Snape: A Definitive Reading, LIVE from Chestnut Hill College’s Harry Potter Conference
On Friday, October 21, 2016, the MuggleNet Academia podcast invited Lorrie Kim to join them as a guest to discuss Snape: A Definitive Reading. Deannah Robinson (deannahm03 at gmail) provided the partial transcript below.
Hosts: Keith Hawk and John Granger
Guests: Lorrie Kim, Prof. Louise Freeman, and Prof. Emily Strand
[STARTS AT 00:05:22]
Keith Hawk: Today, we have a very special guest. She presented earlier this morning over on the other room. I would like to introduce you to her, if you haven’t met her before. She is Lorrie Kim, author of Snape: A Definitive Reading. Welcome, Lorrie! Also joining the show, we have Hogwarts professors all over the place. Professor Louise Freeman is the professor of Psychology at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, VA. And finally, Professor Emily Strand, who is a professor at Mount Carmel College of Nursing and a frequent guest on MuggleNet Academia, along with Professor Freeman. How many times have you been on the show, Emily?
Emily Strand: Um, I think this is my fourth.
John Granger: Fourth, that’s pretty good. Louise?
Louise Freeman: Uh, I think this is my sixth.
John: You can read both the things they write at HogwartsProfessor.com, and it’s a wonderful comment. I mean, everything that you want to know about the depths of the artistry and meaning of Harry Potter and Star Wars and Divergent, these ladies largely cover. Anyway, sorry; little plug.
Keith: No, that’s okay. Why don’t you tell us what we’re going to be talking about today?
John: People have the mistaken impression that the Hogwarts saga adventures are about The Boy Who Lived, when in fact anyone who has read the books closely realize that it’s largely the hidden story of the Potions Master Severus Snape. And so many of the films brought this out very quickly, that every scene that has Alan Rickman in it, all attention turns to the Potions Master. Up to this time, though there’s been certainly in fanfiction but also in critical commentary — if you do a literature review — you’ll find tremendous explorations of Snape with specific aspects of Snape, or Snape in this novel, or Snape and this character, or Snape and Neville Longbottom. Is it sadism? Snape and Harry Potter: is he a tragic father figure? Snape and Mudbloods and Slytherins. It’s never been given a definitive reading. What we have now is a text which is indeed a definitive reading where we follow Severus Snape through all seven books. And what we learn from Ms. Kim’s exegesis of the story is that the impression we got from the movies actually is correct, that the redemption of Severus Snape and his backstory — we only get in the very end, Chapter 33 of Deathly Hallows in “The Prince’s Tale” — that story has largely been what has driven his mystery throughout the series. So we’re thrilled to be able to have you on the podcast today to talk with you about Severus Snape, the revelations inside these books. So again, welcome.
Lorrie Kim: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Keith: Yeah, it’s like when you’re reading her book instead of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it’s Snape and the easy Muggle Potion test or Severus Snape and how he teaches Expelliarmus, you know? It’s whatever is about Severus Snape, that’s what you’re reading in this book. It’s all his viewpoints on it. Again, welcome aboard, ladies. Our first question is the same on every show. Basically it’s just an introduction to the professors to let them tell us their story and why they’re teaching Harry Potter in their classrooms today. We’re going to do the same thing; it’s just going to be quick, very brief. How did you meet the Boy Who Lived? What is it that sparked an interest in you to not only read it once and twice and ten, twenty times but then to teach it in your classrooms at a higher level of education? Lorrie, why don’t you go first since you’re our special guest?
Lorrie: Well no, I’m not a teacher; I’m a mom, and my husband read the first chapter to me when I was sick one time. He said I would like it, and I did and I ate a book a day until I got — I think at that point there were five books. And then when I had kids, I saw the second generation of Harry Potter readers and fans and got interested in how people who had grown up with or become adults with the series, how they were transmitting it to their kids. Watching what they found important and what they realized that they hadn’t understood fully and had to go back and re-read, that was really interesting to me.
Keith: Louise, we’ve heard your story before on the show, but for those of you who have not heard your story, make it a simple one.
Louise: I’ll make it a very quick one. I’m the mother of a couple of first generation Harry Potter readers, so I learned the series by reading it aloud to my kids twice. That is the best way to experience it, by the way: in the very unlikely event that anyone listening or anyone in this room has not yet read Harry Potter, find a child and read it to a child. That’s the best way to experience it for the first time.
Emily: Well, my son is not there yet; he’s only five, but he’s a big Star Wars guy right now, and he’s told me — although he has had no exposure to Harry Potter — he has told me in no uncertain terms that Star Wars is “way better than Harry Potter, mom.” I’m like, “Oh, kid, you just wait.” I use Harry Potter in my classroom, for sure. I use Star Wars as well, but I use Harry Potter because it seems to be able to help young people who have grown up with the books or the films and who have really become invested emotionally in the storyline and in the values the story presents. I find it much easier to help them to understand the power of religious myth and the power of the Christian mystery, which is the focus of my teaching. So to me, it’s just a really sharp tool in my toolkit for what I do and how I do it.
Keith: Great. Thank you very much. You mentioned that it’s been a while, first generation and now second generation’s reading it. You know, we have 20 years of Harry Potter. Is there anyone in this room that read Harry Potter in ’97? You’d have to be over in England if you did. It didn’t come out until ’97 in England.
Keith: ’98. Came out in America in ’98. That’s when we got rights with Sorcerer’s Stone. Biggest mistake Arthur Levine made, but he gave us Harry Potter, so you know. But anyway, twenty years in the making. Did y’all see this? Special Newsweek edition: 20 Years Celebrating Harry Potter. It has all sorts of things in here, and the reason I want to mention this is because MuggleNet, the website that I’m managing, had a great privilege. We got a phone call from Newsweek that they wanted to feature only us in this magazine, Potter and MuggleNet. So a couple of things in here about us at MuggleNet, and to be mentioned in Newsweek is, you know, it’s kind of like a highlight, it’s like a bucket list type of thing. We’re privileged to do that, but I also want to show you guys — this is a plug, John. This is what’s called a plug.
John: It’s a plug!
