“And my soul, Dumbledore?”:  The Snape-Dumbledore Relationship

Note:  Dear good people, do not do what I did.  Do not throw out everything you prepared for writing a 20-minute talk on the day before the talk is scheduled because you’ve just realized that there’s something you really have to write about, so you have to scrap everything and start over.  That was not a pleasant 24 hours.  I do not recommend that experience and hope not to repeat it.

At any rate, here is what I ended up delivering at the Harry Potter Conference of Chestnut Hill College on October 19, 2018.


Welcome to the talk that I titled weeks ago, optimistically, “‘And my soul, Dumbledore?  The Snape-Dumbledore Relationship.”

My name is Lorrie Kim.  I’ve been writing about the Harry Potter series for over ten years, including a book called Snape:  A Definitive Reading that goes through the series from Snape’s point of view.  In July, I read my friend Irvin Khaytman’s book The Life and Lies of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, which examines Dumbledore’s character through the series.  I thought I was ready to talk about Snape’s relationship with Dumbledore.

Yesterday, I threw out what I had already prepared and wrote these rough comments, based on words in Deathly Hallows that I first read eleven years and countless rereads ago but did not fully notice until Tuesday, something that had been sitting in plain sight until I was ready to understand its import and start making fresh connections.

And this is the magic that keeps me coming back to Harry Potter analysis.  There’s something new every time.  I hope you can forgive the rawness of these thoughts and accept, in lieu of polish, the excitement that comes of new ideas whenever we gather to discuss this story that still has fresh surprises for us.

This is the passage I read afresh on Tuesday.  We’re back in Grimmauld Place, tears dripping from the ends of our noses as we read the second page of Lily’s letter:

could ever have been friends with Gellert Grindelwald.  I think her mind’s going, personally!  Lots of love, Lily.

In 2016, I wrote about that passage:  “At last, we see what was on the missing second page.  Not much.  She couldn’t believe that a good man like Dumbledore could have been friends with the evil Grindelwald.  And then – oh.  Her love.  That’s what was on the second page.”  I went on to discuss this scene as the moment that Snape, who has just split his soul by killing his mentor, reintegrates it by experiencing remorse for destroying the family life of a one-year-old child– the one time in this series that Rowling shows us a character undergoing this excruciating process that is so painful it could destroy you.

I still stand by my 2016 reading that we were witnessing remorse.

I do not still stand by my words, “Not much.”  Because on Tuesday, it occurred to me that this moment is the first time Snape learns that Dumbledore, whose soul seemed surely more pure than Snape’s ugly, Dark-Marked soul, had once been Grindelwald’s friend.

Every crisis of faith that Harry goes through in Deathly Hallows regarding Dumbledore, Snape went through, too, during the same time, on even less information and assurance than Harry.

Remember Harry’s reaction upon reading Elphias Doge’s eulogy of Dumbledore in the Daily Prophet, which was published a few days after Snape went to Grimmauld Place?

He had never thought to ask Dumbledore about his past. No doubt it would have felt strange, impertinent even, but after all, it had been common knowledge that Dumbledore had taken part in that legendary duel with Grindelwald, and Harry had not thought to ask Dumbledore what that had been like.

And then remember Harry’s “revulsion and fury” when he read Rita Skeeter’s hints that Dumbledore “dabbled in the Dark Arts himself as a youth,” and it had to do with Grindelwald.  Harry’s growing fears about Dumbledore as he camped in the wilderness, no Horcruxes in sight, and then the shock as he read Skeeter’s biography and the incontrovertible proof, in Dumbledore’s own young adult hand, that he had once been Grindelwald’s partner, ardent and fully invested, in plotting fascism.

Snape went through those realizations, too, at the same time.

This was Harry’s agony as he learned of Dumbledore’s past:

“Look what he asked from me, Hermione! Risk your life, Harry! And again! And again! And don’t expect me to explain everything, just trust me blindly, trust that I know what I’m doing, trust me even though I don’t trust you! Never the whole truth! Never!”

Well.

We get few glimpses into Snape’s thoughts during his final year, but sometimes it’s not difficult to hazard a guess.

Parts of Snape’s situation were different from Harry’s.  He didn’t have any confidants; he had to process this information alone.  He had far less reason than Harry to believe that Dumbledore had loved him.  He didn’t hear Aberforth’s account of the story.

Unlike Harry, who responded to Hermione’s attempt to minimize Dumbledore’s friendship with Grindelwald as “a few months one summer when they were both really young” by retorting, “They were the same age as we are now.  And here we are, risking our lives to fight the Dark Arts,” the news about Dumbledore’s past, his former fascism and the death of Ariana, changed Snape’s perception of Dumbledore in a way that made Snape less alone, not more.

This news put several things about Dumbledore in a different light where Snape was concerned.  His testimony to the Wizengamot that Snape “is now no more a Death Eater than I am.”  His unwavering conviction, in the face of skepticism, that Snape’s change of heart was genuine and not an act.  His gratitude when Snape was able to halt the damage to his hand from the ring Horcrux:  “I am fortunate, extremely fortunate, to have you.”  His insistence on Snape, and only Snape, to counter Dark Magic at Hogwarts:  as long as Dumbledore had Snape, he was not alone as someone who understood how to cast Dark Magic and therefore how to fight it, understood both its appeal and how to resist it.

So the times that Dumbledore had annoyed Snape by idealizing Harry Potter as pure of heart, he was comparing Harry favorably not to Snape but to himself.  We readers knew this, but Snape, always jealous of Dumbledore’s affection for Potters father and son, had not, until he learned of Dumbledore’s past.

