…And Other Failed Theories
The first of these theories was at one time widely popular among younger fans during the 3-year summer. It was completely exploded by OotP and Rowling’s World Book Day interview in March 2004. I refer to the “Seventh Son” theory, much beloved by certain friends of Ron Weasley.
Ladies, and gentlemen, a moment of silence if you will, JK Rowling clearly never intended to go there.
The theory hinges upon the premise that Arthur and Molly Weasley had lost a child at some point before we met them, and that Ron is not their sixth son, but their seventh. And that, in fact, Arthur himself was a 7th son, making Ron the 7th son of a 7th son. And, consequently; a “true seer”. The long debate over the probable ages of the two eldest Weasley sons, postulating anything up to a 14 year gap between Charlie and Percy contributed mightily to this theory.
Related to the pursuit of this hypothesis — which I have to admit that I never seriously entertained, I thought we had been handed the suggestion of a different rather distressing possible backstory regarding the Weasley family. This one seemed at first just a little more likely. And in fact was never altogether contradicted. (Probably due to its complete irrelevance.)
Early in the first book, Draco Malfoy makes a slur about always being able to recognize the Weasleys by their shabbiness, their red hair and their overly-large families. Draco Malfoy is only eleven at that point and there is no indication that he had ever met any of the Weasleys before. He got that statement from somewhere, and it is no stretch at all to assume that he is simply parroting his father. This constitutes an indication of at least some kind of shared history between Arthur and Lucius, a full year before the fistfight in CoS.
Yet Harry has spent a part of almost every summer since then with the Weasleys and has never met any other Weasley apart from Molly and Arthur themselves, and their own seven children. What’s more, up to the end of HBP there was scant mention of any aunts or uncles, and even those few mentions of relatives that we did get from Ron are startlingly few and far between. Particularly since Ron talks about his immediate family endlessly. This seems distinctly odd, certainly if the Weasleys really are that numerous.
And it gradually sinks in that nearly all of his comments regarding members of the older generation seem to be about people who are dead. One begins to wonder whether Arthur might be much the same kind of “sole survivor” that Harry is. Either that or the rest of the Weasley clan have all immigrated to Australia.
I ended up beginning to think that the Weasley clan may be one of the ones which took heavy casualties during Voldemort’s first rise, and that it was his own childhood’s large family that Arthur was trying to recreate. I suspected that he and Molly quite deliberately chose to start their family as soon as the knot was tied. And that their current family size is in some ways in the nature of a memorial.
Unless he and Molly simply kept trying for a girl.
I also originally thought that one of the reasons that Arthur’s family might have been targeted so heavily is that they are known to be connected to Albus Dumbledore. And not just in a philosophical or political context. I suspected that there might be a family connection in there somewhere as well.
Given the fact that both Arthur and Albus seem to be staunch upholders of the concept of meritocracy, neither of them would be likely to trade upon any such connection, if any such existed. And the kids may not even know about it. I postulated that the connection was at least four generations back from Arthur.
But you notice that, now that their family is all but grown, Molly and Arthur were two of the very first people that Albus turned to when it is known that Voldemort was back. This despite the fact that we were told outright in OotP that they were not members of the Order during the previous conflict, and are otherwise untried. (In retrospect, this bit of deliberate recruitment to the Order is most likely to be due to the Weasley’s connection, not to Albus Dumbledore, but to Harry Potter.)
In addition, the degree, even if not the type of eccentricity displayed by both Albus and Arthur, as well as physical descriptions of the younger Dumbledore when compared to that of various young Weasleys, was just too suggestive of a family connection for me to ignore. And if this was the case, from Voldemort’s point of view, what would you expect to be his answer to any bloodline which has produced the likes of an Albus Dumbledore?
