"This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round that some of us are some day going to come to life." -- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Harry Potter Theory: Okay, fair warning. Spoilers follow. If you've never read Half-Blood Prince, but you intend to... then stop here.

Otherwise, here we go.

Many of you have come across the site, DumbledoreIsNotDead.com. If you're clinging to the hope that J.K. Rowling hasn't really killed off one of her most endearing non-Harry characters, then you'll find hope at DumbledoreIsNotDead.com.

Some background: Long before the release of Half-Blood Prince I had come across a post on J.K Rowling's official web site that led me to believe Dumbledore was destined to die (or appear to die) and later return. In an answer to an "F.A.Q. Poll" Rowling writes:

"...as many of you have deduced, Dumbledore's Patronus is indeed a phoenix."

At that point, I decided Dumbledore's character, his very identity, was so entangled with the phoenix symbol that Rowling must intend to kill him off and then bring him back. (Also consider the title, Order of the Phoenix: Just as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince can be read as Harry Potter and Snape, I think you can read the former as the Order of Dumbledore. It's his order, he's the "Phoenix.")

So from the moment in Book 6 when Dumbledore began throwing down helpings of potion, I began preparing for an Albus death scene. Sure enough, in reasonably short order (no pun intended) Rowling took care of that sad business.

So... to my theory. DumbledoreIsNotDead.com includes a section titled, "The Flying Avada Kedavra." Dave Haber, the author of that site, notes that, in other instances in which Avada Kedavra is used in the HP canon, the victim immediately slumps or falls to the ground--and is dead before hitting the turf. In Dumbledore's case, however, Snape's spell blasts him into the air and back over the castle's battlements. Haber finds this suspicious, and so do I. As Haber points out, either Snape did not "mean" his unforgiveable curse (check Bellatrix's explanation of unforgiveable curses at the end of Order of the Phoenix), or he was thinking a different spell than he seemed to be verbally casting.

The purpose of my post today is to add to Haber's theory. I've found a precedent for Snape saying one spell while casting another. In fact, this precedent is so perfect, I actually think I'm on to something.

In Chamber of Secrets, Snape and Lockhart put on a duel for the students. When Snape casts the Expelliarmus spell at Lockhart--a spell that should only cause the victim's wand to fly out of his hand--Lockhart is shot up and backwards. Sound familiar?

From the context of this scene, we know that Snape appears to be furious with Lockhart. Seeing the look on Snape's face before the mock duel, Harry thinks that, if he were in Lockhart's shoes, he'd run. I think Harry's Spidey senses were on target. Snape was pissed. And so I'm guessing that Snape ostensibly used Expelliarmus, but nonverbally cast something with a bit more power to rough up Lockhart.

And thus, I think, we have an important precedent for Dave Haber's theory that Snape was thinking something other than Avada Kedavra when he sent Dumbledore flying off the castle.

On the other hand, maybe Rowling simply thought Dumbledore's death deserved more drama than did the average bear's. And who could blame her?

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