“I’d never have believed this. . . . The man who taught me to fight dementors—a coward.”
Harry speaks these angry words to Remus Lupin in Chapter Eleven, after Lupin has offered his assistance and protection to Harry on his quest. Lupin has just married Tonks and gotten her pregnant, but he already regrets these actions, foreseeing a future in which his child will be scorned as a part-werewolf. Harry correctly perceives that Lupin is only superficially embracing risk and danger, and is in reality fleeing his responsibilities. Harry is in no mood to be patient with anyone who abandons his child, feeling himself to be painfully bereft, not only of his own parents, but of Sirius and Dumbledore, whose guidance he badly needs. Harry’s outburst is thus a sign of Harry’s own resistance to having to take responsibility for himself, as well as a deserved rebuke to Lupin, and a reminder that the hardest task can be staying loyal and faithful to someone, even when that means doing nothing. Harry is struggling to stay loyal to Dumbledore.
“Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch. I have your responses to the questionnaire that was sent to you here—”
Dolores Umbridge speaks these words to Mary Cattermole in Chapter Thirteen, at Mary’s hearing before the Muggle-Born Registration Committee. The words perfectly express Umbridge’s particular form of villainy—smug, bureaucratic, and hypocritical rather than forthright or aggressive. Under Voldemort, the Ministry’s new policy is that wizards and witches who do not have wizard parents must have stolen their wands and magic, and thus may be persecuted and imprisoned. Of course, this claim is false, and everyone knows it, as wands have been choosing Muggle-born witches and wizards for years. Umbridge’s lie is pointless—Mary Cattermole was weak to begin with, and is now in a basement room guarded by dementors. Umbridge uses the law to degrade her further, not only taking away her wand but also her identity as a witch and her right to practice magic. And she does so with relish, taking delight in the questionnaires, orderly proceedings, and other bureaucratic machinery with which she persecutes Cattermole.
“We thought you knew what you were doing! . . . We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!”
These are Ron’s angry words spoken in Chapter Fifteen, just before he abandons Harry and Hermione in the woods. They pierce Harry deeply, as they touch on Harry’s own insecurities, his feelings that if this truly was a viable quest and if Dumbledore truly did care for him, Dumbledore would have left him with a real plan. Harry does indeed feel like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, is acting without a plan, and is unworthy to be followed. But the words also express Ron’s own immaturity. He is on his own and fending for himself for the first time in his life, without a mother or house elves taking care of him, and without teachers or Harry telling him what to do. His statement expresses his own unwillingness to take responsibility for himself and for their plight, something he will need to accept before he can return to help Harry.
But they were not living, thought Harry: They were gone. The empty words could not disguise the fact that his parents’ moldering remains lay beneath snow and stone, indifferent, unknowing.
Harry has these thoughts at the end of Chapter Sixteen, as he looks down and ponders his parents’ graves. He has come to Godric’s Hollow seeking to feel closer to the dead, having read that Dumbledore had a mother and sister buried near his parents, and that Dumbledore lived in that town and may have known someone there. Without fully realizing it, Harry has strayed from the quest Dumbledore actually entrusted to him, instead seeking reassurance about what kind of man Dumbledore was. The trip backfires on him badly. Even though he does find the graves of Dumbledore’s family, and sees his own parents’ graves for the first time, he feels no closer to any of them, reminded only of the fact that they are buried and cannot help him, cannot even care about him.
“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”
“For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto Patronum!”
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window.
This exchange appears in Chapter Thirty-Three, though it takes place before the events of this novel. This is one of Snape’s memories that Harry views through the Pensieve after Snape’s death. In it, Dumbledore has just revealed that he has known for a long time that Harry will have to die before Voldemort can be killed. Snape accuses Dumbledore of lying to Snape and using him, because Dumbledore had told him years before that he could protect Lily Potter’s son (Harry), which is the sole reason Snape has devoted himself to this dangerous project. In these lines, Snape makes it clear that his love for Lily Potter has always been his motivation, demonstrating this fact in the dramatic visual image of his own Patronus, which takes the same form that Lily’s did—that of a doe.
Dumbledore’s words are wonderfully ambiguous. When Harry sees this conversation, he is learning for the first time that he has to die, and that Dumbledore knew this and deliberately kept it from him. Dumbledore’s words may or may not be sarcastic, may or may not suggest that Dumbledore does not care for Harry, may or may not imply that Dumbledore has been using Harry.
Take a Study Break!