I would have said that either 1. Arthur’s great-great grandfather was Aberforth Dumbledore (unlikely, and now completely eliminated as a viable hypothesis. We’ve met Aberforth Dumbledore, even if he didn’t introduce himself, and, moreover, Rowling has since moved Albus’s birthdate forward a good 40 years). Or, perhaps, 2. The Dumbledore brothers’ mother was a Weasley — which we now know she wasn’t. Or even, 3. There was a Dumbledore sister who married into the Weasley clan. In any event, I thought the connection, if any, was some generations back, and Arthur doesn’t refer to the matter. After all, just about all pureblood wizards are related to each other anyway.
I was thumping this particular drum on various lists for a couple of years during the 3-year summer. But once I got a clearer idea of just how important Albus Dumbledore allegedly was to the British wizarding world, I realized that I would be very surprised if Rowling did decide to pull a relationship between Albus and Arthur out of her hat. That kind of prominence does tend to slop over onto known family members, and for all his popularity with his co-workers, Arthur does not fit the profile of being Albus Dumbledore’s acknowledged great-grand nephew. (Aberforth, at the Hog’s Head now seemed almost certainly not to be known to be the Headmaster’s brother. Or not to the general run of the pub’s clientele.)
And, moreover, I could no longer see that it would really matter, in the long run. Such a relationship is not necessary to the story, and it changes nothing regarding the certainty that, in the final accounting, everything’s all going to come down to Harry vs. Voldemort. The scant possibility remained, but it had become totally irrelevant.
And with the release of DHs it is clear that Rowling had other plans for the Dumbledore family entirely.
• • • •
Over a number of years, I’ve done a good deal of thinking regarding fan theories. The best ones tend to be fairly simple, really. Not obvious perhaps, but simple. They don’t require that characters behave counter to their established personality or temperament, as observed or reported in the books. They don’t necessarily require that if an action probably took place at some point, then it must have been performed by a character we have already met. And they certainly don’t require that just because magic is capable of producing a result, that it necessarily did produce that result.
A “good” theory doesn’t have to turn out to be right, either, although that is certainly a bonus, But a theory should be internally plausible, not just dramatic. And you shouldn’t need to have to “move furniture” in order to fit it into canon.
And to be a really good theory, it needs to be based on something that is already there. Any number of my own theories probably end up not qualifying as “good” theories by the end of the day.
• • • •
For example: prior to the release of OotP some of the most widely circulated theories in fandom were MemoryChamed!Neville, DarkLord!Grindelwald, VoldemortSuspects!Snape, and Snape-loved-Lily. All of these were fairly obvious theories. Any reader could have drawn these conclusions, even in the face of a total lack of evidence or canon support for any of them (which at that point was, in fact, the case). Some of them are also fairly simple. These days, the first and the third of these are just as obviously wrong.
I’ve gone into some detail exploding the VoldemortSuspects!Snape theory in the essay entitled ‘Double-00 Sevie’, and canon seems to bear me out. And I will also say flat out that I’ve never agreed with the theory of DarkLord!Grindelwald, and still do not believe it, even in the face of Rowling’s endorsing of it. Her explanation, like so many of her explanations in that final book, does not hold up to any kind of even casual examination.
At one point, Snape-loved-Lily looked like it was probably going to go out without a whimper, too. By the time I got to the end of OotP I’d have been amazed if Rowling ever gave us one word on the subject of young Severus Snape’s interactions with Miss Lily Evans between that point and the end of Book 7.
And I certainly no longer believed the typical fanon iteration of it, that of Snape’s actions having been based on an unrequited teenaged crush. That was just too obvious. That had gone stale. And it was no longer necessary to the backstory. Fanon Snape might still require it. But the one in canon certainly didn’t.
Well, it quickly appeared that I was at least partially wrong about that. Once Slughorn spent the whole following book tacitly throwing Snape and Lily into proximity it was clear that something related to that issue was going to be deployed. But I did turn out to be at least somewhat correct insofar as I was convinced that whatever the connection was, it would turn out to be something more significant than a case of unrequited teen lurve.
