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In the chapter The Seven Potters in Deathly Hallows, we see that Lupin is aghast when he learns that Harry used Expelliarmus against Stan Shunpike (who was acting as Death Eater).

Despite going through the conversation that follows, I'm still unclear about what Lupin actually expected Harry to do?

Lupin looked aghast.

‘Harry, the time for Disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least Stun if you aren’t prepared to kill!’

Deathly Hallows - page 64 - Bloomsbury - chapter four, The Seven Potters


‘So you think I should have killed Stan Shunpike?’ said Harry angrily.

‘Of course not,’ said Lupin, ‘but the Death Eaters – frankly, most people! – would have expected you to attack back! Expelliarmus is a useful spell, Harry, but the Death Eaters seem to think it is your signature move, and I urge you not to let it become so!’

Deathly Hallows - page 64 - Bloomsbury - chapter four, The Seven Potters

The thing that is confusing for me is Lupin saying "of course not" to Harry's remark, since I could not think of any spells that could be used instead - since everything created the possibility of him falling off his broom. Is this just a general-life conflict that we can ignore (i.e. "I don't think you should kill him but do attack back, even if that kills him"?), or are there other possibilities?

Edit: This question is not a duplicate of this question since the latter focusses more on why Lupin (or any other Order member) did not foresee Expelliarmus being spotted as Harry's signature move. My question, on the other hand, is concerned with what they think would be a good solution (in an aerial battle like this, specifically) even if they did foresee the whole Expelliarmus fiasco.

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    @redbeam_ while the proposed duplicate asks about this same conversation between Lupin and Harry, none of the answers address the question of what spell Lupin thinks Harry should have used (although I think the first quote Stun if you aren’t prepared to kill! suggests the answer). – Blackwood Sep 8 '18 at 23:40
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    @Blackwood, doesn't really make sense though in a situation when stunning would kill just as effectively as any other, nominally more lethal, spell. – Harry Johnston Sep 9 '18 at 0:24
  • @HarryJohnston I see what you mean, but that's an argument you should take up with Lupin. – Blackwood Sep 9 '18 at 0:29
  • Given that Expelliarmus has been known to knock people off their feet with quite a thump (Snape’s knocks Lockhart off his feet, backwards off the stage and into a wall), I’ve always wondered more why Harry bothered using it over Stupefy. Realistically, Expelliarmus seems pretty much just as likely to get him killed as a Stunning spell. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '18 at 0:47
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There are lots of options:

There should be lots of spells, hexes and jinxes which we didn't see in the books or movies. And, Harry could use most of them as he had 6 years of magic education and he even practiced offensive spells in Dumbledore's Army.

Interesting thing is that Harry even used Impedimenta and Confringo during Battle of Seven Potters. From Pottermore:

‘I’m comin’, Harry!’ Hagrid yelled from out of the darkness, but Harry could feel the sidecar beginning to sink again: crouching as low as he could, he pointed at the middle of the oncoming figures and yelled, ‘Impedimenta!’

The jinx hit the middle Death Eater in the chest: for a moment the man was absurdly spread-eagled in mid-air as though he had hit an invisible barrier: one of his fellows almost collided with him..

And, Harry even knocked one Death Eater out of his broom..

As they soared upwards, away from the two remaining Death Eaters, Harry spat blood out of his mouth, pointed his wand at the falling sidecar, and yelled, ‘Confringo!’

He knew a dreadful, gut-wrenching pang for Hedwig as it exploded; the Death Eater nearest it was blasted off his broom and fell from sight; his companion fell back and vanished.

The bottom line is: Harry did great for most of the part, but then he did something only a noob would do. He tried to disarm a Death Eater which was surprising to that Death Eater (Wait! Harry previously even tried to disarm Voldemort). Lupin expected Harry to not use his signature spell. Lupin expected Harry to not use noob spells. Lupin expected Harry to hit bad and not see the result whether the Death Eater ended up being dead or badly injured. So long as Harry doesn't use Avada Kedavra, the circumstances can be blamed for the death. This is the best any good person can do at war. This is what Lupin meant.

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    Apart, perhaps, from Obliviate (which would be a bit odd and probably not very effective in this situation anyway), all those would almost certainly be lethal without some kind of fall-protection charm, hence bringing us back to square one. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '18 at 23:10
  • @Janus Updated the answer. – I Love You 3000 Sep 9 '18 at 23:32
  • Ah, yes. Obliviate is satisfactory enough for me! @Janus, not sure why you think it wouldn't have been very effective? – Mallika Sep 10 '18 at 4:42
  • "Stupefy" seems the most likely to me - it's analogous to throwing a punch (Lupin obviously wants Harry to fight back) but without using deadly force. – DavidS Sep 10 '18 at 8:56
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    Lupin knew of Sectumsempra without Harry: “Snape’s work,” said Lupin. “ Snape ?” shouted Harry. “You didn’t say — ” “He lost his hood during the chase. Sectumsempra was always a specialty of Snape’s. – Alex Sep 12 '18 at 5:05
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Is this just a general-life conflict that we can ignore

I think you've got the basic idea here, but perhaps it could do with a little more detail.

