Weekly Archive
February 17, 2002 - February 23, 2002

RE: Serpensortia--the Dark Arts--Divination

On Serpensortia, Porphyria wrote:

Is serpensortia a curse? I thought it was a conjuring of some sort.

I don't know. I'm very hazy on the distinction between curses and charms and hexes and jinxes and spells. Not to mention conjurings. ;-)

I just used the word "curse" there because it seems to me that when the characters discuss the sort of spells used in duels, or aggressive spells in general, they often use the term "curse." And conjuring up an aggressive snake that then goes after the person at whom you've aimed your wand definitely seems aggressive and "curse-ish" to me. But I suspect that technically speaking, it's a charm.

I agree that it's unlikely Draco could have busted this one out on his own without coaching. I figured either, a) Slytherin love practicing this one in the common room because it's their mascot animal...

::sigh:: The poor Slytherin prefects. What a terrible job they must have. Just think of all the time they must spend disposing of all of those stray snakes that the younger students have conjured and then lost track of...

...or b) Snape did indeed teach it to him -- to smoke out Harry's parseltongue abilities.

And there's the question.

Tabouli wrote:

Now this is something that has always intrigued me. What made Snape suggest that particular spell? House pride, because it's a serpentine Slytherin speciality? I mean, presumably he was relishing the thought of deliberately and publicly putting Harry in mortal danger, but was there any more to it? And when Harry turns out to be a Parselmouth, Snape doesn't seem surprised... he looks "shrewd and calculating". Does Snape know something we don't? (actually, he knows a helluva lot we would dearly like to know) Did he pick that spell in order because he wanted to test a theory he had about Harry, or Voldemort, or the failed curse?

<Elkins volunteers to man the can(n)non>

Well, let's see what's actually there, shall we? ::sound of flipping pages:: Duelling Club scene, Duelling Club...oh, it's the name of the chapter...well, that makes it easy to find, doesn't it? Ah. Here we are.

Okay. After dissuading Lockhart from using Longbottom and Finch-Fletchley as his volunteer pair for a demonstration of spell-blocking, Snape suggests Malfoy and Potter (it's the second time in this scene that Snape forces these poor kids to duel each other):

'How about Malfoy and Potter?' said Snape with a twisted smile.

(Ah, those twisted smiles!)

Lockhart fails to demonstrate blocking, Snape bends over and whispers the prompt in Draco's ear—there's really nothing to go on in the description there. When the snake actually appears, we get:

'Don't move, Potter,' said Snape lazily, clearly enjoying the sight of Harry standing motionless, eye to eye with the angry snake. 'I'll get rid of it...'

(Ah, those 'lazily's!)

And then Lockhart jumps in and makes a mess of things, the snake gets infuriated and goes after Finch-Fletchley, Harry speaks to it in Parseltongue...lots of commotion. But we don't see anything of Snape again until:

Snape stepped forward, waved his wand and the snake vanished in a small puff of black smoke. Snape, too, was looking at Harry in an unexpected way: it was a shrewd and calculating look, and Harry didn't like it.

And that's pretty much it, when it comes to Snape's demeanor. That's all we have to go on.

So...well, what do you all think?

It's certainly open to interpretation. Personally, I have to say that it really doesn't look to me as if Snape's intention there was to smoke out Harry's parseltongue abilities. It's highly subjective, of course, but what we are given there just doesn't leave me with the impression of Snape as a man awaiting the results of an experiment: he does not, for example, seem either surprised or disappointed when Harry freezes, rather than speaking to the snake initially. I rather get the impression that he suggested Serpensortia merely as a way of entertaining himself.

He does seem to suspect where Harry might have come by his talent very quickly, though—that "shrewd and calculating look" is suggestive—and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he'd wondered that about Harry before. But I just can't quite force myself to read that scene as 'Snape tests out his hypothesis.' It simply doesn't ring true to me.

But of course, other mileages may vary.

About that "shrewd and calculating look," though. If, as Tabouli suggests, Snape knows more than we might suspect about Voldemort or the failed curse, could this be due to his experience with the Dark Arts themselves? Was there something about Voldemort's favored brand of Dark magic that might have made that odd form of soul-leakage that seems to have accompanied his failed AK a more likely side-effect for him than it would have been for, say, just some random wizard trying to use a Killing Curse on a mystically-protected baby Harry?

And what are the Dark Arts, anyway?

Porphyria wrote:

Oh, I can't tell you how much it galls me that JKR has not provided us with an adequate theory of the Dark Arts! I mean, what is it? Are there only certain spells that qualify, or does it have more to do with the intention of the caster?

I'm relieved to hear that I'm not the only one vexed by this question.

Yes, what are the Dark Arts? Are there forms of magic that are intrinsically 'Dark'—that are, for example, spiritually corrupting by their very nature? Or is Darkness merely a matter of application, the tool of magic used for evil ends? Or is the term used loosely, to refer both to a particular brand of magic and to criminally wicked wizarding behavior?

Take the Unforgivables, for example. Their "Unforgivable" status is described in "Moody's" class as a matter of legal distinction: they are the spells the use of which is most severely punishable under Wizarding Law. But are they also Dark in some metaphysical or spiritual sense? Does one learn about them in a DADA class because only a "Dark" (ie, criminal) Wizard would be casting an illegal spell in the first place, making defending oneself against them DADA by default? Or is there something intrinsically Dark about them apart from their nasty effects?

Before Crouch authorized his Aurors to use the Unforgivables, were they allowed to kill in self-defense? And if so, then were there non-'Dark' lethal magics that they would have used, rather than the dread AK? (Light and fluffy lethal magics, perhaps?) Or would all magics designed to kill be designated 'dark' by default?

I've seen others speculate that the Unforgivables may be Dark because they require a certain purity of intent: that to cast Cruciatus, for example, would require a focused and sincere desire to cause pain, to cast Imperius the desire to dominate, to cast AK the desire to kill. This would certainly seem to make them Dark by nature. But if this were indeed the case, then I find myself wondering how they could possibly ever be demonstrated in a DADA class without grave suspicion falling upon the DADA instructors themselves. We know that the Unforgivables are a regular part of the 6th Year Curriculum at Hogwarts. Are they ordinarily never demonstrated, not even on spiders?

I find that unconvincing, somehow.


And all the DADA classes apart from "Moody's" seem to concern themselves with dark creatures. Sure, defending against grindylows is practical knowledge, but there mere condition of being a grindylow does not constitute proficiency in a Dark Art.

Well, if there is such a thing as intrinsically Dark magic, magic that is potentially spiritually corrupting, rather than simply being a matter of a powerful tool used to bad ends, then I could certainly understand why you might choose to teach your younger students Defense Against Dark Creatures first, before exposing them to Dark spells and such. Learning how to defend yourself against a grindylow offers little in the way of seduction, as you cannot choose yourself to become a grindylow. Learning how to defend yourself against a Dark spell, on the other hand, would place a certain degree of temptation in your path.

But it seems clear that even if some magic is intrinsically "Dark," it's still culturally acceptable to know it, so long as one never uses it—or only uses it rarely, and for very good reasons. When Professor Binns is telling his students about the Chamber of Secrets, and someone suggests that perhaps it's never been found because one would have to use Dark Magic to find the opening, Binns snaps back something along the lines of: Just because a wizard doesn't use Dark Magic doesn't mean that he can't. (Sorry for the paraphrase: it's later now, and I've abandoned the canon, which I don't have at hand.) The implication there, IIRC, was specifically that Dumbledore would know enough Dark Magic to have found the Chamber. And there's implication of that sort in the very first chapter of the first book as well, when McGonagall goes gushing all over Dumbledore for being "too noble" to use all of the tools at his disposal.

<Elkins pauses here with an expression of profound distaste, as she hates that scene with a cold and undying passion, and mere mention of it cannot help but recall to her mind the sensation of being forced to choke down huge unchewable wads of unseasoned plot exposition and undercooked characterization. She gags, once, as the memory of McGonagall's fawning behavior floods her taste buds once more, but soon enough she has recovered and moves on...>

The Dark Arts are still taught in wizarding schools outside of Britain. Durmstrang still teaches them. (Does Beauxbatons?) My suspicion here is that Hogwarts only stopped teaching them, changing DA to DADA, upon Dumbledore's ascension to Headmaster—this seems somewhat implied to me by Draco's little speech about how Daddy considered sending him off to Durmstrang, where the curriculum was not so restricted.

All of this combines in my mind to form the impression of a society that does consider Dark magic to be intrinsically dark—potentially corrupting? deriving from Evil sources?—but that is nonetheless not so nervous about its corrosive power that it considers knowing some Dark magic as necessarily all that terrible a thing. Use of them would seem to be the sticking point.

