Saturday, April 5, 2008

J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter series
by J. K. Rowling
Recommended Age: 10+

Until now (September of 2006) I have resisted posting a review of the Harry Potter books on The Book Trolley. Why? No big reason. It just seemed that I, and others on MuggleNet, have said plenty to express our feelings about JKR’s great work. And the whole rationale for The Book Trolley is to offer other books to enjoy, after and between many re-reads of Harry.

However, I think the time has come to admit that a very fine thing to do, after reading through the Harry Potter books, is to read the Harry Potter books again. I’ve gone through them quite a few times myself. I even listened to them on tape in my car for a while. So yes, if you liked reading Harry Potter, you may like reading him again.

For myself, I can’t honestly say that I owe my love of reading to Harry Potter. Some of my younger, fellow fans might do so, which is why I hope and believe The Book Trolley is helpful. But the truth is, I’ve been a bookworm since my age was in single digits, while I turned 30 the week I first read Harry Potter. In fact, I was already writing book reviews when Harry Potter came into my life. Many of the earliest reviews on The Book Trolley are adapted from e-mails to my friends Heather and Shawn during the year or two leading up to my Great Discovery of JKR.

Back up a year or two. When the first Harry Potter movie came out, my friend Tom asked me about it. Tom and I were both movie buffs, and we liked to talk about good flicks. Tom had heard that Harry Potter was very good, but he had also heard concerns about it. He wondered if it was safe to take his young children to the movie. Heroically, I went to see the first movie for him. My overall impression, which I passed on to Tom, was that there was nothing evil about the movie. I thought it was a neat little story, though I didn’t think much of the special effects. I judged it “OK” and put it out of my mind.

Then came September of 2002. I had recently moved to Arizona. In my spare time, I was reading a lot of books and sending reviews of them to Shawn and Heather. For a couple of months, I had been on a Charles Dickens jag. I was in the middle of reading Little Dorrit, and enjoying it, when I happened across a half-priced set of the four Harry Potter books that were then in print, all paperback, on the shelf of a grocery store. I had lost count of the number of times I had walked past displays of Harry Potter books and not bought them, but this time I decided there was no excuse. Half price! What a deal!

I took the books home and was instantly hooked. And now, for posterity, I give you my first-impression reviews of the Harry Potter story, which I e-mailed to my friends before The Book Trolley was a gleam in my eye.

I’m almost done with Little Dorrit, but on one of those spur-of-the-moment fits that take me from time to time, I decided to buy all four of the current Harry Potter books by British authoress J. K. Rowling and read them right through. I’d already seen the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which tells the story of an unloved and seemingly unextraordinary little boy who finds out, at the age of eleven, that he’s a wizard and is invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Rescued from a cruel aunt and uncle and a hideous cousin who have hidden his true identity (and the fate of his witch and wizard parents, who were killed by the evil Lord Voldemort when he was a baby), Harry makes friends with a humorous boy from a large but poor family of wizards, named Ron Weasley, and a stuck-up overachiever named Hermione Granger who is the first witch or wizard to come out of an otherwise Muggle (non-magical) family. Together the three of them solve mysteries and brave dangers, with the aid of a cloak of invisibility, a magic mirror, the magic they’ve learned in their first year at Hogwarts, and their own pluck and cleverness.

Having read the book now, it seems the movie is a painstakingly accurate representation of the book. I can’t remember much in the book that wasn’t in the movie. And of course it’s a very enjoyable tale, well told, of the sort of fantasy life that every child imagines during the boring and unmagical stretches of Muggle childhood. Harry has a double life. During the summer he’s practically held a prisoner in his aunt and uncle’s house; these people treat him worse than a dog. But during the school year he’s a celebrity: a star athlete, a champion of good against evil, and a very decent and loyal friend.