Keith: See, I plugged your books, so it’s time to plug me. So we have an ad in here just to show you MuggleNet.com. If you haven’t been to our website, please go there. We have all sorts of things. Seventeen years we’ve been doing this with the fandom. We’ve collected recipes, fanart, fanfiction, you name it. We have a Quidditch Center. We have it all. So if there’s anything going on in the magical world or Muggle world, we have it covered, especially with Fantastic Beasts coming out. J.K. Rowling just announced that there are going to be five movies, not three like we thought. Five. So we have ten years more to go. In fact, this coming month is a big month with the red carpet events. If you’re going up to the premiere in NY, I will be there, say hi. Anyway, the other article, our ad is a MuggleNet live event that is taking place next year. I can’t tell you anything more about it. It’s in here; you can go to the website, MuggleNetLIVE.com. Check it out; it’ll be activated very soon. It’s there to get an email so we can send you a notice when it does go live. We’re just waiting for the red tape to clear from Warner Brothers. But go there. John?
John: Yes, yes.
Keith: Oh. It’s my turn.
John: And an advertisement.
Keith: It’s my turn. I forgot, I’m asking this question.
John: Ask this question.
Keith: Lorrie, back to Snape. This is a huge book and it’s probably as big as Philosopher’s Stone.
John: It’s twice as big as Philosopher’s Stone.
Keith: So why a big book on one character? I mean, it’s pretty obvious he’s the good guy, right? So why do we have a book on Snape when we know he’s the good guy? All the way through, you guys knew he was a good guy all the way through, right? No? I didn’t think he was a good guy, either. Tell us why this is such a big book.
Lorrie: I did want to read the whole series from his point of view. I felt that there are two stories. One of them is the story of how this baby grows up into a child and a man who survived Voldemort’s attack, and he doesn’t change. He grows, but he doesn’t change. He’s himself the whole time, and that’s the struggle: to keep him himself. The other story is of Snape who started out criminal and had a change of heart and did a lot of extremely difficult, mysterious things with dubious motives and changed a lot until the big revelation of the series revolved around the explanation of his motives. Those are two really different trajectories and Snape’s is more mysterious and I found that really, literally, every single action of his, or every single utterance, Rowling set up so that it can be interpreted in at least two different ways and they are contradictory, which means that he has at least double the possible interpretations of your average fictional character.
John: I read — Lorrie was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the book, and I got to read the book as I was going to be talking about it here, so I had to read the whole book. And, forgive me, I looked at this 350-page book and thought, “Is she out of her mind? 350 pages on Snape! I’ve really gotta do this!” I thought, “well, I’ll just skim it so I’ll get ten clever questions”, and I spent ten hours turning every page, underlining, highlighting, going crazy because the book is that valuable. It’s coming back to a question. She starts out, though, by going — she introduces this story while she does this, and then she goes book by book with an extra chapter just on “The Prince’s Tale.” And each chapter covers four things.
Now, let’s see if I can get this right: at first it talks about how in each book Snape shows his dislike for Harry Potter, and it’s different in every book, it has a different dimension. The second thing it shows is his dislike for the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in that book, which merits its own theme of how he shows this and what it means. The third thing he does, that she explores, is Snape’s concern for his reputation. And the last thing is the mystery of his motives, how you can read these things both ways, and yet what she’s hinting about the next part of the story. But here’s the crazy thing I want. We’re back to the question: one of these questions is how Snape, every year, has a war with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and every student says, “He really wants that job.” And even when Dolores Umbridge meets him in class, she says, “You really wanted that job, didn’t you?” It’s always Snape wanting to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. One of the times, one of the many times when I was reading the book and my head exploded like WHOA was when Lorrie explains why the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher thing is a fraud that Dumbledore almost said, “You’ve gotta play this part that you want this position, even though you really don’t, because it’ll be your cover.” And she argues it from the text. Now can you explain some of that, Lorrie, because I thought that was drop dead brilliant.
Lorrie: We never hear Snape say that he wants the job, except to Bellatrix, which is — that was the intention, to put up a front for the Death Eaters. What we have is Dumbledore doing what he does, putting out rumors, so that the first time we hear that Snape really wants the job and covets it and resents the actual DAtDA teacher, we have it from Percy telling Harry in the first book, saying, “Well, everyone knows this.” We know, for example, that Dumbledore does that with rumors about the Shrieking Shack. He spreads rumors and it becomes something that “everybody knows.” When we see Umbridge challenge Snape on it in the 5th book and she says, “So, you’ve been applying every year,” and Harry pretends he’s broken something so he can stay behind and eavesdrop on this, and Snape is really angry and he won’t say anything. He just says through his teeth, “I suggest you ask Dumbledore.” I think he’s supposed to pretend that he’s been upset every year to be passed over for this position because he needs to preserve this facade that he’s never renounced the Dark Arts, he’s just pretending, and this is so diametrically opposed to his true feelings. It’s not an easy act to keep up, and also it helps that he actually does not like any single one of the other Defense teachers. He really doesn’t like them, so that’s not a hard act for him to pull off.
John: That’s right. He’s very authentic in the role that he’s assigned, but it seems clear that Snape doesn’t covet the position, and yet we all buy into it. That, to me, was one of the moments I had thought, “Wow, if I hadn’t followed Lorrie through each book to get to that point, I wouldn’t have said, ‘Oh, it’s been a sham the whole time!'” Anyway, that was brilliant. Patrick McCauley, one of the founders of this whole conference and one of the co-leaders of it with Karen Wendling, he’s written a book called Into the Pensieve, and we’ve had him on our show to talk about his thesis that every major storyline inside Harry Potter starts with an act of violence against a woman and how that ripples out from that story. The whole Dumbledore thing starts off with the rape of Ariana and his father’s response to it, and Dumbledore’s and his brother’s. Obviously, the murder of Lily Potter gives us, really, the whole Harry Potter drama. I wasn’t really — forgive me, I’m not a big Snape guy, you know? I’ve always found Snape as somebody who was such a sadist that I didn’t give him a lot of focused attention. I get it, I’m supposed to be the Potter pundit and I — big blind spot for me. Well, that Snape’s story begins with — in Snape’s worst memory, we see Snape’s mother being abused by Tobias Snape and we see a boy huddling in the corner. Lorrie, the question for you is, I mean, you draw a lot of this out in the book, especially certainly in Snape’s Worst Memories chapter, you draw out that Snape, his whole thing is actually nonaggression — even though he’s a sadist in the classroom — it’s nonaggression and protectiveness. Do you think it comes from that root experience when he saw his mother being abused by his father and that child’s desire to protect his mother?
