The Marauders vs. Snape Was Bullying, Not a Rivalry

We have three Marauders-Snape interactions from their school days, and I argue that they, by themselves, with no need for more context, prove that at least until the end of their 5th year, the Marauders bullied Snape, and it was undeserved, one-sided, and extreme.

The Express Scene

This is the 1st interaction between Snape, James, and Sirius:

Snape enters a compartment containing Lily and a group of rowdy boys, including James and Sirius. This passage is followed by Snape and Lily’s brief argument, and then:

“But we’re going!” he said, unable to suppress the exhilaration in his voice. “This is it! We’re off to Hogwarts!”

She nodded, mopping her eyes, but in spite of herself, she half smiled.

“You’d better be in Slytherin,” said Snape, encouraged that she had brightened a little.

“Slytherin?” One of the boys sharing the compartment, who had shown no interest at all in Lily or Snape until that point, looked around at the word, and Harry, whose attention had been focused entirely on the two beside the window, saw his father: slight, black-haired like Snape, but with that indefinable air of having been well-cared-for, even adored, that Snape so conspicuously lacked.

“Who wants to be in Slytherin? I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?” James asked the boy lounging on the seats opposite him, and with a jolt, Harry realized that it was Sirius. Sirius did not smile.

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

Blimey,” said James, “and I thought you seemed all right!

Sirius grinned.

Snape’s exhilaration lasts five minutes before James hears something he doesn’t like. The text hints at what kind of person 11 years old James is another way – he sounds like Draco:

“Imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?

Back to James and Snape:

James picks a fight with Snape without provocation – Snape is talking to Lily.

[…] Where are you heading, if you’ve got the choice?” James lifted an invisible sword.

“‘Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart!’ Like my dad.”

Snape made a small, disparaging noise.

James turned on him. “Got a problem with that?”

“No,” said Snape, though his slight sneer said otherwise. “If you’d rather be brawny than brainy —”

“Brawny” is not even an insult, and a “slight sneer” is called for, given that James said he’d rather leave than be in Slytherin. Snape also doesn’t insult James – he rolls his eyes at the fact that James values physical courage over intelligence. James is the one who confronts Snape directly.

Where’re you hoping to go, seeing as you’re neither?” interjected Sirius. James roared with laughter. Lily sat up, rather flushed, and looked from James to Sirius in dislike.

“Come on, Severus, let’s find another compartment.”

“Oooooo…” James and Sirius imitated her lofty voice; James tried to trip Snape as he passed.“See ya, Snivellus!” a voice called, as the compartment door slammed.

James picks a fight and throws the first indirect insult. Sirius throws the first direct insult, calling Snape stupid and weak. James approves. Lily wants to get away, gets mocked, and James tries to trip Snape, meaning he is escalating to physical violence, as Snape and Lily were leaving, no less! Brawny indeed! Someone also throws the first rude nickname, Snivellus (incidentally, Snape never refers to James or Sirius by anything other than their actual name).

This is the first Snape+Lily and proto-Marauders interaction. Snape is uninteresting until he gives James a reason to hate him, and then James and Sirius seem to bond over their hatred of everything Slytherin, including Snape, and Lily, who is Slytherin-bound at this point. Sirius tries to make peace with Lily once she is Sorted, but she’s still hurt.

She took one look at him, seemed to recognize him from the train, folded her arms, and firmly turned her back on him.

The Prank

The “prank” takes place sometime in their fifth year. This is Lupin’s account of it:

”Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening as she led me toward the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be — er — amusing, to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree trunk with a long stick, and he’d be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it — if he’d got as far as this house, he’d have met a fully grown werewolf — but your father, who’d heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life… Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was.

Sirius doesn’t correct Lupin, and neither does Snape, so we can take it at face value.

Why did Sirius do it? In his words:

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

In Sirius’s mind, at 16 (and at 33), sneaking around is punishable by death.

Maybe Sirius didn’t intend Snape to use the information? But then, why give it? Did he want to frighten Snape so he’ll leave them alone? Why would he do that in a way that hurts Lupin? The only explanation is that Sirius either wanted Snape dead, or did not think of the consequences (or of Lupin), only of his own amusement. Fortunately, James did. Since James’s life was endangered (despite James possibly already being an Animagus), Snape’s was, too.

Dumbledore agrees that this was attempted murder:

“Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen,” he breathed. “You haven’t forgotten that, Headmaster? You haven’t forgotten that he once tried to kill me?

My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus,” said Dumbledore quietly.

We know Dumbledore knows how to shut Snape down, and even dismiss his concerns. That he doesn’t do so here suggests that Snape’s feelings are more than justified.

