Severus Snape: A Moral Analysis

I believe Severus Snape is a good person who was pushed to go bad, and when shit hit the fan, he went good again, and stayed good, until the day he died (for the good cause).

Others disagree, believing he was inherently bad, and his evil nature explains all his actions from start to finish.

Normally, I’d say it’s a waste of time, or even completely morally warped, to discuss whether a child is good or evil, but given that it’s Snape…

Here is all the evidence of child Snape being racist: The brief pause before he told Lily it does not matter if she’s Muggle-born. Awful, I know! I read him as being hesitant to answer, because he does not know the answer, or because he is worried about being a half-blood himself. He is not even aware of the Slytherin blood-bias, since he wants Lily to be in the same house as him, so let’s move on.

Some say that him hitting Petunia with a branch shows inherent cruelty. That was a 10 year old’s fit of accidental magic against someone who had just insulted his poverty for the second time at least, so unless Harry is inherently violent for inflating his aunt at 13 because she insulted his parents, that is meaningless.

There is also this:

“So she’s my sister!
“She’s only a —”

Maybe he was going to say “she’s only a jealous cow.” Whatever he was going to say about Petunia (but didn’t), it was called-for: Petunia had just insulted Lily and Severus for being wizards, why wouldn’t he say she is only a Muggle?

Finally, calling a child evil/racist because of a few insignificant incidents is ridiculous and dehumanizing.

Snape has been primed for grooming, and has been groomed from the moment he was Sorted

He has every reason to hate Muggles by the time he arrives at Hogwarts: his dad is abusive toward him and his witch mom, and Petunia mocks his poverty multiple times.

Also, the fact that Petunia knows his family by reputation suggests that the Snapes were viewed negatively by a larger part of the town, and likely Severus had to deal with the consequences of his family being considered “white trash”. So, very likely he was bullied by other Muggle kids.

Evidence of domestic abuse:

During Harry’s Occlumency lessons, he sees this:

a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner…

Cower: to shrink away or crouch especially for shelter from something that menaces, domineers, or dismays.

No one seems to care that he is crying, which shows neglect, at least.

In The Prince’s Tale, we see this:

His black hair was overlong and his clothes were so mismatched that it looked deliberate: too short jeans, a shabby, overlarge coat that might have belonged to a grown man, an odd smocklike shirt.

Again, poverty and neglect. He is clearly ashamed of what’s under the coat, because:

Harry wondered why he did not take off the ridiculously large coat, unless it was because he did not want to reveal the smock beneath it.

There is also this:

“How are things at your house?” Lily asked.
A little crease appeared between his eyes.
Fine,” he said.
“They’re not arguing anymore?”
“Oh yes, they’re arguing,” said Snape. He picked up a fistful of leaves and began tearing them apart, apparently unaware of what he was doing. “But it won’t be that long and I’ll be gone.
Doesn’t your dad like magic?
He doesn’t like anything, much,” said Snape.

This confirms that Snape’s dad doesn’t like him or his mom, and that Snape’s only hope is that soon he’ll be out of there. Also, he calls a man shouting at a cowering woman “arguing” and this is his version of “fine”.

Harry describes Snape as being very obviously not well-cared for or adored:

slight, black-haired like Snape, but with that indefinable air of having been well-cared-for, even adored, that Snape so conspicuously lacked.

Physical abuse is implied by Snape’s mother’s cowering, the fact that Snape appears to always be wearing a long coat. This could be “just” his shame at his clothes, but long sleeves in the summer are a pretty classic sign of physical abuse. Adult Snape’s relative indifference to physical pain (Fluffy bites him, he’s knocked out, Harry casts a stinging hex) is another hint (you can’t accuse him of being stoic about other things). It’s also confirmed to horrific effect by Pottermore:

It was also an accurate description of the desperately lonely and unhappy childhood he had with a harsh father who didn’t hold back when it came to the whip.


Now, this is admittedly speculative, but another hint about how bad it was comes from the fact that adult Snape lives in his childhood home. Where are his parents? Living, as they did, in a Muggle dunghill, they could not have been affected by the dragonpox epidemic that had so conveniently wiped out the Marauders-era characters’ parents. Did Tobias kill Eileen? Seriously, where is she?

