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Crossing the Return Threshold
Framework of The Return in Harry Potter
Analysis By Lynne Milum
Copyright © 200
5-2007 by Lynne Milum. All rights reserved.

Refusal of Return for the Series

Harry loves the magical world. Is this the world he will be challenged to leave? One can foresee heavy reluctance to return to the Muggle world. In OOTP he wanted to die and pass from the suffering imposed by the Dark Lord - but his love of Sirius prevented total possession by Voldemort. This demonstrates the source of his ongoing protection - similar to the power of his Patronus incantation…love is the sword he wields.

Ultimately, what will Harry do for love?

Magical Flight for the Series

When the hero obtains a powerful object against the will of the father, a magical flight ensues - where despite efforts of the father, various protectors aid that return.

The best example for the series thus far is in OOTP through the maze with the prize of the Dark Lord. Harry obtains the globe containing the prophecy and refuses to relinquish it to the Deatheaters (against the will of Voldemort, the father). The D.A. members manage to create sufficient chaos to deter Voldemort’s most dangerous followers. The Magical Flight carries us along by means of quick use of hexes and jinxes to unconventional use of wands; wit in surmising the value of the globe to dark Lord; intervention by members of the Order; and finally through protection of Dumbledore himself using the figures of the magical fountain.

Another example of the magical flight is the fashioned escape of Sirus and Buckbeak in the Prisoner of Azkaban - through use of the time-turner. Harry realized the boon of the truth that Sirius was family and that he had not betrayed James Potter. Once the truth was discovered, the opposition of Peter and Severus Snape necessitated escape with the boon - the lives and freedom of Sirius and Buckbeak through the manipulation of time.

Rescue from Without for the Series

Resurrection from the dead - aid from the shadow figures in Goblet of Fire - Harry's father, James, tells him how to use the Portkey to return to Hogwarts. Although James appears to be in the graveyard, this is a shadow of another time and place. In this sense, Harry is rescued through a force beyond comprehension.

Return Threshold for the Series

Crossing the return threshold is the culmination of the journey and as such will not be experienced until the final episode - the seventh book. Readers can surmise a reversal of the original separation (the discovery of the magical world) which could be presented as either the dissolution of the magical back into the ordinary universe, or as some other reconciliation of the Magical and Muggle worlds.

Trial 1 – Return Threshold - Dust to Dust
(Harry and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Dumbledore cast a spell on the Mirror of Erised that passed the stone to Harry through his wish to obtain but not use the stone. Having destroyed Voldemort's body in the form of Professor Quirrell, Harry is pierced with Voldemort's spirit and loses consciousness. Dumbledore rescues Harry from the hidden depths and returns him for healing to the hospital wing.

Trial 2 – Return by Ascension
(Harry and the Chamber of Secrets)

Fawkes arrival with the Sorting Hat provides the means for ‘rescue from without.’ The phoenix arrives from outside the Chamber, but within the call of Harry's heart.

The culmination of this episode manifests as a failed 'atonement' with the Father. As witness to Ginny's suffering at the hands of Tom Riddle – Harry becomes aware that this is the man who killed his parents and threatens not only Ginny's life for his own rebirth; but one who intends to rob Harry of life as well.

The magical item is the diary - and flight is necessitated by the serpent. Riddle achieves his goal - the serpent poisons Harry even as Harry smites the creature. What Riddle, aka the historical projection of Voldemort, does not foresee is his own demise. As Harry "dies", he destroys the diary. Fawkes comes to Harry and resurrects him from fatal wounds - then in true "magic flight", the phoenix rises with Harry, Ginny, Ron and Lockhart from the bowels of the beast.

Trial 3 – Hospital Wing Threshold - Return Through Time
(Harry and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

As throughout the series, there are many physical and metaphorical portals. The challenge is in identifying the portal where Harry moves from closure of the adventure to understanding the events. The complexity in this adventure unfolds when the culmination of the adventure occurs neither at the dramatic unveiling of Sirius’ innocence, nor at the edge of life and soul-lessness for Harry. The return portal is time itself.

Harry has gathered knowledge that Sirius is no traitor to his parents. His sole purpose turns toward prosecuting Wormtail with liberty for Sirius. Unfortunately, Lupin didn’t take his potion and disrupts plans by reverting to his animal nature. His transformation to werewolf results in Wormtail getting away, and ultimately, the dementors trapping Harry, Hermione and Sirius. They avoid the dementors’ soul-draining kiss by an inexplicable arrival of a powerful Patronus after Harry’s attempts at a Patronus failed.

Harry wakes up in the hospital wing and discovers Sirius' execution is impending. He is in the depths of despair. The magical flight begins as Dumbledore instructs Hermione to use the time-turner. Hermione and Harry dodge their 'earlier' selves and manage to save Buckbeak the hippogriff, and hide in the forest to wait for the next opportunity. Harry shares with Hermione that he saw his dad save them from dementors and goes to see the replayed event up close – at the last possible moment, Harry realizes he saw his future self and casts his Patronus with authority. Harry broke the constraints of time and self-limitation, saving the earlier version of himself, Sirius and Hermione!

The future Harry and Hermione then wait until Sirius is held prisoner in the tower. They fly Buckbeak to the tower and free Sirius. Sirius thanks them, affirms Harry and escapes with Buckbeak by air.

Harry's ‘object of value’ in this trial is his godfather Sirius. After finding Sirius innocent, Harry’s raison d’etre is to keep Sirius alive and is the 'return' of this adventure. One could again identify this adventure with magical flight on the wings of another beast - this time in the guise of a hippogriff

Trial 4 – Return through the Foe Glass
(Harry and the Goblet of Fire)

Harry flees the distant graveyard with Cedric via the trophy portkey, marking the flight from a restored Voldemore – a critical moment in the book series. However, Harry does not know his life is still in imminent danger – the return is not yet complete. In this episode, Harry is diverted by the apparent Alastor Moody – in reality, Barty Crouch, Jr. who intends to complete Voldemort’s task.

Harry sees approaching figures in the Foe Glass behind Crouch. At the critical moment, Dumbledore, Snape and McGonegal burst though the door disarming Crouch – manifesting Harry’s "Rescue from Without". The return transition occurs when Harry looks into the mirror and sees Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape looking back. Harry then witnesses the transformation of the man and an explanation of the adventure comes from Crouch under the influence of Veritaserum.

Trial 5 – Portal Return to the Headmaster's Office
(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

The room of realization in the Order of the Phoenix is the Ministry of Magic Entrance Hall. Harry re-enters this room in pursuit of Bella Lestrange to avenge the murder of Sirius. The threshold is not crossed until the final crisis of the book is completed - where Voldemort flees with Lestrange. Dumbledore returns Harry to the Headmaster’s office by Portkey – physical closure to this installment.

 



 

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