Weekly Archive
March 17, 2002 - March 23, 2002

RE: Neville, with or without the Canary Creams

In trying to account for a sudden change of focus in my Neville argument, I explained my shift in interpretive style by explaining that I had felt that David "might feel a bit more comfortable with a far more academic/analytical and far less popular/'fannish' (personalized, interactive, extrapolative, rebellious) approach to the text."

David responded:

I have rather stacked the case against myself recently, haven't I? But I only get uncomfortable when one approach is implied to be superior to another.

Okay. I'm sorry if I was unjustly stereotyping you there, BTW. I was just trying to keep the lines of communication open.

Personally, I don't consider any interpretative style "better" than any other. I tend to view them primarily as tools of analysis: like all tools, they have different uses and are suited for different tasks.

In a forum like this one, though, they also serve double-duty as the tools of interpersonal communication. And when it comes to communication, the most important first step, IMO, is to settle on a language that everybody involved can feel reasonably comfortable with — or at least to make some effort to signal the shift if one plans on switching suddenly from one mode of discourse to a different one.

In my last message, I stated my belief that my own interpretation of Neville's character is most likely not the author's own, adding my opinion that JKR does not really understand, or "get," people like Neville.

I then, however, suggested that by revealing in GoF that Neville is not, in fact, nearly as emotionally transparent a character as he may have appeared in the previous three volumes, Rowling has left him in a somewhat indeterminate state. By signalling to the reader that Neville does indeed have a hidden internal life, but by not yet choosing to reveal what that internal life might actually be, she has effectively made him a "black box."

Finally, I listed a number of places in the text where I felt there existed a strong possibility that the reader's initially-encouraged reading of the character might turn out not be the truthful one. I concluded with:

What does Neville think about? What are his real opinions? His real motivations? We really just don't know. He's a highly opaque character who has been masquerading for three books as an extremely transparent one, and that makes you wonder (or it makes me wonder, at any rate) what else might be going on there.

David wrote:

I'm slightly lost. Doesn't that list of points suggest that JKR does 'get' Neville?

Not necessarily. To me, all that it really suggests is that JKR does indeed wish to introduce the reader to the notion that Neville does have a hidden inner life: that he thinks about things that he does not share with the protagonists, that he is capable of keeping very big secrets, that he is not at all as transparent a personality as he may at first have appeared. In short, I do think that GoF sets out to establish quite firmly in the reader's mind the understanding that with Neville, What You See isn't necessarily really All That's There.

But that doesn't mean that what JKR will eventually establish really to be there is anything like what I imagine to be there. She's just shown us that he has a hidden inner life. What the nature of that inner life might be, however, is as yet undetermined. When it finally is determined, I will in truth be very surprised (although obviously also very pleased) if it should turn out to be anything like what my own personal identification with the character has led me to imagine it to be.

Or is that a third Neville, different from that of Hermione's imagination and your identification?

Well, in some ways I guess that he is a kind of Third Neville! The post-GoF Neville is Indeterminate Neville: because the author has chosen to leave him in a highly indeterminate state at this point in the narrative, until Book Five comes out it remains possible for him to be simultaneously the Neville of Hermione's imagination and the Neville of my own identification, thus allowing me to maintain my favored reading without running into any strong canonical contradictions.

Once the author chooses to open that box, though, then Indeterminate Neville will likely collapse, and I'll just be stuck with JKR's Neville...whoever he should turn out to be.

Or are you just unconvinced by your own argument?

There are in fact two separate arguments here: one of possibility; and one of probability, or plausibility.

I certainly think that the argument of possibility holds firm. The possibility does exist that the author intends to do something that I will personally find highly enjoyable—compelling, convincing, satisfying, what have you—with Neville. The character is in an indeterminate state at this point in the narrative; he could therefore still be taken in a direction that I would enjoy.

But do I think it probable that JKR's intentions towards the character are what I would prefer for them to be? No. Quite frankly, I don't. I consider it highly unlikely.

David, now dreaming about the kitchen table in the Elkins household


The kitchen table?

::sudden look of comprehension::

Oh! You mean that thing in the kitchen? The thing that's covered with all of those stacks of books, and the CDs, and the art supplies, and the polyhedral dice, and the "To Do" lists, and the potted Christmas Cactus that we meant to find another place for sometime last year, and all of those unopened envelopes marked: "Dated Material — Open IMMEDIATELY?"

Yeah, I kind of know what you mean. Sometimes I have dreams about that thing too.

—Elkins, who thinks that she ought to get some sort of special prize for refraining from ever once referring explicitly to that #%&@ feline of Mr. S. in the main body of this message.

Posted March 17, 2002 at 7:31 pm
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RE: Do people like SYCOPHANTS?

Well, I guess you all probably know already how I'm bound to respond to Eileen's questions about the sycophant characters, right?

But I'm going to answer them anyway.

Eileen wrote:

Sycophants make great characters at point. Note Grima Wormtongue and Peter Pettigrew. But do people actually like them? Do you ever feel sympathetic with a sycophant?

Yes. I always identify with weakness—weakness is really the one characteristic that unifies all of those character types included under the SYCOPHANTS banner—and the minions are almost always my favorite characters.

Part of the reason for this, I suppose, is pure sympathy for the underdog. Head Villains very rarely win in the end, it's true, but at least until they finally get what's coming to them, they do get to be powerful. (The story wouldn't be very satisfying if they didn't.) They may be doomed to failure within the wider scope of the narrative, but until the end of the story, they get to kill and bully and torment and otherwise lord it over everyone who crosses their path. And because it's genre convention that proper villains ought to be charismatic, they often get really snappy dialogue, as well.

Their minions, on the other hand, don't even get that much. Not only are they doomed to failure, they're also subject people even while their own side is winning. And not only that, but even the authorial voice often doesn't seem to care for them! If they're not cannon fodder, pure and simple, then they're secondary villains that the reader is supposed to roundly despise: they hardly ever get any cool lines of dialogue, they rarely have a decent dress sense, they're almost never good-looking, and their dignity is stripped from them as a matter of course. Minions just get no respect or sympathy from anyone: they're despised by their enemies and their evil overlords alike. They're losers, through and through.

And of course that garners my sympathy! I mean, what sort of person doesn't instinctively root for the underdog?

When you read the Shrieking Shack scene for the first time, were you feeling it more from Sirius/Lupin's angry POV or Pettigrew's desperately afraid POV?

This is very similar to one of the questions proposed for discussion at the end of the summary of Chapter Nineteen of PoA, back when this list was still doing weekly chapter-by-chapter discussions of the books. The question then, IIRC, was something along the lines of: "Did you feel any sympathy for Pettigrew?"

And I have to admit that I was shocked to read the responses. I kept scrolling through the messages, reading "no," "no," "absolutely not," "are you kidding me?" and the like, over and over and over again, and my jaw was just dropping to the floor. I honestly could not believe what I was seeing.

Well, it might be something strange in me but I was seeing it from the second POV.

I guess I must share your strangeness then, because for me, if there's one person in the scene in fear for his life, then that's the person who always gets the first claim on my sympathy. It doesn't matter who it is or what he's done: the desire not to die is just so compelling, so universal, so utterly fundamental that it garners sympathy and identification as a matter of simple human default — very much as physical pain does. I could no more have withheld identification from Pettigrew in Shrieking Shack than I could have withheld it from Harry in the graveyard at the end of GoF (to take an example in rather striking contrast when it comes to the character's actual behavior in the face of imminent death).

And also, really, identification with Pettigrew in Shrieking Shack is just so very easy, isn't it? I mean, it's a total no-brainer. There's absolutely nothing alien about his situation except for its sordid and excessive details.

Afraid of death? Yup. Been there. (Hell, I live there.) Hopelessly overpowered by those around you? Yeah, I've been there, too. Anyone who didn't spring fully-grown from their father's skull has been there. Know perfectly well that you've done something wrong, and that you have absolutely no real excuse for it? Well, yeah, I've been there as well. Hasn't everyone been there, at least once in their life?

I sympathized very deeply with Sirius and Remus, of course, but I can't say that I was really identifying with either of them in the same way. I wasn't feeling their rage. What I was feeling in regard to them was pity, mixed with a very deep concern. I was fearful for them and worried about them, and I wanted to protect them from themselves — which I suppose placed my reader identification far closer to one with Harry in that scene.

On a related note, Eileen also asked:

BTW, did you feel a twinge of sympathy for Pettigrew when he said the Dark Lord forced him to betray the Potters? I did (at least the first time around) and Lupin's reaction still doesn't feel good for me.

Hmmm. Lupin's reaction? Do you mean his charming "You should have realized if Voldemort didn't kill you, we would?" Or were you thinking more of Sirius' "you should have died rather than betray your friends" statement?

( No, excuse me. What I really meant to say, of course, was Sirius' "YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS" statement. So sorry.)

That line of Sirius' has never made me feel too good either. I mean...

<Elkins squirms uncomfortably>

I mean, of course we all like to believe that we'd die rather than betray our friends, don't we? But...well...I mean...

<more squirming>

I mean, "Who doesn't crack every once and a while?"

Yes! Exactly.


But actually, you know, the situation wasn't really like that at all! So we don't have to worry about it any more. Right?

Now, of course, it looks like Pettigrew's guilty as sin.

Right. Phew! What a relief that is! Weaklings all across the globe were just swooning with gratitude when JKR made that authorial decision, I can tell you.

