I’d like to speak about the moment Harry is at his best, when he conjures a corporeal Patronus at the lake in Prisoner of Azkaban (Read here for the moment when he earns his place in Gryffindor house.)
Apotheosis is the point a character reaches a state of divinity (mostly in mythology) or their highest point in development (in all stories). For Joseph Campbell, apotheosis is a natural step of the universal hero in the monomyth. According to Campbell, the hero goes “beyond the last terrors of ignorance” and “becomes free of all fear, beyond the reach of change” (Campbell 127). I’m not saying Harry is free of fear after his adventure back in time. *For this article, I want apotheosis to refer to Harry’s highest point as a wizard not in his character arc.*
But . . . Prisoner is number three in a series of seven. It’s logical to think apotheosis would happen during the Battle of Hogwarts at the conclusion of the plot. Otherwise, it sounds like Harry stopped developing after his third year. This is not so. There is magic Harry performs later he would have been unable or unknowing at thirteen. The single greatest distinction for the lake being his shining moment is he had help in all the other times of need. At the lakeshore, it’s just Harry confronting one-hundred dementors; he earned his achievement of his own will and strength. Let’s look at those moments that came close:
Goblet of Fire – the Duel at the Graveyard; Harry and Voldemort experience for the first time the magnitude of the twin cores. However, this stalemate isn’t brought on by Harry’s aptitude at magic. Voldemort continues to be a “greater wizard” than Harry perhaps even until his very end. Nevertheless, Harry escapes with the help of his wand’s connection to Voldemort’s, his parent’s ghosts, and the Portkey.
Order of the Phoenix – formation of Dumbledore’s Army; this is perhaps the strongest and next best argument to when Harry is at wizard-apotheosis. He educates fellow students in practical defensive magic . . . as a fifteen-year-old. However, Harry fails to grasp the practice of Occlumency. Though, this should be attributed more to his teenage nature.
Deathly Hallows – Horcrux hunting/Duel at the Entrance Hall; again, we see a similar pattern as in Goblet at the ultimate showdown between Harry and Voldemort. Yes, Harry was able to track down and destroy all the Horcruxes. However, he had a great deal of help. His victory is part Voldemort’s hubris, part Harry and Co.’s efforts, and part random chance. The outcome our their final duel would have had a different result if he had not won Draco’s wand.
It’s only until Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry’s skill as a wizard saves him, Hermione, and Sirius from being kissed by a shroud of dementors–I don’t actually know the term for a group of dementors, but I think “shroud” sounds proper given their aesthetic. At the lake, Harry performs a fully-fledged Patronus without instruction or suggestion from anyone even the most talented witch of her age: Hermione.
During Harry’s anti-dementor lessons, Lupin constantly checks to see if Harry wants to continue–“the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it” ; “this charm is ridiculously advanced. . . . I shouldn’t have suggested putting you through this” ; “you’re expecting too much of yourself. For a thirteen-year-old wizard, even an indistinct Patronus is a huge achievement” (237; 241; 246).
In spite of all the warnings, in spite being physically and mentally shaken when hearing Voldemort murdering his parents, Harry perseveres . . . mostly because he wants to win the Quidditch Cup. We see it’s his nature not to give up. He tries multiple happy memories, until one eventually works: when he found out he was a wizard. At the match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, Harry musters a Patronus without stopping to think, “his mind still miraculously clear” (262). I’m not sure this entirely counts as his first actual successful Patronus. The ‘dementors’ are actually Malfoy and his gang.
At the lake, Harry reaches his apotheosis as a wizard when he realizes it wasn’t his father he saw conjure the Patronus . . . it was himself. This is perhaps THE ONLY time I’m okay with time travel (*cough* Cursed Child *cough*). “[Hermione] ‘Harry, I can’t believe it. . . . You conjured a Patronus that drove away all those dementors! That’s very, very advanced magic. . . .’ ‘I knew I could do it this time,’ said Harry, ‘because I’d already done it. . . . Does that make sense?'” (412)
Later on, at Harry’s hearing in Order, Madam Bones is flabbergasted at Harry’s capability to produce a corporeal Patronus. “[Harry] ‘It’s a stag, it’s always a stag.’ ‘Always?’ boomed Madam Bones. ‘You produced a Patronus before now? [. . .] You learned this at school? [. . .] Impressive, [. . .] a true Patronus at that age . . . very impressive indeed'” (141). Regardless of Harry’s lackluster spell work or plot armor-ness in other novels, his moment of triumph at the lake embodies J. K. Rowling’s philosophy that magic is so appealing because empowers us “to shape our world” by relying on ourselves and our own capabilities NOT others for aid (Oprah Special). That’s why this is Harry’s apex as a wizard. Nobody else could help him make Prongs ride again that night except for himself.
***This post is part of my Perusing Potter – a series of exploring the known and not-so-known aspects of the Harry Potter Series***
*Feature photo credit: Harry Potter wiki