Monday, October 22, 2012

More Harry Potter Questions to Ponder

I finished with my fifth annual Harry Potter re-read very late Friday night (stayed up until 4 AM!), but Hogwarts, Harry, Hallows, and Horcruxes are still at the top of my mind.

On a side note, I am listening to The Casual Vacancy currently. It actually took me a few minutes to remember that Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy were written by the same person. Not because they're so different (although they are extremely, extremely different), but because I'd forgotten that anyone wrote Harry Potter. It feels so real when I'm reading it that I forget that it's just words on paper.

Here are a few more questions to ponder for this week:

*These questions are much more in depth than last week. Also, they contain a lot of spoilers for the series, but I'm assuming everyone who is reading this has read the whole series.

If you missed last week's post, check out the first set of Harry Potter Questions to Ponder!

1. Dumbledore did, in a way, raise Harry up like a pig for slaughter. But in the end, how much do you think Dumbledore cared about Harry?

I think Harry started off as a means to an end to Dumbledore. When he first came to Hogwarts, he was merely an idea. Dumbledore surely had plans of what he hoped Harry would do, but he had no idea what kind of person Harry would be. Harry inherited his father's bravery and mischievousness, but not James' youthful arrogance and meanness. Dumbledore quickly grew to respect and care for him. That didn't stop Dumbledore from setting up a plan that implored Harry to sacrifice himself, but how else could Harry's future have worked out? If Dumbledore tried to protect Harry for his entire life, Harry would have walked around with a giant target on his back. Instead, Dumbledore helped him prepare to meet Voldemort as an equal.

I think Dumbledore saw Harry as the son he never had. I think he loved Harry more than anyone other than his family. Notice how overjoyed he was when Harry arrived in King's Cross in Deathly Hallows. And how he felt ashamed yet happy that Harry now knew him for all his faults. Dumbledore may have led him into great danger, but he never stopped helping or teaching Harry. He was there as a source of comfort and wisdom.

2. How do you think Snape truly felt about Dumbledore - and vice versa?

I have a hard time deciding how much Snape cared about Dumbledore. I think he revered Dumbledore, as many people did. He thought Dumbledore could protect Lily but then realized he was still the best hope of getting rid of Voldemort. Over time, I think he truly came to care about Dumbledore - as a mentor, father figure, perhaps even a friend. When he is trying to trap the Resurrection Stone curse threatening Dumbledore's life, he is "furious:" 'Why, why did you put on that ring? It carries a curse, surely you must have realized that. Why even touch it? ... If you had only summoned me a little earlier I might have been able to do more, buy you more time!' This passage is fascinating, not only because it indicates that Snape does not want Dumbledore to die, but because he speaks to him as an equal. Later on, he screams at Dumbledore, 'You take a great deal for granted, Dumbledore! Perhaps I have changed my mind!' I can't imagine Professor McGonnagall employing the same level of familiarity or allowing herself to lose control of her emotions. I don't see anyone treating Dumbledore as a mere human aside from Snape in this series.

I wonder whether Snape's feelings toward Dumbledore changed when he learned that Harry had to die. That all his efforts to protect Harry were really meant to raise him like a 'pig for slaughter.' Just before Snape killed Dumbledore, 'Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.' Was he horrified that he was being kind of forced to kill his mentor or did he hate Dumbledore for betraying Lily's sacrifice? I think there might have been a little of both there. Snape of course didn't know that Dumbledore hoped Harry would ultimately survive; surely, he thought that Lily would never have wanted this. But I also think that Snape didn't want to kill Dumbledore or anyone. Dumbledore asks him 'How many men and women have you watched die?' With what seems like great emotion, Snape responds, 'Lately, only those whom I could not save'...He stood up. 'You have used me.' Killing goes against the moral code that Snape grew after Lily died (an admittedly thin moral code, but hey, he didn't kill anybody).

It is interesting that Dumbledore trusted Snape (almost) completely, when he trusted virtually no one given Snape's history as a Death Eater and a superb Occlumens. My guess is that Snape was so overwrought at the threat to Lily's life and her eventual death, that he was incapable of Occlumency so Dumbledore was able to know that he was being sincere. I wonder if Dumbledore asked Snape not to employ Occlumency against him so that he could continue to know that he was sincere. Perhaps it wasn't necessary.

3. What parts of the series make you cry?

I inevitably sob at 4 points. In Book 4, when Harry's parents come back in Priori Incantatem. In Book 5 - not when Sirius dies - but when Harry goes up to Nearly Headless Nick so filled with hope that Sirius will come back as a ghost only to be devastated again. At two points in Book 7. First, when Harry turns the Resurrection Stone and Lily, James, Sirius, and Remus come back. Especially when Harry talks to Remus about his son. Then, in King's Cross when Dumbledore walks toward him: 'Harry...You wonderful boy. You brave, brave man.' I'm tearing up just typing it.

4. Whose death do you think was the saddest?

They were all tragic, except for Voldemort and Bellatrix. Fred's death is in some ways the saddest because we knew him so well - even better than Sirius and Lupin - because he was a peer of Harry's.

