The Boy Who Lived

I have to confess that I really love Chapter 1. I think last time I wrote about it, I may have said it reminded me in tone a bit of Tolkien’s opening to The Hobbit.

Actually, yes, I did.

In looking back, it appears that I wrote four consecutive blog posts about just this one chapter. In addition to the Hobbit comparison, I discussed the overwhelming presence of owls, drew up a  Chapter map (complete with explanation), and wrote another whole long post about Albus Dumbledore and sundry other issues. I really went “into the weeds” with this chapter seven years ago!

But in fairness, this brief introductory chapter accomplishes a lot. It sets up the conflict between the Dursleys and Harry and the recent and future conflicts between Harry and Voldemort, shows the secret world of the Wizards and its fear of being found out, introduces part of our main cast of Wizards, and hints at the recent war with Voldemort.

It’s a writing tour de force, and in it J.K. Rowling announces her presence on the literary stage.

The Power Dynamic

In terms of our broader themes, this chapter sets up various versions of power. We don’t know yet how it’s all going to play out, but we can clearly identify four power centers in the chapter:

Vernon Dursley – Vernon is a non-magical person who abuses power and people and gets “enraged” at anything that deviates from his conception of social norms (such as older people wearing weird attire). Yelling “at five different people” at work in the morning puts him in “a very good mood.” Yet after hearing rumors about the Potters from the “weirdos,” he shrinks into worry and insecurity. With just these small character details, Rowling establishes Vernon as an abuser who will soon be placed in the position of having to foster his “weirdo” nephew (Hint: This will not go well),  but she also establishes him as something of a paper tiger. Just put some pressure on him and watch him crumple.

Voldemort (a.k.a. “You-Know-Who”) – We don’t really meet Voldemort here, just hear about him. But from the conversation between Professor McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore, we find he is a magical person whom Wizards have feared for the past eleven years – feared so much that only Dumbledore will say his name. In fact, Voldemort murdered Harry’s parents the night before… and even tried to kill the boy. On a first read, this is where it gets confusing, because apparently trying to kill the boy made him disappear. Before the night he disappeared, Voldemort clearly possessed astounding powers, but used them to evil purpose. As the story progresses and he finds a way to return, his ill intent will thwart him over and over again. It’s almost like Rowling is saying that “power is not enough.” (Hint: It’s not!).

Albus Dumbledore – Dumbledore is, in many ways, the antithesis of Vernon Dursley and even moreso of Voldemort. He’s an older man, dressed weirdly, yet Professor McGonagall (who can transform herself from a cat into a human being!) defers to him. He speaks gently, consolingly, and with a certain amount of wisdom. He’s also a bit naive. He thinks that if he just explains the situation to the Dursleys in a letter, they will accept Harry and eventually tell him who he is. In addition, Dumbledore has a bit of humility, as we can see from this snippet of dialogue:

“But you’re different” [said Professor McGonagall]. Everyone knows you’re the only one You-Know-Who – oh, all right, Voldemort, was frightened of.”

“You flatter me,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Voldemort had  powers I will never have.”

“Only because you’re too – well – noble to use them.”

McGonagall here effectively establishes Dumbledore as a man whose powers rival Voldemort’s but who restrains himself from using the more ignoble types of power. We will (much) later learn exactly why Dumbledore restrains himself, but for now, it’s simply worth noting that in the first chapter Rowling subtly establishes the possibility that life could have gone much differently for Albus Dumbledore had he just seized all the power he was capable of wielding. Instead, he has chosen a different path and consequently introduces us and the Dursleys to Harry.

Harry Potter – He’s just a baby, but he inexplicably broke Voldemort’s power just the night before. The implication here is that Harry has amazing powers of his own (we will later discover the extent to which this is true), and McGonagall argues that Dumbledore should not give him up to the Dursleys because…

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!”

Dumbledore wisely replies that anonymity with the Dursleys will be better for Harry until “he’s ready to take” the fame thrust on him by the Wizarding World.

Dumbledore is right on the face of it. He’s just missing one major detail: the Dursleys are not the people he hopes they will be. And then he leaves Harry on the doorstep to face his unwilling aunt and uncle.

Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley. . . . He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!”

It is a powerful conclusion to a magnificent opening chapter.

Pottermore Content: Number 4 Privet Drive

Time to discuss some actual Pottermore content!

