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New Essay Posted- Snape’s Eyes, by Edward M. Kern

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The Harry Potter Canon


It is my very great pleasure to announce the posting of a new essay, Snape’s Eyes, by Edward M. Kern, Associate Professor of History at Lawrence University. If you attended Lumos 2006, you may recognize this essay — it was originally presented at Lumos in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 29, and Professor Kern was kind enough to allow the Lexicon to post his presentation in essay form. Enjoy!


Pensieve (Comments)

  • del

    Absolutely excellent essay and referrence page about the potions/DADA master.

  • Pat Pat

    Great essay. He gives excellent evidence to the point that Snape really is on the side of good and killed Dumbledore on his orders. This may be why Dumbledore was so anxious to teach Harry as much as possible that year, knowing his life would soon reach an end. Remember, one of the few times Dumbledore has shown anger or annoyance with Harry is when he fails to complete the assignment he gave him to retreive the memory from Sluggy. He probably realized that time was running out.

  • Fantastic essay. I’m impressed.

  • Moony

    I can’t remember Rowling told us Umbridge could do legilimency, nor Lupin could use occlumency? But, it’s a possibility. If Umbridge could use legilimency, she had to discover Harry didn’t drink the false veritaserum (or that Snape didn’t give her veritaserum), and to whom Harry wanted to talk, while he was using her fireplace. Umbridge seemed to be a minor-talented witch. Perhaps I’m wrong, but legilimency seemed to be something difficult? I think, that Umbridge-woman deserves an own page, so her character can be analysed. If you want, I made some notes about her.

  • Antoon

    I’m not so sure about Snape using Legilimency all the time. If that is the case, why would he threaten Harry with the Veritaserum? Or remember the scene when Snape has caught Harry after his second trip to Hogsmeade. Snape can’t figure out how to use the Marauders Map. How can this be if he is such a good Legilimens? I think the question should be why Snape doesn’t use Legilimency. My guess is that Dumbledore has forbidden him to use it.

  • Ada

    A fantastic work and an excellent essay who explains what happend in Spinner’s End! I agree Snape understood Drago’s work with legilimency. He’s a very good occlumens and a very good legilimens too, like Voldemort…

  • daveindetroit

    Well considered and presented essay, indeed. I find the appended chart very interested. On the other hand what has it really presented us with but a different point of view that Snape could be good or he could be bad or he could be out for himself. Useful but nothing really new there.

  • Kez

    Very interesting essay – the analysis of Snape’s sadistic treatment of Harry as irrational counterattacks to Harry’s animosity is something I hadn’t considered, and deals with what I find the largest stumbling block to the theory of Snape’s goodly allegiance. However far more interesting, I find, is what is missing from the essay – the fact that Snape is provoked by Harry’s eyes, when JK has made is clear that in the seventh book the fact that Harry has his mother’s eyes will be of significance, as what can be surmised by the Pensieve scenes of Book 5 is that Snape felt rather differently for Lily than he did James.

  • kamion

    All this attention to Snape’s eyes suddenly make me wonder who and what Snape would be, when in stead of dying in the last chapter he ends up blind.
    Would he live on with two devices like Mad-Eye Moody, develop his other senses or curl up in a corner and waste away?

  • Remi

    Very interesting essay. A comment, a question, and another comment:
    – One of the short-comings of the essay is the fact that the author’s analysis seems to apply that legilimency is mind-reading. He uses phrases like, “…other passages suggest that Snape baits Harry on the basis of what he reads in the latter’s mind” and “…Snape has had a pretty good idea of what Harry was thinking right from his arrival at Hogwarts” when in fact Rowling specifically spends 1/2 a page describing how legilimency is merely the ability to extract feeling & memories from another’s mind and NOT mind reading. This is, to me, a big distinction and clarifies that Snape does not know what Harry is exactly thinking even though he can tell when Harry is lying.
    – Is the use of a wand required in legilimency & occlumency? It seems to be if you look at all the scenes where Snape is giving Harry lessons.
    – Kez, excellent point about Harry having his mohter’s eyes and the possible impact of that on Snape.

  • Lisa

    your wish is my command. Give me a few days to flesh a page out. I have been meaning to give Umbridge her own page for a while now.

  • whizbang121

    Interesting approach. And while I agree that Snape, and a few other characters, are seen using Legilimency or something like it, and Occlumency throughout the series, I can’t reach the aame conclusion that the professor came to.

    In GoF, Ch 25, Harry takes a bath. Afterwards, while examining the Marauders’ Map, he’s distracted by the name Bartemius Crouch in Snape’s office, and decides to investigate rather than return to his room. Putting his foot into the trick step, he drops his egg, the Marauders’ Map and barely saves his Invisibility Cloak.

