Gleam of Triumph? Narrative Misdirection is the Key (Scar-O-Scope 101)

I received this letter today in my john@zossima mailbox and thought I would share my answer to start an important conversation here. Is narrative misdirection the single most important key to these books? Have Dumbledore and Snape written a script in Prince to be acted out in front of Voldemort via Harry’s scar-o-scope? Is the plan to deceive the-ghost-in-Harry’s-machine about how far along their pursuit of Horcruxes was and to plant Snape in a position to kill the Dark Lord after all the Horcruxes had been collected and destroyed? To include the one on Harry’s forehead?

Lemmeno what you think. As I mention in the note, the scar-o-scope theory is detailed at length in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader but here is an introduction to Ms. Rowling’s writing narrative misdirection, her signature artifice, into her story as a weapon of the good guys in VoldeWar II. She has done this with Voldemort at least twice; why not with the good guys?

The letter:
Date: Jan 10, 2007 1:28 PM
Subject: the Gleam of Triumph

I just finished reading Looking For God in Harry Potter, the 2004 edition, and I was waiting eagerly for one explanation that never appeared. After the explanation of why Quirrell couldn’t touch Harry’s skin without burning, I was wondering why it was that after the rebirthing Voldemort *could* touch him without any apparent effect. The subject line of my email, of course, refers to Dumbledore’s gleam of triumph in his eyes after Harry relates this fact to him. Any theories, clues, directions to writings on this that I have missed?

Harry Fan in Ohio

Dear Buckeye,

Just a quick note to begin to answer your question! The full answer is in my Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader that you can pre-order now at

Dumbledore is no dark wizard but he knows dark magic well enough that, even at his first interview with Tom Riddle, Jr., he realizes that this young wizard has been making Horcruxes. As the Red Hen has written, how many curses can there be that cause your face to change its character? The Headmaster’s grasp of dark magic is also sufficient that he knows the potion ingredients that Voldemort needs to get his body back at the end of Goblet. Because the Headmaster knows that Harry’s scar is a Horcrux which links him to Voldemort (and knew that from the day the books open), he allows or at least does not take the measures necessary to prevent the Dark Lord from capturing Harry and using Potter blood to reconstitute himself. He shows his “gleam of triumph” at Harry’s return because his plan is working out!

How so? Voldemort and Harry are now the same person in large part because Voldemort is made of Harry’s blood qualities and Harry has a piece of Voldemort’s soul in his noggin. They are “in essence divided” (Phoenix, 470), certainly, but they are able to see through each other’s eyes. Harry does this only when completely relaxed and he can sense the Dark Lord’s emotions if they are extreme, but the Dark Lord can look through Harry at will (being a great wizard, however twisted). This also explains why Voldemort can touch Harry — they are no longer “contraries” but self/other resolved. The difference, the divided essence, is that Harry has his integrity as a person and his capacity for love.

If you re-read Phoenix and Prince with the idea in mind that Dumbledore and Snape know they are talking to Voldemort whenever they talk to Harry (and whenever Harry speaks in all-caps, Voldemort is learning how to use his new scar-o-scope, an effect he is able to mute by the beginning of Prince), I think you’ll be astonished at the “narrative misdirection” drama they are writing to deceive the Dark Lord about their progress with respect to Horcruxes. By the time in Prince that Horace hands over the memory and Harry learns more about the six Horcrux items he needs to destroy in Deathly Hallows, I’m confident Snape and Dumbledore already have them in hand and have destroyed them. Snape’s last “hit” on Harry as he departs Hogwarts in Prince destroys the Horcrux on Harry’s head and turns off the scar-o-scope. The Horcruxes are destroyed and Snape has the drop on Voldemort to dispatch him because the Dark Lord believes the melodrama on the Tower was for real.

You can read more about this and the other Five Keys on! See you there.

John, grateful for your note


  1. Travis Prinzi says

    Whoah – all the horcruxes already destroyed?

  2. John, I like this and basically agree, except for one thing: I don’t think Severus and Albus have the capacity to destroy the horcruxes, even though they have the knowledge. That’s Harry’s job. It is because he is carrying the soul fragment that Harry is able to destroy the horcruxes without incurring any damage; as Jodel has said, Voldemort could surely do the same, and, as far as the soul fragments are concerned, Harry *is* Voldemort. But, when Dumbledore attempted to destroy just one horcrux between OOTP and HBP, it killed him, in essence. So I think the link with Voldemort is still very much alive, and Snape will have to wait for Harry to destroy the remaining horcruxes before he can complete his part of the task (Destroying Voldemort’s body.)

