The Two-Way Mirror #30: Parlor Tricks
At the risk of pulling a Mark Evans, or of wasting your time with speculations about a minor character, I am going to share with you a connection I just made while rereading the fifth book. (I have been rereading Harry Potter again. Old habits die hard. I finished my dissertation, defended it, graduated this spring, and I have a job for next year. So I deserve a nice big dessert for the summer.)
So speaking of…
I think we are all big fans enough to know who Florean Fortescue is, even if we’ve heard of him only twice maybe in the books, but I’ll remind you anyway: he’s the guy who owns the Ice Cream Parlor in Diagon Alley.
And we know he disappeared around the same time as Ollivander:
“‘Dragged off, by the look of his place.’
‘Why?’ […] ‘Who knows? He must’ve upset them somehow. He was a good man, Florean.'”
As I was rereading Chapter 27 in OotP, “The Centaur and the Sneak,” my eyes fell on a name, and my breath stopped:
“‘Blatant corruption!’ roared the portrait of the corpulent, red-nosed wizard on the wall behind Dumbledore’s desk. ‘The Ministry did not cut deals with petty criminals in my day, no sir, they did not!’
‘Thank you, Fortescue, that will do,’ said Dumbledore softly.”
Since they have the same last name, naturally I wondered if Florean is related to the former Hogwarts headmaster. It’s not like we haven’t seen two members of the same family take such different career routes (Dumbledore’s brother owns the Hog’s Head). Another clue I think is that the headmaster was corpulent and red-nosed. He seems like someone who liked good food and drink, and obviously Florean must have inherited some of those genes if he had an ice cream stand.
I imagine also, given the painted Fortescue’s outburst in Dumbledore’s office, that he was a very upright headmaster, incorruptible. Perhaps Florean shares also this character trait with him. After all, we know he was a “good man.” If he was incorruptible like his relative, we can have an idea what happened with Florean and the Death Eaters. They wanted him for some reason. I would not be surprised if Florean could have been useful to Voldemort, since he had a relative who was a Hogwarts headmaster. Who knows what kind of information Florean had access to? But if he was anything like his relative, he was incorruptible and not likely to cut any kind of deals with, not petty, but the worst of criminals, the Death Eaters. So he paid for it…
Some hint that there is more to Florean than meets the eye is given to us I think as early as the third book, when he seems quite well informed about wizard history:
“[…] now [Harry] could sit in the bright sunshine outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, finishing all his essays with occasional help from Florean Fortescue himself, who, apart from knowing a great deal about medieval witch burnings, gave Harry free sundaes every half an hour.”
So Florean knows a “great deal” of history. That seems interesting. What could Voldemort want from a man who sells ice cream? I doubt much. What about from a man who knows a lot of history? That sounds more like it. And from a man who knows a lot of history and is related to a former Hogwarts headmaster? We know the history of Hogwarts was important for Voldemort for making his Horcruxes. So, I would not be surprised if Florean might be able to provide good information leading to at least one Horcrux. Perhaps Voldemort just wanted to find out more about heirlooms from him?
It seems that old Fortescue’s importance is also emphasized by the placement of his portrait on the wall behind Dumbledore’s desk. It is almost as if some kind of parallel is created between the two headmasters. Is that a hint that Fortescue (young or old) had access to some information that was very important for Dumbledore’s quest to defeat Voldemort?
I think what we know about Florean’s disappearance suggests that Voldemort wanted something from him and needed to see him in person. I think Florean would have been killed on the spot, not dragged off, unless someone, and I think that someone is Voldemort, wanted him brought to him alive. I don’t know if Voldemort has obtained what he wants yet and killed Florean, or if he hasn’t been able to for some reason and is still trying. I sure hope Harry and company can still arrive in time and set him free… although it may be too late.
Florean generously gave Harry so much free ice cream and told him so much history. I hope Harry can pay him back.