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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Half-Blood Prince Review: Up to the Next Level

Let's get the obligatory review paragraph out of the way first. I agree with Melissa (who finished the book about 8 hours after I put our copy down): this is the best book in the series since Prisoner of Azkaban. The story J.K. Rowling wrote for this volume is both thrilling and tragic, and more importantly, it does exactly what it needs to do: it takes to the whole tale of Harry Potter to the next level, and beyond....only you may not realize it until you're nearly finished with the book.

Okay, now on to discussion. There's a lot that needs to be said about this book, and you can't say it while worried about spoilers. You've been warned.


I mentioned in my "Pottermania" post last year that:

"the next book simply must be some kind of 'Battle for Hogwarts'-type story....[H]ow could Rowling make us believe that another year could go by, with Draco and Co. occasionally attempting to kill Harry, or at least being suspected of such, without everything coming to some sort of crisis? I can't see how she could do it; for Rowling to put off some sort of internal Gryffindor/Potter/Slytherin/Malfoy showdown (with Snape playing a fascinating, unclear role) until the seventh volume would be untrue to her overall story, to say the least."

My reasons for feeling this way were numerous, but they all boiled down to my conviction that ever since Voldemort was resurrected at the end of Goblet of Fire, the wizarding world, and in particular Harry Potter's part of it, was living on borrowed time. He's here, and determined to kill Harry Potter--even with the protection of Dumbledore and all sorts of powerful magic, how can the world of Hogwarts, the environment through which Harry moves and grows, remain an oasis? In Order of the Phoenix, Rowling was able to stretch things out by creating dissension among the ranks of wizards; in terms of the overall plot, the fate of Hogwarts and Malfoy and Snape and all the rest of the elements of Harry's world were caused to teeter but not go over the edge, solely because Voldemort was presented as wishing to make use of the doubt surrounding him and Dumbledore. The result was a satisfying, but also frustrating, adventure: you kept waiting for everything to come crashing down, and in the meantime so much of the book, despite brilliant characters and plot devices, seemed plodding and overwrought. The final climax, with the fight with the Death-Eaters, Sirius's death, and the revelation of the prophecy by Dumbledore to Harry, gave us what was necessary, but not what was sufficient. My impression, and the impression of many others, was that Order of the Phoenix was about clearing away brush, getting the final stage set up. It was good, but too long and not terribly rewarding; still, it got the job done and now, finally, with the sixth volume, we'd see Harry's world truly change.

By the time I was more than halfway through Half-Blood Prince yesterday, I thought Rowling wasn't pulling it off. Yes, I was intrigued, excited, and gratified by all the scenes with and information about Snape, Malfoy, and Voldemort; learning about Tom Riddle's history was fascinating, the introduction of the horcruxes was mysterious, and the tension with the Ministry over the war with Voldemort's followers was persuasive and affecting. But still, this exposition-heavy tale seemed sometimes like a retread from the first three books of the series: Dumbledore mysteriously sharing, and then withholding, of information; Harry's friends and allies still misunderstanding or distrusting one another; etc. I thought: Rowling doesn't get it; she doesn't see what kind of action she needs to bring on to live up to the stage she's unintentionally set; she still wants it to be a nice kids-at-school, growing-up book, when actually she's taken apart every reason to believe such an environment could sustain the weight of Harry's story; and so forth. I was liking it, but I was also disappointed in it. Despite all the new stuff--the appearance of new characters and relationships, and the sidelining of others--a lot of it felt like another Order of the Phoenix or worse: just treading water, while we await some new marker to tell us that the real finale is that much closer.

And then I hit the mid-point of chapter 25.

From that point (Harry's conversation with Trelawney) until the end, without let-up, Rowling rips one assumption (delusion?) out of the way after another. We learn that Snape's betrayal of Harry goes back to the original, fatal betrayal of his parents; we see Dumbledore weak and fearful in a horrifying scene of evil magic in the cave, and dependent upon Harry to complete his task; finally we see that everything that Harry has been obsessing about and warning people about for the entire book--and really for the entire series if you think about it--is correct: Snape is an agent of Voldemort, his betrayal is total, he has been guiding and manipulating Draco, and who knows who else, against Voldemort's foes from the very beginning. I re-read chps. 27 and 28 over again, searching for any sort of hint that there is some level yet hidden, some machination guiding the action. (Perhaps Dumbledore was pleading for Snape to kill him, because the potion he had drunk was slowly and painfully killing him? But that doesn't sound like Dumbledore at all, and anyway, how would Snape have known where Dumbledore and Harry had been?) I don't think there is. I think Rowling told us the score right from the book's beginning, when Snape makes the Unbreakable Vow to complete Draco's task; it is we, the readers, who listened to Dumbledore and trusted him, and assumed--along with everyone else, except Harry--that such an evil pact must not be the whole story, that the truth is yet to be discovered, the last shoe yet to be dropped. Well, guess what? Harry was right, we--and everyone else--was wrong. Harry had made the leap to the next level; it was the Ministry, Professor McGonagall and all the rest of the Hogwarts faculty, even Ron and Hermione, even Dumbledore himself, with all his lectures and assurances, who hadn't. I think this is something Rowling intended us to realize, once everything (literally in the case of the tower!) came crashing down: we readers were looking for something that was right in front of our eyes all along, which we still didn't see, because we allowed ourselves to believe (for reasons not dissimilar to those of all of Rowling's fictional characters) other than our most obvious impressions. The incredible, tour-de-force chapter "The Flight of the Prince" might be the best thing Rowling has ever written--yes, in a sense it's just another magical shoot-out, but thematically, with the chaos and confrontations, the fires and explosions, Snape and Potter screaming defiantly at one another, tearing away at every duplicity and bit of false decorum that Rowling had woven into their relationship for six years....it left me in shivers. Yes, she takes it to the next level all right, and does it in a way that leaves as shocked and wounded as her characters themselves. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

As for details--well, obviously my guess about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince was completely off. Snape was one of my suspects, but I was thinking about the prince as someone related to or involved in Voldemort's immortality; that he would have an entirely different significance in the book was completely off my radar. I was gratified that Draco's fate was made so central to the story, since I would have loathed for Draco to senselessly remain a bit player in Rowling's story (and I'm very anxious to see what becomes of him; like Peter Pettigrew, I suspect that he may, in the end, turn out to be an ally). The horcruxes are close enough to the means I imagined for Voldemort's immortality that I'll claim I got that one right. And, of course, with Dumbledore dead, Draco and Snape having fled, and Harry determined to move on, the central complication of Hogwarts in the story has essentially been resolved (or at least rendered moot). But who cares about all that now? What of the final volume?

Melissa reminds me that there are still a couple of important things we need to learn about Snape before the end. In particular, while we agree that Rowling is not pulling readers' legs, and really does consider Snape to have been essentially and fully revealed, it think it may be still important to understand how he came to take that Unbreakable Vow: was he happy to assist in Dumbledore's murder, a true "believer" in Voldemort, or was he a selfish and wretched man who kept playing both sides, until in a moment of challenge (Narcissa's pleading request, with Bellatrix suspiciously watching) he committed himself because he could imagine no other choice. (Perhaps part of the loathing Rowling says was in Snape's face when he killed Dumbledore was a hatred that comes from his self-deluded belief that Dumbledore's (mis)use of him had brought this on himself?) I also suspect that somewhere along the line, it'll be revealed that Snape, back during his student days, had been crazy about Lily Evans--and perhaps had hated himself for loving a Mudblood like her--which of course made her marriage to James Potter, Gryffindor hero, all the more galling, and his particular hatred of their son that much more clear. (My evidence for this guess? Apparently, Lily was very good at potions, Snape's area of expertise....) Of course, there is also the new mystery of "R.A.B.," who we learn has already stolen one of Voldemort's horcruxes and (perhaps) destroyed it. My guess is that it will be someone we've never heard of before, someone utterly disconnected from Harry's and the Ministry's world. And why not? Are we to think that Voldemort, through all his years of terror, made no other crusading, determined opponents besides those associated with either the Ministry of Magic or Hogwarts? Speaking of which....I think Rowling will have Harry be true to his final words in Half-Blood Prince; I think that Harry's relationship with Hogwarts in the final book will be, if not merely marginal, than highly unusual: perhaps he'll become a teacher (someone has to replace Snape!), or will only use it as a base of operations. I just don't think Rowling, having delivered this powerhouse wallop, will back off and return her story to "normal"; I expect the final volume to feature a very different Harry, acting on his own or with his friends and allies (perhaps a reformed Draco? a revealed R.A.B.?) to carry out his mission. Freed from the Hogwarts routine, I hope we finally see a lot more of characters who deserve a chance to shine: the now wounded Bill Weasley and all the rest of Ron's older brothers, Luna, and Neville, who I strongly suspect and fear is down on Rowling's "won't-make-it-out-alive" list. (And while we're at it, bring back Victor Krum!) Harry Potter, badass? Well, after this book, I think it's about time, don't you?


Anonymous said...

The fandom seems to be going the other way on Snape: that he did what he did in the service of Dumbledore. The reasoning seems to be:

1. there was eye contact, which aids mind-to-mind contact, between two men who are known to be be able to make such contact (although Snape is also meant to be unusually good at preventing it, even, possibly, by Voldemort and Dumbledore)

2. there was considerable canon setup for Dumbledore being not at all afraid of death -- why did he plead with Snape? (I consider this one weak, after all, we know from the potion scene that Dumbledore experiences fear and pain and is capable of pleading; and even if he doesn't fear death he has good reason to fear and plead if he's been wrong about Snape for nearly seventeen years)

3. Dumbledore had information via Harry that Snape had made an Unbreakable Vow. Dumbledore therefore must have either known the truth of the vow; had been lied to by Snape about its contents; or was unaware of the vow and should have become suspcious then. Given Dumbledore's unsurprise at Harry's news, one of the first two is true and therefore Dumbledore and Snape may have agreed in advance that should it become necessary to remain undercover, Snape would kill Dumbledore.

4. If Snape's ultimate loyalty (and perhaps love) is really to Dumbledore, his look of revulsion before killing him can be read as revulsion at the task, and Dumbledore's pleading as an attempt to hold Snape to his task (or the whole thing was an act for Harry).

5. Snape subsequently does not attempt to use the Unforgivable Curses against Harry (Voldemort has apparently ordered them not to kill him, but Crucio doesn't do that) or in fact, any of the very disabling curses which we know he was capable of inventing even as a school boy, he just used impediments and momentary pain. Draco did much better at the beginning of the novel against Harry. I consider this one of the stronger arguments for the fandom position: if Snape is now openly Voldemort's man, why was he still so restrained about hurting Harry?

6. Snape is so angry about being called a coward by Harry

7. there's some unresolved issues about how much Harry liked the Half-Blood Prince (I think he's referred to as "the clever boy who helped Harry so much" as Harry is dealing with Snape's betrayal)

The fandom of course contains a considerable number of people who have enormous fandom-crushes on Snape and would certainly be inclined to a triple-crossing reading of the scene. I had your reading initially: after reading a lot of the fandom response I'm now agnostic on what Rowling is actually trying to do. In many ways the reading you have is more appealing for precisely the reasons you give. Dumbledore was fatally wrong. Harry was right. The baton has passed to Harry. If Dumbledore and Snape did plot it between them, then Harry is not yet adult: he is still Dumbledore's pawn even after the man's death.

In either case there's some interesting unresolved questions about Snape's motivations with regard to Draco. We know that Draco has failed at a task to which he was appointed or ordered to make up for his father's failures, later feared and regretted taking on greatly, and to which he is held by threats against his family. Does Snape care about Draco at all, beyond favouring him in class because he was Harry's enemy? What amount of help does his Vow bind him to give to Draco? (I can't recall the wording, but surely Narcissa would have been anxious to bind Snape into helping her son *beyond* the failure she foresaw perfectly well?) Did Snape just take Draco straight to Voldemort and hand him over for sport? 

Posted by Mary

Anonymous said...

If anyone is interested in the fandom (I'm reading the reactions because I need some substitute for the next book), the Daily Snitch is the place to get them:


Posted by Mary

Anonymous said...


Thanks for filling me in so thoroughly on the opposite arguments out there!

Re #1-#4: I really think Occam's Razor disposes of most of these (i.e., when the text says someone has "hatred and revulsion" on their face when they kill someone, it presumably means they're being motivated at least partly by, well, hatred and revulsion). Some of them have obvious responses; others stretch the imagination.

Re #5: you're right, that is a strong argument, but not an insurmountable one. The Death-Eaters had been defeated (one of them killed), Voldemort had (according to Snape's overheard comment) been given orders not to kill Harry, they were on the run and, as all the other Death-Eaters apparently considered Snape to be their leader, he had a responsibility to get them all out of there while also fending off the hated boy chasing him. No time for complicated magic; just knock Harry around while getting everyone away from Hogwarts.

Re #6: actually, this one really makes me think. It's meaning is ambiguous, but clearly Rowling is implying something there. Hmmm...

Re #7: I don't understand what you're getting at with this one.

"In many ways the reading you have is more appealing for precisely the reasons you give. Dumbledore was fatally wrong. Harry was right. The baton has passed to Harry. If Dumbledore and Snape did plot it between them, then Harry is not yet adult: he is still Dumbledore's pawn even after the man's death."

This sums up my interpretation of Rowling's purposes wonderfully well, Mary. As things stand now, I would say that to be handed a triple-cross plan that Harry is obliged to learn about only after the fact (oh hell, maybe Dumbledore has left him a secret message  that, let's see, he has to go on a quest to discover) would be a terrible mistake on Rowling's part; it would make the final chapters of HBP into a giant McGuffin rather than an actual story. But she's a good enough writer that, well, who knows? Maybe I'll eat these words someday. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

My problem with Snape being finally really bad is that then the world JKR created is a world with no redemption, no way of making amends: people who are bad stay bad always. I am not a fan of Snape and wanted him to be not what he seemed all along -- and yet, now that I was shown that, I have, I think, changed my mind. Draco will perhaps show some redemption; I don't think Percy did bad enough, and I don't think Peter Pettigrew will change. And on one level, that's reasonable, perhaps: if you're bad enough, you don't change. But we don't get the impression that Snape ever killed as a Death Eater.

The other possibility is that RAB is Sirius's brother, who will show the redemption; that, to me, is a Cedric kind of deus ex machina. 

Posted by wolfangel

Anonymous said...

How does the etiquette go here? First time poster...

Here's a question that, for me, inclines me to believe that there is more to Snape than what we get at the end of the book:

Why on earth do the Death Eaters (and Voldemort) insist that it be Draco who kills Dumbledore? Surely it can't just be to punish Lucius, which is what's hinted at. There are a number of Death Eaters in the room with Harry and Dumbledore, any one of whom could have done the deed, but they keep repeating that it is only for Draco to do (paraphrase.) This inclines me to believe that Snape knowingly took the Unbreakable Vow and killed Dumbledore so that Draco would not be able to do the deed.

One reason this seems meaningful to me: surely Voldemort doesn't think that Draco can really kill Dumbledore -- after all, Dumbledore is at least an even match for Voldemort himself.

To be fair, none of this explains why Dumbledore seems to be pleading with Snape. And I don't see any reason why it should be important that Draco kill Dumbledore.

Another possibility to consider: that Narcissa set Snape up -- forced him to take the Unbreakable Vow, with two purposes: (1) to test Snape's loyalty to Voldemort, and (2) to make sure that Dumbledore was killed, since surely she (and the others) knew that Draco wouldn't be able to accomplish the task. Snape found himself forced to do it in order to maintain his cover (and also, of course, because he's taken the Vow), reasoning that this would be the best way to bring down Voldemort. Of course I acknowledge that this is a *very* strained reading.

Anyways, I'm glad there are at least a couple of adults out there who are as obsessed with HP as I am! I quite enjoy your blog, thanks for the good read.

(PS, haven't read the fandom reactions yet, so maybe all this has been said.)  

Posted by M

Anonymous said...

