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.

The Obscurus in Potterverse and BBC Sherlock

This 5-minute talk was presented at a panel about the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at 221B Con, April 9, 2017.

Newt Scamander says about what’s in his case:  “Please don’t hurt those creatures—there is nothing in there that is dangerous.”

What do we know about how Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald?  We know it wasn’t by force.  We know he hoped, for the rest of his life, that Grindelwald felt remorse for his Unforgivable crimes.

Newt’s words about the Obscurus, separated from the Sudanese girl who was its Obscurial, hint at what Dumbledore might have done.  Without a host, the Obscurus is harmless, defenseless.  It does not deserve to be destroyed.  We have seen this before.  Not only in Ariana, but also the flayed baby in King’s Cross.  As Hermione tells Harry about an adult Death Eater with a baby’s head:  “You can’t hurt a baby!”

Dumbledore knew he had a chance of reaching Grindelwald’s vulnerability, the part of him that, like Credence, is frightened by himself and his murders.  I’m guessing that the kindness that Newt shows to the Obscurus is related to how Dumbledore reached Grindelwald.  It’s how Snape and Dumbledore saved Draco, Snape with his healing song after Sectumsempra and Dumbledore with his merciful offer of refuge for Draco and his family, when Draco believed he was beyond help.  Dumbledore’s offer tells Draco:  It is not too late.  You are worth saving.  Harry sees Draco lower his wand and “the tiniest drop of pity mingled with his dislike.”  That drop is enough for Harry to recognize that Draco is a fellow creature who does not deserve to be destroyed, just as the small amount of Harry’s blood was enough to render Voldemort susceptible to empathy.

Newt couldn’t save one Obscurial.  That strengthens his resolve to save Credence.  This is like Dumbledore unable to reach Tom Riddle but wiser for that failure, accepting the agonized Snape rather than attacking him.  Dumbledore trains Harry to confront Voldemort because Harry may be the only person Voldemort has connected with enough to possibly show him his fear.

The words to that vulnerable terror go:  “I’m scaring myself with what I’ve done.  Help me.  Stop me.  Contain me.”  That’s what Credence asks of Graves, who violates that trust and abuses him.  But Dumbledore did respond in good faith to Snape, Snape to both Draco and Harry after Harry casts Sectumsempra.  When Voldemort hunts down Harry Potter, forbidding anyone else to kill Harry, and sits forlornly in the clearing in the forest, saying, “I thought he would come.  I expected him to come,” he’s asking for the same thing.  When Harry offers him the opportunity to feel remorse, he gives Voldemort the choice to be seen, stopped, contained.  Voldemort decides it’s too late and chooses to gamble on Avada Kedavra rather than experience the pain of remorse, but Harry set up that choice for him.

So let’s talk about Sherlock, and the sister who was frightened by her own destructive power.

Eurus said:  “Every time I close my eyes, I’m on the plane.  I’m lost, lost in the sky, and no one can hear me.”

By age five, she had killed and no one could stop her.  No one could even find the evidence.  Prisons cannot hold her; she roams on buses, to 221B, to therapist offices.  Like Credence, she could control her Obscurus, to some degree; she just doesn’t want to.

She had to recall Sherlock from exile.  It was useless to reach out to her parents; her mother wouldn’t wake up and her father wasn’t even on the same plane.  Moriarty is dead; Mycroft has no mercy; Sherlock is her last hope.  She reprograms her prison and reproduces her original crime so she can return to being five and beg Sherlock to find her, save her soul, stop her, contain her.  Once she gets her wish, her Obscurus subsides.  She stops talking, she stops killing people, she stops breaking out.

Sherlock’s kindness to her is like Newt’s to the Obscurus.  One can understand Mycroft’s proposal to let the girl land the plane in the water.  She is, after all, an unstoppable criminal.  There’s mercy for Mycroft here, too; no one but Sherlock Holmes can contain this era-defining genius.  It’s a good touch that when she overpowers Mycroft, she doesn’t kill him; she just locks him in her cell, as Dumbledore did to Grindelwald.  “I could kill you, but I’d rather you learn how you made others feel” — that’s a mainstay of Potterverse, that empathy can both save your soul and be your punishment.

Serial murders are Unforgivables.  Dumbledore doesn’t have to forgive Grindelwald, and Sherlock doesn’t have to forgive Eurus.  But if they recognize that even an Obscurus is a fantastic beast worth protecting, they can help save people’s souls by helping them feel, however painful that may be.  That’s what Eurus asked for.  That’s why Sherlock, who is not even gifted compared to Eurus — an “idiot” — succeeded in containing her:  because she asked him.

“I’m in the plane, and I’m going to crash.  And you’re going to save me.”

“I can bring you home.”

“It’s too late now.”

“Open your eyes.  I’m here.  You’re not lost anymore.”  They change how the story ends.  Eurus has essentially built a Time-Turner and brought Sherlock back with her.  This time, he has grown enough to find her, and she tells him how to save his friend.  I think both Newt and Sherlock listen when Obscurials ask, and respond with kindness and containment.  Dumbledore couldn’t save his own sister, but I wonder if that’s what he did for Grindelwald.

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.

Transcript! Three Patch Podcast Ep54, “Snape and Sherlock” interview

In their October 2016 episode, the Three Patch Podcast, a podcast about the BBC show Sherlock, included an interview with Lorrie Kim comparing the characters of Snape and Sherlock. Deannah Robinson (deannahm03 at gmail) provided the transcript of the interview below.

******START OF INTERVIEW (00:00:25)******

Emma Grant: Welcome to the Notebook of Kitty Riley. I’m Emma Grant, and my guest today is a familiar voice to listeners of this podcast. Her name is Lorrie Kim, and she has recently written The Book about Snape. I’m saying The Book, literally, because it’s the best book about Snape that I’ve ever read.

Lorrie: Because it’s the only book about Snape.

Emma: Even better. First of all: Lorrie, welcome and thanks for coming to talk to me. Before we get into the details about your book, I should probably explain to our Sherlock listeners why we’re talking about Severus Snape. This is the Potterlocked episode, of course, and I think that if you’re a fan of both Harry Potter and of Sherlock, you’ve probably have noticed that there’s some interesting similarities between the two characters of Severus Snape and Sherlock Holmes, and so what we’re going to do is I’m gonna ask Lorrie to talk about those. But first, Lorrie, tell us a little bit about your book and how you got into writing it and what it’s about.

Lorrie: The book is called Snape: A Definitive Reading, and it’s a critical look at the Harry Potter series from Snape’s point of view. It’s the series that I wanted; I wanted Severus Snape and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Severus Snape and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s lit-crit, it’s not fiction, and it’s about this brilliant, rude asshole who has intimacy issues, whose heart turns out to be as great as his brilliant brain. This guy — who’s a Capricorn who was born in the first part of January — he is on the side of the angels, but he’s not one of them. You’d think he might have killed before, but it turns out that he only has killed once, and that time he killed for love. 

Emma: This is gonna be so great. Okay. It’s amazing that I can’t tell who you’re talking about. It could go either way.

Lorrie: I have a type.

Emma: So you’ve already picked out a lot of the similarities between these two characters. What else can you say about how they’re similar and how they’re different?

Lorrie: Both of them, they’re so smart, but they’re never the smartest person in the room. And they don’t like people, but they’re around people all the time. They’re happiest when they’re alone or with their very few loved ones, and both of them have the kind of personality that always drives the plot. Not just because that’s their function in their story, but that’s just the kind of people they each are. They’re really offensive, they’re unlikeable and they’re immature. They expect to be disliked. It’s surprising to them when they’re not.

There are some major differences: Sherlock remains innocent much, much longer than Snape does, because Sherlock has grown up with a protector in Mycroft, and Snape did not have a protector. The dark side got Snape, and we see Sherlock resisting the dark side and choosing John over Moriarty. So Sherlock never betrayed John in the sense that Snape betrayed Lily.

When Snape fell, he didn’t realize what was going to happen to him until it was too late; he didn’t realize what he was doing. When Sherlock fell, he did it completely knowingly. Snape had a fall at an early age and then had this long redemption; Sherlock’s fall is more like when Snape knowingly accepts that he will kill Dumbledore and then takes all the incredible heartbreak that he’s going to cause to everybody who’s ever liked him or worked with him or had any bond with him.

When Sherlock, at Reichenbach Fall, decides to set things up so that everyone thinks he’s a fake and that everything they knew about him was wrong — that all of his enemies were right all along and he sets things up so that’s plausible, knowing he’s going to break John’s heart — he hasn’t ever done worse than that. That’s the first time he’s doing something that catastrophic. Whereas Snape, that catastrophe happened when he was a young adult, and he didn’t take on that knowing sacrifice until he was an adult, much, much later.

Another major difference — and this is in their characters — I always think of Sherlock as a solvent. He just dissolves everything he comes into contact with. He takes facts — he doesn’t think about whether they’re good or bad or helpful or unhelpful — he just sees them and solves them, deduces them and then after that, deals with what that might mean. That’s what makes him a loose cannon, and why you sometimes have to take away his toys.

Snape doesn’t do that. He’s not a solvent; he’s a strategist and he’s an inventor. He doesn’t take facts without their relative moral importance; he deals with feelings more than facts. He would not mistakenly say something that’s then going to undo all the good. You can take Snape anywhere; you can’t take Sherlock anywhere. You’re like, “Sherlock, NO, NO!” Can you think of any time with Snape as an adult that people would have to say, “Snape, NO, NO”? He doesn’t do that.

Emma: It’s so amazing, though, when you put these two characters next to each other and really look at how they’re similar and how they’re different. I guess there’s some appearance things that are– I mean, Sherlock Holmes is kind of classically described in a way that–

Lorrie: Oh, Sherlock is gorgeous, yeah, and Snape is everything you don’t want to be. Everything that grosses out schoolchildren.

Emma: Yeah, exactly.

Lorrie: So Sherlock, he is not different from other people, except that he does everything more quickly. When he shows you how he did it, you can understand everything. It just would’ve taken you much, much longer, and you might not have made the connections because his brain is so much faster and makes more connections. But everything can be explained. And Snape is not like that. Snape is different from other people. He knows how to read feelings. Every fact and every piece of evidence for Snape has to be run through his emotional filter before he understands what to do with it.

In other words, Snape knows human nature and Sherlock doesn’t. And it’s odd to think of it this way, because I don’t think of Snape as such a people person. But no, everything he strategizes depends upon his ability to empathize, which is not what people think of him. Certainly not the front he puts up.

Emma: So I should say at this point: listeners, you should read this book. If you’re listening right now and you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound like Snape,” it’s because you need to read this book and learn more about what Lorrie’s written here. It’s a fascinating exploration of Snape and it really — I never was a huge Snape fan. I was like, “Yeah, yeah, you know, Snape, whatever,” despite being really, really into the Harry Potter series, and I think that your book really changed my perspective on that character. Even just rewatching the movies, there were moments that I sobbed my eyes out over Snape. My family’s looking at me like, “What the hell?” I’m like, “You don’t understand. He suffered so much.”

It’s not that you make him out to be– you don’t woobify Snape by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a really gritty, honest portrayal, but it really– I think one of the wonderful things about the book is the way that you sort of pick out all these little details that Harry, as the narrator, is missing, and then piece them together and say — and this is where it comes back to a sort of very Sherlockian thing is, “Look, if you just put all these little details together, the picture you get is completely different. It’s obvious.” It’s really kind of fun. So it’s almost like Sherlock wrote the book on Snape, which actually maybe brings us to our next question here. We’re talking about crossovers and things like that in this episode. So the BBC version of Sherlock is canonically about the same age as Harry Potter, correct?

Lorrie: Yes.

Emma: Would they have been in the same year?

Lorrie: Yes, they were born in the same year.

Emma: Oh my god, that’s so great. So we can imagine a universe in which Sherlock got his Hogwarts letter, and showed up and got sorted into a house at the same time that Harry Potter did and attended classes. This makes me think: what would it have been like for Sherlock to sit in Snape’s Potions classes? And I just want to hear you talk about that.

Lorrie: I think the closest we see to my imagination of it is Snape’s attitude toward Hermione, where people think that Snape ought to be really pleased with her because she’s so good at following directions, and in fact when she does her absolute best in potions, he’s like, “Oh, that was adequate.” Because it’s not how well you can follow directions. That’s not potions magic. That’s just direction following.

What Snape thinks of as brilliant potioneering is when you have an instinct for what you should do to get the perfect desired result that’s going to make it better than your standard recipe. Harry is hopeless, because he’s not even following the basic directions, so he doesn’t have a strong foundation to improve upon them as Snape did when he was a student. Hermione — she doesn’t invent. She’s not an inventor.

And Sherlock, I think, would have had the same shortcomings as Harry and Hermione when Snape complains that you don’t have an instinct for what you should do to make this exactly magical. Sherlock, for one thing — he is somebody who sometimes skips steps, which… we know what Snape thinks of that. And we also know that that’s dangerous, but we see that in Sherlock in the series, that sometimes he goes, “Oh yeah, well, that wasn’t important,” and then that turns out to blow up in his face, which in potions is literal.

But you also have to know human nature to know what you want from a potion. I think that Sherlock would have sometimes skipped steps. I think he would have come into class cocky like, “Oh, I understand chemistry. I’m going to impress this teacher; he’s not as smart as I am.” And I think Snape would’ve put him in his place more than once and shown him how much he has to learn, and I don’t think he would’ve been the best potioneer and I think he would’ve been beaten by people who had more of an instinct, even if they weren’t as technically proficient.

Emma: Interesting. 

Lorrie: And I think Sherlock would have learned to respect Snape and understand that this is something that he has to work on.

Emma: That’s interesting. So that was another question that I have for you is, what do you think the relationship between those two characters from a teacher-to-student perspective would have been like? So you think that Sherlock would have respected Snape? Do you think Snape would’ve just thought, “Oh, this is a cocky little kid who thinks he knows everything. I had his brother, and his brother was just as bad.”

Lorrie: Oh, I think his brother was a better potioneer. 

Emma: Based on your explanation just now, I would say that sounds like a really reasonable conclusion.

Lorrie: I think Snape would’ve been pleased with Sherlock’s precision in an adequate way, like, “Oh, good. He’s good with precision.” Because by Snape’s standards, if you get everything 100% precise, then you get “adequate.” So he would’ve been happy with that, and I think he would’ve thought that Sherlock had to go grow up a bit before becoming — if he ever wanted to be — a great potioneer. I think, for example: Luna Lovegood, I imagine, would’ve been a really favorite student of Snape’s, because she would’ve had some imagination. He might have rolled his eyes at what she thought was important, but she would have known, “Okay, this is what you want from a potion.”

But you know what Snape would’ve said to Sherlock is, “You have no subtlety.” Sherlock is good with logic, but potions aren’t all logic. The other thing Sherlock would do that would make Snape crazy: he would test potions unethically and not know why Snape was yelling about some and thinking others were fine.

Emma: Oh, that’s interesting.

Lorrie: If Snape said, “No, you can’t do that to people!” “But you did this!” No, there’s a difference, and Sherlock wouldn’t know. Snape would’ve been so disgusted with the whole pill stunt in “A Study in Pink.”

Emma: Oh, yeah. That’s actually a really good point.

Lorrie: So disgusted. What a waste! What STUPID thing have you done now? Or what were you about to do? Can you imagine? Snape would’ve been shrieking with frustration at the whole wrong, “Yes, it was the sugar instead of the fog” in “Hounds.” Oh, he would’ve just been dying at Sherlock’s idiocy there. Any fool, any dunderhead could’ve been able to tell. He, I think, would’ve been extremely approving of when Sherlock does things like look at the mud on the sneakers or find out that it’s a chocolate factory. I think Snape would’ve loved that and actually praised him.

I think he would’ve been worse than disgusted about the whole beer thing on stag night. That is a perfect example of what makes a terrible potioneer. Sherlock’s there with all his calculations in body weight, completely not factoring in that John wants to get wasted, won’t tell him everything, doesn’t want to tell him when he’s going to go urinate. It’s just a massive, massive failure based on such a terrible premise that’s logic and not human nature, and also inexperience. That’s, to me, the worst of Sherlock in Potions.

I do think that Snape would have wildly approved of Sherlock getting himself high for cases. 

Emma: Yeah.

Lorrie: The way that nobody believes that Sherlock’s in control when he’s doing that, and Sherlock keeps saying, “Chill, everyone. I’m not going to OD. I know what I’m doing,” and no one believes him. I think Snape would’ve believed him and been really pleased with him. The way that Sherlock has the painkillers on high when Janine is there and he just unsentimentally turns the thing off the moment Janine walks out. He is, in fact, completely in control because at that point he’s motivated the same way that Snape is motivated. He’s trying to protect people he loves, so that’s going to override whatever stupid, aimless curiosity he has to take poison pills or whatever.

He’s got the kind of purpose that Snape has for his entire second chance. When that happens, then he has grown up. He can now be considered a good potioneer. I think Snape, I think he would worship Wiggins and be like, “There! That is a proper potioneer!” And Sherlock knew to bring Wiggins along to do the potions, like, “Yep, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Emma: That’s really an interesting perspective on Wiggins. Wow… I like it. What about the other direction: What do you think Sherlock would have thought of Snape? That’s one of my big questions for you is, Would Sherlock have been able to deduce what Snape was really up to? Or is Snape just too good for Sherlock to have been able to do that?

Lorrie: That was a hard one at first. I thought, at first, maybe not, because Snape was able to fool smarter people than Sherlock. But then I realized no, Sherlock is exactly the kind of person who would’ve read Snape perfectly because he’s not weighing feelings, and feelings were how Snape fooled people. He fooled Voldemort by hiding his motives behind love so Voldemort could see nothing. But if you look at every single thing Snape ever did, and you line up the facts, you can always apply more than one interpretation and make everything fit. Almost everything.

The things that tell you what Snape is really doing are things that Voldemort wouldn’t notice, like when he says– during ‘The Flight of the Prince,’ when he and Harry are having a duel and Snape says, “No Unforgivables for you, Harry Potter; you don’t have what it takes.” But he’s basically preventing Harry from doing any Unforgivables and Voldemort wouldn’t have seen that protectiveness. But Sherlock would see everything, add them up. There’s slightly more on the column that says that Snape is against Voldemort and he would’ve seen it instantly because he is pure logic.

If you remember the potions puzzle at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, when Snape sets out the seven potions bottles for Hermione and he writes this terrible poem so that she can figure out which potions to take, and Harry is completely panicked, and Hermione’s like, “Oh, no, no, this is easy,” and she smiles. And Harry’s like, “How can you be smiling?” And she gets it instantly, and she says, “Many wizards don’t have an ounce of logic. This isn’t magic; this is logic.” I think Hermione and Sherlock have some similarities there, that they have more logic than they have instinct.

So yeah, I think Sherlock would have deduced — he would have come up with it, and I think he also would’ve been able to see that Snape was hiding for a good reason, and I think this is one of those areas where he would’ve known to keep it to himself. Because as clueless as our Sherlock can be, he’s also a genius, and there are many, many times when he knows exactly what’s going on and keeps everything to himself and just says, “Oh, I see what game they’re playing, and I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.” And then years later, John is like, “WHAT?!” and Sherlock says, “Oh, clearly, this is what they were doing, blah blah blah blah.”

But the reason I think that Sherlock would’ve known it instantly is because Snape’s genius is limited by what J.K. Rowling was writing in order to give readers, for us to read. She laid out all of the clues so that it was 51% he’s on Dumbledore’s side, 49% on Voldemort’s. If we could’ve figured that out, then yeah, Sherlock would’ve seen that really cleanly, I think. Because he did some of the same things that Snape did. The way that Snape had to break the hearts of people like McGonagall when he had to — he worked for years alongside these terrific colleagues who trusted him and knew him day in day out, and then he had to make them think that they had never known him.

Sherlock had to do that to John. How could a doctor and a best friend live with someone so closely and not pick up on his suicidal feelings? Sherlock had to make people doubt themselves and their love, which was so awful, and it can’t last. That doubt cannot last because eventually you remember, “No, I know why I thought that of him. Okay, something’s wrong,” but the shock has to last long enough to let you get away. When Sherlock says to John, “Oh, Mrs. Hudson’s been attacked, but I don’t care. She’s just my landlady.” And John falls for that for 20 minutes, and it won’t last longer than 20 minutes, obviously. That’s just too wrong. But it lasts long enough for what Sherlock needs.

I think Snape, too, that there would have been people eventually who pieced things together, but the shock of having him kill Dumbledore was good enough to hold off those realizations for a while. 

Emma: Wow. That’s really fascinating.

Lorrie: Oooh, I realized something really fun. About Legilimency and Occlumency: that’s another area where Snape would’ve thought that Sherlock was hopeless. Because, again, it’s about feelings. We have Mary going, “Fibbing, Sherlock.” Sherlock can’t shut her out. Sherlock is also a crap Legilimens because Irene– he just looks at her, and he sees nothing. All she has to do is just one little trick, and he’s just looking at her like, “I don’t get it.” That’s not something that would happen to Snape. And Mary obviously fooled Sherlock as well. The character arc of Sherlock as having to understand empathy and grow there, Snape would’ve identified that on his report card a really long time ago, saying, “This is a brilliant person, but he can’t be a great wizard until he gets this.”

You had a question: What magical subjects would Sherlock have been good at? And I thought, okay, well, obviously, Arithmancy and Astronomy, and anything that depends on precision and observation and logic. And then I realized, “Oh my god. I know what his specialty would’ve been: Muggle Studies, because of the line that Mycroft says to John in “A Scandal in Belgravia”: “My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?”

