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June 9, 2002 - June 15, 2002

RE: Pettigrew, Hagrid, and Voldemort's Wand


Pip!squeak was troubled by Pettigrew in Hagrid's milk jug (although she soon got over her dismay by laying it at the feet of Well-Nigh-Omnipotent!Dumbledore):

Was hiding in Hagrid's hut Pettigrew's very own idea? Or did Hagrid deliberately find him and keep him there? Why didn't Pettigrew slip past the Dementors before the scene in the shack? If Sirius could do it, so could he, and leaving Hogwarts wouldn't be half as dangerous as staying (not with Black and a mad part-kneazel to contend with).

Eloise confessed herself similarly troubled:

Now Pettigrew hiding in Hagrid's hut, I have to admit, I always found pretty odd. He was so likely to have been found - as he was.

Mmmm.

You know, I have always found this an extremely troubling plot point as well. In fact (she says, smiling shyly and apologetically at Charis Julia), I seem to remember once making one hell of a mess on board the ELGINMARBLES barge just to try to account for it. In that speculation, which was so horrifically silly that I was only able to bring myself to offer it up in a state of self-imposed exile over on OTChatter, I proposed that Peter had been waiting around Hagrid's hut all that time in the hopes of making contact with the Centaurs, who had been entrusted with the safekeeping of Voldemort's wand some thirteen years before.

But another possibility has just occurred to me.

What if Peter was hanging around Hagrid's hut in the hopes of retrieving Voldemort's wand -- not from the Centaurs, but from Hagrid himself?

No. Seriously. Just think about this for a minute.

Who was the first on the scene at Godric's Hollow after Voldemort was reduced to vapor?

Well, many people have speculated that Peter himself was. The underlying supposition here is that the nature of the Fidelius Charm necessitated that Peter show Voldemort to the Potters' hiding place in person, and that he therefore must have been present for their deaths and Voldemort's destruction. He picked up the wand, so the theory goes, fled the scene, and then went and hid it somewhere safe before framing Sirius and disappearing into obscurity as a rat. After the events of PoA, he then went and retrieved it before he went off to Albania to look for Voldemort.

Well...okay. Even if Peter was there first, though, Hagrid got there awfully fast, didn't he? Hagrid is the first person whom we know to have rrived on the scene after the Potters' deaths, and from his description in the first chapter of PS, it would seem that he arrived even before the bodies were cold.

In response to Dumbledore's asking him if there were any problems, Hagrid reports:

'No, sir -- house was almost destroyed but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' around.'

In short, Hagrid got there even before the first of the rubberneckers arrived. That's fast work. Very fast work. In fact, the phrasing makes it sound as if the house might even have still been in the process of collapsing when Hagrid showed up to rescue baby Harry from the ruins.

What else might he have done while he was there? Is it possible, given what we know of Hagrid's character, that he might have picked up a spare wand that he noticed lying around in the rubble?

I think that this is not only possible, but quite likely. Hagrid is both curious and child-like, just the sort of person who picks up strange objects without giving too much thought to their provenance. It has also been well-established that he is highly resistant to his status as a "de-wanded" wizard. He may even resent it. He constantly violates the restriction against expelled students practicing wandwork. Even while on a mission for Dumbledore, he chooses to use magic that Dumbledore has not authorized him to use -- and then he asks an eleven year old boy to agree to keep his secret for him. He hides the broken pieces of his snapped wand so that he can use them to perform illicit magic, and then lies (badly) when Ollivander asks him about it. When it comes to his wandless status, Hagrid is not law-abiding, and he is not honest.

Hagrid can also be secretive -- again, often in remarkably child-like ways. Both as a teenager and as an adult, he shows a marked and child-like tendency to try to hide away evidence of his wrong-doings. As a student, he smuggles Aragog into Hogwarts, keeps him hidden away, and then, when it seems that he might be called to task for it, smuggles him right back out again. He follows precisely the same pattern of behavior as an adult with Norbert, whom he first hatches illegally on the Hogwarts campus, then keeps hidden away in his hut, and finally allows to be furtively smuggled away when circumstances threaten to expose the secret. He keeps the evidence of his illicit wand use hidden away inside a pink umbrella.

