“One Last Memory:” A Godric’s Hollow Mind-blower

Everything I am sent about literary alchemy I read. Can you blame me? I am, of course, especially interested in thoughts on how alchemical images are used in Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Later this week I will review one of the better things I’ve read on this subject, from a Jungian analyst’s perspective quite different than my own. Today, though, I want to share something I found while looking for alchemical thoughts to share here.

I can thank Professor Mum (thank you, Wendy!) for mentioning S. P. Sipal’s notes about the new covers, all of which were references to alchemy and processes in the Great Work. Following the urls Professor Mum sent, I learned that S.P. Sipal had written an essay on the alchemy in the series for a Galadriel Waters book called The Plot Thickens and, more recently, had posted an editorial on mugglenet.com called One Last Memory.

The alchemical points in this mugglenet essay are disappointing. S.P. Sipal does not understand what a Quintessence is, for instance, and what images and explanations s/he brought into play from Egyptian mythology and magic (a bunch!) I thought distracted from rather than supported her remarkable ideas about what really happened in Godric’s Hollow. These ideas are so good, though, that I look forward to reading the other alchemical things S.P. Sipal has written; the conclusions s/he comes to are so compelling it seems clear s/he just had a bad day with respect to the alchemy in One Last Memory.

I suspect that more than one English Literature Ph.D. has already been drafted on the subject of memory in Harry Potter. The subject begs serious treatment, especially with respect to Hermetic memory systems and Renaissance beliefs about memory in Florence and Northern Italy when magic was largely about memory (see Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory for more on this). S.P. Sipal does not begin this work or review even superficially the role of memory in the books — but, wow, what s/he comes up with in Sherlock Holmes fashion by revisiting the seemingly unnecessary trip the trio make to the fourth floor of St. Mungo’s in Phoenix.

I cannot urge you enough to go to mugglenet and read One Last Memory. To encourage you to read how S.P. Sipal has come to the conclusions s/he has, I will post here some of that essay’s conclusions. You’re just plain whacky, forgive my bluntness, if you don’t read the whole exposition, Thoth and all.

From One Last Memory by S.P. Sipal:

What Happened at Godric’s Hollow, my best guess:

* Voldemort arrives at Godric’s Hollow.
* The Fidelius Charm is broken, either by the fact that the secret was revealed in bad faith, or that Lily, the caster, withdrew it.
* James sends Lily to get Harry and tries to stop Voldemort.
* James puts up a good fight (which slows Voldemort down) but is killed.
* Lily runs for Harry, who is in his crib, sending her Patronus SOS to the Order.
* Frank Longbottom arrives in answer to Lily’s Patronus.
* Snape, who’s been following Voldemort, throws off the invisibility cloak and appears to be pursuing Frank.
* Snape asks Voldemort to spare Lily’s life, on the grounds that with her skills or knowledge of the Department of Mysteries she can be of benefit to Voldy.
* Frank cries foul and battles Snape, while Lily battles with Voldemort.
* In the course of the battle, Voldemort offers Lily her chance to work for him, which she rejects.
* Voldemort Avada Kedavras Harry, Lily throws herself in front of her son and is killed. The curse rebounds off Harry and destroys Voldemort.
* Snape petrifies Frank, immobilizing the Auror basically as Dumbledore did to Harry–making him an eyewitness but unable to participate.
* Snape heals baby Harry’s wounds and seeks to hide evidence from the Death Eaters.
* Snape’s show of loyalty to Dumbledore brings Fawkes, who, able to carry immensely heavy loads, carries the injured/immobilized Frank to Dumbledore.
* Snape borrows James’ invisibility cloak in order to trail Vapormort (possibly).
* At some point in the next few hours/days, Frank is attacked, Crucio’d into insanity, and his memory lost to others.

Note: This chain of events is a memory we could possibly see from Dumbledore’s point of view, as we saw Trelawney’s giving the prophecy. Dumbledore may not have had time to bottle the memory from Frank that Halloween night, but could have, in reflection years later, safeguarded his own memory of Frank’s initial report. We’ve seen evidence of Dumbledore bottling his own key memories as the last memory presented to Harry, the one of Voldemort returning to ask for a position, was in a bottle when Harry arrived.

Or the memory could be presented from Snape’s point of view. JKR said that Snape had given Dumbledore his story and Dumbledore had believed it.[58] “Given him his story” could also mean given him his memory. Just the act of giving this memory would have been a huge show of loyalty because it helped the Order so much. Snape would have been one of the few who truly knew that Voldy was alive somewhere in the world.

Personally, I still believe the strongest point of view to present the memory from, and therefore the most likely, is Frank Longbottom’s. From Dumbledore’s POV we would only see Frank’s report, not the actual action. And from Snape’s there’d be that element of distrust, the possibility that Snape could have tampered with his memory, but more adeptly than Slughorn. Thus, if this memory exists, I believe we will see it from Frank Longbottom’s POV.

One last question to ask: If Dumbledore possessed such a memory, why keep it secret? I think the answer has several parts:

1. Dumbledore is feeling his way through these questions regarding the Horcruxes as well. He is not a god. He is putting his facts together, swishing his Pensieve, and learning along with us in HBP as never before. Perhaps Dumbledore did not fully understand what this final memory contained either.
2. Dumbledore never wanted it to get out among the other Death Eaters that Snape was at Godric’s Hollow when Voldemort was destroyed, thereby putting Snape’s cover/life at risk. Remember, too, that it took Harry a very long time to obtain Slughorn’s real memory. By the time Harry obtained it, there was very little time left.
3. The only thing I can imagine worse than watching your parents die, is living with that memory, replayed endlessly in your mind. I believe that Dumbledore, in his great love for Harry, spared him this agonizing, torturous memory until he absolutely had to, and until he felt like Harry was ready. Unfortunately, Dumbledore’s end came before this revelation. After Harry’s able to sort through the anguish the memory entails, he’ll find a key clue to what occurred that night, one that will be the final clue he needs to defeat the Dark Lord.
4. One last possibility for Dumbledore withholding this memory could be that it revealed elements about the final Horcrux which Dumbledore felt Harry was not yet prepared to accept.

Again, go read One Last Memory now.

The image of Frank Longbottom on the closed ward giving Harry the memory of Severus Snape saving his life by sewing the baby-Horcrux’s head back together into a scar with a song is a keeper. If Deathly Hallows doesn’t include that scene, the replacement will have to be something even more extraordinary.

“Accio 21 July!”


  1. John, I just went and skimmed the whole article – will have to read it more slowly – and I can’t quite agree. Though I do think that Snape was at Godric’s Hollow, and rescued Harry, I have problems with the ‘tracking Voldemort under the cloak” idea. Why? Because, by the end of October, 1981, young Severus had already been teaching at Hogwarts for two months. So Dumbledore already trusted him completely, and did not need to be convinced of anything. Chances are he was at Godric’s Hollow (if he was there) only because Voldemort had summoned him there. And it’s possible there was no use of the cloak at all that night. I guess we’ll see!

    OTOH, I do hope we learn more about the locked room, Lily, and the Longbottoms. It’s an interesting theory, all right – and, I, too, had imagined Snape singing to Harry. It would be so cool if we actually saw something like that!

  2. Scriptor says

    Read the article. I swear, I think I had better stop reading these posts or I may not find many “surprises” left when I read Book 7!!

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