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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 8)

Woah, woah... I think we're stepping the line here people.

I admit that I haven't read through every post, but why would Snape and Dumbledore make an Unbreakable Vow?

I mean, with everything that needs clearing up, Joanne probably focus nearly all her attention on Harry and his little "quest for cruxes". And IIRC, she's said that the ly Hallows are to be shorter than Order. Will she be able to clear everything up in a book shorter than the 5th? I don't know, maybe...

Posted by Rane on December 31, 2006 09:25 AM

Dumbledore would not have made an Unbreakable Vow with Snape. If it is anything in the world that Dumbledore believes in is trust--trust and choices, both opf ehich have a KEY point that pertains to wahrt makes Snape so enigmatic. If Snape came to Dumbledore begging forgiveness (I personally believe he loved Lily, that's why he came back, but thats for another time and place.) Dumbledore wouldn't say "oh, well, I don't trust you, so I'm gonna force you to by making you make an Unbreakable Vow." It's the last thing Dumbledore would do. Also, if (by the small chance) Dumbledore wanted to make an Unbreakable Vow with Snape he would need to find a CONSENTING bonder.

As for the life- issue. I think that Snape jhas been looking after Harry throughout the series, not just the first book. When Harry chases Snape through the lawn he provokes Snape to end it--to him. Snape refuses. This means that Snape is good, or this means that he has a life- to Harry because of his Father.

Posted by Kevin from Herndon, Virginia on January 1, 2007 07:51 AM

wouldn't harry owe dumbledore a life for freezing him on the tower? the eaters surely would have ed him

Posted by steve from new york on January 1, 2007 2:23 PM

3 points/ thoughts:

1. Dumbledore/ Snape unbreakable vow issue.
I don't find the explanation in HBP about Snape being really sorry very 'iron clad'. I think there is more to the story about why Dumbledore trusted Snape unconditionally. Or, mostly unconditionally - remember, he wasn't allowed to teach Defense until the end. (A side point - Why trust someone unconditionally with one condition?)
However, even thought i think there is more to the Dumbledore trusts Snape story, I don't think it is an Unbreakable vow. Dumbledore was all about trusting people bevause you trusted them, because it was the right thing to do, the power of love etc. To trust someone to do the right thing because they have been forced into it doesn't seem to be in that theme.

2. The creation of a ligfe .
I'm not sure if Harry would have a life to Lily. Snape's life to James (if it exists) and Wormtails's to Harry exist because those involved (James and Harry respectivly) specifically chose to save the other person's life. It was a conscious choice to prevent their .

In Lily's case, while she chose to protect her son, she had no way of knowing that this action would save Harry's life. The fact that Harry is the only know person ever to have survived the ing curse in this manner is visited time and time again in the books, so we can assume that Lily was just trying to protect her son for a few seconds longer (in her opinion) because it was all she could do. The fact that this action subsequently saved his life was unknown to Lily.

As Lily did not specifically choose to save Harry's life, I don't think she has a life to Harry.

3 - 'half life s' etc

A few people have talked about half life s (eg Snape to James is only half a life because there was benefit to James as well). I don't think that two half s make a whole or anything like that. I'm a maths teacher, and even I don't think that arithmetic can be applied to 'this kind of magic'

4 - I think that the truimphant gleam in Dumbledore's eyes when Harry recounts about Wormtail's hand playing a role in Voltemort's regaining a body be of EXTREME significance.

Posted by Liz from Australia on January 2, 2007 04:47 AM

2 additions to my previous comment:

1 - there were 4 points, not three like I suggested. Sorry for the typo.

2 - There had been lots of discussion about Unbreakable Vows and Life Debts. Whilst I think they are both very powerful and both be significant, I think they fall into two separate categories.

An Unbreakable vow is an agreement which two people choose to enter into. Whilst the consequences may be severe, they do not exist until the choice to make the vow has been made.

A life , however, seems to be part of 'Harry's kind of magic'. That so far a bit wishy washy, love-related, Dumbledore related, phoenix related, mother giving life to save her son, value of an intact soul type of magic. (I'm reminded of the CS Lewis' 'deeper magic still' for those Narnia fans out there.) I don't think that you can choose to be affected (or use) this type of magic. Only those with 'maimed and diminished' sould are unaffected. Perhaps it was voldemort's lack of love as a child coupled with other factors which made him lust after Dark magic (away from love magic) and mutilate his soul, therefore preventing him from discovering love along the way.

But I digress. In short, I feel an Unbreakable vow is just the same as any spell or charm, just more complicated and with more significant consequences, but essentially 'recipe' magic.

