The Phoenix Files #13: The Half-Blood Prince

By Christopher Stephen

Okay, so as everyone who is reading this had better know, the Half-Blood Prince was none other than Severus Snape!! I had heard a few people guess this (including one in my Common Room discussion during Spellbound!), but the vast majority of people had ruled out Snape mentally from the picture.

But, of course, that is not all we see of Snape in Book Six. He’s not JUST the Half-Blood Prince. He served four or five major purposes in HBP:

1. Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa (Chapter Two).
2. ASSISTING Dumbledore with ring’s after-effects (Prior to Chapter Three).
3. KILLING Dumbledore (Chapter Twenty-Seven, I think).
4. Saving Draco and escaping Hogwarts without any Death Eaters.
5. Being “found out” by Harry as the spy who told Voldemort about the prophecy.

1. Most of you, I am sure, are aware that I attended the Spellbound! party in Mt. Prospect, IL on Friday. After receiving my copy of HBP just after midnight, I vowed I would read two chapters prior to turning in for the night (I was extremely tired, having driven 400 miles that day and volunteering most of the evening). As we all know, it is in the second chapter that Snape makes the Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa (thanks to Bellatrix). Here, Snape backed himself into a major corner. Narcissa Malfoy, though distressed, was not a stupid woman in this scene. Let us review the three things covered with the Vow: first, Snape was to “watch over” Draco as he attempted to fulfill “the Dark Lord’s wishes.” Second, Snape was “to the best of your ability, protect him from harm.” Snape agrees to these two things without hesitation. However, as Narcissa continues…

“And, should it prove necessary…if it seems Draco will fail…” (Snape’s hand twitched within hers, but he did not draw away), “will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?” (A moment’s silence.) Snape agrees, and Bella, shocked at what she just Bonded, completes the charm.

It is this final portion that obviously becomes extremely important atop the Astronomy Tower.

2. Snape assisted Dumbledore during the summer, when he received the injury (blackened hand) from the ring Horcrux. Dumbledore states in the chapter entitled “Horcruxes”: “Had it not been – forgive me the lack of seemly modesty – for my own prodigious skill, and for Professor Snape’s timely action when I returned to Hogwarts, desperately injured, I might not have lived to tell the tale.” It is extremely clear here that one of three things have occurred. First, Snape may have still been completely loyal to Dumbledore, and assisted him because he wanted to. Second, Snape, as a loyal DE, may have helped Dumbledore just to conserve his place at Hogwarts. Or, thirdly, he could have helped Dumbledore because he wanted to give Draco a chance to kill him. I, personally, believe he was acting due to the first proposition, especially because I do not think the Dark Lord had assigned the task to Draco that early in the summer. (When “Cissy” and “Bella” visit Snape in Chapter Two, he states that Dumbledore had already sustained his injury. Narcissa would’ve probably gone to Snape ASAP for his assurance that he would help Draco, so we can assume Draco was given his task after Dumbledore’s encounter with the ring.)

3. Yes, Dumbledore dies at Snape’s wandtip. I’m sad just thinking about it. Obviously, this is why Jo didn’t want us to “feel too sorry for Snape.” Of course, since then, Emerson has posted his and Melissa’s interview with Jo, where she does not give a definitive answer of Snape’s disposition now (is he really that evil?). More on that to come later. Snape did kill Dumbledore. Why? If Snape was really on Dumbledore’s side, why on earth would he have killed him? Look at this situation from Snape’s point of view. He sprints up the stairs to find three DEs, a werewolf, and Draco all encircling an extremely weak (dying, even) and wandless Dumbledore, who is begging for “Severus.” He is informed that Draco seems unable to complete the task. He didn’t know that Harry was a witness; if he had not been, Snape would have been able to trick the Order and remain a double-agent. Of course Snape kills him! What happens if Snape does NOT kill Dumbledore? The DEs go running back to their master and snitch on spineless Snape, Draco and his family get murdered, and Dumbledore probably dies anyway because Snape couldn’t administer a healing agent in front of them all (if he had, Snape would’ve been killed), and Snape would’ve died because of the third clause of the Unbreakable Vow. Basically Snape had no choice (if he wanted to live, the slimeball) but to kill Dumbledore. The instant’s hesitation would be all it took for him to analyze his situation and steel himself for probably the toughest murder to appear in the series. Dumbledore is an extraordinary wizard, it must have taken more sinew to finish him off than others.

4. So Snape has killed Dumbledore. But recall what happens next: he grabs Draco and practically drags him back through the fray and personally ensures his safety until they are outside the grounds, from whence they (presumably, Snape had told Draco to “run”) Apparate together, alone. This satisfies the first clause of the Vow, so Snape’s life is spared. Had he stopped to fight Harry or other members of the Order and Draco had gotten hurt, he would’ve died, because he had Vowed to keep Draco safe and watch over him while at Hogwarts. Snape does not kill Harry (though he could have, but, as Snape says, Potter is for the Dark Lord). In addition, Snape does not kill any other Order members, even though he could have killed Flitwick as easily as Stun him. It would have been difficult for him to take the time to kill someone else and still see Draco safely outside the school. But that is not the end of this story. He and Draco escape together, alone. Snape could have chosen to do one of many things: he could have sent Draco to his mother, where he would be safe for the time being, before returning to the “Dark Lord” and reporting what transpired (and being honored above all DEs), or he could have taken Draco straight to the Dark Lord. Then again, he and Draco could have both fled together. Once again, I lean toward the first possibility. Snape is not a stupid man; on the contrary, he is one of the most brilliant minds in the series! He is surpassed perhaps only by Voldemort and Dumbledore himself, and even those two are questionable, especially after we find out everything the “Half-Blood Prince” knew and did at Hogwarts.

5. The final, somewhat minor thing is that Snape was the spy who told Voldemort about the prophecy. At this time, he was still 100% in the “Dark Lord’s” “circle of trust.” He tells Dumbledore he is sorry, and Dumbledore accepts his apology. This does, somehow, put another twist into the story, though, because Snape realizes there is something extremely special about Harry throughout the series.

So, whose side is Snape on post-HBP? Answer: Snape’s. It becomes clear during his actions after Dumbledore and Harry return from the cave. Snape does what he must to preserve his own life, both in killing the greatest wizard of the age and in fleeing. It is extremely interesting to note that Snape does not enjoy being called a “coward” by Harry. He does not see what he is doing as “cowardly”; on the contrary, he believes it is very brave. Surely, his precarious position as double-spy throughout the series has been extremely difficult to pull off and required a lot of nerve. Yet, while Harry believes the greatest form of bravery is being unafraid of death (especially for a friend), Snape believes it to be doing what he must to preserve his own life at this point.

Is there a possibility of redemption for Snape? Yes. For awhile, however, he is going to be very cozy with the Dark Lord, especially since he will likely be hailed as a hero in his return to the DE circle. I wonder if Snape knew, or guessed, what happened to Dumbledore. After all, Dumbledore trusted Severus Snape. Does that mean he would have told him EVERYTHING? Somehow, I don’t think he knows about the Horcruxes. If he does, that could be bad, VERY bad, for Harry.

Thanks for reading; remember to send your comments to christopherstephened at hotmail dot com. I hope everyone enjoyed HBP as much as I did! I think I may have found a new favorite book in the series. Keep your eyes open for File #14, that of Draco Malfoy!