Snape did not know what Lupin was. The only sign that he knew is Lily’s “I know your theory”. Here it is in context:

“It was Dark Magic, and if you think that’s funny —”

What about the stuff Potter and his mates get up to?” demanded Snape. His color rose again as he said it, unable, it seemed, to hold in his resentment.

“What’s Potter got to do with anything?” said Lily.

They sneak out at night. There’s something weird about that Lupin. Where does he keep going?”

He’s ill,” said Lily. “They say he’s ill —”

“Every month at the full moon?” said Snape.

“I know your theory,” said Lily, and she sounded cold.


I heard what happened the other night. You went sneaking down that tunnel by the Whomping Willow, and James Potter saved you from whatever’s down there.

This conversation is a little after the prank, because Lily refers to James saving Snape from something that’s down the tunnel by the Whomping Willow the other night.

Snape is provoked because Lily is lecturing him about Dark Magic, and Lupin is a textbook Dark creature who had been used to nearly kill him. He impulsively asks about Potter and his mates. Now knowing what Lupin is, he is trying to steer Lily to that conclusion.

The “theory” Lily knows can be literally anything. Assuming that the theory is “werewolf”, Lily’s response makes no sense – she is the one who says “he’s ill” as if refuting it. Most tellingly, “the other night” was a full moon night, and Lily does not wonder why Snape went down to the Whomping Willow if he had expected a werewolf.

Also, werewolves are 3rd year material – if he had been needlessly obsessing with the Marauders and keeping track of them at all times, he would have realized this in their third year, like Hermione, and he would have known how to deal with a werewolf before going into the tunnel. What happened was that he was completely unprepared for this and he froze (as one does when trapped in a confined space with a predator), and was pulled out by James.

If Snape knew, then why, rather then tell everyone and ruin the Marauders’ life, did he endanger himself? Why did Lupin say “but from that time on he knew what I was”? Why did Sirius say he was “trying to find out what we were up to?” Most importantly, who cares? Being stupid or curious is not a crime.

The “prank” was attempted murder and Sirius was an attempted murderer.

Meanwhile, the accusations leveled against teenage Snape are that he was “an oddball who was up to his eyeballs in the Dark Arts”, jealous of James, hung around with Slytherins who then became Death Eaters; found what Mulciber did to Mary funny, and that, per Lupin, “Sectumsempra was always a specialty of Snape’s”. Even Lily only accuses him of hanging around with (not of being one of the) people she finds creepy, who do “Dark Magic”, and of calling people Mudbloods. This, when lecturing Snape about his wrongdoings and ending the friendship, meaning these were her strongest complaints.

Sectumsempra was probably developed after the attempted murder – it is a clear escalation from the other spells Snape developed, which were more defensive, and I have good reason to believe it made its debut in Snape’s worst memory.

Conclusion: Sirius tried to kill Snape because Snape had inconvenienced him and his friends.

How did the school handle this?

Dumbledore forbade Snape from telling anyone about it. Sirius wasn’t expelled.

We also have this conversation (yes, again. JKR is a wonderful author and this is extremely layered):

“And you’re being really ungrateful. I heard what happened the other night. You went sneaking down that tunnel by the Whomping Willow, and James Potter saved you from whatever’s down there —”

Snape’s whole face contorted and he spluttered, “Saved? Saved? You think he was playing the hero? He was saving his neck and his friends’ too! You’re not going to — I won’t let you —”

This might be the first time Snape realizes that James hadn’t been silenced. James goes around bragging about saving Snape, making himself look like a hero who saved that idiot Snape – and Lily believes James over her supposed best friend.

Since the thing adult Snape accuses James of the most is arrogance, I think this is the worst thing James did, in Snape’s view – ruining his credibility and reputation with his bragging. James took credit for saving Snape’s life, but astonishingly, this was not a wake-up call. The Marauders did not see the error of their ways, at all.

Even after graduation, Snape held on to Lupin’s secret for 20 years, until the end of POA. This hints at some sort of magical silencing, but whether or not you buy it, the way Dumbledore handled the attempted murder is appalling, and nowadays, the similarity to the systemic hushing-up and victim-blaming and discrediting that often follows rape should be obvious, even if the analogy was unintentional. James, conversely, looks the hero.

This level of bullying and enabling is extreme, and should be understood as such.

Snape’s Worst Memory

Here’s adult Lupin trying to comfort Harry about not being made a prefect:

“I think Dumbledore might have hoped that I would be able to exercise some control over my best friends,” said Lupin. “I need scarcely say that I failed dismally.

This is foreshadowing, even if Lupin makes it sound cute.

