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Afictionado’s Notes based on information up to Book 6

Please note – the following contains spoilers for the Harry Potter books 1-6

[Lady Claudia - This is my closest friend's analysis of most facts in Book6. I'm so glad she did this because it's been hard keeping my usual style of analysis due to all those e-mails I've been getting. Coupled with my inability to write properly for more than 10 minutes, it has been hard to do what Afictionado has just done here. Please enjoy!  I'll also publish your e-mails and questions, no fear!]

Assumptions and possibilities

Notes on those possibilities

1.  Snape’s allegiance was and is still only and entirely to Dumbledore.

Possibility 1 is unlikely because of the courtroom evidence Dumbledore gave in Book 4 about Snape being a onetime Death Eater who later changed sides.  Also Snape bears the Dark Mark and because of the legal risk of bearing that incriminating mark he is unlikely to allow himself to be branded in that way unless he was once a genuine Death Eater.

2.  Snape’s allegiance was and is still only and entirely to Voldemort.

Possibility 2 – is not impossible, but the position would be difficult to maintain because of Dumbledore’s powers of Legilimency.  Snape has also not taken advantages of opportunities to kill Dumbledore or Harry.

3.  Snape started off allied to Voldemort but at some point switched his allegiance to Dumbledore.

Possibility 3 is my preferred option – but in general terms it is what Rowling wants us to think and she might be misleading us.  However this is probably why she keeps putting doubts in our mind about Snape’s loyalty and motives – she doesn’t want to be too untruthful, but she likes to tease us and keep us wondering.

4.  Snape started off allied to Dumbledore but at some point switched his allegiance to Voldemort.

Possibility 4 doesn’t hold up for the same reasons as point 1.

 

5.  Snape keeps changing sides – e.g. Voldemort / Dumbledore / Voldemort – because he is merely trying to save his life and cares nothing about the morality of either side’s motives and actions, nor for any of the people involved.

Possibility 5 fits with the typical Slytherin temperament, but no one has confirmed that Snape is an archetypal Slytherin.  It also makes him appear rather shallow and yet there is nothing else to suggest shallowness of the Snape temperament, e.g. he has a strong preference for complex magic, he speaks of most minds being ‘subtle, multi-layered’ things, he can tolerate unattractive surroundings as if his stoical mind is on higher things.

6.  Snape keeps changing sides – e.g. Voldemort / Dumbledore / Voldemort – because regardless of any principles he wants to be on the winning side.

Possibility 6 fits with the typical Slytherin temperament, but again no one has confirmed that Snape is an archetypal Slytherin.  Also it seems unlikely because again it makes Snape seem shallow in a way that is out of character – see previous point.

7.  Snape’s allegiance is to a master we know nothing about.

Possibility 7 is possible but I do not think it likely because it would require Rowling to mislead her readers to an extent greater than I believe she would enjoy doing.

8.  Snape’s allegiance is only to his own career so he is playing each side against the other in order to get them to wipe each other out and leave himself free to become the next Dark Lord.

Possibility 8 is possible and fits perfectly with the Slytherin temperament, but for it to be true Snape would have had to have hoodwinked Dumbledore who is a highly accomplished Legilimens, however this might be possible because Snape is probably a highly accomplished Occlumens.

9.  Dumbledore is not aware that Snape is treacherous to him.

Possibility 9 is possible – Dumbledore says that he makes mistakes and that they can be major mistakes.

10.          Dumbledore is aware that Snape is treacherous to him.

Possibility 10 is possible and Dumbledore might, in spite of Snape’s treachery, be making use of him is some way.  If this is the case I can’t see how it is working out well for Dumbledore.  However Dumbledore has trusted no one other than Harry with the full contents of the Lost Prophesy, and unless Snape was one of the spiders in the Weasleys’ broomshed he still does not know the prophesy in full; only Dumbledore, Harry, Ron and Hermione now know it.

11.          Voldemort is not aware that Snape is treacherous to him.

Possibility 11 fits with point 3 and is my preferred belief.

12.          Voldemort is aware that Snape is treacherous to him.

Possibility 12 is hard to believe because in view of Voldemort’s past behaviour I think that he would kill anyone he suspected of working against him, because he has very little tolerance and virtually no capacity to forgive.

 

If Snape is a double agent working ‘in the dark’ but for the Light he is at great personal risk from summary execution by the Dark side.  He would have to appear to be always on the side of the Dark and could allow no slips ups, consequently he would seem to be a man of total ruthlessness and without a shred of feelings.  He would not want to look like one of the ‘fools who wear their hearts proudly upon their sleeves’.

