Weekly Archive
June 23, 2002 - June 29, 2002

RE: Finding Voldemort -- Barty's "loyalty"

Aesha (Welcome!) was bothered by a number of GoF's more troublesome plot points.

She wrote:

Firstly, and not as annoying, is the fact that Wormtail escaped from the gang at the end of the term in PoA. Wormtail, who has been a rat for 12 years, escapes and in less than 3 months makes his way to Albania, runs into our friend Bertha, finds his master (who he's had no contact with), they kill Bertha, hatch this elaborate scheme, find Barty Jr., and get to the Riddle house. Wow.

Wow, indeed. ;-)

Yes, it does seem fast work, doesn't it? And for Wormtail to have happened to run into Bertha Jorkins in Albania, of all places, certainly was quite a fortuitous coincidence.

Well. Not really fortuitous for her, I suppose. But you know what I mean.

I have always believed that, no matter what Sirius implies in the Shrieking Shack, Pettigrew would never have returned to Voldemort had his masquerade not been uncovered in PoA. He returns only because he believes that he is now a hunted rat, and that Voldemort's protection is therefore likely his only chance for survival or safety.

So I'm not unduly bothered by the fact that after twelve years of passivity, Pettigrew was able to find Voldemort after only three months of searching. I suspect that he could have done it years before, if he had ever been given any real incentive to make the effort.

But how did he manage to find Voldemort so quickly?

David touched on this issue a few days ago, when he wrote (in regard to the Spying Game Theory's claim that a number of the DEs really are loyal to Voldemort):

Voldemort really is unable to contact the DEs and they are unable to find him. In that case we have to explain how Pettigrew could succeed where others had failed.

Well, I think those Death Eaters are a bunch of disloyal worms, myself, but I can see that Pettigrew does have two great advantages over all of the rest of them when it comes to finding Voldemort:

1) As Scabbers, he has been privy to Harry and Ron's private conversations for the past three years. He has also had the freedom to roam Hogwarts unnoticed for even longer, as he was there as Percy's pet before he was passed down to Ron. He has therefore had ample opportunity to learn that Dumbledore knew Albania to be Voldemort's hiding place.

2) He can both speak with rats and assume rat form. He is therefore privy to the rumor mill of the rodent population in a way that no other wizard ever could be.

I have always assumed that Pettigrew knew where Voldemort was likely to be found from having overheard either Ron and Harry or one of the professors discussing the fact that Vapour!Voldemort was hovering about somewhere in Albania. This is admittedly pure speculation, but I don't think it an unreasonable assumption. The timeline alone suggests to my mind that after his escape at the end of PoA, Pettigrew likely headed straight for Albania.

Once in Albania, he would have had a far better chance of finding Voldemort than any of the other DEs for the simple reason that he was privy to the local verminous rumour mill. In the graveyard, Voldemort reports that while in his vapor form, he could only possess small animals. He also states that Pettigrew found him by following the fearful rumors of other rats. Even if someone (an Auror, a loyal DE, whoever) had known to look for Voldemort in Albania, it is most unlikely that that person would have thought to interview the local rodent population. Only somebody travelling in rat form would be likely to gain access to that information.

Aesha wrote:

I'm not a big fan of CoS anyway, but it seems maybe she should have had a story like that for a year before the Tournament- that way there's a year to find Voldemort, Bertha and BartyJ, figure out this plan in such precision that it flows perfectly for almost 9 months, even under the eye of (presumably) one of Mad-Eye's closest friends...

I agree with you that the plot would have seemed more plausible that way. Structurally, however, it makes sense for the plot events of Book Four to take place at the midpoint of the series. They constitute a turning point both in terms of the overarching plot and in terms of Harry's development. They therefore belong in the middle; for them to have happened in the fifth book of a seven-book series wouldn't have had at all the same effect, IMO.


Secondly, the part that I really get a little confused with. In the Death Eater Circle, he rants about how none of his death eaters went to find him, about how the LeStranges were loyal to him always, etc... but then also speaks of his loyal servant at Hogwarts. Here's my problem. In my opinion, the moment that Barty Jr. started crying and screaming to his daddy that he didn't do it, and so on and so forth- well, he denounced the Dark Lord. How is that loyal?

It isn't, very. I agree with you. I don't think that Voldemort knows about it.

Judy, on the other hand, suggested:

Perhaps Barty Jr wanted to stay out of Azkaban primarily so that he could find Voldemort and return him to power. It is in fact canon that Barty Jr. was much more interested in helping Voldemort than in staying safe and sound outside of Azkaban; this is why his father put him under Imperio.

Yeah, that really wasn't very clever of little Barty, was it? Not very sneaky. He couldn't have managed to feign conversion—or at the very least submissive gratitude—at all? Not even long enough to get the chance to slip away once his father's back was turned? For heaven's sake, what kind of a master manipulator is he, anyway? What happened to all of that intellect? Where were all of those brilliant thespian talents?

This, by the way, is the main reason that I've never been able to accept the suggestion (which a number of people have proposed on this list in the past) that young Crouch's hysteria in the Pensieve was just another one of his Oscar-winning performances, designed to manipulate his parents' emotions. I just can't buy that. After all, if he were really that emotionally controlled at that point in his life, then why on earth would he have allowed his father to realize that he "thought of nothing" but restoring his fallen master to power?

No, I think that it took Barty a good decade under the Imperius to develop quite the degree of identity loss necessary to be that good an actor. His behavior in the Pensieve was manipulative, all right. But I don't think that he was precisely acting, either. That was a genuine crisis of nerves.

But this leads us to an interesting question. If Voldemort did know that Barty had denounced him at his sentencing, and if he believed that Barty had done only in an attempt to manipulate his way out of prison so that he could continue his service, would Voldemort consider that "loyal" or "disloyal" behavior?

Judy thinks the former:

I don't think Voldemort would mind being denounced if it increased his chances of regaining his body.

I don't know if I agree. I certainly think that Voldemort would put up with it, but I don't really know if I believe that it would qualify Barty for designation as someone "whose loyalty has never wavered."

Judy also wrote:

And in fact, one could argue that Barty Jr's denouncing him did just that. If Barty Jr. had proclaimed his undying devotion to Voldemort, as the woman in the Pensieve scene did, his parents might not have helped him escape, and he would not have been available to help Voldemort regain power.

True enough. But then, we generally assume that the woman in the Pensieve scene is Mrs. Lestrange, don't we? And Voldemort praises the Lestranges to the skies in the graveyard scene. He praises them even more fulsomely than he does his "loyal servant at Hogwarts," and unlike his servant at Hogwarts, they haven't done squat for him in over a decade.

Voldemort strikes me as overall more megalomaniacal than tactical, more proud than pragmatic. He can recognize the value of Lucius Malfoy's "slipperiness," but I don't get the impression that he really likes it all that much. I don't think that he cares much for his servants renouncing him in public, even when it is strategically wise for them to do so.

I tend to agree with Aesha when she says:

On page 10, US hardback, it says: "Wormtail, I need somebody with brains, somebody whose loyalty has never wavered, and you, unfortunately, fulfill neither requirement." Curious. I suppose one could argue that Voldemort knew that Barty Jr. had been to Azkaban and not how he had acted at the trial.

That's my interpretation. And after all, how would Voldemort have learned about it? It happened after his fall, and after Peter had fled into hiding as a rat. Even if the Weasleys knew about young Crouch's pathetic appearance at his trial, would they really have mentioned it in front of Percy (or his pet rat, for that matter)? I rather doubt it. And I'm absolutely positive that young Crouch himself never breathed a word about his unfortunate little crisis of nerves to his newly-returned baby master.

The only way that I can imagine Voldemort having learned that Barty denounced him at his sentencing would have been from Bertha Jorkins. Given that Bertha (or, rather, her Memory Charm) was more concerned with Barty's loyalty than with his disloyalty, though, it's quite likely that the subject would never have come up. I rather imagine that what Voldemort learned from Jorkins was merely that this group of people had tried to seek him out after his fall, that they had been caught and sentenced to life in Azkaban, that Crouch had secretly rescued his son, and that said son was still loyal and currently kept enslaved by the Imperius Curse in his father's house.

All of which would suffice to designate Barty as a person whose loyalty had never wavered.



RE: Wormtail's Name In the Confession

Snazzzybird wrote:

In GoF when Barty Crouch Jr. is confessing under Veritaserum, he says that Voldemort came to his house to free him from his father's Imperius Curse – in the arms of his servant, Wormtail. I may not have the wording exactly right; don't have the book in front of me – but Crouch definitely refers to Pettigrew as "Wormtail".

Welcome, Snazzzybird! (Is it really spelled with those three z's, or am I just faithfully adhering to a typo?)

Yes, Crouch does refer to Pettigrew as "Wormtail," not only that once ("He arrived at our house late one night in the arms of his servant Wormtail"), but throughout the entirety of his confession. For that matter, Dumbledore also falls into line with Crouch's usage in his questioning: "And what became of Wormtail after you attacked Moody?"


That wasn't his "Death-Eater Name", it was his "Marauder Name".

"Wormtail" might very well have been his "Death-Eater Name," actually. We just don't know. When Sirius talks about the imprisoned DEs crying out in their sleep over Pettigrew's role in their master's downfall, he never once specifies precisely how they refer to him. If in fact those imprisoned DEs have only been moaning and gibbering about somebody named "Wormtail," then that would explain why none of the guards (are there human governors as well as dementors at Azkaban?) or visitors to the prison had ever once noticed this and come to suspect from it that perhaps Pettigrew might really be alive after all. The only person hearing them with the proper background to know that "Wormtail" must have been Peter Pettigrew would have been Sirius himself -- and he was already hip to that little plot twist, now, wasn't he?

In fact, it has been suggested that perhaps Snape's reaction to the Marauder's Map might have been due to the fact that while he didn't actually know the schoolboy nick-names of Potters' crowd, he did recognize the name "Wormtail" as the handle of one of his erstwhile DE colleagues -- possibly even as the DE colleague he knew to be responsible for the Potters' deaths. In other words, Snape might have thought that "Wormtail" was Sirius.

I can never quite manage to believe that one, myself. But it's certainly a neat theory.

Why Wouldn't Crouch call him "Peter" or "Pettigrew"? Wouldn't he know his real name?

Quite likely not. The DEs wear masks to their meetings, and Karkaroff claimed at his plea bargain that they were not always aware of each others' identities. Voldemort never once addresses Pettigrew as anything other than "Wormtail" in the course of GoF.

