Debunking the Snape is Good Theories

by Eric Mortensen

In the aftermath of the events of Half-Blood Prince, many people have been trying to justify the actions of one Severus Snape, arguing that he was trying to help out by killing Dumbledore. When put quite bluntly like that, it seems rather incredulous. However, this is exactly the claim that is being made. I intend to quell these claims.

The Unbreakable Vow

This is quite possibly the biggest piece of evidence that the “goodies” (as I will call them) point to in defense of Snape’’s actions. To be sure, it seems like a pretty good item to prove Severus’’s innocence. Had Snape not helped out Draco by killing Dumbledore, he would have died himself. There is absolutely no disputing that fact. Goodies point out that Dumbledore was aware of this fact and that, rather than having Snape break his vow, order Snape to kill him when the time came.

However, to me, the Unbreakable Vow is not evidence of Snape’’s good intentions, but of his true allegiance to evil. It is far more telling to focus on the actual making of the vow than the completion of it. Consider this: Snape had the choice of whether or not to actually make the vow. Now refer to Dumbledore’’s quote, which seems to be the heart of the stories:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
-CoS

Please note that Snape willfully made the choice to enter in to the Unbreakable Vow. He could have very easily gotten around it by sticking to the fact that it was Draco’’s assignment to bring down Dumbledore, not his. Remember, Bellatrix was completely against going to see Snape because Voldemort had given the task to Draco alone. Snape could have easily played this card and not bound himself to killing. Yet he chose to commit himself to killing one of the most valuable assets of the Order of the Phoenix. This does not seem like a loyal member of the Order to me.

Surely Snape was not under orders from Dumbledore to enter into an Unbreakable Vow that would result in Dumbledore’’s death. Snape did not know that the request for the vow was coming and therefore could not have talked it over with Dumbledore prior to making it. Can you imagine that conversation afterwards between Snape and Dumbledore if Snape was on the Order’’s side? ““Pardon me, Headmaster, but I’’ve just entered in to an Unbreakable Vow that will result in your death. But I believe it for the best in the war against the Dark Lord.””

If this doesn’’t seem ludicrous to you, it should. On his own, Snape signed the death warrant for the most valuable wizard (next to Harry) in the fight against Voldemort. Information is nothing if you don’t have the strength to use that information. Losing Dumbledore would be a crippling blow to the Order and Snape knew it.

Dumbledore’s Orders to Harry

This is more along the lines of Dumbledore planning to die (which I disagree with, but that’s a whole other editorial), but has been used by goodies to support their theories. Before retrieving the supposed Horcrux in the cave, Dumbledore procures Harry’’s promise that he will follow Dumbledore’’s orders to the letter, even possibly killing him. Many have said that this is a shadowing of what Dumbledore ordered Snape to do, but I see it as a different type of literary device: foreshadowing. Rowling does this earlier with Dumbledore when he comments that:

“Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”
-HBP

More on this particular quote later. Here we see foreshadowing, that something very bad is going to happen to Dumbledore. I believe that the promise Harry makes is the same thing. When we hear those words coming from Dumbledore, a red flag should go up about a potential death.

The situation regarding Dumbledore’s command to Harry is quite unique. He tells him to maybe kill him because Dumbledore knows of the absolute importance of destroying the Horcrux. It was worth dying for. Contrast that with when he actually was killed. It was after the Horcrux had (supposedly) been obtained. The Order of the Phoenix was protecting the school. Dumbledore had an ally in Snape (or so he thought). Was anything worth dying for at that moment? No. In fact, there was far more to be living for.

Dumbledore’’s Mistake

It’’s a general consensus that the previously mentioned quote has some significance to the overall plot in the series. There are two ways to take this statement.

  1. It is a statement of humility to further develop Dumbledore’s character.
  2. Dumbledore has indeed made a mistake somewhere along the lines.

The question is to whom or what does it refer?

A possible answer is that it refers to the subject that was presently being discussed by Harry and Dumbledore: Horcruxes. However, I find this highly unlikely. Throughout the series, the one thing the Dumbledore has sworn by more than anything is the allegiance of Snape to the Order. This mistake would be “huger” than any he had made in his long life as it would cost him his.

Holding to the idea that Snape was under Dumbledore’s orders makes this statement exponentially harder to explain. I will concede that it is possible that the mistake might possibly be an order for Snape to kill him if it turns out in the end that Snape is Dumbledore’s man, but I find it implausible.

