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After a month, the Snape post - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
After a month, the Snape post

It is one month past release. This journal is no longer going to be have spoiler protection, though long and rambling posts, will, of course, have cuts.

Well, I haven't done a post-HBP Snape post. Come to think of it, I didn't do a pre-HBP Snape post, either, but that doesn't seem to have been a mandatory thing, as the major question raised by HBP about Snape's loyalties hadn't really focused the discussion. I don't think it was ever much of a secret that I'm not a Snape fan, and he was the only character I said I could believe in an ESE!Character scenario (though I wasn't sure what the point of one would be).

Yet now that he has delivered the fatal curse and committed an act of extreme treason--which should have appealed to my Not-A-Snape-Fan sensibilities--I find myself entirely agnostic on the Great Snape Debate, which is why I haven't actually done a post on it. I can see a lot of possible scenarios with the set-up, including totally evil Snape in a couple of forms, but not excluding loyal-to-Dumbledore-at-the-worst-extreme!Snape, either.

I think maybe it's because I don't like Snape (or hate him, not to sound too much like Lupin at Christmas), but for whatever reason, the puzzle of his behavior is an intellectual one, and I find it very intriguing. Every time I convince myself of one scenario, I stumble over a big problem with it.

ActuallyGood!Snape is a relief to think about because it justifies Dumbledore's belief in him and, as the Order follows Dumbledore, justifies the Order's wisdom. It's a redemption arc, which is always good, and it would make Harry see things in a different way. It makes structural sense. On the other hand, there's not much room left to pull it off, it's difficult to do from Harry's POV, and Snape has done things that are beyond the pale.

EverSoEvil!Snape is good because he's a genuinely scary character, and one who Harry has, as JKR put it, a very personal gripe with. It explains things like his betrayal of other Order members. It also provides an explanation for the thing that was driving me bats when I was working out the MoM battle timeline, which is that Snape had to have waited for hours after the kids disappeared into the Forest to inform the Order that they were gone; otherwise the Order would have been there waiting, as they could all Apparate and were considerably closer anyway. It would address his sadistic treatment of Neville and his overeagerness to feed Sirius and Lupin both to the Dementors without trial.

LooseCannon!Snape is good because anything could happen, but it ends up putting more weight on Snape than on Harry, which is bad in books that are about Harry.

Hence, my Snape agnosticism.

Let's say we go with what Snape says and what JKR seems to suggest in the LC/MN interview: Snape's been a DE all along and what happened was the final failure of Dumbledore's judgment. On the one hand, it's just so painful to think of Dumbledore being betrayed by someone he'd risked so much for--it's very powerful. And as JKR said, it makes things personal for Harry. He's driven now. The Order has again suffered a betrayal, this time by someone they had felt themselves quite righteous to have accepted and forgiven in the first place... it's a blow to the whole outlook. It could create great drama. Problem one: Dumbledore pleading for his life? Pleading at all? Problem two: If Snape had been evil all along, I doubt he'd have started an argument with Dumbledore about whether or not he was going to do something anymore. If he's just continuing a game he's always played, he'd be smart enough to stay under Dumbledore's radar. Problem three, more serious: Does that really wrap up the Snape arc very well? He seemed evil, for a little while he turned good, then what do you know, it turns out he was really evil, just like we thought in the first book? On the other hand, that's the perfect inversion of the typical redemption story--a good person turns bad, then becomes good again before the end. Here we have bad person turning good, then turning bad again. It could be neatly contrasted with Pettigrew, if Pettigrew is, as seems likely, redeemed in the next book. (Who exactly is he spying for in Spinner's End?) Then again, there's the other wrinkle that he was sympathetic (sort of) before he became bad, so it would seem yet another turn is likely before the end, and...