    In a few moments, Filch arrives, followed by Snape and then Moody.

    “Moody’s lopsided gash of a mouth opened in surprise. For a few seconds, he and Harry stared straight into each other’s eyes. Then Moody closed his mouth and turned his blue eye upon Snape again.”

    Has Harry just given Moody a rundown of the situation? Snape, unable to see Harry under his cloak, unable to make eye contact with him, is slow on the uptake. But, having guessed that Harry is there, Snape begins to grope towards him and Moody threatens to tell the headmaster how quickly Snape suspects Harry.

    “‘Meaning what?’ Snape turned again to look at Moody …”

    “Snape was looking down at Moody, and Harry couldn’t see the expression on his face. For a moment, nobody moved or said anything.”

    “”I merely thought,’ said Snape, in a voice of forced calm, ‘that if Potter was wanderng around after hours again … it’s an unfortunate habit of his … he should be stopped. For – for his own safety.'”

    Snape, closing his mind seems somewhat flumoxed by something he’s just learned.

    “There was a pause. Snape and Moody were still staring at each other.”

    “‘I think I will go back to bed,’ Snape said curtly.”

    It seems to me that Moody has just identified himself to Snape as Voldemort’s operative. Snape submits to Moody’s authority and does as he’s told, he goes to bed. I wonder if they ever did, “meet in a dark corridor some time….”

    Later, in Ch 28, we see Snape interfere when Harry goes to Dumbledore for help after seeing Crouch Sr in the Forest. Snape keeps Harry talking and loses valuable time. Was he “covering” the Headmaster while Moody murdered his father?

    I believe that Snape knew who Moody was, but he didn’t tell Dumbledore. Dumbledore didn’t realize until much later.

    Ch 35 “‘The real Moody would not have removed you from my sight after what happened tonight. The moment he took you, I knew – and I followed.'”

    So, I cannot believe that Snape is “Dumbledore’s Man.”

    Under the influence of Veritaserum, (Ch 35) Crouch/Moody explains his hatred for DEs that had not gone to Azkaban, had not suffered for his master or tried to find him. Is this why Snape showed up in the Foe Glass?

    But I don’t believe that Snape is loyal to Voldemort, either. In my opinion, Snape is loyal to Slytherin’s old agenda of purifying the wizarding world. It was on this pretext that many wizards became DEs, and many faltered when they realized Voldemort served only himself..

  • Moi

    One thing that I think everyone is missing is the effect that legilimency has on the person it is being used against. Notice that in the occlumency Harry passes out several times and is very, very effected by the spell/charm. Some may say that he didn’t know previously what was being done so he wouldn’t be affected at all. I counter this with the fact that very first time Snape used legilimency in the lesson Harry had no idea it was coming and it knocked him down. Based on the reactions during the lesson, and the thoughts streaming in front of Harry, I highly doubt it possible that Snape could read Harry’s mind without some ill effect upon Harry. Also, for those that may say Snape wanted Harry to know what was being done & could hide it at will I again have a counter. Why would you attempt to teach someone that way? Would you not use legilimency the way someone with ill intentions would?

  • Pat Pat


    Good point. I’m not convinced that Snape has been using Legilimency all along either. BUT it could be argued that the reason legilimency affected Harry so much in OoP is because of Harry’s weakened resistance. Remember, the whole year he was getting flashbacks of Voldemort’s thoughts and emotions and it was seriously affecting him physically and mentally. Legilimency did not seem to affect him nearly as badly when Snape used it to discover the source of Harry’s knowledge of Sectumsempra in HBP.

  • clark

    That was an excellent essay.

    If you do not think that Snape has been using legilimency all along, reread chapter 14 of PoA and tell me how Snape could make so many accurate guesses. Also read the lexicon at http://tinyurl.com/em5ew .

    In PoA it seems to me, that Snape makes guesses while staring at Harry until he comes up with the right answer about what the map is. Or at least close to the right answer as possible. When I reread this scene, it finally convinced me that Snape has been using legilimency all along.


  • Pat Pat


    That’s a good point, but, just like some of the other instances that COULD be attributed to the use of legilimency, there are other explanations. Snape made a pretty accurate guess about what the map was, saying it might be instructions as to how to get into Hogsmeade, true. However, he ALREADY was aware that Harry had been in Hogsmeade (or at least his head was!), so it’s not unreasonable to assume that he made a purely educated guess.

    I’m not totally against the idea that he MAY have been using legilimency throughout the series. I’m just not absolutely convinced yet. There are some problems with the theory that have been brought up already here.