I would be very surprised if this is a simple case of Snape going back to being evil. He kills Dumbledore quickly, without so much of a word of mocking (no "your trust was always your weak point" etc.). When he is later mocking Harry he insults Harry's father but says nothing about Dumbledore. Finally, I'm convinced the "DON'T CALL ME A COWARD" is because Snape has just committed the bravest act of his life. As I'm sure D. instructed him to do, he has sacrificed his only real protector on the good side so that he can truly go into deep cover with the death eaters. I predict that Snape will ultimately sacrifice himself in some important way to save Harry/destroy Voldemort. There's a reason why D. never really tells anyone why he trusts Snape so completely. I imagine we'll find out at some point. I really think it's just far too easy and unlike Rowling for Snape to simply turn bad.

Loved the book. It was just what it needed to be and then some more. 

Posted by Happy Fishes

Anonymous said...


Re #7, I was giving what is usually frowned on in fandom, an argument from thematic rationale. (The "Harry needs to be an adult" argument is another such. It's interesting that fandom doesn't like these so-called "world external" arguments.) However, some people have seized on this one. The argument in fuller form is:

1. Harry really liked the Half-Blood Prince for helping him learn, for being just as good at Potions as Snape and a better teacher. He defended the HBP against Ginny's initial suspicion and Hermione's increasing concerns.

2. Snape the horrible teacher and despicable traitor was the HBP.

3. Therefore, Harry needs to reconcile these two views of Snape: the nasty and smart boy and the evil man.

One obvious way is for Harry to learn that nasty and smart boys who help you with Potions sometimes grow up into evil men. The other is for Snape to turn out to be more like the nasty and smart boy than Harry yet realises: ie by not actually being evil. Fandom prefers the second hypothesis. 

Posted by Mary

Anonymous said...

Regarding all this talk about how Rowling's universe would be without "redemption" if Snape turns out bad through and through....it strikes me, I have to say, as a kind of dark romantic cliche. He's the tragic hero; he's like Judas, Dumbledore's greatest friend and simultaneously his greatest threat. I don't buy it. It reduces the whole tale to something out of Isaac Asimov. Yes, he was a wonder with words, but he wasn't in any moral or spiritual sense a "deep" writer: his stories were all one-trick ponies, with "the truth" hiding behind one more facade, one more clever little set-up. In the name of offering an out to everyone, even Snape, this model would give the impression of a world littered with outs and moral getaways, leaving Harry just a poor little thing still needing to be led through it all. Unlike Asimov, I think Rowling actually likes  her characters, and consequently wouldn't put them through ethical wringers for the sake of a "gotcha!" moment.

Sure Snape's story is complicated, and no doubt will be shown to be even more so in the final volume. I think it is likely, as I've thought about some of the fine arguments made here, that we will in the end discover Snape to be a deeply confused and deluded man, a man whose hatred--of the world and himself--is so deep as to have made the man an object of pity. But that hardly justifies making excuses for, what seems to me, the plain case that Rowling has made...and which, on my reading, she has excellently played in this book. I think Snape ultimately couldn't or wouldn't break away from his chosen/assigned path, and whether he meant it to be that way or not, in the end that puts him in our hero's way. I think Rowling wants us to understand from HBP not that Dumbledore was secretly putting one final plot into action by stringing along Harry as he kind of always has in the past, but at last events have superceded even Dumbledore himself: we all kept believing Dumbledore, just as all the characters kept believing Dumbledore....but it cannot be Dumbledore who points (even if the pointing is from beyond the grave) Harry at Voldemort like he was some specially designed weapon. The shock of Snape's actions is the shock of a skilled writer throwing in our faces something that was apparent all along, and yet we did not see: that this is Harry's battle, and Harry's alone.

But hell, I've been wrong before... 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

I can't claim to have read many other reviews. Still, I'm not entirely convinced that Snape is evil.


1. We never find out that great reason why Dumbledore trusts Snape. Is it another unbreakable vow?

2. Snape knows about the invisibility cloak, and can see two brooms, and must suspect Harry is close by. And yet he leads the pack away from Harry.

3. If you're really Dumbledore's man, under deep cover, and you come upon him, unarmed and weakened and surrounded by Death Eaters and going to die very soon anyway, and you know that he would want you to preserve your own cover in order to ultimately perform your sworn task (protect Harry and/or kill the dark lord) -- what do you do?

Simple -- you do a painless, instant death spell on Dumbledore. No Imperius-ing a weakened Dumbledore or truth serum, or spiriting him away for torture / information gathering. You cement your own reputation, draw the pack away from Harry, spare Lucious the consequences of killing Dumbledore while _not_ Dumbledore's man. And there's no net loss, since Dumbledore was doomed anyway, weak and unarmed and surrounded by Death Eaters.

I'm not sure that it adds up. But it's reason for pause, in my opinion. 

Posted by Kaimi

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's quite possible that Snape is not bad and that the coward scene favors this interpretation. Since one of the themes of the series is trust - Harry's trust in Dumbledore, in Sirius, in his parents, Dumbledore's trust in Harry - it seems unlikely that Dumbledore's trust in someone will prove wrong. Unless (of course!) there is good reason why he was wrong, and for that we will have to wait for number 7, where it will surely be revealed why Dumbledore placed such trust in Snape (and I don't think it will be an Unbreakable Vow!). 

Posted by Andrew Boucher

Anonymous said...

The one thing that Rowling did say in the CBBC interview I was reading was that the reason she keeps killing people who are close to Harry off, was that Harry needs to be alone. She was saying that it's better dramatically, but I think she might have some grander purpose in mind. 

Posted by Melissa

Anonymous said...

I think that's right Melissa - I guess it has to be, because it comes right from the horse's mouth. If Harry is to be a great hero, he has to face and defeat Voldemort by himself. If Dumbledore is with or behind him, it will lessen Harry's achievement. 

Posted by Andrew Boucher

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with Russell: in the end, there are no tricks, nothing up the sleeve. Snape is what he has always appeared to be. Like Voldemort, we now know enough about him to appreciate why he is the way he is, but that's all. Remember that Dumbledore even had a certain sympathy for Tom Riddle/Voldemort--perhaps that's all we need to know why he trusted Snape.

The important thing in terms of the books is that this finally unties the last apron string around Harry Potter. He's his own man now, not Dumbledore's: his judgement was the correct one, all along. He's struggled with Voldemort long enough to have a good sense of what lies underneath the surface. It's a really necessary development. Up until now, things have always happened to Harry Potter, and he just reacts to them, usually doing what he has no other choice but to do. For the first time, he's poised to be the actual hero of the story, the person who drives the plot, the actor rather than re-actor. If the story ended with yet another revelation of how Dumbledore and Hermione are really always right and Harry is really always wrong, then we're just right back where we started, in the same loop. It's crucial for the conclusion to the series that at last Harry drive events with a full realization of the stakes and a full trust in his own judgement and knowledge.

Posted by Timothy Burke

Anonymous said...

But I would think the entire point is that Voldemort works alone, has no friends: and Harry, though he will kill V on his own, will have the help/support of Ron & Hermione (at least: possibly also other characters). That was one of the focusses in this book especially. 

Posted by wolfangel

Anonymous said...

> I consider this one of the stronger arguments for
> the fandom position: if Snape is now openly
> Voldemort's man, why was he still so restrained
> about hurting Harry?

Because Harry's scar is obviously the seventh Horcrux, and Voldemort must kill Harry personally in order to recover that portion of his soul. (The question is: was creating this particular Horcrux Voldemort's original intention, or an accident?)

> 6. Snape is so angry about being called a coward by
> Harry

Whether or not Snape has betrayed Dumbledore, this is unrelated to the possibility that he has his own intentions to betray Voldemort. Doung so would not only prove him one of the greatest Dark Wizards of all time, it would also gain him the admiration from the larger wizarding community that he has always hungered for. There's been no question that despite his unpleasant and petty personality he is a much greater man than anyone but Dumbledore has been prepared to admit.

In other words, we still have no idea if he can be trusted. And we are forced to wonder if Dumbledore really had any reasons for taking a risk on him. It will mean much to the story in the final book for us to discover this. Perhaps Dumbledore simply "read" Snape well enough to know he was the Dark Lord's enemy, but drew ultimately erroneous conclusions from this about additional loyalties.

In my opinion the fan-crush on Snape is really a crush on Alan Rickman, who is a great actor, but miscast, since he is too tall, handsome and innately appealing. The Snape of the books -- and Mary Grandpre's illustrations -- is an ugly, balding, greasy little rat. On the other hand, since Rowling approves the casting for her movies, this can be considered evidence for the most positive speculation of belief in prior collusion between Snape and Dumbledore. 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

"Because Harry's scar is obviously the seventh Horcrux, and Voldemort must kill Harry personally in order to recover that portion of his soul. (The question is: was creating this particular Horcrux Voldemort's original intention, or an accident?)"

Holy crap, anon, that's brilliant! I have no idea how it could have possibly happened (wouldn't you think that horcruxes are rather difficult spells to cast, and don't happen accidentally?), but it's a fabulously cool idea. (And it tracks with one of the very oldest theories I have heard about Harry Potter: an old friend of mine, way back when in 1999 or 2000 or so, speculated that Harry Potter was  Voldemort, reborn or reincarnated, given another chance as it were, in some weird time-warp way. I don't think that has any credence at all...but the horcrux/scar possibility gives it some explanatory heft after all. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...


Russell -- Amelia Bones. 

Posted by Kaimi

Anonymous said...

I'm with those who say Snape is not truly on Voldemort's side--he killed Dumbledore because D. told him to, since D. knew he was going to die anyway (either from the Death Eaters or the poison cave drink). The public murder would cement Snape's status as a true Voldemort follower, while he will still in the end assist Harry (yes, Harry will still need help) in destroying Voldemort. Snape, teacher of the Dark Arts and Master of Potions, wants to be The Greatest Wizard. With Dumbledore and Voldemort out of the way, he can achieve that.

I also agree that Snape was infatuated with Lily; that, added to James' and his friends' treatment of Snape, is at the root of his hatred of Harry--Harry could be his son, but isn't.

Oooh, and good call on the scar! (Although Dumbledore made it clear that there are six horcurxes--seven pieces of the soul, yes, but one resides with Voldemort. And I suspect one horcrux was retrieved/used up during the transformation of Voldemort back to corporeal form.) 

Posted by yamb

Anonymous said...

There's still the unknown horcrux, the one that Dumbledore thinks is either Ravenclaw or Gryffendor's. That one could be Harry's scar... I think Voldemort still has 1/7th of a soul left in him.

Interesting about Snape wanting to be the greatest wizard... though I'm not sure he would help Harry. Yes, Harry will need help, and from his friends, but given Snape's loathing of Harry, why on earth would he actually want to help him? Unless, I suppose, it achieves some greater goal.

I'm thinking more and more that our hero may not survive the 7th book. I mean, if she's willing to kill off Dumbledore? 

Posted by Melissa

Anonymous said...

RAB = Regulus A? Black - Sirius' younger brother. 

Posted by Saxgirl

Anonymous said...

Ah, Snape wasn't just infatuated with Lily, he was in love with her. This is the best reason Dumbledore could have to trust Snape's remorse as genuine. It also explains what it was about this information that Dumbledore couldn't casually just drop this information on Harry and set his mind at rest.

It's a measure of Dumbledore's greatness as a wizard that he could act on this knowledge, which incidentally proves his basic thesis that love is the strongest magic, since it will be Voldemort's undoing.

Prediction: at the end of the seventh book Harry will decide he has to die along with Voldemort and will be prepared to do so. But Snape will sacrifice himself instead, and somehow unwind the horcrux in doing so.

Good call on Regulus Black!  

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

You know what? I also anonymously predict we will learn that Harry's potions textbook so carefully annotated with cheats was prepared originally for ... his mother.


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Whether Snape is Dumbledore's or Voldemort's man there, I have to think there is more to it than what we have seen, and here's why:

Snape's betrayal was clearly telegraphed from the first few chapters (what with his Unbreakable vow) that his killing of Dumbledore at the end has absolutely no subtlety - it's too obvious and expected. Rowling may not be a stylist, but thematically she is very subtle and what Snape did was unsubtle.

Plus the reason Harry gave for Dumbledore's trusting of Snape was lanme. If that's why Dumbledore trusted Snape, Dumbledore is more of an idiot than anyone has thought.

Snape may still be evil - but there's a lot more going on, or Rowling has lost her subtlety as a writer. 

Posted by Ivan Wolfe

Anonymous said...

> Plus the reason Harry gave for Dumbledore's trusting
> of Snape was lanme. If that's why Dumbledore trusted
> Snape, Dumbledore is more of an idiot than anyone has
> thought.

At this point nobody knows why Dumbledore trusted Snape. Dumbledore would never say, and took the secret with him to his tomb. We're still all speculating. It could even turn out to be something so simple as an Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Dumbledore -- which nonetheless -- and after the fact it's easy to imagine circumstances where this situation could arise -- didn't preclude Snape killing Dumbledore. But then we have to explain what additional circumstances prevented Dumbledore from telling Harry or the other members of the OOP "look, he made an Unbreakable Vow", lay off him. 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

anon -

We may be speculating, but Harry clearly says at the end that he believes the reason Dumbledore trusted Snape was because Snape claimed he didn't know Voldemort was going to kill Harry's Mom.

The way it's given in the book, I'm guessing we the readers are meant to accept it for the time being.  

Posted by Ivan Wolfe

Anonymous said...

Harry's explanation doesn't make sense, but he's simply repeating the only clue Dumbledore gave him, not realizing it was a hint, rather than the whole explanation.

It's easy to forget Harry is a teenaged boy and still not good at thinking about other people's emotions. Or rather, it's easy to decide on the basis of Rowling's unpolished prose -- no offense -- that her plot and characterization across multiple books won't repay the extremely careful scrutiny of fine details. But they do; she's a better writer than she seems.


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

anon - perhaps you're misunderstanding me as I totally agree with your last post. I was claiming that, at face value, the reason given for Dumbledore trusting Snape is very unsatisfactory, and if it is all there is, than Rowling has lost all her subtlety.

I'm counting on the idea that there is more to the tale than that - but those who have decided "Snape is evil - period" have to take Harry's explanation at face value - which, to my mind, is a mistake. There's more going on there (I hope). 

Posted by Ivan Wolfe

Anonymous said...

Ivan and others,

Why do you label my position (shared by Timothy Burke and many others) as "Snape is evil--period"? That makes it sound like we are alleging that Snape is without complications or subtlety, which we absolutely have not done. I don't think Snape is a simplistic villain, as evidenced by the fact that he didn't lord it over Dumbledore (as in, "ha ha ha, you old fool, I've tricked you all along!"). The man's motivations and rationalizations obviously run very deep, and are likely compounded by magical promises (made to Dumbledore, or Voldemort, or both?). I admit there are more than enough details out there, details which have been pointed out by many commenters, to make me believe that Rowling could write a compelling, plausible story that takes us back once again to the same old mystery about Snape--but I also strongly doubt there is any  way she could do that without significantly reducing Harry's moral stature, without making her story a great big Matryoshka tale (one Snape hidden inside the other!), rather than a tale of choice and loss and growth.

I think Snape's apparent (and, I think, believable) choice of evil is plenty complicated, and I value seeing Harry's growth similarly complicated by the real choices of others (like Snape). Who is to say that in the end Harry might not have to depend upon, even forgive, Snape anyway--despite his having willingly made the choice to kill Dumbledore? (There's complication for you!) I just find too much meta-critique, too much second guessing of Rowling ("what's she really up to?"), in all this, and it takes the focus away from our hero, the (yes!) most interesting character in the books: Harry Potter. I'd rather not read a story that, in the name of preserving Snape's presumably attractive ambiguity, stunts Harry and makes him an eternal student, always trusting Dumbledore and everyone else, instead of letting him become a wizard on his own terms. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

anon - great point about the seventh Horcrux - and the prophecy.

Saxgirl - I think that RAB stands for Regulus A Black as well. (The A being for the name of the Uncle that I can't quite remember who gave Sirius $ and was subsequently burned off the family tree). The seventh book would be a bit late to introduce a completely unkown and important character.