So we have this genius who doesn’t like humans, and he’s made his life’s work about understanding humans, and he doesn’t know human nature, but that’s all he does. It’s a good challenge to him. It’s an interesting and a worthwhile challenge. He can understand that he is somewhat like them and also not, and basically our canon BBC Sherlock thinks of everyone else but him and Mycroft as Muggles. “What’s it like in your funny little brains?” And that’s who he labors for.

Emma: It’s interesting because I think that my naive perspective would’ve been, “Oh, he’d be great at Potions because of the chemistry thing,” but you’ve completely changed my mind.

Lorrie: Well, yeah, he’s good at Muggle Potions, but not at magical ones, because magical ones are about feelings.

Emma: That’s a really interesting point that I don’t think I’ve heard brought up in any discussion of Potterlock before, that magic relies more on feelings than it does on any kind of scientific precision. That’s one of the big themes of the books, and I don’t think it ever occurred to me before that that’s something Sherlock would really struggle with.

Lorrie: He wouldn’t know how to measure it, and in Potions you have to measure. But when Snape says, “Time and space matter in magic,” Sherlock would be like, “Yes, but how much?” And Snape would just be like, “UUUGGGGHHH… two feet of parchment on that, Mr. Holmes. I’m going away.” 

Emma: Well, this has been fascinating. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about Sherlock just from comparing him to Snape. Thank you so much for joining me to talk about this.

Lorrie: Thank you for having me on to talk about these two characters that have kept my interest for a really long time. 

Emma: If any of our listeners want to get a copy of your book, where can they find it?

Lorrie: It’s on Amazon, it’s called Snape: A Definitive Reading, and I’m Lorrie Kim. I’m at lorriekim.com, if you want to see any of the author website press stuff.

Emma: Cool. We’ll put links to those in the show notes, so people can go looking for it.

******END OF INTERVIEW (00:23:05)******

Transcript! Snapecast Interview

In November 2016, Snapecast included an interview with Lorrie Kim in their Episode 43: Remembrance and Reunion. Deannah Robinson deannahm03@gmail.com provided the transcript of the interview below.

*****START OF INTERVIEW***** (00:50:18)

Shannon: Hi everyone! This is Shannon, and I’m here with a special guest for the fan interview segment. With me is Lorrie Kim, who’s recently published a book, Snape: A Definitive Reading, that follows Snape across the seven Harry Potter books. Lorrie, thanks for joining me.

Lorrie: Thank you for having me.

Shannon: So I take it you’re a very big Snape fan.

Lorrie: He’s my love in the Potterverse. He’s, I think, my favorite fictional character ever, probably.

Shannon: Well, that’s perfect because I think Snapecast listeners feel the same way, and I was really thrilled to see this book because it’s an interesting perspective that’s looking at Snape across the books. It’s almost like, finally, the Harry filter is removed, and let’s see what’s going on here. Why did you write a book all about Snape?

Lorrie: One answer is that I always read the series wishing that it was Severus Snape and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Severus Snape and the Chamber of Secrets, all the way through. That was a story that compelled me, so this was a chance to do that. The practical answer to that is that I was approached by Diane Tarbuck from Story Spring Publishing, a publishing company that was started by a bunch of Snape fans.

Shannon: Excellent! Your book is a reading of Snape across the seven Harry Potter texts, and it incorporates quotes and other fans’ and writers’ interpretations of different parts of Snape’s behavior or character to try and get at, for example, what may his motivations have been in certain scenes, or what he could’ve been experiencing while we’re following Harry’s perspective in the actual books. What aspects of Snape’s story or behavior were the most difficult for you to understand and explain?

Lorrie: One of the aspects that was the hardest for me to figure out was why he has this bizarre unfounded conviction that Harry Potter loves being notorious. Starting from the first day of Potions class, when he assumes that Harry loves being a celebrity and sets out to take Harry down a peg, and the other Slytherins are snickering like they’ve already talked about this. Meanwhile, poor Harry just wants to blend in, and this accusation from Snape toward Harry recurs. Any time he’s extra annoyed with Harry, he starts saying, “Oh, you think you’re so famous and you think that gives you such privileges.” Where is this coming from? Is he envious? Eh, that wasn’t quite it. Finally, it was my own experience being a real jerk to somebody — completely unconnected, just in my real life — to the point that whenever I thought about them or saw them, I was really stricken by guilt and self-blame. If I had to see that person more frequently, I think I would be happy to ascribe some negative traits just to relieve the unbearable guilt I had. Probably it sounds unconvincing for me to say, “Oh, it was out of guilt,” but when I looked carefully through the books, it has to do with Snape projecting onto Harry a lot of the stuff that was actually true about James, combined with some stuff from Harry. Like when he says in the third book to Harry, “Oh, you’re just like your father who was strutting around,” and Harry says, “My father didn’t strut and neither do I,” and this was less than a week after his Firebolt came and he strutted around the Great Hall with all these Gryffindors. Yeah, you almost don’t, Harry, almost don’t. But surely enough to remind Snape of something that he was already sensitive to.

Shannon: This is a good point, because I think — one of the things I found really compelling reading your book was going back and forth not only to quotes from the text, but also connecting to foreshadowing. Those of us, it makes sense to read the definitive reading of Snape after we’ve read the Harry Potter books and are a bit familiar with them. But there are a lot of details that are easy to forget, that something was said and maybe for some of us we zero in on certain parts of the text and they stay with us, and others of us will zero in on others and we’ll forget things. There will be some oversight about, “Oh yeah, that did happen.” Like when you were mentioning the Firebolt just now, I was thinking, “Yeah, I have this picture of Harry in my head as being really humble and kind of irritated by attention and shy, but also self conscious in many ways. But yeah, he has happy moments, and what does that look like to an outsider when you get this brand new most awesome thing?” So I enjoyed your interweaving of quotes, but also you drew upon material from interviews or things that you had come across that other analysts had provided as a way to unpack some of the nuance of the text. I found that particularly compelling. It was like building a case bit by bit, pieces of evidence. Another thing that you did — this stuck in my head — when you were exploring how Snape learned how to fly, where that came from. And I know that’s obviously a point of debate that Snape fans have unpacked in their own analysis or in their fanfiction, for example. But one of the things that you drew upon was Rowling and her mother, and her mother’s last name. So interviews with Rowling or knowledge of things that Rowling has said even offhand about her own family were also fodder for your interpretation. Do you have another example of something that was difficult to understand and explain?

Lorrie: Something that — the difficulty was in explaining it because I really wanted to get this point across. I feel strongly that Snape was not doing it all for Lily. I think that is true up until the point he killed Dumbledore, after which he did it for his own beliefs. By that time he went on taking this cause on for himself. We see that struggle when he has that conversation with Dumbledore where he casts the Patronus. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the last time he’s doing it only for Lily because by taking on the assignment to kill Dumbledore and then reintegrate his soul by feeling remorse so that he can go on to live until he can deliver the message to Harry, he has to really face himself and he can’t pull together his soul unless he truly feels remorse for everything. He can’t be doing that just for Lily and then begrudgingly hold out against Harry that way. He has to see that whether or not he personally likes Harry that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that he’s going to do what he thinks is right. At that point, it has nothing to do with any image of a really long dead friend.

Shannon: So, you were concerned about getting this point across clearly because it has been kind of divisive among some Snape fans. I think even in our own Snapecast crew, some of us were kind of struggling with the idea that this is all for love. What?

Lorrie: For one thing, you know, when people say, “Well, that’s really creepy. He’s doing this all for a dead woman,” I don’t think Snape has any illusions about Lily being completely dead. If anyone knows that she’s dead and gone, it’s Snape. He doesn’t have any thoughts like, “Oh, in the afterlife she’ll forgive me,” nothing like that. It’s that he was full of despair after she died because of him and wanted to kill himself and Dumbledore said, “No. Keep going. See what you can do with the rest of your life.” And Snape did that with absolutely no personal reward. The thing I wanted to argue against was the notion that Snape was only in it for himself, and I’m not really sure where anyone can get that interpretation because he got nothing out of the second half of his life struggling and getting no credit and having to put up with a lot of life-threatening misery. He lived and died expecting that he wouldn’t get any credit for the kind of work he did, having people hate him, having people hate him for correct reasons and also for lies that they were putting out there that were the opposite of his true feelings. He didn’t get anything out of it. If he’d gotten what he wanted out of the deal, he would’ve just been dead and resting from when he was a young adult. 

Shannon: This is a good point that does stand out in the later chapters of your book when you’re looking at how much he’s concealing, especially when he has to carry out the ruse, of course, being Voldemort’s hand after killing Dumbledore. But just how much lack of credit he’s getting and how much he has to play along with the negative view that his colleagues who had become friends at some point, you can see that maybe in his young adulthood he had some solace in developing collegial relationships with McGonagall. They were a good team; this is something that does stand out, I would say. A lot of people can see that. He has to sacrifice friendship, he has to sacrifice his good name, and he’s lost Dumbledore, right? The one who knew. So it is a very lonely existence that he’s facing. Removing the Harry filter and looking at what Snape may have been experiencing, I felt very exhausted for him, beyond what I had the first time I read the books. Because now it foregrounded Snape in exactly what he may have been experiencing in the moments Harry was running off risking his life and maybe just about doing something so stupid that would throw it all away or Dumbledore was making certain decisions that were really ill-advised. Very stressful.

Lorrie: Yeah, and there can only be so much blame on Harry or Dumbledore, either, because everybody’s mistakes were so understandable and so human.

Shannon: Yes. It deepened my appreciation for what Snape chose to do with his life even more than I’d already had as a deeply devoted Snape fan who has an oversized appreciation for him relative to the other characters in the book. But I wanted to ask, then: Did writing this book change your understanding or appreciation of Snape in some way?  Or did you find while you were writing and trying to explain certain moments that you had revelations that you hadn’t realized before?

Lorrie: Yeah, there were two. The first one happened in Prisoner of Azkaban. I didn’t realize until this time what Snape thought was happening all year. There were clues, but when I looked only at what Snape knew, what evidence he saw and what he didn’t see — for example, all the times that he was knocked out in the Shrieking Shack and Lupin and Sirius were filling in backstory and he never heard it — I realized all year long, he thought that the prank they pulled on him when he was a 5th year was exactly what Lupin and Sirius were trying to do again.

Shannon: Okay. That’s terrifying.

Lorrie: It’s ghastly. Here’s the thing that made me feel the most horrified: when he walks in on Lupin and Harry talking alone in Lupin’s office becoming friends, he thinks Lupin is grooming Harry. He thinks Lupin is trying to gain Harry’s trust, playing on Harry’s trait of wanting adventure so that if he gives the Marauders’ Map to Harry — because at this point that’s what Snape thinks — Snape says to Lupin, “Don’t you think Harry got the Marauders’ Map directly from the manufacturers?” So he thinks that Lupin is getting Harry’s trust, giving him the map, and then he and Sirius have a plan to lure Harry outside of Hogwarts, past the Dementors, so that Lupin can transform into a werewolf and kill Harry.

Shannon: And meanwhile, he’s not getting any support from Dumbledore on this because Dumbledore is like, “Leave it, Severus. I trust Lupin.” So he’s completely in it on his own, dealing with his own past trauma and a headmaster who won’t let him talk about it and also won’t really acknowledge that it’s a risk, and he thinks the exact same thing is happening.

Lorrie: Yes, that’s what he thinks is happening and for one thing he’s wrong about a whole lot of it, almost all of it.

Shannon: As we see.

Lorrie: Yes, and Dumbledore is wrong about more of it than a lot of people notice in their readings because so much of what Dumbledore is feeling and saying comes from such a good place it can be easy to miss points where he was wrong. Lupin has so many good intentions that it’s easy to gloss over the parts where Lupin really shouldn’t have done some things because Lupin is not trustworthy. But it’s for completely different reasons, not what Snape is thinking. But you can tell, even Harry can tell, that Lupin is hiding something, and for Snape to see, “Oh, Lupin’s hiding something,” of course his mind is going to go to Lupin and Sirius being partners in malice they way they were when he was a student because Snape doesn’t realize, he doesn’t know, that Lupin was not in on the plan to kill him as a student. Snape thought that James, Lupin, and Sirius, all together, thought it was a grand idea. He doesn’t realize that it was only Sirius’s idea.

Shannon: What stood out for me: this seemed like Snape’s really horrible, very bad year re-traumatizing him because I keep thinking, did he ever receive support for what he experienced? He had a near-death experience at the hands of peers, and then wasn’t allowed to talk about it. Now he thinks it’s going to happen again, and he’s still not allowed to talk about it, and he’s still worried it’s going to happen because he’s experienced it. So he’s got his own past trauma which is obviously motivating and blinding him, but no one else to turn to because he’s given his word. And then… I don’t know, it’s maddening to read it this way. It’s really difficult. Really difficult. I love Prisoner of Azkaban, but reading this I was thinking, “Wow, this was a really — if you went through some kind of trauma, and then you think it’s going to happen again to someone else and then no one will listen to you?”

Lorrie: Yeah, and it’s a kid. Yeah. It’s a kid, and you’re a teacher. It’s your job and you’re trying to give this kid what you wanted and didn’t get at his age, and the kid is not thanking you. The kid thinks you’re the enemy. What I see happening based on very tiny traces is that that conversation did take place between Dumbledore and Snape off the page the morning after the Shrieking Shack incident in Prisoner of Azkaban, right before Snape tell the Slytherins that Lupin was a werewolf. Because we see Snape doing that, and he never gets into trouble for it. Lupin gets into trouble. Dumbledore is furious with Lupin.

Shannon: Lupin gets sacked.

Lorrie: Well, yeah, he is allowed to resign and he is running away from Hogwarts as fast as he can. And when Dumbledore comes to say goodbye to him, there’s a part that says Harry had the impression that Lupin was trying to get away as fast as he could and Dumbledore shakes hands with Lupin and says soberly, “Goodbye Remus” or something. It’s really like, “I’m disappointed in you.” Then after that, Lupin, he complains about it, but Dumbledore can’t hire him to work at the school after that. He has to send him out to be a spy with the werewolves, which is not anybody’s idea of first choice for job. But it’s finally apparent to everybody that you cannot rely on human beings to be completely flawless. You can’t ask Lupin, “Never, ever transform unsafely.” You can’t. It’s beyond his capability. It’s beyond anybody’s to control that. It was a case of Dumbledore not respecting how difficult of an illness lycanthropy is, thinking that willpower alone could do it.

Shannon: So what was the second episode?

Lorrie: “The Flight of the Prince,” when Snape says, “Don’t call me ‘coward’,” and I could not figure out what was going on there for years. It’s so anti-climactic; he’s screaming, but we’ve never heard the word ‘coward’ foreshadowed. I thought, Well, I guess there were bullies who called him ‘coward’ in the past, and it’s a sensitive spot for him and he doesn’t like that word. It comes out of the blue. Does he have issues with being called a coward? Well, what he just did was really, really brave and nobody knows it. Meanwhile, tiny little Harry, who doesn’t even know how to cast some essential spells, brandishing his tiny stick and saying, “Come back and fight me, you coward!” As we saw in that confrontation, Snape overpowers Harry several times over. Snape doesn’t even have to wave a wand or say anything to block Harry’s most enraged attacks. It’s nothing to Snape. If Snape is not standing and fighting, it’s not cowardice. 

So I looked at it and the first clue came from Hilary Justice, who did a beautiful reading of that where she shows that that’s a really long paragraph where Snape screams, “Don’t.” And then there’s a long narration about the torment on his face and about the howls of Fang, who is trapped inside Hagrid’s hut that a Death Eater has set fire to and Fang can’t get out. And she’s comparing the torment on Snape’s face to the way that Fang sounds trapped inside a burning hut. After that long description, then we hear, “Call me ‘coward’.” So I thought, Okay, we’re paying attention to how Fang feels, comparing it to the things that Snape can’t say. This time around was when I realized that all of book six is leading up to the difference between how you feel when somebody that you fought against dies versus when they survive. If they come out of it okay, you can claim some relief in yourself and be like, “Okay, well, that was a really lucky break this time. I can do better. I’ll never do that again.” And we see that with Sectumsempra, when Harry thinks about what could have happened, he just turns cold. And we see that was Slughorn feeling very responsible for Voldemort becoming this mass terrorist when he wasn’t the one who decided that Voldemort should do that. But because so many people had died and so much damage had been done, Slughorn was really eaten alive by the guilt. Then we see Ron almost dying from the poisoned mead, and then we see what happens when you didn’t even mean it, but it turns out in death. The way that Lupin blames himself for James and Lily dying, the way that Sirius blamed himself. Snape, he didn’t physically kill James and Lily, just the way that Dumbledore later on says he didn’t strike the actual blow that killed Ariana, he thinks, and he doesn’t want to find out. But when somebody dies, it tears your soul apart. Your guilt about it, it rewrites your right to how you felt before then. We see Snape desperately trying to tell people, “Well, you don’t understand: James and his friends were really shitty to me. They were really shitty.” Trying to protest like, “I had the right to dislike them and be angry at them, even though I didn’t kill them. They’re not saints just because they died.” But you can’t ever really own those feelings again if death happened. It’s just overpowering. We see even after Sectumsempra, Snape makes Harry rewrite all of those detentions for James and Sirius, like, “They were not saints. They were not saints. They were not saints.” But Snape never intended for them to die. He didn’t want that, but he had wished it in a fantasy way so hard and he was trying to tell the world, himself, somebody, “No, I didn’t mean that they should really die!” 

So Harry that night — that’s a really long night for Harry, because you recall that he learned that night from Sybill Trelawney, who was drunk in the Room of Requirement, that it was Snape who overheard the prophecy. He never knew that before. Dumbledore and Snape had spent his entire school years trying to keep that information from Harry, and he finally has learned it. And that was just a couple hours before the Flight of the Prince confrontation, and then so much happened after he learned that that we, the reader, we forget that he’s only just learned it. And Snape doesn’t know that until that fight when Harry is wandless and he yells at Snape, “Kill me like you killed him, then.” It’s deliberately written so that “like you killed him,” it’s not named. Harry means James, but they both know that Snape has just killed Dumbledore, too. Until then, Snape could always say to himself, “I wasn’t really a murderer. I’m responsible and I’m never going to get over the guilt, but I didn’t actually kill anyone.” But now he has. Avada Kadavra cannot work unless you mean it, so he has just become a person who is a murderer, and he feels terrible about it. So when Harry says, “Kill me like you killed him,” Snape wants to say, “Don’t call me a murderer,” but he can’t say that ever again. So he says, “Don’t.” And then there’s a long silence, and what can you say? So he says, “Don’t call me ‘coward’.”

Shannon: Why can’t he say ‘murderer’?

Lorrie: I don’t think he wants to be called a murderer because what he did with Dumbledore was so much braver and more complicated and more awful than that, and his true self doesn’t want to be a murderer. The false self, the self that’s meant to be a decoy for Voldemort to believe in, would love to be a murderer, but the true self that’s Snape — it’s all abhorrent to him, and he’s at his absolute limit. Never mind that he killed Dumbledore; he’s just lost his only friend.

Shannon: And confidant.

Lorrie: And he has a really long night ahead of him. He hasn’t gotten Draco back home yet, even. Meanwhile, he’s going to have to intercede on Draco’s behalf to try to take away as much of Voldemort’s punishment as possible because of course Voldemort is going to enjoy punishing Draco for failing.

Shannon: Right.

Lorrie: So his night has just barely begun, and he just killed someone.

Shannon: So ‘coward’ was a replacement for ‘murderer’.

Lorrie: I think so.

Shannon: Interesting. Yeah.

Lorrie: Because the word ‘coward’ in itself, it didn’t have the resonance that I was looking for. 

Shannon: Right, right. It’s a really good point you make. This is not like Back to the Future, where we find out that ‘coward’ was kind of a trigger word for setting things in motion.

Lorrie: Nope. We only ever see it again when McGonagall calls him that.

Shannon: You know what’s interesting, though? McGonagall, head of Gryffindor; Harry Potter, Gryffindor. ‘Coward’ seems to be a Gryffindor insult. So whether it’s true or not, it’s almost like it’s the ultimate insult a Gryffindor can hurl at you: you’ve failed. And Snape hasn’t failed. It’s just Harry doesn’t know this at all.

Lorrie: Right, and then at the end, we get the reversal where Harry recognizes that.

Shannon: In tribute, the bravest man, probably the bravest man he ever knew, yes. So your book was published early this summer, and the new Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, came out this July. Did you find that the 8th Harry Potter story, in a sense, altered your reading or reinforced your reading of Snape in some way, and can you give an example?

Lorrie: I had one of those fan moments of “I told you so” when I read Snape as he appeared in Cursed Child, and it was a lot less subtle than I was expecting, because something that Rowling does in writing Snape in the first 7 books is she always keeps everything he does or says to at least two different interpretations or motives. Whenever he does something completely noble, there’s always also pettiness or vengeance or small-mindedness, either that you can interpret it either way, or just to remind us no matter how great of a human he ever became, he was essentially not a very nice person. Partly to show that it was harder for him. There are people who are naturally good. This is not one of those cases. Not that he was naturally evil, but just kind of a jerk at heart. And many of us are jerks at heart, and it is not easy to be good if that’s not the way that you’re wired. Every time we see Rowling show something beautiful or noble about Snape, she always put in a reminder that this is not a suddenly redeemed and angelic character. I thought that balance was going to be retained in Cursed Child, and it wasn’t. That surprised me. It seemed to me almost like a corrective. The thing that it reminded me of was how in Goblet of Fire, Rowling wrote into the dialogue an explanation of how to pronounce “Hermione.” That it was not a case where she was happy for people to just bring to it whatever they wanted — that she wanted to say, No, there is an authoritative take on this. I felt like there was a little bit of that authorial voice coming in here like, “No, he really did do it at the end for his own beliefs because he believed in the cause, not because of the memory of Lily.” Because as we know from Twitter and from interviews, Rowling has been following the endless debate about Snape’s character, as though her canon weren’t closed, and I think she felt it was important enough so that when Jack Thorne wrote this way, that was something she could give her approval to.

