Severus Snape and Harry Potter book 7:

That's the subject of my new essay analyzing the Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, the sixth book in the series. Don't read the essay unless you have finished the sixth book. If you have finished it, my essay will show that many of the mysteries left to be resolved in book 7 have actually been hidden in plain sight in book 6.

Sigivald (mail):
I think I'll just read the essay now, having not read book 6. Or book 5. Or book 4. Or book 3. Or book 2. Or book 1.

I hear Harry's some sort of wizard, right?
7.21.2005 1:59pm
Jacob Kaufman:
Snape doesn't own a Pensieve, Dumbledore lent his to Snape when Harry was taking Occlumency lessons.

[From Dave: Thanks for catching this error. I deleted the discussion of Snape's Pensieve.]
7.21.2005 2:04pm
huggy (mail):
Harry has the fake Horcrux. Could Snape and Dumbledore have made it a real Horcrux containing Dumbledore's entire soul? Why was Dubledore's picture sleeping?
7.21.2005 2:15pm
Stevestillthepatentguy (mail) (www):
Perhaps Dumbledore was a Horcrux; implanted when Riddle visited Dumbledore at Hogwarts and that is why he had to die. No one has noticed that the color of the sixth book is Lenten Purple. I am awaiting a rebirth, a la Gandalf.

Seven books/Seven Horcruxes, coincidence?
7.21.2005 2:41pm
Tylerh (mail):
I, too, have convinced myself that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him.

1. As any NEWT level student knows, one does not need to speak to cast a spell. One needs to be able to think clearly an ability Ablus retained as shown by his batner with the death eaters. .

2. W ands are not required for spell casting, either, as Harry proved repeatedly at the Dursleys, Harry performed a Dissapearing Charm on the glass of the reptile house, smf Harry perfomed a perfectly dandy Engorgement Charm on Aunt Marge.

3. Dumbledore is at HOGWARTS, which all sorts of odd magic hidden about. Surely there was a way to appeal for help form the portraits or summon Peeves or have a staircase move or have the strangling chandelier no else know about fall on Fenrir's head or something... .

Yet Alblus doesn't even try. He waits, calmly. Then, after bantering will known vicious killers he says "Snape.... Please...." Both are accomplished Legilimens and they had eye contact, so an entire conversation could have transpired -- deciding, say, which of the two of them should die given Snape's Unbreakable Vow, .

I don't think Albus had prepared for this particular end - I suspected he would have wanted to show Harry how to destroy a Horcrux. And, like most, when the moment arrived, Albus may very well have wanted to cling onto sweet life a bit longer, like all of us. But Albus was prepared, he certainly wasn't afraid of the death eaters, and I think he consented to his own murder.
7.21.2005 3:29pm
Adam K (mail):
Tyler's comments represent the commonly accepted interpretation of what transpired. Having been "spoiled" on the ending ahead of time, I read the book with an eye toward details that would explain why Harry once again didn't see what he thought he saw. There's copious evidence - some of which David doesn't mention in the article - that Snape and Dumbledore agreed well ahead of time that Snape's cover was more important than Dumbledore's life.

I hadn't thought about the memory of the meeting in Dumbledore's office. I'll have to go back and read that again; David might be right that it's more significant than it appeared.

huggy: I doubt Dumbledore would've made a horcrux, as he condemned the whole concept. Also, wouldn't he have had to kill someone in order to make one?
7.21.2005 3:59pm
Alex Sundstrom (mail):
In support of the Dumbledore-as-Horcrux theory, note also that Dumbledore's initial begging for death when Harry is giving him draughts of that potion (horror at being a Horcrux) fades to a desire to see Snape.

One might presume that this is so Snape can heal Dumbledore, but it could also be so that Snape can destroy whatever Horcrux Voldemort managed to implant in him. Dumbeldore tries hard to keep Draco from killing him, but his last words to Snape "Severus.. Severus... please" could also have been misheard by Harry and could instead have been "Sever us" - us being Dumbledore and the Horcrux.

