Dumbledore’s Trust in Snape, Part 3: Riffs and Curiosities
by D.W. Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Table of Contents
The Explanation and the Map
An Odd Way to Treat an Escaped Convict
Is Harry Really Harry?
Snape’s Arrogance and Other Questions
Puzzles and Perplexities
In this series, we are taking an in-depth look at the relationship between Dumbledore and Snape, focusing on Snape’s behind-the-scenes jobs and how they help or hinder Dumbledore’s overall objectives. We have already discussed my opinions as to why Dumbledore trusts Snape. Whether that trust is or is not justified, it exists and the evidence suggests that Dumbledore has been allowing Snape to perform Legilimency on Harry as well as to conduct other experiments. We have already seen that Snape is able to answer crucial questions about the link between Harry and Voldemort during Harry’s first two years at Hogwarts. In this essay, we will take an in depth look at Severus Snape behind the scenes in PoA and GoF, and we will end with a few highlights from OotP and HBP.
During the summer preceding Harrys third year, Dumbledore, who is looking for a new DADA teacher, as usual, learns about the escape of Sirius Black. He, like the rest of the wizarding world, believes that Black killed one of his own best friends and a dozen Muggles on the day after Voldemort’s downfall. He also believes that Black had been the Potters’ Secret Keeper and had betrayed them to Voldemort. Harry is in more danger than usual, but he isn’t the only person Dumbledore is worried about. James Potter had three friends. Dumbledore believes that of the four – James, Sirius, Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin – only Black and Lupin remain alive. Dumbledore has to assume that if Black has already killed two of his old friends, he just might be after Lupin as well. He knows from past experience that his new DADA teacher will only be in that post for a year, but offering the job to Lupin is the best he can do to protect Lupin for the time being. Lupin is a werewolf. Therefore, to ensure the safety of his staff and students, Dumbledore orders Severus Snape to make the Wolfsbane Potion for him.
Lupin’s appointment does not go over well with Severus Snape. Snape, who – thanks to Sirius’s warped idea of a joke — was almost killed by Lupin as a student, argues against it. We learn this from Lupin himself in the Shrieking Shack, but we – along with Harry — get a strong clue much earlier in the book. After Black slashes the painting of the Fat Lady on Halloween, all of the students camp out in the Great Hall. Harry, pretending to be asleep, overhears this conversation:
”Have you any theory as to how he got in, Professor?” asked Snape.Harry raised his head very slightly off his arms to free his other ear.
”Many, Severus, each of them as unlikely as the next.”
Harry opened his eyes a fraction and squinted up to where they stood; Dumbledore’s back was to him, but he could see Percy’s face, rapt with attention, and Snape’s profile, which looked angry.
“You remember the conversation we had, Headmaster, just before – ah – the start of term?” said Snape, who was barely opening his lips, as though trying to block Percy out of the conversation.
“I do, Severus,” said Dumbledore, and there was something like warning in his voice.
“It seems – almost impossible – that Black could have entered the school without inside help. I did express my concerns when you appointed–”
“I do not believe a single person inside this castle would have helped Black enter it,” said Dumbledore, and his tone made it so clear that the subject was closed that Snape didn’t reply.
Though we know that Snape seems to be even angrier about Lupin than he was about Harry’s two previous DADA teachers, this is the first time he attempts to influence students. Harry thinks Snape is trying to exclude Percy, the Head Boy, from the conversation, but Snape must know that Percy can hear him anyway, and that there might be other students awake and listening. Since Dumbledore only makes two appointments this year – Lupin and Hagrid – and since Hagrid has been at Hogwarts forever, it is obvious that Snape is talking about Lupin.
This cryptic comment is not the last time that Snape tries to get students to beware of Lupin. He takes over Lupin’s class when Lupin is out sick and does a lesson about werewolves. He’s hoping someone in the class will realize that Lupin is one. Hermione does, but she keeps it a secret.
That’s not the end of the werewolf saga, but – as we are trying to be chronological – let’s move on. Snape is not having a good year. In addition to Lupin bringing up all sorts of unpleasant schoolboy memories, Snape is plagued by the buzz about Neville’s boggart. The story of how Neville dressed Professor Boggart Snape in his grandmothers clothes spread quickly around the school. Then, at Christmas dinner, Snape pulls a cracker with Dumbledore, and what comes out? It’s a hat with a vulture on top just like the one Neville’s grandmother wears.
The Explanation and the Map
Lupin’s return to Hogwarts as a teacher is not the only bone of contention between Snape and Dumbledore in Harry’s third year. I don’t personally think that it is the beginning of an alliance-shattering rift between them. However, if those of you who believe that Snape is no longer loyal to Dumbledore are correct, this is my opinion on when the split begins.