So even if Crouch had known that there had once been a Death Eater named "Peter Pettigrew" (which he might have: Pettigrew's role as the Potters' betrayers seems to have been fairly common knowledge among the DEs, and even if Crouch hadn't known it before his imprisonment, he would have had ample opportunity to learn it from all of those prisoners moaning in their sleep), he still likely never met him in person. He wouldn't know what he had looked like. And I very much doubt that it would occur to him to identify Wormtail, his master's cringing servant, with Peter Pettigrew, the DE known for having betrayed Voldemort to his doom at Godric's Hollow.


Well, possibly Voldemort always called him "Wormtail". But even if so – why?

There are two ways of approaching this question: one of them focused on the internal logic of the fictive world, and the other on the manipulations of the authorial voice.

Looking at it from within the constraints of the fictional reality, I would say that Voldemort calls Pettigrew "Wormtail" because it is a degrading-sounding name and one that Voldemort knows full well was originally bestowed upon him as a mark of affection from the people that he later betrayed. Voldemort is both a sadist and a corrupter. He likes reminding people of that sort of thing.

In terms of authorial technique, though...

Snazzzybird suggested:

I think the reason is exactly as stated by Davewitley. JKR doesn't want Crouch to provide backup for Harry's story that Pettigrew is alive - therefore Sirius is innocent.

But JKR herself would already knows that Crouch is never going to get that chance, wouldn't she?

As the author, she is perfectly well aware that Crouch isn't going to have any opportunity to testify to the ministry, or even to blab to Cornelius Fudge, because she's already laid her plans in place for young Barty, hasn't she? Ooooh, yes. Ruthless Rowling isn't about to let the likes of little Barty Crouch mess up her plotline. Loose Lips Sink Plotlines, and so she's already got Fudge's Dementor waiting in the wings to take care of that little problem. Because you know, when it comes to that whole ends/means debate, there is absolutely no one quite as slanted toward the ends as a bestselling author protecting her plotline. In comparison, even LeCarresque Spymaster!Dumbledore begins to turn a whiter shade of pale. JKR may like to think that she belongs in Gryffindor, but the instant that she sits down to that keyboard, she is Slytherin to the core.

So. If the reason that nobody refers to Pettigrew by any name other than "Wormtail" in the confession scene is really the author's desire to keep Sirius' innocence a secret, then what we can deduce from that is that JKR is concerned with one (or both) of two characters: McGonagall and Winky. Those are only two characters in the scene whose ignorance might require special authorial effort to maintain. Every other character present for the confessional either already knows that Pettigrew is guilty (Dumbledore, Harry), or will shortly be forced to accept Sirius' freedom, if not necessarily his innocence (Snape).

If the real reason for the naming convention is to protect the plot, then McGonagall and Winky are the characters whose ignorance of Sirius' innocence are relevant and important. And indeed, it's certainly possible that JKR was working there to keep McGonagall and/or Winky in the dark. I can think of a number of reasons why she might wish to do so. Primarily, though, I think that the reason for Pettigrew's effective name change in Book Four is less one of plot than of theme.

It is not only the characters who refer to Pettigrew as "Wormtail" throughout GoF. The narration does so as well. On a very fundamental level, this character's name changes between the end of PoA and the beginning of GoF. It changes not only in terms of how other characters address him, but also in terms of how the very narrative voice refers to him. This, I believe, is at heart a matter of thematic emphasis. Pettigrew/Wormtail's change in name reflects his fundamental degradation of identity.

At the end of PoA, I believe that we are meant to understand that Pettigrew has in some sense voluntarily forfefited his own humanity. Of the three characters (Sirius, Remus and Peter) who revert to their animal forms on the way back from the Shrieking Shack at the end of PoA, Peter is the only one who does so voluntarily. Remus is a victim of lycanthropy. Sirius is trying to protect himself from the dementors; it is not even clear to what extent he has any conscious control over his reversion to dog form. Peter, on the other hand, reverts to rat form only to facilitate his own escape from justice. He reverts out of pure self-interest, to save himself from prosecution and imprisonment, and he breaks his word in the bargain.

So I think that we can in some sense read Pettigrew's dehumanization in Book Four as not only self-inflicted, but also to a certain degree essential. He has forfeited his humanity and with it his right to a human name; the text reflects this by showing us not only sadistic characters like Voldemort or injured parties like Harry (both of whom might have their own reasons for wanting to go out of their way to dehumanize him), but even the narration itself referring to him only as "Wormtail." Post-PoA, that simply is this character's name.

If we are indeed, as has often been hypothesized, eventually going to see a worm(tail) turn, thus saving Harry's bacon at some point late in the series, then I'd lay odds that at the exact same point in the story, we will also see the narration grant him the dignity of restoring his human name. Probably just before (or just after) he dies.


Posted June 25, 2002 at 9:01 pm
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RE: Wormtail's Name In the Confession

Dicentra wrote:

Er, ma'am? Elkins ma'am? Not to undermine your theory or anything, but Sirius becomes Padfoot so he can latch his jaws onto the wolf's jugular, thereby protecting Harry et al. from the wolf. He doesn't seem to have conscious control over reverting back into a human as the dementors close in.

You're right, of course. That's weird. Why did I misremember that? Is it because the dementors freak me out so much that I just assume that they turn you animal?

Huh. Interesting.

So maybe you could amend this theory to read that Peter is the only one who transforms for selfish reasons.

Fair enough. That's the important part, anyway, really, as it's a moral equation.

Remus can't help it, Sirius is protecting the Trio, and Peter is saving his own worthless little hide.

It occurs to me that this rather supports your (was it your?) belief that Sirius' primary motivation is the protection of his fellow pack members, no? If one draws a parallel between the precise ways in which each of them becomes "bestial" in the Shack and the reasons underlying their eventual reversions to animal form, then you're left with an interesting suggestion as to where each of them is weakest. Peter's a self-interested coward. Sirius goes ballistic in defense of others. And, well, Remus just can't help himself, don't you know.

Of course, now I'm just waiting for Pip to come along and point out that Sirius is also protecting himself, so that actually his personal flaw is that he's just a Big Fat Coward. ;-)


Posted June 26, 2002 at 9:30 am
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RE: Dark Magic Power Boosts, Adrenaline-Inspired Power Boosts

Aldrea wrote, in response to my suggestion that allegiance to Dark powers might imbue wizards with an increase in magical potency:

Yes, that makes good sense. I was afraid for a moment while I read your post that Young Crouch's knowledge seemed a bit FLINT-y...I mean, he only escaped his father on the night of the Quidditch World Cup, correct?

Yeah. And I don't even think that he really escaped then. Not for any length of time, anyway. He was stunned in the woods, wasn't he? In his confession, he speaks of Wormtail and Baby!Voldemort showing up at his father's door. I'd imagined that Crouch Sr. waited until the coast was clear and then retrieved his son, dragged him back home, and put him right back under that Imperius Curse. Or maybe this time he went for Imperius-plus-chains-and-semi-starvation, just to be on the safe side. At any rate, I don't get the impression that Crouch really escaped for good until Voldemort came to set him free.

That didn't leave him that much time to kidnap Moody, regain his strength, learn the things he needs to know to play a convincing Alastor Moody and a very knowledgeable DA teacher- plus contact Voldie to set up that ever-so-intricate Triwizard Portkey Cup plot.

No, it didn't, although I'm pretty sure that Voldemort came up with the ever-so-intricate plot all on his little lonesome. He speaks of it to Wormtail even before the QWC. And in his confession, Barty claims that Voldemort showed up at the door, Imperio'd his father, and then asked him if he was willing to serve. I don't get the impression that he had much to do with the actual planning of the scheme at all.

(It does make you wonder, though, doesn't it, what Voldemort would have done if Crouch had said "no?" I mean, was there a Plan B?)

Soo...becoming a DE means a nice boost in some of your magicalness- that's what you're saying, correct?

It would account for a lot. Crouch's competence, Peter's competence, the seductive appeal of Dark magic to the ambitious. And it's certainly got genre precedent on its side.

It also just occurred to me the other day that if we assume (as I think that we must) that the Dark Mark represents a powerful and profound form of mystical bond between Voldemort and his followers, then many of the events at the QWC can be viewed as partly a reflection of Voldemort's growing physicality, as well as his return to British shores.

Why was Crouch only able to throw off his father's Imperius at the QWC, after so many years of being unable to resist it? For that matter, why had his ability to resist it started growing stronger in the very recent past? In his confession, he says:

'But Winky didn't know that I was growing stronger. I was starting to fight my father's Imperius Curse. There were times when I was almost myself again. There were brief periods when I seemed outside his control.'

That's interesting, isn't it? Why? Why was he growing stronger? It would seem more likely to me that one would grow less and less capable of resisting magical mental domination the longer one had spent under its sway. Especially after a decade or so, I wouldn't expect someone to be "growing stronger." Rather, I would expect for their will to be utterly degraded. Crouch makes it sound as if this was a fairly recent state of affairs, this new ability to resist the Curse, to be "almost himself again," if only for short periods of time.

Could it be that this new state of affairs dated from exactly the same time as Voldemort's incorporation into his Evil Baby body? Perhaps the mere fact of Voldemort's gaining a physical presence was enough to strengthen his servant Barty's will. It does make you wonder, doesn't it? If the Dark Mark represents a direct link to Voldemort, then one wonders if whatever power the Death Eaters once derived from their unholy alliance with the Dark side (the magical mark of their corruption) might have started slowly to return to them over the course of GoF, just as the Dark Mark (the physical mark of their corruption) gradually returned to visible status.

If so, then this might also explain why so many of the DEs felt emboldened enough to follow Lucius Malfoy in his little spot of Muggle torture at the World Cup. I've always been a bit bothered by that. I mean, these guys have been lying low for thirteen years at this point in the story. All evidence up to the QWC has pointed to the notion that the very last thing that Voldemort's old followers do is to go about making their allegiance known. Lucius Malfoy cautions his son against appearing hostile to Harry Potter, for example. We certainly never hear about any DE rallies going on. Drunk or no, the ex-DEs clearly haven't been in the habit of making their presence known in public places before the QWC. Just look at how shocked many of the people at the Cup are, to see men marching around in DE masks and hoods harrassing Muggles. Even before the Dark Mark appears, people are screaming and panicking. This is obviously neither an expected nor a usual event.