What exactly do these Dark Artists do? I realize that one can glean a few ideas from outside sources (other fantasy novels, Wiccan philosophy), but that doesn't cut it for me; I want a Potter-specific theory.

Yes! I find the lack of magic theory in the books frustrating as well. Of course I understand that Rowling can't very well go sticking treatises on the theory of magic in the Potterverse into the books, but it would at least be nice to know, say, what constitutes 'Dark Magic,' particularly as the importance of resisting its influence is such an important aspect of the story.

Well. There are always hopes for future volumes.

About Divination, I wrote:

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.

Porphyria asked:

Are you suggesting that real, effective divination would be unethical, and thus dark? Or something about the practice of it, like necromancy, would be the darkening factor?

I was thinking the latter, myself. (On a purely personal level, I'm not very comfortable with the notion that there might be anything intrinsically unethical about divination.)

Trelawney's one "real" prediction that we see in canon seems to be a sort of mantic trance, a channeling or a possession. She goes into a seizure, her voice is not her own, she has no memory of the event once she has come out of the prophetic state. (Technically I suppose, by the terminology of the 19th Century British Spiritualist Movement whose idiom Trelawney herself seems to favor, she isn't really a 'Seer' at all. She would instead seem to be a 'Medium.')

My impression there was that something was speaking through her, that the prophecy was really being delivered by an outside agent which had chosen to use poor Trelawney as its channel, or as its "horse."

And I'm not altogether certain how I feel about the alignment of that outside agency.

It refers to Voldemort as the "Dark Lord," for one thing, which often seems to be a marker of Darkness in the books. Generally speaking, Good Guys don't call him that; his followers do. And the entire tone of the prophecy, the choice of phrasing, well...

"It will happen tonight. The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight...the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was. Tonight...before midnight...the servant...will set rejoin...his master..."

"Alone and friendless?" "Servant has been chained?" "Greater and more terrible than ever he was?"

I just don't know about that voice. Its sympathies seem to lie rather strongly with Voldemort, if you ask me. It doesn't even sound much like it's delivering a warning at all; it sounds far more to me as if something out there is exulting over what's about to happen.

The possibility has occurred to me that really effective divination (for human beings, at any rate, as opposed to, say, Centaurs) might necessitate opening oneself up to outside influence as a regular and conscious practice—actually inviting whatever is out there to use you as its horse—and that far too many of the things that might choose to answer such an invitation could well be, like Trelawney's prophetic voice, Not Very Nice. And while I can't claim to know for certain what effects galloping around with Not Very Nice Things riding on your proverbial back might be, I strongly suspect that it wouldn't be very good for you. Even aside from the obvious perils involved in allowing an unknown entity to hold your reins like that, it might also be somehow intrinsically corrupting.

Perhaps spiritual possession is the only truly reliable and effective form of Divination that human beings can manage? The Centaurs obviously use astrology to great effect, but we've seen no evidence yet of any wizards doing so. Perhaps all of the means of Divination that Trelawney favors—crystal-gazing and tea-reading and astrology and the like—are very weak tools in the hands of humans, while all of the more effective tools available to them involve dealing in one way or another with spiritual entities about which not very much is known and which are therefore highly suspect?

Just a thought. But that would explain, to my mind, why Divination might have remained on the Hogwarts curriculum when it seems to be such a very ineffective and poorly-respected magical field: it is, in fact, not an ineffective branch of magic at all, but merely one whose only non-forbidden applications are also its least effective ones.

It would also, I think, add an additional level of explanation to Trelawney's own reaction to being told that she has just entered a trance state and delivered a prophecy. It's not just that she doesn't believe it; she also doesn't want to believe it, because doing that sort of thing is suspect, Dark.

I wrote:

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. ;-)

Porphyria said:

She sure needs some angst in her life. Everyone else has some.

I really loved Eric's suggestion that Hermione needs to be confronted with a serious academic rival in the next book. I'm plumping hard for that plotline, although I haven't the slightest idea how such an academic rivalry could be introduced at this stage in the game. But Hermione needs Envy problems. Everyone else has had to struggle with envy, and I won't find it nearly so interesting if Hermione's envy problems prove to be sexual or romantic, or in any way purely relationship-based. Ron has his money problems, and Harry has his various athletic competitions -- so why should the girl be the one mired down in the great emotional bog when it comes to her own struggles with envy? Just rubs me the wrong way, that does.


Posted February 17, 2002 at 1:45 pm
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Plain text version


RE: A Credo for George

A sort of meta-message this one, trying to clarify more precisely the actual parameters of one of the many Snape backstory theories/movements/philosophies floating around on this list. Because this is an attempt to clarify, there is much summary here, and not all that much that is new. Those who were heartily sick of this subject even before it arose, and who only became more heartily sick of it when it went through a spate of discussion a week or so ago, might wish to take this opportunity to flee now.


Marina wrote:

Woo-hoo! George slicks back his hair, wiggles into his tightest jeans, and practices batting his eyelashes in front of the mirror in preparation for meeting his very own post.

Oh, knock it off, George. Honestly! Sometimes I think that I liked you far better when you were a small furry creature soon to be killed through over-coddling.

::crosses to door, locks it firmly, then points to chair::

Now sit down and stop giving me those big eyes. They don't work on me, so you may as well not bother. You wanted a post, you're getting one, but until we're done here, you're going to sit right there and not interrupt me. And I'm not unlocking that door until I've finished with you, so don't even think about squealing to Marina for help. She can't come in until we're done here. You got that?

::smiles thinly at George, who sinks into the chair, nodding slowly, his eyes very wide::

Good. Now...


A Credo For George

George, for those who don't yet know him, is Marina's name for her own set of beliefs about Snape's backstory. He was formally introduced to the list in post 34762.

Or that's what he was. Shortly thereafter, however, he became something more like a...a movement? A position? A land-locked ship? A theory, at any rate, that othes might wish to espouse and to identify themselves with. This became problematic, however, because George—to put it bluntly—is a slut. Marina did try to warn us about this, but romantic fools that we are, we just didn't listen. And so when George was spotted in the Catalytic Boutique, trying on Road-To-Damascus-style ballgowns, or batting his eyelashes at James Potter, or even once caught locked in a very slow dance with Captain Tabouli on the deck of the Good Ship LOLLIPOPS, we all tried to ignore it for as long as we could. "He's young," we said. "He'll grow out of it." But in the end, he simply broke our hearts.

Now, it seems to me that the problem with George (other than the fact that he shares a name with a canon character, which is confusing) is that we don't know what's really a part of his Credo, so to speak, and what remains open to the conscience of the individual. If we are to assume for the moment that George does have it in him to break free from Marina's embrace and become a position that others might choose to espouse, then we must ask: what are the primary characteristics of George? If one were to declare oneself a Georgian, what would that necessitate?

The Good Ship LOLLIPOPS, for example, is so popular in part, I think, because it is so very inclusive. If I'm understanding its manifesto correctly (and please do correct me, Tabouli, if I am wrong), so long as one believes that Snape Loved Lily, and that this hopeless passion accounts for at least some of his canonical behavior, then you are welcome to clamber aboard. Beyond that, however, the specific details (Love of Lily accounts for Snape's behavior towards Harry, Love of Lily led Snape to join the DEs, Love of Lily led Snape to leave the DEs, Love of Lily led Snape to abandon a belief in the Pureblood ethos, Love of Lily left Snape with a phobia of hair-washing, or what have you) are up to the conscience of the individual. While there is a "hard-line" position—and even a semi-official timeline—belief in these would seem to be optional. The only real Credo is the 'core belief' that Love of Lily accounts for some of Snape's behavior.

So what it seems to me that George really needs, if he is ever to become a position, rather than merely a personification of Marina's beliefs (however these may change over time) is a Credo. We need to know what the core rock-bottom Georgian position is, what it really means to declare oneself a Georgian. We also need to know what unusual or slightly *cough* subversive beliefs George is willing to accomodate, and which he denounces as heresy.

(He also desperately needs an acronym. But that's slightly beside the point.)

So what issues specifically does George address?

Well, from his introduction, it would seem that George is primarily concerned with two backstory questions: Why Did Snape Join the DEs In the First Place?, and Why Did He Then Turn? Later attempts to clarify George's position by asking him questions about Lily, ambushes, timelines, and suchnot just muddied the waters, IMO, because these were all questions that really fell outside of George's purview.

So I'd like, if I may, to catechize George on these two questions for a little while, to see if we can manage to clarify and distill his views and perhaps even emerge at the end of this process with A Credo For George.


