Magic at Its Deepest, Its Most Impenetrable – Analyzing the Unbreakable Vow

At the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as Harry is upset that he prevented Sirius and Lupin from killing Peter Pettigrew and then Pettigrew escaped, Dumbledore told Harry:

“You did a very noble thing, in saving Pettigrew’s life. Pettigrew owes his life to you. You have sent Voldemort a deputy who is in your debt … When one Wizard saves another Wizard’s life, it creates a certain bond between them … and I’m much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter.”

PoA pg. 426/311

When Harry protests that he doesn’t want a bond with the Wizard who murdered his parents, Dumbledore says:

“This is magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable, Harry.”

PoA pg. 427/311

This was mentioned in the third book, we’ve had dealings with Peter Pettigrew since, and the life debt still hasn’t been paid off, so it would seem this might be very important in book 7. If this life debt plays an important part in the final book, it makes one wonder if there are there any other life debts in the Harry Potter story that will affect what happens in book 7? I think there are.

At the end of the very first book, Dumbledore mentions another life debt:

“Your father did something Snape could never forgive. He saved his life. Funny, the way people’s minds work, isn’t it? Professor Snape couldn’t bear being in your father’s debt…”

SS/PS pg. 300/217

Notice he uses the actual word “debt”, in the same way he later described Pettigrew’s life debt in Prisoner of Azkaban.

In fact, in Prisoner of Azkaban, the book that sets up Pettigrew’s life debt with Harry, we learn more about Snape’s debt with James. While Snape is interrogating Harry for being in Hogsmeade when he shouldn’t have been, Harry lets it slip that he knows Snape hates his dad because he saved his life, and Snape tells him:

“And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life? … Your saintly father and his friends played a highly amusing joke on me that would have resulted in my death if your father hadn’t gotten cold feet at the last minute. There was nothing brave about what he did. He was saving his own skin as much as mine. Had their joke succeeded, he would have been expelled from Hogwarts.”

PoA pg. 285/210

Later in the same book, we learn a little more about the incident from Lupin in the Shrieking Shack, in the very place the original incident occurred:

“Severus was very interested in where I went every month. Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening she led me towards the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be – er – amusing, to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree-trunk with a long stick, and he’d be able to go in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it – if he’d got as far as this house, he’d have met a fully grown werewolf – but your father, who’d heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life…

PoA pg. 357/261

So, it would seem that Snape owes somewhat of a life debt to James. I say somewhat because the debt might be mitigated by the fact that, depending on who’s point of view you hear the story from, James was saving his own skin as much as Snape’s.

If, as many Harry Potter fans believe, that unpaid life debts are inherited, this means that Snape now owes a life debt to Harry, albeit a partial one. But perhaps it might not have stayed partial for long.

We also know, as we learned in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, that it was Snape who partially overheard Sybill Trelawney make the prophecy. (HBP pg. 545/509) But, we then find out from Dumbledore that Snape did not know it was Harry the prophecy pertained to:

“Professor Snape made a terrible mistake. He was still in Lord Voldemort’s employ on the night he heard the first half of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy. Naturally, he hastened to tell his master what he had heard, for it concerned his master most deeply. But he did not know – had no way of knowing – which boy Voldemort would hunt from then onwards, or that the parents he would destroy in his murderous quest for power were people that Professor Snape knew, that they were your mother and father … You have no idea of the remorse Professor Snape felt when he realized how Lord Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy, Harry.”

HBP pg. 549/512

So, while it would seem that Snape owes Harry another life debt for being responsible for the death of his parents, this too is mitigated by the fact that Snape didn’t know it would be Lily and James who would be killed. But, if the two partial life debts that Snape owes Harry are added up, it’s possible that Snape now owes Harry a full life debt.

Isn’t it curious that at the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the person who we know for sure owes Harry a life debt, Pettigrew, and the person who we now suspect owes Harry another life debt, Snape, happen to be both living at Snape’s place in Spinner’s End?

And isn’t it curious that in Spinner’s End, we learn about something that’s most likely very closely related to life debts, the Unbreakable Vow?

If you think about it, life debts and Unbreakable vows are very similar, because they both result in a very strong magical bond being created between two Wizards. The difference between them is that a life debt is a bond between two Wizards that is created involuntarily, as the result of some other actions. But an Unbreakable Vow is voluntary, a bond created between two Wizards by their mutual agreement.

