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Thread: How does teenage Snape shoot down flies?

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  1. #1

    How does teenage Snape shoot down flies?


    I have a couple of questions for a fic I'm writing, regarding that scene, described in the chapter "Seen and Unforeseen," in OOTP, in which Harry uses a Shield charm during Occlumency lessons and accidentally catches glimpses of Professor Snape's thoughts: "A greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies..." (p. 592, OOTP American hardcover edition).

    Obviously the main point is that he's lonely and bored and, given the dark bedroom, probably at least a bit depressed, and given the flies, probably lives somewhere a bit squalid. But on a more picky detail question: I don't know whether there are any answers to this, but one of my wonderful betas and I were discussing it, so I thought I'd see whether anyone else has an opinion on this question:

    What spell do you think he's using to shoot down those flies?

    Impedimentia would work. So would Avada Kedavra, but it's an Unforgivable. is it Unforgivable when you use it like a fly swatter? And I'm sure there are other possibilities-- Petrificus Totalis, for starters. There's probably quite a list. Any thoughts? Would someone who doesn't hang out with proto-Death Eaters use Avada Kedavra on bugs?

    Then there's the issue of underage magic-- either he's 17+ and he's allowed to use magic at home (he'd still probably look like a teenager, I'd imagine), or he's younger and the Trace doesn't work at his house because his mother is a witch, and she either doesn't know or doesn't care or (given the context) actually encourages it.

    Anyway, just curious as to what spell you think he might be using. I'm of two minds about it, myself, so I'd be grateful for any opinions on whether that looks like an Unforgivable and whether they're Unforgivable depending on context. Thank you!

  2. #2
    I always (for an unknown reason) thought he used Stupefy.

    To answer your second question, remember that all magic is detectable. So underage magic can only really be identified if the person lives in a Muggle household. I can't remember what book it is mentioned in, but it's really up to the parents to make sure that their children abide by the rules.

    In other words, the Ministry would have been able to detect the spell that Snape used, but they wouldn't know who casted it. They would naturally assume that it was Snape's mother (the only overage magical person in the house). There would be no way to know it was Snape and they would rely on the adults to make sure he didn't use magic.

    Hope that helped!


  3. #3
    I also thought that he used Stupefy. It seems like a waste to AK a simple fly... and Impedimenta might also work, though it might just slow them down.

    Out of curiosity, do you think he might Vanish the fly bodies? or would he just let his mom clean them up?

    And no, the MoM wouldn't be able to tell that it was Severus and not his mother. That's why Harry got blamed for Dobby, and Harry and Ron were so indignant when they found out...


  4. #4
    Snape's Talon
    While it's true the other spells could produce relatively the same effect (shooting down the flies), I always felt he used AK. It's not a matter of seeing it as a waste of effort, but a matter of being able to perform the spell. On one hand it's rebellious, it shows an increase knowledge and attraction to the Dark Arts. Things were perhaps not pleasant at home, certainly were not pleasant at Hogwarts. He has no real friends.

    I see his actions as a manifestation of his frustrations, his angers and a way to exert some level of control, even if it's only over the lives of insignificant insects (which he may feel at some level is something like a reflection of himself - insignificant to others).

  5. #5
    But see, if he did use AK, the MoM would know, because he does still have a trace, and no matter if it was his mom or him casting it, they would get in trouble.

    I think Stupefy is a good choice, that's what I'm going to go with.

  6. #6
    Thanks to all of you (and to whoever else wants to reply to this-- it's only been a few hours, so I'm not going to ask them to close it quite yet.) Quite honestly, I had just assumed it was AK until I was discussing it with one of my lovely betas (hi Sandy) and the idea that it might (or might not) be something else came up. Everyone's reasons for why it might or might not be a particular spell are very interesting and thoughtful-- thank you so much!

    KCharles, really good point about the MoM knowing what spell is being used. They were always right on to Harry. I wonder whether they just don't monitor Wizarding households to that degree of detail? It might be more of a Universal Statute of Secrecy issue than a Underage Magic issue, perhaps? I mean, they'd need quite a staff to keep track of every housecleaning spell and so forth that goes on. Never thought about that before.

    Since reading your posts, I've started examining why I assumed that it was AK: the connection with the Dark Arts was one thing, since we know he was drawn to them, probably in practice as well as in principle-- and then just the attraction that the sheer power to do that with magic (instead of a fly swatter, for example) must have had to a relatively powerless and undoubtedly angry and alienated kid. I would also guess that AK is a (much) more satisfying way of releasing aggression than Petrificus Totalis, for example, and given his temper and the example of his dad (and probably how he's treated at the hands of his dad, not to mention the Marauders), he probably has a lot of that. When I was starting this reply, I was asking myself whether Harry would AK flies, and I'm going to guess no. I just don't think that even at his angriest, Harry ever gets that dark (that's a small "d" dark on purpose)-- plus the Unforgivable nature of it and the fact that his life was colored from a very early age by the damage that spell can do would probably make it inherently unthinkable to him.

    Total tangent here, but I don't think the adult Severus Snape (by which I mean him after the life-shattering epiphany he undoubtedly had at 21) would have used AK on anything without reasons of extreme exigency (like Dumbledore's). Not after Lily's death-- I think it would have been as anathema to him as the term "Mudblood." But that's just my opinion.

  7. #7
    Snape's Talon
    But see, if he did use AK, the MoM would know, because he does still have a trace, and no matter if it was his mom or him casting it, they would get in trouble.
    I don't recall Harry being caught for using Crucio while within the Ministry (OotP). Yes, it was on Bella, but any use of an Unforgivable is, well, unforgivable. Let's not even mention Harry using Imperio in DH.

    According to the Lexicon, "Three curses in particular are known as Unforgivable because using them on another human being can result in a life term in Azkaban."

    If that definition is true, than Harry, who used the spells on Bella and whatshisface (sorry, I'm not near my books and can't verify), would be the one in more trouble than Severus, who simply shot down annoying insects.

    The real question in regards to SeverusSempra's story is would her Severus use an Unforgivable or has there been a change within him (and here I speak as her beta *waves*, having some insight as to where she wants to go with this tale). For those not as familiar with the story, it features Sev/Lily.

    Understanding why canon!Snape would shoot down flies and the manner he used would go a long way.

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