Cindy, on the other hand, is not Weak, but Tough. She therefore Has No Sympathy:

My goodness! What's going on here? Are you guys starting to—well, there's just no gentle way to say it—go Soft on me? What am I hearing? Sympathy for Pettigrew? Doubt about Crouch Jr.'s guilt? What next – Tom Riddle was just misunderstood?

Er...not to quibble, but haven't we always been "Soft?" I mean, Eileen and I have always been the Bleeding Heart Sycophants around here, haven't we? Neither of us has ever made the slightest claim to Toughness. So I don't really know whether it's even possible for us to "go" Soft. We started out that way.

But as to Tom Riddle, of course he was misunderstood! He was terribly misunderstood. After all, back in his student days, it seems that just about everyone but Dumbledore thought that he was a really nice guy. I'd call that a case of being fairly well misunderstood.

The poor dear.

No, I don't think I can sign on for the Pity Party that seems to be forming here. Pettigrew was Evil. Evil, evil and really evil.

I'm with Eileen here. Yeah, Pettigrew's a rotter. He's seriously bad news. But people don't have to be good to get my pity; they just have to be wretched and miserable and helpless and trapped. And Pettigrew's certainly all of those things. In fact, I pity Pettigrew far more than I would a truly admirable person, because he doesn't even have the solace of knowing himself to be essentially blameless to see him through. He knows that he's guilty, he knows that he's got no one but himself to blame for his situation, and he knows that even though his behavior is sickening, he's still not going to change it.

And yeah, I really do pity people like that.

You know why I'm not cutting Pettigrew or Crouch Jr. a break? Because neither Pettigrew nor Crouch Jr. is sorry.

Crouch Jr. indeed shows no signs of remorse for anything he has done anywhere in GoF, unless one counts his evident fatigue, twitchiness, and possible absent-mindedness the morning after his father's murder. And even if one does choose to interpret these as signs of remorse, he would seem to have quashed those nasty little feelings of qualm quite adequately by the time he reaches his "mad, am I?" monologue at the end of the book.

Pettigrew, though? Oh, I think it's quite clear that Pettigrew feels remorse. What he doesn't do is to allow that sense of remorse to override his sense of self-preservation, and thus to do anything to actually atone for his wrong-doings. Instead, he just falls into self-loathing.

Now, self-loathing isn't at all a useful response to remorse, it is true. It does absolutely nothing to mitigate the original offense, it doesn't make you feel any better — in fact, it does absolutely nothing beneficial for anyone. But it's still certainly evidence of remorse.

Pettigrew never expresses any regret at all in the Shrieking Shack.

That all rather depends on how you interpret his breaking down at the end of the scene, doesn't it? I mean, I suppose that you could read his bursting into tears there as purely manipulative behavior: his one desperate last-ditch attempt to inspire mercy. You could view it as a manifestation of simple terror. Or you could view it as indicative of the guilty despair of remorse.

I read it as a blend of all three, myself.

Back to Eileen:

Now, I can take the pain given to weaker characters, and, being a FEATHERBOA, enjoy it, but my heart still goes out to every miserable fictional character that comes along.

<Elkins smiles in sympathy and offers Eileen a sprig of Dicentra Eximia, the Western Bleeding Heart, which grows bountifully here in the drizzly Green city of Portland, Oregon.>

Is this wide-spread phenomenon? Or are we only a few whose supply of pity is infinite?

We may be few, Eileen, but at least it's not just the two of us anymore. Jamie actually purchased a SYCOPHANTS badge!

She did so off-list, admittedly (that shame factor is just so hard to combat, isn't it?), but she did say that it would be okay if I shared the news with everyone.

And I also just noticed this, from A Goldfeesh:

A Goldfeesh -who wonders at the Sorting Hat putting her in Slytherin, not being too ambitious or cunning and so likely destined to be a lowly sycophant...

<Elkins peers into the Goldfeesh's bowl, offering a badge and a packet of pamphlets>

SYCOPHANTS membership packet, Goldfeesh?


I have this tendency to get along well with sycophants, neurotics and the rest. One of my first fanfics was about how Gollum survived Mt. Doom and Merry and Pippin brought him back to the Shire and reformed him by taking him swimming and on picnics. (I was very young.)

Oh my God. Eileen, that is so cute!

But how about Grima? No redemption scenario for poor old Grima Wormtongue, the patron saint of sycophants?

Grima Wormtongue, the patron saint of sycophants! But he didn't survive, Elkins, he didn't survive. Even Frodo couldn't save him.

Eileen goes off polishing her SYCOPHANT badge sadly.


No. He didn't survive.

But then, you know, if the sycophants were really in the habit of surviving their stories, then I highly doubt that we'd feel such an overwhelming desire to champion them.

—Elkins, polishing up her own SYCOPHANTS badge as she wanders down to the beach to see how the Fourth Man kayak is bearing up under the pressure of its recent population explosion

Posted March 18, 2002 at 8:43 pm
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RE: Overcrowding on the Fourth Man Kayak

On her way to deal with the problems inherent in overloading a four-man kayak, Elkins encounters an aggrieved Porphyria, who asks Imperiously:

And why is my loyalty being impugned?!?!?

Porphyria! Porphyria, forgive me! Forgive us all!

I offer my most abject apologies. I just...well, it's just that you're ordinarily so...oh, you know. That you give the impression of being so, er,

<Elkins looks away, blushing madly>

So canonically pure.

<Now a truly extraordinary shade of scarlet, she begins to babble>

So incorruptible, don't you know, I mean, I really didn't think that you could possibly want anything to do with something this subversive, far less allow yourself to be seen in public with a motley crew like us, but I mean, of course there's room for you, always room for you, more than enough room for you, Porphyria, it's just that I honestly never imagined, I mean I never even dared to hope

All this time I have been happily imagining Avery slaving under Mrs. Lestrange's imperio, forced to polish her boots over and over and over...

Oh, lord yes. Boots. Leather boots. Shiny shiny leather boo...

::deep breath::

Um. Yes. Right. Well. I think that there's, um, something else that I have to take care of right now. Please do excuse me.

<Deeply flustered, Elkins stumbles her way across the beach and back to the Fourth Man kayak, where she notices Avery watching her with a commiserating—if also rather unpleasantly knowing—expression.

"What are you staring at?" she snaps. He quickly looks away.>

Eloise complained:

And besides a kayak's so....well, little...and a bit wet and uncomfortable. Now, if only you could upgrade a little.....

Eileen hastens to explain:

Ah, but Cindy prizes toughness. The kayak, I think, is supposed to build our characters. Unfortunately, us sycophants aren't benefitting from the situation.

No. We really aren't. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm freezing my character right off in this wretched thing. And I don't know that anyone else is entirely happy with the situation, either. I mean, poor Avery's already nearly drowned once, and Jake's been underwater for months trying to waterski, and just think of Dicentra's chiropracty bills! I'm tired of it, and because I'm a sycophant, I don't mind whining piteously about it to anyone who will listen. I am tired of getting splashed all the time, and I'm tired of being wet and cold and exposed to all of the elements, and I'm tired of getting blisters on my hands from these rotten paddles, and I'm tired of having nowhere to mount the few measly little canons that we possess, and I'm particularly tired of having no bar on board.

The 8-person inflatable raft was a nice idea—especially since it came with those icy mimosas—but according to my last roster, we've now actually got nine people trying to fit themselves into this little kayak, and that's not even counting Avery or Dicentra, who I think may be that soft lump that I can feel wedged underneath my left foot somewhere.

So I say that we forget all about the inflatable raft and go straight on up to adopting Jake's suggestion of getting ourselves a sporty new hovercraft. A hovercraft seems perfectly appropriate to me, as it (a) is amphibious, thus representing our optional SHIP status and (b) skims along the top of the water, thus providing a homage of sorts to Mr. Avery's own perpetually cold feet.

And I've got a great idea as to how we can finance it, too. All we really need to do is to sell off Avery's ancestral home...

Oh, come now, Mr. Avery. You know full well that you aren't going to need it for very much longer anyway. And besides, I've already spoken to the local council, they're very excited about the deal, the fellow I spoke to on the phone said something about tearing down that big draughty house of yours and all of those gloomy old yew trees, and instead putting up an entire row of nice new Council flats, with everything all updated and clean and modern...

Marlys, since you're a kindly sort of Fourth Man with Remorse person, do you think that maybe you could pass Mr. Avery a tissue? He seems to have something in his eye. That's super, thanks.


You see, the problems with overcrowding become evident right here:


As Elkins has noted, I'm a Fourth Man with Remorse. Frankly, I don't get the point of Imperius AND Remorse. Don't they cancel each other out? Or is Avery one of those sensitive souls who worries about everything? Lupin without EDGE?


I'm not using this Big paddle to help row the Fourth Man kayak or anything. No, no. I plan on picking a serious fight with the other Fourth Man passengers, and I need this Big paddle to defend myself. You see, Fourth Man with Remorse is just, well . . .forgive me, but . . . it's kinda lame...

and then, later:

Fourth Man with Innocence is crashing against the rocks, too.

Eileen (to Cindy, about Avery):

And don't you dare touch him again. We actually LIKE him!

<Elkins interposes herself between Eileen and Cindy, flinching away from Cindy's Very Big Paddle>

Whoah! WHOAH!

People, people! Let's not quarrel, shall we? Not with the space so tight, and not with everyone holding paddles, all right? I mean, you know that kayaks aren't the most stable of vessels to begin with. You're going to have us all in the water, if you keep this up.

Now. There is plenty of room...well, okay. So there's no room at all right now. But once we get our shiny new hovercraft, there will be plenty of room for everyone, regardless of their favored Fourth Man variations. In the meantime, let's all try to play nice, okay?

