Duels with Death Eaters
By Nina de Boo and Ann Skinner
The first year of Voldemort’s return starts out well for him and his followers. It appears that he manages to persuade the dementors to come over to his side, resulting in the mass breakout of his imprisoned followers from Azkaban. However, his triumph doesn’t last long: the first mission on the new Death Eater agenda—to retrieve the record of the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries—ends in disaster. Not only do they fail in their mission—the record of the prophecy is destroyed—but all the Death Eaters that were sent to accomplish this mission are captured and sent to Azkaban. All but one.
Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s “most loyal servant,”14 who had proudly and defiantly served fourteen years in Azkaban for her master, is grabbed by Voldemort at the last minute, just before he Disapparates from the Ministry, and manages to escape Dumbledore and the members of the Order. It appears that Voldemort does not take lightly to the failure of his followers to achieve such a simple task as retrieving a glass orb from the hands of a teenage boy. His plans are thwarted; he now may never know the exact wording of the prophecy—which is vital for his quest to destroy Harry Potter. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince it seems that Bellatrix has fallen out of favor with her revered master: she gets uncharacteristically flustered when Snape suggests that Voldemort may not confide in her anymore like he used to do. At the Ministry and again at Spinner’s End, Bella seems to burn with an obsessive attachment to Lord Voldemort; in her eagerness to please her master, she will likely pose an aggressive threat to all members of the side of light.
The loss of a large number of his elite troops does not stop Voldemort from steaming ahead with his plans. Next on the list is the demise of the only one he ever feared, the general of the opposing army, the most trusted advisor of his nemesis—Albus Dumbledore must go. Once again he puts his gang of misfits on the case. The honorable task of murdering the Hogwarts headmaster falls on the newest recruit: Draco Malfoy. Draco struggles to carry out the task he has been set, and after a few feeble attempts to kill the silver-haired wizard by proxy, finally manages to get several Death Eaters—and a werewolf—into Hogwarts, and corner and disarm the already injured headmaster. Ultimately, Draco cannot finish his task, but it is accomplished nonetheless, by his head of house Severus Snape. Although this time the task they set out to do is achieved, the Death Eaters suffer still more losses during the battle at Hogwarts: one of them, Gibbon, is killed by friendly fire, and at least one other is captured after being immobilized on the tower by Harry.
Rush to Action
Was it wise for Voldemort to go after Dumbledore and enter Hogwarts so soon after he suffered such a massive defeat at the Ministry? Sure, almost a year passed between the battle at the Ministry and the battle at Hogwarts, and he may have attracted more followers during that time, but the Death Eaters that were taken to Azkaban were the cream of the crop: they were the ones that had been with him from the start, or their offspring. They were his strongest forces, experienced, leaders. The gang that is sent to Hogwarts with Draco—Gibbon, Amycus, Alecta, a “huge blond” one and one with a “heavy, brutal-looking face”—have up to now never so much as deserved a mention, and they seem to be less organized and in control than those that had been sent to the Ministry. What was so important that it was worth risking the loss of his less experienced second string squad? Did the benefits of Dumbledore’s death outweigh the risk of operating with an even more diminished team? Surely he had fought Dumbledore for so long, another couple of months would not have mattered, and would have allowed him to first secure the release of his elite squad and increase his odds of success.
Yes, Voldemort has battled Dumbledore for many decades, but this time, things are different. This time, Dumbledore has the weapons required to defeat the Dark Lord once and for all. Not only has he guided and trained “the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord,” but he has found out what it is the Chosen One has to do in order to fulfill his mission. Dumbledore knows about the Horcruxes he has made, and already managed to destroy one of them. Is it possible that Voldemort is aware that Dumbledore knows his secret? Voldemort undoubtedly knows that Harry inadvertently destroyed his diary Horcrux, but does he know Dumbledore retrieved and destroyed Marvolo’s ring? Dumbledore does not think Voldemort feels the loss of a Horcrux. However, there is another way that he may have found out that the piece of soul residing in the ring has disappeared: Snape. Snape helped stop the curse spreading through Dumbledore’s body after the ring had been destroyed; did he—as he has done at least once before—report back to his old master? If he did, and Voldemort is aware that his cards are on the table, it is only logical for him to want to eradicate the source of the information before it spreads.
