Snape as Machiavellian Prince: Sally Palmer’s Letter and Paper

The Machiavellian!Snape (M!Snape) discussion following my post is one of the best ever here at HogPro (which is spilling out into other internet sites) and I hope very much you all will join in. Severus Snape and his loyalties are the story of Deathly Hallows, as with the previous two books, like it or not, and the possibility that he is not a Dumbledore Man or Voldemort stooge (the Good!Snape/Evil!Snape dichotomy) but an M!Snape with his own agenda, either for his own power, the ultimate good of the Wizarding World, or both makes for challenging and exciting thinking. Just what we’re here for!

M!Snape was brought to my attention by Sally Palmer in late April (though TrudyK and Rumor, it turns out, had mentioned it on my private boards and I just didn’t get it back then). Ms. Palmer’s original letter and theory about Severus make for interesting reading, and, with her permission and after making several requested deletions, I present it here for your enjoyment. We obviously differ about details of Scar-O-Scope and Severus’ ultimate loyalties, but Ms. Palmer makes a cogent argument for her positions. Enjoy!


Dear John,

Hello to you! My name is Sally Palmer; I’m a wife, mom, and ecologist. And my family loves Harry Potter! I have had the best time reading the books to myself and my boys over the past few years. I know my experiences reading Harry’s story with them will be lifelong cherished memories, and I am trying to soak in every second.

As a new reader of your books, I write today to communicate with you before you become an even busier person beginning in June with Sonorus & continuing on well after the release of Deathly Hallows. I received my copies of Looking for God in Harry Potter and Unlocking Harry Potter in the mail last Friday (04/20/07) afternoon and spent the weekend tearing through them. I also purchased Frances Bridger’s The Charmed Life: Spirituality in Potterworld and have been reading it as well. I want you to know how much I appreciate the time you have spent researching the HP books and providing a serious analysis of their literary structure, symbolism, and major themes. Your critiques of the alchemical nature of the story, the assessment of Ms. Rowling as a “postmodern’s postmodern,” and identification of the heavy use of Christian symbolism along with the focus on Love as the conquering power have been breaths of fresh air.

If you have time to indulge a complete stranger who’s never bothered writing to an author of any sort before, I would love to share with you my predictions of the events and resolutions forthcoming in Deathly Hallows. While I’ve found an enormous amount of insight in your books, I actually disagree with the premise of one of your major SWAGs: the loyalties of Snape to Dumbledore & the good guys.

I have been extremely tempted myself to assign Snape to the “good guy” category based on the problems presented by Harry’s limited narrative perspective that you describe in depth. However, I would argue that if one goes back through the series with a laser focus on Snape’s words and how Dumbledore responds to Snape’s behavior (rather than Harry’s interpretation of either), you will see a gradual revelation of Snape’s character as the ultimate moral relativist. I offer to you that the acceptance of Snape as the “moral relativist” character actually re-enforces many of the arguments you make in your books. Snape is a fence-straddler on purpose (for his own purpose, that is), and he’s dangerous because it.

Snape is unconcerned with good or evil. I believe his motivations are, at best, self-preservation or, at worst, consolidation of power for himself no matter the cost or method. I see very much the “literary alchemy” you describe at work and necessary to the resolution of the overall story, but I think an emphasis on Snape as a “conscious conductor” (Unlocking pg. 113) that will assist in the destruction of Voldemort is misplaced and unnecessary for an alchemical resolution. I do believe that Snape will help get rid of Voldemort, but not because Snape is a “tragic hero” (Unlocking pg. 114), and not necessarily in overt assistance to Harry. I can see that the Gryffindor/Slytherin fault must be healed, but I think that it must come somehow via Harry/Draco. A Harry “resolution” with Snape is not as critical as Harry/Draco to the ultimate unification of the four Hogwarts Houses because Snape is from the previous generation of the conflict. Snape does not necessarily have to be part of that particular healing process.

You yourself have described in great detail what Ms. Rowling seems to think about good, evil, and the moral ambiguity rampant in postmodern times. We can easily see Voldemort as evil and Dumbledore as good; but there is special (even greater?) danger in Snape’s being morally ambiguous. Snape knows “good,” he knows “evil,” and he chooses to play both against one another. Perhaps Ms. Rowling gives the kids at Hogwarts and her readers our clearest warning in Snape’s very first lecture as DADA teacher (HB-Prince, Chp. 9, page 177):

“The Dark Arts,” said Snape, ” are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”

All of us, but especially our children, in postmodern times must fight the battle against relativism. As you say, we are swamped by it in our culture, politics, and (sadly) academic institutions. I find fascinating the initial verdict Ms. Rowling seems to pass on Snape’s 15+ year balancing act in HB-Prince: Snape becomes a murderer. Is this a comment on the path relativism will ultimately lead us down? If we recognize good, recognize evil, but choose to act in self-preservation (or power consolidation) as if neither good nor evil exists, where does this lead us? And at what risk to our souls? I think Snape���s actions show that the relativist path can lead us to commit the ultimate evil: murder.

As I prepare for the resolutions of Deathly Hallows, I’m not looking for whether or not Snape turns out to be with the good guys or the bad. I think Ms. Rowling has shown us what he is, the question is whether or not he is redeemable. I don’t think he will be, and I believe there is a special, singular, terrible fate reserved for Snape that’s been foreshadowed since Prisoner and could be interpreted as a strident warning of the threat of relativism to one’s life and soul.

I would also suggest to you that the “polyjuiced Dumbledore” theory as the explanation of plot developments in HB-Prince and proof of Snape’s loyalties to the good guys undermines the very characteristics exemplified by Dumbledore throughout the series. As you have pointed out in your books, Dumbledore is the example of compassion, courage, wisdom, love, and mercy (among others). In my mind it simply must be Dumbledore himself in the Cave journey with Harry and Dumbledore himself showing mercy to Draco and being the ultimate example of self-sacrifice to Harry. To have another character stand-in for Dumbledore in either of these instances, or for Dumbledore’s death to have been “staged” for Harry’s benefit, is contrary to the central messages Ms. Rowling delivers to readers via Dumbledore’s example throughout the series.

I agree with Steve Vander Ark that the explanations to the “backstory” must be relatively simple and apparent (real “head-smackers”), and the polyjuicings of multiple characters as a primary plot device is too complicated. Besides, Hagrid could never keep such a secret; the kids see right through him. One of the main “devices” that has been introduced for a reason but that we haven’t seen again yet is time travel, and I agree with your blog entry comments about S.P. Sipal’s Godric Hollow essay. “Wow” indeed. I believe that another pre-introduced “device” that will be critical in the plot of Deathly Hallows are the dementors.

