Dumbledore’s Biggest Mistake?

by Brooke Opie

In this editorial I am going to analyze two sections of HBP to judge Snape’s loyalty. In the first section of the editorial, I will attempt to prove that Snape is loyal to Dumbledore even against all the evidence that he isn’t, the most obvious being Dumbledore’s murder. In the second section, I will ask some very uncomfortable questions that hurt my own theory.

Part 1: Loyal to Dumbledore

The Tower: Draco’s Choice

Let us say, firstly, that Snape has told Dumbledore about Draco’s task and about the Unbreakable Vow that Snape made to Narcissa. He knows that if Draco does not kill him that Snape must do it or die. Dumbledore does not want Draco to become a killer. Dumbledore looks for the good in everyone. Yes, we all know Draco is a nasty, little puss-head, to put it nicely, but Dumbledore knows that there is always hope to turn someone around. Just the fact that Draco fears for the life of his mother proves that he can at least love, something that Voldemort can never do. So Dumbledore offers to put Draco and his mother into hiding during the confrontation on the tower. He is aware that if Draco chooses to accept the offer, Snape must kill Dumbledore in accordance with the vow or die.

Speaking of choices, on a quick side note, I would like to point out that Dumbledore is known to cast spells without a wand. Could not the most powerful wizard of the time then muster all his strength and disarm Draco? I think he could. Even in his weak state, Dumbledore could have taken on a solitary 16-year-old. But Dumbledore didn’t because he knows that it is important for Draco to make the choice on his own. With that said, back to…

The Tower: Snape’s Life vs. Dumbledore’s Life

Now, Dumbledore knew all year that it was Draco who was attempting to kill him on Snape’s information. Dumbledore would have then had ample time to work out some sort of plan. He was ready to make Draco an offer of asylum when the confrontation occurred (for he knew it MUST occur). Did he therefore also make a plan to save Snape’s life by sacrificing his own? Did he feel that it was more important for Snape to continue on than himself?

Consider for a moment that Dumbledore decides that Snape must be the one to die. He no longer would have a spy amongst the Death Eaters, which would be a huge blow to the Order. Of course, it would also be a terrible loss to the Order were Dumbledore to die. What a predicament! Then consider that Dumbledore sacrifices his own life instead. We know that Dumbledore does not fear death…the only reason he would feel the need to remain alive is to serve a purpose; otherwise, why not move on? Did he feel that the Order and Hogwarts could function without him? Had he done all he could to prepare Harry for his inevitable duel with Voldemort? For Harry, he has provided a solid education, information about Voldemort that barely anyone knows, advice, and the prophecy, among other things.

Let’s say that Dumbledore has weighed what he could accomplish by living against what Snape could accomplish by his dying.

  • Snape dead: The Order is now in the dark concerning the Death Eaters and Voldemort’s plans.
  • Dumbledore dead: The Order is now without their very knowledgeable and powerful leader.

So let’s say that Dumbledore decides that Snape must kill him because it is more important to be informed. Dumbledore tells Snape that he must not let Draco become a killer, and that he must not break his vow. As much as the idea of killing his mentor and the only person who has ever trusted him pains Snape, he must carry through. After all, when Snape reaches the tower where Draco is with the Death Eaters, he barely stops to take in the situation. Could not he have just stepped aside and encouraged Draco to carry on with the Dark Lord’s orders? What should he care, if he really wasn’t faithful to Dumbledore’s wishes, if Draco became a murderer? No, he marches straight in, hears Dumbledore pleading, shoves Draco out of the way, and kills Dumbledore. Yes, Dumbledore was pleading, but was he pleading for life, or for death? Snape’s face, from Harry’s point of view, is contorted with rage and hatred. But could it not be anger at the impossible situation of being forced to kill the only person who ever saw the good in him?

Draco and Snape’s Argument: Snape’s Real Intentions

Here I will reference some quotes from the chapter “The Unbreakable Vow” and “A Very Frosty Christmas” to examine them from the point of view that Snape is loyal to Dumbledore.

[Harry] crouched down to the keyhole of the last classroom in the corridor and heard voices.

“…cannot afford mistakes, Draco, because if you are expelled-“
-HBP, pg. 322, American edition

If he is expelled he cannot complete the task set to him and will be killed by Voldemort. This would also result in Snape’s own death and is doubly against Dumbledore’s wishes for Draco and Snape to remain alive.

“…I’ve got a plan and it’s going to work, it’s just taking a bit longer than I thought it would!”

“What is your plan?”

“It’s none of your business!”

“If you tell me what you are trying to do, I can assist you-“

“I’ve got all the assistance I need, thanks…I know what you’re up to! You want to steal my glory!”
-HBP, pp. 323-324, American edition)

Draco thinks that Snape wants to interfere with his plans because Snape wants the glory of helping kill Dumbledore. Instead, Snape wants to know the plan so that he can tip off Dumbledore if necessary.

There was silence for a moment or two, then Ron said, “Course, you know what they’ll all say? Dad and Dumbledore and all of them? They’ll say Snape isn’t really trying to help Malfoy, he was just trying to find out what Malfoy’s up to.”

“They didn’t hear him,” said Harry flatly. “No one’s that good an actor, not even Snape.”

Harry believes that Snape isn’t a good actor? How then could he be an effective spy for anyone? Neither Dumbledore nor Voldemort are people who are easy to fool. One would have to be a very good actor indeed to spy on either person. If Snape can put up an act to fool Voldemort, he can definitely put one up to fool Draco.

Part 2: But Wait Just a Moment!

If Dumbledore had planned for Snape to kill him, wouldn’t he have told someone of this plan? Dumbledore often keeps many things to himself, but would this have not been important information to share with someone else? Certainly if he wished Snape to continue spying for the Order, he would have made sure that the Order had a reason to still trust Snape. Obviously, at the end of Half-Blood Prince, nobody trusts Snape. Will there be something in book 7 that Dumbledore left behind to reveal that Snape committed the murder on his orders? Or have I just punched a huge hole in my own theory?

Secondly, as I was writing this editorial, I zeroed in on this quote from the chapter “The Lightning-Struck Tower”:

“He hasn’t been doing your orders, he promised my mother-“

“Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but-“

“He’s a double agent, you stupid old man, he isn’t working for you, you just think he is!”
-HBP, pg. 588, American edition

When I read Dumbledore’s words, my heart sunk a little, for it can be taken two ways. From the way that Dumbledore replies, it sounds that he did not know about the Unbreakable Vow at all. The only way I can imagine that Dumbledore knew about the vow is if he had finished the sentence with something like: “Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but I also wished for him to watch over you to see that you did not succeed in becoming a murderer and that you did not do others harm.” Because of Draco’s overwhelming rudeness, we will never know what the rest of Dumbledore’s sentence was going to be.

In Conclusion

Why was I so keen to assume that Snape is still on the right side? Am I delusional? No, I know he isn’t a nice person, as J.K. has constantly reminded us in interviews and such. I just want so badly for Snape to redeem himself. He did terrible things in his past, things far worse than being a bad teacher; he told Voldemort of the prophecy, he joined the Death Eaters, and I am sure that he must have killed people as one. But Dumbledore said he came back to the right side to redeem himself. No other character has done this. Snape was an example that one can turn around and do the right thing despite the horrible past one has lived. If Snape was really in league with Voldemort the whole time, as he assured Bellatrix in the second chapter, then Snape can no longer be that example. So, until the seventh and final book proves otherwise, a small part of me will continue to hope (against the logical part that says he deserves to burn for eternity) that Snape is really loyal to the Overall Good, and not to Evil.

You can contact this author at oh_my_pie at yahoo dot com.