Blood Traitor, Abomination, Shame of My Flesh!

by darkBlue

“Blood traitor, abomination, shame of my flesh! …Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! How dare you befoul the house of my fathers!”“Hello Harry. I see you’ve met my mother.”

In the HP world there exist two major issues which divide all individuals. First is one’s position on purity of magical blood. On one end of the spectrum exists those who value undiluted magical inheritance above all else, such as the Malfoys, and on the other end exists those who denounce any shred of magical blood, such as the Dursleys. The second issue is one’s position on Lord Voldemort. Of course, most members of the wizarding world live in fear of Voldemort; the differences lie in what, and whom, they choose to believe, and what they feel should be done about him.

One’s stances on these two issues are perhaps the two most important decisions one must make, particularly given the current climate of the wizarding world. Interestingly, despite the fact that choice and free will are repeatedly described as the primary governing agents of one’s character throughout the series, the majority of people in the wizarding world do not, in fact, choose their own position on either of these issues. Instead of the stance on these two issues defining the core of each individual’s morality, they define the core of each family’s morality. Like blood, these values are inherited.

Regarding the first issue of purity of magical blood, contrasting the Weasleys and the Malfoys, or even the Grangers and the Dursleys, demonstrates that it is not degree of magical blood which defines families so much as value placed on magical blood. The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is proof of how deeply family dictates this value:

“Come on Harry, haven’t you seen enough of this house to tell what kind of wizards my family were?” said Sirius testily. (OotP)

The use of the word “family” by Sirius indicates that pure-blood supremacy is not an individual predilection. He did not say what kind of wizards his parents or any specific members were, but rather what ideology was shared by his entire family. Later, as Sirius examines the family tree, we see that few of his relations have failed to embrace this ideology.

The second defining feature of families — the position on Voldemort — is most apparent in OotP, when the wizarding world is divided. Hogwarts students are expected to hold their families accountable for their personal opinion on Voldemort’s return.

“I personally believe [Harry] one hundred percent. My family has always stood firmly behind Dumbledore, and so do I,” [Ernie said.] (OotP)“[My gran] says it’s the Daily Prophet that’s going downhill, not Dumbledore…We believe Harry,” [said Neville.] (OotP)

The “we” in Neville’s quote is understood; Neville’s grandmother’s belief in Dumbledore is immediately expected to both imply and rationalize Neville’s concurrent belief in Harry. Similarly, Seamus must doubt Harry because his mother doubts Harry, whereas Dean Thomas is perfectly comfortable not choosing sides between Harry and Seamus, because:“My parents are Muggles, mate,” said Dean shrugging, (OotP). As his family’s opinion remains open, Dean’s opinion can as well.

Why is the importance of family in the series so noteworthy? After all, even in the real world children generally incorporate their parents’ beliefs, and most families share certain underlying ethics. However, in the wizarding world family plays an unusually dramatic role because one’s positions on magical blood and Lord Voldemort are fundamental to defining one’s character in a way that is not analogous to any issues in the real world. Moreover, these underlying ethics are not just shared by the families; they bind them together. In the HP world, families serve not only to dictate the values of their members, but also to justify possession of these values to outsiders.

Blood Traitors. Inherited beliefs are so essential in determining morality in the HP world that few go against the grain of their families. Therefore, those who do are all the more salient. The “blood traitors” in the books are fascinating characters because by choosing a unique path they are not only renouncing their own family; they are going against the very nature of that society. The concept of blood traitors in the HP world thus raises several questions. Who is considered a blood traitor? Why are blood traitors motivated to adopt opposing ideals? And finally, what are the consequences of self-exile?

Who is Considered a Blood Traitor?

As I believe that families in the HP world are centrally bound by (a) the worth they attribute to magical blood, and (b) their position regarding Voldemort, the parameters used here for labeling an individual a blood traitor require conflicting values on either of these two issues with their family. Which major characters fit this description?

1. Barty Crouch Jr.

The patriarch of the Crouch family, Crouch Sr., was not merely outspoken against the Dark Side; catching Dark wizards was something of a mania with him. During Voldemort’s first reign, he employed counteractive measures whose violence rivaled even the Death Eaters’. His son, however, rejected his family’s attitude towards Voldemort not only by joining his followers, but also by becoming one of his most faithful servants. Barty Jr.’s attachment to Voldemort was not out of a corrupt desire to gain power himself, nor out of fear, but an obsessive devotion, “It was my dream, my greatest ambition, to serve [Voldemort], to prove myself to him,” [said Barty Jr] (GoF).In the end, Barty Jr. unreservedly allowed his ambitions to destroy everything his father had worked towards in fighting Voldemort.

