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Potterverse Subjects

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

This is in the way of a gift to one of my fellow travelers, the LiveJournalist known as Swythyv. It spun off from a 4-way e-mail discussion.

Rather a lot of this essay is duplicated in the 2nd of the ‘Exeunt Albus’ pair of essays, but that article was largely in an attempt to delineate what possibilities could have been at work regarding the actions taken in HBP. This one is primarily a springboard for a possible crackfic prompt.

Regulus = Crookshanks the cat Animagus is one of Swythyv’s pet theories, in the face of all opposition, including Rowling's.

Oh, snap. I think I’ve got it.

By which I mean I think I know why Albus dragged Harry to the cave and ordered him to force him to drink the potion.

The potion induces Remorse. That is it’s purpose. And it isn’t lethal unless your soul is so compromised that you are likely to die of the pain of the remorse generated.

True, Albus knew that he needed to get Harry out of the castle if Draco was bringing in an invasion force. The last thing he wanted to do was to leave Harry in a position to mess with it.

And, yes, he had discovered that this was probably one of Tom’s Horcrux hideaways, and he legitimately wanted to get one more of them settled before his time ran completely out.

But he knew that his time was almost out and he didn’t have an easy conscience — even if he had already used the Resurrection Stone to apologize to his sister. He probably wanted to repair whatever damage his soul had taken in a lifetime of misjudgments and bad decisions before he made Snape kill him.

Albus did have full access to all those Dark Arts books concerning the use and abuse of souls, and he knew how it worked. And I still say that that cave was far older than Tom Riddle.

I rather think that if Tom had been normal, and not completely power-mad, he might have made a very decent historian. He seems to have been fascinated by legends, and wonders, (and prophecies). And if I am wrong and he did create that cave, he certainly was working from some extremely traditional templates.

But I don’t think Tom made that cave. I think he and the two younger children from the orphanage got into the antechamber when Tom was 9 or 10 and he had a highly successful afternoon terrorizing them there. (Perhaps immobilizing them with the tide coming in, and leaving them there, until their panic managed to override his control — and then making it impossible for them to speak of it afterwards when he saw they had escaped, is my guess.)

But Tom likes to revisit the scenes of his triumphs, and he takes possession of such places if he can. When he eventually got back to the cave, after he’d had at least some magical training, he was able to recognize that the place had “known magic”.

I don’t know whether that visit was as an adult, or if the orphanage made another trip there during his school years (which, when you stop to think of it seems very likely). But I would bet that if the later is the case, a place like that cave might very well be referenced somewhere in Hogwarts library, and have a history of its own.

It wasn’t just his own ancestry and various forms of Dark magic that Tom researched. I expect that our Tom spent a lot of time in the Hogwarts library. I’ll bet he staked out a corner of it as his own little domain and held court there under the staff’s noses.

But we’re still left with all sorts of unanswered questions about that cave. Harry saw the body of one wizard in that lake, his robes trailing in the water. That is probably supposed to be understood to be Regulus Black (given how simplistic most of Rowling’s answers to the apparent mysteries strewn through the series have turned out to be). But we have no info as to whether Regulus is now an Inferus, or simply a corpse floating in the water.

The Inferi who actually attacked Harry were dressed in rags, not robes. Yet unless there was some magical element involved, you would not expect a mere corpse to be so intact after nearly 20 years, even if there are no fish in that lake feeding on it. 

And we have another puzzle as to who (or what) refilled the basin after Regulus drank it to switch the lockets. It is possible that Reggie simply used the spell Harry used to keep refiling Slughorn’s bottles when he got Sluggy and Hagrid drunk, and extended the residue of the potion once he lowered the level enough for Kreachur to get the Locket out, but Kreachur didn’t stay to see him do it, and Tom doesn’t seem to have gone back himself until just before the final battle. (At which point the basin was again full, despite Albus and Harry’s having emptied it only the year before.)

But if its purpose is to induce remorse, I don’t think the potion is lethal in itself, however painful. However, it also induces a great thirst, and if you touch the lake, the Inferi are programed to drag you under and drown you (*cough* Have we or have we not ever encountered something referred to as a “Bubble-head Charm”? That charm had been very popular at Hogwarts during at least a part of Harry’s 5th year). By all rights, Reggie could as easily have ordered Kreachur to take him home with the Horcrux. He would probably have recovered in time (and, I suspect repaired his soul of whatever damage had been done during his year as a DE).  

