Title: Dumbledore's Man Through and Through
Author: quixotic-hope (harrysev)
Summary: An essay on why Severus Snape is most assuredly not evil. Books 5 and 6 SPOILERS!!!
Spoliers: Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince
Rating: K+ (PG) for recaps of mature situations
Word Count: 2320
Note: All page numbers referred to in this essay correspond to the American version of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
No moment in literature has been quite as shocking or as often debated as the death of Albus Dumbledore. Most of us felt—quite literally—Harry's shock and betrayal after witnessing the murder. However, we readers are granted a gift that Harry Potter is not: the power to flip back a few pages and read the chapter again, picking up on the clues that JK Rowling places throughout the novel. These clues, easily looked over the first time read but nearly impossible to ignore the second, answer the question fans have been debating for the past two years: did Severus Snape betray Albus Dumbledore?
Many readers believe that he did, though their reasons differ. Some believe that Snape is loyal to Voldemort; others believe that he is loyal only to himself. However, the vow Snape makes, Dumbledore's behavior, his granting Snape the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the argument Hagrid overhears, the parallels between Harry's and Snape's situations with and reactions to Dumbledore's being harmed, Snape's refusal to allow Harry or any other resident of Hogwarts to be hurt, his obvious pain after Dumbledore's death, Hermione's and Ron's actions that night, and Dumbledore's decisions to keep Harry ignorant and immobilized prove that Severus Snape was acting on the orders of Albus Dumbledore and therefore did not betray him.
The second chapter of Half-Blood Prince shows readers a side to Severus Snape we have never seen before: Snape at his home, away from Hogwarts. Here, he encounters a sobbing Narcissa Malfoy, who begs Snape to make an Unbreakable Vow, promising to kill Dumbledore if Draco is unable to do it. The move is one that Snape has not foreseen, and he struggles a moment, his "hand twitch[ing within hers, but he [does not draw away" (36). He clearly does not want to make the vow, but he knows that failing to make the vow will arouse suspicion, and the Order needs all the information they can receive from Snape, so he cannot afford to lose his position as spy.
From Dumbledore's behavior in the next chapter and throughout the rest of the novel, we can conclude that Snape tells Dumbledore of the vow and of Voldemort's plan to have Draco murder Dumbledore. The old wizard seems to know all of Draco's plan while they are up at the tower, and indeed Dumbledore partakes in some strange activities that indicate that he knows he is going to die soon. He decides to take "a greater hand" in Harry's education, teaching him all about Voldemort's past (79). One might say he is attempting to teach Harry as much as possible before he dies. Also, he "chooses to ignore the warnings…Calamity. Disaster. Coming nearer all the time" (504).
Some might arguer, quite fairly, that these reactions are perfectly acceptable. After all, Dumbledore only just told Harry about the prophecy; his finally deciding to confide in Harry makes perfect sense. Additionally, they are now at war: that Dumbledore might soon die is, of course, a distinct possibility; perhaps Dumbledore merely wants to prepare Harry for the eventual possibility that the headmaster may die. Also, who could possibly blame Dumbledore for not taking Trelawney's warnings seriously, despite her adamancy and her strange, sudden ventures out of her office?
Dumbledore's visit to the Dursleys, however, casts new light on the aforementioned events. The headmaster criticizes the Dursleys' treatment of Harry, and he requests that they "allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his seventeenth birthday" (56). His comments almost sound as if Dumbledore knows he will not live to see Harry's seventeenth birthday and thus wants to make sure everything is in order now. Despite his departing "Until we meet again," Dumbledore appears to be making his final farewell to them (56).
As confident as Dumbledore seems to be that he will die by the end of the year, he seems just as confident that Draco Malfoy is not a murderer. If that is the case, why does he believe he will die? The answer is simple: he knows that Snape will. He knows that Snape made that vow, and, instead of allowing Snape to die, he tells Snape to go through with the vow and kill him when Malfoy proves unable to do so.
