The Two-Way Mirror #17: Harry’s Dreams, Part II: Wizard Dreams
“This is a two-way mirror. I’ve got the other. If you need to speak to me, just say my name Into it; you’ll appear in my mirror and I’ll be able to talk into yours. James and I used to use them when we were in separate detentions.”
Sirius’s two-way mirror gift to Harry could have saved his life had Harry thought to open the package a little earlier. It would have been an easy way to verify if Harry’s last wizard dream was reality. But Harry remembered the gift too late. In his frustration at being unable to communicate with Sirius after he was lost through the veil, Harry hurled the two-way mirror into his trunk where it shattered… J. K. Rowling has told us that the two-way mirror will be back in future books:
Will the two way mirror Sirius gave Harry ever show up again?JK Rowling replies -> Ooooo, good question. There’s your answer.
(J.K. Rowling’s World Book Day Chat)
Sirius’s and James’s two-way mirrors are not the only mirrors that Rowling introduced in the books in connection to what may be termed Harry’s “wizard dreams” (“scar dreams,” to be exact, but “wizard dreams” in that they are clearly brought about by magic, unlike regular “Muggle dreams”; “wizard dreams” are mostly “legilimency dreams” Harry has while asleep). There are a number of other mirrors associated with Harry’s wizard dreams, among which two that appear to form a pair.
Framing is a very interesting literary structuring device I learned from my dissertation director, who, in his book on Marcel Proust The Color-Keys to “A la recherche du temps perdu,” pointed out that Proust has the tendency to “frame” passages with certain colors (that is, the color is mentioned at the beginning and end of a passage) in order to accentuate a particular color-coded meaning. I think Rowling has also used this framing device with the dream sequence that begins in the very first pages of Goblet of Fire and ends towards the end of Order of the Phoenix. A few dreams continue outside this “mirror frame,” but I am convinced it is for a reason that I will explain later on.
The frame is made of two mirrors. One is the mirror into which Harry looks after having his first frightening-enough wizard dream, and the other is the mirror into which Harry looks after having what is arguably his most horrible wizard dream. When Harry wakes up from his “Little Hangleton dream” at the beginning of GoF, he immediately looks at himself in the mirror. Harry’s scar has hurt countless times before, and the author mentions he has had plenty of nightmares, but we have yet to see him look at himself in the mirror after any of these incidents. Yet here, with the beginning of the scar dreams, his need to see himself is described at relative length:
“He sat up, one hand still on his scar, the other reaching out in the darkness for his glasses, which were on the bedside table. He put them on and his bedroom came into clearer focus, lit by a faint, misty orange light that was filtering through the curtains from the street lamp outside the window. Harry ran his fingers over his scar again. It was still painful. He turned on the lamp beside him, scrambled out of bed, crossed the room, opened his wardrobe, and peered into the mirror on the inside of the door. A skinny boy of fourteen looked back at him, his bright green eyes puzzled under his untidy black hair. He examined the lightning-bolt scar of his reflection more closely. It looked normal, but it was still stinging.”
What happened before Harry had the strong urge to see himself, before he saw himself for who he is, a skinny boy who looks like his father and mother, with a scar on his forehead that does not appear changed in any visible way in the mirror and that does not feel any different to his fingers? Rowling narrates it in a striking way, appearing to change the style and tone of her novel, removing Harry’s perspective and adding an aura of third-person-narrative realism to the chapter. In doing so, she prepares the possibly misleading realism of the new brand of dreams that Harry has begun to have. Harry was standing in his dream somewhere beside the old Muggle, Frank Bryce, and was able to see Voldemort when Wormtail turned his chair around, right before Frank Bryce was killed: “And then the chair was facing Frank, and he saw what was sitting in it. His walking stick fell to the floor with a clatter. He opened his mouth and let out a scream. He was screaming so loudly that he never heard the words the thing in the chair spoke as it raised its wand” (15, GoF). What was it that woke Harry up? “All Harry knew was that at the moment when Voldemort’s chair had swung around, and he, Harry, had seen what was sitting in it, he had felt a spasm of horror, which had awoken him . . . or had that been the pain in his scar?” (17, GoF) Harry also saw Frank Bryce fall in his dream, and we know that the unforgivable curses, especially Crucio and Avada Kedavra, make his scar sear. It is a most peculiar need on Harry’s part to look at himself, as if to reassure himself, at this early point in the dream sequence, when Voldemort is still exterior to him. But it seems the threat to Harry’s identity has been formed and its echo can be heard and seen with unmistakable accuracy in the second concrete mirror framing the wizard dreams.