With MemoryCharmed!Neville we have a theory that from where I was standing never really did fly. The whole premise that Neville might “know something” regarding Lord Voldemort which he had overheard as a toddler and had erased from his memory after the attack on his parents, made no sense. Just because forgetfulness can be induced magically does not mean that every instance of it necessarily has to have been induced magically. And for Neville to have been over-enthusiastically Memory Charmed as a toddler served no useful purpose to anyone. The DEs who tortured his parents were all caught, almost immediately. There’s never been any question of who they were. Memory charming Neville did not keep them from being identified. Voldemort had been attempting to return since Book 1, and had moved about considerably, so any knowledge of where he might have been hiding ten years earlier was irrelevant to the story as it was being told now. Frank and Alice Longbottom — or for that matter, the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr — were all unlikely to have had any unique information concerning Voldemort for Neville to have learned.
For the purposes of the plot, Memory Charming a 2-year-old Neville Longbottom was useless. Utterly useless. There was no real *bang* there. What the reader needed at that point was a reason to know just why Neville was significant to the story. Because it was obvious to all of us that he was significant. We just couldn’t see exactly how. Well, we’ve been given much better reasons to think so than that old lame-arsed effort by this time.
• • • •
I’d say that if there was anyone in the series who was acting as if he had been dragged offstage and Memory Charmed without our knowledge, it was not Neville. It was Montegue. And, post-HBP, even he seems to have merely been keeping the information regarding his experiences to himself, at least until the end of the year when he shared it with the rest of the Slytherins.
Leaving us with Gilderoy Lockhart, Ginny, Bertha Jorkins, the Robinson family, and Marietta Edgecombe, most of whom got their memories tampered with on stage in full view of the reader. And in the past, we can add Morfin Gaunt and, probably, Hokey.
The late, still rather lamented, “seventh son” theory was based upon a reading that Ron is in fact the seventh son of a seventh son and really is (unbeknownst to even himself) a true Seer. And such a reading has been proved to be faulty. As to Ron’s being a seer; in books 2–4 there were only the mildest of hints that this could be the case, and one would have expected that if Ron really did have the “gift” it would have displayed itself a bit more clearly to the reader by the end of GoF.
And in any case; the real issue isn’t that Ron is a seer. It is that Ron is capable of making leaps of intuition. As Hermione, frankly, is not.
And then Rowling pretty well shot the whole possibility out of the water in her March 2004 World Book Day interview in which she stated quite clearly that Arthur had been one of only three brothers. With no sisters. Ginny is the first female Weasley to be born in generations.
She followed up on this in the joint interview of 2006, I believe, in which she came out and said that Ginny’s magic is strong since she is a 7th child. Try; “Ron is the 6th son of a 3rd son”. Nope. No “bang” there.
If Rowling had ever had any intention of going there, we ought to have got a clearer indication of it in the course of the series well before Book 5. And we didn’t.
• • • •
On the other hand, until all of the Weasley relatives crawled out of the woodwork for the wedding, my original suspicion that we may indeed have a “sole survivor” in the Weasley household looked like actually panning out. Possibly even a pair of them.
It seemed as though one of Arthur’s two brothers was clearly “Uncle-Billius-who-saw-the-Grim”, and died of it. And we have no information whether his other brother was still alive or not. (ETA: like Sirius Black, Ron appears to have fallen into the habit of referring to all uncles, great-uncles, and great-grand-uncles and aunts merely as uncles and aunts. Billius was a great-uncle.)
And Molly’s maiden name was Prewett, just like the two brothers; Gideon and Fabian who “fought like heroes” to the point that it took more than five DEs to kill them. Arthur’s statement regarding the horror of coming home to find the Dark mark floating over your house is almost certainly related to this event.
I thought that in that last piece of information we may have been given a clue as to why Molly, who so clearly wanted that large family, and who had so carefully spaced her children about 2-3 years apart should have suddenly decided to try for a 7th child a scant few months after she had delivered her 6th.
