Weekly Archive
June 16, 2002 - June 22, 2002

RE: The Sorting of Neville Longbottom

Felicia wrote:

(I am always puzzled why Neville - a gifted herbology student - was placed in Gryffindor. I know his Mum and Dad were attached but.....)

I don't really see what the fact that he's good at herbology has to do with it. There is no evidence to suggest that ones area of academic expertise has anything to do with ones House affiliation.

The current Herbology Professor is indeed the head of House Hufflepuff. That doesn't mean that the Herbology Professor has always been a member of that House, nor that the Head of House Hufflepuff has always been an herbology specialist, nor that there is any particular connection at all between herbology and Hufflepuff.

Certainly the Hufflepuff students in Harry's year are not taking the top marks in herbology. Hermione is.

There is a tendency, I think, for us to read the current alignment between Hogwarts' Heads of Houses and the subjects that they teach as indicative of some vast overarching schematic. It is tempting to do this in part, I think, because one or two of them really do make a great deal of intuitive sense. Slytherins are sneaky and Machievellian and dubious; so are poisons and sera; therefore Slytherin=Potions. Hufflepuffs are hard-working and diligent; they are the magical equivalent of the tillers of the soil; they are the "salt of the earth;" therefore Hufflepuff=Herbology. And so on.

It doesn't really hold up too well in the long run, though, does it? Surely clever erudite Ravenclaw doesn't really match up all that well to Charms, which involves a marked physical component (wand motion) and is also the art used for duelling. I would think that it would be better aligned to Arithmancy, or perhaps even to History of Magic. And does Transfiguration really have anything at all to do with the Gryffindor values of courage and valour? Wouldn't Transfiguration actually align far better to House Slytherin, whose members believe in changing the rules of engagement to serve their own ends, and whose mascot is the snake, symbol of transformation?

No. I don't think that even the current associations between the Houses themselves and the academic subjects taught by their Heads really hold up very well at all, once you start looking too closely at them.

The Sorting has nothing to do with academic expertise. It has everything to do with values. But the question of why Neville wasn't sorted Hufflepuff seems to come up quite often on this list, and it's always been bit of a pet peeve of mine, so I hope that Felicia will forgive me if I use her original comment (which I do realize was parenthetical in the first place) as a kind of launching point to dive into that issue.


Why do people always think that Neville belongs in Hufflepuff? I truly have never understood this at all. I can understand why his placement in Gryffindor might give some people pause, but why on earth Hufflepuff?

These are the traits that the Sorting Hat itself has identified as associated with House Hufflepuff in its songs at the beginning of PS/SS and GoF:

-- just
-- loyal
-- patient
-- true
-- unafraid of toil
-- hard workers

In addition, we're told that the members of House Hufflepuff rarely achieve glory, and that they are widely considered to be rather a bunch of "duffers."

Okay. Overall, the primary trait of the House seems to me to be diligence. Diligence is the only trait repeated in both of the Hat's songs. Furthermore, we have been told by Dumbledore that the Sorting is based on the Founders' own preferences in students, and the Sorting Hat's song in GoF, which explicitly states that it is describing the Founders' values, lists Hufflepuff's preferred type only as "hard workers."

So. Is Neville a hard worker? Is he diligent? Is he "unafraid of toil?" Is this a trait that he seems to place a high value on, or to aspire to, or to try to emulate, or to cherish in others?

I see absolutely no evidence of this. Neville does not seem to be particularly hard working. When Harry runs into him near the One-Eyed Witch while all of the other members of their class are off in Hosgsmeade, he has not only not yet finished his vampire essay; he all but asks Harry to let him copy off of his. In _GoF,_ we learn that Hermione has been giving him a great deal of help with his schoolwork. We know that he is a poor student and that he often needs to struggle with the material, but we don't actually see him spending a whole lot of time studying, do we? We often see Hermione deeply engrossed in her classwork while the other students are engaged in recreational activities in the Gryffindor common room. We are never told of Neville doing the same. If Neville really is diligent and hard working, then the text has never bothered to show it to us. If diligence and perseverance are things that he particularly values in other people, then the text has never bothered to show us that, either.

I'm not saying that Neville is lazy, mind you, but diligence really doesn't seem to me to be either one of his notable traits or something that he values all that highly.

So on to the secondary characteristics of the House, then.


Is being just, or "fair," a particularly important value to Neville?

I see no evidence for this one way or the other. He doesn't strike me as UNfair, by any means, but justice certainly doesn't seem to me to be one of his most highly cherished values. When targetted in the hallways by Draco Malfoy in the first book, for example, he chooses to suffer in silence rather than to object to this unchivalrous and rule-breaking behavior. He doesn't object when McGonagall accuses him of leaving his cheat-sheet of Gryffindor common room passwords lying around either, even though as it later turns out this was an unjust accusation. We never see him going out of his way to defend Harry any of the many times that Harry stands falsely accused of something, or to insist upon a due consideration of both sides of the argument when someone makes a sweeping generalization or an unfair statement. So there is no evidence that justice is something that Neville particularly values either.


Yes. That Neville is. He is exceptionally patient. He curls up to sleep on the floor of the corridor outside of the common room while waiting for someone to come along to let him in, rather than going out to seek help. He puts up with all manner of abuse from others with a certain degree of aplomb -- or at the very least, of resignation. Patience I will certainly grant him.


Well. Now, that's an interesting question, isn't it? Is Neville loyal?

He does tell Draco Malfoy that Harry fainted when confronted with the dementors at the beginning of _PoA,_ but we are given absolutely no clue as to how this exchange of information came about. It could have been an unthinking slip—Neville is forgetful—or it could have been something far less benign. Neville's true motivations are still very much a black box in canon. It is, however, not all that encouraging on the loyalty front, and neither is the fact that he does not speak a word during the confrontation on the train at the beginning of _GoF._ He is just in the middle of talking to Ron about the QWC—Ron has just tipped the Krum figurine into his hand—when Draco and his cronies show up. That's the last we hear from Neville. It's not even altogether clear whether he is present for the entirety of the conversation, or whether he slips silently away somewhere in the middle of the scene. One thing he certainly does not do, though, is to leap faithfully to Ron's defense when Draco starts mocking him. That just doesn't happen.

Nor is Neville particularly loyal to his family. He tells the other students stories of his upbringing that place Bent Uncle Algie in a very poor light. He speaks "gloomily" about his Gran's insistence that he should be upholding the family honor, as if he himself doesn't think it a particularly worthwhile or purposeful goal. He does visit his parents over his holidays, true, but we don't even know if he would be doing that if he weren't taken there by his Gran.

Again, I'm not saying that Neville is disloyal, but I really don't think that he exhibits extraordinary loyalty either. I wouldn't identify it as one of his striking characteristics, nor do I see evidence that it's a trait that he values all that highly.


Is "true" a synonym for "loyal," or does it mean "truthful?" I suspect the former, but since we've already covered loyalty, let's look at Neville's honesty, shall we? Is Neville honest?

Hard to say. He's willing to 'fess up to McGonagall for losing his password list. He's willing to admit to the other Gryffindor students that he's allowed himself to get bullied in the hallways -- always a humiliating admission. He doesn't blurt out stuff about his parents to anyone, true, but then, no one's ever actually asked him about his parents, now, have they?

At the same time, though, Neville certainly is secretive, isn't he? He doesn't tell Hermione what's really bothering him after Crouch/Moody's DADA class. He doesn't tell anyone about his parents. He has to be pressed before he'll admit to being bullied, or to losing his passwords (he did not, you will note, mention it to anyone when they first went missing). And, as I argued in message #36772, I think there is evidence to suggest that Neville has been deliberately leading others astray when it comes to the true extent of his magical capabilities.

None of which precisely makes him dishonest, but it doesn't make him forthright, either, which is the type of honesty implied by the word "true."

So why Hufflepuff? Why does everyone think that Neville ought to have been sorted into Hufflepuff, of all houses?

If I were Helga Hufflepuff, I wouldn't have touched Neville with a ten-foot pole. She wanted stable, hard-working, straightforward, salt of the earth type students, didn't she? I don't think that she was terribly keen on the idea of trying to teach neurotic little weirdos with serious magical learning disabilities and far more emotional baggage than can fit into the overhead compartment. That just doesn't seem likely to me.

In fact, if I were Helga, I think that I would have tried to foist Neville off on somebody else. Anybody else. Probably Godric. 'Cause you know, the thing about those warrior types with the great big swords is that they can never resist a challenge. They just love lost causes. And they're suckers for orphans and widows, too. And puppy dogs. And the lame and the halt. They're just big old softies, is what they are. Sentimental. And verrrrrry easy to manipulate.

Which is pretty much exactly what I think happened inside that Sorting Hat.


Posted June 17, 2002 at 9:50 am
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RE: Parental Snape and Non-Compliant Lupin

Amanda wrote (of Snape's dialogue in Lupin's office, while waiting for Lupin to swill down his Wolfsbane potion in PoA):

I always sort of had the idea that Snape was continuing to speak when not necessary--it is sort of awkward, isn't it? I thought he was trying to do a foot-stomper for Harry ("Hell-LO! Are you listening? This guy, he has to take a potion, he gets sick every month, clue IN"), by calling attention to the potion indirectly.

I like that, Amanda. I'd never thought of it that way before.

I'd always read it as a foot-stomper as well, but one far more for Lupin's benefit than for Harry's. I gloss most of Snape's lines there to read: "Damn it, Lupin, would you drink that stuff already? Are you a grown man or aren't you? Do you think I don't have better things to do than to stand over you all day waiting for you to take your medicine?"

There's a strange sort of irritable parent/recalcitrant child dynamic going on in that scene, to be sure. Lupin really does strike me as pulling the "All right! I'll drink it! But not while you're standing over me, okay? Just leave me alone, and I promise that I'll do it. Geez, don't you trust me?" behavior that I'm afraid that I do tend to associate with adolescents who are being Difficult.

Poor Snape, meanwhile, is trapped in the parental role, a role in which he often finds himself trapped in canon, even though he is profoundly temperamentally unsuited for it.

The flavor of the dynamic always left me with the impression that Dumbledore had given Snape express instructions to make certain that Lupin was really drinking his potions. I tend to agree with Pip that Lupin has a bit of a non-compliance problem, and I think that Dumbledore realized that—or at the very least suspected it—and so appointed poor Severus as the task-master when it came to Lupin's medication. This would also explain why Snape was bringing Lupin his potion in person on the night of Shrieking Shack.

Snape does act to protect Harry; he can't be happy to find Harry there in the office of a werewolf. I sort of saw this as being reluctant to leave, making forced conversation in an attempt to keep an eye on things.

I'm certain that he was not happy to find Harry sitting around chatting with Lupin in his office, especially at that time of the month, and especially since Lupin has the power to humiliate Snape by telling Harry embarrassing stories about his schooldays.

This was also my take on his backing out.

I read his backing out to read: "I'm watching you, Lupin. Drink. Your. Potion."


Posted June 17, 2002 at 10:55 am
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RE: The Spying Game Part II - I want you to DIE, Mr Potter

Oh, brava! This was even better than the first part. (And of course, I was just thrilled to see that my boy Redeemable!Avery remains dishwasher-safe.)

I do have one tiny quibble, though, that perhaps Pip or her, er, enforcer Grey Wolf might be able, help me out a bit with here. Preferably without recourse to Cruciatus.

Pip wrote, after an impassioned defense of the notion that many of the DEs in that graveyard hadn't really been disloyal to Voldemort at all:

Another, final point on the supposedly disloyal DE's.

Voldemort: "... I had given up hope, now, that any of my Death Eaters cared what had become of me."

'One or two of the masked wizards in the circle moved uncomfortably, ..'

Only one or two?

Thus implying that only those "one or two" of the Death Eaters had really been disloyal at all.

Erm. Um. The problem here is that, well, there are just far too many indications elsewhere in the scene that the majority of these guys really are profoundly uncomfortable in that graveyard.

The behavior of the entire group when they first appear, for example:

And one by one they moved forward...slowly, cautiously, as though they could hardly believe their eyes.

Then they all shudder as one when Voldemort looks around at them.

And then, when Voldemort sniffs at them and declares that he smells guilt:

A second shiver ran around the circle, as though each member of it longed, but did not dare, to step back from him.

They surely can't all be great actors just doing their bit to help feed Harry misinformation, can they?

I am willing to entertain the notion that Lucius Malfoy may be in on the Big Plan (if only because imagining his stammering there as evidence that he had forgotten his lines made me laugh so hard that my housemate ran into the room asking "What? WHAT?"), but I'm afraid that I'm just not quite up for a plateful of "all but one or two of the DEs were loyal." There's just far too much canon opposing that one.

But that's okay, right? Voldemort can have just a couple of loyalists, while the rest of them can still be treacherous disloyal slime, right?


Posted June 18, 2002 at 7:40 pm
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RE: Why Suspect Lupin? Again.

Sarah wrote:

One reason I would suspect Lupin as being somewhat-evil... During the Conversation in the shrieking shack, between Lupin and Sirius, Lupin, says that he was not told about the switch to Peter as the secret keeper, because Sirius suspected Lupin as being in alliance with Voldemort.

That doesn't really make sense. Why would Sirius and James suspect Lupin over Peter?

Well, primarily, I think that they suspected him because he is a werewolf.

No. It's not very nice, is it? But even the most tolerant of individuals can possess internalized bigotry, and Sirius does tell us that those were very paranoid times. Werewolves are classified as "dark creatures." Voldemort was a Dark Wizard. Sirius and James would not have been human if they hadn't had moments of doubt.

Even if one refuses to entertain the notion that James and Sirius were prejudiced against werewolves per se, though, the fact still remains that Lupin's condition would have rendered him unusually vulnerable to both pressure and temptation from the enemy.

He is both unemployable and impoverished, which renders him vulnerable to bribery or offers of a stable income.

He is a member of a hated yet invisible minority, which renders him vulnerable to blackmail.

He is a member of a marginalized social group, which renders him vulnerable to social resentment and to misguided idealism. Voldemort's people could well have made promises that once the current status quo had been overthrown, werewolves would finally be granted the acceptance that they had failed to receive from those currently in power. Indeed, it is strongly implied that they made just such promises to the giants.

He is effectively chronically ill, which leaves him vulnerable to false hope. Dark magic has tremendous power, doesn't it? Its practitioners can do unexpectedly potent things. Can they cure lycanthropy? Alleviate its symptoms? Might they claim that they could?

Honestly, if Sirius and James didn't find themselves worrying about Remus' vulnerability to all of those things from time to time, then I'd say that they must have been disgustingly insensitive.

I also think that Sirius' behavior in the Shrieking Shack strongly suggests that Sirius, at any rate, most certainly did suspect Lupin at least in part because he was a werewolf. Just look at what happens.

Sirius is not really playing with a full deck at all in the Shrieking Shack. He's vengeance-driven. He's half-mad. His emotional responses to things aren't entirely normal, and neither is his affect. He is grinning madly; he delivers lines like "There'll only be one murder here tonight" while leering maniacally at a bunch of schoolkids who he knows perfectly well believe him to be a crazed killer after Harry's blood; even when overpowered he keeps on agreeing to the accusation that he murdered the Potters (although he does at least try to explain the rest of the story, it's still not exactly sane behavior)...I mean, the guy can't seem to muster up a single normal human emotional reaction to anything going on around him.

So what changes? What finally gets to him? When does he actually start to weep?

Lupin. Lupin comes in and extends his trust. Instantly. Unquestioningly. Later on, he will have some questions about Sirius' admittedly rather improbable story, but he doesn't raise any of them at first. Instead, he offers his hand. He offers his embrace. He offers his immediate and unhesitating trust.

And then Hermione outs him as a werewolf, and the kids all start screaming accusations at him. Ron delivers his "Get away from me, Werewolf!" line. Hermione declares that she should have exposed him from the start. Harry, told that Dumbledore worked to convince the rest of the staff to accept Lupin as trustworthy (Yes, "trustworthy" is precisely the word used) screams out, in JKR's adorable capital letters: "AND HE WAS WRONG! YOU'VE BEEN HELPING HIM ALL THE TIME!"

And that is when we are told that Sirius has crawled over to the bed, that he is shaking, and that he has covered his face with his hand. Indeed, he would seem to have been reduced to tears.

I'd say that Sirius suspected Lupin all those many years ago because he was a werewolf. Wouldn't you?

Poor guilt-ridden Sirius.

If you're looking for suspicious things about Lupin other than his lycanthropy, though, then I think that there are still plenty of those. Back in February, Mahoney (whom I am pleased to see back with us!) asked a very similar question. She asked:

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

I do think that there are plenty of reasons other than his lycanthropy that Sirius and James might have suspected Lupin. My full defense of this claim is message number #35040, but here in summary:

He chose to specialize in the Dark Arts. He has a black sense of humor. He responds to emotional distress by retreating into a very cool and seemingly heartless manner. He speaks of dark or upsetting matters in a breezy and flippant tone of voice. His demeanor when practicing magic is unsettling (the specific words that JKR uses to describe his wandwork are the words that she ordinarily reserves to describe the demeanor of her sadistic villains). He is unnervingly sensitive to others' thoughts and needs. He has a pronounced jugular instinct. He has the capacity for cruelty.

He is more than clever enough and emotionally controlled enough to have made an effective spy, and he had experience with it. As a member of a hated yet invisible minority population, a certain type of deceit and self-misrepresentation was already a fundamental part of Lupin's identity. All werewolves are spies. His friends would likely have understood this. It might well have given them pause.

By the time of canon, Lupin would also seem to have developed a more than a few self-destructive or self-sabotaging tendencies. These may be symptomatic of emotional damage from the Potters' deaths. Then again, he may always have had those leanings, and if so, then that would make him pretty suspect too, wouldn't it? After all, you just don't get much more self-sabotaging than selling yourself to the Dark side. Forgetting to take your Wolfsbane Potion pales in comparison.

Sarah again:

Lupin must have done something to make them suspicious. . . .If you ask me, he must have done something odd which tipped James and Sirius off....

Lupin was suspect to begin with, by simple virtue of being who he is. They were suspicious and paranoid times. In such times, any action might be viewed as an "oddity," an incongruity, a tip-off. In such times, just about anything can set the snowball of paranoia rolling right down the hillside. (For an illustration by example, check out any of Theory Bay's "Order of the Flying Hedgehog" threads. A keyword search for the words "Ever," "So," and "Evil" should do the trick. ;->)

But on the subject of Hedgehoggian speculations, Pip wrote:

I think it is very likely that JKR is going to introduce a theme of 'prejudice causes some of its victims to turn to evil'. She's already hinted at that with Dumbledore's suggestion in GoF that the Giants have turned to Voldemort because he has promised them rights and freedom.

Evil!Lupin would fit in very nicely with that theme.

Indeed, this is the only Evil!Lupin scenario that I really find at all canonically plausible. In spite of all of Pippin's heroic efforts, I don't really think that he's already turned. But I remain open to the suggestion that JKR might decide to do such a thing with him in future volumes. As Marina wrote:

If a potentially good and noble man is going to be pushed toward evil by bigotry and hate, I wanna see it happen now, not hear a speech about how it happened fifteen years ago. "Show, don't tell" is the motto.

I think the situation is ripe right now for a "temptation of Remus Lupin" storyline.

I think so as well. I think it would be a great subplot. I don't know if I believe that JKR's planning on it, but I'd certainly enjoy it. And I do tend to agree with Pip that we're more than likely to see someone get corrupted at some point in the story.

I still hold out hopes, though, that JKR plans to tie "Elephant In the Drawing Room" House Slytherin into that particular thematic function somehow.

Sarah again:

Everyone always said how weak Peter was, and how he hung around his powerful, protector like friends. So then why would they suspect Lupin and not Peter...

They only speak about Peter in precisely that way after they already know that he's turned. McGonagall, believing him to be a martyr, does call him both a weakling and a tagalong, but she doesn't slant this observation at all in the direction of Peter being attracted to power, or seeking protectors. Only Sirius does, and he's speaking from hindsight.

As for why they wouldn't have suspected Peter...well, if he was anything back then like he is these days, then why on earth would anyone have suspected him? He really doesn't come across as someone who would make all that competent a spy, does he? He gives the impression of having no emotional control whatsoever. And he can't tell a decent lie to...well, to save his life.

He does seem to have an unusual facility for leading others to underestimate him. That, however, is a talent which by its very nature almost always goes completely overlooked. ;-)

—Elkins (now off to the homoeroticism thread, to tackle a much bigger Elephant in an altogether darker Drawing Room).

Posted June 20, 2002 at 12:34 pm
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RE: Sexuality in HP

I've deprefixed this thread, since it's really more about sexuality and homoerotic overtones in the HP books in general than it is about any particular relationship or romantic speculation.

However. This post does contain discussion of both homoeroticism and sexual sadism. We don't have a prefix for that. So consider this a warning: if that sort of thing bothers you, then you'd be well advised to skip now.

No. Really. I mean it.


Rochelle wrote:

But when you examine them closely, are the HP books REALLY that innocent?

Er, no. They're not, very.

Their less innocent aspects are, however, often very cleverly glossed. Take the harrassment of Mrs. Roberts at the QWC World Cup, for example. To adult readers, the scene cannot help but suggest that Muggle rape was a regular part of the modus operandi of the Death Eaters. To a child, however, it is far more likely to be associated with the common playground game of trying to see other people's underwear.

Of course, the reason that allowing others to catch a glimpse of ones underwear on the playground is so humiliating in the first place is due to precisely the same cultural dynamic that makes rape such a devestatingly effective terror technique. This scene therefore serves both to suggest some very adult nastiness to the series' more mature readers and to inspire precisely the right flavor of discomfort in its younger readers -- all while remaining perfectly suitable for children.

Here are a few things to think about, mostly subject to interpretation, and some harder to ignore than others.

1) From the "easily ignored" category, we have the thing that Harry would "sorely miss" [p.463] which, of course, turned out to be Ron [p.498] Granted, this is innocent enough; Harry IS Ron's closest friend. But especially when given the fact that two of the other three competitors had to rescue their girlfriends/dance dates (Krum had to save Hermione; Cedric had to save Cho), the homoerotic subtext here isn't that hard to find.

Hmmm. Well, Harry's still practically pre-pubescent in his thinking in GoF, isn't he? I don't know if I find Ron's role as the thing he would "sorely miss" quite so much homoerotic as I do simply homosocial.

Where I see a lot more homoerotic subtext, actually, is in the particular tenor of Harry's envy of "pretty boy" Cedric Diggory. (I also seem to remember that the last person who brought up this aspect of the Harry-Cedric dynamic got flamed. Before my time, that was, or I would have felt compelled to defend her. I see it there too.)

But as you say, this sort of thing is always highly open to interpretation.

Far less so, I think, is the unrelenting homoerotic insinuation to which Percy is subjected by both Ron and the Twins throughout _GoF._ JKR can't come right out and let Percy's brothers call him, a derogatory term for a gay male, of course, but the precise tenor of their needling about the depths of his attachment to his employer—he loves Crouch, he wants to marry him, and so forth—makes it pretty clear that this is exactly the nature of their teasing.

[Moaning Myrtle's infamous voyeurism]

Humorous, yes, but a little perverted no matter HOW you interpret it.

Heh. Yeah. But again, voyeurism is really very popular among children, isn't it? We're back to "I see London, I see France" here. Or "playing doctor," for that matter.

It may be a little bit perverted, but it's perverted in a specific way that, for whatever reason, our culture has declared to be particularly suitable and appropriate for children.

Tom Riddle's "hungry eyes" in CoS [p.309, 311]. Okay, so maybe looking at someone "hungrily" means something completely different in England than it usually does in the States (though I doubt it). And yes, if you try, you can just brush it off. But nonetheless, we've got some pretty blatant homoerotic subtext going on.

Mmmmm. Yes. Well. We get back to dear Riddle and his little...uh, quirks in that graveyard sequence, don't we?

But JKR's depiction of Riddle in CoS really is pretty interesting. The language that she uses to describe him is both sexualized and somewhat feminizing. He does indeed have that "hungry" gaze, as you mentioned. He speaks "quietly," "softly." In the Chamber sequence, JKR pays particularly close attention to his hands, to his "long fingers" (a trait upon which she will positively obsess by the time we get to his reappearance as the reincorporated Voldemort at the end of Gof). When Harry first notices Riddle in the Chamber, he is leaning languidly against a pillar. He twirls Harry's wand "idly" while speaking to him. This is sensual language, and the behavior that it depicts is flirtatious. If Riddle were a woman, you might be tempted to call his demeanor "vampish." It is both a sexualized and a highly seductive depiction of character.

Riddle sure doesn't show very much interest in Ginny at all, though, does he? Both as Riddle and as Voldemort, he is consistently depicted as both distinterested in and highly dismissive of women as a general class.

4) CoS, pages 285-286 where Percy goes to great lengths to keep Ginny from telling anyone what she caught him doing. All right, so it turns out that he was kissing his new girlfriend [p.341]. But up until that gets revealed, you know very well what you THOUGHT he was doing! ;)

Hmmm? You've lost me here, Rochelle. Weren't we supposed to be thinking that Percy was messing about with Salazar's basilisk? I never went chasing after that red herring myself, but I'm pretty sure that our suspicions were supposed to lie in that direction.

I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise, though. Do you figure that JKR wanted to lead her older readers to think that Percy might have been kissing a boy? Or just that he was up to something rather more sexually advanced than snogging?

5) And finally, we have the elephant that's sitting in the living room: that entire... thing... that happened near the end of GoF [p.636-658].

Oh, thank heavens!

And here all this time, I've been thinking that I was surely the only person Bent enough to have found myself staring with slack-jawed incredulity at that whomping big elephant.

<Elkins strikes boldly into the center of the drawing room and grabs the elephant by the trunk>

I can feel it! I can feel it! It's a ROPE! A rope just long enough to use to hang myself!

Heh. Yes. Well.

Yeah, the entire graveyard sequence is really pretty, er, astonishing, isn't it? It certainly did make me blink the first time I read it. I kept thinking, "Oh, lord, is she really getting away with this?"

We have Harry bound and helpless as his blood is "forcibly taken" [p.642] -- a violation of his body. To me, this looks like a fairly obvious metaphor for rape; to make it even clearer, the knife (a common phallic symbol) "penetrates" [p.642 again] Harry's flesh.

That it does. It penetrates the virginal young Harry and strips him of those protections with which his sainted mother had imbued him. Yup. JKR even goes for the straight-out word choice there. "Penetrates." Not leaving anything to chance, is she?

But then, the entire graveyard sequence is really just one great massive sado-masochistic orgyfest, don't you think? I mean, the sexualization of the language throughout those chapters really is unrelenting. The newly rebirthed Voldemort doesn't just check himself over. He actually caresses himself (yes, with those "long fingers"). "His expression rapt and exultant." Then, as if one "caress" in this context weren't disturbing enough, in the very same paragraph he caresses his wand.

"Gently caresses" it, mind. Gently.

His Death Eaters, crawling forward to pay their homage, "murmer" their obeisance. It's a peculiar word choice, that. "Murmered" has somewhat sexualized connotations. Later on in this scene, the DEs will appear simply terrified but here, in their first appearance, they come across as more...well, transported, really. Transported by a kind of submissive ecstacy.

And then there's Voldemort's thing with Harry. That single-fingered stroke on the cheek. That comment about Harry's father facing him "straight-backed and proud." (Gee. He hardly paid that much attention to how Harry's mother died, did he? Far less her posture at the time.) And what I think must be one of the most disturbing lines in the entire series:

'A little break,' said Voldemort, the slit-like nostrils dilating with excitement, 'a little pause...'

Nostrils dilating with excitment?

Um. Yeah. Look. I've just written and then erased three separate attempts at this paragraph, trying desperately to avoid getting too vulgar here, and I'm just not having very much luck with it. So, uh, can we just leave the question of who precisely might really be the one in need of a "little break" at this point in the duel as read, then, and move on?

It's some seriously disturbing language, this. Genre villains are nearly always sadistic, that's de trope, but it's really quite rare to find their sadism marked so very blatantly as sexual. To come across it in a series marketed for children borders on the downright shocking.

This list is not complete. I could add quite a bit more if I wanted, but I think that's enough for now.

Ah, yes. Restraint. That's a virtue, I'm told. Sadly, it's not one that I've ever quite mastered, myself.

Personally, I think J.K.R. is a closet slasher. ;) But that's just my opinion.

Do you think so?

I'm actually made uneasy by the conflation of homoeroticism, effeminacy and sadism in these depictions. Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. It's just standard genre convention. It's hardly restricted to the HP books. It's everywhere. It's just plain inescapable.

But it's not a genre convention that I've ever much cared for, myself. It often strikes me as uncomfortably homophobic.


Posted June 20, 2002 at 12:48 pm
Topics: ,
Plain text version


RE: The Sorting of Neville Longbottom

Hana wrote:

I agree with the fact that Neville doesn't really fit in Hufflepuff, that he doesn't, in fact, seem to fit into ~any~ of the houses.

Yes. As I've argued before, I read the Hat's very long hesitation with Neville as representing a dilemma of "None of the Above." Gryffindor was a best-fit. That doesn't mean that it was necessarily a good fit.

Hana also most kindly provided us with the Gryffindor traits:

The Gryffindor traits from PS/SS and GOF:

brave at heart

(and intelligent since Godric made the Sorting Hat)

He ~has~ shown courage in helping to fight Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle in PS/SS, as well as when he stands up to the Trio so bravery is there, deciding to fight might be considered daring (for him) and show some nerve since he's not really the picture of fighting strength.

I would say that his actions in both of those cases definitely show daring. They certainly show nerve.

They also reveal a great deal of cowardice -- or at the very least, a profound weakness of will.

Really, he's just doing what everybody else keeps telling him to do there, isn't he? The rest of the Gryffindor boys nag and harrass him about how he should "stick up for himself," and Harry tells him that he's worth twelve of Malfoy. So what does he do the very next time a situation like this comes up?

Why, he parrots Harry's words right back to Malfoy, of course. And then he gets into an utterly uncharacteristic fist fight for no good reason at all, other than his desire to satisfy the expectations of his peers.

That's not courage. That's caving to pressure. It's nothing but the social equivalent of succumbing to the Imperius Curse.

Darrin wrote:

The boy took on two boys twice his size.

Yes. It's interesting that, isn't it? Why did he go for Crabbe and Goyle? Why not weedy little Draco Malfoy, against whom he might at least have stood a fighting chance? Why the kids that he knew could land him straight in the hospital -- and not just one of them, but both of them at once?

Could it be that he was trying to make a point?

Darrin also wrote:

The boy risked his friendship with Hermione, Ron and Harry -- and as it turns out, his safety -- because it was best for the house.

And that's an interesting scene too. He doesn't really risk his friendship with them at all. Instead, he comes right out and reminds them that in doing what he is doing, he is specifically obeying their orders. And then he all but dares them to attack him.

I begin to see a pattern emerging here. Do you?

Look, Neville may lack confidence, but he knows the score. He may not be able to hold up against the Social Imperius, but by God he's not going to succumb to it without putting up some form of resistance.

And so he plays to lose.

Neville plays to lose. Playing to lose is the only avenue of resistance he has open to him, because he can't yet muster the confidence or the courage or the sheer strength of will to come right out and say: "No. I WON'T."

I live in hopes that this might change. But Neville's behavior in PS/SS is really pretty godawfully depressing, if you ask me. It's the story of his failure to uphold the virtues of his House. He fails, he fails miserably, and then everyone and his brother comes along and pats him on the back and praises him for his failure.

Just look at how he responds to Dumbledore's point award at the end of the book, will you? He isn't happy. He isn't smiling. He is "white with shock."

Harry thinks it's because he's astonished and pleased.

Then, we know all about Harry's track record when it comes to interpreting other people, right?

Mind you, I do think that Neville is brave. I think he's astonishingly brave. The kid's got plenty of raw courage. Unfortunately, it's just not the sort of courage that his culture values in the least, which means that he has to work at least five times as hard as your typical Joe Warrior Gryffindor type to manifest it.

And Neville still needs a lot of work with that whole "manifesting it" part. He needs a lot of work with that. He proved that in PS/SS.

Where Neville shows that he is capable of manifesting real courage, on the other hand, is when he he asks a girl to the Ball, gets rejected, and then goes right on to ask a different girl. That's courage. Admitting to losing his passwords is courage. And of course, the fact that he has never once tried to use his parents' plight to leverage anyone into showing him the slightest bit of pity or mercy or plain old-fashioned slack is extremely courageous.

Most of all, though, Neville wears fuzzy slippers. At the age of thirteen. He wears them, and as far as we can tell, he wears them without shame. That is the sort of thing that lets me know that he belongs in House Gryffindor.

His behavior in PS/SS, though?

::shakes head sadly::

Oh, no. I don't think so.

Of course, the sad thing about all of this is that JKR seems to have not the slightest idea what she's talking about whenever she writes about Neville. I therefore strongly suspect that she's going to send him off in a direction that will depress me just as profoundly as the end of PS/SS did. (For my rant about where I would like to see Neville go in the canon, see Message #34856).


-- Full disclosure: I came late to the HP books and I was able to read all four for the first time right in a row. The scene where Dumbledore gives Neville the winning 10 points is where I said: "I see now what the hype was about."

Full disclosure myself? The end of PS/SS absolutely turned my stomach, and Neville's plotline was a big reason for that (Marina can guess what the other one was, I'm guessing *g*). I just have so little patience with that particular After School Special interpretation of averse-to-conflict child characters. They really do bug me no end. It was quite some time before I could even steel myself to pick up the second book, and the first volume remains to this day my very least favorite of the four.


Posted June 20, 2002 at 2:20 pm
Plain text version


RE: "Malfoy Is Mabel" and Genre Expectation

Pen Robinson wrote:

Anyone remember my post equating Draco to Mabel or Veronica? Probably not. Never mind.

*waves hand excitedly in air*

Oh, I do! I do! Pick me! Pick me!

Yes, I remember "Malfoy is Mabel!" In fact, I've had it sitting around for ages, trying to think of some response that wouldn't be a naught but a "me too."

For those watching at home: in message #39144, Pen wrote about a genre convention of the old-fashioned boarding school stories from which the HP books are, in part, derived.

Pen wrote (excerpted from message #39144):

Malfoy is Mabel. Or possibly Veronica.

No, really. Come on, doesn't anyone else remember those delicious Girls' Boarding School stories we... well, I, at any rate, used to read? Stories in which Our Heroine (Pippa, or Daisy, or something similarly wholesome), the poverty-stricken but noble-in-character scholarship pupil arrived at a Jolly Good School and was promptly picked on by The Nasty Little Rich Girl (Veronica or Mabel) because she had No Money and came from a Poor Family. Our Heroine underwent many trials, petty nastinesses of all kinds were inflicted by Mabel (or Veronica), but Virtue Triumphed In The End. Usually there was a Poignant Scene in which Our Heroine came to Mabel's (or Veronica's) rescue, and Mabel (or Veronica) made a tearful recantation and Avowal of Friendship.

Hee. Oh, yes. I remember these. I found them bizarrely fascinating as a child. They were just so utterly alien to my life. Like reading about classical Athens, you know. Or Middle Earth. Or perhaps (given that I always thought those Jolly Good Schools sounded downright dystopian—as, for that matter, I do Hogwarts—more like tales from the Gulag. But indeed, that was precisely how they always worked. The "Rescue and Redeem" scenario was always the order of the day in the boarding school story.

Genre precedent here, of course, suggests that Draco Malfoy may well have a life-debt to Harry Potter looming menacingly in his future. This possibility has also been strongly suggested by fact that the text has been encouraging the reader to draw parallels between Harry-Draco and James-Snape ever since the end of the very first book.

It's always tricky dealing with genre precedent with the HP books, though, because the series is such an utter genre soup. This is a large part of its appeal, of course. I also think that it's the reason that we see speculations covering such an incredible generic range proposed on this list. Pip's "Spy Game" theory adheres to the conventions of the Le Carre-style espionage genre. "Redeemable Draco With D/H Ship" looks to the conventions of Romance. Pippin's "Lestrange Is Loose!" looked (quite self-consciously and entertainingly) straight to Agatha Christie, as—far less self-consciously—does her Evil!Lupin, IMO. "Fourth Man," despite its espionage-derived name, is also rooted firmly in Christie. "Ron As Seventh Son" is YA fantasy. "Harry Is the Heir of Gryffindor" is epic fantasy. And so forth.

The HP books do not really belong wholly to any of these genres, but JKR has borrowed elements of all of them in brewing up her soup, and so it is unsurprising that they should all find themselves represented when people try to speculate about where the series might be going next.

Of course, the fact that the series is such genre soup also accounts for people's wide and dramatic variance in what sort of future speculations they consider to be "canonically plausible." If what you're picking up on while you read the books are all of the boarding school story conventions, then suggestions that by Book Five the students are all going to be engaged in some sort of grim warfare are likely to strike you as utterly ludicrous. If you're looking to the epic fantasy influences, on the other hand, then you're more likely to be expecting the story to "take to the field" in Book Five, as fantasy novels are often structured to do precisely that once past their midpoints. And of course, if you're looking to JKR's Agatha Christie influences, then no secret identity or missing person plotline can ever seem too convoluted or too improbable to be canonically likely, so long as all of the usual Christie textual clues seem to have been laid properly in their places.

But back to Malfoy As Mabel (or Veronica), I do find it reasonably likely that JKR might eventually smack Draco with a life-debt. It's been amply foreshadowed, and there is strong genre precedent. It does seem a bit less likely to me post-POA, though. After all, how many times can JKR really plan on pulling that whole life-debt schtick?

::Thinks of unregistered animagi. Shakes head.::

Well. Yeah. So who can say?



RE: Arthur Weasley With Imperius -- Now, With New Canon!

This message contains much reprise of my pet "Arthur Weasley With Imperius" speculation. It also, however, includes some brand new material, which can be found towards the end of the defense.


Massive Road Trauma (Gee, that's a bummer -- hope it gets better) wrote:

My apologies if this has been discussed before.

I was re-reading Goblet of Fire last night, and came across a chunk of text that jumped out of me (although maybe after reading this board for too long, I'm looking for subtext).

Hey, if you don't take that Egg under the surface of the water, then how are you ever going to be able to understand what it's really trying to tell you?

Subtext is good. We like subtext. ;-)

MRT, you have made my day. "Imperio'd Arthur Weasley" is one of my all-time favorite pet theories (see messages #37121, 34232), and learning that somebody else was struck by the possibility upon reading GoF (even while out on a subtext hunt) makes me so happy, because if someone else saw it there without prompting...why, then it just must be true!

Right? Right?

Here is my defense for the notion that poor Arthur Weasley was indeed a victim of the Imperius Curse at some point in time during Voldemort's first rise to power. Much of this has been snipped from previous posts on the subject, but I've now added Yet More Canon, for those who like their speculations crunchy and wholesome and nutritious.


Canonical evidence for Arthur Weasley With Imperius

1) Evidence that there were many genuine victims of the Imperius Curse.

I believe that there were indeed at least a few wizards who really were placed under the Imperius Curse against their will during Voldemort's first rise (rather than just claiming that they had been to escape punishment for their crimes).

In the Pensieve chapter of GoF, Karkaroff names Mulciber: "he specialized in the Imperius Curse, forced countless people to do horrific things!"

In Chapter Four of PS, Hagrid tells Harry that after Voldemort's disappearance: "People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of 'em came outta kinda trances. Don' reckon they could've done if he was coming back." Nor do I think that Hagrid is talking about the likes of Lucius Malfoy: Hagrid seems steadfastly unimpressed with the Malfoys and their claims of innocence.

Crouch/Moody supports this assertion in Chapter 14 of GoF: "Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse. . . .Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will."

When talking to Harry about the dark days of Voldemort's rise, both Hagrid and Sirius emphasize the difficulties of knowing who could really be trusted. This is consistent with a situation in which a number of people are not only turning traitor willingly, like Pettigrew, but also being manipulated against their own volition.

Canon has also provided us with examples of people being so manipulated. The unfortunate Elder Crouch suffers under the Imperius through most of GoF. During the Third Task, poor Viktor Krum is not only placed under it, but also forced to cast Cruciatus while under its influence. We have been given hard evidence to support both the truth of the assertion that the curse is indeed difficult to resist and the implication that one can be forced to act very much against ones own inclinations or desires while under its control.

So although nearly everyone we have seen who claims to have been a victim of the Imperius Curse in canon has been lying, I nonetheless believe that there were quite a number of genuine victims of the curse during Voldemort's first rise to power.

2) Targetting of younger ministry officials as part of the Death Eater modus operandi

We already know that Voldemort had an interest in infiltrating the Ministry. Rookwood of the Department of Mysteries was the big fish that Karkaroff was able to offer up as part of his plea bargain in the Pensieve scene.

We also know that Voldemort's organization sought to make use of the ministry's younger and more vulnerable workers, people who had access to documentation but were not likely to be under very close supervision. We see evidence of that in Ludo Bagman's trial, also in the Pensieve chapter.

It seems quite likely to me that they would have achieved this end not only by deceiving the gullible (as with Bagman), but also through judicious use of the Imperius Curse. In fact, Crouch/Moody implies as much in Chapter 14 of GoF, when he says: "Gave the Ministry a lot of trouble at one time, the Imperius Curse."

At the time of Voldemort's first rise, Arthur Weasley would have been a relatively young and likely low-ranked ministry official: precisely the sort of person most likely to be targetted by the Death Eaters for exploitation.

3) Arthur's particular hatred of Lucius Malfoy

Lucius Malfoy's lame and childish taunts about Arthur's failures as a provider are enough to goad him to initiate physical violence. This may simply be read as evidence that the two were at Hogwart's together: there certainly is, to my mind, a marked schoolboy flavor to their relationship. I do believe that they were likely at Hogwarts together. And of course, they have some serious political disagreements as well.

None of this suffices, though, to account for quite the degree of bitterness that I detect in Arthur's attitude towards Lucius Malfoy. It strikes me as highly significant that although there is a strong cultural prohibition on speaking to ones children about the days of Voldemort's rise, and although we often see evidence that the Weasley family abides by this prohibition, Arthur has nonetheless apparently gone out of his way to talk about Lucius Malfoy's role in the war to even his younger children.

As an eleven-year-old boy just starting school, Ron already has knowledge of the precise details of Lucius Malfoy's acquittal. At the beginning of PS, he tells Harry:

'I've heard of his family,' said Ron darkly. 'They were some of the first to come back to our side after You-Know-Who disappeared. Said they'd been bewitched. My dad doesn't believe it. He says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.'

This is very specific knowledge for a kid who was raised in a culture that displays a pathological aversion to the idea of ever talking—or even of thinking—about those days. The Weasley parents do not seem to make a practice of speaking to their children about such matters. Ron doesn't give the impression of knowing about the Longbottoms, for example. He doesn't recognize the Dark Mark when he sees it, either. For that matter, he doesn't even know what the Dark Mark is. And yet he happens to know the specific grounds on which Lucius Malfoy was acquitted ten years ago?

Why would Arthur have told Ron about Lucius Malfoy's acquittal, when he's never even explained to the boy what the Dark Mark was?

Well, if he really had sincerely been placed under the Imperius Curse at some point during Voldemort's reign, then the fact that Lucius Malfoy got off on the same claim must have really rankled. It might even have rankled badly enough for him to have told his younger children about it, in spite of the evident reluctance of wizarding culture—the Weasley family included—to speak of such matters.

4) Crouch/Moody's DADA Class

The "The Unforgivable Curses" chapter of GoF, which MRT cited in his (?) message is, to my mind, by far the strongest evidence for the notion that Arthur Weasley was one of Voldemort's Imperius victims.

Although "several hands...[rise]...tentatively into the air" when Crouch, as Moody, invites his students to name the Unforgivables for him, he chooses to call upon Ron. He has already, at the very beginning of the DADA class, identified Ron as Arthur Weasley's son. Ron names the Imperius Curse, adding that he knows of it because his father has mentioned it to him. This seems to please Crouch immensely.

'Ah, yes,' said Moody appreciatively. 'Your father would know that one. Gave the Ministry a lot of trouble at one time, the Imperius Curse.'

Now, we all know what Crouch is. He's a sadist, isn't he? He's a sadist, and he's a show-off; and he is sly. He just loves to entertain himself by making double-edged statements with malicious secondary meanings. Just about everything he says throughout the novel has some nasty message lurking beneath it. So is it possible that there could have been a second meaning underlying that "your father would know that one," as well as some reason for him to be so very "appreciative" of Ron's answer?

Oh, yes. I think that's possible. I think that's definitely possible.

I also see a certain symmetry emerging in this chapter if we accept as our starting hypothesis that Ron's father was indeed, at one time, a victim of the Imperius Curse. Crouch calls on Ron to volunteer the name of the Imperius. He calls on Neville to volunteer the name of the Cruciatus. I feel absolutely certain that he was just dying for Harry to raise his hand, so that he could force him to speak the name of the Avada Kedavra. Alas for Crouch, though, Harry is an ignoramus, and so he was forced to call on Hermione instead. All the same, he did go out of his way to draw the class' attention to Harry after his demonstration of the curse, as well as forcibly reminding Harry that the Avada Kedavra was how his parents died. Crouch is just like that. He's clever and cruel, and he has some...well, let's just say some serious parental issues.

5) Hints of a Weasley family weakness to Imperius

Harry is a freak in his ability to shrug off the Imperius Curse—that much is clear—but the text also implies that Ron may have an unusual degree of difficulty with this task. On their way to lunch after DADA class, in Chapter 15, Ron is "skipping on every alternate step. . . .Moody assured him the effects would wear off by lunch-time."

No other student is shown to suffer from such lingering after-effects after any of Moody's classes. Even Neville Longbottom, who is not only a poor student but also the character that JKR usually selects to serve similarly slapstick comedic functions in the text, is never shown having this problem.

This is particularly odd because nowhere else in canon is Ron depicted as a poor student. He does have some difficulties in CoS, but only because of his broken wand; he doesn't take Divination at all seriously, but then, neither do any of the other male Gryffindor students. Ordinarily, Ron is canonically depicted as a perfectly average student. So why the trouble with the Imperius Curse? He's not really a weak-willed person at all.

Well, could it be a family trait? Riddle's diary did quite the job on Ginny too.

6) Arthur Weasley's unwillingness to risk exposure to the allure of the Veela during the QWC.

It seems reasonable to me that someone who was once victimized by the Imperius Curse—particularly by forces as hostile to ones personal inclinations as the Death Eaters were to Muggle-loving Arthur Weasley—would be particularly on guard against falling prey to similar mental magics a second time around. Indeed, one might even be a bit phobic about that possibility.

A month or so ago, Irene and the Catlady were having a discussion about the mystery of the "third time Imperius" line in the graveyard scene of GoF ("And Harry felt, for the third time in his life, the sensation that his mind had been wiped of all thought..."). In the course of that discussion, either Irene or the Catlady (I can't remember which, sorry) proposed that perhaps the first time had actually been Harry's exposure to the Veela at the QWC.

The Catlady wrote:

Hmm. Does that suggest that Veela magic is a form of innate and perhaps automatic Imperius Curse? The command "Desire me!" cast on any and all men in the vicinity?

Irene then added:

That would explain also why Harry is handling it better than Ron. Oh, and does it mean that there is more to Arthur Weasley than meets the eye?

