Evacuating the Castle

Apparently, I have a lot of thoughts about the Battle of Hogwarts. Specifically, the movie version. I actually really like the Deathly Hallows Part II movie, but there are a few things about it – most of them very minor – that get on my nerves.

Yesterday, I wrote about the horde of a thousand Death Eaters, and I’m sure there will be a post coming soon about the weird way Voldemort’s body dissolves when he dies. But one of the things that bothers me the most is that no one attempts to evacuate the castle.

In the book, Professor McGonagall’s first thought upon realizing they’re going to fight Voldemort at Hogwarts is that they have to evacuate the students. She and the other Heads of House agree that anyone under seventeen must leave the castle before Voldemort attacks, although the oldest students will be allowed to stay and fight if they choose to. There’s a whole scene in the book where the students gather in the Great Hall and McGonagall explains everything that’s going on. The movie does things a little differently, but it wouldn’t have been hard to have evacuation brought up and Harry suggest the secret passageway to Hogsmeade.

Instead, what happens is this: after Voldemort’s ultimatum, Professor McGonagall sends the Slytherins to the dungeons, and the rest of the students are left to fend for themselves, even the first and second years who can barely make sparks fly out of their wands. Aside from how hard it is to believe that none of the Hogwarts teachers thought about trying to get their students to safety, and the horror of realizing many of them likely didn’t survive the battle, this takes away their choice as well.

It takes away from the fact that so many of the seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds did stay to fight. It takes away from the fact that younger students, like Ginny and Colin, refused to be told they had to leave and fought in the battle anyway. I wouldn’t say it negates the heroism of those who fought, but it makes their actions more about survival than a conscious decision to do what was right.

It also takes away the choice from the students who left. Those who had not been part of the DA and knew they would be no good in a fight. Those who left to make sure a younger sibling got safely home. Those who left to return with reinforcements. Those who were just plain scared and decided the battle could be won or lost without them. Those who were loyal to the other side. The fact that so many left – all the Slytherins, and some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs – adds realism to the story and makes those who stayed seem all the more noble for doing so.

For that matter, it takes away the possibility of help from the outside. In the book, Professor Slughorn returns near the end of the battle with a large group of reinforcements to help defend the castle. In the movie, this couldn’t possibly happen, because no one left the castle. The villagers in Hogsmeade might have seen that something was happening, but they wouldn’t have known what they could do or why they should. The families of the students who stayed to fight would have had no idea that a battle was even happening. Someone had to find them and ask for their help, and if no one left the castle, that’s impossible. The reinforcements are more than just numbers to help them win the battle. I see them as a sign that Hogwarts is not alone. The teachers, Dumbledore’s Army, the Order of the Phoenix, the few who are there when the battle starts and who have been fighting all along, are not making their final stand on their own, and there are many others out there who step up when the time comes. This kind of wider support for the heroes is in direct contrast with the movie, where they truly are on their own and up against massive numbers under Voldemort’s command.

It takes away the Slytherin students’ choice as well. In the book, many went straight to Voldemort, while a few went with Professor Slughorn and then returned to help win the battle. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle snuck back into the castle and tried to capture Harry themselves, which didn’t go all that well for them. In the movie, there are no such choices. No one has a chance to leave the castle.

That means it also takes away from the Malfoy parents’ dilemma. In the book, when other Slytherin students start showing up to join the Death Eaters and Draco doesn’t, they have no idea what happened to him. Voldemort seems to suspect disloyalty and makes it clear that he doesn’t care if Draco lives or dies. There’s a battle going on, and they don’t know which side he’s on or whether he’s even still alive. His father begs Voldemort to call off the battle, and when that fails, his mother lies to Voldemort, telling him Harry Potter is dead, in an attempt to end the battle and find Draco. In the movie, though, Snape is the one person from Hogwarts who went to Voldemort at the start of the battle. The students are all still in the castle. Draco’s parents have no reason to suspect that anything unusual happened to him, or that he’s in any more danger than the other Slytherins.

The Harry Potter books are so tightly-woven that even a small change makes a big difference.

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How many people fought in the Battle of Hogwarts?

The Deathly Hallows Part II movie makes a big deal of how outnumbered the heroes are, with shots that show Voldemort surrounded by vast numbers of Death Eaters and hordes of Snatchers, quotes about numbers not winning a battle when the Order members see what they’re up against, and a distinct lack of the reinforcements that showed up near the end in the book. But how many people really fought in the Battle of Hogwarts?

