Elf Tails

chapter nineteen of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ron’s family and friends discuss his poisoning, and then Hagrid lets slip to Harry that he heard Dumbledore and Snape arguing. Then on his way down to the Quidditch match, Harry sees Malfoy skipping off with two girls, but can’t do anything about it; then, during the match, McLaggen (taking Ron’s place) cracks Harry’s skull and Gryffindor loses. Finally, in the hospital wing, Harry decides to find out what Malfoy is up to – and sets Kreacher and Dobby on his tail.

Er-My-Nee, by Maria Abagnale

Hermione gave an almost inaudible sniff. She had been exceptionally quiet all day.


Hagrid Watercolor, by Abigail Larson

Hagrid stopped in his tracks, a familiar, guilty expression on what was visible of his face above his tangled black beard.
“What?” said Harry quickly. “Dumbledore’s angry with Snape?”


Overheard, by Miri

“I dunno, Harry, I shouldn’ta heard it at all! I – well, I was comin’ outta the forest the other evenin’ an’ I overheard ’em talking – well, arguin’….”

(by Miri)


On the way to the Quidditch Match, Harry Sees Malfoy with Two Unknown Girls... by Drew Graham

“Where’re you going?” Harry demanded.
“Yeah, I’m really going to tell you, because it’s your business, Potter,” sneered Malfoy. “You’d better hurry up, they’ll be waiting for ‘the Chosen Captain’ – ‘the Boy Who Scored’ – whatever they call you these days.”


Clouds, by Becky Roberts

Harry stared down at the commentator’s podium. Surely nobody in their right mind would have let Luna Lovegood commentate?


Poppy Pomfrey, by White Elzora

“I don’t want to stay here overnight,” said Harry angrily, sitting up and throwing back his covers. “I want to find McLaggen and kill him.”
“I’m afraid that would come under the heading of ‘overexertion,’” said Madam Pomfrey, pushing him firmly back onto the bed.


Kreacher, by Heather Campbell

“Master called me?” croaked Kreacher, sinking into a bow even as he gave Harry a look that plainly wished him a painful death.


Shhhh! by mneomosyne

“Come to think of it, it would be good to have both of you,” said Harry. “Okay then… I want you to tail Draco Malfoy…. I want to know where he’s going, who he’s meeting, and what he’s doing. I want you to follow him around the clock….”


about the chapter


Cormac McLaggen might just be the most obnoxious person at Hogwarts, but I think my favorite part of his character comes when he confronts Harry in the common room about becoming the new Keeper. Quite apart from the fact that he seems to have been spying on Harry and Ron (knowing that Ron was poisoned when nobody else does) and makes no pretense about caring whether Ron is alive or dead, he also startles Harry and then doesn’t react when Harry draws his wand on him. Are you kidding me? One of the best wizards in the school just drew his wand on you and you don’t even flinch? His ego is so inflated it’s unbelievable. Come to think of it – I wonder how he and Lockhart got along when McLaggen was taking his classes in his third year?


The Wizarding World

I’m always disappointed in Hagrid when I come to the section where he yells at Filch and calls him a “sneakin’ Squib.” Hagrid is the only person at Hogwarts who has an inkling of what it must be like to be Filch, who grew up around magic and is surrounded by snotty little kids brandishing wands every day, but who is completely unable to do it himself. Granted, Filch is far from a nice person, and to be fair in this moment he certainly insulted Hagrid first (by ignoring the fact that he was a teacher while threatening Harry and Hermione with detention). But all the same, Hagrid is appalled when he hears that Malfoy calls Hermione a ‘Mudblood,’ and I don’t see that his actions in this moment are any better. Prejudices like this certainly exist in our world, but it lowers my respect for Hagrid substantially to see him throw a comment like that at another person.

