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Seven movies in and one more to go, by now a lot of moviegoers have made the transition from casual Harry Potter viewer to hardcore fan… but not all of them. That’s never really mattered before, even at their most Potterific, all of the previous Potter adventures have made an effort to be accessible to everyone, wizard and muggle alike. We think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, though, is different.
While Katey, our resident Potter wizard, had no trouble keeping up with the plot in her review of the film, Cinema Blend muggle Josh found the whole thing kind of confusing, as someone who’d only ever taken a casual interest in the movies up till now. If you too are only a casual Potter fan, you may well walk out of Deathly Hallows a little confused. We’re here to help.
Below we’ve put together a guide both to a few people, places, and things the casual Potter viewer should be reminded of before heading in to see Deathly Hallows and then a more spoiler-heavy discussion of some of the things most likely to confuse anyone without a working knowledge of the complex history of the Black family. This is just the beginning though, after you see the movie come back and post any questions you had about the film in the comments section below, and we’ll do our best to conjure up the answers casual fans may need to explain what’s going on in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Check this page regularly, we’ll keep adding questions and answers as people ask them.
A Horcrux is a device used by a sorcerer to preserve a portion of his soul indefinitely, thus making him impossible to kill. Lord Voldemort has put a part of his soul in six different Horcruxes, which he’s hidden in different locations. Dumbledore believes destroying all six is the key to defeating Voldemort and already at least two have been destroyed in the movies so far.
This is the ancestral home of the Black family. Harry's godfather Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman, has been a pivotal part of the films. It’s located in London, out in the Muggle world, hidden by magic. Grimmauld Place was eventually used as the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
Dobby is a house elf, a kind of creature which can use magic like wizards, but doesn’t need a wand to do it. Dobby played a big role in the books but he’s had a much smaller part in the movies. Still he’s fanatically loyal to Harry Potter and will do almost anything for him. He was originally an abused and tormented slave of the Malfoys, he first appeared in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry tricks the Malfoys into giving Dobby his freedom, for which Dobby is eternally grateful.
Kreacher is a house elf, like Dobby, but far less friendly. He first appeared in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of the Blacks. He ends up as an unwilling servant of Harry Potter, Sirius Black’s heir.
Rufus Scrimgeour (played by Bill Nighy)
He first appeared in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince after having been recently sworn in as the wizarding world’s Minister of Magic. He’s long sought Harry’s cooperation with the Ministry of Magic and often locked horns with Dumbledore.
You’re a muggle. It’s the term used by wizards to describe those of us without magical powers and not born in the magical world. Some wizards resent and fear muggles, or feel themselves superior to them, considering muggles little better than animals. The word is not always intended as a slur, but it is used that way occasionally, especially in conjunction with the term “mudblood” which is a derogatory term used to describe someone with magical powers who has no wizarding ancestors and wasn’t born in the magical world.
SPOILER WARNING: What follows from here on out should only be viewed by people who have already seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The rest of this page contains heavy, critical spoilers which will impact your viewing of the film. If you haven't ’t already seen Deathly Hallows: Part 1, you may want to stop reading until after you see it.
The trace does not track your location, but if you perform magic or anyone around you does, the ministry will then immediately know where you are. So the trace only reveals your location if you do magic and it doesn't apply to Polyjuice Potion (what they use to turn everyone into Harry lookalikes) since that's not wand magic and can't be tracked by the Ministry. They all change to look like Harry to act as decoys when outrunning the Death Eaters, who they expect to be waiting for them when they leave Harry's aunt and uncle's house, not to eliminate the trace.
Who or what is Grindelwald and why does everyone keep talking about it?
Grindelwald is kind of the Dumbledore of Eastern Europe, but a darker version who Dumbledore defeated in a famous duel before the events of the books get started. You'll learn a lot more about him in the second half of the movie.
What’s up with that snake lady?
Bathilda Bagshot has actually been dead for weeks, which explains the flies and blood handprints Hermione finds. Her body has been inhabited by Nagini, Voldemort's snake put there to trap Harry because Voldemort suspected, just as Hermione said, that Harry would return to the town where he was born.
Why are the letters RAB so important? Where did it come from?
They're the initials of Regulus Arcturus Black, Sirius's brother, who is the person who first stole the locket that Dumbledore and Harry retrieve at the end of the sixth movie and left the note in the decoy locket. Seeing his initials on the door at Grimmauld Place (the hideout) is how they figure out to ask Kreacher about the real locket and track it to Umbridge.