Shannon: Good. So there were no things that surprised you other than that?

Lorrie: There were delightful surprises, things that made me laugh in happiness. He was funny.

Shannon: He’s always been funny.

Lorrie: Almost always. He’s never funny in book 7. That was another thing that I discovered in this read-through that I had not noticed before. Because I had assumed that he’s always funny in some horrible way that — if you agree it’s funny, and not everyone does — if his horrible insults make you laugh, then you’re like, “well, that’s probably not very nice of me.” But in book 7, his humor is gone.

Shannon: He’s also not a teacher in book 7.

Lorrie: Right. He’s not a teacher, but there’s nobody around to appreciate his humor. He used to joke to McGonagall, he used to joke to his Slytherins, he used to joke with Dumbledore.

Shannon: He had friends. He had students he was overseeing. He had more people in his life. He could be more.

Lorrie: Meanwhile, in book 7, all he’s worried about is trying to keep his Slytherins from becoming monsters, trying to prevent students from killing each other, trying not to lose anybody. He has no humor left in book 7. 

Shannon: You know that saying, “It’s lonely at the top”? That when you achieve a position of great leadership and responsibility, you can’t really be who you were before. And here he is now as not only headmaster but also right-hand man for Voldemort. So he’s really at the top in a very visible way. He’s very isolated, and he can’t be funny. He can’t show these other sides to himself. That’s kind of sad. I like when he’s not serious, I like when he’s a bit biting. I appreciate a bit of nonsense.

Lorrie: We get a lot of that back in Cursed Child.

Shannon: Yeah. This is a lot of food for thought. Thank you so much for joining us, Lorrie, and I can’t help but recommend this book. I mean, for Snape fans out there who are looking for a close reading of the Harry Potter series but with a focus on Snape, I think this is a wonderful book. It’s reawakened my love for him, so thank you very much for writing it and thank you for joining us on Snapecast.

Lorrie: Thank you for having me. Obviously I love talking about this character, and I think he really deserved a book-length examination because what Rowling did by inventing him still impresses me.

Shannon: He did, he did. Thank you so much.

*****END OF INTERVIEW***** (01:20:26)

Transcript! Book Jawn Podcast Ep 36

In September 2016, Book Jawn Podcast released an interview with Lorrie Kim about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. You can download and listen to the podcast and you can now also read the transcript, courtesy of whiz transcriber Deannah Robinson.  Contact her at deannahm03@gmail.com if you need anything transcribed!

EP 36: LORRIE KIM AND THE CURSED PODCAST

Sarah: Hello! And welcome to Book Jawn Podcast, Episode 36.

Grace: Thirty… five. Oh, 36! Nice!

Sarah: Yeah. Look at who knows how to count!

Grace: I hate you! Stop… I hate you! I don’t know…

Sarah: I know, and that’s way more than my fingers and toes, as well. No one is more surprised than me.

Grace: We’re super excited— Oh, I’m Grace.

Sarah: I’m Sarah.

Grace: And we’re here with…

Lorrie: Lorrie.

Grace: And so many of you guys were so excited about our episode with Lorrie and her book, Snape: A Definitive Reading, that we asked her to come back for our Cursed Child discussion. **** We’re that far in Cursed Child? We’re in an interesting situation here, because all three of us liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I know that many people didn’t. But we’re going to have a talk, we’re going to talk about it.

Sarah: Yeah. Agreed.

Grace: So, I wanted to just start with saying we haven’t obviously had a new Harry Potter text in our hands for a long time, and how did you guys feel? Where did you get your book? How quickly did you read it?

Sarah: Well, I borrowed it from Spiral, and then took it back because they were in such high demand that I was like, “Well, I’ll let somebody buy this at full price.”

Grace: Yeah, she was asking people to bring back the book. She asked JD, too. She’s like, “Can I sell your copy? You’re just getting one later.”

Sarah: That’s hilarious. I did not know that. But yeah. And then I just bought it from the Marble later.

Grace: How did it feel though?

Sarah: It felt great. I read it very quickly and I squeed throughout it. I was like, “I’M SO HAPPY TO HAVE A NEW HARRY POTTER!” Then I thought it was going to take me a while to read, because it’s not written in book format. It’s written as a play, and it did not take anything from the story for me. I was actually really surprised that my wife wasn’t like–she still hasn’t read it, so I was very surprised, but I think she was a little put off by the format. But I liked it, yeah. What about you guys?

Grace: Well, I got mine at GeekyCon. We had a midnight release after the ball that we have. The line was really long. It just felt long. Anyway. First of all, I did get the book in line, but it was really a perfect setup because I’d spent the whole ball talking to the number one famous Slytherin/Snape defender at GeekyCon. We had finally talked to each other for the first time at this ball, and we were so excited. We’re hugging each other, being like, “I feel so validated by the things you’re saying.” And then we both got Cursed Child, and it was very affirming to our feelings about Gryffindor bias and Scorpius is a perfect little cinnamon roll precious boy.

Sarah: He is precious.

Grace: So I got the book, and I didn’t start reading it immediately, though. I didn’t actually start it until a week after the release date, and I read it in one sitting and cried on the train. I mean, I liked it, but I feel like it was affirming to my specific Slytherin feels. I got a very personal attachment to it. Lorrie?

Lorrie: I got mine at Big Blue Marble because it was released at the same time that Big Blue Marble was hosting the release party for Snape, so I did my presentation, then I stood in line here. And I was prepared because so many people I knew were very negative about this script coming out, for different reasons. A lot of them were because they had done so much creative work as fans within the Potterverse, and they had bad experiences in the past of their headcanons not working out with new canon. And I really have a problem with this, even though I should be more open-minded. But a lot of people are like, “J.K. Rowling should just never say another word.” 

Grace: Yeah, a lot of people feel like that. Like, how huge mega Harry Potter fans feel–

Lorrie: That she doesn’t have the right to say anything, that she has made the universe and she should just now walk away and it belongs to her readers.

Sarah: WHUT?!

Grace: This is like, I would say, most people, at least superfans I’ve talked to, feel this way.

Lorrie: I feel very strongly about it, and I have such a problem with that, to the extent that I don’t think I understand how seriously people feel this or how important it is. Because when they say it, they’re so vehement, and I disagree so much, I don’t think I’m listening to them. But I disagree because I think that she has the right to do whatever she wants, and if it bothers you, if her authority is too threatening, just don’t read it. But that’s much more easily said than done.

Sarah: True.

Grace: People’s fanfictions or headcanons, those still exist. They can still hold on to those and there’s new content, but the thing you wrote still is great. The thing you wrote still has readers. 

Lorrie: A lot of people say it’s because they’ve been transforming aspects of Potterverse to be more inclusive or more representative of things that are important to them, and every time Rowling comes out with new content, it reminds people that actually, in most ways, Potterverse is not all that progressive. For example, people who had invented a lot of lesbian backstory for McGonagall, and then Rowling came out on Pottermore with an extremely heteronormative— the same story for McGonagall that she has for a lot of the other teachers, which is romance that went wrong at a certain point and then celibacy afterward. People thought, well, after the potential richness of McGonagall as a figure of female education– which historically has been really embedded with lesbian history, with female empowerment–to have this felt reductive. And I’ve seen people be really angry about that, because it wasn’t just that their headcanons had been invalidated, but in a way that was upsetting in the first place. One of the things I was doing when I was reading this was to see where Rowling’s authorizations were moving on some issues, like people were saying the racial tokenism, for example, or the queerness or anti-Slytherin bias, how much feedback is she incorporating? How much is she acknowledging? How much is, “You know what? It’s my universe”? And then balancing that, of course, against the fact that she didn’t write it. That’s something that is, I think, universally difficult for a lot of readers to remember: “Okay, she has authorized, but she didn’t write.” The syntax isn’t hers, the characterizations. And that’s been a problem for people during interpretation as they read this is, “Okay, I am not comfortable with this characterization of this person. Is that because it’s poorly written? Is it because I’m looking for J.K.R.’s writing and it’s not hers? Or is it because I’m not getting something?” And there have been times when I’ve concluded, “No, it’s because it’s really subtle and intentionally written to be surprising and difficult to get on first reading,” and I wish sometimes that people wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that it was poor writing because it’s not always.

Sarah: Yeah. I get that.

Grace: A lot of the most— I’m just going to compliment you here rightfully, but a lot of your analyses are about these kind of unsaid things or subtle things in the series or the things you find re-reading. That makes total sense.

Sarah: Well, you remember when the 7th book came out, how everybody was so upset about the epilogue.

Grace: Oh, we remember.

Sarah: And that’s one of my favorite pieces of the original series. I think it’s so beautifully written and so — there’s so much. It’s a thing that when I first read it, I was like, ‘What in gay hell is this?’ And then I re-read it a couple of times, and was like, ‘oh no, actually, this is really brilliant.’

Grace: That makes sense.

Sarah: I think that it is— I think you’re right. A lot of stuff does gets richer when you re-read it, and see how nuanced and how many layers there are. I totally get what you mean, though. As to the people being like, ‘J.K. Rowling can’t write Harry Potter anymore,’ I think that’s garbage.

Grace: Hot Take: You’re garbage. 

Sarah: I don’t think people are garbage. I think that’s a garbage opinion. I feel like it’s a world that she created, of course she has authority on it. But I think that even JKR at this point must realize that it is a world that her readers have taken a lot of ownership and liberties with, and that’s fine. That creates space in that fandom for all sorts of different voices. I think that she—I don’t know a lot about Pottermore. I know there’s been a thing of the American houses and appropriation. I don’t know a lot about that, but I also don’t know that Pottermore is written by JKR.

Lorrie: The parts that she wrote are noted. If it doesn’t say that it’s from her, then somebody else did the writing.

Sarah: Okay. 

Grace: But the Native American appropriation was her?

Lorrie: No. [CORRECTION! The Pottermore writing about the Ilvermorny houses WAS definitely by Rowling!  I was incorrect when I said otherwise during the recorded interview. -LK]

Grace: No? Really?

Lorrie: I don’t know who did the writing and I don’t know how much authorization she gave, but it’s not one of the elements that says New Writing from J.K. Rowling.  [Dear Lorrie:  Yes, it is!  It definitely says New Writing from J.K. Rowling!  You were wrong, wrong, wrong!  – Lorrie.]

Grace: Interesting. 

Sarah: I can’t imagine anybody is here to step up and claim that.

Grace: Yeah. Huh. I think my opinion on this is that— well, I think that obviously it’s her writing, and I look forward to new content. I want that. I love reading new things that she’s written because I love Harry Potter and I want all the things, I want more all the time. I do think that the series or the story is so important to so many people. The three of us in this room, it has influenced our lives in huge, sweeping ways.

Sarah: Profoundly.

Grace: So I think that for anyone who feels that way, you’re protective over this thing that’s influenced your daily life so much. But I don’t agree with saying, “Well, then I don’t want anything else. This is what it is.”

Lorrie: Well, I like that you went to the epilogue, because obviously it springboards off the epilogue. I remember reading the epilogue and I was not that impressed with it for reasons that this play confronts head on. For one thing, it was very heavily that heteronormative “OMG they’re all going to marry their high school sweethearts and have children.”

Sarah: All except for Draco.

Lorrie: Which, thank goodness. And Draco not is also a beautiful thing. It means that he was free to continue to have romance from somebody who shared his same background, that hadn’t been making the same mistakes that he made as a teenager. He was allowed to go on and have a second act.

Sarah: Look, in my heart, he ended up with Neville.

Grace: That’s her OTP, Draco/Neville. I just want to know who Neville— what’s he up to? Just call me!

Lorrie: The single thing that I hated most about the epilogue was the really unhealthy dynamic between Hermione and Ron, where he’s basically gaslighting her, where he says, “Hermione, I bet you thought that I couldn’t pass the driving test without Confunding the Muggle examiner,” and Hermione says, “No, I had perfect faith in you.” And then he whispers to Harry, “No, actually I did.” So he’s angry at her for not having faith in him, but—

Sarah: But her lack of faith would have been justified.

Lorrie: That really, really got my stomach hurting, because that’s the same dynamic that I don’t like about Molly and Arthur, where they’re not honest with each other and they blame each other and they work around each other in a way that I don’t think is good. So Cursed Child starts, and it’s made so much better for me, because it’s out in the open that this is the dynamic, which is fine with me because it’s like, “Okay yes, these are our flaws, which we openly acknowledge,” and Rose is there going, “Well, I have every confidence that he did Confund the examiner.” It’s out in the open, it’s not me worrying that Hermione is trying to cover up for Ron’s lack of confidence, what kind of marriage dynamic is that? It was much more accepting to me of these people and more realistic. And then of course the child, who is nearly an adult, has something to say about it, which, to me, shows that the epilogue is a promise, and then that scene in Cursed Child is a reality. Of course, when we’ve just seen these kids fight Death Eaters, it’s hard to know in the future what’s it going to be like when they’re married and they have kids. And here, okay no, this— It’s real life. Their kids have opinions. I found immediately within the first couple acts that it reconciled me more to the epilogue.

Grace: So I wanna move on to the series — you said — oh, the complete Harry Potter series and then Cursed Child is the second part, but it is canon. But there are so many readers saying, “No, this isn’t canon, this isn’t canon.” But it is officially canon. Do you guys each consider it to be? Do you think that the way the characters are written is true to their character?

Sarah: You know, that’s an interesting question. I think— yes, I think that the characters are believable for who they could’ve grown up to be. That said, I don’t care that much. It’s not going to take away from fanfiction for me. I’m still going to read fanfiction, and I’m fine with that. If it doesn’t follow through with Cursed Child, I get it. I get that there is a lot of inclusivity that is absent, and so I get that as being a valid qualm. So yeah, it’s canon, but I have a big shrug about it.

Lorrie: To me, it’s absolutely canon, but that is based on my reading of it, which I know not everyone will share. For two reasons: the first one is, it’s about that phrase, “All was well,” that was at the ending of the epilogue, which I know made a lot of people really nuts. Because they said, “How can you say all was well? It’s clear in the epilogue that it’s still a prejudiced society, the same tensions and the same unfairness that were always there continue. The only thing that was well was that Harry’s scar doesn’t hurt anymore, but nothing else has been improved.” Which made me think, Okay, for the purposes of the Harry Potter story, ‘All was well’ means there was a baby who was almost killed by a serial murderer, and he was really badly traumatized and it led to war and he was hunted for his entire childhood. What can we do? Is it possible for everybody involved in the circumstances around his traumatic childhood to get this child to adulthood, to a point that he has roughly the same chances at life that his peers can expect, roughly? They did get him to that. He came of age, he was a grownup, he was allowed–because of Dumbledore and Snape’s sacrifices–to go on to have a family of his choice. To live without his scar trauma impeding everything and controlling everything. He was allowed to have a family, which is what he always wanted. And therefore, yeah, it’s still a negative world with a lot of conflicts in it, but those are the same conflicts that his peers, who were not hunted down by Voldemort, also had.

Grace: Right, it’s like, What were you expecting ‘All was well’ to mean? Everything’s absolutely perfect and no bad exists in the world?

Lorrie: So he—unlike Dumbledore and Snape, who were paying for their own sins from youth and therefore gave up some stuff, they enabled Harry and Draco to go on and have more than they themselves did because of their own self-sacrifices, and it worked. For both Harry and Draco, there were times where I wasn’t so sure it would work, but it did. So that was ‘all was well.’ Then when we come to Cursed Child, I think, ‘okay, this is the 8th story for me in that it’s answering the question: Okay, so here’s that baby. What’s it like when he becomes a father and he parents a child of the same age that he was going through when we knew him? What’s that going to look like? For yourself, you can get over your trauma, but when you had provide parenting for your child that you did not receive, and it’s not just that you didn’t get it, but in place of proper parenting you had unusual trauma that was completely unlike what almost anyone else went through, how is that going to look? What’s that experience going to be?’ To me, this completely answers that question. It may not answer the question of “Who is Albus?” or “Who is Scorpius?” or “How did everybody else turn out?” It’s just a question of, “Hey, whatever did happen to that baby?” “Well, he had kids.” “Really?! What did he do when they were that age?” “Eh… It wasn’t that easy for him!” 

Sarah: You know, it’s funny. In sort of… a lot of times, people who are sexually abused as children, it’s depressive for their entire lives. And then when they have kids that are that age, it is very triggering for them. So it’s— that’s legit.

Lorrie: It’s something that actually happens to people.

Grace: So kind of his shitty parenting is similar to that, you mean.

Sarah: Yeah.

Lorrie: You ever see cats that were raised by dogs, and they can’t clean themselves?

Sarah: They can’t clean themselves? No, I’ve never seen that.

Lorrie: Like… you see cats that were raised by cats, they lick their fur and they’re clean. Meanwhile, if you are a dog owner, you have to bathe your dog. But I’ve seen cats who as kittens were raised by dogs and they smell and you have to wash them.

Sarah: Why?

Lorrie: They didn’t get taught to clean themselves. It’s simply not there. Good parenting is not instinct. It’s learned, and it takes forever. You can’t just get it from– Sirius provided some really beautiful moments that parents are supposed to provide, but he wasn’t the real parent; he didn’t have the authority; it only happened for a couple years. Most of what Draco knows how to do for Scorpius–because Lucius Malfoy, despite being a nazi, was a father, and did go to bat for his kid… by bribing ministers and trying to get people killed. But the point was: Somebody’s threatening my child and that hurts me, and I don’t want my child to be hurt. So Draco knows what to do with Scorpius, even if he’s not going to do it the way Lucius did. For Harry, that’s simply not there. Nobody ever did that for him. Sirius didn’t have the authority, and then he goes to Dumbledore and he says, “You were my dad!” And Dumbledore’s like, “Umm, I wasn’t?” 

Grace: Look, we don’t have any real examples of good fathers in the original seven books, in my opinion. We talked about this earlier–not in this episode, excuse me; we talked about this off the episode. And you said Lupin was probably a good dad, but–

Sarah: For ten minutes. 

Grace: That’s what I’m saying. When I really think about it, I don’t have any good examples of a good father figure in the whole series.

Lorrie: Hagrid’s dad.

Grace: Hagrid’s dad. But again–

Sarah: I mean, that’s really obscure.

Lorrie: We’re reaching.

Grace: Right, reaching, it’s a good example. But we’ve never seen him in action. We never have seen him present.

Lorrie: Yeah, we don’t see it, we hear about it. And it’s apparent from Hagrid’s ability to nurture that somebody did a good job on Hagrid. 

Sarah: That’s right. He was a good parent to Norbert.

Lorrie: Yeah. I mean, that’s his whole purpose. One reason why I consider it canon is because from the point of view of the overarching series, I think it’s the story of Harry, and yeah, this is what I want to know: what did happen to that person? He got over a lot of stuff through enormous effort, mostly on his own with good help, and then he went on and had kids. So that’s one reason, and here’s the other reason why I think it’s canon: I think that the content of Cursed Child is deliberately set up to tell us that very little in it is canon, that very little in this play that happens is canon. Most of it is AU, things that are done and then undone. For example: the things that I know shocked faithful readers, like Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater — the single kid who we knew from the series that would NEVER become a Death Eater. He’s become one in this AU, which gets undone, and the whole thing about– okay, Voldemort and Bellatrix reproduced in a mammalian viviparous fashion. HOW?! And that also gets undone. And that’s subtle, that’s not explicitly stated, but it’s another AU. All of these AUs that are created by children trying to imagine what their parents went through without even having the means to live the lives that their parents did. Trying to think about possibilities, struggling to make stories through which they could understand why their parents feel the way they do. These are AUs that can be created or undone based on what you understand of each other. So yeah, there’s a universe in which Cedric Diggory became a Death Eater, I guess, or which Voldemort had sexual intercourse, if that’s possible.

Sarah: Sounds sexy when you put it like that!

Lorrie:… and that Bellatrix, who was showing while she was– yeah, I don’t–I think it’s very deliberately shown to make no logical sense to people who lived through Harry’s teen years, which would be the readers of books 1-7. Because the person imagining this didn’t.

Grace: Is your theory that they didn’t use a Time-Turner?

Lorrie: No, my theory is that a Time-Turner is allegory for trying to put yourself, mentally, back into another time so that you can understand things. 

Grace: Right.

Sarah: So is it kind of like that psychological technique of putting yourself into that person’s chair and then having a conversation?

Lorrie: Well, it’s also the kind… Lies about a person’s family can affect people’s lives, even when they’re not true. Suppose all of your life you were told that your father was this one person, and then you discover, a long time later, no, actually your father was this other person that your mother only met once, and you have to go find out who that person was. But all your life, you’re trying to look for yourself in the person you were told was your father, so all of these stories can create effects in your life whether or not they’re true, and then you learn new information that changes things. And I think that’s sort of what’s happening with the Time-Turner here is Albus, he doesn’t listen to anything Harry has to say; he can’t. He’s trying to understand it on his own terms based on things that he’s trying to piece together about people he’s never met, who died before he was born. He can’t imagine things. For example, he doesn’t know Voldemort as we readers know Voldemort. He doesn’t know that Voldemort was so inhumane as to be inhuman. He can’t imagine that those of us who have experienced Voldemort from Harry’s teenage point of view are like, “NO, that man did NOT have children! He was trying to be immortal; he didn’t even think he needed to reproduce, because reproduction is for mortals. He wouldn’t have wanted–that’s not how snakes reproduce!”

