Snape's Worst Memory (OP)

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Harry spying on Snape's memories.

Snape's Worst Memory is the twenty-eighth chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The new Headmistress

A new Ministry decree has been issued:


"Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

"The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight. 

"Signed: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic"

The notices went up overnight all around the school. It is now common knowledge that Dumbledore overcame two Aurors, the High Inquisitor, the Minister for Magic and his Junior Assistance to escape (OP27). It was the topmost subject of conversations all around the castle.

Since Marietta Edgecombe is in the hospital wing, people turn to Harry Potter for the first-hand account of what happened.

Ernie Macmillan, on the way back from Herbology, expresses his confidence in Dumbledore's return after hearing the story. The Fat Friar told the boy that the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's Office wouldn't let Umbridge in, despite her numerous attempts. She had a major tantrum.

When the students are climbing the steps to the Entrance Hall, Hermione starts criticising Umbridge, only to be interrupted by Draco Malfoy, who appears from behind the door, closely followed by Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.

The Inquisitorial Squad

Draco says he'll dock points from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Ron voices his disbelief; both he and Hermione are Prefects as well, and they know that Prefects are not allowed to dock points from fellow prefects—only teachers. Draco sneers that members of the Inquisitorial Squad, a group of hand-picked students supportive of the Ministry's interference at Hogwarts, are now allowed to do so as well.

Draco smugly shows the others the silver 'I' on his robes beneath the prefect's badge, and spells out the punishments: "So, Granger, I'll have five from you for being rude about our new Headmistress. Macmillan, five for contradicting me. Five because I don't like you, Potter. Weasley, your shirt's untucked, so I'll have another five for that. Oh yeah, I forgot, you're a Mudblood, Granger, so ten off for that."

Ron pulled out his wand, ready to react to the insult, but Hermione prevents him from doing anything. Draco appreciates her action and strides away, laughing.

Ernie is appalled, and suggests that it could have been a bluff. The Trio, however, turns to the giant hour-glasses that recorded the house-points, knowing that Gryffindor and Ravenclaw had been tied that very morning. As they watched, stones flew upwards, reducing the amount in the lower bulbs. Only the Slytherin hour-glass seemed untouched.

Fred and George Weasley grimly approach them; they, too, noticed the new system when Montague attempted to dock points from them during break. Before he could finish talking, however, they forced him head-first into the Vanishing Cabinet on the first floor. When Hermione points out that they will get in trouble, they shrug it off, not knowing to where he was sent and therefore when he will return.

In any case, the twins have decided that they no longer care about getting into trouble. They have always known where to draw the line, but now they figure that Umbridge deserves a little mayhem. They don't need to remain at Hogwarts; they would leave straight out if they didn't feel the need to do something out of loyalty for Dumbledore.

They urge the students to go to the Great Hall for lunch; phase one is about to begin. Ernie mutters something about Transfiguration homework and disappears.


Harry barely makes it into the Great Hall when Argus Filch catches up with him and relays the message that Umbridge would like to talk to Harry. "I didn't do it," Harry replies at once; Filch chuckles at his guilty conscience and beckons the boy to follow him.

The caretaker is visibly in a good mood. He is happy with the change of attitude brought about by the Umbridge administration. Dumbledore, in Filch's opinion, was too soft. "You filthy little beasts would never have dropped Stink Pellets if you'd known I had it in my power to whip you raw, would you, now? Nobody would have thought of throwing Fanged Frisbees down the corridors if I could've strung you up by the ankles in my office, would they? But when Educational Decree Number Twenty-nine comes in, Potter, I'll be allowed to do them things...and she's asked the Minister to sign an order for the expulsion of Peeves . . . oh, things are going to be very different around here with her in charge..."

Harry miserably muses that Filch is a valuable asset to Umbridge, considering his knowledge of the Hogwarts passageways.

They arrive at the office; it is unchanged since Harry's last visit (OP13), with the exception of the new wooden block on the table which reads 'HEADMISTRESS' in golden letters. Harry's Firebolt and the twins' Cleansweeps are chained to an iron peg in the wall. Umbridge herself is at the desk, scribbling on pink parchment, and grins widely when Filch announced his entrance.

Filch bows as much as his rheumatism allows him to, and leaves. Umbridge orders Harry to sit and, examining him with complacence, offers him something to drink. When he refuses, she repeats the offer, with a more dangerous tone. Harry chooses tea, and she pretends to add milk to the mug, with her back turned to him.