One of my new Deathly Hallows SWAGS I’ve developed upon reading your books is that the 4 Hogwarts Houses will unite because of Harry’s sacrifice to rid the world of Voldemort and Draco’s sacrifice (his life?) or other type of reconciliation with Harry. The new generation of witches and wizards at Hogwarts will be united in the undoing of not just blatant evil, but of relativism by taking part in seeing that Snape comes to a just end. I’m way out at the end of a SWAG-branch, there (would that make it a twag?), but I love the potential metaphor of the students rising up and kicking the relativist (deconstructionist) out of their school.

I can understand that you may be exhausted with the “great Snape debate” of the fandom, and what I’ve written thus far may have done nothing to move you from your conclusions that Snape is a good guy. If I have persuaded you or made you at all curious, I’ve included my very informal first-personal essay at the bottom of this message entitled, “Soul-sucking relativism: Why a Prince can’t have his cake and eat it too.” My essay has been a work-in-progress for some time and primarily for my own edification. It explains how two previous fan editorials on Snape convinced me of his role in the drama and served as a great premise from which to re-examine Snape’s character.

Reading Snape’s character at this different angle led me to new revelations about what was going on during the occlumency lessons, the recollection of the prophecy to Voldemort, what Dumbledore thought of Snape, and what may be Snape’s final undoing in Deathly Hallows. I’ll add one last teaser that my reading of Snape’s character actually support the arguments of all your books much better than the “polyjuiced Dumbledore” theory as you describe it.

John, thank you again so much for all your hard work and contributions to expanding the joy of reading these books and how we can use them as helpmates as we train up our children. God bless you and your family. I look forward to hearing from you if time allows you to write back. If not, thanks for reading my message and good luck with your future books and teaching!

Most sincerely,

Sally Palmer


“Soul-sucking relativism: Why a Prince Can’t Have his Cake and Eat It, Too”

by Sally Palmer

April 27, 2007

Origins of my deep thoughts on Snape the Relativist

Prior to reading HB-Prince, I would have described myself as a casual adult reader/serious fan of the series. The events of HB-Prince drove me to become a serious reader/serious fan. I never knew there was a rabid online fan community until I was confronted by the events of HB-Prince. Three in particular got my attention: (1) the introduction of the horcrux as Voldemort’s method of cheating death and the realization that Harry’s scar must somehow contain one; (2) the Christ-like example of mercy & self sacrifice shown by Dumbledore before his murder on the Tower (which was critical for both Harry & Draco to witness); and (3) the fact that Snape murdered Dumbledore.

I read HB-Prince in December 2006. When I put it down, I was shocked by the murder & who committed it and consoled myself by thinking that it was all planned out. Dumbledore knew he was going to die; he worked it all out with Snape to protect Harry, etc. etc. So I set it down for about 6 months. But this conclusion was bothering me; it was somehow unsatisfying. Dumbledore simply would not engage in any plan that involved asking anyone to commit murder. Period. Even “fake murder.” It’s absolutely contrary to his character. I finally picked the book up again & searched for any evidence that would support such a plan. The only shred I could find was Hagrid’s brief account of the “argument” he overheard between Dumbledore and Snape.

For me these two sentences were not good enough, so in late summer 2006 I started pouring back over the series and looking on the internet for what other readers might think. How naive I was to have never assumed such a serious fan community existed online! To say I’ve learned massive amounts from the fandom would be a gross understatement, but 2 essays in particular, deepened my appreciation of the stories and provided serious evidence that Snape is the moral relativist of the story.

The first is from TLC’s Scribbulus and is by Andrew Cooper: Machiavelli’s Half-Blood Prince? Machiavelli’s Prince and J.K. Rowling’s Snape. The second, B.J. Texan’s Machiavelli’s Half-Blood Prince, can be seen in Mugglenet’s editorials. I can’t do these essays justice in summary, but would simply say that right down to use of similar names from the Roman story (Severus, Albinus, and Niger), Ms. Rowling hints that she is taking on good, evil, and relativism with these characters.

As the story develops, we clearly see Voldemort as “evil” and Dumbledore as “good.” Snape’s character, in playing “good” or “evil” when it suits his own singular purposes, is the relativist of the tale. Ms. Rowling appears to make a heavy statement about the dangerous path relativism will lead us down: Snape becomes a murderer. The final judgement on Snape in Deathly Hallows will not be whether he is a good guy or bad guy. We’ve already been shown what he is. The question is whether or not the “relativist” character (who’s now become a murderer) can be redeemed or even thrive following the expulsion of the clearly evil “Dark Lord.” I hope not, and I don’t believe he will. I believe that consistent foreshadowing in Prisoner and Goblet points to Snape being the singular character to suffer the horror of a dementor’s kiss, and his inability to control his desire for avenging old grudges will lead to this downfall.

Evidence from the books

First, I will attempt to be succinct in describing my version of Snape’s backstory gleaned from the general storyline in the series. Secondly, I will refer to specific evidence in the books focusing on (1) Snape’s own words and (2) Dumbledore’s reactions to Snape’s words. To avoid the bias of Harry’s limited narrative perspective that we’re provided with in most of the text, it is critical to focus specifically on what Snape says and how Dumbledore responds (with a little connect-the-dots backstory thrown in) in order discern anything about Snape’ role in the unfolding drama and whether Dumbledore is suspicious of him.

Snape’s backstory

Essentially, I believe that Snape as a young man fashioned himself as being far above his peers in magical ability & intellect, but he was also a social misfit, which made him weak and easy “prey” for the Dark Lord. Not to mention that he’s full of hate and rage for James, Sirius, Remus, & Peter; that’s obviously critical as the story unfolds. After becoming a Death Eater, he quickly learned that this gave him no special privileges or powers other than doing the Dark Lord’s bidding and “serving” alongside other wizards he felt he was better than in the first place. But once you’re a Death Eater, there’s no way out — or is there? I believe that over-hearing the prophecy was the opportunity Snape took to make his escape from Voldemort’s service.

I must say here that I agree with the “Scar-O-Scope” assessment others have described for explaining Dumbledore’s new problem in communicating with Harry in Phoenix (see analysis in John Granger’s Unlocking Harry Potter) , but would not go so far as to say that the occlumency lessons were a total set-up or that the majority of the events of HB-Prince were an elaborate show for Voldemort. The main question here is who’s running the show & when.

