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Severus Snape: Heel or Hero?

Is Snape a hero? Would James and Lily be alive now if not for him? Would Harry be dead now if not for him? Did he ever care about Harry, or only Lily? At the end of the epilogue, Harry says that Severus Snape was the bravest man he ever knew. Did he feel that way only after years of reflection? How do we feel now, while it's still fresh for us?

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Reader Comments: (Page 51)

back again. happy belated thanksgiving to all of you.

Now, I've been reading about when Snape applied for the job at Hogwarts. Here's what I think happened.

Honestly, I think that Snape just happened to be in the Hog's Head at the time Trelawney was making that prediction. Trelawney may have assumed that Snape was listening in to the conversation because he was hired later on. But i think that Trelawney is wrong here. She does seem to think very highly of herself in the books; this seems to be the type of thing she would do. I think that it is purely coincidental that Snape was in the Hog's Head, and he, being the opportunist that he is, listened in on the prophesy because he knows, idk how to put this, but he knows what important information is.
About WHEN he started working at the school. Personally, i think that this is easy to understand, when one looks at the facts of the books. Elizebeth touched on it, and that brought me back to the POA. When McGonagall is telling the story of Sirius's "treachery" to Hagrid and Fudge, she mentioned that the Potter's knew that Voldemort was after them for a year before he met them at the house. I assume the Dumbledore told the Potters as soon as he heard that LV was after them. So i dont think that Snape was working for the school at the time he met DD on the hilltop. but i think that since they had a year to try and set up defenses for the Potters, in that year DD and Snape decided to let LV think that Snape is going to work at Hogwarts on his orders. After all, none of the books say WHEN voldemort told snape to go work at Hogwarts.
Just food for thought.

Posted by Paco from U.S. of A on November 27, 2009 12:19 PM

Paco - he didn't get a job at the time Trelawny did - but he applied for a position, Trelawny says so. It was probably on his own impulse as to remain at Hogwarts as I said before. I think we can believe this piece of information. So yes - he wasn't hired then and presumably entered employment at Hogwarts straight after that meeting on the hilltop. Voldemort was broken at that time - he vanished to Albania after he failed to Harry.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on November 28, 2009 03:13 AM

Siena, I'm not sure what your getting at. It seems that your saying that Snape started working at Hogwarts "straight after the meeting on the hilltop." Wish is what I believe also. But I dont think that "Voldemort was broken at that time." Because as I mentioned before, McGonagall made it clear that the Potter's and Dumbledore were aware that Voldemort was after them for at least a year before they were ed. I think that Snape was working for Hogwarts before Voldemort was stripped of his powers.
I apologize if this reads like im tryna be mean. Just commenting. Nothing personal. I enjoy the discussion we're having.

Posted by Paco from U. S. of A on November 28, 2009 4:38 PM

Paco you are right of course - I am an idiot and mixed things up. Voldemort of course only vanished after he tried to Harry - which was I think, a couple of weeks AFTER Snape asked Dumbledore for his help to protect Lily and her family. And thinking about it he probably didn't start teaching until straight after the s. Just thinking - in OoTP, Dolores Umbridge questions both Snape and Trelawny about when they started teaching at Hogwarts - this might give us some clues, does anyone have the book? I think Trelawny answered sixteen years - and Snape? Can't remember for the life of me - fifteen?

Posted by Siena from Notts, UK on November 29, 2009 04:15 AM

The passage in "The Prisoner of Azkaban" goes: "If you don't mind me asking -how-how did you get out of Azkaban, if you didn't use Dark Magic?" (Hermione asks this question)
" I don't know how I did it" he(Sirius) said slowly. "I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn't suck it out of me... but it kept me sane and knowing who I am... helped me keep my powers /.../

I don't know and I apologize if I got you wrong Elizabeth - but you seemed to be saying that the thought that kept the Dementors away and that wasn't a happy one was Sirius feelings of guilt - and apparently the passage above tells us otherwise.

Posted by Cai from Berlin, Germany on November 29, 2009 04:29 AM

You seem to be correct about when Snape started working for the school. When he is discussing his post with Umbridge, he says he has been working there for 14 years, which would be when Harry was one, when his parents d. So I would assume that he started working for Dumbledore, and the school, when he told Dumbledore about what Voldemort assumed. I was assuming that the only reason Dumbledore knew that Voldemort was after the Potters was because Snape told them. But of course Dumbledores intellectual prowess probably duduced that Voldemort would either go after the Potters or Longbottoms, just as he knew that Voldemort would go after the Elder Wand. I hope you see what I'm gettin at here.
How is it two years since the book came out and we are still discussing this character? One hell of an achievement, Ms. Rowling.

