Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to J.K. Rowling; the author of this story appreciates her continuing indulgence of those of us who are so attached to it we can’t resist tweaking it a little.
Grateful appreciation also goes out to my Beta, Musings, who must be the hardest working woman in the fan fiction business, and thanks to the uncannily talented AgiVega for permission to link to one of her illustrations.
F&B: When you were talking a moment ago about Harry’s manner, you said that when he’s at ease he ‘lets some of his father come through’: what did you mean by that?
AG: Harry’s father James was famous as a charmer – had an absolutely magnetic personality, by all accounts, and was also the most notorious prankster Hogwarts had this century. Legendary. That’s a side of Harry most people are not aware of, but it is there. For example, he’s one of the founders of the “Moldy Voldy Club.”…
F&B: What are the club rules?
AG: First of all, everybody in Potter’s circle makes it a point of principle always to use the late, unlamented dark wizard’s nom de guerre, and to avoid all the euphemisms that have grown up around it…
F&B: And if you could translate that for the benefit of those of us who weren’t in Ravenclaw…
AG: Sorry. I mean, they never say ‘You Know Who’ or “The Dark Lord” or “He Who Must Not Be Named.” They call him Voldemort, or sometimes Riddle, and if anybody talking to them stammers and blushes and whispers ‘you know who’ – especially if they look over their shoulder… -- Harry or Ginny or Hermione will just say ‘Voldemort!’ more loudly. Well, the rules of the “Moldy Voldy Club” started with this: each time somebody tries to avoid the name, you say “Voldemort” louder and louder and draw out the name longer and longer. And after the third use of “You Know Who” or the first use of “He Who Must Not Be Named,” you have to start singing the “Moldy Voldy Song.” That’s a song written to an old Muggle tune called “Yankee Doodle,” with lyrics mostly by Fred and George Weasley, but with contributions by Harry and Ron as well.
F&B: I’m sure everybody would love to hear it; can you sing a little of it for us?
AG: It would have to be a very, very little. It has sixteen verses so far, and the first verse begins “Moldy Voldy came to Hogwarts, / Riding on a Snorkack…” and that’s about all I think I would be allowed to sing on the WWN without violating any number of wizarding morals laws.
F&B: Not something mothers will tell their children about when they say ‘don’t you want to be like Harry Potter?’
F&B: Getting back to Harry’s father, and we have a photo from your book of him with his three best friends at Hogwarts, which listeners can see with the incantation ‘doubleyoudoubleyoudouble’…I’m looking at this and it’s…
AG: It’s uncanny, isn’t it?
F&B: That’s the word. I guarantee, if you have never seen a picture of James Potter, and if we hadn’t just been talking about him, you see this picture and you will ask ‘who are those three guys with Harry Potter?’
AG: Yes, or ‘what happened to Harry’s scar?’ They look like twins.
F&B: And the other three men have their own stories, which when you look at this carefree shot of the four young men…
AG: James, of course, killed with his wife Lily, by Voldemort; Sirius Black, framed for murder, twelve years in Azkaban, then killed by a Death Eater; Remus Lupin, a werewolf from the age of four, the only surviving Marauder, and Peter Pettigrew, the man who framed Black and betrayed James and Lily Potter, killed himself in Azkaban.
F&B: When Harry found out about Pettigrew’s suicide his only response was “about twenty years too late, wasn’t it?” Some people were a little shocked that he spoke like that.
AG: Part of it was the context, because the first article in the Prophet about Pettigrew’s death carried Harry’s statement next to – there were these very serious, thoughtful statements, first from Minister Bones about the lessons we could learn about how badly the system of justice works in times of hysteria, and then from Remus Lupin about how he tried to deal with having been such an intimate friend at one time, then finding out these horrible truths, and then, you had Harry’s one-liner, which just came out sounding very flippant. But also, sometimes people have these fantastically romantic ideas about how a hero ought to think and talk. Seriously, this is – Pettigrew was the man who sold Harry’s mother and father to Voldemort, the man who personally sliced open Harry’s arm to give Voldemort the blood he needed to restore himself. What would you expect as a reaction to his death? “I lament the loss of all sentient life, for we are all equally precious?” Bollocks.