Here is Petunia’s mockery:

Petunia’s laugh was like cold water.
Wizard!” she shrieked, her courage returned now that she had recovered from the shock of his unexpected appearance. “I know who you are. You’re that Snape boy! They live down Spinner’s End by the river,” she told Lily, and it was evident from her tone that she considered the address a poor recommendation.

We know from the chapter entitled “Spinner’s End”, that’s it’s a town by a

dirty river that wound between overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks. An immense chimney, relic of a disused mill, reared up, shadowy and ominous.

This is of a working class industrial town that’s been hit very hard by unemployment. Snape is the only teacher to whom the text bothers to give a childhood hometown, and it’s this one. Must be important.

“The other woman, Bella, followed at once. Side by side they stood looking across the road at the rows and rows of dilapidated brick houses, their windows dull and blind in the darkness. “He lives here?” asked Bella in a voice of contempt. “Here? In this Muggle dunghill?

Bellatrix is not wrong. Child Petunia knows this as well.


Petunia was breathless, alarmed at being caught. Harry could see her struggling for something hurtful to say.
“What is that you’re wearing, anyway?” she said, pointing at Snape’s chest. “Your mum’s blouse?”

She wants to hurt him, so she’s pointing out that he is so poor he is wearing his mother’s clothes.


“That’s where you’re going,” said Petunia with relish. “A special school for freaks. You and that Snape boy . . . weirdos, that’s what you two are.
That boy found it! You and that boy have been sneaking in my room!

She refuses to use his name, he’s so low. That’s all the Muggles we know young Snape interacted with – Tobias and Petunia.

Why would Snape like Muggles? The Muggle world has been cruel to him. Sadly, Gryffindors (James and Sirius) start antagonizing Snape as soon as they lay their eyes on him, and never stop (including attempted murder and sexual assault, covered up and enabled by the leader of the Order of the Phoenix). So we see that he was pushed away from the “good side” by everyone, except Lily.

Look who is being kind:

Harry walked with him to the stool, watched him place the hat upon his head. “Slytherin!” cried the Sorting Hat. And Severus Snape moved off to the other side of the Hall, away from Lily, to where the Slytherins were cheering him, to where Lucius Malfoy, a prefect badge gleaming upon his chest, patted Snape on the back as he sat down beside him.

The Slytherins are cheering, and Lucius takes this 11 year old with a clear Muggle last name and who definitely looks poor under his wing immediately. The grooming begins.

It’s not a secret that Snape and Lucius were close at school, otherwise, what’s this about?

“Tell me [Sirius], how is Lucius Malfoy these days? I expect he’s delighted his lapdog’s* working at Hogwarts, isn’t he?”

I view this as Lucius stepping in as a father/older brother figure, for someone who was desperate for it. It is clear that this relationship persisted throughout Snape’s life, and it looks like it was all in all a good one (albeit a dishonest one, once Snape switched sides).

*A much more sinister interpretation of this comment has some merit (look into the history of “fagging” in British boarding schools). If you take it as true, Snape’s mental state, that led him to join the Death Eaters is explained away completely, with no need to assume racism at all. You also have to wonder just how cruel Sirius is being with this little comment. I am choosing to view Lucius’s relationship with Snape as a benign one.

Lucius is the 7th year prefect, so whatever protection he provided, if any, evaporated in Snape’s second year, and we all know how popular Snape was, otherwise. The way he was treated by the Gryffindors and by Dumbledore, the “good guys,” was atrocious (and no, this was not a “rivalry” and they did not hate Snape because he was evil from the start). Lily was the only good influence, he was being pulled in the other direction by everything and everyone else. It is kind of remarkable that he stayed friends with her, and would have continued to be friends with her, despite sharing a dorm with people who must have had issues with it.

