Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 5

I never thought about this before but we are told here that Moody placed enchantments at the Order HQ. Now that Moody is dead, should the enchantments persist? When Dumbledore died, the petrificus totalus (or similar) spell he had placed on Harry died with him. Perhaps there are some types of spells that persist after the caster dies and some that don’t?

The more I think about it, the more I think there must be some kinds of magic that persist after the caster dies. Let’s take Hogwarts, for example. From the bewitched ceiling of the Great Hall to the singing suits of armor, magic abounds there. Do we really think all of those magical properties have been cast by living wizards?

There are three possibilities:

  1. The spells end when the caster dies. Then another wizard must recast the spells to ensure minimum disruption. I think that unlikely and, if it were the case, probably lots of stuff would have gone haywire at the moment of Dumbledore’s death as I am certain that he cast quite a few ongoing spells there.
  2. There is some sort of group spell casting thingy going on. It’s possible, I suppose, but we don’t have any indication of anything like that in the text.
  3. There is a type of magic that does persist after the caster dies.

Let’s go even more specific and examine the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. It was created hundreds of years ago by now-deceased Salazar Slytherin yet maintains its magic. This seems to rule out possibilities 1 and 2 as they would have required others to perpetuate the magic of the Chamber yet we are told that the Chamber has never been discovered by anyone since Slytherin’s death. Or possibly there has been a secret order at Hogwarts of Slytherin followers keeping up the magic of the Chamber continuously for hundreds of years – sounds like cool fan fic but I find it unlikely!

So I’m forced to conclude that 3 is the right possibility, that some forms of magic persist. I’m not sure of the exact taxonomy but perhaps these forms of persistent magic are called “enchantments” (vs spells, charms, hexes, jinxes, etc).

P.S. why are they so concerned with the timing of portkeys here? We know from the Triwizard Cup in Goblet of Fire that portkeys can be made without any temporal component.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapters 3&4

Here we deal with Harry’s flight from Privet Drive and narrow escape from the Death Eaters. There are several head scratchers here: Why not sneak Harry out with the invisibility cloak? Why not have Hedwig fly to Burrow? Why not cast protego on the back of Hagrid’s motorbike? That said, if you can suspend disbelief, it’s a pretty riveting action sequence regardless.

snow owl phoenix

The most heart wrenching outcome is the death of Hedwig. It had never occurred to me until my book club leader, Becca, pointed it out but Hedwig’s recently deceased body was still in the sidecar when Harry cast confringo upon it. That makes the subsequent explosion Hedwig’s version of a Viking funeral – I love it!

And I especially love it, given that this takes place in a universe that prominently features birds that rise from the ashes. And I especially especially love it, given that a feather from one of those rising-from-the-ashes-birds is the core of the very wand that casts the confringo spell on Hedwig!

Yes, I’m sure of it. If this were a Dungeons and Dragons item description, the small print next to “Phoenix Core Wand” would read “When casting fire spells, any affected birds in the area of effect gain vitality from the magical fire and gain phoenix powers.” New head canon established!

Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Chapters 1 & 2

We have come to the final book in reading our nightly bedtime Harry Potter reading to our 2yo. Generally I love this book and think it ties things up nicely. However, there are also many instances in which JKR’s retcons fall pretty flat – get ready, because I have thoughts! Let’s start with the beginning, though.

The leader of my Harry Potter bookclub, Becca, hit the nail on the head with a comment that Voldy criticizing Bella feels like someone kicking a puppy. Well that’s just it, isn’t it? Animal cruelty is a trait often associated with psychopaths. Moreover, and I didn’t realize this until looking into it just now, “IATC (Intentional Animal Torture and Cruelty) is sometimes used to coerce, control and intimidate women and/or children to be silent about domestic abuse within the home.

