10 Harry Potter Quotes that Just Scream “Trans Rights”- No Matter What J.K. Rowling Says

This is a reblog of an eloquent entry by Emma Curzon.  I have thought of many of the same quotes over the past several weeks.

Emma's Book and Treasure Shelf

The last few months haven’t been a great time to be a Harry Potter fan- particularly not if you’re also LGBTQ+, and even more particularly not if you belong to the “T” part of that equation. J.K. Rowling’s recent Twitter activity and long-winded spiel of transphobic dog-whistles and conspiracy theories (no, giving trans kids puberty blockers is not “a new kind of conversion therapy”) have- to put it mildly- made things difficult, especially for those of us who grew up with and were influenced by her work.

(For a complete analysis of why Rowling’s “essay” is transphobic, I’d strongly advise checking out the below video, made by Jamie Raines and Shaaba Lotun, for a literal full breakdown.)

As I discussed in my recent post, ‘The Harry Potter Fan’s Guide to Dealing with J.K. Rowling’s Transphobia’, your relationship with Rowling’s fictional work is- especially if you’re trans-…

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Discussing Nagini with Parinita Shetty of the Marginally Fannish Podcast

Ph.D. student Parinita Shetty is the creator of the Marginally Fannish podcast, in which she uses an international lens to examine fan podcasts as sites of public pedagogy.  For a delicious break from quarantine life, she invited me onto her show for an hour of talk about how much I love the character of Nagini in Crimes of Grindelwald, and why.  The Marginally Fannish website includes not only the episode, but a transcript as well!  Check it out.



Stars on Ice April 20, 2018, Hershey, PA

Thank you to Becky Mezzanotte for the header photo.

To read the show review of Stars on Ice, skip down six paragraphs.


What does figure skating have to do with Snape? Nothing in particular. (Although if anyone wants to write a fanfic in which Snape is lead potioneer for a government-sponsored athlete doping scheme while secretly working undercover to expose the scheme and administering harmless placebo potions to the unwitting athletes, I’ve got baskets of plot bunnies to give away for free…)

Figure skating was my first fandom.  Figure skating Usenet groups and discussion forums were the place where I first learned how to be a fan, and in fact, figure skating fandom was where I first heard of Harry Potter.  (Anyone else remember the Skating magazine feature that asked several eligible skaters their Hogwarts houses?  Loren Galler-Rabinowitz, if I recall correctly, confessed that her family called her “Hermione”; I think Johnny Weir claimed Slytherin, “like all true competitors.”)

Twenty years ago, I ran Rainbow Ice, the first website for LGBTQ issues in figure skating. The archives remain online, partly for humor purposes; click to see state of the art HTML conventions for 1998. The purpose was serious, though; the figure skating world was generally conflicted about how to discuss LGBTQ issues, since figure skating was simultaneously the gayest and most closeted of Olympic sports.  Rainbow Ice applied journalistic standards to the question:  public discussion of an LGBTQ skater was fine if that person had made statements on the public record, in outlets such as interviews, books, and news articles.

The first U.S. skater to be out while Olympic-eligible was Doug Mattis, at the Gay Games in 1994 and in a 1995 interview of him that I wrote for the Philadelphia Gay News.  Later that year, Rudy Galindo came out in Christine Brennan’s book Inside Edge, weeks before winning the 1996 U.S. national title and world bronze medal.  Some within the skating world thought (or feared) that this presaged a deluge of gay male skaters coming out, but it did not.  I discussed a few of the reasons why in articles for Outsports and Newsweek.  It was not until 2015, when Adam Rippon came out, that an eligible U.S. competitor was out while being a top contender for the Olympic team.  As Time magazine noted, he went on to become one of the most influential voices to emerge from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

And here we are, 20 years after I launched Rainbow Ice, with our first U.S. skater to be 100% out and loud while competing at the Olympics.  The politics are fraught; there are many gay skaters from the U.S., some of whom have come out after finishing their Olympic careers, who had complicated and involuntary reasons for remaining officially closeted against their will.  Those stories are not mine to tell, but I know of many of them and these skaters are not less brave or revolutionary.  When Adam Rippon brings tears of pride to our eyes, it’s not necessarily because he’s different from his peers for being out.  It’s that we know what all of them have faced in this odd, gender-imbalanced, sometimes extremely conservative sport.

As for me, figure skating broke my heart in 2003 and I left the fandom.  The same people who are now in the news for attacking U.S. electoral politics, such as Trump Tower tenant and Russian mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, destroyed the sport as it existed in the U.S. in a judging scandal at the 2002 Olympics, and my love for watching the sport couldn’t override my horror at the sport’s corrupt response to the fallout.  It’s too long of a story to get into here, but you can read the details in Cracked Ice by pioneering Olympic judge and referee Sonia Bianchetti, which I had the honor of line-editing.

Figure skating fandom is, therefore, my problematic ex.  But occasionally, when I’m feeling strong, I can look through my fingers to peek back at the sport I used to adore.  The 2018 lineup of Stars on Ice was irresistible for me.  All right; one more time, I broke out the glitter eyeshadow and headed to the arena for my first SOI in probably 15 years.

Stars on Ice, April 20, 2018, Hershey, PA

My friend V. and I had on-ice seats, directly next to the skaters’ entrance, on an end row.  This made for an unusual perspective, eye-level with the skaters, so we didn’t get any of the intended overhead views, but we did have a sense of immediacy, not to mention a creeping chill around our ankles from the ice itself.

Skating to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” Ashley Wagner led the cast out for the intro.  To adoring screams, Adam Rippon took the center of the circle in his role as breakout star of the 2018 Olympics (and newly-minted member of the Time 100 list).  For a few moments, I thought admiringly, “Yes, this is the queen…”  Then Davis and White took the center, and I realized:  there are queens, and then there’s Meryl Davis, High Queen of Queens.  For presence and star quality, even among these luminaries, she’s untouchable.

Karen Chen opened with a voiceover about her Olympic experience and stunned the audience with her gracious spins, including a flying camel and a Biellmann.  Good double axel; she had lutz problems last night.

Jason Brown did “The Room Where It Happens”!  The Stars on Ice video backdrop went gradient gold like the Broadway show logo.  I wore my Alexander Hamilton t-shirt in honor of this program.  I’m going to get meta here for a moment.  This song is about, among other things, how the U.S. Capital was awarded to D.C. but the true capital of the nation remained in the banks of New York, how our first treasurer “got more than [he] gave,” how he wanted what he got.  There were only three Olympic spots for U.S. men and half a dozen worthy contenders this year; this time, Jason Brown didn’t go.  But out of this year’s skaters, he’s the one who is lauded and adored by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the political poet laureate of our nation; he’s the one about whom the New York Times wrote the starstruck cover story, The Unabashed Beauty of Jason Brown on Ice, one of the rare mainstream articles about this sport that really got it in a way that resonated with hardcore fans.  With his body of work, Jason Brown has created something greater than whether or not he qualified for a second Olympic Games.  He gave us a triple flip, his gorgeously held mazurka, a beautiful camel spin, a triple lutz (right into our corner!), and a thrilling scratch spin… Yes, this was worth the two-hour drive to Hershey.

Who here remembers Tuffy Hough skating to Queen’s “Body Language” in vintage SOI?  (raises hand)  Can Mirai Nagasu live up to that high bar of sexiness?  Oh yes, she can.  She did her double axel in front of us and the BEST moment was her savage joy when she carved out an authoritative landing.  There’s nobody like Mirai for celebrating the primal attack roar that is the figure skating jump.  Her red lipstick.  That is it, in one image.  Oh, that scratch spin, that triple flip, that triple toe, that outside spread eagle.  Rawr.

