Oh man I forgot how much I loved this book.  Siriusly. (That never gets old.)

This is where I feel Rowling really introduces one of her main themes: the dead don’t come back.  They don’t always leave, but we still don’t get them back.  This is really strongly brought across in this book, and is (quite possibly) the strongest theme in this book.  Harry even says it to himself, when he’s learning how to produce a Patronus charm.  I don’t have the book with me, but it’s something like “she’s dead and hearing her won’t bring her back.”

Harry thinks he sees his Dad creating the Patronus at the end of the book, but it’s really himself he sees.  He knows it’s impossible, but thinks it anyway.  After all, who else could it possibly be?  Only one other wizard looks that much like his dad.

This is recurring, after Sirius dies Harry seeks out Sir Nicholas and asks him if Sirius could be/would be a ghost.  Sir Nicholas told him, very sadly, that he had already moved on and you don’t come back from that.  Death, in other words, is a one way trip.  Nicholas is not alive, of course, but he’s never been truly dead (nor is he likely to be).  Also, the scene where Harry finds the mirror and starts trying to get Sirius to answer pretty much broke my heart.

In the 7th book, Harry sees a flash of blue eye in the mirror, and he associates it with Dumbledore.  Of course, if he couldn’t get Sirius to talk to him through the mirror, he shouldn’t be able to see Dumbeldore, either.  But the thought, the eye, the idea is there.  In the 7th book, he actually sees the dead: he sees Lily, James, Sirius and Remus right before he went to Voldemort and was hit with the second killing curse in his young life.  While he was in that stage between life and death (having not yet died) he spoke with Dumbledore.

But in all of these dealings, it was understood that the situation was not permanent while Harry was alive.  He only could use the stone to bring his family back because he wasn’t trying to bring them back, he just wanted their company for a short time.  Dumbledore would be there if Harry moved beyond life and into death, but he had to make that decision himself.  He knew if he went back to the land of living he would lose Dumbledore and his family until such time as he died.

Oh, also the inferi- they’re corpse puppets.  It’s not a way of bringing the dead back to life, it’s a way of animating dead bodies and using them to terrorize and kill.

Other things of note: you know I never paid attention to the Ron/Hermione vibe until the GoF, but it’s clear in earlier books something is there.  It’s not much- Ron says he’s going to help her with Buckbeak’s appeal and she bursts into tears and hugs him, that sort of thing.  Oh, and Ron expresses absolute amazement when Hermione slaps Draco (oh that is such an awesome moment for her).  And she blushed when Ron talks about how amazingly unlike herself she’d been, what with slapping Draco and storming out of a class.

Also Sirius is probably one of my favorite characters, and I love how we are not given the easy, happily ever after solution we expect and hope for.  The book, the characters, the motivations are far too complex to have something easy happen (and Harry still would have needed the protection of the magic he received through calling the Dursley’s his home, which is a wrinkle in the ‘living with the godfather’ plan anyway).

This is also the first book where Dumbledore cannot just, you know, make it all better.  He has been just *fixing* everything up until now, and Harry reflects our amazement that it is beyond his capabilities.  This is the foreshadowing for Dumbledore’s later slip-ups, I feel.

I also feel this tells a lot about Snape’s character.  He will not drop a fucking grudge, no matter what.  It has clearly been years since they played a prank on him (and I feel that he’s only embarrassed and enraged because he was sworn to secrecy and the Marauders managed to avoid trouble, not because he nearly died.)    In the end, he isn’t so much working with Dumbledore as he is working against Voldemort, which Dumbledore uses to his own particular advantage.