In Spinner’s End we witness the creation of the Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Narcissa Malfoy. We know that, by the terms of the Unbreakable Vow, Snape must watch over Draco, protect him from harm, and “carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform” if it seems Draco will fail (HBP pg. 36/41), although it’s not really stated in this chapter exactly what that task might be.

But is it possible that there are other Unbreakable Vows that are responsible for the actions of characters in the Harry Potter story? After my discussions on the subject with fans at the Mischief Managed Harry Potter conference in San Antonio, I believe there are.

All throughout the story, Dumbledore keeps repeating to everyone that he trusts Snape, when everyone can see no logical reason why he should. After the fall of Voldemort, Dumbledore stood up for Snape and testified in his behalf at the Wizengamot, preventing Snape from being sent to Azkaban. Dumbledore even allowed Snape to become a teacher at Hogwarts.

Is it possible that after Voldemort’s downfall, Snape made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore? This would explain why Dumbledore trusts Snape when no one else does. Dumbledore knows Snape is no longer a death eater, yet pretends to be one so he can be a spy for Dumbledore, because in their Unbreakable Vow, Snape pledged to do so.

And what if the terms of Snape’s Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore also includes watching over Harry? That would explain why Snape continues to do so, even after he saved Harry’s life during the Quidditch match in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone. If it was a life debt that was causing Snape to protect Harry, it would be logical to assume that debt would have been paid off when Snape saved Harry’s life by counter-jinxing Quirrel’s broom jinx. But, Snape has carried on protecting Harry even after this.

Are life debts and Unbreakable Vows magically related? Who else in the Harry Potter books could owe Harry a life debt? Who else in the Harry Potter books might be working, for good or evil, as the result of an Unbreakable Vow?

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David Haber
David Haber

D.S. Haber (known to his friends as Dave) is a professional muggle computer programmer and web designer and lives in Los Angeles. He is proud of the fact that he is a new-blood wizard with no (apparent) previous magical blood in his family. His favorite Quidditch team is the Falmouth Falcons, who's motto is "Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads." He is also a West Ham United (Hammers) fan.

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Sarah
Sarah
17 years ago

I like your theory, but Snape has already paid back his life debt to Harry. He saved Harry from Quirrel when he was jinxing the broom. That’s the only reason the subject came up at all. I don’t think that Snape owes Harry anything anymore.

Also, if you break an Unbreakable Vow, you die. Snape isn’t looking out for Harry anymore, especially since he’s working for Voldemort again. If he had made an Unbreakable Vow to protect Harry, he would know better than to work for someone who is trying to kill him, wouldn’t he?

I may be wrong, I just like playing devil’s advocate. You have a good theory, it made me think. =D

bart
bart
17 years ago

Very interesting question. We know Harry has saved several of the Weasleys at various times. Ron, Ginny, Mr. Weasley. These are folks who would probably stand up for Harry anyway so it wouldn’t likely effect storylines.

Does Harry owe the centaur (forget his name) for saving him from Quirrel/LV in the forest in Book 1?

Elliida
Elliida
17 years ago

It sounds quite interesting, but have you realised this one thing: In the 4th book, when Voldemort is revived, Pettigrews hand is used in the spell. And by that time, he was already on debt to Harry. Might it be so, that Voldemort can’t do some evil thing, because a part of him is on a debt to Harry?

Just a thought, which I had the first time I read the 4th book. Brilliant site, by the way!

huzaifah
huzaifah
17 years ago

This is a really good theory. But snape and dumbledore cant be the only people to know about the unbreakable vow.
Dont you need 3 people? (snape, dumbledore and 1 person as the bonder). I remember snape telling bellatrix in spinners end to be the bonder. If only 2 people were required snape or narcissa would have done it.
dunno, what do you think?

huzaifah
huzaifah
17 years ago

No Bart i dont think that counts. I Reckon you have to be a human to be able to make an unbreakable vow.

huzaifah
huzaifah
17 years ago

Do you have to say what you vow out loud? What if snape said ‘not’ in his mind to one or all the vows?

Dave Haber
Dave Haber
17 years ago

I guess anything’s possible, but every indication in the books is that Unbreakable Vows are very powerful. It’s hard for me to believe it would be that easy to get around being bound by one.

bart
bart
17 years ago

Do you think the unbreakable vow could be broken if one of the parties is killed? For example, what if Snape were to kill Narcissa prior to fulfilling the vow? Or if Bellatrix was killed would the bond be broken? I doubt it, but it makes for interesting speculation. We know that life debts remain after one of the parties dies. (ie., Snape saving HP in Book 1 as part of his dept to James Potter) but would an UV hold the same bonds since it is a formal bond and a life debt seems much more elemental.