Scenario 2, Snape really was loyal to Dumbledore, but being around the Dark Arts again and being in close proximity to Voldemort turned him. Dumbledore didn't realize this was happening, and was shocked in the end, even though Snape told him outright that he was assuming too much. All year during HBP, he was vacillating between Voldemort and Dumbledore, and it's only at the last that he absolutely decides which road to take. This would make a good dramatic conflict for Snape as he realizes that the old urges are still there, that they are more and more tempting as he watches Dumbledore's supposed hero cheating and using dark spells while Draco Malfoy is being torn apart by his conscience. And in this scenario, it needn't be a long-term moral choice--he's doing what's pragmatic in the end to resolve his conflict, but may become conflicted again through book 7. Problem 1: How in the hell would that play out from Harry's point of view? The books are structured from this perspective, so anything that's vital to them has to be something visible to Harry. Snape's inner conflict doesn't fill the bill, and Harry's not in a mood to sit down and listen to Snape talk. (Of course, Snape could kidnap him and make him listen, I guess.) Problem 2: How many times can an audience watch him morally whipsaw without getting a stiff neck in one direction or another?

Scenario 3, Dumbledore and Snape Have A Plan. Dumbledore was talking to Tom in OotP about not being afraid to die, and being willing to die for some things. If he decided it was necessary to die, then having Snape kill him would position Snape high in the Death Eaters' circles, and maybe when push comes to shove in the last battle, he'll be able to save either Harry's life or his soul (keep him from tearing his soul by killing Voldemort). It seems to be the most clearly supported notion from the argument Hagrid overheard--"I don't want to do it anymore"="I don't want to kill you and you assume too much if you assume I'm willing to." It would justify Dumbledore's faith, and make it hinged on something other than a self-evidently unbelievable argument. Problems? Numerous. First, it involves Dumbledore asking Snape to deliberately tear his soul, which we know is a route to deeper dark magic. Second, Snape brags that he was instrumental in the murder of Emmeline Vance as well... is Dumbledore really likely to tell him to kill other Order members to keep his cover, and would genuinely good!Snape do so? Third, JKR seems to want to get across the emotional issue that people need to prepare themselves for evil Snape. Fourth, he's bragging to Harry about the book at the end (though to be fair, this is quite the Crazy!Snape scene, so it may not be representative). Fifth, Dumbledore may have believed Snape's emotional confession, because he seems to have had no concept of how bad it was between the boys. And so on. Lots of problems with it... and yet lots of support for it as well.

Scenario 4--Dumbledore has a plan, but Snape's not in on it. This is manipulative Dumbledore at his highest form. He's known all along that Snape would turn on him eventually, and knew he was lying. He may have believed that Snape could be reached, but wasn't counting on it--he kept him at the school and indebted because it kept him where he could be seen. And when the time came for Dumbledore to die, he did things like give Snape the position he wanted while having him get closer and closer to Voldemort, maneuver an Unbreakable Vow, and... Okay, er, that's kind of falling apart. But it would explain Dumbledore pleading and being out of character (if he was, indeed, pleading for his life)--it was a feint to get Severus to despise him so thoroughly that he'd strike the killing blow. The holes in this are too numerous to count.

Scenario 5--looking out for number one. Snape is loyal to neither Dumbledore nor Voldemort, and is a real loose canon in Voldy's camp, and ultimately will turn on Voldy in the end. Problem--the major problem with a lot of Good!Snape theories post-HBP--is that this would take too much of the power out of Harry's hands.

The thing is, there are things I like and dislike about any of these scenarios, and I'm actually very anxious to see where JKR is going with it. For myself in the interim, I'm going to try and present him as ambiguously as I see him.
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chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: August 17th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm really ambiguous about this.... I want one thing one day, and something else the next.

It is a bit like my feelings towards Dumbledore after book five.
endofhistory From: endofhistory Date: August 17th, 2005 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Anyway, it is safe to say, that for whatever the reason Snape did it, Harry will never forgive him no matter what.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: August 17th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Problem one: Dumbledore pleading for his life? Pleading at all?

Really, I think the only reading of that line that fits Dumbledore as a character is "Please, Severus, do the right thing." Of course, I haven't the foggiest idea whether Snape ended up doing it or not, so that doesn't shed much light on his ultimate loyalties.
From: tunxeh Date: August 17th, 2005 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Fourth, he's bragging to Harry about the book at the end (though to be fair, this is quite the Crazy!Snape scene, so it may not be representative).

