Today’s libraries organise and provide to patrons not only books, but also magazines, newspapers, videos, DVDs, access to the Internet, and various online databases. Your local librarian may advise about Internet use, dabble with USBs, iPods, blogs, wikis, and much else, as well as training clients in how to find information through the library catalogue or online databases. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were frequent users of Hogwarts library, not only to complete the homework they had to do, but also to research their problems. Would the trio have agreed that Muggle librarians, as a rule, would be much easier to consult than the ferocious and unhelpful Madame Pince? Or had they unwittingly discovered something important about information retrieval, without Madame Pince’s help, that real-life students could find useful?
Throughout their adventures, especially in searching out and destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes, the trio does follow many of the steps a librarian could have advised them to take in solving their problems, completing their tasks successfully, and using the resources available to them in Hogwarts library and elsewhere, thus showing their competence at the sort of research demanded of real life students. The problem must first be defined, and then the research can begin. The steps of research are: (1) gathering information, (2) checking the reliability of sources, (3) sifting through the facts to find out which ones shed light on the problem, (4) planning what strategy to use, (5) ensuring the researcher has the full story, (6) determining what is the best information, and (7) applying that information to solving the problem at hand.
Why, Then, Is Hogwarts’ Library Important?
Wizards or not, ordinary people do follow such steps, whether finding a suitable plumber, researching information for a university research paper, or uncovering who Nicholas Flamel is. And even though they might be wizards, Hogwarts students still need access to a great array of extra information, in addition to their normal textbooks, merely to understand their lessons and complete assignments. As well, Ron, Hermione, and Harry perpetually use whatever resources are available in the Hogwarts library for numerous extra-curricular interests, such as to identify the Chamber of Secrets and the monster within it, to research ways to save Buckbeak, to succeed at the Triwizard Tournament tasks, or, finally, to find out who R.A.B is and what Horcruxes are and how they can be destroyed.
Because school textbooks are not sufficient for complete research, Hermione and her two friends are compelled to hunt the library for answers. Well might J.K. Rowling apologise for Madame Pince when attending last year’s Harry, Carrie, and Garp event in New York. She said:
I thought you were going to attack me for Madam Pince and I would like to apologize for you and any other librarians (crowd laughs) present here today and my get-out clause is always if they’d had a pleasant, helpful librarian, half my plots would be gone. ’Cause the answer invariably is in a book but Hermione has to go and find it. If they’d had a good librarian, that would have been that problem solved. So, sorry.1
And the answer, as Jo mentioned, is invariably in a book. Often enough, throughout the books, the trio’s main problems are simply to keep abreast of their quite extensive homework and to pass their OWLs. But repeatedly, like real-life librarians and researchers, Harry, Ron, and Hermione need to consult Hogwarts library – and other sources – to find out information about other matters. In following their story, students can learn much about what steps to undertake while researching.
Defining the Problem
Albus Dumbledore defines Harry’s main problem throughout the series of seven books. Harry unexpectedly survives Voldemort’s murder of his parents, and consequently his aunt and uncle are most reluctantly obliged to house him for his own protection. When he eventually arrives at Hogwarts, Harry finds that he is famous for defeating this Dark wizard. However, he also finds that such fame is a double-edged sword, which neither protects him against animosity nor guarantees him fair rewards for hard work, especially as the Dark Lord plots his regeneration to coincide with the ending of the Triwizard Tournament. Voldemort survived the rebounded Killing Curse, thanks to the seven Horcruxes he made, trophies made evil by encasing bits of his soul, ripped from himself by murders he committed. Harry’s destiny, as the child mentioned in a prophecy, is to defeat this Dark wizard, if he can.