But first… I draw your attention to the new Pottermore CEO’s comments on Pottermore’s future. You can stream or download Charlie Redmayne’s remarks and listen to them for yourself. But here are a few key points:

  • We will see new books on Pottermore in the “next few weeks and months.”
  • Content, rather than functionality, will become the primary focus in the next few weeks, and there will be a considerable amount of new JKR content added to the site.
  • “New interactives and community functionalities will be added in the coming weeks.”
  • Pottermore will be looking to port the Pottermore experience to other platforms, including tablets and phones – and to make greater use of Facebook and YouTube. (No timeline given on this)
  • The future may include enhanced ebooks from the Pottermore Shop. (No timeline given on this)

One thing to realize: Redmayne took over Pottermore in November. Apparently, not having the site up and running by October – as originally promised – and needing to migrate to an entirely new platform did not play well for the previous CEO.

So… what this means is that Redmayne was not involved in any of the Beta problems. His job was to fix them. And actually, dueling came up in December (a month after Redmayne took over) – after it had been down since August. Not a bad start!

Anyway, it sounds like Redmayne has the vision for Pottermore that previous leadership lacked. He wants to make Pottermore “amazing”… and he recognizes that it’s not close to being there at this point.

Now, on to some content…

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first purchase from the Pottermore Shop. Actually, I bought all 7 ebooks all at once and put them on my Kindle.

One nice thing about the Kindle is that you can see popular highlights. And the most popular highlight in PS/SS is this one:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

That sentence has been highlighted by 7 people.

7 books, 7 highlights… interesting. But I digress.

Now, much as I love the opening line, and love its whimsical quality, I’m not sure I would have highlighted it. It’s not like it’s possible to miss it! After all, it’s the first line in the Harry Potter series!

Yet it is important… and JKR’s content on Pottermore gives us a little bit of insight into the thought process that went in to assigning that address to the Dursleys. The privet bush is, apparently, the quintessentially suburban British hedge bush. And that alone would make it remarkably Dursleyish.

But what I found curious is what she says about the number four in the “exclusive JKR content” for the very first scene in Pottermore. There, she claims that she has always found four to be a “rather hard and unforgiving number” – which is why she gave it to the Dursleys.


Obviously, four is the number of the square – and perhaps JKR does not like being boxed in. But in addition to the box, four is the number of letters in the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) – the Hebrew name for God. A considerable amount of Western music is composed in 4/4 time. There are four Gospels, four temperaments, four humors, four suits of cards, four seasons, four Beatles, four elements, and yes…

There are Four Hogwarts Founders, and Four Hogwarts Houses!

So JKR did not give the number four only to the Dursleys. She gave the number to Hogwarts itself.

I don’t know about you, but I find this point curious. Even back in the bad old days before the publication of Deathly Hallows, when many fans assumed that Slytherin = Evil and that it should be eradicated not only from Hogwarts but from the face of the Wizarding Earth (thus turning four Houses into three), JKR held strong and said that the four Houses aligned with the four Elements, and that they all were needed to balance each other out and reach fulfillment.

So what do you think?

  • In tying the four Houses to the the four Elements and claiming the necessity of each, was JKR trying to move beyond her antipathy to the number four?
  • In showing the conflict between the four Houses throughout the series (or at least between the three Houses and Slytherin), was JKR playing to her antipathy to the number four – and illustrating the hard, unforgiving nature of the number four?
  • Is the conflict between the four Houses necessary in order to arrive at the uneasy reconciliation at the end, when Harry offers his son a more enlightened, adult view of Slytherin House?
  • Or is it just oddly coincidental that the number four is both the number of the hard, unforgiving Dursley home and the number of Hogwarts Houses?

I await your comments…

Pottermore: A First Look Around

As I think everybody knows by now, I received my Pottermore Welcome Email on Friday morning. So I’ve been inside, “exploring the site” (as the Pottermore team likes to put it), for the past three days.

Since this post is mainly about my impressions and first-hand experience of Pottermore, I’m putting pretty much everything between spoiler GIFs for the sake of those who wish to experience everything on Pottermore fresh. :)

A few things you might want to know first, though…

In the Great Hall, there are currently 99,841 104,326 112,423 117,288 126,669 131,622 139,639 142,235 students.

I don’t think students start showing up in the statistics for the Great Hall until they arrive at Hogwarts and go through the Sorting Ceremony (PS/SS Chapter 7). So this means that at least significantly more than 100,000 welcome emails have already gone out and that about 14% of the early entry pool is now inside Pottermore.