Why Did Snape Join the Death Eaters In the First Place?

Marina's original introductory post seems to place a strong emphasis on the Prank as a catalytic agent for Snape's mistrust of the Light side and his subsequent belief that the Dark Was His Friend.

Marina (in George's introductory post):

Now I believe that Snape originally joined the DEs not because he had any conviction in their *ahem* ideals, but because they were the enemies of his enemies, and he thought they might treat him decently and not try to feed him to any werewolves....

Eloise, who would seem to share many of George's tendencies, expanded somewhat on this idea:

It's not so much what the Marauders did that's the problem, as what Dumbledore didn't do. I fancy he felt ever so let down by the 'light' side, didn't find justice in the all-wise all-just Dumbledore. . . . What's the point of allying yourself with goodness if evil goes unpunished? Is there any difference between the two sides? Perhaps not.

Later, however, George seemed to turn away from Prank-as-catalyst, to take a more holistic view:


As I've mentioned before, Snape was very young at the time, probably just out of Hogwarts. He had a general idea of what the DEs were up to, and thought he'd be okay with it. When you're an nasty, unpopular teenager with a suspicious knowledge of Dark Magic and a conviction that the people currently in charge are out to get you, it's pretty easy to go around thinking you're evil and even to get off on the concept (finding it glamorous and empowering, maybe) -- until someone actually says, "Here, torture this baby," and you suddenly find that maybe you're not as evil as you thought.

and (in a later post) Marina again:

George says:

Well, Snape is a Slytherin after all, and therefore ambitious. Voldemort and Dumbledore were duking it out for control of the wizarding world. Snape wanted to be in on the score, not to sit on the sidelines. Sure, joining either team brought certain risks if his side lost -- but it also brought the chance of enjoying the spoils of victory if his side won. No risk, no reward -- and I've already made my argument for Snape's bravery.

On the question of whether or not young Severus ever truly believed in the pureblood ethos espoused by the Death Eaters, George has wavered. He initially answered in the negative, but when further catechized on this subject by Cindy, George gave the impression that he was willing to accept a great deal of differing opinion on this particular point:


It's possible that Snape believed it then, but if so then he must've dropped the belief somewhere along the way, since he shows no sign of it now...."Purity of blood" may have been another one of those things that sounded really good at the Death Eaters Sunday Brunch, but proved a lot less attractive in bloody practice.

It would seem, then, that George takes no strong stance on the question of whether or not Snape ever adhered to the pureblood ethos.

So, if we were to try to distill George's position on Why Snape Joined the Death Eaters, we are left with...well, George is a bit vague, really. He offers a number of suggestions: hostility towards the Marauders (and thus by extention towards House Gryffindor and all of their allies); disappointment in Dumbledore and disillusionment with the entire notion of justice; a desire for protection from his perceived enemies; raw ambition; the desire to be on the winning side of a dangerous political conflict; an adolescent conviction that Evil is cool and glamorous; possibly a short-lived belief in a one or two of the Death Eater ideals...

But it is really very difficult to tell precisely where George stands on any of these issues, which leads me to wonder if the question of Why Snape Joined the DEs In the First Place ought really be viewed as within George's purview at all. It strikes me that while there might perhaps be beliefs on this subject that George would indeed consider "heretical," a wide range of opinion is nonetheless permitted when it comes to the answer to this question.


<George remains silent>

That's okay, sweetheart. We'll let Marina in the room in a bit, and maybe she can help us out on this one.

In the meantime, I suggest that there are at least a couple of parameters of belief that strike me as consistent with Georgianism overall. George will have to let me know later, if I've got this wrong.

(1) Snape joined up willingly, with his eyes at least half-way open, and with no thought of betraying the DEs at the time.

I could swear that George actually said this at some point, but now I can't seem to find the citation. But I'm fairly certain that none of the "he had no idea what they were really all about when he joined up with them, honest!" schools of thought on this matter, nor the "he always planned on spying for Dumbledore" theories would be permissable under Georgianism.

(2) There may have been one or more catalytic events which prompted this action, but none of them were "Road To Damascus"-type catalysts (ie, sudden epiphanous realizations that cause a complete ideological about-face). Whatever catalytic agency events like the Prank might have possessed, they nonetheless were serving to push Snape further down a road that he was already part-way on, rather than causing him to change direction suddenly mid-stride.

George has never stated this explicitly, but it seems strongly implied to me by his, uh, general demeanor and attitude. It seems congruent with George's known beliefs. But again, I'm not certain on this point, so Marina will have to let me know if I've read George correctly here.

Those two points are just about all that I can deduce about George's Credo when it comes to Snape's original decision to throw in his lot with the DEs, actually, and they do seem to me to allow for an enormous deal of variation in belief. So now I find myself wondering: are there in fact stricter parameters than the ones I've outlined above? And if not, then are there variations that do fall within those parameters that are nonetheless categorically rejected by George? What are George's "heresies" here?


So Why Did Snape Turn?

Now this, IMO, is George's Real Issue. This is Where George starts to shine and to strut his stuff.

In fact, I think that George might even work best if viewed as a philosophy that seeks to address only this question, while leaving even the question of Why Snape Joined In the First Place up to the conscience of the individual. But that, of course, is not up to me to decide.

George's position here seems relatively clear. George rejects "catalytic theories" of Snape's conversion, holding firm to the notion that his disillusionment with the DEs was not a sudden epiphanous revelation, but rather, a gradual realization that Voldemort and his followers were evil: their motives selfish, their means unjustified, their ends corrupt, and their assumptions just plain wrong.

Marina, in George's introductory post:

I think that the more time spent with the DEs, the more he became disenchanted with them. They were crappy excuses for human being (or whatever other kinds of beings they were); their agenda was evil and destructive; whatever respect they may have given him (assuming they gave him any -- maybe they didn't) wasn't worth it. I don't think there was any one grand epiphany that made Snape realize, "Hey, these guys are evil and must be opposed," I think it was a gradual process that eventually reached a point where he had to turn around and do something, and it's at that point that he went to Dumbledore.

Furthermore, George would seem to favor a view of this realization that roots it firmly in the realms of the intellectual and the philosophical, rather than the emotional or the visceral. George emphasizes the notion that Snape's defection was not one of emotion, but one of principle.


No, I think that somewhere down the line Snape came to genuinely hate Voldy and everything the DEs stood for; and to hate them on principle, not just emotionally. And Snape has generally been shown as willing, and even determined, to put principle and duty ahead of his emotions.

The question of emotion, of course, becomes particularly relevant when it comes to examining George's relationship with LOLLIPOPS. On the issue of whether Snape Loved Lily, Marina wrote:

See, I have no idea whether or not Snape loved Lily... but I definitely don't buy the idea that love of Lily turned him away from the DE's. . . .If one is going to turn from the side of evil to the side of good, then one must do it out of genuine moral conviction, a sincere belief that evil is, well, evil and must be fought. . . .

and later, in response to a LOLLIPOPS defense of LOL as a motivating factor:

That's certainly true, but if Lily-love is just one motivating factor among many, then my instinct is to drop the romantic angle and let all these other factors pull the weight.

So it would seem that one can indeed be a Georgian from the deck of the Good Ship LOLLIPOPS, so long as one does not ascribe to the notion that Love of Lily was an important motivating factor in Snape's decision to leave the DEs. As this belief is in fact not required by LOLLIPOPS, dual adherence would seem to me to be, if not likely to be all that common, nonetheless still possible within the parameters of the two groups' respective tenets of belief.

So if we were to propose a Credo For George on this issue, then what might it look like?

I suggest that it might look something like this:

"I believe that Snape left the Death Eaters out of a philosophical conviction that their movement was evil. His defection was a matter of moral principle."

"I reject the notion that there was any one sudden catalytic event which led to this change of heart. Rather, I believe that it came about gradually, as a matter of observation, consideration, and a careful weighing of moral values."

Now, if this is really Core George, then I would be happy to declare myself a Georgian. Sometimes, though, George seems to waver even on these most basic fundaments, even when this involves throwing overboard his own once-favored timeline of events. Take this message, for example, in which George contemplates the possibility that Snape's life-debt to James Potter might have served as the final straw pushing him from disillusionment into outright defection:


George is helpless to resist. He is smitten. He know maintains that Snape's gradual disillusionment with the DEs finally culminated in active resistance when Voldemort threatened James.

<Elkins casts the bed on which George is sitting a very severe look>

Oh, honestly, George! And after all that time you spent arguing for a much earlier date for Snape's defection, too! What got into you there?