So what happened? What happened to embolden the DEs so? Was it really just a matter of strong drink? Or was it, perhaps, due to their newly reactivated direct link with Dark forces, awakened by both Voldemort's newly corporated state and by the physical proximity of his recent return to British soil?

Well, what an intersting light this puts Ex-Death Eater Snape in. Dear Potions-Master Snape...what did he do to get that title, eh? *grin*

Heh. My, my, my. I hadn't thought of that, myself.

Aw, but Snape renounced his wicked ways. I'll bet you lose a lot of your special Dark magic superpowers when you do that. Your strength is as the strength of one, because your heart is pure.

I like your agruements on Pettigrew's talent. He's always described as a poor wizard, yet he has definately shown himself as being a formidable opponent. This could be that the Power Surge theory stands true..or it could be because of Pettigrew's own nature. I believe each of the times he shows some great magical powers is when he is extremely threatened/stress/trying to save his own skin.

That's an interesting notion. It does, as you point out, have precedent in the examples we are given of wizarding children, whose magical talent does seem to manifest itself most strongly when their emotions are strongly engaged. It also has some precedent in Neville, whose magic becomes far more powerful (if also far more wild and uncontrolled) when he is frightened or under stress.

So Sirius corners the terrified man...and as he is, as I undoubtebly believe Sirius did do, threatened by the wizard cornering him he just sort of goes BOOM with his wand. . . . He hits the deck and, seizing the moment, goes rat (Ha, you can't argue that the boom would have killed him if he hadn't perfectly timed the Animagus transformation...Sirius didn't die, who was standing close enough to Peter to call it "cornering" him.).


<Elkins toys with her SYCOPHANTS badge, then shakes her head regretfully>

Oh, I don't just know about this. Much as it does always appeal to me to try to defend the little rat (and by the way, I do agree with you that Sirius was indeed "cornering" him with hostile intent. He's got a nasty temper, you know, that Sirius Black), he does take the time to deliver his "Lily and James, how COULD you" line, doesn't he? That just doesn't work for me somehow as the action of someone in a state of desperate terror firing off a spell in a moment of pure panic. That speaks to me of at least some degree of premeditation.

As does the finger bit. Really, it's just far too elaborate a frame-up job for me to believe as an on-the-spot decision. It had to have been planned ahead of time, and if it was, then Peter must have had some reason to believe that he would be capable of pulling off a big enough "Go BOOM" spell to make others accept that he had been vaporized by it.

The Shrieking Shack- same thing. He was being threatened with death/life in Azkaban...that would probably terrify some magic into him.

It certainly doesn't render him capable of wandless magic, though, does it? He isn't able to do a thing for himself at the point at which he is by far the most terrified: when he's actually about to be killed. It doesn't even seem to occur to him to try. He just grovels and weeps.

And his actual escape strikes me as far more bloodlessly competent than panicked. Whether or not his framing of Sirius required perfect timing, his escape at the end of PoA certainly did. His window of opportunity opens, and he acts. It's split-second. And it's not just an explosive BOOM spell either. He chooses his targets rationally. He hits Ron, because Ron is standing the closest to him and is an immediate threat. He hits Crookshanks because Crookshanks is running towards him and so is the next most immediate threat. That leaves him a clear field to transform, so long as he does so before Harry and Hermione can fire off any spells, and that's precisely what he does.

It doesn't seem much like an act of panic to me.

And also, this could be why Voldemort is always torturing/berating/yelling at Wormtail- he's trying to terrify some magic into the man, and at the same time being all I'm-An-Evil-Overlord-Who-Doesn't-Give-A-Damn-About-Anyone's-Feelings.

But we never see Voldemort actually tormenting him right before he's called upon to do any magic, do we? He certainly is in quite the state in the graveyard, but it seems to me to be more anticipatory terror than the after-effects of yet another Suffering Minion Moment. We don't, for example, get treated to any Minion Abuse scenes right before he is called upon to perform Voldemort's rebirthing ritual, which I think that we probably would if Peter really required abuse to perform up to snuff magically.

I'm not trying to shoot down this Power Boost stuff (it actually fits pretty well in the series)...just tyring to make sure it can stand on two legs.

Sure. I personally think that "Allegiance to Dark forces gives you power" fits in quite well with everything we've seen in canon, as well as what has been implied by the way in which people talk about Dark wizardry. It does seem to be viewed as a temptation. For it to be an effective temptation, then it must give you something pretty good, don't you think?



RE: Sexuality in HP

I've divided this response up into two separate ones, as I think that the issues of homoeroticism, sadism, and how Voldemort feels about women are probably best separated from my analysis of how authorial decisions regarding word choice and phrasing effect how we read the Graveyard scene. This post deals with the first body of issues; its follow-up deals with the second question.

Dicentra wrote:

There's no doubt in my mind that Voldemort is getting off on something here. I just don't think the erotic imagery is necessarily pointing to homoeroticism, per se.

No. I didn't really mean to imply that. I do see strong homoerotic overtones to Riddle and Harry's encounter in the Chamber, but Voldemort's behavior in the graveyard strikes me as more purely sadistic.

The way that Riddle is depicted in the Chamber does speak to me of a certain degree of homoeroticism. JKR seems to be going out of her way to describe him as behaving in a self-consciously flirtatious and seductive manner. She also focuses on details, like those long fingers, that carry with them rather sensual connotations.

One might just as easily, however, read Riddle's interest in Harry as narcissistic, rather than as homoerotic. Harry does somewhat resemble him, after all, as did James, in whom he also seems to have paid an unusual degree of physical attention. By the time of the confrontation in the chamber, Riddle already knows that his fate is inextricably intertwined with Harry's. The "double" aspect of their relationship is not merely a literary device; it is one that the characters themselves—Riddle included—comment upon. So the possibility that what we are seeing there is pure and simple narcissism also seems quite convincing to me. Riddle is a megalomaniac, after all. It's an inherently narcissistic position.

As for Voldemort in the graveyard...


As for whether his excitement is genuinely sexual or only metaphorically so, I'd prefer not to guess. Because if it's the former, it buries the needle on the EWWWW scale, as far as I'm concerned.

Far too EWWW, I agree. And none of our business besides. My goodness, even fictional characters deserve some privacy, don't they?

Just for the record, though, I don't really believe that Voldemort has sexuality in any normal human sense of the term. After all, he's supposed to have lost much of his humanity in the process of seeking immortality. I tend to assume that sexuality is one of those things that you leave behind once you start heading down that path.

The particular nature of his excitement in the graveyard is, however, physical. It has a somatic element. He is not merely mentally and emotionally engaged. He is breathing heavily, heavily enough for his nostrils to be "dilating with excitement," and he's really not been doing anything strenuous enough to account for that. So I'd say that he is certainly physically aroused. Whether this means that his excitement is actually "sexual" in any technical or, er, genital sense of the term, though, strikes me as pretty moot, honestly. It's close enough.


I think Voldemort, as a predator, is getting off on killing (ever hear the noises a cat makes when a bird flies nearby?).

I remember stumbling downstairs one morning only to find one of my cats, a poor little orphan kitty who never learned to kill properly, busily engaged in the very last stages of torturing an unfortunate mouse to death.

She was purring. Loudly. And also doing that cheek rub thing that cats do. You know, the thing that they do when they're really awfully pleased with you and want to mark you as their very own? The cheek rub that we tend (no matter how often we are told that it is actually a territorial behavior) to read as a sign of deep feline affection? She was doing that to this poor suffering half-dead mouse.

Oh, yeah. It was pretty disturbing all right. I just love cats, but it did make me feel some sympathy for those people who find them unsettling.

Getting back to Voldemort, though, I do agree with you that it's predatory, but I think that it's rather worse than just getting off on killing. He doesn't just like killing. He likes causing suffering, and not merely in those he deems "worthy opponents" either. He does take some time to play with poor old Frank Bryce, after all, who is old and lame -- and a Muggle to boot. I mean, really. The man hardly offers much in the way of sport, does he? But Voldemort still insists on revealing himself before killing him, just so that he can get a kick out of that look of terror on the man's face. He's not merely a predator. He's a sadist. And as you point out, sadism is at heart about power.


However, Harry is his Ultimate Foe, and getting rid of him means acheiving the power he's been looking for all his life. (This also applies to Riddle's reaction to Harry.) And since power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, it's no wonder he gets all hot and bothered.

No. It isn't a surprise, I agree. He's certainly more engaged than he is while tormenting easy prey like Avery and Pettigrew. In the absence of anything really exciting, he'll entertain himself with the likes of Bryce, but I agree with you that the main reason that he is so particularly keyed up over Harry is a question of power.

Which is also the reason that I think he is more interested in men than in women.


He's probably too dehumanized to care about the sex of his victim.

Here is where we disagree. I do think that Voldemort cares about the sex of his victims, not because of any normal preference for men as romantic objects, but rather because of his contempt for women.

Neither as the teenaged Riddle nor as the reincorporated Voldemort does he seem to recognize women as valuable, powerful, or even as particularly interesting. He is profoundly dismissive of them. They barely seem to register on his radar.

Whether the teenaged Riddle preferred boys to girls as a matter of regular old preference or not (and I am most certainly not trying to equate homosexuality with misogyny here), I think that he certainly seems disinterested in girls. His emphasis on how very boring he found dealing with Ginny is obviously primarily meant to wound Harry, but I also find myself believing it. He really doesn't seem terribly interested in Ginny. Even his comments upon learning the origin of Harry's protection speak to me of a profound dismissal of women as a general class. (Oh, yes. Mother love. Should have thought of that, hadn't I? Oh, well, if that's all it was...)

Nor, as Voldemort, does he give the impression of having paid nearly as much attention to Lily's death as he had to James' (more fool he). His "die the way your father died" gloat to Harry in the graveyard does seem to imply that he actually paid some attention to James. I never receive that impression from him about Lily. Even the much-touted "hesitation," which some have read as evidence of reluctance, I tend to read as pure and simple contempt. His particular means of ordering her away ("stand aside, girl") is dismissive. She simply doesn't register to him as a person of any importance at all. He can't even be bothered to kill her, until she refuses to get out of the way of the target who really does interest him: her son.

His tone when talking about Bertha Jorkins is similarly dismissive. You would think that torturing his way through the poor woman's Memory Charm would have been just the sort of thing that he would have enjoyed, but he doesn't really speak of it with all that much in the way of relish. He doesn't reminisce, so to speak. He seems to have found her fairly uninteresting.