The pretext for Harry viewing SWM is that Snape rushes out of class to help Montague, who finally resurfaced after being shoved in the Vanishing Cabinet by the twins.

Here’s what Harry sees:

Snape-the-teenager had a stringy, pallid look about him, like a plant kept in the dark.

This is the boy who was barely able to contain his exhilaration at going to Hogwarts. This place has really done a number on him.

James yawned hugely and rumpled up his hair, making it even messier than it had been. Then, with a glance toward Professor Flitwick, he turned in his seat and grinned at a boy sitting four seats behind him.

James doesn’t look like he’s been having a hard time. Whatever Snape did to them didn’t make them change their demeanor. Here’s Sirius:

Harry saw Sirius give James the thumbs-up. Sirius was lounging in his chair at his ease, tilting it back on two legs. He was very good-looking […] and a girl sitting behind him was eyeing him hopefully, though he didn’t seem to have noticed. […] Harry looked down at his father, who had hastily crossed out the L. E. he had been embellishing, jumped to his feet, stuffed his quill and the exam question paper into his bag, which he slung over his back, and stood waiting for Sirius to join him.

Harry looked around and glimpsed Snape a short way away, moving between the tables toward the doors into the entrance hall, still absorbed in his own examination paper. Round-shouldered yet angular, he walked in a twitchy manner that recalled a spider, his oily hair swinging about his face.

A gang of chattering girls separated Snape from James and Sirius […]

Snape and Lily have been drifting apart: James and Sirius wait for each other after their exam, Snape and Lily don’t. The gang includes Lily. Later, we also learn why Sirius doesn’t notice the girl. Snape walks with a hunch, he’s twitchy, he’s looking from side to side (his hair is swinging). His body language is screaming: he is scared.


Snape remained close by, still buried in his examination questions; but this was Snape’s memory, and Harry was sure that if Snape chose to wander off in a different direction once outside in the grounds, he, Harry, would not be able to follow James any farther. To his intense relief, however, when James and his three friends strode off down the lawn toward the lake, Snape followed, still poring over the paper and apparently with no fixed idea of where he was going.

How hard must it have been for Snape to answer questions about werewolves while in the same room as Sirius and Lupin? I think he had to dissociate heavily to get through the exam, and this is why he is wandering aimlessly and appears unaware of his surroundings. He’s definitely not trying to bother the Marauders. Moving on.

He started playing with the Snitch, allowing it to fly as much as a foot away and seizing it again; his reflexes were excellent. Wormtail watched him in awe. They stopped in the shade of the very same beech tree on the edge of the lake […].

[…] Snape had settled himself on the grass in the dense shadows of a clump of bushes. He was as deeply immersed in the O.W.L. paper as ever, which left Harry free to sit down on the grass between the beech and the bushes and watch the foursome under the tree.

The sunlight was dazzling on the smooth surface of the lake, on the bank of which the group of laughing girls who had just left the Great Hall were sitting with shoes and socks off, cooling their feet in the water.

[…] James was still playing with the Snitch, letting it zoom farther and farther away, almost escaping but always grabbed at the last second. Wormtail was watching him with his mouth open. Every time James made a particularly difficult catch, Wormtail gasped and applauded. After five minutes of this, Harry wondered why James didn’t tell Wormtail to get a grip on himself, but James seemed to be enjoying the attention. Harry noticed his father had a habit of rumpling up his hair as though to make sure it did not get too tidy, and also that he kept looking over at the girls by the water’s edge.

“Put that away, will you?” said Sirius finally, as James made a fine catch and Wormtail let out a cheer. “Before Wormtail wets himself from excitement.”

Wormtail turned slightly pink but James grinned.

“If it bothers you,” he said, stuffing the Snitch back in his pocket. Harry had the distinct impression that Sirius was the only one for whom James would have stopped showing off.

This establishes that: 1. Snape is minding his own business. 2. James is so attention-seeking, it’s making Harry uncomfortable. 3. Lily is nearby and James wants her to notice him. 4. Sirius is the only one who can put James in his place. 5. James’s reflexes are excellent.

The horror show begins:

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.”

Sirius and James’s motivation is boredom. There is no sign that they are scared of Snape, on the contrary, this is fun for them. Sirius and Snape are literally compared to a dog and a rabbit – predator and prey.

Harry turned to see what Sirius was looking at. Snape was on his feet again, and was stowing the O.W.L. paper in his bag. As he emerged from the shadows of the bushes and set off across the grass, Sirius and James stood up. Lupin and Wormtail remained sitting: Lupin was still staring down at his book, though his eyes were not moving and a faint frown line had appeared between his eyebrows. Wormtail was looking from Sirius and James to Snape with a look of avid anticipation on his face.

