Anyone who has read the books knows it: Harry Potter is packed with morals. Lessons of love, strength, courage and acceptance are easy to find within the familiar pages. True, there are a few morals that are a bit tainted – teaching children they shouldn’t go for help when a cruel witch is making them write in their own blood, for instance – but there are enough important jewels of life in the HP books to more than make up for it. There’s one, however, that I don’t hear very many people talk about: forgiveness.
For all of you who have not read Harry Potter, now is your time to turn back and find another blog post to pursue. These next paragraphs are fraught with spoilers. For the veterans of the HP series, come forth and hear me.
Hundreds of potterheads have speculated on why Harry would possibly name his son after Dumbledore and Snape. And though I would never name my children after a host of dead people, especially not an abusive killer or a man who raised me to die, I can see easily what JK Rowling was trying to demonstrate. The symbolism in Nineteen Years Later is not disguised.
JK Rowling was trying to show that Harry had made peace with Snape and Dumbledore. He had recognized – and I think this is a very important thing to do – that people change. That they make mistakes and then they try to take them back. That they do bad things and then regret them. Harry was being incredibly strong when he chose to forgive those people who had put him through hell and back.
Forgiveness is a hidden skill. It isn’t blaringly obvious. It doesn’t shout of its power. People often mistake it for a weakness. And yet it is often the key to happiness. With it as a tool, you can learn to move on, to leave the past behind you, to believe in other people and give second chances, and to forgive yourself for your own faults. How would Harry have lived with himself had he dwelt constantly on Sirius’s death? Would he have been happy had he kept his anger at Dumbledore and Snape burning in his heart?
Snape was cruel. He loved the dark arts. He was abusive. And yet when Harry dived into the pensieve, he saw how Snape had become that way. And he also saw that Snape was full of regret, of a deep pool of strength and of an undying love. The only way to put your soul back together is through regret. Snape’s soul was in one piece, and he was always hurting. So Harry was brave and he forgave – which, once you get to know Harry, is quite remarkable in itself. It shows how much he grew in the last book.
It wasn’t just Snape and Dumbledore either. He forgave Ron for running out on him. He forgave – even pitied – Malfoy. He forgave Dudley. All this is a precious lesson in one of humankind’s most beautiful skills. Forgiveness.