11. Between popping up to save Harry and taking the lead while Harry has been sidetracked by the Hallows, Ron comes into his own and lives up to his family standard. We really see what Hermione sees in Ron, especially as he overcomes his darkest fears to destroy the locket. Best Ronald Weasley ever. Grade – O.
12. The capture and escape: this began to stretch my credulity a bit. The capture was well-done, but the escape was very strange. I fully expected more of Peter Pettigrew’s help to make this happen, to meet the “life debt” from Goblet of Fire; his fate was ignoble and useless. Equally useless was Fenrir Greyback. Obviously, if you introduce him in “Half Blood Prince” you have to use him later, but this was kind of a letdown. [Aside – as I commented at SarahK’s blog, I had a dream that I’d hunted down Greyback and presented each of his fangs on a gold chain to Bill and Fleur as keepsakes; it’s sort of sad when my subconscious spits out a better plot turn than the actual book.] Obviously, Rowling needed Harry to get Griphook’s help and the wand info from Ollivander, and so on… it was a nice bonus to be able to rescue Luna and the others as well – it’s just not ringing true for me in the way the Ministry raid did. Darn it, I can’t quite figure it out, but it irks me a little. Grade – A.
13. It’s realistic that they would luck into something that was essential later (Draco’s wand), and Harry certainly makes great use out of his terrible mistake in breaking the Taboo. It also makes sense that Harry stays free so long precisely because Voldemort isn’t leading the hunt himself, and forbidding his followers to kill him when they get the chance. It makes sense that therefore they can escape Malfoy’s home with help. One of the better parts of the story dynamic is the consistency of underestimating Harry and his friends. Voldy himself calls it luck in chapter one. In fact, it’s resourcefulness and determination, and we see Harry pass these on back in “Order of the Phoenix.” Grade – E.
14. All the scenes at Bill and Fleur’s home are wonderful, from Dobby’s funeral to Harry’s deal with Griphook, and his interview with Ollivander. This is where Harry turns the corner. To his many talents he adds the initiative, of which we’ve only seen flashes so far: in many of the books Harry is nearly always reacting, either to events as they happen (as he tries to untangle them) or to his friends (as one or the other needs him or gives new information) or even to Dumbledore. He decides to stick to Dumbledore’s plan to finish off the horcruxes, but it’s much like what we saw near the end of “Half Blood Prince.” It’s the difference between being forced and moving ahead under one’s own power. It’s the difference between letting your talents bail you out and actually using them for a single aim. He has mastered himself. He doesn’t just ask questions, but knows what to ask, why to ask it… Not surprisingly, this is where both he and we realize that he actually can win. Grade – O.
15. Busting into Gringott’s: yet more daring escapes, and Death Eaters knocking down the door, and etc. etc. SEEN IT. And I hated that initial reaction to a well-written set piece, especially one so essential to the plot. My first feeling was, how many times can we do the “Harry does something desperate and foolish and barely escapes?” Then I realized why it was different – this is the first time he’s tried it since he’s turned that corner. I took a closer look and compared it to the parallel plan, breaking into the Ministry, and that’s when I saw the difference: no desperate panic. He knows how little time he’s got, sees the goblins and knows the Dark Wizards are going to arrive, and sticks it out until he gets what he’s come for and goes. Sure, Griphook screws them out of the sword (little fink), but (again) they get the goods. That brings up the score. Grade – E.
16. Hogsmeade: three cheers for Aberforth, for the true tale of Dumbledore, and for Harry passing the last test of his loyalty to and admiration for the headmaster. Two cheers for the last hidden passage into the castle. One big razz to the stupidity of Harry’s pursuers. They didn’t even search the bar? Morons. Grade – A.
17. The resistance: great to see everyone again, and to see Harry’s friends rally around him. You can see the parallel development of free allies vs. Voldy’s fear-driven masses. They are willing to face death and suffer alongside Harry, and they don't fall for Voldemort's "it's his fault you are getting killed by Death Eaters" jive. On the other hand, even the Malfoys think they're getting a bad bargain in the end. Grade – E.
18. Uhm – I know Ron’s doing that whole “fulfill your destiny” thing, and it’s really awesome, but I call total Bravo Sierra on his being able to fake Parseltongue and getting into the Chamber of Secrets for the basilisk fangs. NO WAY. Grade – T.
Shorter? Sure. But that's just a deep breath. The next hunk is the big one. Scroll up, friends!