“But He Will Have Power the Dark Lord Knows Not”
—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 841
By Pam Nail
The Locked Room
Judging from the description of the circular room in the Department of Mysteries and its twelve doors, each leading to a different room, there are twelve areas of study in this particular section of the Ministry of Magic. Rowling has written about five of them—the Brain Room, the Time Room (adjacent to which is the Hall of Prophecy), the Planet Room, the Death Chamber, and the locked room. The Department of Mysteries is presumably a place where the great mysteries of the universe, the great Life Questions, are studied by wizards known as Unspeakables. And the locked room, Dumbledore says, contains the power that is “perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there.”15 He does not specifically call it love until late in Half-Blood Prince, but readers can be certain—from his connection of that power to Harry’s heart and his concern for Sirius—that is exactly what it is.
Rowling has been hitting us over the head pretty hard with the clue stick on the idea of love and its importance, while still dangling the answer—and indeed the question—just out of our reach. Love is exceedingly important in the struggle against evil, and against Voldemort in particular. We hear this over and over in the books, but reaction to this emphasis might be characterized by Harry’s frustrated exclamation in Half-Blood Prince, “I know! I can love! […] Big deal!”16 What does it mean? How will it affect what’s coming in Deathly Hallows? Could Rowling be any more vague if she tried?
Unfortunately for eager and curious readers, there is no way to know answers to those questions at this point. The “heart of it all,”17 as Rowling once called it, is almost certainly something that we cannot guess. She has said elsewhere that “the final book contains a couple of pieces of information that I don’t think you could guess at.”18 It is reasonable to conclude that this somehow relates to the great mystery, the ultimate Question of the series. It is surely not an accident that Rowling invented a place specifically called a Department of Mysteries, a term which on one level could refer to the aforementioned “life mysteries,” but which also might evoke in some readers a connection with mystery stories, with their clues and twists. Furthermore, Rowling places in this Department of Mysteries a room that is teasingly shown to us—yet not shown to us at all, due to the characters’ inability to open it when they come across it. She has Dumbledore mention it in the traditional end-of-book lesson, which further emphasizes it. She even has him explain what is inside it, and yet even after that it seems somehow more mysterious than before. Could there be a more perfect metaphor for the last mystery of the final book?
But just because this particular mystery cannot be solved does not mean that readers should give up on it entirely. There are lots of things to keep in mind and questions to ask that could serve as a primer for the revelations to come. For one thing, Rowling has given us plenty of reason to expect to see this room again in Deathly Hallows. If love is what is in that room, and love is what Harry has that Voldemort lacks, then something about this room is practically guaranteed to play a huge part in the denouement of Deathly Hallows. It is also reasonable to expect that, having seen it once and been denied access to what is inside, it may very well open, should we see it again.
That leaves us with the questions that cannot be answered or reasoned out. How will it be opened? Does it have to be opened by a particular person? Who will open it? Will it be opened because either Harry or Voldemort (or both) goes to the Department of Mysteries? Or will someone else have to go there? Will we see it before the final conflict is resolved, suggesting that it will be a deciding factor in Voldemort’s defeat? Or will we see it after the Voldemort plot is resolved, suggesting that it will have more of an impact on the aftermath than on the battle itself? These are only a few, and likely the most general, of the questions readers could be asking themselves about this room. None of them can be answered yet, but they serve as a reminder to keep an eye out for that room, because it is exceedingly likely to crop up again in Deathly Hallows.
How Does It End?
The text of the Prophecy is clearly the foundation on which the conclusion of Harry’s journey will be built. “Neither can live while the other survives.”19 Harry’s struggle with Voldemort is the chief conflict of the entire series, and the resolution of this struggle is what readers have been anticipating since the story’s beginning. This is the payoff. However, Rowling’s emphasis on love throughout the series throws the series into a particular light and makes it a certainty that this payoff will be much more complex and emotional than we can imagine. The unfolding of the final mystery should be both joyous and heartbreaking to read. Harry Potter is ostensibly a hero’s adventure, but at its core, it is essentially a story about love.
Love—namely, a mother’s sacrificial love for her child—is what set Harry’s whole story into motion, and the theme of love permeates each book of the series. It is inevitable, therefore, that love should be what rounds out the story and brings it to its stopping place.
1. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 823.
2. Ibid., 843–44.
3. Ibid., Sorcerer’s Stone, 78.
4. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 277.
5. Ibid., “Edinburgh Book Festival.”
6. Ibid., Interview by Stephen Fry.
7. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 843.
8. Ibid., 839.
9. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 651.
10. Ibid., 535.
11. Ibid., 533.
12. Ibid., 646.
13. Ibid., “Harry Potter and Me.”
14. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 427.
15. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 843.
16. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 509.
17. Ibid., Interview by Jeremy Paxman.
18. Ibid., Evening with Harry, Carrie, and Garp.
19. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 841.
J.K. Rowling Official Site. “News: J K Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival,” 15 August 2004. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=80 (accessed 16 November 2006).
Rowling, J.K. “Harry Potter and Me” (BBC Christmas Special, British version). BBC, 28 December 2001. Transcript, Accio Quote, http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/1201-bbc-hpandme.htm (accessed 14 November 2006).
———. An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp: Readings and questions #2, 2 August 2006. Transcript, Accio Quote, http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2006/0802-radiocityreading2.html (accessed 14 November 2006).
———. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
———. Interview by Jeremy Paxman. BBC Newsnight, 19 June 2003. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0619-bbcnews-paxman.htm (accessed 14 November 2006).
———. Interview by Stephen Fry. “Harry Potter and the Magic of the Internet.” MSN.com Webcast, 26 June 2003. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0626-alberthall-fry.htm (accessed 14 November 2006).