Tuesday, July 19, 2005

There is no denying that Albus Dumbledore died at the hands of Severus Snape. What remains to be seen, is whom Snape was really betraying in carrying out the death of the Hogwarts' headmaster. There are only two concrete ways to see this scene, either Snape betrayed Dumbledore or Snape did not.

The prior assertion is less interesting. Maybe Snape managed to stay a Death Eater while working for the Order of the Phoenix, bidding his time to rejoin Lord Voldemort. As this is the most transparent idea, there is little need for a full analysis. Therefore, I will concentrate on the latter position.

Snape did not betray Dumbledore. To some, the idea may seem ludicrous. To others, this is the obvious and most likely solution. I will present evidence throughout book six, as well as some of the predecessors, to show that we do not know as much as we may think.

First, let's examine the scene where Harry learns about the argument between Dumbledore and Snape.

“'I – well, I was comin' outta the forest the other evenin' an' I overheard 'em talking – well, arguin'. Didn't like ter draw attention to meself, so I sorta skulked an' tried not ter listen, but it was a – well, a heated discussion an' it wasn' easy ter block it out” ... “Well – I jus' heard Snape sayin' Dumbledore took too much fer granted an' maybe he – Snape – didn' wan' ter do it anymore --”... “I dunno, Harry, it sounded like Snape was feelin' a bit overworked, that's all – anyway, Dumbledore told him flat out he'd agreed ter do it an' that was all there was to it. Pretty firm with him. An' then he said summat abou' Snape makin' investigations in his House, in Slytherin.” - Hagrid, Book Six, Page 405-406 US Edition

Given Snape's promise to Narcissa and how this book ends, this quote probably shows more than meets the eye. Is Snape upset about being overworked, as Hagrid suggests? Probably not, doesn't sound like the Snape I read about. But what if Snape had told Dumbledore about the Unbreakable Vow? Was this what Snape had agreed to do and was uneasy about? Did Dumbledore know that he was going to die and wanted to protect Draco from the dark path, even if that meant Snape would have to do it in the end?

Evaluating this quote we can see that Dumbledore and Snape did have an argument of some sorts. Snape believed Dumbledore was taking too much for granted and Snape wasn't sure he wanted to do something anymore. Perhaps the key to understanding the argument, is to understand what Dumbledore would take for granted.

In reading this line I couldn't help but think of Dumbledore telling Harry, on many occasions, that everything was just speculation and he could easily be mistaken about his Voldemort related theories. Perhaps Dumbledore's assumptions about Harry's role to come in fighting Voldemort were making Snape nervous on how things would play out. Mix this together with his unbreakable vow to protect Draco and, if need be, carry out the dark deed himself, and you have Snape in a very dark and dangerous position.

The truth is that Dumbledore seemed to know of his impending death from early on. He started having lessons with Harry to discuss the prophecy and Voldemort's true self. He even gave Snape the Defense against the Dark Arts job, knowing that no teacher had held it for more than one year after Voldemort was denied the position. (46 -- though didn't Quirrell have it longer?) Had he, Dumbledore, bidded his time, waiting to put Snape into the DADA slot until the very last possible moment. Why give Snape that job in the first place? There has to be some reason and I believe it is a significant piece to solving this puzzle.

We know that Snape made at least one vow, that being the one about Draco. But we still do not know the full reason Dumbledore trusted Snape. Yes, Snape wound a tale of remorse, but more than that would be needed to get Dumbledore's unshakable trust. After all, Dumbledore may give people chances but he continues to keep a close eye when need be. He had to have some reason to fully trust Snape. Perhaps an Unbreakable Vow to protect Harry at all costs? Or an Unbreakable Vow to do everything in his power to stop Voldemort? Agreeing to protect the son of the man he hated, or agreeing to stop his old master would definitely make Dumbledore put far more trust in him than just remorse.

Up to now, I have mainly been speculating with only so much evidence to offer. Now I turn to the night of Dumbledore's murder. I believe there are far more concrete happenings here that point to Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore versus Voldemort.

First, Snape only stuns Flitwick and then runs out and tells Hermione and Luna to take care of the unconscious teacher. Okay, here we have Snape who has shown his dislike for Hermione Granger since day one. He knows there are Death Eaters in the school and it's prompted him to knock out a faculty member. What's more, Hermione is a muggle-born, a perfect target for a Death Eater. But Snape doesn't attack her, he doesn't ignore them, instead he has them take care of Flitwick. A distraction to keep them safe? He's trying to move fast, why stop to talk?

Continuing on, Snape reaches the top of the Astronomy tower where Draco and the Death Eaters have surrounded Dumbledore. After some discussion he finds out that Draco will not kill Dumbledore as Voldemort had bid him to do. Snape is bound by his promise to finish the job, and turns to Dumbledore. Then Dumbledore seems to beg... Begs? That doesn't sound like Dumbledore. No, he is the type of wizard to stand till the very end. He does not fear death as others do, and I believe he even knew his death was imminent. So maybe he's not pleading for Snape to keep him alive, but rather to fulfill the job and kill him?

“But somebody else had spoken Snape's name, quite softly. 'Severus...'
“The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading. Snape said nothing, but walked forward and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the wereworlf seemed cowed.
“Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
“'Severus...please...'” -Book 6, Pages 595-596, US Edition

Notice Dumbledore never once says, “Spare me” or “Have mercy.” He just says, “please”. An echo of the argument in the forest perhaps? Is Snape revolted not by Dumbledore, but by the vow he must keep?

And then Snape kills Dumbledore.

Severus rushes away with Draco, almost as if to keep him away from the other Death Eaters. But for what? Will not Draco die for his failure? Is Snape to protect him at the cost of evading the Dark Lord himself? And was it me, or did Snape seem to be protecting Harry as well? Keeping the twins at bay, using Voldemort as an excuse. Even in the duel between Snape and Harry, Snape doesn't try to torture him or use a painful enough curse that he could just escape. (although he does do something when Harry calls him a coward.) No, he mainly only uses blocking curses and one disabling curse to keep Harry back. He doesn't even really try to injure him it seems. Something here just doesn't seem right. Yes, Snape needs to escape... but still...

And why did Snape care so much about being called a coward?

The truth is that there is a lot of speculation to be had on Snape still. We do not know if he is good or bad, why Dumbledore fully trusted him, or what he and Dumbledore argued about. In the end, it is at least likely that Snape remained true to the headmaster and a plan we don't fully comprehend yet.

If what I have laid out is true in anyway, Snape keeping his vow was important to Dumbledore. Why? What role does Snape have to play that Dumbledore could not? Or was it an example of Dumbledore preparing a plan, fully aware of his imminent death? Whatever the case, we should not assume that things are exactly as they appear. Snape still has a roll to play, be it for good or evil.

(Also: Why does Snape make the vow about Draco in the first place? and doesn't this complicate things if he is a Death Eater? How can he protect Draco and serve Voldemort? Draco did what was right, but in Voldemort's eyes that has to be a fatal mistake.

Also note: the promise could be read as either promising to protect Draco until the act, or to watchout for Draco while he was in still in danger from the Dark Lord. The second partof the vow was never specified. If he's not bound to this promise, Snape is in a good position to betray Voldemort.)