A Place to Hide
Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: A Place to Hide
Panic erupts over the shocking announcement. Some guests Disapparate, showing that the protective charms surrounding The Burrow have collapsed. The rest stand armed with their wands, ready to face the Death Eaters. Amid the chaotic scene, Hermione, Ron and Harry Disapparate to Tottenham Court Road. They enter a dark alley and change into street clothes, Hermione having already packed everything they needed for their mission into her beaded bag (which has been enchanted to fit spellbooks, clothes, money, camping gear, etc.). The Trio, with Harry under the Invisibility Cloak, enter a shabby all-night café, trying to get some rest. Ron suggests going to the Leaky Cauldron, but Hermione immediately vetoes that idea as being too dangerous as Voldemort will be watching there. Instead, she advises Disapparating to the countryside so they can send a message to the Order.
When two workmen enter the café, Ron and Hermione lower their voices. As the workmen draw wands, Harry, under his Invisibility Cloak, recognizes them as Death Eaters. He Stuns one, though he misses the second Death Eater: the spell ricochets, hitting the waitress. Meanwhile, the remaining Death Eater has bound Ron, and blown up the table behind Harry. Hermione Petrifies him. The large blond Death Eater is Thorfinn Rowle, who Harry recognizes from the battle atop the Astronomy Tower the previous year. The Petrified one is Dolohov, who was at the battle in the Ministry.
Reluctant to kill the Death Eaters, the Trio instead decides to wipe their memories, along with the waitress', then repair the diner. Hermione wonders how they were found so quickly and if Harry still carries the Ministry Trace to detect underage magic. Ron insists that it breaks at age 17 by law; Hermione suggests Death Eaters could have applied a new one, though Ron says none have been near Harry since he turned 17. Harry suggests going to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, the house Sirius left to Harry and the former Order of the Phoenix headquarters. Overriding the others' objections, Harry says that only Severus Snape can enter, whereas anywhere else they could end up facing many Death Eaters.
The Trio Disapparate to Grimmauld Place. Upon entering, Mad-Eye Moody's disembodied voice startles them, and the Tongue-tying Curse left for Snape briefly affects them. A dusty, rotting Albus Dumbledore form appears in the entryway. Harry yells out that they did not kill Dumbledore, and the grisly figure dissolves back into dust. Hermione checks and determines the house is empty.
Harry's scar burns as he feels Voldemort's rage. Hermione is upset—it was through this channel that Voldemort lured Harry to the Ministry two years ago, where Sirius was killed. Ron asks Harry if Voldemort is angry at the Weasley clan. A silver Patronus arrives, and Arthur Weasley's voice announces, "Family safe, do not reply, we are being watched." Ron and Hermione collapse in relief; Harry, concerned about Ginny, is also relieved. Harry, feeling sick from the pain, dashes for the bathroom. Sprawled on the tile floor, he "sees" Rowle being tortured for failing to capture Harry and the others. Harry is sickened by what he witnesses, including a terrified-looking Draco Malfoy, who Voldemort forces to do the actual torturing.
Harry's mission truly begins here, though he has been headed toward a predestined fate, to kill Lord Voldemort or else be killed by him, since shortly before his birth. Although Harry has previously encountered the Dark Lord, until now, he has mostly been in preparation for this fatal encounter, mentored along the way by Professor Dumbledore. Now that Harry has embarked on the quest's final leg, he fully becomes an "epic hero", a classic literary protagonist. Typically, the epic hero is a mortal, but he often is descended from or connected to gods or other divine beings. In Harry's case, his antecedents were powerful wizards. The epic hero typically possesses no extraordinary powers, but tends to be more talented, courageous, and capable than his peers. And though Harry is a wizard, so are his contemporaries and enemies. He therefore holds no special magical advantage over them and is actually still somewhat less magically proficient than more experienced wizards. Traditionally, the epic hero symbolizes a society's ethics and ideals, and he has been charged with a seemingly impossible quest or task, that, if victorious, mainly benefits others in some way.
The quest also tests Harry's endurance and moral fibre, and he must rely on courage, integrity, intelligence, and strength to succeed. It is also a typical scenario that the hero prematurely loses his mentor, and is forced to proceed alone, relying on his incomplete knowledge and skill. Harry has lost Dumbledore, though Albus seemingly abandoned his charge, leaving Harry only a few cryptic clues to aid his quest. In the classic epic hero scenario, the mentor has been preparing his charge for the battle to come, and we have seen that Dumbledore has made some efforts in that direction, but now, to Harry, they seem to have been almost laughably insufficient. This, coupled with the recent revelations concerning Dumbledore's youth, have caused Harry's faith in Dumbledore and the mission to erode. If Harry can overcome his doubts regarding Dumbledore, and continues the quest, to succeed he must rely solely on his superior bravery, strength, and cleverness, as well as his allies' help, particularly Ron's and Hermione's. He will also need to overcome a particular flaw: his predictability. Because Harry tends to react in a familiar, linear pattern before thinking and acting logically, Voldemort has been able to anticipate and manipulate his actions. Harry must adopt a new strategy.
