This is a blog set up for those who have read Half-Blood Prince and want answers to some very important questions that will help explain Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.Potter Analyst bringing you potter news when you want it.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Potter Analyst Team Finding More Evidence
The Scene & The Apparent Death
Let's revisit the text. The passage below is from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27: The Lightning-Struck Tower, p. 595-596, U.S. hardback edition:
But somebody else had spoken Snape's name, quite softly.
The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading.
Snape said nothing, but walked forward and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed.
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.
A jet of green light shot from the end of Snape's wand and hit Dumbledore squarely in the chest. Harry's scream of horror never left him; silent and unmoving, he was forced to watch as Dumbledore was blasted into the air. for a split second, he seemed to hang suspended beneath the shining skull, and then he fell slowly backward, like a great rag doll, over the battlements and out of sight.
Sounds pretty convincing, right? The Killing Curse, Snape's "hatred", and the blasting of Dumbledore right over the bloody battlements, all the long way down from the top of the tallest tower at Hogwarts.
Pleading, Taunting & Blasting
And yet, there are a few problems with this:
"Dumbledore was pleading". For his life? Since when has Dumbledore ever been the pleading type? Or for Severus to go on with what he had to do, no matter what? Or for Severus to also do as Dumbledore ordered, as Dumbledore had also made Harry promise?
No taunting. No one loves a jibe, a taunt, a vicious snipe of a remark, like Severus Snape. Hogwarts students, members of the Order, fellow faculty; it doesn't matter — no one is safe from Snape's tongue. And yet, if his "revulsion and hatred" is all towards Dumbledore, where is the monologue? Snape's been at Hogwarts for a long, long time — where's the sarcasm, the defiant triumph of the release of all that festering hatred? Where is the final, "Ha, you old fool, keeping me safe all these years, when all I have lived for is this moment! Your fall is the rise of the Dark Lord! Ha-ha-ha-havada-kedavra!" Didn't happen. Funny that someone so full of rage, and so quick to taunt and curse, would say nothing to the man he was betraying.
"Dumbledore was blasted into the air." Since when does Avada Kedavra blast people into the air? It doesn't. The spell leaves no damage, and does nothing to the victim, except that it kills them. Period.
Reading Between the Lines
Here's an alternative version of what happened:
Dumbledore was pleading with Snape not to blow his cover, even if it meant the end of Dumbledore's own life
Snape, calculating the precariousness of the situation, performed a spell similar to in appearance to Avada Kedavra, except for the added theatrics and lack of lethality. Remember: you have to mean the Killing Curse, as both Bellatrix Lestrange and Mad-Eye Moody have reminded us:
"You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain — to enjoy it — righteous anger won't hurt me for long." [Bellatrix, Order of the Phoenix, p. 810, Chapter 36, American paperback edition]
“Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it — you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed." [Moody, well, supposedly Moody, anyway; pg. 217, Goblet of Fire, American edition]
To put it another way, Avada Kedavra might be a powerful spell, but it also stands to reason that it takes so much to pull off for real, that it could actually be very easy to fake.
Now, here's where things might get a bit hard to believe.
Dumbledore, indeed, fell out of sight to us readers. As far as we knew, he was dead. But if he wasn't...
Then he was falling through midair, and quite aware of it. He could have muttered some words — he'd already done so earlier:
"Harry heard, over the whistling of the night air in his ears, Dumbledore muttering in some strange language again. He thought he understood why as he felt his broom shudder when they flew over the boundary wall into the grounds: Dumbledore was undoing the enchantments he himself had set around the castle" [Chapter 27: The Lightning-Struck Tower, p. 595-596, U.S. hardback edition]
And then he Apparated.
Not far, mind you. It wouldn't do for him to disappear, when the Death Eaters would be expecting a body at the bottom of the castle, and Dumbledore would be far too crafty for that. He Apparated down a bit, so the fall wouldn't kill him. But it could injure him, and enough for him to appear dead. He only needed one more thing.
He would have reached into his robes and pulled out a vial of potion, something that has been alluded to in two HP books, but has never played a role. Now is its time:
Dumbledore drank a Draught of Living Death, fell into a deathlike sleep, and hit the ground.
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Draught of Living Death Gets Its Due
"For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. [Sorcerer's Stone, pg. 138]
We are first introduced to this powerful potion in Harry's first year. It is not mentioned again until Book 6, when at the first Potions lesson the students identify five powerful potions — all of which either figure into the events of Book 6, or have featured in previous Harry Potter books:
Veritaserum, which in Book 4 Dumbledore administers to Barty Crouch Jr.
