The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 4

This post concludes my blog on Severus Snape. To refresh yourselves, read the first 3 parts: and Something that I had not covered in the earlier parts was Snape’s complicated relationship with Dumbledore. To start with, it was Dumbledore who gave Snape a second chance; after he became a Death Eater and then had a change of heart. When Snape wanted to die after his beloved Lily’s death, Dumbledore gave him a way out and brought direction in his life(albeit a dangerous one) – as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, protecting the son of the woman he loved and lost; and as a Potions professor (his core area of expertise) at Hogwarts. Dumbledore also vouched for Snape in the Wizengamot (wizarding court) and ensured that he was not sent to Azkaban for being a Death Eater.

However, there are a certain grey areas as far as Dumbledore is concerned. Towards the end of Book 1, Harry asked Dumbledore why Snape saved his life if he hated him; and Dumbledore replied that Snape and Harry’s father were not unlike Harry and Draco Malfoy – and then James Potter did something that Snape could never forgive – saving his life! Dumbledore went on to say that Snape hated being in the debt of James; so he saved Harry’s life – then he could go back to hating his father’s memory in peace! On re-reading the book, I felt it was not the right thing for Dumbledore to say to 11-year old Harry; especially when he was lying in the hospital wing after a life-threatening encounter with Voldemort (even after having been reduced to a mere shadow of his former self) at such a young age. I understand Dumbledore could not reveal the truth about Snape’s feelings towards Harry’s mother; but he could just have said that Snape was a professor of the school and would not bring his personal issues in the way of protecting a student!

What Dumbledore said only increased the hatred that young Harry already had towards Snape, thus increasing the animosity between the two people and giving Snape an excuse to torment Harry further during his classes. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the chapter ‘Prince’s Tale’ of Book 7, Dumbledore made the ‘big reveal’ to Snape – Harry has to die; only then Voldemort can be killed. Snape was rightly shocked – all these years he was supposed to keep Lily Potter’s son safe, and now the boy has to die! Dumbledore coolly replied “Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many women and children have you watched die?” He was probably referring to Snape’s early days as a Death Eater. Snape’s reply touched my heart “Lately, only those I could not save”. A remarkable change from Snape – from a Death Eater to one concerned about other saving lives.

Snape’s next statement shocked me, but it was probably what many of us wanted to say “You’ve been raising him as a pig for slaughter”. Truly that was what Dumbledore had being doing, even if he was doing it “for the greater good”! No wonder the famous look of triumph in his eyes (towards the end of Book 4) when Harry told him that Voldemort had taken his blood and then could touch him without hurting himself. By then Dumbledore would have surely known that Harry was a Horcrux (unless he had known it much earlier, which is very much possible!), and Voldemort having Harry’s mother’s protection in his veins(by taking Harry’s blood) meant that both of them would live unless Harry sacrificed himself. Moreover, as Dumbledore told Harry towards the end of Book 5; he knew that he was condemning Harry to ten dark and difficult years when he laid him on the Dursleys’ doorstep. He knew exactly how bad the Dursleys would be, and in spite of it placed baby Harry in their care; as he wanted to prepare him for the challenges ahead – including fighting Voldemort!

Coming back to the conversation with Snape, Dumbledore then said “But this is touching, Severus. Are you really telling me that you’ve  grown to care for the boy?” Then Snape famously revealed the Doe Patronus of his – proof of his ever lasting love for a woman long gone, moving Dumbledore (and many of us readers!) to tears.Then the famous two sentences – revered by us Harry Potter fans all over the globe – Dumbledore: “After all this time? ” Snape: “Always.” Love or hate Snape, you can’t help but admire such everlasting unrequited love in a person. And such a cruel end this person had to meet in the end, at the hands of Voldemort’s snake! Clearly Snape was not expecting this to happen – he was white with shock when Voldemort made his shocking intentions(to kill him for the sake of the Elder Wand) known. This chapter came before the ‘Prince’s Tale’- so I had not started liking Snape yet; yet his reaction made my spine chill to the core.

Even Harry, who hated Snape; could feel nothing but shock for the reason why Voldemort killed Snape, and the way in which he did it. What was worse was the fact that Dumbledore never revealed this to Snape – that Voldemort would come after him for the Elder Wand. Moreover, Snape was supposed to tell Harry that he was supposed to die; but it was due to sheer luck that he managed to give Harry his memories before dying – Harry, seeing Voldemort through his mind; came to the Shrieking Shack where Voldemort and Snape were present. Had Harry not come to that place, Snape might have died without giving Harry that crucial information! Snape pleading Voldemort (without revealing his true intentions) to go and bring Harry Potter to him, tugged at my heart strings; when I re-read the book. More than Voldemort’s  maniacal cruelty, it was Dumbledore’s not telling Snape how to give this information to Harry; that bothered me the most. Snape earlier even asked McGonagall if he could see Harry, prompting her to duel him!

In effect, Dumbledore had used Snape as a pawn in the larger game; as much as he had used Harry. I am not saying Dumbledore was bad, but he was certainly manipulative – he wanted to win the war against Voldemort by losing as less lives as possible; but it meant playing with the minds and hearts of certain individuals. Coming back to Snape, as I have said before; he was a brilliant character – the most interesting character in the whole series. He certainly did many bad things, but redeemed himself through his unflinching love for a woman he was never going to get – and putting himself in danger as a spy to protect her son; ultimately sacrificing himself in the war against the most evil wizard ever. However, he bullied Harry, Hermione and Neville in class – which may not seem a big deal in the bigger picture but were certainly inexcusable. Thus, he was a complex character – love or hate him, you can’t help but respect him.

I think it would be too much to say that Snape would have been a better lover of Lily than James, or a better father of Harry (as seen in many fanfictions). Snape’s love was obsessive and one-sided; as though he loved Lily enough to protect her son – his love was a bit selfish; as seen in his treatment of Harry. At the same time, I wouldn’t go to the other extreme and say that Snape’s love was creepy – after all (as I have mentioned earlier), he was a person who probably didn’t know about the rights and wrongs of love, having been raised by parents (including an abusive father) who were too busy fighting each other to really care for him. I am really happy that Harry finally saw the good in Snape, and gave him the best tribute possible – naming his youngest son after him. With this, I think it’s time to end my musings on the Half-Blood Prince 😉 .

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