So my read is that Voldy lashes out A. because he is a cruel psychopath, B. to keep Bella under his heel, and C. to help control his other sycophants.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Film Review

This is one of my least favorite Harry Potter films. I am generally less of a fan of the David Yates films, which seem more plot-paint-by-numbers and lose much of the magical whimsy that make the books and early films so fantastic. This movie is probably the greatest offender because it leans so hard into the feeling of foreboding it is trying to create; it just makes it not very pleasant to watch. Even so, there is still a lot to love in this movie too, so here is my breakdown:

The Good

  • This film does a good job creating an ominous, foreboding mood, including some genuinely terrifying moments like Katie Bell’s curse. Part of what makes the atmosphere so scary is that, for the first time, they really flesh out scenes in the Muggle world, like London and Spinner’s End. That makes the threats no longer feel contained to the fantastical wizarding world.
  • Harry is really charming. “Actually, sir, after all the years, I just sort of go with it.” “But I am the chosen one.” The full Felix Felicis scene (including my favorite line of the film: “And the pincers – click, click, click”) – Harry’s comedic time is just spot on.
  • Slughorn is affable and likeable, also with excellent comedic timing: “I’d have liked the set.” “All hands on deck, Granger!” “Just in time for dessert – that is, if Belby’s left you any!”
  • I generally find Snape in the Yates movies to be not nearly as compelling as he is in the earlier films. This film is no exception but he does have a couple of outstanding moments: “Bella, we musn’t touch what isn’t ours.” in Spinner’s End and delivering Dumbledore’s message at Slughorn’s party. RIP, Alan Rickman; you were one of a kind!
  • Helena Bonham Carter once again chews all the scenery as Bellatrix.
  • Evana Lynch is endearing as Luna: “I sleepwalk you see; it’s why I wear shoes to bed.”
  • I’m not a huge Rupert Grint fan but he does really well as Ron in the love potion sequence.
  • The inky aesthetic of all the pensieve memories is really cool.
  • This is totally subjective, but I love that they used the Cliffs of Moher as the cave entrance. We were very impressed by those cliffs during our trip to Ireland and anything that links Harry Potter to The Princess Bride is cool in my book!

The Bad

  • The entire film is so dark and washed out that it’s kind of depressing to watch. It’s all grays and greens, peaking in the cave (which features geology reminiscent of Superman’s fortress of solitude for some reason??), which is basically black and white. I know they were trying to support the sense of dark foreboding with the cinematography but they went way too far and it actually feels kind of amateurish – like a film school student applying a blanket filter to every scene indiscriminately.
  • As with the previous movie, this one just doesn’t feel very fantastical. The kids wear normal attire most of the time, the Hogwarts Express looks like a modern train, etc. The film is so bad at conveying a sense of magic and wonder that it tries to do it explicitly by having Harry act awed by Dumbledore’s simple act of using a cleaning spell at Slughorn’s hideout – which falls incredibly flat.
  • The teen romance plots don’t work for me at all because basically none of the paired actors have any chemistry. The hug at the beginning between Ginny and Harry is super awkward as are their interactions at Christmas. It feels like they were given direction to “be awkward” but no guidance on how to pull it off effectively. Ron and Hermione aren’t much better (“Hermione’s got nice skin, don’t you think?”) and Lavender is way over the top. As opposed to Goblet of Fire, this film feels like it was written by someone who was never a teenager in love. They were written by the same screen writer, though, so I blame Yates.
  • The plot additions that did not come from the book really don’t work for me either. The subway scene with Harry and the waitress feels like fanfic and a contrived way to introduce Dumbledore dramatically. Similarly the Christmas attack on the Burrow makes no sense. Both of these seem to be continuations of Yates’s preference for nonsensical setpieces over well developed characters and plots.
  • This film features lots of exposition that’s just . . . kind of . . . goofy. Early on, Harry exposits about apparition in a way that is so obviously exposition it practically breaks the fourth wall – and then doesn’t really serve any purpose for the rest of the film. The protagonist trio talk about “Dumbledore maybe getting too old” mere weeks after he epically defeated Voldemort. Cormac McLaggen is set up to be this obnoxious creeper but he’s portrayed by a super handsome / charming model. Slughorn says Harry’s Draught of the Living Death is so perfect that “one drop would kill us all,” but that’s a sleeping potion. McLaggen asks Harry to introduce him to “his friend, Granger” despite having shared a House with her (and just a few dozen others) for the last five years. Neville is randomly serving drinks at Slughorn’s party. After their breakup, Ron is the one making it snow even though Lavender is the angry one – and Lavender is sitting at some other House’s table for some reason. None of these things is particularly egregious; they just demonstrate a carelessness in the filmmaking that wasn’t there in earlier films.
  • I have supported over and over again the argument that Harry Potter is a collection of mystery stories dressed up as fantasy. In this film, though, there is no mystery. In the early Borgin and Burke scene, Draco is shown going right for the vanishing cabinet. Then Draco is shown in the Room of Requirement with an identical vanishing cabinet. Although the bird and apple are very poor, confusing devices to show Draco’s progress in mending the cabinet, his work is very telegraphed the entire way.
  • Dumbledore has some really awkward, weird, and wholly unnecessary dialogue. “I notice you spend a lot of time with Miss Granger.” “Harry, you need a shave, my friend.” WTF? These come out of nowhere and are completely incongruous with anything relevant to the plot or characters.
  • This is related to the poor job this film does more broadly of characterizing the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry. I love in the book how Dumbledore is gently disappointed by Harry’s lack of effort in securing Slughorn’s memory and how abashed Harry is about it – but there’s none of that dynamic here.
  • Speaking of Slughorn, while I enjoy Jim Broadbent’s portrayal here, it is wildly out of character from the book version. This Slughorn is unbelievable as a Slytherin – much more of a Hufflepuff.
  • The young Tom Riddle of this film isn’t nearly as creepy or commanding / threatening as the character in the book.