Back to Snape and the prophecy. A careful reading of Dumbledore’s and Trelawney’s accounts (one in Phoenix, the other in HB-Prince) alongside a reading of Harry’s witness to Trelawney predicting Wormtail’s return to Voldemort (in Prisoner) reveals that Snape actually heard the entire prophecy. Trelawney could not have given the entire prophecy uninterrupted as recounted by Dumbledore to Harry and still be aware of Snape’s presence. Dumbledore’s telling Harry that “someone” originally overheard only the first half of the prophecy is Dumbeldore’s way of protecting Snape if Voldemort is watching through the “Scar-O-Scope.” (As a side note, telling Harry himself, and risking Voldemort hearing, the rest of the prophecy at this point in Harry’s life is not that big of a gamble for Dumbledore because Voldemort already made the choice to pursue Harry. Harry’s got to be warned so he can steel himself to deal with what’s coming).

So Snape originally overhears the entire prophecy and purposely lies on his own accord to Voldemort about only hearing the first half so that Voldemort cannot know that to attack the child will mean his downfall. Sometime in short order, Snape (perhaps after planting the idea with Voldemort) comes to Dumbledore, spins his tale of remorse — which may include “deepest sorrow” that because of his actions he knows attacks are imminent — and becomes a “double-agent.” In reality he remains his own “single-agent,” but now he’s positioned to play both ends against the middle. Following Voldemort’s disappearance, Snape takes up his role at Hogwarts and continues onward. He probably knows that the Dark Lord is not really done for and why, but how much he knows has yet to be revealed. Upon returning to a body, Voldemort is obsessed with hearing the rest of the prophecy for himself because obviously something went wrong that night and he wants to know what the deal is and whether Snape lied to him.

Snape cooperates with Dumbledore’s plans to protect and train Harry because Snape knows that since Voldemort put the wheels of the prophecy in motion, the only person that can do Voldemort in is Harry. Snape cannot break free from Voldemort’s grip without Harry, hence his reluctant participation in Harry’s training. The fact that Harry is a constant reminder of James and Sirius is Snape’s biggest problem in managing his balancing act and exposing himself to Dumbledore (more on that in a minute). Snape knows good and well that Dumbledore would never kick Harry out of school, so his ongoing attempts to have Harry expelled simply serve to bolster his ability to lie about his motivations when necessary without causing an actual threat to Harry.

I haven’t decided if Snape’s ambiguity is driven solely by his desire to protect himself, meaning, escape from Voldemort, or that he has grander ambitions for accumulating power himself, as suggested by B.J. Texan at the end of his Mugglenet editorial. I’m leading towards the latter, actually, but either way it’s completely horrible that Snape was willing to murder the one man that showed him the greatest allegiance of his whole life in order to achieve his selfish ends.

Textual evidence from books 3-6

Half-Blood Prince

I’m starting with the last book because I think reading the events of chapter 2, “Spinner’s End,” and taking Snape’s every word regarding his actions as mostly true is the most direct explanation of his role in the stories. I think it is also important to note that we are getting a straight third person narrative in this chapter. The only “lie” Snape tells (by simply omitting the information) is that he overheard the entire prophecy and set the Dark Lord up by not telling him all of it. To tell a good lie (and protect yourself against legillimency), most of what you say must be true.

One key piece of information Snape provides is that he has exploited “Dumbledore’s greatest weakness: he has to believe the best of people” (HB-Prince pg. 31). (One slight, but important, correction to this statement might be that Dumbledore chooses to believe the best of people.) Snape also refers vaguely to the part he played in getting rid of Sirius, which has been a primary goal of his since Sirius escaped from Azkaban.

The events at the top of the Astronomy Tower at the very end of Chapter 27 are not a staged event but, rather, the climax of Snape’s feigned allegiance to Dumbledore. The “revulsion and hatred” are not an act, but are real emotions welled up from a lifetime reserve and aimed right at Dumbledore, with whom he’s been furious with for over 20 years for siding with people he hates.

Ample evidence exists in books 3-6 of Dumbledore’s being quite aware of what he’s up against with Snape in the Tower scene. Just prior to the trip to the cave when Harry furiously asks, “how can you be sure Snape’s on our side?” the description of Dumbledore is telling: “Dumbledore did not speak for a moment; he looked as though he was trying to make up his mind about something. At last he said, “I am sure. I trust Severus Snape completely” (HB-Prince pg. 549). Dumbledore is choosing, once again, to believe in Snape, although he does have his doubts. When stranded and weak on the Tower, Dumbledore is not asking “Severus” to please be brave and go through with “the plan,” he is asking Snape to, please, choose properly, choose the right side, stay with me. Dumbledore knows he is at serious risk. Even in those last moments he is offering and emphasizing the opportunity to chose rightly, but sadly, Snape viciously turns away.

I love the parting advice Snape gives Harry about shutting his mouth and closing his mind; the main points of self-control Harry must master if he’s going to do the Dark Lord in, which is exactly what Snape wants him to do. Snape also reminds Harry that he shouldn’t be performing unforgiveable curses, which is perhaps a big hint about how Harry’s going to have to conduct himself to get the job done (it’s critically important to keep his own soul “pure and untarnished”).

Voldemort could have had a front row seat to all of the events Harry witnesses in HB-Prince (see analysis in John Granger’s Unlocking Harry Potter). However, I believe that one of Snape’s primary goals would have been to prevent Voldemort from spying on Snape’s own thoughts and activities through Harry’s Scar-O-Scope. So, as a great help to Dumbledore of course, at some point between the end of Phoenix and the beginning of HB-Prince Snape convinces Voldemort that Harry has “dangerous access” to Voldemort’s thoughts and that it is in the Dark Lord’s best interest to shut things down before Dumbledore gets wind of what he’s up to (see Dumbledore’s explanation in HB-Prince page 59).

You can practically hear the conversation, “Shut down the connection, master, don’t risk it; leave things to me. I’ll take care of Dumbledore for you now. Use Draco to punish Lucius if you must, either way Dumbledore will be dead by year’s end.” Harry no longer feels Voldemort’s presence in HB-Prince when, in previous instances, he’s been quite aware either through his scar burning or the feeling of the snake “rising up” in him. I don’t think Voldemort’s watching in HB-Prince, and Snape has several ready-made witnesses that he murdered Dumbledore, thus sealing the Dark Lord’s impression that Snape is really on the Dark Lord’s side.

