Harry Potter and the Distinction Between Good and Evil

By Emma

After reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you may be under the impression that you have acquired a better understanding of the guiding principles of every character. I was quite surprised to find the opposite. The more I learn about the characters, the more complex they appear to me, particularly from the point of view of the distinction between good and evil. The ambivalence I perceive about this issue raises the question of Rowling's ethical conceptions. Is there an ethical message in the Harry Potter series? And if there is, what is it?

We have only indirect hints about Rowling's ethical message, so her ethical frame of reference can only be assumed. In my view, the most important ethical rule she has explicitly stated is "It is our choices [¦] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." 1 We can also assume that Rowling establishes a distinction between good and evil, even if the criteria defining both extremes are not clearly stated. From Harry's actions in the series, goodness requires the courage to be good in spite of the temptation of evil.2 Goodness is very often difficult and requires the ethical action par excellence: sacrifice.3 Likewise, Dumbledore calls Lord Voldemort's actions in the series evil. According to Dumbledore, Voldemort has committed the most evil act ’ murder ’ and by the making of a Horcrux has severely maimed his soul.4 Traditionally, evil is defined as something that "denies or attacks life" 5 and this definition fits with Dumbledore's assessment of Voldemort's actions. Further, evil is usually defined as "morally or ethically objectionable" 6 but this definition is difficult to use because the determination of such matters is subjective. By implication it appears that Rowling values life and those who move to protect it with love, bravery, and sacrifice are defined as "good."

However, J.K. Rowling's style of presenting moral issues is not as explicit as it is in the works of many other authors. J.R.R. Tolkien is a good example of an author who does not have ambivalence in his presentation of evil.7 In addition to this, we are free to think as we will so we do not necessarily need to take Harry Potter as our standard of goodness. Our interpretation of the facts and our perception of every character can be founded on our own values and beliefs. We can then eventually interpret the facts in the Harry Potter series in a very different light. In order to make this point clear, I will judge some character's actions, from the point of view of a different standard for goodness. Is Snape an obsessive lover or a hero? Is Voldemort the personification of evil or a baby soul? Is Dumbledore a wise loving wizard or unemotionally calculating? And is Harry Potter really a model of ethical behaviour?

This different standard of goodness is referred to as the ethics of love. I believe that reality is something that man cannot fully understand.8 I also believe all things are good and that evil has no meaning to God.9 This may seem weird at first but even Shakespeare has grasped the full importance of this idea when he says "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." 10 Evil has meaning for man, however, and because of this I will use the term in my essay. My conception is different than the conception presented by Rowling. What is important according to the ethics of love is that an evil action is the result of ignorance and fear.

I define the term good as an action motivated by the ethics of love. The ethics of love (as conceived by me) is the belief that you should treat everyone in an equally loving manner with the intention of reducing suffering in the world. Plato argued what we call evil is ignorance and good is that which everyone desires.11 I agree with the notion that evil acts stem purely from ignorance. I will explain these issues more fully through example below.

I Am Sorry To Insist Even Now But ¦ Is Snape Good or Evil?

Snape continues to be one of the most surprising characters in the series; it is difficult to judge his actions as good or evil. Some have argued that he is a selfish, egocentric, neurotic character who is blinded by obsessive love. If Snape only turned to the good side because he was obsessed with Lily, they suggest that he is not a good person. Obsessive love is defined as a psychological condition in which someone becomes emotionally preoccupied with another to a troubling extent.12 There is some evidence in the books supporting the "Snape obsessive love theory' such as his greedy looks, his bad manners and bullying behaviour, the doe Patronus, his insistent attentions to Lily, and even his apparent hatred of Harry.13

According to this theory, he only agreed to protect Harry and to fight Voldemort because of his obsessive love. Obsessive love is damaging to the person who feels it and can be dangerous for the object of their love if they act on their obsession. Further it can drive the individual to self-defeating behaviour. Thus obsessive love does fit the definition of evil that I presented above. It is important to note that Snape did not act on his obsessive love to harm Lily intentionally. But however kindly he acted towards Lily, the fact that his love was somehow perverted is a common view in the fandom that I disagree with in general.

