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.
Thanks to all the very kind reviewers; your encouragement was most appreciated and quite inspiring. (You also suggested a few additional questions for Anthony.) And a special thanks to my beta, Musings, who was also a great source of encouragement, and who taught this English teacher a thing or two about editing and proofreading.
F&B: Time for a few questions from our listeners. Our first remote caller is from Stow-on-Wold. Go ahead please!
Mr. Goldstein, is it true that Harry was beaten by his Muggle stepparents when they had him in their home?
AG: No, it isn’t. That’s a very widely-believed idea, and you could make a very good case that the Dursleys were guilty of child abuse according to the letter of Muggle law, but Harry denies they were physically violent. In fact one of the things that stirred Harry into having his biography written was a very vile piece of work depicting, in almost pornographic fashion, the tortures he supposedly suffered at the hands of the Dursleys.
F&B:I assume you’re speaking of the infamous Child’s Life of Harry Potter, published about a year and a half ago.
AG: That’s right.
F&B: For those of our listeners who haven’t read this, or heard a description of it…
AG: It is in fact a piece of ‘pure-blood’ propaganda, aimed at a child audience. For example, in this version, or perversion, of Harry’s life, the Dursleys beg and cajole a naïve, reluctant Professor Dumbledore into letting them have Harry. Then once they have him they strip him, tie him up and whip him when he refuses to renounce his magical heritage. But Harry – who looks to be about five or six in this illustration – proudly declares, all bloodied and bare-arsed though he is, that he would rather die than deny his wizard blood.
F&B: Needless to say, this never happened.
AG: Never happened; the Dursleys only took Harry in under great pressure from Dumbledore, and then did their best to hide the very existence of magic from Harry. I think the book was particularly disturbing to me, because it so closely resembles a favorite motif of paranoid anti-Semitism: there’s a whole set of folk tales in which the wicked Jews kidnap or somehow gain custody of the innocent Christian children, in order to force them to renounce Christ.
F&B: And if you substitute “Muggle” for “Jew,” the basic formula remains intact.
AG: That’s right. And – to give you some sense of what this book is like – naturally there’s no mention of the fact that Harry’s mother was Muggle-born. Hermione is mentioned precisely once, when we learn that, quote, ‘A dishonest reporter tried to convince people that Harry was dating a Muggle-born girl, Hermione Granger,’ close quote. And you get the strong impression that Voldemort’s worst sin was withholding the fact that he was a half-blood from the poor wizards he deceived into supporting him.
F&B: The book died a pretty quick death when a statement denouncing it appeared, signed by every surviving veteran of Hogwarts 97.
AG: It’s still disturbing to think that there were people so ready and eager to start rehabilitating the lies we were fighting against, so soon after the war. And to try to enlist Harry on that side, to suggest that he was somehow motivated by pure-blood ideas… well, the effrontery of it is just stomach-turning.
F&B: To get back to our caller’s question… Harry absolves the Dursleys of charges of abuse?
AG: I don’t know if “absolved” is the right word, since there’s no denying that they were real… pieces of work, but they weren’t out-and-out physical sadists. It seems the Dursleys looked on themselves, basically, as Harry’s proper jailers. Harry was in their home to be punished for the crime of being magical, and they were his prison guards. As such, they weren’t going to coddle the little criminal by letting him go on outings or celebrate his birthday, or get Christmas presents, but prison guards aren’t supposed actually to beat the prisoner without necessity, just keep him in line.
Now this is in its way just as monstrous an attitude as the one that says children need to have their arms broken on a regular basis or they’ll grow up to be ungrateful savages. Because of course it can’t be a crime to be something, like being magical, especially it can’t be a crime to be something you can’t prevent being. But I think that the Dursleys felt their ‘duty’ stopped just short of physical abuse. And they probably suspected that their own safety might depend on not crossing that line as well.
F&B: Thank you Stow-on-Wold. Our next caller is from London. London, your question for Anthony?
Mr. Goldstein, can you give us some idea about what family life is like for Harry, especially what kind of parent he’s turned out to be?
AG:No surprise here; he’s a very indulgent father, very determined that his children will never have any reason to doubt that they are loved and cherished.
F&B: That is, very determined that they won’t grow up as he did himself.
