Death Eaters – Part 3: The Battle of the Tower
This is the third part of a series about the Death Eaters – here’s Part 1 if you’d like to start from the beginning.
In the second big battle against the Death Eaters – the Battle of the Tower in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – we have to do a fair bit of sleuthing to figure out who the combatants are. Many of the Death Eaters remain unnamed until after the battle (or even until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), leaving fans to piece together their identities in hindsight. (With the utmost respect, I’m sad to say the Lexicon appears to have dropped the ball here. That was one of the reasons I set out to research this topic.)
So here is a deep dive into who exactly joined Draco at Hogwarts on the night Dumbledore died. First, let’s list the Death Eaters so that we have the names straight, and then I’ll present a blow-by-blow of the battle so we’re clear on what happened.
List of Death Eaters at the Battle of the Tower
- Draco – First one up on the Tower
- Snape – Last one up on the Tower
- Amycus – Up on the Tower. Note that we are not given his surname, Carrow, until Deathly Hallows – though many fans guessed he was one of the Carrows first mentioned in “Spinner’s End.”
- Alecto – Up on the Tower. Note that we are not given her surname, Carrow, until Deathly Hallows – though many fans guessed she was one of the Carrows first mentioned in “Spinner’s End.”
- Fenrir Greyback – Up on the Tower. Note that his Death Eater status comes with asterisks, to be discussed later.
- A Death Eater with “a heavy, brutal-looking face” – Up on the Tower and appears to be a leader until Snape shows up. Deathly Hallows confirmed that this is Yaxley. Harry recognizes him in the Ministry: “one of the Death Eaters who had witnessed Dumbledore’s death […] The man’s scowling, slightly brutish face” (DH 243). The descriptor of a “brutal [, …] brutish” face is a clear signal, and Yaxley is the only unnamed Death Eater who witnessed Dumbledore’s death.
- An “enormous blond wizard who was sending curses flying in all directions” – Deathly Hallows confirmed that this is Thorfinn Rowle, using the same descriptor of “the large blond Death Eater.” Harry says, “I should’ve recognized him, he was there the night Dumbledore died” (DH 166).
- Gibbon – He set off the Dark Mark above the Tower, then left it to rejoin the fray, and “he got hit by a Killing Curse that huge blond one was firing off everywhere” (HBP 612).
- At least two other Death Eaters are present in the battle, though not on the Tower.
That last bit is why I love what I do here – I was convinced, across the 16 times I’d read this book, that the eight named Death Eaters were the complete roster for the Battle of the Tower. It wasn’t until I worked on this essay that I realized that was impossible and that we were still missing Death Eaters. That revelation alone made me extremely glad to have undertaken this research.
All of these are Death Eaters we’re meeting for the first time (except Snape and Draco), but just as in the other books’ climaxes, most of them have been mentioned before. Yaxley and the Carrows were mentioned in “Spinner’s End” even if their names aren’t explicitly presented here. Fenrir Greyback has been an oft-mentioned menace throughout Half-Blood Prince. The only wholly new ones are Gibbon and Rowle.
The Battle of the Tower – Blow-by-Blow
This battle is fairly convoluted to keep track of (and I wish Kendall Smiley had tackled it in similar fashion to the Battle of the Department of Mysteries). Instead of reading about it in real time, we have to combine Harry’s point of view with the recap he gets in the hospital wing. So here is a chronological list of events in the battle with the evidence for the presence of additional Death Eaters.
Part 1: The Fight Begins
- McGonagall and Flitwick are patrolling the corridors on Dumbledore’s orders, joined by Remus, Bill, and Tonks (HBP 617).
- After some misadventures with Peruvian Darkness Powder, Ron, Ginny, and Neville run into the Order members. The Order/DA finds the Death Eaters, and a fight breaks out (HBP 618).
- Gibbon goes up to the Tower, casts the Dark Mark, goes back down, and is hit by a Killing Curse from Rowle that just missed Lupin (HBP 618–19).
