Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Magic/Defence Against the Dark Arts
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Magic|
|Defence Against the Dark Arts|
|Features||Instruction in self-defence against magical attacks|
|First Appearance||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone|
Defence Against the Dark Arts is a core subject, required for all students in First through Fifth year at Hogwarts. It is offered to students in sixth and seventh year, if their O.W.L. marks are good enough, and we are told that extremely good N.E.W.T. marks are required for those who wish to pursue careers as Aurors.
There has always been a rumor circulating around Hogwarts that the class is cursed, because they cannot seem to keep the same teacher for more than one year. Because of this, Professor Dumbledore has had immense difficulty finding teachers to fill the position.
The following is a list of the Defence Against the Dark Arts instructors in the seven years of the story arc:
- Professor Quirrell (died)
- Gilderoy Lockhart (destroyed his own memory)
- Remus Lupin (resigned)
- Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody ("dismissed")
- Dolores Umbridge (dismissed)
- Severus Snape (abandoned the post at the run)
- Amycus Carrow (dismissed) - taught in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, while the three protagonists were not enrolled at Hogwarts.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learn that Tom Riddle applied for the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, but Dumbledore refused to give him the job. Ever since, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher has had to leave after one year due to various circumstances.
There is a bit of an apparent contradiction here, in that to the casual reader Quirrell appears to have been the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for some time before the first book; Fred and George indicate that he was a better teacher in previous years, but that on one of his vacations he ran into some of the stuff he'd been teaching about and had become much more easily frightened. To mesh with Dumbledore's statement that he had never been able to keep the position filled for more than one year, it has been suggested that Quirrell had taught a number of different subjects before, and perhaps done some short-term teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts, when the supposed curse took the main teacher out of circulation. However, it is interesting that in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Fred and George are enumerating the fates of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, they only list the four who have been there since Harry started; Fred and George, two years older, should have seen two earlier Dark Arts teachers as well, but do not mention them. Perhaps the fates of the four teachers mentioned have been more dramatic than the fates of their two earlier teachers.
One of the strengths of the series is that the author so adroitly avoids the need for exposition. For instance, she does not merely tell us that the position is jinxed, nor does she simply have a revolving door of teachers for this position. We can see quite clearly that there has been an ongoing problem, by the quality of the teachers that are provided to teach this course. Professor Quirrell is a stuttering, weak-willed ditherer. His replacement, Gilderoy Lockhart, is a self-promoting popinjay with no discernible skill in the subject he was hired to teach. Remus Lupin, an extremely competent teacher, is nonetheless unemployable elsewhere because of his lycanthropy. Alastor Moody, pulled out of retirement, proves to be not what he seems. Another incompetent teacher, Dolores Umbridge, is foisted on Hogwarts when Dumbledore is unable to fill the position himself. All of these are shown to us before we are told more than rumours of the curse on the position, and quite clearly show the effects of the curse, so that when we are told of its probable existence, we simply accept it as Dumbledore apparently has.
- Did Voldemort actually curse Defence Against the Dark Arts class, or is it just a coincidence?
In the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we hear the reason for the belief that the position is cursed. After Harry and Dumbledore see Dumbledore's memory of Tom Riddle's job application, Dumbledore remarks that since that time, he has never been able to keep a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for more than a year. This is, perhaps, why he has resisted, up until this year, Severus Snape's repeated requests to teach this course. Having had ample demonstration that the position of Dark Arts teacher is a doomed one, Dumbledore chooses not to place Snape in that position as he is too valuable to risk. In this book, however, we learn that Dumbledore is aware that his own time is strictly limited, and so, having extracted a promise from Snape that he would "take care of my school", Dumbledore places him in that position. Dumbledore, recall, receives his fatal injury in early July, and knows that he will have at most a year to live. By requiring Snape to take the headmaster's position after his death, Dumbledore has limited Snape's term already, and likely believes that this will partially avoid the curse. Also, having arranged that Snape will kill him so as to prevent Draco from being forced to commit murder, Dumbledore knows that Snape will likely have to flee Hogwarts, thus ending his tenure in a suitably cursed manner. As Snape will have to depart the position at the end of the year anyway, Dumbledore now feels it is safe to grant Snape that position.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh book, we learn from Neville Longbottom that under the influence of Snape and the other Death Eaters at the school, the "Defence" part of the course has now been formally dropped, and the course is the study of the Dark Arts with the object of perfecting their use, rather than defending against them. As practice, Neville says, students are required to use the Cruciatus curse against those students who are in detention.