Monday, August 14, 2006

Definitely side-tracked

I've been seriously side-tracked from what I intended, with everything from day camp to going to Lumos 2006 in Las Vegas and visits from friends. And as long as I've wandered, I might as well add some of my own thoughts about the recent interview and Q&A session from Rowling in New York at the beginning of August.

Of course, the most interesting was that she has definitely said that Dumbledore is dead and not to expect him to make a reappearance, as Gandalf did in Lord of the Rings. I had really suspected as much, but was beginning to at least listen to the arguments for Dumbledore still being alive, in some form or other. So, to me, it was a relief to have her confirm what I believed all along.

The other revealing answer that she gave was in response to Salmon Rushdie's lengthy question involving Snape, who he sees as being mean and disagreeable (as most of us do), but that he is essentially one of the good guys. That reasoning was what lead him to believe that Dumbledore was not really dead, though, because as he stated it, if Snape really had killed Dumbledore, then Snape would not be on the good side. She said--and I'll find the exact quote later--that his theory was basically correct, but then she followed with Dumbledore is really dead, and we all need to move through the stages of mourning and get on with it.

Along with that, I've started reading Half-Blood Prince again--3rd time through, I think, not counting the times I've read a particular chapter looking for information. And what struck me is the time references in the first three chapters. Of course, as Steve Vander Ark pointed out at Lumos, Rowling doesn't pay close attention to the calendar as most of us do, and trying to make the regular calendar work out is an exercise in futility. The school year always begins on September 1 and it's always a Monday. Hmmm, well, there's a problem there, all right.

So going by that, I made my own Rowling calendar for HBP, because when I looked at the Lexicon, I think they might be a little off and it interfers with what I was reading (or reading into the text, as it were). I ended up going back to the end of Order of the Phoenix to try to pin it down, and of course, that just adds to the confusion.

But this is what I've noticed in HBP in the first three chapters:

Chapter 1: The Other Minister

It gives the background of the contact that the Muggle Prime Minister has had with the Minister of Magic--most recently with Cornelius Fudge.

Then when it comes to Fudge apprising the PM of the most recent catastrophe in the Wizarding World--namely the open return of Voldemort, the giants and dementors joining him, the bridge collapse, deaths of Amelia Bones and Emmeline Vance--there is a definite time reference.

"I wish him {Scrimgeour} luck," said Fudge, sounding bitter for the first time. "I've been writing to Dumbledore twice a day for the past fortnight, but he won't budge. If he'd just been prepared to persuade the boy, I might still be . . . Well, maybe Scrimgeous will have more success." [HPB-p. 15]

Now, what's significant there is that Fudge did not acknowledge that Voldemort had returned until after the fiasco at the ministry, which happened on the last day of their exams. That had to be at least half way through June. (In OP, they are into the month of June when McGonagall gives them the schedule for their O.W.L.S, which will take place over a two week period and will begin on a Monday. Going by my sketchy calendar, the first week of June is June 1 through June 6, with the next week (a Monday) being June 8. So two weeks of exams, with the last, History of Magic, being on a Friday, means they finished on June 19. That would have been the day for their ill-fated trip to the Department of Mysteries to rescue Sirius.

A fortnight is two weeks. So that would put the meeting between Fudge, who introduces Scrimgeour, and the Muggle PM on Friday, July 3.

Now, the next time reference comes in the second chapter and places Snape's meeting with the two sisters on the same night.

Chapter Two: Spinner's End
Many miles away the chilly mist that had pressed against the Prime Minister's windows drifted over a dirty river that wound between overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks. [HPB-p. 19]

And one more time reference in the same chapter comes from Bellatrix when she is confronting Snape, making it easy to miss, as we pay more attention to the confrontation than to the time element.

"Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord"? [HBP-p. 25]

And concerning Dumbledore's injury after the battle in the Ministy:

[Snape says to Bellatrix]". . . The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were." [HPB-p. 31]

Now, granted, "few" does not necessarily mean two. It just means a small number, not many, but putting that together with the first paragraph of the chapter seems to indicate that they are visiting Snape two weeks after the debacle at the MoM, at the same time Fudge and Scrimgeour are talking with the Muggle PM, and the injury to Dumbledore's hand. Why is that important? That's what I started to wonder, mainly because Rowling doesn't include a lot of time references. So why did she this time? I think it's to signify that the two week time period is important--and it's led me to ask just what and when Snape knew what was going on with the Ministry, with Dumbledore, and specifically with Dumbledore and Snape communicating.

Dumbledore picks up Harry on a Friday night at 11 pm, (and Harry is thankful that he's only had to spend two weeks with the Dursleys this summer holiday). It's hard to know, though, just when the summer holidays began. So this is probably a week after the first two chapters, as the students usually spend at least another week at Hogwarts after they finish exams, and they seem to have done at the end of OP. At any rate, we are into July at this point.

The significant thing is that Dumbledore's hand is withered and blackened, and when they get to Slughorn's hide-out, Harry notices the gold ring with the damaged black stone--which Dumbledore acknowledges to Slughorn when he says that Horace is right when he looks at Dumbledore's injured hand and says: "Reactions not what they were, I see." [HBP-p. 67]

"You're quite right," said Dumbledore serenely, shaking back his sleeve to reveal the tips of those burned and blackened fingers; the sight of them made the back of Harry's neck prickle unpleasantly. "I am undoubtedly slower than I was. But on the other hand. . ."

He shrugged and spread his hands wide, as though to say that age had its compensations, and Harry noticed a ring on his uninjured hand that he had never seen Dumbledore were before: It was large, rather clumsily made of what looked like, gold, and was set with a heavy black stone that had cracked down the middle. Slughorn's eyes lingered for a moment on the ring too, and Harry saw a tiny frown momentarily crease his wide forehead. [HBP-p. 67-68]

However, it can't be too long after that two week period, as Dumbledore tells Harry that his hand was injured a few days before Dumbledore came to collect him from Privet Drive. It also has to have happened before Snape talks to Bellatrix and mentions that Dumbledore has sustained another injury, which he doesn't specify.

I'm trying to put all this together with the rather evasive answers that Severus gives Bella--those answers that seem to address her concerns but that can certainly be taken in a way that reaffrims Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore, depending on which way the hearer (or the reader) wants to interpret his somewhat cryptic comments.

I think, then, that the time sequence is something we should pay close attention to in Half-Blood Prince. It's the old question of who knew what, and when did they know it. I think that Severus knew all about what Dumbledore was doing, who he was going to talk to about the Potions job (meaning that he knew in "Spinner's End" that he was going to be the new DADA teacher), and that's the reason his answers can be taken either way. If he hadn't been in on Dumbledore's plans, I don't think that Severus could have been so convincing or so misleading with his responses to Bellatrix and to Narcissa.

I'll come back to the rest of my thoughts on Snape at a later time.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought you can use at HogwartsProfessor, don't you think its odd that Snape who supposedly developed these better methods of making the tradational spells didn't use them when he taught poytions, curious don't you think.

Eeyore said...

You're right, of course. But then Snape's teaching methods have always been a little odd. He does seem to like and understand Potions as a subject, but doesn't really have the patience to be a teacher.

Even in HBP, the little bit of information we get about Snape as the DADA teacher isn't very informative. I'd love to know how he thinks one should drive away dementors, since he doesn't agree with Harry. It sounds like there is more than one method, but we've only seen one--the Patronus. Since that requires a happy thought, it is fairly reasonable to think that Snape must have found another way to conjure a Patronus--he doesn't seem to be the sort who would have a lot of happy thoughts to choose from.