Weekly Archive
May 12, 2002 - May 18, 2002

RE: Neville: Memory, History, Legacy, Power

Hi, guys. I was away all last week so, as usual, this is a very late follow-up. I'm going to get with the program one of these days, you know. Honest I am. Someday it will happen. I'll start responding promptly, and posting quickly, and then finally I'll be on the same page as everybody else.

Really I will.


On Uncovering the Buried Past

David wrote:

My understanding is that the burial ('denial' in all its connotations) and uncovering of the past is central to the whole series. . . .However, I had seen this almost entirely in a positive light. It is good that the past be uncovered and the truth be known. Even if it is initially unpleasant (even misleading), it is ultimately good.

[snip excellent examples of the Riddle's memory escaping from his diary, thus allowing him to be at last exorcised and Hagrid exonerated, and of Voldemort's rebirth, which seems likely to serve as the necessary prerequisite to his eventual banishment]

Not that he must be mortal to die - rather, the conditions that allow him to flourish are still present, and the whole plant must be dug up, not just this year's growth snipped off.

True. But you have to be careful with that, you know. All too often when you go digging, your disturbance of the ground only serves to foster the growth of more weeds. Even when the ground looks empty, it's not. It's filled with dormant roots, and every time your shovel slices through one of them, each piece grows into its very own plant. They're just like the Hydra's heads that way, roots are. If you don't treat them very carefully indeed, then you're just letting yourself in for a world of misery.

Um. Can you tell that my garden is a mess?

But no. Playing around with your metaphor like that really isn't very fair, is it? I'm sorry. I did have a point I was trying to make, though, which was that sometimes the reawakening of the past can create new evils, evils which really never had to come about in the first place. There are some things—like the dead, for example—which it is quite proper to bury and quite improper to disturb again once they have been laid to rest. There are other things—land mines, for instance—which ought to be located and dealt with, rather than allowed to remain hidden away underground.

The difficulty, of course, comes in determining which buried things are best served by which policy. We let sleeping dogs lie because a sleeping dog does no harm. We don't ignore radon leaks because radon leaks, while their effects may be insidiously subtle, are nonetheless extremely toxic. But it's not always easy to tell whether something is more like a sleeping dog or more like a radon leak, and that's just where the problem lies.

David wrote:

In relation to Neville, I would see it as a positive development for his past to be exposed.

Yes, so would I.

I fear that I may have placed such strong emphasis on the perils of remembrance in my last post that I might have given the impression of ignoring or rejecting the notion that forgetfulness, too, has its perils. Such was not my intent. I just felt that Dicentra had done such a fine job of explaining the perils of forgetfulness that she had left me free to focus my attentions elsewhere. But I certainly agree with David that denial and willful ignorance are always problematic.

In Neville's case, I think that it is clearly harmful. As Dicentra pointed out, the "filth under Neville's carpet" does seem to be interfering with his ability to function. It's not a sleeping dog at all. It's a radon leak. Neville's current form of forgetfulness is neither beneficial nor healthy for him.

But neither, I hasten to point out, is the type of remembrance that we see afflicting Harry, Sirius and Snape over the course of the series at all good for them. That both Harry and Sirius prove capable of relinquishing their unhealthy focus on the past is absolutely fundamental to their development; that Snape all too often finds himself incapable of managing this feat is portrayed as his characteristic personal failing.

While I do worry quite a bit about JKR's approach to renunciation, I think that she is quite even-handed when it comes to her portrayal of the respective perils of forgetfulness and of remembrance.

David wrote:

I don't think it necessarily beyond JKR's authorial vision to put forward a view of humanity that is outside the scope of the four houses. . . . What I think is outside her vision is the idea that some sleeping dogs really are better let lying.

Interesting! Because of course, my worries lie in precisely the opposite direction. I don't get the impression that JKR views her wizarding culture—or her four Houses of Hogwarts—in nearly as negative a light as I do. But I do think that she has laid out quite a number of examples of the perils of memory.

Amy touched on these in her response. She wrote:

I see one strong piece of evidence, however, that JKR does not believe that remembering is always preferable to forgetting, that she recognizes that not all truths are better off dredged up—at least if they won't go quietly back underground after we've taken a good honest look at them. This evidence is the Dementors. One of the worst torments Rowling's imagination has devised is the inability to escape memory, and she makes it clear that these floods of memory, far from being empowering, drain one of one's powers and make one completely ineffectual.

To which David replied:

and more disquieting still, he is drawn to the Dementors - or at least his resistance is weakened - because they give him a chance to hear his parents again.


And the same can be said for the Mirror of Erised, can't it? It has exactly the same effect on Harry. It ennervates and distracts him, and leaves him incapable of mustering any degree of interest in his other affairs, and yet he finds it perilously addictive.

The Mirror of Erised is portrayed very differently than the Dementors on the gut emotional level, of course—the Mirror is pleasurable and entrancing, while the Dementors are horrifying and fearsome—but in essence, they are the same. Both Mirror and Dementors strike me as representations of the harmful (and yet seductive) aspects of memory retention. In both cases, Harry returns to them again and again, even though he knows that they are not good for him.

At the same time, though, I do think that both the Mirror and the Dementors serve a useful initial function for Harry. It was a Good Thing, IMO, that Harry received the opportunity to see the images of his lost family in the Mirror of Erised — indeed, there's strong implication that this was one of the very reasons that Dumbledore left it lying around for him to find in the first place. It was also a Good Thing, although very painful, for Harry to hear the sounds of his parents' voices and to learn a bit more about their deaths.

What wasn't good for him was dwelling on those things.

Amy wrote:

It's true that Harry is driven, and almost driven to a disastrous action, by his Dementor-induced memory of his mother: one of the things that most enrages him about Black is that he, the murderer, doesn't have to relive this memory while Harry does. . . .That moment is the closest Harry comes to killing Sirius, driven by an inescapable memory; the past, forcibly recalled, can turn one into an avenging angel.

It can, I agree.

It can also turn one into a monster.

'If it can, the Dementors will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself -- soulless and evil.'

It always strikes me that the human character who comes the closest to resembling a purely malevolent (i.e., "soulless and evil") force in canon—exempting Voldemort, of course, who is no longer fully human—is Crouch Jr., who was rescued from Azkaban only once he was tottering on the very brink of death. I really don't think that's at all coincidental.


If we wish to be free and act morally, we can neither reject history in the absolute sense of refusing to acknowledge it (keeping it buried), nor steep ourselves in it completely. We look into the Mirror of Erised, sigh with longing that it is not real, and move on.

"Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place..."


I hope that's the model that JKR will finally endorse: one that mixes memory and renunciation.

Me too.


On the Renunciation of Legacies

David, who is blessed (as I am not) with the gift of brevity, summarized my position on this as follows:

That Neville is a kind of anti-Harry, in the sense that he renounces an overt legacy that is very similar to the covert legacy that Harry discovers and embraces. She expresses the fear that JKR will show such renunciation to be misconceived, and that Neville will be given authorial approval for taking up his auror's mantle; Elkins would rather that a positive place be given for renouncing the kick-ass approach to dealing with evil.

Yup. That about sums it up. No Dementor's been anywhere near David's wit, that's for sure.

One thing that I would like to point out here is the distinction that David drew between Neville's overt legacy and Harry's covert one. There is a paradox implicit in the parallel between Neville and Harry: Neville is the one who suffers from forgetfulness, while Harry suffers from memory, yet Neville is the one who is aware of his own legacy, while Harry remains largely ignorant of his own.

Neville knows, but cannot remember.

Harry remembers, but does not know.

This distinction becomes highly relevant, to my mind, when we start talking about Neville-as-renunciate.

Abigail, for example, felt that I was confusing rejecting the past with hiding from it. She wrote:

Whether or not his memory has been modified, Neville's memory issues, his inability to face up with his legacy as you call it, is not a choice, it is the result of fear. . . .He hasn't made any choice, either to embrace the role his family has set out for him or to reject it, because in order to do so he would first have to be aware that such a choice exists.

Oh, but I think that Neville is most certainly aware that such a choice exists. How could he not be? His family speaks to him about his obligations to uphold the family honor all the time. When he gets into trouble at school, his howler berates him for "bringing shame on the family name." As a child, he had to endure mad Uncle Algie's constant attempts to coax some magic out of him by doing things like dropping him into deep water and out of windows. His professors view his behavior with disdain or outright hostility. His fellow Gryffindors nag him to "stand up for himself." He visits his parents in the hospital over his holidays.

I mean, how could he not know? The kid does have a poor memory, true, but it's really not all that bad. He does remember his upbringing. He does know what happened to his parents. He is aware—all too well-aware, I'd say—of the expectations and desires that his family, and his culture as a whole, have placed upon him. He is, in fact, far more knowledgable about precisely what it is that he is rejecting, I'd say, than Harry is about precisely what it is that he is so eager to accept. In fact...


In this context Neville represents neither memory nor forgetfullness (that is, the choice to forget something, as you say the wizarding community has collectively chosen to do) but a complete unawareness that the past even exists. In much the same way that children are unable to conceive of a world that existed before their birth.

Hmm. Well, really, isn't this a far more accurate description of Harry's position (at the start of the series) than it is of Neville's? It is Harry, after all, who is wholly ignorant of his own family legacy when the story begins. In fact, he starts out in a state of ignorance about the very existence of the wizarding world to which he belongs. And as David pointed out, with each successive volume, he learns a little bit more — about his past, about his family, and about the world which he has only recently entered.

Neville, on the other hand, has been utterly immersed in that world for all of his life. What he lacks is not the knowledge of history—his reaction to Crouch's demonstration of the Cruciatus makes it abundantly clear, to my mind, that he's got plenty of that—but the direct memory of it, which is not at all the same thing.

What Neville's poor memory represents, in my reading, is not ignorance at all, but rather repudiation and rejection.


If we accept that Neville hasn't yet made a concious choice either way, and that in order to make that choice he has to first get over his memory block, whatever is causing it, then for him to be the prince renunciate he must stop forgetting. He has to look back at whatever it is he doen't want to see and actively say "No, I don't want to do that."

Mmm. I think that we may be talking at cross-purposes here. I certainly agree that renunciation is only a meaningful choice if one knows what it is that one is renouncing. Otherwise it isn't really renunciation at all, but merely ignorance.

I think, though, that once we start talking about the thematic significance of things like Neville and Harry's respective memories, as opposed to their plot significance, then it becomes useful for the purposes of discussion to ascribe a certain degree of agency to the characters involved, even if they do not in fact possess it on the more literal level of the plot. This is because on the thematic level, distinctions between conscious and unconscious, passive and active, internal and external, are often blurred and therefore become far less meaningful.

In other words, just as we can view what exposure to the dementors does to their victims as representative of the dangers of dwelling on the past as a matter of conscious choice, rather than of magical coercion, so I think that it is reasonable to view Neville's faulty memory and many of his personality defects as representative of the dangers of ignoring the past as a matter of conscious choice, rather than as a negative side-effect of some form of artificial memory suppression.

Viewed in this context, Neville's poor memory is evidence of a decision that he has already made to reject his legacy. He has not chosen to reject it in a very healthy manner, it is true (although he's still one-up on Crouch Jr, who picks just about the worst path of renunciation that one can possibly imagine). His decision is causing him a lot of problems. But I do nonetheless see his behavior as indicative of an active will towards renunciation.

As for what would be a healthy form of renunciation, though...


But see, I don't see Neville coming into his own and Neville rejecting the expectations of his family to be mutually exclusive.

No, neither do I. That was the reason that I wrote:

...the coming of age story that accompanies Neville's type, is one of renunciation, rather than of acceptance, of "coming into ones own" by finding the strength to reject the legacy and to forge instead a new destiny of ones own choosing.

Obviously, I think that this is a perfectly legitimate form of coming-of-age story, and one that Abigail describes quite nicely here:

And wasn't it you, Elkins, who said that Neville's problems with magic have nothing to do with power and everything to do with control? Coming into his own might mean, in that context, taking control not only of the direction his life is taking but of his own abilities, and not necessarily choosing to use them to prod DE buttock.

Indeed, if Neville were the protagonist of the tale, then this would be how the story would have to play out. And even as things stand, with Neville serving as a literary double to Harry, it could still play out that way. It could. Certainly I would very much like that.


As someone who was once weak, frightened and bullied herself, what I expect and hope for Neville is to gain the kind of maturity that allows him to look at the people deriding him and say "Why would I give a damn what those idiots think of me?" and go his own way no matter what they say. I want Neville to truly believe that he's worth ten Draco Malfoys, because I think he is.

Yes, I agree. This is what I, too, want most for Neville. In fact, quite some time ago now, I wrote a post outlining all of the things that I would love to see Neville do in canon. All of them fell fairly firmly under the aegis of "going ones own way no matter what they say."

Unfortunately, though, I don't have much faith that JKR will oblige us here. For one thing, as I've said before, I haven't seen very much evidence that the positive aspects of renunciation are something that she has given much thought to. I could be wrong about that, of course. I certainly hope that I am. But so far, JKR has chosen to portray characters who reject their legacies in unremittingly negative ways. (The only possible exception to this rule might be Snape, but we know so little about either his past or his upbringing that it is really impossible to say for sure whether he is an exception to the rule or not.)

I also find it unlikely because I feel fairly well convinced that the thematic pattern that JKR has already established when it comes to the exhumation of long-buried things—that such reawakenings yield dramatic reversals and violent results—will likely hold true in future volumes as well.

Pippin wrote, as the summation to her excellent analysis of Harry and Neville's mirror relationship:

I do see renunciation of the warrior role ahead, but for Harry, not Neville. I think Harry will eventually choose to give up his magic, while mirror image Neville will choose to embrace his.

I find this suggestion highly compelling. And I don't think that it bodes very well at all for a scenario in which JKR chooses to take Neville down a path of beneficent renunciation.

Dogberry wrote:

I see no reason to have him change personality and become a symbol of vengence. You need someone like Neville, to keep a grip on the value of life. I rather like the idea of "to err is human, to forgive is divine" for Neville.

So do I. But Pippin's hypothesis would suggest that it may well be reserved for Harry in the end, with Neville playing his usual role as Designated Mirror.


On Competition, Power, and the Warrior Ethos

I wrote that I believe that Neville fears power, and "not only power in the general sense, but even more specifically, power as it seems to find its primary expression in the traditional culture of the wizarding world." I then went on to describe this conception of power as one rooted in an ethos of combat, competition, and strife.

Cindy wondered why Neville would fear such a thing:

I would guess that most people don't have a problem possessing power (although many people have difficulty deciding what, if anything, to do with it). By definition, not possessing power renders one powerless, and few people aspire to be powerless, I'd say.

Well, there was a reason that I specified the type of power that I believe that Neville fears. Indeed, few people aspire to be powerless. But there are many different conceptions of power.

In a highly competitive culture, power is defined not as power to, but as power over. In other words, ones own personal power is defined not in terms of what it enables one to accomplish, but purely in terms of its ability to supercede or to override the power of others. It's a zero-sum game. And I can certainly think of many reasons why if one were culturally encouraged to perceive of power in those particular terms, one would both fear it and want desperately to renounce it.

