Following up on this earlier post and this discussion thread at Michele’s, I thought I should go ahead and put on record now my fearless predictions for the concluding Book Seven of the Harry Potter cycle. It should go without saying that YOU SHOULD NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL OF BOOK SIX, UNLESS YOU LIKE PLOT SPOILERS.
I should add that, with one or two exceptions I will detail below, my thoughts are not so much original observations as my best guesses and intuition after reading the informed speculation from a number of other sources. So, if I’ve said something here without explicitly crediting the person who thought it up, my apologies.
Anyway, if you don’t mind playing along with this guessing game, read on for my predictions. As Dumbledore would say, “from this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundations of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork.” Specific predictions are in bold.
I. Subversion and Death
Let’s start with a caveat here. The two most interesting “big picture” questions for Book 7, which affect all of my predictions below, are as follows:
A. How subversive it will be of the things we think we know?
In other words, how much have we been told so far that is not true? For example, is Dumbledore not really dead? Are Harry’s parents, or Sirius or his brother Regulus, not really dead? Is someone else Harry’s real father? Etc., etc. The speculation you run across is almost endless.
Personally, I hope we don’t see much bringing people back from the dead or discovering too many secret identities. Certainly it would violate the whole series if Dumbledore, Sirius and/or Harry’s parents aren’t really dead (Harry’s parents not being dead wouldn’t fit with their emergence from Voldemort’s wand, nor with Harry’s memories of that night), or Snape isn’t really Snape (which would create problems with his memories). And my predictions are based on the idea that most of the surprises in Book 7 will be new information that fills in gaps, not things that totally invalidate “facts” from the earlier books.
But let’s review two things we think we know, that some people have speculated might not be the case:
1. Is Dumbledore Dead?
Yes, Dumbledore’s dead. Let’s look specifically at Dumbledore’s death. While there are certainly enough oddities about to sustain speculation that Dumbledore isn’t really dead, or has some way to come back, or left a horcrux of his own behind, I do think he’s really most sincerely dead. First of all, Dumbledore has been telling both Harry and Voldemort for years that there are things worse than death, that death is a natural part of life and should not be feared, etc. And a critical theme of the end of Book 5 (especially Harry’s conversation with Nearly Headless Nick), as well as the episode with the Mirror of Erised in Book 1, was the need for Harry to learn that death is real and final. It would be a real breach of faith with the tenor of the story and Dumbledore’s character for him not to be dead. And, of course, Dumbledore would naturally regard the making of a Horcrux – which requires a murder, people – as abhorrent on several levels.
We may, yet, see Fawkes again, if someone shows real loyalty to Dumbledore. And we’ll doubtless see a conversation with Dumbledore’s portrait, although I suspect that, once again, the portrait will have to remind Harry that he’s just a painting, less even than a ghost; he isn’t the real Dumbledore and thus can’t provide information or plot strategy. The most he can do is reflect the personality of the original.
On the other hand, the suggestion that Dumbledore has left behind extra memories to guide Harry, to be used in the Penseive, seems fairly likely. In a lengthy, must-read three part interview I’ll excerpt repeatedly here, JKR makes clear that we will see more of Dumbledore’s thinking come to light in Book 7.
2. Is Regulus Black Dead?
As discussed in my earlier post, I agree with the general consensus that the “R.A.B.” who had preceded Harry and Dumbledore to the cave and had figured out at least something about Voldemort’s Horcruxes is likely to be Sirius’ brother Regulus Black. There are just too many hints dropped about Regulus in the books for him to be a red herring – after all, other than Snape and Karkaroff, he’s the only known defector from the Death Eaters – and he fits too well with the information in the note.
On the other hand, the most intriguing line in the whole Book 6 is when Dumbledore says to Malfoy, “we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine”. It seems likely that JKR is setting up someone who is believed to be dead and gone who’s actually in hiding or disguised as someone else, and Regulus seems a likely candidate – he had the need, since he was leaving the Death Eaters (as Dumbledore was suggesting Malfoy should do); and while he’s presumed dead, nobody seems to know the actual circumstances of his death. If it’s Regulus, and as someone has noted “Regulus” has an association means “lion” as “Sirius” and “Remus” do with dog and wolf, he could be Scrimgeour, who is repeatedly referenced as having hair like a lion’s mane (a fact that’s almost certain to have some meaning in Book 7, whether as an Animagus or a relation to Gryffindor, or both). This would be quite the accomplishment for a guy in witness protection, becoming the head of state.