She gives him the cup. Harry thinks of what Moody would say if he drank something offered by an enemy, and pretends to take a sip. Umbridge questions him as to the whereabouts of Dumbledore and Sirius; Harry claims not to know where either of them are. After insisting for a while, Umbridge gives up.

She points out that a Floo Network Regulator is watching ever fire in the school (except her own). The Inquisitorial Squad is inspecting all incoming and outgoing owl posts, and Filch is guarding the passageways.

A loud, booming noise interrupts them. Umbridge sends Harry away, and leaves.

Phase one

The twins' Whiz-bangs, fanart by Leela.

One floor below, the twins' latest prank is taking place: dragon-shaped fireworks made of gold and green sparks are soaring around the corridors, emitting blasts and bangs; pink five-feet-wide Catherine wheels whizz about; rockets with long silver tails rochochet off the walls; sparklers spell swear words; firecrackers explode everywhere.

Umbridge unsuccessfully tries to get rid of the fireworks with a Stunning Spell; it explodes, increasing in size and force. Filch attempts to use a broomstick, only to have it catch on fire.

Harry laughs and ran to a hidden door behind a nearby tapestry. There he finds Fred and George, and expresses his wonderment. "Oh, I hope she tries Vanishing them next... they multiply by ten every time you try."

The fireworks continue to burn around the school all day. Other teachers don't seem to mind them much. McGonagall, for instance, simply sends Lavender to fetch Umbridge when one of them enters her classroom. The new Headmistress spends her first afternoon as such being summoned by other members of the staff ("Thank you so much, Professor!" squeaks Flitwick. "I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn't sure whether or not I had the authority.").

Back in the Gryffindor common room, the Weasley twins are heroes. Even Hermione commends them. George mentions that they now have used up their entire stock of Weasleys' Wildfire Whiz-bangs, and are taking orders ("If you want to add your name to the waiting list, Hermione, it's five Galleons for your Basic Blaze box and twenty for the Deflagration Deluxe.").

Hermione returns to where Ron and Harry are seated, and happily suggests that they take a night off. "I think I'm feeling a bit... rebellious."

Another dream

An hour later, the three teenagers go to bed. Harry once more dreams of the corridor leading to the Department of Mysteries, and this time manages to enter. It leads to a circular room lined with doors; he opens one of them, and finds himself in a long, rectangular room. There's a door at the end of it, and he crosses that as well.

Harry then finds himself in a tall, wide room with rows of towering shelves. He knows exactly where to go, and strides across the room. Suddenly, he is awoken by Seamus, who calls his fellow Gryffindors to go see the result of a Catherine wheel's mating with a rocket.

Harry glumly remembers that he has an Occlumency lesson the next day. He dreads what Snape will say when he finds out that he has not practiced one bit since their last class (OP27).


Harry tries to practice a bit of Occlumency during classes, but he is constantly interrupted. After dinner, he heads toward Snape's office; Cho Chang meets him in the Entrance Hall.

She says she'd never expected Marietta Edgecombe to rat them out (OP27); according to Cho, Marietta is "a lovely person, really. She just made a mistake...". Harry is infuriated to hear this. When Cho points out that the girl was in a difficult position because her mother works for the Ministry, Harry replies that so does Arthur Weasley.

Cho then expresses her anger at the hex Hermione cast on the member list. "Of course, if it was darling Hermione's idea—" Harry warns her not to start crying again (OP25). Cho furiously stalks off, and Harry finally descends to the Potions master's office.

Remedial Potions

Snape, removing some of his thoughts and placing them in Dumbledore's Pensieve, reprehends Harry for the boy's tardiness. When they are about to begin the lesson, Draco Malfoy arrives, staring at the Gryffindor with surprise.

The professor smoothly tells his favourite student that Harry is there for remedial Potions, which makes Draco immensly gleeful. Malfoy tells Snape that Umbridge has sent for him; Montague has just been found inside a toilet on the fourth floor.

Snape leaves the office, and Draco follows him after noiselessly teasing Harry for taking remedial Potions. Harry is left behind, seething, and tries to be relieved at the thought of having twenty-four extra hours to practice Occlumency.

He is about to leave when he catches a glimpse of a familiar patch of shivering light on the doorframe (GF30); it reminds him of the lights of the room he'd seen in his dream the previous night.

He gazes pensively at the Pensieve on the desk, wondering what Snape could be so keen on hiding from Harry's accidental Legilimency. After realising that Snape, in the capacity of Head of House, would surely accompany Montague, the Captain of the Slytherin Quidditch Team, to the Hospital Wing, which gave Harry a little time to explore his memories.

