One of our hottest candidates for balognium, for the whole series of course, is the Fidelius charm. This spell, like the Imperius curse had already demonstrated a nasty tendency to morph into whatever Rowling seemed to think she needed it to be whenever she decided to use it. Regardless of whether each new iteration was consistent with any of the earlier ones. In DHs she outdid herself.
Before that, she had already given us two distinctly different versions and no admission of any inconsistency. Which is always a bad sign. In DHs she dismissed both of those iterations and added a third, which was even less consistent.
Until Rowling answered the FAQ poll question on what happens to a Secret if the Secret Keeper dies, around the beginning of 2006, if a fairly modest amount of human error, and bad planning on the part of the characters could have been applied to the underlying problem as shown, it settled down into being sort-of-reasonably explained. Not after that, though. From that point ever afterwards, it’s balognium, to the core.
The Fidelius charm complies with one of the first rules of balognium in that it does seem to be an element which is absolutely necessary for the story to function. Without the Fidelius Charm a great many declarative statements suddenly become subject to a lot of uncertainty and we lose one of the primary elements of the backstory.
The original version of the Fidelius, to which we were introduced in PoA, was stated as being an enormously complex charm which could hide specific knowledge within a single living soul. If a Secret had not been revealed, no one but the Secret’s Keeper could find it, and no one but the Secret Keeper could reveal it.
Once the Secret Keeper had revealed it, it could be found.
Apparently, it could be found by anyone. Once Pettigrew had betrayed the Potters to Voldemort (and apparently only Voldemort), no one had any difficulty finding them. Or their bodies, evidently. Dumbledore could send Hagrid to Godric’s Hollow via portkey as soon as Snape reported that his Dark mark had disappeared. Hagrid had no trouble finding Harry in the ruins and getting him out. The Magical Catastrophe team, or for that matter the Muggle emergency crews had no difficulty finding the bodies of James and Lily. The Secret had been revealed to Voldemort and wasn’t a secret any more.
And that worked perfectly well, if one ignored the fact that Dumbledore seemed to know a lot more about what had actually happened at that house that night than he had any right to. And the problem of Albus Dumbledore’s unexplained omniscience hadn’t anything to do with the Fidelius Charm.
This was our standard interpretation of the matter from the release of PoA in 1999, until the opening of OotP in 2003.
• • • •
In OotP, however, Fidelius suddenly didn’t work that way at all.
Dumbledore was the Secret Keeper of the Order of the Phoenix and the location of their Headquarters was in his Keeping. He could reveal this Secret to any number of people and any of them could find it.
But it was still a Secret.
Only the ones he told about it could find it. Still, they all could find it.
Now, right off the top this contradicts Flitwick’s version, which states that as long as the Secret Keeper chose not to divulge the Secret it could not be found. Flitwick says nothing about sharing the Secret.
But then while Flitwick is a Charms expert, he wasn’t identified as a member of the Order of the Phoenix — or at least we’d never been told he was.
Still, he was out patrolling the halls with Order members (and only Order members, no other unaffiliated Hogwarts staff) in HBP.
BUT, if the Secret can be shared, that raises the question of how it can ever be “divulged”. Are you supposed to take out an ad in the Prophet? Once you’ve gotten custody of a Secret how do you get rid of the bloody thing if telling it to people doesn’t do it?
Most secrets aren’t expected to be kept forever, after all.
• • • •
So (remaining back in 2003 mindset for a bit longer, here) how does one explain this when you try to relate it to the Potters? Pettigrew is only known to have revealed the Secret to Lord Voldemort, after which both he and Lord Voldemort disappeared. Although he must have revealed it to Sirius Black as well, since Sirius rode off to Godric’s Hollow as soon as he got to Peter’s hideout and found him missing. The Potters probably weren't dead yet, at that moment.
So why didn’t the Secret remain secure, as a Secret? If the Potters’ location was hidden in Pettigrew’s soul, and the Secret Keeper can share the Secret with selected people without disturbing its security, why did revealing it to Voldemort enable everyone and his House Elf to find the Potters at any time they chose to thereafter? For that matter, the house remains accessible to the entire wizarding community, effectively being maintained as a shrine. We’ve seen it.
The Fidelius is supposed to be foolproof. What gives?
Well, that’s the issue isn’t it? Nothing is ever foolproof in the hands of sufficiently clever fools. And James Potter and Sirius Black were both very clever fools.
The first thing that we can say for certain is that if Dumbledore didn’t know about the substitution of Pettigrew for Black, then he was not likely to have been the person who actually cast the Fidelius charm (barring the use of polyjuice, thank you Swythyv). Nor is it clear whether he had been let in on the Secret of the Potters’ location himself, since it would then have had to be Peter who did that.
Which means the Secret was definitely broken, not shared.
• • • •
Well, okay. I do believe that it was Dumbledore who cast the charm that hid #12 Grimmauld Place. He cast it, and he was that Secret’s Keeper. This just stands to reason. If you really want to keep something secret, you keep it to yourself. And we already know that he offered to do the same for the Potters. They turned him down. The Weasleys, both Arthur and Bill, took a leaf out of Albus's book when it was time for them to go into hiding. They kept their own Secrets, secret.
(Which doesn’t explain how a dying Dobby was able to Apparate the rescuees from Malfoy Manor to Shell Cottage, if Shell Cottage’s location was Secret-kept.)
For that matter, maybe that’s the way it’s always worked. Which would mean that it was Pettigrew who cast the Fidileus which was supposed to protect the Potters. Given that Pettigrew was far more competent as a wizard than anyone is prepared to credit him with, I can believe it. But in that case, why didn't they run a Priori Incantatum on Sirius Black’s wand and determine that that wand didn’t cast the Fidelius? It had only been a week since the Fidelius was cast. Or had Sirius’s wand cast it? They could have traded wands as well as duties.
After all, before Book 7 wands tended to work for whoever happened to be holding them.
And, given that we’ve been given every reason to believe that Albus Dumbledore was definitely hot stuff where it comes to magic, maybe the version of the Fidelius he was using in ’95 wasn’t the same version that the Potters used in ’81. Maybe it had been modified.
But we don’t know that, and if that’s the explanation, Rowling ought to have at least mentioned it in passing, and she absolutely never did.
What I was originally more inclined to suspect was that while the Secret Keeper can voluntarily “share” a Secret (even if he shares it out of knuckling under to pressure) if someone pulls it out of him involuntarily, by magical force or guile, the charm will break. And that is what I thought may have happened with Pettigrew.
Well, that reading no longer seems to play in the wake of DHs and it’s new delivery of Fidelius-labeled balognium. But let’s explore the issue a bit further as limited by the 1999 vs. 2003 debate. And my previous interpretation of what I thought might have happened back in 1981.
• • • •
Back when Dumbledore made his offer he knew that it was extremely unlikely that he would ever be confronted directly by Lord Voldemort, and that even if he were, master Legilimens or not, Voldemort would probably not be able to pry the Secret out of Albus Dumbledore’s soul, through that soul’s twinkling blue windows...
That is a detail that everyone, including Rowling, keeps leaving out of the reckoning. Voldemort is allegedly a master Legilimens. And he has no compunction about using it. Neither Sirius Black NOR Peter Pettigrew would have been able to keep that Secret once they were brought before Lord Voldemort and he established eye contact. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, Voldemort could see right through those windows to what he wanted. Even if the Secret Keeper was sincerely trying to conceal the information.
Or so I believed. The obstinate silence on this issue in canon suggests that I was applying a level of potential nuance to the proceedings that Rowling never anticipated.
