Severus Snape vs. Albus Dumbledore: Lessons from the Headmaster
by Kat Nicholls
I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart.
We know from J.K. Rowling’s writings on WizardingWorld Digital that werewolves were despised and feared, seen by many in the wizarding world as dark creatures who should be locked up at best, killed outright at worst. We also know that wizarding governments, both the Ministry of Magic and MACUSA, have a habit of condemning people without trial (Newt Scamander and Sirius Black, to name just a few). Put these facts together, and I think that if the Ministry had found out that Dumbledore had let a werewolf attend Hogwarts and that he’d attacked another student, then there’s a very good chance that the Ministry would have chucked Lupin straight into Azkaban without trial and there would have been nothing Dumbledore could have done to stop it.
So why did Snape keep quiet?
Here’s my personal headcanon. Dumbledore threatened him, probably with expulsion and snapping his wand on the grounds that he was out of bounds at the time of the attack if he revealed that Lupin was a werewolf.
Dumbledore is capable of doing something like this. He’s not all sweetness and kindly grandfather paternalism. In fact, he can be one of the most ruthless people out there. He is the man not only who sets out to take an eleven-year-old boy and groom him to become a sacrifice but also knowingly condemns him to years of harshness and abuse at the Dursleys. He’s the man who stood back and let Sirius be sent to Azkaban without trial. He’s the man who, when Snape came to him as an adult and told him that Lily Potter was in danger, agreed to protect her but then demanded, “What do I get?” I think a man like that would be quite capable of threatening a traumatized child if he thought it was for the greater good.
Oh, I’m sure he would have been all nice and polite about it. But the threat would have still been there. Expose Lupin as a werewolf, and I’ll see that you’re expelled from Hogwarts and legally, if not physically, turned into a Squib. So, if my headcanon is correct, then, first of all, this is blackmail. Second, it’s the exact same thing that Headmaster Dippet did to Hagrid and for a far greater reason (even if Hagrid was innocent of opening the Chamber of Secrets, he did still smuggle an XXXXX-rated creature into Hogwarts), and third, I think it’s safe to say that Dumbledore does bear some responsibility for the man Snape became. Oh, not completely, of course. We are all responsible for the choices we make. But there is also a great deal of truth in the saying that “Children learn right and wrong from the adults around them, and they learn by example.”
Snape, as we saw, didn’t really have any good parental role models before Hogwarts. When he and his best friend do finally get to Hogwarts, a place he’s been taught will be so wonderful; he finds that the teaching staff let a gang of bullies torment and humiliate him time and time again (think the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup versus what James did to Snape in their fifth year) and they are allowed to get away with it with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
When he finally has a chance to get revenge for all the pain and humiliation that they inflicted on him, the kindly school headmaster threatens him with the destruction of his world and the loss of everything he loves if he reveals that a fellow student is a dark creature and had attacked him. This is the same headmaster who did nothing to stop those same bullies from hurting him, and anyone else they thought was weak.
What do you suppose that would have taught him? Hmm? When they could do this to him and to others and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the adults around them? When the Marauders were caught out of bounds so many times and only got detention? What do you suppose that taught him about power, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and honor and integrity?
These are questions worth asking.