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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » OMG! I just had a minor (but exciting!) Harry Potter epiphany!

   
Author Topic: OMG! I just had a minor (but exciting!) Harry Potter epiphany!
Fyfe
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Petunia knew Snape. Which means that Snape must have come over to the Evans house at some point when he and Lily were at school together. I'd be willing to bet this has something to do with there being "more to Petunia than meets the eye", as Rowling has said.

Okay, here's what I think happened.

In their early years at Hogwarts, Lily and Snape were friends. From what Sirius and Lupin said of him in the fifth book, Snape was a strange kid, and it's not unlikely that he was a misfit. Lily befriended him. (I'm also willing to entertain the possibility that they lived close to each other in England, maybe even knew each other before they started at Hogwarts.) Snape spent some time at the Evans house in these years, where he would of course have met Petunia. It's possible that Petunia was aware that Snape had a crush on Lily. As their school careers wore on and Snape started getting in with the sketchy future Death Eater kids, he started being awful to Lily even though he was in love with her, and they quit being friends.

Alternately, it's possible they grew up together and he was always awful to her once she turned out to be a witch, but in any case he would have spent some time at the Evans house. I sort of incline towards the first theory though.

I am basing this all on a slightly awkward conversation between Aunt Petunia and Harry in the fifth book. It's when Petunia says that dementors guard the wizard prison, Azkaban; Harry and the Dursleys turn to look at her, astonished, and she says that she heard "that awful boy telling her about them years ago". Harry says, "If you mean my mum and dad, why don't you use their names?" and Petunia appears to ignore him, and she seems extremely flustered.

We're obviously meant to assume that Petunia does mean his mum and dad, and that she is flustered because she has revealed personal knowledge of a world that's been anathema to her family for years. What struck me when I was reading it today is that it's all a bit awkward, particularly Harry's question; and upon closer reflection, quite a number of things about it seemed peculiar.

The question Harry asks seems designed to draw our attention to the fact that Petunia isn't using names, from which the question arises: Who else could she be talking about?

Lily and James started dating in their seventh year, after James got to be less of a stuck-up jerk. The phrase "awful boy" is suggestive to me. Petunia has never used the word "boy" to describe James -- she and Marge and Vernon have only ever (as far as I can recall) referred to him as "Potter". "Awful boy" sounds like someone talking about a kid. But that's a semantic quibble, and it's also perfectly reasonable to suppose that Petunia would talk about James that way.

More tellingly, I think (no pun intended), is that she hears that awful boy telling Lily about them years ago. Not talking to Lily about them, but telling her about them. Again, it's important to consider that Lily and James didn't start dating until seventh year, up to which point it seems Lily thought James was a bit of an idiot (even though, as Rowling as implied, she may have liked him more than Snape's memory would immediately suggest); so it's unlikely that Lily would have had James round her house before her seventh year. It seems incredibly unlikely to me that any witch attending Hogwarts, let alone a very clever and talented one like Lily, should make it to Year 7 without learning about dementors. Harry doesn't know about them until Year 3, and then only finds out about them under exceptional circumstances, but he is not an especially dedicated student, and many of the other students at Hogwarts seem unsurprised by the dementors. I'd be willing to lay even money that Hermione, for one, knew about them before her third year.

All this points to Snape having spent some time with the Evans family in the earlier years of Lily's life. The pre-James years. His mother was a witch, so he would have known about dementors, and he could easily have found an occasion to pass this on to Lily, who (coming from a Muggle family) wouldn't have known much about the wizarding world.

What I can't figure out is why Petunia having known Snape should be important. There's obviously a lot about Snape that we don't know, but I'm wondering which bit is so relevant to Petunia that Dumbledore has found occasion to correspond with her in the past.

Anyway...I'm right, aren't I? Isn't this a good theory?

[ May 04, 2007, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: Fyfe ]

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katharina
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Wow! Not bad. I think it fits. [Smile]
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Narnia
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Yeah, I like it! I immediately thought "Well of course Petunia would have had a crush on Snape...and for this reason been terribly jealous of Lily?" Heh. I guess I'm turning it into a telenovella. [Smile]

Your analysis of the conversation between Petunia and Harry makes good sense in this context. Interesting...

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ReikoDemosthenes
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I do like it and it make sense. Now if only we knew what this might mean for the story...
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breyerchic04
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I don't think Snape would have known Lily before hogwarts. But I do like parts of that theory.
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Dragon
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Wow. I definately need to go back and re-read the last several books as soon as I get home.

Very interesting!

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skillery
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Snape is Harry's real father. Lily dumped him when he got his Death Eater tattoo.
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Avadaru
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I think someone has way too much time on her hands. (That said, yeah, it's a good theory.)
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Brinestone
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I like it. Maybe Dumbledore's trust of Snape has something to do with Petunia. I'm not sure what, though.
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Fyfe
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Dumbledore trusts Snape because he knows that he was in love with Lily, which is why Snape was so intensely and genuinely remorseful at setting Voldemort onto the Potters. But maybe Petunia provided corroborating evidence of this (Dumbledore did, after all, correspond with her)?
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Puffy Treat
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It's better than the theory someone here had that "Snape" is really James Potter inhabiting Severus' old body.

(Among other things, it brings up the question of why James-Snape would let Peter Pettigrew be remembered as a hero instead of a filthy traitor.)

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Avadaru:
I think someone has way too much time on her hands. (That said, yeah, it's a good theory.)

Agreed. On both points. [Wink]
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TheGrimace
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while it certainly seems possible, it also smacks to me as reading too far into a series that has a number of minor-moderate holes throughout (and this I don't even think is a hole to start with).

If JK went this route i think it could work, but I really don't see a significant reason to think that the references were just to James. There's a continuous trend throughout the series for Harry to be mad about other people's lack of respect for his parents which this fits just fine in with.

Kudos on putting together a plausible scenario, but I think it's unlikely.

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imogen
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I think it's a good theory. I think the "telling" bit particularly points to it not being James.
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TheGrimace
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I don't see how. We've been led to understand that James was rather full of himself, so it seems quite reasonable that he would be flaunting information he had before the girl he was trying to impress. Even if she did in fact know about them beforehand (given that Lilly was supposed to be quite bright) it's still reasonable that James would think that she might not know (either because she was from a muggle family or because not everyone at that age has intimate knowledge of the prison system). It would be just like an 11 year old who just saw a Discovery channel documentary on various death sentences to be blathering on about them to his friends. There's a decent chance that they don't know the same details he's picked up, and even if they do it's probably a fun topic of conversation.

As to whether or not James would have been to their house, perhaps Petunia went with at some point to see Lilly off on the Hogwart's express, it's quite possible that this line of conversation would have come up there.

As to referring to him as "boy" there's no reason to believe that the Dursleys would exclusively call james by his last name (especially when referring to him at a younger age).

Like I said, I think the possibility is there, but I think it's at least as likely that the reference was just to James.

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