The eccentric editor of The Quibbler almost doomed the wizarding world. But how many parents in his position would have done the same?
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a tense read because there was so much more at stake than our heroes’ lives. After all, if Harry had failed to find the Horcruxes, imagine the horrors Voldemort would have unleashed: mass Muggle killings, the persecution of ‘Mudbloods’ and the slaughter of all who stood with Harry and defied the Dark Lord. Who in their right mind would risk such a terrible future?

‘I’d feel so sorry for Xenophilius if –’
‘– if he hadn’t just tried to sell us to the Death Eaters, yeah,’ said Ron.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This deed was pretty unforgivable. But Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s dad, was forced to face the question every parent fears – how far would you go to save your own child?

Harry Ron and Hermione outside the Lovegood house

‘Lovegood’s on your side, Harry, The Quibbler’s been for you all along, it keeps telling everyone they’ve got to help you!’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

One of the most painful feelings in these chapters is betrayal. Harry had previously found support and solidarity through The Quibbler and its editor. Never one to shy away from unpopular views, Lovegood boldly published Harry’s story during a Ministry-led smear-campaign headed by the Daily Prophet. With the truth finally in print, Harry’s Quibbler interview helped win the favour of his fellow students, boosted further when Dolores Umbridge tried to have the magazine banned. As the world turned dark and dangerous, The Quibbler continued to be an avid supporter of Harry Potter.

It was, therefore, such a surprise when the trio called upon the Lovegoods, only to be greeted by a jittery, dishevelled mess of a man who seemed reluctant to help in any way. Even before his true intentions were revealed, Ron called Xenophilius a ‘cowardly old wart’ and Hermione agreed:

‘Awful old hypocrite, telling everyone else to help you and trying to worm out of it himself.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Where was the firebrand journalist who was so determined to deliver truth to the masses? And, more worryingly, where was Luna?

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It transpired that Luna had been taken hostage by the Death Eaters, setting up Xenophilius as a potential informant while punishing him for his pro-Potter stance. Xenophilius was clearly terrified, which brought him to make an awful decision – trade Harry for Luna’s life.

‘It’s Potter, I tell you, it’s Potter!’ sobbed Xenophilius. ‘Please ... please ... give me Luna, just let me have Luna ...’
‘You can have your little girl, Lovegood,’ said Selwyn, ‘if you get up those stairs and bring me down Harry Potter. But if this is a plot, if it’s a trick, if you’ve got an accomplice waiting up there to ambush us, we’ll see if we can spare a bit of your daughter for you to bury.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We didn’t want to see Luna harmed either, and we knew what the Death Eaters were capable of (for example, Frank and Alice Longbottom. Some fates are worse than death). However, it was complicated – we also loved Harry, Ron and Hermione, who came to the Lovegood house looking for help. We’d watched them endure hardship upon hardship and we knew they were the only ones who could save the world. Fortunately, they escaped, but how can we reconcile our understanding of his situation with what Xenophilius was prepared to do?

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Logically, his decision made little sense. Did he really expect Luna, an outspoken ally of Harry Potter, to be freed with no further repercussions? That she’d go home to her daddy and they’d carry on their lives as normal in a Voldemort-dominated world? Not only had Xenophilius misjudged the situation, he’d also misjudged his daughter’s integrity and bravery. Was she the type to just give up the fight, go home and never breathe another word about her rebel friends for the rest of her days? Of course not. Luna would never risk her friends’ lives for her own, so it felt wrong for her father to do so on her behalf.

But we must remember that Luna was all Xenophilius had after losing Luna’s mother, Pandora. All children are precious to their parents, but Luna represented so much to her father – she was all that was left of his wife and, from the sounds of it, his only remaining family. He couldn’t picture the world beyond Luna, because Luna was his world.

Re-reading these chapters with hindsight reveals just how desperate Xenophilius had become and how conflicted he felt. He’d spent weeks trying to bargain with the Death Eaters for his daughter’s return, knowing his own work in The Quibbler caused her to be kidnapped in the first place. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the one thing that could free Luna suddenly appeared right on his doorstep. How unlikely was this opportunity? To someone like Xenophilius, this would almost seem like fate. If he was going to act, he would have to act fast…

Xenophilius Lovegood being attacked by Dementors in the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Xenophilius looked ghastly, a century old, his lips drawn back into a dreadful leer.
‘They will be here at any moment. I must save Luna. I cannot lose Luna. You must not leave.’
He spread his arms in front of the staircase, and Harry had a sudden vision of his mother doing the same thing in front of his cot.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

That one man could throw away the last hope of wizardkind seems unthinkable. But to be blinded by pure love is something everyone, even Harry, can understand.

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