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resistance is futile

Posted by pocochina on July 29, 2007

to reviewing HPDH

Okay. So I am a useless type-A future lawyer who will have to re-read seven times before I have any sort of concensus with myself about anything. Especially Harry Potter. And it has been a whole five days since I read. So. But still.

So overall, what I think I love about the series (at least right now) is that we get to see Harry make the same choice at the end of book 7 that he’d have made at the end of book 1. The difference? He understands what he’s doing. He walked blindly into death down in the labyrinth back in PS, but he had that kid’s kind of invincibility – I’ll risk my life because I can’t really die. Then we see him at the end of DH making the same choice, but making it deliberately, with the full awareness that yes, he will die if he does the right thing. His instincts are good, but he has to fight himself to follow them. Same with Ron and Hermione – he gives them the chance to turn back in both books, but in PS it’s still unreal to him, whereas by DH he’s had to try to make sense of losing loved ones, and so his pleas for them to leave are just heartwrenching.

I love Lupin and Tonks. Love them, love them, love them. Together or separate. Yes, it’s awkward because I thought (who am I kidding, I’m totally convinced) they were both gay. (I’m still mostly convinced that Remus and Sirius were together in canon, or at some point before the storyline.) I utterly love that we see them both as warriors, and specifically as Harry’s protectors, and that Tonks gets back in the action right after having wee Teddy. I hate that they died. I’m ignoring it and it didn’t happen. I also couldn’t care less about how he wanted to leave pregnant Tonks to protect Harry. Really, she’s an Auror and my guess is her mother is no shrinking violet. Fully qualified witches can survive on their own, thanks – he was right, the kids didn’t know what they were up against, and they did need help, and in the cold hard last analysis, Harry was the one that wasn’t expendable.

Oh, it’s not all love. Chapter 11 of DH was, quite possibly, the only time in the series when I found the character of Harry Potter guilty of Nefarious Abuse of Male Privilege. So I understand that the reader is supposed to take this scene as Remus gets in touch with his inner Avoidance Junkie and Harry goes all Suddenly Mature Adult on his ass. Only, well, no. Not entirely, anyway.

First of all, any time I see the phrase “unborn child,” or anything assuming a zygote is a baaaayyybeee, well, it sets my teeth on edge, as all I can think of is the forced pregnancy brigade. I understand that’s not how it’s meant in this particular context (or by a British author, for that matter, our anti-choicers seem to be among the more vicious in the world). Then Harry goes on about “your own kid” – as if heteronuclear families are the end-all-be-all of existence. Then he goes ahead and assumes that he knows the whole situation – okay, he always does that, but sorry, cupcake, wrong again – and then presuming to speak for Tonks. That’d be condescending towards anyone – and isn’t everyone in the series quick to jump all over Hermione for doing that to the house elves – but hello, she spent two years of her career pulling triple shifts to save his ass all over Britain. And that’s assuming Tonks even enters into the equation, like she does to Hermione, Lupin, and Ron, as all Harry can do is fixate on this hypothetical offspring.

Now, I identify pretty strongly with Tonks (right down to the hopeless love for Older Gay Gentlemen), and while I’ve never been pregnant, I’ve got a decent imagination. And I hope/think that my opinion wouldn’t have been so much what Harry assumes as, at least partially, “If one of those kids so much as chips a nail because you think you have to babysit me, the qualified combatant, I’m going to make you sorry you were ever born. March!” And even if that’s just me projecting, it should’ve occurred to Harry before he presumed to speak for a grown woman. Because she’s a grown up, and so is Remus, and so is Andromeda (and Sistergirl Andy’s got to be pretty badass herself to have survived her sister’s fury during both Reigns of Terror), and they know what’s important here, and that’s keeping His Holy Temper Tantrum alive. Not to mention? Lupin (along with the Tonks in my head) is right, they do need help. It’s just this fucked-up idea of “honour,” wherein sexuality/pregnancy magically turn the Sexy Girlfriend into Damaged Goods, and it is the Manly Duty to protect her. Maybe that says more about the wider magical world than it does about Harry, but he still buys into it, when we’ve come to expect better from him.

And then, just to rub it in, actually cutting over Hermione, ’cause she never knows better than he does, if by “never” you mean “almost always,” then yelling at her once Lupin leaves because she calls him on being bang out of order? He not only appoints himself the Tonks-Lupin marriage counselor, but then goes on and decides whose opinion is worth hearing, and I suppose once you’ve started ignoring female agency, it’s pretty easy to keep on going.