But: if Regulus lives, whether as Scrimgeour or someone else, and Dumbledore knows where he is, does that mean that Dumbledore knew or should have known that he and Harry were risking life and limb chasing a Horcrux that wasn’t there? That’s what bothers me. Although it may be that, wherever he is, Regulus’ cover keeps him from knowing that Dumbledore is hot on the trail of the Horcruxes.
I’m shying away from an explicit prediction here. In either event, I do think that Harry will get more information from, or left behind by, Regulus, but it would make Book 7 rather anti-climactic if Regulus could guide Harry through everything.
(Note: I’ve speculated elsewhere that Regulus could be Crookshanks the cat, but JKR has apparently insisted that Crookshanks is not an Animagus)
B. Will JK Rowling break faith with these being children’s books and kill off one of Harry/Ron/Hermione?
That’s the other big one. I can’t see her killing Hermione, but Ron has done nothing useful since risking his neck in Book 1, and I do think he’ll have to come in handy again. But it would be, to my mind, a major shock to the many young readers of the books to kill one of the three major characters.
I say she doesn’t kill any of them. But more on Harry below.
II. Truth and Belief
We were left with at least two big particular questions at the end of Book 6:
A. Is Snape really still really working on the good side and/or against Voldemort?
B. Is Harry himself, or Harry’s scar, a horcrux, such that Harry may have to die to kill Voldemort?
I will say this conclusively: because both of these questions potentially present mortal dangers to Harry – and Voldemort – based upon how they are answered, I believe that Harry will be put in a position where he has to try to answer them before he finds out what the answers are. For example, he may be asked by Snape to trust Snape, based only on what Snape tells him – and have to decide whether he believes him. And he may decide that he has to die to be rid of Voldemort – only to have a horrified Ron and Hermione (and perhaps Ginny as well) try to talk him out of it. The dramatic possibilities of Harry not knowing the answers to these questions are just too juicy for Rowling to pass up.
III. Snape’s Loyalties
There has been endless discussion of whether Snape is really working on the good side and/or against Voldemort, notwithstanding having killed Dumbledore, and I won’t rehash that all here. I do think, first of all, that it remains possible that Snape (a) changed his allegiance between Books 1 and 6, as opposed to having been a traitor to Dumbledore all along, (b) was always consciously working both sides, or (c) was plotting to eliminate both Voldemort and Dumbledore for his own, Saruman-like purposes. That said, I do think that when all is said and done, it will be proven that Snape was working, and continues to work, for Voldemort’s downfall and Harry’s protection.
It’s been strongly hinted at that Snape – who is endlessly critical of James Potter and Sirius but never says a bad word against Harry’s mother Lily – had a thing for Lily. JKR drops further hints in that direction. There’s this:
ES: Was James the only one who had romantic feelings for Lily?
JKR: No. [Pause.] She was like Ginny, she was a popular girl.
JKR: That is a theory that’s been put to me repeatedly.
ES: What about Lupin?
JKR: I can answer either one. . . . Lupin was very fond of Lily, we’ll put it like that, but I wouldn’t want anyone to run around thinking that he competed with James for her. She was a popular girl, and that is relevant.
MA: Oh, here’s one [from our forums] that I’ve really got to ask you. Has Snape ever been loved by anyone?
JKR: Yes, he has, which in some ways makes him more culpable even than Voldemort, who never has.
Of course, JKR could just mean he had parents. If Snape was in love with Lily (who, like Snape, was a Potions expert), this would explain/open several possibilities:
*It would confirm the importance of Slughorn’s observations about the dangers of obsessive love.
*It would explain why Snape’s worst memory is an instance when he snapped at Lily and she sided with James.
*It’s possible – vindicating Hermione’s insistence about the Half-Blood Prince – that the textbook Harry found was at least partly the work of his mother, as well as Snape (that would explain the girlish handwriting, and if she had a schoolgirl crush on him at some point, the “property of the Half-Blood Prince” is the kind of thing a teenager would put in the back of a book), and of course it would explain why Snape hung on to the thing in his classroom for years as a memento and why he’d be incensed when Harry found it.
(A side note: I only noticed this long after the fact, but we saw Snape use at least some form of the Half-Blood Prince’s Sectumsempra spell once before Book 6: in the “Snape’s Worst Memory” chapter in Book 5, he casts a spell on James Potter that opens a gash on his face.)
