The Dark Lord Ascending

chapter one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Voldemort meets with his Death Eaters in the Malfoys’ house, where they discuss their plans to take over the Ministry and to kill Harry Potter. Voldemort also explains that he has kidnapped Charity Burbage – and he then kills her right over the table.

Snape and Yaxley, by salamandersoup

“News?” asked the taller of the two.
“The best,” replied Severus Snape.


Peacock, by salamandersoup

“He always did himself well, Lucius. Peacocks…” Yaxley thrust his wand back under his cloak with a snort.


Nearly Late, by salamandersoup

“Yaxley, Snape,” said a high, clear voice from the head of the table. “You are very nearly late.”


Humiliation, by Runcible

“I have given you your liberty, Lucius, is that not enough for you? But I have noticed that you and your family seem less than happy of late…. What is it about my presence in your home that displeases you, Lucius?”


by Ani Bester

As she revolved to face the firelight, the woman said in a cracked and terrified voice, “Severus! Help me!”


Lord Voldemort, by Beeeb

“Dinner, Nagini,” said Voldemort softly.

(by Beeeb)


about the chapter


For many people (including yours truly), this chapter is the only portion of the Harry Potter novels that we have ever heard read by J.K. Rowling herself. The reason is that the night Deathly Hallows was released, as the clock struck midnight in Edinburgh, Rowling read this chapter to an audience of children – and was broadcast live all over the world via her publisher’s website. For me, six hours behind her time in Chicago, it meant a very long break between hearing the first chapter and finally getting to read the rest for myself, which was awfully tantalizing (and, if I remember correctly, quite possibly the least productive six hours of my life). But it was a great way for Rowling to kick off the final Harry Potter midnight release, and it will be an event I’ll always remember fondly.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

When Malfoy thought last year that Snape had usurped his father’s place as Voldemort’s favorite Death Eater, I had always figured he was exaggerating things a bit, looking for a scapegoat after his father landed in prison. But here, when Snape arrives to the meeting, Voldemort immediately beckons him to “the seat on his immediate right.” In other words, the seat reserved for the number two in command (think of the phrase “right-hand man”). Apparently Voldemort does play favorites, and it quite open about doing so.

The Wizarding World

I love that Lucius Malfoy has broken out of Azkaban, and has apparently gone into hiding – in his own house. Maybe the Ministry just didn’t think to look there? We’ll learn soon that news of this breakout was hushed up by the Ministry, but given that they aren’t currently under Voldemort’s control, you would think they would at least come looking for Lucius Malfoy at his own house. It’s an ominous sign that Voldemort can get his way so easily in this regard….

The Power of Magic

There is an interesting exchange between Voldemort and Snape that I missed the first couple of times I read this chapter:

“Saturday… at nightfall,” repeated Voldemort. His red eyes fastened upon Snape’s black ones with such intensity that some of the watchers looked away, apparently fearful that they themselves would be scorched by the ferocity of the gaze. Snape, however, looked calmly back into Voldemort’s face and, after a moment or two, Voldemort’s lipless mouth curved into something like a smile. “Good. Very good.”

It’s clear to anybody who has been reading the series that Voldemort is using Legilimency here, and that whatever he’s seeing in Snape’s brain is satisfying to him. We don’t know exactly how Occlumency works, given that Snape never adequately explained it to Harry, but it’s fair to assume that on at least some occasions Snape has had to use it in these situations (no matter who he’s working for), and Voldemort has apparently come away content with what he’s seen. It’s sort of scary that Voldemort is willing to perform Legilimency so openly, not to mention telling that he still feels it necessary to use on even his “most trusted” Death Eater. I wonder what exactly it was that he saw in Snape’s mind?

53 Responses to “The Dark Lord Ascending”

  1. In GoF near the Quidditch World Championship there was a tent with several live peacocks at his entry. I think we can now assume to whom that tent belonged…
    I found out curious that with Nagini on the loose around Malfoy Manor there are still peacocks alive, maybe the snake is a bad hunter.

  2. This was updated a lot quicker than I thought it would be so it was a pleasant surprise when I checked my emails. I had never thought about Malfoy going into hiding in his own house. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you make of the rest of the book but don’t go too quickly as I don’t want it to end.