There are facts that point strongly against the theory that his good acts were motivated by an evil emotion. Snape performed some generous acts that have nothing to do with Lily. He tried, for example, to prevent Sirius's and Lupin's deaths (yes, the werewolf's death!), while he could simply have been inactive or claimed ignorance. Indeed, Snape tried to save Lupin (at great risk for his double agent position) when he intended to use a Sectumsempra curse against a Death Eater aiming at his back.14 He could also have pretended not to understand Harry Potter while he told him Sirius was in danger in Professor Umbridge's office.15 And more importantly, when Dumbledore asked him how many people had he watched die he answered "Lately, only those whom I could not save." 16

Did Rowling want to present Snape as a paradoxical character, where obsessive love and real love coexisted? Are Snape's actions then both good and evil? A person who is truly conflicted, feeling some evil motivations and some good ones is a very real character and obviously I have no particular objection to this view. What seems self-contradictory to me is that in some cases, Snape's obsessive and perverted love appears to have good consequences. Is obsessive love supposed to make someone into a hero? Is it then necessary for Snape to feel a perversion of love in order to be able to make good choices? According to Rowling's claim about our choices defining who we are a bad choice (obsessive love) implies that Snape truly is bad even if this choice has good consequences.

Thus, if Snape's obsessive love is the main cause of his turning to the good side, then obsessive love, which we had previously defined as perverted and evil, is somehow good. We can interpret Snape's situation in a different light that supports the thesis that in the decisive moments genuine love always prevailed. Real love is then at the origin of good decisions. His obsessive love for Lily (including Lily's rejection of him) has put him in a self-defeating situation and he becomes a Death Eater. However, the love he learned to feel thanks to Lily prevailed when he is, for the first time, confronted with the consequences of his evil acts (due to her death). The intense remorse he feels causes an "Ah-ha!" experience that teaches him what happens when we go against the forces of life. After that, love always prevails in Snape's most important choices even if he makes a lot of efforts to conceal it. According to this interpretation, it is his genuine love (which he discovered thanks to his "Ah-ha!" experience) that explains why he decided to work for Dumbledore. In order to shed some more light on this issue we shall further explore the issue of good and evil as applied to other characters and particularly Lord Voldemort.

Is Evilness Really Evil?

As I mentioned above, Rowling presents Voldemort as evil ’ or so it seems. Voldemort has committed many acts that fit my definition of evil above, he has murdered at least nineteen characters that we know of and tortured countless others. Apparently, Voldemort is going to pay for his evilness beyond the veil as his soul is represented in frightening terms: "It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been left, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath." 17

As I understand the text, Rowling presents the idea that if we behave badly, then we will be punished in the after-life. I really do not think punishment18 and suffering should be considered as the basis to inspire good actions in any society. If Voldemort has really been punished, it may be extremely unjust. In reality, punishment is always unjust. When we dole out punishment for wrong doers, we are retaliatory and vengeful. People are not supposed to avoid evil acts because they are so afraid of damnation or suffering. To avoid an evil act should be a decision that has its roots in love.

In addition, Rowling presents a means to heal the soul after making a Horcrux and this is remorse. Indeed, according to Hermione (quoting the Horcrux books hidden by Dumbledore) the only means to put yourself together after making a Horcrux is remorse, which is "excruciatingly painful" as "You've got to really feel what you've done." 19 Before we have defined the healing of the soul as an ˜Ah-ha!' experience and, in this sense, it was considered as useful and good. However, according to Rowling, remorse is defined as a kind of self-punishment. Besides, after making a Horcrux you may never be redeemed at all as "apparently, the pain of it can destroy you." 20 What are we supposed to understand by that? What are we to teach our children? That punishment and pain redeems them for wrongdoing?

