I am absolutely incapable of doing an objective review of anything. It is with that spirit that I will now delve into the many mysteries of the HBP. There will be spoilers galore so please don’t read on if you have yet to read the book.
The book seems to have left the entire world with two burning questions, the first being is Dumbledore really dead, the second concerns Snape’s true intentions. I am really up in the air about both.
Rowling has certainly made the books more complex as the series has evolved, but I find it hard to believe that she has added so much complexity to the characters and plot since the first book. While it is true that being wealthy enough to do nothing but work on the novels for the last few years should have given her enough free time to come up with elaborate plots, she hasn’t really done that. The characters have remained pretty static the entire series with only Harry himself appearing to grow in any noticeable way. The only other character growth seems to be in height, as Hermione is still a little bookworm, Ron is still an awkward pansy, Draco is still just an evil little pain in the ass, Ginny, while now having enough charm (read breasts) to attract the boys is still in every way just Ron’s little sister. I suppose Snape could be an exception, but his motives have been in doubt since the first book, he has not changed one bit, though the situations he is placed in may have.
I will address the Dumbledore issue first. The book leaves the possibility that he is still alive pretty wide open. Even before he is killed he is having a conversation with Draco in which he states “Voldemort can not kill you if you are already dead”, or something quite similar. This leaves the possibility that Dumbledore has the ability to fake death an open ended one. Is it possible that Dumbledore knew that he was going to be facing Draco atop that tower and hoped that Draco would not have the nerve to kill him? This would have forced Snape to complete the job as part of his unbreakable vow. But in an earlier book it was explained that the unforgivable spells could only be successful if the one who cast it had enough hatred and desire in them to actually kill. Perhaps Snape didn’t have that desire within him since he is really on Dumbledore’s side, so the spell appears to work yet it is all a clever ruse to keep Draco from performing the act with actual intent? Draco, however much an asshole he is, has still not actually killed anyone and if there is anything that Dumbledore has ever been guilty of it is believing in the good nature of the worst people (Snape for example).
Isn’t it an extremely odd coincidence that Dumbledore decides to take Harry to the cave at the precise time that the Death Eaters are going to come flooding into the castle? Did he just discover the Horcrux at exactly that moment in time? Even if he did what would be the importance of having Harry take his invisibility cloak? He takes it off nearly the second they leave Hogwarts, but he is instructed to put it on before returning, why? Was Dumbledore trying to make doubly sure that his death was witnessed by someone that everyone had to believe (what with no one believing Harry the entire last book even though he was telling the complete truth)?
Dumbledore seemed to know exactly how to get to the the Horcrux that they were looking for. Beyond that he knew that he needed blood to open the door, he knew where to find the chain for the boat, and he attempted to stick his hand into the murky green water without a thought. He then decided that his best option was to drink the strange liquid, knowing nothing about it, but told Harry to force feed him all of the liquid. It seems Dumbledore might now a tad more about that cave than he is letting on. Near the end of the book, when the locket appears next to Dumbledore’s body, the note is signed by R.A.B.. So someone had been to the cave before and taken the initial Horcrux, but Dumbledore said that it would take two people to do it. I am guessing that it was Regulus Black that left the note, but who was his partner, possibly Dumbledore? That would have given him all the necessary information on how to get there and retrieve the locket. But why retrieve the locket if Dumbledore knew it was a fake? To get the note which had been left behind all those years ago, in the hopes that Harry would be able to figure out who R.A.B. was.
The book also leaves open the possibility that, since the Horcrux had already been removed, whoever took it could have replaced the liquid in the bowl with any potion of their choosing. Not to mention that if it really was Regulus Black and Dumbledore that were there to take it in the first place, and Black drank the potion, but died a few days later, it could be that Black is not dead at all, but that he too was able to use the effects of the potion to appear so dead as the wizarding community simply forgot about him (that theory really doesn’t hold any water though, as Kreacher would have had to be loyal to Regulus if he were still alive, yet he was forced to be loyal to Harry). At any rate, Dumbledore could have been in that cave previously, broken all the enchantments and set up some of his own. Dumbledore mentioned that he burnt his hand in search of one of the Horcrux items, perhaps it was this one and it really didn’t require any help to obtain, but the potion he left in its place must be administered, since you won’t drink it of your own free will after the first couple of cups. Then again Dumbledore may have been acting as he seemed to lose so much of his physical capacity, perhaps he thought that Harry would not believe him dead unless Harry saw his slow decay before being finished off by an inferior wizard.
I am not making predictions here, I am just saying that it is plausible that Dumbledore is still alive.
Snape is a completely different issue.
Who is Snape loyal to? Which side is he playing? No one will know until Rowling releases the next book of course, but I have my suspicions. Snape is far too evil to be evil. Wouldn’t make for much of a septology if he was simply evil for the sake of being evil. Harry obviously hates Snape and that hate is clouding Harry’s mind. Dumbledore has said, again and again, that he trusts Snape implicitly. Maybe Snape really is on the wrong side but I doubt that. Snape has had many opportunities to betray the order and hasn’t really acted on any of them. Sure he is harsh on Harry, even knocked him down a couple of times while Harry was in pursuit, but I don’t see him as being the villain that Harry thinks he is.
While Harry is pursuing Snape on the grounds of Hogwarts, well when he catches up to him really, Snape does not allow Harry to actually cast an unforgivable spell. Snape actually says “No unforgivable spells for you, Potter.”, or something very similar. Is Snape trying to protect himself? It seems unlikely given the fact that Harry can’t seem to cast a stone in the water at his feet, let alone a decent spell. Why does Snape then go on to tell Harry that he needs to be better at Legilimency and non verbal spell casting? Perhaps Snape knows that without Dumbledore in the public eye (apparently dead) he, Snape, will not see Harry again until the very conclusion of the conflict. Snape just wants Harry to know what he needs to work on.
Being realistic, Harry is a loser. He has never done a damn thing other than survive an attack that his mother seemed to take the major force of. He has never succeeded without the help of several friends. His sudden potion mastery came from Snape himself, who likely knew that there were attempts being made on Dumbledore and made sure that Harry got the potions book with the helpful hints. All Harry can do is use his invisibility cloak (doesn’t it seem odd that he is the only one in the entire wizarding world that has one of those?) and get caught doing it a good half of the time. He is the chosen one why? Oh yeah. Some witch with thick glasses foretold it, though she wasn’t able to foretell being thrown out of a room seconds before it happened, she was able to foretell the fate of all wizardkind many, many years in advance. I’m thinking that Trewlany and Dumbledore may just have picked the wrong kid: A three year old with a crayon would be a more formidable opponent.
If Harry Potter, the most inept wizard since Rincewind, is actually the ‘Chosen One’ then it is a pretty dark day in the wizarding community. If I were the wizarding gods (if they have them, of course) I would have chosen someone more like Hermione Granger. At least Hermione can perform the simplest of spells, even some of the more advanced ones. Harry, on the other hand, was able to call a Patronus at the age of 13, yet somehow completely forgot how by the age of 16. Harry doesn’t even know how to repair his own bloody nose. How sad is that? If Harry actually defeats Voldemort in the final book it is gonna take a lot of doing, considering the fact that he seems to know about five spells, only one of which is used for offense, none of which have the ability to kill. Unless the grand finale involves Harry standing around singing old Beatles songs, since, All You Need is Love. As luck would have it, that is all that Harry has. No skill, no ability, but he can love…Where was that three year old with a crayon at again?