Weekly Archive
February 10, 2002 - February 16, 2002

RE: Predatory Karkaroff as Stock/Type

Judy wrote:

By the way, I re-read the description of Karkaroff, and he is described if ways that could be thought of as stereotypically gay—"fruity" voice, weak chin hidden by a goatee, etc.

I saw Karkaroff as falling very firmly within a (now, thankfully, rather archaic) British literary tradition. He's a variation on a stock that was more popular in the first half of the twentieth century, the Oily and Disreputable Eastern European, given a slightly (but only very slightly) more modern edge by all of the Cold War/Biased Olympics Official stuff.

You see a lot of these guys in Golden Age Whodunnits. Agatha Christie was partial to the type for a while: in her hands, he was often a Jew (up until around 1939, that is, when a dinner conversation with a member of a Foreign Political Party Which Must Not Be Named shocked Christie so badly that she apruptly abandoned much of her earlier anti-semitism).

Anyway, in the tradition of this Type, the effeminacy isn't really a signifier of homosexuality at all. It's a signifier of unwholesome and predatory sexuality. This stock character is often a hostile seducer ("ruiner") of well-born young women; sometimes he's a con man with fraudulent aristocratic credentials, hoping to marry wealth. I've also seen him written as a bigamist.

So, um...yeah. My suspicions about Karkaroff and Krum (::big smile and appreciative wave to Tabouli for K.I.S.S.T.H.I.S.D.U.C.K.::) probably were largely influenced by his effeminacy, but I think that I was reading that far more as a sign of "predatory" than of "gay."

While we're on this topic, I'd just like to add that JKR really knows her classic detective fiction tropes. The Karkaroff character in 1930s Whodunnits is the Designated Red Herring—the one that even the readers are meant to recognize as such. He's the character that nobody trusts, but while he usually does turn out to be No Good in one way or another—he's a jewel thief, or a forger, or a bigamist, or an espionage agent, or a gold-digger, or on the lam for crimes committed elsewhere—he's never the real culprit. He is not the murderer. He usually disappears half-way through Act Three; at the denoument, the detective then reveals his secret and explains that he fled out of fear of exposure, or fear of repercussions deriving from his exposure.

Sound a little familiar?

I don't think that I've ever seen this stock character's probable eventual fate painted quite so darkly as poor Karkaroff's, though. In mysteries, he just slips back into the dubious shadowlands whence he sprung—presumably to resurface at someone else's house party a few months later...

Judy again:

Ugh. I found the thought of Karkaroff being attracted to Krum pretty nauseating; the thought of him wanting Snape is even worse.

Aw. Poor Igor. What's so nauseating about him? At least his standards of personal hygiene seem up to par.

You know, I'm beginning to agree with Cindy? Karkaroff gets nothing around here but disdain.

So that does it. I'm inviting Igor out for a few drinks and to pick up his S.Y.C.O.P.H.A.N.T.S. membership packet. We'll go far over our limits, and sing old songs loudly and off-key, and then get all weepy and bathetic and sentimental before staggering home at dawn.

I'd invite Cindy to join us, but... Well, I fear that the weepy bathetic stuff might prove too much for her. I wouldn't want her to snap and...well, you know. Kill us.

—Elkins, who can become weirdly obsessive about Agatha Christie and who has the Christies on her bookshelf filed in order of original publication date.

Posted February 10, 2002 at 12:55 pm
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RE: Weak vs. Unwilling, Fidelius, Pettigrew's Poor Strategy

Porphyria, in response to my "Where are the Weaklings and Patsies?" query, wrote:

That's a good question, but I guess my reply would be, where do you draw the line between weak and unwilling?

That's an excellent question! There's certainly a continuum there, even in the real world. And as someone (Judy, I think it was?) pointed out some time ago, the entire question of personal volition is even more complicated for wizards in the Potterverse, where there are things like Imperius and Fidelius and the mental side-effects of Transfiguration to contend with.

And then there are also...well, genre conventions. In real life, for example, revealing secrets under torture is essentially a blameless act. Torture subverts personal volition—that's its purpose—so people can't really be held responsible for their behavior under its influence. Even members of certain branches of the military, who receive special training in resisting interrogation, are not really expected to hold up to it very well at all; those who do show a native facility with resistance (and yes, there are such people) are generally not considered so much "heroic" as they are seen to be possessed of an unusual and somewhat freakish talent.

In most types of genre fiction, on the other hand, virtuous people resist interrogation. They just do. It's a convention of the genre: Good Guys Don't Crack. So the question of personal volition is complicated even further in the world of HP by the extent to which the world might operate under the laws of genre convention, rather than those of real life.

This is an issue that touches directly on my question of a week or so ago, as to why Pettigrew might have chosen to go for that muggle-blasting-fake-my-own-death-and-frame-Sirius stunt, rather than simply claiming that the DEs had somehow figured out that he was the Potters' Secret Keeper and then wrested the secret from him by means of magical or physical coercion.

I argued that the latter plan seemed far more sensible to me, and it would have had the added bonus of placing him under Dumbldeore's protection in case the other DEs came after him for betraying Voldemort to his doom.

In response, Marina wrote:

Did he know that Volemort was down for the count? At the time, everyone pretty much thought that V was invincible, so Peter probably thought that the disappearance was just a temporary setback, and that V would be back any moment, kicking more butt. In which case worming his was back into the good guys' graces would've been a really bad move.

But...but...but...But he was a spy in the first place, wasn't he? He was a mole: he'd been passing on information from the inside. So surely 'in the good guys' graces' would be precisely where Voldemort would expect for him to be? I mean, that was a very important part of his job.

Really, worming his way back into the good guys' graces would seem like a no-lose strategy to me. If Voldie never returns, he gets pity and protection from the good guys, and if Voldie does return...well, he's just been carrying on doing his job like a loyal little DE. Win-win.

But (and this is the big "but") it's a strategy that only makes sense if one makes certain assumptions about how the Fidelius Charm works—and specifically, about what is meant by the phrase "chooses to divulge it." (It all depends on what "chooses" means.) What degree of volition is required for the SK's information to count as "freely" divulged? Could it be divulged under torture? Under Imperius? Under Veritaserum? How does the Fidelius Charm itself answer the question of at what point personal volition is negated by coercion?

This is a question that puzzles me because on the one hand, the only reason I can imagine for Pettigrew not utilizing the "they found out and came after me, and I just couldn't keep it from them" strategy would be that the information hidden by the Fidelius Charm can't be wrested from the secret keeper by force. If this is the case, then the fact that the others consider Pettigrew to be both magically weak and physically delicate is irrelevant: he still wouldn't be able to get away with claiming magical or physical coercion as a defense.

But on the other hand, if this is the case then I confess myself puzzled by the decision to try to bluff the enemy by switching secret-keepers in the first place. "They'd never suspect we'd use a weakling like Peter" would seem to imply that the Fidelius Charm is no proof against extreme forms of coercion, that the Secret Keeper can indeed be forced to reveal his secret through torture or Imperio or Veritaserum or whatever forms of magical mind-reading might exist.

In which case I'm left once more wondering why Pettigrew didn't choose the far wiser strategy of claiming that this was what had happened to him.

Cindy wrote:

I can only think of two reasons why Peter wouldn't try this. First, it could simply be that he is dedicated to the Dark Lord, as Sirius suggests in the Shrieking Shack. Peter was just biding his time, waiting for a chance to help his master, so being a rat for 12 years would probably provide a better vantage point than Azkaban.

But if the Fidelius Charm can be broken by torture or Imperius or Veritaserum or magical mind-reading or whatever else, then why on earth would he wind up in Azkaban? On what charges? Being Overpowered By a Bunch of DE Thugs? He could share a cell with the Longbottoms, perhaps?

Nope. That explanation just doesn't cut it. If Pettigrew had claimed coercion, then he would have been perceived as a victim (always a role he enjoys), not as a criminal, and he would have wound up far better positioned to wait for a chance to help his master than he did as a pet rat.

Once again, I'm left with the conclusion that the only reason that Pettigrew could possibly have chosen the strategy he did was that he knew full well that Sirius Black's "nasty temper"—or maniacally homicidal tendencies, depending on how you look at it—would have caused him to be blasted to smithereens on the street in spite of the fact that this would have been a monstrously unjust and indeed psychopathic response on Sirius' part.

So there.

<Elkins nods with supreme satisfaction, takes a long drag on her cigarette, and then blinks, frowning>

Although actually...

::long sigh::

Yeah, okay. Okay, Cindy. Fine. Never mind. I just realized. Sirius really would have been perfectly justified in blasting Pettigrew into a faint red mist had he tried out my strategy after the Potters' deaths, and you want to know why?

No, not because Pettigrew's a coward and a weakling, nor because Sirius would have thought that he ought to have been able to stand up to any degree of coercion, nor because the Secret Keeper's resolve can't be broken by magic or force. None of that.

No. No, Sirius would have been utterly justified in blasting Pettigrew on the street for the simple reason that Pettigrew is a terrible liar.

And no, I don't mean 'terrible' as in 'incorrigible.' I mean 'terrible' as in 'he's just no damn good at it.'

He never would have been able to pull off my strategy successfully because the man can't lie his way out of a paper bag. It would have been pathetically obvious that he was making it all up, and Sirius would have blasted him.

::exasperated sigh::

You know, I really do have very little patience with pathological liars who aren't even any good at it? God, I hate that. That just annoys the hell out of me. What's wrong with Peter, anyway?

It's just depressing. I really do find myself wanting to believe that Pettigrew was once a competent liar, and that maybe it was just all those years spent in rat form that dulled his edge or something, because otherwise I really do find myself wondering about Sirius and the Potters. They went an entire year without realizing who the spy really was? When it was Pettigrew? The worst liar in the entire Potterverse? The man whose tells are visible from a hundred yards away?

I mean, it just kind of boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Back to Porphyria:

Peter sure seems to me to act more on fear than conviction; he seems really disgusted with what he's doing and living in constant fear that he'll be axed once his usefulness is over. Do we know the dark mark on his arm indicates that he's truly a willing DE, or is that just another thing he got browbeaten into?

"But they would have killed me if I hadn't agreed to enter into a binding magical compact with Voldemort and swear my undying loyalty to him! I was browbeaten into it! I didn't really want to!"

No. To my mind, that's willing. Weak, yes, to be sure, and if the browbeating was severe then rather sad as well, but come on! There are lines beyond which you just cannot venture while still claiming to be "unwilling." Once you're bearing the magically-binding token of your oath of eternal loyalty to the age's Great Dark Wizard, then I'd say that Checkpoint Charlie isn't even in your range of sight anymore: you've already gone miles past that line.

Then, much of this depends on how one interprets the status of the DEs and the nature of their compact with Voldemort. I don't really believe that there can be truly "unwilling" Death Eaters.

For one thing, the DEs would seem to be Voldemort's elite followers, not fellow-travellers. Whenever people talk about the dark days of V's original reign, the impression given is that he had a lot of supporters—people didn't know who to trust, they were fearful of talking to strange wizards, anyone could turn out to be the enemy, and so forth. But there are only thirty some-odd DEs in the graveyard scene. Even allowing for attrition due to imprisonment and death (not to mention cowardice and treachery), that number is just too small to represent all of Voldemort's original supporters. I'd say the DEs are an elite group.

Also, the Dark Mark would seem to represent a rather serious relationship: it's not exactly like bearing the Nike Swoosh on your ankle. It's not just a tattoo; it's a form of magical binding. It is intrinsically connected to Voldemort's state of being (it grows more visible as he approaches recorporation). It's linked to all of the other Dark Marks (Voldemort can use Peter's to activate all of them, and Snape claims that part of its original function was to serve as a means of identification and recognition between Death Eaters). Through it, Voldemort can summon his DEs to his side over great distance without giving them any explicit directions to his location. And when he's accusing them of infidelity in the graveyard, he reminds them that they once "swore eternal loyalty" to him.

That all sounds like serious ritual magic to me. While canon never actually makes it explicit, I think it's pretty strongly implied that the Dark Mark represents a compact, one that is both personal and binding, and one that really could not be entered into "involuntarily."

Also, Avery seems like a coward—maybe he's really evil but just hyper.

Oh, Porphyria! Surely you meant to say "he's not really evil, but just hyper," didn't you? I certainly hope so, because otherwise we may need to have words. You know how I feel about Avery. ;-)

So far it seems like only Lucius and Mrs. Lestrange stick with Voldemort because they feel they have a stake in what he's doing.

And I'm not altogether certain about Lucius. Yes, I'm sure that he and Voldemort do share certain agenda. But still. Lucius doesn't seem at all happy to see the Dark Lord back in action, and IMO there's more to that then simple fear of punishment. I definitely get the impression that there's a reason so few of the DEs went out looking for Voldemort the way the Lestranges did. I think that by the end there, he'd grown so completely mad and erratic and bwah-hah-hah villainish that all but the very nuttiest of his followers (Crouch, Lestranges...) were more than a little relieved to see him go.

Does anyone but me wonder if Rita Skeeter will wind up delivering information to Voldemort—wittingly or unwittingly? She's be a good candidate for some Imperius duty.

You think she really needs Imperius? Rita's on the make. I would think that she'd be so easy to manipulate by the usual means that there'd be no real need for mind-control.

Did JKR ever say something in an interview about trying to paint some characters in shades of gray, or depict degress of evil, or words to that effect?

Not that I recall. There was an interview in which she responded to the suggestion that GoF might have been a tad too dark for her audience with the response that she saw no point in writing about Evil unless one were willing to portray it as truly bad, which is where that "JKR has said that she wants to show Evil as bad" line that gets cited so often around here comes from. But I'm damned if I can remember the source—probably someone else will know.

I do remember that in its original context, it came across as a considerably less trite statement than it usually does when cited here. ("No! You mean to say that evil bad? But surely you can't really mean that! Say it isn't SO!")

::rolls eyes::

"Evil is bad."





RE: Weak vs. Unwilling, Fidelius, Pettigrew's Poor Strategy

Marina wrote:

(snipping musings on why Peter didn't throw himself on Sirius' mercy after the Potters were killed)

I don't think we can dismiss out of hand the possibility that Peter just didn't think of it, just as Sirius, freshly out of Azkaban, didn't think of owling Dumbledore to tell him what really happened.

Neither do I, actually. It does seem a little odd to me, though, because it strikes me as the sort of strategy that would leap immediately to the mind of the Peter we see these days—a Peter who seems to consider the manipulative possibilities of tears and deceit first (they're his default response), and only seems to move on to consider other options after rejecting Tears-and-Deceit as unworkable.

Although...hmmm. Actually, perhaps that's just not true. Now that I think about it, perhaps flight is really his default response. It's how he tries to deal with Sirius Black in PoA. (For that matter, it's how he eventually succeeds in dealing with Sirius Black in PoA.) And all through the Shrieking Shack scene, he keeps glancing around, looking to the boarded-up windows and the door... He goes for the Tears-and-Deceit only because he can't just cut and run, but that's what he really wants to be doing, and that's what his first instinct is to look for a way to do.

And Voldemort accuses him of planning to scarper at the very beginning of GoF, doesn't he? Astute of him, really.

So...yeah. Okay then. Never mind.

So it's possible that if someone said to Pete, "hey, why didn't you just tell Sirius you were tortured into revealing the Potters' location," it's possible he would've slapped himself on the forehead and exclaimed, "D'oh! Can't believe I didn't think of that! Boy, is my face red!"

Oh, I'm sure he thought of it eventually. I'm sure he thought a lot about it during all those years he spent as Scabbers. No wonder he was such a depressed-seeming rat. (" chocolate...take more chocolate...take nap...")

Also, even if Peter did think that Sirius would summarily blast him no matter what excuse he gave, that doesn't mean Peter was right.

Well, I don't really think that Sirius would have, unless Peter had really botched his tale-telling. But Cindy thought that he would have, and she wholeheartedly approves of such irrational and bloody-minded behavior (I understand that she likes ambushes too), so I was teasing her.

The combination of extreme terror he must've been feeling and knowledge of his own guilt may have made it impossible for him to believe that any of James' friends might show him mercy or compassion.

That wouldn't surprise me either. Also, I suspect that he'd been expending quite a bit of mental energy up to that point in time convincing himself that they were really hateful people, monstrous people, people who had never treated him well, people who had in fact treated him very very badly, people who had injured him, people who richly deserved to be betrayed...

It would be rather difficult, I think, to go from there to: "This situation can be salvaged. I'll just tell them it was forced from me. They'll believe me, and since they can't really hold something like that against me, I'll be just fine."


Posted February 10, 2002 at 6:58 pm
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RE: FLIRTIAC--What's In A Name?--Draco--Envy and EEWWWWer

Tabouli wrote:

Ahaaaaa, now this brings back my other (more outlandish subversive, Elkins?) but nonetheless thought-provoking) shipping theory... FLIRTIAC (Filch's Lover Is Regretting Transformation Into A Cat).

Outlandish? Subversive? Nonsense! FLIRTIAC is overwhelmingly implied by canon. Indeed, were I ever to abandon the liminal pleasures of the shoreline for the absolutism of the wide-open sea, FLIRTIAC would be my vessel of choice. It is the only ship on which I have ever so much as considered booking passage.

For now, though, I am content to sit here on my rock at the tideline, singing merrily to myself and luring only the occasional sailor to his doom.

And speaking of people who love cats, Catlady wrote:

It is to be hoped that Malcolm is from an old Slytherin family, so he understands (from parents or older siblings telling him) that Gryffindors and Slytherins hate each other, so being booed by the Gryffindors is only typical Gryffindor nasty behavior...

It is to be hoped, indeed! (And how I love you, Catlady, for using that construction!)

JKR surely intended "Malcolm Baddock" (MAL... BAD...) to be a Slytherin name.

::laughs:: Oh, I'm sure you're right. Ah, yes, poor little Mal Bad, son of Perfidius Baddock and his second wife, the lovely (if cold-hearted) Nefaria, not a drop of muggle blood in those veins, nursed on unicorn blood and virgin's milk cocktails, cut his first tooth on a disobedient House Elf, cast his first hex at the tender age of five....


Hey, but don't worry about Malcolm Baddock. He can make choices just like the rest of us. Right?


Ah, what's in a name? What's in a name indeed?


Olly provided definitive proof that although Gred-and-Forge, like Tom ("I Am Lord Voldemort") Riddle, have been known to play word games with their own names, they are nonetheless not destined to become Evil Overlords:

A friend and I went through a whole heap of the character names to see if any more of them could do it and the best we came up with for Gred and Forge was...

Seedy Elf War and Eyesore Waggle. :) I dont think either of them would be a huge problem., I think that you must be right. "Eyesore Waggle" lacks that special Evil Overlord cache. The world is definitely safe from the twins.

Thanks, Olly. I'll rest much easier at night now.

But you know, I was thinking about Riddle and his pretentions, and I found myself wondering: just who were those teenaged "intimates" of his who had actually agreed to call him "Lord Voldemort," anyway?

Can you really imagine a fifteen-year-old Slytherin being willing to call even a very charismatic and talented peer "Lord Voldemort?" I mean, without sniggering?

My theory is that all of Riddle's close friends had come up with similarly ridiculous and pretentious anagrams for their names, and that they used them as nicknames within their little clique. There was actually a "Prince Nephridior" as well, you know, and a "Regulus Vindex," and an "Eat Me, Calliope." (Old Eat Me always was kind of an odd duck.)

Of course, upon their leaving Hogwarts, Riddle simply had to hunt them all down and kill them. There was just no way around it. But that was okay with him, really, because you see, unlike Severus Snape, Tom Riddle really never had liked any of the members of his Old Slytherin Gang. ;-)


Catlady, again:

I want to believe that Draco is an intelligent child, altho' he (alas does not act intelligent while feuding with Harry.

No, he doesn't generally, does he? It's disappointing, that—much in the same way that his subtle-as-a-brick-in-your-face father Lucius is disappointing. I think that I'd like it much better, really, if Harry had a brighter rival in Draco.

I did think, though, that Draco's choice of the 'Densaugeo' curse in his impromptu duel with Harry in GoF was quite witty. It surprises me that no one ever seems to bring that one up when they've just gone scouring canon for proof (some proof! any proof! please!) of Draco's intellect.


Eric wrote:

Of course, ol' Voldie's sort of a standing warning against most of the Seven Deadlies, except for Gluttony and Lust.

Ah, but surely he has Nagini to represent his Gluttony!

And as for Lust...hey, I know! How about we modify "Even EEWWWWWWer" just a bit? If we claim that in addition to wanting a male heir of his very own sprung from Lily Potter's magical loins, Voldemort also just plain wanted Lily Potter's magical loins (for the, er, usual reasons), then we could ascribe to him all of the Deadly Seven.

We could call this new theory "So EEEEWWWWWWWer it's in the SEEEEEWWWWWWer," perhaps.


I find myself wondering when Hermione's going to have to stare down envy.


Either when one of her two pals starts dating seriously, and she is no longer the Girl in their lives ("What? You told her that...and not me?") or when she's faced for the first time in her life with real, serious competition in the academic line.

Ooooooh! I hope it's the latter. Seriously, I'd love to see that plotline.

—Elkins, thinking she might just hear some human voices out there, and so hastily assembling the scuba gear...

Posted February 11, 2002 at 5:34 am
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RE: Why Suspect Lupin?

Mahoney wrote:

On another subject, has anyone speculated that as for Black having suspected Lupin as being the spy, there might have been some reason related to, I dunno, Lupin's personality that suggested it? I.e., something other than, say, general distrust of werewolves?

::raises hand::

I have.

'They call it the Dementor's Kiss,' said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile.

Ooooh, yes. There's definitely a dark streak to Lupin's character. He's got Edge, which is one of the reasons that I like him so much. (Without his Edge, he'd be a bit sappy, if you ask me. Far too nice. Too...well, too ewww to be trewww, shall we say.) I don't think that Lupin's werewolf status was the only reason that he was suspected at all. Not by a long shot.

But then, I think that it may be hard to separate Lupin's dark side from his lycanthropy when we talk about the reasons his friends may have had for coming to suspect him—or for that matter, even when we talk about our own feelings about him. That notion of "the wolf is always there, even when you can't see it" is far too central to even our own werewolf mythos, let alone that of the Potterverse.


I Was thinking...the 'Jekyll & Hyde' type is one way of looking at Lupin; but what if he's less split down the middle? What if he's actually a bit...wolfy? He acts mild-mannered and nice, because he is generally mild-mannered and nice; but even the mild-mannered nice people can have dark emotions and urges.

Yes. I think that if we didn't know that Lupin were a werewolf that Edge of his would still be an evident aspect of his character, but the fact that we do know—as did the Marauders—makes it all that much harder to ignore.

Still Mahoney:

And if he had a bit of a wicked streak, which he only let his close friends see, it would make more sense for Black to think that Lupin was the type to maybe be amenable to Voldemort's ways and thus become a spy.

Well, I think that we get to see quite a few signs of Lupin's "wicked streak" in PoA, and that they do make it easier to imagine how Black could have come to suspect nice, mild-mannered, intellectual Remus as the spy in their midst. After all, we suspected him, didn't we? ;-)

Leaving aside the question of his capabilities (Lupin is certainly both clever enough and sufficiently emotionally-controlled to have been an effective spy), and of his social vulnerability (aside from the lycanthropy itself, the fact that Lupin's condition renders him effectively chronically-ill and terminally-nemployed would have made him far more vulnerable than any of the others to temptation by offers of financial security or enhanced social standing), and focusing instead purely on questions of character, I see a number of things which might have made him seem suspect.

