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Is he saying he doesn’t like the playful attitude? Or is he cynically referring to part of the joke?

I’m reading a Harry Potter book and found ‘I don’t care …’ in a scene. For the moment, I have three interpretations for that.

  1. I don’t care for your joke. I don’t like your attitude. Don’t make fun of me when I’m worrying seriously.

  2. I don’t care if you are attacked by a dragon or whatever. (He is replying by a little cynical comment.)

  3. (Either is possible. Only the speaker knows the truth.)

Would you read the following citation and tell me what it means? (It’d be nice if you could also tell me how you knew that; it’ll help me a lot when I read other books.)

“Now listen …” He looked particularly hard at Harry. “I don’t want you lot sneaking out of school to see me, all right? Just send notes to me here. I still want to hear about anything odd. But you’re not to go leaving Hogwarts without permission; it would be an ideal opportunity for someone to attack you.”

”No one’s tried to attack me so far, except a dragon and a couple of grindylows,” Harry said, but Sirius scowled at him.

"I don’t care … I’ll breathe freely again when this tournament’s over, and that’s not until June. And don’t forget, if you’re talking about me among yourselves, call me Snuffles, okay? (Harry Potter 4 [US Version]: p.41)[Bold font is mine]

N.B.: Sirius is Harry’s godfather, a wanted person for a crime he didn’t commit, seriously worrying that villains could attack Harry any moment. Harry is a little annoyed with his parental affection as teenagers often do. So he is trying to turn Sirius’s earnest words into ridicule, by referring to a dragon and grindylows, which Harry has already gotten over through the wizard tournament.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Your interpretations are close, but I don't think they quite capture the mood. Sirius is not being sarcastic or completely dismissive, but he is showing that he is very worried about Harry and feels protective of him. Harry isn't making a joke -- he is saying that he doesn't feel like anything bad will happen.

In this passage, when Sirius says "I don't care", he is saying that he is worried even though Harry is trying to assure him that nobody is attacking him. This is why his sentence goes on,

I'll breathe freely again when this tournament's over...

In English, to "breathe freely" means to feel unburdened and worry-free.

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Thanks. Well, I tend to read too much when there’s a question in the part. I could kick myself. Thanks again. –  user7493 Jul 29 '11 at 21:01
    
@totoro No problem. I can tell from your questions that you're trying to understand (rather than asking questions for the sake of asking questions). I'm happy to help. And don't kick yourself -- a lot of this is idiomatic, or something you need to learn with a context. –  simchona Jul 29 '11 at 21:07
    
That’s encouraging to hear! Thank you! –  user7493 Jul 29 '11 at 21:24
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The "I don't care" can be rewritten
"It does not make me feel calmer that no one’s tried to attack you so far"

His uncle knows that Harry has not been attacked by anything that was really determined to kill him. The Dragon was protecting his egg and the grindylows just wanted to eat or play with him.

He is worried that if Harry meets "real danger" no-one can protect him if he is not inside the school grounds

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@mplunbjan: I like yours better. –  simchona Jul 29 '11 at 7:32
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