“So old Crouch lost it all, just when he thought he had it made,” [Sirius] continued…. “One moment, a hero, poised to become Minister of Magic…next, his son dead, his wife dead, the family name dishonored, and, so I’ve heard since I escaped, a big drop in popularity.” (GoF)

Barty Jr.’s ultimate blood betrayal comes in GoF, when he uses his family home and resources to keep Voldemort alive, and then kills his father in effort to return the Dark Lord to power.

2. Harry Potter

Harry may not strictly be a “blood” traitor, as he is only partly related to the Dursleys, and Aunt Petunia’s side of the family had an accepting attitude towards magic. But I include Harry because he never knew the Evanses; the Dursleys were the only family he ever had, and hatred of magical blood was the value that he was shown. Clearly, he went against the grain of his environment, to the fury of the Dursleys, by transferring his loyalty completely to the wizarding world. Moreover, he directly counters the Dursleys’ behavior towards magic; while they try to diminish its existence as much as possible. Harry wants to protect his world, regardless of personal cost.

“If Snape gets hold of the Stone, Voldemort’s coming back! Haven’t you heard what it was like when he was trying to take over?…I’m going through that trapdoor tonight and nothing you two say is going to stop me!” [said Harry.] (SS/PS)

3. Lord Voldemort

“He didn’t like magic, my father… [He] returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born… but I revenged myself upon him,” [said Voldemort.] (GoF)

Riddle Sr. hated magic to such a great extent that he abandoned his wife and son to free himself from it. And what does his son do? He grows up not only to become one of the most powerfully magic people of all time, but spearheads a clan of wizards whose primary agenda is pure-blood supremacy. He loathes his Muggle heritage, and prides himself on only his wizarding blood.

“You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father’s name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother’s side?” [said Tom Jr./Voldemort] (CoS)

As the cold-blooded murderer of his father and grandparents, Voldemort represents perhaps the greatest blood traitor of all. His reign included mass Muggle killings, ridding Hogwarts of students who were not of pure magical blood (through the Chamber of Secrets), and fighting wizards like Albus Dumbledore, who he describes as “that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles,”(GoF).

4. Petunia Dursley

“I was the only one who saw [my sister] for what she was –a freak! But… [my parents] were proud of having a witch in the family!” [said Aunt Petunia] (SS/PS)

From what little we know of the Evans family, they took a very un-Dursley attitude towards magical blood. As Petunia said, she was the only one who viewed Lily as a “freak”; everyone else who knew was proud, or at the very least accepting, of Lily’s abilities. While the degree of Petunia’s self-exile from her family is unclear, she outwardly pretends not to have a sister, and we never even hear her mention Harry’s grandparents until her angry outburst on his 11th birthday. What is immensely clear though is that Petunia grew up to despise everything magical, or even abnormal. While the Evanses encouraged their daughter’s individuality, Petunia actually tries to destroy Harry’s wizarding potential.

For years, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had hoped that if they kept Harry as downtrodden as possible, they would be able to squash the magic out of him. (PoA)

5. Sirius Black

“…I hated the whole lot of them: my parents, with their pure-blood mania, convinced that to be a Black made you practically royal,” [said Sirius.] (OotP)

Sirius defied generations of Black family values when he ran away from home at the age of sixteen, and like the other blood traitors, he not only flouted everything his family stood for, he fought to destroy it. Pure-blood mania for families as old as the Blacks is not merely rooted in wizarding pride, as it is for others, but even more so in family pride, and Sirius hated everything that reminded him of his family, even the silver plates embossed with the Black family crest. In school Sirius befriends James Potter, who “always hated the Dark Arts” (OotP) and picked on Severus Snape, who “was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts,” (OotP). Later, Sirius not only works to destroy all that his family has supported by joining the Order of the Phoenix, but also to destroy anything that reminds him of them by cleaning through his house, and even fights an actual family member- by dueling with his cousin Bellatrix.

6. Percy Weasley

“[Percy] said Dad was an idiot to run around with Dumbledore…. And if Mum and Dad were going to become traitors to the Ministry he was going to make sure everyone knew he didn’t belong to our family any more,” [said Ron.] (OotP)

Percy, always cut from a slightly different mold than the rest of the Weasleys, only emerges as a blood traitor in OotP. The rift between Percy and the rest of the Weasleys is rooted in the issue of Voldemort. The remainder of the Weasley family firmly believes that Voldemort has returned, and everyone either joins or actively supports the Order of the Phoenix. Percy, however, staunchly endorses the Ministry’s opposing policy of denial, causing him to move out of the Burrow and refuse to speak to his parents. More than just publicly denouncing his family, Percy purposefully works against the Order- which his family is risking its life for- by contributing to the Ministry’s attempts at discrediting Dumbledore.