  3. Jose Lopes, you’re right about the peacocks, but the reason I didn’t mention them here is because I made that point on the GF7 page:

    Amy, I think you’re the first one who’s asked me to update more *slowly*. Believe me, if you’ve been following recently, you’d know you’re likely to get your wish! ;)

  4. My reaction: “YAY! Book seven!” I’m really excited to see your thoughts about the last book – you always bring up things I haven’t thought of myself. This site is pure gold. But of course as Amy said, it’s still a little sad that it’s the last book.
    Looking forward to this SO much :)

  5. I wonder what Snape was really thinking/feeling as Charity Burbage begged him for help as she revolved over the deatheaters’ table. Charity was targeted after she wrote a defence of Muggleborns and encouraged intermarrying with Muggles in the Daily Prophet. Snape is a half-blood and he had taught with Charity for many years at Hogwarts. This background makes Snape seem so cold-blooded when just before she dies it states: “For the third time, Charity Burbage revolved to face Snape. Tears were pouring from her eyes into her hair. Snape looked back at her, quite impassive, as she turned slowly away from him again.” His “impassive” expression could be interpreted in different ways, but first time through this incident helped to convince me that Snape was Voldemort’s “right-hand man!”

  6. I didn’t get into HP until just after HBP was released, so Book 7 was my first foray into the world of midnight book releases. I was so scared of being spoiled (anyone else see that video of the kid who drove around a Barnes and Noble after HBP, shouting that Snape killed Dumbledore?), but it turned out I had no reason to worry – it was a fun, if anxious, atmosphere. Several of my friends and I dressed up and, after getting our books, went right back to the house and read – only a couple managed to stay up all night and finish. I don’t remember ever being so torn between wanting to finish a book, but wanting it to make it last.

    I was firmly in the ‘Snape is working for Dumbledore’ camp, but this chapter made me question *everything* I thought I knew. I distinctly remember thinking that if Snape was still working for Dumbledore, Jo had an awful lot of ‘splanin to do…

  7. The ministry doesn’t seem to be very active in it’s pursuit of Voldemort and his death-eaters, I have always thought that there has been so much time and effort wasted from when Voldemort returned, that the ministry was too far behind to catch up. The minstry has already been infiltrated and no one seems to know how to proceed.

    Also, there is some kind of protective magic around Malfoy’s house which does not allow any non-Voldemort supporters to get access – as we see with the gates, so maybe the Auror’s couldn’t get to him. They might know he’s there, but can’t break through the barrier.

  8. Pam, I like that idea. Sort of like when you needed a dark mark to get up to the tower when Dumbledore was killed.

    And yes, I’m torn like everyone else. Love the new chapters, but loathe for it all to end.

  9. I agree with the others, Josie. Take your time with this one. Looking forward to seeing the movie next week. Of all the HP movies I have difficulty picuring this one on the screen, but the previews show that they just might do justice to the book. Great choice of artwork, but the way.

  10. I thought along the same lines as Pam–some sort of protective shield that just turned the person away, thinking of other tasks they had to get to. And maybe the Death Eaters were even clever enough to make the house Unplottable or something.

    The bit with Charity still breaks my heart–she and Snape had been co-workers for six years (no one else had been mentioned as taking over the post, so this is just my assumption) which meant that even if they weren’t good friends, they were at least acquaintances. There aren’t that many adults at Hogwarts and they’d have to have interacted sometimes. And the telling point–she feels familiar enough with him to call him by his first name. I’ve never been a big fan of Snape (he’s well-written, yes, but he’s a horrible person) and this moment seemed to be the worst.

    And, Josie, my plea is that you just update regularly. I don’t mind if you stretch it out, as long as I know that every week (or every two weeks or the first Wednesday of each month or whatever) there will be an update. The mystery is the cruel part. :) (And, to those who are begging him to update slowly–just remember that even if we get one chapter a week, we still won’t finish the book until next July!)

    That being said, thank you, again, for this wonderful site and all the work that you’ve done the past few years, gathering artwork, permission, and quotes. It’s one of my favorite sites.