The Shibutanis were next, all that is fresh and good about the world.  Impossible though it seems, they are each even cuter in person than they are onscreen.  The cleanliness of their steps does a thing to my brain.  It clarifies and re-sets my thoughts and gets everything running smoothly, like Swiss machinery.  Her running shtick of upstaging him, this time with an assist from her ponytail, gets a laugh from me every time.  The joke is, of course, that when there’s perfect unison, no one can ever upstage another, although there is occasionally the moment when two silhouettes overlap perfectly to create a single flawless image.

Karen Chen, Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, and Ashley Wagner emerged to do a pastel group number to “Dream.”  Ashley was showcased, doing a forward spiral around the circle, clockwise to the counterclockwise rotation of the other three, the senior member of [team + alternate] that is just starting this recovery tour from the Pyeongchang Olympics.  This choreography seemed to acknowledge the shared group experience and also, I think, her status as the most accomplished show-woman of them all.

And now, Adam.  The STAR.  Crowd goes wild.  He graciously encourages the adulation.  Everyone, watch this — no, seriously.  You know how humans, especially Americans, who seem loud but are secretly really terrible at receiving compliments, have a hard time accepting due credit?  Watch this guy.  This is how you do it.  You know you’ve worked hard.  You know what you’ve given up to earn what you have.  Accept the acknowledgment.  It is not too much.  This is no more than we all deserve.

He’s wearing my favorite costume of the night:  a painter’s palette of a white shirt, with slashes of red, yellow, and blue paint, so much potential, someone starting a new canvas. Double axel, triple salchow, triple flip, a truly beautiful flying camel into sideways sit spin.  Russian split, ahh.  Layback.  Silence.  There are so many eloquent silences in this choreography.  Reminders to wait for it.  Breathe.  Continue.

Bradie Tennell skated her Cinderella program, with triple lutz, double axel, triple flip, sideways layback into two-handed Biellmann.  I can barely make out my notes here:  I think I wrote that she did an “airy triple loop,” first loop of the night from anyone, into a left forward outside spiral and Ina Bauer and an outside camel into sideways sitspin.  Lovely sequence to end the program.

Nathan Chen’s program to “Back from the Edge” was stunning.  He did a quad toe loop — in a show program, under spotlights!  I don’t know how often skaters have done quads in shows while I’ve been on hiatus from skating fandom, but it’s the first time I’ve seen one.  The song has a determined, almost rebellious message that goes well with the costume look, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves worn loose except for one button.  Very heartthrob, serious, dangerous.  He did a jump at the other end of the rink that I couldn’t see well — it might have been a triple flip, bam, out of nowhere.  The choreography included a lot of whole-body movements on twisted axes, showing internal struggle and resolution and growth, a very personal program but outwardly expressive toward the audience rather than introspective.  His ending spin had the purest centering.

Adam Rippon and the Shibutanis did a short transitional ensemble to “One is the Loneliest Number,” with some solo and some trio work.  My notes say, “Enchanting Maia.”  She has quite a bit of emotional range in the group numbers, I find.

Hubbell and Donohue’s “Across the Sky/Caught Out in the Rain” showed such a different approach to ice dance.  Rather than highlighting unison and presenting a single story to the audience, the two partners continually worked off each other, reacting to each other, and the relationship between them made the story.

Ashley Wagner, with “I Am Here,” continued this show’s theme of how skaters respond to hitting bottom and recovering.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t see her skating this year without wishing, painfully, that she could have skated in Pyeongchang, too.  She included a triple loop and double axel and showed her usual powerfully controlled style, letting us see the muscle and willpower it takes.  I’m glad we have this mature performer to be up front about process, in her programs and in her public statements.  It’s an acknowledgment of the place that Olympic-level figure skating holds in U.S. culture, a sport that we watch because as a medium, it works so well at telling the story of wanting things, working for them, struggling to be and to show our best selves.

How fortunate we are to get Davis and White on this year’s tour, the only ones not to have competed this season.  I don’t have notes on them beyond “Meryl is perfect,” which is not helpful for review purposes, but does get across that I was too absorbed in the performance to write more!  Charlie White did work at the Olympics this year, but as a broadcast commentator.  More importantly to me, he has been an engaged, politically-minded citizen whose opinions sometimes get retweeted on my timeline by people who have no connection to skating and probably don’t even know why this guy has a blue check mark by his name.  I find that he knows how to word things so they make sense, and more than once, I’ve appreciated his statements.

Intermission!  Zamboni break, followed by a group number from members of local skating clubs.

Part Two opened with an ensemble number to “Shape of You,” with three couples all in blue costumes, portraying a club scene:  Davis and White, Hubbell and Donohue, and Nathan Chen with Ashley Wagner.  I could not take my eyes off Chen and Wagner.  Unlike the other couples, they are solo skaters doing something that is outside their comfort zone, and the freshness of that challenge made their skating so compelling in this number.  You could see them concentrating in hold, keeping their steps precise, remembering to project flirtation to the audience.  It was a little startling to remember that Wagner has known Chen since he was a child, because their chemistry was convincing, very well done.  Imagine being the kind of person who trains half to death, getting every detail perfect, and then being told that you have weeks to learn a new skill well enough to take it on tour!

What can I say about Jason Brown?  He does everything well, solo and ensemble.  He stands out as a good dancer even next to the ice dancers.  His club-style “Can’t Stop the Feeling” program has a loose-limbed feel, with backward (bejeweled) baseball cap and all.  He did four enormous Russian splits in a row, one to each side of the arena.

Karen Chen blew kisses to us all with “Blow Your Mind.”  Another lutz problem, ow, but then an impeccable series of spins.  Flying camel to inside edge to sideways sit, her hair partially tied back and flowing loose.  In her sparkly red bralette with black fringe, she had an iconic Asian American pop-star vibe that reminded me of the buzz recently around Hayley Kiyoko, who, I was delighted to find, is Sarah Kawahara’s daughter.  I like the lightness to Karen Chen’s expert laybacks, as though they don’t cost her any effort at all.  What a spinner.

Hubbell and Donohue skated to Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel.”  Wow, her back muscles!  Again, this program was not about unison.  They were weaving around each other, forming constantly changing, complementary shapes.

Yesss, Mirai Nagasu in a cape, exploring the dark side of the story with “No Good Deed.”  Delicious.  Double axel, triple flip with a huge smile, change-edge spiral, Ina Bauer into triple loop, layback into two-handed Biellmann.  This is a good Stars on Ice season for songs with character depth.

The all-guys ensemble to “Feel It Still” was pure pleasure, like the song itself, like a good-natured smile that can’t stop.  At ice level, on a short end, I couldn’t appreciate the choreography.  It didn’t matter.  They were playing.  They had hats.  It made me happy.

Bradie Tennell did a double axel and triple loop to “This Is Me.”  It’s going to be exciting to see how her time on this tour adds to her audience connection on next year’s competitive circuit.  My head spins when I think what a different skater she’ll be from the one who started her Grand Prix season in autumn 2017.  National title, Olympics, Worlds, SOI — imagine assimilating that degree of new experience, all in one year!

