When None Here are Loyal to Me

by Carol Grizzard

Chamber of Secrets is the first book in which loyalty to Dumbledore is presented as a matter of primary importance, an issue which I think will also be crucial in Book 7. As Lucius Malfoy informs him that the board of governors have voted him out, Dumbledore leaves Hogwarts — but not before warning Malfoy (and reassuring invisible Harry) by saying: “I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me” (CoS pp. 262-4). Harry repeats it to Scrimgeour after Dumbledore’s funeral (HBP pg. 649).

When, as Hagrid predicted, a “killin” apparently takes place after Dumbledore leaves in CoS, Harry and Ron go into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny, the victim. Only Harry makes it all the way to the basilisk’’s lair and, when he defiantly tells the boasting Tom Riddle that “the greatest wizard in the world is Albus Dumbledore,” pointing out that even at his most powerful Voldemort never even tried to take Hogwarts, Tom says, “Dumbledore’’s been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me!” Harry snaps back with “He’’s not as gone as you might think!” although he isn’’t sure that’’s true. Fawkes then delivers Gryffindor’’s sword to him, and, when Harry uses it to kill the basilisk and is fatally wounded in return, Fawkes heals him with his tears (CoS pp. 314-321).

Tom’’s taunt had no basis in reality; instead of Dumbledore being driven away by the memory of Tom, the memory of Tom is destroyed by the strength of Harry’’s faith in his absent headmaster, even when it didn’’t seem possible that Dumbledore could help him. It was Harry, and not Fawkes, who saved the day: Dumbledore says, “You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have called Fawkes to you,” and assures Harry, who has been wondering if he was sorted into the right house, that he is a true Gryffindor (CoS pp. 332-4).

Trust in Dumbledore is an issue again in Half-Blood Prince. When Harry tells Lupin about his suspicions of Snape, Lupin says “Dumbledore trusts Severus, and that ought to be good enough for all of us,” and, three lines later, “It comes down to whether or not you trust Dumbledore’’s judgment. I do; therefore, I trust Severus” (HBP pg. 332). And this can’’t be a statement made thoughtlessly; not only did Snape out him as a werewolf at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, but Dumbledore himself has now sent Lupin to live with the werewolves under the leadership of Fenrir Greyback. Greyback made Lupin a werewolf as a child and even speaking of him causes Lupin’’s hands instinctively to convulse (HBP pp. 333-335). Harry periodically reveals his distrust of Snape to Dumbledore (pp. 358-9, 548-50, 583); they disagree every time. Dumbledore nonetheless continues to assert, when Harry asks him how he can be sure of Snape’s loyalty, “I am sure. I trust Severus Snape completely” (pg. 549). And, of course, the issue of loyalty to Dumbledore is raised even more seriously near Prince’s end when Snape kills Dumbledore with Avada Kedavra on the tower (do you really need the page number? It’s pg. 596).

We’’ve known for quite a while that part of the original storyline of CoS ended up being used in HBP instead, and so we aren’’t surprised to see connections between them. And there are several: in addition to the issue of loyalty and faithfulness to Dumbledore being important in both, we also see in HBP the growth and fulfillment of the relationship between Harry and Ginny, which really began in CoS (although she had a crush on him in PS/SS), and the death of Aragog. “Chamber o’ ’Secrets all over again, isn’’ it?” says Hagrid (HBP pg. 404). But there is also parallelism between two scenes in CoS and one in HBP: the scenes in the earlier book are when Dumbledore leaves Hogwarts (pp. 262-4) and Harry confronts Tom and his servant the basilisk in the Chamber (pp. 314-323; these will be discussed together); the scene from Prince is Dumbledore’’s death scene (pp. 583-96), which combines the confrontation with Tom’’s servants and Dumbledore leaving Hogwarts.

