Musings on “The Freshman”

And yes, thanks to Mark Reads Harry Potter, my mind is currently stuck in the Harry Potter ‘Verse.


STOP READING IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED. ((Be like Mark. Be strong! You’ll enjoy the books better this way—and I say this as someone who tends to ignore the whole “don’t read spoilers” advice.))

Of course, I’ve been listening to moody music, and so of course I decided to search for “The Freshman” by The Verve Pipe in combination with Harry Potter on YouTube.

Now, a strange comment I’ve seen on some of the related videos is, “What a strange thing to do, because the song is about abortion.”

I can only assume this comment is made by someone who either has never had, or believes they never had, cause to regret anything in their life. Especially something that impacted oneself, or friends and family, or acquaintances, or even random passers-by.

On the surface, the song is indeed about the singer’s girlfriend who had an abortion ((No suicides were actually committed IRL.)); but in the larger sense, it’s about regretful decisions that you make when you’re young and arrogant; “When I was young I knew everything.”

And then, perhaps if you’re quite arrogant due to youth, you deny responsibility. “I won’t be held responsible; she fell in love in the first place.”

And then, if you grow, you regret. Denial makes the regret even worse, and I think regret increases exponentially over the years. The worse the consequences, the worse the regret. “For the life of me, I cannot believe we’d ever die for these sins—we were merely freshmen.”

This song speaks to everyone who’s done this kind of thing, which is quite a lot of people.

Of course, this applies to a lot of the individual character stories in the Harry Potter series, which is part of why the books speak so much to people—particularly in the later half of the series. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following life stories that this song’s theme would apply to.

  • The easiest example is probably the Marauders. Their stories are quite sad, by the end of book seven they’re all dead. The consequences of their choices destroyed them all; the most obvious being Peter Pettigrew’s betrayal of the Potters years ago, resulting in their deaths, helped Voldemort return to power and indirectly caused the death of both Sirius and Lupin, and eventually his own.

    But James and Sirius also bullied Snape insanely when they were in Hogwarts together, turning them into enemies. For Sirus, this definitely sped up the future date of his death when Snape almost certainly didn’t give him enough information at that crucial time in book 5. Lupin never stopped them back then, and Peter simply joined in the fun regardless, which obviously made the situation worse, and then it festered for years.

    Much later in life, Sirius also treated Kreacher with utmost disrespect, and retribution came back and bit him in the ass quite fatally.

    Of the four, we only knew Lupin’s regret; James, Sirius, and Peter don’t appear to have done so, no matter how much one may wish that weren’t the case.

  • Perhaps the second easiest example is Harry himself, in particular his decision to rush forwards in book 5, resulting in the death of Sirius. Yeah. This song so applies to all of that.

  • The back story of Dumbledore is basically all this, from Ariana’s death onwards. (And probably he looked back in life and regretted his treatment of her before her death. 20/20 hindsight is a bitch that way.) The rest of his life was basically spent as The Atoner.

    Grindlewald may also be considered The Atoner as well, much later in life after imprisonment due to the atrocities he committed for “The Greater Good.”

    Both dead through the eventual consequences of their own actions.

  • The back story of Snape is also all this, from the time he realized Voldemort was targeting the Potters and, by proxy, his beloved Lily as well. Yeah. Also spent a large portion of his life as The Atoner, despite it probably not coming naturally to him at first.

    Also dead through same.

  • Every story in Tales of Beedle the Bard is this. Though whether the character realize this is quite another matter.

“We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip….”

By the way, before someone decides to use this as evidence that I regret leaving my parents: fuck no, I don’t regret that. I do regret the friends I’ve had to cut off, the places I had to leave, and wondering if, somehow, I could have made things turn out different, forged a path that didn’t hurt me or other people so much. But this is rather unlikely, because there’s only so much you can come up with in the short time when you’ve gotten home from research and see that your parents who want to kill you are milling about in the dorm lobby.


4 thoughts on “Musings on “The Freshman”

  1. I have loads of regrets, most to do with figuring out too late, usually years late, that I had entirely misunderstood what was going on. I think I was often unkind, and certainly emotionally clueless, and while I did not intend hurt, I caused it anyway. If there is anything to the notion of Purgatory, I expect I’ll be cozy with it for a few millenia. Be nice to have a chance to make amends.

    I expect in your life may be some regrets, not through fault, but from having to make hard choices. You have had to choose between survival and not. Low level choices like that would not leave much room for drawing room nuance. But at the end of the day, you’re still here, still able to say yes or no, according to what you value, and that is a great thing. It really is.

  2. Regarding “wondering if, somehow, I could have made things turn out different”… One of the features of life is that, for any situation, there was probably a better way to handle it. But a better way existing doesn’t automatically mean you can carry it out; it might be most efficient to leap across a chasm in one mighty bound, but if you personally aren’t capable of such a mighty bound, you’re going to be constructing a bridge or rappelling down and back up.

    By the way, any chance that the ‘latest comments’ sidebar feature will come back? The new site design looks very nice—coffee-colors on my monitor—but I miss the easy way to see what conversations were active.

  3. pericat, *hugs*

    Wogglebug, ah, good point. And latest comments is now in the sidebar again. :)

  4. Wogglebug, the way I’ve heard it is that you do the best you can with what you have, and then what you’ve done is what you have for going on with.

    I could do with some ‘save’ points, though, y’know? I expect lots of us could. And yet that’d probably make more trouble than it solves. But, frex, I wish I’d managed that thing with those people in, oh, 1988, say, well enough to get the Easter egg. Or at least feel like less of a scumbag. But in the end, the best I can do is to try to screw up in entirely new ways. :)

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