Here we begin to tread perilously close to the borders of the Garden of Good and Evil. The warrior culture's definition of power—power over others—is kissing kin to Dicentra's definition of Evil as the ethos of predation. It belongs to a moral system in which one can never gain through another's gain, but only through another's loss. And like Dicentra, I do tend to view that as fairly close to my own personal definition of evil. If Neville feels the same way, and if that is how the culture in which he was raised has defined "power," then I find it utterly unsurprising that he might shy away from it as a matter of both moral principle (healthy) and phobic aversion (not at all healthy).

Cindy then asked:

So why is Neville different?

Ah, well. These things do happen, don't they? It's just like Hagrid said about Dobby. Every culture, like every species, is bound to have its weirdos. ;-)

Maybe the fact that the wizarding world is so competitive is the reason I like it so much? :-)

Heh. Well, it's certainly one of the reasons that I like the books so much. It's my own personal revision of P.A.C.M.A.N., you see. "Politically Appalling Cultures Make Appealing Novels."


I cited the House Cup as an example of the atmosphere of conflict and certamen that Hogwarts nurtures in its students. Abigail wrote:

I expect that, as the kids start growing up, as the magnitude of what's happening (or will be happening) around them becomes clear, the inter house competitions will seem less and less important - downright silly, even.

Perhaps. Or possibly they will begin to seem even more important. In the years of Voldemort's first rise, was the Gryffindor/Slytherin rivalry less heated than it was in the first three books, do you think? Or was it more heated? Certainly in the current day, it seems far more heated to me in the fourth book than it did in previous volumes. We've now reached the point where students are hexing each another on the train! And we still have three books to go.

Cindy wrote:

They want the House Cup only because others want it, and the only value it has is the fleeting warm fuzzy feeling of . . . having kept the Cup away from a rival. Kind of sad, really.

I tend to view it as worse than sad. I see it as directly linked to the endless, cyclical, and seemingly inevitable rebirths and returns of dark forces within the fictive world. Salazar's monster sleeps beneath Hogwarts school. Voldemort rises again. And before Voldemort, there was Grindewald. And before Grindewald...


To get back to David's original metaphor, I tend to view the wizarding world's problems as very deeply rooted indeed. Harry's "defeat" of Voldemort didn't last because it only sliced the plant off at the surface of the soil, rather than pulling it up by the root. It's growing again now from its root. And one of the manifestations of that root, as I see it, is Hogwarts' House system and its inter-House competition. If there is to be any sense of true resolution by the end of the series, then I feel that we must see that dynamic transcended in some fashion.

This was what I was trying to get at when I wrote of "None of the Above" Neville as capable of affecting a more profound type of change than "All of the Above" Harry. Harry's current talents and virtues certainly do make him the ideal agent for yet another slicing off at ground level, but is that really what we want? I think that what the wizarding world needs is a more radical approach — and I use the word "radical" here in its etymological sense. "Radix" means "root" in Latin. A radical approach is one that goes directly to the root of a problem.

In order for that to happen in a way that I will personally find convincing, Harry will have to adopt at least some form of the principle of renunciation, as well as that of acceptance, before the series' end.


Posted May 14, 2002 at 2:46 am
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Plain text version


RE: TBAY: Memory Charm Symposium (1 of 3)

Elkins was still unpacking from her vacation, wondering how on earth she could possibly have managed to get that much sand into such a small rucksack, when she heard a strangely Cinister voice, crying out in the wilderness:

I don't recall that anyone has really explained who would have put a Memory Charm on Neville. Anyone? Anyone?

Oh, that Cindy, Elkins thought. What a kidder she is. But then she remembered once hearing something similar from Karen. Something along the lines of:

The whole Neville back story possibilities are fascinating, as well as the Weasley's cousin thing. So the more the better on this, and such things.

The more the better, eh?

Elkins nodded grimly to herself.

Well, she thought. Well, well, well.

Right, then.

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Okay. You guys want to hear some memory charm theories? Well, aren't you in luck! Because, by an amazing coincidence, I just happen to have a whole backlog of Still Life responses dealing with memory charm theories sitting right here in front of me. They're a bit yellowed with age, true, but as adherents to the Reverse Memory Charm theory will happily tell you (from the comfort of their cushy MATCHING ARMCHAIRs), there's nothing quite like the persistance of memory when it comes to driving the point home that the passage of time can itself sometimes prove a highly subjective phenomenon.

So. Let's get to it, shall we? If anyone wants a little refresher course on the canonical evidence for this body of theories before we get started here, then they might want to try message #36421, in which Kelly the Yarn Junkie compiled a very nice list of canonical suggestions for Memory Charmed Neville, as well as message #36772, in which I added quite a few contributions of my own.

Alternatively, any search through the archives should yield plenty of (very similar) defenses for this theory. Memory Charm'd Neville has been around for quite a long time. Why, he has nearly as much moss growing on him as Goblet of Fire itself does! Hell, these days even Memory Charm'd Neville's moss is starting to grow moss.

In fact, people have by now come up with so many variations on the mossy old Memory Charm Theory that a single lecture just doesn't cut it anymore, so I propose that we hold a symposium instead. I've rented a lecture hall for us down here in the basement of the Canon Museum, and I've got one of those cool laser pointer thingies, and I even stopped by Inish Alley on my way over to pick up some boxes of discounted badges, so feel free to come on over. (If you sneak into the Museum by way of the secret tunnels underneath the snack bar, by the way, then the security guys shouldn't be able to hassle you.) So sit down, pull up a seat, make yourselves at—

Oh! Oh, but do be mindful of that matching armchair!

Yes. Yes, I know. It looks so darned comfy, doesn't it? But take it from me: it's really a whole lot wobblier than it may at first appear. Hardly has a leg to stand on, in fact. You can sit there if you really want to, of course—I mean, that's totally up to you—but don't come around later saying that I didn't warn you, okay?

Okay. Everybody settled in now? Good. This symposium looks likely to run pretty late into the evening, so every few theories or so we'll stop for a break to let the smokers step outside and feed their addictions.

And if things seem to be getting sillier and sillier as the evening wears on...well, given that a "symposium" was originally a type of Greek drinking party, that's probably only to be expected.

Or possibly, just possibly, the fact that we're going to be tackling these theories in rough order of Wild-and-wooliness (which, I hasten to point out, is absolutely not the same thing as canonical likelihood—if you don't believe me, then just look at what JKR did with Scabbers!) might have something to do with that?

Naaaaah. Couldn't be.

So. First on our agenda, we've got a trilogy of relatively benevolent theories, all three of which eschew the traditional notion of Neville as under the influence of a formal memory charm spell. These are the "No Suppressed Memory At All," the "Psychological Repression," and the "Spontaneous Magic" readings. Once we're done with those, then we'll conclude with that moss-encrusted classic, the Good Old-Fashioned Well-Intentioned Memory Charm. This should warm us all up quite nicely for the far darker and crueller and stranger theories yet to come.

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Our very first theory isn't really a Memory Charm theory at all, truth be told. In fact, it's sort of an anti-memory charm theory. I include it here nonetheless, though, because it does rely on the same basic premise as nearly all of the memory charm theories: namely, that as a very young child, Neville witnessed his parents' torture (or some other Very Bad Thing), and that this event is inextricably connected in some manner to his chronic canonical forgetfulness.

We might call this first one...


The "No Suppressed Memory At All" Theory

(Otherwise known as: "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!")


Memory Charm. Whodunnit?

Well, no one. No one done it, because it was never done. There is no memory charm, nor any other type of memory suppression. Neville's memory is just fine, really. If it seems at times to be faulty, then that is merely because the poor lad is so preoccupied with dealing with the trauma of his past that it distracts him from concentrating on other matters, like his day-to-day affairs and his schoolwork.


Tabouli made a brave case for this one. She wrote:

My impression was always that JKR gave us the reason for Neville's bad memory in GoF: his memory's fine, it's just that most of his disk space is dominated by traumatic memories of and associations with his parents and what happened to them, interfering with his ability to focus effectively on things like schoolwork.

Tabouli also suggested (eyeing a suspiciously rubicund fish through the porthole of her submarine as she did so) that all of the textual implications that Neville may be under some form of artificial memory repression likely amount to nothing more than one of JKR's infamous acts of authorial misdirection.

Okay. My take on this. Personally, I am perfectly willing to concede that there may be misdirection going on here. As I've said before, I'm not totally sold on the whole Memory Charm thing myself. I think, though, that if there is a red herring swimming around in this aquarium, then it is far more likely to be darting around somewhere in the vicinity of the notion that Neville witnessed his parents' torture at all. I am far more willing to abandon MC'd Neville altogether than to buy into the notion that Neville both witnessed something so unspeakably horrible as a child and that he can remember it clearly. This is because, to my mind, there is far too much evidence in the text to suggest that Neville is not, in fact, ordinarily very much troubled by traumatic remembrance.

Some of this "evidence" is admittedly highly subjective. For me, much of it boils down to the fact that I just don't find Neville's everyday demeanor at all believable as that of a child haunted by some terrible and traumatic memory. Neville is timid and pessimistic, true, and he is even at times gloomy. But his behavior still doesn't strike me as at all what I would expect from someone who had been traumatized in as direct and straightforward a fashion as Tabouli has suggested.

Of course, this comes down to interpretation of characterization, which is always a highly personal matter. Far less vague and subjective, though, is the evidence of the Egg from the Second Task.

As Rohit the ColumbiaTexan has pointed out, when Neville first hears the screechy mermaid singing emerging from Harry's egg, he reacts as follows:

"It was someone being tortured," said Neville, who had gone very white and spilled sausage rolls all over the floor. "You're going to have to fight the Cruciatus Curse!"

Now, this response strikes me as quite clearly phobic, rather than truly informed. For one thing, Seamus says that it sounds to him like a banshee, which we already know from the boggart scene in PoA is his own particular phobia. For another, from the way that the noise is described ("a loud and screechy wailing. . . . The nearest thing to it Harry had ever heard was the ghost orchestra at Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party, who had all been playing the musical saw"), I don't believe for a second that it really sounds in the least bit like a human being in agony. Everyone in the Gryffindor common room when Harry opens the egg responds to the noise in a negative fashion, but no one other than Neville himself seems to think that it sounds anything like a person in pain. If Neville could really remember having witnessed his parents being tortured, then would he really have identified that noise as sounding anything like it? I don't believe that he would.

And then there's also the evidence to which both Debbie and Finwitch alluded: Neville's behavior when confronted by the Dementor on the train at the beginning of PoA.

Debbie wrote:

Some have suggested that the Memory Charm suggestions are false clues, and his problems are more psychological in origin. The idea is appealing. However, if that were the case I would have expected that the Dementor on the Hogwarts Express would have affected Neville almost as badly as it did Harry.

If not even more so! Yes, I agree. Harry, forced to recall the sound of his mother pleading for his life, actually faints. Neville, on the other hand, is merely left pale and shaken. He does not even react as strongly as Ginny, who we are told was "looking nearly as bad as Harry felt."


JKR seems to make a big point of having Neville and Ginny stumble into the darkened compartment just before the Dementor arrives, and the only purpose I can imagine is to show us their reactions.

Yeah, Neville and Ginny's injection into that scene has always come across that way to me as well: as a quite deliberate (and even somewhat clumsy) authorial ploy. Either we are meant to understand from it that for some reason Harry is actually more delicate than either Neville or Ginny when it comes to nasty old memories, or we are meant to deduce that while both Neville and Ginny are indeed more vulnerable to the Dementors than either Ron or Hermione, neither of them has a memory of anything nearly as dreadful as having witnessed ones own mother's murder.

The former idea is certainly intriguing, in a totally subversive sort of way, but I also find it utterly unconvincing, so I think that I'm forced to the latter conclusion. Neville and Ginny are there to indicate to the reader that they do not have memories nearly as dire as Harry's.

Or that they are simply incapable of accessing them.

In Ginny's case, we already know both that she has had some pretty nasty experiences and that she suffers from some form of memory suppression. She has certainly witnessed horrors—she's even perpetrated a couple of them—but in CoS, it is established that she cannot remember having done so. She only comes to suspect that she might have been responsible for killing Hagrid's roosters due to the circumstantial evidence, and Riddle makes mention of her concern about her own amnesia. From her reaction to the Dementor on the train, however, it would seem that Ginny certainly does remember something, even if only the power of the Dementors suffices to dredge it up.

So the question then becomes: is Neville in the same situation as Ginny, or is he in the position of someone who has never truly witnessed anything very terrible at all?

If the former, then I think that we need to accept that Neville must suffer from some type of memory suppression similar to, but even stronger than, that which we already know has affected Ginny.

Would a memory charm qualify?

Quite recently, Raven wrote:

I also can't help wondering whether exposure to a dementor wouldn't bring out the memory of such trauma even if a person was under the influence of a regular memory charm. I don't know whether there's anything in canon to support that idea, but I think it's an interesting question.

It's a very interesting question, I agree, and particularly in the context of this discussion. Do Dementors trump memory charms?

Canon supplies no answer to that question.

Canon does, however, suggest that breaking a memory charm involves some pretty serious mistreatment. Bertha Jorkins is described as "damaged beyond repair" by the time that Voldemort and Wormtail get done with her. The Dementors are certainly bad news, but exposure to them doesn't wreak quite that degree of damage — or not, at any rate, nearly that quickly. So I'd say that it's certainly possible that a memory charm might be able to stand up against the power of the Dementors. And Neville is, after all, only exposed to the Dementor on the train for a very short period of time.

If we choose to reject the notion that memory charms can resist Dementor-Dredge, on the other hand, then Neville's comparatively mild reaction to the Dementor on the train leads us inexorably to the conclusion that he simply doesn't have anything very terrible lurking in his memory at all — in short, that no variant of Memory Charm'd Neville can be reconciled with canon.

Okay. Time to come clean here. You know, as much as it pains my featherboas to admit this, it really does seem quite likely to me that Neville was never anywhere near his parents when they were attacked, and that whatever trauma he has suffered derives solely from having grown up with the knowledge of what was done to them, both the anecdotal knowledge of the story itself, and the first-hand knowledge of seeing for himself the living evidence of just how damaging such abuse can be.

It's kind of boring. It doesn't offer nearly as much in the way of thematic complexity. It definitely lacks Bang. But there's just no getting around the fact that it certainly is plausible.

And I have this funny feeling that Faith herself probably favors this reading.

Its big drawback, though, is that it fails to account for all of the foreshadowing and emphasis that both memory charms and memory suppression have been given over the course of the past four volumes.

As Cindy said:

I mean, we have a fantasy tale about a boy wizard, yet this memory charm business is coming up. Over and over and over we hear talk about memory charms, but we never see one become really pivotal in a big plot twist. . . . Memory charms are getting more foreshadowing throughout the series than polyjuice potion, animagi and the Grim ever did.

