Hikari Nanase's Essay on Snape
Written by Hikari_Nanase
Sep 21, 03 - 9:23 PM
Original posted at : Severus Snape Slytherin Society
Whilst studying for my dreaded human bio midterm, I suddenly realized it hath been three hours since my last break and decided to indulge in a bit of Snape.
The result is this lovely article:
Case in Point: Severus Snape
By now, any number of people discussing the Potions master have cited Snape's introductory speech about there being no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in HIS class. And while I believe Rowling may have shown us Molly stirring her cookpots with her wand at one point, we never see Snape or anyone else using their wand to stir a cauldron while producing a Potion.
Yet, clearly magic must be used in Potions-making or even Muggles could do it. And that is highly unlikely. I suspect that if you gave a Muggle a set of ingredients and a cauldron and told him to set to it, all he would end up with is a very lumpy, probably toxic mess.
I tend to regard Snape's opening speech to the first-years in the nature of throwing out a challenge that although they will hardly believe that this is magic since there is no "foolish wand-waving" involved, it is magic for all of that, and magic that they probably haven't the wit to master. I have no doubt whatsoever that Potions brewing requires the very active use of magic in order to work at all.
Magic, and ritual. The whole construction and assembly of a Potion is as close to formal, ceremonial "magick" as what Rowling chooses to show us of the subject ever gets. (In fact, it is interesting to note that the only glimpse of out-and-out magical "ritual" we HAVE seen so far was structured around the assembly and use of a Potion.)
Potion brewing seems inherently to be an extremely formal, highly structured branch of magic - on a purely physical level. This kind of formal, ritualistic structuring seems to seep over into other parts of Snape's demeanor as well. It certainly is a large part of what makes his mannerisms so different from everyone else's. It also probably colors his perceptions of the world around him. Having to watch an ever-changing parade of adolescents slogging away over their cauldrons in a thoroughly slovenly manner with not a clue about proper deportment or respect for the process probably infuriates him. (Any takers on the likelihood that it is Dumbledore's irreverence over ceremony which so baffles and frustrates Snape?)
In addition to that, the kind of accidents that happen in Potions class, and the potential frequency of those accidents would tend to support the reading that a Potions class is a situation where you've got a roomfull of young wizards with still developing powers trying to focus and direct magical energies wandlessly. Which is bloody dangerous! You definitely want someone with good reflexes and a cool head in charge. The good Professor's customary watchfulness is a job requirement.
As to the "good Professor's" character; it's reasonably evident that within the parameters of my interpretation of Dark vs. Light magic, Severus Snape has probably had a number of possible opportunities in which he might have sustained some degree of psychic damage from the unrestrained use of the Dark Arts. He remains at further risk (however slight) as a professional Potions brewer due to the continuing need to focus magic wandlessly. But what the actual level of such (possible) damage might be remains uncertain since it probably overlays what, from our glimpse into the Pensieve, seems likely to have been a rather poorly-socialized base, to begin with.
It is possible, for example, to postulate an intelligent and under-supervised child with access to an extensive library doing some early damage to himself unwarily. Although our hints regarding the Snape family background so far suggest it would not be wise to run away with this idea.
It is also easy to hypothesize a Snape family history of perfectly legitimate involvement in Dark Arts research of long enough standing to allow for at least a few recorded occurrences of DA-related dementia to their "credit". It is possible that at least one of such cases was recent enough for Severus to have observed it at first hand (a grandparent, a great-uncle or aunt, permanently confined to St. Mungo's for the safety of the rest of the family, perhaps?) We must not run away with this possibility, either, particularly given that it depends entirely upon my own interpretations of the nature and workings of Dark and Light magic, which have not been confirmed in canon.
As to any canon hints regarding Snape's family; The wizarding world is a very small society. In such societies, particularly in the kind of subset of such a society which is obsessed with their bloodlines, everybody tends to be related to just about everybody else. Snape, if he is a pureblood from the same general social group as Malfoy, would probably be some degree of cousin either to Lucius or Narcissa, and quite possibly both of them. However, the glimpses we got in Phoenix, and what we have seen of Snape's conduct do not support this reading of his social status within the wizarding world.
We get a number of suggestions in canon that Severus may be from a quite different background from the Malfoys. All the way back in PS/SS, at the end of the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff match - which Harry brought to an end in about five minutes - once Snape, who had volunteered to referee the match, landed his broom, we saw him spit bitterly (and publicly) upon the ground. Somehow, I cannot square that little demonstration with a wizard who was brought up according to the sort of standards to which the Malfoy sprat is being held. Not unless he hasn't yet outgrown a severe case of adolescent rebellion and is still acting out from that sort of "I'm rough, tough and baaaaad" pose. Which does not really fit anything else we have seen of him.
From those clues that we do get in canon, it is very difficult to make the total add up to the predominant "fanon" interpretation of Aristocratic!Snape. The man spits in public. This is not "couth". And, sharp as he does certainly seem to be, he isn't what you could really call an "intellectual". He is unmistakably "street smart" but outside of his own field (where he is definitely, but definitely, on top of things) he doesn't really seem to have that outstandingly high an accuracy rating. (Kappas are not either "more usually found in Mongolia".) And his manner of "scoring off" of people is not at all in the same sort of drawlingly "superior" style of a Draco Malfoy, but is more pointedly snide and spiteful. For the most part, he behaves like a churl. This really does not add up to his being Lucius Malfoy's second cousin on his mother's side.
What this behavior sounds most like to me (and at this point this is still just a theory) is something much closer to the (Crabbe & Goyle?) hereditary "retainer" class of (apparent) pureblood than to that of the Lords of the Manor. Minions do also come in the scrawny, shifty, clever - and vicious - mode as well as in that of the more obvious muscle-bound thug. Snape's thin, sallow, greasy description is very much in the style of the visual tags that are not infrequently applied to this secondary class of "henchman". The "tough, wily street kid" is the usual form that this one takes in other genres, such as gangster stories. Or the thin, oily, sharply dressed, and shifty - or dead-eyed fellow with the shiv, who waits in the dark of the alley. (Yes, that kind of "family man".)