  11. Haha, Natalia, don’t worry, I’m definitely hoping to be done well before July. We’ll see where the next few months take things. Longtime regulars like you have endured enough unannounced breaks as it is. :)

  12. Thank you, Josie! Your reply made my day.

    (And, as a side note, my husband thinks it would be cool if the site “finished” just before the last Harry Potter film is released. Which is next July. I’m going to have a chat with him about his timing, too . . . )

  13. It would have been so much better if the Death Eaters had finally captured Professor Trewlawney and they were attempting to wring the prophecy from her until she gives another ambiguous prophecy that suggests V might fall or might kill Harry and then she dies (or V kills her if she predicts his fall.) But no – prophecies were so fifth book. They are all forgotten now.

  14. Jonathan, I love that idea. And actually, if you think about it, it makes sense. Dumbledore tells Harry that Trelawney has no idea the danger she’d be in if she left Hogwarts – but then the Death Eaters spend a year with full access to Hogwarts and never attempt to touch her. Voldemort still hasn’t heard the prophecy, so why would he just leave that base uncovered? Seems to me like your idea makes more sense.

    Natalia, your response made me laugh out loud. I definitely don’t plan anything around the movies – I view them as entirely different genre, that has nothing to do with this site (though I do look forward to seeing them). I do have plans for more pages on the site after finishing book seven, however, so it’s possible that both you *and* your husband could get your wish, if I finish book seven in a few months and then continue adding more through the summer. Guess I’ll just keep adding content as quickly as I feel like it, and we’ll see….

  15. Oh, please tell me your “more plans” will include Fantastical Beasts, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard!

  16. I don’t think the Death Eaters or Voldemort knew that the prophecy had come from Trelawney; otherwise,they would have gone after her a long time ago.

  17. With regard to Trelawney and the fact that the Death Eaters have full access to her at Hogwarts for a full year – maybe Snape has been clever enough to not let Voldemort know that it was her that made the prophecy. He’s a very clever (albeit horrible) man (he kept the truth from Voldemort when V looked into his mind re Harry’s departure from Privet Drive) – maybe he did the same with the truth about Trelawney.

  18. Electa and Melanie – it’s possible Voldemort doesn’t know Trelawney made the prophecy… but he could have always just asked Snape. And if that is the case, then why would Dumbledore say that Trelawney was in danger? He too would be able to ascertain from Snape whether or not Voldemort knew.

    Ragmar Dorkins, I really wish I could do the three companion books… but I’ve found very, very little art on them, unfortunately. I may still try to whip something up but I think I have like 8 drawings total among the three books, so I don’t know how interesting it will be. But, rest assured, I do have some plans….

  19. Makes you think why all these people would want to follow Voldie. It’s so obvious that their meetings are high on the stress level. He could be in a good mood and still crucio you for the fun of it, or be in such a bad mood that he doesn’t care who he kills in his anger. It’s also entertaining to me that you could be in trouble for being “nearly almost late”.

  20. “The weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating towards a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty”.

  21. Following Voldie is an interesting life choice, and worth considering, though Rtozier has covered it pretty well. What about Peter? He was clearly capable of doing impressive magic, but equally clearly was overshadowed by his friends – James and Sirius for their strong personalities and unusual skill, and Remus for his sheer niceness plus the exotic aura of wolf around him. A follower rather than a leader or a soloist. And once he was in, his cowardice kept him in; unlike RAB, who was able to stand up to Voldie at least at long distance, but like many Germans who could respect the (early) Nazis for taking a pro-German stance and making the trains run on time … and when they saw things that they didn’t like, they also saw the likely consequences of standing out from the crowd; and mostly didn’t.

  22. I think Peter is weak in his mind, not in his powers. It would be interesting to know how he became such a coward in the first place.

  23. You know, the funny thing is that when I started writing my fanfic version of the seventh book back in 2005, it is eerily similar to this chapter. A meeting of the Death Eaters with Voldy. Snape as Voldy’s new favorite. Talk of infiltrating (in my case, Hogwarts, not the Ministry). A happy Bella and unhappy Narcissa. And at the end, someone gets killed (in my case, Draco). It kinda makes me proud that I managed to get at least THAT part right (though of course from chapter 2 on, it’s completely different, lol).

    Anyway, I’m SO excited for the rest of the pages on DH!

  24. Deathly Hallows read like a collection of fanfictions copied and pasted straight from and then hurriedly pieced together. It forgets all kinds of crucial plot points from the earlier series as well as the established rules of magic. It not only failed to complete the series, but actually spoiled the first six books in retrospect. Almost any fatality in chapter one would have been better than that of a completely unknown character who only appears here for the first time and is given no characterisation. It might have been better if Draco died since in Deathly Hallows he is devoid of all the character he had in the first six books which in fiction is a fate worse than death.