We don't know the effect the Avada Kedavra spell has on Horcruxes, or that the spell was actually cast on Harry - maybe Voldemort cast it on himself and then simultaneously implanted the last Horcrux in Harry on the night he killed Harry's parents. This would allow Voldemort to be reborn through the pure-blood Harry. Snape's using the curse on Dumbledore could have destroyed the Horcrux implanted in Dumbledore, or released it for Snape to destroy later.

The meaning of the spell according to Rowling (via is "let the thing be destroyed," which is an odd literal meaning for a spell whose sole effect is killing people.

Dumbledore's wearing of Voldemort's ring is a bit odd as well, and causes Slugmore to frown.

Dumbledore's statement while fleeing the cavern that he is not worried because he is with Harry suggests that whatever he drank gave him a better understanding of the prophecy, possibly Harry's inability to die while Voldemort lives (again possibly due to Harry's lightning bolt being a Horcrux).
7.21.2005 4:04pm
Adam (mail) (www):
My assumption is that the reason Dumbledore trusted Snape so was that they, too, had an Unbreakable Vow -- Snape would do everything in his power to keep Voldemort's confidence until the moment HP was in a position to destroy Voldy entirely, even if it meant his own death.
7.21.2005 4:04pm
Syd (mail):
My assumption is that Snape turned against Voldemort because Voldemort killed Lily Evans Potter.
7.21.2005 4:18pm
Andrew Kvochick (mail):
The significance is that there are seven years of wizarding school because in the last book they say something about seven being a magical number.

I was pretty sure that Snape was not evil because a) Rowling's writing style. It's not like her to just come out and say "Snape is evil" like she did with the Unbreakable Vow chapter right at the beginning and b) that would mean Dumbledore was completely wrong about Snape and c) Snape really didn't have a choice when he arrived on the scene at the end. It was either save Dumbledore (who was already mostly dead) and sacrifice the mission of infiltrating the Death Eaters or kill Dumbledore and appear to be a most loyal servant. Even without speaking to Dumbledore, Snape would have known what Dumbledore wanted him to do.

Also, at the end, Snape goes so far as to continue teaching Harry (something like "blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mind closed and your mouth shut").

I was picturing something like the end of Return of the Jedi (wow, I'm really brandishing my geek credentials here) where Snape finally steps in to fight Voldemort and save Harry, but you've gone much more in depth. Great analysis. Am I a law professor yet?
7.21.2005 4:25pm
Ananda (mail):
Nice essay so far, but the mark of Voldemort is the Dark Mark, not the "Death Mark". You no doubt lost much Potter fanboy cred with that slip.

[Thank. I just fixed it. Dave]
7.21.2005 5:18pm
David G:
Well we know Voldemort did NOT use his wand to create a horcrux as that spell did not come out of the wand when HP parents did. Certainly he might cast that not using his wand but it does make one wonder.
7.21.2005 5:42pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I've not read any of these books, but just from this it doesn't seem that this is a Christian allegory as much as it is a rip-off from Star Wars.


Harry even lived with his Aunt and Uncle after his "parents" died. How hard would it be to put in a twist that Harry's dad wasn't who he thinks, but rather was Snape? Given that you have a world with magic, is mindwiping (or even inserting memories) impossible? Again, I have no clue at all, but it doesn't seem implausible.
7.21.2005 5:45pm
Tylerh (mail):
John Jenkins, the Star Wars analogy is pretty weak. JK has said repeatedly in interviews that Luke, er Harry, is not Voldemort's child. Also, didn't Anakin/Vader go on the killing rampage to save amidala and the child Luke? That is a direct contradiction with key event of the Harry Potter world wherein Voldemort tries to murder the baby Harry.