I have come progressively more around to the viewpoint that Snape's family background is indeed that of a traditional family of "retainers" (the clever sort who served as stewards and managers, or as specialists in a given field) to one of the ancient wizarding "great houses". Most of such retainers' families would have left their positions of direct service on the Great House's family estates at the start of the Seclusion, with the removal of the wizarding landholders from their country estates in favor of a townhouse in a secluded wizarding district, but most of these former retainers remained in association with their former "patrons" through ancient ties of mutual obligation. I would imagine that the Snapes, at the highest estimate would be among the wizarding "middle class", chiefly associated with white-collar jobs (in or out of the Ministry) and the traditional "professions". Generally respectable, but without an "income" that exempts their offspring from having to support themselves. And from the greying underwear clue, it is not unlikely that the Snapes' socioeconomic level was no higher than the "petit bourgeoise".
It also quite easy to speculate that Severus is not the first Potions expert in his family. In fact, he may very well come from a long line of professional Herbalists and Apothecaries. If this is the case there could very well be a long line of shopkeepers in his background, as well. But I doubt that his is a family background consistent with that of the true Artisan class where everyone in the family pitches in and manufactures artefacts for sale.
I could very easily see a 6-8 year-old Severus growing up above the family Apothecary shop on the corner of Diagon and Knockturn Alleys, (or their equivalents in some other urban wizarding district. I very much doubt that he is country bred) helping his parents to put together their regular monthly order from their hereditary "patron's" Head of Family, and feeling terribly grown-up to be trusted to take an active part in "the family business". I can also readily see a slightly older Severus making deliveries or running errands for his parents throughout both Alleys and learning to be watchfully wary and untrusting of the sort of strangers (personable or otherwise) who might deliberately approach a child in either venue. If this sort of backstory is anywhere on target, his having become the Potions master for one of the largest Magical schools in Europe qualifies as a considerable success story.
There is at least a bit to suggest that Snape's personal standing is very much in the middle, economically. Potion brewing is not likely to be a inexpensive discipline with its need for a broad range of physical equipment and a steady demand for consumable supplies, and I am sure that he maintains his own personal tools and supplies as well as those provided by the school. He also appears to direct more than a passing interest in the cut and presumably the quality of his clothing and personal effects. (Reminding me forcibly of "My Father the Clotheshorse".) Snape's robes may or may not come off the rack, rather than being custom tailored, but we have yet to be told anything of these matters, and I doubt that we ever will be. Without knowing how well the teachers at Hogwarts are paid we cannot really postulate whether Snape is living up to the last knut of his salary, doing just fine and putting something aside for his old age, or supplementing his salary with private income
Another major issue which is still somewhat uncertain in canon is just to what extent Professor Snape may share the typical Death Eater attitude toward wizards and witches from Muggle families or those of mixed blood. The fact that the term "mudblood" was never heard to pass his lips until OotP (and then only under what must be admitted to have been considerable duress) has made this issue a particularly difficult one to draw any firm conclusion on. And raises yet another interesting possibility as to his background.
The fact that Snape joined the Death Eaters in the first place makes it fairly clear that he at least did not find their stated agenda repellent in itself. And, yes, I do assume that Snape's early upbringing probably did have all of the underpinnings of conventional pureblood bigotry. For one thing, he was almost certainly raised in an atmosphere where it was considered acceptable to look down upon wizards and witches whose families were Muggles, or those who were raised outside the wizarding world and, consequently, had no sense of the 'right' way to do things.
However, apart from the one incident which we saw, when he was 15-16 (and, for what it's worth, I'm just a little inclined to wonder whether his lashing out at Lily Evans for trying to "rescue" him might not be an inherent component of just what made that particular memory so awful to him. A painful memory is just as likely to be over something 'unworthy' that you did as it is to be something that was done to you), virtually every example that we have seen of Snape's other attempts to "pull rank" have been based upon some factor other than the purity of his bloodline. It is always either his age, or his position, or his understanding, or his experience. We have never seen him try to play the "family" card. We have never seen him openly waving the pureblood flag in anybody's face. The fact that he may indeed be pureblood (a possibility still more implied than openly stated. Slytherin House has accepted at least one notable halfblood to our certain knowledge) seems not to be an issue that he regards as holding sufficient weight for him to attempt to deploy it in maintaining a position of dominance, even in direct conflicts with known Muggle-born or cross-breed members of the other Houses.
Which, in retrospect, and, given the widespread acceptance of such attitudes, begins to look rather odd.
It is possible that his restraint is merely in accordance to school policy as regards the conduct of the staff. But it is also entirely possible that Snape has some other reason for not attempting to invoke this particular advantage. That this particular consideration is of such absolute and all-absorbing importance among the ranks of the pureblood supremacists suggests that it is possible that Snape does not raise this point because he cannot raise this point. That, by the criterion of the likes of Malfoy and company, he does not actually qualify as a "true" pureblood, even if the unfortunate mudblood ancestor is many generations back in history.
If Snape is indeed descended from a family of traditional retainers then according to the kind of standards of lineage as those upheld by the Black family, he would by definition have owed his descent from a "mudblood" who was "discovered" by some wizarding aristocrat and educated at his expense.
It is also not impossible that Snape's more recent forebearers were not as exacting in the matter of their bloodlines as their descendents have since become. There could be a bonafide wizard/Muggle or Muggle-born marriage lurking somewhere in the Snape woodshed. I would estimate at least 3 and more probably something like 4-5 generations back. Or even dating to the pre-Seclusion period. Far enough for it not to really matter anywhere except in Slytherin House.
If this is the case (and at this point in the series this is pure speculation), then Snape would probably have set off to Hogwarts confident in the awareness of being "practically" a pureblood, and would, upon being sorted into Slytherin, have gotten a very rude shock. He would also have been made very aware that he was only being "graciously" allowed to participate in the activities of his better-connected fellows for the sake of his usefullness. His relationship with Lucius Malfoy, such as we have seen it presented to date, does not exclude the possibility of it having grown out of some act of patronage on Malfoy's part. And for that matter, Snape's overall *********** of temperament might well be grounded upon a perception that, do what he may, to the people whose opinions matter, he will never be "quite" good enough to be accounted an equal.
Although, in the event, his blood was certainly pure enough to be acceptable to Voldemort. But then, Voldemort's followers do not generally know that their leader is the son of a witch and a Muggle.