  • whizbang121

    HBP ch 15

    “‘…don’t look at me like that! I know what you’re do­ing, I’m not stupid, but it won’t work — I can stop you!’

    There was a pause and then Snape said quietly, ‘Ah . . . Aunt Bellatrix has been teaching you Occlumency, I see. What thoughts are you trying to conceal from your master, Draco?'”

    HPB ch 24

    “‘Liar,’ said Snape. Harry’s throat went dry. He knew what Snape was going to do and he had never been able to prevent it. …

    The bathroom seemed to shimmer before his eyes; he struggled to block out all thought, but try as he might, the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making swam hazily to the forefront of his mind.”

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that Legilimency is what Snape is doing, wand or no wand. Though it is particularly interesting that Snape does use a wand and a spoken spell during lessons.

  • Antoon


    There is no denying that in this case, Snape is using Legilimency. But in HBP, the rules of the game are already changing. Snape knows that this year at Hogwarts will be his last one, and he is about to move to a position closer to Voldemort, where Dumbledore wants him. I guess Dumbledore knows his time is nearly up. HBP is not about Harry flying a car into the Whomping Willow or sneaking off to Hogsmeade. Things are changing; the stage is set for final act. My guess is that not using Legilimency is not so important anymore.

  • Myst

    To me it would not be suprising if a wand is not needed for Legilimency. Look at non-verbal spells. All of a sudden in book six this is an emphasis when all the “teaching” of spells up to this point have been done with a wand.

  • Pat Pat


    I don’t think anyone doubts that Snape is using legilimency in HBP. As Antoon points out the rules and the situation are changing at this point. The question is whether Snape has been using legilimency on Harry specifically throughout the years, from PS on. It’s certainly possible. Professor Kern gives good evidence to support the theory. But there are also some questions that arise. Such as, why didn’t Snape KNOW that Harry was telling the truth when he said he didn’t break into his office in CoS.

    I think there are some perfectly reasonable answers to why Snape would have used a wand in his lessons with Harry even though legilimency MAY not require one. First, he may not have wanted Harry to know at that point that legilimency could be done wandless. Also, he may have wanted it for protection to block any spells Harry might have thrown his way, either intentionally or otherwise (such as the stinging hex).

  • whizbang121

    Pat Pat
    Such as, why didn’t Snape KNOW that Harry was telling the truth when he said he didn’t break into his office in CoS.

    If you watch Snape in action, one of his ploys is to get his victim into an emotional lather so that he can call up the memories he wants to see. He may have known that Harry was telling the truth, but wanted to see if Harry knew who, in fact, was responsible.

    Beyond that, if Snape is himself in an emotional state, he seems less able to do the spell satifactorily. It’s when he’s in a state of calmness, making eye contact, that he’s most likely to give Harry the impression that he can read Harry’s thoughts.

    Things have certainly changed in HBP, but I don’t think that Snape has. There’s no difference in the descriptions of his actions or methods in this regard.

    Added to all this, if we are to believe Snape in Spinner’s End, he wasn’t sure what powers Harry had or whether he might actually turn out to be a new Dark Lord. He couldn’t know what abilities Harry might suddenly exhibit, especially if he was aware that the DL had transferred some of his powers to our hero. I suspect that this is why he put some of his own thoughts into the pensieve before Occlumency lessons and possibly why he used a wand, though to be honest, I think he had the wand for a different reason.

    Voldemort had already seen Dumbledore through Harry’s eyes, (and Dumbledore’s method of prevention was to simply not look into Harry’s eyes.) Why wouldn’t Snape consider the possibility that the DL would do the same to him, when he was in Harry’s presence and least expected it? Constant Vigilance!

    Oh, and I think he had the wand to do a Confundus Charm. I think Snape has been planting a lot of things, prophesies, corridor dreams, much as Voldemort could make people remember committing murders that they hadn’t. *eyebrows*

  • Moony

    Hm, a blind Snape? I think it’ll never happen. But I wonder if a blind person in the hp-world could be cured or not. Okay, you can get magical eyes (as moody got one), but what would happen if I was a Hogwarts student? I think there aren’t books in braille, nor a method of using a wand without using your eyes. As I’m born blind, I can’t see something in my mind, … I wonder if Snape can do legilimency when he wants to read the thoughts of a person who is born blind. But there’s a possibility he used legilimency during Harry’s school period.
    Wandless magic and non-verbal spells are another stadium in using magic: an advanced use of magic. only capable and good wizards can do so. Perhaps, a wizard or witch who’s born blind can use this sort of magic, but how to practice?