Grace: And he wants it to be HIS legacy, it’s always about him and him being powerful, so I can’t imagine him being like, “Oh, lemme have a kid so that if I die, someone else can benefit from my power!”

Lorrie: It’s really, really hard to imagine, and we also know so much about the weird attitude of Bellatrix toward children and babies that it’s all of these horrifying thoughts that we have trouble with because we have experienced things through Harry’s teen POV, and we’ve met Voldemort through Harry’s perspective, and Albus hasn’t. He doesn’t–and this happens to children of war generations–you can’t know how bad these things were if you weren’t there, and your parents don’t want you to because it was awful.

Grace: I’ve got goosebumps.

Lorrie: So I’m thinking that the weird things that are hard to accept and hard to fit into Potterverse as we knew them from Harry’s teen years, that appear in Cursed Child, are showing us these things may or may not have happened. But the difficulty that Albus has understanding the reality that Harry lived through, for one thing, should help us understand how hard it was for Harry as an orphan in, say, Prisoner of Azkaban, to realize that his life was being controlled by people and decisions that were made before he was born — by his parents’ generation, by people who are dead or in prison, that nobody is telling him anything. So why is this Potions professor making his life miserable? Why is Lupin lying? All these things are happening, everybody knows it but him, no one’s telling him anything, and that’s– now we see Albus. Okay, some of that was because Harry had an exceptional situation. Some of it is just because that’s what happens, and you don’t know what your parents went through, and especially when it was as traumatic as what Harry went through, you can’t convey it to your child. And if you try to, you’re going to– it’s really not easy, it’s not probably possible to understand that your father was in mortal peril. I mean, we see that Albus gains more and more understanding through the play, as he is in situations where he can feel mortal peril, and then he realizes, “Oh, my father felt this?” And the more he feels that, the more he understands it. But Albus wasn’t actually in mortal– I mean, these were chosen Time-Turner trips which, because they were undone, turned out to be these side AUs. They don’t turn out to be realities that he’s stuck in. But he gets to undo them because each time, he has some maturity and some understanding that enables him to go back and undo it. Every time that there’s a scene change, it’s because there’s new information for Albus or Scorpius that enables them to go back to their earlier misunderstanding and, at that point, clear up some of the bad artifacts that came about because of their misadventures.

Grace: That reminds me of the one thing I would change in the book. Like the book, there was one scene that I felt was missing, which is Albus seeing Harry at his age forced into a decision for protecting someone. I wanted to see Albus understand his dad directly in a scene where Harry’s in mortal peril. I wanted him to understand in a more clear way watching this– I wanted to see Albus see Harry at his exact age and be like, okay. I feel that would be such a–

Sarah: It’d be gratifying for him, or it would help him understand.

Grace: Yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted. That’s the only thing I would change. I wanted him to directly see his dad at his age. Did you guys have things, if you could change something?

Sarah: I’d like to see Neville. 

Grace: You’d like to see Neville?

Lorrie: I wish that Ron hadn’t been written as a clown.

Sarah: Dude!

Grace: Really?

Sarah: Yeah, he was a doofy uncle, like…

Grace: Well, a lot of people didn’t like it, but I actually thought that you got it or something.

Lorrie: I think the clown element of Ron is really important but it’s only one. The Ron that I knew from the series 1-7, he has a clown element, he has a very touching, emotional element. He has depth and instincts in areas that the other characters don’t that he contributes but he doesn’t do it in an overbearing way. That’s part of his personality, so I felt like the deeper notes of his character were not represented in the play, and that only the clown element was represented, and that felt unbalanced to me. He was also portrayed as ignorant or clueless a little too much. That’s not the balance I like in my Ron. So I would have like a little bit more gravitas from this Ron.

Grace: What about you, Sarah? You said Neville.

Sarah: Actually, I would like to see what happened to Neville and Luna. Was the gist that Ron had taken over Weasley’s joke shop? Yeah, I didn’t care for that. I would like to have seen him doing his own thing.

Lorrie: Well, they did say — and this was another thing that I saw Cursed Child address directly from the epilogue–it had always bothered me so badly that Potterverse is completely patronymic, that you don’t ever see a witch take — all witches marry wizards and take the wizard’s last name without exception. The only possible room for question there is, what did Tonks call herself after she married Lupin? I don’t know. 

Grace: Well, didn’t Hermione also, in this book, hyphenate?

Lorrie: Not in Deathly Hallows, so the first time that I see Rose Granger-Weasley, I’m like, So that makes it on purpose, that Rowling made it a patronymic society in books 1-7 as opposed to an assumption for Rowling’s part that she assumed we’d all share. It made it intentional.

Grace: Which was the next era?

Lorrie: That yes, she was presenting a very patriarchal society in which all the women had to take their husband’s names and that Hermione, of course, would say, ‘No, I’m going to do something different.’ And that, especially because so many plot points in the first 7 books depend upon the mother’s last name being erased.

Sarah: Oh, that’s true.

Lorrie: So, I wanted it to be true that this was intentional and we were meant to notice that it was considered not an option. But then as soon as we meet Rose Granger-Weasley: See, there you go, yes, yes. I feel that that canonized the reading of Potterverse of which all women taking their husband’s surnames was a comment on the patriarchy. And we see that further underscored when Draco says, “Everyone thought that my father and I wanted to continue the Malfoy family line. We really couldn’t have cared less about that.” Because there are some characters — Snape and Sirius, and now Draco — who really don’t care about the family line dying out. 

Grace: Sorry, I’m just thinking about Sirius. Of all the characters, Sirius is like, “Yeah, we can die, we can all just die!” Oh, it’s not funny, it is funny. I’m sorry.

Lorrie: That’s like Phineas Nigellus saying, does that mean that my great great grandson, the last of the Blacks, is dead and our family line is dead? And like, Well, yeah, not that he cares about the family line. And Snape, too. Who cares? He’s so not patriarchal. And it turns out that neither is Draco. All he cared about was a happy family for his wife and him. He really didn’t care about a family name or anything.

Sarah: But that makes sense, though.

Lorrie: It does.

Grace: I really wanna talk about Draco, of course.

Lorrie: DRACO!

Grace: But before we do, I wanna go back to where you bring up women. I read up online some criticism, which is that when the play was cast, we all got really exci–hopefully if you’re good, you got really excited about–

Sarah: If you’re a good person.

Grace: If you’re a good person, you got really excited about Hermione being cast by a Black actress, and then some people were really upset writing about–

Sarah: Racists. Racists were upset.

Grace: Oh, no, no, no. After that– yeah, racists were upset. I don’t care about that, I don’t wanna talk about that. After reading Cursed Child, some fans were upset because they were like, “You cast these Black actresses as Rose and Hermione, you got us all excited for this progressive story, and there are not a lot of women in the story.” I read this criticism, a lot of people said there weren’t actually that many scenes with women in them. I do think Hermione had a big role. So I’m not saying I necessarily agreeing with it, but do you guys think there were enough women?

Sarah: Hermione, Ginny, Rose… 

Grace: But Ginny’s not really in it, though. Again, she’s in a couple scenes.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s possible that the cart witch has more scenes that Ginny–

Grace: I love her so much.

Lorrie: I realized this morning I am the cart witch… Oh, boy.

Grace: That’s the character you are.

Lorrie: I am!

Grace: That’s totally true. You’re– it’s amazing. I’d be so happy.

Lorrie: I’ve never seen myself in the Potterverse before.

Grace: I don’t really see myself as a specific character. 

Sarah: I relate on a deep level to Neville.

Grace: I can actually see that one. I talked to Emma about it. I’ve never really connected to a specific character. I joke about being Slughorn, but that’s not actually how I see myself. The character I’ve most connected to was Dumbledore. Of any actual… I feel like that character.

Sarah: Because of your swank wardrobe?

Grace: Because of my swank wardrobe.

Sarah: I knew it.

Lorrie: Oh yeah, the high-heeled boots! First shoes we ever see him wear!

Grace: But no, I first saw that tweet that you did this morning, and said, Yup, that’s accurate! 

Lorrie: Just saying. That’s for stealing pumpkin pasties.

Grace: Back to–I’m not saying–

Sarah: Dude!

Grace: Yeah, she brings… to all the Harry Potter events she doesn’t host, she’ll just bring all the Harry Potter treats.

Sarah: I thought you were referring to the scary roof scene, and I was like, Umm…

Lorrie: No, I am! I am.

Grace: Both. Definitely both.

Lorrie: Yeah, we have my kids sneaking off somewhere, thinking that they’re going to do it and me showing up: “Hello, children.”

Sarah: Have a pumpkin pasty bomb!

Lorrie: “Get back where you’re supposed to be. You think you can outwit me? HA!”

Grace: So I think — I love that. It made me so happy. It was so true. I don’t think I agree with that, especially Albus seeing it as… This is still Harry’s story, this is still him as a father. I don’t think there were not enough women in the scenes. I still think I can see the play, so it’s kinda hard to say.

Sarah: Yeah, well, Delphie, Delphine, Delph–

Lorrie: Delphi?

Sarah: Delphi. Yeah, she’s a woman. There are also not that many characters, to be honest, that play a major role.

Grace: Plus, if we’re going to–if it’s a play, they can’t have every actor. They can’t have Luna and Trelawney or whatever, you know, all these other women in it.

Sarah: I wish.

Grace: Because you’d have to hire all those actors. I don’t know. What do you think, Lorrie?

Lorrie: I saw a story, a separate story, that I would love to see. Which isn’t the story that this play tells. Ginny and Hermione are a lot more open and sympathetic to Draco than Harry.

Grace: I loved that.

Lorrie: And Ron, I mean obviously. But when Ginny said that after Astoria died, she owled Draco, saying, What can we do? And that just got me, it got me so much, because we didn’t know that. Did Harry know that? Then we find out that Harry must’ve known it because the answer that Draco sent back was, “Tell you husband to make a statement that my child is not Voldemort’s baby.” So Ginny must have presented that to Harry, who said, “No, we’re not going to do that.” And then there’s the Dramione moment at the end. Draco and Hermione have a lot more easy time interacting than Draco and Harry.

Grace: So many wizard rock songs playing in my head right now that it’s confusing.

Lorrie: Especially Ginny, that Ginny understood Draco a lot better, to me, that is a whole other universe, a whole other four-act play that could be written that’s not Harry’s story, which means, “okay, that specifically showed me that this isn’t supposed to be THE story. This is Harry’s story with really emotional references to other stuff going on.” I wasn’t disappointed by it, however. I’m still marveling over the experience that when I was reading the play, I was picturing Hermione and Rose as Black. 

Grace: Yup. Immediately from going in, it was like–

Sarah: It’s really cool.

Lorrie: There is nothing to indicate it, but this is a favor that they have done for me.

Grace & Sarah: Yeah.

Lorrie: Yeah. You have a Time-Turner, now we go back to fourth-year Hermione watching the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and we get to imagine that we know for a fact that we’re picturing a Black girl.

Sarah: That’s so cool.

Lorrie: That really got me, and to me, that’s maybe THE story of this particular production, is that that change has been made in my mind.

Sarah: What’s really cool, too, that regardless of what alternate universe they were in, Ron had biracial kids. I thought that was really, really cool. 

Lorrie: Yeah, and even in that one, the “spare,” the new spare, is played by an Asian guy. Like, Okay. Is that his name, Craig Bowker, Jr.? The guy who does all the homework for the Scorpion King? The new spare.

Grace: It’s interesting though, because in Hollywood, at least, the most underrepresented groups among actors are Asian men.

Lorrie: It’s not a huge change, but with racial representation in Potterverse, I am still at basic 001, I am taking everything. And we’ve read people saying, “Gosh, the name Panju opens up a whole can of worms.” Like — it’s not a name. It’s not a person’s name. It’s this really weird, “all brown people are alike,” “let’s just pick a name and go with it” kind of weirdness.

Grace: Oh, really?

Lorrie: Yeah, it was a lot of people saying, “Oh, this is kind of bad and insulting.”

Grace: I guess I said we were going to go back to Draco now.

Sarah: Something that I found really cool about Draco was not just how much of a caring father he was, but also seemingly what a caring husband he was. I thought that it was cool to see that yes, he was concerned that his son was being dragged and called Son of Voldemort. But also his wife’s reputation was on the line, and what did that mean for her. Then when she was ill, how he was– I don’t know. I just like Cursed Child Draco a lot.

Grace: Yeah, I wanna talk about Draco for a lot of reasons. First of all, I think his parenting was awesome, especially in contrast to Harry’s. My favorite line was from him. Also, as someone who was once a Draco fangirl and then was like, “I don’t wanna be like that, Team Neville,” like you fan crush, it was cool to see him as the person that I want him to be. He got to be the person that I, in my own girl crush brain, hoped that he was. But yeah, my favorite line that he said, when they’re talking about their friendship, he’s talking about being jealous of the trio and their friendship. He said to them that they shined, “You shone so bright and my friends were idiots basically, and it just wasn’t fair.” It made me so happy because it made so much sense. Draco is smart, it’s never been a question that he’s an intelligent kid, and he just never got to have that kind of friendship. And him being so honest about that jealousy– I just thought that whole thing was beautiful. And If you’re a kid in school ever and there was a group of friends that, even if you hated them, that love each other so much and had so much fun, you can’t help but be jealous of them.

Sarah: I just turned to it.

Grace: What was the line?

Sarah: It says: “Two lumps who wouldn’t know the end of a broomstick from another. You — the three of you — you shone, you know? You liked each other, you had fun. I envied you and those friendships more than anything else.”

Grace: I loooooove that part.

Sarah: He goes on to say: “My father thought he was protecting me. Most of the time, I think you have to make a choice, at a certain point, of the man that you want to be. And I tell you that, at the time you need to be a parent or a friend, and if you’ve learned to hate your parent by then and you have no friends, then you are all alone. And being alone, that’s hard. I was alone, and it sent me to a truly dark place for a long time. Tom Riddle was also a lonely child. You may not understand that, Harry, but I do and I think Ginny does, too.” 

Grace: Ginny does, too.

Lorrie: I love that.

Sarah: Ginny says he’s right, and Draco says, “Tom Riddle didn’t emerge from his dark place, and so Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort. Maybe the black cloud Bane saw was Albus’ loneliness, his pain, his hatred. Don’t lose the boy; you’ll regret it. And so will he, because he needs you and Scorpius, whether or not he now knows it.”

Grace: So the black cloud, I wanna highlight that part. 

Lorrie: So many, so many things to talk about. I wanna stick with Draco for a second. What I love about this Draco is that we can see every — The Draco of Cursed Child is completely foreshadowed by the Draco of the series for me. And I know not everyone sees it that way, but for one thing, the Draco of the series is really funny. He’s witty and he’s clever, and he’s insightful. It’s hard to see because, for example, he puts his wit into that song he makes about Ron, which is vicious. But he is the kind of person whose mind is always going. And his tenderness toward Astoria, we see that in Narcissa always being so tender toward Lucius, even when she has really good reason to be angry with him. But he has gotten these things from his extremely imperfect parents. I really like how we see who Draco can be if permitted, and I also like that we got the sign very early on, an alternative to the balding hairline for the epilogue, we get that he has a ponytail. It’s like, “Okay, we’re letting you know that just enough has shifted so that your brain can accept that this is a different story.” Just like different lines get assigned to different characters on Platform 9 ¾, it’s like, “Okay, I remember this. This isn’t the way I remembered,” which is saying: Yeah, memory is like that sometimes. Different perspective, different time, different characters; you think you remember it. Do you? Does it matter? Does it mean something different now? But yeah, Draco’s characterization that highlights likeable elements of him from the original series: one of my favorite things. 

Grace: How do you think his parenting is contrasting Harry’s?

Lorrie: Draco acts like someone who knows what it feels like to have parents stand up for you. He’s like, “okay, when something happens to my child, I’m going to say, ‘You know what would help? Do this.’” Whereas when Harry had terrible rumours about him, nobody was able to stand up for him, nobody had the right. Sirius was supposed to be– I don’t know where. Sirius had no personhood to stand up and say anything, and the times he tried, he got into a fight with Molly Weasley, and he got into a fight with Snape, the two times that he tried to stand up for Harry, saying– and Dumbledore overrode him. At the end of Goblet of Fire, when Dumbledore was like, “Harry has to recite everything bad that happened to him tonight,” and Sirius is like, “Can you wait? He’s really, really upset and tired.” And Dumbledore says, “It has to be now. I understand, but it does have to be now.” Dumbledore is right, so Sirius backs off. And then Sirius tries to argue with Molly, saying, “My godson is in mortal danger, and you want to keep him ignorant,” and Molly’s like, “You’re not his father.” And then he tries to tell Snape, “Don’t give my kid a hard time in Occlumency lessons,” and then the two of them nearly beat each other up. That was really bad. So that’s the closest that Harry gets. Sometimes Molly tries to stand up for Harry, but that’s always not quite right. And Harry appreciates it, but it’s not quite right. So he doesn’t know this feeling, but Draco does. Draco’s dad joined the PTA because he didn’t trust how the school was going to treat his kid, and then bribed everybody and Imperiused everybody. That’s an experience that Draco had at a really specific daily level. It’s not just a one-time thing. You had to grow up that way seeing it. He saw his cold, bitchy, snotty mother be lonely and scared because her husband was in jail. She could’ve blamed Lucius, like, “Oh my god, the Death Eaters are overrunning Malfoy Manor.” She could’ve been really angry with him. And instead, she just stayed with them and the unspoken message throughout book 7 that Narcissa was giving Lucius and Draco was, “Keep your head down. We’re going to get through this. It doesn’t matter: don’t react. We’re going to get through. The only thing that matters is that we get through it.” And then she got them through it. Draco knows that, so he’s applying that to Astoria and to Scorpius because it was really powerful what he got that Harry, you know–Voldemort killed his parents, he never got that, and he blames Dumbledore for not giving it to him. Even though Dumbledore’s like, “I wasn’t supposed to, I was your headmaster.” That’s the curse that goes, “You want to do well by your kids, but if something happened to you that interfered with your ability to learn how to do it, then you’re going to pass on some really bad failures to your parenting, even though you desperately don’t want to. That’s your curse, and your kid is going to suffer, even though nobody deserves it. The parent doesn’t deserve to do that to the kid, the parent doesn’t want to. Kid doesn’t deserve it; it’s going to happen. That’s your curse.”

Sarah: Thank God I’ll never have children.

Grace: I’m listening to you talk about this and like, I’m having this exact same thought. “Shit, I don’t wanna have kids.”

Lorrie: If Harry Potter can have children, you guys can, too.

Grace: Also I thought, Why didn’t he go into therapy? While you were talking…

Lorrie: Because his scar didn’t hurt. Until now. Because James and Lily weren’t in his shadow area, he understood James and Lily. It wasn’t until Albus started to not communicate with him on the platform, about to go into second year after all summer saying nothing, that Harry understood there was a problem and his scar was hurting. It’s not until something came up that it was in an area that he wasn’t equipped. I was going to say something and I totally don’t–

Grace: Well, you started to say shadow.

Lorrie: You were going to say something, and then I said, No, wait, Draco. And now I lost it.

Grace: No, you were talking about Bane’s black cloud reference.

Lorrie: Wait, it was Voldemort/Tom Riddle being a lonely child. That’s it, that’s the line, that’s the insight that we get from Draco, Tom Riddle was a lonely child, and that Ginny understood that but Harry probably didn’t. And Harry starts to understand that in book 6, and Dumbledore stops him in a way that’s cruel but probably necessary, and Dumbledore says, “Are you feeling sorry for Tom, for Voldemort?” And Harry’s like, “No, no, no.”

Grace: I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t do that.

Lorrie: In his position, he’s trying to build up boundaries between him and Voldemort, you know, to get sucked into, “Oh, poor Voldemort killing everybody.” But Draco had that different perspective and it’s after Draco says, Tom Riddle was a lonely child, that Harry has a dream in which we get THE quote from Voldemort that’s pulled from the end of Goblet of Fire that fourteen-year-old Harry overheard. Harry, when he was fourteen, witnessed Voldemort saying to the Death Eaters, “I smell the stench of guilt in the air.” That’s the reproach of the child who wasn’t cared for by people who promised they would take care of him after he had been lost in the forest with no body, and his Death Eaters had sworn that they love him and they didn’t come look for him. Because Harry’s been dreaming that of Petunia, too. Petunia says the child has cursed us, which is completely backwards. Of course, when he’s been dreaming of them running away from the letters, Harry’s dreaming of the time that Petunia and Vernon and Dudley were running away from the letters, and Petunia says about Harry, the child has cursed us, and of course poor little Harry has done nothing of the sort. That’s her guilt talking. And Harry does the same thing to Scorpius, putting accusations on a child that has done nothing. Just that if you’re a guilty parent or adult caregiver who has not been fair to a child under your care, your fear of them will make you think that maybe they are cursing you, and that line from Voldemort saying that he smelt the stench of guilt connected to Draco saying Tom Riddle was a lonely child. It’s saying that, yeah, Voldemort had the same sensation of being angry at people who were not providing the care that he needed, even if they weren’t the appropriate people to provide it.

Sarah: This makes me feel like I can 1) never have kids…

Grace: Yes.

Sarah: And 2) maybe I’m going to start a club.

Grace: A club?

Sarah: A Death Eaters club.

Grace: Oh, god. Sarah!

Sarah: I can’t do that. I’m a Gryffindor.

Grace: Well, so is Wormtail, so… you could be. You could.

Sarah: Don’t compare me to Wormtail. He’s the WORST.

Grace: Let’s go back to that passage. There’s a lot in that tiny part, we’re talking about friendship, we’re talking about Draco growing into someone more empathetic, we’re talking about lonely children and how Ginny can understand and maybe Harry can’t. There’s this key line about Bane talking about a black cloud over Albus. You have some very interesting theories on this, about what that represents.

