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Assessing My Harry Potter Book 7 Predictions:

Last week, I wrote a post posing some questions about Book 7 of Harry Potter and giving my predictions about the answers. Here's how I did.

Note: if you want to avoid SPOILERS, you should stop reading NOW.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, I have put the spoilers below a fold. However, I think that the original prominent warning about spoilers (combined with the heading of the post, which is after all about "assessing my Harry Potter Book 7 Predictions") should have been sufficient.

UPDATE #2: Several commenters posit various reasons why some readers could not avoid the spoilers even despite the very prominent warning. None of these problems have ever happened to me, which is why they didn't occur to me when I wrote the initial post. However, some of the posited scenarios are plausible, and I will keep them in mind if spoiler issues come up in the future, and try to use folds to hide spoilers whenever possible. Sorry for any inconvenience caused by the intial post.

scote (mail):

5. What, if anything, is the most important theme of the series?

Hmmm. Generally Harry wins through perseverance, courage, help from others and, groan, his mother's love. Intelligence plays a back seat, just as it did in the original Star Trek.
7.22.2007 10:26pm
Justin (mail):
PARTY FOUL

You're just a mean person, aren't you?

The least you could have done was put spoilers below the fold.

I mean, I read the book already, but how many people are going to sign on to this blog, and see the spoilers right there? They won't even have the opportunity to look away.
7.22.2007 10:33pm
Justin (mail):
PS - that note a line above the bolded spoiler is really not that helpful, unless someone's internet connection is REALLY slow.
7.22.2007 10:34pm
cirby (mail):
I dunno about that Snape thing...

I think he was evil, but still had the capacity for love.

Poor SOB.
7.22.2007 10:41pm
scote (mail):

PARTY FOUL

I must concur. All spoilers should be "after the jump."

I had to avoid all blogs for the last few days just to avoid spoilers like this until I could procure and finish reading the book. Had I not already finished it I would be protesting rather more vociferously. I really hate spoilers as they are a bell that cannot be un-rung.
7.22.2007 10:45pm
John Robinson (mail):
Oh man. You just ruined a big part of the book for me. I saw the Snape comment before I saw the spoiler comment. Unfortunately, I apparently can digest more than I am consciously reading. =/

If anyone else is like me, it might be considerate to put the spoilers beneath the fold.
7.22.2007 10:46pm
Chicago:
I'm closer to Cirby than Ilya. If Snape's sole motivation for helping AD and HP was his misguided obsession with Lily, I'm not sure that counts as "good."
7.22.2007 10:46pm
Steve P. (mail):
I have to chime in as well — just by going to the Volokh website, I now know a spoiler that I didn't want to. Put it after the jump.

I've been working all weekend, so I'm only 200 pages in. Please, fix this, and I'll wait a few hours before returning.
7.22.2007 11:02pm
David Huberman (mail):
Technically, I think you were wrong about one of the Trio not dying, since Harry did die. But no one wins or loses that prediction, I think, since the prediction could not have taken into account the Master of Death angle.
7.22.2007 11:32pm
scote (mail):

Technically, I think you were wrong about one of the Trio not dying, since Harry did die. But no one wins or loses that prediction, I think, since the prediction could not have taken into account the Master of Death angle.

It isn't really clear that Harry did die, only that he offered himself up for death. As for being the "Master of Death," that didn't really come in to play has he only possessed one of the 3 objects in the forest when he was struck.
7.22.2007 11:38pm
Ilya Somin:
You're just a mean person, aren't you?

The least you could have done was put spoilers below the fold.


There is a note in big letters at the start of the post saying:

"Note: if you want to avoid SPOILERS, you should stop reading NOW."


Warnings don't get much clearer than that.
7.22.2007 11:42pm
Kevin!:
You can't even avoid them. They're the first thing on the page. I TRIED to stop reading after 'Spoilers' and still saw the thing about Snape.