- Flitwick goes to fetch Snape, who knocks him out. Snape has Hermione and Luna take care of Flitwick to keep them out of the fray (HBP 619).
Part 2: Death Eaters Gain an Advantage
The Order was losing in Tonks’s estimation – Bill had been savaged by Greyback, and Neville had been hurt (HBP 620). This only makes sense if there are additional combatants besides the eight named Death Eaters; otherwise, the Order should have been more than capable of holding their own.
We discount Snape and Draco since they are not dueling anyone. Gibbon is dead, Flitwick is knocked out, and Bill is out of commission. So at this point, these are the two sides:
- Order/DA: McGonagall, Lupin, Tonks, Ron, and Ginny (both Ron and Ginny are on Felix Felicis)
- Death Eaters: Amycus, Alecto, Yaxley, Rowle, Fenrir
If that were it, there’s really no reason the Order should have been outmatched given neither side had a numbers advantage. None of these Death Eaters appear as formidable as Bellatrix or Dolohov, while the Order has Felix Felicis on their side. However, if there are more Death Eaters present – and the text implies there are at least two more – then the Order is outnumbered and would indeed be struggling.
Part 3: The Tower
- Draco thinks Bill Weasley is dead. He slips up the stairs to the Tower (HBP 590, 612).
- Draco Disarms Dumbledore at the top of the Tower (HBP 584) and stops for a long conversation with him while an invisible, Petrified Harry observes.
- Just as Draco begins to lower his wand, four Death Eaters burst in: Amycus, Alecto, Fenrir, and Yaxley (HBP 592). “One of them blocked the stair behind them with some kind of curse,” which Harry guesses “you had to have a Dark Mark to get through” (HBP 620).
- The four new arrivals bicker over who has to kill Dumbledore – Yaxley even blasts Fenrir – but then Snape joins them (HBP 595).
- Snape kills Dumbledore. We all cry.
- Meanwhile, downstairs, Rowle “fired off a hex that caused half the ceiling to fall in, and also broke the curse blocking the stairs” (HBP 621).
Part 4: The Heat of Battle
Just as the Order is about to go up to the now barrier-free Tower, Snape flees the Tower with Draco, followed by the Carrows. Harry, newly un-Petrified, follows and casts a Body-Bind Curse on Yaxley (HBP 597). Yaxley remains Petrified, is discovered by the Ministry, and is presumably carted off to Azkaban (HBP 648).
Once we get down from the Tower, there’s a lot going on.
- Fenrir attacks Harry but gets hit with a Body-Bind Curse (HBP 598).
- Amycus attempts to Crucio Ginny but gets hit with an Impediment Jinx by Harry (HBP 598–99).
- Tonks was fighting Rowle, who was sending curses everywhere (HBP 599).
And now we come to it, the evidence that there were other Death Eaters present: “Ron, Professor McGonagall, and Lupin, each of whom was battling a separate Death Eater” (HBP 599).
Two paragraphs later, it’s confirmed the Death Eater McGonagall was fighting was Alecto. However, the Death Eaters whom Ron and Lupin are battling cannot be any of the named ones – they’re all accounted for. To recap, Yaxley and Fenrir are Petrified, Amycus was just jinxed, Snape and Draco are fleeing, Gibbon is dead, and Rowle is fighting Tonks. Therefore, at least two other unnamed Death Eaters are present and are battling Ron and Lupin.
Part 5: The Flight of the Prince
- McGonagall gets the best of Alecto, who sprints down the corridor with Amycus right behind her (HBP 599).
- Harry hexes Rowle, who howls in pain and runs after the Carrows (HBP 599).
- Harry takes a shortcut and overtakes the Carrows (who are apparently slow runners) and sees three figures racing across the lawn: Rowle (who also overtook the Carrows), Snape, and Draco (HBP 601).
