Many people told Harry he looked like his father, apart from his eyes, which many people also told him were like his mother Lily’s. The first person to voice this was Ollivander, when Harry purchased his holly and phoenix feather wand in Philosopher’s Stone. Dumbledore has also observed this to Harry. So, by the time Professor Slughorn said the same words in Half Blood Prince, it was wearing a little bit thin.
Still, it wasn’t until the end was approaching that Harry realised the full significance of his mother’s sacrifice, not just for himself, but for others as well. Specifically, for Severus Snape. After all, it was Snape’s love for Lily Potter that motivated him to walk the tightrope he walked all those years: double-crossing Voldemort in support of Dumbledore to protect Harry, just because he was Lily’s son. As Snape lay dying, his black eyes sought out Harry’s green ones – so like Lily’s – for one last time, as he passed on memories that allowed Harry to finally, truly, understand.
On the subject of Snape and Lily, it’s strange to think Harry’s Aunt Petunia was almost the only person in his life who might have known something about it, all along.
When Petunia unthinkingly answered her husband’s question about Dementors in Order of the Phoenix, she said she’d once overheard ‘that awful boy’ talking about them. Harry thought she was referring to his father James, but it’s highly likely she actually meant Snape, given the scenes from their early lives Harry later witnessed in the Pensieve. Which means that if Petunia had been a better aunt, she could have provided valuable information, as well as comfort, to Harry. What a waste.
This handy little Dumbledore-designed object appeared at the beginning of Philosopher’s Stone. It was actually one of the first demonstrations of magic we ever witnessed, when Dumbledore used it to turn out Privet Drive’s street lamps before Hagrid arrived to drop Harry off on the Dursley’s doorstep.
The Put-Outer appeared again in Order of the Phoenix, incidentally not long after Aunt Petunia had accidentally revealed her Dementor knowledge. Then, it was Mad-Eye Moody putting out Muggle street lamps. But it was in Deathly Hallows that the Put-Outer really came into its own. When Dumbledore left this mysterious gift to Ron in his will we learned it was in fact called a Deluminator, and that it was a completely unique object. And, later, we learned what else it could do, when it lit the way for Ron to find his way back to Hermione and Harry.
It wasn’t just the Deluminator that made an early appearance, because when Hagrid arrived to drop Harry off at the Dursley’s in Philosopher’s Stone, he did so on Sirius Black’s flying motorbike. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid revealed that Sirius had offered him the motorbike shortly after arriving at Godric’s Hollow to find Lily and James dead. The very next day – possibly just as Harry was being discovered on the Dursley’s doorstep – Sirius and Peter Pettigrew clashed, with Peter killing everyone within twenty feet of himself, fleeing, and thus ensuring Sirius’s capture and wrongful imprisonment in Azkaban.
It would be years before Harry learned the real truth behind all this, but given what happened in the days after Hagrid first borrowed it, it seems fitting that the same flying motorbike saw Harry to safety when he left the Dursley’s for the final time. OK, he was a teenager by then and not so happy to be squashed in a sidecar – and that was before the Death Eater attack that killed Hedwig and Mad-Eye Moody – but still, Hagrid and Sirius (sort of) got him safely to his final destination, just as they had years before.
As Harry would later learn, it was not unusual for young witches and wizards to do magic without any awareness of it, just as he did in Philosopher’s Stone. So Harry’s too-fast growing hair, his shrinking jumpers, the way he somehow ended up on the roof whilst being chased by bullies – all of that could be chalked up to youthful wizardry. The fact that Harry once made a boa constrictor’s glass cage vanish during a trip to the zoo was basically along the same lines, but what happened just before was far less common: the moment Harry first spoke to a snake.
As we now know, Harry’s conversation with a boa constrictor was unusual even for a wizard because he was speaking Parseltongue. Parseltongue was a rare trait associated with dark magic, due to the fact that the pure-blood obsessed Salazar Slytherin was famous for talking to snakes. Being a Parselmouth therefore came with a degree of stigma, but it also helped Harry on numerous occasions. His ability to speak Parseltongue allowed him to stop a snake from attacking Justin Finch-Fletchley, enter the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny Weasley, and – when he, Ron and Hermione were tracking down Voldemort’s Horcruxes – to open Slytherin’s locket so Ron could destroy the Horcrux inside. So, you know. It wasn’t all bad. Lord Voldemort’s transferred skill ended up helping Harry against him.