Seriously, put it below the jump, or under black text. This is stupid.
7.22.2007 11:45pm
Kevin!:
Also, unless you can somehow magically scroll down the page while COMMANDING your eyes to not read text -- which everyone automatically does -- you still pick up entire sentences.
7.22.2007 11:45pm
Jeff B. (mail):
Ilya -

Warnings don't get much clearer than that.

That's something of a cop-out, isn't it? People's eyes have a tendency to wander, even if against their will. That's why you put spoilers below the fold. Me, I've never read a single Harry Potter book and doubt I ever will, so I don't particularly care. But I think you erred here, and it can't be that hard to correct it, can it?
7.22.2007 11:48pm
Shangui (mail):
Have to agree with Kevin, just put it below the jump and stop arguing about it. It's almost impossible to see the "spoilers ahead" comment and not catch #1 and #2 above. Most decent websites just putting up links to posts that have spoilers. It's stupid decisions like the one on this post that led me to basically stop looking at any websites (including this one) that might discuss HP about a week before the books came out. I managed to remain spoiler-free until finishing the book yesterday but it wasn't easy.
7.22.2007 11:50pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I'm glad I didn't stop by Volokh until after you had heeded everybody else's sound advice (however grudgingly). You must read differently than everybody else I've ever met. Do you read like a computer, absolutely one single line at a time? Can you see words scroll past you on a screen without reading them?

It doesn't take many words to give away a crucial issue. I don't see how one could POSSIBLY scroll past your post to other, earlier, posts without their eyes spotting key words like "Harry Potter" on the same line as "dies" (or whatever your spoilers are).
7.23.2007 12:26am
Ilya Somin:
You must read differently than everybody else I've ever met. Do you read like a computer, absolutely one single line at a time? Can you see words scroll past you on a screen without reading them?

I don't think it's so unusual to scroll quickly without reading words (people do that all the time), or to stop reading after a warning that says "SPOILERS below" or words to that effect.
7.23.2007 12:33am
Kevin! (mail):

I don't think it's so unusual to scroll quickly without reading words (people do that all the time), or to stop reading after a warning that says "SPOILERS below" or words to that effect.
...
However, I think that the original prominent warning about spoilers (combined with the heading of the post, which is after all about "assessing my Harry Potter Book 7 Predictions") should have been sufficient.


Is it so hard to apologize?
7.23.2007 12:40am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Apparently, Kevin.

Ilya... without reading passages, yes. Without spotting 2 or 3 key words which everybody is thinking about? Not so much. But hey, you're obviously extremely confident in your own correctness on this issue, so I'm sure you must be 100% right and almost every other single commenter on this thread wrong.
7.23.2007 12:45am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Sorry for that last post, Ilya. I wrote it before seeing your 2nd update.
7.23.2007 12:47am
scote (mail):
Thanks for hiding the spoilers.

I don't know about you, but I don't read one word at a time so a spoiler alert with 2 line returns doesn't help me much.
7.23.2007 1:26am
jimmie bob law student:
you're a pretty arrogant person, aren't you?!
7.23.2007 1:27am
Matt S. (mail) (www):
I also expected Hagrid to die. Perhaps in my case it was just wishful thinking--his sole purpose in the series seemed to be to further the plot by creating problems for everyone.
7.23.2007 1:30am
scote (mail):

you're a pretty arrogant person, aren't you?!

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me?

Well I'm notthe only one here, so you might want to say who you are addressing and on what basis you make your statement, otherwise your post is more like litter than anything else.
7.23.2007 1:49am
Gil (mail) (www):
What I can't understand is why anybody who was adversely affected by the spoilers would intentionally expose themselves to the comments to the post (which would also be likely to contain spoilers).

It seems implausible that people who cared about this would be so careless online; especially now that the book has been out for a while.
7.23.2007 3:11am
scote (mail):

What I can't understand is why anybody who was adversely affected by the spoilers would intentionally expose themselves to the comments to the post (which would also be likely to contain spoilers).

