Ouch, my heart: an analysis of the Sectumsempra
Well, well well…. look who’s back from the dead (me, if you couldn’t guess).
First of all, I want to apologise for not doing these for so long. Things got a little insane in my life. I haven’t had time to blink these days, but here I am, because I love you all.
First of all: thank you and sorry it took me over a year to do this. And second of all: of course I can!
I think this is the post everyone was waiting for and I have no idea if I’m ready for it. Wait. I know I’m not.
But since I’m either a masochist or already too numb from all the pain this ship causes me, I’ll try anyway. Fuck the police.
I’ll open this discussion with Harry’s last thought about Draco before the horrible tragedy that we call Sectumsempra:
Was it his imagination, or did Malfoy, like Tonks, look thinner? Certainly he looked paler; his skin still had that greyish tinge, probably because he so rarely saw daylight these days. But there was no air of smugness, or excitement, or superiority; none of the swagger that he had had on the Hogwarts Express, when he had boasted openly of the mission he had been given by Voldemort … there could be only one conclusion, in Harry’s opinion: the mission, whatever it was, was going badly.
Ok, let’s start by the fact Harry says Draco has a “swagger”. Not my words!
And also: Yer a stupid wizard, Harry.
The boy is falling behind in classes, he’s sad and lonely, he looks sick, you know he’s terrified he’s not pleasing Voldemort. So instead of trying to help him, you go and use a spell for enemies on him. A boy genius.
I don’t even know why I’ll point this out again, but it’s not normal to keep noticing those things about people you don’t care about, ok? It’s just not done. You’re fooling yourself!
Meanwhile, Harry is getting desperate here. If it’s because Draco looks sick or because he couldn’t find out what his mission was, we’ll never know. But he knows he’s running out of time, and he has other personal problems to deal with, like the horcruxes and his huge crush *sarcasm* on Ginny.
And coincidentally his crush on her seems to grow, suddenly. Almost like it’s a distraction… hm. She’s exactly like the opposite of his true crush, I mean, obsession, I mean… Malfoy. She makes him forget, instead of making him feel like everything is falling apart; she doesn’t have any problems besides boys and Quidditch, while Draco’s buried in shit.
But still, he thinks about her far less than he thinks about *someone else*. Because a constant in this book is that nothing is more pressing than Draco Malfoy. Not the Prince himself, not the horcruxes, not girls or Quidditch. Nothing.
In the midst of all his preoccupations Harry had not forgotten his other ambition: finding out what Malfoy was up to in the Room of Requirement. He was still checking the Marauder’s Map and, as he was often unable to locate Malfoy on it, deduced that Malfoy was still spending plenty of time within the Room.
Oh yeah, in the midst of his problems, one being he didn’t know if Ginny was worth upsetting Ron (and if that’s not an indicative that she’s not your one true love, Harry, I don’t know what is), he still has plenty of time to obsess over Draco Malfoy.
Just healthy, really.
And now, because I didn’t forget the real issue here, let’s read what brilliant thoughts Harry Potter has about the Sectumsempra:
…he saw the Sectumsempra spell, captioned ‘For Enemies’, that he had marked a few weeks previously. He had still not found out what it did, mainly because he did not want to test it around Hermione, but he was considering trying it out on McLaggen next time he came up behind him unawares.
Oh yeah! He was considering trying the Sectumsempra on Cormac! That’s how much of a genius he is. Harry, go study some latin before you use a fucking spell, will ya?
I mean, you would think that a boy who lost both parents to a curse and studied Charms for 6 years would think to at least check the etymology of a spell before using it on another human being. Or not, if you’re stupid as fuck!
Ok, so are you ready for the heartbreak? *takes deep breath*
Harry made his usual detour along the seventh-floor corridor, checking the Marauder’s Map as he went. For a moment he could not find Malfoy anywhere, and assumed he must indeed be inside the Room of Requirement again, but then he saw Malfoy’s tiny, labelled dot standing in a boys’ bathroom on the floor below, accompanied, not by Crabbe or Goyle, but by Moaning Myrtle.
First of all, Harry, why??? What kind of dodgy business could he be planning with the ghost of a muggleborn girl murdered by Voldemort? If anything, that shows he’s really not who you think he is.
It took me years after reading this book to realise Draco was confessing to a mudblood, and a victim of Voldemort. To me, that’s a symbol of how his views were changing and how, in the end, he was a victim, not a villain. He was like her in a way.
Also, how fucking lonely he was. *sobbing*
God, that makes me so mad! This is the only time Harry really disappointed me and I think he fucking knows it. He disappointed himself too.