Ivan and anon (yeah, I think you are talking past each other re: Dumbledore's reason for trusting Snape):

I can totally see Dumbledore trusting Snape because he loved Lily, but not the way Harry explains it: simply because he thinks Snape feels that guilty over their deaths.

I'm very much in the Snape is neither good nor evil camp. (There's a good long post up at the Leaky Cauldron that says much the same - although it leans more towards good, the end conclusion is that we just don't know yet). All the surface evidence points to Snape being evil. All the subtext points to him being good. It's probably neither, he's simply human. He has a lot of hate in him, and that messes up his judgement quite often. But, unlike Voldemort, he is also capable of love, and therefore capable of "good" acts.

If Harry is the 7th Horcrux, this casts Snape's actions in the final chapters in both a positive and negative light. He was prevented both Harry and Draco from casting the unforgivable curses, but was he saving Harry, or saving Harry for Voldemort?

One of my big unanswered questions (and one of the best arguments for Snape not being evil on the Leaky Cauldron post) is why Snape finally got the DADA position. In part its just because we needed Harry to be able to use the potions book for so long without Snape knowing, but we still needed Snape at school. But that by itself doesn't seem enough. Harry's explanation that Dumbledore was afraid of Snape being corrupted if he got the position doesn't really make sense. It would make more sense if Dumbledore had been protecting Snape from the cursed position, but figured it didn't matter anymore. 

Posted by Jenny K

Anonymous said...

(sorry for the rapid fire posts - especially after such a long first one)

I just thought of something else - if Harry is the 7th Horcrux, and Snape knows this, and Snape is on Dumbledore's side (for whatever reason) that actually gives us another reason why Snape would dislike Harry.

Although, I don't think it's very likely that Snape would know this for so long, and not tell Dumbledore, and that Dumbledore would know this, and not have told Harry in book 5 or 6.

Anonymous said...

Russell -- short comment: I agree with your last! :-)

Quoting Timothy Burke:

> If the story ended with yet another revelation
> of how Dumbledore and Hermione are really
> always right and Harry is really always wrong,
> then we're just right back where we started,
> in the same loop.

Even if it turns out that Dumbledore's killing was planned for as a contingency, it wouldn't logically follow that Harry was wrong. Imagine a Snape who turns out to have hated both Dumbledore *and* Voldemort. Not ambiguous then, but contradictory. It's possible for *everybody* to have been right, including and especially Harry with his paranoia that so long seemed out of step. And coming to terms with this would truly make Harry an adult.


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Detail question:

> I just thought of something else - if Harry is
> the 7th Horcrux, and Snape knows this, and Snape
> is on Dumbledore's side (for whatever reason)

No, nobody has ever even suspected the possibility of multiple horcruxes until Dumbledore figured it out, and once he was sure he only had time to tell Harry, who still hasn't put 6 and 1 together yet. The only thing the Death Eaters know is that they are ordered not to kill Potter, but save him for their Lord. As if simply to suit his taste for vengeance. 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

I too apologize for rapid-fire posts! And I'm prepared to be surprised in the last book and find out all my predictions were wrong, of course. :-)

But just one more thing. I figured Snape was finally given the Defense Against the Dark Arts post to prove to the Death Eaters that he was trusted. A necessary part of his cover. 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Regulus Black 

Posted by Grant

Anonymous said...

Russell (& others):

I'm probably going to commit HP blasphemy here, but your quote:
it takes the focus away from our hero, the (yes!) most interesting character in the books: Harry Potter 

Well - I have to disagree. As a character HP is fairly static. He's a Locus around which a lot of stuff happens, and he's the driving force - but the most interesting character? Nope. Everything else is more interesting. To me, Hagrid and Snape are the most interesting characters. Ron and Hermione change and grow a lot. Dumbledore has loads of ethos - even Finch manages to have a few good lines.

HP, on the other hand, is rather an uninteresting guy. He's really only interesting because of the world he inhabits and the people he associates with. But as a character, he's rather static and flat. Of all the wonderful characters in the book, HP is more of a prop to be moved around than any of the others. In fact, that's what he is - HP is the Ultimate McGuffin - he's a McGuffin raised to the level of main protagonist.

I still love the books and devour them over and over again, but that's how I feel.

Feel free to stone me now.  

Posted by Ivan Wolfe

Anonymous said...

I also agree with those who think HP is the 7th Horcrux. Makes sense, what with the wand HP got in the first book and all. 

Posted by Ivan Wolfe

Anonymous said...

How did Dumbledore know to bring Harry to the cave? And why was Harry so well prepared with intsructions for the contigency that actually happened to Dumbledore. The original plan to kill D was always to bring in Death Eaters from outside via the mirror.

Kreacher obeys Harry as master, there cannot be another Black, right?  

Posted by David Salmanson

Anonymous said...

Anon and Jenny K: I sympathize with what you're saying, and I don't think it's out of line at all to suggest that Snape has long been tempted/influenced by both Dumbledore and Voldemort, or by his (warped?) perception of what both represented and/or offered. I just don't think it's right to say that his murder of Dumbledore is emblematic  of that dividedness--I think we've now seen Snape's ultimate choice revealed, and what remains is to see what Harry does with it.

Ivan: You're right that Harry has been a fairly static character--up until now. The heart of this interpretive dispute might well boil down to this: is Harry now, as Tim Burke put it, truly "poised to be the actual hero of the story, the person who drives the plot, the actor rather than re-actor"? Or is he still, as you put it, just the "ultimate McGuffin," a mildly attractive stooge around which Rowling will create fascinating scenes, characters, and plots? I wonder if, in some murky way, many fans aren't disappointed with the idea of Harry taking charge; they like other characters (particularly Snape) so much that they really could care less about Harry. Is that Rowling's fault, for not having made him more interesting from the beginning? Or is that just an avoidable reality in these sorts of growing-up stories?

David S.: I don't understand what you're getting at in your comment about the cave and the mirror. But great catch about Kreacher--if Dumbledore's test of Harry's standing as Sirius's heir in the beginning has any legitimacy, then the Blacks must truly be at an end. Unless, of course, the Order is so adept at hiding people that not even house elves can feel their presence anymore... 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...


I think that even if killing Dumbledore represents Snape choosing Voldemort, that the story will not simply be that Snape chose evil. I can easily see Snape redeeming himself in the end in an Anakin Skywalker sort of way. At the very least we'd better get more of an explanation for his final choice. Not because I want Snape to be good, but because the whole idea that JKR would simply make Snape evil after all - end of story - is so disappointing. As others have pointed out, it means that we have no redeemed characters and it makes Snape's storyline in HPB rather simplistic considering how big of a part he plays.

I don't think that it's going to be "Snape's still undercover and he saves the day!" but I do think the fact that we have a possibly still conflicted character so close to Voldemort could easily turn out to be a boon for Harry.

anon: not necesarily.

Dumbledore suspected multiple Horcruxes since CoS, he just didn't know how many. Plus, we aren't certain how RAB found out about the Horcruxes or how much he knew about them. Snape isn't stupid. It's unlikely he knew all about them since book 1, but he's known about them since the beginning of HBP and might have easily have put two and two together regarding Harry's scar and connection to Lord Voldemort, just as we have. 

Posted by Jenny K

Anonymous said...

Interesting view points, I must say.

Along the Snape arguement again - I recall when he speaks to Malfoy's mother and Bellatrix early in the book, he states that the fight with Voldemort is what caused Dumbledore's hand injury. This, we later find out, is a lie. The injury was a result of destroying the Horcrux in Slytherin's ring. Snape could have finished off Dumbledore after the episode with the ring. For a true death eater, that would have been the ideal opportunity. The Dark Lord has returned and the only person he fears is dying. The fact that Snape doesnt kill Dumbledore off that time says something.

Now lets look at his options when he came upon the Death Eaters and a weakened Dumbledore in the tower. Had he refused to kill Dumbledore, we would have died immediately (the Unbreakable Vow dictates that) and the death eaters would have finished off a defenceless Dumbledore. So given the situation, I believe he acted in the best ineterests of the Order.

Its all turning into a rather twisted story. I read HP books simply because of how completely fascinating a character Albus Dumbledore was. Something fundamental changed the moment he dies and Fawkes leaves Hogwarts. makes you really believe that anything can happen in the story beyond this point and nothing can be taken for granted anymore. 

Posted by Adisethi

Anonymous said...

Here's my thing about Snape. If he did decide to make the choice to fall in with Voldemort, why isn't that shown? Why do we have no idea _why_ he would do such a thing? We still don't even really know why he became a spy among the Death Eaters in the first place, a role he seems to have performed to perfection.

I don't understand how people can be so sure about what Snape has chosen. We still aren't really even in his head. We have no idea why he was so attracted to curses in the first place as a student, and what his parents have to do with anything. We also don't know what his real feelings toward Lily ? Potter are. We don't know his long-term goals, we don't know his motivations, we don't really know anything!

Snape is so interesting preceisely because we really don't understand what is going on there. I expect there will be a lot more about Snape in Book 7, and then we will know for sure.

Until then, I'm reserving judgement on Snape. Because Harry is probably the least interesting main character in the book, I don't really care if he becomes the main character or not, so I don't feel the need to make him correct about everything. Mostly, I'm just disappointed Dumbledore is dead, even though it was pretty clear it was going to happen. 

Posted by Hektor Bim

Anonymous said...

RAB could still be Regilus Black; he could have figured out the horcruxes and deposited the locket somewhere (ie, the reference to the locket at Grimauld Place that wouldn't open in OOP) before getting killed by Death eaters.

I also like Kaimi's suggestion of Amelia Bones (Why do we suppose that the R is the first name someone goes by? They could go by the middle name...)

What we do know is that JKR has introduced all the characters, there are no new ones, though she did say that we didn't know all of them well. 

Posted by Melissa

Anonymous said...

OK, last comment. I'm enjoying everybody else's very much. (Thanks Russell for hosting the discussion!)

I wonder what people will think of this. Separate from the plot twists and details I'm trying to guess what Rowling's "big message" is going to be for the series.

Harry has been sort of dull, but he's a kid, and a hero, both of which make for dullness. I've enjoyed his growth, from moodiness in the last book to his quiet assumption of leadership in the latest (seen through his Quddich coaching, and the fact the team won easily even when he didn't play). But I think it's clear he's going to be Dumbledore's successor in lots of ways. Not just in magical power, but also in the way he holds everybody else's relationships together and functions as a real center of community. The way he does this is going to be Rowling's "point".

Dumbledore's basic theory of magic has a lot to do with love, and patience. Dumbledore is famous for accepting everybody just the way they are and finding a way to put them in a place where they can be trusted and make contributions (Hagrid, Lupin, etc. as well as Snape) I'm looking for Harry's finding a way to accept and understand Snape, or the facts of Snape's life if Snape ends up dead, as the final proof that he has picked up the torch from Dumbldore. (Taking for granted he/they/somebody will also defeat the Dark Lord.)


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

I think that is spot-on, anon; very nicely put. Perhaps Rowling will have Harry (and us) experience one more twist regarding Snape, or perhaps all that remains is for Harry (and us) to digest and figure out a response to Snape as he is. Either way though, Snape is  part of this story, and Dumbledore's grace was always to see everyone as part of the story, not some freak from outside of it. (Even Voldemort: despite the Dark Lord's actions, Dumbledore still saw "Tom"; perhaps that is symptomatic of where Dumbledore wen't wrong with Snape, perhaps not, but either way it is an impulse which distinguishes the possibility of a community of love from one of terror.) So I agree that one way or another, Harry will have to "to accept and understand Snape," as part of defeating him and/or Voldemort. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...


Regulus Black... Remember the unopenable locket in the Black mansion? 

Posted by Alex

Anonymous said...

I've somehow stumbled upon this blog entry and read some of the discussion. There are a lot of interesting theories here, but I think some of you have to take the books prior to the half blood prince into account, i.e. on the comment:

"I don't think Peter Pettigrew will change."

In one of the books Dumbledore says that Voldemort having a servant who ist indebted to Harry might be of use in the future.

There are similar hints to future events in the other books. I don't think that Rowling is going to make the mistake of forgetting those hints.

The twist with Snape will probably be towards the climax (the end) of the next book. We'll probably have the involvement of Pettigrew before that. The unbreakable vow of Snape should be fulfilled now that D. is dead, which leaves him again free to act. We still have the other members of the order though- there is the matter of lupin and the werewolf leader that will probably appear again.

Some events, like Bill and Fleur's wedding, might not appear in the next book at all (as this is something that could be skipped with a few sentences).

Also, one thing that you guys haven't discussed: The matter of Harry leaving the Dursleys. Remember that the first book (as some others) started at the Dursley's place.  

Posted by AEA

Anonymous said...

I didn't say Peter Pettigrew would be irrelevant; I do think that he will not suddenly become a good/courageous person. And I continue to believe that a world where good people and bad people are entirely unchanging is not the world JKR intends to create (her moral universe is not that simplistic) -- and the only possible example of bad-becoming-good is Snape, as far as I can see. 

Posted by wolfangel

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to have found this discussion because I was at such a loss at the end of HBP and learning other peoples' takese on it so nice.

I think Harry may seem less interesting because we to have more information about him than any other character because we are privy to his innermost thoughts, feelings, etc.--there is no mystery as we see the world largely as he sees it and that makes him less of a questionmark. I also do not think he can replace Dumbledore. One thing that I have always found odd is that Harry is not that impressive of a wizard nor does he dedicate himself to being one as Snape, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Sirius, Hermione, and James Potter all seemed to do. Think of all the wonderful magic these individuals have worked out while at school (the Marauder's map, Snape's potions, Animagis, etc.), but Harry has just shown a lot of bravery and has gotten very lucky. He thinks quickly and is very competent, but he hasn't shown amazing wizarding skills, so I don't think he can replace Dumbledore.

I think Harry is going to have to grow up a lot in book 7 and part of that is going to be learning to respect Snape, who I doubt is really evil (I am not sure how this is the case, but I think some good suggestions have been posted here). Harry is very black and white about people and part of growing up is seeing shades of grey. Plus JKR has been setting up Harry for these kinds of shading on Snape throughout all the books (his feelings about his father teasing Snape for example).


Posted by MG

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that Dumbledore is dead.
Here are some questions that come to mind:
Didn't Dumbledore survive Avada Kedavra from Voldemort in #5? Even if that's not the case...
#6 makes a lot of references to spells without speaking? Could Snape have sent an unspoken spell to remove Dumbledore from the room without actually killing him, that hit a second before his Avada was to hit? Could Dumbledore also have been casting an unspoken spell at the same time?
Do we even know what Draco's job is? It's never specifically stated, is it? Maybe it's not killing Dumbledore. Then Snape is free, even if he takes the unbreakable vow.
Is it 100% certain that the body outside is actually Dumbledore? Could it be someone else having taken a polyjuice potion? Could the locket be a fake planted on a fake Dumbledore?
At any rate, for some reason Harry has to believe that Dumbledore is dead. Why else would Dumbledore freeze him?
I also believe RAB is Regulus Black. I think the best question raised above is, why is Dumbledore pleading with Snape? 

Posted by anonymous

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments above that this has been set up for too long and too carefully to be as obvious as it seems - and Dumbledore has always been an understander of the 'deeper' magics that Voldemort does not see. We need to see the scene through Harry's eyes, which is of Snape as betrayer and Dumbledore dead, because that is going to trigger him into action. The paragraph towards the end where he realises everyone who has every tried to protect him has died for him is very telling. Harry has been released to the forefront to hunt down Voldemort himself instead of under someone else's orders. But the clues go back a long way. At the end of Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore sent Snape to do something. We never know what. Snape was not just permitted to stay on the Hogwarts staff under Dumbledore's protection, he was in the OOP. He and Snape are the two skilled legilimens- and incidentally Harry has once penetrated Snape's shields, he has never managed with Dumbledore who has used the skills several times throughout the series. And the emblem of the Phoenix itself with Dumbledore. Reborn from the ashes.