Step One: Gathering Information
Harry’s adventures start at Number Four Privet Drive in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when his first Hogwarts letter prompts the horrified Dursleys to allow him a room to himself, previously Dudley’s playroom. There, he finds, “other shelves were full of books. They were the only things in the room that looked as though they had never been touched.” 2
What a difference to the trio’s thorough use of books, whether library books like Notable Magical Names of Our Time3 or textbooks like Arsenius Jigger’s Magical Drafts and Potions,4 which Severus Snape expects Harry to have digested before his first Potions lesson at Hogwarts! Surely Dudley’s own unread books are a valuable resource which, if consulted, would be a useful contribution to anyone’s future school success?
When Hagrid sweeps Harry away to acquire his school items, he also retrieves a package from a Gringott’s vault. Barely hours later, as Harry learns from a newspaper article, someone breaks into Gringotts to steal that package. Much of the story of the Philosopher’s Stone concerns what the Stone is, why it has been transferred to Hogwarts, what its association with Nicholas Flamel, a historic figure, is, and how Flamel is connected to Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ headmaster.
But seek as they might, the trio cannot readily find information identifying Nicholas Flamel or what he is famous for in the library collection, even in the Restricted Section, which contains books that scream if touched. Yet during a midnight visit to the library Harry comes across the Mirror of Erised, where the Philosopher’s Stone is later hidden. The necessary information is eventually found on the back of a chocolate frog card featuring Dumbledore, which allows Hermione to trace Nicholas Flamel in a heavy tome she has borrowed from the library “for a bit of light reading.” 5 But those midnight adventures with the Mirror of Erised also give Harry valuable insights into how to stop Quirrell’s attempts to get the Philosopher’s Stone.
After all, surviving the maze to stop the Philosopher’s Stone being stolen involves other resources besides library items. Hagrid inadvertently reveals what would quiet Fluffy, the three-headed dog who guards the Hogwarts corridor which leads to the Philosopher’s Stone. In addition, Hermione’s studious habits, Harry’s talents as a Quidditch seeker, and Ron’s chess abilities help them to traverse the maze only to find that Voldemort, on the back of Quirrell’s head, was the culprit trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone.
Step Two: Checking the Reliability of Sources
Information comes in all sorts of ways. Eyewitness accounts of events are often good primary sources, like Aragog’s vouching for Hagrid’s innocence, or what information Moaning Myrtle can reveal about the Heir of Slytherin. Additionally, without the logs, diaries, and autobiographies of famous explorers, much of world history would remain unknown. Gilderoy Lockhart’s autobiographical bestiaries, like Wanderings with Werewolves, should have been just as informative as these interviews, or as helpful as his volume of household hints that Molly Weasley still refers to three years later.6
But diaries and autobiographies can be deceptive, not for what they contain, but for what they omit. Like ancient kings who left accounts of their victories, while glossing over defeats, writers like Gilderoy Lockhart only advertise what they want the world to see and believe, while hiding the truth, which, in this case, is claiming credit for other people’s achievements and memories, passing them off as his own in his books. Nor is he the only one to use memory charms, to claim credit or to deflect blame, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Tellingly, the diary Lucius Malfoy puts amongst Ginny’s school books in Flourish and Blotts is the first of Tom Riddle’s Horcruxes for Harry to deal with, and the one which proves the existence of others.
When Ginny picks up this seemingly unused second hand diary, she at first thinks she has “a friend [she] can carry round in [her] pocket,” 7 to which she can confide her loneliness and troubles as a new student at Hogwarts, with teasing older brothers, one of whom is an intimidating school prefect.8 But the diary is dangerous, containing a piece of Tom Riddle’s soul, which talks back to Ginny, possessing her to open the Chamber of Secrets, to control the basilisk, and to drain the life out of her for its own ends.
If some books can be a problem, then others help to even the balance. Most Potente Potions,9 borrowed from the Restricted Section of the library, gives the right information to brew the Polyjuice Potion which enables Harry and Ron to spy on Draco in the Slytherin common room, whilst researching the Chamber of Secrets. Then there is Hermione’s scrap of paper,10 torn from a library tome, which reveals what the basilisk is, how everyone has been petrified, and how it is getting about.