At other times, George seems to venture far outside of his domain, offering his opinions on all manner of things that don't really seem to be any of his business (the "Even EWWWWWWWer" Theory, for example, which I personally absolutely adore, but which I don't really think has the slightest bit of bearing on the issues which George normally stands to address).

Most disturbing, however, is when George seems to falter on what I consider to be one of the most rock-bottom tenets of his own Credo: namely, Snape's disenchantment with the Death Eaters as a matter of moral principle.


Oh, I don't think Snape was clueless. I think Snape knew, intellectually, exactly what the DEs were up to, and he thought it was okay by him. But when faced with the visceral reality of torture and murder, rather than just reading about it in Daily Prophet headlines, he found that it wasn't as okay as he thought it was.

Now, my problem with this is that to my mind, a visceral reaction isn't really a matter of moral principle at all. It is merely a matter of squeamishness. And aside from the fact that I am unable to believe for even a moment that Snape might be squeamish, I also find this idea disturbingly incompatible with everything that George ordinarily seems to stand for.

These inconsistencies are troubling to someone as anal-retentive as I am. They keep me up nights. They lead me to do things like...well, things like writing a long post to try to pin down George on his Credo, for instance.

Lapses in consistency are problematic. A certain fuzziness to the Credo also haunts my sleep. Again, I find myself wondering: what beliefs does George find unacceptable? What is Credo, and what suggestion? What constitutes Heresy?

Is, for example, my highly idiosyncratic conviction that Snape really is a genuine sadist by visceral inclination (if not in current practice) actually an acceptable belief within the Georgian belief system? Or is it Heresy? How about my preference for Greyer-Than-Black DEs about whom Snape has deeply ambivalent personal feelings? Can George accomodate such views in spite of the fact that Marina herself disagrees with them, or must I take my leave of George, and begin consorting instead with his nearly-identical twin theory, er, Fred?

I also want to know where George stands on seemingly "optional" theories that he has nonetheless expressed opinions on in the past: timelines, ambushes, Love of Lily, EEWWWWWW, EEEWWWWWer, and so forth. Are these in fact optional? Or are some of them indeed a part of George's Credo?

Elkins wants a Georgian Manifesto!

Elkins wants a Credo For George!

<Elkins suddenly realizes that she really needs to get out more. She glances over to the bed, where George is still staring at her, his eyes wide and his lower lip trembling. She manages a sickly sort of smile.>

It's all right, sonny. Come on, we can have a cup of tea.

<For some strange reason, this does not seem to reassure George one bit. He continues to stare. Elkins lets out an exasperated sigh, stalks to the door, unlocks it, and sticks her head through the doorframe.>

Marina! Come and collect your boy!


Posted February 20, 2002 at 6:45 pm
Plain text version


RE: SHIP: Cupid's Snitch and Cupid's Quaffle

"Pay close attention now," says Elkins, jostling the lever of the remote control in her hand as she squints out to sea at the tiny golden jetski skirting dangerously close to the jagged off-shore rocks. "Because this is the really tricky part."

The unseasonably bright February sun glints off of the chrome of the Coast Guard Cruiser plowing its way through the waves towards the jetski. It throws the detailing on the side of a fast-moving pleasure yacht into sharp relief, and casts a dull sheen on the inner tube bobbing innocently nearby.

"The thing that you must understand," says Elkins, frowning in concentration as these small craft begin to converge, "is that everything about this scenario is just utterly and completely wrong. Characterization. Wrong. Motivation. Wrong. Spirit of Ca—"

She draws in a sharp breath as the jetski angles its way between two low rocks, barely visible beneath the waves, then lets it out, very slowly.

"Spirit of Canon," she repeats hoarsely, her hands now shaking slightly on the controls. "Spirit of Canon. Oh. So. Wrong."

The Coast Guard Cruiser picks up speed as it nears its prey, weaving to one side to avoid the low-lying rocks, while the pleasure yacht, its passengers staring enthralled through their Omniscopes at the name 'Cupid's Snitch' engraved on the side of the jetski, veers a bit closer to the reef. Elkins leans forward, hunched over her controls.

"But," she continues, a fine sheen of sweat now appearing on her forehead. "But, but, but. But. If you combine all of these wrong elements just so, and then get the timing juuuuuuuuuuuuuust right..."

With a sudden convulsive motion, she slams the joystick away from her, while simultaneously jabbing down hard on the turbo button. The tiny golden jetski surges forward, sending up a fine spray as it darts between the two larger and more cumbersome vessels, whose crewmembers have only a second to stare after it in amazement before they realize that they are now set on a collision course. Their barked orders and panicked screams can only be faintly heard from shore as cruiser and yacht desperately maneuver to avoid one another, only to batter their hulls to pieces moments later on the treacherous off-shore rocks. The inner tube flies into the air, landing only a little worse for the wear on a large flat rock several yards away. The jetski darts merrily off, out to open sea.

Elkins exhales hard and leans back against her rock, allowing the controls to fall from her hands. After a moment, she turns to the younger mermaid sitting on the rock beside her and smiles.

"And that," she concludes, with grim satisfaction. "Is what we call the 'Wrong Ski Feint.'"

"Would you believe," she asks, giggling suddenly as she gestures out at the jetski now bobbing its way across the waves. "Would you believe that some people actually think that I'm out there riding around on that ridiculous thing?"

"But master," the younger mermaid objects, her voice muffled from deep within her scuba mask. "Master..."

Elkins frowns. "What?"

"I thought that we were supposed to be...well, you know. Singing."

"Singing?" Elkins snorts and rolls her eyes. "Singing! Oh, Grasshopper! Sweetheart! Please! This is the twenty-first century!"

The tiny golden jetski flits off into the distance, soon to be lost once more to sight.


Yes. Erm. Well.

Oh, dear.

You see, naturally I am very touched—truly touched and deeply flattered—that so many people liked Cupid's Snitch so much,

Well, really now. It hardly seems plausible, does it? And surely someone must have noticed that every single direct canonical quotation cited in that message as "evidence" for the theory was really just cut-and-pasted directly from a previous C.U.P.I.D.S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R message—yea, down to the very ellipses?

I don't know. I really just don't know. I pour my heart, my soul, my very essence into my Fourth Man theory, I offer irreproachable evidence that it is canonically RIGHT and TRUE, I beg and whine and wheedle and cajole, but does anyone believe me? Nooooooooo. But then I toss something like Cupid's Snitch into the air, and everyone leaps onto their broomsticks and starts riding hell-bent-for-leather after it. I don't get it. I really just don't get it.

But I do feel that I owe a huge apology to Captain Charis Julia. Sorry, Captain. I meant only to poke playfully at your inner tube, not to send it spinning off into the eddies like that. And while you were away taking your exams, too! Here's hoping that they all went well.

Cap'n Charis Julia of the Good Ship C.U.P.I.D.S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R. boomed out (while scowling and glaring menacingly at mutinous sailors):

Elkins where did you come up with all of that?

<Elkins nods respectfully at Captain Charis, then looks up innocently, an effect somewhat ruined by the suspicious twitching at the corner of her mouth>

Why, from my strictly irreproachable extrapolations from canon, of course. SIR!

Astounding! I take my hat of to you, really I do! Unfortunately however I don't buy a word of it.

No. Neither do I, not for a moment. But it sure was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?

Cupid's Snitch does not explain what all these theories set out to explain in the first place, namely why did Snape cross over to the sunny side of the street after all?

Oh. Right. That old thing.

Well, as to that, I'm a Georgian, myself. ( least I think I am. But that's an entirely different snarl of threads.) But Cupid's Snitch was never intended to address that issue at all. Cupid's Snitch was a direct response to Cindy's plea for some extra motivation for Sirius' Prank, and for Sirius and Snape's mutual loathing—preferably one that would somehow involve the Unknown Damsel Florence.

Now personally, I don't think that any additional motivation for hatred between these two men other than what has already been provided by canon is in the least bit necessary. It makes perfect sense to me that they never liked each other to begin with, that the potential lethality of the Prank was a matter of pure and simple thoughtlessness on Sirius' part, that Dumbledore's reaction infuriated and disillusioned young Severus, that his conviction that Black really always had been by nature a murderer was confirmed in his own mind by later events, and that what happened at the end of PoA did absolutely nothing to make either of the two men like each other any better. Here I am in full agreement with Pippin and Charis: what canon has already given us seems like more than enough to account for their mutual antipathy. To my way of thinking, anyway.

But apparently some people just aren't satisfied with all of that. They must have more -- more, more, more! So Cupid's Snitch was my highly tongue-in-cheek attempt to Give The People What They Want, with a good deal of really sappy SHIPpiness thrown in, just for good measure.

