The Electricity of Life, Death and Redemption
“There are no isolated islands in an electric universe.”
—David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill1
This chapter is about four young men who were bound by friendship, mischief, love and loyalty. They were brutally separated by an unimaginable and unforeseen act of evil; a choice made by one changed the lives of all forever.Choices are the metaphorical current that courses through the series, emphasized by Albus Dumbledore long ago when he stated that wizards might some day have to make the choice “between what is right and what is easy….” 2
The bond which united these men many years ago as the Marauders unites them still; the electrical current still crackles. The quartet of Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and James Potter, known as Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, were first fellow students at Hogwarts, co-conspirators in imaginative mischief, and later young men who were briefly allies in the first war against Lord Voldemort.
Remus Lupin, as one living element of the quartet, has been bowed by loneliness and rejection but has a gentle, intuitive nature and a loving heart. Peter Pettigrew is the other living element, now working for Voldemort and living as a coward and outcast. He is hated by bothhis former friends and present companions, but owes a wizarding debt to Harry which must be repaid. Sirius Black, mercurial and impatient, rejected the pure-blood mania of his family to be Sorted into Gryffindor, following his true nature. Pampered son of pure-blood wizards, James Potter hated the Dark Arts and became the leader of the Marauders with Sirius. Both of them were popular, good looking, and gifted; the currents sparked by the fusion of their energies provided the driving force for the quartet. One other character acts and reacts within this circle—Severus Snape, gifted yet dominated by jealousy and loathing.
A well known myth says that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. It travels through the air, crossing the universe, burning and crackling brightly before it reaches its target. It begins with a thunderstorm—positive and negative charges separate within thunder clouds and the negative charge attracts a positive charge to it. When enough charge accumulates, a lightning bolt is the result. As one element of cosmic lightning, Sirius was the negative energy force field and the volatile contrast to James, the matching element and positive energy force who shared his impulsivity and bravery. In their youth, Remus was the earth element who provided stability for them both; in the present day, Remus retains his reasoned, intuitive nature. Their stars burned brightly, yet in their brilliance they overlooked the resentment felt by Peter Pettigrew. Overshadowed by his friends, Peter was and is the circuit breaker. In the first wizarding war against Lord Voldemort, our Marauders joined forces with the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s organization of Voldemort’s enemies, but Peter betrayed them all—he secretly transferred his allegiance to Voldemort and the treacherous Death Eaters who are his followers; Peter was the catalyst for the lightning strike which left tragedy in its wake.
In his quest for immortality Voldemort targeted Harry and murdered James and his wife, Lily; Sirius was incarcerated in Azkaban, the wizarding prison, for murders he did not commit; Remus was left bereft of his friends as Peter had “died” too. Harry survived with the curse scar which links him to Voldemort. The protector against that lightning surge was Albus Dumbledore, who maintained the delicate equilibrium in the wizarding world against seemingly impossible odds.
The other elemental force is Severus Snape, whose fortunes have waxed and waned as he is bound up with the events of the past and what we know now. Snape grew up as an antagonist to the Marauders; he first threw in his lot with the Death Eaters, then according to Dumbledore renounced them. He now stands as the one who killed the headmaster, an act which gives him notoriety on both sides of the wizarding divide. He is untouchable to some and reviled by others, but much still depends on the vexed question of where his loyalties lie. None of the protagonists exist and act in isolation; Harry is the voltage in the current, the one constant in a pattern of lightning discharges which ebb and flow still.
Light in the Dark
Events in the series have led our hero to the point where he is bereft of protectors and almost at the limit of the protection placed on him by his mother’s sacrifice many years before. Harry must go on alone to complete the quest to defeat Lord Voldemort, yet he has never been truly alone; it is likely that his father James will return again to help when it really matters. The embrace of love cannot be denied; Voldemort is weak in the face of its power.
As an Animagus, James was able to transform into a stag. The positive energy embodied by James was ever-present, even in his teens when a flame of arrogance showed briefly. That arrogance flickered and died, though, because James matured and grewup. He instinctively knew the difference between right and wrong; the inherent bravery in his nature which led him to save Severus Snape at school led him to die “straight-backed and proud” at Godric’s Hollow.3 James saved his son once before in the graveyard where Voldemort was reborn and will save him again when battle is in its most critical phase. Harry’s Patronus, the stag, has not often ridden abroad since Prisoner of Azkaban, but it will ride again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
In Celtic mythology, the white stag is a symbol of the Otherworld, the realm of the dead; Harry may decide to sacrifice himself by leaving life behind and journeying beyond the Veil, from where no living wizard has returned, but the love which makes him so pure of heart will also give him the chance to live. Life and death become intertwined, but love calls Harry home; the stag is reborn in Harry, calling him to complete his quest to defeat Lord Voldemort forever. If Lord Voldemort is defeated and emerges a broken man, Harry will take up the reins of his life and live on, a symbol of love and its power. Lord Voldemort will then make his own permanent journey beyond the Veil.
Not for nothing did Dumbledore tell Harry how much he resembles those he loves most: “Spoken both like your mother and father’s son and Sirius’s true godson!” 4 Harry’s choices have defined his life; his power is his ability to love from a pure and whole heart which transcends all obstacles placed in its path.