In the second book (which I’ve already finished as well), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you experience the second of Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts. Now age 12, he and his friends have another mystery to solve that threatens the very existence of Hogwarts. Someone in the school has turned loose a monster that is petrifying one student after another, and, whoever it is, hates “Mudbloods” (magicians from Muggle backgrounds, i.e. not the aristocratic wizard-family types) and “Squibs” (people with magical blood but no particular ability). And it’s hard to tell what’s worse: that whoever it is is coming after Harry’s friends, or that everyone suspects him.

The characters are very charming. Ron gets all the funny lines, his older twin brothers Fred and George are spirited class clowns, sneering classmate Draco Malfoy is atrociously villainous, gentle giant Hagrid is funny and touching, and other students, professors, ghosts, and goblins are fantastically fun. I especially liked Dobby the “house elf” in book 2, who almost always speaks of himself in the third person and whose line, “Master has given a sock,” is a shining moment that stands vividly in my mind — even now that I’m halfway into year 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry’s Muggle relatives are cartoonishly awful, Professor Snape is a classic comic book villain, and Lord Voldemort is like the embodiment of the “dark side of the force,” but for all that, there are still real lessons in these books — like the power of love (book 1) and the importance of the choices you make (book 2).

Also, there are some great monsters in these books. So far I have seen or heard of werewolves, vampires, giant spiders, unicorns, hippogriffs, giant three-headed dogs, dragons, centaurs, poltergeists, pixies, garden gnomes, ghouls, ghosts, goblins, elves, dwarves, dementors, dancing skeletons, headless horsemen, water demons, boggarts, basilisks, mandrakes and salamanders (which aren’t what you think they are), plus an enchanted car, a giant squid, a Whomping Willow, an inflating aunt, a man with two faces, a memory that assumes physical form, and a Grim (a graveyard dog that is an omen of death). There are vines that try to strangle you, chess pieces that try to kill you, flying winged keys, faces that move in pictures, and a haunted girl’s bathroom. And other wonderful things are imagined: where witches and wizards keep their money, how they send messages to each other, how they travel, where they shop, how they enforce their laws, and what their prisons are like. All of it is guaranteed to make eyes of any size dance with pleasure.

Well, I’ve finished reading all four of the existing Harry Potter books. They keep getting better and better.

Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, coincides with the third year of Harry’s wizarding education at Hogwarts. It begins, like all the other novels, with a depiction of Harry’s miserable existence (during summer vacations) under the hideous custody of the Dursleys of Privet Drive. And it is evident that Harry isn’t the same passive, easily downtrodden child he was at the beginning of book 1. He is developing and maturing, and approaching his teens, so naturally his sojourn at the Dursley’s house ends with a spectacular blow up and Harry packing his things and running away. He spends some time living at a pub on the border between the Muggle and magical parts of London, then meets up with his friends and goes back to Hogwarts for another exciting school year.

This time danger comes in the form of an escaped convict from the wizard prison of Azkaban, where dangerous magical prisoners are guarded by soul-destroying ghouls called dementors. The convict in this case is Sirius Black, who was evidently an inseparable friend of Harry’s parents, and whose betrayal led to their deaths. The grounds for his conviction is that another of their wizard friends caught up with him on a crowded London street, and Black blasted him — and 12 innocent Muggle bystanders — out of existence. This monster notorious for killing 13 people with a single curse has gotten loose and is coming after Harry, who (as he begins studying the magical art of Divination, or telling the future) begins to receive numerous portents of his own death.

Everyone at Hogwarts wants to protect Harry, except a few students (Draco Malfoy and friends) and one teacher (Snape) who really loathe him, but meanwhile he’s developed a fiercely independent streak that refuses to be sheltered. There are some close calls with danger, some interesting fights between Harry and his friends, and more fun with magic. Hagrid the gamekeeper has become an instructor (in “Care of Magical Creatures”) and another character who is somewhat of an underdog becomes the school’s third Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in as many years, and turns out to be the best teacher. But mischief is afoot and Harry is always either getting himself into trouble or getting menaced by his enemies. The ending, which involves a magical map, several magical creatures, and a bit of time travel, turns out to be the most surprising and powerful yet — and leaves Harry with some hope of having a happier future, though the tale is not yet fully told.

