Chapter 16 – A Very Frosty Christmas
It’s Christmas time and Harry is back at the Burrow with the Weasleys. It always makes me so happy when he gets to go there. Be a part of a normal family for a while. It’s so sad that he’s never really had that in his life. The chapter opens with Harry and Ron peeling vegetables for dinner and discussing the conversation Harry overheard between Malfoy and Snape. Harry is determined to make sure that Ron realizes how serious this is. Ron is stunned that Harry heard that Snape made an Unbreakable Vow, which is a really big deal between wizards. You die if you break it. So that promise Snape made in the beginning of the book? Yeah, he’s screwed.
Fred and George come down and spend a good time teasing Ron about Lavender, who they heard all about from Ginny. Mrs. Weasely also comes in to tell them that Remus is coming for dinner, and Bill and Fleur will also be there. Missing from the festivities is Percy, who still hasn’t reconciled with the family. After they all leave, Ron asks Harry if he’s going to tell Dumbledore what he overheard.
“Yep,” said Harry. “I’m going to tell anyone who can put a stop to it, and Dumbledore’s top of the list. I might have another word with your dad too.”
“Pity you didn’t hear what Malfoy’s actually doing, though.”
“I couldn’t have done, could I? That was the whole point, he was refusing to tell Snape.”
There was silence for a moment or two, then Ron said, “‘Course, you know what they’ll all say? Dad and Dumbledore and all of them? They’ll say Snape isn’t really trying to help Malfoy, he was just trying to find out what Malfoy’s up to.”
“They didn’t hear him,” said Harry flatly. “No one’s that good an actor, not even Snape.”
Yeah, actually it turns out that Snape really IS that good an actor, but we don’t know that yet.
The best part of the conversation is that Ron seems to be coming around to Harry’s side. Something isn’t right here and it’s starting to get obvious. Harry knows that Hermione will take more convincing.
It’s a typical Weasley Christmas, with lots of decorations (including a Stupefied garden gnome painted gold and sitting on top of the Christmas tree). Listening to Celestina Warbeck on the wireless. Dealing with Fleur talking loudly to drown out the boring music. Games of Exploding Snap. Harry strikes up a conversation with Mr. Weasley about how busy it’s been at the Ministry. Lots of activity but very little results. Stan Shunpike is still being held, although most people don’t think he’s actually a Death Eater. Basically, the Ministry is in complete disarray and trying to look like it’s making progress when it really hasn’t. It’s frustrating.
Harry also asks if they had checked into the little matter he had discussed with Mr. Weasley before he left for school, namely that the Malfoys had Dark items they shouldn’t have. Their house was raided again, but nothing was found. Harry goes ahead and tells Mr. Weasley about the conversation he heard with Draco and Snape. Mr. Weasley, as predicted, suggests that Snape was only pretending to help. Harry wants to know how they can really know that for sure.
“It isn’t our business to know,” said Lupin unexpectedly. He had turned his back on the fire now and faced Harry across Mr. Weasley. “It’s Dumbledore’s business. Dumbledore trusts Severus, and that ought to be good enough for all of us.”
“But,” said Harry, “just say — just say Dumbledore’s wrong about Snape –“
“People have said it, many times. It comes down to whether or not you trust Dumbledore’s judgement. I do; therefore, I trust Severus.”
Look, I get that Dumbledore is awesome and intelligent and powerful, but acting like he never makes a mistake is a bit ridiculous. Lupin calmly explains that Snape, despite their history, kept Lupin healthy during his year teaching at Hogwarts by preparing the Wolfsbane Potion for him each month. He also puts forth the idea that perhaps Dumbledore gave Snape the order to question Draco. Which isn’t a bad theory, true, but still. Dumbledore does make mistakes, has admitted as much. Who’s to say that he isn’t wrong here?
After Mr. Weasley leaves, Harry asks Lupin what he’s been up to. Lupin has been going undercover with other werewolves as a spy for Dumbledore. It hasn’t been easy, since werewolves are a pretty distrusting lot and are not ready to trust a wizard like Lupin, who has clearly been trying to live within Wizard society. The werewolves think that Voldemort will give them more freedom due to a Death Eater who also happens to be a werewolf by the name of Fenrir Greyback. He’s “the most savage werewolf alive today,” according to Lupin, known for targeting children in order to turn them into werewolves and take them away from their parents to be indoctrinated against wizards.
Oh, and Greyback was the one who bit Lupin when he was a kid.
Harry also asks if Lupin has ever heard of someone called “the Half-Blood Prince.” He hasn’t.
Christmas morning, and Ron has an unpleasant surprise – a present from Lavender. She sent him a necklace with the words “My Sweetheart” in large gold letters. Harry is particularly amused by this.
“Nice,” he said. “Classy. You should definitely wear it in front of Fred and George.”
“If you tell them,” said Ron, shoving the necklace out of sight under his pillow,” I — I — I’ll –“
“Stutter at me?” said Harry, grinning. “Come on, would I?”
Yes, you absolutely would, Harry. And Ron would deserve it.
“How could she think I’d like something like that, though?” Ron demanded of thin air, looking rather shocked.
“Well, think back,” said Harry. “Have you ever let it slip that you’d like to go out in public with the words ‘My Sweethear’ round your neck?”