These are the crucial pieces of information which allow Harry to rescue Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets, slay the basilisk, and destroy the Diarycrux with the help of Gryffindor’s sword, the Sorting Hat, and Fawkes. Furthermore, access to Polyjuice Potion is a useful aid in the four last books. Answering a question on it ensures that Harry passes his Potions OWLs, and without a supply of it, neither the Locketcrux nor the Cupcrux would have been retrieved.
But it must be emphasized that while valuable information can come from many different sources, it still pays to check the reliability of each source thoroughly, especially for author bias. Gilderoy Lockhart’s six companion books to Wandering with Werewolves,11 the probable source of the “Wagga Wagga Werewolf” 12 incident which Harry reenacted in class do not make the incident any more likely to have occurred, nor does the knowledge that Wagga Wagga is actually a real-life Australian city13 prove that Gilderoy ever visited it, despite the nearby town called “Lockhart.” 14
Step Three: Carefully Sifting Through the Facts
Who would link the allegedly Harry-hunting Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban, reported in the Daily Prophet, with a copy of a news item reporting the holiday in Egypt the lucky Weasleys had taken with the proceeds of a lottery win? Harry receives this newspaper cutting with his birthday gifts. Now, the Daily Prophet is the main source of news throughout the series, reporting the attempted theft of the Philosopher’s Stone, the sightings of a stray Ford Anglia flying over Norfolk and Peebles, and the subsequent fine imposed on Arthur Weasley, recounted gleefully by Draco a year earlier. However, even reliable news accounts can suppress or ignore the truth. Fudge, the Minister of Magic, suppresses Harry’s expected punishment for blowing up his Aunt Marge. Nor are government sources prepared to believe in the innocence of Buckbeak, on trial due to injuring Draco Malfoy in a Care of Magical Creatures class.
Defending Buckbeak’s case entails the trio consulting many library books, such as The Handbook of Hippogriff Psychology and Fowl or Foul? A Study of Hippogriff Brutality,15 to find legal precedents. Perhaps Fudge might be impressed by the efforts that Hermione, in particular, puts into the research for Buckbeak’s release, despite her own heavy workload. Why else would Fudge, being aware that Hagrid would not be able to testify at Buckbeak’s trial without help, assume that Harry had access to or knowledge of reports of such trials when he tells Harry the following year, “You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago! You could have found those names in old reports of the trials.” 16
After all, is there any other cogent reason other than Buckbeak’s trial and helping Hagrid why Harry, Ron, and Hermione would want to research any law books, trials or anything similarly legal which might have been stored in Hogwarts’ school library? Or is there any part of even Hermione’s already overly full school curriculum which would have required the library to store such material for student use?
However, not all useful facts are in books. Shopkeepers like Florean Fortescue, who regaled Harry with ice-cream sundaes while helping with facts Harry could use in his History of Magic homework, the assistant at the Magical Menagerie’ who advised Ron on Scabbers’ welfare, or the very knowledgeable and understanding Remus Lupin, who referred to his lycanthropic condition as “a furry little problem,” 17 all assist Harry. He needs help in solving not only the mysteries of who the Prisoner of Azkaban is and his relationship with Harry’s betrayed parents, but also in dealing with the dementors and boggarts which had threatened to make Harry’s year so miserable. Overheard conversations, like the argument Mr and Mrs Weasley had in the Leaky Cauldron, or Fudge’s meeting with Hagrid and Professors McGonagall and Flitwick in the Three Broomsticks, reveal much about Harry’s own connections with the mysterious Prisoner of Azkaban, whose escape is an added reason why Harry cannot visit Hogsmeade with his schoolmates and whose nickname is one of four which appear on the Marauder’s Map, which Fred and George give Harry.