So. First off, Fourth Man with Imperius and Remorse.

Eileen objected:

Frankly, I don't get the point of Imperius AND Remorse. Don't they cancel each other out?

Only if you believe that he was under the Imperius Curse from start to finish, and that he really did try to struggle against it. Then remorse would certainly seem an unnecessary (if not, IMO, at all unlikely or unexpected) emotional response.

As I've argued elsewhere, though, I don't believe for a second that anyone became a Death Eater under the control of the Imperius Curse. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are mystically linked in some fashion, as are all of the Death Eaters to each other. Voldemort can use Pettigrew's Dark Mark to affect all of the DEs; he can summon the DEs to apparate to his side without giving them explicit directions to his spatial location; either by simple virtue of his state of being or by an extension of his will, he can cause the mark to become visible. In the graveyard, he reminds the DEs that they swore eternal loyalty to him.

That all sounds to me like a serious magical compact, not the sort of thing that you enter into under the influence of Imperius, or hypnosis, or anything else of that sort. To my mind, canon strongly suggests that anyone bearing that mark chose to enter into a binding relationship with Voldemort with their volition more or less intact at the time.

In my version of Fourth Man With Imperius, though, Avery was put under the curse after he had already signed up, by his friends, to help him out with his little squeamishness problem. This is a relative of Cindy's "In Over His Head Fourth Man" approach: it suggests that while Avery was indeed at that point in his life perfectly willing to engage in the uglier aspects of being a member of a terrorist organization, he just plain didn't have the stomach for it. The spirit was willing, but the viscera was weak. You know, kind of like the opposite of how I prefer to interpret Snape? ;-)

I also tend to perceive Avery as a somewhat, er...

::quick glance at Porphyria::

A somewhat submissive personality. I think that it gave him a secret sick thrill to allow more dominant types to "force" him to do Things No Decent Person Would Ever Do. I don't think that he fought very hard against it at all. I think that he kinda liked it.

This, to my mind, is perfectly in keeping with the character we see in the graveyard. Surely Avery must have known, don't you think, that whoever cracked first was going to get nailed? I mean, as readers, we all certainly knew that, didn't we? And Avery had worked for Voldemort before. He must have known that the Cruciatus was coming. Why else would he have been shaking so violently?

I'm convinced that he wanted to be punished. To my mind, this is consistent with Fourth Man With Remorse. It's also consistent with the personality type of someone who would have submitted himself semi-voluntarily to the Imperius Curse.

And if Avery really had been under the Imperius Curse at some point in his DE career, then that might well have contributed to his ability to wrangle an acquittal or a pardon later on, thus allowing this entire far-fetched theory to stay afloat, no?

On the subject of Fourth Man With Remorse, Cindy wrote:

You see, Fourth Man with Remorse is just, well . . . forgive me, but . . . it's kinda lame. I mean, how can Avery possibly have remorse? He apparated to the graveyard, for heaven's sake.

Well, let's take a look and see what his options were, shall we?

1) Not apparating to the graveyard when the Dark Mark burned, but instead staying home and reading a nice book.

"How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it? And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"

I think it safe to assume that any of the DEs who didn't apparate to the graveyard that night, and who don't manage to provide some very compelling excuse for their absence, are very likely going to wind up as walking targets. They're dead men. And while Avery may be remorseful, he is certainly not courageous. If he were a courageous individual, then he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place, now, would he?

Everyone who thinks that the Death Eaters are in the habit of granting their traitors clean and painless deaths, raise your hands!

No. I don't think so either.

2) Not apparating to the graveyard and instead fleeing into hiding.

The Karkaroff approach. But at least Karkaroff has an Unplottable school that he might try to hide in. Where's Avery going to go? He's mystically linked to both Voldemort and to his fellow DEs. I think that if they really wanted to find him, they'd find him.

3) Turning himself in to the Ministry at once, explaining the situation, and hoping that Azkaban might protect him from Voldemort's wrath.

Even assuming that it did, he'd still be dead of the dementors in a matter of years. If he's truly remorseful, as Fourth Man With Remorse claims, then make that a matter of months. Does Fourth Man With Remorse really want to spend his very last wretched months on this earth reliving the torture of the Longbottoms in vivid color and Sensaround Sound? Oh, I don't think so.

4) Drawing himself a nice hot bath and slitting his wrists.

A very tempting option, I suspect, but it does bring us right back to that pesky little "too cowardly to die" problem.

5) Going to the graveyard and taking his chances.

Yeah. So Avery went for option (5). It doesn't mean that he doesn't feel Remorse. It just means that he's a coward. But surely we were all already agreed on that point, weren't we?

And as I established above, no one in the wizarding world has any idea what proper remorse is. Remorse is not returning to the side of Evil the first time you get a Dark Mark hot flash, throwing yourself to the ground to beg forgiveness for not being Evil enough for the last decade, tolerating a few seconds of Crucio, and then continuing right along in your Evil old ways.

Remorse isn't the same thing as "atonement." One can certainly feel genuine remorse and yet prove too weak or too frightened to act upon it. Taking heroic action to redeem oneself would indeed be the admirable response, but Fourth Man With Remorse isn'tadmirable. He's just remorseful.

Eileen wrote:

Remorse is not incompatible with ending up with Voldemort again. In fact, if you believe us "Remorse" people, that's Avery's defining characteristic. He keeps getting out of it, and then being pulled back in. He probably hates himself, and keeps quavering between continuing his evil ways and turning himself in. And he does seem guilty when he's talking to Voldemort, no?

He sure does! Voldemort starts talking ideological impurity, and Avery just goes all to pieces. If he were genuinely loyal to the DE cause, then why would he have chosen that very moment to Crack? He snaps, you will recall, right after Voldemort suggests that perhaps some of his DEs "now pay allegiance to another." Why would that have got to him so much, if he hadn't at least internally changed his allegiance at some point over the past decade?

It Just Makes Sense, Cindy! Fourth Man With Remorse Just Makes Sense!

And Eileen's right about the Big Bangs too, you know. Fourth Man With Remorse really does offer better opportunities for Big Banginess than No-Frills Fourth Man does. Just think of the weeping! (Or do you only enjoy weeping when you can manage to force Snape to indulge in it?)

But I guess that I'm willing to allow all you No-Frills people to balk at attributing Remorse to the Fourth Man, if you really want to.

(Incidentally, has anyone but me noticed that all of the No-Frills people are also members in good standing of the Order of the Flying Hedgehog? Just as the SYCOPHANTS all favor their Fourth Man with some side-helping of Remorse? It's just disgusting, isn't it? I mean, we're all so grotesquely predictable!)


Although I'm always willing to be persuaded that Fourth Man with Remorse can be spared from walking the plank. Do kayaks even have planks?

Kayaks don't. But do hovercraft?

Um, let's not install a plank, shall we?

<Elkins glances nervously out at the Good Ship LOLLIPOPS>

I've some very bad memories involving planks.

About Fourth Man With Innocence, Cindy wrote:

I beg your pardon? Do you mean that Avery is innocent because he couldn't muster the strength to actually aim his own wand directly at Frank Longbottom? Avery's Crucio curses were pinging off the walls or something, so that makes it OK?

No, no, no! (Although that would be pretty funny, in a sick FEATHERBOASish sort of way.) But according to Fourth Man With Innocence, Avery wasn't even in on the plot to restore Voldemort to power! He wasn't anywhere near the place, he knew nothing about it until after his arrest, he would have been horrified if he had known anything about it, and the only reason that he was apprehended by the Aurors in the first place was an assumption of guilt based on his association with the Lestranges. He was unjustly accused, and since he never received a fair trial, unjustly convicted as well — and so the eventual reversal of his sentence did indeed represent a triumph of legal fairness over prejudicial conviction.

Alas, not one person has yet expressed the slightest inclination to pick up one of the Fourth Man With Innocence paddles we've got lying around here in this kayak, so perhaps Cindy's got a point about it after all. Still, I am loathe to chuck out Fourth Man With Innocence altogether. The possibility still exists that someone—perhaps someone with an even more badly hemorrhaging heart than I myself possess—will someday want to espouse it, and when that person comes along, we'll have a Fourth Man With Innocence paddle all ready and waiting for them.

Not, of course, that we're going to need paddles, once we get ourselves a hovercraft. But I'm tired of badges. And the paddles can double as a means of self-defense...

<Elkins notices Avery's hand creeping towards a Fourth Man With Innocence paddle and slaps it away irritably.>

No, Avery. Some of us here may sympathize with your plight, but I'm afraid that not a one of us really believes a single word of that story of yours. Sorry.

—Elkins, hoping that once we've got a hovercraft, Jake will indeed bring the refreshments, as while she may indeed be a bit of an offender in the OT department, she has yet to develop a taste for Spam.

Posted March 19, 2002 at 12:07 am
Plain text version


RE: Still-Life With Memory Charm

Much Ado About Memory Charms.

Some thoughts about Neville and his proposed Memory Charm: the extent to which the textual suggestions of its existence may or may not seem "obviously" planted there by the author; its overall canonical plausibility; its specific mechanics; and questions as to what its purpose might be, both from the in-world perspective of the Potterverse characters themselves and from the authorial perspective of narrative function.

Also, a bit of Sneaky!Neville, and a little bit of Snape.


On the question of whether or not the possibility that Neville's memory problems might be the result of a memory charm was "obviously" suggested by the text, David wrote:

The question I really want to know the answer to is, what is it about us that makes things that are obvious to one person obscure to another?

