Pastoral Counsel for Heartsick Muggles

Beliefnet's Pastor Paul offers words of comfort to those traumatized by events in 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.'

SPOILER ALERT: The following essay reveals the ending of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

What counsel and succor can I offer the shocked, grieving readers of J.K. Rowling's most recent book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"? I will not pretend to be a dispassionate observer. I too cried when Dumbledore fell. I too was outraged by Snape's betrayal, and frustrated by Dumbledore's seeming naiveté. I too feel the prospects for all good wizards and Muggles look bleak, now that the only wizard Voldemort ever feared has been brutally murdered.

But I hope we will take some time to process these events and move through our agonizing emotions together. Hopefully, we'll come to recognize that good still perseveres in the world, and we can move on with our lives.

First of all: Albus Dumbledore is dead. No matter how painful it is for us to deal with this fact or how much we want there to be a special potion that will bring him back, it is clear that his soul has passed behind the veil and we have to accept it.

Dumbledore was murdered, and that makes his death tragic. However, the fact of his death itself is not tragic. In the first Harry Potter book, Dumbledore himself said that endless life isn't advisable and that death is not to be feared: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."

In the books, the person who fears death most is Voldemort. We learn in Book Six that he cut up his soul so that he might never have to die, but in doing so he killed the part of him that was eternal. This is contrasted with Dumbledore, who lived his life soul-fully; he kept his soul intact. Dumbledore says that Voldemort "was in such a hurry to mutilate his own soul, he never paused to understand the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole." (HBP 511)


I think Dumbledore will continue to have a crucial role in Harry's world because his untarnished soul will live on. Given the vision that Harry saw at the funeral (HBP 645), Dumbledore and his phoenix are now somehow inextricably linked and that power will not disappear. Remember, Dumbledore says, "I will only truly have left [Hogwarts] when none here are loyal to me."

Like Harry's mother, Dumbledore is a martyr: they both laid down their own lives so that other people could live. The power of their sacrifice will endure.

What, however, are we to make of Snape and his treachery? I confess that I am consumed by anger. Even if Snape were still working for Dumbledore and his brutal murder of a wandless wizard was part of Dumbledore's master plan, it is hard to feel anything but disgust for Snape. The revelation that it was Snape who passed along Professor Trelawney's prophecy to Voldemort was the last straw for me. At some point, if someone looks evil, talks evil, and acts evil, they are evil.

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