Jason and Zach came out to urge everyone to vote for Adam and Mirai on Dancing with the Stars and to toss t-shirts into the crowd.  I loved Jason’s testimonial that Adam is “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”  Jason is so positive, such a force for good, I feel like he’s the skating embodiment of the We Rate Dogs scoring system.  13/10 for everybody!

And then, the moment I, and I think many others, had been waiting for.  Adam Rippon’s “Let Me Think About It,” without the pressure of being a competitive short program.  Live.  In front of our eyes.  This piece of gay skating history.  I cannot express the fullness of my love for this program and what it means to a lot of fans I know.  (It’s true:  lesbians, and bi women, do love Adam!  I know more than one who was disappointed not to have packed a rainbow flag or a banner to wave for him last night!)

It was a show program here, so a sleeveless tank top it was.  Triple flip, triple salchow, a solid camel spin with positions that looked like sculpted marble, camel into sit with so many changes of feet that I lost count, a hand wave inviting the audience to show him love, layback, scratch…. Augh, so good!  The choreography, the poses in this program make a perfect blend of muscularity and femme aesthetic.  V. said fondly, “I feel like he’s Rudy’s baby,” remembering Rudy Galindo’s club dance programs from the late 1990s.  Did I give this performance a standing ovation?  I did.  Twenty years ago — no, 24 years ago, I was watching Doug Mattis skate an exhibition at the 1994 Gay Games, thinking about the conundrum of the figure skating closet, seeing the toll it took on the skaters, wondering if there was anything I could do, anything that could make it better.  Look at this beautiful man.  Thank you, Adam Rippon.

Shibutanis to “Fix You/Paradise.”  Maia’s loose braid looks so real in this program, with flyaway bits deliberately undoing the lacquered Asian bun aesthetic, natural and free.  With the Shibutanis and Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen and Nathan Chen, I was thinking a lot about the Asian American faces of figure skating last night, and the importance of hair.  I have taught my daughters to comb their black hair smooth for performance, to fix it with hairspray and position the flower clips and, when the time comes, to select just the right red lipstick.  I didn’t know, when I started watching figure skating for fun, how much it would teach me about parenting.

Ashley Wagner, “La La Land.”  Double axel.  Oooh, nice glide in her stroking, smooth and noiseless.  Triple toe, double axel, something at the other end that might have been a triple lutz.  Split loop and falling leaf and outside spread eagle and flying camel jumpover sitspin and… my notes say, simply, “This is a good program.”

Short interlude with Madison Hubbell, Maia Shibutani, and Zach Donohue, with Zach lifting Maia!  You could feel people’s breaths hitching when they saw that.  The three of them doing back edges, one after another, the length of the rink to the exit.  Beautiful.

Davis and White, “Elastic Heart,” with a long silk as a prop.  They started out leaning on each other and the program emphasized their connection through their upper bodies rather than feet or legs.  The silk sometimes connected them, sometimes tethered, sometimes helped one anchor the other.  Sometimes Meryl wrapped it around her waist and then like a crossbody sash, fastened with a swift bow, making it look elegant until it was time to unwrap the silk and bring it back into play.

Nathan Chen, “Nemesis.”  Smart!  The more he skates this program in different contexts, the more solidly he’ll associate it with the satisfaction of coming back from a rough start at the Olympics to a record-smashing freeskate and then a world title.  I have triple lutz, triple toe, triple flip in my notes, but I don’t think I saw everything clearly; there might have been a quad in there somewhere.  Loved his ballet leaps, his fluid whole-body movement quality, his gritted-teeth intensity, his terse and practical nature, his true scratch spins.  It’s exciting to see someone come into their adult maturity before your eyes.

Finale!  The skaters raced around the ice surface, greeting audience members, high-fiving or even hugging them.  I got to blow a kiss to Adam Rippon and I got one back in return!  Then they all returned to the center, and I laughed happily when they highlighted Davis and White.  Ah yes, that’s right:  everyone is a star here, everyone unthinkably gifted, but there is one team here that has won actual Olympic gold, and it diminishes nobody to acknowledge them.  I loved the simple black costumes for this finale, the men in lightweight hoodies and the women in ballet wrap dresses, looking comfortable and athletic, looking like what skaters sometimes say to ground themselves during competition:  “Do it like practice.”  Being part of Stars on Ice is a reward for their Olympic-season triumphs.  I like how this year’s numbers showed us how these skaters got where they are.

Larry Nassar is sentenced to Nurmengard

A major theme of Potterverse is that there are worse things than death.  Primary among them:  remorse.  Even if you’ve split your soul through crime, you can reintegrate it through remorse, but remorse is “excruciatingly painful.”   You’ve got to really feel what you’ve done, and the pain of it can kill you.

Larry Nassar, who abused at least 150 girls and women as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is learning this firsthand.  During his trial, in a letter that was six pages long single-spaced, he complained that it was detrimental to his mental health to keep listening to his victims as they confronted him in court.  He had passed out twice before his sentencing for related child pornography charges.  Judge Rosemarie Aquilina cut short a session so he could meet with mental health providers, but they did not recommend any accommodations for him; he was apparently of sound mind and therefore qualified to hear what his victims had to say to him.

At the end of Goblet of Fire, Harry’s wand connected with Voldemort’s, creating an understanding between them that generated a shimmering dome of golden threads.  With all his strength of mind, Harry forced a bead of magical light toward Voldemort and into Voldemort’s wand, whereupon ghost-like representations of Voldemort’s murder victims appeared from his wandtip, surrounded him, spoke to him, and obscured Voldemort’s view long enough for Harry to make his escape.  Harry was the only person who ever connected with Voldemort enough to make him really feel what he had done to so many victims.

With similar strength of mind, Judge Aquilina immobilized Nassar so he had to listen to his victims’ testimony, and despite his groveling pleas, she would not sever the connection.

When Dumbledore conquered Grindelwald, he did not kill Grindelwald but locked him up in Nurmengard, the prison that Grindelwald himself built to house his victims.  Grindelwald lived more than 50 more years in that prison, in sound mind, experiencing remorse, feeling the harm he had caused.  When Voldemort came to attack him about the Elder Wand, the elderly Grindelwald laughed at him, “Kill me then, Voldemort, I welcome death!  But my death will not bring you what you seek….  There is so much you do not understand….”

Larry Nassar didn’t have to hear anything other than accounts of what he had already done to other people.  This prison is only as uncomfortable for him as he has made it through his own actions.

No wonder so many characters in the Harry Potter books, from Harry to Dumbledore to Hermione to Snape, go to extremes to prevent others from committing murder and other unforgivable crimes.  Living with those crimes can feel worse than death; it’s worth the effort to avoid such a fate.  In Sorcerer’s Stone, Firenze tells Harry that those who kill unicorns to drink their blood have “slain something pure and defenseless” and “will have but a half-life, a cursed life,” thereafter.

Larry Nassar is only 54 and his sentence for sex abuse is 40 to 175 years.  He might have quite a long time to think about what he’s done.

“But if the lights go out, how can we go on?”  Sons of an Illustrious Father, Revol, and art in 2017

[Note:  Skip down 10 paragraphs if you just want to get to the stuff about this album, Revol by Sons of an Illustrious Father. -Lorrie Kim]

Lin-Manuel Miranda got me through 2016, the year we slipped into the darkest timeline.  When the pointless cruelties toward people of color and queer people made me feel more bitter than I had in years, Hamilton’s cleverness was a respite and a balm.  I could still laugh in startled pleasure at wordplay, glory in the exuberance of Miranda’s fusions.  Genius was in the air, polyglot stars spinning out of his brain into the skies over us all, and it felt so good.