Lorrie: Hmm, let me see where to start. One thing is that I’m not sure that I would call him a sadist. If you look at J.K. Rowling’s depictions of sadists, she shows us three … four. She shows us Voldemort, Umbridge, Bellatrix, and Macnair, and with the exception of Macnair, the other three, when they are practicing their sadism, she shows them physically responding; they’re breathing heavily, they’re flushed, and this is not how she shows Snape, although there are things he does that I think are very cruel and occasionally cross over into flat-out abuse. It’s not that I condone how he treats people cruelly, especially Neville, but she does, I think, differentiate. So if we’re talking sadism as a medical term, I don’t think that I would diagnose him with it.
John: Okay, I’m going to defer to Louise on that. About the root cause of his protectiveness: first of all, Snape as a protective character, again, was one of those smoke coming out of my ears, WHOA. Snape is that much of a good guy that his principal thing is protecting other people? I mean, forgive me, that was Snape upside down to me. Snape’s on his broom, upside down, flying sideways, WHOA. That’s not how I saw him. Can you talk about that a little bit and then about his mother?
Lorrie: Yeah. Well, a person can be protective without being nice and without liking the people they’re protecting. The encapsulation for me for Snape is when he’s a student and he says, “Just shove a bezoar down their throats.” That’s protective. It’s not nice, it’s not affectionate, it’s not kind. It’s protective. And it’s impatient. It’s aggrieved. And it’s condescending.
John: So you’re suggesting that he’s protective, but when we think protective, we think of a mother’s affection. Like a chicken with their chicks, you know, a hen with her chicks. And Snape is like half Tobias Snape and — I’m waiting for Louise. Louise is making a face, so I’m waiting for the response. He seems to be this cross, very protective trying to put off Tobias Snape. But on the other hand, also still being like Tobias Snape and being harsh.
Lorrie: One thing we do see about Snape is that he’s kind to mothers. He’s kind to Lily, he’s kind to Narcissa. Molly Weasley has no complaints against him; they actually agree on a lot of things. So I think that does have something to do with the bond that he had with Eileen. Also the discord in his home is — J.K. Rowling wrote that very carefully so we’re not sure exactly what’s going on. Depending on who you are as a reader and what story you’re looking for, you can read it as a father abusing a mother. You can read it as equal arguments because Lily says “they’re still arguing.” We don’t know what the argument was about and why the boy is crying. We don’t know if — we do know that Tobias doesn’t like magic and he doesn’t like anything much. Is it one of those times where the Muggle parent is angry at the magical parent about their child’s magic? We don’t know. But depending who you are as a reader, you will see what applies to you and that’s what you’ll take away from it. What we do know, we see from how Snape flinches as a student that when he is ridiculed for being not masculine and not brawny, that’s something that he has heard before. We know from Petunia and Lily as children that he already has a reputation in their neighborhood as somebody that people don’t like and have taunted. So we get hints, but it’s not completely spelled out and I think that’s one of Rowling’s ways of making her story accessible to more than one kind of reader.
Keith: I was just thinking about this as you guys were talking and you mentioned the scene in Snape’s worst memory, but if we jump ahead and we look at the Prince’s Tale where young Lily and young Severus are playing together as children, you have young Severus, who’s this abused kid by Tobias and Eileen, right? And then you have Lily who’s an angel, but her sister Petunia is… she’s evil. I mean, I think she’s evil, just because of the way she treats Harry growing up. Yes, she’s protecting Harry, but she treats Harry like garbage. I wonder what’s going on in the Evans’ household and what draws Lily and Severus together as friends because there has to be a story there that brings these two together. Louise, what do you think that might be?
Louise: When I think of a possible connection between Petunia and Snape… right now, I’m thinking Petunia. I remember what you said about Snape being a protector who desperately resents the very existence of this child he’s supposed to be protecting. In a way, Petunia’s very similar. Remember how Dumbledore described her as she took you resentfully, bitterly, she hated the idea of taking you, but she took you. And that’s really what Snape kinda does. Dumbledore tells him, you owe it to Lily to protect her child, and of course Snape doesn’t want this child to exist because this child is proof that Lily didn’t love him, that Lily loved James. But he knows it. He knows he’s responsible for Lily’s death and that Dumbledore’s right, he does owe it to Lily to protect her child even though he really, really wishes this child could just be erased from history. As to what might have gone on in the Evans house, I think we have very little information. All we have really is Petunia’s perspective and we know she was jealous of Lily for being magic and she was apparently jealous of the attention Lily got from her parents for being magic, but that’s about all we know. Was Petunia mistreated by her parents? I don’t know. We don’t have any way of knowing one way or the other. Lily, obviously, is one of the more saintly characters in the series. It’s very unlikely she came from a dysfunctional home.
Keith: Okay, fair enough. Emily, do you have any thoughts on that?
Emily: Um, no, but I think I’m still stuck on the reputation topic and thinking about Snape– I’m going back a little bit. Thinking about the further indignity of Snape having to keep up this reputation that he didn’t choose and that didn’t actually represent who he really was and how looking at the whole series from Snape’s point of view really kinda points that out. And what that says about — you said just earlier that Snape is kind to mothers, and what does that say about Snape’s, the depth of his devotion to Lily, that not only is he willing to do these hard things in protecting Harry Potter, in protecting her child, but he’s willing to make himself look a fool for most of his life and most of his career. So those were kind of my thoughts that were roiling around here. I’m not sure there’s a question there. Do you want to comment more about how those things connect?
Keith: Well, you know, if you have that one friend that you can tell your deepest, darkest secrets to, I kind of think that’s where Severus meets Lily and finds out just how sweet of a girl she is and just lets everything out and that’s why there’s such a tight connection, like this life-long friendship that actually turns into love, that gives him that power of devotion to Lily. John?