When Lupin says "Of course not." he is responding to Harry's implicit accusation that he thought Stan ought to die, that killing Stan (or any other hypothetical attacker) would be the morally correct action even if it were not necessary under the circumstances. That's not what Lupin meant, and he certainly doesn't want to encourage Harry to become a cold-blooded killer like Voldemort.

He then goes on to explain why in these particular circumstances it was in fact necessary (in his opinion) for Harry to defend himself using lethal force, and that (again, in his opinion) Harry's failure to do so put him in an unacceptable level of risk.


In my opinion, although Lupin's advice is sound in principle, it ignores the fact that Harry is from that particular heroic tradition which means that no level of risk is unacceptable when it comes to saving an innocent life. Lupin is being altogether too practical, and not genre-savvy enough. :-)

Out of universe, it would be jarring for the audience for Harry to deliberately kill in self-defense, or even to accept that he "should" have done so. He is capable of killing - he attempted to kill Snape towards the end of The Half-Blood Prince - but that was out of anger, not fear. Even so, that perhaps made it necessary to re-establish Harry's heroic credentials, which creates the interesting possibility that this is exactly why the scene with Stan Shunpike was written in the first place.

  • Thanks, that makes a lot of sense - the "of course not" being more of an answer to what Harry's implicit accusation. This also makes the follow-up explanation more relevant. – Mallika Sep 10 '18 at 4:53
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Lupin's two statements seem to be referring to two different things

When Lupin first says:

“Harry, the time for Disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least Stun if you aren’t prepared to kill!”

He is referring to fighting Death Eaters in general. He is telling Harry that ideally he should be trying to kill Death Eaters, but if he can't handle the Killing Curse he should at least do something that can inflict damage, and possibly even result in a Death Eater death.

In response to this Harry tells Lupin that Stan is not himself, and stunning him would have killed him. In other words, Harry is telling Lupin that Stan is innocent and does not deserve to be killed.

Lupin then agrees that in the specific case of Stan Shunpike Harry was correct to not kill him, or even stun him which could have killed him. However, Lupin then makes an additional point which is that even in a situation where it would be improper to kill someone, Harry still should not be disarming them. Disarming makes one look weak and incapable of mounting any form of attack. It also does no damage to the opponent and gives him the opportunity to escape (and therefore perhaps return to another battle and cause more damage). Lupin thus tells Harry that even when he does not want to kill, he still has to attack. By attacking he shows that he is a serious opponent, and he might even be able to incapacitate his target.

Thus, Lupin was not referring to a specific spell that Harry should have used. He merely meant that Harry should be using offensive magic even when not trying to kill someone, rather than disarming which is defensive magic.

There are, of course, spells that can attack without killing. Indeed, in this very battle Snape uses Sectumsempra against George non-lethally.

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Lupin looked aghast.

‘Harry, the time for Disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and >kill you! At least Stun if you aren’t prepared to kill!’

We only know of 1 spell that can stun and it is below:

Stupefy:

And from the wiki:

Stuns victim. If used too forcefully, it will put the victim in an unconscious >state.

Since stupefy is presumably learned at a young age-this spell is most likely what Lupin meant.

  • This doesn’t actually answer the question that was asked. The quote you give is what brought on the question, not the answer to it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '18 at 0:41
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    Stunning somebody who is flying on a broomstick would generally result in them falling, with no way of saving themselves. A fall from the height they were at would almost certainly be fatal. – Anthony Grist Sep 9 '18 at 0:56
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    "If used too forcefully, it will put the victim in an unconscious state". What's the meaning of "if used too forcefully" here? The whole point of the spell is to put the victim in an unconscious state. – QuestionAuthority Sep 9 '18 at 11:59
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    @QuestionAuthority, an interesting point; it is called the Stunning Spell so one would expect it to merely stun the victim, not knock them unconscious. I don't recall offhand how the effect is described in the books, does it really do more than stun under normal circumstances? – Harry Johnston Sep 9 '18 at 19:44
  • @HarryJohnston Thanks for the reference, I always assumed the stunning spell is to make the victim unconscious, and ennervate to wake them up. – QuestionAuthority Sep 9 '18 at 21:25

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