Snape’s Lucky Escape: Did the Felix Felicis Potion Really Fail?

by Christy Morley

“It’s liquid luck,” said Hermione excitedly. “It makes you lucky!” [HBP, p.187 US edition]

What exactly does it mean to be lucky? According to Merriam Webster, lucky has three definitions:

  1. having good luck
  2. happening by chance, fortuitous
  3. producing or resulting in good by chance; favorable

What does this have to do with our beloved sixth book? I believe that Snape’s escape, despite what Harry thinks, is indeed a bit of luck.

Judging by the definition of luck, and Hermione’s sheer excitement when she first sees Felix Felicis, it would seem to be one powerful potion. So much so, that the mere thought of having taken it makes Ron more lucky. Throughout the book, that seems to be the case. Slughorn says taking the potion resulted in two of the most perfect days he’s ever lived. Harry takes the potion, and through a series of chance moments, gets the memory that he and Dumbledore need in order to understand Tom Riddle more completely.

What then could possibly happen to make Felix Felicis not work? Or the better question may be, does it work in a way we aren’t expecting? For example, Snape escapes and Draco causes havoc to be unleashed on Hogwarts. Is it possible that those events needed to happen, at least in part?

Before Harry leaves with Dumbledore for the cave that will change Harry’s life, he tells Dumbledore he needs his Invisibility Cloak. Running back to the common room, Harry tells Ron and Hermione something important:

“You’ve got to watch him [Draco] and you’ve got to watch Snape too.”[HBP US, pg. 552]

Harry has given them a task — to watch the two people that he sees as Hogwarts’ greatest threat. With Dumbledore out of the castle, Harry is convinced that tonight is the night that Malfoy will strike. And he’s right. To help them out, Harry gives them the last of his Felix Felicis and tells them to also share it with Ginny. It turns out to be a good thing too:

“Harry, if we hadn’t had your Felix potion, I think we’d all have been killed, but everything seemed to just miss us –.” [HBP US, pg. 612]

Ginny tells Harry this as she relays the night’s events to him. And from the tale that Lupin tells, she’s right. They were lucky to have survived. Yet at first glance, Felix hasn’t done what Harry intended it to do. Recall when Harry first takes the potion. His goal is to retrieve a memory, which he successfully does, after going through several moments where what he thought he should do was overruled by a gut feeling to do something else. But the memory is his before the night is through. So what happens when Hermione, Ron, and Ginny take the potion? On pg. 617 of HBP (US), Ron tells Harry that he and Ginny go to the Room of Requirement because they think Draco is there. Sure enough, they’re right. The luck is working. Then something odd happens — Draco gets away. They lose him in the battle that has begun and Draco makes his way up to the tower. So much for luck. Unless Draco needed to be on that tower for a reason. It is possible that he needed to have that conversation with Dumbledore, and it never would have happened if he had been caught.

Let’s look at the second group, where only one of the participants should be lucky. Hermione and Luna go down to Snape’s office to keep an eye on him. Eventually, Flitwick comes down and Snape ends up telling Hermione to tend to Flitwick. But why does she not realize something is wrong? Assuming that Felix would have told her instinctively not to question Snape, surely it should have helped her realize that Flitwick was just stunned. Flitwick might have been able to catch Snape, or at least send out a general warning to other Order members. Instead, he spends the entire fight on the floor of Snape’s office, out cold. What possible good does that serve? Unless, Snape needed to get away.

The question that is left is why would Snape need to get away. Perhaps Draco’s lucky escape is more understandable. He needed to hear Dumbledore’s speech, to know that he’s not as bad as he may think. Snape, however, is not a nice person. What good does his getting away serve? Perhaps none, but I think that Severus Snape will serve a purpose. Maybe he has some task to fulfill that will eventually help Harry defeat Voldemort.

Does Felix Felicis do what needs to happen to help your specific task, or does it do what is necessary to help everything turn out right in the end? By the definition of luck, it would seem to be the latter. It is not what you personally want to happen, necessarily, but it will cause events that need to happen for good to prevail in the end. Only Jo knows the whole truth. Is it possible that Draco needed to escape from Ron, that Dumbledore needed to die, and that Snape needed to perform that task? Maybe. It does not excuse the behavior of Draco or Snape, by any means. They both act terribly and cause great harm in the process.

We have been warned before by Firenze that even the Centaurs do not know everything. Perhaps the mystery of why Draco and Snape escaped will be answered, but one thing seems sure to me — Felix Felicis did what it needed in order for Harry to succeed.