Arrested Development – Sirius, Snape, Obsessions and Blind Spots

We discover Sirius’s true allegiance and heart in the climactic ending of POA, but underneath his unquestionable courage, integrity, and loyalty to his friend James and his remorse for letting James down and putting his fate in a traitor’s hands, and his wish to make it up to Harry, we also see the hints of a disturbing fixation on Severus Snape.

“[…] so, in a way, Snape’s been right about me [Lupin] all along.”

“Snape?” said Black harshly, taking his eyes off Scabbers for the first time in minutes and looking up at Lupin. “What’s Snape got to do with it?”

“He’s here, Sirius,” said Lupin heavily. “He’s teaching here as well.” He looked up at Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Sirius is looking at Peter, who had betrayed James and framed Sirius, intending to murder him, but a mention of Snape makes him lose his focus. And Lupin doesn’t seem surprised, as he is answering heavily, as if already weary of the subject (and this is the first time Sirius and Lupin are in the same room in a long while). Snape is as interesting to Sirius as Pettigrew is, despite Snape being, as far as Sirius knows, no more than his former target.

We immediately learn about the trick Sirius had played on Snape, somehow luring him to the Shrieking Shack to meet Lupin in a transformed state.

“It served him right,” he sneered. “Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to . . . hoping he could get us expelled. . . .”

To preempt the (irrelevant, stupid, and morally bankrupt) assertion that it does indeed serve him right because he supposedly knew Lupin was a werewolf, Sirius himself says of Snape that “Snape is clever enough to stay out of trouble”, so whatever Snape knew, Sirius believed he was sending a person who isn’t stupid or suicidal into a predator’s cage. More on that later. Back to the point, the attitude that “he deserves to die or get bitten, and at the very least traumatized because he is annoying and in our way” is alarming. But not surprising. People seem shocked that Sirius would betray James in the conversation Harry overhears in Hogsmeade, but no one seems shocked that he would be a criminal in general. Lupin isn’t so surprised, and even after the truth is revealed he has this to say:

“Not if he thought I was the spy, Peter,” said Lupin. “I assume that’s why you didn’t tell me, Sirius?” he said casually over Pettigrew’s head.

“Forgive me, Remus,” said Black.

“Not at all, Padfoot, old friend,” said Lupin, who was now rolling up his sleeves. “And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were the spy?”

“Of course,” said Black, and the ghost of a grin flitted across his gaunt face. He, too, began rolling up his sleeves. “Shall we kill him together?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Lupin grimly


“What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?” said Black, with a terribly fury in his face.

“Only innocent lives, Peter!”

“You don’t understand!” whined Pettigrew. “He would have killed me, Sirius!”


Black and Lupin stood shoulder to shoulder, wands raised. “You should have realized,” said Lupin quietly, “if Voldemort didn’t kill you, we would. Good-bye, Peter.

Sirius, who cares so much about innocent lives, said moments before Snape was served right for snooping (a brave card to play for the maker of the map, but never mind that). The way Lupin and Sirius both naturally roll up their sleeves for an execution, Lupin’s exclamation that Peter “should have realized” he would be in mortal danger, speaks volumes. Harry and his friends are already old enough to know better than the three adults.

Moments before that, Sirius criticizes Harry for using Expelliarmus on Snape:

“You shouldn’t have done that,” said Black, looking at Harry. “You should have left him to me.”

To do what with? Why would Sirius think Snape needed to be rendered even more helpless than he was? Yes, Snape threatened Sirius, but nothing more than that.

With a roar of rage, Black started toward Snape, but Snape pointed his wand straight between Black’s eyes. “Give me a reason,” he whispered. “Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will.” Black stopped dead. It would have been impossible to say which face showed more hatred.

So, who hates who more? From Snape’s perspective, he has plenty of reason already: He has a personal vendetta against Sirius, he is convinced that Sirius is the one who betrayed Lily*, and in his mind, he is protecting Harry from his parents’ fate. He probably would have gotten away with it, legally. And yet he needs even more reason.

*To pre-empt another criticism, Snape did not know Sirius was innocent or about Peter, or he would have warned Dumbledore. Karkaroff explains that the Death Eaters did not all know each other.

Later, when he has Sirius unconscious and helpless, he conjures a stretcher to carry him to the castle and send him back to Azkaban. He and Harry are of the same mind here:

“I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it because — I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them to become killers — just for you.”


“He [Peter] can go to Azkaban,” Harry repeated. “If anyone deserves that place, he does. . . .”

Harry’s hatred is understandable and rooted in reality. Snape’s is, too, even if he is wrong about the specifics. Both of them are choosing the legal and non-lethal course action.