Harry taps the contents of the Pensieve with his wand, and they start to swirl. He leans forward, and finds himself staring down at the Great Hall, seen from above. The boy knows that Snape could be back at any moment, but he decides to be daring and enter the Pensieve anyway.

The Marauders' OWLs

The Marauders, Snape and Lily, fanart by Makani.

Harry falls through blackness for a brief while and is suddenly inside the Great Hall; the four house tables are gone, and more than a hundred small tables, facing the same way, with a student sitting by each one, occupy the place instead. It is exam time: the students are taking the Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL (OP30). Flitwick is the examiner in charge.

It takes Harry a few moments to find Snape, who is sitting right behind him. Severus is a teenager in this memory: round-shouldered but angular, he has a "stringy, pallid look about him, like a plant kept in the dark. His hair [is] lank and greasy and [is] flopping on to the table, his hooked nose barely half an inch from the surface of the parchment as he [scribbles]." He is writing furiously, and copious amounts of information; his handwriting is small and cramped.

Across two aisles and up a third, Harry spots familiar untidy black hair, and races forward to gaze at fifteen-year-old James Potter. Father and son are extremely alike, with the exception of a few details: James' eyes are hazel, not green; his nose was slightly longer; he had no scar on his forehead. Other than that, it was all precisely the same, and they were even nearly the same height.

James yaws and rumples up his hair, making it messier than it was before. After glancing at Flitwick, he turns to throw a grin to the boy sitting four seats behind him. Teenager Sirius Black gives him the thumbs-up.

Padfoot is nonchalantly tilting back his chair on two legs. He is a handsome teenager, with dark hair that falls into his eyes with the sort of casual elegance none of the two Potters would ever achieve. A girl behind him is eyeing him hopefully, but he doesn't notice. Two seats along from this girl is Remus Lupin, looking pale and concentrated in his exam.

The Marauders after having sat to their Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL, fanart by Natticus54.

Harry then sets out to look for Wormtail, and he finds the small, mousy-haired boy not far from there. Peter is visibly nervous, and keeps trying to glance at his neighbour's exam.

James is doodling on a piece of scrap parchment; he's drawn a snitch and is now tracing the letters 'L.E.'.

"Quills down, please!" Flitwick announces. "That means you too, Stebbins! Please remain seated while I collect your parchment! Accio!" The parchments zoom towards him, knocking the small man off his feet. Some students helped Flitwick, and he thanks them, and allows the students to leave the Great Hall.

Snape gets up and goes towards the Entrance Hall, still absorbed looking at his exam paper. He absent-mindedly goes in the same direction as the Marauders, which allows Harry to follow the group.

Meanwhile, James scratches the 'L.E.' before stuffing everything in his bag. He waits for his three friends to join him. When they are all together, the four Marauders make their way to the Entrance Hall.

Sirius asks Remus if he liked question ten ("Give five signs that identify the werewolf."); Lupin briskly replies that he loved it. James, in a mockingly concerned tone, asks if Moony managed to get all the signs; Remus thinks he did ("One: he's sitting on my chair. Two: he's wearing my clothes. Three: his name's Remus Lupin.").

The Lake

Lily Evans glares at the Marauders as they tease Severus Snape. Fanart by reallycorking.

Peter is the only one who doesn't laugh. He seems concerned; he could remember no signs other than the snout shape, the pupils of the eyes and the tufted tail. James impatiently calls him thick, and the four walk in the direction of the Great Lake. They throw themselves on the grass under a beech tree. Some girls who have just left the exam sit by the Lake, cooling their feet in the water.

Sirius says he will be surprised if he doesn't get at least an 'Outstanding'. James says the same, and gets from his pocket a struggling Golden Snitch that he nicked. He starts playing with it, idly letting it fly a little, only to catch it moments later.

Snape has sat nearby, still absorbed in his OWL paper, allowing Harry to watch the Marauders for a while longer. James' reflexes are excellent; Peter gapes and applauds as he lets it fly always a bit further. Remus is reading a book. Sirius is looking around, apparently bored. After five minutes of James' toying with the Snitch, Padfoot intervenes, saying, "Put that away, will you, before Wormtail wets himself with excitement." James complies.

Sirius announces that he is bored. Remus suggests that Padfoot test him in Transfiguration, offering the book. "I don't need to look at that rubbish," replies Sirius. "I know it all."

James suggests something to brighten his best friend's mood: Severus has gotten up and is walking away. Sirius and James stand up at once. Peter and Remus do not move, but Moony has stopped reading, and furrows his brow. Peter is visibly excited.


