The Day I Did Nothing
If you are reading this, I am probably dead. Yes I am dead,
because if I were still living, and Dumbledore had
permitted me to tell you this, then I would be telling you in person, and this
letter would be burning in the nearest fireplace.
First let me say, this is a hard letter for me to write, but
I need to. Because you need to know. You deserve to
know. I wanted to tell you this during your third year at Hogwarts. I wanted to
tell you at Grimmauld Place.
In fact I came very close to telling you several times, but always there was
Dumbledore's strict order running through my head: "You must not tell
Harry until he is ready to understand. You must let him learn some things on
I asked him why, Harry. I pleaded with him to let me tell
you, because I could not bear to see history repeating itself. I couldn't bear
keeping things from you. But he said only that I was to trust his judgment, and
his answer, for now, was no. We haggled about it for a while and finally
reached this compromise: that I would write you a letter, or several letters,
if I desired, in case I did not survive the war. I would be able to tell you
everything, to unburden myself, in the knowledge that someday this letter (or
letters--and I suspect there will be more after I finish this one) would pass
into your hands. And someday, when the time came, when it was time for you to
know, you, and you alone would be able to open this letter. And so, I am gone
and you are reading this, and Dumbledore...or rather, Dumbledore's enchantment
on this letter, has decided it is time.
Okay, well you are no doubt anxious to know what the big
mystery is, so I will cut the prologue short and get to the point of this
letter. The mystery, if you haven't guessed it already, is why Snape hates you,
and why he chose to betray the Order of the Phoenix
(and may he get his comeuppance for it, the snake!) Although, to tell you the
truth, the bigger mystery, in my mind, is why Dumbledore decided to let it
happen. But I haven't received my enchanted letter from him yet, and I suspect
that I never will. I never have understood Dumbledore's motivations, but I've
always believed that he knows what he's doing. Blind faith, you might call it.
And maybe it is. But how else do you define faith anyway?
I have heard it said that evil triumphs when good men do
nothing. I don't know if I would consider myself "good"--can anyone,
truly? But I can certainly say that I did nothing that day. That day that would
eventually lead to the destruction of the Order. You don't know how many times,
Harry, that I have berated myself for playing it safe, for keeping my mouth
shut, for letting Sirius and your father humiliate Snape that day. You know the
day I am talking about -- you saw it in the Penseive.
What you did not see, what Sirius and I were not permitted to tell you, was
what happened afterward. And it's a very good thing you didn't eavesdrop on any
more of that particular memory than you already did. Severus
might very well have killed you on the spot that day, regardless of the
consequences. You think that you have seen him angry. Trust me,
you haven't seen the tenth part of his rage. Then again, I don't know when
you're reading this, or what has passed in the meantime. Maybe you have.
Anyway, I think you can pretty much guess what happened next
after Sirius and your father had Severus helpless.
Yes, I sat there and watched them take off all his clothes in front of the
entire school, and I did nothing to stop them. Nothing at
all. I didn't laugh like the others. (Quite frankly the whole thing
turned my stomach!) But the rest of the school sure did. All of them from the
first years to the seventh years snickered, pointed, and howled with laughter,
especially Peter Pettigrew. I think the only one besides me who wasn't laughing
was Lily, and oh, was she mad at your father. She wouldn't speak to him again
until the beginning of the next school year. Not even on the train home when he
bought out half the snack cart to try to make amends. (Well, yes, I know, it
wasn't exactly brilliant. Your mother never cared much for sweets, and your
father always was a bit of a klutz when it came to apologies.)
Anyway, I can't say Snape didn't ask for trouble. He was a
snotty, mouthy little brat, and he was always picking fights and looking for
trouble...but Sirius and your father went too far that day. Something in him
broke, I think, and never quite healed. Dumbledore would later say that people
should have a second chance, even people like him. He also would say that what
goes around comes around. And boy did it ever!
But you are wondering what this has to do with you, aren't
you? Well, as Dumbledore used to say, patience is a virtue worth waiting for. Heh. Hang
on, I'm getting there.
Anyway, Lily was furious. As you had seen in the Penseive, she left. But what you didn't see was that she
changed her mind and came back. She actually came back and told James to put
Snape down or else she was going to call the headmaster and have the both of
them expelled. Well, as you can imagine James and Sirius stared at her as if
she had just shouted an Unforgivable Curse. Nobody, but nobody snitched on
another student in those days...nobody but Severus,
that is. Peter started laughing, the idiot. I suppose he thought she was
joking. He never seemed to know when to keep his head down. I think Lily next
said something along the lines of, "Correction, the three of you."