Prizoner of Azkaban

It is important to look back to earlier books in the series to look for patterns in Snape’s dialogue and see how Dumbledore is acutely aware of the path Snape is walking down. The image of Snape to take away from Prisoner is that he come absolutely demented and unhinged when confronted with Sirius and Remus in the Shrieking Shack (Chapter 19, “The Servant of Lord Voldemort”). It is the first time in the books where we witness Snape coming truly unglued in his own words; up until then he has acted cool as a cucumber. He’s cruel to Harry, as he reminds him of James, but he’s crazed at the actual sight of Sirius. He is positively driven to see Sirius dead or (even better) have the dementors suck out his soul.

One thing that I notice when reading Prisoner, in particular, is that some of the strongest hints of what Snape is up to or what his allegiance may be are buried within or follow a major climatic revelation. We’re so busy paying attention to Sirius and what the deal is with “Scabbers” that we’re not paying attention to Snape. We are also so caught up in the revelation of Sirius’s innocence that we can easily miss the exchange between Snape and Dumbledore in the hospital wing at the beginning of the chapter 21, “Hermione’s Secret.”

Harry is in his hospital bed and overhears Snape’s version of the events to Fudge in the Shrieking Shack, which is a total lie (Snape knows “Black” didn’t “bewitch” anyone). Dumbledore enters the room and wants to hear the story straight from Harry and Hermione. What follows is a very interesting exchange between Snape and Dumbledore (page 391). Snape is furious that Dumbledore would even think about considering Sirius innocent; his eyes are fixed upon Dumbledore’s face. Each man is evaluating the other’s motivations.

After Harry & Hermione return from saving Buckbeak and Sirius and the action returns to the hosptial ward, Snape comes unhinged once more when he realizes that Sirius has managed to escape from the dementor and that Harry (and Dumbledore) must have had something to do with it (Chapter 22, “Owl Post Again” pages 419-420). Snape yells in ALL CAPS, then stares down Dumbledore, then exits. Dumbledore, calmly explains Snape’s reaction by saying, “Oh, he’s not unbalanced. He’s just suffered a severe disappointment.” Translation: Sirius did not get his soul sucked out and Severus is pretty torn up about it (to say the least).

Goblet of Fire

Snape makes few appearances in Goblet, which one could interpret as him lying low once again and trying to figure out what’s going on with Harry’s “entry” into the competition, much like he did when Quirrellmort showed up on the scene in Stone. In Chapter 35, “Veritaserum,” however, he watches with great interest as the un-polyjuiced Barty Crouch Jr. (the Dark Lord’s “most faithful servant at Hogwarts through his efforts that our young friend arrived here tonight” pages 651-2) reveals how Voldemort has returned.

At the beginning of Chapter 36, “The Parting of the Ways,” Dumbledore sends Snape to round up Cornelius Fudge. On pages 702-3 McGonagall is fuming and we learn, from Snape, that Fudge felt “his personal safety was in question” and that “(h)e insisted on summoning a dementor to acompany him into the castle.” Note that McGonagall is fuming, Snape is speaking “in a low voice,” and that Snape obviously did nothing to discourage Fudge from bringing up the dementor. How convenient that the “most faithful” Death Eater is now out of Snape’s way. All of these details, by the way, follow the story’s climax of Cedric’s murder, the revelation of the fake Moody, and the horrible nature of Voldemort’s return.

Near the end of this chapter (page 712), Dumbledore attempts to begin reconciliation between Snape and Sirius saying, “unless the few of us who know the truth do not stand united, there is no hope for any of us.” Unfortunately, as events unfold in Phoenix, that reconciliation is impossible because Snape will do what it takes to get rid of Sirius once and for all.

Order of the Phoenix

The key scenes in Order are the ones in which Snape is conducting occlumency lessons with Harry (he really is trying to teach him, I think) and at the end of the book when Dumbledore reveals the prophecy to Harry after Sirius is dead.

In Chapter 26, “Seen and Unforseen,” Harry breaks through to Snape’s mind and sees images that Snape would like to remain private (top of page 592). Just prior to that moment, and just following, Snape sees the images of Rookwood (page 590) and the Department of Mysteries (page 593) in Harry’s mind. Snape knows immediately the origin of these visions and is furious that Harry cannot properly block his mind. Snape sees that Voldemort has hatched a plan to use Harry to get to the prophecy, and Snape certainly doesn’t want Voldemort to hear the rest of the prophecy if he can keep him from it because it makes his original lie to the Dark Lord more difficult to manage.

Snape does tell Dumbledore the truth about what he sees in Harry’s head during the lessons (see page 829). What Snape doesn’t tell Dumbledore is that once Snape has seen that Voldemort won’t rest until he hears the prophecy, he decides to help by giving Voldemort the idea of planting Sirius in Harry’s head which will spur a “daredevil Harry” reaction, which will spur a “daredevil Sirius” reaction, which will put Sirius in the perfect spot to get himself killed.

Because of the events in Chapter 26, I don’t believe that in Chapter 28, “Snape’s Worst Memory,” Snape placed those memories in the Pensieve intending Harry to see them. Snape routinely placed some memories in the Penseive during their lessons (page 638), and this became more important once he had evidence of Harry breaking into his own mind. Snape did not expect the lesson to get interrupted by Malfoy.

When he discovers that Harry did not leave the room after him and instead stuck his head in the Pensieve, Snape is furious. He may have been amused at exposing Harry to the adolescent James, but his “lips were shaking, his face was white, his teeth were bared.” He physically manhandles Harry and kicks him out of his office (pages 649-50). We witness Harry viewing the “adolescent parents” memory, a nice plot device, but we don’t know what else Snape had swirling around in the Penseive that Harry (and Voldemort) could have seen. I believe that because of the events of Chapter 26 and 28, Snape realized being in such proximity to Harry and his “Scar-O-Scope” put his own plans at risk to exposure to Voldemort. The reader is left to guess what reasons Snape gave to Dumbledore for refusing to continue Harry’s lessons.

Finally, in Chapter 37 (page 829-30), Dumbledore explains to Harry that Kreacher has been “serving more than one master” and that he deliberately tricked Harry into believing that Sirius was out of the house. Whose idea was it to use Kreacher in such a way? During his tale to Bellatrix and Narcissa in HB-Prince, Snape drops the hint that it was him. Snape’s whereabouts over the Christmas holidays during Phoenix are unaccounted for, but he could have easily spent them (with Dumbledore’s permission, of course) with the Malfoys. How convenient that Kreacher showed up and demonstrated his loyalty to Narcissa and Bellatrix while Snape was present.

