After several years of avoiding the Harry Potter series for this VERY reason, I’ve finally read through to the end of The Half-Blood Prince. I only survived with the help of alcohol and my good friends Simon and Garfunkel, but survive I did . . . unlike some *choke* people *SOB*.
A quick recap before we get into the finer points of Rowling’s sadomasochistic tendencies. This week, Ron said Hermione’s name in his sleep, casually dropped the L word, and comfortingly stroked her hair (mere CRUMBS for your starving readers, Rowling?); McLaggen is a bit overeager to replace Ron as Keeper the very same night Ron nearly dies from being mysteriously poisoned (McLaggen isn't invited to join my Crime Team . . . if I should ever assemble one *looks around shiftily*); Peeves gets his giggles in increasingly more pervy ways (Hey, remember when Peeves forced Neville to burn his own pants off? Good times.); Slughorn earns our pity, if not our admiration (But how DARE he twinkle? He is NOT allowed to twinkle.); there is a giant, bloody axe hidden in the Room of Requirement, which is concerning to no one; and we meet Disappointed Dumbles, the very WORST variety of Dumbles (“I would have hoped that you returned to the task I set you.”).
|This cone of shame belongs to all of us.|
Our dear friend (and author of that book we all love to an unhealthy degree) Sunshine McSprinklecan (NOT her actual name, unfortunately) exhorted us to pay heed to the tell-tale signs of a possible romantic connection between Draco and Harry. And because we have not yet fully satisfied the unwritten rule of every readalong (i.e., MAKE EVERYONE GAYTM), I have been taking this suggestion very seriously.
Evidentiary support from just THIS week’s section:
“I met Malfoy,” Harry told her quietly, as he pulled his scarlet robes over his head.
“So I wanted to know how come he’s up at the castle with a couple of girlfriends while everyone else is down here. . . .”
“Yeah, we don’t need to hear about you being in love with Malfoy,” Harry told Kreacher.
Harry tried every variation of “I need to see what Draco Malfoy is doing inside you” that he could think of for a whole hour.
Where, Harry wondered, was Malfoy now, and what was Voldemort making him do under threat of killing him and his parents?
|OK subtext...I see you now.|
So here’s Malfoy, with this profound yearning to do something that matters, to earn the approval of his male authority figure (in this case, Voldemort), and maybe even to make up for the failings of his dad, who as we know has been somewhat of a dud Death Eater. But he’s wasting away under the burden of this horrible responsibility. He is so desperate to unburden himself that he turns to Myrtle. And when Myrtle is the only one you can talk to, your circumstances are dire INDEED.
So when Harry finally catches Malfoy in a moment of weakness, doubled over the sink in the boy’s lavatory, weeping and lamenting his fate, and when Malfoy looks up and their eyes meet in the hazy glass of the bathroom mirror . . . I briefly hoped that they would recognize in each other their twin hurts. That maybe they would call a truce.
But then the wands come out.
And it’s so curious to me that in the same chapter where Harry and Draco have this epic face-off (which is, in many ways, the culmination of every snide remark and resentful glare they’ve exchanged since their first meeting almost 7 years ago), Harry and Ginny share their first kiss completely out of the blue. That juxtaposition just doesn’t feel like a coincidence to me. It feels like blowing off steam.
And now sad things that are sad.
In this book, we really see the father/son relationship deepen between Harry and Dumbledore. Harry is finally confiding in Dumbledore the way he should have been all along. The conversations they have during their private lessons are some of the most poignant exchanges in the whole series. Dumbledore expertly dismisses the idea of manifest destiny and fate that the prophecy inevitably brings up for Harry. And with that, he sets Harry free.
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew—and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents—that there was all the difference in the world.
And in the cave, we see this heartbreaking role reversal. When Dumbledore drinks the potion to gain access to the Horcrux, he becomes childlike and weak, which FORCES Harry into the leadership role he has been reluctant to accept since Book 1. In so many ways, this is the moment when Dumbledore passes the mantel to Harry. This is where he declares to Harry louder than any words could ever do that Harry is strong enough to face the path ahead . . . without Dumbledore.
“I am not worried, Harry,” said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. “I am with you.”
|I need someone to ruffle my hair comfortingly.|