  25. Jonathan, I respectfully disagree. Draco is not devoid of all the character: his character is simply more enhanced, and, in fact, well-rounded. I don’t really see how you can describe DH as “a collection of fanfictions” – how else did you think they were going to destroy the Horcruxes. What major plot points have been forgotten? What established rules of magic are violated? As for Charity Burbage, Joss Whedon once said of Buffy TVS, “Everything is real but the vampires”. Well, here, substitute “vampires” for “magic”. Life isn’t about drama. It completed my series just fine, and none of the first six are in any way diminished because of it. I don’t understand how you can make such a claim unless you think that it’s uninteresting to kill major characters off before the end stages. It is my opinion, sir or madam, that you have completely missed the point. Respectfully yours,

  26. Don’t forget what was being discussed at the meeting. Charity Burbage was a huge threat to Voldemort’s cause. She was teaching about the intermarriage of muggles and wizards. Voldemort wanted to take over the world; both muggle and magical, with the magical pure bloods enslaving muggles and muggleborns alike. I wonder if Snape was responsible for her capture.

  27. I thought it was interesting that Snape was there and would/could do nothing about it. In a later chapter, we will see somewhat of an explanation. I thought about that the 2nd time I read this chapter. I wonder what Snape was really thinking about when Charity Burbage got killed (and eaten by Nagini) right in front of him!

  28. I feel a lot of sympathy for Snape in this chapter, even though he appears so cruel. Watching terrible things happen in front of you can be very traumatic because you are helpless (Draco I feel bad for too). What Snape says later to Dumbledore about murders in front of him ..”lately only those I could not prevent” (I think it is), gives us an indication of the helplessness he must be feeling now. And think about it: at this point, his goal is to try to bring Voldemort down without any help whatsoever. He has no Order, no Dumbeldore (except his portrait, which must be some comfort), and no allies who know of his true goals. He could very likely end up simply watching as his entire side of the fight is killed off one by one (including Harry), and have to live on as a sole survivor in Voldemort’s society.

  29. Jimma/hazelwillow, the thing that bothers me about the way you’re talking about Snape, is that he *chose* this. It’s not like Harry, who is a very good person, is being forced to endure this. Just because Snape is fighting for the good guys doesn’t make him a good person; as Sirius says, “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” Rowling herself described Snape as a “deeply horrible person,” and Lily will point out in the pensieve scene later in this book that he’s long been immersed in the Dark Arts, is friends with people like Mulciber, and planned to be a Death Eater for a very long time. We don’t have any indication that he jumped to Dumbledore’s team because of a moral dilemma raging in his head; rather, he said himself that he was happy to have James and Harry killed so long as Lily was protected.

    I do think it’s true that this wasn’t a fun act for *anybody* around that table to witness (especially Nagini eating her, ugh). But I’m not convinced that this fact would apply particularly to Snape over and above everybody else. To the contrary, I think the text makes clear that Draco Malfoy is incredibly affected by it. I’m sure it was hard for Snape in the sense that this was somebody he knew, but beyond that, I don’t see it.

    As far as Snape’s watching the good guys get picked off… again, Snape isn’t 100% reformed. It’s not possible. The child he’s most trying to protect is someone he *hates.* His actions show that he would clearly prefer that the good guys win, but if there’s anybody in the Order who wouldn’t mind *quite* so much if Voldemort won, it has to be Snape. He’s just not an angel, and he never will be.

  30. I see where you’re coming from, Josie, but Voldemort did murder Snape’s only love. He may not have been completely reformed, but I can’t see him ever forgiving Voldemort (or himself, for that matter) for his role in Lily’s death.

    Snape is *not* good person. He is capable of love, which is what humanizes him and separates him from Voldemort, but that doesn’t make him good. But I do think, based on some of his actions as an adult, that 16 years of being around Dumbledore did influence him some. We have little to no evidence that his vitriol extended beyond Harry and his friends (well, and Sirius) and the other teachers and Order members seemed to respect him.

    Snape made some very poor choices when he was young and never really grew past them. What I think makes him such a tragic character is how you can almost see what might have been – if he had only loved Lily more than the Dark Arts, he could have had her and used his immense talent for the Order – but instead he is left a cold and broken man who only has his vengeance left to live for.

