LEE JORDAN: Good evening to all our devoted listeners, you're tuned to WWN, the Wizarding Wireless Network, as we continue commemorating the tenth anniversary of Voldemort's fall. Today on "Many Rivers" my guest is Justin Finch-Fletchley: veteran of the Battle of Hogwarts, member of the Portius Commission, and a longtime advocate for Newblood rights. Justin, welcome to the show. It's been a while, hasn't it?
JUSTIN FINCH-FLETCHLEY: Yes, since the last DA reunion, I believe.
LEE: Life treating you well, I hope?
JUSTIN: Splendidly, thanks. And yourself?
LEE: I ask the questions here, Finch-Fletchley. This is hard-hitting interrogative radio, this is. [Laughter.] Seriously, Justin, thank you for being here. We are of course recalling the day on which Tom Marvolo Riddle slithered off his mortal coil, but we're going to take you back a little further to start, we're going to start with the Death Eaters' takeover of the Ministry, in August of 1997. The beginning of a period of terror for most Muggleborns – excuse me, Newbloods, old habits still die hard --
JUSTIN: That's all right.
LEE: -- but you were spared most of that.
JUSTIN: Most of it, yes. I didn't have to go on the run for my life, because of my father's status, in the UK. He had been Deputy Minister for Defense in the John Major cabinet, the one in office before the Blair administration, which was in power in 1997.
LEE: If I understand, then, your father was a Tory, but the UK government in 1997 was Labor, right, their enemies. So why would your father still have had enough pull to protect you?
JUSTIN: Well, it's an exaggeration to call them "enemies," especially in matters of national defense and foreign policy, which was my father's area; on those points, there really isn't any essential difference between the parties. Actually it wouldn't have surprised anybody if the Blair government had let my father stay in office. And everybody knew he would be a likely cabinet minister the next time the Conservatives came in.
LEE: Back to our question, then: tell us what happened on the day of the coup.
JUSTIN: I was at home, I had been trying to keep up with events, keeping in touch with friends through owl and through the floo, and on this day I tried to call Ernie on the floo --
LEE: Ernie Macmillan.
JUSTIN: -- yes. And I had thrown the powder in and made the call, when I got a response I had never gotten before; the message – everybody knows this one now – message hanging in the air, in green letters, saying "This floo passage is busy. Please wait just a moment, and service will return." And my first response was to laugh, since it seemed like something Arthur Weasley would have come up with after studying the answering machine. So I sat and waited, like – I suppose pretty well all the Newbloods who got that message that day just sat and waited.
LEE: Until somebody came through the floo.
JUSTIN: And that would be the last anybody ever saw them again.
LEE: But you never saw anybody come through the floo.
JUSTIN: I didn't remember seeing anybody come through the floo. What I remember is, it seemed like the next moment, I was getting shaken awake by my father, who said he'd had an urgent message from the Prime Minister, who wanted to see both of us, immediately. Because he'd – Blair had just been contacted on behalf of the new Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse, to set up a meeting, and Blair wanted somebody with him who understood what was going on in magical Britain.
LEE: We'll come back soon to the story of that meeting and what it led to for you, but I wonder if you can talk about what you found out, later, about what happened right after you tried to make that floo call.
JUSTIN: Yes, the first time I suspected that there was something more to that story, that event, was a couple of months after that, at a time when it was clear to everybody what the Death Eater government was up to, especially with the Newbloods. But I assumed, as we've been talking about just now, that I was safe, that they wouldn't dare try anything with me because I'd been at meetings with Blair and Thicknesse, it would be unthinkable to just snatch me off the street or out of my house. Well, this one day, I was at home with my sister Samantha, who was fifteen years old and non-magical, and she was on the phone – she'd just bought a computer, she was having some difficulties with it, and she had called the help line. And after a minute or so she got tired of holding the phone, so she put it on speakerphone --
LEE: Remedial classes in Non-Magical Studies are now available for all wizards and witches who still don't know what a speakerphone is. Sorry, go on.
JUSTIN: And I heard the recorded voice on the speakerphone saying "All our counselors are busy assisting customers. Please wait, and we will get to your call as soon as possible." And.... a green haze appeared before my eyes. And I started screaming, "Get off the phone, Sam, get off the phone, hang up NOW!" Well, naturally she just stared at me in shock. I shoved her aside and cast Reducto! on the phone. Again and again. [Pause.]