At the end of Chamber of Secrets, after Harry had discovered he was a Parselmouth, Dumbledore told him why.
Whether Dumbledore already knew the full extent to which Voldemort had attached himself to Harry isn’t entirely clear, but he was certainly right. Because Harry was Voldemort’s seventh (unintended) Horcrux – a part of his soul ripped away from his body. In fact, Voldemort had done more than put a bit of himself in Harry: he’d tethered them together. It was only after Harry willingly sacrificed himself in Deathly Hallows that the Horcrux inside him was destroyed, allowing Harry to return and destroy Voldemort with his soul intact and completely his own.
In Half Blood Prince, after Slughorn’s recovered memory proved Voldemort was creating Horcruxes to make himself close to immortal, Dumbledore outlined his other theories – including the fact that Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, was a Horcrux:
Dumbledore’s theory was (again) proved correct when, in Deathly Hallows, Nagini became the final Horcrux to be defeated. But it wasn’t Harry, Dumbledore, or even Ron or Hermione who took down Voldemort’s closest companion and destroyed his last chance at immortality. It was Neville Longbottom…
In Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore finally shared with Harry details about the prophecy that had shaped his life. But the prophecy might not have been about Harry at all, if Voldemort hadn’t only heard the first part of it due to Snape’s interrupted eavesdropping.
As Dumbledore told Harry, this part of the prophecy could also have referred to Neville Longbottom. And when you think about Neville’s actions during the Battle of Hogwarts, it makes sense. It was Neville who sparked battle by openly defying Voldemort; Neville that Voldemort attacked by forcing the burning Sorting Hat onto his head; and Neville who pulled the sword of Godric Gryffindor out of the hat and used it to kill Nagini. Just as Harry had once done with another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes in the Chamber of Secrets. So yes, we can see why the prophecy could have been about either of them.
Speaking of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, we’re sure you’ll recall another one that responded to Parseltongue. Slytherin’s locket – which Ron destroyed, also using the Sword of Gryffindor – had quite the journey. Of all the Horcruxes, it was perhaps the best hidden: in a cave Voldemort had spent time in as a child, protected by a terrible potion and an army of Inferi. And yet it was actually one of the first to be uncovered, when Sirius’s brother Regulus sacrificed himself to retrieve it and ordered his house-elf Kreacher to destroy it. Except Kreacher couldn’t, so it became another Black family heirloom: eventually thrown out of Grimmauld Place, stolen by Mundungus Fletcher, acquired through a twist of fate by Dolores Umbridge, taken back by the trio after they broke into the Ministry of Magic, and then worn around their necks until they worked out a way to destroy it.
But it could have been so different. In Order of the Phoenix, as Harry, Hermione, Sirius and the Weasleys emptied Black family heirlooms from the glass-fronted cabinets in Grimmauld Place, they found ‘…[a] heavy locket that none of them could open…’ Imagine if they’d known they were handling a Horcrux. It would have saved an awful lot of bother.
And yes, Slytherin’s locket wasn’t the only Horcrux-formerly-owned-by-a-Hogwarts-founder that Harry unknowingly stumbled across. In Half-Blood Prince, the Lost Diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw also made an appearance, only Harry just recognised it as a ‘tarnished tiara’ and placed it on top of the bust of an old warlock, along with a dusty wig.
That whole scene took place in the Room of Requirement, as Harry was frantically trying to hide his Half-Blood Prince Potions book. And when Harry returned to Hogwarts to find Voldemort’s final Horcruxes in Deathly Hallows, he realised where the diadem was. Because he realised he’d seen it before, yes, but also because he knew Voldemort – and he knew Voldemort would have been arrogant enough to hide it in the Room of Requirement, believing that he alone knew all of Hogwarts’ secrets. This particular form of the Room of Requirement is actually hidden with all sorts of student possessions.
