I finished the last of the extant Harry Potter books over the weekend while we had periods of no power and the lightning prevented me from working outside. I have thoroughly enjoyed all six books and have a few thoughts, commments, questions, and projections below the fold.
Note: Serious spoilers ahead!
After five years of Snape wanting the Defense of the Dark Arts job, he finally got it. And what happens? Nothing, so far as I can tell. Either something will be revealed in the next and final installment or I missed it while reading early into the morning.
The "Half-Blood Prince" almost seemed like a throwaway line. Was it as irrelevant to the rest of the story as it seemed to be?
I'm very impressed with how everything continues to hold together so well. Ms. Rowling seems to have understood the outline of how the story would unfold long before she finished the first book. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons Star Wars 1, 2, and 3 seemed to suck so much -- George Lucas really hadn't given it much thought until his hands were tied by what had already been shown to transpire. Books 4, 5, and 6 are much more complex than books 1, 2, and 3. I hope the liberties taken in the movies for 1, 2, and 3 don't hamstring them too much later.
I'm somewhat surprised Harry isn't going to end up with the greatest witch of his age -- Hermione. It has been clear since book 3 that Hermione was going to end up with Ron, but it wasn't obvious to me that Harry was destined to start snogging with Ginny until book 5. Too many Cho Chang hints, I guess.
Hogwarts will open next year and Harry will be back. Why?
1. The title will be Harry Potter and the Something Something Something: Year 7 at Hogwarts.
2. Harry will still be able to talk with Dumbledore, but only through his portrait in the Headmistress' office at Hogwarts.
3. All the coupling still has to be resolved, and since everyone else will be at Hogwarts...
4. Harry's attempt to do a Peter Parker with Ginny isn't going to stand up. Love has been put forward as an ancient powerful magic that Voldemort cannot seem to grasp. Somehow, I don't think Ms. Rowling has finished with this theme.
5. Neville Longbottom still has a significant role to play, IMHO, and where else besides there and St. Mungo's will Harry run into him? Haven't you ever wondered why Neville ended up in Gryffindor rather than Hufflepuff? Oh, and I hope Neville's happy with Luna.
6. Hagrid and Gwarp still have a role to play, and they'll both be at, or at least near, Hogwarts.
7. In a recurring lietmotif, there has to be a new Defense of the Dark Arts Professor, one for each year. Hmm..., will the new professor's initials be R.A.B.?
8. How is Harry going to become an Auror without his N.E.W.T.s?
I have no idea what J.K. Rowlings' politics are, and I know she remains attached to Amnesty International, but her values seem to be somewhat conservative. Evil exists and must be fought constantly -- frequently at great cost, bad things happen to good people, you have to take care of yourself, and don't trust the government. The last one really surprises me. While the people leading the Ministry of Magic want to do the right thing, they just cannot put aside the political battles long enough to do so. Gee, any parallels with real life here you can think of?
We never did find out what happened to Dumbledore's hand, though he promised Harry to tell him later when there was time to do the tale justice, so that's got to be in book 7.
I thought the centaurs should have taken Firenze back as a gift to Dumbledore when they came to show their respects. Perhaps they have and Ms. Rowling forgot to mention it, or they still may.
I sure hope Aragog's children don't make another appearance.
I also hope that Kingsley Shacklebolt isn't played by Samuel L. Jackson. And why is it that the wizarding community struggles to understand muggles so much, and yet K.S. can be the Prime Minister's secretary and outperform everyone else who has had the job?
Harry Potter has been a virtual who's who of British actors and actresses. There are only a few left to pick from: Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Hugh Grant, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Pierce Brosnan (yes, I know he's Irish), Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Billy Connally, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies, Jason Stratham, and Vinny Jones.
The other schools seem to have fallen off the face of the earth once again, although we did get to see Fleur take a more visible role. Will we see Viktor Krum again in book 7, if for no other reason than to tweak Ron with Hermione and Viktor once again? While Harry and Voldemort are both tied to Hogwarts, the Death Eaters are not, as we saw with Karkaroff.
I expect that Percy Weasley is going to get a chance to redeem himself but he'll probably die doing so.
Obviously, Malfoy will be back in a key role as well, though it is difficult to divine what it might be.
There's still one Weasley we don't know much about yet -- Charlie. Any bets he makes a notable appearance in the next book?
Professor Trelawny, despite being a fraud when it comes to teaching divination, does appear to actually be a seer, although she cannot control it and in fact seems to be completely unaware of the fact that she really is a seer.
The big questions is where does Professor Snape actually stand -- and is it proper to still call him professor? Has Snape always been Voldemort's man, is he still Dumbledore's man, or has he been truly vacillating back and forth. This one's tough. If Snape has remianed Dumbledore's man then he deserves almost as much credit as Harry for what he has had to go through thus far. I have some other thoughts here that push me towards believing that Snape is still Dumbledore's man, but they are tied up in a private discussion whose details I shan't reveal here. But here's a hint... why did Dumbledore call ask for Professor Snape as soon as he returned instead of Madame Pomfrey or Professor Slughorn?
My last and potentially most important conjectiure is that the last Horcrux is going to be a person. Ah, but who? Since that person has to die before Voldemart can be killed, opening the doors of paradox here, what if it Harry himself? Yes, of course Voldemort wants to kill Harry, but if he fails, he knows he cannot fully die while Harry remains alive. And if it is Harry, will there be some way that Harry can break the horcrux without dying, though he will be forever adversely affected by it?
Then again, if it isn't Harry, what if the last Horcrux is somehow bound up with the fate of Hogwarts itself? What if the last Horcrux is something of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw instead of Gryffindor or Ravenclaw? Maybe it's just the sorting hat. Either way, can Harry bring himself to destroy it? And one last, desperate grasp -- what if the final Horcrux is Cho Chang? Again, will Harry be able to destroy it?
DOWNDATE: A friend sent me a link to a site which argues that Dumbledore isn't dead. I'm not going to go into a point by point refutation, but after rereading the end of book 6, I am quite certain Dumbledore is dead. I am just as certain now that Snape is still Dumbledore's man. If anyone cares I can expound farther.
DOUBLE DOWNDATE: Was Lily Evans in Ravenclaw? If she was, then Harry is something of Gryffindor (James) and Ravenclaw (Lily). I can't seem to remember a definitive reference that places Lily in Gryffindor. Jeez, I hope someone proves me wrong on this one.