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A death eater moment analyzed (or, Snape as Darcy, after all??)

Here is my first essay about the Potterverse. Is Snape really as cruel as he seems to be in a key scene of HBP?

In chapter eight of Half-Blood Prince - “Snape Victorious” - we witness one of what I’ve been calling Snape’s unadulterated death eater moments. These are very brief, but horrifying, moments of gratuitous cruelty to characters who are in distress, and there are only three that I can think of in the entire series: the attempt to poison Neville Longbottom’s toad during a potions class; the nasty remark about Hermione’s teeth, and the comment Snape makes about Tonks’s Patronus form. There is no excuse at all for the attacks on the two children (and Trevor the toad), but a few essays I read recently encouraged me to look again at the Patronus scene and question what Snape was really doing in this conversation.

Before citing the text, I would like to clarify exactly what a Patronus signifies in the Harry Potter books. A Patronus is a sort of spirit guardian, a form of white magic based on happy memories. It can protect against certain enemies, particularly the dementors, who suck all happiness from their victims, and Dumbledore has also taught all the members of the order of the phoenix to use their Patronuses as messengers. A Patronus takes the form of an animal. The type of animal reveals something about the person - for example, Ron’s terrier points to his loyalty as a friend, and Harry’s stag to his connection with (and longing for?) his father. People do not choose the form of their Patronuses and cannot alter them at will, but, when Tonks discovers Harry outside the gates of Hogwarts and sends a Patronus which Snape intercepts, the boy discovers that a person’s Patronus form can change::

“And incidentally.” said Snape, standing back to allow Harry to pass him, “I was
interested to see your new Patronus.”

He shut the gates in her face with a loud clang and tapped the chains with his wand again,
so that they slithered, clinking, back into place.

“I think you were better off with the old one,” said Snape, the malice in his voice
unmistakable. “The new one looks weak.” (Half-Blood Prince, first American edition, p 160)

What is going on here? Harry notes shock and anger in Tonks’s face; she is clearly wounded by Snape’s comment. The reader (at least this reader!) is also shocked, and inclined to be both angry at Snape and puzzled by his cruelty to a young woman who has never done him any harm. But is he simply being cruel?

A Harry Potter fan who is also a fan of Snape and Slytherin house has analyzed every scene with Snape in it, commenting on possible motivations. (Her comments can be found at the whysnape website.) This young woman, in her analysis of the disastrous occlumency lessons in the fifth book, points out that Snape is essentially a soldier, with a soldier’s flaws and virtues. Harry does not understand this mindset at all; he is a typically rebellious modern teenager. So, when the two are working one on one, there is a serious failure to communicate. Snape expects prompt obedience; he does not typically give praise or encouragement because he considers (rightly) that he is preparing his students for battle. The children get praised only when they have exceeded his expectations, and his expectations are very high. Snape also expects Harry to be able to put his emotions aside to focus on the subject - that, after all, is the point of this tutoring. Harry, on the other hand, cannot manage to learn anything if his emotions are not engaged. Finally, Snape is harder on Harry than on almost any of the other students because he knows Harry will have to face Voldemort. In a way, then, Severus Snape’s harshness toward Harry is a sign of concern, or at least might be interpreted as such.

It’s also clear to anyone who looks objectively at his actions throughout the books that Snape is very loyal to the few people he trusts, and intensely protective. This may be most obvious in his favoritism toward Slytherin house, but he has also taken risks to protect Harry, whom he doesn’t like. Snape actually risks his life for Harry at least twice: once when he enters the shrieking shack to save Harry and his friends from Lupin and Black, and later when he goes alone into the forbidden forest in an attempt to bring Harry and Hermione back to safety. He is also the one professor we most often see patrolling the corridors at night, and the grounds when students (Ron and Harry, for example) are missing. In essence, then, whatever else he may be, Snape is a warrior/guardian.

What does this mean for the Patronus scene? First, we should realize that, though he is protective of everyone he feels obligated to guard, Snape is naturally most protective of ‘his kids’ - the students in Slytherin house. Do we know that Nymphadora Tonks, a few years ago, was not one of those students? Her mother is Andromeda Black, sister of Narcissa (Black) Malfoy and Bellatrix (Black) Lestrange. It is typical for entire families to be sorted into the same house, and professor Slughorn implies that Sirius was the only Black not in Slytherin. If Andromeda Black was in Slytherin house when Snape was a young boy, it seems likely that her daughter would have been in that same house when he was a young man. In that case, Snape was not only her teacher, but also her housemaster.

It is also possible that Severus likes and is grateful to Andromeda. We know that, at present, he despises both Sirius Black and Bellatrix Lestrange; we also know he seems to be very loyal to Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. We don’t know how he feels about the other Black cousins - Regulus, Sirius’s younger brother, and Andromeda, the middle sister. Both of them were certainly in school with him, though not in the same year, and both of them may have been his friends. If that were true, he would feel even more obligated to protect Nymphadora Tonks, Andromeda’s only daughter.

Even if these speculations prove to be untrue, Tonks was Snape’s student and is now his colleague - a junior member of the Order of the Phoenix, to which he also belongs. And - as I said before -Snape has been protective of Harry, whom he dislikes intensely. He would not have to like Tonks in order to try to guard her from danger.