  31. Is this all for the interpretation of chapter 1?
    I remember chapter 1 being a lot longer with detail about who, when, and where Harry Potter is being moved. Also, there was mockery of how Bellatrix, Narccisa, and Nymphadora’s mother are all sisters, and how Nymphadora is pregnant with a werewolf/wizard’s (Lupin’s) child.
    Other important points: Voldemort taking Lucius’s wand is said to be equivalent to taking one of his arms (although Voldemort does it more forcibly than Harry does to Hermione later on).
    There’s a loud wailing from the prisoners down in the dungeons, I believe Ollivander is the first prisoner the Malfoys/Voldemort has in this book; which is odd for Voldemort to keep him alive even though he has failed him while Gregorovitch (whom Voldemort kills) had not.

  32. I don’t think Ollivander has completely failed him yet. Besides the fact that he hasn’t yet been foiled during Harry’s transportation, he still may need Ollivander to produce new wands for his Death Eaters.

  33. Josie, if you can delete comments, you might want to delete mine above since it’s a bit of a spoiler…

  34. Wow, salamandersoup and beeeb nailed Voldemort!!

  35. Voldemort clearly values some peoples lives more than others. He feels no remorse when committing murders but that doesn’t mean he feels the need to kill every non-death eater he comes across. Some people he spares for their pure blood in the hope they may move over to his side. Others, like ollivander hold some special value. This trait, if anything, makes voldemort more scary and inhuman and shows his complete lack of feelings toward anyone. The people around him are merely pawns, though many seem to convince themselves otherwise – bella being a clear example.

  36. I don’t know about anyone else, but when Voldemort lets Nagini eat Burbage, I was totally sickened. I expected this book to be the darkest of the series, but JKR really did go beyond what I expected (although at least she didn’t describe the ordeal – If I were a death eater I would’ve totally been sick!)

  37. BTW: Has anyone seen this drawing by Makani?:
    I totally think of it every time I read the chapter and have a giggle.

  38. Hee hee hee, I do love Makani! I’m assuming Josie didn’t use that picture (or even post the link) because it’s not canon. :D

  39. Thanks Samantha! That link is great!

  40. I don’t have the text in front of me, but there is a moment in this chapter where Voldemort asks for Lucius’ wand. Lucius gets really anxious and his wife subtlety grabs his wrist, looking straight ahead. Could they have been planning on giving Voldemort a faulty wand i.e. the reason Voldemort’s wand didn’t work on Harry when they were flying to Tonk’s house? Was that why Draco was so horrified when Voldemort questioned him after, and he first looked to his father, then to his mother, but not at Voldemort, afraid to make eye contact because of Legilemency? But was spared when Voldemort digressed to something else? thoughts?

  41. Did anyone notice Voldemort’s lack of logic in this chapter? “She would have us all mate with Muggles. . .”
    But if wizards don’t marry Muggles, within a few generations there will be no wizards left due to inbreeding and mutations! And none of the Death Eaters seem to realize this.

    @ Samantha-I love that drawing! Makani is one of my favorite fan artists.

  42. Ana, wizards don’t know anything about genetics. It’s actually impossible for a Muggle-born to have a Squib child, since a Muggle-born has to inherit the magical gene from BOTH parents in order to express magic, so he always passes one on to his own offspring. But it’s pretty obvious that the pure-blood supremacists don’t know this vital fact.

  43. GhV, I may be thinking of this wrong, but I think it’s just as possible for a Muggle-born to have a Squib as it is for a regular wizard. Here’s my thinking on the genetics question:

    Rowling said once that magic was a dominant gene. But to me, this explanation doesn’t make any sense. If it were true, Muggle-born wizards should be theoretically impossible, and therefore extremely rare (because they can only get the gene through either a mutation or a mother who has an affair with a wizard). Meanwhile squibs would be much more common, as it would be very possible for two Mm wizards to lend their unexpressed recessive gene to an mm child, and when a wizard marries a Muggle they would often have a 50% chance of a given child being a Squib. In the Potterverse the opposite is clearly true; squibs are quite rare while Muggle-born wizards are relatively common. So I think the opposite scenario has to be the case, and magic has to be recessive. This fits much better – a few Muggles out there have the unexpressed recessive gene, and when two happen to have children, 1/4 of their children end up being wizards. Meanwhile a squib is an uncommon exception, either the result of a mutation or, far more likely, a mother’s affair with a Muggle (good thing the wizard fathers don’t understand genetics). It follows from this that all wizards, Muggle-born or no, have identical recessive magic genes, and therefore identical odds of having Squib children.