    You see, if your theory is right, Harry is just a passive agent going along for the ride. I don’t think that is so. I think he is active, and must destroy the horcrux within him by ‘loving his enemy’ in the person of Severus. So I believe he will ultimately destroy Voldemort by offering to give his life for Snape’s. And I hope I’m right!

  3. John,
    I do not think that all the horcruxes have been destroyed. If they had, why would Dumbledore have taken Harry to the cave that night?

    Nope, he thought that there was one across that lake filled with the dead. Dumbledore drank poison to get to the locket on the bottom, which turned out not to be the Slytherin locket he was looking for.

    I think it is likely that was the locket that wouldn’t open that was thrown out during the “house cleaning” session in OotP as has been pointed out by many people. Possibly Kreacher still has the accursed item or he passed it on to Narcissa as he was spiriting out other items he salvaged from the scrap heap.

    And, I do not think it would be as easy as a simple spell by Snape to remove a portion of Voldemort’s soul from Harry’s body. Nope. I think that is going to be the climactic scene in HP and the *Deathly* Hallows.

    Will Harry risk giving up his own life in order to save the rest of humanity from the Eeeevil that is Voldemort? Yup.

    Will he die as a result?

    I dunno. It depends how Jo wants to end her series. I used to think that Harry was a goner and doomed to die, but now I’m thinking that she doesn’t have the guts to write something that tragic.


  4. What happened to my earlier comment? This blog doesn’t like me!

    Anyway, briefly I said that I found this interesting but couldn’t agree completely. I do not think that Severus and Albus have destroyed all the horcruxes because that is Harry’s job. In COS, Harry showed that he could destroy a horcrux almost by instinct, without being hurt by it. In contrast, at the beginning of HBP, Albus Dumbledore needed all his skill, *and* all of Severus’s, to destroy one horcrux and stay ‘alive’. There is no way he could have destroyed a second without being destroyed by it. (R.J. Anderson, on livejournal, believes that’s exactly what happened at the end of HBP.)

    *Because* he is carrying a soul fragment under the scar, Harry can destroy the horcruxes without being harmed by them. Voldemort could surely do the same; as far as the fragments are concerned, Harry *is* Voldemort. It will be Snape’s job to destroy Voldemort’s body once the horcruxes are gone, but he has to wait for Harry. And the two then have to figure out how to work together. I firmly believe that Harry can only destroy the last horcrux – Voldemort in himself – by loving his enemy, Snape. If I’m wrong about this; if Dumbledore and Snape have already destroyed all the horcruxes, then it seems to me there is no story left. But I guess we’ll see in a few months!

    (And I hope this blog doesn’t destroy this comment! I was much more articulate the first time!)

  5. Dear Mary,

    There is a time delay on the posts so I can be sure the spam and trolls don’t derail conversations. Thank you for re-posting, though!

    I am in the middle of preparing semester exams but hope to respond to the objections above later tonight. I don’t think Harry is taken to the cave except to get him out of the castle (the Order already has the real locket courtesy of Mundungus). And, while the “Harry-as-sole-Horcrux-destroyer” theory is implied by the “You’re more valuable than I am” line in the cave, I’m suspicious that this is Snape being droll as he impersonates Dumbledore, fawning over the Chosen One.

    More later, especially about the big twist of Harry being a pawn rather than the big wheel and savior of Wizardom.


  6. Just wanted to add my new two cents…

    It just occurred to me that JKR has said we should be asking ourselves “Why did DD have James’s cloak on Halloween night?” Also, she has said that “Snape was not” there the night of Halloween where the murders took place.

    If DD can make himself invisible, then why should he need an invisibility cloak, right? Well I am still waiting for John’s reply to that one on the blog, but here is my thought.

    Could DD have been there that night knowing what was going to take place and not stop it? Could he have meant for Voldemort to try and kill Harry, on purpose? I know what you are thinking.

    The gleam of triumph could be that he knew what powers Harry had even then, and needed Harry as a pawn that night. To rid the wizard world of the Dark Lord. Since DD knew Harry’s powers before he entered Hogwart’s and he also knew what Tom was up to before he left Hogwarts, or suspected it. DD’s visit to the orphanage has to have some kind of importance and I am not sure she needs misdirection or not. Knowing her, she could use it for the twist ending. But maybe re-direction as Trudy says. DD knew what Tom was about before he even went to the orphanage, because he knew his parentage and Slytherin connection.