Draco Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands clutching either side of the sink, his white-blond head bowed.
‘Don’t,’ crooned Moaning Myrtle’s voice from one of the cubicles. ‘Don’t … tell me what’s wrong… I can help you …’
‘No one can help me,’ said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. ‘I can’t do it … I can’t … it won’t work … and unless I do it soon … he says he’ll kill me …’
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.
To be honest, I can’t choose what’s worse about this whole thing. Draco confessing to a ghost, because he has no one (and not just any ghost, but the one everyone can’t stand)? The fact he is crying because he’s so scared?
Or maybe the fact that Harry is just so stupid he can’t use simple logic and understand that, whatever this is, Draco doesn’t have a choice???
Ouch, my heart just broke real quick.
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. Malfoy’s hex missed Harry by inches, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him; Harry threw himself sideways, thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the jinx and raised his wand for another –
There was a loud bang and the bin behind Harry exploded; Harry attempted a Leg-Locker Curse that backfired off the wall behind Malfoy’s ear and smashed the cistern beneath Moaning Myrtle, who screamed loudly; water poured everywhere and Harry slipped over as Malfoy, his face contorted, cried, ‘Cruci—’
I can’t imagine how humiliated he feels, and how terrified he is, because not only was he crying because of Voldemort, but now Harry Potter knows too much. And Harry won’t help him, he’s sure of that.
You know what breaks me? They start do duel with childish hexes and curses, and it escalates so quickly, before any of them can take a moment to realise the seriousness of it.
And I wish Draco was going to say “Crucifix nail nipples!”, but we know he was not. But do you wanna know what I believe? If he had time to finish saying the word, nothing would happen, and Harry would be able to see he’s not evil. He obviously didn’t mean the Crucio.
But before he has that chance, Harry goes and fucks up royally:
‘SECTUMSEMPRA!’ bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly.
Blood spurted from Malfoy’s face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backwards and collapsed on to the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.
‘No –’ gasped Harry.
Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged towards Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.
‘No – I didn’t –’
Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood.
To be honest, Harry never in a million years thought that would be a lethal curse. Never. He wanted to test it on McLaggen!
I can’t stand this moment, I can’t. I makes me tear up every time.
Because there is Draco’s physical pain, which was probably horrible, then there’s his emotional pain, because he’s at his most vulnerable moment and it’s such a betrayal! Harry is one of the good guys. He was afraid Voldemort would do something like that to him, not Harry. And that is so so so sad.
And there’s Harry’s pain as well, because he’s fucking terrified. He knows Draco is dying, he knows he did something unthinkable, he knows he fucked up. Sometimes I can’t believe Draco actually saved Harry after that, because this probably haunted him for a long time.
Just imagine seeing someone surrounded by their own blood, with deep cuts and shaking in pain. I don’t think you can forget it that easily. Especially if you were responsible for it.
And you know what makes me angry? That Harry compartmentalises what he’s feeling so well that it’s like two different people: one when he’s alone, looking at what he did, and one once he finds his friends. It’s maddening.
But there’s a reason for that, and we’ll get into it soon.
“Harry was still watching, horrified by what he had done, barely aware that he too was soaked in blood and water. Moaning Myrtle was still sobbing and wailing overhead. When Snape had performed his counter-curse for the third time, he half-lifted Malfoy into a standing position.
‘You need the hospital wing. There may be a certain amount of scarring, but if you take dittany immediately we might avoid even that … come …’
He supported Malfoy across the bathroom, turning at the door to say in a voice of cold fury, ‘And you, Potter … you wait here for me.’
It did not occur to Harry for a second to disobey. He stood up slowly, shaking, and looked down at the wet floor. There were bloodstains floating like crimson flowers across its surface. He could not even find it in himself to tell Moaning Myrtle to be quiet, as she continued to wail and sob with increasingly evident enjoyment.”
I love the way JKR describes how Harry sees it, how vivid are the consequences of what happened. And I obviously love how Snape tells Draco it might scar, possibly more for Harry to hear than for him. Snape knows him well, he knows the guilt trip he could go into and is trying to push him into it. And Harry deserves it.
It doesn’t happen, though, because immediately after, he goes to find his friends (and Ginny), who make him forget about his feelings.
But before we get into that, I’d like to talk about the symbolism of Harry finding the room of hidden things when he’s trying to hide the book. It’s the room he’s been trying to get in all year, and it’s almost like a physical representation of Draco at this point.
It’s very interesting how he can suddenly get in, almost like the barriers are all down, almost like Draco stopped caring about hiding it from him. Almost like he’s so sad and hopeless he stops trying. Thinking about the wave of disappointment he must be feeling, it’s very possible that Draco’s feelings were an influence in the door showing up for Harry.
