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 Today and for the next 36 posts, the subject of this space will be a chapter of, what is for me the most problematic book in the entire Harry Potter series:  The Deathly Hallows.  I am not going to write these posts pretending that I can un-know what I know, so on the remote chance that there are are any of my flisties who *haven't* read DH and want to remain in the dark, just take it for granted that any post concerning the book is going to have spoilers and act accordingly. :-)  You can also take it as read that I will be free with my opinions, and I'd very much like to have you join the discussion and do the same.  I will also be rec-ing, from time to time, favorite fanfic pieces that I think compliment the canon.  I will try to post at least one chapter a day.  There may be days when I am not going to have the time to post, but I'll do my best to keep them to a minimum.  DH is loooooonnnngggggg (759 pages in my hardback edition, 36 chapters plus The Horrid Epilogue) and there *are* other things I'd like to talk about this summer! ::g::

Before I get started, I'd like to do a little bit of reminiscing.  I didn't know any of you in 2007 (which is a darned shame  ;-) ), so inquiring minds would like to know:  what were you doing in the summer Deathly Hallows was released?  Miss M had just finished 2nd grade, and I was doing the same juggling of my own schedule and hers as I am doing now, but with a lot less dance in it (only 2 hours a week - imagine that!).  I was 37 years old and planning on spending my evening camped in front of a bookstore with my 2nd eldest niece, who is also a very big HP fan, to be among the first to purchase the book we'd all been waiting for.  Poodles (the terrible nickname said niece has had to put up with from the time she was about 18 months old - she is now 23) and I had been having a friendly argument discussion concerning the final developments of the story, and, being on opposing sides for a great many things concerning the outcome, she and I decided to make a little wager.  

Each of us made ten predictions and put them in a sealed envelope in the custody of my youngest brother; we figured that since he's a cop he could more than likely be trusted.  ::g::   After we had both read the book, the predictions were revealed.  Seven of my 10 were correct, so I won (2 nights of baby sitting - a prize *not* to be sneezed at).  Among my better attempts at channeling Sybill was the certainty that Severus Snape was not the villain he appeared to be at the end of Half-Blood Prince.  My divination of his motivations, however, fell flat.  I entirely missed the Lily thing.  Sadly, I also knew that he would die, because the anti-hero very rarely survives in these sorts of stories, though I thought he'd reveal his real allegiances by dying to protect Harry.  I also predicted Horcrux!Harry.  My niece was very against that idea because she thought that meant he would have to die, as did I.  SInce he did, but then lived again, we counted that one as a draw.  Also in my crystal ball were the death of a Weasley (though I predicted Percy), Regulus Black as R.A.B. and the locket mentioned off-handedly in Order of the Phoenix being the horcrux missing from the basin, and Hero!Neville (though I predicted that he'd be the one to off Bella).  All in all, I did pretty well, but there were still many surprises, including some very unpleasant ones.  Did any of you make predictions about the outcome?  What were they, if you did, and how close did you come?  OK then, on with the show!

Chapter One: The Dark Lord Ascending

Had I not been so throughly convinced that Severus was still on the Order's side, this chapter would have certainly made things look very black against him.  We see him here for the first time among the Death Eaters, and, presumably due to his accomplishing the death of Albus Dumbledore, in a position of power and trust with Voldemort.  In keeping with the tradition of medieval kings, Severus takes his place to the immediate right of the Dark Lord; Yaxley must go lower.  The news he brings certainly seems traitorous.  And he is quite calm in the face of Voldemort's 'fierce' Legilimency.  

There's been a lot of fandom speculation about how this works.  What we saw of it in OotP leads me to believe that it (Legilimency) is all about memories.  When Snape breaks through into Harry's head (and when Harry breaks through into Severus's), that's what we 'see', particularly memories of the unpleasant things they'd have rather forgotten.  So, is Occlumency the ability to direct a Legilimen's search without them being aware of it?  The ability to alter memories without the tell-tale traces that alteration has taken place?  To fabricate memories completely?  But if that is the case, why would Voldemort need to ask who the source was?  Wouldn't he have seen it in the 'memory'  he believes he's taken?  So it looks here as if he believes he is discerning truth from lie, and there are other instances in the various books where Snape, Voldemort or Dumbledore seem to be using Legilimency as a substitute for veritaserum.   Is this inconsistent or am I reading too much into this (has been known to happen ::g::)?  What do you think?  In any case, it is a powerful demonstration of Severus's abilities as an Occlumens, since he satisfies the world's most skillful Legilimens in 'a moment or two'.  I also wonder who the mysterious 'source' is supposed to be, since we never hear of them again.