F&B: So Harry is not immune to feelings of… well, vindictiveness?
AG: I wouldn’t say Harry is a vindictive man. If he were, I can think of some people who would be running for their lives now instead of occupying prestigious positions in the wizarding world.
F&B: You have to share at least one name with us.
AG: Well, there’s Severus Snape most obviously.
F&B: Really? I had heard they had reconciled and were on quite friendly terms now.
AG: I can pretty categorically assure you that that isn’t so. Whenever there’s a reunion or a tribute they’re together at you can just feel the extraordinary care they take never to look in each other’s direction, let alone exchange a word of greeting.
F&B: Who hates who more, at this point?
AG: I think Professor Snape has the stronger feelings of resentment because – you might say he fought a cold war against Harry for all the years they were at Hogwarts, trying to beat him down or at least beat down his reputation, and – by any measure you could think of – he’s lost that war.
F&B: Do you suppose he’s still harboring, what would you say…
AG: Revanchist ambitions? I rather doubt it. Severus Snape has been called many things – and for a complete list of all the things he has been called, you have to consult Ron Weasley, who has set them to music, I think – but nobody has ever called him stupid. He’s not going to challenge Harry to a battle in the court of public opinion.
F&B: And what about Harry himself? He’s the winner, as you say; isn’t it up to him to be magnanimous? Isn’t Harry capable of forgiving and forgetting?
AG: He’s willing to forgive, but he doesn’t forget. I can give you a good example, which surprised me a bit: at one point when Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were together we got on the subject of school crushes and who had one on Harry, so they were putting them up one by one, and Harry would say what was wrong with each of them and why it wouldn’t have worked out. It was basically just giggly stuff, like “her eye color clashed with my hair” or “she spent too much time with Trelawney, I would have had to hear every day that my number was up.” But then Hermione, I think, mentioned a girl who was in the D.A., who had fought in the siege side by side with Harry, who was really well-liked by everyone – I had never heard a bad word about her, even from Slytherins – and the smile instantly disappeared from Harry’s face and he said – in a very firm, ‘no-kidding around’ voice – “She wore that button in fourth year.” So, there was this awkward silence for a few seconds – apparently I was the only one who didn’t know what he was talking about, though, because I had to ask.
F&B: And what was “that button”?
AG: Well, you remember, during the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry had to become the second Hogwarts entry, Draco Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins tried to get Harry’s goat by distributing a button which alternated between saying “Support Cedric Diggory: the True Hogwarts Champion” before flashing: “Potter Stinks.” And surprisingly, Harry was actually more bothered by the first part, because of that familiar insinuation that Harry was an attention-seeking phony trying to gain some un-earned glory…
F&B: I don’t suppose he was especially pleased by the second part either.
AG: Hardly. And [inaudible] – this young woman in question was a Hufflepuff, like Cedric, and wore the button. Now during the siege, she and Harry had no problems at all, he talked to her, perfectly friendly. But he definitely didn’t forget.
F&B: It seems, from this incident – did Ginny really talk so easily about the women who were interested in Harry, laugh it off? You would think that sort of thing would worry her.
AG: No – I mean no, it really doesn’t worry her, because if it did – if she were the type to start getting anxious at every reminder of what a magnet her husband is for female attention, she would have gone spare long ago. Because there’s no getting around that. He’s young, he’s wealthy, he’s far and way the most admired wizard in the world, he can literally and with perfect justice be described as a world-saving hero… even if he were ugly as a Manticore he would be an irresistible target, but instead he has those famous emerald eyes….
F&B: Even now that he’s a husband and a father?
AG: Oh, the eyes haven’t changed at all so far as I can see.
F&B: No, I mean, women still pursue him, even though…
AG: Ah. Yes, indeed. He still gets much, much more attention than whoever is Witch Weekly’s latest most eligible bachelor. It was Harry’s presence which caused Hogwarts to rewrite its Howler rule, because women were constantly sending howlers, putatively addressed to students, which actually shouted, shall we say, romantic declarations to Harry. Many of these romantic declarations were considered far too explicit for an audience including eleven-year-olds. Sometimes it’s – I don’t consider myself naïve or innocent, but I was absolutely astonished to see what some women would do and say in public, literally right in front of Ginny’s face, while she and Harry were holding hands.