Gideon and Fabian Prewett were members of the Order of the Phoenix when they were killed; and at that point I firmly believed the Order of the Phoenix was probably only founded after Trelawney made her Prophesy at some time between Halloween of 1979 and early 1980.
Ron was born on the first of March, 1980. And Ron’s name already commemorates Uncle Billius who saw the Grim. I suspect that Gideon and Fabian Prewett were killed fairly soon after that, and if Ginny had been another son, as her parents, who with their track record, had every reason to expect, her name would almost certainly have been either Gideon or Fabian. At a guess, Gideon seems the top contender.
Not that this actually matters to anything that’s actually in the story, of course.
• • • •
Which brings me to some of my own “Theories that Didn’t Make It”.
All of the essays in this sub-collection are included primarily for entertainment value, since they are clearly nowhere that Rowling ever intended to go. But I was rather pleased with some of them at the time, and was sorry to see them closed down. The examples in this particular piece are a bit less developed than the ones that I’ve since spun off into essays of their own. And, in fact I’d already abandoned all of these here even before Rowling bothered to shoot them out of the air.
The first is a digression and is pretty feeble. It has to do with the apparent overriding need that the whole story arc seemed to have for Harry to hate Professor Snape. From every angle you look it seems to be grossly in excess of the requirements of dramatic storytelling. The theory itself was never actually exploded, but I’d already gone off it.
It is even more completely counter-indicated by some of the later explorations in the ‘Out on a Limb’ collection of even more blatantly unsupported theories.
Herein I present:
Snape’s Life Debt
Sirius Black is understood to have set Severus Snape up when they were schoolboys. Set him up in a situation which could all-too-easily have gotten him killed. Or at the very least afflicted with a horrible and incurable curse. As a result, Severus Snape ended up alive, and intact and quite possibly owing a wizard’s debt to James Potter. The same kind of life debt that Pettigrew allegedly owes Harry. (ETA: assuming that Albus wasn’t simply lying about the whole thing. In both instances.)
A debt which Snape seems to have failed to repay. In fact, circumstances intervened wherein rather than repaying his debt, Severus Snape ended up compounding it by betraying James Potter to his death. Yes, I do believe that Severus Snape may have felt deep, and utterly sincere remorse when he ultimately discovered that the hypothetical family that his report of the partial Prophecy to Lord Voldemort endangered turned out to be James Potter and his wife. And not necessarily only for Lily’s sake, or for the sake of an innocent child.
Because, Muggle father or no, Severus Snape was wizarding-raised, and he knows that such a debt bears consequences..
Particularly if you default on it.
And he did. He did it unintentionally, but he did.
Severus Snape however grudgingly felt himself to be in James Potter’s debt.
I think that by the laws of magical balance that govern such matters, James’s son may have had the right to collect it.
If he chooses.
And, given the situation that James Potter’s son has been thrust into (and that was thanks to Severus’s actions as well) to give the child the weapon that he needs in order to kill him most effectively, should circumstances demand it, may, in Severus’s, and possibly Albus’s, reckoning, count as a just repayment of this still outstanding debt.
And, if this was the answer, I thought that the matter may not have been unrelated to the argument that Hagrid overheard. Or to Albus’s decision to bring matters to a head by embarking on the adventure of the sea cave. I suspected it was not only Harry who needed that lesson in following orders. Nor was it only Harry who needed to be shown the way. But I knew that I could be misinterpreting the pattern, and, indeed, I rather suspected that I was.
But if I wasn’t, in the end, the final decision was going to be up to Harry. (“Only Potter has the right to decide.”)
• • • •
This next is one that didn’t get shot down until DHs. It was fun, and I’m not sure that some part of it might not have been a part of an original intention, but probably not all of it. The set-up was there, though. And just a bit too well-constructed not to have ever meant something, even though Rowling abandoned it.