I think that this may have a great deal to do with pattern recognition, which is largely a matter of training. Someone with a background in literary analysis is going to have been trained to notice certain types of patterns, someone with a background in linguistics others, and someone with a background in comparative religion still others. All three of these people are humanities types, but they're still not likely to notice the same sorts of things, nor to consider the same things "obvious."

I also think that this is often nothing more than a matter of pure idiosyncracy, or sometimes simply one of chance. Take mystery novels, for example. The mystery novel that you found profoundly unsatisfying because the solution was just far too "obvious" might be one that utterly stymied me — and vice versa. Often I think that this comes down to little more than dumb luck: one person happens to spot the relevant clue that causes him to start thinking along the right lines; the other person just doesn't happen to pick up on that one because his attention was flagging while he was reading that particular passage, or because the clue in question was about a dog and this reader just isn't interested in animals, or because some random "Ah-hah!" neuron didn't fire at just the right time, or whatever.

And of course, one can all too easily find something "obvious," and yet still be completely wrong in the end.

As indeed, people may well be when it comes to the memory charm theory.

On OT-Chatter I theorised that it has, at least in part, to do with the 'two cultures' divide between scientists and humanists.


I'm always suspicious about that "two cultures" divide, partly because while I've always been an artsy-fartsy humanities type myself, I've also always been interested in stereotypical geek pursuits (RPGs, interactive fiction, science fiction, etc.), which are—or used to be, at any rate—mainly the province of the math-science folk. I've therefore spent much of my life hanging out with computer programmers and engineers and physicists, and all that lot, and I have to say that I've never really noticed all that strict a division in terms of how the two types think or perceive or analyze. Whatever differences in thought might exist between these two academic groupings pale in significance, IME, next to the differences encouraged by other quasi-cultural divides, such as theoretical/practical (the physicists vs. the engineers, for example), or conventional/iconoclastic, or Geek/Jock, or pacifist/militarist, or even smoker/non-smoker.

That's been my experience, anyway. Obviously others' mileages may (and likely do) vary.

But as to the Memory Charm Theory itself, I wouldn't say that I consider it "obvious." It did occur to me as a possibility when I read GoF for the first time, and upon second reading, as I observed in a more analytical fashion the specific things that had led me to consider it, I did indeed find myself suspecting that the author might have deliberately designed the text to draw the reader to this conclusion.

But unlike many others here, I'm not absolutely convinced that she did. It doesn't seem so very "obvious" to me that I feel at all comfortable ruling out the possibility that all of the textual suggestions of Neville as the recipient of a memory charm might not have been in fact utterly unintended by the author.

I do think, though, that the arguments for believing them to have been authorial intent are very compelling.

Kelly undertook the task of listing those textual suggestions:

* We are told that, while at Hogwarts, Bertha Jorkins was a gossip with a steel-trap mind.

* We are told that later in her life, while working at the MoM, she became forgetful, a bungler shuffled from department to department.

* We are told Crouch Sr. placed a memory charm on her.
[sidenote: While it is implied, I don't think JKR ever states that the Memory Charm caused the decline of Bertha Jorkins's mental processes. klh]

Maybe JKR doesn't, but in his veritaserum confession of Chapter 35, Younger Crouch does. Or at least, he reports that his father had claimed this to be the case:

"He put a very powerful Memory Charm on her to make her forget what she'd found out. Too powerful. He said it damaged her memory permanently."

* We are told that Neville is forgetful, a bit of a bungler.

Not only that, but the text emphasizes this aspect of Neville's character constantly. In PS/SS, Neville's first introduction to the reader comes when Harry overhears him telling his grandmother that he has lost his toad (again). In CoS, his introduction to the reader (not counting his brief one-line appearance in the dormitories, in which he is merely one of the "other second-years") is:

Neville was a round-faced and accident-prone boy with the worst memory of anyone Harry had ever met.

In PoA, Neville's introduction is:

...he also ran into the real Neville Longbottom, a round-faced, forgetful boy, outside of Flourish and Botts. Harry didn't stop to chat. Neville appeared to have mislaid his booklist and was being told off by his very formidable-looking grandmother.

And in GoF it is:

Several of their friends looked in on them as the afternoon progressed, including Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Neville Longbottom, a round-faced, extremely forgetful boy who had been brought up by his formidable witch of a grandmother.

That Neville is both forgetful and a bit of a bungler (and that he was raised by his grandmother) is not just something that the authorial voice has told us. It is something that the authorial voice has chosen to emphasize quite strongly. In fact, Neville's forgetfulness and his bungling (along with his round face and his unusual upbringing) constitute his primary descriptors.

But Kelly left out what for me were the two really big suggestions of the memory charm possibility in GoF, namely the conjunction of the following factors:

* The behavior of Mr. Roberts, after receiving a memory charm:

Mr. Roberts had a strange dazed look about him, and he waved them off with a vague 'Merry Christmas.'

* The behavior of Neville in the corridor after DADA class:

'Oh yes, I'm fine,' Neville gabbled in the same unnaturally high voice. 'Very interesting dinner — I mean lesson — what's for eating?'

* Arthur Weasley's explanation for Mr. Roberts' befuddled behavior:

'Sometimes, when a person's memory's modified, it makes him a bit disoriented for a while...and that was a big thing they had to make him forget.'

* Chapter 30's provision of a "big thing" that is in fact much bigger than poor Mr. Roberts' "big thing," and which someone might indeed hae wished to make Neville forget, if in fact he had been a witness to it.

The combination of these factors—particularly the parallel between Mr. Roberts' confusion over the date and Neville's aphasia—certainly did inspire me, as a reader, to think about the possibility of a memory-charmed Neville.

But could they be coincidental? Could it not just be that as a writer, JKR has a fairly standard way of depicting characters in a state of confusion or mental distress?

I do think that this could be the case. For one thing, the parallels between Neville's muddled dialogue and Mr. Roberts' are not nearly as neat as they could have been. Had Mr. Roberts engaged in the same sort of word/concept substitution that Neville does, for example, or had Neville babbled confusingly about the time or the date, rather than getting his lessons and dinners muddled, then I would feel far more certain that it was the author's intent for the reader to conflate the two events. As things stand, though, I don't personally feel that it's nearly so clear-cut a case of "obvious" authorial intent as others here have proposed.


What is NOT obvious to me is whether Neville & Bertha together are a clue or a red herring.

No. That isn't obvious to me, either. JKR has always enjoyed the red herring game, and she's used plot device foreshadowing to this end before (all those who wondered if Lupin could be a Polyjuiced Sirius Black when they first read PoA, raise your hands!). By the time that she was writing GoF, she had to have been aware that speculation about future plot developments in her books had become a very popular hobby among her readers. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that it could be misdirection.

I do, however, find it highly suggestive that to date every single one of the novels has drawn the reader's attention to the use and/or abuse of memory charms. We are introduced to the concept in the first book. The second volume gives us Lockhart and his nefarious use of Obliviate; it also shows us a clear example of just how badly such charms can confuse someone's mind, should they go awry. The third book includes explicit discussion of the use of memory charms both in regard to the Aunt-Inflating Incident which starts up the plot and in regard to the decade-old Sirius Black Incident. And of course, GoF is just packed to bursting with information about memory charms: their uses, their side-effects, their drawbacks, their abuses.

I think Neville's got one, myself. But even if he turns out not to, I'm still betting that memory charms are going to become relevant to the main plot of the series in some way or another before we're done, just as the Polyjuice Potion returned to play a starring role in Gof, after putting in its (implied) appearance as a red herring in PoA.


So why would Neville have been given a memory charm, anyway?

Elirtai mused:

The reasons why he got the charm aren't that clear to me - the most obvious reason would be to help him get over the trauma of the DE attack on his parents. . . . . If you want to spare a small child some of the suffering, but don't really want him to forget, wouldn't you use a less definitive method? Such as we do in 'real' life without magic?

Well, some might. But then, as we don't have the option of using memory charms to try to erase traumatic memories, it's a bit difficult to say for sure whether we would try to use them for that purpose or not. Remember what Hagrid says in PS/SS, when he's explaining to Harry the reasons for wizards preferring to keep their existence hidden from the Muggle world?

Easy answers to difficult situations are always tempting, even when they yield unfortunate results. Didn't the end of GoF emphasize that notion?

And wizards do seem to be, on the whole, a terribly delicate breed, don't you think? They go mad in Azkaban. They allow themselves to get corrupted by evil at the drop of a hat. They're proud and fierce and emotionally volatile and neurotic; they hold onto grudges for damn near forever. And while it's unclear precisely what's wrong with the Longbottoms—are they actually catatonic, or utterly delusional, or merely possessed of some very strange form of selective amnesia?—whatever afflicts them is hardly what we would consider a normal adult response to even the most extended and brutal forms of mistreatment. If you ask me, wizards just aren't very emotionally stable. Harry's oft-touted resilience would seem to be yet more way in which he truly is extraordinary within the wizarding world.

But for people with such a disturbing propensity to mental illness, they don't seem to have done very much to advance the cause of mental health, have they? You would think that they'd have put some work into that, these past few centuries. The Longbottoms are still "completely insane" after how many years of hospitalization? And what about Lockhart? We haven't seen anything of him since his unfortunate accident.

Given all of that, it wouldn't really surprise me all that much if the immediate wizarding response to a distressed toddler who might have been witness to his parents' torture had been: "Oh, no! He'll be raving mad for sure! And then we'll never be able to fix him! He might even decide to Turn To The Dark Side! So quick — give that kid a memory charm, before it's too late!"

Anna wrote:

It seems kind of silly to me to modify the memory of an infant, but if Harry has the occasional nightmare about his parents, Neville could too.

