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02 July 2007 @ 02:30 am
Why are they called Death Eaters?

The incantation Morsmordre comes from Latin for 'death' and 'bite'.  The Dark Mark shows the serpent escaping, literally, from the jaws of death.

When Voldemort said that he had 'gone further than any other wizard on the path to immortality', was he speaking only of making more than one Horcrux?  He doesn't seem the type to put all his eggs in one basket, or even in seven of just one kind of basket.

So why Death Eaters, of all things, and not Death Breakers or Death Evaders?  The name reminds me of the odd medieval figure of the Sin Eater: a traveler whose peculiar trade was to consume the sins of a household along with as much food as they could pile up.  Though the accumulated sins were sure to condemn the Sin Eater to damnation in the end, at least he would go well-fed.

If a Sin Eater takes the weight of sin from the host, then what does a Death Eater do for the master?

I suppose the question isn't so much whether the Death Eaters would die for the Dark Lord, but whether they'd have any choice.  Just what kind of obligations are attached to the Dark Mark anyway, should the chips come down to someone applying otherwise deadly force to the Big V's body?

And does the ritual of receiving the Mark perhaps involve eating or drinking something?  Wouldn't be at all surprised.
23 June 2007 @ 12:02 pm
...the day after Voldemort's last downfall the entire wizarding world is buzzing with the news that the Potters are dead and Voldemort tried to kill Harry but failed.  Who spread these details so early, before even McGonagall had confirmation of the story?  Lily, James, Harry and Tom aren't talking.

...Avada Kedavra doesn't fling people over the parapets.  They just die where they are.  "Crumple" is the usual verb.

...if Trelawney remembers being interrupted at her interview by Snape, the interruption presumably came after the prophecy.  But Dumbledore clearly says that the listener was caught halfway through and only heard the first half of the prophecy.  Did the prophetic spell go on pause when the barman brought Snape in, wait until he was gone, and resume for part II?  Or did the barman spend long enough accosting Snape in the hallway for the prophecy to finish before coming in?  The latter seems far more likely, but the discrepancy raises the strong possibility that Snape heard more of the prophecy than even Dumbledore knows.

Scouring the text, the quoted prophecy is divided by ellipses into five clauses.  If the delivery was interrupted midway -- which seems less plausible the longer I consider it -- one of these ellipses may represent the interruption, but if not, one of them may still signal the last phrase that Snape was able to hear.  OotP hb p841:
On p843 Dumbledore says that the (as of then unidentified) eavesdropper heard only the first part, and "did not know that you [Harry] would have 'power the Dark Lord knows not'."  Playing around with the various possibilities, the most immediately intriguing one is that he missed only the very last clause, and the only piece of information he didn't have is that 'the one' will be born.  'The one approaches' could refer to one who already lives.  A search of the Lexicon turns up no characters with known July birthdays except for Harry and Neville, but this still feels like a hot trail.

On a related note, how could Snape have expected Voldemort to interpret the prophecy?  Dumbledore makes a big deal about how bad Snape felt when it turned out that V. took it to mean he should kill the Potters, but what else would he have expected the Dark Lord to do?  Somehow I don't think Dumbledore would be over impressed by "I'm so sorry, I thought he was going to kill the Longbottoms instead."

Why did Dumbledore trust Snape so much?  The answer might be at the end of the line,  "I didn't think he'd kill the Potters -- I was sure he would...          ."
05 June 2007 @ 02:13 am
There's no way asking Kreacher to tail Malfoy is a good idea to begin with, but Harry takes that bad idea and screws it up further.  HBP p422:
"And you're forbidden to tip him off, Kreacher, or to show him what you're up to, or to talk to him at all, or to write him messages or...or to contact him in any way.  Got it?"
Which would be fine, if Malfoy were the only person Kreacher could talk to.

Following Malfoy 24-7 necessarily means going to places where other Slytherins and even Death Eaters are likely to be.  And Harry only ordered Kreacher -- who, let's not forget, went running to Bellatrix Lestrange the last time he was given a loophole -- not to contact Malfoy

Oh yeah, and um...even if Kreacher for some reason wanted to abide by the spirit of Harry's command, he still talks to himself out loud, all the time, without apparently realizing it; which is what you want a spy to do, of course.