LEE: You must have realized that these were symptoms of having been through a hasty obliviation.
JUSTIN: I gathered that, and that it must have been something – having to do with the floo call, and the "Please wait" message, and what must have happened after that, the part before my father woke me. That I'd lost I don't know how much time – I didn't remember when I'd called Ernie or when my father got me, maybe it was a half hour, maybe three quarters of an hour, something along those lines. And that meant I must have been... caught and released. Then had the memory charm, of course. And what happened in the interval couldn't have been pleasant, given my reaction to Sam's phone call, obviously. But I had no apparent way of knowing what, or who, or why they took me back.
LEE: That would be enough to drive most of us around the twist.
JUSTIN: It pretty nearly did, I don't mind saying.
LEE: You did get some answers though, after the war was over.
JUSTIN: Some. I had been snatched. That was something I had – I thought I had accepted as a fact, but actually reading this brief, casual summary of it -- "BL took JFF, contrary to settled orders; returned, obliviated after confr. with Y" -- it's a bit of a shock to the system.
LEE: Where did you read it?
JUSTIN: Severus Snape's diary. Which was far and away the fullest and most reliable source we have for what went on behind the scenes during that year.
LEE: And we'll be coming back to the Snape diary, when we talk about your time on the Portius Commission. What did it tell you about what happened to you?
JUSTIN: Backing up a bit, within the Death Eater ranks, there were two factions when it came to dealing with the non-magical world. Yaxley's group wanted to soothe the Muggles, avoid conflict, at least for the moment, until they had solidified power. And this was the side that persuaded Voldemort.
LEE: Which answers the question many of us had, about why he didn't immediately crown himself publicly as one would expect from a good megalomaniac.
JUSTIN: And it still seems a bit out of character.
LEE: Doesn't it, though! I would have liked to be at the meeting where Yaxley first suggested it. 'Maybe you'd better take a back seat for a while on this one, old chap, keep out of sight and let cooler hands carry the business; we wouldn't want the Muggles to get their backs up, would we?' Must have been one hell of a presentation.
JUSTIN: And the other faction, which rebelled against the idea of appeasing the filthy Muggles, were looking for a way to start something which would force a fight. Like snatching the son of a prominent UK political figure, though he was – I was – on the official 'hands-off' list. But according to Snape, the moment I showed up at Malfoy Manor, an urgent call went out to Yaxley, who put in an urgent call to Voldemort, who sent back the message to stop whatever amusing activities they were pursuing and take me back.
LEE: You know what that makes you, right? You're the only person in history who can say, "Voldemort saved my life."
JUSTIN: I know.
LEE: You're the one great exception to a universal law.
JUSTIN: I know. It's terribly creepy to think of it. In superstitious moments I wonder if it means I've been given a kind of dark mark.
LEE: And the no-compromise faction was led by...
JUSTIN: Bellatrix Lestrange. Who was my personal captor. For maybe half an hour, maybe a little more. You can imagine what Lestrange might do in that time to a little Mudblood queer from Dumbledore's Army. And I have imagined it, many times. Especially after hearing what happened to Hermione. [Pause.] But she's beyond interrogating, and memory recovery would be too risky, so I presumably will never know what happened. And one naturally asks oneself, how – how I stood up, how I handled it. I always wonder, was I brave and defiant, or did I fold and scream and plead. And, of course, how exactly did she, use this opportunity? Snape had no details there.
LEE: I have to imagine that she used... sarcasm.
LEE [cont.]: Dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos...
JUSTIN: ... puns, parody, litotes, and satire.
LEE: You're listening to Ethel the Frog – no, actually you're listening to "Many Rivers," our guest is Justin Finch-Fletchley, and we'll be back in a minute.
* * * * *
LEE: Let's pick up again on your role with the UK ministry during the war. You and your dad have been summoned to Downing Street...