  • The blindness one is interesting. It probably isn’t difficult to make a book ‘talk’ to you or to persuade the text to re-arrange itself into braille dots that would become tangible when you touched the page. (witness how wizard photos can move and portraits can have voices)

    It’s probably a lot easier in the wizarding world – I loved the stories about Maud Moody that someone wrote – having an owl that could see.

  • Reader2

    It looks like you’ve touched on an interesting subject:
    The form of a thought.
    The fact is that even for people who are not blind, thoughts don’t have to come as images. They can have the form of a phrase, a sence or just a general idea.
    Yet, so far the only thoughts we could see Snape transfer through Legilimency were images. Looks like whatever Snape manages to dig out from his students’ minds is far from complete. This would explain why he discovers some things, but misses some as well.

    On the other hand, the dreams Harry had, the ones that turned out to be Voldemorts thoughts, included sounds.
    This makes me wonder if Harry could’ve been far more successful if he tried learning Legilimency instead of Occlumency.

  • Pat Pat

    Reader2, I think you have a point about Harry being more successful with legilimency than he would be with occlumency. We have already seen Harry “sense” thoughts in others and his instincts tend to be correct. His problem with occlumency is that he can’t seem to separate himself from his emotions. This doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem with legilimency as we have seen Snape perform legilimency even when angry.

  • Moony

    Thoughts and mmemories are very important in the hp-universe (and the story of Harry Potter). Nearly a year ago, I sent my notes concerning the visual and auditive memories of Harry (and Hermione) to the lexicon, trying to proove Harry has a visual way of memorising things. But images, words or situations aren’t the only ways to remember something. Smells can help very well to find a memory you’ve lost. Remember: when we read about Harry’s dreams, memories, … he is never described to smell something. Perhaps the image of Greyback will be associated with his smell when Harry should have a nightmare about him?

  • Omar

    okk, was snape ever a good legilimens??? wasnt he just a superb occlumens!? i dont think it was ever mentioned that he was a good legilimens..or maybe i missed something…

  • Pat Pat

    Omar, you’re correct that it was never stated directly that Snape was a superb legilimens, however, we KNOW that he has used legilimency a few times. Obviously he was using it during his lessons with Harry and he used it in HBP to discover the source of Harry’s knowledge of sectumsempra. In addition if you read the battle scene between Harry and Snape at the end of HBP it is clear he is using legilimency to discover the nonverbal spells Harry is attempting to use:
    “Mustering all his powers of concentration, Harry thought, Levi –
    ‘No, Potter!’ screamed Snape.”

  • Antoon

    O yes, I quite agree with Pat Pat, there is no really no reason to doubt Snape’s abilities. He might even have powers we don’t yet know about. Think about what Snape says to Bellatrix: “You think … that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?’’ Reading between the lines, I am sure that the answer to this retorical question is YES, is this is EXACTLY what Snape has been doing. Bellatrix is right. Voldemort shouldn’t trust Snape, I think he is making a big mistake.

  • Chumlor the Mighty

    I have been practicing Legilimency on my cat for several months, and I have learned a few facts to contribute. The physical effects of legilimency on the victim is mainly in response to the level of probing. For example, through little more than a cursory look into my cat’s eyes, I can discern if he has done something he knows he shouldn’t have. This sort of legilimantic probe is hardly noticeable to the cat. But I believe Fernwick notices something is going on when I pry deeper into his mind to discover more details. Now, if I hold him directly in front of me and begin searching his mind for specific details about an event years ago, he sort of freezes up while I’m probing and afterwards seems scared and skittish, and hides, and seems tired-out. Sometimes during the deepest of mind probes, Fernwick just passes out in an exhausted-like state. I hope to eventually write an article which details all of my findings.

    Starting next week, I plan to begin teaching Fernwick the rudiments of Occlumency. For one thing, his primitive cat mind is dull, and has few secrets to reveal. Plus it will be interesting to see if he is able to learn Occlumency, and to study his technique. I do believe my BetaFish has an innate ability of Occlumency, or he just has no real brain, I’m not sure.

  • Chumlor
    Go easy on the kneazle. 😉 If he reverses the spell on you, he’ll be telling Rita Skeeter about the time you……


  • Natalee

    Think about it: if Snape was using Legilimency all the time, how much would he know about Harry? And how could Harry have gotten away with the things he did like the Polyjuice Potion and the egg incident in GOF?

  • The thing is, it’s not exactly mind reading. It seems more like calling up memories and then trying to interpret them.

    As for polyjuice potion, in Ch 12 of CoS, AD asks Harry if there’s anything he wishes to tell him. A list of stuff goes through Harry’s mind including the polyjuice, and then he says, “No.” Did Dumbledore get all the stuff that went through Harry’s mind? If he did, why didn’t he intervene in the polyjuice project?