Most of all, Snape’s understanding of Dumbledore’s guilt about his past gave new significance to the harshest words that Dumbledore speaks to anybody:  “You disgust me.”  The moment that Dumbledore judges Snape, who sees nothing wrong with begging for Lily’s life in exchange for the lives of her husband and child, is a judgment that comes not from moral superiority but from recognition.  And that resonates with a familiar theme in J.K. Rowling’s writing:  the sentiment, “You cannot despise me more than I despise myself.”  Even her kindest characters speak with venom when feeling defensive and self-loathing.

Undeniably, Snape caused some real harm in his role as a teacher, but he achieved something worthwhile as well:  he continued to be available to Draco with guidance and protection, no matter how harshly Draco rejected his help, how much Snape’s heart sank as he watched Draco join Voldemort, how many crimes Draco committed, either eagerly or under duress.  He remained ready to assist if Draco was ready for a second chance, as Dumbledore had done for him.  With Snape, Draco knew:  there was nothing disgusting Draco could do that Snape had not already done.  Snape was able to maintain that connection, that trust, by signaling:  I know everything you have done, and I am still here.

Knowing that Dumbledore, too, had once seen nothing wrong with letting people die for what he wanted, would have given Snape a different understanding of the harsh words, “You disgust me.”  Dumbledore shared not only Snape’s self-loathing but his unresolved shame.  He knew everything Snape had done, and he remained with Snape to the end of his life.

Snape could recognize, then, some equality between himself and Dumbledore.  We can hear it in the way the two men talk to each other in the Prince’s Tale chapter when nobody else is around:  they are sardonic, angry and familiar and even immature.  We’ve seen Snape that way before, but never Dumbledore — except with Snape.  Dumbledore would not call any man but Snape by insults as intemperate and gratuitous as “a basket that spends so much time dangling on the arm of Lord Voldemort.”  Albus!  Unfair!

In her subtle way, Rowling lets us see that when Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him in Draco’s stead because “That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” Snape might have thought, at first, that this was one more instance of Dumbledore valuing someone, anyone, over Snape.  With that history, I think it was a brave thing for Snape to ask – although, granted, it was certain that nobody else would speak up for him – “And my soul, Dumbledore?  Mine?”

As always, whenever Snape craved trust and affection from Dumbledore, Dumbledore’s response was not comforting, not reassuring – but not nothing, either, even if Dumbledore’s responses to Snape generally come with more work and stern reminders to choose what is right over what is easy.

“’You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” said Dumbledore.

Let us be clear what Dumbledore is saying, according to the rules of magic laid out in this world.  Killing splits the soul, even when done by request, out of love – the killer has to mean an Unforgivable Curse or it won’t work – and the way to reintegrate a split soul is to feel remorse, the near-fatally painful magic that Dumbledore checks periodically to see if Snape has been able to manage.  Up to this point, Snape never has.  If he accepts Dumbledore’s requests, to kill him and then protect the students of Hogwarts against the Carrows, he commits to feeling remorse and surviving it.

After Dumbledore makes his request, “his blue eyes pierced Snape as they had frequently pierced Harry, as though the soul they discussed was visible to him” – Dumbledore is performing Legilimency, and Snape is not blocking him.  “At last Snape gave another curt nod.”  Snape has had time to think about it.  He has made a choice.  He agrees to cross back over into evil, cast an Unforgivable Curse, and then return.

No one else in either the Order of the Phoenix – that is, the order that believes in second chances – or among the Death Eaters shares Dumbledore’s and Snape’s double status of having embraced evil and then fought against it.  This innocence is why Sirius, in Goblet of Fire, tells Harry, “There’s still the fact that Dumbledore trusts Snape, and I know Dumbledore trusts where a lot of other people wouldn’t, but I just can’t see him letting Snape teach at Hogwarts if he’d ever worked for Voldemort.”  After Snape kills Dumbledore, Tonks says, “But Dumbledore swore he was on our side!  I always thought Dumbledore must know something about Snape that we didn’t….” and McGonagall says, “He always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape.  I mean… with Snape’s history… of course people were bound to wonder… but Dumbledore told me explicitly that Snape’s repentance was absolutely genuine….  Wouldn’t hear a word against him!”  These people don’t have the experience to recognize, as Dumbledore recognized in Snape, what it looks like to embrace and then renounce evil.

Hermione tells an agonized Harry:  “He changed, Harry, he changed! It’s as simple as that! Maybe he did believe these things when he was seventeen, but the whole of the rest of his life was devoted to fighting the Dark Arts! Dumbledore was the one who stopped Grindelwald, the one who always voted for Muggle protection and Muggle-born rights, who fought You-Know-Who from the start […] and who died trying to bring him down!”

The lesson of the Snape-Dumbledore relationship is learning how this kind of change is possible.  Only someone who has managed this sort of change, someone who has the means to overpower others but chooses not to attack, not to dominate, has the greatness to command the allegiance of the Elder Wand from Dumbledore.  This is the qualification that Dumbledore had in mind when he planned to pass the Elder Wand to Snape, what Grindelwald meant when he told Voldemort that the wand would never be his, and what Draco and Harry, who learned Expelliarmus from Snape, proved to have within them.

Snape kept the half of the letter that said Dumbledore had once been friends with Grindelwald.  It was evidence that the mentor who believed that Snape had it in him to help Harry Potter bring down Voldemort and protect Hogwarts students knew firsthand how much he was asking of Snape, how far he was asking Snape to travel – knew it could be done.  Dumbledore’s former evil, establishing the foundations of a fascist ideology, lying to himself about the nature of Grindelwald, betraying the sister in his care, had damaging consequences…and look what Dumbledore became.  What he did with his second chance.

