The North Tower #15: The Missing Death Eater
Hi, everybody. Hope you all had some nice free time in which to eat a lot of good food and put on a pound or two (or five in my case… Ah! the evil powers of chocolate!) I just came back to my apartment in France two days ago and found that the electricity company had decided to give me a present as well: no electricity (heating, stove and hot water included). Fortunately, my laptop has some battery left, so I’m happily back at work, writing this editorial with mittens on. It’s hard to write when wearing mittens. I’m very glad my computer has a spell-check function . Okay, enough about that. I promised you a hard-core Harry Potter editorial this week, so that’s what you’re going to get.
And here we have six missing Death Eaters… three dead in my service. One too cowardly to return… he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever… he will be killed, of course… and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already re-entered my service.” (GoF 565)
These ominous lines are given to us by Lord Voldemort. I guess most of us thought that with the “one who had left him forever,” he is referring to Snape. It seems logical as Snape’s now in the Order and all. I personally didn’t even stop to think. It was Snape. End of story.
Then I read the excellent (in my opinion) editorial “Uncovering Severus Snape” by Cindy Eric, and it really made me think. The only things I found a bit questionable in this editorial were the parts on the Sorting Hat choosing Slytherins because they hate Muggles and on how Snape might be Voldemort’s “most faithful servant.” Otherwise, I just bow my head to an editorial full of interesting ideas and solid argumentation. I’ve even decided to take “editorial about Snape” off my to-do list since it would be pointless to repeat the same things. I’m still going to do another one on Snape-Harry-Voldemort though, as soon as I get the time. I really recommend this other editorial to you. Read that.
Anyway, this editorial argues that Snape is probably not the Death Eater referred to as “having left me forever” in Voldemort’s speech, the reason being that he is probably present in the ring of returning Death Eaters. You can read all the arguments supporting this in the above-mentioned editorial. I personally believe that this is correct, but who then is this missing Death Eater, having supposedly left Voldemort forever?
Let’s start with what we know from the text:
1. “He will be killed.” It’s a man.
2. It’s not “one too cowardly to return” or “my most faithful servant,” which excludes Karkaroff and Crouch, Jr. We are told that Karkaroff flees when he feels his mark burn, and we can be pretty certain that Crouch, Jr., is the “most faithful servant,” not Snape, as has been argued by some. The best argument against “Snape could be the most faithful servant” is that that wouldn’t leave a position open for Crouch, Jr., who’s a Death Eater who’s not present in the circle and thus must be among the six missing ones. He’s not dead at the time. Voldemort knows that he’s neither abandoned him nor fled, ergo he must fulfill the last position of most faithful servant. There are simply no other positions open.
3. It isn’t any of the Death Eaters present in the circle (duh), which excludes Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, Macnair, Avery, Wormtail, and the unnamed ones (probably including Snape). It also includes the Death Eaters then imprisoned in Azkaban (Dolohov, Rookwood, the two Lestranges, and five others)
4. It must be somebody who was a Death Eater when Voldemort was powerful, at least 14 years before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. All present students at Hogwarts can thus be excluded, including all of Ron’s older brothers, as they would have been only children back then.
5. “One, who I believe has left me forever.” “Believe” indicates that Voldemort isn’t entirely sure that this person either a) has truly left him or b) has left him to never come back. It’s a bit ambiguous. A) would suggest that it’s not somebody in the Order (i.e., somebody who’s “openly” allied with Dumbledore against Voldemort (e.g., Arthur Weasley)). B) would suggest a person that might have started infiltrating the Order but then been won over by that side and renounced Voldemort (kind of like Snape, but not Snape). I’m personally leaning towards A rather than B.
Okay, that was the text part; now, over to the logic part.
1. It has to be a character of some consequence because he will probably have quite a big role to play in the last books. I doubt very much that it’ll be a new character or somebody that nobody knows anything of (like Professor Tufty for example). I think JKR will use this character as a surprise, a little shock to the readers who didn’t think he was a Death Eater at all.
2. Okay, this gives us quite a list. My possible candidates are Professor Flitwick, Professor Binns, and Hagrid at Hogwarts; Lupin, Mundungus, Kingsley, Arthur Weasley, Moody, Aberforth, Dumbledore and Sirius in the Order; and Lockhart, Crouch, Sr., Bagman, Amos Diggory and Cornelius Fudge in general society. Let’s take them off one by one, shall we?
Professor Flitwick: in the Order and seems way too sweet and nice.
Professor Binns: totally uninterested in anything except History of Magic
Hagrid: Too close to Dumbledore
Lupin: Seems too decent, gut feeling.
Mundungus: a crook that was helped out of a tight spot by Dumbledore some sixteen years ago. Possible, but I don’t think so.