At the risk of starting up the whole timeline debate again, I would point out that Neville could have been well out of infancy by the time of the incident. We don't know for sure precisely when it occurred, only that the order of events goes something like this:

(a) fall of Voldemort

(b) arrest of many DEs, some acquitted, some not (by the time of Karkaroff's testimony, there is talk of rounding up "the last of" the DEs)

(c) Karkaroff's testimony

(d) Rookwood's arrest

(e) Bagman's trial

(f) Longbottom Incident

Now, I personally think that all of that would have taken more than a couple of months. But others (Cindy, for example) have disagreed with me, and the God-like Lexicon itself proposes a late 1981 date for Crouch Jr's trial. So clearly, I'm in the minority here.

Even so, though, if we assume a fairly early date for the incident, Neville still could have been two years old. If we assume a later date, he could have been as old as three. Either way leaves him plenty old enough to have been aware of what was happening, and to remember it quite clearly, should nothing intervene to prevent him from doing so.

But what if the memory charm weren't placed on Neville purely for his psychological benefit? Anna suggested that it might have been some kind of wizarding witness protection scheme:

In Neville's case, it might be a form of protection - if he doesn't know anything, he's less likely to be tracked by the remaining Death Eaters.

This is a particularly interesting suggestion, to my mind, because it raises once more the issue of the Ministry's unspoken (but increasingly apparent) acknowledgement that many of those who walked free in the early '80s are indeed unrepentent Death Eaters.

It also leads into the suggestion that a memory charm might have been put on Neville not to protect him at all, but rather to prevent him from revealing something that somebody desperately wanted to keep under wraps.

Elirtai wrote:

Any other ideas? Did something else happen, which he absolutely had to forget? Did some DE put the charm on him so he wouldn't remember something? They wouldn't have felt compelled to be overly careful about it. If he ever gets his memory back - will we learn something important?

In response to which, Finwitch suggested:

Something... Like that Bartolomeus Crouch Junior did NOT take part in torturing his parents, but that Lucius Malfoy did! (or other liberated DEs Harry named...


So tell me something here. Am I the only person so deeply and profoundly mistrustful of the Ministry that my immediate thought upon reading Finwitch's above suggestion was that if a memory charm had indeed been placed on Neville to suppress this particular piece of knowledge, then the culprit probably wasn't a Death Eater at all?

Just wondering.


What does it take to break through a memory charm?

Finwitch wrote:

We have been told that a memory charm can be reversed by a powerful wizard.


Well. Um. Voldemort claimed breaking Bertha Jorkins' memory charm as proof of his status as a "powerful wizard," true. But then, Voldemort is also a megalomaniacal sadist. Me, I kinda got the impression that anyone with a pair of blunt-nosed pliers and a sufficiently vicious imagination could probably have achieved the exact same effect. I mean, didn't they just torture the poor woman until the charm snapped? Maybe I'm just unusually morbid, but that was certainly my interpretation of how all played out.

Even if we assume that powerful magic other than that used to cause pain was involved, though, I still received the distinct impression that pain was key. And I really don't think that we want to wish such a fate on poor Neville, do we? Admittedly JKR does like to play her little games with that "History Repeats Itself Through The Generations" thing she's got running, but I think that even she would draw the line at that!

This does raise the question, though, of whether or not simple anxiety would suffice. For that matter, what role might personal will play in the erosion of a memory charm? What role might constant reminders of the suppressed memory play?

If we assume that Neville does indeed have a memory charm, then what do we make of his behavior in the corridor after Crouch/Moody's DADA class in GoF?

Could his evident distress there be a sign of memory charm erosion, brought on by the in-class demonstration of the Cruciatus? Is a memory charm a kind of perpetual spell, which lurks in a dormant state in the recipient's mind, only to kick into action to exert some form of magical suppression whenever the recipient makes some attempt to think about the forbidden topic? Is the reason that Neville appears so confused (and in much the same way as Mr. Roberts) in that scene because he had in fact just been trying to access his suppressed memory, and was thus even more directly under the charm's detrimental influence than he usually is? And if so, then does this also account for his general tendency to perform poorly when under stress?

This is certainly food for thought. It also leads us to the question of just what that proposed memory charm might be doing to the poor kid, anyway.

On this subject, Elirtai wrote:

Some other thoughts: Neville's innate magic ability took quite long to surface, and it only appeared under danger of death. Could a bungled memory charm have affected his ability to react with spontaneous magic to adverse situations?

Erm. I guess this all depends on precisely what effects you're imagining the memory charm to have on Neville's ability to react with spontaneous magic to adverse situations. I have to say that, his late-blooming aside, I don't see much evidence at all that Neville has any problem manifesting spontaneous magic when under adverse situations. In fact, I see his problem as lying in just the opposite direction. It seems to me that throughout the books, Neville has been shown to respond to stress with unusually strong—if also wild, unharnessed, and uncontrolled—manifestations of magical power, and that it is really this tendency, rather than any true magical weakness, that accounts for most of his difficulties.

Just look at what happened during his first flying lesson in PS/SS. The poor kid is terrified of flying, and so what happens? Does his broom refuse to take off at all? No. At first he can't get it to come to his hand, true, but when he finally does, then he loses control of it completely: it sends him soaring straight up into the air, seemingly utterly on its own accord, until he finally falls off. Harry's interpretation of the event at the time is that Neville must have been so nervous that he "kicked off" too early, but I don't believe for a moment that that's what really happened — unless one is willing to accept a rather broad definition of "kicking off." I tend to read that scene as just another example of Neville's magic getting away from him again.

(Very much like Trevor the toad, in fact. I often view Trevor as a kind of symbolic representative of Neville's magical talent itself, perhaps even as something akin to a familiar. Trevor is similarly always "getting away" from Neville, wandering outside of the reach of his conscious influence, leaving the sphere of his personal control. In fact, our very first glimpse of Neville is one of him complaining of this very problem — and to his grandmother, no less.)

Neville sometimes gives the impression of being simply incapable of performing magically. Far more often, though, his blunders in canon are portrayed as powerful but unfocussed, rather than as weak and ineffective. In GoF, for example, his difficulties with the banishing charm are described as: "Neville's aim was so poor that he kept accidentally sending much heavier things flying across the room — Professor Flitwick, for instance." In Transfiguration lessons, he sometimes simply fails to perform, but he also does things like "accidentally" transplanting his own ears onto a cactus. And his Potions blunders tend towards the spectacular as well: is melting right through the bottom of a metal cauldron really an expected result of failing to follow a potions recipe properly?

But how about that Potions Class, eh?

Kitty suggested that Snape might be deliberately trying to break through Neville's memory charm by antagonizing and frightening him in Potions Class.

Porphyria wrote:

Uncle Algie literally endangers the child's life (multiple times) in order to smoke out his magical ability, which is one among several indications that adrenaline directly affects wizarding skills. And when Voldemort needed to break Bertha Jorkin's Memory Charm, he did it by repeatedly torturing her. So I've wondered many times whether Snape imagines that if he can either terrify or infuriate Neville enough that it'll break the charm.

Oh? And here I was, thinking that Snape's habit of terrifying and infuriating Neville in Potions Class was part and parcel of his very cunning strategy for entrapping Harry and Hermione! ;-D

But seriously, as I've been reading it, Neville's adrenaline surges in Potions Class most certainly do cause him to exhibit strong surges of magical power. Surely that's why he melts so many of those cauldron bottoms! I've always read that particular manifestation of Neville's potions ineptitude as indicative of an uncontrolled and wild release of magical force. He's also incompetent in the more standard ways, of course—he gets his measurements wrong, and so forth—but I've always assumed that the cauldron-melting incidents are meant to represent surges of strong unfocussed magic, rather than an inability to follow instructions properly, or to remember ingredients, or anything of that sort.

But I don't tend to view this as evidence of a weakening memory charm. If anything, I think that it's evidence of an activated memory charm. I don't really think that what the memory charm is doing to Neville is blocking his magical power at all. I think that it is interfering with his ability to focus and to concentrate, and that it is this inability, rather than any real inability to access his magical power, that usually accounts for his blunderings.

For one thing, Neville is capable of normal magical competence when he's not under stress. In fact, he performs at his best when he is not frightened. His marks are always highest in herbology, a class in which he seems to feel relaxed and comfortable, and which is taught by the gentle Professor Sprout. And Lupin coaxes good performance out of him during that boggart demonstration by reassuring him, rather than by intimidating him.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Snape couldn't be trying to blast away Neville's memory charm. It seems perfectly likely to me that the way to break through a charm of that sort might be to "overload" it — which would explain why stress could both cause it to activate and (if enough stress were applied) to break it altogether.

What it does mean to my mind, though, is the the speculation, often proposed by memory charm fans, that the result of Neville being released from the charm will be a sudden surge in magical power doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Because as I see it, a lack of power isn't the kid's problem at all.

Even if he does want very badly for everyone to believe that it is.

No. I'm not joking. I really do think that Neville can be very sneaky when it comes to this subject. He certainly does try to encourage people to view him as magically-weak, doesn't he? He tells that story of his late magical blooming to everyone at the table during his very first dinner at Hogwarts, he expresses his concern that Salazar Slytherin's monster might be coming after him next, because of his "near-Squib" status...

Except that he doesn't. Not really. If you look at what he actually says there in CoS, I think that it's quite suggestive. Neville never once says that he is "almost a Squib." What he actually says is: "everyone knows I'm almost a Squib" — which isn't at all the same thing.

