Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’: Chapter 17
In the seventeenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry and Hermione manage to find the house where the Potters were murdered. Strangely, Bathilda Bagshot also finds them, and what happens at the Bagshot residence changes the entire series. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 17: BATHILDA’S SECRET
I didn’t think that Harry finding his parent’s grave could ever be topped in terms of awfulness, but I was horrifically wrong.
The sadness of Harry’s breakdown over his parents’ death was a long time coming, but reading it, over and over again, did not make it any easier. It might be the most heart breaking moment in the entire series, because it’s an absolute moment of loss. His parents have only been vague memories, photographs, people of stories and of myth, but here, he has to face the grim reality that they are gone forever.
Fuck, that is so sad.
- He could see it; the Fidelius Charm must have died with James and Lily. The hedge had grown wild in the sixteen years since Hagrid had taken Harry from the rubble that lay scattered amongst the waist-high grass. Most of the cottage was still standing, though entirely covered in the dark ivy and snow, but the right side of the top floor had been blown apart; that, Harry was sure, was where the curse had backfired. He and Hermione stood at the gate, gazing up at the wreck of what must once have been a cottage just like those that flanked it.
Yeah. The potter house is still around. But there’s something redeeming and inspiring but what Harry finds there:
- His touch on the gate seemed to have done it. A sign had risen out of the ground in front of them, up thorough the tangles of nettles and weeds, like some bizarre, fast-growing flower, and in golden letters upon the wood it said:
On this spot, on this night of 31 October 1981, Lily and James Potter lost their lives. Their son, Harry, remains the only wizard ever to have survived the Killing Curse. This house, invisible to Muggles, has been left in its ruined state as a monument to the Potters and as a reminder of the violence that tore apart their family.
And all around these neatly lettered words, scribbles had been added by other witches and wizards who had come to see the place where the Boy Who Lived had escaped. Some had merely signed their names in Everlasting Ink; others had carved their initials into the wood, still others had left messages. The most recent of these, shining brightly over sixteen years’ worth of magical graffiti, all said similar things.
Good luck, Harry, wherever you are. If you read this, Harry, we’re all behind you! Long live Harry Potter.
“They shouldn’t have written on the sign!” said Hermione, indignant.
But Harry beamed at her.
“It’s brilliant. I’m glad they did.”
Much like his parents’ death becoming real to him, this moment inversely forces him to see that he’s as much a part of the myth as they are. And instead of destroying him, it makes him feel that he’s not alone.
But Harry doesn’t get much time to cherish the moment. A figure silently moves towards him and Hermione and it becomes clear that it is, surprisingly, Bathilda Bagshot. Even stranger, she can see them under the Invisibility Cloak.
- Was it possible that she had been waiting for them all these long months? That Dumbledore had told her to wait, and that Harry would come in the end? Was it not likely that it was she who had moved in the shadows in the graveyard and had followed them to this spot? Even her ability to sense them suggested some Dumbledore-ish power that he had never encountered before.
Finally Harry spoke, causing Hermione to gasp and jump.
“Are you Bathilda?”
The muffled figure nodded and beckoned again.
Oh shit, THEY ARE GOING TO GET GODRIC’S SWORD! Oh fuck, man Hermione was right. SHIT YEAH, GOOD NEWS.
Bathilda takes them to her house, which is run down and unkempt. It seems that in recent months, she had let herself go completely:
- She closed the door behind them, her knuckles blue and mottled against the peeling paint, then turned and peered into Harry’s face. Her eyes were thick with cataracts and sunken into folds of transparent skin, and her whole face was dotted with broken veins and liver spots. He wondered whether she could make him out at all; even if she could, it was the balding Muggle whose identity he had stolen that she would see.
The odor of old age, of dust, of unwashed clothes and stale food intensified as the unwound a moth-eaten black shawl, revealing a head of scant white hair through which the scalp showed clearly.
It seemed strange to me, especially because I wasn’t inclined to believe Rita Skeeter’s claim that Bathilda had gone “gaga.” But had she lost all desire to take care of her house and herself? THIS IS WEIRD. But it only gets stranger when she then doesn’t use magic to light any of the candles in the room with magic. I wrote it off as just eccentricity, though.
Oh, are you ready for shit to get real?
- Then the sight of a photograph near the back of the collection caught his eye, and he snatched it up.
