In another world you and I would have been perfect for each other. Don’t ask me how I know this, I do. This isn’t a question or a prayer or a hope. These are the facts: in another world, we would have been perfect for each other. In this world I imagine that I would still drive you crazy. That’s okay, I wouldn’t want it to be different. Because I’ll still call you lazy and you’ll still be trying to figure me out and we’ll still be touching each other at all hours of the day. No complications. Just like that. So easy that we could never imagine that in another world it wouldn’t be just the same. Just like when you drop juice on your beard and I wipe it away with a finger. Like that. Just like feeling cold in the winter and rolling over to curl into the warmth of you. Like that. Just like running knuckles down the bridge of your spine and feeling your arch like a cat.
In this world, we are kissing each other constantly. I am always trying to drink the coffee from your mouth and I am always unwilling to let you finish your sentences. We are childish in our longing and these are all kinds of kissing. Desperate ones, bird pecks, nose touches, long, slow tongue-filled cusps. These kisses feel like enough because they are. Because there is no time limit and no guilt. Because in this world, I know that you will take me by the hand and undress me and press your mouth to the parts of me that I hate the most. I will still hate them but you will not and that will stay the same.
In this world, we are always fighting for who’s on top and most of the time, you win. My wrists will end up caught in your hands, your teeth marks on my shoulders for days. But there are quiet moments in nondescript evenings when I will sit on your lap with my hands on your shoulders and our spirit music is swelling everything with emotion, you will take my chin into your hands and look into my eyes and say ‘you consume me.’ In both this world, and the other one, I will shiver from the onslaught of you.
But right now, I will think about putting my hands on your chest and feeling your exhale, I will tell you about the songs I like and how I hope they will make your soul feel joyful. In the world we live in, I will call you at 2AM and fall asleep to the noises you can only make at night. We will talk about our days and the distance and everything in between and it will be so easy and so full that I will breathe the words down the line to you so gentle that you won’t hear them. I will say ‘in a perfect world, we would be wonderful together.’ And you will breathe in a gasp of tired acknowledgement and say ‘yes, i know.’"
a lot of meta writing about harry potter tends to forget the role genre plays in the series. Instead, we get a lot of meta about whether snape was right or whether JKR condones abuse, and reading these arguments has led me to a weird conclusion that I would like to talk through. I personally very much doubt that JK believes that leaving a child in an abusive home is right, and here is why I think this happens and is unquestioned in the books.
Harry Potter begins as a Chosen One Story. He’s even called a chosen one in the story itself. These stories are very common to children’s literature because they give children a sense of power. Harry is 11 yet he is capable of and even MEANT to destroy Voldemort (or foil him book by book, rather). This is wonderful to children, and the contrast between living a bad life at home to being regarded as worth something/a hero is very, very valuable to young readers, especially those who commiserate with a bad home life. For child readers, the concept of an adult or multiple adults expecting harry to endanger himself to save the world is just part of the power fantasy, because it means that harry isn’t delusional, but actually as powerful as he thinks he is. harry saving the day is necessary to the children’s book.
Then we have to look at the instances of abuse in the series and examine when abuse is seen as evil and wrong (the Dursleys, Umbridge, Snape) and when it is considered necessary for the greater good (Dumbledore). As a rule, abuse in Harry Potter is used to make its child readers upset. The Dursleys, Snape, (and Umbridge, later), are all childhood villains that represent childhood anxieties and, unfortunately, realities. Seeing harry go through the same struggles they go through makes the chosen one a relatable hero, rather than a fantastic one. These villains of the books humanize him, and more importantly, show that he is still a child, like them. Voldemort, on the other hand, represents something much larger and more metaphorical than children have to face in their daily lives. This is why Umbridge and Snape make us angrier than voldemort does. the target audience does not content with Big problems like genocide and ultimate evil, but problems like lack of power, not having anyone listen when there is a problem, going around rules that are designed to make you fail—these are problems that children feel passionately about, and this is why the Dursleys, Snape, and Umbridge are written to be so abusive and twisted. They are designed to represent the things that children may or may not experience, but can understand by comparison, or have anxiety about. Children understand that they are vulnerable to abuse of power even if their teachers aren’t carving ‘I must not tell lies’ into their skin.
