other than his mission, which is protecting Harry. He doesn’t have to like Harry, he doesn’t have to bond with him, it makes no difference to him if Harry and everyone else thinks of him as a villain. But he promised to protect Harry for Lily, and that’s what he’s going to do. He’s the perfect mole: he’s completely devoted to his mission, to the point where he has tunnel vision. I’m sure he doesn’t suffer any pangs of conscience about educating a bunch of evil kids in the Dark Arts and letting them wreak havoc, if that’s what he has to do to keep Voldemort’s confidence.

    I think Snape is the most successful character in the books, because I really believe in his backstory. I think Rowling did a fantastic job of creating a character who would plausibly sacrifice every other aspect of his life in order to be Dumbledore’s mole. Here’s this kid who has nothing – he’s poor and shabby, his parents are abusive, he’s got no friends, he’s not likable. All he has to sustain him are his racism, which tells him he’s secretly better than all this, and his friendship with Lily. And when he’s a kid, his racism isn’t that ingrained. He’s able to see Lily for the really good person she is; there’s enough potential in him that he values their friendship as he should. And if he had been able to stay friends with her, his life might have been different. But they go to Hogwarts, where the idiotic sorting system decides that he’s going to be evil and she’s going to be brave, and Snape falls in with a group that gives him some attention and a sense of purpose, and that would normally be that. It’s all terribly plausible; how could Snape and Lily stay friends in a place like Hogwarts? But having known Lily, Snape can’t care about being a Death Eater; his devotion to Lily is the only thing that has any reality for him. So that when Lily dies he’s emptied out; there’s nothing for him to do but fill that space with another obsession, and that obsession is protecting Harry. It doesn’t change his early life; it doesn’t make him a likable person, though he does form a very tentative friendship with Dumbledore. And then, of course, he has to kill Dumbledore. The man has two friends in his whole life, and he kills both of them. It’s ridiculously depressing, but I love it, because it’s so at odds with everything we’ve seen of Harry and how unaffected he is by all the misery in his life. Snape’s tragedy is that he is the sum of his early influences; he can’t go back and change the past and make himself a better person. All he can do is his job, and he doesn’t even live to see his side win. He dies thinking he’s failed and killed Dumbledore for nothing. That’s not to say that I think any kid deserves to be visited with the middle name Severus. It’s just an awful name.

  5. “That’s right, son, when we ran out of your grandparents’ names, we went ahead and named you after the guy who was responsible for their deaths.”

    Ahahahah! You make me laaaaaugh and laugh.

    I think, yes…that Harry-using-Crucio scene is really jarring. I can think of scenarios where Harry would be so overcome by emotion that he would feel the need to use this curse…but this didn’t seem appropriately upsetting. Unless it was just the last straw for him? In any event, I’m willing to accept that it’s a part of Harry’s humanity, that he is still capable of poor judgment in the midst of capably saving the world.

    • Eh, I don’t know. It seemed like very out-of-character poor judgment to me. Like, not the kind of thing that I think we can assume would have even occurred to Harry, even in times of great stress.

  6. “I would not want to be named after Severus Snape. That dude sucks. He did some helpful stuff, but he mostly was terrible and a bully. If I were Ginny I’d have put my foot down on that one.”

    Agreed. Also, if I were Remus I’d be pissed up in wizarding heaven (or wherever) that I was the only non-evil Marauder to not get a namesake out of Harry. I mean, I think Albus Remus makes a lot more sense and is also not quite as terrible. It’s still not normal, but this is Hogwarts and there’s going to be a Scorpius in his class, too, so he’ll only have the second weirdest name.

  7. I’m with you on Harry and the Crucio. What, all of a sudden Expelliarmus isn’t his signature move? He’s into the Unforgiveables? And then McGonagall uses one right back on the Carrows.

    I’m sitll not convinced that Molly had the skills to battle Bellatrix and win. Glad she beat her, but I’m having trouble stretching my mind around it.

    You and I clearly on very different wavelenghts with Snape, but that doesn’t mean that I think his name is a good one for Harry to pass on to his children. And it goes just awful with Albus.

    • Whoa. Molly definitely does have the skills to battle Bellatrix and win. Just because we don’t see it all the time doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    • Also re: Cruciatus Curse: I’m not as bothered by the Imperius curse while fighting evil because it’s utilitarian. It’s bad, and I’m on board with its being an Unforgivable Curse, BUT at least you’re doing it to accomplish a goal. The Cruciatus Curse, you’re just being an asshole.

  8. I love the moment when Dumbledore calls Harry a “brave, brave man.” It’s so wonderful.

    I love everything that happens with Neville. His might be my favorite character arc. It’s so great when his gran shows up to fight! The battle sequence is so intense and amazing. It felt like I was holding my breath the entire time the first time I read it.

  9. “Hey, do not torture that Carrow sibling, you war criminal.” – Lols, YES.

    Oh god, I HOPE glisseo works on circular staircases. I never considered the possibility, but yes, that would be the awesome.

    I too like the chapter with Dumbledore except it’s not Dumbledore anymore, it’s Harry’s internalized voice of Dumbledore, which is even better because it means that Harry’s able to figure shit out on his own now and it’s adorable because it’s in Dumbledore’s voice.

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