AG: And Harry is aware of this, that he has a tendency to overcompensate for his own upbringing, and the danger – it’s the sort of thing that’s potentially a source of marital tension, when one parent – Ginny in this case -- is placed in the position of always having to be the one who says ‘no.’ That’s something they’re still working on. But they must be doing something right, because the children are obviously bright, cheerful, and very, very energetic. To give you some sense of Harry’s parenting style, though: when little Sirius was teething, he formed a strong attachment to his father’s wand, and Harry was perfectly happy to let his son chew on it to his heart’s content. Arthur and Molly were rather horrified to find Harry casually handing his wand over whenever Sirius seemed to be reaching for it or crying for it, and paying no mind to the destruction this was causing to it.
F&B: Another case where Harry was still not aware of how things are done, or not done, in the wizarding world?
AG:I’m not sure whether this is a case of unawareness, or whether it’s just something he finds a little silly, our tendency to treat wands with such reverence. I’m sure the wand is more precious to Harry because it carries these visible reminders of his first child’s first year. And I think Harry gets a kick out of the idea that when his wand goes into a wizarding museum some day, and people solemnly file past this exhibition of “The Wand That Destroyed Voldemort,” they won’t be able to help noticing how it’s pocked through and through with all those little toothmarks, and some people are sure to be scandalized by it.
F&B: How old are the children now?
AG:Sirius just turned five, Luna is almost three. And to anticipate your next question, they haven’t shared any information with me on whether there are plans for more.
F&B: Signs of magic?
AG:No question about either. Lots of summoning, sometimes from surprising distances. Best to leave any shiny valuables at home if you plan a visit to the Potters.
F&B: Thank you London; our next remote caller is from Glasgow, you’re on Glasgow.
I was wondering whether, once Voldemort knew of the prophecy, was Harry always going to have to fight him to the death, or did he have any choice, any way of avoiding that?
AG: In one sense, if you believe the prophecy, he had no choice, because ‘either must die at the hands of the other.’ But in a non-mystical sense, the answer is: yes, he could have avoided it. One way out was through an option which Professor Dumbledore explained to Harry, not too long after telling him about the prophecy itself. Harry could have entered into a mutual non-aggression pact with Voldemort, calling on both parties to take no harmful action against the other, either directly or through any of their agents or subordinates. And the pact could have been made magically binding on both.
F&B: Do you think Voldemort would have agreed to this?
AG: There’s very little doubt in my mind that he would have. The only thing that I would see as possibly holding him back would be that it would leave him with a certain gnawing sense of unfinished business, Voldemort having tried and failed to kill Harry so many times. So he would undoubtedly regret that there was one man who had in a sense gotten away with defying him. But if you weigh that against the removal of what Voldemort thought was a real threat to his plans for power, not to mention a real threat to his life, I don’t think he would have hesitated very long in accepting. So if Harry had agreed to this, he wouldn’t have had to worry about Voldemort any longer, at least not in terms of his own well-being.
F&B: And there’s the rub, isn’t it: he still would have had to worry about others.
AG: That would certainly be one of the rubs, that Harry had to realize that his friends wouldn’t stop fighting and dying even if he made a separate peace for himself. But Harry says he never even got that far, never got to thinking about that problem, in his very brief consideration of the idea. Because immediately when Dumbledore explained how the pact would work, Harry had a very vivid mental picture of himself approaching Voldemort under some magically-enforced truce, proposing the pact, and then hearing Voldemort declaim “Ah, Harry, I see that you have finally realized how futile…” et bloody cetera. And Harry instantly knew that he would much rather face torture and death than have to put up with all that preening and crowing.
F&B: Wasn’t Dumbledore taking a chance, though, giving that option to a depressed, frightened teenager? How could he have been sure Harry wouldn’t take it, and if he had, then where would we all be?
AG: Knowing Harry as well as he did – certainly well enough to know about that sense of responsibility we keep coming back to – I think Dumbledore would have been rightly confident he wouldn’t take it. He was still taking a chance, but think about what would have happened if Dumbledore had not told Harry about this set of spells, and somebody else – Hermione being the most likely candidate – later found out about it and told Harry. Harry would never believe that Hermione had somehow come across this pact magic which was unknown to Dumbledore, or had just completely slipped his mind…
F&B: …and so Harry would have felt doubly – triply? quadruply? – betrayed…
AG: …and that feeling of betrayal could have been the very thing which would have driven Harry into just throwing the whole magical world overboard and entering the pact, even though it went against all his instincts to do so. As it turned out, learning about this option did Harry a great deal of good, by his own account. Knowing that he did have the choice of getting out, even though he wasn’t going to take it, left him feeling much less like some helpless plaything of the fates, and that raised his spirits a great deal. Dumbledore might have foreseen this effect. [Pause.] And I guess we really shouldn’t ignore the possibility, remote as it might seem to some, that Dumbledore just thought he was morally obligated to tell Harry about his choices, no matter what the consequences turned out to be.