Next we hear of Pius Thickness' (great Dickensian name!) corruption by Imperious and we get a look at the court intrigue just barely under the surface as well:  Yaxley's resentment of Severus's position, Lucius's disgrace, the palpable fear among the followers even as they rejoice at the Malfoys brought low.  Notice how both Draco and Lucius look to Narcissa for guidance as Voldemort twists the knife?  It's the first hint we have that Narcissa is made of something stronger than she looks to be.

It's interesting that Voldemort chooses Lucius's wand to substitute for his own for the mission to intercept Harry's transfer from Little Whinging - not as an honor, but with the devastating ' I see no reason for you to have a wand anymore.'  With that comment, he strips from Lucius his status as a wizard.  This is not a temporary borrowing, but a permanent change.   With no wand, Lucius Malfoy is reduced, in essence, to the status of squib and will have to depend on Narcissa and Draco for any magic he might need to do, and for magical defense.   That's quite a bed to have to lie in.  The only one seemingly more beneath his contempt is the even more debased part of the Black family tree that had the indecency to mate (in his view) with a beast.  It almost seems as if we are supposed to feel sorry for the Malfoys.  Does anyone else get that sense?  Upon first reading, I probably did, a bit.   But now, especially when I contrast their fate with Severus's, I feel as contemptuous as Voldemort.  They deserve a little bit of suffering for their poor choices, methinks. 

And now we come to the prisoner we saw dangling over the table when first we entered the room.  It's a tradition in every book to meet a new professor, and though we assume that Charity Burbage is not new to Hogwarts, she is new to us.  She is, we discover, the Muggle Studies teacher.  She has been brought to Malfoy Manor to be executed for the crime of teaching the heresy that Muggles aren't that different from wizards and, even worse, advocating that wizards should interbreed with them and fully accept Muggleborns as magical.  She recognizes Severus at the table and pleads repeatedly for his help.  We are told:  'Snape looked back at her, quite impassive, as she turned slowly away from him again.'  From this, we are meant to infer that he is in complete agreement with her fate.  One cannot know what Severus thought of her as a colleague, since we never see them interact at Hogwarts, or what sort of relationship, if any, they had with one another.  But the first thing I noticed about this is the lack of contempt upon his face.  No sneer, no display of hatred, just impassivity.  Since he can't save her without dooming himself, what is going on in his head?  There is a lovely little fanfic piece of 'missing canon' which was written by mountainmoira  which has a very comforting answer to this question.  It's called The Measure of Mercy, and if you've not had the pleasure of reading it,  go ahead and treat yourself to it now.  It's short, but very intense and satisfying.

The chapter ends with Charity's death and the disgusting image of Voldemort releasing Nagini to eat her corpse, and we are left to contemplate the horrors to come under the Dark Lord's rule.  I think this opening chapter sets us up pretty well for the dark tone of the rest of the book and lays the groundwork for the next several chapters.  What do you think?

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
accioslash
Jul. 10th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'll be interested to read your thoughts. True confession time, I never read DH. Well, not from beginning to end. I read the famed 'carpet book' as it was released, but that was not released in order and what I recall most is this first chapter, The Prince's Tale and the epilogue.

When I first started reading the HP series, for some inexplicable reason I felt they were actually a series of mysteries and that if I just knew which clues to look for in previous books, I would be able to predict what happened in the final books. I know (or at least knew) canon in excruciating detail for the earlier books. The last one? No.

At this time in 2007 I was in Toronto, Canada at a HP con with a number of other Potter fen and we were dealing with the fallout of Strikethrough at LJ and the impact of DH on our favorite ships.

I thought your predictions were quite fun. I used to love HP theories. Interestingly enough despite painstakingly gathered "evidence", only one of my theories turned out to be correct. I knew SWM had to do with Lily instead of James and I suspected that Snape loved Lily. Though I had thought Snape loved her in the same way Harry loved Hermione - as a best friend. I actually thought that the person JKR alluded to in her interviews that loved Lily was actually Peter. I felt it was the only reasonable explanation for him to join Voldemort. Alas.

I really wish we knew more about both Occlumency and Legilimency works. It really does seem to be based on memories. "It is true, however, that those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain conditions, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly. The Dark Lord, for instance, almost always knows when somebody is lying to him. Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and to utter falsehoods in his presence without detection." I can't even imagine the level of control necessary to contradict so many memories and create a false one.