The wizard dream in which Harry again looks at himself in a mirror shocks us by presenting Harry not somewhere in the same room as Voldemort, and not even in the same snake as Voldemort, but inside Voldemort himself. In this dream, Harry is Voldemort. The second mirror has a precursor presented right before the dream, not a real mirror, but a window. A window against the night sky is also a mirror, but Harry looks neither into it nor through it. He touches it with his forehead. : “He rested his forehead for a moment against the cool glass of the window beside his bed; it felt soothing against his scar. Then he undressed and got into bed […]” (584, OotP). The spatial proximity between Harry’s forehead and the window/mirror foreshadows the imminent fusion to come between Harry and Voldemort. The moment he falls asleep, Harry has Voldemort’s body, as he sees first by looking at his hands, and there is no ambiguity in the language, no suggestion of the presence of two minds rather than one, or two hearts or two wills:
“He was standing in a dark, curtained room lit by a single branch of candles. His hands were clenched on the back of a chair in front of him. They were long-fingered and white as though they had not seen sunlight for years and looked like large, pale spiders against the dark velvet of the chair. Beyond the chair, in a pool of light cast upon the floor by the candles, knelt a man in black robes.
‘I have been badly advised, it seems,’ said Harry, in a high, cold voice that pulsed with anger.”
At the end of this dream, Harry/Voldemort looks in the true materialization of the second mirror. This mirror is a “dream mirror.” We may surmise the mirror is in fact as real as the GoF one, except it isn’t Harry’s mirror. It is Voldemort’s mirror. But Harry is still “dreaming” when he looks into it, and it is not Harry alone who looks into it but Voldemort/Harry:
“Left alone in the dark room, Harry turned toward the wall. A cracked, age-spotted mirror hung on the wall in the shadows. Harry moved toward it. His reflection grew larger and clearer in the darkness…. A face whiter than a skull… red eyes with slits for pupils… ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’
‘What?’ yelled a voice nearby.
Harry flailed around madly, became entangled in the hangings, and fell out of his bed. For a few seconds he did not know where he was; he was convinced that he was about to see the white, skull-like face looming at him out of the dark again […]”
The dream mirror into which Harry/Voldemort looks, along with the window against which Harry cools his scar, frame this passage and together they form a literal two-way mirror, which by definition is both mirror and window, looking like a mirror from one side and like a window from the other. It is very appropriate that one side of the two-way mirror should reflect someone double: Harry/Voldemort. In fact, this dream mirror functions as a two-way mirror, because Harry communicates with Voldemort through it. He sees Voldemort’s face in place of his own, and it is likely that Voldemort can also finally perceive Harry as he looks at himself. Sirius’s two-way mirror is used to communicate, and I believe that it is in this passage that Harry and Voldemort finally communicate; that is, Voldemort finally sees Harry.
As in the first wizard dream, there is a scream of horror as a result of seeing Voldemort face to face. But something has progressed. This time, Frank Bryce is not there to play the intermediary and scream before Harry, and Harry does not only see Voldemort face to face: he sees Voldemort’s face instead of his own. The horror of it wakes him up, as it did in the first dream. When he wakes, Harry is afraid of seeing Voldemort’s face in the darkness, but does not run to a mirror to check out his own face. It is as if he knows that the mirror he was looking into was a window. For this reason the author emphasizes that upon waking Harry does not know where he is (not who he is). Harry does eventually examine his own hands, the bodily equivalent of a mirror, the only part of our body that we can look at with ease and have before our eyes at all times, as a true picture of ourselves: “I was You-Know-Who,” said Harry, and he stretched out his hands in the darkness and held them up to his face to check that they were no longer deathly white and long-fingered” (586, OotP). The mirror of his own hands suffices to set Harry at ease. And in fact, with the misleading reality that mirrors can present, Harry’s hands, his own living body, are the most “real mirror” he can find.