There do not seem to be many women in his circle of followers. The only female Death Eater that we know of is the mysterious Mrs. Lestrange, and she is both married to another DE and (if she is indeed the Pensieve woman) a person of unusual charisma, dedication, and strength of will. In other words, she is just the sort of woman that you often find as the sole exception to the rule in a male-dominated organization -- and she had an in through her husband, as well.

The overall impression that I am left with is that of somebody who simply isn't particularly interested in women, not even as the victims of his otherwise undeniable sadism. As prey go, he seems to regard them as marginally better than nothing at all, and I just can't avoid the suspicion that this is because he doesn't consider them powerful. Just as he regards Harry as a more satisfying victim than Wormtail, so he regards men as more satisfying victims than women.


My take, anyway.

—Elkins (who would like to reassure Amandageist that she too was a late-bloomer, and who also tends to feel that too much icky girl stuff can really get in the way of a rousing good yarn)

Posted June 26, 2002 at 3:22 pm
Plain text version


RE: Perversion In the Graveyard

I suggested that there are a number of places in the graveyard sequence of GoF where the author seems to have deliberately chosen to use words with sexual, sensual, or erotic connotations.

Dicentra wrote:

On the other hand, the problem with sexualized language is that it's not specialized language.

No, it isn't. But if enough words with romantic, erotic or sexual connotations are used in seemingly incongruous contexts (for Voldemort to be "caressing" anything strikes me as fairly incongruous, really, because the word itself connotes gentleness and tenderness, neither of which are qualities that Voldemort possesses), then I think that they do create a cumulative effect on the reader. In the case of the graveyard sequence, that cumulative effect is to make the scene seem, as so many people have said, "creepy."

I would go a bit further, actually. I think that its effect is to make the scene strike readers as not merely creepy, but as actively perverse. We do, I think, tend to read what happens to Harry in the graveyard as something above and beyond a terrible ordeal. We read it as a violation. A violation, and a profound loss of innocence.

As far as I can tell, this is by far the most common reading of the end of GoF. It is the majority reading, the "normative reading," if you will. Different interpretations are certainly possible, but I've not myself ever heard them articulated. I therefore suspect that they are exceptionally rare.

I think that the majority of readers interprets these events in such a manner for a reason. The author directs us towards that reading. It does not happen by accident, nor simply because the bare-bones facts of what happens to Harry at the end of GoF are intrinsically horrific. They certainly are horrific. Witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a peer, being helpless and tortured and gloated over, being forced to serve as the unwilling aid to your enemy's resurrection...all of these things are indeed "violating," and they can indeed be read as constituting a "loss of innocence." But a bare-bones recounting of this series of events would not have conveyed the idea nearly as reliably, nor as universally, nor with the same degree of emotional power. The reading of graveyard-as-violation is conveyed not merely through the events of the plot, but also through the specific words that the author uses to describe them.

This brings us back to Rochelle's original Elephant In the Drawing Room: the reading of the graveyard sequence as a metaphoric rape.

I had been trying to avoid stealing Rochelle's Big Canon for this one, since I was under the impression that she had planned on coming back to this topic --- it was, after all, her pet elephant. It's been a while now, though, so I'll just go for it. Apologies to Rochelle if I'm in any way stepping on her toes here.

Okay. Rochelle cited JKR's use of the word "penetrate" as evidence for her reading of the taking of Harry's blood as a metaphoric rape. She then commented that there was a lot more, but that she wasn't ready to go into it yet.

The really big signifier of the rape metaphor, to my mind, isn't "penetrated." As others have pointed out, there aren't really all that many other words that JKR could have chosen to use here. "Nicked," "pricked" (problematic in and of itself), and "cut" all leap to my mind immediately as other possibilities—a thesaurus might suggest far more—but none of these word choices would have been quite as accurate or appropriate. The author's use of the verb "to penetrate" would therefore not strike me as necessarily all that significant if it were standing all by itself.

In combination with the precise phrasing of the ritual, however, it does seem significant to me because the precise phrasing of the ritual sets forth the rape metaphor quite blatantly.

"Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken..."

I don't see how this could help but suggest rape to a native English speaker. In English-speaking cultures, to "take by force" is a common euphemism for rape.

Alley wrote:

To a certain extent I agree but I also think that sexual undertones pervade our lives and literature and we have created our language and the connotations attached to our language accordingly. And one should be aware of the connotations of the language you're using even if that's not your primary intention.

Yes, precisely. Whether JKR was consciously aware of it at the time or not, using the phrase "forcibly taken" was a significant authorial choice. Personally, I suspect that it was a conscious one. But whether it was conscious or unconscious on the author's part is really not terribly relevant. It has the same effect either way.

Nor, I would argue, does the question of whether or not the reader notices the analogy on any conscious level matter all that much. Whether the reader notices it consciously or not, the choice of phrase will nonetheless have a specific effect on the vast majority of the scene's readers. "Forcibly taken" connotes rape, which in turn connotes violation, loss of innocence, and not merely sexuality but a perversion of sexuality.

The sense of perversion is important, IMO. I don't think that the graveyard sequence is considered so "Dark" merely because it is violent, or because the protagonist remains helpless throughout so much of it (although both of these things certainly do contribute to its scariness). I also think that people tend to react so strongly to this sequence because it comes across as perverse, as an offense, a Wrongness. It is depicted as Abomination.

I believe that this sense of the circumstances surrounding Voldemort's rebirth as a "Wrongness," a fundamental and profound violation of natural law, is also strongly reinforced by the role that the shades of the dead play in opposing Voldemort at the end and aiding Harry in his escape. The text gives us a perfectly "rational" magical explanation for why this happens: Priori Incantatem.

What the subtext says to me, though, is this: "What has just happened here is Abomination. In the face of such offense, the dead themselves rise up in protest. In the face of such offense, even the silent dead are moved to speak."

Harry's heroism in recovering Cedric's body for proper disposal—standing in stark contrast to Voldemort's use of his father's bones—also comes into play here. Conceptions of the proper treatment of and respect for the dead are powerful and deeply-rooted cultural constructs. They have weight and history; they touch on some very ancient (and very fundamental) concepts of propriety and taboo.

Now, if as an author what you want (either consciously or subconsciously) is to encourage your readers to an interpretation of a scene as depicting a fundamental Wrongness—violation, perversion, abomination, taboo—then one way to do that is to strike at all of the hot button issues of your readership, and then to twist those issues, to pervert them. Violating cultural taboos is what leads to that sense of instinctive revulsion that gets translated to an emotional response of: "Oh, this is just so wrong."

Here are some issues that immediately leap to my mind as good candidates for this treatment.

Sexuality. Religion. The Family. Treatment of the dead.

The Graveyard sequence hits every one of them.

1) Sexuality.

Sexuality is a big one. As this thread has amply demonstrated, people have strong emotional reactions to any discussion of sexuality. It's a serious hot button issue.

So does Graveyard violate our conceptions of what constitutes "normal" or "acceptable" sexuality?

Yes. It draws the rape analogy. It implies that Voldemort is experiencing some form of physical arousal or excitement from torturing a fourteen-year-old boy. It uses words with sensual or erotic connotations in places where they seem inappropriate and disturbing.

(It is not that a wand is "phallic" per se that makes Voldemort's "caressing" it "gently" so disturbing to me, by the way. Rather, it is that in Voldemort's hands, a wand is an implement of murder. For a character to be described as "gently caressing" a yonic weapon, or even a starkly technological one—like the proverbial Big Red Button—would have had very much the same effect on me. 'Cause you know, sometimes even a donut can be a cigar.)

2) Religion.

Religion is just as hot a button as sex, if not an even hotter one. On this list, for example, we tend to get even more nervous about discussions that raise the issue of religion than we do about those that raise the issue of sexuality. Matters of faith and of religion are important to people, very important.

So does Graveyard violate or pervert or "twist" religious concepts? Is it in any sense blasphemous?

Yes. I think that it is that, as well. Dicentra objected to my description of the Death Eaters' apparent ecstacy as sexual by pointing out that the same quasi-sexual language is also used to describe states of religious ecstacy. Alley also commented on this fact.

True enough. Leaving aside the entire question of whether the DEs' initially ecstatic response to seeing Voldemort returned is sexual or mystical, however—or even whether there is all that significant a difference between these two states—there are plenty of other uses of religious imagery and language in the graveyard sequence. The type of obeisance that Voldemort expects from his followers, for example, is quasi-religious. Generally speaking, it is those rulers who have laid claims to a divine source of authority as well as a civil one who have historically received hem-kissing as a formalized gesture of submission.

Religious imagery pervades this entire sequence. Voldemort's cauldron of rebirth, particularly in the context of a novel entitled _Goblet of Fire,_ appears as a kind of Dark Grail. It is a vessel of resurrection, but of resurrection through parricide and murder, rebirth through the sacrifice of others, rather than the sacrifice of the self. His immersion in baby form is a perversion of the sacrament of baptism, and his use of Harry's blood is a perversion of the sacrament of communion. Voldemort demands confessional from his followers and doles out penance, but he also describes himself as unforgiving ("I do not forgive."). The rites of confessional are therefore perverted: atonement is rejected as impossible, thereby rendering confession itself empty, meaningless. All of Voldemort's "faithful servant"ing has strong Biblical echoes.

Also, and this may just be me, Pettigrew's depiction in the Graveyard sequence has always struck me as strongly reminiscent of a figure from an ancient mystery cult. Hooded, balding, physically weak, symbolically self-castrated, he is granted a singular status of intimacy with his master. As first Voldemort's nursemaid and then his valet, he tends to his physical needs: feeds him, carries him, dresses him. We never see any of the other DEs come into direct physical contact with Voldemort. They show their obeisance by kissing the hems of his robes, not his hand or even his feet. Pettigrew reminds me of a temple attendent, one of the castrated devotees permitted to enter sacred spaces which remain barred to uncut men. He plays the eunuch acolyte to Voldemort's hierophant.

There is also literal sacrilege going on in this scene. This graveyard is not merely a family plot; it is also a churchyard and thus consecrated ground. The very first sentence describing the setting gives us this detail: "They were standing instead in a dark and overgrown graveyard; the black outline of a small church was visible beyond a large yew tree to their right." This is almost certainly ground that was consecrated in a very specific Christian context, a context in which both the disturbance of the dead and the performance of malign ("Dark") magical rituals are anathema. It is therefore not only blasphemous, but actively sacrilegious.