Would it not be perfectly in keeping for Hagrid to have picked up Voldemort's wand, perhaps planning to keep it for his own use, and then, when he realized whose it actually was, to become frightened, hide it away somewhere in his hut, and try to put it out of his mind, rather than owning up to Dumbledore that he had such an item in his possession?

Yes. I think that this would be perfectly consistent with everything that we have seen of Hagrid's character so far.

Now what of Peter? If Peter really was still on the scene when Hagrid arrived, then he must hidden himself away. He would not have wanted to be seen, and indeed, he was not seen, either by Hagrid or by Sirius.

What if he saw Hagrid pick up Voldemort's wand and leave with it?

This would explain what Peter was doing in Hagrid's hut. He was looking for Voldemort's wand, on the off-chance that Hagrid still had it secreted away somewhere in his hovel. To remain at Hogwarts for so long looking for Voldemort's wand was certainly a risk, but it is one that I believe that Peter would have been willing to take, for the simple reason that Peter is absolutely terrified of Voldemort. He has resolved to go crawling off to Albania to look for him, but only because he genuinely believes that only Voldemort's protection can possibly suffice to protect him from Sirius, Remus, and the entire Ministry of Magic, all of whom he thinks are going to be hunting for him. Had Sirius never escaped from Azkaban, Peter would have died of old age (or perhaps of emphysema) as the Weasley family's amazingly long-lived and decrepit pet rat.

Peter is willing to risk seeking out Voldemort because he thinks that it the only way to save his own life, but he is terrified. He needs something to produce as an offering, doesn't he? Especially after so many years have passed? Some proof of his devotion, some proof of his loyalty? At the very least some proof of his usefulness? It is how submissive little sycophants like Peter think. Just look at how he behaves with Bertha Jorkins: he offers her up to Voldemort not even knowing whether or not she will prove useful, but instead as a kind of token sacrifice. He's like some frightened little acolyte, Peter is, making desperate random offerings to his mad, cruel, and unpredictable god.

I think that Peter did find Voldemort's wand in Hagrid's hut. I think that when Hermione caught him, he was just waiting for Hagrid to leave the building so that he would have the opportunity to steal it. This would explain why he was so very poorly hidden -- he had picked a hiding place from which he could easily see and hear when Hagrid had left the building, and also from which it would take no time at all to jump down onto the floor and then transform.

This would also explain why he reacted with such extraordinary panic when Ron took him in hand and would not let him go. Yes, his cover had been blown. But all the same, surely he never thought that Sirius would really believe that "I've been killed, honest!" story a second time, did he? The story was for the benefit of the children and for the vicious Crookshanks, never for Sirius himself. Sirius is nowhere in sight when Peter first starts writhing and struggling and biting at Ron's hand. He is so very desperate to escape there, I think, because after weeks and weeks of searching Hogwarts in a very high state of anxiety, he was finally on the verge of being finally able to escape for good, with Voldemort's wand in tow, and that was when the kids showed up to interfere with his plan -- at the worst and most frustrating possible moment.

If this theory holds true, then it also explains how Peter can have been the one to restore Voldemort's wand to him and yet not have had it in his possession in the Shrieking Shack, without begging the question of precisely where Peter could have hidden such a item and still been certain that it would be there over a decade later. No special hiding places are necessary. After his escape at the end of _PoA,_ Peter simply would have needed to return to Hagrid's hut (hardly the most secure place in all Hogwarts), stolen the wand, and then set out on his long trek to Albania.

Thoughts?

—Elkins

(who is afraid that she just can't quite stomach LeCarre!Rowling, but who has noted with profound approval that Pip!Squeak is named after a character from an Agatha Christie novel in which [SPOILER ALERT] the author consciously manipulates the fact that many of her readers are likely to assume one of the book's major clues to be "just a typo.")

Posted June 13, 2002 at 3:15 am
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RE: Apparate or Die Trying


I suggested that the reason that we never see wizards apparate in or out of houses might be because all wizarding residences are protected against that mode of entry, as Hogwarts is.

