“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …”
The Prophecy made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney
I have been with Harry since the beginning.
When he first came to Hogwarts and found the Sorcerer’s Stone… When the Chamber of Secrets was opened… When he found out the Prizoner of Azkaban was his godfather… When the Goblet of Fire spit out his name as one of the Triwizard tournament… When he learned more about the Order of the Phoenix… When he “became” a Potion’s prodigy with the help of the Half-Blood Prince… When he found the Deathly Hallows and finally faced Lord Voldemort.
I was with Harry until the end.
* * *
In the course of my life I had made many, many choices. I made right ones and wrong ones… I made some that seemed more important than others. And then there were those that inadvertently changed my life.
One of the most conscious decisions that I have ever made was deciding that I would stop hiding behind my parents’ death. It was at that moment, I think, when I refused to be a victim of circumstance.
Several months before the last Harry Potter film was scheduled to be released, I wanted to have read book seven again. I was in such a state of excitement when the last book first came out that it somehow feels like I was in such a hurry to get through it. I wanted to live it again… And this time, to savor the moments between the pages.
Unfortunately, book seven wasn’t the only thing I wanted to relive – I also wanted to experience the build up towards it. So I decided to read books one to six before even picking up a copy of The Deathly Hallows.
Today, both parts 1 & 2 of The Deathly Hallows have been shown and I am in the middle of The Half-Blood Prince. While living through book six, I realized something.
* * *
Harry sat in thought for a moment, then asked, “So if all of his Horcruxes are destroyed, Voldemort could be killed?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Dumbledore. “Without his Horcruxes, Voldemort will be a mortal man with a maimed and diminished soul. Never forget, though, that while his should may be damaged beyond repair, his brain and his magical powers remain intact. It will take uncommon skill and power to kill a wizard like Voldemort even without his Horcruxes.”
“But I haven’t got uncommon skill and power,” said Harry, before he could stop himself.
“Yes you have,” said Dumbledore firmly. “You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can – “
“I know!” said Harry impatiently. “I can love!” It was only with difficulty that he stopped himself adding, “Big deal!”
“Yes, Harry, you can love,” said Dumbledore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. “Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing. You are still too young to understand how unusual you are, Harry.”
“So, when the prophecy sys that I’ll have ‘power the Dark Lord knows not,’ it just means – love?” asked Harry, feeling a little let down.
“Yes – just love,” said Dumbledore. “But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him – and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!”
“But it comes to the same – “
“No, it doesn’t!” said Dumbledore, sounding impatient now. Pointing at Harry with his black, withered hand, he said, “You are setting too much story by the prophecy!”
“But,” sputtered Harry, “but you said the prophecy means – “
“If Voldemort had never heard of the prophecy, would it have been fulfilled? Would it have meant anything? Of course not! Do you think every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been fulfilled?”
“But,” said Harry, bewildered, “but last year, you said one of us would have to kill the other – “
“Harry, Harry, only because Voldemort made a grave error, and acted on Professor Trelawney’s words! If Voldemort had never murdered your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for revenge? Of course not! If he had not forced your mother to die for you, would he have given you a magical protection he could not penetrate? Of course not, Harry! Don’t you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is not different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!”
“But – “
“It is essential that you understand this!” said Dumbledore, standing up and striding about the room, his glittering robes swooshing in his wake; Harry had never seen him so agitated. “By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job! It’s Voldemort’s fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that you even understand that snakelike language in which he gives orders, and yet, Harry, despite your privileged insight into Voldemort’s world (which, incidentally, is a gift any Death Eater would kill to have), you have never been seduced by the Dark Arts, never even for a second, shown the slightest desire to become one of Voldemort’s followers!”
“Of course, I haven’t!” said Harry indignantly. “He killed my mum and dad!”
“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!” said Dumbledore loudly. “The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort’s! In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart’s desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in hat mirror? Voldemort should have known then what he was dealing with, but he did not!
“But he knows it now. You have flitted into Lord Voldemort’s mind without damage to yourself, but he cannot possess you without enduring mortal agony, as he discovered in the Ministry. I do not think he understands why, Harry, but then, he was in such a hurry to mutilate his own soul, he never paused to understand the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole.”
“But, sir,” said Harry, making valiant efforts not to sound argumentative, “it all comes to the same thing, doesn’t it? I’ve got to try and kill him, or – “
“Got to?” said Dumbledore. “Of course you’ve got to! But not because of the prophecy! Because you, yourself, will never rest until you’ve tried! We both know it! Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!”
Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and thought. He though t of his mother, his father, and Sirius. He thought of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.
“I’d want him finished,” said Harry quietly. “And I’d want to do it.”
“Of course you would!” cried Dumbledore. “You see, the prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the prophecy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal… In other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the prophecy. He will continue to hunt you… which makes it certain, really, that – “
“That one of us is going to end up killing the other,” said Harry. “Yes.”
But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him.. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world.
* * *
Most people think it was in book seven that Harry finally became a man and faced his death. But I realized that Harry had become a man far earlier than that… Even earlier than the heartbreaking moment when Dumbledore was killed. It was that moment when he realized he had a choice.
And, at the end of Chapter 23 of the sixth book, I found that moment.