For starters, he's apparently chosen to specialize in the Dark Arts... errrr...Defense Against Dark Arts, that is). It's not clear whether he was drawn to this field because of being a werewolf or in spite of it, but either way it's a little suspicious, and would surely have seemed far more so during the days of Voldemort's reign.

Then there's his sense of humor. It's dry, but it can also be a little bit black:

Professor Lupin had come back. He paused as he entered, looked around, and said, with a small smile, 'I haven't poisoned that chocolate, you know...'

Of course he's joking, and the humor there is primarily self-deprecating: Lupin knows full well that to the students he must appear somewhat disreputable. It's a joke designed to release tension and put the kids more at ease with him, and it works beautifully. But it is a little dark.

His demeanor when practicing magic is casual in a way that could be read as indicative of darkness as well. On more than one occasion in PoA, JKR uses the word "lazy" or "lazily" to refer to aspects of Lupin's wand work. This speaks to his competence, of course, but it's also a trifle unsettling, because "lazily" is a loaded word in the Potter books. It's how Snape speaks when he is being deliberately cruel; it's the adverb consistently applied to the Malfoy drawl. And in GoF, Voldemort gets an awful lot of "lazily" as well. "Lazily" is how the Potterverse's sadistic characters behave. In JKR's idiom, it's really not a neutral word at all.

Then there's also Lupin's tendency to speak of dark matters in a cool, light, or even breezy fashion. The angrier or more upset he is—or the more potentially emotionally upsetting the subject under discussion—the lighter and milder his tone becomes. We see that whenever he has to deal with Snape's unpleasantness, we see it in Shrieking Shack when he responds to Hermione's outing him as a werewolf, and we see a lot of it whenever he talks to Harry about the dementors.

When Harry asks him why the dementors came to the Quiddich match, for example:

'They're getting hungry,' said Lupin coolly, shutting his briefcase with a snap.

That "coolly" sort of chills the blood, doesn't it? And he gets even worse when he tells Harry about the Dementor's Kiss. There's the "slightly twisted smile," of course, but even beyond that, Lupin's entire tone as he describes the Kiss is light, casual, breezy; it's very nearly bemused.

There is, of course, nothing in the least bit "wicked" about using this technique to disconnect from upsetting matters; it's a form of emotional self-protection. But it's a habit that is horribly prone to being misinterpreted by others. It can all too easily be misread as callousness or inhumanity, or even as cruelty.

(I've had a lot of personal experience with this one, as I share Lupin's tendency to take on a facetious tone when angry or upset, or when discussing distressing subjects. There have been many times when I've discovered—much to my dismay—that somebody I'd thought I was getting along with quite well had actually come away from a conversation absolutely convinced that I must be a truly horrible and cruel and uncaring person. It's always a bit of a shocker, when that happens.)

Of course, you'd think that Sirius and the Potters would have known Lupin well enough not to be dismayed by that sort of thing, never know. Horrible things were happening. I can easily imagine how Lupin's breezy and off-hand manner when discussing, say, somebody that the group actually knew having been tortured or murdered might have given even his friends pause, particularly if they were already becoming suspicious of him for other reasons.

Even Lupin's compassion could, viewed in a certain light, make him seem a little suspicious, because it's a compassion born of sensitivity and insight, of the ability to "read" others, to deduce other people's personal vulnerabilities and motives. Lupin's very good at that; it's what makes him a good teacher. But that form of sensitivity can also be a rather unnerving trait, particularly in a paranoid situation, one in which there are secrets that must be kept hidden. On a certain level, an emotionally astute individual is a spy—he knows your secrets...or at least he makes you feel as if he does—and I don't think that it did much for the others' sense of security around Lupin. I think that his very sensitivity probably made him seem suspect.

When we're talking about Darkness, also, I think that Lupin's sensitivity to others is one of his most suspect character traits because while wisely used that sort of sensitivity can lead to compassion, used with ill-intent it turns to sadism. If you can tell where somebody's vulnerabilities lie, then you may know how to help them, but you also really know how to hurt them. And while Lupin rarely uses his sensitivity cruelly, he certainly does know how to do it. His rebuke to Harry at the end of Chapter 14—"Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive..."—is devestatingly effective. It's also slightly...

Well, intent is everything here. Lupin truly believes that murderous Black is trying to hunt Harry down, and the kid really isn't taking the threat as seriously as he ought to be. But if Lupin's comment hadn't been delivered with such undeniably good intent, if the context had been different, then one might even be tempted to call it "vicious." Lupin really does know how to target the jugular, and there are times when I get the definite sense that he's got a bit of a taste for it as well. He's not a sadist...but he could be, and if he ever did go bad, I think that's exactly how he'd do it. It does come across as a "dark streak" to his personality, IMO, and I can easily imagine how that aspect of his character could have made him seem highly suspect.

Of course, where I think that Lupin's capacity for sadism comes across the most clearly is in Shrieking Shack. Others, I know, have disagreed with my reading of Lupin's lines there—we had a thread on this a little while back, and it reached an impasse pretty quickly—but I still maintain that in Shrieking Shack, Lupin's anger has pushed him to the brink of sadism.

Everyone gets bestial at the end of PoA, of course—that's the entire point—but Lupin's particular mode of beast-ness does, IMO, come across as considerably more "Dark" than either Sirius or Pettigrew's respective forms of beastliness., yeah. I do think that there are a lot of things about Lupin's character other than his lycanthropy that might have tempted Black and the Potters to suspect him as the spy. There's a streak of Darkness there, to be sure.

Good thing, too, 'cause otherwise he wouldn't be nearly so interesting. Or nearly so sexy.

—Elkins, to whom never even occurred that others might find anyone but Lupin the sexpot character of the older generation, and who was shocked—just shocked!—to learn otherwise. ("'Sirius Is Dead Sexy?'" she read to herself, and then blinked in confusion. "Sirius?" she repeated blankly. 'Sirius? Is that...that's a joke, right?" Then she remembered the flying motorcycle, and nodded to herself. 'Ah,' she thought. 'Okay. I guess some people do like that sort of thing.')

(We won't even get into her response when she discovered the Snape-Is-Sexy people.)

Posted February 11, 2002 at 3:23 pm
Plain text version


RE: Ambushes and a New Avery Theory

I have a stunning and revolutionary new Avery theory to share with you all!

But first, some ambushes.

Much Ado About Ambushes

Cindy wrote:

Oh, you want me to speak as a List Elf instead of a Spinner Of Wobbly Theories?

::corner of mouth twitching suspiciously::

No, not really. I just wanted to see what you'd look like in an oven mitt.

I was also rather hoping for some Jar-Jar Binks-style dialogue, but now I suppose that I'll just have to die disappointed.

Oh, my. This is just making me feel all squishy inside. Finally, someone else (besides George, who I still don't fully trust) buys on to the Ambush idea. ::dabs at eyes::

Good lord, woman. Suck it up, won't you? Think of your reputation!

I wouldn't trust that George guy as far as I could throw him, by the way. Every time I see him, he's changed his clothing, or his hair style, or his glasses have new frames... You ask me, he's still trying to find himself. I wouldn't commit myself to anything until he's grown up a bit, if I were you.

Elkins, can I offer you a few cheap trinkets that probably won't give you a bad skin rash if you remember to take them off at night?

Welllll...I don't know. You're selling those things from off of the deck of that <supreme distaste> ship these days, aren't you?

I'm not getting on board that thing. You bring those trinkets of yours down here onto the beach, then maybe we can talk about it.

Actually, Dolohov is in my ambush as well, and I'm willing to let Frank Longbottom have a bit of the glory. I will note for the record, however, that I think there were three Death Eaters in the ambush (Dolohov, Rosier and Wilkes). That makes my ambush bigger.

<eyes Cindy reproachfully>

Well, really now, Cindy. Was there ever any doubt that yours was bigger?

Dolohov, eh? I suppose that makes sense, given Crouch's exchange with Karkaroff in the Pensieve scene. Any chance I could convince you to off Wilkes in an entirely separate scenario?

See, (where's the canon, where's the...) Wilkes was probably in a different cell, right? Because otherwise Karkaroff would have named him at the Pensieve hearing, along with Rosier and Dolohov. The fact that he didn't name him leads me to believe that either Wilkes was already dead by the time of Karkaroff's arrest or that Wilkes and Karkaroff were in different "cells" of the DE organization, and so didn't really know each other.

Either way, you need a separate scenario to account for Wilkes' demise.

And besides, big ambushes make me nervous.

But look on the bright side. This way, you can have two ambushes! Smaller ones, yes, and perhaps a tad less Great-And-Bloody than you like—but two of them! Or, if you prefer, you can take one Small-But-Bloody-Ambush and one...oh, I don't know, Entrapment Scenario Gone Terribly Wrong, say. or perhaps a Hit Wizard Sniping. You can take your pick.

Or do you only like ambushes?

Cindy's ambush theory

This is shades of Eric, in a way, but maybe not.

Eric? Is he a friend of George's? I...Oh! ERIC! That Eric! Yes, yes, all right. Do go on.

[Moody's attempts to talk Rosier down go horribly awry, whereupon Frank Longbottom single-handedly takes down three DEs, thus not only ensuring his popularity, but also establishing beyond a shadow of a doubt his Toughness credentials]

Mmmmmm. I rather like that. It has the advantage of maintaining the Alastor-Moody-Was-the-Most-Civilized-of-the-Aurors thing, while still allowing Longbottom to be—if slightly more trigger-happy and reckless than Moody—still most decidedly not one of those Judge-Dredd-On-Acid types. Dolohov was taken alive, right? So there you have it. Judge Dredd would have wasted the guy.

You still need to replace Wilkes with somebody else, though. Perhaps, uh... ::sound of flipping pages:: Travers? How 'bout Travers?

Of course, if it's Travers, then your ambush is a tad less Bloody, as Travers would seem to have been taken alive. But that would make Longbottom all the more impressive, wouldn't it? (If somewhat less dripping with DE blood.)

Much as I like Longbottom-takes-down-three-DEs-single-handed, though, I'm still going to keep on plumping for Rosier-dead-at-Moody's-hands, because I like what it does to Snape's interactions with Crouch/Moody all through GoF. Although, really, I suppose that if you gave Moody Wilkes, you could get much the same effect. You just wouldn't have quite as much canonical suggestion to back it up.

Longbottom, like Moody, is quite Tough.

<quiet satisfaction>


<sudden horrified look>

Oh my God. I didn't really just say that out loud, did I?

Ahem. Yes, well. Sorry 'bout that. But somebody recently levelled accusations of "the Longbottoms had it coming"-itis against me—at least, I think they were levelled against me, although they might have been levelled against Eric—it was sort of hard to tell—and you know how suggestible I am to that sort of thing.

Take Avery, for example...

Much Ado About Avery

Yes, Avery is a difficult case to sort out. Still such a blank slate, and only three books to go.

Right now I imagine he's hanging out in the Green Room, preening himself and bouncing excitedly in his chair and lording it over all of the other guys who spend their time down there—you know, Mundungus Fletcher and Arabella Figg and the Longbottom family and that lot, all of whom are beginning to finger their wands and squint speculatively at him—but he hasn't even noticed that yet, not our Avery, nope, he's still far too wound up, he's all smug and gloating and babbling uncontrollably: "I had an appearance. I had a line of dialogue! Seven whole words! And Harry was watching me—not even in a dream sequence or anything like that, no, in real life! And the Dark Lord even spoke to me, he addressed me by name, he said, 'Avery,' he said, he...well, er, actually what happened there was that he, er, sort of, well, you know. Tortured me. A bit. Which wasn't really all that enjoyable, now that you mention it, I really can't say that I was all that terribly keen on that part, to tell you the truth, and...well, I do rather wish that I had been able to take that wretched mask off. I mean, it's all rather awkward, isn't it, not even knowing what you look like? And I still don't have a, well, a, you know. A first name. Not, at any rate, yet. Not as such. But! Still! I've had an appearance! And a line of dialogue!"

<Elkins pauses for a moment to contemplate the notion of young Severus Snape forced to share living quarters for an entire seven years with that version of Avery, shudders, then shakes her head and moves on>

Unlike Hagrid, I can't write Avery off as insufficiently Tough, though.


You think that Avery's Tough.

<shakes head very slowly>

Oh, sure, he doesn't have the good sense to keep his head down when Voldemort is looking for an opportunity to polish his Crucio skills. Yes, he writhes and shrieks, but who wouldn't?

Cedric Diggory, that's who. Diggory just yells. And gets right back up on his feet afterwards, too. Ah, the resilience of youth!

Then, I don't suppose that Imperio'd Krum's Cruciatus was really all that powerful.

What Avery needs is a compelling backstory.

Well, I'm sure that JKR has one all worked out for him. He is a terribly important character, after all. I myself won't be at all surprised if Book Five proves to be all about Avery!

Cindy's Avery Theory

No, Avery is and has been head of DMC since the Potters were killed.

He was head of a Ministry Department by the time he was twenty-one years old?

I mean, we all know that Avery's a misunderstood genius and everything, but don't you thknk that might be a little...much?

[Cindy then goes on to attribute Avery with all manner of marvellous things: recovering Voldemort's wand from Godric's Hollow, tampering with the evidence to ensure the success of Pettigrew's framing of Sirius Black, and so forth]

Wow. Well, that theory would clear up a number of contentious plot points, wouldn't it?

It has the drawback, though, that it drifts quite far away from my original premise that Avery Is Not All That Bad A Fellow, Really. I mean, you've just made him a...well, a fairly seriously committed Death Eater, actually. That just won't do at all.

Besides, I think that if Avery were heading the DMC, then he wouldn't occupy nearly so low a rank in Sirius' evaluation of threat to Harry, do you? The head of a Ministry Department is obviously Dangerous, even if he is Not Tough.

Now that things have settled down, Avery is leading a quiet life as a middle-aged bureaucrat...


Middle-aged? MIDDLE-AGED?

Cindy, if we assume that Avery is Snape's age, which I think is quite strongly suggested by the text, then he is only around 35 years old!


<Elkins takes a few deep breaths, trying not to contemplate her own mortality>

Besides, it's especially not middle-aged for wizards. They, uh, live a long time.

Yes, why does Avery become unhinged in the graveyard? After all, Avery did nothing more or less than Lucius did....But maybe Avery's behavior can be explained another way.

What, you didn't like my "Avery Has Recanted Deep Down Inside and Has Been Leading a Virtuous and Muggle-Loving Life" theory?

That's okay. I've got a new one, and this one doesn't even require that you accept Avery as virtuous or at all good. This is a theory that allows him to be utter scum, although it also allows for a Virtuous Avery variant. Okay? Ready?

But first, a few words of explanation as to why it is clear that Avery really is an important character, and not merely my own personal cause.

(You there in the back! Stop sniggering! This is serious!)

Why Avery Is Very Important, Really

Okay. It's quite clear to me that JKR wants us to notice Avery. She's obviously setting him up for some secondary villain duty in future books. He alone of the named DEs in the graveyard scene is neither someone we have met before nor (as far as we know) the father of a student at Hogwarts. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, MacNair...all these names at least ring bells. We know Lucius; we've met MacNair; we know Crabbe and Goyle's kids; and we've at least heard the name 'Nott' in a Sorting Ceremony, and so know that he has a child in Harry's year at school. Avery stands out as the notable exception.

Furthermore, JKR went out of her way to prime our curiosity about him before we even got to graveyard. In "Padfoot Returns" she gave us the intriguing notion of Snape's Old Gang, and then she went on, both in Padfoot and in Pensieve, to let us know what happened to Rosier, and to Wilkes, and to the Lestranges. Avery, however, is strikingly omitted. Furthermore, we are told that he is still 'at large.' This is a set-up. It's laying the groundwork so that when Voldemort addresses Avery by name in the graveyard sequence, we will prick up our proverbial ears. We're meant to reach that line and say to ourselves: "Ah-hah! Avery!"

And finally, she tortures him. Torture's always an attention-grabber, and it's often a sympathy engine as well.

So. JKR wants us to notice Avery. She wants him to be rooted in our minds. And yet—and this is an important point, so you there in the back: pay attention!—she never actually shows us his face. He is masked in the graveyard scene, and no hint is even given as to his overall body type. We—or, more to the point, Harry—would be able to walk right past him on the street and not recognize him.

She also partially obscures his voice. While he does have one line of dialogue, it is a histrionic plea for forgiveness screamed out in what appears to be a state of near-panic. Thereafter, of course, all he can do is shriek and gasp. Would Harry even recognize him from his normal speaking voice? Quite likely not. Unlike Nott, for example, who is given at least one hint of physical appearance ("stooped") and whose voice is heard, Avery remains utterly camoflaged.

So I therefore predict, with the cheerful confidence of one who has no actual money riding on any of this, that Avery will appear in some future volume—very likely in Book Five—and that it will be an important plot point that Harry Not Recognize Him. Either he will be masquerading as someone else, or Harry will encounter him in whatever social roll Avery normally fills and be horrified when he first hears his name.

That's my prediction.

(I also predict, by the way, that Ali Bashir's illegally-imported magical flying carpets will play some small but vital role in the plot of Book Five, and that a switcheroo with one of the twins' trick wands will save one of our Protagonists—probably Harry—from a sticky end at the hands of a Very Bad Wizard at some point in the story.)

(But I digress.)


The New Avery Theory

So. Having established beyond an question of doubt that Avery really is a Very Important Character, and not merely my own strange little joke (I said stop that sniggering back there! Do I have to ask you all to put your heads down on your desks?) I will go on to elaborate my most recent Avery theory. I hope you were paying attention before, because some of this builds on earlier stuff.

Okay. So we have Avery, whose most notable quality so far is his peculiar blend of seeming-irrelevancy and authorial emphasis. We know his name, we've even heard his voice (albeit only screaming), but we don't actually know anything about him. He hasn't actually done anything—he's never even had a child mentioned at Hogwarts. It's really all very odd, don't you think?

So where in Goblet of Fire do we find Avery's counterpart? Where is his opposite number in the text? What we are looking for here is a character who is of some importance or relevance, who has done something of some interest to the reader (and to Harry), and whose face we have seen—but who nonetheless suffers from a mysterious and seemingly inexplicable anonymity.

No, seriously. Think about this for a minute. Who have we seen who fits this description? Who is it who has both a face and a role—but no name? Who is Avery's double? Who is Avery's other half?

Are you with me here?

Yes! That's right! Avery was actually...

::dramatic chord::

...the Mysterious Fourth Man In The Pensieve Scene!

This was in fact the "trouble" that Avery "wormed his way out of" by claiming to have been acting under the Imperius Curse: his life-sentence in Azkaban alongside his old friends the Lestranges and young Barty Crouch. Yes, we've all been assuming that Avery never actually did any time - but there's no reason that this must be so. Sirius does not, after all, say when Avery wormed his way out of trouble - only that he did so. And life in Azkaban certainly counts as "trouble," while wrangling a pardon after only a year or two served would still qualify as worming ones way out of it. This would also explain why Sirius mentions Avery's name right after the Lestranges': they are linked in his mind by virtue of their common crime, just as Rosier and Wilkes are linked by virtue of their common fate.

More to the point, though, this theory (which I hereby dub "The Fourth Man Theory") serves to explain why that mysterious fourth co-defendent goes so suspiciously unnamed throughout all of GoF. It is a set-up, you see, for the Great Shock Moment of Book Five, when it will be revealed that not only is newly-introduced Character X (who will have always struck Harry as vaguely familiar, but he will never quite be able to figure out why...) actually Death Eater Avery from the graveyard scene of the last book, but that he is also one of those mad fiends who tortured the poor Longbottoms. O, horribile dictu!

But how (I hear you all cry), how, how, how, how could any of those four prisoners ever have wrangled a pardon after that trial, with its hissing mob, and Crouch's stirring denunciation, and all the rest of it? How could the public mood ever have allowed for such a thing?

Well, you have to remember that not long after that trial, the public mood began to change. According to Sirius, Crouch's popularity went into a sharp decline not long after his son's trial and subsequent death: people were beginning to think poorly of his excesses and those of his Aurors in the last years of the war. And Crouch himself, as we know, got shunted off into the Department of International Magical Cooperation—thus leaving his position open for a successor, who would likely have been eager to distance himself from Crouch's legacy.

So let us say that a year or two after the trial, the Wizarding World's Bleeding Hearts (HA!) all began to crawl out from the woodwork, calling for the reexamination of some of Crouch's more dubious old cases, the ones in which justice might not really have been served. Crouch has by now been shunted off into the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and the person who has replaced him sees in this an excellent opportunity to ensure his own political reputation by taking a second look at some of Crouch's more notoriously shaky old cases. So...

Eh? What's that? Oh. Why didn't Sirius Black's case ever get reexamined, you ask?

::thinks hard::

Because Bleeding Hearts don't like Sirius Black, that's why. They all think he's a brute; he reminds far too many of them of those popular kids who used to pick on them in school. And besides, Dumbledore himself had never expressed any doubts about Black's guilt—and as everybody knows, Albus Dumbledore Is Never Wrong About Anything. ::snort::

Dumbledore did, however, seem to have held some doubts as to the actual guilt of Avery and young Crouch (who unlike the Lestranges didn't shoot their mouths off at their trial, but instead continued to insist upon their innocence), and this fact emboldens the Bleeding Hearts. They pressure Crouch's successor to allow for a retrial. It's too late for young Crouch by that time—he's already "died" in prison ::snicker::—but Avery is still there, spending his days rocking back and forth, moaning, banging his head hard against the walls, screaming in his sleep, and all of that sort of thing. He cuts a truly pitiful figure at his trial, which sways the court's sympathy, and this time he manages to pull off the Imperius defense—his claim, let us say, is that the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange was controlling his mind. He is granted an official pardon and allowed to walk free.

Traumatized, twitchy, and Having Had Quite Enough Of That, Thank You Very Much, Avery then goes home to live in his mother's basement, where he takes up coin-collecting. He never pursues a visible or prestigious career, stays as far away from the public eye as he can manage, and whenever he gets an owl from one of his old DE comrades, scrawls "Return To Sender" hastily onto the outside of the envelope and owls it right back unopened.

More to the point, he never makes the slightest effort to seek out Voldemort. Like I said, Avery Has Had Enough.

And this is the reason that Avery is in such a nervous state when he gets to the graveyard. Not only because his stint in Azkaban has left him pretty twitchy to begin with, but also because he knows that his degree of infidelity is not really analogous to Lucius Malfoy's, or to that of any of the other acquitted DEs. All those other guys just wanted to be on the winning side, and the Big V can understand that—he was in House Slytherin himself, after all; he knows how that works—and besides, they can all defend themselves by claiming that they just didn't know how to go about looking for Voldemort: they had no leads, they had no clues, they had no ideas, "had there been any sign of you, any whisper of your whereabouts...," and all of that.

Avery, on the other hand, was in with the Lestranges. He did have some leads, and he could have continued to try to pursue them on his own, just as young Crouch did before Daddy Imperio'ed him. But he chose not to, and for no better reason than Not Being Able To Take His Licks Like A Man.

Voldemort just hates that. Like Cindy, he values Toughness.

