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Book 6 - The Half-Blood Prince   

aka Severus Snape

An Analysis 

General thoughts about this chapter: I was just rearranging the text into separate cells when all of the sudden it hit me! Why does Rowling talk about Snape so openly while we had trouble knowing anything about the real plans of the enemies before?! Be it Pettigrew, Lucius, the Horcruxes, Kreacher, Crouch Snr&Jnr, Sirius while an escapee, Voldemort, Quirell, the Diary Horcrux, the Order business, Albus... whoever it was, Rowling was never so blunt before! Why would she do that now? Why unveil all the mysteries right away?! Why have Snape be the traitor and why are we to know why he is right in chapter 2?! If I weren't a Snape fan, I would know from the start that Snape was going to betray everyone in the end, the suspense would somehow be dampened because I would know who was going to make everything bad in the end for the heroes. This sounds very 'unRowling' to me even though she said: Book 6 is not about more mysteries, it's about answers. But why would she kill the suspense this way?  I mean, you ought to have been a real Hufflepuff is after reading the second chapter you didn't think: "Oh no, Snape is a bad guy. I hope they catch him!".  

Rowling needed us to worry and be highly suspicious about Snape from the start of Book6 . Why not simply have Narcissa visit and do the Unbreakable Vow whenever there was a third witness? After all, Narcissa didn't plan on her sister coming because she told her to go back and leave her alone. She didn't know Wormtail would be there, so she intended Snape to swear to the UVow at a later appointment.  So why bring Bellatrix along and have Snape expose all his well planned actions proving that he is still a Death Eater and never truly turned coat?!

Yes, she kept the surprise of us finding out Snape was the Half-Blood Prince, but then again, wasn't she quite blunt in his exposure of his evil plans in this chapter?! That sounds fishy! What's the best hiding technique?  Expose the facts so no one will ever notice what's truly going on in the background.

If you have not seen it, read the interview I translated and commented from a French magazine, an interview with Alan Rickman before the publication of Book 6. I think it's very enlightening and it's not too long.  And it does cover what I've just said here as well. Here is a summary for those who prefer to go on: Snape never offers information about his secret activities for the Light. Snape keeps his secrets to himself, both bad and good!  And that is why I am not convinced when I hear Snape spill his inner most secrets and strategies to Bellatrix and Narcissa in the second chapter of Book 6. If we were to believe Snape worked for the good side in order to stun everyone when he finally kills Dumbledore, wouldn't Rowling focus on his good secret actions instead of feeding us his bad spying activities from the start? I think so, very strongly so! And this interview helps me believe in it even more!

There you go, I hope you enjoy this analysis. It's long but quite through, as usual!  There is also "My Best Plea in the Defence of Severus Snape" that is part of this chapter. I started writing it here but as it grew hyper long, I decided to put it elsewhere. You'll still find the link here though, don't worry.  Have a nice time!

Lady Claudia

 

Many miles away the chilly mist that had pressed against the Prime Minister's windows drifted over a dirty river that wound between overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks. An immense chimney, relic of a disused mill, reared up, shadowy and ominous. There was no sound apart from the whisper of the black water and no sign of life apart from a scrawny fox that had slunk down the bank to nose hopefully at some old fish-and-chip wrappings in the tall grass.

 

  •  Snape's hideout is many miles away from London though I wish Rowling had been more precise. At least we know it's somewhere close to a disused mill and that it must have been a place where the fabric industry had its bearings thanks to the name of the street (Spinner's End).  Spinning tells us of people either working in their homes or in a big factory.  People who lived there weren't rich, they were from the working class but it got worst for most of the textile industry thanks to foreign competition (thanks Afictionado for these facts!) : The year of peak production of finished cotton cloth was 1912, then in 1958 Britain became a net importer of finished or near-finished cloth and throughout the 60's and 70's cotton mills were closing at the rate of 1 per week.  They didn't go all in one hit but it was a bad time since everyone who worked at the cotton mills felt their days were numbered. So as the years went by, England's cotton factories closed down or brought about much insecurity to the spinners/workers. Snape was born at around that time but we do not know if that factory was just about to close down, if it had already been so for years or if it closed later on.
     
  • From the rubbish accumulated on the river banks and the fox still roaming about trying to find some leftovers, we can surmise that some people do live there or that they live upstream of this river.  I find the term 'old' fish-and-chip wrapping difficult to interpret. Is it discarded or old?  It must be a day old or so because the wrappings would otherwise already have been eaten by other animals like crows, magpies or feral cats.  That makes sense!
  • Also, the fact that there were no sound nor sign of life is a bit contradictory to those wrappings unless the river brought them there.  Or it was very late at night (early in the morning). However, we know Snape was up and about as well as Wormtail and offered wine rather than tea which, I presume, would be best if someone was awake late at night instead of in bed.  Maybe the neighbourhood is abandoned because not even the sound of someone coming home late or some Muggle TV still being on seems to be heard, not to mention that no sign of life means that everybody would have to be in bed sleeping tight except that poor fox.   Then again, British are renown for being early sleepers compared to many places in North America so that may be why, or simply because Rowling didn't want to include any sounds to give it an eerie atmosphere. I think that's more like it.

But then, with a very faint pop, a slim, hooded figure appeared out of thin air on the edge of the river. The fox froze, wary eyes fixed upon this strange new phenomenon. The figure seemed to take its bearings for a few moments, then set off with light, quick strides, its long cloak rustling over the grass.

With a second and louder pop, another hooded figure materialized.

"Wait!"

The harsh cry startled the fox, now crouching almost flat in the undergrowth. It leapt from its hiding place and up the bank. There was a flash of green light, a yelp, and the fox fell back to the ground, dead.

The second figure turned over the animal with its toe.

"Just a fox," said a woman's voice dismissively from under the hood. "I thought perhaps an Auror--Cissy, wait!"

 

 Perhaps an Auror. If Bellatrix fears an Auror may be on their trail, then Snape has all the more the need to hide and be extra cautious.  However, when Narcissa knocked on the door, he still opened it.  If Aurors can be so clever as to follow Bellatrix, then why open the door?  

I think Snape may have an Auror detecting charm or something like that. He's too clever to simply open the door.  Or he may have some sort of spell on the door itself to reveal who's outside.  I doubt the Aurors know where Snape's house is or else he wouldn't keep Wormtail there, that would be too risky.  That hideout may only be known of Dumbledore and obviously, the Malfoys and Voldemort.  At the end of the book, nobody thought of dashing out of Hogwarts and pursue Snape in Spinner's End, so I believe Albus may have been the only one of the Light to know.  However, if he really did know is another matter that's totally hypothetical. Snape is prudent so I think he would know when his barriers were run through and by whom. Especially with wanted criminals in his house, meaning Wormtail and now Bellatrix!

On the other hand, since important Aurors like Shaklebolt, Tonks, possibly Podmore and retired Moody know that Snape works for Dumbledore and the Light (apparently), they would try not to jeopardize Snape's work and keep trail of him or other unaware Aurors would be risking Snape's work and life as well. Hence, because those key Aurors know that it is a waste of time to pursue Snape, they will put their efforts elsewhere and will try to invalidate evidence that could help turn Snape over to the Ministry.  Yes, they could suspect him but they would not formally target him as a Death Eater or Albus would have his way with them.

But her quarry, who had paused and looked back at the flash of light, was already scrambling up the bank the fox had just fallen down.

"Cissy--Narcissa--listen to me--"

The second woman caught the first and seized her arm, but the other wrenched it away.

"Go back, Bella!"

"You must listen to me!"

"I've listened already. I've made my decision. Leave me alone!"

The woman named Narcissa gained the top of the bank, where a line of old railings separated the river from a narrow, cobbled street. The other woman, Bella, followed at once. Side by side they stood looking across the road at the rows and rows of dilapidated brick houses, their windows dull and blind in the darkness.

 Description of Spinner's End's neighbourhood. Sounds so nice with little scrawny foxes falling down the river bank while murderers walk up! ; )  In fact, I still resent Bellatrix for killing that fox! Grrr!

That river bank sounds a little deep, it doesn't seem like you can walk straight to it, you have to go down after crossing the railings first, and the trip to the river takes long enough for Bellatrix to try to stop her sister, too. Anyhow, what's really interesting now is the look of the cobbled street!

Rows and rows of dilapidated brick houses. Hard to date but such houses still only appeared somewhere in the 1850's and so on, therefore giving us a better idea of the era these decayed houses first say the day. The use of 'dilapidated' (Merriam-Webster: decayed, deteriorated, or fallen into partial ruin especially through neglect or misuse ) makes us think of an abandoned neighbourhood or people living there simply because they need a roof over their heads.

The windows are dull and blind. No light, no sign of life again. However, later on, we learn that on Spinner's End, windows are broken or boarded therefore suggesting it is uninhabited. BUT that is only once Narcissa reaches Spinner's End, it does not say anywhere that it was so in each and every street Narcissa walked by!

The road was cobbled which may portray an old type of street rather than a newly cobbled one thanks to the rest of the scenery. I bet all you Snape-fans out there think of him whenever you see an old cobbled street ; ) I sure do!  

 

"He lives here?" asked Bella in a voice of contempt. "Here? In this Muggle dunghill? We must be the first of our kind ever to set foot--"

 

 

There's a lot in there

 Voice full of contempt: Somehow I can perfectly imagine how she sounded since we later learn that she's trying her best to win Voldemort's favours and doesn't like others wanting the same thing. Of course, since Bellatrix doesn't trust Snape because he supposedly has his own agenda, and since she resents him for getting off the hook so easily while she had to rot in Azkaban, anybody would feel contempt to know that Snape lived there. The Grand Potion Master of Hogwarts living in what almost looks like a shack along with rats and cockroaches which must be proliferating in that type of surrounding.

