Under New Management

by Dawson Smith

Whenever I re-read the six books we have so far in our beloved series, my mind always trips up at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Even though my HP knowledge far outstrips anyone but, as you know, regular visitors of this page, I always seem to forget that there’s no text between GoF and OotP. Hopefully my mental lapse may be forgiven. OotP marked a sharp shift in tone from the previous entries, and there was a torturously long gap between the two publishing dates, but I think my error mainly comes from how much Harry had changed in the month and a half since we’d seen him last.

Granted, he had more than enough cause. Voldemort was back, Harry had been instrumental in his return, against any possible action he may have taken, Cedric had been murdered before his eyes, the echoes of his parents’ murders were all that stood between him and death, and now the Ministry were involved in a massive disinformation campaign to claim that none of it had happened at all, and that Harry himself was delusional and possibly dangerous. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see him like that, after having waited so long to see him again. I didn’t mind, of course. OotP is probably my favorite book in the series, and in a way I’d been waiting for Harry to lash out and act like a twit (read: normal teenager) for a while.

In fact, as obnoxious as Harry was at the beginning of OotP, you might say that in that month and a half where we didn’t see him, he matured more than in any portion of his life that we’ve been privy to reading. (On a literary note, Harry’s rage at not being able to be more active was a perfect way to illustrate the same thing in Sirius, whose thoughts we, of course, can’t invade in the same way.)

Harry has always been rash, since long before OotP. The first proper time we meet him, he uses his unknown powers to set loose a snake. He breaks enough rules to put Gryffindor in almost negative numbers in the House Cup race (and get himself a place on the Quidditch Team, natch.) He flew a car into the Whomping Willow, dove into the depths of the Chamber of Secrets and battled the Basilisk after seeing all year just what it was capable of, and then played a trick on Lucius Malfoy which freed Dobby the house-elf. Mr. Weasley had to specifically ask him not to go hunting for an escaped mass-murderer (alleged) and yet not only did Harry eventually do so, but he jinxed his professor in the process, long after sneaking into Hogsmeade without permission, of course. He ran out into the fray when Death Eaters terrorized the World Cup, insisted on saving every captive in the second task, and refused to bow to Lord Voldemort even as the Dark Lord threatened his life.

So Harry is rash, and that’s a big part of why we love him, but things took a bit of a turn in his sixth year. Granted, he didn’t always think things through (such as using the Sectumsempra spell), but he generally acted more carefully. He pretended to use Felix Felicis on Ron, but only to bring Ron’s confidence up. He watched Draco through the Marauders’ Map instead of confronting him directly. He wouldn’t even step into the boat with Dumbledore until he had assurance that it wouldn’t sink under their combined weight. He wasn’t being cowardly, of course, just putting a little bit of thought into his plans before enacting them. Thankfully, Harry made at least one truly impulsive action in HBP, on page 533 of the American Edition, throwing caution to the wind and kissing Ginny Weasley.

I don’t think we can know quite yet how important that decision was, but here’s something interesting to think about: All throughout HBP, Harry’s caution was governed by his allegiance to Dumbledore, and his shame largely in accordance to what Dumbledore would rather he had done. But Dumbledore can’t defeat Voldemort; only Harry can. While it’s admirable that Harry remains Dumbledore’s man, through and through, Harry needs to be his own man, first and foremost, to be able to emerge victorious from this battle. Harry will always be rash, but he’s forgotten that his instincts are usually right. Even in the Department of Mysteries, he knew what to do, and while we can argue that the D.A. should never have been there, their actions, under his direction, kept Voldemort from laying hands on the prophecy, which was the bigger issue. Sirius’ death was a result of his own impulse, not Harry’s, but Harry has allowed it to make him second-guess himself.

We can say, “yes, but at least he’s substituting Dumbledore’s wisdom for his own, which is, in itself, wise.” Yes, we can, but at the end of HBP, Harry is wearing a big “What Would Dumbledore Do” bracelet around his wrist, and that’s not what is needed to stop the Death Eaters, let alone Voldemort. Harry forgets that while Dumbledore had more power in general, Harry is the only one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. And unfortunately, by virtue of his undying allegiance, Harry has already made a number of notable mistakes. In other words, at the end of HBP, Harry is strong, firm, resolute and wrong.

Part Two: Harry’s Mistakes

1. Not telling McGonagall.

True, Dumbledore wished to keep the Horcruxes a secret, but Dumbledore is dead now, and Harry is acting just as rashly as he always has, but now he sees himself as acting with a higher power in mind. As is the case with many people who value religion over faith, so to speak, Harry is looking to his own infallible truth, and his varied interpretations of it speak much of his own prejudices. Dumbledore has spent much effort trying to convince Harry that while he may be generally correct, he is also fallible, and his mistakes are thus, “rather huger than most.” As Harry hates Snape, he interprets that statement to refer exclusively to Severus and no other issue. Harry has yet to come to the place where he can accept Dumbledore’s wisdom in the broader sense, and now assumes it based on the limited amount that he knows. This is dangerous, not just for Harry, but for everyone around him.

