"I Am With You"
—Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 578
By Nina de Boo
“I Am With You”
While Dumbledore may have kept Harry safe from harm for many years and taught him invaluable lessons about how to defeat Voldemort, the greatest impact he has had on Harry’s life was in his role as mentor. Though Harry has sometimes questioned Dumbledore’s job as protector and teacher, feeling the headmaster was withholding information from him, Dumbledore undoubtedly provided Harry with a solid moral compass to guide him through life, and possibly, through the final battle with his arch-enemy.
The lives of the young boy and the old wizard were thrown together by the prophecy that was made about the one and heard by the other. Without it, Harry would simply have been another student at Hogwarts. He may have become a well-liked student, maybe even a favorite one, but there would have been no obvious reason for Dumbledore to take special interest in him. But because of the prophecy, their lives had to come together in order to achieve a common goal. When he left the orphaned infant on his aunt’s doorstep, Dumbledore could only hope that Harry would turn out to be as kind a person as his mother had been, or as valiant a person as his father. He could only hope that the child would have the strength of character required to finish the task Dumbledore knew Harry would one day have to finish.
There was one thing, however, that Dumbledore could do to help Harry develop the spirit and moral fiber that would be so needed for his quest. Although the main reason for leaving Harry with his unloving relatives was to keep him safe and as well protected as possible, there was another benefit to the plan. In the wizarding world, from that very day onward, Harry Potter went down in history as “the Boy Who Lived.” He became an instant celebrity and many wizarding families would have been honored to take in and raise the boy who brought down He-Who-Must-Not- Be-Named. Had Harry been raised as the celebrity he was—loved, cared for and revered—would he still have developed the drive and motivation that would later make him say “I’d want [Voldemort] finished. And I’d want to do it”16? Dumbledore believes it is sometimes necessary to make people learn things the hard way. J.K. Rowling once explained that “Dumbledore believes there are all sorts of lessons in life,”17 after being asked why the headmaster would let a nasty teacher like Snape teach at Hogwarts. Leaving Harry with the aunt and uncle who hated him was another one of those lessons. “I knew you would [suffer] when I left you on your aunt and uncle’s doorstep,” Dumbledore explained to Harry. “I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years.”18 However, the result of this hard-knock lesson was that Harry arrived at Hogwarts “not a pampered little prince, but as normal a boy as I could have hoped under the circumstances.”19
When Harry finally came to Hogwarts, Dumbledore could at last take the guidance of “the Chosen One” into his own hands. And he was in luck: not only was the boy strong, determined and brave—the full extent of which the headmaster found out before Harry’s first year was over—but the student and his new mentor also struck an instant rapport. Though Harry may have been somewhat intimidated by the silver-haired wizard at their first meeting at the Mirror of Erised—but then, any first year student would be intimidated when being caught out of bounds by the headmaster himself—he never hesitated to speak his mind or ask questions. Even though Dumbledore was one of the most powerful wizards in the world, and the only one that Voldemort was ever afraid of, Harry knew instantly that the headmaster was good and kind and would not scold him for being impertinent.
From that first encounter onwards, the relationship between the old wizard and his young protégé went from strength to strength. Though sometimes their relationship was difficult, and though sometimes Dumbledore’s decisions angered Harry greatly, when Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour accused him of being “Dumbledore’s man through and through,” Harry did not hesitate to answer “Yeah, I am. Glad we straightened that out.”20
Over the course of Harry’s six years at school, Dumbledore taught him many invaluable life lessons; lessons that may also help him fulfill the prophecy in his favor. Though it is not the purpose of this chapter to analyze what we know about the anticipated “final battle” in great detail, we can speculate on how Dumbledore’s moral teachings may help Harry make those difficult choices he is likely to have to make. After all, “it is our choices […] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”21 Harry chose to be sorted into Gryffindor, a house known for its courage and valor, rather than Slytherin, known for its ambition and cunning. Harry also chose to use his magic powers for the purpose of good, while the other orphaned and unloved half-blood wizard boy we know chose to use his powers to hurt and dominate those who had wronged him. Harry already understands that it is important to choose what is right over what is easy; will he be able to make the right choices again should it come down to the choice between killing, or being killed?
One of the choices he may have to make in the lead-up to the final confrontation would be whether to trust Severus Snape or not. Snape’s role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was so important, it would not be surprising if he plays a significant role in the seventh book, too. Dumbledore always chose to see the good in people. J.K. Rowling herself would be the first to admit that the headmaster sometimes seemed trusting to the point of recklessness22. Although he never explained why, and although the odds were sometimes severely stacked against it being the right decision, Dumbledore chose to trust Snape. He chose to give him a second chance. Will there be a moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry may have to do the same thing?