Yeah, they're just all over the place, aren't they? So if Neville doesn't really have one, then I still think that somebody had better sooner or later, because the focus on memory magics has been given far too much build-up, IMO, to be nothing but a red herring.

Many of these same objections also apply to our next variant on Memory Charm'd Neville: the "Psychological Repression" theory.


The Psychological Repression Theory

(Otherwise known as: "Magic? We don't need no stinking magic!")


Memory Charm. Whodunnit?

Neville did it to himself. But it wasn't a Memory Charm, nor any other sort of magic. Nope, it was just good old-fashioned psychological repression, that's all, an unconscious block that has since expanded to affect his memory in the wider sense.


This one is a very close relative of the "No Suppressed Memory At All" Theory, and in fact, I'm not altogether certain whether it might not sum up Tabouli's real position much better than the position that I just ascribed to her did.

Chynarose wrote, in support of this reading:

You see, I think that Neville did the memory thing to himself; only he didn't use any magic to do it. The way I figure it, if he ever finds a way to really deal with his parents' fate and having (possibly) witnessed it, then his memory would visibly improve. . . . Simply put, there is an unconcious block stopping (possibly damaging) long term memories from being recalled lest the Trauma be unleashed. Everything that may unleash the Trauma is locked away from his conscious mind to prevent this; kind of a mini Fudge if you will.

The comparison of Neville to Fudge is an interesting one. Both Pippin and Finwitch, proponents of the closely related "Spontaneous Magic Theory," also drew parallels between Neville and Fudge. The connection certainly is strongly encouraged by name association, isn't it?

Neville --> Neville Chamberlain --> Archetypical Twentieth-Century Head-in-the-Sand Political Appeaser --> Cornelius Fudge.

And of course, the parallel makes a great deal of sense on the thematic level as well. This is a cluster of theories that all rest on the notion of willful forgetfulness, on the deliberate (if not necessarily fully conscious) refusal to face up to an unpleasant truth.

This is certainly thematically compelling, and it also appeals on the grounds of emotional realism. It does strike me, though, that it might not mesh very well with the pattern that JKR has maintained throughout the books of consistently externalizing and literalizing emotional repression in the form of magical creatures or devices.

The Tough and Steely Talon DG (with whom I deeply regret having missed my opportunity to wrangle over Shrieking Shack, as I suspect that he would have proved a far worthier opponent than I really deserve) wrote:

JKR does not strike me as the type who would fall back to a "muggle" reason for it, like a psychological one. . . . If Neville's forgetfulness is a plot device, not a character detail, then it is almost certainly magical in nature.

Yes, I agree. While I certainly believe that on the thematic and symbolic level, Neville's poor memory is best viewed as in some sense his own doing, I don't know if I think that the psychological approach would fit in very well with the style of the rest of the series. In the HP books, it seems to me, JKR almost always chooses to represent emotional repression by externalizing it. Much like the denizens of Theory Bay, she prefers to literalize her metaphors. :)

When JKR wants to show us the seductive peril that dwelling on a fantasy version of ones lost family can represent to an orphan like Harry, for example, she doesn't merely show him engaging in that activity; instead, she externalizes its temptation as the Mirror of Erised. The depressive dangers of dwelling on the past are personified by the Dementors. The mystical power of sacrificial parental devotion confers not a symbolic but an actual physical protection upon Harry, rendering him for a time quite literally untouchable by evil. There really is a monster lying in wait down there in the Chamber of Secrets: it is not merely a myth which serves to symbolize the ugly strain of racism underlying wizarding culture; it is instead all too physically real. Both the Pensieve and Riddle's Diary are real magical items, not mere metaphors. And so on.

So while I certainly agree that it is very fruitful to view Neville's memory problems as a representation of psychological repression, I feel that if indeed it does turn out to be the case that his memory problems are tied to a specific traumatic event in his past, then JKR will almost certainly provide us with an external—and very likely magical—explanation for it.


The Spontaneous Magic Theory

(Otherwise known as: The "Tommy" Theory)


Memory Charm. Whodunnit?

Neville did it to himself, with powerful spontaneous magic of the sort that wizarding children in the Potterverse often display before they begin their formal training. While Neville did indeed succeed in suppressing his traumatic memory, he also caused a great deal of damage to his overall capacity for concentration and memory retention.


Finwitch has made a very strong case for this reading. She wrote:

The little 2-year-old Neville may well have Memory-Charmed himself with that strong magic of his, without even knowing it - to stun the painful memory. He's not ready, not able to deal with the memory of his parents' being tortured.

She then went on to cite both the boy with the slug at the QWC and Harry's own experiences as evidence that even very young children are capable of achieving quite powerful and specific effects, even without the benefit of either a wand or a known incantation:

Little Kevin (about Neville's age) - did a charm that enlarged the slug - not incantation, only Daddy's wand. . . . .The Magic Harry did without knowing - well, it is all pretty specific: Jump onto school roof, turn teacher's hair blue...

Pippin agreed, and pointed out that this approach offers rich thematic possibilities as well:

Thematically, it fits with the "numbing the pain will make it worse when you finally feel it" philosophy which Dumbledore espouses in GoF, and with Fudge refusing to face up to Voldemort's return. Plotwise, Harry is being made to face all these traumatic situations, so JKR needs to show us what would happen if he had been sheltered instead.

Porphyria also adopted this approach in her "Memory Charm Most Foul" speculation.

<Elkins considers for a few moments and then nods, satisfied>

Yes. I really like this one. I find it very appealing indeed, as it manages to retain all of the thematic relevance of the Psychological Repression Theory, while still conforming to JKR's preference for literalizing her metaphors.

It also ties in quite nicely with my belief that Neville's actual magical power is, if anything, too strong, and that his difficulties lie in his inability to control it. Certainly if Neville's memory problems derive from an act of spontaneous magic that he himself performed at the age of two or so, then that would explain why it seems like such a botched effort. Not only was he far too young to have the slightest idea how to do such a thing properly, but he is also Neville. Botching a memory spell on himself is, I'm afraid, an utterly characteristic thing for Neville to do.

Finwitch wrote:

Neville, with his uncontrolled magic — well, he does tend to harm himself when in stress by magic. So Neville, or his uncontrolled magic, did the memory charm. And Neville's innate magic is very strong - it's just that he keeps hurting himself with it.

Indeed. Really, it's just the sort of thing that would happen to Neville, isn't it? I love the boy dearly, but there's just no getting around the fact that he's a terrible bungler. He's unlucky. And he's accident-prone.

The Spontaneous Magic Theory is also appealing because it so neatly side-steps many of the questions that other memory charm theories must struggle to contend with. As Pippin wrote:

It gets rid of all those messy questions, like a) why would the good guys do something so damaging and b) wouldn't the bad guys just knock off Neville instead, since they, unlike Lockhart, have enough power to do an AK?

That it does.

Really, the only drawback that I can see to the Spontaneous Magic Theory is the one that Amanda touched on here:

I'm iffy about this, because Neville's behavior is too typical of people who actually have the real Memory Charm cast on them.

Mmmmm. Well, yes. If Neville's memory problems derive from an act of spontaneous magic, rather than from a formalized memory charm, then that does rather weaken all of those nifty canonical arguments in support of the existence of Neville's memory charm in the first place, doesn't it? Similarities between Neville's behavior after DADA class and Mr. Roberts' behavior at the QWC, for example, seem far less compelling as evidence for the memory charm speculation as a whole if we propose that what afflicts Neville isn't really a formal memory charm at all.

I'm not too concerned, though. As Finwitch pointed out, Kevin's enlargement of the slug at the QWC is cast without any incantation at all, and yet it seems virtually identical in effect to the Engorgement charm that Crouch Jr. cast on the spiders in DADA class. If the effects of spontaneous magic can so closely mimic the effects of formal spells, then I have no difficulty believing that the negative side-effects of botched versions of both types of magic would also share strong similarities.

So this one gets a thumbs-up from me. It also finishes off the list of the variants on MC'd Neville that reject the premise that he is operating under the influence of a formalized spell. From here, we move on to the classic...


The Well-Intended Memory Charm Theory

(Otherwise known as: Classic Memory Charm; Humanitarian Memory Charm; The "For Your Own Good" Theory; The Soft, Sappy, Well-Meant, Anti-Traumatic Memory Charm.)


A well-meaning Ministry Official, St. Mungo's medic, or family member placed Neville under a memory charm to spare him the emotional trauma of having witnessed his parents' torture. Alas, either because the memory in question was so very traumatic or because the caster of the charm blundered big-time, the spell caused permanent damage to Neville's memory.


This is the oldest, the most popular, and the most wide-spread of all memory charm speculations, although it's come under a lot of attack lately, particularly by those who think it just a wee bit "ewww."

People like Eileen, for example, who called it:

The soft, sappy, well meant, anti-traumatic Memory Charm

I was really quite surprised that so few people leapt to the classic memory charm's defense over the course of the Still Life thread, as I had always believed it to be by far the most popular of these theories. Perhaps it has now gone out of vogue? Become unfashionable? Who can say? Even those people who did make a case for this one on the thread chose to focus their efforts chiefly on the question of "Whodunnit?" and many of them added some novel twist, as well.

Dogberry, for example, did indeed point the finger at the Usual Suspect, dear old Gran. He also, however, suggested a new twist on the usual motive of "for his own good:"

Just a bit of a twist from me here, what if Gran put the memory charm on Neville as soon as she got to his parents house and said to the ministry that he wasn't there to spare him being questioned. Judging by her belief in family pride, she may have done that so he would not grow up like Harry, famous and potentially bigheaded with the all the fame.

Hmmm. Well, judging from Neville's feeling that Gran would have wanted him to try to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, I have kind of an idea that fame (and even a certain degree of bigheadedness) is precisely the kind of thing that "upholding the family honor" entails.

I do rather like the idea that the motive might have been to protect Neville from the trauma of questioning, rather than from the trauma of witnessing his parent's torture, though. For one thing, it implies some truly dreadful things about the Ministry's reputation, which in turn would fit in quite well with Sirius' claims about Crouch's regime. If even the family of a victimized Auror didn't want their son questioned by the Ministry—and was even willing to risk sacrificing the possibility of apprehending the culprits in order to protect him from this fate—then what does that say about the degree of trust accorded to the legal authorities at that particular moment in time? If Those In The Know felt that way, then it's hardly surprising that the general wizarding populace turned on Crouch not too long afterwards, no?

Jake Storm also sent the Classic Memory Charm spinning off in an unusual direction by retaining its usual humanitarian motive, but selecting instead an unusual culprit: Snape. Snape, of course, is a very popular suspect within the context of many other memory charm variants—as Jake pointed out, making Snape the one responsible for Neville's poor academic performance in the first place offers an almost irresistably appealing psychological explanation for his treatment of Neville in his Potions Class—but usually when Snape gets fingered, it is in the context of a "Double-Agent Protection Program" or a "Marooned At the Court Hearing" scenario, or even as part of a "Severus Snape Is Ever So Evil" speculation. Our dear Severus is very rarely ascribed the purely generous motive that Jake bestowed on him here:

I don't know if I'm the first to suggest this or not, but my gut instinct on this one is that Snape may have been the one to Memory Charm li'l Neville, but he did it for humanitarian reasons rather than to cover his own tracks.

Awww. That Snape! He's just a regular old softie deep down inside, isn't he?

I am...well, I'm touched, Jake. Truly and deeply touched. I would never dare to give someone named "Jake Storm" his very own sprig of Bleeding Heart, but might I offer instead a Cute Kitten?

<Elkins whips a tiny gray striped kitty with blue eyes and long fur out of her pocket and hands it to Jake with a flourish. The kitten mews piteously. It is wearing an itty-bitty collar with a wee little tag, on which is inscribed, in teeny-tiny writing, "T.H.E.S.H.R.I.E.K.I.N.G.S.H.A.C.K." There may even be more writing etched below, but it is far too teensy-weensy to be read without the aid of a magnification device, such as those to be found on sale in Inish Alley.>

Take good care of her, Jake, okay? And, uh, look. Don't take her out water-skiing with you or anything like that, all right? Because this kitten really doesn't float very well, I'm afraid. Sinks like a stone, she does.

<Elkins pauses, suddenly struck by the image of a flock of pink flamingos. Her eyes brighten.>

Oh, hey, you know what? If Snape really did want to protect dear little Neville from trauma, couldn't that have been because he was secretly in love with Neville's Mum? I mean, if you think about it...

::shakes head firmly::

No. No, all right. Memory Charm Specs. We're talking about Memory Charm Specs here. C'mon, Elkins. Focus. Concentrate. Stay. On. Target.

Yes, well. Where were we again? Ah, yes. The Good Old-Fashioned Well-Meant Anti-Traumatic Memory Charm. The one that might be the thing interfering with Neville's powers of, um, concentration and, er, focus, and his ability to...well, to remember what he's supposed to be doing and to stay on target.

Right. That one.

Tabouli, a vocal opponent of the Classic Memory Charm Theory, argued against it on the grounds that she does not view memory charms as working in a way that it would make it at all sensible for Neville to have been given one. Memory charms as we have seen them in canon, she says, are used for discrete events, and their purpose is to convince the recipient that the event in question never happened at all. For Neville, who knows full well that the event in question happened, and for whom reminders of the event are a constant part of his upbringing, a memory charm would simply not be applicable.


What I'm saying is that this particular event is not isolated and short term in its effects but inextricably connected with the rest of Neville's life, and therefore not very suited to a Memory Charm for altruistic, psychological purposes.

I don't know if I agree. The event itself is obviously inextricably connected with the rest of Neville's life, but that doesn't mean that the specific trauma of having served as eye-witness to it could not have been excised. As Tabouli herself wrote:

Therefore the only purpose of the Memory Charm is to reduce the trauma suffered. Take away the first-hand eyewitness trauma, but leave the second-hand aftermath trauma untouched.

Precisely. As I understand the basic premise of the well-meant memory charm theory, this was just the intent: not to hide the knowledge of what had occurred from Neville altogether, but instead to reduce the degree of acute trauma that his having actually witnessed the event might have caused.

Tabouli also wondered why on earth Neville's family would take him to visit his parents all the time, if they wanted him to forget the event.


If the Big Coverup was to protect Neville from traumatic knowledge of the incident, why not whisk him away after the Charm, protect him from the aftermath, and tell him his parents are dead instead of telling him all about the Crucio incident and traumatising him by taking him to see them every holidays?

Well, there's a very big difference between traumatic knowledge and traumatic experience, don't you think? Knowing that your parents were tortured into a state of madness and being taken to visit them from time to time may be a bit traumatic, especially for a very young child, but it's hardly in the same category as actually having seen it happen to them.

It also serves a useful function, in a way that having a specific memory of the event does not. Visiting and caring for ones incapacitated relatives may not be much fun, but it's hardly gratuitous. Not only may Neville's visits be of some comfort to his parents (even if they don't really remember who he is), but they are also a matter of filial duty, which serves an important social function. Most people would like to believe that even if they were rendered catatonic by some dire catastrophe, their friends and loved ones would continue to care for them and to visit them from time to time. And naturally, from Neville's perspective, it is infinitely better to know what really happened to your parents than not to know — or even worse, to know that they are utterly mad, but to have no idea how they got that way.

