I realized while writing this editorial that there is really no reason why the orders of tasks I gave in the 6th book and 7th book could not be reversed. It would not alter the symmetry or lead to any contradiction. I don't know how I missed it (well, I do, I was stuck on one idea about keeping chasers together). But for the last two books, the inverse is also possible:
I'll just assume for the present that HBP is the book that begins with the Key/Mirror tasks and Book 7 the one that begins with Troll. When I try to understand the tasks, this makes the best sense to me. But of course, when the 6th book comes out, I'll have to verify (one reader asked me to write an editorial when that happens!)
Before you read on, please remember that this is a kind of Arithmancy, which is divination, and divination is a very imprecise thing. So, just as centaurs can be very frustrating when all they say is "Mars is very bright tonight..." some of my discoveries will be that vague.
For the Half-Blood Prince:
The first thing that will have major importance in the book or lead towards its climax will be a Key or a Mirror.
The mirror has always appeared at very climactic points in the books: never at the beginning. Interestingly, though, each time the mirror situation involved either Harry facing himself, Voldemort facing himself, or else Harry facing Voldemort. Usually there was also an additional gadget involved:
PS/SS: Harry sees Harry (+ stone in the Mirror of Erised)
I tend to think that for either the 6th or 7th book, it would be too early to see Voldemort.
Therefore it will probably be a Harry sees Harry + ? formula again.
In PoA, Voldemort was not present in the mirror episode, therefore there is a precedent for a mirror "task" happening without him.
So, I think this means, very early on in our book, issues about Harry's identity will be very important, and there will be some kind of powerful image of Harry facing himself again.
Like the mirror, the key has yet to appear in the opening of a book, and it has been associated with some climactic points in the novel (the portkey in GoF, the time turner in PoA).
The key seems to me to be something that can be used the wrong way, but that is not in itself bad.
The crumpled feather on the first key suggests it has been mistreated, somewhat like Harry's Hedwig in OotP. Parseltongue can be used by evil wizards to set Basilisks on students (but Harry used it to good ends). The Time Turner can be improperly used: Hermione has to swear to use it only for classes. There are dangers associated with it. A portkey is not in itself bad, nor was the Triwizard Cup, but the devious way in which it was used made it dangerous (come to think of it, that Sorcerer's stone was in many ways like a "key," wasn't it? It could be used to open the wrong door... or the right one. For Harry it mysteriously "opens" the mirror that remains like a closed wall for Quirrell...). Thestrals are useful but classified as dangerous: they are at least associated with fear because of their connection with the vision of death, so they could be wrongly thought of.
A key can also be something that can take us in two directions, into danger and out of it:
PS/SS offers us a silver "forward" key: danger
Harry will find a "key" early in the novel: something that could be both good and dangerous, depending on what use he puts it to. The key could be a "thing," "being," or another personal "gift/talent."
Will there be any connection between the key and the mirror?
Will Harry's "gift" have something to do with his "identity"? Maybe those green eyes could be the mirror... and the key...
Tasks 3 and 4: Chess and Troll:
Our chess games and our battles gave been getting bigger and bigger.
Every time we have had Chess, there has been an "organized" battle with multiple "pieces" on the board:
PS/SS: the actual chess game
Around the late beginning and middle of the book there will be a battle. This seems to be an early point for a battle. However, if the war has now begun, who knows?
The battle may in fact be drawn out throughout HBP, since it starts relatively early.
In the Matrix, the chess game has often, though not always, been directly followed or preceded by the "Troll" task, which symbolizes or is death/absence/monster. Can my chart predict "who" will die? Ah, the imprecise art... I can't tell you who! I can maybe tell you when... Maybe I don't yet know how to read my own chart to figure out who. So I'll cheat for the present, and give you a couple of Muggle guesses that have nothing to do with Arithmancy, since it has been a recent interest in the editorials. How about characters who are not capable of change, and whose presence at the end of the novel would not add anything... Luna? (We would feel her absence, and her death would haunt Harry and Hermione, and not only them: she has some unfinished business, I think: a crush on Ron. That way Ron doesn't get "stuck with Loony," but he could still experience love for her, maybe, in retrospect...) Fred and/or George? (That is my idea of a tragedy: Fred and George doing something truly heroic, downright dangerous and immensely helpful, as they are capable of, and paying for it... everyone would cry. The students at Hogwarts - imagine when they hear... if you want to feel it, how about watching a thousand people mourn? Don't forget about that monument Prof. Flitwick left for them... although it feels almost impossible to keep that monument in mind and think of their death at the same time.) I'll stop there. I'm trying to cut where it hurts, because I like these characters. I won't touch the immortals - Harry, Ron, Hermione.