“Weasley!” cried Fudge…”have you written it all down… [Dumbledore’s] confession… how he’s been working to destabilize me?”
“Yes, sir, I’ve got it, yes!” said Percy, scanning his notes joyfully. (OotP)

Why are Blood Traitors Motivated to Adopt Opposing Ideals?

The six blood traitors under examination went against the grain of their families by adopting opposing ideals regarding either magical blood or Voldemort. But what pre-empted their development of different moral values from their family? Why did Sirius, for example, reject pure-blood supremacy, while Draco Malfoy embraces it? Why is it that most people in the HP world retain their family’s ideology, while these few did not?

Personality Trait Analysis. A simple analysis involves examining the blood traitors for shared personal characteristics that might account for their behavior. Obviously, pre-requisites for leaving what one is familiar with are independence, bravery, curiosity, etc., but these traits do not explain the motivation to do so. One potential explanatory trait, though, is intense ambition, or desire to prove oneself to the world. It is a noticeable dichotomy that the value of loyalty is routinely lauded throughout the series,

“First of all, Harry, I want to thank you,” said Dumbledore… “You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber.” (CoS)

Yet, the true heroes are the characters who are willing to stand apart. At the very least, those are the characters who receive the most glory. Albus Dumbledore, considered by many to be the greatest wizard of his age, embodies the mentality of following one’s beliefs, even if one must defy others in the process.

“Not a week has passed since I became headmaster of this school when I haven’t had at least one owl complaining about the way I run it,” [said Dumbledore.] (GoF)

It logically follows that if you were highly ambitious, you would deduce that in order to be considered truly remarkable, you must in some way set yourself apart. Defying your family through adoption of opposing morals allows you to stand alone. Along with being exceptionally intelligent, the blood traitors are in fact marked by an unusually strong desire to prove themselves to the world. We are informed of Harry’s acute ambition when the Sorting Hat notes it to be one of his fundamental motivations.

“There’s talent, my goodness, yes — and a nice thirst to prove yourself,” [said the Sorting Hat.] “…You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness…” (SS/PS)

Barty Jr. (who received twelve O.W.L.s) reveals his ambition when he devotes himself to being Voldemort’s most faithful servant, and moreover, to being recognized as more faithful than the other Death Eaters: “I will be honored beyond all other Death Eaters,” [said Barty Jr] (GoF). His obsession is not only proving himself to his master, but, by doing so, proving that he is above the rest. Percy Weasley (Head Boy) keeps his ambition no secret either, as being one in a family of seven children both cultivates and impedes one’s desire to prove oneself. Despite the fact that his brother Bill achieved similar academic success, Percy’s ambition is considered by his family to be in a league of its own.

“Percy would never throw any of his family to the Dementors,” said Hermione severely.
“I don’t know,” said Ron. “If he thought we were standing in the way of his career… Percy’s really ambitious, you know…” (GoF)

Lord Voldemort (another Head Boy) obviously does not need his ambition demonstrated; he epitomizes the will to power. In CoS, we see how profoundly ambitious he was even at 16 years of age: “…When I… become the greatest sorcerer in the world!” [said Tom Jr./Voldemort] (CoS). Sirius Black (another top student) is not, however, as clearly portrayed as being ruled by ambition. Still, one fact in particular indicates that he might have been; while locked up at 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius became increasingly bothered by Snape’s taunts:

“Listening to Snape’s reports, having to take all his snide hints that he’s out there risking his life while I’m sat on my backside here having a nice comfortable time,” [said Sirius.] (OotP)

When Harry blames Snape for goading Sirius, Dumbledore responds, “Sirius was much too old and clever to have allowed such feeble taunts to hurt him,” (OotP). However, Sirius clearly was affected, and not just by his lingering rivalry with Snape; he became angry even when Molly Weasley referred to his confinement [“We’ll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this, if you please!” said Sirius loudly. (OotP)] His insecurity at doing nothing while others fought, even though it was saving him from the Dementors, indicated a strong need to prove himself.