Anyway, then Harry tells his friends about what just happened and they respond exactly like you would expect them too, almost to a stereotypical extreme.
“I won’t say “I told you so”,’ said Hermione, an hour later in the common room.
‘Leave it, Hermione,’ said Ron angrily.”
Isn’t it interesting how none of them we just horrified by the whole thing? How Hermione just focuses on the book, not on the teenager almost bleeding to death?
“(…) Malfoy had already been visited in the hospital wing by Pansy Parkinson, who had lost no time in vilifying Harry far and wide…”
I just love this sentence. First of all, with all her flaws, I love Pansy. She’s just the best friend Draco could have in that moment, because she takes no bullshit. And to be fair, Harry deserved to be vilified. And you can sense his opinions on what he’s done are changing because his friends just excuse what he did, especially Ginny:
“Give it a rest, Hermione!’ said Ginny, and Harry was so amazed, so grateful, he looked up. ‘By the sound of it Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgivable Curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!”
I hated her so much in that moment. What Harry did it’s inexcusable, and he knows it. So it hurts my eyes to see her say something so dismissive. Draco would not be able to actually Crucio him and, deep down, Harry knows it. He doesn’t even try to convince himself he’s faultless, that it was self-defense.
Ok, so let’s expand on Ginny’s rare presence being right in this chapter.
It’s no coincidence this is the same chapter where Harry kisses Ginny for the first time. Remember what I mentioned in the beginning of this post? The whole of Half-Blood Prince is built using a parallel between Harry’s relationship with Draco and his relationship with Ginny to move the plot in the right direction.
“Hermione and Ginny, who had always got on together very well, were now sitting with their arms folded, glaring in opposite directions. Ron looked nervously at Harry, then snatched up a book at random and hid behind it. Harry, however, though he knew he little deserved it, felt unbelievably cheerful all of a sudden, even though none of them spoke again for the rest of the evening.”
I mean, come on. He literally buries his guilt in giddiness because Ginny is defending him. Defending him against something he knows is his fault. She’s helping him forget Malfoy. Again.
And this chapter is so cleverly written it splits his feelings with the places and situations he’s in: when he’s with Snape, in the dungeons, he can feel the guilt as a physical presence. Snape makes sure he understands that the detention is about making him feel guilty:
“Mr Filch has been looking for someone to clear out these old files,’ said Snape softly. ‘They are the records of other Hogwarts wrongdoers and their punishments. Where the ink has grown faint, or the cards have suffered damage from mice, we would like you to copy out the crimes and punishments afresh and, making sure that they are in alphabetical order, replace them in the boxes. You will not use magic.”
When he thinks about Gryffindor and Ginny, he forgets about any negative thing happening with him:
“And while he copied out all their various offences and punishments, he wondered what was going on outside, where the match would have just started … Ginny playing Seeker against Cho …”
To be honest, that is one of the things that always bothered me with this ship being canon. Ginny never sees the Harry we see, she always sees someone who’s always right, someone who’s the hero. And Harry only sees Ginny as a ladder to a life he wants so desperately. A life with no complications, with a family, with giddiness and lightness. He holds onto her because she makes him forget all the horrible things he has gone through, and that’s one reason why he never tells her anything: he wants her in a bell jar, untouched by his traumas.
And we all know that’s not who he really is. The final proof is how this chapter ends:
Harry looked around; there was Ginny running towards him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.
The creature in his chest roaring in triumph, Harry grinned down at Ginny and gestured wordlessly out of the portrait hole. A long walk in the grounds seemed indicated, during which – if they had time – they might discuss the match.”
This moment is like a completely different book. It’s a fantasy. Something Harry knew couldn’t last. It was escapism.
This chapter is also the last before Malfoy finally figures out how to fix the cabinet and Harry goes with Dumbledore to retrieve the horcrux. It’s almost like a tragic farewell to the relationship the two of them had prior to thing getting fucking serious. It all changes after that.
The Sectumsempra in itself changes everything. Harry, someone who we know as heroic and honourable, commits an act that shifts what we know about him, and at the same time Draco, who up until then we see as a bidimensional character, comes alive and gets layers on top of layers. It’s the only possible introduction to what happens in Deathly Hallows. Tragic and horrible, but beautiful to watch.
I mean, I could go on and on. If I had the time, I would probably debate every single sentence in this book that, to me, is the most symbolic and crucial of them all.
But I do have a job, so this will do. Hope you guys enjoyed it!