It seems implausible that people who cared about this would be so careless online; especially now that the book has been out for a while

Gil, originally Illya posted all of the spoilers on the Volokh Conspiracy Home Page, where they were difficult to miss, especially if you tried to scroll down to the next article. The carelessness was on the part of Illya, not the commenters. Their comments were meant to help alert Illya to the problem so that others might not suffer the same fate as they did. The version of this post you have come to has been edited to fix this problem.
7.23.2007 3:20am
Sarah (mail) (www):
For what it's worth, I tried to avoid spoilers by putting earplugs in, turning off my computer screen, sticking my TV on Headline News (for an additional source of light, as I don't have enough here to read all night long in comfort,) and refusing to speak to another human being until I finished it. If I hadn't done that, I'd have been spoiled on the key parts of the ending as soon as I spoke to my stepfather, so yay for me.

Ahem. I got most of my predictions at least slightly right -- I was surprised by Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Snape and Colin dying, but not surprised at all that Harry was a Horcrux, that Dumbledore and Aberforth would give us lots of information, that Snape was not on Voldemort's side, and that the Trio would survive. I even got the "a teacher will die" thing right, though of course it would be a teacher who'd never even been named before. I also correctly predicted quite a lot of behavior: no "good" adult intentionally killed anyone underage (Crabbe died by his own hand, Colin was killed by Death Eaters, etc.,) a lack of total Death Eater retributive carnage (though maybe it was only the Malfoys that survived...,) etc. Lesser and cutesy characters really did survive in droves -- am I correct in my belief that even Grawp got through it all? I last spotted a shoe of his, but no body.

Stuff I didn't bother posting but turned out to be correct guesses? Mainly that I was sure that there'd be a lot of camping and we'd be almost entirely cut off from what was happening in the rest of the world. I thought the school would be closed and there would be all kinds of whining on the part of all the kids because they had nothing to do (I thought that would create an opening for a DA reunion of some sort); I was right that kids were kept out of the main action but wrong in that they were all (except for the Muggle-borns) at Hogwarts the whole year. Rowling let far more secondary characters participate in the final showdown than I'd anticipated.

I was also wrong in thinking that Rowling would tie up so many of these things she seemed to have prepped us for (the Weasley joke shop becoming a Death Eater supply facility, foreign wizarding connections becoming important, etc.,) which she didn't do. In fact, that's probably the most distressing bit for me, other than the dreadful epilogue. The key plot-turning elements, such as Kreacher's importance and Dumbledore's sister, were essentially introduced at the very last possible moment, comparing unfavorably with earlier novels where Rowling went out of her way to follow the "if a gun is used it must have been on stage and seen by the audience well in advance" rule. The Invisibility Cloak being so very unusual was another one: why on Earth does Hermione "Honestly, don't you two read?" Granger never bring up what is apparently so obvious?

And don't get me started on Snape-loved-Lily. We were dangerously close to Snape-loved-Harry near the end, which had me sputtering with indignation. Apparently all we can say in the end about him is that he had the emotional maturity of a teaspoon (making him fit right in, at the age of 40, with Ron Weasley, when the latter was 16.)
7.23.2007 7:45am
Happyshooter:
And don't get me started on Snape-loved-Lily. We were dangerously close to Snape-loved-Harry near the end, which had me sputtering with indignation. Apparently all we can say in the end about him is that he had the emotional maturity of a teaspoon (making him fit right in, at the age of 40, with Ron Weasley, when the latter was 16.)

I think that this is pretty unfair. The man had abrasive personality, and was brilliant in his field and underappreciated. Into this class comes the son of a man who literally bullied and abused Snape. The bully then died a tragic hero, so that no one else realized his evil.

Then, as a bonus, the child is a super celebrity. The first thing the kid does? Gaffs off the professor, and didn't even bother to read the book.

Then the professor is assigned the job of keeping the child safe, even though he is as much of an arrogant jerk as his father was.

Then the professor is assigned the job of infiltrating the evil organization, a job which specifically required him to hate the child.

Then the professor is assigned the job of teaching lessons to the child that require the professor to see inside his mind, and learn the child true self.