F&B: Glasgow, we appreciate the question. Our next caller is from the United States, from Philadelphia. Go ahead please!
Anthony, I still have to be skeptical when you deny that Harry is a very, very powerful wizard. He’s the son of two exceptionally powerful parents, he’s proven himself against extraordinary obstacles time and again from a very young age, obviously he’s overcome the most powerful dark wizard in recent history… well, you haven’t convinced me.
AG: That’s perfectly understandable, and again, I’m not saying he isn’t quite powerful, only – I’ll put it this way: I have never seen Harry perform a spell which could not have been performed, as well or better, by many other strong, accomplished wizards or witches.
F&B: You didn’t see the spell which destroyed Voldemort, though.
AG: No, only four people survive who saw that, and the nature of the spell has been classified as a Ministry secret.
F&B: Do you know or suspect the reason for this secrecy?
AG: I imagine it’s because that’s just what they do, classify everything. Especially the Department of Mysteries. I mean, the more mysteries there are, the bigger their department. They would probably classify Harry’s middle name as a Ministry secret if it hadn’t got out already.
F&B: On that topic, there’s a rumor I’ve always been curious about: is it true that Hermione’s wartime notebook is the most closely guarded object in the Department?
AG: That is true. “The Book of Q,” as it’s called, has a very extensive collection of human, part-human and non-human guards around it at all times. Getting to see it through legal avenues is almost as rough a challenge; you have to go through a long, stringent vetting process, and even if you pass that you still need the personal approval of the Minister of Magic.
F&B: How did it get that name, “The Book of Q”?
AG: There’s a Muggle movie character called “Q,” short for “Quartermaster,” whose job it is to supply a fantastic assortment of weapons for the actual hero, who is named “James Bond”…
F&B: You’ve seen the movie?
AG: Yes, more than one movie actually, and the actor playing ‘Q’ looks oddly familiar, though I can’t quite place who he reminds me of. But anyway, that was close enough to Hermione’s role during the siege that Dean Thomas, who is Muggleborn and who loves the James Bond movies, started opening our strategy sessions by turning to Hermione and asking “What do you have for us today, Q?” And later somebody, who has never stepped forward and claimed credit, magically engraved this title on the notebook where she drafted and polished all her plans for spell creations: “The Book of Q.” The Ministry is fanatically protective of that book. I’m sure that any three pages of it has enough ideas to keep a team of witches and wizards working for years.
F&B: Is there anything left in the book which wasn’t used during the siege? I mean, she came up with spells to use against dragons, giants, Dementors…
AG: Hermione was trying to plan for all contingencies. So I’ll just say, if there are any vampire clans toying with the idea of making a raid on Hogwarts, they might want to seriously reconsider… But I must share this story: the Ministry wants to be sure that no shady or suspicious character has a chance to look at the notebook and use it to acquire dangerous powers, so they limit access only to the most trustworthy witches and wizards. Guess who was initially turned down as ‘untrustworthy.’
F&B: Give us a hint.
AG: Alright, think of the subversive character who is always trying to undermine the foundations of the Wizard Home… You know, by seeking to alter traditional domestic relationships… By fighting a longstanding campaign to liberate…
F&B: House Elves?!
AG: You’ve hit it.
F&B No, no, no, that’s too good to be true.
AG: The best true stories about bureaucracy usually sound that way. It’s true. Hermione showed me the rejection letter, and showed me her security file.
F&B: Amazing. I want to get back, though, to Philadelphia’s point, about Harry’s strength…
AG: All right.
F&B: How do you account for the defeat of Voldemort? How did Harry overcome this most powerful of wizards, unless he himself was more powerful?