David pointed out that actually, we do see Arthur Weasley apparate into his own home, and Meg thoughtfully provided the canon:

But we do see Arthur Weasley apparating into his house. "Before any of them could say anything else, there was a faint popping noise, and Mr. Weasley appeared out of thin air at George's shoulder." (GoF 52)

Quite right, Meg and David! Sorry. I had completely forgotten about that.

Meg:

So it must therefore be possible to apparate into a house since everyone was in the kitchen at the time. I think even Harry would have noticed had Arthur walked into the room from outside rather than just apparating in.

Agreed. It does seem quite a security risk, though, doesn't it? How does one protect oneself against burglars? I wonder if, as Eloise suggested, household protections can be keyed to exempt certain individuals.

Ali wrote:

The message that these ordinary wizards can apparate together with the fact that wizards take their apparation test at the age of 17, suggests to me that Apparation is a readily acquirable skill (similar to our driving test which British muggles can also take from the age of 17).

That was certainly the way I interpreted it. Honestly, it was not until I joined this list that it even occurred to me that apparating might be an unusually difficult skill. I had assumed it to be something that nearly every adult wizard knew how to do, much like driving here in the US (we also get our driver's licenses at around the age of 17, BTW, Ali, although this can vary from state to state).

Mentions of people failing their apparation tests the first time around and so forth I had also interpreted as a direct analogue to driving. Many people have difficulty passing their driver's test the first time out. And as for Percy showing off by apparating up and down the stairs, I had always imagined that this was "showing off" not because it is really all that difficult a skill for normal adult wizards who have been doing it for years, but because Percy is only seventeen. It's a new skill for him, and it's one that his younger siblings aren't allowed to do yet, so he's having a bit of fun with it, and indulging in a bit of gloating as well. I went out driving my parents' car just for the fun of it when I first got my driver's license. I even volunteered to do the shopping, just so that I could get to drive the car. And when I saw friends who hadn't passed their tests yet, I waved at them and gloated merrily. In fact, if I could have driven the car up and down the stairs, then I probably would have done that, too. ;-)

Of course, these days I take the bus to work, and whenever somebody asks me for a ride to the airport, I roll my eyes and sigh and wonder out loud in a long-suffering sort of way why on earth I should always have to be the one to drive everybody to the airport.

Ah, the joys of getting old and cranky.

Still Ali:

Perhaps JKR invented "splinching" and other apparation mistakes (Charlie landing 5 miles from his destination during his test) to explain why apparation is not the only mode of transport - so that broomsticks, the Knight Bus and Ministry cars could be convincingly used.

Well, driving is really quite dangerous as well, isn't it?

Primarily, I think that splinching is just furthering along the driving analogue: it's a car accident. I also agree with you, though, that it also serves quite handily to explain the existence of other modes of transport, as well as to explain why apparating is reserved for licenced adults.

I also suspect that it may be there to provide JKR with an out to explain away just the sort of objections that have come up in the course of this discussion: why wizards in combat situations don't simply disapparate out of trouble, for example, or why we won't be seeing too many brutally efficient assassinations conducted by rapidly apparating and disapparating hit wizards in future canon.

I don't really think that JKR wants such events happening too often, because while once it could be so shocking as to be extremely emotionally effective, too much of it would quickly become under-dramatic. The perils of splinching give JKR a very handy excuse for not allowing her fictive reality to become overrun with the kind of plot resolutions which, while they may indeed be logical, pragmatic, efficient and utterly in-character, would also offer her a very limited scope for the kind of dramatic confrontation that she as a writer prefers.

—Elkins

Posted June 13, 2002 at 12:30 pm
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RE: Talented DEs

Pippin asked (rhetorically, right before pointing the finger at Lupin):

How did Crouch!Moody, who's never taught a lesson in his life, get so good at teaching DADA?

Aldrea responded:

I know someone else already answered this and said that Crouch!Moody would be good at DADA because of his experiences in the Dark Arts. Crouch himself was a very loyal DE to Voldemort, so there's his experience.