Let’s start off by establishing how many wizards there are in Great Britain, since that puts an upper limit on the numbers for the battle. All the witches and wizards in Britain attend the same school, buy their wands from the same wand-maker, and frequent the same few places: Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Godric’s Hollow, etc. They have one major newspaper, one favorite sport, twenty-eight “pure-blood” families, and one court that handles cases ranging from petty crimes to felonies. There can’t be all that many of them.

There are 40 students in Harry’s year at Hogwarts. 40 students per year x 7 years = about 280 students at Hogwarts. However, J.K. Rowling has said before that about 1,000 students attend Hogwarts. Presumably, either not all of Harry’s classmates are mentioned in the books or the Original Forty list, or his group is unusually small. I prefer the latter assumption, because it would be hard to imagine 25 more Gryffindors in Harry’s year.

According to the 2011 census, 6.2% of Britain’s population was age 0-4, 5.6% was age 5-9, 5.8% was age 10-14, and 6.3% was age 15-19. This is a bit after Harry’s time and includes the years before and after students graduate from Hogwarts, but it’s close enough to use for a general estimate. If about 12% of witches and wizards in the UK attend Hogwarts, and about the same amount are too young to attend, then …

If there are 280 students at Hogwarts, there are about 2,300 wizards in the UK, 560 kids and 1,740 adults.

If there are 1,000 students at Hogwarts, there are about 8,300 wizards in the UK, 2,000 kids and 6,300 adults.

So there are likely somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 adult wizards in the UK. Are you starting to see why images like this from the Deathly Hallows Part II movie bother me?

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Just how many followers did Voldemort have? I counted a hundred people just in the first few rows and then gave up. The vast horde of Death Eaters extends far beyond the edge of the image. There must be a thousand of them!

Here’s another picture demonstrating just how vast their army was:

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That’s not even counting the Snatchers.

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There are probably what, a hundred people in this picture? It gets hard to tell near the back, and like with the previous picture, the army doesn’t stop where the picture ends. These guys aren’t official Death Eaters, just lower-level followers who do a lot of the dirty work. Their costuming is different, they fight in different parts of the battle, and really, there should be many more of them than the Death Eaters, who are just Voldemort’s elite inner circle.

Meanwhile, here are the defenders of Hogwarts:

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All surviving members of the Order of the Phoneix, many of the Hogwarts teachers, and most of Dumbledore’s Army. The first two overlap a lot, so let’s just make a list. There are literally that few of them:

  • Adults: 5 Weasleys (Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Percy), Aberforth, Kingsley, Tonks, Lupin, McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid, Sprout, Trelawney
    • Possibly a few more, since it’s not clear whether minor Hogwarts teachers like Sinistra, Vector, Babbling, Hooch, etc. remained to fight or evacuated.
  • DA Alumni: Fred and George, Lee Jordan, Cho Chang, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinet, Katie Bell, Oliver Wood
  • Hogwarts Students: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, Ginny, Dean, Seamus, Lavender, Parvati, Padma, Terry Boot, Michael Corner, Anthony Goldstein, Ernie Macmillan, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbot, Colin Creevey
    • Possibly more unnamed students, since “a number of older Ravenclaws … even more Hufflepuffs … and half of Gryffindor” chose to stay and fight. Those who were underage were told to leave, but it’s not clear exactly how many of the seventh-years stayed and how many of the younger students snuck back in to fight, as Colin did.
  • Near the end of the battle, reinforcements arrive, led by Charlie Weasley and Professor Slughorn. They include the centaur herd, the families of students who stayed to fight, villagers from Hogsmeade, and – according to J.K. Rowling later on – a group of Slytherin students.

So, about 40 or 50 people initially stayed to fight for Hogwarts, and maybe another 100 people came to help later. The movie is very realistic in the way it portrays the heroes’ forces – if anything, it makes them too small by not including the reinforcements.

Naturally, it looks impressive to have fifty intrepid heroes taking on an army of a thousand villains, but is it realistic?

No exact numbers are given for the number of Death Eaters, but we can assume they outnumber the heroes, since heroes tend to be portrayed as underdogs fighting a more powerful enemy.

In Goblet of Fire, a small group of Death Eaters arrives to witness Voldemort’s return in the graveyard. This group consists of those who survived the first war and did not go to prison. Only seven named characters are there, but it’s mentioned that he did not speak to them all. In Order of the Phoenix, fifteen Death Eaters escape from Azkaban, including the Lestranges. However, for the most part, it’s not clear which group the Death Eaters introduced in the last two books were part of, and some may have joined later. The only definite conclusion is that the number of people in his inner circle was at least in the mid 20’s, putting it at a similar size to the Order of the Phoenix.

