Music and Words

January 24, 2010


Filed under: Words — melomania @ 10:33 pm

I need some literary help.

Remember that project I said I was working on – the Harry Potter one?

Well, I’ve managed to run across a line in one of the books that I’m not sure how to interpret. It’s been interesting, of course, rereading the books, because I get to see all these little things that make so much more sense now, or I see how the original assumption was wrong. But there’s one thing that I’m just not getting.

(Actually, let me clarify. I’m no genius, and although very detail-oriented, I do still miss things. There are probably a lot more than just one thing that I’m not getting.)

Also, if you haven’t read the series or seen the movies, don’t read further. I can’t imagine that anyone who hasn’t read the series cares about spoiler alerts, but just in case, I’m warning you now.

At the end of the sixth book, when Dumbledore and Harry return from their Horcrux-hunting journey and the Death Eaters invade the castle, Draco Malfoy breaks into Dumbledore’s office with the intention of killing the professor. After a long discussion of “ways and means,” as Dumbledore puts it, it becomes pretty clear that Draco is not going to be able to go through with his orders to kill the headmaster after all. Of course Draco still doesn’t want to admit to that, and in a moment of terrified bravado, he reminds Dumbledore that he is wandless, and Draco has the power in the situation: Dumbledore is at his mercy.

Professor Dumbledore responds, “No, Draco. It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.”

As most of the literate world knows, the Death Eaters storm into Dumbledore’s office, followed by Professor Snape, who turns his wand on the headmaster and kills him.

My problem is that I don’t know what Dumbledore means by this statement.

I have a theory.

Now, if you haven’t read the seventh book and don’t want to know how the whole series ends, stop reading here. The spoilers are about to go beyond what the movies have shown so far.

I’m wondering if it is related to the deal that Dumbledore cut with Snape. Dumbledore’s death was planned between them, which meant that Draco Malfoy would not have to murder anyone after all. In doing so, Draco’s own life and the lives of his parents were saved because he did not fail completely in his task – Dumbledore was dead. They were disgraced in the eyes of Voldemort and his Death Eaters because Draco didn’t do it himself like he was told, but at least they lived. Was Dumbledore referring to this plan as an act of his own mercy toward Draco?

It is clear that Dumbledore would not have wanted this young wizard to do that kind of damage to his soul, and during that scene it also becomes clear that Draco wasn’t really prepared to do it to himself.

This is the only thing I can think of that seems to fit the situation. Actually, the more I think about it, the more it seems logical. Anyone have any insights or other suggestions?



  1. Yes, that’s how I interpreted it.

    Comment by Sean — January 25, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  2. The more I think about it, the more reasonable it seems. A quick Google search also confirms my suspicions, which helps matters.

    Comment by Stephanie Bowyer — January 26, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

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