The pivotal moment of Legilimency, in PoA, comes when Snape catches Harry coming back from Hogsmeade where he did not have permission to go. Catching Harry is possible, not so much because Draco goes to Snape and tells him about seeing Harry’s head near the Shrieking Shack, but because of what happens before Harry even leaves. Snape accuses Harry and Neville of deliberately meeting near the statue of the one-eyed witch. This is one of those times when the purpose of Snape’s accusation is to get Harry’s attention. He knows Harry by now and is trying to protect him from Sirius Black. We must admit — no matter how much we love him – that Harry does like breaking rules. No doubt, Snape assumes that, if there is a way to do it, Harry will be going to Hogsmeade, so he follows him – at a distance – after the other kids leave school.
It was Snape. Neville took a quick step behind Harry.”And what are you two doing here?” said Snape, coming to a halt and looking from one to the other. “An odd place to meet –“
To Harry’s immense disquiet, Snapes black eyes flicked to the doorways on either side of them, and then to the one-eyed witch.
“We’re not – meeting here,” said Harry. ”We just – met here.”
”Indeed?” said Snape. ”You have a habit of turning up in unexpected places, Potter, and you are very rarely there for no good reason… I suggest the pair of you return to Gryffindor Tower, where you belong.”
Harry and Neville set off without another word. As they turned the corner, Harry looked back. Snape was running one of his hands over the one-eyed witch’s head, examining it closely.
We cant be sure that this is Legilimency, but the result is the same. Snape knows there’s something up with the witch. He also knows, if he has been following Harry, that Harry had his bag with him. When Snape catches up to him, the bag is missing. Harry had stuffed it into the opening in the statue’s hump when he saw Neville coming.
Snape apparently assumes that he has just scared Harry into staying at school. At any rate, he does not continue to follow him, or he would have noticed him doubling back after giving Neville the password. When he does catch Harry, later that afternoon, Snape takes him to his office and there is definitely some Legilimency going on:
Snape’s eyes were boring into Harrys. It was exactly like trying to stare down a hippogriff. Harry tried hard not to blink.
“What did you say to me, Potter?”“I told you to shut up about my dad!” Harry yelled. “I know the truth, all right? He saved your life! Dumbledore told me! You wouldn’t even be here, if it wasn’t for my dad!”
Snape’s sallow skin had gone the color of sour milk.
“And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life?” he whispered. “Or did he consider the details to be too unpleasant for precious Potter’s delicate ears?”
Harry bit his lip. He didn’t know what had happened and he didn’t want to admit it – but Snape seemed to have guessed the truth.
”So!” said Snape, his long nostrils quivering. “Is this another treasured gift from Mr. Weasley? Or is it – something else? A letter, perhaps, written in invisible ink? Or – instructions to get into Hogsmeade without passing the dementors?”Harry blinked. Snape’s eyes gleamed.
Snape’s use of the phrase “precious Potter’s delicate ears” leaves no doubt that Snape harbors a certain amount of resentment and/or jealousy; or, at the very least, Snape already believes that Dumbledore is sheltering Harry from the truth. We learn at the end of OotP that Dumbledore has finally realized that he should have told Harry the truth about his situation and the prophecy, at the end of his first year. Has Snape been arguing that point all along? The nail in the coffin, if there is indeed an irreparable rift between Snape and Dumbledore, comes when Snape realizes that Dumbledore has given Harry a sugar-coated explanation of how James Potter saved Snape’s life. Personally, from the first time I read PS/SS, I have felt that Dumbledore was wrong to tell Harry about that incident in the careless way he does.
Although Snape acquires the information about Dumbledores somewhat less-than-accurate description of this incident, there doesn’t seem to be much there that even a terrible Legilimens could not have guessed. The important information that he does acquire, however, is that not only is Harry going to Hogsmeade illegally, but he has some old piece of parchment which is helping him do it. Perhaps, Snape found out about the Marauder’s Map as a schoolboy and tipped off Filch. We know that someone did from Lupin’s comments shortly afterwards:
“I happen to know that this map was confiscated by Mr. Filch many years ago.”
Snape’s knowledge of the Marauder’s Map is one of those little things which troubled me about him. Even if he doesn’t know its a map, when he tips Filch off, as a kid, or when he takes it from Harry, he knows on the night when Pettigrew escapes:
”You’re wondering, perhaps, how I knew you were here?” he said, his eyes glittering. ”I’ve just been to your office, Lupin. You forgot to take your potion tonight, so I took a goblet-full along. And very lucky I did… lucky for me, I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight.”