Though it is interesting to consider ambition/intelligence as the motivating factor for blood traitors, I personally find it to be an unsatisfactory explanation. Though it is not readily applicable to Petunia, there are several types of ambition/intelligence, so I cannot conclusively claim that she is both or she is neither. Nonetheless, the danger in any personality argument is that, even if it is foolproof, it assumes that the trait in question is always entirely innate. If ambition was even partially learned, then the motivating factor would be whatever caused the ambition to develop instead. The origins of personality traits are too complex to concretely account for blood traitors’ motivations.

Cost/Benefit Analysis. Assuming human beings are rational, there must have been some form of cost/benefit analysis which led blood traitors to forsake their families for the unknown. The cost — lost sense of belonging provided by their family or environment — must have been outweighed by the benefit — potential to acquire sense of belonging through leaving this environment. Separation from their family must have appeared capable of in fact decreasing their overall sense of isolation. A profound original sense of isolation in their family must therefore be the common motivating factor for blood traitors to adopt opposing ideals.

Family rejection in any form poses a serious threat to an individual’s self-esteem. This threat can be assuaged by disassociating self-esteem from achievement in the domain specifically responsible for the feelings of isolation, thereby allowing maintenance of self-esteem despite the isolation. Thus, there must be a direct connection between whyeach blood traitor feels isolated from his family, and the particular family belief he chooses to rebel against. Whatever led to the isolation becomes the value the blood traitor opposes.

1. The Crouch Family

“…People…started asking how a nice young lad from a good family had gone so badly astray. The conclusion was that his father never cared much for him,” [said Sirius.] (GoF)

In the case of Barty Jr., this was not merely gossip; he believed his father hated him. Crouch Sr. was above all else committed to his work: “he had dedicated his whole life to becoming Minister of Magic,” [said Sirius] (GoF). From the trial in the pensieve, it is obvious why Barty Jr. felt so isolated. As he begs for his life — and at this point, there is minimal evidence that he is indeed a Death Eater — his father throws him to the Dementors.

“You are no son of mine!” bellowed Mr. Crouch, his eyes bulging suddenly. “I have no son! Take them away!” Crouch roared at the Dementors, spit flying from his mouth. “Take them away, and may they rot there!” (GoF)

The connection between Barty Jr.’s relationship with his father and his subsequent dissenting values towards Voldemort is starkly clear; as his father put his career ahead of his son, Barty Jr. opposes beliefs associated with Crouch Sr.’s job. Furthermore, as his mother was the most loved {“[My father] loved [my mother] as he had never loved me,” [said Barty Jr] (GoF)}, he strives to be the most honored of the Death Eaters. Barty Jr. was not merely seeking a sense of belonging by going against his family; he was seeking a father figure in Voldemort: “I will be [Voldemort’s] dearest, his closest supporter…closer than a son,” [said Barty Jr.] (GoF).

2. The Dursley Family

There is no need to justify the increased sense of belonging Harry sought from leaving the Dursleys and becoming part of the wizarding world. Worth noting, however, is that Harry, to maintain self-esteem, adopted different morals from the Dursleys even before he believed in magic. If the Dursleys disliked any quality, he in turn believed that the same quality was in fact something to be admired. As the Dursleys loathed his distinct appearance, Harry liked anything unusual about his looks best:

The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning. (PS/SS)

The several reasons why the Dursleys isolated Harry all thus affected his moral development. Apart from hating his magical blood, they also despised Harry for every other difference of his, and for forcing them to be responsible for his welfare. Therefore, although Harry only became a blood traitor to the Dursley family when he found out he was a wizard, he had, perhaps more importantly, long since rebelled against them by learning to embrace differences and by developing an inherent sense of responsibility for the welfare of others.

3. The Riddle Family

Like Harry Potter, the sense of isolation Voldemort felt from the Riddles needs no explanation. As his father abandoned him first, Voldemort was not so much exiling himself from his family through rebellion as the ideals they upheld. Unlike Harry Potter, the sole reason Voldemort believed he was rejected by the Riddle family was that his mother was a witch, whereas Harry believed a more ambiguous explanation accounted for his isolation in the Muggle world. While Harry’s retaliation thus split several ways, Voldemort’s retaliation turned entirely into hatred for Muggles.

“I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch?” [said Tom Jr./Voldemort]. (CoS)

Sixteen-year-old Tom Jr.’s confusion and sense of betrayal towards his father is apparent:“just because he found out his wife was a witch?” Disbelief that anyone could display that much prejudice underlies the rage in that statement, indicating that Tom Jr. doesn’t comprehend how his father could have hated anything enough to abandon him. As his father’s prejudice is the basis for his own, perhaps Tom Jr.’s lack of understanding accounts for his subsequent extremism; hatred such as Voldemort’s can only be rooted in abject confusion.

