The Phoenix Lament
Chapter 29 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The Phoenix Lament
Ginny leads a grief-stricken Harry to the Hospital Wing where everyone has gathered. Harry, remembering the Dark Mark, fearfully asks who is dead. Surprisingly, only Professor Dumbledore and a Death Eater have been killed. The "body" Harry fell over was Bill Weasley, who was savagely mauled by Fenrir Greyback. Bill will survive, but is permanently disfigured, and the long-term effects are unknown. Because Fenrir was not transformed at the time, Bill probably escaped being infected as a Werewolf. Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were protected during the battle because they took Felix Felicis potion.
While Harry and Dumbledore were away, the Death Eaters appeared when Tonks, Lupin, and Bill were on patrol. Ron says that he, Ginny, and Neville were watching the Room of Requirement when Draco appeared, carrying the Hand of Glory. Draco threw something into the corridor, darkening it, and blinding Ron, Ginny, and Neville so they were unable to Jinx the people they heard running past. Lupin found the Death Eaters at the Astronomy Tower while Hermione and Luna had gone to Snape's office. Confused sounds were heard from within, then Snape emerged, saying Professor Flitwick had fallen inside and to help him.
During the battle, Draco disappeared, apparently going up the Astronomy tower. Four Death Eaters followed, casting a barrier behind them, with one Death Eater firing curses in all directions. Then Snape arrived and went through the barrier, returning soon with Draco, passing unheeded through the fighting.
Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley, and Fleur Delacour arrive. Fleur becomes angry when Mrs. Weasley suggests she will want to cancel the engagement because Bill is scarred. Fleur's declaration that she still loves Bill bonds her with Mrs. Weasley. Tonks reveals she loves Remus Lupin who, because he is a Werewolf and older, had discouraged her attachment. Harry suddenly realizes that Tonks' new Patronus is a wolf. Lupin is still reluctant, but Mr. Weasley points out that the future is always uncertain.
Hagrid reports that he moved Dumbledore's body, the students are back in bed, and the Ministry has been alerted. Professor McGonagall takes over as interim Headmistress and calls a meeting with the House Heads plus Hagrid. McGonagall first meets with Harry in the Headmaster's office, where Dumbledore's sleeping portrait now hangs among the other past headmasters. Harry, still honoring Dumbledore's wishes, refuses to say what happened after he and Dumbledore left the school, though he has told McGonagall about Snape revealing the Prophecy's contents to Voldemort; Dumbledore said he trusted Snape because he claimed he was remorseful. Harry also warns McGonagall that Madam Rosmerta is under the Imperius curse. The House Heads arrive, and all agree Hogwarts will remain open and that Professor Slughorn should head Slytherin House; the Governors will make the final decision. It is also unanimously agreed to honour Dumbledore's wish to be laid to rest at the school.
Hearing that Rufus Scrimgeour is just arriving with a delegation, Harry, wanting to avoid questions, heads to Gryffindor tower. Thankfully, only Ron is in their dormitory. Harry tells him that the Horcrux was a fake; the real one was stolen. Ron reads the note. Harry says he has no idea who R.A.B. is.
Whether or not Dumbledore is really dead was endlessly debated by fans. The author left many hints that Dumbledore may still be alive or will return in some manner - either physically or spiritually. His portrait in the Headmaster's office "appears" to be sleeping. It is possible it is not a real portrait, but only imitating those of other former Headmasters and Headmistresses as a ruse to deceive enemies. If, however, the portrait starts interacting in a similar manner as the others, this would be some proof that Dumbledore is actually dead.
That Dumbledore's animal familiar is a Phoenix is unlikely a coincidence. A Phoenix dies by bursting into flames and is reborn from its own ashes. This could be symbolic that Dumbledore may experience a similar resurrection. Phoenix tears are healing, and Fawkes' lament was heard as he soared over his master's body, though we never see any tears falling, and it has never been said they can resurrect the dead.
On a completely separate subject, the author makes several statements on the nature of love and relationships in this chapter.