Yet, from everything that Black ever said on the subject, it is blindingly obvious that he *hadn’t a clue* regarding this particular possibility. Evidently, if it is a possibility, Dumbledore did not fully explain the matter to the Potters.
Which, of course, is entirely in keeping with what we have always seen of Dumbledore, and his two biggest weaknesses as a leader. The first of these is that he typically doesn’t take action until it is virtually too late, and the second is that he doesn’t share information that needs to be shared, when it needs to be shared. And, while he may tell his agents about a danger that he knows he is sending them into (or not, as we have since discovered), he doesn’t bother to warn people about the dangers that he is offering to protect them from.
So he makes his offer. The Potters turn him down. They may not have ever heard of the Fidelius charm before that point. Fillius does claim the it is rather obscure.
So, they probably went and did a little light research on it immediately afterwards, and realized that it was a pretty cool idea after all.
So they send off a message that Sirius is going to be their Secret Keeper, and turn around and perform the charm among themselves, without asking anyone’s advice. And, quite possibly, they botched it.
Not the spellcasting. The spellcasting went off without a hitch. They screwed up the setup. And complex spells like the Fidelius probably depend heavily upon their setup.
If James or Lily had cast the charm and kept the secret themselves, then they could have told a few trusted confidants their location, and those people would have all been able to find them — but they couldn’t have betrayed them even if they had wanted to. We saw that Moody and the advance guard could lead Harry right to the steps of Grimmauld Place, but he couldn’t even see the house until he read the address in Dumbledore, the Secret Keeper’s own hand. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
But the Potters didn’t think of that. They were too much in love with their Boy’s Own Adventure cleverness and they were playing at intrigue. They told Dumbledore that they had decided to hand the Secret of their whereabouts over to a trusted friend. With results known to all.
I had originally thought that it was probably Lily who actually performed the charm, and they worked the whole plan out between the four of them, herself and James and Sirius and Peter. But if the Keeper is the one who must do the casting, then it would have been Pettigrew. It’s clear that Lupin did not know. Whether he even knew of their intentions to go under a Fidelius is debatable. Sirius, after all, was convinced he was the spy. And if he was already spying on the werewolves, he may have asked not to be told.
And once it was done, Dumbledore couldn’t have found any of them to discuss the matter, and was left on the outside having to just hope for the best.
• • • •
So, from what we were stuck having to build a coherent picture from in 2003, I concluded that the failure of the spell was not due to the fact that Peter merely revealed the Secret to Voldemort. Or not voluntarily. Voldemort got access to the Secret by stealing it.
Which broke the charm. Completely.
Of course, acto what we knew at that time, the spell may have failed with the death of its caster, if James or Lily had been the caster. Rowling had handed us a couple of pronouncements that spells die with their casters. But she has fairly consistently managed to always show us the opposite. (Why would Bill Weasley need to be a wizard to recover treasure if that's the case, eh? The casters of those protective spells in Egypt are all long dead.) For several years many of us thought that it was certain that the spell would have failed with the death of the Secret Keeper. Acto Flitwick, under the Fidelius Charm, the Secret is hidden in a living soul. With the death of the Keeper, the soul might release its Secret.
But when Rowling, having killed off Albus, but not being quite finished with #12 Grimmauld Place yet, answered her FAQ poll in early 2006, she pitched that whole concept to the level of being totally unworkable, because she was determined to have it both ways.
With the death of the Keeper, either the Secret is still safe, or is isn’t.
Rowling clearly needed it to still be safe so the kids could hide out at #12 for an undetermined amount of time. But she wanted the impression of it not being safe so she could work up some bogus suspense over the presumed threat of Snape telling the DEs where they were.
She pointed out that the death of a Secret Keeper ought not to be a factor, or people would have been killing Secret Keepers to turn Secrets loose for centuries as a matter of course (conveniently forgetting that not all kept Secrets are based on the locations of things). But her explanation that the death of the Secret Keeper changes nothing, was highly unsatisfying. In fact it introduces probabilities which were completely unacceptable.
It is possible that this load of DHs-commissioned nonsense was belatedly drafted out in view of the lack of acceptance for the “official” explanation. If so, it is a pity that Rowling evidently couldn’t find anyone in her editorial team that she trusted enough to discuss the matter with and draft out something that actually worked.
Like cutting to the chase and telling us that the death of the Keeper really does change nothing. Instead of telling us so and then immediately explaining about how “changing nothing” really means “changing everything”.
If it really changed nothing, then as long as anyone with whom a kept Secret has been shared is alive, then the Secret is still secret. If the Keeper is dead, those people will still be just as unable to tell anyone else about it as they were when he was alive. The Secret, effectively has now been retired from ever being released. It will be a Secret in perpetuity.
Not that they are all suddenly now Keepers rather than just Sharers and can now all tell anyone about it they choose. That is not “changing nothing”
But unless you do that, you can’t play the threats of betrayal card.
• • • •
And besides; think about it for a moment. If the death of Albus Dumbledore leaves the Secret in precisely the same state it was at the time of his death, then where do we go from there? I agree that this could be convenient for the 7th book, since it gives Harry a secure hideout once he comes of age and leaves the Dursleys. And he would be unlikely to find uninvited guests waiting for him when he finally got there. (Unless Snape brought Draco in blindfolded and stashed him there to be safe.)
But the war is going to be over at some point. And if Harry survives, then until he can afford to move somewhere else, Harry is probably going to be living there.
After all, he can hardly sell it if no one can find it.
And he can’t invite any new friends over. Unless he leads them in blindfolded or something. Every time they visit. And if he and his cousin Ginny (yes, Ginny is his cousin. Third cousin, admittedly, but still a cousin) do marry and start a family, their kids will never be able to find their way home by themselves.
So she really needed to come up with a way that a kept Secret can be canceled — by someone who wasn't the caster of the charm. Without having to wait until everyone who once knew the Secret was dead. And she couldn’t be arsed to do that.
She clearly felt she needed to insert the possibility of someone who knows the Secret bringing someone else into the house, however. Because I think she always intended that the trio be forced out pretty much in the same way that they eventually were.
But she never actually established that someone who was inadvertently brought into the house would ever be able to find their way back. We were just left to assume as much. And Harry never even had the sense to call Kreachur and ask him whether their stowaway came back and brought his friends with him, or we might have been spared the endless camping trip. Because it seems pretty evident that Yaxley didn’t return. Unless he did and then ordered Kreachur off to Hogwarts. And why would he do that? And why would Kreachur go? Yaxley wasn’t his Master.
• • • •
Not to mention why we later encountered Kreachur at the Battle when we hadn’t encountered him since the retreat from #12 the previous autumn. Who gave him instruction to go there?
• • • •
It was at one stage of the series pointed out to me by a correspondent that there was an additional possibility regarding the Potters’ failed Fidelius which I had completely overlooked.
What happens if the “object” that is protected by the Secret is destroyed? Was it the Potters themselves who were hidden by the Fidelius Charm, as Flitwick — who is a Charms expert, but may have been out of the loop — seems to think, or was it their home?
Is that why the house was wrecked? Did Pettigrew blow it up so the Fidelius could be broken without anyone discovering who had actually been the Secret Keeper?
I thought that perhaps it could be. That would solve a few of our problems in any case. It’s a considerable mental leap to be making with a highly complex and unfamiliar spell, but Pettigrew is a lot cleverer than anyone was ever willing to give him credit for being. Unfortunately, now that we’ve been there, we also know that the house was not destroyed. The explosion only blew out a wall on the upper story. The house was still mostly habitable and could have been repaired.
