Beyond Hogwarts Guest Article
by Galadriel Waters and E.L. Fossa
It’s not enough to have a feeling that Dumbledore’s not
, or to want him not to be
. What you need is a way to prove he’s not
We at Wizarding World Press are happy to help you work on techniques needed for doing that.
Now, if life was a Jasper Fforde novel, you could just walk right into Book 6 and do a little poking around like his Jurisfiction operative Thursday Next. You could get there before Hagrid, for instance, and listen to ALL of that conversation Dumbledore had with Snape. That would rock, especially if it meant you heard something that meant the book was supposed to have ended differently.
Sadly what would be standard operating procedure for Thursday Next would be fanfiction for us. So what to do, what to do…
You could always engage in what has come to be known as “HP Sleuthing.”
Sleuthing Harry Potter has become a popular sport — er, pastime — for thousands of series fans. The serial publishing of seven books, in essence seven parts of an epic mystery, has led to fans trying their best to stay one step ahead of that redoubtable Games-Mistress who has kindly told her fans to call her “Jo”. Can fans figure out what’s going to happen before Jo makes it happen? Before the last book? Before the last page? Maybe. Can we figure out the great Dumbledore question, once and for all? Maybe.
Long ago in the English classes you were forced by law to take, they tried to teach you a technique they called “close reading”. Pull your memories of that s
out and dust them off. The teachers who told you it was useful weren’t lying, any more than the ones who told you that you would need math.
Some familiarity with great literature won’t hurt, but isn’t absolutely necessary. And if you decide you need to know what TS Eliot (for example) has in common with Harry Potter, there’s always the Internet. WWP deeply admires the work of, which has gathered a reference-library full of wonderful stuff and placed it at our busily tapping fingertips.
Finally, you need to read the Harry Potter books. Again, and again, and again, and again. How often is really necessary, you ask? Well, if you have a bookcase with a copy of Goblet of Fire that’s been reduced to a series of soft-cover pamphlets, you’ve probably read the series enough to get started.
Like most talented magicians, Jo is a mistress of misdirection, and has created books that are able to be read on so many different levels.
There are the readers who genuinely admire the story, and who are happy to wait to find out what happens when each book is released. They share the series with their friends, they share it with their children — especially with their children, of course, it’s a children’s series, isn’t it? 😉 These readers don’t sleuth.
Then there are the learned readers, who know all about literary tradition and criticism. They sleuth, but in the time-honored fashion. They didn’t have to dust off their knowledge of close-reading. There’s a lot in Harry Potter for these folks to find — hero’s journey, mentor’s revival, Greek traditions, Egyptian legend. It all relates, it’s all there, you can find the parallels, you can do a LOT with close reading and literary analysis in Harry Potter. For those readers, sleuthing is just one of many means of dissecting and analyzing the septology.
Then there’s the rest of us.
We have watched the evolution of Jo’s trio over a series of six books now, and we have seen the patterns develop on her loom as surely as the wildest paisley. We have realized that Jo does nothing without reason, even if the reason is to camouflage her plans. Where in the world did Hagrid get that flying motorcycle? Poor Harry, getting sent to that old bat’s house to look at pictures of cats so he won’t blow up the house… Isn’t it funny that Montague got shoved in that cabinet and disappeared!