 Dunghill: 2 : something (as a situation or condition) that is repulsive or degraded

Wow! Bellatrix's distorted view or reality?  I think she use a stronger word than the reality of the place warrants because of the 'Muggleness' of the neighbourhood. I doubt Snape would stoop as low as living in an unhygienic environment if we're talking of real dunghills. Of course, from the point of view of people who have never been homeless or lived on the streets, this neighbourhood would sound repulsive and degraded. Therefore, Spinner's End is situated in a rundown part of a city or town.

I am  intrigued by the view offering itself to their eyes because this is not the place I would think Snape to own, even less stay in. But then, does he stay there over each summer, is it his spying lair, is it his only one, does he even care about the decaying houses surrounding it, does he not bother because it's the perfect hideout, etc? So many questions! One thing is sure however, when Bellatrix mentions that they must be the "first of our kind" to set foot there, it makes it all obvious: Snape has a wonderful hideout!  Even wizards friendly to muggles would be deterred by such a view. I mean, if an Auror who thought he knew Snape well enough was on his tail, he'd certainly think that he had made a mistake by apparating there while he was chasing after him. He'd Apparate and Bang!, he'd be faced with this unSlytherin place.

But Narcissa was not listening; she had slipped through a gap in the rusty railings and was already hurrying across the road.

"Cissy, wait!"

Bella followed, her cloak streaming behind, and saw Narcissa darting through an alley between the houses into a second, almost identical street. Some of the streetlamps were broken; the two women were running between patches of light and deep darkness. The pursuer caught up with her prey just as she turned another corner, this time succeeding in catching hold of her arm and swinging her around so that they faced each other.

"Cissy, you must not do this, you can't trust him--"

"The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn't he?"

"The Dark Lord is... I believe... mistaken," Bella panted, and her eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to check that they were indeed alone. "In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord's--"

I'm glad that with the few next lines one would be able to draw a detailed picture of the neighbourhood and Spinner's End! Any volunteer?

The streetlamps: I'm having a hard time with those. The place is empty, not a sound and yet some streetlamps still work which means electricity is available and useful for some people at the very least. To me it proves the neighbourhood is inhabited, if only by a couple of Muggles OR that Snape has charmed them. However, the former makes more sense since Bella looks around to check that they were indeed alone. Maybe she was checking for Aurors, Death Eaters or Snape rather than Muggles, but it still leaves that possibility open, that Muggles still live there but were simply in bed when they Apparated. Later, Rowling says it was a deserted labyrinth of houses. Deserted at this time of day or simply unoccupied?

Afictionado's expertise on British neighbourhood is this: "The streetlamps – I think you need not have a hard time with these.  I do not have personal experience of a whole neighbourhood that is uninhabited, but to the best of my knowledge the situation is this:

In towns and cities it is customary for all the streets to be lit even if they are in a neighbourhood that is uninhabited.  They are lit to deter anti-social behaviour and because the streets might be through routes to inhabited parts of the town.  In the story some of the street lamps are broken, so their might be vandalism.  Or Snape might have broken them to create pools of darkness.  Or it might be as you suggest – the lights have been turned off by the Muggle authorities but Snape has charmed some back on.  But my gut feeling is that Rowling wrote it this way to imply that the lights normally are on at night and vandals have broken a few – because I think she intended to give the whole place a seedy, run-down and threatening feel.  It’s also a lovely visual image to say the women were running between pools of light and darkness."

I think that makes much sense and that it served Rowling in an artistic sense.

What is truly interesting is how Narcissa seems to know exactly where Snape lives!  Ah ha! Okay, I know many of you fan-fiction writers will come up with something extra-conjugal and Lucius being the fool but I'm not talking about that. ; ) I'm thinking about the fact that she knows her way even though it's such a horrible place for someone like her to be. Hypothesis:

  1. She has some sort of locating spell on Snape and she's following it (however it works there wouldn't be any traces because it was not mentioned)
  2. She's been there a long time ago
  3. She's been there to visit Snape from time to time
  4. She's visited him lately
  5. She was told by Lucius how to reach him or he left her a map that she studied by heart before setting off (either because he visited Snape or needed to hide at one point).

The first is highly unlikely because Snape wouldn't be that easy to catch and he was home already by the time the two women reached his house. The second would be hard because Rowling mentions a "deserted labyrinth of brick houses" and one would not really remember how to go about a labyrinth some years prior. The 3 last ones seem more probable, especially his connection to Lucius because Narcissa described him as Lucius's old friend and never referred to him as 'her' friend.

"Let go, Bella!" snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from beneath her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other's face. Bella merely laughed.

"Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn't--"

"There is nothing I wouldn't do anymore!" Narcissa breathed, a note of hysteria in her voice, and as she brought down the wand like a knife, there was another flash of light. Bella let go of her sister's arm as though burned.

 I love this part! It finally gave a bit more flesh to Narcissa's character! ; ) Bella seems to underestimate others a lot... or overestimate herself. I think both ways work.  That may prove very useful to the Light or Snape in the end.

 

 "Narcissa!"

But Narcissa had rushed ahead. Rubbing her hand, her pursuer followed again, keeping her distance now, as they moved deeper into the deserted labyrinth of brick houses. At last, Narcissa hurried up a street named Spinner's End, over which the towering mill chimney seemed to hover like a giant admonitory finger. Her footsteps echoed on the cobbles as she passed boarded and broken windows, until she reached the very last house, where a dim light glimmered through the curtains in a downstairs room.

(My comments below)

In a downstairs room. This is important for anyone wanting to recreate the exact house because it doesn't say 'the downstairs room'.  In this case, we can assume the house is 'large' or wide enough to include at least one more room downstairs that is obviously not lit from the inside at this moment.  Said room is the sitting room I presume since it is dim lighted (mentioned later on).  Notice that there are, at least ; ) , curtains in this room. Doesn't mention whether there are other windows there yet.

There we have the irrefutable proof that Narcissa has been there or has been taught how to reach his house because you just can't trace someone who doesn't want to be found like that within a labyrinth of possibilities!  

Spinner's End is 'up a street' but it doesn't mean it has to be a bit steep. This can mean to vertically go up a bit, to go up a flat street or to go up a cul-de-sac.  Two other facts: the street is cobbled as well and Snape's house is the very last one.

 Admonitory: 2 : expression warning, admonition (counsel or warning against fault or oversight)

This could be a simply simile, but Rowling is trying to create the perfect atmosphere around Snape's house. So I'd like to take the road of symbolism just in case.  So who would this admonition or warning be for?  Narcissa? Bella? Snape? Us? I wish I knew but since the giant admonitory finger was hovering over Snape's house, it's logical to say that it was a foreboding warning to Narcissa and Bella.  Or it could be warning us: danger or darkness ahead, proceed with caution!  

It also reminds us of Snape's behaviour at Hogwarts: lurking behind the students, hovering over you in that same threatening way or he can wag his finger in that way, too.  It fits him so well!

I think the mill and its chimney is there to impress a feeling of eeriness, darkness looming over us or the women, or of doom and destiny almost. One would feel overwhelmed confronted to such a sight, everything is run down, closed, abandoned... It's night and surely late, too, so it feels a bit like when we saw Voldemort at the beginning of the Goblet of Fire in the Riddle House. In that case, the poor caretaker was the victim because he walked to his doom. Is this the same for Narcissa and Bella? I think this sums what we all want to know: Snape is who's worst nightmare?  

Of course I'm going to say it is for those women because this chapter so far has been written from their point of view, but also because I believe in Snape.  However, I will also hypothesize that if Snape turns out to be bad, then he will be because of his own agenda and not because of Voldemort because of that very scene. It curdles your blood almost, feels like Narcissa is heading to make a pack with the devil! Is it Rowling's way to confound us?! Maybe, she's always trying to do that. Warning to everyone or the Light, or both Light and Dark side?  

She had knocked on the door before Bella, cursing under her breath, had caught up. Together they stood waiting, panting slightly, breathing in the smell of the dirty river that was carried to them on the night breeze. After a few seconds, they heard movement behind the door and it opened a crack. A sliver of a man could be seen looking out at them, a man with long black hair parted in curtains around a sallow face and black eyes.

Narcissa threw back her hood. She was so pale that she seemed to shine in the darkness; the long blonde hair streaming down her back gave her the look of a drowned person.

 

  Just to mention that the river must not be so far away if the smell has reached Spinner's End OR the river is so filthy that no one can escape it!  Either way, not an inviting place at all.  

Snape is described thus: long black hair parted in curtains around a sallow face, black eyes.

The door opened a crack: that really mixes me up.  Why would Snape open a crack and then when Narcissa reveals herself he opens it more? Either Rowling didn't think of that detail or Snape already knows who is there or that they don't want to harm him. Or else why would he physically open the door?!  Hypothesis:

  1. Snape knows who they are
  2. Snape has a spell to detect evil intentions towards his person and won't let in someone who has
  3. Snape can see through the door anyway
  4. Snape doesn't fear for his life or security because he knows how to use his magic to get out of any tight spot
  5. Snape knows only Lucius (I think he does or Narcissa wouldn't have known... unless Snape likes Narcissa enough to leave her his address), Wormtail (maybe Wormy doesn't know where he is) and Voldemort can reach him there. So he knows that anyone knocking would either be them (almost impossible in this case because Voldemort would summon him, Wormtail is inside and Lucius in prison), a Muggle (though there doesn't seem to be other people living around) or therefore, someone sent by either these three wizards.

I doubt Snape knows it's Narcissa or he wouldn't have cracked the door. He had to be sure those people were inoffensive before opening the door. Works like our door locks after all: we don't open until we know who is there. But Snape did open it so whomever it is, he is confident he can survive if attacked.