F&B: How does Harry deal with that sort of admiring fan?
AG: For those special cases, Harry’s had a parchment made up, which he slips into their hands. It instructs them to go to a certain Knockturn Alley address where they will present the parchment in exchange for a special instruction manual, “How to Please the Man Who Lived.” It’s about the darkest and dirtiest shop in the seediest section, and you go down endless flights of stairs past leering and slobbering males before you reach the secret cove, and there you find the magical manual. Which, as many of you have already guessed, is in fact a Gredforge publication.
F&B: Do you mean that Fred and George have rented the entire location and hired actors to play dirty slobbering males…
AG: No, there are actually quite a few real dirty, slobbering males who are glad to sign up to do the leering for free. But it is a branch of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, and the parchment is charmed so anybody who’s holding it won’t notice that fact. And as for the contents of the instruction manual, I think I’ll have to leave it to your imagination. I’ll just say that any woman who actually followed all its suggestions, in the hope of catching herself a wizarding hero… well, it would require a degree of heroism not much inferior to Harry’s own in order to go through with half of it.
F&B: Just a hint, please!
AG: OK, you may know that one of the girls’ bathrooms at Hogwarts is haunted by a ghost known as “Moaning Myrtle,” and one of the chapters offers to explain how moaning—
F&B: —I think we’ll have to take our break here. Stay tuned for more of our conversation with Anthony Goldstein, author of “Harry Potter: The Man who has Started Living.”
F&B: Anthony Goldstein, aside from the crazed stalkers, how do people tend to react when they see Harry Potter in public?
AG: It depends in part on their height.
F&B: On their height?
AG: Yes, tall people especially tend to do a bit of a double-take and look down in surprise, because everybody expects Harry to be of more heroic stature; at least six foot four.
F&B: But people have seen him, at least, in pictures, with the Weasley family. And if he’s six-four that would make Ron, what? Seven feet?
AG: I know, but sometimes our preconceptions just refuse to be pushed aside by mere visual evidence. So when I tell people that Harry is five foot nine and weighs about a hundred forty pounds, they react as if I’d accused him of being a house elf.
F&B: Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
AG: God forbid. And of course there’s nothing wrong with being five foot nine; it’s the median height of adult males in Great Britain. But we expect more of Harry, literally.
F&B: Other reactions?
AG: It’s just fascinating; people don’t know quite what to do in his presence. I’ve seen a whole room sort of draw back in silence, almost as if he were a sacred figure not to be approached by mortals; I’ve seen a whole room start cheering, stomping their feet and calling his name and pounding him on the back; and all sorts of things in between. It’s as if Harry is a kind of monarch, but of course wizarding England hasn’t had a real monarch for millennia, so we don’t have the royal etiquette in place any more to give people assured roles to play in his presence.
F&B: If you think about it, though, there are some ways in which you could compare Harry to a monarch. He’s the one untouchable figure in the public mind who is considered above politics.
AG: I think that’s absolutely true, and quite important. In the Muggle world, the constitutional monarchs, at their best, provide exactly that: it’s reassurance that there is somebody who is immune to all the clashes of financial interest and all the political maneuvering and horsetrading, who can step in and set things straight if they get out of hand. I know Harry would be mortified to have himself described in those terms…
F&B: …not to mention the teasing he would get from the Weasley clan.
AG: Oh God, just the fact that we’re talking about it now pretty much guarantees that Fred and George will start working on a “King Harry” line of products as soon as the show is over. But seriously, think for a moment of how much furious controversy there was over the proposed criminal trial reforms to deal with the captured Death Eaters. Harry of course had no official position and no official power, but as soon as he was known to believe that a couple of the proposals went too far, threatened liberties or made it too likely that innocent people would be sentenced, suddenly those proposals were off the table, and the rest of the package – that is the part which Harry had implicitly approved – went through without much of a fuss. People were satisfied: if Harry says this is good enough, it’s good enough for us.