So I don't really find it at all difficult to believe that a reasonably rational and well-intentioned adult might have thought it a good idea to remove Neville's memory of the actual event, even knowing that he was still going to go through life being aware of what had occurred.

From here on out, though, I'm going to have to resign my defense of this theory and leave it to somebody else, as far too many people—DG, Eileen, Porphyria, Debbie—chose to frame their objections by snatching that "The Wizarding World Has A Warrior Culture" drum that I'm always beating on right out of my hands and then thrashing me savagely about the head and shoulders with it.

Talon DG:

Except that this doesn't jibe with the Wizarding World's attitude to life in general. They're very elemental, these wizards. No touchy-feely therepy for them! Either suck it up and deal with it, or get on with the business of going mad....That's not to say Neville wouldn't have been comforted, that people wouldn't have tried to take care of him, that he wouldn't have recieved sympathy and empathy. Wizards may be harsh, but they're not cruel. But hiding the trauma from Neville for his own psychic health doesn't seem in character.

Erm. No. No, I guess it really doesn't seem very much in character for the wizarding world, does it? Although—


I think these Warrior Ethos types wouldn't bother to spare him. After all, he's supposed to grow up to avenge the wrongs against his parents -- isn't he?

Well, yes. Yes, he is. But—


But I don't believe for a minute that a well-meaning family member put a Memory Charm on Neville to protect him from the psychological effects of the torture he witnessed. That, IMO, is inconsistent with the general violence and toughness of the Potterverse. (Does anyone have one of those Viking helmets to spare?) Um. I, uh, think that you need to talk to Eileen about getting one of those Viking helmets. See, I don't know from Vikings. I only know from Romans. But listen, guys, about that classic memory charm notion? I really do think that—

Eileen (delivering the coup de grace):

But, this wouldn't happen in a warrior culture, would it? Let's reimagine the story in Livian Rome. . . .Nevillus's pater was a great Roman general, who bravely defended the Eternal City against the Volscians and company. However, one day he is ambushed by some distinctly treacherous Volscians who kill him. Therefore, Nevillus is brought up by his grandmater, a Roman matron in every sense of the word. Does grandmater put a memory charm on little Nevillus to make him forget? Not if she, or those around her, are true Romans. Instead, they are more likely to emphasize that it is up to Nevillus to wipe out this blot on the honour of the Lombotommi, to emphasize the past for his benefit.

All right! All right! Uncle! Mercy! I yield! I am powerless in the face of Livian parallels, and the entire notion of the family "Lombottomi" weakens the last of my sinews. The Classic Memory Charm is a total dog, all right? Okay? Forget the fact that it's got the weight of tradition and history on its side! Forget the fact that it's practically older than God Himself! It's a complete loser! Anything you like! Just. Please. Stop.

<Elkins crawls away from the fray, shaking her head in stunned disbelief>

I don't believe it. I do not believe it. Hoist. Hoist by my own pet reading. Impaled, as it were, on my very own sword.

O, the irony.

><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><((">

Well, would you just look at the time! Let's take a break now, okay? I could really use a cigarette. A couple of cigarettes. Lots of cigarettes. And a stiff drink. Not to mention some bandages.

Be back in around forty minutes or so, and we'll move on into the realms of the somewhat greyer-motived variations on MC'd Neville: The Wizarding Witness Protection Program, The "Wizards In Black" Theory, the "Hidden Source" Theory, and the Ever So Alluring (if also Ever So Wobbly) Reverse Memory Charm.


continued in part 2


RE: TBAY: Memory Charm Symposium (2 of 3)

(continued from part one)

Welcome back.

This second batch of variants on the Memory Charm Theory moves away from the idea that Neville's memory was suppressed for psychological or purely humanitarian reasons. Instead, these theories ascribe far more pragmatic (if still generally good-intentioned) motives to the perpetrators of the proposed memory charm. We're delving into some darker territory here, to be sure, and the motives get greyer and greyer the deeper in we go. With luck, this should mean that by the time we get to the truly Dark and nasty variations on MC'd Neville, we should all be thoroughly inured.

In this segment of our symposium, we'll be looking at the Wizarding Witness Protection Program, The "Wizards In Black" Theory, The "Hidden Source" Theory, and the Reverse Memory Charm, or MATCHINGARMCHAIR.


The Wizarding Witness Protection Program


Neville was given a Memory Charm by well-meaning Ministry officials, in order to protect him from those (still-at-large Death Eaters, for example) who might otherwise target him to prevent him from revealing something incriminating about them.


A number of people have suggested this theory in the past, although none of them stepped forward on the Still Life thread.

The main problem that I have with this theory is that nobody has ever been able to explain it to me in a way that enables me to understand the motive. I just don't get it. At all. I mean, if Neville had actually known something useful, then wouldn't the Ministry have heard his testimony before they gave him a Memory Charm? But in that case, the damage would already have been done, right? And if Neville's testimony was insufficient to put away some still-at-large culprit the first time around, then why would said culprit even bother to target him thereafter? The only possible reason to do so would be revenge -- or possibly pure malice. But how would a memory charm serve to protect Neville from someone out for revenge, or from someone acting out of murderous spite? Why would such a person care what the kid could or could not remember? It's not as if Neville's name has been changed, or he's been given a new identity, or anything like that. It's not even as if the fact that he was given a Memory Charm has been widely publicized. On the contrary, it seems to be a deep dark secret. So how—

Oh, well. You get the idea, I trust. No matter how I try to approach this one, I just can't seem to work it so that it makes any sense to me. Maybe one of its adherents can explain it to me? Because I feel as if I'm quite likely missing something when it comes to this theory.

I do think that the underlying premise here—that Neville was placed under a memory charm for somebody's physical (rather than emotional) protection—is indeed very compelling. For now, though, it works a whole lot better for me as it is used in Cover-Up at the Ministry, or any of the variants on DEPRECIATION, or in Memory Charm Most Foul. Or, for that matter, in our next theory...


The "Wizards In Black" Theory

(Includes such variants as: The Double Agent Protection Program; Fifth Man; The Rescue Scenario; and Fourth Man With Deep Undercover.)


Neville was given a Memory Charm in order to prevent him from revealing top-secret and strategically vital information about someone or something related to the assault on his parents. Unlike "Depreciation" or "Cover-Up at the Ministry," however, the culprit in this case is not a Death Eater or any other garden variety evil-doer, but instead someone working for the forces of good, albeit in a creepy, secretive, "never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing," black-budgety sort of way.


This theory is particularly appealing to paranoids and fans of espionage plotlines. Probably its most common manifestation is the "Double Agent Protection Program" version, in which Neville's Memory Charm was cast on him to preserve the cover of some spook or another.

Of course, if Neville was given a Memory Charm in order to protect the identity of somebody working deep undercover within the DE organization, then we all know who that somebody must have been, right?

<Elkins waits, beaming, for the expected audience response>

That's right! It was—

What? WHAT? What did you all just say? You said Snape? You think that it was Snape?

Oh, please. You're joking, right? Surely you must be joking. You're all just having me on here. You can't honestly believe that, can you?

Come on, people. Let's be serious here for just a minute, okay? You all know perfectly well that Snape is hardly an important enough character to be the person that Neville's Memory Charm was cast to protect.

But we all know who really is important enough to fulfill such a plot function, don't we? Sure we do! Who do we all know to be the Most Important Character In Canon? Who do we all know JKR has all lined up to serve as the big surprise hero of Book Five? Who do we all know absolutely must have been the real mole in the Longbottom Affair, who is in fact still working for the Ministry in a very active role, whose true allegiance has been kept secret from even Dumbledore himself? Who must it be whose work is so absolutely vital to the security of the entire Wizarding World that the Ministry would go to any lengths to protect him from exposure?

<Elkins waits again, tapping her foot irritably as the silence drags on and on and on...>

Oh, for heaven's...

It was AVERY, you fools! Avery! Sheesh. What's wrong with you tonight?

Of course it had to have been Avery! Who else could it have been? It was Unspeakable Fourth Man, that's who it was!

Unspeakable Fourth Man. Department-of-Mysteries Fourth Man. Tough-As-Nails Fourth Man. Avery-Means-King-of-the-Elves Fourth Man. So-Deep-Undercover-That-At-First-Glance-The-Bed-Looks-Completely-Unoccupied Fourth Man. Fourth Man who eats men like Mad Eye for breakfast, out-Oscars even young Barty Crouch, and makes Snape's purported talent for snooping about look just plain pathetic. Fourth Man who thinks nothing—nothing, I tell you!—of enduring years of imprisonment in Azkaban, over a decade of suspicion and mistrust from the rest of the law-abiding wizarding world, the contempt and scorn of other Death Eaters, and even the reincorporated Voldemort's very best Cruciatus, if that's what it will take to allow him to maintain his cover as grovelling, hysterical, in-over-his-head SYCOPHANTSish Fourth Man so that he may continue his heroic and loyal service to—

What? What's that you say? You still think that the Undercover Agent must have been Snape? Really? Still?


Oh all right. I guess we can talk about that possibility, if you guys absolutely insist. But I'm warning you right now -- Fourth Man With Deep Undercover is actually a whole lot more canonically defensible, in the long run.

By far the most popular interpretation of this version of the Memory Charm speculation is that the purpose of Neville's memory charm was to protect Snape, who was somehow involved in the Longbottom Incident in his role as Dumbledore's agent.

Talon DG suggested that Snape might in fact have been a Fifth Man:

What if Snape were involved? He could have been there, involved, undercover, and perhaps his testimony is what sent the torturers to Azkaban. Could Neville's memory charm be there to prevent him from inadvertantly blowing Snape's cover?

Fifth Man Snape, eh?

Well, it's certainly possible. I do see a big problem with the timeline, though. Snape's role as undercover agent was discussed openly at Karkaroff's hearing, which predated the attack on the Longbottoms. It seems highly unlikely to me that Snape was still in active service at that point in time, or that he would have been able to return to active service after his role had become so widely known. There were about two hundred people seated on the tribunal when Dumbledore pronounced Snape's status as a mole, and I find it very difficult to believe that Dumbledore was so certain that each and every one of those two hundred people could be trusted that he would have first blown Snape's cover to them, and then sent him right back out to work. Certainly I wouldn't have been too pleased about that, if I had been Snape.

The other big problem that I see here is that Dumbledore himself seems so very doubtful about Crouch Jr's guilt when he discusses the affair with Harry in Chapter 30 of GoF, and that he so strongly implies that the only evidence against the Pensieve defendants was the highly dubious testimony of the Longbottoms themselves:

'Unfortunately, the Longbottoms' evidence was -- given their condition -- none too reliable.'

'Then Mr. Crouch's son might not have been involved?' said Harry slowly.

Dumbldore shook his head. 'As to that, I have no idea.'

I find this exchange very difficult to reconcile with a scenario in which Snape's testimony was in fact what put the Pensieve defendents away. Given that Harry has learned of Snape's undercover role only minutes previous to this conversation, I just can't imagine why Dumbledore would feel the need to be so exceptionally duplicitous with him here. It also just doesn't jibe with his character for me. As I read him, Dumbledore is indeed often evasive, but he is never duplicitous in quite that outright a manner.

Although Fifth Man Snape is so hard to reconcile with canon, though, the suggestion that Neville's memory charm must exist to protect Snape in some fashion really does have teeth, following up as it does on canon's strong suggestion that there must exist some important connection or relationship between Neville and Snape.

Pippin wrote:

I think we have to account for the fact that Neville's main antagonist is Snape, and therefore the drama around Neville ought to be Snape-centric.

Finwitch agreed, even abandoning her usual hard-line anti-Snape stance just long enough to concede the possibility that Snape might have been present for the Longbottoms' torture as an agent of good:

Yes, it is necessary that Snape was somehow involved with Neville's worst experience to become his worst fear. I believe it also has to do with why Dumbledore trusts Snape. Yes, he may have been the double-agent. . . .Perhaps Snape was trying to save the Longbottoms?

Perhaps he was at that. After all...

<Elkins grips the edge of her lectern, leaning forward as a mad gleam appears in her eyes>

After all, since as we all know, Snape is secretly and hopelessly in love with Neville's mother, and has been ever since their schooldays together at Hogwarts, it makes perfect sense that...OW! Hey! Come on! Quit it!

::ducks down behind the lectern to take refuge from the pencils, beer cans, rotten tomatoes, and bowling balls which have suddenly come flying towards her from the audience::

Okay! All right! Sheesh.

::straightens, eying the audience warily::


Tough crowd.

Okay. Well, staying on target then, this brings us to the "Rescue Scenario" version of "Wizards In Black," in which Snape was indeed present at the scene of the attack on the Longbottoms, but found himself incapable of helping anyone but toddler Neville, whom he rescued from the scene and possibly saved from suffering his parents' fate.

This speculation appeals on so many different levels. First, it provides a highly convincing explanation for Neville's fear of Snape. If both Snape and Neville were present for the attack on the Longbottoms, and if Neville's memory blockage is wearing off or degrading in some fashion, then he could well retain some trace memory of Snape which associates him with the traumatic event, thus leading to Neville's identification of Snape as his "worst fear."

Second, the rescue scenario maintains, with beautifully cruel irony, the canonically-established pattern of Snape's actions and motivations being misinterpreted in the worst possible way by others.

The rescue scenario also avoids some (although by no means all) of the pitfalls of "Fifth Man." If Snape was for some reason unable to save any of the Longbottoms but Neville, then it seems equally possible that he was also unable to learn the identities of the culprits. The rescue scenario still doesn't explain, however, why Snape's role in the affair should have been believed to be so very sensitive that it would warrant wiping Neville's memory of the event, especially since at the time, Snape's role hardly seems to have been a terribly carefully-guarded secret.

In message #36922 Pippin, while standing back and preparing to be pelted with FEATHERBOAs, put forward a "psychological repression" version of the rescue scenario in which Snape was himself responsible for setting up Frank Longbottom, as a part of an entrapment scenario gone horribly awry. That in and of itself warrants a featherboa as far as I'm concerned, but she also threw in not one, but two bloody ambushes, as well as much betrayal among old school chums. And use of the word "gibbering." So...

<Elkins pulls a feather boa made from glossy—if also still rather sticky—black feathers out of one of her very deep pockets and looks it over comtemplatively>

Hmmmm. Well, since I know how much you like that whole "dressing in black" thing, Pippin, how about this one? I made it from these two big black birds that I ran into the other day. It was the weirdest thing, actually: one of them kept saying "wei...wei...wei..." but every time I tried to tell it why, it just wouldn't listen to me. And then the other one started croaking "" which just made no sense to me at all. I mean, I had no idea what that stupid bird was nattering on about, and I couldn't find Eileen or anyone else with one of those Viking helmets to translate for me. So I figured that I'd best just wring both their necks and have done with it.


Oh, well. It couldn't have been anything all that important, right? After all, neither of them put up much of a fight. So here you go, Pippin! Enjoy!