Tellingly, Harry hardly believes the “Half-Blood Prince” to be a budding Death Eater. He briefly thinks it might be his dad, he likes this guy so much:

Now, however, a wonderful possibility occurred to him. Could the Half-Blood Prince possibly be — ?
“I don’t see where you get that from,” said Harry heatedly. “If he’d been a budding Death Eater he wouldn’t have been boasting about being ‘half-blood,’ would he?” Even as he said it, Harry remembered that his father had been pure-blood, but he pushed the thought out of his mind; he would worry about that later.

An incredibly magically powerful teenager with a grudge against Dumbledore (for the way he handled the werewolf “prank”, i.e. forced Snape to cover up his own attempted murder, and did not punish the offender in any meaningful way), Gryffindors, and Muggles, who has everything to prove as an impoverished half-blood, might as well have “please recruit me to your cult!” written on his forehead.

This is how it works in real life. Cults, hate groups, gangs, etc., target the vulnerable, not the “evil.”

This is what JKR says about it:

Given his time over again he would not have become a Death Eater, but like many insecure, vulnerable people (like Wormtail) he craved membership of something big and powerful, something impressive.

She does not say he would not have given the Dark Lord the prophecy, she says he would not have joined at all.

His remorse is evident before we even find out he’d been a Death Eater:

“’Course Dumbledore trusts you,” growled Moody. “He’s a trusting man, isn’t he? Believes in second chances. But me — I say there are spots that don’t come off, Snape. Spots that never come off, d’you know what I mean?”
Snape suddenly did something very strange. He seized his left forearm convulsively with his right hand, as though something on it had hurt him.
Moody laughed. “Get back to bed, Snape.”
“You don’t have the authority to send me anywhere!” Snape hissed, letting go of his arm as though angry with himself.

Wait, but wasn’t he obsessed with the Dark Arts?

Here is Sirius:

”Snape’s always been fascinated by the Dark Arts, he was famous for it at school. Slimy, oily, greasy-haired kid, he was,”
“Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in seventh year, and he was part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters.”

Snape was so famous for being fascinated by the Dark Arts, Sirius changes the subject to how ugly he was immediately. Yes, he must have been pretty scary with his greasy hair!

As for him knowing many curses when he arrived, this reads like hyperbole to me, but even if it isn’t, he probably knew a lot about most things when he arrived – he’s very smart. Besides, knowing and using curses is not the same thing. Even if we take this line at face value, it’s fairly meaningless – curses vary in severity, and Scourgify isn’t classified as a curse but can certainly do enough damage when used on a person. As for him being part of a gang who all turned out to be Death Eaters? Well, that’s the point – he’s been groomed.

What was the pitch, how did they get him? I am assuming they promised him a future free of oppression by people like his Muggle dad, possibly a lucrative career; maybe revenge against those who had wronged him played into it. Snape being a half-blood and associated with a Muggle-born to a degree, it’s weird to think the Death Eaters tempted him by playing up the blood supremacy parts of it; they might have played it considerably down. In fact, it does not seem like it was a big part of the agenda during the First War at all. According to Hagrid:

“Now, yer mum an’ dad were as good a witch an’ wizard as I ever knew. Head boy an’ girl at Hogwarts in their day! Suppose the myst’ry is why You-Know-Who never tried to get ’em on his side before.

This is confirmed by JKR:

It depends how you take defying, doesn’t it. […] Also, James and Lily turned him down, that was established in “Philosopher’s Stone”. He wanted them, and they wouldn’t come over.

Voldemort was recruiting muggle-borns. Of course that does not mean he was not racist, but that’s not the genocidal* maniac we’ve come to know and love. Very possibly, he became more of one because Lily brought him down the first time. Voldemort’s not alone in being racist, but not racist enough to exclude exceptionally talented people, like Lily – Slughorn (who was Tom’s teacher and mentor!) was the exact same way. This is the environment Snape came of age in.

*”Genocide” is exactly the wrong word. Muggle-borns cannot be driven to extinction like Jews, Armenians, etc. They are born to Muggles, per the name. You could kill every last one of them and it won’t solve anything, new ones will be born to unsuspecting parents; to exterminate them, you’d have to kill all Muggles. Voldemort knows this, he is not an inbred moron. Not that it’s okay, but what he had in mind was probably an apartheid/Jim Crow-type situation.