The question then becomes: If Severus Snape is actually being protective in this scene, what is he trying to protect Nymphadora from? When Harry sees the new Patronus, he simply gets an impression of a large animal with four legs, and he thinks Tonks might be mourning for her dead cousin Sirius, who could transform into a large dog. It’s a reasonable guess, but it’s wrong; in fact, Tonks’s Patronus has changed because she is in love with Remus Lupin, the werewolf. Presumably the Patronus is now either a wolf or a werewolf.

Severus Snape dislikes Remus Lupin quite as much as he does Sirius Black, and with good reason. When they were schoolboys, Sirius tricked Severus into going into the den where Lupin was about to transform, hoping to frighten him. If James Potter had not rescued him, Lupin might have killed Severus, or seriously injured him. There is no indication that either James or Remus knew about Sirius’s vicious trick beforehand, but Severus cannot believe they are innocent. Whatever his failings, he cannot accept that a person could use a friend as a murder weapon without informing that friend in advance. In his mind, Lupin is therefore as guilty as Black.

What is more, Severus is correct in inferring that Remus is weak. This is difficult to admit, because Remus Lupin is a likable and, in many ways, admirable character. Nevertheless, he is far from perfect. As a teenager, he did not intervene to rescue Severus from James’s and Sirius’s bullying, even though he was a prefect. Both Neville Longbottom, who stood up to Harry, Hermione and Ron because of their rule breaking, and Hermione, who stood up to the Weasley twins, have shown far more moral courage than we have seen from Lupin. One could argue that Remus was a boy at the time, but he showed exactly the same moral weakness as a young man in Prisoner of Azkaban when he failed to inform the headmaster that Sirius Black was an animagus, capable of transforming into a dog, who also knew every secret passage into the school. Lupin believed at the time that his former friend was a mass murderer. By neglecting to tell Dumbledore what he knew, Lupin was potentially endangering every person in the school, particularly Harry. Lupin is too eager to have people like him; he cannot tolerate censure from those he himself likes and respects, and this leads him to neglect his clear duties. This is a failing Severus Snape can neither understand nor tolerate.

If we look again at the Patronus scene with these ideas in mind, it becomes clear what Snape is trying to communicate. He is warning Tonks about Lupin, whom he considers morally weak - so much so that he might actually endanger her. No strong-willed young woman likes to have her relationships criticized, not even by close friends or family members, so it’s hardly surprising that Tonks reacts with shock and anger. I’m sure any girl would react the same way if faced with harsh criticism of the man she had fallen in love with. Snape’s manner - as is typical for him - is particularly unfortunate; he makes his malice toward Lupin quite clear while his concern for his former student is masked. As a result, Tonks is unlikely to hear the message he intends to send. Harry certainly doesn’t. All the same, the message is there. Snape is once again, as he so often does, acting as a guardian. And what is most disquieting, on reflection, is that he might well be right; Lupin, in spite of his good qualities and good intentions, might actually be a danger to Tonks. As with so many other questions Half-Blood Prince raises, we will have to wait and see.

Mary Johnson, December, 2005/Jan 2006

Note: The essays that particularly inspired me to look again at this scene were Pharnabazus’s comparison of George Weasley and George Wickham, which got me wondering who the Darcy character might be (http://www.livejournal.com/users/pharnabazus/4468.html), June Diamanti’s “Supposing the sorting Hart Wanted to Put Snape in Gryffindor?”” which analyzes this character’s exceptional courage (http://www.livejournal.com/community/hp_essays/40977.html), Lady Claudia’s analysis of Snape as a warrior in the occlumency lessons (http://whysnape.tripod.com/book5b.htm#firstlesson), and a mugglenet editorial suggesting that the potions master’s patronus might actually be a griffin - a griffin is a mythical guardian noted both for its fierceness and for its loyalty to the few who can manage to tame it. (http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-elissa.shtml)


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 30th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it, but -
But, actually, I'm not sure you understood the main point of my post?
Snape is nasty to Tonks, NOT because she is in love and love makes
you weak, but rather because she is in love with Remus Lupin, who is
himself (in Snape's opinion) weak. I don't think we can
extrapolate anything at all about Snape's views on love from this. We
don't really know, directly, what this young man thinks about anything,
but we do know that Dumbledore loved and trusted him, so we can infer
he is capable of love. If he is discounting the power of love, and thinkng it
either a weakness or too glaringly obvious to be considered - well, so is
Harry. It is Harry who, throughout this book, discounts the power of love
and forgiveness. Snape might well do the same - he and Harry, are, after
all, very alike - but we can't determine that from what we see in this scene.
Summing up - I don't believe Snape is criticising Tonks for being in love.
I think he is warning her about Remus Lupin, who is ( in Snape's not - so -
humble opinion) unworthy of her love. There is a difference.