I didn't really think that anyone was going to go chasing after the damned thing.

Cap'n Tabouli of the Good Ship L.O.L.L.I.P.O.P.S., showed admirable restraint by starting off with the deliciously-understated comment:

My main issues with it are character based (and therefore rather subjective).

*much laughter*

What, you mean to say that you don't think that Sirius would have trembled in fear at the prospect of Peter disapproving of his choice of date? Or that the future Mrs. Lestrange would have gone skulking around behind the greenhouses to avoid exposure? Or that she would have then gone trailing all puppy-dog-like after Severus, pestering him to teach her some really cool curses? Why ever not?

Yes, of course the characterization is appalling. But then, you couldn't honestly expect someone as perverse as I am to resist that temptation, now, could you? Or to refrain from recasting the odious Lestranges as the post-Yule-Ball Ron and Hermione? Or to allow to pass by unchecked the opportunity to raise the spectre of a non-gone-bad version of the Ever-So-Evil Mrs. Lestrange, padding around barefoot in her kitchen and baking cookies for the kiddies? I mean, for heaven's sake, woman, do you think that I am made out of stone?

But an awful lot of people seem to have really really liked Cupid's Snitch, and not as parody either, but as speculation (someone mentioned the possibility of putting it on the list of "predictions for Book Five," for example). And that was...unexpected. To say the least.

I'm beginning to suspect that Cupid's Snitch's appeal must have had something to do with that F.L.A.B.B.E.R.G.A.S.T.E.D. or L.O.S.T.L.I.V.E.S. aspect of the tale: many people do seem to find something about the notion of an Embittered-Due-To-Lack-of-Luck-In-Love-With-Sirius-Black Florence Lestrange well-nigh irresistable.

I think that we may be running into a bit of Sympathy for the Devil here, no?

So let's see if we can salvage Cupid's Snitch, shall we? Is there a defensible version of this backstory that can (a) manage to retain the same appeal while (b) remaining sufficiently perverse to hold even my interest?

I think that there is. We can call this one, er..."Cupid's Quaffle."

Cupid's Quaffle allows the characters to behave more or less as themselves, while still (I hope) retaining the basic SHIPpiness and Sympathy-For-the-Devil-ness that made people like Cupid's Snitch so much. And, of course, it has every bit as much direct canonical support *snicker* as Cupid's Snitch had.

As an added bonus, I've also thrown in a bit of backstory to provide additional answers to such perennial favorites as "Why was everyone, even Dumbledore, so willing to believe that Sirius Black was a mad killer?" and "Why did Sirius get so very hysterical when Peter framed him?"

(I haven't the slightest idea why people always want more answers to these questions, mind—again, I think that canon provides plenty of answers to both of them just fine as it is—but people always do seem to want more reasons, so Cupid's Quaffle is happy to provide.)

Cupid's Quaffle also accomodates LOLLIPOPSers by allowing for a reading in which Snape's relationship to Florence is purely platonic—thus permitting him to remain creepily and solely romantically fixated on Lily Evans, if such is the reader's desire.

And finally—But wait! There's more!—Cupid's Quaffle can also allow for a (slightly altered) rendition of Tabouli's marvellous Seduction of Barty Crouch. This is because as far as I can tell, I may well be young Barty's only true fan on this entire list. I am therefore thrilled to support anything that might make him more sympathetic to other readers.

So here is Cupid's Quaffle. Cupid's Quaffle permits Sirius to be cool, handsome, charismatic, popular and impulsive, and it allows Florence, as the future Mrs. Lestrange, to be passionate, obsessive, tenacious and defiant.

There is, however, one very important point of characterization on which Cupid's Quaffle absolutely depends, and that is this:

At the age of fifteen, Florence was not Dead Sexy.

Tabouli wrote:

More likely her loyalty to Slytherin would preclude such a relationship in the first place (unless fuelled by some sinister, manipulative ulterior motive), or, if his Dead Sexiness was too much to resist, she would have seduced him, cool, sultry and unashamed. And in public, in front of the whole of Slytherin and Gryffindor, if necessary to prove her point.

At twenty-two, perhaps. But at fifteen? Naaaah.

Because fifteen-year-old Florence isn't either sultry or seductive. I mean, think about it. Do we really believe the Mrs. Lestrange we see in Pensieve as someone who was considered desirable as an adolescent? Does a fifteen year old girl who was in the habit of wrapping the boys around her little finger through her seductive and feminine wiles really grow up to become a woman who curses two people into a state of insanity out of sheer enraged frustration that they can't tell her what she wants to know?

Oh, I don't think so.

No, I don't think that she was Dead Sexy at all in her youth. Far from it. In fact, I think that what we were looking at there in Pensieve must have been one of Tabouli's favorite types of people: an Ex-Victim Turned Bully.

So in Cupid's Bludger, Dead Sexy Florence is replaced by late-bloomer Florence. Florence, who values the opinion of her male Slytherin friends so highly because she just doesn't have any female friends (all of the other Slytherin girls in her year are really caught up in this whole "Marry High, Marry Young, Breed Pureblooded Children For the Cause" schtick, see, while Flo's a rabid feminist). Florence, who hasn't yet learned that charm she'll use later in life to take all the frizz out of her hair and make it all lustrous and shiny (an entire bottle of that Sleekeasy junk would surely do the trick, but that's far too much work for everyday, and besides, fifteen-year-old Flo would rather die than suck up to the Patriarchy like that). Florence, who doesn't laugh at the boys' jokes unless she really thinks that they're funny. Florence, whose heavy-lidded eyes strike all of the boys her age as weird-looking and strange, and Not At All Attractive. (Yes, they are mad. They're also only fifteen years old, so they haven't yet developed good taste.)

In short, while Florence may be passionate, obsessive, tenacious, defiant, and proud to the point of self-destruction, one thing she isn't is considered a "good catch."

So why is cool, charismatic, handsome, popular, impulsive (but not always terribly sensitive to other people's feelings) Sirius Black snogging with her behind the greenhouses?

Well, because as Dead Sexy as he may be, Sirius Black is still a fifteen year old boy. And Florence is willing. And at the age of fifteen, willing is very very important.

Oh, now, just stop that, Sirius fans. He doesn't mean to be toying with the poor girl's affections, all right? He just isn't particularly thinking. You know how good he can be at that "not particularly thinking" thing that he does.

And besides, it's not as if he dislikes her or anything. He thinks old Flo's a pretty good egg, for a Slytherin. He enjoys her company well enough. She's clever and opinionated and sort of interesting, and he has no clue that she's actually kinda twisted. But it's hardly Twoo Wuv. It's not even True Love. It's not anything even close to that. Not by a long shot. Not at all.

So Sirius isn't meeting poor Florence behind the greenhouses because it's a big clandestine Romeo and Juliet type thing. No, he's meeting her there because that's just what you do when you meet girls for little adolescent snogging sessions at Hogwarts. That's where everyone goes. It's just what's done. And he's not exactly hiding it from his friends. He just hasn't thought to mention it, that's all. After all, why would he? It's not like he's in love with the girl or anything. They're not even dating. They're just kinda messing around for kicks every now and then, that's all. And besides, it's not like she's the only girl he ever takes back there.

But Florence thinks it's serious.

*pause for wince*

No. Er...well, you know what I mean. She doesn't get it. She, too, is only fifteen years old, remember, and she's led a very sheltered life. So it doesn't occur to her that meeting someone every once in a while for smoochies behind the greenhouses, while never actually being seen with them in public, doesn't constitute a real relationship. As far as she's concerned, this is It. She's found it. True Love. 'Till Death Do We Part Love. It's the first grand passion of her young life, and it's a secret passion to boot, because she really is keeping it a secret from her Slytherin buds. It's not just that they wouldn't approve (although they wouldn't). It's more that...well, it's hers. It's her Grand Passion. It's special. It's secret. And besides, it's more romantic that way.

Yeah, she's young. And she's also a tad obsessive. As well as loyal, passionate, committed, slightly prone to self-delusion and self-aggrandizement...but then, we already knew all that about her, didn't we?

So that's the deal. There they are, Sirius and Florence, kissing behind the greenhouses. Nosy Bertha Jorkins—the original "Cupid's Snitch"—catches them at it and begins to make mock...and it is Florence who hexes her, the instant that her back is turned.

Well, of course it is! It must have been Florence all along. After all, would Sirius really hex some girl for teasing him for kissing someone, of all things? I doubt it. But Florence would, because she's proud and prickly and vindictive and (at this stage in her life) insecure, and she cannot bear being mocked. And besides, she likes hexing people.