Besides, Death Eater beliefs weren’t fringe. Sirius again:

They weren’t alone either, there were quite a few people, before Voldemort showed his true colors, who thought he had the right idea about things… They got cold feet when they saw what he was prepared to do to get power, though.

It was not his ideology people found distasteful, it was his methods.


“Last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one…”

The Order was the fringe group. The Death Eaters were nearing victory and legitimacy.

The Death Eaters were not much more racist than everybody else

In any case, they were not much more racist than mainstream wizarding society before or after the First War:

  1. Slughorn is allowed to teach. He, in fact, teaches Tom Riddle. He is remarkably racist, only not violent. Politically, he seems neutral, maybe leaning slightly toward the Dumbledore end of the spectrum. What does that say about wizarding society, if this person is neutral?

  2. Lucius Malfoy, a known former Death Eater and pureblood supremacist, remains influential with the Ministry, coming and going as he pleases. He even has influence over the Hogwarts Board of Governors.

  3. According to Molly, Arthur Weasley is held back because he is a muggle lover: “We know what Fudge is. It’s Arthur’s fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride.”

  4. Known racist Dolores Umbridge moves up the ranks in the Ministry.

  5. Dumbledore accuses Fudge of caring too much about blood status: “You are blinded,” said Dumbledore […] “by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood!

  6. Nearly everyone thinks muggles are subhuman. “Muggle” seems to mean “knuckle-dragger”. Let’s not start with how they treat Squibs (thrown any children out a window recently, Neville’s uncle?).

If Snape is so racist, how come the two people he hates the most (James and Sirius) are purebloods? How come nobody ever accuses him of racism, in real time or in retrospect, except Lily, who only finds his racism problematic when it’s directed at her, and who in fact, bothers to make excuses for him for years and is surprised that he sees something in Avery and Mulciber?

Like it or not, if Snape threw the M-word around (which we don’t actually see), he did not use it more than was generally acceptable. Also, slurs were simply not big a deal in 1970s UK. We’ve made progress as a society, definitely, but Snape should be judged against the norms in his time, never mind that he is a teenage boy. Teenage boys are not a demographic that has ever been known for tact or emotional maturity.

Finally, here is Dumbledore talking about why people associated themselves with the young Tom Riddle:

“As he moved up the school, he gathered about him a group of dedicated friends; […] They were a motley collection; a mixture of the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty. In other words, they were the forerunners of the Death Eaters, and indeed some of them became the first Death Eaters after leaving Hogwarts.”

Dumbledore himself recognizes that not all Death Eaters were thugs who were interested in flexing their muscles in more refined forms. In my view, Snape was a combination of the first two, until Lily was put in the crossfire, at which point he had forgone protection and glory.

It is clear that he did not join up because he was a huge racist, but because he wanted to be powerful, and because these people, Lucius in particular, accepted him (unlike the non-racists who hated him because he exists). JKR can actually write most of the time and with Snape, she has been very careful. She even said he joined partially to impress Lily, which I find a little odd considering that Lily’s reasoning for ending the friendship, but it proves that the author did not think racist beliefs had anything to do with it. He became a Death Eater to gain power and influence, after 7 years of grooming by the bad guys and abuse by the good guys. This was fueled by very understandable hatred for Muggles.

Real life adult humans do evil deeds with much less prompting. Don’t believe me? Read up on the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Death Eater Snape was a softie

There is substantial evidence that he was never particularly violent as a Death Eater. The only thing that indicates he was ever important in the First War was that he has the Dark Mark.

What does the Dark Mark mean? I argue that it means nothing. If anybody finds any proof that only high-rankers have it and that the only way to get it is to do something awful, and by proof I do not mean Harry Potter’s speculations, please let me know.

  1. Pettigrew has it, and he’s a joke. Nobody respects him.

  2. Fudge doesn’t believe it means anything when Snape shows it to him (which is, by the way, flagrant betrayal of the Dark Lord after he has definitely returned!)

  3. 16 year old Draco, who hasn’t done anything yet, has it.