Book 1 lets you in on the fact that Lord Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, and shows how Harry begins to come into his inheritance as a wizard (and foils an attempt by Voldemort to return to human form). Book 2, in a way, explores the time when Voldemort began his career of evil, and how that impinges on Harry Potter’s progress for good. Book 3 has to do with one of Voldemort’s servants, a “mole” at Hogwarts, going back to his master to prepare for Voldemort’s next attempt to return. And in Book 4, Voldemort does return...

Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is by far the longest, broadest, and deepest of the Harry Potter novels. Again, it covers the next year in sequence of Harry’s education and growth toward maturity. It is that much more mature and significant a book, and it is at least as long as any two of the previous books put together. It is so much more powerful and wonderful than the other three books (not that they’re any slouches) that it’s almost like The Lord of the Rings compared to The Hobbit. For the evil that Harry faces is more awful than ever, and his relationships are more complicated, and the plot thickens around him, and to a degree like Frodo of Lord of the Rings, you see Harry as this tiny person who all alone must face the greatest, darkest powers there are and he is neither appreciated for it, nor is it an encounter he can just shake off. The experience leaves a mark on him, and even though he (obviously) lives so that the tale may continue — and the stakes keep going up — a tragedy does occur that will effect him and those around him for some time.

It begins with the Weasley family’s comically disastrous arrival toward the end of the summer to take Harry with them to the Quidditch World Cup, where things start to go very wrong. Then the school year starts and it turns out that Quiddich — the one thing at which Harry is really good — has been called off for the year, and instead they’re joining together with two other wizarding schools (Beauxbatons and Durmstrang) for the once-in-a-century international goodwill games called the Triwizard Tournament. Each school is to be represented by one student, one “champion” who will compete in three challenges, and whoever gets the highest total score (out of 50 possible for each challenge) wins the cup for his school and a cash prize for himself. Any number of students from all three schools can apply to be the champion, but in the end one from each school must be chosen by a magical “goblet of fire.”

The champion for Durmstrang is Viktor Krum, a very young and taciturn international Quidditch star whose skill and heroism in the recent World Cup game has made him a super-celebrity, though (ironically) his team lost. He is also a love interest for Hermione, which has the delicious effect of tormenting Ron Weasley, who — though it’s never openly admitted — is obviously in love with her. But there is some doubt as to whether he [Krum] might be playing for the “Dark Side,” since the head of his school was a notorious informant against Voldemort and his allies. Playing for Beauxbatons is a mesmerizing beauty named Fleur Delacour, who is a blood-relative of a race of siren-like creatures, and whose school is led by a female half-giant who soon steals Hagrid’s heart. And since no one under 17 is allowed to enter the contest, which rules out Harry or even Ron’s older twin brothers, the impartial “goblet of fire” spits out the name of the champion for Hogwarts: Cedric Diggory, a tall, handsome, popular fellow from Hufflepuff House who is the only Quidditch Seeker ever to have beaten Harry Potter.

But then, the unheard-of happens: the goblet spits out a fourth name... Harry Potter.

This leads to Harry’s worst time at Hogwarts yet. No one believes he didn’t somehow break the rules and submit his own name (in spite of being under age and Diggory representing his school). The truth is, someone rigged the goblet to set Harry up for some horrible fate, which can easily be arranged to look like an accident in the notoriously dangerous Triwizard games. Even his best friend Ron doesn’t believe him, and a malicious journalist named Rita Skeeter aims her poison pen at him. Everyone in the school suddenly hates and distrusts him, and those few people who take his side are viciously mistreated and slandered, that Harry is so frightened and lonely and depressed that for a brief time he actually considers running away from Hogwarts. (Only the fact that living with the Dursleys is the alternative fortifies him against this choice.) It’s that bad.