AG: It doesn’t have to work that way. Think of the animal kingdom, how natural selection has endowed some predators with special abilities suited for dealing with certain prey. The cobra is a very formidable animal, and you have good reason to fear it; it has enough venom to kill you a hundred times over, which would seem to place it among the most powerful of all creatures. Nobody’s ever put the mongoose on that list; you could step up to it and chase it away without a second thought. But a mongoose can kill a cobra. Well, I think of Harry as having qualities which have been ‘magically selected’, if you like, for dealing with Voldemort, the way the mongoose has qualities which have been naturally selected for dealing with cobras. And when I asked Harry what he could tell me of the final confrontation, without running foul of the secrecy rules, he didn’t speak of any sudden upsurge in power, he said “Voldemort kept insisting on giving me everything I needed to beat him.”
F&B: It would be interesting to know precisely what he meant by that.
AG: It certainly would. And I imagine we’ll know in the near future, I don’t think Ministry secrets of this sort typically last all that long. I imagine there are quite a few people who know now, outside of the Quartet themselves. Probably most or all the members of what Fred calls the “Greater Metropolitan Weasley Area,” you know: the brothers, their wives, their wives’ families, etc. It won’t stay contained.
F&B: Philadelphia, thank you for your question…
AG: Can I – before we go on to the next question – can I issue a clarification? It isn’t my purpose or my intention to ‘debunk’ Harry Potter, even if such a thing were possible. As far as I’m concerned, the admiration Harry commands is thoroughly justified; I just don’t think it should rest on illusions or exaggerations. From some of the accounts you hear of Harry’s powers, it would seem the only question left is whether Harry is capable of conjuring up a rock so heavy that Harry Himself couldn’t levitate it. But – look, I don’t know if Harry is really the most powerful wizard in the world, or is in the top ten, or is not even in the top quintile. I do know this: if I were in a life-and-death situation, and were given the choice of having any wizard from all history by my side – I would pick Harry Potter.
F&B: You would pick Harry over, say, Godric Gryffindor or Rowena Ravenclaw?
AG: Oh, when we go back that far in time we can’t know if half of what we read about them is true, so – my feeling is, you might just as well say you’d pick Gandalf. And even if their powers were everything claimed for them… If I were badly wounded and left for dead in the middle of the Forbidden Forest, I don’t know if Godric Gryffindor would search for me all night in sub-zero temperature. I know that Harry would, because I’ve seen him do it for a third-year student scarcely known to him by name.
F&B: Our next caller from Shipton-on-Stour, go ahead please.
Mr. Goldstein, did Draco Malfoy really die heroically, sacrificing himself for the Light?
AG: Oh, Malfoy…the things I’ve heard about Malfoy: Malfoy died a hero, Malfoy was Hermione’s secret lover, Malfoy was Harry’s secret lover… I can understand that there’s something of a cult of the ‘bad boy,’ and there’s some appeal to the cynic who punctures other characters’ mushy idealism – like the characters played in Muggle cinema by James Dean or Humphrey Bogart. But that wasn’t Malfoy. As far as I’m concerned, Malfoy crossed a line at the end of fourth year when he publicly celebrated the murder of a fellow-student – Cedric Diggory – who could not, by any stretch of the imagination, have been seen as having in any way deserved it or even in any way having provoked Malfoy. Once you do something like that, you’re not the sexy bad boy, you’re – as Hermione well put it – a foul, evil little cockroach. Maybe you could argue Malfoy was that way because his upbringing forced him to be that way, so we shouldn’t really blame him for being a foul, evil little cockroach, but that’s too metaphysical a question for me to worry about very much. I’ll let the philosophers parse that question.
F&B: Thank you Shipton; Hull, go ahead.
Mr. Goldstein, you’ve talked a good deal about all the reasons you don’t believe motivated Harry to marry Ginny, and all the time they spent in not getting together, don’t you have anything to say about when and why they actually did?
AG: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be such a tease. [Laughter.] Seriously, though, there are plenty of details Harry and Ginny aren’t going to share, not even with their official biographer.
F&B: Yes, but you have to throw us at least a few scraps here…
AG: All right, I’ll try. From Ginny’s perspective, start with the summer before her fifth year, Harry’s sixth, after Harry learned about the prophecy. Ginny was deep into the “giving up” stage at that time; that is, when friends asked about her feelings for Harry, or even asked bluntly “are you still in love with Harry?” her reply was always “I’ve given up on him.”
F&B: In a political context, that kind of answer might be classed as a “non-denial denial.”
