There were things I loved, things I hated, things that made me laugh, things that made me go 0.o and things that are making me want to sit down and re-read the series from book 1 to book 6 inclusive.
There will be pedantry, and I will be pointing out missing commas and adverb abuse, too. I am still of the opinion that JKR should really find a more capable editor. I'm making these notes as I'm doing my slow and steady re-read so. Here.
But before I go on – WOULD YOU PEOPLE STOP SAYING SHE IS GETTING HER IDEAS FROM FANFIC? All seven books were plotted out in advance, she's said this repeatedly and so far there's been nothing that wasn't foreshadowed or hinted at in the previous books. Just because some fanfic writers correctly predict something does not mean anything. Sheesh.
Chapter 1 – The Other Minister
1 missing comma in this chapter.
It's written as though it is for little kids who have no idea of politics or the grown-up world. I have to admit, I bristled – I'm not sure if it was her intention but I really didn't like the tone in which this chapter was told.
The Ministry of Magic has no qualms interfering with Muggle life, even though the wizarding world and the magical world are supposed to be separate. WTF. I suppose there is a portrait like that in every President's, Prime Minister's and King's office, isn't there?
I'm glad that the Prime Minister is unhappy with Fudge's condescension. Fudge is a total idiot here – oh "surely" he must have realised that a collapsing bridge and a freak hurricane and mysterious murders have to do with magical folks. Like, Muggles are supposed to not know or care about the wizarding world's existence, but then when something weird happens we're supposed to think "MAGIC!" right away.
Despite the fact that he's unhappy at being condescended to and bullied around by magical folk, the Prime Minister seems quite the bumbling fool nonetheless, worse than Fudge in OotP. Think JKR's got something against politicians? *snerk*
At least they don't Obliviate the Prime Ministers when they complete their terms in office. Fudge's chortling at the idea of the PM telling anyone about the magical folk was in poor taste, I thought.
OK, who the fuck is the Chancellor of Exchequer and why is he asked to remove a portrait from a wall? There's being unrealistic and childish about politicians and there's being unrealistic and childish about politicians, Jo. Just... stop.
ETA: goneril: The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the guy in charge of the budget and finances - Minister for Finance, as it were. It's one of the top positions in the cabinet. Now, the current Chancellor is Gordon Brown, and the rivalry between he and the PM is well known. Brown has long been thought of as a potential PM, has his own band of supporters within the Labour party and is a pain the arse for Blair, all told. This isn't unusual for PMs and Chancellors. The cabinet is not a place for trusting your powerful colleagues when they could take your place and want to do just that.
So she is possibly being childish and unrealistic in an attempt to poke fun at the political thingamabobbers.
"Serious" Black. *snort*
Ok, during the department of backstory trip, PoA!Fudge tells the PM "He's not dangerous unless he's got support" about Voldemort. What. The. Fuck? I mean, we always knew Fudge was a bit stupid but surely he would remember that it was Voldemort who was most fearsome and not his Death Eaters? That the Death Eaters were nothing without him? What. The Fuck.
"The move should be effected tonight"
It seems like JKR's learned the difference between "affect" and "effect" and just couldn't wait to use her newfound knowledge. I'm sorry, Jo, but no one talks like that.
ETA: goneril: Yeah, they do. This is not an uncommon phrase. I suppose it's like 'whilst' or 'amongst' - they sound ridiculous to the rest of the English speaking world, but over here 11 year old kids use them in their story-writing. This phrase isn't quite so common as those, but the use of 'effect' as a verb in that way is well used by people who effect things in a verby way. ;)
So, Sirius is innocent and there was no need for evidence to prove his innocence at all. Apparently, the word of those in the Order was enough. I've seen it written both ways before but it's nice to have solid canon on it. You know, I never cried for Sirius in canon. xylodemon's James/Sirius fic made me cry for Sirius's death for the first time. But my eyes watered when Fudge said Sirius was "by-the-by". I guess we will not be seeing a Ministry apology, inquiry or not.
Another WTF moment. Voldemort threatened mass Muggle killings unless Fudge stepped down and handed over the reins? Um, what? This is uncharacteristic of the Voldemort we knew and loved, who worked behind the scenes by corrupting and threatening and using the Imperius Curse. Either JKR has forgotten something or there is a serious ace up her sleeve regarding Voldemort and also Snape. Because Snape, in this book, was by far a more efficient villain than Voldemort. Dark Lord!Snape? I would cry, but he'd be far better at it than Volders himself.
Amelia Bones and Emmeline Vance. Two dead bodies in one chapter, damn. Poor Susan.
Also, Fudge said that the last time Voldemort used giants when he wanted to go for the "grand effect". But previous canon suggested that Voldemort was always sneaking. I wonder what these grand effects were and why he did them. And I want genfic about the last time Voldemort used giants.
THE DEMENTORS ARE BREEDING IN MIST. GOD. Dementor smut is now canon.
I sort of felt bad for Fudge with his brave smile, I admit.