“All right, Snivellus?” said James loudly.

Snape reacted so fast it was as though he had been expecting an attack: Dropping his bag, he plunged his hand inside his robes, and his wand was halfway into the air when James shouted, “Expelliarmus!

Snape’s wand flew twelve feet into the air and fell with a little thud in the grass behind him.

This behavior is nothing unusual: otherwise, what is Lupin worried about? What is Peter avidly anticipating? Why does Snape react as though he had been expecting this? Why does it appear like they never retired the nickname from the Express scene?

Snape had now been disarmed. Everything that follows is an attack against someone helpless.

Sirius let out a bark of laughter.

“Impedimenta!” he said, pointing his wand at Snape, who was knocked off his feet, halfway through a dive toward his own fallen wand.

Students all around had turned to watch. Some of them had gotten to their feet and were edging nearer to watch. Some looked apprehensive, others entertained.

Snape lay panting on the ground. James and Sirius advanced on him, wands up, James glancing over his shoulder at the girls at the water’s edge as he went.

James publicly attacks Snape in two out of two scenes he appears in. If the text wanted to establish a rivalry, it failed.

James and Sirius are advancing on a guy who is laying panting on the ground without his wand. James is trying to get Lily’s attention with this behavior.

Wormtail was on his feet now, watching hungrily, edging around Lupin to get a clearer view.

“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.”

That’s why Sirius didn’t notice the girl. He was preoccupied with Snape, he hates him this much. He never grew out of it.

From POA:

“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?

Sirius, 33, hates Snape so much, it makes him take his eyes off Pettigrew, who betrayed the Potters, killed 12 people, and framed him. Why? How could this possibly be rational?

It’s worth noting, in this context, that the Marauders’ Map insults Snape’s looks too. It appears that they were very preoccupied with it, much more than with his interest in the Dark Arts.

Moving on:

Several people watching laughed; Snape was clearly unpopular. Wormtail sniggered shrilly. Snape was trying to get up, but the jinx was still operating on him; he was struggling, as though bound by invisible ropes.

“You — wait,” he panted, staring up at James with an expression of purest loathing. “You — wait…”

“Wait for what?” said Sirius coolly. “What’re you going to do, Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?

When Snape is openly threatening James, Sirius does not believe him capable of worse than wiping his nose on them.

Here’s Sirius to an opponent he respects (20 years later, but still):

“Come on, you [Bellatrix] can do better than that!”

Indeed, she can. Moving on:

Snape let out a stream of mixed swearwords and hexes, but his wand being ten feet away, nothing happened.

“Wash out your mouth,” said James coldly. “Scourgify!”

Pink soap bubbles streamed from Snape’s mouth at once; the froth was covering his lips, making him gag, choking him —

“Leave him ALONE!”

James and Sirius looked around. James’s free hand jumped to his hair again.

It was one of the girls from the lake edge. She had thick, dark red hair that fell to her shoulders and startlingly green almond-shaped eyes — Harry’s eyes. Harry’s mother.

James is telling Snape: You’re nothing. You’re so low, you’ll be punished (by choking) for attempting to defend yourself. Snape is supposed to be the one who is all about the scary Dark Arts, but it seems that Scourgify can certainly do enough damage when applied to a human mouth, no? Anyway, James accomplished his goal – Lily is finally paying attention to him.

“All right, Evans?” said James, and the tone of his voice was suddenly pleasant, deeper, more mature.

“Leave him alone,” Lily repeated. She was looking at James with every sign of great dislike. “What’s he done to you?

“Well,” said James, appearing to deliberate the point, “it’s more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean…”

Many of the surrounding watchers laughed, Sirius and Wormtail included, but Lupin, still apparently intent on his book, didn’t, and neither did Lily.

“You think you’re funny,” she said coldly. “But you’re just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone.”

If Snape deserves this, why does Lily ask James why he is attacking him? Why does James make a point of explaining how low Snape is, instead of producing a reason Lily would approve of? Why is Lupin staying out of it and not defending his friends? Why is Lily calling James a bully? My guess about the “he exists” line is that James is teasing Snape because Snape owes him his life. Imagine being teased about being nearly killed.

This is two Gryffindor Prefects on the scene now, who are obligated not only to protest what is going on, but to stop it and report it. Lupin is failing miserably, and Lily is failing only slightly less miserably (or maybe more, because she and Snape are ostensibly friends, still.)

I will if you go out with me, Evans,” said James quickly. “Go on… Go out with me, and I’ll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again.

Behind him, the Impediment Jinx was wearing off. Snape was beginning to inch toward his fallen wand, spitting out soapsuds as he crawled.