3) The Family.

The family is a hot-button issue as well, although not nearly so much so as sex and religion. Nonetheless, messing with people's conceptions of appropriate familial relations often reaps a strong emotional response.

Graveyard messes with the family. It messes with it in a big way. Voldemort speaks to his followers as a reproachful parent to erring children. His response to their arrival is: "But look, Harry! My true family returns...."

Voldemort is, of course, a parricide, and his "true family" is treacherous, disloyal, and scared to death of him. They hold no genuine affection for him at all, nor does he treat them with any hint of parental love. He is their "father," but this is a conception of paternity that reflects *only* its disciplinarian aspects --- Father as Punisher, Father as Critic, Father as Enforcer, Father as Judge.

Divorced from the loving aspects of the paternal role, this is a perversion of our conception of proper familial relations, and the fact that it is coming from somebody who brags about having himself committed parricide only makes it that much worse.

4) Proper Treatment of the Dead.

I covered this one above. This is an ancient taboo, and JKR does not hesitate to make use of it. Exuming ones father's bones for the purpose of using them in a self-serving magical ritual is Just Not Okay, and the fact that we are meant to read the treatment of the dead as important is then further reinforced by Cedric's request to have his own body brought back to his parents for proper disposal.

So, yeah. Graveyard is creepy. It's disturbing. It's Dark. And I think that it is all those things for reasons that go a bit deeper than the simple fact that it portrays violent events, or that bad things happen to Harry in it. It's a very powerful scene indeed, and much of its power, IMO, derives from its deliberate perversions of concepts and institutions that we consider sacred.

And yes, BTW. I worry about Harry's emotional condition at this point in the storyline too.


Posted June 26, 2002 at 3:34 pm
Topics: ,
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RE: The Triwizard Portkey

Cindy wrote:

Nah, I'm sticking with my prior view of why the Cup is round-trip. Crouch Jr. blew it. The Cup was always set to be a round-trip from the center of the maze. Otherwise, the winner would have to grab the Cup and battle his or her way past these life-threatening obstacles back to the entrance of the maze to claim the thousand galleons, which doesn't make sense.

But that would still make it only one-way, surely?

The Cup is already in the center of the maze. It was, I agree, probably originally set to carry the first person who touched it out of the maze and back to the entrance, where they would then presumably be lauded as the winner of the Tournament and presented with their thousand galleons.

But that's still just a one-way ticket. It's not round-trip. It takes you from the center of the maze to its periphery -- and that's it.

So Crouch Jr. didn't just mess with the Portkey's original destination. He also, whether intentionally or not, changed it from a one-way Portkey, designed only to carry its user from the center of the maze to its periphery, to a duel-use Portkey, designed first to carry its user to the graveyard and then back to the periphery of the maze.

The question then becomes whether this was intentional, or a Great Big Fat Mistake on arrogant young Barty's part.

Cindy suggests the latter:

Crouch Jr., being talented but rather new to the art of programming Portkeys, didn't know about this round trip feature, or more likely, didn't care. 'Cause Crouch Jr. had every reason to think that the only thing that might be returning via the Cup was Harry's corpse.

So rather than substituting one destination for another, Crouch tampered with the Portkey by adding a new destination and ranking it higher in the "queue" than its original one, which he never bothered to delete and which was therefore still active, although relegated to a secondary function?

That works. It means that the first time that the Portkey is touched, it will follow its new orders ("take user to graveyard"), while the second time it is touched, it reverts to its original programming ("take user to periphery of maze.")

If that's the case, then I assume that had the Cup been touched a third time, it would have done nothing at all, as it would then have run through all of its "orders." After fulfilling its second (and original) function, it reverted to an inactive object, just like the old boot at the beginning of GoF did.

That's certainly a possibility, although I think that I still prefer the idea that the plan was originally to use the Portkey's secondary destination, either to descend on Hogwarts or simply to send Harry's corpse back as a nice little message for the wizarding world. The former is Bangier, to be sure, but I find the latter far more likely.

Even if we assume Stupid!Voldemort, rather than Pip's Scheming!Voldemort, I still don't think that he'd make such an amazingly disastrous error as to attempt a strike on the Triwizard audience when there is no way to Disapparate from Hogwarts grounds. Even Overconfident "Oops, I forgot!" Voldemort isn't quite so daft, I don't think, as to consider it a good idea to try pitting his thirty some-odd Death Eaters against the cream of the wizarding world, element of surprise or no element of surprise. It would make sense if they could appear, fire off a bunch of curses, and then Disapparate, but since they wouldn't be able to do that, I can't see it as a feasible plan.

Although you know, maybe Voldemort had just forgotten about that aspect of Hogwarts? Heaven knows that everybody else does. "You can't Disapparate from Hogwarts? Oops. I forgot!"

In which case Harry really saved some unfortunate Death Eater a whole lot of grief, didn't he? Because I'm sure that one of those guys would have been willing to point out to Voldemort the flaw in his cunning plan. I'm equally certain that whoever did so would have suffered for it. Evil Overlords just hate being told about flaws in their cunning plans.

—Elkins, who thinks that once somebody breaks that Memory Charm that Voldemort's got blocking all of his happy childhood memories of flowers and puppy dogs and all the maternal hugs and kisses from that nice Muggle lady at the orphanage, things are really going to change in the Potterverse.

Posted June 26, 2002 at 6:05 pm
Topics: ,
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RE: TBAY: Peter Doesn't Get The Girl

Elkins pauses outside of the door to the lecture hall in the basement of the Canon Museum, biting nervously at her lower lip and toying with the black market time-turner that she wears on a chain around her neck.

"Now this isn't one of those sorry things like the Ministry has on offer," the dubious fellow Elkins had met loitering outside of one of the more disreputable shops in Hypothetic Alley had explained to her. "Not one of those piddling hour-by-hour deals. This is a Yellow Flag Special, this is. This baby can take you back days, you get me? Weeks even, you wanna take that risk."

"Risk?" Elkins had asked. "Um, yeah. So...uh, what kind of, er, risks are we talking about here?"

"Oh, you know." The man had shrugged. "The usual. You interested or not?"

Under ordinary circumstances, Elkins wouldn't have been interested. But these are not ordinary circumstances. Far from it. Ever since the Memory Charm Symposium, something seems to have gone terribly wrong with her ability to remember things clearly. She has been troubled by these terribly disturbing thoughts. Well, more like images, really. Visions, perhaps. In one of them, she is screaming at the top of her lungs, while waving Cindy's Big Paddle about in the air. In another, there are pieces of paper falling about her like snow. Snack foods, flying through the air. Splintering wood. And then there's the one...

But, no. Elkins shakes her head. That one doesn't even bear thinking about. It's just too ludicrous, really. There is just No Way that she actually broke Cindy's Big Paddle. She would never have done a thing like that. For one thing, it would have been utterly out of character. For another...well, if she'd really done such a rash and ridiculous thing, surely Cindy would have killed her. Wouldn't she?

And then there's the one in which she's on some kind of movie set. Elkins just doesn't know what to make of that one.

Elkins does know, of course, that sometimes it is best just to let the past lie dormant. She's said so herself, many a time. But she just can't help herself. She has to find out what really happened that night.

Now, though, reeling and nauseated and dizzy from the experience of jumping all the way back to the night of the Memory Charm Symposium, Elkins is beginning to think that this was probably a really stupid idea. Her vision is blurry, the Yellow Flag Special feels unusually heavy around her neck, and she desperately wishes that she had never noticed the legend "ACME" printed in peeling gold flake across its base.

Oh, stop being such a wuss, she tells herself crossly. It's only time travel, after all. What could possibly go wrong?

As if on cue, Lucius Malfoy stalks through the door to the lecture hall, reaching for his wand.

Elkins, who has spent the past three months or so living in the basement of the Canon Museum specifically in the hopes of avoiding just such a confrontation, gasps and cringes back against the wall, but the man doesn't seem to notice her at all. His cold grey eyes, narrowed in slits of fury, are fixed on the stairs at the end of the corridor. As he sweeps past, Elkins thinks that she hears him muttering something about slanderous accusations.

She sags against the wall, gasping for air.

Okay, she thinks. That was not good. But Malfoy never attended the Memory Charm Symposium, did he? She doesn't remember seeing him there. Could she have overshot somehow? Is this even the right night?

Where's a convenient calendar when you need one? Elkins wonders irritably, right before she remembers that here in the Canon Museum, the header of the post to which one is replying is almost always to be found written on the wall somewhere close at hand. After a moment's scrutiny of the wall, she finds the graffito, scrawled in red ink.

"Message 39000," the byline reads. "Wed May 22, 2002. 3:23 pm. 'Theory Bay -- What is going on? -- I'm leaving LOLLIPOPS.'"

May 22? Was that right? Elkins just can't remember.

Even though she knows that she's not supposed to allow herself to be seen, she risks a peek around the doorframe and into the lecture hall.

The Memory Charm Symposium does indeed seem to be over, but it can't have been over for too long. The place is still a mess: cheese whiz and kool-aid everywhere, chairs and lectern reduced to splinters of wood. At first glance, the room seems to be empty, but then Elkins spots motion. She ducks back out of the doorway and presses herself against the wall.

"Well, Peter," she hears Eileen's voice commenting from somewhere within the empty lecture hall. "We meet again."

Why, it's Eileen! Elkins thinks. And Mr. Pettigrew! My friends. My old friends.

"Did you really think you could postpone this moment forever?" Eileen is demanding. "Did you really think that you could mislead us with stories of Severus's undying passion for Lily? It was you who started that story, wasn't it?"

Elkins' eyes widen. Oh, she thinks. So Eileen's going here, is she?

Well! About time, really. About time.

"Do you want to know, Peter," Eileen purrs lazily. "When I began to be suspicious?"

The congruity of names, Elkins thinks. Certainly the congruity of names was what first started her own mind working down those passages, and given Eileen's passion for LotR, that must have been it for her as well: the congruity of names between JKR's "Wormtail" and JRR's "Wormtongue."

We do know, after all, that JKR is herself vulnerable to the associative power of naming. And it's clear enough that she has been subconsciously influenced by Tolkien. We see it in every hair of Albus Dumbledore's beard, in every twinkle of his eyes, in that "Ware Balrog" sign that Pip once noticed stuck to his back. We see it in the name "Longbottom." And we see it in the name "Wormtail," so desperately reminiscent of "Wormtongue."