Tasks 5 and 6: Fluffy and Devil('s Snare)
I have not yet determined which comes first, because like with the Mirror/Key confusion, there isn't enough information. I already partially discussed in the other editorial what I think the Fluffy/Devil's Snare tasks may be. I'll just add a few afterthoughts here. Assuming the "Key/Mirror Book" is the HBP, since Felix Felicis appears in Chapter 14, and HBP is supposed to be shorter than OotP, I would not be surprised if he stood in for Fluffy, because I can't help thinking that his name sounds fluffy. Besides, "Fluffy" is a name, after all. Last time, I didn't provide solid proof for my association of the "Umbridge" task with fluffy, other than that she gives herself a "fluffy" outer appearance, but she's got fangs and claws, so here it is: - Umbridge is described as wearing a "fluffy pink cardigan." (203, OotP)
- When Harry is in the tea shop with Cho for Valentine's day, the cherubs and their annoying confetti will remind him of Umbridge's office (and her "horrible" kittens).
- Fluffy pink is mentioned as repulsive: "There was a scramble as everyone tried to seize a pair [of earmuffs] that wasn't pink and fluffy." (116, CoS)
- Lockhart wears one day "lurid pink robes" (300, CoS). He has "wavy hair" (which can be described as fluffy, as hair is what the adjective is normally applied to). Lockhart also starts the whole Valentine tradition: his harp-twanging, Valentine-bearing, rather brutish, shin-kicking dwarfs (302, CoS) seem to combine certain elements associated with Fluffy the dog who sleeps to the harp and bites at Snape's shin, and they are reminiscent of the cherubs in OotP that make Harry think of Umbridge. You see all the parallels.
- In GoF, Hagrid seems to feel about the Horntail dragon Harry has to face at the Triwizard tournament as he felt about his pet dragon Norbert: "you'd think it was a fluffy little bunny rabbit." (294, PS/SS) Anyway, chances are Fluffy will be a new character (unless it is another one of Hagrid's pets... or brother: might he be Grawp?). But Felix Felicis is my best candidate. Will he be dangerous? We had only one good Fluffy so far, Padfoot, the nice dog... Are there only one or two exceptions to the rule? We've also had only one good exception with Devil's Snare: the Gillyweed.
There are some obvious similarities between the Fluffy/Devil tasks:
PS/SS: 3-headed dog: skill was needed (music)
PS/SS: plant: lack of trust and skill needed (knowledge and fire): the word "lucky" was pronounced a lot
I tend to think the Fluffy and Devil's Snare tasks stand for people that Harry will have to either trust or distrust.
Because of their similarities, the tasks of Fluffy and Devil's Snare might even mix in our next book, and I would be interested in seeing Harry faced with a choice between them, the representative of Devil's Snare and the representative of Fluffy. And why not have that choice be Snape vs. Felix Felicis (whoever he/it is.)
Personally, I think that if my Fluffy/Devil assumptions are correct, the Riddle in HBP will be a revelation of whom should Harry have trusted or not: something in the style of the end of GoF.
The "Troll" / 7th book will be quicker, as I have already compiled the background information above.
Here is the mini chart again:
This means death/absence. It seems awfully early in the book, but we have had it be so in PoA, where really what sets the plot in motion is the supposed absence/death of Peter Pettigrew: we see the rat in a photograph from Egypt very early, though we don't know how important that photograph will be.
Perhaps what will set Book 7 in motion will be someone's death, absence, or disappearance.
Fluffy and Devil's Snare...
More Sheep in Wolves' Clothing? Or more Wolves in Sheep's Clothing?
At this point in the novel it could well be the final confrontation with Voldemort. It's coming, don't you know...
So something interesting will happen right after Harry encounters Voldemort for the last time. Let's look at past riddles:
SS/PS: Snape, potions: finding the truth meant safety or progression (Hermione solved it)
The riddle is very important in learning what steps to take for walking safely in the danger's path.
The riddle has sometimes happened before a climax (SS/PS, CoS) or after it and too late (GoF, OotP). PoA was solved before the climax, but also too late, as Peter got away. In better circumstances, Lupin might have looked at the map earlier. When the riddle is solved seems important. Is it possible for a riddle to be solved right smack in the middle of a climax?
Perhaps in the middle of a fight with Voldemort, Harry will solve a riddle, which will help him act and/or see a truth and/or safe path, and vanquish Voldemort.
The Key, finally...
What is this key that will close the novel? Could it be the same key that opened it? That scar on Harry's forehead?
In her Write the End to Book 7 Competition Entry, Kristin imagined that Harry's scar will be gone from his forehead at the end of the series. Maybe she's right. Now, if it is Book 6 that ends with a key, and Book 7 that ends with a riddle... Why would we need another riddle, anyway? Most riddles (except for the Crouch, Jr. riddle... always an exception) have been doors into new dangers, including the Prophecy of OotP. A riddle is a question. Whereas the key... the key can open a room and close it. It has a dual nature. It seems like a nice symbolic way to end a story.
Lock the story, and throw away the key.
The End... for now
I think I have had enough of the Matrix... for now, because frankly, as much as I thought I was thinking outside the box when I came up with it, when you really look at it, I am right back in the box. And although I seem to have expanded some horizons, still... I think I need a bigger box! (sounding like a Chihuahua, with Godzilla in the passenger's seat)
If you would like to contact Daniela, you may do so at MagicLantern at peoplepc dot com.
What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrel is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows.
Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 17, Page 296
Harry's middle name is James, Hermione's is Jean, Ginny's is Molly - after her mother - and poor old Ron's is Bilius.