And as just mentioned above, we have canonical evidence that the basin does refill of itself. When Tom went to check on his Horcrux, he turned the potion clear to see into it. i.e., there was potion in the basin. Albus and Harry certainly never stopped to refill it, but in the year since they had been there it had refilled itself.

Acto Kreachur, Tom filled the basin with potion after Kreachur had drunk it, but we were not told whether he had already put the potion that Kreachur drank into the basin in the first place. It now sounds very much as though the potion was already there. Tom may even have sampled it and, being Tom, reacted very badly to it, concluding that it must be a particularly lethal poison.

And Kreachur also does not say whether Tom brought additional potion to the cave to refill the basin after he drank it, or simply used the refill spell on the residue. I suspect the later. If so, the spell still seems to be holding.

• • • •

Which raises the considerable question of what the cave’s purpose originally was.

If the cave and what is in it are as old as they seem to be I’d be surprised if there isn’t a story related to it in Beedle the Bard’ collected works. Or that of one of his competitors. But Beedle seems to be the major name in indigenous British wizarding fables. And Albus was raised as a young British wizard who was probably familiar with the full collection from boyhood.

Which makes the fact that the book Hermione was left in his will is printed in “runes” very curious. We know that Rowling is absolute pants at anything to do with history, but runes are more Germanic or Scandinavian than they are British. (Unless she said runes, and meant ogham, which I am pretty sure are either Pictish or Celtic.) Which suggests to me that that may be an original copy or at least one that was transcribed rather than printed — which would put it pre-15th century at least — rather than the version that most wizards over the last couple of hundred years are familiar with.

Although it is also a valid point, and a perfectly viable alternative reading, that much of the specific “wizarding” culture to which we have been introduced is a Post-Seclusion retrofit, and that printing books in runes might be akin to the archaic adoption of robes as everyday dress. The robes appear to have been widely accepted. But the adoption of runes does not appear to have stuck.

But the very fact that Ron is familiar with Beedle argues against its ever being out of print, any more than Mother Goose has been (one now realizes where the twins probably heard about making unbreakable vows, even though Rowling’s version of Beedle probably won’t go there) even though the later editions have been published in English, rather than “Beedle’s” runes.

Which would identify Beedle as either a wizarding folklorist collecting traditional tales around the turn of the 18th century, or the eponymous author of the tales collected by an unnamed wizard who published the original anthology. But household tales tend to morph over the centuries in the telling. The version Ron knows has clearly shifted slightly from the one Hermione was given.

ETA: Rowling set Beedle in something like 13th century. Fine. Nothing much depends on that.

However, if Rowling really does mean runes, and the runes are original, the stories could date from Saxon times, i.e., around the time that Hogwarts was founded. The Peverills (or a descendant) and a Slytherin descendant eventually married, but it may have taken centuries before they did so. Swythyv has pointed out that it was around the 12th–13th century that most of the transition of scrolls, to codexes, to books was made. By then both families might have changed names.

I have to admit that the Peverill grave at Godric’s Hollow sounds a lot more recent than the 10th century, even if the Church may be a rebuilt one on the site of one that was much older, and the churchyard older yet. The 13th century does at least sound marginally possible.

Which now has one wondering why Victor Krum recognized the sigil as Grindelwald’s mark but not as that of the Deathly Hallows. But I think we have a reasonable explanation for that at hand. Grindelwald had a British great-aunt (or a great-aunt living in Britain, anyway) who could have sent him a book of British fables when he was a small child.

Yet Hermione was certain that the Hallows sigil had been added to the book, and wasn’t a part of it, nor did the (original) story of the 3 brothers who tried to cheat Death ever refer to the “gifts” as the Deathly Hallows. (Nor is there any sacred connotation associated with them which would justify their being referred to as “hallows” at all.) And the book is supposedly written in runes which are Germanic or Scandinavian.

I really think that this whole scenario simply fails to add up, so perhaps we need to look for a missing element.

• • • •

Clearly there is a semi-secret wizarding cult which has sprung up and adopted that particular story, devised or adopted that particular symbol — which really is cut into Ignotas Peverill’s headstone — and probably some kind of woo-woo philosophy to go with their interpretation of it. Xeno Lovegood as much as tells us so. Grindelwald may even have encountered members of that society rather than necessarily the nursery tale, and learned of it 3rd-hand, although he seems to have done so before he was 16 and was expelled from Durmstrang, since he carved the sigil into the wall there before they threw him out. He seems to have found the business all rather laughable although he and Albus were still young enough to play a fine, protracted game of “what if” on the strength of it.