Goody
Goody
17 years ago

ok first of all, sarah from over the rainbow, Snape is still looking out for Harry, thats why even when they were fighting at the end, he was still teaching him. e.g not until you keep your mind closed and your mind shut, or whatever he said.

tracy
tracy
17 years ago

Yippie! Thanks for that article Dave! I’ve been wondering for a long time if anyone else thought that Snape and Dumbledore made the unbreakable vow. I think JKR put that scene in Spinners End to show us exactly what Snape had done in the past. I think that part of the reason Snape is so very nasty to Harry is because he is bound to his protection and resents it.
Huzaifah, from London ~ The third person…I suspected it was maybe Aberforth since none of our mainstream characters understand Dumbledore’s iron-clad reason for trusting Snape.
Ellida, from Finland ~ That is a cool point! I need to think about that one. Voldy also has Harry’s blood in him. (Does that mean he is capable of love?)

Linda
Linda
17 years ago

Is it possible for Snape to do a memory charm (think of Gilderoy Lockhart’s early tricks) on Dumbledore? If Snape put in a “don’t tell anyone why Dumbledore trusts Snape” content in the memory charm, it would explain why Dumbledore would never tell anyone why he trusts Snape and why he always seemed to ‘pause’ before speaking about it.

Michael
Michael
17 years ago

Linda, that can’t be. See, Dumbledore’s the greatest sorcerer in the world. And when Snape could’ve done that, that would be years ago – before Dumbledore accepts Snape on the teaching post, I daresay. And I say too that Dumbledore isn’t that old way back then. So it isn’t possible… Plus, I believe Dumbledore’s great skill and ability. And anyway, while we’re on it, I think Snape’s not that bad. But I can only prove this once Book 7 is out.:p

Dave Haber
Dave Haber
17 years ago

We’re playing a semantics game, but I think that anyone would kill another person for their own gain would definitely be considered “less than human”…

Heather
Heather
17 years ago

I think that Snape and Dumbledore did make an unbreakable vow, which i think i mentioned in an earlier post. I think it was when Snape first joins DD. Voldy betrays Snape by killing Lily, Snapes true love. Snape is devasted and needs revenge, and switches to DD’s side. DD would immediatley trust Snape due to love and would not need the UV for himself to believe Snape.

However, i think the UV is to protect Snape from situations in the future. Maybe even to protect Snape from Soldy. So that no matter what Snape would stand by DD and protect Harry. Maybe it was Snape who insisted.

I think that if they did have a UV bond, Hagrid would be the bonder. Just a thought.

Lana
Lana
17 years ago

It’s a nice theorie you have goin but alot of it is guess work. i have nothing against them but it is hard to be sure. I believe that Pettigrew was already trying to pay is life debt back to Harry in GOF. At the very start of the book when Harry is witnessing Voldemorts plans, Pettigrew suggests that they could use any witch or wizard because everyone is against Voldemort. He was therefore trying to prevent Voldemort from killing Harry. He however fails and I believe he will keep on trying in little ways like this. Weather he succeeds I dont know. But I hope so!

Bill
Bill
17 years ago

if snape made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore then it would no longer need to be fulfilled because he had killed Dumbledore and snape would not be able to do so for this reason

Someone
Someone
17 years ago

I think that since Voldemort has lily’s blood in his veins he unwantingly can’t hurt harry because lily died to save harry.
Also since voldemort has pettigrews hand that means that he also owns his life to harry is bonded with harry.
Voldemort is also wanded with harry in terms of their wand being brothers and i think that is going to play a big part since J.K said that in book 7 we are going to learn more about connections with a wizard and his wand.

babygirl123
babygirl123
17 years ago

I think that the Weasley family may have to owe their lives. In one of the books, either 5 or 6, Mrs.Weasly says “Half of our family owes our lives to you Harry.” Just a thought.

Brena
Brena
17 years ago

In The Phoenix Lament, McGonagall says “He always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape”
Could this reason be that he knew Snape couldn’t hurt Harry and, on the contrary, he had to PROTECT Harry?