<Elkins tosses the shiny black feather boa over to Pippin, then frowns. It occurs to her that she's definitely beginning to...drift. Perhaps, she thinks, she had better move on to a new Memory Charm variant. This whole Wizards In Black line of thought seems to be inspiring her to digress wildly, for some strange reason. And it's beginning to give her a headache as well. Most odd, that.>

Okay. So what's next? Oh, that's right. We were just talking about ravens, weren't we? That must mean that the next one up is...


The "Hidden Source" Theory

(Otherwise known as: "Neville As Raven")


Neville's father, or perhaps both of his parents, really were in possession of some crucial information regarding Voldemort, possibly even knowledge of the means by which he could be utterly defeated. Either Neville stumbled across this knowledge by chance, or he had it magically hidden away in his mind when his parents realized that they were likely to come under attack. In either case, his parents then gave him the Memory Charm themselves, in order to keep hidden the vital information that he carries.


This marriage of "Wizards In Black" and "Memory Charm Most Foul," proposed by Naama, has the undeniable advantage that it avoids all of the problems inherent in the idea that Neville was witness to the assault on his parents, while still allowing him to possess a highly plot-relevant memory charm. It also has a certain "worm-turning" appeal, suggesting as it does that whatever secret knowledge Neville carries hidden deep within his mind will likely be absolutely vital to Voldemort's eventual defeat.


If so, then it makes sense that the memory charm has an inbuilt expiration mechanism. Maybe the charm will expire once Neville reaches a certain age? Or, maybe the hidden knowledge is supposed to be triggered by some event (meeting with Voldemort, maybe)? What if Neville carries, unbeknowest to him, the information that Harry will need in order to vanquish Voldemort?

And so, somewhere in Book Seven, Neville will help to save the day!

Mm. Well, there is a certain pleasure to be found in that notion, to be sure, as well as in the incongruity of Neville in the role as the repository of secret knowledge. And certainly I agree with Naama that if Neville has a memory charm, then there is surely something important hidden away by it. Otherwise there would seem little point, from the authorial perspective, of introducing such a plotline in the first place.

I'm having a lot of problems with the details of the Hidden Source Theory, though. I almost wish that I weren't, as I find the ironic juxtaposition, if I may steal Tabouli's pet phrase, to be so very delightful. Take this, for example:


Neville, the Raven (whatsitsname?), carrier of secret information, the unexpected source, etc.

Now, how can I bring myself to argue with the idea of Neville-as-Raven? It's...well, it's almost like putting a single pink flamingo right in the middle of a gloomy old Gothic Cathedral, isn't it? I mean, it's just plain beautiful.

But it does make the Longbottoms themselves seem rather ruthless, don't you think? To place their only son at such a terrible risk? Not that I really mind Ruthless!Frank—in my more perverse moods, I even enjoy a little bit of Ever So Evil Frank—but I do find myself struggling with the idea that even Ruthless!Frank would have chosen his own son and heir to serve such a role. Even leaving aside the emotional issues involved, couldn't he have found some more secure place to hide away the secret knowledge than in his own son's mind? If the DEs knew that such a spell was possible, then surely that would be one of the very first places they would think to look once they realized that Frank himself no longer possessed the information they sought, wouldn't it?

I also find myself wondering why, if the Longbottoms had indeed received advance warning that they might become DE targets, they couldn't have protected themselves a bit better. There's something almost embarrassing about the notion of Frank Longbottom, the Ruthless Auror Who Sees Which Way the Wind Is Blowing, still managing to get himself brought down by that pathetic group of losers that we saw in the Pensieve scene.

Unless, that is, we're proposing that the Longbottoms had some sort of martyr complex?

My biggest problem with this theory, though, is that I'm finding it very hard to imagine how Frank Longbottom could have managed not to give the game away himself, seeing as both he and his wife were apparently tortured half to death with the express purpose of persuading him to talk.

Naama suggested, as a way around this problem:

Maybe they also put themselves under a Lunatic charm, i.e., a charm that turns them insane the minute they are about to divulge the secret?

Wow. That would certainly have been sporting of them. Very heroic indeed.

True, that certainly would fix the hole. And it would also clean up the whole "Oh, please! People don't really go insane like that!" objection to the entire Longbottom plotline. But I just don't know about that Lunatic Charm idea. We've never heard of anything like a Lunatic Charm in canon, have we? I'm very much afraid that we might be looking at a yellow flag violation if we start venturing down that path.

Tabouli wrote:

Hmmm... now that raises another possibility... were the Lestranges and co torturing the Longbottoms to try to break a Memory Charm on them? Perhaps they knew where Voldemort had fled, and Dumbledore or someone obliviated their memory of this so they couldn't give it away.

I dunno. I'm just not convinced that many people really get tortured to death without spilling the beans.

No, neither am I, and I don't think that JKR is either. The HP books are written in a fairly heroic idiom, but they're not written in that heroic an idiom. And besides, we already know that memory charms can be broken. In fact, it has been very strongly implied that they are specifically broken by means of torture. The Ministry must be aware of this, so I very much doubt that they would Obliviate their Aurors as a means of granting them immunity to interrogation: they would surely be aware that that it just wouldn't work.

Nor do I find it believable that there is any more effective or more permanent means of removing information from the human mind known to the wizarding world than the Memory Charm. If there were such a method, then the Ministry would likely be using it, rather than Obliviate, on the muggle population. Even if it were so dangerous that even the Ministry would balk at its use, I doubt that Gilderoy Lockhart would have been so fastidious. And even if it were too tricky for Lockhart to have managed, Crouch Sr. surely could have handled it, and I don't believe for a second that ends-over-means-prone Crouch, who was willing to cast an Unforgiveable Curse on his illegally-sprung-from-Azkaban son, wouldn't have used it on Bertha Jorkins. So I feel fairly well-convinced that the Memory Charm is in fact the closest thing that the wizarding world has yet found to a permanent knowledge removal spell -- and a memory charm wouldn't have sufficed to keep the Longbottoms' information hidden from their assailants.

So all in all, I feel fairly well convinced that poor Frank Longbottom really didn't know a thing.

I do rather like the idea that the Lestranges et al might have thought that Frank was under a memory charm, though. It offers a far more convincing explanation than pure sadism for the fact that they hung around Crucioing the couple (and thus increasing their risk of getting caught) long past the point at which it must have become clear to anyone with the slightest modicum of sense that neither of the Longbottoms knew anything useful. It also has some canonical support in that Voldemort's description of the post-memory-charm-cracked Bertha Jorkins ("mind and body both damaged beyond repair") would seem an equally apt description of two people who have been hospitalized for thirteen years to date with apparently no noticeable improvement in their condition.

Ah. But speaking of those yellow flag violations, we now come at last to...


The Reverse Memory Charm Theory

(Otherwise known as: M.A.T.C.H.I.N.G.A.R.M.C.H.A.I.R. ["Marooned At The Court Hearing, Ill-fated Neville Got A Reverse Memory Charm, Hatching Amnesia-Inducing Results"])


Neville is indeed the victim of a memory spell, but it is not one designed to suppress his memories at all. Rather, he was exposed to some form of magical memory-enhancement, probably by ministry officials hoping to get some leads on the identities of the Longbottoms' attackers. The end result of this has been that Neville now helplessly relives the memory of having witnessed his parents' torture, particularly whenever he is under stress, thus rendering him incapable of concentrating on other matters.


Gulplum, apparently unaware of the fact that he was about to be offered a seat in the Comfy Chair, made a case for this one:

Neville suffers not from a memory charm, but a memory curse. . . .What I mean by that, is that the trauma of his parents' torture hasn't been wiped from his mind, but on the contrary, has been deliberately embedded in such detail and so inextricably, that every waking moment, he relives the experience over and over and over again. Thus his short-term memory has been shot, his self-confidence is shot, and his whole self-image is damaged.

<Elkins nods grimly. She drags out from behind her lectern a rather large recliner, upholstered in fabric that presumably matches something, although Elkins herself has never been altogether certain what that something might be, and waves Gulplum towards it.>

There you go, Gulplum. Have a seat.

MATCHINGARMCHAIR, the "Reverse Memory Charm" Theory, is definitely appealing in that it caters to all of our worst suspicions about the MOM. By suggesting that Neville is tormented on a near-constant basis by the sound of his parents screaming in agony, it also pleases the anti-sap brigade. There is not a single ewwwwy bit of sappiness to be found in the Reverse Memory Charm theory. It is not in the least bit sappy. It isn't even nice. It is a nasty brutal cynical little speculation, capable of corrupting even the ordinarily peaceable Tabouli into coming up with things like this gruesome marriage of MATCHING ARMCHAIR and DEPRECIATION, in which poor Neville's problems actually derive from someone in Law Enforcement having broken a Memory Charm which had been placed on him by one of the perps:


A Memory Charm to conceal the identity of the perpetrators would make more sense, because then the fact that Neville sees the aftermath isn't a problem...he can't remember the actual event, and hence can't point the finger. This is where Cindy's Reverse Memory Charm comes in. At the trial, they had to use "the Longbottoms" (in a bad condition, says Dumbledore) to identify the culprits. Was Neville included? Perhaps when no sense could be gotten from his parents, they had to break the Memory Charm on Neville. This can be done, because Voldemort did it to Bertha (using torture). Hence he now remembers the incident, and hence his memory is bad because it's, well, occupied with horrible things most of the time.

(To her alarm, Tabouli finds herself looking at a nice, comfy MATCHING ARMCHAIR...)

An armchair?

Oh, you're looking at far worse than that, hon. I mean, Tortured Toddler Neville? Tortured by the Ministry Toddler Neville, no less?

<Elkins lazily pulls the pink feather boa that she's been saving for months now, just 'specially for Tabouli, out of her pocket. She reflects upon what Snape once said about vengeance. She smiles a slightly twisted smile.>

Mmmmmm. Actually? Maybe later.

When you least expect it, Tabouli. When you least expect it.

Reverse Memory Charm also offers a strong possibility that one or two—or even all—of the Pensieve defendents might actually have been innocent. After all, as Nuria wrote quite recently:

However, given that he was indeed a toddler when his parents were crucio'd, it is more likely a Reverse Memory Charm had been used on him (this is what we Muggles call Regressive Hypnosis!)

Eeeee-yup. Indeed it is. And we all know how very reliable testimony based on Regressive Hypnosis is, right?

Yeah. Small wonder that Dumbledore had his doubts.

Perhaps the most appealing thing of all about the Reverse Memory Charm, though, is its success in avoiding all of those pesky motivational difficulties that plague so many other memory charm theories. We may have some problems figuring out why Neville might have been given a Memory Charm, but it's fairly obvious why someone might have given him a Reverse Memory Charm. To help the Ministry identify the Longbottoms' attackers, of course!

But would the Department of Law Enforcement really stoop that low? Even knowing what it might do to the poor boy's mind?

Are you kidding me? Under Crouch's reign? Of course it would!

Gulplum even offered up a perfectly beautiful suggestion as to what the thematic relevance of a Reverse Memory Charm scenario to the series as a whole might be:

The ability to forget is as important to the health of the human psyche as the ability to remember. What if Neville is, quite simply, incapable of forgetting? This, of course, also juxtaposes his parents' situation, in that they can't remember...

Well, yes. Yes, that will do.

That works. It works quite well, although as you know, I tend to prefer the converse interpretation: that Neville's current state represents the problems inherent in the inability to remember, while the later problems that I fear he may be headed for in the canon would represent the problems inherent in the inability to forget. But Gulplum's gloss works every bit as well. No, there's just no denying that Reverse Memory Charm does offer the possibility of strong thematic consistency.

And there's even a sadistic sort of Just Deserts pleasure to be found in the Reverse Memory Charm, especially for those of us who do not care very much at all for Crouch and his ends-over-means judicial approach. "You did want to know, right?" such readers can find themselves snickering maliciously as they contemplate the ramifications of this speculation. "You really, really wanted to know. You wanted to know the truth soooooooo badly. So badly that you were willing to mess up some poor toddler's mind, just to get at it. Well! Congratulations! Got your answer, didn't you? Hope that you really enjoyed it."

I mean, there's just so much to like here that I really find myself wanting to believe in the Reverse Memory Charm. But I can't. I just can't. There are far too many holes, most of which I've already covered in my comments on the "No Memory Charm At All" Theory.

See, I just can't believe that Neville has been walking around reliving the horrible image of his parents being tortured into insanity for the past four books. I just can't buy that. There's far too much evidence to the contrary. There's his overall demeanor, and his reaction to the Second Task's mermaid song, and his reaction to the Dementor on the train -- and then there's also the problem that Porphyria raised here:

He was too little to give testimony (the testimony of thirteen year old wizards doesn't even count).

Yeah, that's a problem too, although I think that it's a very minor one. After all, we already know that legal precedents and due process were being abandoned left and right at the time of the Longbottom Incident. What would one more violation of standard policy matter? But all the same, taken in combination with all of the other problems with the Reverse Memory Charm theory, it does start to add up.

And then there's also the, er...

::nervous look at Cindy::

Well, the yellow flag violation. I mean, what in blazes is a Reverse Memory Charm, anyway? I hate to hurl such monstrous accusations in a public forum, but I have to admit that there are times, terrible times, Long Dark Nights of my Soul, when I almost find myself suspecting that Cindy...

<Elkins winces, then lowers her voice>

Well, that Cindy might have just made the Reverse Memory Charm up.

::bites lip, then continues more quickly::

Not, you understand, that I'm saying that she did or anything. I mean, I'm hardly going to go throwing any yellow flags around here, ha ha ha. Not, at any rate, while I'm posing such a very tempting target standing right up here in front of everyone. But you know, I can't deny that I sometimes do think it.

And then finally, there's this problem of the foreshadowing. See, the main support for the entire memory charm speculation in the first place is all of that emphasis that the books have already placed on the existence of memory charms, right? In every single volume, we've had some mention of memory charms, or of some other form of magic (Riddle's Diary, the Fidelius Charm) that has the effect of rendering someone amnesiac, or of hiding information from their conscious mind. References to that sort of thing are just scattered throughout canon. There are spells that erase specific memories, and then there's magic that causes amnesia, and then there are botched memory charms that effectively lobotomize their recipients, and then there are...

Well. You see my point, I trust? There's been all of that, and yet we've not had one mention anywhere of a memory retrieval spell. We've had memory storage, with the Pensieve, and we've had coerced remembrance, with the Dementors, and we've had veritaserum—all of which are admittedly getting pretty close—but we've yet to see anything like a Reverse Memory Charm.

Wobbly. The Matching Armchair is indeed Ever So Comfy. But it is also just so very wobbly.

All the same, though, I'd very much like for it to be true. Because you know what? I think that I've finally figured out just exactly what it is that the Reverse Memory Charm armchair actually matches.

It matches my feather boas.

And it also matches my politics.

><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><((">

Okay. Time for another break, I think. Let's just check the—

<Elkins glances down at her watch, then stops, staring.>

Um. Uh, yeah. Ooooo-kay. So, er, does anyone have any idea why my watch might seem to be, um, melting?

