distorted flashbacks

like lip prints on my collar

4am ramblings

Odd to think how powerfully a single person can affect you. The experience of one other human being can indelibly mark you; you can carry the scars for so long that they become a part of who you are. If somebody has a positive influence on you you can grow, change for the better, develop the best aspects of yourself and in turn become a positive influence for others. If somebody exerts a negative influence over you the situation is more problematic as without care you will find yourself hurting others and yourself even after the original source of pain is gone. I've been thinking about this recently due to various typical situations both in my own life and in my friends. The most obvious and pervasive example is naturally relationships; it's been a long-standing joke between my best friend and I that she suffers from 'the fear', an emotional reflex of panic and fright that occurs like a knee-jerk reaction when she feels that she is becoming too close to a guy. There are very simple explanations for this phenomenon; she has been hurt before, and so she associates the commitment and intimacy of a relationship with a vulnerability that will inevitably lead to her being hurt again. I always assumed that this was more to do with her basic personality and her track record for picking the wrong men than a general 'single' experience, but since becoming single myself I've suddenly discovered just how she feels. It's a strange sensation for me to be afraid of emotions- as I have stated previously, I am a very emotional person and react on instinct in most situations in life, so logically I should be comfortable with my feelings. However, due to the nature of the ending of my relationship and the experiences I have had since, I find myself now in the unknown situation of having to cope with a deep mistrust of men in general, and a terror of vulnerability that is making my life a little more complicated than it needs to be. This is all the more alien to me because I usually get on better with men than I do with women; I find them in general more honest, straight-forward, and easy to be around. So why am I finding it so difficult to take my experiences of men in friendships and apply it to a man I have more than platonic feelings for? Surely it should be the same basic template? But as soon as I start feeling more than friendship for a man- particularly if it's reciprocated- I now panic and immediately find myself swinging between all the usual hallmarks of these situations- the nervousness, the anticipation, the elation- and an overwhelming fear that leaves me paralyzed. I cannot simply trust anymore; I cannot walk blindly into something. One single person has taken my ability to leap before looking from me forever; the innocence I used to have has been permanently stolen. This is at once reassuring and depressing; I regret the loss of that naive surety and absolute trust, but I feel that if I am more cautious this time around I am less likely to end up with somebody who is going to be totally wrong for me, and therefore hopefully reduce the risk of heartbreak. It seems sad that I should feel the need to protect myself, however, as it surely lessens my chances of experiencing the extraordinary, something that can only really happen when you leave yourself totally open.

In considering this recently, I have had to question who I might have influenced in my life, and whether it has been a positive or negative power I've unknowingly wielded. I have to conclude that the people closest to me are positively influenced by me; otherwise, presumably, they wouldn't keep me around. But I wonder about all the lost friendships, the forgotten enemies, the bitter ex's, who have suffered on some level by associating with me, whether to my knowledge or not. I regret every single person I have changed for the worse, as I am all too aware of how my own personality has been formed by experiences that, though significant to me, are probably no longer even remembered by the other person. It's a sobering thought to be aware of the unwitting power everybody holds over people in their lives; and hopefully one that encourages a kinder aspect of our natures to become apparent.

(no subject)
Hollow mouth and sunless eyes, tears that fall on the pale hands that twist and turn in painful anxiety as you wait for what you were promised. I can hear you fighting for breath in the darkness, shadows hot from hell wrapping you in smothering embrace. I can hear the footsteps of a ghost, a bitter shrunken being that leaves tiny traces of their passage in your head. A whisper of choked laughter, the lightest hint of your scent left on the pillow, I can watch you leave over and over again. I can see right through your translucent skin to the heart that beats beneath, the veins netting your body as thoroughly as the chains of silver you hang round your neck. You hang, wasted and worthless, waiting for salvation, and I can do nothing to give it to you, and all I can do is watch and wait with you for the time you can walk unaided.

The Glass Heart

There was once a Prince who loved to hunt; like many men, he enjoyed the chase more than the kill, and pursued his quarry with a single-minded passion. He was doing just this one day in the forests of his homeland when the hart he was tracking disappeared into a wooded grove; upon entering, the Prince saw a humble cottage with a woman of surpassing loveliness standing at the door. Her beauty was so exquisite that he immediately leapt from his horse, fell to his knees and begged her to marry him. The princess- for she was one- looked upon him with her flawless radiance and replied, “No.” She then promptly turned and went into her cottage, shutting the door in the Prince’s face.