As to that; there probably were a good many different individual reasons why people joined up in support of Voldemort. And I suspect that one of Snape's biggest ones had to do with Malfoy's influence. We have finally learned in Order of the Phoenix that Lucius Malfoy is about 5 years older than Snape (and the Marauders) and their years at Hogwarts would have only briefly overlapped. Just long enough for Lucius to have noted young Severus as "that scrawny little kid who knows all those hexes" and for Severus to have learned that the Malfoys were "important people that you want to know."
We have also been told more than once that young Snape was openly fascinated by the Dark Arts, and there is no question that the opportunity to study and practice them (which he could not have done at Hogwarts) would have been a powerful lure, regardless of whatever other agenda was being trumpeted along with it.
Snape, I think was a late bloomer (or even a non-bloomer) in any social or emotional context. In his fascination with the Dark Arts, I suspect that he never thought to question the soundness of the values held by the sort of people who practiced them. I tend to think we've got a clear example here where the preoccupations of Slytherin House did him a great disservice.
(As I have stated in the essay regarding the Hogwarts Houses, Rowling is in her most spectacularly self-contradictory mode where she lays out the values of Slytherin House. It is presumably the house of the pureblood. Well, okay. That is simple enough to accept. It is also the Dark Arts house. Well, that's okay too. No particular contradiction there. But then she tells us that the criterion the Hat uses for sorting these kids is ambition. WTF?! What has ambition to do with being a pureblood? What possible effect can any amount of ambition have on becoming a pureblood? Any effect that being a pureblood might have upon ambition would more likely be to lessen it, if anything. You've already "arrived," what more is necessary? Ambition seems to be diametrically opposed to the kind of "Slytherin manner" demonstrated by Malfoy and his goons. I just don't get it.)
However, given that Slytherin House seems to be the only one that tends to support the Dark Arts, and that within that House it's the purebloods who are usually the social leaders, such considerations would tend to muddy the waters in the perception of a very poorly-socialized adolescent such as the young Severus Snape. If all the Dark wizards he has ever met think like this then it might be quite a while before he realized that adopting this particular mental outlook wholesale is, first; not necessary, and second; not really him.
I think that Snape did definitely want to belong somewhere (although not to the point of getting himself sorted into Hufflepuff). The capsule glimpses we have of his childhood looked pretty alienating, and few youngsters manage to flourish in that sort of an environment. But he seems to have been not at all selective about what he wanted to belong to. Serious self-esteem issues there, perhaps? Were the Death Eaters the only people who welcomed him? Clearly, however bright he may be, he demonstrated seriously bad judgement as a youth. He may have been very late to finally start thinking for himself.
And, I also suspect that it was Sirius Black who first pointed Snape out to James Potter as a Dark Arts fanatic. Sirius was brought up in exactly that kind of Slytherin House, Dark Arts tolerant atmosphere himself and he would have immediately recognized in Snape the sort of boy of whom his own family would have probably approved. And, consequently, made a point of doing Snape a bad turn as soon as an opportunity arose. James, by all accounts, was brought up to honestly loathe the Dark Arts. And to provide James Potter with a convenient "outside" target would have deflected any Dark Arts related criticism and contempt from Sirius himself.
Another interpretation which seems to be at least somewhat contradicted by information that we have already been told in canon, is the widely accepted fanon concept of Friendless!Snape.
This interpretation appears to be supported by our trip into the Pensieve in OotP, where Snape's general unpopularity and solitary behavior would tend to confirm it. But in GoF, Sirius Black directly tells us all that Snape was not completely friendless for the entire time that he was at Hogwarts. We were told that he was a part of a whole little gang of Slytherins. Nevertheless, we do not see him and his friends evaluating their performance in the DADA OWL over the lunch break, just Snape sitting alone in the shade rereading his test papers. (And from the Pensieve visit, one is forced to wonder whether he may have taken up with that little gang only after the incident that which we witnessed. Or if, contrary to what appears to be typical Hogwarts behavior, Snape's friends were in a different year group.)
Stop and think about that, and what it implies.
Remus Lupin might be able to sympathize. Here is another man who was a member of a little self-contained group when he was at school. In fact, it was a larger group than that of the Marauders. Sirius mentioned six Slytherins by name as composing Snape's "gang". Two of those (Rosier and Wilkes) were killed by Aurors by the time they were 21. Two more (the Lestranges) were in Azkaban before they were 25 and of the six only Snape and Avery are still alive and walking free. Avery got off on the Imperius defense, after Voldemort's defeat and his social level may not have been high enough for people to overlook that the way they have for Malfoy. In any case, we never saw him until the graveyard meeting at the end of GoF. He does not seem to show any eagerness to retain contact with the school, or with Snape.
Snape was never publicly accused (probably due to having cut a deal with Dumbledore when he turned spy) prior to Voldemort's defeat. Sirius was inside from the day after that event, and in no position to know what went on after that, but if Sirius claims that he never heard any accusations* - and he claims he didn't - that implies that none of the other prisoners mentioned Snape either, for all that they had spoken bitterly of "Wormtail". Perhaps all that Snape's exile at Hogwarts has cost him is further contact with Avery, and we don't really know anything much from canon about Avery's character (other than that he seems to be rather high-strung).
(*Sirius also claims that he didn't know that Snape was teaching at Hogwarts. This despite the fact that we were told in OotP that Snape had started teaching a couple of months before Voldemort fell, or Sirius's arrest. Either Sirius had not been so deeply inside the Order as we have been led to believe, or he had taken no interest in the doings of Hogwarts, or his memory was faulty.)
As to Snape's exile at Hogwarts; from Draco's comments in CoS Snape seems to have still been in good favor with Lucius at least to that point in the series. And appears to continue to be so during the course of Phoenix. I suspect that he has been feeding information regarding the school to Lucius (who was on the Board, after all) ever since he went to work there. Lucius may even have had something to say about getting him his job in the first place, although whether this appointment was orchestrated from behind the scenes by Dumbledore or Voldemort is uncertain. It certainly had Voldemort's approval.
As to the Dark Arts and the original lure of the Voldemort cause; To a young Snape, as I tend to read him, the whole issue would probably, at first, have looked very simple. Particularly if I am correct in my speculation that the Dark Arts were only finally removed from the Hogwarts curriculum upon Dumbledore's having become Headmaster. Snape would have considered the study of the Dark Arts to be his destiny, and have arrived to find that the class was no longer taught. He also no doubt dreamed of power and glory, and he would readily have signed on to the movement which assured him of the opportunities to achieve all of these. Particularly if he was to do so under the sponsorship of someone as prominent as Lucius Malfoy, and even more particularly if there had been nothing in his own upbringing which would have conditioned him to regard the stated sentiments of Voldemort's agenda as abhorrent in themselves.