At this point we still simply do not know why the house was damaged. A “rebounding” AK would not do it. The “rebounding” AK (although I flatly disbelieve that that spell was actually an AK) hit Tom and destroyed him.
Well, let’s start over. We’ve seen that AK causes damage to inanimate objects, but from what we’ve seen it do, it wouldn’t wreck a house. It might only put a hole in it somewhere. There was a hole in the Potter’s house, but a rebounding spell would only do that if it found no other target. And it did find a target. Two of them, in fact.
It has also never been established that AK is the kind of a spell which bounces when it meets an inanimate object, let alone a living target. We have seen it damage inanimate objects. But not bounce off them. Admittedly, rebounding spells do appear to do damage in excess of their original intent, but to propose that the spell bounced from Harry, to Tom, and then to the exterior wall of the room, growing more powerful at each rebound simply does not fit anything we have seen nor anything we have been told. And why should it have rebounded from Tom in any case?
And when whatever Tom threw at Harry rebounded, his own body was completely destroyed. Gone. Vanished. AK leaves bodies.
Unmarked bodies. It does not vaporize them.
Now, admittedly, that does sound like an awful lot of energy being released in an enclosed space to me. Maybe the people who’ve been drawing a straight line between those two dots and claiming that the house was destroyed by the rebounding curse have been right all along. It just was not destroyed by the curse hitting the house. The curse didn’t hit the house.
But it still all refuses to add up to anything more than a definite maybe.
• • • •
And nobody ever caught up to Pettigrew (who has to have been there at some point to collect the wand) and thought to ask him just what happened.
Although I thought that we were given a maybe-hint in HBP. Later undermined by the nonsense we were handed in DHs.
Dumbledore speaks as though he was convinced that Voldemort intended to create his last Horcrux from Harry’s death. It was certainly a tenable hypothesis. It would certainly appear to fit the pattern which had been forming regarding Tom Riddle’s methods by that point. It would also explain the obvious connection between Tom and Harry which we’ve known about since Book 1.
But in the light of DHs we have no compelling reason to continue to believe it. Rowling clearly forgot all about that plot thread. Tom certainly was not thinking along the lines of creating a Horcrux when Harry went back to Godric’s Hollow inside the Dark Lord’s head.
And although Voldemort certainly killed James by means of the AK, if he threw two separate spells at Harry and Lily, the spell that he threw at Harry did not register in the Priori Incantatum which we got a playback of in the graveyard at the end of GoF at all. The replay of echoes skipped right over anything that he may have thrown at Harry. And it wasn’t because the spell didn’t work. Because even if the spell didn’t do what he intended it to, it definitely didn’t simply fail.
Unless what he threw at Harry is what actually killed Lily, instead.
Which I thought might have been where we were being misled. That hypothesis actually played very well in light of some of my previous interpretations on just what principles may be invoked in the creation of a Horcrux.
But then (as if she hadn’t already done sufficient damage to her own credibility) in DHs, Rowling took us into Tom’s memory of the whole event and nothing in that recollection plays according to any rational pattern at all. Nothing in it works according to the way that magic has been set up to work in this universe. Frankly, it reads like something that was lifted out of an early draft.
Indeed, about the only thing she acomplished by that exercise was to throw us another cheap joke of the Muggle Trick-or-Treaters calling out; “Nice costume, mister!”
And none of it matches anything that Albus had speculated concerning that incident in the previous book. And we cannot even know whether Albus was merely wrong, or if he was lying again.
I'm inclined to call Rowling the liar. Albus’s version at least made sense.
Or to conclude that by the time Harry got dragged down that stretch of memory lane, that Tom had been hallucinating the whole sequence, and none of it was what had actually happened.
And, finally, in DHs she hustles us past the whole issue with a comment that the Fidelius Charm must have failed when James and Lily died, because Harry (and evidently any number of other wizards) could see the house afterwards.
Excuse me, but wasn’t much of the the whole point of the Fidelius charm to hide Harry?
My brain hurts.
• • • •
Actually, sounding like something lifted from an early draft can be said for rather a lot of the magic deployed over the course of DHs. And a good deal of the rest of it sounds like one-trick-pony patch jobs inserted to serve a single purpose where the demands of the plot didn’t fit anything that she had lying around already, and she couldn’t be bothered to stop and think any solution out which would have blended in seamlessly.
Let’s take a break from the Fidelius and look at a couple of other pieces of stupidity that we are expected to “just accept” in this book.
Like “flesh memory”. Is there any reader whatsoever who really thinks that was necessary? Surely there was some way that the Peverill ring could have been concealed inside the old Snitch with a way for Harry to open it that the Ministry wouldn’t figure out.
For that matter, why did the legacy have to go through the Ministry?
You would think that with all the Staff, and all the Order to call upon, and a year in which to prepare for his death, it can’t be too much to expect that Albus might have managed to find a somewhat more private messenger.
Plus, that Snitch is standard school athletic equipment. For a sport which appears to be played in gloves. Why would it need flesh memory?
For that matter, what does that say about James having stolen one of the School’s snitches to sit around playing with it with his bare hands? Was he deliberately tampering with the equipment? (Rowling told us years ago that James had been a Chaser not a Seeker, and it is a foul for anyone other than a Seeker to catch the Snitch, so what would be the point?)
However, thankfully, the actual plot truly does not really depend upon the fact that the old Snitch has a “flesh-memory” of Harry Potter. Therefore we are not forced to explore the balognium potential of the flesh-memory of a Snitch in greater depth and can merely relegate it as yet one more poorly handled and ill-conceived detail in a book which had far too many of them.
• • • •
Or like Snape’s silver doe Patronus. This whole section is LARGELY repeated (with a couple of very minor adjustments) from the ‘Transit and Communications’ essay since it is equally relevant in both places. It is mentioned elsewhere in the collection as well. It bears repeating.
The implied message in HBP is that Tonks’s Patronus had become a wolf because of her fixation on Lupin, which was essentially confirmed by the (interview, not canon) statement that Lily’s Patronus became a doe because of her relationship with James, which was tacky, but comprehensible.
So will you please explain to me where the “single, very happy memory” comes in that would explain Snape’s doe?
Did he even know that Lily’s Patronus was a doe? Or was her Patronus a actually stag, in honor of her looking to James as her protector? He certainly never knew that James was a a stag Animagus. Although since we do now have Minerva’s example of a Patronus mirroring her Animagus form. Maybe James’s Patronus would have been a stag. In which case, since they are unique, Lily’s probably is supposed to have been a doe.
While we’re at it, Rowling never showed us that Lily was even able to produce a Patronus — although she probably could. She was a Charms whiz, and she was in the Order, after all.
BUT, if Lily’s Patronus changed to a stag, or a doe, after she and James got together, what had it been before? They didn’t get together until they were finally into 7th year. Lily hadn’t given Snape the time of day for more than a year before that. How would he know what her new Patronus was? Or if she even had one. Did they learn Patronuses in DADA class, and he saw it then? In which case why was it so important for the DEs not to know he had one? (Acto Rowlng in an interview.) For tthat matter, the Dementors were supposedly under the control of the Ministry and did the Ministry’s bidding. I’m not convinced that the Ministry would ever approve of the school teaching the students how to resist arrest.
Dumbledore taught the speaking Patronus to the Order, and he taught it to Snape as well, but Snape had no contact with the Order until Harry’s Year 5.
So how was Snape supposed to know about Lily’s frapping doe, anyway?