JUSTIN: There was actually another turn of the screw after that. Just as we were heading out the door, I got an owl from Professor Sprout, which naturally I opened right away. And it said "GET OUT NOW." We had a plan in place to hide or evacuate the Newbloods if worst came to worst, and there was a route I was to take, a safe house to get to, and so forth. By the way, I think it's most unjust that Amos Diggory only got Order of Merlin Second Class for all he did in this. He must have saved at least a dozen lives, at great personal risk.
LEE: But obviously you didn't take advantage of all that planning. Why not?
JUSTIN: I suppose, the way I was brought up, if the Prime Minister calls on you, you owe it to your country, it would have been shameful to run out on that. My father is always saying the call of duty runs in the Finch-Fletchley blood, and I just couldn't imagine telling him sorry, he had to go by himself, I was heading to France. So I told him it was just a note from my professor about school books for the coming year, and, we went. The meeting itself.... Thicknesse gave everybody bland assurances about his desire for good relations with the Muggle world, but he deflected any questions about whether they were going to continue the battle against Voldemort, and just hinted that his government might have some 'different areas of emphasis' from Scrimgeour's.
LEE: They asked you to the meeting, they must have asked for your opinion at some point. After Thicknesse left, obviously.
JUSTIN: They did, so I read out the note from Professor Sprout, and explained what it implied. My father – after we were alone, without the PM's people around us – he gave me a dressing down, about lying to him about the letter, but I don't think his heart was in it. He was more pleased that I'd managed to make such an impact at my first, bit of adult politicking. But even if I hadn't been there, it would have become clear fairly quickly what kind of regime Thicknesse was fronting for. They got the Daily Prophet at Downing Street, they read the notices about the new laws, about people being arrested for "stealing magic."
LEE: How did the Blair ministry treat you in general – because you did attend many conferences after that, right? Did they cast those quick suspicious glances when they thought you weren't looking? Make broomstick jokes? What?
JUSTIN: No, nothing like that. I think my family name carried away a lot of that problem, or what might have been a problem. It is a well-known name, we've been in positions of authority and public service for many generations, it probably seemed unthinkable that a Finch-Fletchley could have any, could possibly be less than completely committed to our side.
LEE: "Our" side being... the UK, the non-magical British?
JUSTIN: Oh, now--
LEE: You know where I'm going with this, Justin, because it's the question most asked about Newbloods--
JUSTIN: And I've answered it many times, as you know, the 'dual loyalty' question. So I'll repeat myself: why limit it to two? We all have loyalties to family, to region, to house, to church, to lovers; our loyalties are all much more divided than just 'dual.' I live in wizarding Britain, I work in wizarding Britain, I obey the laws of wizarding Britain. That doesn't make me indifferent to what happens to my magicless relatives. We're all willing to live with divided-- with multiple loyalties, when it comes to a Weasley or a Longbottom or a Potter, so why not to a Creevey or a Finch-Fletchley or a Granger?
LEE: But your situation was different, Justin. You were taking part in high-level talks to decide what kinds of incredibly destructive weapons non-wizards might be launching at targets in the wizarding world.
JUSTIN: If you're saying that no pureblood wizard would have done the same, that a pureblood would have disdained, felt dirty, using Muggle weapons, even to fight Voldemort --
LEE: No, no --
JUSTIN: -- then I'd have to say, I think you're very wrong; but if you were right, then so much the worse for the pureblood wizard.
LEE: It isn't that they were 'dirty' weapons, it's the fact that they're foreign weapons. They belong to a nation that's following its own interests, not ours.
JUSTIN: That's what happens in alliances. As far as I was concerned, the resistance to Voldemort was the legitimate government of Wizarding Britain, Kingsley Shacklebolt was the leader of that resistance, and there was an alliance between the Shacklebolt government and the Blair government against Voldemort.
LEE: Well, we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit – but if Shacklebolt hadn't come to Blair, on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix, and you were the only wizard in the room at those meetings, wouldn't you have still helped Blair and the UK military?
JUSTIN: I would have helped them to overthrow Voldemort, which would have been for the best for witches and wizards, I would say, not just for non-magicals.
LEE: But Justin, the UK government was planning to do more than just "overthrow Voldemort," they were going to use some weapons which didn't discriminate too well between light and dark wizards.