As killing the headmaster is an almost a fool-proof way to lose one's job, Snape would undoubtedly not have had a job by the end of the year. Amazingly, this is the year that Snape finally gets the position he has been requesting for sixteen years: Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. That sure is some coincidence. As Dumbledore tells Harry, "we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since [he refused the post to Lord Voldemort" (446). Clearly, Dumbledore knows that whoever takes the post will only last one year, which is why he never gave Snape the job before. This year, however, he knows that Snape will not last another year, so he decides to give him the one thing he has always wanted: the ability to teach young witches and wizards how to protect themselves from Voldemort's followers.
As Snape has finally been given the job he longed for, one might assume that he and Dumbledore would get along. However, this is not the case. Hagrid overhears the two arguing about how Snape "agreed ter do it, an' that was all there was to it" (405-6). Clearly, Snape is having second thoughts about something that he promised to do—kill Dumbledore perhaps? Snape accused Dumbledore of taking "too much for granted an' maybe he—Snape—didn' wan' ter do it anymore" (405). Harry assumes that they are arguing about some secret plant Snape has against Dumbledore, but what if they are arguing about some secret plan Snape has with Dumbledore?
Dumbledore alone knows the anguish Snape felt when he realized the mistake he made with the prophecy. Dumbledore alone knows all that Snape has sacrificed by being a spy for the Order. Is it not possible that Snape is referring to such when he argues with Dumbledore? That Dumbledore takes Snape's guilt for granted and assumes that he will blindly do whatever Dumbledore asks to atone? That maybe Snape does not want to keep risking his life for the Order? That maybe Snape would prefer to die than to murder the only remaining person who cares for him and trusts him completely?
From what Hagrid overhears, we can assume that Dumbledore convinced Snape to kill him, and now Snape is going back on his word. We see this same situation arise with Harry in chapters twenty-five and twenty-six. Dumbledore agrees to take Harry with him to destroy the Horcrux on the condition that Harry follow his order without question. At the time, Harry agrees. However, when the time comes for Harry to force the potion down Dumbledore's throat, he freezes. He does not want to harm Dumbledore, so the headmaster has to remind Harry of his promise. In other words, Dumbledore tells him that he "agreed ter do it, an' that was all there was to it" (405-6).
However, the parallels do not end there. Dumbledore is harmed twice in this novel: once by Harry and once by Snape. Harry weakens Dumbledore significantly by forcing him to drink that potion, all the while "[hating himself, repulsed by what he was doing" (571). Right before he kills Dumbledore, Snape looks at the headmaster, "revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face" (595). Are we to believe that Harry's and Snape's feeling hatred and revulsion when harming Dumbledore is completely coincidental? Since the scene is told in the third person, we do not know what Snape is thinking. We do, however, know what Harry is thinking. Is it so far-fetched to believe that they are feeling the same emotions, albeit on a much different scale?
If Snape had truly wanted to kill Dumbledore, would he not have been a little more pleased with himself? When Bellatrix Lestrange kills Sirius Black, she is gloating and tormenting Harry about it. The other Death Eaters at Hogwarts fling killing curses all oever the place, accidentally killing one of their own, with no remorse whatsoever. The ones at the tower are "panting excitedly" as they run after Dumbledore's murder (597). It would be the logical conclusion, therefore, to assume that Snape would be either boastful or indifferent after the event. Rage, on the other hand, is entirely unexpected. That is, after all, the emotion that Harry feels after watching Sirius and Dumbledore—two people he loves very much—die. Why on earth would Snape be so angry if he were happy to see Dumbledore die? Why would he look "as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them" if he were not truly upset about what he had done (604)?
If Snape truly were evil, why would he not have fought back when Harry attacks him? He blocks all of Harry's spells, but he does send back any of his own. He even stops the other Death Eaters from torturing Harry. Surely we are not to believe that Voldemort would have been disappointed or angry to learn that Harry was in pain, provided he was still well enough for Voldemort to kill him later? Snape could have let the Death Eater torture Harry, but he does not. Nor does he immediately curse Harry, who lies as "wandless and defenseless as Dumbledore had been" (604). Right then and there, Snape could have stunned Harry and brought him, wandless and bound, to Lord Voldemort. He does not.