Yes, but he wouldn't have had very much time at all to gain that experience. In fact, if we assume that Voldemort did not invite minors or schoolchildren to join his elite circle of Death Eaters, then Crouch Jr. could not have been a DE for very long at all before Voldemort's fall. Not only was he a minor; he would also still have been in school.

Sirius says of Crouch Jr. that at the time of his trial "he couldn't have been more than 19 years old."

As others have pointed out, the fact that Sirius uses the number "nineteen" here is highly suggestive. It's not the age that one would cite if one were making a guess about somebody's age based on their appearance. In that case, one would say, "he couldn't have been more than twenty," or perhaps (given that 17 is the age of majority in the wizarding world) "he couldn't have been much more than seventeen."

That Sirius uses the specific age 19 implies to my mind that what Sirius did know was Crouch's year at Hogwarts (in fact, he almost surely knew this, as their time at school would have overlapped). What Sirius did not know was the specific date of Crouch's birth. He knew that Crouch couldn't have been over the age of 19 because if Crouch had been, then he would have been in the next year up while at Hogwarts. But Sirius does not say that Crouch was 19, because not knowing his birthday, Sirius realizes that it is equally possible that Crouch was still only 18 at the time of his trial.

Just as sixth years like Angelina Johnson and the twins in _GoF_ can be either 16 or 17, depending on when their birthdays fall, so a one-year-out-of-schooler like Crouch could have been either 18 or 19 at the time of his trial.

What this means is that we know approximately how long Crouch had been out of school when Voldemort fell. He had been out of school for less than a year.

I don't believe that a wizard that young, no matter how talented a student he might have been, could possibly have developed the mastery of the Dark Arts that we see him exhibit in _GoF_ by the time he was sent to prison, and after he was sent to prison, he would have had no opportunity to do so at all. I don't really think that anyone gets very much in the way of magical studying done at Azkaban. Certainly sickly Crouch would have been far too busy dying of dementor despair in his cell to be spending much of his time learning (without a wand) how to master the Unforgivables. And after his rescue from prison, he was a slave to his father's Imperius Curse.

Yet Crouch Jr. is exceptionally skilled. He can Confund a powerful magical artifact. He can ambush Krum, murder his father, and transfigure a corpse into a bone. He can cast the Unforgivables not only in a classroom setting, but also under extremely adverse conditions: during the Third Task, he places Viktor Krum under the Imperius Curse while patrolling around the hedge maze, which means that he must have done so in the dark, probably with very poor visibility, and either without invocation or in a low tone of voice, as he was neither seen nor heard by Harry or Cedric.

Even when he had just been brought back from the very brink of death, Crouch Jr was remarkably powerful for his age and experience. In his Veritaserum confession, he explains that once he had been nursed back to health after his rescue from Azkaban:

"I had to be controlled. My father had to use a number of spells to subdue me."

In fact, his father eventually has to resort to the Imperius Curse to subdue him. And his father is no slouch himself in the magic department. Even Sirius, who has every reason to hate Crouch Sr, describes him as "a great wizard... powerfully magical." Yet we are to believe that this powerful and experienced wizard had such trouble subduing his weak and sickly twenty year old son?

Yes, Crouch Jr. was a good student. He got his 13 OWLS. But I don't think that's enough to account for the degree of magical prowess that he exhibits. There is only one explanation that I think satisfactorily accounts for it.

Allegiance to Voldemort had imbued him with special powers.



Grey Wolf wrote:

And now, for a possible explanation which I'm not sure I believe: could Voldemort have GIVEN them powers, like on loan, in exchange for their help? That would explain why people with the constitutions of stones (Crabbe and Goyle) and nearly as intelligent, can cast those difficult spells.

I do believe this to be the case, Grey Wolf, for reasons that I first outlined back in March, in message #36473. To recap:

There is some suggestion in the books that either Voldemort himself or allegiance to Dark forces in general might indeed have the ability to imbue wizards with magical powers previously beyond their capabilities.

In the Shrieking Shack scene of PoA, Pettigrew offers up Sirius' escape from Azkaban as evidence of his Dark allegiance:

"He's got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of! How else did he get out of there? I suppose He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named taught him a few tricks?"