John: I’ve been — again, I read this book earlier this week and some of the things — I read the books I don’t know how many times. Like all of you probably, I go back into the books and just start reading at certain points and read the end of that book. One of the things that Lorrie points out is that in the first three or four books, Snape is described as being ugly, his sallow, greasy skin, his hair is unkempt, and the Weasleys keep this up throughout the series, but Lorrie brings up the part in the book that we see this starting to change after the fourth book where Snape is no longer described as ugly, that that isn’t his essential characteristic. You want to talk about that, Lorrie?
Keith: I think it’s because he shampooed his hair for the Yule Ball.
John: Yule Ball?
Lorrie: I’m sure he did not shampoo for the Yule Ball. His date was Karkaroff. Shall I go back to the childhood Snape and Lily question?
Keith: Whatever you want to do. Just answer that question. That’s fine.
Lorrie: I’ll go to that and then I’ll talk about the ugliness. What I saw in the childhood scenes with Snape, Lily and Petunia is what happens painfully when some children are born gifted and some are not. That’s the pain of Petunia. She and Lily love each other. They have everything the same, they have the same family. But Lily has these beautiful gifts. They’re astonishing. Petunia desires them. She can’t make them happen. No one else can make them happen, actually. She is afraid of them. Obviously, they’re frightening, but they’re beautiful. Then when young Snape meets Lily, that’s how they bond. That’s what he says to her: “You have loads of magic. I’ve been watching you.” Because obviously, child Snape was very, very gifted as well, and he wasn’t developed. Neither of them. Neither Snape nor Lily was developing them with peers. They were developing magic on their own. Lily didn’t know that you’re not supposed to fly; she taught herself. She taught herself because she was happy and it was beautiful. And he saw that and he identified with that. They were leaving Petunia behind in this painful and exclusionary way. That jealousy hurts. It’s not fair. Life isn’t fair; some people are born gifted. To bond that way with magic, that Snape and Lily together as children, they didn’t have any teachers, they had no limits, they were not with other children to compare themselves to. They could go at their own speed, which we know is very fast. That is really sacred, especially during that age before adolescence when your brain is just developing, you’re becoming the person that you’ll be as an adult. I think that excitement, we see it again with Dumbledore and Grindelwald when Dumbledore finally finds a peer before he admits to himself that this guy is really evil. But just the excitement of a brain that works the way yours does, that’s a bond that’s really hard to break. If you don’t have that with anyone else, especially.
Keith: So when did the ugliness start? Because obviously, you know, Lily sees quite a different child than what you see as an adult. Obviously he got picked on in school and then he transferred over to Slytherin and stayed away from Lily and the Gryffindors and, you know. Is that when the ugliness started to come out of him that created this, as you’ve said in your book, the first three books he’s described as ugly: sallow, greasy hair, long nose.
Lorrie: It depends on what you’re feeling when you look at him, because he’s always been odd-looking. He’s always been obviously neglected in his clothing. But Lily never says that to him as a child until he calls her a Mudblood, at which point she says, “I’d wash my pants if I were you.” And she knows what effect that will have on him. What she’s letting him know then is, You’ve just betrayed me to people who want me dead. I’m going to break our friendship and say this thing to tell you, yes, you’ve crossed that line. So he goes, in Lily’s eyes, from not being ugly to ugly to having that be one of his traits in that moment. The same thing with Harry. Well, first of all, kids, middle schoolers, will sit in class and look at their teachers and make fun of them so disgracefully, and will laugh at how ugly they are and they’re grossed out by them and gross each other out about the teachers for fun. So that’s going on anyway. Snape is unusually unattractive but anyone who’s going to treat kids the way that he does, the kids are going to look at him like, God, he’s ugly, he’s ugly inside and out. And also, he is not okay with being ugly. Some people, like Mad-Eye Moody, you know, whatever. He doesn’t have time for that. But Snape is not okay with this unattractiveness. He’s sensitive about it and kids can tell. Then, starting from the point when he has his second chance, when Voldemort returns and he has to begin his double agency, different emotions in him are primary. Before then, he’s waiting, he’s dreading. He’s feeling guilty, he’s resenting. Once his double agency begins, he’s under so much pressure and fear. From that moment at the end of Goblet of Fire, when Dumbledore says, So you know what you have to do. Are you sure you’re ready? And he’s completely pale and he says, “yes, I’m ready,” his ugliness is beside the point. His fear and the enormity of what he’s about to do is striking even the kids in the hospital wing who are watching him. So that’s what they see when they look at him. And during the time that he’s a double agent, they do still sometimes think he’s ugly and they do still sometimes say that, and he sometimes behaves in an ugly manner to them, but there’s other stuff that they’re also fascinated by.
Emily: Can I just jump in for a second, just with an observation?
Emily: I think it’s really fascinating the distinction you drew between Snape and his self-consciousness about his ugliness and somebody like Mad-Eye Moody who could care, you know? Because it’s possible in his mind his unattractiveness directly contributed to his not being able to win Lily romantically, because James Potter’s always described as being very good-looking. James Potter, I mean physically, outwardly good-looking. Oh no, not always? Oh, enlighten us. Please tell me, because I must have missed something.
Lorrie: No, no, James is really ordinary looking. He’s just really confident and popular, and athletic. But he wasn’t born with, he’s not like Sirius who always has anime wind in his hair. James is really ordinary looking. It’s other things; it’s the support he’s gotten from his family and his nurturing that makes him “nature’s nobility” and Snape isn’t.
Emily: Okay. That makes sense.
Keith: If it doesn’t go through the microphone, we don’t hear it. In the book you had talked about Patronuses and we all know that Harry can do a Patronus very well. Learned it in his third year. Snape can also do a Patronus, right? We all know this. Why does Snape say to Harry that a Patronus charm is not the only way or even the best way to fight a dementor? Why would he say that to Harry? I mean, from what our perspectives are, that is the best way to fight a dementor is bring all your happy thoughts and block out the dementor. But Snape says no.