When did Harry and Dobby become best friends, when Dobby is barely in any of the movies?
Harry has always tolerated Dobby more than being his friend, but Dobby worships Harry after Harry frees him from servitude to the Malfoys at the end of the second book, and every time he pops up he's singing Harry's praises and willing to do pretty much anything to help him out. The assumption is that, even though Harry and Dobby don't see each other much, Dobby still loves Harry more than anyone on the planet.
What the heck is the Ministry of Magic again? Were they always like Nazis?
The Ministry of Magic is just the government, but the Nazi parallel is pretty apt. Think of the Ministry like the 1920s-era German government, but instead of electing Hitler (a.k.a. Voldemort) they're just overthrown by him once he amasses enough power. When the wedding is broken up, the message being sent is that the Ministry has fallen and been overtaken by Voldemort stooges. From that point on, yes, they're pretty much just Nazis.
Is the building where Harry finds Regulus Arcturus Black’s room Grimmauld Place, the same place they used as the Order of the Phoenix headquarters? If so, isn’t that a dumb place to hide since it’s the first place Voldemort would look for them?
Yes, but it's protected from view by anyone who isn't in the Order of the Phoenix, meaning Voldemort and his followers can't access it. Snape can, because he was a trusted member of the Order, but we see the fake Dumbledore ghost put up there to warn him off-- and in the book Harry says he'd like to meet Snape and duel him, being something of a hothead anyway.
How do the kids just happen to stumble on other adult wizards conveniently walking past to kidnap and impersonate while hiding out in the real world?
They are specifically looking for adult wizards outside the Ministry of Magic, the entrance of which is hidden on a banal-looking London street. In the book you see them put together this plan over the course of weeks-- you know Hermione doesn't do anything spur of the moment-- but basically you should just accept that they've picked these three people very, very carefully.
If all wizards can instantly teleport anywhere, any time, why do they spend so much time riding on brooms and trains or traveling by toilets and fireplaces?
Because there are a lot of rules placed on that instant teleportation, which is called apparating. First of all you can't do it until you're 17, and it's an acquired skill, meaning Hermione is much better at it than Ron and Harry. Second, there are lots of places in the wizarding world-- including Hogwarts and the MInistry of Magic-- where you can't apparate in and out as a security measure (imagine if people could teleport in and out of schools, banks, government buildings at will in real life). The toilets thing is just a convenient way for the entrance to the Ministry of Magic to be disguised-- in gross public toilets no one but those wizards in the know would actually enter.
How did Harry know what words he needed to speak to open the Horcrux, or that he needed to speak any words to it at all for that matter? And if he knew he needed to open it to destroy it all along, why didn’t they try to open it the first time they attempted its destruction using spells?
In the book Harry just sort of knows that's what he has to do, because it comes to him at the right moment, once they finally have the sword to destroy it. But there's plenty of precedent for it-- the language is Parseltongue, the snake language that he and Voldemort and very few others speak, and Harry spoke it to get into the Chamber of Secrets, which was the location of the first Horcrux, Tom Riddle's diary. It's one of those things you can chalk up both to Harry's understanding of Voldemort and him being pretty perceptive about what's required of him on this journey.
How much time passes in this movie? Sometimes it seems like a week.
Well, when they leave the Weasley house it's just after Harry's birthday, which is July 31; when they visit Harry's parents' graves, it's Christmas. The book takes place roughly over the course of a school year, just like the others, and this movie leaves off around January or February I'd guess.
Why is Lucius Malfoy so sweaty and nervous?
Because he's scared of Voldemort, like any right-minded human would be, and isn't nearly as evil as we've been led to believe. Voldemort has taken over Lucius's house and he has no choice but to do whatever he says, even though Lucius is starting to develop a conscience and doesn't really like it.
We all know Draco Malfoy is pretty evil, so why did it take him so long to identify Harry Potter?
Like his dad, Draco's not as evil as he's been made out to be-- you see a little of this in the sixth movie, when Draco hesitates to kill Dumbledore and Snape has to step in and do it instead. Draco is also having second thoughts about supporting Voldemort and doesn't want to rat Harry out.
Still confused? Have more questions you want answered? Post them in the comments section below and we’ll add them! Already an expert on Potter's wizarding world and have all the answers? Help us out by adding your own explanations to each question as they're asked, via the comments.