The Prince was unaccustomed to such treatment and his ardor only increased with her denial. For three days he visited her, each day asking her to love him, and each day she replied with a simple “No.” On the third day he asked her why she refused him; the Princess took pity on his confusion and sat him down. “I have loved once before, a long time ago,” she explained. “I loved him with such passion that I thought I would die from it; my blood burned for him and the heat of my love melted my heart to molten liquid. As my passion cooled, so did my heart, and it crystallized into glass. Since then it has not beat, and I am afraid of what would happen if I allowed myself to feel that way again.” The Prince laughed and informed her that people’s hearts cannot melt; “It is simply an organ for pumping blood around the body. Poor darling, somebody has been telling you fairytales.” The Princess regarded him with an inscrutable expression, and returned to her home without another word.

Once the Prince knew the motivations behind her refusal, he decided to woo her until her fears faded and she thought of nothing but him. The Prince was consumed with the image of her translucent, delicate beauty, and for a year and a day he did nothing but court her. One night, he dreamed that he was in a glass chamber, cold and smooth, without a flaw. He walked through this chamber and discovered another; as he explored he found that there were four chambers in all, each made entirely of glass, and without a single blemish or crack. When he reached the final chamber the Princess was waiting for him; she held a single red rose and was smiling with her love for him. “I thought to keep my heart safe from you, but you have been here all along,” she told him. The Prince gathered her into his arms and kissed her. “I love you,” he said, as he had for each day since he first saw her. This time, the Princess smiled up at him, and replied, “I love you too”. At her words the chamber they were in shuddered and began to beat; with each pulse of the walls and floor, tiny cracks appeared. The royal couple stood in horror as the heart splintered and shattered, and at the final beat the Princess gave a cry and fell to the floor.

When the Prince awoke, he rushed to the Princesses cottage, and found her lifeless on the floor of her home. The physicians, witch doctors, and priests that he summoned could do nothing; she had died, they said, of a broken heart.


I've been thinking recently on the polarity between human instinct and control; the mismatch between the animal and the civilised, if you will. Society cannot function without the conventions that proscribe human interaction; socially accepted norms and values of behaviour give us a guideline on how to cope with our fellow people. Manners are underrated in modern western society but without them we would have no control. However, these behaviours and customs were developed surely as a way to express our emotions and reactions in an acceptable way, a metaphorical cage for the untamed sides of our natures. I've been discussing the difference between emotion and logic with several people recently and what has remained a constant is that although emotions are accepted as valid, there is an underlying attitude that emotions are somehow less worthy of expression if they have not been processed through a screen of thought and logic; if raw emotion is expressed it is viewed as out of control, almost vulgar, a peculiarly British attitude towards passion that is difficult for me to grasp. I was raised in a typical family; emotional expression is received in an uncomfortable and slightly bewildered way, which is why I escaped into literature so much as a child. My makeup does not permit me to analyse before I act, no matter how much I may strive to, and although over the past few years I have improved immeasurably in self control, nothing can or will lessen the force of my emotional, instinctual reactions, which leads me to wonder whether I am simply overly emotional to begin with or whether everybody feels with the same power but most people have learnt to conceal it better than I. I have been accused of being overly dramatic, attention-seeking, of wearing my heart on my sleeve (to use a tired expression). I fail to see the problem with this; as far as I’m concerned, if people know how I really feel, issues are dealt with in a much swifter and fairer manner than if I was unreadable and concealed. I hold a certain respect for those people of my acquaintance that have such excellent control over their baser instincts, certainly, but is it really a mark of civilisation to be so reserved? Surely it causes more problems for everybody involved in a social situation if motives and feelings are hidden so well? Desires remain unmet and opinions unvoiced, so each party is left dissatisfied.

Another interesting trend discovered in these debates is that, stereotypical and sexist though it seems, the men of my acquaintance hold much more rigidly to the ideal of logic and control, whereas most of the women I have discussed this with are happy to express their feelings and communicate their emotional reactions to those they interact with. This leads me to wonder whether this is pure socially-approved sexism; whether the men in my life have simply had it impressed upon them that emotions are feminine and logic masculine, or whether men genuinely do have better control over their emotions physically. Men and women might think differently, but is it nature or nurture that differentiates their thought patterns to begin with? It seems like too much of a generalization to say that women are more comfortable in expressing their emotions because they have been taught that it is acceptable for women to communicate such ‘feminine’ aspects; that, essentially, women feel and men act. And yet, based on the obviously limited debates I have had recently, it seems true, at least in my immediate social circle. 

I am aware that my own example is hardly unconventional; I am highly emotional and find traditional logic difficult to grasp and use on a daily basis, although in debates and arguments I am happy to utilise it. What trips me up is the social aspect; in interacting with other people, particularly but not limited to people that I know well and feel comfortable with, I find it extremely difficult to conceal my feelings, and usually have no wish to. Even if I do desire restraint, however, most people who know me well enough can pick up on my real emotions with ease. Am I so easy to read because I express everything, consciously or not, in broad signals, or is it that once somebody is close enough with me their ability to empathise means that they recognise my own emotional reactions reflected within themselves? Does it matter? The question I have been trying to answer is perhaps unanswerable, so I leave it here for consideration and to return to another time;

Is emotion or logic more important?