Also, Avery begged off on the claim that he was Imperio'ed by a peer. Not by the Great Dark Wizard of the Ages, not even by a much older and more experienced wizard, but by a peer. And even worse, by a girl peer.

And Voldemort hates that sort of thing even more. He doesn't really have very much respect for women—which is why there are so few female Death Eaters—so to his way of thinking, that is just plain despicable.

So that's my Fourth Man theory. It explains Avery's hysteria in the graveyard. It explains the otherwise inexlicable anonymity of that mysterious fourth co-defendent. And it also explains Voldemort's utter lack of mention of the Fourth Man during the graveyard scene.

He's overflowing with praise for Crouch, and for the Lestranges, and yet he never even mentions the fourth guy? Even if the fourth man had died in Azkaban, wouldn't you think that V would have mentioned him by name? "And so-and-so, who was loyal, who died a martyr's death in my service, blah-blah-blah..."

Well, Fourth Man explains why Voldemort says nothing of the sort. It's because the Fourth Man is Avery, who is right there grovelling at his feet already, and because Voldemort has already made it perfectly clear what he thinks of him: namely, that his performance was shoddy beyond any hope of forgiveness, and that he now owes thirteen years of faithful service to make up for it.

Fourth Man also offers the possibility of a ::shudder:: SHIP, for those who like that sort of thing. One can, for example, contemplate the possibility that Avery was hopelessly in love with the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange, and that he remained devoted to her even after she threw him over for his classmate and romantic rival. Tragic, hankie-worthy speculation possibilities abound.

Really, the only problem that I can see with Fourth Man is that it does absolutely nothing to support the notion that Avery Is Not All That Bad A Fellow, Really.

In fact, it kind of makes him even more loathsome than he was back when he was just a grovelling toady, doesn't it?

::long silence::


Wait...wait...I can do this.

::even longer silence::

Okay. How's this? Avery really was under Imperius. He's a hopelessly weak-willed but Not All That Bad Really a fellow, who...uh...who only really became a DE in the first place out of his desire to impress the Dead Sexy Future Mrs. Lestrange. Alas, once within the ranks, he found that murder and torture made him sick. All of the other guys made fun of him, and there seemed a good chance that the Dark Lord might simply have him killed. So...uh, the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange took, uh, pity on her oh-so-pathetic admirer and placed him under the Imperius to help guide him safely through the ickier aspects of the lifestyle he had so unwisely chosen for himself.

::short pause::

No. No, all right. I'm not buying the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange as the pitying type either. Well, okay then. She just found him amusing. It entertained her to keep him around as a pet, and she particularly enjoyed forcing him to commit terrible atrocities that she knew he found horrifying and distressing. That seems rather more in character for her, really.

There. Now we have an alternate version of Fourth Man that maintains the whole "Avery Is Weak But Not Really Evil To the Core" theory. We call this one "Redeemable Fourth Man."

You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

Cindy wrote:

Really, all Avery needed in the graveyard was a good . . . lawyer. Someone to say, Avery, don't answer that question, and whatever you do, don't admit guilt.

Unfortunately, it was impossible for him to bring his advocate along with him to the graveyard. And while he had indeed been advised against the admission of guilt back at the office, without the support and comfort of that smooth-tongued fellow constantly leaning over to whisper in his ear, he just couldn't handle the pressure.

Uh, would it be a fair assumption that S.Y.C.O.P.H.A.N.T.S. members are not Tough?

Er...not as a general rule, no. But some are. In fact, a few of our members have even been known to do things like sever their own body parts, although they are generally only able to manage such feats of Toughness when the plot demands it.

As I've said before, though, there really is a great deal of diversity within our ranks. We are, after all, an umbrella organization of sorts for those members of the fictive world who are what we like to call, er..."reader sympathy challenged." So while it is indeed true that our Abject Neurotics are, almost without exception, Not Tough, quite a number of our Yes-Men are very Tough Indeed. Young Crabbe and Goyle, for example, currently show every sign of growing up to be Reasonably Tough Yes-Men.

It is a sad truth, however, that our Toughest members are also often our very least articulate. As a result, they do often find themselves shockingly marginalized, even within the ranks of our own organization. We hope to address this problem in the future.

Do they watch a great deal of daytime television and read a lot of self-help books while they eat pint after pint of high-fat ice cream? :-)

Well, many of our members currently hold 24/7 positions as Minions to various Evil Overlords, which doesn't leave them very much time at all for daytime television and the like. Really, you know, it's very hard work being a SYCOPHANT. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of mental and physical can be draining, you know, it really can be... and all too often it leaves you with nothing left over for such frivolities as self-help books and the like.

No, at the end of the day, most of our members really just want nothing more than to go home and take their anti-anxiety medications, and their sedatives, and their anti-depressants, and their antacids, and their many many pain-relievers, and then go to bed, secure in the comforting knowledge that Tomorrow Is Another Day -- And Quite Likely To Be Your Last.

And as for the ice cream...well, minions rarely get very much of that. Evil Overlords are notorious for bogarting the high-fat ice cream.

Damn them.



RE: Limitations of UC

Just a quickie, on the Unforgivables.

Tex asked:

Why would a dark(i.e. one who is already on the sheet for using an UC, so it doesn't matter if he uses more) wizard cast any other spell than AK? Is it more difficult? What spells would one use in a serious duel, other than the UC's?

Crouch/Moody claimed that AK was difficult, and I see no reason to suspect his word on that issue, at any rate.

More to the point, though, I think, is the fact that AK targets only one person. It is unblockable, which is good, and it does kill instantly, which is also good, but in a combat situation, I can easily imagine why you might want to use something with a wider effect, even at the expense of a little bit of "BANG -- You're Dead!"-dom.

AK might also require careful aim, which would make it a far less appealling option if visibility were limited, or if your enemy had cover.

Something like whatever Pettigrew used to blast all those muggles might be a more tempting alternative, if you got yourself into a situation that wasn't one-on-one combat, or if you didn't have a clear line of sight to your target.

About Imperius, Gray Wolf wrote:

We're discovering recently that the Imperio has big disadvantages (like people throwing it off at will, and it always looked implausible to me that the wizard who made the curse could have the imprisioned one do ANYTHING while under the curse...

Yes. I suspect (on the basis, admittedly, of no very strong canonical evidence) that Imperius victim's chances of throwing off the curse start to rise exponentially once he is being asked to perform acts to which he is deeply and fundamentally opposed.

I think that canon does suggest this in places. His fury at seeing Lucius Malfoy (and the rest of the ex-DEs) all smug and happy and successful at the QWC would seem to have acted as the catalyst for Crouch Jr's ability to overthrow his Imperius: being called upon to sit there silently and watch the game, rather than to act on his sense of fury and outrage, would seem to have been the straw that broke that particular camel's back. And I feel certain that Crouch Sr.'s ability to throw off the curse was greatly aided by the fact that (whatever one thinks of his methods) he was a fanatical opponent of Dark Wizardry—and so probably not the best candidate for forcing to aid with a plot to restore Voldemort.

That said, though...

The latest developments in Canon seem to point out at "Imperioed" people need constant supervision...

I don't think that I agree. Crouch Sr. isn't under supervision during his appearance at Hogwarts for the selection of the Triwizard Champions, and while he does seem to be trying to fight it off (I assume that this is why Harry keeps noticing him looking sicker and sicker throughout the meeting in the antechamber off of the Great Hall), he doesn't succeed. Unsupervised Crouch is still unable to disobey his (rather complicated) orders, even though the original caster of the Imperius is miles away at the time. He can't even manage to accept Dumbledore's invitation to tea, although I'm sure he would have liked to.

(I do think that one of the major reasons that Moody/Crouch stomped in on that meeting was to be on hand in case Daddy did succeed in throwing off the Imperius. What he planned to do about it if that had happened, though, I have no idea.)

So constant supervision does not seem to be necessary to maintain the Imperius. It would also seem that Imperio'ed people are capable of following rather complex commands—even ones that rely on a certain degree of thought and volition. What were Crouch's "orders?" I get the impression they were something along the lines of: "Act like your normal self, don't tell anyone what's really going on, fulfill your function as an official for this event, and then come straight home, Barty -- no stopping for drinks."


Posted February 12, 2002 at 3:40 pm
Plain text version


RE: Fan Readings & Subversion

I'd like to jump into this thread [said Porphyria who will probably prove to be more un-subversive than will amuse Elkins ;-)]

Oh, I shouldn't worry about that, Porphyria. I'm easily amused. ;-)

For starters, I'm interested in summing up a few areas of potential reader unrest in the HP series to see if anyone else would like to discuss them.

Cool! Let's see, now.

3. Frustrations of being an adult reading a series which is designed to be suitable for a child or young adult audience (i.e. certain issues like teen pregnancy or drugs seemingly will never be addressed; sex gets glossed over)

Hmmm. I can't say that this one has bothered me much (not yet, at any rate). I was fairly impressed, in fact, with the way that in the last book, JKR managed to suggest some rather adult nastiness without actually straying from the PG path. The harrassment of Mrs. Roberts at the Quiddich World Cup, for example, certainly suggests muggle-rape as a popular DE pasttime to adult readers; to a child I expect it would have had far stronger associations with the playground obsession with seeing people's underwear. (Not, of course, that the two phenomena are completely unrelated, which is part of what made it such a very clever gloss, IMO.)

5. Inconsistencies of genre: the series combines elements of fantasy/fairy tale (in which one typically finds archtypical roles with distinct functions) with that of the mystery (where characters are often not what they seem and break type), plus other genres as well: boarding school, coming-of-age, and certainly satire. Do these genres combine in a satisfactory way or are they often at cross-purposes?

Now this is a really interesting one, because I think that my answer would have to be: "Both." The 'genre-soup' aspect of the books is certainly one of the things that I find most appealing about them, and I doubt that I'm alone in that: I suspect that it may well be one of the things that accounts for the series' enormous popularity. At the same time, though, the genres that JKR is combining do often work at cross-purposes, and I think that this can definitely be...anxiety-provoking.

Take that infamous Gleam In Dumbledore's Eye, for example. That gleam does seem to have caused some people a great deal of consternation, and I think that the genre-medley is largely to blame for that. If this were merely a fantasy/fairy tale, then the Gleam would be far less of an issue: a gleam in the twinkling blue eyes of the Old Wise Wizarding Mentor can mean nothing but good news in such a story. In a series which owes so much to the mystery genre, on the other hand—a genre in which People Are Not Always What They Seem—the Gleam really seemed to frighten some readers. Could Dumbledore Be Up To No Good? What if the gleam is there because Dumbledore has just realized that Harry's death might now serve to banish Voldemort permanently—and he's just thrilled about it? Could Dumbledore actually be a Machiavellian manipulator, driving poor Harry relentlessly onward to his doom with all of the consideration and compassion of a farmer whipping on a reluctant ox?

Heh. Anxiety, yes. And in this particular case, a type of anxiety that I am almost certain was not at all what the author had intended to inspire, one that I don't really know if I think is terribly beneficial, overall.

In some cases, though, I think that the anxiety provoked by the genre-mixing is tremendously beneficial to the books. PoA, for example, was such an engaging read in part, I thought, because it had all of these tremendously powerful mytho-poetic archetypes running all the way through it, and yet at the same time was so firmly rooted in the mundane details of the boarding school story, and also at the same time had strong aspects of an Agatha Christie-like mystery was a page-turner in part because you just couldn't be certain how all of these genres were going to interact. It wasn't just a matter of wondering what would happen next, or what was really going on in the plot; there was also a kind of metatextual mystery in play—"Which genre conventions will take precedence here?"—that really made the book (for me, at any rate) impossible to put down.

Anxiety there, too, certainly. But a really really good kind of anxiety.

Does anyone have any issues with the writing style?

::wince:: I get lynched around here if I say that I do sometimes have some problems with the writing style?

What can I say? I think that Rowling's an excellent story-teller. Her prose style, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. All IMO, of course. Obviously I read the books with enjoyment, so it can't be all that big a problem for me.

Where it does become a problem for me, though, are the few places where I find myself running into a conflict between how the writing itself led me to visualize a scene while reading, and how I feel almost certain the author meant for me to visualize the scene.

Rowling's fondness for the verb "to shriek" is a good example of this one. My God, does she love that verb! She uses it every chance she gets. Whenever people raise their voices in the Potterverse, they are almost always "shrieking." (The Shrieking Shack has always amused me for this very reason. Of course it would be called "the Shrieking Shack!")

Now, to my mind a "shriek" is a very specific type of high-pitched raised voice. The verb has an entire body of implications and associations connected to it as a matter of connotation, and JKR's "shrieks" don't always seem to quite match up with these. (And no, I don't think that this is a matter of British vs American English. I read many English books, and I have never run into this difficulty with anybody else.) Sometimes it's almost as if I have to remind myself while reading: "Now, remember, Elkins: this is one of Rowling's 'shrieks.' So you mustn't necessarily assume that it's really a shriek."

And that can be...jarring, yes. Jarring and potentially problematic. I say "potentially," of course, because I've actually consciously noticed the Shriek Problem, and so it doesn't have quite as much power to lead me astray as it might otherwise have done (my insistence on reading Avery as a pathological hysteric rather than as a grovelling toady aside...)

But what about JKR's idiosyncracies that I haven't consciously noticed yet? Are they leading me into erroneous assumptions as a reader?

"Being Driven Right To The Brink of Sanity Draco" is another example of this. I have a strangely divided mind when it comes to those scenes which illustrate The Very Worst Of Draco Malfoy. The two that leap to mind are these:

The very end of Chapter Eight, CoS:

Then someone shouted through the quiet.

'Enemies of the heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!'

It was Draco Malfoy. He had pushed to the front of the crowd, his cold eyes alive, his unusally bloodless face flushed, as he grinned at the sight of the hanging, immobile cat.

(It's rather amazing, actually, that she didn't have him 'shrieking' there. Draco often shrieks.)

And then this, towards the end of Chapter Thirty-seven, GoF:

'So,' said Malfoy slowly, advancing slightly into the compartment and looking slowly around at them, a smirk quivering on his lips.

[Draco's horrific "I tried to warn you" speech follows shortly thereafter]

Now, I'm almost certain that I'm supposed to read both of these scenes as a Just Plain Mean kid being spectacularly horrid. And yet, my instinctive reading of Draco as he is described in both of those scenes is "stressed." In the CoS passage he looks half-crazed to me and not (as I suspect was the intended impression) with sadistic enjoyment, either. He looks febrile, like someone who is being pushed to the very limits of his own sanity. And similarly, in the GoF passage, that single word, "quivering," acts to undermine completely for me the impression that I suspect JKR was actually trying to convey.

And this is a problem. It's a problem because it creates a strange layering effect in my mind: there is the scene as I originally visualized it based on JKR's own writing, and then there is the "revised edition" based on what I believe to have been the true authorial intent. But the first impression can never be banished utterly: it remains, as a kind of ghostly shadow-image superimposed over my entire reading of the books—almost like that reflection of myself that is always faintly visible when I look out of the window here in dark-and-cloudy Portland, Oregon—so that, for example, I can never completely banish my mental image of Draco Malfoy as a deeply-divided character...even though I do not for a moment believe that he is supposed to be read as one.

And while to some extent this may be a matter of my own idiosyncratic reading practice, it is also a writing problem. Did JKR really stick the word "quivering" in that sentence to leave us with the impression that Draco is under emotional stress -- and thus to cast some doubt in our minds that he really means what he is saying? That's certainly the effect that it has, but was that its intended effect? And if she didn't want to convey that impression, then why in God's name did she put that word "quivering" there in the first place? Didn't she know the effect that would have on the reader?

Does the writer know what she's doing, or doesn't she?

If JKR were a better craftsman overall, then I would feel more confident in accepting my first readings as intent. Because I don't quite trust her technical abilities, however, I often find myself revising—"Shrieked" there doesn't really mean shrieked, it just means that he raised his voice," "No, that isn't really stress, that's sadistic pleasure; it just looks feverish because JKR got a little overexcited with her depiction," "That the smirk is 'quivering' probably doesn't really mean anything at all," etc)—and that is an anxiety-provoker -- and one that can lead quickly into subversion.

I'm interested in your assertion that all speculation (and fanfic) is inherently subversive.... If I understand you correctly, this subversion is independent of the content of the individual reader's content; one does not necessarily have to offer a controversial reading in order to effect this type of subversion.

Well, there are levels of subversion. ;-)

I do think that it is inherently subversive in that it is a kind of usurpation of authorial power. To speculate about future plot events, for example, is to assume, if only temporarily, the role of the Author. It is not necessarily a statement of authorial "superiority"—one can speculate without ever implying, for example, that one could do a better job of writing the story than the original author could—but it can very readily pave the way to that line of thinking.

To speculate about a future plot development in a serial, for example, involves first contemplating the possible options, and then choosing one over all of the others for reasons of plausibility, enjoyability, complexity, consistency, and so forth. Should the next installment of the serial reveal that the work's true author chose one of the options that the fan had already considered but rejected, then that can certainly lead to feelings of authorial superiority ("My idea was so much better. Why aren't I the one writing these things?"). It can also lead to a more generalized sense of disappointment and unrest, a loss of trust in the author. ("Of all the possible directions she could have taken that plotline, why did she choose that option? I mean, of all the stupid and simplistic ways to go with that...")

Even when speculation does not lead to these sorts of disappointments, though, I think that it is still inherently subversive in that it encourages a different relationship with the text than the usual one which exists between a reader and a completed work. It produces a dynamic in which the reader is empowered to make statements as the author ("I favor this theory because it is the one most in keeping with JKR's work to date..."), statements which even if they are not in the least bit controversial, may well prove to be false. Speculation sets up a kind of competition between Author and Reader which texts which do not encourage speculation do not foster in quite the same way.

Furthermore, I'd like to ask if all speculation and fanfic must be predicated on frustrations with the text. Is there such a case where a fan simply becomes so enamored with the fictional world here the 'Potterverse') or with some of its characters that they simply wish to become more of an active participant?

One good example of this type of active participation, I think, is self-insertion. Fan readings tend to be characterized by a high degree of self-insertion: the "fannish" reader likes to imagine herself entering the fictive world as neither reader nor as author, nor even precisely as character, but instead as reader-as-character. Fans enjoy perceiving the fictional world as one that has an independent existence outside of the text; imagining oneself actually entering this world is the next logical step.

Leaving aside the issue of how this often manifests itself in fanfic (because this isn't a fanfic board, and so I'd rather not get caught up in a discussion of Marysueism here), you see a lot of self-insertion in speculative discussions too, as well as in plain old HP fan chatter. ("What House do you think you'd be sorted into?" "If you could go to Hogwarts for one hour, where would you go?" "What sort of magic would you be best at, do you think?" "Who would you hate more as a teacher: Hagrid, or Snape?" "Which characters would you actually like as people in real life?")

This is active participation that is not really based on frustration at all. It's based in a desire to immerse oneself even more deeply in the fictive world. It can often lead to frustration, though, because in order to imagine oneself actually in the world, one needs information about its details that the author has not provided. I think that a lot of the speculation and discussion we see here about the logistical details of the Potterverse, or about aspects of the world that fall outside of the scope of the books themselves, is characterized by a bit of frustration, even if frustration with the text was not the original impetus for wondering about these things in the first place. If that makes sense.

"Can devout students even really attend Hogwarts?" might be a good example of this one—or, for that matter, "Where are all the Bleeding Hearts of the Wizarding World?" ;-) The questions, and the speculation they encourage, are symptomatic of a certain degree of frustration with the text. But in many cases they derive from self-insertion—"How would I myself (as a devoutly religious person, or as a political leftist, or as a lawyer by profession, or as a lesbian, or as a superb student who would want to go on to higher education) fit into this world? Where would my place be? What would my social role be? How would I have to adapt myself, if this were the world that I inhabited?" Self-insertion is the sign of an enamored reader, not a frustrated one. But self-insertion quickly leads to frustration with the text. in short, being enamored can lead quickly to frustration.

Riiiiight. Like we didn't already know that.

Or does all emotional involvement require some sort of frustration? If not then authorial envy (wanting to write it yourself) and anxiety with the text (and its consequent tendency to produce readings against the grain) would be two separate forms of subversion.

I think that in practice, the one almost invariably leads into the other.

Here I'd like to add that the HP series itself actively and consciously encourages speculation due to the way that it's written.

I think that this is an excellent point! And JKR seems to take quite a bit of pleasure in teasing her fans about this aspect of the work as well, in interviews and such. She may not have known she was doing this when she first started writing the series, but she's certainly doing it quite consciously now.

Snapestuff to follow.


Posted February 12, 2002 at 6:01 pm
Topics: ,
Plain text version


RE: Avery and Ambushes

Yay! Droves flock to the Fourth Man banner!

Well, er...two do, at any rate. Can two people be called a "drove?"


Eileen wrote:

Elkins, I think you've hit gold here. Now, if you could tell me who the third murderer is in Macbeth.... :-)

Mmmmmm...the third murderer in Macbeth. Let's see...

Nope, can't help you there. But I can offer some very compelling evidence to prove that it was actually Caroline Shepherd who murdered Roger Ackroyd. Will that do?

I must admit that I brushed over the fourth man the first seven times I read the book...

LOL! What, you mean there was somebody who didn't view the Mystery of the Fourth Man as the central enigma of the entire novel?

It is very strange that the fourth man is given no attention by anyone, including Voldemort when he praises the Lestranges and Crouch Jr.

Yes! It's bothered me for...well, for over a year now, that has. It was keeping me awake at night. I would toss and I would turn...

I'll also note that the description of the fourth man "thinner and more nervous-looking", eyes "darting around the room" fit perfectly with the nervous wreck we meet in the graveyard.

I favor Thin Nervous Eye-Darty Man as Avery myself. But the Fourth Man theory is also willing to accomodate those who favor Thin Nervous Eye-Darty Man as Lestrange, and Thick-set Blank-Stare Man as (an already bordering on catatonic? or merely in a state of despair?) Avery.

Fourth Man is very inclusive that way.

Now, the fourth man gets up "quietly"... It's probably Barty Crouch Jr. who leaves our bleeding hearts thinking, and I can't say I blame them.

Yeah, it really was a good thing for Avery that little Barty carried on like that, wasn't it?

Even I sometimes wonder how far Crouch Jr. was in the business, though we know he's not as innocent as he made out to be.

Hey, young Crouch could have been innocent -- of torturing the Longbottoms, at any rate. No way to know for sure, is there? He sure seems like a sadist in GoF, but I imagine that ten years spent under the Imperius Curse could do a lot of funny things to your mind.

Fourth Man takes no strong stand on the issue of young Crouch's complicity in the Longbottom Affair.

Crouch Sr. must have been sick at heart when the bleeding hearts reopened Crouch's and Avery's cases. Perhaps, if Crouch Jr. was still around to be released, they wouldn't have released Avery? Instead, Avery walks free and it's Crouch son who's locked up in the kitchen. Must have made him furious.

And just imagine how Crouch Jr. himself must have felt about it! You know how very cranky he could get on the subject of DEs walking free.

Sort of makes you wonder what kind of things he might have told Voldemort about Avery, doesn't it?

As mentioned before, the convincing part of all this is that Avery really does act as if he needs forgiveness for something big. And Voldemort, even if he doesn't give it, gives a semblance of it.

Yes. The Dark Lord was really very generous there, all things considered, don't you think?