Lorrie: When the kids and Delphi are trying to find the time turner in Hermione’s bookcase, there are two riddles, and one riddle says “Dementors”. The other riddle says “Shadow,” which makes me think that we’re supposed to understand this from the Carl Jung definition of “shadow”, which is the part of yourself that you’re so afraid of that you can’t be aware of it consciously, and it stays in your unconscious. And if it’s out of balance, you can behave in damaging ways based on that. That’s what’s happening–that’s the black cloud around Albus, that he’s being damaged by Harry’s shadow. Harry is acting out of things that he’s too scared to face. Usually Harry’s shadow is most easily understood to be Voldemort, the part of Harry that he’s afraid of, and he’s afraid that he really is Voldemort. For this play, by the end, when he’s able to transform into Voldemort knowing that he’ll be able to transform back, that’s the triumph of the play, that he’s been able to bring the fears out of his shadow unconsciousness into dealing with it consciously so that it can stop hurting Albus. But at the point when Bane is telling him that there’s a black cloud, it’s so much part of Harry’s shadow, it’s so impossible for him to deal with consciously that his identification of that black cloud is basically, “Anything but Harry Potter.” “What’s that black cloud? Is it werewolves? Trolls? I know, it’s Scorpius, son of Voldemort!” And McGonagall is horrified, Albus is horrified, Draco is bewildered and furious that he’s breaking up this friendship because Harry’s definition is, “Oh, the answer is anything but me.” 

Sarah: I’d love to read all your analysis of this book.

Lorrie: Meanwhile, while Harry’s fear– his shadow is Voldemort, so therefore we get all this “return of Voldemort,” which is that Harry is now scared again in a way he has not been afraid for 22 years. And that part of his psyche is gaining so much power that it’s becoming personified for him as Voldemort again. But meanwhile, my reading of Delphi is that she is Albus’s shadow. And by creating a character that is “Delphi,” that changes in her identity throughout the play according to what Albus happens to know or need to know at the time that he’s working things out, so that the final confrontation between Delphi and Voldemort is actually Albus being able to see what’s really going on emotionally between him and Harry — without having to force both of them to dredge it up into the consciousness and have a conversation that’s really too much to ask of real life human beings. Because the moment that Delphi appears, it comes right after the words “Fiction” and “sorry.” Albus, who is upset with his father, is overhearing Harry talking to Amos Diggory, and he overhears Harry lie, and Amos Diggory says, “You have a Time-Turner,” and Harry says, “Everything you’ve heard about that Time-Turner is a fiction. I’m sorry.” And the moment that Albus overhears that imperfect father say “fiction”, he creates fictions of his own, which are all the AUs that follow. The immediate line after that, Delphi appears. It’s not even that he meets her; she wasn’t there before and suddenly she appears. “Hi, I’m Delphini.” So this creature, this entity, Delphi, has several names: she has Delphi, she has Delphini Diggory, and she makes up some really half-assed story about how they made fun of her name Delphini Diggory at school, which is half-assed on purpose. Trying to tell us, okay, this story doesn’t match up, you’re supposed to think. And then she says, “Oh no, I never actually was at school.” All these things don’t match up. And she’s the Augurey. She has different names and identities based on what Albus is working through at the time, and at the time that she first appears, what he needs is somebody to be emotionally with him in grief and anger that his father isn’t having empathy for a father-child dynamic. At that point, as far as he’s concerned, Harry Potter is evil and a failure, and Delphi’s there going, “Ah, so you’re related to Harry Potter?” So that’s what he needs then, and then there’s a moment that I knew threw a lot of people. Suddenly in this play, Delphi has silvery blue hair and is a romance figure, and people were like, “That’s the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of! She’s a Mary Sue!”

Sarah: I don’t really know what that is, if I’m being honest. 

Grace: Mary Sue?

Sarah: I mean, a little bit, but from comics, right?

Lorrie: Or from fanfiction written by people who are working within a given universe but also fantasizing about themselves as the most attractive and unusual person in this universe, in their fiction.

Grace: Who did everything.

Lorrie: Yeah. And there is a general collective sense of embarrassment about this kind of character because many of us have this in our pasts and are a little bit embarrassed about this. And it has a bad reputation, and there’s a sexist connotation to putting down Mary Sues, too, because people will say, “Oh, fanfiction, it’s all about Mary Sues, it’s all about stupid teenage girls and their fantasies of themselves having silvery hair or whatever, or wings.”

Grace: That do everything. But then it’s like, Captain America does everything, but we don’t call him a Mary Sue.

Sarah: That’s actually just what I was thinking.

Lorrie: And then people are saying, Exactly what is Bruce Wayne?

Sarah: I don’t know. A tortured Mary Sue?

Lorrie: The whole fantasy of–

Grace: He’s rich and strong and smart and…

Lorrie: Yeah. And vulnerable. So this whole concept of a point-of-view character that is the most dominant new figure in a piece of fiction is called Mary Sue in a way that is sometimes sexist, and the silvery blue hair and the attractiveness and the romancing with Albus and Scorpius going, “Uh, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this.” That is sort of an indicator like, Okay, this is one of the things that Albus is working through. Because she’s not described as having silvery blue hair the whole time; she’s suddenly that.

Grace: That part was jarring.

Lorrie: It’s very odd. But then before that and after that, Albus isn’t needing that. The first thing we see is that she is the kind, loving caregiver of Amos Diggory who’s been wronged by Harry Potter, which is the first entry that Albus has into this story. Then near the end — so heartbreaking — we see this girl saying, “Voldemort, father, I’ve spent my entire life trying to be somebody that you could be proud of when you finally pay attention to me.”

Sarah: And it’s Harry Potter pretending to be Voldemort.

Lorrie: Exactly, and it’s Albus sustaining this character, Delphi.

Grace: Damn, that–ooooh. That hit me in the gut.

Lorrie: And the more Delphi goes to Harry and says, “Father, father, I want you to look at me as a child,” the more trouble Harry has maintaining the Voldemort form.

Grace: Damn.

Lorrie: Because what Delphi’s asking of him is not something that the actual Voldemort could have provided. That he can’t do this as Voldemort. That’s not who Voldemort was. 

Grace: Are there any other shadow storylines that you want to talk about in Cursed Child? Any other characters with shadows or plot points?

Lorrie: So there’s an AU is which Scorpius goes alone. 

Grace: There’s no Albus.

Lorrie: Which I’m thinking is because he has seen what Albus is doing with the AUs and seeing– they’ve had that argument where Scorpius says, “Oh, I’m angry at you, Albus. You think you’re the only one with father issues, you think your life is so shitty. Well, that’s very annoying, from my point of view.” 

Grace: Go, Scorpius, GO!

Sarah: Scorpius is my favorite character in this whole thing.

Lorrie: Except for the fact that Jack Thorne had authority to create an OC in Scorpius without the weight of having to match up with Rowling and the characters she created that people have loved for so long, and Scorpius is so much of a blank slate. He has some elements of Scorpius that he took from J.K. Rowling, but he had so much more leeway to create an original character — who is my favorite. He seems to be a runaway favorite with many people. I found it impossible not to love him.

Sarah: He’s just so earnest.

Lorrie: And he’s complex, and he’s very, very self-aware and obviously brilliant. And the fact that he enjoys being a dork and is unapologetic about it. So we have Scorpius and we see this little hint from Draco saying, “Scorpius is a follower, not a leader, no matter what I try to instill in him.” And we’re like, “Draco, what do you know about being a leader?” We had Lucius expect– we already see in Chamber of Secrets, in Borgin & Burkes, how hard it is for Draco to live up to Lucius’s expectations of him to waltz into Hogwarts and be top student, even though annoying Hermione Granger is getting favoritism. We know that Draco always wanted that, to live up to his father’s expectations.

Grace: Yeah, but even Lucius doesn’t even live up to that expectation.

Lorrie: Although Lucius has the kind of power and wealth that he thinks his son should be able to reproduce at Hogwarts, and it’s not working. So Draco is putting this very weird expectation on his child, completely inappropriate considering that the mom is sick and then dead, that they have just barely survived this war, that his kid is lonely, that his mom has to teach him songs and buy him candy. And in all of that, even knowing that Scorpius is his real self and trying to love Scorpius at the same time, trying to tell him he has to be a leader? That’s not a thing that humans do. He got that from his dad; there’s a kind of dad he thinks he’s supposed to be. And he’s upset with Scorpius for not being a leader. So we have that one AU where there’s no Albus, and it’s just Scorpius going to face Draco. So what is this father who wants him to be a leader? And then discovering, ‘Oh gosh, a world in which it makes sense for a Malfoy to be a leader is a whole different world.’ And he goes and he has that all by himself, and then he goes and re-meets with Albus.

Grace: This just sparked a thing in my brain. I love Scorpius, but I don’t necessarily see him as a Slytherin. He doesn’t seem like a Slytherin at the same time, going further. When I was at GeekyCon, someone was talking about the different houses and what they should do in life, and I only remember the Slytherin one because I’m a Slytherin, and he said, “Slytherins shouldn’t be the leader. That power corrupts you.” So is Scorpius — does he have Slytherin traits, but he’s using them responsibly? Say something! I’m just thinking, I’m just thinking through all of this while I say it. Please say stuff. Help me! 

Lorrie: Right after Scorpius and Draco have that conversation– that’s the conversation where Draco treats Scorpius the way he thinks he should. He’s physically punishing Scorpius. He drags Scorpius physically onto his desk. He‘s about to hit Scorpius, and then Scorpius brings up Astoria and says, “Mum always said you’re better than you let yourself think,” and that mention calms Draco and allows his sorrow to come out because he doesn’t want to be hurting Scorpius. Scorpius then says, “That’s not who we are. We shouldn’t be like this.” And then something comes into Draco’s face, and he looks at Scorpius and he says — really really super carefully, because Draco, he’s still a shill — he’s saying, “No, I didn’t do that Muggle killing, but I’m the one who’s going to have to answer for it.” And then he looks at Scorpius really carefully and says, “Whatever you doing, be careful.” And that’s a Slytherin thing, meaning ‘Know how to speak in allegory and know how to be subversive. Don’t be like poor Charity Burbage and say what you really think and then get killed for it. It’s too dangerous for that. Do this other thing. Be careful.’ That’s when we get Snape entering the narrative. Because it’s right after that that we get the Slytherin who shows how to be careful and to work toward that goal while not getting killed for it. 

Grace: And to do good in the world with your Slytherin traits.

Lorrie: Just to know how to do it. Draw on that ability, because Scorpius, he does. We see him going, “Uh, for Voldemort and valor, I guess.” It’s very tough for him to play along, but you see him making himself do it and understanding all the time, ‘Okay, so a world in which I can’t be friends with Albus Potter is a world in which he wasn’t born, is a world in which I could’ve been a leader. The Malfoys were leaders. Because this is the world and oh my god, this is really terrible,” and it makes him understand, “that’s what my dad grew up as. When my dad was my age, this is what he had to do, and who helped him.”

Grace: Actually, Scorpius has this scene that I wanted Albus to have. I just put that together. Scorpius has that. Damn.

Lorrie: What Harry was asking of Albus was not — this is part of the curse. It’s not appropriate and it’s not possible, but you can’t avoid it. Harry wants his child to understand and legitimize what he went through. “This is my blanket.”

Grace: Yeah, take this. Feel my suffering.

Lorrie: “This is my blanket. My mother, my dead mother, would’ve wanted you to have it,” and Albus is like, “I don’t even know how to deal with this. This is so disgusting; get me out of here! This is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced,” and Harry’s like, “No, don’t go!”

Sarah: He also gives James the Invisibility Cloak and–

Lorrie: And Lily gets what she wants.

Sarah: She gets fairy wings, so they get magical items, and he gets this crusty old blanket that is not magical. It has too much emotional significance, and he doesn’t necessarily understand the idea of non-magical luck, right?

Lorrie: He’s given Albus only what he, Harry himself, needs and nothing at all what Albus needs.

Grace: I was going to say, this shows how much I love you, but for Albus, it’s– this is you reaffirming how obsessed everyone is with your legacy and how obsessed you are with your legacy.

Lorrie: It’s like, You, young teenaged child, please help me, your father, get over some basic stuff, which is completely inappropriate and yet is something that happens. It’s the unavoidability of it and the horrible damage it does is the curse. Meanwhile, Albus quite rightly is like, “I’m not listening to a thing you have to say, because this is really bad and wrong.” So Scorpius and Draco can have that moment where Scorpius sees what his father went through because Scorpius has more support in his life to witness what his father went through. But for Albus, it’s much riskier because his fight originally was that Harry didn’t know how to appropriately express to Albus, “I wish you would understand what I went through.” What Albus gets instead is that he gets to watch the scene that his father wished people would understand about him, the original scene of Lily and James being murdered. So it’s not so much that Harry and Albus needed Albus to understand what Harry was like at thirteen or fifteen. They needed Albus to see why Harry is different from Albus’s generation, what caused it, and why Harry, at age 40, isn’t over it yet — because how do you get over it? And that you possibly can’t until you’re old enough to have your own children.

Grace: Can we bring it back to Snape?

Sarah: Sure. I think nobody in this room is ever going to say no to that.

Grace: Does anyone want to add anything? Do you want to talk about queerbaiting before we close up?

Sarah: Yeah, I do. I will say that I love this book. There was a ton of stuff there for me. I really loved the character of Scorpius. One of the things you had asked in your pre-show questions was why do so many people dislike it. That’s one of the things that I have seen around the interwebs, and something that I relate to as well. The whole time I was like, “oh, we’re going to get a gay romance. This is going to be, they’re going to wind up together. This is going to be great because it’s going to really validate the people who have shipped Harry and Draco and searched for themselves, and queer people who have searched for representation in this fandom, it just isn’t there in a very obvious way.” But I think that there are so many places that flirt with the idea of these characters being together that it was really disappointing to me that they opted not to validate that. I think that’s why a lot of queer people don’t like the book and I think it’s valid and real, and that’s my only real criticism of The Cursed Child.

Grace: I saw someone saying, “Well, we shouldn’t ship these characters together, it’s totally weird and creepy to ship children together.”

Sarah: WHUT?!

Grace: Yeah, so that as something I saw someone saying, and a bunch of people were like, “hey, listen, if your response is shipping these two characters together as queer, and you’re saying, ‘no, that’s crazy, they’re kids,” but then it’s okay for Scorpius to like Rose, that is why we have fanfiction. That is why queer people need to write fanfiction because they’re not represented and they need to feel like it somewhere. So if you’re like, “Oh no, you can’t possibly say that’s disgusting, they’re kids,” that’s kind of a problem here.

Sarah: I call malarkey.

Lorrie: I had a hard time seeing how it wasn’t romance, the way that Scorpius and Albus were written. While I can buy that maybe it wasn’t, some of the inclusion of attraction towards Rose and Delphi felt a little too close to compulsory heterosexuality for me. Because it’s not like we saw chemistry or anything based on the attraction we saw between the characters, whereas there was so much chemistry of a romantic or not-romantic sort between Albus and Scorpius. I don’t have any problem with them not being a romantic couple. It’s that — when we look at the areas where people are watching Rowling’s universe to see which fan emotions she’s responding to. Okay, we have Black Hermione, which is a really significant beginning. We don’t have any more queer characters than we did before, and it’s not that anyone has any responsibility to write anything but their own play. But because this was such a profound dynamic between those two kids, the context–the scenes where Scorpius was interested in Rose, I didn’t feel like they added anything. They kind of distracted me like, “Why is that there? Eh.” It wouldn’t have taken from the play to remove that element. 

Sarah: Yeah, I agree.

Grace: Do we have any theories on why they did that, or are we just going to leave it?

Lorrie: I don’t know, I wish they had done– eh, whatever. I wish Dumbledore had been canonically gay.

Grace: We talk about that sometimes. You can’t just say, “Oh this character is gay” after, just to get those queer points.

Lorrie: Wizarding population cannot be that much straighter than the Muggle population. On the other hand, the thing that I have to say is you take the writer as who they are. You can do your own story, you can write your own stories, you can read other authors. Is this a surprise coming from Rowling? No. Is it a surprise coming from Jack Thorne? Well, we didn’t know before. Kind of a bummer.

Grace: I guess you can’t force the author into doing what you want. That’s kind of the lesson of this whole thing.

Lorrie: This is their text. It’s not the only text.

Sarah: That’s why the Imperius curse doesn’t exist in real life.

Lorrie: But we know what’s like when people write under Imperius Curses, and it’s not good. People do get forced to write, and that is a real thing.

Grace: Like Donald Trump’s biography.

Sarah: Shut her down, shut her down!

Grace: I can’t go an episode without mentioning Donald Trump. I’m sorry! Okay, I guess I’m just going to wrap it up by talking about Snape in Cursed Child. For those of you who don’t know, Lorrie wrote this book called Snape: A Definitive Reading, so she’s an expert on Snape, and I want to talk about how you felt about the scene with Snape. Also about Professor Hermione.

Lorrie: Professor Hermione Snape was one of the funniest things. 

Sarah: Oh my god!

Lorrie: There were a lot of hints at people becoming Snape-like. There are hints of Albus responding to bullying by becoming more Snape-like. But then when Hermione shows up, and if you stripped away the dialogue tags and you asked somebody who was saying these words, the thing that was most Snape-like was when she accused–was it Albus or Scorpius? No, it was Albus– [Wrong again!  Scorpius! — LK] when she accuses a clearly unpopular child of having an imaginary friend. Completely uncalled for, more than mean. It also introduces the concept of imaginary friends, which is something that–I think it’s Delphi and Scorpius, that Delphi bonds with Scorpius over that later in one of her weird, fake, manipulative ways. I did always think that Hermione and Snape were written as characters very similarly to one another, and I did feel this — Yup. This is completely easy to see. Snape’s vindication in this play was one of the areas that I found to be least subtle. It reminded me of when, in Goblet of Fire, when J.K. Rowling had Viktor Krum pronounce Hermione’s name really deliberately because she was addressing in the text the fact that a lot of fans didn’t know how to say “Hermione.” So here, with the very deliberate explanation that was not allegorical at all, there was no subtlety to it; it’s a fantasy. Considering what Snape had to give up as he died, giving up any chance of knowing whether people would understand what he had done, this is one Time-Turner fantasy. Would it be a fantasy to go back in time and tell this person, “Yes, actually, we did find out what you did.” It’s this whole Eliza and Alexander Hamilton thing like, “Okay, have I done enough? Guess what? You’re dead, but we know now.” I saw that sort of as a corrective, saying there’s been so much debate about the nature of Snape and this is something that they wanted to make clear, I think, the writing team. There is a correct reading, which is that he did do something really big, and he would be moved to know that he was appreciated.

Grace: And that he would do it again.

Lorrie: Yeah, and that he was only doing it for Lily up to a point. Most of the time he was doing it for Lily, but not all of it. Yeah, I think it was sort of a desire to say, No, there is actually a correct reading. Here it is.

Grace: I like when he jokes about not being married to Ron.

Lorrie: Oh, god, that’s another weird, almost snippy moment. We have almost Dramione, we have almost Draco/Ginny, and we have almost Snape/Hermione there. There’s some…

Grace: “At least I’m not married to…”

Lorrie: Because clearly, if it was only the three of them working underground for all this time, then the intellectual companionship, it wouldn’t have been Ron. Not the way he’s being portrayed here.

Sarah: No. He has spiked hair. He’s bad at being a rebel!

Lorrie: Yeah. 

Grace: Okay, well.

Sarah: So many feels.

Grace: Yeah, I teared up a couple times in the conversation. 

Sarah: My mascara’s gone.

Grace: I guess for anyone listening to it, we’d love to hear what you thought of the book. After listening to the episode, which will be what’s happening if you hear me saying these words. Let us know what you think, and let us know if this discussion changed any of your perspective or not.

— END OF INTERVIEW —

 

Transcript! Book Jawn Podcast Ep 33

In July 2016, Book Jawn Podcast released an interview with Lorrie Kim about Snape: A Definitive Reading. You can download and listen to the podcast and you can now also read the transcript, courtesy of whiz transcriber Deannah Robinson.  Contact her at deannahm03@gmail.com if you need anything transcribed!

Book Jawn Podcast Ep 33 (Writer Jawn): “You Can Retain the Value of Sorting Without Reinforcing the Us-or-Them Mentality.”

(start at 00:01:39)

Grace: Lorrie lives in Philadelphia. She is a member of Potterdelphia, prefect over there, and she is, as we described here last week, something like a pillar of Harry Potter knowledge in Philadelphia and an icon of knowing stuff.

Lorrie: I’m making faces now.

Grace: She is. (laughs) Lorrie wrote this book, Snape: A Definitive Reading, and it goes a lot more in-depth than just Snape, talks about themes of the books. And we’re gonna ask her some questions about her beautiful, amazing book. Lorrie?

*Everyone says ‘Hi’*

Grace: When you first picked up Harry Potter, did you start with the first one?

Lorrie: I was sick. My husband read me Chapter One of book one. I was just lying there going, “Ugh, I need something to entertain me.” So, he did.

Grace: Were you entertained?

Lorrie: I was entertained.

Grace: And was there a moment when you were starting the series that you kind of realized this would become a big obsession for you?

Lorrie: Well, I was sick for a long time, so I read up to the end of Book 5, which was — that was what was published at the time, and I liked it a lot. I liked it enough to care a lot that Book 6 was coming out. But the real obsession moment was at the end of Book 6. I realized that —

Grace: I just got chills just hearing your story.

Lorrie: Just, you know, what is Snape going to do?

Sarah: Right. Do you remember when they were giving out the stickers?

Lorrie: Yeah.