Evidence and thoughts about the evidence

Book 6  Chapter 2  Spinner’s End

Bellatrix complains that although Snape promises action his words are often empty – he habitually slithers away from doing anything.  This supports assumption 3 that Snape’s real allegiance is to Dumbledore.

Snape described Voldemort as ‘the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen’ but in contrast to Voldemort, Snape might be the world’s most accomplished Occlumens; but if so he would not admit that to his enemies.

Snape says that Dumbledore sustained a serious injury because he is getting old and his reflexes are slowing.  Is this statement made to deflect Bellatrix from the truth, and might the truth be that sustaining the injury was the only way to break into the ring and destroy the Horcrux?

I think Snape was bluffing when he said ‘It so happens I know of the plan’ – I think he said that to try to find out more about it.

Snape seems to know how to make an Unbreakable Vow – ‘you will need your wand … you will need to be closer’ etc.  Is this because he has made such a vow before?  Bellatrix is extremely surprised that he will consent to do it.

The hand twitch during the Vow indicates that he was unwilling to commit himself, irrevocably, in support of Voldemort’s aims.  Was this because of fear for his own skin or because this Vow conflicted with Dumbledore’s overall aims?

Making the Vow was a handy way to show Bellatrix, and via her to demonstrate to Voldemort, that Snape is still on their side.

However somebody has pointed out that Snape’s role as a spy is too important for the success of the Order for Snape to be allowed to die, so possibly Dumbledore decided to sacrifice himself to keep Snape alive.  If so, did Snape take Narcissa’s Vow to trick Dumbledore into taking up that very position?

Book 6  Chapter 5  An Excess of Phlegm

Hermione quoting Dumbledore ‘people find it easier to forgive others for being wrong than for being right’.  That was said about Percy’s attitude to his family but does it also hint at:

o                   Why Dumbledore forgave Snape.

o                   How Harry might eventually come to forgive Snape.

Book 6  Chapter 15  The Unbreakable Vow

Snape looked angry and possibly afraid as a result of Draco’s late evening wanderings.  Is Snape worried that because of the Vow to Narcissa he will have to rescue Draco from dangerous situations thus risking his own skin, or is he worried that Draco is making progress with his Dark task? [Lady Claudia: Or risking exposing his role as a spy for the Light?]

According to Draco, Snape put Crabbe and Goyle in detention and Snape didn’t deny it but justified doing so.  Snape warned Draco against acting without sufficient backup.  Did he put Crabbe and Goyle in detention in order to hinder Draco?

Book 6  Chapter 17  A Sluggish Memory

Harry is anxious to tell Dumbledore about Snape offering to help Draco, but Dumbledore acts as though he knows all the details already and hints, sarcastically, that he might actually know more of that matter than Harry does.  He grows angry when Harry presses him about placing too much trust in Snape, says that he has answered that point in the past and that his answer ‘has not changed’.  To which Phineas Nigellus adds the curious remark ‘I should think not’.  That is a puzzling remark for Phineas to make – it sounds as though he has seen sufficient evidence to understand why Dumbledore has unreserved trust in Snape (but of course it may mean something else entirely).

Book 6  Chapter 19  Elf Tails

Hagrid says that Dumbledore and Snape had an argument – Snape said that Dumbledore ‘took too much for granted, and maybe he (Snape) – didn’t want to do it anymore’.  Dumbledore said that he (Snape) ‘had agreed to do it and that was all there was to it’ and then he said something about Snape making investigations in the House of Slytherin.  Is this merely an argument about Snape making a conscientious effort to investigate any wrongdoing in his house, or is it an argument about Snape having to obey without question every order of Dumbledore’s even orders that are extremely unpalatable or criminal such as killing Dumbledore rather than risking blowing his cover as a spy?

Book 6  Chapter 25  The Seer Overheard

Dumbledore makes Harry agree in advance to obey his orders without question even if he finds them baffling or highly objectionable.  I believe that he also made Snape agree to such an undertaking, and that that pledge was possibly part of an Unbreakable Vow that he made Snape enter into as part of Snape’s repentant return from the Dark side.  There is a pleasant symmetry about these Harry and Snape promises to Dumbledore.

Book 6  Chapter 27  The Lightening-Struck Tower

On his return Dumbledore asks only for Snape and repeatedly for Snape.