AG: Indeed it might. Well, August 1996, Harry gets to visit the Burrow, and he has decided he will tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy—
AG: Not Ginny. And not anybody else either. Harry further decided that the only way he could go through with it was if all three of them were sufficiently drunk, so with the help of friends who have to remain anonymous, since Harry, Ron and Hermione were all underage…
F&B: Fred and George, right, go on…
AG: Well… [laughter]… Harry did break the truth to Ron and Hermione. To cut the story short, Ron – who turns out to be a very pugnacious drunk—
F&B:—And who could have guessed that?
AG: …Ron vociferously declared that there was only one way this was going to end, and that was with Voldemort getting put down, because that’s the law of the universe, that’s the way things are: Bastards Get Theirs. And Ron demanded that Harry and Hermione join him in this war dance, all stomping and clapping and chanting “Bastards Get Theirs, Bastards Get Theirs.” They were actually starting to feel pretty good at this point, certainly feeling no pain. But this was also the time the silencing charm was starting to wear off, and in walked Ginny, wondering what was going on. Now Harry, who turns out to be something of a maudlin, brooding drunk…
F&B: And who could have guessed that?
AG: [laughter] …Harry had been brooding about how he really hadn’t accomplished anything in his life, because even, for example, the rescue of Sirius in his third year, from the Dementors and then from the Ministry, only bought him a little more time, at the end of which Harry – in his own mind at least – had led him to his death. But there was one exception, one genuine accomplishment, and that was saving Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets. That was something they had actually been talking about in this Firewhisky-aided bull session. So when Ginny entered the room, Harry lunged at her, took her by the shoulders, and told her he wanted her to promise something, as repayment for the wizard’s debt she owed him; she had to promise she would live to be a hundred and fifty, and would have a dozen children and found a lasting wizarding dynasty.
F&B: And what was Ginny’s response to this… proposition, proposal… it wasn’t a proposal, was it? Harry wasn’t suggesting himself as the father of that dynasty?
AG: Oh no. And Ginny didn’t treat it as one. Nor did she melt into his arms and cry “Oh Harry, I didn’t know you cared.” All she actually said was “Harry, if you expect me to go through childbirth twelve times, you had better save my life another eleven times, and then I’ll consider it fair payback.” But she admits that was pretty much the moment when, in her words, she “gave up on the giving up.”
F&B: But that wasn’t the moment when Harry saw Ginny as a love interest?
AG: Harry’s feelings for Ginny crystallized much more slowly, much more gradually. From all the testimony I’ve received, you couldn’t point to any one moment when he had some kind of realization. I’ve already said there was nothing visible going on between them all through the siege, or sixth year for that matter, but let me qualify that a little: there was no physical contact, so far as anybody could see, and no romantic whispers, but there was a certain… potential energy, which seemed to be gradually increasing. And I’d say the dueling actually was a big part of it.
F&B: Aha, are we entering into bodice-ripper territory now?
AG: [laughter] Well, maybe a little. A lot of people noticed the way the two of them… appraised each other when they were in those practice duels, and Harry very openly appreciated the way Ginny moved. He started calling her “Tornadette” for example, which Ginny didn’t openly appreciate.
F&B: Because of the allusion to her size?
AG: Yes, though I think her protests were pretty much pro forma. And the two of them really did, during these contests, start giving more and more intense glances to one another, I mean more than the obvious way in which people will keep a close eye on the moves of their opponents, something more… what’s the word…
AG: That it, that’s the precise word I was looking for.
F&B: The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw, you know.
AG: Oh? What dissuaded you?
F&B: I thought that by going into Hufflepuff instead I could simultaneously raise the average IQ of both houses.
AG: You said it, not me.
F&B: But continuing with Harry and Ginny – if there was this growing attraction, why didn’t Harry make any move until after the siege was over?
AG: Ron is my primary source here, and according to him – his words – “Harry was having one of his fits of ‘The Nobles’.” To start with, remember that most of the couples among Harry’s year-mates – like Ron and Hermione, Neville and Luna, Ernie and Hannah – they had already established themselves as couples before the siege began. Harry and Ginny hadn’t. And Harry didn’t think it was right to start something under those circumstances.
F&B: Because of the prospect that one or both of them might die? That didn’t seem to stop anybody else from forming relationships, from what you’ve said.
AG: No, not for that reason, more because Harry had received so many come-ons from so many girls, and he had been so cautious in getting closer to Ginny, that if he suddenly turned to her under these circumstances and said “it’s you and me now,” it would be almost as if he were taking her as a contest winner.