He does not curse Hermione or Luna, either, when he finds them outside of his office, nor does he kill Professor Flitwick. Instead of killing the tiny wizard, Snape chooses to knock him out, preventing him from immediately joining the war upstairs where he could feasibly be killed. He tells Hermione and Luna to check on Flitwick when he could just have easily killed them. Can anyone imagine Bellatrix Lestrange allowing Hermione, Luna, or Flitwick to live when she had them so effortless at her mercy? Of course not—the idea is laughable because she, unlike Snape, has no conscience.
When describing this scene, Hermione apologizes for doing what Snape tells her to do. However, she is still under the effects of Felix Felicis when this occurs. Should she not have felt some sudden urge to follow Snape if what he was doing were wrong? Should Ron and Ginny not have sent their hexes at Malfoy in the darkened corridor anyway and luckily managed to curse him instead of themselves? Ginny tells Harry that "if we hadn't had your Felix potion, I think we'd all have been killed" (612). Clearly, they are all under the effect of the potion the entire time the Death Eaters are in the castle. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny are all under the effect of the potion, and all three of them allow Malfoy and Snape to get away. Could they have done that if what Snape was doing were evil?
And could Dumbledore have acted the way he does if he had not known exactly what was going on? Before they leave for the cave, Dumbledore "looked as if he was trying to make up his mind about something. At last he said, 'I trust Severus Snape completely'" (549). This is after he learns that Harry knows the identity of the Death Eater who heard the prophecy, after Dumbledore's "face whitened" (548). Dumbledore is clearly upset that Harry knows the truth, and after this Dumbledore debates telling Harry something—perhaps the plan between himself and Snape? Dumbledore restrains himself, though, undoubtedly recalling the tantrums to which Harry has been prone. Perhaps Dumbledore realizes that Harry is not mature enough to hear the truth, to comprehend that sometimes one must sacrifice his life to achieve the proper end. Certainly this is why the last spell he ever casts is used to immobilize Harry. Why would he have frozen Harry were he not afraid that Harry would foil some plan of his If he were concerned with Harry's safety, he would not have made him unable to defend himself should any Death Eater become aware of his presence. The only reason that makes sense is that Dumbledore fears Harry will prevent Snape from following through with the plan.
The plot to murder Albus Dumbledore is long and complicated. No one would have expected this, at least at this point in the series. Many continue to argue that Snape is clearly evil. The facts, however, state otherwise. Dumbledore knows he is going to die, so he finally starts preparing Harry for the final battle, a battle that Dumbledore knows he will not be present for. He offers Snape the Defense Against the Dark Arts position because he knows that Snape will not be around the following year anyway, because he realizes what a difficult position he is putting Snape in, and he feels this is the least he can do. Snape's reactions to the manipulations and death of Albus Dumbledore perfectly mirror Harry's, and he is clearly pained by Dumbledore's death. Were Snape evil, he would have murdered Hermione, Luna, Flitwick, and any other Order member he came across without a second thought. He would have bound Harry and brought him to Lord Voldemort. He does not. He kills Dumbledore because if he does not, the Unbreakable Vow will ensure that he dies himself, and Dumbledore knows that Snape is much more valuable than he is. Dumbledore orders Snape to kill him just as he orders Harry to force-feed him the potion. Whether the Order (or readers) will look past their own prejudices and see that Severus Snape is not an evil man remains to be seen.
Note: These are my thoughts on the matter. There are more things that I find odd about the book—like the fact that Snape would leave his old textbook (that he knows is full of hexes and curses) lying in a classroom where any student could have picked it up—but I decided to leave it as I have it now. There were already way too many reasons why Snape is not evil.
The whole Felix Felicis argument I am not sure about. Perhaps it only works when you know what your intended goal is, and Snape's killing Dumbledore is certainly not something that Ron, Hermione, or Ginny would have been hoping for. For now, though, I will assume that my arguments make sense.
If you find a flaw in my reasoning, please let me know! I am trying to convince myself that Snape is truly on Dumbledore's side, but I do not want to have false hope.