This Marauder’s Map introduces Harry to a new way of seeing his father’s friends who wrote it and supplies a valuable aid to the rest of his school career, while Hermione’s Time Turner, so useful for keeping abreast of a busy study routine, also permits Harry and Hermione to save two innocent lives. Even Harry’s witnessing Professor Trelawney’s second true prophecy suggests that more vital information about his destiny to defeat Voldemort could be forthcoming.
As in real life research, all these scraps of information, viewed separately, contain some truth but not the full picture. Only when pieced together and combined with the testimonies of the remaining Marauders, is Sirius Black’s innocence revealed, along with the revelation that the traitor is the still-extant Peter Pettigrew, disguised as Scabbers. But even then, nobody knows for years that much of the antagonism between James Potter and Severus Snape had been due to their continuing rivalry and love of Lily Evans, and what a momentous role it played in the deaths of Harry’s parents, and Snape’s subsequent role at Hogwarts, right up to his own death.18
Step Four: Planning Which Strategy is Necessary to Succeed
At first sight, seekers of information might assume that strategy belongs on the Quidditch pitch. On the other hand, researching techniques like defining a problem, gathering information, checking its reliability, and piecing together the clues have as much to do with sports as they do research. Just as well that “Moody” can help with a plan for the first Triwizard Task, because, try as they might, once the first task is defined as getting past dragons, Hermione and Harry can come up with no better strategy than summoning Harry’s broom to collect his golden dragon’s egg, despite the mountains of books which inhabit the Hogwarts library.
However, a well-placed and relevant book reference could have done wonders with the second task. Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties19 has all the information Harry needs about gillyweed and is given to Neville by “Moody.” Strangely, neither Hermione nor Ron knows anything about the bubble-head charm, which Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacourt use to great effect in the second Triwizard task. Might not the bubble bath bubbles have given Harry a clue as to how he could survive underwater for an hour? What is happening that the trio cannot find information about this particular useful charm in the Hogwarts library? Have other champions already borrowed any relevant information, while Harry wastes time in being too proud to take Cedric’s hint?
Fortunately, Harry is much better prepared for the final task. Hermione’s research has unearthed many spells which, with much practice, will prove handy in that third task, though later Harry is to say it was the Expelliarmus spell he learned from the Chamber of Secrets dueling club, which saves his life20 from Voldemort’s attempt on it. At the end of the third task, reaching the Triwizard cup unexpectedly delivers both Harry and Cedric to the graveyard where Voldemort’s rebirthing is to take place and where Cedric is killed. There, Harry finds out exactly why it is advisable to prepare his own strategy for success, letting nothing stand in his way. For Voldemort has already made elaborate plans for Harry’s death, to take place near Midsummer.
Meanwhile, why does Harry’s name get into the Goblet of Fire, anyway? It certainly isn’t out of a liking for him, since “Moody” is a dangerous Death Eater, Barty Crouch, Jr., disguised with Polyjuice Potion. The immediate result is to estrange Harry from Ron, exposing him not only to school opprobrium, fanned by a Slytherin-led campaign to discredit him, but also to Rita Skeeter’s style of reporting. This Daily Prophet reporter, who makes a living from clever use of innuendo, criticism and gossip, readily adopts a poisonous media campaign to discredit Harry’s friends as well as himself, which by the third task has largely succeeded. Well might Hermione take out a subscription for the Daily Prophet, to “know what the enemy is saying,” 21 or revisit the library’s Animagus register to discover how Rita is listening in on people’s conversations.
Like many students in their last years of school, Harry finds that he has been given no choice about competing against more mature, better prepared candidates in a tournament, where the competition will have a plan, even if he doesn’t. Though the prize in the end might be a poisoned chalice, there will be no release, merely elimination if he fails to do the best he can. “Moody” was right to tell Harry to play to his strengths, and to organise his plans accordingly, not procrastinating to the last minute before deciding what to do, and making every effort to be prepared for the unexpected or what could go wrong.