It is true that remorse can be interpreted as a necessary step to enlightenment but only if it is not conceived as pain from guilt or as payment for evil acts, but as a necessary prelude to understanding of the ethics of love. Our "feeling wrong" is at the origin of a new understanding of the meaning of our acts. If guilt were all that we needed, I would call this the ethics of fear: This is the ethics where goodness is sustained by fear of personal suffering. Another way to describe this is to say that your ethical behaviour is motivated only by your fear of pain or punishment.

Rowling presents the ideas that your eternal life will be destroyed if you perform murder and that you must suffer to heal your soul. This indicates that she believes that, in some cases, the ethics of fear is needed to control the behaviour of people who do not behave in ethically favourable ways. To me, this is an ethics that is full of contradictions. As an example, if feeling remorse is the method to be redeemed, you have an implicit ex ante justification for your evil acts, as you know that you may be redeemed in the end if you are willing to suffer a bit afterwards. A confusion of remorse with punishment is also reminiscent of the enslaved Dobby shutting his ears in the oven door or bashing his head against the wall.21 When he disobeys he inflicts physical pain on himself, his behaviour is not corrected, only punished, and he really has no choice about it. For enlightenment to occur, a person needs to feel that he has done wrong (remorse) and change through a higher understanding of love (enlightenment), because he wants to change. The healing part of the process is thus not truly the remorse but the second step that causes one to understand and change one's behaviour.

Rowling's conception leaves a lot of ethical questions unanswered: can someone be considered evil if he never realized that he had the choice to be otherwise? Some facts in the book are actually not consistent with Rowling's idea that Voldemort had the choice to become morally good. Considering Voldemort's lack of love and unhappy childhood,22 it is not surprising that he has a life marked by treachery, untruth and suffering. Rowling stated clearly in one interview that Voldemort was never loved by anyone.23 He had no knowledge of love because he may have never been in contact with it. Some may claim that Voldemort was cold and unemotional as a baby and that the problem here is not that he was not loved but that he was not receptive to love. This makes no difference to me. It is obvious that if he was not open to love it is because he did not know how to receive it. It is impossible to affirm that he did not want it. How can he reject something that he does not know? We can claim that he was not receptive or open to love but in my view, to be receptive to love is something to be learned, and not an intrinsic feature of anyone's personality.

How could he choose love if he did not know how it feels? From my point of view, to be evil according to Rowling's own logic would imply a perfect understanding of what is good and bad for us; otherwise, how can we be said to make a choice? Obviously, Voldemort would not have chosen to make Horcruxes if he had known that his soul would be deformed and he would suffer for all eternity, so his knowledge was imperfect. Voldemort would not have chosen immortality and damnation if he knew in advance that evil actions are self-defeating. Even if evil actions are not self-defeating, I still think that Voldemort would not have chosen power and domination if he knew that this particular choice does not lead to happiness.

But maybe Voldemort was loved by someone, as some would affirm in spite of Rowling's claims. For example, it could be claimed that Voldemort was loved by Bellatrix or by some of his other followers. In my opinion, their love cannot be counted as "real love" because it is not synonymous with "trust." It is much more likely that Bellatrix is just following a sadomasochistic pattern. In other words, she feels pleasure both to be abused by Voldemort and to abuse and torture others. In my views, pleasure is not real love. Accordingly, if we consider sadism and masochism as an illness produced by a complex perverted relationship during childhood, it would seem that Bellatrix had also a limited number of choices.24

It would indeed be very unjust if everyone were expected to make "good choices" independently of the treatment they received from others. Those who had a life full of love and trust should be expected to do better than those who did not. Those who had poor treatment are necessarily going to make many mistakes and poor choices before having the opportunity to understand. Their choices should be understood as mistaken, and therefore their choices should define these people as mistaken, not evil, according to a new ethics that is founded in love rather than fear.

Is Goodness Really Good?