During Harry’s sixth year, when Dumbledore told Snape that Harry would have to let Voldemort kill him, Snape accused Dumbledore of using him, letting him believe he was protecting Harry for Lily’s sake when Dumbledore intended to sacrifice Harry to Voldemort.  Some readers have wondered if this is an accurate read and Dumbledore did use Snape as a pawn, but I think this turns out to be one of the times that Rowling sets up a supposition that she later disproves, by showing rather than telling.

It is Snape who ends that conversation before Dumbledore can answer his accusation of raising Harry like a pig for slaughter.  He stands up abruptly and responds to Dumbledore’s question, “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?” by casting a Patronus.  It’s a complex moment; Snape is not ready to hear more, doesn’t realize that he’s the one who has shut down the conversation, and his dislike of Harry is as wrong-headed as ever.  But the sight of the silver doe is beautiful, too, the sign of a soul that has a wholeness to it, and it brings tears to Dumbledore’s eyes.  After all this time, Dumbledore is right to retain faith in Snape; Snape is still striving to fulfill his pledge to Dumbledore, using his love for Lily as a guide:  “If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear.”  During this year when Dumbledore is dying of his own incurable folly in grabbing at a Deathly Hallow for his own use, it is a gift to Dumbledore to see that Snape is holding fast.

We see later that Dumbledore did not have an agenda to sacrifice Harry; his aim was to safeguard Harry’s soul, and once the Dumbledore of King’s Cross could affirm to him, “Your soul is whole, and completely your own,” Harry recognized that Dumbledore was at peace:  “Harry had never seen the man so utterly, so palpably content.”  This Dumbledore acknowledges that Harry has the choice to go back and finish Voldemort or to move on, but he does not seek to influence Harry’s choice; whatever happens with Voldemort, Dumbledore’s work is done.

Similarly, with Snape, we see that Dumbledore’s aim is to help Snape retain the wholeness of his soul and turn his guilt toward good by charging him with undergoing remorse and delivering a final message to Harry.  Along with that delivery, Snape was able to return the memories of Lily’s love that rightfully belonged to Harry and acknowledge, at last, how he had destroyed Harry’s family, in a move similar to Slughorn fighting past his shame to give Harry secrets that helped him end Voldemort.

We see, in the Prince’s Tale, that Snape was brusque with the portrait of Dumbledore when he took the sword to the Forest of Dean after Christmas; at the midpoint of the year, when Harry’s faith in Dumbledore was at its lowest, Snape’s was low, as well.  By the end of his life, had Snape reconciled some of his feelings toward Dumbledore, as Harry did in the King’s Cross chapter?

When I reread his last moments, I think the answer is yes.

Voldemort tells him that he has violated Dumbledore’s tomb and stolen the Elder Wand.  In reaction, “Snape’s face was like a death mask. It was marble white and so still that when he spoke, it was a shock to see that anyone lived behind the blank eyes.”

With the words “death mask” and “marble white,” Rowling is calling back to the image of Dumbledore in his white marble tomb.  The blankness of Snape’s face shows that he is Occluding Voldemort as hard as he has ever Occluded in his life, hiding his reaction to the news of this desecration.  Together, I think these things show that Snape is grieving for his friend.  As we learned from Harry, grief can Occlude:  “Just as Voldemort had not been able to possess Harry while Harry was consumed with grief for Sirius, so his thoughts could not penetrate Harry now, while he mourned Dobby. Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out . . . though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love. . . .”

When Harry runs to Snape’s office to view his memories and the stone gargoyle asks for the password, we learn that he and Snape have been holding the same grief.

“Dumbledore!” said Harry without thinking, because it was he whom he yearned to see, and to his surprise the gargoyle slid aside.

During his year as headmaster, the unguessable word that guarded Snape’s space was a name that kept him as safe as any Fidelius Charm.  I know not everyone is at peace with the Dumbledore-Snape relationship.  For some, Snape might not have been good enough to be known as Dumbledore’s man.  For others, Dumbledore might have been too cold, too secretive, to deserve the role of safeguarding Snape’s true thoughts.  But I’m accepting it as the final word on what Snape thought of the man who entrusted him with his death.

I know I still have so many questions.  Maybe you do, too.  We can puzzle out a few of them together.

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Khaytman on Dumbledore, Ch 2

Further reflections spurred by reading The Life and Lies of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore by Irvin Khaytman.


In his Chamber of Secrets chapter, Irvin goes over what it means for Dumbledore that he first realizes during this volume that Voldemort’s Dark Magic included making a Horcrux, and in fact, perhaps more than one Horcrux, “which I do not believe any other wizard has ever had” (as he recounts in HBP).

Even though I’ve known since 2006 that the diary from CoS was Dumbledore’s first evidence that Voldemort made a Horcrux at all, let alone multiple Horcruxes, I never thought about what that meant from Dumbledore’s perspective until now.  It took Irvin’s book to make me think about it.  I had a series of “ah-ha” moments.

Of course.  It must have been huge.  It was the last great secret mission of Dumbledore’s life.