F&B: Is he aware of how much power he has? Do you expect him to use this power in the future?
AG: Harry isn’t an innocent kid any longer, assuming he ever was. I know he’s expected to say “What, ME influential? I’m just a plain old simple Quidditch teacher, who wants to hear what I have to say?”… Well, Harry certainly isn’t that innocent. I dare say he also realizes, though, that this kind of power could be lost if he over-used it. He’s not going to try to manage the Ministry. But I think he does, consciously or not, reserve the right to step in they ever did something he found intolerable. I don’t think he would forgive himself if he had the power to prevent some great evil, and didn’t.
F&B: Again, what you call “that hyper-developed sense of responsibility.”
F&B: With that kind of sense of responsibility, how could he handle learning about the prophecy?
AG: This is something which… I think, I hope, when you read the book… Let me start again.
[Pause.] When I asked him, for the purpose of the biography, about what his reactions were, I expected him to sort of shrug and respond with a cliché, like ‘you’ve got to do what you’ve to do,’ but something very different happened instead. Ginny and Ron and Hermione were there, for the interview and they were looking – hard to describe it, kind of both hopeful and fearful, like ‘Oh no, he’s going to blow up if we press him,’ – plainly, they had been through this before, trying to get him to talk about this, and the reaction had not been good.
But this time Harry started talking. He said he’d had weeks of silent time at the Dursleys, with almost nothing to do, and he thought about the prophecy virtually every waking moment, just turning it over and over in his head, trying to come at it from every possible angle: could it possibly mean something else, could it possibly be somebody else, does it have to mean a magical duel, wand against wand, or is there some other way to vanquish him, what kind of ‘power’ do I have and how to I use it, is it possible for me to win, is it fated that I do win, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to turn out, that the dark wizard loses, but is there such a thing as ‘supposed to’ in this case, what’s the point of knowing about it, should I change my behavior, should I keep myself safe, but then maybe that’s like trying to get away from the prophecy and we know what happens when you try to run away from a prophecy…
And once he started, it just all came pouring out; it went on, and on, and on… and the thing was – the way he kept reciting every question, every speculation, every tentative conclusion and counter, without the slightest hesitation, and actually sort of… ticking them off, making a gesture with his hands like you do when you’re going ‘Item One, Item Two, Item Three… Item N’ – it slowly dawned on all of us that this was precisely what was going on; that it was a list of questions he had gone over and over in his mind so many times – probably hundreds of times, maybe more than a thousand times – that he could spit them back at us now, like an actor who has played a part so many times he doesn’t even need to make an effort to remember his lines. And after a minute or so, we were all just sitting there, white-faced and shaking at the thought of what this must have been like for him, this fifteen-year-old kid who’s told that it’s his job to – literally – to save the world or it all goes to hell, literally.
And Harry finally noticed the look on everybody’s face and said “I didn’t want to get that look, that’s why I don’t like talking about it.” Well, nobody really could think of anything to say, so Ginny just hugged him and we went on to some other topic.
F&B: Do you mean then – this was the first time he’d talked even to Ginny or Ron or Hermione about his reactions?
AG: No, no, he’d talked to them about feeling frightened, and unprepared, and the terrible pressure, but I don’t think he’d ever gone into it line by line, so to speak; given them such terrible detail about what was going through his head. I don’t think he intended to do it, I think he just was going to give us a little sample of the things he was thinking about, but once he got started he just couldn’t stop himself, it was like – again, it’s like there was this script that he’d gone over so many times in his head that once the first line is spoken, the rest has to follow. That’s the only time in the interview process where that happened, where Harry sort of lost control.
F&B: You have to think, that’s one time when Dumbledore should have kept his counsel.
AG: Maybe so. But it may have helped that first horrible day in September ‘97, when we were looking at – we all thought we were facing certain death, certain defeat – all the teachers, all the Aurors are missing, all communications cut off …
F&B: And you didn’t know at the time whether they were even alive.