But then things pick up a bit. He survives the first two challenges and is tied for the lead with Cedric Diggory. The last challenge looks like a piece of cake, and he gets his friends back and goes through a happier time...But again there is evil lying in wait for him, and a servant of evil lurking in disguise within the seemingly safe walls of Hogwarts. Before the tale is over Harry must face a Lord Voldemort resurrected and restored to all his former powers, the death of one friend, the betrayal of another, and the approach of another year in which the forces of evil are on the march again and Harry is in more danger than ever.

I may have already given up too much, so I’ll say no more about the plot, other than to mention a few general things. First of all, these books (especially this one) are extraordinary in how they portray the things going on within and between teenagers, their relationships — both the troubled friendships and the petty enmities — in an increasingly elaborate and life-like world. Simply put, the characters talk and interact like real people, albeit unusually entertaining ones, and it’s really possible to believe in them and to love or hate them in due proportion. Secondly, although the writing, the story, the characters, everything is so marvelously done, I don’t think I can pay this novel any better compliment than to say that it made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe, AND it made me cry — more than once each.

And this one detail that I’ve omitted to mention won’t give anything big away. The minor character of Neville Longbottom is very important, and very powerful. One of the times I laughed the hardest and longest was because of him, and one of the times I cried was because of him. This is the boy who in the first book (and movie) stood up to his friends, and got knocked over by a paralyzing spell, but by showing such courage (though he was otherwise too clumsy and forgetful and timid to do much of anything else) he won the House Cup for Gryffindor. Neville has been in the background all along as a pudgy, benign, harmless little fellow who keeps getting in big trouble at whatever he does and shrinking under the angry glare of Snape. He is an absolute loser, in fact — a nice guy and all, but he does everything wrong, with the single exception of Herbology. No one takes him particularly seriously. But I think he’s going to get more important as the series progresses. One reason I think so is the careful way J. K. Rowling sets things up to reveal something very disturbing about Neville’s background.

As I said, Neville is just a background character who in this story seems to exist more for color, and perhaps foreshadowing of things to come, than to serve any real plot point. But someone plays a trick on him at one point that is so funny that I had to put the book down and walk around a bit to catch my breath — two or three times, since every time I composed myself to read again, I was reminded of the joke and had to laugh all over again. And of course what is revealed about him brought tears to my eyes, though it wasn’t the supreme tragedy of the story.

The magical world of Harry Potter grows more and more complex and filled with interesting features, people, and dangers — and it stays consistent with itself, and makes itself seem that much more deep and alive in the process. And perhaps one of the most chilling things I’ve read in the series yet becomes a major point in this novel: the three “Unforgivable Curses” on which the power of Lord Voldemort was built. One of them is the torture curse that explains a lot about Neville Longbottom. Another is the death curse that Harry Potter, and only Harry Potter, has ever survived. And a third, perhaps more chilling than the others, is the curse that turns you into a puppet to someone else’s will. I think you’ll see if you read this book why such forms of magic would be a deadly crime even among magicians.

Not a light-hearted story, not an empty-headed adventure, this is a very smart tale of the ongoing battle between good and evil and the irreversible damage it wreaks, even on the innocent and good. And things aren’t ever the same as they were after any of these adventures. When the climax is over everyone doesn’t just go back to business as usual, and Harry doesn’t go back to being safe, like cartoon characters who shrug off whatever happens to them and have no history. The story builds and develops, and each installment grows out of the one before it, even as the characters themselves grow and the landscape around them becomes more vivid and real.

I hope J. K. Rowling won’t be long in coming out with Book 5. I want to know what happens next!

Here is what I wrote to my father on 9/10/02, titled “Harry Potter”:
On a lark I bought all 4 of the current Harry Potter books in paperback and read them over the weekend and during time off. I had heard you were reading them, or had bought them, and wanted to compare notes a bit.

