Readers Submissions

Firstly, I want to thank everybody that e-mailed me things to use in my column- I got some very interesting and sharp-eyed observations! It seems as though the HP books are chock-full of little hints, mysteries, and clues that take a bit of digging to find, but they could turn out to be potentially important details. Here are e-mails sent to me, along with my analysis (and I sincerely aplogise if I get your name wrong, if the e-mail wasn't signed I used the name that appeared in my inbox). Enjoy, and as usual there are spoilers for Order of the Phoenix ahead.

Firstly, I got very good speculations about two characters from Brian, so I'll start with those. Here is the first:

"At the very first broom-flight lessonm, why did Neville Longbottom's broom misbehave so badly?... really, in a way which reminds us of the curse that Quirrel placed on Harry's broom during that fateful quidditch game in Book 1 It looks to me like a long-ignored act of sabotage. But why, if Harry is truly the subject of the prophecy? There has been no evidence that Voldemorte (or any of his agents) has it in for Neville. Still, that broom incident is such a potentially major easter egg, I thought it bore mentioning. Maybe you have some theory?

Along those lines, is Snape so mean to Neville because Neville darn well better get really good at potions (i.e. poisons and antidotes) if he is going to survive?"

I'm sure I, like many others, just passed off the misbehaviour of Neville's broom as evidence of his clumsiness. However, one REALLY does wonder- a lot of the students must have been just as nervous as Neville was about flying, yet none of them reacted badly enough to send their brooms flying. COULD this have been a deliberate attempt to kill Neville, then? Possibly... and remember, while we readers didn't find out about the prophecy until Book 5, Voldemort knew about it even before book 1... and Voldemort was attached to Quirrell's head. Voldemort may have seen this as a chance to kill off BOTH boys the prophecy could have applied to, since he doesn't know for sure which boy will cause his downfall, and decided broomstick accidents would be the perfect way to kill both and make it look like an accident in Neville's case and an traitorous act by Snape in Harry's case. Speaking of Snape, I do believe it's plausible that Snape is so mean to Neville because Snape wants Neville to put more effort into his work, not only to prove to everyone that he isn't so clumsy, but it is indeed necessary for him to gain more confidence in his work so he can survive the upcoming war with Voldemort. Remember the saying, "What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger"? That's essentially the idea in this case- if Neville doesn't let Snape's bullying bring him down, he will become a stronger wizard.

Here is the second speculation from Brian:
"Now while we're on the subject of Snape, I also thing there's quite a bit of evidence to support an inference --not that he is a vampire -- but that he is a HALF-Vampire. If you're interested, I'd love to go through some of my thoughts with you. But the most obvious are:
1) He is obviously vampire-like, but without having to face the consequences of his vampire-nature (e.g. the bloodthirst, the avoidance of daylight.) This could be explained -- a la Lupin -- by his taking some kind of curative potion. But it could also be that he does not have the full harmful effect because of his half-breed status.
2) Snape's first name is Severus -- certainly a possible throwback to ancient Rome, but I think more likely a name which reflects a SEVERED (i.e. divided) nature -- half human, half vampire; JKR's name-choices are never random and usually offer some kind of insight --even if it's not an obvious one.;
3) I think Snape's half-breed status is the reason he turned away from Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Their emphasis on being a pure-blood would have meant that -- yet again -- Snape was rejected even from the very society that should have most embraced him. That would explain why he has decided to betray the Big V;
4) JKR has a fascination with half-breed characters. First and foremost, there are Harry and Tom Riddle; then there's Hagrid, who is half-giant. Snape as a half-vampire would fit into this general theme. It might also help explain why he helps Harry besides himself."