AG: That’s right, we didn’t find out until much, much later, about how Voldemort had set those entrapment spells on the Ministry and the Order locations.
F&B: I’ll always remember Dumbledore smilingly describing it, afterwards, as “a truly simple but brilliant bit of magic.”
AG: It was basically just a negative version of the wards, including the anti-Muggle wards, at Hogwarts. Instead of keeping people out, it keeps them in; instead of filling people with an urge to flee, it fills them with an urge to come in and investigate. So, one after another, all the Aurors, all the members of the Order of the Phoenix, basically rushed themselves into prison. But, again, all we were thinking at the time was “Where’s Dumbledore? Where are all the teachers?…”
F&B: “I want my mommy”?
AG: You bet. And not just the first years. We were all shuttling between states of terror and despair. But then we hear: there’s somebody here, Harry, he has the power to defeat Voldemort. And there were some students who were ready to throw Harry to the wolves before Ron told us that.
F&B: They thought, what, Voldemort would leave them alone if they gave Harry to him?
AG: Something like that. Maybe one or two students were starting to hint and mutter something along those lines, and the D.A. very quickly made it clear that nothing like that was going to happen. That’s also when Ron mentioned the prophecy.
F&B: And Harry himself must have taken some comfort at that moment, from the thought that he did have that power.
AG: Absolutely. He wasn’t so much frightened at that point as relieved; because the real nightmare scenario, for him, was that it could keep going on, year after year after year, death after death after death. And now, he sees some light at the end of the tunnel; it’s all going to be settled one way or another, right here at Hogwarts. Maybe Dumbledore did know what he was doing.
F&B: What is Harry’s relation with Dumbledore now?
AG: It’s complicated. For the first four years, Harry pretty much idolized him, as most of us did, only more so. Then Dumbledore failed him, spectacularly failed him in the fifth year. I mean, it’s just inexplicable that Dumbledore could have behaved like that: avoiding him without explanation, leaving him alone and in the dark at the moment of his greatest vulnerability, not explaining why he had to learn Occlumency. So not only did Dumbledore take a big tumble from his pedestal for all that, but this also they caused Harry to look back over those first four years again, and start looking at the events which occurred during that time frame in a new light, without the starry-eyed faith that Dumbledore must have always had everything under control. Once he did this, naturally, it became easy to see a terrible chain of blunders and failures: the failure to spot Quirrell or Crouch as Death Eaters within Hogwarts’ gates, the astonishing appointment of Gilderoy Lockhart, the failure to mention who “Tom Riddle” was…
F&B: Sorry, how did lacking that knowledge, of Voldemort’s former name, have an impact on Harry?
AG: It was – well, let’s pass over that, it would take too long to get into. But the list of Dumbledore’s apparent mistakes goes on. So for a long while – most of the sixth year, really – Harry felt he had been terribly swindled, precisely because he had been so much under Dumbledore’s spell for so long, and he resented him furiously. He has gotten over that, and I think he’s come to a more balanced view of Dumbledore – they’re on friendly terms, basically, I’d say – but at one point I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say Harry hated him.
F&B: Did Harry say that to you – that he used to hate Dumbledore?
AG: No, but – I’ll give you one story which shows how far that resentment went. In our sixth year, Fudge was still keeping watch over Hogwarts, was still full of suspicions about Dumbledore, but also wanted to appear more friendly and even handed after being so embarrassed by the events at the end of our fifth year. So there was a kind of joint press conference at the beginning of the term, intended to clear the air and show that everybody was working together now, and the featured participants were Fudge, Dumbledore, and the Ministry Six.
F&B: That would be Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny…
AG: Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood, the six who fought Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries, and who were always after that the most prestigious members of the Defense Association —
F&B: — also known as “Dumbledore’s Army”
AG: Right, except starting sixth year Harry objected whenever anybody used that name, and kept insisting the proper name was “Defense Association.” Well, at the conference, Fudge started half-apologizing and half-defending himself, as was his wont, about his long-time suspicions of Dumbledore. And he said something like “Albus is a powerful and influential wizard, he can’t keep pretending he’s just a humble schoolmaster.” Dumbledore just smiled and twinkled his eyes —
F&B: — as was his wont…
AG: [Laughter] Right, right. But a reporter asked Harry for his thoughts and he said – very slowly and deliberately – “I don’t think the professor is just pretending he’s a humble schoolmaster; I think that as a schoolmaster, he does have a lot to be humble about.”
