The Silver Doe
Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Silver Doe
Harry, unable to sleep, imagines hearing footsteps and voices in the wind, and gets up during Hermione's watch. Hermione agrees with Harry that they should leave early, reinforcing what Harry imagined, and even thinking she saw somebody. As the Sneakoscope is quiescent, there seems to be no imminent danger, but they Disapparate under the Invisibility Cloak just to be safe.
They arrive in the Forest of Dean, at an old campground Hermione once visited with her parents. The snow and bitter cold keeps Harry and Hermione inside the tent the first day. Harry takes the watch; he senses this night is different. In the twilight hours of impenetrable darkness, a bright silver light appears drifting soundlessly through the trees. Gliding closer, a silver-white doe steps out, gazes at Harry, then turns and walks away. Harry follows it deeper into the forest until it halts, then vanishes. Using Hermione's wand, Harry casts a light. A frozen pond becomes visible—the Sword of Gryffindor lies on the pond's bottom.
After several failed attempts to retrieve the Sword without getting wet, Harry remembers Dumbledore's words when he last retrieved it; only a true Gryffindor could have pulled the Sword out of the Sorting Hat. Stripping down to his underwear, Harry breaks the ice and plunges in. As he grabs the hilt, the Locket, sensing danger, tightens around his neck, strangling him. Kicking and fighting, Harry is unable to loosen the chain's chokehold. Suddenly, someone grabs him, dragging him from the pond. Dazed and shivering, Harry sees the Sword of Gryffindor and a drenched Ron.
Ron denies casting the doe Patronus; he thought it was Harry's, until Harry reminds him that his is a stag. To test the Sword's authenticity, they decide to destroy the Locket. Harry feels Ron should be the one to slay it. Setting the Locket on a nearby stone, Harry says "Open" in Parseltongue. The Locket unlatches and two eyes on its sides stare back—Tom Riddle's eyes. A voice insults Ron, preying on his fears and insecurities, but when this fails, distorted Harry and Hermione heads appear, hurling taunts and ridicule, then they kiss. The real Harry yells to stab the Locket. With a single swift stroke, Ron slays the Locket and Voldemort's soul shard.
Harry assures a guilt-ridden Ron that Hermione missed him and that there is nothing between her and Harry. Reconciled, they head to the camp where Harry is warmly welcomed by Hermione while Ron is pummeled by her furious fists. Harry intervenes, but a shouting match continues. Ron insists he immediately tried to return but was caught by Snatchers, Ministry-hired bounty hunters searching for Muggle-borns and blood traitors. By the time Ron escaped, Harry and Hermione had already moved. Ron eventually located them with the Deluminator; it detects conversations about the person holding it. When Ron heard Harry and Hermione speak his name he was able to use the Deluminator to transport to where they were. It was Ron they heard at their last camp, but they left before he could find them. The Deluminator brought him to where the doe Patronus and Harry were. Hermione is told about the doe, the Sword, and destroying the Locket Horcrux. Ron also gives Harry a wand he 'snatched' from a Snatcher to replace his broken one. Hermione threatens Ron one last time, and the three finally get some sleep.
While this chapter is a pivotal turning point in each Trio member's emotional development, Ron undergoes the most significant change. Dumbledore, aware Ron needed extra guidance, left him the Deluminator to help him find his way back should he become separated from the others. Ron's return highlights how significant his role in the Trio truly is, and it marks a distinct milestone in his maturation. From here on, he becomes a more assertive, independent, and contributing member, rather than a passive follower whose insecurity allowed him to take a back seat to Harry, Hermione, and his siblings. Despite his deficiencies, Ron, unknowingly, has served an important function within the group: Harry and Hermione are talented and resourceful wizards, but, being Muggle-raised, they lack significant knowledge about the general Wizarding world. Ron has often guided them by filling in these gaps. It is unlikely Harry and Hermione could succeed without Ron supplying these missing pieces. His humorous, easy-going nature also helps bond the Trio and counter-balances Harry and Hermione's more intense and somewhat dour personalities, though Ron has shown, at least while carrying the Locket Horcrux, that he, like most people, has a rather suppressed dark side to his nature. Ron also proves he is a true Gryffindor by overcoming his fears and doubts about the mission, and returning to a dangerous situation to search for and help his friends. He also demonstrates immense bravery by rescuing Harry from the freezing pond. Harry expresses his appreciation by insisting that Ron destroy the Locket Horcrux; though, at least initially, and when the Horcrux is fighting for its life, Ron may be uncertain that this is a favour. While Hermione is furious at Ron for having deserted the mission, his brief absence actually proves useful. Upon his return, he provides vital information about Voldemort and the war, warns them that the Dark Lord's name is now "tabooed", and explains what Snatchers are. By being too elusive and cut off from their allies who could provide critical information and support, the Trio have made their quest more difficult and dangerous. From here on, they will utilize information gathered from various allies.