And, besides, are we being asked to believe that a silver doe in memory of the woman whose death he caused is produced by a happy memory? I’m sorry, Jo. But you’ve fumbled the logic ball again. Majorly.
Or did Rowling simply forget that a Patronus is supposed to be generated by a HAPPY memory. What’s happy about having your best friend reject you — in public, during an event in which you were publicly humiliated — and then you crown it all by managing to inadvertently get her killed? Rowling seems to have a very odd idea of what constitutes happiness.
Or more likely she just thought the image of a ghostly silver doe was wonderfully mysterious and evocative. Which in all fairness it was. But it makes no sense.
• • • •
The plot does depend upon Horcruxes, however, and while they were never quite rendered into balognium, they came awfully close. Particularly the talking Locket. I flatly don’t believe that.
• • • •
But then DHs was released.
And the whole reasoning behind the Fidelius charm became completely, irrevocably unworkable.
Yes, we’re back to the Fidelius.
Where to start?
Well, in the first place after implying in her website FAQ answer that the death of a Secret Keeper effectively changes nothing, she lobbed another spitball at us with the information that now that the Secret Keeper was dead, all the persons who had been privy to the Secret rather than simply continuing to know the Secret, had now been promoted to Secret Keepers in their own right. With the power to reveal the information to others.
I certainly wouldn’t say that this “changes nothing”, myself. This is logic on the level of; “Freedom is Slavery”.
Admittedly, I can see this as a reasonably plausible method of letting a Secret gradually work its way back into public domain. If every 2nd-generation Secret Keeper tells whoever they choose about the Secret, then upon their death the people they told presumably do not forget it, and are similarly able to share the information. Assuming the Secret still matters to anyone, by the time the secret has passed through a couple of “generations” of Keepers it is probably no longer much of a secret.
But even the handling of this was botched. It is clear that the only reason for changing the way the spell worked was so that the trio could be forced out of #12 and into the endless camping trip by having a dramatically hitchhiking, side-alonging DE be inadvertently “escorted” to the doorstep.
But would it have even done that? Sure, Yaxley might have been able to get in. Maybe. And possibly to get back on his own. Maybe. He had been escorted to the very door by a legitimate Secret Keeper. That’s allegedly how it works. Maybe.
Or, maybe, once they Apparated away again, leaving him on the doorstep, if he descended the steps to the sidewalk and turned around, he would have not been able to see the house. None of them had told him the address, after all. Or told him whose house it was. They'd taken him somewhere, but he had no information of where it was.
Even if he'd opened the door and stepped inside (and met up with Moody’s lame, tongue-tying “security” spell — and why is that spell still running if Moody is dead?) he still wouldn't have known where he was. And Kreachur wasn't on the official list of Secret Sharers even though he lived there, so even if Yaxley had questioned him I'm not convinced that once he left he would have been able to find his way back.
But that still wouldn’t have made him a Secret Keeper. At the very most, he only was someone who now shared the secret, having been “told” it by someone with the authority to do so. None of them were dead yet. He couldn’t have brought the rest of the DEs in with him. He couldn’t have even told them were it was. That’s how it works.
So they made that panicky escape and Ron’s nasty splinch for nothing.
• • • •
They should have at least called Kreachur, asked him whether Yaxley had managed to get in, and told him to let them know when the coast was clear, gone back and lain in wait for Yaxley when/if he showed up again. And taken one DE out of commission at least.
For that matter, there were three of them and one of him. Couldn’t they have overpowered him at the time? I suspect that this would have no doubt led to a potentially interesting discussion of what they were to do with him when they had him. I doubt that Harry would have agreed to kill him.
They could have had Kreachur contact someone in the Order to catch him and take charge of him. Or Obliviate him at the very least.
And the question was never really addressed about the fact that Snape, who was now one of the Secret Keepers, and who could presumably have led the whole pack of DEs there to try to capture Harry, and who moreover had pretty clearly already been there and had searched the house, still didn’t do it?
And no one considers this as a relevant factor?
And, for that matter, where was the follow-up?
• • • •
While we’re at it; Harry has already made peace with Kreachur, and Kreachur is behaving like a devotedly loyal House Elf. Doesn’t the responsibility go both ways? Doesn’t our “heroic” (it says in the fine print) protagonist even consider calling his servant out of a house where the security has been compromised? Not even to ask him whether the DEs have managed to get in? Not even to tell him to protect himself by going somewhere else where he would be safe? Why did Kreachur later turn up at Hogwarts, anyway? Who sent him there? Wouldn’t it have made sense to have shown us this *on stage*?
For that matter, couldn’t Harry summoned Kreachur, and have sent him to Hogwarts, and made arrangements for him to bring them food from the kitchens?
And maybe information on Snape and the Carrows, when he could get it?
After all, not being seen is the mark of a good House Elf. For that matter, would the Carrows even take notice of a House Elf? They wouldn’t recognize Kreachur.
That might have been a bit more productive than mooning over Ginny’s name where it showed up on the Marauder’s Map
Hell’s bells, these are obvious actions to take in response to the situation. They are not difficult to think of. Not if you are brighter than a stick of wood, anyway.
• • • •
Which brings us to those amazing, semi-sentient sticks of wood.
They didn’t have to be balognium.
They really didn’t.
So, what about those all-too-clever sticks of wood.
It was obvious that something tricky to do with a wand was always going figure in the final outcome. We weren’t given Ollivander and his “the wand chooses the wizard” in Book 1 as local color. Nor were we reminded of the matter by Ollivander in Book 4 by accident. Wandlore, and probably wand ownership has always been on the table.
But “tricky” doesn’t have to equate with balognium. It needed better groundwork, and the initial clue placement needed better follow-through.
We got no indication from Ron that he had any trouble using Charlie’s old wand until he broke it and tried to mend it with spellotape. We got no comment, not even in passing that his new wand in Book 3 worked significantly better than the old one. That would have been a nice clue, and I think would have given nothing of importance away if we had been given one.
For that matter, it might have been nice if Neville had dropped the information that he was also using a legacy wand at some point earlier than the climax of OotP. Or if someone in the DA had accidentally picked up someone else’s wand by mistake in one of their marathon sessions of everyone disarming each other and had trouble using it.
However, we also were informed by Ollivander that issues of wand lore operate according to “subtle” laws. Excuse me, but what was subtle about the handling of wand behavior in DHs?
• • • •
That’s the real problem, isn’t it? It would be easy enough to accept that the Elder Wand, and its behavior is unique. Particularly if Rowling had ever turned loose the hint that there was a legendary super-wand somewhere out there earlier in the series. The European wandmaker Gregorovitch’s existence is slipped to us in Book 4 so the hunt for the Elder Wand was definitely already on the menu by then, (indeed, I read somewhere online that the original title for Book 7 was ‘Harry Potter and the Elder Wand’) but we heard nothing of the wand itself until we got the story of the three brothers. And, imho, that was introducing us to it rather too late. We did not need to know of its supposed qualities before then, but I really think we did need to know of its existence.
Ron certainly knew about it. He’d read Beedle. Why didn’t he say something.
I have already stated elsewhere my own opinion that it all might have played better if Professor Binns had dismissed the existence of the Elder wand (probably under one of its other names) at the same time that he dismissed the existence of the Chamber of Secrets. Indeed it might have played very well indeed for Binns to have established a pattern of dismissing the existence of legendary artifacts, occurrences, and spells over the trio’s five years in his class. Sometimes rightfully so, although possibly never proven. Sometimes fairly resoundingly not.