Polyjuice Potion, which figures in Book 2 (when Ron, Harry and Hermione brew it), Book 4 (so Barty Crouch can keep up his Mad-Eye impersonation) and Book 6 (so Draco can disguise Crabbe and Goyle as lookouts)
Amortentia, which Ron accidentally ingests in Book 6, resulting in his near-poisoning on the tainted mead in Slughorn's office
Felix Felicis, which Harry uses to get the memory from Slughorn, and which helps save Ron, Hermione and Ginny's lives during the final battle of Book 6
And then there's the fifth, the Draught of Living Death, the neglected stepchild of Harry Potter potions. It's mentioned in Book One, and then fades away (save for a passing mention in the logic puzzle Hermione solves near the end of Book 1).
Not only does Book 6 give this potion its second mention, but Slughorn even has the class brew it. Yet we hear nothing more of it. Doesn't that seem odd?
Of course, Rowling loves to hide things in plain sight, or slip by a description that may not be as innocuous as it first seems. One of the best examples of that is Book 4, at the World Cup:
"Winky looked as if she were being dragged by an invisible person".
Such a harmless, if odd, description... except of course that it's the literal truth. She was being dragged by an invisible person, in this case Barty Crouch Jr. Could this phrase also be more literal than it seems?
Dumbledore's eyes were closed; but for the strange angle of his arms and legs, he might have been sleeping." [Chapter 28: Flight of the Prince, p. 608, U.S. hardback edition]
In the context above, Dumbledore could indeed be sleeping, just as Winky really was being dragged by an invisible person.
To be clear, I'm not aware of Rowling making any further mention of the Draught of Living Death, and I've not noticed or gleaned any mention of Dumbledore keeping a flask of it, or any other potion, about his person. As far as I'm aware, there is no contextual evidence of Dumbledore carrying a flask of potion with him.
Yet Rowling does note the Draught of Living Death, and in a context with other potions that have figured into the action and plot of the Harry Potter novels. There is something else that Rowling does do, though. She details Dumbledore, along with Harry, seeking the aid of someone who is fairly good at faking his own death: Horace Slughorn, early in Book 6.
More Faked Death
Early in Book 6, we find Horace Slughorn attempting to fake his own death. Throughout the Harry Potter novels, events, spells and other happenings or details early in the text, generally factor in later.
Take Summoning Charms, for example. In the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Molly Weasley uses Accio, the Summoning Charm, to take away all of Fred and George's joke candies. Then Harry usees it to win the First task. And then, at the end of the book, it is the Summoning Charm that enables Harry to get the Triwizard Cup portkey, and escape Voldemort.
Or, in Book Two, a Flying Ford Anglia factors heavily into the book's early chapters. Ron, Fred and George use the car to rescue Harry from the Dursley's. Ron and Harry fly the car to Hogwarts — only to land in the Whomping Willow. After a solid thrashing from the tree, the car ejects the boys and disappears into the woods and from the text. The car is hardly mentioned again until nearly the end of the book — when it saves Harry and Ron from the spiders in the Forbidden Forest.
Or, in Book Six, where the sixth-year students focus on learning non-verbal spells. You know, the kind where you can just say the spell in your mind, and not out loud, or even say something that isn't actually the spell you're performing, in order to pull one over on the enemy? (Kind of like Snape and the supposed Avada Kedavra, but I digress.)
And now, near the beginning of Book Six, we encounter an elaborate, if impromptu, faked death: the morbid scene facing Dumbledore and Harry, when they call on Slughorn. Despite this, faked death seems not to crop up anywhere again in this book:
"Maybe there was a fight and — and they dragged him off, Professor?" Harry suggested, trying not to imagine how badly wounded a man would have to be to leave those stains spattered halfway up the walls.
"I don't think so," said Dumbledore quietly, peering behind an overstuff armchair lying on its side.
"You mean he's — ?"
"Still here somewhere? Yes."
And without warning, Dumbledore swooped, plunging the tip of his wand into the seat of the overstuffed armchair, which yelled, "Ouch!" [Chapter 4: Horace Slughorn, p. 63, U.S. hardback edition]
Slughorn fakes his death, hoping that Dumbledore will accept the charade and leave. Note that it's Slughorn. The Potions Master. The professor who also instructs his students to whip up a batch of the very potion that would be most handy for someone needing to seem dead.
Rowling has set up the Draught of Living Death, yet nothing happens with it. Could it just be a red herring? Or might Slughorn's faked death, and the 5 potions brewing in Book 6's first Potions class, contextualize the early-book mentions for Dumbledore's attempt at faking death, near the end of HBP?
The potion is not enough though. There is something else that happens earlier in Book 6, that sets up the possibility for the other part of this theory: Apparition.