Well, whatever. Tabouli's Tortured Toddler notwithstanding, MATCHING ARMCHAIR was the last on my list of Memory Charm theories that can really be described as "Grey." From here on out, I'm afraid that we're into the Dark and Nasty ones: "Cover-Up at the Ministry," DEPRECIATION, and "Memory Charm Most Foul." So fortify yourselves well with your beverage of choice during this break, because when we get back, we're headed straight down to the depths.


continued in part three


RE: TBAY: Memory Charm Symposium (3 of 3)

(continued from part two)

Three shall be the number of the Symposium posts, and the number of the Symposium posts shall be three!

Yes. Well. Let's try this again, shall we?


All fortified now?

Good. Because now we're going to be delving into those theories that assume unquestionably venal motives underlying Neville's memory charm. Here is where we get into all of those callous cover-ups, spiteful spell-castings, and family failings that are, let's face it, just ever so much more fun than all of those sappy well-intentioned memory charm theories.

Flying Hedgehogs abound once we get into this territory, and the degree of explanation necessary to outline the canonical support goes waaaaaaaay up. So I'm going to be doing a lot of message number citation in this last segment, as many of these theories are not only far too complicated, but also far too beautifully defended elsewhere for me to feel that I can really do justice to them in summary form.

This last part of the symposium deals with the Cover-Up At the Ministry, the DEPRECIATION, and the Memory Charm Most Foul theories. There's quite a bit of overlap between these three, admittedly, but for the purposes of analysis, I have attempted to draw a few bright lines to distinguish them from each other.

Ready? Okay. First up on our list is...


The "Cover-Up At the Ministry" Theory

(Otherwise Known As: "Longbottomgate," "We Was Framed!," "Rounding Up the Usual Suspects," "Bad Aurors," The "Palace Intrigue" Theory.)


Neville was placed under a memory charm by someone at the Ministry, in order to cover up the fact that one (or two, or three, or perhaps even all four) of the Pensieve defendents were innocent of the crime for which they were sent to prison. The real culprit(s) are still out there. At large. And many within the Ministry know it. But they just don't care. Not because they're Death Eaters or anything like that, mind—that would be DEPRECIATION—but rather, because they're too busy looking out for their own interests to worry about trifling little matters like the public weal.


There are quite a number of variants on this theory. Nearly all of them focus on the canonically-derived notion that in the wake of the Longbottom Incident, the Ministry was absolutely desperate to get a conviction in order to appease the mood of the mob and thus to avert a public relations disaster.

The canon here mainly derives from Chapter 30 of GoF, "The Pensieve," in which the extent to which the mood of the crowd defines the judicial process is strongly emphasized, as is the lynch-mob atmosphere presiding over the trial of the Longbottoms' alleged assailants. This alone would probably have sufficed to alert the reader to the possibility that the Ministry had been under a great deal of pressure to get someone, anyone, put away for the attack on the Longbottoms, but just in case we missed the implication, JKR then makes it explicit in Dumbledore's conversation with Harry shortly thereafter:

'The attacks on them came after Voldemort's fall from power, just when everyone thought they were safe. Those attacks caused a wave of fury such as I have never known. The Ministry was under great pressure to catch those who had done it. Unfortunately, the Longbottoms' evidence was -- given their condition -- none too reliable.'

Dumbledore then confesses to Harry that he has "no idea" whether Crouch Jr. had really been involved in the affair at all.

The secondary canon for Cover-Up derives from Sirius' description of Crouch Jr's arrest in Chapter 27, as well as from his description of the status of the young man's co-defendents, generally assumed to be the Lestranges, Fourth Man. Sirius, too, expresses doubts as to young Crouch's guilty verdict: "...he might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time..." More to the point, though, Sirius also describes the Lestranges and Fourth Man as "a group of Death Eaters who'd managed to talk their way out of Azkaban," and as "people I'd bet my life were Death Eaters."

So a picture begins to emerge here. We have a Ministry of Magic that is absolutely desperate to get someone convicted of this crime. We have as the only two eye-witnesses the victims themselves, a couple of gibbering wrecks unable to provide any reliable testimony. We have a Department of Magical Law Enforcement still filled with Aurors who, if Sirius is to be believed, have grown accustomed to operating according to somewhat less than stringent standards.

And then we have the Lestranges and Fourth Man, who from the ambiguity in Sirius' description of them would seem to have been people who even at the time were widely believed to have been Death Eaters who only escaped justice in the first place on the basis of some lame legal technicality. If they are the same age as Snape, then they would have been very young at the time as well. Young enough, perhaps, that they lacked much in the way of political power or social clout? That seems likely enough, particularly in the wake of Voldemort's fall, when possible patrons like the Malfoys would presumably have been keeping their heads down.

They do begin to look like appealing suspects, don't they? Very appealing suspects. Particularly for a Department of Magical Law Enforcement that is desperate to get a conviction, and that has been known to ignore due process in the past, when it has suited its purposes.

Did someone in the DMLE decide to go with What Was Easy over What Was Right when it came to closing the file on the Longbottom Incident? Did someone then put a Memory Charm on Neville to cover their tracks?

Eileen objected to this theory on the grounds that it provides insufficient Bang. After all, she wrote, we the readers already know that the Ministry is corrupt, so for this to be the great revelation Neville has to offer would be a total Dud.


If Neville snaps out of the charm and yells, "Corrupt Cover-up," no-one will bat an eye.

True enough. Ah, but the Bang in this theory, you see, isn't really the revelation that the Ministry is corrupt at all. Nor is it the identity of the perpetrator of the Memory Charm itself. It doesn't really matter who in the Ministry might have performed the actual spell.

No, what matters in the context of the Cover-Up At the Ministry is the question of just who the real culprits in the Longbottom Affair were. Who were those secret DE torturers for whom the Lestranges and Fourth Man were willing to take the fall? They must have been pretty important secret DE torturers, right?

So who were they? Someone we know, surely, because otherwise it would be a Dud. So could we be looking at an Ever So Evil Moody here? An Ever So Evil Minerva McGonagall? An Ever So Evil Dumbledore? Oh my, could it be that Neville's own dear Herbology mentor is actually the Ever So Evil Death Eating Sprout? Or could we be overlapping with Memory Charm Most Foul here, to give us an Ever So Evil Granny Longbottom, or an Ever So Evil Bent Uncle Algie?

Why, the possibilities for Big Loud Bangs are just endless!

Porphyria remained unconvinced:

See, this is fun. But I'm not quite sure what would have gone on.

Well, that all depends on which version of the Cover-Up you favor. The most extreme version of this theory, "Rounding Up the Usual Suspects," proposes that not one of the Pensieve Four was really guilty of the charges against them. Although they were indeed cognizant of a DE conspiracy to restore Voldemort to power and likely involved with the plot in some other capacity, they were not the Longbottoms' torturers.

In this scenario, the fact that Crouch's own son just happened to be hanging out with the Usual Suspects on the night that the Aurors battered down the door is viewed as nothing more than a horrible coincidence, a complication which no one could possibly have foreseen.

Nor, of course, could anyone in the Department possibly have foreseen that after the trial and the conviction and the verdict, the Longbottoms' son would turn out to have seen something, or perhaps heard something -- something that, if anyone ever found out about it, would absolutely require that the verdict be overturned and the search for the Longbottoms' real assailants begin once more. I mean, we're talking total public relations nightmare here. A political disaster. Particularly if Crouch Jr. had already ostensibly died in prison and his father's fall from power begun.

So. Memory Charm. Problem solved.

Porphyria objected to the full frame-up theory on the grounds that Mrs. Lestrange actually confesses her guilt in the Pensieve scene and would seem to be confessing not only on her own behalf, but also on behalf of the entire party. She wrote:

In the Pensieve scene, Mrs. Lestrange admits to the guilt of her party, doesn't she?

Well, she certainly does admit to her own guilt. Who precisely she means to include by her use of the first person plural, though, is something that I've always found fairly ambiguous.

"He will rise again and will come for us, he will reward us beyond any of his other supporters! We alone were faithful! We alone tried to find him!"

Does that "we" really refer to all four of the defendents, do you think? Or is it, perhaps, only meant to refer the three of them who have not been sitting there shrieking hysterial denials and pleas throughout the entire sentencing?

I can read it either way. I can also read it quite comfortably as a use of the marital "we," in which case she means to include only her husband in her boastful confession.

But at any rate, there's no question that she admits her own guilt. She not only admits it, she proclaims it. Proudly. Defiantly. And in a manner that seems designed to strike fear—and perhaps even a slight stirring of reluctant admiration—into the hearts of all those who witness it.

Just like Good Terrorists are supposed to do.

Especially when they're claiming responsibility for an act that they did not in fact commit.

I mean, aren't fanatical members of terrorist organizations notorious for doing that? That's par for the course, isn't it? It's a terrorism trope. It's very nearly a cliche.


I guess what I'm asking here is, if there were a cover up, if either someone of the four was innocent or someone else was also guilty, what do you think her reaction would be?

Well, as we don't know all that much about her, it's a bit hard to say. But assuming that she is indeed loyal, strong-willed and fanatical, and that while innocent of the attack on the Longbottoms, she nonetheless was cognizant of or involved with a DE conspiracy to seek out Voldemort and restore him to power, then I imagine that her reaction might well have been to do whatever she could over the course of her trial to draw as much attention to herself as humanly possible, in the hopes that she might leave absolutely no doubt in the mind of the tribunal that they had caught the entirety of the conspiracy, thus leaving her unknown but still-at-large colleagues with a much clearer field to seek out their fallen master without having to worry about any Aurors out searching for them.

Anyway, that's probably what I'd do, if I were brave and loyal and slightly mad, and had a fanatic's faith in Voldemort's power.

If I were not only brave and loyal and fanatical, but also rather clever, then it occurs to me that I might also go out of my way to exaggerate all of my defiance and pride and True Warrior Spiritedness -- just to provide a clear example to the convened tribunal of what a Real Death Eater is supposed to look like, and thus to plant seeds of doubt in their minds that hysterical little Barty Crouch could possibly really be one. I can easily imagine Mrs. Lestrange figuring that young Crouch is the only one of the four of them who stands even the slightest chance of getting off the hook and so doing what she can to improve his chances. Not only might this enable him to walk free, which since he is a loyal DE devoted to the cause would be a Very Good Thing, but it might also harm his father's career, which because his father is a loyal Ministry official and an Enemy of the Cause would be an Even Better Thing.

Certainly I do find the Pensieve defendents' reaction—or, rather, their utter lack of reaction—to Crouch's hysteria at the sentencing extremely interesting. They don't respond to him at all. They neither back him up nor try to debunk his claims of innocence. They even resist the temptation to hiss a quick "shut up" in his general direction. All three of them simply ignore him completely. It does serve to bolster the impression that perhaps he really wasn't involved, and I sometimes find myself wondering if that might not have been their very intent.


Would she be too proud to quibble with the court? Or would she try to expose the real culprit? She has very little to lose.

You think?

See, I'd say that she has nothing to gain, myself. Given the mood of the court, I don't think that anything that she did or said would have kept her from being sentenced to life in prison, and I suspect that she was well aware of that. So she had absolutely nothing to gain by trying to proclaim her innocence, but if she really is as fanatical and devoted a follower as she seems to be, then I'd say that from her own perspective, she had absolutely everything to lose. I mean, Voldemort is coming back, right? One way or another, he's coming back, and when he does, he's going to reward the faithful and punish the faithless. And taking the fall for your colleagues (whom presumably she believed would continue the search for their absent Master, rather than abandoning it) certainly ought to count as loyalty worthy of some great reward.

No, Mrs. Lestrange's behavior in the Pensieve scene isn't really all that troublesome for me when it comes to my willingness to run with the full-fledged frame-up theory. I could live quite happily with that. The graveyard scene, on the other hand, is a different story. It is very difficult, IMO, to parse Voldemort's lines in the graveyard in any manner that supports the idea that all four of the Longbottom defendents were sent down the river as a frame-up job.

Fortunately, however, in message #36889, Debbie proposed an even Darker and Dirtier—and also far more blackly humorous—version of the full frame-up job than the rather pedestrian "Usual Suspects" spec, and this one does offer some possible explanation for both Lestrange's confession and Voldemort's praise in the graveyard, as well as providing one possible defense for young Barty Crouch's insistence that his loyalty to Voldemort never wavered, in spite of all of his pathetic squealing at his trial.

Debbie suggested that Aurors not only framed the Pensieve defendents, but that they were themselves the Longbottoms' torturers. And that they were responsible for the Longbottoms' current mind-blitzed states, as well, because what's really wrong with the Longbottoms, you see, isn't that they were tortured at all. It's that they were very badly Memory Charmed!

Ooooooh, those Bad Aurors!

Debbie also dangled the tantalizing suggestion of inter-departmental rivalries within the spook divisions of the MoM before our amazed eyes:

Frank may have had information on people that would shock us. . . .The MOM would have at least as great an interest in this information as the DE's, and if Aurors were in effect secret agents, they would not want to reveal their secrets to the average MOM employee.

She then got herself up to quite a bit of dark mischief by proposing a scenario in which ruthless Aurors, either because they suspected that Frank Longbottom was a DE double-agent or because they worked for a different division and were keen to know what their rivals were up to (and perhaps also driven by a touch of envy over Frank's massive popularity?), were right in the middle of interrogating their colleague by torturing him, and his innocent wife, and even possibly their blameless young son...

<Elkins pauses.>

And even possibly their blameless young son?

<She shakes her head, then reaches down deep into one pocket. She rummages about in there for a few moments. She frowns.>

Boy. You guys really do have nasty little minds, don't you? You know, I've run right out of FEATHERBOAs? That's how vicious and unkind you people are.


So anyway, Debbie suggested that just as the Aurors were right in the middle of perpetrating atrocities on the entire Longbottom family, that was when the Pensieve Four (who in this version are only "innocent" by virtue of having been beaten to the punch by the Bad Aurors) showed up at the exact same location -- and with the exact same plan in mind.

Panicked, the Aurors fired off Memory Charms at the Longbottoms and fled.


The torturers don't want to kill the Longbottoms at this point because he hasn't cracked yet and they think they can return and continue the torture at a later date (believing they can break the charm as Voldemort did to Bertha). But they're in a rush since the...[DEs] are at the door, so they quickly execute an enormous, cover-your-rear Obliviate that would do Lockhart proud, as there's no time for surgical precision. Then they Disapparate. . . .The Longbottoms, now clueless as to (presumably) their own and Neville's identity, may have little more than a vague recollection of Crucio, which allows the Ministry great latitude in sweeping up suspects. The Longbottoms are misdiagnosed based on the sketchy information and sent to St. Mungo's.

And of course, it's easy enough for the Aurors to whip up a compelling case against the Usual Suspects, isn't it? After all, the Usual Suspects really were there that night -- the Aurors saw them there themselves. And they really had been planning to question Longbottom about Voldemort's whereabouts, so all of those "to-do" lists and the like that they left lying around on the dining room table make for pretty good evidence against them.