Oh - BTW - it was this and the last book, particularly, that convinced me
Snape is a pretty darn good teacher when he cares to be. At any rate, he's very sincere is his desire that the students LEARN, and Hermione and
Ernie have no problem learning from him, and even praise his lesson. Harry
however is incapable of learning anything from Snape face - to - face, and
that is as much Harry's fault as it is Snape's. As I said before, these two are just too alike, and I don't know how they're ever going to work together, especially after the climax of HBP. But I'm convinced they MUST work together to defeat Voldemort. It'll be interesting to see how or whether they manage to reconcile. Just my two cents-

May. 24th, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Glad you liked it, but -
I would say that the fact that Harry doesn't learn anything from Snape is Harry's fault, and Harry's alone. Why? Because when Harry encounters Snape's teachings in his second-hand potions book, he laps it up! He praises 'the Prince' for being such a good teacher ("far better than Snape" - oh, the irony!) Ergo: Harry will only learn from people he *likes*. He likes Lupin (because Lupin is nice, charming, a link to his father and Lupin makes him feel special, giving him extracurricular lessons about Patronusses, Patroni?) He likes 'the Prince' because he sounds like a rebellious schoolboy - and thus Harry identifies with him - and with his illicit help he can cheat his way through Potions. He dislikes Snape and thus Harry slams down his brain when around the man and *refuses* to accept *anything* the man says of does as truth (which is ironic because Snape is one of the most ruthfully truthful persons in that whole world. It is just never the truth Harry wants to hear, but that's another issue) It's amazing; even in the first book, during his very first lesson, before Snape even adressed him, Harry and Ron raise their eyebrows during Snape's speech. And for six years after that Harry has consistantly rolled his eyes, talked cheekily back and openly challenged Snape in class. And he has consistantly *refuses* to learn anything from Snape. One only wishes Harry could slamdunk his brain shut around Voldemort as he does around Snape in class!
The only things Harry excells at are Quidditch and DADA. Quidditch is fun and DADA is necessary to survive Voldemort. The rest holds nada interest for Harry and he, stupid arrogant lazy boy that he is, dismisses it.

We see the WW through Harry's eyes. *Harry* thinks Snape is a rotten teacher, because Harry *wants* to see Snape as a rotten teacher.

Nobody said Snape was a *nice* teacher or indeed a *nice* person. Lupin is nice, yes, but Snape isn't. But, to speak in the immortal words of Stephen Sondheim: "nice is different from good".
May. 26th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Glad you liked it, but -
Very interesting comment! You're right - I went back and looked at my copy of SS/PS, and Harry and Ron do react *before* Snape addresses either of them directly. The initial hostility does seem to come from Harry, and Snape is actually the one reacting to it - at least, to a degree. I hadn't noticed that before; thanks for pointing it out.

That said, I still have a hard time getting my head around the way Snape treats Neville. I *understand* it; indeed, I can imagine a couple of valid reasons for it, but it's still counterproductive and cruel, IMHO.

But I am convinced that Snape's a good guy, anyway, in spite of his flaws. As you say, "nice" and "good" are not the same thing.
Feb. 1st, 2006 04:28 am (UTC)
BTW, sorry if I misinterpreted yours!
My sister pointed out you might have been responding to the book only, not to my essay. That Snape considers love a weakness is certainly a possible interpretation of this scene in the book. I do think my interpretation is equally possible (and, of course, I like it better!):), but, as it's written, the scene is somewhat ambiguous, isn't it? The one thing that *is* pretty clear is that it isn't as straightforward as Harry thinks, but beyond that, we just don't know.

We both liked your chapter walk through - my sister, on reading the bit about rune interpretations, said, "this woman is brilliant!" And I had honestly not noticed all the imagery about hands, which does seem to be deliberate. Good job!

A question; Do you think it's possible that J.K. Rowling is actually, deliberately putting in all the symbolism, imagery, etc, that we are noticing?! I mean - I know the woman is bright, but can she really be that bright? ;)
Feb. 16th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC)
Really insightful points about Remus Lupin, who I admit, has always been my favorite adult character. It's hard to think of him as being weak, but I think you are right--even he admits his failings. I had not thought of it from Snape's point of view, but given Snape's admonishments to Harry during those disastrous Occlumency lessons about needing to hide his emotions, and fools wearing their hearts on their sleeves, it's not surprising that Snape would see Lupin as weak, and unworthy of a former student.

I'm not sure that we can assume that Tonks was in Slytherin, though--her mother was blasted off the tapestry when she married the muggle Tonks, wasn't she? So that might be the reason she's not mentioned as also being in Gryffindor. Though that would be interesting to know--I can just imagine what it must have been like for Tonks being in Snape's house and his potions classes, given her clumsy bumbling manner. That must have driven him nuts.

I like the assessment of Snape as a warrior guardian; it explains a lot about why he continues to protect Harry and the other students, even though he doesn't like a lot of them, and downright loathes Harry.

While Lupin is my favorite adult character, I still find Snape the most interesting. He is the one whose motives and actions are the most mysterious. We see him a lot and really still know very little about him. His interactions with Harry are always so contentious that it doesn't give us the added information we get from some of the other adults who talk to Harry as a friend or son/younger brother. And we overhear Snape talking with other adults only in very official capacities, never in a social friendly relaxed manner. He is so closed off from everyone else, except apparently Dumbledore, that it is very difficult to know just what his motives are.

