Search Beyond Hogwarts:
Sinking our teeth into the character of Snape
by David Haber
The Harry Potter books are finished. The story no longer belongs to J.K. Rowling, it belongs to us now. And while the final book nicely wrapped up the major questions in the Harry Potter septology mystery, there are still facets of the story that have not been explained, and never be. J.K. Rowling can comment now, after the fact, on these questions, but the books stand as they are, and it is up to us, the fans, to discuss and debate these eternal Harry Potter mysteries and theories.
One of these theories that I've personally strongly believed for a long time, and still do, is that Severus Snape is a vampire, or at least, is part vampire. There are clues in all the books that point to this conclusion, over the years, J.K. has (sort of) denied that he is, and yet she continued dropping these hints even throughout book 7.
In all theories, there is one major clue that is uncovered first which gives rise to the idea that the theory could be possible, this is the "cornerstone clue", and then we start looking for other clues that could support or disprove the theory. In the theory that Snape is a vampire, the cornerstone clue occurs in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Prisoner of Azkaban is an important book, because in it we meet all the surviving Marauders, and learn a lot about Harry's dad and his dad's friends.
In Prisoner of Azkaban, when Lupin has to miss teaching class because of "his furry little problem" and Snape takes over the class, he skips over all the normal upcoming lessons and teaches them how to recognize a werewolf, even assigning them a homework essay on the subject:
When the bell rang at last, Snape held them back. "You each write an essay, to be handed in to me, on the ways you recognize and werewolves. I want two rolls of parchment on the subject, and I want them by Monday morning." (PoA pg 172/129)
Snape knew Lupin was a werewolf, we know there was animosity between him and Lupin because of Lupin's days as part of James Potter's gang, an animosity no doubt increased by the humiliation of the boggart of Snape becoming dressed in Neville's grandmother's clothes in Lupin's class earlier. When Snape assigned this essay to Lupin's class, it was obviously in an effort to help students realize that Lupin was a werewolf, thereby revealing Lupin's secret, which would no doubt result in Lupin being sacked as a teacher. Lupin later comes right out and says so:
"He assigned that essay hoping someone would realize what my symptoms meant..." (PoA pg 346/253)
Snape's werewolf essay in Lupin's class is a major plot point to the story, it illustrates the animosity towards Snape and Lupin and helps us understand the dynamics of Snape and the Marauders. It's very interesting then, isn't it, that J.K. uses this very important plot point to plant a clue about Snape? Later in the book, in the chapter coincidentally named "Snape's Grudge", Harry is about to make his way to Hogsmeade for the first time using the Marauders' Map, and runs into Neville:
"What are you up to?" "Nothing," shrugged Neville. "Want a game of Exploding Snap?" "Er -- not now -- I was going to the library and do that vampire essay for Lupin --" (PoA pg 276/204)
Clever, isn't she? J.K. has just, in passing, established that Lupin assigned his students an essay on vampires, without her showing him actually do it. And why did Lupin assign the vampire essay? Can there be any doubt that he did it to get back at Snape for assigning the werewolf essay?
Another big clue comes in the same book as the cornerstone clue, at the very end of Prisoner of Azkaban, after Harry has just learned that Snape's wish had come true, and that Lupin was resigning from Hogwarts because it had gotten out that he was a werewolf:
He certainly wasn't the only one who was sorry to see Professor Lupin go. The whole of Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts class was miserable at his resignation. "Wonder what they'll give us next year?" said Seamus Finnigan gloomily. "Maybe a vampire," suggested Dean Thomas hopefully. (PoA pg 429/312)
Snape was, of course, eventually named DADA teacher, although it took a few more years to do it. Is it just a coincidence that it is the DADA teacher position that a vampire is mentioned in connection with?
The very first time vampires are mentioned, in the very first book, it's mentioned not in regards to Snape, but to Quirrell, when Harry first meets him on our very first visit to the Leaky Cauldron:
"You'll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I've g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself." He looked terrified at the very thought. (SS/PS pg 70/55)
Hmm... Almost the very first thing we learn about Professor Quirrell is that he's afraid of vampires. And who does he go on to be afraid of during the whole book? Snape.
And why does Quirrell's turban smell like garlic?
Quirrell's lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke. His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire he'd met in Romania and was afraid would be coming back to get him one of these days ... they had noticed that a funny smell hung around the turban, and the Weasley twins insisted that it was stuffed full of garlic, as well, so that Quirrell was protected wherever he went. (SS/PS pg 134/100)
I think we are meant to believe that the garlicky smell is coming from Voldemort who is in Quirrell's head, but J.K. herself is again here bringing up how garlic wards off vampires, and it was somehow protecting Quirrell. But Voldy was already in his head, he didn't need protecting from him. The person he needed protecting from was Snape, who he knew was after whatever secret he was hiding. And, by the way, these clues again come during a chapter named after Snape, this time, "The Potions Master".