4. The Evans Family

“But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!” [Aunt Petunia] stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say all this for years. (PS/SS)

Though years have passed and the Evanses are all dead, Petunia is still feverishly resentful. Her parents may or may not have favored Lily, as she claims, but their pride in her magic at the very least caused Petunia to feel inferior about her own lack of originality. Aside from feeling neglected, Petunia’s resulting jealousy made her the only one who thought Lily was “a freak.” This singular attitude towards her sister, in the face of everyone else’s pride, must have furthered isolated Petunia, and caused her to adopt opposing values towards magic, and seek an environment where both Lily’s abilities and other unusual traits would be abhorred.

5. The Black Family

Sirius left for Hogwarts when he was eleven; hence his isolation must have begun before then at least. Though we know next to nothing about his childhood, as he loathed mentioning it, two facts provide possible explanations for his isolation. First is, as in the case of Petunia, sibling rivalry:

“… My idiot brother, soft enough to believe [my parents]… that’s him. He was younger than me, and a much better son, as I was constantly reminded,” [said Sirius]. (OotP)

Favoritism is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so if the “constant” reminding began when Sirius was young, it would justify why his brother, the good son, became a Death Eater, and Sirius, the “Black” sheep, chose to rebel against the standards he was judged against.

“… [Tonk’s] mother Andromeda was my favorite cousin,” said Sirius… “Andromeda married a Muggle-born, Ted Tonks, so…” Sirius mimed blasting the tapestry with a wand and laughed sourly. (OotP)

Alternatively, Sirius may have felt isolated because the family banished his favorite cousin. If Sirius was closer to Andromeda than anyone else, seeing her expulsion from the family may have particularly caused him to detest the pure-blood ideology for mattering more to his family than actual members did. As Tonks is relatively close to Sirius’s age, her mother’s marriage may have happened before Sirius left for Hogwarts, potentially leading to his betrayal.

6. The Weasley Family

The Weasleys seems unlikely to isolate anyone; in fact they are able to make outsiders feel like part of the clan. Why was Percy always the odd one out? Based on age, his two eldest brothers, Bill and Charlie, share a particularly close bond. Similarly, Fred and George are as close as possible without being physically attached. Ron and Ginny, though too young to be Percy’s peers, and are the closest in age to one another. Therefore, Percy was born the loner between these close sibling pairings.

“Fred and George are in here with us, because Bill and Charlie are in their room,” [Ron] told Harry. “Percy gets to keep his room all to himself because he’s got to work.”(GoF)

Percy is drawn to personal achievement because his natural isolation due to birth order forces him to favor solitary, rather than joint, endeavors. The above quote from GoF is particularly provocative; maybe Percy does not need to be alone in order to work, but chooses to work because it justifies being alone. His obsession with work only serves, however, to further single him out, not only to the twins, but also to his elder brothers [“Do us a favor, Perce,” said Bill, yawning, “and shut up,”(GoF)] and Ron and Ginny, who look up to everyone other than him.

The camaraderie shared by his siblings is clearly at root of Percy’s isolation. Unable to belong, Percy maintains self-esteem by detaching himself more and more from the traits that bring the rest together. His isolation from his family thus explains his position regarding Voldemort’s return. Percy rejects the Order of the Phoenix, which is built upon loyalty, ingenuity, and following its own rules, all qualities which characterize the bond shared by his siblings, and pledges himself to the Ministry of Magic, which espouses the opposite qualities of regulations, traditional methods, and personal gain.

What are the Consequences of Self-Exile?


“… It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”
–Albus Dumbledore

As blood traitors have clearly established beliefs and found environments dramatically different from those they were brought up with, they should stand as the primary support for Albus Dumbledore’s claim that who we grow up to be is far more important than who we were born. Blood traitors are above all passionately against their families, as well as the greatest advocates of freedom of choice. They epitomize independence of thought and bravery in the face of fear and sacrifice. Yet, they in fact provide the greatest evidence against Dumbledore’s claim. For all the merit attributed to personal choice in the series, blood traitors truly indicate that despite passion, bravery, and resolve, it is impossible to escape your family and the bonds of blood.