Grace I remember that! They had a whole marketing campaign. What was it? It was, um…

Sarah: “Snape Is Good.”

Lorrie: “Snape is a Very Bad Man.”

Sarah: Ours were “Snape Is Evil” or “Snape Is Loyal” were the ones that we got.

Grace: I think “Snape Will Betray” or “Snape is Loyal” were, like, the Barnes & Noble stickers that were all over my — “I Believe In Severus Snape”. Reading your book, I was like, “Maybe I could get a Snape tattoo.” If I’m gonna get a Harry Potter tattoo, this might be the final card. Lorrie, wanna pick my Harry Potter tattoo?

Lorrie: No. (laughs)

Grace: That’s probably wise.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s smart.

Grace: So, you read up to Book 6, and that was the moment when you realized you were more than just into it, you’re, like, more than just a fan.

Lorrie: I really needed to know what this man was going to do to get himself out of the corner that the author had put him into.

Grace: So did you always know that he was a good guy?

Lorrie: I was sure throughout all of book 6 that he was a good guy and working with Dumbledore, and then I was completely shocked when he killed Dumbledore. And that lasted for, oh, like, a whole day, before I came to my senses. But I really enjoyed that complete shock.

Grace: Do you always read the books more interested in him than other characters, though, or that was the moment that made you most interested in him?

Lorrie: For most of the series, I noticed that he was being pushed at us as the most interesting character, because anytime the story got heavy, he would show right up. He was always there. Anytime something important happened, he would turn up. Or it would be him, the big reveal would be him. So I thought, okay, I get it.

Grace: That’s true, in the first one, even.

Lorrie: Yeah. And, you know, even when he wasn’t there before, something happens and then, TA-DA! He shows up. He physically materializes. So I knew that, but the moment where I really fell was right after the first time I read the Spinners’ End chapter. When I read it, and I said to my husband, “Hey, Snape’s just gotten even MORE interesting!”

Sarah: That is a great Snape— it’s THE Snape chapter.

Lorrie: It’s very beautifully done.

Grace: Tell us about his home in Spinners’ End, like you write in your book about kind of what different lines mean about his upbringing.

Lorrie: Well, there are clues that he hasn’t changed very much about it. The furniture is described as old enough so that you know it’s the same stuff he had growing up. There is no clue of any family member but him. I think he lives there alone. it’s all dusty and unused, but I don’t know if that means that he has just moved back in because Voldemort sent him there or if it’s just because it’s the beginning of summer holidays.

Sarah: I read that it’s the beginning of summer holidays, and that maybe it’s dusty all year round, that he has a room he uses.

Grace: I’m always freaked out at that chapter cause I can’t imagine him out of Hogwarts in a home. That always stands out as not the writing as clunky, but it’s clunky in my imagination to imagine him in his family home. It’s startling! It’s like, does he go back there every year? He doesn’t fit in it.

Sarah: It’s like seeing your 3rd-grade teacher at the supermarket.

Lorrie: He has a life!

Sarah: They lock the teachers in when I leave school, right?

Grace: That’s so true! (laughs)

Lorrie: So the only— and he has candles there, so he’s off the grid. And once his father passed away, I’m sure that he made the house look like an abandoned home in a neighborhood where there are a lot of abandoned homes, so that nobody knows he’s there. And then he uses wizarding candles and other power sources, and the only thing in that house is books. And it’s tons and tons of books, and they’re old. And we don’t know: were they always there? Did they belong to either of his parents or his relatives? Did he buy them? That’s the only thing we know he must’ve spent his Hogwarts salary on. He has no material possessions; he doesn’t care about material possessions. He has the old elf-made wine that somebody must’ve given him as a present that he stashed away for a long time.

Sarah: One of the Malfoys.

Lorrie: Yeah, like what am I gonna do with this, you know?

Grace: One of the Malfoys. I love it!

Lorrie: You know, he’s not going to throw it away, but he hasn’t needed it himself.

Grace: Not much of an entertainer.

Lorrie: And he doesn’t drink it, either. So the only thing he has is, in my opinion, paradise. Nobody knows he lives there, nobody’s going to bother him. Any hold that his Muggle father used to have over him is refitted for himself, and all he has is silence, solitude, and books. And a chair to sit in to read his books.

Grace: Does that sound like anything any of our listeners would like? Are any of you into books? I feel like—

Sarah: I mean, yeah, I don’t know anybody who that wouldn’t appeal to.

Lorrie: And then when Bellatrix says—

Grace: Cormac McLaggen.

Lorrie: Oh, god.

Grace: He’s always my first example of someone I hate.

Lorrie: I love him because he’s so awful. And Bellatrix says, “We must be the first of our kind to ever set foot here.” You know, talk about prime real estate for Snape! Yes, yes, please, I would live there! And then the telling thing that’s left over from the chilling aspects of his childhood are when he catches Wormtail eavesdropping, he reveals that there’s a secret passageway and it’s hidden behind a bookcase. And that tells you just— this was his childhood home where books could lead him into secret passageways. You wouldn’t know that they were there; you could hide in them. I imagined that kid Snape would hide there, both literally, you know, escaping domestic disagreements, and figuratively, as an escape for his imagination, because in this series of books, passageways and secret tunnels are always meaningful. They always go somewhere.

Grace: You talk a lot in your book about the story of the mother, or the untold story of the mother and how intrinsic it is to everything that happens in the series. Tell me about Snape’s mom, what you think— what house you think she was in, if we don’t know, and I guess her relationship with her son and your interpretation.

Lorrie: When he gets on the Hogwarts Express and he has pre-formed opinions about Slytherin & the other houses, it sounds to me like he must have gotten them from his mother, because we don’t see any evidence that he has any contact with anyone else. And we know that he has her books. We know that he doesn’t have a lot of money, so she gave him her books. We know she had friends; you can’t be President of the Gobstones Club if nobody will talk to you. So she believed in Slytherins as friends, and told him that that would happen for him, too. And that the Gryffindors would suck.

Grace: So…

Sarah: Brawny rather than brainy.

Grace: Brawny rather than brainy. That’s right.

Sarah: Yeah.

Grace: And then Sirius says, “You’re neither.”

Lorrie: Yeah, and unfortunately for Snape, Sirius is as smart as he is, possibly smarter, so that’s never gonna work again.

Grace: You said that a couple times in your book, you mention, you know, those little details that come out that I don’t remember or hadn’t thought of since reading the books, or hadn’t noticed. You talk about how James and Sirius were the best of their year. In my mind, I always imagined that Snape and Lily were. I always imagined that they were the best of their year. Is it because they weren’t noticed, or were they actually not the top marks?

Lorrie: So we are told by Lupin, and it’s never contradicted, that James and Sirius were always top, and we know from Draco at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets that Hermione has outscored him. So there is some sort of “objective standard” that they’re going by to rank the students there, and that is also factored in to who gets chosen to be Prefects, and Head Boy and Head Girl. So you can’t just say, “Oh, in my opinion…”; they’re quoting something, and I think it’s very deliberate that we don’t know exactly where Snape— how he measured up against James and Sirius in the graded exams. Slughorn mentions that Snape was a very, very gifted potioneer and that he was better than Lily, who, you know, obviously he thought Lily was a very gifted potioneer. We don’t have any idea if they were doing Gryffindor/Slytherin double potions then, we don’t know where James and Sirius stacked up there.

Sarah: I always read that as James and Sirius were, like, the top Gryffindors.

Grace: Yeah, me too. And that’s, maybe that’s my anti-Gryffindor bias.

Lorrie: That’s not what Lupin says, though. He says they were always tops. And Lupin says that to describe why Snape would have had a problem with them, so it’s direct competition. And obviously—

Grace: Cause they’re so horrible.

Lorrie: I wouldn’t have wanted to be their friends.

Grace: I wouldn’t have, either, especially reading your book with all this perspective of where we are reading a Gryffindor bias through the book and Harry wants to learn about his dad. But when you think about so many scenes from Snape’s perspective, which is again why you should buy this book and read it! —  it changes everything and it actually has made me even angrier thinking about James and Sirius as top of the class. I’m very competitive; I’m a Slytherin. But I’m like, they don’t get to be that, like, they don’t get to be that.

Sarah: Well, James and Sirius were terrible, James more than Sirius, let’s be real.

Lorrie: I disagree.

Sarah: Really?

Lorrie: Mmm-hmm.

Sarah: I think they would’ve maybe cheated.

Lorrie: Even if they had cheated, it’s clear that they wouldn’t have had to. I mean, when you listen to how Sirius talks in Goblet of Fire, he’s starving, he’s living in a cave, he’s got outdated newspapers. That’s the only thing he has and from that, he pieces together political strategy, he understands things that are going on that people who are actually involved in it can’t figure out. You know, you listen to how he talks, he’s eating chicken from the Great Hall. And he’s filthy; he hasn’t bathed in, you know, a year. And the things he says are really good and original, and nobody in the series has that perspective, and then you realize this is— yeah, he’s not just full of himself. He knew. When he says as an 11-year-old, “Well, you’re not brainy or brawny,” he has had 11 years of being a good bet that he’s the smartest person in the room.

Grace: I was gonna say, how do you think the fact that James and Sirius grew up in magical families with a lot of privilege affects their standings in the school?

Lorrie: Well, that’s the first place my mind goes is Snape just as smart or smarter, and they just don’t pay attention to him because he’s poor and creepy? I mean, he is creepy. He’s, like, I wouldn’t have wanted to be his friend, either.

Sarah: Well, yeah, I mean, I feel like there was nobody to tell him, “Hey, you know what? You can wash your hair more often, and we won’t make fun of you.” I feel like Snape was working with a lot of disadvantages, not the least of which were, you know, poverty and abuse. And so, you know, yes, he’s a good student and yes, he’s brilliant and driven by all of these adversities in his life, but you’re still in poverty and abused. And if you don’t have the right tools or you have to miss the first couple of days because your dad beat the crap out of you or whatever, you start with a disadvantage. I think it makes sense that Snape would maybe not necessarily be the very top but certainly working to the top.

Lorrie: Well, we don’t know that, either. We don’t.

Grace: So much to know!

Lorrie: I mean, what we know is that when he was a child and teenager that he devoted an enormous amount of energy to vengeance. Pettiness, vengeance, retaliation.

Grace: So that’s something I thought was really cool about your book, because as someone who goes to GeekyCon or LeakyCon—which I talk about, you know, a lot in the podcast, how much I love that conference—even in this super safe space conference that is all about being respectful and having positive fandom guidelines, the controversy of Snape is the most vicious thing about that place. Every year there’s two panels at the same time: Snape Was A Hero and Snape Was A Bad Guy. Even now, I mean, people who leave the books still hating him. And Lorrie has her head in her hands! But I sent Lorrie an email because I posted about your book in the GeekyCon group, and I was a little nervous because I know how hostile the subject of Snape can be. Luckily, everyone was so interested. But I think that your book isn’t just like, “Snape’s the BEST! Here’s WHY!” It’s not. I mean, I love Snape. I think he’s the best, more than ever after reading your book, but you don’t write it from this perspective of “Let me convince you that he did everything right.” You talk a lot about the mistake he made, the fact that he’s creepy, or just—

Sarah: Yeah, the fact that he did just horrible things, and— horrible, unforgivable things and their fact of this person and his history.

Lorrie: He’s the best reformed former Neo-Nazi. I mean, that’s not the best. He’s the best person who came from this very difficult and justifiably self-blaming background.

Grace: Yeah, you’re not just like, “Oh, he’s always been good,” or you never talk about the reader needing to forgive him. It just sort of, this is where he’s coming from, and this is what he does to make up for it.

Lorrie: That’s the whole point of unforgivables, which is either the unforgivable curses or doing things like calling your best friend ‘doomed to die because of the group I’m joining.’ No, they’re not forgivable. Nobody should forgive them. He doesn’t forgive himself; he’s not expecting anyone else to.

Grace: So, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna backtrack a little bit and talk about house rivalry, because Slytherin rules, Gryffindor drools.

Sarah: No. Sorry.

Grace: Sarah’s a Gryffindor.

Sarah: Gryffindor is the best! Better than all the rest.

Grace: Slytherin Pride!

Sarah: No.

Grace: Cheat to win!

Sarah: Win by any means necessary.

Grace: That’s totally a Slytherin thing! Anyway, so we just got into a really—

Lorrie: I am not a Slytherin. I’m sitting here going, “Logically speaking, you’re both deluded. Although understandably so.”

Grace: Also, didn’t really put together that you were a Gryffindor and I’m a Slytherin. I mean, I know this, but as a podcast team, it’s really funny.

Sarah: It is.

Grace: Now that I’m thinking about it. You talk so much in your book about house rivalry and just the toxicity of it, and sort of how the kids who go to Hogwarts as 11-year-olds are set up for this fight. Not just because of the school but even kids like Ron or Draco from their parents. Can you give some examples of this Gryffindor favoritism or anti-Slytherin bias for listeners? Cause some stuff hadn’t stuck out to me, like I didn’t think the books were biased when reading them. But that’s cause you’re reading from Harry’s point of view, sort of.

Lorrie: All right. There’s two different kinds of bias, and one of them bothers me more than the other. Within the characters, based on the history and world of the characters, there’s bias, which makes sense to me as if you compare it to anything in the real world. There was a war, there was a dominant culture that oppressed people and then there’s backlash against the children of those families, no matter whether they believe in their parents’ beliefs or not. So that tension — if you’re going to have both groups attending the same school, yeah, it’s going to be pretty life or death, that tension. If I were a Slytherin, former Death Eater, and I had my one child, I’m not sure I would’ve sent my kid to Hogwarts, because nobody was going to guarantee my child’s safety. Except Snape. So Snape was very important to the Slytherin parents, whether they were truly guilty like the Malfoys or just like the Malfoys’ Slytherin next-door neighbors who never did anything, but would still get that kind of prejudice. You know, you don’t see your kid from September til June. You don’t know what they’re gonna do to your kid. You know that your kid might be shoved into a Vanishing Cabinet for two weeks and almost die, and no one’s going to know where he went. So it’s a real act of trust as a Slytherin parent to send your kid away like that and I thought, Well, Lucius & Narcissa, the result of their conversation about Durmstrang or Hogwarts must have been, “Okay, we’re sending him to Hogwarts, but you have to be on the parent board.” You have to be in the PTA, and you have to make sure that you back up Snape. Because if you don’t, then Snape’s gonna be the only one there, and he’s just one person. In that world, I can see how that is set up, and then of course—this is what I love about Snape so much— he had the six-year winning streak for the Slytherin House Cup because that was something that they could control. Everyone hated them, that they could control that, so they had more motivation than the other houses. So if that was a six-year winning streak, when he started it, he was 24 years old.

Grace: So that was a thing that, again, I never thought about before reading your book. Our version of — when I was six or something, the first Harry Potter movie came out, so I started reading the books along with when the first movie came out. I had never thought about the fact that canonically, Snape is 31 when the books start. I have Alan Rickman in my head.

Lorrie: Snape, when we first meet him, acts like he’s well into his 60s and completely embittered.

Grace: He’s 31 when we meet him in the books.

Sarah: So he’s 31, and Harry’s 11? So he was— Harry was born when Lily and—

Grace: They were my age when they had him.

Lorrie: They were right out of high school, and they were the same ages that J.K. Rowling’s parents were when they had her.

Sarah: That’s interesting.

Grace I’d never thought about that before.

Lorrie: I know. It’s really disturbing to think, like, decades of suffering went into the character that we meet in the potions classroom in Sorcerer’s Stone to make this 31-year-old sound and act like he’s been bitter for decades.

Sarah: Well, he has! He’s not had a good life.

Lorrie: No, but it’s a lot. Like, whatever happened to you that you’re 31 and you’re like this? Oh my god.

Grace: And that changes so much perspective for me. It’s like, oh my god.

Sarah: That’s like— my wife is 32 or 33 now. Can you imagine her teaching—

Grace: She’s a teacher, too.

Sarah: She would have a similar bitter humor. She would be very sarcastic, but I don’t think she would be, “Our new celebrity!”

Lorrie: Yeah, but if you can imagine that it’s 7 years after a war in which people you knew died, and it was your fault…

Sarah: And you’re on the losing team.

Lorrie: Yeah, not fun, and it’s your job to take care of the children.

Grace: So all of the part about Snape protecting the Slytherins was so amazing to read. You know, you’re reading it from the Gryffindor perspective and you’re seeing all these things he does to bully the Gryffindors. While we’re reading it, it feels like that. But if you take a step back, you think about this house bias, how much hatred & prejudice the Slytherins enter into as 11-year-old kids who have, hopefully, not formulated their own entrenched prejudice yet. And then you go to school, and they’re treated like they’re evil.

Lorrie: Yeah, and even if they have, even if they’re completely evil 11-year-olds, they’re away from home. They miss their mom, you know?

Grace: Reading your book, I see some of the scenes in a new light. Obviously, Snape did some unnecessarily mean things, though he’s a bitter man, to the Gryffindors. But when you’re reading it from his perspective, you kinda get it. The Gryffindors do a lot of bullying things to these kids, and you’re always just like, YEAH, when you’re reading these books. And he’s protecting these Slytherins.

Lorrie: Although not in a very productive way.

Grace: So he’s not doing it in a productive way. It’s helpful to read it and understand what he’s doing.

Lorrie: It’s the atmosphere. The perspective of reading Sorcerer’s Stone changes depending on whether you come from a war culture or peace culture.

Grace: So I think the fact that I read your book this past couple of weeks also informed a lot of my intense emotions reading it. I tweeted a passage from it and I was crying and then you tweeted that you cried or something. The second chapter, Severus Snape & the Chamber of Secrets, was amazing and very topical when I was reading it, because I think I read it this week of Black Lives Matter and all these, you know, three shootings in two days. I read this chapter and you have this passage about teaching kids to act defensively, and about teaching them to deescalate with Expelliarmus rather than saying slurs or throwing jinxes at each other. Because in the second book, the book is kind of about, you said, like, old prejudices coming up and causing violence. Please read this book, everyone. It means a lot right now. How do you think — you said earlier, okay, Snape doesn’t do a great job, but when you understand what he’s doing, you get why he’s so protective of them.

Lorrie: I mean, he’s someone who’s not that much more mature than his students, sometimes less mature than his students, coming from the same place. So his maturity needs a lot of work. If I had been his boss, I would’ve put him on probation for the treatment of his students. I would. Obviously, I’m not running Hogwarts.

Sarah: But I think, to be fair, there were a lot of questionable teaching practices.

Lorrie: Well, yeah. But the thing is we never hear of any other teacher— if you look at what he did to Harry on the absolute first day of school, there is no 11-year-old in the world who can read that and feel okay. I mean, Harry is just sitting there doing nothing. He doesn’t even fight back until the ninth time or something.

Grace: As a teacher, or as a parent, how do you think that these characters could have eased tension? Like the staff at Hogwarts or parents like Lucius or Narcissa, how do you think they could ease tension rather than contributing to it when they’re raising these kids?

Lorrie: Well, it’s hard for me to say from my American perspective because I know it’s coming from a British tradition that actually exists that I don’t understand. Cause I don’t think this way at all, and I love sorting. I think it’s an extremely valuable tool for understanding that students have different kinds of minds, and that different approaches will benefit different students and you don’t treat everybody the same.  Sorry, Hufflepuff. If you treat everybody exactly the same, some people will not be reached. That it makes more sense to understand more about the people and have a number of approaches based on how you know them. So I love sorting, but I wouldn’t have wanted to see them put into houses. What if you house them in some other way? It could be a number or, you know, change it up every year, like some places do. But you can retain the value of sorting without reinforcing the us-against-them mentality. And then we do know that the Slytherins or any group that has to draw together, like the Hufflepuffs in Book 2 when they know that Muggle-borns are being targeted and they’re afraid for themselves, and they are drawing more close to each other, you still have sorting so you can still have that support network. And as for the parents, I don’t think there could be anything because the way that the parents are prejudiced along house lines in this series is exactly the same as just parents in our world.

Sarah: Yeah, I haven’t really thought about what a big deal the house rivalries were and how that really did inform the ways that students interacted with one another and, in particular, Slytherin and Hufflepuff, you know, cause I feel like they’re really not talked about that much. And not for nothing, some bad guys do come from Slytherin, but also there’s a lot of regular people in Slytherin, it’s always about Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, occasionally…

Grace: There’s other kids in Slytherin.

Sarah: Yeah, so I’m curious about their stories. Slughorn came from Slytherin, and he was dicey, but affable.

Grace: Dicey but affable. That’s my new Twitter bio. I always say I’m Slughorn.

Sarah: You’re affable, and then where was Gilderoy Lockhart, like what house was he in?

Grace: He was a Ravenclaw.

Sarah: That’s shocking to me.

Grace: And I just found that out because of Pottermore. I was like, WHAT?! You have an interesting thing you’ve said for years, which was— you always said that he was the worst villain.

Lorrie: He’s, I don’t know. Is he the worst villain? He’s very bad, he’s one of the worst.

Sarah: Umbridge is the worst.

Lorrie: Nope. Nope.

Grace: I guess not. Wow.

Sarah: I stand corrected.

Grace: Why does Lockhart stand out as someone so horrible to you, when we’re faced with this cast of— I mean, I would say Umbridge, too.

Lorrie: I think he has— you know how you hear that people with anti-social personality disorder, it’s not that they can’t feel empathy, it’s that they can choose whether to or not. They can turn it on and off. He was going to leave three children to die so that his reputation as an author wouldn’t be disturbed. He knew exactly what he was doing at all times. When they confront him, he looks at them like, you didn’t think I believed in all my own press, did you? He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is insane and cold.

Grace: He’s not motivated by prejudice. He’s just motivated by climbing, sort of?

