Hogwarts, a Future?
By Ann Skinner
Changes at the School
If the school reopens in the coming year, changes in the staff will be necessary. With Dumbledore dead and Snape fled from the school, there are two important posts left vacant. Unlike Umbridge, whom the school barred from the headmaster’s office when she attempted to usurp his position, Hogwarts seems to recognize Professor McGonagall as the rightful headmistress, allowing her access to Dumbledore’s old office. Will the Ministry and the governors of the school also recognize her for this position, or will they once again impose a Ministry member on the school? If McGonagall does move into this new role, it will leave both the Transfiguration teaching job as well as the Head of Gryffindor House open. Similarly, Snape’s departure has once again left the Defense against the Dark Arts teaching position open, and Slytherin is lacking a Head of House. The personnel that McGonagall calls to the office at the end of Half-Blood Prince to discuss the future of the school may provide a hint for at least two of these positions. Hagrid was a member of Gryffindor House during his years at Hogwarts.8 Rowling has told us that the Heads of Houses were all former members of those Houses9, and the fact that McGonagall calls Hagrid in to discuss the fate of the school may suggest that she has confidence in him, and would consider appointing Hagrid to replace her as Head of Gryffindor. Professor Slughorn has previously acted as Head of Slytherin, and may agree to once again become Head of his old House. Filling the open teaching positions may prove to be more difficult, and there is little in the way of canon clues to suggest who will take over these two positions.
Another unknown is whether the teachers will have anyone to teach when the school reopens. Hagrid believes “Gringotts is the safest place in the world fer anything yeh want ter keep safe—‘cept maybe Hogwarts.”10 Yet many parents rushed their children away from Hogwarts following Dumbledore’s death and may no longer feel that it is safe to send them back to a place that has been invaded by evil and death. Is the school still a place with many protections in place now that its most powerful protection, Dumbledore, is gone? It is likely that there is no place in the wizarding world that is truly safe from Lord Voldemort’s reach. As Professor Sprout states, “I feel that if a single pupil wants to come, then the school ought to remain open for that pupil.”11 It will be interesting to see just how many pupils are there for her to instruct.
“Oh, know the perils, read the signs,”12
If Hogwarts continues to play the role of central backdrop that it has throughout the series, it raises the question: What will happen at the school during the seventh year? There are several possibilities that are suggested by what we have learned over the years of sharing Harry’s time at this magical castle. Most of these center around Voldemort’s plans. We learn in Half-Blood Prince that Voldemort has tried twice to return to Hogwarts as a teacher, first with the former Headmaster, Armando Dippet, and again more than ten years later, with Albus Dumbledore. He goes to see Dumbledore, asking for the teaching position. Dumbledore’s response is telling: “Oh, you want to come back to Hogwarts, but you do not want to teach any more than you wanted to when you were eighteen. What is it you’re after, Tom? Why not try an open request for once?”13 Voldemort, of course, does not reveal his true desires, but we hear from Dumbledore some of the reasons he believes that Voldemort is interested in returning:
Firstly, and very importantly, Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the first and only place he had felt at home…Secondly, the castle is a stronghold of ancient magic. Undoubtedly, Voldemort had penetrated many more of its secrets than most of the students who pass through the place, but he may have felt that there were still mysteries to unravel, stores of magic to tap…And thirdly, as a teacher, he would have had great power and influence over young witches and wizards…I do not imagine for an instant that Voldemort envisaged spending the rest of his life at Hogwarts, but I do think that he saw it as a useful recruiting ground, and a place where he might begin to build himself an army.14
Here are three striking reasons to believe that Voldemort may still be interested in returning to Hogwarts. While he may no longer maintain the pretense of wishing to come back to teach, his real reasons for wanting to return remain valid. As the sole remaining heir of Salazar Slytherin, he may view the school as his natural birthright. Now that Dumbledore has been removed, Voldemort could be seeing his way clear to return to one of the only places he has ever considered home.
The second reason, the fact that the school is a place of vast magical secrets, points back to one of the aspects of Hogwarts that Voldemort has already penetrated—the Chamber of Secrets. It is interesting to note that this Chamber is not referred to in the singular, but rather that it is a chamber that holds multiple secrets. Tom Riddle, while still a student at Hogwarts, was able to discover this Chamber and connect it with the basilisk that his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, had left there. Are there other secrets that he found and wishes to return to exploit, or new discoveries he feels await him? Part of Tom’s connection to the Chamber also involves his creation of what was probably his first Horcrux, the diary that Harry destroys within this Chamber itself. Additionally, Tom may have created another Horcrux during his days at Hogwarts, as he was already gathering treasures to use for this purpose, as seen by his theft of Marvolo’s ring while still at school. While the ring was not left behind, it is possible that something else was. In the same memory where we see the ring, we learn that Tom is interested in creating six Horcruxes, in order to split his soul into the magically powerful number of seven. Is it possible that he created yet another Horcrux while still a student, and that it still resides within the walls of the castle? There are many locations within the walls of Hogwarts where such a creation could be housed. Likely places range from the Chamber already mentioned, to Dumbledore’s office, to the trophy room, to the Room of Requirement, which we last see in person when Harry marks the hiding place of the Half-Blood Prince’s potion book with the chipped bust of an ugly old warlock, a dusty wig, and a tarnished tiara – an object that has raised interest as a potential Horcrux. The form that this ever-changing room takes upon the last visit of Harry’s is striking in its description:
He was standing in a room the size of a large cathedral, whose high windows were sending shafts of light down upon what looked like a city with towering walls, built of what Harry knew must be objects hidden by generations of Hogwarts inhabitants. …Harry hurried forward into one of the many alleyways between all this hidden treasure.15
Could Voldemort be seeking to retrieve or obtain one of the treasures hidden within this mysterious room?
The third reason that Dumbledore mentions to Harry is Voldemort’s wish to use the school as a recruiting center, a place to build an army. We know that he has already begun to build this army, as we learn from the conversation between Fudge and the Muggle Prime Minister. However, if the students do return to the school, they are a potential source of expanded influence and power. As we learn in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, there is another school whose students are being influenced by darker forces. Durmstrang was run by a headmaster who was a Death Eater, and the students within his school were taught the Dark Arts as part of their curriculum. Voldemort may have visions of moving forward with a similar plan at Hogwarts, thus cementing his influence for the future as well as the present.