Is it surprising that over time, the professor would come to the conclusion that far from being arrogant bully like his father, the child is actually good piece, and that it generally hard time life? Would it also be possible that the strain and requirement of his double life would require the professor to hide this, and thus make the respect and admiration even stronger?
7.23.2007 10:17am
Gawaine (mail):
One more comment on "above/below" the fold. Your RSS feed exports the whole article, and your "fold" mechanism uses javascript, which is not exported. That means that people using RSS readers to read your site, instead of going there directly, may see what you intended to hide. Sites that actually want to block spoilers, or just want the ad revenue caused by people hitting the main page, don't export everything to RSS - see Michelle Malkin or TVSquad for examples. This site has never done this right, which was irritating back in the days when puzzles would be posted regularly.

The poor man's solution to this, if there's no one to help code up folds correctly, is to blather on for about eight lines about things that aren't spoilers and/or to order your spoilers in order of least important to most.

I think there's an interesting side discussion that could be had in terms of the way people read. I tend to read more like a hard drive than a modem, 4K blocks at a time and then parse - probably why it only took me 2.5 hours to read Deathly Hallows. Thus, I had everything through the answer to #3 before I'd registered the header. I'm not sure why it's "implausible" to the professor that people read in different ways, although anecdotally, people who are spatial readers are often not good at sequential thinking, and thus make lousy lawyers. Maybe there aren't that many of us in law schools?
7.23.2007 11:31am
plunge (mail):
Apparently, lawyers have no peripheral vision. That explains a lot!
7.23.2007 11:38am
Kenvee:
Well, I was right on my main predictions -- Snape was on Harry's side, although I wouldn't call him "good", and Harry died but it wasn't permanent. ;) I was off on some of the details, but I got a lot of it right, and I think overall it was extremely well executed.

Although I have to admit to putting down my book to cry when Fred died.
7.23.2007 11:58am
ChrisIowa (mail):
It would be interesting to hear from the author how much analysis she put into creating the story, compared to the amount that is coming out.

It will be a few weeks before I read the story, and I'd rather have an idea of the general nature of what's going to happen before I do, so THANKS for the "spoilers."
7.23.2007 12:07pm
plunge (mail):
I was a little upset in a way that all my predictions pretty much came true. I think less because it lessened the surprise, but more because the way the book did the "reveal" was through expoisition rather than in action "ah ha!" Rowling did such a great job in the beginning of the book of revealing things bit by bit in story and then having Harry piece things together that it was something of a letdown to have all the big reveals happen via visions instead of confrontations and debates and evidence and so forth.

It also in retrospect still makes no sense at all that Dumbledore would have been so bizarrely cryptic about the Hallows. Leaving clues pointing to them (that only got figured out by pure luck through Luna's dad's choice of attire) that ultimately were supposed to, what, show Harry that he shouldn't pursue them in the first place? Nothing would have changed in the story without them: even if Voldemort had gotten the Elder Wand without Harry knowing the backstory, he still would have lost in the end. Only the Ressurection Stone played a real role, and Harry had no need to know what it was there either.

I also still find Dumbledore a bizarre plot point. It's made into such a big deal that the characters cannot talk to him, and yet his portrait is there at the end to clear everything else up and talk things out with. Why didn't Harry, who spent so much of the book questioning Dumbledore's wisdom and motives, at least try a little harder to access this resource, perhaps via Nigelus playing go between? I would have at least liked to see some conversation between Harry and the portrait in which he demands answers and it cheerfuly reminds him that it is not in fact Dumbledore, and has only a ghost his personality complete with whatever memories Dumbledore chooses to leave behind... which in this case are few and irrelevant to the situation at hand. That would have been a crushing blow to Harry, but at least tied up that large gaping hole in the story.
7.23.2007 12:14pm
xx (mail):
Ilya, for whatever its worth, there is at least one other person who has the amazing physical dexterity to stop reading after encountering the instruction "stop reading NOW." Its a wonder most of these commenters didn't get kicked out of the SAT exam room. . .
7.23.2007 12:24pm
Dan Weber:

Your RSS feed exports the whole article,

Really? I always get only a line or two of Volokh articles. Sometimes not even that, just the title.