According to the Pottermore Insider from several days ago, Pottermore is going to be sending out more and more letters this week… and then take a pause. This means that we could see a large increase over the next few days. And that’s good news for anyone who is still waiting.

Now… on to those first impressions…

Pottermore is being branded as an interactive reading experience, but I think it’s really more of a combination of a lot of different types of experiences.


Currently, the site has “moments” from PS/SS. We see drawings of various memorable scenes from the book, and in many of these “moments” we are able to “collect” items or “unlock” reading material. To collect or unlock, we just need to move the mouse around until something highlights and then we click on the thing that highlights. Items I’ve “collected” include a number of potions ingredients, Chocolate Frog Cards, and even a few Galleons. It’s amazing how much junk students just leave lying around the castle!

Occasionally, you have to accomplish a task in order to advance. For example, you can’t visit the shops in Diagon Alley to buy your school items (and get your wand!) until you find and collect your shopping list. You can’t move past Fluffy if you never cast the Alohomora spell to open the door to get to Fluffy. You can’t get past Quidditch until you catch the Golden Snitch. You can’t move into the final chamber until you’ve solved Snape’s Logic Puzzle.

This is all a lot of fun. In fact, it’s a bit like JKR’s own website but with a bit more narrative structure… and without the sound. At the moment, Pottermore is dead silent.

BTW, the artwork is often drop-dead gorgeous. :)

The Reading Experience

The reading experience is Pottermore is at its best – and at its worst. The worst is the repetitive canned content. Basically, every moment comes attached with a list of Characters and Places (and possibly Objects, Spells, and Creatures) that you can read about. Unfortunately, most of these are brief, uninformative, and repetitive. You really only need to read about the secondary characters one time because their information never expands. (I’m looking at you Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe, Quidditch Team Members, and Argus Filch!).

For major characters like the Trio, Dumbledore, Snape, McGonnagall, Draco, Hagrid, and Quirrell, you never really know until you click if you are going to get new content. Sometimes you do. Most of the time you don’t. I eventually got so tired of clicking on the exact same content that I finally ended up making all of the major characters “Favorites.” That way, I am, in effect, “collecting” their information for later reading.

In order to avoid reader frustration, I personally think Pottermore needs to create some sort of icon to indicate new information that hasn’t appeared before. That way, the reader won’t have to click unless that icon appears. Right now, Pottermore does have a feather icon to indicate new JKR-exclusive content. But an additional icon for previously unread info about one of the characters could only help the experience.

Hmmm. I think I’ll mention that on the feedback form. ;)

The New JKR Content

That said, the new and exclusive JKR content is AMAZING! For McGonnagall and Quirrell, you get a lot of new and exciting – and often heartbreaking – information.

You unlock new JKR content about McGonnagall for the first time in Chapter 7 and for Quirrell in (I believe) Chapter 8. Much later, JKR provides even more information for each character.

Pottermore doesn’t just offer new JKR info on characters, though. We get a lot of wandlore, straight from Ollivander himself (and I know how interested everybody is in getting, and learning about, their wand). And of course, we do get those House Histories.

But to tell you the truth, some of the funniest new content comes in the most mundane packages. Do you think you want to unlock content with names like “Measurements” and “Clothing”?


Well, trust me, you do. :)

Wand Selection and Sorting

You probably already know that you get quizzed in order to select your wand and your House. Your wand selects you in Chapter 5, and the Sorting Hat places you into your Hogwarts House in Chapter 7.

After reading about wand woods and cores, most people I know have concluded that they were chosen by the correct wand. Sorting is another matter entirely. I have some friends who identified heavily with Slytherin but were sorted into Ravenclaw. Others of us identified more with Ravenclaw but were sorted into Slytherin.

I don’t think this is really a problem with the Sorting Hat. I think it’s more a problem with what the fandom thinks Ravenclaw and Slytherin are. The popular views of Ravenclaw and Slytherin are not exactly what we see in the actual House Histories. But more on that in another post.

Regardless of what you think you are, the Sorting Hat will never admit a mistake, so this is your one chance to be sorted. And JKR stands behind her pool of questions.

As far as I can tell, you will get the same wand questionnaire I got. You will not get the same Sorting questions. From what I have gathered, Pottermore has a database full of Sorting questions, and each question will be triggered by the previous answer. This is aimed at making each Sorting experience unique.

Earning House Points

You earn points for your House by brewing potions and engaging in Wizard Duels. Even though Duels are down right now, Potions are brewing all across Pottermore!