It was the golden-haired, merry-faced thief, the young man who had perched on Gregorovitch’s windowsill, smiling lazily up at Harry out of the silver frame. And it came to Harry instantly where he had seen the boy before: in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, arm in arm with the teenage Dumbledore, and that must be where all the missing photographs were: in Rita’s book.
OH SHIT IT IS THE THIEF. WHO I STILL DON’T KNOW THE IDENTITY OF. AND FEEL LIKE I HAVE NO CLUES AS TO WHOM IT IS. AND I DON’T KNOW WHY HE IS IMPORTANT. Oh ok, turn off the caps lock, Mark, you are an adult.
Bathilda motions to Harry that she needs to see him upstairs. And alone. And I started getting that jumpy feeling of excitement when I knew things were finally turning towards the better. THE SWORD THE SWORD!!!!
- “Have you got anything for me?” he asked for a third time, much louder.
“Over here,” she whispered, pointing to the corner. Harry raised his wand and saw the outline of a cluttered dressing table beneath the curtained window.
This time she did not lead him. Harry edged between her and the unmade bed, his wand raised. He did not want to look away from her.
oh fuck IT IS IN THE DRESSER OH GOD DUMBLEDORE IS THE BEST THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.
- “What is it?” he asked as he reached the dressing table, which was heaped high with what looked and smelled like dirty laundry.
“There,” she said, pointing at the shapeless mass.
Wait, I am confused. What is going on?
- And in the instant that he looked away, his eyes taking the tangled mess for a sword hilt, a ruby, she moved weirdly: He saw it out of the corner of his eye; panic made him turn and horror paralyzed him as he saw the old body collapsing and the great snake pouring from the place where her neck had been.
WHAT THE HOLY FUCK WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT IS GOING ON
- The snake struck as he raised his wand: The force of the bite to his forearm sent the wand spinning up toward the ceiling; its light swung dizzyingly around the room and was extinguished; Then a powerful blow from the tail to his midriff knocked the breath out of him: He fell backward onto the dressing table, into the mound of filthy clothing —
He rolled sideways, narrowly avoiding the snake’s tail, which thrashed down upon the table where he had been a second earlier. Fragments of the glass surface rained upon him as he hit the floor. From below he heard Hermione call, “Harry?”
I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HOW IS BATHILDA FUCKING NAGINI AND NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY GODDAMN SENSE OH MY GOD HARRY WAS BIT THIS IS SO FUCKING TERRIBLE.
- He was abruptly awake in the sour-smelling darkness; Nagini had released him. He scrambled up and saw the snake outlined against the landing light: It struck, and Hermione dived aside with a shriek; her deflected curse hit the curtained window, which shattered. Frozen air filled the room as Harry ducked to avoid another shower of broken glass and his foot slipped on a pencil-like something — his wand —
WHAT IS THIS!!!! WHAT THE FUCK, WAS VOLDEMORT PLANNING FOR HARRY TO SHOW UP THE ENTIRE TIME? SERIOUSLY, DEATHLY HALLOWS, PLEASE STOP BEING SO HORRIFYING I CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE.
- And then his scar burst open and he was Voldemort and he was running across the fetid bedroom, his long white hands clutching at the windowsill as he glimpsed the bald man and the little woman twist and vanish, and he screamed with rage, a scream that mingled with the girl’s, that echoed across the dark gardens over the church bells ringing in Christmas Day…
And his scream was Harry’s scream, his pain was Harry’s pain… that it could happen here, where it had happened before… here, within sight of that house where he had come so close to knowing what it was to die … to die … the pain was so terrible … ripped from his body … But if he had no body, why did his head hurt so badly; if he was dead, how cold he feel so unbearably, didn’t pain cease with death, didn’t it go …
Ok, I’ll say it because I shouldn’t be ashamed: I am completely lost. I don’t understand this at all. He is Voldemort? Or he is seeing through Voldemort? This is seriously jarring and confusing and I don’t get it.
It doesn’t get any easier to understand because the point of view switches when the narrative changes to Voldemort’s point of view in an italic-heavy flashback. A flashback, mind you, of the moment when he murdered Harry’s parents.
Not only is this unexpected inside this chapter, but I never thought we’d ever see more of this scene beyond what was revealed in past books.
- They had not drawn the curtains; he saw them quite clearly in their little sitting room, the tall black-haired man in his glasses, making puffs of colored smoke erupt from his wand for the amusement of the small black-haired boy in his blue pajamas. The child was laughing and trying to catch the smoke, to grab it in his small fist …
A door opened and the mother entered, saying words he cold not hear, her long dark-red hair falling over her face. Now the father scooped up the son and handed him to the mother. He threw his wand down upon the sofa and stretched, yawning…
Well, thanks, J.K. Rowling, for taking a moment that was already pretty terrible and somehow making it worse than I could ever imagine.