Look for Jo’s odd words, sprinkled like fancy stitches woven into the tapestry. If you have ever come across a name, magic spell, or other word in Jo’s books and said to yourself, “Gee, this sounds like the word…” then you have encountered a Rowlinguistic. Many times those strange names and words in the Harry Potter books have been made up by Jo from French, Latin, or other derivations. It is no coincidence that the names seem to relate directly to the personality of the character or the purpose of a spell. Remember those two words: No coincidence. It is very important that you remember them if you are going to sleuth.
The shuttle goes from left to right, then back again, and the cloth lengthens, and the story grows. Here a Muggle-born witch, there a pure-blood boy, there a half-blood with a past — and always in the background of the design, the elderly wizard with a twinkle in his eye and a secret. Maybe many secrets.
The hardest part is to not get so involved in the story that you forget to keep looking for the clues. With Jo’s works, that is quite tricky. You may need to start passages, pages, or even chapters all over again, when you suddenly realize you haven’t been paying attention because you got caught up in her world. The slight-of-hand is Jo’s cleverest move. She
draw your attention one direction while handing out clues off in the corner. Keep your eye on the lady!
For instance: In Chapter 16 of Book 1, J. K. Rowling writes that Harry “watched an owl flutter toward the school across the bright blue sky, a note clamped in its mouth.” Even after reading the book several times, it still catches readers by surprise when they realize that this note was probably the message used to trick Headmaster Dumbledore into leaving the school for a trip to London. That clue doesn’t help us solve the plot of the book and it was never explained or mentioned again, but when we see similar clues in other books, we know that we need to pay much closer attention.
It is the charge of the HP Sleuth to predict the pattern as it grows and changes. Does a repeated mention of goblin wars mean something? Why was it Hermione never told all of what she read in the library about house-elves? Can you believe what you’ve been told about, say, Aberforth?
Because you couldn’t believe what you were told about Gilderoy, could you?
Prediction is, as Trelawney herself would admit, an uncertain thing. HP Sleuths theorized, from Jo’s “running bits” in Book 5, that water would be important in Book 6, but who could have imagined the kind of watery world in which Jo was going to immerse us? Look for her repetitions, it’s a tool HP Sleuths use often, and to good effect, to construct theories.
HP Sleuths also use a tool in theory construction that serves much the same purpose as the carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once”. It’s called Two Degrees of Separation.
We all love fanfiction, there’s just a big difference between fanfiction and theory. Basically it is this: a theory is based directly on canon. If I say, “Snape was a
Eater”, that is canon – verifiable from what Jo has specifically stated in the novels. If I say, “Snape was a
Eater, therefore he might have been there when the Potters were
ed”, that’s a theory based on the canon we all know to be true. If I say, “Snape was a
Eater, therefore he might have been there when the Potters were
ed, so he might have preserved Lily’s soul in a potions bottle he had on him for that purpose and now he’s keeping her soul upstairs at his house in preparation for the day when he’s able to restore her body just like Voldy’s body was restored! And that’s why Wormtail’s there, he’s watching it!”, that falls under Two Degrees of Separation, otherwise known as fan fiction. (Okay, it’s, um, six degrees — Snape keeping Lily’s soul in a potions bottle was two — but once you get to two why bother counting any further?)
You want to prove Dumbledore’s not
? Go for it! We at WWP would dearly love for him not to be
. Just remember, though, if you get to the point where he’s being kept in a bottle upstairs at Snape’s house, check your Degrees of Separation. They probably got a bit too separated. 😉