I don't think Dumbledore is as dead as he looks, and I don't think that Snape has been working for Voldemort all along. Dumbledore is not a trusting fool, and his motives are not always clear. I'm still waiting to find out why in the Goblet of Fire he was triumphant for those few seconds to find out that Voldemort could now touch Harry and had overcome the difficulty with the shared blood. That is going to come back in to play somewhere. Nor do we know exactly what that potion Dumbledore took did to him or how it worked, why he continually said from taking it that he needed Snape, nor what passed between them. Snape has had chance after chance to destroy Harry or to hand him over, and has extremely unwillingly protected him instead.

There is also the very traditional fantasy light/dark myth sustaining here that while the 'dark' leader always acts alone, has servants and those he uses but will destroy all of them if necessary, the leader of the 'light' side always operates from within a group of friends. That's a very important basis for the entire HP series, and goes back again to the magic that Voldemort doesn't understand. Why do I keep thinking about Aslan and the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? ;)

Fascinated by the idea of the horcrux being Harry's scar- what object SHOULD it have been? I can see that Voldemort would have planned to split his soul again for such a significant death as Harry's would have been, but what object should have been involved had it gone to plan and Harry died? And how will they get around the problem that if the scar is a horcrux Harry is not going to be able to kill Voldemort without dying himself? I have a feeling Harry's parents are going to be involved here somewhere.  

Posted by Ranger

Anonymous said...

I think everyone needs to go back two books, to where Voldemort is explaining to someone that there are three deatheaters at Hogwarts, "one who is a coward, one who has been lost to me forever, and one who is a faithful servant".

As it plays out, these are pretty clearly Karkarov, Snape and Crouch Jr. respectively.

So, if Snape has been Voldemorts man all along, Voldemort doesn't seem convinced.

Also, ask yourself how fortunate it is that Dumbledore arranged to bring in another perfect head of house for Slytherin (Slugworth)? Even before he knew that Snape would be gone...

A previous poster pointed out the fairly laboured insistence in this book about how spells can be "unspoke" - even Snape drives it home in the final escape scene. How easy is it to cast the "flashy-green-mist-from-my-wand" spell mentally whilst just *saying* "Avada Kadavra" ? And how lucky that Dumbledore falls out of the room where none of the deatheaters there can confirm the death?

As to what Draco's job was, that Snape vowed to do, since it was unspoken in the "Of course I know what the plan is, but why don't you tell me anyway" scene, it seems possible that Snape vowed to do the "open the way in" part, rather than the "kill Dumbledore" part of Dracos responsibility?

I think its a reasonable hypothesis that we are still running Dumbledores plan.

1. Dumbledore has to disappear from sight to be a more effective player

2. Snape has to be confirmed as "a bad guy" to gain Voldemorts trust, and hence provide insider information if not a complete betrayal.

3. Harry has to believe 1 & 2 so that Voldemort doesn't get to "look through his scar and see evidence to the contrary"

I think 2. fits Snapes outburst at being called a coward quite nicely. He knows he's playing the most dangerous role of all.

My major complaint is that this books plot really leaves us with a long wait before its resolved, unlike the others where you really could just stop. 

Posted by Jeff

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought:

What if Harry's skull was the pre-decided object for the last Horcrux? It would tie in with the one symbol that Voldemort would pride above all else - his own symbol - the dark mark.

So perhaps once the killing curse is completed, a fragment of soul automatically gets torn and placed in the object of choice.

Now despite the fact that the curse on Harry backfired, it did 'kill' someone ie: Voldemort. So part of his soul is trapped inside Harry (explaining his un-natural similarities with Voldemort).

Anonymous said...

'Snape has to be confirmed as "a bad guy" to gain Voldemorts trust, and hence provide insider information if not a complete betrayal.'

One concern: who is going to speak to Snape from the OotP if he was witnessed killing DD. It doesn't seem as if any of the other teachers or members of the order were in on DD and Snape's supposed arrangement. I wish there was an easy answer to all this- but then it wouldnt be such an enjoyable mystery!

Posted by anónimo

Anonymous said...

For any who are still interested in this discussion, and are hung up on the idea that things cannot possibly be as they appear, that Dumbledore must have arranged things with Snape in some particular way...I give you this, from an interview with J.K. herself:

"I would say that I think it has been demonstrated, particularly in books five and six that immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies that. In fact, I would tend to think that being very, very intelligent might create some problems and it has done for Dumbledore, because his wisdom has isolated him, and I think you can see that in the books, because where is his equal, where is his confidante, where is his partner? He has none of those things."

A comment especially appropriate in regards to the argument that Rowling has done what she has done because she wants Harry to come to the fore--and Harry, unlike Dumbledore, does  have confidants and equals.

(Read the first part of the interview here . 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...


You've said earlier that you understand why Snape chose evil. Where does this come from? I'm being very serious here. I really don't think I have a good handle on Snape's motivations.

All we know about Snape's motivations:

(1) He was a dark sort interested in curses when he got to Hogwarts.
(2) At Hogwarts he was a very clever student who excelled at Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts
(3) He was mercilessly bullied there by James Potter and _some_ of his friends and only Lily Potter really defended him.
(4) He hates Potter because he thinks he hasn't earned his place and because he reminds him of James.

And that's about it. Does anybody have any real idea why he became a Death Eater and why he left and why he (according to your interpretation) went back? Because I sure don't.

Note also that the paragraph above directly implies that Harry needs his friends and thus won't be "always right", like Dumbledore is. He doesn't have the intellect for it, as the series has repeatedly demonstrated. 

Posted by Hektor Bim

Anonymous said...

Well, one more last comment. At the end of book five Dumbledore apologized to Harry for not treating him more like an adult, but it was a very satisfying moment for me towards the end of book six when Dumbledore began to treat Harry not just like an adult, but like a peer. Like the next leader of the Order Of the Phoenix, actually. It makes Dumbledore's death that much more tragic. In support of the point you make, Russell, with the quotation above, it would hardly make sense for Dumbledore to begin this new relationship and then put a plan in motion to suddenly disappear.

Throughout the books Harry has been the only one (!) who has not blithely assumed Dumbledore is omniscient and invincible -- which has been interpreted wrongly sometimes by the other characters as disrespect, but it has, rather, been a quiet measure of his heroic stature. Harry has been the only other character to feel responsible for *everyone*. This is more important than the answer to the question that will be answered eventually whether of whether he has been "right" or not about Snape. Rowling's presentation of this in the context of adolescence has been been very well done.

In fact, even if Dumbledore has misjudged Snape, with the stakes involved, that's almost more of a calculated risk. I'd say at this point the only thing Dumbledore has done that can be described as an emotional "mistake" has been to underestimate Harry.

I've wondered at the strange formal distance that has remained between them, even after the conclusion of book five. I've wondered if it was a British culture thing and I simply don't understand how impossible it would be for a headmaster to spend any unstructured time with a student, chosen one or no? Come to think of it, the only member of the staff who actually "hangs out" with students is Hagrid, who is also comically and thoroughly unrefined. And I've found it odd that he has only befriended Harry, Ron and Hermione -- you'd think there would be a small group of younger students by now hanging around Hagrid's hut at odd times and helping him feed the skrewts.


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Regarding Hektor Bim's comment.

Speaking of British culture, one thing I do (believe that I) know is Harry is smarter than he "seems", and a better wizard than he "seems". The upper-class ideal is not to be bothered perfecting your talents. Like all true aristocrats Harry doesn't have to prove anything. The only things he really struggles to perfect are related to his personal beef with the Dark Lord. Harry has never seriously considered becoming a professional Quiddich player, for example, despite outflying the professional league MVP, Viktor Krum, in book 4.

Harry's mistakes that seem to prove his lack of intellect are better interpreted as the result of impulsive magnanimity, or high spirits and youth. Remember how Dumbledore genuinely admired the tactically unfortunate passionate actions of Sirius Black. Do you think Sirius was lacking in intellect? We'd say it was pretty stupid to let himself be seen as a dog, or to quarrel with Snape, but Dumbledore evaluated him differently.

And you ask Russell these questions, but I'd like to offer my suggested answers:

> Does anybody have any real idea why Snape became a
> Death Eater and why he left and why he (according
> to your interpretation) went back? Because I sure
> don't.

Snape became a Death Eater because he'd always been kinda interested in Dark Stuff and then the prettiest girl in school not only rejected him but ended up with the biggest jerk, who rubbed his nose in it.

Snape left when he directly caused both of their deaths.

Snape went back (maybe) because years later the big jerk's surviving friends wouldn't let it alone. 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Why is it so impossible to believe that Snape was acting according to a plan of Dumbledore's? Could not Dumbledore have planned for his own death as a strategy to achieve something essential to the defeat of Voldemort?

Suppose that the liquid he drank in the cauldron was, indeed, Voldemort's horcrux. Harry believed they hadn't found it, because it wasn't a solid object. But what if Dumbledore literally drank down Voldemort's soul remnant(s), and needed Snape to kill him in order to destroy those remnants? In essence, his own body had to be broken in the same way that the heirloom ring was cracked.

This is what Dumbledore has trusted Snape to do all along: kill him. Most likely, Dumbledore knew that Snape had the nerve to kill (not everyone does). And Harry did overhear them arguing in the forest...and especially Snape pleading that he no longer wanted to do something. What if Snape was beginning to doubt his own will to follow Dumbledore's orders and kill him?

Just a thought.

And perhaps Snape's hostility toward Harry comes from the fact that he looks so much like his father James, but has his mother's eyes. If Snape had developed an affection for Lily (despite his snarling remarks about her Muggle background, and because of her kindness toward him), then Lily's eyes on Harry's face would be just one more reminder that James Potter had everything -- he was popular, a brilliant wizard, Quidditch star, and he "got the girl".

Harry would be a walking reminder that Snape's old rival had managed, for a brief time, to live the good life that seemed to elude old Severus. 

Posted by Medea

Unknown said...

Oh wow, here's where the real discussion of the book is happening. I read your review at Kulturblog and have been disappointed that no one was really discussing it. (Then I saw that Melissa mentioned this thread on her blog.)

I posted some thoughts (okay, a lot of them) at my blog. Mary in her first comment described the theory that's bouncing around, and I'm leaning towards it, but maybe Snape really did go to the other side.

Thanks everyone for your comments and Russell for hosting this discussion.

Anonymous said...

It's the mark of a good book that it engenders this much discussion and thought. I picked up HPB to give myself a well-deserved break from work, only to discover it's occupied my thoughts more than anything else.

I believe the facts overwhelmingly support the idea that DD was asking Snape to kill him and that Snape has a large role to play, for good, before the next book is over. Remember, JKR's stories are built on the platform of a "coming-of-age" story (quite a good one, actually), but her theme is that of selfless love triumphing over selfish love. Harry is not the character that acts as the vechicle for this theme- Snape is.

Think about it for a moment. Harry is never tempted by the Dark Art. Harry doesn't have any desire to dominate others. Harry doesn't have to fight against an instinct to cruelty. Also, Harry doesn't have to make any hard choices. I had been thinking that Harry's hard choice would be to face Voldemort and potential death to save the workld vs. turning his back and living his own life in peace. Well, that choice was taken away from him in HBP (see the last page of Ch.23). Unless JKR pens a radically different book for #7, Harry won't fulfill her promise of the two books being about the choice between doing right and doing what's easy.

Snape, on the other hand, is set up perfrctly to be the vehicle for thie theme. He demonstrates all the weaknesses I listed above. He stands in the balance between light and dark - selfless and selfish. He does have a cruel streak, which he seems to enjoy. He is tempted by the Dark. He does have hard choices to make - evidence his argument with DD. He is the character who represents the choice that must be made between good and evil (another classic literary device), not Harry.

I am inclined to believe that DD was begging Snape to kill him (and, yes, dead he is. Fawkes confirms that). I don't think it was a throw away line on page 607 when Hagrid states the DD must have told Snape to go with the Death Eaters. DD clearly wanted something to happen, and I think his death was likely what he foresaw.

Ask yourself this question- why freeze Harry? Just a crude plot device to give us a witness to the killing? Hardly. To "protect" HP from getting in over his head in a fight? That makes no sense- render someone (who is already invisible) motionless and helpless in the face of unknown danger? Further, remember, DD had already secured Harry's pledge to flee if he so ordered, and there were two brooms mere feet away. I'll claim Occam's Razor here- the simplest explination to explains all the facts is that DD didn't want interference with what was going to happen - and he knew that Snape would be coming.

So, there you have my thoughts for what they are worth. My only wish is that she'd delayed releasing the book for a year so that there would be less wait for #7. It's going to be fun. RAB will have to be the younger Black - read carefully at the bottom of page 591 ("He cannot kill you if you are already dead."). As JRK has promised that we will come to understand the need for Sirus' death, it must deal with Regulus. But this is a post for a different topic . . .


Posted by Joe B.

Anonymous said...

Joe (and many others),

I too have enjoyed the argument(s) over the book immensely.

Let me make the same point I have made many times: all of these readings of HBP  move the focus of the narrative away from Harry. Harry's weak, he's not tested, he's not interesting, etc., etc. As you write Joe, "Harry doesn't have to make any hard choices...Snape, on the other hand, is set up perfectly to be the vehicle for this theme...He is the character who represents the choice that must be made between good and evil (another classic literary device), not Harry." Maybe Rowling wants the force of the narrative to move away from Harry; maybe she's bored by him; maybe Snape really is her tragic hero. But I continue to believe that Rowling has kicked the legs out from all the rickety compensatory stories that various fans of the book have told themselves; I think what she did in HBP is to force us to move away from an angsty, existential "good or evil, which shall I choose" reading of the books, and instead adopt the much more heroic, epic focus on the costs of choosing good over evil. Harry has enormous trials before him, and yes, many of them--perhaps the most important of them--may well include Snape: fighting Snape, understanding Snape, maybe even forgiving Snape. But discovering the "true" Snape? Sure, that could be what is in store. But I doubt it, because I don't think she's nearly as captivated by the supposed grey world that Snape inhabits as she is by the hard story of a boy who is fated (perhaps at the cost of his own life!) to bring light to that greyness.

Once again, let me turn to J.K. herself, from part two  of her most recent interview with Mugglenet:

ES: Was Dumbledore planning to die?
JKR: [Pause.] Do you think that's going to be the big theory?
MA & ES: Yes. It'll be a big theory.
JKR: [Pause.] Well, I don't want to shoot that one down. [A little laughter.] I have to give people hope.
MA: It goes back to the question of whether Snape is a double-double-double-triple-
JKR: [Laughs] Double-double-quadruple-to-the-power-of - yeah.
MA: …whether this had been planned, and since Dumbledore had this knowledge of Draco the whole year, had they had a discussion that said, "Should this happen, you have to act as if it is entirely your intention to just walk forward and kill me, because if you don't, Draco will die, the Unbreakable Vow, you'll die," and so on —
JKR: No, I see that, and yeah, I follow your line there. I can't — I mean, obviously, there are lines of speculation I don't want to shut down. Generally speaking, I shut down those lines of speculation that are plain unprofitable. Even with the shippers. God bless them, but they had a lot of fun with it. It's when people get really off the wall — it's when people devote hours of their time to proving that Snape is a vampire that I feel it's time to step in, because there's really nothing in the canon that supports that.

Make of that what you will.

Incidentally, in the same interview J.K. says that there will be no Quidditch in the final book--that the Quidditch-cup winning game in Book 6 was the last one she'll ever write. Which supports the reading that Harry has turned a corner, come to the fore, and will not be returning to Hogwarts...because, after all, with Dumbledore gone, it's all up to him now. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

Just to toss out another datapoint.. Dumbledore's brother/the Hog's Head barman is still out there; he's specifically mentioned as being at the funeral. There must be something still coming on that front, and a reason why Rowling's refrained from explicitly identifying him. 

Posted by Geoduck

Anonymous said...

I promised to take a day to think it all over . . .

I stand by two things - I think DD was pleading for his death, not his life. I think Snape's "choice" will be a key point of Book 7.