It is clear that part of Draco’s task was to kill Dumbledore, but was there another reason the Death Eaters were sent to Hogwarts under such risky circumstances? There very well may be! Considering that the mission that resulted in the battle at the Ministry failed, Voldemort still does not know the exact wording of the prophecy, and therefore he still cannot truly understand what it takes to trounce the young man destined to defeat him. The answer has been hidden at Hogwarts for nearly seventeen years: the Seer who made the prophecy has resided there all this time. Could it be that the precarious undertaking of raiding Hogwarts was in part aimed at finding and abducting Professor Trelawney? Trelawney herself is not aware of ever having made such an important prediction, but the memory of it could nevertheless be stored away in her brain, retrievable by Legilimency. We do not know if this was indeed part of the Death Eaters’ mission when they infiltrated Hogwarts that fateful night. If it was, they probably had not expected to once again be ambushed by the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army. However, given Voldemort’s patient and persistent approach to achieving his goals, it is unlikely that he will stop trying to obtain the full prophecy, believing it to be critical in his victory over Harry.
Death Marches On
Historically, Voldemort prefers to stay in the background, and to send his Death Eaters out to do his dirty work. He has arranged for Crouch Jr. to go to Hogwarts, a succession of Death Eaters to attempt to obtain the prophecy, and a boy and an odd assortment of his minions to invade Hogwarts to carry out the deadly mission at the end of Half-Blood Prince. The only time we see him emerge from the background is when he learns that the prophecy has been lost and that his team has failed. Given his pattern of directing his army from behind the scenes, it is likely that we will see Death Eaters once again sent out on one or more missions in the final book.
Voldemort and his Death Eaters will have their work cut out for them in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: they are seriously reduced in number, and now have to face not only the Order of the Phoenix, but also the full Ministry and its Aurors. Although the Death Eaters have pulled off a group breakout from Azkaban before, the Ministry has undoubtedly increased security measures on the wizarding prison now the dementors have deserted. However, it will be a matter of high importance to Voldemort to liberate his most experienced, most loyal followers.
Furthermore, the Death Eaters are probably working hard on recruiting new members. Voldemort, although sometimes underestimating the powers of underage wizards, obviously does not shy away from recruiting them among his ranks. Will Draco Malfoy’s cronies, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, follow in their fathers’ footsteps? Dumbledore has once explained that “as a teacher, [Voldemort] would have had great power and influence over young witches and wizards […] I do think that he saw [Hogwarts] as a useful recruiting ground, and a place where he might begin to build himself an army.”15 Will he return to Hogwarts to attract new blood? In order to regain the kind of power that Voldemort commanded in the first war, it will be necessary for him to have an army of formidable size. With enough followers, this Dark Lord will be able to openly resist the Ministry and implement the strategies that he has undoubtedly been carefully planning since his return.
Ever since our first view of the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup, they have been making their presence known in increasingly threatening ways. It is quite likely that this will remain true for the final book. Members of Lord Voldemort’s inner circle are committed to him for life. Whether through the rabid devotion of Bella, the pure-blood bigotry of Lucius, or the reluctant participation of Wormtail, the Death Eaters will be aiding this darkest wizard in his bid to recreate the reign of terror seen in Voldemort’s first rise to power. How much of an asset they will be remains to be seen.
1. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 119.
2. Ibid., 142.
3. Ibid., 652.
4. Ibid., 651.
7. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 513.
8. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 651.
9. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 112.
10. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 563.
11. Ibid,, 338–9.
12. Rowling, “Interview by Jeremy Paxman.”
13. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 416.
14. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 811.
15. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 431-2.
Rowling, J.K. Interview by Jeremy Paxman. BBC Newsnight, 19 June 2003. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0619-bbcnews-paxman.htm (accessed 14 November 2006).
———, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.