- He was over the threshold as James came sprinting into the hall. It was easy, too easy, he had not even picked up his wand …
“Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!”
Hold him off, without a wand in his hand! … He laughed before casting the curse …
Yeah, thanks for all this, Rowling. It is definitely not ruining my day oh wait it totally is.
- He could hear her screaming from the upper floor, trapped, but as long as she was sensible, she, at least, had nothing to fear… He climbed the steps, listening with faint amusement to her attempts to barricade herself in… She had no wand upon her either … How stupid they were, and how trusting, thinking that their safety lay in friends, that weapons could be discarded even for moments…
He forced the door open, cast aside the chair and boxes hastily piled against it with one lazy wave of his wand … and there she stood, the child in her arms. At the sight of him, she dropped her son into the crib behind her and threw her arms wide, as if this would help, as if in shielding him from sight she hoped to be chosen instead …
“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
“Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside, now.”
“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead –“
“This is my last warning –“
“Not Harry! Please … have mercy … have mercy … Not Harry! Not Harry! Please — I’ll do anything …”
“Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!”
Rowling are you trying to make me spend the entire day sobbing forever and ever.
- The green light flashed around the room and she dropped like her husband. The child had not cried all this time. He could stand, clutching the bars of his crib, and he looked up into the intruder’s face with a kind of bright interest, perhaps thinking that it was his father who hid beneath the cloak, making more pretty lights, and his mother would pop up any moment, laughing —
He pointed the wand very carefully into the boy’s face: He wanted to see it happen, the destruction of this one, inexplicable danger. The child began to cry: It had seen that he was not James. He did not like it crying, he had never been able to stomach the small ones whining in the orphanage —
And then he broke. He was nothing, nothing but pain and terror, and he must hide himself, not here in the rubble of the ruined house, where the child was trapped screaming, but far away…far away…
Wow. I never thought I’d read about this pivotal moment in the series from Voldemort’s point of view. Somehow, it seems worse to see it through his eyes because he’s so careless and brutal about the way he describes things.
As the story switches back to Harry, after the most complete vision we’ve seen through the eyes Voldemort, I’m left just as confused as ever:
What the fuck just happened?
Hermione saved Harry and took him back to their tent and tended to his wounds, which nearly killed him. There, Harry manages to explain what just happened, which actually helped me understand things.
- “Lupin said there would be magic we’d never imagined.” Harry said. “She didn’t want to talk in front of you, because it was Parseltongue, all Parseltongue, and I didn’t realize, but of course I could understand her. Once we were up in the room, the snake sent a message to You-Know-Who, I heard it happen inside my head, I felt him get excited, he said to keep me there … and then …”
He remembered the snake coming out of Bathilda’s neck: Hermione did not need to know the details.
“…she changed, changed into the snake, and attacked.”
He looked down at the puncture marks.
“It wasn’t supposed to kill me, just keep me there till You-Know-Who came.”
Harry was wrong. Hermione was wrong. And now they are back to square one: the same Horcrux, with no sword and no way to destroy it. (Does this also mean that Bagshot was not herself when Rita Skeeter interviewed her?)
This cannot get any worse.
- “Where’s my wand, Hermione?”
She was biting her lip, and tears swam in her eyes. “Harry…”
“Where’s my wand?”
She reached down beside the bed and held it out to him.
The holly and phoenix wand was nearly severed in two. One fragile strand of phoenix feather kept both pieces hanging together. The wood had splintered apart completely. Harry took it into his hands as though it was a living thing that had suffered a terrible injury. He could not think properly: Everything was a blur of panic and fear. Then he held out the want to Hermione.
No. No no no no no no no no this can’t be happening, I can’t deal with this anymore. I can’t stand horrible things happening to everyone.
- Harry thought of Ollivander, kidnapped and held hostage by Voldemort; of Gregorovitch, who was dead. How was he supposed to find himself a new wand?
“Well,” he said, in a falsely matter-of-fact voice, “well, I’ll just borrow yours for now, then. While I keep watch.”
Her face glazed with tears, Hermione handed over her wand, and he left her sitting beside his bed, desiring nothing more than to get away from her.
I have never meant this more than right now: Everything is so fucked.