OH.  Hallows versus Horcruxes, the false dichotomy that Dumbledore set up for Harry in DH, was not Harry’s struggle at all.  It was only Dumbledore’s.  Harry wouldn’t have been tempted by the Hallows; he never saw himself as a child of destiny.  Dumbledore knew himself to be one.  It was Dumbledore who, presented with the only artifact that was both a Hallow AND a Horcrux, responded to it as a Hallow and…

OH.  Jeez.  I never thought until now about why JKR made that one Hallow also a Horcrux, and none of the other Hallows or Horcruxes held that dual role.  It was a test.  How do you see this object?  You were supposed to see it as a Voldemort Horcrux, treat it with caution, strengthen yourself and destroy it.  Dumbledore saw it as a Hallow and grabbed for it, his greed overriding a lifetime of wisdom.  *loud rude buzzer sound*  NOPE.  NOT WORTHY.  Slow death for YOU, Mr. Dumbledore, sir!  Unworthy, unworthy.

He didn’t want the Stone to keep it from others to use for harm.  He wanted it for himself, to relieve his guilts and to aggrandize his magical power.  WRONG, Mr. Dumbledore.  *Horcrux curse explodes*

He was given a bit of extra life, long enough to last out the year, because he was working to impart knowledge to Harry and keep others from harm, not trying to stay alive for his own selfish reasons to outsmart Death.  Thanks to the skill of Snape, who has been staying alive for unselfish reasons since Lily and James died.

OH.  Wow.  Before Dumbledore destroyed the Horcrux with the sword of Gryffindor, did that bit of Voldemort’s soul try to talk to him?  What might it have said?  How might Dumbledore have overcome it?


*possibly spoilers/speculation about Crimes of Grindelwald movie below*


 

I think Voldemort, who’s about to be born shortly after the end of the first Fantastic Beasts film, tried to further whatever Dark Magic Grindelwald mastered.

Grindelwald wants to harness the power of an Obscurus, but nobody has successfully separated an Obscurus from its Obscurial and kept it alive, and as we see from Grindelwald’s showdown with Credence in the subway tunnel, it’s really difficult to control a power when it’s inconveniently attached to a living being with their own will.  (Like Dumbledore reporting surprise that Voldemort chose Nagini to hold part of his soul.  Not optimal.)  We also see from that showdown that there’s some sort of super-strength in an Obscurial, since it seemed like the Aurors destroyed Credence, yet he somehow survived.  We also know that JKR is presenting Obscuri as a sort of allegory for the power of splitting the atom.

We know that Horcruxes are formed by casting a spell when someone splits their soul by killing another person.

I don’t know if Grindelwald eventually gave up on Obscuri and tried to make a Horcrux, but I suspect that Voldemort studied Grindelwald’s problems with Obscuri and decided that Voldemort, greatest of all wizards in his own opinion, would not outsource this all-important operation but sacrifice part of himself, generate power by splitting a part of himself off his core rather than trying to harness the power of an Obscurus.

Khaytman on Dumbledore, Ch1

Just two weeks remaining until the Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, Friday, October 19, 2018!  Come see Irvin Khaytman talk about his new book, The Life and Lies of Percival Albus Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, which I wrote about when it was published in July.  He and I will also be doing book signings on that day.

Irvin’s talk will be titled Dumbledore’s Decoys.  My talk, which is partially inspired by Irvin’s work, will be “And my soul, Dumbledore?”  The Snape-Dumbledore Relationship.  In anticipation of this annual celebration, I’ll be posting an informal seven-part blog post, one for each chapter, about new perspectives on Dumbledore that I gained after reading Irvin’s book.


On page 1 of the Introduction, I see that Irvin’s fundamental reading diverges from mine:  he accepted Snape’s assessment that Dumbledore raised Harry “like a pig for slaughter,” and embarked upon the book in order to resolve the questions that this raised for him.

Then, it turned out Dumbledore was using Harry, “raising him like a pig for slaughter.” (DH 687)  I reread the series half a dozen times after Deathly Hallows came out, and I could never reconcile the two….  Do I view Dumbledore as a saint-like father figure or as cold-hearted and calculating?

To make sense of it all, I embarked upon a mission to unravel just what Dumbledore was up to in the last year of his life:  what his plans were and where they went awry.

My reading of that “pig for slaughter” assessment is that it’s not what ends up being true; it’s what Snape thinks in his initial response to Dumbledore’s 11th-hour revelations, and it informs Harry’s initial assumption, as well.  I think we’re meant to see, through the revelations in the “King’s Cross” chapter of Deathly Hallows, that it was not accurate, that a more generous reading of Dumbledore turns out to be correct, and that Dumbledore had been trying to position Harry to face attack from Voldemort with his soul intact and his choices his own — things that Dumbledore considered more important than whether Voldemort was defeated or whether Harry survived.  We see this from the King’s Cross moment when spirit-Dumbledore makes it clear that it’s Harry’s choice whether to go back and fight or board the train and move on.  The entirety of King’s Cross takes place with Harry’s soul as whole and wholly his own, and that, I believe, was what Dumbledore was aiming for.

Something similar happens with McGonagall thinking Snape was running away during the Snape-shaped hole scene when she yells at him, “Coward!”  It’s never overtly refuted in so many words; we are shown, rather than told, that far from being a coward, Snape had been practicing defense only, protecting both himself and his colleagues during their duel, and then had fled in order to deliver the message to Harry.  But there isn’t a sentence in the book that spells out, “Snape was not being a coward and McGonagall came to realize that later.”  (We do find out, in Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, that McGonagall put Snape’s portrait into the headmistress’s office.)  Similarly, we don’t get a sentence spelling out, “Not a pig for slaughter,” but that conclusion is there, I believe.