So Florence hexes Bertha. Sirius, alarmed by the suddenly feral expression on the face of his ordinarily tranquil-seeming companion—not to mention her apparent readiness to keep on hexing Bertha, even though she's certainly more than made her point already—snatches her wand out of her hands and is still standing there holding it when Bertha finally manages to recover enough to turn around to see what has happened. Bertha goes running off to Dumbledore, squealing about how Sirius Black hexed her when all she did was tease him for kissing Florence behind the greenhouses, and pretty soon everyone in the entire school knows the story.

And so you see, this is yet another reason that Dumbledore didn't find it all that hard to believe that Sirius Black was a Big Bad Dark wizard, and a raving murderer to boot. Just look at how he behaved at the age of fifteen! Clearly bad-tempered. Clearly capable of nastiness. And this is also part of the reason that Sirius began laughing madly when Peter left him there in the street, wand out and dead muggles everywhere. It wasn't merely because his best friends had been murdered, it was all his fault, he'd just failed miserably in his attempt to avenge their deaths, and now he was going to be framed for the crime itself. It wasn't merely because little Peter had just snookered him with such utterly unexpected ruthlessness. It wasn't merely because he was in such a completely hopeless situation. No! One might think that all this would be ample cause for wild laughter, but apparently it still isn't enough, so here you go: Sirius was also laughing because he'd been had this way before.

What's that? Why did Sirius never try to set anyone straight on what really happened, you ask? Well, because he's chivalrous, that's why. Good Guys Don't Rat People Out -- and they especially don't rat girls out. Besides, he's popular with the staff and with the Headmaster, so they'll probably cut him more slack than they'd cut Florence. And also, he's feeling kind of guilty over the whole affair. He's got some idea of how Florence's Slytherin buds are likely to react when they find out that she's been Consorting With the Enemy; the situation is made even worse by the fact that her parents are in prison ; and since the wizarding world is so weirdly socially conservative, Reputation is still a big issue for girls. So why compound poor Florence's problems by exposing her as some sort of hex maniac on top of all that?

He's also feeling guilty because he knows that he's going to have to stop seeing her.

It was that look in her eyes, you see. Kinda spooked him that did. He always thought she was okay, really, but now he thinks there's something...well, something very wrong with the girl. He doesn't really want to have anything more to do with her.

Hmmm? What's that, Charis?


And one more thing: Florence must have been a splendid actress. Sirius was so into her and never realized she was heading right down the path that leads to You—Know—Who's front door?

"Hey, guys, I've got a great idea! Let's make Peter the Secret-Keeper!"

No, Florence was never a good actress. But she didn't need to be. This is Sirius Black we're talking about, remember. He didn't have a clue.

But now he does. He starts avoiding her until she confronts him, and then he just explains that maybe they shouldn't, um, see each other. Anymore. He's kind of uncomfortable. Florence reads his tone as pity. She is struck by her Grand Realization: this guy never loved her. He wasn't even using her, which she could at least respect. No. No, he pitied her. Those were Sympathy Snogs they were sharing back there behind the greenhouses.

The rest of the story is pretty much the same. Florence, Loved and Abandoned by Black, Becomes EnRaged, Goes After Severus, and Turns Evil Deatheater. Love of Sirius Turns Lestrange Into Voldemort's Evil Servant. And all of that.

And you know, Severus doesn't even have to have a crush on her in this version. He can just feel protective of her, as a manifestation of House loyalty. (Gryffindors are too good to be seen with our girls in public, are they? Our girls are only suitable for seducing in secret. are they?) But it still has the same effect on Sirius: leading him to suspect that Snape was responsible all along for Florence's unfortunate Dark tendencies.

Charis wrote:

It goes against all my instincts to accept that Sirius had a girlfriend that went Wrong and that's really what my objections boil down to.

Yeah, it went against all of Sirius' instincts as well. That's why he had to convince himself that it must have been Snape's Bad Influence all along.

So we get the same basic hostility, the same underlying subconscious motive for Sirius' Prank, the same "Sirius Black corrupted one of our girls" thing for Snape, and so forth.

Now we only need to jump ahead a year or so to get Tabouli's Seduction of Barty Crouch scenario.

Tabouli wrote:

Maybe Barty was a good, upstanding, brilliant young Slytherin who had the promise to become one of the house's most upstanding graduates until he fell into the clutches of Florence Lestrange-to-be, who preyed on him for reasons of her own (getting close to the son of the powerful wizard tipped to be the future Minister of Magic and avenging her parents against Barty Senior... see below).

Sounds good to me. Why not?

Now that Florence has already gained a certain degree of notoriety as a Fast Girl, she figures: why not live up to the reputation? Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, right? Besides, then maybe Sirius will be sorry that he cast her aside. So she decides to become Dead Sexy Evil Scheming Black Widow Florence.

(SHIPper types should like this part, because it allows for Florence to come back from the summer hols a Changed Girl, with her hair all different and dressing all sexy and making the boys' jaws drop in amazement and all the rest of that rot.)

I like wicked older teen Florence seducing sickly neurasthenic little Momma's Boy Barty to avenge her parents. That's very appealing indeed. The only difference here is that she goes after Barty as a sixth year, not as a fifth year, and he's fourteen, not thirteen, when he falls into her clutches -- 'cause otherwise it's just plain sick.

And of course, in this version of the tale, Bertha Jorkins isn't the one who exposes the affair to Daddy. That was probably Lestrange, undoubtedly acting on Florence's own orders. After all, as Cindy wrote:

She wants Mr. Lestrange, a man who knows how to keep his mouth shut and do what he is told. Mr. Lestrange is a SYCOPHANT (are hen-pecked men welcome in SYCOPHANT?).

Society of Yes-Men, Cowards, Ostriches, Passive-Aggressives...

Yup! Yes, they are. Hen-pecked men are almost always passive-aggressive. And even if Lestrange isn't, then he can still claim SYCOPHANTS membership under the umbrella category of "Abject Neurotics."

We're really very inclusive that way.

Tabouli wrote:

Little did both Crouch Senior know, his actions played right into Florence's hands. Barty Junior abandoned his last hope of ever pleasing his father and set to rebellion in earnest. As his years at Hogwarts slipped by, he progressed from snogging Dark Ladies to torturing first years, hexing Gryffindors, and serving teachers cursed pumpkin juice.

Oh, yes. Yes indeedy. He also took to ripping the tags off of all of the mattresses. And to jaywalking. The poor little tyke.

Hey, I know! We can call this part of Cupid's Quaffle:


(Florence, On the Rebound, Lured Our Reluctant Naif Barty, Avenging Relations by Tempting to Evil Mother's Innocent and Unsuspecting Son.)


So, er, where's the canon?

<Elkins collapses into a fit of coughing>

Oh, dear. Yes. Please do excuse me. Something just caught in my throat there for a moment.

Well, the canonical evidence for Cupid's Quaffle is much the same as the canonical evidence for Cupid's Snitch, really. We have:

(1) Mrs. Lestrange's mysterious namelessness, combined with Florence's mysterious mention.

Charis wrote:

I agree that there must be a reason Mrs Lestrange's first name is omitted. It struck me as odd from the very first time I read the book.

It's because she's Florence, I'm tellin' ya. Florence! Even Tabouli's willing to go with this one. She's just holding off on the whole Flo-Has-A-History-With-Sirius thing. But as to that...

(2) Sirius' strange omission of Mrs. Lestranges first or maiden name when he lists her as a member of Snape's old gang, the extent to which she seems "glossed."

Tabouli wrote:

You mean, rather like the way Snape snarls all the time about James the arrogant Quidditch star and how much Harry resembles him, yet avoids any mention of Lily? Or the way Hagrid gives away that there's a very good reason for Snape to hate Harry and then hastily changes the subject (though everyone else is happy to attribute Snape's feelings to jealousy of James' Quidditch performance, a well-known chick impressor)?? Or the way that Lily, though Harry's mother and therefore bound to be significant in some way (as JKR has admitted), has been almost totally glossed over so far, whereas James has had quite a lot of air time??? :-D

Well...yes, actually. Almost precisely like that.

So does that mean that you really are on board with the whole Sirius-Has-Some-History-With-Mrs.-Lestrange thing then, Tabouli?

(Hey, have I ever once claimed not to believe that Snape had a thing for Lily? No. I have not. You know why? Because I'm almost certain that he did. But that doesn't mean that I'm going clambering aboard that ship, mind. Just 'cause I believe it to be canonical truth, that doesn't mean that I have to like it.)

Charis agreed that it struck her as strange, but wrote:

But it seems to me that it's more JKR trying to hide something than Sirius. He passes by the name too flippantly for me to think it means anything to him. . . . Sirius just ticks off the Lestranges along with the rest of them. They're not even significantly placed: not first, not last, just middle.

