The Mystery of the Stupefied Death Eater

by Emma C. 

“Somebody Stupefied a Death Eater on top of the tower after Dumbledore died…” HBP, UK hardcover, page 604

This is what Rufus Scrimgeour tells Harry at the end of Book 6 when trying to extract information from him about the events of that terrible night, insinuating that he knows that Harry too was up on that tower. After rereading the sequence of events for that night I noticed that the actual spell Harry used on the Brutal Faced Death Eater was not in fact Stupefy (which renders its target unconscious), but Petrificus Totalus, the full body bind. This spell was used twice on Harry in HBP: first by Malfoy on the train, and second by Dumbledore on the tower. It renders its target fully conscious, but unable to move a muscle.

It seemed unusual that the Ministry of Magic employees would be unable to differentiate between the two curses, but what if the Death Eater they found on the tower was not the person that Harry cursed?

The behavior of the Brutal Faced Death Eater, I believe, was rather unusual. He would not let any of the other Death Eaters go near Dumbledore, even blasting Greyback out of the way when he tried. BFDE also continued to urge Malfoy to kill Dumbledore after it was clear that his resolve to do so was gone. He seemed to me to be buying time — perhaps until Snape arrived? He was also the last Death Eater to leave the tower (making sure that the other Death Eaters were out of the way before Harry reappeared?). Could it be that this man was, via Polyjuice Potion, actually a member of the Order of the Phoenix in disguise… possibly someone asked by Dumbledore to ensure that it was Snape and not Malfoy who performed the Avada Kedavra.

There was one member of the Order who was absent that night: Mad-Eye Moody. After fighting so bravely in the Ministry of Magic at the end of OotP, it seemed strange that with Death Eaters in Hogwarts, he was nowhere to be seen. How and when he could have infiltrated the Death Eater’s group is definitely a puzzler; I should imagine, however, that that eye of his would have been able to see through Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, allowing him to stupefy a Death Eater and use Polyjuice Potion to assume his form.

One of the key factors that this theory hinges on is whether or not the Petrificus Totalus curse can be removed by the victim with a non-verbal spell. Harry himself tried when he was subjected to it, but was unsuccessful — though this does not mean, obviously, that doing so is impossible. Moody as an Auror would probably be well practiced in performing counter curses. Once he was free to move he would have been able to go back and move the real BFDE to the tower. Harry had left his invisibility cloak on top of the tower and we have seen Moody perform a Disillusionment Charm on Harry in OotP, so moving the real DE back to the tower without being seen would have been possible — leaving a stupefied DE in place of one subjected to a full body bind.

There was one more (and many may quite rightly think it highly dubious!) potential clue. The Death Eater in question is referred to by description only, as “brutal faced.” Moody’s own face is described as “a face unlike any Harry had ever seen… Every inch of skin seemed to be scarred… and a large chunk of the nose was missing” (GoF, UK hardcover, page 163). Polyjuice Potion we know allows one wizard to completely assume the form of another, but could this description be a little visual clue to the real identity of that Death Eater?

If this theory is in any way correct, it would suggest that Snape was indeed acting on Dumbledore’s orders, and that at least one other person (Moody) is aware of this.

The BFDE could of course just have been a Death Eater, and Scrimgeour simply got his curses confused. Whoever BFDE may or may not have been, though, it is undeniably strange that having originally been body bound he was found Stupefied. What do you think — Ministry mix up, or a bit of a mystery?