Honestly, Avery ought to have thanked him. Had he been a genuine Toady, rather than merely a Nerveless Hysteric, he would have...

<Elkins blinks down at the S.Y.C.O.P.H.A.N.T.S badge which seems to have made its way out of her pocket and onto her bathrobe somehow, shakes her head crossly, and puts it away>

Finally, an answer for those who ask, "But how can Snape get back into the DE circle?" If Avery can, Snape can too, though I'm sure Voldemort has similar plans re: Cruciatus.

I think that if that's what Snape's gotta do, then he'll manage just fine. He's got tons of great excuses he can draw on, and unlike Avery, he isn't a Nerveless Hysteric. It woudn't surprise me, in fact, if he managed to pull it off without having to endure even a single Cruciatus -- although unlike Cindy, I find this notion more relieving than disappointing.

But, having picked up GOF and looked up the scenes, I am feeling VERY surprised, and somewhat elated. Something new, and something real. LOLLIPOPS I fervently believe in, but it's somewhere in the past in the murky realms of motivation, this is right there under our eyes.

Aw, gee whiz, Eileen. You're making me blush here. But you also bring up one very strong objection to Fourth Man, so let's see if we can manage to resolve it.


Here is the great big threatening cannon that, as Eileen points out, is indeed aimed straight at Fourth Man's poor palpitating little heart:


"You are merely repeating the names of those who were cleared of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago," said Fudge angrily. "You could have found those names in old reports of the trials!"

<Elkins nods grimly>

Eeeeee-yup. That's canon, all right. And since I can think of no reason why Fudge would be lying there, we've just got to accept it.

Okay. So Avery did stand trial shortly after the Fall of Voldemort (presumably in late autumn or winter of 1981/1982), and he was cleared of the charges against him.

This, then, was presumably when Avery used the Imperius Defense to which Sirius refers in "Padfoot Returns." It does seem to have been an especially popular defense in the days directly following Voldemort's disappearance -- presumably because at least a couple of people really truly had been kept under Imperius, only to break free once Voldemort was discorporated.

"People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of 'em came outta kinda trances. Don' reckon they could've done if he was comin' back."
—Hagrid, in PS.

I somehow suspect, though, that three or four years after Voldemort's fall, Imperius was no longer seeming like a very convincing defense. So let us say then that Avery's Imperius Defense was how he squirmed out trouble the first time around, back in 1981/1982.

This is all still perfectly consistent with Fourth Man. Sirius says that Crouch's son was "caught with a group of Death Eaters who'd managed to talk their way out of Azkaban." Avery, tried but aquitted, would certainly qualify.

The problem, of course, is this:

So, Avery was acquitted thirteen years ago, as Fudge tells Harry. But then, he gets "caught up" in the Longbottom fiasco, and it's off to Azkaban. Later, the bleeding hearts get him out. So, why tell Harry he was acquitted thirteen years ago, when he was more notoriously acquitted at the most eleven years ago, probably shorter?

Oooooh, a touch! A touch, a touch, I do confess! Can Fourth Man be saved?

Hmmmm. Well first, let's see if we can establish a time-line here.

Dumbledore says that the attacks on the Longbottoms came "just when everyone thought they were safe." Given that the Ministry took some time to round up the last of the DEs—that went on for about a year, I'm thinking—and given how obviously traumatized the entire society was by Voldemort's reign of terror, and given that it must have taken some time for everyone (fireworks and parties on the night of his disappearance notwithstanding) to really and truly and honestly believe that he was Gone For Good, "just when everyone thought they were safe" could mean as late as 1983.

(Yeah, I know that most people date the Longbottom Fiasco much earlier than that, but I like it better my way. Admittedly, this is largely because I'm also partial to Neville-With-A-Memory-Charm, which works much better IMO if Neville was well past the babe-in-arms stage by the time of the incident...but even aside from all that, I still think that a later date for the Longbottom Fiasco makes more sense.)

So let's say, oh, late 1982 or early 1983 for the Longbottom Incident and Avery's second arrest and trial, which would make the death of Crouch's wife and the supposed death of his son the winter of 1983/1984. Winter's good, because (a) sickly people tend to die in the wintertime, and (b) the weather in the Potterverse is often driven on the principle of pathetic fallacy, and so there really ought to have been a cold hard driving rain when Sirius watched the dementors burying Crouch through the bars of his cell.

Okay. So 1984 would be the year that Crouch's popularity goes into sharp decline. There's a Bleeding Heart backlash, Crouch gets shunted off into IMC, Fudge rides the wave to become Minister of Magic, and Crouch's successor comes into office at MLE and starts looking into old cases. Avery stands retrial in 1984, or possibly early in '85.

The second time around, I don't think that he would have gone for Imperius again. He'd already used that excuse once, and it would seem awfully fishy for him to claim to have been under the Imperius Curse twice. (Once is merely unlucky. Twice is...careless.) And besides, the times had changed: by the time of his pardon, it would have been the mid-'80s. The Imperius Defense was probably 'way out of vogue by then.

So a slight modification to the Fourth Man theory here. Avery doesn't claim Imperius at all at his retrial. He claims pure and simple innocence. He wasn't there, he didn't do it, he knew nothing about it, he was nowhere near the Longbottoms that night, and the only reason that he was arrested in the first place was because he happened to be over at the Lestranges' playing a rousing hand of Exploding Snap with them and young Crouch on the night that the Aurors came a'knocking on their door. It was guilt by association, pure and simple. Of course he had no idea that the Lestranges were involved in any of that sort of thing. If he had, then he would hardly have been hanging out in their kitchen playing cards with them, would he? I mean, not after what Voldemort had done to him, back in the late '70s and early '80s? Not after the Imperius Curse and all?

And since there was probably never any real hard evidence against any of them anyway, and since unlike Mrs. Lestrange he had never once confessed his guilt, and since he cut a truly pathetic figure in the dock, and since public sentiment had turned against Crouch, and since everyone was feeling sorta guilty over young Barty Crouch's death, Avery got his pardon and walked away free.

Okay. So why would Fudge have brought up the thirteen-year-old acquittal, rather than the ten-year-old pardon, when Harry mentioned Avery's name? That does seem a little strange doesn't it?

<Elkins pauses, bites her lip, shifts in her chair, and then suddenly sits bolt upright, smiling triumphantly -- if also just a touch madly>

NO! It does NOT!

Because what you have to understand about Fudge is that he was swept into office on precisely the same wave of public sentiment that led to Avery's pardon -- a Bleeding Heart backlash that did not last.

The backlash was very short-lived -- which is the reason that we see no Bleeding Hearts in canon. Avery's pardon represented the break of that particular wave; no sooner had he walked free than the backlash receded quickly, leaving people feeling decidedly...ambivalent about the entire affair. No other cases were in fact reexamined; the Avery/Crouch/Lestrange case was the only one that ever made it to retrial.

(And this is yet another reason that Sirius Black's case was never reexamined. Not only did it lack the pathos of young Barty Jr.'s trial [thus not appealing quite so much to the Bleeding Hearts], and not only did Albus Dumbledore show no sign of support for the notion that Black might be innocent, and not only is Sirius far too Tough to be willing to take the advice of his legal counsel and try begging off on Imperius at retrial, but also even if Black's case was ever on someone's agenda, it was far enough down near the bottom of the list that by the time it would have been reopened, public enthusiasm for the entire idea of reexamining Crouch's old cases had vanished away entirely.)

So as things turned out, Avery's pardon did not prove to be at all the great political coup that Crouch's successor had hoped for. Far from it: it was a bit of an embarrassment for everyone, and particularly for those politicians who had pushed most avidly for it -- people like Crouch's successor...and Fudge himself.

Fortunately for them, the cultural insistence on Not Talking Or Even Thinking About Those Dark Days Or Anything Related To Them that we see in effect in the HP books was now coming to dominate the wizarding zeitgeist. Nobody now wanted to think about any of that stuff at all, which made it a simple enough matter for politicians who might otherwise have been embarrassed by the affair to simply sweep it under the carpet where (to their minds) it rightfully belonged.

So this is the reason that Fudge mentions Avery's original acquittal but not his more recent (and more notorious) pardon. To mention the latter would touch far too closely on the subject of his own rather dubious claims to the position as Minister of Magic, as well as reminding everyone present of one of his own failed attempts to manipulate public sentiment for political advantage -- and that's a can of worms he most decidedly does not want opened right now. Not with these allegations of Voldemort's return and all. His position could be getting unstable enough as it is in the very near future, without dragging in all of that old business.

Okay. So, uh, where's the canon?


"Padfoot Returns." The canonical suggestion for all of this is in "Padfoot Returns," when Sirius first says of younger Crouch that he was "caught with a group of Death Eaters who'd managed to talk their way out of Azkaban," and then that he "was definitely caught in the company of people I'd bet my life were Death Eaters -- but he might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Well, that's an interesting ambiguity, isn't it? First he says that the people Crouch was caught with were Death Eaters, next only that they were people he would "bet his life" were Death Eaters. Well, come on, Sirius. Which is it?

The deep ambivalence that Sirius reveals there is perfectly consistent with a scenario in which the people he's referring to include both those he is certain are guilty (Lestranges), and those about whose guilt he is undecided (Avery). This undecidedness is consistent with the overall cultural attitude toward the Avery Affair -- Sirius, you will remember, has come by the majority of his information on this subject after his escape from Azkaban ("This is mostly stuff I've found out since I got out"); it was evidently not an incident that was much gibbered about by the imprisoned DEs. And Sirius' suggestion that Crouch might just "have been in the wrong place at the wrong time" is telling as well -- wherever would he have come by this idea? Why, from Avery's own defense, of course!


There. Does that work? If anyone has a better suggestion, I'd love to hear it.


Now, on to the question of whether Avery (who, as we all know, is by far the MOST important character in all of canon!) was ever a Ministry official, or if he was, whether he still is now.

Cindy wants Avery to have been the head of the Department of Magical Catastrophies (even at the tender age of twenty-one), so that she can have him responsible for tampering with evidence in the Sirius Black case and for recovering Voldemort's wand from the rubble at Godric's Hollow. She also wants him to have been given this position back after his release from Azkaban and sees no problem with the notion that Sirius would have failed to mention this, or that he would continue to perceive Avery as no particular threat to Harry, or that he would list his name last when he rattles off the names of Snape's old classmates. She writes:

Ah, but look at who else Sirius mentions. He mentions Rosier (dangerous and crazy enough to take on Moody)...

And dead.

...Wilkes (dangerous and crazy enough to take on Voldemort)...

And dead.

...and the Lestranges (just plain dangerous and crazy).

And in Azkaban.

Wouldn't you mention Avery last out of that group, even if he were responsible for a department that has responsibilities for little things like deflating Aunt Marge? I wouldn't. Not unless there were some reason for believing him to be really really non-threatening, which I hardly think that I would have if he had managed to become the head of a Ministry Department.

Nor, if he were the head of a Ministry Department, would I refer to him merely as 'still at large.' Being the head of a Ministry Department isn't being 'at large,' it's being 'in power.'

And besides, the DMC isn't a lame department at all. Working for the DMC must involve a good deal of interaction with many different departments, as well as with the Muggle authorities: it's not all Aunt-deflating and street-sweeping, you know. Remember, it was Fudge's department, right before he made Minister of Magic. (Now you in the back there, stop that snickering. Yes, Fudge is lame. But he's also the Minister of Magic, so he must have something on the ball.) If someone like Fudge can vault himself straight from DMC to Buck Stops Here, then I really doubt that the DMC has at all the Lame Duck reputation that you suggest.

But since you've been so nice about swallowing down my Fourth Man theory, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do for you here: I'll give you Avery in the DMC. Okay? Avery was in the DMC. He wasn't the Department Head, mind, but he was a junior minister in the department, just like Fudge. He was the chief investigator assigned to the muggle-blasting site, where he confiscated Sirius Black's wand (so that it couldn't be Priori Incantatem'd) and tampered with a bit of the evidence to make Sirius' guilt seem all that much more incontrovertible.

He was particularly motivated to do this, you see, because Sirius had once played a rather nasty prank on him back in their school days, and...

Well, okay. So that part's optional. You don't have to accept that part, if you don't want to.

There, Cindy. You can have Avery-Helped-To-Snooker-Sirius-Black. But I'm not willing to give you Avery-Retrieved-Voldemort's-Wand-From-Godric's-Hollow as well, because that would run completely counter to the entire "Avery has avoided the other DEs like the plague ever since his release from Azkaban" aspect of the Fourth Man theory, which is central.

Pettigrew can have Voldemort's wand all to himself. ::snerk::


So what did Avery do after his release from prison? He certainly didn't go looking for Voldemort (his failure to do so is absolutely essential to the Fourth Man theory). I suggested that he moved into his mother's basement and took up coin collecting. But Cindy insisted:

His mother's basement? No, probably not. I think Avery gets out of Azkaban, and Fudge has been promoted to Minister of Magic....So Avery asks for his old job back. Fudge knows and likes Avery, and Fudge (being prone to denying the obvious) never really believed Avery was guilty. Who knows? Maybe Fudge pardoned Avery singlehandedly. The DMC is now very short of people who know how to puncture Aunts, so Fudge gives Avery his old job, with back pay to compensate for Avery's wrongful imprisonment.

Mmmmmm. Yeah, okay. I'm willing to run with this, if only because it offers yet more reason for Fudge to have wanted to avoid the issue of Avery's second acquittal altogether. Probably even Fudge has come to suspect, way down deep in his very heart of hearts, that Avery really was guilty all along.

But I still can't buy Avery as Department Head. The Fourth Man theory is far too dependent on the notion that Avery Has Had Enough, and Had-Enough Avery wouldn't seek a position of such prestige or power. Too dangerous.

No, if Avery's in DMC, then he's still a lowly (but NOT yet middle-aged!) desk drone, mistrusted and ill-respected by his co-workers, who occasionally gather around the water cooler to mutter darkly among themselves while shooting him suspicious glances. (He takes far too many sick days, too, and occasionally goes on extended personal leaves of absence for "reasons of emotional health.")

Avery does, however, resist all contact from Death Eaters like Lucius who would like to go on a Voldemort hunt.

You think Lucius ever wanted to go on a Voldemort hunt? I doubt it.

But yes. Avery resists all contact from former DE colleagues. In fact, he may well have children. If he does, then the reason we've never heard of them is that he sent them off to Beauxbatons or someplace. He wouldn't want them at Hogwarts, where they would be exposed not only to all of the other DEs' children, but also to the potentially corrupting influence of his old friend, Severus Snape -- a bad influence if Avery'd ever known one.

But speaking of Snape, Eileen points out a problem with my speculations:

Now, Elkins suggests we'll meet Avery again and not know who he is. I don't see how we can work this, especially if Avery is in the Ministry, as Cindy insists.

Well, if he's just a lowly drone these days, then that's not a problem. Snape, though...Snape's a big problem. Avery can't very well go skulking about Hogwarts Up To No Good with his old buddy Severus lurking around. Snape would recognize him, and more to the point (since Snape could be up to his old ricks in Book Five) so could a bunch of the other adult characters: McGonagall, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Flitwick...

Yeah, okay. So if any bit of plot does revolve around Unrecognized DE Avery, I guess it'll have to be a fairly minor one, and take place outside of Hogwarts.


Boy. Good thing I didn't put any money down on that one. Isn't it.


And finally, on the question of how Evil Avery Really Is, Eileen wrote: won't be some yet unknown virtuous Slytherin (a relative of Avery, or is Avery really evil now?).

Well, now, that all depends on which flavor of Fourth Man you prefer.

In "No-frills Fourth Man," Avery sure would seem to be pretty darned Evil, if also very Weak. But you could also choose "Fourth Man With Remorse," in which Avery truly regrets his past wrongdoings and has been leading a virtuous and muggle-embracing lifestyle for the past decade in his attempt to atone for all of his sins. Or, you could go for "Fourth Man With SHIP," in which Avery never really was all that Evil, and only became a DE in the first place due to his hopeless desire to impress the future Mrs. Lestrange. Or you can favor "Fourth Man With Imperius," in which Avery proves either too squeamish or too genuinely Good to be a very successful DE, and so really was put under the Imperius Curse by fellow DEs to guide him safely through his unwisely-chosen lifestyle. ("Fourth Man With Imperius" also has the added advantage of explaining why poor Avery seems so highly suggestible: it's all that Imperius, you see, it messed with his mind and left him highly vulnerable to outside influence...)

Or I suppose that if you really want him to be innocent, you could even go for "Fourth Man With Innocence," in which Avery really did have nothing to do with the attack on the Longbottoms, but was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Aurors broke down the door.

And, of course, there are combinations. Fourth Man With SHIP, Imperius, and Remorse is certainly a possibility, and one likely to appeal to those who really want to lay a great heaping load o' pathos on poor Avery's trembling head. Fourth Man with SHIP and Imperius, on the other hand, is more for those with a taste for perversion, and Fourth Man With Innocence and Remorse for those who prefer righteous angst to venal whining.

So really, Avery can be just about as Evil or as Redeemable as you like him under the Fourth Man Theory. One thing that he cannot be, however, is Tough.

Which brings us to Ambushes...


Cindy (who is sold on the Fourth Man Theory, but feels confident that these S.Y.C.O.P.H.A.N.T.S. members eat their ice cream straight from the carton while lying in bed) wrote:

This is a dream come true! People are buying the ambush idea in droves (how many people does it take to make a drove, anyway?)!

TWO!!!! It takes TWO people to make a drove!

We're now to the point of talking about ambushes like . . . like there's actually some canon to support them or something!

::small exasperated noise::

But of course there is! There's plenty of canonical suggestion to support the idea of an ambush. We have Severus Snape spying for Dumbledore; we have Rosier, who "preferred to fight rather than come quietly" and took a piece of Moody with him; we have Dolohov—clearly a member of Karkaroff's "cell"—apprehended at the same time as Rosier's death...can there really be any doubt that we're talking ambush here?

O ye of little faith.

Are we all agreed that Snape arranged the ambush(es) to prove his loyalty to Dumbledore? Please? Pretty please?

Nope. Sorry, can't climb on that wagon. For one thing, the entire idea of Albus Dumbledore demanding a blood sacrifice as a proof of loyalty is utterly sickening. For another thing, it doesn't even make any sense. I mean, surely Big Bad Evil Voldemort would be perfectly willing to sacrifice a couple of his younger Death Eaters to help his valuable spy trick muggle-loving old fool Dumbledore, wouldn't he? (Hell, even I'd be willing to do that, and I'm just a SYCOPHANT, not an Evil Overlord.) And surely Dumbledore would realize that. So Snape's willingness to lead his colleagues into an ambush wouldn't even be a very good proof of his loyalty.

No, I think that Dumbledore was convinced of Snape's sincerity when Fawkes hopped into Snape's lap to snuggle with him.

Snape snarled and batted at the wretched creature, of course, but by that time it was too late: Dumbledore was onto him.

But, yeah. I do think that Snape's information was what tipped off the Aurors, thus allowing them to set up the ambush(es). Is that good enough?

Well, now that we know for a fact that there absolutely, definitely was an ambush, regardless of what JKR has to say about the matter...


::bounces up and down excitedly in chair::


...we have to pin down how it happened. Here's what we know:

1. Karkaroff. In the Pensieve, Karkaroff has already been convicted. Moody apparently took 6 months to track Karkaroff down.

Yet by the time Karkaroff is testifying before the hearing, Voldemort has already fallen. This gets important later on.

2. Dolohov. Captured "shortly after" Karkaroff, but Karkaroff doesn't know this. Karkaroff definitely knew Dolohov, as he saw him torture people.

And helped him to do it. Or was that just vile slander, O Brave Defender of Poor Igor?

3. Rosier. Caught "shortly after" Karkaroff also. Dead, but took a piece of Moody with him. Karkaroff knew him, too.

We also know that both Rosier and Wilkes were "killed by Aurors the year before Voldemort fell." Sirius says so.

What this means is that Karkaroff and Dolohov were both also apprehended "the year before Voldemort fell." By the time of the Pensieve hearing, then, Karkaroff has already been in prison for some months -- perhaps even for a full year.

(There now, Cindy, you see? There's another point in poor Igor's favor. He did spend a good long time with the dementors before he cracked and offered to start naming names.)

(Yes. You're welcome.)

4. Travers and Mulciber. Fingered by Karkaroff, but already apprehended.

We don't know when, though, nor even whether it happened before or after Voldemort's fall. They were still at large when Karkaroff himself was caught, but that could have been up to a year ago.

5. Wilkes. Karkaroff doesn't finger Wilkes, but Wilkes is dead, having expired the year before Voldemort fell.

Not just dead. Not just expired. Killed by Aurors. Sirius says that Wilkes was "killed by Aurors." He might have been killed before Karkaroff's arrest, or he might not have been.

Karkaroff is desperately casting about for names, and we have to presume he names every single Death Eater he can think of.

I agree. So in Karkaroff's cell, we have Dolohov, Rosier, Travers, Mulciber, and Snape. Wilkes may have been there as well: Karkaroff could have neglected to mention him because he already knew of Wilkes' death. And then there's Rookwood. I don't believe that Rookwood was really a member of the cell proper. But more on that below.

Karkaroff didn't know Avery, the Lestranges, or Crouch Jr. If he had, he would have fingered them. Agreed.

This, uh, destroys Elkins' half-hearted "Karkaroff Was Mrs. Lestranges' Little Pet Igor" theory, thank goodness.

No, no, no, Cindy! You're confused. It's Avery who might have been the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange's Little Pet. That's the operating premise of "Fourth Man With SHIP and Imperius," a fine and upstanding (if also rather perverted) variant on Fourth Man that has nothing in the least bit half-hearted about it!

So I'm thinking that in the Pensieve scene, Karkaroff knows nothing about the ambush at all, which is why he keeps naming people who are captured or dead. That leads me to believe that the people he names were the victims of the ambush.

Absolutely. Karkaroff was caught by Moody before the ambush happened.

It would seem to not have been all that bloody of an ambush, alas, but you can't have everything...

Wilkes? Who knows? I guess he wasn't in the ambush. Maybe Voldemort killed him. :-)

Aurors, dammit. Wilkes was killed by Aurors. Sirius says so.

Of course, Sirius never says that Wilkes was a 'he' at all. Perhaps Wilkes was actually Florence Wilkes, Snape's lost love, whom he used to snog romantically behind the greenhouses back in their Hogwarts days...until they were caught out and humiliated by that meddling little Nosy Parker Bertha Jorkins, that is. No wonder he hexed her!

Alas, Love Of Wilkes Left Anguish, Polluting Our Poor Severus, which is the reason that he's always so damned cranky, and the reason that he joined the DEs in the first place, and the reason that he picks on poor little Neville Longbottom (Frank was the one who killed Florence, you see), and the reason that he was willing to defect to Dumbledore's cause (for with Florence gone, why would he remain in their midst?), and the reason that he will never, EVER be able to love again...

<Elkins grins and tosses a seashell lazily—if with no real malice—out to sea in the general direction of the Good Ship L.O.L.L.I.P.O.P.S.>

I know what you're thinking. Karkaroff also names Rookwood, who we know was still at large. Ah, but Rookwood is the head of the Department of Mysteries, making him, well, mysterious. Why wasn't Rookwood at the ambush? It's because Rookwood had intelligence that the ambush was going down.


