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Old November 7th, 2006, 11:36 pm
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Join Date: 19th June 2003
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Re: Harry Potter and the War Within - Rewrite

Chapter 8 Understanding Women

Over the next day and a half Harry had to call Remus four times with additional reports of attacks. It sickened Harry to be the conduit of the information and it was more repulsive yet to experience Voldemort’s pleasure at it. It was a relief to Harry when he could focus on things enough to clear his mind, such as Sunday evening when he worked on his summer assignments and spellwork and Monday morning when got back to vigorous exercise. As scheduled, Monday after lunch he went to Mrs. Figg’s house to meet with Cameron MacBoon.

“Hello, Harry,” said Cameron, meeting him at the door, “How are you?”

“I assume you’ve spoken with Remus,” said Harry, “so you should have a pretty good idea.”

“You assume? I thought you couldn’t turn the legilemency off?”

“I’ve been working on that. I find I can suppress it, with an active effort. It’s kind of like learning not to slouch – you consciously do it for a while and it gets easier and easier, until you only have to check yourself on occasion. It’s not that easy yet, by any means, though – I’m still in the ‘think about it’ stage, and if I’m caught off-guard by someone looking me in the eye, then I can’t help but get a notion of what’s on their mind. If I’m ready, though, I can and do suppress it around people: I want the thoughts in my head to be my own.”

Cameron nodded. “Yes, I can see where that would be a problem, keeping the flood out. Well, then, of course I have spoken with Remus and others about what you’ve been doing since we last visited. This tells me what you have been doing, and I can guess some of the ways it has been affecting you, but that can only be a reasonable guess. It is better that you openly express what’s consciously on your mind. It helps you to organize it, to get rid of what you can, and to dredge up the hidden feelings pushing to get out.”

“Alright then,” said Harry, “I’m frustrated, angry, tired, annoyed. I want to learn the secrets of peace through love, but my time is spent responding to messages of murderous intents, and the repulsive glee that Voldemort experiences upon ordering another death. You told me I’m supposed to learn to love him and his followers, but I’m seeing into the cesspool of his mind, and it’s not pretty.”

Cameron listened very attentively, nodding sympathetically. “Good, Harry. I certainly don’t want you to feel agreement or affection for them. Don’t worry about loving them just yet. It’s enough that you are aware that love for all people is the goal. For now you’ll practice with less odious people, which brings us to your Aunt Marge. Why do you dislike her so?”

Harry glared at him like he was asking the stupidest question in the world. Then he caught himself and thought that this must be part of the procedure, so he’d go along.

“Ever since I can remember she has treated me just awful. She’s set her dog on me, she says awful things about me, she insults my parents. She dotes on Dudley, which would be okay, except she always uses it as an occasion to taunt me – I can do without things, but she waved them in my face to taunt me. I could have taken being ignored, but she savored the torment.”

“Okay. Now where do you think she got this attitude about you?”

“Well, mostly it was just what she had been told by Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. They told her I was being sent off to St. Brutus’s School for Incorrigibly Criminal Boys – something like that, like I was some sort of a thug and thief. All along Dudley was the one who was beating up kids, including me. He also would vandalize stuff and steal things, even though he was given more stuff than he knew how to use. She’s also always said awful things about how I look – my skinniness and my hair, that sort of thing – anything that was distinctly different from the Dursleys.”

“Okay, some of that we’ll sort out when we talk about the relatives you live with. As for Aunt Marge, it seems she repeated what she heard – sounds pretty understandable to me.”

Harry looked at him and thought. “Well, I suppose, but she always went so far with it. She’d also make up things about my parents as an ‘explanation’ for why I turned out so worthless; at least Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had the decency not to insult an orphan’s parents, or maybe they just didn’t want me to think about them. But that wasn’t Aunt Marge’s way - she delighted in terrorizing me.”

Cameron smiled, “Isn’t ‘terrorizing’ a strong word?”

“That’s what it feels like to a small boy.”

“No doubt, but it really was just a rather severe case of bullying, right?”

“It’s just a question of scale: it’s the same sort of behavior, inflicting distress to break someone down. I don’t see that her delight in tormenting me is all that different, except in scale, from Voldemort’s delight in torturing and killing people.”

“Good point, and yet there is a difference – from what you say, she never went beyond hateful words.”

“Well, she set her dog on me and whacked my shins with her walking stick.”