As for Charity Burbage, well, as terrible as this sounds, I really would have preferred it to be someone we already 'knew' without having actually met them. I know there was speculation in the early spoilers that the professor was McGonagall. Perhaps having come to the chapter with that in mind seeing it was someone we both didn't know/know about made it a much less powerful scene. I think we were supposed to believe until the very end that Snape was evil and it would have been more believable to me had it been someone else. I think, too, an important death like McGonagall (or Tonks) in the first chapter would have set the stage of the book in the way JKR kept telling us in interviews that no one would be exempt from potential death in this book.

Edited at 2011-07-10 08:31 pm (UTC)
therealsnape
Jul. 10th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
I think, too, an important death like McGonagall (or Tonks) in the first chapter would have set the stage of the book in the way JKR kept telling us in interviews that no one would be exempt from potential death in this book. I can quite see what you mean, and in theory I fully agree. But in practice ... I'm so very glad it wasn't McGonagall. It's bad enough that we ardent lovers of the Old Ladies in Canon lost dear Amelia Bones ...
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albalark
Jul. 12th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
True confession time, I never read DH. I don't think you are alone, there. I know a lot of people who just skimmed it and only read the 'juicy' parts or who skipped it altogether and just relied on others' reports of what it contained. I really do think that this book could have been more 'tightly' written and JKR might have benefited from editors willing to wield the whips and chains, rather than ones who seemingly patted her on the head and said 'it's all good, now go make us some money!'

At this time in 2007 I was in Toronto, Canada at a HP con with a number of other Potter fen and we were dealing with the fallout of Strikethrough at LJ and the impact of DH on our favorite ships. I knew nothing then about LJ or online fandom, nor did I have any idea that there was a whole community of fan fiction writers out there. Didn't even know what a 'ship' was other than a conveyance which floats on water. :-) What was 'Strikethrough'?

I knew SWM had to do with Lily instead of James and I suspected that Snape loved Lily. Though I had thought Snape loved her in the same way Harry loved Hermione - as a best friend. I actually thought that the person JKR alluded to in her interviews that loved Lily was actually Peter. I felt it was the only reasonable explanation for him to join Voldemort. Alas. I have looked over and over at the Pensieve scene in OotP, and I don't ever get the sense that there was anything at all between the two of them - there's no indication that Lily knew Severus as anything other than the object of the Marauders' tormenting and while I thought that maybe Severus was hiding an (unrequited) crush on Lily, it certainly didn't seem anything significant - just another tick mark on the 'why I hate James Potter and Sirius Black' list. So it was out of the blue to me that she was the love of Severus's life. Just why Peter should have joined Voldemort and betrayed his friends has never been adequately explained, from my POV. I never bought the 'I did it out of fear' explanation he offered in POA. You don't do the sorts of things he did because you're afraid of being killed. And, of course, everyone conveniently forgets that he was a Gryffindor when the whole Voldemort mess gets laid at the feet of the Slytherins.

I can't even imagine the level of control necessary to contradict so many memories and create a false one. Thanks for finding that detailed quote! I'm not even certain how it could be possible to do, since the human brain doesn't work in a linear fashion when storing memories, and things which have nothing to do with an incident in question can make a memory resurface. I'm betting even JKR herself doesn't have a really good explanation, and I need to stop being so pedantic. :-)

As for Charity Burbage, well, as terrible as this sounds, I really would have preferred it to be someone we already 'knew' without having actually met them. I agree with you 100% - I always thought it was something of a cheap shot (and definitely lessened the emotional impact of her murder) to chose a new and unknown character as the sacrificial lamb. She was like the 'red-shirt guy' on Star Trek: yeah, it was sad he died but we weren't emotionally invested in him so as long as it wasn't one of the regulars, that's OK.
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therealsnape
Jul. 10th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
When DH came out, Lord S. and I decided to go to the midnight-sales in our bookshop. Not that we were going to dress up or anything, even though they gave prizes for the best outfit. We felt we were crazy, adults doing this, but we also felt it was the only time in our lives we'd see madness on this scale, and we wanted to be a part of it.

I wasn't in any online fandom then, so little did I know that five years later I would leave for a 3-day conference in the UK with people of whose existence I was unaware, and heartily envied by other dear friends I didn't know then either. I didn't even know I had a great-niece ...

Anyhow, to the bookshop we went, and true to form it rained in the Lowlands. Lord S. donned his black raincoat. Did I mention it was dress-up? As soon as we set foot inside, an engaging child dressed as Harry asked Lord S. whether he was dressed up like Snape, "You're really cool, Sir!"

