Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us.

Bits of this poem have been floating around in my head since I first read HBP, but I've only now managed to bolt them together into anything coherent.


I being here in two minds and neither of them,
I fear,
Entirely right -

Being, as I am, both betrayer and saviour,
Balanced between two worlds,
Belonging nowhere;
Doubted where I am true and trusted
Where I betray -

I, being so, must shape myself
Into a tool that serves the purpose of the day:
A mouth to pay
Lip-service to the service of the night

(Become that puppet-thing that dances duty
On the Dark Lord's strings;
Wearing the worst in me
Like a shabby cloak, the best
Pushed down where He won't sniff it,
So that I too may nest,
Amongst the enemies I once called friend;
Finding a fine course through the courts of pain):

Turn the dark mind to the light,
Turn the light mind to the dark again.

Well, I never was one for the simple life,
Although it might be pleasant,
Now and then,
To try it - but I loved the complex,
The ambiguous, I saw myself
Walking the knife's edge between sun and moon,
I thought it was
Romantic - stupid little fool -
See where it got me. All that dark
Romanticism soured like spoiled milk.
Its taste is bitter.

(Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Definitely not. And I was never
All that temperate, either.)

There's a cold wind blowing at my back.
If I turned around I know fine what I would see -
So I don't.

I thought to stand alone was darkly fine, heroic,
I never looked to be
So bloody lonely. Can you see
How, cutting, I am cut (to the flinching quick)?
How I desire what I fear yet fear
What I desire? Friendship's warming fire
Might burn me up. When as a child the children tried
To lead me to the wolf I knew my place, then;
I am still
Hemmed in by wolves, although my teeth are sharp.

I must go out now: I may be
A long time gone.

Too much emotion, anyway, is lethal.
I cannot feel friendship in the halls of night -
That way lies madness. How could I love and, loving, still betray?
Yet by the fireside of the day I dare not feel
Soft feelings either, nothing so strong I cannot bleach it bare
Of any colour, by an act of will,
Knowing at any moment that my brand may burn;
Knowing the unsolved Riddle may review my heart
For any weakness. I must pass as sane.

Turn the dark mind to the light,
Turn the light mind to the dark again.

I was born
On the feast of Janus Two-Faced - agony
And masks are mine by birthright.
Agone? And shall I slay?
Before the old ram falls to the wolf and the sons of blood run riot
Through the groves of learning?

Must I go
Out into endless night, alone
And friendless, anchorless
And cast adrift, just as I'd thought to find
My rest there, in the long slumber of the narrow grave?
Must I still save
The ingrate bastards from their folly
Yet again, knowing if either side uncovers me
My death will be
Painful and long?

But I've a strong
Presentiment no other bugger will.
Give me my cloak, my mask, I'll strut your bloody stage
Though curtains fall, and shadows mock at me,
And blood-red eyes
Burn upon every turn. If not me, who?
And if not now, then when?

Turn the dark mind to the light,
Turn the light mind to the dark (again).

In a review, Duj has added the following coda to this, which I thought deserved to be reproduced:

Shall I compare thee to a winter's day?
Thou art as bleak and cold and unadorned,
Under thin ice, the water's blue turns grey,
And will you sink, unheralded, unmourned?

One loss of grip and grippe ends your endeavour;
One little slip will see you sleep forever.

Author's note:

To pay lip-service to something is to pretend to serve or believe it, without really meaning it.

"Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day// Thou art more lovely and more temperate:" - opening lines of William Shakespeare's Sonnet #18.

"I must go out now: I may be // A long time gone." - paraphrases the British Antarctic explorer Captain Lawrence Oates, who in 1912 famously walked outside into the polar blizzard (on his 32nd birthday) and died of exposure, in the vain hope that, with one less mouth to feed, the remaining members of Scott's expedition would be able to make it back to their food depot. His last words - "I am just going outside and may be some time" - are known to nearly all Britons, and have become both an icon of sacrifice and a standard punch-line.

Snape was born on 9th January, the feast of Janus, the two-faced Roman God of Doorways. The feast of Janus is called the Agonalia because the priest asked the question "Agone?" - "Shall I slay?" - before sacrificing a ram.

The most likely result of Snape trying to save Dumbledore would have been Snape, Harry and possibly Draco all dead, Dumbledore left to be killed by the Death Eaters and Fenrir Greyback loose in the school with no superior officer to control him. "The groves of Acadame" is a standard metaphor for a university or other place of advanced study.

"If not me, who? And if not now, then when?" echoes two rather different writers. "If not me, who?" is a response to Terry Pratchett, who said, in his novel Hogfather, that "the phrase 'Someone ought to do something' was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider 'and that someone is me'."

"And if not now, then when?" on the other hand is a quote from Rabbi Hillel, a seminally important Jewish religious philosopher who was teaching a few years before Jesus (and seems to have inspired much of Jesus's thinking), and who famously said "If I am not for myself, who will be for me; but if I am for myself alone then what am I? And if not now, when?"

La grippe, as mentioned in Duj's coda, is a French term for influenza; but it can also be, in a general sense, a fever or a choking seizure - such as one might suffer upon being cursed.

Readers may also be interested in an essay called But Snape is just nasty, right? which you can find on my website at w w w . whitehound . co . uk / Fanfic / (just take out the spaces). A writer called seomensnowlocke posted (on ffn, which is really against the rules) an essay called Why Snape Does What He Does which irritated me so much that I felt impelled to write a complete rebuttal, explaining the reasons behind Snape's sometimes difficult behaviour, and this essay was the result.