Syd -- I like your idea that Snape had a softspot for Lily. I've always felt that Snape had thing for Lily (the "mudblood" insult revealed in the Pensieve in book 5 notwithstanding), but I haven't nailed down why I believe this. Assuming Snape did/does love Lily, that would be one more reason for Snape to hate the James-resembling Harry: it should have been his (Snape's) child that saved the world, not glamour boy James Potter's offspring.

David G: I agree that the Horcrux spell missing from Voldy's wand puts a real ding in he Harry-as-Horcrux theory. Here's a different one for you: Tom Riddle managed to steal a Gryffindor artifact, made it a Horcrux, but the artifact somehow made it back to Gryffindor Hollow and was being worn by the baby Harry on the fateful night. That explains why Voldy's curse went awry (He was killing himself) and keeps Dumbledore from being involved with Horcrux manufacture.

... And is anyone else still intensely frustrated by how little we know about Lily? How many characters say to Harry "You look like your father, but you have your mother's eyes." Yet we know that the eyes are the window into the soul. What kind of soul, other than "kind," did Lily have? Why did her own sister resent her so much?
7.21.2005 6:52pm
Nobody (mail):
The missing Horcrux is clearly Aunt Petunia.
7.21.2005 7:23pm
Sol (mail):
I don't think Voldy would have intentionally made Harry a Horcrux -- after all, he was doing his best to kill Harry at the time, which would make him a lousy location to store part of your soul. So I don't think the spell not showing up in the rewind means anything.

It just seems like an explanation that fits really well -- immediately after committing murder (the proper time to create Horcruxes), Harry develops some sort of permanent link to Voldy's soul. Assuming it is an accidentally created Horcrux fits what we know, explains what we've seen, and makes one heck of a cool plot complication for the next book....
7.21.2005 7:33pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Tylerh, Snape, not Voldemort. Has she said that Snape is not Harry's father? Following episodes IV, V &VI would be consistent with the time the series was originally conceived. I'm not even saying it's conscious. Besides, if I predict it accurately, I'm amazing, if not, I'm part of the background noise...
7.21.2005 8:24pm
D-Day (mail) (www):
Plausible theory, all except for the Snape loves Narcissa part. Snape had a connection with Lily Potter, it's been hinted at throughout, and we were practically bludgeoned with it in HBP with Slughorn's comments about Lily's genius in potions -- Snape's big talent also. And I thought Dumbledore flat-out said that Snape turned spy after delivering the partial prophecy and that Snape regretted doing so based on Voldemort's subsequent actions. I'd also bet my left foot that the "awful boy" who Petunia overheard talking about dementors in Azakaban was Snape, not James, so Lily and Snape had some connection outside of Hogwarts (see OotP). But even if you don't buy that last part, I think there's enough there to hint that it's Lily, not Narcissa. Rowling foreshadows things WELL in advance, and Narcissa has thus far been too minor. I'm guessing we'll be seeing a lot more of Lily's backstory in book 7, and maybe a situation where Harry tries to duel Snape, but Snape's observation that Harry has Lily's eyes will stop Snape from losing his self-control (which even though he's a good guy, he's done before).

I think you've also made an unsupported assumption about Ch. 2 and the unbreakable vow. It never says ANYWHERE that Snape had any idea what plan Narcissa was talking about. (I read it 3x to make sure!) Bellatrix doesn't think Voldemort trusts Snape with the plan, and Voldemort did send Wormtail to be with Snape (and not by Snape's request -- he's probably spying). And what about Snape's hand twitch before the final vow? I think there's a good explanation for his brief reluctance if you're going on the assumption that Snape's loyalty is with Dumbledore, and that his cover is more important than his own life. By making an unknown vow, Snape keeps his cover intact, spies some more, and then, when necessary, breaks the vow, sacrificing his life for the Dumbledore's cause. At the end of HBP, he is forced to sacrifice Dumbledore's life for Dumbledore's cause.
7.21.2005 8:42pm
Anita (mail):
I think the "trio" conclusion regarding RAB is rather far-fetched. Much more plausible is that RAB was Regulus Black. Sirius did explain that Regulus tried to turn away from the evil Voldemort was doing, but was killed for it. Hermione is bright, but it could be an analogous situation to the search for Nicholas Flamel in HP1... looking from a flawed perspective. I believe she is searching for a wizard of note, when, as I recall (book not before me), Regulus wasn't much more than a kid when he upped with the Death Eaters. Plus, I don't think they'd be looking at Death Eaters for RAB's identity.