For everything does go wrong during the Third Task, even for Voldemort. Although he disregards the dangers of using Harry’s blood,22 Voldemort’s grand plan to regenerate himself does succeed in the short term. But the unexpected “Priori Incantatem” 23 effect, caused by brother wands being unable to fight against each other, allows Harry to escape back to Hogwarts with Cedric’s body to warn of what has taken place. However, the Death Eaters who witnessed the event would deny Voldemort’s arrival to Fudge, who disbelieves any need for Dumbledore’s plans to combat Voldemort, thanks to Rita’s articles and despite Barty Crouch’s impersonation of Moody being unmasked.
Step Five: Ensuring the Researcher Has the Full Story
Hermione’s capture of Rita in bug form does lead eventually to Rita’s writing an article informing the wizarding world what really happened at Voldemort’s rebirthing, but it does not at first halt the Daily Prophet’s campaign against Harry’s allegations about Voldemort and the Triwizard contest. Cursory reading of the newspaper might not reveal government hostility, but careful examination shows how Harry is being traduced and Dumbledore is steadily being removed from his influential positions. A cleverer student than Harry might realize that Fudge blames Hogwarts’ education for Cedric’s death, and so appoints Dolores Umbridge as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, armed with Wilbert Slinkhard’s Defensive Magical Theory,24 a study in disinformation which fails to teach the competencies OWLs level students would need to master. Yet Umbridge is also to become High Inquisitor, then headmistress.
Like conscientious students who feel they need more information about what they are dealing with, Harry, Hermione, and Ron form their own study group with like-minded students to reach the standard they need to achieve. This group, calling itself Dumbledore’s Army, meets in the Room of Requirement, which, much to Hermione’s satisfaction, is suitably furnished, not only with cushions, whistles, dark detectors and much else, but also books, including The Dark Arts Outsmarted, Jinxes for the Jinxed, and Self-Defensive Spellwork.25 In addition, Sirius and Lupin’s Christmas present to Harry, Practical Defensive Magic and Its Use Against the Dark Arts,26 supports the D.A. idea. Yet the library remains a useful gathering place for study after Marietta’s betrayal of the D.A., despite Madame Pince’s objections to anyone eating chocolate there.27 Who knows, if Harry offered some to this underfed librarian, would Madame Pince have been a more of a help to students in acquiring needed information withheld elsewhere?
While Umbridge’s sadistic ideas of “giving lines” 28 scars Harry permanently, her treatment of other teachers, including Professor Trelawney and even Dumbledore himself, shows her aim is to undermine school functions, purging it of what she considers undesirable elements, such as Hagrid, who has giant ancestry, or Harry, whom she regards as a criminal with no place in wizarding society, regardless of what grades he might achieve in the all-important OWLs exams or what career he might hope to follow. It is easy to recognize in Umbridge a classical dictator, who discourages any questions or dissent, locks off any communication from the school, except for her own office, and whose big picture is of herself in charge of every aspect of school life or research, including what answers are permitted in class or school assignments.
But Umbridge’s censorship is not Harry’s only difficulty. He is having Voldemort-inspired dreams, headaches and episodes which allow him insight into what is happening, notably the attack on Ron’s father at the Ministry. Why then does Harry not practice the Occlumency lessons, which Snape has been teaching him under the guise of remedial Potions, to ward off such intrusions? The extra lessons Harry and the D.A. have undertaken pay dividends; D.A. members pass their Defence Against the Dark Arts OWLs, unlike Crabbe and Goyle.29 But Harry’s failure to master Occlumency and to appreciate why he needed to learn the subject leaves him open to Voldemort’s trickery. In that way, Harry falls for going to his godfather’s rescue in the Department of Mysteries. Voldemort wants Harry to retrieve the full record of a prophecy which applies to both of them, and of which Voldemort has only heard the part he acted on, when he killed Harry’s parents.