That spring, ten blocks from my house, the university in my neighborhood hosted a near-palpable collision. (Could it really have been only last year?  We have grown so haggard since then, as a nation.) Joe Biden and Trump, then a malevolent racist political candidate, sat under the same tent to witness graduation.  The following day, to roars of relief and welcome, Lin-Manuel Miranda cleansed the space when he gave a commencement address.  At his remarks about the importance of American immigrants, the crowd — including the university president and provost, onstage — leapt pointedly to a standing ovation. 

Of all the horrors of 2016, nothing anguished me like the Pulse nightclub shooting.  Gay clubs have been, for me, sacred spaces to celebrate beauty and the erotic divine; celebrations for people of color at gay clubs, immeasurably more so.  When I watched Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Tonys, delivering the elegiac sonnet he had composed in less than a day, I understood for the first time why civilizations want poets laureate.  This was the poet of my heart and my country.

My book Snape: A Definitive Reading got published the following month — could it really have been only a year ago? — the same month that my city hosted the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  The week after the convention, an exhausted-sounding but lovely reporter from the local paper of record called me for a quick Q&A about my book.  When I wrote the book, I had assumed it would be of extremely limited interest.  But by the time it was published, the Harry Potter stories had gained new relevance in the American popular discourse as dystopian allegory alongside other political books such as 1984, The Hunger Games, and The Handmaid’s Tale.  There was open talk of rounding up religious minorities and people of color; we couldn’t avoid comparisons to Death Eaters, Snatchers, and the Muggle-born Registration Commission.

But I still thought, back then, that we would vote our way out of this timeline.  I was still able, sometimes, to withstand the sound of Christopher Jackson, as George Washington, singing “One Last Time” in the Oval Office to Barack Obama.  My president was still black; reason still counted for something.

The November election dealt a staggering blow to my neighborhood of mosques, immigrant churches and businesses, poets and translators and scientists, parents with strollers, anarchists and queers and trans communities all within blocks of my house.  Every day was a new attack on something beautiful and whole.  The weekend after that hellish election, the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premiered in New York.  A friend who had a ticket to J.K. Rowling’s Carnegie Hall appearance had to walk past Trump Tower to get there, and reported thousands of protesters.  At the press events, the actors and creators appeared to be in a bit of a daze, as I was:  their movie, which I’d intended to view as an allegory, was suddenly looking more like a documentary.

After that election, it became Rachel Maddow, then, and not Lin-Manuel Miranda, who got me through the days.  I still loved Hamilton, although a friend of mine, a woman of color who grew up in Queens, could not listen to that soundtrack anymore after the election.  She felt betrayed by her own hope; it was too painful to have believed, really believed, for a few months, that the kind of people she grew up with could be seen as the face and the brains of the country.  I was arrested by the heart-in-throat spectacle of actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, addressing vice president-elect Mike Pence from the stage as Pence exited the theater.  It seemed too much to ask of artists alone, to do the heavy lifting every day of my spirits.  I was glad to witness the long-overdue respect for journalism as a profession by the American public, who had grown complacent in demonizing the press while taking for granted the painstaking way that journalists fact-check and pursue the truth.  I was only a full-time journalist for a short while, but I will always be proud of the profession.  The sight of Rachel Maddow bracing herself and plowing through to the truth no matter what, her cleverness tempered by her matter-of-fact resistance to hyperbole, helped me hold on to reality.  The quiet, intense mutual knowledge between her and Dan Rather, the times I saw him guest on her show, as they clasped hands and understood each other:  that is one of the most powerful versions of love I’ve ever seen.  In this ugly war against all that makes sense, they showed me that truth still exists, connection between human minds still exists, and it is worthwhile and good.

The ugliness worsened.  There were days when I couldn’t make myself do much more than absorb the news and cry over the brutishness.  On those days, I would knit.  I wasn’t going to make pussyhats at first; among my loved ones, it doesn’t work to correlate gender and genitalia.  And whatever energy I did have to knit or crochet was going toward the felted octopus toys I was making for my then-tween daughters to sell at craft fairs.  But when I saw how my daughters and the other schoolgirls reacted to the pussyhats, how angry they were and how proud, I reversed my policy.  I made them hats in classic hot pink, and then for their friends, and then more and more, in the colors of rainbow pride and trans pride and ace pride and bi pride and pan pride and nonbinary and genderqueer pride.  

hats and sleeves

When I wasn’t making hats, I was knitting pride-colored coffee sleeves or illusion scarves that looked innocent from one angle but spelled out F U C K   T R U M P from another.  With every completed project, I posted photos with the hashtag #MadameDefarge.  My friends and I raised hundreds of dollars in donations for GLAAD with our rage-knitting.

I had learned the story of Arachne in second grade, but I didn’t understand until decades later why Athena destroyed Arachne’s weaving and turned her into a spider.  I thought it, when I was a child, just another instance of the Greek gods punishing mortals for equaling or bettering them.  Sometimes, though, in 2017, I have thought of Arachne and lifted my spirits by reading the titles of Chuck Tingle’s political satires.  Pounded in the Butt by the Sentient Manifestation of My Own Ignorant Climate Change Denial.  Domald Tromp Pounded in the Butt by His Fabricated Wiretapping Scandal Made Up to Redirect Focus Away from His Seemingly Endless Unethical Connections to Russia.  Pounded in the Butt by Covfefe.  This generous spirit provides his titles for free, as a gift, to lift the spirits of the masses.

I was good with having Rachel Maddow and Chuck Tingle as my sanity savers this year; I have many supports and privileges in my life, and it seemed it would be enough.  But then I stumbled into something extra and unexpected, a windfall, a gift of grace.

Sons of an Illustrious Father

I first read of the band Sons of an Illustrious Father while I was researching a talk about abuse in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  I had noted the humility and protectiveness in the character Credence Barebone, who howled through establishment New York like the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, enraged by hypocrisy.  I looked up the actor who played him:  Ezra Miller, who was also, it seemed, a musician in a band.  The article by Bradley Spinelli lamented that “the scary part” of Miller’s acting success is that Sons of an Illustrious Father might become a “casualty” of his filming schedule.

“The” scary part?  What was this band, to inspire such concern?

Curious, I downloaded Revol, their 9-song album from 2016.  I hadn’t listened to new music in ages.

revol soaif

Three or four ethereal bars into the first track, “ppm,” and I was hooked.

Three band members.  Nine songs, sung three apiece.  Three concentric shapes on their album art:  equilateral triangles, circles, squares.  Steadfast harmonies on every song, rotating duties on instruments so that each musician plays several interchangeable roles.  The tripod is a stable structure.  The collective is a dynamic that I trust and love for its ability to ensure that each person’s voice gets heard.

Excuse me; have I slipped into reverie already?  The band’s music has had that effect on me during this painful year.  On morning drives, when I’ve sought solace from the news and switched on Revol, my brain has calmed and and my thoughts have turned associative … happy … restored.  

The band says, in interview, that they begin concerts with a group hug, synchronizing their breathing and thanking each other.  

Just visualizing this brings me some balance.  It reminds me to thank the people who make things with me.