I think that was Dumbledore’s aim for everyone.  He engaged Snape to kill him in Draco’s stead to keep Draco’s soul intact, and then got the unforeseen but deeply happy surprise that Draco had it in him to keep his soul intact on his own initiative.  He asked Snape if Snape would be able to keep his own soul intact after killing Dumbledore, and did not proceed until Snape confirmed it.  He had to keep Harry from splitting his own soul by killing, or becoming more like Voldemort by killing.  He wanted Grindelwald in Nurmengard to know remorse and die with an intact soul.  Most difficult of all, he did his best to help Harry ensure that even Voldemort got to die with an intact soul and a choice.

Of course Dumbledore wanted Harry to save the world from Voldemort, but that wasn’t his main intent regarding Harry, or he wouldn’t have left the choice up to Harry in King’s Cross.  I don’t believe he was using Harry or Snape, or imposing his schemes on them.  I think he was keeping them alive and pointed in the right direction so they could follow their own wills.


On page 4 of the Introduction, Irvin makes a point that lays out the premise for this book and keeps the aim clear.

Dumbledore does not have all the information here.  This is a very important point:  what Dumbledore knows and when he knows it is as important to figure out as what he was planning and how it went wrong.  Many fans operate under the assumption, created by Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone, that Dumbledore is magically omniscient.  He is nothing of the sort — he just has a lot of knowledge and an incredibly impressive analytical mind.

From page 9 of Irvin’s Sorcerer’s Stone chapter:  “Dumbledore hides the Stone in the Mirror of Erised, convinced that neither Quirrell nor Harry will get it out.”

At first, I disagreed with Irvin’s read on this.

I’ve changed my mind now.  I think he’s right.  I wouldn’t have thought of it without his book.

I’d thought that, as he did in many other situations, Dumbledore had fixed things so that the Stone would be safe whether or not Harry was able to get it out of the Mirror:  either it would remain in the Mirror or it would go to Harry and Quirrell/Voldemort would be unable to touch Harry.  This would be like the failsafe choice between Voldemort dying of his rebounding final Avada Kedavra or dying of remorse, or Draco’s soul remaining intact because he would not attack Dumbledore or because Snape would kill Dumbledore.

But after reading Irvin’s arguments, I agree that Dumbledore had no reason to think that tiny little 11-year-old Harry had it in him to wish that he could take the Stone in order to protect it from Quirrell.  Dumbledore learned a lot about Harry, and was properly impressed and humbled, after that happened.

I also think that Dumbledore would not have assumed that an 11-year-old (or anyone, for that matter) could resist the lure of wanting the Sorcerer’s Stone for themselves, their own purposes, rather than for the selfless reason of hiding it from misuse.  This foreshadows the mistake he makes in Deathly Hallows, overly complicating the clues because he didn’t really believe Harry could resist the Hallows quest.  Of course, it turns out that Harry is not interested in uniting the Hallows, but Dumbledore never outgrew that longing himself.  It would fit with the rest of the series, with Dumbledore’s character, and with human nature for him to fear that others would share his weakness.

So, just as Draco casting Expelliarmus and then lowering his wand surpassed Dumbledore’s expectations and interfered with Dumbledore’s plan of succession for the Elder Wand, I agree with Irvin that Harry’s pure desire to hold the Stone in order to prevent misuse surpassed Dumbledore’s expectations and interfered with Dumbledore’s scheme to keep the Stone in the Mirror.


On pages 12-13 of the Sorcerer’s Stone chapter, Irvin mentions Clare Moseley’s theory, which I cite in the Snape book, that the Devil’s Snare protection for the Stone was meant for Neville.  He disagrees, thoughtfully.

It’s a good theory but does not really gel with how meticulous Dumbledore is about these things.

Neville’s proficiency at Herbology is not as overt in Sorcerer’s Stone; the first time it’s mentioned is Neville getting a “good Herbology mark making up for his abysmal Potions one,” [SS307] in the closing pages of the book.  Hermione’s aptitude for fires seems to be more indicative of facing off against Devil’s Snare.

An excellent catch, noticing that Neville is not mentioned as good at Herbology until after the Leaving Feast is over!  This nearly persuades me.  After consideration, though, I think the late mention of this detail is intended to reinforce the reader’s understanding of Neville’s role in the events.  Neville has been hovering just outside the three-person friendship for the whole book:  awkward, easily dismissed, but persistent.  It’s a surprise move from Dumbledore, and the author, to choose Neville’s House points to be the final component that tips the balance toward Gryffindor winning the House Cup, highlighting his less showy virtue of courage in standing up to friends.  Mentioning his skill at Herbology before the trapdoor chapter would have been foreshadowing, but mentioning it later, almost as an afterthought, is an effective way of underscoring to the reader that Neville has strengths we didn’t see from Harry’s perspective.  This sets up Neville’s role throughout the series, a lower-status outsider or secondary character who is nonetheless crucial to the story at all times, and seen as crucial by the adults at Hogwarts who are aware of his family history.

Later in the series, as we learn more about Peter Pettigrew’s resentment going unnoticed or Remus Lupin’s guilty conscience about not objecting to the bullying of the other Marauders, Neville being recognized for speaking up becomes more significant.  I’d like to think that when the Hogwarts teachers got together to discuss the protections, they included observations about Frank and Alice Longbottom’s child.

The Devil’s Snare protection gives us the priceless interaction between Hermione and Ron:  “ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?”  It reminds us that Hermione was raised as a Muggle, and it sets up Hermione to throw the line back at Ron later.  But I don’t feel convinced that it was a protection meant for Hermione in particular.  She is good with bluebell flames, but Professor Sprout might not have had occasion to notice.  Hermione struggles to recall what works with Devil’s Snare, but Harry has to suggest that she use fire and Ron has to remind her that she knows how; she doesn’t seem to have any particular aptitude or instinct about working with plants, just a general tendency to pay attention in class.  Meanwhile, the other teachers’ protections — the flying brooms, the chess, the logic puzzle — are so specifically targeted to the kids’ strengths that it seems unlikely to me that Hermione would have been assigned two challenges to Ron’s and Harry’s one apiece.