JUSTIN: That's true. And we can debate the right and wrong of that, and my part in it, and Minister – Kingsley Shacklebolt's part in it. But anything that I was part of, I would have done the same if the shoe were on the other foot. If the Downing Street government had been kidnapping and murdering witches, I would have worked with a wizarding government to stop it. I would not have helped them to enslave the UK, and I wouldn't have helped the UK government enslave wizards.
LEE: Not intentionally.
JUSTIN: Well how – what can I – I wasn't going to run off and avoid any involvement because I might end up unintentionally doing harm.
LEE: No, obviously not. Let's return to the story then, and we'll begin to fill in more details as we go. Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had been at Downing Street all this time as an undercover agent sent by Scrimgeour, now removes his cover and offers to act as a liaison between the UK and the Order of the Phoenix.
JUSTIN: And he was greeted quite skeptically. My father asked whether I could vouch for him, and I couldn't. I didn't know anything at the time about the Order of the Phoenix, the only students who knew about that were Harry, and Ron, and Hermione, I think. And the only thing I knew about Shacklebolt was that he had been one of the Aurors who went in to try to arrest Dumbledore, on behalf of the Fudge crew. Kingsley tried to tell me about conversations he'd had with Harry, on the theory that Harry might have shared this with the D.A., but of course he hadn't. So I was really in no position to assure anybody about Shacklebolt's true loyalties. I asked him if Professor Sprout could vouch for him, but she wasn't in the Order. Professor McGonnagal was, though, and she was able to get away from Hogwarts long enough to come and assure us, and I was able to assure the cabinet that Professor McGonnagal was trustworthy, so.... That was my basic role in the war, really, I was a kind of assurance policy. Not a terribly glorious role.
LEE: But a very useful one. What else did you and Shacklebolt do, before the battle at Hogwarts?
JUSTIN: Mostly, Kingsley went around military installations to make sure Voldemort hadn't placed any of his people there, or put any of the pilots or soldiers under Imperius. And I was – the unspoken assumption was that I was there to make sure that Kingsley didn't do anything of the sort either. Particularly, there was one flight crew which was constantly monitored, kept isolated, because they were on 24-hour call in case Voldemort was located, they were supposed to attack the location with cruise missiles. But we were never able to get firm enough intelligence.
LEE: Just as well, because even if you had destroyed his body....
JUSTIN: Of course we didn't know that, didn't know anything about the horcruxes.
LEE: Because Dumbledore had sworn Harry to secrecy.
JUSTIN: And this is one of the many cases which has one wondering, why did Dumbledore do it that way? Offhand, it would seem, if this was the kind of information that Voldemort was desperate to keep secret, then – by virtue of that fact, it should mean, that's information that Dumbledore should want to make generally available, shouldn't it? I know I'm not a fraction as wise and experienced as Dumbledore, but still...
LEE: You know Mandy Brocklehurst, right? of Ravenclaw?
LEE: She's been working for the last few years on a book project, "The War Strategy of Albus Dumbledore," and she once said to me "This is either going to end up as the longest book in wizarding history or the shortest, because either it will consist of a never-ending series of incredibly subtle and involved decision trees that will have us all marveling at how much thought went into them, or I'm going to throw my hands up and say 'I don't know what the hell he was thinking.'"
JUSTIN: [laughing] I sympathize, I do.
LEE: We're going to pass over most of the next year now, and we come to May 5, 1998.
JUSTIN: Well, I was contacted by Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had been contacted by Professor McGonnagal. who said Voldemort was coming to Hogwarts and they needed every wand they could get. That set certain things in motion at Downing Street --
LEE: We'll talk about those things in detail, later in the programme. The rest of the story, after we all arrived at Hogwarts, is too well-known to need much retelling, but everybody remembers something that struck them differently. What was your most vivid memory?
JUSTIN: Seeing Voldemort for the first time. And the last time of course, thankfully. We were lined up to fight, and then there was the announcement that Harry was dead, and we could see Hagrid first, with his burden, then all the Death-Eaters advancing, still too far away to make out any individuals even if they didn't have the stupid masks, but there was one of them that – didn't look right. As they got closer, I realized what the matter was: this one chap wasn't walking, like the rest of them. He was hovering. And he was the one who was speaking, so I thought, That must be him, that's He Who Must Not Be Named. And the bragging and lying went on, and he kept hovering. As it went on, the fear started getting burned away and replaced by disgust and rage --
LEE: At what he was saying?