I do think that all the imagery and symbolism that we are seeing in the HP books has been intentionally put there by JKR. She is a brilliant writer, and there are just too many things there to have them turn out to be coincidence.

Eeyore (Pat)
Feb. 17th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it and understood where I was coming from. It is very hard, indeed, to know anything about Snape because of the "Harry Filter', and this essay was an attempt to take that filter off one small scene. You are absolutely right, BTW, about Tonks probably driving Snape crazy in potions class! I can just picture it. )

The one thing we do know about Slytherin is that half-bloods are accepted there. It is the house of ambition, not necessarily of pure-blood prejudice, so it isn't impossible Tonks could have been there. But of course we don't know, and may never find out.

As to Snape as warrior/guardian - glad you like it. The character just makes so much *sense* when you see him this way; instead of being a walking set of cliches, he becomes a believable human being with comprehesible motives. That's why I'm pretty much convinced this interpretation is right. But we shall see - in a year or two.

Love your icon, BTW!
Feb. 18th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
Hiya, finally made my way over here to read what you've got, overall I rather like the vigour with which you attack such a minute moment in the book, one which is admittedly a favourite of mine in terms of being an absolute breeding ground for subtext. Generally, Harry's observations of moments like this are our only means of understanding how the adult characters interrelate, so take off that Harry Filter and we've got a goldmine to work with, although not nearly to the extent that we had in OotP.

I think your assessment of Snape's motivations was dead-on, warrior/guardian does seem a good identification for his function in the Order, and one doesn't need to be compassionate to fill either function - rather, Snape would recognize how compassion would diminish his abilities as a protector. And while i don't entirely buy the prospect of Tonks as a Slytherin - too much of a stretch on too little information, in my mind - we do know that in order to qualify for Auror training she needed NEWT-level Potions, which means she did have the aptitude to meet Snape's high standards; therefore, it's fair to presume a certain degree of respect for her as a former pupil, regardless of House affiliation.

And of course things only get more interesting from here, because it's Lupin and Snape and all the fraught history between the two and the fact that they're both oh-so-very flawed, and while I like your read of Snape's motivation to protect Tonks from his weakness/unworthiness from Snape's point of view it somehow seems like an incomplete thought. My initial thought was that Snape may not so much be solely fixated on protecting Tonks from an unworthy lover but also from warning her against her own behaviour. This isn't necessary Snape critiquing the idea of love, but rather observing what love has made of her recently; he's an intelligent enough man to spot the drastic changes in her behaviour, seen how she's gone from being a vibrant and spirited warrior to a moping lovesick girl, and I suspect his disdain is as much for her as for Lupin. I mean this in the sense of 'You are better than this and can't let your unrequited feelings get the better of you' rather than disgust for her capacity to love in the first place.

This does invest a certain read into Snape's views on love, as already mentioned above, and I don't feel qualified to say whether Snape does or doesn't have faith in love - you have to balance his relationship with Dumbledore against such things as his personality and the rough sketch we have of his parents' marriage, the latter of which is not fully clear but does leave room to guess that Snape likely had/has doubts about the validity of love given the prospect of witnessing an abusive relationship. But for the present, it seems safe to assume, in the wake of his change in loyalties back in 1980/1, that Snape is not totally dismissive of love.

But I do suspect that his disdain for Lupin is more complicated than childhood blame. I don't deny that Lupin is weak - it's one of the things that makes me love him so much as a character - but it's also clear that Snape possesses an especially weak streak where Lupin (and Sirius) is concerned, in terms of that extra dose of hate in his down-table glare at the start of PoA, insane temper tantrums where one or the other or both are concerned... well, it's all pretty well-documented. Elements such as fear, genuine hate, outright confusion over Lupin's compulsion to be so nice to him despite it all (i've been muddling over his obsessive use of 'Severus' right up until Dumbledore's death for the last few weeks), could all be playing into his warning. I'd love to hear what you think of any or all of those possibilities, it's a really rich minefield of possibilities whenever those two are involved.

And I think i've rather rambled on waaay too much here, holidays make me lax about things like editing myself, so sorry about that. Hope it helps!
Feb. 20th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
thanks for your comment!
You made a couple of very interesting points I fully agree with. For one thing, I had actually not remembered/reaslized that Tonks would have needed advanced potions! And the idea that Snape might be criticizing *her* present weakness, without necessarily being opposed to love or seeing love as weakness, is brilliant. It rings true to me.

As for the disdain for Lupin, and childhood blame - I think the werewolf caper actually *is* enough to explain it. As I've said elsewhere, this was an attempt at murder in which Sirius Black used Remus Lupin - knowingly or unknowingly - as the murder weapon. At least, Snape to this day sees it as attempted murder, and the one thing *everyone* has conceded is that his life was in danger. I'm not sure you can even find an equivalent situation in the real world, but, as a pretty new driver, I got into a couple of accidents. In the first one, an older lady came barrelling through a four-way-stop and hit me in the side. For a long time after that, my stomach would clench when I got to that intersection, and I still feel very slightly nervous when I go through it. That's more than ten years ago. And yet there was no setup, no former history with the other driver, no malice, and no real injury. One might argue that there was no injury from the werewolf caper, either, but I think the psychic damage to Severus was severe. And he is not a forgiving soul and cannot easily put the past behind him - a definite weakness of *his*, and one I think he's not fully aware of. I agree with Jodel from aol (at the red hen website) that, one way or another - whether as Albus Dumbledore's willing agent (her theory) or simply as a messed-up kid bent on revenge - it was the werewolf caper that sent him straight to the death eaters. And, since it's clear to both Jodel and me that Severus became Albus's agent very young, he was in a difficult and dangerous position with that crew. And it's a position Sirius Black, in particular, had nothing but scorn for. If Severus blames the marauders for his choices, this would only increase his hate for them; if, as Jodel and I think, he was aware that he was doing harder and more dangerous work than any of them, while having to suffer their censure, he would scorn them. Not a very spiritually mature attitude, but then Snape just isn't very mature. I'm rambling a bit, too, but I hope all this is clear to you?

For another look at Snape's attitude to the marauders, you might check Helen Ketcham's excellent essays on the hogwarts professor website. She points out that, as far as we know, none of the marauders have ever apologized to Severus. They may now understand they treated him cruelly, but he has never heard this from them. And this makes it impossible for him to forgive them fully, especially since by nature he finds forgiveness challenging.

So those are my thoughts on his animosity to the marauders generally. He's certainly not fully rational about them, and it is a weakness. Thanks again for your comments.
Feb. 21st, 2006 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: thanks for your comment!
glad my ramblings were somewhat sensible then! I'm not particularly inclined to over-argue the point of Severus' sheer hate for Lupin, I think it does exist on a very instinctive level, and regardless of however Lupin may feel or act in return, that's just unlikely to change.

but at the risk of getting off-topic, I was intrigued that you brought up the whole matter of Snape's reason for joining the Death Eaters, and the theory that the werewolf caper (as indeed Jodel refers to it, I have read her essays and this one especially) was the direct cause. If this is the case, it certainly strengthens that animosity about a hundred-fold: Snape has an even stronger reason to hate the Marauders, and especially comes to associate them with a rare moment of weakness on his own part. But the problem with that, and I find with Jodel's essays in general (disclaimer: I think she's more incisive than god, i really do, but read on) is that once that a-ha moment is hit upon, and followed through in speculations, fandom, etc it tends to becomes the ONLY answer, and shuts down all other theories, to the point where you forget that it was indeed once a speculation - one based on solid reading and logic, but still without concrete proof. For example, as an alternative, consider Snape's status as a half-blood and the little we know of his parents: he adopts his witch mother's maiden name as his nickname in school (in my mind a demonstration of maternal-sided pride at the very least), and all we know of his father is that he was a muggle and an angry, abusive man on at least one memorable occasion. Knowing this, to what extent can we suppose that a personal resentment of muggles - a prime requisite of the Death Eater cause - was not the cause of Snape's impulse to join? Add in some speculation about the fate of the marriage (was there a divorce? was Eileen severely injured or killed by her husband? did Severus kill his father in revenge?) and the case gains further credibility.

My point being, a well-developed theory such as Jodel's on Severus' Death Eater motivations via the werewolf caper is all well and good, but it must always be taken as just that: a theory, as in one possible cause among others. Jodel's may well be right, and it wouldn't shock me to learn as much in Book 7, but if we all were willing to let that one lie, we wouldn't have reams of HP essays, now would we? ^_^

I'm actually not sure if i still have a point, I think I just have a tired, overworked brain that's still determined to believe that there's something else there we're not quite seeing, something beyond that deep-seated hate. I think at the end of the day, the idea that Snape's biggest oversight to date is that he cannot recognize that the Marauder he hates the most is the one that bears him the least ill will just doesn't jive with Snape's inherent intelligence.
Feb. 21st, 2006 04:09 am (UTC)
Re: thanks for your comment!
You've got some interesting points, again, and you are right to remind me that Jodel's theories - and mine - are, after all, just theories. (Yes, I did say this myself on the hogwartsprofessor forum, but we can't remind ourselves of this too often, IMHO!).

One thing you say does puzzle me: what makes you think Lupin is the marauder Snape hates the *most*? He is the one we've seen the most interactions with, but it seems to me Severus hates James and Sirius at least as much as he does Remus, if not more so. For Peter he seems to have mostly disdain and comtempt, but 'hatred' might not be too strong a word there, either.

As for your other point - that Snape might truly hate muggles - I think we are meant to think this. Harry certainly does. And it may be true. But, if it is true, I'd find it a bit heavy-handed and disappointing. It would tend to lead straight to 'evil Snape', and furthermore, an evil Snape whose motivations are almost identical to Voldemort's. Why have Voldemort at all, then, since Snape is scarier, more present, more believable and infinitely more human than Voldemort? I'd really rather that Snape weren't merely Saruman to Voldemort's Sauron - in LOTR, these two actually represent two different types of evil, but that wouldn't seem true of Voldemort and Snape, at least not so far. Also, as I think I told you before, Severus Snape seems far more familiar with muggle culture than most wizards - for example, I've a suspicion that, unlike Arthur Weasley, he would actually be able to light a match. And, other than the infamous (and truly terrible) 'nudblood' comment to Lily, he has never once said anything racist in 6 books. Yes, that "I, the half-blood prince," remark to Harry is pretty creepy, and I'm not sure yet how to interpret it, but otherwise there just isn't any evidence that Snape hates muggles. I've a sneaking suspicion that he could fit into the muggle world a lot better than most wizards. This, also, is just a theory that might be proven wrong, but, as of the end of HBP, I am strongly inclined not to believe what Harry believes, just because the kid showed himself as thoroughly nonreflective, not to say hard-headed, throughout the book. And Harry believes Severus is a racist who hates muggles and is just like Voldemort. Therefore, I don't believe that! Pretty hardheaded and nonreflective of me, perhaps, but there you go!
Feb. 21st, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks for your comment!
Ugh, you know, there's a reason I typically just go straight to bed after house duty, because reading what I left last night? Complete and utter nonsense. So sorry about that.