“Okay. Nothing truly injurious then. Now why do you think she might have acted that way?” asked Cameron.

“She’s a nasty, evil toad.”

Cameron smiled. “Well, we’ll start there. You recognized that she got her ideas about you from somewhere – maybe she got her ideas about dealing with people from somewhere as well. Your Uncle Vernon was pretty harsh with you, too, wasn’t he?”

“I think the only reason he was less brutal was out of concern that authorities would be brought in if I were visibly injured. But he can’t have taught that attitude to her: she’s several years older than him.”

“Sure, Harry, but maybe they both got that attitude from the same source.”

Harry gave a glance of recognition: “Their parents, or rather their mother and stepfather. I don’t really know anything about them, though, so it’s hard to say.”

“I did some research, Harry.”

“Did you? You’re thorough.”

“I had the time, and I appreciate the importance of this assignment. What I found was that their stepfather was a refugee from Vichy France. He had fled, with a considerable cache of French gold, to Chile during the turmoil of the postwar years because of his cooperation with the Nazis. It’s not that he was charged with any crimes, but his enthusiasm for the German-installed regime was great and notorious, and he made a lot of enemies with his vigorous persecution of the French Resistance. In the mid-60s, he came to England on a tourist visa as he explored whether he could return to France. He was still unwelcome and needed a legal basis to stay in Britain. He found the widow Dursley, husband killed in an industrial accident, trying to raise two small children. She could provide resident status and he could provide support. It was a convenient arrangement, and she came to embrace the ideas he perpetually preached of society’s need for uniformity and submission to central authorities.”

Harry thought, and then asked, “That sounds like he was communist, but you said he cooperated with the Nazis?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Let’s see. When I was in muggle schools, we learned that the communists believe in government owning all the factories and shops and stuff like that, and that’s called leftist, and that the fascists believe in such things being owned privately, but with the government controlling how they are run: that’s called right-wing. The Nazis were supposed to be like that.”

“Well, they called themselves ‘socialists,’ but again, Harry, what’s the difference – how can you say you really own something if someone else controls what you do with it. We’re not talking about limits to avoid harming others. In either case, leftist or rightist, you’re under the control of and exist at the mercy of the people in charge. Also with either right-wingers or left-wingers, the government tries to tell people what to think.”

“I see. I’ve never had to support myself, or had a business or a job, so I hadn’t really thought about it. That’s bad enough at the national level – it must be awful in a family.”

“Well, at either level, the oppressiveness depends on the character of the people in charge. A government might have the legal authority to seize control, but it might choose not to exercise it. But we’re here to understand the Dursleys, and Marge and Vernon Dursley had a hard time of it. Your uncle and aunt were subjected to just as much brutality, badgering, and bullying as you experienced - every bit as much. Severity and cruelty is all they knew. They never had an example to work from to show them differently. They never had an Arthur or Molly Weasley, a Remus Lupin, a Minerva McGonagall, or an Albus Dumbledore to show them a better way.”

“Or a Cameron MacBoon,” added Harry.

“That’s kind of you, Harry. I hope I can be a positive influence.”

“Professor Snape,” said Harry, with a thoughtful look.

“I wouldn’t have thought you would include him as one of those healthy role models.”

“Oh, no, not at all. Quite the contrary, but it just occurred to me that he’s the same sort of bully, and over the past couple of years while practicing Occlumency, I saw into his memories. His father seemed to be a bully as well, though I’ve only seen little bits. Maybe he just doesn’t know any other way.”

“Aye. You see: you go from understanding and empathizing with Aunt Marge, and you leap all the way to a better understanding of Professor Snape. Who knows where this will lead? How soon is she arriving?”

“Wednesday late morning.”

“That’s fine. Do you think you can understand her a bit better now?”

“Yeah, I think so. I’m actually kind of intrigued now to see how the way she acts shows how she was brought up. I’m wondering about something, though.”

“Good, Harry, it’s best that you be thinking these things through. What is it?”

“Why is Uncle Vernon decent now? He’s treating me with respect and he even offered to help as he could in the war against Voldemort. At first I thought that Dumbledore had given him a potion, and he did mention a ‘delightful tea,’ but those can only go so far and for so long, unless they were so strong they would damage him.”

