"'Severus,' she whispered, tears sliding down her pale cheeks. 'My son... my only son...'"
-- Narcissa Malfoy
Narcissa calls on Snape in secret against Voldemort‘s orders. Bellatrix tries to stop her but joins her at Snape’s house anyway. Snape prevents Wormtail‘s eavesdropping and tells Bellatrix his story, though she still refuses to trust him. Narcissa then reveals that Voldemort has ordered Draco to do something difficult, and asks Snape to make an Unbreakable Vow – which he then does, saying that he will help Draco carry out the deed and perform the deed himself if Draco fails.
Calendar and Dates
As with the previous chapter, we are given very little information about this night. It seems to be either the night of or a night after the evening of the previous chapter, and as with that one, it must be early enough in the summer that Harry has not yet left the Dursleys', yet late enough that wizards have been killed and Draco given his orders. This means it is likely early July, or possibly very late June. There's very little more we can determine.
Interesting facts and notes
"The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn't he?"
"The Dark Lord is...I believe...mistaken," Bella panted.
this Muggle dunghill
Also known as Cokeworth, where the Dursleys and Harry stayed in PS3 "The Letters From No One." A dreary place, it seems, tricked out in early industrial misery: a black river with "overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks," an abandoned mill with a "shadowy and ominous" chimney, "dilapidate brick houses" with dull and boarded-up windows, and broken streetlamps.
a street named Spinner's End
Nice touch, that; the mill's presence explains the reference to spinning in the street's name, and End is a perfectly ordinary English street name. "Spinner" also suggests a plotter in a spider's web of intrigue, and "end" suggests that either the spinner is to meet his end in this chapter or that this chapter's events will lead to the spinner's end.
Her footsteps echoed on the cobbles
Since Spinner's End is a cobbled street in a Muggle area, it may be quite old.
The walls were completely covered in books, most of them bound in black or brown leather
This sounds like a rather formal sort of library, not running to, say, fiction read for pleasure. Does the wizarding world have paperback books at all, I wonder? Judging from Harry's first impression of Flourish and Blotts, they seem to have every other kind of book.
The place had an air of neglect, as though it was not usually inhabited.
Snape, of course, teaches at Hogwarts from September through June, and appears to remain in residence over the Christmas and Easter holidays, leaving only parts of June, July, and August free to spend significant time living at this house on Spinner's End. The air of neglect suggests that Snape does not keep a house-elf and that he doesn't ordinarily share the house with anyone (such as, for example, some relative) who keeps it up while he's away.
His left hand was caressing his right, which looked as though it was encased in a bright silver glove.
Why does Wormtail have this particular nervous tic? Does the silver hand hurt him? Does he have any sensation in that hand at all?
"I am not your servant!" he squeaked, avoiding Snape's eye.
"Really? I was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist me."
For what purpose? What kind of task would Wormtail be able to help with? Or is Voldemort in fact wanting Snape to keep an eye on Wormtail, a known coward?
First mention of this in the books by this name that I can recall. A blood red wine in dusty bottles.
"My apologies," said Snape. "He has lately taken to listening at doors, I don't know what he means by it..."
Most likely he's trying to listen for anything he can use to tattle and get out of Snape's servitude.
Well, continue, Bellatrix," said Snape. "Why is it that you do not trust me?"
"A hundred reasons!" she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. "Where to start!"
Through Bellatrix, we readers are able to interrogate and finally get some answers from Snape about his activities.
"You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?
Hmpf. Considering the context in which this is being said, I personally recommend taking it with a grain of salt as a considered evaluation of the Dark Lord's skill in Legilimency.
"He wouldn't give me the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, you know. Seemed to think it might, ah, bring about a relapse ,.. tempt me into my old ways."
Not to mention the curse on the job. Snape is too important of an asset to Dumbledore to have him be incapacitated (or worse) in that position. --KT
By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord's side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since!
What a dangerous game you play, Snape. Who do you really serve?
"Does he still, after the fiasco at the Ministry?"