Harry is surely stronger than he once was, but that doesn’t mean he won’t need help. In shutting out McGonagall, he is essentially shutting out the whole Order. This is bad enough and foolish enough on its own, but don’t forget that the Order will continue to act anyway, particularly where Harry’s (and Ron’s and Hermione’s) safety is at stake. It was one thing for Dumbledore to keep things under wraps; he understood the Horcruxes enough to destroy them, was clever enough to find them and circumvent the enchantments around them, and at the cost of his hand, and then his life. Dumbledore didn’t involve the Order, but in Harry’s case, the Order will involve themselves anyway, and he’s letting them run out there without full information. How long do you think it will be before Moody, or Lupin, or Shacklebolt, or Tonks will come to the scene and grab hold of one of the Horcruxes, without Snape around to stop the curse damage?

2. Only bringing Ron and Hermione.

Again, Harry is trusting Dumbledore’s original wishes, without regard to the idea that those might change. When Dumbledore mentioned that Harry could involve his two best friends, his thought was that they had proven their loyalty, which they had. But others have proven their loyalty as well, and Harry, now ascending to the lead of the anti-Voldemort front, is continuing to follow that directive without thought to how much his scope has been widened with Dumbledore’s death. Not only have many others proven their loyalty and value to Harry and the cause, but I doubt that Harry can effectively continue without them. A short list:

Hagrid: Obviously, we haven’t been hearing so much about giants, and about Grawp in particular, for this not to come to a head. The trio can’t handle this on their own, from all that we’ve seen, and Voldemort uses giants for a reason. But there’s also another particular to consider: Nagini. We all know that Harry will face her. I only hope that he has an expert on Magical Creatures around when he does so, and isn’t reliant strictly on his own parseltongue. Something tells me that we won’t see Prof. Grubbly-Plank or Kenilworthy Whisp around when the time comes.

Trelawney: She’’s a drunken fraud, so it’’s not like we want her on the battlefield, but she’’s already made two incredibly important prophecies regarding this showdown. I’’d be shocked if she didn’’t make a third, which Harry can take with however much salt he chooses.

Neville: He’’s got even more right to take down Bellatrix than Harry does, and he needs his day. He’’s fought the Death Eaters twice (and presumably without lucky potion) bravely both times, and has survived. More and more we come to understand just why he’’s a Gryffindor, and I don’’t think his Herbology genius has been so underlined without purpose.

Luna: She also fought alongside everyone else at the Department of Mysteries, and at the foot of the tower, but her case is more interesting. She has no personal vendetta (that we know about) against Voldemort. She’’s the only non-Gryffindor in that group of students, so we can’’t say it’s just her natural bravery, either. It’s hard to know what Luna is thinking, but as far as we can tell, she’’s risking her life for the only people who have treated her as a friend, and even the clearest example of that (Ginny) has largely limited that to standing up to defend her against jerks. In this light, Luna may be the most amazing of the group. She’s watched her mother accidentally kill herself with magic, she has no stake in the situation, and yet she dreamily waltzes into battle simply to defend people who could only be called her friends by the broadest definition.

Also, she’’s a Ravenclaw, and we don’’t know why yet. She’’s got something to say, and it’’s going to be damned important when she says it. I’’m also enthralled by the theory that Regulus Black is now living as Stubby Boardman. If this is true, Luna will be the only one to come to the conclusion, and the only one who could lead them to him.

Lupin: Fenrir’’s out there, and we haven’’t really seen what he can do yet. Remus won’’t risk another soul to that battle until he has a chance to go after Greyback himself. Plus, he’’s the only remaining Marauder (Pettigrew gave up that claim long ago) so he’’ll still have something to do as their standard-bearer.

Flitwick: I don’’t know what to expect from him, but I think he’’s got something in store. I try not to take stock in the movies, but I’’m not surprised to know that Flitwick is part Goblin (Hey- Maybe this information will come from Luna!) Goblin loyalties are still up in the air, and even though Flitwick was never shown to be part of the Order, I expect that everyone will be taking sides now that Dumbledore is dead. I’’m not forgetting the box of Ice Mice that he gave to Harry after his interview in OotP.