I believe these two mirrors are literary devices, “reality markers” that separate the “real” wizard dreams from the “fake” ones; that is, Harry’s “legilimency dreams” from Voldemort’s “fabricated dreams.”
When two mirrors are placed facing each other, an endless reverberation occurs – a seemingly infinite procession of mirrors continuing into the fathomless depths of each one like empty hallways leading nowhere… This is an appropriate optical metaphor for the endless and fruitless progression along the same DoM hallway forever reduplicated in Harry’s dreams… yet always stopping before a closed door. The dream repeats, like so many mirror reflections, giving the impression of a long passage, when in fact it’s the same old passage trod over and over again in the same recurring dream. Such is the nature of the space between two mirrors. There is no possible progression, only the illusion of one. Repeated as a refrain throughout the fifth book, the same old frustrating journey returns. I quote here a few passages to illustrate the effect:
“[…] he was still sleeping badly, still having dreams about corridors and locked doors that made his scar prickle […]”
(118, OotP)“[…] and yet again Harry found himself walking down a corridor ending in a locked door.”
“What was more, he was now dreaming about walking down the corridor toward the entrance to the Department of Mysteries almost every night, dreams that always culminated in him standing longingly in front of the plain black door.”
Only a couple of pages before and then repeatedly after Harry has the “snake dream” where he witnesses/performs the attack on Mr. Weasley guarding the closed door (389, OotP), his dreams take an interesting turn. He no longer wakes for no reason or mainly because his scar is hurting. It seems that he is just about to make progress, but someone always interrupts him. If Harry does not progress in these dreams, it appears that it is also because Rowling is playing with the reader:
“He was walking once more along a windowless corridor, his footsteps echoing in the silence. As the door at the end of the passage loomed larger, his heart beat fast with excitement . . . if he could only open it… enter beyond… He stretched out his hand… his fingertips were inches from it…
‘Harry Potter, sir!'”
“It was as though a film in his head had been waiting to start. He was walking down a deserted corridor towards a plain black door, past rough stone walls, torches, and an open doorway on to a flight of stone steps leading downstairs on the left…
He reached the black door but could not open it… he stood gazing at it, desperate for entry… something he wanted with all his heart lay beyond… a prize beyond his dreams… if only his scar would stop prickling… then he would be able to think more clearly…
‘Harry,’ said Ron’s voice, from far, far away […]”
“[…] There, at the far end of the windowless passage, was a plain, black door.
He walked towards it with a sense of mounting excitement. He had the strangest feeling that this time he was going to get lucky at last, and find the way to open it… he was feet from it, and saw with a leap of excitement that there was a glowing strip of faint blue light down the right-hand side… the door was ajar… he stretched out his hand to push it wide and –
Ron gave a loud, rasping, genuine snore […]”
This subsequence of dreams presents new elements. Harry displays a sense of urgency and impatience, an irresistible desire to get beyond the door that has not been mentioned before. A real mirror is subtly introduced at the beginning of this new sequence of “desire dreams,” as if to mark a change: “He stretched out his hand… his fingertips were inches from it…” (384, OotP). Harry is still himself; we can assume he sees himself in his hand, because otherwise we would know there is a difference… Stylistically, Rowling reproduces the mirror right before this dream by having Harry try to read a potions book. Every word of the sentence that he reads and rereads over and over again as if it were the corridor in the DoM is reflected in his thoughts and bounces around the hall of mirrors of his own preoccupations. And yet there is a certain theme that repeats in these reflections, for which reason I quote the integral passage:
“These plants are moste efficacious […] producing hot-headedness and recklessness… … Hermione said Sirius was becoming reckless cooped up in Grimmauld Place….
…moste efficacious in the inflaming of the braine, and are therefore much used…
… the Daily Prophet would think his brain was inflamed if they found out that he knew what Voldemort was feeling….
… therefore much used in Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts…
… confusing was the word, all right; why did he know what Voldemort was feeling? What was this weird connection between them, which Dumbledore had never been able to explain satisfactorily?