A rant

I've been getting pretty pissed recently over the question of 'choice'. For some reason, I keep experiencing a wave of rage every time somebody says something to me about what I *should* or *shouldn't* do. I appreciate that a lot of the comments I've been dealing with are well-meaning, even motivated by concern for me, but whether it's from a friend, or a stranger, or even just reading opinions online or in a newspaper, it frustrates me. I cannot comprehend how so many people feel that they have the right to tell me what I can or cannot do with my own body, my own life. I have fairly hard-line views on the right to choose, not only in a pro-choice abortion-debate POV, but just in general decisions. I am a smoking, child-free, bisexual libertarian, fiercely pro-choice, and I treasure my independence. The fact that other people try to decide my life for me sends me into an incandescent, incoherent fury; what right do these people have to make these choices for me? I deeply resent being told not to smoke, although frequently it is the result of a friend or relation's care for me that motivates the lecture. The snide remarks, the cancer jokes, the looks from total strangers when I light up in the street... I have already been forced to smoke outside, to be segregated and punished for what I choose to do with my own health and body, and I've been financially punished as well by the stupid fuckwit nanny government who continue to push up the taxes on cigarettes but don't have the cajones to ban it entirely because it relies on that revenue. If I choose to give up, it will be a decision based on my own feelings, not influenced by government campaigns or peer pressure. All that happens if somebody tells me not to smoke is them getting a faceful of my exhaled cancer. 

As for children, if I have to be told one more time by some smug, holier-than-thou asswipe that I'll "change my mind when I'm older", I will scream. How dare somebody inform me that my own decision is not valid because it fails to comply with their values? How fucking dare they? This is one of the few areas where it is apparently perfectly acceptable for people to dismiss my choices because it is so cunting absurd for me to not want to procreate. Propagate the species! Save the human! My decision to not have children is NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT MY OWN. I deeply resent the idea that I am not somehow qualified to make this decision about my OWN LIFE and my OWN BODY, because I'm too young, or female and therefore stupid and irrational. The feminist side of this issue is one that particularly cuts me deep, because the implications from most of the arguments I've had about this is 'You are a woman, therefore you will have to abandon all of your carefully thought-out choices as soon as that biological clock starts ticking... tick tock! Time is running out- and your main duty as a female is to push out more crotch-droppings! You're a failure if you don't!'. It's so, so patronising that it makes me gag. I have never wanted children. I don't mind kids as long as they are at a safe distance from me, but I have never experienced a wave of longing for one of my own. I doubt I ever will, but even if I do, I hope that I'll recognise it for the hormonal mind-control that it is and safely ignore it. Besides, even if I do have a sprog, that in itself will be my choice, and social pressure is not going to make me suddenly change my mind. I have had a lot of trouble with this particular aspect of my life; one memorable incident involved a work-related team meal where, through idle conversation, one of my co-workers discovered I did not plan on having children. She proceeded to lecture, harangue and wheedle with me by turns, red in the face and breathless in shock that I didn't want to experience the miracle of baby-taming. Our discussion eventually dragged the entire team in, and I ended up with twelve people, all of whom had varying degrees of familiarity with me, of every creed, colour, gender and age, trying to literally brow-beat me into reversing my decision and hypothetically agree to procreate. Quite why it was so important to get me to join the side of the future parents of Britain I'm not certain, but they sure got passionate about it.

Leading on from this comes the major irritant to my finely-tuned 'choice' antennae. Abortion is a tricky subject, a positive minefield of potential offence, and I recognise that my own views may not be those held by many. I respect that each individual has their own moral compass and differing values when it comes to this topic, and they are all valid- yes, even rabid pro-lifers- in that as far as I'm concerned, it is an INDIVIDUAL. CHOICE. That means that if you are pro-life and choose not to have an abortion, fine. I will defend your right to see that pregnancy to term to the death. Equally, if you need or want an abortion, I will defend that decision. The part where this topic gets offensive to me is when other people try to force their opinions onto a general, one-size-fits-all frame, and produce an absolute rule. It's impossible to do. I identify as pro-choice because although I fully support a woman's decision to keep a fetus, I also fully support a woman's decision not to. The clue is in the name. I do not produce caveats or restrictions on this right to choose; I may not morally agree with a woman who uses abortion as birth control, but by God will I defend her right to make that choice. No exceptions. Equally I appreciate and understand the stance of several of my friends, who say that although they themselves would not have a termination, they support the idea that a woman should have the option. The way that this view is presented to me is often meekly, with an undercurrent of defiance; as if these women feel that they are not quite right in their decision but not sure why. They are, in fact, totally pro-choice, as all they are saying is that if they themselves had the choice, they would not opt for an abortion. The lines have become so obscure, however, that it seems almost to be a battle between 'you MUST abort' or 'you MUST NEVER abort'. Which is not what this debate is about at all. The perception is all skewed.