Galadriel Waters is a professional HP Sleuth and author of several books that explore the mystery of Harry Potter, including The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter (Analysis of Books 1-4), The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter (Analysis of Book 5), and editor of The Plot Thickens… Harry Potter Investigated by Fans for Fans.

12 thoughts on “CSI: Hogwarts”

  1. I think that there is a grand mistake in the books of harry potter. maybe it not sulve anything about snape and dumbledore but…. the living paintings can see, be seen, hear, be heard and have a mind of their own right. so why dont they just have pictures of the . then it would almost be like if they where still there.

  2. if you can come back as a ghost, (NEARLY HEADLESS NICK) then why doesnt dumbledore come back and help harry, after the burial at the end of HBP, IF he is really .

  3. Brian: I agree with you 100% That’s why i think the portrait on the wall of the Head’s office defintly help Harry. Greg: He is Sir Nicholas! Sir Nicholas explains why Dumbledore would most likely not come back as a ghost in HBP.

  4. heres a question. mundungus was banned from the hogs head long ago says sirius in the 5th book… but in the 6th book, in hogsmeade, harry sees two people huddled up and reliases that one of them is the barman from hogs head and the other dung… sirius also says in the 5th book that the bar man has a long memory… hows that?

  5. Answering the Mundungus question from Thej, well, the Hog’s Head’s barman may have a long memory, Dung may be banned from the Hog’s Head (only JK knows why), but that doesn’t prevent them from having business outside of that place, or maybe those objects from Sirius’, now Harry’s house, are a way of repaying (partly, I suppose, or they’d be IN the Hog’s Head) his (Dung’s) . Now, continuing with Nearly Headless Nick’s explanations, those reffered to Sirius, that was “a very brave man”, as is Dumbledore, the difference comes when you take everything’s that said about ghosts, that they exist because the person that d had unfinished business (watch some Sci-Fi TV and you’ll see this pattern in EVERY TV series or movie about ghosts), meaning that Dumbledore’s unfinished business be helping Harry (or Harry helping him, as he promised) to destroy the remaining horcruxes. I, particularly, do not believe that Dumbledore would become a ghost, that gives too much hope for Harry and makes it TOO easy for him to find the remaining horcruxes. However, I think Dumbledore’s portrait in the Headmaster’s office is of importance to the continuance of Harry’s mission, because it would be able to, in some degree, help Harry in his mission.

  6. I think that people need to stop freaking out about Dumbledore. I mean, I’m sad about him too, but what J. K. Rowling wrote is what she wrote. We might as well just accept the fact and wait for the next book to explain it.

  7. Dumbledore doesn’t need to become a ghost because he might not be . In ‘the Princess Bride'(the movie) remember Miracle Max says that Wesley is only ‘mostly ‘ and he saved Wesley? Well maybe Dumbledore is only ‘mostly ‘ and he can be saved.

  8. I just want to ask one question (this may have nothing to do with the whole mystery of the 7th book but-) What is up with Mrs Norris! Seriously there is something WRONG with that cat!

  9. Interesting point about the portraits. Sirius’ great great grandfather seems to have memory of his previous life. He describes how Sirius ‘used’ to be. So he must remember when he was alive. Portraits can get drunk and talk to and visit other portraits. These paintings link back to Nearly Headless Nick speaking to Harry after the of his godfather. He explains how his real spirit has gone beyond but he left a copy of himself behind because he was afraid of . He still has memory of his past life, remarkable sensitivity to what’s going on around him and is – for all intents and purposes – alive. Except for the fact he is . Anyway, I’m wittering. What I really mean is that I think this is exactly the same for the portraits. A copy of them has been left behind but it is not the actual spirit of that person. I believe that Dumbledore thought it was time to . Just like his friend Nicholas Flamel. He knows it do no good if he is always holding Harrys hand and he is growing tired of the world. From his portrait which undoubtedly be put up in his old office he be a guide but nothing more than that. I believe that Snape’s ‘look of hatred’ was misinterpreted by Harry and was in fact Snape not wanting to carry out his orders from Albus. He now be able to help Harry destroy the horcruxes from within and Voldemort not dubt him for a second as he cannot concieve that Dumbledore actually wanted this to happen. As he believes the worse thing that can happen to a wizard is to .

  10. ok so this is sort of off topic about dumbledore, but it does have something to do with sleuthing. I was just rereading book 6, the chaper about the memory of hokey. i realized that hepzibah and zacharias both have the same last name: smith. also, we know that hepzibah is related to hufflepuff, and that zacharias is in hufflepuff. could it be they are related? and if so, could this somehow tie in with the location of the cup and the locket? im not sure how, but maybe zacharias could be of some help in that area.

  11. Maybe i’m the only one to think this, but in my humble opinion, there a two options. 1. He’s not . Maybe he is to the outside world, but he could be in hiding. (Contradicted by JK herself, Forget this remark, fun to think about though). 2. He’s . As a doorknob. Snape ed him. be it as a friend or foe, i dont know. fun to speculate about, but not of any immidiate importance. What i’m goaling at is: horcruxes. What is Dumbledore has one of his own? That would make him , but not , know what i mean? This would allow him to come back, supprt harry and find the other horcruxes of voldemort. How’s that for peannuts?

  12. Dumbledoor is …I think….at least for now….. but as already been pointed out by others, there’s still the portrait.. or should I say, portraits… In OotP, DD asks a wizard to go to another portrait to check on Mr. Weasley.. DD asks that particular wizard because he was very famous and had many pictures around the wizarding world… DD, being Head of Hogwarts obviously have his portrait there, but he was also on the wizigmot(sp) head mogwomp(sp) of something……. the list goes on and on…. plus…I see Molly Weasley giving up wall space in her kitchen(next to her clock) for a picture of the great man… the twins could put one up in the shop… the ministry… but here’s one Ive wondered about…. what about those chocolate frog cards? just because they haven’t spoken so far(to my knowledge) doesn’t necessarily mean they never …..does it?

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