Here’s a list of Death Eaters who are (or might be) still alive when the Battle of Hogwarts begins, as well as prominent supporters who were not in the official inner circle but were definitely at the battle: Bellatrix, Rhodolphus, and Rabastan Lestrange; Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco Malfoy; Severus Snape; Alecto and Amycus Carrow; Fenrir Greyback; Pius Thicknesse; Avery; Dolohov; Crabbe Sr; Goyle Sr; Yaxley; Jugson; MacNair; Mulciber; Nott Sr; Rookwood; Selwyn; Rowle; and Travers.

That’s 24 people, not a long list. Of course, the real numbers are likely higher. The list is just named characters. Mentions of things like a dozen Death Eaters guarding Hogsmeade indicate that Voldemort has grown his following again. Maybe there were as many as 40 or 50 Death Eaters, and they weren’t the only ones working for Voldemort. So let’s look at who else was:

Fenrir Greyback’s werewolves. Let’s assume that about 1% of wizards are werewolves, since it seems like a very rare condition. That would mean about 80 werewolves, and statistically ten of those should be Hogwarts students. As far as we know, Professor Lupin is the only werewolf at Hogwarts in Harry’s time, so even 1% is probably a high estimate. But let’s say there are 80 werewolves, and let’s say half of them are following Fenrir Greyback.

The Snatchers. The Snatchers were not at the Battle of Hogwarts in the books, but they were in the movies, so let’s include them. The Snatchers were bounty hunters who tracked down Voldemort’s enemies: muggle-born wizards, Order members, and so on. The two we know of are Greyback and Scabbior, and presumably some of the other werewolves were also involved. Ron describes them as being “everywhere”, so there have to be a lot of them. However, it’s unlikely they would all be at the Battle of Hogwarts. They were not part of Voldemort’s inner circle or even necessarily operating on his direct orders. They did not have the Dark Mark, so many might not even have known when Voldemort summoned his forces. But let’s say there were 100 Snatchers at the Battle of Hogwarts and Harry simply didn’t notice them in the book.

Ministry employees. Pius Thicknesse was at the battle, and I included him on my first list. I don’t think it’s likely that many others were, even those loyal to Voldemort. They had a government to run, after all, and it’s not as if Voldemort knew this was going to be the final battle.

Imperius victims. We’re told that Voldemort uses the Imperius curse to control people and force them to fight for him, but it’s unclear how many people are actually being controlled this way. The confirmed list of imperius cases is very short: Pius Thicknesse, Stan Shunpike, Viktor Krum in Goblet of Fire, Broderick Bode and Sturgis Podmore in Order of the Phoenix, and a muggle man in Half-Blood Prince. For the most part, it seems to have been a convenient excuse for people like the Malfoys after Voldemort’s first disappearance. However, let’s be generous and say Voldemort has twenty Imperius victims fighting for him at the Battle of Hogwarts.

Slytherin students. Now, this is where it gets tricky. In the movie, the Slytherins are locked in the dungeon, but in the book, they are evacuated to Hogsmeade along with all the underage students and those who chose not to fight. Voldemort tells Lucius Malfoy that Draco did not come to join them “like the rest of the Slytherins”, implying that all of them went straight to Voldemort and presumably fought for him. However, J.K. Rowling has since said that this is not the case, and that some Slytherins who were not loyal to Voldemort actually helped Professor Slughorn gather reinforcements to defend the school. Presumably others, especially the younger ones, simply went home. Voldemort was trying to scare Malfoy by questioning his son’s loyalty, so it’s not hard to believe he exaggerated.

Let’s say Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott went to Voldemort; Nott because his father is a Death Eater and Pansy because she made her position quite clear. Let’s also say Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis help Slughorn gather reinforcements; Daphne because, in Cursed Child, her sister and nephew are among the most unambiguously good Slytherin characters, and Tracey because she’s half-blood and has a normal-sounding name, which indicate she wasn’t raised with the kind of snobbery and prejudice that lead one to support Voldemort. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle went to the Room of Requirement, which leaves Blaise Zabini and Millicent Bulstrode, both unpleasant but not directly linked to the Death Eaters, and one unnamed girl if the 5 students per gender per house per year thing is accurate. However, if there are 1,000 students at Hogwarts, there could be as many as 35 Slytherin seventh-years.