Life s and what I term 'love' magic is a deeper, more fundamental type of magic - it's not about saying the right word in the right way. this makes is less voluntarily and more important, and what the 6 (and ultimately 7) books lead up to. Love magic and it's importance is the theme of the entire series.

Posted by Liz from Australia on January 2, 2007 05:01 AM

Personally, I don't think Dumbledore would do such a thing as an Unbreakable Vow. If he really trusts Snape, it seems to me that he wouldn't make this vow. But that's just my thinking.

Posted by Mariana from ARGENITNA on January 2, 2007 05:12 AM

I think Pettigrew has a life towards Harry because Harry was in position to decide for his life or , a that would have been very much deserved. That was a very noble attitude, thinking to the harm Pettigrew did to Harry.

I like very much the idea, expressed here, that it has provoked some kind of failure in Voldemort's coming back to life in the cemetery. When Pettigrew cuts his hand, it is supposed to be the blood of the servant, a servant totally devoted to Voldemort. This was not entirely true: Pettigrew was somehow in to Harry, he could not be totally possessed by Voldemort. This way, the evil charm is weaker.

Posted by Anonymous on January 3, 2007 09:34 AM

I agree that Dumbledore forcing some one into an unbreakable vow is unlikely. It would remove the persons free and would be some what akin to enslavement...ok maybe thats a bit of a stretch, but Dumbledore isn't the one who wants people to follow him either ingly or not.. He has admitted it himself that his mistakes are somewhat bigger that less clever men, so I think he would want some one to be free to disagree with him if they thought he was wrong.. Example... He never told any one else they had to trust Snape, he just said that he did..

Posted by Kevin from Wisconsin on January 3, 2007 09:57 AM

I agree that Dumbledore would not have done an Unbreakable Vow with Snape. It does seem out of character.

I still think that the life Snape owed to James should have almost ed him when it turned out that he was responsible for James' . As Liz pointed out, a life is a "love-based" magic that naturally occurs, not needing a spell, so it probably would parallel an Unbreakable Vow where a person would if they broke the "contract". That would also account for Snape's grudging attitude toward Harry that he is forced to protect under the Life Debt. Maybe Dumbledore modified the magic to transfer the protection to Harry? Maybe he saved Snape from , or misery, or something, when Snape came to him as the expert on "love-based" magic? Snape could have offered his services as a double-agent to Dumbledore in exchange for transferring the Life Debt to Harry. If I remember correctly, Snape came on board at Hogwarts after the prophecy, but before Harry defeats Voldemort. Maybe he panicked when he knew Voldemort was after James and went to Dumbledore?

Posted by Raow from Petaluma, CA on January 3, 2007 8:54 PM

I agree about the unbreakable vow not being something Dumbledore would require. I think Dumbledore knew that Snape was madly in love with Lily (they were in the same year, both very good at potion - see comments about her potion talents from their Professor Slughorn in HBP). That's why Snape hates Harry so much, Harry looks like his father, who "stole" Lily from him, yet Snape protects Harry because he is Lily's son. Snape left Voldemort for good when Voldemort ed Lily, he felt immensely guilty for being the cause of his love's , and he swore revenge. Dumbledore knew this, and that's why he believed Snape was on his side from now on. He knew that Snape's love for Lily and desire for revenge would be stronger than any attraction for the dark arts and fascination for Voldemort. I believe this is in the line of the whole story which could be sump up as "love is stronger than evil".

Posted by Cecil from Tacoma, WA on January 4, 2007 1:10 PM

Hope this is not a repeat, but:

Snape's "twitch" was a crossing of the fingers (her hands covering his), so he did not make (nor have to keep) the vow.

Dumbledore did not want Snape to be DADA Prof. because he knew the position was cursed and wanted to keep Snape.

I doubt UBVows and Life Debts are related (Liz seems correct on this point), but I agree that Snape's love for Lilly drove him away from Voldy (just like RAB). But, as Sirius said, you can't just stop being a Eater. So its hang out with Voldy, agree to spy for him, or .

Posted by Tom from Columbus, Ohio on January 5, 2007 7:46 PM

Not wanting to bang on about it - but just a thought. I agree with those who say DD would't want, or need, to require someone to take an Unbreakable Vow. But would he do so to protect that person from something else further down the line? Yes, he would- and being the excellent and perceptive wizard that he is he would take that opportunity.

I'll leave that to lie for now - think I have done enough in this thread!

Posted by Paul from Weston-super-Mare on January 6, 2007 4:55 PM

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