Interesting alternate name for the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. Snape has a knack for understatement.
forgive me — you speak of dangers... you were facing six teenagers, were you not?"
"They were joined, as you very well know, by half of the Order before long!" snarled Bellatrix.
Snape's point is still valid. Why were the Death Eaters so handily defeated by students half their age? They should have easily gotten the situation under control before the Order arrived. --KT
when Potter first arrived at Hogwarts there were still many stories circulating about him, rumors that he himself was a great Dark wizard, which was how he had survived the Dark Lord's attack. Indeed, many of the Dark Lord's old followers thought Potter might be a standard around which we could all rally once more.
An interesting alternate reality. What if Harry had used his abilities to promote evil instead of defeating it--or, to use a phrase from another series, "joined the Dark Side"?
(Speaking of Star Wars-Harry Potter crossovers, an interesting podcast by Ashmita explores the two titles and their similar narrative tropes in length.) --KT
it became apparent to me very quickly that he had no extraordinary talent at all. He has fought his way out of a number of tight corners by a simple combination of sheer luck and more talented friends. He is mediocre to the last degree, though as obnoxious and self-satisfied as was his father before him. I have done my utmost to have him thrown out of Hogwarts, where I believe he scarcely belongs,
Yes, Hermione has saved Harry and Ron more times than we can count. But to go so far as to say that Harry does not even belong at Hogwarts? When he was the youngest Seeker of a Hogwarts Quidditch team, was able to produce a Patronus at age 13, and ended up getting seven O.W.L.s (including in Snape's own Potions class)? That's rather low and callous even for him. Does he actually believe this, or is he merely grandstanding in front of his fellow Death Eater?--KT
"Then I am right, he has chosen Draco in revenge!" choked Narcissa. "He does not mean him to succeed, he wants him to be killed trying!"
How difficult it must be for her to watch not only her husband fail--yet again--but her son be set up to take the fall for it. She may have thrown in her lot with the wrong side, but we are reminded in seeing her distress that Narcissa is still human.
Is Voldemort truly just this angry at Lucius' mistakes? Or is he hoping to also use Lucius and his family as an example that mistakes are not acceptable? It would certainly fit his profile of ruling by fear, of having fickle loyalties despite not tolerating it of others, and of seeing other people as disposable, even if they are underage like Draco. --KT
"My only son... my only son..."
"You should be proud!" said Bellatrix ruthlessly. "If I had sons, I would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!"
Here is a study in contrasts between the two sisters. Bellatrix's loyalty is to Voldemort first and her family second, while we are starting to see it reverse, if it hasn't already, for Narcissa.
She stepped forward so that she stood over them, and placed the tip of her wand on their linked hands.
We see an Unbreakable Vow be formed. Who discovered this magic? Why is the presence of a third person, a "Bonder," required for this? Is it similar to the function of a witness in some legal transactions, an extra pair of eyes that can testify to what the two parties promised to do or not do? Does the Bonder have any authority in regards to making sure the vow is fulfilled? Is the Vow another example of ancient magic--there is no mention of what spell is used to issue the "thin tongue[s] of brilliant flame...wounding [their way] around their hands"? How long can the Vow's magic last? The Vow, we discover, will kill you if you try to break it. But would the death of one of the parties before the Vow is fulfilled free the other party from obligation, or would it stay even past that? Being so dangerous, why is the Unbreakable Vow not marked as advanced, Dark or even illegal magic? --KT
Exceptional character moments
Narcissa Malfoy showed that she cared more about the safety of her son than Voldemort's orders.
Snape explaining to Narcissa and Bellatrix his devotion to the Dark Lord, and agreeing to help Narcissa and take the Unbreakable Vow.
"There is nothing I wouldn't do anymore!" Narcissa breathed, a note of hysteria in her voice.
"Do you really think that the Dark Lord has not asked me each and every one of those questions? And do you really think that, had I not been able to give satisfactory answers, I would be sitting here talking to you?"
From the Web
The-Leaky-Cauldron: An Analysis of "Spinner's End"