    Of course this solution isn’t perfect either; if it is true, then *most* children of wizard-Muggle parentage should be Muggles/Squibs, because most Muggles carry a double-dominant MM gene, and half-bloods should be quire rare. We’re given far less evidence on this front, but it doesn’t seem to be what Rowling intended (meaning she didn’t actually design the gene to follow the classic dominant/recessive pattern at all). But I’m still inclined to go with the recessive-gene pattern as the better explanation. It seems pretty rare for wizards to mate with Muggles (most half-bloods are children of Muggle-borns, an important distinction), so perhaps when it does happen the children are indeed usually Muggles, and we simply don’t hear about it. This could explain Ron’s uncle-who’s-an-accountant, for example.

  44. There’s an alternative too, that I just thought of: we could accept Rowling’s “dominant gene” assertion at face value, which would then force us to assume one of two scenarios. Either:
    1. Some form of magic is causing Muggle genes to occasionally mutate, resulting in Muggle-born wizards; or
    2. There are some wizards who are “getting around” the Muggle population, perhaps by means of a Love Potion, and resulting in a number of cuckolded magical babies.

    Of course, there should still be more Squibs than there are by either of these explanations, but perhaps these genes are somehow being affected by magic as well. Such a great explanation – “it’s magic!”

  45. Josie, I think you’re right that the magical gene is originally recessive, which is why I said a Muggle-born must have two of them to express. This is why, as you say, a Muggle couple, even if both are magical carriers, still only has a 1/4 chance of producing a wizard. (Colin’s talent proves that Mr & Mrs Creevey each carried the gene. Therefore there was a 1/4 chance that Denis would also be a wizard.)

    I think the reverse is true for the Squib gene, which I take to be a damaged magical gene and recessive. If each of a wizarding couple happens to carry the damaged gene, 1/4 their children will be Squibs. Since all pure-bloods are cousins, and some of them have a bad habit of marrying only each other, I estimate that as many as 10% of them might carry this gene, meaning 1% of all pure-blood/pure-blood marriages have the bad combination, so 1 in 400 of their children will be Squibs. (This is not 1 in 400 of all wizard births, just 1 in 400 of births to this kind of marriage.)

    The interesting and more difficult question is: why do wizards so successfully produce magical offspring, regardless of which Muggle or half-blood they marry? I asked a HP fan with a genetics background about this. She came up with the ingenious but perfectly plausible suggestion that the magical gene does not actually cause magic (in much the same way that the Y chromosome does not actually cause masculinity). Instead, the magical gene produces an enzyme that changes the brain and body (as the Y chromosome stimulates the production of testosterone, which changes the brain and body). My friend suggested that the magical enzyme does four things.

    (1) It directly causes the person’s magical powers.

    (2) It makes the magical gene dominant. This means that the wizard’s children will also express magic, even if their gene from the other parent is non-magical.

    (3) It destroys any non-magical gametes that the wizard might be carrying (e.g., inherited from a Muggle parent), so that only magical genes can be passed on to the offspring. (However, it does not recognise the Squib gene as “non-magical”, as it is only a damaged form of the magical gene. So the Squib genes still slip through into the breeding pool.)

    (4) It delays the ageing process, giving wizards a longer life expectancy.

    I know it all sounds far-fetched, but it doesn’t contradict anything JKR has said: in fact it more or less supports her apparently impossible statement that the magical gene is dominant. JKR doesn’t really understand genetics, and my friend does. If you want to make magic scientifically plausible (which it isn’t, of course!), this is as good a theory as any.

    Of course, in this scenario, it is still possible that a Muggle-born could have a Squib child in the rare case when a parent gave him a Squib gene rather than a recessive magical. E.g., Mafalda Prewett presumably inherited a recessive damaged gene from her Squib father and a magical gene from her Muggle mother. So she will still pass on her Squib gene to half her children. Now I come to think of it, the case of a Squib just “happening” to marry a magic-carrying Muggle is not so rare. It would be fairly common for a Squib to marry the Muggle sibling of a Muggle-born friend of the Squib’s sibling.