Which is equally suspicious, don't you think? If not even more so? Given that what he's just been talking about there is Barty Crouch's trial, that he doesn't even mention the fact that the Lestranges were young Crouch's co-defendents (assuming, for the moment, that they really were), but instead just ticks them off, burying them right in the middle of the list?

He's glossing, I tell ya! Glossing! There's something there he doesn't want to think about! Even Cindy's with me on this one!

(3) Dumbledore's Pensieve.

Charis points out that Dumbledore's "But why, Bertha, why?" line there is current dialogue -- he's not saying it to Bertha in the Pensieve, but to himself/Harry, in the present day. And she is quite right. I had misremembered that scene. Mea culpa.

But surely this provides even more support for Cupid's Quaffle! It means that we no longer need to stress Dumbledore's insight or his near-prophetic abilities or any of the sort of nonsense that so annoys both Cindy and Charis in order to view his regret there as twofold — no, sorry, as threefold!

He is speaking in the present day, having just dragged Harry back from the Lestrange/Crouch sentencing. So it requires no great feat of foresight for his weariness and his regret there to be on behalf not only of Bertha, but also of Florence and, as Tabouli suggests, of young Barty himself as well.

The more regrets the merrier, that's what I always say.

And as additional canonical support for Cupid's Bludger, I will also offer:

(4) Sirius' evident sympathy for young Crouch in "Padfoot Returns," and his obvious horror at the boy's supposed "death." He speaks of the event "dully" and "bitterly," and he doesn't look "remotely amused now."

For a moment, the deadened look in Sirius' eyes became more pronounced than ever, as though shutters had closed behind them.

It's not just that he feels particular sympathy for Barty as a fellow victim of elder Crouch's rather dubious grasp of due process. It's not just that the subject recalls unpleasant memories of Azkaban. No! It's also that he suspects that Barty was taken in by scary Florence...just as he might have been. It's a There But For the Grace of God thing. And a guilt thing as well, for really, would any of that have happened at all, if he hadn't treated Florence in such a cavalier fashion in the first place? Who can say?

Pippin wants to know:

But Florence...honestly, what kind of name is that for a Death Eater?

Aw, come on. It's a perfect name for a Death Eater. You can't really expect every last one of them to have a name like "Nefaria" or "Maledicta" or "Perfidia" or "Morticia," can you?

Besides, that's probably a large part of how she got so very fanatical. She was overcompensating. Being a Death Eater Named Flo is kind of like being a Boy Named Sue, you know. It makes you Tough.

Cindy declared herself:

(tempted to ask Elkins to sort out the Gleam in Dumbledore's Eye, once and for all)

Oh, that? That one's easy.

It was just a trick of the light.

Charis, do please tell us about E.L.G.I.N.S.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. Are they anything to do with my own marbles? Because I think that I've misplaced those somewhere...


Posted February 21, 2002 at 6:03 pm
Plain text version


RE: SHIP: Cupid's Snitch and Cupid's Quaffle


I just noticed a horrible error which is going to have Captain Charis beating me about the head her telescope if I don't fix it, and fast!

So in Cupid's Bludger, Dead Sexy Florence is replaced by late-bloomer Florence....

That's Cupid's Quaffle, folks. Cupid's Quaffle.

C.U.P.I.D.S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R. is an utterly respectable and not in the least bit subversive Snape/Sirius theory steered by the estimable Charis Julia. In CUPIDSBLUDGER, Florence is a very nice girl, who may be Dead Sexy or may be Late Bloomer, but in either case most certainly does not grow up to become Evil Death Eater Mrs. Lestrange.

The Snitch and the Quaffle are the anarchistic ones.

Sorry about that. I've never been in the least bit Sporty, so it's all too easy for me to, uh, get my balls confused.

Jo Serenadust wrote:

I particularly like the part of your new theory...where you have the mysterious Florence Lestrange as an earlier version of our own, dear Hermione (I have missed the trio a bit during all these highly entertaining backstories).

I don't seem to be able to resist imagining Ever So Evil Mrs. Lestrange as a twisted Dark version of Hermione grown up. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's because she's a woman in what would appear to be otherwise a man's milieu? Or perhaps it's just because she's so marvellously brave in that one appearance she gets?

I think you've got Hermione to a T here. Maybe when you're done with the Severus/Sirius motivational theories, you might do some future projections and prove that Hermione is destined to be the new queen of the DEs.

Hermione Granger Is Ever So Evil?

Are you mad, woman? I'd be lynched!


All the same. It is kind of...tempting, isn't it?

Or would that be fanfic?


Bite your tongue! This is speculation. It's completely different. Utterly dissimilar. Nothing Akin At All.

Trust me.



RE: Fic vs. Spec, Lucius, backstories

Gwen wrote:

Now, you do realize that all the bouncing back and forth you, Elkins, Eileen, and Tabouli have been indulging in lately is fanfic, right?

::small smile::

Oh, bite your tongue. It's speculation.

Heh. No, but seriously, I do see a distinction, albeit a very hazy one. Both fanfic and fanspec may be seen as attempts to impose ones own imaginative extrapolations from the original material on others, to colonize not only the canon itself, but also other people's readings of the canon.

The rules of engagement, however, are very different. Fanfic 'defends its thesis,' so to speak, by seducing its readers through compelling characterization, polished prose, a riveting short, through all of the tools of story-telling as a craft. Fanspec, OTOH, uses the tools of literary analysis in its attempts to convert and sway its readers.

Of course, the weapons in fiction's arsenal are just plain better than those at literary analysis' disposal—they are more convincing, more compelling, more seductive; they are altogether more effective. This is one of the major reasons, I suspect, that so many people who avoid fanfic altogether out of the fear that it might "sully" the canon for them are nonetheless perfectly happy not only to read, but even to engage in 'loose canon' speculation. It is also likely the reason that so many people give way to the temptation to enlist some of the weapons of fiction, even when they are writing a supposedly 'speculative' defense.

There's obviously significant overlap. Popular speculations often seem to me to owe their popularity far less to their canonical plausibility as to their fictive appeal. Neville Has A Memory Charm, for example, is certainly canonically defensible—but is that really why people love it so much? I don't know. I rather suspect that people love it mainly because they think that it makes for a rousing good story. We don't love certain speculations because we believe them to be true. Rather, we desperately want them to be true because we love them.

Looking at my own, er, contributions to these undoubtedly infuriating-to-many threads, I see...complication. The basic rock-bottom premise of my Avery fixation, for example—that Avery has been quite consciously and deliberately primed by the author to serve a more major role in future volumes—is dead solid canonical speculation. The basic premise of Fourth Man is far less plausible, but still canon-based. But all of the baggage surrounding the theory? The accrual of variations on the theme (Fourth Man With Imperius, Fourth Man With SHIP, With Remorse, With Guilt, and so forth)? The discussions of which branch of the MoM Avery should work in and why? The actual depictions of NervelessHysteric!Avery?

Getting pretty shady, I do agree.

Even poor NervelessHysteric!Avery, though, is really far more an in-joke than he is a character. He's not a character at all, really: he's a ludicrous caricature of a broken man. Even in a piece of humorous writing, even in a parody, he still wouldn't really make the fictive grade. Avery's really more commentary than character. He stands in as my personification of an entire collection of genres of fannish speculation: Sympathy For the Devil, Redeemable Villain, Guilt 'n' Angst, Reader Adoption of Minor Characters, and so forth.

Cupid's Snitch, OTOH, is a far trickier case, because it is parody, and parody is indeed a type of fiction. What makes it an odd case, though, is that it isn't really parodying the original source material at all—it is not a parody of the Harry Potter books in the least—but rather a specific type of backstory speculation about the source material. It's commentary on the commentary, and outside of the context of the discussions on this list, it is not only utterly unfunny but purely and simply bewildering (as my husband's evident puzzlement when I tried to explain it to him made abundantly clear).

So I'm not sure what to call this sort of thing. It's really neither fanfic nor fanspec, IMO, but (like the silly SHIPping role- play) some other form of play.

The Ludic Activity That Dare Not Speak Its Name?

Perhaps we should just call it "messing about with the props in the fictive wreckage while we wait for Book Five comes out," and leave it at that.

So on to a few brief comments on your Malfoy backstory (which I absolutely adore, by the way).

On the Plot To Kill Grindlewald:

I also time this conveniently just before the fall of Grindlewald in 1945. . . .Riddle and Malfoy were among a small group who tried to assassinate their erstwhile lord. But before they could do the job, Dumbledore and his merry band arrived on the scene and stopped him for them.


