Hogwarts, a Future?
By Ann Skinner
Tucked away in the remote reaches of the Scottish Highlands, there is a castle that is nestled by lake and forest, hidden from prying Muggle eyes as an unsafe ruin to be avoided. This fortress is actually a school created over a thousand years ago by four wizards who wished to provide a location for the children of their society to acquire necessary skills in the magical arts.
Hogwarts is described as “a vast castle with many turrets and towers.”1 It is a confusing place to get to know:
There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn’t open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren’t really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where everything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot.2
There are portraits that move, armor that sings, a magic ceiling that shows the sky outside, ghosts and a poltergeist. J.K. Rowling has said of the school: “[Hogwarts is] a huge, rambling, quite scary-looking castle, with a jumble of towers and battlements. Like the Weasley’s house, it isn’t a building that Muggles could build, because it is supported by magic.”3 The presence of plumbing in a building that was created in the Middle Ages is one indicator that changes have taken place over the years, some of which were likely made to accommodate increasing populations and advances in programming. It is probable that over time Hogwarts has magically added wings and stories, rooms and passageways, and other mysterious quirks.
This enchanting place has been home to Harry as he learns what it is to be a part of the wizarding community, and the uniqueness of its make-up gives it a personality that makes it feel like one of the characters of the series. Hogwarts has been such a central feature of each of the six books so far in the series that it is hard to imagine it not playing an important role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
A School No More?
Yet at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he will not be returning to school, that he will be off hunting the Horcruxes. Does this mean that we will not be seeing Hogwarts in the final book of the series? Let’s explore the clues we have that indicate different possibilities. Each of the books in the series up to this point has followed the same basic structure: they open near Harry’s birthday at the end of July, move on to events that round out the summer, at which point Harry returns for a full year of classes at Hogwarts and the adventures that await him there, finishing off with a return on the train back to the Muggle world. It has been a consistent theme that Harry’s journey is primarily set in the wizarding school. The end of Half-Blood Prince introduces a change, however. Harry does not end the story by traveling home on the Hogwarts Express, and the fate of the school is up in the air. After Dumbledore’s death, Professor McGonagall calls the teachers together to discuss the fate of the school, and a decision is made to consult the governors about its reopening the following year. We have yet to hear what the governors’ views on this are—will they feel that it is too risky to allow the students to return, especially with Dumbledore gone, or will they decide that keeping the school open is an important show of strength, an unwillingness to give in to the terrorism being spread by Lord Voldemort?
We have some indication that the governors will decide to reopen the school. In an interview in 2005, J.K. Rowling was asked “Every year since Harry has been to Hogwarts the defence against the dark arts teacher has left Hogwarts or died every year. Does that mean that something will stop Snape from being the defence against the dark arts in book 7?” to which she replied “Yes. I really can’t say more than that. That is because one of those questions that is a very good question and everyone would like to know the answer but it gives a lot away. There must obviously be a new one.”4 Note that she was not asked specifically if there would be a seventh Defense against the Dark Arts (DADA) teacher, but rather if Snape would fulfill the role in the next year. Her reply could have simply addressed the fact that Snape would no longer be teaching, but instead she tells us that there must be a new DADA teacher. This seems to suggest that the school will be open for coursework. In 2005, Katie Couric reported that Rowling said that “she will savor her final journey aboard the Hogwarts Express,” 5 which also seems to point to the school reopening with students making the traditional journey back to the school on the train.
Will Harry be at the school in his seventh year? Other than four isolated chapters in the entire series, the books have all been written from Harry’s point of view. In order for the school to truly play a role in the final book it seems necessary for Harry to return to Hogwarts, at least temporarily. Rowling has provided us with a hint that he will in fact spend some time there in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Back in 1999, she said
As I imagine it, there will be seven years at wizard’s school, then Harry is a fully qualified wizard and it is then that he’s allowed to use magic outside school. So, you’ll see him into his final year at Hogwarts.6
If Rowling’s plan has held true since then, she will be bringing Harry back to school, at least for part of the next book. This is apparently at odds with what Harry said about not returning, so it seems that there would need to be a reason that would prompt Harry to return to Hogwarts. What will draw him back, when he is feeling the need to focus on Horcruxes instead?
Several possibilities could change Harry’s mind. Dumbledore seems to have been preparing for the possibility that he would no longer be in Harry’s life, as seen in part by the conversation that he has with the Dursleys at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince. He seems to want to assure Harry’s ability to return to Privet Drive, anticipating that he, Dumbledore, would not be around the following summer to make sure that it happens. This may not have been the only preparation the headmaster made in the event he would be gone. If he believes he will not be around to watch over and guide Harry, it seems likely that he would leave a letter or some other communication for Harry. In fact, we have seen Dumbledore rely on letters to guide Harry’s path in the past, first in the letter he leaves with baby Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep, and later in the Howler in which he admonishes Petunia to “Remember my last, Petunia.”7 Could this method of communication also be used to request that Harry return to Hogwarts? It is possible that Dumbledore feels that Hogwarts is the best place for Harry to be while conducting his Horcrux hunt, or that it will offer him needed protection once the protection on Privet Drive ends on his seventeenth birthday.
In addition to Dumbledore, there are other people who may feel strongly about the importance of Harry returning to school—Molly thinks of him as a seventh son and is concerned with both his welfare and his schooling and will surely try to talk him into returning. Molly was not ready for the twins to join the Order even though they had come of age, and instead insisted on them returning to school. She is likely to feel that Harry, Ron, and Hermione are still children that need to complete their educations, no matter what is going on in the wider Wizarding world. Minerva McGonagall is very interested in Harry’s activities with Dumbledore at the end of Half-Blood Prince, and also allows him to stay and participate in the discussion about the fate of the school and the students. She has been his Head of House for the six years he has been at Hogwarts and was there the night that he was dropped off at the Dursleys. Would she choose to try to persuade Harry to return to the school? At this point in time, neither Molly nor Minerva know of the Horcruxes. Even if they were to learn of their existence, however, it seems likely that both would prefer to see Harry and his companions return to Hogwarts for their final year of school.
Another possibility that exists is one that is not a request from a friend or ally, but rather external influences that affect Harry’s choices, influences surrounding Lord Voldemort. It is unlikely that he has lost interest in Harry, and he may become suspicious if Harry leaves school. Dumbledore is careful to caution Harry on more than one occasion to keep the hunt for the Horcruxes secret from all but Ron and Hermione. Harry would not want to give his intentions away now by leaving school. Acting as if he is attending school as usual may be the most effective way of hunting Horcruxes without arousing suspicion. Lord Voldemort may also act in a way that drives Harry back to the school—more on that a bit later.