Mikey
Mikey
17 years ago

Brena,
I’m not sure about the life debt as being “ironclad” Afterall it would appear that Barty Crouch Jr. owed his father a life debt for being rescued from the dementors in Azkaban. And look how he repaid his father.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
17 years ago

I don’t think what you are calling a “life debt” is some sort of binding magical contract, or oath like the unbreakable oath. Dumbledore certainly never says that it is. It creates a bond, an obligation, but how that plays out could be very unpredictable.
Dumbledore probably trusted Snape simply because Snape loved Lily. I think all the stuff about James being an arrogant prat that Harry sees in the pensieve with Snape is a red herring. All the time Harry is worrying about James forcing Lily into marriage and feeling upset that James wasn’t perfect, we are being led up the wrong garden path. The important stuff is the glimpse we get of Lily standing up for Snape. And how embarrassing would that have been for the guy? An adolescent boy with a secret crush on a girl, being humiliated in front of her? Ouch. Of course he lashed out at her and said the vilest thing he could think of. But under it all I believe he had a crush on her which developed into what Slughorn might have described as obsessive love, a very dangerous and powerful thing. Also unfakeable. It’s the one thing he wouldn’t be able to hoodwink Dumbledore over, and I’m sure that’s why Dumbledore trusted him. Also why he would never tell anyone what his reason was. Far too personal.
I’m sure this is also why Snape is so bitter and unlikeable. He’s torn up between his hatred for James, and by extension Harry, and his love for Lily. And of course Harry is Lily’s son too, and Snape loathes himself for causing her death and resents Harry because she died for him. The man’s a mess, but Dumbledore trusted him and I don’t think on this, that he’ll turn out to have been wrong. The clues are all there, but we’ve been very cleverly misdirected. Even in the potions scene in HBP, our attention is deflected from what Slughorn says about the nature of love, by Felix Felicis, and later by the probable use of Amortentia by Merope Gaunt on Tom Riddle Senior.

Patty
Patty
17 years ago

I am at work so I can’t look up the exact reference, but I remember a conversation between Harry, Ron and Hermione discussing Dumbledore giving Snape a second chance. Harry said “If Snape is on his second chance, I wonder what was the first?” I think book 7 will fill in all kinds of details about Lily,James,Snape and Dumbledore’s plan to help Harry defeat Voldemort.

Mistral
Mistral
17 years ago

Elizabeth: I always admire how you defend Snape, with precise and accurate words! Whenever I read a comment like that I see my limits with the foreign English language and think I should give up with sending comments! At times it is a bit frustrating.

I am also sending my thanks to you Dave, for letting us “non native English-speaking” Fans have a go at your awesome Website! Compliments also to all of you who bear with us – let me tell you, it takes a bit of courage or a great passion for Harry Potter;-) to know that the whole world is reading and judging a comment maybe not knowing that English is not the native language….!

Since this is an unusual comment I wanted to say how great I find the “Harry Potter references” and top new “Beyond Hogwarts Search”! I am delighted that I also was able to contribute something, so that this great site does excite and thrill all Harry Potter Fans all over the World!

Patty
Patty
17 years ago

Mistral, I always find something new and interesting in your comments. I for one would never have guessed that English was not your native language. I have never been able to master another language and am in awe of those who can.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
17 years ago

Mistral – One of the great things about this site is that we are from all over the world, and speak different languages. And if you think about it, some of our best clues about the identity of R.A.B have come from people telling us what the initials are in a foreign edition.

Someone from Somewhere – that bit about Lily’s blood being in Voldemort’s veins is exactly the sort of thing I was trying to think of. Something connected with love/sacrifice that would trip Voldemort up. Thank you.

Heather
Heather
17 years ago

Elizabeth, regarding your post on the previous page…you said it better that i ever could (and I speak English, Mistral)—but my thoughts exactly about how Snape loved Lily, etc.

I do think that Dumbledore’s knowledge of Snape’s love for Lily was enough for Dumbledore establish trust. I also think that we will learn more about Lily and Snape’s relationship in book 7.

As for Snape, I’ve said it before…he’s good.

One more thing, Elizabeth I do agree with you regarding that gleam in Dumbledore’s eye when he learned that Voldemort used Harry’s blood for his own rebirth. I do think that Voldemort has once again overlooked the power of blood/love, and that will contribute to his downfall.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
17 years ago

Thanks, Heather. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Someone from Somewhere hasn’t hit on the reason. It might all come back to Lily’s sacrifice.

