The Case for Severus Snape

Posted by Mike Merritt in Books, Rambling on

On this eve prior to the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I am going to make a prediction that will be accepted by some and rejected by others, as all literary theories are. I have no inside information (and want none, therefore I’ll be disabling commenting on this blog from tonight until I get done with the book) and there are no spoilers here. I will have assumed, however, that anyone who reads has the last five books, so don’t go complaining to me if you haven’t. See you on the flip side.

What is my worldly prediction? That Severus Snape is on the side of good. I have thought about this a long time, since I started reading the books, but especially since the last book, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. This wasn’t some conclusion I’ve pulled out of thin air, but one in which I’ve considered all the evidence for and against Snape, and drew my own conclusion. I have a few reasons that I think so, which I shall reveal below. Some of them you have doubtlessly heard used before, but maybe not others. So here goes:

We all know that Snape worked for the Death Eaters and Voldemort. He’s admitted it, Dumbledore’s admitted it, he has the Dark Mark, and all that. No doubt that he has committed several atrocities in his past (least of all killing Dumbledore). Snape is not an innocent man at any length. He spied on the other side, and they know it. He’s probably killed in the line of his duties to Voldemort, and he just as good as killed James and Lilly Potter. However, all of this together doesn’t automatically mean he’s still working for Voldemort. However, I would like to consider some of the reasons he started working for him.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is briefly able to access Snape’s memories during his Occlumency lesson, though he didn’t mean to do so. I’d like to draw attention to the flash of memory where Harry sees a man shouting at a women while Snape looked on. I have no doubt in my mind that these two adults were his mother and his father. We know that Snape’s mother, Eileen Prince married a muggle, Tobias Snape. Whether they ever truly loved each other, I don’t know. Obviously, though, the relationship seems to have turned abusive. Now, in the real world we know children with abusive parents are more likely to start exhibiting negative behaviors, such as abusing their spouses, or alcoholism, or some mixture of both. It doesn’t mean it’ll happen, it’s just more likely. It seems to me that Snape, with an abusive father, would have been drawn toward the dark arts naturally. We know from the Sirius’ account that Snape was well known for his interest in the dark arts at school, and knew more of it than most people in seventh year did.

So, it’s easy to see how a bad home life would lead to the dark arts obsessed kid Severus. Since we don’t know much more about his childhood, we can only speculate at this point. I feel that Snape would have had a lot of resentment toward his father. Perhaps he would want to get revenge on him, and when he found out he could do magic, he knew he had a way. Since Severus knew a lot of dark arts magic when he got to school (per Sirius), it seems that he, like Voldemort, had an incredible grasp of his powers early on. That combined with bitterness toward his father, would seem to drive him toward the dark arts. So, he ends up at school, and surrounded by friends who had interest in the dark arts as well, he obviously would have been propelled to work for Voldemort when his time came. That’s as far as we know for sure.

Where it gets murky is why he would have crossed over, and what made him stay on the good side. We know from the last book that he overhears part of the prophecy, and after evicted from the Hogs Head, goes to tell Voldemort. I do believe that at the time he was still spying for Voldemort, and his current task was to tail Albus Dumbledore, or at least, if he saw him somewhere, to find out what he was doing. He certainly didn’t listen at that door expecting to hear any prophecies. Alas, he did, and ran off to tell Voldemort. Now, I know that Dumbledore told Harry that Snape was horrified at hearing about the death of the Potters, but I’m a little skeptical. Severus hated James, like Malfoy does to Harry. He also held contempt for Lilly, even though she tried to help him. However, maybe the reason is that while he would not miss them if they died, he did not particularly wish death on them.

So, if that’s the case, then Dumbledore was right about Snape being remorseful for it. If he did not wish them dead, and was horrified at it happening, perhaps that would be the last straw for him. Maybe he’d been growing increasingly opposed to Voldemort’s methods. He might have been like the Blacks, who were for blood purity but backed away when they saw what he wanted to do to secure that goal. However, by the time he was disgusted with him, it was too late, and he couldn’t back out for fear of being killed (which makes him extremely selfish). So, Snape is remorseful for his role in the deaths, no longer likes how Voldemort operates, and maybe he even fears capture. Who knows, but I’m guessing it’s probably a mixture of the first two that turns him over to Dumbledore’s side.

Can we trust Dumbledore, though? McGonagall says he had an “ironclad” reason for trusting Snape, though even Dumbledore says he makes mistakes. He’s admitted it himself, such as his mistake in not telling Harry about the prophecy earlier. He even says that due to his intelligence and magical ability, his mistakes turn out to big bigger. So, could this be his biggest mistake? I don’t think so. Dumbledore may make mistakes, and potentially some big ones, but he’s not stupid. If he was so stupid, he wouldn’t have been headmaster. Yes, I know what you’ll say: Snape is a master Occlumens, and could have hidden his true feelings. Dumbledore knows he’s good! It’s why he chose Snape to teach Harry the subject. I feel that Dumbledore would have needed more than just Snape’s word that he was loyal. I certainly wouldn’t take Snape’s word for it, I’d need something more. Perhaps Snape would have shown Dumbledore the reasons why he was turning, perhaps let Dumbledore perform some Legilimancy into Snape’s mind. Something made a mark on Dumbledore to trust Snape. We know that he never quite trusted Tom Riddle, for instance, but something was there with Snape that Dumbledore could see, even if others don’t.