Posted by Paco from U. S. of A. on November 29, 2009 09:53 AM

Going back to Siena's comment on what Snape tells Umbridge: he says he has been teaching for fourteen years. At this time, it is October 1995, meaning he began in 1981, the year of the Potter's (It would be the month of the Potter’s if Snape meant 15 years exactly, but I don't think this has to be so.) It is most likely he started teaching after the meeting on the hilltop, and I agree with you in saying, Siena, that it was right after the s. I'm not sure about the time between the meeting on the hilltop and the s. In PoA, Fudge says the s occurred barely a week after the Fidelius Charm was performed, but I think it's possible that the charm wasn't performed right after the hilltop meeting.

The passage Cai posted is specifically what Sirius says as to why he could stay sane. He goes on to say that the fact that he was the only who knew that Pettigrew was alive and next to Harry, meant he had to act. Referring to this, he says:
"It was as if someone lit a fire in my head, and the dementors couldn't destroy it...It wasn't a happy was an obsession...but it gave me strength, it cleared my mind.

So I think the thought that he was innocent, specifically, kept Sirius sane, and the thought that only he had the power to save Harry, motivated his escape.

Posted by Anonymous from Arizona on November 29, 2009 10:55 AM

"I knew I was innocent... that wasn't a happy thought"

My point is that he knew he was innocent of betraying James and Lily, but it wasn't a happy thought because he still blamed himself for changing the plan and using Pettigrew as the Secret Keeper. It's just a matter of extrapolating why the knowledge that he was innocent wasn't a happy thought. That kept him sane. Then, as Anon from Arizona says, when he knew Pettigrew was at Hogwarts his fear for Harry gave him the motivation and strength to escape at last.

I was thinking about Sirius turning into a dog for part of the time that he was in Azkaban. He refers to the Dementors being able to sense that his emotions were less complex, less human. Perhaps this contributes to some of his less humane behaviour towards Kreacher and even his inability to deal with his feelings towards Snape.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 29, 2009 5:11 PM

I think it was in June-July 1980 that the prophecy was made. Thus Trelawney started in September 1980 at Hogwarts. (Trelawney and Dumbledore both refer “Sixteen years ago” while the events are almost 9 months apart. Sep-95 Trelawney tells Umbridge – 16 years, while June 96 – Dumbledore tells harry 16 years ago). Also at that time Snape was trying to get a post at Hogwarts, surely at voldemort’s orders (as he was in employ of voldemort at that time). Thus Lily and James/Frank and Alice Logbottom have already defied voldemort thrice before birth of harry/Neville and were hiding from him (as must have been all who were in Order). Voldemort must have taken some time to ensure that there were 2 boys who fulfil the prophecy and then deciding that his target was Harry. The hill top must then be June-August 1981 and accordingly Snape must have started at Hogwarts in September 1981 agreeing to play a spy for Dumbledore. Then Lily and James must have performed Fidelius Charm around Mid October/third week of 1981 when they were alerted by Dumbledore that Voldemort was after them.

The discrepancy between sixteen and fourteen years of Trelawney and Snape respectively can be resolved if we consider that Trawleny must be giving running year (counting in advance) while snape was quoting completed years. However again in HBP Snape says that he had 16 years of information on Dumbledore to give when Voldemort returned, that shall need an explanation.

Posted by swati from India on December 1, 2009 8:50 PM

swati - yours seems to be a very accurate summary of years and numbers, well done! Your last observation might be explained with the following: Snape probably worked as a real spy for Voldemort for three years before he changed sides - this would explain the extra years. Voldemort returned in GoF (when Harry was fourteen). Thus Snape has worked at Hogwarts as a spy in Dumbledore's employ for thirteen years at that time. This would add up to a total of sixteen years - three years of "true" information for Voldemort (which Snape accordingly modified so that Voldemort couldn't really make use of them) and thirteen years of lies presented as truth according to Snape's level of excellence at Occlumency.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on December 2, 2009 04:37 AM

nothing really important to contribute here, but EXCELLENT breakdown of the years and times from both swati and Siena. Kudos to you both.

Posted by Paco from U.S. of A on December 2, 2009 9:30 PM

After all this painstaiking research and digging into Snape's CV (I woulnd have remembered half of those dates - so excellent work there) we might have to conclude that Snape wanted to teach anyway - it is shown by his efforts to secure a job before he changed sides - but in the end his main reason to see sense remains Lily - whether this is a romantic thought or not. It is to me and obviously to a lot of you as well more a motivation of consciousness than of romance. There isn't really that much romance in HP anyway - those clumsy teenage flings can hardly be called thus in my opinion.

Posted by Cai from Berlin, Germany on December 15, 2009 05:19 AM

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