  1. Harry: is present in Dumbledore’’s departure scene in each book. In CoS he is invisible; in HBP he is both invisible and immobilized.
  2. Threats: In both books, they’’re Slytherins, one of them a Malfoy. Voldemort is represented as well, through either a Horcrux or his Death Eaters. In CoS there is the basilisk, similar to the Slytherin emblem. In HBP, Snape and several other Death Eaters are there, all bearing Voldemort’’s snakelike Dark Mark.
  3. Each of these books features an object connected to a Hogwarts founder that is crucial in the climactic scene, although in different ways: Harry receives the Sword of Gryffindor and triumphs, but Dumbledore is weakened before he gets to the tower because he has already been seriously hurt in the search for Slytherin’’s locket.
  4. One of the threateners taunts the hero in each scene: in CoS Riddle says, “Dumbledore’s been driven from this castle by the mere memory of me!” and in HBP, Draco says to Dumbledore, “He’’s a double agent, you stupid old man, he isn’’t working for you, you just think he is!”
  5. Finally, in CoS, there is someone present who seems guilty but isn’’t: Ginny Weasley.

The situation in HBP is more dire all along, leading us to expect a worse outcome than in CoS…which we certainly got. Harry is even more vulnerable on the tower in HBP than he was in Hagrid’’s cottage in CoS. He was also relatively uninjured before facing the basilisk in CoS but Dumbledore is seriously ill before the confrontation on the tower even begins, and he is facing more enemies than Harry was.

Riddle’’s taunt was not borne out by the facts; in fact, it was Riddle who was driven from Hogwarts that day. I suspect that HBP’’s taunt from a fledgling Dark wizard of around the same age will also be proven false, one way or another. And then there’’s Ginny, who certainly was guilty of petrifying Mrs. Norris, killing roosters, and writing on the walls. Nonetheless, she really was innocent. There should be a parallel there. It could be Draco, who nearly killed Katie Bell and Ron Weasley in his efforts to kill Dumbledore, threatened with death for himself and his family if he failed. Harry later thinks, however, that Draco would not have gone through with it. Or it could be Snape, who did kill Dumbledore and about whose motivation and allegiance a huge (and well-argued on both sides) debate has raged on this site. I am not arguing that issue here. But I do think that one of them, at least, balances Ginny in the CoS scene.

It was easy to be loyal to Dumbledore when he was alive and persuasive, when he was able to face all emergencies with equanimity and humor, when it didn’’t seem possible that he could be injured, much less killed, by the Dark forces that threatened him and those loyal to him. Now he is gone, apparently as the result of his foolish trust in a loyal Death Eater, and those who looked to him for leadership feel grief but will soon feel fear as well as betrayal as they re-evaluate their previous opinion of their former leader.

Some may even re-evaluate their commitment to what he stood for. Believing in one who seems all-powerful is easy and wise (how often have we heard characters say some version of Hagrid’s “Great man, Dumbledore; ‘S long as we’’ve got him, I’’m not too worried” [GoF pg. 719]?); continuing to be loyal in the face of his death at the hands of a trusted enemy is much harder and, perhaps, stupider. Harry and his friends aren’’t the first to face that. As far as anyone can see, Dumbledore died a credulous old fool. But I think loyalty to him will be crucial in the next book.

The question is, how is one to be loyal to Dumbledore now? Hating his attempted killer (Draco) or his actual killer (Snape) means believing that Dumbledore was stupid in the way he handled the threat he’d been told they each presented, but affirming his belief in them, his commitment to them, is difficult without endorsing their murderous behavior. It is even more complicated with Snape, since Dumbledore trusted him not only personally but also with 15 years of Hogwarts students and, of course, since Snape killed him with an Unforgivable Curse before witnesses. Under these circumstances, what does loyalty to Dumbledore involve?

Harry’’s survival — and with him, that of the non-DE wizarding world — may depend on his being able to trust Draco or Snape at a crucial moment. My money’’s on Snape. This needn’’t mean that Snape was following Dumbledore’’s wishes by killing him, although it can; if he killed Dumbledore for reasons of his own, in Book 7 he may repent and again switch sides, offering help to Harry in an act of atonement (and probably dying in the process — I hugely doubt that Snape will survive the series). I think it will be Snape rather than Draco because he is more likely to have abilities or information that Harry needs and because it will be so much harder — if it’’s possible at all — for Harry to trust Snape.

If he’’s able to make that hazardous leap, it won’’t have anything to do with his opinion of either Death Eater; it will be because he is still Dumbledore’’s man through and through and still trusts him in spite of everything. He, who loved Dumbledore as well as admiring him, may ultimately be unable to believe that Draco’’s taunting assessment of him on the Astronomy Tower was correct. And if so, loyalty to Dumbledore may save the day one more time.