I like what you say about Book 7 revolving around the costs of Good (and why such costs are worth paying). I suspect that will carry the vast majority of the narrative. Still, though, there are two concepts that must be wrapped into the story - choice and sacrifice.

Look again at the end of COS (a book JRK admits almost gives away the whole story). DD ends his speech to HP by noting that despite the innate similiarities between HP and LV, it is HP's choices that set him apart and matter most. The most likely vehicle for this is Snape. Now, though, I suspect it will not be a crises of choice that Snape will face, but rather an explination of a past choice.

As for sacrifice, I posit that we will discover that DD's life was sacrified to save another - Draco Malfoy. It's the simpliest explination for why he tried so hard to talk Malfoy out of killing him, and why he tried to hard to talk Snape into it.

I'm looking forward to the end. 

Posted by Joe B

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late and definitely a newcomer, but let me add a few thoughts. I think Russel hit on something early on that is backed up by JKR's interview (as quoted above): there will be no quidditch next year...meaning Hogwarts will most likely be closed (or at least that we will not see much of it because Harry's quest for the horcruxes and his ultimate destiny are coming to the fore).

There are a couple of things to consider, here. JKR *knows* that she has started up all kinds of conspiracy theories with regard to Snape; this is part of her style as exhibited throughout all six books: withhold the information needed for anyone to figure out what's going to happen next. Yet, based on her interview, I think she is telling us that maybe things *really are* exactly as they seem. This does not mean that the story is not about to get very interesting. Nor, I think, does it mean we know the whole story with either Dumbledore or Snape yet. It is interesting to me that Harry calls Dumbledore "a phoenix" after he has died. We all know that phoenixes rise from the ashes; but in this case I don't think we should be so hasty to think that Dumbledore will rise again *bodily.* Harry says it himself: Dumbledore will never be gone so long as there are those who remain faithful to him. So, I think the way in which *this* phoenix will rise from the ashes is in those faithful; as the "spirit," if you will, of the Order of the Phoenix (this is a quite Hegelian theory for all of you philosohers out there).

Finally, I think we must consider that Dumbledore was *aware* of what he was doing; this has been said by many. But, if this is so, and if we further infer that Dumbledore was making a *choice* out of love for Harry (so that Harry would be able to realize his task and take it up for himself--much like Frodo and Gandalf's plunge into the heart of Kazaddhum), then he was offering his protection to Harry much the same way as did Lily on the night Harry received the scar.

Thus, Snape's treachery is only a ploy, a deviance from what is really going on with Dumbledore. If we would have all trusted that Harry was right about Snape, then maybe we could see that Dumbledore is disseminating his power into Harry's quest.

p.s. I'm not sure I buy, yet, that Harry is Voldemort's final horcrux. Maybe another reason Dumbledore made the choice to die was because *he* was V's final horcrux; this probably doesn't work, but it will probably cause people to argue and nod heads...I do enjoy that. Thanks for listening.  

Posted by Dave B.

Anonymous said...

Quoting back a little: "One concern: who is going to speak to Snape from the OotP if he was witnessed killing DD. It doesn't seem as if any [...]members of the order were in on DD and Snape's supposed arrangement."

To my eye, it doesn't seem as any members of the Order were capable of *anything* without Dumbledores direction. Can anyone name any action they undertook off their own bat?

(Other than perhaps Mundungus stealing Harry's stuff :-)

We know that Dumbledore, way back in volume 1, discussed death with Harry, specifically that Nicolas Flamel was accepting that he would die rather than keep using the Philosophers Stone. We also know that the ex-headmasters in the portraits in his office seem to live a reasonably comfortable existance despite being, umm, dead.

It seems possible to me that we may see the Order dragging out a portrait of Dumbledore that keeps telling them what to do.

Anonymous said...

For the "RAB is Amelia Bones" theorists --

Somehow I find it unlikely that "RAB" stands for "Amelia Susan Bones".

Call it a hunch. 

Posted by Thad Boyd

Anonymous said...

Russell, while I lean towards believing that Dumbledore, in order to save Malfoy's soul (metaphorically) did indeed want Snape to kill him (but it was not planned, which just seems ridiculous to me), there is another part of that interview that buttresses your position:

MA: Oh, here’s one [from our forums] that I’ve really got to ask you. Has Snape ever been loved by anyone?

JKR: Yes, he has, which in some ways makes him more culpable even than Voldemort, who never has. Okay, one more each!

Posted by ExtraMSG

Anonymous said...

I finished reading the book this past Saturday morning, and was left with several questions and possibilities. Maybe I'm not the only one who wondered the following?:

1. Are we sure that the locket in the basin was the actual horcrux, or could the liquid itself have been the horcrux? Dumbledore spoke very un-Dumbledore-like words after he drank the green liquid - they reminded me of what an evil man who's having to account for his life's deeds would say. That man would not want to be reminded and shown what he's done. Sounds more like a piece of Voldemort's soul screaming for mercy, not Dumbledore. Couldn't the liquid have been the horcrux? If so, when Snape "killed" Dumbledore, was he in actuality maybe just killing the horcrux in Dumbledore and not Dumbledore himself? When Snape "killed" him, Dumbledore's "body" went flying off far away, over by the tower. Did this ever happen before when someone was killed with the Avada Kedavra curse? I don't remember people's bodies flying off into the sunset with that killing curse. Why this time? Isn't it possible that Snape only killed Voldemort's horcrux inside of Dumbledore? Maybe he and Dumbledore arranged to have Snape send his body flying off as another ruse, and Dumbledore (who could have easily been an Animagus himself) turned himself into a phoenix? If J.K. Rowling actually answers the question, "Is Dumbledore actually dead?" with a yes, then I'll put this theory to rest. (Sadly, but I'll do it.)

2. What's with the change in lockets? And why didn't Dumbledore have Harry destroy it as soon as they got out of the cave? WHY WAIT?!

3. And are we sure that "R.A.B." is someone's initials? Or could it stand for something else, like the name of an organization, or even a saying?

4. If Snape was such a great Legilimens, how come he didn't see Narcissa and Bellatrix coming up to his house on Spinner's End (an interesting name in itself) beforehand, and get out? He would never have had to take the Unbreakable Vow then. How come he didn't see that coming???! (Unless, as others have pointed out and even I have reluctantly supposed, he and Dumbledore had an agreement that Snape would kill Dumbledore if necessary...sigh.)

5. Could the world's greatest wizard be THAT wrong about someone? Whatever powers Voldemort and Snape both had (especially of Occlumency and Legilimency), wouldn't Dumbledore's be even better? If he were that greatest of all wizards, then he had to know what was coming, no matter how often he tried to be modest in front of Harry about his powers.

If Dumbledore is really, truly dead, then I think it was pre-arranged between him and Snape.

I can hardly wait for book 7. Sigh.

Thank you for letting me toss a couple of ideas in, even if you think they're silly. It was great reading the other posts.


Posted by Jordan

Anonymous said...

I think it would be most appropriate if at the end of book seven Harry were to take a position as defense against the dark arts teacher. 

Posted by ExtraMSG

Anonymous said...

Haven't had time to read through all the comments above. But, in my quick scan, I didn't notice anyone connecting Dumbledore's potion experience in the cave with what happened later.

Dumbledore wasn't simply in physical pain in the cave. As I was reading that passage the first time, two things struck me. First, Harry's willingness to keep giving Dumbledore the potion seemed too easy and not exactly in character. Second, Harry and Dumbledore seemed to be talking past each other. Dumbledore is saying odd things like, "I don't want," "I don't like," "Don't make me," "Make it stop," "I can't, I can't, don't make me." So far, it's weird dialogue, but basically consistent with a guy that doesn't want to drink a potion, but is being made to.

After that, his words make it harder to sustain that interpretation. He says, "It's all my fault, all my fault; Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I'll never, never again...." He says, "Don't hurt them, don't hurt them, please, please, it's my fault, hurt me instead...." "Please, please, please, no...not that, not that, I'll do anything...." And then his last words, in all caps, "KILL ME!"

After he partially recovers, he repeatedly insists that he needs to see Snape, in such a way that it seems unlikely that Dumbledore (who shows few signs of self-interest in the series) is doing so because he wants or expects to be healed by Snape.

My loose theory is that Dumbledore was seeing something while he was drinking the potion: perhaps what was happening at the school contemporaneously or in the near future. That would explain his sense of guilt, his desire for "them" not to be hurt, and ultimately his command to "KILL ME!" He's pleading for an opportunity to intercede, to offer himself as a sacrifice to save others (e.g., Malfoy, Snape, the underprotected students at Hogwarts, etc.). Is it accidental that Dumbledore's initial reluctance and final prayer involves drinking from a cup (cf Matt. 26:39)? (BTW, was making Dumbledore a Christ figure Rowling's way of tweaking all her Christian critics?)

When he faces Draco and the DEs, Dumbledore is calm and composed. He assures Draco that he isn't getting played by Snape. (Bellatrix's comments early on show that the followers on *both* sides question Snape's loyalties, though both Voldemort and Dumbledore trust him implicitly.) He only gets rattled when Snape (who hasn't harmed anyone at all on his way there, despite the fact that there was a raging battle) appears, at which point he begins ambiguously pleading. Snape promptly kills him. Snape's anger as he pulls the trigger is consistent with an unwillingness to do it. His anger at Potter and insistence (in all caps) that he's not a coward also, as some have said above, indicates that there's more going on here.

I'll grant that there are enough clues running both ways to preclude an unequivocal interpretation. That's surely by design. But the bulk of the clues, I think, seem to suggest that Dumbledore offered himself up to save others. And Snape, rather than being a simple ax-man, was a reluctant but obedient accomplice to Dumbledore. And since, after taking the Unbrakeable Vow, Snape's failure to (a) help Draco kill Dumbledore or (b) do the job himself would result in Snape's death, Dumbledore's insistence that he keep the vow (KILL ME!) saved Snape's life (and possibly Draco's soul) and, at least for now, gave one more reason to Voldemort and his followers to trust Snape, making him an even more valuable spy for the Order. (This was exactly the strategy Snape explained, running in the other direction, when he justified himself to Bellatrix early in the book. He did what he did in order to win the trust of and get closer to Dumbledore.) And it was my belief through the book that Snape took the vow with the expectation that, when the time came, he might have to break it and die. He was willing to go the distance, but Dumbledore wouldn't let him.

Of course, there's no way of resolving these questions without Book 7, which hasn't been written. Rowling could break either way. But if she makes Snape a simple bad guy, ala your theory Russell, it leaves a lot more unanswered questions and will make a lot of the bread crumbs dropped through this book feel like cheap misdirection.


Posted by scott--dfw

Anonymous said...

Scott (and Nick!)--that's for taking the time to add your two cents. I appreciate it very much.

Two responses to your excellent comment, Scott, going in backwards order. You suggest (as have many others) that if Snape, in the end, really did crack/delude himself/go evil/whatever, and kill Dumbledore as a (reluctant/confused/bitter/whatever) servant of Voldemort, then Rowling will be revealed as having played fast and loose with the narrative for the sake of sucker-punching her readers. I simply don't agree. As I've argued both in this thread and here , it is not "cheap misdirection" to, without warning, suddenly confirm one set of suspicions and reveal a bunch of others as the result of her own characters' (and thus, cleverly, her own readers' as well) misperceptions. It doesn't let steam out of the story, it doesn't drop the ball, at least not necessarily. When done well (and I continue to believe that the reason we're all arguing about this is that Rowling has done it very  well), it's called making use of unreliability and ambiguity in how one interacts with the characters' view of things. It works especially well when something is, in fact, in plain sight. (For example, as I noted in the other post, Poe's "Purloined Letter," in which we are assured several times that the room had been thoroughly searched, which it had been; the problem was, everyone was looking at/for the wrong thing.)

And, once again, when have I ever said Snape is a "simple" bad guy? He may be an incredibly complex bad guy. As I wrote way up at the beginning, perhaps he is "a selfish and wretched man who [played] both sides, until in a moment of challenge (Narcissa's pleading request, with Bellatrix suspiciously watching) he committed himself because he could imagine no other choice...perhaps part of the loathing Rowling says was in Snape's face when he killed Dumbledore was a hatred that comes from his self-deluded belief that Dumbledore's (mis)use of him had brought this upon himself?" Hardly a mustache-twisting villain.

Of course, I also can't deny that I could be completely wrong about all this--too many good alternative readings have already been proposed. Which brings me to your first suggestion, the one dealing with the potion Dumbledore drank. A lot of people in fandom have written in about the potion--see Jordan's comment just above Nick's, for example, which suggests that the potion itself was the horcrux, and thus part of Voldemort's soul was killing Dumbledore from the inside. I don't think this makes sense at all--in fact, I haven't read much about the potion that makes sense. But your comment really gets me thinking.

What has Rowling repeatedly described as Voldemort's greatest fear? Death. What's his weakness? That he cannot imagine that there is a power--namely love--greater than the fear or threat of death. So what would be, to his mind, one superb way of defending a horcrux? Leaving behind a potion that gave the drinker a foretaste, a vision, of their own demise. Surely Voldemort would think that being forced to anticipate the experience of one's own life slipping away would drive anyone mad, if not prematurely kill them. So that's the potion he leaves behind. And you're right, Scott: seeing his ravings to Harry as a glimpse of what might have been going through Dumbledore's mind exactly one chapter later fits the text very, very well. Of course, it doesn't settle Snape's ultimate motivations. (Thanks for noticing, as many others haven't, that Dumbledore was clearly "rattled" when Snape suddenly appeared on the tower.) But it does explain Dumbledore's insistence that he see Snape immediately. (Perhaps to warn him? "I know how it's going to play out now; I know what you'll feel yourself obliged to do; it doesn't have to end this way; I can protect you; you can choose; get out of here"? The possibilities are endless.) I don't know if we can eliminate the possibility that Dumbledore, trustful Dumbledore, still wanted to see Snape simply to get a healing potion: according to his own testimony, Snape had been crucial to (partially) healing Dumbledore's hand after he destroyed the ring-horcrux, and it's clear that he is weak on the tower. But still--this is a great reading Scott. Definitely the most intriguing spin on the potion I've read yet, and one that makes my whole reading of the story possibly even more dubious. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

I do think that reading of the potion Scott proposes is really smart. I had felt the same way about Harry and Dumbledore talking past each other in that scene on the lake, had felt that Dumbledore was somewhere else, seeing something around him, and not simply pleading not to drink more potion, but I didn't put together what that might mean. My wife's got our copy of the novel now, or I'd go back and check it out myself, but my sense is that Dumbledore's statements on the lake would match up quite well with what he might have been thinking during the "Flight of the Phoenix" chapter. And Russell, your point about Scott's reading making particualr sense because Voldemort would choose such a defense of the horcrux can be supported by two other factors that I can think of: we've already seen similar defense mechanisms in place, like that mirror that shows your heart's deepest desire in the first novel, so structurally that makes sense; and it might help to explain why RAB can proclaim so confidently in his note that he'll be dead by the time Voldemort reads it. I still don't know how he managed to get past the horcrux's defenses, but perhaps he saw himself killed by the DEs or at Voldemort's hands already and knew that he would not reveal the theft of the horcrux. 

Posted by Scrivener

Anonymous said...

Scott's reading certainly illuminates a lot. I'd love to see JKR's response because I haven't seen that suggested yet. I imagine she would grow quiet and say she can't answer. I'm going to adopt that reading because I think it makes the most sense and is flat-out terrific reading.

I read from the cave on again last night. My wife believes as Russell does that Snape has turned to the dark side again (to mix in some Star Wars that I'm sure JKR would cringe to hear), that he did it for selfish reasons or did it because from the beginning he was in the service of Voldemort once he made the vow.

I think it's possible to resolve it this way, but there are only a few satisfactory options:

1) Snape was indeed conflicted and his revulsion and hatred at seeing a weakened Dumbledore was true and in that moment, perhaps, he saw that Voldemort had the upper hand so he chose what was easy at the moment rather than what was right. I do think, though, to not demolish all the effort JKR has put into trying to make us believe that despite appearances and past, there is hope for a person like Snape, he will have to sacrifice himself in the future. But still, it would be a huge dent in a theme that fits in with her overall themes.