“Well . . . we don’t really talk much,” said Ron. “It’s mainly . . .”
“Snogging,” said Harry.
“Well, yeah,” said Ron. He hesitated a moment, then said, “Is Hermione really going out with McLaggen?”
“I dunno,” said Harry. “They were at Slughorn’s party together, but I don’t think it went well.”
Oh Harry, you know full well why Hermione went with McLaggen and it has nothing to do with her wanting to date him.
Breakfast includes more awkwardness with Fleur, a brief interaction between Harry and Ginny that leaves him a bit flustered, and a conversation about what it might mean that Tonks’ Patronus has changed shape. They are interrupted by a surprise visitor: Percy. He is accompanied by the new Minister, Rufus Scrimgeour. Scrimgeour says that they were in the area and that Percy really wanted to visit his family, but Percy doesn’t seem that happy to be there. In order to give the family time to visit, Scrimgeour asks if Harry would mind giving him a tour of the garden. He isn’t fooling anyone. The reason for their surprise visit is now painfully obvious: Scrimgeour wants to talk to Harry. It has nothing to do with Percy at all.
Harry, however, is ready to play the game and sets off on his walk with the Minister. Scrimgeour doesn’t waste time. He tells Harry that he’s been wanting to meet him for a while now, but Dumbledore has not allowed it. All the rumors floating around, about Harry being “the Chosen One:” what does Dumbledore think of it all? Harry shuts down this line of questioning, saying that it is only between him and Dumbledore, and basically none of Scrimgeour’s business. Scrimgeour, tries to back track, that he doesn’t want Harry to break any promises or confidences he has with the Headmaster, but in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if Harry is “the Chosen One” or not. Um, what?
“Well, of course, to you it will matter enormously,” said Scrimgeour with a laugh.
“But to the Wizarding community at large . . . it’s all perception, isn’t it? It’s what people believe that’s important.”
No matter what, never forget that Scrimgeour is a politician. He has a hero figure in Harry, someone who has faced Voldemort multiple times, who is now rumored to be the one who may defeat him once and for all. This creates hope, an upswelling of morale that Scrimgeour desperately needs. Maybe it’s even Harry’s duty to be seen standing with the Ministry, to show his support, right? Scrimgeour doesn’t want it to be too difficult, just come in to the Ministry from time to time, show that he supports what they are doing. And Harry would be rewarded for his service, put in contact with Gawain Robards, the Head of the Auror Office, to discuss possible career opportunities once Harry graduates. After all, Scrimgeour heard from Dolores Umbridge that Harry wishes to become an Auror.
Mentioning Umbridge was the wrong thing to do though. Anything else Scrimgeour may want to say, Harry doesn’t really want to hear it.
“But if I keep running in and out of the Ministry,” said Harry, still endeavoring to keep his voice friendly, “won’t that seem as though I approve of what the Ministry’s up to?”
“Well,” said Scrimgeour, frowning slightly, “well, yes, that’s partly why we’d like –“
“No, I don’t think that’ll work,” said Harry pleasantly. “You see, I don’t like some of the things the Ministry’s doing. Locking up Stan Shunpike, for instance.”
Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hardened instantly. “I would not expect you to understand, he said, as he was not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been. “These are dangerous times, and certain measures need to be taken. You are sixteen years old –“
“Dumbledore’s a lot older than sixteen, and he doesn’t think Stan should be in Azkaban either,” said Harry. “You’re making Stan a scapegoat, just like you want to make me a mascot.”
Damn, Harry! I mean, spot on, but damn!
Scrimgeour is not happy at all. Any friendliness he had is gone. He asks if Harry wants to “disassociate” himself from the Ministry, just like Dumbledore has. Harry doesn’t want to be used as a prop for the Ministry doing the supposed right thing. Scrimgeour counters that maybe he should be used, as a service to the Wizarding world as a whole, but Harry’s not having it. The Ministry has screwed up too many times in his eyes. Either they do things the Barty Crouch way (throw everyone in prison), the Fudge way (pretend everything is just hunky dory), or do what Scrimgeour wants (pretending “the Chosen One” is a Ministry flunky).
“So you’re not ‘the Chosen One’?” said Scrimgeour.
“I thought you said it didn’t matter either way?” said Harry, with a bitter laugh. “Not to you anyway.”
Y’all, Harry is DONE with this! And I love it so much! He remembers last year when the Ministry tried to bury his warning. He still has I must not tell lies written in scars across his hand. Scrimgeour has nothing to offer him, but he tries one last time to get information by quickly asking what Dumbledore is up to and where he goes when he leaves Hogwarts. Harry says he doesn’t know and, even if he did know, he wouldn’t tell the Ministry. He also gives Scrimgeour a warning. The last Minister tried to interfere with Dumbledore and Hogwarts and it didn’t go so well, did it. Maybe it’s best to leave Dumbledore alone.
“Well, it is clear to me that he has done a very good job on you,” said Scrimgeour, his eyes cold and hard behind his wire-rimmed glasses. “Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”
“Yeah, I am,” said Harry. “Glad we straightened that out.”
Boom! Nothing more to say!
See you next time for Chapter 17!