In the original timeline, Sirius levitates Snape out of the shack:

Harry went right after Black, who was still making Snape drift along ahead of them; he kept bumping his lolling head on the low ceiling. Harry had the impression Black was making no effort to prevent this.

Again, why? Why not just leave him there? Doesn’t he have bigger rats to fry just then? It’s clear who hates who more. At least, it’s clear who is more willing to act on his hatred, and that is a huge difference.

We know how this all ends. The book ends with Snape looking deranged, vindictive, “quite unbalanced.” But judging by their respective behaviors, Snape was mild. Sirius was the one who took more care to show how much he hates Snape than to keep an eye on Peter.

In GOF, in the cave scene, Sirius mentions Snape again.

“I think they’ve both got a point,” said Sirius, looking thoughtfully at Ron and Hermione. “Ever since I found out Snape was teaching here, I’ve wondered why Dumbledore hired him.


But as far as I know, Snape was never even accused of being a Death Eater — not that that means much. Plenty of them were never caught. And Snape’s certainly clever and cunning enough to keep himself out of trouble.”


Sirius stared at the cave wall, then made a grimace of frustration. “There’s still the fact that Dumbledore trusts Snape, and I know Dumbledore trusts where a lot of other people wouldn’t, but I just can’t see him letting Snape teach at Hogwarts if he’d ever worked for Voldemort.”

So by Sirius’s own words, he has been thinking about Snape for months now, wondering why Dumbledore would hire him. But why is this so strange, on its face? Dumbledore needed to fill a vacancy and Snape was a Slytherin who was good at Potions, just like Slughorn, the former Potions Master and Head of Slytherin (who also knew a thing or two about the Dark Arts). It would seem only natural and not something that would require much explaining, especially if (to Sirius) Snape never worked for Voldemort. Sirius doesn’t know Snape was hired precisely because he once worked for Voldemort. Sirius’s frustration at the thought that Snape is NOT a DE is, I think, Sirius wishing he could attribute every negative quality to someone he hates (#relatable). He seems to wish Severus was a DE. His internal back-and-forth and his frustration show that he really did drive himself up a wall thinking about Snape all this time, never mind that it’s plain weird that he can list Snape’s friends off the cuff, decades later (but not Lily, strangely enough). I’m about Sirius’s age in GOF and I don’t remember who my high school nemesis’s friends were.

They meet again:

Snape had not yelled or jumped backward, but the look on his face was one of mingled fury and horror.

“Him!” he snarled, staring at Sirius, whose face showed equal dislike. “What is he doing here?”

Snape is still scared of Sirius. Sirius doesn’t fear Snape and never did, and he has no reason to, and yet he is displaying the same immaturity. Yes, they’re both stuck in the past, but only one of them has a salient reason to worry about the other. Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you, and Snape, who is about to return to Voldemort, knows this. Why is Sirius not even attempting civility?

Snape is beneath Sirius in every way, not worthy of his regard, not even for the sake of Dumbledore’s mission. The man who had said “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals,” again has a massive Snape-shaped blind spot. In OOTP, Sirius pays for his treatment of his inferiors with his life. We also get further evidence of Sirius’s long-time fixation on Snape and refusal to move on from this:

“I’m bored,” said Sirius. “Wish it was full moon.”

This’ll liven you up, Padfoot,” said James quietly. “Look who it is. . . .”

Sirius’s head turned. He had become very still, like a dog that has scented a rabbit.

Excellent,” he said softly. “Snivellus.”

Even I wouldn’t be that happy to see Snivellus if I saw him every day at breakfast. I’ve analyzed SWM to death, so I’ll mention only one more line:

How’d the exam go, Snivelly?” said James.

I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment,” said Sirius viciously. “There’ll be great grease marks all over it, they won’t be able to read a word.”

Again, doesn’t he have better things to do in the middle of his O.W.L than to watch Snape? Evidently not (#relatable again). James sure is certain that Sirius would be fascinated by Snape.

20 years later:

“I’ve warned you, Snivellus,” said Sirius, his face barely a foot from Snape’s, “I don’t care if Dumbledore thinks you’ve reformed, I know better —”

First, in what context did Sirius already have time to warn “Snivellus” already? And why does Sirius think he knows more than Dumbledore, when he didn’t even know Snape was a DE in the first place (and when he already paid dearly for thinking he’s cleverer than Dumbledore by switching with Peter and not telling anyone)? Never mind that this is said in response to Snape criticizing Harry, i.e., it’s completely irrelevant. Sirius has no idea of the Prophecy or that Harry is particularly important in the fight against Voldemort. All he knows is that Snape is a spy for the Order. An animosity toward Harry does not have to suggest Snape is not truly reformed.