And she glared at Peter along with James and Sirius. That shut Peter up, I'll
James tried his "Aww, come
on, Evans..." routine again, but your mother wouldn't back down. She was
like that. Once she had made up her mind about something, she was going to stay
the course, and no one, not even a Norwegian Ridgeback could stop her. Not even
You-Know-Who. And you may find this a strange comment, Harry, but sometimes I
wish your mother had backed down that day. Maybe things would have
turned out differently...for everyone.
If it hadn't been for Sirius, James might have given in and
let Snape go, and maybe that would have been the end of it. But I think by that
point it was already too late. Too late for Severus. Yes, I know what you are thinking. This
does not fit with what I said about him earlier. But surely you must understand
by now that no one, not even You-Know-Who started out remorseless and
unredeemable. Yes, Snape was always a real git, but I
think there was still hope for him before that day. So, why didn't I tell
Dumbledore about this, you are thinking? I did, Harry. I tried to warn him
about Severus. But he would not listen. I think he
was following some plan of his own, and still is, somehow. Sure wish I knew
what it is...
Anyway, Sirius deliberately interpreted Lily's words
literally. He pulled out his wand and put Snape down, all right. Down smack dab
in the middle of the lake with a splash large enough to send all the Merfolk diving into their underwater homes for cover. Well,
you can guess what happened next. He couldn't swim, so the giant squid fished
him out. It didn't know any better. It was only a squid. It was only doing what
it had been trained to do.
So there went Severus hanging from
a tentacle upside-down by his ankle, buck naked, clear across the lake, and
then, plop! Face-down on the nearest bank...I suppose
the squid went away patting itself on the back with a tentacle for having
rescued yet another hapless student. How was it supposed to know that it had
just signed its own death warrant? Oh, if only Sirius hadn't been so cruel
about the whole thing and Severus had only been the
sort to take a joke, it would have been hilarious!
But I guess things like that aren't so hilarious when they
happen to you... and the whole school is laughing at you. James, Sirius, and
Peter were doubled over, cracking up laughing. Actually, I think Sirius was
rolling on the ground. I am ashamed to admit it, but even I was chuckling at
Lily was not amused. She told James and Sirius to give Severus his clothes back immediately and leave him alone.
But no one cared about what Lily had to say--even if she was a prefect--or
about how Severus was probably feeling, all soaking
wet and miserable with his face pressed into the grass and the laughter in his
ears. James and Sirius were on stage before an audience, and they knew they
were unstoppable, and they couldn't have cared less about the reviews...or the
James said something along the lines of having finally found
a way to get Severus to take a bath, and Sirius said
something about soap and giant squid sponges. And somewhere around this time Severus' clothes got Vanished.
I suppose Lily wondered whether it would be better at that
point to get a teacher, or to simply try to handle matters herself. I think she
would have done better to settle for the former, but I suppose she was afraid
of what James and Sirius might do to Severus if she
left. What your mother did next, I shall never forget. I can remember this as
clearly as if it happened yesterday. She Summoned Severus'
wand before James and Sirius could think to do something to it next. Then she
slipped her school robe off her shoulders, walked over to where Severus was lying, and trying her best to do this without
looking, she laid it over him and put his wand down on the ground by his hand.
Then, without another word to any of us she walked right past everyone and back
into the school. Just before she went inside she said that she was going to go
tell McGonagall that someone had fallen into the lake and if any of them had
any sense at all, they wouldn't be hanging around when McGonagall got there. I'm
telling you, it was so quiet by then you could have heard a flobberworm
sneeze! And the stampede to get away from the scene of the crime before
McGonagall showed up was like a herd of centaurs in full gallop.
Yes, your mother was brave, Harry, and goodhearted. She had
more guts than I did. But then, she was not trying to hide something as
terrible as lycanthropy from the rest of the school either. I was always afraid
that if I angered James, Peter, or Sirius by standing up to them, then they
would let my secret out. Ironic, and rather fitting don't you think, that it
was Severus who finally let that secret slip? I will humbly admit, I probably deserved that. That and the loss of my job. Because you see, Harry, I
should not have left it up to your mother to intervene. I was a prefect too. I
should have done something. I should have said something. I had the authority
and the moral obligation to do something. But I didn't. I have always been too
Severus should not have fallen in
love with your mother that day. Because, you see, he never stood a chance
against your father. And one day, not too many years down the road... your
father would not stand a chance against Severus'