This subject has been explored in the media recently due to the defeat of the amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would have reduced the upper limit of 24 weeks for abortion and ensured that IVF clinics would have to consider the need for 'supportive parenting and a father or male role model'. Now, considering the blogs and forums I haunt online and my usual choice of media, most of the responses I have read have been positive. However, I do read the Spectator, purely out of curiousity, and the 24th May editorial that the magazine opened with made me so angry that I had to read it in stages, chain-smoking in between. Here is a direct quote;

"Statistics and counter-statistics on survival rates do not strike at the heart of the matter, which is that, at 20 weeks, a baby in the womb is unmistakably a person, an individual with facial expressions, the capacity to feel pain, and most of the characteristics of 'personhood'. Again, this test does not address the more fundamental criterion posed by many Christians, that all life, at whatever stage of a pregnancy, is sacred. But the Commons chose to ignore the dramatic transformation in what we know about a 20-week-old unborn child, in lazy deference to feminist doctrines forged in the 1960's. Most MPs - grey, tired and fearful - still quake before the moral despotism of a 'woman's right to choose'. "

What poison. What a vile, insidious, pompous, pretentious, ignorant spew of bile. Moral despotism? The fundamental criterion posed by many Christians? What, pray, does religion have to do with the scientific argument you are trying to present? And later on in the article, the author (whose name was not on the page) turns to the idea that IVF clinics should not allow treatment to a couple unless the potential child will have a father figure;

"Progress today means accepting that families need fathers: not for religious reasons or in homage to the Victorians, but because all the empirical evidence tells us that it is so. Progress means recognising that redistribution by the Treasury has not solved the problem of endemic poverty: that the root causes of broken families, addiction, debt, illiteracy and powerlessness must be addressed if our society is not to become fatally divided."

What a long list of dire consequences! If only we had looked at the empirical evidence of the consequences of not having a father figure sooner! Debt would be non-existent, as all those little children who had gaping holes where their daddy should be will stop spending frivolously to try to heal their psychological wounds! Nobody will suffer from addictions any more, because with a father to punch them on the arm and boom, "buck up, kid, stiff upper lip and all that!" the child will instantly recover and never touch substances again! Illiteracy! Oh, yes, I would certainly never have learnt to read if my father hadn't sat me down and taught me! Mothers are useless creatures, only good for breast-feeding and baking pies. God forbid they should take on a masculine role like, uh, interacting with their own children and helping them to develop educationally and emotionally! 

What utter tripe. I seem to have veered off my original point slightly, which was that essentially I strenuously object to the idea that a 'woman's right to choose' is moral despotism, that leaves our pathetic MPs both quaking and lazily deferent. A woman's right to choose is not some quaint leftover ideal from the 1960's, impractical, absurd, and outdated. It is real, and it will continue to be the most important factor in the pro-choice movement, and in my own views on the subject. Sexist, reactionary diatribes like that article will not stop it.

To Guinevere...
 Launcelot du Lac

Your lips, your eyes, your hands, ankles, wrists, lashes- I am captured and captivated by you, enchanted, bound, and in a net of our own making. My love for you transcends myself; I do not love just your shell, but the hidden parts of you, the depths nobody else has the vision to see or the courage to explore. That you belong to another is a fact of names only- the truth of our love burns away any other ties and binds us together by a rope of passion that has been unbroken despite our efforts. Many times we have turned away from each other, many times has the rope caught, tautened, and pulled us back. I am not myself with you, I am you and us and we are one and the same. You burn through my flesh and reveal the secrets I did not know I had. I am the flames they tried to set you in, tied to a stake for the crime of loving me. You are my sovereign goddess, my heart beats only for you. I draw breath to fill your lungs. My world is yours; you are every part of me and fill my senses until all I know is you. Our love is transcendental, mythical, everlasting- others envy us, but those wise enough to see clearly through the smoke know that you and I will be the death of everything we hold dear. You are my ruin, my despair, my sin; you are my light, my saviour, my hope. In loving you I am destroying myself. In loving you, I am letting our world burn; I am as helpless to stop loving you as I am from putting out an inferno. You are captivating, compelling, irresistable; my loving you will be the death of me, but it is a death I welcome gladly as the price I pay to worship you.

