The Changing Face of Courage
by Darrell Fuller
As HBP has made evident, the dementors have been steadily increasing their numbers since their mass revolt from Azkaban, their reproduction casting a cold, eerie mist upon the world. Despite these troubling events, however, no one in HBP is ever shown actually fighting a dementor, not even Harry, whose last brush with the creatures was when he defended his cousin from them early on in book 5.
Eventually by series end it will become necessary to counter this increasing threat, and the only known way of confronting a dementor is, of course, the Patronus Charm, which was given an interesting spin in HBP, namely in regards to Nymphadora Tonks.
[Lupin] had transformed. The enormous, bearlike dog bounded forward.
-PoA, pg. 381, U.S. hardback
[Tonks] waved her wand; an immense silvery four-legged creature erupted from it and streaked off into the darkness…
“I was interested to see your new Patronus … I think you were better off with the old one,” said Snape, the malice in his voice unmistakable. “The new one looks weak.”
As Snape swung the lantern about, Harry saw, fleetingly, a look of shock and anger on Tonks’s face.
-HBP, pp. 159-160, U.S. hardback
It can be argued Tonks’s Patronus changed to that of Professor Lupin’s werewolf form due to obvious emotional stress, and as we all know, the Patronus assumes a shape of a being, usually an animal, that acts as a protector in the eyes of the individual witch or wizard.
Now, Harry’s Patronus form has always been a stag, representing the Animagus form of his father, James, at least up until his aforementioned last encounter with dementors in OotP. However, much has happened in Harrys life since then. Of specific note is his experience in the Pensieve while viewing Snape’s worst memory. His perception of his father changed when he saw how he acted at school, strutting around and bullying Snape. The thought of his father had previously always brought feelings of inspiration and pride for Harry, and, being that said father and inspirational figure, James became the Patronus’s appropriate form as protector, even though James was dead.
Though we, as readers, recognize that James was merely being a typical teenager and later grew up to be what Harry admired, the revelation was somewhat emotionally jarring for Harry. Even after Sirius and Lupin explained the situation to him, he was still unconvinced. It is possible that Harry’s Patronus changed during that time, but to what form is a mystery since we did not have any dementor attacks to possibly observe this.
Many people’s first thoughts for the change would be Sirius in his dog form, being Harrys closest family member and his father’s friend. However, Sirius had been right there with his father when James acted the way he did in the Pensieve, so I doubt Sirius would be seen in any higher light at the time. Theres also the possibility of Harry’s Patronus changing into his mother, Lily. She DID protect him from Voldemort in a very intimate way long ago and definitely showed more class and integrity than his father did during Snapes worst memory. Since the main theme of the series is the power of real, lasting love, it would certainly be fitting for this to occur, but what animal form Lily would take would be anyone’s guess given J.K. Rowling’s secrecy.
What I propose presented itself later on in the same volume (book 5) and could prove to be a treasure trove of symbolic literary genius for the author in book 7.
At the end of OotP, Harry and Co. journey to the Department of Mysteries in an attempt to rescue Sirius from Voldemort and are subsequently attacked by a majority of his Death Eaters. After chaos ensues, Harry is eventually cornered, facing a horrible fate, when the Order members and Sirius burst in, bringing with them their own brand of pandemonium. Unfortunately, it seems the Order and the Death Eaters are somewhat evenly matched, but the Death Eaters slowly gain an advantage. When the situation becomes dire, who should appear but THE MAN himself — Albus Dumbledore! Harry’s mind is filled with elation — We’re saved! Dumbledore makes short work of the Death Eaters, and they, in turn, scatter like cockroaches. Sadly, one evildoer IS successful and kills Sirius, another emotional blow for Harry. Soon after, though, when Harry has chased down Sirius’s murderer, confronted her, and encountered Voldemort, Dumbledore saves him YET AGAIN and sends the fountain statues to protect both Harry and himself while dueling Voldemort at the same time.
With these actions, as well as what hes done for Harry in the past, Dumbledore has clearly shown himself to be Harrys protector. Dumbledore even succeeded where Sirius had failed, with absolutely no disrespect for Siriuss courage, I assure you. Dumbledore is also Harrys source of inspiration and a kind of father figure, as evident from the emotional connection seen between them in HBP.
Seeing as how Dumbledore is so closely associated with it, I’d like to take Gryffinpuff’s editorial Rising From the Ashes one further and state I believe that Harry’s new Patronus will take on the form of a phoenix:
“White smoke spiraled into the air and made strange shapes: Harry thought, for one heart-stopping moment, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue…”
-HBP, pg. 645, U.S. hardback
After all, a phoenix has saved Harry’s life in the past (CoS).
As for what I said about its literary value, imagine the symbolism behind such a change. In essence, Dumbledore would still be by Harry’s side — He’ll never be gone, not so long as there are those left who are loyal to him, (CoS). Also, should Harry survive, he would take Dumbledore’s place as the greatest wizard in the world. Further, it would represent a rebirth of the wizarding world once Voldemort is defeated (see phoenix mythology) with the tears of loss from the aftermath slowly healing emotional scars, a reminder to treasure all that is good and inspire people to prevent evil from ever taking hold again.
At the very least, it would allow us to see something we’ve been wanting to experience ever since Harry fell from his broomstick in PoA — the sight of an extremely powerful silver phoenix chasing off a legion of dementors.