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A Very Frosty Christmas

- Chapter 16

"Dumbledore's man through and through, aren't you, Potter?"
-- Rufus Scrimgeour

HBP16: A Very Frosty Christmas

Harry and Ron discuss Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape. Harry tells Mr. Weasley his suspicions and hears about the Ministry of Magic’s losing battle against Death Eaters. Remus Lupin talks about Snape and Fenrir Greyback, and Harry discovers that the Half-Blood Prince’s book was fifty years old. Percy shows up on Christmas with Rufus Scrimgeour, who then asks Harry to support the Ministry, and Harry refuses strongly, saying he disapproves of the actions the Ministry has been taking.

Calendar and Dates

The first part of the chapter takes place on an unspecified day near the start of winter break, though since it says afterward that "Harry did not get a chance to speak to Mr. Weasley... until Chrismas Eve night" it was probably one of the first days back at the Burrow, likely 21 or 22 December. The chapter then continues through Christmas day, 25 December.

Interesting facts and notes

The chapter title has a double meaning that may be lost in translation. The surface meaning refers to typical winter weather in England; the next layer refers to the emotional atmosphere between the characters in the chapter (Harry and Scrimgeour, mainly, but to a lesser degree Molly and her daughter-in-law-to-be).

"I'm only checking!" said Ron. They were standing alone at the Burrow's kitchen sink, peeling a mountain of sprouts for Mrs. Weasley. Snow was drifting past the window in front of them.

Just for reference, snow didn’t fall in the West Country in December of 1996. 

"Aaah, George, look at this. They're using knives and everything. Bless them."
"I'll be seventeen in two and a bit months' time," said Ron grumpily, "and then I'll be able to do it by magic!"

Ron’s birthday is the 14th of March. Today is Christmas Eve, the 24th of December.

Mrs. Weasley entered the room just in time to see Ron throw the sprout knife at Fred, who had turned it into a paper airplane with one lazy flick of his wand.

Another bit of simple, non-verbal magic here. 

We're off to the village, there's a very pretty girl working in the paper shop who thinks my card tricks are something marvelous . . , almost like. ..."

Presumably Fred and George are very good at using magic in a way that will impress Muggles but not get them into trouble with the Ministry … if the Ministry is paying attention at all. 

"Yep," said Harry. "I'm going to tell anyone who can put a stop to it, and Dumbledore’s top of the list. I might have another word with your dad too."

This is an excellent example of how Harry has changed after the disaster of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. He has learned to confide in adults, something he didn’t do in earlier books. 

Harry did not get the chance to speak to Mr. Weasley, who was working very long hours at the Ministry, until Christmas Eve night. The Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room, which Ginny had decorated so lavishly that it was rather like sitting in a paper-chain explosion. Fred, George, Harry, and Ron were the only ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as he pulled up carrots for Christmas dinner. Stupefied, painted gold, stuffed into a miniature tutu and with small wings glued to its back, it glowered down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet.

"We danced to this when we were eighteen!" said Mrs. Weasley, wiping her eyes on her knitting. "Do you remember, Arthur?"

Celestina has been popular for a long time, it seems. Arthur and Molly were eighteen in the late sixties, three decades ago. 

Oh, my poor heart, where has it gone?
It's left me for a spell...

Another candidate for jokes to be lost in translation.

Lupin paused and then said, "It was Greyback who bit me." "What?" said Harry, astonished. "When — when you were a kid, you mean?"

"Yes. My father had offended him. 

The full story of Lupin’s father and Greyback was told in an essay Rowling wrote for Pottermore. 

He wrote spells all over it, spells he invented. One of them was Levicorpus —"

"Oh, that one had a great vogue during my time at Hogwarts," said Lupin reminiscently. "There were a few months in my fifth year when you couldn't move for being hoisted into the air by your ankle."

"But it sounds like it was invented while you were at school," Harry persisted.

Which in fact it was, but not by the Marauders, of course. Harry’s instinctive dislike of Snape (“You are determined to hate him, Harry," said Lupin with a faint smile) blinds him to consider that Snape was also at Hogwarts at that time and could be his silent mentor.  

Ron fell asleep almost immediately, but Harry delved into his trunk and pulled out his copy of Advanced Potion-Making before getting into bed. There he turned its pages, searching, until he finally found, at the front of the book, the date that it had been published. It was nearly fifty years old. Neither his father, nor his father's friends, had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago. 

The assumption here that the book would have had to be published when the notes were made is illogical. 

In his eagerness to help her, he knocked the gravy boat flying; Bill waved his wand and the gravy soared up in the air and returned meekly to the boat.

Yet another example of casual, non-verbal magic. 

She gave Lupin an annoyed look, as though it was all his fault she was getting Fleur for a daughter-in-law instead of Tonks, 

Rowling is using some nice misdirection here. We’re seeing everything through Harry’s eyes -- and Harry’s preconceived notions. 

Mr. Weasley looked around. Everybody looked quickly at the window; Ginny stood up for a better look. 

This is a neat example of Rowling’s ability to describe scenes in a very visual style. There was no particular need for mentioning that Ginny stood up, but adding that detail makes the scene appear in our minds almost like a scene from a film. 

Harry said nothing. He thought he saw, dimly, where they were heading, but he was not going to help Scrimgeour get there. The gnome under the rhododendron was now digging for worms at its roots, and Harry kept his eyes fixed upon it...

….The gnome had just managed to get hold of a worm. It was now tugging very hard on it, trying to get it out of the frozen ground ...

….They stood in silence as icy as the ground beneath their feet. The gnome had finally managed to extricate his worm and was now sucking on it happily, leaning against the bottommost branches of the rhododendron bush.

The gnome catching the worm could be seen as a visual metaphor for Scrimgeour trying to catch Harry. However, unlike the worm, Harry doesn’t get caught. In fact, it is Scrimgeour who is caught revealing a little too much of the dishonesty of the Ministry. 

Memorable lines

"Well, you can't break an Unbreakable Vow...."
"I'd worked that much out for myself, funnily enough."

And speaking of hitherto unsuspected skills, Ronald," said George, "what is this we hear from Ginny about you and a young lady called - unless our information is faulty - Lavender Brown?"
Ron turned a little pink, but did not look displeased as he turned back to the sprouts. "Mind your own business."
"What a snappy retort," said Fred. "I really don't know how you think of them. No, what we wanted to know did it happen?"
"What d'you mean?"
"Did she have an accident or something?"
"Well, how did she sustain such extensive brain damage?"

He was not entirely sure that [Hermione] had heard him, though; Ron and Lavender had been saying a thoroughly nonverbal good-bye just behind him at the time.

"Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my 'furry little problem' in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit."

"Classy. You should definitely wear it in front of Fred and George."

"'Dumbledore's man through and through, aren't you, Potter?' 'Yeah, I am,' said Harry. 'Glad we straightened that out.'"

Words and phrases


Related images:

  Tea in the Burrow. Molly Weasley in the kitchen.


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The Harry Potter Canon