Lorrie: So what Keith is talking about is in sixth year, when Harry gets a low mark on his DAtDA paper because he disagreed with Snape on the best way to tackle dementors, and that’s all it says about that. So we’re all left here going, Huh. What? And we assume that Harry must have said Patronuses because that’s the only way he knows. There are other ways: Sirius did it by becoming a dog, and that’s obviously not the best way because almost no one can do that. Patronuses, also: not easy. Not everyone can, so I imagine that Snape — if you look at the kind of defensive spells that Snape advocates, they’re simple and basic. Expelliarmus: anyone can learn Expelliarmus. Snape would not recommend for an entire population that’s about to be headed into war that when dementors come — because they’re coming — everyone just cast a Patronus. Not only can not everyone cast a Patronus, but even someone like Harry, who does it easily, can’t do it when there are a lot of dementors around, when they’re very unhappy, when something has happened to them. It’s not a practical thing for a DAtDA teacher to teach, so that’s one thing. Another reason is that to cast a Patronus, it’s a privileged charm because it means that it’s okay and safe for everyone around you to see it. Now Harry is really trapped; he knows this because he cast a Patronus at the beginning of Order of the Phoenix and then he nearly got expelled for it. But that’s the only thing he knew how to do, and that’s good that he did it because a Patronus has the benefit of protecting other people, which is the highest kind of magic — if you can do it. What if you can’t? Then if you’re entering war and you have to be subversive, if you have to survive, which is what Snape is trying to teach the kids in sixth year because he knows what’s coming, you can’t broadcast yourself that way, and we see that in Deathly Hallows when they go to Aberforth’s pub and all that Harry can do is cast a Patronus and Aberforth has to lie to cover it up. Harry is — he’s still thinking like somebody who can speak his mind. But they are entering a stage when if you speak your mind, you’ll end up like Charity Burbage. You have to learn what kind of power you have when you don’t have a voice. If you’re somebody like a Muggle-born or someone who has to stay hidden or somebody who’s being hunted or if you’re a house elf and you’re not allowed some kinds of magic, you have to learn other ways to have a voice.
Keith: Does anybody know another way to fight a dementor? Cheering charm? Okay, but that’s casting on — you’re going to cast that on a dementor, they don’t notice that. Somebody else? So that requires a second person there? I think the way to fight — go ahead, Louise.
Louise: Here’s my hypothesis about Snape’s way of fighting dementors.
Keith: Okay, let’s hear yours and I’m going to give mine.
Louise: He was the Potions master. He was, as you said, much more of a Potions Master than he ever was a DAtDA person. Potions were his thing. I’ve written quite a bit about the psychology of Harry Potter and of course the dementors were inspired by J.K. Rowling’s own experience with clinical depression. And the Patronus charm is actually very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the treatment she got. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one way to fight depression. Another way: drugs. Though I always thought Snape may–
Keith: What’d you say?
Louise: Yes. I always thought Snape may have developed —
Keith: So you shoot up. When you see a dementor, you should shoot up.
Louise: He had a potion, he had invented an anti-Dementor potion, and this potion was the wizard equivalent of Prozac. You could fight them off. That was my idea, that he had some sort of potion-based remedy for dementors.
Keith: Anybody else want to give it a shot? Here’s mine: What is Snape trying to teach Harry in Order of the Phoenix? Occlumency. He is great at closing his mind so that nobody can read it. If a dementor can’t read a happy thought, it goes away. Possible?
Emily: Yeah, but isn’t that kind of blurring the distinction between mind and soul?
Keith: Maybe, but a dementor is sensing a happiness. That’s what attracts a dementor is, if it smells or feels happiness, it goes to that to suck it dry. Snape can just say, “I got nothing.”
Emily: So it’s like almost the same effect as Sirius being a dog. You know, where it’s just kind of this blur that goes by.
Keith: That’s my thought. That’s the only way I can see.
John: We know that Snape is a master of Occlumency. Keith, you’re a genius.
Keith: Well, I know that, but we’re talking about this show right now.
John: Back to Lorrie’s genius, she’s the genius on stage for us. We go through each book, ding ding ding ding ding. We go through these four things, and in Lorrie’s book, there’s a chapter, it’s sort of like the movies. We have an extra Deathly Hallows chapter and in that one, Lorrie talks about all the scenes we get in “The Prince’s Tale.” I didn’t know this, maybe you knew this: there’s a number, how many scenes there are that Snape dumps into that magical goblet for him to dump in the Pensieve or whatever. There’s 20 different scenes. Did you know that? There’s 20 different scenes, and all of them Lorrie explores at some depth, at some length, and draws out new aspects of them. Really, it’s a masterfully done job. But the one I like the most, I think, is the scene of Severus inside Sirius’ bedroom after the death of Lily and James. He comes into the house and — this is after the death of Dumbledore — he comes into the house and he breaks into Sirius’ bedroom, not his favorite place, obviously, and he finds the letter of Lily Potter to Sirius and he rips the photograph in half and he hugs it and weeps. And it’s a disgusting scene where he’s crying viscerally, snot and tears and everything humiliating for a man to be weeping, and Lorrie draws a connection between that scene and what Hermione says about how to recover from casting a Horcrux. You want to go into that?
Lorrie: At some point, I want to go back to the Occlumency.
John: Great. Occlumency, great.