The Final Word

“You know Luna’s commentary during the Quidditch match?… I really enjoyed doing that…. To be honest with you, Quidditch matches have been the bane of my life in the Harry Potter books. They are necessary in that people expect Harry to play Quidditch, but there is a limit to how many ways you can have them play Quidditch together and for something new to happen. And then I had this moment of blinding inspiration. I thought, Luna’s going to commentate, and that was just a gift. It’s the kind of commentary I’d do on a sports match.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2005

35 Responses to “Elf Tails”

  1. I think Hagrid called Filch a squib out of dislike for Filch himself, rather than as an insult. Also, I love McLaggen purely for the comic relief.

  2. I’m not sure about ‘Squib’ being anywhere near as rude as ‘Mudblood’. When you call somebody Mudblood, you are, in fact, saying they are below you because they have so called ‘dirty blood’, but with Squib…well, that’s actually what they’re called. It’s still rude – equal to calling somebody ‘boy’ rather than their actually name, but nowhere near as derogatory.

  3. I agree with Samantha and Adele, in that Hagrid was insulting just Filch and not squibs in general. And Luna’s commentary might have been one of the funniest moments in the whole series…

  4. I also agree with them. Luna’s commentary was great.

  5. As Ron says,”Luna always gives good value”. I thought that McClaggen’s part in the films was played spot on.

  6. Yay! Thanks for posting again!! my favorite part of this chapter was luna’s commentary. It was the best, and it kept Ron entertained, which was good.

  7. Here, Here! Welcome back, Josie.
    My favorite part of the chapter is the exchange between Kreacher and Dobby. Dobby is so loyal to Harry and Kreacher is loyal to the Malfoys. I love the way Harry thinks of all the loopholes Kreacher can get through while tailing Malfoy and how Kreacher can’t tip him off.

  8. Draco has matured so much more than the trio. He realizes that a Quidditch match is meaningless; he knows that the time has come to shift his priorities.(Notice that he also got a detention from McGonagall for not doing his homework, clearly he doesn’t think his academic future is important*) Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione are arguing about Lavender/McLaggen/etc. and Harry is fretting over Quidditch and what Malfoy & Snape are up to (he was right, of course) instead of focusing on the task Dumbledore gave him, which is the action that in the long-term will benefit him and Dumbledore in the fight against Voldemort the most. He has a trust issue with Dumbledore, he refuses to believe he has the Malfoy situation under control and Hagrid’s comment makes him think he is right.
    *I know that Draco getting a detention may have been part of his necklace plan, still in the Hogwarts Express he states pretty plainly that Hogwarts isn’t a priority anymore. And as was pointed out in this site, he wasn’t out there bullying first-years and the like; he clearly has matured a lot/been forced to mature a lot over the summer.

    On a completly unrelates note, do you think Dobby and Kreacher are related? Pure-blood families seem to keep their house-elves’ offspring as servants ( OotP04, all former Black elves look alike), so if Narcissa (and not Lucius) inherited Dobby, he may be related to Dobby. I know that it wouldn’t make a difference in the story but it’s an interesting possibility.

    About the term ‘squib’, it seems to be the only word to refer to them; those who wish to insult them would call them something along the lines of ‘simple muggle’. Still, Hagrid bringing up Filch’s condition(situation?) is really rude, specially since Filch (unlike apparently, Mrs.Figg) is ashamed of what he is. We do know Filch and Hagrid are on a constant feud, so this scene might be out of context.
    One last thought on Draco, don’t his comments before the match (about the boy who scored, etc) seem more like an old acquaintance making fun of Harry in a harmless, even friendly way, instead of a sworn enemy with a grudge? Consider he has spent the last five years insulting Harry for his upbringing, choice of friends, and parentage.

    Anyway, if you write an essay about HBP, I hope it’s about Draco.

  9. Sorry to doublepost (maybe you can edit my previous comment)
    In the paragraph about the house-elves it shoul be ‘, he may be related to KREACHER”, not Dobby.
    On my next to last paragraph (the one about Draco), the last sentence should end with ‘without any real reason’. That is Malfoy used to insult Harry just because.