"Narcissa!" said the man, opening the door a little wider, so that the light fell upon her and her sister too. "What a pleasant surprise!

"Severus," she said in a strained whisper. "May I speak to you? It's urgent."

"But of course."

 

 

  Snape  says "Narcissa!" and "What a pleasant surprise!" but it's very hard to know if he is surprised, playing the fool or if he is being sarcastic. I doubt he's sarcastic because of how he treats her afterwards, maybe he acts in his usual sarcastic self towards Bella but not towards Narcissa. I don't see it as sarcasm. Snape may be pleased to be visited by her as well, after all, she's got flair, beauty and she's a high-born witch... not to mention having to support Wormtail must be like babysitting Neville to him ; ) But it could also be that Snape feels playful or flirtatious. However, to me it sounds more like politeness, not surprise because surely he'd already surmised that she would come to him for help.

If that's true, if Snape knew that Narcissa would come knocking on his door and pleading to him, it means that his connection to Lucius and Voldemort must be strong enough for her to trust him implicitly, however much that is possible amongst fellow Death Eaters. But I believe it is mainly thanks to Lucius that she knows of Snape and he of her, and how he may be one to help her out.  After all, she called him Lucius's old friend.  However, she knows him because she calls him Severus and he speaks to her using her first name. That is one connection, and let's not forget she knew where to find him, too.  And Narcissa is disobeying the Dark Lord as we speak, would that not prove that she cares for herself more than for Voldemort and would therefore go to someone who had the same convictions?  I think so. I think Narcissa believes she'll be able to convince Snape to save her son because of some attachment to him or her or Lucius, or all three together. Some attachment we have not been told about yet. Argh!  Some facts are certain however: Narcissa is ready to do the impossible for her son, she's desperate.

I believe he was expecting that request already because he is a spy and has to weigh up all the possibilities. If Narcissa is there, it indicates that she wants to save her son, therefore Snape knows right away what she wants.  Snape didn't need much time to put 2 and 2 together of course! A logical man like him would know as he would know that Bella was here because of her sister and not because she had anything to do with him. I don't think Legilimens would help him in this case, it would only confirm what he already knew.

I'm curious about him opening the door so that light fell upon the two sisters. I think he wanted to know if this was truly Bella with Narcissa.

I love the way he answers: "But of course." ; ) That is what tells me that he knows why she's there for and why Bella must be trying to stop her knowing how faithful she is to Voldemort.

He stood back to allow her to pass him into the house. Her still-hooded sister followed without invitation.

"Snape," she said curtly as she passed him.

"Bellatrix," he replied, his thin mouth curling into a slightly mocking smile as he closed the door with a snap behind them.

 

Nice family party! ; ) Bella almost spits his name and he answers with a mocking smile. Cute! I love that kind of repartee!  Funny that he uses her first name as well, he sure knows how to spite people!

They had stepped directly into a tiny sitting room, which had the feeling of a dark, padded cell. The walls were completely covered in books, most of them bound in old black or brown leather; a threadbare sofa, an old armchair, and a rickety table stood grouped together in a pool of dim light cast by a candle-filled lamp hung from the ceiling. The place had an air of neglect, as though it was not usually inhabited.

(My perception of the room below)

  • dark place, not well lit, foreboding just as the outside
  • No entrance hall or whatever, it's directly into the sitting room.
  • Furniture:
    • threadbare sofa (meaning the pile has been worn away leaving the base material showing through) so not this year's grand prize in Home Interiors
    • old armchair (we did expect that, didn't we!) I imagine something like the bergere armchair at Hogwarts
    • rickety table (lacking firmness or stability, shaky)
    • candle-filled lamp hanging from the ceiling
    • Grouped together in what seems the middle of the room
  • Air of neglect: as though no one was there usually. Which may be true in fact or at least it proves that men don't care as much for neatness than women ; ) If the place fills its purpose, then it's all right.  That's male thinking!  Reminds me of our neighbour who drives hours and hours to reach his personal camp in the middle of nowhere in the northern forest of Quebec because it suits his purpose just fine: hunting and fishing. It's a wooden cabin (yep, his own wooden cabin in Canada ; ) ha ha) He doesn't care about the flies which eat you alive (no kidding!) nor does he care if he can't wash that often. All he cares about there is to hunt and fish, so why put energy on the rest?! That's what I call 'male instincts' at its best.  And there I see it in Severus who is not concerned about making this hideout cleaner, especially since he is a wizard.  It would be so easy but he doesn't, there is something going on there either emotional or practical. Emotional would be in direct connection with his parents, if they ever lived there, and Snape preferred to keep things as they were. Practical would be that this is just a hideout, temporary, and that there was so much more to do instead of cleaning, like reading books or making potions.  The place looks tidy but old and shabby as though it was important to be organized but not important to dust and repair stuff.  Which is why I think Snape knows he won't be there for too long OR he really isn't prepared to move on and let go of this house. That is why I would like to know how Narcissa knew this place, if it was from a long time ago, then we would know that Snape goes there from time to time or over the summer and that he doesn't want to invest any energy on it.  Could be only that: why repair something so old and in an abandoned neighbourhood?  Not practical.  Wormtail will mention that he's not there to clean his house as though he was of course, so this element adds one more piece to the puzzle: does Snape think cleaning is beneath him?  Or is he just taking advantage of Wormtail as a kind of repayment for having to endure him? Maybe both and it would give Snape the satisfaction to know that if he couldn't kill Wormtail, at least he could make him suffer.  Either because Snape hates cowards like him and/or to get back at him for showing Voldemort the Potter's hideout.  More later on the subject.

 The interior!  What strikes you is how many books Snape owns of course.  When I visited the library in the Duke of Norfolk's Arundel Castle while in England, I understood exactly what Rowling meant by a padded cell.  I had only been to modern libraries in Quebec so I was impressed by that one and the one from the British Museum as well. It did seem padded like the cells they use for people with mental ailments.  

At least I've known what old books smell like and could appreciate this sensatory image Rowling depicted for us: old books and leather! Great!

If most books are bound in leather, then they are old, precious enough and since no mention of Muggle books was noted, we can deduce that the books not covered in leather did not attract too much attention, hence being normal wizards and/or Death Eater books.  I'm sure that telling us what sorts of books lay on the shelves would have helped Rowling uphold the mystery surrounding Snape because it would have been so easy to mention he possessed Dark Arts books and such. Why not say so? Because it seemed apparent after the UVow ending this fateful chapter? Maybe... And now that I think about it, I've been asking myself: "Why does he keep them there?!"  The obvious was there in front of me: where would you keep your illegal books? In an unknown residence of course!  It must be the logical explanation why Snape keeps them there even though he must be a book lover, he wouldn't want them to be confiscated after all. If this is so, then it also proves that not a lot of people know of this place or else those old books may not have been confiscated when Snape was first suspected to be a Death Eater (Dumbledore said he had been declared as a Death Eater but that now he was no longer one which, to me, gives us a clue as to the actions that they might have performed to make sure Snape was not one anymore. Such as confiscating anything related to the Dark Arts).  OR Snape acquired the books afterwards, spending all his money on the books instead of finding a more appropriate home. That's also a possibility.

I want to point out that nothing is said about trinkets of dark creatures like for Lupin. Snape is interested in books or too lazy to get rid of his mother's (hypothetically).  I vote for the former because of the infamous Pensieve scene where Snape revised his DADA exam afterwards, which for me is the clear indication of a swat-intellectual type of person as I had always deduced from the first book on.  Therefore, I think these books are perfect where they are for Snape.

Also the fact that Snape can live in a place like that without feeling too worried having guests see him in such a shabby place, it is something important to consider indeed! I do not believe Lucius would have crossed his arms no matter what, he would have tortured Wormtail until he would have cleaned the whole room. But not Snape apparently, he has other preoccupations and priorities.  It is also very interesting to observe Snape's lack of shyness or even shame about his hideout.  You would think someone as proud as him would try to explain why the place was so shabby, but no, he doesn't even bother with it. He sounds over it all as though a bit of dust was only a small drawback to the position he now held.  

Snape gestured Narcissa to the sofa. She threw off her cloak, cast it aside, and sat down, staring at her white and trembling hands clasped in her lap. Bellatrix lowered her hood more slowly. Dark as her sister was fair, with heavily lidded eyes and a strong jaw, she did not take her gaze from Snape as she moved to stand behind Narcissa.

"So, what can I do for you?" Snape asked, settling himself in the armchair opposite the two sisters.

"We... we are alone, aren't we?" Narcissa asked quietly.

'Yes, of course. Well, Wormtail's here, but we're not counting vermin, are we?"

He pointed his wand at the wall of books behind him and with a bang, a hidden door flew open, revealing a narrow staircase upon which a small man stood frozen.

"As you have clearly realized, Wormtail, we have guests," said Snape lazily.

 

 The furniture may look shabby but it's not dirty or Narcissa would never have taken her cloak off and cast it aside. She would have sat upon it. It confirms that Snape's place is clean if not newly decorated and to me that gives support to the fact that he doesn't even care about the state of the furniture, as long as he can lay there and read his books.  

Narcissa is somewhat of a snob and she will surely play the strong unaffected wife in public, but here she is showing her anxiety and her most profound weaknesses to Severus.  To me this alludes to their close connection between them, a friendly one if you will. Here is the evidence that Narcissa doesn't have to act strong, she can show her desperation to him. Maybe just because she can't think of anyone else to help her but then they wouldn't be on first name terms if that was her only reason for being there.

Snape's armchair is in front of a wall of books where a hidden door reveals a narrow staircase.