If we take as a frame of reference the ethics of love instead of the ethics of fear, our perception of Harry and Dumbledore is also quite different. In my view, Albus Dumbledore came closest to showing a standard of goodness through the ethics of love. Deathly Hallows set back this possibility for Dumbledore, however. I do not really understand why Dumbledore was supposed to be held responsible for Ariana's death. I do not see either why he should be so ashamed of his friendship with the boy Grindelwald or of his passion for the Deathly Hallows.25 Though Dumbledore admitted that he knew Grindelwald used Dark Magic, he did love Grindelwald26 and offered him trust; these are appropriate actions according to my view of the ethics of love. Further, his desire to possess the Deathly Hallows was motivated by his wish to prevent others from getting hurt as his sister had, and that too is an act of love.27 His quest for power and glory during his youth was intended to take away the freedom of the Muggles. Even if he intended to prevent bad things from occurring this is reprehensible but personally I consider this more as a boy's mistake than as an unforgivable failure.

There is only one dark episode where Dumbledore may have chosen to use fear (instead of love) to guide his own choices as well as the behaviour of others: Dumbledore's treatment of Snape. We had it all wrong! The question under consideration has always been if Snape was loyal to Dumbledore, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows clearly reveals that there is even a more important question which never occurred to anybody: Was Dumbledore loyal to Snape? Did he really love him as a friend? And the answer is no, or so it seems.

Try to imagine what the Snape portrait in the headmaster's office would tell Dumbledore's portrait at the end of the book: "Ehem, ehem ¦ with a brain like yours, surely you knew that Voldemort would come to the idea that I was the master of the Elder Wand. May I then ask why you did not tell me that there will be a time when Voldemort would feel inclined to kill me?28 That would have been very useful information, very useful information, indeed."

If Dumbledore had told Snape, it is quite difficult to understand why Snape went to Voldemort the night of the battle of Hogwarts.29 If Dumbledore did not tell Snape that may have been a betrayal because it would have revealed that Dumbledore was indeed only using Snape and that he mistrusted him after all. In this case, Dumbledore would have acted out of his personal fear instead of from the ethics of love. One essential aspect of the ethics of love is trust and more often than not, Dumbledore seems to mistrust everyone. In my view, trust is synonymous with love because if you do not trust someone it is due to your fear and failure to believe in his/her inner potential for goodness and love. Dumbledore really failed on the ethics of love because he was not able to love Snape in order to help him into his process of enlightenment. Dumbledore preferred to use Snape as a double agent than to teach him the power of love. Is it possible that Dumbledore viewed Snape's past misdeeds as warranting punishment and that he did not value Snape's life as highly as he did that of others? If this is so, it indicates that Rowling does not rank each of her characters lives as equally worthy of preservation. However, as we do not know what happened, let's assume that Dumbledore would have warned Snape if he realized the danger (beginning of wizard's Alzheimers? A side-effect of the Avada Kedavra curse?).

If Dumbledore's situation is not completely clear, Harry Potter definitely chooses to act out of fear instead of love in many situations. Harry Potter, as someone who has been truly loved as a baby, shows a great capacity of real love towards his friends and towards life. He is even ready to give his own life for his friends, and in a more general way, to stop Voldemort's acts against life. In this case, Harry was able to let aside his fear of death to follow the path dictated by love. This action would be good according to the standards of the ethics of love in the sense that love prevailed over fear.

However, in other cases, fear prevails. What would Snape's portrait say to Harry? "Harry Potter, such a brave boy ¦ surely you enjoyed watching Voldemort finish me, did you not? Of course, such pleasure could not be interrupted, even to prevent Voldemort becoming the master of the Elder Wand. Because thinking as you thought at this moment that I really killed Dumbledore, you should have expected he was going to become the master." 30 Possibly Harry already knew at this moment that he was the master of the Elder Wand (thus meaning that Snape's death was not necessary from Voldemort's viewpoint and of no risk to Harry). This observation makes his failure to act even more morally suspect. Yes he viewed Snape as an enemy but to be practicing the ethics of love Harry, Ron, and Hermione should have done something to prevent Snape's death anyway. What are we supposed to understand by their inaction? Does this mean that murder is acceptable if applied to our enemies?