A year later, however, Dumbledore doesn’t seem to know anything about it. During Crouch’s confession under the influence of Veritaserum, we read:
“My master sent me word of my father’s escape. He told me to stop him at all costs. So I waited and watched. I used the map I had taken from Harry Potter. The map that had almost ruined everything.”“Map?” said Dumbledore quickly. “What map is this?”
The first few times I read this passage, I was rather alarmed. Why hadn’t Snape told Dumbledore about the map? My best guess is as follows. The last time Snape saw the map — as far as we know — it was in Lupin’s office. Snape — in an uncharacteristic moment of thinking positively about Lupin –assumes Lupin would not return it to Harry. With that assumption, informing Dumbledore would not have been a priority.
An Odd Way to Treat an Escaped Convict
Snape’s actions, on the night when Pettigrew escapes, show that he is more interested in protecting Harry, Ron and Hermione from a werewolf who hadn’t taken his potion, than in catching a convicted murderer. He enters the Shrieking Shack wearing Harry’s Invisibility Cloak – Harry had left it at the foot of the Whomping Willow. It seems unrealistic to assume that he opens the door to the upstairs bedroom the moment he arrives at it. If he had listened for even a minute before opening the door, he would have heard Lupin, Black, Harry, Ron and Hermione discussing the possibility that Rons rat, Scabbers, was the real traitor, Peter Pettigrew, who was presumed dead. Then, after standing under the cloak with the door open for a while, here is how Snape reveals himself:
Hermione screamed. Black leapt to his feet. Harry felt as though hed received a huge electric shock.“I found this at the base of the Whomping Willow,” said Snape, throwing the cloak aside, careful to keep his wand pointing directly at Lupin’s chest. “Very useful, Potter, I thank you…”
Snape was slightly breathless, but his face was full of suppressed triumph.
“You’re wondering, perhaps, how I knew you were here?” he said his eyes glittering, ”I’ve just been to your office, Lupin. You forgot to take your potion tonight, so I took a gobletfull along. And very lucky I did… lucky for me, I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight.”
”Severus -“ Lupin began, but Snape overrode him.
“I’ve told the Headmaster again and again that you’re helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here’s the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as your hideout -“
“Severus, youre making a mistake,” said Lupin urgently. ”You haven’t heard everything – I can explain – Sirius is not here to kill Harry -”
”Two more for Azkaban tonight,” said Snape, his eyes now gleaming fanatically. “I shall be interested to see how Dumbledore takes this… He was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin… a tame werewolf -”
“You fool,” said Lupin softly. “Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?”
BANG! Thin, snakelike chords burst from the end of Snape’s wand and twisted themselves around Lupin’s mouth, wrists and ankles; he overbalanced and fell to the floor, unable to move. With a roar of rage, Black started toward Snape, but Snape pointed his wand straight between Black’s eyes.
“Give me a reason,” he whispered, ”Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will.”
Notice that Snape immediately points his wand at, and quickly binds and gags, not the convicted mass murderer, but Lupin. In fact, he doesn’t even go on then – having immobilized the werewolf to tie Black up, as well, but merely warns him. He won’t even allow Hermione to speak reasonably. We see his rage quickly escalate:
”KEEP QUIET, YOU STUPID GIRL!” Snape shouted, looking suddenly quite deranged. ”DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” A few sparks shot out of the end of his wand, which was still pointed at Black’s face. Hermione fell silent.“Vengeance is very sweet,” Snape breathed at Black. “How I hoped I would be the one to catch you…”
“The joke’s on you again, Severus,” Black snarled. “As long as this boy brings his rat up to the castle” – he jerked his head at Ron – “I’ll come quietly…”
“Up to the castle?” said Snape silkily. ”I don’t think we need to go that far. All I have to do is call the dementors once we get out of the Willow. They’ll be very pleased to see you, Black… pleased enough to give you a little kiss, I dare say…”
What little color there was in Black’s face left it.
“You – you’ve got to hear me out, he croaked. ”The rat – look at the rat -”
But there was a mad glint in Snape’s eyes that Harry had never seen before. He seemed beyond reason.