She provided this bit of canon:

'Aaah!' He suddenly whipped off his glasses and polished them hurriedly on his robes. 'Veela!'

Yes. It is suggestive that, isn't it? Unlike Irene, though, I don't view it as evidence that Arthur is unusually resistant to the allure of the Veela. Far to the contrary, I think it shows that he is— or perhaps merely fears himself to be—even more vulnerable than ordinary men. Just look at what he does. He lets out an exclamation, and then he very quickly takes his glasses off, under the pretext of needing to clean them.

We never see him put them back on his face. My guess is that he didn't do so until the Veela were once more safely out of his range of vision.

Arthur does not want to see the veela.

Now, sure, Arthur's a married man and all. He's a family guy. I get that. But he's still a man, isn't he? And surely there is no particular stigma attached to drooling a bit over the veela, is there? Even if Molly found out about it somehow (and she's not even there at the QWC, so it isn't that Arthur is trying to spare her feelings in any immediate sense), she would understand. She wouldn't like it much, maybe, but she'd hardly throw a frying pan at him for it, would she? I doubt it. So why on earth does Arthur seem so eager to get those glasses off of his face?

Well, if the allure of the Veela is kin to, or even feels anything like the Imperius Curse, then quite possibly he's unusually skittish about that. It scares him. He doesn't want to be exposed to it, and so he tries to reduce the Veela's power to affect on him by rendering himself effectively blind, thus removing the entire visual component from the Veelas' seductive powers.

6) Implications of a Voldemort-related skeleton in the Weasley family closet

Of course, if poor Arthur Weasley really had spent some time under the Imperius Curse back in the bad old days, then clearly no one has ever told Ron or the Twins about it. While Ron doesn't care at all for those spiders, Crouch's Imperius demonstration doesn't otherwise seem to bother him at all—he thinks that it's cool—and he has no negative reaction to Crouch's comment about his father. Similarly, the Twins show no signs of distress over Crouch/Moody's DADA class; on the contrary, they are overflowing with enthusiasm about it.

The older children, on the other hand, would likely know about it, because they would have been old enough to remember their father being questioned and then absolved by the MoM. Bill and Charlie would know. Percy might or might not, depending on how astute a child he was, how careless adults were about speaking of the matter in his presence, and whether or not Bill and Charlie understood that it was a secret Not For Younger Ears.

So is there any evidence in the text that Bill and/or Charlie are hip to something about their father and his relationship to the past, something that the younger children in the family do not know about?

I think that there is.

At the end of _GoF,_ in Chapter 36, when Dumbledore announces his intention of sending a letter to Arthur to enlist his help in convincing other Ministry officials of the truth of Voldemort's return, Bill immediately volunteers to go to him in person.

'I'll go to Dad,' said Bill, standing up. 'I'll go now.'

It's a fast response. It also has the feel of a preemptive strike. Bill wants to convince Dumbledore not to send Arthur a letter at all. "I'll go right this very second. It will be just as fast as the post. Just please don't make my father learn this news from a letter."

It's touching, that, but it is also really very suggestive. Why precisely is Bill so concerned about Arthur's feelings when it comes to this topic?

I think that Arthur was an Imperius victim, and that Bill knows it.

I think that we also see evidence of this in Chapter Nine of GoF. There are peculiar undercurrents to all of the exchanges between Arthur and Number One Son Bill in this chapter. Again, Bill seems to be playing a protective role. He is the one to change the subject away from the Dark Mark, when Arthur seems to be becoming dangerously emotional on the topic and when the silence following Arthur's faltering seems to be dragging on for too long (Dangerously long, perhaps? Long enough that Bill fears that it might provoke a confessional?).

When Bill does change the subject, he does so in a brisk, no-nonsense tone which seems to me to be quite deliberately intended to lower the emotional temperature ("Buck up, Dad").

His attempt to pull the conversation out of these dangerous waters fails, though. Harry asks what Death Eaters are. Ron brings up the Malfoys. Arthur is still responding emotionally: he laughs hollowly, he speaks about the DEs with undeniable bitterness. Bill is not pleased. The next time that he chimes into the discussion, in response to Ron's continuing to pursue the matter of the Dark Mark, his tone is actively irritable: "Use your brains, Ron."

The matter is not all that easily dismissed, though, is it? The rest of the conversation makes particular emotional sense once we assume that Arthur was indeed an Imperius victim, and that eldest son Bill is aware of that fact.

Bill's summary of the likely motivations of the ex-DEs at the Cup starts to venture into some very dangerous territory here:

'If they really were Death Eaters, they worked very hard to keep out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people.'

This is an interesting line, in part because it seems to be largely a parroting of what we already know Arthur has told Ron about Malfoy. Clearly this is a big issue for Arthur -- and he has seen to it that it has become a source of particular indignation for his children as well.

It's also interesting, though, because it begs the question of why precisely Bill is bringing this subject up again, when previously he seemed to be working to deflect attention away from it. What's up with that?

It's been eating at him, I think, the question of precisely what Daddy did during the war. It's not really a comfortable line of thought at all, is it, even if Bill accepts that his father was essentially innocent? It can't help but trouble him. Just what did his father do while under the Imperius, anyway?

As I read it, Arthur's next line is designed to reassure him. Although he is ostensibly answering Hermione, his answer doesn't strike me as really directed at Hermione at all. It's directed straight at Bill. Hermione asks whether whoever conjured the Dark Mark was doing it to show support or to scare the DEs away. Arthur acknowledges that the answer to that question is unanswerable, and then leaps to point out that only Death Eaters were ever taught how to conjure the Dark Mark. It's very much as if he wants to reassure Bill that he was never himself forced to do such a thing. (Although it's not really very much of a reassurance, is it? "Torture and murder, perhaps, but let me tell you something, son -- I never shot that Dark Mark up into the sky!")

7) Suggestions that the Weasleys feel themselves to owe a debt of gratitude to Mad-Eye Moody

This marvellous bit of canon was provided by Abigail, the last time that Imperio'd Arthur came up on the list (at a time when I was sadly away, else I would have commented more, er, promptly on it). I will therefore defer to her own words here.

Abigail cited evidence of a special relationship between Arthur and Moody as a defense for the idea that Arthur may at one time have been an Auror.

(For more on Arthur-as-Auror, check out Abigail's message #37136 and its follow-ups. Abigail, the Catlady, Barbara, and many other people whose names aren't leaping to mind right now have done a lot of really good stuff on this spec, but I'm not going to summarize it here because...well, I'd just be here all day if I did that, wouldn't I?)

In message #37136, Abigail wrote:

Has anyone suggested the possibility that Arthur Weasly was, at some point before the fall of Voldemort, an auror? The thought came to me when I was thinking about the implied closeness between Arthur and Moody. Amos Diggory calls on Arthur to bail Moody out when his flying trashcans attack muggle policemen, and the reactions from Molly and the older Weasly children seem to suggest the kind of closeness you might see between former colleagues:

'"I'd better hurry - you have a good term, boys," said Mr Weasly to Harry, Ron and the twins, draggins a cloak over his shoulders and preparing to Disapparate. "Molly, are going to be all right taking the kids to King's Cross?"

"Of Course I will," she said. "You just look after Mad-Eye, we'll be fine."


"Did someone say Mad-Eye?" Bill asked.


"Your father thinks very highly of Mad-Eye Moody," said Mrs Weasly sternly.'

In all fairness, Charlie does ask, a few sentences later, whether Moody was a friend of Dumbledore's, but I believe he says this as proof that Moody is not insane as George claims him to be.

Later on, Abigail acknowledged that this could also serve as canonical suggestion for Imperio'd Arthur:

Or perhaps Moody was respnsible for breaking the Imperius curse placed on Arthur - if such a thing is possible, I imagine Moody would be the one to do it. That would put Arthur strongly in his debt. Like I said in my previous message, I see no conflict between Arthur-with-Imperius and Arthur-as-auror, so either way, this works for me.

Leaving Auror!Arthur out of this for now, I do think that a bond of gratitude is strongly implied by both Arthur's willingness to bend the law to help out Moody and by the canonical exchange that Abigail cited. Even if Moody had nothing to do with breaking Arthur's Imperius—I myself consider it far more likely that the curse simply dissipated upon Voldemort's discorporation, as it did with so many of its other victims—the Weasleys would still have reason to consider themselves quite deeply in Moody's debt if he had been the Auror assigned to investigate Arthur's case.

We know that a number of the Aurors were not exactly gentle with suspects during that period in history. Crouch had authorized them to use the Unforgiveables on suspects, which means that they were allowed to use torture in their attempts to uncover the truth. And apparently, a number of them did just that: Sirius claims that some of the Aurors descended to the level of Death Eaters in the last years of the conflict.

So given all of that, I think that if I were Arthur Weasley and I had turned myself into the Ministry when my Imperius Curse had been lifted, then I would feel very grateful indeed to have been treated with kindness or consideration or even plain old human decency by the person investigating my case. Grateful enough that my wife might rebuke our children rather strongly for poking fun at the fact that the man's a wee bit unstable these days? Yup. Grateful enough that I would happily go out of my way to use what little clout I have to help cover up for the guy's minor legal indiscretions some thirteen years later? Oh, you betcha. In a heartbeat.

<Elkins pauses, suddenly struck by the image of a marriage between Evil!Moody and Stockholmed!Arthur, then shakes her head. Another day. Another day. And probably that's one for the Bay.>


So I hope that's reassured you, MRT. You're not the only one here malicious enough to have found themselves contemplating Imperio'd Arthur Weasley. ;-)

If you really want twisted, though, then how about combining Imperio'd Arthur with a Missing Weasley Child scenario?