I'm reading volokh.com/rss.xml, which when I load up now shows quite a descriptions consisting entirely of "...". (Particularly Orin's, which is a shame.)
7.23.2007 1:06pm
Ian Argent (mail) (www):
I'm going to have have to disagree with a couple of statements, one rather strongly, and the other somewhat weakly.

The strong disagreement - Harry may have a fraction of Voldemort's soul, but he is NOT a horcrux; see discussion on how a horcrux is the opposite of a living person after the recovery of the locket. Nagini is not a person for this purpose; no capability for positive emotion. (Rather unlike the other snake we see in the series, incidentally - the boa at the zoo.)

Weak disagreement; Harry's death. He certainly believed he was going to die, and from a certain point of view he did; but it's the flip side of the trick Joss Whedon used in Buffy to get 2 Slayers - his body almost certainly did NOT die; only one of the soul (fragments) resident. Harry didn't die (though he had what by any stretch can be called a near-death experience). I doubt his body was ever dead (foreshadowed by the Snatch Squads' comment that allowing a Death Eater to use the Kiss on him would not violate the Dark Lord's orders to take him alive - which shows a profound idiocy on their parts, since the reason Voldy wants him alive is indeed Harry's soul(s)).
7.23.2007 1:32pm
Chris Bell (mail):
I liked J.K. Rowling's focus on the "adult revelation" that no good people are entirely good and no/few bad people are entirely bad.

The "corruption" of Dumbledore was a nice touch.
7.23.2007 2:50pm
ElizabethN (mail):

his body almost certainly did NOT die; only one of the soul (fragments) resident.

Actually, I don't think even that soul fragment died. I think that the last bit of Voldemort's soul is in permanent limbo in "King's Cross Station," unable to live or to die.
7.23.2007 3:13pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
Happyshooter:

Snape doesn't just torment Harry in a mild "shoot, the kid deserves it" way. He goes out of his way to make all the kids' lives miserable, well before Harry shows up. Moreover he goes out of his way to make an enemy of Harry from the moment the kid walks into his class -- and he knew that a) Harry's birthday is one month before school started and b) that he hadn't answered his letters, and in all likelihood knew c) that his aunt had become a Magic-hating freak and d) there was a decent chance Harry didn't even hear of Hogwarts before Hagrid knocked down his door (I can't believe there was a staff member who didn't know the whole story by Sept. 1st, given Hagrid's tendency to blurt things out.) Expecting the kid to have read the textbooks well enough to know the answers to his questions was patently absurd -- the only student who volunteered to answer was Hermione, who turned 12 less than two weeks later and thus in all likelihood had a full year to sit around memorizing her textbooks. And note, he didn't want the answers from her, either -- he just wanted to humiliate the barely-11-year-old unfortunate enough to be sitting in front of him.

He also knew, seeing as how it was his own darned fault, that e) Harry spent about 14 months of his life with his supposed bully of a father (and per Snape, angel of a mother) before being raised by completely different people. It's completely insane to think he'd be a bully, no matter what you think of James (an informed observer might wonder, given he was raised by Vernon Dursley, but Harry managed to become the scrawny tolerant victim instead.) If Harry had been horrible, it wouldn't have even been James' fault -- it would have been Snape's for getting the kid's natural parents killed, and Dumbledore for deciding to stick him with his first cousins the Dursleys rather than his third cousins the Weasleys, Longbottoms, or Malfoys (who all had immediate blood ties to the boy's father, and knew all about magic, and had sons almost exactly Harry's age.)