At their first meeting at the mirror, Dumbledore tells Harry “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”23 Harry has shown repeatedly that he is willing to put his life on the line for his loved ones. In the slightly derogatory words of Hermione, he has a “saving-people thing.”24 In his final battle against Voldemort, will Harry remember Dumbledore’s words and realize that—willing though he may be to sacrifice himself in order to avenge the loved ones he has lost—it is better to live for the friends he has left than to die for the ones he has lost?
One of the final lessons Dumbledore taught Harry was “the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole.”25 That this was a lesson Dumbledore deemed important is shown by the fact that even in the last moments before his death, he was more worried about Draco becoming a killer and thereby damaging his soul, than about trying to save his own life. Would this imply that Dumbledore would not want Harry to become a killer either? But how can Harry defeat Voldemort if it isn’t by killing him? Maybe the answer lies in the second lesson Dumbledore taught Harry and his Slytherin classmate on top of the tower: “it is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.”26 Could it be that, when facing Voldemort at the end of the line, there will be a moment that the right decision for Harry to make is to show Voldemort mercy? By showing mercy to the man who killed a mother trying to protect her infant son, maybe the “ancient magic” invoked by her sacrifice would come full-circle: an innocent woman lost her life while saving the life of her son, her son spares the life of the man who killed his mother.
Hours before his life came to an end, Dumbledore must have realized his duty was done: he had prepared the Chosen One as well as he knew how for the task the young man was chosen to do. As Harry was guiding his injured mentor to safety, the old wizard symbolically passed the torch to his pupil. “I am not worried, Harry,” he said. “I am with you,”27 as if to say “It is in your hands now, Harry, and I trust you will make the right choices.” Harry may not believe he is ready yet, he may feel lost, bewildered, uncertain. At Dumbledore’s funeral, it suddenly hit him hard: “the last and greatest of his protectors had died and he was more alone than ever before.”28 But Harry is also determined, ready to walk into the arena with his head held high29; Dumbledore’s teachings have permeated him and will guide him along his path.
“I Am With You”
As protector, teacher and mentor, Albus Dumbledore has played an irreplaceable role in Harry Potter’s life. He kept the boy safe from harm and prepared him as well as he could for the difficult task that lies ahead. Dumbledore may be gone, but he won’t have left Harry unprotected, unarmed or unprepared: he made sure Harry will be surrounded by people who will do everything in their power to help him, he taught Harry what it will take to succeed, and he gave Harry the moral compass that will help him make the right choices. Although the author has claimed that “in these sort of epic sagas, the hero eventually has to fight alone,”30 our own young hero will not be truly alone. His protector, teacher, mentor and friend will always be with him. After all, do “you think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?”31
1. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 58.
2. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 839.
3. Ibid., 841.
4. Ibid., 838-9.
5. Ibid., Evening with Harry #2.
6. Ibid., “Scholastic Interview.”
7. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 297.
8. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 553.
9. Ibid., 79.
10. Ibid., 99.
11. Ibid., “Edinburgh Book Festival.”
13. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 265.
14. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 370.
15. Ibid., “ ‘Cub reporter’ press conference.”
16. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 512.
17. Ibid., “Barnes and Noble Chat.”
18. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 835.
19. Ibid., 837.
20. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 348.
21. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 333.
22. Anelli and Spartz, “TLC/MN interview Part One.”
23. Rowling, Philosopher’s Stone, 214.
24. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 733.
25. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 511
26. Ibid., 592.
27. Ibid., 578.
28. Ibid., 645.
29. Ibid., 512.
30. Ibid., Evening with Harry, Press Conference.
31. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 427.
Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. “The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part One.” The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. http://www.leakynews.com/#static:tlcinterviews/jkrhbp1 (accessed 18 November 2006).
J.K. Rowling Official Site. “News: J K Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival,” 15 August 2004. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=80 (accessed 18 November 2006).
Rowling, J.K.“About the Books: transcript of J.K. Rowling's live interview on Scholastic.com,” Scholastic.com,16 October 2000. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-scholastic-chat.htm (accessed 18 November 2006).
———. “Barnes and Noble & Yahoo! chat with J.K. Rowling,” barnesandnoble.com, 20 October 2000. http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2000/1000-livechat-barnesnoble.html.
———. “Edinburgh “cub reporter” press conference.” ITV, 16 July 2005. Transcript, Quick Quotes Quill. http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2005/0705-edinburgh-ITVcubreporters.htm (accessed 18 November 2006).
———.An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp: Press conference, 1 August 2006. Transcript, Quick Quotes Quill, http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2006/0801-radiocity-pressconf.html (accessed 18 November 2006).
———.An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp: Readings and questions #2, 2 August 2006. Transcript, Quick Quotes Quill. http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2006/0802-radiocityreading2.html (accessed 18 November 2006).
———, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.