I think you’re right and we will find out more about Snape’s feelings towards Lily in Deathly Hallows. Somehow I don’t imagine Harry is going to be very happy about it. I can see Snape actually dying to give Harry his chance at Voldemort. I think he would see it as the one way he could repay Lily, by helping her son to finish the one who murdered her.

david
david
17 years ago

hey doesnt mr. wealsey, ron, and ginny owe harry his life? that means that he could use them as cronies in his fight to kill voldemort

Kevin
Kevin
17 years ago

I think all the facts to settle this have yet to be uncovered. I’d like to know how (since all “pure-blood families are related) the Potters, Princes,Malfoys/Blacks and Dumbledores are related (and just as an aside, I went to public school in America, so EVERYONE’S English is better than mine) and if that has any impact on the interactions between them all.

Robbie B
Robbie B
17 years ago

yes so i think were looking into the life debt thing far to much i think it needs to be something more something extra ordinary that goes beyond human nature in the sense that one will try to protect their friend, one will try to protect their child, but james saved snape, even though he didnt like him and harry saved wormtail even though he didnt like him. lily saved harry as a natural instinct to protect her child and that led to a diffrent magic voldemort couldnt touch him. i found the theory about wormtails silver hand intresting and that on jk’s site there was a rumor about it being used to kill lupin but i think it will be used to kill another certain werewolf who enjoys eating babies and even atacking people when hes in human form. i think maybe he and wormtail will be about to kill harry and harry talks to wormtail and pleads with him to save him and wormtail feeling regret for the pain and suffering he caused by killing harrys parents by leading to sirius being jailed to his death to dumbledores death to voldemorts resurection for voldemort even said that wormtail returned out of fear not loyalty so maybe he could redeem himself in that one moment and use his silver hand to kill the werewolf.

Wendelin the Weird
Wendelin the Weird
17 years ago

I’m not sure that I agree with a previous poster who suggested that perhaps Snape is the illegitimate son of Voldemort and Eileen Prince. It is interesting and certainly worth a thought. I do disagree with the later poster who commented that Voldemort can’t love and has no friends so he obviously couldn’t have an illegitimate child. I think this statement is bunk. At the risk of sounding callous, it doesn’t take love to make a baby. And even though I’m sure JKR isn’t going to go into this, I highly doubt that Voldemort has gone his whole life without participating in the act of potential baby-making. Many reasonably decent men (and women) thse days will do it without loving their partner.

I’m not saying that I think that Snape is Voldemort’s son, but I’d hate to dismiss the idea based on an idealistic view of love and sex.

Ashley
Ashley
17 years ago

Ummm…this is a VERY weird conversation.. but as far as im concerned, Voldemort doesnt need an “heir”… or a son.. because that really would be the only reason for him to have a son wouldnt it? to have a new “Dark Lord” to carry on for him when he died? and it says in HBP who Snape’s father is, i just dont remember who it is right now. something with a “T”….

Kelsey
Kelsey
17 years ago

well as for someone who owes Harry a life debt…Ginny Weasley. In the second book Harry saved her life when he destroyed Tom Riddle and his Diary. Also, Hermione, Ron and Sirius (if he wasn’t already dead). Because he saved them from the dementors in the third book…There are a lot of people who owe Harry their lives when you think about it….this has left me thinking but thats not a bad thing…

Debra
Debra
17 years ago

While we are speaking of life debts… I just realized that Harry owes a life debt to Hermione for saving him from falling off his broom in SS/PS when she bumped into Quirrel at the Quidditch match while she was trying to set Snape on fire… Any thoughts on what this will mean in Book 7?

Jenifer
Jenifer
17 years ago

Interesting article. However, I don’t think Dumbledore would stoop to controlling another with an unbreakable vow. Doesn’t seem like his style. I think he believes/believed in Snape for another, more important reason. He trusts him. Pure and simple.