“Snape’s Grudge” will be his undoing in Deathly Hallows

At the end of HB-Prince, by murdering Dumbledore Snape personally does away with the greatest wizard of his time and successfully proves his loyalty in the Dark Lord’s eyes. He’s had a part in getting James and Sirius killed. Once Harry knocks off Voldemort for him things should be smooth sailing. What will he do next? Become the new Dark Lord? Walk off into the sunset?

Or try and settle one final score?

What bearing does Snape’s old grudge have on his story in Deathly Hallows? Why has it been a continuous thread through the books to this point? I believe the evidence shows that his inability to control the rage caused by his grudge will be Snape’s undoing. He definitely exposed himself to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore was especially suspicious of Snape following the set-up to Sirius’s death. Snape got sloppy.

I think that Snape will be too tempted to finish off the final bit of James left in the world before he moves on to whatever his illusions of grandeur have in store for him. I firmly believe that Harry will physically survive the final stand-off with Voldemort, and I think Snape will try to finish off Harry soon after Harry disposes of Voldemort, a fitting “double-climax.” Snape’s thirst for revenge will once again get the better of him, and he will get sloppy. Although the specifics of plot leading to this outcome are unclear to me, I’m convinced that Snape will take a risk on attacking Harry, and that final risk will lead to a most horrible, but singularly deserved, resolution: a hollow, eternal, soul-less existence delivered by a simple kiss.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are” — Albus Dumbledore


  1. im new to all of this, having only read the whole series recently, and i stumbled on this site only a week ago, so if i am repeating something, sorry. there were 2 points brought up in the above essay: a lesson in the character of snape, as well as foreshadowed punishment (soul sucker). well, i guess i have a different take. maybe the lesson isn’t that moral ambiguity is bad, but that forgiveness is good. what lesson would be directly taught a child who is reading this series (and guys, really, this is still a series that is to be read by children AND adults). if snape turns out to be bad, or even a fence-sitting murderer, it teaches on the face that dumbledore was a fool to forgive and that redemption and change are not really possible, at least, not 100%. secondly, if there is any death or punishment hinted at with the whole introduction of the dementors, wouldn’t it be voldemort’s? i mean, dumbledore does say, to voldemort, in the 5th (?) book that there are “fates worse than death”, which is exactly the way the dementors’ kisses are described. also, with all the yapping about souls and horcruxes, doesn’t that also hint at a “death” for voldemort a la kiss? just a couple of thoughts…

  2. John,

    Ahhhhhhh … how all of us enter into the frantic “rethinkings” of the “11th hour” before the release of book 7, trying to “sure up what remains” and second-guessing ourselves silly 🙂 But that includes me and I would not want at all to be implying this to be randomly franctic second guessing. I have not looked over it all thoroughly but what I have perused looks to be very good. Ineed, all of this is, I think, a testament to exactly how richly and complexly Severus Snapes’ character has been written in Harry Potter books 1-6 … truly, I think, the best character in any literature of our day, and that is saying alot in my book.

    My own recent “recap manifestos” (or maybe “madcap’s recaps” would be a better designation lol) over on Muggle Matters have been two big ones, but here I was wanting only to chime in ever-so-briefly with one tidbit that I lit upon recently in those travels, on Snape. This comes from the second “follow-up” comment I made just tonight on the second of those two large posts over there (a piece on the image of insanity, or psychological malady, in the structure of the series) but I will synopsize the pertinent stuff here for ease.

    This is in the context of discussing the dark mark, the spell to conjure it and imagery of “invasion” as psychic violence – and I have highlighted the most pertinent part here in bold (cutting much out, but leaving in also just material that gives the basic context of the connected dark mark material):

    The spell to conjure the mark, MORSMORDRE (GOF 128), literally means “to eat death.” The first word, mors, is Latin for death [here I cut out a large explanatory digression on the use of the nominative case instead of the accusative case … basically the jist was “who cares?!?!?! it’s legit artistic license.”]. The second word, mordre, is French for “to eat” … and this is where it gets interesting with regards to what I was saying in last comment, about invasiveness and killing etc. Mordre is NOT the usual simple French word for eating, “manger.”

    In the online French dictionary I just used (Copyright – Neil Coffey 2007 – the “eating” definition given for “mordre” is “to bite, (of bird) peck.”

    Now, here is where it gets REALLY interesting. The French verb “mordre” can apparently be used with the word “sur” as a suffix. “Sur” is a preposition literally meaning “on” – so “eating” as “biting on.” BUT Coffey’s online dictionary gives the idiomatic meaning this suffixed form (“mordre-sur”) has acquired, and this really got me excited:

    “~sur: to go (over) into, overlap into, cut into”

    The first possibility (go over into) is undeniably the language of invasion – and the last one (cut into) moves into the violence we see as typical of the death eaters, but even more closely with the violence we see Harry do (albiet not fully intentionally) in HBP … when he uses Sectum Sempra on Draco in the bathroom (and here may be some support for Granger’s possible switch to the “Evil Snape Camp” … if Snape as the HBP is the one who, being up to his eyeballs in the dark arts, as Lupin told Harry in HBP in the “Very Frosty Christmas” chapter, was the one to think of applying the SS spell to a human being in this way, as in “for enemies” – does not look good for Snape’s character … but of course it must also be taken into account that chronologically this was when he was a kid, before What DD believed to be a genuine change of heart).

    The point being: Cutting and invasion images are used of Voldy and the death eaters activity, including the linguistics behind the spell for conjuring the dark mark (this is actually in the context of an argument for a reading of the “physics” of the AK as a personal psychic invasion as a way to kill), and Snape, in the suggesting of the use of Sectum Sempra “for enemies” (in the HBP potions book) coincides with this type of imagery as well.

    In the end I wind up exactly where I was the first time I read HBP and then heard the “Good Snape” Theories … waiting to see what Rowling does between two possibilities: the first is that Snape was actually good all along, not necessarily nice or kind or benevolent or innocent of being a sadistic and hurtful jerk to Harry and co., but concretely and materially working committedly for Dumbledore and against Voldemort, at least on the materail level … or that Snape was always working either for Voldy, concretely, or for himself against both sides (I lump these last two together under “Evil Snape”) … I have pretty much been in the “Good Snape” camp, like yourself, but always leaving myself the door open that it is not conclusive in the texts (I mean, there are theories in your WKAD book that Lupin in HBP is actually Wormtail using polyjuice and thus “evil” … that may or may not be the case, but if we ever found out that Lupin himself had ever actually turned to the dark side, this would be radically inconsistent … Snape, however, has remained a genuine open question, no matter which camp one has been arguing from).