Important point: the first magic from Snape in this book is wordless and I think this sets the tone for the whole book as well. The more I analyzed the books, the more clues to his prowess at wordless magic I was given and in this book, I'm glad it was explained at Hogwarts, especially when Snape fled in the end.  He's a pro at wordless magic and legilimens... to me this supports the view that Dumbledore did communicate with Snape before he killed him.  Wordless it all was.

I love the way Snape calls Wormtail vermin, it's so him to say such a thing.  He also makes sure to differentiate himself from Wormtail though I'm sure Bella doesn't share that opinion.

The man crept, hunchbacked, down the last few steps and moved into the room. He had small, watery eyes, a pointed nose, and wore an unpleasant simper. His left hand was caressing his right, which looked as though it was encased in a bright silver glove.

"Narcissa!" he said, in a squeaky voice. "And Bellatrix! How charming--"

"Wormtail will get us drinks, if you'd like them," said Snape. "And then he will return to his bedroom."

Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown something at him.

"I am not your servant!" he squeaked, avoiding Snape's eye.

"Really? I was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist me."

"To assist, yes--but not to make you drinks and--and clean your house!"

 

 Wandless wordless magic? I wonder! Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown him something but then again it might just be a hurtful remark for Wormtail. Maybe Snape cast a curse at the same time as he threw the insult at him (vermin) but one thing is sure: he treated him as though he were a servant and baby who needed to be told when to settle in bed. Ouch!  But like I said above, Wormtail is a coward and nuisance to Snape (surely). Snape eats his way through students like him everyday during the school year, why not now!  Also notice how quick Snape is to interrupt Wormtail when he was addressing the ladies. He has no patience with him, no more than with his 'dunderheadish' students ; )

Notice that Wormtail avoids Snape's eye, surely because he knows what he just said isn't true: he does serve Snape and doesn't like it but he's too much of a coward and is too low in self-esteem to tell him straight to his face.

"Really?" Somehow I can hear Snape's sarcastic or mocking tone even though it's not mentioned.  It's also very Slytherin of him to put it as "I was under the impression" rather than "you are here to serve, you mongrel!"  That wouldn't be his style, it's not subtle enough.

I think this was a major point of the book whether Snape be good or bad, as inoffensive as it looks. First because we finally had some hint as to Snape's position within the Death Eaters. Finally we learn that he is on talking terms with Voldemort himself, meaning that he's not too low in the ranks and high enough for Voldemort to both trust and fear him. Because, let's be serious here, Voldemort gives Snape a servant but said servant is also a spy in  turn. Snape is no fool and he knows what he must do or not in Wormtail's presence.

 

[Repeat] "To assist, yes--but not to make you drinks and--and clean your house!"

I want to come back on that sentence.  Wormtail seems to know this is Snape's house. Not as if he had decided to scare off the neighbourhood and find a hideout that was uncommon and unsettling for wizards. No, he emphasizes the fact that this is Snape's house, just like Bella who emphasizes that he lives there in this dunghill.  It sounds as though both know, for unspecified reasons, that Snape's house is only here. Or at least that the house he chose to hide in is only this and he has no others.

Wormtail didn't say : "Clean your mess" or "Clean your hideout", I think Rowling wanted to stress the fact that it was Snape's house and that we should look into that if we were clever. What would Snape be doing in an old decayed house with shabby furniture in the middle of nowhere near a smelly river?! And I think every Snape fan out there have asked themselves the question: what is our Potions Master, the man who likes to impress and sounds so meticulous, doing in such a house?!  Is this really his house? Does he really come from such a poor background? Isn't he using magic to clean since there are no Muggles around? All those questions are very good indeed, they all give clues as to the end of the book. The prince that came from mud is written all over this house or so is my poetic mind thinking.

Of course, many people surely checked it off as being a simply hideout. Snape is so clever all the time, of course he wouldn't choose a noisy neighbourhood to live in nor a place that looked like someone would hide in. No, he's made of sterner stuff.  He hides or lives in his very own house apparently, or at least a house that speaks out for itself: "Here is the Half-Blood Prince, where mud and magic mixed up to create yet another Slytherin unlike the others... I really think that's the impression, or rather inconsistence, Rowling wanted us to know about. With all those books in the tiny sitting room, who else could live there but Snape? Hermione but that option is out certainly. And therefore we are left with Snape who lives there and doesn't care so much about the shabbiness, as though he was used to it or simply didn't care as long as it made his goal closer (Slytherin thinking, ready to do anything to reach their ends). Maybe it's just a hideout but even so, he has all those old books in there which weren't mentioned as being Muggle, so he either lives there or spends enough time there that he needs something to keep his head busy.

 

"I had no idea, Wormtail, that you were craving more dangerous assignments," said Snape silkily. "This can be easily arranged: I shall speak to the Dark Lord--"

"I can speak to him myself if I want to!"

"Of course you can," said Snape, sneering. "But in the meantime, bring us drinks. Some of the elf-made wine will do."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wormtail hesitated for a moment, looking as though he might argue, but then turned and headed through a second hidden door. They heard banging and a clinking of glasses. Within seconds he was back, bearing a dusty bottle and three glasses upon a tray. He dropped these on the rickety table and scurried from their presence, slamming the book-covered door behind him.

 Slytherin to the bone! : D And again Snape used his silky voice which means that if Wormtail has any intelligence left he won't argue about the assignment or else he knows he may has well find himself on the wrong side of his master's wishes. Snape knows he can manipulate Wormy because he values his self-protection above all else.

What strikes us here however is the fact that Snape finally reveals that he can speak to the Dark Lord himself, just as Wormtail whom resurrected him. But not only that, he also has some kind of leverage with the Dark Lord because he is obviously allowed to suggest things as well. And from Wormtail's reaction, we may surmise that Snape may have his way because Wormtail agrees to be the servant, if only for the night.

Possibility 1: Wormtail agrees because he's sure that if Snape talks about him to the Dark Lord and suggests more dangerous assignments, the latter will approve and then Wormtail will end up in danger, something a coward like him would never want. He'd prefer being a servant than that.

Possibility 2: Wormtail agrees to help until he can talk to the Dark Lord himself, because he knows he's not up to par with Snape.  

I believe the first possibility is the most likely thanks to what we will learn below. Not to mention the sneer Snape had in his voice while he said: "Of course you can" as though he were really saying: "Yes, indeed but who will win, you or I?" And then he proceeds with his order ; )

Now for the elf-made wine. That's a new item to add to the house and another mystery to solve because it could give us an inkling into Snape's habits.  Why? Simply because he said: "will do" as in "Don't bring any expensive bottles or fancy drinks like I sometimes/usually have, just elf-wine will do in this case" OR "I don't feel like taking the usual tonight, elf-made wine will do" OR "you're bad at choosing drinks, Wormtail, so let me help you choose before you ruin something precious or come back here with something beneath our guests" OR "hospitality is not your forte, you're likely to bring us something ratty so here's what we'll have" OR "that kind of wine is used only when I have guests, bring some out I surely have some left in there" OR "elf-made wine is expensive but I feel like impressing a bit and passing it up as something that's not out of the ordinary for me, so get us one bottle." There are many possibilities.

Whichever is right, we don't know. But we sure know that there's something more elaborate that Snape drinks (and maybe even is used to have) but won't or don't feel like having right now. When one uses 'will do', it usually means that something is higher to it but that the chosen alternative is still acceptable for the occasion. That is if elf-made wine is not so special a wine. If on the contrary it is, then Snape wants to make sure Wormtail brings them something nice but didn't want to appear as though he was making an exception by opening a precious bottle.

And let's not forget that the bottle is dusty.  Meaning that it has been there for a while, not an eternity but some time.  Was it abandoned there a couple of years ago or last year?  Afictionado tells me that to her, this indicates that it is in a store of wine that has not been tampered with.  And here is what I learnt from her about dusty bottles: "In French wine cellars I believe it is normal for the bottles to be dusty.  For some types of wine (types that require the bottle to be turned regularly) you need the dust to show which bottles are due for turning, but that would not apply here. This may be off the point because this type of wine is probably not the type that requires turning, and this type of house would not have been built with a wine cellar"

 So there's not too much to deduce from this if Rowling only meant it was old. But then some other deductions (very simple but still) can be made: Snape remembers he has wine even though it's been there for a while. If so, then he must have been down in the kitchen himself. Snape has no house-elves surely, such a house doesn't require one.  Wormtail wasn't with Snape last year, so until the rat was forced to spy on Snape, Snape had to do everything himself if he lived there. Snape cooking?! : D I'd like to see that!! ; )

Also, since it said dusty but without cobwebs, I'd say it was left there last year but it could be that Rowling meant that it was older, as old as when he last stayed there... or when his parents stayed there. Anyhow, someone in this house keeps wine but doesn't bother dusting them at the very least ; ) One last thing to remember as well is that it's been made by a magical creature, not a muggle!  Snape lets nothing transpire about his origins up to now, except for living in this house... which I'm pretty sure the ladies want to believe to be a hideout only ; )

Snape poured out three glasses of blood red wine and handed two of them to the sisters. Narcissa murmured a word of thanks, whilst Bellatrix said nothing, but continued to glower at Snape. This did not seem to discompose him; on the contrary, he looked rather amused.

(now all fans must pray that we see this in movie 6, okay!!)

That's our Snape! Amused by the dirty looks Bella throws his way.  What I find interesting is how Bella seems to watch Narcissa's back but at the same time, she is against her being there.  I think that's very peculiar and worthy of interest because of its duality! Bella looks troubled but she somehow can't take a clear-cut decision: support her sister or not.  For his part, Snape knows Bella is in a dilemma. More than that, he knows it must be a low blow to her pride, her pure-blood pride as well as the Dark Lord's most faithful. He knows stuff she doesn't and he likes every second of it.