First clarification: I would maintain that if Snape did indeed bear a grudge against muggles, that it's very much a past-tense sorta thing, a misguided phase in his youth (hence the infamous 'mudblood' comment, joining the Death Eaters), and that he would have wisely grown out of it. Snape as an adult has shown few, if any signs of harbouring pureblood preferences, and for all his contempt for Hermione he has never once made issue of her heritage. You mention the 'I, the half-blood prince' line as well, at which I can only shudder, not so much with creepiness as disgust for bad writing on JKR's part - that line just hurt for all the cackling melodrama of it.

Second clarification/retraction:

what makes you think Lupin is the marauder Snape hates the *most*?

*scratches head, re-reads comment*

Huh, that's a damn good question. I don't think I was aware of having typed that (did I mention I was fucking exhausted? stupid teenage boys), since I don't necessarily believe that at all. I think I did once, during a re-read of PoA in which the Shrieking Shack scene seemed to indicate a stronger malice on Snape's part towards Lupin rather than Sirius (as in, suspected mass-murderer, fellow teacher, and he attacks the teacher first?), but then I smartened up a little and realized that Snape was more likely reacting first to the threat of Lupin transforming any moment soon - take care of the truly uncontrollable element first, then Sirius. Classic Snape logic, there. Now, the idea of turning Lupin over to the Dementors on the other hand... well, that's just rather a bit much, and at least implies as equal a hate for Remus as for Sirius and James. Otherwise, I've got nothing, it was a subconscious twitch and I apologize for the confusion. Perhaps with a clear mind I could argue that Snape perceives Lupin as the greatest threat of the three, living or dead, both for the obvious reason as well as his ambiguous affability, but that would be another long droning argument altogether. I shut up now :P
Feb. 22nd, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
another great reply! (I'm enjoying this):
And I hope you are not staying up way too late reading my wild ideas (As I am doing writing them!) This comment of yours was priceless:

... You mention the 'I, the half-blood prince' line as well, at which I can only shudder, not so much with creepiness as disgust for bad writing on JKR's part - that line just hurt for all the cackling melodrama of it.

Yes- I, too, just cringed when I read that line; it seemed like terrible writing on the part of a woman who is usually a good craftswoman, at least, and I couldn't imagine what she meant by it. If you read June Diamanti's livejournal, you know that one line completely changed her attitude toward Snape. But it just doesn't seem like something any human being would *say*, even under such extreme provocation. The "filthy father" bit, though also a bit melodramatic, didn't bother me anywhere near as much.

BTW, did it seem to you that Rowling, who normally writes terrific dialog, had a slight tin ear in this book? The other line that jumped out at me as being highly improbable was Harry, when talking to Hermione about History of Magic - "You know full well I never listen." As someone who works with teenage boys, does it seem at all likely to you that any teenager would say that?!

Rowling is a genius, but I do wish she'd take her time and edit!

Also, that Snape, as you suggest, perceives Lupin as the most dangerous of the marauders actually does ring true to me, and fits in with my new take on the patronus scene. But I do think he hates them all pretty equally - that is, beyond all reason.

Thanks again for yours-

Feb. 22nd, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)
Re: another great reply! (I'm enjoying this):
Ohh, no worries about late nights - in fact that real dud of a comment suffered because rather than stay up and think about it, I stumbled into my flat from four hours of supervising hyper teenage boys, blurrily read your comment, went 'oooh *keyboard smash* *thunk*' and passed out with little time for thinking. I suck.

Sadly, the bad-writing bits (Rowlings, not mine this time) are things I have sorta-kinda come to accept as a consequence of reading these books - as much as I think she's a genius of a storytelling and an incredible plotsmith (is that a word? it is now!), her style has never been spectacular, and her writing was even somewhat plodding the first few books (as in multiple books opening with some variation on 'Harry Potter was a very unusual boy in many different ways', ick). She has improved considerably, become a lot more selective with her adjectives especially, but I don't think she'll ever be a truly brilliant wordsmith, and those odd cringing moments are something of a hangover of that, in my mind.