But, if any of the above is the case, while the arrogance of youth and its accompanying conviction of personal immunity might very well have shielded a young Snape during the early days, when he considered Dark Arts study to be a part of his "birthright" that those wusses in the Ministry were trying to deny him, he might after a period of unrestrained Dark Arts activity under Voldemort's sponsorship, have very well found himself undergoing some "dark night of the soul" as a result of those activities which might have set any available family skeletons dancing, and may have served as the necessary wake-up call prompting him to rethink whether signing up with the DEs was really all that good an idea.
If, despite what appears to be at least an average to high inherent capacity to conduct magical energy, within a fairly short period of imprudent indulgence he managed to "hit the wall" and realize that at this rate, rather than power and glory, the end of all his dreams was far more likely to spiral down into his being just another Snape in St. Mungo's, a personal epiphany of this nature might also very well have fully opened his eyes to any subtle symptoms of DA-related dementia which his Master was not quite managing to conceal. It might even have been considerations along this line which prompted him to seek out and offer his support to Dumbledore.
We do not know whether the current state of medi-magic can correct or repair the kind of psychic damage that indulgence in the Dark Arts produces. Such a process may be available. But, first, one must admit that one needs such treatment, and, under the regulations of the Ministry concerning the Dark Arts, one probably must explain how one originally came by such damage. This might deter more people from seeking treatment than it ultimately assists.
I also think that Snape proved to be invaluable in the post-Voldemort mop-up of the DE's activities. For example, I think that Snape was almost certainly the person who provided the information which resulted in the capture of the Lestranges (former close friends and schoolmates), and Barty Crouch. I suspect that this, as well as the knowledge that Crouch is supposed to be dead, accounts for Snape's shock as well as his immediate recognition when Crouch's polyjuice wore off. I also suspect that the Crouches may have been another old Slytherin family and, given their respective ages, Snape's student years at Hogwarts are certain to have overlapped Crouch Jr.'s, even as they overlapped Malfoy's.
(Side note: I am inclined to believe that a good deal of the reason that Crouch and Pettigrew were able to subdue Moody so readily was the shock effect of Moody's finding himself under attack by two "dead" men. Ghosts may attack, but they cannot perform spells, so far as we know.)
(For the record, I also tend to think the reason that Dumbledore knew to send Hagrid to Godric's Hollow so quickly was that either Snape told him the attack would be that particular night, or that Dumbledore simply had the house bugged at all entrances to alert him to any arrivals.)
By the time the Lestranges were arrested, there was no longer (if there ever had been) any Ministry policy of leaving the small fry observed but not interfered with in hopes of catching the big fish. By then the emphasis was to get the as much of the inner circle out of commission as possible and leave any remaining small fry without a potential hub around which to regroup. This campaign was not helped by the apparent fact that the Dark Marks all disappeared when the Dark Lord did, leaving investigating Aurors without any definite indication of suspects' allegiances. Of course this also presupposes that the Aurors of the day were aware that the Dark Lord had set a physical mark on all of his followers, and this interpretation is not fully supported in canon.
The disappearance of the Dark Marks would have made a mess of the DE's communication lines as well, and it is possible that even sending up the image of the Dark Mark was now no longer possible (giving additional reason for the panic on all sides at the World Cup when Crouch Jr. managed to do exactly that. The Marks all began to return once Voldemort was again, however vestigially, on the physical plane. But they may not have been apparent even to their bearers for some time).
digression regarding the Dark Mark;
Snape states that the Dark Mark was used by the DEs to identify each other. So it is likely that causing it to be revealed was something which the DEs had some voluntary control over. I suspect that it may have been possible to conceal the mark by magic, which its wearers could normally cancel and restore at will. When they were called by their master this concealment was overridden, and it may have either needed some sort of "cooling off" period before it could be concealed again or Snape simply didn't bother, on the night of Voldemort's rebirth, since he hadn't originally been intending to roll up his sleeves for anyone that evening.
If this is the case, by the time most DEs were no longer in control of the concealment of their Mark they would typically have already been dead or insane, or in the hands of the Dementors, who, Crouch Jr informed us are blind.
In the case of death, Voldemort would be aware of it and have no reason to "call" a corpse. Those who were dead in his service may have had nothing visible any longer to mark them.
In the case of the captured, Voldemort would have fairly quickly been made aware of this as well and taken care not to activate their Marks. It is likely is that no one ever examined those in Azkaban for Marks which might have appeared since their imprisonment.
In the case of the insane, this might also been a situation where Voldemort was either already aware, or was soon informed and took care not to contact these particular followers.
What is also likely is that - good as the system was - there would probably have been a few slip-ups, of which the Dept. of Magical Law Enforcement was, in fact, aware. Either there were too few of these cumulative incidents to have struck the investigating Aurors as significant yet, or this particular information was classified. I think that the fact that any of the DEs were "marked" would have been highly classified information that Crouch Sr. as head of the Dept. of Magical Law Enforcement ruthlessly suppressed. The real Moody may also have known about it, but he also may have learned about that from Dumbledore, or from Snape directly. The false Moody certainly knew it, and taunted Snape on the matter.
Even without magical concealment, the Mark probably wasn't particularly visible when not "active", but there may well be magical ways to cause it to reveal itself - so long as Voldemort was alive and present on the physical plane somewhere to "complete the circuit". After he was gone, there was no longer a connection to be activated, visibly or in any other manner. How much the significance of the Mark on those few captured DEs who were unable to conceal in time was realized is uncertain.
In any case, Fudge, whose background was in the Department of Magical Catastrophes, would not have been on the "need to know" list at all. And remains clearly unaware of its existence even after serving the Ministry for years as Minister of Magic. In fact it is quite possible that sealing those particular records was another of Crouch Sr.'s big "mistakes" which he made in an attempt to protect and reserve it as his own private resource. It is possible that this was the sort of thing that he intended to keep to himself as a tool toward managing to capture that "one last Dark wizard" which had so occupied his ambitions.