You know? I just have to say this. I absolutely love this theory. I am floudering in a sea of hopeless envy over here, wishing that I had come up with it myself. It just has everything, doesn't it? It has wicked Aurors and dirty politics and tragic medical misdiagnoses...and it's even got that lovely bit of farce, with the DEs coming knocking on the door, and the Aurors getting big eyes and whispering, "Uh-oh. Cheese it! Someone's at the door," and then the Usual Suspects walking in to find that their expected victims have, well, already been victimized, which I imagine must have really freaked them out, and...

And, well, yes. Black farce. You know how I feel about black farce, right?

Also, by my careful snipping, I have even obscured one of the best parts of Debbie's theory: namely, that it is completely Schroedingered. It works equally well as a DEPRECIATION theory. All you need to do is to switch the positions of the Usual Suspects and the Bad Aurors, and you've got yourself a workable version of DEPRECIATION, with an option on a Memory Charm Most Foul side-dish of Evil!Gran.

Ah, flexibility! The hallmark of great speculation.

Mainly, though, what impresses me here is the extremely compelling canonical defense that Debbie provided for the notion that what afflicts Neville's parents may not be trauma at all, but a Memory Charm. Having first brought up all of the usual objections to the Longbottom subplot—that the Longbottoms' amnesiac state is simply not in the least bit believable as a normal human response to extended abuse, that it seems even more unlikely that two people should have responded in precisely the same idiosyncratic way to trauma, and so forth—Debbie then wrote:

On the other hand, the description of the Longbottom's condition is completely consistent with a Memory Charm. For support, I compare the description of the Longbottoms (about whom Dumbledore says "They are insane. . . . They do not recognize [Neville]") with Prof. Lockhart (about whom Ron reports "Hasn't got a clue who he is, or where he is, or who we are.") I think the descriptions sound very similar.

Wow, Debbie!

Yeah, so do I. I think that you may just have sold me on this idea. Memory Charm'd Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom really does makes perfect sense to me, and it also provides for quite the opportunity for Banginess later on. Just think of all the dirt that Frank Longbottom might be able to spill, if only he could, well, you know. Stop drooling for just a little while.

"Bad Aurors" also fixes many of the holes that "Rounding Up the Usual Suspects" falls headlong into. It explains why the Pensieve defendents seem so utterly convinced of their loyalty in being the "only ones" who were loyal enough to go looking for Voldemort: because in fact, they were. No additional conspirators are necessary, as they are in Usual Suspects. It also explains why Voldemort himself seems so convinced of their loyalty. After all, who knows that those Bad Aurors beat them to the punch anyway? No one. Except for those Bad Aurors themselves, that is -- but they're not talking.

The problem that I can see with this, though, is that it leaves the Bang potential just a little bit Duddy. If there were no DE conspiracy, then what could the great shocker revelation when Neville or his parents are finally freed from their memory charms be? That the Ministry is corrupt? That some Aurors (whom we don't know and don't care about) are Evil, Evil, Evil?

To give this one a good Bang, I think that you either have to return to the DE conspiracy (in which case you're left with the problems of the graveyard scene) or to assume that an Ever So Evil Alastor Moody was one of those Bad Bad Aurors.

Not, of course, that I ever have a problem with Evil!Moody.

The full frame-up varieties of the Cover-Up At the Ministry are certainly a good deal of fun, but the less extreme versions are far more easily defended. The idea that young Crouch was actually innocent, for example, has ample enough canonical support that many readers have found it an instinctive reading. If we assume that Crouch Jr. was innocent, then it is very tempting to suspect that his implication might have been engineered as a political attack on his father.

This, the "Palace Intrigue" Theory, was the possibility that I was hoping to suggest when, in response to Finwitch's suggestion that young Crouch might have been innocent after all, I wrote:

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?

No sooner had those words passed through my proverbial lips than Dicentra immediately leapt forward, blurting in a state of great excitement:

I'm not ready to claim that Fudge tortured the Longbottoms, but I'll always vote for him covering up something evil.

Heh. Why, yes! I thought that Dicentra might like this idea, for some wacky reason.

::Dicentra displays her FIDEDIGNO badge, which when pressed flashes FISHFINGERS in green, and when pressed again shows FIE in orange, and when pressed again shows FIEONGOODNESS in blue.::

<Elkins, entranced by all of those bright colors and pretty flashing lights, is alarmed to find herself reaching out as if to accept a badge of her own. She tightens her lips and shakes her head firmly, snatching her hand back down to her side. She reminds herself crossly of just how fond she is of her own Fudge badge, the one that bears upon it but a single sad little acronym: O.S.T.R.I.C.H.>

<Elkins' OSTRICH badge is not, it is true, nearly as attractive as Dicentra's. It is not very shiny. It has no flash. And it really is a very drab color. It is, in fact, precisely the same dull matte black of a cannon. It really doesn't go with the rest of Elkins' wardrobe at all. But she's had it with her for such a long time now, and she's grown accustomed to it, and it's...well, it's comfortable. And besides, it does sort of match her SYCOPHANTS badge. So she guesses that she'll just stick with it. For now.>


Yeah. You know, I try, I really do try, to resist the seductive lure of Ever So Evil Fudge. I fight against it with all of my might. See, I'm just way too fond of reading Fudge and Crouch as literary doubles in GoF, and that reading goes all to pieces once you start wagging your finger at Fudge and crying "FIE!" It really does. It throws everything hopelessly out of balance.

But all that said, I have to admit that poor old Cornelius really does make by far the most appealing culprit for this particular version of the Ministry Cover-Up Theory. As Debbie wrote:

Interesting possibilities here: if the MOM was responsible, could Fudge (now presumably and up-and-comer in the Ministry after his role in the Sirius/Pettigrew affair) have somehow had something to do with getting Crouch Jr. framed to perhaps clear Crouch Sr. out of the path to the Minister of Magic Position?

He certainly is the most likely candidate, isn't he? He was working within the Ministry and therefore might well have had just enough insight into Crouch's character to guess that if Crouch's son were implicated in the affair, Crouch would behave precisely the way that he did. He also was working for the Department of Magical Catastrophes at the time. The DMC might well have been the division that was first called in to deal with the mess that the Longbottoms' assailants had left behind. If Fudge were first on the scene, as he was in the Sirius Black affair, then that would have placed him in an ideal position to take stock of the situation, realize that Neville was the only person present in any condition to reveal the truth of what had transpired, and then to take the appropriate action to ensure the boy's silence. And of course, most damning of all, Fudge is the one who benefitted the most from Crouch's political fall.

<Elkins casts one last wistful look at Dicentra's pretty badge, then shakes her head sadly and looks back down to her notes in preparation for moving on to the next of her Memory Charm theories. As she flips through her pages, her attention is caught by a blur of motion just at the corners of her vision. Something is moving out there. Something entrancing. Something...Dark.>

<She turns to look, then simply stares. It is Debbie, reiterating her idea that the Longbottoms might not have been reduced to their amnesiac state by the Cruciatus at all, but rather, from a botched attempt to Obliviate them. This time, though, she has combined it with Tabouli's Tortured Toddler to form a new and wondrous version of Cover-Up, one that does not really need to involve any Death Eaters at all.>

Debbie:'s possible that the real problem with the Longbottoms is that either (a) the Memory Charm was botched, Lockhart-style, so they lost their entire memories, or (b) the MOM attempted to break their Memory Charms so they could testify but in doing so damaged their minds beyond repair, as happened to Bertha Jorkins. And so the MOM claimed that the Cruciatus Curse caused their insanity, to cover their own tracks. This would make their evidence seem quite unreliable.

Oh, my!

Okay. So what if we propose that this is in fact the memory which the Ministry was so very keen to remove from Neville's mind -- not the memory of vile DEs tormenting his parents but rather, the memory of his parents' relatively coherent behavior after the original attack, but before they were then broken completely by the Ministry's ham-handed attempts to smash through those memory charms?

That's pretty dire, all right. Mainly, though, I like it because it offers the possibility that once Neville finally figures out what's up, he will respond by becoming—

Yes! You guessed it! An iconoclast, that's what. An enemy of the status quo. A revolutionary. He will lead protests against the MoM. He will distribute pamphlets and fliers and badges. He will agitate for reform. He will join an anarcho-syndicalist commune and dye his hair strange colors. He will jaywalk for the fun of it and stay up far too late at night.

<p;Elkins looks around the room hopefully. People are shuffling in their seats and leafing through their programs. No one seems willing to meet her eyes. There is a single cough.>

Aw, come on, guys. Let me have my dreams, won't you?



("Death Eaters Provoked a Really Evil Charm-Induced Amnesia to Incapacitate Our Neville")


Neville was given his memory charm by a Wicked Death Eater, in order to prevent him from giving testimony or in some other way exposing the culprit's true identity. The reason that Neville's memory is in such bad shape is because the perp used a truly massive Memory Charm on him...just to be on the safe side. After all, Real Death Eaters Aren't Compassionate.


Ah, Depreciation! Such a classic Memory Charm approach, with so many dire and paranoid and vicious variations! Where to begin?

Well, first off there's the Classic version of Depreciation. This one proposes that Neville was a witness to the assault on his parents, and that he therefore was given his memory charm by one of the perps, to prevent him from being able to finger them to the ministry.

It's got the weight of tradition behind it, this one does. But as with that other fine old classic, the Well-Intended Memory Charm, it has come under a great deal of attack. Really, everyone raises pretty much the same objections to this theory, as it has some obvious continuity problems. If the DEs had known that Neville was there, then wouldn't they have subjected him to the same treatment as his mother in their efforts to persuade Frank to talk? If so, then wouldn't he be in the same catatonic state as his parents? And even if for some reason he weren't (perhaps due to the resiliency of youth?), then why on earth wouldn't the DEs simply have killed him, if they were so worried about the possibility that he might give them away?

All very good questions (although they do also beg that troubling and even IMO somewhat FLINTy question of why the DEs didn't kill the Longbottoms themselves, once they had finished with them).

Tabouli wrote:

What happened to Dead Men Don't Tell Tales? Come on, these Death Eaters were trained by Lord "Kill the Spare" Voldemort! If Neville was watching and they thought his toddler testimony would be a threat, why not use the one spell you have time for to AK him? Why bother with a Memory Charm (unless you go for the AK is too exhausting theory)? For that matter, given the fact that they left the Longbottoms alive convicted them in the end (through the action of none too reliable information, given their condition), why didn't they just kill them off when they found them of no use, to safeguard themselves?

Agreed in full. Classic Depreciation has never made very much sense to me, either. Even Debbie's marvellous "Oh, no! Someone's knocking on the door! Let's Memory Charm them for now, and then finish the job later on" speculation works far less well for me in its DEPRECIATION version than in its Ministry Cover-Up manifestation. I can easily believe that Bad Aurors might have thought they'd get a chance to continue with their interrogation later on and so might have smacked the Longbottoms with a couple of killer Memory Charms. But I can't even begin to imagine how a group of Death Eaters could have thought that they'd get such a second chance.

No, the notion that Neville's Memory Charm was cast on him to prevent him from fingering the Pensieve Four to the Ministry just doesn't work for me at all. Far more workable, I think, are the variants that assume that Neville's Memory Charm was intended to prevent him from revealing the identity of some Death Eater not among the Pensieve Four -- someone who possibly didn't even realize that Neville had witnessed something important until quite some time after the fact.

But who could this person have been?

Ah. Well, that's where it starts to get interesting.

Cindy suggested that the culprit might have been none other than Real!Moody himself, whom Neville saw tampering with a bit of evidence at the scene of the crime in order to help to cover up for the Longbottoms' assailants.


Neville saw Moody do something the night Neville's parents were tortured. Something that would blow Moody's cover if it came to light. It might not necessarily be Big. Maybe just some evidence destruction or some such. . . .But whatever Neville sees Moody do, Moody has a Big problem now. He can't kill Neville, because it would be too weird for the perpetrators to kill the toddler and leave the parents alive. Also, Moody is worried that killing Neville will cause MoM to do an investigation, and Moody would hate for Neville's shadow to come crawling out of Moody's wand. So Moody does a ::gulp:: Memory Charm. And a big one, too, much bigger than is really needed. Moody isn't taking any chances.

Mmmmmm. It definitely has possibilities. It explains, for example, why Neville should have seemed so very frightened of Crouch/Moody in GoF. It also allows one to assume that Neville never witnessed his parents being tortured, thus averting all of those pesky little problems with the Second Task Egg's mermaid song, and the Dementor on the train, and so forth. And yet, it still has quite a bit of Bang potential, particularly as JKR has already promised us in interview that Real!Moody will be a character in his own right in later volumes.

Yes indeed.

It does, however, take quite a bit of juggling to reconcile with the fact that neither Crouch Jr. nor Wormtail nor Voldemort himself seem to have the slightest idea that Real!Moody is in fact a Death Eater.

Fortunately, Cindy's already taken care of this problem. For her full canonical defense of Secret Death Eater Moody, see message #36829. In brief summary, she there suggests that Real!Moody was actually one of Rookwood's people, and that therefore although he was indeed an ally of Voldemort's, Voldemort himself was unaware of this fact, as were the vast majority of his Death Eaters. The irony abounds, naturally, once Crouch and Wormtail and Voldemort are all overpowering their devoted ally Moody and shoving him into a trunk.

If you don't care for Ever So Evil Moody, though, then how about Ever So Evil Frank Longbottom?

Caroline risked a yellow flag violation by suggesting that the Longbottoms were never tortured at all, but instead are under the influence of Insanity Curses, with only Neville having been given a memory charm. But why was he given a memory charm? Merely to prevent him from blabbing about the identity of the Lestranges et al?

Not precisely. You see, in Caroline's DEPRECIATION theory, Frank Longbottom Was Ever So Evil! (Message #36825)


How about—Frank L. is really a bad guy. Evil as they come. Knows exactly where Voldemort is floating around. But his sweet innocent wife has no idea about all this, until she overhears Frank & the gang of 4 plotting. She goes all hysterical and someone slaps an insanity curse on her. Someone (Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange, anyone?) decides that Frank is now a liability and can't be trusted. He gets an insanity curse, Neville gets a memory charm, the gang gets the heck out of there. (This can come with an added bonus of an innocent-of-torture-Crouch Jr if you'd like!)

I'm always happy to accept an innocent-of-torture-Crouch-Jr option.

The nice thing about this one, to my mind, is that it implies that deep down in their heart of hearts, the DEs have Neville mentally filed away as a future ally. (It can therefore be nicely reconciled with TOADKEEPER II, if you are so inclined.) It also provides acceptable answers to all of the usual questions raised by DEPRECIATION theories.

Why don't the DEs want to kill Neville? Well, because he's Longbottom's heir, of course, and while Frank did unfortunately turn out to be just a wee bit unreliable when it came to his wife, he was on the whole a good and loyal Death Eater, and the others would like for his son to follow right in his footsteps (only without that pesky reliability problem) when the time comes.