Again, there is a lot to like in this film and I will never skip it during a marathon. There is plenty of “meh” too, though, and I rarely find myself specifically in the mood for this one – which I do for most of the others.

Entrepreneurial Mentorship

In the call to action of my TED talk on the Entrepreneur’s Journey, I exhorted seasoned entrepreneurs to answer the call to service by mentoring less experienced entrepreneurs.

Because entrepreneurship requires such different skills, heuristics, and calculi than other, much more common business arenas, having an experienced guide is invaluable to first-time entrepreneurs and can be the difference between success and failure. Furthermore, most successful entrepreneurs have themselves been the beneficiaries of mentorship so I would go even further to argue that it is a moral obligation to pay it forward to those in need.

In my own life, I have endeavored to provide mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs in several arenas:

  • Employees – In my career I have had the honor to serve hundreds of employees as their leader. While it can be tempting in a fast-moving startup to focus just on what those employees can produce, I see my role first and foremost as helping them develop and grow. I am enormously proud that dozens of my former employees have gone on to found ventures of their own, creating billions of USD of value.
  • Academia – Wherever I have lived (and in some places I haven’t!) I have forged connections with universities to mentor entrepreneurial students, teach entrepreneurship courses, and advise startup efforts from students, faculty, and staff. There are few things more rewarding than hearing from former students whose class projects have taken off!

    My deepest relationship is with Rice, where I served as Entrepreneur In Residence for the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and am now on the Board of the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I mentor at my other alma maters, TJHSST and IMD, as well. During my years in Chapel Hill, I mentored at UNC – especially within the Adams Apprenticeship – Duke, and Elon. For years I have mentored remotely at the University of Wyoming’s burgeoning entrepreneurship program but, now that I have moved to Colorado, I may be close enough to start participating in person after COVID!
  • Accelerators – I have spent a lot of time participating in accelerator programs to help participants get off the ground. The Surge Accelerator, Groundwork Labs, 1789 Venture Lab, Launch Chapel Hill, The Ion Smart & Resilient Cities Accelerator and – of course – OwlSpark are several accelerators where I have hung my hat and where I have built lifelong relationships with hundreds of entrepreneurs.
  • Events – Startup Weekend, 3 Day Startup, and the Cleanweb Hackathon are short sprints to help entrepreneurs find each other and work on meaningful startup projects together – usually over the course of a weekend. I’m not aware of any startups launched during the events where I participated as a mentor that have taken off but I have made some great relationships and hopefully helped prepare some entrepreneurship neophytes gain the confidence to take the plunge later.

Mentorship has been incredibly rewarding for me and indeed my mentees have gone on to create orders of magnitude more impact than I have alone. However, there are only so many hours in the day so how can an entrepreneurial mentor optimize their time and impact? A few practices I follow:

  • Take all meetings: this is counter to the methodology of many sought after people, who prefer to gatekeep their time and connections, which I totally get. I have benefitted so greatly, though, from people taking my meeting requests, that I can’t help but pay that good will and karma forward.