Lorrie: The thing about Sirius’s bedroom and what Snape was doing in there: the first time I read the books, I had no idea what I was reading and I was repelled by a lot of it. Some of the stuff he does when he tears a photograph and he throws away a husband and a baby, it really repelled me. And the way he looks when he’s crying and he’s showing Harry that he looks this way, you want to look away. It’s really ugly crying. Then I looked carefully at what it’s showing us. We know that remorse is something that Dumbledore talks about a lot. We know that remorse is what the Horcrux books say is the way to reintegrate your soul if you have split it by killing and even if you’ve committed Horcruxes. And we know that there are remorseful people in the series, but we don’t see them undergoing it — except for Snape in that scene, because Hermione says, the catch with remorse is that the pain of it might kill you. And when we see Dumbledore and Snape have that conversation where Dumbledore says, “You’ll have to kill me,” and Snape is horrified and says what I think is one of the bravest things a person can say where Dumbledore says, “I can’t have Draco do it because his soul isn’t damaged yet,” and Snape says, “What about my soul?” To go to somebody that you’re not sure ever loved you and say, What about me? is so brave. Knowing that he’s ugly, knowing that he’s unloveable and has done some really horrible things, he says that. And Dumbledore says, “Only you know what it will do to your soul.” And then Snape thinks about it and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it,” and what I think he’s doing in that moment is trying to ask himself, Do I have what it takes to kill somebody and then feel the kind of fullness and remorse and really understand what I’ve done so that I could reintegrate my soul? And he commits to doing it, and for Snape to feel full remorse — because once you kill someone and you feel remorse, you feel remorse for everything that you’ve ever done in your life. He’s going to have to think about what he did to Harry Potter. He has spent all these years too guilty to think about it because he loved this woman and then her 11-year-old comes to school: he’s been abused, he’s been half-starved, he gets headaches all the time. This is all his fault; he can’t stand it. This is what he did to him, and that’s what he’s reading in the letter in Sirius’ bedroom is this child’s normal 1st birthday party. He had a mom, he had a dad, he had a cat. He’d gotten a birthday present. He had an ugly vase. It’s so normal; it’s everything that Harry is dying to have, and Snape ripped that all away from him because he said, I just want Lily alive. I don’t care about her husband and baby. And that was the insensitivity that became evil that created Harry’s life as Snape has seen it for the past several years and he hasn’t been able to think about it. That is a lot of what fuels his cruelty to Harry and his sensitivity to Harry’s flaws. When he says, Okay, I’ve killed my friend, I’ve killed the last person in the world who knows who I really am, I have to integrate my soul, he feels remorse not only for the pity of Dumbledore’s death but he remembers what he did to Harry’s family, and you can’t feel remorse for only one. He accepts yes, he killed Dumbledore and yes, he also, a long time ago, killed these other people and he’s showing Harry, I recognize it finally. This is my apology. I know what I did to you.
John: That’s really wonderful that you’ve integrated why Snape at that moment, after killing Dumbledore, goes back and finds a relic or a token of his original crime to reintegrate himself. He knew he had to feel the remorse. How much remorse could he feel for killing Dumbledore when Dumbledore asked him to kill him?
Keith: I’d also say it’s more of an assisted suicide, is what it is.
John: Well, he can’t — he doesn’t feel remorse there. He goes back after Dumbledore’s death and feels the remorse as freshly as he can for his crime against his best friend and her family. You wanted to talk about Occlumency.
Lorrie: Snape in Sirius’s bedroom is a really emotional thing. Yeah, the best way to tackle dementors: it is Occlumency, and it’s a specific form, I think, that Snape wants to recommend, which is to take what material creates a Patronus and to introject it. Instead of doing it like Harry does, where the whole world sees it and it protects other people. If you cannot do that, take all of those exact same thoughts and just fill yourself with them and that will block out the dementors the same way. The reason we know this is because that’s what Harry does with the Resurrection Stone on the walk in the forest. It says “they acted like Patronuses to him,” the images and memories of his loved ones. That’s what Snape has been trying to say, because Harry asks them, “Will anyone else see you?” and they say, “No. We’re here and we’re real, but no one can see us but you.”
John: Brilliant. I love it. You’ll love this book. If you buy this book and read this book, every one of the chapters will be a mind blower, I promise you. Probably the best one — no, there’s two of them that stand out — is Prisoner of Azkaban, which is really a fan favorite. I’m a big Chamber of Secrets guy, but a lot of people really love Prisoner of Azkaban as their favorite story. In this book, Lorrie points out that it’s a great year at the end for everybody except Severus Snape, that this is his nightmare. Basically everything in his past comes rushing into his present and nobody will understand or sympathize with him. Basically, Lupin is here. He’s a danger, he’s always been a danger. Dumbledore won’t recognize it. Sirius Black has obviously got some sort of inside… He realized what’s going on with Lupin and can’t get any satisfaction. But here’s the killer: as Lorrie argues persuasively, that mysterious moment when Harry’s talking to Lupin and Lupin says, “Professor Snape accidentally mentioned at breakfast this morning that I was a werewolf.” Lorrie points out that this is something that Dumbledore had said he should do. Do you want to explain that, Lorrie? Because I remember reading that and was doing the HUH? How is that possible?
Lorrie: I don’t think that Dumbledore suggested he do it, but I think once they said he was going to do it that Dumbledore did not disagree because Snape has been trying, in his extremely cruel and prejudiced way, to tell Dumbledore, There’s no such thing as a tame werewolf. Now to take a more humane and realistic view of that same sentiment, it was the flaw in the plan. Dumbledore thought that a disease that’s that powerful, like lycanthropy, that strength of will is enough to prevent it, but he forgot that Lupin, like everyone, is human. And the flaw in the plan — when you feel love, when you get called away because somebody that you really love is in an emergency, Lupin sees that the map says Sirius Black. He doesn’t know what this means, but he knows it means a lot about things that are really important to him. He forgets his wolfsbane. He goes. He can’t control his lycanthropy because he’s human, and Snape has been trying and trying to tell Dumbledore this, saying, “Don’t you remember the last time you had him here? He almost killed me.” And that’s the original rift between Dumbledore and Snape is that Dumbledore didn’t think that Snape’s trauma was as important as protecting Lupin’s privacy. Which yes, it’s important to protect Lupin’s privacy. It was absolutely at the cost of Snape, who was traumatized first by being almost killed, but second and even more damagingly by being forced into silence because Snape was not allowed to tell anybody what had happened. Then after that, that did more damage, especially in the future after that when he saw favoritism against Slytherins from Dumbledore and from the rest of the school. That’s one of the big grievances that Snape carries into this third year. Then when Lupin transformed on the grounds and very nearly bites humans, Dumbledore’s reputation is almost — if that got out, the school would be over, Dumbledore’s career would be over. This is really not the way to run a school, and we’ve just seen Snape have what I think is a trauma flashback in front of Cornelius Fudge, screaming, “You don’t know Potter.” You know, he’s trying to say, All these things have happened and nobody will ever believe me, and then he and Dumbledore have that showdown in front of Fudge where he says, Dumbledore, don’t you remember? and Dumbledore says, “My memory’s as good as it ever was.” I think it’s inevitable that there was a conversation that took place off the page between that moment and the moment that Snape said, Oh, Slytherins, by the way, Lupin’s a werewolf, in which it became clear that if Snape did that, he would not be punished, whereas Lupin has been allowed to resign.