Blood red wine. Is that again a symbol like the admonitory finger? Snape is the one pouring it to the ladies, just like that chimney was looming over them earlier.  If this is truly a symbol though, then we have to remember that Snape also pours himself some. If Snape is their doom, then he drinks it with them, he takes his share. Alea jacta est, the die is cast. Is this what it could mean? Is this why Snape ended up in the Unbreakable Vow? Because he'd accepted to meddle in with Narcissa? I wonder...

I'm personally not a fan of hidden symbolism in books. I like them to be obvious unless the authors inform us, through interviews, that there are symbols to be understood in their art. If not, then I really don't feel confident in implying that there are... unlike my French literature teachers who extrapolated a symbol from the tiniest clues when reading books written centuries ago and for which the authors left no comment. I'm not going there, but I thought it would be nice to talk about it.  
 

"The Dark Lord," he said, raising his glass and draining it.

The sisters copied him. Snape refilled their glasses. As Narcissa took her second drink she said in a rush, "Severus, I'm sorry to come here like this, but I had to see you. I think you are the only one who can help me--"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snape held up a hand to stop her, then pointed his wand again at the concealed staircase door. There was a loud bang and a squeal, followed by the sound of Wormtail scurrying back up the stairs.

"My apologies," said Snape. "He has lately taken to listening at doors, I don't know what he means by it... You were saying, Narcissa?"

 

Clever of Rowling to include this. I've seen this 'toast to the Dark Lord' in many fan-fictions and I'm sure those authors who have used it were happy to read it in the canon version ; )

What one must not forget here is that we have a Potions Master, Bella doesn't trust him so for Snape there is no way to avoid drinking. Maybe that's why he drained his first, to prove there was no need to fear he might have poisoned the content. That's what I believe as the most relevant reason to do that even though wine is usually meant not to be drained like spirit alcohol. It is meant to be tasted slowly. However, all three do bottoms up and only then do they seem to not have to drink it all up in one shot. Afterwards, they quaffed their wine as the saying goes.

Maybe it was a way to relieve tension, that also makes sense.  Thanks Afictionado! My friend also mentioned something interesting that I hadn't thought of: "But really to me that action speaks of a love of excess pleasures and a way of showing they are unafraid of alcohol – they can hold their drink – as the saying goes.  It’s perhaps a little bit ill-mannered, but not seriously ill-mannered."

Also, for those of you who like me come from cultures where we all clink glasses before a toast, you might want to know that this is no longer fashionable in England. And it was never done in higher echelous who were used to large dinner parties because it is impractical at large gatherings. 

Clever clogs our dear Snape is ; )  There was no way Wormtail wouldn't be spying on them.  However, later on while they were performing the UVow, Snape didn't seem to check back on him, so maybe he not only had just hurt him, he may have set a warning spell should he come back downstairs.  

Ha ha! I love this! "I don't know what he means by it" Right!! That's humour for those of us who know that Snape has things to hide, who doesn't in the HP books anyway. Snape is no fool, saying that would only convince people like Neville that he had nothing to hide and really couldn't understand why someone in his house would try to spy on him. Hence to me this is humour, not Snape trying to cover anything.

She took a great, shuddering breath and started again.

"Severus, I know I ought not to be here, I have been told to say nothing to anyone, but--"

"Then you ought to hold your tongue!" snarled Bellatrix. "Particularly in present company!"

'

 

 First name basis, always interesting. Narcissa really seems to trust him unless she's just willing to put her life on the line.  But I don't think so because she didn't come in with a cold face or countenance, she's being herself right now and doesn't fear doing so in front of Snape.

Bella trusts Snape as much as she trusts Wormtail.  Be it because she's jealous, genuinely averse to being helped by people who live in dunghills, cautious because she's sure he is a spy or a mix of these is up to her.  The important part for me is that Snape isn't impressed nor worried about it. Most of all, he isn't put off by her and doesn't allow Bella to cloud his judgment towards Narcissa either.  Yes, he wants to listen because it may give him some piece of missing information, but I feel that somehow he would like to help her if it meant he didn't have to be put at risk.  

"Present company'?" repeated Snape sardonically. "And what arn I to understand by that, Bellatrix?"

"That I don't trust you, Snape, as you very well know!"

Narcissa let out a noise that might have been a dry sob and covered her face with her hands. Snape set his glass down upon the table and sat back again, his hands upon the arms of his chair, smiling into Bellatrix's glowering face.

Sardonic: disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking . Yes, that sounds like what Snape would do!  He knew the second he saw Bella (maybe even expected Bella to have followed her sister) that she didn't trust him and would do all she could to avoid having anything to do with him.  I'm sure he hates Bella just as much and it explains why he would derisively mock her when she said 'present company', because surely that was what he had on his mind himself!

Narcissa may be reconsidering or rather thinking about the possible negative outcomes of her night visit. What if Snape proves to be a spy, what if she made the wrong choice, etc. Maybe Bella's intervention made her rethink yet again, and she couldn't keep her countenance (what she had left of it anyway) and therefore covered her face in shame.  Because this is when Snape set his glass down (notice that he has to stand up if he wants to do so) and maybe that sob triggered Snape's reaction. He knew they would be interrupted, that Narcissa would sob here and there, stopping and crying instead of getting to the point, so he thought: "Let's get it over with!" and asked Bella to go ahead. Not to mention that he must have found this very entertaining because he knew he had answers for everything! And some Bella wouldn't like either! He he!

"Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix," said Snape. "Why is it that you do not trust me?"

"A hundred reasons!" she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. "Where to start! Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you've lived in Dumbledore's pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Sorcerer's Stone? Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?"

She paused, her chest rising and falling rapidly, the color high in her cheeks. Behind her, Narcissa sat motionless, her face still hidden in her hands.

Snape smiled.

 

 There we have it, Snape wants to make sure Bella is on his side if only a bit or else he'll have to deal with two frantic women. I would have done the same.  I just love the way he said that she's bursting to say something!!

Oh dear! The tigress is out!  Hopefully the rickety table didn't flinch ; ) Ha ha!  I remember that when I first read this, I was ecstatic in my mind and telling myself: "This is it! We're finally going to know his secrets and how he was able to pull it off!  There's no going back now for Snape!"  Oh yes and how well he answered to our questions, too!

 

 

 

 

 

I SO want to see this in the movie!!  Oh how I love Snape' smile!  I can easily imagine how he looks and surely now he is the one who is bursting to say something ; )

"Before I answer you — oh yes, Bellatrix, I am going to answer! You can carry my words back to the others who whisper behind my back, and carry false tales of my treachery to the Dark Lord! Before I answer you, I say, let me ask a question in turn. Do you really think that the Dark Lord has not asked me each and every one of those questions? And do you really think that, had I not been able to give satisfactory answers, I would be sitting here talking to you?"

She hesitated.

 "I know he believes you, but. . ."

 There is a lot to talk about here. I love the way Rowling played with images in this case. She didn't describe Bella's reaction, she rather let Snape make us aware of it through his eyes and words.  The dash — refers to the moment Snape noticed Bella's reaction to his "Before I answer you" and that is just splendid. I love such realistic dialogue between characters in a story, it feels real and alive.  

What also strikes me from this is how Bella didn't expect any answers. That tells us miles about Death Eaters in general. Of course we surmised that but for once we have it in writing from the canon book and that is why it's important. Therefore, Death Eaters are renown for hiding and not answering questions unless it's to the Dark Lord. This means that Voldemort's Death Eater group is just like any other villainous organisation in any good old book: villains try to crisscross each other, they are privy, they've got their own agendas, and they won't answer questions unless the guru asks them to.

We also learn lots from this because, as usual, Snape makes perfect use of his words, he's not one to waste energy on useless speeches:

  1. Other Death Eaters are whispering behind his back
  2. They also claim to know of Snape's treachery towards them and make up false tales about it. Maybe the DE are right, maybe what they are whispering about is true but the official version, the one Voldemort 'believes' or accepts as true, is that Snape works for the Dark Lord. So what he wants now is to cover and protect himself from doubts about his loyalty.
  3. Snape gives permission to Bella to talk to the other DE about him and everything she will learn.  That is sending quite a powerful message from someone who is part of such a villainous society. It sounds as though Snape is very much in control or that he wants to control the information about himself before it gets out of hand. And that is interesting because villains usually like to keep their secrets to themselves while working for someone higher than them like Voldemort.  Villains don't usually try to explain themselves and actions they've performed, they simply have no time for this. Yet, Snape takes the time to chat with Bella. And that is why I wrote my general comment before starting on this chapter: Snape unveils his secrets and wants Bella to 'spread the good news'  that he is faithful to Voldemort.  
    This could mean many things:
    • Bad Snape's vanity is so strong he wants to make sure everyone knows he's been one of the most faithful and useful members of the Death Eaters along with Bella.
    • Bad Snape just want to make sure others respect him and stop making up false tales about him.
    • Bad Snape answers simply because he wants to drain as much information out of the sisters as possible for his own evil agenda because he wants to defeat both Light (Dumbledore & Co) and Dark (Voldemort & Co) himself.
    • Good Snape wants to be trusted amongst the DE, he doesn't want them and the sisters to retain information from him, so he makes sure Bella has her answers so his 'Bad Snape' cover isn't blown up and that he gets as much info for the Light as possible. Bella is a strong key figure and if she believes him, then it will save Snape much persuasion work in the end. Then he will be able to focus more energy on spying than on protecting his hides. Slytherin to the bone!