All in all, I’m still sticking with the conclusion that the Hogwarts staff considered Neville to be part of this particular drama, and that Professor Sprout designed a challenge meant to showcase Neville’s strengths.  But like many other details in this masterfully written children’s book, these things are only suggested, neither confirmed nor denied by the text, and there is nothing to contradict the reading that the Devil’s Snare challenge was meant for Hermione.

Transcript! MuggleNet Academia Lesson 52

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: Yeah!

Keith: 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.

Keith: Emily?

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.

(inaudible)

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?

Keith: Absolutely.

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: Drugs.

Keith: Drugs?

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]

What’s Canon? What’s Real? A Quick Guide to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Delivered at the Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, October 21, 2016.  It is incomplete, designed to fit into a 20-minute conference slot, but there will be plenty more to discuss along these lines, including Ron’s characterization as a Jungian trickster and the way Draco’s love for Astoria continues to strengthen him, as Snape was fortified by his love for Lily.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  For almost three months, we’ve been asking ourselves:  Do we like it?  Does it make sense?  Is it canon?

On my first read, I kept in mind that it was a play and I was missing the acting, the effects, the music.  This approach ended up undermining my ability to get to know the story – it introduced so much distrust of the words on the page.  The second time, I decided to stop worrying about that and read it as a straightforward story, asking a lot of the text, focusing on word choice, clues, repeated themes.  To my surprise, I found a way to read it that makes sense of the entire play to me, that unifies the wilder aspects of it, and that makes this play canon for me, absolutely and gloriously the eighth Harry Potter story.

For me, there are three main questions in the Harry Potter series:

  1. Why would anyone try to kill a baby?
  2. Why did this attempt fail?
  3. Can the community, the village, get this baby safely to adulthood with roughly the same chances at life that his peers can expect?

The first seven books explored that question and concluded, “All was well.”  What did that mean, “all”?  Certainly not that the wizarding world was free of evil.  But this one victim of a tyrant, through enormous collective effort, survived to achieve the unremarkable adulthood of his dreams, with a partner and children and ordinary struggles.

The eighth story of the series, for me, explores the question:  “Whatever happened to that baby?”  Well, he’s 40 years old now, and he has three kids.  So, how’s that going?  In most areas, it’s going well.  But in a few areas, the story isn’t over yet.

For many readers, our initial question about Cursed Child was:  “How will this mesh with preexisting canon?”  Three elements stuck out to me from my initial read:  Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater; Delphi being described, near the end of the third act, as having silver-blue hair; and Voldemort having a biological daughter.

Cedric:  the least likely personality ever to become a Death Eater.  Silver-blue hair:  a signifier of a Mary Sue, a generally disrespected fanfiction trope in which writers introduce an original character, often a stand-in for themselves, with fantasy appearance and greater powers than the characters of the source material.  Voldemort reproducing:  this raises all sorts of questions.  Hagrid once said, accurately, that Voldemort didn’t even have enough human in him left to die.  Could someone who subsisted on unicorn blood and snake venom father a child, even if he wanted to?

On my second read, I looked for something to explain these elements and found them in the riddles from Hermione’s bookshelf at the end of Act One.  The first two answers are familiar words, “dementors” and “Voldemort.”  The third riddle introduces a new key word:

I am the creature you have not seen.

I am you. I am me. The echo unforeseen.

Sometimes in front, sometimes behind,

A constant companion, for we are entwined.

In 1938, psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.  If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it.  Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications.  But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

In books one through seven, Harry’s shadow self can be characterized as Voldemort, and his struggle is to differentiate between his true self, including dark impulses, and the unwelcome effects of Voldemort’s crimes against him.  He’s terrified of becoming Voldemort.

In Deathly Hallows, when Snape is containing the damage to Dumbledore’s hand, he says “it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time.”  In Cursed Child, Draco uses similar words about Astoria’s illness:  “An ancestor was cursed . . . it showed up in her. You know how these things can resurface after generations . . .”  This is characteristic of Dark Magic.  Through our shadow selves, the parts of ourselves we cannot consciously remedy, we are at risk of passing on our damage to our children.

Jung said that the less an individual is conscious of his shadow, “the blacker and denser it is.”  Harry’s fears form the “dangerous black cloud around Albus” reported by Bane the centaur.  The problem is that it is often too frightening to recognize our own shadows, so we project them onto others, as Jung wrote in 1945:  “A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.”  Thus, when Harry is panicked by the rift with Albus, he attributes this “dangerous black cloud” to the return of Voldemort, or giants, or werewolves, or hapless little Scorpius Malfoy.  His shadow self is in control, defining that “dangerous black cloud” as, basically, “anything in the world except Harry Potter.”

If Harry’s shadow is Voldemort, I’m reading Delphi as Albus’s shadow self.  Jung said a person’s shadow is “continually subjected to modifications.”  Delphi presents several mutually contradictory identities, from the Tonks-like nurse to the girl whose name was ridiculed in school to the girl who was too frail to go to school to the young woman with silvery-blue hair to the Augurey who can fly.  At the end of Act Three, after they’ve checked out Delphi’s background, Hermione says, “There’s no record of her.  She’s a shadow.”  Her story changes according to what others need her to be.