I don’t see any reason people should be upset about these books. They are not occult at all, they don’t even teach new age spirituality. The witchcraft and wizardry of Harry Potter is like that on “Bewitched.” Not something just anybody can do, but like a whole different society that doesn’t mix with ordinary human beings. Total fantasy, great fun, and with rewardingly rich characters and adventures, and a very clear line between good and evil. There are spells and transfigurations, potions and divinations, but there’s no reference to “life forces” or spiritual activity (other than the ghosts and poltergeists, which are included along with magical beasts like unicorns, elves and hippogriffs for either exotic or comic effect). And the consequences of evil, even in the lives of the good people that battle it, are clearly shown, particularly in the tragedy that marks the fourth book.

I really enjoyed the depiction of the main characters and their friendship. They interacted like convincingly real teenagers and all the characters very much came to life. There’s stuff in here to make you laugh until you’re out of breath, and stuff to make you cry. And lots of scary stuff too. I don’t think these books are going to lead kids to take an interest in becoming witches or warlocks in the real world. Obviously all this is pure imagination. And it’s very well imagined too. I would actually recommend it for “family entertainment,” the most risque thing I saw in all four books was a couple of “damns” and a depiction of the rule-breaking and pranks that normal kids take part in. If you took away the magic you would still have the same people doing essentially the same things, only in a more mundane manner, and it would be just like real life except a little more interesting.

I actually look forward to seeing the next book in the series!

Excerpt from my review of Book 5, 6/23/03
[Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix] is a big, complicated, gripping story. It’s easy to sympathize with Harry’s anger, though he sure does make trouble for himself by not controlling it very well. But of course what ends up being the lynchpin of the story is the basic reason for Harry’s frustration...namely, that after all that he has done, people (particularly Dumbledore) don’t trust him to be able to handle the information he needs, and deserves, to know. Of course everyone knows an important character is supposed to die in the novel and just about everyone anyone thought it could be looked like they were a goner at one point or another, JKR really keeps one guessing about that until the end, and yet when you look back at the end of the book you experience this moment of awe: it seems like it should have been obvious from the beginning, because it is an absolutely, perfectly plotted tragedy in which irony and inevitability are paradoxically combined. The fatal flaws of three heroic characters, and one villain, intertwine in a climax that seems totally fated, after the fact.

But from Harry’s point of view, that’s the part of the story that plays out in dreams and vague hints and little episodes here and there, whereas the main body of the story — what actually goes on at Hogwarts during Harry’s fifth year — is another gripping story altogether. The story of a year of hell for Harry in which everyone thinks he is off his rocker (and that Dumbledore is too) for saying that Voldemort is which the hostility of the Ministry of Magic turns Hogwarts into a repressive police state under the worst teacher the school has ever which Harry’s first romantic relationship is bumpy and confusing...not to mention Quidditch woes, homework woes, detention woes, and capping it all off, private lessons from Snape...that poor boy really goes through hell! And at the level of maturity he is at, he’s not really handling it very well this year! (His anger comes to a head in a scene in which he trashes Dumbledore’s office, while Dumbledore watches). Nevertheless he is still a great kid and a terrific hero, who is just now coming to grips with his own importance...and he’s surrounded by an unbelievably large, rich, and varied cast of characters, inhabiting an imaginary world that shows more facets (and amazing places) than ever. And the climactic battle is the longest and most complicated bit of wand-to-wand wizard combat ever.

I had kind of noticed that each book paired Harry with a different friend during the final, climactic stage of the adventure. Of course at the high-stakes moments he was always fighting alone, a point that is brought up more than once in this story. But you know, he had Ron and Hermione helping him “through the trapdoor” in book 1, and Ron went part of the way to the Chamber of Secrets with him in book 2, and Hermione had the time-turning adventure with Harry at the end of book 3, and in book 4 Cedric Diggory went to the graveyard with him (but since Cedric died right off the bat, that meant he was pretty much alone). This time Harry goes on his climactic adventure with not 1, not 2, but 5 friends from Hogwarts, and the last one left standing beside him is, of all people, Neville Longbottom. Neville really does grow in significance in this book and I think he will continue to do so in the books to come.

