by Mr. and Mrs.
When this idea first hit me, I thought that I surely must be wrong; yet, when I analyzed it further, it seemed so very clever that I can believe that JKR could have created this scenario.
My theory is that Snape is also Nagini.
In none of the books is Snape mentioned with Nagini; Snape is also absent from several critical points in the series, events on both sides to which Snape claims to have loyalty. The purpose of this editorial is to prove, using quotes from GoF, HBP, and interviews with J.K. Rowling, that this seemingly incredible theory is at the very least a possibility.
Nagini in GoF
My favorite quote from all of the Harry Potter series is this: “…the story had been picked over so many times, and had been embroidered in so many places, that nobody was quite sure what the truth was anymore” (GoF, chapter one). This is just how I feel about the “Nagini is female” statements. Nagini, when introduced in GoF, is not once referred to as “she,” only as “it” or “the snake.”
It seems that one of the main reasons people think Nagini is female is because, in this same chapter, Nagini was “milked.” The snake, however, was milked for its poison! Isn’t that done by squeezing the poison from its mouth? Voldemort is not drinking Nagini’s milk, as is done in breast feeding, but using the milked poison as part of a potion.
Nagini is also present in Goblet‘s graveyard scene. This point is a crucial one, as it explains why Voldemort took no apparent notice of Snape’s absence from the Dark Lord’s rebirth. (To satisfy readers convinced of Snape’s loyalty to Dumbledore, Snape also could’ve been, through Nagini, present for Harry’s protection.) Nagini’s venom, of course, helped Voldemort with his potion, and anyone who has skimmed HBP knows of Snape’s immense talent in potions.
Another argument against this theory is Snape’s supposed presence during the Triwizard Tournament; however, Snape is never mentioned during the tasks. For example, during the meal prior to the third task:
Ludo Bagman and Cornelius Fudge had joined the staff table now. Bagman looked quite cheerful, but Cornelius Fudge, who was sitting next to Madame Maxime, looked stern and was not talking… Hagrid kept glancing along the table at her… Dumbledore rose to his feet…
So, we have Bagman, Fudge, Maxime, Hagrid and Dumbledore mentioned at the staff table — no mention of Snape. On page 620:
Hagrid, Professor Moody, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium and approached Bagman.
So, we have Hagrid, Moody, McGonagall, Flitwick, Bagman at the Tournament’s final task, patrolling the edges of the maze… without Snape.
Only in the movie is Snape seen leaning over Cedric’s body with Dumbledore. In the book, Snape is not mentioned until page 679, as he, McGonagall and Dumbledore are seen in the Foe-Glass in Moody’s office, after the tournament.
Nagini in HBP
Nagini is again mentioned in Half-Blood Prince. When I reread the chapter in HBP that included Nagini, I was initially crestfallen: in the chapter, Dumbledore refers to Nagini as “she.” However, I feel that I can comfortably explain this away by stating that DD was not yet sure how much he could safely tell Harry. DD still had to protect Snape’s identity. I can verify this with canon; on page 506, DD says:
“I think I know who the sixth Horcrux is. I wonder what you will say when I confess that I have been curious for a while about the behavior of the snake, Nagini?… If my calculations are correct, Voldemort was still at least one Horcrux short of his goal of six when he entered your parents’ house with the intention of killing you. He seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. You would certainly have been that. He believed that in killing you, he would be destroying the danger the prophecy outlined. I am sure that he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death.”
Here is where I believe DD is mistaken or intentionally misleading Harry, in his concern that Voldemort may hear this:
“As we know, he failed. After an interval of some years, however, he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it might then have occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux.”
First of all, in the above passage, DD says that Voldemort reserves the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. How significant is an elderly, unknown Muggle? Secondly, Voldemort killed the Muggle, not as DD stated, “he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man.” Again, DD is either mistaken or intentionally misleading in order, perhaps to protect Snape as Nagini. No one knows if Harry could some day be captured, and since he is not an accomplished Occlumens, Voldemort could read his mind and endanger Snape. (That entire paragraph on that page seems to be filled with inconsistencies.)
On page 511, just a few pages after DD talks about Nagini as a Horcrux, Dumbledore clearly has the Voldemort/Harry mind connection on his mind. He says, “it is Voldemort’s fault that you were able to see into his thoughts… you have flitted into Lord Voldemort’s mind without damage to yourself…”
Since this dialogue is so close to the Horcrux/Nagini dialogue, I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that DD was concerned about how much he could tell Harry due to Harry’s still entirely unexplored connection to Voldemort.
The fascinating character that he is, Snape has come up in many an interview with J.K. Rowling. For example, on Snape’s “redemptive pattern,” Rowling said this:
There’s so much I wish I could say to you, and I can’t because it’d ruin… I promise you… whoever asked that question, can I just say to you that I’m — I’m slightly stunned that you’ve said that — erm — and you’ll find out why I’m so stunned if you read book 7. And that’s all I’m going to say (October 12, 1999, The Connection).
Another interesting quote from the author is said in response to a question regarding Snape’s “hissing”:
Every time I want someone to be hissing, which Snape does quite a lot, I have to check there’s actually an “s” in it before I… (interviewer Stephen Fry, December 10, 2005)
And just why is Snape hissing if he isn’t a snake? On Snape’s Patronus and greatest fear, Rowling says. “Well, I’m not going to tell you that… it would give so much away” (J.K. Rowling’s World Book Day Chat, March 4, 2004).
If we knew for certain what Snape’s boggart and Patronus were, would the leap to figuring out he was also Nagini be so far away? It is an amazing plot twist. Naming the snake Nagini is a brilliant red herring.
Don’t forget the mention of Snape in The Interview [Emerson and Melissa with J.K. Rowling]. During the Snape portion of that trio’s discussion, Melissa Anelli says, “It goes back to the question of whether Snape is a double-double-double-triple-…” at which JKR laughs and replies, “Yeah.”
Folks, she said yeah.
All quotes from the US hardcover editions of the books.