Lorrie: He’s, he’s completely cold and completely amoral.

Sarah: So my argument for Umbridge being worse is that she is motivated by sadism.

Lorrie: She is a sadist and not in the fun way. No, but she’s also visibly evil.

Sarah: I don’t actually think that she’s visibly evil. I think she believes she’s doing the right thing courting power.

Lorrie: It’s not that she thinks she’s doing the right thing. It’s that she enjoys being able to discriminate against others. When she’s fighting against the centaurs, it’s not whether she thinks she’s right or not, it’s that she has an advantage and she’s going to press it and put other people down.

Grace: My argument for Umbridge being “worse” would just be that she’s teaching children to be sadistic and prejudiced as opposed to Lockhart who just does horrible things, but doesn’t care. He doesn’t extend it to teach others to carry out that as well. He just cares about himself.

Lorrie: Snape is unable to stop her from turning Crabbe & Goyle into the monsters he’s been trying to protect them from becoming, so that’s one of the worst things that happens to Snape, in book 5, is watching this happen.

Grace: So you talking about the Inquisitorial Squad in your book was amazing because so much so— the chapters leading up to it are talking about Snape trying to ease tension, trying to teach — or not ease tension, but he’s trying to teach de-escalation through spells like Expelliarmus, and then Umbridge shows up. And then he’s watching this and it feels very familiar to him to see a group of Slytherins band into a group and hurt other people at Hogwarts.

Lorrie: I don’t know that I would argue that Umbridge is not as bad as Lockhart. It’s more that I think Lockhart is underrated as a truly terrifying person.

Grace: Well, no, that’s the exception of the two, cause I don’t think of him as terrifying.

Sarah: But I think that’s part of the problem with Trump. People are—

Lorrie: I’m not going to talk about Trump, because my innards will just spill out.

Grace: I wanna talk about the Gilderoy Lockhart/Trump thing. GO!

Sarah: So very briefly, and I will keep this brief and we’ll go back on topic. I think in the beginning people saw him as, you know, an entertainer, and oh, wouldn’t it be funny if Trump was president, blah blah blah. But they didn’t realize that he is a terrifyingly bad person and that he doesn’t have any moral substance.

Grace: He also doesn’t believe any of what he is saying. Similar to a Gilderoy Lockhart.

Sarah: Right. He will say or do whatever it takes to get the fame and the power.

Lorrie: Steal stuff from other people.

Grace: I really can’t do my Lockhart cosplay now. I was, like, maybe I’ll do a Trump/Lockhart cosplay.

Lorrie: Eww, I don’t want to even think about it. So, yeah, and so then, our friends—

Sarah: I’m sorry.

Grace: It’s okay. That was just an amazing thing to realize he is exactly like that.

Lorrie: Except then our friend who loves Lockhart cause he’s so funny said ‘How dare you!’ and then the next day after that was the plagiarized First Lady speech. And I’m like, “Oh, well, maybe it’s his wife who’s really Lockhart.”

Grace: Oh my god.

Sarah: Yeah.

Grace: My feelings are so intense right now. It’s my brain feelings.

Lorrie: But do you have any doubt that Trump would leave three children in a tunnel to die?

Grace & Sarah: No. No.

Lorrie: You know why? Because it would hurt his brand.

Grace: Yeah.

Sarah: Right.

Grace: And his brand is built of stealing other people’s things.

Lorrie: Yup.

Grace: Wow. Sarah said something interesting I wanna go back on. You mentioned Slytherin and Hufflepuff as the houses that were not noticed or treated unfairly. A couple days ago, I was babysitting some kids, and we were doing Pottermore, and we kept getting sorted wrong. We kept making new accounts— I got, I got sorted—

Sarah: That’s a pretty Slytherin thing.

Grace: So I got sorted into Ravenclaw. I had a huge existential crisis about this. The youngest kid got sorted; she’s a Slytherin, as well, and she really is, she’s amazing. She got sorted into Ravenclaw. The older sister got sorted into Gryffindor and she’s a Ravenclaw. And then we did another one where we tried to get Slytherin. We’re like, okay, I wonder if you can even get Slytherin on Pottermore. We sat there, three of the smartest people I know. I’m including myself! These children are geniuses, okay? So we sat there purposely answering questions to get Slytherin, and we got Gryffindor.

Sarah: Really?

Grace: And we sat there saying, I mean, apart from “this is wrong and we know who we are,” none of us got Hufflepuff and none of us got Slytherin, even when we were trying. And we’re like, is this bias to put more people in Ravenclaw and Gryffindor?

Lorrie: I always get Hufflepuff.

Grace: That’s crazy to me.

Lorrie: No, I do sometimes get Ravenclaw.

Sarah: Ryan got Hufflepuff and she was pissed. She was like, “I am a Ravenclaw,” and I was like, “It’s good that you know that. I get Gryffindor, and I think that who I am as a person is very reflective of Gryffindor descriptions. And that’s fine. I don’t have any problem with that. I know who I am as a person, and it’s fine. But I think that a thing about Hufflepuff is that they are kind, they are generous and caring and that is who I try to be. So I’m over this Hufflepuff hate. I’m really not afraid to go to the mat about Hufflepuff. I feel very strongly about it. I’ve had a lot of conversations about it.

Grace: As someone who’s gone to a lot of Harry Potter events and conferences and concerts over years, I’ve noticed that recently at Geeky last year, there were more Hufflepuffs than any other house. Maybe even combined.

Sarah: But that makes sense.

Grace: There are so many Hufflepuffs. You are a Gryffindor, but you are maybe the only Gryffindor I can handle, I will say that. And that’s not an insult, but there’s—

Sarah: No, we tend to be a self-righteous people, I know that.

Grace: And you, you care a lot, and you defend things you care about. But you don’t have this impulsive bragginess about it. Oh god, no, I’m just— I’m sorry. I’m making it worse. I’m making the house bias worse. I’m making this worse. I… am making this worse.

Sarah: I think the thing about Gryffindor is that, you know, we do care a lot, we feel very strong about it. We do have causes, but we can’t just have a cause and take it up quietly and sort of fight for it on our own or with our friends or whatever. It has to be the biggest thing, and we have to have t-shirts and hats and buttons and a GoFundMe. I know this, I know this about my own house.

Grace: Wizard GoFundMe.

Sarah: I do know this, but there are other ways to honor the name of Godric Gryffindor.

Grace: Yeah. Well, this is actually something— so you don’t do this, but I’m speaking kind of its a vengeance right now, because I’m trying to write a talk or a workshop for GLA. I’m struggling to not make it anti-Gryffindor. But talking about how to care about social justice things in a way that you’re also listening to other people. Because I’ve struggled with certain houses, just Gryffindors, and the other example I gave is Bernie Bros, where you know that you’re right and you feel very strongly, your moral compass. You care about equality, you care about fighting the good fight. But it detaches some people, like Bernie Bros, from listening to other people. Even the people that are like, “We’re protecting you.” These people are like, “No, do tell me what to do. I’m gonna discover things for myself.” You don’t do that, but that’s a thing that I’ve struggled with Gryffindor is kind of like, you’re so charged with this ‘fighting the good fight’ that you don’t know how you’re affecting people around you.

Sarah: It’s true. I feel like it’s very much like—

Grace: What you don’t do. Again.

Sarah: Thank you.

Grace: But you are very intentional about listening and being kind, like a Hufflepuff.

Sarah: I think maybe part of that is also being older, you know? Because I’m sure that when I was younger, I was very charged with righteous glory, and it’s kind of like being an ally, like for queer people or people of color, you wanna be a good ally and you’re sure that you know the best way to do it and often that involves you talking over or mansplaining or taking up room that shouldn’t belong to you, because you’re just sure that you’re right and because you’re on the good side, that space belongs to you.

Grace: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. If you could come to GLA next year, we should start working on this, guys. That’s what I want to talk about, though. What do you think?

Lorrie: So I’m going to talk about when there’s not much about Slytherin and Hufflepuff. The way that fandom has experienced how sorting is very different from how it was written in the series, because, especially in the first book, she’s just a writer with no contract, writing book one of her under-the-bed, handwritten manuscript like everybody else who has a story that has never been published, and will never be published. So she’s not thinking that someday, people in languages that she doesn’t speak are going to take that as gospel personality tests. And wonder, ‘how come this series doesn’t flesh out who I am?’ Well, she wasn’t writing it that way. And what we’ve seen or what I’ve seen and I’ve really enjoyed tracking is that as she comes out with more information in the years after, as she interacts with the fandom and her readership, she has made adjustments to her own concept of the houses to take this into account more. Like — it’s slow. It’s certainly way, way slower than a lot of people wished she would do it, because people have a lot of ideas about what she would do and say.

Sarah: There’s a lot hinging on that, though.

Lorrie: But, I mean, she’s one person. People change at a certain rate, and when people change because other people told them to, you can tell, and it’s no good. People change at their own rate and she also can do anything she wants, and does. But there was a point at which I bet no more villains are going to be revealed as Slytherins, because she heard that message. And that’s when I thought to myself, they’re all going to be Ravenclaws, from here on out. Any bad guys are going to be— that’s what she’s going to say. When Lockhart was revealed as a Ravenclaw, I would have said that anyway, because Ravenclaws can be amoral. What makes a Ravenclaw a Ravenclaw does not have to do with good or evil, and can be turned either way without betraying that person’s inner self. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with Lockhart’s logic.

Sarah: You know what would be really interesting? To put all of the Harry Potter villains on that big Punnett square. You know: lawful good, chaotic evil. I think that would be really —

Grace: I have a project. Thank you.

Sarah: Yes.

Grace: You said that about Gryffindors, too, though. You and I had a conversation about morality. You said Slytherins and Hufflepuffs are the most moral houses?

Lorrie: I think that who they are has the most to do with morality, whether that morality is for good or for harm. I mean, you can be moral and evil, like Umbridge. She has morals that happen to involve killing almost everybody.

Grace: But that makes sense to me as a Slytherin, whether their morals are, however their compass is facing, it is still everything feeds into that way of seeing.

Lorrie: Whereas I think of what makes somebody a Gryffindor is a certain degree of physical energy and response to your beliefs. If there’s a certain kind of outward energizing that when it’s used happily, when the person is in charge of it, it’s the best thing in the world. When you’re trying to suppress it, for example, like Harry when he’s trying to hide because they’re trying to kill him and he has to be quiet, it is the most draining, terrifying struggle to keep quiet because he’s got so much adrenaline taking over his body. Whereas if you are from another house, it’s easier to think of strategies to calm yourself. And to me, it’s a matter of wiring. If you have a group of children, you don’t know what their prejudices are or what their talents are, but there’s gonna be a way to reach each child. And a Gryffindor child, no matter who they are, if you know that they’re prone to having these surges of adrenaline when they’re inspired or angered, that’s something that you can use to try to connect with them.

Grace: Wow. I think you should start a school.

Sarah: I think so.

Lorrie: I’m not working there [Hogwarts].

Grace: Sarah said something interesting about teacher— there’s a lot of questionable teaching practices, and that’s true, and we’re reading a lot of it from Harry’s perspective, so, you know, we’re seeing how bullying Snape is just to him or the Gryffindors. But there’s a lot of, a lot of scenes of teachers doing really weird or shitty things. I wanna talk about a scene that you go through in your book. You open Severus Snape & the Prisoner of Azkaban, you say this is the happiest book to readers and to a lot of the characters. The whole book is a trauma flashback to Severus Snape. So before we go into this scene I wanna talk about, can you just explain what a trauma flashback is to listeners?

Lorrie: From my total layperson perspective—

Grace: Right, your one-person perspective.

Lorrie: I have no degrees in this or anything. A flashback is a symptom that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sometimes have, where the memory of a terrible, traumatic event becomes so vivid that your whole mind and body experience it as happening in real time all over again. So when this is severe and happening, you don’t know that you are in the place and time you really are. Everything about you believes that it is whatever memory you’re reliving. Sometimes you can, by yourself or with other people, manage to keep a hold on some reality so that you can be aware that, ‘no, I’m having a flashback.’ This is not always possible, so when you’re having the flashback, it’s extremely draining, because your body and mind are deciding that you’re probably going to die, so everything you have in you is going to give it this last shot to get out of this. It’s not like sparing or holding anything back. It’s all your defenses at once. And then eventually when you get out of your flashback, you will be tired, like you just fought for your life, even though that took place 17 years ago. This might happen to you again, and it’s extremely draining.

Grace: So Lupin comes to Hogwarts. How does Lupin’s presence at Hogwarts inform Snape’s perspective or even just the setup of it?

Lorrie: I feel so bad for both of them.

Sarah: How would you react when your very presence was a fucking trigger? You’re trying to not transform into a werewolf. Meanwhile, this guy who is making your potions is freaking out every time he sees you because you were terrible to him 20 years ago.

Grace: To start, how does trauma inform Snape’s attitude just towards Gryffindors?

Lorrie: Snape believes that Gryffindors always get away with everything, and the reason he believes this is because when Sirius set up Lupin to kill Snape as fifth-years — when that happened, and Dumbledore found out about it, Dumbledore did not, as far as we know, punish the Marauders at all or do anything to make them understand the severity of what they had done. The only thing we know for sure that Dumbledore did was consign Snape to silence. He forbade Snape to tell anyone about it. So it’s not only that Snape nearly died, which in itself is pretty traumatic but might not have solidified into such a trauma for him. It’s that the authoritative response to it was to silence the victim. And to put Lupin’s privacy — which yeah, of course Lupin needs and deserves privacy. But to put his privacy and the school’s reputation and Dumbledore’s reputation as an educator who decided to break the law and secretly decide that he was able to guarantee a safe school for both werewolves and non-werewolf children — he had decided that he was going to just do that. To break Ministry law and secretly do that. He consigned all of his staff to silence about this; they were all in on it and they were all silent. Then when there was the flaw in the plan, which is that werewolves are human and have human friends, and you cannot control what these human friends do, Sirius decides that it will be the funniest thing in the world to turn Lupin into a monster forever. When that happens, Dumbledore silences the victim, and doesn’t follow up with him. And there is really no reason for Snape to put his trust in anyone but Death Eaters if that’s what the other side is gonna be like. Let me take that back—there’s plenty of reason for Snape to decide not to be a Death Eater. But if it’s going to be binary, one group thinks it’s fine that he was almost killed; the other group thinks that it’s funny that he knows all these Dark Magic spells that will hurt people. Not a great choice, but Dumbledore really, his part in the trauma is what makes it a problem for Snape. That Dumbledore has rehired the same alumnus with the exact same guarantee of safety, which is, “Don’t worry; I know it’ll be fine.” And Snape is saying, “That’s what you said last time and you didn’t care what happened to me. And if you’re not going to do anything about it, I’m going to do everything in MY power to try to work within your rules. I’m going to force-feed that man wolfsbane until he chokes on it.” You know, when he says, “I made an entire cauldron full.” Because Snape does not disobey Dumbledore; he just keeps trying to lobby Dumbledore, saying “Last time, it wasn’t so good,” and Dumbledore’s like “No, it’ll be fine.”

Sarah: I think it goes back to, too, Snape is also, even while he’s super traumatized and he’s dealing with these very real, sometimes physical aspects of his PTSD, he’s also still a really good advocate for his students. He’s dealing with his own shit, which is a ton. And he realizes, oh, hey, there’s this werewolf who is a danger to the students.

Grace: In his experience.

Sarah: Right, in his personal experience.

Grace: And then Lupin’s back, and Snape feels responsible not only for himself and his trauma, but for his students.

Lorrie: And he knows that Lupin is not a danger. As we begin the school year, the base assumption is that Lupin is not a danger to students, except if it happens that he transforms and it’s not controlled. Although as the school year goes on, Lupin does things to make Snape think that Lupin himself, as a human, not as a werewolf, might not be such a good guy either. And that’s in the atmosphere of Sirius Black being out there. Snape, like everybody else, thinks that Sirius really did it at this point, that he is the most dangerous mass murderer. So Sirius is out there somewhere heading for Hogwarts, Lupin is back at Hogwarts, James Potter the Second is in Snape’s class, and there is a line that says that Neville Longbottom looks like Peter Pettigrew, and he is also the sidekick that you just don’t know what’s happening in his mind.

Grace: Who’s kind of hapless and, from Snape’s perspective, tagging along in a lot of scenes.

Lorrie: And the big missing piece there that Snape is supplying is that when you treat somebody as abusively as Snape has treated Neville, your guilty conscience will ascribe all sorts of evil to them. So Snape is prepared for Neville to be as horrible to him as the Marauders once were, because Snape has abused him and knows it, and is not about to apologize and not about to recognize it.

Grace: So I wanna talk about the boggart scene.

Sarah: Is that how you pronounce it? Bo-ggart?

Grace: It’s ‘bog-gart’.

Lorrie: The audiobooks have said ‘bog-gart’.

Grace: Apparently Voldemort is pronounced ‘Vol-de-more’, so who’s really to say how anything is pronounced, besides J.K. Rowling. She could say it, but she should’ve maybe let us know a while ago, how you say Voldemort. Come on. Anyway… Neville is repeatedly picked on, Lupin is maybe protective of him. But when we see this boggart turn into Snape, that’s an example of teaching gone WAY wrong. But since we’re reading it from Harry’s perspective, it’s hilarious. Give us some insight into maybe what Snape’s perspective is of this hilarious teaching moment in Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Lorrie: Yeah, this is where I feel really bad for both Lupin and Snape, and I wanna take them both by the collar and knock their heads together.

Grace & Sarah: And Neville.

Lorrie: Neville is — I feel worst of all for Neville.

Grace: Because he didn’t choose this.

Lorrie: Neville did nothing. It starts off with Snape doing what is, in my opinion, the worst thing he does to a student in the whole series, which is— Snape is in the teachers’ lounge, and Lupin brings the third-year Gryffindors to the lounge to fight the boggart. And Snape says, “Oh, that’s Neville Longbottom. He’s terrible.”

Grace: In front of everyone.

Lorrie: In front of this new teacher that Neville has never had a chance to impress, and in front of all of Neville’s peers. And, in my opinion, that hurts me more than anything Snape does to a student ever. You really should be on probation for that, if you’re going to do that to a student. If someone got fired for that, I’d be like, “You should probably have talked to them first.” It’s really not okay. So that’s what Snape does. Now obviously, everybody wants Snape to be held accountable for this terrible thing that he’s just done, so when Lupin prompts Neville to turn the boggart into Snape dressed as Augusta Longbottom, there’s a release of tension, and it is a funny image. And Neville would never ever ever have thought of it. If you read it carefully, Neville doesn’t come up with any of it on his own. It’s all completely prompted by Lupin and there’s nothing that we see that indicates any of those third-years would’ve come up with that image. Lupin is completely inventing it, and instead of telling the students, “What Snape just did is completely unacceptable and I’m going to talk to Dumbledore about it and I don’t believe a word he said” and building up Neville that way, he goes laterally to retaliation and escalation and pettiness. What Lupin does to a group of 13-year-olds is say, “Let us imagine Snape in this sexist, ageist, transphobic image.” What’s so damn funny? Is he a 33-year-old man? No, he’s an old lady! He’s a man wearing a dress! This is so funny! And it is funny in that moment.

Grace: Never thought about it like that.

Lorrie: After all of that tension, after witnessing Snape abuse a 13-year-old, then you add the tension and it is funny, then you laugh, and then … you’re implicated. You, the reader, are implicated; the other kids in the class were laughing are implicated; if there’s a kid there who likes to cross-dress, they’re like, ‘Oh no, did I just laugh?’ It is funny. None of them invented this image, it’s not from Neville…

Sarah: I feel like Thomas Jefferson.

Lorrie: It’s happened, and yet it is funny and what Snape did is inexcusable. And Neville really did need someone to stand up for him. But then what happens? This does not make Snape realize that what he did was wrong and he should cut it out. This makes the story of Snape dressed as Augusta Longbottom sweep the school; all of the teachers are laughing, all of the students are laughing. What are the chances that a group of 13-year-olds are not going to be reenacting this scene for the next three months at lunch? It’s the funniest thing that they’ve ever seen; the entire school is laughing at Snape in exactly the way that Lupin, the last time he lived at Hogwarts, got the entire school to laugh at Snape. And it’s not going to help Snape realize that he should stop abusing students because what we see then later is that after that rumor of the boggart went around the school, there’s a passage that says Snape was in a worse temper than ever and he bullied Neville worse than ever. Because Lupin did this, he got the laugh, and then did not stick around to protect Neville. So it actually came down worse on Neville. So it’s really Lupin getting away with something that you could see where the original impulse was, but no one is standing up for Snape because he kind of pissed everyone off by being an abusive asshole. And Neville is worse off than before in some way, although also strengthened and defended. It’s a mixed blessing for Neville because he does get strength and defense from it, but he is at further risk from the original abuser.

Sarah: Right. He’s constantly vulnerable to retaliation. And there are power differentials at play. So yeah, Snape’s a laughingstock, but he doesn’t have any control of it.

Grace: And he’s Neville’s worst fear at this point. “I’m just a mean teacher” and he is terrified of him.

Lorrie: Snape earned that position as Neville’s worst fear. But is it so funny that he’s like an old lady? What’s so funny about that?

Grace: Very teenage humor.

Lorrie: Yeah, and it’s Lupin saying, “Snape, you are sexually invalid.” Exactly the way Lupin and his friends used to say to Snape when they were teenagers. I do not know anyone in the world who could go back to high school with their old high school bullies and be told again that they’re sexually invalid, the way they were told when they were fifteen, in front of 13-year-olds, and be okay with it. Lupin is not behaving. Lupin, that was not good! I understand what you were doing, but that was not good.