By the way, garlic is only mentioned three times in the Harry Potter books, once in SS/PS as described above, once in Prisoner of Azkaban, with the cornerstone clue, and only one other time, in Chamber of Secrets. Interestingly, this time it is not in reference to warding off a vampire:
Ginny didn't find it amusing either. "Oh, don't," she wailed every time Fred asked Harry loudly who he was planning to attack next, or when George pretended to ward Harry off with a large clove of garlic when they met. (CoS pg 210/157)
So, it would seem that garlic not only wards off vampires, it also wards off dark wizards (at least in the humorous world of Fred and George). Whether or not Snape fits the first description, he definitely fits the second.
And while we're on the subject of Chamber of Secrets, the only mention of vampires in this book is in relation to Gilderoy Lockhart's book, "Voyages with Vampires". Seven of Lockhart's books are on their Hogwarts book list for the year, "Break with a Banshee", "Gadding with Ghouls", "Holidays with Hags", "Travels with Trolls", "Voyages with Vampires", "Wanderings with Werewolves" and "Year with the Yeti" (Cos pg 43/38). So why is it that, throughout the rest of the book, Hermione seems to be only interested in "Voyages with Vampires"? She has a copy propped up against a milk jug and is reading it on pg 86/68, it's mentioned again by name in the same scene a few pages later, she has her nose buried in it again on pg 96/75, and it is mentioned by name again as she closes it with a snap a page later. Is J.K. playing a game with us now, waving the vampire book in our face?
This may or may not be Snape related, but Percy says something disturbing about vampires in Goblet of Fire. In an angry moment triggered by something in the Daily Prophet written by Rita Skeeter, Percy says:
"That woman's got it in for the Ministry of Magic!" said Percy furiously. "Last week she was saying we're wasting our time quibbling about cauldron thickness, when we should be stampimg out vampires! As if it wasn't specifically stated in paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans --" "Do us a favor Perce," said Bill yawning, "and shut up." (GoF pg 147/131)
This passage is interesting, because from it we learn that even though vampires are protected by Wizard law, some wizards, like the crowd Rita Skeeter panders to, would rather be ing them. So, if Snape is a vampire, no wonder he's hiding it.
Of course, as everyone knows, vampires can turn themselves into bats. The first direct reference to Snape being a bat or like a bat comes towards the end of the first book. Harry discovers Quirrel in the room where the stone was hidden, and expresses his surprise that he'd expected Snape instead:
"Severus?" Quirrell laughed, and it wasn't his usual quivering treble, either, but cold and sharp. "Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn't he? So useful to have him swooping around like an over-grown bat." (SS/PS pg 288/209)
In the next book, Chamber of Secrets, J.K. does it again:
"A bad idea, Professor Lockhart," said Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent bat. (Cos pg 193/144)
The next book which directly mentions Snape and bats is in Half-Blood Prince, the book that is, after all, all about Snape. He is DADA teacher now, and while his class is practicing nonverbal spells, J.K. tells us:
He swept between them as they practiced, looking just as much like an overgrown bat as ever... (HBP pg 179/170)
And again, this clue about Snape appears in a chapter named for Snape, the chapter is titled "The Half-Blood Prince".
Of course, the ultimate Snape bat clue comes in the final book, ly Hallows. Just prior to the battle of Hogwarts, Snape resigns his headmastership by fleeing, jumping through a classroom window.
"You mean he's ?" Harry sprinted to the window, ignoring Flitwick's and Sprout's yells of shock at his sudden appearance. "No, he's not ," said McGonagall bitterly. "Unlike Dumbledore, he was still carrying a wand...and he seems to have learned a few tricks from his master." With a tinge of horror, Harry saw in the distance a huge, batlike shape flying through the darkness toward the perimeter wall. (DH pg 599/482)
So, not only does he look like a bat, now Snape can fly like one too. Earlier in the book, we learned Voldemort had learned to fly. But only this time is the ability described as "batlike". And how do we know Snape learned it from Voldemort, as McGonagall assumed? Perhaps it was Snape who taught his master how to do it...
And once again, this clue comes in a chapter named for him, "The Sacking of Severus Snape".
Finally, there is one more bat clue, also in ly Hallows, but it takes place in "The Prince's Tale" (again a chapter named for Snape), many years before the Harry Potter books, when Snape is "no more than nine or ten years old":
Harry wondered why he did not take off the ridiculously large coat, unless it was because he did not want to reveal the smock beneath it. He flapped after the girls, looking ludicrously bat-like, like his older self. (DH pg 664/533)
There are many other smaller clues in the books which also support the theory.