This is a favored combination for those who like their speculations Dark, bloody and horrific (in TBAY terminology, those who wear "featherboas"). For some reason, I'm guessing that someone named "Massive Road Trauma" might just be a featherboasish sort of person. So here, submitted for your approval, is a quick run-down of "Missing Weasley Child."


Evidence people have cited to support the notion that the Weasley family lost a child during Voldemort's first rise

1) The large gap in age between Charlie and Percy.

Some people have also come up with attempts to organize the Weasley children's names according to an alphabetical schematic in order to bolster the notion that there was a third son, now deceased, born between Charlie and Percy. This is really not at all my favorite line of speculation, though (no offense intended to its adherents), so I'm not going to get into it here. If you're curious about it, though, then you can find a very long and animated discussion of this speculation in the archives from early April. A keyword search for "Weasley names" or "Seventh Son" should do the trick.

2) Ron's description of the composition of his family to Harry in the first book.

From Chapter Six of PS:

. . . . 'Wish I'd had three wizard brothers.'

'Five,' said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. 'I'm the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts.'

Both that look of gloom and the fact that Ron says that he is the sixth to go to Hogwarts, rather than the sixth son, have been held by some to suggest that Ron had another brother who did not live to reach the age of eleven.

3) The Weasley family's traumatized response to allusions to or reminders of Voldemort's first rise

The Weasley family seems to have been unusually psychologically scarred by Voldemort's first rise to power. The entire wizarding world is pathological in this regard, true, but the Weasleys strike many people as carrying even more emotional baggage about Those Dark Times than average wizards. Of Harry's peers, Ron shows the strongest aversion to hearing Voldemort's name spoken outright. Of course, he is also the only one of Harry's close friends who was raised within the wizarding world, so this alone could account for it, if only there were not so many other indications that the Weasley family carries some form of severe yet secret trauma.

Take that clock, for example. That paranoiac grandfather clock in the Burrow, the one with the special setting for "mortal peril." Is that really a normal thing for wizarding families to have in their houses?

Well, maybe it is. Maybe it is. And yet, I notice that when a situation arises in which some of her family members might actually be in mortal peril, Molly doesn't seem to be able to bring herself to look at it to find out for sure. When the rest of her family returns home from the QWC in Chapter 10, for example, she runs out to greet them, practically deranged with relief to see them all safe and sound.

'Arthur -- I've been so worried -- so worried -- '

Molly is in quite a state. She is described as "pale" and "strained." She hasn't dressed. She's still clutching her copy of the _Daily Prophet,_ although she lets it fall out of her "limp" hand once she has thrown herself into Arthur's arms. In places, she is described as if she might even be tottering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

'You're all right,' Mrs. Weasley muttered distractedly, releasing Mr. Weasley and staring around at them all with red eyes, 'you're alive....Oh boys...'

Why didn't she check the clock?

Don't tell me it's a FLINT. It's not a FLINT. JKR didn't forget about the clock, and she didn't want her readers to have forgotten about the clock either. She describes the clock again in the very same chapter. The clock is described in full, with special attention paid to that "mortal peril" setting, not four pages after her description of Molly's near-hysterical relief to see her family safely home. And Molly looks at it, too, to see if Arthur is on his way home from work yet.

So Molly uses the clock. She uses it on a daily basis. The one time she can't bring herself to look at it, apparently, is when someone in her family might really be in danger.

This is suggestive. People who have suffered through the agonies of knowing that a loved one has become trapped in a dangerous situation nearly always describe the worst part about that situation as "not knowing for sure." The relatives of those who are "missing in action" in times of war, those who are "as yet unaccounted for" when there has been some terrible disaster -- these people always claim that they just want to know, that even knowing that their loved one had been killed would be far better than the terrible uncertainty. Right?

Molly's different, apparently. Why would that be?

Perhaps because that clock has given her bad news before?

Arthur's explanation of the significance of the Dark Mark in Chapter 9 is also not only highly emotional, but also highly suggestive:

'The terror it inspired ... you have no idea, you're too young. Just picture coming home, and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you're about to find inside ...' Mr. Weasley winced. 'Everyone's worst fear ... the very worst ...'

There was silence for a moment.

It does sound rather as if he's speaking from personal experience, doesn't it?

4) Congruence with the Seventh Son/Ron Is A Seer theory

Some people believe that Ron shows evidence of unconscious prophetic talents throughout the canon, and that this might JKR's way of foreshadowing a plot turn in which Ron will be revealed to be a seer.

I have never quite been able to swallow this one myself, but again, if you're interested, there has been plenty of discussion of it in the past. A keyword search for "Seer" or "Seventh Son" should yield plenty of material for you to mull over.

The relevance of Seer!Ron to "Missing Weasley Child," of course, is that if Ron really does have a (now deceased) older brother, then that would make him a seventh son. There is strong evidence that Arthur himself comes from a large family. As the Catlady wrote in Message #37174:

Btw, I remain troubled by Draco's statement that "all the Weasleys" have red hair, no money, and more children than they can afford. Sure, he was just quoting Lucius, but it seems to me that Lucius would not have thought of saying such a thing unless there was more than one Weasley who had numerous children.

I agree with Catlady that this comment only really makes sense if we assume that the Weasleys' tendency to have many children is a multi-generational phenomenon. Arthur himself must come from a large family. It is therefore possible that he is himself a seventh son, which would make Ron a Seventh Son of a Seventh Son -- held by Western folklore to imbue one with prophetic powers.


Of course, if you combine "Arthur Weasley With Imperius" with "Missing Weasley Child" then it gets rather difficult to avoid wondering whether poor dear sweet mild-mannered Arthur Weasley might actually have been in some way responsible for his own son's death.

Such a line of inquiry might also lead you to wonder whether the running parricide motif of _Goblet of Fire_ is ever to be paralleled by a motif of filicide in some future volume.

Indeed, if you think overmuch on such matters, then you might find yourself noticing the hazy figure of Unwilling Filicide Arthur Weasley stepping slowly out from the murky shadows of canonical suggestion.

But this is such a thoroughly sadistic line of speculative thought that I myself would naturally never dream of suggesting it to anyone.


Posted June 21, 2002 at 1:37 pm
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RE: The Sorting of Neville Longbottom

Apparently, Darrin just can't stand my preferred reading of Neville.

Heh. That's okay, Darrin. I've never claimed that it's for everyone. It's a very specialized reading, and few people seem to like it very much. It is, however, perfectly canonically supported. Let me show you.


On Neville's Brawl With Crabbe and Goyle

Darrin wrote:

What would have happened if Ron and Neville both would have attacked Draco? Crabbe and Goyle would have turned them into meat pizza from behind.

And what would have happened if neither Ron nor Neville had attacked Draco?

Ron is the one who initiates the fist fight in that scene. Ron is the one who ratchets the level of the confrontation up from words to blows.

That Neville is willing to help him out once he does so is evidence of loyalty. It is evidence of physical bravery -- the kid is very likely going to get hurt, and he must know that.

But then, Peter Pettigrew also displays a great deal of physical courage. As much as he may value his own life, he is willing to take tremendous risks with it (his escape at the end of PoA is proof of this), and he is also willing to get hurt. He's willing to put up with a lot in the way of physical pain.

I don't think, though, that any of us would go so far as to call Pettigrew courageous. He's not. He's a coward. While he may not possess much in the way of Proper Wizarding Pride, he does possesses daring and boldness and physical courage -- all of them Gryffindor traits. But morally, he is a coward, and I think that we are meant to understand that in the end, moral courage counts for an awful lot.

So are Neville's actions in this scene indicative of true courage? Of moral courage?

Hard to say for sure, without knowing precisely what was going through his mind at the time. But I must say that I would find it a lot more convincing as evidence of true courage if earlier in that exact same chapter it had not been so very strongly implied that Neville himself considers such behavior the prerequisite to gaining acceptance from his peers.

PS, Chapter 13. Neville has already told Hermione that he does not want to report Malfoy to Professor McGonagall because he doesn't "want more trouble." The scene then runs like this:

'You've got to stand up to him, Neville!' said Ron. 'He's used to walking all over people, but that's no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.'

'There's no need to tell me I'm not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, Malfoy's already done that,' Neville choked.

[Harry then gives Neville his last chocolate frog and then piles on yet more peer pressure]

'You're worth twelve of Malfoy,' Harry said. 'The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn't it? And where's Malfoy? In stinking Slytherin.'

Neville's lips twitched in a weak smile as he unwrapped the Frog.

'Thanks, Harry...I think I'll go to bed...'

[And then he hands Harry back the card from the frog and walks away.]

That's the canon. Only a few pages later on in the same chapter is when we are treated to Neville first telling Draco "I'm worth twelve of you, Malfoy!" and then, after a moment's hesitation, clambering over the seats to help Ron out with the fist fight that he has provoked.

Why does Neville act in such a way in that particular scene, when elsewhere in canon he is consistently depicted as a character who prefers to avoid conflict?

Well. It might be in part because he just can't stand to watch Ron get himself pounded to a pulp by Crabbe and Goyle without doing something to try to help him out. Neville is a nice kid, after all.

But it also just might have something to do with the fact that only a few pages earlier in the novel, the rest of House Gryffindor has (inadvertantly, I'm sure, and with the very best of intentions) left him with the impression that his own preferred method of dealing with things is unacceptable to them, and that if he wants to earn their approval and be deemed worthy of belonging to House Gryffindor, rather than "stinking Slytherin," he'd better toe the line and start acting the way all the rest of them do.

Neville does try to shut them up, doesn't he? He all but comes right out and says: "You know, guys, the way that you're always nagging at me? When it comes right down to it, it's just exactly the sort of thing that Malfoy does."