But we lost any hope of subtle when we started suddenly getting qualities which might have been applicable to a “unique” Elder Wand applied with a trowel to every wand in sight. If the laws are subtle, they probably are subtle enough to present little difficulty under most cases. I think that Rowling thoroughly “overwrote” the business of wands that don’t cooperate with owners that they haven’t “chosen” themselves.
Let alone turning them into sleazy little wooden bimbos who go off happily with anyone who can take them away from their previous holder. This confused matters rather than clarifying them.
And, unfortunately, doing that rendered the whole concept into balognium. Which it didn't need to be.
• • • •
The original premise that wands choose their wizards could be worked with seamlessly. The premise that someone else’s wand would never work as well for you as one that “chose” you (i.e., was a proper “match” for you in the first place) could be equated to someone else’s spectacles not working as well for you as your own, even if you can see pretty well through them. As I drafted out in ‘The Art and Science of Wandmaking’, the wood and the core of a properly fitted wand resonate together at a frequency of magic that matches yours and gives you a better performance. No real problem with any of that, and nothing that we were shown in Books 1–6 has any problem with that interpretation.
Suddenly in Book 7 all wands are suddenly the Elder Wand. Wooden bimbos who will go off with anyone who can take them away from their previous owner. Ergo: the wand chooses the wizard only until a better wizard comes along and expresses an interest. This is backwards. Only the Elder Wand ought to be the Elder Wand.
And for that matter even the Elder Wand doesn’t need to behave like that. If Rowling hadn’t been bankrupt of imagination by then, she’d have worked it out by some other rationale.
Which also reels in the unexplored thread of just what did Albus intend by his claim that he had intended for Snape to have the Elder Wand. Just how was that supposed to play out?
Albus probably knew that Tom would want to find a new, better wand to use against Harry after the tug-of-war in the graveyard went against him. He also knew that Gellert Grindelwald was still alive and that there had been rumors back around the start of his rise for power that he had acquired a very famous and powerful wand. There was every chance that Tom would discover those rumors. After all, some of Tom’s followers were from the geographic area that Gellert had ruled until Tom finished school. Indeed, although we are never told that Albus learned of Tom’s first foray into the forests of Albania, According to Harry, Tom is now supposed to have actually been in the area just after time that Grindelwald’s defeat took place (not that I believe that. I say he went there after killing Hepzibah, not before), and, given the sort of wizard that Tom tends to hang out with, he might have already heard the rumors himself. Albus must have known that it was only a matter of time before Tom would be on the trail of the Elder Wand.
Actually, if Tom were as smart as people keep trying to claim he once was, he’d have heard those rumors, and we’d know why he seemed to be afraid to face Albus Dumbledore.
But so long as Gellert was alive Albus knew that there was a better than average chance that Tom would realize that Albus had taken charge of the Elder Wand when he had defeated Gellert.
So what was supposed to come of passing the wand to Snape? He does not appear to have filled Snape in on the fact that his wand was the Elder Wand. You would have thought that would have mattered. Unless he simply thought that Snape would have a better chance of holding onto it than Draco Malfoy.
Did he even intend for Snape to keep the Wand? Or was Harry (whose tendency to use Expeliarmus first is pretty well known) supposed to take it from Snape, giving him all three of the Hallows? Albus had already made a point of insisting that Snape was to seek Harry out before the final confrontation to give him his last message. Was a wand exchange supposed to be a part of that meeting? It’s beyond obvious that he did intend that Harry be in a position to take charge of that wand.
Or did he intend something else? We have no clue.
• • • •
In the event, what he appears to have done by this particular facet of his orchestration of his own murder was to deliberately set Snape up to die. Much as he had effectively set up Moody (or anyone else who was unlucky) to die in the escape from Privet Drive, and possibly Emmeline Vance to die the summer earlier.
Plus, we also have a considerable question as to whether Albus was ever the rightful “Master” of the Elder Wand in the first place.
Gellert did his bit by claiming that he had never “had” the mastery. I believe him. He had no reason to lie. He stole the thing, he hexed Gregorovitch as he escaped, but he didn't kill Gregorovitch to get it, or win it in a battle. We don't know that Albus ever had the Mastery of it, either. He certainly doesn't come out and claim to have had.
“I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not boast of it, and not to kill with it. I was permitted to tame it and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it.”
That really doesn't come out and say that he was the Master of it, does it? It almost comes across as if he was concealing the fact that the mastery of that Wand had ceased years earlier. Or boasting that if there was a mastery of that wand that *he* did not have it.
In fact that whole speech was a piece of boasting from beginning to end, pure and simple.
All of which more and more convinces me that there probably never was a “mastery” of that wand to take. No one seems to have managed to hold onto it very long, did they? But that’s an issue for a different essay.
Of course since we have to shower Harry Stu with ever more evidence of “special” obviously at the end of the story Harry had won the Mastery and uses it to fix his old wand that he likes so much better, and which was otherwise unrepairable.
Being awarded fabulous artifacts that he has no desire for or interest in using seems to be quite the continuing theme when it comes to Harry.
• • • •
The LiveJournalist known as Swythyv and I were kicking this around for the last few weeks before one of my Halloween updates, and poking at the Hallows (which are another bit of balognium to examine) from a number of different directions. It all makes me really wish I wrote fanfic, because the possibilities are just about endless.
Once I had time to think about it, my conclusions surfaced in the essay entitled ‘The Power he “Knows not”’ in the Missed Opportunities collection. But to recap:
I think insofar as reconciling a variant of Harry, Tom, and the Elder Wand which would actually read goes, the thing that probably needs to be kept in mind is that the Elder Wand is supposed to be unique.
What is needed isn't a wand which will go off and obey just anyone. What is needed is a wand which flatly refuses to cooperate with Tom. One that chooses Harry because he isn’t Tom. One that, when offered the choice, would kill the soul fragment that IS Tom — and not touch Harry.
As I say above, Rowling overwrote the wand business when she started applying what were supposed to be subtle laws with a trowel to every wand in sight. It would have worked better if she had scaled it back a bit and had given us a bit more discussion about the Elder Wand after they figured it out that this was what Tom was searching for. The thing is supposed to be a legend for heaven's sake. There have got to be some attributed qualities to it. It would have been something relevant to chew on during the endless camping trip.
But in any case, we know that wands clearly relate to their holders on some level, since they supposedly “choose” their (first) owners. And magic appears to be an attribute of the soul, so when a wizard channels his magic through his wand he is engaging in a fairly intimate process. It probably isn't that big of a stretch to postulate that wands are reacting to on some level with their holder’s souls.
What Swythyv and I came up with is that they don't (or at least the Elder Wand doesn't) particularly like incomplete souls. The soul, as Slughorn insists, is supposed to remain intact. Or at least all of the pieces are supposed to remain present in the same body.
We’ve been getting hints that magic is soul-based, or at least an attribute of the soul ever since CoS. Indeed, ever since PS/SS. Harry presumably wasn’t born a Parselmouth after all. Neither was Ginny. And yet she was directing a basilisk through the school when she was under Tom’s control, and even though Harry clearly wasn’t possessed, he was still able to chat up a boa constrictor in the zoo. What do Harry and Ginny have in common here?
We got one major hint with Nearly Headless Nick’s little talk at the end of OotP where he assures Harry that only witches and wizards are capable of manifesting as ghosts. The other shoe drops in HBP when Snape officially identifies a ghost as the imprint of a departed soul. Clearly there is something about the souls of wizards which distinguishes them from the souls of Muggles. And, given that they are basically all one species, the only thing that is a viable candidate for that difference is the ability to channel magic.