Certainly the student body as a whole seems to have accepted as Common Wisdom the notion that Neville lacks magical talent. But really, who was it who gave them that idea in the first place?

Yeah. Well, I'm not falling for it.

And neither is Snape.

Chapter Eleven, _CoS_:

'A bad idea, Professor Lockhart,' said Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent bat. 'Longbottom causes devestation with the simplest spells. We'll be sending what's left of Finch-Fletchley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox.'

As is usual with Snape, the snide tone somewhat masks the real message (as well as the genuine concern for the safety of the students under his care). Snape's concern here is not that Neville is magically weak at all. It is that Neville is magically strong, but that he lacks control, is particularly prone to losing control when under stress, and is therefore more than likely to really hurt his opponent if forced to duel while under the pressure of being put on the spot in front of a large group of spectators.

And Snape was quite right to be concerned, IMO. When Neville is frightened, he far more often displays a kind of wild magical over-exuberance than he does any form of real magical block.

To tell you the truth, I don't think that that memory charm has anything to do with any magical block. If Neville's got a magical block at all, which I rather doubt, then IMO it's competely psychological.

It does make you wonder, though: what is it about Snape in particular that frightens Neville so badly? I mean, here we have Neville Longbottom, the only son of what seems to be a very old and proud and pure-blooded family. There's an ugly tragedy in his past: his parents were victimized by Dark Wizards during the last great wizarding war, in which his father was an active agent. His father was an Auror. His grandmother feels that he should be doing more to uphold the family name. He has some problems with controlling his magic — it tends to "get away from him," particularly when he's under a lot of stress, often with excessive results. He has some problems with attention and focus, and he has a terrible memory — possibly due to a memory charm. He doesn't seem terribly combatative overall: in fact, he seems to possess an instinctive aversion to most forms of conflict. When he is talked into engaging in conflict by his friends, whose good opinion is important to him, he plays to lose: he doesn't try to engage weedy little Draco Malfoy in fisticuffs, but instead attacks both Goyle and Crabbe at once; when he confronts his friends in the Gryffindor common room, he all but dares them to attack him — and he makes sure not to fail to remind them while he does so that he is merely acting on their previous instructions. He very rarely expresses anger. He seems to have little in the way of Proper Wizarding Pride.

He isn't really anything like a Squib—but he encourages everyone to believe that he is.

He isn't really anything like a coward either—but he encourages everyone to think that he is.

As a child, he refused to demonstrate any form of magical ability to his family until doing so was absolutely necessary to save his life.

And boy, that Sorting Hat sure took a long time with him, didn't it?

So just what is it about Professor Snape — ex-DE Snape, Snape who is proud and vengeful and combatative, and who is obsessed with duty and honor, Snape who looks like the very archetype of a Powerful Sorceror, Snape who is the Head of House Slytherin, Snape who appears in boggart form looking as if he may well be reaching for his wand (even though he teaches a wandless subject), Snape in whose class Neville keeps melting down his cauldrons, Snape who is onto Neville and obviously doesn't believe this "I'm just nearly a Squib" act for a second—

What does this man represent to Neville Longbottom? Just what is it about Snape that scares Neville so very much?

::innocent look::

Oh, I've no idea.

Maybe the image of Snape in Gran's clothing symbolizes more that we first suspected...

Oooooooh, yes. I'm firmly of the belief that it does.


But all of this speculation does lead us to what to my mind is the most interesting question about the memory charm theory: if JKR has indeed been setting up a Neville-With-Memory-Charm plotline, then what is its purpose? What narrative function is it likely to perform for the series as a whole?


If he ever gets his memory back - will we learn something important?

Well, from an authorial point of view, there would seem to me to be little point in setting up such a plotline in the first place if one did not plan on eventually restoring the suppressed memory. Furthermore, it would seem to me to be a terrible waste of a plot engine if such a recovered memory did not then reveal something of vital importance to the plot.

So what could that thing be?

The revelation that one or more of the Pensieve defendents had in fact been innocent—along with a corresponding revelation about the identity of the real culprit(s)—is one possibility. (Fourth Man With Innocence, anyone? *g*) Information about corruption within the Ministry also seems possible.

But neither of these really satisfy me somehow. So does anyone else have some other possibility they would like to suggest?

More to the point, though, what do people imagine the thematic function of a Memory Charmed Neville plotline to be? I have my own reasons for considering it a fascinating possibility, but although I've already hinted quite strongly at them, I'm now finding myself feeling reluctant to go into any greater detail along those lines, as I do recognize that my own favored reading of Neville is not only highly idiosyncratic, and not only unusual, and not only subversive, but also actively hostile to what I believe to be the author's true intent.

I therefore would like to open up this field of inquiry to others who do not share my hostility to the authorial perspective when it comes to Neville and his thematic relevance to the story as a whole. Tell me, memory charm fans: what do you see as the narrative function of this plotline? What do you imagine its thematic purpose to be? What do you perceive as the thematic relevance of issues of memory, remembrance, and the past to the story as a whole?



RE: Real Wizards Don't Apologize

Cindy wrote:

Wizards just don't get the concept of apologies, do they?

No. They don't.

'Way back when Real Wizards Weren't Squeamish, I suggested that the Potterverse's wizarding culture was at heart a warrior culture, and I still stand by that. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.) Warrior cultures tend not to put much stock in apologies. I mean, how many times do you run across characters apologizing to each other in Norse Eddas? Or, for that matter, in any sort of warrior saga? Just think of how differently the Iliad would have played out, if any of the principles had been able to apologize, or for that matter to accept an apology gracefully once one was offered!

Cultures that develop with a strong warrior ethos don't really do that whole apology thing. Aristocratic Romans who came the conclusion that they'd seriously done wrong weren't supposed to go around apologizing to everyone. What they were supposed to do was to commit suicide like...well, you know. Like Good Romans.

Now admittedly, we haven't run across a whole lot of noble suicides in the HP books. But I have to say that if we did, it wouldn't strike me as at all out of character for the wizarding culture as it's been presented so far.

Now Hermione, she knows how to apologize.

Yes, she does. Like any self-respecting adolescent, she can be stubborn about it, but she does at least seem to have some familiarity with the entire concept.

But then, Hermione was raised by muggles, right? I mean, properly raised by muggles, not just locked into the cupboard beneath the stairs, like Harry was. So it's not really surprising if she's a little weak on that whole Real Wizards Don't Apologize concept. But don't worry: Hermione's a very quick learner. She'll pick up on how to be a properly pride-driven and bloody-minded idiot like all of the rest of them in no time at all, I'm sure. ::sigh::

Seriously, though, David made mention of the apparent inability of these characters to apologize as evidence that they are personally "damaged." I'd agree with that, but I'd also take it one step further: I think that their entire culture is fairly well damaged, and that their discomfort with the notion of apologies is really one of the very mildest manifestations of said damage within the series.

Cindy later qualified her rant, by adding:

That said, I have to kick myself, because I overlooked perhaps the biggest, most important apology in the books. In my favorite scene in my favorite book, no less:

"Forgive me, Remus," said Black.

"Not at all, Padfoot, old friend," said Lupin, who was now rolling up his sleeves. "And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were the spy?"

Ah, yes. That certainly was a sincere and heart-felt plea for forgiveness, wasn't it? No attempts to excuse himself, no attempts to explain himself, no attempts to justify himself — not even a "Peter turned me against you!" accusation stuck in there somewhere as a partial defense. Just a pure and simple request for forgiveness.

That's hard. That's about as sucking-it-up as apologies get, really. And coming from someone like Sirius Black, it really means a lot, don't you think? Even after all those years in Azkaban, the man still has a good deal of that Proper Wizarding Pride. He's not really at all the "forgive me" type.

But just look at how Lupin reacts to it, will you? Look at his tone. It's breezy. Light. Casual. Childhood nicknames, "not at all, old friend." I mean, it's flippant, really. It very nearly borders on the facetious.

That's how Lupin always signals discomfort or distress. It's similar to that breezy tone he takes when he talks to Harry about the dementors, and about Sirius Black, and about the Dementor's Kiss. It's similar to the tone he takes nearly every time he is forced to deal with Snape as a colleague. For that matter, it's a relation to the tone that he's been taking with Peter throughout the Shrieking Shack scene.

Sirius' apology may strike us as admirable or touching, but its effect on Lupin seems to me to be one of extreme discomfort. It embarrasses him.

Cindy wrote:

A lot of people have expressed dissatisfaction with this scene, and perhaps one reason is that neither character has any good reason to be apologizing. I don't know.

I don't really think that's it at all. For one thing, I think it is perfectly reasonable to apologize to a close friend for having wrongly suspected him of treachery and murder. That represents such a profound failure of trust that to my mind, it certainly warrants some form of apology. And it particularly warrants an apology from Sirius, because while Lupin would seem only to have come to believe Sirius to be a murderous traitor after his arrest, Sirius suspected Lupin on the basis of no solid evidence at all. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that Lupin's lycanthropy had something to do with that, and even if it hadn't, I'm sure that Lupin thinks that it had. I'm equally sure that Sirius is aware that Lupin would assume that it had. And really, that's pretty ugly. Given all of that, it seems perfectly proper to me for Sirius to ask for forgiveness.

No, I think that the reason that so many readers express feelings of dissatisfaction with that part of the scene is that the tenor of Lupin's response strikes an off-note. The tone is just all wrong. It sounds insincere, unconvincing. It sounds a bit like a brush-off. And that leaves them feeling a certain degree of anxiety that perhaps things aren't really settled between the two men, that perhaps there are still some hard feelings there that aren't being resolved.