“Oh, but why don’t you tell him so?” whispered Snape. “Or are you afraid he might not take the advice of a man who has been hiding inside his mother’s house for six months very seriously?”

“Tell me, how is Lucius Malfoy these days? I expect he’s delighted his lapdog’s working at Hogwarts, isn’t he?”

They are both acting like children, but Snape is also letting Sirius know he’s been spotted, in response to a perfectly gratuitous and unsavory insult. Sirius is the first to draw a wand, and again Harry finds himself stepping in to control Sirius, in this way acting exactly how James would not.

Snape checks on Sirius, warns him, does what he can to keep him safe. I somehow doubt that Sirius would have done the same. This is hypothetical, but we have evidence enough that Snape steps up to protect people he despises, his former bullies included. Sirius never shows the slightest inclination to do the same. In fact, he needs to be persuaded by a child not to actively harm others. Harry is able to appeal to Sirius’s better nature at least some of the time.

I think this goes to the root of Sirius’s hatred: We see how Sirius and James first met, and instantly bonded over their hatred of Slytherin and their disdain for Severus.


“You are determined to hate him [Snape], Harry,” said Lupin with a faint smile. “And I understand; with James as your father, with Sirius as your godfather, you have inherited an old prejudice.”

Now, this is interesting. Harry has very legitimate reasons to hate and suspect him Snape: Snape has been singling him out for mistreatment since Harry set foot at the school. Harry is not prejudiced, but Lupin is so certain that James and Sirius were, and that it was a core part of their identity, that this is the explanation that leaps to his mind. The word “prejudice” here, where “baggage” or “enmity” would have done, is telling. My interpretation is that Lupin is referring to Snape’s poverty, as this is the book where we find out Snape is a half-blood from a slum. It certainly was the only thing that would have stood out about Snape as soon as he met the others on the Express. It is fair to assume that James and Sirius were not prejudiced against half-bloods, we must give them that. Another possibility is that Lupin is referring to Snape’s Slytherin-ness.

The word “determined” here is even more important: Lupin can only be talking about a very young James, and he very well might be commenting on James’s own irrational hatred in the face of evidence to the contrary. For James, I believe (and JKR said as much) he was determined to hate Snape because he wanted Lily; for Sirius, I believe he was determined to hate Snape because he wanted to emulate James in the lack of better role models in his own family. He shows his contrarian nature as soon as he boards the train, and that nature too never leaves him (#relatable, again).

“My whole family have been in Slytherin,” he said.

“Blimey,” said James, “and I thought you seemed all right!” [Why did Sirius seem alright but not Snape?]

Sirius grinned.

“Maybe I’ll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you’ve got the choice?”

In other words: “Maybe I’ll be unlike my family, but hold on, I need a new identity in that case. What’re you going to be?”

James and Sirius instantly bonded over teasing Snape (and Lily). Over time, there was school and quidditch and girls and their animagus project and full moon adventures, but Sirius only ever seemed interested in going after Snape and in the full moon adventures, and then in serving the Order. And in the end, those memories were all he had left, with James dead and Peter a traitor. As for the friendship with Lupin, it appears that this relationship was already cracked by SWM, perhaps as a result of the trick Sirius had pulled (which already shows he didn’t care about Lupin all that much to begin with). He is cavalier about Lupin’s secret then, says he wishes it was the full moon, etc., and when it comes the time to choose the actual Secret Keeper, Sirius trusts Peter more. And so, when James died and the war was won, Sirius lost everything… except his hatred for Snape. He could never let it go because it was all that was left of the identity he had crafted and of the memories of the short good years of his life.

“Yes, but the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” Another killer line, and another blind spot. Sirius is unable to see the good in someone he dislikes and he relishes in his hatred even in defiance of Dumbledore.

Snape, conversely:

“Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?”

“Lately, only those whom I could not save,” said Snape.

This conversation takes place in March, following Sirius’s death months prior. Snape could be talking about Sirius here, possibly about Emmeline Vance. By the time he died, he had learned to value all lives. He grew up, if not as much as he should have, and he overcame whatever prejudice he held. The same could not be said for Sirius, though he wasn’t without his virtues. Something to be said there for forming your identity, ultimately, based on love and not on animosity.

By on January 29th, 2023 in Blog Updates
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You have put some really good points in this argument and used the text from the books to prove your points. I agree with what you have said and this is a good meta.


Thank you, I love all your comments 🙂 Sirius is a handful for sure.