I thought what he was doing at the end (while defending himself from Harry's attacks) was defending Harry from the other DE's crucios, while continuing to teach Harry how to duel Voldemort (blocked until you use nonverbal spells and learn to close your mind). Which doesn't make sense to me in anything but the good Snape scenario.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: August 17th, 2005 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
It can be viewed as teaching, or it can be considered as taunting. JKR has talked about Harry and Occlumency (in the interview) as something not going to happen for pretty sound psychological reasons--so is Snape encouraging him on that front really teaching? Maybe just as much as Bellatrix telling Harry how to do a proper Cruciatus is.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: August 17th, 2005 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I like a blend of scenarios #2 and 5, myself. Snape has tried so hard to be good, which is part of why Dumbledore trusts in him. However, Snape is primarily about Snape (which explains his Shack meltdown in PoA, and his continual indulgence of his nastier instincts). The way I went wrong with the character post-GoF/pre-OotP was to think him likely to be more overtly mature than he has been. I've come to the reluctant conclusion that his obsession with the past and his grudges are genuine, not cover, not acting.

We get the Big Bang of Harry finally being right about Snape--while keeping the ironies of Harry having been wrong before. We get the match up of character and behavior. And we have a scenario full of pathos, with a fall from grace out of the same character weaknesses.

But I don't know, either--and it's a great puzzle.
dalf From: dalf Date: August 17th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Now he's evil! Now he's not!

Wow! You had some bits of outlook on this that I had not really seen. Especially looking at it both in terms of cluse and how it plays out in the story (being Harrys POV). All of the Scenarios you ist except 2 seem pretty solid to me. I think Scenario 3 would actully be diffent though. I think the decision that Snape shoudl kill DD if it was taken, would have been a matter of "only do this if necessarry to protect Draco". I don't think it was planned to get snape in deaper with Voldemort, by all accounts he is "the favorite" he is already in as deep as you can get. The Emmeline Vance thing is not really a big deal either, we know he is devious and we dont have any details so anythign coudl ahve happened there. Reading your latest bit of Shades I was so stuck in a Good!Snape mindset that I did not even imagine sectumsempra until I saw it in some comments. lol

I lean twards NotEvil!Snape most days but I am never very sure. VeryVeryEvil!Snape is so easy to believe .... only I think the fact that it would satisfy my Snape!Hate so much is one thing that keeps me from buying it. I think you put it well in here about the redemption story line and having him be evil would just be too easy on some level.

*sigh* Need! Book! Seven!
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: August 17th, 2005 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Second, Snape brags that he was instrumental in the murder of Emmeline Vance as well... is Dumbledore really likely to tell him to kill other Order members to keep his cover, and would genuinely good!Snape do so?

We don't know the circumstances of the attack; maybe a group of Order members were "caught" in an ambush, but something went wrong and the DEs got Vance. That's the only way I can see this as part of an AD-SS plan; I'm sure Dumbledore would never trade his people like chess pieces.

Another possibility is that Snape did this on his own initiative while still loyal to Dumbledore. He might have thought, "Dumbledore needs me to have the Dark Lord's trust. If I have to gain that trust by selling Vance, so be it." Thought that's not really Good!Snape so much as Dumbledore's Man!Snape.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 23rd, 2005 12:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Or it could be, you know, that Snape had nothing to do with the murder of Emmeline Vance. He just told the plausible lie that he had betrayed her in order to gain the Black sisters' trust. He was probably safe in assuming that they would never actually front up to Voldy and check Snape's story.
From: arclevel Date: August 17th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice analysis of the possiblities. Why does Snape bragging about being author of the book pose a problem for the Snape-and-Dumbledore-have-a-plan scenario? I'm really not trying to be difficult, but I just don't see the connection. Also, where he's bragging about playing a part in Vance's murder, he also implies that he helped cause the damage to Dumbledore's hand, when we later learn that the injury occurred while Dumbledore was after a Horcrux. Obviously, an injury to Dumbledore and the death of a third party (and an Order member at that) are nowhere near the same thing, but it does suggest that there could be more to the story that Snape doesn't intend to share with his visitors.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 17th, 2005 05:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I admit to still believing in good Snape but also to spending time worrying that I'm just fooling myself and will have to pay.

That said, I think that what Snape takes credit/blame for is not always the same thing as what happened. To be honest, I see Snape as having major guilt issues. For hime to have been unsuccessful in finding a way to save Emmaline Vance, no matter how hard he tried, would be reason enough for him to later say it was all because of him.

If I'm right.

Which I may not be.