“I wouldn’t go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid,” said Lily.

Snape is still on the floor, coughing up soap, wandless, crawling.

James is not doing this because Snape deserves it. A pro-Marauders fanfic I read attempted to make James look good in this scene by having Snape torture Peter in the same manner first. Let’s say this happened. Proof by elimination: James isn’t giving Lily the real reason for the sake of Pete’s dignity. This also explains Pete’s anticipation. But why is Lupin disapproving? How come James promises to end the hostility for a date, if he’s retaliating for something? More generally, If James is being moral, why target Snape, and not Avery and Mulciber, who actually do bad things? What did Bertram Aubrey do?

Conclusion: Snape did nothing to deserve this.

Moving on:

“Bad luck, Prongs,” said Sirius briskly, turning back to Snape. “OY!”

But too late; Snape had directed his wand straight at James; there was a flash of light and a gash appeared on the side of James’s face, spattering his robes with blood.

James whirled about; a second flash of light later, Snape was hanging upside down in the air, his robes falling over his head to reveal skinny, pallid legs and a pair of graying underpants.

Many people in the small crowd watching cheered. Sirius, James, and Wormtail roared with laughter. Lily, whose furious expression had twitched for an instant as though she was going to smile, said, “Let him down!”

“Certainly,” said James and he jerked his wand upward. Snape fell into a crumpled heap on the ground.

This is Sectumsempra’s debut. If Snape had used it before, Sirius would have had more to worry about than Snape’s boogers. He was certainly not famous for attacking people with it, as some claim. This hypothesis is based on Lupin saying Sectum was a specialty of Snape’s – but of course it was, he invented it, and Lupin is one of the enemies for whom it was intended. Hell, the inscription “for enemies” proves teen Snape knew you don’t use this spell on just anyone. The fact that it takes Snape using it again (in the 7 Potters battle, ironically, in an attempt to protect Lupin) for Lupin to remember that he ever used it shows that he didn’t use it indiscriminately. James had it coming.

James is also the type of person who would leverage the safety of a girl’s friend to score a date with her. Appalling.

Moving on:

Disentangling himself from his robes, he got quickly to his feet, wand up, but Sirius said, “Petrificus Totalus!” and Snape keeled over again at once, rigid as a board.

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” Lily shouted. She had her own wand out now. James and Sirius eyed it warily.

Ah, Evans, don’t make me hex you,” said James earnestly.

“Take the curse off him, then!”

James sighed deeply, then turned to Snape and muttered the countercurse.

“There you go,” he said, as Snape struggled to his feet again, “you’re lucky Evans was here, Snivellus —

Thanks for remembering you have a wand, Lily. No wonder Snape had to seek out friends who might be more enthusiastic about protecting him (although, where are they? How tight was he with his Slytherin gang at this point?)

James earnestly threatens Lily, whom he likes. He is displeased at having to release Snape, he threatens him with what could have been. This is clearly intended to humiliate Snape, and it works. When Harry views this scene for the second time, in The Prince’s Tale, this moment is described like this:

“Distantly he heard Snape shout at her in his humiliation and his fury, the unforgivable word: “Mudblood.”

Snape tried to reclaim some dignity, some of his masculinity, even. Sadly, it backfired horrendously.

I don’t need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!

Lily blinked.

“Fine,” she said coolly. “I won’t bother in future. And I’d wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus.”

“Apologize to Evans!” James roared at Snape, his wand pointed threateningly at him.

“I don’t want you to make him apologize,” Lily shouted, rounding on James. “You’re as bad as he is.”

“What?” yelped James. “I’d NEVER call you a — you-know-what!”

“[…], walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can — I’m surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me SICK.”

She turned on her heel and hurried away.

“Evans!” James shouted after her, “Hey, EVANS!” But she didn’t look back.

“What is it with her?” said James, trying and failing to look as though this was a throwaway question of no real importance to him.

“Reading between the lines, I’d say she thinks you’re a bit conceited, mate,” said Sirius.

“Right,” said James, who looked furious now, “right —”

There was another flash of light, and Snape was once again hanging upside down in the air.

“Who wants to see me take off Snivelly’s pants?”

And scene.

The key words were “I don’t need help”, not “Mudbloods”. This is not saying slurs are OK. However, this was in 1970s UK, and Wizarding society is behind Muggle society in every way. Unfortunately, slurs were more common then, meaning it was not just the raging racists who used them. In universe, we know Snape used that word on others (which is worse than doing it at a moment of rage and hurt, by the way) and James doesn’t say that’s why he’s attacking Snape. Even when Draco uses it, nobody starts a campaign against slurs. Harry, Lily’s son, barely even remembers that Snape used that word – he correctly identifies what’s the bigger transgression in this scene, even though he hates Snape.