A different facet to Hermione's personality is exposed in response to Ron's return. For the first time in her life, she is so overcome with hurt and anger that she loses control, and, unable to think rationally, reacts without logic or forethought. Only Harry's intervention prevents her from inflicting physical harm on Ron. Although furious that he deserted the mission, Hermione was likely feeling abandoned and betrayed by someone she cares deeply about. This outburst may also show that Hermione is learning to act more intuitively and freely without always waiting until she feels she knows all the answers before taking action. Ron, meanwhile, literally comes face-to-face with his own unresolved feelings for Hermione when he witnesses false images of Harry and Hermione kissing projected by the Locket as it attempts to protect itself. Harry, who also sees this spectacle, assures Ron that he and Hermione love each as brother and sister, and tells him how important he is to their trio.
Harry not only shows another side to his innate courage, but also his growing ability to trust others. Despite not knowing if friend or foe sent the doe Patronus, and after the nearly disastrous encounter with the bogus Bathilda Bagshot, Harry takes yet another leap of faith by following the doe in the hope that this time it was sent to help. However, youthful curiosity may have helped to override caution, and Harry avoids consulting Hermione, knowing she would be far more suspicious and leery following their near-fatal experience in Godric's Hollow. It is confirmed, however, that the silver doe was indeed dispatched to help; the question now is, who sent it and why?
An adult reading this chapter may also note that Ron mentions nothing about having told Bill and Fleur where he was going, or even that he was leaving, when he departed Shell Cottage. This rather leads one to wonder what Bill and Fleur thought when they found his room empty. We do see that Ron took time to pack a rather large knapsack for the trip, rather than just setting out after the light from the Deluminator as he implies in his story; we can only hope, for Bill and Fleur's sake, that he at least left them a note, though they may not have been too surprised by his leaving, knowing Ron had been on a mission with Harry and Hermione.
- Why did Harry and Hermione's conversation about Harry's broken wand prove to be so important?
- How did Ron's shameful desertion actually help the Trio? What made him return? Why is Hermione so angry at him?
- Why does Harry want Ron, rather than himself, to destroy the Locket Horcrux? How does Ron react to this?
- Who could have sent the doe Patronus? Why?
- How did Gryffindor's Sword get in the pond? Who might have been responsible for putting it there and why?
- If someone intended for Harry to find the sword, why was it left in such a dangerous place where he was almost killed?
- Why was the Locket strangling Harry?
- Why would the Locket project an image of Harry and Hermione kissing?
- In Harry's third year, just before Sirius Black slashed Ron's bed curtains, Harry had a curious dream in which he was pursuing a glowing silver creature through a forest. Could there be any relation between that dream and the silver doe in this chapter? Explain that relationship.
- James Potter's (Harry's father) Animagus form was a stag and Harry's Patronus is a silver stag. Could these have any relationship to the doe Patronus? Explain.
Ron will also bring back information about "Potter Watch", an underground wizard news radio program that airs updates about Harry and the war against Voldemort. The information in this broadcast will prove extremely heartening to Harry, as he learns that he is not alone in fighting Voldemort. It will, however, inadvertently result in the Trio being captured.
We learn later that the doe was Severus Snape's Patronus. Carefully examining the text shows that Hermione had her beaded bag open when she told Harry where they had stopped. Phineas Nigellus's portrait inside it overheard Hermione and reported that to Snape. Snape thus knows that Harry and Hermione are in the Forest of Dean, though not exactly where; the Forest of Dean is a largish place, several wooded sections totaling about 40 square miles. (It is located a few miles west of Gloucester in the south-west of England.) It is open to question how Snape found Harry, given the protective spells Hermione had set around them. This must, of course, be supposition, but we already know that many spells are limited by distance, Apparition being one; it is likely that once he was within a few miles of Harry, Snape could use Legilimency to see what Harry was seeing, and thus determine where he was. This would be easier for Snape because he had previously spent time in Harry's mind. After learning the Trio's general whereabouts from Nigellus, it appears Snape sent the Patronus in the hope that Harry would see and follow it to where Snape hid the Sword in the pond. It will be seen in a later chapter that more than one Patronus can be cast at a time, and there may have been multiple ones roaming the forest searching for Harry.
This is the first time Snape's Patronus is seen. It is learned later in the book that its form is somehow related to Lily Potter, and for a specific reason. Readers might consider how and why Tonks' Patronus had changed its shape, something that Snape had ridiculed her for.
There is one additional interesting note. Mr. Ollivander later tells Harry that if a wizard captures another wizard's wand, that wand's allegiance can be transferred to its new owner. Ron provides Harry a wand he took from a Snatcher, making it possible that Ron is actually that wand's new master. However, Harry can still use it, though likely with less effectiveness than if he had been the one who forcibly obtained it. Harry will later seize and wield Draco Malfoy's wand, finding that it performs quite well for him, while Hermione, who is given Bellatrix's confiscated wand rather than having captured it herself, discovers it works poorly when she uses it. Harry capturing Draco's wand plays a crucial role in Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort, who has stolen the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's tomb. Voldemort will also discover that this wand, the most powerful in the world, fails to meet his great expectations, though he is initially unable to understand why.