The Unknowable Room

chapter twenty-one of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Hermione begins helping Ron with his homework again as the trio discusses Apparition and Slughorn; then Dobby and Kreacher turn up and Harry realizes Malfoy has been in the Room of Requirement. After several attempts to get in himself, though, Harry still has no luck in figuring out what’s going on.

I Love You, Hermione, by gerre

“It’s okay, we can fix it,” said Hermione, pulling the essay toward her and taking out her wand.
“I love you, Hermione,” said Ron, sinking back in his chair, rubbing his eyes wearily.

(by gerre)


I Love You, by Maria Abagnale

Hermione turned faintly pink, but merely said, “Don’t let Lavender hear you saying that.”


Harry Sketch 2, by Maria Abagnale

Concentrating with all his might [Harry] thought, “I need to see what Malfoy’s doing in here…. I need to see what Malfoy’s doing in here…. I need to see what Malfoy’s doing in here….”


The End Has Only Begun, by Hannah-Dora

Harry tried every variation… he could think of for a whole hour, at the end of which he was forced to concede that Hermione might have had a point: The room simply did not want to open for him.


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

Close attention to the essay that Snape assigned for Defense Against the Dark Arts (the one that Ron discovers he’s in fact written about ‘Dugbogs,’ thanks to his faulty quill) reveals some interesting tidbits. First, Harry notes that he expects low marks on the assignment, as he “disagreed with Snape on the best way to tackle dementors.” Really? To this point we’ve been led to believe that there’s only one way to tackle a dementor: the Patronus Charm. What other option could there be? Well, we’re given a clue, because we know Ron has written something into his essay about Augreys (it’s one of the words he misspells). While the Augrey is listed in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there’s no mention of it having anything to do with dementors. So whatever Snape’s dementor-repelling method is remains rather mysterious to us. The big question is: why wouldn’t Snape simply teach Patronuses? (Something to remember, perhaps?)
Come to think of it, the essays Snape got on this topic might have been fairly interesting. After all, he doesn’t know that Harry already taught two-thirds of the class to repel dementors using a Patronus the previous year….

The Power of Magic

The spell-check quill that Ron got from Fred and George must have an interesting bit of magic to it. I mean, to begin with, how cool is it that you can have a pen that changes what you’ve already written? But the really interesting thing is that the quill seems to not just change the words on the spot, but leave some of its magic in the paper itself. After all, Ron surely would have noticed if the moment he finished writing his name, it had instantly transformed into ‘Roonil Wazlib.’ – so it must have taken some time to shift. And then, Hermione points out that the errors can be fixed – the magic somehow reversed even though the quill has long since ceased to write the words that are now misspelled. It’s hard to make sense of how an item like this actually works (and to be fair, I’m not sure Rowling ever actually attempted to make sense of it), but it’s fascinating to think about.

19 Responses to “The Unknowable Room”

  1. On another fansite that it read, they suggested that the method that Snape and Harry are disagreeing over might be the use of Occlumency (or however you spell it). After all, if you can block the bad memories, then the dementors wouldn’t have anything to feed on, and would leave you alone.

  2. I think Snape must have been extremely surprised that so many of Harry’s class wrote about patronuses (I am assuming most of them wrote that they would use a patronus and maybe even mentioned what form their own takes). He’s such a hard teacher, so difficult to please, and for most of the class to write something similar to Harry must shock him and make him wonder how they all knew about it.

    I also love the quill Ron is using, but I imagine it to be more like he is not noticing the spelling errors in his haste to finish. Much like when I am typing quickly and not looking at the screen every second to see if I’ve spelled words correctly (yes, I watch my fingers). I think Ron is assuming that the words he is writing are written correctly because clearly he knows how to spell. But as he is writing the words they are just writing themselves incorrectly as the spell wears off. He just doesn’t notice that they are spelled wrong until the end. I think as Hermione corrects the paper, she is using some sort of simple spell to correct the words. I never thought of it as the quill imparting magic to the parchment.

    Does that make sense?

  3. James, interesting take on Snape’s dementor defense.

  4. When reading the chapter, having never have thought about other methods of thwarting dementors(I guess I was thinking of dementors in the same line of lethifolds, whose only known defence is the Patronus Charm), I was extremely curious about the other methods one could take.
    After checking Prisoner of Azkaban again, I found out that Lupin never actually said that the Patronus Charm was the only method. He said that there were ‘certain defences’ one could use, implying that there were other methods. Though seeing that he doesn’t mention them to Harry, I guess they are either more difficult than casting a patronus or less effective. For example, as James had mentioned above, Occlumency. As we see from Harry it is extremely difficult magic to learn. Also though it could protect yourself from being prey to the dementors, it wouldn’t be able to exactly vanquish a dementor like a patronus could.