Hyke
Hyke
17 years ago

I see the hesitation in Snape when asked to pledge to fulfill Draco’s task. I see arguments from Snape with Dumbledore. I see pain and turmoil in Snape. Could it be he prommissed, ‘just’ promissed Dumbledore to save Draco and Harry at all costs, even by killing Dumbledore. Could Dumbledore’s last word: ‘severus’ have been a plee to fulfill his task? And could Dumbledore have been so calculating that he took horrible, poison. He said the poison he took was not (only) meant to kill. What would have ben Dumbledore’s fate had Snape not killed him. Maybe Snape had the horrible Judas task, knowingly. By killing Dumbledore he saved Draco and Harry. A price Dumbledore would probably not find too high. But if it is the case it must be hell for Snape, how convenient it might further be strategically in the battle with Voldemort. I tend to agree with Elisabeth that Snape on the ‘good’ side.

Isabel
Isabel
16 years ago

i think snape still owes harry something…also, Arthur Weasly could owe harry for saving his life, or ginny…

Ashley
Ashley
16 years ago

I think that Snape owes Harry something too… Just can’t put my finger on it….
I think this was mentioned like a long time ago and thats why I’m asking it… Can you inherit life debts? Like, Snape owed James a life debt, and now James is dead, so.. does Snape owe Harry a life debt? Or did the debt go away because James is dead?

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

An interesting tangent on Quirell’s attempt to kill harry, during the quidditch match when Snape supposedly nullified his life debt by using a countercurse. I find it odd that Quirell (under the influence of Voldemort) was attempting to do harry in by throwing him off his broom, when we’ve seen harry fall off his broom or be injured playing Quidditch several times in later books. In CoS, he is hit by Dobby’s bludger, and, if I’m not mistaken, falls from his broom. In PoA, he falls from his broom during the Hufflepuff match when the Dementors storm the field. In HBP, he falls from his broom when hit by a bludger in the head. All of these times, he emerged with no lasting damage. Which brings me to my point, albeit a weak one. Does a life debt count poorly contrived attempts?

Dvin
Dvin
16 years ago

well, why would snape make an unbreakable vow to “carry out the deed if malfoy didnt” that means he knew he might have to kill dumbledore? THIS is the man dumbledore trusts so much? and if he did make a vow with dumbledore to watch over harry, it wasnt just to watch over him once then let him die? i think that this meant he would have to watch-and keep watch-over harry until voldemort was defeated? its also curious how snape seems to hate harry and almost anyone that has anything to do with him, he despises them with passion, so what else could make him protect harry? and if snape did anything wrong, he’d be dead now because of the vow.

Dvin
Dvin
16 years ago

one more thing to add, Anonymous, in PoA dumbledore mumbled a curse when he was falling off which saved him if im not mistaken and i dont think i even saw snape during the other matches so im not if it was him, though, i think snape wants voldemort stopped too, he wants harry to succeed so even if he already payed his debt then he is just doing it out of himself to protect harry and we all know how much he hates him, maybe hes doing it to someway help potter? i dont know…snape is a very curious character that no one quiet read what goes through his mind.

Ashley
Ashley
16 years ago

The mind is not a book to be opened and examined at leisure.

Dvin
Dvin
16 years ago

Thank you Ashley for those wise words but I what i think i meant was that you can infer about other characters, how they are, what kind of life they’ve had, WHERE THEIR LOYALTIES LIE, but Snape is by far the most mysterious and that we can’t really “read” him.

herve
herve
16 years ago

Ashley: I think you’re right in saying that Snape owes something to Harry, and I would make a parallel with Petunia. They both seem to hate Harry, they can be nasty with him (only Umbridge is worse), but they help him.

I wonder whether this has to do with Lily’s eyes (Harry “has got Lily’s eyes”). Something Snape promised to Lily, like remaining fidel to her eyes? Could this magical bound be transfered to Harry’s eyes, so that Snape would die at once if he didn’t remain fidel to Harry?

Dave Porter
Dave Porter
16 years ago

I think you are on to something herve. Maybe Snape & Lily made an unbreakable vow in the past (for what remains hdden for now) and that is why Snape can never do harm to Harry. He has had plenty of opportunities to do so even after “repaying” his debt to James for saving his life. This would have bound Snape to keep Harry from harm at the end of HBP, whether Snape was good or bad. Maybe this is the “iron clad proof” that Dumbledore trusted Snape for.

Heather
Heather
16 years ago

Herve, let’s take the promise a bit further. Do you think that Lily and Snape made an unbreakable vow as a childhood friends? We’ve touched upon this on this site earlier. I think it is possible. In HBP we learn from Ron that if an unbreakable vow is broken a person can die. He tells of Fred and George trying to get him to do one as a kid, but that his dad stopped it. Maybe this is JKR’s way of giving us a clue to another childhood unbreakable vow (one between Snape and Lily) that was not prevented.