”Come on, all of you,” he said. He clicked his fingers, and the ends of the cords that bound Lupin flew to his hands. ”I’ll drag the werewolf. Perhaps, the dementors will have a kiss for him too -”
Then Harry, Ron and Hermione all disarm him at the same time, knocking him out. Two things give Snape away here. His comment in the first passage, ”Two more for Azkaban tonight,” indicates that his initial plan did not include allowing the dementors to perform the kiss without first taking his prisoners back to the castle. After Lupin transforms, Harry’s Patronus drives the dementors back to the gates. Then when Snape comes around, he takes Harry, Ron, Hermione and Black back to the castle on stretchers. If Snape had been serious when he threatened to call the dementors once they got out of the Willow, he could have done it then, and just taken Harry, Ron and Hermione up to school. If he wanted Black dead, he had a perfect alibi: he was unconscious and there were at least a hundred dementors. Everyone would have been thankful that they only got Black.
The second thing is Rowling’s subtle description, “He seemed beyond reason.” Seemed beyond reason? As a double agent, knowing that Pettigrew was the real traitor would have been a lot harder to explain to Voldemort than being unconscious.
There is actually more substantial information suggesting that Snape is trying to get knocked out. It involves what Snape does not do. Earlier in the Shrieking Shack, Black disarms Harry and Hermione:
”Expelliarmus!” he croaked, pointing Rons wand at them.Harry’s and Hermione’s wands shot out of their hands, high in the air, and Black caught them.
Then, Lupin disarms Harry and Hermione when he comes in:
“Expelliarmus!” Lupin shouted.Harry’s wand flew once more out of his hand; so did the two Hermione was holding.
Snape, however, who couldn’t wait to disarm Lockhart at the Dueling club in CoS, allows Harry, Ron and Hermione to keep their wands. He doesn’t even disarm Lupin before he ties him up. Then he can’t block the spells of three third-years? Three years later when an older, more experienced Harry tries to curse Snape after Snape murders Dumbledore, Snape blocks even Harry’s nonverbal spells.
Allowing Harry, Ron and Hermione to keep thier wands, and then escalating his behavior to such an unreasonable level seems calculated to me. He doesn’t let Lupin or Black tell him about Pettigrew because he already suspects that they are right, because he was listening at the door for a while before opening it. He can’t be known to have acquired that information – especially by Wormtail himself. His out-of-control behavior continues in the hospital wing. He has a full-blown hissy fit in front of the Minister of Magic, discrediting Harry and Hermione’s story that Ron’s rat is the traitor and accusing Harry of helping Black escape.
For you Snape bashers, I would like to play devil’s advocate for a moment. We might ask why Snape doesn’t bring the potion along with him. I’m sure he ran down to the Willow as quickly as possible. If it had been me, the potion would have spilled all over the place, but surely he could have conjured a lid. I don’t have an answer for you, but it’s not enough of a slip to make me distrust him.
Is Harry Really Harry?
Perhaps the most important and revealing of the occasions when Snape is likely to have read Harry’s mind is in GoF. Look at the situation from Snape’s point of view. His Dark Mark has been growing clearer all year. Dumbledore trusts Snape, so let’s assume that that trust extends to sharing his concerns. At the end of the preceding year, Harry tells Dumbledore about Professor Trelawney’s prediction that the servant of Lord Voldemort is going to set out that very night to return to his master, and Voldemort will come back stronger than ever. That night, Wormtail AKA Peter Pettigrew/Scabbers escapes after he is revealed to be the one who betrayed the Potters’ whereabouts to Voldemort.
Dumbledore may not have told Snape about the prophecy, but probably does tell him – if he doesn’t really know it anyway – that Pettigrew is the real traitor and has escaped. Sirius, who has been writing to Dumbledore, has told him about the letter he received from Harry before the start of term about his scar hurting. A Ministry of Magic employee has gone missing. Dumbledore reads the Muggle papers and learns that the Riddle’s old gardener, Frank Bryce, is missing. Dumbledore tells Harry later that there were mysterious disappearances when Voldemort rose to power the first time. There is a Death Eater problem at the Quidditch Cup that summer and then someone casts the Dark Mark into the sky – an act which seems unrelated to the group of Death Eaters causing all the trouble, because they scatter when they see it.
Dumbledore must be on high alert anyway, but we have to add in the fact that people from two other schools have come to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament, and the Headmaster of one school is a former Death Eater. So, he invites Mad-Eye Moody out of retirement to teach DADA.
Then Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire. There are several logical possibilities – remember, Snape is a logical man, as we witnessed with his protection for the Sorcerer’s Stone. Dumbledore could have made a mistake with the age line as Madam Maxime suggests. Harry could have got an older student to enter his name, but Dumbledore believes him when he says he didn’t.