Harry's reliance on others is shown by Hermione's meticulous planning and quick actions that saves the Trio from the attack, allowing them to escape rapidly. Everything they need for their quest was already packed in the beaded bag she carried with her. The location Hermione Disapparated them to was a spontaneous choice, though, initially, it appears to be a poor decision because Death Eaters found them so quickly, and it is unlikely they were there by coincidence. If Harry no longer carries the Ministry Trace, nor does it appear from the text that he used any magic when the Trio first arrived in Tottenham Court Road, just how, then, did the Death Eaters immediately detect the Trio's location? Apparating to Grimmauld Place also seems risky; not only is its location known to Severus Snape, a Secret Keeper who has returned to Voldemort's service, but he would likely suspect Harry might flee there.
There are signs that their stressful escape may be affecting Hermione. She says, and Ron and Harry agree, that they would rather be in Grimmauld Place where they could be attacked only by one Death Eater, Snape, than out on the street where there are many. All three seem to have forgotten that as Snape became a Secret Keeper for the Headquarters' location upon Dumbledore's death, he can now reveal where Grimmauld Place is located to as many Death Eaters as he chooses. As such, if the Trio is known to be at Grimmauld Place, any number of Death Eaters could appear at the door. And though protective spells were left in place to guard the premises, these charms are likely ineffective against a Death Eater onslaught, if the attack on The Burrow is any indication.
Harry again shows his reluctance to use more powerful defensive spells against his enemies; Ron and Hermione are similarly reticent. When Harry was attacked leaving Privet Drive, he cast Expelliarmus, a non-lethal disarming spell, to avoid harming Stan Shunpike, who Harry believed was acting under the Imperius Curse. Lupin later criticized Harry for his reluctance to employ stronger magic in life-threatening situations and dismissed Harry's argument that he was protecting an innocent person. Harry was also reluctant to use the Cruciatus curse on Bellatrix Lestrange at the Battle in the Ministry (in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), resulting in its weakened effect. However, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry unhesitatingly cast an unknown spell (Sectumsempra) to counter Draco Malfoy's sudden attack, nearly killing Draco as a result. Horrified by the outcome, an enraged Harry had only intended to disarm or slightly wound Draco, never anticipating the curse's detrimental effect. Here, in the café, Harry continues this pattern by Stunning the Death Eaters, and Hermione similarly uses the non-lethal, full body bind jinx. The Trio's decision to spare the Death Eaters' lives at the café is a questionable act, however. Outwardly, it seems merciful, but it shows they may still be unprepared to serve in the Order of the Phoenix, unable to cope with warfare's extreme demands. Dangerous times often call for desperate measures that would never be considered under normal circumstances, including killing your enemies to protect yourself, defend your allies, and accomplish a mission. The Trio may be unable to handle Dumbledore's difficult quest, though in this particular instance, their restraint probably saved the waitress, accidentally struck by a ricocheting spell, from serious injury or even death. Ironically, the Trio's humanitarian act may only have spared the two Death Eaters long enough to suffer a more horrendous fate. Harry later watches through Voldemort's eyes as at least one Death Eater is severely tortured for failing the Dark Lord.
Also, it is interesting that Rowle was punished for Harry escaping. Rowle never saw Harry, only his wand flash. However, Dolohov did see Harry when he was Petrified; granted, that was before Hermione altered his memory, but we already know that Voldemort has a rare skill with memories, and Hermione, as good a witch as she is, had cast a memory charm only a very few times before (notably, on her parents as she sent them to Australia). Why was Rowle tortured, but not Dolohov? While there is no answer, it seems evident that Voldemort frequently reacts with irrational rage, rather than calm reason, striking out, often fatally, at whoever is unfortunate enough to be in close proximity at the time, as well as the person who has failed him. It is also possible that Rowle was tortured for failing to capture any of the Trio (not just Harry) and that Dolohov was punished at a time Harry was not tuned in to Voldemort's thoughts. Alternately, it is possible that Dolohov, a veteran Death Eater from Voldemort's first rise to power, knowing Voldemort's propensities, had deliberately hung back to allow Rowle to deliver the bad news and receive the resulting outburst.