Casting spells and brewing Potions are both very fun. But man! Potions really requires precision. If you’re not precise, you will quickly find yourself doing a Neville Longbottom… and melting or exploding your cauldron!

I think I’ve melted about 7 cauldrons so far – most of them just during practice, so no worries. But the last cauldron I melted lost my House points… and it was a relatively expensive Copper cauldron. So the lesson? Stick to the pewter. ;)

Well, anyway, I think you can tell that I’m having fun. The site is not nearly as buggy as I expected. And now that I’ve gone through all the moments, there’s still competition for the House Cup to keep me busy. Plus, I have 6 5 4 3 2 Chocolate Frog Cards to find!

(I have now completed the Chocolate Card set… and the last card I found was Merlin’s!)

With that, I’ll just say that if you have questions about Pottermore, I’ll take them in the Comments thread. :)

Pottermore: I Just Solved Snape’s Logic Puzzle

Sorry I’ve disappeared into Pottermore for the past couple of days. I will be back tomorrow, I think – or possibly Monday – to write up my general thoughts.

In the meantime, I just wanted to let everybody know that on Pottermore, you will have an opportunity to solve Snape’s Logic Puzzle. And when you get to that point in the story, you will find that one of my two final solutions is correct. :)

If you have visited Solving Snape’s Logic Puzzle, then you will know that figuring out the single final solution is impossible without actually seeing the layout of the bottles. You can only narrow it down to two potential positions for the “Forward” potion. (No such problem exists for the “Backward” potion).

I’m not going to reveal right now which one of my two solutions is the correct one. I’d like to give you an opportunity to solve the puzzle for yourself when you get to Pottermore.  But I will say this: while it was a solution I anticipated, it was not the solution I expected… though I think it was kind of the solution I was hoping for.

Feel free to use my Logic Puzzle notes when you get to Pottermore. Goodness knows I did!

Pottermore Debrief: Day 3

We have now completed Day 3 of the Pottermore Magic Quill challenge.

Here are the approximate times that the clues have been posted so far:

Day 1: 9am BST (4am US Eastern, 1am US Pacific)

Day 2: 10am BST (5am US Eastern, 2am US Pacific)

Day 3: 11am BST (6am US Eastern, 3am US Pacific)

As you can see, the clues so far have been posted roughly one hour later than the clue was posted on the previous day. It is not known if this pattern will hold. In fact, we should probably assume that it will not. Pottermore does not want to become too predictable concerning the times of the Quill challenge.

Confirmed: Tomorrow’s challenge will take place between 2.00pm and 6.00pm BST, so it will not fit the previously established pattern.

Here are paraphrases of the clues that have been posted:

Day 1: Find the number of owl breeds listed on the sign of the Eeylops Owl Emporium and multiply by 49. (Book 1: PS/SS)

Day 2: Find the chapter in which McGonnagall calls off the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff Quidditch match and multiply by 42. (Book 2: CoS)

Day 3: Find the score Gryffindor was leading by in the Gryffindor-Slytherin match before Harry catches the Golden Snitch and multiply by 35. (Book 3: PoA)

As I have already noted previously, each day will focus on a different book. Clue 4 will come from Goblet of Fire (GoF). It will be some sort of number. And it will almost certainly be multiplied by 28 (7 books * 4 days/chances remaining).

In addition, the Pottermore website says that the clues become easier starting on Day 4. I think that the only clue thus far that has been remotely challenging is Clue 1. So if it’s going to be getting easier, expect it to get very easy. They are probably making the clues easier because the books get so much longer and more complex starting with GoF.

Here are the challenges involving the Magic Quill:

Once you have solved the clue, multiplied it by the required number, and entered the solution into the address bar of your web browser (after the slash in the following address: ), you will be redirected to another site to do something with the Magic Quill. The site you will be redirected to has some sort of a relationship with the Harry Potter series. I mention this so that you will not freak out when you suddenly find yourself redirected to some third party website.

Here is what you’ve had to do with the Quill so far:

Day 1: Catch the Magic Quill. (redirected to the Sony website – the creative team behind Pottermore)

Day 2: Find a picture of the Magic Quill. (redirected to the Warner Brothers website – the studio behind the movies)

Day 3: Levitate the Magic Quill. (redirected to The Guardian, UK – on an article concerning Pottermore)

Once you have accomplished this part of the challenge, you will be redirected to registration.