Of course, it is actually not Sirius but Peter who is the traitor, which does make you wonder if Peter might not be speaking from some personal experience here. Might not he himself have been "taught a few tricks" by Voldemort?

He certainly does seem to be extremely magically capable for someone who is constantly accused of being a weak wizard. Sirius Black is not the only person who claims that Pettigrew was never much of a wizard. Voldemort says so as well, and so does Pettigrew's old teacher, McGonagall:

"Hero-worshipped Black and Potter. . . .Never quite in their league, talent-wise. I was often rather sharp with him."

Of course, Sirius and James were extraordinarily talented; even an average student would not have been "in their league." But McGonagall's claim that she was often "sharp" with Pettigrew implies to my mind that he was a lackluster student at best. In canon, the student we most often see McGonagall being "sharp" with is Neville Longbottom, a poor student.

McGonagall also describes Pettigrew as "always hopeless at duelling." This, however, really doesn't describe the Pettigrew that we know at all. The Pettigrew that we know can pull off a perfectly-timed explosive spell that kills a dozen people in a single blast. He can not only cast such a spell; he can also cast it with no invocation, with one hand quite literally behind his back, and timed to coincide perfectly with an animagus transformation. He can take advantage of a split-second opportunity to seize a fallen wand and then—with somebody else's wand!—cast not one but two spells (one on Ron and one on Crookshanks), all before Harry can even manage to snap out an "Expelliarmus!" He can overpower Bertha Jorkins. He can AK Cedric Diggory. And he can conduct what would appear to be a extremely difficult and involved piece of ritual magic through to its successful conclusion, even after severing his own hand.

This is a weak wizard? This is a hopeless duellist?

No. This isn't. This is a competent wizard, and a very very good duellist.

So what accounts for the discrepancy here? Why does everyone, Voldemort included, insist on referring to Pettigrew as a "weak wizard?"

Well, one explanation is that he gained an enormous boost in magical power after he sold his soul to Voldemort and accepted the Dark Mark as a token of this mystical bond.

It seems to me that casting in ones lot with Dark forces really ought to grant one a boost in magical power. It is, after all, traditional. There's an enormous weight of cultural and literary precedent behind the notion that when you sell your soul to the Devil, you do get something for it, even if you pay far too high a price for it in the end.

It also seems to me this would explain Dark magic's siren song appeal to the members of House Slytherin, whose characteristics include a disregard for rules, the desire for power, and the willingness to use any means to achieve their ends.



Cindy is not so convinced:

The idea that DEs get a power loan from Voldemort makes some sense, it really does. But if that were true, Peter really wouldn't need to frame Sirius and then spend 12 years as a rat. Peter could use his enhanced powers to blast Sirius in the street. When the authorities arrive, Peter could just say that he was merely defending himself against the completely and utterly mad Sirius Black.

No, I think Sirius would have won that duel, and Peter knew it.

But Peter wouldn't have engaged him in an honorable duel if he'd just wanted to kill him. Peter would have sneakily blasted him without fair warning, just like he sneakily blasted those muggles and then transformed into a rat without fair warning. And I rather suspect that he would have had a fair chance of pulling it off, too, given how flawlessly he managed to engineer the frame job.

For that matter, given that Peter had clearly planned the entire thing ahead of time, he must have arranged to run into Sirius on that street corner, which means that he probably could have cursed Sirius in the back before he had even been spotted, if killing Sirius had been all that he had really wanted to do. I mean, this is Peter Pettigrew we're talking about. He doesn't have a sense of honor.

But clearing his own name wasn't the most important part of the plan at all. Faking his own death was the most important part of the plan, because at that point in time Peter wasn't nearly as worried about Sirius or the Ministry as he was about the other Death Eaters, whom he feared might hold him responsible for Voldemort's disappearance. Sirius accuses him of as much in the Shrieking Shack, and I think that Sirius was spot-on there. Killing Sirius and getting himself proclaimed a hero by the MoM would only have solved one of Peter's problems -- and the far less pressing of his two problems at that.