Rookwood wasn't actually the head of the Department of Mysteries, surely. Is that really stated anywhere? I thought he was just a member of the department.

But at any rate, I refuse to believe that Rookwood was a member of Karkaroff's little gang of thugs. He filled some sort of intelligence function for the organization as a whole, I think, and the fact that Karkaroff actually knew his identity was probably an accident. Karkaroff knows that Rookwood's the best he has to offer, which is why he saves his name for, except for Snape's, that is. He didn't name Snape until the very end because he, um... ::clears throat:: liked the guy.

So that's why Rookwood wasn't caught in the ambush, IMO. Not because he caught wind of it ahead of time, but simply because he was far too important to be out and about torturing muggles with Karkaroff and his little death squad. Rookwood was intelligence. He had Big Important Taking Over the Wizarding World stuff that he was working on; Voldemort didn't want him wasting his time on frivolities.

To recap, then, we have Death Eater Cell 1 with Rookwood, Karkaroff, Wilkes, Travers, Dolohov, Snape, Mulciber.

I hold out against Rookwood. And I'm not entirely sure about Mulciber either, come to think of it—does the Imperius Specialist really travel around with a Thug Squad? Or is he more of a specialist who gets called in for special occasions? Could be the latter, and Karkaroff could have just known his name.

Tell ya what I'm gonna do. We can have A Great Ambush with Dolohov, Rosier, Travers, Mulciber. It's two Aurors against four Death Eaters.

<Elkins opens her eyes wide, breathless with anticipation>

Rosier is a loose cannon who has always been a great shot and a little too impressed with his own dueling abilities.

A loose canon? Who woulda thought it?

Rosier sees Moody and immediately knows he has been set up. Moody starts to shout out something like "Keep your wand where I can see it, and let's talk about this, because we wouldn't want anyone to get . . . " Rosier pulls out his wand and tries to blast Moody, but misses wide right and grazes a chunk from Moody's nose. Moody, (being Tough so that one little wand blast will never bring him down) shows no mercy and blasts Rosier point blank, right between the eyes, just like Elkins so desperately wants.

<Elkins, beside herself with excitement, jumps up and down in her seat, shrieking happily>

YAY!!!!!!!!!!! Bloody ambush! Bloody ambush! Bloody ambush!

Then Travers, Mulciber and Dolohov put up a fierce struggle against Frank Longbottom, who eventually subdues all three in a glorious firefight.

YAY!!!!!!!!!! Glorious firefight! Glorious firefight! Glorious firefi--

<Elkins stops abruptly. Her expression of bloodthirsty satisfaction slowly dissolves into one of stark horror>

Oh, good Lord. When precisely did I get like this?

Cindy? Are you sure there was nothing in that brandy?

(Moody helps a little, but Frank does the heavy lifting). Moody, being a fabulous guy and also rather thankful that Frank saved Moody's life in the firefight...

Well, that creates some sort of a mystic bond between wizards, right?

...tells everyone how fabulous Frank is and gives him all the credit in the Daily Prophet, making Frank very popular. (This makes the scenes between Fake Moody and Neville all the more chilling because Real Moody has told Crouch Jr. all about this, and Fake Moody uses it to get close to Neville.)

Hmmmmm.... Neville... Fake Moody... Longbottom Incident... Mystic bonds between wizards...

Hey, wait! Didn't Eileen want us to thow a memory charm theory in here somewhere?

Well, this isn't quite a Memory Charm Theory, but it's on a related topic, so here goes.

How's this? Crouch didn't really need this story to get close to Neville. You see, Neville is instinctively drawn to Fake Moody anyway, due to the mystic bond formed when one wizard saves another's life, because back when Neville was but a wee toddler, young Barty Crouch took pity on him and hid him from Avery and the Lestranges when they were targetting Frank's family.

Neville can't really remember this, of course, because of the whole Memory Charm thing, but the bond is still there: he responds to it as a matter of instinct. It's the reason that he's willing to speak up in class even when the subject matter is the dread Cruciatus Curse; it's the reason that he's willing to venture into Scary Fake Moody's office to have tea with him; and it's the reason that Fake Moody's herbology praise is so very effective in giving him that nice boost of self-esteem.

And as for Crouch himself: that explanation that he gives Harry of why he took Neville under his wing is not entirely accurate. It wasn't until he already had Neville in his office for a while, and had already fed him some hot chocolate and biscuits, and talked him down from his state of rather extreme distress, and been generally uncharacteristically kind and compassionate to him that it even occurred to him that he could turn this situation to his advantage by planting the Water Plants book. The ploy was really only an afterthought. It wasn't until well into his tea-and-sympathy conversation with Neville that he even learned that the kid was particularly friendly with Harry. That's when he thought of planting the book on him. But as to why he felt compelled to show such kindness to young Longbottom in the first place...well, Crouch could never understand that himself. It rather preyed on his mind, in fact—it disturbed him—and so he eventually succeeded in convincing himself that planting the book had actually been his Cunning Plan all along. In actuality, however, he had merely been a helpless pawn of that mystic bond forged between wizards when one saves another's life.

There. How's that for subversive? ;-)

I also like this theory because it explains why Mrs. Lestrange went after Frank....she picks Frank because she wants revenge for his role in the ambush because he killed her old flame Rosier. (She doesn't know it was Moody who killed Rosier because Moody gave Frank all the credit, and Mrs. Lestrange is still a little woozy from her time in Azkaban.)

Woozy? From a mere couple of weeks awaiting trial in Azkaban?

Hah! The Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange is way too Tough to get that easily woozed.

No, she knew perfectly well that Moody was the one who killed Rosier. That's why she did such an inspired number on the poor man's leg, and his eye, and heaven only knows what other body parts that could be salvaged over at St. Mungo's without resort to the magical bionics. (I quite agree with Cindy that this must be the reason that Moody was not present at her trial.)

No, she went after Longbottom because Longbottom killed Wilkes.

(Haven't I told you again and again that Longbottom killed Wilkes?)

Anyway, I know I'm a little short on canon here.

Canon? Oh, right. That.

But you have to admit that JKR seems to have been very precise in weaving a rather complex tale of which DEs did what and where everyone was at particular points in the timeline. I doubt that it was all random.

The truth is out there.



RE: Snape & the DEs, Reprise (With Bits of Where's the Canon?)

Much Snapestuff here. Snape and Reader Expectation. Snape and Subversion. Snape and his Old Gang. Snape and House Slytherin. Snape and the Malfoys. Snape's Sudden Movement. Snape Snape Snape Snape Snape.

No George here, though. George is getting a post of his very own.

And also, a mention of Avery. But only a very brief one, and at the very end.


Porphyria wrote:

Moving on once again, to the discussion of Snape as standing in possible opposition to the series' problematic stances of 'all Slyth are evil' and the limits of individual choice. . . .Well, for one thing I think you're setting up a false opposition between Snape and the rest of the text.

Well, obviously Snape is a part of the text, and a very important part at that. And I agree with you that that an important aspect of his literary function in the novels is to serve a "subversive" function: not subversive in the sense of undermining authorial intent, but subversive in the sense of undermining genre conventions and the reader's own expectations of the text. In other words, Snape may be a spy, but he is Rowling's spy.

I also agree with you that the series is becoming increasingly morally complex as it progresses, and that Rowling does enjoy playing some rather sophisticated games with reader expectation and misdirection.

But as I've said on many other occasions, I still don't altogether trust Rowling as an author, and I'm not altogether certain that I will like where she's really going with the text. This causes anxiety -- but that is inevitable in any serialized work. As Eileen wrote, in a post some days ago: "Trust no author until she is finished."

One thing that I do feel compelled to point out here, though, is that my original reading of Snape's relationship with his old gang was in no way intentionally subversive. It was not something that I thought about at all, honestly. It was simply how I quite naturally and instinctively read GoF. It was only once I discovered this community that I came to realize that my instinctive reading had apparently also been a highly idiosyncratic one -- and then to begin to wonder why.

I think that a good part of the reason that my reading was so instinctive was because Snape is Rowling's spy: as you point out, she uses him quite often as a tool of reader misdirection.

I also think she leaves a lot of hints that might seriously tempt the reader to imagine him as being different than what he seems, and as I said this is a series where heavy reader speculation is consciously encouraged by the structure of the narrative.

Indeed. And because of that, my response to, say, Sirius mentioning Snape's old Slytherin gang was initial shock ("Snape had friends?"), followed immediately by acceptance ("Well...okay. And really, why on earth shouldn't he have had people he hung out with while at school?"). The fact that Rowling does so often use the character to shatter misconceptions made it a quite natural reading for me. And the successive series of revelations about the fates of the members of that little group, each of them worse (from Snape's perspective, anyway) than the last—Rosier wasn't just killed by "Aurors," he was killed by Moody. . .Snape was acting as Dumbledore's spy, so probably his information was what got Rosier killed by Moody. . .the Lestranges are in Azkaban for attacking Neville's parents. . . .Avery's still alive and well and almost certain to be filling in some secondary henchman villain duty in the next volume. . . .and the scary Lestranges are likely to get busted out of Azkaban as well. . .

::shrug:: It was just my automatic response to read this as emotionally relevant material. And when I discovered that others had not done so, I was puzzled—and frankly startled—and very interested to find out why.

Musings over why I might have read the text so differently than others did, and what this might say about the philosophical underpinnings of our readings, and all of that sort of thing came later.

But it interests me in part because it does touch on the extent to which I feel that I can "trust" the Author. Obviously my own reading has emotional resonance for me: if it didn't, then I doubt that I would have read the story in the way that I did. My sense of disappointment at the notion that because my interpretation was so unusual, it was therefore likely to be running contrary to Authorial Intent—to be, in fact, fairly subversive—was a disappointment with the author. My sense of disappointment that even though fan readings are so very often subversive, my interpretation was apparently nonetheless still a very unpopular reading of the text — that was a disappointment with...well, I'm not quite sure with whom, honestly. With the author again? Or with the fans? With the world as a whole? Or perhaps simply with myself, for being so goddamned weird?

I honestly don't know. It's hard to say. But the discussion here has made me feel a good deal better about it—it may have been a minority reading, but it was not, at least, an utterly unique reading—and I'm very much appreciating the opportunity to begin to understand why the more popular reading might also be one that people would consciously choose to favor.

Well, he seems to be a character fraught with internal and external contradictions. He has this 'neither fish nor fowl' quality which IMHO is a little subversive in itself. So in some cases the impulse to imagine his peers as being securely black is an effort to highlight this perverse, 'neither' quality of his...

So in other words, we don't want to blacken the black to make Snape seem white in comparison, but merely to highlight his grey?

That does make sense to me, on an intellectual level. It doesn't happen to work for me emotionally or viscerally—JKR's Whites are themselves quite grey, so for the blacks to be blacker than black just feels...oh, unbalanced somehow, in a way that is perhaps far more aesthetic than philosophical, and in a way which does absolutely nothing for me personally in terms of appreciating Snape's Greyness or his Indeterminacy—but I can understand how that could work differently for other people.

...and the temptation to imagine him as never quite fitting in with them can be read as an extension of his uncategorizable quality. . . . But I'm saying his function as a character in the text is one which is profoundly indeterminate, and what we see of his personality mimics this motif. Hence the impulse to preserve this theme in speculating his backstory.

Which I certainly agree with. I think that here, though, we're touching on some serious differences in precisely how, as readers, we interpreted that indeterminate quality in the first place.

So what we could imagine instead is a character whose 'nature' was always inconsistent and prone to conflicting impulses, someone who was never quite sure where he stood, and it took a lot of angst to finally make a decision.

Which works as a reading, no doubt about it. It just somehow doesn't quite work for me.

A while back, Eloise wrote, on one of the many George threads:

Of course, I also happen to believe he comes from a family of dark wizards, explaining all those curses he knew, and that though he's intellectually a good guy, many of his instincts lead him toward the dark side leading to a lot of tension.

And I think that that tension, that contrast between Snape's instincts and his intellect, has always been central to how I've read the character. I do not, for example, tend to see Snape as a person struggling with conflicting impulses, precisely. Rather, I tend to see him as someone whose impulses all lead him in one unerring direction -- but in a direction that he has chosen to reject on abstract and purely philosophical grounds. In other words, I see him as a Dark Wizard. In instinct. In impulse. In inclination. To some extent, perhaps even in essence. But by choosing not to act on those instincts and inclinations and tastes and desires, he manages to be something slightly different. Grey. Neither fish nor fowl, as you wrote, but neither fish nor fowl in a slightly different way, I think, than many others have read him.

The suggestion that Snape left the DEs because when it came right down to it, he lacked a taste for torture or murder, for example, has always left me a bit cold because in my reading of Snape, of course he has a taste for it. A taste for it is exactly what he's got. His taste for it...well, that's sort of his problem, isn't it?

It comes to the same thing, in many ways. But it leads to a lot of different assumptions. I, for example, assume that of course Snape would enjoy the company of the sort of people who become Death Eaters (at least, to whatever extent he enjoys company at all). They would share his tastes, and his inclinations, and his aesthetics, and his interests, and probably his sense of humor as well. They wouldn't share his principles, of course, which is the sticking point, but on grounds of pure compatability, they would be far better companionship for him than the vast majority of the people who do share his principles.

I can only counter to say that I think the text highlights Snape's conflict and indeterminacy in a particular way and wants the reader to sympathize with it

Well, I would agree...except that I'm beginning to suspect that the 'particular way' in which the text seems to highlight Snape's conflict and indeterminacy to me is perhaps not the "particular way" it does to others -- or even, perhaps, the "particular way" that the author intended.

However, as we've managed to make it through four novels so far without the author doing anything that has opposed my reading in the slightest—thus enabling me to maintain it both cheerfully and obliviously throughout—I suppose that I shouldn't let that suspicion worry me too much. Either something will eventually happen that will disappoint me terribly and then force me to revise my reading...or it won't. Either way, there's not much I can do about it.

(yes, I really feel he's written as sympathetic).

Well, of course he is! Part of it, admittedly, is that Clever Villain/Sympathy For the Devil appeal. You know, there's a Type here: the snarling drama queen in the black cape who gets all of the really funny cruel dry lines. Everyone always likes that guy, and Snape shares a lot of his qualities. And as a special bonus, he's not even really a villain, you don't have to feel the slightest bit guilty for liking him so much.

I mean, really. What sort of heartless monster wouldn't sympathize with Snape at the end of PoA, when he disintegrates utterly into his raving "Curses, Foiled Again, and Damn You, You Meddling Kids" hysteria? You'd just have to be made of stone, wouldn't you?

And of course there's the angst factor. Loads of angst.

And Mrs. Lestrange is sexy, so you can creep out from behind that coffee cup. ;-)

For a woman with no name—not even a maiden name, for heaven's sakes!—and only one line of dialogue, she certainly is Dead Sexy. I kind of want to be her, when I grow up.

Oh. Right. I'm already middle-aged, according to Cindy. Well...never mind, then. I guess it's too late.

Re: Snape's Favoritism of the Slytherins

I wrote:

I think he favors them primarily because Slytherin is his House, and because Snape is loyal to House Slytherin in spite of the fact that an appalling number of its Old Boys went bad during the last big wizarding war.

Porphyria wrote:

It just seems to me that his loyalty to Dumbledore probably outweighs his loyalty to his house, and this is significant when the two are at odds.

Loyalty to Dumbledore in no way precludes loyalty to House Slytherin. In fact, it demands it. Snape is the Head of House Slytherin; that is a very important part of his job at Hogwarts. And Snape's devotion to his job, to its duties and its responsibilities, is an enormous aspect of his loyalty to Dumbledore. Were he not loyal to his House, then that really would be a violation of trust, and a fairly serious one at that.

I think we may have some very serious disagreement here, though, over the issue of to what extent House Slytherin is separable from Voldemort and his agenda, or for that matter, from Dark Wizardry in general.

I see a clear distinction between House Slytherin, one of the four Houses of all Wizarding Britain, with a thousand-year-old tradition whose values include ambition, cunning, shrewdness, ends-over-means, resourcefulness, and a willingness to break rules (as well as purity of blood and a deep suspicion and fear of the Muggle world); and House Slytherin in its current political state, which would seem to have granted purity of blood primacy over many of its other values and chosen to express its hostility towards the Muggle world through active and violent means.

I have no difficulty at all in imagining someone feeling a loyalty to the House -- its traditions, its historical importance, its contributions to the magical world, the vast majority of its values (I think that Snape most certainly does value ambition, cunning, shrewdness and resourcefulness; and as someone who has worked as a spy, he surely cannot harbor too many objections to the idea of privileging the ends over the means!), and even the memory of its founder (Salazar presumably contributed something of value to the British Wizarding tradition), while simultaneously rejecting one or two of its tenets (I agree with you that Snape doesn't seem to be much of a purebloodist these days, anyway) and working to fight against a charismatic Dark Wizard who favors recruitment from within its ranks.

Going back to a few of the things you were saying earlier about JKR's taste for misdirection, I really do believe that Slytherin=Evil is a bit of a red herring in the books. When Dumbledore speaks to Harry about his Sorting at the end of CoS, I read a good deal of respect in his tone when he speaks of House Slytherin -- and Dumbledore is a Gryffindor, someone who has taken an unusually vocal stance against Salazar Slytherin's pureblood beliefs, and someone who spent many years fighting against a Slytherin Dark Wizard and his (for the most part) Slytherin followers. Hell, if Dumbledore can manage to find something to respect in the House as an institution, then I'm willing to accept that there's something there worthy of respect.

I would also point out that even Hagrid, as prone as he is to generalizations and hasty judgements, and as valid a personal reason as he has to dislike House Slytherin, does not tell Harry "Slytherin is the House of Dark Wizards." What he says (incorrectly, as it turns out) is: "Never a wizard went bad who wasn't in Slytherin." As biased as Hagrid is, and as biased as he has reason to be, that is how he phrases it -- and to my mind, that's significant. Wizards from House Slytherin go bad. They turn to Darkness. Slytherin isn't the House of Darkness; Darkness corrupts those of House Slytherin.

That's canon. It's also canon, though, that all of the Slyths we ever see are deeply unpleasant individuals, and that Snape is the only one of them we know of who has fought against Dark Wizardry. If there are Slyth grads who are Aurors, or who played important roles in the last war against Voldemort, then we've never heard of them. (Although I remain convinced, on the basis of no actual canonical evidence, that the Crouches, both Sr and Jr, were Slyths. Given Sirius' denunciation of Crouch Sr's performance in his role as a battler of Darkness, however, this supposition is still hardly a rousing defense of the House as a whole...)

I don't know quite what to make of this, honestly. My hope is that it's a case of reader misdirection and will be dealt with in later books. My fear is that it's Just Something That The Author Didn't Think Through Very Carefully. I'm willing to wait to find out which it might be, but in the meantime, I'm reading to give the author the benefit of the doubt.

I wrote:

As for Draco, I do think that Snape genuinely likes him -- or at the very least strongly identifies with him.

Porphyria wrote:

Given that Draco is a whiny, privileged kid, I think Snape's habit of letting him get away with everything is really a little fishy.

It's very difficult for us to have any idea what Snape lets Draco get away with, really. He lets him get away with just about anything that might annoy or discomfit Harry or the Gryffindors, certainly. But other than that, it's really impossible to say. Has he cracked down on Draco's bullying within House Slytherin (assuming, that is, that Draco does bully the younger Slyth kids, which I'm sure that he does, if he's allowed to get away with it)? Is he as unjust in his administration of discipline on his own students when House Gryffindor isn't involved? There's just no way to know. That issue's a black box.

Snape seems like the kind of guy who takes pride in his talent and works hard at it; it's hard for me to see how he'd approve of someone who slides along by malingering, falling back on family prestige and generally squirming out from under responsibility.

Snape has been known to play a few very slimy games with responsibility and power himself. He is talented, and he is proud, and he is obviously more than capable of hard work. But he is also a Slytherin.

Draco's malingering was to the benefit of the House in their efforts to win the Quiddich cup, and I suspect that Snape approved wholeheartedly of it. And while Draco does try to coast on his family name whenever he thinks he can get away with it, we've never seen evidence that he slacks off in Snape's Potions class.

I quite agree with you that Snape would not take kindly to anyone slacking off in his Potions class.

Snape appears to be giving Hermione better marks. If he really liked Draco as much as he seems to, why wouldn't he find some slimy reason to deduct points from Hermione's exam and add a few special bonus points to Draco's?

Snape does favor the Slyths, but I mean, really, Porphyria! There are limits!

He doesn't mess with the marks for exactly the same reason that he wouldn't take kindly to anyone slacking off in his Potions class.

Or better yet, if he really really cares about Draco, why aren't there signs that he's mentoring him in some really useful way? Does he even teach him better techniques for chopping ginger root?

Well, for starters, I think that the man that you're tilting at here gets more bursting with straw with each new paragraph. ;-)

If you'll look above, what I actually said was not that I thought that Snape "really liked Draco as much as he seems to," and most certainly not that he "really really cares about Draco." (And just for the record, I don't think that Snape gives Draco big loving hugs or tucks him into bed at night, either.)

I said that I thought that he does "genuinely like him -- or at the very least identify with him." That's not at all the same thing.

But really, if Snape had been, say, teaching Draco better techniques for chopping ginger root, then what sort of signs would you really expect to see of that in the text? Harry certainly wouldn't know about it. It wouldn't be likely to come up anywhere in the narration.

I don't really think that Snape is giving Draco private ginger-slicing lessons, mind. But if he were, we'd never hear about it.

And Snape's prompting of Draco's Serpensortia spell in the duelling club scene of CoS can be read as evidence that he has given the boy a bit of tutoring on the side -- although in curses, rather than in Potions. There would seem to be far more to learning a spell then just happening to know the proper incantation: you also have to know the proper wand movements, and in almost all cases, do at least a bit of practice. We've never seen even Hermione cast a charm on the basis of merely being told the appropriate incantation. Snape's whisper in Draco's ear there was a prompt: unless we are to believe that Draco is preternaturally talented with spellwork (which I don't for an instant believe), then he must have already learned that particular spell. And Snape must have known that he knew it.

So how did he know? Could have been an inspired guess, I suppose, based on what he knows about Draco's inclinations and the Malfoy family as a whole. Could have been because he'd seen Draco cast it before -- in the Slytherin common room, say, on a fellow student. Or it could be because he had taught it to him himself. I don't consider the last possibility all that unlikely, myself.

It seems more to me that what Snape does is curry Draco's favor in a way that, if Draco were smarter, he'd hold with some suspicion.

Heh. Well, if Draco were smarter, he wouldn't be Draco. Yes, of course Snape smarms shamelessly up to Lucius Malfoy's son. It's in his best interests to do so, on a number of different levels. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't genuinely like the kid, or that he doesn't favor his own students primarily out of...well, out of good old-fashioned favoritism.

I wrote:

As for Snape's Sudden Movement (which is beginning to remind me far too much of That Goddamned Gleam In Dumbledore's Eye)...


Um, does this mean you're already tired of discussing it? Uh oh...

Nah. I'm happy to talk about it. I don't know quite where that up there came from -- some weird fit of irritability, I guess. Mainly it reminds me of the infamous Gleam because it is a one sentence line that prompts so many people to say: "Hey, did anyone else notice that sudden movement that Snape made when..."

