The Phoenix Files: Folder #10: Severus Snape (Part Two)

By Christopher Stephen

Hello again, everyone, and welcome back to the File of Severus Snape. Part Two will discuss the ultimate disposition of the Potions master. Whose side is he really on? We shall save the small talk for later, and get right down to business.

As usual in The Phoenix Files, I wish to approach this topic chronologically. Snape is a very difficult character to analyze because we see nearly everything in the books from Harry’s point of view, and he loathes Snape. As a result, numerous Snape fan clubs have sprung up among the HP fan ranks. JKR has cautioned us, however, to not “feel too sorry” for Snape. Here we go:

Book One

Snape is immediately given a negative connotation, as the Trio suspects him as the one attempting to steal the Stone throughout the book. At the end of the book (“The Man with Two Faces”), Quirrel states that Snape suspected him from the start. To me, this seems extremely suspicious. How could Snape not have told Dumbledore?

I believe Dumbledore did not know that Quirrel was after the Stone because if he had known, I do not believe he would have ever left for London. Perhaps I am wrong, but Dumbledore doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of person who would make that mistake. As such, I have come to the conclusion that either Dumbledore was never told of Snape’s suspicions or that he didn’t entirely believe him (or have enough evidence to be worried).

Let’s look at this first possibility (which I feel is most likely). I don’t think Snape ever told Dumbledore of his suspicions with Quirrel during Book One. If he had, Dumbledore would have kept a much closer watch on Quirrel during that year and not run off to the Ministry of Magic.

But, if you will all recall, Dumbledore did have suspicions. He attended Harry’s Quidditch match against Slytherin (which Snape was reffing). This tells me a couple of things: first, Snape probably had to get permission to referee, so Dumbledore must have still trusted him after the incident in the previous match; and second, Dumbledore suspected that someone might attempt to harm Harry again, so he felt he needed to personally be in attendance. We assume he wasn’t there in the previous match, but Dumbledore does attend Quidditch in Book Three, where he slows down Harry’s fall from the dementors–but perhaps that was only because of the Azkaban guards. Or, perhaps he was simply there to make sure Snape didn’t try to pull anything by offering to referee. Maybe he even suspected Snape, but this is unlikely, since he “trusts” Severus.

The second possibility is that Snape did tell Dumbledore of his Quirrel suspicions, but that Dumbledore either didn’t believe him or didn’t have evidence that Quirrel was trying to harm Harry or to steal the Stone. I think Dumbledore still trusts Snape, so I’m going to tentatively rule this possibility out (but it is still a possibility).

So, I’m going to risk my neck here and go out on a limb with two degrees of separation. Let’s assume Snape never told Dumbledore of his suspicions. Why not? If he is working for the Order, why wouldn’t he tell Dumbledore? I can offer at least one explanation. If Snape somehow found out (Legilimency, for instance) that Quirrel was working for Voldemort and he is indeed working as a spying double- (or triple-) agent as he states in Book Five, then Voldemort would believe Snape was still on his side. Perhaps he revealed himself to Snape?

Let’s go back for a moment to that memorable scene (in the Dark Forest in the book, but in a hallway in the movie version) where Snape threatens Quirrel. The movie has Snape saying, “We’ll have another little chat soon, when you’ve had time to decide where your loyalties lie.” What if our first assumption was correct (and Snape was speaking of Quirrel’s loyalty to Voldemort)? After finding out Snape tries to save Harry’s life, we figure Snape is threatening him to keep loyal to Dumbledore, but if Snape thought Voldemort would somehow find out about the conversation (as he would have, since he’s actually possessing Quirrel), then maybe Snape is speaking of Quirrel’s loyalty to Voldemort! If he wasn’t, how could Voldemort trust him again? Snape would lose his job spying on Death Eaters by posing as a loyal one.

The thing that really irks me about Snape’s actions in Book One is that he was saving Harry’s life by muttering a counter-curse (which is great), but then apparently doesn’t know that Quirrel was the one attempting to curse Harry. Wouldn’t you figure out (after the ruckus caused in that box by Hermione’s fire charm) that it was someone sitting very near you?

Quirrel’s restraint is a bit more easy to explain: Dumbledore would not just allow business to go on as usual if Snape was attacked in some way. Anyway, this Book One thing has still got me going in circles, so allow me to move on.

