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Magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable

by David Haber

At the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore describes the life that Peter Pettigrew owes Harry as "magic at its deepest, it's most impenetrable". But who else the in Harry Potter books might owe Harry a life ? And are life and Unbreakable Vows related?

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Reader Comments: (Page 16)


I agree that Dumbledore is trusting and not a fool, but I don't agree that he would not resort to an Unbreakable Vow. I am putting a great deal of emphasis on his not being a fool; I don't think Dumbledore would accept that Snape was truly sorry for what he did. I think Dumbledore only made the Unbreakable Vow because he DID trust Snape; he wouldn't have done anything that would have risked his life. Dumbledore trusted Snape not to betray the good side and work for Voldemort, but in case Snape needed reminding..

The Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore, as told by Ashley, does not contradict with the Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa. The one with Narcissa was strictly about Draco and his task; it said absolutely nothing about remaining loyal to the Dark Lord. Snape had already had Narcissa to believe that he was loyal to the Dark Side, even though he isn't. Snape has a way with words. I'll admit it. Slimy, oily, greasy-haired git.

I hadn't thought of the fact that Barty Sr knew about Barty Jr. Good catch. But Sr was fighting the Imperius Curse and going straight for Dumbledore: remember, Voldemort had just got the owl saying that Wormtail's blunder had been repaired (letting Sr escape). So, yes, it was undoubtedly Barty Sr that Voldemort was talking about when he said "one more ..." because Sr was going to get Dumbledore involved "and my path to Harry Potter be clear..."

Snape is also in on the Horcrux secret, isn't he? Ha ha ha, Voldemort thinks he alone knows... Dumbledore, Harry, Snape, Ron, Hermione... well-kept secret there Voldy.. haha.

I think that Dumbledore went to Snape instead of Pomfrey because Snape knew about the Horcruxes, the curses, the poisons, the antidotes... Madam Pomfrey did not. Dumbledore must have trusted Snape with the secrets...

How many other members of the Order of the Phoenix know about Voldemort's Horcruxes? How many others did Dumbledore trust enough to tell?

Posted by Ashley from Missouri on April 19, 2007 3:00 PM

Deepa mohan from India,

As I understand a life is that you owe your life to somebody, a that you can repay by saving their life back or raving the life of someone important to that person.

In the case you mentioned, what was proken was not a life , but the protection that Harry has against being harmed by anyone threatening his life (it happened with Uncle Vernon too). As now the Dark Lord has Harry's blood in his veins, this protection is therfore not there anymore (protection for Harry against Voldemort).

I don't consider that Harry has a Life Debt against his mother, because she d protecting him out of LOVE.

In the cases of both James saving Severus and Harry saving Peter, there was definitly no Love involved, at least not for the person thy where saving, thus by "Giving them back their life" (not allowing them to be ed) both Snape and Petigrew owed their lifes do James and Harry.

As Snape was (if we believe Dumbledore) indirectly responsible for James and Lilly's , in order to be able to repay his to James (as he is already ) Severus would have to save Harry's life.

Posted by Emilio from Mexico City, Mexico on April 19, 2007 5:15 PM

On the topic of Voldemort owing Harry a life because he has Pettrigrew's blood in him:
Well, doesn't the person who owes the life have to directly save the person they owe? (if that makes sense...) Well, Voldy certainly didn't do anything to save Harry, quite the opposite, actually. Personally, I don't think that life s running in people's blood should be taken as a literal statement. I mean, how could someone owe someone a life without saving them? It doesn't make sense.
Also, is there no punishment for not repaying a life ? I guess there isn't a time limit if the s can be passed from generation to generation. So, does a person REALLY even have to repay the life ? If nothing happens to them if they don't what is their motovation for repaying it? (Especially if they are bad people, IE Pettrigrew, Voldemort...)

Posted by Enna from Maryland on April 19, 2007 5:21 PM

We know that Snape owed James a life , but what if James knew that he was to soon, so he had Snape make an unbreakable vow to protect Harry at all costs as a substitute?

Posted by Sharon from Michigan on April 20, 2007 09:28 AM

Sharon- I think that may be a little too far fetched, I don't think that Peter Pettigrew even believes he owes a , but uningly and unknowingly save Harry in the seventh book. I don't believe Snape owes anything to Harry. Also, I believe that Dumbeldore is trusting and rightfully so of Snape. Do you actually believe that Dumbeldore would second guess forgiveness with an unbreakable vow? NO, there is no unbreakable vow between Albus and Snape... but if there was, maybe James was the witness and since he was ed, Snape could betray the unbreakable vow!
See that just does not sound right.

Posted by Yahya from Glastonbury, CT on April 22, 2007 2:48 PM

Hm...interesting facts--especially about the Snape owing Harry a full life now. If that is agreed on, perhaps in the ly Hallows, Snape sacrifice himself to save Harry, therefore fulfilling his s and also proving that he is the good guy.