Nobody has yet told Harry how to extract a memory for placement in the Pensieve, though he's seen Dumbledore, Snape and Slughorn all draw out their own.  Specifically, we've never found out whether it's possible to extract someone else's memories -- or to take them from an unwilling subject...or an unconscious one...or (you can see where I'm going with this)...a dead one...

It's a long shot, but I can't think of any other way we could find out what Dumbledore experienced while drinking that horrible potion.  Of course, we might just never find out; the plot may not need any more detail than "something pretty awful".  Moreover, it may be that the spell requires touching a wand to the head, which would be tricky with Dumbledore's head in a big white tomb.  But it's an interesting notion.


The real answer to the following question, of course, is that he was under pressure and not exactly in a state of leisurely contemplation -- but I'd still like to see Harry's expression if somebody asked him just after the first Triwizard challenge: after spending all that effort mastering the Summoning Charm to get his broom, why not just Accio the egg?
27 May 2007 @ 10:00 pm
Yeah, I kinda blanked out on this thing for awhile, y'know how it goes.  Anyway, now that I've got some time here's the big theory of mine, the off-showing of which was more or less the purpose of this enterprise.  I've got a few other ideas which I'll toss up here periodically between now & July, but this is the only one I'm more or less certain of.

Point one: concerning the artifacts of the Hogwarts founders.  From Hufflepuff, we have a cup; from Slytherin, a ring and a locket; from Gryffindor, only one known relic, the sword; and from Ravenclaw, an unknown item.  Reading either ring or locket as a reasonable approximation of a coin or precious stone, no very deep occult research is needed to identify the missing part of the sequence cup - gem - sword.  The missing item is also something central to the series, something every witch and wizard owns; in fact it's the one item we know Ravena Ravenclaw must have possessed.

Point two: concerning Ollivander, the wandmaker, who has gone missing between books 5 & 6.  HBP, p106 in the US paperback:

"Talking of Diagon Alley," said Mr. Weasley, "looks like Ollivander's gone too."

"The wandmaker?" said Ginny, looking startled.

"That's the one.  Shop's empty.  No sign of a struggle.  No one knows whether he left voluntarily or was kidnapped."

"Shop's empty" is something to come back to, but for the moment we'll skip to the Hogwarts Express, where Neville Longbottom shows Harry his new wand.  p137:

"Cherry and unicorn hair." he said proudly.  "We think it was one of the last Ollivander ever sold, he vanished next day -- oi, come back here, Trevor!"

(the last, of course, is directed to his errant toad familiar.  That toad bears watching too, but later for that...)

Point three is simply that it feels right.  Putting together the Tarot-suit completion of the Hogwarts artifacts, the disappearance of Ollivander, and the fact that JKR happens to mention Neville's new wand at all, I come up with the one prediction about book 7 on which I'm more than reasonably confident:  I suspect one of the remaining Horcruxes to be the wand of Ravena Ravenclaw, and that it is currently in the hands of Neville Longbottom.  In the conservatory, with the lead pipe.

Following that, some more speculative footnotes...

Much of the evidence surrounding Ollivander is amibiguous, though it leans toward the sinister.  There's certainly something creepy about his "great things, terrible but great" routine, though at least he did throw in the 'terrible' disclaimer.  He might have just been trying to impress on Harry a sense of his own potential power.  That he gave Harry the twin of Voldemort's wand really can't be read one way or the other -- although it did help later with the Priori Incantatem effect, it's still kind of off,  like giving some kid Hitler's hat.