Grasping at straws is always so pathetic.

From: cristix Date: August 17th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)

I used to dis;ike him for the way he treated Harry and Neville and evrybody else, but Mr. Rickman was so fascinating that i found Snape's character a little fascinating, too. Until I read POA, when I started to really despise Snape.

But it wasn't until I entered tje forums that I started to really hate him. On the forums I met so many people that were passionate about Snape, were justifying every single thibg this horrible man has done, and were blaming everybody else for his behavior, especially harry and the marauders.

Not to say that these people were bashing the marauders and were bashing Lupin, some of them trying to prove Remus was actually evil. Can you imagine the guts these people have? I mean Snape is just being horrible but they find justifications and they say that what we don't know about Snape is actually very good. And in the mean time, Lupin is such a wonderful person, but they say that he is actually evil, and what we don't know about him, is actually very bad.

It was on the forums that I started to hate Snape. But I had faith. I thought that JKR will prove me right and will show Snape to be as a horrible, unpleasant human being. I didn't think that he was on Voldemort's side, but I was sure that JKR will show that Snape was nt the victim and the marauders the torturers.

And I thought that HBP will be Lupin's time to shine.

I mean, taking into consideration all the interviews where JKR asked people, very intrigued, why they liked Snape. Interviews where she said not to fall for the bad guys etc. interviews where she said how much she liked Lupin etc.

But what did she do?

Lupin barely appeared in HBP, whereas Snape may very well turn out to be the hero of the books, the tragic character who was actually good but not-understood by people, who was the victim of the marauders, who had to kill his menthor etc.

In a few words: satisfaction for Snape's fans. Whcih is something I absolutely hate! HATE IT HATE IT! I am really pissed of with JKR right now.

Because I am not sure that Snape killed DD because he was on Voldemort's side. Damn it!
From: cristix Date: August 17th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and something else.

For me it's not a relief to think that Snape killed DD at DD's orders.

It's nerve breaking, actually. I want the git to be bad.

I want Harry to be right.

Ok, it is sad to believe that Dd was so mistaken, but Harry has to be right! He has to! He is the hero of the books, he ahs always hated Snape, Snape should turn bad. Which I think it won't happen actually.

People say that if DD pleaded for his life this ruins DD's character. True.

But don't you think that Dd pleading for his death ruins his character even more?

Don't you think that this would be one of the most selfish things Dd could have done?

Let's assume that Snape is loyal to DD. DD is Snape's menthor. And Dd knowing that asks Snape to kill him. I mean, don't you think it's selfish to ask a person who loves you to kill you? Don't you think its's extremely paifull and sould-distroying to kill a person who you love?

And not only that, but Dd has always feared that Snaoe may return to evil. This is why he refused him the DADA position. Then wouldn't it be a great risk to ask someone who was once dark to kill again? Wouldn't this push that person to the dark side again?

Dd could have killed himself. Jump from the roof. Do something. Not ask Snape to kill him.

If this is true, than this ruins DD's character for me completely. he is just and old manipulator selfish fool.
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sannalim From: sannalim Date: August 17th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I find myself rather agnostic on the Snape issue as well. I just don't know what to think about him... so I guess I'll just watit to see what JKR does with him, and worry about other, more important issues (like shipping) instead :P
vytresna From: vytresna Date: August 17th, 2005 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Snape was at Hogwarts before Voldemort fell. Dumbledore's testimony in the Karkaroff case confirms this. Whatever the tale of remorse was, it wasn't about Lily and James as Harry thinks. So the story, whatever it is, stands a good chance of being more creditable.

Thought I'd clear that up. And while I've rather exhausted my debating threshold, I keep vacillating between options 1 and 5. Considering how depressed I was when I had a brief flirt with option 3, I sincerely hope JKR doesn't go in that direction. I know, I know, depressed that Snape isn't evil.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 17th, 2005 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Snape was at Hogwarts before Voldemort fell. Dumbledore's testimony in the Karkaroff case confirms this. Whatever the tale of remorse was, it wasn't about Lily and James as Harry thinks. So the story, whatever it is, stands a good chance of being more creditable.