We can’t be sure just how lightly Albus took it, however. Albus was a far less carefree young man than Gellert was.

Indeed, I’m not altogether sure how seriously Gellert took it — until he actually had the Elder wand in his own hands.

I’m not at all convinced that Albus could, or would have tried to suppress the information in Beedle, though. It isn’t dangerous on the same level that information about various Dark Arts may be. You also have to wonder just when he woke up to the fact that the unhallowed Hallows were all real. He certainly still pooh-poohs the notion that they were given to the brothers by Death himself.

He knew about the Elder Wand being legendary, certainly, and possibly real, although he may not have initally believed that the one he got from Grindelwald was the same one as in that particular story. (The story in its original form certainly doesn’t say anything about the wand having gone on to be a famous legend.) But if he believed that the Peverill ring really included the Resurrection stone, you have to wonder why it took him so long to start trying to find out what Riddle did with it. The Bob Ogden memory dated from around 1925. And even if he never got a lead on the ring it until he spoke to Morfin Gaunt in Azkaban he must have known about it by the time Tom returned to the ww some point around 1960.

Although the easiest explanation to apply there, is just that Albus assumed that the Gaunts’ ring was an artifact of the secret society, on the same order as Xeno Lovegood’s broach, and consequently, meaningless in itself.

Given that everyone in this story is turning out to be a lot dumber than we originally gave them credit for, he may not have put 2+2 together until he got a look at James’s cloak. And that may not have been until some time in the ’70s. If not later.

• • • •

But, that cave; you really have to wonder now whether the symbol of the Deathly Hallows is carved anywhere in that cave. It’s not like Harry or Albus would have noticed, is it? It was way too dark in there.

And also, I’d say the cave is much older than the 12th–13th century. I could easily believe the sigil is carved on the archway in the DoM (which is described as a pointed, gothic arch), but not necessarily there in the cave.

And Albus told Harry not to touch the lake. Since he had figured that would alert the Inferi to come and drag you under.

But we might need to consider that although Kreachur says he drank from the lake, and he recovered, Albus didn’t.

Harry splashed Albus with water from the lake, but he didn’t drink it and I suspect that you are supposed to. The water will facilitate in the healing and purification, and I think Swythyv was right to identify the Lake as “living” water. The touch of the water revives, but it does not heal. And it probably preserves what is put into it, although it cannot return life to the dead.

That island now sounds an awful lot like the last stop before the God-King goes out to meet his destiny, or the place of an anointed Champion’s vigil before his ordeal.

Such a candidate probably would not be required to drain the whole basin, but he had to drink from it and see the results of his past actions. And then to drink from the living water of the Lake to heal and purify himself for his task.

For that matter, I have a problem with Albus’s pronouncement that the basin can only be emptied by drinking the stuff. If you can scoop it up with a crystal goblet You ought to be able to scoop it up with 12 crystal goblets. And maybe back in the day a council of 12 elders gathered there to do so at the end of the old year. But, still, that particular issue really has only become a problem since Tom stocked the Lake with Inferi, preventing anyone from drinking from it.

If there were no Inferi in that lake there would be no bar to drinking the water, and no limit to the number of persons who went to the island. Only the size of the boat would limit that. And we were directly told that it was Tom who introduced the “toy boat”. (Which in itself is a bit curious given that we were shown that Tom can fly.)

Twelve elders with 12 goblets at one particular point of the year...? The basin does refill on its own. In just about a year’s time, too.

• • • •

I still think that Albus’s major nudge to finding the cave was a re-examination of the memory of his interview with Mrs Cole. But if he had managed to glimpse anything of the first cave expedition, with Tom, from Kreachur that might have set him off to wondering when it was that someone else had mentioned a cave to him, related to Tom Riddle.

And the Inferi certainly were not a part of that cave before Tom messed with it. Those Inferi were deployed by Tom in the last war. But I will bet that they never were seen after the 1980 date of Reggie’s death. Once they were in the cave, Tom left them there to guard his Horcrux. He never brought them online this time round.

And I think I was wrong in my original theory. His followers did not know about that cave. I don’t think he ever wanted any of them to know about that cave.

But I’m not convinced that the living water will put you into suspended animation. That does not really fit anything we’ve got in canon. It also isn’t the Draft of Living Death. (Which turns out to have never really figured in the series at all, it was merely set-dressing.) And the Black family tapestry did generate a death date for Reggie.