But they just don't get the hint, do they? They're totally oblivious. They just keep at it. The famous Harry Potter himself joins in the fray, and then drops that nice little "stinking Slytherin" in, just to make it perfectly clear to Neville exactly what the social punishment for failing to conform to the House's party line entails.

Small wonder that he can only muster the very weakest of smiles at Harry's words of "praise." Small wonder that he excuses himself from the conversation rather abruptly, and then just goes off to bed.

And indeed, Neville learns his lesson. The very next time that we see him anywhere near a Slyth vs. Gryff rumble, he follows orders. He parrots Harry's words verbatim. And then he goes and gets himself into a fist fight.

Good Gryffindor. Have a cookie.

I do think that Neville is a trooper. But what the text is showing us in this particular chapter isn't courage. It's peer pressure.


On Neville's Failed Obstruction of the Trio at the End of PS/SS

Darrin wrote:

Wait, I forgot how Neville went from being the victim of Hermione's body-bind to somehow instigating all of this.

Really? You have? Well, okay then. Allow me to refresh your memory.

As you will no doubt recall, at this point in the story, all four of our protagonists are getting seriously dumped on by the rest of the House. They're being held responsible for having ruined Gryffindor's chances of gaining the House Cup. They're being ostracized. The House Cup is a seriously big deal to these students. Stupid, but there you have it. Clearly, when it comes to peer approval, there's something even more important than being bold and daring and adventuresome and needlessly violent -- and that's earning the House points.

Neville gets this. Boy, does he get it. But it seems like maybe the Trio's been a bit slow on the uptake. So we reach Chapter 16:

'What are you doing?' said a voice from the corner of the room.

Neville appeared from behind an armchair, clutching Trevor the toad, who looked as though he'd been making another bid for freedom.

Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe Neville's been hiding there waiting to catch them trying to make another late night foray. Either way, he's there now, and he knows that the Trio is planning something else that might get the House in trouble. Funny, isn't it? These are the same people who only a couple of chapters ago were laying into him for not properly upholding the values of the House! And now they're going to go and lose the House more points, right?

Are these guys hypocrites, or what?

So Neville tries to point this out to them. He appeals to their sense of House loyalty. They don't get the message. At all. They try to lie to him about what they're up to. They tell him that he just doesn't understand. Actually, he does understand. They're the ones who are being obtuse here. And they're being hypocritical, as well, because in the past, they have been the ones always urging him to abide by the social conventions of the House. They've been nagging him and pressuring about it all year long. And now they're telling him that he doesn't understand things?

They need a more pointed message. Neville has just the thing.

But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate.

'I won't let you do it,' he said, hurrying to stand in front of the portrait hole. 'I'll--I'll fight you.'

Still no go. Ron tells him to stand aside from the door. He refuses. Not only does he refuse, not only does he object to being called an idiot, not only does he inform them that he really doesn't think very much of their behavior, he also reminds them that he is acting on their very own instructions!

'And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!'

Interesting phrasing, isn't it? Not "encouraged me to stand up to people." "Told me to stand up to people." In other words, "pushed me around just like you think it's so horrible when Malfoy does it." Neville is giving them a serious critique of their behavior here. He's calling them bullies and hypocrites, and they're just too dense to get it. In fact, Ron just goes on to prove his very point by (a) explaining that he didn't mean that Neville should stand up to them, and (b) telling Neville that he doesn't know what he's doing.

So Neville takes it one step further.

'Go on then, try and hit me!' said Neville, raising his fists. 'I'm ready!'

In other words, "you guys still just don't get it, do you? What am I going to have to do to get through to you people? Force you to hit me, so that you'll feel guilty about it later and maybe actually start to think for once in your lives? Well...okay, then. Go ahead. Knock me senseless."

And so they do.

Yes. Of course Neville instigates it! He is given the opportunity to accept their initial lies about what they are up to, but he doesn't take it. He is given two chances to stand aside, and he doesn't take those, either. Indeed, he just keeps ratcheting up the level of the confrontation. "I'll fight you." "You'll have to hit me." He's daring them to attack him. And eventually, they do.


It was Neville who in part cost Gryffindor 150 points and he was trying to make up for it in his own way.

I quite agree. And his "way" certainly does make a point, doesn't it? In fact, it does so exactly as his "way" of succumbing to peer pressure in Chapter 13 did.

What you're saying is that Neville, consciously or unconsciously—and your "know the score" comment would indicate CONSCIOUS behavior—has put himself in the way of two larger boys' fists and submitted to a body-bind from Hermione because it is the easy way out?

It's not the easy way out. It's not a way out at all. In both cases, it is a way of surrendering to social pressures in a manner that seems specifically designed to bring home a point about the values reflected by that social pressure.

It's a brave way to cave, to be sure. But it's still caving.

I don't buy it.

Hey, I'm not making any money off of this. But if you're going to want to convince me that Neville's behavior is truly courageous, rather than simply passive-aggressive, then you're going to have to show me some evidence that Neville himself believes that there is genuine value in duelling in corridors, brawling at Quidditch matches, and investing an enormous degree of emotional energy into the acquisition of a meaningless trophy.

I don't see a shred of evidence of that anywhere in the text. Until I see it there, then my reading remains supported whether or not you happen to be in the market for it.

Standing up to Crabbe and Goyle allowed Ron to get some shots in and score a victory—petty and juvenile, but a victory—against Slytherin.

If that's the sort of victory that Neville values so much, then why does he reject Hermione's suggestion that he complain to McGonagall about Malfoy's rule-breaking? Why does he only start defending himself against such attacks once his peers make it clear to him that he is "supposed to" as a member of House Gryffindor? Why does he absent himself from the scene so quickly when it becomes clear that the rest of the House is simply not going to respect his preferred way of dealing with the situation? Why does he later paraphrase this advice as something that Ron "told" him to do, rather than as something that he was "encouraged" or "helped" to do? Why does he give the impression of being angry about the fact that the Trio "told" him to do these things, rather than grateful to them for their bolstering?

And why is he never again, not once in the canon to date, ever seen doing these sorts of things?

It does make you wonder. Doesn't it?


On The Point Award

Darrin wrote:

Standing up to the Trio ended up giving Gryffindor the House Cup and I'd bet that's EXACTLY why Dumbledore gave it to him, to encourage the spark of courage.

I agree that that's EXACTLY why Dumbledore gave it to him. It's also EXACTLY what Harry and Ron were trying to do for him in the Gryffindor common room back in Chapter 13. But how people intend things and how others wind up interpreting them isn't always precisely the same thing, now, is it?

He's shocked that he is being rewarded here. We're talking about a kid that doesn't get too many rewards for his behavior. He'd never won a point for Gryffindor, remember?

I remember. He is indeed shocked. Of course he's shocked. He is, in fact, "white with shock." But is he pleased?

There's no evidence that Neville is at all pleased about this state of affairs. None.

Oh, and I don't see where Harry thinks anything about Neville's reaction. I've got page 306 right in front of me and there is nothing about Harry's interpretation of Neville being white with shock. Are you talking about another of the four books?

No, you're right. I was reading implication there. Harry notes that Neville is white with shock, and then immediately moves on to the thought that he had never before won a single point for Gryffindor. I was indeed assuming that Harry's interpretation of Neville's behavior was "shocked and pleased," but you're perfectly correct. It actually says that nowhere in the text.

Well, obviously we have two different world views here. I fail to see exactly why it turned your stomach.

It turned my stomach because it seemed to me that Dumbledore was rewarding Neville for behaving in a manner that (a) I think is far more harmful than beneficial, and (b) Neville himself has, to my mind, shown no particular signs of valuing himself, while in fact showing quite a few signs of not valuing himself.

It also turned my stomach because the specific act of "bravery" and "standing up to ones friends" for which Neville was being lauded there was to my mind (a) far less brave than purely passive-aggressive, and (b) itself a manifestation of Neville's unfortunate tendency to give way to the will of others.

I want Neville to get braver, too, you see. I like Courageous!Neville. I think he's got guts, and I'd like to see him get gutsier. But I just can't read his behavior in PS/SS as in the least bit brave. I know that I'm probably "supposed to." I know that other people do. But I don't. I read it as weak-willed.

There is hope, however. Nowhere again in canon do we ever see Neville engaging in quite the form of passive-aggressive compliance to social convention that he displays in PS/SS. Nor is he ever again shown getting involved in pointless fist-fights, nor hopping onto the "We Must Win That Cup At Any Cost And It's Therefore Okay To Socially Punish Even Our Own Housemates If They Weaken Our Chances" bandwagon.

So you see? In spite of Dumbledore's best efforts, Neville really is getting braver. ;-)

Perhaps I am a little too romantic and I enjoyed seeing the picked-on kid get a little victory in the end.

Well, I'm awfully romantic that way too, obviously. If I weren't, then I would hardly feel so annoyed with the idea of Neville getting rewarded for caving to social pressures, would I? I'd just be able to read it as black humour, and then move on.

Nope, I don't believe that. In book 7, Neville gets a heroic scene. Bank on it. Be there or be square or be depressed - if you must.

It's not the idea of Neville getting a heroic scene in Book 7 that depresses me. I'd like nothing better.

What depresses me is the idea of Neville getting yet another utterly UNheroic scene that the author wants me to read as heroic, even though it just plain isn't. That's the thought that depresses me.

Alas, I suspect that it's precisely what I'm going to get.

Although, you never know. JKR can sometimes pleasantly surprise you. She gave me quite a number of thoroughly unexpected and very pleasant surprises in Book Four. So I hold out some hopes.

Slim ones. But hopes.


Posted June 21, 2002 at 5:31 pm
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