Kingsley: I really don’t think so. Plus I have him on my “canon fodder” list.
Arthur Weasley: Too close to Dumbledore
Moody: same thing, plus he’d probably not have been as effective in catching Death Eaters if he was one of them.
Aberforth: I think that Aberforth is the barman in the Hog’s Head (he kind of looks like Dumbledore and there is a smell of goats around the place). I think he is the one who threw out the eavesdropping Death Eater on the night of Professor Trelawney’s first prophecy (and no, I don’t think that the eavesdropper was Mundungus). Plus, he’s Dumbledore’s brother, so no.
Dumbledore: That would be pretty bad. Dumbledore is the only person Voldemort feared and the only one who calls him “Tom” and isn’t afraid of him. I really can’t see him being Voldy’s humble servant.
Sirius: No, because he seems to hate everything about Dark Magic. Plus, he’s dead now so there’s no point for him to play that role.
Lockhart: He’s too poor a wizard and too vain to recognize Voldemort as his master.
Crouch. Sr.: Fought hard against Voldemort and is also dead = no point
Bagman: I think he’s a bit too thick, to tell you the truth. He’s like a sporty version of Lockhart.
Amos Diggory: Too concerned about what’s right.
Okay, for all the above characters I don’t think that they’re the missing Death Eaters for more or less fuzzy reasons, but the most important one is that Voldemort’s words can only apply to ONE person, and I think that that person is Cornelius Fudge (i.e., if it is Fudge, then all the others are excluded automatically, like with Neville and Harry: if one of them is the One, the other one isn’t, as there can only be ONE One). I thus don’t really have to prove that each character above isn’t the missing Death Eater, only that the one character I’ve chosen is (i.e., attacks should be on the argumentation concerning Fudge, not on the short arguments above, since they are of no consequence).
Well, for a bunch of different reasons:
1. He’s very ambitious and doesn’t mind using dishonest tricks to remain in power (e.g., badmouthing Harry and Dumbledore, changing Harry’s hearing at the last minute, creating new (pretty fascist) school rules).
2. He’s very good friends with Lucius Malfoy and places too much importance on the “purity of blood.”
3. This person described by Voldemort is one who was a Death Eater but who left Voldemort but probably didn’t join the opposing side (the Order), as indicated by “believe.” He probably wasn’t one of Voldemort’s most ardent supporters (i.e., he could have been unknown by most of the other Death Eaters) as Voldemort doesn’t specify who he is. I get an image of an ambitious character who probably turned to Voldemort out of fear and/or to achieve power and then, when he had achieved that power, wanted to leave him. He probably left after Voldemort’s fall since there seems to be no clear rupture between them (for one thing, he’s still alive) when he deems it safe to be his own master again. He’s now extremely happy with the situation, able to suppress the memory of his Death Eater days, and scared to death that Voldemort will return since that would ruin his life and career. Sounds like somebody we know?
If we look at Fudge’s background we find that he worked for the Ministry but that he only got the Minister of Magic job when Crouch, Sr.’s son was judged a Death Eater (maybe there is a reason why Crouch, Jr., gets caught?…). Fudge then became Minister of Magic and kept very close to Dumbledore in the beginning (looking for protection in case his old master came back?…) but then got more and more confident (as time passed without Voldemort coming back) and stopped listening to Dumbledore. Other than that, we don’t know much about him. Nothing of his background, his time at Hogwarts, etc. (although I’d be willing to bet that he was a Slytherin). He’s a bit mysterious.
4. This character (the missing Death Eater) ought to be extremely afraid that Voldemort should ever come back. That would ruin his world. He does not want that and will try to prevent it in any way possible (makes sense, Voldemort would kill him). What is Fudge’s reaction when Harry tells him about Voldemort’s rebirth? Denial. Very strong denial even. Fudge simply refuses to believe the truth and continues on this path all through Book 5. He’d rather believe that Harry has lost his mind and that Dumbledore is conspiring against him, even though that makes no sense. Fudge is not stupid. If he’d look at things in a rational way, he’d see that the only sensible explanation is the one offered by Harry and Dumbledore. He doesn’t. He refuses to.
If he’s been a Death Eater, he’ll have the Mark. He’ll have felt it burn the night of Voldemort’s return, just like Snape and the others. This could be why he reacts so strongly when Snape shows him his Mark. I mean, he lets out a yelp of fear. As I understood it, nobody but the Death Eaters knows about the Mark on the arm of all of Voldemort’s supporters (if it was general knowledge, then the “good guys” would have had it a lot easier at the trials, for example). If Fudge hasn’t been a Death Eater, he wouldn’t know about it, so why react so strongly when he sees it on Snape’s arm? Sure, the Mark in itself is a scary thing, but I think that there is more to it than that, especially since, a little while later, he seems to give in to reason and says, “He can’t be back Dumbledore, he just can’t.” This seems to be a wish rather than a rational statement. In his heart, he knows the truth, but he refuses to see it. He must certainly feel his Mark burn too but explains it away somehow. It’s like the Muggles who are so easy to hide magic from because they simply refuse to believe in it, even if a stone turns into a cow in front of them. That is how I see Cornelius Fudge in Books 4 and 5. He sees what he wants to see.