Let’s go with 10. Let’s say that two helped Slughorn, five went to Voldemort, and of course, three went to the Room of Requirement.  Now let’s say there are 20 sixth years. Four helped Slughorn, ten went to Voldemort, and six went home. Let’s say that most of the younger kids went home or didn’t fight, since there’s no mention of Voldemort sending 11-year-olds into battle. That would mean 15 Slytherins, about half of the older students, went directly to Voldemort and fought with the Death Eaters. These numbers are, like the ones for the Snatchers and werewolves, totally arbitrary but hopefully within a reasonable range.

50 Death Eaters + 40 werewolves + 100 Snatchers + 20 Imperius victims + 15 Slytherins = 225

Voldemort’s army should have had numbers in the low to mid 200’s, give or take a little. Maybe even round it up to 300 if you think there’s any category where I’ve estimated low, or down to 200 if you think my estimates are high. His forces would still outnumber the Order’s something like 4, 5, or even 6 to 1 until the reinforcements arrive, and as much as 2 to 1 after that, but it seems like a reasonable number. It’s not a number that makes me fear for the future of the Wizarding World. Because if this many people were Death Eaters …

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… (and, as we’ve already established, the Death Eaters were just the inner circle, not the majority of Voldemort’s supporters) … if about 1/6 of adult British wizards were Death Eaters and maybe twice that many supported or worked for Voldemort in some capacity, then how are we supposed to believe this world was rebuilt and all was well?

Christmas Eve in the Graveyard

Christmas Eve, a quiet chapel graveyard
Music from the nearby church at midnight
Memories forgotten and uncovered
Questions burning in the winter night
Flowers laid in snow for those who lie here
And whose sacrifices saved his life
Through the chaos, bells and music bringing
This bittersweet moment of quiet
Then, another moment, peace is shattered
Teenage heroes drawn back to their fight
Leaving church and graveyard, snow and flowers
Just a memory bathed in Christmas light

A Deathly Hallows Christmas

Last Christmas there were parties and carols through the halls
Decorated Christmas trees and garlands on the walls
Last year our greatest worries were love potions and dates
Safe from the storm already brewing beyond the castle’s gates

This Christmas, nights are bitter; we wander in the cold
Searching for a glimpse of hope and missing days of old
Hiding from the looming shadows, trying to believe
Fighting for a life worth living on this Christmas Eve

Next Christmas, we will gather around the fireplace
With warm embraces, joyful smiles on each and every face
Next year this fight will only be a dusty memory
Singing Christmas carols, merry, bright, and free

The Choice: a Poem about the Battle of Hogwarts

Is he dead? Is he alive?
A question asked aloud, another whispered
A truthful answer and a lie
A curse that can’t quite take hold of its victim
Then they celebrate what they believe to be
Their victory

The boy who lived, the boy who died
No one knows the truth of his sacrifice
But his heart beats on as he lies
In the arms of the man who brought him home as a child

What will you do now that all hope is gone?
Will you give up the fight you’ve fought for so long?
Or will you stand where Harry stood
And fight for what is right and good
Will you stand strong?

He was the chosen one, but we all have a choice
Do we choose what is easy and give up the fight
Or stand up and do what is right?

A hero never truly dies
Even if his heartbeat fades
Death cannot erase
The things he fought for in his time

So stand and fight, defend the school
Defend all that it stands for
The boy who lived is by our side
And what he died for cannot die

He throws off his cloak and shows himself
And his heart beats on and on
He shouts his spell and waves his wand
And so the war is won
He is the chosen one

But it was those who stood strong
And chose right over easy or wrong
And lent their skills, their hearts, their voice
Who set the stage and paved the way
For the boy who lived to save the day
He is the chosen one
But we all have a choice

Right vs Easy

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead of us. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It’s easy to do what’s right when what’s right is also easy, but doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and it’s worth doing anyway. That’s a valuable lesson to learn, and one that certainly applies to real life just as much as it does to the world of Harry Potter. But it’s more than just a quote with a good message. It’s a theme that’s woven throughout the series in the journey of every single character. (At least, every character with enough of a conscience not to do the wrong thing just for its own sake. Voldemort, Bellatrix, and Umbridge are their own special category.)