  10. Welcome back!
    Hagrid’s use of “stinkin’ Squib” really disappointed me too. :(
    I realize that “Squib” is not a vulgar term, and is far more akin to “Muggle-born” than “Mudblood,” but I think it’s the context that gives the term is derogatory nature. This is just my reading, but it seems to me that Hagrid referring to Filch as a Squib is similar to the way the Dursley’s refer to Harry as a Wizard (even if they don’t use the actual word, the sentiment is the same). It’s an unnecessary classification in this instance, spoken only to devalue him by his magical status. What if someone had called Hermione a “stinking Muggle-born”? Objectively, she is Muggle born and that’s not a nasty word. But by bringing up her (non) magical lineage, a comment like that is saying “she is less-than, not only because she stinks, but because she’s Muggle-born.”
    I know Hagrid’s only human and subject to holding prejudices like the rest of us, but I had hoped for better from him.

  11. Yay! Welcome back, Josie! Just hold out for 48 more chapters before life gets crazy again, okay? ;)

    Also, I see Squib as being something along the lines of what Adele said, referring to them as ‘boy’ or maybe even ‘gringo,’ which aren’t the most pleasant ways to refer to people (it’s certainly much more rude than actually calling them by name) but I don’t think it’s nearly at the level as “Mudblood.” In fact, I think it’s more akin to when the Dursleys would call Harry “boy” or even “that boy”–rude and unkind, but not slanderous.

    Also, I love Luna. I used to have a clip of her commentary as my wake-up alarm and, man, it made for the best mornings. :)

  12. Insulting Filch was not the worst action of Hagrid, when he was pissed. Remember, what Hagrid did at his very first appearance in the hut on the rock! He let suffer an underaged Muggleboy (Dudley Dursley) for the wrongdoing of his father by jinxing him, what is a serious felony in the wizarding world.

  13. On Martin’s comment, you’re very right about Malfoy being more mature than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I think it’s important to remember too that Harry only turned sixteen in the summer and Ron just turned seventeen. Hermione’s birthday, on the other hand, is in September. I feel like Hermione has been slightly more mature than Harry and Ron through the years. Malfoy has been made to mature over the summer, but I think the age difference widens the maturity gap between Malfoy and Ron and Harry. As for Hermione, you’re going to be a little distracted and irrational when you’re in love.

  14. i guess you could say draco has matured. but it could be he is so focused on the mission he has been given, nothing else matters. voldemort forced draco to become a DE. gave him a mission to murder DD with the threat of him and his family being murdered. so draco doesnt care about insults, bullying, quidditch or apparently killing anyone else during his mission. i know he is upset and cries in the bathroom. i just think his “maturing” could be debated.

  15. What I love about this chapter is you get to hear the rest of the conversation Hagrid overheard from Snape’s perspective in the final chapters of DH. I reread that one first and then reread HBP. It is amazing to me how well JKR planned this out. In a few chapters, when Harry has to hide his potions book, it’s going to be next to a “dusty tiara.” Brilliant. So often, I find myself saying, “Wait a minute! Is that…?”

  16. Come on, people, leave Hagrid alone. He is intensely loyal to Dumbledore and to Harry, and any slur on either is going to bring out the defensiveness in him! Filch is an ugly little man who makes life miserable for all the students – he cannot accept what he is (unlike Mrs Figg) and makes sure everybody else is as miserable as he is. And as for Draco maturing – I think his ‘maturity’ is brought on by fear for his family – he does have some good in him – love for his Mum and Dad. I still think his insults to Hermione are far worse than Hagrids to Filch.

  17. Electa, to me it doesn’t matter if someone else mutters worse insults, or how awful of a person Filch is. Hagrid decided to call Filch something that I just don’t think was appropriate. The best comparison I can come up with from the real world is anti-Semites who refer to Jews as “(bleep)ing Jews.” Yes, the fact that someone is Jewish may be a statement of fact – just like the fact that Filch is a Squib. But when the term is used in this way, it’s clearly derogatory, and clearly disparages that aspect of the person’s identity. I would never consider that appropriate under any circumstances, no matter how ugly the person may be that you are saying it to. And as Hagrid himself is consistently on the receiving end of intolerance because of his identity, I’m disappointed in him for saying it.