2) It is as Scott explains. The two most nagging problems for me in regards to (1) above are: a) Dumbledore pleading for himself is so out of character, and b) Harry's explanation of why Dumbledore trusted Snape is so unsatisfactory. There are lots of little things, too, but these two seem rather insurmountable. If Snape had truly turned and these things came to be what they appear to be, then I would have to conclude that JKR wrote the denoument quite clumsily. But from what I've seen, she's a very careful writer. She writes out tons of backstory and plots out the books far in advance using little bits here and there. I can't imagine such an important couple chapters with such important dialog wouldn't be crafted quite carefully as well. 

Posted by ExtraMSG

Anonymous said...


(1) The "hiding in plain sight" theory does strike me as cheap, because Rowling has presented us with an endless loop of Snape doing things that appear (to any reasonable observer) suspicious or evil, Harry suspecting him, and it turning out that Snape was in fact benign or positively helpful. If, for some strange reason, Lucy decides to leave the football in place for Charlie Brown, is that interesting or dramatic? There has to be a certain degree of tension in place for a surprise to work dramatically. Had we suddenly discovered that Snape really was a bad guy around Book 2 or 3, it might have worked. But we've been through this routine so many times that, despite the fact that she was once again having Harry insist that Snape was conspiring against him, we no longer care about that tired narrative conflict.

2) I think the potion scene does explain Snape's motivations, at least better than anything else I've heard. What you need to do, in order to keep Snape a murderer, is persuasively explain what's going on when Dumbledore is drinking the potion--in particular, what he is *saying.* Here's my reading:

a) "His face was twitching as though he was deeply asleep, but dreaming a horrible dream" (571). This is what suggested to me that he was seeing something, possibly the future.

b) "I don't want...Don't make me..." (571). He could be talking about not wanting more of the potion or to be made to drink more (though, of course, he's been drinking on his own up to this point). But he could be seeing future possibilities, such as Draco trying to kill him and his being forced, in self-defense, to kill Draco instead. He doesn't want to kill Draco. But, again, going back to Chapter 2, we're led to believe (by Narcissa's suspicions and Snape's cool confirmation of them) that Voldemort *does* want Draco to be killed. Vengeance for Lucius's screwup at the Ministry is the stated motivation (though it would probably be hard for Dumbledore to keep his post at Hogwarts if he killed one of the students--especially one from a wealthy, well-connected family). Dumbledore doesn't want to be Voldemort's pawn in this little game.

c) "...don't like...want to stop..." (571). This is harder to explain on my theory. What doesn't he like, the potion or the vision? What does he want to stop, the drinking or the events that are transpiring or that he believes will transpire? Can't tell. Of course, he could be saying he wants to stop...something or someone. The elipses give us a little wiggle room there. "...don't like..." I have trouble with. That's pretty tame language if he's expressing his disapproval of a werewolf tearing through the hallways of Hogwarts, of Draco becoming an attempted murderer, or something similarly dire.

d) "No..." "I don't want to...I don't want to....Let me go..." (571-2). Is he talking to Harry about drinking? Or is what he "doesn't want to" do related to his bad dream (e.g., killing Malfoy in self-defense)? Definitely equivocal, but I lean towards the latter.

e) "Make it stop, make it stop" (572). If someone's forcing you to drink, "make it stop" seems like an odd way to tell him to quit. So this sounds more vision-related. Perhaps now he's seeing the terrified kids at the school and the DEs running amok. He could be wanting the vision to stop or the attack at the school.

f) "No, no, no, no, I can't, I can't, don't make me, I don't want to..." (572). Equivocal again. He might not want to drink more or he might not want to do what Voldemort is trying to make him do (i.e., kill Malfoy).

g) "Nothing's happening to you, you're safe, it isn't real, I swear it isn't real," Harry says (572). Here Harry seems to recognize that Dumbledore isn't talking to him about being forced to chug down the potion. He can tell that Dumbledore is dreaming or hallucinating about something horrible. What?

h) "It's all my fault, all my fault....Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I'll never, never again..." (572). This one's more puzzling. He's clearly not talking about potion-drinking here. What does he think that he did wrong? What won't he do again? And who is he pleading with, in the first place? Is he bargaining with Voldemort? Has he wronged Voldemort in such a way that he feels he's brought this vengeance upon himself and those around him? Don't know.

i) "Don't hurt them, don't hurt them, please, please, it's my fault, hurt me instead..." (572). Again, who's he talking to? And who are the "them"? My best guess is Voldemort and the kids at Hogwarts, respectively.

j) "Please, please, please, no...not that, not that, I'll do anything" (573). Has Voldemort made him a counteroffer? Conditions on which he'll call off the DEs? What is Dumbledore fearing/refusing here? Certainly not his own death, since he's consistently fearless.

k) "No more, please, no more..." (573). Since he's not doing what Voldemort (or whomever) wants him to do, are the horrors continuing?

l) "I want to die! I want to die! Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!" Who's he talking to? Is his death a condition of stopping whatever he's seeing?

m) "KILL ME!" Is this directed to Voldemort? To Snape? The all-caps and exclamation point is too dramatic and the words too odd for there not to be some major significance to this. (If the potion thing turns out, in Book 7, to have been just a throwaway bit of hallucination, unconnected to anything in the real world, that will have been cheap indeed.) If nothing else, Dumbledore is expressing his desire to die to stop something and to prevent "them" from being hurt. Clearly intercessory. But who is he interceding for? And what/whom is he protecting "them" from? My best guesses are the students at Hogwarts and Voldemort, respectively.

If there are better explanations for the text in that episode, I'd be interested to hear them. I don't think I'm stretching too far in seeing Christian imagery in the chapter, though. (Dumbledore is also connected with the self-resurrecting phoenix, FWIW.)

As for Snape, he's Judas. But is he Judas from the Bible or Judas from The Last Temptation of Christ? Is he a straight-ahead traitor? Or is he a reluctant collaborator with the Christ-figure, taking upon himself the harder job, becoming an unsung tragic hero? I think the latter is more consitent with his character. I think it works better dramatically. And I think it makes better sense of the text (e.g., his fury at being called a coward by the very punk who's butt he's helping to save). But, as I said at the outset, she's left it ambiguous enough that she could break either way (or in another direction entirely).

I liked what you said about Voldemort's fear of death. There are all kinds of symmetries between Voldemort and Dumbledore (and, to a lesser extent, Potter). Voldemort is selfish. Dumbledore is selfless. Voldemort puts his trust in the magical arm of flesh. Dumbledore sees the greatest power in love (i.e., relationships, loyalty, community). Both of them project--Dumbledore always wanting to see the good in everyone (e.g., Snape and even Draco, to whom he says, rightly it turns out, "Draco...you are not a killer") and Voldemort always seeing the bad in them (e.g., his constant unjustified suspicions of and accusations against Dumbledore when they first met in the orphanage). Those around Voldemort are similarly self-interested, while Dumbledore's followers are (increasingly, I was pleased to see in this book) self-sacrificing. (Harry gave away the luck potion, rather than keeping it for himself, putting his friends' ahead of himself. Even after discussing the possibility that the potion in the cave could be fatal, he offered to drink it instead of Dumbledore, like a modern-day Peter.)

In fine, Voldemort--by projecting his selfish values--sees Dumbledore's death as a victory. Was it? Was there no saving power in it? Did he not, as I theorize, willingly lay down his life for his brothers? If so, then I stand humbly corrected, but think that's a sorry sort of message to send.

But I don't buy it. Dumbledore pleads to give his own life to stop the hurting of others. He chooses to immobilize Harry under the invisibility cloak, rather than defending himself against Malfoy's spell. After Malfoy describes his plan to use the Dark Mark to lure Dumbledore to the tower, he says, "And it worked," to which Dumbledore replied, "Well...yes and no...." (In what sense "no," if Dumbledore didn't know exactly what he was walking into?) Dumbledore explains that he knew all along about Malfoy's murderous intent, but didn't say or do anything about it because he knew Voldemort would kill Malfoy and his family if he failed. When Malfoy says, "I'm the one with the wand...You're at my mercy," Dumbledore responds, "No, Draco...It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now," foreshadowing his self-sacrifice. There's just too much material suggesting that self-preservation wasn't ranking high on Dumbledore's priority list. (I started to suspect that when he said, "KILL ME!")


Posted by scott--dfw

Anonymous said...

Let me add my two cents:
Let me shut down this theory concerning Harry being a Horcrux.
Did you all have forgotten what happened previously in book 5? The possession of Harry's body by Voldemort and later Tom no longer could sustain that situation? Like Dumbledore said (Chap 37's last page):

"That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you."

Reading this, it is quite impossible to assume that Harry is a horcrux. The piece of soul inside of Harry would have just done the same as the other piece of Voldemort did: get away from the force called 'love'.

In HBP, the suspects objects by Dumbledore (besides the ring, the diary and Voldemort himself) are:
"the locket .., the cup ... the snake ... something of Gryffindor's or Ravenclaw's"

JK already hinted that Ravenclaw will play a role next book (I don't recall where I read it though). So, of course, my assumption is that the 6th is a Ravenclaw's object. I am pretty sure that Dumbledore's not wrong in this very field (concerning the horcruxes).

And now moving to real(big) speculation: Lily's eyes, or rather, Harry's eyes being the same as Lily's. If Snape really were in love and felt responsible for the death of Lily, he could not bear looking at Harry without his eyes reminding him of Lily. I think, as people already said it, that Dumbledore's real reason to trust Severus is the 'love' he demonstrated to have towards Lily. I think it will be the reason why he hates Harry (because everything else in Harry looks like James) and, at the same time, saved Harry that moment Quirrel was attempting to kill Harry.

Lily will play a big role next book, not alive of course, but in form of memories and I bet Snape also will be there to support Harry. 

Posted by David

Anonymous said...

Wow, Scott: a fabulous defense of your reading of things. But while perhaps it's just stubborness on my part, I still fail to see why your interpretation should be understood as possessing as much explanatory breadth (in terms of other characters' motivations, particularly Snape's) as you seem to believe it does.

1) Regarding your first, more literary point:

"There has to be a certain degree of tension in place for a surprise to work dramatically."

You mean you didn't  think there was much or sufficient tension in chps. 27 and 28 of HBP? Did you read those chapters and think, "Eh, that's lame--surely there's more going on"? If so, we really did have a very different experience with the book; those chapters hit me like a sledgehammer.

"[W]e've been through this routine so many times that...we no longer care about that tired narrative conflict"

And I said as much in my original post--or rather, I said that it seemed to me as though Rowling wasn't aware of how potentially tiring the "young-Harry-who-still-has-so-much-to-learn" routine had become. But then, as I see things, Rowling blows that routine up in our faces in the final quarter of the book. That fact that so many people can argue about whether or not such an explosion has, in fact, taken place suggests to me that Rowling, far from being a clumsy writer, has read her audience supremely well.

2) Regarding your wonderful, extended second point:

"As for Snape, he's Judas. But is he Judas from the Bible or Judas from The Last Temptation of Christ? Is he a straight-ahead traitor? Or is he a reluctant collaborator with the Christ-figure, taking upon himself the harder job, becoming an unsung tragic hero?"

That's too limited a range of options. What about Judas from Gibson's The Passion? "Gah! I don't know what to do! I hate all you people for making me do this thing! I'm sorry, you miserable despicable bastards! Leave me alone!" As I've written elsewhere, to pull out the dark, romantic (Freudian?), "Snape-is-Dumbledore's-greatest-servant-that's-why-he-must-hurt-him-the-most!" existential routine is, I think, an even bigger cliche than the straight-ahead traitor thing. I've said all along that I agree Snape is a complicated character; am I not expressing that point very well? To me, the clearest reading of the scene, even if it is a given (on the basis of your fascinating interpretation of the potion chapter) that Dumbledore was pleading with Snape to kill him, is that Dumbledore was confronted with his own ultimate misjudgement, and was pushing Snape to do the one thing that might salvage something good out of the situation. Snape as Judas? Sure makes sense--assuming we keep in mind that there is nothing in the Christian tradition, much less the statements of Jesus Himself, to suggest that Judas wasn't, in fact, at the very time he served the Lord's purposes, also guilty as sin (remember: "it needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!").

Since we've wandered deep in Christian allegory here, some additional thoughts. J.K. Rowling has demured from religious readings of her story; at the same time, in a recent interview in Time magazine, she's insisted the books aren't as secular as some others make them out to be. Could Dumbledore be a Christ figure? That plays into the theory that he isn't really dead; that he'll be back. But there's a larger point to that analogy, I think.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Central to the Christ story is that Jesus's sacrifice was made on behalf of the undeserving, even the unknowing: that shows the extent of His love. If there's any element of this in Rowling's presentation of Dumbledore's love (and the way you set up the parallel's between Voldemort and Dumbledore is fantastic, by the way), then I don't understand why you think that the presence of such an act of self-sacrifice in the books necessarily must tell us something about Snape's innermost loyalties and feelings, not to mention his fate. What, is it inconceivable that Dumbledore couldn't continue to care for and work with Snape, plead with and try to extract one last ounce of meaning from his relationship from Snape, even while Snape knowingly (perhaps desperately, perhaps bitterly) casts his lot with the Dark Lord? You seem to imply that Dumbledore's mercy loses force if Snape is a bad guy: why? Isn't the whole point that Jesus loves and tries to include the bad guys in his thinking as well?

I realize that, in writing this, I may be revising my original take on the chapter. Perhaps I am; your interpretation of the potions scene has that much force. I'm not sure I was ever settled on the idea that Dumbledore was pleading for his own life; now I'm certain that's not the case. But even if he his pleading for Snape to do what must be done, that doesn't give us any insight into Snape's soul. Perhaps, in the end, Dumbledore realized that he didn't have any such insight either, or was wrong in thinking that he did. Perhaps the best he could do was make one last desperate pitch for Snape's conscience--and, failing that (which I think we're supposed to see in Dumbledore's eyes when Snape unexpectantly bursts onto the scene), hope that Snape would kill the one person from whose death some good might come.

Of course, I could be wrong. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

A thought hit me this morning, and I'd thought I'd put it out there. Was the potion Voldemorts? If RAB got through and got the horcrux he/she then, as the note implies, put everything back the way it was to through Voldemort off. Was the potion the same that Voldemort originally had there? It's kind of hard, then, to read the visions that Dumbledore is having as from Voldemart.  

Posted by Melissa

Anonymous said...

My own theory:

Dumbledore trusts Snape because Snape has sworn an Unbreakable Vow to protect Lily's son and honor her sacrifice when the time comes. (Whether he has sworn this vow to Dumbledore or to Lily, I do not know.)

For reasons still not quite clear to me, Dumbledore decided that it was worth dying in order to let Snape prove himself trustworthy to Voldemort and friends. Snape can resist Voldemort's attempts to read his mind, so Voldemort will judge him by his extrinsic actions. Killing Dumbledore will earn him big street cred.

In book seven, Snape will be able to use Voldemort's trust in him to save Harry as required by my hypothetical Vow, probably sacrificing himself in the process.

The text of the showdown on the battlements really makes it hard to believe that Dumbledore is pleading for his life, rather than pleading with Snape to fulfill his promise. Snape feels loathing because he is in fact *not* a bad guy. Or at least he is loyal to Dumbledore. But just as Harry, unhappily, shoved the potion down Dumbledore's throat, Snape did the job and blasted him off the battlements.

When Snape sacrifices himself for Harry in book 7, the chain will be complete. Dumbledore dies for Snape so Snape will die for Harry. 

Posted by Will Baude

Anonymous said...

A couple things:

* Scott, you might be interested to know that JKR said in an interview that Dumbledore's patronis is a phoenix. It is odd that she would associate the phoenix so strongly with Dumbledore and not have some possibility of rebirth. I hope that's not the case, though. Also, I'm not sure she'd want to be associated with both such a strong Chritian narrative and such a strong Star Wars narrative.