This adventure puts not only Harry, but also Neville, Ginny, Luna, Hermione, and Ron, who accompany Harry to the Department of Mysteries, in great danger from the Death Eater onslaught awaiting them there. Despite their extra D.A. training they barely survive until the Order of the Phoenix arrives, with them Sirius, who is then killed. It is small comfort to Harry afterwards that Voldemort has been revealed to Fudge, who is forced to admit the truth, or that the Death Eaters except for Bellatrix have been imprisoned, and that Voldemort never gets to see the full prophecy which was smashed in the Department of Mysteries. After all, had Harry chosen to act less impulsively, Sirius might have survived. Had Dumbledore informed Harry about his destiny earlier, or had Harry practiced Occlumency as diligently as he trained his fellow D.A. members, he might never have been tempted to go to the Department of Mysteries in such a badly-informed way.
Step Six: Determining the Best Information
Dumbledore has promised to tell Harry everything he knows, from the contents of the prophecy to why Harry lived with the Dursleys. Unlike Harry’s foray into Snape’s worst memory, Harry’s experiences with the Pensieve in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince are conducted at Dumbledore’s invitation,30 with himself as mentor and guide. The method of informing Harry of the nature of the villain he faces is by examining memories Dumbledore has accumulated, and these are almost like episodes in an interactive Muggle TV serial, or like videorecordings of the life and times of one Tom Riddle, before he became Lord Voldemort. The most crucial memory for Harry’s strategy to defeat Voldemort has been tampered with, and so Harry is assigned the task of recovering an undamaged copy of it from the new Potions master, Slughorn.
This memory contains the number of Horcruxes Tom Riddle made, as neither his diary’s destruction nor that of Marvolo’s ring, another Horcrux, has halted Voldemort’s progress. Even the fake locket retrieved from the cave the night Dumbledore was killed testified that someone else, the mysterious R.A.B., hoped to destroy a third Horcrux. To assist Harry, Hermione does seek any information the library might have about Horcruxes. However, they are considered such an evil that Dumbledore withdrew the most useful library information to his own study. It takes a really lucky break to coax the damaged memory from Slughorn at Aragog’s burial. Though, if Harry had been less distracted by spying on Draco to find out what he was doing or by dreaming of Ginny, he might have succeeded sooner.
That lucky break in getting the memory was inspired by a bottle of “Felix Felicis” 31 Harry wins for his good performance in making the Draught of Living Death,32 thanks to his borrowed and written over copy of Libatius Borage’s Advanced Potion-Making33 previously owned by someone called the Half-Blood Prince, which helps Harry to achieve good results in potions that year. Hermione, who follows exactly the instructions in her brand-new version, and who thinks using such annotations is tantamount to cheating, resents being outshone in that way. Yet, a good researcher might reflect that if ever a book needed a thoroughly updated second edition, it is this one, which had remained unaltered since its original 1946 publication. Nevertheless, it still is a risk to take those alterations on face value, without knowing who wrote them, on what basis, or why the altered results worked better than the original instructions. Moreover, the unknown person added in a number of useful, but not always well-meaning spells which Harry can’t resist trying, without considering how dangerous they can be, or more importantly, what they do, and if the unknown person has supplied the counter spell or antidote.
Responding to a Cruciatus Curse attempted on him, Harry finds out too late that one of these spells, the Sectumsempra curse, could have killed Draco if it weren’t for Snape’s intervention. How odd that the Half-Blood Prince should turn out to be Severus Snape, himself, the son of Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape, a Muggle, as Hermione discovers from old newspaper files in the library. More strangely, when Harry conceals this book in the Room of Requirement, he unwittingly finds not only the Vanishing Cabinet Draco has been mending there all year but also the lost diadem of Ravenclaw, another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
What would Hermione say if she knew then that Draco Malfoy, of all people, has been adopting some of her own clever ideas to his own uses? Voldemort has given Draco the mission to kill Dumbledore, but it is the D.A.’s use of the Room of Requirement which suggests not only a peaceful place to work on the Vanishing Cabinet, guarded by Crabbe and Goyle disguised with Polyjuice Potion, but also a way to get Death Eaters into Hogwarts, including the repulsively predatory Fenrir Greyback. For all of Draco’s prejudices, it seems that Hermione’s ideas were the best information that he could find to help him complete his own mission.