Herein I present:
The Redheaded Pimpernel
This one wasn’t altogether my own. I definitely wasn’t the only fan to have explored this particular possibility. I was certainly one of the early adopters, however. The possibility actually looked pretty good.
In fact it still isn’t completely discredited. How did Percy know to contact Aberforth Dumbledore the night the balloon went up, eh? Or for Aberforth to contact him? How did Percy even know who Aberforth Dumbledore was? Percy was never a member of the DA. Nor the Order of the Phoenix. Or was he?
For a long time it seemed possible that after the Crouch debacle, Percy Weasley could have been contacted by Dumbledore, or another member of the Order of the Phoenix currently employed at the Ministry (of which there are several), who asked him if he was willing to make use of the situation. It wasn’t just Voldemort who can engineer a promotion for a useful youngster. At the end of GoF Percy was in the perfect position to go undercover. One loud, semi-public, acrimonious falling-out with his father and moving out of the family home would do it. And those were the exact steps which he had taken by the opening of OotP.
ETA: We are given to understand that it was supposedly no such thing. But, even now it still looks as if there could have been possibilities in that direction.
By that point in the series Dumbledore knew that he needed all the inside information on the Ministry that he could get. And not all of his spies are spying on Voldemort. Even if the DEs in the Ministry looked at Percy’s blood-traitor upbringing and Muggle-born [former?] girlfriend, and decided that he isn’t good recruitment material, he was still now in a position to hear things inside the Ministry that no one would ever tell his father.
But if Percy Weasley had gone undercover, no one but Dumbledore, Percy, and/or Percy’s contact knew it. And we wouldn’t be told about it until the adventure was over. Harry’s raid on the Department of Mysteries didn’t flush all of Voldemort’s supporters in the Ministry out from cover. Or, indeed, anyone other than Walden MacNair. So far as we know, none of the other DEs captured were Ministry employees. The Ministry was still harboring any number of Voldemort’s moles. Dumbledore still needed agents there.
And even at that, after HBP I’d have been inclined to downgrade Percy from the status of spy to that of informer.
The one thing that I did not expect in book 6 was a big sentimental reunion between Percy and his parents. Percy was clearly at the Burrow for Christmas dinner under protest, and was really willing to make amends only to his mother. And his mother was the only member of the family prepared to accept the gesture. Whether or not Percy was working undercover — which was still far from a done-deal — he was unlikely to return to his family at that point. I thought perhaps he would change his name to Weatherby.
And, although his having gone underground wasn’t the most likely hypothesis, so far we had seen nothing in Percy’s behavior which would not be consistent with deliberately distancing himself from his family, for their own as well as his mission’s protection. Even his over-the-top letter to Ron, congratulating him on his Prefect’s appointment, and going on to advise him to distance himself from Harry Potter in the future could be read as a gloriously effective preemptive strike against the chance that those kids would ever voluntarily stick their little noses into anything in which Percy is known to be engaged. Conversely, Percy managed to pass along quite a lot of information in that letter. In a form that would not have raised suspicion against himself had it fallen into the wrong hands.
Although I’ll willingly admit that if we had ever been shown the slightest indication that Percy possesses anything recognizable as a sense of humor I’d have felt a lot more confident about it.
Percy certainly doesn’t share the twins’ variety of humor. But there are other sorts. One could readily imagine a witty!Percy snickering up his sleeve as he composed that letter, milking every phrase for the ultimate payload in insulting pomposity. The fact that we had not been given any indication of a witty!Percy, is the main thing that kept me from buying it. Because I never did quite buy it. Although I did certainly like the idea.
Along those lines, Percy’s obvious glee during the showdown in Dumbledore’s office after Marietta Edgecombe ratted out Dumbledore’s Army can as easily be read as a perfectly consistent Gryffindor reaction to what had to be the most exciting situation he had managed to find himself in since he undertook his mission!
