July 25th, 2007

Deathly Hallows and the state of the ship

I've been fortunate to be at Sectus over the past few days and have read Deathly Hallows in the company of other fen. That's been a magic experience and one that's allowed us to rationalise the content of the book so much faster.

The great majority of us had read the book that first night, reading the night through, often in company and I think because we were able to share our experience immediately, intimately, in person, that helps us. In addition, I was part of three panels on the Saturday where the groups were able to talk out our first thoughts, so this post is informed by that.

[info]treewishes told [info]dementordelta that there were people on LJ who seemed the be having a much harder time of it than we were, and I was also asked by a number of people to put together a similar analysis and evidence submission to the one I prepared for Half- Blood Prince.

Before I get started, forgive me that I've not had the opportunity to look at any of the meta out there about the book, so I'm probably replicating what already exists.

JKR loves us, and she has given us a fabulous gift in Deathly Hallows. How many of us believed in our hearts that she was going to kill Snape? Hoped and prayed otherwise, sacrificed the occasional goat, but really believed that she was
going to do it? I know I did. Wouldn't say it aloud ("Don't say it, and we might get a miracle!"). Well, we actually got our miracle.

JKR could have had Shape hit the ground with an Avada Kedavra, given him a grand funeral and buried him deep. I think I only have so many Inferi!Snape stories in me. She could have written Snape's death in such a way that it would have been impossible for us to write anything other than AU fic if we wanted Snape to live. And the very best thing of all is that she's left the sandpit.

The Harry Potter world is ours now, and she will never write it in again. She will never confirm Snape's death, never add details and facts that we will have to struggle to overcome. We have this on page 527 (all page numbers referenced come from the UK edition):

And Voldemort swiped the air with the Elder Wand. It did nothing to Snape, who for a split second seemed to think he had been reprieved: buth then Voldemort's intention became clear. The snake's cage was rolling through the air, and before Snape could do anything mere than yell, it had encased, him, Head and shoulders and Voldemort spoke in Parseltongue.'Kill.'There was a terrible scream. Harry saw Snape's face losing the little colour it had left, it whitened as his black eyes widened, as the snake's fangs pierced his neck, as he failed to push the enchanted cage off himself, as his knees gave way, and he fell to the floor.

So, there we have it: Snape bitten by Nagini and dead. When one looks at the text, however, JKR has left us more holes than you can poke a stick at. There are a number of points, some that deal with the absence of supporting text, some that are derived from the earlier books.

I've been writing the following in people's books at Sectus:
• No body
• No portrait
• No funeral
• No death

Here's why I think that's the case:

  1. The scene of Snape's death is told from Harry's point of view. He's a proven unreliable narrator - what he believes and what are facts within the wizarding world have often been very different things.
  2. In OotP, Nagini bit Arthur Weasley three times and he survived. From Chapter Twenty One, The Eye of the Snake:
  3. But the man was stirring . . . a silver Cloak fell from his legs as he jumped to his feet; and Harry saw his vibrant, blurred outline towering above him, saw a wand withdrawn from a belt . . . he had no choice . . . he reared high from the floor and struck once, twice, three times, plunging his fangs deeply into the man's flesh, feeling his ribs splinter beneath his jaws, feeling the warm gush of blood . . . </li> It appears that Snape was bitten once in this scene. There are multiple wounds, of course, due to the double penetration of her fangs </li>
  4. Snape is a Potions master. I'm rolling my eyes here. Harry wouldn't know a good potion if it bit him on the arse unless it was in the Half Blood Prince's book. Harry wouldn't know and couldn't identify any possible Potions interventions that Snape had prepared for this eventuality or been aware of any planned use of a Bezoar.
  5. Snape had to have prepared for the possibility that Voldemort would try and kill him at any time. In particular, it was essential to him that he provide his memories to Harry, and he therefore needed some mechanism that would allow him to react as expected by Voldemort, ie die, while letting him reach Harry beyond the event, ie, live through it. He had to tell Harry that he was a horcrux, and he had to do it as a memory sequence; Harry would not believe him any other way. It's absolutely essential that that occurs, yet he cannot predict when or if Voldemort would try to kill him. He therefore must have prepared for the event.
  6. Snape's performing magic, magic that we've never seen before, extracting memories expediently, wandless, wordless magic. Not something for the inexperienced or unskilled, I would imagine.
  7. Snape's portrait is not mentioned as appearing in the Headmaster's office. We know from Half Blood Prince that a Headmaster's portrait appears in the office very soon after their death. We know also from Voldemort giving Harry one hour to surrender that some time has passed, through that hour and Harry's discorporeal event, his defeat of Voldemort, and his return to the office on page 598 where he's given a standing ovation from the Heads. Heads who are irrelevant are mentioned, including Fineas, Dilys Derwent and Dexter Fortescue. If Snape had been there, Harry would have seen, he could not have helped reacting because of the extent of the sacrifice that Snape made. Harry knew already that Snape had given everything to protect him. JKR mentions again in the same scene on page 599 that the Heads look confused and curious when Dumbledore says, "My dear boy, I do." Had Snape been there, he would have understood, and the absence is striking.
  8. Harry's death on page 564 describes the same thing process as Snape goes through, happily because Jo writes about the experience without naming it as death. Isn't she good to us? 'Everything is gone.'

One issue that really needs to be addressed is that of Snape/Lily.

I know a lot of people will be hating it. I don't; that portrait of obsessive, possessive love is one I find sits very well with Snape. It has great power and intensity that is both compulsive and sacrificial. Snape tells Dumbledore, during The Prince's Tale, on page 551:
'I have spied for you, and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter-''But this is touching, Severus," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?""For him?' shouted Snape. 'Expecto patronum!'From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. 'After all this time?''Always,' said Snape.
Three things about this:
  1. These memories are selective - Snape does not give Harry the totality of his memories. These have been chosen to have the most effect on Harry to bring him to the recognition that he's a horcrux.
  2. Snape does not deny that he has grown to care for Harry. He allows Dumbledore to reach his own conclusions. Let me just say, as Delta has been writing in people's books at Sectus, Doe + Stag = OTP. Bottom!Snape for the win.
  3. 'I've lied for you.' Snape dies with his cover to Voldemort intact. He's a bloody brilliant spy. What's the betting that he could have lied to Dumbledore?

Make of these points what you will. I intend to make a very dirty Snarry Severitus of them, and having met Severitus at Sectus, and liked her very, very much, that makes me very happy indeed.

Now to the epilogue. Gah. I think for readers who aren't fen, who don't have the investment in the world that we do, and who aren't slashers, the epilogue is probably a wonderful thing, showing Harry and Ginny and their lovely children, and Harry both rewarded with his Princess (after all, every Hero needs one) and the family he needs and desires.

Let's get technical. Analyse the words. I invite you to reread the epilogue and look for any place that says, 'Ginny, Albus Severus's mother' or 'Harry's wife, Ginny.' They don't exist.

Loopholes, baby. This is crammed with them.

So, the state of the ship.

We've all been on a huge emotional roller-coaster for the past few days. Use the energy. [info]aliciamasters, the Headmistress at Walking the Plank, has opened a new community called [info]wtp_challenges. Join the community. Write it out. Make the canon work for you.

As I've said, JKR's given our ship a great gift, because we can do that. The ship sails. She's still the flagship.

Harry and Severus have walked through the valley of death to reach this point, and they are the only people who can understand each other, understand the costs and prices paid, understand the dedication, commitment, resolution that is required. Throughout this journey, they've been made for each other.

Let's give them that.

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