But Snape's death is the saddest to me. It was so pointless. Certainly not the only pointless death in the series, but it struck me. Snape wasn't fighting, Snape wasn't resisting, Snape didn't pose any immediate threat to Voldemort. Voldemort killed him out of his greed for power. And unbeknownst to him, it didn't even accomplish anything. Snape never controlled the Elder Wand.

5. If Voldemort hadn't killed Snape when he did, how do you think that Snape could have gotten Harry to learn his story?

Snape's death was necessary to the story. It just wouldn't have worked as well if he'd survived. Still, if he had...I think he might have lured Harry into the truth with the Doe Patronus. Or if necessary to remain in character in front of the other Death Eaters, he might have caught Harry and acted as though he was delivering him to Voldemort. That would have been hard to work, since Harry would logically resist believing Snape in such a position.

6. Do you think Snape would have been happy that Harry named a son after him?

I go both ways on this one. Snape hated Harry. Every time he looked at Harry, he saw evidence that the love of his life had chosen another man. The fact that it was his childhood enemy was another twist in the knife. Even if Snape had survived, I still think he would have hated Harry. He wouldn't have wanted anything to do with James's grandson. But then again, Albus Severus had Lily's eyes. On that note, I wonder if Snape ever just stared at Harry as he was growing up to see Lily's eyes once again.

I would like to think that, in death, Snape could get beyond his childish refusal to let go of his schoolboy grudges. There is clearly some form of after life in the world Rowling imagines. I hope that he is able to come to peace with Lily and even James. At that point, maybe he'd be honored to have Albus Severus named after him.


  1. 1. I think Dumbledore always saw Harry as ‘part of the plan’ but later on in the series he eventually came to love him as his own son, like you had mentioned in your own answer. Still . . . I think Dumbledore used Harry a lot and quite often put him in too many dangerous situations but in any case he was also preparing Harry for the ultimate battle with Lord V. as well which kind of fitted into the whole grand scale of things, you know?

    2. I think Snape didn’t care much for Dumbledore in the beginning, at least not until Harry came along and changed things at Hogwarts. I think once Harry was there and allowed all of the plans to be set into motion, that was when Snape had a much greater respect for Dumbledore and finally realized that Dumbledore had a lot of faith in Snape despite what others may have thought about Snape himself which made him see Dumbledore was a friend to confide in, especially when it concerned Harry.

    3. The death of our favourite Wesley twin was a moment that made me cry. It was just too much to handle because I expected him to LIVE!

    4. All of the deaths were sad but I think Snape’s death really did it for me. He was the character that evolved so much in the series and . . . man it was even sadder when I watched his death in the final movie!

    5. I think there was no other way but to kill Snape off. It was meant to happen to make us readers understand his character more . . . especially in his final moments. THAT was when we saw the true Snape and even if he were to survive . . . I still don’t think he would have told Harry absolutely EVERYTHING since he’s not the one to be so open with people (not to mention Harry) but maybe more so about how he met Harry’s mother etc.

    6. I think Snape would have killed Harry for giving the child such an awful name. haha. That’s just my opinion because it was an awful name . . . Snape would've been prouder if it was just his name. haha.

    Once again, great post!

  2. These are great questions! I'll try not to write a book! (I do that, you know.)
    1. I actually don't like the 'pig to the slaughter' analogy to describe Dumbledore. He was such a loving, wise person that I think he always loved Harry and while he knew Harry would play a role later on, I think he was grooming him for manhood and to be good, not to be a sacrifice. I think good evidence of this is the (totally tragic) end of book 5 where D explains everything to a very angry Harry and he is totally wiped out by having finally discovered that either Harry or Vold. must die. I didn't get the sense that he knew that all along and it messed him up as much as it did anyone else.
    2.Not sure how Snape felt about D. I think I agree with you--he revered him and was unfailingly loyal, but also saw him as an equal, not a mentor.
    3.I tend to cry whenever there's a cool line! One of my faves is when Harry successfully gets the memory from Slughorn and admonishes: "Be brave, Professor. Be brave like my mother." *Tears!* Dobby's death always gets me too. Not when he dies, or their reactions, or when they dig the grave, but when I read what's written on the stone. It's all over at that point! And the very end when he says his kid is named after a slytherin who was the bravest man he's ever known. Tearing up even now thinking of it!
    4.Not sure. Maybe Sirius, just because Harry felt it so keenly. I agree with your points about Fred, though, and Remus and Tonk's deaths really got to me too!
    5.I agree this was the best possible way to reveal Snape's backstory. It wouldn't have packed nearly the same punch if he had survived.
    6. I actually don't think Snape ever hated Harry. Of course their was bitterness because of how he felt about Lily, but I think he had to really latch onto those old feelings in order to make himself be mean to Harry. A few times, we see his true feelings slipping through, such as in the Chamber of Secrets when Filch's cat is petrified, and Snape starts out defending Harry. When Harry is shocked, Snape realizes his mistake and quickly changes his tune to one of bitterness and accusation. I think he had to keep up appearances and did it by being mean to Harry, though that's not how he really felt. I think it was portrayed well in film because when he gives Harry his tear, there's nothing but desperation and compassion on his face. Before he dies, he's desperate that Harry understand who he really is and why he's done the things he has. He cares enough about Harry to care what Harry thinks. I also think Snape wouldn't have left the death eaters and become loyal to D without learning forgiveness. I think Harry naming his kid after Snape was the perfect way to end the Harry/Snape rivalry story and that Snape would not only have appreciated the gesture, but been glad that Harry completely understood him and felt compassion for him. I totally loved the way Rowling handled that! :D
    Great post!