- The Carrows catch up to Harry, and one of them hits Harry in the small of the back (HBP 601).
- Harry casts an Impediment Jinx at one, who falls and trips the other (HBP 601).
- Rowle sets Hagrid’s hut on fire as Harry and Snape face off (HBP 602).
- Rowle tries to take out Harry, but Snape stops him, claiming that “Potter belongs to the Dark Lord” (HBP 602).
Part 6: Dramatic Exit
The Carrows and Rowle run to the Hogwarts gates (HBP 603) and presumably Disapparate – as do Draco (HBP 602) and Snape (HBP 605). However, we do not hear of any other Death Eaters managing to flee Hogwarts by Disapparating. The text is pretty explicit about who made it out via the grounds.
Harry theorizes that “the Order made steps to secure [the Room of Requirement], to prevent the Death Eaters retreating that way […] perhaps the Room of Requirement was indeed blocked” (DH 600). I think Harry is right on the money here – it makes very little sense for Snape and all the Death Eaters to take the scenic route through the grounds if the Room of Requirement is available as a viable exit.
What this all means is that the two nameless Death Eaters were most likely overpowered (Go Lupin! Go Ron!) and did not manage to flee Hogwarts. So they would have been taken into Ministry custody and carted off to Azkaban along with Yaxley. This will be an integral clue to figuring out the identity of one of our two mystery Death Eaters, which we will get to in the next installment.
Fenrir Greyback’s Status
As mentioned before, Fenrir Greyback gets an asterisk in any list of Death Eaters because the evidence points to him not being a full-fledged Death Eater (i.e., not having the Dark Mark). Our first reference comes when Tonks refers to “the other Death Eaters and Greyback” (HBP 621). But Harry spells it out for us in Deathly Hallows when Fenrir cannot get past the gates of Malfoy Manor:
The werewolf might be allowed to wear Death Eater robes when they wanted to use him, but only Voldemort’s inner circle were branded with the Dark Mark: Greyback had not been granted this highest honor.” (DH 453)
For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why Fenrir could make it up to the Astronomy Tower if the barrier that kept the Order out required a Dark Mark to get through. But this close read finally answered that question.
Look again to Part 3 of the battle recap above. The magical barrier was cast by a Death Eater “behind them” after Fenrir had already gone up to the Tower (I’m guessing Yaxley is the one who cast the barrier curse; none of the others seem to have the finesse). And Rowle’s reckless curses brought the barrier down before Greyback had to exit through it, so Greyback never had to go through the Dark Mark-only barrier. So indeed, Greyback does not have a Dark Mark, and there are no inconsistencies here.
While the fact that Yaxley and our mystery Death Eaters get carted off to Azkaban is quickly reversed within a month, the loss of Gibbon to one of Rowle’s Killing Curses is rather more permanent. And Voldemort was probably rather unhappy with losing a Death Eater to friendly fire, particularly at a moment when the cells of Azkaban are teeming with his best Death Eaters.
It’s no wonder he seems ill-disposed toward Rowle in Deathly Hallows. When he makes Draco torture Rowle after the skirmish at the Tottenham Court Road café, he says, “Lord Voldemort is not sure that he will forgive this time….” (DH 174). That implies Voldemort has already done some forgiving of Rowle in the past, and this could be the incident that used up what little amnesty Voldemort had for Death Eaters who mess up. (This also explains why Rowle is the one getting tortured after that skirmish instead of Dolohov; the latter’s credit with Voldy is much better.)
Of course, Voldemort’s ire probably depends on how valuable Gibbon was as a Death Eater – he’s never mentioned aside from the Battle of the Tower, so we don’t know if he’s a Respectable or one of the Azkaban Ten. It’s unlikely that he’s a new recruit since Lupin talks about him with a level of familiarity that indicates he’s been around the block (HBP 618–19).
Next up: Part 4 looks at the Azkaban Ten, one of whom is among our mystery Death Eaters here.