“It really is a puzzle, Harry. I think you’re suspicions are well-founded that Dumbledore gave him a mild potion to make him more receptive to reasons to treat you decently. But I’ve certainly learned from Arabella the limits of potions. They won’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and yet that’s what seems to be happening. I would say that he has the advantage of a child and a loving wife, while Marge only has her dogs, but that didn’t seem to make a difference for the prior fifteen years. It’s as if something were melting away the foulness his upbringing had filled him with, but I’ve almost never seen such a thing before.”

“Almost? Then you have seen it before – when?”

“A little over twenty years ago. Your father and Sirius Black were right obnoxious – popular, in that they were always entertaining and well admired, but arrogant twits as well. Your father was the typical swaggering star athlete and Sirius was the Big Man on Campus – rich, powerful, pureblood with a lineage that went back centuries. Both knew that they were hot stuff and acted it – and they had the style to get away with it.”

Harry looked down, with shame on his face. “Yeah, I, erm, found out about that. Real bullies they were, too. Sirius owned up to it before he was killed.”

“That’s right, Harry, they were. But there are always a few who aren’t entertained by such things and won’t have anything to do with people like that. Your mother was among those, saw right through them. She detested Sirius and your father. No, that’s not quite accurate. Hatred was no part of her character, but she detested the behavior, and would have nothing to do with them, any more than she could avoid it. But then, right at the beginning of their sixth year, your father was injured very badly and spent over three weeks in the Hospital Wing. Your mother did a lot of the caring for him, as she was in the Healer trainee program, just as your friends, Miss Granger and Miss Edgecombe were. Of course, Sirius was around the Hospital Wing a lot of that time, too. By the time your father was released, he was a changed man, not totally at first, but unmistakably. Sirius was starting to change, too, but that was much more subtle and tentative. Your father started developing character and became a really decent young man over that year. With your father’s turnaround, your mother started spending more and more time with him and his group of friends. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

“And no one knows why he changed?”

“No. No one could fail to note it – except Severus Snape, of course – but nobody ever had an adequate explanation. Some said it was just maturation, but it was too profound a change, as with your uncle. Some said it was brain damage from the accident, but he showed no other signs. Someone even suggested that it wasn’t really James, but that somebody really good and kind was using polyjuice potion to substitute for him, but nobody could come up with a decent scenario to explain that. It’s a puzzler still, and maybe it’s happening again. Who can say?”

Harry looked perplexed. He was aware of a number of breakthroughs recently, from Neville and Seamus and most all the DA with their magical abilities to Uncle Vernon and the rest of the Dursleys developing decency. He wondered if something was going on with all that.

“Well, I don’t think we’re going to solve it now, Harry. I’d like to talk with you about Katherine Finnegan.”

Harry blushed. “Erm, what about her?”

Cameron laughed. “I don’t need legilemency to read you on this, Harry. Besides, I’ve talked to Remus about it. He suggested I talk to you a bit more than he did.”

“Well, the kiss would have been fine, even in front of Mrs. Finnegan. That’s not so different than a couple months ago when the Ravenclaws clapped their enchanted Snogging Hat on me and I had to kiss all the Ravenclaw girls before I could take it off. But Katherine had things on her mind that were far more than snogging. It was kind of scary, actually, both because I barely knew her and because I was seeing those thoughts in her mind.”

“You know, Harry, a‘most every man thinks he’d like to know when women are thinking sexual thoughts and just what those thoughts are – you can and you find that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. First off, let’s sort a few things out. It’s not as if you’ve never thought of doing those things before, is it?”

The question embarrassed Harry, but he admitted, “Well, no, of course not.”

“It’s normal and healthy, just as Arabella said a few days ago. And I’ll bet you even entertained some of those thoughts about Katherine once you met her.”

“What is this, some sort of squib legilemency?”

“No, it’s just being a man. Truth be told, it’s probably true for women as well, but I can’t speak for how their minds work on these matters. It’s very normal to see an appealing woman – whether for some reason she is off-limits or not – and think what it would be like to hold her and touch her and kiss her and … well, that’s enough detail for this discussion. I’ll bet you’ve had those thoughts about just about just about every girl at Hogwarts, haven’t you?”

“Well, not the younger ones – they’re pretty much still children, you know.”

“Yes, I do, Harry.”

“You don’t think I’m some sort of pervert for those thoughts?”