Another possibility – one which may not occur to Snape until he starts noticing potion ingredients missing from his office– is that Harry might not be Harry. I’m assuming of course that Dumbledore’s age line is at least as intelligent as the Marauders Map which is not fooled by Polyjuice Potion. On the night his office is broken into, Snape correctly discerns from the egg-clue and the Marauder’s Map that Harry is wandering around the castle in his Invisibility Cloak. It may then have occurred to him that the real Harry may already be in serious trouble. Remember, neither Dumbledore nor Snape knows what Voldemort’s plan is. Kidnapping the real Harry and getting someone else to impersonate him would give Voldemort lots of time to do who knows what to the real Harry. An impostor might just enter the tournament thinking it would be the kind of thing Harry would do. An older person impersonating Harry would have been able to enter himself into the tournament. An impostor would not have to lie when Dumbledore asks if he put his own name in the Goblet. Also, an older person would not need to lie when Dumbledore asks him if he got an older student to do it for him.
After Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, Ron and Harry are obviously fighting and don’t even sit together anymore in Potions class. This too is highly unusual. Certainly, in such a case we can’t blame Snape for staging an opportunity for the two of them to be in close proximity. This opportunity is created around the Witch Weekly article about the supposed love triangle between Harry, Hermione and Krum:
Furious, Harry threw his ingredients and his bag into his cauldron and dragged it up to the front of the dungeon to the empty table. Snape followed, sat down at his desk and watched Harry unload his cauldron. Determined not to look at Snape, Harry resumed the mashing of his scarab beetles, imagining each one to have Snape’s face.“All this press attention seems to have inflated your already overlarge head, Potter,” said Snape quietly, once the rest of the class had settled down again.
Harry didn’t answer. He knew Snape was trying to provoke him; he had done this before. No doubt he was hoping for an excuse to take a round fifty points from Gryffindor before the end of the class.
“You might be laboring under the delusion that the entire wizarding world is impressed with you,” Snape went on, so quietly that no one else could hear him (Harry continued to pound his scarab beetles, even though he had already reduced them to a very fine powder), “but I don’t care how many times your picture appears in the papers. To me, Potter, you are nothing but a nasty little boy who considers rules to be beneath him.”
Harry tipped the powdered beetles into his cauldron and started cutting up his ginger roots. His hands were shaking slightly out of anger, but he kept his eyes down, as though he couldnt hear what Snape was saying to him.
“So, I give you fair warning, Potter,” Snape continued in a softer and more dangerous voice, ”pint-sized celebrity or not – if I catch you breaking into my office one more time -”
“I haven’t been anywhere near your office!” said Harry angrily, forgetting his feigned deafness.
“Don’t lie to me,” Snape hissed, his fathomless black eyes boring into Harry’s. “Boomslang skin. Gillyweed. Both come from my private stores, and I know who stole them.”
Harry stared back at Snape, determined not to blink or to look guilty. In truth, he hadn’t stolen either of these things from Snape. Hermione had taken the boomslang skin back in their second year – they had needed it for the Polyjuice Potion – and while Snape had suspected Harry at the time, he had never been able to prove it. Dobby, of course, had stolen the gillyweed.
”I don’t know what youre talking about,” Harry lied coldly.
“You were out of bed on the night my office was broken into!” Snape hissed. “I know it, Potter! Now, Mad-Eye Moody might have joined your fan club, but I will not tolerate your behavior! One more nighttime stroll into my office, Potter, and you will pay!”
“Right,” said Harry coolly, turning back to his ginger roots. ”I’ll bear that in mind if I ever get the urge to go in there.”
Snape’s eyes flashed. He plunged a hand into the inside of his black robes. For one wild moment, Harry thought Snape was about to pull out his wand and curse him – then he saw that Snape had drawn out a small crystal bottle of a completely clear potion. Harry stared at it.
”Do you know what this is, Potter?” Snape said, his eyes glittering dangerously again.
”No,” said Harry, with complete honesty this time.
”It is Veritaserum – a Truth Potion so powerful that three drops would have you spilling your innermost secrets for this entire class to hear,” said Snape viciously.”Now, the use of this potion is controlled by very strict Ministry guidelines. But unless you watch your step, you might just find that my hand slips –” he shook the crystal bottle slightly – “right over your evening pumpkin juice. And then, Potter… then we’ll find out whether you’ve been in my office or not.”
Harry said nothing. He turned back to his ginger roots once more, picked up his knife, and started slicing them again. He didn’t like the sound of that Truth Potion at all, nor would he put it past Snape to slip him some. He repressed a shudder at the thought of what might come spilling out of his mouth if Snape did it… quite apart from landing a whole lot of people in trouble – Hermione and Dobby for a start – there were all the other things he was concealing… like the fact that he was in contact with Sirius… and – his insides squirmed at the thought – how he felt about Cho… He tipped his ginger roots into the cauldron too, and wondered whether he ought to take a leaf out of Moody’s book and start drinking only from a private hip flask.