Books Two and Three do not help us much; we simply see Snape looking sinister but always doing Dumbledore’s bidding (seemingly on the “good” side) while doing his best to frustrate Harry every chance he gets.

Book Four

Ahhh, the paradox. So there is a ton of information on Snape and his loyalty in Book Four. I am very curious as to how often Legilimency and Occlumency are used in the wizarding world. It is described in Book Five as an “obscure branch of magic.” Yet we know that Snape is a skilled Legilimens (and, as he shows us in Book Five in his lessons with Harry, not a bad Occlumens, either). I wonder if he was suspicious of fake Moody (aka Barty Crouch, Jr.) because of Legilimency. Moody’s Foe-Glass would support this theory (because Snape appears in it); why would he appear in a (supposedly) loyal servant’s Foe-Glass? Wouldn’t Voldemort be informed of this?

Re-reading the scene in “The Egg and the Eye” is interesting to me. Try re-reading it believing Snape works for Voldemort, then try re-reading it believing Snape works for Dumbledore but knows the Moody character is not a Dumbledore-supporter as he claims. The real Mad-Eye would know that Dumbledore trusts Snape, but he apparently wasn’t too thrilled he got off. Does the fake Moody go one step further in his “spots that don’t come off” comment?

Yes, that’s one paradox down, but there is one more in Book Four to go! Voldemort references the three Death Eaters who are missing in the circle: one who is his “faithful servant,” a “coward,” and one who has “left” his ranks “forever.” It is assumed by many (including me) that Voldemort is speaking of Karkaroff, Crouch Jr., and Snape. Crouch is the “faithful servant,” Karkaroff the “coward,” and Snape the traitor, yet Snape survives Book Five (we don’t hear from Karkaroff…was he killed?). Is it possible the “faithful servant” is not Crouch but Snape? Does Snape still have Voldemort fooled? He would have had to fool Quirrel and Fake Moody (not to mention Wormtail in Book Three). Somehow, I don’t think so. But I also believe Voldemort is powerful enough throughout Book Five to have found and killed Snape if he wanted to. So was Snape instead the “coward”? Much to think about…

Book Five

Book Five informs us that Snape is doing at least some work for the Order (supposedly spying on Death Eaters). Then, Snape is Harry’s last hope in Umbridge’s office, so he tells him about Sirius (in code). Snape then goes and informs Dumbledore, but does he hesitate? Does he make sure that the Death Eaters have enough time to deal with Harry before telling Dumbledore? If he did, that would keep him on the good side of the Dark side (hehe).

Basically, this whole Snape issue is super complicated. Obviously, Snape’s loyalty is one of the main issues in the series. Jo has not kept Snape so mysterious for so long without reason. He is a precarious character – living on the edge for both sides. For once, I am going to stand by Dumbledore’s word because he’s only been wrong a couple of times: I say that Snape is on “our” (Harry’s) side but is continuing to attempt to appease Voldemort and his Death Eaters so he can continue to spy on them. That is why he has had so much suspicious activity in the series. Jo and/or Book Six could prove me wrong (again), but I know Jo writes her characters to be extremely real. Snape seems to me to be that ball hog nobody likes on the basketball team or that annoying co-worker you’re stuck with for a year-long project. He is a nuisance that many people feel they’d be better without, but who, in the end, is still on your team, no matter how much you wish sometimes he weren’t. And he could prove the group’s most valuable resource.

Okay, so I still need to speak about the last portion of Snape’s File. First, the riddle answer should be posted, and the second riddle and answer will be posted after I have a final winner. Second, many have e-mailed me quoting JKR in a chat where she states she doesn’t “think” that there is a link between Snape and vampires. I wrote the last portion due to tons of popular demand from my readers, so even though it may have been “futile” as some have suggested, I still wanted to write it. I want to apologize, however; I should have stated this quote from Jo in the File. Ladies and gentlemen, I realize my Files are far from perfect, but this has been an excellent learning experience for me thus far and has given me an increased appreciation for journalists–meeting strict deadlines (especially every day or few days) while researching and remembering tons of information is quite difficult.

Keep your eyes open for Riddle #2, Luna Lovegood’s File, and Part Three of Snape’s File, where we will discuss his magical abilities (Potions, DADA, and Legilimecy/Occlumency) and the possible advantages they present to Harry and the “good” side.

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at christopherstephened at hotmail dot com. Hate mail? E-mail me using the Feedback form for “Hate Mail.” Thanks for reading TPF!