The question then becomes twofold. First how was it worded. If it did have something to do with Lily’s eyes, as Herve just suggested, then that might carry over to Harry (he has Lily’s eyes). Second, who was their bonder? yikes—Petunia? any ideas?

Emilio
Emilio
16 years ago

Lets go over the different life debts and Unbreakable vows we know or suspect of:

1.- Wormtail (Peter Petigrew) ows Harry a life debt for not allowing both Sirius and Professor Lupin to kill him, he who had allowed Voldemort to kill Harry�s parents, by revealing their location.

Wormtail is with Voldemort more from fear than devotion, fear from the authorities for facilitating the murder of the Potter�s, and fear of the Dark Lord himself, but in debt to Harry.

2.- Snape owed a life debt to Harry�s father for saving him from a certain death on the hands of young Lupin (when transformed into a werewolf), and I believe that you can only repay a life debt by saving the life of the person who saved yours, or if not possible, the life of their kin.

Linda from Kentucky wrote on page six of these comments that Snape was probably in love with Harry�s mom, Lily, and feels guilty and responsible for her death, as he as the one to tell the Dark Lord about the Prophesy.

I believe that Snape has mixed feelings about Harry, he hates seeing James in him, but at the same time wants to protect Lily�s son, as he sees her in Harry�s eyes all the time, but what he also sees the face of James, the one who Lily chose.

It�s possible that Snape has/had an unbreakable vow with Dumbledore, that might have been Snape�s idea, which forced him to kill him on DD�s orders, but that Snape is not actually �returning� to Voldy, but going to him in order to know his plans and report back to the Order of the Phoenix, who would be better suited to report to the order than the �Right hand man� of their mortal enemy?, and which would be a better way of demonstrating both to the Dark Lord an to his followers that he was back with them, than by killing Dumbledore?, and I again think this was Dumbledore�s idea.

3.- Harry �saves� Ginny�s life in the Camber of Secrets, but I don�t thing this constitutes a life debt, because he did it while trying to destroy the young Riddle, but I might be wrong. He also saves Mr. Weasly in a way, when he tells Dumbledore about his dream in which Mr. Weasly is bitten by Nagini in the corridor leading to where the prophesies are stored, and if I�m not mistaken, he also saves one of the older Weasly�s from being killed by the Warewolf on HBP, whose future wife �Fleur� (which by the way means flower) thanks Harry for �saving her sister� in GoF, when Harry makes sure that she gets out of the lake of the Marepeople.

4.- I agree with Liz from Australia (Page 8)
�An Unbreakable vow is an agreement which two people choose to enter into. Whilst the consequences may be severe, they do not exist until the choice to make the vow has been made. A life debt, however, seems to be part of ‘Harry’s kind of magic’, love-related, Dumbledore related, phoenix related, mother giving life to save her son, value of an intact soul type of magic.�

Which tells us that is a much more powerful and elemental magic, something that you are born with, not something that you can study, although it might be good for Harry to try to find out more of this �Elemental� magic before he has to face Voldy again.

Ashley
Ashley
16 years ago

I think that the Bonder would probably have to be Dumbledore, seeing as he had that iron-clad reason for Dumbledore to trust Snape that Dave Porter brought up.
We know Snivellus is a good liar. How easy would it be, amidst all those lies he told Dumbledore, to say that he had an Unbreakable Vow between Lily, who was dead and could not give testimony?

Heather
Heather
16 years ago

Regarding my last suggestion that perhaps Lily and Snape made and unbreakable vow as childhood friends. I wondered who would be their bonder. I doubt it was Dumbledore. Would he have been around (and consented) to an unbreakable vow of children? NO. I think it would be another friend of theirs? But who would have been in their neighborhood? Was it Petunia?

herve
herve
16 years ago

Heather: I’m up to the same question, about the bonder. Maybe Lupin? He’s the one who tells Harry in PoA movie. Lupin seemed to be very fond of Lily, but he certainly couldn’t engage to her, and he respected Snape more than James, Sirius or Peter.

The vow could be something like “I promise to stay for ever fidel and protect the one who has such beautiful eyes”. A vow seems to be like a written contract: wording is more important than intentions.

If he said that, Snape would have to remain fidel to Harry and protect him, because of his eyes. The bonder would know it, and perhaps Dumbledore as well.