So why wipe Neville's memory of the event at all? Well, really! The lad is hardly old enough to appreciate the sad necessities of Evil Overlordship at the age of two, is he? Children can get a little bit funny about their parents being cursed sometimes. If he could remember what really went down, it might just turn him against the Cause. So best just to keep the truth from him for now. The full story can be explained to him later, when he is old enough to understand such things and ready to take up his father's mantle of Devoted Death Eating.

(We might want to call this one the "Human psychology? Oops! I forgot!" approach to long-term DE planning.)

I'm sure that there are many other revisionist DEPRECIATION variations out there somewhere, just waiting to be proposed.

Anyone? Anyone?

Finally, although I've such huge problems with classic DEPRECIATION, Amanda did come up with a spin on it that I love so dearly that I am unwilling to reject it out of hand. I'm therefore hoping that I might be able to snatch it right out of the Classic DEPRECIATION context in which Amanda first suggested it and instead stick it into a different theory altogether.

Amanda wrote:

Has anyone suggested (as I am), that Crouch/Moody was the perpetrator of the crime against the Longbottoms, that he saw Neville's reaction to his class, and held Neville back to reinforce the memory charm that he himself cast, years ago? Neville is loopy in the hall because he's just had a memory charm cast on him.

Ooooooooh, Amanda!

I really like this, although I can't see how Crouch could have done so in the classroom. I don't think that he would have had time, for one thing—Neville's already standing in the hallway when the Trio emerge from the room—and for another, Neville seems if anything more in touch with his memories in the hallway than he does later on, when Harry runs into him again in their dormitory. Neville is indeed acting loopy and Mr. Robertsish in the hallway, but he is also quite evidently distressed, and he seems to be absolutely terrified of Crouch/Moody. I'm therefore more inclined to view his loopiness there as a symptom of his latent memory charm having activated in response to his own attempts to fight his way through it.

But what if this happened during Crouch/Moody and Neville's little tea party?

That tea party goes on for an awfully long time, doesn't it? Neville seems to have missed out on lunch altogether. And when Harry runs into him in the dormitory afterwards, there is a strange incongruity in how Harry perceives him. On the one hand, Harry thinks that Neville "looked a good deal calmer than at the end of Moody's lesson." Harry also notes the touch of pride in Neville's tone as he relates what Crouch/Moody told him about Sprout's praise for his work in Herbology class and deduces from it that Crouch/Moody has "cheered Neville up." On the other hand, Neville still doesn't look entirely "normal" to Harry, and his eyes are red—he has obviously been crying—and although Harry doesn't notice it, he lies awake for much of that night.

So how does this sound? Let us suppose, for the moment, that Crouch was not in fact the original caster of Neville's Memory Charm. Someone else was. Who it was is up to you -- you could go for a Ministry Cover-Up, or a Spontaneous Magic approach, or even a classic well-intended Memory Charm. It really doesn't matter, so long as you maintain two assumptions: that Neville did indeed witness his parents' torture, and that Crouch Jr. was one of the perps.

Let us also assume that Crouch knows that Neville has a Memory Charm. He learned about it, let us say, at some point during all of those years he spent hanging around in Daddy's kitchen under the Imperius Curse. Crouch knows that Neville has a Memory Charm, which as far as he's concerned is a Good Thing, because even though he's polyjuiced and one heck of an actor, the possibility that the kid might recognize him still makes him a little bit nervous.

As well it should. Because in DADA class, his demonstration of the Cruciatus Curse doesn't just upset Neville. (Upsetting him would be fine; Crouch likes that sort of thing.) It also seems to...trigger something. The kid isn't just acting upset. He's acting like someone whose memory charm might just be degrading. Crouch was a terrific student in his day, and so he knows his charms. He recognizes all the signs: Neville's remembering something, and he's also giving Crouch/Moody all of these terrified looks...could he possibly be onto Crouch somehow? Could he possibly have recognized him even through the polyjuice disguise? Was there, perhaps, something horribly familiar about that look of relish in Crouch's eyes while he was practicing his Cruciatus on that spider? Something that triggered a memory?


At any rate, Crouch is taking no chances. He drags Neville (who looks as if he thinks he's being led off to his execution -- as indeed, perhaps he really does) off to his office, and he gives him a Memory Charm. But memory charms only work properly for discrete events, so Crouch has to make a judgment call here. Is he going to try to reinforce the original charm? No, that's far too complicated: ince he wasn't the one who cast it in the first place, he doesn't know precisely what it was initially designed to suppress. And besides, his immediate problem isn't really that Neville might remember something about the attack on his parents. His problem is that in spite of his polyjuice disguise, Neville seems to have been struck by the suspicion that he isn't really who he claims to be.

Crouch figures that the spider is probably what gave him away, so he casts a memory charm designed to blitz that half of his DADA lesson right out of Neville's mind. He casts it, and then he spends the rest of the afternoon chatting up Neville about his heroic Auror father, and about his Herbology lessons, and about whatever else he can think of that might reinforce the notion that he is Moody, and that he's really a very nice fellow underneath that gruff exterior.

So Neville is indeed cheered when Harry sees him again in the dormitory, because he is no longer haunted by the notion that there is something horribly familiar—and something very very bad—about the new DADA Professor, and because he's just been chatted up by an old buddy of his Father's, and because he's just been stroked about his herbology talent. But he's also disturbed, because his memories of the entire afternoon are fuzzy, and because since his original memory charm really is degrading, these sort of fugue states are already becoming more and more frequent occurrences for him, but not usually this bad, I mean, he's lost like the entire afternoon this time, and oh God it's just getting worse, isn't it, and how is he ever going to pass all of his classes if this sort of thing keeps up anyway?

And on top of all of that, he's just hit puberty, and he thinks that Hermione is cute.

I mean, I'd lie awake at night too, if I had to deal with all of that.

And of course, the reason that his eyes are red is because the instant that Crouch/Moody got Neville alone in his office, the poor kid went all to pieces. He probably snivelled and pleaded and begged and all sorts of embarrassing things, but that's okay: he can't remember a bit of it now, so he's feeling absolutely no shame. And boy, did Crouch enjoy it, while it lasted! So you see, that part of the afternoon was really win-win for everyone.

<Elkins nods with satisfaction>

There. How's that? Does that work for everyone?

What's that? You think that it's a little bit...what? Twisted? Sick?

Oh, please. You don't know from sick. You want to hear sick, then we're going to have to move on to...


Memory Charm Most Foul

(Otherwise known as: "A Family Affair," "Something Rotten In the State of Denmark," "Amnesia Begins At Home," The Skeletons In the Closet Theory, and "Ever So Evil Granny Longbottom")


So what is this hidden knowledge anyway, this secret so very dire that Neville cannot, will not, or must not look upon it?

Well, that's obvious, isn't it? Someone in Neville's family circle must be culpable. Very culpable. No other explanation will suffice.


For purposes of classification, I have adopted "Memory Charm Most Foul" as the umbrella designation for all of those theories which propose that whatever afflicts Neville's memory must be chalked down to something ugly festering away at the heart of the Longbottom family dynamic itself.

Porphyria made a strong case for viewing this approach as not merely canonically supported, but indeed as thematically inevitable.


And I'd have to answer that the deadly problem within the immediate family is a theme that keeps coming up over and over, isn't it? . . . .Maybe my problem is that I'm too steeped in Freudian thought, but it seems to me that the overall trajectory of the HP series is of finding out scandalous crap about your parents, your family and by extension, yourself.

She cited her reasons for believing that Harry himself is on a collision course with discovering some quite unsavory things about his own family, and then concluded:

I'm not saying that Harry's parents are bad, by any means, but I am saying that the theme of the books seems to be ugly secrets that revolve somewhere around the general vicinity of where your parents are.

And so, if we read Neville as some form of literary double to Harry (as indeed I think that we must), then whatever afflicts Neville's memory must have something to do with some ugly secret involving his own family, yes?


Of course, one might well argue that all of these theories already incorporate this thematic thrust perfectly adequately, dealing as they do with the sorry fate of Neville's parents. But mere victimization is just not ugly enough for the Memory Charm Most Foul adherents. Nope. Not ugly enough by half. Memory Charm Most Foul people insist that it must be worse than that. Much worse.

Memory Charm Most Foul theories, much like their benevolent counterparts, the Classic Well-Intended Memory Charm theories, focus overwhelmingly on Neville's grandmother as the culprit. In these theories, however, her motives are not good. They are not good at all.

I was startled—startled and a little bit bemused—to realize that I was in fact the person who started people off on this train of thought, with all of my nattering on about the significance of the Snape boggart dressed in Gran's clothing. I mean, my goodness! I was just thinking about the cultural demands of the wizarding world! But Porphyria came to a somewhat different conclusion.


Hmmm. Maybe I'm way misinterpreting you here, but are you suggesting that one might not have to go so far from the Longbottom home to find an accessory to his parents torture?

And then Eileen waxed positively Shakespearean on this subject:

Porphyria has an even worse theory about murder, murder most foul, as in the best it is, but this most foul, strange, and unnatural...

The murderous DE grandmother: a little more than kin and less than kind.

Ever So Evil Gran. What else can one say?

Of course, dear old Gran does not necessarily have to be a DE in a Memory Charm Most Foul Spec. As Eileen wrote:

Even if Gran did not torture the Longbottoms, did someone trade exact rectitude for a beter result, under the illusion that there's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so?

And indeed, in Porphyria's own Memory Charm Most Foul, dear old Gran isn't at all a Death Eater. She's just, well, a little bit venal, that's all. A little bit greedy. A little bit selfish. And a whole lot culpable.

I would not dream of attempting to summarize Porphyria's Memory Charm Most Foul theory here. Suffice it to say that it involves a frustrated and dispossessed Granny Longbottom, desperate to get her hands on a piece of the Longbottom estate which, to her great dismay, was left entire to Frank. It involves a SHIP between Gran and Lucius Malfoy. It involves an explanation of how slippery old Lucius managed to get his hands on all of Tom Riddle's old school things in the first place. And it makes Gran directly responsible for the fate of her son and his wife.

It is message #36840.

And I solemnly swear never to call Porphyria "canonically pure" again.

Some people, though, just weren't content with Venal!Gran. No. No, they wanted Gran to be a full-fledged Death Eater. People like Debbie, for instance, who not only made a case for Gran-as-DE, but also insisted on a DEPRECIATION scenario in which Gran herself was one of the Longbottoms' torturers.


Assuming [Neville] was no more than 2 or 3 at the time of the events, he wouldn't be able to identify the participants (e.g., "Barty Crouch was there") and I don't think he would fare much better identifying the perpetrators by sight. That is, of course, unless he already knew that person. Unless that person he knew did unspeakably horrible things to his parents.

Mmmmmmm. Yeah, okay. Actually, I can buy this. In fact, this may well be the only version of Classic DEPRECIATION that I find believable. I am not willing to accept that Crouch, or the Lestranges, or Fourth Man (regardless of how Remorseful he might later have become), or any other group of random Death Eaters would have cast a memory charm on Eyewitness Toddler Neville, rather than just killing him outright to prevent him from squealing.

But if one of the DEs was his own grandmother?

Yeah. Yeah, actually, you know, I really can buy that one. After all, they may be Very Bad People, but they're still human, right? I can accept the notion that even an Evil!Gran evil enough to torture her own son into a state of raving lunacy might nonetheless have prevailed on the rest of her party to spare her grandchild's life and use a Memory Charm instead to ensure his silence.

Because you know how people can get about their grandkids.

Debbie's Evil!Gran gets herself up to quite a lot of mischief, actually. She is the one responsible for keeping her son and his wife in their state of incurable amnesia:

But a powerful Auror such as Frank Longbottom would eventually have been able to throw off the Memory Charm, you say. That's true, but Gran may be forestalling that eventuality by refreshing it every time she takes Neville to see his parents.

She's the one responsible for Neville's constant state of befuddled forgetfulness:

If so, she's probably refreshing Neville's as well.

And she's also the one who has for years been coldly and deliberately subverting his self-esteem:

She's got to find cover for Neville's charm-induced forgetfulness and other ill effects. And she needs to keep Neville from figuring out that he's powerful enough to shake the Memory Charm. So she begins to tell the relatives after she gets custody of Neville that she's worried he's a Squib, and she makes sure Neville hears it, too, so he thinks he's incapable of magic.

Ah, yes. There's just nothing quite like family, is there?

Evil!Gran, whether she is a full Death Eater or merely an accomplice, certainly is a promising notion. She is thematically consistent with the rest of the series. She explains Neville's nervousness at the prospect of having his boggart turn into her. She is easily reconciled with TOADKEEPER II. She is Big, and she is Bangy, and as Porphyria pointed out, she wears a stuffed vulture on her hat, for crying out loud! How can one resist?

And of course, she also fits in wonderfully with the Spontaneous Magic Theory. What motivated Neville to wipe his own memory? Merely the trauma of seeing two of the people he loved the most tortured? Nonsense! It was the trauma of realizing that two of the people he loved the most were tortured into a state of insanity because of one of the other people that he loved the most!

Small wonder he doesn't want to remember anything. Or to accept the vengeance-driven warrior ethos of his own culture. Or to grow up to become a big powerful wizard.


And herein lies the problem. This is the real reason he's keeping himself back. He knows all about his parents. He visits them every holiday. He knows all about their torturers because it's a matter of public record. But why would he be so afraid of finding his power when he really doesn't have to wreak vengeance on behalf of his parents -- all the culprits are already in jail! No, his memory is self-damaged because the person he'd go ballistic upon is the person he loves more than anything in the world.

Yup. There you have it. Neville. He's effectively an orphan, his memory is shot, he's got a crazy Great-Uncle who tries to kill him all the time, he's not good at sport, he's not good at schoolwork, his social skills are minimal, he's scared of just about everything, he has to visit his drooling catatonic parents in the hospital over all of his holidays, he dresses funny and he's pudgy and no one really wants to go to the Ball with him and he gets no respect from either his peers or his teachers and he has an unfashionable pet who may even be an Evil!Spy...

But hey, that's okay! Because sooner or later Neville's going to kick that Memory Charm of his. And when that happens, Things Are Going To Change, all right. When that happens, we're going to see some serious worm-turning action. Because when that happens...

Well, when that happens, then Neville will discover that his one and only responsible caregiver, whom he loves more than anyone else in the world, is actually an Ever So Evil Death Eater who helped to torture his parents half to death and has in fact been deliberately keeping him in a state of helpless amnesia for all of his life!

So don't worry.

Be happy.

><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><(("> ><((">

Well. That about wraps it up, I think.

Except, of course, for all of those new Memory Charm theories that have hit the Bay of late. Double Memory Charm. Memory Charm meets Fourth Man. Not to mention, of course, the Ever So Memorably acronymed T.N.R.A.M.C.N.T.S.H.P.B.T.A.F.A.S.E.T.U.D.W.O.I.T.

Somebody else can deal with those. I'm going to bed.

—Elkins, toddling away from her lectern and hoping that somebody else will take care of the clean up, because otherwise there is just no way that the Museum is ever going to give her that deposit back.