Here is some speculation concerning the Day 4 clue:

Here are some numbers that I would have on hand before the release of the next clue:

Day 4: Goblet of Fire:

  • How many students enter the TriWizard Tournament?
  • How many schools participate in the TriWizard Tournment?
  • How many challenges are there supposed to be in the TriWizard Tournament?
  • What age is a student supposed to be in order to participate in the TriWizard Tournament?
  • How many Death Eaters arrive at the graveyard?
  • How many Death Eaters are missing from the graveyard?
  • How many murdered people emerge from Voldemort’s wand when his wand is locked with Harry’s?

Remember, this is all speculation. But basically, I think the numbers you will most likely need to focus on are associated with either: The Quidditch World Cup, The TriWizard Tournament, or Voldemort’s return at the graveyard. And since this clue is supposed to be easier, I’m guessing that it will involve the TriWizard Tournament. And of course, I could be completely wrong about any of this!

Once you have the number required for the clue, you will need to multiply that number by another number. If the pattern holds, that number will be 28.

Here is some information on technical issues:

I’m not Tech Support, and I don’t represent Pottermore, so anything I say here I’m just saying as someone who has been through the process and has an opinion about it. :)

But… there has been a known issue with Yahoo Mail. Here is what Pottermore Insider said earlier about the Yahoo problem:

Q: I registered for early access yesterday with a Yahoo email address and have yet to receive my verification email. What’s happened to my email and will I still be able to verify in time?

A: There is a delay with verification emails going out via Yahoo! Mail and related providers (such as BT Yahoo!), which means that, while emails are being sent out, they are being delivered at a greatly reduced rate.

We are currently talking to Yahoo in order to resolve this problem and will update this blog post with new information as we get it.

More recently, this issue has apparently been resolved. Here’s the latest update:

Q. Is there any update on the Yahoo! Mail issue?
A. This has now been resolved and everyone who registered with a Yahoo! Mail account on Sunday or Monday should now have received their validation email.

If you still don’t want to chance it with Yahoo, you can always set up a non-Yahoo account for your Pottermore verification email. Gmail seems to have been the most reliable service so far.

In addition to the Yahoo issues, some people are finding it impossible to complete the registration process. This may or may not be a technical issue. It’s possible that Pottermore registration has closed down for the day before you finished registering. If that happened, you are not registered and will have to wait until the next Clue is posted on the next day. Sorry. :(

If Pottermore registration is still open, though, you might want to try again – perhaps in another browser. The Pottermore website and the Pottermore Insider will indicate when registration has closed.

Here is what you should know about selling and buying Pottermore accounts

Don’t do it! It’s not worth it!

Pottermore is free, and everybody will be able to register once the Magic Quill contest is over. Even people who complete the Magic Quill contest are not guaranteed immediate entry, just early entry.

None of us knows right now exactly when we will receive our Welcome email. For some of us, it could be on the day after the Magic Quill contest ends. For others of us, it could be 3-7 weeks later. And for some of us, it could be as late as the day before Pottermore opens to the general public.

Pottermore will be open to the general pubic at the beginning of October. That is only two months away. It is not worth spending as much as $800 on eBay for something that you will be able to gain for free in just a couple of months – particularly when none of these Beta test accounts guarantees immediate access.

Here is what Pottermore Insider has to say about buying and selling early access Pottermore accounts:

Q. I have seen Pottermore early access accounts being sold online on places like eBay. Is it okay to buy or sell Pottermore accounts?

A. No. Please do not buy, sell, or transfer Pottermore early access accounts. Obtaining Beta registration for Pottermore with the intent of selling on those registration details for monetary gain not only deprives genuine fans the chance to gain early access, it is also expressly prohibited in The Magical Quill promotion Terms & Conditions.

We have the right to terminate any Pottermore accounts that are sold online.

Access to Pottermore is, and always will be, completely free so please don’t be tempted by people selling Pottermore accounts online. You will only be wasting your money – and there are still more clues and chances to come!

Basically, if you try to sell an account, they are probably going to go after you. If you buy an account, you are being very foolish. And anyway, it’s really not that hard to pass the Magic Quill challenges successfully! So have fun with this. Experience it yourself, and don’t try to buy the experience!

I will be posting an update later today if Pottermore Insider posts a time window for Day 4. Good luck to those who want to give Day 4 a try!

Philosopher Stone Faves (and what should Dumbledore have told Harry?)

