|sistermagpie (sistermagpie) wrote,|
@ 2006-12-07 03:10 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||draco, harry, hbp, hp, hp characters, meta, snape|
Ironically, the main references I have seen to Draco’s tears in discussions of Harry’s remorse were strictly defenses of Harry, saying that was moved by Draco's crying and maybe would have helped him if Malfoy hadn't gone postal, so Harry’s all the more innocent. (Regarding Draco the main question I've seen discussed is whether he's just afraid of failing or feeling anything more.)
To me the crying is more important than that. I think it was an intentional and important decision of JKR's to put the crying together with Sectumsempra. She was, as usual, pulling lots of threads together into one dramatic scene. On the mundane plot level, of course, she's just using this scene to get a number of things out of the way--she reveals that the boy Myrtle was meeting was Malfoy, reveals Malfoy's fear and the fact he's being threatened, and also reveals Sectumsempra and shows Snape that Harry's got his book etc. One poster (Carol) I think was also correct in saying Harry is learning the same important distinction Snape feels for him--he hates Draco, but he does not want him dead (more importantly, he doesn't want to kill him).
But I think there's another thing going on as well. I had in the past said I didn't think we could take it as a given that Harry would have been so sympathetic to Malfoy just because he saw him crying--after all, he's upset over the very thing that Harry wants to get him for. However Harry might have felt if Malfoy hadn't attacked him, he actually isn't sympathetic in the scene. His feelings are described as:
"And Harry realised, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, that Malfoy was crying -- actually crying -- tears streaming down his pale face into the grimy basin. Malfoy gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into the cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder. Malfoy wheeled round, drawing his wand. Instinctively Harry pulled out his own."
At the point Malfoy wheels around all Harry has felt is shock, a shock so huge that it "roots him to the spot" and keeps him from doing what he probably would have done had he found Malfoy just talking to Myrtle, which is hide and listen. Not stand there like a sitting duck in full view for a pretty long moment.
And the question is--why is he so shocked for so long? He's not just surprised here (like Malfoy when he found Harry and Snape doing their Occlumency lessons), he's so shocked he's having trouble taking it in. That shock is drawn out for two sentences, first Harry being physically rooted to where he's standing, then having to go over what he's seeing ("Malfoy was crying --actually crying --"). He's transfixed watching the physical crying--the tears falling into the basin, the gulping sobs. But what's so shocking here? I mean, so shocking that Harry has so much trouble processing it?
It's not shocking to a lot of readers, presumably. Myrtle's already told us some boy was crying in the bathroom and the law of character conservation made Malfoy the obvious candidate. Harry himself has been watching Malfoy's physical deterioration all year and been pleased by it because he knows it means the Voldemort plot isn't going well. Usually Malfoy in any kind of distress makes Harry pleased.
So what's so different here that it's so shocking? I think the idea is that Harry is shocked at suddenly seeing Malfoy, cliché as it sounds, as a real person. In the past the only feelings Harry's ever saw in Malfoy were negative ones: he's menacing, he hates Harry, he's a coward. He's also seen fake ones: he sucks up to people, he boasts, he struts, he plays up injuries. Did Harry really not see the vulnerability in him that many readers saw? Well, no, he probably didn't. As early as the Sorting scene Harry has actually imbued Malfoy with a sense of well-being and confidence so big he sees any evidence against it as a welcome, temporary aberration. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that up until that moment Harry really never has seen Malfoy as a boy like himself who might actually feel the same things Harry feels at times and have similar motivations. (It's really interesting the way it's both like and unlike the Pensieve scene with Snape, perhaps because Snape and Malfoy represent different shadows to Harry.)
I realize this sounds really cliché--but JKR isn't afraid of clichés when she's set them up well, and she has here. There's a reason this moment had already occurred in a hundred H/D fics before she wrote it. It's not about Harry suddenly feeling sorry for Malfoy--he doesn't in the scene. It's somehow exploding something that until that moment he'd taken for granted about Malfoy, something I doubt he'd ever really been aware of. Apparently Malfoy crying -- actually crying -- really is a shock for Harry who has more than once in the past wanted to cause him as much pain as possible. I’m not even sure just what it’s exploded—but maybe Harry doesn’t either. It’s not something he can immediately articulate like he can with James and Snape in the Pensieve (James is being an asshole and he’s supposed to be cool; I felt sorry for Snape and that’s all kinds of wrong because he’s usually the bully).
There's something about that moment that makes Malfoy different, and then it's immediately choked off--just as Harry's fleeting confusion about Snape after the Pensieve is choked off by Snape attacking him. Malfoy attacks him (he knows it's a naked moment, certainly), Harry instinctively defends himself. And this is the fight that leads to Harry hurting Malfoy more than he ever has, more than he imagined or really intended. I feel like you can't separate the two things completely. Even acknowledging that Harry was acting in self defense, this isn't just another scene where Harry strikes back at the Malfoy he knew before who was asking for it. Throughout the whole fight Harry is actually more strangely empathetic than Malfoy than he ever has been, I suspect.
Perhaps that's another reason Harry doesn't think about Malfoy at all after that. It's not just guilt at his (fixed) actions, perhaps, but the discomfort of his new intimacy with Malfoy. I'm not even sure if Harry told his friends about the crying--you'd think they'd have said something about it. He may still be having trouble processing it. The fight can distract him from it, but I think it's also connected to why he feels badly. I don't mean anything so literal as just Harry feels bad because he not only hurt Malfoy but Malfoy was sad right before he did it. I think it's more subtle.
Subtle, btw, in a way I again think parallels Snape. Harry also saw him in the exact kind of vulnerable moment he didn't associate with him, Snape also responded by attacking Harry, Harry defended himself again, focusing more on the unfair accusations. It's also kind of funny that this is Snape and Malfoy, both of whom are connected to Occlumency by Rowling. Occlumency, which she relates to cutting oneself off from feelings, which both Snape and Draco consider potential weaknesses even though they seem at heart more emotional than Harry (or in different ways). Harry has seen exactly what these two characters are always trying to hide, and up until the moments they hit him in the face, they were successful at hiding them from Harry.
Btw, how much do I love Stephen Colbert for putting Gwyneth Paltrow's head on his shelf? It's still the best moment in her career, imo.