Percy Weasley. Percy’s letter in to Ron in OotP shows his continued desire to be close to his siblings even though isolation from them may have prompted him to abandon the family in the first place. Ron has always disagreed with Percy, yet Percy appeals to him nonetheless out of lingering hope that now Ron is a prefect, the two may finally have something in common. Moreover, despite slamming a door in his mother’s face when she comes to speak to him, in the same OotP letter, Percy gives evidence against his parents’ beliefs, and asks Ron to inform them of it, which reveals how much he still wants to prove himself to his family.

If you are writing to Mother at any point, you might tell her that… Sturgis Podmore…has recently been sent to Azkaban…Perhaps that will open their eyes…I sincerely hope that, in time, [our parents] will realize how mistaken they were. (OotP)

Petunia Dursley. Petunia’s enormous efforts to ignore the existence of magic and escape her family fell apart when she was given Lily’s son to raise. Still she took Harry, despite harboring no love for him, and knowing that in keeping him she would be faced with a constant reminder of what she despised, and would be inescapably binding herself to the world she had always sought to extract herself from.

“[Aunt Petunia] doesn’t love me,” said Harry at once. “She doesn’t give a damn…”
“But she took you,” Dumbledore cut across him. “She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet she still took you…” (OotP)

The best evidence in Petunia of the inability of personal choice to override bonds of blood is that her obsessive devotion to Dudley was partly why they avoided the Potters: …they didn’t want Dudley mixing with a child like that, (PS/SS). Yet in OotP, even after Harry’s presence in the house is clearly shown to pose a threat to Dudley’s safety, Petunia won’t allow Vernon to send Harry away. She no longer needs to merely tolerate a wizard, as it was with Lily; Petunia is now responsible for the survival of one.

Barty Crouch Jr. Despite destroying Crouch Sr.’s ambitions and dishonoring the entire family, when Barty Jr. ended up in Azkaban, it was not Voldemort who risked everything to facilitate his escape — it was his parents. Barty Jr. survived because his mother sacrificed her life to save his. Having suffered through his father’s neglect, Barty Jr. was released into his care. For all of Barty Jr.’s efforts to create a new life to replace the miserable one he had at home — and as a Death Eater, his efforts must have been extreme — he ended up back in his parent’s house, imprisoned and controlled, with only his father and for company — for years.

“I was under my father’s control. I was forced to wear an Invisibility Cloak… I had not left the house for years,” [said Barty Jr.] (GoF)

Finally, when Barty Jr. does kill his father to bring about Voldemort’s return, only a short time later he is subject to the Dementor’s kiss. Through his desperate attempt to find another father, Barty Jr. ended up only binding his life closer to his own father’s.

Harry Potter. Like clockwork every summer famous Harry Potter must return to his imprisonment on Number 4 Privet Drive, regardless of what he has achieved for himself in the wizarding world. He loathes the Dursleys, as they loathe him, yet he is dependant upon them for survival.

“You [Harry] need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, whilst you are there [Voldemort] cannot hurt you. Your aunt knows … that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years,” [said Dumbledore]. (OotP)

In fact, by defying the Dursley’s hatred of magic through fighting for the survival of the wizarding world, Harry is putting himself in even greater danger from Voldemort. Thus, he must rely on the protection of his aunt’s blood, and his uncle’s “generosity”, even more. Arguably, Harry’s disloyalty ties him closer still to the Dursley family.

Sirius Black. Sirius was independent enough to leave home at the age of sixteen, therefore, after spending twelve years in Azkaban and losing the people he valued most because of the ideals represented on every wall of 12 Grimmauld Place, he is appalled that he is forced to return there in OotP: “I never thought I’d be stuck in this house again,” [said Sirius]. And just as he must return to his family’s house for his own safety: “My father put every security measure known to wizardkind on it when he lived here,” [said Sirius] (OotP), being a blood traitor leads to his demise. The people most directly involved in his death are notably three loyal members of the Black family: Kreacher, the devoted house-elf, Narcissa Malfoy, his cousin who informs the Death Eaters of his close relationship with Harry Potter, and Bellatrix Lestrange, his other cousin who duels with him until he falls through the veil at the Department of Mysteries.

Lord Voldemort. As the most apparent blood traitor, Voldemort’s blood ties to the Riddles in turn run the deepest. In the beginning of GoF, he is living in his father’s house, and we learn that he has retained possession of this house for years, and even continued to pay Frank to do the gardening. Voldemort’s return to human form takes place not at any location representative of the new life he has chosen, but at his father’s grave. For all of his self-acquired powers, the Dark Lord requires his father’s bone in order to rise again. Most revealing of all is that, as much as Voldemort tried to reject his Muggle blood, the boy he marked as a rival was the one more representative of his Riddle heritage (half-blood Harry) than his Slytherin heritage (pure-blood Neville). By linking himself to Harry Potter, Voldemort only deepened his connection to the roots he had fanatically endeavored to escape.