    The one thing I remain firmly entrenched in is that whether Snape is good (but with a very unhealthy, as you say, grudge against Harry) or whether he is evil, I believe he will be good in the end, through some sort of conversion … Greyback is as gone on the bad-side as Lupin is on the good side, and Worm-tail is pretty far down in neurotic, if not psychotic, addiction to Voldy, but if a swing character as powerful as Snape does not convert in the end, even if on his deathbed, then I will have only one of two choices. The first is to say that Voldy was not completely defeated, if he won as high, skilled and series-wide-central a character as Snape in the end (a stranger inversion of Voldy still losing his life but also gaining the world, and getting to keep it in the form of Snape going down to perdition with him, I think) … or that the story is not, at its most basic level, a comedy, but rather a tragedy in a radical way that I had not gotten any sense of from the books heretofore. Just my take on the matter though.

    The only other thing I would add is on your use of the Italian Renaissance material, which is really good. The only thing I would say is to note the possibility of the use of such “diachronic”/source material as another level of narrative misdirection (although not “technically” NM since it is not a narrative in form … but you get the jist: a ruse, knowing people will uncover that and follow it to certain conclusions and then). But I can only list that as a possibility and not even any level of probability without going to levels of conspiracy theory that would make even MadEye Moody either very proud or downright concerned for my sanity lol

    – for one it would necessitate Rowling forecasting the popularityfrom the very beginning … since she has said that she has had the major story arc planned since the writing of book 1, and there is no way Snape has played as large a role in the published works if he was not slated to do so from that very beginning. Elements like NM at this level would mean thus predicting that the books would reach the level of popularity where higher level thinkers and academics like yourself would be investigating this type of material … but like I said, just a thought (in truth, I don’t think it would even be at the level of an intentional ruse – I think it would fall more along the lines of that she used this materail not to “copy” or “model” it but to transform it … in other words something along the lines of certain traits in Snape’s character concretely running certain risks of this Machiavellian thing, but the fact that, and how, he did NOT ever become that sort of Prince would be part of central meaning … on a “good Snape” read)

    just some thoughts,

  3. I don’t claim to be the sharpest tool in the shed, and I also acknowledge that I am out of my league. However, since no one knows the right answer until the DH appears I want to offer a cent or two. These theories on Snape have been very stimulating. In fact, I have treasured the good Snape theory since I read it here last year, in the non-blog format back then. Now that John Granger is reconsidering I am too. If John can, why can’t I?

    I don’t know much about alchemy or Machiavelli or Magick or any other sources that Rowling derives ideas from. These are all good trails to pursue, but I thought the greatest betrayal story hasn’t been acknowledged lately in the Snape discussion. What if Snape’s story is inspired by Judas Iscariot? In the beginning of the HBP we see him in council with the enemy, having finally gotten fed up with the ever-forgiving, non-aspiring Messiah, the one who has power to take over but doesn’t. He is also fed up with not being included in the inner-circle of disciples, Peter, James and John.
    The permutations can run out pretty far and I won’t do that work here, except that Peter/Harry is being groomed for the next head master job…

    So if the Gospel story is the trajectory JKR is following then I understand Dumbledore telling his betrayer to do according to the plan. None of the disciples understood what Jesus meant when he sent off Judas, but Judas did. It is not unlike Christ for Dumbledore to pick someone who he knew would betray him. In DH I expect to see Harry in depression and doubt. I expect to see Dumbledore reappearing to Harry and crew with encouragement. I expect Snape to despair also and kill himself. I expect Harry to triumph over Voldemort, but don’t we all.

    Not much new here, I expect, but another plot trajectory to play with some.
    God is good

  4. JPU, I would agree in some measure with what you’re thinking. The Judas/Snape connection is a compelling one. But, equating Snape’s (supposed) choice to betray Dumbledore with that of Judas and Jesus sinks Dumbledore’s faith in the human spirit and his insistence on choice. If he knows that Snape will betray him, then it would seem at least some of Dumbledore’s sermons on choice are loads of crap.

    But I also agree that none of us know the full extent of Snape’s motivations until DH comes out. There’s too much about the Astonomy Tower scene that is unexplained. I just can’t buy into the notion that Snape didn’t think Harry was close by. And if he really is Voldemort’s crony, why didn’t he at least drag the incapacitated Harry back to Voldemort? It’s interesting to be shown a murder in a mystery book with such vivid, rich detail, yet still find myself completely in the dark about what actually happened!

    In terms of Mrs. Palmer’s essay, I think she has Snape pegged as a manipulative, vengeful Machiavellian character. But, I don’t think Snape is a moral relativist (or a deconstructionist). I’m also in line with BigDhog that Voldemort is the one character set up for a Dementor’s kiss, if one is to happen (I’ll explain in a bit).

    In the popular sense of moral relativism, Peter Pettigrew is closer to the idea than Snape. He sways his allegiances with the prevailing morality that will afford him the most comfort and protection. But this is more a utilitarian principle than a relative one. If we look at a relativist as one who can rationalize and justify contradictory moral codes, the closest depiction in the books (to my mind) is actually Dumbledore. He can clearly empathize with those even diametrically opposed to his own character. And he can rationalize Kreacher’s actions as being driven by his social caste, despite the fact that said actions led to both conflict and murder. Albus doesn’t take the crucial step of justifying the “evil” actions of others based on their own merits, which is an important distinction.

    But he is willing to let them happen. There’s no easy way to justify Snape’s continued employment as a teacher unless we accept the unsavory premise that Dumbledore compromised his own principles of respecting and nurturing students in favor of Snape’s protection/utility to Dumbledore’s plans. In other words, Dumbledore can be rather utilitarian, too. He’s not justifying Snape’s actions based on the validity of Snape’s motives or morals. Dumbledore’s just making a hard decision, assessing one set of consequences against others in the name of a “greater good”. Pettigrew is out for himself.

    (And I simply refuse to believe that Dumbledore doesn’t know of Snape’s emotional and physical sadism directed at students [for more than a decade?].)

    The only hardline moral codes espoused in the books are by the obvious bad guys. Voldemort’s ideology essentially boils down to “Those who are not with me are against me, and I get to say who they are.” But the only moral abstractions Dumbledore constantly espouses are love and choice. He spends almost no time in the books enumerating distinctions between “good and evil” per se. Instead, GoF ends with the recognition of a choice between “what is right and what is easy”. And there is nothing about that statement that is as obvious we might think (including myself). The statement might mean “right” versus “wrong”. But, if so, what does “easy” have to do with “wrong”?

