Hated Dumbledore Snape

The Witch Week - June 2004


Snape and the eternal question: good or bad?

by Ulrike Pammer

This month, Witch Week will be about one of the most despised and most revered characters in the Harry Potter universe: Severus Snape. Hardly any other character is adored by so many fans and hated by so many people at the same time. Many ask themselves: which side is Snape on? Does he work for the Order of the Phoenix or is he really a spy for Voldemort? And why does Dumbledore trust him?


In order to be able to answer these questions better, one should first consider:

What do we actually know about Snape?

The answer is actually very simple: very, very little. We know he's around 35 or 36 and that he went to school with James, Lupine, Sirius, and Peter Pettigrew. Snape has worked at Hogwarts for 14 years, and has applied regularly for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position since then (OdP, p. 427). However, until now Dumbledore has always refused to give Snape the job. We know from Sirius that Snape was already in school "up to my ears in the dark arts" and that James and Snape hated each other "since they first met." (OdP, p. 787). We also know that Snape did not have a very good childhood (OdP, p. 695). Snape was in Slytherin in his school days, and is still Head of Slytherin House now. James saved Snape's life when they were still in school, and Snape couldn't bear to be indebted to Harry's father. According to Dumbledore, that was also the reason why Snape so protected Harry in his first year of school so that he could finally think of Harry's father again and hate him in peace (SdW, p. 325). In OdP we also learn that, according to Dumbledore, Snape could never forgive Harry's father for tormenting him during his school days. Snape was a Death Eater, but before Lord Voldemort was overthrown, he rejoined Voldemort's opponents and worked for them as a spy (Fk, p. 618). At the end of the Goblet of Fire, Snape receives an assignment from Dumbledore. Neither in the Fk nor in the OdP did we find out what this assignment is, but we know that it is probably something very dangerous.


I want to start with the following question:

Why does Dumbledore trust Snape, and what was the possible reason Snape switched sides?

In the "World Book Day" chat on March 4, 2004, Jo said the following:

Fan question: Why exactly does Dumbledore trust Snape?
JKR's Answer: Another excellent question that I can't answer. All I will say is that Snape told Dumbledore his story and Dumbledore believes it.

And then I want to remind you of something Phineas Nigellus said about the Slytherins in Volume 5: "We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not on our heads. If we have a choice, for example, we will always choose to save our own necks." (OdP, p. 581)

From that quote it appears that if Snape really turned his back on Voldemort, it was certainly not just for moral reasons. To me, one thing is absolutely certain: if Snape hadn't assumed that there was a possibility that Voldemort would eventually be defeated, he would never have switched sides. Because Snape can be accused of many things: that he is mean to Harry even though Harry hasn't done him anything, that his greatest hobby is apparently torturing students. But I would never blame him for being stupid. When Snape switched sides, what I'm assuming now (more on that below), he knew what that meant for him and his future.
He knew that to be a Death Eater, to serve a lifetime or to mean death (OdP, p.137). Another thing to remember is that Snape didnâ € ™ t just turn his back on Voldemort and then he was on the Orderâ € ™ s side. In the Goblet of Fire (Fk, p. 618) Dumbledore says that Snape spied on Voldemort and the Death Eaters for the Order. Snape wouldnâ € ™ t have taken this risk if he hadnâ € ™ t known that there was a possibility that Voldemort would soon be dead. Because Snape knew that Voldemort would kill him if he found out he was a Dumbledore spy, and with Voldemort's abilities, it was only a matter of time. I can only draw one conclusion from this: Snape knew about the prophecy, and therefore knew that there was a possibility that Voldemort would be defeated.

I also found two interesting quotes about this theory:

1) "Little knows the fact that the Potters knew you-know-who was after them. Dumbledore, who of course worked tirelessly against You-Know-Who, had a number of useful spies. Has ONE of them gave him the tip and he immediately warned James and Lily. " (Fudge, GvA, p. 213)

2) "He [Voldemort] knew this prophecy existed, even if he did not know its entire content." (Dumbledore, OdP, p. 985)

So we know that both sides knew about the prophecy. It's easy to explain: Dumbledore was there when it was made, and there are enough strange people in Boar's Head that someone must have told Voldemort about the prophecy. The question that arises for me now is this: who was the spy who told Dumbledore that Voldemort knew the prophecy? I thought it was Snape. I donâ € ™ t think he was the one who heard the prophecy in Boar's head and then told Voldemort about it, because that would have been totally stupid of him. Because he wanted Voldemort to die, so why warn him? However, I suspect that after Voldemort or some Death Eater told him about the prophecy, he thought, "This is my chance!" and went to Dumbledore and told him that Voldemort knew the prophecy and that he, Snape, would like to work as a spy for the Order. Of course, it could also be that something else tipped the scales in his betrayal of Voldemort. For example, it could be that Voldemort or a Death Eater killed someone very close to Snape, or Snape just realized that Voldemort's ideas were wrong. But it all boils down to the same thing: Snape still wouldn't have changed sides if he hadn't known there was a chance he'd survive. And he knew that this would only happen if Voldemort was destroyed.

The answer to the question "What is Snape's assignment?" is pretty obvious to me, by the way. He spies on the Death Eaters and Voldemort. But I wonder how he does it. He's unlikely to be a real Death Eater, otherwise Voldemort would have killed him long ago. I suspect that he is using his relationships with the Death Eaters, who have not been too loyal to Voldemort, that is, have not gone to Azkaban for him, to find out about Voldemort's plans. For example, this is what Umbridge says to Snape "I would have expected more from you, Lucius Malfoy always speaks in the highest tones of you!" (OdP, p. 875). It can be concluded from this that Snape and Malfoy are still getting along well. There is not much more I can say on the matter, as we simply know too little about what Snape's mission is and how he carries it out.


So, now to the central question:

Whose side is Snape on anyway? Is he good or bad?

As I wrote above, I believe Snape is on the side of the Order - that is, on the "good" side. However, I also believe that he would not die for the Order and the fight against Voldemort as Sirius did. I don't think the Order will be able to count on Snape when things get really tight. (And trust me: Volume 6 and Volume 7 will certainly get really tight). I firmly believe that Snape would rather run away and save his own skin than die for the Order. Don't forget that he's Head of House for Slytherin, and that Jo surely put the Hogwarts housing system into his books for a reason. The Sorting Hat describes the Slytherins as cunning (OdP, p. 242). The Slytherin house symbol is certainly not a snake for nothing. Snape is smart enough to work his way out of any tricky situation.

That Snape is still on Voldemort's side doesn't make any sense to me. Then why should he tell Dumbledore, for example, that the dark mark on his arm is getting stronger and thus warn Dumbledore that Voldemort is getting stronger? Dumbledore of all people, the only person Voldemort was ever afraid of? Why didn't he just poison or kill Harry on the countless occasions they were alone and then return to Voldemort? I'm not the biggest Snape fan on earth, but I don't see him on Voldemort's side. When asked, "Which side is Snape really on?" so I would reply, "When the going gets tough, Snape is only on his own side."

I'm sure Snape will have an important role to play in the next two books. It will be interesting to see what else Jo will reveal about him. Because one thing is certain: we are still a long way from knowing everything there is to know about Severus Snape.


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She's clearly the wolf in sheep's clothing, so not as 'pink' as she looks at all.
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