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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

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 ...
accioslash
Jul. 10th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
Heh, well, I'm not much of a McGonagall fan, but I just recall some of the speculation at the time was that it was her and I really liked the in your face attitude that no one was safe by it being someone 'important' right from the get-go. Though, truly, my apologies to anyone who is a fan. I was thinking more in terms of drama than that the loss would have been significant to other fans.
therealsnape
Jul. 10th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC)
No offense taken. I quite see what you mean in terms of the speculation, and you're right from a literary point of view. But McG is in about every fanfic I've written, so my first reaction was rather along the lines of 'Merlin, JKR could have done that, indeed!' What would I have written about?
accioslash
Jul. 10th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
Heh. Idk. Snape's apparent death hasn't seemed to stop fic being written about him. I'm sure you would have thought of some way to work around it. Actually, I think I'd very much like to read something like that.
albalark
Jul. 12th, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
Snape's apparent death hasn't seemed to stop fic being written about him. I think the 'apparent' is the key. There's no doubt that Charity Burbage is snake food, where as Snape just gets left seemingly lifeless on the floor of the Shrieking Shack with no word of what becomes of him or his body afterwards. Lots of room left there for speculation. :-)

I've loved this whole discussion - it's exactly what I had hoped would happen when I got the idea to do this. <3
therealsnape
Jul. 12th, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
Lots of room left there for speculation. :-)
Exactly *points at icon* Can't see Charity being regurgitated or something ...
albalark
Jul. 12th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
Why, you would have written Auntie Muriel fic instead! XD Seriously, I'm glad it wasn't Minerva. Severus was much closer to his fellow Heads of House than to the other staff, and I just can't imagine what it would have done to him to have to watch McGonagall die that way.
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.
albalark
Jul. 12th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
I actually thought that the person JKR alluded to in her interviews that loved Lily was actually Peter. Oh, and I forgot to say that Rowling always made me see red when she talked about Snape in her many contradictory interviews, so I stopped reading them and never took anything I'd heard she'd said in them seriously. Which is why this is the first time that I've heard that she let that little detail drop. :-P Maybe if I had been paying attention, then the long-lost-love motivation wouldn't have come as such as a shock.