It’s kind of sad to think that the series is 5/7 over. And as you get toward the end of this book, you feel sad that it’s ending too. Now you begin to grasp all the things you’re going to be dying to find out in book 6... and another round of guessing and waiting is on!

Excerpt from "Re-Reading HP5" on 6/23/03
So I’m already re-reading Order of the Phoenix.

It does reward a second reading, though I am so physically tired out from the first read-through that it’s taking me longer this time. (A couple short nights of sleep have resulted in a tendency to drop off into naps.) A couple things that I didn’t really notice the first time have become really interesting to look at this time through, including the magnificent illustrations by St. Paul, Minnesota resident Mary Grand-Pre. I especially like her illustration for the chapter in which Ron finds out he’s going to be a prefect. The expression on the faces of Hermione, Ron, and Harry are exquisite, and the composition of the picture seems to signify that the “Prefect Badge” is something that is going to bring Ron and Hermione together, but separate them from Harry. I love the way she imagines the characters — Umbridge, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, even Aunt Petunia. But above all she draws a really cool Harry, Ron, and Hermione. (Check out Chapter 1’s illustration, too. If you look close you can see the TV through the window, and Harry looks just right.)

The special edition cover features No. 12 Grimmauld Place, which appears superimposed on Nos. 11 and 13 as though it occupies another dimension. It’s interesting to note that there’s a broken pair of spectacles dangling in the foreground, an owl bearing a message, the feet of several people coming in for a landing on broomsticks, and (in the attic window) another silhouetted figure who, I think, must be Sirius. This much information is pretty much handed to you in Chapter 3.

Anyway, I love Grand Pre’s work. I’ve seen it in some other books (including the covers of the Gone-Away books, though the inside illustrations are done by the Krushes who also illustrated the Borrowers books). There’s so much humor and imagination and feeling in it. I also, I must say, like the tune “Weasley is Our King” plays to in my head. I don’t know whether I should take credit for it or if it’s somehow magically copyrighted by J.K. Rowling. However, the aspect of the book that stands up most spectacularly to re-reading is the detail, the foreshadowing, the clues Rowling drops along the way that make you slap yourself on the forehead and say, “Why didn’t I see that one coming the first time?”

Maybe I shouldn’t be so appalled and depressed by critics and authors who lampoon these books as trash literature. We’re talking children’s entertainment and look how much I, a well-read man of 30, am getting out of it! How many children’s novels have so many thrills and chills, such a rich tapestry of background and setting and incident, so much detail, so many characters you grow to enjoy and even care about, such variety within a safe, predictable formula (i.e., every year at Hogwarts is so different, you just have to wonder what’s going to come next), such sparklingly imaginative magical ideas, deeply thought out plot pathways, and moving depictions of the fates and feelings of people both good and bad. I think the epitome of it is that she’s “Roald Dahl meets Charles Dickens,” with the delightful fantasy of the one and the scintillating observations of persons and places of the other, and yet without the sometimes shrill moral sermonizing of either. Or to put it another way, it’s a panoramic portrait of real-world settings and people transferred onto a wonderfully imagined, fantasy-world canvas. It’s so good, as children’s fantasy entertainment goes, that it ends up being unfairly and hopelessly measured by standards of serious adult literature. So I think the bad reviews it gets (based on criteria that don’t apply) are, in a way, compliments!

“Lips Sealed” – 7/16/05
I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for the first time. My lips are sealed about what happens...but it was awesome. Very funny, very scary, very sad, more mature drama, more rich character interplay, more detailed mystery than ever before, plus a more likeable Harry than the fifth book (he only has about one sentence in “all caps”). Kind of shocking, too. You can’t help thinking, at the end, how J.K. Rowling is going to write her way out of the corner she has written herself into...

"Favorite HBP lines" – 7/26/05
Snape: “Well, Wormtail’s here, but we’re not counting vermin, are we?”