Why is the use of a slur scrutinized so heavily when, in universe, it is clearly not downplayed and is in fact a major plot point? Why are the abuse and public degradation that are the context for using it downplayed and whitewashed? People insist that things must have happened, off-page, that justify what James and Sirius did, but ignore the on-page explanation for what Snape did. Even Lily, the “Mudblood” in question, who is clearly hurt, says James is as bad as Snape, and accuses James of hexing people because he can. Lily’s “I won’t bother in the future” is further proof that she knows there will be a next time – this was not a one time thing, she’s had to defend Snape before. James is a menace.

And the menace is furious. He was not furious before, mind you, just bored. It’s because he had no reason to be furious with Snape. Jamese is furious now because Lily rejected him. It is a near-certainty that James then exposed Snape’s genitals in front of a crowd (in UK English, pants means underpants): The scene ends there, with the literary equivalent of a fade to black. James seems intent on delivering on his threat. Lupin and Sirius don’t say it didn’t happen. Snape has now been sexually assaulted at least once.

To put this in perspective, something similar is done to someone else, by a bad group of people, and it is referred to as torture. From GOF:

One of the marchers below flipped Mrs. Roberts upside down with his wand; her nightdress fell down to reveal voluminous drawers and she struggled to cover herself up as the crowd below her screeched and hooted with glee.

Voldemort’s heard of this:

You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle-torture, I believe?

Except what Snape endured is worse in some respects, because his underpants were removed, he was a minor, his assailants were not strangers and he continued to see them every day, and all of this is going on the charitable assumption that the assault at the end of SWM was the only one. Mrs. Roberts is a victim of a hate crime (although she doesn’t know it), and she is experiencing a horror she cannot comprehend, true; and yet – within the moral landscape of HP, this is extreme behavior.

Harry views this scene and he is horrified, the thought of his father makes him ashamed. He never tells anyone he’s seen it, except Sirius and Lupin.

For nearly five years the thought of his father had been a source of comfort, of inspiration. Whenever someone had told him he was like James he had glowed with pride inside. And now… now he felt cold and miserable at the thought of him.

From the same chapter:

Directly ahead of him, Harry could see the towering beech tree below which his father had once tormented Snape. He was not sure what Sirius could possibly say to him that would make up for what he had seen in the Pensieve, but he was desperate to hear Sirius’s own account of what had happened, to know of any mitigating factors there might have been, any excuse at all for his father’s behavior…

He gets none.

If Snape and the Marauders had been rivals, then the people who knew Snape would have had something worse to say about him than vague accusations of being into Dark Arts. Even when Snape kills Dumbledore, and it is “proven” that he was never good, nobody has anything concrete to say to make any sense of it. On the contrary: they are all shocked.

Here’s Sirius’s analysis of the kind of company Wormtail sought out, in a startlingly rare display of self-awareness:

You’d want to be quite sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to him, wouldn’t you?

James has multiple advantages over Snape: He has 3 sidekicks, including a prefect. He’s a rich, popular pureblood. McGonagall, who’s in charge of disciplining him, is known to bend rules when it comes to Quidditch stars. His Quidditch skills make him hard to evade and beat. Dumbledore has already shown that he will let them get away with murder, quite literally. He has an infallible surveillance system of the school and a perfect invisibility cloak.

Snape was no match to all of that. Rather than prove that he had “changed”, the fact that James was made Head Boy proves that James set the terms for any encounter between Snape and himself, no matter how many times Lupin says Snape was a special case. The only thing about Snape that was special was that he was an especially easy target, and also, he was friends with Lily, which James really didn’t like.

Sirius and Lupin admit that their behavior was unacceptable:

“I’m not proud of it,” said Sirius quickly.[…]

“Did I ever tell you to lay off Snape?” he [Lupin] said. “Did I ever have the guts to tell you I thought you were out of order?

“Yeah, well,” said Sirius, “you made us feel ashamed of ourselves sometimes… That was something…”

Why would Lupin think his friends were out of order, why would he make them feel ashamed of themselves sometimes, if they had been a mutual rivalry, or if they had been defending the school against a deranged psycho, as some like to portray it?

Harry is so disgusted by his father’s behavior, he does not understand what Lily saw in him:

“She started going out with him in seventh year,” said Lupin.

“Once James had deflated his head a bit,” said Sirius.

“And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it,” said Lupin.

Even Snape?” said Harry.