Cindy again:

I have rather mixed feelings about the power of the DEs. On the one hand, DEs include characters like Crabbe Sr. and Goyle, Sr., who are supposed to be dim like their sons. The DEs can't hit Harry in the graveyard. And they let themselves in for all manner of abuse at the hands of their sadistic master.

You think those Death Eaters were really trying to hit Harry in the graveyard?

I've always been a bit dubious on that point. True, there is a fine upstanding genre tradition of sending ones Minions off to be trained at the Storm Trooper School of Markmanship, but still....still....

You know, if I'd been one of those DEs in the graveyard...

::nervous glance over to Eloise::

Er, which I was most decidedly not. But, uh, I mean, if, if I had been, then I sure as hell wouldn't have been trying to hit him. I would have been aiming just about a foot to the left of him. Because weird things just sometimes happen when you hit this kid with spells, right? I mean, just look at what happened to Voldemort! How did that happen?

Nobody knows. Nobody has the slightest idea. But one thing's for sure: there's something very peculiar about this boy, and strange bad inexplicable things tend to happen to people who are foolish enough to mess with him.

I mean, once, okay. Once is a fluke. Once could happen to anyone. And indeed, for a while back there, it was beginning to look like a fluke. Here's Voldemort, he's returned, he's smacking Harry Potter with Cruciatus right and left, and the kid is screaming and writhing and shaking helplessly and all of the things that he's supposed to be doing as a result of being in excuciating agony. All to the good. All is right with the universe. So all of the DEs are laughing with pure nervous relief, because as it turns out, they don't really have to be frightened of this boy at all. And then Voldemort tells him to bow, and by God, the kid bows! So now they're laughing even harder. All of those years of being terrified of Harry Potter, and as it turns out, he's just a normal kid after all! What a relief! Whatever happened thirteen years ago? Well, that must have just been one of those once in a lifetime blue moon events, like a rain of frogs, or spontaneous combustion. One for the record books. No need to worry about it any more.

But then things start to go horribly wrong. The kid gets hit with an Imperius, and he's not begging for mercy or worshipping at Voldemort's feet or doing anything that he's probably being commanded to do. Instead, he refuses. He resists. He resists the Dark Lord's Imperius.

Oh. That is just so not good. The DEs stop laughing.

So Voldemort threatens him with another Cruciatus, and they all start giggling again, a bit hysterically, really, because the Cruciatus is good, the Cruciatus works, the Cruciatus doesn't cause any of these...unsettling things to happen, even the kid seems to be afraid of the Cruciatus. Maybe things are really okay after all...

And then there's Priori Incantatem.

Oh. Now, what the hell is this? Both the Potter boy and Voldemort are being lifted right off the ground, and there's this weird bubble, and this strange golden thread connecting their wands, and nobody knows what they're supposed to be doing, and Voldemort looks actually astonished, so it's clear that even he doesn't have the slightest idea what this new thing is or what to do about it, and then there are these bloody ghosts or something up there—it's all just enough to Freak You OUT, is what it is—and then suddenly it's over, and the kid is running like hell while Voldemort himself seems to be caught in some sort of ghost huddle or something, and...

And then you're ordered to Stun him.

Stun Harry Potter.

Uh-huh. Oh, yeah. Right. Like I want anything from my wand touching this kid. God only knows what might happen to you, if you hit the Potter boy with a spell. He's some sort of freak, is what he is, and he does nasty inexplicable things to the people who mess with him.

So I'd aim to miss. Not too obviously, mind you. Voldemort might notice that. But definitely to miss. Just a foot or so to the side. Because really, it's just ever so much safer that way.

No. I don't think that there's anything wrong with the Death Eaters' aim. Their aim is just fine. It's their nerve that could use a little bit of work.



Grey Wolf again, on the DEs:

Lately I've noticed that we have been picking on several of the DEs over their lack of power - Wormtail especially - but there is something that we must take in mind. . . . .They may look pathetic powerless, but they're not. They're powerful, mean and VERY bad.

Yeah, I agree. They've got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of. I'd watch my back around those DEs, all right.

But they're not all bad, Grey Wolf. They're morally grey. Really and truly they are.

—Elkins