Eloise wrote:

The point about sincere apology is that it isn't just some magic social formula, it's the recognition that something has gone wrong between two (or more) people that needs to be put right if the relationship is to carry on or be healed. It's an acknowledgement of how the situation is and that something needs to be done about it.

Yes. And I think that this is really the underlying cause of that reader anxiety with the "apology." Remus' response leaves many people with an uneasy feeling that he's in some way resisting the offer to heal the breach.

I don't think that he is, myself. I think that he's just profoundly uncomfortable. As Eloise said, it's often much harder to respond to a sincere apology than it is to offer one, and what Sirius is asking forgiveness for there really is big. "You thought that I'd sold myself to Dark Forces and was planning on betraying you and James and Lily and their infant son to death? You just happened to figure that the one werewolf in the group was also probably the traitor? Oh, well, really now, Sirius, please don't trouble yourself about that any longer, all right? I mean, it could have happened to anyone."

No. Even if Lupin isn't holding onto any hard feelings at all, it's still got to be difficult for him to think of a way to respond, and so he tries to gloss over his discomfort by offering up a light and breezy apology right back. I also don't think that he's at all comfortable with Sirius breaking the Real Wizards Don't Apologize rule — it's not really manly, you know, to ask quite so earnestly for another's forgiveness; it's not...well, it's just not done.

He's uncomfortable, and he's embarrassed, and so he descends into flippancy.

That's how I read it, anyway. I thought it rather sad, myself.

Eloise wrote:

'Real Wizards don't Apologise'. Real Wizards suffer from a great deal too much pride, if you ask me. And they're not helped by being male. . . . But there are ways and ways of showing regret, of moving on. Isn't that what Harry and Ron did in that 'apology that wasn't an apology' scene that restored their friendship? . . . .They both knew the other was sorry for their part in the rift between them and in the end, because they both recognised the situation, it didn't have to be said.

The big reconciliation moment of Shrieking Shack isn't that rather awkward apology at all, IMO.

It's the embrace.

—Elkins, whose own dicentra spectabilis has just started to shoot up, although now that it is hailing, she rather imagines that it's wishing it had waited a bit longer; and who is very happy with the idea of nice peaty smoky Islay single malts on board the Fourth Man hovercraft, but who thinks it best if Eloise herself sees to its acquisition, as nice peaty single malts are very hard to come by here in Oregon, where we instead produce sweet pale Reislings and effete cordials (twee but tasty!) made from various and sundry regional types of berry-fruit...

Posted March 20, 2002 at 7:24 pm
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RE: Dark Marks and DEs

Eloise, Porphyria, and Amanda were having a really fascinating conversation last week about Dark Marks, DEs, scars, and a whole lot of great Snapestuff. I was particularly sorry to miss out on it because I would very much have liked to direct people to an old message of Porphyria's, #35386, on the subject of scars: Harry's, Snape's, and how the two might relate to one another thematically as well as plot-wise. A lot of that material did get revised in the course of the discussion, but I still wanted to weigh in to recommend that people go back and read the second half of message #35386 (the subject heading is "Serpensortia — Scars"), because I thought that it was terrific, and it did sort of get lost in the shuffle back when it was originally posted.


At one point in the course of the discussion, Eloise wrote:

This 'How visible is the Dark Mark?' thing is a bit puzzling.

I'm sorry to jump into this conversation so late—I've been very busy this week, and am now desperately playing catch-up—but as I see that this has been revised lately, I'm figured it's okay. A lot of ground has already been covered here, but it seems to me that there's still some discomfort over the fact of the visibility of the Dark Marks during GoF. As I see it, the dilemma as it stands goes something like this:

The marks have been invisible since Voldemort's fall. They have been gradually reappearing, growing more and more clearly visible, as Voldemort himself approaches full reincorporation. When he finally gets around to actually summoning his DEs, which he does somehow by using Wormtail's mark, they not only burn, but also show up very clearly indeed—Snape not only shows Fudge his mark, but also tells him that it was even more clear earlier that evening, when it "burned." Right?

So the temptation, certainly, is to view the marks' appearance as intrinsically and visibly tied to Voldemort's state of being, and thus to assume that before his fall, they were always visible. This, however, raises questions about DE secrecy: wouldn't it be awfully easy for Aurors to identify Death Eaters, if they all bore visible brands of their allegiance? Wouldn't the Ministry know about them by now, given that Dumbledore had all those spies in Voldemort's camp, and given that people like Karkaroff spilled their guts to get themselves released from prison? Wouldn't it have become common knowledge by now that the Death Eaters had been marked in such a fashion? Wouldn't Sirius have known what to make of it, when Harry told him about Karkaroff showing Snape something "on his left arm," rather than being simply bewildered?

So perhaps they weren't always visible after all. Perhaps their means of serving as a form of "identification" among Death Eaters was some more subtle form of magical sympathy: they burn, perhaps, or tingle when you are in the presence of a fellow DE, or perhaps somehow you just know. Or possibly there is a magical trigger which can be activated by the mark's bearer to make it visible, thus enabling it to serve as a means of identification to other DEs, but only when its bearer wants to use it for that purpose.

But of course, that leads right back into the question of why the marks should all have started to reappear during the year in which GoF takes place, and why Karkaroff's frantic attempts to talk to Snape about the Mark should focus so heavily on its visual appearance (Karkaroff does not, for example, say anything about suddenly being able to feel the thing again; instead, he tries to show it to Snape and speaks exclusively about how it appears visually).

Is this an accurate representation of the dilemma as it stands? I've been trying to keep up, but I could have missed something, so apologies in advance if I've left out anyone's ideas.

Okay. Now my own theory about the visibility of the Dark Marks over the course of GoF is that the reason that they begin reappearing in visible form is because Voldemort himself has been willing them to do so.

I don't think that they're always visible. As others have pointed out, this would have been an idiotic way to mark the members of ones organization, especially as we know that some of them (Rookwood, for example) were working deeply undercover. I also don't believe for a moment that it wouldn't have become common knowledge that DEs were marked in this way at some point after Voldemort's fall, if not before.

But I do think that Voldemort can make them appear in visible form, if he so chooses, much as he can use them to summon the DEs to his side. The marks themselves, like the people bearing them, are intrinsically bound to him. The status of the marks is subject to his will. I also suspect that they have always manifested visibly when they "burn" — in other words, when they are used to summon one or more of their bearers to apparate instantly to Voldemort's side. This is never explicitly stated, but it seems suggested to me both by Snape's comment about his own mark showing up less clearly now than it did when it burned and by Karkaroff's utter panic at the thing's growing visibility.

My feeling about this is that in GoF, Voldemort is willing the Dark Marks to reappear in visible form because he wants the DEs to know that he's coming. With the exception of a very few loyalists, they all betrayed and abandoned him; while he was languishing in his strange neither-dead-nor-alive nether-state for thirteen years, weak and helpless, they all just went back to their nice cushy lives. Most of them were probably secretly relieved to be free of him in the first place, very few of them are going to be truly happy to see him back, and he knows it. And that infuriates him. He is going to forgive most of them for it—because really, what other choice does he have? He needs followers, and disloyal though the DEs may be, they're still the only one's he's got—but he wants to make them suffer agonies of trepidation first.

I think that the instant that Voldemort had gobbled down enough of that snake venom and unicorn blood and whatever other nasty concoctions he was using to build up his strength throughout most of GoF, he started focusing his will on making the Dark Marks reappear. He wanted his DEs to know that he was on the mend. He wanted them to know that he was coming back. And he wanted them to have a good long time to think about just what that might mean for them. He wanted them to be really sweating it.

And it works — although I suspect not quite as well as Voldemort had hoped. He still has to twist the knife around a bit in the graveyard before he manages to get someone to react with the kind of abject grovelling terror that I suspect he'd been hoping to inspire. But when he finally does get there, he's just tickled. I mean, look at his reaction to Avery's crisis of nerves in the graveyard. He's absolutely delighted!

So that's my suggestion as to why the Dark Marks are reappearing in visible form throughout GoF. It also explains why they start to fade away after the graveyard convocation. Voldemort stops paying attention to them after graveyard. The DEs all know for sure that he's back now, so he can stop concentrating on that. I suspect that by the end of the school term, they'd vanished from normal sight completely.

Eloise wrote:

But I find it curious that Voldy examines Wormtail's arm for his ('It has come back') in the graveyard, when Snape's and Karkaroff's have been visible for some time.

My interpretation here is that by "It has come back" Voldemort meant: "It has now come back completely." In other words, now that he is fully reincorporated, his will has become strong enough to bring the dark mark back to full visibility, which means that it will also be strong enough to summon the DEs to his side. I don't think that he could have summoned them in his slimy baby form even if he had wanted to. In that body, he was just far too weak.


As to the question of how the dark marks normally served as a means of identification among DEs, though, I find the notion that it wasn't necessarily visual at all, but instead tactile or some form of more mystical recognition believable. I also find it perfectly likely that it was visual, but normally under the conscious control of those bearing the mark, thus allowing one to "show" the mark to others when this seemed called for, while ordinarily keeping it safely hidden. This of course would do little to ameliorate the friendly fire problem that Eloise suggested, but it would at least help in preventing infiltration. Tingling would indeed work better, but I don't know that I believe that Voldemort and the DEs were necessarily all that canny.

Porphyria wrote:

If the Mark didn't tingle then there'd be a lot of potential for a Good Guy to club a DE over the head and change into his clothes, just as you've seen in every action/adventure movie that ever was.