Harry returns to Hogwarts with a dangerously ill Dumbledore, after they visit a cave where Voldemort once took two fellow orphans and where he may have hidden one of his horcruxes, only to find that Draco disarms Dumbledore, who then is killed by Snape. But just as the locket retrieved from the cave is a fake, planted by R.A.B, all is not what it seems when Snape delivers the fatal blow. Is Snape really the trusted Voldemort supporter he appears to be? Could Dumbledore, buried with full honours at Hogwarts, having apprised Harry of what he needed to do, have also behaved as deviously as did Gilderoy Lockhart in claiming to have defeated the Wagga Wagga Werewolf in his book, Wandering with Werewolves?
Step Seven: Applying the Plan
As the trio packs for their own quest, agreed upon at Dumbledore’s funeral,34 Hermione sifts through so many valued books that Ron observes, “Oh, of course. I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.” 35 Somehow, necessary personal books and school texts, like Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them join Hermione’s Spellman’s Syllabary,36 the information describing Horcruxes and how to destroy them which Hermione had Summoned out of Dumbledore’s office after his funeral,37and Dumbledore’s bequest to her, his volume of The Tales of Beedle the Bard 38 all “stacked by subject.” 39 This literary expedition is as well-informed and organised as any researcher could expect, and yet, within months, Hermione still needs to visit a library in their travels to discover where Tom Riddle’s orphanage is and what happened to it.40
Hermione takes other items as well as books, such as Perkins’ tent from the Quidditch World Cup, Extendable Ears, and others of Fred and George’s products, as well as Harry’s indispensable Invisibility Cloak, all packed away in an impossibly dainty little beaded handbag, taken to Bill and Fleur’s wedding, from which they escape when the Ministry of Magic falls to Voldemort and his lieutenant, Yaxley. Even when camping in the forest, the trio are equipped with Phineas Nigellus’s useful portrait which hung in Grimmauld Place and also a plentiful supply of Polyjuice Potion, so useful to extract firstly the Locketcrux from its eventual holder, Dolores Umbridge, and then the Cupcrux from the Lestrange vault at Gringotts. Perhaps a real life explorer like Charles Sturt,41 who sailed down the Murrumbidgee River to Wagga Wagga in 1829, was no better supplied, despite horses, helpers and baggage trains, though, like Harry, Ron and Hermione, getting enough to eat would have often been as much of a problem, as would the need to avoid quarrels, such as with Ron, or the well-meaning Lupin, whom Harry sends back to his wife and unborn child.
Their wanderings are dangerous right from the beginning. Harry is Undesirable No. 1 throughout their adventures together, whilst Hermione is also at risk because of the Muggle Registration Board’s determination to persecute “Mudbloods.” 42 At Godric’s Hollow, Harry and Hermione face alone the horrors of Bathilda’s secret, a confrontation with Nagini and Voldemort himself, where Harry’s own wand is broken. The trio face imprisonment and torture at Malfoy Manor as well as the deaths of valued friends. Luckily, Voldemort has been distracted for months as he seeks out the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world, which has had a terrible history as one of the three Deathly Hallows, and the last owner of which was Dumbledore.
Other articles and books add to their arsenal of information, such as letters, photographs, even a copy of Rita Skeeter’s book and the inscriptions on gravestones at the church in Godric’s Hollow. The trio learned what the mysterious symbol that Krum said was Grindelwald’s sign43 means. In reality, it is the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. Finally, Harry learns from Aberforth Dumbledore, not Rita Skeeter, the truth of Albus’s tragic secrets. And by the time Crabbe sets loose a dangerous fire in the Room of Requirement which he had never learned to contain, Harry has pieced together from the information he extracted from Ravenclaw’s reticent ghost the whereabouts of Rowena’s missing diadem.