Until the third book Harry never once gave Snape a justifiable reason to get mad at him, and considering how blatantly immature Snape was about the Sirius situation (and you'd think he'd be a tad more understanding about a 16 year old's prank nearly getting him killed, when his treachery at 21 actually did get two people killed -- not to mention a little more tolerant, two years later, of what was obviously a drunken and broken man trapped in his own worst childhood nightmare,) I'm forced to conclude that the Hogwarts Class of 1977's "Most Likely To Go Completely Flippin' Emo" winner was a complete child, emotionally. I mean, the man threw a hissy fit when he learned he wouldn't be getting the Order of Merlin and seeing his teenage rival get his soul sucked out. Even Draco Malfoy at 15 had a better grip on things.

And don't think I don't blame Dumbledore for letting it all stand. I'd hoped that there'd turn out to be a brilliant reason for Snape being such a bastard to Harry, and there wasn't. He was coddling Snape at least as badly as he admits to coddling Harry and Trelawney, and worse than Snape's obvious pandering to the Slytherins in the years immediately surrounding Draco Malfoy's. I'd even be willing to bet Dumbledore was fixing things to keep Slytherin, and Snape, winning that blasted House Cup for seven years running.

(Ilya: though I am a complete spoiler-avoider and thus didn't check my email till just now, I should point out that anyone getting the email notices and using Auto-Preview would see your first two spoilers on the first screen, using Outlook's standard font and window sizes.)
7.23.2007 9:16pm
scote (mail):

Ilya, for whatever its worth, there is at least one other person who has the amazing physical dexterity to stop reading after encountering the instruction "stop reading NOW." Its a wonder most of these commenters didn't get kicked out of the SAT exam room. . .

Not physically possible when the post was the current post on the main page--which is when many of us first encountered it. Also doesn't work when you use the "Page Down" button and reveal the whole section at once rather than scrolling ineficiently down with the arrows key or the scroll bar.

IIRC, the Stop Reading now sections on tests usually have the next section on another page. If not, then they are of flawed design virtually guaranteed to induce cheating.
7.24.2007 2:37am
Houston Lawyer:
Since I was wary of spoilers, I stopped reading at the warning. I did not read anything further, so the warning worked for me.
7.24.2007 10:49am
Steve P. (mail):
The warning didn't work when I went to the volokh.com website, where it was the lead post. I hadn't even had a chance to parse out the spoilers warning when, out of my peripheral vision, I caught that Prof. Somin was "[r]ight on" about Snape.

It might have been the combination of bolded text (Was Snape evil?) and the terse response that registered peripherally. It's okay, as spoilers go, because knowing that Snape was good didn't ruin the enjoyment of discovering the past via Snape's memories.
7.24.2007 6:40pm
The River Temoc (mail):
I was also wrong in thinking that Rowling would tie up so many of these things she seemed to have prepped us for (the Weasley joke shop becoming a Death Eater supply facility, foreign wizarding connections becoming important, etc.,) which she didn't do.

Huh? Dumbledore's battle with the German wizard Grindelwald was a key point of the book, and we learned that Voldemort spent most of his years of occultation in Albania. There were also a few minor plot points about Krum.
7.25.2007 12:11am
The River Temoc (mail):
My big prediction -- that we'd have an ambiguous ending, a la THE SOPRANOS or DEEP SPACE NINE or season four of STARGATE -- was wrong, although that scene in "King's Cross Station" reminded me a lot of Sisko's last scene in DS9.

I did not like the Epilogue. There was little to suggest that the characters had changed in any way over the past 19 years, although it did leave the door open to future sequels.
7.25.2007 12:22am
spider:
Here's my question. Book 7 begins in the summer of 1997. Why, then, doesn't anybody in England notice that Princess Diana just died?
7.25.2007 3:36am
Zubon (mail) (www):
Spider, that is just the sort of "accident" that the Death Eaters were causing all over the place. Now we know the real story!

(I don't recall the royalty being mentioned in any of the books. Do the wizards notice such things? Anyway, they might have been distracted by the Ministry of Magic's falling at just about the same time. Wasn't that just before school started back up?)
7.25.2007 9:48am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
One of the "other minor characters" that died was Dobby. I guess it just shows that house elves don't get any respect, at least when it comes to predictions about the important characters in the book.
7.27.2007 8:17am