Delphi first appears immediately after Albus overhears Harry telling Amos Diggory that the Time-Turners were all destroyed:  “Whatever you’ve heard, the Theodore Nott story is a fiction, Amos, I’m sorry.”  The next word in the script is Delphi saying hello.

Albus hears the word “fiction” and begins constructing his own fictions – hypothetical alternate universes, or AUs – to work through his feelings about his father-son relationship.

Why does that particular comment have such an effect on Albus?

Harry lies that all the Time-Turners were destroyed because, in his survivor guilt, he wants to push away Amos Diggory.  But he refused a different father’s plea for a public statement that all the Time-Turners were destroyed, even though this would change the life of his own son’s only friend.  Albus is chilled by his father’s inability to do what is right, rather than what is easy, regarding a father’s love for his son.  Albus conceives of Delphi as a caretaker and comfort for Amos Diggory, as well as someone who sympathizes with Albus that “It’s tough to live with people stuck in the past” —  stuck being the operative word here, immobilized by unresolved issues.

The next day, Harry demonstrates his inadequacy with an intensely awkward failed attempt to connect with Albus.

He gives James Sirius the Invisibility Cloak – thanks to Sirius and Remus, Harry knows enough of his father to pass on something to his adventurous Gryffindor son.

He gives Lily Luna fairy wings – thanks to the memories of his mother from Snape, Harry knows how to parent a girl who loves to fly.

But when Albus has been ostracized as a “Slytherin squib,” he has needed daily comfort, reassurance, an effort from his father to draw him out.  When his friend Scorpius has been rumored to be the son of Voldemort, Draco – whose father, for better and for worse, did advocate for him – has asked Harry to shut down the rumors.

Parental comfort and advocacy are things Harry never received.  Outside of a few treasured moments with Sirius, he had no adults to advocate for him – not when he was rumored to be the heir of Slytherin, or to have gotten his name in the Goblet of Fire, or to be lying about the return of Voldemort.

What little Harry has had, he gives to Albus, unable to hear that this is not what he needs.  He comes with Albus to Platform 9 ¾ and he signs the Hogsmeade note.  He tells Albus to get friends like Ron and Hermione, ignoring Scorpius.  He gives the baby blanket and we see Albus’s disgust:  That old thing?  That’s not enough.  And we feel the heaviness:  No, it isn’t, is it.  That’s all Harry got, fifteen months of parental love, and everything he got, he will give to Albus.  He doesn’t know how to give what Albus needs; once again, he feels pain because of things that Voldemort has stolen from him.

The day after that, Albus jumps off the Hogwarts Express.  From that moment, I read the various AUs, with and without Delphi, as the imaginings of a 14-year-old boy as he grapples with his father’s inability to see him for himself.  Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater?  Only someone who never knew Cedric Diggory – the pure-hearted student we readers got to know through Harry’s story – could even think that was possible.  Only someone who didn’t live through a Death Eater regime could think that a farcical humiliation is what it takes to turn a loving, secure, well nurtured young adult into a Death Eater.  Delphi as a silver-haired attractive older girlfriend?  Let us give thanks that in the Muggle world, our 14-year-old concepts of the ideal girlfriend or boyfriend are not visible to all.  Voldemort and Bellatrix as…parents?  Every possible scenario delves into uncomfortable or improbable territory, but aside from that, Albus can picture a world in which Voldemort and Bellatrix had a child because he is innocent.  He has never met Voldemort; he doesn’t understand the depth of his inhumanity.  He doesn’t know, as we do, that Bellatrix said if she had sons, she would have sacrificed them to the Dark Lord.

It makes sense to me to see the absurdities in these alternate timelines as the kids’ imaginations.  Cedric blowing up like a balloon, Bathilda Bagshot’s conveniently unlocked front door, Ron’s clownishness.  But these premises get Albus to the conclusions he needs.  Eventually, he and Scorpius meet Cedric Diggory, and the stories they’ve always read about him become real to them:  Cedric’s goodness, the pity of his senseless death and Harry’s blamelessness.  Eventually, seeing an alternate Ron accept the dementor’s kiss, they understand that he fought life-or-death battles.  Eventually, they understand the terror of Harry’s childhood.

One time, Delphi appears without Albus present:  when Albus and Scorpius are separated, she “scurries in” to speak to Scorpius, even though, as she says, “technically – I shouldn’t be here” – she’s Albus’s shadow, after all, not his.  Scorpius can’t help speaking jealously, asking how many owls Albus has sent her.  But she also transforms to meet some of Scorpius’s needs, confiding that she was isolated as a child, like he was; that she prefers “not to be seen as a tragic case”; that at his age, she, too, wanted a friend “desperately” and made one up; that Albus needs him and they belong together.  Scorpius rejoins Albus and they return to the past so Scorpius can take a turn at understanding his father’s shadows.

In speaking to Harry, Draco reveals an expectation of Scorpius that can only serve to make Scorpius feel unseen:  “Scorpius is a follower, not a leader, despite everything I’ve tried to instill in him.”  Scorpius is being scapegoated as the son of Voldemort.  To be disappointed in him for not being a leader makes no sense – it’s a Malfoy identity that’s stuck in the past.

Following Albus’s example, Scorpius travels to the past to understand a world in which Malfoys are leaders.  He emerges to be scolded by Professor Umbridge for upsetting the dementors on “Voldemort Day” – another comical scenario that makes sense when we think it was authored by a fourteen-year-old boy, especially this one.  Draco is a bureaucrat in the totalitarian Ministry, treating Scorpius coldly until they speak of Draco’s love for his late wife, after which Draco says, in careful doublespeak, “Whatever you’re doing – do it safely.  I can’t lose you too.”