  46. GhV, that’s a great theory, thanks for sharing it. I was thinking of things more simplistically than that (as a simple dominant/recessive, magic or not) but as I said, that isn’t a perfect solution. Yours works much better.

    It seems another possibility for Squibs is not that they have a distinct damaged gene, but that for some unknown reason at some point in their development the magic enzyme doesn’t get switched on. Similar to what happens to babies occasionally in the early stages of development, causing them to be XY females (though I know the human situation is slightly more complicated than this). I can’t find a great reference but I believe it’s something like half of a percent of babies, and it’s one of the reasons females outnumber males worldwide. Though I suppose, really, *both* of these explanations for Squibs could be “correct,” as a Squib is likely really a default state that shows that something/anything went wrong with the transmission and/or expression of the magical genes.

    One thing I find particularly elegant about both my explanation and yours is that both result in all wizards’ genes being identical. In other words, pure-bloods and Muggle-borns are genetically indistinguishable, rendering wizarding racism and the concept of “purity of blood” all the more irrelevant. If magic were a classic, simplified ‘dominant’ gene, this wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

  47. Well, it isn’t really my theory; I’m just borrowing from my friend. And you are right – if Lucius Malfoy had any sense, he would require Draco to marry a Muggle-born, so that they could be certain that good genes were passed on to the next generation. Racism is generally stupid.

    Your theory of squibs as “enzyme failure” rather than “bad gene” makes sense to me. That could depend on random environmental events. In the case of an XY female, however, the testosterone is in fact released on time, but it fails to act on the embryo. This is because the chemicals must find an appropriate binding site on the target cell (as a key must find an appropriate lock if it is to open the door). If for some reason the matching receptors are not present, the testosterone cannot bind, and so it has no impact on the development of the foetus. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the reasons why the wrong receptors are occasionally present, so I can’t tell you whether it’s genetic or environmental.

    In fact, this failure of a few XY embryos to develop into males doesn’t have much to do with the gender imbalances of older humans, as there are still 105 males born to every 100 females. The reasons for the gender disparity are (1) that more infant males die of childhood fragility; (2) that more adolescent males engage in life threatening risky behaviour, leaving the numbers around equal by age 20; (3) that women live longer, i.e. the “excess” females are elderly widows. It would be interesting to know if the same is true of wizarding society, or whether this kind of genetic and lifestyle factor is completely non comparable for them.

  48. I am listening to this book again for the nth time and I just had a thought. Yaxley says he has imperioused Thickness who has access to the minister because he is a head of a department. Well, Arthur is also a head of department. What could have happened if they had thought to imperious him!!

  49. Due to a disagreement Dumbledore and Lucius Malfoy had over removing “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” from the Hogwarts library, Dumbledore became determined to remove Lucius from his position as Voldemort’s favourite Death Eater. I can’t help thinking that somewhere Dumbledore is chuckling at the fact that his man (Snape) is now sitting in Lucius’s spot at Voldemort’s right-hand side.

  50. What is the source that Snape tells Tom he has? We know he’s getting information on the Order from DD portrait but surely that can be the source they discussed?

  51. This is just a guess, as JKR has not said, but I think it’s Mundungus.

  52. Snape is behaving like any undercover agent. Any false move might lead to a blown cover, and I’ve read several accounts where an agent who has infiltrated a drug operation has witnessed murders that he could not have prevented without being discovered and then murdered himself. Snape has to be focused on his primary goal – which at that point was ensuring Harry Potter’s survival.

    As an interesting side note, I always wondered if Charity Burbage and Snape would make a good fan fiction story… hmmm… off to research that one. LOL

  53. Instead of Charity Burbage, a character readers had never met (and seems like a bit of poor planning), imagine how much more impactful had the captured Hogwarts teacher been Sybill Trelawney. Readers would have an emotional attachment, the prophecy was a reason, and that she seemed as magically benign as a squib would have been a real kick in the gut. Alternatively, consider part-goblin Flitwick or “I’ve got an important memory” Slughorn, or even “Chums with Harry Potter” Hagrid! How about a Hogwarts student who may know where Harry was hiding, or Percy Weasley who was working at the infiltrated ministry. Anything but a total unknown.

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