Ergo: it is a tenable hypothesis to conclude that magic is connected to a wizard’s soul, and that his wand is, in a very practical manner, his “soul mate”.
• • • •
Tom's old yew wand was with him every step of the way as he butchered his soul. And it actively assisted him to do it. That wand was going to have no objections to the state of Tom’s soul. It would never have let him down if it could help it. We don’t know how well Lucius Malfoy’s wand actually cooperated with Tom, just that he was able to AK Charity Burbage with it. And even if it was balking, he would have only interpreted that as its being an inferior wand. But the Elder Wand’s reputation alone would have made its lack of compliance more apparent. And evidently did.
And if the Elder Wand refused to obey him the place to look isn’t the wand, but at Tom himself. What is most likely to be different about Tom from all the other wizards through whose hands it has passed over the centuries? Eh?
The Elder Wand clearly has no objection to killing, and as such has no apparent objection to damaged souls, but why not give us a hint that it may have an objection to incomplete ones? Even if only once we got to King’s Cross (which would have made a certain amount of sense, it isn’t information that would be widely known out in the world, nor would Harry have had any reasonable source for finding it out. Even the wandmakers probably wouldn’t have known about that peculiarity).
One little shift, and we'd be rid of the necessity for just about all of the stupidity that Rowling lumbered us with to do with wands in Book 7. Harry wouldn’t be the master of the Elder Wand because he yanked Draco's hawthorn wand out of his hand a few weeks earlier. He would be the Master of the Elder Wand because when offered the choice of killing only one of the two of them earlier that evening, the wand chose to kill Tom. Harry's Expeliarmus the following morning gave it the excuse it needed to go back and finish the job.
I mean why, why, if Tom Riddle’s personal choices were so bloody bad, can’t they be rolled into constituting the very reason why he ended up defeating himself? Not because of the choices that he didn’t make — because he was incapable of those — but because of the choices that he actually made?
If that premise is added to the mix — and, yes, I know Rowling didn't, she doesn't seem to have a lot of appreciation for mechanics of any sort — it just about serves the purpose. The Wand didn't like Riddle from the get-go and was being as uncooperative toward him as the blackthorn wand had been to Harry or Bellatrix's wand was for Hermione. (Which probably ought to not have been quite so exaggerated in their resistance to their present holders, but a comment in passing that they just didn't work as well as their own wands would have been perfectly reasonable.) When the Elder Wand was offered the choice of killing Harry, or a fragment of its current holder's soul, it took the fragment, and dragged Tom into the waiting station at the same time it knocked Harry into it.
If the Elder Wand is unique — really unique — you have some chance of pulling that off. And the elements for the proper sort of uniqueness are all right there. The wand is set up as having always been more powerful than any other wand out there. It is centuries old at the very least. It has been through a lot of hands and has connected with a lot of wizard’s souls. If any wand was ever going to develop a degree of self-consciousness and independent agency, or some power of active “choice” of its own, it is that wand. Particularly if wands supposedly have the power of choice.
Which Ollivander has been harping on since the beginning of the series.
Tom is even fully aware of and complains about it's active lack of cooperation — which is the only reason why he would have disposed of as useful a tool as Snape. All that is needed is one good reason to explain why the wand is refusing to work with Tom. A reason that’s directly related to Tom.
And we’ve got one! And she didn’t use it!
• • • •
Actually what she gave us hinges far too much upon the (suddenly introduced) premise that all wands recognize each other, and the totally unanticipated happenstance of Harry facing Tom with what was originally Draco's wand. And I flatly don’t believe it. That’s not just balognium. It’s bullshit.
The two spells do seem to have gone off together, as they did the last time Harry and Tom came face-to-face in the graveyard. Had the wands shared a core we would have got another Priori Incantatum arm wrestling match. Had the spells behaved normally, the AK would have simply run roughshod over the Expeliarmus and nailed Harry unless he was able to dodge out of the way. That normal wands supposedly recognize one another strikes me as pure balognium, but the Elder Wand might be able to. Or at least it might resonate to something in the source of the magic which is generating the Expeliarmus that it is plowing through with it’s AK. (Which it is also resisting delivering, since it is not going to cooperate with its holder any more than it can avoid.)
I really do think that postulating that the Elder Wand is semi-sentient — which in itself is a stretch — plays far better than to postulate that all wands are semi-sentient. And that if the Elder Wand has been without a true Master, then it is probably shopping. That AK in the forest clearing underlined the connection between Tom and Harry, and the Wand is now aware of both of them.
And it made its choice.
Possibly just to get away from Tom.
• • • •
I really am inclined to think that Albus's original plan was for Snape to get the wand, to hang onto it, and to make a point of meeting Harry before the final confrontation in order to pass him that final message, and for Harry, whose first line of defense is pretty much always Expeliarmus, to disarm him of it. Giving Harry technical possession of all three of the Hallows. But if that was the case, Albus completely botched the handling of the matter by sitting on the information and not telling his puppets what they were expected to do.
Whether Harry had the true Mastery or not, whether he left the Wand in Snape’s custody or not. It would at least have kept the Elder Wand out of Tom’s hands. I’m not sure where the reasoning was supposed to go from there, and frankly I suspect Rowling doesn’t either. But it would have required that Snape know that Albus intended for him to take charge of his wand — which he absolutely didn’t — and for Harry to know that the wand Snape was using had been Albus’s wand, and that Albus’s wand really was the fabled Elder Wand. And we never got anything that would have reasonably led him, or us, to that conclusion.
What I think the big mistake was, was when she decided to convince reader that despite the fact that wands and their wizards are supposed to be intimately connected, wands are also, at the same time, effectively little wooden bimbos who will happily go off with any bully who can take them away from their former “protector”, and are always shopping for a better one. (In which case you really have to wonder about Neville's Gran, forcing the kid to use a “legacy wand” that he hadn’t won.) I am not altogether convinced that Rowling had really thought any of this through.
The underlying problem here is that it's completely out of scale. Either wands are faithless wooden bimbos, consciously looking for an excuse to abandon their masters for a more “powerful” one, or they aren’t. If they are just sticks of wood with a magical core which responds well to one person or another due to the kind of magical harmonics that I have postulated in the essay on wandmaking, and which compatability is inherent between the wand and the person using it, there isn't so much of a problem. If using a wand is like wearing reading glasses from the drugstore, one pair of glasses will probably help any number of people bring the fine print into focus. Another pair will work better for a different lot of people. You don’t have to postulate exaggerated issues of wand “mastery” as a major issue for all of them.
I suspect that you can pass a wand on by physically handing it to whomever you want to give it to. Ron had no trouble with Charlie’s old wand in his first year, despite the fact that it was already in really poor condition when he got it. Under Rowling’s rules, Harry physically took Malfoy's wand from Malfoy's hand, there was no magic involved in that exchange, but the wand settled down and cooperated with him quite smoothly. It had evidently felt itself be passed from one legitimate master's hand to the next. Which makes no sense whatsoever, and was only introduced to try to pull off a cheap trick at the climax of the book.
If we recalibrate the premise so that the Elder Wand is the special one, and normal wands really do act upon subtle laws — which upon the whole are too subtle to present much of a problem to most people under most circumstances — the whole issue of the true mastery of ordinary wands just goes away and becomes a non-issue. As it probably ought to be.
But the thing that fouls us up here, and is the detail which really renders the whole premise into balognium is that now suddenly we are supposed to understand that wands not only choose their wizards, they seem to recognize other wands. And I really don’t think that premise is a part of the solution.