[I suggested that Snape's Sudden Movement might have been a reflection of his desire to stop Harry from uttering Malfoy's name in front of Fudge, because he knew that the instant Fudge heard Malfoy implicated, he would refuse to believe a word of it]

I think your theory is plausible, but I can't help but imagine that the Movement foreshadows something further in the future than Fudge's reaction.

It might do, and I certainly hope you're right, because it's far more interesting that way. But I think it equally possible that it was...well, just a moment of characterization, rather than a Great Big Foreshadow.

I mean, given that his gesture is a little mysterious and all (the wording "sudden movement" is deliberately vague)...,

It is vague, which was the reason that I didn't even try to defend my objection to the idea that it was a gesture of fury, rather than one of alarm or dismay or warning. There's really not much there to go on.

...shouldn't it indicate more than what is depicted a few minutes later in this very scene?

You think? Well...maybe. I think that sometimes a Sudden Movement is just a Sudden Movement, but as I said, I hope that you're right, because I too am getting very antsy to find out what the deal is between Snape and Lucius Malfoy.

My take on this: I think Snape and Lucius are headed for a day of reckoning. The text keeps hinting at something along these lines.

You know, this is the thing that I'm most curious about? I am, as a general rule, not at all an impatient or a curious person. In fact, I drive my friends absolutely crazy sometimes with my lack of those particular character traits. I happily leave gifts all wrapped up until it's time to open them and have never once seen the point in shaking boxes or squinting too hard at their shapes; I receive mysterious parcels and then forget to look inside them until my housemates are overcome with curiosity and start nagging me to do so; I endure cliff-hangers with an aplomb that absolutely infuriates many of my aquaintances. The fact that Rowling's taking a long time with Book Five really just doesn't bother me. She'll get it done eventually, and I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, so all is good, as far as I'm concerned.

But I really am getting very itchy to find out what the deal is with Snape and the Malfoys, and whether Snape's behavior towards Draco is going to visibly change in Book Five, and whether we're ever going to see Snape and Lucius interacting face to face, and whether...

Well, yes. I'm...eager. Impatient, even. It's a bizarre sensation for me. I'm not used to it.

There's gotta be plot potential if we agree that Snape's sudden movement is directly in response to the mention of Lucius' name, and that it communicates some sort of strong emotion other than naive surprise that Lucius, shocker of shockers, is still a loyal DE, me this points to some sort of interesting fireworks between the two in a future setting.

I agree. And I'm...

Well, damn this emotion! This is just no fun at all. I finally begin to understand what the rest of you people are always whining about.

Well, OK, here's a theory: In CoS, Lucius shows up at Borgin and Burkes to unload some incriminating items that he really doesn't want the MOM to find in his house. Presumably he's got a wide variety of dark arts items stuffed under the drawing room floor, but he specifically mentions poisons to Mr. Borgin. So they must be pretty suspicious poisons, you know? Not just garden gnome poison or magical spot remover.

Sure. I somehow doubt that there's any wizarding law against having, say, arsenic in your possession.

So that set me to wondering where they originally came from. Hmmmm. Do we know anyone who was a DE back in the day who might have had a talent for brewing particularly nasty, illegal, specialized-function poisons?

I like it. So do you think that "poison" might be a kind of Dark Wizard euphemism for forbidden potions? It does seem to me that the nastiest and most illegal of specialized-potions would likely be ones that...well, that wouldn't necessarily be designed to kill. Or at least not only to kill.

Well, there you go, that's my theory for what Snape's particular DE function used to be.

Seems reasonable to me.

Plus that drawing-room chamber is just too intriguing to not come up again. I think these things will tie together: Snape and Lucius have a history which will come back into play in a big hairy way.

Oooooh, I hope so!

Say, do you think it make me a little...bent that I want to know more about Dark magic? We've had the Unforgivables, but they're really pretty run-of-the-mill Bad Things To Do To People, aren't they? I mean, what do Seriously Bad Wizards do? Magically, I mean. What constitutes the "Dark Arts?"

I've always liked to imagine that Divination is not, in fact, an impractical field of magic at all, but that the only really reliable forms of Divination qualify as Dark Arts -- which is the reason that Dumbledore gets stuck with poor Trelawney and her once-a-decade prophecies. I like to think that at Durmstrang, say, Divination is a highly challenging and intellectual—and effective!—part of the curriculum.

Why do I like to imagine this? I'm not sure. Maybe just because it would make Hermione so very annoyed if she knew. ;-)

Regarding Evil-yet-Hyper Avery:

Well, erm, I think my original reasoning was maybe he's evil and thus perfectly loyal to LV and then his histrionic fit would just be a strange but effective attention-getting device.

Like an abused child, you mean, who desperately wants Daddy's attention, but doesn't particularly care whether that attention manifests itself as praise or as punishment?

Yes. That works too.

But you must grant me the merest shred of slack here, because I did post this before your touching defense of him.

Hey. Someone needs to obsess about the totally minor characters, right? Otherwise they'd feel left out.

I'm getting a tad bored with Avery, though. I'm thinking of moving on to Justin Finch-Fletchley. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that he's had more than seven words of dialogue. Also, he's not a bad guy (yet), and I seem to be developing a reputation around here as some sort of sick pervert who is only capable of sympathizing with Very Bad Men.

Now I see the error of my ways.

I'm gratified. Although you know, if you liked Avery better Evil, then you could always go for my new "Fourth Man" theory.

However, I'm still trying to grok the distinction between a 'toady' and a 'nerveless hysteric.'

A true toady would have thought to thank Voldemort for the Cruciatus.

(Of course, it's possible that Avery really really wanted to, but that by the time he'd managed to catch his breath, Voldie had already lost interest in him, and there just wasn't any opportunity. It wouldn't have done, after all, to interrupt. Dark Lords just hate that.)



RE: FLIRTIAC and the Marauder's Map

At last! (Tabouli dabs at happy tears). Spurned and smiled at indulgently forall these months, FLIRTIAC finally has a genuine supporter!

Two, Tabouli. You have two of them now. No amount of whining and wheedling and cajoling could convince my husband to accept for a moment my Fourth Man Theory (hmppph!), but one brief run-down of FLIRTIAC, and he was clambering into your dinghy. to speak.

And as to why Mrs. Norris' first name wouldn't show up on the Marauder's Map—why she's not, say, "Annie Norris" or something like that—I say that's because the Marauder's Map is (like so much else in the Wizarding World) a little bit archaic. According to proper Victorian etiquette, a woman's first name is never used along with the prefix "Mrs." Her husband's name is used instead.

So why doesn't the Marauder's Map show her as, say, "Mrs. Cepheus Norris" then?

Well, because Mr. Norris has since remarried, that's why! "Mrs. Cepheus Norris" is technically his current wife's proper nomen. His estranged ex-wife is still entitled to use his name—and indeed, to refer to her by her maiden name without her consent would be a very dire insult, as that would imply that she herself in some way bore the culpability for the estrangement—but to distinguish her from Cepheus' current wife, she is referred to simply as "Mrs. Norris."

<Elkins nods firmly to herself, not without a certain degree of self-satisfaction, and lights another cigarette>

Tabouli wrote:

Could the cat shape be a curse Mr Norris put on his cheating wife, which he maliciously set up so that it could only be broken by Filch himself?

I like that theory a great deal. It's really really really mean, for starters, and you know what an absolute brute I can sometimes be.

<Elkins absently claws a few stray owl feathers out of her hair, glances down at them, and then tosses them, with a slight shudder, into a nearby tide-pool>

But then, I love Mrs. Norris. It always irks me somewhat that the kids all hate her so. I mean, I can see why they have a problem with Filch—he's scary, and he's mean, and he gives nasty detentions, and he threatens them with torture in his creepy old office—but what's poor Mrs. Norris ever done to them? So she glares balefully at them, so what? So she rats them out to Filch. That's her job, for heaven's sakes! And just think of all of those times she stares right at Harry in his Invisibility Cloak, and then doesn't alert Filch to his presence. She's cutting Harry slack all the time, if you ask me, and the rotten little kid doesn't even appreciate it.

(Tabouli, suspecting that most listmembers are by now well and truly tired of her voluminous defences of her favorite ship, flourishes her last two LOLLIPOPS)

::concerned look::

Oh, dear. I hope that my teasing wasn't part of what gave you that impression. Teasing, like prank-pulling, is all too easy to "get wrong," especially in a forum that allows for no observation of body language or facial expression. If I came across genuinely exasperated—or worse, as hostile—then I do apologize. And just for the record, I always really enjoy reading your LOLLIPOPS defenses.

—Elkins, wondering if a FLIRTIAC post really needs to be prefaced with a SHIP warning.

Posted February 14, 2002 at 6:24 pm
Plain text version


RE: SHIP: Florence, Bertha and C.U.P.I.D.'S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R.

Cindy wrote:

That said, we do need someone to devise a theory for why Sirius hates Snape so much. This is more than just the hatred Sirius has at the end of GoF. For some reason, Sirius hated Snape enough to play the Prank, but I haven't seen a LOLLIPOPS, George, CUPIDSBLUDGER, Prince, Mercy, Mercy II type of explanation that I find compelling. Any takers?

::raises hand tentatively::

Might I suggest my own variant on C.U.P.I.D.S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R.?

I suggest that Florence was Sirius' girlfriend. Sirius was the one Bertha Jorkins saw kissing behind the greenhouses, and he was indeed the one who hexed her for her nosy ways. The canon to back this up is the hostility in Sirius' tone whenever he speaks of Bertha to Harry:

"Listen, I knew Bertha Jorkins . . . She was at Hogwarts when I was, a few years above your dad and me. And she was an idiot. Very nosy, but no brains, none at all. It's not a good combination."


"Maybe she's changed since I knew her, but the Bertha I knew wasn't forgetful at all -- quite the reverse. She was a bit dim, but she had an excellent memory for gossip. It used to get her into a lot of trouble; she never knew when to keep her mouth shut."

Now why would an all-around good guy like Sirius have been so upset by being teased about kissing a girl, of all things, that he would not only cast a hex on poor Bertha Jorkins but also still be holding a grudge about it nearly twenty years later?

Well, because Florence, as amiable and Dead Sexy as she might have been, was also a member of House Slytherin. Their love—what with Voldemort on the rise and all—was a Forbidden Love, and they had been keeping their relationship a secret from all of their friends, which is why they were hiding out behind the greenhouses in the first place.

<Elkins pauses here, to allow the more sentimental romantics to break out their hankies>

Once Bertha Jorkins spilled the beans, though, all hell broke loose. The revelation that Sirius and Florence had been conducting a clandestine relationship sat well with neither Florence's Slytherin companions (half of whom had the hots for her themselves) nor with Sirius' friends. James and Remus were hurt that he hadn't trusted them with his secret; little Peter kept squealing over and over again "A Slytherin girl? Sirius, how could you?"; and Lily got decidedly thin-lipped over the matter, as she and Florence had been academic rivals ever since their very first day at Hogwarts -- a rivalry which had only been exacerbated by their shared expertise in the field of Charms.

Neither Sirius' attempts to defend his unconventional relationship ("But guys, she's really, really brave! I mean, she probably never should have been sorted Slyth in the first place!") nor Florence's own ("Oh, do shut up, Lestrange. Sirius Black is Dead Sexy. And besides, if you don't like it, you know what the solution is, don't you?") sufficed to sway the disapproval of their respective peers, and so in the end, with much moaning and angst, they parted ways.

Now although Sirius did take for a time to sitting by the shore of the lake, staring broodishly off into the mid-distance while tossing bread crusts to the giant squid, his generally ebullient nature—not to mention the emotional safety net of his friends—soon saw him through this crisis, and he emerged relatively unscathed.

Florence on the other hand...

Well, Florence brooded. She dwelled. She had that Slytherin tendency towards resentment, don't you know, and unlike Sirius, she didn't have a very close circle of friends to see her through. She became...withdrawn. Bitter. Twisted. She began to hold the Gryffindors (especially that nasty little Mudblood Lily Evans) solely responsible for the break-up; her mind turned to thoughts of bloody vengeance. She also started pestering her classmate Severus "I Know More Hexes Than Old Flitwick Himself" Snape to teach her all of the nastiest curses he knew. He, of course, was more than happy to do this because (a) he kind of had a thing for her himself, (b) it flattered his ego, and (c) he knew damned well that being seen in Florence's presence all the time would really twist the knife into old Sirius Black, whom he despised.

Which it did. Sirius was absolutely convinced that there was something of a romantic nature going on between his beloved Florence and that slimy oily git Severus, and worse, whatever it was was clearly beginning to corrupt the poor girl's mind -- she had taken to staring over at the Gryffindor table during mealtimes with a dreamy smile on her face while absently pulling the wings off of flies, and she now smirked malevolently whenever anyone fell down and skinned their knee...well, it was just plain disturbing, was what it was. And in Sirius' mind, clearly a result of Snape's Bad Influence.

So this was the real motivation underlying the viciousness of Sirius prank. While he might have told himself that "he just wasn't thinking," deep down inside he wanted Snape dead. Dead, dead, dead, as Cindy would put it. To save his girl, you see. To save her from Snape's bad influence.

'Course, it didn't work. Florence eventually went on to marry Lestrange, become a Big Bad Evil Death Eater, and wind up in Azkaban.

So this is the reason that Sirius hates Snape so much. Because Snape corrupted his Lost Love and led her into Darkness.

And this is also the reason that Snape hates Sirius so much. Because he thinks that Sirius' rejection of Florence is what...well, what corrupted his Unrequited Crush and led her into Darkness.

(Actually Florence was never a very nice person to begin with. But neither of the two lads realized that, you see, because she was just so darned sexy.)

As canonical evidence for this theory, I offer the following:

(1) Florence has a first name, but no last name. Mrs. Lestrange has a last name, but no first name. Coincidence? Oh, I think not!

(2) Sirius' strange omission of Mrs. Lestranges first or maiden name when he lists her as a member of Snape's old gang. He is thinking back to people he knew as students. Wouldn't you think that he would identify Mrs. Lestrange by her maiden name, or even by her first and maiden name? Surely the Lestranges were not married until after they left Hogwarts. And while Gryffindors do tend to refer to their rival males in Slytherin by surname only, their sense of chivalry generally leads them to grant female Slyths first names as well. (In Harry's mind, for example, Draco Malfoy is almost always merely "Malfoy;" Pansy Parkinson, on the other hand, is never "Parkinson." She is "Pansy Parkinson," or sometimes just "Pansy.")

It's odd, isn't it? That Mrs. Lestrange's inclusion in the list should be subsumed into her husband's identity like that? She's almost glossed, really: "The Lestranges -- they're a married couple -- they're in Azkaban."

It almost sounds as if Sirius would rather not talk about her—or even to think about her—at all, doesn't it? Consistent, surely, with how one might talk about ones Lost Love, when said Lost Love not only married somebody else, but also became a ravenously sadistic Dark Witch?

and finally:

(3) Dumbledore's Pensieve. Remember that the memory from which he recalls Harry is the Lestranges' sentencing. Shortly thereafter, his Pensieve coughs up the memory of his interview with the young Bertha Jorkins, right after the hexing incident. He remembers asking her:

"But why, Bertha, . . . why did you have to follow him in the first place?"

The anguished tone seems rather out of keeping for a simple matter of a fast hex, doesn't it? No, Dumbledore's agony there arises from his wise suspicion that this entire Sirius Black affair is going to prove the last straw for the unstable young Florence, that it will be the catalyst which will push her right over the edge into Darkness.

Dumbledore's a smart guy that way.

And of course, his expression of weariness and sorrow right after witnessing that memory is two-fold. He is actually mourning the sorry fates of not just one girl there, but two: both of Bertha Jorkins, whose tendency to nosiness and gossip brought her to such an unfortunate end, and of young Florence, who showed such great promise as a student and who might not have gone wrong at all, had she not been embittered at such a tender age by House rivalry and tragically Doomed Love.

<Elkins blinks back a few tears herself, then bats feebly at her eyes with a stray bloody feather>

So indeed, Contrary to Unrequited Passion Infelicitously Devouring Severus, Black's Love of an Unkmown Damsel did Get the Expected Response -- namely, pure and mutual hatred between Sirius and Severus, each of whom to this very day blames the other for the spiritual corruption and unlucky fate of a lovely young girl who might otherwise have grown up to do nothing more dire than bustle cheerfully around her kitchen, baking chockie-chip cookies for her passel of beautiful children.

—Elkins, wondering if due to the sneakily subversive nature of this theory, it should rightfully be called "Cupid's Snitch."

Posted February 15, 2002 at 3:40 pm
Plain text version


RE: Avery and Ambushes

The not-altogether-lacking-in-blood-thirst herself Tabouli wrote:

A mere hour later she has managed to convince Pigwidgeon, Errol and Hedwig to sacrifice their lives and feathers for the cause, and is swiftly, silently closing in on the savage sofa springers, ready to smother and bind them all in...

F.E.A.T.H.E.R.B.O.A.S.! (Foaming Enthusiasts of Ambush, Torture, and Hostility, Embracing Really Bloodthirsty Operations And Savagery)

Elkins, blinking quizzically as she tries to deduce just what Cindy might have meant when she just hissed "Take one for the team, Elkins!" and shoved her off of the rock like that, catches her balance, removes her pipe from her mouth to gesticulate, half-turns, and has time for only the briefest of alarmed squawks before finding herself lying on soft sand, wrapped head to toe in mangy old feather boas. She thrashes wildly for a few moments then freezes, staring in disbelief at the bloodied owl feathers—the bloodied and yet monstrously familiar owl feathers—from which her bonds would seem to be crafted.

"I—" she gasps, a look of sick horror slowly spreading across her face. "Errol?" And then a hoarse, a disbelieving whisper: "Pig?"

"NO!" she screams, struggling madly to free herself from the remains of these cruelly- and gratuitously-sacrificed minor characters. "NO! Oh my God, Tabouli, what have you done? MURDERER! MADWOMAN!! FIEND!!!!"

As she degenerates into incoherent hysteria, Elkins' alarmed companions rush to her aid: Tough Cindy, who begins slapping her repeatedly in the face while screaming, spit flying from the corners of her mouth, "Suck it up, soldier! Suck it up, damn you!"; and Amiable Eileen (looking cute as all get-out in that horned helmet she always wears to our FEATHERBOAS meetings as a part of her blood-thirsty "Lucky Kari" persona), who after a few futile attempts at intervention ("Er...Cindy? I, um, don't think that that's necessarily, um, helping. I think, you know, that the...the hitting may be...well, it just might be increasing her sense of anxiety..."), simply shrugs, sighs, shakes her head, and goes off to brew a nice hot cup of tea.

Some time later, having restored a good deal of Elkins' equanimity (or at the very least, her sanguinity) by whipping out her tattered old cloth-bound copy of the The Lord of the Rings and reading aloud—in a calm and soothing and unthreatening tone of voice—that nice passage from "The Siege of Gondor" in which the forces of Mordor demoralize their enemies by catapulting the heads of the fallen over the walls of the city, Eileen admits:

I said, "Crouch Jr., Lestranges, and another DE" to myself, and never even thought of it again. I also ask my long-suffering brother to explain commercials when we're watching TV. "But why was the guy standing there with the beer can?"

Elkins, by now only occasionally breaking into muffled sobs ("Pig...Pig...oh, Tabouli, that wasn't wasn't necessary...") huddles shivering over her bloodied owl feathers and her nice hot cup of tea, but still manages a watery smile for Eileen.

She wonders whether this would be a good time to admit that she herself had to have the plot of "Star Wars" explained to her at least seven times before she could even begin to understand what was supposed to be happening in that film. ("But I don't understand! What's a 'Droid?' And what's a 'Tractor Beam?' And why on earth did they have to keep running around through all of those corridors?")

Before she can make a decision on this matter, however, Eileen is snatched up by the crew of the Good Ship LOLLIPOPS and hauled off for some Imperius-induced deprogramming below decks. Elkins contemplates staging a rescue attempt for an entire three seconds before thinking better of it. She finishes off her tea and stares down at the sand, trying hard not to look out to sea.


"From the brig of the Good Ship LOLLIPOPS, where she has been put to meditate on her nearly accomplished mutiny, and to be restrained till the madness has passed," Eileen wrote (on the all-consuming question of whether Fourth Man Avery is Thin Nervous Eye-Darty Man or Thick-set Blank-Stare Man):

I would not feel that good if we partnered the renowned Mrs. Lestrange with "thin nervous eye-darty man".

Really? That's interesting, because before I saw the TRUTH and the LIGHT of Fourth Man, I had always just naturally assumed that Thin Nervous Eye-Darty Man was Lestrange. Something about all of those assertive women I've known who've had things for frail and vulnerable men, I suppose.

But I quite agree that Darty makes a far better Avery than Blankstare does, so poor old, Mrs. Lestrange, I mean...will just have to settle.

Story of her life, really.

Of course, I could add dealing with an idiotic husband, who messed up all their plans and told Lucius Malfoy about the Voldemort hunt, who passed the information on to the authorities. (One of my little pet non-canon-related theories.)

So you figure slippery old Lucius turned them in, eh? That cad!

So how come? He'd already wrangled his acquittal by then, surely. Was it because he was convinced that they'd get caught anyway? Or was it more that he feared that they might actually succeed in finding Voldemort?

How come no-one waxes eloquent about Mr. Lestrange, btw?

Because he hasn't had a single line of dialogue. Avery's at least had seven words, and some screaming. Also, neither of the guys in the Pensieve scene has very much sex appeal.

I said:

Hey, young Crouch could have been innocent -- of torturing the Longbottoms, at any rate.

Eileen replied:

I want to keep Crouch Jr. involved, since it makes the Neville/Crouch Jr. link more poignant.

I quite agree. I, too, prefer Guilty-As-Sin Barty. Although I'm still plumping for him as Neville's savior. I like that, too.

Kudos on the subversive Neville-Crouch theory, but does it explain why Crouch seeks Neville out?

He was just helpless to resist that mystic bond, poor fellow. Also, he was curious to see what the little rugrat had grown up to be like.

"Nerveless Hysterics" aren't usually that great at torturing people when push comes to shove, come to think about it.

No. Well, that's the underlying premise of "Fourth Man With Imperius:" that Avery was always far too squeamish for wet work, and so his buddies were "helping him out" by Imperio'ing him through the tough stuff.

What if Avery's clearing included hard evidence that he hadn't been involved in the torturings? Wizarding evidence of DNA's stature.

It's a bit hard to imagine how one could come up with hard evidence for such a thing, isn't it? After all, as Frank Longbottom discovered the hard way, it is notoriously difficult to prove a negative proposition.

[Eileen tries to reconcile the Elkins who is "relieved" at the thought of Snape worming his way back into Voldemort's good graces without having to endure a single Cruciatus with the Elkins who was chanting "BLOODY AMBUSH! BLOODY AMBUSH!" and fails.]

Well, Rosier's already dead, isn't he? I mean, it's already canon that he was killed in a battle with Aurors. So it may as well have been a Great and Glorious Bloody Ambush as any other type of conflict: it's more fun that way, and more dramatic, and it doesn't hurt him any more than any other manner of being killed in combat would. It's not as if I'm plumping for the guy to have died hard or anything. I'm not hoping that he particularly suffered. I just think that a Great and Glorious Bloody Ambush has dramatic appeal.

Crucio'd Severus, Even in my most FEATHERBOAS-ish mind-set, I just can't relish such a thought.