Dumbledore tells Draco that if he comes over to the right side he and his mother can be hidden ‘more completely than you can possibly imagine’.  This puts me in mind of that throw-away remark of the fake Mad-Eye Moody in Book 4 ‘Not hiding anything else in your office are you Snape?’ and Snape blushed.  Was that really a mocking question or is Snape hiding something or someone in the dungeons?  The evidence against that possibility is that Snape made such a rapid flight from Hogwarts – if he was hiding, for example, members of his family to keep them safe he would need time to get them to a new place of safety or a means of returning to the school to rescue them.

When Draco boasts of having Dumbledore at his mercy Dumbledore replies ‘it is my mercy and not yours that matters now’.  I think this means that Dumbledore has already arranged matters so that Draco will be saved from committing a crime and being lost to the Dark side – it is in my opinion a hint at Dumbledore’s imminent supreme sacrifice.

Dumbledore pleads with Snape, but for what?  For his life to be spared?  For his life to be ended?  I believe that he pleads for Snape to act in strict accordance with the pretence that his loyalty is to Voldemort so that Dumbledore’s plan for bringing down Voldemort will not be jeopardised.  I believe that if the overthrow of Voldemort required the death of Dumbledore, Dumbledore would be prepared to die – as Sirius said ‘some things are worth dying for’.

It will be interesting to see how Aberforth reacts to the death of his brother and what his attitude will be towards Snape.

Book 6  Chapter 28  Flight of the Prince

Snape would not actually fight Harry; instead in order to effect his escape he did the following:

o                   He parried every spell of Harry’s.

o                   He twice stopped Harry using an Unforgivable Curse.

o                   He got a Death Eater’s Cruciatus Curse lifted from Harry and warned that Harry must not be killed because ‘Potter belongs to the Dark Lord – we are to leave him’.

o                   He kept taunting Harry about learning to keep his mouth and his mind closed, which can be read as hints to master non-verbal spells and Occlumency.

Despite the highly charged situation Snape remained relatively cool throughout their duelling until Harry for the second time called him a coward, whereupon he used a spell that felt like a whiplash and cast Harry to the ground – aside from sarcasm this was his only duelling action against Harry.

Book 6  Chapter 29  The Phoenix Lament

McGonagall said that Snape didn’t appear to know that the Death Eaters were coming to the school and that he only knew of their attack when she sent Flitwick to alert him to it.  This shows that he was not party to the Dark plot, however it does not necessarily prove innocence because it could have been caused by Draco’s determination to keep Snape from meddling in his operation.

Harry asked if Snape joined in on the Dark side when the Death Eaters arrived and McGonagall could not give a categorical ‘yes’ – she said she didn’t know the order of events and that the situation was confused.

Book 6  Chapter 30  The White Tomb

Hermione said that the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion Making was once owned by Snape’s mother Eileen Prince.

Hermione also said that she formed the impression that the Prince was someone who ‘had a nasty sense of humour’.  I agree with that – I think there is an obvious streak of cruelty and desire for revenge in Snape’s character that expresses itself in many ways including possibly through his humour.  But I also think that he has (or had) a bitterly witty and ironic sense of humour that he would direct at himself as much as anyone else – I believe he called himself the Half-Blood Prince for that very reason; not as Tom Riddle self-aggrandisingly re-styled him self ‘Lord Voldemort’ but as a rather self-mocking and private joke against his mixed parentage.  Lord Voldemort left the name Tom Riddle behind and insisted on being called Lord Voldemort, but Severus Snape remained Severus Snape – the only title he insisted upon from his students was ‘Professor’ and it was a courtesy to which he was entitled.

Mixed parentage must be a tricky situation for Slytherins.  I am convinced that when The Sorting Hat allocates pupils to houses it only has regard to each pupil’s turn of mind and natural abilities and potential, and that it takes no account of the so-called ‘purity’ or otherwise of their blood.  So over the years a proportion of half-bloods and Muggle-borns must find themselves sorted into Slytherin House – into the very house that appears to have the most vociferous element who disparage lack of purity of blood!  How these hapless non-pure-blood Slytherins deal with this we do not know; perhaps they seek to hide their parentage and perhaps that is why the teenage Snape described Lily as a ‘filthy little Mudblood’ – he might have spent years carefully towing the Slytherin line in order to ward off any probing about his own parentage.

Other mysteries, more unanswered questions, and even wilder notions

Is Dumbledore determined that Snape must stay safe because Snape’s expertise is needed to help Harry, e.g. with teaching him how to duel or with making a special potion for him?  Would such a potion be connected with the twelve uses of dragon’s blood?

Severus Snape was presumably nicknamed Snivellus because as a Hogwarts pupil he had a tendency to cry, and we also see him crying as a very young boy.  But why did he cry during his Hogwarts years – was the reason in anyway similar to the reasons why Draco was found crying during Book 6?