JUSTIN: Yes there was that – we all knew he was lying about Harry running away, that was almost too pathetic a lie to get angry about, but even more by that, that – ridiculous hovering. As if he were saying, "Observe, pitiful mortals, how my feet are not sullied by this gross earth," and -- I know this sounds like the sort of thing people make up after the enemy is safely dead, how they would have told him off but good if they had the chance – but I'm willing to take an oath that I was just about to shout "Oh, get on with it. you bloody drama queen!" when Neville made his move.
LEE: Imagine how different history might have been if you had said it first.
JUSTIN: I would rather not. [laughter]. But you know, the hovering was part of – there was a fascinating story behind this which practically none of us knew about until after the war. Again, it's something we get from Professor Snape's diary. He writes about how the Dark Lord he first knew – Voldemort version 1.0, let's say – was terribly awkward in movement, shockingly so for somebody who wanted so desperately to strike terror into the hearts of friend and foe. Whereas, from Professor Dumbledore's description, the young Tom Riddle was remarkable for his grace and precision. And Snape, when he worked his way into Voldemort's confidence, discovered the reason: when he was just out of Hogwarts, Riddle had placed a series of spells on himself, immensely difficult and dangerous spells, which basically made him insensible to pain.
LEE: What an advantage in any duel!
JUSTIN: And that naturally makes one ask why more wizards don't try it, and the answer is, well, two answers: first, again, it's tremendously difficult magic, you need to be enormously powerful to do it, and more than that, you have to be able to concentrate for a long, long time as the spell carries essentially over every nerve ending, which takes not only power but extraordinary strength of will. Secondly, there's the side effect, which is known from non-magical medicine when people are born sometimes without the natural pain receptors; the motion of your limbs becomes distorted, because it's the feedback from pain which keeps us from twisting them into unnatural positions and leaving them there. That's what happened to Voldemort. And after his re-birthing, Voldemort version 2.0 decided to simply limit his motions as much as possible, because he was paranoid about the appearance he created. So he never walked if he could apparate, or fly, or hover. And another thing you notice, if you ever look at pensieve memories of Voldemort: he never blinks.
LEE: Reptilian chic. [Laughter]
JUSTIN: That, and not feeling pain, he didn't feel the eye irritation which sets off the blink reflex. And he had also cast an even more awful and involved spell on himself, which completely removed the need for sleep.
LEE: Thus achieving the ultimate paranoid dream.
JUSTIN: Yes. He cast those spells on himself in 1948, so apparently, for fifty years, from then until 1998, he never once closed his eyes. After a while, the muscles must have been frozen too solidly in place for him to close them even if he wanted to. He died with eyes open, and when Ministry personnel took the body and tried to close them, they couldn't.
LEE: How did Snape draw all this out of him?
JUSTIN: As the potions master, Snape was the closest thing Voldemort had to a personal healer, and he sought Snape's advice on what he would have to do to keep the new body in trim.
LEE: Funny thing, Justin; when you were talking about Voldemort's magical power, well, nobody could possibly gainsay that, but when you started paying tribute to his strength of will --
LEE: -- I found that harder to accept.
JUSTIN: Yes. When it comes to the great monsters of history, we don't want to concede any virtues beyond strength and skill.
LEE: But I suppose they wouldn't have been great monsters if they had nothing else, they would just have been run-of-the-mill monsters.
LEE: We do know somebody, though, who could match or surpass the late Dark Lord, maybe not in magical ability, but in -- power of determination, strength of mind, will power, whatever language you want to use.
JUSTIN: I assume you're talking about Harry.
LEE: I am. In fact we'd have to say "surpass," wouldn't we, based on what happened in Little Hangleton.
JUSTIN: I remember, when I first read Harry's account in the Quibbler of the confrontation in the graveyard, that was the part I was most skeptical about; how he threw off Voldemort's Imperius, how when it was wand to wand, mind to mind, he pushed Voldemort's spell back into his wand. But again, Professor Snape's diary makes it clear he wasn't making this up. Apparently Voldemort was very badly spooked by that, to the point where it was literally death to talk about it. He knew the significance of the fact that Harry had won the battle of Prior Incantatem, that it was a contest of strength of mind, or spirit. It drove Tom frantic to think he could lost that kind of fight.
