Why wasn't Harry punished after he used Sectumsempra on Malfoy?

  • Sectumsempra is a very dark curse that causes a cut ("sectum" = "cut") which will not heal ever ("sempra" = "forever").

    Harry used a dark curse on Malfoy (in the 6th movie). While Snape was able to fix it, Harry did use a deadly dark curse. Why wasn't Harry punished for that?

    You mean like being forced to do a menial task for a few hours every Saturday during the quidditch games he should have been playing?

    Because the punishment for using dark magic on a fellow student is expulsion, and Harry is safer inside Hogwarts than out?

    Because Harry didn't know the effects of the curse before he used it?

    As Head of Gryffindor House, I wonder why Prof. McGonagall didn't get to choose Harry's punishment, as she was allowed to, instead of Snape, in *CoS* when Harry and Ron drove the flying car to Hogwarts instead of owling that they had missed the train? In *CoS*, Dumbledore warns Harry and Ron that they will be expelled if they do something that serious again. IMO, Sectumsempra is *more* serious than the flying car incident. Oddly, McGonagall didn't take points (term hadn't started) and she gave each a detention. So why did Snape get to pick the punishment for Sectumsempra?

    Most likely it was because he was the one who created the curse to begin with. If he hadn't wrote that spell into the book Harry wouldn't have used it on Malfoy to begin with. I'm pretty sure Snape took responsibility for what Harry did, and decided the punishment for him.

    @DoctorWho22 - I'm not quite sure what you mean ... do you mean that Snape felt remorseful for creating Sectumsempra in the first place, so he gave Harry a light punishment of just detentions as a way of expressing that remorse? IMO, that would be grossly out of character for Snape. He revels in making Harry miserable.

    To me it seems that because it was he who created the curse, he felt that it was his burden to give Harry the punishments to begin with, and even though he revels in making Harry miserable he is still the son of the woman that he loves.

    @DoctorWho22 - That Harry is Lily's son means nothing to Snape.

    While not an answer, speculation that a) Harry used it in self defense (Draco attacked first) and b) Snape had been covering for Malfoy all term.

  • ETA 4.17.14: We've spent so much time going back and forth on what constitutes an acceptable answer, and which citations are acceptable, I'm afraid I overlooked an integral part of your question. You write, Harry used a dark curse on Malfoy (in the 6th movie). I missed that you were asking about the movie version of Sectumsempra, not the book version. In the movie version, the book version is completely removed; we do not see Harry receive any punishment for hurting Draco, as you note, nor does Dumbledore bring it up or lecture Harry about it.

    The scene was changed quite drastically. Per TV Tropes, the film makers use the aftermath of Sectumsempra to alter Harry's motivation for hiding the Half-Blood Prince's book in the Room of Requirement. In the book, Harry hides the book for the selfish motivation of not wanting Snape to confiscate it. In the book, Harry really shows little feelings toward Malfoy and his friends reinforce this by stating it seemed as if Malfoy was going to cast the Cruciatus Curse, which justified Harry's actions. In the movie, Harry's motivation for hiding the book is far more contrite -- he hides the book so he can't "be tempted" (Ginny's words) to use Sectumsempra again, or explore any other dark spells that might be in the Half-Blood Prince's copy of Advanced Potions Making.

    Even though you marked the above answer as correct, I notice that Harry's exact punishment for casting Sectumsempra against Draco is not detailed as it appears in canon. As you may know, I believe a direct canon quote is a more sound and reliable citation than a link to, and a C&P from, the Wikia. Of course, you are absolutely free to disagree with me. :) Anyhow, onward! Harry and Sectumsempra:

    Yes, Harry was punished for Sectumsempra. The 1996-1997 timeline at the Harry Potter Lexicon puts the Sectumsempra incident "circa May", but does not specify an exact date in May of 1997. Regarding punishment, he received detention with Professor Snape every Saturday, starting from the time of the incident with Draco until the end of term. (I apologize in advance for the number of quotes from Half-Blood Prince, but they are all relevant and specific to the question, aside from the last one, which is a quick and (I think) amusing read.