If this ever really does happen in canon, then I will be extremely annoyed, and I will probably come right over here immediately, just to tell everyone, in excruciating detail, all about just how extremely annoyed I am.

Just so you're warned.

Boy, I hope JKR is thinking this through as well as we are. ;-)

I hope that she isn't. Without the inconsistencies, what on earth would we have to talk about?

Besides, if she's thinking through this stuff nearly as neurotically as we are, then we really never will see Book Five.


As to the question of whether or not Snape's clutch at his arm during the staircase encounter in "The Egg and the Eye" was due to some Mark Tingling action caused by the presence of fellow mark-bearer Crouch...

Oh, ugh! No! That's unspeakable! I totally reject that notion. I reject it

<Elkins racks her brains to come up with some canon to back up her instinctive emotional reaction>

Because if that had been the case, then surely Snape would have recognized the particular nature of the tingle or the burn or whatever. He would have told Dumbledore about it immediately, just as he'd been keeping Dumbledore informed throughout GoF on the status of his own dark mark and of Karkaroff's. Dumbledore therefore would have suspected Moody much sooner, he would have taken some form of action, and the entire tragedy would have been averted.

Okay. So that's not really canon at all, but merely extrapolation. But all the same, I really do think it unlikely that it would have played out any other way.

Also, I don't believe for a moment that Crouch would have taken that risk. Whether or not all of the DEs know that Snape's in with Dumbledore these days, I think it quite clear that Crouch himself did — or at least that he strongly suspected it. I can't imagine that he would have sent Snape a little "Hi! I'm a Death Eater too! R U Available?" tingle, just for the sake of some casual sadism. I mean, the man may have been slightly off his rocker, but he wasn't a total moron.

Mainly, though...


I really like the idea of Snape's having properly hysterical pain there, especially since he acts ashamed of reacting to the pain, as if it shows up a weakness.

Yes. That's my primary reason as well. For heaven's sake, that scene is one of the few places in all canon where poor Severus stakes a claim on some pure and undiluted reader sympathy! If you guys want to water down his one unequivocal demonstration of overwhelming and deeply-felt shame about his past, then you can go ahead, I guess, but I'm not helping. I'll just stand here in the corner and sulk.


Amanda suggested that the mystic link that the DEs share with Voldemort might in fact bind their very lives to his.

She wrote:

It seems his style, to demand such a commitment, and it would guarantee their support of him (you'd think), and it would be a very good reason for Snape to look pale or Dumbledore to look anxious at the end of book 4—even when you have known for years what you will do, and come to terms with what will happen, still, walking out the door to begin steps that will lead, if successful, to your own death, cannot be a thing one does lightly.

She also suggested that this would contribute to Voldemort's fury with his Death Eaters: as they themselves were still alive, they must have known that he hadn't really died either, so they can hardly beg off on the "But, my Lord, I thought you were dead!" excuse for not having tried to find him after his disappearance.

I find this an extremely compelling theory, particularly as I notice that not one of the Death Eaters in the graveyard scene so much as tries to excuse himself by means of the "But I thought you were dead" defense. Lucius Malfoy whines a bit about not having the slightest idea how to go about finding him, but that's not at all the same thing, and he does insist that he was "always on the alert."

I also found Eloise's defense of the notion that "And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again?" really means, "They knew I couldn't be dead, how could they think I wouldn't regain my powers?" to be perfectly convincing.

Porphyria objected that if this were indeed the case, then it would seem highly unlikely for the DEs to grant their allegiance to Dumbledore, which is what Voldemort accuses them of in the graveyard, as Dumbledore could bring about their own deaths.

I'm not quite sure that I agree. Dumbledore is widely believed to be the most powerful wizard alive, right? And he worked with Flamel on the alchemical work which led to the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone. I think that if I were Voldemort, Dumbledore would be the very first on my list of people I'd suspect my disloyal, selfish, lusting-after-the-secrets-of-eternal-life Death Eaters to turn to, after I myself had vanished. It's not merely the fact that Dumbledore's the arch-enemy that leads to that accusation, in my opinion, but also the fact that from Voldemort's point of view, Dumbledore is a potential rival in the Promising To Grant Eternal Life To Followers game. This is Voldemort, remember. He probably comprehends the notion of rejecting eternal life about as well as he understands that whole Protective Power of Self-Sacrificing Love thing. Those sorts of concepts really do seem to be somewhat beyond his mental grasp.

So I don't have that problem. I do have one cause for hesitation before wholeheartedly embracing Amanda's theory, though, which is that to my mind, if the relationship between Voldemort and the Death Eaters binds them in life and death, then it would also seem likely to me that it would bind their magical power as well. I would expect for the Death Eaters to have lost a good deal of their magical abilities when Voldemort was discorporated, and to have remained relatively weak for all of those years while he lingered on in his impotent state. And while I can certainly accept Eloise's suggestion that the reason that none but the looniest of the DEs ever tried to find Voldemort because from their point of view, Voldemort alive—but also powerless, safely hidden away, and out of their hair—was a win-win situation, I find that notion a bit harder to swallow if alive-but-powerless Voldemort also means alive-but-powerless Death Eaters. If that were the case, then I think more of them would have tried harder to restore him to power.

But it's a minor quibble, and one that I am happy to quash by simply telling myself that the only powers they lost due to Voldemort's fall were all of those special ones that he had imbued them with in the first place — a sacrifice that they were willing to make if it meant that they were also free from Voldemort himself and his bwah-hah-hah comic-book villain nuttiness.

So okay. Amanda's convinced me.

Eloise wrote:

Ooh,'ve made me go all quivery. I might have to go and lie down for a bit. I wonder if Elkins still has that brandy?

Help yourself, but I'm warning you: Cindy put something in it. You drink this stuff, and the next thing you know, first you'll be telling perfect strangers all about your most embarrassing childhood experiences, and then you'll find yourself jumping up and down on the couch, screaming things about bloody ambushes.

But if you're willing to take that risk... ::hands Eloise the brandy:: Here you go, kiddo. Knock yourself out.


On a somewhat related topic, I've been wondering for some time now: what do people make of Voldemort's cheerful naming of names in the graveyard? I mean, Lucius Malfoy is one thing—everybody knows that Malfoy is a Death Eater—but people like Avery? Nott? MacNair? I don't get the impression that those guys were necessarily so high-ranking that the entire DE circle would have known their identities. I particularly don't believe this about Avery, who since he was one of Snape's contemporaries had to have been quite young the first time around, whose position within the circle would seem to imply a fairly low rank (he's not standing next to anyone important, and he doesn't even seem to have made it to the grouping where the Lestranges and possibly Rosier and Wilkes once stood), and whose not give the impression of someone with very much on the ball, shall we just say. (Of course, if one accepts Fourth Man, then it doesn't really matter if Voldemort names Avery, as everyone present would already know his identity — but let's just leave Fourth Man out of this one, shall we?)

So what have people made of all that name naming? Have others read this as proof that Karkaroff's claim that the DEs worked in secrecy was in truth a bit of a fib? Or have they preferred to assume that all of the DEs whose Names get Named in the graveyard really were people of some importance—or people whose covers had already been blown—and so secrecy for them was not an issue anyway?

I tended to read it as a bit of stakes-raising on Voldemort's part, myself, combined with a bit of punishment. I don't think it at all likely that people like Avery and Nott had ever previously been Named to the DE circle as a whole. I think that by naming them—to my ear, he does so rather deliberately that first time with Avery, almost as if he's making a point—Voldemort is both expressing his disapproval of their past performance and making it clear to them that their loyalty to him this time around really is their best chance of personal safety.

I find it telling, for example, that while Voldemort does name the Lestranges (whose cover has already been blown sky-high), he never once speaks Crouch Jr.'s name, nor those of the "coward" and the "traitor." Now, this is obviously primarily an authorial matter—JKR wants to keep us guessing—but I also think that it makes a certain degree of in-character sense: Voldemort isn't yet certain about what's going on with the suspected coward and traitor, and before he knows for sure that they really aren't both loyal and potentially useful to him, he's not going to put them at risk by revealing their names. Similarly, he obscures Pettigrew's identity by referring to him only as "Wormtail." This may be simply because that's just what Voldemort calls him, but it strikes me that it might also be a precaution: Wormtail may have been disloyal enough to merit some punishment, but he's also been loyal enough to merit a rather large reward, and for the time being, Voldemort's clearly planning on keeping him around as some kind of lieutenant — or at the very least, as his personal valet. It seems quite possible to me that he really didn't want to reveal the man's real name to the entire DE circle.

Of course, I do realize that my reading here is more a little bit weasel-like ("See, the reason that he names Avery and Nott is to punish them, and to make them all the more dependent on him, but the reason that he names Malfoy, see, is because Malfoy's an important Death Eater, so everyone knows his identity already, and..."). Nonetheless, I find myself believing in it.

Any thoughts?


Oh, and I'm definitely in with SUCCESS. But I'll take my juice glass with Dumbledore's fingerprints all over it, if you don't mind. I don't think that Snape would have allowed Quirrell anywhere near his pumpkin juice.

And besides, I like imagining Dumbledore spiking the juice. Twinkling as he did so, no doubt. (Does anyone but me ever kind of want to hit Albus Dumbledore?)

—Elkins, who doesn't know about Diana, but who certainly doesn't think that George has any problems with the idea that the DEs are an elite group. Certainly her SWEETGEORGIAN version of Snape was no wimpy, wishy-washy fellow-traveller. "Eyes Open" is, after all, part of the SWEETGEORGIANISM acronym.

Posted March 21, 2002 at 5:05 pm
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