Ah, yes. Grima Wormtongue, whose price for betrayal was the woman that he had long secretly desired, long watched furtively with those heavy-lidded eyes -- a physical descriptor which JKR, strangely enough, seems to have subconsciously replicated and yet displaced onto the Ever So Sexy Mrs. Lestrange. Wormtongue, the corrupted advisor. Wormtongue, who confronted with the evidence of his crimes first denies everything and then grovels pitifully. Wormtongue, the archetypical ill-used sycophant. The avatar of the Worm Who Turns Too Late.

Blessed Grima Wormtongue, the Patron Saint of SYCOPHANTS.

"It was the whole tEWWW EWWW tEWW be trEWWW affair," Eileen is explaining. "It seemed out of character for Snape and Voldemort..."

Yes. Elkins nods with satisfaction. Eileen is right. The "TEWWW EWWW" theory had never really worked very well for her back when it had Snape cast in its leading role. Peter, on the other hand...

Well, yes. Yes, that could work. It could work quite well.

If we rework TEWW EWWW To Be TREWWW so that it is Peter, rather than Snape, who was offered Lily as his prize, then everything begins to fit together. It explains why Voldemort hesitated for only that split second before cheerfully slaughtering Lily. After all, if he'd really promised her to some competent Death Eater, one with some genuinely useful skills, then one might think that he would have thought twice before deciding not to follow through on his promise. It's not as if he couldn't have stunned Lily, or bound her, or Imperio'd her -- or in fact done anything at all to her that he liked, as apparently at the time she was either engaged in a fiendishly clever little bit of manipulation to arrange her own maternal sacrifice, or merely doing an excellent impersonation of Hermione's infamous "are you a witch or aren't you?" performance from the end of PS/SS. She wasn't doing anything to protect herself. She wasn't doing very much of anything at all, in fact, other than screaming and begging and carrying on like a Weak Woman. So why wouldn't Voldemort have actually followed through, if he had really promised her to someone with useful talents, like Snape?

Ah, but if he had promised her to Peter? Weak, snivelling, eminently bulliable little Peter Pettigrew? Well, that would be different, wouldn't it?

Pettigrew's usefulness resided solely in his connection with the Potters and their circle. By his act of betrayal, he had already outlived his usefulness, so what would be the point in rewarding him at all? His devotion was no longer required. So it would really be far more entertaining, from Voldemort's point of view, just to kill Lily and have done with it.

Peter does, after all, have this amazing ability to lead others to underestimate just how dangerous his disloyalty can be, does he not?

It also explains why Peter never sought out Voldemort until he felt that he had absolutely no other option. Sirius claims that this was because he never did anything unless there was something in it for him, but it's really rather more complicated than that, isn't it? There's a lot more going on. Voldemort betrayed Peter. He promised him the woman he desired. And then he killed her instead.

Small wonder that Voldemort does not trust Peter's loyalty! And small wonder that Peter himself seems so mistrustful of Voldemort's likelihood of keeping his promises this time around. From Peter's perspective, you see, Voldemort has a really lousy track record when it comes to this kind of thing.

In fact, right after Voldemort's rebirth, when maimed Pettigrew gasps out his reminder of some "promise" to his unimpressed master, is he really referring to a current event at all? We have all naturally assumed that Voldemort must have promised Pettigrew some reward in exchange for the sacrifice of his hand. But the words can be read differently. It could be that what Peter was really trying to say there was: "Don't hold my past disloyalty against me. You promised me Lily, and you reneged. Surely you can understand why I might have been a bit faithless, under the circumstances? So come on, be a sport, won't you? I sure have been. Don't make me bleed to death here in this creepy graveyard, okay?"

Lily's death would also explain the depths of Peter's self-hatred, all of his self-destructive tendencies, his apparent fondness for dramatic acts of symbolic self-castration. Oh, yes, he's just a mass of Freudian conflict, Peter is! Just look at what he does in the wake of the Potters' deaths, once he is faced with the truth of what he has done. What does he do when Voldemort has betrayed him by reneging on his side of the bargain and then vanishing, leaving him with no allies at all?

He frames Sirius, that's what! Sirius, Harry's godfather. Sirius, who served as Best Man at James and Lily's wedding. Sirius, who was "inseparable" from James himself. It is a pragmatic act—Sirius is, after all, the person Dumbledore believes to be the Potters' Secret Keeper—but is it not also a highly symbolic one?

And how about that pointer finger, eh? Peter really didn't need to cut off his own finger. Any identifying marker would have done just as well. And even if he did feel that leaving behind a finger was necessary to make the evidence for his own death seem incontrovertible, surely any sane person would still rather lose a pinky, say? Or a ring finger? Not a pointer finger, and certainly not the pointer finger of ones good hand.

It's an insane choice, viewed from any rational perspective. But place it in the context of a grief-crazed Pettigrew who knows the nature of his sin, and it all begins to make sense. For in truth, we all know what a pointer finger represents, don't we? Everybody sniggered back when Nancy Stouffer claimed that Peter's missing finger represented his "inability to make a point," and well they should have! Because we all know what a pointer finger really represents. All good Freudians know that.

If thy right pointer finger offend thee, cut it off.

Eeeee-yup. Peter indulged himself in a little act of symbolic self-emasculation on that street corner, all right. Perhaps he felt that it was an act of atonement. Perhaps he wanted to make the self-punishment fit the crime.

And indeed, ever since then he's been quite the little castrati. We've talked a bit about all the ways in which JKR exempts Pettigrew from the hurt-comfort dynamic—by making his suffering grotesque and repulsive, by showing him as utterly lacking in pride or dignity, and so forth—but really, it goes even deeper than that. No one crushes on Pettigrew. No one. That is because the text goes out of its way to mark him as fundamentally sexless. He is soft and balding, like a palace eunuch. He cowers sobbing on the floor like an "oversized, balding baby," an infantalizing description which is also an inherently degendering one. Pettigrew's behavior codes as neither masculine nor effeminate, but as neuter. Or perhaps we should say as neutered. As Scabbers, his primary descriptors are "fat" and "lazy." These are the words that we use to describe a castrated male animal. It is how we describe a pet who has been fixed.

Elkins nods to herself and returns her attention to the conversation underway in the lecture hall. She's clearly missed some of Eileen's cross-examination while she has been musing: from the sound of his wheezing, Peter seems to be practically on the verge of snivelling now. In spite of herself, Elkins frowns. Although she is certainly all prepared to hop on board with this theory, she can't help but feel a bit put off by Eileen's methodology. Really, she thinks disapprovingly. I mean, honestly! Is it really necessary to extract a confession out of the poor little rat? As if he doesn't already get enough of this sort of treatment in the canon, we're now going to start subjecting him to it here in the Bay, as well?

Eileen's gone all Tough and Steely, Elkins concludes sadly. It must have been all of that CRAB CUSTARD that did it to her.

"Mr. Pettigrew," she is saying, in her new Tough and Steely way. "I've read Prisoner of Azkaban. I've also read Goblet of Fire. I know more of your post-1981 behaviour than Mr. Black does, I assure you. And... well, you couldn't look him in his eyes, could you? You could bind him to the stone, cut him, stand by while Voldemort tormented him, but you just couldn't look into those green eyes."

No. Elkins nods once more. No, he couldn't force himself to look into those green eyes, could he? Was there really a little bit of life debt troubling his conscience there in the graveyard, as we have been led to conclude? Some nagging bit of scruple, perhaps, imposed by a strange mystical bond?

Well...perhaps. Perhaps. But the graveyard is hardly the only place that Peter has exhibited such reluctance to look Harry in the eyes, is it? In fact, he shows that same reluctance even before he's accumulated any burdensome life debt at all. He never once faces Harry in the Shrieking Shack until the very end, when he has already checked everyone else in the room off on his Supplication List. And even then he is reluctant. He hesitates, he "turned his head slowly." He is far more willing to clasp Harry's knees or to grovel at his feet than he is to look directly into those familiar emerald green eyes...

And when he finally does bring himself to do so...well, just look at the masterpiece of misdirection that he delivers:

" look just like your father...just like him..."

Ah, yes. Well. Snape always harps on Harry's resemblance to his father too, doesn't he? And yet we all know what's really eating away at him, right?

With a thrill of sick horror, Elkins suddenly notices that a lollipop has suddenly appeared in her left hand. She gasps, then tosses the nasty sticky sugary thing off to one side, shuddering uncontrollably.

Oh, she thinks. Oh, that was close. Close call, there. Too close for comfort. 'Waaaaay too close.

But still. Still, still, still. Still and all. If this misdirection ploy is good enough for Snape Loved Lily, then surely it is also good enough for Peter Loved Lily. After all, as we all know, Severus Snape is nothing but Peter Pettigrew, through the looking glass.

Yes, it's clearly misdirection, all of this "your father"ing that Pettigrew gets up to in the Shrieking Shack. He knows full well that if Sirius and Remus come to suspect, even to suspect, even for a split-second, the true nature of his nasty little arrangement with Voldemort, they will blast him into tiny pieces right there on the spot. He's not taking that chance. He's not going to risk using Lily's name at all, not right there, not under the circumstances. Peter knows that he's useless when it comes to hiding his emotions. He knows that if he even once speaks her name, his voice will betray him.

As indeed, his words very nearly do. Consider this line, for example:

'Harry, James wouldn't have wanted me killed...James would have understood, Harry...'

He would? James would have understood? Understood what, for heaven's sake? Cowardice? Self-interest? Betrayal?

No. James would not have understood. That is because James was heroic. In fact, James was so tediously and irritatingly and boringly heroic that not one reader has ever confessed to having a crush on him. James would never have understood such motivations. But one thing that even he, one thing that even the Ever So Infuriatingly Virtuous James Potter might have understood?

Even he might have understood how it must feel to be haunted, obsessed, tormented, consumed by the fires of passion for the lovely young Lily.

After all, he married her.

Ah, yes. Misdirection.

The favored pasttime of so very many notable SYCOPHANTS.

And there's more, too! There's ever so much more!

Just listen to Peter whine, as he tries to justify his behavior in the Shrieking Shack:

"I was scared...I was never brave...He forced me...He would have killed me..."

Uh-huh. Cowardice. It's a feeble defense, but not an altogether unappealing one. It inspires disgust, but it can also inspire pity, even sometimes sympathy. Who among us, after all, has never felt terribly afraid?