    It seems to me that Dumbledore’s statement here is also an admonition to avoid simple, binary oppositions as the method for understanding one’s moral compass. After all, such a thing would be “easy”: You’re good if you do A, B, and C, while you’re evil if you do X,Y, and Z. Dumbledore never espouses anything at all similar in nature to the dictums of the Ten Commandments, the Eightfold Noble Path, or Sharia Law. He’s not a thoroughgoing relativist (I don’t know that any character is in the books), but Dumbledore is very weary of legalistic moral codes. So, he’s cautious of both Voldemort and the Ministry because he sees this legalism as a sinister problem eminating from both. And, he’s constantly arguing for the inclusion of “others”, not their exclusion.

    If Machiavellian!Snape is the prevailing theory, then Snape has a moral code. It just isn’t Dumbledore’s or Voldemort’s. He’s clearly motivated by revenge. What has vengeance birthed in him? Is he still just a super-pissed emo kid who grew into the same adult, harboring grudges from childhood? Snape’s a brilliant guy, and this seems rather superficial. But, then again, playing intellectual brilliance against emotional superficiality could be the perfect bit of misdirection on the part of our dear author.

    And, as for the Dementor’s kiss, the action described as the kiss clearly parallels Voldemort’s designs for immortality. It would be very Dante-like for this to be his punishment, and John and others have documented well Rowling’s affinity for the Renaissance.

    But I would also be willing to bet that Harry would stop any such event with a timely Patronus, as an offer of compassion and forgiveness, or love. Removing one’s soul (whether Voldemort’s or Snape’s) removes the exigency for choice that the books have made so central. If the soul is gone, what’s the purpose of choosing to seek forgiveness? One must ask for forgiveness before it can be given, and doing so is a conscious choice. Denying that choice in the ultimate climax of the books would a thoroughly deconstructionist move on Rowling’s part…

  5. Brilliant, Sally. I find myself more and more convinced….

  6. This has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this post. I only want to advise you to have a list of the most recent comments (maybe the last 5 to 10) in the right column.

  7. And I thought I had it all figured out! AAAaaarrrrrrggghhhh!

    Thanks to John and Sally and all of you. I just read the entire series in prep for the 7th book and now, I’ve got to do it all over again!!!!!

    Lovely work. Thoughtful work.

    Dave, I’m totally with you in the last paragraph.

  8. Coppinger Bailey says

    I want to thank John publicly for devoting space on his blog to my letter and essay. It was really very kind of him to give me an outlet for my ideas. We all know the dangers inherent in talking to just yourself for too long! I also thank those of you who have read my ideas and provided kind thoughts and fair critiques. I really appreciate learning from you all so much! Here are 2 things in particular that you have helped me to see:

    (1) I should be more careful throwing about the words “relativist” and “deconstructionist.” I may have lived with English Ph.D candidates when I was in graduate school, but that don’t make me one of ‘em. 🙂 Also, I did not consider the implications of Dumbledore’s being fully aware of Snape’s interests, yet allowing him to be sadistic and cruel to students for so many years, all in the name of “the plan.”

    (2) In my zeal to throw Snape to the dementors based on my reading of the story tea leaves (“My dear, you have the GRIM!”), I completely missed the importance of Snape’s forgiveness and conversion opportunity to Harry’s final journey. Dumbledore clearly despises the dementors, & in “Prisoner,” Lupin baits Harry about the dementors by asking him, “Do you really think someone deserves that?” Harry, thinking of Sirius as his parents’ betrayer at that moment, says, “Yes, for some things…” I think Dave is really onto something with the suggestion that Harry offers forgiveness & yet another chance for Snape to convert in Deathly Hallows by using “Expecto Patronum.” Harry sending James the Stag to rescue Snape nicely mirrors both Lily’s rescue of Snape in the pensieve as well as James’ rescue of Snape from the transformed Lupin when they were kids. Will Snape take this one last opportunity, now offered by Harry, to convert? Or, as johnumbland suggests, despair and throw himself away? Snape didn’t act too grateful when Lily helped him out…

    Also, on johnumland’s points about the “Gospel trajectory” of the storyline with Snape as “Judas…” I started re-reading Prisoner a few weeks ago & just wrote up some more thoughts on “Snape the Betrayer.” In short, I believe that Ms. Rowling uses the symbols of the fox (Machiavellian) and the vulture (Biblical) to reveal Snape’s motivations and role as Dumbledore’s betrayer in Prisoner, just as she quite literally exposes Pettigrew as the real betrayer of James & Lily.

    A few quick examples: Neville describes his grandmother’s outfit in the boggart scene as a green dress, fox-fur scarf, and vulture hat. When the Snape boggart actually transforms, it is wearing a lacey dress, no scarf, but with the vulture hat (so maybe Snape is not a true-to-form Machiavellian Prince, but he is still the great Betrayer?). One of Trelawney’s first “predictions” to a student, Lavendar, is that “the thing you fear will happen will on October 16.” The “thing” winds up being a fox killing her pet rabbit. Hermione, by the way, throws us off this symbolic trail by interrogating Lavendar about whether she expected the rabbit to die.

    The vulture image appears again at the Christmas feast dinner. Other fans have pointed out that this scene mirrors the Last Supper. Trelawney, in an argument with Prof. McGonagall this time, is a distraction with her “13 is unlucky” at the table and that “the first to rise will die.” The key part of this scene is that Dumbledore & Snape share a Christmas cracker, from which a vulture emerges. Snape hands it to Dumbledore, who puts it on his own head & says, “Let’s eat.” Harry & Ron, by the way, rise first as a pair, which confuses Trelawney greatly.

    I have also encountered some passages involving vultures from the Bible that – on a GIGANTIC SWAG, here – support the revelation of Snape as the betrayer & point to his fate (All quotes are from the Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, 2006, and my readings of the verses greatly dependent upon the Contributing Authors’ study notes! ).

    First, Hosea 8, points to Israel’s faltering in its trust and dependence on God, its failing monarchy and political system, and its appointing of “kings and princes,” but not through God. The first two lines read “Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord!” (Note the vulture sitting on top of Dumbledore’s head at the Christmas feast table, who gave it to him, and the fact that the political leaders in the Ministry of Magic completely fall apart when the BIG EVIL GUY returns in the next book.)