Yes, part of Lupin’s decision was an “oh my God, what have I done” immature freak out – but part of it really was the cold, hard reality that if Harry got himself killed making a poor judgement call (oh, say it ain’t so!) – well he, Tonks, and the future kid weren’t long for this world either.

I think it especially bugs me because it’s the only time in the series we really see this from Harry, and it’s when he’s old enough to know better. And the particular assumptions exhibited in this chapter do slightly decrease my opinions on the political reading of the series, which I don’t want. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in there. But this isn’t it.

I really liked, too, that the whole book wasn’t just wrapping up of loose ends, although that happened nicely. I couldn’t have seen the Hallows coming, and I thought they were perfect. I love that Harry’s possession of the cloak forshadowed that he’d triumph, I love that he actually chose not to go after the wand. I love too that he was, for all that, the owner of the three Hallows by the end, having taken Draco’s wand and been bequeathed the other two Hallows.

The Dumbledore backstory was great too – Aberforth the barkeep was obviously his brother, and you could’ve guessed that something had gone terribly wrong there for both of them, but the Ariana backstory was just so painful and perfect. And it would have been so easy and neat, too, for Grindelwald to have just killed Ariana and have Albus avenge her, but the ambiguity was beautiful. I loved seeing Dumbledore tempted by power, because there’s just nobody of his abilities who doesn’t have power in her reach. He can’t have been born a wise, world-weary nanogenarian. And he wasn’t. He screwed up and suffered for it. He had to win that optimism back, and I enjoy the character that much more for it. (And he was a half-blood! I suspected, but I never thought it would’ve made the least bit of difference.) Oh, and I’m just so glad he was there in a lot of ways, I was especiallly worried about Dumbledore Explains it All.

I’m uncomfortable with a couple of things. I thought the book built on the gorgeous emotional chemistry between Harry and Luna, and then Ginny just gets to be the Sexy Girlfriend. Huh? Just – what? And I would have loved, loved, loved to see Draco redeem himself, even just a little, because I am a big sucker for redemption. (Speaking of Slytherins, I totally guessed the fire would destroy the Horcrux.) I didn’t want to see Harry as a Horcrux, but it worked, and I didn’t want to see Snape loved Lily, but it worked.

Hermione and Ron, however, are totally perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Ron, especially, just pulled at my heart every step of the way. All the Good Stuff that he’s so clearly made of came to the surface. He’s funny! He steps in when Harry spaces out! He freaks out, leaves, and comes right back and saves Harry’s life. Those chapters without him are miserable. He got to be comic relief and not just comic relief (hear that, you evil Ron-destroying adapters to screen?). His insecurities ring so true, and the locket gives such a beautiful evil parallel to his visions in the Mirror of Erised. And Hermione would totally pack a tent and half a library in her purse. She’s absolutely made of stern enough stuff to charm her parents to forget she exists, just to be sure they’re safe. She would totally sit the hell inside a magic tent and say how could there be Hallows, Harry, that’s just a fairy tale? And oh, Ron remembering the Hogwarts house elves! So perfect!

I was never a Snape fan, although of course he was a fascinating character. There’s such a wealth of backstory in that one chapter – Snape, who knows all about magic but he’s so lonely, Petunia and Lily who have each other but are about to be torn apart. And oh so perfect that we see the most of Lily from Severus, when James isn’t even on her radar! And Voldemort never found out! He does the right thing for all the wrong reasons – beautiful.

I loved Harry going all morally ambiguous on us, flinging around enough Unforgivables to make me think maybe he would AK Voldemort, and being able to not just break into the Ministry, but to impersonate a Real Live Bad Guy the whole time. When he runs into Arthur on the elevator, for some reason, was just such a poignant moment to me in the middle of all that action. (And Hermione as Bellatrix was so deliciously creepy.)

And oh, Percy, don’t resign, go work for Kingsley, you’ve learned your lesson, now go do what you do best. Oh, Percy.

And seeing Molly bring down Bellatrix was beautiful. Clearly, all the crazy was eventually going to get the better of Bellatrix at some critical moment, but I thought maybe Ginny, Neville, or Mrs Longbottom would take her out but Molly? Sheer genius.

Speaking of Neville. I choked on Neville love.

And I absolutely defy any of the “Harry Potter causes satanism!” idiots to read DH and not see shadows of Narnia everywhere.

And dammit. Now I have to revise my essays.

ETA: The penny just dropped on Aberforth and those goats. I think Ariana hurt a goat by accident, probably even before her mother died. She made it grow six legs or something, and Aberforth took the fall so she didn’t get taken away. And Albus could be flippant when he mentioned it to Harry because it had literally happened a century ago.

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