Harry has to choose between what’s right and what’s easy in every single book, and he always chooses the former. When he goes after the troll to save Hermione, when he fights a basilisk to save Ginny, and when he travels back in time to save Sirius, he is choosing the right thing over the much easier alternative of simply doing as he’s told and letting events unfold without him. Likewise, Ron and Hermione often make those choices alongside him. As the series goes on, he seems to have less of a choice – Voldemort wants him dead – but even then, he chooses to fight him. Near the end of Deathly Hallows, when Aberforth encourages him, Ron, and Hermione to flee the country rather than face Voldemort, they refuse to even consider it. And, of course, running away might become even more tempting once he realizes he has to die in order for Voldemort to become mortal, but Harry is willing to lay down his life to protect his friends, just as his mother sacrificed herself to save him. That’s not an easy choice to make.

Order of the Phoenix is all about the choice between what’s right and what’s easy. It’s what separates the Order from the Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore’s Army from the Inquisitorial Squad. It’s easy for Fudge to deny that Voldemort is back; it would be much harder to admit the truth. It’s easy for the Daily Prophet to publish whatever “news” will sell and scandalize, but harder for Harry and those who support him to speak the truth when the Ministry is actively trying to silence them. It’s much harder for the Order to fight against Voldemort when they find themselves at odds with the magical government as well, and Dumbledore’s Army likewise refuses to let themselves be unprepared for the coming war. The DA’s insistence on doing the right thing even when it’s not easy becomes even more obvious in Deathly Hallows, when they spend the year fighting back against the Death Eaters who now run Hogwarts and fight on Harry’s side in the final battle.

Everyone at Hogwarts has to choose between what’s right and what’s easy in the final battle: to evacuate or stay and defend the castle, to hand Harry over to Voldemort or fight on his side, and eventually, to surrender or keep fighting once Harry appears to be dead. Nothing says choosing what’s right over what’s easy like Neville telling Voldemort “I’ll join you when hell freezes over”, pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of the hat, and chopping off the head of Voldemort’s monstrous snake, Nagini, right there in front of everyone, especially not when – as far as he knows – Harry is already dead.

I think it’s interesting that the movie-makers chose to contrast his actions with those of Draco Malfoy, a character who consistently chooses the easy path, rather than the right one or even the wrong one. He doesn’t kill Dumbledore, but nor does he accept Dumbledore’s offer to protect him. Later, in Deathly Hallows, he pretends not to recognize Harry, but he doesn’t do anything to help him escape. In both cases, he does nothing and simply allows others to act. Draco is not in the book version of the scene where Voldemort announces Harry’s “death”, and I’m not a big fan of the awkward hug, but going back over to join his parents does seem consistent with his character and emphasizes that standing up to a powerful Dark Lord who seems to have already won is not an easy thing to do.

There are many characters who make the easy choice, some more sympathetic than others. Of course, that’s largely a matter of personal opinion, but I think few people would argue that Peter Pettigrew’s betrayal of Lily and James Potter was anything other than vile and cowardly, while on the other hand, Xenophilius Lovegood’s decision to turn Harry in was very complicated due to the fact that Voldemort was holding his daughter hostage. Many more characters struggle with making the harder, better choice, like Professor Slughorn, who initially gives Dumbledore a false memory, not because he wants to protect Voldemort, but because he is ashamed of having unknowingly helped young Tom Riddle become Voldemort. The amount of nuance is surprisingly deep for a children’s series, but I love it. I think it’s important to understand that not everything is black and white, without downplaying the importance of trying to do the right thing.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that it seems harder to make the right choice after having already made the wrong one; the consequences and risks become much greater. Take Regulus Black, for instance. He joined the Death Eaters as a teenager and quickly realized it wasn’t what he had expected it to be. When he found out just how far Voldemort had gone, he did the right thing, but it cost him his life. Likewise, Snape made many wrong choices as a young man, and it wasn’t until he found out he had inadvertently put Lily’s life in danger that he began trying to do the right thing. The Harry Potter books certainly don’t send a message that morality is black and white or that you can never come back from your mistakes, even very serious ones. On the contrary, many characters do, including Dumbledore himself, who made mistakes of his own in his youth. However, they do seem to say that it takes great courage to do so, and that it’s never easy.

Most people are not Voldemort. There may be some, both in fiction and reality, who care so little about right and wrong that they would hurt other people for no reason at all, but I think that most people would rather do the right thing when we can, and yet sometimes struggle with it. It’s easy to tell the truth if you have nothing to hide. It’s easy to be brave if you’re not afraid. It’s easy to stand up for what you believe in if everyone around you agrees. It’s when doing the right thing is the hardest choice to make that things get difficult, and it’s in those moments that our character is truly tested.