King Arthur

Water and stone. I am water; I am changeable, powerful, insubstantial; I am ethereal like mist and raging like a torrent. I am water, but I could not douse your flames. I am water, but I could not wash away your love for him and carve a new bed for myself. I am stone; I am immovable, strong, impassive. Like stone, I watched you love him. Like stone, I performed my duty and kept my honour and stood by while you were burned by your love for him. I never captured you; I never swept you away into loving me. You were my Queen, but you were his wife in all but name. I gave you everything I had, but you already had everything you needed. Many times I stood by while you were damned to the flames, helpless, unable to champion you, and watched bittersweetly as he rescued you, only to set another fire at your feet. Trapped by my own nature; trapped by the stone of my heart, the rock of my duties, the flood of fears I harboured, the maelstrom of love and resentment I held for you. Now I lie in the stone; the mists of Avalon tendril across my face. Excalibur lies rusted and my armour protects me from nothing. I have nothing left to fight any more; you and he lie dead, entwined forever by the story of your love. I confess I loved him too, but I could not come between you; I could only watch with stone-hard eyes as you destroyed each other and burned the world I made for you to the ground. Water, and stone. My hate for you could never break his love.

(no subject)
Fire, flames, burning, the heat of the words, the forbidden aspect of the imagery- don't touch what could hurt you- serves only to draw you closer, the promise of danger, the electric hint of something wild, undomesticated, unbroken. The passion inherent in it, the desire, need, want, longing for something ethereal, otherworldly, alien but familiar, the lure and fear conflicting and creating heat of its own. The fascination hypnotizing you and beckoning you closer to something you know you should not have, should protect yourself from, but why try? Impossible to resist, impossible to protect yourself from something so clearly dangerous and clearly necessary, something you desire but cannot hold in the palm of your hand- only your heart. Your physical boundaries will be damaged, will have no defenses from the intensity, but worse is your emotions, your own love and fire meeting with the flames and building to an inferno you cannot live with and cannot escape. Impossible, beautiful. utterly compelling- stretch out your hand and take it.

(no subject)
Fuck you all, you self-righteous preaching prissy judgmental pathetic losers, you socially inept sheltered spoilt empty shells, you wastes of space, you utter failures and poor excuses for human beings. Don't fucking judge me for living my life; don't think that you have any right or reason to dictate to me. You know nothing about me or my life, my feelings, expectations, experiences, hopes, dreams, fears, tastes, morals, or values. You are in no position to tell me about myself, you have no fucking clue. I am a fucking mystery to you; you have no range of comprehension to understand me. Don't think you can stand there and comment on my appearance, decisions, lifestyle or conversation because if you consider yourself a 'friend' you wouldn't judge me. You mean NOTHING to me, I could cut you loose and it would be you who would suffer. Don't fucking start with me because I am far more vicious, violent, aggressive and cruel than you think. I will not remain a two-dimensional character to make you more comfortable, you don't know me.

To my boys...
Men are fuckwits. If you like me, tell me. If you don't like me, tell me. It's simple. Let me know where I stand and I'll behave accordingly. Is it so fucking hard to communicate? Are you so wrapped up in your masculine fucking lifestyle that you can't contemplate being honest? And this applies to ALL the men in my life, romantic, platonic, related, whatever. TALK TO ME. I can't fix it if I don't know that there's a problem. I can't trust you if you don't share. You don't have to be touchy-feely in-touch-with-your-inner-woman, you just need to find a way to tell me what you're thinking and feeling. Write to me. A song, a poem, a letter, a fucking postcard. Text me, call me, message me, speak to me face to face. Whatever works for you. Mime it. Tell me through interpretative dance. I just want to know what's going on. If you're in a bad mood, say so. If you are overwhelmed with affection, demonstrate it. If you want to be on your own let me know. If you want to hang out, find me. Christ. If I've hurt you, or pissed you off, or said something tactless and stupid, please tell me so that I can apologise and make things right. Sulking is only acceptable behaviour in the under-fives. If you need me, I'll be there for you. That's what I fucking do. But you have to tell me you need me in the first place for me to help. Even if it's just that you want a hug, or you can't sleep, or some stupid woman has upset you, or you broke a fucking nail, whatever, it doesn't make you less of a man or weak to ask for what you want. So please, ASK.

Lo, the bell tolls nigh for my childhood

I figured, although most of this has already been said elsewhere and in a much more pithy and clear way, I might as well throw my two bob in on the issue of HP DH, so here are my thoughts on the long-awaited finale to the Potterverse canon. Bear in mind that I haven't had much time for coherent reflection yet. I thought overall the book was… satisfactory. I think the less invested you were in the Potterverse the more likely you are to enjoy it; the flipside of this is, of course, that all the fans who read and wrote theories, fanfics, essays and analysis on the world may be left with a vague feeling that they’ve been cheated. I smugly noted that in predicting that Harry was the sixth Horcrux, that he would survive, and that Snape would turn out to be on the ‘right side’ after all I scored a fair accuracy rating. I was surprised and dissatisfied, however, at some of the things that weren’t included in the book, along with some of JKR’s decisions.