  18. OK, Josie – I see your point about the appropriateness of Hagrid calling Filch a “sneakin’ Squib” – however, isn’t that just Hagrid? When roused, as he was then, he would say whatever came into his head especially as there had never been any love lost between him and Filch. I am sure that most of us have at some time said something which we regret later. It’s a fact of life – it happens. But with all the goodness in Hagrid, I can not in any way be disappointed in him for that one comment which he made in defence of someone he was fond of. We might have to agree to differ on this one. :)

  19. @Squib vs. Mudblood: I see these as different things. I have always understood Squib to be like saying African American or Black and Mudblood like saying the N word. I don’t think it is a polite thing to say but Squib seems to be the same thing as Muggle or Wizard. Especially considering Mrs.Figg calls herself a Squib. BUT Hagrid does say it negatively and he shouldn’t have said it the way he said it. Especially by saying stinkin’ squib.

    @Draco’s Maturity: I think this can be easily debated. Has he matured in the basic sense? Yes. He realizes he has to kill Dumblodore and is willing to put everything else behind for this task. And he has stopped worrying about the petty things (to him) like love, quidditch and school. But he is still arrogant and won’t let Snape help him. This is a sign of a young mans stupidity. He wants to do the task himself so he won’t accept help. Also, you could argue the most mature thing for Draco to do would be tell Dumblodore what Voldermort wants him to do and switch to the good side.

  20. I just love Becky Roberts picture of Luna and McGonagall!! It is perfect. Their expressions are just how I have always imagined.

    Now, what do you suppose possessed McGonagall to allow Luna to announce the game? Maybe she didn’t realize how Loony Luna is? >_< ha,ha

  21. I’m not sure that Draco’s matured – I suspect he behaves like that because he is absolutely b****y terrified. If he fails, he dies, basically. Everything else is going to come second to that.

    And I adore Luna’s commmentary – absolute genius!

  22. – When Harry gives instructions to Kreacher, presumably “don’t contact Malfoy in any way” also covers “don’t tell someone who would tell him, like his mother.” Either that or Kreacher’s just too stupid to think of it, which I doubt.
    – Luna’s commentary reminds me of English cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, who is famous for frequently ignoring the action in favour of comments on clouds, what food is being prepared, pigeons and red London buses…

  23. Also, is it not possible that Hagrid knows that Filch is a self-hating Squib, and is actually angry at Filch for being prejudiced against his own people, so says something he knows Filch will not only dislike, but also dislike only for prejudiced reasons, thus perhaps in Hagrid’s anger-affected mind making him fair game to be called thusly? I.E. “It doesn’t matter if you’re offended, because you shouldn’t be”? Not that it would have been a particularly calculated tactic, but it’s better than the idea of Hagrid being prejudiced (though he does say in PS to Vernon: “a great Muggle like you won’t stop him” – perhaps he thinks that Vernon is fair game, and he only calls him a Muggle because it shows that Hagrid doesn’t like Vernon speaking ill of a world of which he’s ignorant?)

  24. We know from OP that students (at least fifth years) are allowed out until 9. It was 8:10 when Fred and George got there, and then barely anything happened before Harry and Hermione left. So why was Filch acting like they were out of bed after hours?

  25. About Draco’s remarks before the match, I found that interesting as well. They were half-hearted and less malicious than usual, which consequently made me chuckle for the first time at one of Draco’s jokes.

  26. “And if Dobby does it wrong, Dobby will throw himself off the topmost tower, Harry Potter.”

    How many references does this make about someone getting thrown off of the Astromomy Tower?

  27. You have too remember in the Philosophers Stone when Harry and Ron first visit Hagrid he talks about how whenever he goes up to the school Mrs. Norris follows him everywhere because Flich puts her up too it? Hagrid never liked Flich so for him to call Flich a “sneakin squib” is probably something that is not out the ordinary.