*Regardless of where his loyalties lie, I do think that Snape has taken the Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore at some point, possibly a vow to protect/not harm Harry, which would explain both why Dumbledore trusted him and why he never harmed Harry. But it’s possible there was a parallel vow between Snape and Voldemort: Voldemort promised Snape he wouldn’t harm Lily, which would explain why Voldemort tried to get her out of the way rather than kill her straight away to get to Harry.
In fact, if Voldemort has made the Unbreakable Vow not to kill Lily and then he tried anyway, that would explain what really went wrong for him that night. Or if he just made a regular promise, perhaps Snape was there. Either way, the “Snape turned away from Voldemort because Voldemort killed Lily” storyline has something to it.
IV. The Horcruxes
OK, we’ve been told that Voldemort’s soul is in 7 pieces, six Horcruxes and Voldemort himself. As she must, to keep the plot manageable, JKR confirms that this is the case:
Dumbledore’s guesses are never very far wide of the mark. I don’t want to give too much away here, but Dumbledore says, ‘There are four out there, you’ve got to get rid of four, and then you go for Voldemort.’ So that’s where he is, and that’s what he’s got to do.
ES: It’s a tall order.
JKR: It’s a huge order. But Dumbledore has given him some pretty valuable clues and Harry, also, in the course of previous six books has amassed more knowledge than he realizes. That’s all I am going to say.
ES: It seems like it would be impossible. If Harry had gone to the cave, he never could have done it on his own, it seems like.
JKR: Well, I’m prepared to bet you now, that at least before the week is out, at least one of the Horcruxes will have been correctly identified by careful re-readers of the books.
MA: Someone put it to me last night, that if Ginny, with the diary –
JKR: Harry definitely destroyed that piece of soul, you saw it take shape, you saw it destroyed, it’s gone. And Ginny is definitely in no way possessed by Voldemort.
So, we have:
2. The diary (destroyed)
3. The ring (destroyed)
4. Probably the locket (more on this below)
5. Perhaps the snake, Nagini
6. Perhaps Hufflepuff’s cup
7. Perhaps something of Gryffindor’s or Ravenclaw’s.
Well, I’ve tried to be a careful re-reader, and I’ve got some predictions on the Horcruxes and what Harry has to do to get to them. But bear in mind that we don’t yet know (a) how one makes a Horcrux – is it a spell that must be performed at or near the murder (b) how being a Horcrux affects an object/person/creature, other than that Riddle’s diary took on a life of its own, and (c) how you destroy the Horcrux, if this can be done without destroying the object/person/creature. That said, the nominations:
A. The Sorting Hat
First of all, I assume that precisely one Horcrux will be at Hogwarts, so Harry must return there but also must go elsewhere. (JKR has confirmed that there are no more Quidditch scenes, which implies that Harry will keep his vow not to go back to school. But the school is too important to the saga, and too many key characters will still be there, for there not to be scenes at the school.
Second, think misdirection, as well as the fact that Rowling has hinted that we know some/all of the Horcruxes already. Dumbledore points to the sword and says it’s the only Gryffindor relic. We know it’s not, and there’s one ancient enchanted object that belonged to Gryffindor, and has a connection to all four founders, and that would amuse Voldemort because it sits under the headmaster’s nose: the Sorting Hat. (The hat says in one of its songs that Gryffindor pulled the hat off his head). It would have to have become a Horcrux after the diary, since otherwise the teenage Riddle would not have been so contemptuous of Fawkes bringing the hat into the Chamber of Secrets.
Only two reasons to think otherwise: first, when would Voldemort have been alone with the hat? Is it possible he made a Horcrux with that little flick of the wand Harry saw in the memory of Voldemort’s meeting in Dumbledore’s office?
And second, can a thing be a Horcrux and not show signs of Voldemort’s personality (the hat is clearly willing to warn and work against him, although it did briefly try to convince Harry to join Slytherin).
Still, I think the hat is an excellent candidate. Consider this remark by Rowling in 2000, prior to the publication of Book 4:
The character you might be most surprised to see evolve is none other than the Sorting Hat. “There is more to the Sorting Hat than what you have read about in the first three books,” Rowling says. “Readers will find out what the Sorting Hat becomes as they get into future books.”
Well, we saw the hat warn the students about standing united against Voldemort, but otherwise, it hasn’t done much in Books 4 and 5 and didn’t appear at all in Book 6. Sounds to me like there’s still more surprises to come with the Sorting Hat in Book 7, and being a Horcrux could well be it.
Runner-up possibilities: the sword, or Harry’s Invisibility Cloak.