The cerebral harmonies of “ppm” re-set me, let my thoughts breathe again.  I could hear myself think.  My mind could play as I listened, the way Hamilton had allowed my listening self to play.  I could take pleasure in guessing what each of the individual musicians contributed to each song and where their ideas blended.  Revol, the title, is the kind of wordplay they do:  lover backwards, of course, and a revel but more playful with that “o” suggesting “gambol,” and of course revolt as in uprising, and the beginning of revolution, giving space to playfulness and love and sexuality and movement and dance in order to rise against oppressiveness.  Band member Lilah Larson calls their style “genre queer” — you can feel the many times her mind has played in the etymological connection between gender and genre.  Or at least, I like to imagine her enjoying that connection, the same way I’ve often treasured the kinship between textile and text as someone who works in both writing and the fiber arts.

(The cover image for Revol would work beautifully as a quilt block in reverse appliqué.)


The tranquil, celestial harmonies of these opening bars have soothed me on those nights when I’ve been too frightened to sleep, thinking, Please don’t bomb Korea.  What has Korea ever done but give the world movable type, skincare, and frozen yogurt?  Please don’t bomb my parents.

So, this must be Ezra Miller singing, yes?  What is he singing about?  I…can’t exactly tell, but the people singing with him seem unconcerned, so they must know.  “Your heart will know; your head won’t be sure.”  Ohhh…the richness of the alto is making me swoon.  I check the name again:  Lilah Larson.  She looks pleasantly radical.  Precise.  You want this woman singing backup for you.

Oh, and here’s a surprise.  The music picks up:  tempo change.  Then the song nearly pauses in contemplation.  Done with that thought, it changes tempo again.  What is this song about?  Sea, stars, fuel, miles, minds:  its scope feels light and nearly limitless.  I breathe easier after listening.


Driving synth beat, a different masculine voice, wry lyrics:  

He said, “Let’s go for a ride and see what we can be.” 

I said, “I’m not ready to die, so I guess it’s time to leave.”

This must be Josh Aubin, announcing himself with understated humor.  Deadpan, reticent.  Then an assertive peal of guitar, I’m guessing from Lilah Larson.  What is he singing about — who is he singing about?  There’s a “he” and a “she,” talk of running, of leaving.  Is this about romance?  Maybe not; it sounds more like a broken home, like fear and sadness, “waging all my hopes on what I couldn’t believe.”  Unlike “ppm,” there aren’t tempo changes to signal shifts in the wide-ranging emotions.  There’s a stoic sameness to the narration, so I have to listen closely to the lyrics to catch the mood, and the act of drawing closer creates a marked sense of internal monologue, of reserve.  Something happened; the singer remembers and will sing about remembering it, but he will not reveal all of it.  

New verse:  “She said, ‘You must think I’m crazy if you think I can leave.’”  On crazy, a whine of meticulously controlled feedback joins the lyrics, and a new strain of hummingbird-rapid drumming.  This must be Larson and Miller, adding their own witness to the story.  It hits me:  that’s the song.  It is not for me to know the private details, but Aubin’s bandmates know.  He isn’t alone anymore when he remembers.  The song feels stronger here.

The chorus hurts a little:  “This is real, but it’s not what we believe.”  There have been times this year when that line has brought tired tears to my eyes.  All the unprovoked attacks on people we love, on safety, on fairness:  this is happening, but we are better than this.  I don’t think the line was intended to be about the first months of post-Trump America, but that’s where I’ve been when I’ve sung along under my breath.


Everything else falls away.  Spotlight on Lilah Larson and a brooding torch song that is magnificent in its focus.  Her rich voice, the drawling guitar, the restrained lyrics all serve a single goal; the guys recede into steady backup as everything falls into line.  This song feels like a humid summer night, airless whether the windows are open or closed.  This is star quality.

And those three songs complete the first row of the nine-patch quilt block that is Revol, one lead per singer.  I know the band has said that they are moving more toward collaborating on their songs, but part of my joy in being a listener is in trying to hear the individual contributions and how they harmonize.  It looks like the drumming and percussion are primarily Miller, although also from the other two.  Guitar is usually Larson; you can tell by the confidence.  Synth and bass are usually Aubin; keyboards, Aubin or Miller, although I haven’t yet learned to distinguish between their sounds.  Fun.


Sometimes, something is so exactly what you need that it helps you exhale.  The instrumentals in this song are one good decision after another.  The lyrics remind me of the comfort of awe, of humility.

You know how people sometimes say, “Be kind to yourself”?  What can we tell ourselves that is kind?  

These words have helped me get through 2017:

We’re not yet out of time.

No, we’re not yet out of time.

We can still recover.

It is right for all of us to hold ourselves accountable, to be stern — but mercy is good, too.

Oh.  Oh.  That is the genre of this song:  prayer.

One note of this song is my favorite.  Song — that’s the word, song, from the line “Song sung deep in our hearts” — it’s an unexpected sharp semitone, astringent and clean like horseradish.

I love what lyrics I can make out in this song.  I did a search for the rest of them so I could get to know them, too.  That turned out, through no fault of the band’s, to be…a mistake.  I couldn’t find any official lyrics, but I did stumble across some unsettling ravings about one of the band members.  Oh, hello, elephant in the room.  The music itself makes the argument that this band rests equally on the dynamic between all three members, and the power of that give-and-take is exactly why I find their music so welcoming, but how to counter the distraction of imbalanced outside attention toward one of them?

It helps to return to the unhurried preoccupations of this song itself.  I can’t remember the last time I noticed that a song’s lyrics include an aside that is clearly set off by em dashes.  It makes me laugh in geeky delight every time I hear it.

 But if it’s more — and I think it’s more — self-realization in the context of the whole.

At least, that’s what I think the lyrics are saying.  Seriously, dear Sons, is there anything we could do to persuade you to release official lyrics?  Can we…fundraise for causes of your choice?  Send proof of political protest or acts of kindness?  

Here is a live recording of “Tendrils” so you can see the three musicians making quietude together, although do listen to the studio version as well, which has different strengths.

The Opposite of Love


Hurty love songs feel different when they’re by or about queer women.  

There’s a genre of women’s lovesong that can make listeners wince, true but painful songs about what we’re willing to give up of ourselves for love.  They can be hard to listen to when the loved ones are men.  But how does it feel to make the conscious offer to diminish the self, to cede the lovers’ quarrel, when both are women?

Among other things, it can feel like this.  Jangly guitar, a thick slow tempo like trying to draw breath during depression, and at one point, a masterful guitar arpeggio that shows exactly how much potency the singer is holding in check.

There’s a video to go with the song.  On probably half a dozen occasions in 2017, after politics delivered another blow to queerness in the U.S., I’ve played myself this video for comfort.

And this song once made me laugh out loud.  Clearly, it’s about a relationship that has had its conflicts, but that line, “I always take you back” — OMG.  Imagine wanting to date someone who was once with Lilah Larson and might not be over her.  Imagine trying not to feel insecure about it!  This thought once led to my kids asking me, “Mommy, what’s so funny?”

Heh.  Anyway.

One of my favorite things about this song is the stealth optimism in the title line.  There is no opposite of love.  There’s beauty in that.


Excuse me for a moment.  *googles*

Oh, so it’s not pronounced like French.  Excuse me again.  *googles pronunciation*

Josh Aubin’s voice is strong and rich on the deep notes here.

A great pleasure of getting to know this band’s music:  it lets you luxuriate in thought.  Wherever the music takes you, maybe — I hope — this band would not say you’re overthinking it.  It feels more likely that there would be stories behind the songs.