…where the wizard is desirous…
…how he would like to sleep… …of producing hot-headedness…”
After he falls asleep as he reads, Harry’s sequence of “desire dreams” begins. Rowling does not create the linguistic hall of mirrors that precedes it for nothing. The main theme that runs throughout it is that of feeling and desire, and it is at this point that Harry’s desire to open the door becomes apparent and intensifies. We may wonder how much of this desire is his and how much is Lord Voldemort’s, and how much of it is a suggestion that Voldemort makes to him…
A reader, Michael Blume, was intrigued by this passage: “something he wanted with all his heart lay beyond… a prize beyond his dreams… if only his scar would stop prickling… then he would be able to think more clearly…” (496, OotP). Michael remarked: “If only his scar would stop prickling. That can’t be a Voldemort-thought, which means it came out of Harry’s own mind. At this moment, Harry wants what Voldemort wants, and is thinking independently about how to get it.” This passage reads like the episodes in which Harry is partially resisting the Imperio curse. Later on we will read a similar passage: “There was something in this room he wanted very, very much…. / Something he wanted…. or somebody else wanted….” (635, OotP).
J. K. Rowling’s exploration of linguistic equivalents of mirrors in OotP occurs in key passages. Harry has his “snake dream” two pages after Rowling’s imitation of his sleepy reflections. After Harry is fooled by his last Department of Mysteries dream, he is faced with the unpleasant linguistic mirror of Bellatrix’s parody of his babyishness: “‘The little baby woke up fwightened and fort what it dweamed was twoo,’ said the woman in a horrible, mock-baby voice” (782, OotP). Her distorted language is a false mirror that shows Harry just how “stupid” he was to believe the dream. If Bellatrix talks like a baby, it is because Harry thought like a baby.
A more subdued linguistic mirror is Snape’s repetition of a lie that Harry gives him:
“‘It -‘ said Harry, looking everywhere but at Snape, ‘it was – just a dream I had.’ ‘A dream,’ repeated Snape.”
This linguistic mirroring precedes a remarkable progress that Harry makes in his DoM dream. He “hurtles” along the corridor at greater speed than he has ever moved before, and it is the first time the door flies open before him and Harry is faced with the choice of which door to take next (593, OotP). Professor Snape yells at him, “POTTER!” interrupting his “dream,” but Harry has now seen beyond the closed door. In fact, it is during Occlumency lessons that Harry makes his greatest progress in the DoM dreams. Snape’s invasion of his memories, like a Pensieve, connects in Harry’s mind his DoM dreams and memory of being in the DoM with Mr. Weasley, bringing him to the realization that all these dreams are taking place in the DoM (536, OotP). It is also while he is still receiving Occlumency lessons that Harry manages to see all the steps (1, 2, 3) for getting to the room with the prophecy: (1) the circular entrance with blue lights, (2) the rectangular time room, and (3) the high and wide church-like prophecy room (635, OotP).
The sequence of Occlumency lessons is also framed by glass objects, the glass jars in Snape’s office, distant cousins of the mirror and brothers of the window. Quite appropriate for framing Occlumency lessons, Snape’s jars are a closed glass containers. The first things Harry notices when he enters Snape’s office are these glass jars: “It was a shadowy room lined with shelves bearing hundreds of glass jars in which floated slimy bits of animals and plants, suspended in variously colored potions” (529, OotP). And the last thing that Harry sees from Snape’s office, as his Occlumency lessons come to a violent end after his uninvited trip inside Snape’s Pensieve, is a glass jar that breaks when Snape throws it at him: “And as Harry hurtled toward the door, a jar of dead cockroaches exploded over his head” (650, OotP).