  5. Well, I think that there are some alternate defenses to dementors, just common magic. If a dementors advancing towards you, block its path with rocks or something. Or wingardium leviosa the dementor and keep it flying in the air. The Impediment Jinx would probably work as well. These are all not as good as the Patronus, but they’re feasible.

  6. James- about your occlumency theory, wouldn’t it be better to block the good memories? Those are what a dementor feeds on, not the bad. You only feel the bad because they’ve taken everything else away from you. In blocking bad memories, they would swarm to you because you would seem like such a happy person. However, if you were to lock the good memories away, it would seem like they weren’t there, the dementors would have nothing to feed on, and they’d leave you alone. That’s my take on it anyway.

  7. ^ Ohhh, okay. I haven’t read the books in ages, so I couldn’t remeber whether it was good or bad memories they fed on. Regardless, if you block the right set of memories, then they should just ignore you, like has been mentioned before.

  8. re: Snape not teaching the Patronus.

    It’s nice to think he wouldn’t teach it because he doesn’t want to show his own, but he wouldn’t have to. Lupin taught Harry without once doing it himself. And Snape is definitely NOT the kind of teacher who teaches by showing.

    There must be other reasons why he’s not teaching them the Patronus Charm, like he doesn’t think they’re good enough or maybe he just can’t stand hours and hours of students’ happy memories.

  9. i don’t have the book in front of me so i don’t know but didnt ron get the spell check quill from fred and george? and why would fred and george help their brother. it would make more sense if instead of a quill the checked the spelling it was a quill that made spelling erors. i dont know, it just sounds like them. but then why would ron trust something the twins gave him?

  10. Soraya, I always assumed it was something Ron had bought at the twins’ store, or that Harry got for him or something.

  11. @Jennifer C.

    If students of Harry’s class actually had written about patronuses as a defense against dementors, Snape would surely have known, that Harry had taught it to them. He had surely learned about the incident in Little Whinging, where Harry had casted a patronus to repell 2 dementors, and the subsequent inquiry by the MoM. And Snape was all other than stupid.

  12. Irene M, you made me crack up! I can just imagine Snape saying, with a twitch and clenched teeth, “Now, try and thing of something happy, emo though I know some of you are…”

  13. @ Marco- I wasn’t saying that Snape didn’t know that Harry knew how to cast a Patronus, I was saying how surprised he must have been to realize that Harry had indeed taught his classmates how to cast one as well. I think Snape knows quite a lot about what goes on in his school, it’s his home, the place where he fit in the best, so he makes it his business to know what’s going on. The fact that he’s a superb Occlumens doesn’t hurt either.

    When you write about something you know and have done, authenticity comes through. Snape teaching the students to use something other than Patronuses to repel dementors wouldn’t ring as true as their experiences casting that spell. Of course we have no idea what Snape taught them, or what they wrote in answer, but I’d sure love to know! When I read these books I feel like such a kid again, and long to live in JKR’s world! :)

  14. As Professor Snape is in the Order and is a former trusted member of Delores Umbridge’s teaching staff, I’m sure he heard all about Dumbledore’s Army, so I’m sure he knew that Harry was teaching these students. Where the surprise waits for him is in the fact that Harry *successfully* taught them anything. After all, Potter is nothing more than a show-off and is utterly useless, remember?

  15. I’ve always wondered about Ron’s Spellchecking Quill. After all, in “Sectumsempra”, we see Ron’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making, and his name was written as “Roonil Wazlib”. He must have written his name in the book ages ago, back in late-September when it arrived! Has the quill been malfunctioning since then? Does every word it corrected during its “life” become misspelled when it “dies”? Or was it a prank quill that Fred and George gave him that would misspell sometimes?

    I’ve never really understood that.

    (Second post on the site!)

  16. I can imagine that Snape would go along the line of “control your mind, search for a positive memory and then cast the charm”, while Harry would say “tap into you emotions”.

  17. I don’t know whether you have all read the last
    Book, Deathly Hallows. But if you have, then you would realise that there is a very good reason that Snape would not teach his students using a patronus! Incidentally, it is the same reason that he refers to Tonk’s patronus as “weak.” ;)

  18. Oh and Colin, about the malfunctioning quill.
    Harry and Ron had to borrow a potions book from Slughorn until they had purchased their own one..

  19. Very good discussion. Swanpride, nice description. Their teaching styles are so like chalk and cheese!
    Hmmm….. I was always puzzled as to what other defences there might be. But, while Snape is a “tell-er” rather than a “show-er”, maybe he dislikes the Patronus Charm because the forms can be so darn personal…and changeable. After all, that’s why he sneers at Dora, isn’t it? He projects his experiences & ideas about his own Patronus as “looking weak” onto her?
    Interesting theory with the Occlumency…..

    I have always suspected it was a joke quill.

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