Harry is already furious. When Snape starts talking to him, after making him sit right in front of him, Harry keeps his eyes down and pretends not to be listening. As usual, the things Snape says are designed to get a rise out of him. The point of needling him is to make his mind more susceptible to Legilimency and to make him look up. Harry finally can’t take it anymore and looks up at Snape to deny being in his office. Snape continues with his accusations and we see the thoughts that are going on in Harry’s mind.
The time that Snape is most likely to have been successful at Legilimency is when Harry is trying not to blink. Snape learns that Harry is not even thinking about the current year, but about his responsibility in the theft of potion ingredients when they wanted to make Polyjuice Potion so they could spy on Draco Malfoy, who they thought was the heir of Slytherin. He also finds out that it was Dobby who had stolen the gillyweed. As a result of his foray into Harrys mind, Snape and Dumbledore now know that Harry is really Harry. Also, they would be sure – given the missing potion ingredients – that someone else at Hogwarts was impersonating someone and must have Confunded the Goblet of Fire as Moody suggests.
You might ask why Snape continues to bully Harry and threaten him with Veritaserum after acquiring this knowledge. He can’t very well tell Harry, ”Oh, it really is you.” He just plays out the scene as though he doesn’t believe him.
The other scene in GoF which could present an opportunity for Legilimency is in the hall beneath Dumbledore’s office when Harry in a panic comes to tell Dumbledore that Mr. Crouch has shown up in the forest. At first glance, this is one of those scenes which would seem to give the Snape bashers credibility. After all, Snape won’t let Harry go up to see Dumbledore. It could be argued that this stalling gets Mr. Crouch killed.
Admittedly, it took me a long time to reconcile this scene. My belief is that Snape knows that Dumbledore is on his way down anyway. He could have also known that you can hear things from Dumbledore’s office. After learning about the prophecy, Harry hears students on their way to breakfast:
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Somewhere far beyond the office walls, Harry could hear the sound of voices, students heading down to the Great Hall for an early breakfast, perhaps.
Arrogance & Other Questions
For those of you who think that Snape does qualify as a supremely arrogant person, you may have some grounds for this in a subtle comment Rowling makes during Harry’s first Occlumency lesson:
“Do not say the Dark Lord’s name!” spat Snape.There was a nasty silence. They glared at each other across the Pensieve.
“Professor Dumbledore says his name,” said Harry quietly.
”Dumbledore is an extremely powerful wizard,” Snape muttered. ”While he may feel secure enough to use the name… the rest of us…” He rubbed his left forearm, apparently unconsciously, on the spot where Harry knew the Dark Mark was burned into his skin.
Apparently unconsciously? Is this just Rowling sowing the seeds of doubt to keep the Severus Snape controversy alive, or is it part of the act? Perhaps, Snape wants Harry to think he fears the Dark Lord more than he does. Pretending to be afraid is a way of deflecting suspicion away from oneself; it’s the same sort of behavior Quirrell engages in when he stutters. This could tie in nicely with the idea of a Snape who is playing Voldemort and Dumbledore off each other and who plans to emerge stronger than either. Personally though, I think Rowling’s use of ’apparently’ is designed to fuel the controversy.
There is also another reference to Snape grabbing his left arm on the night when Harry – under his Invisibility Cloak and trapped in the trick step — witnesses this conversation between Snape and the fake Moody:
”Dumbledore happens to trust me,” said Snape through clenched teeth.” I refuse to believe that he gave you orders to search my office!”
“‘Course Dumbledore trusts you,” growled Moody. “He’s a trusting man, isn’t he? Believes in second chances. But me – I say there are spots that don’t come off, Snape. Spots that never come off, d’you know what I mean?
Snape suddenly did something very strange. He seized his left forearm convulsively with his right hand, as though something on it had hurt him.
Moody laughed. “Get back to bed, Snape.”
“You don’t have the authority to send me anywhere!” Snape hissed, letting go of his arm as though angry with himself. ”I have as much right to prowl this school after dark as you do!”