So yeah, while I do in fact have a couple teenage boys in my class who would say things like "You know full well..." (or in the case I'm thinking of, "I do say, Miss, don't you rather think that these new trousers are just delightful?"), it is universally understood that such speech out of a teenage boy is downright eccentric, and in Harry's case not quite on. Snape's melodrama I can take with a grain of salt, if only because he is a bit of an ostentatious drama queen, lol, and thus it fits his character (strangely, the fact that he's a bit over the top doesn't bother me so much, as I tend to read it as more of a defense mechanism on his part, like a deliberate performance to keep people at a safe distance). But at the end of the day, my respect for Rowling is as an inventive and compelling plot-driven storyteller, not as a stylist. Ah, well.
Mar. 3rd, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
Glad you like it!
White Alchemist, that must be some character you're teaching! Is that an exact quote?

A good point about Snape's melodrama being a defense mechanism; that really rings very true. Still, "I, the half-blood prince" made me cringe - and then I thought about it some more, and considered some of what Jodel had to say - and something clicked. Am working on a new essay, and a series of stories, that (I hope ) will express my 'grand unified Snape theory'. But it's easy enough to state in a couple of sentences:

Warrior/guardian, strongly compelled (by early life experience? His inborn nature? - he's the griffin, IMHO - or his sense of duty?) to defend those who need his help.

Abused kid? Possible, but I think Jodel is right when she suggests death eaters murdered his parents. Combined with the above compulsion, (and possibly the reactions from being abused/witnessing abuse; have you read Helen Ketchams's essay?) this completely fills in the holes and allows him to emerge as a complex and believable human being. It even explains the wacky "half-blood prince" commment. What if this is not an attempt to identify with the wizard side of the family, but rather a cry of defiance? Were there any death eaters within hearing range when he said this to Harry? Somehow I don't think so. I think the nickname may actually be a sign that he was working for vengeance on the death eaters from a very early age. But it's still melodramatic, certainly!

Swythyv, your thoughts on polyjuice are just plain scary! There are enough people running around with double agendas/double natures/ disguises without adding more! Were you the person who came up with Draco as Tonks/Draco as Madame Pince, etc?
Mar. 21st, 2006 12:16 am (UTC)
a mugglenet editorial suggesting that the potions master’s patronus might actually be a griffin - a griffin is a mythical guardian noted both for its fierceness and for its loyalty to the few who can manage to tame it.

This is interesting to me for 2 reasons:
1. Harry studies hippogriffs in his 3rd year (closely related to griffins). It would give an entirely new reason for him to study those creatures in particular, and for it to be beaten into our heads.
2. Sirius gets quite chummy with the hippogriff. Snape's sworn enemy. Fascinating.

Very good essay. I had never thought of it like that.

I can actually come up with rather good reasons for Snape making fun of Hermione's teeth keeping this in mind.

Hermione is a bright girl, and Snape recognizes this. Despite her brightness, she is affected by what other people think about her (and obviously Snape is not a fan of that, based on his appearance and attitude and his feelings towards Lupin, as you mentioned). Could Snape not be telling her to stop caring what others think so much? It certainly is mean, but not too far off base.

It also makes me wonder about Neville's toad...

This is an interesting site on toad folklore:

A few that jumped out at me:
Romanian legend that says a man who can kill a toad can kill his mother (...poor Eileen...)
It is an omen of death (Is Neville the only one with a toad?)
It is associated with Dark Magic (Could give a good natured reason for Snape wanting to get rid of the toad for Neville, might also explain why they are out-of-fashion currently -- dark magic is feared)

Of course, his reasons for wanting to kill the toad could be entirely sinister (in which case it would mirror Heathcliff's killing of Isabella's dog... ;P).

I friended you. I'll un-friend you if that's a problem. ;P
Mar. 22nd, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it, and I will check out your site on toads. Actually, as Helen Ketcham says, it isn't clear Snape did want to kill Trevor; he probably knew there was nothing wrong with the potion, but it was still terribly cruel to Neville, IMHO. But Heathcliff's killing of Isabella's dog - no, I don't see a parallel here. Or at least, I hope I don't! As I said before, I think Heathcliff really is a sadist, a raging sociopath, and I want Snape to be better than that (and also, there are some indications that he actually is better than that). But we'll see.

I think I'm flattered that you friended me - don't know what it means, exactly, but I don't think I have any problem with it.

BTW, how would I go about getting a beta reader for a fanfic or two? I'll probably post them to this livejournal, initially. Would you be willing to read them, or would you know someone who would be? TIA!
Mar. 23rd, 2006 03:54 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks-
But Heathcliff's killing of Isabella's dog - no, I don't see a parallel here. Or at least, I hope I don't! As I said before, I think Heathcliff really is a sadist, a raging sociopath, and I want Snape to be better than that (and also, there are some indications that he actually is better than that). But we'll see.

That's what I meant. It is only a parallel to Heathcliff (otherwise it is juxtaposition!) if Snape's intentions were sinister, and I agree. I don't think they were, ;P

Friending means that you'll show up on my friends list, so I know when you've made a new post. I looked at your info. You are lacking friends and community membership, my dear! Start searching communities and friend people you think have good theories, fanfic, etc. That will tremendously help you.

I'll beta your stories, although I haven't read a lot of ff lately, but I'm always glad to help. Won't start right away as I am leaving on a trip and won't be back until late Sunday.