My next reason for believe Snape is on the good side is the events of the HBP chapter, “The Lightning Stuck Tower.” We all know what happens, Snape kills Dumbledore. Therefore, I’d like to take time to look at Snape’s face. That’s right, his face. Just before he does his “Abada Kedavra” curse, he is described as having a look of revulsion and hatred upon his face. I firmly believe that the revulsion was revulsion for what he was about to do, and that hatred was a mix of self-hatred and hatred for Voldemort, since he is who, at the core of it all, caused this to happen. Next, lets take a look at earlier in the book, when Hagrid overhears Snape and Dumbledore arguing about him not wanting to do something, and Dumbledore ordering him to continue doing it. I believe that Snape would have rather let the consequences of the Unbreakable Curse take effect than kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s argument would be that Severus was more valuable to the Order; being younger, he could do more to help them. This is because that while Dumbledore may be gone, lets not forget who has to kill Voldemort: Harry Potter. So, Snape went in to the attack on Hogwarts knowing what he’d have to do.

Now, I know some people are going to ask: “Well, if he was helping the order, why stun Flitwick?” It would have been a huge giveaway if somebody had followed him up to the tower, and seen him kill Dumbledore. Most likely, this person would have been Flitwick, since everybody else had been in the heat of battle. Flitwick probably would have started attacking Snape out of rage, which Snape hardly needed if was to continue being a spy. Also, Snape could have easily killed him when he came down, but he did not. Why just stun him if you’re with Voldemort? Why not kill? He was about to go and kill Albus Dumbledore, why not off Flitwick to make sure he wasn’t in your way? So that he wouldn’t stop Snape being a spy for the Order, and to keep him safe. With Flitwick stunned, he wouldn’t get hurt in the ensuing battle.

Next, I’d like to pay attention to something that people have debated on, but for all the wrong reasons, I feel. Snape’s Avada Kedavra curse wasn’t like others we’ve seen. Those from Voldemort, for example, have killed a person, who promptly crumples to the ground. Snape’s, however, blasts Dumbledore off the tower. Previously, the debate I’ve seen is whether is was a real Avada Kedavra, and whether Snape may not have said something else. Mostly these discussions seem to have centered on whether Dumbledore is really dead. Since then, JK Rowling has told us that he is definitely dead, so it must have been a real AK. I believe there are two instances where an AK may behave like we’ve seen: when somebody isn’t entirely proficient in using it, and when their heart is not entirely in to it. Snape, as a Death Eater, is obviously proficient in using it. However, I do not think his heart was entirely in it. We know that from the Cruciatus Curse, that the user really wants to cause pain for it to work properly. I also believe this of AK, though in its case, they really want someone to die for it to work properly. Snape’s AK was just powerful enough to do the job, but because he had mixed feelings about doing it, Dumbledore didn’t crumple like Cedric Diggory or Frank Bryce. I’m not sure why none of the Death Eaters mentioned this, but then again, they had to tail it after getting the job done, or they would have been discovered. It’ll be very interesting to see what they say once they’re back to safety.

Finally, I will take the example from the chapter “The Half-blood Prince.” As Snape is fleeing, pursued by Harry, he is able to block anything Harry throws at him, due to his proficiency in Legilimancy. He also doesn’t make any attempt to kill Harry. This strikes me as odd, since he’s never heard the whole prophecy (as far as I know – who knows what Dumbledore has told him about it). Ok, so he says that he’s under Voldy’s orders not to kill Harry. Fine, then why not injure him? At most, Snape’s attacks on Harry consist of magically slapping him on the face, and pushing him back to the ground. He could have easily done something more nasty without it being anywhere near life threatening, if he really didn’t care about protecting Harry. Snape even deflects another Death Eater’s curse, that probably would have hurt Harry more, maybe without killing him. Though, I’m not sure if it was an AK curse, so if it was, I could also see why Snape would do that. Finally, Snape even seems to do a final bit of teaching, instructing him to close his mind, and control his temper. Why would somebody who doesn’t care about seeing Harry succeed do this? Well, I believe Snape does want him to succeed in his mission to kill Voldemort.

So, I do believe I’ve made my point. I never intended this entry to be quite as big of an essay as it turned out to be, but there is it is. Snape is on the side of good because Dumbledore had to find something more than just his word to trust him, Snape clearly did not want to kill Dumbledore, given what happened on the tower, and I believe that he is trying to protect Harry during the Battle of Hogwarts. All this said, I think that Snape is not going to survive the final book. He’s probably going to die during one of the final battles with Voldemort, at some point where Harry can’t possibly have survived. He’ll take an AK hit for Harry, or something. It’s going to be a bit sad, I imagine, but it will definitely redeem Snape in the eyes of many. In less than 24 hours, I shall know.

I’ll follow up the post with either a celebratory entry, or one lamenting how wrong I was, and what a waste of time is was to write this! Until then, Happy Potter Day.

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