1945. Grindlewald. An assassination plot. And...

Hey! Gwen, where's the Time-Turner? You know that there has to be a Time-Turner involved here somehow, don't you? How can there be impassioned ends-means arguments over the wisdom or the justification of going back in time to assassinate Grindlewald without a Time-Turner?

Please tell me that Dumbledore and his crew are using a Time-Turner, Gwen. Please? Please?

On the Imperius Defense:

Oh, yes, in my version, he went to the Ministry within 48 hours to "confess" his involvement (under Imperius, of course). . . .I think that in the wake of the tumultuous and shocking events of 31 October 1981, many of the DE's scattered. I think that might have been part of a plan--in case anything should happen. I have a feeling many of the DE's "covered their tracks" on 1-2 November and set their stories straight before they could accidentally incriminate one another.

Actually, all loose-canon snarkiness aside, that's precisely how I've been imagining all that going down as well. It certainly seems consistent with Hagrid's description of all of these wizards stumbling around confused, as if they'd just come out of trances. I think that if you wanted to make the Imperius defense stick, then you'd really have to turn yourself in to the Ministry and confess — and do so before not too much time had passed. The fact that so many of the DEs got away with it has always rather implied to my mind, as well, that they must have had a contingency plan already laid in place.

On Lucius Malfoy's Job:

Interestingly, the trading cards list him as "underminister," or something like it, according to report, but I don't see him being a civil servant, even if wizard politics is more like American, with campaigning and general elections to top jobs (and of course [corrupt] businessmen going into politics).

It could be a sinecure that came with the family name and estate. If there was once a wizarding aristocracy, or a wizarding equivalent of the House of Lords, then those old families could well have retained perks of that sort even once the system as a whole had been dismantled.

Gwen (who refuses point-blank to participate in the list's ongoing cyber-action role playing game, but you kids have fun.)

Gwen's words slowly echo away. The young mermaid on the smaller rock pushes her scuba mask up onto her forehead and looks around, eyes wide.

"But..." she whispers. "But I don't understand. Where was she speaking from?"

"I don't know." Elkins hugs herself hard, shivering. "That was...really kind of creepy, wasn't it?"



RE: Lupin's Edge/Twins' Edge?

Cindy, who only beats up men, wrote:

You like Edge; I like Tough.

Actually, I'm beginning to think that what I like is really just a certain type of sensitivity. I prefer the neurotic to the well-adjusted, the sly to the straightforward, the passive-aggressive to the confrontational, the helpers to the heroes, and the sadists to the thugs. I like people who when placed under pressure, neither bend nor Crack, but splinter. That's why I can appreciate all those poor SYCOPHANTS so much, while also enjoying the heroically Edgy. And it's why Tough, for the most part, leaves me cold.

Does Voldemort have Edge?

No. Tom Riddle had Edge. Voldemort has gone over the Edge.

Once you have gone all the way over your Edge, then you can really no longer be said to have it.

Does Snape have Edge?

Yeah, Snape lives on the Edge. Snape's holding onto the Edge with his last two fingernails.

I don't think I get Edge. Edge is harder to evaluate than Tough.

It is, isn't it? I went looking through on-line slang dictionaries in search of a workable definition of Edge. I couldn't find one, although I did learn a number of exciting new ways to describe the act of vomiting.

Kimberley wrote:

Yay! I'm normal!


This is surely the only time this phrase has ever been heard on the Internet!

AND I get to enjoy the Shack scene without feeling like a heel. This is great! I love Edge! Ahh, that feels so liberating.

::twisted smile::

I see that you're ready for the intermediate lesson, Grasshopper. Want to learn to read the Graveyard scene in GoF as black comedy? C'mon...You know you want to. Good and evil are only in your mind...

I wrote that the Twins' pranks are usually well-meaning, if sometimes insensitive, but at other times show elements of malice. I cited their constant attacks on Percy's badges as an example of the latter.

Kimberley wrote:

I kinda think that this, like the example you mentioned with Ginny, is not about malice, but about an attempt to "cheer" him up, although in another sense of the word. Percy's wound up tight, and takes everything (including himself) very seriously. . . . I get the impression that the twins' teasing is just an ill-advised attempt at getting him to lighten up. I think Fred and George are trying (in the way that is their specialty) to teach him to laugh at himself.

I certainly agree that this is how they would defend their actions. But I don't think it's accidental that they go after Percy on precisely the same points for which he is always being praised by their mother, or for which they themselves are always being criticized by their mother.

There's genuine hostility there, I'd say. Not, of course, that this precludes love.

It's obvious they love their brother, or they wouldn't bother forcing him to spend Christmas with them, so I don't think the rest of the teasing is malicious.

I agree that they love him. I also think that much of their teasing is malicious.

So basically what I'm saying is that Fred and George are sort of thoughtless, but I think they mean well. Judging from the way they zoom in on Percy's sore points, they do have the insight, so when they grow up enough to realize how they push people's buttons maybe they'll develop the kind of strenght and control that will make them characters with Edge too.

I don't see the Twins ever becoming 'Edgy,' per se. They're too direct and too straightforward, and not sufficiently thoughtful or sensitive. Honestly, I don't think that they way they go after Percy shows a terrific deal of insight. They're not really very subtle at all, are they? Like a pair of human Bludgers, the Twins are.

(Of course, a great deal of what makes Percy such a tempting target in the first place is that it requires absolutely no insight to figure out how to get his goat. ::sigh:: Poor Percy. I always feel for Percy.)


Posted February 22, 2002 at 1:47 pm
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RE: Azkaban and dementors

Judy wrote:

Even without an afterlife, though, I still think some experiences are so awful that one would be better off dead. I think about this whenever the topic of Azkaban comes up. It seems to me that throwing people in Azkaban for life is far crueler than executing them.

I agree. And it would seem that it not uncommonly turns out to be effectively a death sentence, anyway. Sirius claims that a good number of the prisoners lose their will to live and perish: presumably they stop eating and then just waste away. Death by despair. Horrible.

Before the release of GoF, my friends and I found ourselves often wondering whether Rowling really meant for Azkaban and the dementors to be quite as horrifying as we had found them in PoA. In many ways, I was very pleased by all of the "the dementors are our natural allies" plot hints in GoF, as well as by Sirius' tale in Padfoot Returns and the behavior of people in the various Pensieve scenes, because all of these indicated to me that indeed, we had been meant to read them as every bit as dreadful as they are.

Perhaps Dumbledore agrees, and that is one reason why he's so opposed to the dementors?

This seems strongly implied, to be sure.

I also find myself wondering about the practice on purely pragmatic grounds. Not all of the prisoners in Azkaban are there for life. There are lesser sentences: Crouch's recommendation for Ludo Bagman's sentence was cut off by the mutterings of the crowd, but the phrasing indicates that it was to be a finite imprisonment; Hagrid is sent there for a short spell. Yet in PoA, Lupin claims that time spent in the company of the dementors tends to make people, well...inhumane. He claims that they render people soulless and evil.

I can't help but wonder if this really makes them the wisest choice for guards of a prison to which criminals are sometimes incarcerated for finite periods of time. It seems rather self-defeating, don't you think? What does somebody who has managed to survive their ten-year sentence, for example, emerge as (assuming that they had neither Sirius' knowledge of his own innocence nor his animagus abilities to help sustain them)? For that matter, how much of younger Crouch's black and inhumane and certainly soulless-seeming malice might have been a by-product of having been rescued from near-death-by-dementor-despair?

Oh, it just seems like such an obviously bad idea to me. It's like anti-rehabilitation or something.

I was very surprised when Peter was happy that Harry planned to send him to Azkaban, rather than let Sirius and Remus kill him.

I don't think that he was. He was overwhelmingly relieved not to be slaughtered on the spot, but I don't think that he was at all happy about it. I always read more than a touch of veiled hostility in that fawning "it's more than I deserve." Is there any real gratitude there at all? There's certainly genuine self-loathing. But I think that mainly there's an enormous deal of passive-aggression underlying that statement. Mystic bond or no mystic bond, Pettigrew was thinking dark dire thoughts about Harry when he said that, I'd be willing to bet, and I'm sure that they got even darker a moment later, when Harry commented that "if anyone deserves that place, he does."

If it were me, I'd be saying "Please! Kill me now! Anything other than the dementors!"

Well, where there's life, there's hope. Dementors scare me witless, but I still don't think that I'd ever be able to ask for certain death over the prospect of some future agony. The dementors weren't standing right there in front of him. Remus and Sirius were.

And, of course, he did escape. So he called it right.


Posted February 22, 2002 at 3:53 pm
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