“For having sexual thoughts about young women? Not at all. It’s part of Nature’s plan for men and women to be attracted to each other and to want to do those things with each other. And people don’t just have their life-partners names popped out of a fiery goblet. It takes time for a person to get to know enough people and get enough experience with life to know the sort of person he wants to be his exclusive partner. Having those thoughts is just sort of a way to try out different options – forming the intent to act on them is where we go wrong. I’m sure you’ve fantasized about being a professional quidditch player, or an auror, or a teacher, and on and on. The options for our lives are immense and our fantasies help us sort out which ones work for us, whether it’s career fantasies or sexual fantasies.”

“But don’t fantasies have to be grounded in reality?”

“Not really, but if we are going to act on them, we need to compare what our fantasies are with the real world and be sure that we do act in a way that values others’ concerns adequately. For instance, there are not many positions open for aurors, although the Ministry has started a recruitment and training push. There may simply not be any positions open when you are of an age to apply. Or take Professor Snape: he has applied every year since he became a teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, and he’s right that he knows his stuff in that area, but Dumbledore wants him to be teaching Potions instead, and he accepts Dumbledore’s decision gracefully – more or less. There is nothing wrong with him continuing to request the job, so long as he doesn’t do such things as eliminate the competition. Similarly, we may feel that a person is everything we want in our lives, but she may not want us or she may have other commitments that prevent a relationship from developing. There may or may not be things we can do to bring the relationship about, but in the end, we have to deal with the real world, whatever that presents to us. And that brings us back to Katherine. You caught one of her sexual fantasies when you looked into her mind.”

“Just a fantasy?” said Harry, “Hmm, I felt like it was more, but then, hmm, she was fantasizing about me?”

“What more could it be? She didn’t act on it. You are an entirely normal object of fantasies, Harry. You’re a young, strong, handsome athlete, you’re very good at all the things you set your mind to, you are an undeniable hero and defender of the good and yet you break the rules enough to have that ‘bad boy’ charm going for you. And for Katherine in particular, you were a knight in shining armor, swooping in to rescue her from certain death. Her emotions were very fluid and agitated, and you represented protection and support and adventure.”

“Somehow analyzing it makes me feel less special. All those things are about me, but they aren’t me, you know what I mean?”

“I do exactly. We have all these attributes which pertain to us and which are our face to the world. But when it comes to personal relationships, we don’t want to be taken for any of those things, but just for ourselves. That’s why I wanted you to call me ‘Cameron’ rather than ‘Reverend.’ ‘Reverend’ is my title and my job, but it is not me. Our relationship needs to be two men talking about what universal love is all about, not a preacher laying down authority to a novitiate.”

“So what is this saying about my legilemency, because I thought sure that the message I saw in her mind was ‘I want to …’ erm, … ‘do him.’”

“Well, remember that legilemency does not see every detail of the mind. There are of course limits. Katherine was no doubt thinking exactly what you thought she was, but she probably also was indulging fantasy because she knew that the circumstances would in no way allow her to act on those thoughts. With her family around, she was in sort of a cocoon, where she could not act sexually, and that freed her to think very sexually, without consideration of the drawbacks and limitations that sexual involvement would bring.”

“That makes sense. Kind of like when I’ve fantasized about hurting Draco Malfoy terribly when he has pulled some stunt, when I know that I wouldn’t really have the chance to do so.”

“I want you to understand something deeper, Harry. People are a mass of contradictory thoughts and feelings, very complex and ever-changing. Don’t take anyone as just the veneer that you see at one given moment, or even the most commonly presented persona. There is always more than meets the eye – even an eye like yours that can see within the mind. You must understand that learning to treat people with love means taking into account the whole conflicting mass of emotions that comprise their psyches. If you had been able to get Katherine off by herself this weekend, she may in her emotional state have done all those things she was thinking, but I’m quite certain that both of you would have been hurt by it and been regretful, as she would have been acting out of extreme gratitude and infatuation and you would have been taking advantage of her emotional state. Learning to love others means that you cannot be a predator, an opportunist exploiting their momentary weaknesses for your own gain. Of course, when you are fighting, you should exploit your opportunities: then it’s kill or be killed, and I’d rather like to see you around for awhile. Okay, Harry?”

“Okay, Cameron, I think I understand what you’re saying.”

“Are you ready for Aunt Marge?”

“Not really, but I’ll try thinking about what makes her do the things she does.”

“It’s the old saying, Harry, ‘Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’ – listen to what must be behind her saying and doing the things she does, and with understanding will come empathy, then sympathy, and then …”

“Let’s just aim for understanding right now, Cameron.”

Feedback? -

Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
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