And now we’re to chapter 24 of Order of the Phoenix. This is not one of my favorite chapters of the book. I’m struck again how much I dislike certain characters, in this case Snape and Sirius. And since I know that this is the last time we’ll meet Sirius except for those few frantic moments in battle before his death in chapter 35, I really wish we — and Harry — would have been able to see him in a better light as we say goodbye.
The worst part about the chapter is the Occlumency lessons with Snape. Seriously, was Dumbledore so blind to the relationship between Harry and Snape that he thought anything good could come from this arrangement? Clearly he knows how important it is for Harry to learn this skill. Was Snape the only person on staff who could have trained Harry? He does very little actual training. Compare this scene with Lupin teaching Harry the Patronus Charm. In that scene, Lupin is kind and supportive and gives clear and distinct instructions. All Snape does is goad Harry into anger and demand that he suppress it. That would be like Lupin taking Harry out to meet a real Dementor and just saying “Think happy thoughts, you idiot!”
But something struck me as I read the chapter, and I don’t mean the wonderful bit where Crookshanks chases all the chess pieces off the board. That’s great. I mean the bit where Snape carefully removes some memories and stores them in the Pensieve. Why did he do that?
My first impression was that Snape wanted to keep a very embarrassing moment from his youth a secret. I guess that makes some sense, but not completely. Wouldn’t Snape relish the opportunity to show Harry first hand was a bully his precious father was? I suppose it’s possible that if Harry had watched the whole scene, he may have seen young Snape actually stripped naked, and of course that would be something adult Snape would need to shield an underage student from. But hold on, not to put too fine a point on it, but wouldn’t an adult have at least a few other memories that he would feel the need to censor for a student?
So why that particular memory?
I expect that Dumbledore may have had something to do with that. After all, Snape would have had to either been given the Pensieve with instructions of what to place in it, or would have asked for it with an explanation of why he thought it was important. So Dumbledore and Snape decided together that Harry shouldn’t see that worst memory.
And again, why? I think we may actually be seeing the opposite of Snape trying to protect himself. I think he may actually be trying to protect Harry, making sure that Harry wouldn’t stumble on something which would hurt him deeply. We have no indication that Dumbledore even knew about that particular incident between the Marauders, Snape, and Lily. If not, then it means that Snape decided, maybe grudgingly, that he owed it to the memory of Harry’s mother that he not show Harry those less-than-flattering moments from twenty years before.
Okay, if that’s the case, maybe I don’t dislike Snape in this chapter quite as much as I thought I did. Maybe.
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In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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