B. The Locket
We know Voldemort had a Horcrux in the cave. It was probably the locket, which presumably made its way (via Regulus) back to Grimmauld Place (recall the heavy locket that wouldn’t open, from Book 5), and which, I assume, was then stolen and fenced by Mundungus. Tracing the locket will provide a good story, one that may involve Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth (who is in the Order of the Phoenix, is apparently the bartender at the Hog’s Head and who JKR has suggested we’ll get to know better in Book 7) as well as possibly some of the other seedy characters we haven’t seen lately, like Bagman and the goblins.
I agree with some of those who have suggested that Regulus got the locket out by traveling with the family house-elf, Kreacher (recall that Dumbledore needed a second with him), who may have suffered ill effects from drinking the potion and who could be the conduit for providing information to Harry about Regulus’ activities.
There is, however, a school of thought that says that there is deeper significance to Dumbledore’s actions after ingesting the potion, implying that the Horcrux was the potion itself or was somehow already in Dumbledore. Dave Kopel has a fascinating look at the scene where Dumbledore drinks the potion in the cave, which is worth excerpting at great length here:
[M]y guess is that the primary source of the “revulsion and hatred” [on Snape’s face when he kills Dumbledore] is that Snape knows the same things that Dumbledore had learned just a few minutes before, when Dumbledore drank the magic potion – from the basin in the secret lake where Voldemort had hidden a Horcrux. (Note the meaning of “whore/horrible cross” – a perverted version of the soul-saving object which overcomes death.)
Dumbledore suffered agony while drinking the ten [ed. – eleven?] goblets of potion. Harry presumed that Dumbledore was simply hallucinating while he drank, but I believe that Dumbledore instead was seeing some terrible truths.
Harry saw Dumbledore become frightened. He moaned ” . . . don’t like . . . want to stop . . . I don’t want to . . . Let me go . . . Make it stop, make it stop.” . . . Dumbledore continued, “I can’t, don’t make me, I don’t want to . . .”
Then, “It’s all my fault, all my fault . . . I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I’ll never, never again . . . Don’t hurt them . . . it’s my fault, hurt me instead . . .” . . .
Dumbledore implored “Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!”
Then, as just before Harry gave Dumbledore the tenth and final goblet, Dumbledore yelled “Kill me!” “‘This – this one will!’ gasped Harry.” (573).
Dumbledore, I believe, realized that he had made a terrible mistake which had empowered Voldemort, and that only by dying could Dumbledore stop the harm from that mistake. As Dumbledore had told Harry long before, “I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” (197).
What was the mistake? It likely has something to do with the meeting that Voldemort arranged years ago with Dumbledore, ostensibly to apply for a professorship at Hogwarts. Dumbledore was baffled by the meeting, since Voldemort (a/k/a Tom Riddle) plainly knew that there was no chance that Dumbledore would hire him, and Dumbledore knew that Riddle knew.
Yet Dumbledore let Riddle into Dumbledore’s own office. Watching a replay of the meeting in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, Harry notices something at the very end of the meeting, which Dumbledore, it seems, did not: “For a second, Harry was on the verge of shouting a pointless warning: He was sure that Voldemort’s hand had twitched toward his pocket and his wand; but the moment had passed, Voldemort had turned away, the door was closing, and he was gone.” (446).
Whatever malignant spell that Voldemort secretly cast on that day – enchanting something in Dumbledore’s own office, or even Dumbledore himself – had consequences which Dumbledore only realized when he drank the potion on the island. The spell may have involved inserting into Hogwarts (in a deep magical disguise) the four followers of Voldemort who were waiting gathered in the town outside Hogwarts. As Dumbledore told Riddle during the interview, it made no sense for Riddle to have been accompanied by the four, if Riddle only wanted to speak with Dumbledore.
In any case, Dumbledore understood, for reasons that are still unclear to us, that he had to die soon in order to save innocents.
Very interesting. Personally, I think that Dumbledore’s statements while drinking the potion were echoes of things said when the young Riddle tormented those kids in that cave many years before, and Harry may need to track down the now-elderly Muggles involved to find out what happened.
C. The Hufflepuff Cup
Not a lot I can add here, but I can say this: we will see more of Zacharias Smith in the next book. He’s a Hufflepuff, as was Hepzibah Smith, who owned the cup. Same surname, same house – can’t be a coincidence. Of course, if the cup is indeed a Horcrux and – per my earlier prediction – is not at Hogwarts, there will have to be some other interesting adventure connected to locating it, and some sensational murder involved in making it a Horcrux. At present, I can’t think of either.