Of course I'm a real crusader for Good Snape  but I still have to make sure the Bad Snape or  Snape-the-Death-Eater options are covered. As I said above, the fact that Snape is shown to us, revealing his secrets and how he pulled it off, is very suspicious. Why reveal everything to us now? Why should the reader know that Snape is going to be the evil one in this book after the second chapter only?  Why bring Bellatrix into the picture so that Snape has to talk about his secrets? Why not simply allow Narcissa to visit Snape on her own, asking him to make the vow?  If Bellatrix had not been there, Snape would have been able to keep his secrets and readers wouldn't have had to be suspicious of him all throughout the book. Again let me ask: why reveal us the plot and who would end up killing Dumbledore?!  This smells fishy, unconvincing to me at least and very unlike Rowling.  Yes, we didn't know the 'task of Draco' in the first place

The question he asks Bella is very meaningful and so logical, it's very much like Snape to do that. He wants to make her doubt, he wants to destabilize her so much she may very well believe and trust him in the end. I think he did with the Unbreakable Vow but that's for later and up to this point in time, Snape himself didn't know he would make one. Oh, and of course he wants to make sure Narcissa does not go back on her decision to ask his help, that wouldn't do even if he knew exactly why she was here in the first place.  Nothing is better than others confirming your suspicions after all! Also, Snape is no fool, he knows the only person Bella trusts implicitly is the Dark Lord himself, so in order to confound her, he makes sure she knows exactly what the Dark Lord knows about him as well because she trusts his judgment more than anything else. Yes, she has her doubts, that her Lord is mistaken in trusting Snape, she said so herself before) but she still believes him and that is what matters. Snape knows he has to play this Voldemort-trusts-me card with Bella or she won't ever shut up.

Finally, I want to point out the 'satisfactory answers'. As can be expected from a Slytherin and Death Eater, the truth presented to one is usually not the entire or real truth. It's a satisfactory and logical truth that holds together when presented to others.  A bit like in trials when some type lawyers know what their client really did, but they will hide the truth and present a satisfactory foolproof version to the jury and judge in order to win.   In this case, Snape is his own advocate and he provides a satisfactory version of the truth, be it that he works for himself or for Dumbledore.  Rowling is being very astute and clever here, she must have chosen those words well.

 

"You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?"

Bellatrix said nothing, but looked, for the first time, a little discomfited. Snape did not press the point. He picked up his drink again, sipped it, and continued, "You ask where I was when the Dark Lord fell. I was where he had ordered me to be, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, because he wished me to spy upon Albus Dumbledore. You know, I presume, that it was on the Dark Lord's orders that I took up the post?"

 

 

That's a philosophical technique he's using to hoodwink Bella herself and boy is it efficient ; )  If I remember my philosophy classes well, I'd say that what he's doing with Bella and Narcissa here is sophism (way of speaking and reasoning  calculated to confuse, entrap and mislead your audience, making sure you use pseudo-logic to convince others) The fact that Snape mentions Legilimens here is very important because it gives us a glimpse at what must be going on between Voldemort and his servants. Not only that, but the fact that Snape seems either to be better at Occlumency than Voldemort is capable of Legilimens, hence hiding his own agenda, or that Snape is telling the truth and he can't hide from Voldemort.  Since Snape feels the need to explain himself, I'd say the last option is not viable.

Snape did not press the point. Very important because when you use sophism, you don't want people to think too much about it, you want to make it appear as though the weak points of your argumentation are forgotten.  Snape wanted Bella to think only of the prowess of the Dark Lord and not have second thoughts about it such as "yes, but what if Snape happens to be a better Occlumens? Then what he's telling me doesn't apply anymore and it means I'm right"  And so on.

And there we are, Snape goes on and makes sure Bella doesn't have time to realize just what he did ; ) He he!  He feeds her even more information so she forgets the loopholes. I love this!  Note how he tries to be dramatic by saying Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he's trying to impress her with the ineludible fact that he had to stay there for his lord. And then he makes sure Bella remembers that she knew about it, about his mission, and that up to now she didn't seem to mind.

She nodded almost imperceptibly and then opened her mouth, but Snape forestalled her.

"You ask why I did not attempt to find him when he vanished. For the same reason that Avery, Yaxley, the Carrows, Greyback, Lucius" — he inclined his head slightly to Narcissa — "and many others did not attempt to find him. I believed him finished. I am not proud of it, I was wrong, but there it is. ... If he had not forgiven we who lost faith at that time, he would have very few followers left."

"He'd have me!" said Bellatrix passionately. "I, who spent many years in Azkaban for him!"

"Yes, indeed, most admirable," said Snape in a bored voice. "Of course, you weren't a lot of use to him in prison, but the gesture was undoubtedly fine —"

"Gesture!" she shrieked; in her fury she looked slightly mad. "While I endured the dementors, you remained at Hogwarts, comfortably playing Dumbledore's pet!"

 

 

You go, Snape!  Cut her off before she thinks too much and  before she wastes too much time talking about what you intend to say anyway. Good!

I love how he inclines his head towards Narcissa, sending a non-verbal message to Bella: "See, even your own sister didn't do anything! Why have I to be treated so harshly when you have people to accuse in your own family."  

And there again, he attacks in the most silky way Bella's logic: if Voldemort had punished all of those who had deserted him when he seemingly vanished, he would have but Bella and Crouch Jr who is himself dead... leaving only Bella (unless I'm forgetting someone here).

Snape is SO cruel here!  He boasts about the fact that he's been so much more useful to Voldemort where he was even though he was in a comfortable place and didn't believe he would rise again while poor Bella suffered for him instead. Gosh that's got to hurt!! The gesture was fine, but useless! Ouch!  Snape is very much aware that Bella would be frantic. Now my question is: Why didn't he seem to fear that?  Is it that Bella won't dare lift a finger on him?  Is it that Snape is confident in his own abilities that he can take her on anytime? Interesting questions! I really love the boring way he talks about it, he makes it sound so casual and unimportant. He really wants Bella to go berserk so he's being very tackless.  But he has a goal that's certain. Maybe more than destabilizing her so she won't put 2 and 2 together. I think Snape is enjoying this a lot, finally having a little revenge against the Almighty Death Eaters such as Bellatrix. And he may even be getting his revenge about being a half-blood ; )

"Not quite," said Snape calmly. "He wouldn't give me the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, you know. Seemed to think it might, ah, bring about a relapse , . . tempt me into my old ways."

"This was your sacrifice for the Dark Lord, not to teach your favorite subject?" she jeered. "Why did you stay there all that time, Snape? Still spying on Dumbledore for a master you believed dead?"

"Hardly," said Snape, "although the Dark Lord is pleased that I never deserted my post: I had sixteen years of information on Dumbledore to give him when he returned, a rather more useful welcome-back present than endless reminiscences of how unpleasant Azkaban is. . . ."

 "But you stayed —"

 

 Not quite Dumbledore's pet. Nicely said! What is important to notice here is that Snape reveals that Dumbledore was not totally blind about Snape, and that he knew of his 'old ways'.  This sounds like old news, but I think it's a bit more than that.  Snape must mean his 'old ways' as in using the Dark Arts or being a Death Eater in action.  We never heard of Snape using or being active in the DArts before, but here is a glimpse at his 'old ways'.  Is it true or not? We don't know, unfortunately, but I think this also hints that a Death Eater needed to be more than a tattooed-person, one had to act and do dark things or we wouldn't be talking of 'old ways'. And here Snape seems to admit he did follow those ways, the normal ways of being a Death Eater. So this might foreshadow the possibility that Snape did harm some people before he turned to Dumbledore.

 I really wonder if this is not the truth for once, that Dumbledore really didn't want to give him the DADA position because he feared a relapse. ??? I really wonder about that and I wish I knew!  But I can deduce a couple of things from this:  Snape says "seemed to" and not "thought that" and  this may prove a very important word.  Dumbledore seems to be the one refusing to give him the job, but that could be bullocks. This means that Dumbledore seemed to think that  back then and until last year, Snape would have fallen for the Dart Arts again, but now he feels secure in giving Snape the job?  

Click here to see the rest of this section's analysis. It grew too long to keep it all here and it's very important!!!

"Yes, Bellatrix, I stayed," said Snape, betraying a hint of impatience for the first time. "I had a comfortable job that I preferred to a stint in Azkaban. They were rounding up the Death Eaters, you know. Dumbledore's protection kept me out of jail; it was most convenient and I used it. I repeat: The Dark Lord does not complain that I stayed, so I do not see why you do.

 

Like I said, they have not been rounding up on the Death Eaters for that long! Not for 15 years! So why would Snape remain there?  Many say because he couldn't find anything else anywhere, but then why not move to a place like Durmstrang  with Igor Karkaroff! Yeah! It suddenly hits me as one of the very illogical elements!  Surely there exists a way to talk any language you like thanks to magic, or a genius like Snape would have learnt the language very easily! But why didn't he move if he were a bad guy with ambitions? Durmstrang was perfect for him: cold and stern like him (in fact, before Book 6 I thought he might be from Hungary), discipline seems to be very different from Hogwarts, they love the Dark Arts there, and Igor knew Snape wouldn't mind that he had betrayed him during his trial because Snape had been vouched for by Dumbledore anyway! Snape could force Igor to give him a place in his school if he really wanted to, after all both men seemed to be civil to each other in Book 4. Why didn't Snape move?!  Because he couldn't get out of the country? Because he had no references? Because he would miss his usual cup of tea?  I don't believe that! Why would Snape 'endure' Hogwarts as he seems to want Bellatrix to believe?  Igor was able to become Headmaster for God's sake!  How come Snape who looks as dark but not so much more than Igor could not have found anything elsewhere? Dumbledore could have recommended him for any job he wanted surely. Why spend all those years at Hogwarts teaching dunderheads?! No, it makes no sense to me! Snape stayed because he wanted to stay even if he couldn't have the DADA job!  Even if he has to deal with Dumbledore's lemon drops and Gryffindor favoritism, with people who feared him because of his past, with parents complaining, etc. Why put up with all of this if he had his own agenda? Why not go away to fulfill his ambitions!?  An ambitious man would have done much more than stay at Hogwarts under the eye of Dumbledore. Even if Snape had a life-debt to repay towards Harry, he could have come to Hogwarts once, do the deed and go back where he was a DADA teacher with growing skills! But no, he stayed at Hogwarts.

