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Follow On Us
These are the clues contained in the pages of Harry Pottter and the Half-Blood Prince which support the possibility that Snape is not really a Death Eater, has remained loyal to Dumbledore, and all through the book, Snape is working on Dumbledore’s Orders.
Since the book is virtually about Snape (it’s titled Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which we know now is the same thing as saying Harry Potter and Snape), we can’t possibly list here every mention in the book the relates to the mystery of Snape. But here are some of the ones that stood out as important to me.
(Page numbers shown are for US Edition/UK Edition.)
During the meeting that Snape has at his house with Narcissa and Bellatrix in chapter 2, Snape tries to explain to them why he never killed Harry all those years at Hogwarts when he had ample opportunity:
“Of course, it became apparent to me very quickly that he had no extraordinary talent at all. He has fought his way out of a number of tight corners by a simple combination of sheer luck and more talented friends. He is mediocre to the last degree…”HBP pg 31/36
But we know Snape knows this is a lie. We know Snape knows that Harry is a powerful wizard. We know he knows Harry is a parselmouth. We know he knows Harry could conjure a corporeal patronus when he was just 13 years old. We know he knows Harry has stood up to and prevailed against Voldemort five times!
But not even one whole page later, Narcissa is crying to Snape she has something she wants to say, but has been forbidden to talk about by Voldemort. Snape immediately replies that she should follow Voldemort’s orders, and sister Bellatrix agrees. But Snape appears troubled by the conversation:
But Snape had gotten to his feet and strode to the small window, peered through the curtains, and then closed them again with a jerk. He turned around to face Narcissa, frowning. (HBP pg 32/37)
What happened to make him jerk the curtains closed all of a sudden and turn back to the women, frowning? Has he had a revelation?
It is only at this point that he confides in them that he already knows the plan, that Voldemort has already told him. He’s lying again!
If he already knew the plan, why would he have taken the position, just one moment earlier, that she should follow Voldemort’s law and not speak of it?
We know Snape is a powerful Legilimens, we learned that in the Occlumency scenes with Snape and Harry in Order of the Phoenix. Just in case we forgot about Legilimency, J.K. mentioned it just a few pages ago. Questioning Voldemort’s trust in Snape, Snape interrupts:
“You think he is mistaken? Or that I somehow hoodwinked him? Fool the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?”HBP pg 26/31
Having just been on the verge of spilling the beans to Snape, Draco’s assignment must have been top-most in Narcissa’s thoughts, and in the quiet moment at the window, Snape saw it in her mind. He then lies to them about already knowing the plan, to gain their trust.
So, at the same time that Snape is trying to convince Narcissa and Bellatrix that he’s worthy of Voldemort’s trust, we can see he is lying to them, several times. That can only mean that Snape isn’t as loyal to Voldemort as he’d like Bellatrix and Narcissa (and us!) to believe.
Harry is talking to Hagrid after the poisoning of Ron, and Hagrid lets it slip that he overheard something he shouldn’t have:
I was comin’ outta the forest the other evenin’ an’ I overheard ’em talking — well, arguin’. … I jus’ heard Snape sayin’ Dumbledore took too much fer granted an’ maybe he — Snape — didn’ wan’ ter do it anymore … Dumbledore told him flat out he’d agreed ter do it an’ that was all there was to it.”HBP pg 405/380
This clue comes right out and tells us that Snape is following the orders of Dumbledore, although we now see whatever Snape has promised to do for Dumbledore is difficult or unpleasant.
We also now have comfirmation that Dumbledore has a plan, which involves Snape, and Dumbleore is confident that the plan that Snape has agreed to will proceed.
For every Hogwarts year that is documented in the Harry Potter books so far, it stands out prominently that there has been a different Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher each year.