And those three songs are the interior third of the Revol nine-patch.


I got to see three American plays this year.  The touring company of Fun Home came to my town and I dropped everything to sit in the audience and marvel that I have lived to see Alison Bechdel hailed as a genius.  Decades ago, I was the first editor to syndicate Dykes to Watch Out For in a college publication.  I’m still proud of that.  Somewhere, I probably still have the canceled checks with her signature on them.

Last month, I saw Puffs off Broadway.  I’ll say more about that day later.

In between, I took a Bolt Bus day trip to see Indecent on Broadway, three days before it closed in August.  It wasn’t an easy trip to arrange, but I had friends who begged everyone to go to any lengths possible to see it, so I heeded.  It’s exactly the story for this American year:  Indecent chronicles the suppression and censorship of the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance, about the romance between two young women who live under the same patriarchal roof.  Yankl is a pimp; his daughter, Rivkele, lives in the family home upstairs, and she loves Manke, one of the workers in Yankl’s basement brothel.  God of Vengeance was shut down for indecency when it opened on Broadway in 1923.  Indecent tenderly restages the love scenes of God of Vengeance as part of its story.  This revolutionary love finally got to declare itself on Broadway, almost a century later.

If I ever make it to a concert by SOAIF, “Conquest” is the song I hope to see most.  More than once, while watching Indecent, I heard the opening bars in my head:

When the maiden fucked the whore

Took the old crone’s name in vain

Said “Oh my god, what insidious sin

To spread repression and shame

The song is powerful enough on the album, but live, it would undoubtedly be scorching, an all-out three-person rage against the patriarchy.  Sometimes, anger purifies spoken language.  Larson sings that forced sterilization keeps populations “to an amenable minimum” — the scansion in that line is always so satisfying.

The band’s web page features the graphic art version of this song by Larson and Aubin.  


I didn’t like this song at first.  I wasn’t on board with the title pun.  I wasn’t on board for the journey.

I soon learned that this song didn’t care if I liked it or not.  It was going to set its own pace, sometimes trudging, sometimes surging, sweeping me along with everything else before it.  It was no use to resist.  Ah, I did pay attention to the contemplative bridge, like a pause for water and reflection, and when the song got to its feet again to resume the march, I followed.  By the time the voices swelled to the defiant cry, “We won’t give in to fear even as they draw near — and we know they are legion”…  

Okay, okay.  You win, song.  I stopped resisting.  I no longer even wanted to resist.

When Dionysus is captured or denied, things do not go well.  From the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus:

They sought to bind him with rude bonds, but the bonds would not hold him, and the withes fell far away from his hands and feet:  and he sat with a smile in his dark eyes.

I can’t make out 80% of Ezra Miller’s lyrics.  Is it safe to stop resisting this song if I don’t even understand what it’s about?  Well, it’s too late to be asking such questions, isn’t it?  

And all at once a vine spread out both ways along the top of the sail with many clusters hanging down from it, and a dark ivy-plant twined about the mast, blossoming with flowers, and with rich berries growing on it; and all the thole-pins were covered with garlands.

I don’t know what this song is about.  I do know that when Dionysian ecstasy took hold, maenads ran wild, dancing to flute music, striking the ground with their pinecone-tipped staffs so that water or milk or wine or honey flowed forth.  And that men who tried to resist Dionysus or suppress the maenads ended up wearing women’s clothing and either joined in the ecstasy or were torn to pieces. 


Trust Josh Aubin to find a tangible analog medium to communicate song lyrics digitally.  Check out the words to “Post-Future” as an artist graffities them in immaculate lettering (and, bless, pristine spelling) in this lyric video.

This song is the right bookend to the album.  It starts as a lament, but there’s a lightness to it, matching the lightness in “ppm,” and it ends with a question.  In this year, when every day has been a struggle to find answers — What will it take for me to maintain equilibrium today? — Aubin reminds us that answers aren’t big enough.

But I want to live just to do something beautiful

And I want something to believe

I need something to believe

Revol lifted me out of answers and back to playfulness this year.  I had to pull myself up again several times a week, but that’s okay; albums are meant to be heard on repeat.  Listening to these songs, I could remember how it felt when my president was black and thoughtfulness had a place and I could relax in the world enough to listen to Hamilton and let my mind revel along.  I could swoon over Lilah Larson’s disciplined voice, or laugh to realize that Ezra Miller’s high-frequency vibe reminded me of a fidget spinner in its surprising stability and stamina, or let Josh Aubin remind me that words are tangible things we create. 

Sons of an Illustrious Father kept reopening the portal for me.  That’s some strong magic.

Other arts

I listened to songs other than the ones on Revol, of course.  I love every track on their EP Sons.  I love the rage they hammered into their song and video “U.S.Gay.”  My throat ached with pride at the line “I want fag tattooed in red on my forehead/A revolution in my bed.”  It whisked me into pure time travel, suddenly 1991 again and I was chanting with ACT UP alongside my loved ones, many of whom are still here.  I listened to Lilah Larson’s hoarse-voiced interview with Maia from BTRToday from their 2017 post-inauguration concert tour, three “coastal artist-types” driving all night to sing for “young queer kids” in red-state basements.  Gutsy, and so dear.  I listened to Larson’s solo album Pentimento, which brought me back to the women’s music of my early adulthood, like Ferron and Sweet Honey in the Rock, ordered on cassette from the Ladyslipper catalogue.

Autumn 2017 was busy.  I had writing deadlines, but also, an unconscionable amount of my time went to… well, I had committed to making inventory for my children to sell at a craft fair, and I found myself crocheting and felting 400 woolen octopus toys in under two months. 

(We will not attempt that pace again.)  

~A brief word about octopods.~

octopod soulmate.jpg

The kids had asked to try vending for years, and I had promised someday to develop a product.  I started making octopods as tree ornaments while I was researching and writing the Snape book, and I never stopped.  All my household is mad for octopuses, and long hours reading left my hands free to do craft, and they just kept multiplying, and people kept requesting more.  It turns out that, apparently, the world had a heretofore unidentified need for octopus friends shaped like tomatoes or three-eyed aliens, and I was put on earth to fulfill it.  We had found our product.

lemon and tomato holding hands

~So anyway.~

I met my writing deadlines.  The octopod sale was a wild success.  I decided I would do something only for me, then, and indulge in writing about Revol.  I amused myself by making octopod versions of Sons of an Illustrious Father, too:  who they would be if they entered the octopod mirror universe.  One with hat and embroidered glasses, one in black and red, one with a double-L logo.  I was halfway through this write-up and those octopods when I put them down to take a one-night trip to New York.

soaif octopods front view with book

soaif octopods top view.jpg

In mid-November, the Group That Shall Not Be Named, the vibrant HP meetup group in New York, invited me to deliver a talk.  I spoke about how I used Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to teach literary analysis and empathy to fifth graders, guiding them through brewing and taking their own Polyjuice Potion — lentil soup, in Muggle terms — in order to understand how it feels to be in another person’s skin.  

I figured since I was in New York and doing Potter things, it was a good time to see Puffs.  I laughed the entire time, went for late-night pizza, and headed for the subway with my weekend hosts.

You can decide for yourself if this part really happened.

Then Lilah Larson walked by, with a friend.

The next few seconds in my head went like this.

  • I should leave her alone.  Privacy.
  • I should tell her what her music has done for me this year.  She’s right there.
  • That would be so creepy.  I’m a total stranger.
  • She might like to know.  Would she?  I might, if I were her…?  But…creepy?
  • Do I have anything for her to sign?
  • Oh my god.  I have my Pentimento CD on me.