    Rather than optimizing for # of meetings, instead I optimize for time and quality of those meetings. If I can’t help them, I’m clear about it early on. However, I have often found that I may actually be able to help after learning more when it wouldn’t have seemed so from the initial meeting request.

    Furthermore, I have found that sometimes years later I am in a position to help. For example, there was a student startup I mentored years ago. They were direct to consumer and in an industry I didn’t know well. I gave them some generic advice that didn’t seem very helpful to me. Apparently they thought it was very helpful, though, because the reached back out to me years later, having achieved so much success that they were being courted for acquisition. They then needed advice on negotiating acquisition terms, which is an area where I could provide very pointed value.

    Serendipity is so important to entrepreneurs and it is impossible for us to know a priori what will be helpful to them or how – sometimes a meeting with a more experienced entrepreneur provides less tangible benefit, like confidence-building. I also wonder if, when we act as gatekeepers, we introduce biases in advice and connection-making that result in unequal access.
  • Focus on mission-aligned entrepreneurs: Time is at a premium and life is short so I do focus my time on entrepreneurs working to transition the world to a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable energy economy. If you are working on a smoothie bar, I will still take the meeting but will work to connect you quickly with someone who is a more appropriate fit.
  • Focus on entrepreneurs with the greatest need: I try to focus my time on entrepreneurs who need the most help. The venture ecosystem is deeply inequitable and, if I can help level the playing field even just a little, that is time well spent.

    I was mentoring a team of Black founders who were having a hard time fundraising. They asked me to codeswitch their intro email/deck to “my” language and suddenly that had several VC suitors. To be clear, forcing historically underrepresented entrepreneurs to adhere to norms set by the mostly white, mostly male holders of power in venture is not the solution – but this instance was a stark reminder of the systemic barriers faced by entrepreneurs who don’t look and sound like me.

    If you are a rich white cis male from a top university, I will still take the meeting but I will focus much more of my time working with entrepreneurs who have systemic winds in their faces rather than at their backs.
  • Get out of the way: because my time is limited and because I am swamped with a million other things, often the most productive action I can take on behalf of entrepreneurs is to get out of the critical path by making an introduction or pointing them to a targeted resource. If they’re waiting on me for a detailed contribution, they will often be waiting a long time, and waiting is counterproductive for entrepreneurs.
  • Interrogate, don’t prescribe: I try never to tell entrepreneurs what to do. Firstly entrepreneurship research is full of evidence that so-called “experts” don’t know the right answer any better than neophytes. Secondly, new entrepreneurs gain more in the long run from forging neural pathways to develop answers themselves rather than being told what to do. As such, I try to ask probing questions and share relevant experiences. No one can walk the entrepreneur’s journey for them; all we can do is share context to help inform their path.

What do you think? This is – and will always be – a work in progress. How do you think about mentoring entrepreneurs? What key learnings from your own experience can you share?

The Mandalorian Review

TL;DR The Mandalorian is an OK show with high production value and occasional flashes of brilliance, occasional flashes of inexplicably low quality, but mostly mediocrity with a shiny veneer. It’s a fun romp of mindless fun but doesn’t capture what makes Star Wars special.

I usually review media properties in three sections: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Never has that felt so appropriate as with the Mandalorian, which is modeled very heavily on Westerns. WARNING: SPOILERS THERE BE BELOW!

The Good

  • The concept art shown at the end of each episode is amazing and it gives the impression that each episode is a comic book issue come to life.
  • The music is really well done; the main theme is captivating and it shows up in many different variations throughout the show.
  • Pedro Pascal does a really admirable job acting with his face covered 99% of the time.
  • The show really shines in the episodes that expand on the Mandalorian lore and bring the lone protagonist into the team sport that is Mandalorian combat. This is the way.
  • Although the tone of the show is Western, it isn’t afraid to explore other genres like horror, which keeps things interesting.
  • The fight choreography is mostly pretty good.