Concerning Double-00 Severus and the Great Game;
Which brings us around to a note of ambiguity in Karkaroff's behavior, given Dumbledore's testimony regarding Snape's activities at Karkaroff's hearing. Specifically Dumbledore's statement was that Snape HAD BEEN a Death Eater, and that he had turned spy. Given the fact that Dumbledore DID make that particular defense at Karkaroff's hearing, WHY did Karkaroff go running to Snape once the Dark Mark started returning, rather than to Dumbledore? Didn't the fool realize that it was probably information from Snape that had resulted in his arrest in the first place? I mean, really!
One piece of additional information that has only been given us in OotP, is that it has now been confirmed that Voldemort did send Snape to Hogwarts, presumably to infiltrate Dumbledore's school and to pass information on Dumbledore's actions before he fell at Godric's Hollow. It is this factor which has enabled Snape to allay suspicions and retain contact with the likes of Malfoy throughout the entire period of Voldemort's absence. But, from the wording of Dumbledore's testimony, I am inclined to believe that Snape had been keeping in touch with Hogwarts on Voldemort's orders for some time before he took up his position as the Hogwarts Potions Master, which was only finally accomplished some two months before Voldemort's defeat.
Voldemort would have wanted to place as many agents as possible within Dumbledore's sphere at his earliest convenience, and Snape, according to all indications so far appears to have been one of his first choices of agent. I suspect that Snape's skill as an Occlumens was probably the deciding factor for grooming him to actually take up a position in the School. There was been strong suggestion made in the course of Phoenix that Voldemort is not the only wizard to be a master of Legilimency. Dumbledore seems to share this skill. There is strong indication that with Snape's refusal to continue the Occlumency lessons, Dumbledore may be taking on Harry's training in that field himself.
By the time Voldemort turned his followers loose from the meeting in the graveyard, the news of Karkaroff's flight was public. The capture and Kissing of Barty Crouch Jr. was probably hush-hush information, (shakes the public's confidence in the security of Azkaban, don't you know... Particularly after the public embarrassment over Sirius Black's escape two years earlier). Unless Fudge told him of the event, it might have been a few days before Lucius was able to pick up that little tidbit. By the time Draco got home from Hogwarts he probably found himself facing an inquisition from his father over just what the hell went on at school during his fourth year. And Draco would have brought home the bacon regarding Hermione's capture of Rita Skeeter.
Snape's ongoing task in covering his tracks to Lucius is a whole different ball-game from covering them to Voldemort, and covering them to the Slytherin students is an even simpler matter. But, then, he probably didn't particularly need to cover those tracks to Voldemort. By all indications, Snape was believed to be spying on Dumbledore long before he was spying for Dumbledore. And even that is subject to some question.
During the 3-year gap between the publication of Goblet and that of Phoenix, there was a persistent belief in fandom that Snape would no longer be able to continue spying for Dumbledore within Voldemort's organization. This belief seems to have been based upon a strong conviction that Snape had been "outed" by his action in saving Harry in the broom hexing incident back in PS/SS or by Dumbledore's testimony at Karkaroff's hearing
With the publication of Phoenix, it is clear that Snape has not been outed and that he continues to serve Dumbledore in the capacity of a spy. He retains Lucius Malfoy's good opinion and there is no indication that Voldemort harbors suspicions regarding him. How does one reconcile this apparent contradiction?
Clearly one must do so by forming an alternative interpretation of his actions as they have been presented in the previous four books. Rowling has not suddenly changed her mind as to what the Professor's part in this adventure entails. Consequently, the information that is necessary to unravel the line of actions to date must already be present in the work, despite Rowling's thick overlay of moonshine and misdirection.
Our most basic piece of misdirection is that the books are tightly told from Harry's point of view. It takes a considerable effort of will to keep reminding ourselves that Harry and his friends are a good deal more in the dark as to what is taking place in each book than Dumbledore is. We are also forced to remember that if Dumbledore does indeed trust and depend upon Professor Snape, then he must make a point of seeing to it that Snape has enough information to be able to take the steps necessary to cover his arse.
I have long contended that Snape's actions throughout PS/SS viv-a-vis QuirrellMort was very carefully orchestrated to deflect Voldemort's suspicion. Explaining his actions in PS/SS are a piece of cake. ("How was I to know that was you under Quirrell's turban? Quirrell wasn't ever one of your followers! Why didn't you TELL me?"* or, "How was I to know it was Quirrell hexing the broom? I thought it was one of my 6th or 7th years! Thwarting brats who are flirting with a spell in Azkaban is part of my JOB, ****it!") Given that Snape was not "supposed" to know that Voldemort was hiding under Quirrell's turban, he could have hardly come forward singing Voldemort's praises without looking extremely suspicious. At that point in the series, Snape's need was not to convince Voldemort that he was on his side so much as to convince him that he was not on Dumbledore's. And that he seems to have accomplished very tidily with his tissue of clever ambiguities and his well-acted pose as the wicked-ex-Death-Eater-on-no-one's-side-but-his-own. Evidently his behavior was sufficiently consistent with Voldemort's expectations of his followers' conduct whenever he was not around and not expected to be showing up to pass muster. Any lingering suspicions were set to rest when Snape turned up promptly and took his old place in the circle at the end of GoF.
There is also a very strong indication that Harry may have managed to overturn one of the little set-piece skits which Snape and Dumbledore had planned for QuirrellMort's entertainment and edification. Harry's capture of the snitch brought the Hufflepuff match to a close in something under five minutes. Snape's offer to referee that match coupled with Dumbledore's presence at it seems to suggest that they had something planned for that particular event which may have been designed to offset the impression which had been left after the broom-hexing incident. Snape's behavior when the match was ended prematurely tends to support this reading, and the demonstration was shelved, leaving him to have to fall back on his meeting with Quirrell in the forest instead.
*For that matter, why DIDN'T Squirrelymort contact his followers and get them to help him? What else are followers FOR? Or couldn't he contact them because possessing Quirrell didn't really mean that he was alive again, the Dark Marks were still missing in action, and Quirrell didn't have one anyway
The question has now been solidly answered as to whether Snape continues as a spy. The second question raised is often how does he manage to spy. As to how is Snape spying, I would guess that - on the Voldemort end - once Voldy managed to get himself settled in someplace, Snape has been spying pretty much in the same way that Voldemort sent him into Hogwarts to spy. And - on the Dumbledore end - he has been picking up whatever information is being passed around the DE network. Particularly any names that didn't get turned up the last time. Much of his activity during the summer break seems to have been occupied by courier duty as Voldemort's deputies started re-establishing their links to his secondary tier of followers.