Draco Malfoy's terrified expression as Voldemort forces him to torture the Death Eater is particularly revealing to Harry, causing him to consider Draco differently. Draco is genuinely repulsed and sickened by inflicting harm on another, just as he was when Voldemort ordered him to murder Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a task he was unable to perform and which was ultimately executed by Snape, who was bound by an Unbreakable Vow to carry out Draco's mission should he fail. It would appear that Draco can never overcome his fear and revulsion to violence, and now realizes that being a Death Eater entails far more than he ever imagined. Despite Draco's bullying arrogance and cruel personality, he apparently lacks his family's truly evil nature. This could endanger Draco's life even further if Voldemort considers him too weak and fearful a servant to be useful. This may even be why Voldemort recruited him, intending Draco to fail and providing Voldemort yet another opportunity to punish Lucius Malfoy for his failures by executing his only son.
Harry is equally repulsed by violence, and, despite Lupin's earlier admonishment, he continually avoids killing as a defense, even against those attempting to murder him and his friends. Murder damages a soul, and we have learned that Dumbledore went to some lengths to keep Draco's soul intact. Can Harry, the series' hero, be sentenced to have his soul so damaged? It may be that Harry, Hermione, and Ron, to retain their souls' integrity, must complete the series without killing anyone. Then again, when a good character is seen killing an evil one, it will be to defend a third party; presumably, it being a defensive act nullifies or prevents the soul being damaged, or lessens it. Making that first kill, however, even to protect another or as an act of war, can make it easier for some to kill again, and with lessening remorse, possibly damaging their soul.
- How did Arthur Weasley know to send his Patronus to Grimmauld Place to update the Trio?
- Why did the Trio immediately Disapparate from the wedding reception when Death Eaters were approaching, rather than standing and fighting? Which was the wiser choice?
- Why would Draco Malfoy, now a Death Eater and Voldemort's servant, appear terrified in Harry's vision? How might this affect Harry?
- Was sparing the Death Eaters' lives the right decision? Did not killing them make any difference? What does this say about the Trio's characters and how they react when faced with life or death warfare?
- Why would Harry choose to hide at Grimmauld Place, whose location Snape, a Secret Keeper, can reveal to Voldemort and other Death Eaters? Will they be safe there?
- If the Ministry Trace is no longer on Harry and he is not followed by any known Death Eater, how might the Death Eaters have found the Trio so quickly?
Escaping to Grimmauld Place may be far riskier than Hermione and Harry seem to think. As mentioned, Snape could have informed Death Eaters about the house and how to enter it. In fact, the Trio will notice that it seems to have been ransacked. They will also soon learn that Death Eaters are keeping Grimmauld Place under constant surveillance, even though the house's exact location remains apparently unseen to them, indicating Snape never instructed them on how to enter it. Just why he never did is revealed later, but for now, the Trio feels assured they will remain safe and undetected there.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were tracked to Tottenham Court by Hermione speaking Voldemort's name, which will be revealed later to be tabooed. Throughout the series, many wizards displayed an irrational fear of uttering Voldemort's name aloud, convinced speaking it could cause disaster, though no one knew what that might be. Harry, and we, have mostly considered this fear unfounded and somewhat amusing, secure in knowing that merely saying a word cannot cause harm. Harry, always brave enough to speak Voldemort's name aloud and to his face, never suffered any ill-effects when he did so. Voldemort, knowing how most people do fear his name, probably cultivated the belief that evil consequences result to anyone speaking it. Following his return to power, the only ones who now dare to utter Voldemort's name are those fighting him, specifically the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry, in particular. Knowing that, Voldemort makes what others have feared a reality by casting a spell on his name—speaking it immediately alerts Death Eaters or Snatchers to the speaker's location. Ironically, of the Trio, it was Hermione who most feared speaking Voldemort's name. When she finally conquers this fear and says the Dark Lord's name aloud in Tottenham Court, she inadvertently summons the Death Eaters, nearly getting them killed. Also, whether the effect of breaking protective spells, seen later, is already in place, is unknown.
Harry's reluctance to engage in killing, even during a war, will continue, and, throughout the entire series, he never kills anyone. He has even been reluctant to use the Cruciatus curse on his enemies, though this will change under a specific circumstance. And on that occasion, unlike when he attacked Draco the previous year with the Sectumsempra spell, Harry will suffer no regrets or guilt afterwards, probably as he was motivated to defend someone close to him.