The Plea

But somebody else had spoken Snape’s name, quite softly.

“Severus…”

The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading. Snape said nothing, but walked forwards and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. Three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed. Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.

“Severus…please…”

Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.

“Avada Kedavra!”
-HBP

The thought that came to my mind when I first read this was that Dumbledore was simply heartbroken at the sight of Snape alongside the Death Eaters. All these years, he had trusted him; he put all of his confidence in this man whom he believed reformed, only to see that he was completely wrong. If that doesn’’t break a heart and elicit a quiet “please” in a defeated tone, nothing will.

The words “revulsion” and “hatred” used to describe Snape’’s face are telling. Nobody else on that tower could see Snape’’s face besides Dumbledore (and possibly Harry). Why else would there be “hatred” on Snape’’s face if he did not truly hate the man he was about to murder? Hatred of oneself for an action does not manifest itself thus. If indeed Snape was supposed to be loathing himself, Rowling would have chosen to describe Snape’’s face as “anguished” or “tormented.” Diction, though a boring part of literature classes in school, is useful in determining the true aspects of a character.

Felix Felicis

There has been a very good editorial written about the use of Felix Felicis during the Death Eaters’ attack on Hogwarts and how it points to Snape’’s innocence. I, however, remain unconvinced.

Slughorn describes the effects of the potion as such:

“[The user] will find that all your endeavors tend to succeed.”
-HBP

Please note that it says “tend to succeed,” not “will always succeed.” There is still room for choice and personal accountability. When Ron says, ““I messed up, Harry,”” it is true, he messed up. He does not say “”I don’’t know how they got by”” or ““I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,”” which are unlucky. No, he says “”I messed up.”” Simply being lucky does not mean that you can do no wrong. That would eliminate choice, which is the central theme of the book.

Hermione was not killed by Snape because she had taken the potion. Lucky. Not noticing Flitwick as being stupefied? Not unlucky. What do I mean by that? The potion helps “your endeavors” to succeed. It doesn’’t make the whole universe go your way. When Harry took the potion, his endeavors (getting the memory and getting a chance with Ginny) succeeded. The D.A.’’s endeavors never encompassed stopping Snape, but rather were to protect the students of Hogwarts, which they were able to accomplish. The potion was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.

Snape’’s Escape

On a side note, I like how the title of this section sounds.

When fleeing Hogwarts, Snape is pursued by Harry across the grounds. A “battle” ensues between Harry and Snape, though I use that term loosely as it is mostly Snape toying with Harry, which seems to be a favorite pastime of his. Having beaten Harry back, Snape turns to flee. We read the following:

“Kill me like you killed him, you coward-“

“DON’T-” screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them, “-CALL ME COWARD!”
-HBP

Snape has his pride. Being tormented by Harry’s father all his childhood, he could barely take James’ son starting it over again. It reopened a wound from his past and caused him to lash back at Harry, both verbally and physically.

He fully believed in his cause and felt that it had been accomplished through great risk and bravery. Snape took great offense in being called a coward. Warring nations often call their opponents cowards and the citizens buy into the rhetoric, regardless of who is guilty. In war, the side you fight for is always right and brave and the opponent is always wrong and is a coward. Simple as that.

It’s been argued that Snape could have used Avada Kedavra on Harry at that moment. But Snape said it himself: Harry is Voldemort’’s to kill and none other’s. He would not dare betray the will of the Dark Lord to a rivalry. He let Harry live on his true master’’s command.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor basically states that if you are confronted with a choice of two equally valid alternatives, take the simpler one. We are presented with two seemingly valid choices: Snape is on Voldemort’’s side or Snape is on Dumbledore’’s side. What’’s the simpler choice? Is it that Snape played a highly intricate game of cat and mouse with the Death Eaters, successfully lied to the Dark Lord (a powerful Legilimens himself) about his intentions, had a secret plot with Dumbledore to kill him at a given time, and that Dumbledore sacrificed himself even though the war with Voldemort is far, far from being over? Or that Snape was never on the good side, surprised Dumbledore with his true loyalty and killed him? I think it is painfully clear that the latter is simpler, and therefore, the correct choice.

There is a vast amount of evidence that Snape is on the side of evil, as I hope I’’ve shown to some degree. However, we’’ll all just have to be patient to find out the correct answer in the final novel when it comes out.

 

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