Of course this all feeds directly into the rest of the “Redheaded Pimpernel” theories that used to periodically crop up on some of my lists. Yes, indeed, Weatherby; bore everyone to tears over the regulation thicknesses of cauldron bottoms and other such pettifogging details, and no one will guess that you are a dashing secret agent — until the war is over.
And, as a certain Ms Borrible on Lj pointed out, there is likely to be a lot more behind that showdown in Dumbledore’s office than meets the eye. For one thing. Dumbledore is clearly not a bit surprised by anything that takes place during it. And while Dobby might have been the one to tip Albus off about Umbridge being on the warpath, Dobby was — at the same time — supposedly off warning the DA as soon as he learned of the fact and was most unlikely to also be the one to warn Dumbledore about the impending arrival of Cornelius Fudge and his entourage. Indeed, it is not impossible that it was Dumbledore who may have informed Dobby of the impending train wreck, and told him to alert the kids of their danger.
And who — in Fudge’s office — is most likely to have been in a position to have tipped Albus off about it? Or to have made sure that at least one of the Aurors present would be one of Dumbledore’s own people? It is a bit much to be expected to believe that all of that managed to happen completely by accident, you know.
• • • •
The next bits here have been moved over from the ‘Raiders of the Lost Horcrux’ essay. They hadn’t exactly been exploded when I excised them, but I really didn’t think that Rowling was ever going to go here, and in the face of later possibilities, I didn’t place much credibility in them myself. There are just too many logic holes and variables about the set-up of that cave for anyone to get it right. Although there are some side issues here that I still think might have passed muster.
The Adventure of Regulus Black and the Dark Lord’s Sea Cave
Hypothesis, with alternates:
Okay; the starting point is that Regulus Black already knows Voldemort’s secret. I wasn’t convinced that we would ever be given a satisfactory explanation for that, but let that pass. He knew the secret. That much is stated too unequivocally in canon for any other interpretation.
At least, he knew the secret insofar as he knew that Voldemort had made one Horcrux. He probably never realized there were more of them.
If Regulus already had the authority to get into the cave, he could have discovered the Horcrux at any point. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of monitoring to let Voldemort know when someone manages to get into the cave. We didn’t know whether Reggie made more than one visit before he managed to get the Horcrux out of the basin, either. If Harry and Dumbledore hadn’t touched the water, the Inferi might have ignored the boat passing overhead on their return trip as well.
For that matter, seeing that faint green glow when he was sent there to fetch a bunch of Inferi on Voldemort’s orders might have made Reggie curious enough to have made a point of bringing a broom along on a later, unauthorized trip, and flown to the island. (For that matter, wouldn’t flying into the antechamber at low tide be more comfortable than swimming?)
We now take another leap of illogic and assume that — despite the fact that due to the potion’s apparent opacity, there is no outward sign that anything is hidden in the basin — he realized that whatever was concealed in that basin was likely to be extremely valuable to their Leader, and he was determined to discover what it was. After all; quite a number of Riddle’s followers are the kind of people who are likely to be very interested in finding out something that might give them some degree of power over the Dark Lord. Or in discovering his secrets.
Reggie could have gotten to the island, seen the kind of situation he was dealing with, left, and come back another day with a bezoar, perhaps a bottle of clean water and some kind of general antidote. (Would you want to drink water from a lake that’s full of animated corpses? Well? Would you? That’s disgusting.)
For that matter, if he can command the Inferi, he could have ordered one of them to drink the potion. It’s dead. The potion won’t do it any harm. And, after all, dead men tell no tales.
Or, in a totally unpredictable idiot savant move, he could have recalled various childhood Halloween parties and “bobbed” for the Horcrux. And not swallowed any of the potion at all. Dumbledore and Harry couldn’t touch the potion with their hands, but I bet that basin would have let you put your face in it. That’s the kind of solution which is just stupid enough to have worked!