On the Fourth Man timeline problem created by this bit of can(n)on shot:


"You are merely repeating the names of those who were cleared of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago," said Fudge angrily. "You could have found those names in old reports of the trials!"

Cindy wrote:

However, I can see through my binoculars that all is not well in the Fourth Man two-person kayak. Indeed, it appears that the Fourth Man has fallen overboard and is flailing helplessly, unable to haul his ample backside to the beach.

<Elkins blinks innocently from behind her (now-broken) spectacles>

Shall we assume then, Cindy, that you favor Thick-set Blank-Stare Man as Avery?

Or are you supporting Eileen's suggestion that perhaps Dudley Dursley was actually the Fourth Man?

I suggested that Avery was indeed acquitted on grounds of Imperius back in '81, then nailed for the Longbottom Affair in '82 or '83, and then pardoned as a part of a Bleeding Heart Backlash in '84. I further suggested that (a) Fudge himself was swept to office on the same wave of public sentiment that led to Avery's pardon, (b) it was a very short-lived wave which receded quickly and abruptly, and (c) the reason that Fudge mentions the acquittal, rather than the more recent pardon, is because he doesn't really want people thinking too much about that particular period of political history, which casts his own position in a somewhat dubious light.

Cindy objected to this theory on (if I've got this right) two grounds.

First, she found the idea that Avery managed to get himself off the hook twice rather much to accept.

And second, she didn't like my proposed timeline.

Her reasons for the latter (like my reasons for favoring my own timeline) seem to have a good deal to do with her preferences in Memory Charm Theory.

She wrote:

For that, I have to go back to a timeline theory I used in the "Neville Has A Reverse Memory Charm" dialogue (which apparently Elkins has decided to spurn in favor of the wholly implausible "Neville Has A Memory Charm" theory -- don't get me started).

::raises hands quickly in defensive gesture::

Hey, hey! Hold on a minute here. I've got no beef with Reverse Memory Charmed Neville. Tell the truth, I'm an agnostic on the topic of what sort of Memory Impairing Charm the poor kid's saddled with. Memory Charm, Reverse Memory's all good, as far as I'm concerned. I just want him to have something of the sort.

(And besides, I can never keep all of those horrifically long, if fantastically clever, acronyms clear in my mind, anyway.)

What I do want, though, is for him to have been old enough when it happened to make for a rousing good tale. And to my mind, it just isn't very satisfying if he was a babe in arms at the time. I want him at least a toddler, old enough for the event to have left some serious trauma, dammit.

But there's no reason that you can't have your Reverse Memory Charm scenario taking place in '82 or '83, rather than in '81.

Is there?

Cindy writes (citing an older post):

Here's a quick rundown on the canon evidence that the Lestranges were apprehended soon after Voldemort fell, not years later:

In Padfoot Returns, Sirius tells us about the circumstances under which Barty Crouch Jr. is brought to Azkaban and everything going on at the time. He says:
"When Voldemort disappeared, it looked like only a matter of time until Crouch got the top job."

We're talking about politics, though. Whether the Minister of Magic is appointed or elected by some variant of Parliament or in a general election or whatever, it's still not likely to be the sort of thing that can happen overnight, is it? I mean, if I said something like, "it looks like only a matter of time before Tim Collins becomes the next Prime Minister," then you wouldn't think that I necessarily meant "by the end of the year," would you?

(Actually, you'd probably just think that I'd gone mad. But I trust that you get my drift.)

"A matter of time" in a political context doesn't mean "a matter of days," nor even "a matter of months." It could very well mean "a matter of years."

"But then something rather unfortunate happened. Crouch's own son was caught with a group of Death Eaters who'd managed to talk their way out of Azkaban. Apparently they were trying to find Voldemort and return him to power. I saw the Dementors bringing him in. He can't have been more than nineteen."

I agree with the notion that Sirius says 19, rather than 20, because he's fairly certain that the kid is nineteen. No quibbles there.

Where I've got a problem, though, is here:

The Lexicon list Barty Crouch Jr.'s birthday as 1962. So if he is 19 when he goes to Azkaban, that would be 1981. As Fourth Man Avery would have been arrested at the same time as young Crouch, this is also in 1981.

But that's a tautology, surely?

The only reason that the Lexicon lists Barty's birthday in 1962 is because Vander Ark (at whose feet I worship, don't get me wrong here) chose to assume that his trial took place in 1981.

So you can't then go arguing that the "proof" that the trial took place in 1981 is that Crouch was born in 1962! That's circular reasoning.

There's no canonical proof for either Crouch being born in 1962 or his trial taking place in 1981. It is somewhat canonically suggested, yes. But it's hardly a definite thing.

But anyway, I don't really see why the timeline issue is really relevant to your preference for a Reverse Memory Charm. Is there some reason that you can't have a Reverse Memory Charm in 1983?

On the subject of Reverse Memory Charms, Eileen asked:

How does Avery get off if Neville with his magically enhanced testimony fingers him and Crouch?

Cindy answered:

Because after some time passed, people started questioning the reliability of this Reverse Memory Charm.

I like that! I can just imagine the insinuations levelled against those responsible for questioning Reverse Memory Charmed witnesses, the accusations that the questioners must have planted Terrible Notions in the minds of those already rendered highly suggestible...

Yes, yes. I like it. And I like it very much as the grounds for Avery's pardon. Okay, so I'm on board with the whole Reverse Memory Charm thing. Count me in. (Er...which of those very long acronyms is ours again?)

But I still think that Avery's Imperius defense was how he got out of his first arrest, back in 1981, while his "I wasn't anywhere near the place that night -- Memory Enhancement Is A Fraud!" defense was how he got out of his second bout of trouble.

I like Avery worming his way out of trouble twice, myself. It makes him seem clever and sneaky, when in actuality, he's Just Plain Lucky. It would also make him ulcerated and paranoid, I'm sure, not to mention deeply suspected by just about everyone he encounters just about everywhere he goes.

In explanation of why she preferred a 1984 pardon to a 1981 pardon, Eileen wrote:

And Crouch certainly has to "die" quickly to get this theory going. No, too short. I like Elkins's idea better. Sorry.

Cindy blinked in confusion:

I don't follow you. Crouch gets sprung from Azkaban whenever he gets sprung. I don't think it matters much for the timeline exactly when this happens. Avery, however, gets out quickly -- as soon as Fudge takes over. What am I missing?

Er...if I may step in here, I think that what Eileen was referring to there was Crouch Sr's political death. She meant, I think, that she prefers a scenario in which Crouch's fall from power comes rather later than the end of 1981 -- which would, after all, be only two months after Voldemort's disappearance, barely time enough for the first batch of DEs to be rounded up, really.

<brightly> But there's no reason that there can't be a Reverse Memory Charm!


On Avery's Job In the Ministry of Magic

Eileen wrote:

Then, Elkins and Cindy reconcile to allow Avery to have a secondary job in the DMC. I'm no-one to complain, but no-one liked my suggestion that he works for Bagman (ever-so-evil or not) and is the new Minister of Magical Sports and Games.

Oh, I'm so sorry, Eileen. I did mean to comment on that, but then I just got all...distracted.

Avery in Magical Sports and Games proved a bit difficult for me to imagine, I'm afraid, mainly I suppose because I just don't see Avery as quite the, uh, Sporty type. And trying to envision him having a chummy relationship with Ludo Bagman (ever-so-evil or not) just kind of...made my head explode.

Although it does have some humorous possibilities. I imagine Avery flinching every time friendly old Ludo slaps him on the shoulder.

But then, I kind of liked him in Magical Catastrophes for much the same reasons. Can't you just imagine the Nerveless Hysteric being sent out to do the field work?

"Well...uh...what sort of, er, 'accident' was it, precisely?" <pause> "Oh, God, NO!" <pause> "Oh, no. No, no, no, not at all. Of course we can sort that out for you! We take care of, uh, those sorts of problems here all the time. When I said 'oh God no' just then, I was, er, just..." <long pause> "You want to know if there's someone else here who can handle this. Yes...well, er...yes. I suppose that would be all for the best, really."

I also liked DMC because it was Fudge's old Department, and I liked Cindy's suggestion that Fudge was the one who gave Avery his old job back.


But Avery really has repented, so Fudge isn't afraid, and feels sorry for him, as the description below warrants..../me begins to cry and purchases a S.Y.N.C.H.O.P.H.A.N.T.S. badge.

::big smile::

Oh, Eileen! You're a fan of "Fourth Man With Remorse," then. That's sweet!

<Elkins dabs at her own eyes and presses a S.Y.C.O.P.H.A.N.T.S. badge into Eileen's hand, waving away all offers of payment with a sentimental sniff>

I like my Fourth Man With Remorse too.

See? We're such nice people. There really must have been something in Cindy's brandy.

I've been wondering that too. Something is wrong with me. This is not me, the person who cringes when Wile E. Coyote hits the tarmac.

Oh, poor Wile E. Coyote! How I always felt for him! The Twentieth-Century Sisyphus! A True Existentialist Hero! Oh, but how I always longed for a day of reckoning, a day when he would finally catch that rotten Roadrunner and rip the smug little bastard limb from li...

Oh. Er, yeah...okay. So maybe it wasn't all the brandy.


As for Voldemort's Wand...

Much as I do love giving Avery lots to do, to support the notion that he really is a terribly important character, I remain rather attached to the notion that Pettigrew was the one keeping Voldemort's wand for him all these years.

But if anyone ever comes up with a really good suggestion as to how we might lay that at Avery's feet, then I might change my mind.


Eileen wrote:

The Saga of Percy Weatherby

Percy, now the youngest ever Department Head, has Avery shuffled into his department. Who wouldn't try to pawn Avery off on the newcomer who doesn't know the ins and outs of things? Avery is so ill respected at the Ministry that - Horror of Horrors! - everyone except Percy calls him by his yet to be determined first name.

And Percy calls him...Ainsbury!

Unfortunately, Avery, at V's command, gets rather close to Weatherby, resulting in misfortunes for our side. When HRH finally visit the Ministry, which will happen I'm sure, we'll have a moment of irony, when they meet Avery, and some office worker makes some remark about him using his given name, that would have told HRH the game was up, if the last name had been used.

If only Percy had remembered the poor sod's name, things might have turned out very differently. But nooo...

Now, that's uncanonical.

Nonsense! It is merely...speculative.

PS I still can't get over the fact that we've seriously gone into analysing an almost non-existent character.

Non-existent! Non-exISTent?!?!

He has seven words of dialogue, Eileen! That's more than Lestrange gets. Hell, it's even more than Arabella Figg gets, and you wouldn't call her "almost non-existent," would you?

"Almost non-existent." Sheesh. Keep your voice down, will you? You'll hurt Avery's feelings. As if it isn't bad enough that Cindy wants to drown him...


Having pushed Avery overboard because his sniveling was dancing on my last good nerve...

<Elkins gasps and leans over the side to haul Avery back in, very nearly overbalancing the entire kayak>

Cindy! You know you can't do that! JKR needs him to—just cough it all up, Mr. Avery, that's right, that's super, sweetheart, yes, you're doing fine—needs him to fulfill his secondary villain function in Book Five! You can't just—oh, for God's sake, Avery. Here. Take my jacket—you can't just go murdering the poor man like that. How's the poor wretch ever supposed to buy the farm in Book Five if you've already...

Oh. Oh, dear. No, no, Mr. Avery, please. Please try to contain yourself. I didn't mean it like that. I'm sure you'll survive all the way to the end of the series. Yes, I'm sure of it! Honest, I am. All I meant there was...

::exasperated sigh::

Oh, for God's sake, Cindy. Now you see what you've done?

Cindy -- finding it lonely in the Ambush-On-Dumbledore's-Orders camp, the Reverse-Memory-Charm camp, the Bagman-Is-A-DE camp, the Sirius-Was-Having-His-Way-With-Florence camp, and the Snape-Has-A-Debt-To-James camp, but consoling herself by eating all of the Smores singlehandedly...

Hey! I'm with you on the Reverse Memory Charm thing, and Sirius was having his way with Florence...even if that Florence happened to also be the future Mrs. Lestrange.

So cheer up. And give some of those Smores to Avery, will you? He's chilled and upset; he's shivering. He needs the chocolate.



RE: Why Suspect Lupin?

Cindy wrote:

Boy. This "Lupin Has Edge" theory presents some problems for me. I'm used to defending Lupin against full frontal assaults. He's a screw-up. He's too perfect. He's boring. He's dishonest. That I can handle.


Well, I most certainly can't. Lupin is not a screw-up, and he isn't 'too perfect,' and he is most certainly not boring!

Hmmph. Who says such things?

Dishonest, though...

::thinks about it for a moment, then shrugs::

Well, okay. So maybe he is, a little. At times. But no more so than many, and far less so than some.

What we have here is a sneak attack. I can't really deny that Lupin has Edge.

'Sneak attack?' But Edge is good, Cindy. Edge is really really good. Edge is...

Well, I think that maybe 'Edge' is for me a bit like what 'Tough' is for you. Capiche?

People with Edge are the people I like.

That bit about how his wand use is described as "lazy" is particularly upsetting, because it could very well be a bit of foreshadowing that Lupin won't finish the series in quite the heroic way I imagine.

Oh. Ugly thought. I hadn't meant to imply that at all. And, er...I certainly hope that the author hadn't either.

Nah, I'm pretty sure Lupin's slated for heroic death. It will be very sad and noble, and we will all cry.

So what did cause Sirius to suspect Lupin and prefer to switch to Peter? Peter, that's what.

Oh, sure. I don't doubt that Peter had a lot to do with it. I think that the werewolf thing had a lot to do with it too, for that matter. But I was just listing things about Lupin's character that might have contributed...and I think that there are definitely things that would have.

Eileen wrote:

"'They call it the Dementor's Kiss,' said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile."

And at that moment, I was crying, "Harry! Harry! It's Sirius Black! When will you realize?" "Slightly twisted." That is awful.

Laura replied:

Now, I am not going to try to deny for a second that Lupin Has Edge. However, I interpreted that line in PoA to mean something entirely different. Perhaps it's because I never thought that Lupin could actually be Black (were we being led to believe this? there was a red-herring? *looks alarmed* I must've missed it. *depressed sigh* I was never any good at fishing)...


Oh, lord. I had poor Lupin chalked down not only as Sirius Black, but also as a werewolf (whose wolf form was this big black wolf, see...) and as using Polyjuice Potion (a plot device that was still very much on my mind right after CoS, but which I had conveniently forgotten all about and thus didn't even think to consider when I read GoF), and as...

Well. It was a pure and simple mess, was what it was, and no matter how I tried, I couldn't seem to make the moon cycles work out right to match up with the Grim sightings, or figure out how Dumbledore was being fooled, or figure out how no one ever noticed him transforming back and forth at the Quiddich match, or figure out how he could be both a 'transform-at-will' sort of werewolf and a cyclical one, or...well, or make any of it make the slightest bit of sense at all, actually.

I was always certain that he was a Good Guy, though. Because "slightly twisted," while perhaps it is a bit "awful," was also just too darned likeable for me not to think that Lupin/Black must be a really Good Guy at heart.

I'm prone to slightly twisted smiles myself, you see.

Laura still:

...but I always thought that the "slightly twisted smile" in question was not meant to be "twisted" in a psycho-homicidal way, but in a grimacing, half-smile kind of way. . . .Also, when I went back and re-read the books, I figured it also having something to do with his internal struggle over the entire Sirius's fate. . . .Lupin seems to me to be the type of person to respond to such an inner conflict with a melancholy, ironic smile.

Oh no, I didn't read it as psycho-homicidal in the least. It's not at all a happy smile, and I agree with you that he's horribly conflicted about the idea of Sirius Black getting the Kiss.

But it's not exactly, to my mind, a "melancholy, ironic smile" either. It's both grimmer and...well, and more twisted than that. In my reading, anyway.

Back to Eileen:

To "read" others..... I should probably shut up about Tolkien. But in Tolkien, we see the same trait being used evilly: to manipulate and wound people, by Denethor.

Now how could I object to your fondness for Tolkien, Eileen, when you cheered me so considerably with it earlier? (Well...okay, so that was just an action I ascribed to you, rather than your own action...but your Tolkien references always cheer me up, so I thought it was fair.)

Ah, Denethor... You know, Denethor was my favorite non-SYCOPHANTS-ish character in all of LotR? I always really felt for Denethor. Must be that Edge thing again. I always liked Pippin, too, for that matter. I liked that touch of morbid curiosity to him, that morbid fascination: the way that he never seemed to be able to resist doing things like throwing rocks down deep pits and awakening ancient Evil, or staring into Eastward-turned Palantir, or... Well, you know. Pippin was Denethor Lite, really. That's why they got on so well.

Edge, yes. Edge is good. I like Edge.

Kimberley wrote:

I tried and I tried to get caught up before commenting on this thread, but I'm all in this dark, sexy place Lupin-wise now, and I just can't wait.

Hi, Kimberley! I remember that you leapt to my defense 'way back when I was claiming Lupin's dialogue in Shrieking Shack as mildly sadistic. I always meant to continue with that thread, but it sort of fell by the wayside, so a belated thanks.

I also seem to remember that you were finding yourself a little disturbed back then about the Edge-is-sexy thing too, so I thought I'd try to reassure you a little bit. You wrote:

It's that insight - if he wanted to, he could go straight for the most tender spot and make a grown man cry (hmmm... like Peter?), but (unless terribly provoked... like with Peter) he chooses not to.

I was blushing reading Elkins' post and realizing that I'm, well...turned on by his capacity for cruelty. How can this be? . . . .I'm beginning to think I'm a sick and twisted individual.

No, no, no! Not sick and twisted! Not at all!

Of course it's sexy. I mean, if someone has the insight to know how to really hurt you, then you've gotta figure they've got the insight to know how to really please you as well, right?

And besides, "could really hurt me...but never would." That's sort of the entire underlying dynamic of intimacy right there in a nutshell, isn't it?

Relax. You're normal.


Posted February 16, 2002 at 4:29 am
Topics: ,
Plain text version


RE: Pranks & Pranksters, Bullies, and Guilt By Association

I said:

We know that there is really nothing in the least bit amusing or good-natured about the practical joke, that far to the contrary, it is just one of the many means by which the socially popular assert their dominance over their less charismatic peers.

Tabouli wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with the overall sentiments of this, but also I think practical jokes aren't always that. It depends on their content and style of execution.

Well, of course it does. But that was a rant, you see, and one can't ameliorate or qualify in the midst of a rant. It's...well, it's just not done.

I think that practical joking is a lot like 'teasing,' actually. It is often used as a means of asserting dominance through ridicule. It is also sometimes used to share humor and express affection. The problem with both teasing and practical joking, of course, is that it is horribly easy to get it wrong, and so to offend where you meant to do no such thing. When that happens, then the only decent thing to do, IMO, is to humbly apologize. Unfortunately, people tend to get defensive instead, which is when you get "can't you take a joke?" and "must you always be so sensitive?" and similar remarks which do absolutely nothing for anyone's good humor.

(And people do vary a great deal in their sensitivity to teasing, not always for explicable reasons. My husband, for example, cannot bear to be teased, not at all, not even lightly, not a bit of it. If you know him—and if you know what's good for you—then you do not tease him. I, on the other hand, can tolerate a good deal of teasing, which is strange, really, because I was mercilessly and cruelly taunted by evil small people all through my childhood, while he was never teased in anything but good-humor by very loving family members. ::shrug:: So go figure. I don't understand it either, but there it is.)

Getting back to canon, I think that the twins' behavior is interesting for the extent to which it does show a very wide range of teasing/joking behavior, from the mild and affectionate to the downright bullying. The twins are not very sensitive, and they often get it "wrong." And they can sometimes be malicious, sometimes nastily so—although we've never seen them indulge in the sort of wholly malicious and unceasing harrassment that I (and Tabouli as well, it would seem) have experienced first-hand.

Their attempts to cheer Ginny up in CoS by jumping out at her from behind pillars and the like, for example, strikes me as quite clearly a case of simply "getting it wrong." There's no intended malice there that I can see—I think that they really were trying to cheer her up—but she's headed for a nervous breakdown, and they're just too insensitive to notice the effect their behavior is having on her. When it is pointed out to them, they do stop.

Their constant attacks on Percy, though...well, there's malice there. There's definitely malice there, and more than a shade of harrassment, as well. But it's nice that even within their treatment of Percy, we see a wide range. When they manhandle him into his Weasley jumper and insist that he spend Christmas with them because they're "family," their behavior is certainly bullying, and I'm sure that it was very annoying to Percy—but I'm equally sure that it made him feel loved. Unlike, say, their unceasing attacks on his badges, which I don't think made him feel in the least bit appreciated or valued.

But fictional characters often suffer from guilt by association. If they remind us of people we have known in real life, then we tend to draw certain assumptions about their behavior. (We just saw a bit of this happening on the Ginny thread, I think.) And for what it's worth, I don't think that that's at all a "wrong" way to read fiction. It's inevitable: fiction depends on the reader's habit of forming gestalt impressions of character; that's a large part of how it works. It's really only when you run into the highly idiosyncratic readings that perhaps it starts making sense to wonder whether you might have "misread" the text—and even then, I think that "misreading" is a misnomer. So long as the characters and their interactions and their motivations continue to make sense to the reader, so long as the work still carries the reader along emotionally and logically, then as far as I'm concerned, the question of authorial intent is moot. It's only when things stop making sense that "misreading" is problematic.

As for the twins, I grew up down the street from a pair of pathological pranksters, quite a few years older than me, who were malicious (to me, at any rate) and who lacked chivalry towards the smaller and the younger (when it came to me, at any rate). But they were also very popular, and extremely kind and supportive of their younger brother and his friends and other younger children whom they liked, and they did a lot of charity work mentoring younger children as well, so everyone thought they were these all-round great guys. No harm in 'em. Good-hearted. They had this rep—as chivalrous and kind-hearted and protective to the small and the weak and all of that. No one ever seemed to notice that they...well, that they just plain weren't.

So yes, my reading of the twins may well be far more personal than canonical, as may be my ugly suspicion that they can be mean as all get-out when it comes to, say, the Slytherins. But the text has borne me out so far—I still say that the Hissing of Malcolm Baddock was a DEAD GIVEAWAY, they showed their true natures there, all right, oh yes, indeedy—and so my admittedly-biased reading is not "problematic." It isn't contradicted by anything in the text. It can therefore remain a satisfying reading for me without having to be "revised."

Tabouli was approaching the Snape vs. Sirius disagreements along these lines, I think, when she wrote about her own experiences with Victimizers Who Never Accept That They've Done Wrong and Ex-Victims Turned Bully. And I think that she was quite right in suggesting that people's personal experiences with these types have informed that on-going debate.

She wrote:

I have met quite a few ex-charismatic-victimisers who, like Sirius, are well into adulthood and show no signs whatsoever of remorse. Indeed, they engage in almost exactly the same behaviour as Sirius - a bit of a smug, callous snicker and a "God, but they were just so revolting and pathetic, they were just asking for it!"


I remember a year or two ago finding myself in a discussion at work with a co-worker, a woman I'd always got along with quite well, about the film "Welcome To the Dollhouse" (if you've never seen it, Tabouli, you might want to be warned: it just might make you feel physically ill. It did me.) The discussion was going great, no problems, we had both liked the movie a good deal, and then suddenly she said something along the lines of: "God, you know, I felt so bad for that poor girl, but at the same time, she was just asking for it, wasn't she? The way she dressed, and the way she acted? She must have known better. I mean, we always used to just torture people like that when I was in school, and I can't really say that I blame all the other kids for treating her that way. She was so letting herself in for it."