With regards to Remus, I have to say that in the first part of the book I was utterly convinced that it was actually Peter Pettigrew polyjuiced into Lupin. I based my reasoning on a) the cry of despair from the un-named prisoner in the first chapter after Voldemort announced he knew he would have to be the one to kill Harry; b) the fact that in HBP Lupin was still spying on the werewolves, yet in DH the DE’s know of his true allegiance with no further explanation, and c) his OOC behaviour.

Having had a bit more time to think it through, I can see that what I termed as ‘out of character’ behaviour wasn’t actually OOC at all, it was simply a new development to Lupin which had never been shown to the reader before. I understand his reasoning to leave his wife and unborn child, even if I don’t approve; the idea of heroic self-sacrifice is, after all, thoroughly explored and exemplified in the series. I think the reason that I found it so jarring was simply that JKR hasn’t had enough time or space to devote the amount of writing necessary to showing us that Remus genuinely cares about Tonks. All we’ve seen of his side of the relationship is him muttering excuses at the end of HBP and then later holding her hand at Dumbledore’s funeral; then the next time we see the couple they’ve got married, all in the space of about three months. No wonder fans feel like they’ve been jumped down a dark alley by this particular pairing. There’s not a strong enough basis in the canon for us to feel comfortable with the relationship yet, and already Remus is saying he made a mistake and is planning on leaving. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the damage that being a werewolf has done to Remus, and how, particularly under the present regime, he is afraid his presence will endanger his family further. So, especially as I was never really on the R/T train, I can accept that I was obviously letting my own biases run away with me at first.

Albus’ backstory filled in some gaps but seemed to leave even more questions unanswered. Ever since, when referring to Riddle’s journey into the Dark Arts in HBP, he said Riddle had sunk deeper than ‘any of us’, I figured he must have dabbled in the Dark Arts. That wasn’t the surprise here. Nor was I unhappy or shocked that Dumbledore was a bit of a glory-hound in his youth (he was in Gryffindor, after all) or that he valued his influential friends and enjoyed the attention of being an acclaimed genius. I thought that his friendship with Grindelwald and subsequent plans on ruling the wizarding world was an excellent story and that it added a nicely believable flaw to Dumbledore’s character. I did wonder, though, why he ‘remained at Hogwarts’ as a teacher because he was afraid to trust himself with the power of becoming the Minister for Magic when he was the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot (who made the laws of the country) and the Headmaster of the only magical school in Britain. He had overall control of the education of every magical child in the country and positions of authority in the justice system and the international diplomacy circuit! How much more power did he need before he became untrustworthy with it?? He was the uncrowned king of wizarding
Britain, as has been ably and excellently explored in essays by writers far more perceptive than I.

            What really tripped me up over the Albus story, however, were simply the strange contradictions. JKR has described him in interviews as ‘the epitome of good’, so how does that square with manipulating everybody around him, plotting to take over the world in his youth, and grooming an innocent child to die like a lamb to the slaughter from the moment he was born? And why has Albus’ ‘one weakness’ been to ‘trust people too much’ when he patently hasn’t ever trusted anybody fully? He didn’t trust the Order, the Ministry, Harry, Snape, his own brother… Aberforth tells us quite directly that he has always been secretive, and from the revelations in DH it’s clear that he hasn’t trusted anybody with anything but the barest details pretty much since birth! His own childhood friends didn’t even know much about him! He relied on manipulation to put his long-term plans into effect, and never delegated responsibility unless he absolutely had to (and even then, rarely explained what he required you to do). I felt like the whole thing was simply a strained attempt to shoe-horn Dumbledore into the ‘traitor’ role that Sirius played in POA, and there was just too much canon behind Dumbledore’s goodness to have this sudden flip-flop feel right.


As for the whole ‘Harry as Jesus’ motif… well, JKR did say in interviews that she didn’t want to talk too much about her Christianity because it would give away the ending, but I never thought she’d really go the whole hog and not only kill him off, but resurrect him as well! In all honesty I dismissed the idea that Harry would die because I figured that JKR really couldn’t kill off the main protagonist right at the end of a seven-book long series of children’s books. I never even contemplated that he might die but come back. I personally would have preferred it if JKR had chosen one or the other- either Harry fights and lives, or he dies. No lame matrix-style limbo chats with a wise mentor, no ‘it’s all in your head’ get-out-of-jail-free cards. It smacked to me of being a bit half-arsed about the whole thing. Not so much a loophole as an ENORMOUS ESCAPE ROUTE decorated with flashing ‘PLOT HOLE EMERGENCY EXIT’ signs.