LEE: Dictators are usually obsessed with their own willpower.
LEE: You know, the people who keep writing letters to the editor claiming "Harry Potter is the New Dark Lord!" are going to have a field day with this.
JUSTIN: You know him better than me, maybe you could ask if he has room for another servant.
LEE: We actually prefer "henchman." Though seriously, I'm not sure about that – I mean, whether I really know him better.
JUSTIN: Well, your best friend is his brother in law.
LEE: That gets you good seats at award ceremonies, but it isn't necessarily – well, we're digressing. Oh, what the hell, let's digress. I'm saving my best Harry Potter anecdotes for my own memoirs, so what about you, any good stories? [laughter].
JUSTIN: No, not much, sorry. I know that when we see him at reunions, it's usually Ginny or Hermione who pulls him by the elbow and makes him circulate – Hold on, actually I do have one half-decent story from one of those reunions: Ernie had gotten hold of Harry and was trying to get him to see the light about how important it was to win friends and influence people. So he brought up what happened during our second year, with the "Heir of Slytherin" rumors, and he said a lot of that could have been avoided if Harry had been more gregarious from the start. Ernie said, "what if, when you first came to Hogwarts, you had made a point of going around to all the house tables and introducing yourself, especially to the other first-years?" And Harry said he didn't have any idea that sort of thing was expected, he certainly didn't see any other first year making that kind of production. Ernie replied, "But you weren't just any first year, you were Harry Potter." So Harry stared at him and said "Are you telling me, Ernie, that I was the only student who should have introduced himself to everybody, because I was the only student everybody already knew?" Naturally, Ernie was a bit flummoxed, and muttered back "Well, if you put it that way, it sounds a bit silly, but --" And Harry didn't let him finish the "but," just nodded and said "then you can imagine how I would have felt trying it, at eleven." And that was the end of that conversation.
LEE: It does sound silly if you put it that way, but Ernie did have a point, didn't he? Not that he should have passed out calling cards, but --
JUSTIN: But made some effort to show he didn't think he was above everybody else. So many of us at the time mistook his insecurity and reserve for arrogance. Now, as long as I'm analyzing Harry Potter, and especially the prospect of Dark!Harry, I may as well offer my pet theory about him.
JUSTIN: I think when you consider that the only career he ever really considered was Auror, it makes some sense to think about what personality type tends to go into that kind of work. And in the non-magical world, there's a kind of cliché about police, about the way a policeman sees the world. Basically, they divide people into three categories. In descending order of significance, you get first, the comrades, especially the fellow cop on the beat. A policeman will do anything, go to any length for them, will drop any other business if a fellow cop is in trouble. Then second, there are the bad guys, and a policeman is ready to do most anything to them, to make certain they get what's coming to them. It's a never-ending struggle to see to it that police treat criminals – criminal suspects, really – as human beings with rights to be respected.
LEE: And third?
JUSTIN: And third place consists of everybody else on the planet. The civilians. You're ready to die to protect them, but that doesn't mean you really think much of them one way or another. They're simply the great background noise to the conflict between categories one and two. I think Harry is very much a cop in that way. He's a bit more inclusive about category one than a typical cop, I think -- he probably includes everybody who fought Voldemort as a kind of comrade – but otherwise I think the pattern fits. And the reassuring thing is, people with that kind of mind-set simply are simply not interested in power games, conspiracies, all the things that your aspiring Dark Lord is so involved with. They are too straightforward for all that.
LEE: But there are such things as "police states."
JUSTIN: Well, yes, but I don't think you'd find any that actually originated at the station-house, with the captain and the lieutenant saying "You know what, I think we need more authority and less civilian interference, let's stage a coup."
I might also mention, a rather astonishing proportion of policemen turn out to have been mistreated or abused as children. I suppose for half of them, being a policeman means having the stick in your hand instead of your father's, and for the other half it means trying to make sure that nobody, or as few people as possible, have to go through the sort of thing you went through.
LEE: We'll be back in a minute to talk more with Justin Finch-Fletchley. We'll be taking your questions later on in the program, so please write in if you have anything to ask Justin.