snape limping

Ruminations on Snape and Pomfrey

In Philosopher’s Stone one moment that always causes me to pause is when Harry stumbles across Filch aiding Snape with his leg in the staffroom.

It’s clearly a serious injury, as it’s enough to make Snape limp earlier in the day, and Harry describes Snape’s leg as being ‘bloody and mangled’.  

…so why doesn’t Snape go to the infirmary?

After all, in Order of the Phoenix, we see evidence of Pomfrey caring for Order members (Tonks) and indications that she cared for teachers (McGonagall, prior to being transferred to St Mungo’s).

Therefore, we know that Snape isn’t exempt from being cared for due to him being a member of staff.  Indeed, it seems that Pomfrey will care for anyone who requires it; not just those affiliated to the school.

Snape appears to be a fairly isolated man, so perhaps it would be fair to suggest that he didn’t feel comfortable asking for assistance.  His path might not cross with Pomfrey too often, so maybe he’s a bit awkward around her.

…but I don’t think that’s likely either.  In Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart offers to brew a potion, and Snape instantly snaps that he’s the Potions Master of the school - so it’s possible to infer that Snape is responsible for providing some, if not all, of the potions for the infirmary, which in turn, suggests some sort of working relationship between the two.  

Similarly, I can’t help but feel that there must’ve been some sort of relationship between Pomfrey and Snape whilst he was a teenager.  We know that Pomfrey was at the school, as she took Lupin to the Shack - and we know that the fight between Snape and the Marauders was ongoing.  It’s unlikely, if Snape was attacked four-on-one, that he’d come out consistently unscathed.  

As a result, you’d think Snape would make regular appearances in the infirmary - so if they had built a relationship of sorts then, why would Snape not return to her as an adult?    

Interestingly, in Order of the Phoenix, Pomfrey talks about the cowardice of those involved in the attack on McGonagall - which makes me wonder if she’s used such language in the past…  Maybe Snape, who hated being seen as such, had been accused of the same by her in the past.  I could imagine Pomfrey learning about Snape’s move to become a Death Eater, and being wholly disappointed that he followed the dark path.

Additionally, there’s also the idea of Snape having created a deliberate persona built on the foundations of fear.  We see that Pomfrey is a healer who errs on the side of caution, so perhaps Snape feared behind held for longer than was necessary.  Maybe he worried that if the kids saw him laid up in the infirmary with Pomfrey fussing over him, it would humanise him, and affect his standing in the school.  

Snape is a healer himself - and a lone wolf.  

More interestingly, I think the appearance of Filch is a red herring.  That scene makes it look as if Snape has chosen Filch’s assistance over Pomfrey’s - which helps us to draw all sorts of interesting conclusions about both Snape’s relationship with Filch, and his relationship with Pomfrey.

But one thing we do know about Snape is that he’s something of a healer himself.  We witness him healing Draco, and we see him contain the curse in Dumbledore’s hand.  And these aren’t just simple cuts and scrapes: these are some of the most serious injuries we see in the series.

So perhaps Snape didn’t need to go to Pomfrey.  Perhaps Snape was attempting to mend his leg himself.  The staffroom was empty except for Snape and Filch; perhaps Filch had caught Snape alone whilst he was tending to his leg, and Filch had offered his assistance - because Filch seems to defer to the teachers.  

Still, whatever Snape does, his leg is mended by the time it comes to the Quidditch match the next day - despite it being horribly mangled just hours before.

But the idea that Filch helped seemed curious.  I could imagine Snape trying desperately to solve a problem on his own - after all, he is something of a lone wolf…but it’s clear that he needs assistance, and I don’t think Snape would’ve compromised his recovery just at the point that Quirrell/Voldemort was gaining on the stone.  I think that in ordinary circumstances, Snape would’ve gone to Pomfrey.

So why didn’t he?  

Well…maybe Quirrell sheds some light on it all:

“All the other teachers thought Snape was trying to stop Gryffindor from winning, he did make himself unpopular…”

We see that Snape was left to tend to his injury alone, in a deserted staffroom, with no help from anyone but the detested caretaker.

Was it perhaps because the rest of the staff had disowned him over his desire to referee the Quidditch match that was due to take place on the very next day?