Okay, while we here at Chez Evil were filling our brains with early American history last week, Bloomsbury and Scholastic released the cover art for the last Harry Potter book. You would have thought that such information would have penetrated even our 18th Century bubble, but alas, no. It did not. So now I am terribly, hopelessly behind.
However, just because I am late doesn't mean I would deprive you of my thoughts on what this all means, right? Right.
I'd like to start with the UK children's cover, as it has the more interesting art to examine. Bloomsbury has a great site where you can see the image in close detail with high resolution here.
On the front, we see Harry, Ron and Hermione hurtling into a treasure trove. They appear to be coming from the round portal behind them at great speed. Harry's left sleeve is torn and his arm bloodied. Hermione has blood on her right arm. Someone is riding Harry's back and brandishing a sword with a ruby in the hilt. Ron seems to be frightened by something he sees to his right. Harry and Hermione are landing head first, Ron is arriving feet first.
So, let's take the easy parts. I'm pretty certain that is Dobby on Harry's back, carrying Godric Gryffindor's sword. Harry used that sword against the basilisk in Chamber of Secrets, which is also the book where we met Dobby. Notice the large ears and the bald head visible over Harry's shoulder. They are all falling into a pile of treasure, which is primarily red (rubies) and gold--the colors of Gryffindor house. There is also a suit of armor, with what looks like a Phoenix on the chest and a dragon (and a ruby) on the helmet. Harry and Hermione have been in some sort of fight, thus the injuries and probably the presence of Dobby. (Remember, house elves have powerful magic, and Dobby would do anything for Harry.)
It looks to me like the trio has either fallen down a slide and out of the round portal (like the entry into the Chamber of Secrets) or has been transported by portkey and are landing hard--they haven't yet learned how to land any better than they did while travelling to the World Quidditch Cup in Goblet of Fire. Given the presence of armor, a sword and the prevailing color scheme, I'm thinking this is Godric Gryffindor's personal treasure. Perhaps it is even in Gringotts?
Harry is wearing his black robes, but Hermione and Ron have colored, possibly dress, robes on. Perhaps they are members of the wedding party for Bill and Fleur's wedding? Hermione's robe is blue-ish--which makes me think of her Ravenclaw abilities, and Ron's green robes make me fear that he has become angry enough about what he sees as his second-rate status, and may have done something to betray Harry. Thus, the Slytherin green robes, and his lack of injury.
On the back, is a picture of Hogwarts, glowing silver in the moonlight, with a welcoming golden light shining from the front doors. Even though Harry has said he wouldn't return, I think at least part of the book is going to have to happen there--after all, some of the items Voldemort wanted to use as horcruxes are still there, right? Also, as of the end of book 6, Gryffindor's sword was still in the Headmaster's office. Hogwarts will likely re-open then, which wasn't clear at the end of the last book.
The back cover shows a full moon, and what I think is the Whomping Willow. The end of the series will rely somewhat on what happened in the previous generation--Remus Lupin, the werewolf, and the secret path to the Shrieking Shack that is still guarded by the Whomping Willow. Harry's patronus, the stag, is depicted on the front flap--again, a reference to his father, and the generation that started the story. It also implies we will see Dementors again--they have joined Voldemort's side, and the patronus is Harry's defense again them.
Finally, and curiously, there is a long snake depicted inside a crystal sphere. Slytherin's symbol was a snake; Tom Riddle controlled the snake-like basilisk; Voldemort has Nagini; the Death Eater's symbol is a skull with a snake for a tongue. The crystal looks like the prophesies in the Department of Mysteries. Dumbledore thought Nagini might be a horcrux--at any rate, in order to confront Voldemort, Harry will have to get past the snake.
The UK adult cover is a silver locket, with an elaborately engraved "S" picked out in emeralds. I think this is Salazar Slytherin's locket, which was not found in the cave in book 6, and will be one of the horcruxes that must be found and destroyed.
The US cover is less detailed and gives fewer clues. (Click on the link, then click on the image for an expanded hi-res picture.) Harry and Voldemort are in a sort of Coliseum, with a distant ring of dark figures around them. Are they Death Eaters--a reprise of the graveyard scene of Book 4? Both Harry and Voldemort have one hand in the air--neither is carrying a wand, and they both seem focussed on the same object, which is off the page. Their hands are held slightly differently, as though Harry might be calling the object or trying to catch it, and Voldemort is trying to stop its arrival. Harry has a pouch around his neck, and there is rock and wood rubble in front of them.
We know, from Rowling's interviews, that the two-way communicating mirror Sirius gave to Harry in book 4 is going to make a reappearance--for some reason, that's the first thing I thought of when I saw the pouch. With his hand up, and his eyes looking to the sky, Harry seems to be repeating his actions when he "Accio"-ed his broomstick, or the many times he captured the Golden Snitch. If Harry is looking to catch something from the sky, I for one would put my money on him getting it.
What do we know for certain from these covers? The trio will stay together, either at Hogwarts or not. Harry will confront Voldemort one-on-one--alone.
I can hardly wait.