Many will tell me: Of course because he was tied to Dumbledore!! But would Dumbledore really 'tie' Snape down?  He respects freedom or else he would have jumped on any occasions to arrest 'Tom Riddle' before. Why would he tie down Snape? Again I come back with the Unbreakable Vow theory or any other binding spell that would work. However, an ambitious man would not have stood for it, he would have found another way that was not an Unbreakable Vow because he had no intentions on being Dumbledore's puppet for long. No, when Snape agreed to help Dumbledore, he knew he was changing for good, that he wouldn't leave Hogwarts afterwards, that he had reasons to stay and feel welcome.  If not, then he would have left for Durmstrang  a long time ago!  Which further proves that the DADA job isn't everything he aspires to above all else.

The questions that I just asked are exactly the type of questions Snape didn't want Bellatrix to consider and ponder on just now, so he used his best card by saying: "The Dark Lord does not complain why should you!" and then he changed the subject right away by pressing on.  Clever indeed!

"I think you next wanted to know," he pressed on a little more loudly, for Bellatrix showed every sign of interrupting, "why I stood between the Dark Lord and the Sorcerer's Stone. That is easily answered. He did not know whether he could trust me. He thought, like you, that I had turned from faithful Death Eater to Dumbledore's stooge. He was in a pitiable condition, very weak, sharing the body of a mediocre wizard. He did not dare reveal himself to a former ally if that ally might turn him over to Dumbledore or the Ministry. I deeply regret that he did not trust me. He would have returned to power three years sooner. As it was, I saw only greedy and unworthy Quirrell attempting to steal the stone and, I admit, I did all I could to thwart him."

Bellatrix's mouth twisted as though she had taken an unpleasant dose of medicine.

 

 OH! Can you hear the violins playing a melodramatic tune as Snape explains that he could have saved the Dark Lord trouble and three years of additional power! Sniff, sniff! It's touching! Ha ha!

One detail interests me here: Voldemort thought he had turned from faithful Death Eater to Dumbledore's stooge.  First of all, the trusty Death Eater.  It means that Snape was considered as faithful in the past, so surely that is another clue to indicate that what the Dark Lord told him to do (before he was a turncoat), he did.

Then we have the word 'stooge' in relation to Dumbledore. I wonder which one he meant: a subordinate, a puppet or a stool pigeon? I think we all agree it's the puppet because Voldemort would think anyone working for Dumbledore was a puppet and didn't understand that he was the enemy.  Ironic Voldemort considered Snape as Dumbledore's puppet while in fact all of his followers are Death Eater puppets, but that kind of logic does not sit well with megalomaniacs ; )

I just love Snape's description of Quirrell because it shows off Snape's usual disdain for other people of lesser skills. Had he not been the DADA teacher, maybe Snape would not have been so drastic in his description however.

Snape said "I admit" because this is yet another deceptive way to bring his audience's attention on the very arguments he feels safe about and he doubles it because he admits to having done something he shouldn't have as a Death Eater.  What is he trying to hide?  The reason why he wouldn't simply steal the stone to restore the Dark Lord once Snape knew of his whereabouts.  Bella would have done that with the stone, but Snape does not want her to think that far! And once again may I point that an ambitious man who was intelligent and talented enough to reach the stone himself would have tried to nick it, unlike Snape tried to do since he never tried learning how to calm down Fluffy!

"But you didn't return when he came back, you didn't fly back to him at once when you felt the Dark Mark burn —"

"Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumbledore's orders."

"On Dumbledore's — ?" she began, in tones of outrage.

"Think!" said Snape, impatient again. "Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours, I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord's side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider, Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next move, to escape like Karkaroff, didn't I?

 

 Fly  me to the Moon and let me stay forever more!!... La, la, la! Poor Bellatrix, she does all she can for her Lord and she has to stand talking to Snape who apparently knows more than she does! x_x  I feel pity for her really

Incredible how Snape is able to infuriate the villains (like Bellatrix and Wormtail) and the good guys (Harry, Ron, Sirius, etc)! That is what makes him different in a way. Of course he mentioned Dumbledore right away which was bound to create such a retort from Bella. Also notice how he uses "Correct" which could be written down as professional bias (job conditioning) ; )  I certainly know about recurrent teacher kinks! Ha ha!

This is the part I love! I thought it was weird to repeat the same word twice, but then I happened to discuss repetitions with Afictionado (who's British) and I finally nailed it down: British love to repeat the same word twice for some odd reasons. I noticed it far less in American language.  In this case, I believe Snape is trying to make a major point... and he also seems annoyed that yet again someone asks that question! I'm a 100% behind Snape on this one because for someone who uses logic and deduction all the time, the simple act of having to actually spell out one of your deductions (which you thought was as easy as 2 + 2) is annoying.  After all, Snape-the-teacher knows how excruciating and bothersome it is to repeat simple instructions to students, therefore I understand his impatience when faced with an adult and not a student.  In my family, I'm the only 'logical-deducing' one and how often do I feel impatient because to me two elements are so easily connected through logic that I'm appalled nobody else saw it before. And there goes the first item on my list of Mr. Right: logic!

I always thought Snape hadn't left as soon as he should have when the Dark Mark burnt.  It would be way too obvious to suddenly leave like that.  Why other Death Eaters can't see how that was crucial for Snape (be him good or bad) is beyond my understanding. But I guess Death Eaters prefer to let their lust for power take over any common sense.  

Here's a very interesting view of Snape's fancy tale: he was ordered by Dumbledore!  That my friends is an essential point because for once, we happen to have 'been there' when Dumbledore  'ordered' Snape to go... It happened like this:

"Severus," said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, "you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready . . . if you are prepared ..."
"I am," said Snape.
He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely.

"Then good luck," said Dumbledore, and he watched, with a trace of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius. It was several minutes before Dumbledore spoke again.

Is this what 'ordering someone' should sound like? To me ordering someone about does not involve any 'if you are ready' or 'if you are prepared'.  And there's this sense that Dumbledore somehow doesn't have any choice in the matter either and this could hint at the fact that Dumbledore cannot do without Snape.  Indeed, it seems he can't or won't do without him or else he would have made sure Snape was sent under cover for his own protection like he did for the Potters once. Surely Dumbledore could have done so if he valued Snape as much as he seemed to. After all, he trusted him with the school's most secret plans so why not send in hiding someone you feel confident enough to reveal your secrets to?   But Dumbledore didn't do any of that, neither did Snape.

Maybe Snape knew fleeing was hopeless, but it still wouldn't account for the fact that Dumbledore would still 'force' Snape if they never had any magical agreement between themselves. We know how Dumbledore hates to order people around or else he would never have accepted to keep the Marauders at school or Tom Riddle before. It's simply not his style so why would he force Snape into anything at all? Again one more point in favour of a binding spell like the Unbreakable Vow. And even if he had that much power over Snape, Dumbledore does not sound as pushy as Snape would like Bella to believe, and that is also another point in Snape's defense. This conversation reminds me not of a dictator ordering his soldiers to die for his cause.  No, it reminds me of detective series where there's a captain ordering his police officers to do their job even though he knows there are risks of losing some of them.  The captain 'must ask' his officers to do the right thing and cross path with the enemy at times, but it doesn't mean the captain is forcing them at all. Each officer is still allowed to not act. They will suffer the consequences of not doing their job, but they can still choose to do something or not. Snape has chosen to go along with the plan, to do his duty (be it obligated or not through a binding spell) or else he would have fled with Karkaroff a long time ago. And as clever as we know Snape to be, he could have pulled it off, I'm sure of it. BUT HE STAYED!  A very stupid thing to do if you have your own agenda because it's best to step aside, let the enemies battle each other and come back only when one side is the winner but still fragile from the casualties of war. Then it's easy to conquer. But this is not what is happening right now! Snape stayed even though he knew the Dark Lord may decide he'd have enough of him.

And let's not forget how Snape looked nervous back then, so much that even Harry saw it even though he is usually the worst one at guessing how Snape truly feels.  Snape was nervous and paler, he must have feared his plan wouldn't work but if he is a Slytherin, if he is a bad guy after all, then why openly show that you are scared? Or why wasn't he sure he would win over the Dark Lord?   A Slytherin who values his skin above anything else would have made sure to cover his tracks for months prior to now.  But yet, Snape was very nervous, it was not the look of someone who knew what he was doing, who had made sure to be safe on either side if he had his own agenda.  Yes, maybe he's just playing comedy with us but that's a far shot.

Is Snape making it look as though he has no choice? I think so. His words are also well chosen, Rowling must have reread that part a couple of times to make sure it gave nothing away. But to me, the mere fact that Snape is trying to convince Bella that Dumbledore acts as though he has power over Snape is very fishy!  

"The Dark Lord's initial displeasure at my lateness vanished entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, although Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong."

"But what use have you been?" sneered Bellatrix. "What useful information have we had from you?"

"My information has been conveyed directly to the Dark Lord," said Snape. "If he chooses not to share it with you —"

"He shares everything with me!" said Bellatrix, firing up at once. "He calls me his most loyal, his most faithful —"

"Does he?" said Snape, his voice delicately inflected to suggest his disbelief. "Does he still, after the fiasco at the Ministry?"

 

 

"That was not my fault!" said Bellatrix, flushing. "The Dark Lord has, in the past, entrusted me with his most precious — if Lucius hadn't —"

"Don't you dare — don't you dare blame my husband!" said Narcissa, in a low and deadly voice, looking up at her sister.