Or, if the resemblance to such fountains in folklore is misleading, and the basin is not self-renewing, he could have drunk it, one gobletfull at a time, over a dozen visits, treating himself with various antidotes between each foray. (Do we know whether a bezoar is good for only one use?) He may even have managed to get a sample of the potion out of the cave before the end of this process to try to produce an antidote. That’s standard 6th year NEWTs work, after all.
Or he could have taken the sample to his “fellow traveler” Snape, asking whether he was familiar with it, or if he can analyze it, devise an antidote, or even reproduce it.
Even if — perhaps especially if — Snape had never encountered anything like this potion before (and this is very likely if Riddle actually put the Horcrux in the sea cave before his first absence from the ww back in the 1940s. That was before Snape was born) this is a project that would have caught his interest. It also might make Snape suspicious of what Reggie Black could be up to.
But, but since it was not connected with any plan of Voldemort’s that he knew about, he kept the information to himself. Or, if he was already Dumbledore’s man, he shares it only with Albus.
He also analyses the Potion and reproduces it. And he may have devised an antidote. He may even have had a batch of the antidote ready for Albus’s use when he returned from the cave with Harry that night. We may find it in his quarters. With instructions for its use after his departure. (Unlikely, I agree.)
• • • •
But frankly I don’t care too much for that theory. Too complex, too many gaps, and too many “what ifs”. But let’s follow the problem a little further, anyway.
Back to the chronology:
Regulus Black finds out about the Horcrux. He leaves it where he found it.
Voldemort rains on Black’s parade, and Black is on the warpath.
He doesn’t, however, pitch a fit about it in Voldemort’s presence, or that of anyone who can carry tales. In fact he doesn’t pitch a fit out where anyone can observe it at all. He realizes that he’s trapped himself, and there is no way out of this but death. He’s furious. But he’d rather die than go on supporting this Master.
Instead he secretly plans a raid on the cave.
Hypothesis: assuming that he has not had any dealings with Snape to that point; he plans his raid and realizes that he’s going to have to do it the hard way. And he knows he is probably not going to live to crow about it. (Which pisses him off all over again.) But he is going to do his damnedest to try.
On his final trip into the cave, he either bobs for the Horcrux, or he swallows the bezoar first, then alternates potion and water, or potion and antidote, whatever, gets the locket out of the basin, replaces it with the decoy, and feeling very weak, summons Kreachur, passes the locket to him tells him to put it somewhere safe and come back to help him. He manages to get out of the cave with Kreachur’s help, and then he goes straight to the best potions expert he knows.
Snape manages to neutralize the potion and weasels at least some of the story out of him. We don’t know what part or how much. Not enough, but probably more than Black, who is not in top form, realizes at the time.
But Black soon does realize that he’s given at least some of the game away. Well, that’s it for Reggie. He’s been indiscreet, he doesn’t trust Snape to keep what he’s found out to himself (regardless of whether Snape is Dumbledore’s agent at this time yet or not, Reggie doesn’t know it). He’s not going to get out of this alive, anyway, so he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
So he pitches his fit, not mentioning the Horcrux, in one last, fine, grand gesture, not to the Dark Lord himself, but to Bellatrix, who got him into this mess in the first place, (keeping it in the family, as it were) and then takes off. Bellatrix reports him to Voldemort immediately and the order for his death goes out.
• • • •
Uh… No. I really don’t think so.
Alternate Hypothesis: if the Black-Snape potions project above is not beyond credibility. He goes to Snape. Asks him for a batch of the green potion. No, not the antidote, the potion. Snape is really suspicious now. They either have it out between them then, or Snape makes the potion and follows Black when he takes it, and they have it out in the sea cave.
Snape was on the ascent in the DE hierarchy by some point in 1980*, after having reported the partial Prophecy to the Dark Lord. But he was just one of the grunts before that, and associated with Malfoy rather than the Blacks. [*This theory was developed before the release of the Black family Tapestry sketch.]