Harry had suspicions about Draco Malfoy throughout Half Blood Prince, but he couldn’t have realised Malfoy was working on something he’d already encountered many times.
Because what Malfoy was doing was mending the second of a pair of Vanishing Cabinets. The first was situated in Borgin and Burkes – a shop full of dark objects in Knockturn Alley, London – and it’s highly likely that Harry had hidden in that cabinet himself, when he ended up in Borgin and Burkes at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets. Meanwhile, the second cabinet was actually mentioned in the books several times before Malfoy got his hands on it. Peeves crashed it above Filch’s office (which may well have been what broke it) later in Chamber of Secrets, Fred and George Weasley forced Slytherin prefect Montague into it in Order of the Phoenix, and Harry ran right past it in Half-Blood Prince as he hid his Potions book in the Room of Requirement.
The reason Malfoy was working on it became all too tragically clear at the end of Half-Blood Prince. Once he’d fixed it, it meant the Death Eaters could travel into the famously well-protected Hogwarts via the Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, and finally get to Dumbledore. Who would’ve known this innocuous piece of furniture was so important.
When Harry first visited the Hog’s Head in Order of the Phoenix he thought there was something familiar about the barman, but it wasn’t until he visited again in Deathly Hallows that he understood why. That barman, of course, was Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth. Dumbledore himself gave us a few clues – in a memory Harry witnessed in Half Blood Prince, he told Voldemort he was ‘friendly with the local barmen,’ and it seems likely it was Aberforth who sent Snape packing when he was found eavesdropping on Trelawney’s prophecy (you know, the one that might have been about Neville.) Aberforth also turned up at Dumbledore’s funeral, and it was his eye Harry witnessed in the shard of magic mirror left to him by Sirius.
Without Aberforth sending Dobby to rescue the trio from Malfoy Manor, or allowing them to enter Hogwarts via the passageway from the Hog’s Head, they may never have been able to defeat Voldemort. So: we know they had their differences in the past, but we’re glad Dumbledore maintained some sort of friendly relationship with his brother.
He’d spent years falsely imprisoned in Azkaban, living with the knowledge that one of his oldest friends had sold out another and betrayed him in the process, so we can’t say we blame Sirius for wanting to kill Peter Pettigrew in Prisoner of Azkaban. Even gentle Lupin wanted to kill the man who had destroyed so many lives before running away to hide, like the rat he was.
But Harry stopped them. It was something he’d regret shortly after, when Pettigrew escaped and Sirius was forced to go on the run, but Dumbledore reassured him:
It seemed incomprehensible to Harry at the time, but Dumbledore was right. Obviously. In the cellar of Malfoy Manor, years later, Pettigrew showed a tiny merciful impulse, when Harry reminded him that he’d once saved his life. In response, the silver hand Voldemort had created for Pettigrew slackened its grip on Harry’s neck and began to attack its owner instead. So, Harry’s moment of mercy led to Pettigrew’s downfall after all.
And now, we open at the close, with Harry’s very first Snitch. Even Hermione knew Snitches had flesh memories, but apparently Rufus Scrimgeour and the Ministry of Magic officials who inspected the Snitch left to Harry by Dumbledore in his Will did not know one crucial fact. Because Harry didn’t catch that particular Snitch with his hands. As Ron put it, that was the one he nearly swallowed.
This meant Dumbledore was able to leave a final message for Harry: ‘I open at the close.’ These words meant nothing at the time, but everything at the end, because the Snitch held the Resurrection Stone, and when Harry put his lips to it and said ‘I am about to die,’ it cracked open and showed him the figures of the people who knew and loved him best: his parents, Sirius, and Lupin.
It’s quite something to think of Dumbledore retrieving that particular Golden Snitch from the Quidditch pitch after Harry’s first match and modifying it to hold the Resurrection Stone so he could take comfort in his parents’ love as he marched willingly towards his death, years later. You have to hand it to Dumbledore.
He might have created his fair share of chaos, but he knew how to turn things full circle.