Keith: I also think that a big reason Snape is so mad at this point in time is that for the last thirteen years, he blamed Sirius for releasing the Secret-Keeper charm to Voldemort to go in and kill Lily. So the person that Snape is most furious with regarding Lily’s death is Sirius Black. So for him to get off scotch-clean, in his mind, that’s just a terrible blow and that’s also that’s why he was so angry in that hospital room. He just blew up in there. Before we get into the last two questions, we have two questions left. If we have time left, and we might have a few minutes, we will answer a couple of questions. So if you have questions, hold on to them and we’ll definitely get them to you.
John: Prisoner of Azkaban is great, but maybe the Half-Blood Prince chapter in Definitive Reading is even better. Because in Half-Blood Prince, we start off at Spinner’s End where Snape takes the Unbreakable Vow, and it leads all the way to a finish on the Astronomy Tower where he knocks off Dumbledore and has this final battle with Harry and really your coverage of that book is one of the best in the whole book. I really loved that chapter. One of the things you point out is that Snape, at Spinner’s End, is talking to Narcissa and at this Snape recognizes somehow is his moment of redemption. Here is a mother coming to him to beg for help to protect her child and then Snape suddenly says, This is my moment. I failed my best friend and failed to protect her child in the moment of need. Now I can take the Unbreakable Vow and go forward with this. Dumbledore’s probably already said, you’re going to have to kill me this year. Here he goes and he makes this vow. My question — the thing is, up to this point in the series, Hermione makes that joke about Ron having the emotional range of a teaspoon. Dumbledore may be an eyedropper in terms of his emotional — not Dumbledore, Snape’s emotional range with the anger and bitterness is pretty much an eyedropper. He doesn’t seems to have compassion, empathy, sympathy, none, zero, wiped out. But when he’s looking into Narcissa’s eyes, taking the Unbreakable Vow, he seems to feel entirely her need. Where does he get that?
Lorrie: I think if you look at Snape with his Slytherins, there is a lot more empathy. It’s spiteful sometimes and resentful, but I think he has always raised his Slytherins to look to him as someone who will advocate for them because they won’t get a chance, they won’t get a hearing from the rest of the school. I think the Slytherins already know that about him, but the other thing is that he has been watching with dread, hoping that Draco doesn’t become what he became at the same age. And he’s been trying to stop Draco from doing things like saying “Mudblood” or when he’s — when Draco and his friends, when their fathers go into Azkaban, Snape gets really upset. When he hears at the end of Goblet of Fire Harry gives the names of Crabbe and Goyle and Malfoy, and Snape gets really upset. He knows he’s going to have to pay extra attention to those boys because they’ll be much more vulnerable to going down the same path he did. At the time of the Spinner’s End chapter at the beginning of the sixth book, Draco has gone and done it. He has taken the Dark Mark. Snape has lost one of his. But the thing is that Snape, unlike a lot of people, won’t give up on them after that because Snape himself has become a Death Eater, has committed crimes, and come back. So he won’t give up on these people; it’s not too late. He is committed to Draco and this is going to help him because he has just had this conversation with Dumbledore where he trapped the curse in Dumbledore’s arm. He knows they have less than a year, and he knows he’s going to have to be primary responsibility for Harry Potter, whom he does not like. Genuinely doesn’t like. But if he can get the emotional comfort of doing the exact same thing for a kid he actually does like, it will help everything. It will make his job easier. And Narcissa is going to ask for his help because she’s asking him for his true self. He has been a teacher. He’s given everything to being a teacher. Draco trusts him because he’s a teacher. That’s why Narcissa wants him: this is him, this is true, and it will only help everybody.
Keith: In Deathly Hallows — I’m just going to go to the end of this thing and this’ll be the last question and we’ll bring up some questions here. In Deathly Hallows, when they escape from Privet Drive, and there’s the battle in the air of the seven Potters, the one thing that kind of came at me was like, WHAT?, is when Voldemort’s flying without a broom. He’s just like vapor and can go wherever he wants by flying. So here we are, we’re getting ready for the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry is confronting Snape in the Great Hall, and McGonagall steps in and fights Snape. Everybody remembers this, right? It was even well done in the movie: they were battling each other, Snape knocks down the Carrows to knock them out of the way. And then what happens? He goes out the window and flies. He goes out the window and flies just like Voldemort. So McGonagall says, He must have learned that trick from his master. That’s not what you’re saying, though. You think it has to do with his character and magic related to Lily and even J.K. Rowling’s mother. How is that related to J.K. Rowling’s mother?
Lorrie: For one thing, when McGonagall says, He must have learned that from Voldemort, we’re supposed to think that everything she says about him at that moment is going to be proven to be incorrect. It’s an assumption she makes. For another thing, the nature of Voldemort is not to teach people the things that make him superior. People are thinking, Well, is he rewarding Snape that way? No. Voldemort doesn’t teach anyone anything. Voldemort thinks he’s the only person in the world who knows what the Room of Requirement is. He doesn’t share his secrets. But what he’s doing then, Snape, he has reached the end of the line where he can just defend himself. If he stays in that battle any longer with his colleagues, he’s going to have to hurt them or hurt himself. He won’t hurt them. He breaks a hole in the window to leave; he’s protecting them. He is desperate. The only thing he wants is to find Harry before they all die and give him the memories of Lily. He is doing that thing where he’s introjecting the most loving memory he has. What’s the most blissful thing he knows is when he was a child with this brilliant friend of his and they were just doing pure magic. Nobody told them they couldn’t do this. They were just doing it. I don’t know — it doesn’t say if he had ever flown before. I don’t know that this is something that they did together. I don’t know if just thinking about her, knowing what was at stake, made him able to fly. But that is consistent with what’s happening with him at that moment, his protectiveness. What it had to do with Rowling’s mother: well, we know one of the real world inspirations for Professor Snape was J.K. Rowling’s mother’s employer who was Rowling’s chemistry teacher. He was very happy to employ her mother and recognized her genius, so we know that there’s some element of Rowling’s appreciation for people who saw the brilliance and beauty of her mother. And her mother’s last name, her maiden name, was Volant, which is French for “flying.” And then we see this image of this beautiful girl flying off a swing and it’s the mother, it’s the child looking at the story of his dead mother, and I thought, that is a scene of pure beauty that I can easily associate with the way Rowling talks about how her mother inspired this series for her.