    Secondly, Proverbs 30 contains multiple verses that are reflected in Harry’s story. Verses 11-14 encompass the 4 groups Ms. Rowling routinely skewers, “the unfilial, the hypocritical, the proud, and the avaricious.” Verse 17 warns of the fate awaiting those who scorn their fathers and disobey their mothers – death and (worse still) a corpse desecrated by vultures. The messages of verses 24-28 on wisdom, cooperation, and the false lure of power are echoed in the teachings of Dumbledore throughout the series thus far, and the “positive image of the mighty” painted in verses 29-31 have indirect parallels to symbols and images Ms. Rowling uses for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. The next to last verse, Proverbs 30:32, reads, “If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.”

    Snape should cover his mouth, and quick! Or else accept Harry’s forgiveness (patronus? the “expectation of the father’s protection?”) and turn toward the Light of Love????

    Okay, all that interpretive Bible reading may only be good for “the bin,” but since johnumland brought up the Judas image in his post, I thought I’d share the symbolic evidence I’ve found that maybe points to such an interpretation.

    Thanks again, everyone!


  9. Really interesting stuff. Has anyone ever looked into the connection between Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and the HP books? It occured to me this past semester, when I was looking at the former for a grad seminar I was taking. The prophecies, the power of love, but especially the whole nature of power/control . . . I wonder if there is a paper there. Depends on this next book, maybe. Anyone have any thoughts on this? BTW, great site. I just discovered it, and plan to visit often. I think the HP books are really rich in literary allusion and surprising depth, but my colleagues just blow them off . . . fools! I plan to return here often! Thanks,


  10. RaghnCrow says

    Wonderful thoughts, all. I’d like to introduce myself, Raghn (Ron), a writer and Irish language teacher living in Budapest at the moment (don’t connect them, I can’t 🙂

    Intriguing though it might be, Snape as “Machiavellian Seeker” has the problem that in the books, Ms. Rowling presents us with a number of unscrupulous, ambitious people, everyone from the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, to Percy Weasley, and from the likes of Delores Umbridge to Gilderoy Lockhart to even Argus Filch (when he toadies up to Ms. Toad, Umbridge) but does Severus Snape appear to be much like these wretches? Surely Lucius Malfoy is the archtype “Machiavellian Seeker” in the series, and Snape is obviously close to the Malfoy family, father, son, and mother. But does the Potions Professor seem much like them?

    Ms. Rowling shows us the “Machiavellian Seekers” to quite a surprising depth, considering that she tells the story from Harry’s prespective. And assuming that to be a “Machiavellian Seeker” means indeed that Snape ‘is a powerful mage that wants to be the ruling wizard, be it as Minister of Magic or Dark Lord. Dumbledore and the Dark Lord stand in his way,” as Professor Granger says, the only time I can think of when Harry notices Snape being given something remotely like this to react to, is in Chamber of Secrets. In the Aragog chapter, Draco Malfoy coaxes Snape to apply for the Headmaster’s position, Dumbledore being removed at Lucius Malfoy’s Machiavellian machination. “Now, now, Malfoy, said Snape, though he couldn’t suppress a thin-lipped smile, “Professor Dubledore has only been suspended…. I daresay he’ll be back with us soon enough.” At Draco’s furthering toadying to him, Snape merely smirks and sweeps on off on his potion-inspection rounds.

    Please correct me if I’m missing another instance of anything like this. But unless there is something else along these lines, Snape’s motivation in being a “Machiavellian Seeker” doesn’t seem to be there. The best portrait of a “Machiavellian Seeker” we have in the series is, of course, Percy Weasley. Percy’s story is definitely one long and very detailed ‘Fall from Grace.’ He is the scion of a leading pure-blood family, the members of which Rowling again and again shows to be generous, faithful, ‘noble’ in the true sense (and hence the polar opposite of the would-be wizard nobility, such as the Malfoys or the ‘Ancient and Noble House’ of the Blacks. But in Chamber, his brother Ron finds him in a junk shop in Diagon Alley, “deeply immersed” in a book called “Prefects Who Gained Power, A study of Hogwarts Prefects and their later careers.” Ron tells Harry, “He’s very ambitious, Percy, he’s got it all planned out…he wants to be Minister of Magic.”

    Why is this book in a junk shop, anyway? Why not the used section in Flourish and Botts. Ginny gets her books from there, in the same chapter. Ms. Rowling has an antique attitude toward ambition, it seems. Modern Muggle bookstores have whole sections on how to ‘Get Ahead.’ But for Shakespeare, for instance, one of the worst passsions is ambition. For premoderns, ambition is a cause of endless intrigue, murder and mayhem. Or at least political ambition is. Hermione is a wonderful character, yet very ambitious for good grades—although her grades for her reflect what she has learned rather than something to show-off about. Throughout the books, she puts what she learns to good use, from that first moment when she opens the locked door to Fluffy’s hallway in order to help Harry, Ron and Neville escape from Filch. Hermione and her eagerness to learn exasperates Harry and Ron, but in a good way.

    Percy, on the other hand, always, always comes across to Harry as pompous, even when he welcomes his brother Ron to the Gryffindor table at their first dinner at Hogwarts. He sinks lower and lower in Harry’s (and his whole Weasley family’s) estimation, breaking with his family and only showing up at their festivies in Half-Blood Prince on the orders of the new Minister of Magic. He’s even unlike Hermione in that he never is seen to be using magic, at least, that I can think of. He is an utter, utter wretch. Ms. Rowling wants us to see him that way, and similarly, the rest of the “Machiavellian Seekers” in the books. If anyone is to be a new Voldemort, surely it is a wretch like Percy, who can easily turn to evil in a hate-filled reaction to his father’s eventual vindication—indeed, I expect Arthur Weasley to end up as Minister of Magic (but then I think Trevor the Toad is Regulus Black, so don’t bet on Mr. Weasley’s promotion)—and not the powerful, mercurial, mysterious brewer of fame who puts a stopper in death.

    Snape doesn’t fit their mold. But then, he doesn’t readily fit into anyone’s. That is as it should be. He is the best character in the series, (as Brett says above, though I think in the world of larger literature Stephen Maturin is just as interesting a character as SS) tough, extremely capable and talented, but totally musterious, ‘unfathomable,’ is Rowling’s favorite adjective for him, I think. If he dies in DH, I am sure he will leave unfathomable mysteries after him. Ms. Rowling might lay to rest the ‘Ship Debates’ but she might not do so with the dark potions emperor.


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