    He knew he had to keep the SS safe in the Hogwart’s dungeon, he knew he had to keep the students safe from the diary and the basilisk, he knew he had to keep Harry safe from Sirius, and he had to keep Harry safe from the Tri-wizard tournament. DD is in charge, old, wise, powerful and very well informed. We still need to now what else he knows or knew before the murders on Halloween.

    Also, I still believe that Harry’s need to love the epitomy of Evil and Satan stand in is not going to happen. I must say this since I firmly believe the Bible when God says the one thing we can hate is evil and the devil. JKR has said herself that most of the characters are redeamable, and LV is not one of them.

  7. I am still of the mind that 17 year old Harry will be re-present at the events of October 31, 1980 (by use of the timeturner) and the person under the cloak is 17 year old Harry (remember what was said about people who see themselves from the future).

    I am now of the mind that 17 year old Harry (Harry II) may battle Voldemort II (who either goes back to the past and Harry follows or the other way around) in the past and could die there (leaving the way for the story to begin all over again with Baby Harry, though I’d rather see something else!!).

    Voldemort I could actually be the one who kills Voldemort II (by mistake – imagine them coming face to face – Voldemort II will know, Voldemort I will not know).

    It could be that Voldemort II attempts to kill Baby Harry (which only causes the scar since he’s time out of mind, so to speak) and it is Voldemort I who inadvertently kills Voldemort II (again, remember that we’ve been warned that terrible things happen when people see each other from the future/past). That deed alone could cause the house to explode.

    Anyway, speculation aside, the bottom line is that I think Harry goes back to Godrick Hollow and is hidden under James’ coat. This is left behind (either by finding the dead Harry II in the past by Dumbledore) or that Harry II (if he should survive and go home to the “present”) leaves it behind while fleeing from the explosion and from being discovered.

    There really isn’t a clear way to know what could happen there (this is mere conjecture – I don’t know, there just isn’t enough clues to know but right now this is my best guess) but I think it was 17 year old Harry who was was under the invisibility cloak and it was left behind at Godric Hollow and retrieved by Dumbledore for Harry – again.

    Of course I could be wrong!!!


  8. OK, first things first. I can’t see how this theory works, John. For one thing, JKR seems to have debunked it already on her website in the Rumors section back on December 19. The Rumor that was posted was:

    “At the end of book seven, Harry and Voldemort will ‘merge’ to form a single persona who will command both the forces of good and evil.”

    I know that’s not exactly what you are saying, but it is similar. Her response was:

    “This is not really a rumor, more a lone theory on the net that the son of a friend of mine pointed out to me. He wants me to repudiate it, so I’m repudiating: Harry will NOT merge with Voldemort to become a single entity, nor would Harry even wish to command Death Eaters/Dementors/Inferi.”

    Whatever the intended effect of the theory, she very definitely says that Harry and Voldemort are not one–so doesn’t that negate the whole idea that that is what the gleam of triumph was all about?

    And really, if Dumbledore had used Harry as a pawn from the time he was 11, that doesn’t go along with Dumbledore really seeming to care for Harry, so much so, that he would put Harry’s well-being ahead of his grand plan. It also means that it doesn’t matter whether Harry has the power that Voldemort doesn’t have–love. If Dumbledore and Snape are taking care of the Horcruxes, it won’t matter what Harry does. He might as well sit down in the pub and have a butterbeer and let them–well, now just Snape–get on with it.

    The other part I can’t buy into is the whole idea that it wasn’t Dumbledore who went to the Cave with Harry. If they knew the Horcrux wasn’t really there, because they already had the real one (and had destroyed it), then what was the point of putting Harry in that kind of danger? And how is it that Dumbledore and Snape are face to face on the Tower–when would they have had time to switch back?

    Narrative misdirection is one thing, but this theory is so full of manipulation of everyone that it just feels wrong, to me. It becomes the argument of the end justifying the means, rather than love being what is needed to defeat evil. And if that story line turns out to be true, I for one, will feel very cheated. Cheated because the wizard who was so powerful and represented all that was good and right (Dumbledore) turned out to be a liar and a deceiver of the worst sort.

    How can the Horcruxes all be already destroyed anyway? If Dumbledore and Snape have destroyed them, then why are they putting Harry and all the others in such constant danger by not just finishing off Voldemort. I see no purpose in the whole charade of teaching Harry about the Horcruxes, showing him the known ones, all of Tom Riddle’s life history, and the clues about what the rest of the Horcruxes are. Sorry, John, but this one just doesn’t work for me.