* Russell, if Snape has truly turned back to Voldemort, doesn't that undermine JKR's strong themes about redemption and the ability to transcend fate? I'm not sure why you *want* Snape to be a betrayer.

* Russell, you're a fan of Occam's Razor. Isn't Scott's explanation the simplest for all the evidence? You have to assume, I think, that JKR is a clumsy writer. 

Posted by ExtraMSG

Anonymous said...

J.K. Rowling has demured from religious readings of her story; at the same time, in a recent interview in Time magazine, she's insisted the books aren't as secular as some others make them out to be. Could Dumbledore be a Christ figure? 

On the other hand, she says in the very next sentence, "But, obviously, Dumbledore is not Jesus." 

Posted by Brock

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced of any explanation that has been offered yet regarding the effects of the potion that Dumbledore was obliged to drink, since its strangest effect (to me) was to change Dumbledore's voice. It didn't sound like him at all -- even in pain.

I'm also inclined to doubt it gave visions of the future, since Dumbledore is mightily skeptical (apparently with good reason) of any sort of fortune-telling. If the future could be predicted by employing a potion, fortune-telling would be less fanciful. But it's easy to imagine exception cases, so I wouldn't insist on this inclination.

Finally, though Rowling is Anglican, it seems to me her themes belong as much to Arthurian pre-Christian morality as to Christian morality. (Though certainly not in any way incompatible with Christianity.) I say this simply to communicate my sense that the themes of self-sacrifice in the book, while they speak to courage, responsibility, and love, do not imply any literary relationship with the doctrine of atonement for sins -- which would be, necessarily though implicitly, introduced by suggesting that Snape "could be Judas" -- whoever he was betraying would carry a greater weight than there is yet evidence anyone might carry. (Even Harry.) I frankly think that Rowling is too humble to attempt to touch those themes, which she would be doing if her long-planned plot elements came too close to the Passion narrative. And also skilled enough to avoid doing so.

In other words "not secular" does not mean "automatically Christian", even if the author happens to be a devout Christian. :-)

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and while I agree it's somewhat nonsensical to think that Harry could be a horcrux, it's still possible that _his scar_ is one. Even though Valdemort couldn't physically touch Harry, recall that at one time they were communicating thoughts and emotions until Valdemort realized this was a security risk to himself. Which suggests that there was never any restriction on immaterial portions of Valdemort coming in contact with Harry.

Of course, at the end of book 5 the physical protection was removed. I can think of good reasons why Valdemort wouldn't or couldn't recover his soul-portion from Harry's scar at that time, if it were indeed there, but I'll spare everyone! 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

"I'm not convinced of any explanation that has been offered yet regarding the effects of the potion that Dumbledore was obliged to drink, since its strangest effect (to me) was to change Dumbledore's voice. It didn't sound like him at all -- even in pain."

I've been excited enough by Scott's reading that I've gone some distance to try to see how (or if) it can be seen as compatible with my own original reading of HBP . But anon's comments above make some excellent points: the magic in the books which has involved prophecy or glimpses of the future has always been strange, ambiguous, or unreliable; sure, perhaps Voldemort had come up with some magic that no one else knew about, but still, such a event is not very well accounted for by what we know about such magic already. And I also like anon's suggestion that Dumbledore, while drinking the potion, simply didn't sound like himself...which leads to this fascinating suggestion by Tim Burke : "You know, Dumbledore's dialogue while drinking the potion sounds a lot as if it would be Regulus Black's internal dialogue while he was a Death Eater."

How about that as a possibility? That Regulus Black, in paying the price to retrieve the horcrux, had to leave some terrible part of himself behind? Opens a up a whole new--and cool--line of thought, about Dumbledore, the horcruxes, Snape, and everything else... 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...


You write, "the magic in the books which has involved prophecy or glimpses of the future has always been strange, ambiguous, or unreliable." Perhaps. But, in my initial post, I just said that Dumbledore was seeing something: "perhaps what was happening at the school contemporaneously or in the near future." Nothing in the potion scene's language commits this to being a vision of the future, though that's a possibility. (There are enough prophecies, after all, to fill a huge room at the Ministry. Trelawney has been right sometimes, even though she doesn't really have the gift.)

As for Dumbledore's change in voice, the sentence reads, "Dumbledore panted and then spoke in a voice Harry did not recognize, for he had never heard Dumbledore frightened like this." Explanation #1: the change in voice was attributable to Dumbledore's panic-stricken state. That's the most economical explanation, since it's the one clearly given in the text. Explanation #2: I don't have a copy of any of the prior books, but didn't Professor Trelawney's voice change when she made her genuine prophecies? If he's in the foretelling zone, maybe that would account for his change of voice (if it needed to be accounted for by anything other than his fear, per the text).

As for the "Regulus Black-channelling" theory, I'd have to have more than a vague recollection of what the earlier book(s) said about Black, which I don't. And, since I don't have a copy of any of those books, I'll have to leave it to more devoted Potterites to see whether that might be the case or not.


Posted by scott--dfw

Anonymous said...

One more thing...what about Snape as a possibility?

Perhaps the vision/dream is putting Dumbledore in Snape's shoes in the past. The guilt comes from the recognition that his (i.e., Snape's) informing of Voldemort about the prophecy is going to result in the killing of the Potters. He recognizes he's done wrong and wants to undo it. Wants to stop it. Doesn't want them to be hurt. Wishes Voldemort would take him instead (which suggests a purposiveness in the killing that might be horcrux-related).

If those were Snape's memories that Dumbledore was seeing, it would makes some sense of the dialogue. And, since Snape is a potion master, there might be some connection with the potion in the cave (e.g., his collaborating with V. to make it). It would explain his animosity towards Harry, who's a constant reminder of his guilt. It would explain the basis for Dumbledore's trust in Snape, since he didn't just *regret* his role in the killing of Harry's parents, but as soon as he realized what he'd set in motion, he had an immediate change of heart and tried to intercede, even if it meant trading his own life for theirs.

But that still doesn't seem like a good "fit" with the rest of the narrative. Why on earth would D be seeing S's memories? Did Snape help RAB with the stealing of the horcrux (and replace the potion), and if so why didn't he tell D about it (or did he)? If this memory was the basis of D's trust in S, how could he trust him if he had yet to experience the memory (pensieve?)? Since this theory lends support to S's being a good guy after all, if we read the potion dialogue as having been a past memory rather than a present or near future vision (including D's pleading to trade his life for that of others), why did S kill D? Lots of unanswered questions with this theory.

If Snape is a good guy, at some point in the next book Harry's going to have to learn that, probably from someone he trusts. What will be Rowling's mechanism for that? Will Harry access some of Dumbledore's bottled memories using a pensieve? Communications directly from the grave? A "by the time you read this I'll be dead...love, Dumbledore" letter? No way of telling.


Posted by scott--dfw

Anonymous said...

That Regulus Black, in paying the price to retrieve the horcrux, had to leave some terrible part of himself behind? 

Random thought:

It's interesting to me that when the cover art was released, many (including myself) assumed the basin was a pensieve. Could Dumbledore have been imbibing Regulus' actual memories?

Fascinating discussion... 

Posted by amcorrea

Anonymous said...

It seemed to me that Dumbledore leaving HP immobilized & invisible for the confrontation with Draco and co. was a final lesson, one with an uncertain outcome on the ground, though part of the lesson (regarding love and hope for all) is how, in a sense, unimportant such calculations can be. He ^was^ right about Draco--he was fighting for Draco's soul. He was wrong about Snape, I still think, despite the fascinating discussion above postulating the contrary. His begging towards Snape was, in this formulation, with concern for Snape, not for himself, like someone begging an alcoholic friend to not open the bottle (though, obviously, also different). He wanted Harry to see that people can change, that someone acting bad isn't bad, that free will is always a possibility and hence goodness is.

He was half-right, half-wrong. That he was right about the child and wrong about the man seems to me to speak worlds, both in terms of the world JKR has created as well as ours.

And yes, very Christological, though without any actual theology. Love remains what it is for a secular wizard.

Just my 2 cents--nothing compared to the able discussion above. & I hope I haven't overly duplicated anyone's post above, it's hard to keep straight what was read and what was thought through so much discussion . . . 

Posted by Stuart Greenhouse

Anonymous said...

Rhino left an interesting comment  at my blog. Here is one paragraph from it:
"It was easy for Regulus to get the locket out of the potion. He has the Dark Mark; he was a DE after all. It is my theory that DE's with the mark would be able to penetrate the force field and pull the locket out; just as Snape was able to run past the force field in the tower. DD couldn't get past the magic since he didn't have the mark. I think VM would WANT his DE's to be able to fetch these for obvious reasons. Look at how he had to rely on Pettigrew. If VM was smart (and he is), he would NEVER tell his DE what they are and what they were for or where they were or even how many (he didn't tell Malfoy!), but at the same time he needed them to be able to get them easily for him. The Dark Mark is perfect for this!" 

Posted by Heather P.

Unknown said...

I think Rhino's theory is interesting, and it would answer the question of how the potion was still there after R.A.B. retrieved the horcrux and left the fake one. I had wondered: is the potion self-regenerating? But this would be even simpler: black magic ensures that Death Eaters can reach through it, but anyone else (including Dumbledore) can't.

Anonymous said...

black magic 

Careful, this is a loaded term which Rowling is careful never to use. Instead she says "Dark Wizards/ry" and "Dark Arts".

I was interested to see her remarks (in one of the interviews linked somewhere above) that we have to remember our view of Slytherin is colored by Harry's conflict with the Malfoy circle. Most of the kids in Slytherin are not connected to Death Eaters, Slytherin is just the place for the spooky kids who like to wear black -- and Death Eaters' kids are actually evenly spread among the houses.

This corroborates my sense, based on not much more than the sound of the names, that, taking the long view of school history, Gryffindor is the "Jocks", Ravenclaw is the "Grinders", Hufflepuff is the "Social Committee Types", and Slytherin is the "Weirdos". Four groups that can be found in any school. It just so happens that at this particular historical moment when the incredibly popular and cool Harry Potter Gryffindor circle is socially dominating the school, Slytherin is dark, Hufflepuff is boring, and Ravenclaw has nothing to do.

Something else I want to find out in the last book is the original Slytherin's relationship to Dark Wizardry, but that's probably too much to ask and it wouldn't really affect the main plot.  

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the interview I was referring to -- scroll down about halfway (or search for the first occurence of the word "Slytherin") to see if you think I'm interpreting it correctly.


Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

Oh, right, sorry. And thank you. Dark Arts/Wizardry.

I agree with you that Slytherin as a house isn't evil and that our view of Slytherin is colored by Harry's perception of them. Rowling says, basically, as I read it, in the interview you reference that people are complex.  

Posted by Heather P.

Anonymous said...

R.A.B - Amelia Bones.
She was killed by Voldemort -1st chapter of HBP. The most likely reason would be that she had the horcrux. 

Posted by snape

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if Snape isn't the 'Gollum' of the Harry Potter series. He's no good guy, but he has a vital role to play in seeing to it that the good guys win in the end, despite himself. 

Posted by Mark N.

Anonymous said...

Amelia Bones. 
She is/was far from being a Death Eater. I really doubt this is the real reason behind mentioning the murederes of Emmeline Vance and Amelia Bones.
The person that left that fake horcrux is surely a Death Eater... 

Posted by David

Anonymous said...

Besides, her middle name is "Susan"--Amelia Susan Bones. 

Posted by amcorrea

Anonymous said...

I have some questions that will rock everyone and I will appreciate if you put this one somewhere where everyone will read it ( Like highlight it or something because this is a bit too much of a coincidence especially my Snape part).
Firstly do you think thatNagini may be a Horcrux?
Secondly do you think that Regalus Black, Sirius' brother who joined the Death Eaters may be R.A.B.?
Lastly ( don't stop reading once you read the question because you think it's stupid because I use quotes from the prophecy to back me up) do you think it's possible that it's not Harry but Snape who is the chosen one? Ok you think I'm crazy ( actually it's a friend of mine who pointed this out and I thought he was nuts too but now I'm just not sure).
Let's analyze the prophecy. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches..." Who was approaching the door, approaching them at that very moment.Snape right. It does not necessarily mean approaching by birth, it can mean approaching on foot. Next " and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal..." Did'nt Voldemort lioterally mark him? Did'nt he mark him with the dark mark bringing him into his little family making him an equal? Next "but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not..." What was Snape quite good at? What was he so good at that Lupin and Sirius actually commended him for? What was it that Dumbledore had him teach to Harry? Occlumency. He has power the Dark Lord knows not. It can mean that he has power the Dark Lord knows not what he is thinking.This can support the theory that he was on Dumbledore's side but that is yet to be seen. Now as for being born as the seventh month dies, we don't know when he was born. Also " born to those who thrice defied him" Who was thrice defied him? It did not say born to those who thrice defied the dark Lord, it said him. Maybe the parents thrice defied Snape in which case that's a small number compared to myself and my parents. Or maybe it is thrice defied the dark Lord. It could be that when Snape went to Hogwarts his parents met Tom Riddle and they did'nt like him and they did not want their son hanging around with him and they thrice defied him. So I hope that the whole world specualtes this theory and Mrs. Rowling will clear this up. 

Posted by Johnathan W.

Anonymous said...

a lot of interesting theories. I do believe that R.A.B is Serius' brother. I found some of the potion explanations to be interesting but a couple of key things no one talked about. Why does DD wear the ring, DD isn't into taking trophies, V is, not too mention he also doesn't give a strong reason for wearing such a gaudy slytherin big gold ring.He never mentions having to wear it, or why he does wear it. also you'd think something could be done about his arm, this leads me to believe DD is not himself, and not simply aging, although that might be all it is. What do y'all think? Also many people posting talk about Dumbledore speaking to Harry in the cave in a voice not consistent with his usual peaceful, well thought out, calm style. JKR even decribes one scene between HP and DD as DD being agitated. This made me think that DD was not DD at the time, and that maybe he had changed bodys' via a potion of high end spell, I am not sure. But a lot of Dumbledore's dialogue does not keep to the previous five books of his style of speech when talking. This could be because HP is coming of age, I don't know, it seemed a bit off to me...By the way it's not Susan Bones, all roads leads to Sirius' bro, who seemed to know his time as a loyal DE was running out and that he knew some of V secrets, and wanted to cause some damage before eliminated. Thoughts? Awesome work Russel... 


Anonymous said...

a lot of interesting theories. I do believe that R.A.B is Serius' brother. I found some of the potion explanations to be interesting but a couple of key things no one talked about. Why does DD wear the ring, DD isn't into taking trophies, V is, not too mention he also doesn't give a strong reason for wearing such a gaudy slytherin big gold ring.He never mentions having to wear it, or why he does wear it. also you'd think something could be done about his arm, this leads me to believe DD is not himself, and not simply aging, although that might be all it is. What do y'all think? Also many people posting talk about Dumbledore speaking to Harry in the cave in a voice not consistent with his usual peaceful, well thought out, calm style. JKR even decribes one scene between HP and DD early on in DD's office, as DD not behaving in his usual, smart, serene, wise, compassionate manner. JKR describes Dd as 'being agitated.' This made me think that DD was not DD at the time, and that maybe he had changed bodys' via a potion of high end spell, I am not sure. But a lot of Dumbledore's dialogue does not keep to the previous five books of his style of speech when talking. This could be because HP is coming of age, I don't know, it seemed a bit off to me...By the way it's not Susan Bones, all roads leads to Sirius' bro, who seemed to know his time as a loyal DE was running out and that he knew some of V secrets, and wanted to cause some damage before eliminated. Thoughts? Awesome work Russel...  


Anonymous said...

Hey Johnathan W

> I have some questions that will rock everyone
> Firstly do you think thatNagini may be a Horcrux?

Dumbledore explicitly says she is and that a living thing may be or may contain a horcrux, which seems like kind of a heavy hint just before he and Harry count up and realize one horcrux is unaccounted for.

> Secondly do you think that Regalus Black, Sirius'
> brother who joined the Death Eaters may be R.A.B.?