  3. I seriously need to reread this series. I can't even remember the last time I read one of the books, it's been years! And I'm clearly missing out on all the character nuances and subtleties that make the series so special:) Snape is one of my favorite characters just because he is so layered, and I love all the questions you raised with regard to him!

  4. 1. I think that Dumbledore genuinely did care for Harry, he was not just raising him like "a pig for slaughter", but he did try to prepare Harry through the Pensieve memories of Voldemort and by getting Snape to teach him Occulumency, etc. He couldn't treat Harry like an 11-year old boy forever, and I think that in the end, he knew that the hardships of Harry's life (like living with the Dursleys) would make him a better person and more able to make the sacrifice Dumbledore knew he would have to make in order to destroy Voldemort.

    2. I agree with you on this-- I think Snape came to see Dumbledore as a mentor and as a wise man, if not a friend. I was always surprised by how completely Dumbledore trusted Snape as well, when in the fifth book he didn't even feel that he could trust Harry, because of Voldemort being inside his head.

    3. I cried when Sirius died... when Dumbledore died, and in fact during the whole Lightning-struck Tower scene. I wept like a baby on and off during the whole Deathly Hallows-- because it was the last Harry Potter book(!), and I wasn't ready to part with the series or characters at all.

    4. I thought Tonks and Lupin's deaths were somewhat pointless. This was particularly obvious in the movie, where they basically had no proper death scene whatsoever. Snape's death scene is the saddest after Dumbledore's (which is just shocking and heartbreaking)... I hated how powerless he seemed against Voldemort, and when he gives Harry his memories a moment later and stares into his (Lily's) eyes is just an incredibly emotional scene.

    5. I hated Snape's death... but I can't think of another good way for all that information to be imparted to Harry. I don't know; I definitely can't do magical things with plot like JK Rowling can.

    6. I think Snape, Snape as he was just before he died, would ultimately have appreciated Harry's naming Albus Severus after him. (Though I agree with Erin-- Severus is a terrible name!) I smiled when I read that in the epilogue-- it seemed sweet and just right somehow.

    Had a lot of fun reading/answering this; only wish I'd had time to write out more detailed answers! Hope you post another soon. :)

  5. Reading through all your answers makes me realize how much I NEED to read the series again! HBO's been playing a bunch of the movies and, of course, ABC Family plays the marathons but the movies just aren't the same. The books are so nuanced and amazing. (How can someone write like that? I MUST KNOW THE SECRET JO ROWLING!!)

  6. Ahh, I so got to read this book. And as for Dumbledore, I think he knew what he had do to. Sometimes we have to make a scrafice, just like he did. In the end, it was worth it.

  7. 1. At first, I'm not sure what he thought of him, other than just the son of Lily and James Potter. But, as he got to know Harry more and more, and especially after seeing how badly the Dursleys took care of him, I think he genuinely cared for him and that's why it was hard for him to tell him "everything" in the beginning.

    2. I think it grew into genuine like, or at least respect. I think Snape felt taken advantage of sometimes.

    3. Dumbledore's death, Hedwig's death, Dobby's death, and from the Snape's memories in Deathly Hallows to the end.

    4. Dobby was the hardest for me. So was Hedwig's because Harry didn't have time to mourn her and that just makes me sad.

    5. I'm not sure. It would've been difficult that's for sure, what with Harry's distrust of him. I think Snape always knew he was a deadman. He just had to hold out long enough for Harry to get a hold of his memory.

    6. I don't know. I just don't know about that one.

  8. Dang, this is reminding me how much I miss reading essays and analyzing the HP series inch by inch. You are so very thoughtful in your questions and answers, Alison! I wish I could be so well spoken when it comes to the details of analyzing the series. But yeah, obviously I agree with everything you're saying. Cried at the same parts. Agree that Snape's death was the most tragic.

  9. I remember reading an interview with JK, where she said she always knew Sirius was going to die, which I never really got until last year when my mom died. I feel a little silly admitting this, but there's time were I've compared what I'm feeling now to how I felt after Sirius died. It just didn't seem real that because Sirius fell through a curtain he died, and yet he did, and same with my mom. I haven't read the books, or seen the movies in the last year since it happened. But I have a feeling the next time I do, they'll hit me a little differently.


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