And more importantly, from my point of view, to be good according to the ethics of love, Harry should have loved Voldemort. To be a "model of goodness" according to the ethics of love, he should have tried to forgive Voldemort and to trust him. He should have had more confidence in Voldemort's deep inner goodness and his ability to learn to be open to love. But he did exactly the opposite. He made him furious, calling him Riddle and revealing Snape's true loyalties.31 Harry could have shown more concern for Voldemort's destiny, after having seen his wounded baby soul. As I see it, true love is not only addressed to our friends or to those we consider arbitrarily as good and innocent people. True love is the acceptance of ignorance and imperfection and should be applied equally to all things. True love is complete trust and forgiveness.

Harry Potter has difficulties in forgiving Voldemort because of his fears: the fear of his own death (he considered it as a sacrifice) and the fear of his friends' deaths. Surely Voldemort made bad choices. What a monstrous act to mutilate his soul! But Harry, while confronted with ignorance and its evil consequences, allowed arrogance to prevail over understanding. Again, Harry chose to protect others from suffering, thus following the ethics of love, but he could have chosen to show love even to Voldemort by warning him of his fate more kindly. This would have driven home the idea that Harry truly had a superior capacity to love that exceeded all others. It would have been all the more poignant then if Lord Voldemort had still rejected his chance for enlightenment, even if I do not think for a second that refusing true love is really possible.

It is difficult to escape the anger that we feel toward Lord Voldemort and Harry had more reason to feel that way than most. But to fully demonstrate the power of love, Harry needed to release anger and fear and simply offer Voldemort love. You may consider that the choices Voldemort made were evil even though he was ignorant of love but because we are not fully enlightened we cannot tell if the suffering caused by Lord Voldemort had a purpose that we do not yet comprehend. Do we have the whole picture? How do we know that a life empty of love is better than a mistaken quest for meaning and fulfilment? It is even possible that Voldemort existed in order to expand our experience of true love. For example, without Voldemort's evil actions, it would have been impossible for us to witness Lily's act of true love (of course I am referring to her giving her life for Harry)32 or Harry's act of true love while giving his own life for his friends.33 If so, evil acts may not be bad because they serve some higher purpose, making them morally good in the end as it was the case with Snape. Voldemort should then be considered as part of a divine scheme designed to expand our experience of love.

In this sense, some acts defined as evil by man because they produce suffering, are not to be defined as evil from an "enlightened perspective" because they have a function. Suffering is evil for man because it feels so bad but suffering is not necessarily evil for those who consider that it is a necessary step toward enlightenment while on earth. It is even possible that some kinds of suffering are to be considered as positive experiences while other kinds of suffering may be unnecessary. But it may then be difficult from our shortsighted human perspective to give a definitive judgement about which particular experience is necessary.

Not Sin, But Ignorance!

The ethics of love is simply an ethics where goodness is not sustained by fear of suffering. What is required is not to fight against darkness, but to shed light on it; not to fear death, but to trust our destiny; not the condemnation of evil, but forgiveness. The ethics of love is sustained by real love, which is considered synonymous with trust and forgiveness. From this point of view, there is no sin, only ignorance.

Snape's actions can be seen as possibly motivated by obsessive love but the pain of his guilt over his loved one's loss indicates a true and selfless love. Then the fact that his life saving acts after that followed the ethics of love indicates that he was able to change as a result of his misdeed. This also supports the idea that his love was not "perverted" but a true love. Though he never fully achieved enlightenment in the ethics of love, as was seen in his hatred and bullying, he was making progress toward that goal when he died.

Voldemort's actions, according to this ethics, are the result of the illusion of power, causing suffering and fear. Among all the victims of the Harry Potter series, he may be playing the worst part as loneliness and lack of love have led him to believe that love is useless and that immortality is better than eternity. In some ways, Lord Voldemort himself is under some kind of Imperius curse because he is blind to trust and love. Voldemort is not evil; he is gravely mistaken. Voldemort may be a very ignorant soul: a baby soul, who nobody cared to love while on earth. It comes down to one question: Could Voldemort have chosen to be good? Probably not. And if he had no choice, his actions cannot make him evil no matter how much suffering they produce. As Voldemort was ignorant of many things, his choice was not between good and evil or between love and fear, but between two different kinds of suffering: to live with emptiness or to try to fill it through a quest for power.