  28. Luna’s Quidditch commentary is one of my favorites. I wonder if her stumbling over Cadwallader’s name as first “Bibble”, then “Buggins”, was a tribute from Rowling to J. R. R. Tolkien. (McGonagall’s “It’s Cadwallader!” line makes it even funnier.)

    “Loser’s Lurgy” brought back fond memories of “The Goon Show” (a British comedy radio program from the 1950’s – I used to have some tapes of it); one episode had the main character convinced by a couple of con-artists that Britain was about to be struck by a terrible illness called “Lurgi” [sic], and that the only cure for it was to play a brass-band instrument. The main character alerts the government, press, and public, which results in massive purchases of brass-band instruments. What he doesn’t know is that the con-artists own a brass-band instrument store and had invented the lurgi hoax to get a lot of business done – and chose him for the front man because that way, when everyone realized that lurgi was a fictional disease, they’d go after him while the con-artists quietly slip away to South America.

  29. I think I found a possible appearance of Helena Ravenclaw during this passage:

    Hagrid stopped talking as the ghost of a long-haired woman drifted serenely past, then resumed in a hoarse whisper, “… The board o’ governors’ll be talkin’ about shuttin’ us up fer good.”

  30. Well, Squip isn’t exactly an insult – it’s more like calling someone a muggle. And Hagrid has his own predjuced, which seem to be based on bad experiences. A Slytherin was responsible for expelling him, and students like Draco sneered at him when he was a gamekeeper (and even when he became a teacher), so he has a negative view on this house (though we never see him treat the Slytherin’s unfair in his lessons, he is only harsh towards Draco, but he has reason to be).
    In the first book Hagrid mentiones that Filchs has trained Mrs. Norris to follow him as soon as he enters the school – there seems to be a longstanding rift between them, and I can surely guess why. After all, Hagrid HAD the chance to become a full fledged wizard, and blow it. To Filch, it must be annoying to see someone who had what he wanted to have, and wasted it. It must be double annoying to see this someone getting a second chance and the respected position as a teacher.

  31. Hey, everyone’s forgetting that Hagrid, being half giant, is occasionally a slave to his baser instinct. He loves and coddles giant spiders and baby dragons for god sake!!
    If he said anything to Filch, it would have been meant as an offhand comment, no more!
    As for Draco and his maturity, well, in the sence that he is more focused, then I suppose it could be considered maturity.
    Though I think, more realistically, that fear is his big motivator and affecting his responses more than maturity.. Just food for thought:)

  32. Hey Josie sorry but i beg to differ.
    Mannerisms are often forgotten while confronting a person you dislike in the face of particularty a tense and pressing situation. In the given context it was Flich who teased a sleeping lion. His comments were to discredit hagrid. He simply wants to jump over people he’s jealous of. Im happy he received back what he dished out! He lands up saying the wrong thing at a grossly wrong time. Ron nearly escaped from a fatal attack. If u r returning after seeing your best friend at such a time and u get provoked by someone you dislike, naturally you will blow your fuse. Also If you remember McG too uses a swear word for Flich in DH. The wizarding community is threatened and here he runs around complaining -students out of beds! LOL!

  33. Joe is an expert in leaving link traces! I too noticed the ref to the dusty tiara.

  34. Draco certainly underwent a character development but to say he become mature is rather far fetched in my opinion. It was a do or die situation for him. His detachment was purely for his selfish reasons. Killing an innocent someone to save your own skin is no maturity. It is cowardice. He feared his own death. He should have discussed his fears with Snape who he considered his most fav teacher. On one hand he doesnt want to do voldy’s bidding, on other hand he doesnt wanna let slip his glory to Snape in case he succeeds! A confused child’s mind! I feel sorry for him though.

  35. Although I know Harry is right in the end about Draco being up to something, and he was totally justified for his suspeciouns, I still get annoyed at his obsession with Malfoy.

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