I feel this is a brilliant theory- I've seen the idea that Snape is a full vampire being tossed around, but there's also a lot that contradicts it. But Snape COULD indeed be half-vampire, since he exhibits some qualities of a vampire (ie, a very pale complexion and a seeming love for the dark) but not all of them. Being a half-vampire could be why Snape is consistently denied the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, even when they're desperate
to fill the position- the classroom is seemingly on an upper and very sunny floor, while the Potions room is a dark dungeon. If Snape is half-vampire,
sunlight would likely still cause him some discomfort, enough to make it unlikely that he'd be able to stand a full day's teaching in a bright classroom. I find it interesting as well that the day Snape subbed for Lupin in book 3 was very dark and cloudy. The point about Snape's name is also a very good one- Brian is very right in saying name choices are never random. Being half-vampire would also certainly make Snape want to leave the Death Eaters because it's obvious that, to them, anybody who's not a pure-blood wizard is inferior, and Snape certainly would be considered "inferior" if they knew he was a half-breed. There are also several half-breed prominent characters: half-giants Hagrid and Madam Maxime and werewolf Lupin, and the main hero and villian are both half-blood wizards (or if you want to be picky, Harry is a less-than-half blood since his mum was a Muggle-born witch), so half-vampire Snape would fit into this trend.

Snape-the-vampire leads into my second contributor, Hsmiles:
"I have an Easter egg: JK does mention Vampires an awful lot, eg. describing Draco, the Sirius wanted poster etc. Could harry possibly meet a real Vampire? Afterall he's met a Werewolf, another gothic creature."

Very good observation there. When J.K. mentions things repeatedly, chances are it's going to crop up and be somewhat important later in the story. (Another instance in which vampires are mentioned is when the kids are guessing who will be the next Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher after Lupin leaves in book 3, Dean Thomas "hopefully" suggests a vampire. Very interesting choice.) If Snape is not a vampire or half-vampire, perhaps Harry will meet another new character that is one?

Next come several points courtesy of Ezequiel. Firstly, he writes:
"One of them, is a tiny incongruence I've noticed- wizards don't use electricity, but how come there are radio stations? The same applies to toilets and bathroom commonuse objects, which are out of place in a wizarding enviroment. Also, what happened with the Dueling Club of CoS? It would have been great to see Harry dueling using the handful of spells he learned, those parts would be as interesting as when he fought the Death Eaters at the
Ministry of Magic."

The point about radio stations and common Muggle things like bathrooms being features in the wizarding world is very interesting indeed. A lot of wizards, especially pure-bloods, seem to have absolutely no idea how things in the Muggle world work, evidenced by the fact that there is a Muggle Studies class at Hogwarts, so why would they use Muggle objects like radios, cars like the Weasleys' Ford Anglia, and a train to deliver the kids to Hogwarts? Hermione also says that "all of those substitutes for magic that Muggles use" go haywire around Hogwarts, so how could Mr. Weasley's car, for instance, still drive around? I'm not sure about the radio station, but obviously things like toilets and baths are a necessity, as well as a train to transport students (it would be a nightmare for so many students to travel via Portkeys or Floo Powder, correct?). So I theorize that Muggle objects that are a necessity are reworked to work by magic instead of electricity or batteries or whatever to work around Hogwarts and other parts of the Wizarding world. As far as the Dueling Club goes, I was also curious as to why that was never revived after that disastrous first meeting. Obviously after Book 4 the Ministery wouldn't allow it, and the D.A. in Book 5 was an extension of this, but wouldn't it be better if all young wizards learned to defend themselves in such a way? As Mad-Eye Moody says, constant vigilance!

Here is the second e-mail I got from Ezequiel:
"1) Are spells invented or discovered? If they are invented, Dumbledore could, being a such powerful wizard, create one to detect Voldemort and throw Avada Kedabra, or another for killing him in the distance. Anyway, he should teach them to Harry to fulfill the prophesy.

2) Harry casts the Cruciatus curse on Bellatrix Lestrange at the Ministry of Magic. Why didn't he recieve a warning owl, or even worse, an owl informing that he'd go to Azkaban? Perhaps because all the workers were at their homes, and no one, speciall y Mafalda Hopkirk, was there to send said owl. But then, all the under-age wizards could perform magic late at night without risking themselves. Messy Magical Mayhem!

3) Dumbledore can create Portkeys at will. He could have used them a lot of times in the past, creating them at the moment, for example: When he was send to the MoM in SS, he could have returned quckier to Hogwarts, and to the Mirror of Erised room to confront Quirrel/Voldy.He seems to have known Harry would find the Chamber of Secrets in book 2. Why not using a Portkey to find it himself? If he thought Sirius was the bag guy before PoA is beyond me, but if this is the case, he could have used a Portkey to go directly where he was.And he can always transport himself to the place Voldy is hiding and battle him."