Teenage and unpopular Snape, fanart by Makani.

"All right, Snivellus?" James calls out.

Snape reacts quickly: he drops his bag and reaches for his wand. James, however, is faster, and Disarms him. Sirius laughs, and uses the Impediment Jinx to prevent Severus from retrieving the wand.

Some of the surrounding students seem apprehensive; others, entertained. Wormtail gets up to get a better view of the scene. James glances at the girls at the Lake before he and Padfoot approach the fallen Snape.

"How'd the exam go, Snivelly?" he asks.

"I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment," Sirius sneers. "There'll be great grease marks all over it, they won't be able to read a word."

Several people laugh. Snape struggles, trying to get up, and pants, "You — wait! You — wait" with an expression of pure loathing.

"Wait for what? What're you going to do, Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?" Sirius cooly taunts.

Severus spits a mix of swear words and hexes. James coldly orders, "Wash out your mouth. Scourgify!"

Pink soap bubbles appear at once in Snape's mouth, making him gag.

Lily Evans

Suddenly, someone else approaches, causing James to ruffle his hair instinctively. Her shoulder-length thick, dark red hair and green almond-shaped eyes inform Harry that this is Lily Evans, one of the girls who had been at the edge of the Lake; she shouts, "Leave him ALONE!"

The tone of James' voice changes at once to a more pleasant one. "All right, Evans?"

"Leave him alone," she repeats, glaring at James. "What's he done to you?"

"Well, it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean ..."

Most of the crowd laughs, with the exception of Remus and Lily.

"You think you're funny. But you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone."

"I will if you go out with me, Evans. Go on ... go out with me and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."

Lily yells at James for being an arrogant, bullying toerag, fanart by Mudblood428.

The jinx on Snape is starting to wear off, and he reaches for his wand.

Lily says, "I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid."

"Bad luck, Prongs," Sirius notes, and turns to Snape. "Oi!"

It is too late. A flash of light causes a gash to appear on the side of James' face, and blood spatters on his robes. Another flash of light has Snape hanging upside-down in the air, with his robes falling over his head. Several people cheer, and the three entretained Marauders laugh.

Lily almost smiles, but catches herself in time. "Let him down!"

"Certainly." With a jerk of James' wand, Snape falls to the ground. Before the Slytherin can do any damage with his wand, however, Sirius uses the Body-Bind Curse on him.

Lily gets her wand out. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!"

James earnestly pleads, "Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you."

"Take the curse off him, then."

James obeys with a sigh. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus."

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

Lily blinks. "Fine. I won't bother in the future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus."

James is far more affected by the insult than she is. He furiously orders Snape to apologise.

"I don't want you to make him apologise!" she shouts. "You're as bad as he is!"

"What? I'd NEVER call you a — you-know-what!"

"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, 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 turns around and leaves. James tries calling her, in vain.

"What is it with her?" he asks his friends.

"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate," Sirius offers helpfully.

James looks quite furious. "Right. Right."

After another flash of light, Snape is once more hanging upside-down.

"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"


At this point, Harry was interrupted by a hand tightly closing over his upper arm. He turns, horrified, to look at the face of adult and enraged Severus Snape. The boy feels himself leaving the Pensieve, and is soon back by the desk in the study.

Snape's grip on his arm was so tight that it made Harry's hand feel numb. Severus' lips are quivering; his face was white and his teeth were bared. "Amusing man, your father, wasn't he?" he sneers, shaking Harry.

The boy barely manages to stutter a half-response when he his thrown on the floor by his teacher. Snape orders him never to repeat what he said to anyone, and bellows for him to leave the room.

Before Harry leaves, a jar of dead cockroaches explores over his head. He ignores it and runs towards the corridor, eager to put as much distance between them as possible. He doesn't want to go to Gryffindor Tower, nor does he want to share what he saw in the Pensieve; he knows what it's like to be bullied, and it now seems to him that James might have been as arrogant as Snape has always painted him to be.


  • Unlike Sirius, James uses non-verbal spells in the lake scene, with the exception of Expelliarmus, Scourgify, and of when he mutters the countercurse to the Petrificus Totalus that Padfoot has cast on Snape. Mastering non-verbal spells is not, of course, a particularly impressive bit of magic, considering the three Marauders were already Animagi in their fifth year.
  • The incantations to Levicorpus (strictly non-verbal) and Sectumsempra are only revealed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (HBP12 and HBP21, respectively): both were invented by Snape himself. The Potions master mentions the fact that James used the Prince's curses against him to Harry about a year later (HBP28).
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