You Can't Apparate at Hogwarts... Unless You're the Headmaster
A Draught of Living Death is all well and good, but falling from the top of the tallest tower of Hogwarts is still going to bloody well kill you, especially when you're wandless, and even if you're Albus Dumbledore.
Unless you're also, like Albus, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, that is.
Throughout the entire Harry Potter series, it's been drummed into us that you cannot Apparate within the castle or the grounds of Hogwarts. Snape has said it. Hermione drums it into our heads every time she berates Harry and Ron for not having read Hogwarts: A History.
Yet in Book 6, we learn that the rule against Apparition has an exception:
"As you may know, it is usually impossible to Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts. The headmaster has lifted this enchantment, purely within the Great Hall, for one hour, so as to enable you to practice."
So let's try it again, shall we? You cannot Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts... unless the Headmaster says otherwise. And things that factor into earlier parts of a Harry Potter book, tend to figure in at the end. The Sixth-Year students are learning Apparition, and we learn that the Headmaster can make it possible to Apparate at Hogwarts. So...
Back to where we were earlier, somewhere between the top of the tallest tower of Hogwarts, and the ground below.
Dumbledore is falling. He presumably doesn't have his wand. But Apparition is wandless magic. He lifts the Apparition enchantment — from the passage above, we know that the lifting can be limited and precise — just enough for him to cut the distance, so that the fall will not kill him. Either just before or just after he Apparates, Dumbledore prepares the bottle of Draught of Living Death, swigging the potion before impact. He passes beyond unconsciousness. He hits. He is not dead, but sufficiently wounded to appear so.
The important thing here is that Dumbledore still must seem dead. Yes, if he could Apparate, it stands to reason that he could have Apparated out of harm's way. Yet he didn't. Snape's cover must be protected, for one. But that's not the only reason: with Dumbledore at least seeming to be dead, then Voldemort will believe that his greatest foe is no more. That will draw Voldemort into the open, and into the eventual, final confrontration with Harry. Dumbledore needs to seem dead, in order that Harry will become the hero he must be, in order for Voldemort to come out of hiding, and for the final battle to occur.
There is one last bit of evidence that could lead us to see Dumbledore as being alive. It's an odd phrase at Dumbledore's funeral.
The Odd Phrase at the Funeral
Remember earlier, about how Rowling likes to hide things in plain sight, and with very subtle yet very precise phrasing? You can often tell, because the phrasing is just a touch awkward. Such as a house elf moving strangely, seeming as if she is being dragged by an invisible person. Or an apparently dead wizard who looks as if he could be sleeping. Or in Dumbledore's funeral at the end of Book 6...
"Hagrid was walking slowly up the aisle between the chairs. He was crying quite silently, his face gleaming with tears, and in his arms, wrapped in purple velvet spangled with golden stars, was what Harry knew to be Dumbledore's body."
Not, "was Dumbledore's body." Rather, "what Harry knew to be Dumbledore's body."
A bit of odd phrasing, isn't it? Note that whatever Hagrid is carrying, it is wrapped up. No one sees it, just the wrapping. Could be Dumbledore. May well be. But it doesn't have to be. And "what Harry knew to be", and what actually is, could easily be two different things. It may even be Dumbledore's body — but not necessarily a corpse. Dumbledore could just as easily be in a deep, deep sleep, couldn't he?
In short, Dumbledore could have faked his own death. Book 6 sets up this possibility by setting up a faked death in the beginning, yet there is no mention later. There is a description of the Avada Kedavra that does not correspond with the actual effects of the spell. Book 6 also focuses on non-verbal spells, so it is entirely possible that what Snape said at the top of the tower, and the spell he actually cast, are not the same thing.
Book 6 also mentions many powerful potions, all of which have played an important role in at least one of the books of the series — except for the Draught of Living Death. Even though it has been mentioned in two books, and even been brewed by the students in Book 6, it nevers seems to be used or have any apparent, major role in the plot. However, if Dumbledore needed a way to fake his own death, the Draught would provide him the perfect means.
Lastly, of course, is Apparition. Rowling's clever writing has programmed us into forgetting about Apparition when it comes to Hogwarts, yet in Book 6 we learn that the Headmaster can change rules such as the protections preventing Apparition at Hogwarts. Dumbledore, after being "blasted" off the tallest tower, could have used Apparition to cut the distance he fell.
When you add these up, there is a strong possibility that Dumbledore faked his death by means of Snape casting a different spell, and Dumbledore using a combination of Apparition and the Draught of Living Death. The one would have preserved his life; the other, the perception that he was dead.
And that, is that. There you have it: a theory, based on evidence from the books, that Dumbledore could be alive. It may be right, it may be wrong, but it is thought-provoking. What do you think? Did he fake his death? Is he really dead?