    ‘Do you know what I think, Potter?’ said Snape, very quietly. ‘I think that you are a liar and a cheat and that you deserve detention with me every Saturday until the end of term. What do you think, Potter?’

    ‘I – I don’t agree, sir,’ said Harry, still refusing to look into Snape’s eyes.

    ‘Well, we shall see how you feel after your detentions,’ said Snape. ‘Ten o’clock Saturday morning, Potter. My office.’

    ‘But, sir ...’ said Harry, looking up desperately. ‘Quidditch ... the last match of the –’

    ‘Ten o’clock,’ whispered Snape, with a smile that showed his yellow teeth. ‘Poor Gryffindor ... fourth place this year, I fear ...’

    Half-Blood Prince - page 494 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-four, Sectumsempra

    Harry misses the last Gryffindor Quidditch match of the season, against Ravenclaw, wherein Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup, because he had to do detention with Snape, where Snape makes Harry copy by hand Filch's old records of prior wrongdoers and the punishments they received; specifically, Snape had Harry re-do the punishment cards for his father, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew:

    ‘I thought you could start,’ said Snape, a malicious smile on his lips, ‘with boxes one thousand and twelve to one thousand and fifty-six. You will find some familiar names in there, gvwhich should add interest to the task. Here, you see ...’

    He pulled out a card from one of the topmost boxes with a flourish and read, ‘“James Potter and Sirius Black. Apprehended using an illegal hex upon Bertram Aubrey. Aubrey’s head twice normal size. Double detention.”’ Snape sneered. ‘It must be such a comfort to think that, though they are gone, a record of their great achievements remains ...’


    It was, as Harry had anticipated, useless, boring work, punctuated (as Snape had clearly planned) with the regular jolt in the stomach that meant he had just read his father or Sirius’s names, usually coupled together in various petty misdeeds, occasionally accompanied by those of Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew.

    Half-Blood Prince - pages 497-498 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-four, Sectumsempra

    Note that Professor McGonagall was so angry at what Harry did to Draco that she maintained Harry was lucky to have not been expelled from Hogwarts:

    Harry had already been called out of the common room to endure fifteen highly unpleasant minutes in the company of Professor McGonagall, who had told him he was lucky not to have been expelled and that she supported whole-heartedly Snape’s punishment of detention every Saturday until the end of term.

    Half-Blood Prince -- page 495 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-four, Sectumsempra

    Frankly, I was surprised that Harry received only detention after hitting Draco with Sectumsempra -- Malfoy could have bled to death or had permanent scarring on his face and chest.

    ‘SECTUMSEMPRA!’ bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly.

    Blood spurted from Malfoy’s face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backwards and collapsed on to the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.

    ‘No –’ gasped Harry.

    Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged towards Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.

    Half-Blood Prince -- page 489 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-four, Sectumsempra

    The Sectumsempra chapter is important for three additional reasons:

    1. After Harry leaves detention and returns to Gryffindor Tower, he learns that Gryffindor has won the 1997 Quidditch Cup. He swoops Ginny up into a big ol' kiss, thus establishing the Harry/Ginny ship as canon.
    2. The Sectumsempra incident may be the only time in the entire series where Pansy Parkinson might have actually been justified in harping on Harry -- Sectumsempra is a dark and dangerous spell -- could it be fatal? I think it possibly could be if the person attacked were then left alone with their injuries -- they could potentially bleed to death.
    3. It is in the Sectumsempra chapter that Harry borrows Ron's copy of Advanced Potions Making to switch out for the Half-Blood Prince's copy, so Snape won't find out Harry has it. Ron has written his name on the inside cover with one of Fred and George's Spell-Checking quills ... and apparently didn't check the results:

    ‘This is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making that you purchased from Flourish and Blotts?’