Cheerfully, she said this. Cheerfully, and not without a certain hint of smug nostalgia.

And I just couldn't respond somehow. My throat felt very tight, and I could feel the blood draining from my face, and...well, I simply wanted to be elsewhere. Anywhere elsewhere. I would like to be able to claim that, like Tabouli, I tried to engage this woman on the issue. But I didn't. I absented myself from the conversation at the next decent opportunity. And I can't really say that I've ever felt quite the same about her since.

I think that a lot of people here have met those types, and that it accounts for a great deal of the anti-Sirius sentiment we see here on the list. I myself, for example, tend to share Judy Serenity's gut feelings about Sirius, while also acknowledging all of the pro-Sirist's arguments against them as perfectly canonically sound. No, there's no canonical evidence that the guy ever harrassed or teased less popular students. No, there's no canonical evidence that he ever even did a thing to Snape, other than that one (admittedly potentially lethal) "prank." No, there's no real canonical evidence that he is the sort of person who cares only for the people he has designated as "his people," and not so much for anyone outside of that magic circle.

But he gives many people the impression of being that sort of person, and impressions are important—we form our opinions of fictional characters largely on a gestalt basis anyhow—so I think that "he gives the impression of being this sort of person, and I just don't like people like that" is a valid response to the canon. It's a perfectly legitimate, and indeed, unavoidable aspect of ones reading of the text.

As for the Ex-Victims Turned Bully...

(Tabouli, again):

However, I have also observed another subset of people who impress me almost as little... the victim-turned-bully.

::shifts uncomfortably in seat::

Well...yeah. I went through a stage of this myself—although not with any racial agenda attached, thank God. As a teenager, I got pretty mean, in both senses of that word: cruel and petty. I'm not in the least bit proud of that. It's shameful.

But interestingly, the logic one uses to rationalize such behavior is much the same. Rather than 'they were so pathetic, they deserved it, they should just get over it already,' you get into 'oh, people like that are so insensitive that they can't possibly really be hurt anyway, all they're really upset about is that they just aren't winning for once in their lives, and maybe they should get used to that and...well, and get over it already.'

You don't think of it as bullying—although that's precisely what it is.

It's equally despicable behavior, of course. And for what it's worth, I did grow out of it.

In fiction, naturally, I tend to enjoy ex-victims-turned-bully. I can identify with them, although it's an uncomfortable sort of identification. In real life, though, I just can't bear them. They upset and anger me beyond all reason: I desperately want them to come to the same conclusions about their rotten behavior that I eventually did, and when they won't, or can't, then I become very distressed. And like Tabouli, I've had representatives of the type crushing on me (more than one, actually, which is sort of disturbing in its own right—as if our shared characteristics are some kind of pheromone, you know—as if they could smell it on me), but fortunately never reaching quite the scary stalker level that Tabouli described. (That sounds frightening, Tabouli -- you have my sympathies.)

In fiction, as in Sirius (My Cocky Charisma) and Snape (Mr Victim turned Bully), I'm quite happy to accept this sort of thing as an interesting portrayal of things I've observed myself in real life. In reality, however, I brew with disapproval...

Indeed. But then, the people I would disapprove of most strongly in real life generally do make for interesting characters...



RE: An 0ld-fashioned discussion


I would be interested to know what everybody's favourite non-wizarding character is, and why?

Well, were it not for the fact that I know that Mrs. Norris isn't really a cat, I'd have to go for Mrs. Norris.

Why? Because I love cats, and like so many other cat lovers, I'm particularly partial to the ones who glare balefully and skulk about sneakily and give every impression of malicious intent. That's what cats are for. (Well...that and stepping all over the keyboard while you're trying to post -- Get off, Radclyffe!) Also, I really like her eyes. Her eyes are really what won my heart.

But since Mrs. Norris may indeed be a wizarding character, then I guess I'll cast my vote for Crookshanks.


Posted February 16, 2002 at 12:16 pm
Plain text version


RE: Would Lucius have gone on a Voldy hunt?

Tabouli wrote:

Then again, would Lucius want to rule the world? (What do people think?) I wonder if Lucius has had life too easy to build up the sort of vicious, ruthless ambition he'd need to drive him to such lengths.

It sort of begs the question of why he cast his lot in with Voldemort the first time around, doesn't it? Presumably he's always had life easy.

Tom Riddle was fuelled by hatred of his Muggle father and orphanage; what would fuel Lucius? A disdain for Mudbloods? Ha.

A sense of wounded entitlement? In spite of the fact that he has wealth and power and prestige and respect, he does seem to feel that he still isn't quite getting all that he is owed. Wizarding blood is counting for less everywhere, you know, and although the Malfoy name still commands some respect... And all that.

<Elkins contemplates a rant about a certain terribly privileged class of people who in her experience do far too much whining about their own loss of entitlement, but then rejects it as unduly political and far too inflammatory>

Also, Lucius Malfoy would seem to be fairly vicious by nature.

But is all that sufficient to make him want to rule the world, rather than merely support someone who might give him what he wants?

I don't think so. Ruling the world is an awful lot of work, and you'd probably be too busy doing it to enjoy the privileges and entitlements that it would afford you.

So no. I don't think that Lucius would want to rule the world at all, really. If he does try to seize the reins of power away from Voldemort, I think it will be more an act of self-preservation than a reflection of any real desire to hold that sort of power.

Uncmark wrote:

[He gave Ginny the diary, so...] This begs the question: why does he seem to have pretty cold feet about the whole idea of Voldemort coming back at any other time?

Well, because Voldemort is a nutter. And not only is he a nutter, but he wasn't even a terribly effective nutter the last time around. As far as I can tell, members of Lucius Malfoy's social class are actually in worse shape now than they were before Voldemort's bid for power. And none of the Death Eaters got eternal life, either. In fact, a lot of them got killed.

I think that if I'd been promised power, and the opportunity to indulge myself in viciousness, and the restoration of all of my ancient class privileges, and eternal life on top of all of that, and then got what Lucius Malfoy and all of the other Death Eaters got out of the whole deal, I wouldn't be at all pleased to see Voldemort back again either.

Sixteen-year-old ghost-diary Tom Riddle, though, is a different matter. Even assuming that Lucius knew precisely what the diary would do (which I don't think that he did at all), a ghostly teenaged Riddle wandering around might not be such a bad thing. Maybe he could prove useful. At any rate, he's not at all the same as red-eye-glowing, mad-as-a-hatter, didn't-give-us-squat-the-last-time-around, minion-abusing Snake-faced Evil Death Lord guy.

Jo Ellen wrote:

I think Lucius, since he collects articles related to the dark arts and keeps them hidden under his dining room in a secret room, just happened to come across the TR diary.

I don't think that I agree. At the end of CoS, Dumbledore warns him against handing out any more of Riddle's old school things, which would seem to imply that Lucius didn't just come across the diary by chance.

Like Ancarette, I strongly suspect that the Malfoys are the mysterious owners of the Riddle estate. But I'm certainly hoping that there's a much more involved backstory than only that to account for the Malfoys' possession of a bunch of Riddle's strange old things.

Oh, I so desperately want a peek beneath that drawing room floor!

Eileen wrote:

Lucius didn't want Voldemort back at all, imho. After all, how would Voldemort look at a party?

Death of the party. No question. His presence would cast an absolute pall over the proceedings: no one would speak, the food and drink would go completely untouched... It would be an utter social disaster.

Lucius was living the good life, chumming it up with Fudge, donating to worthy causes, and suddenly, Voldie's come back, and wants to go all Snidely Whiplash. I'm looking to Lucius to betray Voldie when the time comes, and can't see why Voldemort isn't expecting it. Much as I hated Voldemort, I'm secretly hoping that the plan backfires on Lucius.

Yes. It's curious that, isn't it? Why is the notion of Lucius Malfoy being embarrassed or discomfited or thwarted or just plain terrorized so very appealing, even to those of us who don't ordinarily go in much for that sort of thing? He's really no worse than many of the other venal characters in the books. So why is it that the idea of plans backfiring on Lucius in particular should be so very...appetizing?

I certainly hope that it's not a matter of class-envy. Because that would be just plain embarrassing.


Posted February 16, 2002 at 2:52 pm
Topics: ,
Plain text version


RE: Snape & the DEs

Porphyria wrote:

In the end, of course, the interpretation that appeals to a given person is entirely subjective, and I can only hope that I've sort of answered her original question as to why a given speculation appeals, if not in general, at least to me.

You have—very much so—and thank you for the discussion! I agree with your implication that we seem to have pretty well wrapped up that particular line of exploration. So on to the loose interpretive ends!

See I tend to see intellect as the efflorescence of instinct: simply put, people actually do tend to use their intellect to justify their impulses. And there is some evidence that Snape has protective instincts interspersed with his vicious ones. Not sentimental instincts, but still protective ones.

::nods:: I would agree with that. And so I suppose I should mitigate my earlier description of Snape as a man whose instincts "all lead him in one unerring direction." You're quite right: they don't "all."

On the question of whether or not he's got a taste for physical sadism, though...while I most certainly do read him as having one, and while I am unlikely to change my mind on that without canonical opposition, it isn't really an issue in which I have all that much emotionally invested (unlike, say, my insistence on reading the DEs as "greyer-than-black").

I think that I tend to read him that way in part because he is such a larger-than-life character, and because he exists in a fictive universe that is in many ways far more exaggerated—and far more savage—than our own. It just seems to fit, somehow, to me to read him as somebody who did indeed have a visceral appreciation for that sense of ultimate power over another human being.

The main reason, though, that I think I read him that way is this:

Snape definitely has a taste for psychological torture and he indulges himself in this whenever he has the chance. But I'm not convinced that he doesn't make a qualitative distinction between mental violence and physical violence. He's almost never the latter...

The fact that he does indulge himself in his taste for verbal and psychological cruelty every chance he gets, while never engaging in the slightest bit of unwarranted (or at least, as you point out, uninvited) physical violence, is my main reason, I think, for suspecting that he genuinely does have a taste for the latter.

As I see it, Snape is somebody who works very hard at trying to do the right thing, trying not to descend into whatever it is that he fears that he once was. The fact that he shows not even the slightest sign of trying to restrain himself when it comes to psychological sadism indicates to my mind that he really doesn't think that sort of thing very important. To his mind, it doesn't count. He's allowed to indulge himself in that way, because that's not "real" cruelty, not "real" Darkness.

Which to my mind begs the question of what Snape would consider "real." What are the things that he would on some level like to be doing, or that he once enjoyed, but that he will never again allow himself to do?

In short, I certainly agree with you that Snape makes a qualitative distinction between mental violence and physical violence. I would say that he considers the former acceptable, and the latter unacceptable. But given what we know of his past, and given how readily and unhesitatingly—and even gleefully—he indulges himself in the former, my strong suspicion is that the latter is something that he once did enjoy, and that he fears he might still enjoy, even while believing it to be utterly morally unacceptable.

I can't help but think if JKR had intended the reader to see him as having a propensity for physical violence she would have found a way to depict that by now. . . . but if he does have a taste for it he seems to have sublimated it quite effectively into it's psychological equivalent.

Well, you see, to my mind JKR most certainly has depicted that propensity. She's depicted it all along, through her (quite vivid, IMO) depictions of his sublimation.

But clearly where I automatically read sublimation, others equally instinctively read preference, so perhaps not.

But at any rate, as I said before, it's not really all that important to me whether or not Severus Snape has an unfortunate taste for real live sadism. I remain convinced that he does, but should it turn out that he never really cared for it at all, that would necessitate only a very minor revision of my reading of the character. And honestly, I'm hoping that we never find out one way or the other. I'm not prepared for the series to get quite that dark. I'd really just rather not go there at all, to tell you the truth.

(Is Snape really written as sympathetic?)

I said:

Well, of course he is!

Porphyria said:

See, in your post that I was replying to you stated that JKR "seems, overall, to like the character far less than many of her readers do" and here I feel like you're chiding me for stating the obvious. :-)

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to chide. Sometimes I fall into the error of assuming points of agreement before they've really yet been established as such, and when that happens, then the tone can easily go astray. I didn't mean to sound obnoxious there.

To clarify, what I meant before about JKR liking the character less than many of her readers do was that she strikes me as impressively hard-nosed about him. I do think that she likes him, but she never allows herself to get soft about him, if you know what I mean. She doesn't smooth his edges, and she never allows the authorial voice to waver in its depiction of his less savory characteristics. This is particularly impressive given the books' serialized nature: serials often have a nasty tendency to "soften up" harsh or ambiguous characters, particularly when these characters prove popular with fans. JKR never does that. She lets what's nasty about Snape stay nasty.

I seem to remember that we were talking about Snape's taste in companions back when I made that comment. My point there, if I'm remembering correctly, was that I didn't think that just because JKR likes/understands/sympathizes/identifies with the character, she necessarily falls into the trap of thinking that he would like her, for example, or that he would care for the sorts of people that she cares for as companions, or that his preferences in human companionship would have very much to do at all with her own. Which may seem dead obvious, perhaps, but given that Rowling is effectively a first-time author writing what has proven to be an immensely-popular-beyond-any-possible-expectation series, it isn't necessarily a given. Writers, particularly young writers, get sucked into that trap all the time.

I agree with you that Snape is written to be sympathetic, both on the dead simple "gets the best lines" level and on the more sophisticated human level. I brought up the first there primarily because I had been assuming (incorrectly, it would seem) that we were in fundamental agreement on the second point already, and so wanted to take the opportunity to touch upon ways in which I felt that Rowling laid the groundwork for reader sympathy for Snape. I do think that she uses the "Villain With Style" phenomenon quite consciously and deliberately in PS/SS to prime the reader's sympathy from very early on in the game, and I think it rather clever, the way that she does that.

I mean real sympathy, the sympathy you'd feel for a guy who tries in his own weird way to do the right thing and nearly always winds up being construed as the bad guy on account of it. The particular scene that I find wrenching is the staircase encounter in GoF where, as we come to find, Snape is being quite viciously tormented by someone who really is a bad guy who is plunging for the one raw nerve he knows Snape has.

I find that scene wrenching as well. There the poor man is, he's in a very vulnerable situation—while we haven't hit Pensieve yet, or even Padfoot, there have been more than enough hints already dropped into the text at that point for the attentive reader to have quite a few ideas about what sorts of things might be troubling Severus Snape—he's in his nightshirt, for God's sake—he doesn't even have the psychological protection of being fully-dressed—and Crouch is standing there nailing him on every sore spot he can find. It's terrible (and it only gets worse on re-reading), and I think that Snape's quite clearly written there to gain our sympatheties.

But for me, the end of PoA is infinitely worse.

Snape's breakdown at the end of PoA is quite similar in that he thought he was bringing a psycho-killer to justice, and somehow that whole situation just didn't work out for him. You mention this scene yourself...

"I mean, really. What sort of heartless monster wouldn't sympathize with Snape at the end of PoA, when he disintegrates utterly into his raving "Curses, Foiled Again, and Damn You, You Meddling Kids" hysteria? You'd just have to be made of stone, wouldn't you?"

...but I'm afraid I'm not quite sure if you're being facetious here or not. :-) I'm arguing that one actually can read this scene with a sympathetic eye to Snape without construing it as an iteration of a Scooby Doo episode. Well, maybe it's just me.

Again, sorry about the facetious tone. It clearly masked my intent there, rather than enhancing it as it was meant to do; and again, I apologize if I came across as sounding intolerably snarky.

You see, what makes the end of PoA so much more sympathy-inducing, to my way of thinking, then even Egg and the Eye is its very cartoonishness. It's the fact that Snape, whose interpretation of events is perfectly reasonable under the circumstances, and who has behaved with extraordinary courage and commitment and even honor in trying to save Harry from murderous Black and his werewolf co-conspirator Lupin, and who has found the children he was trying to protect to be not only unappreciative but even downright hostile—they actually attack him—and who seems to be finally about to get some recognition for a change, should then have to degenerate into a form of hysteria that seems to conform so neatly to the very image that has led him to be so mistrusted and disliked and underappreciated in the first place.

Snape's temper tantrum at the end of PoA is more than a little reminiscent of Snidely Whiplash snarling "Curses, Foiled Again!" and it has more than a touch of the "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!" speech of every Scooby-Doo villain ever poorly-animated for the small screen as well. And to my mind, that's far more painful than anything in Egg and the Eye, because for Snape, that's a really profound failure.

Snape doesn't fail in Egg and the Eye at all, really. He's taking it on the chin, and he's flinching a bit, but while he may feel disappointed with himself for his reaction, he in no way humiliates himself. He doesn't break, and he doesn't make himself appear ludicrous. And perhaps even more to the point, his reactions are very...well, human. Normal. He's a person in pain, and he's acting like a person in pain.

By the end of PoA, we've been given more than enough information to understand that Snape really is a person in pain. But his hysteria doesn't come across as "Normal" or "Human" in the least. To Fudge, it comes across as "Madman." To us (and, I think, to the kids), it comes across very much as "Cartoon Villain Destined Always To Be Thwarted."

And I think that this is deliberately intended to be sympathetic. It's a complicated dynamic, because it encourages sympathy for him on the level of his ostensible literary function (constantly-thwarted villainous type) and on the level of his human status (poor Severus just can't catch a break, can he?) and then on the third level of his role as a person struggling to overcome his association with a certain literary type (as you said, he's always trying to do the right thing and being construed as a villain in spite of it; here he fails dramatically in his efforts to be perceived as something other than a villainous stereotype).

And no, I wasn't being facetious at all when I wrote that you'd have to have a heart of stone not to sympathize with him there. I find that scene agonizing. It's just heart-breaking, far more painful, IMO, than anything he's forced to undergo in GoF.

As to Snape's loyalty to House Slytherin, I think that we may be running into very much the same difficulties here as I've had earlier in discussions about Snape's relationship to his old DE colleagues. There sometimes seems to be very little middle ground in people's perceptions when it comes to issues of affection, loyalty or regard, and I often find myself reacting to this in some rather extreme ways.

For example, in regard to Snape's feelings towards the Slyth kids:

Does this make sense? I'm saying that under normal circumstances Snape's loyalty would not be an issue at all, but these are far from normal circumstances and he'll have to make some kind of ethical decision somewhere on down the line regarding his students. And I don't think his choice will work to their advantage.

And this certainly makes sense to me. I agree: it will not work to their advantage, and in very much the same way that his decisions in regard to his old DE colleagues did not work to their advantage.

This fact does, however, often seem to get translated into a perception of hatred or loathing or contempt, and that's what I find difficult to understand, as I just don't see that in the text at all. It gets back to that old issue of the possibility of liking or of having respect for or of feeling a loyalty to someone, while simultaneously working in opposition to them, a concept which seems perfectly natural and reasonable to me, but which others seem to find intrinsically nonsensical. Perhaps I am merely treacherous and untrustworthy by nature? ;-)

Of course when the chips are down and it becomes a matter of battle lines being drawn, I think that Snape's primary loyalty is to the same cause that he risked his life for fifteen years ago. But that does not, to my mind, have strong bearing on the question of, say, whether or not he shows favoritism to the Slyth kids when it does not particularly matter, or on whether or not he identifies with them, or on whether or not he acts on behalf of their welfare when it does not conflict with his primary loyalty, or on whether or not he feels any regard for them.

Snape's motivations in regard to the Slyth kids often seem to me to be dual. His sycophantic smirk when Draco tells him that he should replace Dumbledore as Headmaster, for example, is obviously duplicitous—Snape has no interest in seeing Dumbledore removed from his position—but I don't read it as completely insincere either: he is genuinely pleased, I think, to hear Draco say so.

Similarly, his favoritism of his own House strikes me as far more extreme than it needs to be simply to stay in the good graces of all the Slyth kids' Daddies. It is duplicitous in that the secondary motive is present, but it is also genuine in that I think that he likes showing favor to his own House, that he would be doing so even if the extenuating circumstances were not present, and that he does so even when it is not strictly necessary to maintain his image or his position.

The original question here, though, I seem to remember was one of primary motive—"why does Snape favor the Slytherins?"—and really, that's an impossible question to answer. I think that he does so for multiple reasons, and that the question of which is the "primary" and which the "secondary" motive is probably not only completely context-dependent, but also ultimately unanswerable. I doubt that Snape himself knows how he prioritizes such considerations.

I asked:

Has he cracked down on Draco's bullying within House Slytherin (assuming, that is, that Draco does bully the younger Slyth kids, which I'm sure that he does, if he's allowed to get away with it)?

Porphyria wrote:

Hey, I thought you were the one arguing that there was a lot of in-group loyalty among the Slytherin? ;-)

Hee! Clever Porphryia! Ah, but the thing that nobody noticed (or at least, that nobody called me on at the time, although I was terribly afraid that somebody would) about all of my proofs defending that thesis was that nowhere could I find a single instance of Draco himself actually going out of his way for another one of the Slyth kids. All of the examples that involved Draco at all were examples of the other Slyth kids defending him.

I think that Draco's a lousy Slyth, myself. Old Salazar would smack him upside the head, if he were still around.

Seriously, though, I do think that there's strong suggestion that the House places a high value on in-group loyalty—I stand by that notion—but I also think that Draco himself is a terribly selfish boy who would be most unlikely to uphold that principle in practice. It would be nice if we'd seen any evidence at all to the contrary, but we haven't. Should he ever take a bullet for Crabbe or Goyle, I'll happily eat my words...but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

...I think whatever affection he genuinely feels is eclipsed by the complex set of loyalties and deceptions he's caught up in. It's at best a complicated and at worst a deceitful sort of liking going on here.

No disagreements here. But I tend to view that dynamic as less an "eclipse" than a...a waltz, perhaps? An interweaving? A tangled convoluted mess?

Like I said, it's much as I perceive his entire emotional relationship to his old DE colleagues, really: as far far more complicated than either "he hates them but just pretends to like them 'cause that's his job" or "he adores them without reservation or any need for duplicity" can possibly allow for.

Both Serpensortia and the Dark Arts I've pulled out to address elsewhere, largely because they seemed likely to be of somewhat more general interest than our general Snapish ramblings. ;-)

But as for assorted weird speculative theories...

And please sign me up for the Fourth Man Theory, I'll take the smorgasbord of options: Imperius, SHIP and remorse, with the full complement of perverse possibilities.

Yay! Now, verily, there is a drove. Four people surely a drove doth...

::startled look::

Hey, Porphyria! Do you realize that this makes you our Fourth Man?

I'm partial to the Number Three Combination Special—Imperius, SHIP, and Remorse, with assorted perversions on the side—myself. But then, I've a nasty little mind.

I'd also like to apply for membership to Cupid's Snitch—that's the most forehead-smackingly convincing theory I've heard in nearly two years of speculation. I second all the gushy posts you're getting.

LOL! Thank you. How would you like to defend it for me? Because the sad fact of the matter is that I can't force myself to believe in Cupid's Snitch for even a second, which makes the prospect of now being called upon to defend the damned thing a little bit...well, dismaying, really.

I do like the idea of Mr. Lestrange calling his wife "Flo," though. It's just so terribly incongruous.

—Elkins, obviously hopelessly out of touch with the zeitgeist.

Posted February 16, 2002 at 9:24 pm
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