F&B: But by that point he had real feelings for her, didn’t he?
AG: Yes, but apparently he didn’t know exactly how strong they were, didn’t think he could trust himself to judge under those circumstances. But he did know how strong her feelings for him were. Everyone did by that point. And he didn’t want to take the risk of exploiting those feelings, making her into a kind of comfort girl. So the result was that Harry would take one step forward, followed by two panicked steps backwards. Now to us outsiders all this ebb and flow of intimacy would have been so subtle as to be invisible, but to those in the inner circle it must have been very palpable. And you can just imagine how Ginny was affected by all this back-and-forth. So finally Ron took it on himself to intervene, to tell Harry he just couldn’t go on acting like this.
F&B: Thus winning the immediate gratitude of both Harry and Ginny.
AG: [laughter] Hardly, hardly. We are talking about two people who are decidedly not grateful for attempts to ‘help’ them with intimate personal problems. And even today, when we were working on the biography, Harry and Ginny kept trying to shout Ron down when he started spilling these details. But Ron is convinced that he not only helped facilitate their marriage, he prevented a double homicide, and he’s never gotten the proper credit for that.
F&B: Interesting in a way, that Ron’s great “big brother” speech to Harry seems not to have been “You had better keep your distance from my sister” but rather “You had better stop trying to keep your distance from my sister.”
AG: Ron is capable of surprising people in that way. By the way, that story of Ginny interrupting the trio when they were shouting ‘Bastards Get Theirs,’ it goes on… How much time do we have?
AG: Okay, now this has really nothing to do with the issue we were talking about, but it’s one of the quartet’s favorite stories, so I thought you might like to hear – though I probably won’t do it justice, since you would have to hear all their voices…
F&B: Not an infinite amount of time, Anthony.
AG: Sorry. After Ginny made that crack you recall about not having any intention of going through twelve childbirths, Hermione – who turns out to be a giggly drunk—
F&B: Now that I really wouldn’t have seen…
AG: …Hermione suggested there wouldn’t have to be twelve childbirths, perhaps four sets of triplets or something. And Ron objected that there wasn’t any sure method, magical or Muggle, to guarantee that. Hermione said, maybe not, but you could at least simulate it if you had a time-turner. What you do is, after your first child is delivered, the next time you get pregnant you go back in time to the day after the first delivery—
F&B: The original purpose of the multiple births seems to have been forgotten here.
AG: Completely forgotten, it’s just that Hermione had gotten this bright idea and was too excited not to share it – at least according to Ron and Harry, who were the ones telling the story. Hermione claims to remember nothing at all of this, and swears to this day that they’re making it all up. Anyway, Hermione went on – or, supposedly went on – you go back to the delivery room and say “I’m terribly sorry, but I was in here yesterday to deliver my child, and you did splendidly, but… well, maybe you didn’t quite finish the job.” Then – she continued – you deliver your second child, return to the present, get pregnant again, use the time-turner to go back again to the same delivery room, the day after the second birth, and say “Really now, I must protest, I’ve been here three days running, you can look at your records to confirm it, and I’m trying to be patient, but when I come to a delivery room, I expect delivery in full.” And the three drunken sixth-years are all in hysterics by this point in front of a much-astonished Ginny…
F&B: …the only sober one…
AG: …who has never seen Hermione act like this. But the kicker is, Hermione was continuing her performance as this hypothetical pregnancy prankster, and said, in a very loud voice, “As a pregnant woman, I demand my rights.” Well, there’s a certain fate in these things, and that was the very moment when, attracted by all these shouts and screams, a bleary-eyed Molly Weasley burst through the door.
F&B: Oh Lord.
AG: The very words which leapt instantly into the minds of all four of them. Or “Oh Something,” anyway. Now Molly was immediately wide awake and crying “Oh, Hermione, you poor girl, don’t you worry, we’ll all stand behind you, you won’t have to go through this alone, and as for you Ron, how could you, how could you?”
F&B: Wasn’t this before Ron and Hermione started dating?
AG: Well, we have to give some credit to a mother’s instincts. So, Ron – with that gift of his for saying the perfectly appropriate thing for the appropriate occasion – shouted right back at his mother: “What are you talking to me for, Mom? Hermione’s been with Harry just as often as she’s been with me!”