The first time we meet him in Sorcerer's Stone, Snape is described as having "sallow skin" (SS/PS pg 126/94). In Chamber of Secrets, Snape is described as "a thin man with sallow skin" (CoS pg 78/62). He's also described as sallow in Prisoner of Azkaban (pg 93/72), Goblet of Fire, (pg 175/155)... well, you get the idea.
Sallow means "a sickly, yellowish color", and is usually used to describe a person's complexion. In folklore, vampires are frequently described as being sallow.
This is repeated again later in ly Hallows, the nine or ten-year-old Severus is also described as "sallow, small, stringy" (DH pg 663/532), and later in the chapter, Snape's mother, Eileen Prince, is described as "a thin, sallow-faced, sour-looking woman who greatly resembled him [Snape]" (DH pg 668/536). Does Snape take after his mother? Is he part vampire because of her?
There are other qualities of vampires that Snape also seems to fulfill. He works and lives in the dungeon, and is seen prowling the castle at night.
Vampires don't eat normal food, they only drink blood, Snape is seen sitting at the table at Hogwarts feasts, but is he ever described as eating something there? Snape is present at the Christmas dinner in Prisoner of Azkaban (pg 227/169) but there is no mention of him actually eating. And in Order of the Phoenix, after Harry discovers Snape is in the Order and was attending the meeting, J.K. goes out of her way to have Ron tell us, "Snape never eats here, thank God." (OotP pg 77/73)
Non-believers in this theory say that Snape is seen out during the daytime, and while it never says Snape is seen eating, someone would obviously notice it if he wasn't. But I believe it is possible that Snape could only partially have the symptoms of a vampire. It could be because, if he inherited it from his mother, he is only half-vampire. We have many other examples of characters in Harry Potter books who are half human and half something else, Hagrid, for example, who is half human and half giant, and Flitwick, who is obviously half human, the other half possibly being elf or goblin. It is also possible that Snape is taking a potion which lessens his vampire symptoms, a potion like the one he makes and gives to Lupin to help him get through his werewolf periods. Did you ever wonder, why did Snape become so good at potions? Was it so that he could learn to make the potion he needed to surive as a part-vampire?
And for those who would say that you can't inherit being a vampire, you have to be bitten, I would remind you that a bite is required to become a werewolf as well, and yet, in ly Hallows, Lupin is worried his son might inherit the condition.
As to this subject as to whether Snape is a vampire or not, J.K. has spoken twice. At the World Book Day Chat on March 4, 2004, someone asked, "Is there a link between Snape and vampires?" J.K. replied, "Erm... I don't think so." Not quite the resounding denial, is it?
But, wait. In a chat with Harry Potter fan web sites in July 2005, J.K. is talking about the weird theories fans come up with, and says:
"Generally speaking, I shut down those lines of speculation that are plain unprofitable. Even with the shippers. God bless them, but they had a lot of fun with it. It's when people get really off the wall -- it's when people devote hours of their time to proving that Snape is a vampire that I feel it's time to step in, because there's really nothing in the canon that supports that. It's after the 15th rereading when you have spots in front of your eyes that you start seeing clues about Snape being the Lord of Darkness. So, there are things I shut down just because I think, well, don't waste your time, there's better stuff to be debating, and even if it's wrong, it probably lead you somewhere interesting. That's my rough theory anyway."
Don't forget, she said this in July 2005, after the release of Book 6, and there's still lots of stuff she couldn't "come clean" on until after the release of the final book. Is J.K. deliberately trying to throw us off the track? The fact that Snape was a vampire did not figure prominently in the ending of the story, but what if she wanted us to think it did, to get us off the track, making the ending an even bigger surprise?
But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. You've heard J.K.'s words on the subject. But the clincher for me on this whole theory, is J.K's own picture of Snape, the way she, herself, sees him:
This is a picture that J.K. drew of Snape that is in her notes, that she held up for the camera during a TV interview many years ago. You'll notice that he's drawn without legs, with his cape flowing in the breeze below and behind him, as if he is floating (or flying). And he is shown wearing the kind of cape with the high collar in the back, very reminiscent of every vampire we've ever seen in a Hollywood movie.
So, do these clues mean that Snape is really a vampire, or part vampire? Or did J.K. Rowling plant them, and continue planting them through the end of Book 7, just to have fun with us and get us off the track of the real solution to the Potter septology mystery? We never know for sure, but I personally believe these clues mean Snape is part vampire. What do you think?
Published September 1, 2007
This article is Copyright © 2007, David Haber, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission