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It’s just something - something Verrocchio said to me once. He said, 

Snape and Lockhart: A Study in Contrasts

I like the first two Potter books a bit less than the rest, but there is one thing I really enjoy in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” when I revisit it. This is Professor Lockhart and how he serves as a foil for Severus Snape.

They are drawn as complete opposites physically. Lockhart is a “very good-looking” wizard with blond hair, blue eyes, and dazzling white teeth. Snape on the other hand has dark hair and eyes, is described as hook-nosed and sallow, and has yellow teeth. The contrast in their natural physical endowments is further emphasized by their very different attitudes towards their appearance. Lockhart dresses in colorful outfits that enhance his appearance, and sets his hair in curlers to make it curl just so. Snape habitually wears black, and his hair is worn straight and is often described as greasy, suggesting he makes no effort with it.

In addition to the contrast in their outward appearance, there are marked differences in their behavior. Lockhart cultivates his celebrity, making the students buy his books, and speaking often of his accomplishments and the recognition he has received for them. He makes an effort to connect with Harry because of Harry’s fame. Snape on the other hand never speaks of himself or his accomplishments, and is anything but impressed with Harry’s celebrity.

Rowling uses Lockhart, and the contrast with Snape, to excellent comic effect, most notably in “The Duelling Club”, though other funny moments with these two characters include the sight of Snape smirking at portraits of Lockhart in curlers, and  Lockhart’s suggestions of how Snape might join in Valentine’s Day festivities.

But I think there was a serious point to this as well. Lockhart in the duel is very showy, dressed in the special costume, and holding forth at length about his expertise. Snape just blows him off the platform when it is time to duel. It’s substance over show. Similarly we see Lockhart talk a big game about the monster, but clearly he could not care less about Ginny. Snape says nothing, but we see the brief moment in which his knuckles tighten on the chair-back when the teachers learn the news. Finally, we learn during the climactic sequence of this book that Lockhart is not the dashing, brave adventurer he tries to appear. He is instead a coward who has stolen the accomplishments of other witches and wizards, together with their memories of them, and he will stoop to the murder of Ron and Harry to maintain his reputation. We do not have this confirmed until far later in the series, but Snape, too, proves different (and unlike Lockhart, better) than he appears. His facade of cruelty and love for the Dark Arts hides that he is an immensely brave man committed to keep Harry safe and work for Dumbledore against Voldemort at any cost to himself.