But is that really what lay at the heart of Peter's betrayal? Peter, you will note, is a liar. He is a liar in fear for his life. And while cowardice is indeed shameful, there are forms of venality far less likely to inspire pity, far more likely to warrant summary execution at the hands of ones erstwhile friends.

Could Peter's confessions of rank cowardice be merely a cover? A cover for something even less forgivable? Could his true weakness never have been cowardice at all, but rather lust?

Really, how could anyone miss all of the clues we have been given to show us that Peter had a thing for Lily? Just look at his weakness for red-heads! Just look at what he does after Voldemort's fall! He retreats into his animagus form to hide himself away both from his erstwhile DE colleagues and from any of Dumbledore's people who might come to suspect him. He seeks out a wizarding family to adopt so that he might stay abreast of important events in the wizarding world. He somehow manages to ingratiate himself to a young Percy Weasley, and is then taken into the bosom of the family. All well and good.

But why on earth would he choose the Weasleys?

Now admittedly, Peter probably didn't stand much chance of getting in with some snooty old family like the Malfoys, not with his unprepossessing appearance and all, but surely he could have found a family somewhat more usefully placed than Arthur Weasley's. Arthur Weasley works in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, for heaven's sake! Wouldn't the family of some lower eschelon worker in one of the more directly active branches of law enforcement have made a somewhat better choice? The family of someone who files away reports on contemporary Dark activities, perhaps? Someone who might know something useful about the at-large Death Eaters, or about Voldemort's current status, or about continuing intelligence into the entire affair? Someone who deals with something slightly more relevant than enchanted tea sets, for heaven's sake?

But the instant that Peter laid eyes on his first Weasley, he just couldn't resist. Of course he couldn't! Not with all of that red hair. That red hair. Just like hers.

No, Harry's eyes aren't the only thing that touches on Pettigrew's weakness. The Weasley hair does it to him as well. Just look at how he treats Ron when he makes his escape at the end of _PoA._ He sends the kid into some kind of magically-induced coma. He could have killed him. He could have hurt him. But he doesn't, in spite of the fact that he has to take Ron out quickly, and in spite of the fact that Ron refused to speak so much as a word in his defense back there in the Shack. There's no life debt there, that's for sure. Ron just won't go to bat at all for poor Peter in the Shack, will he? He recoils in disgust, he all but kicks the man in the face, and this in spite of three years of loyal (if somewhat uninspired) pet duty. Why, Peter even bit Goyle for Ron once, and Goyle was really a whole lot bigger than he was at the time. But is Ron appreciative? Hah! Little ingrate.

And yet Peter treats him gently enough, all things considered. In fact, given that Ron has a broken leg, and that Peter is abandoning the lot of them to the mercies of Werewolf!Lupin, his treatment of Ron is downright merciful. The boy is sure to be eaten no matter what happens, but at least this way, he will be spared the terror and the pain of the experience. It's far more consideration than Ron was willing to show to Peter, that's for sure.

Yup. It's gotta be that red hair. How could Peter bring himself to harm directly a boy with hair so much like hers?

The sound of her own name startles Elkins out of her reverie.

"...Elkins will be applying Cruciatus," Eileen is saying hurredly, a new note of nervousness in her voice, "the rest will be pouring Veritaserum down my throat, and putting me under Imperius. They might even time-travel to revisit our conversation..."

Elkins starts guiltily, one hand reaching up to cover the Yellow Flag Special around her neck.

"Whatever the correct answer to our memory charm speculations..."

Elkins relaxes and tunes out again. Just more memory charms, she thinks. Whatever.

Elkins is sick to death of memory charms.

Instead, she ponders once again that old old question of precisely who was kissing Florence behind the greenhouses.

According to "Peter Gets The Girl," it was Peter, snogging it up with the future Mrs. Lestrange, and it was Peter who hexed Bertha Jorkins as well. Bertha Jorkins' appearance in the Pensieve scene of _GoF_ thus serves as a powerful message from Dumbledore's subconscious mind: "Hey, dummy," it is trying to tell him. "The one responsible for Bertha's disappearance is Peter Pettigrew. Don't you remember how he hexed her, back in his student days? Yeah, well, he's done it again."

All well and good. But what "Peter Gets the Girl" has never quite answered to Elkins' satisfaction is why Peter would have hexed nosy Bertha Jorkins for teasing him about kissing a girl. Wouldn't a chubby little bottom-feeder like Peter kind of like it for everyone to know that he'd actually managed to kiss a real live girl?

Well. Not if he was in love with Lily, he wouldn't. Not if she wasn't yet involved with James. Not if he'd been hoping that might someday have a chance with her. Not if his tete-a-tete with Florence was just his way of passing time while he was carefully laying all the groundwork for getting in good with Lily by playing up that entire hapless "poor Peter never gets a date" schtick for all it was worth. Not if he had based his entire strategy on the premise of his own romantic helplessness.

Oh, yeah. Bertha just ruined Peter's strategy there, giving the game away that he actually was capable of finding female companionship when he wanted it. Undercutting all of that "Hopelessly Devoted Admirer Who Will NEVER Get A Date With Anyone Else" stuff that he'd been feeding to sympathetic soft-touch "Lily-Was-Nice" Lily. Giving the show away that dear little "Oh, I can talk to you about this, Peter, because you're not like all the other boys, Peter" Pettigrew really was "just like all the other boys" after all. After finding out that Peter had been snogging Florence behind the greenhouses, was Lily ever going to give way to the temptation to let him have just one sympathy...uh, hug?

Nope. Not a chance. Bertha just ruined Peter's entire strategy, she did. And he didn't forget that, either. Not by a long shot.

Canon, Elkins thinks. Is there canon?

Why, yes! There is! _GoF,_ very first chapter:

'A stroke of brilliance I would not have thought possible from you, Wormtail -- though, if truth be told, you were not aware how useful she would be when you caught her, were you?'

'I--I thought she might be useful, My Lord--'

'Liar,' said the second voice again, the cruel amusement more pronounced than ever.

Mmmmmm. A curious question, that? Why on earth did Pettigrew think to bring Bertha Jorkins all the way to Voldemort, rather than just, say, killing her himself to ensure her silence? Why go to all the trouble to drag her into the woods and introduce her to his vaporous Dark Lord?

Can you say, 'Payback?'

Because this isn't precisely 'Peter Gets the Girl.' This is 'Peter DOESN'T Get the Girl,' and the fact that Peter never got the girl ruined his entire life, and as far as he's concerned, Bertha Jorkins was partially to blame for that. If she hadn't ruined his chances with Lily, after all, perhaps then he never would have become so bitter, so twisted, so willing to throw his lot in with Voldemort just to—

"Kill me, and they'll find out eventually!" Eileen's voice has now risen in something that sounds distressingly akin to panic. Elkins blinks, then frowns. "I think Elkins very nearly had it once, and the others are hot on your trail. I promise," gulps Eileen. "I promise. I'll get them not to tell Harry, if you leave me alive."

Elkins winces. So much for the new and improved Tough 'n' Steely Eileen, she thinks. Oh, well. Stands to reason. After all, we SYCOPHANTS can hardly ever maintain that demeanor. Not, at any rate, for any significant length of time.

"Why should you believe me?" asks Eileen. "Well, I'm a Gryffindor."

There is a rather awkward silence.

"Oh," Eileen whispers. "I see. Right. I just didn't see it ending this way. CINDY!" she screams suddenly. "CINDY, THERE'S A DE MURDERING ME IN THE BASEMENT! AND I WANT TO LIVE! I WANT TO LIVE TO RELAX IN OUR NEW CANON SUPPORTED MATCHING ARMCHAIR! HELP!"

Elkins can hear the sound of footsteps pounding their way down the stairs. She glances up and down the corridor, bites her lip, and then reaches up to the Yellow Flag Special around her neck.

"Sorry, Eileen," she whispers, and turns it, five times fast.

Elkins, you see, has never once been in any danger of being sorted Gryffindor.

She finds herself abruptly—far too abruptly—back in June. The museum is quiet and empty. The floors seem to have been polished fairly recently. There is no graffiti on the walls. Elkins staggers weakly up the stairs and out the door, into the nearby Garden of Good and Evil. She stands motionless for a moment, staring blankly at the sundial in the middle of the garden ("It is later than you think"), and then falls to her knees to be violently sick into one of the rosebushes.

As she disentangles her hair from one of the thorns, she hears User Google, musing out loud:

"Will Wormtail Pull A Gollum?"

Elkins coughs and wipes the back of her hand across her mouth.

"A Gollum?" she repeats to herself. "A Gollum?"

She shakes her head.

"Nah," she says. "Way too obvious."

—Elkins, always happy to light a single candle to Grima Wormtongue, the Patron Saint of SYCOPHANTS

Posted June 27, 2002 at 11:05 am
Topics: ,
Plain text version


RE: Cruciatus and Imperius (Some TBAY), Dark Magic Power Boosts

I was wondering about Voldemort's assumption that Crouch Jr. would indeed agree to play the rather significant role that Voldemort had allocated to him in his Big Plan. Having pointed out that Voldemort first returns to England, then travels to the Crouch residence, then Imperio's Crouch Sr., and only then asks young Barty if he is willing to serve, I wondered:

(It does make you wonder, though, doesn't it, what Voldemort would have done if Crouch had said "no?" I mean, was there a Plan B?)

Cindy replied:

Plan B? Well, let's see. Crouch Jr. might say something like, "You know, I've been couped up under this cloak a long time and I was thinking of maybe taking some time off, if that's all right with you, Voldemort."

Mmm, nah. Not unless Crouch Jr. was hoping to do a dance with the Cruciatus Curse, figuring it might help clear his mind or something.

Heh. Well, I admit that it wasn't too likely a possibility.

But still, if you think about it, Voldemort's plan really does count on Crouch Jr. for quite a lot, doesn't it? It doesn't just rely on him professing his loyalty. I mean, given the circumstances, of course Crouch Jr's answer to "will you serve me once more?" was going to be: "Yes, master, delighted to, just tell me what you want me to do."

But the plan doesn't just rely on Crouch's lip service. It relies on him being loyal enough to undertake a difficult and dangerous mission without scarpering the instant that Voldemort isn't watching him. It relies on him being competent enough to rig the Tournament. And it relies on him being a clever enough actor to pull off that Moody masquerade for an entire year.