Scorpius understands more, then, about how guarded Draco had to be as a young Death Eater.  At this point, his imagination leads him to Snape, the Slytherin mentor who taught Draco how to walk this line, how to protect the lives of his loved ones while speaking the party line – by drawing strength from thoughts of those he wants to protect.

Scorpius’s conversation with Snape shows one of the major wish fulfillment reasons why Potterverse characters crave Time-Turners:  to give posthumous thanks or apology.  Scorpius gets to deliver the tribute that Snape never heard:  that Harry Potter considered him “the bravest man he’d ever met.”  Scorpius doesn’t include Harry’s qualifier, “probably” – a Malfoy would have a different perspective on Snape, after all he did for that family.  Snape tells Scorpius that Death Eater “Cedric Diggory killed only one wizard and not a significant one – Neville Longbottom.”  The reminder of Neville’s role gives Scorpius a luminous alternative to the notion that being a “leader” is the only way to make a difference.

The Time-Turners in Cursed Child have frustrated some readers with what feel like inconsistent rules for time travel in Potterverse.  I found it helpful to read Time-Turners as allegory rather than science fiction.  In Prisoner of Azkaban, we saw Hermione use a Time-Turner under strict supervision, with two rules:  change nothing, and you must not be seen.  After a year of training, Dumbledore authorized her to be Harry’s time travel guide, the friend who would anchor him while he sought a different perspective on his own past.

Albus and Scorpius steal a Time-Turner and use it without supervision, with dangerous results.  Their goal, as they say to each other in second-year potions, is to “change everything,” rather than gain perspective.  They go back to meddle in the pasts of other people.  They are seen.  Their Time-Turner experience is nothing like Hermione’s.

A cardinal law of Potterverse is that super-magical objects must only be used to protect others, not for indulgence or personal gain.  When Draco appears with a more powerful Time-Turner, he is following the rules of Potterverse.  Draco longed to use his Time-Turner for one more minute with Astoria but resisted, proving himself a Master of Death.  He is right to produce it to connect with Scorpius and Albus.  For the boys to be freed of their fathers’ shadows, they will all need new perspectives on the past.

Albus, like Scorpius, needs to see the Augurey timeline, so Delphi reappears in her new identity as child of Voldemort, compelled by a prophecy.  Albus sees the constant threat Harry lived with as a child, feels protective toward his father, and sends Harry a message through their one point of connection, the blanket – a heartrending way for the story to show that sometimes, what little we can pass to our children is enough.  Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco accompany Harry to meet Albus and Scorpius.

Ginny understands what Delphi is in a way that Harry and Albus do not.  Albus says, “And she was – Voldemort’s daughter?”  Ginny does not answer yes or no.  The others think Delphi wants to return to the past to kill baby Harry, but Ginny realizes that Delphi wants to meet Voldemort and “be with him, the father she loves.”  Ron, ever the underrated strategist, suggests that Harry, Transfigured into Voldemort, lure Delphi where they can all “zap her together.”  Harry tells Delphi, “Come here, in the light, so I may examine what my blood made.”  Delphi says to Voldemort what Albus would find too painful to say to Harry:  “I have devoted my life to being a child you could be proud of.”

Hearing Delphi’s cry for parental love, Harry cannot maintain Voldemort’s form, and Delphi recognizes him.  She attacks with the cry, “Are you crawling away from me?  Harry Potter.  Hero of the wizarding world.  Crawling away like a rat.”  An unhappy teenage boy might well be this angry at a father who doesn’t have the guts to face his own child’s anger.  Delphi’s anger is stronger than Harry’s magic, but Harry overpowers her with the combined strength of all of his loved ones – showing Albus that even if he has doubts about Harry, he can trust in the faith that his mother, Hermione, Ron, and even Draco show in Harry.

Carl Jung wrote, “When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness.  We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness.  But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.”

When Albus sees that Harry has overcome his shadow self and taken on Voldemort’s form without fear, has brought Delphi’s murderous rage into the light and proven himself merciful, Albus no longer needs Delphi.

Earlier in the play, Draco told Harry that Tom Riddle was a lonely child and that he thinks Ginny understood that.  We see that on a subconscious level, Harry understands this, too, through his dreams of Aunt Petunia.  When he dreams of them running away from his Hogwarts letters, Petunia says, “The boy has cursed us!  This is all your fault.”  In a later dream, Petunia tells lies about James and Lily and Harry hears Voldemort’s voice:  “I smell guilt, there is a stench of guilt upon the air.”  This is what Voldemort said to his Death Eaters when he regained his body in Goblet of Fire, the rage of a child at the caretaker who has neglected him and then, guilty, cursed the child by projecting blame.

Enabled by Ginny, Albus, through Delphi, is able to express this rage to Harry as Voldemort, and still be loved.  Until baby Harry, Tom Riddle never encountered a power greater than his own infant rage, able to commit murder out of anger before he reached adulthood.  Harry has just given Albus what Tom Riddle never got.  This gives Albus the security to understand Harry’s effort in fighting through his own darkness to be a parent – the very thing Harry was hoping Albus would understand when he gave the gift of the blanket.  The use of a Time-Turner to witness Voldemort’s attack is an allegory to mean that Harry and Albus, anchored by friends, returned to the past to change nothing, just gain new perspective.  Once they witness what baby Harry survived, Delphi disappears:  “And slowly what was there is no longer there.”

For me, this sequence answers the question:  Did Harry Potter get a family who could understand what he went through?  For me, this is the eighth Harry Potter story, and it is absolutely canon.