The Bad

  • Good though the fight choreography may be, much of the action is just . . . dumb. Crack sniper bounty hunters leave their sniper nests from which they are picking off storm troopers with impunity to go engage much larger numbers in hand to hand combat. Mandalorians stop using the blasters that are working very well to show off gadgets that are much less useful in the situation. Etc. etc. None of it matters anyway because the protagonists are invincible and are never in any real danger. Great action but, this action feels more like contrived set pieces. It feels very Game of Thrones Season 8 in its nonsensicalness.
  • It’s not just the why of the action that is nonsensical, but also the who. In literally 25% of the Season 2 episodes, the big bad boss at the end is a . . . career administrator . . . who happens to be amazing at hand to hand combat. In episode 5, for example, the magistrate is so intimidated by Ashoka Tano that she hires the titular protagonist to go hunt her. Yet, when Ashoka Tano – who went toe-to-toe with Darth Vader in one of the only good episodes of Rebels – confronts her, the magistrate is able to hold her own down to the very end because . . . reasons.
  • The show leans heavily on plot twists but they are all very clearly telegraphed. In the final episode, for example, the Mandalorian blows the dark troopers out the airlock but literally our only previous exposure to them has been them flying around – so it is obvious that they will fly right back to the ship. The only thing not obvious is that it will take them so long to get back because . . . that’s what the plot timing requires. For a show trying so hard to surprise us, there were very few surprises.
  • The worst episodes in Season 1 were filler side quests that didn’t result in the protagonist getting any closer to his goal; unfortunately there are many more episodes like that in Season 2. Shows like Stranger Things have demonstrated that you can pack a lot of development and complexity into an eight-episode season so it’s hard to settle for less from one of the richest IP universes around.
  • Gina Carano is not a good actress. She mostly smirks a lot and delivers her lines flatly.
  • The Mandalorian takes his mask off too often. He’s supposed to keep it on dogmatically all the time but he took it off in 25% of Season 2’s episodes. That really cheapens the effect and lessens the emotional impact of the final scene.

The Ugly

  • As I have complained about before, self-indulgent cameos really piss me off and The Mandalorian showrunner Dave Filoni loves to insert himself every chance he gets.
  • Much worse, though, is that most of the characters in the show are woefully underdeveloped so, as a consequence, I just don’t care about them.

    Nowhere is this more obvious than in Episode 5’s mercenary character played by Michael Biehn. Biehn winds up in a showdown against the Mandalorian at the end but . . . why would we care? We don’t have any evidence that he’s even good at shooting or that he poses any sort of threat to our invincible protagonist.

    Compare this to Biehn’s Ringo in Tombstone, whom we have seen demonstrate not only exceptional gunhandling skills but also cold-blooded sociopathy so that there is real tension when he faces off against Doc Holliday in the climax. Episode 5 is beautiful but, like most episodes, is all style and no substance.
  • The fan service here is nauseating. Disney seems obsessed with exploring things like krayt dragons, stolen Death Star plans, and the Kessel Run that have only had oblique references in prior canon. Some things, though, are better left to the imagination and Disney is batting .000 so far on trying to realize them, often actually contradicting prior imaginings.

    Luke at the end was eye rolling – not just due to the bad CGI but also due to his prior character arc culminating in his ascent to Jedidom by throwing away his light saber. Having him tear through a bunch of anonymous droids is silly and boring – did we learn nothing from the prequel trilogy?

    Boba Fett is the most egregious offender here, magically being brought back to life – but what would you expect from Filoni, who also brought back Darth Maul from certain death. I’m sure there’s some goofy retcon explanation but it’s all so lame it feels more like fan fiction than something produced by creative professionals with infinite budget. I would much rather see them creating rather than simply rehashing concluded characters and plots.

The Mandalorian isn’t a bad show, but it isn’t great either – which is too bad, because it has the potential to be great. It’s at its best when exploring and developing the mythology and teamwork of the Mandalorians and at its worst when mimicking Episode IX with mindless action and fan fiction. Some people love it (I find there to be a high correlation with people who loved Rogue One and Episode IX.), which is great for them; I’m always glad for more people to find new ways to connect with the Star Wars universe.

For me, though, this doesn’t really feel like Star Wars. Action and CGI not make Star Wars great. Star Wars has always been great because of its characters, which recent Disney efforts seem to have completely forgotten.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Chapters 29 & 30

Another Harry Potter book finished – only one more and our 2yo will have “finished” them all!