As to where we got the clues necessary to add up the time and realize that Snape started as a teacher at Hogwarts before Voldemort fell;
In the course of Dolores Umbridge making a nuisance of herself with her clipboard Snape admitted to having been teaching at Hogwarts for 14 years. Harry is just 15, so Snape started teaching the year Harry turned 1 year old. This was the year Voldemort fell. But school started Sept 1, and Voldemort didn't fall until Oct 31.
As to Dumbledore's testimony during Karkaroff's hearing in the Pensieve; this came across sounding as if Snape had been spying for Dumbledore for a considerable time before Voldemort actually fell, so it seems likely that there is at least one double-bluff going on. We do not know yet how much is known at either end of this particular pipeline or just how it was set up. But some of the possibilities are;
1. A minority theory popular among a certain sector of Snapefans is that Dumbledore enlisted Snape while he was still at school. (In the aftermath of the werewolf caper?) He sent him to infiltrate Voldemort's organization, and if possible to get Voldy to send him back as a spy in Hogwarts. He made a point of teaching the boy Occlumency in preparation for this mission. The poor penitent DE pose is a double-bluff cover story later added from the Voldemort end.
The most likely suggestions, however, are;
2. Voldemort sent Snape to spy on Dumbledore. Dumbledore won Snape over to his own side. Now Snape is spying on Voldemort and feeding him selected bits of info that Albus gives him for that purpose.
3. Same original set up as in #2, but since Voldy fell the first time Snape has had time to have second thoughts. He is passing info back and forth between both of his principals and is keeping his own council. When the time comes will back the side that offers him the best deal.
4. Voldemort sent Snape to spy on Dumbledore under a cover act of being a poor penitent DE who wants out. Snape is actually spying on Dumbledore and feeding him selected bits of info that Voldemort gives him for the purpose.
This last might even be true. There was very little in Snape's actions in Order of the Phoenix to contradict the possibility that he may be playing a double game of which Dumbledore is not aware. For once Ron Weasley's suspicions could be right. But I suspect that, as in the case of the Redheaded Pimpernel, we won't know the truth of the matter for some time yet. One thing that probably should be remembered at this point is that it was Snape who gave the message to Fudge regarding the capture of Barty Crouch Jr. We do not know what else Snape might have told him, either.
For my own part, I think that it is highly unlikely that Rowling is going to permit us to settle back and relax with no further questions as to Snape's true loyalties between now and the end of the series. I confidently suspected that before we were halfway through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Snape's behavior, or further information regarding his backstory would have put him firmly back in the cross-hairs of readers' suspicions. I was very surprised to see that this did not happen. But we were still given a couple of hints that this question is likely to be raised at some point in the future.
In the light of this, I will make one rock-solid guarantee that at some point before the series ends, we are going to get some information regarding Snape's actions, or his backstory that is going to throw his GoF outing of himself as "the DE who recanted" into question. This information may later turn out to be a red herring, but for at least some time it is going to be up to us to decide what to do with it.
In order to carry any degree of verisimilitude, Snape's original mission would have depended upon there having had some obvious reason for Snape to have remained in contact with Dumbledore throughout the later years of Voldemort's rise. Snape could hardly have become a teacher at the school during Voldemort's reign without Voldemort's knowledge and consent, and it is a good deal more likely that he would have done so at his direction. Since Snape only actually became a teacher a matter of weeks before Voldemort's fall, in order to have been a spy, for either side, for any length of time prior to that point, would mean that there must have been some position in which Voldemort could have placed him where he would be able to gather at least some degree of information without actually being on the staff, until such a time as he might reasonably be hired. From the Dumbledore end, it is unlikely that Snape would have earned the sort of testimony that Albus made at Karkaroff's hearing in only the matter of weeks that he had actually been teaching. Since Snape would have been no more than 21 or 22 at the time of Voldemort's defeat at Godric's Hollow, this would require that there be some reason for him to remain in contact with Hogwarts after finishing school, but before he was sufficiently qualified to be hired as a teacher.
At the time GoF was published, there was an interview comment by Rowling to the effect that there are no wizarding universities in her interpretation of the wizarding world. (Wizards are a rare breed, and the wizarding population of Europe is probably not quite large enough to support one.) If this is the case, then any form of advanced training would probably be a matter of either some form of independent study or is accomplished within a formal Master/Apprentice program.
The study of Potions mastery, with its extensive physical component and its dependence upon wandless control appears to be the sort of field which would require at least some form of advanced training. In the absence of a university course on the subject, it would stand to reason that the existing wizarding training academies might have some sort of additional responsibility to oversee such independent study programs. If this is the case, then Snape would have had a built-in reason to have retained contact with Hogwarts Academy after finishing his seventh year. At least for the 3-7 years that one might project for either an Independent study "Masters" program or an Apprenticeship.
Now that Voldemort really IS back, and it is clear that Snape seems still to be solidly entrenched in his role as a spy, it is evident that fandom's most common reading of Voldemort's speech in the graveyard regarding the Coward and the Oathbreaker and the Faithful Servant, is bound to have been somewhat off target.
Since Voldemort has at least provisionally accepted Snape's "wicked-ex-DE-on-nobody's-side-but-his-own" act in PS/SS. It is also clear, after the fact, that although Harry obviously missed it, Snape must have been present in the circle of Death Eaters at the graveyard meeting and, was, consequently, an eyewitness to Harry's escape.
According to Sirius Black - whose information was good up to the day after Voldemort's fall - Snape was never publicly suspected of DE activity despite having run with a crowd of later-acknowledged DEs while at school. Nor, as in Pettigrew's case, did any of the imprisoned DEs in Sirius's hearing make any mention of him. In Snape, Voldemort has a follower who has not ever come under public suspicion, and, consequently, one whose "secret" identity is to be preserved. Consequently, the implication is that Snape is one of the DEs that Voldemort passed by without speaking to. This situation may be blown sky high when Karkaroff is captured. But indications are that the game may be deeper than that, and Voldemort had sent Snape into Hogwarts.
