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The Snape Theory, finally

One of the greatest pleasures of reading (the one that hooks you, I think, when you’re too young and vulnerable to fight back) is discovering thoughts and ideas — in print! on the page! — that you were sure nobody but you ever thought. Things that weren’t quite right to think, but there they are… realer now, for being right there in front of you, in lovely even typeface and nice white paper that you can come back to whenever you want.

I’m realizing that this also goes for erotic writing — stuff you thought no one but you had ever imagined. But that comes much later, though it’s certainly apposite. Right now, though, I’m going back really far, to Winnie-the-Pooh, in the last chapter where Christopher Robin confides that his favorite thing is ‘doing nothing.’ I can still remember the thrill of that — because until that moment I had guiltily thought I was the only person in the world whose favorite way of spending time was doing nothing.

Nowadays, of course, we’re a great deal more open and honest about that particular pleasure, and many of us call it ‘blogging.’

And nowadays I also know to cherish the ‘doing-nothing’ parts of my life. Because now that I don’t have a day job anymore, I’m busier than ever. Who knew how much you you could do (if you had the time for it) to promote a forthcoming novel, (The Slightest Provocation! Due out in September! ARCs to mail! There’s even going to be my first bookmark — sort of an initiation in being a real live, rather than only a velveteen romance writer).

And then there’s the novel in the pipeline after The Slightest Provocation (vague and misty still… what I mostly know is that it’ll be about the meeting and clash of different worlds within the familiar fictional Regency romance universe… politics, industry, ideas, people who wouldn’t be let in to Almack’s and who wouldn’t want to be… and a ton-ish heroine with a non-ton imagination that can encompass the world outside of Mayfair). All of which is going to take a whole lot of work and research, chopped up into little essaylets about fascinating period stuff I’m reading (I hope, soon enough, to share what I’m finding out about Mary Lamb and Claire Clairmont, for example).

But the essaylets aren’t cooked yet (and my research is still pretty raw as well).

So what kind of nothing will we be doing today, kids?

Snape, finally Snape. The romance-writer’s Snape. Who, I firmly believe, is the Snape J.K. Rowling has in store for us next summer.

And btw, very importantly, this is a spoiler. Please come back soon, but PLEASE don’t keep reading, if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and think you ever, ever might.

OK, have we regrouped? So here’s the thing I’m sure of. Yes, Snape killed Dumbledore, and no, it’s not because he was always really a Death Eater in disguise or has returned to the Voldemort side.

Snape killed Dumbledore at Dumbledore’s behest, to prevent Draco Malfoy from doing so. Because Draco’s a child who didn’t know any better; who promised to do something huge and difficult and evil, because he thought it would make him an adult and a hero; and who, if he does it, will be destroyed by it. And one of the wonderful things about J. K. Rowling’s world is that it’s a world where perhaps the highest value is looking out for children and keeping them from doing the things that will destroy them. It’s an imperfect world, like ours — a world in which sometimes children are forced to take responsibility before they’re ready for it — but it’s a benign world (at least if Voldemort doesn’t win) in which morality hinges on adults taking responsibility whenever they can.

I find this theme profoundly moving, and I’m touched that Rowling doesn’t limit the imposition of premature responsibility to Harry. There’s also Neville (later for that discussion) and then there’s Draco — Harry as seen in a dark mirror, both of them faced with the consequences of the ego, stupidity, and (in Draco’s case) malice of the actions of their imperfect fathers.

Because I don’t know about you, but for me the pivotal moment in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (that’s book 5) is when Harry peeks into the Pensieve at Snape’s memories and sees his humilation at the hands (or wand) of a cocky, full-of-himself, immature teenage James Potter. How awfully sad for any of us — that inevitable moment of seeing our parents as their immature, imperfect selves; perhaps the only thing that could be worse is if we spend our entire lives in ignorance of such matters. But in Harry’s case it’s worse than sad.

Because I’m sure that it’s that humiliation that caused Snape to join up with Voldemort in the first place. Humiliation and horrible jealousy and desire, because I think that Snape was always in love with Lily Evans Potter, Harry’s mother (an angry, confused kind of love — how, he must have wondered, could he possibly love someone of Muggle parentage? — but love all the same). And I’m also sure that Voldemort didn’t tell Snape that by betraying the Potters he’d be causing Lily’s death. Perhaps Voldemort wasn’t even sure — perhaps he couldn’t imagine that Lily would die to save baby Harry — which would cause Snape to hate Harry even more, in a sad, guilty, furious way (the worst way, isn’t it?)

I think that Dumbledore was the only person who knew any of this; I think that after James and Lily’s death Snape came to him, confessed, and threw himself on Dumbledore’s mercy. And I think that Dumbledore forgave Snape and took him back, on the condition that Snape would have to do something awful and nearly impossible in order to atone for his having betrayed the Potters to Voldemort.

Whew!

And I’m awed and astonished by the wisdom, compassion, humility, and modesty of Rowling’s vision — especially in a book so full of clunky adverbs (though sometimes I think that the world of children’s literature is and should be a world safe from the depredations of the adverb police; I’m thinking of Daniel Pinkwater’s writing style here — but that’s another set of speculations).

I’ve got a few other stray thoughts about these matters, but I think they can wait. Meanwhile here are a few links to some interesting related Potter speculations. This one does a great job unraveling the R.B. mystery, and sets us up nicely for Book 7 and the horcrux plot. While this one is much more problematical, right in some ways and wrong in many others, far too full of Christian allegory for my taste, but fascinating nonetheless for its contention that Snape is in love with Draco Malfoy’s mother, Narcissa.

More about mother-love and other love in Harry Potter another time.

Back to misty research and speculations for the future romance — which has a killer working title at least, which, of course, must not be named…

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