            The parallel, besides, doesn’t really fit. Harry isn’t a modern-day Jesus, he’s an emotionally dependent youth raised to be a tool by a master puppeteer. He’s been influenced since the day he entered the Wizarding World to think of himself as a hero, a saviour, somebody who needs to be worthy of his parent’s names. He’s a nice enough kid, but really! Jesus??

Moving on, ‘Snape loved Lily’ really got up my nose. It’s been a fandom theory and staple ingredient in fanfics for years. I’ve always rejected it because it seemed like such a lame excuse of a reason for Snape’s true loyalties. It also trivialises Lily, which seems to have happened a bit too much for my liking. I genuinely thought that the reason Harry ‘dumb as a bag of hammers’ Potter was so disinterested in the mother who died to save him was because we would learn more about her in DH- but I never considered that her entire role in the series was apparently to passively sit around looking pretty while men swooned over her loveliness! I thought we’d discover what the catch was about her sacrifice for Harry- at least have it confirmed to us that she knew if she trapped Voldemort into a verbal contract of ‘my life for Harry’s’ he wouldn’t be able to kill him. But no, apparently it all boiled down to her dying before her baby was killed so that she didn’t have to watch. The way it’s been presented makes it seem futile and pathetic- there was apparently no way she could have known that dying would keep Harry alive.

            Lily was set up to be a strong woman, a kind girl with morals, and we weren’t shown much of this over the series. We’ve seen that James loved her and that Slughorn thought she was talented (and pretty) enough to add to his collection. Now we hear that her entire significance comes down to the fact that Snape coveted her? That was the big secret??

            As for Snape’s role being reduced to slightly-creepy and obsessive ‘spurned lover’… words fail me. I accept that I am obviously biased because Snape is one of my favourite characters, but he’s somebody that could have been so much more than what he was shown to be! He alone of all the characters in the Potterverse had the scope and depth for JKR to really run with it- a subtle, satisfying explanation or a dramatic but plausible reason for his conversion to the ‘side of light’ would have jarred much less than ‘lovestruck swain’ Snape. And Albus’ ‘iron-clad reason’ to trust Snape was that he still had the hots for a dead broad and felt guilty that his information had led to her death- really? That’s it? That’s the iron-clad reason?

            (As an aside, and based entirely on the excellent work of Red Hen- logically Snape would have had to have heard the prophecy in it’s entirety if Trelawney saw him at the door afterwards, so how come Voldemort only heard the first half? And if Aberforth and Albus caught a death eater who had no allegiance to them listening at the door to a prophecy predicting the Dark Lord’s downfall, wouldn’t they have done something? Obliviate, anyone?)

             The Deaths-

  • Mad-eye Moody
  • Hedwig
  • Dobby
  • Snape
  • Fred
  • Remus
  • Tonks
  • ‘unnamed others’

Predictions that DH would be a bloodbath seem to have been fairly accurate. However, looking at the list above, who amongst them was really a major, significant character apart from Snape? I’m not saying they weren’t important at one point or another in the series but most of them had already had their moment in the plot spotlight and were now secondary characters once more. Even Fred, however popular, was really there for comic relief. The volume of deaths are fair enough- that’s the reality of war. However, there are two issues in the choice of who died that stick in my craw a bit. One, the way the deaths were handled. The only one that actually affected me was Dobby, and that was because it was the only one that was actually explored in any depth. Harry’s digging of the grave and the headstone were a lovely handling of a serious moment, and it made it much more poignant than any other death in the book. But considering how powerfully JKR has dealt with death in the past- (Sirius, Dumbledore) it seems strange that the deaths in DH were described only in the most cursory way, and it detached the reader from what could have been a much more significant moment. The characters deserved better than what Rowling chose to give them. 

            The other issue is the theory that has been expounded in fandom that a lot of the characters who died made it much easier for JKR to write her neat and shiny happy ending without exploring all of the concepts and issues brought up earlier in the series. Mad-eye, Hedwig and to some extent Dobby were all fairly straight-forward narrative deaths, to impress upon Harry and the reader the gravity of the situation and heighten the drama.

            Remus and Tonks died together (although how much more moving to have been shown them fighting side by side to the end) and this not only satisfied JKR’s curious need for tragic orphans but also made the whole issue of ‘half breed’ persecution something that didn’t need to be explored further, as the main poster-child for it was no longer in the narrative. (It can also be seen as Lupin’s ‘punishment’ for almost abandoning his wife and child at the beginning of the book.) Dobby’s death can also be put into the ‘easy’ category because without the major representative for ‘House Elf Rights’ we again hear no more about it.

