Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Chapter 28: Snape’s Worst Memory
- “’[…]The Fat Friar told me –’ he dropped his voice conspiratorially, so that Harry, Ron and Hermione had to lean closer to him to hear ‘– that Umbridge tried to get back into his office last night after they’d searched the castle and grounds for him. Couldn’t get past the gargoyle. The Head’s office has sealed itself against her.’” – We know that the castle has magic of its own, and apparently not everybody can simply announce themselves headmaster. I wonder how it is usually decided who is going to be the new headmaster, in case the current one retires (by the famous Hogwarts Governors?). The castle doesn’t agree with Umbridge, however we know that Snape had no problem using the headmaster’s office, despite the fact that he had killed Dumbledore. Were the portraits and the castle aware of Dumbledore’s plan? Because I can’t imagine otherwise how Snape could get in when Umbridge couldn’t (though it is possible that Snape forced himself inside the office through magic Umbridge is not capable of).
- “‘Very well, Potter, I will take your word for it this time, but be warned: the might of the Ministry stands behind me. All channels of communication in and out of this school are being monitored. A Floo Network Regulator is keeping watch over every fire in Hogwarts – except my own, of course. My Inquisitorial Squad is opening and reading all owl post entering and leaving the castle. And Mr Filch is observing all secret passages in and out of the castle. If I find a shred of evidence …’” – The Ministry is watching you. Hogwarts is now officially a surveillance state, further isolating Harry. And there are of course much more destructive ways to gain someone’s personal information than reading their letters. Umbridge had just tried to poison Harry (illegal) with Veritaserum. We know that it is possible to enter someone’s mind through Legilimency. And I talked before how consent is a thing that is barely talked about and constantly broken.
- “The upshot of it all was that Professor Umbridge spent her first afternoon as Headmistress running all over the school answering the summonses of the other teachers, none of whom seemed able to rid their rooms of the fireworks without her.” – All of the Hogwarts teachers are very capable and also very petty. I love it.
- Harry acted like a jerk during his conversation with Cho. Of course he has every right to be angry, but it wasn’t Cho’s fault that her friend betrayed them. Harry doesn’t even try to see things from her perspective and even warns her not to cry again… which yeah. Don’t do that. Seriously, don’t.
- And no anger towards Cho, Draco or Snape excuses Harry watching Snape’s memory. The first time he watched someone’s else memory he didn’t know what he was doing, but now he does. And no matter how he tries to justify his actions, he knows that what he does is wrong.
- “Harry looked anxiously behind him again. Snape remained close by, still buried in his exam questions – but this was Snape’s memory and Harry was sure that if Snape chose to wander off in a different direction once outside in the grounds, he, Harry, would not be able to follow James any further.” – It really makes me wonder how memories in a Pensieve work. Harry is able to listen to the Marauder’s entire conversation, despite this being Snape’s memory, and Snape clearly not being part of the conversation or even close enough to listen to it. Is there a certain kind of radius you can explore within a memory? Shouldn’t a memory be more subjective, only showing what Snape remembers? How is it possible to pull a memory outside your head and to listen to a conversation you weren’t even aware was happening that day?
- “Snape lay panting on the ground. James and Sirius advanced on him, wands raised, James glancing over his shoulder at the girls at the water’s edge as he went. Wormtail was on his feet now, watching hungrily, edging around Lupin to get a clearer view.” – Wormtail clearly enjoys watching his friends tormenting Snape, perhaps knowing that it might as well could have been him, if he didn’t have more powerful friends watching out for him. It is something Sirius accused him of in PoA, that he would always look out for the biggest bully in the playground, to serve him in exchange for protection. Of course Sirius referred to Voldemort, but part of this behaviour can be seen here already. In this moment James and Sirius are the biggest bullies, and Wormtail is their willing bystander, applauding their actions.
- “Many of the surrounding students laughed, Sirius and Wormtail included, but Lupin, still apparently intent on his book, didn’t, and nor did Lily.” – We know that Lily had been friends with both Sirius and Wormtail, from the letter Harry found of hers in book 7, but there is no evidence of a friendship between Lupin and Lily (perhaps at this point they already suspected him to be a spy). It is clear though that they share the same principles, so it is very likely that they did get along.
- “He had no desire at all to return to Gryffindor Tower so early, nor to tell Ron and Hermione what he had just seen. What was making Harry feel so horrified and unhappy was not being shouted at or having jars thrown at him; it was that he knew how it felt to be humiliated in the middle of a circle of onlookers, knew exactly how Snape had felt as his father had taunted him, and that judging from what he had just seen, his father had been every bit as arrogant as Snape had always told him.” – I always loved this chapter and in particular Snape’s memory, because up to this point we (and Harry) encountered James and Lily only through what people told us about them, and seeing as it was their son they were talking to it was very biased. And of course Harry wanted to believe they were good people, wanted to believe that Snape was wrong about his father. It is natural, especially given that he never had a chance to get to know them, that he created a perfect version of them in his mind. But there is a point in life, and it usually happens when you are a teenager/young adult, where you start to see your parents from a different point of view, where you realized that they are flawed and make mistakes. People can be a good person and still act like jerks. And you can see someone for who they are and accept their mistakes and still love them. I think it is part of growing up, and I love that Harry had been given the chance to see his parents unfiltered, to form his own opinion, to grow from the experience, and how it helped him shape his own identity.
- Also, it is interesting to look at the chapter’s title with the information we gained from book 7 about Snape. We believe it was his worst memory because of what James and Sirius did to him, but in reality it was because of what he had called Lily that day (“mudblood”), which marked the end of their friendship. This was the day Snape had lost Lily long before she died, and perhaps he had wondered since then if she could still be alive if they had still be friends, if he could have protected her in some ways. I wrote a bit more about the memory, and the way Harry interprets it both here and in book 7 here.