I think the timeline was supposed to be essentially: July 1980, Snape overhears the prophecy. He tells Voldemort. Voldemort dithers around trying to figure it out, and when the Potters' and Longbottoms' babies are born, announces that he's going to solve the problem of the prophecy by killing the baby. Snape goes to Dumbledore at this point and says, "Oh me, oh my, what have I done? He's going after the Potter baby! How can I ever live?" Dumbledore hires him to keep him where he can see him. Then at his word, James and Lily spend a year dodging Voldemort, finally culminating in the Secret Keeper incident.
sabrinanymph From: sabrinanymph Date: August 17th, 2005 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always found Snape to be a fascinating character, probably because of my semi-obsession with characters that appear to be on redemption arcs. That, ultimately, is why I'm interested in Snape as a redemptive character. And natually then I'm rooting for the Snape is a good guy who's made bad choices, and now he's having to live with those choices. And of course, I've argued fairly eloquently that he can be a good person.

After book five however, I am willing to admit that it certainly looks probable for ESE!Snape. The way Rowling words her interviews, the way she's worded them from the beginning do seem to point that way, and so I'm preparing myself for the eventuality that it will actually be that way.

Outside of my interest in Snape as a redemptive arc character, here is the one thing that probably bothers me the most about Snape actually being evil.

Harry would be right.

The problem with that is that it seems to enforce what I feel is actually a rather negative characteristic in Harry - simply put, people are good, or people are bad, when in reality good people like Dumbledore make mistakes and bad people occassionally show love and loyalty for people they care about. In OotP we have Umbridge, a woman we thought might be a Death Eater, but is actually just nasty. Harry seems too quick to judge people, we see it in the way he judges Slytherins, in the way he judges his fellow students, his teachers, and of course in the way he's judged Snape. And in the majority of the cases about Snape thus far he's been wrong and Dumbledore has been right. If Dumbledore is the wiser man, the mature wizard who has been through much, and if it is that ideal that Harry may someday be greater than, I feel it's important that Harry realise that the world is not black and white, and Snape is an excellent way for that lesson to be learned.

However, as you point out here, I'm not certain how it would happen because the books are from Harry's point of view and something would have to give him that information in a way so powerful that he couldn't deny it - even if he could never forgive Snape.

So, it's a frustrating condrum. I'm not agnostic, or apathetic, and I do feel that it could go either way, and depending upon how it's done, I think I'd be all right with either one. Although, as I cried and thought 'what a waste of a wonderful character' when Sirius died, you can be sure if Snape is actually evil, I'll think the same thing!

You've definitely presented some interesting scenerios and I think I'll do some thinking about them...
super_pan From: super_pan Date: August 18th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like how said that. You've articulated something that has niggled in the back of my mind too. Sure, Harry is growing up, and is no longer CAPSLOCK HARRY! and all that, but he still needs to mature in more ways. His feelings of disappointment in his father and the marauders were never really resolved. Since this is tied to Snape, maybe we will see more of this conflict in Book Seven. All I know is, that book better be about 5000 pages long, 'cause she's got alot of splaining to do!
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: August 17th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
First, it involves Dumbledore asking Snape to deliberately tear his soul, which we know is a route to deeper dark magic.

Actually, killing does not tear someone's soul unless they actually intend to create a Horcrux. We know this from Dumbledore saying things like - "[Voldemort] seems to have reserved Horcrux-making for particularly significant deaths" (or words to that effect).

So while it is JKR's contention that killing results in a loss of innocence, that it makes someone an evil person etc., it is definitely not imperative that the killer's soul gets ripped. Otherwise, Peter would have 13 Horcruxes, wouldn't he?
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: August 17th, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
... and Snape is hardly likely to be a stranger to killing, because he *was* a DE at at least one point in his life.
kokopelli20878 From: kokopelli20878 Date: August 17th, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Snape as Deep Cover

I see this as Snape playing Deep Cover.

Hence - Dumbledore knew of the Unbreakable Vow, knew of Draco's plotting, and thus the pleading was for Snape to kill him and thus preserve the greatest good - keeping his cover intact and saving Draco.

This is consistent with the SecretlyGood!Snape if you replay the speech he gives Bella and Narcissa at Spinner's End as to why he hasn't struck Potter with the fact that as he's escaping Hogwarts, he has Harry in his power, but does nothing.

My $0.02 - your mileage may vary. I may well be wrong.

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