            Snape, of course, couldn’t be kept alive because hello, awkward much? Having him continue in the narrative may have been a bit too much strain on Harry- after all, if Snape had lived there would have been the whole thorny ‘I’m obsessed with your dead mother’ issue to deal with, let alone the exploration and re-examination of his behaviour and attitude for the past seven years, and the uncomfortable inclusion in the end cast of a bad man who did good things for bad reasons. Easier if he is tragically dead so that Harry can remember him as ‘the bravest man I knew’ without actually having the irritating, spiky, snarky Snape still swooping around like an overgrown bat and ruining the cosy atmosphere.

            Onwards, to wonder; if ‘choice’ is supposed to be a major theme of the books, how come the two major characters, Harry and Voldemort, seem to have had very little opportunity to really make a free decision? Is it supposed to be a counter example? Voldemort can’t honestly be said to have made choices to get where he ended up when, based on the back story given to us in HBP, JKR has to all intents and purposes set him up as a sociopath! He’s been unable to form human attachments from very early childhood! (OT- what about his ability to make people ‘feel things’? We never heard anything more about that skill.) As for Harry, while you can argue that he chose to do the right thing, equally it seems obvious that he has been raised to be the hero. Ever since he entered the Wizarding World he’s been desperate to live up to his parent’s names. In PS/SS, he entered the labyrinth when he didn’t need to and in the process almost ruined Dumbledore’s year-long scheme by putting himself in reach of QuirrellMort when he was the only person who could have got the stone to begin with. In CoS, he saved Ginny, which was genuinely heroic. In POA, he let Peter Pettigrew live because he thought it was what his father would have done. In GoF, he waited at the bottom of the lake in the second task because he wanted to make sure that all the hostages got out alive. In OotP, Voldemort manipulated him into charging off to the Dept of Mysteries based on the knowledge that the kid never told the proper authorities, never thought things through and always leapt into action ready for heroics. In HBP, when the death of Sirius should have taught him something, he decided that he was the only one to be suspicious of Malfoy and stalked him for the entire year, culminating in eviscerating Draco in a bathroom and nearly killing him. The kid genuinely does seem to have a hero complex, or as Hermione put it, ‘a saving people thing’. And everybody knew about it! Voldemort, Snape, Ron, Hermione, and certainly Dumbledore are all very much aware that Harry needs to help people. He’s a Gryffindor for goodness’ sake! So Dumbledore could have left things as he did secure in the knowledge that a) given a challenge or a mystery Harry would certainly doggedly track his way to the end, and b) given the options of dying or watching other people die for him he would chose the former option, particularly when he knew about the prophecy and therefore believed he was the only one who could defeat Voldemort. I’m not sure whether you could really class that as a ‘choice’ when Harry’s nature made it impossible for him to take the second option.

I have to say that I’m also a little bit disappointed that, having made such a huge deal about the Dept of Mysteries, particularly the Locked Room and the Veil, we never got to go back there. I’m confident that I’m not the only one to have been convinced that they were significant, particularly as JKR went to quite a bit of trouble to labour the point, so at least I wasn’t alone in being suckered into believing the wrong information.

Speaking of red herrings, what in the name of all that’s holy was the full story of that damn potions book? Was it Snape’s mothers? How did it conveniently get to the potions classroom when it was Snape’s personal copy? How come Slughorn gave that particular book to Harry? And what else was in that book?

Another thing that I hoped we would find out more about was the werewolf caper, a favourite in fandom for years. I can understand that it wasn’t relevant to the DH plot and therefore JKR made the decision to keep the narrative focused on the present, but I hope she’ll fill us in on exactly what happened through another source, because it would be a shame if we never learned what happened there. What did Sirius say or do to get Snape to go? Why did Snape go in the first place when it was Sirius who gave him the information to begin with? How did Remus feel about the fact that Sirius almost made him into a murderer? What did Dumbledore do to convince Snape to keep his silence?

And, while I’m thinking about loose ends, how come Harry never told anybody about Voldemort’s Big Pool O’ Death™? Presumably the Inferi were still there! And if the Dementors have bred and there are ‘hundreds, maybe even thousands’ on the loose now, what the hell has anybody done about it?

And as a final comment… that epilogue. I get that JKR had a lot of information to pack into a decent-sized text, and the epilogue basically assured us everybody was still alive and happy. I even get that maybe there wasn’t room to detail much about the characters lives, to the point where we don’t even know what they do for a living. I am willing to concede that Rowling has structured her universe to include the rules that children are always the spitting image of their parents and that you will always end up marrying your teenage Hogwarts sweetheart. I get that marriage and procreation are apparently something you can only do when you’re still young and pretty. I actually really love that Harry finally has the family he’s always craved. But… SCORPIUS?


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