For point 1: Magic is a very mysterious thing, even to the wizards who use it. I'm willing to bet most wizards don't take the time to think about where the spell they're using come from. So ARE most spells invented or discovered? We don't know. We DO know that spells -CAN- be created... Voldemort says after he is reborn in book 4 that he used "a spell or two of my own invention" to get his body back- but there obviously have to be limits or difficulties in inventing a spell, or else any wizard who has enough knowledge and power to create spells could potentially become invincible. For point 2: I've often wondered myself why the kids, the main trio especially, often seem to get away with using spells outside of school. Fred and George also seem to have had a penchant for using magic outside of school when they weren't supposed to in order to develop their joke stuff, yet they never (to our knowledge) got a warning from the Ministry for it. My guess is the Ministry's method for tracking illegal spells isn't very reliable, and they can only detect the general area in which an illegal spell was used and in some cases which spell was used, they can't tell exactly who did it. For instance, when Dobby used the Hover Charm in book 2 to knock over the pudding, Harry got blamed for it, even though he was not the one who actually did the spell. The Ministry likely concentrates their efforts to find illegal spells in areas heavy with Muggles (like the Dursleys' neighbourhood), since Muggles aren't supposed to know about magic. In areas like the Ministry of Magic, or at the Burrow, there must be too much magic in the air for the Ministry to even detect if an illegal spell is fired, and even then they likely don't care since Muggles aren't likely to be present. For point 3: Portkeys haven't really been fully explained yet, but my guess is Dumbledore chose not to create them all the times he could have used them to aid Harry because for one, making Portkeys without authorization is illegal. Dumbledore only did it in book 5 because it was urgent to get Harry away from someplace, and he didn't care that the Ministry minded. Dumbledore also probably wants Harry to learn how to work things out for himself, so he doesn't help nearly as much as he could via usage of Portkeys. Also, I speculate that, to create a Portkey, you must know exactly where you're going to, so Dumbledore or anybody else can't just create a Portkey for an unknown destination.

Here is Ezequiel's third and final e-mail:
"How come all of the potions that only include solid objects be drunk? Does the cauldron must have a pre-included magic water or something like tha? Look at the Polyjuice potion for example. It requires lacwing flies, leeches, fluxweed, kntograss, powdered horn of a bicorn and shredded skin of a
boomslang. These are solid objects, but Harry and Ron drink the potion.

Highlighting the stupidity of Dumbledore is something I'd like to do. At the Ministry, when he confronts Voldemort, he just goes pestering around with the dark wizard, Disaparating and Aparating and blocking Avada Kedavra. That was a perfect chance of terminating him, but Dumbledore argues that 'merely taking Voldemrot's life wold not satisfy him', and that 'there are other ways to destroy a man'. Which are them, and how do they suffice that much to make Dumbledore decide not to take Voldemo rt's life so easily?

Maybe Dumbledore won't kill Voldemort because the prophesy told it would be Harry who would do so. What happens if the things that the prophesy foresees aren't fulfilled? What if the headmaster just casts Avada Kedavra to the dark wizard, go ing against the prophesy? Does the future is arranged in such way that everything will prevent that happening? Dumbledore's may have decided the above because
a) My speculation is accurrate and an unseen force provokes Dumbledore's brain to think in one or other way; or
b) Dumbledore knows a cataclysm or something like that would happen if the prophesy is not fulilled. But he might as well had paralyzed Volemort with a spell and let Harry stab him with his wand (SS troll's nose style)."