Don't forget to use LJ cut for long entries! Learn how to use it here:

Always glad to be of help!
Apr. 19th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
Good essay. Good points. I think you're right about Snape being a soldier.

Do you mind if I friend you?
Apr. 19th, 2006 04:30 am (UTC)
Sure! Go right ahead. And I'm glad you liked it.
May. 17th, 2006 10:29 pm (UTC)
...Remus is weak. This is difficult to admit, because Remus Lupin is a likable and, in many ways, admirable character. Nevertheless, he is far from perfect. As a teenager, he did not intervene to rescue Severus from James’s and Sirius’s bullying, ... One could argue that Remus was a boy at the time, but he showed exactly the same moral weakness as a young man in Prisoner of Azkaban when he failed to inform the headmaster that Sirius Black was an animagus, ... By neglecting to tell Dumbledore what he knew, Lupin was potentially endangering every person in the school, particularly Harry. Lupin is too eager to have people like him;

Hello Mary, I found my way here from our conversation at snape_the_hbp fest. You said that you had started to like Lupin less, but after reading your essay above, I don't think my feelings towards him have changed any.

Sure, he's made mistakes, mostly through wanting others to be happy/wanting others to like him. Compare that to some of his classmates - Snape (joined the racist murdering Death Eaters) Peter (ditto, plus a traitor), Sirius (an arrogant bully) and he doesn't seem so bad. Plus, I think his failings stem from his genuine empathy with others, which is a very attractive quality.

On the other hand, your take on Snape as a soldier/guardian makes me like him less. I'm not one of those people who thinks that bullying 'toughens you up'. This argument cuts no mustard with me. Studies show that kids that have been bullied are less able to cope with stress in later life compared to those that have had a happy, supportive childhood. Snape bullies because he is an immature prat who gets away with it, pure and simple. It's interesting to analyse why he does it, but I'll always despise him for it.

I liked your essay. I agree that Snape and Tonks are likely to have known each other quite well in the past - at the very least when she did her Potions NEWTs - and Snape would have known several other members of her family too. That scene where Snape insults Tonks' new Patronus has intrigued me for a while. It's described so dramatically, too, with the harsh uplighting from Snape's lantern. I've been working on several drawings of it and hope to get some decent art out of it eventually.
May. 18th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)
well - fair enough
But I simply cannot get over the fact that Lupin endangers every single child in the school, whereas Snape *protects* them. Yes, Lupin is far more likable than Snape (I have said elsewhere that I would have suffered greatly in Snape's classroom), but this is a very serious failing. So much so that I am inclined to agree with the commentator who said she would rather have Snape than Lupin as a babysitter. She might well come home to psychically damaged kids after a bout with Snape, but they would all be alive, at any rate! No guarantees of that with Lupin. As to Snape having joined the racist murdering Death Eaters - I am now not at all sure that he *ever* agreed with their agenda. But I guess you haven't read the rest of my writings yet.

Anyway, I'm also not at all sure that we're supposed to *like* Snape. I would take Arthur or Hagrid as a babysitter over either of them - I think. But I still agree that the kiddies would be safer with Snape than with Lupin.
Jun. 23rd, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Interesting and well written, this. I'll have to take a look at a few of the other articles you cite as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I agree that you give a very possible interpretation on that scene.
Jul. 5th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
This was a really insightful essay. Really fine work. I read it a few days ago and your ideas about both Snape and Lupin's characters were a major inspiration to me in the Snape/Lupin story I was working on. Of course its probably the most non-romantic Snupin fic ever written because of my exposure to this essay. Clear-eyed analysis can have that effect.
Jul. 2nd, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
I see no difference
After reading this, I remembered reading or hearing another analysis of the scene in GoF (Ch. 18) and went back and re-read it. Snape is a teacher and comes upon a fight in the hall where damage has been done by magic. This is a rule that is stated every year at the opening feast - no magic in the halls. He looks at the players and asks for an explanation. Malfoy accuses Harry of attacking him and points out Goyle with spell damage - Snape sends him to the hospital wing. Then Harry says, more truthfully, we attacked each other and points out Hermione. Snape looks at her, with an equal amount of spell damage to her face (Goyle had boils on his face) and says "I see no difference." Therefore, the scene can also be read, rather than Snape saying that Hermione's teeth now look the same as they used to, that he sees no difference in the severity of the attacks. A very different message, though we're meant to see this, through the Harry filter, as a specific unwarranted attack on Hermione.

As for the Neville and Tonks statements - well, the one on Trevor is cruel and I really have to go back and look at that one again. The one with Tonks, I see your point and agree with most of it, as I think Lupin is weak and dangerous, as well. It's been hinted that Tonks isn't Tonks at all, but Lupin under polyjuice, and her patronus thus hasn't changed. Farfetched, but not impossible.

Also, JKR has stated on her website that Tonks is in Hufflepuff. One of the questions in the FAQ section. I think she put that up since Jan 07. Takes after her dad. Hard to see clumsy Tonks succeeding in potions enough to get a NEWT.

I'm just catching up to all of these essays, which is why you're getting an answer over a year later. Just three weeks, now! You might enjoy reading my first stab at an essay on my new LJ. Not nearly ready for prime time (hp_essays), and I'm working on a revision, now.
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