    Oh, and rumor–I posted this on the forum, but I’ll post it here as well–Rowling said that Snape was not hiding under the invisibility cloak on Halloween–but she didn’t say that he wasn’t there. Actually, until she posted it with that terse wording, I wasn’t in the camp that thought he was at the Potter’s when they were killed. But now I at least think it’s a possibility.


  9. shadowquill says

    I really like the idea that the white-hot spell was the destruction of the scar horcrux, but I’m hesitant to believe that destroying it would be that simple.

    I believe that the “white hot” spell that whizzed by Harry’s face at the end of Half Blood Prince had more to do with Snape’s emotions. Snape was doing all in his power to hold back his anger and to avoid cursing Harry for being his usual thick-headed self. I found two sentences at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that uses “white-hot” anger as anger and frustration at being misunderstood.

    Here are the two mentions near the end of Order of the Phoenix:

    page 823:
    White-hot anger leapt inside him. Dumbledore knew knothing about his feelings.
    page 823
    Harry felt the white-hot anger lick his insides, blazing in the terrible emptiness, filling him with the desire to hurt Dumbledore for his calmness and empty words.

    It’s probably a coincidence, but I thought I’d mention it.

  10. I do think the events on the Astronomy Tower were not as they seemed to Harry. The look of disgust on Snape’s face mirrors the look of disgust on Harry’s face in the cave as both had to obey Dumbledore by doing things that they did not want to do. The exact nature of what Snape is doing (his “killing curse” sent Dumbledore flying into space which is not what the killing curse does. When people are hit by the killing curse, as Tom Riddle Sr. and his parents were by Voldemort, they just fall over dead). So Dumbledore flying off the Astronomy Tower is for affect, though Dumbledore is dead when we see him next. Did Snape kill him or was he all ready as good as dead? That we don’t yet know. Was it the effects of the potion that Dumbledore drank in the cave what really did him in (in which case, Harry played a hand in Dumbledore’s death). Or was he – as we’ve discussed around here in the past – Dead Man Walking?

    But I had not ever considered that the drama was played out not just for the Death Eaters present to believe, but also for Harry to believe (and with him, Voldemort). It is intriguing – even if it’s only a theory at this point – to look at Book VI as a drama being played out not so much for Harry but for Voldemort (who never appears in the book!). What if Voldemort is “present” all through the book and that is why Dumbledore is not so freaked out by Harry looking at him and being nearby. All those journeys that Harry and Dumbledore go on, as edifying as it is for Harry – what if it’s for Voldemort’s benefit as well? That is an intriguing thought.

    I do think it’s intriguing to think that the horcruxes are indeed all destroyed, the last one being the locket and that seems to have been destroyed by RAB (but was it really and not that locket that was found while cleaning in Grimmauld Place in Book V?). If it was indeed destroyed, then we really have no idea – except what we can glean from other books of this genre – what Harry is off to do. Harry thinks he’s off to do Horcrux Hunting (and we of course believe him – when will we ever learn??? Harry is not the best indicating of what is really going on, but we like him so much we keep trusting his judgment!).

    I am now off to listen to the CDs of the Book VI YET AGAIN (sorry for shouting) just to consider if it is a drama set out for Voldemort, not present in this book but perhaps more present than any of us realized. It would also make the title “ironic” in that the “Half Blood Prince” is not only Snape – but the Dark Lord himself. Could it be that he was indeed the star of this book and we never realized it?

    Intriguing and at certainly worth going through the book again from that point of view.

    Thanks, John – I’ll check back in when I’m done with the book and give you some thoughts.


  11. Why would DD or anyone else want Harry to feel the same about Snape as he does Voldemort? It makes no sense to me, even if it is fun to speculate. I think we have hit a dead end here, no pun intended.