“Well,” said Lupin slowly, “Snape was a special case. I mean, he never lost an opportunity to curse James, so you couldn’t really expect James to take that lying down, could you?”

“And my mum was okay with that?”

She didn’t know too much about it, to tell you the truth,” said Sirius. “I mean, James didn’t take Snape on dates with her and jinx him in front of her, did he?”

Lupin speaks slowly because he’s lying. It’s James who never missed an opportunity, and Snape was expected to take it lying down. James knew he was in the wrong, otherwise, why lie? Since James managed to hide his stunts from Lily, why not from the staff? Given his bragging that he “saved Snape’s life,” lying to look good to Lily is a pattern. Lupin is a known liar, as proven by the entire plot of POA.

James’s two best friends have nothing concrete to say in his defense, except that he “stopped hexing people for fun.” This is damning with faint praise.

The defenses they offer are laughable:

“I wouldn’t like you to judge your father on what you saw there, Harry. He was only fifteen —

I’m fifteen!” said Harry heatedly.

Harry knows 15 is old enough to know better. So do the Centaurs:

“They brought her here, Ronan,” replied the centaur who had such a firm grip on Harry. “And they are not so young… He is nearing manhood, this one.”

Moving on:

“Look, Harry,” said Sirius placatingly, “James and Snape hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other, it was just one of those things, you can understand that, can’t you? I think James was everything Snape wanted to be — he was popular, he was good at Quidditch, good at pretty much everything. And Snape was just this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts and James — whatever else he may have appeared to you, Harry — always hated the Dark Arts.

“Yeah,” said Harry, “but he just attacked Snape for no good reason, just because — well, just because you said you were bored.”

Sirius is either lying or misremembering: we know James and Snape didn’t hate each other from the first moment for no reason, but because James and Sirius antagonized Snape. Also, why would Snape’s supposed jealousy of James contribute to James feeling so inferior compared to Snape, that he’d treat him like that? According to JKR, it was James who was jealous of Snape, over Lily. Given that Sirius is blatantly wrong, there is no reason to believe the Dark Arts had anything to do with it. It reads like an attempt to move the conversation to more comfortable territory, and is extremely hypocritical: James didn’t pretend he was being righteous in real time and neither did Sirius. They set a werewolf loose on Hogsmeade and used an illegal hex (i.e., Dark Magic) on Bertram Aubrey, so James didn’t hate the Dark Arts this much; the dichotomy between Dark and legitimate magic reads as arbitrary nonsense at best and self-serving at worst, and I’ll forever maintain that using Scourgify on a person is extremely violent, “Dark” or not. If James had a problem with Snape’s brand of magic, why did he use a spell Snape invented? Harry recognizes that this is irrelevant.

The defense campaign ends with:

“Look,” he said, “your father was the best friend I [Sirius] ever had, and he was a good person. A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen. He grew out of it.

Yeah, okay,” said Harry heavily. “I just never thought I’d feel sorry for Snape.

To me, this reads like:

“Look,” he said, “I am extremely biased and I miss your father and this conversation is making me uncomfortable. Your father was an idiot and eventually he stopped, that’s all I actually have to say in his defense.

Yeah, okay,” said Harry heavily. “I just never thought I’d feel sorry for the person I hate, who treats me like total shit, my dad was really bad!

Also, Sirius never grew out of it, and he was OK with it in the first place, so his opinion doesn’t count. At 15, Harry is more mature than him, and he is unconvinced.

In one of the last interactions between Snape and Sirius (OOTP:24), Sirius still calls him Snivellus, by calling him “Lucius’s lapdog”, he’s possibly suggesting something very unsavory, he’s the first to raise his wand. Harry is the one who tries to defuse the situation. Snape’s behavior is cringe-worthy too, but he is giving Sirius life-saving information: His dog cover’s been blown. He is being protective, in his trademark snarky way. Note that Sirius has yet to apologize for the attempted murder, or for anything else.

This isn’t somebody who knows anything about growing up, so his opinion can be dismissed. The same goes for Lupin, who has a lifelong pattern of letting his desire to be accepted get the better of him.

To quote JKR, this was relentless bullying. Downplaying, whitewashing, excusing, and blaming the victim for it, is sickening.


The Gestalt Prince

Something that bothers me, and I don’t know if it should, is that Lupin says James was 15 to play it off as immaturity.

1. That’s a stupid argument, as Harry clearly understands this at 15.
2 (and this is important). James wasn’t 15. Going by his birthday (in March) and the time when OWLs are taken (June of 5th year), this means that James, who began attending in 1971 and took his OWLs in 1976, was 16 at the time. Lupin, one of James’s best friends, would have known how old James was during OWLs, as Lupin is only a couple of weeks older than him. Either Lupin got the age wrong, or he’s lying.