Speaking of “broken mirrors,” when Harry screams inside Voldemort’s mind while looking into the mirror, he symbolically shatters that mirror, as he shattered the two-way mirror that Sirius gave him. He destroys one of the mirrors that kept the circle closed; he removes one of the barriers that kept him turning around the same hallways forever safely leading nowhere. Dumbledore thought Voldemort realized Harry was in his mind when they seemed to possess together the snake in the DoM. Is it possible though that Voldemort actually realized Harry was in his mind in the passage where he screamed before the mirror? In GoF, when Harry was not in Voldemort’s body, but only in the same room with him as he performed Crucio on Wormtail, he also screamed: “Wormtail screamed, screamed as though every nerve in his body were on fire, the screaming filled Harry’s ears as the scar on his forehead seared with pain; he was yelling too…. Voldemort would hear him, would know he was there. ..” (577, GoF). Harry screams again in OotP, but this time seeing Voldemort as he looks at himself in the mirror. We can be sure that this time Voldemort realizes he is there.
I wonder, as silly as it may seem, if one of the humorous scenes invented by Alfonso Cuarón for the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban, when the Fat Lady tries to break a glass by singing false opera, was one of the improvisations that gave Rowling the goose bumps because it anticipated a symbolism that she placed in the fourth and fifth books. Interestingly, neither the Fat Lady nor Harry literally shatter the mirror/glass with their voice. They do it with their hand.
Sirius’s two-way mirror frames the last subsequence of the “wizard dreams” in OotP. Harry receives the mirror before his Occlumency lessons begin, and right after he has learned about them: “‘I want you to take this,’ he said quietly, thrusting a badly wrapped package roughly the size of a paperback book into Harry’s hands” (523, OotP). The second time the mirror is mentioned, it is after his last dream, and after Sirius has died. As the first mentioning of the two-way mirror hails the beginning of Occlumency lessons, it is appropriately wrapped in paper, hidden from view (though the fact that it is “badly wrapped” may say something about Harry’s future success with Occlumency). The second appearance of the mirror, after Occlumency lessons have stopped, shows us the visible object, but the mirror now proves useless because of bad timing. Harry throws it at the bottom of his trunk, where it shatters. I wonder if the other glass objects that have been broken and then repaired in the books also function as signals, framing important sequences… (I remember when Ron out of anger broke the door of the train compartment as he shut it too forcefully. Harry, remembering Cedric’s death, out of anger broke the bowl with Murtlap essence for his hand. Ron, when he was not paying attention while talking to Hermione, broke his tea cup in Charms…)
Harry’s last sequence of dreams after Occlumency lessons stop always takes Harry to the prophecy room, through the circular entrance and the time room (682, OotP). Harry’s last dream, – the “Sirius dream” – shares with Harry’s “mirror dreams” (the dreams associated with the two concrete mirrors) the process of identifying someone; only this time it is not Voldemort – it is Sirius. He is described as “a crouching black shape” until he turns around and Harry actually sees Sirius’s face: “His face was bloodstained and gaunt, twisted in pain yet rigid with defiance…. / ‘You’ll have to kill me,’ whispered Sirius” (727, OotP). The name of the man is only given once he faces Harry and is therefore recognized. Voldemort has somehow seen the image of Harry’s godfather in his head, and has distorted it, reflecting it back. Harry takes it for the real Sirius. But after recognizing Sirius, Harry does not scream. He tells him with Voldemort’s cold voice that he will kill him. Only when Voldemort says to Sirius “We have hours ahead of us and nobody to hear you scream….” (728, OotP) does Harry finally scream and wake up. It is the mentioning of screaming that wakes him. Voldemort may be playing with the fact that Harry betrayed himself when he screamed before the mirror last time. It seems to me that it is Voldemort who decides to let Harry wake up right after speaking of screaming… Harry’s instinct, as it had been in the two previous dreams, should have been to run to his mirror and verify, to check the real Sirius, just as he had checked the real Harry and the real Voldemort before. But he didn’t know about the existence of this mirror because he hadn’t opened the package. At the end, Harry throws the mirror into his trunk where it shatters.