    JKR said herself, “Harry-Snape is now as personal, if not more so, than Harry-Voldemort.” [Read the whole quote from the Leaky Cauldron, 2005]”

    Also, JKR has said:”In Book 6 “Harry finds out a lot of Voldemort’s history. Though he was never that nice a guy.” [Read the whole quote from Time Magazine, 2005]

    After Book 6 “you’re left with a very clear idea of what Harry’s going to do next.” [Read the whole quote from Time Magazine, 2005]
    In Book 6 Harry is “ready to go out fighting. And he‚Äôs after revenge.” [Read the whole quote from Dateline NBC, 2005]

    Dumbledore’s guesses about how to kill Voldemort are ‚Äúnever very far wide of the mark.‚Äù Harry will need to get rid of four horcruxes, and then ‚Äúgo for Voldemort.‚Äù Dumbledore has given Harry ‚Äúsome pretty valuable clues‚Äù and Harry “has amassed more knowledge than he realizes.” Dumbledore will not ‚Äúdo a Gandalf;‚Äù he is truly dead. [Read the whole quote from Radio City2, 2006]

    Dumbledore had to die because ‘In these sort of epic sagas, the hero eventually has to fight alone’, although Harry still has his two faithful sidekicks. Fundamentally, Jo is saying ‘the old wizard always gets it’. [Read the whole quote from Radio City-pressconf, 2006]

  12. Why would DD or anyone else want Harry to feel the same about Snape as he does Voldemort? It makes no sense to me,

    Well, it makes perfect sense to me. You see, Rumor, in a way Harry *is* Voldemort; the Dark Lord can look out through Harry’s eyes any time he wants to. And it is really, really important for the endgame that Voldemort be convinced Snape is his man. Well, now he’s convinced.

    In addition, Snape is not stupid – he is far, far more intelligent than Harry, from what I can see – and he certainly knows by now what motivates Harry most strongly. The boy is most focused, and most competent, when he is angry. And, if he is going to destroy the horcruxes and face Voldemort, he had *better* be both focused and competent. So there is absolutely no harm, and some possible good, to be had from his fury at Snape. Just my two cents!

    But, as I said to John in my earlier posts, I don’t believe for a moment that Dumbledore and Severus have already destroyed the horcruxes. That’s Harry’s job, just as it will finally be Severus’s job to destroy Voldemort.

  13. It’s sort of hard to grasp the idea of snape knocking the horcrux out of harry when he is fleeing, when it seems like that’s the spot where harry is recieving his redemption from a Christ symbol i.e. Witherwings. Then again, it all kind of hurts my head.

    Then even again, snape always seems to protect Harry at a spot where it *looks like* snape’s trying to kill him. Snape is always the first guy to point your finger at, but he’s got that double-agent side that makes you realize you were wrong. The one guy who looks like a murderer turns out to be the savior.

  14. Arabella Figg says

    Frankly, some of this speculation seems so Byzantine, it begins to seem like a French farce with all the character-hopping (sorry for the mixed metaphors). No one is who he seems. A death isn’t a death. Horcruxes to be found are already found. Two Harrys and two Voldemorts across time battle each other to explain a cloak–or is it two cloaks? Absolutely twists the cranium.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    I do believe DD is dead. But I believe he will have more to say to Harry, particularly the story he promised to tell him about the destruction of the ring horcrux. How? Well, through his portrait in the headmaster’s study. It was explained once that all former headmasters in the portraits know what they knew in their living years. So DD still has a wealth of information for Harry, should Harry “consult” him. I guess we’ll know if DD is really dead when he appears in his frame.

    I’ve felt from book one that Snape will die for Harry. I think a lot of people will die for Harry to be able to accomplish what he must.

    Dive deep, but don’t hit your head on a rock.

    Got to go see to the kitties.

  15. ainsley_latimer says

    I’m not of a mind to do a lot of speculating right now . . . but I will respond to Arabella: Dumbledore is already sleeping peacefully in golden frame over new-headmistress McGonagall’s desk in Chapter 29 of HBP. Besides, Mugglenet reports that JKR has clearly stated that DD is really dead. I believe you’re right — he could be a source of counsel and/or answers in DH.

    I like the idea of narrative misdirection — it certainly creates a lot of possibilities from a plot standpoint (just look at all the speculation that came before this post!). . . it will be interesting to see it is the tool JKR chose to use and where it leads her characters (and us, along with them) in the end.

  16. Arabella Figg says

    Thank you, ainsley_latimer, for the correction about Dumbledore being already in his portrait. Duh–knew that, but forgot.

    I apologize for apparent crankiness in my previous commment; I wasn’t, but it reads that way. Half, if not more, of the fun of the books is speculating about them and attempting to figure what comes next. The creative, unhampered thinking on this site and others reveals the sharp intelligence of diligent HP readers.

    The narrative misdirection angle is intriguing and enlightening–J.K. is propelling us through a funhouse of twists and turns. And what a wild ride it is.

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