“And notice this, Harry: he chose, not the pureblood (which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing) but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you,” [said Dumbledore.] (OotP)


In order to examine the motivations of blood traitors in the HP series, I considered what factors set them apart. Ironically, the conclusion I derived was that blood traitors are not so different from everyone else. Despite displaying moral originality regarding the importance of magical blood or their position on Voldemort, the values that blood traitors choose to adopt are as much out of reaction to their families as the values of characters who retain their family’s ideology. Though they are often distinct in their possession of personality traits such as intelligence, independence, and conviction, they remain as unable to escape the bonds of blood as loyal family members; for all of their efforts to destroy their families’ beliefs, blood traitors end up, if anything, only strengthening their family ties.

Sigmund Freud theorized that the development of a person’s core psychic structures is influenced by interaction with members of his or her immediate family. This notion may explain why blood traitors moreover seem to carry their original feelings of isolation with them into their new environments. Even at Hogwarts, Harry believes he is disliked for his differences, such as being a parselmouth. Voldemort spent years again feeling abandoned — this time by his Death Eaters. As a member of the Order, Sirius once more was trapped by the rules imposed upon him by Dumbledore. Barty Jr. felt cast aside again when Voldemort forgave his other supporters. Percy, despite working obsessively to make a place for himself in the Ministry of Magic, had a boss who didn’t even know his name. And even on Privet Drive, Aunt Petunia’s remains intensely insecure about how the neighbors perceive her. Therefore, a blood traitor’s path is in some ways a futile one.


* * *“We are linked by blood, and blood is a memory without language.”
Joyce Carol Oates

Often the true nature of something can only be revealed by examining its opposite. The ultimate reason that blood traitors merited analysis for me was not simply a desire to better understand their role in the series; rather, to discover what blood traitors would in turn reveal about the opposite theme of blood. The overriding conclusion from the analysis was that, despite their efforts, blood traitors were unable to truly establish independence from their families; the nature of blood was too essential to be dominated by personal choice. What specifically were the essential attributes of blood revealed from the analysis? Moreover, what are the subsequent implications of these attributes for blood traitors?

Blood and Survival. The “ancient magic” in blood, and its relationship to survival, is clearly demonstrated in Harry’s case; as long as he considers the house of Lily’s blood to be his “home,” he will remain under her protection. Strangely, many other blood traitors, such as Voldemort, Sirius, and Barty Jr., also end up imprisoned in their own family houses despite all efforts to the contrary. What is the significance of these houses, and why do they repeatedly appear throughout the series? Dumbledore once described Lily’s blood as Harry’s “refuge” (OotP), which was striking because “refuge” often refers to a physical space. However, through its manifestation in the form of the family home, blood actually can become a physical shield, and directly contribute to survival.

The ability of houses to serve as such a shield may transcend just Harry; other characters may also benefit from a lingering blood protection in their homes. Intentionally or not, perhaps the other blood traitors return to their houses when they are in imminent danger. If this indeed be the case, then there may be implications for the blood traitors who have not returned to their homes, like Percy Weasley. By leaving the Burrow, if Percy has given up an ancient form of blood protection, he may perhaps be in particular danger. In the case of Petunia, though she has not (to our knowledge) returned to the house she grew up in, by housing her sister’s son, she may have qualified herself, or Dudley, for a certain protection as well. We know Petunia made a pact with Dumbledore: “I thought,” said Dumbledore…”that [Petunia] might need reminding of the pact she had sealed by taking you,” (OotP). Perhaps this blood protection is related to the benefit that Petunia is personally receiving from this pact.

Blood and Endurance. Examining the families of the traitors, particularly where there was a disagreement over value placed on magical blood, emphasized the enormous fear associated with blood in the HP world. The Black family’s fierce protection of pure-blood heritage, and the Dursley’s mistreatment of Harry, are both on account of the shared fear expressed by Aunt Marge that “Bad blood will out,” (PoA). This fear is rooted in the fact that blood, particularly magical blood, is enduring; bloodlines must therefore be protected against all transgressions because the slate will never be wiped clean.