Though Dumbledore demonstrated a great understanding of the power of love he did not reflect a clear concept of the ethics of love in his actions. He used Snape as a spy, putting him in great danger in his attempt to defeat Lord Voldemort and forcing him to watch the suffering of others without intervening.34 And he failed to trust anyone in the Series with his vast knowledge and endless secrets. Though these actions were largely understandable his choice not to warn Snape of the likely threat to his life in the last pages of Deathly Hallows is a highly morally suspect choice that can only be explained by a callous lack of caring for a man who had shown him outstanding levels of loyalty.

Though close to understanding the ethics of love, Harry still allows his anger to cause him to punish others for their wrong doings on occasion.35 Actions like those, though understandable, are not productive in teaching others proper ethical behaviour and should be avoided. Though suffering can bring enlightenment, it would be through the self-evaluation that follows remorse, not through the pain of torture, humiliation, or belittlement. An ethical hero according to the ethics of love is not the master of death, but the master of his own fear. He knows that there is nothing to fear if you know true love. This is not to be taken as a criticism of the Harry Potter series, but as an observation of how I saw the series fall slightly short of fully expressing the idea presented by Rowling when she said that Love is the power Harry has in such measure that Voldemort has not.36 By doing this Rowling invoked the ethics of love but did not utilize them.

She could have chosen to do so, but instead she demonstrated other moral messages. Rather than saying that love can be used to bring enlightenment, she demonstrates the converse idea: that evil is self-defeating. This is something that Harry and Dumbledore did not recognise fully; they feared evil. But the reality J.K. Rowling depicted is that evil acts cause suffering to others but also defeat the one who chooses to perpetrate them. Had Harry and Dumbledore fully understood that, by acting only through love, evil would be completely unable to touch them, and then many of the desperate choices that they made would have seemed completely unnecessary to them: the use of Snape as a spy requiring him to make some evil choices for the larger picture of good; Dumbledore's extensive secrets demonstrating his lack of trust; and the taunting of Voldemort that removed any chance of him experiencing love and doomed him to eternal suffering. But this would also have taken quite a bit of the excitement from the story because if the characters realised how truly self-defeating Voldemort's actions were there would be no reason to fear Voldemort.

Surely a book from the point of view of a model of wisdom would be quite boring, lacking brave acts and intrigue. An interesting and intriguing novel requires the main hero's ignorance. A hero's nature is not to be wise, but to be brave. When Harry gives his life for his friends, this act can only be truly considered as brave and significant if he is actually afraid of death. The same act done by a wise man (who does not fear anything) would not have any value because he would not have required any effort. In a world where the ethics of love prevails no one fears evil and everyone would recognize that suffering comes from ignorance of love. In such a world love always prevails and consequently there is everlasting happiness, but not necessarily adventures.


1. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 245.

2. Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 353. As an example, in Deathly Hallows Harry is tempted by pursuing the Hallows (as was Dumbledore) instead of entirely focusing on his mission to defeat Lord Voldemort. Harry's belief in and longing for the Hallows consumed him so much that he felt quite isolated from the other two and their obsession with the Horcruxes.

3. Ibid., 564, 567. In my view, Harry's death can be considered as a sacrifice because he feared it until the end. This is quite clear as in Harry's last moments. Rowling writes, "Harry looked back into the red eyes, and wanted it to happen now, quickly, while he could still stand, before he lost control, before he betrayed fear." Besides, Lily's "sacrifice" has also been praised at several times during the series as it was considered as a powerful enchantment to protect Harry.

4. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 475. According to Dumbledore, Voldemort's soul may be "damaged beyond repair."

5. Wikipedia, s.v. "Evil."

6. Ibid.

7. Tolkien, Silmarillion. Good is in accordance with the plan of Eru (Ilúvatar), the creator, and evil is contrary to that plan.