F&B: [Long pause. Finally gives up and buries his head in his hands.]
AG: Right. Harry was the one who had picked up the story at this point, and after recounting that… immortal line he turned to Ron and said “You know, the moment you started opening your mouth, I could actually feel time start to slow down. I just knew that the Fates had brought us all together there, and set the scene like that, just to give you the opportunity to outdo yourself, to create a hole we would all take forever digging ourselves out of.” And Ron just smiled and said “And I didn’t disappoint you, did I?”
F&B: Back in a minute with our last questions for Anthony Goldstein.
F&B: Was this kind of drinking party a one-time thing? I have to imagine, given all they’ve been through, it would be a very strong temptation. Have you ever seen Harry get drunk?
AG: No, although that doesn’t mean he never does; he just wouldn’t be likely to allow himself to be seen that way in front of anybody except his closest friends. Now, in pretty much every wizarding pub I’ve been in, I’ve heard people claim they’ve seen Harry drunk there, but these are almost always the people who are leading up to the story of how they kicked Harry’s arse when he got out of line and made a play for their girl, so you can take that testimony for whatever it’s worth. Still, as you say, with all he’s experienced, it pretty much demands that he have some method of escape. For many of us who fought in the siege, the preferred method was partial Obliviation.
F&B: Of memories that were too awful…
AG: Yes… Like seeing your best friend bitten in half by a dragon ten feet in front of you. Or watching another friend surrounded by Dementors snapping at each other like hyenas for the privilege of administering the Kiss.
F&B: Well, why doesn’t everybody accept Obliviation then? It’s hard to see what purpose is served, or what good is going to come, of remembering that kind of horror.
AG: There were a lot of discussions about that. The point you just made had obvious persuasive power. On the other side… [Pause.] I don’t think I can get across to those who haven’t experienced this kind of combat, the kind of fierce loyalty to one another that arises out of this. And it isn’t just loyalty that seeks to protect your comrade’s life or health, it comes to embrace, to embrace very strongly, loyalty to their memories. We all pledged to each other, magically binding pledges that we would not forget. We knew that many of us would not survive, but we wanted to know for certain that if any of us made it out of there then in some sense all of us would make it out, because the survivors would keep us alive by remembering us to our families, to the rest of the world. And to some of us, Obliviating the moment of death seemed like a violation of that pledge.
F&B: But wouldn’t they want to be remembered for their lives, not for the way they died? Wouldn’t they feel horrified themselves at the thought that their dearest friends were lacerating themselves this way with visions and nightmares of their death, when they could relieve themselves of it?
AG: I know, I know. All I can say is, it’s hard; it’s very hard to feel confident that whatever you are doing is the right thing to do in this case. Maybe part of what holds many of us back from Obliviation therapy is irrational survivors’ guilt. It’s quite possible. I dare say it’s even the most reasonable diagnosis. But some people think ‘if it is an innocent act, I can always perform it later, when not performing it becomes unbearable. But if it is a betrayal, the moment I perform it, I have irrevocably committed that betrayal, I can never take it back even by reversing the spell.’
F&B: Has Harry sought Obliviation?
AG: No, and the fact that he hasn’t, has undoubtedly persuaded many others to forego it themselves. And Harry knows this, and finds it very painful, because he insists that it’s a matter of personal choice, and nobody should feel ashamed or be subjected to any kind of castigation if they choose Obliviation. He hates the idea that there are people suffering needlessly because they’re guiding their lives by the thought “What Would Harry Do?” He never, never wanted to become that sort of idol.
F&B: And what about yourself?
AG: I haven’t either.
F&B: Because Harry didn’t?
AG: I have to confess, at least to some degree, yes. Although I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous, given everything I’ve just said about knowing how strongly Harry feels people should not look to him for guidance like that. But yes, I’m sure that on some level, the thought that “if Harry can bear it, after all he’s been through, I should be able to bear it,” or the thought that despite all his protests to the contrary – and I know he means them, very sincerely – despite all that, Harry would on some level be disappointed in me if I made a different choice….
F&B: I guess that with all your efforts to be rational and objective, in the end you’re like the rest of us: you can’t quite manage to be perfectly rational on the subject of Harry Potter.
AG: I suppose I can’t deny that. And I can’t say I feel ashamed of it, either.
F&B: Anthony Goldstein, thank you very much for sharing Harry’s story, and your own, with us.