5. Fudge’s relationship with Lucius Malfoy and other Death Eaters (like Nott and Macnair). Karkaroff says when witnessing that the Death Eaters didn’t know who all the other Death Eaters were. At Voldemort’s rebirth, Voldemort names some of the Death Eaters and just goes past others in silence, not revealing who they are. If Fudge used to be a Death Eater, it’s possible (and even probable) that most of the other ones didn’t know about him. I think that we can be pretty sure that some knew, however, and that Cornelius knew about them in return. Fudge is the Minister of Magic. Several Death Eaters work for the Ministry. Wonder how that came about… Malfoy reeks of Dark Magic, and everybody in the Order knows exactly where his loyalties lie. In spite of that, he was never convicted as a Death Eater (even though he was probably the most well-known among the Death Eaters themselves, seeing as he’s very close to Voldemort). Again, I wonder why that is… This is, of course, a big conspiracy theory, but what if the Death Eaters who work at the Ministry are the ones who know about Fudge? Maybe there’s blackmail involved. Maybe in both directions (i.e., Malfoy shuts up about Fudge if Fudge shuts up about Malfoy, not to forget all the money that Malfoy gives to Fudge. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine…). It seems like a big game, who is manipulating whom, really? This is what I think:
Fudge is the Death Eater referred to by Voldemort as the one who has probably left him forever. He knows that Malfoy and the other Death Eaters who work at the Ministry used to be Death Eaters but probably thinks that they’ve done what he’s done and decided to work for themselves. Lucius and co. are smart enough not to fill him in on their boss’s return because Cornelius does such a good job unconsciously helping them (or is it really unconsciously? Maybe he knows that Voldemort is back and figures that his best chance of survival is to play along, or at least not oppose him…). Cornelius has achieved his ambitions, and now he wants things to stay the way they are. He doesn’t want to get dragged into a conflict between Voldemort’s supporters and Voldemort’s opponents, and he doesn’t want his previous alliance to be known to the public because they’d kick him out of office. I think that this is the key to Fudge: he doesn’t really care about much except securing his own power. (In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, does he protect Harry because he’s concerned about him or because it would be very bad publicity to have Harry killed by an Azkaban fugitive?)
This leaves one question: What does he know about Snape, Wormtail, and Sirius and their connections to Voldemort? Malfoy seemingly didn’t know about Sirius being an Animagus before Wormtail tells them all somewhere between Books 4 and 5, so the other Death Eaters probably didn’t either. It’s possible that Fudge was unaware of the whole “Wormtail being the true spy and Death Eater” part and thought that he was going after the right man in Prisoner of Azkaban. More interesting still is his relationship with Snape. Obviously, Fudge knows that Snape used to be a Death Eater (everybody does), but what does Snape know? Remember that Snape and Malfoy are very close. I think he knows about Fudge, but for some reason or other, he’s chosen not to reveal this little piece of especially juicy information to the rest of the Order (or maybe Dumbledore knows, who knows? He’s famous for being discrete and giving second chances after all…).
This theory (if it’s correct) opens up a whole new twist on the story. Many people have guessed that Percy will play a pivotal role in Books 6 and 7 and that he’ll have to make a choice about whose side he wants to fight on. Percy, who in Book 5 is made Junior Undersecretary to none other than Cornelius Fudge… A good position for getting to know things about his employer… Maybe Fudge hired him to get information on the Weasleys and on Dumbledore (he probably did), but he just might get impaled upon his own sword if he’s not careful. This also creates a need for a new Minister of Magic (Fudge’s bad handling of Voldemort’s return might be smoothed over, but the fact that he once was a part of the “team” certainly won’t be. Assuming he survives, Voldemort has vowed to kill him after all. He’ll probably be dead the moment he no longer can be of use to the Death Eaters). Who knows, maybe Arthur Weasley will get the top job as so many seem to think.
As for Fudge, he’ll have to choose sides at the beginning of Book 6 and his choice will be an essential one: will he join forces with Dumbledore, or will he go back to Voldemort in an attempt to save his own skin? (Also, does he or does he not have an army of fire creatures to help whatever side he picks?)
Some things to think about…
See you next time. (I’m starting my exams in a couple of days, so I might not be able to write every week for the coming month. I’ll really try, though.)