It also appears as though Muggles do not hear Floo destinations when they are spoken. Both Fudge and Scrimgeour just vanish into the green flames, but the PM never hears them say anything. Deliberate or accidental omission?
Chapter 2 – Spinners End
Ok, first of all – OMG CISSY. I think it's cute. It can mean one of two things – it's a pet nickname because they were once close or Bellatrix uses it to annoy Narcissa. Based on the interaction between the two sisters, I'm more inclined to think the former because it really does seem like Bella cares about her sister – enough to fear for her safety should she betray Voldemort.
Ok, I was right about this. I've always thought that Snape and Narcissa were on first-name basis. I find it also strange that Bella calls him Snape but he calls her Bellatrix in return. Or is it just that he uses first names for females and last names for males?
Voldemort has sent Peter from his side! To assist Snape. And Snape makes him into a house-elf. How I chortle with glee. The interaction between Snape and Pettigrew is exactly like I've always pictured it – the "vermin" line was priceless. I do wonder what it is that Peter is supposed to be helping Snape with.
Walls covered in books in Snape's dwelling, old unstable furniture – yes, finally. No Snape Manor, sorry fangirls.
Narcissa and Bellatrix are from the same breeding stock but Narcissa seems far more polite than Bellatrix. I wonder if this is because she wants a favour from Snape and thus is trying to be as agreeable as possible? Or are Narcissa and Snape actually friends, as much as they can be?
Snape/Narcissa is actually far more interesting to me now than Snape/Lucius ever was. They'd be around the same age, too, wouldn't they? Bella is the oldest, as per Dumbledore in the next chapter, and Narcissa is the youngest. In general, Narcissa – very determined and snarling at Bella, but when she gets to Snape she totally loses it and becomes weepy – is it an indication of her level of trust or is she just playing the damsel in distress to get maximum sympathy?
Bellatrix seems somehow much less insane – is it because we're seeing her sans Harry-goggles? By the way, I still can't decide whose POV this chapter was in – it's not a bad omniscient POV as those go, but she could have cut down on each character's motivation exposition.
Also, Bellatrix is an excellent device for exposition, just full of questions, that one, isn't she? I thought the Blacks were supposed to be smart. As I'm firmly in the "there is far more to Snape than Harry sees in HBP" camp, I think that both are true. Bella *is* smart and she's *right* not to trust Snape where Volders is concerned. The fact that she actually listens to reason in this chapter resonated with me – so she really isn't as batshit as she appeared in OotP, even though it's not even been a month since the events at the Department of Mysteries.
Snape says that Voldemort is the most accomplished Legilimens. However, we never do find out who is the most accomplished Occlumens. I think here we are supposed to assume that Voldemort is zomg greatest ever at everything but I actually think it's Snape who's the most accomplished Occlumens. Bellatrix will never think that way of Snape, but it's quite possible that Snape did use Occlumency against the Dark Lord and was undetected.
Avery we already know from the previous book. Who is Yaxley? The Carrows (I think these are the sister and brother from the final showdown scene but obviously there is no way to tell). Greyback is introduced here for the first time.
Okay, Bellatrix/Voldemort – there is trouble in paradise but can we say herloveforhimissocanon, again? She seems very concerned about Voldemort's opinion of her and doesn't seem to spare a thought for her husband, who is rotting in Azkaban. This is especially poignant since Narcissa is all "DO NOT INSULT MY HUSBAND H0R".
Narcissa attempting to protect her family at all cost. Dude. Just dude. I really didn't fancy her drama-queen portrayal that much, what with the wringing hands and shaking but then she was a good sport at Madam Malkins and very cold as always. I think she only lets down her guard around people she trusts or family, which fits with my interpretation of Slytherin house thus far. And it adds to the Snape/Narcissa dynamic.
OK, Harry as the new Dark Lord? I know it's been written in fanfic but dude. That would have been so cool. Anyone planning any HBP-compatible AU genfics to this effect? *listens to crickets*
Snape uses so many exclamation marks. It's a bit unsettling, but it's obviously canon, like Hagrid's ellipses. Snape writers take note.
At any rate, Snape's explanations – obviously no need to restate them, but this has been his cover story all along. I do not understand why people are screaming that Snape is truly really evil. In this scene, he just recites his cover story to Bellatrix. Just because Bellatrix grudgingly believes him, and just because Voldemort believes him, does not mean it's true.
Bellatrix does too much jeering and there are too many adverbs used. She is getting better about the adverbs, though, this book didn't have nearly as many as OotP.
"Bellatrix's mouth twisted as though she had taken an unpleasant dose of medicine."
Surely she means "a dose of unpleasant medicine"? Because how can a dose be unpleasant? :-P
Snape is either in denial about Harry, is exaggerating the extent to his mediocrity, or deliberately trying to lull the Dark Lord and his servants into a false sense of security about who it is they're hunting, after all. Because while Harry's definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he's certainly very talented at DADA. There is, however, no way to tell if Snape is being petty or deliberately misinforming Bellatrix (and the Dark Lord to boot).