First, we again see the romance between Harry and Ginny. When Hagrid tells Harry that he must leave Dumbledore's body, Harry does not move; it is only when Ginny leads him away that Harry moves. Also, in the Hospital Wing, Ginny stays next to Harry, possibly to give him comfort if he needs it, possibly to receive some from him herself. He stays by her side until Professor McGonagall summons him to the headmaster's office.
A previously unsuspected strength in Fleur is seen. To date she has seemed very self-centered, as well as being somewhat weak in witchcraft, despite having been named Beauxbatons Champion in the fourth book of the series. Her willingness to take on Bill's care is totally unexpected, both by Mrs. Weasley and by us, and shows a previously unseen aspect of Fleur.
Additionally, Tonks' ongoing depression over her unrequited love for Lupin is finally resolved. The catalyst here is Mr. Weasley pointing out that times are always hard, with the implication that if their race had waited for a guaranteed good time to raise children, it probably would have died out. Love's power to overcome adversity is highlighted here by Lupin's finally accepting Tonks affections.
It is uncertain whether Hogwarts will be re-opened next year. McGonagall states that decision will be left to the governors. Many readers assume that McGonagall will be Headmistress if the school does continue, but that decision is also one that will be made by the governors.
- Why does Mrs. Weasley believe Fleur will end her engagement to Bill Weasley? What is Fleur's reaction?
- Can Tonks and Lupin's relationship last? What precautions must they take?
- Why does Hogwarts close early? Will it reopen next year?
- Why does Harry refuse to tell McGonagall what happened after he and Dumbledore left for the cave? Couldn't she get this same information from Dumbledore's portrait?
- What reasons might Snape have killed Dumbledore? Is it possible he is still loyal to Dumbledore even after causing his death?
- What might happen to Bill Weasley in the future?
- Who is likely to be the new headmaster/headmistress? What challenges will they face?
- Where does the portrait of Dumbledore come from?
- How could the portrait help Harry?
The speculation surrounding Dumbledore's death was ended when the seventh and final book was published. It revealed that Dumbledore had been cursed by the Peverell ring, which had been cursed to protect the Horcrux it contained. Despite Snape's best efforts to contain it, the curse left Dumbledore with about a year to live. Dumbledore, knowing that Voldemort tasked Draco Malfoy with murdering him, also knew that Draco would likely be reluctant, subjecting him to constant torment from Voldemort's Death Eaters to comply. Dumbledore had exacted Snape's promise that Snape would undertake this task, so as to spare Draco's soul and allow Dumbledore to retain some dignity in his death.
Also, it hardly seems surprising that Dumbledore would wish to be entombed at Hogwarts. It was his beloved home for many years. However, in Deathly Hallows it is learned that his mother and sister, who both died tragically, and who he loved dearly, are buried in Godric's Hollow, and in the same cemetery as James and Lily Potter. Upon this revelation, it then seems rather odd that Dumbledore would request to be laid to rest alone, apart from those closest to him, and perhaps where Harry may eventually be buried (to be near his parents). There is never any explanation given for Dumbledore's choice, though many secrets about his past will be uncovered in the next book, revealing much about his character and motives, and providing us a few clues, but no definitive answers, as to why this is where he requested to be interred.
When Harry tells McGonagall his theory about why Dumbledore trusted Snape, she will seem taken aback, as if wondering why such loyalty could be commanded by a relatively small act. The reader is also somewhat surprised that it is believed Dumbledore could give his trust based on a simple remorseful statement. However, the final book reveals that there was more behind this. Lily Evans, Harry's mother, was Snape's one great, though unrequited, love. Snape was devastated by the threat against her, and promised "anything" in return for Dumbledore protecting her and her family. This revelation, near the last book's conclusion, finally explains Dumbledore's trust.
While the school does re-open for Harry's seventh year, Harry does not attend. Dumbledore's mission is far more important to him than formal schooling, and instead he elects to pursue it rather than returning to Hogwarts. Events will show that this is the correct decision, as the school will become an unhealthy place for him, and many other students, to be, under its auspicious new Headmaster and teachers.