Well, I have never seen so many faces turn so red so fast, and so many jaws drop open so wide. For once, both Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall looked equally ready to give Harry a year of detention.
F&B: And what about Dumbledore?
AG: He was stunned. I had a very good look at him, and for at least a moment I thought it was a real possibility that he was about to cry.
F&B: That would certainly have been an unsettling experience.
AG: It would have been utterly terrifying, considering how long we had looked up to him as our source of reassurance. Well, whatever he felt, he covered it quickly, and he spoke firmly in turn. He said, with what seemed great seriousness and sincerity, that Harry was absolutely right, he had made a number of blunders in his capacity as Head of Hogwarts, and nothing was as great a source of pain to him as that. But it clearly hurt him to have Harry say that in front of that audience, hurt him very badly.
F&B: As the proverb says, the truth hurts.
AG: It wasn’t so much hearing the truth about his failures that hurt, though, or even seeing that Harry saw his failures; Dumbledore was tough enough to take that. What stung so much was the realization that Harry resented him so furiously as to – to take him down like that in public, in front of Fudge no less. So when Harry made that crack in that context, it must have seemed almost as if Harry were saying to Dumbledore, “I’d rather side with Fudge than with you,” and considering that Dumbledore knew how much disgust and contempt Harry felt for Fudge…
F&B: You’re making it sound like a terribly cruel thing for Harry to do to his mentor.
AG: I don’t mean to; I don’t mean to. It’s not as if Professor Dumbledore didn’t have a lot to answer for, so far as Harry is concerned. I think we’re all familiar with the reasons – the good reasons – Harry had for resenting Dumbledore’s mentorship, if you can call it that. And there’s also something a little absurd about thinking in terms of “poor, old, helpless Professor Dumbledore, how could big, strong Harry Potter be so cruel to him.” Very clearly, the truth was closer to the reverse of that.
F&B: I assume you spoke a good deal with Professor Dumbledore in the course of your work on this biography.
AG: Naturally, and he actually helped me more than Harry did in understanding the reasons behind the quarrel between them. He feels that in addition to these… general factors we’ve been talking about, it was one particular slip of the tongue, you might say, that hardened Harry against him.
F&B: A slip by Dumbledore, when he was talking to Harry?
AG: Yes, it was during their impromptu conference, right after the events in the Ministry, fifth year, after Harry had just seen his godfather die trying to rescue him, not to mention having been possessed by Voldemort….
F&B: A time when you’d think care in choosing your words would be a precious commodity.
AG: But a very rare commodity, under the pressure of those kinds of events and emotions. People have a difficult time accepting the fact that even the greatest wizards will sometimes say dumb things.
F&B: Including Harry as well, I’d imagine.
AG: Just ask Ginny. And it’s important to keep this in mind, and to understand both perspectives here, because depending on your point of view, either or both of them – Harry and Dumbledore – could come out of this looking quite badly; looking hypersensitive or insensitive, and I really don’t think that would be fair to either. Dumbledore was finally trying to explain to Harry why, to put it bluntly, his life had been such a horror show. And so he told him about the prophecy, how it had put a target on him since birth, and why that had led him – Dumbledore – to place Harry with the Dursleys, because of the blood-protection offered by his Aunt Petunia’s presence.
F&B: Though this led to ten years of neglect, insult – what you referred to earlier as a life of wretchedness.
AG: It’s certainly been suggested that Dumbledore had other options, but he believed – and still believes – that none of these would have provided adequate protection for Harry. And he could undoubtedly make a strong case for his decision. The trouble is, when he was explaining his action to Harry he didn’t make his best case; instead he dropped a phrase which was terribly, terribly unfortunate. He said that because Harry had been living with the Dursleys he was able to come to Hogwarts, quote “Not a pampered prince, but alive and healthy.”