Sarah: Right. And flip him upside down so that his saggy parts are showing? That’s so shitty. It’s the equivalent of being pantsed.

Lorrie: It is sexual abuse. It’s sexual bullying among teenagers that Lupin—what Lupin has just done is actually recreate a living flashback for Snape.

Grace: I had you explain what a trauma flashback is, but your book helped me, as a person who experiences that, understand what it is. Like, understand what a trauma flashback is, what’s happening to me. Last week, that happened to me, but I was able to know what was happening and have that level of disconnect. Yeah, that’s not going to happen every time that happens to me, but because of your book, because in that third chapter, there’s so much about genes reminding Snape of his trauma and placing all of the emotions in real time into that experience. I talk a lot about how fiction creates empathy and how it’s easier to understand things when it’s not someone you’re friends with or when it’s not someone who’s you and it was just very powerful to read everything through Snape’s perspective in that chapter, because you really do start to understand why, when he comes into the Shrieking Shack in the third book, why it’s just pure hate and suspicion and protectiveness over the kids. But he won’t listen, you know? Harry and Hermione and Ron are like, “No, let them explain.” Of course he won’t let them explain. He’s in danger. He’s experiencing danger in his body.

Lorrie: In his mind, it’s all happening all over again. And we see that happening with Harry all throughout the third book, when he has his flashbacks to his mother’s death. And we know that Lupin goes through that a lot, because everything Lupin says to Harry about flashbacks is, “I know what this is. I know what you’re going through. It’s not what the other kids think.”

Grace: “You’ve gone through more pain than a lot of your peers.”

Lorrie: So when they say, when J.K. Rowling says that what Dementors do is make you relive your worst moments, it’s that when you have Dementors around you, if you have trauma, you will go into flashback.

Grace: On a lighter note or something…

Sarah: It would be hard to pick a darker note.

Lorrie: I have a final part for this. So you were asking about instances of Gryffindor vs. Slytherin bias. The other way there is bias in the series that disturbs me much more is the narrator’s pro-Gryffindor, anti-Slytherin bias. An example of that: to resist the bias, you have to go against the narrator and the author. In Book 3, at the Christmas feast, Dumbledore is sitting next to Snape, who is “ho ho ho, Merry Christmas.” You know Snape would rather be in his room by himself.

Sarah: With his books and his candles.

Lorrie: You know, eating a plate that he fixed by himself. But Snape has to be at the table, next to Dumbledore, who’s really having a good time, and Dumbledore makes him pull a Christmas cracker. So Snape is like, “If I must…” and he pulls the Christmas cracker. Do you remember what comes out of that Christmas cracker? It’s the vulture hat that Augusta Longbottom wears, and Snape looks really miserable. Dumbledore laughs and sticks it on his head and wears it for the rest of his dinner.

Grace: So he trades or something…

Lorrie: Yeah. That’s what Snape gets in his Christmas cracker. Not a lump of coal, something so much more sinister than a lump of coal. So Dumbledore thinks this is funny, and he wears it for the rest of the dinner. So whose bias is this? Is this the author’s? Is this the narrator’s? Is it all of us?

Grace: You mention a couple scenes in the book that are just by omission, or by the only group that it mentions as Gryffindor’s reactions. It’s interesting, it’s this whole— especially as a kid, you would never know what you’re reading.

Lorrie: It’s hard to resist it, especially if you’re in the target audience for these books.

Sarah: Whoa. That’s really some deep, deep, deep thoughts.

Grace: And so I’m reading this last week, when there’s all this fucking hatred and prejudice in the world, and I’m reading this and I’m like, “Holy shit, a lot of these kids are set up to be hated.” These Slytherin kids are coming from privilege and coming from families who have done destruction. But they’re going to the school set up to be the villain. I’m not saying I have any answers, but it’s made me think about the world where we are right now differently. How can we set up kids to not be attacked for coming from privilege, or coming from racist parents? How do we teach them de-escalation or teach them better ways than just attacking them the moment they step into a room?

Sarah: There are definitely parallels that you can draw from unlearning racism, and how people do that very intentionally as people who are more politically aware, but I feel those people at least have neutral school experiences, there weren’t a lot of assumptions made about them. Whereas I think it is a thing that contributes to racism if you come from a family who is very traditional. And then you’re told, ‘Well, your parents are pieces of shit, so you must be a piece of shit.’ And people treat you poorly, and that reinforces stereotypes. So you never really have the option to make your own mind up. That’s so interesting.

Grace: Some of these people who unlearn racism or who challenge themselves to listen rather than talk. Whatever it is, you’re probably exposed to something, though, unless you want to do that. Or exposed to a person or you’re not in the experience where it’s just assumed that you’re the bad guy.

Lorrie: Well, if you think about book 6, when Draco has taken the Dark Mark, Dumbledore doesn’t try to reach out to him at all. He puts Snape on it, because by that time, Dumbledore’s learned his lesson. For a kid who’s viewed with suspicion that way, someone who’s all angelic — who’s never been a bad person, who’s from the other side that views you with suspicion — that is not the person to come and reach out to you. Someone who’s been there, someone who you know has done bad things. If they have changed their mind, but they remember what it felt like to be actually evil, which Draco is at that point, and to say, “You may think that it’s too late, that you’ve already done so much evil that no one’s going to hold that hope for you. I’m here to tell you it’s not too late. And you have not done anything bad that I haven’t seen. You cannot disgust me.” Whereas someone who’s always been good, that message can’t be realistic from them.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s a lot. I felt that I have done pretty deep analysis with Harry Potter, but now I’m just like…

Lorrie: The thing for me has always been people who are like, “What is there to write about in Harry Potter? It’s a children’s series,” and I’m like, “Is it just me? I found it rather difficult to understand and it took me a lot of work, but I guess I’m supposed to understand it right away!”

Sarah: There’s so much to unpack, you know?

Grace: And that’s the genius of this series is that there’s so much to unpack. This series wouldn’t be the phenomenon that it is if it was all at face value, right?

Lorrie: It’s hard sometimes to read this in comparison to some other popular literature for the same age group because it’s not easy to put this depth into your stories.

Grace: It’s true. But when people compare a new series or try to mark it as a new Harry Potter, I’m like, “That’s not really fair to that book. Just don’t do that.” Even the Hunger Games, me as someone who fucking loves the Hunger Games, I don’t think it’s fair to call it the new Harry Potter or on par with Harry Potter. Don’t make that comparison, for the sake of the book you’re marketing.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s dishonest and not fair. Harry Potter is Harry Potter. That’s the comparison that you can make. You can compare one of the Harry Potter books to another Harry Potter book. Done.

Grace: Lorrie, if you could give Severus Snape one piece of advice, what would it be?

Lorrie: That was a really hard one.

Grace: I know. I can’t think of something, so I’m giving you a hard question that I can’t answer.

Lorrie: I would go back to after the prank and I would tell him, “I know Dumbledore told you that you have to be silent. Keep going back to him, keep showing him what this is doing to you, and if he continues to be blocked off to you, find any other person that’s in on the secret that you can and keep talking to them until you find someone. Go to Madam Pomfrey. Go to Madam Pomfrey and say something.”

Sarah: Did Madam Pomfrey know?

Lorrie: Yes, she’s the one who led Lupin to the Shrieking Shack every month. Everybody on the Hogwarts staff knew and was under silence.

Sarah: Okay, I thought that you meant the vulture prank for a minute.

Lorrie: Oh, sorry, no. The original high school prank that nobody got punished for and that Snape got silenced for. I would say, go to Madam Pomfrey and say, “Since that happened, I have lost this much sleep, I have had this many anxiety attacks, this is my catalogue of factual results. On the one hand, I don’t want to see those kids’ faces again, but on the other hand, this is how I feel about Dumbledore.” And just keep going to every single one of your teachers that you’re not violating confidentiality about speaking to until— it might not work. Dumbledore still might not listen, but he was being obedient. Dumbledore told him, “Do not speak of this,” and he didn’t. And they all suffered for it.

Grace: It just festered and turned into something much worse.

Lorrie: And then years later, Dumbledore knew that that was one of the worst mistakes of his teaching career, but it took him a long time.

Grace: If you could give Snape a gift?

Lorrie: I would give him a teaching assistant.

Sarah: That’s a good one.

Grace: To work with the students themselves.

Lorrie: To work with the humans.

Grace: That’s a really good gift. That would’ve helped so many different people.

Sarah: Snape, chiefly, but also many, many students.

Lorrie: It would be a win-win!

Sarah: So knowing that you are a great gift-giver, I would like to be on your Christmas list.

Grace: I know that we’re coming to the end of this discussion, and I know that we are fast approaching a new book. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming out. Oh, god, holy crap, I need a minute.

Sarah: Shit just got real.

Grace: How do you feel about this upcoming story?

Lorrie: I’m extremely excited. I know that a lot of people aren’t, which makes me kind of sad. I can understand why people might be concerned about the fact that any word about canon, now that it’s closed, will shut off a bunch of possibilities that people have imagined. I understand that. That showed me that that’s not why I read the series. I read it to learn more about the author. She doesn’t have to be anything for me. I’m watching with interest as she grows. The Harry Potter series was the beginning of her career and the changes that she’s been making and the responses she’s made to criticisms that she has accepted, they’ve come slowly and incrementally, and I’m interested in how that happens. The name, Albus Severus Potter, was encapsulating a whole philosophy about accepting parts of yourself, about re-understanding things that you vilified before, about— you know the phenomenon, the completely fandom phenomenon of primary and secondary Houses?

Sarah & Grace: Yeah.

Lorrie: Well, it’s taking that concept and working with it. Because Harry has, by naming his child Albus Severus, he has elevated Slytherin within himself to a secondary House, as opposed to that thing he got from Voldemort that he is disavowing.

Grace: I have a friend who calls herself a Hufflepuff-Slytherin Rising, like astrology. It’s so cute.

Sarah: I think I’m gonna call myself Sarah Severus.

Lorrie: And until then, until Harry received the Pensieve memories from Snape, his opinion of the quintessential Slytherin was either Draco Malfoy or Voldemort. Therefore, the Slytherin parts of himself took him really a long time to accept. He does do that in the 7th book. Many of his triumphs in the 7th book come when he accepts the Slytherin part in him and uses those tactics, which he had not used before.

Grace: Right. He has to not take action. He has to plan. He has the Gryffindor instinct.

Lorrie: He has to control himself. He also has to know that sometimes you have to lie, and sometimes you have to cast Unforgivables on people and you have to know how to make that okay, because if you don’t, people will die. And that’s something a Gryffindor would be like, “I reject that!” Well, when you’re in battle, you can’t. It will be costly if you do. You have to know how to do that if you’re going to be an adult in battle. So Harry accepts the Slytherin parts in him, knowing that he no longer has to be afraid that they only come from Voldemort. Draco is becoming less and less of a monolithic enemy to him, in the 7th book, and more of a person. Then when he names his own child after a Slytherin, then he’s saying, “Okay, I understand that I have a different face of Slytherin now.”

Sarah: Right. He also has a sort of grudging “Hey, what’s up?” to Malfoy.

Grace: In the epilogue, yeah. A grudging “Hey, what’s up?”

Lorrie: And he gets back the grudging “Hey.”

Sarah: Like a sort of more casual animosity as opposed to the foaming-of-the-mouth one that happened during the series.

Grace: Right. They’ll never like each other…

Sarah: But they at least respect each other.

Lorrie: Yeah, and they’re not ever going to start that up again.

Grace: You already answered Harry’s understanding of Snape is already influenced the meaning of his child, the different parts of Slytherin that he didn’t have exposure to until the 7th book. Do you have any other predictions for Snape’s legacy influencing, besides the name?

Lorrie: I’m predicting that Snape’s role in this play is going to satisfy neither the Snape lovers nor the Snape haters because I think that Rowling is going to maintain an exact equilibrium for this character so that he will always be gray. Because otherwise she would be writing him out of character, according to her own rules, and that yes, I think she has softened toward him because book 7 is no longer hot off the presses. She’s come down a bit after the enormous effort it must have taken to write the most pressured book in history that I know of. The fact that she got it published at all, I don’t know how she did it. But I think she has more generosity in herself toward the things that the character Snape represents in herself. She’s older, but I also think that she knows it’s not the same character if you don’t remind people he’s not a nice person. Because the value of Snape, to me, is that even if you’re the worst, horriblest person in the world, you are still good enough to do good if you want to. You are not disqualified from doing a good thing just because you know that you are evil or have done evil. Good people can do good things, and are allowed to feel good about it. What if you’re evil? Are you not allowed to do good things? Well, it doesn’t matter what other people think. If you want to do it, and it’s a good thing and you believe in it, you do it. You’re allowed to do that, and you don’t go looking to see if other people will approve of you, because that’s not why you’re doing it. So I think he’s still going to be somebody that, no matter what he does, people are not going to want to be near him or embrace him because that’s not the character.

Grace: Do you think there will be any revelations about him? Do you think he’ll be mentioned as a new thing discovered in the story?

Lorrie: I think there will be a little bit, probably not that much. I don’t think she wants to be rewriting anything new, and I also don’t know how much of this she wrote.

Sarah: That is one of my questions.

Lorrie: I’m imagining that very little of it is her work.

Sarah: I think that she probably had to cosign to some of it, but I don’t think it is.

Grace: Did she present a story and then they wrote the play?

Lorrie: As far as I know, they created their own story, contacted her, and she said that it was in line with her vision enough so that she would be happy to join with them. But I don’t think it’s that she sat down and wrote a story.

Sarah: That’s badass fandom dream come true.

Lorrie: I don’t know. We’re not sure. I don’t think she wrote it.

Grace: I was talking to you about the Cursed Child a couple months ago, and I was not sure about it. I was saying, “It’s not even her writing, it’s a play. It’s not a book.” I was having a lot of negativity about it, and you said something that really changed my mind. You said, “I think it’s really— first of all, she can do whatever she wants,” which is true, and then you said, “I think it’s really cool that she gave this to two young playwrights. She gave them Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and those people have this opportunity now that they would not have had.” And as an actor and sometimes writer, imagine, just imagine…

Sarah: I think that, too, these are always gonna be our characters, right? They’re always gonna be things that she invented in her mind. They’re things that are part of us and part of her, part of her life. That said, those characters don’t only belong to her. They are a gift that she’s given to rest of the world. So if I give you a set of dishes, I don’t get to say what you can put on them.

Grace: I’m hungry. Why did you say dishes?

Lorrie: Because she’s hungry!

Grace: Well, we’re hungry, so I’m gonna ask you our last couple of questions we ask all of our authors. What is a book that shaped you as a child or teen?

Lorrie: Let’s see. I had three answers to that, which I can’t remember now. Because I actually have 7 answers, right?

Sarah: We narrowed it down. And you brought an outline.

Lorrie: Yes. Well, I was raised by my immigrant parents to believe that I should read the classics in English, so as soon as I was able to, they wanted me to read adult English books. The first adult book I remember reading was Jane Eyre when I was eight, and I remember being incredibly moved. By the end I was sobbing uncontrollably. The structure of Jane Eyre, I see it being repeated over and over in Anglophone women’s literature fiction ever since. It’s a really pivotal text; I’m very happy it was the first adult book that I was able to actually get through. I mean, I tried other books, I tried— they had me reading Dickens.

Sarah: No pun intended, but it was pretty bleak.

Lorrie: You know, ugly Brits, and then more ugly Brits and then more ugly Brits.

Sarah: Jane Eyre is my favorite.

Grace: Sarah loves that book.

Lorrie: And then you read Harry Potter and you see Argus Filch and Mad-Eye Moody and you’re like, “Okay, see, now there’s Dickens. Ugly Brits.”

Sarah: Everybody’s supposed to have a chance.

Lorrie: But yeah, at eight it was Jane Eyre. That was the first one that got me through. That really informed a lot of my understanding of novel structure. And then you have the whole orphan child making her way in the world, and the age difference between Jane and Rochester is not that different from Harry and Snape.

Sarah: That’s an interesting perspective.

Lorrie: It’s greater, actually.

Sarah: Rochester was an ugly Brit.

Lorrie: Rochester was an ugly Brit. Rochester is very Snape. And the moments when Jane stands up to him are very Gryffindor. She just catches the inspiration and opens her mouth and lets loose and it’s so true that he can’t say anything, and she’s 18. And he’s like, “I’m 40. I have slept with all the women in all the countries.” And she’s like, “I’m 18 and I’m ugly and I’m poor. Shut up!”

Sarah: “I don’t care who you slept with. None of that signs my paychecks!”

Lorrie: “Yeah, you screwed me over! You shouldn’t have done that. I’m leaving. Bye!” And he’s like, “No, don’t go!” So anyway, Jane Eyre.

Sarah: I love Jane Eyre. I love that answer.

Lorrie: And then, because I didn’t know— I never read children’s books after, like picture books, because as soon as I could, I was told to read adult books. Then when I was older than that, my— I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and my classmates were reading Judy Blume. And I wasn’t allowed to read something that was meant for children, so when I read it, it was a completely new thing for me. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret made a huge impact on me, and that’s when I understood that you can be a good writer without being the hardest wordsmith. It wasn’t trying to improve your vocabulary with every paragraph.

Sarah: I feel one of the things that Judy Blume does best is that she writes the truth of her characters.

Lorrie: And it’s a completely different approach to good literature than what I was being trained in. That really blew my mind. The third book where I drew the line and made myself stop, from fifth grade on, for at least fifteen years — I read and re-read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn at least once a year.

Sarah: I love that book!

Grace: Sarah’s getting really emotional!

Sarah: You guys can’t see it, but I have cartoon hearts in my eyes. I think that’s such an under-appreciated work of literature. It’s such the quintessential, like, rites of passage growing up. I love that book so much. Betty Smith is so unappreciated.

Lorrie: That was another example of a book that I was not told to read. It’s not considered a classic. I wasn’t impressing anybody by reading it. I wasn’t helping myself get into college by reading it. I knew nothing about it; for all I knew, it was a piece of trash. But I saw somebody reading it, so I picked it up. It was deeply compelling and I had no idea of how it stood in terms of prestige, compared to other books. All I knew was that every year, I had to re-read it.

Grace: Well, in case they’ve read all the ones you just listed, what are some books that our listeners should read? I gave Lorrie a heads-up about what you guys like already and what you’re interested in, because she wanted to make sure she recommended good books.

Lorrie: I think everyone should read — especially if you don’t have children yet but you work with children or if you communicate with other human beings. It’s called How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk. It’s by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s really old by now, it’s, I think, published in 1980 and it’s very simple, deceptively simple. It’s one of those self-help books where you read it and you feel almost insulted, like “this isn’t going to help me with my problems.” Yeah, it will.

Sarah: It comes pretty highly recommended, actually. I’ve had a couple of people suggest it to me. But I’m like, “I don’t have kids.”

Lorrie: But it’s not about kids. It’s about people.

Grace: I’m gonna cut in and just say something that Lorrie won’t say or understand, which is Lorrie is a parent and the best parent I know. Deal with it.

Lorrie: I’m a Snape parent in that it’s not that I’m the best parent. It’s that compared to what I want to be, I do a hell of a lot. Another one that is probably my favorite book is also another underrated woman writer. It’s The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher. Not like the whole Art of Eating, because not all of that is up to that quality, but Gastronomical Me is, as far as I’m concerned, a fairly perfect book. And I’ll stop after this one: it’s Annette Gordon-Reed, it’s called Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, and it’s something that she wrote before the DNA confirmed that they had mutual children. She was doing history by looking into the empty spaces and filling them with common sense and knowledge of human nature. That was her fight against racism: the racist denials that Thomas Jefferson would ever lower himself to behave that way, and therefore all of this evidence is a complete conspiracy, in the absence of evidence or even not in the absence of evidence. In one corner, we have racist denial. In the other corner, we have common sense and knowledge of human nature, and in the middle is whatever evidence there was, sometimes whatever evidence was covered up. Using only that, she makes an amazing argument full of what I think is irrefutable common sense. The only way to refute it is to refute the whole of it with a big lie, but not on the details of it. I think it was just a year or two after that that the DNA evidence came out, and then all the deniers just packed up and left. To their credit, the ones that were working at Monticello did not disappear; they recanted and grew. Then after that, she went on to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Hemings family and more on that.

Sarah: That’s what I’m interested in, actually. I know Thomas Jefferson had an affair with Sally Hemings. What I want to know is what happened from there.

Lorrie: Well, at the Constitution Center, which I love, I went to see an exhibit about the Black families that lived at Monticello. Jefferson was a genius, and he did do a lot of architecture, blah blah blah cabinetry, but who was making that? And when I saw the actual, physical cabinetry that his slaves, possibly blood relatives, had made, that was a level of genius. It was basically a house of geniuses, some of which were geniuses because he was related to them by blood, and that stuff is hereditary. And some of it is atmosphere, because it was an educated household. You can’t be a genius and hire just anyone and say, “Execute my plans.” That’s not how it goes. It’s like, “I have this plan, this is going to take 8 months to make. You, what do you think?” “Oh, I think it should be made this way and that way. How about this?” It can’t happen in a vacuum.

Sarah: Maybe this is gonna be my non-fiction summer.

Lorrie: I love non-fiction.

Grace: Lorrie, you’re a joy.

Sarah: You are a credit to the fandom community and we are glad you’re a Philadelphian.

Grace: So true. For listeners who haven’t been googling you during the time they’re listening to this, where can we find you on the internet?

Lorrie: LorrieKim.com.

Grace: And we’ll link to your book as well. And what about on Twitter, if people wanna say, “Hey, your book was the best thing I ever read”?

Lorrie: It’s @_LorrieKim_ on Twitter. It’s all in that one page. (ends 01:35:18)

Transcript by Deannah Robinson, deannahm03@gmail.com