But we do not know who in the family Reggie was closest to. He was certainly closer in age to Narcissa, who was married to Malfoy. Difficult as it is to believe that any sort of common sense could ever be had from a member of the Black family; regardless of whatever scenario you may decide to create or adopt, Reggie just might have leveled with Snape on just how wrong he had discovered Lord Voldemort’s intentions (or pretensions) to be, in hopes that Snape might spare his life and let him get away.
For all that he truly loves the Dark Arts, and for all that may have been a thoroughly nasty young piece of work, I really don’t think that Severus Snape necessarily enjoys killing people.
I also think that he’s a White Hat. And I’m willing to believe that he may have been so at least since some — as yet undetermined — time before the Prophecy was made. We don’t know but that the affair of Regulus Black might have been the incident that finally convinced Snape to turn his coat.
At any rate, Reggie has already replaced the Horcrux with the false one and between he and Snape they restore the “drink me ONLY” spells as well as Black can remember them.
I’m not sure I buy this one either. The set-up is just too elaborate.
• • • •
However, if Regulus managed to survive and escape, it might explain why we got that silly performance in HBP, Chapter 3.
Albus needed to find out whether Sirius’s Will trumped the fact that Reggie was still alive.
Sirius Black’s death threw Albus and Snape a major curve. Black was still a young man, relatively healthy, supposedly safe in a hiding place that no enemies can penetrate. Nobody expected him to DIE.
I’ve been grousing ever since HBP came out over how JKR could overlook such a fundamental point of British common law — which long predates a separate wizarding world — that clearly states that you cannot legally benefit from committing a murder. This is one of the fundamental principles of all murder mysteries, to which the Harry Potter series bears way too close a resemblance in form for JKR to be unaware of. Three quarters of mystery fiction is engaged in finding out who secretly benefits from the murder (or in what way they benefit) in order to figure out who did it.
There were any number of witnesses — on both sides — who watched Bellatrix knock her cousin through the Veil. She killed him. Publicly. She cannot inherit from him! Not if the wizarding world makes the slightest pretense of functioning as a just society. You cannot have a just society if your citizens are periodically murdered and society just hands their assets over to the murderer without protest. That is just plain immoral! The ww that we’ve become acquainted with obviously hasn’t got a clue about ethics, but it does at least appear to have morals.
Consequently Dumbledore needed to know whether whatever bindings tie a House Elf to his Master had followed the Will, or bypassed it and shifted to Reggie anyway.
If it had gone to Reggie they had a problem on their hands. Kreachur is a loose canon. And he approved of Reggie. An Elf may not know who his Master is, but he would certainly know who his master isn’t. And if his isn’t Harry, and isn’t Bellatrix, and isn’t Andromeda (or Draco, in the off-chance that it was tied to male heirs to the degree that being male was more important than being a Black) then somebody might start asking some very inconvenient questions.
So. They have been pitched into a situation which could potentially endanger Snape, who Dumbledore had appeared to be determined to protect, at all costs, throughout the entire series up to that point.
Since, within this reading, Snape almost certainly claimed credit for killing Reggie, they had a heavy investment in making sure that everyone continues to believe that Reggie is dead.
Albus’s statement: “And if such an enchantment exists, then the ownership of the house is most likely to pass to the eldest of Sirius’s living relatives, which would mean his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.” was not a complete lie, you can tell that it was a partial truth. Dumbledore shaved it by stating that it would pass to the eldest of Sirius’s living relatives and threw Bellatrix in as a red herring. He was very concerned over whether it had devolved upon Sirius’s eldest male relative.
And, of course, throwing Bellatrix’s name into the pot was a powerful inducement to Harry — who was saying he didn’t want the house. Harry would hardly continue to refuse to take possession of the house if there was any chance that to do so would mean that it might go to her.
Or it all may be just a very silly scene which makes no real kind of sense, that Rowling threw in because she thought it was funny.