Reflecting back on the end game of Half Blood Prince got me thinking about the burden of responsibility for products sold. I wonder where the Death Eaters procured their Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. In my head canon I can’t really reconcile any of them patronizing the business of filthy blood traitors like the Weasleys so I think it more likely that they owl-ordered it straight from Peru – or procured it through some other channel. Not that it matters – just an interesting thought exercise.

Also the scene in the hospital wing with newly mangled Bill Weasley always makes me cry, impeding my ability to keep up the outlandish French accent with which I always read Fleur. We should all be so lucky to A. know, B. be, or C. be loved by someone as fierce as Fleur. Although entirely unworthy of it, I have the great fortune to be loved by someone(s) that fiercely, which is all the proof I will ever need that there is indeed magic in the world.

Rice Ring Ceremony

Last week was Rice’s first ever virtual Homecoming. Owl Together brought together thousands of alumni, students, parents, faculty, and staff to help people connect – to the university and with each other – despite the challenging times.

As President of the Association of Rice Alumni, I was invited to make some brief remarks at the annual Rice Ring Ceremony, where students who will soon graduate receive their Rice rings. It’s always a heartwarming event and this year did not disappoint, even if we weren’t all together in person. Below is a transcription of my remarks:

“Welcome, Rice students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, and especially welcome to all those who have just earned their Rice ring! It has been nearly 20 years since I earned my Rice ring, which means this ring has been a party to myriad wonderful stories.

One of my favorite Rice ring stories occurred back in 2009, when I was living in Europe. I was visiting Amsterdam for the weekend and was riding the tram. While I was standing, I noticed that a woman seated nearby was really staring at me. I thought she might look a little familiar but I couldn’t place her; it was a little weird!

When the tram went around the corner, I reached out to grab the pole for balance. At that moment, the woman exclaimed, “Bryan!” and came over to talk to me. It turned out to be Joy Roth, a former Rice Alumni Board member with whom I had volunteered in Houston. I hadn’t seen her for years since she had moved to Nigeria and certainly hadn’t expected to bump into her in Amsterdam! She had thought she recognized me but, when she saw the Rice ring on my hand as I reached for the pole, she became certain.

She joined me in standing at the pole and suddenly two other women approached us from the back of the tram, asking if we had attended Rice – they had seen our rings too! The front of the tram suddenly became an ad hoc Rice reunion!

  • I love this story because it demonstrates how the Rice ring is a symbol of your connectivity to 55,000 Rice alumni all around the world. Although those 55,000 alumni are geographically, demographically, academically, and professionally diverse, we all share a common bond: Rice chose us and we chose Rice! No matter where life takes you, there will always be a parliament of Owls to support you in whatever you need.

The Rice ring is also a connection back to the Rice campus. Rice was my Hogwarts; it is a place I hold dear and love to visit. During times like these, when traveling back to Houston is impractical, my Rice ring keeps me connected even from afar.

  • As much as the Rice ring is a symbol of shared experience, it is also differentiated to symbolize what was unique about your individual experience. Each Rice ring displays your year of graduation. Mine shows 2001 which, as a computer science major, still reminds me 20 years later of the .com crash and how I had four job offers with software comanies rescinded in the same day! But it also reminds me of meeting and beginning to date a fellow Lovetteer who is now my life partner.

Your rings show 2021, which will remind you of unprecedented – and hopefully unique – experiences. From Hurricane Harvey to COVID, you have experienced challenging times at Rice. Outside of Rice too these are challenging times, combining global crises of health, economy, climate, and democracy. But I think 20 years from now we will remember 2021 as the year we turned it all around – and we will remember the Class of 2021 as leading the way.

  • So, from all of us alumni all around the world, congratulations on earning your Rice ring!”

It took every ounce of strength for me to resist making Lord of the Rings references, but I managed to stay strong!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Chapters 27 & 28

Every time Hermione refers back to Hogwarts: A History, I can’t help but think that, if GRRM had written the Harry Potter series, he would have actually written and published Hogwarts: A History by now – and I, for one, would be eager to read it! The downside, of course, would be that Harry wouldn’t be The Boy Who Lived; he would be The Boy Who Died in the First Book . . . and Deathly Hallows wouldn’t even be finished yet!