Even if he stays alive, surviving the final battle, there is no joy for him, is there? Some have branded him a Eater forever; whilst others still hate him (he's never really been a liked, sociable guy, has he?).

So if Snape does save Harry like in the article 'Foreshadowings in Prisoner of Azkaban', Snape would fulfill his life s to Harry, whilst proving that he is truly on our side. Or rather, the good side.

Speaking of good sides. We may also find at one point where Wormtail also fulfills his to Harry in a way. He's already the scum, traitor he is, so perhaps at one moment, he knows everything is lost, and just protects Harry, out of pure goodness--possibly inherited from James, Sirius, and Lupin? Or maybe he'll save Harry unconsciously.

Posted by Pieretta on April 23, 2007 05:59 AM

I think there are two distinct and very different concepts being debated here, and they are being confused.
1. Unbreakable Vow -- a concious agreement between two individuals, with a third party to witness and execute the spell.
2. A life -- a force of nature which is invoked by the good and perhaps unconcious act of saving another's life.

We don't know the consequences of breaking either the vow or the . I think that breaking the vow would have consequences known to all wizards, unless they were children, ensuring compliance.Can an Unbreakable Vow even be broken, or undone? I doubt it.
But, on the other hand, the life works more by influencing actions to the benefit of the one who is owed the . For example, against his usual way of trying to avoid notice, Pettigrew actually dares to raise a contradictory opinion to Voldemort. He has no reason to face the wrath of Voldemort, with no benefit to himself, and he probably would not have said anything at all about Harry if not prompted to by the to Harry. I don't think the life brings on newfound goodness in people who are evilly inclined, but I think it redirects their behavior subconciously so they could never knowingly harm the other.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on April 23, 2007 5:29 PM

Patty from Quincy,

I agree on your definitions of both, but we do know the consequences of breaking an Unbreakable Vow, I believe it was Ron who explained Harry about them, and said that the consequence of breaking it was .

Posted by Emilio from Mexico City, Mexico on April 24, 2007 09:00 AM

Do we know why and when pettigrew went bad? I think this be important to the whole life question. Also despite his cowardice, and flighty "back up the biggest bully" attitude he is quite a powerful wizard (he managed to become an animagus at age 13, stay hidden in rat form for atleast 15 years, and be of considerable use to voldy). I believe he have quite an important role in the last book.

Posted by E from Portland, ME on April 24, 2007 3:33 PM

According to Ron the consequence of breaking the Vow would be , but as the article says, the whole thing is kind of ambiguous. Is there a time limit? If the wizard gives it an honest attempt to the best of his abilities, but is hampered by something out of his control, does he still ? For example, if Snape tried to Dumbledore on the tower and someone had stopped him, would Snape get another chance at him? Is this why Harry had to be frozen, to prevent interference?
I wonder if, when Snape made the Vow, he any idea that the task set by Voldemort for Draco would be to Dumbledore. Once he informed Dumbledore of the Vow, Dumbledore knew it was either himself or Snape who would have to . Snape, being a double agent, had to live to further protect Harry. Dumbledore would never choose to live at the expense of anyone else's , even Snape's. Once Snape arrived on the tower, he had no choice in front of Draco and the Eaters. Either Dumbledore, or blow his cover. I think Dumbledore had anticipated this situation and had accepted his time to , but not without telling Harry about the remaining Horcruxes, and I think we see further protections in place in book 7.

E from Portland,
I agree with your assessment of Pettigrew's abilities. I see a recurring theme of underestimating others in the septology. Voldemort underestimated the power of love, wizards underestimate and overlook house elves, Neville is constantly underestimated. I think Pettigrew's life is a bigger variable than Harry can foresee, because, as you say, Pettigrew is a powerful wizard.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on April 25, 2007 07:00 AM

Patty: there is a clue that shows that Dumbledore is aware about what's going on and prepared to at the hand of Snape. At the beginning of HBP, Dumbledore visits the Dursleys at Privet Drive. He asks them very firmly to take Harry back home the next summer. There is no reason for Dumbledore to do so, except if Dumbledore knows that by the time, he won't be able to check whether they do it the right way. It looks like Dumbledore knows that he be until the next july.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on April 25, 2007 07:52 AM

I agree with Herve. Albus knew his time was up soon. As well as making it very clear to the Dursleys that Harry was to return, and letting Harry in on all he knew about Tom Riddle, he knew the DADA job was jinxed, and that whoever held it would most likely not be there next year. The fact that he gave it to Severus seems to me to indicate that Albus knew Severus would be involved in his , and therefore not able to remain at Hogwarts the next year. In addition, it would give Severus a way to keep an eye on Harry, since Harry would not be able to take Potions if Severus taught it, since he only got an "E".

Posted by Monkeeshrines from Orlando FL on April 25, 2007 09:16 AM

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