    ‘Yes,’ said Harry firmly.

    ‘Then why,’ asked Snape, ‘does it have the name “Roonil Wazlib” written inside the front cover?’

    Harry’s heart missed a beat.

    ‘That’s my nickname,’ he said.

    ‘Your nickname,’ repeated Snape.

    ‘Yeah ... that’s what my friends call me,’ said Harry.

    ‘I understand what a nickname is,’ said Snape.

    Half-Blood Prince - pages 493-494 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-four, Sectumsempra

    Yes direct quotes are good, but does everyone really have the time to quote every single line that corresponds with an answer, instead of just saying the major jist of what had occurred in the Sectumsempra chapters?

    It's also funny because the original question wasn't what was his exact punishment, it was the question why wasn't he punished in tbe first place.

    @DoctorWho22: That Slytherincess (and others) take the time to find original quotes is part of why they are held in such high esteem on the site. (Which is not to say that you’re bad if you don’t, but people appreciate that extra time spent.)

    @DoctorWho22 - I don't answer a question unless I have the time to be extremely thorough, and that for me, includes direct quotes and canon-compliant citations. For me, this will never include the Wikia. The information at the Wikia is often incorrect. There are many, many HP questions that I don't answer because I've a million things on my plate. I did indeed answer the question: Harry was punished. He did not go unpunished. And I expounded on that. Hey, if a C&P answer from the Wikia is your gig, fine. But don't get all up in my way of doing things because you're cool with mediocrity.

    @DoctorWho22 Showing **what** the punishment was, proves that Harry *was* punished. Just because the OP says (or believes at first) that Harry wasn't punished, doesn't make it so. As always; great answer.

    @DoctorWho22 - are you seriously criticizing one of the best experts on the topic on SE for **giving excellent answers**? That is the whole point of SE. If you don't like reading good quality answers, Yahoo Answers is there and providing a wealth of unsupported statements and speculations. If you simply don't like that your own answers are held to higher standards, raising up your answer quality is as easy as finding an appropriate quote in the source.

    No it's a good answer and if they want to quote every whole lines of a book to support answering the thing that's fine. But it's pretty much literally the same answer as I posted except they added direct quotes from the book instead of paraphrasing what happens in the said chapter. Hell the person criticized my answer by saying I know you picked the correct answer as above but wait they didn't say exactly what Harry's punishment was. The original question as I said wasn't what was Harry's punishment. It was why wasn't he punished.

    @DoctorWho22 - yes. Same way an answer on StackOverflow with a piece of code is generally considered far superior to the one that merely vaguely gives "use the loop" directions. Also, your answer wasn't a paraphrase, it was a quote from Wikia. Which can be notoriously inaccurate and not supported in canon.

    Which it was proven that he did receive detentions by Snape as detailed by the other answer, so my answer was legitimate albeit not as detailed as the other person. Also the quote from the wikia is essentially what happened in the said chapters of Sectumsempra.

    @DoctorWho22 -- I noted, after the fact, that Sachin Sekhar was actually asking about the *movie* version of *Half-Blood Prince*, which differs greatly from the book re: the Sectumsempra scene. So I added an ETA and outlined those differences. I wanted to let you know in case you might want to adjust your answer in any way (I'm not saying you *should*, but but am just passing along an FYI) - :)

    Slight issue with this answer, in the book Harry is extremely remorseful

    Regarding the lethality of *Sectumsempra*, Draco is fairly clearly bleeding out in both the book and the movie scene. Spurting blood (akin to arterial bleeding), skin going white, arms going limp, collapsing to the floor – Malfoy's not going to bleed profusely only to pick himself up after a few minutes. I remember (misremember?) a line about it being a good thing that Snape came so quickly. On its face, Harry/I interpreted that to mean "or else Draco would die" – maybe not. Later is it revealed to mean "because Snape invented the spell and was uniquely able to cure it" – but maybe means both.

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