Hogwarts: A History

Let’s talk about Dumbledore getting Draco to monolog. He clearly seems to be doing it intentionally so what do you think is the purpose?

  1. to “save Draco’s soul” by talking him down from committing murder
  2. to stall for time for others to come do the deed
  3. to stall for time for Snape specifically to come do the deed, which, as we find out in Book 7, was the 3D Wizard Chess plan all along
  4. to tease out certain details for Harry to hear whilst he is totally petrified
  5. simply for the reader’s benefit
  6. other?

The first time I read this passage, I had just received some very sad, disappointing news. I thought to myself that I needed a little fantastic escapism so I why not continue reading Harry Potter for the rest of the evening – but then I read this and couldn’t fall asleep for a long, long time. OOF, it was like a punch in the gut – not just Dumbledore’s death but the seeming betrayal by Snape, the sacrifice of Dumbledore to waste his last spell petrifying Harry rather than protecting himself, and the revelation that the locket was a fake to boot . . . OOF! This was a series low point and I read it while I was at a low point too – double OOF!

Side note: I talk a lot about Harry’s exceptionalism – especially when it comes to defensive magic. That makes it, well, exceptional, that he has struggled with nonverbal spells, which I like as it makes him a little less OP.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Chapters 25 & 26

Let’s look at the ways Voldemort stores/guards his six horcruxes (listed below chronologically in the order in which they were made):

  1. Tom Riddle’s diary – he gives it to Lucius Malfoy to safeguard
  2. Marvolo Gaunt’s ring – he leaves under a floorboard in the dilapidated Gaunt house
  3. Helga Hufflepuff’s cup – he gives it to Bellatrix Lestrange to safeguard
  4. Salazar Slytherin’s locket – he hides it in an epic, well defended cave that is akin to a video game boss battle
  5. Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem – he hides it in the Hogwarts Room of Requirement
  6. Nagini – he keeps her close to him

He employs multiple storage strategies, which seems smart; that way, even if someone catches onto one of his strategies, they won’t necessarily be able to figure out the others. Some of his four different strategies make more sense than others, though:

Strategy 1: lend a horcrux to a trusted lieutenant for safekeeping. This doesn’t really seem in keeping with Voldemort’s character. He is incapable of trust so I can’t really see him letting something so precious be the charge of anyone other than himself. It also isn’t a great strategy because it is vulnerable to betrayal by or ineptitude of his followers.
Strategy 2: hide a horcrux in a place that is meaningful to him but inconspicuous to anyone else. This strategy is really smart and is really hard to crack. Harry only really finds the diadem due to plot convenience.
Strategy 3: hide a horcrux in a well defended, grandiose fortress. This strategy seems very in keeping with Voldemort’s character – what good is a trophy without an epic trophy case? It isn’t as smart as the previous strategy but, when you’re one of the most powerful wizards in the world and therefore likely to be capable of magicking very strong defenses, it does make sense to lean on your strengths.
Strategy 4: keep a horcrux very close to himself. This makes no sense objectively; the entire point of distributing your potential points of failure is to, well, distribute them. If Voldy’s body gets killed, he needs his failsafes that will revive him to be, well, safe. If they are near him, it exponentially increases the likelihood that they too will be wiped out. Here again, though, when you are one of the most powerful wizards in the world, you can’t be blamed too much for your confidence in your ability to protect a horcrux that is near you.

All this is to say that I think Voldy would have been better off employing more of Strategy 2. However, I think it would have been more in keeping with his character for him to have employed more of Strategy 3 – and frankly I would have found that to be really interesting! Imagine what kinds of other epicly defended fortresses Voldy might have created in addition to the cave! Either way, he should have eliminated Strategies 1 and 4 altogether.
• Is it me or do the hurdles in the cave seem sort of . . . arbitrary? Cut your hand open . . . find the invisible boat chain . . . fight off inferi . . . really only drinking the poison seems to serve the plot while the others seem sort of ancillary. Or perhaps I’m missing something?
• Unrelated thought about the death of Harry’s parents: why didn’t they just disapparate once Voldy arrived? Or at the least, why didn’t Lily disapparate with Harry whilst Voldy dispatched James? It seems like if you were in hiding from someone, you would have a quick exit plan in place in the event that you were found!