But then – didn't Voldemort say Harry was powerful in book 1? Offered him to join up, even, in the cheesy style of "together we shall rule the galaxy with the power of the Dark Side". Quo vadis, Snape? I love how I am still able to ask this question after having read the book. No, I do not buy ESE Snape. No, I will not until he is dancing on Harry's grave or dies trying to kill him. As a tangent, there has been no mention of Snape's wizard's debt to James. He never mentions it to Bellatrix. I was waiting for him to say something but he doesn't. Why not?
Snape says he knows of the plan. Bellatrix is astonished by this. But Snape never reveals any details of the plan. Which makes me think that maybe Snape doesn't know of the plan, but he wants to help Narcissa and thus lies about knowing it so she doesn't have to be accused of treachery.
Of course, Bellatrix can always go and ask Volders if he had told Snape, but something tells me that either Bellatrix's pride would be too wounded to actually ask this or, alternatively, she'd be too scared that Voldemort would perceive it as her questioning him. And Volders apparently doesn't like being questioned or challenged in his actions, does he? Snape is not only a Legilimens, he is also a shrewd Slytherin and surely he knows that much about Bellatrix. Snape plays the situation so that Bellatrix is convinced that he is loyal to the Dark Lord, even pointing out to Narcissa that she could have been guilty of great treachery.
It seems almost Dumas-like in intrigue, but perhaps this is why I like it. Plus, I don't think Bellatrix will ever breathe a word of this to Voldemort because for all her faults, she does seem to care about Narcissa, and as far as she knows, no treachery has occurred.
Bellatrix doesn't care about Draco or possibly her indifference can be read that she's never had children. She does say the "if I had sons, I would be proud" line which is convincing me even more that she is childless. Goodbye, Lestrange-children!Sues.
Voldemort is using Draco as punishment for Lucius's crimes. *cringe* I would have really, really, REALLY liked some Voldemort-POV on this because I'm just not buying it. I mean.. I've written it. I've read it. I've thought about it. But it just seems like such a ridiculous, idiotic thing – and we are at this point supposed to think that Draco is being sent to kill Harry, obviously.
But as we've all read the book we know that he's sending Draco to kill Dumbledore and that is just so batshit! Narcissa is right – there is no way Draco should be able to succeed, only she thinks that it's because Dumbledore is too powerful and he'd kill Draco before Draco could raise his wand. So Voldemort is going to send a teenager to kill Dumbledore as punishment for Lucius's mistakes, but what's the fucking point? Voldemort wants Harry dead, he wants Dumbledore dead, why the fuck would he waste time punishing his minion instead of taking action and striking? I just.. it doesn't make sense to me.
At no time during this scene is it mentioned that Draco is a Death Eater. At no time in the book at large do we see Draco's Mark, and he never admits to being a Death Eater, not flat-out. Everybody who's clucking about Draco being a Death Eater and Marked – this is not canon, it's an assumption and it appears as though Jo has deliberately avoided flat-out proving that Draco is a Death Eater because it will be important in the final book. Helping Voldemort does not a Death Eater make, Sirius said it in book 5 – the world is not split into good people and Death Eaters. And besides, Draco said that if he doesn't do it, Voldemort will kill him and his parents. As far as we have seen so far, Death Eaters are loyal to Voldemort and they do not require death threats to carry out his orders. The evidence of Death Eater!Draco is flimsy and circumstantial, I'll thank you not to claim it's canon.
Ditto for Narcissa being a Death Eater. She's clearly not loyal in the way that it is expected and besides, Arthur clearly said in GoF that there were plenty of people who sympathised with Voldemort but didn't openly join him or ally themselves with him. Narcissa does say that if Snape were to succeed in the plan, he would be "rewarded beyond all of us" but it is inconclusive what she means by "us".
Snape cares enough about Narcissa to want to help Draco. He cares enough about Draco to want to help him. There is no other explanation for his willingness to take the Unbreakable Vow, is there?
God, there is so much emotion in the Unbreakable Vow scene. Narcissa on her knees begging for her son, Snape on his knees opposite her. *swoon*
And who would have thought that the hands were Snape's and Narcissa's? People have said everything from Harry and Dumbledore to Harry and Snape, but Snape and Narcissa? Wild.
The Unbreakable Vow, incidentally, is a really cool bit of magic. I wonder if wizarding marriages aren't sealed this way, too? Or is it considered Dark magic?
Bellatrix's astonishment at the scene – wow. She's either really cold or she's thinking that she's seriously underestimated Snape. That she doesn't refuse to be their Bonder speaks volumes about how much she really cares about her sister, at least to me. The OotP!Bella as she is portrayed, would have screeched "No" and refused, at least until the Dark Lord could be consulted, but she doesn't.
There's another AU fic bunny – Bellatrix refuses to be their Bonder and Snape forces Wormtail to do it. Secret Keeper, then Bonder. Ah, Peter, you get almost no screen-time in this book.
That's it for now, I'll be back tomorrow with more meanderings.