F&B: And “pampered” would be the red flag word to Harry.
AG: Yes it would. Surprisingly, in a way, it did not set Harry off right then, when Dumbledore said it. It was the wrong thing to say, it was quite thoughtless, but it probably wouldn’t have come to take on the significance that it did if it weren’t for the fact that – again – Harry is sent back to Privet Drive, kept away from most contact with friends, and given plenty of time to brood. So as he’s turning the prophecy over and over in his mind, he goes back again and again to the moment he learned about it, in that conversation with Dumbledore, and re-examines every word from that conversation. And every time he does so the phrase “pampered prince” more and more starts… taunting him, finally rubbing him raw.
Clearly now – I mean clearly to Harry, after weeks of pondering this – by letting that phrase slip, Dumbledore had revealed his true colors; he was no different from Snape, from the Daily Prophet...
F&B: You mean, the Fudge-controlled Daily Prophet?
AG: That's right, and we all remember what they wrote about Harry, issue after issue, in 1995 and 1996. All these people who had tried over the years to beat Harry down by calling him 'demanding' and 'arrogant' and 'ungrateful' and 'self-absorbed' – who, in short, had called him a pampered little prince. Dumbledore was one of them, he wanted Harry to feel grateful for being allowed to live, wanted to drive out of his mind any attempt to be like Oliver Twist and ask for 'more'.
F&B: Ask for "more," like...?
AG: Like having some say in his own life, his own destiny. That's how Harry ended up interpreting the purpose behind Dumbledore’s slip, or slip-up.
F&B: He really thought Dumbledore could be that unjust?
AG: Why would it be impossible? Harry had plenty of experience with adults who were that unjust. It was rather a rare occurrence for him to meet with one who wasn’t.
F&B: But his previous experience with Dumbledore…
AG: Remember, he’s in the process of re-evaluating all his previous experience with Dumbledore, and thinking more and more that he’d been naïve and starry-eyed up till now.
F&B: Just to clarify, Harry himself did not tell you this? It’s your speculation?
AG: Harry didn’t say so to me, but Dumbledore says he said it to him, later, when they tried to clear the air between them – and mostly succeeded. This would have been after the end of our sixth year. The conversation went on for well over an hour, but Dumbledore says the only part he ever finds himself remembering is Harry throwing those words back at him. “‘Pampered prince’, you said. How lucky I was to have you give me to the Dursleys so I wouldn’t be a ‘pampered prince.’ You threw me in the desert for fifteen years and when I came out all parched and blistered you congratulated yourself on keeping me from drowning.”
F&B: What did Dumbledore say to that?
AG: He had to try very, very hard to convey how much he regretted saying that, that it was a terribly thoughtless thing to say, but that he never, never meant it to suggest what Harry read into it.
F&B: A difficult line to tread: he might end up sounding as if he were saying “there you go again, you’re always so sensitive – you want to be pampered…”
AG: Oh yes. But apparently Dumbledore pulled off the tightrope act. He’s certainly had plenty of practice at that. And ironically, in the end – I mean years later – it was Harry who came to think he had been too broody and sulky. I think the reason he was less willing than Dumbledore was to talk about all this is because he’s embarrassed by the memory of himself being that suspicious and letting that phrase weigh so heavily on his relationship with Dumbledore.
F&B: What do you think? Was he being sulky and hypersensitive?
AG: I defy anybody to claim that – at age fifteen, sixteen – they could have gone through all that Harry had just gone through, been told what Harry had just been told, and reacted with perfect maturity and equanimity. I think you have to be remarkably self-righteous and priggish to tut-tut and shake your finger at Harry for having that reaction.
F&B: We’ll be back in a moment for more of our discussion with Anthony Goldstein.
Author’s Note: This interview was first written as the ‘epilogue’ to a seventh-year fic which I’m still working on. If some points seem puzzling or obscure, it may be because I haven’t adjusted the interview enough to take into account the fact that readers have not already had the key (extra-canonical) events described. On the other hand, it may just be because I’ve messed things up. Either way, apologies in advance.