This conversation is a real tangle. We have two Death Eaters – at least one of whom is still loyal to Voldemort – talking to each other. Neither of them really knows where the other stands. Snape obviously doesn’t know that Moody is really Barty Crouch Jr. It must have been spooky to Snape, under any circumstances, to hear Moody mention spots that never come off, just when Snape is noticing his Dark Mark getting clearer. The Ministry, after all, as evidenced by Fudge’s reaction — when Snape shows him his Dark Mark later that year — as well as the arrests of Sirius and Stan Shunpike, doesn’t seem to know about Voldemort’s special brand which all of his Death Eaters have burned into their skin.
Crouch hates Snape because Snape was free to search for Voldemort but didn’t. Nonetheless, whether Snape is lying to Dumbledore or not is something Crouch can’t be any clearer about than the rest of us.
My gut reaction is that on this particular occasion, Snape is truly intimidated. The real Moody, as we see in the Pensieve, isn’t very forgiving of former Death Eaters, and he is willing to say so to Dumbledore. Though he doesn’t speak out when Dumbledore stands up for Snape after Karkaroff accuses him of being a Death Eater, his look reinforces the perspective that he doesn’t trust Snape:
“Severus Snape was indeed a Death Eater. However, he rejoined our side before Lord Voldemorts downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk. He is now no more a Death Eater than I am.”
Harry turned to look at Mad-Eye Moody. He was wearing a look of deep skepticism behind Dumbledore’s back.
Although Snape stands up to the fake Moody, it is definitely from a defensive posture. I doubt that he went running to Dumbledore to confirm whether or not he’d given Moody permission to search his office. Perhaps if he had, they would have been suspicious of Moody earlier.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I feel bound to address the issue of Snape’s knowledge of Barty Crouch Jr.’s affiliation with Voldemort. Dumbledore tells Harry after his first trip into the Pensieve that he does not know whether Barty Crouch Jr. ever was a Death Eater. Obviously, if Snape knew and failed to communicate this information to Dumbledore, one could argue that at the very least, Snape has not been entirely candid with Dumbledore. Building on my conclusions in “Severus Snape: A Portrait in Subtlety” (posted on MuggleNet, 3/3/07) that the evidence supports the theory that Snape is definitely not Voldemort’s man, this information would support the idea that he is only out for himself.
Crouch was younger than Snape and the Marauders; he was probably a few years behind them at school. When Snape returns to Moody’s office with Winky at his heels, he seems shocked to see that the impostor was the young Crouch. Nonetheless, we don’t have enough information to determine what his shock was based upon. No doubt, he was surprised that Crouch was actually still alive, but he may also have been surprised that Crouch had been a Death Eater. We know that Voldemort did not identify all of his followers to one another by Karkaroff’s comments in the Pensieve at his trial:
“You must understand,” said Karkaroff hurriedly, ”that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named operated always in the greatest secrecy…”
” – we never knew the names of every one of our fellows – He alone knew exactly who we all were -”
For not entirely prejudicial reasons, I am going with the theory that Snape never knew Crouch was a Death Eater. Barty Crouch Jr., whose father was expected to be the next Minister of Magic, would have been the crown jewel in Voldemort’s entourage, even more than Narcissa and Bellatrix who obviously come from a wealthy family. Snape, if Spinner’s End is his family’s house, would come from a less desirable social background, and Voldemort may have kept them separate, if only to cut down on the possibility that some jealousy or other could sabotage his organization.
Before leaving GoF, let’s not forget that Snape not only tells Dumbledore about his and Karkaroff’s Dark Marks growing clearer, he also shows his Dark Mark to the Minister of Magic. Notice Rowling’s description of Snape as he leaves the hospital wing to rejoin Voldemort:
”Severus,” said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, ”you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready… if you are prepared…”
“I am,” said Snape.
He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely.
“Then good luck,” said Dumbledore, and he watched, with a trace of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius.
The paler look does not sound like a guy who’s looking forward to seeing his master again. My guess is that Avery and Harry aren’t the only people on whom Voldemort uses the Cruciatus Curse that night.
Puzzles & Perplexities
Snape’s behind-the-scenes role becomes more front and center in OotP. Now that Voldemort is back, he resumes the role of a double agent, which is what both Dumbledore and Voldemort think he is. Since we have already addressed many of the important Snape moments in OotP and HBP in “Severus Snape: A Portrait in Subtlety,” I will restrict myself to a few additional thoughts.
Snape, who as we have seen has been doing Legilimency on Harry for years, ups the gain considerably when he teaches him Occlumency. If he is not loyal to Dumbledore, this experience gives him far greater insight into Harry than he may have already possessed. This could give Snape valuable tools to use against him.