"There is no point apportioning blame," said Snape smoothly. "What is done, is done."

"But not by you!" said Bellatrix furiously. "No, you were once again absent while the rest of us ran dangers, were you not, Snape?"

"My orders were to remain behind," said Snape. "Perhaps you disagree with the Dark Lord, perhaps you think that Dumbledore would not have noticed if I had joined forces with the Death Eaters to fight the Order of the Phoenix? And — forgive me — you speak of dangers . . . you were facing six teenagers, were you not?"

 

 

"They were joined, as you very well know, by half of the Order before long!" snarled Bellatrix. "And, while we are on the subject of the Order, you still claim you cannot reveal the whereabouts of their headquarters, don't you?"

"I am not the Secret-Keeper; I cannot speak the name of the place. You understand how the enchantment works, I think? The Dark Lord is satisfied with the information I have passed him on the Order. It led, as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and murder of Emmeline Vance, and it certainly helped dispose of Sirius Black, though I give you full credit for finishing him off."

He inclined his head and toasted her. Her expression did nor soften.

 

 

"You are avoiding my last question, Snape. Harry Potter. You could have killed him at any point in the past five years. You have not done it. Why?"

"Have you discussed this matter with the Dark Lord?" asked Snape.

"He . . . lately, we ... I am asking you, Snape!"

"If I had murdered Harry Potter, the Dark Lord could not have used his blood to regenerate, making him invincible —"

"You claim you foresaw his use of the boy!" she jeered.

 

 

"I do not claim it; I had no idea of his plans; I have already confessed that I thought the Dark Lord dead. I am merely trying to explain why the Dark Lord is not sorry that Potter survived, at least until a year ago. . . ."

"But why did you keep him alive?"

"Have you not understood me? It was only Dumbledore's protection that was keeping me out of Azkaban! Do you disagree that murdering his favorite student might have turned him against me? But there was more to it than that. I should remind you that when Potter first arrived at Hogwarts there were still many stories circulating about him, rumors that he himself was a great Dark wizard, which was how he had survived the Dark Lord's attack. Indeed, many of the Dark Lords old followers thought Potter might be a standard around which we could all rally once more. I was curious, I admit it, and not at all inclined to murder him the moment he set fool in the castle.

 

 

"Of course, it became apparent to me very quickly that he had no extraordinary talent at all. He has fought his way out of a number of tight corners by a simple combination of sheer luck and more talented friends. He is mediocre to the last degree, though as obnoxious and self-satisfied as was his father before him. I have done my utmost to have him thrown out of Hogwarts, where I believe he scarcely belongs, but kill him, or allow him to be killed in front of me? I would have been a fool to risk it with Dumbledore close at hand."

 

 

"And through all this we are supposed to believe Dumbledore has never suspected you?" asked Bellatrix. "He has no idea of your true allegiance, he trusts you implicitly still?"

"I have played my part well," said Snape. "And you overlook Dumbledore's greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of people. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms — though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has," (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), "the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were. But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord."

 

 

Bellatrix still looked unhappy, though she appeared unsure how best to attack Snape next. Taking advantage of her silence, Snape turned to her sister.

"Now . . . you came to ask me for help, Narcissa?"

Narcissa looked up at him, her face eloquent with despair.

"Yes, Severus. I — I think you are the only one who can help me, I have nowhere else to turn. Lucius is in jail and . . ."

She closed her eyes and two large tears seeped from beneath her eyelids.

"The Dark Lord has forbidden me to speak of it," Narcissa continued, her eyes still closed. "He wishes none to know of the plan. It is ... very secret. But —"

"If he has forbidden it, you ought not to speak," said Snape at once. "The Dark Lord's word is law."

 

 

Narcissa gasped as though he had doused her with cold water. Bellatrix looked satisfied for the first time since she had entered the house.

"There!" she said triumphantly to her sister. "Even Snape says so: You were told not to talk, so hold your silence!"

But Snape had gotten to his feet and strode to the small window, peered through the curtains at the deserted street, then closed them again with a jerk. He turned around to face Narcissa, frowning.

"It so happens that I know of the plan," he said in a low voice. "I am one of the few the Dark Lord has told. Nevertheless, had I not been in on the secret, Narcissa, you would have been guilty of great treachery to the Dark Lord."

 

 

"I thought you must know about it!" said Narcissa, breathing more freely. "He trusts you so, Severus. ..."

"You know about the plan?" said Bellatrix, her fleeting expression of satisfaction replaced by a look of outrage. "You know?"

"Certainly," said Snape. "But what help do you require, Narcissa? If you are imagining I can persuade the Dark Lord to change his mind, I am afraid there is no hope, none at all."

"Severus," she whispered, tears sliding down her pale cheeks. "My son . . . my only son . . ."

"Draco should be proud," said Bellatrix indifferently. "The Dark Lord is granting him a great honor. And I will say this for Draco: he isn't shrinking away from his duty, he seems glad of a chance to prove himself, excited at the prospect —"

Narcissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at Snape.

"That's because he is sixteen and has no idea what lies in store! Why, Severus? Why my son? It is too dangerous! This is vengeance lor Lucius's mistake, I know it!"

 

 

Snape said nothing. He looked away from the sight of her tears as though they were indecent, but he could not pretend not to hear her.

"That's why he's chosen Draco, isn't it?" she persisted. "To punish Lucius?"

"If Draco succeeds," said Snape, still looking away from her, "he will be honored above all others."

"But he won't succeed!" sobbed Narcissa. "How can he, when the Dark Lord himself— ?"

Bellatrix gasped; Narcissa seemed to lose her nerve.

"I only meant. . . that nobody has yet succeeded. . . . Severus . . . please . . . You are, you have always been, Draco's favorite teacher. . . . You are Lucius's old friend. ... I beg you. .. . You are the Dark Lord's favorite, his most trusted advisor. . . . Will you speak to him, persuade him — ?"

 

 

"The Dark Lord will not be persuaded, and I am not stupid enough to attempt it," said Snape flatly. "I cannot pretend that the Dark Lord is not angry with Lucius. Lucius was supposed to be in charge. He got himself captured, along with how many others, and failed to retrieve the prophecy into the bargain. Yes, the Dark Lord is angry, Narcissa, very angry indeed."

"Then I am right, he has chosen Draco in revenge!" choked Narcissa. "He does not mean him to succeed, he wants him to be killed trying!"

 

 

When Snape said nothing, Narcissa seemed to lose what little self-restraint she still possessed. Standing up, she staggered to Snape and seized the front of his robes. Her face close to his, her tears falling onto his chest, she gasped, "You could do it. You could do it instead of Draco, Severus. You would succeed, of course you would, and he would reward you beyond all of us —"

Snape caught hold of her wrists and removed her clutching hands. Looking down into her tearstained face, he said slowly, "He intends me to do it in the end, I think. But he is determined that Draco should try first. You see, in the unlikely event that Draco succeeds, I shall be able to remain at Hogwarts a little longer, fulfilling my useful role as spy."

"In other words, it doesn't matter to him if Draco is killed!"

"The Dark Lord is very angry," repeated Snape quietly. "He failed to hear the prophecy. You know as well as I do, Narcissa, that he does not forgive easily."

 

 

She crumpled, falling at his feet, sobbing and moaning on the floor.

"My only son . . . my only son . . ."

"You should be proud!" said Bellatrix ruthlessly. "If I had sons, I would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!"

Narcissa gave a little scream of despair and clutched at her long blonde hair. Snape stooped, seized her by the arms, lifted her up, and steered her back onto the sofa. He then poured her more wine and forced the glass into her hand.

"Narcissa, that's enough. Drink this. Listen to me."

She quieted a little; slopping wine down herself, she took a shaky sip.

 

 

"It might be possible ... for me to help Draco."

She sat up, her face paper-white, her eyes huge.

"Severus — oh, Severus — you would help him? Would you look after him, see he comes to no harm?"

"I can try."

She flung away her glass; it skidded across the table as she slid off the sofa into a kneeling position at Snape's feet, seized his hand in both of hers, and pressed her lips to it.

"If you are there to protect him . . . Severus, will you swear it? Will you make the Unbreakable Vow?"

 

 

"The Unbreakable Vow?"

Snape's expression was blank, unreadable. Bellatrix, however, let out a cackle of triumphant laughter.

"Aren't you listening, Narcissa? Oh, he'll try, I'm sure. . . . The usual empty words, the usual slithering out of action . . . oh, on the Dark Lord's orders, of course!"

Snape did not look at Bellatrix. His black eyes were fixed upon Narcissa's tear-filled blue ones as she continued to clutch his hand.

"Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow," he said quietly. "Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder."

 

 

Bellatrix's mouth fell open. Snape lowered himself so that he was kneeling opposite Narcissa. Beneath Bellatrix's astonished gaze, they grasped right hands.

"You will need your wand, Bellatrix," said Snape coldly.

She drew it, still looking astonished.

"And you will need to move a little closer," he said.

She stepped forward so that she stood over them, and placed the tip of her wand on their linked hands.

Narcissa spoke.

"Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfill the Dark Lord's wishes?"

"I will," said Snape.

 

 

A thin tongue of brilliant flame issued from the wand and wound its way around their hands like a red-hot wire.

"And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm?"

"I will," said Snape.

 

 

A second tongue of flame shot from the wand and interlinked with the first, making a fine, glowing chain.

"And, should it prove necessary... if it seems Draco will fail. . ." whispered Narcissa (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?"

There was a moment's silence. Bellatrix watched, her wand upon their clasped hands, her eyes wide.

"I will," said Snape.

Bellatrix's astounded face glowed red in the blaze of a third unique of flame, which shot from the wand, twisted with the others, and bound itself thickly around their clasped hands, like a rope, like a fiery snake.