It also relies on him not having been reduced to a state of weak-willed drooling idiocy from having first nearly died in Azkaban, and then having spent over ten years under the Imperius Curse.

I mean, that was really quite a lot to gamble on, don't you think? When all that Voldemort really knew about Crouch's current status was that he was being held prisoner in his father's house, and that he still professed loyalty to the cause? Voldemort travels all the way back to England on the basis of this information?

Geez. It's almost enough to make me want to run out and buy myself one of those magic dishwashers. They may not run on my favorite thematic engines, and they do rather clash with all of my genre expectations, and George really doesn't care for them very much. But hey. At least they don't leave spots all over the crystal.

I also found myself wondering about Crouch Jr's growing ability to throw off the Imperius Curse for short periods of time in the months leading up to the QWC. I suggested that this might be related in some way to Voldemort's return to England, that perhaps Voldemort's newly embodied state and physical proximity might in some metaphysical way have strengthened the will of those servants bound to him by the Dark Mark.

Cindy wrote:

But how about an alternative theory? A theory that explains all of the pesky, FLINT-y problems with the Imperius Curse? How about if the Imperius Curse is only as strong as the wizard casting it?

I'm sure that the Imperius Curse is only as strong as the wizard casting it. After all, the Cruciatus Curse certainly seems to be. Compare Cedric's reaction to being hit by Krum's Cruciatus, for example, to Harry's reaction to Voldemort's Cruciatus in the graveyard. Krum's does not seem to be all that powerful. It certainly doesn't look as if it was a pleasant experience for poor Cedric, mind, but it doesn't incapacitate him to nearly the same degree as Voldemort's Cruciatus does Harry, or Wormtail, or even the unfortunate Mr. Avery.

How about if the Imperius Curse is a classic struggle of wills, a clash of power between the controller and victim.

Again, I think that this certainly is the case. And there is also evidence to suggest that ones ability to resist increases the more incentive one has to do so. Crouch Sr's ability to resist the Curse seems to have grown stronger and stronger as the date of the planned attack on Harry Potter drew near. I had always assumed, at any rate, that the growing urgency of the need to warn Dumbledore was what had strengthened his will to resist.

I had also assumed that Crouch Jr's ability to fight it off at the QWC was in part due to all of the things going on there that just Pissed Him OFF. Lucius Malfoy in the Top Box, being buttered up by Fudge about his donations to St. Mungos, of all things. That conversation between Harry and Winky, about freedom, of all things. And of course, that tantalizing wand, right in front of his very face.

After all, Mulciber specialized in the Imperius Curse. If all Imperius Curses are the same, why have someone specialize in it?

I don't think that they are all the same. I agree with you that the stronger the caster, the stronger the spell. I also agree with Marina that the stronger the will, the stronger the spell (or the chance of resisting it). In other words, to be very very good at Imperius, you want to have two things: a strong will, and a good deal of expertise. To resist it, you want to have one (or both) of two things: a strong will, or a freakish inborn talent for it.

As far as Crouch Jr. goes, he didn't really get stronger during all those years under the cloak, under this theory. Crouch Sr. was getting weaker, that's what was going on.

Youth will be served, eh?

This reminds me very much of a question that somebody (Judy, perhaps?) brought up quite some time ago. Just what did old Crouch think was going to happen to his son once he passed away, anyway? Children do, after all, generally manage to outlive their parents.

Crouch Sr. was getting more and more discouraged by his failure to win become Minister of Magic, becoming bitter from being shunted aside and forced to work with the likes of Ludo Bagman. And Crouch Sr. was just plain growing older. All of that made young Crouch relatively stronger compared with his father, I think, not stronger overall.

Mmmmm. Possibly. Possibly. Although Crouch still had it in him to throw off his own Imperius there at the end, didn't he? And it still seems a remarkable coincidence to me that Crouch Jr's new-found resistance would seem to coincide so very neatly to Voldemort's return to an embodied state.

Cindy (who thinks Pip and her MAGIC DISHWASHER will not like the idea that Cruciatus makes a wizard stronger)

Well, no, Cindy. She won't. That, you see, is because Pip—with or without her MAGIC DISHWASHER in tow—is not utterly deranged.

I, however, am. I am therefore willing to entertain the notion, but only because it has entertained me. Tit for tat, you know. Turnabout is fair play.

<pause, while Elkins entertains the notion>

Ah-hah! I see it now! That's why Pettigrew let Crouch Sr. escape! He knew, you see, that the day was fast approaching when he would need to deal with all of those other Death Eaters, right? So he wanted to be sure that this time around, he'd really be able to compete.

And that's why he was so distressed when Voldemort threatened to feed him to the snake, see. 'Cause that wasn't what he was after at all. He wanted a good long bout of Cruciatus, that's what he wanted. And hey, he got it eventually, right?

And it also occurs to me that this might put a brand new spin on Charis Julia's "Fourth Man With Crucio Competition," which suggests that the DEs all compete to try to get their master to punish them because it's just so macho. It's not a matter of macho. It's not a matter of macho at all. It's a matter of pure and simple self-interest, is what it is. They all know, you see, that What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger, and so they're just trying to get the advantage whenever they indulge themselves in Stupid Minion Errors.

<short pause>

Okay. There. I've entertained it. It's still an utterly ludicrous notion, but I have at least been willing to entertain it.



RE: The Triwizard Portkey

David and I were poking holes in the theory that Voldemort planned to use the Triwizard Tournament Cup Portkey to transport himself and all of his Death Eaters right into the heart of Hogwarts and launch an immediate assault on the creme de la creme of wizarding society.

Little did we realize that a Geist was watching.

Amanda wrote:

Hrm. You two are laughing at one of my pet theories. **geist rolls up sleeves**

We are indeed, Amanda, but you know, the only reason that we're able to do that without even bothering to set forth the theory in question first is because everybody knows it already. Why, it's practically canon! It has achieved deuterocanonical status on this list. So take heart.

I'm glad you're here, though, because maybe you can help me out with some of my problems with this theory. I've always absolutely loved this one conceptually—in fact, it was one of the things that drew me to this list when I saw it cited on the Lexicon—but I have a few problems with some of its details. So maybe you can help me out with those.

(Way back in March I tried to ask you about this, actually, but that was when Yahoomort was doing its nasty thing of eating half my posts and delaying the other half for over a week.)

First off, I certainly agree that the Tournament audience makes an absolutely perfect audience for a really BIG "I'm back" terrorist message. As you wrote, it has:

(1) the heads of the three most prominent wizarding schools in that part of the world;

(2) the top officials of the Ministry of Magic;

(3) the children of probably the entire wizarding population of the UK;


4) the children of several wizarding families from France and wherever Durmstrang is.

Absolutely. It's perfect. And I also agree with you that the timing of the entire "how to abduct Harry" plot really does suggest that this was indeed the plan.

What I can't see, though, is quite how the plan would work.

You wrote:

I believe, therefore, that the whole plan was something along these lines:

(a) get Harry through the tournament as a winner
(b) get Harry to the graveyard for Voldemort's reanimation
(c) use the portkey to return to the grounds of Hogwarts
(d) make major offensive action against the gathered, unsuspecting might of the free world.
(e) sit back and mop up.

It broke down at (b).

That it did. But if it hadn't broken down at (b), wouldn't it have broken down at (c)?

Voldemort has thirty some-odd Death Eaters. They all need to be touching the Portkey simultaneously for this plan to work. The Cup just isn't that big. I have serious trouble imagining how thirty grown men and a newly reincorporated Snake Dude would manage to all cluster around the Cup and lay fingers on it at once. It just doesn't seem feasible to me somehow.

Even if they could manage it, they would hardly arrive in any condition to launch a credible attack. As David wrote:

And the thought of thirty DEs all landing in a jumble on the Quidditch pitch as they try to hold on to the portkey seriously endangered my reputation for sanity in the office

It is hard to imagine how that could work, isn't it? I mean, on the purely physical level, it's problematic.

But even if they did manage that, then there's the problem of (d).

Voldemort and his thirty some-odd Death Eaters all appear, right outside of the hedge maze. Preferably with Harry Potter's corpse, just for psychological effect.

Okay, so what then? Assassinating Dumbledore would seem an obvious first move. Dumbledore is a serious thorn in their side. You suggest that they could also have started taking the children of the assembled audience members hostage, just to forestall any attacks against them and ensure the compliance of Important People of the wizarding world. Fair enough.

But, but, but...but they wouldn't really be appearing in the immediate vicinity of any convenient hostages, would they? All of those important wizards, as well as their hostage-worthy children, are watching the contest from high up in the stands. They therefore have the advantage of both height and visibility over a group of DEs suddenly appearing right in front of the maze on the ground. And the audience would also be likely to have their attention utterly fixed on that particular spot. I assume that the audience knew that this was where the winner of the Tournament would appear.

While I certainly agree with you that the sudden appearance of the reborn Voldemort and a bunch of masked and cloaked Death Eaters would be likely to cause panic and dismay, I don't really know if I believe that the element of surprise would be quite enough to prevent some of the more competent members of the audience (members of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, for example) to take advantage of that height and visibility advantage to smack Voldemort and the Death Eaters down with curses before they'd even had a chance to take any hostages.

Just look at how quickly members of the Ministry manage to triangulate on the source of the "morsmordre" spell in Chapter 9 of GoF, for example. People are panicking at the sight of the Dark Mark too, but the Ministry guys still manage to keep their heads, and they hardly hesitate before firing off their "Stupefy" spells.

I also don't know if I agree that the Tournament audience wouldn't be armed. Wizards seem to carry their wands with them everywhere. The spectators at the QWC weren't anticipating trouble either, and yet even people like Arthur Weasley and Amos Diggory—not exactly Special Forces types—did have their wands with them.

It just seems like a very risky plan to me, particularly as Voldemort and the Death Eaters would have had no way of making an effective retreat should they meet up with competent resistance. They can't Disapparate away, and even if we assume that the Portkey was programmed to allow them to escape, we're left with an even more slapstick version of that humorous image that David proposed: over thirty people, in the middle of a combat situation, falling all over themselves in their effort to lay hands on that Portkey. For all of them to touch it at once would have been tricky enough in the no-pressure atmosphere of the graveyard. For all of them to touch it at once while under fire? Not likely. They'd be elbowing each other in the throats trying to get to the thing before being stupefied.

I really do love this theory, always have. But I just can't seem to make it work.


Posted June 27, 2002 at 4:27 pm
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