Slughorn: Now that Snape is gone, he’’s the best potion-maker that they’’ve got. Also, now that Snape is gone, he’’s head of Slytherin. Think of it. I don’’t love Slughorn, nor do I trust him to be there in a pinch, but we know that he isn’’t loyal to Voldemort, and that some part of him is guilt-ridden over his part in the Dark Lord’’s rise to power. Could he be the key to once again uniting the houses?

Zacharias Smith: I have no idea, but he’’s obviously related to Hepzibah (and if you think I don’’t know how common a surname Smith is, check the byline) so even if he doesn’’t have any insight on the Hufflepuff Cup, he still has cause against Voldemort. He stayed a part of the D.A. even with the animosity between him and Harry.

Ginny: Finally, we get there. Dumbledore seems to be the only person (apart from possibly Slughorn) who knew how to destroy Horcruxes. Ginny doesn’’t know how, from what we know, but Harry again forgets the events of his second year. Ginny was possessed by one of Voldemort’’s Horcruxes for a year, and survived the ordeal. She probably knows these most wicked of magical inventions better than anyone save Voldemort himself. This just might be useful as Harry’’s quest is completely wrapped around the Horcruxes. Just saying.

3. Breaking up with Ginny.

As sweet and tearful as this Spider-man scene was, Ginny Weasley is NOT Mary Jane Watson, flaming red hair aside. I know that some people hate Ginny for various reasons, the main two being the perception that she’’s a Mary-Sue, and the thought that Harry should be with Hermione instead. First, I think that those two groups are fairly identical, and second, I don’’t care. Ginny rules. Ginny is capable of lying and persuading in a way that Harry can admire but is incapable of himself (I bet she’’d make a great Occlumens) and she loves Harry for the same reasons that we all do, i.e. because he is willing to do what he has to do without a second thought, and because he loves with a force that cannot be measured, even in the locked room of the Department of Mysteries. We haven’’t read the word “love” yet attached to his relationship with Ginny, but rest assured, it’’s there, and the sheer magnitude of it will pain Harry more than his scar ever did. The reason we haven’’t read it yet isn’’t for its lacking, but because we need to read it first in Book Seven for it to matter as much as it must. This is the power that will destroy Lord Voldemort, so Harry will forsake it at his own peril, and the peril of all around him.

4. Not returning to Hogwarts.

He will, of course, as that’’s how the books are arranged, but as we are left, he feels as though he shouldn’’t. For one thing, he puts too much stock in his own abilities as they are now, and forgets that Voldemort will find him before Harry will ever have a chance to find Voldemort. Their fates, because of Voldemort, revolve around Hogwarts, and leaving that sacred place, the only home he’’s ever known, not only disconnects him from the people he needs to assist in his victory, but also from the source of the remaining Horcruxes. I do believe that McGonagall will entice him to return by asking him to teach DADA given the straits that the school is in after Dumbledore’’s death, and Harry’’s success with the D.A., it’’s hardly a stretch. But the more that Harry thinks of himself in terms of Voldemort’’s defeat, the more he shortchanges his own life, which should have happened with or without the Dark Lord looming over it.

Part Three: Where Do We Go Now?

I might be misguided, but I think it all comes back to Ginny. For quite a while now, she’’s been the only one, aside from Dumbledore, who could truly get through to Harry when he’’s acting foolishly. Her aforementioned abilities will also be of use for Harry, who is the only one who can vanquish the Dark Lord, but who needs help getting there in the first place. The power, as Dumbledore has said, is love, but I wonder if the practical application of that power doesn’’t come down to better leadership. Harry has never led anyone based on fear (in fact, his resistance to the ministry stems from that very ideal) whereas Voldemort’’s methods led to Narcissa’’s semi-betrayal in “Spinner’’s End.”

Dumbledore was powerful, and surely commanded love and respect from those who knew him and shared the same ideals, but Harry’’s love is different. Harry’’s love makes people more resolute in acting on what otherwise would have been a passive conviction. Just look at Slughorn, and how Harry was able to move him in ways that Dumbledore never could have. We didn’’t see that by accident.

But Harry must love, and we will witness this, his ultimate power. He must love his friends, he must love his compatriots, he must even love his more ambiguous enemies, such as Draco and Snape, in their own way. But most of all, he must love the woman who he loves more than anyone, and that is Ginny Weasley, but he cannot do that without imbuing her with his trust. Trust that he can tell her what she needs to know. Trust that she can hold her own while protecting him. Trust that she loves him as well, with all of her heart. Trust that her actions are her own choices, and that those choices are as worthwhile as his own.

Right now, Harry’’s love is invested in Dumbledore, who is dead, and who never had a chance to tell him what to do on that lightning-struck tower. Now, Harry must transfer that love to Ginny, however much it scares him to do so. I have a feeling that it might be a portrait that convinces him to do so, whenever the subject awakes.