We took the book home, and Lord S. had to leave 48 hrs later for a several-day business trip. Never have I waved him goodbye so cheerfully, for from that moment on the Book Was Mine!
albalark
Jul. 12th, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
I wasn't in any online fandom then, so little did I know that five years later I would leave for a 3-day conference in the UK with people of whose existence I was unaware, and heartily envied by other dear friends I didn't know then either. I didn't even know I had a great-niece ... Funny how that worked out, huh? ::hugs:: BTW, the envy will be greatly assuaged by a steady stream of reports and pictures. :-) And your great-niece sends her regards :-*

We felt we were crazy, adults doing this, but we also felt it was the only time in our lives we'd see madness on this scale, and we wanted to be a part of it. Oh, I know what you mean! ::g:: I'm glad I had my niece to share it with - it's a lovely memory for the two of us.

an engaging child dressed as Harry asked Lord S. whether he was dressed up like Snape, "You're really cool, Sir!" I have a picture in my mind's eye of Lord S. wearing the sort of grin that would never have been seen on Severus Snape's face at that!

Never have I waved him goodbye so cheerfully, for from that moment on the Book Was Mine! LOL!
lash_larue
Jul. 10th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
We went to the midnight thing at Barnes and Noble. Surprisingly, we were not the oldest ones there.

I predicted Snape, and the reasons for it, but thought the scar as horcrux was a bit hokey for some reason. Got R.A.B. and the locket.

I was never able to take Tom seriously as a villain because of the transparent bullcrap of his stance on "purebloodedness". Villian please, you're as much a mutt as anybody in the story, and your mama dressed you funny.

I don't believe that I have thought about the books as much as you have, but that would kind of follow naturally, since I tend not to think any more than I can help.

The epilog didn't bother me, I ignore whatever of it I don't like and carry on perverting her characters. But I buy all the books, movies, and whatnot because I think she deserves to be rich.

Better her than Donald Trump or Rupert Murdoch.
L
lash_larue
Jul. 10th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
PS:

We always bought at least two books...
L
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squibstress
Jul. 11th, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
Mr. Squib and I sent the kids away for the weekend, bought two copies and read straight through. We took breaks to eat, use the loo, ect. and discuss what we had read.

Agree w/accioslash that it might have been more effective had it been a more important character to have become snake food in the first bit (but glad it wasn't McG, of course, for my own selfish purposes.)

Like lash, the epilogue was a big "meh" for me. Once mouldy Voldy went down and we knew who had survived and who hadn't, I didn't care one way or the other which teenager ended up with which other teenager, although I did like that one of the next-gen Potterspawn was called "Albus Severus".

Mr. Squib and I made a heap o' predictions before both HBP and DH, and I must say we were remarkably prescient. We knew: 1)Snape loved Lily (I had predicted it would come out that he was there the night Voldy murdered her, so no House points for that); 2) That Snape would die (sniff); 2) That Harry was the final Horcrux; 3) That Dumbles was a goner. 4) That one of the Weasley twins wouldn't make it.

Wrong predictions included Hagrid biting the dust and that Neville would somehow be mixed up in the prophecy more than he was (thought all the "the other" nonsense pointed to it.) Come to think of it, it would have been way cool if JKR had actually had it be Neville all along who was the Saviour of the Wizarding World. Then again, I'm a sucker for Neville...

And at some point before Pottermore brings the whole thing crashing down, can we just discuss those "missing canon" moment, a la the Severus/Charity moment you mentioned (and thanks for the fic rec--will check that one out.)
albalark
Jul. 13th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
Mr. Squib and I sent the kids away for the weekend, bought two copies and read straight through Wow, what fun! I had to read in fits and starts so it took me a few days to finish.

I think accioslash has the right of it, but I definitely am glad it wasn't Minerva. As I said to her, McG was a much closer colleague (as were the other heads of house) and I can't help but think that it would have been utterly devastating to him had it been one of them.

So, what made you think that Severus loved Lily? I searched the earlier books for clues, but never found anything which said 'epic love' to me. :-P JKR had said enough times that Dumbledore was gone for good ("Not doing a Gandalf" is how I remember her phrasing it) that I believed her, so neither Poodles nor I ever considered that he might not be - it was taken as given.

And at some point before Pottermore brings the whole thing crashing down, can we just discuss those "missing canon" moment I am afraid I am not going to consider any backstory given characters on Pottermore to be canon - that's reserved for what's actually in the books. If it ain't there, it ain't canon. That's a pretty hard-core attitude, I know, but JKR has pissed me off one too many times with her contradictory pronouncements concerning Snape that I've just stopped paying attention any of that anymore. It's just her (selfish, IMHO) attempt to control the direction of the story after the fact. If she writes and publishes another HP story, that's another kettle of fish. :-)


Edited at 2011-07-13 01:44 am (UTC)
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shyfoxling
Jul. 11th, 2011 08:12 am (UTC)
what were you doing in the summer Deathly Hallows was released?