What I’m saying is that having Harry suffer abuse has a narrative point. The title character must go through trials that would be horrifying and extreme for any real child. The chosen one narrative structure requires the character to be in danger, but triumph. The books are compelling because they are a childhood power fantasy. Harry Potter as a series was never intended to do justice by harry, and it couldn’t have worked without terrible things happening to him. What is upsetting about the books is how JKR seems to condone or excuse this abuse when Dumbledore does it (and later when Snape is exonerated).
There are some things in the books that I don’t think JK thought through. She made Harry forgive Snape as soon as he found out Snape was a double agent in love with Lily. That, I believe, was JKR’s personal bias showing through. Snape is terrible person, and as a child that Snape abused, finding out Snape was in love with his mother would certainly have felt more like a violation to Harry than a redeeming quality. A person can be working for the good guys and still be a bad person, and JK never explored that.
As far as Dumbledore as an abusive figure, I recognize what JK was trying to do. She needed an adult figure who knew more than Harry knew, who was more powerful, in order to make the books work and flow smoothly. I feel that JK understood that sending Harry back to the Dursleys was wrong, and in order to salvage Dumbledore in the eyes of her readers, she invented the thing about Harry magically being safe there until he came of age. I can also understand why Dumbledore never shared his plans with harry—it would make a boring book!! And harry does get frustrated with Dumbledore, I believe, for being so secretive, especially in the later books where the audience is more of a teen audience and this is something they can relate to. the problem is in how JK handles it. she never follows through on dumbledore’s morally ambiguous qualities, which she herself introduces and fosters. The backstory with grindlewald shows dumbledore as less than a paragon of goodness, but JK drops the ball and cops out of her development of the character by essentially saying “But he’s good now” when really, he is still flawed. He does use harry as a weapon, and though the story is built around this, it goes uncriticized by the author.
harry potter is a special case, i think, because it starts out as a different genre than it ends up as. dumbledore is not insidious in the first book, but JK reveals more and more darkness the more books she writes, transforming the series into a drama where moral ambiguities abound and there is explicit violence and death. Yet, at this point, JKR still tries to hang onto the innocent chosen one story, even when her plot and characters have grown out of it. by the end of the series, harry still adores dumbledore and respects snape, when given what he knows about them, he should at least be questioning his relationship to them and their role in the dangers he has faced. However, JK foregoes this, and for an understandable reason—she still thinks she’s writing a children’s book. good must triumph over evil in the story she set out to write initially, and there is no room for ambiguity.
the question then becomes whether the books should have committed to the darker, more mature route, and fully examined the workings of the order of the phoenix as sometimes morally ambiguous (or actually wrong), or if the books should never have introduced those moral ambiguities and instead stayed a series for children ages eight to twelve. It’s a really difficult question to answer.
If JKR keeps the story light and appropriate for her younger readers, the story is completely transformed. The events of the fourth book and onward are already completely outside the children’s genre that the series began as. Snape remains wholly twisted, and though this may be explained, it is not justified. (or, Snape sees the error of his ways and makes a full recovery, apology included). Dumbledore remains wholly good and does not use Harry as a tool—if Harry defeats voldemort in this version of the series, it is because he took the initiative without dumbledore’s blessing or knowledge.
If JKR committs to the darker story she wants to tell, Harry is written as a more self-aware character. She abandons archetype and rather than insist that Dumbledore is the Good Mentor character, she shows him as he is. The conflict of whether the ends justify the means is more fully explored by harry. Snape may or may not remain wholly twisted in harry’s eyes, but his abuse is only forgiven if he asks for forgiveness. the concept of the chosen one/fighting alone is challenged.
What JKR did was split the middle, and it made for a very confused bunch of moral conclusions. In her version, the ends always justifies the means, Snape is Good despite all, Dumbledore is good despite all, and the happy ending erases the bad feelings that should naturally have developed given the content of the story.