This is a case where having a beta would have probably been helpful.
What Rowling may not have intended, or has inadvertently obscured the significance of, is the fact that she had originally made such an investment out of making so much of the fact that Harry and Tom’s original wands were inherently brothers, which would very reasonably have been “aware” of one another. Now such a fluke simply does not really seem to matter all that much, since all wands seem to know each other and to have a private pecking order in which any relationship between them scarcely counts.
Because the way it reads now, and as Harry explains it (and since when is Harry an expert at wandlore?) in the final confrontation, what mattered is that the Elder wand came up against the same wand which had disarmed it from a previous owner, a year earlier, and it recognized it.
Or, in other words, it wasn’t that the Elder Wand recognized Harry, it recognized the hawthorn wand. Not the wand’s holder, the wand itself.
Which does not fit anything that we had ever been told to that point. And given that this is supposedly the punchline to the whole conflict, we really ought to have.
Which compounds the problem by expecting us to now believe that no wand that has ever lost a duel against another wand will ever again act against any holder of that wand. And that just makes no sense whatsoever.
And the final wrap up of the climax of your story is not the place that one ought to be introducing some kind of new and hoopy magic. This is pulling a rabbit out of your hat. It’s flashy all right. But the audience knows that it is rigged, and it’s totally bogus.
It’s balognium. Unquestionably. And it didn’t need to be.
• • • •
Which, so long as we are on the subject, brings up the question of Harry Potter and his Amazing Auto-Wand.
Just what the hell was that about?
Actually, I think I am going to come back to the issue of the Amazing Auto-Wand later, since it is rather closely connected to a couple of the other bits of balognium — or near-balognium — that we are also having to field. And it would make sense to take a closer look at them first.
• • • •
These are, of course, the Deathly Hallows themselves.
I really do not believe that the Deathly Hallows as a package deal of three significant artifacts was a part of the original plan.
I'm sure that Rowling always did intend to wrap the conclusion of the series around the Elder Wand business, although she seems to have rather botched it. The significance of the Resurrection Stone is a whole lot less certain. It’s not impossible that she’s had the idea of the Resurrection Stone as an element in the build to the climax for some time. She did introduce the Peverills and their ring in HBP after all. And I think another chat with Lily and James before the ending was probably always on the table.
But there really wasn’t a reasonable point to introduce the concept of the Hallows any earlier than she did, unless she had introduced the whole story of the three brothers earlier than she did. Which, in all fairness she really could have done, and probably should have.
Otoh, she may or may not have just added it wholesale at the next to last minute. I do have to admit that the Priori Incantatum “echoes” in GoF made a nice bit of foreshadowing. That could indicate that she had it planned — or something like it planned — at least by that point in the series. But we don’t know whether she had always intended to use the same method to invoke them that she finally did. Well-designed mechanics are not her strong point.
Before she got the idea to introduce the Hallows however, the Peverill ring may just have been an ugly ring with an actual coat of arms engraved on it, as was stated by Marvolo Gaunt, and which merely turned out to have been one of Riddle’s first Horcruxes. Although even the HBP reference to something engraved on it could have been a retrofit, if the idea for the Resurrection Stone came up somewhere in the middle of writing HBP — which is possible. Marvolo Gaunt was depicted as an ignorant old sod and might have referred to any sigil as a coat-of-arms.
And the Resurrection Stone itself really isn't balognium, at all. That particular element functions quite properly for what is required of it.
It doesn’t explain why Albus would have lost his head and put it on, since you don’t even call back the dead by wearing it. To call back the dead you have to take it off and turn it three times in your palm. But forcing Albus to act like an idiot does not render the artifact, as it is set up, into balognium.
• • • •
But I really don't think she ever got the idea of rolling them in with the Cloak as a package deal of 3 for 1 until about the time she threw out the question of why Albus had borrowed James’s cloak. And that wasn’t until the summer of 2006.
And for that matter, it was a question that she never bothered to answer. Why did Albus borrow James’s cloak? We never heard of him ever doing anything with it.
Because if the Cloak is a “Hallow”, it also needs to be unique. The Hallows are all unique. They have special powers, or vastly enhanced powers. But for the first 6 books of the series, Harry’s Cloak is simply an invisibility cloak. It’s never presented as “special”.
Well, yeah, it’s an invisibility cloak, and that’s pretty cool. But it isn’t the only invisibility cloak running around the Potterverse. And there has never been any quality peculiar to Harry’s cloak that was ever pointed out to us to set it apart from what is generally expected of invisibility cloaks. And there needed to be. If, over the course of some 3300 pages Rowling could not give us even one hint that there was something unusual about Harry’s cloak, then I think her claim that it is the third of the Deathly Hallows is just something that she bunged in at the last moment to spin the Hallows into a traditional set of three artifacts, rather than just a super Wand and a mysterious Stone.
Because she had already demonstrated that all that cloak did was hide you from most peoples’ sight. Not even everyone’s sight either. Albus was aware of Harry and Ron hidden under it all the way back in either PS/SS or CoS. “Moody” could see Harry through it. Even Peeves knew Harry was there. Rowling has backpedaled in an interview by trying to claim that Albus couldn’t actually see them, he was aware of them because he had (nonverbally) cast a Hominum Revelio. It’s clumsy, but that might account for it. If I believed it. But I'm no longer willing to give Rowling even that much of a pass. She’s lied to us too often for that.
Impostor!Moody could definitely see through it in GoF. I’m sure that real Moody could have too. And Peeves was instantly aware of Harry, under the cloak, as soon as Harry stepped into a hallway that Peeves was setting up some of his mischief in. That was all the way back in PS/SS.
Albus also was quick at the beginning to PoA to caution him that an invisibility cloak would not hide one from Dementors, either. Which was confirmed during the trio’s raid on the Ministry in DHs and which makes the claim that it would have ever hidden anyone from Death a bit problematic.
We can not even be convinced that it would hide you from the dead. Harry’s “honor guard” through the forest, composed of his beloved dead, seem to have had no difficulty keeping pace with him, although he was under his cloak all during that march to his execution.
And we also saw in HBP that the cloak won’t protect you from magic, either. Malfoy managed to hex Harry right through that cloak on the Hogwarts Express with a lucky shot.
So what is the point?
The Cloak needs to have some quality that is not standard equipment for invisibility cloaks. Even if it never really came up in the course of the story — and it really ought to have come up. Otherwise why should it be classified as a Hallow at all? (Apart from authorial fiat.)
Rowling wasn’t able to come with a single reasonable justification in the story for why she was suddenly making a big song-and-dance about Harry’s cloak. The only thing unusual about Harry’s cloak is that it doesn’t rip, tear, stain, or wear out. It really appears to simply be there to make up the numbers. That alone does not qualify it as a Hallow.
It does not really qualify as balognium, either. Nothing of import seems to have depended on it. It’s just a recycled element that she loaded up with a lot of bogus “significance”. Which is only annoying.
• • • •
But even though it isn’t actually balognium, it still could have mattered. Even though Rowling had already disqualified it from having any super-special qualities of secrecy or magical protection over the course of the previous 6 books. She just didn't put any kind of thought or effort into giving it a reason to matter.
It could have.
In a way that might relate to some of our other problems elsewhere, too.
So let’s just see if kicking this particular can around the block turns up any possibilities.
The LiveJournalist Swythyv and I were kicking around a number of Hallows and Peverill theories before I uploaded this. Particularly regarding the Cloak.