I dropped to the Manhattan sidewalk, ripped open my suitcase, extracted the CD, begged my hosts, “Watch my stuff,” ran after her, held it up and asked if she would sign it.

She and her friend saw the CD, laughed, and stopped.  

And I told her how this year, when one precious thing after another has been attacked by our government, when grief and fear have been too heavy, I have restored myself by listening to her songs.

And I uttered these words to another human being:  “I have an octopus doll of you at home, partially finished.  I have to sew eyes on it.”

And the other human being didn’t seem fazed by this sentence in the least.

And started singing the praises of octopuses.  “Have you been following the news?  They’re taking over!”  (It’s true.  They are.  They’re amazing.)  She has loved them for ages.

And I didn’t want to keep her and her friend from their evening for too long, but they were funny and kind, and I thanked them and said I would run back to my friends now and explain why I had abandoned them with my suitcase on the sidewalk.

And I did, and they laughed, and they marveled with me that I got to say thank you in person.

[It’s not that I always carry that CD with me.  I must have thrown it into my suitcase the last time I traveled somewhere, and because I am lazy and a slob, I had noticed while packing for this trip that it was still in there, and I didn’t bother to unpack it.  I have never even listened to Pentimento on CD, only downloads.  I bought it in both formats to thank the artist, and because I thought, maybe, someday I would make it to one of her concerts and get it signed.  I didn’t plan this.  If I had, I would have packed a better pen for signing.]

The artists have kept me going.  I am fortunate; I don’t feel alone in my daily life and neighborhood.  But nationally, it has been a bewildering year for those of us who think that individuals matter, that free thought is good, that humans deserve to have art and have joy.

Sons of an Illustrious Father reminded me that we’re not alone.  There are as many of us as there have always been.  As a gift from myself to me, to be kind, I took the time from my work and my family to write down how their music did that for me.


Lorrie Kim, Philadelphia, PA

November and December, 2017.

“One of the most joyful experiences of my life”: JK Rowling on working with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany on Cursed Child

Lavishly in-depth interview with the three creators of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Addresses several fan questions about that script:  Yes, she had veto power over the entire script and production, so anything there is there with her blessing.

No, it wasn’t for the money.  She has enough money.  She was excited and nourished by the challenge.

Yes, she gets told constantly that people are not happy with something she’s written or done.  “That’s the way it goes.”  She’s going to keep writing what she wants to write, because “I know full well, I have limited time left on this Earth.”

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.


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]

Introductory Comments at MISTI-Con Snape Discussion

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for Snape:  A Definitive Reading

Delivered at MISTI-Con, Laconia, New Hampshire, on Sunday, May 21, 2017

It’s been 10 years since Nagini bit Snape and the fandom still fights about this character.  Yet we all read the same books and watched the same movies.  It’s not like there are two series of Harry Potter books, one pro-Snape and one anti-Snape; a single set of words created this character.  But Rowling crafted him to be almost perfectly ambivalent.  Nearly all of his actions have at least two possible, contradictory interpretations.  This creates more facets, more interpretations than most characters have.  And more ways for readers to identify with him.

Yet Snape does have a true inner self that can be identified and defined.  Authors don’t always create characters as mysteries with a definitive solution at their core, but I think that’s how Rowling wrote Snape.

Occasionally, we get unambiguous views of Snape.  Times of mortal crisis expose his priorities:  His one moment of carelessness, leaving the Pensieve unattended while he runs to care for Montague.  His rescue of Draco.  His single-minded drive to find Harry Potter when Voldemort is about to kill him.  But most of his other moments are trickier to decode.

As someone who came to the series as an adult, the story I always wanted to read was Severus Snape and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Severus Snape and the Chamber of Secrets.  Severus Snape and what he was thinking during every bitter moment of those seven years as a supposedly reformed neo-Nazi teaching a scrubby little kid who lost his family because of Snape’s own earlier war crimes.  I read the series looking for that story, not the headliner, and I found it.  It’s all there.  That’s what I put into this book:  the Harry Potter series from Professor Snape’s point of view.

Severus Snape and the Sorcerer’s Stone introduces us to a 31-year-old grown man who picks on abused orphans, risks his own safety for people he dislikes, and spits on the ground when he’s feeling bitter.

Severus Snape and the Chamber of Secrets begins to lay down the groundwork of Snape’s covert strategy, executed in conjunction with Dumbledore:  he teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts undercover, to evade the curse on the position and establish a façade that will enable him to undermine Voldemort from the inside, when Voldemort inevitably returns.  Using the vacuous Gilderoy Lockhart as a decoy, he manages to transmit a basic Disarming Spell to both Harry and Draco, ingraining in them his own practice of non-aggression rather than attack, a tool that will eventually empower these kids to take down the two most powerful wizards of their age using nothing but Expelliarmus and Draco’s wand.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, everybody gets something their heart desires — a godfather, a friend, freedom, and flight — everybody, that is, except for Snape.  In Severus Snape and the Prisoner of Azkaban, if you track only what Snape sees, the story gets much darker.  The reader learns that Sirius and Lupin don’t want to kill Harry, and Lupin’s lies to Dumbledore have more to do with shame than conspiracy.  But Snape is still traumatized by how the Marauders used to treat him, and he is unconscious for some of the explanations that the kids hear.  For much of the book, Snape genuinely fears that Lupin and Sirius have a joint plan:  to build Harry’s trust in Lupin, lure him outside the castle while Lupin is transformed, and kill him the way they nearly killed Snape when he was a student.

That would explain why Snape is incredulous when Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t seem grateful to him for saving their hides from Sirius and Remus.  As for Snape’s screaming fit in front of Fudge in the Hospital Wing, if you look closely, you can see Dumbledore conveying to Snape that he has the situation under control, and Snape agreeing — resentfully — to let Fudge think that he is unbalanced.  A close reading also reveals that Dumbledore was neither angry nor surprised when Snape told the Slytherins about Lupin’s lycanthropy.  Dumbledore is disappointed in Lupin, who withheld crucial information and endangered the students, not Snape.  By taking it on himself to out Lupin, making it look like an act motivated solely by the hostile “I told you so” urges of a nasty, petty man — not a difficult performance, surely —  Snape was distracting people from justified criticism of Dumbledore’s judgment in hiring a werewolf who could not, as it turned out, remain completely safe around Hogwarts students.

Severus Snape and the Goblet of Fire shows Snape undergoing a second adolescence of sorts, his body changing as his Dark Mark intensifies.  By the end of the year, he has grown into the adult form of his second chance in life, his double agency.

Severus Snape and the Order of the Phoenix shows a man spread too thin, being all things to all people.  A close read of the Occlumency lessons shows that he teaches them in dead earnest, trying to hold back nothing from Harry while guarding against Voldemort, who is watching everything through Harry’s scar.