It looks like you haven't done us the courtesy of reading all the comments above before contributing to this thread. I think everybody here by now agrees that's probably the case.

> Lastly ( don't stop reading once you read the
> question because you think it's stupid because
> I use quotes from the prophecy to back me up)
> do you think it's possible that it's not Harry but
> Snape who is the chosen one?

Based on your quotations from the prophecy, that's a good idea and makes perfect sense. I haven't heard it before, either. Good work! 

Posted by anon

Anonymous said...

First, I have just finished reading all of the posts to date and I have to say, hats off to everyone. There are some great insights. I have some insights of my own. Tend to ponder the deeper questions and miss the obvious ones. My wife, for example, immediately guessed that R.A.B was Regulus A. Black while I missed it completely. To me, the biggest question about the books is the competency of Dumbledore. Either he is omnipotent master wizard or ignorant and incompetent, perhaps criminally so.

I am by no means a scholar of the Harry Potter series. I bow to those who have made a serious study of the works. I have not spent any time trying to outline the plot or worrying about what means what beyond what most people probably do without helping it. That is, except for one question. What is really going on? There are an infinite number of details that fans have teased out of the books and comments from the author. I have to say that I find their analysis fascinating but what is really going on? Let me explain myself.

To start with, Rowlings is a very rational author and generally does not violate common sense, at least within the constructs of her world. Further, she is a dead on student of psychology and human nature. She seems to have a PhD level of understanding when it come to childhood development and the differences in thought process for people at different ages, educations and IQ’s. I assert that it is absurd to think that children are capable of doing the things that the ones in Harry Potter do. You might say that these are wizarding children. Not good enough. Their parents and other adults are wizards as well. Is there some topsy turvy situation in the wizarding world where adults are not a smart, resourceful as children? I hardly think so.

To me there is a collective cognitive dissonance over readers of the books as if they were children themselves and could not see the more sophisticated adult view of the world. I do not mean to insult the vast readership particularly those whom I earlier referred to but rather I do believe that they just do not wish to see the possibility which I have seen. If someone has already postulated the theory which I am about to, I have not been able to find it on the web and do sincerely offer apology for not crediting them with the idea.

It is simply this. What is really going on in books 1 through 5 so far is that Dumbledore has carefully set up a blind experiment or lesson of sorts where the subjects are not aware that they are inside of an artificial world. I am not implying that the things which have happened to Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest are not real, quite the contrary. What I am suggesting is that there is nothing uncontrolled about their adventures at all. Harry along with Ron and Hermione are being trained or prepared in a controlled situation for an upcoming trial or purpose. Harry is allowed to cut his teeth in the safe confines of Hogwarts.

Harry is allowed to confront a severely weakened Voldemort in Sorcerers Stone. He is gradually strengthened psychologically, magically and physically. Seriously, how could the most powerful wizard of all time, Albus Dumbledore, not know that Professor Quirrel had Lord Voldemort, the dark lord, his arch enemy, growing on the back of his head? How could Dumbledore who can see through an invisibility cloak, not see through a hat? If Sirius, James, Lupin and Peter could make the marauders map, why can’t Dumbledore? How could he fail to be aware of the fact that students have been running around at night through the secret passages of the Hogwarts for two generations or more? If the ministry of magic can detect Harry casting a patronus spell why can’t Dumbledore detect the spell that opens the hump back witch? Doesn’t it seem likely that this spell at that particular spot at night would be obvious to Dumbledore particularly in a place with as much security as Hogwarts? And the whole set of challenges that the trio must overcome to get to the stone, sort of odd that each section was one which one of them was uniquely suited to defeat? Team building anyone? It was certainly no accident that a means to defeat Fluffy was leaked to the trio either. The only question for me is did Hagrid willfully tell Quirrel and the kids how to defeat Fluffy or did Dumbledore know that he would? Surely in the muggle world if three children and a criminally insane doppelganger were able to break into the most secure facility on the planet to get their hands on the most coveted object in the universe it would launch a full scale investigation into security procedures. Dumbledore should have been racked with self doubt after that but instead he seems to glow with pride and satisfaction. The whole matter should have been secret, hushed up. But no, he said hey everybody these three kids defeated all my plans to safeguard the stone in order to do what I could not or would not, and furthermore I am giving them the house cup for it.

Other details beg the question as well. Why would a child be allowed to witness the withdrawal of the Sorcerers Stone from Gringots? If Dumbledore did not believe the stone to be safe why didn’t he have some Aurors lie in wait for the thief? How did anyone know that an empty vault was broken into and then only after the fact? It is all because Dumbledore set the whole thing up. Quirrel and Voldemort were Dumbledore’s stooges. Dumbledore for whatever reason can not or will not or must not kill or defeat Voldemort himself. It has to be someone else, perhaps Harry, perhaps not but it can not be done by Dumbledore directly so the deed must be orchestrated. I think of Dumbledore as someone like the chairman of the Federal Reserve (US). He is in charge of a system so vast, important and delicate that he must subtlety manipulate it. People must believe that they have absolute free will and that the world is subject to random chance or they will not act normally or perhaps at all. Felix Felicitous may just be the worlds strongest placebo.

Chamber of Secrets

In Chamber of Secrets Harry and others are allowed to confront a memory or shadow of Voldemort. They learn of evil, and manipulation. Is it even remotely possible that Albus Dumbledore does not know that the monster in the chamber is a Basilisk? It appears to me that the fact that people are only petrified instead of killed by the Basilisk under Dumbledore’s watch can not be a matter of luck or even providence but of high art. He knows that the creature is on the prowl and controls the damage it can do. Is it a fantastic stroke of luck that the head master’s phoenix first destroys the Basilisk’s main weapon and then delivers to Harry a weapon that can kill the monster, seemingly on cue but also provides the antidote for the creatures secondary weapon. Dumbledore couldn’t bring Harry back to life but he can cure him of poisoning. This gives Harry the feeling that it was all on the line and that he barely survived when in actuality all contingencies were planned for, if not predicted.

Is it perhaps even possible that Arthur Weasly knew of the diary all along? He was standing right there at Flourish and Blotts. Do you think a seasoned, even blooded member of the resistance who has lost friend and family to the Death Eaters would have been fooled by mere slight of hand? You may say that a caring father would never allow his daughter to be exploited for any end, however important it was, but consider for a moment. Mr. Weasly is a shrewd operative who has lived for years when others have died. He was not about to tip off Malfoy, no instead he wisely let Luscious believe that it had worked. He knew that his daughter was not in any immediate danger. After consulting with Dumbledore or perhaps the whole order it was decided that the situation could be contained at Hogwarts. To me a good question is, was this risk managed with or without input from Mrs. Weasly?

Prisoner of Azkaban

To me it is clear in Prisoner of Azkaban that Dumbledore is a time lord (think Dr. Who).
Obviously there are some limits on changing the timeline but I for the life of me can not divine them. If time can be used to save Buckbeak, Sirius and Harry, why not James and Lilly? Why not go back in time and expose Tom Riddle before he becomes Lord Voldemort? I don’t think we’ll ever get a better hypothesis than, it just wouldn’t work out for some reason.
On the surface we know that he feels comfortable enough with his temporal abilities to allow the 14 year old Hermione to use a time turner for the purpose of taking extra classes. This says a great deal about Hermione to be sure but I think it says even more about Dumbledore’s ability to and comfort with managing risk. It is anyone’s guess as to why 3rd year was the right time for this extremely dangerous yet seemingly trivial use of time travel. Consider that Hermione, having just turned 14, was changing the timeline every day for a whole school year just to take more classes, one of them being Divination. The risks were death, insanity and possibly others like getting lost in time or destroying the present reality. There are huge holes in the cover story too. Hermione only has McGonagle’s word for it that the ministry of magic condones of this practice. How could she possibly use it to fool the minister of magic himself? Sure, he’s a dimwit but no one is that thick and at the same time a shrewd politician. I don’t think that the ministry knows when the devices are being used either, at least not at Hogwarts. Hermione clearly uses the device at a time when classes are not in session and take Harry with her. That’s not much oversight. You would think that it would be standard operating procedure to scan for temporal anomalies during the execution of a death warrant, even for an animal. Using a time turner to thwart and execution must be one of the oldest misuses of the device there is. Even if the ministry were content to trust that nothing funny was going to happen, don’t you think that Luscious Malfoy would insist that safeguards were in place. Obviously the use of time travel is not quite transparent (note: this is the contemporary use of the term) even to those who regulate it.
As an aside, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I hate time travel, even when it creates stories I like. Let me give you a taste.
Keep in mind that going back in time, in the Harry Potter world as portrayed in the movie requires running it, time, in reverse. The moment you start to go back you create a copy of yourself. One that does everything in reverse until the “when” you are going to is reached and another that stands in one spot and watches it all go backwards. Then you coexist with your previous self until the moment you reach the “when” when you left at which time you see the split happens again. You move forward in time while your previous self does what you just did and your previous self 2 undoes what he just did. And so it goes forever in an eternal loop. So who is the prime mover? How do you ever know how many iterations there have been? What would it do to your mind to know that when you go back in time there is no way you could know what iteration of the loop you were in?
If as the book suggests, time is a continuum where each moment exists independently and you simply wink out of existence in one and appear in another then there are an infinite number of you’s, one for each when. Oddly this is the belief of many otherwise sane physicists, but with an additional twist. For reasons too complex to explain (See Schrodinger’s Cat) they also believe that each time a decision is made, even at the subatomic level for every single particle, an alternate universes is spawned, one in which the decision went one way and another in which it went the other. Although not all of them believe in time travel.
Some would call this sort of thing a paradox. I call it bullcrap but it does make some interesting stories. Evil Spock comes to mind. That would be evil Cartman you kids. That having been said I think there is good reason to go a bit deeper into the timeline.

Few people I have talked to noticed the obviously missing bits of the time line. Buckbeak and Sirius aside, it appears that Hermione and Harry went back in time and saved Harry’s life. One does not have to even bend ones mind to think of a few questions. Then, if he was dead, how did he live to go back in time and save his own life? This is clearly not possible even in the absurd word of time travel. Dead is dead. At no point did we see Harry brought back to life, a seemingly impossible feat even in the wizarding world. Clearly we have not seen all events. Even if Harry would not have died as it appeared he would, there is still the problem of what happened in the original timeline. Are you with me? There had to be a timeline when Harry and Hermione had not yet used the time turner together or else there would be no value in doing so. If not then there is no free will and what’s the point of anything when there is no choice, particularly in a story about choices. Even if on one ever actually died then there is the matter of Harry and Hermione seeing and interacting with themselves. What happened in the original timeline when Harry never cast the Patronus from the other side of the lake, etcetera? Obviously there is an original timeline which only Dumbledore remembers. That suggests that a timeline wholly unacceptable to Dumbledore has been obliterated. Heavy stuff. That is some serious messing with time. Much deeper than what Harry and Hermione were doing. Lets say that in the original timeline a third party saved a child from drowning because they just happened to interact with Harry or Hermione that caused them to just happen to see the child in the nick of time. But now Dumbledore obliterates that timeline and replaces it with one that does not include the interaction and hence no rescue. Pretty dire consequences. Clearly this did not happen but it gives you an idea of why time travel might be regulated and the scope of risk management required when one does. Hardly the kind of stuff you would trust a 14 year old with even if she was a gifted witch unless you were in close supervision. To me, Dumbledore sending them back to save Sirius is a huge clue, even a wink, that he is orchestrating their adventures very closely and the fact that Hermione or Harry do not spend any time on the issue I have just gone over are an indication of the cognitive dissonance they are under.

So now here we are, past the imposter moody, the extra name in the Goblet of Fire, the ignored Disapearing Cabinet, the portkey in the maze, past all of the things that happened on Dumbledore’s watch which somehow turned out ok. So… he’s pretty lucky huh? I don’t think so. And now the discussion of whether or not he knew the mind of Snape.

One constant is that Dumbledore always knows what is going on and always is “on plan”. Not to say that he’s God or anything, it’s clear that Mr. Weasly was not going to be saved by Dumbledore. In fact if Harry had done his bidding, he’d never have know it at all.
That’s my bit on Dumbledore, I know it’s a bit off topic but I think it speaks to current events. Now to some of my theories regarding HBP.

After reading the posts above, I think that the unforgivable manner in which James saved Severous was to use Sectumsempra against Lupin. I think he blurted it out the same way Harry did. The betrayal was that Lilly shared Serverous potions book with James. That is why Lupins face is disfigured. I’m not fully vested in this one but it would be interesting.

I, for one, felt a bit hard done by. Rowling has provided lots of clues which make sense in hindsight but even the most avid reader would be hard pressed to compile a decent reference material from what we know so far. I have been waiting a long time for some answers and HBP raises only more questions. (Horcruxes aside) So after I finished HBP I was asking myself, why did Rowling fill the book with so much snogging and such that it read like teen fiction? After several discontented days it hit me. We needed it. We needed to see normal human interaction, be immersed in it even to the point that we were over it. Why, because it’s what life’s about isn’t it. It’s a world that Voldemort can never know. It’s the difference between him and everyone else. A life without love is so empty that most people would rather die than live without it.

I think that if R. A. B. is Regulus A. Black then the potion in the cup and the experiences it gives are his as well. I think that when he took the Horcrux (locket or not) there was a potion in the cup, one that he replaced with his own. I think that there is a forgotten world of magic, an ancient one that Dumbledore referred to. When Regulus was being tortured he offered his own life to save others and end the torture. After that, if Voldemort killed him he would have sealed a magical contract. That is why Regulus was not killed by Voldemort. That is the power of love and ancient magic. Regulus wanted Voldemort to live through the torture and groveling he had to and then find out it was for nothing. Just a plain locket with a gocha note. That’s some sweet revenge. Tragically, Dumbldore suffered that fate. Perhaps a cautionary tale on the folly of revenge.

Posted by R Carter

Anonymous said...

There are some fantastic theories in this thread!

I must say I was shocked when Snape appeared to murder Dumbledore ... but the more I re-read the more I'm convinved that DD would never have pleaded for his life, he is selfless not at all concerned for his own life. Therefore he must be pleading with Snape to kill him. Draco's soul can be saved, but Snape would feel (and dumbledore probably understands this) that his soul has already been split, he blames himself and was truly remorseful for the murder of James and Lily ~ and is therefore more cabable of killing....

DD probably did need to die so that Harry would chose  his own path rather than be lead/feel a need to fulfil is fate. Freezing Harry makes no sense whatsoever unless he is there to witness events and learn something....

> Has no-one else been frustrated that Harry as a character only sees people in black and white, evil or good?? He idolises his father, yet would not see that his father (and sirius, etc) could be mean, and bullied Snape. Draco must be evil because his father is a death eater, and because he and Harry have always been rivals. But we learn that Draco is most likely trying to protect his own family by carrying out the dark lords orders, e.g. acting from love - and of course he can't actually go through with it and kill.

I think we will learn that there are similar shades  to Snape's character, and that he acted out of love (for Lily?) or sense of loyalty, rather than hate. I will be shocked if Rowling does intend for Snape to simply return to the dark lord and become a one dimensional character - as this also leaves Harry undeveloped and unmatured, he should be learning to understand people and their motivations rather than judging by actions, he should be learning the power to forgive, etc. DD has stressed that 'love' is the most powerful emotion in magic, so how can Harry hope to defeat Voldermort if he is simply acting out a need for revenage on both the dark lord and Snape? That will just make for hollow & disappointing reading .... 

Posted by Trillian

Anonymous said...

Well, this is obviously a bit late, on the action and all, but:

I hate to squash your theory, Jonathan W., but Snape's birthday is January 9th (cited on the HP Lexicon ).

So, he certainly wasn't born as the seventh month dies.

Also, it's rather unlikely that Snape and Riddle were ever at Hogwarts together, considering Voldemort was already out of school and murdering people by 1945, so Snape's parents could hardly have met him, then.

Elsewise, interesting interpretation of the prophecy. We may be surprised yet. 

Posted by auriga