We’ve got that minor difference of where it purportedly came from in the story, for one thing. All three artifacts supposedly came from Death, but while he created the Wand and the Stone expressly for the two older brothers, as custom jobs, the Cloak had been his own, Ergo: the third brother effectively captured it, it was not custom built for an enemy (with a booby trap built into it).
Actually if you pay a bit closer attention to what the story of the three brothers actually says, to “master” Death is really just to master the fear of Death. The goal is to meet him without fear. Because you are going to eventually meet him, regardless.
In the middle of all this back-and-forthing, a couple of details suddenly pinged for me. They are probably crack, but it might be worth a digression to poke at them for a bit.
The Cloak won’t hide you from Dementors, who are blind, and evidently track your presence by some means other than normal sight. It also won’t hide you from Peeves, who is a spirit, even if not a true ghost. We don’t know if it will hide you from conventional ghosts, since no ghost has ever acknowledged Harry when he was under it. But then that might have just been due to good manners. (Which Peeves totally lacks.)
Ghosts are the imprints of departed souls. Dementors hunt and eat souls. The Cloak does not, evidently, conceal the presence of a soul. It does, however, conceal bodies. Unless you have a magical eye to see through it.
We do not know whether it conceals minds.
What if it was keeping the Cloak somewhere about him at all times over the course of year 6, as per Albus’s recommendation, that was really keeping Voldemort from seeing into Harry's mind? What if the Cloak protects you from Legilimency. Which gives one access to minds, not necessarily souls.
It obviously doesn't protect you from the direct, eye-contact sort of Legilimency that Snape used after the Sectumsempera incident if you are not wearing it, but having it on you may keep you safe from the kind of remote hacking that Tom had been doing all the year before.
Harry continued to keep the Cloak about him all through DHs as well. And any mind connection which took place that year appears to have gone in the other direction. *Without* Tom having any awareness of it, too.
It isn’t a true Occlumency shield, however. Some time ago I postulated that Occlumency on a high enough level might enable you to be able to resist Dementors. I still believe that that is probably not unrelated to the fact that some 10 or so of Voldemort’s higher-ranking followers managed to survive for more than a decade in Azkaban without loosing the will to live. The Cloak would not have concealed Harry from a Dementor, and if he were simply holding it it wouldn't protect him from a direct legilimency attack either.
Tom was probably actively using Occlumency against the mind connection for at least the month or so after the Battle of the Atrium, before Harry started carrying the Cloak around on Albus’s advice. But Tom clearly is not still doing that by Year 7. In fact he seems even more unaware of the connection in Book 7 than Harry was through most of Book 5.
Yet Harry never got a peep from him all through Year 6. If the Cloak kept Harry's consciousness from registering against Tom's Occlumency shield at all, then eventually Tom may have dropped it.
Of course by admitting this possibility, we’d lose the interpretation from John Granger’s Scar-o-Vision theory that the Harry tantrum over Trelawney’s bombshell that Snape had been the eavesdropper who reported the Prophecy to Tom, might have alerted Tom and let him eavesdrop on the discussion in Albus’s office before Harry and Albus left for the Cave. We would also lose any likelihood of his having had a ringside seat of Albus’s murder. But we already needed to dismiss the idea that he had witnessed the murder in any case, since Tom didn't know about Draco disarming Albus.
And Scar-o-Vision had never been confirmed, either.
• • • •
Which brings us back to Harry and his Amazing Auto-Wand.
King’sCross!Albus put on his omniscience hat while denying all the while that he actually knew anything, and gave Harry a spiel that back when Harry won the Priori Incantatum tug-of-war, he had won the additional prize of having some of Voldemort's power trapped in his wand, now conveniently polarized against it’s original owner. (Even though the tug-of-war consisted of harry pushing the little magical beads on the beam of light that connected the wands into Tom’s wand rather than the other way around. You would think that if one wand held anything belonging to the other it would have been Tom’s wand.)
Well that might explain why the wand was able to so easily smash the wand that Tom, had borrowed from Lucius Malfoy. But it doesn't explain why it went into auto-mode and attacked Tom on its own in the first place. And Rowling went out of her way to insist at several points in the story that the wand had attacked Voldemort by itself.
In fact this insistence raises far more questions than it answers (and it doesn’t answer any of them).
If the wand was always capable of going into auto-mode, that might explain the all but unconscious Protego shield that Harry cast during the penultimate Occlumency lesson with Snape. But if the wand was only specifically polarized against Tom, why would it jump into action against Snape?
For that matter what was the point of having the wand fighting Voldemort on its own? All that was necessary was that the wand smash the wand that Voldemort was using, thereby opening up the mind link between Harry and Tom in the other direction. Because that is what that incident actually did.
But to have it do so on its own? That wasn’t necessary. Nor was it EVER properly explained. All that does is add confusion. Was it really necesssary to establish at this point of the novel that the protagonist of this story is dumber and less effective than a stick of wood?
Why couldn’t Harry have reacted as he reacted before, when it was Snape in the Occlumency lesson? Remain conscious at least, know that he flung out his hand and threw something at his opponent without thinking clearly, or not knowing precisely what it was he threw until someone else identified it? Or didn’t identify it, as the case may be.
That would have passed as yet another unconscious prompt, of which we have had no shortage over the course of this series. It still wouldn’t have explained everything, but it would support the view that Harry at least does have excellent reflexes, and it would fit in with a group of other things that remain unexplained, rather than throwing a new and even gaudier distraction at us.
• • • •
When we had the face-off in the graveyard. Harry won the arm wrestling match between their wands. KC!Albus claims that since Harry won, his wand took on some of his opponent's power.
Well, okay. Then by the end of GoF Harry and Tom are tethered through Tom’s soul, Harry’s blood and their wand cores, and all of the connections are Tom-»Harry. None of them are Harry-»Tom.
Is it any wonder that Tom spent all of Year 5 slipping in and out of Harry’s head and setting off episodes of CAPSLOCKS? How could he have kept away? Eventually he got the bright idea to make use of the connection to send a false message. It worked, too. Lured the kid right into the DoM.
This is in contrast to Year 1 where Harry was having scar headaches and QuirrellMort was completely oblivious, and also to GoF where Harry was getting occasional remote visions with, so far as we can tell, no awareness on Tom’s end of the connection whatsoever.
Fast-forward to Year 7 and the escape from the Dursleys’.
Harry is still a minor, he is still tethered three ways to Tom. But this time Tom isn’t using his own wand.
And then, in the absence of the brother wand with the matching core, Harry’s wand goes on Autopilot. (I really think that it would have played better if Harry had been conscious of drawing his wand and throwing magic it at Tom, but just not be sure of what it was he did. It could have been passed off as something like blowing up Aunt Marge that way, and come back to bite us all later.) Harry’s wand spits back the power it has been storing since the end of Year 4 and shatters the wand that Tom is using. This evidently also severs one of the Tom-»Harry links and replaces it with a Harry-»Tom link. Voldemort appears to have never got inside Harry’s head after that point.
And the Harry-»Tom link was fully active by that same evening.
With much, much clearer reception than ever before.
This is where the possible combination of factors comes in. The cloak protects Harry from long distance Legilimency attacks from Tom. But the whole point of an invisibility cloak is that you can see out. Harry kept the cloak with him through DHs, so Tom wasn't aware of him through the mental connection, but Harry was now seeing into Tom's mind, past the cloak.
Like I say. It’s probably crack, but it seems worth at least considering.
Even if Rowling didn’t.
And we still have no clear explanation for why Harry’s wand was suddenly bolder and more competent than he is.