We are told more than once in Book 6 that Snape makes his facial expression ‘inscrutable’.  I suspect he dislikes displays of emotion by others or by himself; he rarely shows much emotion.  Are his emotions only masked, or has he actually lessened his capacity to feel them in order to give himself a better chance of survival during encounters with the Dark side and to help himself to do (or tolerate seeing done) unpalatable things, so that he can endure being a Death Eater?

Both the ‘debt of honour’ wizards are together in the Spinner’s End house – Snape and Pettigrew.  Is there a reason for them being together?  Is Snape still under a debt to James or was it fully discharged at the end of Book1?

The Spinner’s End house has an air of neglect and is in a poverty stricken Muggle area – Bellatrix calls it a Muggle dunghill and is surprised that Snape lives in such a place.  Was this Snape’s childhood home?  Was childhood poverty one of many sources of his bitterness?  Perhaps Spinner’s End’s present day lack of attraction serves his purpose because he wants a hideaway – a very non-wizard-looking hideaway.  We don’t know if it has a house-elf; they are normally found in grand old houses and ancient castles, but there is elf-made wine available at Spinner’s End.

Rowling said in an interview that Snape was once loved by someone.  Was that person a parent, or a fellow student, or a colleague, or a friend…?  Was it Lily?  Is the source of Snape’s shame and remorse this – that having firstly secured Voldemort’s agreement to Lily being saved he sought to organise the murder of James so that he (Snape) could take over as the ‘man’ in Lily’s life?

I have a gut feeling that Snape engineers the death or punishment of people he considers to be his enemies, e.g:

o                   I suspect that as a result of having endured years of adolescent humiliation, he finally engineered the death of the adult James Potter, and that is partly what the teenage Snape meant by his Book 5 comment ‘you – wait’ – see also my three strands of memory theory below.

o                   It is clear to me that once Snape’s anger was sufficiently roused by Sirius, he went out of his way to goad Sirius in that post-Christmas encounter in the Grimmauld Place kitchen in Book 5, and I believe that he hoped that Sirius’s reckless nature would lead him into extreme personal danger.

o                   It is possible that Snape set up the murder of Emmiline Vance

On that last point I have no idea why he might have held a grudge against Vance.  As Voldemort’s ‘spy’ he would have a requirement to provide, from time to time, genuine information about the Order of the Phoenix, so her death might have been an unfortunate result of Snape propping up his credibility with the Dark side.

In Book 5 Snape takes three strands of memory to store in the Pensieve.  Given the frequency of the James/Sirius bullying, why choose only those few:

  1. Is it because the memory we have witnessed contains the ‘you – wait’ comment?
  2. Is another one a time when he knew that Voldemort was going to kill the Potters and asked for Lily to be spared, i.e. the approaching culmination of his ‘you – wait’ comment?
  3. Is the remaining one the moment of repentance with Dumbledore?

I wonder if these are the three particular memories because all three would implicate him in a plot to murder James.

I have a gut feeling that Snape, despite his relentless and cruel sarcasm, always helps Harry, usually in covert but very practical ways, such as always telling him the answers to Potions questions, making him do an essay on a topic he failed to understand, leaving his old Potions book where Harry might find it.  If so, is this help:

o                   by accident?

o                   because he genuinely wants to help Harry?

o                   because Dumbledore has ordered him to help Harry?

Is ‘Pince’ related to ‘Prince’ or are the names and / or the physical similarities between Snape and Madam Pince mere coincidences? [Lady Claudia - see that section here]

What was the reason for the gleam of triumph in Dumbledore’s eye in Book 4?

What is the meaning of the smoke serpents in Book 5?

Hermione tried to find out who R. A. B. might be, but he or she might be a person who has had nothing published about them – perhaps someone who was never famous or who died young.  Regulus Black is my favourite choice for R. A. B. but we know a number of families whose surnames begins with B, e.g. Belby, Bode, Bole, Bones, Borgin, Burke, even Bagman!

In Book 6 why does Snape keep telling Draco to come to his office and why does Draco at times have greyish skin and dark circles under his eyes (chapter 15) – is it due to fear, or is Snape giving him a potion to ‘protect’ him from harm by hindering his progress with his Dark task, or does Snape merely want opportunities to look into Draco’s mind?

I hope all will be answered in Book 7 and I hope that Snape will turn out to be loyal to the side of good.  But whatever the answers are, and whether Snape turns out to be good or evil, I will always be fascinated, totally enchanted by, and under the spell of the wonderfully complex and enigmatic wizard who is Snape.