Guess who stayed up into the wee hours reading this, even though I already know what happens plotwise, because I just couldn't stop reading? I sort of knew this would happen! This is why my bedtime reading rule is that I read only nonfiction, and nothing that's very suspenseful - because I do have a hard time putting a book down.
Here's the quote that, for me, told me "you are in this for the series, no matter what else the author does." I'm also someone who doesn't follow series, because I'm impatient and also have a fear that the author won't complete it. (See: my Han Solo In Carbonite problem.)
p. 199: "...Ron also started teaching Harry wizard chess. This was exactly like Muggle chess except that the figures were alive, which made it a lot like directing troops in battle. Ron's set was very old and battered. Like everything else he owned, it had once belonged to someone else in his family - in this case, his grandfather. However, old chessmen weren't a drawback at all. Ron knew them so well he never had trouble getting them to do what he wanted.
Harry played with chessmen Seamus Finnigan had lent him, and they didn't trust him at all. He wasn't a very good player yet and they kept shouting different bits of advice at him, which was confusing. "Don't send me there, can't you see his knight? Send him, we can afford to lose him."
After that I was in. It was a clever little description and wasn't key to the plot at all, but meant everything in world building. And humor - I did laugh at the idea of a chess set arguing with someone.
One thing the reread has reminded me - I now remember why, as an adult, this series had so much attraction for me. The entire first chapter is all adults and adult conversations. This isn't a world in which the young are somehow special and all adults are suspect and out of touch. Adults and children interact and are people - the young are just as special and magical as the old. This is YA done well, and why I've stayed away from all other YA fiction since for fear they'll do it badly. See, I'm an adult, and I really don't want to go back and relive anything, especially not my high school years (once was enough). I'm really happy with my age, and despite our culture telling me I should desperately wish that I'm in my 20s, I don't feel that way.
I love that the adults in the Potter series, for the most part, all talk to the children and young adults, as if they were people. They don't talk down to them, and those that do are usually villains. For the most part the adults treat the younger ones like rational human beings with intelligence and abilities. Harry does not get singled out in that, and doesn't get special treatment that way. There are adults that act horribly in petty ways and in evil ways - and there are children who do the same. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with character. And that is indeed reality. I remember being told when younger that my peers would grow up and stop acting immaturely - to my mind this meant that there'd be more intelligence and empathy. Which, as we all know, doesn't work out in reality. Some people are just as childish and cruel as adults as they were as children, and some adults manage to get away with behavior no one would allow in a 10 year old. Which is why I love this series - there's no pretense that the characters will grow up and magically in adulthood stop acting badly - or, just as important, stop having fun, and enjoying themselves. There's no age that a character reaches and suddenly transforms into someone wise and perfect. Maturity does not mean you have to suddenly become prim and stuffy. Dumbledore is proof of that.