At length, the trio succeed in their mission. By the time Voldemort notices his Horcruxes are in danger, the trio have discovered that R.A.B was Sirius’s brother, have found and destroyed the Locketcrux and have retrieved the Cupcrux from Gringotts. Despite his neglect of that all important subject History of Magic, Harry has learned much from the previous year’s Pensieve lessons, from his past mistakes as well as the lessons of his school career up to date, including the evils of discrimination. The trio have learned to plan ventures such as their raid on the Ministry of Magic or their Gringotts break-in. They have learned to piece together the information they need and to check everything they hear for accuracy.
When Harry examines Snape’s dying memories in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, he realizes how he has misjudged this enigmatic man. And when he faces Voldemort as predicted in the prophecy, he is accompanied by the love and good wishes of his parents and their friends, thanks to the Resurrection Stone, another of the Deathly Hallows. Harry then finally defeats Voldemort at the climax of the Battle of Hogwarts for the public good, putting into action a plan formed from Dumbledore’s information, as well as from the assistance he has from Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and especially Neville, who decapitates Nagini. But was it really love that defeated Voldemort or was he defeated because, being arrogant, this reputedly brilliant student failed to check his information thoroughly before acting?
It is easy to read about adventures like Gilderoy Lockhart’s vainglorious fiction, Wandering with Werewolves, but such adventures are often a good deal less thrilling in the experience than in the retelling, as Harry would admit. Hard work, planning, and even sacrifice are involved not only in real life explorations and study but also in Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts, where he spends much time in the library and in his experiences afterwards, where he is able to apply what he has learned.
Of course, libraries are terrific places to relax with such books and meet friends who share the same interests, but they are also places for serious research, as many a harried student would admit. Information-literate students undertaking assignments could do worse than imitate the steps Harry Potter and his friends learn to consider to complete their mission, that is, to define their problem, gather their resources, check how reliable they were, piece together their facts, plan their strategy, check they have everything and that their information was the best available, and then apply that information to the job at hand. Perhaps following the lead of Harry and their friends would go some way to ensure a successful outcome to their assignments and other endeavours.
1. Rowling, “Harry, Carrie and Garp: #2.”
2. Rowling, Philosopher’s Stone, 32.
3. Ibid., 145.
4. Ibid., 52.
5. Ibid., 161.
6. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 96.
7. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 228.
8. Ibid., 48.
9. Ibid., 124.
10. Ibid., 214–15.
11. Ibid., 38.
12. Ibid., 122.
13. Wagga Wagga City Council, About Wagga Wagga.
14. Lockhart Shire Council, Welcome to Lockhart.
15. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 221.
16. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 613.
17. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 314.
18. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 528.
19. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 195.
20. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 348.
21. Ibid., 203.
22. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 13–14.
23. Ibid., 575–80, 605.
24. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 216.
25. Ibid., 346.
26. Ibid., 443.
27. Ibid., 578.
28. Ibid., 245.
29. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 303.
30. Ibid., 188.
31. Ibid., 177.
32. Ibid., 179, 181–82.
33. Ibid., 179–81.
34. Ibid., 606–7.
35. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 83.
36. Ibid., 83, 259.
37. Ibid., 88.
38. Ibid., 106, 259.
39. Ibid., 135.
40. Ibid., 238–39.
41. Charles Sturt University, Charles Sturt – The Explorer.
42. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 172–73.
43. Ibid., 124.
Charles Sturt University. Charles Sturt – The Explorer. http://www.csu.edu.au/about/charles/explor.htm (accessed 19 August 2007).
Lockhart, Gilderoy (n.d.). Wandering with Werewolves. London: Obscurus.
Lockhart Shire Council. Welcome to Lockhart, the verandah town. 2007. http://www.lockhart.nsw.gov.au/ (accessed 29 May 2007).
Rowling, J.K. “An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp: Readings and Questions #2.” Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2006/0802-radiocityreading2.html (accessed 20 May 2007).
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