D. The Snake
Maybe I’m being too conventional here, assuming the snake is the last Horcrux, rather than either Harry himself or Harry’s scar. One thing: there are at least four characters (Neville, Snape, Draco, and Pettigrew) and possibly others (Ginny, Hagrid, Aunt Petunia, the house-elves) who JKR has set up to potentially step in and play a surprising role at a key plot point to get Harry through the remaining tasks of destroying Horcruxes and killing Voldemort. The need to dispose of the snake does offer one such opportunity, and I can easily see Pettigrew – who, as Harry has been reminded, owes him “a life debt” – killing the snake.
From Alas, A Blog we get this informed speculation:
Occasional “Alas” poster Elkins, who knows quite a lot about thing Potter, pointed out something interesting, which is that in alchemy, the philosopher’s stone is made through a system of refinement in which the stages are black, then white, then red – a fact that has been referred to in passing in the novels. In book 5, Black died; in book six, White died (“Albus” means “white”). If so, then Hagrid (whose name means “red”) is going to die in the next novel.
Well, maybe. Then again, there’s an entire family of redheads this could also refer to.
VI. The Epilogue
Harry is, according to Scrimgeour, “Dumbledore’s man.” Despite his wishes to be an Auror, he’s not a Ministry guy, hates the politics. And he always parallels Voldemort, who didn’t want to teach but kept asking for jobs at Hogwarts. And we know Harry can teach, from the DA. And ever since Voldemort got turned down, they’ve been unable to keep a Dark Arts teacher. JKR has said we will see at least a little of what the surviving characters do afterwards. Isn’t the obvious wrapup ending of Book 7 that after Harry vanquishes Voldemort, he comes back to Hogwarts – the only home he’s ever known – to become the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?
*A commenter at Drum’s place suggests a parallel between the Potter story and the Biblical Passion narrative, and also suggests the role Pettigrew may play.
Anyway, this post has run on too long already; if I think of more, I’ll post again on the subject another day or add updates to this one.
UPDATE: Random predictions:
*The book will open with Harry’s last visit to the Dursleys – that’s where he was headed at the end of 6, before making his way to the site of his parents’ death in Godric’s Hollow. I fully expect something bad to happen at the Dursleys’, which may force the issue of whether Aunt Petunia has magical powers after all.
*There will clearly be an intensive focus on the events surrounding the death of Harry’s parents.
*It is possible, if the missing Horcruxes are things we’ve met before, that the Goblet of Fire could be one. That seems a stretch, and we know nothing of its provenance. But I am convinced that the Horcruxes are going to be things we’ve seen already, so if there is a Ravenclaw Horcrux, there will need to be an association made to an existing magical object.
UPDATE #2 (8/23): I should mention here the Special Award for Services to the School won by Riddle, which sits in the Trophy Room at Hogwarts – Ron cleans it in detention in Book Two. It’s certainly one of the lesser candidates for a Horcrux – a plausible candidate because it is significant for Riddle/Voldemort and because Rowling’s mention of it seems gratuitous. But a lesser candidate because (1) I think it more likely that only one Horcrux is at Hogwarts and it’s something like the Hat or the sword, and (2) because of its connection to the Chamber of Secrets, it’s sort of redundant to have along with the diary.
I would think that we will, at the end of the day, be able to identify each of the seven parts of Voldemort’s soul with one of the books: say, Voldemort himself (or Harry’s scar) with Book One, the Diary with Book Two, Nagini (or Voldemort’s new body) with Book Four, the locket with Book Five, the ring with Book Six. But Book Three comes up a bit empty, plus where do the hat and the cup fit in?
UPDATE (8/31): Another intriguing suggestion from the continuing thread at Michele’s:
To explain Dumbledore’s “look of triumph” when he learns that Voldemort used Harry’s blood in the “comback” potion, consider the following. When DD explains “all” to Harry at the end of OOTP, he goes into considerable detail as to the nature of the “protection” that Harry enjoys at the Dursely’s because his mother’s “blood dwells” there. Since Harry has his “mother’s blood” also, when Voldemort took Harry’s blood, he took Lily’s blood, as well. So Lily’s blood also “dwells” with Voldemort. It may come to pass that the “ancient protection” comes to apply to Harry when he is in Vodemort’s presence.
That is probably not exactly correct, but I suspect it’s at least partly true.
UPDATE (October 2006): My best deductive reasoning to the contrary, JK Rowling herself says that the Sorting Hat is no Horcrux.