Supporting this theory, when Harry and friends were cleaning the house in HP5, they did come across a locket that nobody could open - it would make sense that it's there if RAB was the one who took it from the island. (In which case, I also wonder if it was taken and probably fenced by Mundungus Fletcher when he was swiping items from the Black home...)
7.21.2005 9:28pm
andrewdied (www):
I think the idea Snape fell out from the Death Eaters when Voldemort killed Lily is right on. Snape loved her, or was at least infatuated. This then leads to why Lily was so good at potions. Lily was good at potions for the same reason Harry became good at potions -- the Half Blood Prince helped her.

One question I have is then why Snape taught potions so poorly all those years. He knew that the potions book was wrong, but taught the students that way anyway. Or, who did he teach potions to correctly?

Dumbledore couldn't be a horcrux because Voldemort hadn't just murdered. It doesn't make sense that Harry is one, either, for the fine reasons given above.
7.21.2005 10:03pm
Daniel Golding:
The reason why Star Wars and HP seem so similar is that the underlying story is the same - Joseph Campbell's monomyth. Of course, there are some differences (as there are in all monomyth-based stories), but there's a basic set of ingredients that we all find really entertaining.

Some examples? Hero on a journey, wise counselor, trusty companions, adversary, talismans, etc....
7.21.2005 11:37pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Rowling could have taken inspiration from Star Wars without copying all of its elements.
7.22.2005 12:51am
Stephen M (Ethesis) (mail) (www):
Gee, why not take a flyer and conclude that Snape is Harry's father and that the current person in Snape's shape is Dumbledore who doesn't want Harry to think that Snape was a coward.
7.23.2005 2:52pm
Colby Ritter:
Anyone consider the possibility that Snape had made an Unbreakable Vow to Dumbledore at some point? Consider McGonagall's comment that Dumbledore "always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape"; with the consequences of breaking an Unbreakable Vow being death, you can't get much more ironclad than that.
7.23.2005 7:50pm
jallgor (mail):
HP, Star Wars, the life of Christ, the Myth of Perseus all share the Campbell myth characteristics. There is no such thing as a "Christian Allegory" because the formula predates Christianity
7.25.2005 10:43am
The first horcrux that we learn about is Tom Riddle's diary. It had the property of allowing that piece of his soul to return to "life" through the use/death of another person. (one death to create the horcrux, one death to re-establish "life")

What if the locket at the bottom of the basin was NOT the horcrux? I'm thinking the fluid itself is the horcrux. Thus, drinking the fluid causes the piece of the soul to inhabit the new body; death for one gives "life" for the other. That would put Voldemort as headmaster of the school--a position he coveted.

It is entirely possible that R.A.B. was able to get the locket by another means.
7.25.2005 11:17am
Benjamin Bilski:
Nice Essay. Good insights about Snape loving Narcissa (who only loves herself and her son) and the scar being the unintentional last missing Horcrux.

I was convinced after book 4 that Harry would sacrifice himself at the end of book 7 to kill Voldemort and save the world, because of the emphasis on "their fates" being so "intertwined", even though we didn't have more detail.

But your essay nicely details how Snape is a more complex character. Do you really think he will he sacrifice himself in book 7 alongside Harry, or merely do what must be done in order for Harry to jump off the cliff?
7.25.2005 11:33am
Ismael Thowmack:
Is it possible that Dumbledore trusts Snape because Snape contains Dumbledore's horcrux?

I think Lily spoiled Volde's party and made Harry the horcrux as her last action when Volde killed her.. or killed James.
7.25.2005 10:41pm