Snape Gets His Fondest Wish
In the many discussions and arguments that I have had with editorial writers and forum posters over the last several weeks since Half-Blood Prince came out over the true loyalties of Professor Snape, one problem has always been at the back of my mind. Why was Snape, after all this time, given the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching post? As I was rereading my copy of HBP, an inspiration struck me. Was Snape given his greatest wish so that Harry could have his?
Since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out, the subject of what the students will be doing after they graduate from Hogwarts has come up. The Imposter Moody first planted the idea in Harry’s head of becoming an Auror. Since then, Harry has taken to the idea very enthusiastically. However, what was the one thing that was standing in the way the most of that dream? Snape’s strict requirement that he only takes students who have achieved an “Outstanding” O.W.L. into his N.E.W.T. Potions class. Harry knew that this was his greatest obstacle. However, Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore knew this as well. I believe it is this, more than anything else, that led to Snape taking over his favorite subject, and that it is why Professor Slughorn was taken on to take over as Potions Master.
The most obvious question now is this: Why would McGonagall and Dumbledore interfere in such a drastic manner to help Harry? I believe the seed for this was planted as early as Book 5: McGonagall and Dolores Umbridge had their most vocal argument during Harry’s meeting to discuss his future options. During that argument, McGonagall makes a rather vehement promise to Harry.
“Professor Umbridge stood up. She was so short that this did not make a great deal of difference, but her fussy, simpering demeanor had given place to a hard fury that made her broad, flabby face look oddly sinister. ‘Potter has no chance whatsoever of becoming an Auror!’
Professor McGonagall got to her feet too, and in her case this was a much more impressive move. She towered over Professor Umbridge.
‘Potter,’ she said in ringing tones, ‘I will assist you to become an Auror if it is the last thing I do! If I have to coach you nightly I will make sure you achieve the required results!'”
Now in most cases this might seem like simple anger, but I do not think that McGonagall is the type of person to make extravagant promises even if she is angry. McGonagall has already shown she is willing to bend the rules for Harry as she did inSorcerer’s Stone when she allowed Harry to have his own broom, something that no first year is allowed to have. She even bought the broom. This in itself is a rather minor bending of the rules, but the important thing is that McGonagall showed that she is willing to do it. McGonagall also intervened with Dumbledore to get the Gryffindor Quidditch team reformed when Umbridge disbanded it. Harry’s future is much more important that Quidditch or brooms. It is not that unlikely that McGonagall would intercede with Dumbledore again. I would not be at all surprised if Dumbledore was not already thinking along the same lines.
Dumbledore knows that Harry is the only one who can defeat Voldemort. I think it is also reasonable to assume that Dumbledore did not think that the battle would come anytime soon. After all, Harry was still underage and had much more to learn. Actually, Dumbledore would have no idea when that battle might be. He has always planned far ahead for Harry’s future. It is reasonable to assume that Dumbledore had plans for Harry beyond Hogwarts and what better place for him to be than in the Auror’s Office learning how to hunt down and fight dark wizards? Dumbledore would have to know that this is the best career for him due to the excellent training he would receive after Hogwarts. Even Harry sees this as the natural course that his life will take.
This was the end of his ambition to become an Auror…. somehow the idea had taken hold of him, and he couldn’t really think of anything else he would like to be. Moreover, it had seemed the right destiny for him since he had heard the prophesy a few weeks ago…. Wouldn’t he be living up to the prophesy, and giving himself the best chance of survival, if he joined those highly training wizards whose job it was to find and kill Voldemort?
There is also evidence in HBP that both Dumbledore and McGonagall knew that Harry would be able to continue on with the required N.E.W.T. classes to become an Auror. Dumbledore gives the first hints that he knows when he and Harry first arrive at the Burrow.
“‘Well, that means I won’t see much of Professor Snape from now on,’ he said, ‘because he won’t let me carry on Potions unless I get an “Outstanding” in my O.W.L., which I know I haven’t.’
‘Don’t count your owls before they are delivered,’ said Dumbledore gravely.”
On the surface, it sounds like Dumbledore is trying to encourage Harry that he may have received an “Outstanding” O.W.L. and that he should not be discouraged. However, if it were encouragement, why would Dumbledore say it “gravely”? He would be more upbeat and positive. The only explanation is that Dumbledore already knows Harry’s O.W.L.s. Reading a little deeper, Dumbledore may say that last line gravely because he is still uncertain about appointing Snape as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Maybe he had to be convinced to do it by McGonagall. However, this was made necessary due to Harry’s “E” in Potions instead of an “O”. In fact, Dumbledore may have waiting to approach Slughorn until after he knew how Harry did on his O.W.L.s.
McGonagall, too, shows signs that she knew that Harry would be able to continue with his goal of becoming an Auror. When she and Harry are discussing Harry’s schedule for the year she shows no sign of surprise, aside from his Transfiguration grade, that he would be able to continue with N.E.W.T. Potions.
“‘Now why haven’t you applied to continue with Potions? I thought it was your ambition to become an Auror?’
‘It was, but you told me I had to get an ‘Outstanding’ in my O.W.L., Professor.’
‘And so you did when Professor Snape was teaching the subject. Professor Slughorn, however, is perfectly happy to accept N.E.W.T. students with ‘Exceeds Expectations’ at O.W.L.'”
It seems a little too convenient that the staff appointments would so benefit Harry’s future ambitions. The only flaw that I can see in my reasoning is Snape accepting “Exceeds Expectations” students into his N.E.W.T. DADA classes when he was so strict about Potions. The only conclusion that I can come up with is that Dumbledore approached Snape about the grade. Changing the Potions requirement would seem suspicious, but with the new class, it is not as odd. However, Harry received an “O” in DADA, so why would Snape have to lower his expectations there? I believe it is to make it possible for Ron to continue classes with Harry and Hermione. Dumbledore, in addition to trusting Harry with more responsibilities this year, also seems to be trusting Ron and Hermione with more information. In fact, Dumbledore encourages Harry to start telling them everything. Keeping the three of them together as much as possible seems to mesh with Dumbledore’s warnings to Harry about needing friends and not going the course alone.
It seems to fit that Dumbledore and McGonagall want Harry to become an Auror and they have manipulated the system to allow him to continue his efforts. It is also fits that Dumbledore wants Harry to confide more in his friends and has manipulated it so that they aren’t separated. It seems increasingly possible that Snape got his fondest wish so that Harry could continue toward his.