Snape gestured Narcissa to the sofa. She threw off her cloak, cast it aside and sat down, staring at her white and trembling hands clasped in her lap. Bellatrix lowered her hood more slowly. Dark as her sister was fair, with heavily lidded eyes and a strong jaw, she did not take her gaze from Snape as she moved to stand behind Narcissa.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I don't understand the part "Dark as her sister was fair". What does it really mean?

  • 1
    It's a rather unusual construction, and a literary one - I don't think many people would say it in conversation. It means "dark in the same way, or to the same degree, as her sister was fair". It's making the contrast, while still suggesting some similarity of parallel between them.
    – Colin Fine
    May 18, 2019 at 13:12
  • @ColinFine Oh, I see it. Thanks a lot!
    – dan
    May 18, 2019 at 13:20
  • @ColinFine I have checked few usage books, there indeed I found about the omission of first "as". But in all the books it shows example of "as tall as he is" type when talking about omission. But here it's a little different case. May 19, 2019 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


Bellatrix has dark hair and eyes, Narcissa has blonde or "fair" hair and blue eyes. This simile literally would mean that Bellatrix was darker (than the "average woman") by the same amount that Narcissa was fairer than the average.

This is a literary construction, not very common. It's making the contrast, while still suggesting some similarity or parallel between them. You will sometimes see this kind of comparison between people or things with other adjectives:

Mark was the weightlifting regional champion. His best friend was Jack. But Jack was as weak as Mark was strong. Jack was so weak that he had to get his grandmother to open jars for him.

The comparison is made relative to the "average".

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