Severus Snape and the Half-Blood Prince is a Time-Turner-like story of an adult and the memory of his 15-year-old self, the mistakes he made in youth, the damage those mistakes continue to cause, and his painstaking resumption of evil deeds in order to save others from the same costly errors.  Snape’s guidance gives Draco something that Dumbledore, Grindelwald, Voldemort, and Snape himself never had:  a merciful mentor who can see a young man cross over into actual evil and not give up on him, not fear him, not shame him, still protect him and sing over his wounds, let him know, in essence:  “There is nothing ugly in you that I have not already seen.  I know all, and I have still come to save you.  You cannot disgust me.”  He saves Harry from unwittingly causing a death with Dark Magic, assigns Harry a tedious course of punishment and then, once he fulfills the terms, lets him go — ensuring that Harry knows his casting of Sectumsempra was forgivable, forgiven, freeing him to walk away with his soul intact, as well as his right to hate Malfoy in peace.  He saves Draco from committing murder by voluntarily splitting his own soul in Draco’s stead, killing the one ally who knows his true self, so that for the final year of his life, nobody and nothing around Snape reflects any knowledge of him except as a man of cold evil.

Severus Snape and the Deathly Hallows is the story of the bravest man in Potterverse.

Well… “probably” the bravest man.  Again, there are two different readings of Snape, and on this point, they actually do come from more than one set of words.  In Harry’s words to Albus during the Epilogue, Snape was “probably the bravest man I ever knew.”  Steve Kloves’s line in the film version, for which Rowling had a producer credit, omits the word “probably.”  In Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, revisiting the Epilogue, Harry includes it again.  But when Scorpius goes to an alternate timeline to speak to Snape, he drops it, saying Harry told Albus “you were the bravest man he ever met.”

What is going on with this uncertainty around Snape’s bravery?

The answer may be in Snape’s dying words, “Look…at…me.”  Those words changed the story.  Until Snape succeeded in delivering the final message to Harry, he had to remain unknowable so that no one would be able to pin down a single, definitive understanding of his character.  Within the story, this preserved his ability to evade detection while fighting Voldemort; in our reality, this maintained the mystery of Rowling’s saga until her grand revelation of Snape’s heart.  This enigmatic Snape is the one that Harry Potter knew.  As a Master of Death, Snape remained invisible, cloaked, until he finished protecting others and chose to meet death as a friend.

But everything about Snape that came after he said to Harry, “Look at me,” and gave him the memories can be viewed as unambiguous.  He is no longer dissembling, no longer a double agent or any agent at all.  His mission is completed.  He can allow his core truths to be seen.  This is why the Snape of Cursed Child is shown, unambiguously, to be a hero.  He doesn’t have to hide it anymore, and neither do his authors.

By calling this character, posthumously, the bravest man, Rowling is affirming that this is the correct reading of him, more accurate than the many other possible readings of Snape as unredeemed, out for himself, or ambiguous.  The wording is an allusion to a character from one of Rowling’s top 10 recommended novels for young readers, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Atticus Finch once protected all of Maycomb, black and white, with a single, reluctant shot to kill a rabid dog; until then, his children had no idea that he was a marksman, since he renounced that degree of power over other living creatures after the age of 19 and only resumed it at the plea of the town sheriff, to save others.  The sheriff says, “You haven’t forgot much, Mr. Finch.  They say it never leaves you.”

Like Atticus Finch, Snape renounced Dark Magic, but was able to recall it to protect others.  Like Atticus, Dumbledore, Draco, and Harry, Snape was “fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it.”  Atticus’s child Scout, the narrator, noted her father’s restraint:  “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

In Harry Potter’s story, Snape is the character whose growth we track.  With Harry, Snape, and Voldemort, we get the question:  what do you do when you’re born, through no fault of your own, into a life where you don’t get enough love?  How do you become an adult?  Harry starts out blameless and ends up realistically flawed but still true to himself; that was his challenge.  Voldemort doesn’t change much.  He nearly dies of emotion the first time he tries to kill Harry and he actually dies of emotion the last time.

Snape changes.  He goes from vengeful and oppressive to self-sacrificing and protective.  Every step is difficult for him, and uncredited by nature of his double agency.  If he succeeds, he will draw more hatred to himself, not acclaim.  Even so, he knows who he is on the inside.  He shows us that you don’t have to be beautiful or good or even innocent to do the right thing.  Anyone can choose to do the right thing, or if you can’t do it, to want to do it.  That is a freedom and a birthright.

For me, there are two main ways that Snape is brave.  One is that he remained at the site of his greatest regrets, resolutely focused on the damage he had done and his mission to correct as much of it as he could, despite being vilified and unable to defend himself.  The other way is smaller, tender and raw, and I think it’s familiar to many of us.  After years of seeing protection and adoration lavished on others, knowing himself to be unpleasant, culpable, and perhaps unlovable, he summons the nerve to ask of Dumbledore, twice:  What about me?  In Prisoner of Azkaban, he asks Dumbledore if he remembers that the Marauders tried to kill him.  When Dumbledore orders him to kill to protect Draco’s soul, he asks Dumbledore, And MY soul?  Is Snape’s soul too dirty to save?

Both times, he gets an inconclusive answer from Dumbledore:  My memory is as good as it ever was.  You alone know whether it will harm your soul.  Not a reassurance… but not a rejection, either.  Not all of us will know regrets as great as Snape’s, but most of us, I think, can understand that pleading What about me? — to someone who seems to love other people morethat’s brave.

Posthumously, he is vindicated, called heroic, and, we are told, given a portrait.  This isn’t for Snape’s sake.  He’s dead, and he’s fictional.  It’s the author talking to us, the readers, about how even those of us who have done harm can choose to do good, and there are things we know how to do that innocent people don’t.  The good in Snape’s story doesn’t make sense without the full recognition of his earlier crimes.  We don’t forget them.  They enable us to see the magnificence of this character’s achievement.

Ten years later, an apology for killing Snape! Never more timely.

Rowling apologizes for killing Snape!

In July 2007, when I read Snape’s death scene and realized his author wasn’t going to give him any life beyond the unimaginable struggles of the war, and he would die without the grace of any acknowledgment from a fellow human, without rest or mercy or the sweetness of love or thanks… I was so angry that my face burned from the inside.  I could feel the temperature of my cheeks rising detectably.  I noticed it with wonder and a bit of detachment because it surprised me so much.  It was completely involuntary.  I’ve never before or since had that kind of reaction to a piece of fiction.

I was so sure that the story, the real story, would be about how this man did all of these strenuous, superhuman tasks and then survived.  How could that not be the story?  The tale of how he took the remainder of his time on earth to unpack from the years of unrelenting, mounting stress, the danger that had passed into supersonic levels of pressure?

His labors were harder than I had been capable of imagining.  I had naively thought that there would be some reward for him.  I hadn’t acclimated to the reality that this character had, himself, accepted:  it’s difficult to do things knowing, for absolute certain, that you will die without your sacrifices ever being acknowledged or even recognized.  To go to your grave accepting that people will wrongly spit on it, accepting that this will be worthwhile.

Please let there be someone in the current U.S. government who has the inner strength to do what Snape died doing.  I accept the author’s apology for Snape’s death.  She showed us what is necessary in times when mastery of the Elder Wand is at stake.

Snape was a reformed neo-Nazi

With all of the white supremacists, “alt-right” supporters, and neo-Nazis in U.S. government this year, it becomes clearer to U.S. readers that Rowling wrote Snape to be a reformed neo-Nazi who devoted his adult life to renouncing such ideology and remaining undercover so he could help similarly vulnerable students avoid repeating his mistakes.  This group interview, Ex-Neo Nazis Explain What’s Driving the Alt-Right, could have been been about Snape’s mindset as a young man.  It also hints at the effect on Dolores Umbridge when Dumbledore rescued her in the forest and the effect on Voldemort when Harry refused to attack him in the Final Battle.