Once again, I must apologize for not being present this week to comment on my own blog post! I have just reached that point in the semester when first papers need to go back to students. So I got caught in the “Non-Stop Grading Zone.” And believe me, grading essays is typically not much fun.

So back to the topic at hand. We have had some lively discussion concerning Dumbledore’s lies to Harry at the end of PS/SS. And I personally have said everything about PS/SS that I’ve been dying to say.

Before the PS/SS discussion, though, draws to a close, I have a couple of questions for you:

  1. What have you been dying to say about PS/SS that we haven’t really covered?
  2. What would you have told Harry after he regained consciousness from the battle with Quirrellmort if you had been in Albus Dumbledore’s position?

The Comments thread is open. But I’m also taking suggestions for “End of PS/SS” Guest Posts. Anybody game?

When we move on to Chamber of Secrets (the book, not the Forum), I’ll do a quick read and post on random stuff that jumps out at me… and then go back and get into a bit more depth about the book.

One thing that occurred to me this morning is that CoS is really the first book that digs into biographical detail concerning Tom Riddle. Of course, we already know from PS/SS that he was a Slytherin and that his diminished form resided in Albania before Quirrell found him. But there’s not much that we know about the man himself until we open Riddle’s Diary/Horcrux in CoS.

Should be fun.

And now… what is it that you’re dying to say about PS/SS?

The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

“Don’t be a fool,” snarled the face. “Better save your own life and join me… or you’ll meet the same end as your parents…. “They died begging me for mercy….”

“LIAR!” Harry shouted suddenly.

Quirrell was walking backward at him, so that Voldemort could still see him. The evil face was now smiling.

“How touching…” it hissed. “I always value bravery…. Yes, boy, your parents were brave…. I killed your father first, and he put up a courageous fight… but your mother needn’t have died… she was trying to protect you…. Now give me the Stone, unless you want her to have died in vain.”


We expect the lie from Voldemort, just as we expect defiance from Harry. Voldemort lies in claiming…

  • That Harry’s parents died begging for mercy
  • That he values bravery
  • That Harry’s father put up a courageous fight

In actuality, Harry’s father rushed at Voldemort without a wand in his hand, Voldemort cast the curse, and…

James Potter fell like a marionette whose strings were cut….”

That’s it.

In context, fear has failed to motivate Harry to give Voldemort what he wants, so Voldemort reverts to flattery, reciting the key Gryffindor quality of bravery. And no doubt, James Potter bravely rushed at the Dark Lord. But put up a courageous fight? There was no fight.

Voldemort’s lie about Harry’s father, however, is ultimately less destructive than Albus Dumbledore’s. Once the Stone has been saved, Dumbledore promises Harry to answer whatever questions he can… without, of course, lying. But when Harry asks if it’s true that Snape hates him because he hated his father, Dumbledore replies:

“Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourself and Mr. Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive.”


“He saved his life.”

That’s not exactly true. James Potter got cold feet on a Marauders prank that would have gotten Severus killed, and James intervened to stop it.

But Severus never believed that James’ primary intention was to save his life. He believed that James’ intent was merely to save himself and the other Marauders from getting expelled.
(And when we see what James did to Severus shortly afterward in the SWM, who can blame Severus for denying James any benevolent intent?)

But the question of James’ intent is not at the core of Dumbledore’s lie. It’s in his claim that Snape, in essence, was angry over owing James a life debt – a life debt that Severus never believed he owed. In framing Snape’s hatred in those terms, Dumbledore glosses over the true source of Snape’s fury: severe, public humiliation and abuse in SWM (what I would call a form of gang rape, frankly). And then, the worst of all possible humiliations: James winning Lily’s hand.

Yes, I know why Dumbledore might feel compelled to lie on this matter. Snape swore him to secrecy, admonishing Dumbledore never to reveal his [Snape’s] motives for protecting Harry – and putting Dumbledore in a bit of a bind. So it’s possible that Dumbledore invents an alternate scenario to explain Snape’s protection (i.e., attempting to retire the life debt) while at the same time honoring his word to Severus.

But the lie doesn’t help. It doesn’t really explain anything about Severus’ antipathy toward James to Harry. It merely helps to escalate the tension between Harry and Snape. And a couple of years later, Harry uses the lie when he throws his father’s life-saving “courage” right back in Snape’s face.

So my question is: How conscious is Dumbledore that he’s telling a lie? Has he, like Harry, created some ideal “James” in his head? Or is he deliberately misleading Harry in order to protect Severus’ secret? Or what?

I await your comments.