Then there's what Mr. Weasley said, about the shop being empty.  Does he mean there's nobody in the shop (and is there usually anyone there other than Ollivander)?  Or that there's nothing in the shop -- that it's been emptied?  If the latter, that certainly implies a willing departure.  For Muggles this would be a damning point, but for a competent adult wizard it's no great difficulty to pack up and remove a shop's contents in a short time -- assuming the owner and any magical protections on the property had been overcome.  On a similar note, it's difficult to imagine that a presumably powerful (and surely well-equipped!) wizard could be captured by force from the middle of Diagon Alley at any hour without attracting notice -- but on the other side of that, nobody ever said that Ollivander lives in his shop, or even spends much of his off-hours time there.

If the theory about Ravenclaw's wand is correct, it would seem to argue that Ollivander was taken unwillingly -- in that it's difficult to see why anyone loyal to Voldemort would want to slip one of his Horcruxes to a known ally of Potter's, unless perhaps it has some active power of its own as did the Riddle diary.  Giving the wand away the day before vanishing implies a planned departure, but that doesn't mean Ollivander must have run off to Voldemort.  Realizing his own value as a target, he may have decided to pack up and take a very distant holiday; or more pessimistically, decided it was only a matter of time before They got him and unloaded the wand on the first DA member to come in, coincidentally just before They actually did.

Regardless of Ollivander's loyalties, it seems likely the Death Eaters have captured a depressingly large stockpile of the finest wands.  Aside from being able to replace any that are broken or lost in battle, having a lot of wands doesn't make any given wizard more formidable -- but is it safe to assume that Voldemort is going to keep the whole lot stored in a cupboard as spares?  Or could he be planning to provide wands to a whole bunch of beings who aren't allowed them?  Goblins, perhaps?


Edit: after writing the above, I happened to pick up OoTP again this morning; on p85, Arthur and Lupin are discussing goblins:
"I'm sure they'd never go over to You-Know-Who," said Mr. Weasley, shaking his head.  "They've suffered losses too.  Remember that goblin family he murdered last time, somewhere near Nottingham?"

"I think it depends what they're offered," said Lupin.  "And I'm not talking about gold; if they're offered freedoms we've been denying them for centuries they're going to be tempted.[...]"
Now that's interesting, isn't it?
30 April 2007 @ 01:03 pm
Near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban  when Prof. Lupin is packing to leave the school, he says this to Harry (ellipsis in original):
"I could have bitten any of you....  That must never happen again."


Late at night, somewhere around fifty years ago, in some darkened private corner of the corridors of Hogwarts, an invisible intruder may have been able to hear the scratching of a quill and a soft, fainty irritated mutter:
"I am Lord...Tremvoldo.  No...I am Lord Vorteldom.  Vordletom.  Mortlevod.  No, no, no, dammit.  I am Lord...Vroomdelt.  Motel Dr. V.  Gah!"

More later...
A few general opinions, just so you know where I'm coming from on the rest of this:

I don't think Rowling is lying or being evasive about Dumbledore being really-for-real dead, but I also think we'll see him again at least briefly in Hallows.  Between Pensieves, portraits and priori incatatem the deceased have gotten a fair deal of screen time in the series so far, and I think Harry will get at least a fleeting chance to say good-bye to Dumbledore and Sirius in some form.

My opinion on Snape falls overall into the thumbs-up category, but not so firmly that I'd lay money on it.  I think he killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore's orders, and quite tragically against his own wishes, but some of the counter-arguments are very persuasive.  I find it difficult to see how the story could resolve well (not necessarily happily, just fittingly) with a betrayal that seems to undercut much of Dumbledore's essential philosophy, and with it most of the lessons Harry has learned from him -- but it may be that Rowling can see such an ending quite clearly.

Being one of the Good Guys doesn't make Snape a very good guy, though.  If Voldemort and Dumbledore hadn't been around, Snape would've ended up living at the top of a black iron tower somewhere, rubbing his hands and cackling over the triumph of his plan to steal all the love from Happy Town.  Alan Rickman brings a memorable glamour -- and hygeine -- to the role in what may be too compelling a performance; he's a great character, but the text version of Snape seems more like this guy, about thirty years younger.

Finally, I have no evidence but a dreadful suspicion that the last words of Half-Blood Prince --

"...he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione."

-- are going to sound horribly ironic come July.
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