They even joked about it at the beginning of the previous book, when the kids are looking over their just arrived book lists for the year, and they’re wondering who assigned the Slinkhard book, as it meant Dumbledore had found a new DADA teacher:
Fred told Harry … “Dumbledore was having real trouble finding anyone to do the job this year.” “Not surprising, is it, when you look at what’s happened to the last four?” said George. “One sacked, one dead, one’s memory erased, and one locked in a trunk for nine months,” said Harry, counting them off on his fingers. “Yeah, I see what you mean.”OotP pg 161/146
And in Half-Blood Prince, Harry, Ron and Hermione talk about this again when they are surprised at the sorting feast that Snape will be DADA teacher that year:
“Well, there’s one good thing,” [Harry] said savagely. “Snape’ll be gone by the end of the year.” “What do you mean?” asked Ron. “That job’s jinxed. No one’s lasted more than a year…Quirell actually died doing it…”HBP pg 167/159
Ironically, it turns out, Harry was literally right. When Tom Riddle returned after a ten year absence to again request to be a teacher at Hogwarts, Dumbledore rejected him, and upon Harry’s questioning, Dumbledore gave us some important insight into the Hogwarts DADA teacher situation:
“Was he after the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again, sir? He didn’t say…” “Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job,” said Dumbledore. “The aftermath of our little meeting proved that. You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort.”HBP pg 446/418
So, Dumbledore himself is admitting he knows that Voldemort cursed the DADA teacher job. This means he knew about the curse when he assigned Snape to the job this year. But he never intended Snape to be in the job for longer than a year to begin with, as his plan for Snape to kill him and flee at the end of the year must have already been in place.
4. Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
When Snape comes into the bathroom after being alerted by Moaning Myrtle, he knows instanly that the Sectumsempra curse was used to injure Draco, because he goes right to work on him using the proper countercurse to reverse the damage. He then takes Draco to the hospital wing, ordering Harry to wait for him there.
When Snape returns, he asks Harry where he learned the curse, and Harry says he saw it in a book in the library. Snape puts his Legilimency to work again:
“Liar,” said Snape. Harry’s throat went dry. He knew what Snape was going to do and he had never been able to prevent it… The bathroom seemed to shimmer before his eyes; he struggled to block out all thought, but try as he might, the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion Making swam hazily to the fore-front of his mind.HBP pg 524/490
Snape then demands Harry bring him his books, Harry makes a detour and hides the book in the room of requirement, bringing Snape Ron’s copy of the book instead.
Snape must know Harry’s trying to pull a fast one on him, he knows Harry has the book, he saw it in his mind. But instead of pressing the point, Snape just gives him a dozen detentions.
Why would Snape do this if he wasn’t still working for Dumbledore? He lost his temper with Harry when he demanded Harry bring him the book, but then even though Harry lies to him about it, Snape remembers who’s side he’s on, and backs off.
5. Severus… Please…
If you believe that Snape is acting on Dumbledore’s orders to kill him (or possibly just make it look like he killed him, although he’d probably still be hurting him), then Snape’s demeanor and Dumbledore’s final words take on a whole new meaning.
…somebody else had spoken Snape’s name, quite softly. “Severus…” The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading. Snape said nothing, but walked forward and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. … Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face. “Severus… Please…”HBP pg 595/556
In that passage the reader is supposed to believe that Snape hates Dumbledore and feels revulsion for him.
But to help us understand the real meaning of Snape’s feelings of revulsion and hatred, J.K. used almost the exact same words for what Harry was feeling just one chapter previous:
“You…you can’t stop, Professor,” said Harry. “You’ve got to keep drinking, remember? You told me you had to keep drinking. Here…” Hating himself, repulsed by what he was doing, Harry forced the goblet back toward Dumbledore’s mouth …HBP pg 571/534
Even though Snape was to kill Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s orders, it must have been something that was still really emotional and difficult for Snape to do, exactly as it was for Harry to make Dumbledore drink the potion.
The feeling of revulsion on Snape’s face was not for Dumbledore, but the act he knew he had to commit. The hatred was not for Dumbledore, but for what Dumbledore was making him do.
And when Dumbledore said, “Severus… Please…” he wasn’t begging “please don’t“. What he was really saying was, “Severus, please kill me, as you promised you would.”
Way back at the end the first book, when Dumbledore confirms for Harry that Flamel would die now that the philosopher’s stone was gone, Dumbledore explained:
“To one as young as you, I’m sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.”SS/PS pg 297/215
Does that sound to you like someone who would beg to save his own life?