For the potions: It does seem a bit odd that they just seemingly throw together a bunch of solid stuff to make a potion at first glance, but they also probably start with water or some sort of liquid as the base for the potion, and the other ingredients dissolve each other or melt (we don't know how hot magical fires can get or if they have any special qualities for dissolving potion ingredients). Even so, their potions must usually be thick and goopy and disgusting to drink, so Snape may just judge if they made the potion correctly by things like appearance, texture, and smell. For Dumbledore: There is a very good reason he didn't kill Voldemort, and it may not be entirely to do with the fact that Harry is as far as we know the only one who can kill Voldemort. Dumbledore may want Voldemort to suffer for all of the killing and despair he has caused during his reign of terror, and Dumbledore wouldn't be satisfied with just killing Voldy if he didn't suffer intense pain for it first. After all, he DID say during their battle that there are things worse than death, but Voldemort has always failed to realize this. And this will likely all come back down to Harry: Harry is the only one who can kill Voldemort, and when Voldy tried fusing himself with Harry and forcing Dumbledore to kill both of them, Harry thought about Sirius and it caused Voldemort unbearable agony, forcing them apart. Harry and whatever power resides within him (most likely love) will be the downfall of Voldemort, and Dumbledore knows he can't do anything to make himself the one who will kill Voldy. I'm willing to bet either a huge disaster or nothing would happen if the prophecy wasn't fully fulfilled- part of it already HAS been fulfilled, the part about the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord being born at the end of July. However, it's unlikely that the prophecy will go wrong, since Dumbledore DID make it clear that the prophecy did apply to Harry so he is thus the only one who can vanquish Voldemort, and Dumbledore is too smart to try and go against it, since it could result in the death of himself or another important character.

Next is an e-mail from Astride:
"Why did JKR mentione that the Sorting Head considered Hermione in Ravenclaw, and why did the Hat change his purpose? It might be an indication on Hermione's past, somewhere I read that Hermione could be an adoptive child, but than who were her real parents? She doesn't pass very much time with her parents, how it comes that she was for nearly the hole holidays at Grimmauld Place, and why wasn't she going skiing with her parents? Another thing I'm surprised at, is why did Crookshanks take such a liking in Sirius? The friendship Hermione/Harry reminds me of the friendship James/Sirius, reading all the HP books, I find that Hermione is a better friend to Harry than Ron, she always helps Harry, she has never been jealous, and explains everything at Harry she can, she tries to explain Harry how the girl's brain are working, she finds out of the Basilic, she directly thinks, that Sirius might have send Harry the Firebolt, she helps Harry with the Summoning charm, she try to protect Harry about his dreams, she never stops telling Harry how important it would be to close his mind, she never gives it up to help Harry, Ron let Harry do what he will, he is not going to stop Harry at anything Harry wants to do, but Hermione is always there to bring Harry to reason."

In my opinion, the Sorting Hat's choices are very rarely mistakes. If Hermione was placed into Gryffindor, there was a good reason for it. But as far as
Hermione's past... that's something that's been bothering me ever since finishing the 5th book. We do know a lot about Hermione, but there's a lot more about her that we DON'T know. What was her personality like growing up- was she social, shy, or the same bossy bookworm she was in the first book? We know her parents are Muggles and they're both dentists, but they don't seem to miss their daughter much when she's away- she apparently didn't spend much time at home in the summer between books 4 and 5, for instance, since she and Ron had been at Grimmauld Place a month before Harry arrived there shortly after his birthday, and Hogwarts doesn't let out til at least the end of June (the third task of the Triwizard Tournament took place on June 24th and they still had a few days of school left after). There's a lot of mystery surrounding Hermione when you think about it. It's also a good point about her friendship with Harry- she and Harry seem to be a lot closer at times than Harry and Ron. I've noticed that Harry always refers to Ron as -one- of his best friends, never excluding Hermione, but Ron only apparently considers Harry to be his best friend, Hermione isn't quite elevated to that status in his mind. It seems like JKR has been phasing Ron out a lot, starting in the 4th and 5th books, and Harry and Hermione's friendship has been developed intensely. Harry becomes irritated with her a lot less than he does Ron, and she's usually the only one who can calm Harry down when he's in a bad mood in the 5th book. I theorize this is because Hermione is one of the few female influences in Harry's life, and he needs her as his "rock", his source of comfort and loyalty when things go bad- he can't have that with Ron, because he and Harry haven't been as close as they once were since their fight in the 4th book, Ron always shied away when Harry started getting angry in the 5th book (probably out of fear of repeating the fight), and Ron's generally positive outlook on life is totally at odds with how Harry is feeling at this time in the series. Hermione, on the other hand, is always there to help and console Harry when things are bad, and she often stands up to him and makes him realise what a brat he's being when he starts having a temper tantrum.