Blood traitors themselves, however, tend to disregard the endurance of blood. They have always felt different from their families, so they cannot recognize, nor do they want to recognize, any effects of sharing the same blood. Voldemort, who hates his father’s blood, overlooked the ancient blood magic which connected Lily to Harry, leading to his original demise. Thus the endurance of blood may have implications for blood traitors because they fail to recognize its potential power. When Voldemort used Harry’s blood to rise to power later in GoF, though he inherited Lily’s protection, he may have inadvertently made a mistake; blood is like a cumulative family record — there are countless repercussions to be had from inheriting it, and as Voldemort underrates the power of blood, it is unlikely that he considered them all.

Blood and Self-Concept. While value placed on magical blood is a defining feature of families, actual quantity of magical blood (Muggle-born, half-blood, or pure-blood) classifies individuals, since one can be different from one’s family in this regard. I concluded before that blood traitors define themselves by the values they adopt to counter their family isolation. However, by marking Harry rather than Neville, it appears that, on the most elemental level, Voldemort actually defines himself as a half-blood. This shows how crucial these labels are to self-concept; what it means to be a half-blood, pure-blood, or Muggle-born wizard goes above and beyond family loyalty or personal choice.

Perhaps being a blood traitor heightens the importance of this label; as one is self-exiled or rejected by one’s family, the primary relationship is with the wizarding world in general, so one defines oneself by connection to it. Unlike Vernon and Dudley, Aunt Petunia is connected to the wizarding world, though not by magical ability. Perhaps she sees herself in Harry, as Voldemort did, or at least has a deeper identification with him than she reveals. In the case of Percy Weasley, isolation from his family could cause him to pay importance to his pure-blood heritage. Barty Jr., another ambitious, bright young student, having felt similar neglect due to his father’s commitment to fighting Voldemort, renounced his family values and joined the Death Eaters. There are certain parallels between Barty Jr. and Percy; it may be possible that Percy will be faced with similar temptations.

Blood and Obligation. In giving Harry a home, not only was Petunia Dursley furious and unwilling, she had no choice; even a blood traitor is tied to the irrevocable principle that blood owes blood. The bitterness of blood duty is that there is no underlying love motivating the action, nor is any love eventually gained as a result. When does blood call to blood? Only if it is a matter of basic survival. Aunt Petunia, bound to Harry by blood, cannot let him die. When Harry tells her that Voldemort has risen, her pretenses again fall away; “for the very first time in his life, [he] fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother’s sister,”(OotP). Protection afforded by blood is not merely in one’s family house, but in the obligation that binds together blood relations.

Therefore, perhaps ignoring the call of blood is the supreme betrayal of a blood traitor. What is the cost of such a betrayal? It can be hypothesized by looking at the blood traitors who have sought to harm their family, such as Sirius Black, when he dueled with his cousin Bellatrix. In OotP, Sirius says to Harry, “As far as I’m concerned, they’re not my family.” The naiveté of this statement is abundantly clear each time his mother’s portrait starts screaming; as far as the Blacks were concerned, they were Sirius’s family, and he betrayed them. It was thus no coincidence to me that Sirius’s death was caused by family members. When Barty Jr. killed his father, after a month he did not just die, but lost his soul. If the bonds of blood are linked to survival, it may follow that the ultimate consequence of being a blood traitor is destruction on account of one’s disloyalty. A blood sacrifice may be the price of a blood betrayal.


* * *

A final conclusion from this examination of blood traitors, and the essential nature of blood itself, addresses the dichotomy that exists between the values which are heralded in the series, and those whose worth is actually evidenced. Although a central dogma is that choice supercedes ability and who a person chooses to become matters far more than who that person was originally born to be, the notion that you cannot escape your blood contentiously arose at every level of analysis I undertook. On a purely thematic level, what does the dichotomy between blood and blood traitors indicate about the series?

Rather than suggesting a hypocrisy, this particular dichotomy may in fact shed light on a more encompassing, and, in my opinion at least, more provocative underlying theme. Perhaps the central tenet is not that the individual overshadows the family, or that blood ties dominate free will, or even that one must achieve a balance by taking the best from both worlds. Instead, it is the acknowledgement that though competing values may be present, and though they may continuously battle with one another or even fail entirely to co-exist, if one favors a value over another, whatever one has chosen to disregard will become one’s greatest weakness. As demonstrated by Sirius and his family, Crouch Sr. and his son, and Voldemort and Lily’s ancient magic, the more one rejects any particular value, the more one is thus bound by it. Therefore, in order to unlock the key to a character’s downfall, one needs only to determine what it is that character hates, neglects, or disparages, and thus can be counted on to consistently underestimate.

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike…the fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.”