Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
How we cite our quotes:
"Oh no, Dumbledore, I am too tired tonight."
Something about Phineas's voice was familiar to Harry, where had he heard it before? But before he could think, the portraits on the surrounding walls broke into a storm of protest.
"Insubordination, sir!" roared a corpulent, red-nosed, wizard, brandishing his fists. "Dereliction of duty!"
"We are honor-bond to give service to the present Headmaster of Hogwarts!" cried a frail-looking old wizard whom Harry recognized as Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. "Shame on you, Phineas!" (22.61-63)
So, we have a question about the portraits: obviously, Phineas Nigellus still has a very strong sense of himself. Even though all of the portraits of former Hogwarts Headmasters are supposed to help the current Head, he rebels and drags his feet rather than carrying a message as requested. Yet, we are also told that the portraits are less than fully realized ghosts. J.K. Rowling explains:
[The portraits] are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. (source)
So, if they are just impressions of living people, how is it that Phineas Nigellus seems like such a prickly, well-rounded character – a character who is capable of feeling sorrow and confusion at the end of the novel, when he discovers that his great-great-grandson and the last of the Black family has died? Can you make a distinction between the portraits and the ghosts? What makes a portrait's character different from a living character in the novel?
[Harry] felt dirty, contaminated, as though he were carrying some deadly germ, unworthy to sit on the Underground train back from the hospital with innocent, clean people whose minds and bodies were free of the taint of Voldemort ... he had not merely seen the snake, he had been the snake, he knew it now ... (23.2)
We can totally understand why Harry would feel violated by his connection with Voldemort, his arch-nemesis who murdered his parents. But if you were Harry's friend, how would you feel about the possibility that Harry could be possessed by Voldemort at any time? Would you feel safe with Harry? Would you respond to Harry's link to Voldemort the way Dumbledore does, or would you respond the way that Ron and Hermione do?
"So that's it, is it?" he said loudly. "'Stay where you are?' That's all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors, too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won't bother telling you, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!" (23.30)
Clearly, Harry feels that he is being left out of decisions that have a huge effect on his own life. But later on, after the disaster with Sirius, Harry wishes that he didn't have to feel so much, that he didn't have to take so much responsibility. The problem with growing into an adult is that sometimes, you want the responsibility to make your own decisions. But other times, it would be lovely to sign over all responsibility to other people so that you can relax. Harry seems really eager to grow up in Book 5, but then he has to face the awful consequences of taking his own initiative – which is the bad side of being a grown-up.