Molly Weasley: “What is your dearest ambition?”
Arthur Weasley: “To find out how airplanes stay up.”

Molly Weasley: “Mollywobbles.”

Fleur Delacour: “Zere isn’t much to do ‘ere, unless you like cooking and chickens.”

Ron: “Sounds like the sort of mental thing Dumbledore would say.”

Hermione: “I squeezed it and it – it punched me!”

Malfoy: “Who blacked your eye, Granger? I want to send them flowers.”

Why are you worrying about You-Know-Who? You SHOULD be worrying about U-No-Poo – The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!

Hermione to Ron: “Well, next time you can show me how it’s done, Master of Mystery!”

Harry: “Yes.”
Snape: “Yes, sir.”
Harry: “There’s no need to call me sir, Professor.”

Trelawney (while Harry hides within earshot): "Two of spades: conflict. Seven of spades: an ill omen. Ten of spades: violence. Knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner—well, that can’t be right."

Dumbledore: “From here on in, Harry, I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron.”
Harry: “But you think you’re right?”
Dumbledore: “Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

Marvolo Gaunt: “Do you know who you’re talking to, you filthy little Mudblood, do you?”
Bob Ogden: “I was under the impression that I was speaking to Mr. Gaunt.”

Luna Lovegood: “Nobody’s ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?”

[Also practically every line that comes out of Luna’s mouth.]

There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink and Ron surfaced.
Ron: “Well, you can’t break an Unbreakable Vow...”
Harry: “I’d worked that much out for myself, funnily enough.”

George: “—and if you want people to help you, Ron, I wouldn’t chuck knives at them. Just a little hint.”

Rufus Scrimgeour: “Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”
Harry: “Yeah, I am. Glad we straightened that out.”

The lines Flitwick made Seamus write: “I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick.”

Dumbledore: “I hear that you met the Minister of Magic over Christmas?”
Harry: “Yes. He’s not very happy with me.”
Dumbledore: “No. He is not very happy with me either. We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.”

Madam Pomfrey: “You shouldn’t overexert yourself for a few hours.”
Harry: “I don’t want to stay here overnight. I want to find McLaggen and kill him.”
Madam Pomfrey: “I’m afraid that would come under the heading of ‘overexertion.’”

Harry, to Dobby and Kreacher: “Just stick to Malfoy like a couple of wart plasters.”

The drowsing creature in Harry’s chest suddenly raised its head, sniffing the air hopefully.

Dumbledore: “Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject myself.”

Ron, on breaking up with Lavender: “The more I hint that I want to finish it, the tighter she holds on. It’s like going out with the Giant Squid.”

Moaning Myrtle: “I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, and I’ll take his secret to the—“
Ron: “—not the grave, surely? The sewers, maybe...”

Ron, on Hermione’s Apparition practice: “Oh, she was perfect, obviously. Perfect deliberation, divination, and desperation or whatever the hell it is — we all went for a quick drink in the Three Broomsticks after and you should’ve heard Twycross going on about her — I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t pop the question soon—"

Hermione: “This is Felix Felicis, I suppose? You haven’t got another little bottle full of — I don’t know—"
Ron: “Essence of Insanity?”

Dumbledore: “Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!”

Harry (a turning point in the whole series): “I’d want him finished. And I’d want to do it.”

Harry thought there was a rather knowing look in her eye as she told him that [Ginny and Dean had broken up], but she could not possibly know that his insides were suddenly dancing the conga.

Trelawney: “I miss having you in my classes, Harry. You were never much of a Seer...but you were a wonderful Object...”

Malfoy: “You’re at my mercy...”
Dumbledore: “No, Draco. It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.”

Alecto: “Think your little jokes’ll help you on your deathbed, then?”
Dumbledore: “Jokes? No, no, these are manners.”

...Gryffindor rubies glistened on the floor like drops of blood...

Harry: “He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him.”

UPDATE: My "non-spoiler" review of the seventh and last Harry Potter novel is here.

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