The mirror-breaking spree begins in the actual Department of Mysteries, with the shattering of what seems to be hundreds of prophecy spheres, copies of the “real thing” as we learn later when we see Trelawney in Dumbledore’s Pensieve. Another thing breaks in the DoM that is even more interesting. In Harry’s DoM dreams, Rowling created a 1-2-3-step pathway to the prophecy room, with the “Time Room” constituting the link between the entrance and the final destination. It makes sense symbolically that it should be so, as time needs to be traversed in order to get to the future that the prophecies speak of. But it also appears that when the children get to the DoM, a great deal of significant time is spent in this room. And the part that interests me the most in light of this editorial is what happens when Harry shoots a poorly aimed “STUPEFY” spell at a glass-fronted, hourglass containing cabinet: “The jet of red light flew right over the Death Eater’s shoulder and hit a glass-fronted cabinet on the wall full of variously shaped hourglasses. The cabinet fell to the floor and burst apart, glass flying everywhere, then sprang back up onto the wall, fully mended, then fell down again, and shattered -” (790, OotP). Rowling returns to this image: “the glass cabinet that Harry now suspected had contained Time-Turners continued to fall, shatter, and repair itself on the wall behind them” (794, OotP). I can’t help but find significant that Rowling presents this cabinet full of time-turners that is repeatedly shattered and mended again. Isn’t each dream in fact like this glass-fronted cabinet, and like a mirror, forever shattered by Harry’s screams, or external sounds, or the light of day, and forever mended and returned the next night?
Glass and mirrors have also been associated with the body in many of these passages. The dresser mirror shows Harry’s body with the scar. The dream mirror shows Voldemort’s reborn body. Snape’s glass jars contain so many disgusting dead bodies. From the broken glass prophecy spheres ghostly bodies float forth. The bell jar in the time room contains the body of a bird ever dying and being reborn. Perhaps the glass cabinet of time-turners is also symbol of a body that has been shattered and mended again. A body that contains time-turners… Could it be Voldemort’s body? Could it be that one of the steps Voldemort took towards immortality had something to do with time-turners? And mirrors? And potions? Time-turners can be associated with mirrors: they double time, and we have seen in the PoA that Harry and Hermione see their past selves like real reflections of themselves in the “time mirror.” But speaking of bodies, why did Sirius’s body have to be completely lost?
The various paired mirrors and glass objects that have intersected and framed significant sequences of Harry’s wizard dreams reveal the hall of mirrors nature of these dreams that cannot be distinguished from reality. At the same time, these symbols serve as markers for us readers to help us find our way in the labyrinth of the book. It was in the very first book of the series, The Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, that Dumbledore warned Harry to stay away from the Mirror of Erised: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that” (265, SS). But Harry forgot and, as one will notice, he forgets many things along the way (ie. he forgot he had an owl in CoS when the King’s Cross barrier was locked, he forgot he could Accio his fallen Marauder’s map when he sunk on the stairs after his bath in GoF [but he remembered to Accio the portkey at the graveyard, and that is significant]). The Mirror of Erised shows the greatest desire of the one who gazes into it, and throughout OotP, the hallways of the DoM showed Harry what seemed to be his greatest desire: to find out what was beyond the closed door. Because the Mirror of Erised was not explicitly materialized, because the door was opaque and did not seem to show him anything, Harry did not think to heed Dumbledore’s warning, and he dwelled on both his dreams and desires, remained staring before the door as before a mirror, wandered in the forbidden hallways of the DoM until the tragedy of losing Sirius became inevitable. The dangerous confusion between dreams and reality was already present and connected to mirrors in the early pages of SS. But the Mirror of Erised was also used in an unexpected way. Harry could get the stone out of it, because all he wanted was to get it – not use it. This form of overwhelming selfless desire seems to me a sign of the power the Dark Lord knows not. The body that was in the mirror, the stone, was transferred close to Harry’s own body, into his pocket. The stone was eventually destroyed. Was that stone a symbol of Voldemort’s (immortal) body as atschpe thought? “The aim is the philosopher stone – immortality – when Harry awakes in the hospital wing he hears that Dumbledore has destroyed it. Could this point to the fact that in the long run the ‘immortal’ Voldemort will be destroyed?” Is Voldemort’s life somehow hidden in a mirror? And what form of high-pitched music will it take to shatter it?
I would like to thank Michael Blume for sending me the complete typed HP passages of Harry’s dreams to help with writing Part II of Harry’s Dreams.
I would like to thank Nicole, my editor, whose inspired illustration for my column gave me priceless ideas for this editorial.
I have left out a number of dreams from Books 4 and 5. Stay tuned for Harry’s Dreams Part III.