Before leaving the subject of Snape’s role in Dumbledore’s plan while Dumbledore is still alive, there are four passages — well, three passages and one thing that hasn’t happened, or has it? — which seem to me to be significant. Lets start with two quotes. Both seem to indicate that the Snape/Harry conflict is irresolvable. How sad to have both of them in their Occlumency lessons see so deeply into each others minds, see that the other has suffered the same humiliations they have, and yet never come to a reconciliation. Paradoxically, it is the absoluteness of these quotes, which are so far from the end of the series, that gives me hope.
First we have Dumbledore’s comments to Harry about Snape, on the night Sirius dies:
“Snape made it worse, my scar always hurt worse after lessons with him - ” Harry remembered Ron’s thoughts on the subject and plunged on. ”How do you know he wasn’t trying to soften me up for Voldemort, make it easier for him to get inside my –“
“I trust Severus Snape,” said Dumbledore simply. “But I forgot – another old man’s mistake – that some wounds run too deep for the healing. I thought Professor Snape could overcome his feelings about your father – I was wrong.”
As we have seen, Snape has had a few bad years. The disagreements with Dumbledore about Lupin and withholding information from Harry, the many reminders of unpleasant childhood memories, the reappearance, in his life, of Sirius (who tried to get him killed), and Karkaroff (who ratted him out to the Ministry), the return of Voldemort, the loss of Draco’s respect, and the necessity of killing Dumbledore to ensure the furtherance of the plan to vanquish Voldemort are all weighing on Severus Snape. Does the existence of these old, unhealable wounds turn him into the Machiavellian ideal? The finality of Dumbledore’s comments makes me think that Rowling has not given us her last word on this. The second quote comes when Snape and Harry are walking up to the castle, after Harry arrives late to school:
He had loathed Snape from their first encounter, but Snape had placed himself forever and irrevocably beyond the possibility of Harry’s forgiveness by his attitude toward Sirius. Whatever Dumbledore said, Harry had had time to think over the summer, and had concluded that Snape’s snide remarks to Sirius about remaining safely hidden while the rest of the Order of the Phoenix were off fighting Voldemort had probably been a powerful factor in Sirius rushing off to the Ministry the night that he had died. Harry clung to this notion, because it enabled him to blame Snape, which felt satisfying, and also because he knew that if anyone was not sorry that Sirius was dead, it was the man now striding next to him in the darkness.
I disagree with Harry here. I think Sirius would have come to Harry’s aid under any circumstances. For a person so full of love as Harry, to harbor such hatred – and bear in mind that this is long before Snape kills Dumbledore – doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that can remain unresolved.
Thirdly, why in all of these years, hasn’t Snape tried to extract the real memory of Professor Trelawney’s prediction from her like Voldemort does with Bertha Jorkins? Prior to Voldemort’s return, this makes sense since Snape would not want to risk damaging her irreparably and getting caught by Dumbledore. Once Dumbledore’s murder is in the works, however, why not give it a go? Here’s a possibility that will make you Snape-bashers happy. If I am right that Dumbledore – after sending Harry back to Gryffindor Tower for his Invisibility Cloak before going to the cave — tells Snape about Harry’s theory that Draco has finished working on whatever he is repairing, Snape has a great opportunity to do it. You could say that, knowing the full prophecy is the reason he stops the Death Eaters from torturing Harry.
Lastly, I want to point out something about the punishment Snape gives Harry, after Harry uses the potentially lethal Sectumsempra spell on Draco. Remember that my conclusion about Snape from the earlier essay is that the evidence only supports the idea that he is definitely not Voldemort’s man and that he has, so far, acted as though he is loyal to Dumbledore. That leaves open two logical possibilities; that he is loyal to Dumbledore or that he is only out for himself.
Snape’s reaction to Harry’s use of the Sectumsempra spell, however, gives me reason for hope. Not only is it odd that the matter of expulsion — almost a mantra with Snape throughout the series — never comes up, but Snape’s punishment betrays yet another little lie. For years, Snape has insisted that Harry is arrogant like his father. In detention, Snape makes Harry go through the records of other Hogwarts wrong-doers, giving him the section containing information about the things his father and Sirius did when they were at school. Snape clearly feels – and he is correct – that reading these misdeeds will be uncomfortable for Harry. But, why should they be? Wouldn’t a truly arrogant kid find it amusing? Obviously, Snape doesn’t think Harry is as bad a person as he lets on.
OK! OK! I hear you screaming that knowing that Harry is a good kid does not preclude Snape only being out for himself. You’re right, of course. It’s not proof, just reason for hope.
Next time, we will look at the evidence we have about the Horcruxes, and I will speculate a bit about why I believe that Harry does not have as much to do as he thinks.