The Burrow: It’s a Matter of Trust
An original editorial by Nicoletta
Question by Ali: Why, specifically, does Dumbledore trust Snape?
Answer from JKR: …I shall merely say that Snape has given Dumbledore his story and Dumbledore believes it.
A question that has been burning in Snape-lovers and Snape-haters alike: why does Dumbledore trust Snape? We can’t give an answer; at least, we can’t give an exact answer. One can always speculate.
The best place to start is, of course, Snape’s past. From Harry’s experience in Occlumency and from the Pensieve, we know quite a bit about Snape. We know his past was not the happiest, he had his fair share of enemies, and he was quite lonely. Snape was an angry teen and, most likely, for many reasons.
If his childhood did reflect his decision to become a Deatheater, a sample piece of evidence is:
‘… a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in the corner.’ (pg. 592 of OotP, US version)
That excerpt was when Harry had an Occlumency lesson with Snape and somehow broke into his thoughts. This evidence suggests that Snape had an abusive father. Maybe the abuse was mainly directed to his mother, however, Snape could have received some of it as well. From this, inner turmoil and all that good stuff could have been born and maybe Snape became a Death Eater to escape his pain.
But, let’s get back on topic. Why does Dumbledore trust Snape? Well, after Snape had been a Death Eater, something must have happened; something so horrific or life-altering that Snape would seek Dumbledore’s aid.
There are quite a few points in the books where Snape has said that Dumbledore trusts him. And the way he says it, for example, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, pg. 472: ‘ “Dumbledore happens to trust me,” said Snape through clenched teeth…’ Let me remind you he’s talking to ‘Moody’. He says it through clenched teeth, almost like the fact that Moody doesn’t trust him and Dumbledore does is just… well, it makes him angry. Dumbledore’s trust means a great deal to Snape, and this is clear. If Snape’s intentions were insincere, I doubt that someone basically insulting Dumbledore’s judgment of himself would irk him in any way.
We also can conclude that Snape began teaching at Hogwarts when Harry was one year old (pg. OotP, US version.) However, pre or post Voldemort’s killing spree on the Potters is uncertain. Perhaps this has something to do with why Dumbledore trusts Snape. If Snape had come to Dumbledore before the incident, to warn him, Dumbledore might have trusted Snape for the information he gave. Dumbledore would definitely be more inclined to trust Snape.
But what If he came to Dumbledore after Voldemort killed the Potter’s? Chances are, because Snape was a Death Eater, he already knew about this and he knew why Voldemort had to kill them. So I think it is safe to assume Snape went to Dumbledore before the Potters were murdered. Remember how Snape always feels so obligated to James. My thinking is: Snape went to Dumbledore before Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. It would make so much more sense.
Summary: Something happened in Snape’s life to make him want to escape his grief and join the ranks of a Death Eater. When Harry was a tot, Snape found out that Voldemort was going to kill the Potters and about the prophecy. So, Snape went and told Dumbledore, gaining his trust and with it, a burden. Dumbledore trusts Snape because of Snape’s honest turnabout. JKR has also said herself that she doesn’t believe anyone was born evil, so there is some good in Snape, as we should well know by now.
So there’s a brief theory on why Dumbledore trusts Snape. However, we’ll never know how it really went down until Mrs. Rowling tells us herself. (Which hopefully is SOON!)