Good catch with the age. My guess is that it was a mistake on JKR’s part, especially since she’s specifically stated that she’s not good with dates. We still have to incorporate it into canon though, so I’d go with one of two explanations:

1.) Lupin mixed up the age and/or date. Easy to do with teenage memories, especially as you get into your 30s and 40s.

2.) Lupin deliberately aged James down in an attempt to make him more sympathetic to Harry. I know it’s just a year, but 15 versus 16 feels like a big deal at that age.

Either explanation is plausible, though (as pet_genius said) Lupin is a known liar. No need to give him the benefit of the doubt unless someone specifically wants to.

I recognise this meta from the pet_genius, so good. I have frequently referred this to those who have often tried to downplay the Marauders-Snape dynamic to a mere rivalry and sometimes even justify the James’ actions in the SWM.

Wow, I have never seen the Snape vs Marauders analysed to this degree and proved with the canon text. Marauders really were nasty piece of shits and not the popular, cool and prankster heartthrobs as often argued by their stans.


I don’t understand how people get “popular” and “good person” confused. I really think most popular people in most schools on earth are fine and not bullies, but surely everyone has met someone who was popular, and yet a piece of shit? At the very least, they read the same books as us, that feature prom king Tom Riddle? Dudley and his gang? It’s unfathomable.

The author is so smart and hot (no I’m not biased)


No you are not


It makes me so mad when people try to excuse James. Like if you want to hate Snape that’s one thing, I personally love him but if you don’t, cool, whatever. We all know Sev wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine and he did and said some mean things, I’ve never tried to argue that making Neville feed his toad a bad potion or telling Hermione that he saw no difference with her buck teeth were right of him. But I’ve had James lovers say that Snape always drew his wand first, that James was only ever defending himself against evil, that James never blackmailed Lily, and that he didn’t strip Snape naked in front of a crowd, that he didn’t bully Snape simply because he was BORED. And these same people try to tell me that the only reason I love Snape is because I’ve only watched the movies and I would hate him if I’ve read the books. Which is not true, especially since I’ve read the books many times AND clearly remember them far better then these James lovers did. And then the whole he was “OnLy 15” as if that excuses the absolutely cruelest form of bullying and the “he changed” argument like that makes everything he did ok. And that’s If he even did actually change. We only hear this from his friends after his death, so I’m not so sure that it has any standing as fact. I have a theory that Lily and James didn’t have the perfect marriage everyone is always trying to tell Harry about as well (but that’s just my speculation)

I just have an extremely hard time believing that James suddenly became an angel in such a short time, but even people that do believe this seem to basically admit that it was likey because he finally figured out that being nice was a better way to get into into Lily’s good grace’s (or more aptly stated, to get into Lily’s pants) but Remus and Sirius talking about how James still hexed Snape and kept that fact from Lily only backs up that thought that he didn’t change because he realized his wrong doings or an true change of heart, but far more likely because he wanted to put on a a show to get Lily to like him


This is such a good meta! You said it all!

스네이프에 대한 오해는 남한에서 더욱 크다. 우리나라에서는 어둠의 마법을 ‘징크스, 헥스, 커스’로 분류하지 않았고, 학생들이 사용하는 징크스, 헥스에 대해서는 가벼운 저주, 공격 마법이라고만 번역하고 커스에 대해서만 어둠의 마법이라고 번역하고책을 팔았기 때문에 Marauders 가 학생들을 괴롭힐 때 어둠의 마법을 사용했다는 사실을 모르는 사람들이 너무 많다는 것이 짜증납니다. 애초에 본편의 주인공들도 학교에서 어둠의 마법을 쓰고 다녔는데도 정말 아무도 모릅니다. 망할 번역 때문에요. 최근 열심히 노력하고 있지만 진전이 없습니다.

Misunderstandings about Snape are even greater in South Korea. In Korea, dark magic was not classified as ‘jinx, hex, and curse’, and the jinx and hex used by students were only translated as light curses and attack magic, and only the curse was translated as dark magic and sold books. It sucks that so many people don’t know that the Marauders used dark magic when they bullied their students. In the first place, the main characters also used dark magic at school, but no one really knows. Because of the damn translation. I’ve been working hard lately, but no progress.

The Gestalt Prince

I 100% agree with you, and one thing that frustrates me to a degree is when Lily, someone known for her skill with Charms, says the Marauders don’t use Dark Magic despite their reputation. And one other thing is when Sirius and Remus explicitly say that James used to randomly hex people, and how there’s a detention file on James and Sirius for using an illegal hex on Bertram Aubrey.