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These are elements of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that would seem to be related to either the Dumbledore or Snape mysteries, but they have loop-holes or unresovled bits of information, and we’re not sure about them and are still checking into them…
(Page numbers shown are for US Edition/UK Edition.)
There are three unanswered aspects to this question.
First, do unbreakable vows have a time limit? It’s unlikely they do, because you’d think it would have to be stated when the vow was made, and no such time limit was set.
But if they don’t have time limits, then it’s sort of hard to enforce an unbreakable vow, isn’t it?
“Hey! You didn’t fulfill your promise!” “No wait! I just haven’t gotten around to it, you can’t kill me yet!”
Second, I believe if you re-read all of chapter 2, you’ll see that the exact details of Draco’s task are never spoken outloud in that scene, we only learn of the details later.
If the exact nature of what Snape’s promising to do are not spoken exactly, but possibly only an understanding between the parties, what promise is he held to, exactly? Can he be held to details of a vow that weren’t expressly stated? Am I watching too many lawyer shows on TV?
One of Draco’s main tasks was to fix the vanishing cabinet so he could sneak his Death Eater pals into Hogwarts. Perhaps that’s what Snape vowed to help with, and in that case, Draco suceeeded, so Snape’s off the hook.
Third, this unanswerable question is based on the assumption that Dumbledore isn’t really dead, so Snape didn’t kill him, so he didn’t fulfill the vow.
But what if the person you made the vow with thinks you fulfilled it? The world, including Narcissa and Bellatrix (and you, possibly, up until you read this site! 🙂 thinks that Dumbledore is dead. So does that fulfill Snape’s vow?
This one is possibly unanswerable until we can either dig out some more clues buried elsewhere in the book, or possibly we won’t know until book 7.
Does it state anywhere in a Harry Potter book that you have to be dead to be on the wall in the headmaster’s office? I can’t prove this, but I think it’s just more likely the only requirement is you have to be a former headmaster, and it just so happens all of the former headmasters previous to Dumbledore are currently dead.
The book says:
…a new portrait had joined the ranks of the dead headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts: Dumbledore was slumbering in a golden frame above his desk, his half-moon spectacles perched upon his crooked nose, looking peaceful and untroubled.HBP pg 626/584
Yes, we see it says Dumbledore joined the ranks of the dead headmasters. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he is dead, it just means the others of the ranks he was joining were dead.
2a. If Dumbledore Is Alive, Where Is Umbridge’s Portrait?
So, you may say, if all the portraits on the wall in the headmaster’s office aren’t necessarily dead, then where’s the portrait of Dolores Jane Umbridge? She was temporarily headmistress last year.
First of all, we don’t know there’s not a portrait of Umbridge. It’s never been mentioned, but it’s never been mentioned there isn’t one, either.
But, some have asked, the event of the death of the headmaster is surely what triggers the creation of the new portrait.
Unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about this. For example, it’s possible that you may have actually had to have worked in the office to be honored there. That would leave the toad-lady out, since she was locked out of the headmaster’s office during her tenure. Or, perhaps, it is a declaration by the Hogwarts board of governers which creates the portrait, in which case, Umbridge wouldn’t have one because the ministry appointed her.
Of course, it’s also possible that Dolores is so hated, that the other portraits got together and banned her portrait to a closet someplace…
And speaking of Umbridge…
Everyone who was everyone in the Wizarding world showed up for Dumbledore’s funeral, including Dolores! Weren’t you a bit shocked to see her there?
She could have been there out of respect, but we know she wouldn’t mean it, and as she must surely be way down on the Ministry ladder right now, who would she be trying to impress by the act?
I think it’s much more likely that it was arranged for her to be there, as a witness. If the plan was to have the world believe that Dumbledore is dead, then having the toad-lady there as a witness to his funeral would be pretty compelling proof for the Dumbledore haters who Umbridge represents that Dumbledore really is gone.
Potions come into play a lot in the course of Half-Blood Prince. In chapter 9, Professor Slughorn presents four already-made potions to his first class, three of which figure prominently in the story.
They are Veritaserum (truth potion), Polyjuice Potion, which we find out later is being used by Crabbe and Goyle to disguise themselves as girls while they’re lookouts for Draco, Amortentia (love potion), which Ron accidentally injests from a candy meant for Harry, and Feilx Felicis, which aids the members of Dumbledore’s Army later in the climax of the story.
Then, in the same class, Harry, with the aid of the Half-Blood Prince, produces a perfect Draught of Living Death, which was introduced to us way back in Snape’s first lesson in the first book. Interestingly, in pratically the same breath, Snape also mentions the bezoar which also figures prominently in Half-Blood Prince, and also wolfsbane, which we know helps Lupin later in Prisoner of Azkaban:
“For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As far as monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant…SS/PS pg 138/103
Some fans are speculating that the fifth potion in this scene is important too, that Dumbledore uses the Draught of Living Death to somehow fake his dead that night up on the tower. While this theory is possible, besides the mention of the Draught of Living Death here in chapter 9, to my knowledge there is no other evidence to support this theory.
Other fans speculate that whatever Dumbledore had to drink in the cave to get access to the locket/horcrux either is or is related to the Draught of Living Death. This is also possible, we’ll just have to wait until Book 7 to see for sure.
Another theory some fans have put forward involves a clue that has to do with Dumbledore’s pensieve.
When we first see the pensieve in Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore demonstates for Harry how memories are put into it:
Dumbledore drew his wand out of the inside of his robes and placed the tip into his own silvery hair, near his temple. When he took the wand away, hair seemed to be clinging to it — but then Harry saw that it was in fact a glistening strand of the same strange silvery-white substance that filled the Pensieve. Dumbledore added this fresh thought to the basin, and Harry, astonished, saw his own face swimming around the surface of the bowl.GoF pg 597/519
We saw the pensieve in operation in Order of the Phoenix also:
Snape pulled out his wand from an inside pocket of his robes and Harry tensed in his chair, but Snape merely raised the wand to his temple and placed the tip into the greasy roots of his hair. When he withdrew it, some silvery substance came away, stretching from temple to wand like a thick gossamer strand, which broke as he pulled the wand away from it and fell gracefully into the Pensieve, where it swirled silvery white, neither gas nor liquid.OotP pg 533/471
Both nearly identical descriptions of two different people putting a memory of their own into the pensieve.
But now, take a look at this from Half-Blood Prince:
“…I have two last memories that I would like to share with you.” Dumbledore indicated the two little crystal bottles gleaming beside the Pensieve.HBP pg 430/402
“And now for the very last recollection I have to show you” … Harry got to his feet once more as Dumbledore emptied the last memory into the Pensieve. “Who’s memory is it?” he asked. “Mine,” said Dumbledore.HBP pg 440/412
If this was his own memory, why would Dumbledore have stored this memory in a bottle rather than just pull it out his head the way he and Snape had done before?
Although I consider this unlikely, fans are pointing to this clue to theorize that Dumbledore hasn’t been Dumbledore for all of, or at least a great portion of, the book, and that the Dumbledore we see is someone using Polyjuice potion to pretend to be him, and therefore the real Dumbledore isn’t dead. Only a fake Dumbledore would have to have the memory in a bottle, because only the real Dumbledore could take it directly out of his head.
But it’s also just possible Dumbledore sealed the important memory in the bottle for safe-keeping…