I was not what you'd call a fannish fan at that time, just a casual one. I was eager for the book to come out and snapped it up when I got a message from the then-cataloger at the library I work in that it was ready to check out if anyone was interested. I had heard already about Certain Chapters (The Elder Wand, The Prince's Tale) and I actually started there. Then I had to find out what happened after, and read to the end. Then I had to find out how we got there, and read from the beginning about halfway through before I went to sleep. But though I was a fan of Severus Snape before this point, I wasn't what you'd call "hardcore"; I had never looked at fanfic or fan journals online, that kind of thing. (Actually, earlier that year I had been dipping a toe into LotR fic and slashfic, and still being squicked by teh buttsecks and having to skim over it. lol.) But DH gave me a "conversion experience" and I fell in love with Severus and haven't really looked back.
shyfoxling
Jul. 11th, 2011 08:15 am (UTC)
P.S. I had been reading the books since 2001 - I read the first four (which is what was out at the time) just before the first film was released, because I figured I ought to before seeing the film, to see what all the fuss was about. So that kind of tells you how long I didn't check out anything in fandom. I think I knew peripherally that it must have been there, because I was vaguely familiar with SF fandom in general and had been to a couple cons (tho I don't remember seeing any Potter cosplayers at the couple BayCons I went to ca. 2002-2003), but somehow it never registered on my radar as something I would care about.
albalark
Jul. 13th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
But though I was a fan of Severus Snape before this point, I wasn't what you'd call "hardcore"; I had never looked at fanfic or fan journals online, that kind of thing. (Actually, earlier that year I had been dipping a toe into LotR fic and slashfic, and still being squicked by teh buttsecks and having to skim over it. lol.) But DH gave me a "conversion experience" and I fell in love with Severus and haven't really looked back.

I know what you mean . . . I had no idea that LJ or any of the fanfic ships existed; I didn't discover any of these riches until a couple of years ago and I'm still catching up on all the good things I missed! It's still kind of a shock to me how un-squicked I was at all the gay ships for Severus and the rather explicit descriptions of the fun he was having. ::g:: I guess, I felt he deserved all the love he could get, no matter the source. As long as they did right by him, I didn't care. Merlin, I'm such a schmoop. XD
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albalark
Jul. 13th, 2011 02:18 am (UTC)
I also remember that I had vague fears that the death be McG, and I was torn whether the fact that Rowling treated her so marginally meant that she wouldn't be meaningful enough to be killed off, or whether she'd be an expendable member of the cast. My own feeling was that the heads of house were all too important to the story if she intended to have things carry on - who would be left to pick up the pieces and start Hogwarts up again? I knew Severus would die: he's the anti-hero and the anti-hero is always doomed, but I was sure the heads would make it.

once the Quest had started, there were long stretches where I had trouble keeping my eye on the page. I am not ashamed to say I skimmed through the Camping Trip From Hell. It took me awhile to figure out why it seemed so wrong so so much of the story. We were missing an essential character: Hogwarts. It just lost something by being set elsewhere for most of the story. Plus JRK could have used some editors willing to crack the whip about tightening up the narrative instead of letting her (and her characters) wander in the wilderness for so long.

I had a distinct suspicion that Rowling would simply end the book after her hero successfully kills the villain (thereby keeping alive the myth that eliminating the bad guy is sufficient to reestablish peace, bugger reconciliation), and this definitely alienated me from the book -- the whole master narrative of the series, actually. I kept having to tell myself that, in spite of her ambitions to the contrary, her publishers still consider(ed) this to be a work of *children'* literature. Now the best of children's literature challenges those conventions, but this was a mass market sort of work following the typical hero story arc and already too long by the conventional wisdom, and I really got the feeling that after all of these books, JKR was just *done* with this and ready to put it behind her. She could be superficial and still sell oodles of books, even if she disappointed the adult fans who were expecting something more. In some ways I wish the books hadn't been such a phenomenon (i.e., well received but not frenzied over), as we might have gotten a better story out the deal. She could have taken her time and really explored beyond the boundaries of the conventional. But, since she didn't, there's always fanfic! :-)

although I still gnash my teeth at the fact that he did what he did not for political reasons but for a boyhood crush on a pure, ethereal, unreachable goddess-figure, and that he adds yet another bit of testosterone to the master narrative). I'll write more of this when we get to The Prince's Tale, but I was really stunned at the reason JKR gave him for his change of direction (though we don't *really* know what sent him to Voldemort in the first place, though we can guess at it). I don't mind that he did it for love, but I would have liked it to be less simple than that. Lily is also JKR's 'Mary Sue' to a great extent, so there are other reasons for this, I believe.
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