Keith: Excellent. That exactly what I was looking for. I never knew that Anne Volant and Volant being French for flight kind of led to Flight of the Prince. That was pretty good. Again, all of this that you heard today can be found in Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim. Does anybody have any questions before we shut down the show?
Audience: So J.K. said the Sorting Hat made seven mistakes in its life, and one of those was putting Snape into Slytherin. Do you agree with that?
Lorrie: Where did she say that?
Keith: I’ve never heard that before.
Lorrie: Did she say the Sorting Hat has mistakes?
Audience: Yeah, I either read it online like Pottermore or just something, but it was from J.K. herself. She said one of the biggest mistakes that the Sorting Hat has ever done in a thousand years was put Snape into Slytherin. Biggest mistake ever, but do you agree with that?
Keith: I don’t think that’s actually something that J.K. Rowling said.
Lorrie: I was about to say I haven’t seen that.
Keith: I don’t know where you would’ve seen or heard that, because–
Audience: I don’t remember.
Keith: It’s not from Pottermore.
Audience: I barely go on Pottermore. I don’t even have a computer at home. So I know it wasn’t from Pottermore, but I know either somebody said it or someone lied or whatever, but I think it’s kind of interesting and it makes you think. Because I mean you look at Slytherins, they’re bullies and they don’t really love you. They don’t know how to love; they’re just plain meanie heads. But if you know how to love, then you’d have gotten into Gryffindor or the other three. But how can this guy totally be a bully but still love at the same time?
Keith: Well, just because you’re in Slytherin doesn’t mean you don’t have the capacity for love. I mean, Pansy Parkinson is in love with Draco Malfoy. Draco falls in love and marries Astoria Greengrass, and I think Goyle loves Crabbe. Just saying it.
Emily: What if it were true?
Keith: Just because they’re in Slytherin doesn’t mean that they don’t love somebody or have passion or anything else. It’s just that their main love in their life is more or less an ambition, to get to a certain destination. So they’re very ambitious people. That’s where the Sorting Hat places you for that. Snape is very ambitious. He wants to be highly recognized. But again, I don’t think J.K. — just for the record, I’m going to say flat-out: No, J.K. Rowling never said that that was where she regrets something, putting Snape in Slytherin. That never happened. I don’t know where you read that from, sorry. Yeah, maybe a fanfiction post or something like that.
Lorrie: Quickly, one thing that I think happened with this series is when J.K. Rowling started writing it, she had no idea that millions of people would take her sorting system so seriously. She started out writing a lot of bias against the Slytherins; that was her children’s book. And as the series went on, we saw a more complex view of how the bias against Slytherins affected them in that House, and she also said that most Slytherins are just normal kids. We see a couple of evil ones. The thing about Snape that I identify as Slytherin: seeing Harry learn from him throughout Deathly Hallows. Slytherins, it’s not that they’re just ambitious, it’s that they have more calm because Gryffindors become more overwhelmed by energy at the moment and we see Harry learning throughout Deathly Hallows how to hold on to that, how to decide when to speak, when not to speak, how to know when he absolutely has to lie. You see that every time he masters a longer view, a longer game and a more subtle one, that these are things that he’s learned that Snape has modeled and that other Slytherins have modeled so that by the end, he could not have triumphed over Voldemort without learning these traits. We see that there’s more to Slytherin than just the suffering that they put on Harry in his earlier years.
Keith: We have time for one or two more questions. MuggleNet brand new staffer Grace Candido. What’s your question, Grace?
Grace: Mine is a question looking more for a reaction. I actually believe that Voldemort definitely would have taught Snape to fly, and I say that from the mindset of the fact that he grew up during an era that was mostly war-minded, he is a war-minded individual and he wants more power. With that in mind, he would’ve probably wanted his top generals as in Bellatrix, Snape, the ones who he had in his inner circle, to know as much as possible that would benefit him in battle. So I feel that — because he actually did personally train Bellatrix and she brags about that in the books, and I would see that he would probably train Snape in a certain way, as well. So I think that he probably would’ve taught him how to fly. Just my personal opinion. It would benefit him on the battlefield a great deal to have people who were skilled at fighting but able to lead his forces. And in his mindset, he’s already immortal, he’s already a god. He doesn’t really have to worry so much about these puny mortals trying to overthrow him.
Lorrie: I can see where you’re coming from, but the way that he disposes of Snape because he thinks that’ll give him the Elder Wand, I don’t think he actually really cares that much.
Keith: Yeah, I’m not really sure if he would’ve taught either. I can definitely see that Bellatrix and Snape are his favorites at one point in time; he might have taught them some stuff. But it’s obvious when they’re facing Hogwarts and Hogwarts has the protective barrier over it, everybody’s trying to get through this barrier and they’re not able to. And Voldemort just goes, when he feels it and he just goes running through the barrier. So I don’t know that anybody else could’ve done that magic. Same with flying, I don’t know where Snape would’ve learned it. Sam.
Sam: Hi. My question is to Lorrie. I will admit: I’m not nearly as avid a Harry Potter fan as everyone else in this room, I’m here with my girlfriend. But my second favorite character was always Snape, and I’ve always enjoyed anti-heroes, and I’m very excited to see that you have written this book about Snape and you have taken time to think into the mindset of Snape. My question to you is with how Draco had turned out in his life, do you think Snape would’ve 1) been proud about Draco and his turnaround in his mindset? Secondly, had felt like he was part of accomplishing that?
Lorrie: Yes, and I think Snape was proud of him because they planned for — Dumbledore planned for the Elder Wand to go to Snape because he thought that when Draco came to attack him, that Draco would use an offensive spell, and it turned out that Snape had taught him so well to do non-confrontation and to do defensive spells that Draco used Expelliarmus and therefore he became the owner of the Elder Wand and none of them had foreseen that. Then he saw — after Snape killed Dumbledore, he had to take care of Draco. He had to take him to his mother; he had to do what he could to intercede when Voldemort dealt with the two of them after Dumbledore’s death. I think he saw after that that Draco was sorry that he had taken the Dark Mark and was just trying to survive and was no longer misguidedly following Voldemort. I think he saw that change in him. I think he was proud.
Sam: Thank you. [ENDS 01:16:11]