Consequently, the implication is that Snape is one of the DEs that Voldemort passed by without speaking to. This situation may be blown sky high when Karkaroff is captured. But indications are that the game may be deeper than that, and Voldemort had sent Snape into Hogwarts with orders to offer to 'spy' for Dumbledore. If this is the case, then Dumbledore's testimony at Karkaroff's hearing (which was not Karkaroff's trial. Karkaroff's trial had taken place nearly a year before the hearing that we saw. Karkarof had been tried, sentenced and imprisoned. He offered to cut a deal as soon as Voldemort himself was out of the way. Most of his information was useless by then, although he did manage to finger Rookwood) would have only confirmed what Voldemort already knew, and had intended.
Now that it has been established that Voldemort did originally send Snape to spy on Dumbledore's organization, the Coward and the Oathbreaker that Voldemort spoke of in the graveyard scene are most likely to have been Karkaroff and Bagman. It would be very much in keeping with the way such things are handled in the series for Voldemort, in pronouncing the ultimate fates of three specific Death Eaters, to have these pronouncements balanced by our presence in Dumbledore'e Pensieve at those three specific Death Eaters' trials. Very much in the way that the fates of the surviving other members of Snape's Hogwarts "gang" that Sirius mentioned should also all have been related and/or viewed before the end of the book.
It is now clear enough to me that it is Karkaroff that Voldemort refers to when speaking of the Oathbreaker. Karkaroff is a slimy specimen, but he does seem to truly have repented of his DE associations. He has made his peace with the Ministry and he clearly was NOT looking forward to a Dark rising. When he sold out he stayed sold. Still, when his Mark began to return who did he go to? Not Dumbledore (and why NOT Dumbledore?). He went to Snape, who he KNOWS was a spy. Snape who he probably now thinks of as the ONLY other person who is in the same boat he is in - that of a genuine ex Death Eater. And Snape rebuffed him. Had he gone to Dumbledore, some provision for his safety may have been made.
According to Voldemort, the Coward will merely be forced to "pay" for his cowardice. The Oathbreaker will be killed. Given that the DEs know that Karkaroff sold them out in return for his own release, I cannot really see Voldemort merely hitting him with a round of Crutius and keeping him on a short leash.
If the Oathbreaker is Karkaroff, then the Coward is almost sure to be Bagman. Chiefly because it seems less than probable that the identities of the three missing DEs referred to in the graveyard speech are those of persons who had not yet been introduced by the time the speech was made. (We have absolutely no certainly on this point. Voldemort could have been referring to completely unknown people at that point in time, but that would be generally regarded as "cheating" on Rowling's part.)
Bagman dodged the bullet at his trial by making himself out to be a simple dupe. Augustus Rookwood, his contact, was already under investigation. Consequently, Bagman betrayed no one, cut no deals and attempted only to save himself. The other DEs have no quarrel with him. In point of fact, he may indeed have been no more than a simple dupe - but he has also been demonstrated to be one extremely shifty character, and truthfulness is not his main stock in trade.
Ludo Bagman also did a bolt by the end of the TriWizard Tournament, under the very useful - and quite plausible - cover of dodging Goblin enforcers over a little matter of gambling debts. This may also be true. But it would not be difficult to believe that his real gamble was over another kind of stakes altogether. He managed to squirm out of a tight spot a dozen years ago, he may very well have decided that he doesn't want to take any further personal risks and to just sit this one out. In his case, I can see a bout of Crutius and being kept on a short leash as lying within the likely parameters.
The identity of the Faithful Servant is no mystery. Despite strenuous attempts by some fans to give this one a more "mysterious" spin, the Faithful Servant was clearly Barty Crouch Jr., referred to as such all the way back in Book 4's first chapter and finally revealed to the reader when he dragged Harry off to his office after the return from the graveyard.
Which all means that during the period that Harry was an unwilling guest at the "feast" Voldemort did not refer to Snape at all.
By this time, there can be very little plausible argument against the reading that Snape was actually present at Voldemort's "re-birthday party". Again, we have to remind ourselves that Dumbledore and Snape are not as much in the dark as the kids are. And that Dumbledore gives Snape enough information to enable him to try to protect himself. And that neither of them is stupid.
I think that once Snape calmed down at the end of PoA, Dumbledore filled him in on it having been Pettigrew who was Voldemort's spy at the time of Voldemort's fall, and that Pettigrew had faked his death, been flushed out of hiding, had managed to escape and was, presumably, on his way to rejoin Voldemort.
Snape, consequently, was alert to any indications that his Dark mark was returning, and reported as much to Dumbledore as soon as he was sure. He reported this again when Karkaroff confirmed his own observations.
When Harry's name came out of the Goblet, back in October, they both immediately knew that Voldemort had managed to recruit yet another agent who was operating under cover at the school. At this point, it was obvious to both Dumbledore and Snape that Voldemort had another plot underway, and the two of were waiting for him to make his move all year. They both know something of how Voldemort's mind works, and that the "move" had not been made by the night of the Third task made it a pretty safe bet that the move would come that night.
Consequently, Snape was not one of the people who was patrolling the bounds of the maze. Dumbledore kept Snape by him, ready to react when Voldemort finally made his long-anticipated "move".
If the DMLE and the Real Moody did not have reason to already know of the Dark Mark's existence, the false Moody's taunt may well have been a clue that Snape and Dumbledore had not overlooked. But Dumbledore seems to have a weakness for capturing his opponents in the act. Rather than cornering him, confiscating his hip flask and waiting for the Polyjuice to wear off, the two of them may have been watching "Moody" from the time that it was made. But there is little expectation that Harry would have been aware of that. It is somewhat, more likely that the real Moody did know about the Dark mark, and the taunt was not reported to Dumbledore.
When Harry and Cedric disappeared from the maze, Snape and Dumbledore knew that this was it. Snape retrieved his mask and robe and got to the edge of the Hogwarts bounds to wait for the call to come. If it did not, then they would have a reprieve, but the likelihood of that was vanishingly small.
It took at least a half hour to 40 minutes for Pettigrew to have killed Cedric, set up the cauldron and performed the rebirthing ritual. There was ample time for Severus to ready himself for the call. When it came, he silently took his place in the circle with his fellows, probably cursing the certainty that he was now going to have to blow his cover with a rescue attempt to get Potter out of there.
Which was not required.