Finally, I have one last e-mail from Kim:
"One is to be found in Book 5, Chapter 26. Here, Crabbe, Goyle, and Draco Malfoy are seen in the library talking to another student. This student's name is Theodore Nott. A Death Eater by the name of Nott was first mentioned in Book 4, Chapter 33. This could either be Theodore's father or other relative. I think J.K. Rowlings will bring yet another new character into the Harry Potter series with Book 6. He may even be worse than Draco Malfoy. One indication is the fact that he's not a cronie of Draco's like Crabbe and Goyle. With his father's capture in OotP, perhaps he'll be more active against Harry.

Another possible Easter Egg is found in Book 5, chapter 35. In this chapter Neville's nose is broken and his wand is broken in half so Harry recommends that he use Hermoine's. Later in this same chapter, Neville and Luna help Harry to do the ColoPortus spell on the doors in the Brain Room; Neville uses Hermoine's wand to do this. Later, however, Neville tries to use Hermoie's wand against the Death Eaters and is unable. This makes me curious as to whether there isn't another wand prohibition besides the Priori Incantatem that makes Neville able to use Hermoine's wand on the doors, but not against the Death Eaters. Hermoine used it successfully, but Neville could not. We still don't know what's at the core of Hermoine's wand.

Another Easter Egg is the mere existence of the brothers Colin and Dennis Creevey. They are a miracle pair. To be wizard brothers from Muggle parents is absolutely astounding. J.K. Rowling makes sure to include both brothers in the DA as can be seen in Chapter 5, chapters 16 and 18, even though Dennis is only a second year student at Hogswart. This blows my mind. I think Ms. Rowling has more to communicate to us concerning this phenomena of muggle born wizards, perhaps in connection with Harry's mother and aunt. Dumbledore's howler in Book 5, chapter 2 was very cryptic. It said, "Remember my last, Petunia." Dumbledore's use of her first name makes me think she must have known Dumbledore before the letter he left with baby Harry years before. It'svery familiar and personal."

Regarding Nott: I noticed this as well. All four of those Slytherin boys (Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott) were seen discussing the Quibbler article, and it mentions in the book that Harry had named all of their fathers as Death Eaters in said article. So it seems as though Theodore Nott is indeed the son of the Death Eater that appeared in the graveyard in book 4. Theodore Nott was also mentioned at Harry's sorting (the last name "Nott" came before "Parkinson", who we know is Pansy Parkinson), so could Nott come back to play a role in a future book? On Neville using Hermione's wand: I re-read the passage, and it seems indeed as though Neville is able to use Hermione's wand perfectly until he tries Stunning the Death Eater. I thought initially that the reason Neville couldn't fire off spells with it was because of his broken nose- he couldn't speak the names of the spells properly, so they wouldn't work even if he'd had his own wand. However, upon closer inspection, if Neville and Luna were sealing off doors, how could Neville have spoken the spell for Colloportus correctly, if he can't say Stupefy (both spell words contain the letter "p", but Neville's nose causes him to say the letter "b" instead)? There are three ways we can interpret this: 1. It was an oversight by Rowling; 2. They were sealing the doors by hand, and not with spells (unlikely, since it's evidenced several times before wizards usually prefer to use magic rather than do things by hand), or 3. Neville had no difficulties closing the door since Colloportus is seemingly a simple spell, but Stupefy requires more power behind it, and using Hermione's wand in conjunction with his injury made it nigh on impossible to fire the spell off correctly. And finally, regarding the Creeveys and Muggle-borns in general: Very good point. I found myself cheering for the Creevey brothers when they did so well in the D.A., because before they were usually seen as annoying by everybody, but they proved that Muggle-borns can be good wizards too, just as Hermione has done many times before. Muggle-born wizards like them are definitely going to be huge assets in the coming war with Voldemort. And the Howler that Dumbledore sent to Aunt Petunia has been the subject of much speculation and debate. Petunia definitely knows a lot more than she's letting on, but exactly what she knows will have to remain to be seen.

I hope you all have enjoyed this column. I thank everybody who contributed to this one, or even those of you who have in the past taken the time just to e-mail me with praise. Keep the speculations and ideas coming, I love hearing what insights people send to me, and I may base another future column or columns on reader submissions!


by Mary McGowan
History Major
CM 301 Cumberland/Kentucky Hall, NKU

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