• • • •

However. I’ll give you a present Swythyv: Harry didn’t stay dead when Voldemort killed him. Possibly because Tom had not only inadvertently made Harry into a Horcrux, but by using Harry’s blood to build a simulacrum, he had made himself into one as well — for Harry. So we do have a Potterverse precedent of people who don’t stay dead. Even if it is Harry, and Harry as we all know is “special”.

But then, it is also a very “traditional” understanding in general that witches cannot drown. The water will not accept them, so they float. Presumably this principle should work for wizards as well. Consequently, the corpse of the wizard that Harry saw floating in the lake, would have had to have gone into the water as a corpse. It may just be one of the Inferi. (Even though Rowling clearly wants us to think that it’s Reggie.)

The Inferi dragged Reggie under, and he blacked out, and the Tapestry recorded his death. But he would have popped back up to the surface as soon as the Inferi turned loose of him, which they would have done as soon as he stopped struggling. If he had the good fortune to pop up, face up, near the shore, he might have revived and managed to scramble out. He had also probably swallowed some of the water from the lake during the struggle, after all.

• • • •

No one was ever supposed to come and fish Reggie out. He didn’t ever expect to go home. He knew that would only bring danger down on his mother if he did. And he didn’t dare call Kreachur to come and get him. He, like Harry, had expected to die, and, like Harry, he hadn’t. His temporary death may have broken Voldemort’s connection to his Dark Mark as well, although it might still be visible. It also generated a death date on the family tapestry. But the tapestry’s enchantments probably weren’t designed to self-correct if he revived.

That was the year that Harry was born. Now that Rowling has failed to convince all of us of her version, we are free to develop our own. Maybe Reggie had learned to become an Animagus. Shapeshifting does run in his family, after all. Maybe he traced his brother — who he knew opposed Lord Voldemort — and lurked about until he figured out that James and Lily were significant for some reason. He may have gone on to be the Potters’ cat, and after they were killed, he probably learned that the reason they were significant was because of Harry. It would have taken him a while to trace Harry, and once he did he may have freeloaded with Mrs Figg, who he might have known something of from spying on the Order over the last year of the war, and knew that she had a soft touch for moggies. He’d have learned to recognize Harry, and probably kept an eye on him.

When Harry stormed out of the Dursleys’ during the summer before Year 3 Regulus caught sight of Padfoot and hid. He watched Harry get on the Knight Bus and ask to go to Diagon Alley, and stowed away in the undercarriage or the luggage rack. Harry spent a month at the Leaky Cauldron, and only wandered into the pet shop when Hermione showed up and went looking for an owl.

The woman in the magical menagerie where Hermione got Crookshanks claims he’d been there for a long time, but what are the bets, really? Would she have kept a grown cat in a cage in a shop? We saw that he wasn’t in a cage. How do we know that he hadn’t been wandering around the neighborhood for no more than a few weeks and she just sold the clueless girl a local stray.

• • • •

As for Tom, and Sirius’s “likely story” that he had ordered Reggie’s death, it’s possible that if he did get some kind of feedback from the broken connection from the Dark mark he may have put it about that he had ordered Reggie’s death so as to terrorize the rest of his followers. But I wouldn’t count on it. That sounds more like an extrapolation made by the family once Reggie’s fanboy collection of clippings about Lord Voldemort surfaced after his death date appeared on the tapestry. Or a student rumor when his death was announced at Hogwarts.

Which raises the issue that Regulus Black appears to have managed to become a marked Death Eater before he even finished school. Kreachur is quite insistent that his Master was 17 when he defied Lord Voldemort by stealing the Locket and dying for it.

I still don’t believe that Tom made a general practice of Marking schoolboys who were living in dormitories into his ranks. But he may have made the occasional exception.

Kreachur claimed that Reggie joined the DEs at 16.

His father, Orion — who Sirius claimed was not a Death Eater, even though he agreed with everything that Lord Voldemort claimed to stand for — has a death date of 1979 recorded on the Tapestry, and in his case, we have nothing in canon which would contradict it.

In 1979, Reggie would have been 16.

He was also now the Heir presumptive to the House of Black, Sirius having been widly understood to have been disowned some 2–3 years earlier. I think that Tom might have considered that to be worth making an exception for.

And, of course, once done, it could not be undone. No matter what the boy’s mother and grandfather might think of it.

In any event it IS fun to play with.