Snape was there. He saw Potter escape death at Voldemort's hand. He saw Potter overcome the Dark Lord's force of will in the battle between the wands and he saw Potter make his escape, taking Cedric's body with him. That odd look he was giving Harry over breakfast at the end of term is probably because he has finally seen Harry in action and is having to re-evaluate his impressions of the boy. This cautious re-evaluation seems to have carried over into the first half of OotP as well. Although there are other elements involved in this as well.
Once Harry made his escape, I suspect that Voldemort gave Snape the nod to follow and report back. I believe that Snape made his return with the aid of an unauthorized portkey (with which he had originally been intending to rescue Potter) which would have taken him to an unobserved point within Hogwarts where he could ditch the robe and mask and find Dumbledore to fill him in.
We did not actually see Snape until he, Minerva and Albus showed up in Moody's office to rescue Harry. It must have taken Moody at least 20-30 minutes to assist moving an injured boy all the way from the Quidditch pitch into the castle, up to his office and only then to have started his brag fest, filling Harry in on just what had been going down for the past school year, and his own part in it. Yes, the time was still tight, but it was sufficient for Snape to have returned, ditched the DE rig, flagged down Dumbledore and filled him in on the way to Moody's office. Part of Rowling's insistence upon pointing out to us the image of Snape staring at his own face in the foe glass may have been in recognition of the irony of his having just come from the DE's circle, on Voldemort's orders.
In that case it is easy enough to guess what the task was that Dumbledore had to ask whether Snape was prepared for during the scene in the Hospital Wing. Snape's task was to return to Voldemort and to report back on the events following Harry's return to Hogwarts.
Given that portkeys do work on Hogwarts grounds, Snape's return trip was probably accomplished by this method for the sake of speed. It would hardly be surprising for a teacher to have access to an unauthorized private portkey for the purpose of getting to and from the school in emergencies. Particularly given Dumbledore's willingness to create an unauthorized one when such is required. (Dumbledore's trip to and from the Ministry in PS/SS was probably also undertaken by means of a portkey.)
It has also occurred to me (and probably a lot of other people who are engaged in phrasing it differently) that there could be another rather interesting double-bluff going on regarding Snape's vicious behavior vis-a-vis the Hogwarts students.
It is not ALL an act, but, nevertheless, he IS acting. And it DOES serve a specific purpose. I also believe that he has Dumbledore's tacit go-ahead for it, although Dumbledore may not altogether approve of his methods.
What Snape is doing is to very deliberately, very conspicuously NOT distance himself from the past. In fact, he is rubbing the kids' noses in it. Given his basic temperament, and in his position as head of Slytherin House, the chances of his actually managing to live his House's somewhat mottled past down are vanishingly small to begin with. Despite the fact that he personally was never publicly accused, even if he behaved the perfect gent (which, with his disposition, would be a strain - he is not a nice man), he lived through the Voldemort years, he is the head of Slytherin's House, and he is "a deeply horrible person". There would be rumors flying about of an ex-DE background regardless of what he did. And it would take next to no effort to confirm those rumors for anyone who decided to really investigate. Karkaroff's hearing was not an open one, but I doubt the records were so tightly sealed that no one could get into them. There were too many witnesses. To the wizarding world, Severus Snape, a Slytherin of the most suspect generation is always going to be a reputed ex-Death Eater to somebody's point of view.
It also stands to reason that Albus took him on staff with the understanding that he would do something to discourage other young people from making the same kind of mistakes that he did.
Snape's a pragmatic Slytherin, not a social justice-seeking Gryffindor. And even if he is every bit as much a supporter of Dumbledore's goals as Dumbledore believes, he probably figures that the Slytherin kids with DE connections are already a lost cause. It isn't their own choices which are going to get exercised. Playing the wise and kindly councilor to dissuade them from taking that particular step isn't going to do anything but send a message back to their parents which will get him targeted for elimination. He might be able to dissuade the ones who might be allowed to refuse with some pointed comments that Voldemort doesn't want half-hearted followers. But that's about as far as he can get with the Slyths.
But, by ghod, he can make an impression on the students of the OTHER three houses. And the Slyths can unwittingly give him a hand by helping spread and support the rumors. He intends to send all of the brats a clear, unambiguous message. ("Play to your strengths".)
If they want to see a Death Eater, he will SHOW them a Death Eater.
And see how well they like it.
Every day of the week for seven years those kids are getting an up close and personal demonstration of just what a Death Eater is, with ALL the pettiness, spite, partiality, injustice, treachery, contempt and cruelty on full display.
You think you want to be a Death Eater someday? You want to have to work with people like me? You want to have to ASSOCIATE with people like me? DEPEND on people like me? (If this is the tame virus what must the actual disease be like?) Snape doesn't want the brats to like him. He wants them to LOATHE him. And more to the point, he wants them to REMEMBER him. And, by ghod, he is going to put on a show they can't forget.
And, maybe, just maybe, when some smooth-tongued Voldemort supporter comes around trying to recruit some promising young Gryff or 'Puff or 'Claw, maybe the impression will have been indelible enough to give them pause before being swept off their feet. And maybe they will think to pass the word about someone to watch out for. And, who knows, maybe by counter-example he can even reach a few of his Slyths.
Besides, it won't hurt the brats to learn to perform delicate work under pressure. They're going to meet other *******s out in the real world, too. Guaranteed.
So, with all these justifications in mind, he has effectively given himself a free ticket to play the ******* and act out his every natural frustration to the top of his bent. Right in their faces. He may even realize that he really is a bully - however well he may dress it up in fine linen (and I think he probably does dress it up in fine linen. He isn't all THAT self-aware). If he weren't a bully he probably wouldn't have been so quick to sign up with Voldemort in the first place.
Make no mistake. Severus Snape ENJOYS terrorizing adolescents. He LIKES tormenting young Longbottom. He looks forward to the opportunity to needle Potter - whom he honestly resents, and who can stand to be taken down a peg, in his opinion - and he was positively hugging himself with glee on the red-letter day that he actually managed to make Granger cry.
In short, Snape really does like his job.
He is having a ball. (The rest of the staff, who know what is going on, are scandalously amused by his antics, and Dumbledore trusts him.)
And Rowling is clearly having a ball writing him. And so are we in reading about him. And when somebody does such a good job of entertaining you, you just can't help but like them.
But then my other favorite "literary Harry" is Sir Harry Padget Flashman..