8. Wikipedia, s.v. "Reality in Buddhism."

9. Fairbanks, First Philosophers of Greece. The Greek thinker Heraclitus, for example, considers that "God and Bad are the same" and still "...for god all the things are fair and good, but men suppose that some are just and others unjust."

10. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, lines 249’51.

11. Plato, Philebus, Part 2. "All percipient beings desire and hunt after good, and are eager to catch and have the good about them, and care not for the attainment of anything which its not accompanied by good."

12. Wikipedia, s.v. "Obsessive Love." "Forward and Buck believe that rejection is the trigger of obsessive love. They state four conditions to help identify it, namely, a painful and all-consuming preoccupation with a real or wished-for lover, an insatiable longing either to possess or be possessed by the target of their obsession, rejection by or physical and/or emotional unavailability of their target, and being driven to behave in self-defeating ways by this rejection or unavailability. Obsessive lovers believe that only the person they fixate on can make them feel happy and fulfilled. Persons close to the love-obsessed can also be greatly affected. Witnessing a friend or family member suffer from the disorder can be distressing."

13. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 529’53.

14. Ibid., 552. Unfortunately he missed and wounded George instead!

15. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 656’57.

16. Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 551.

17. Ibid., 566.

18. The Oxford Advanced Dictionary defines punishment as "a penalty inflicted on somebody who has done something wrong."

19. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 89.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 16. See for example "Oh, no, sir, no ... Dobby will have to punish himself most grievously for coming to see you, sir. Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this. If they ever knew, sir ’"

22. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 242’60.

23. Anelli & Spartz, "TLC/MN interview Part Three." "MA: [...] Has Snape ever been loved by anyone? JKR: Yes, he has, which in some ways makes him more culpable even than Voldemort, who never has."

See also Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 249’50. Voldemort's parents never loved him at the moment he may have needed love most and this may explain his difficulties in being open to love. Voldemort has suffered at least two painful abandonments. He was abandoned first by his father (before his birth) and by his mother at the moment of his birth. Dumbledore also thinks he had never a friend.

24. According to current psychological theory sadomasochism is associated with childhood abuse or neglect and is part of a broader personality disorder such as extreme narcissism or antisocial personality disorder. See for example Rosenberg & Krugman, "Epidemiology and Outcome of Child Abuse."

25. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 573’77.

26. Ibid., "J. K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall." "I always thought of Dumbledore as gay ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was."

27. Of course his quest for power during his youth, even if he intended to prevent bad things from occurring, is reprehensible. I consider this more as a boy's mistake than as a unforgivable failure of a model of wisdom.

28. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 577’78. Dumbledore guessed that Voldemort would go after the Elder Wand since Harry's wand beat Voldemort's in the graveyard of Little Hangleton. He also admits that his intention was that Snape would end up with the Elder Wand.

29. Ibid., 524.

30. Severus would have forgiven Harry's lack of action because after all, he named his son after him! Well, actually I am not sure that Snape would have liked the name Albus Severus Potter ¦ yes, yes, like James Potter! Surely the portrait would have kept saying that it was a sophisticated Potter torture to humiliate him after death; but deep within himself he would have liked the tribute.

31.This is even more consistent with the ethics of fear than what Harry Potter actually did. Voldemort in Azkaban (like another famous dark wizard named Grindelwald) would have had more time to repair his soul through remorse (Rowling's method, not mine!) and not just the five seconds Harry gave him in their last duel.

32. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 568. In addition to the mention in Deathly Hallows, Lily's act of true love is mentioned in several other books.

33. Ibid., 556’564.

34. Ibid., 17’18. As a Death Eater, Snape is expected to assist to torture and murder as it was the case with Charity Burbage, who at the moment of her death was pleading Severus for help.

35. Ibid., 477. After Harry's Cruciatus curse, Amicus is "thrashing and howling in pain."

36. Ibid, Half-Blood Prince, 476.


Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three." The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. http://www.leakynews.com/features/interviews/jkr3 (accessed 31 October 2007).

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