  4. Conversely, Sirius doesn’t have it and everyone believed him to be a high ranker Death Eater, anyway.

  5. Snape might have got it after he defected, and so anything he might have done to earn it was done in his capacity as spy.

Here is the evidence that he was a very small-time Death Eater, bordering on being a pacifist:

  1. Sirius was imprisoned with the hardcore Death Eaters for 12 years and nobody said a word about Snape, he was that unimportant:

“But as far as I know, Snape was never even accused of being a Death Eater.


”There’s still the fact that Dumbledore trusts Snape, and I know Dumbledore trusts where a lot of other people wouldn’t, but I just can’t see him letting Snape teach at Hogwarts if he’d ever worked for Voldemort.”

The imprisoned Death Eaters never brought Snape up.

Of course, we do know he was one, because…

2. Karkaroff names him…

Dead last, when he’s desperate. He doesn’t associate him with anything, gruesome or otherwise.

This is how he names everybody else:

“There was Antonin Dolohov,” he said. “I — I saw him torture countless Muggles and — and non-supporters of the Dark Lord.
And helped him do it,” murmured Moody.

Even Moody doesn’t accuse Snape of anything concrete, coming to think about it.


“There was Travers — he helped murder the McKinnons! Mulciber — he specialized in the Imperius Curse, forced countless people to do horrific things! Rookwood, who was a spy, and passed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named useful information from inside the Ministry itself!”

Contrast with:

“Not yet!” cried Karkaroff, looking quite desperate. “Wait, I have more!”
Harry could see him sweating in the torchlight, his white skin contrasting strongly with the black of his hair and beard.
“Snape!” he shouted. “Severus Snape!”
“Snape has been cleared by this council,” said Crouch disdainfully. “He has been vouched for by Albus Dumbledore.”
“No!” shouted Karkaroff, straining at the chains that bound him to the chair. “I assure you! Severus Snape is a Death Eater!

Well, yes, but… what did he do?

The words “cleared by this council” and “he was vouched for by Albus Dumbledore” show that Snape was cleared without even being tried, on Dumbledore’s word.

Dumbledore’s word is a lot, but it’s not all powerful: he gets suspended in COS, he knows he can’t get Fudge to wait with the Dementor’s Kiss on Sirius in POA, does not manage to get the Ministry to remove the Dementors from school grounds in the first place, and fails to persuade him of Voldemort’s return in GOF. Never mind that if Dumbledore kept his promise to Snape, no one knows why Snape flipped or that he is committed to Harry’s protection.

This is the same society, the same Crouch, in fact, who threw Sirius in prison without a trial. The evidence against Snape must have been incredibly slim. Crouch is disdainful when he hears Karkaroff say Snape’s name; talking about Snape is a waste of his time. This is the same Crouch who threw his own son to Azkaban, remember? Look what isn’t a waste of Crouch’s time: he wants to imprison Ludo Bagman for accidentally passing information along to Rookwood:

Ludovic Bagman, you were caught passing information to Lord Voldemort’s supporters,” said Mr. Crouch. “For this, I suggest a term of imprisonment in Azkaban lasting no less than —”

Nobody else cares about this:

“It will be put to the vote,” said Mr. Crouch coldly. He turned to the right-hand side of the dungeon. “The jury will please raise their hands . . . those in favor of imprisonment . . .”
Harry looked toward the right-hand side of the dungeon. Not one person raised their hand. Many of the witches and wizards around the walls began to clap. One of the witches on the jury stood up.“Yes?” barked Crouch.
We’d just like to congratulate Mr. Bagman on his splendid performance for England in the Quidditch match against Turkey last Saturday,” the witch said breathlessly.
Mr. Crouch looked furious. The dungeon was ringing with applause now. Bagman got to his feet and bowed, beaming.

You cannot accuse Crouch of not being a fanatic about this. Only Moody is more of a fanatic, maybe. Death Eater Snape was less important than Bagman, who was not marked, whose crime was to accidentally pass information along. Of what import was Bagman’s intel, anyway? He’s a Quidditch player, for crying out loud.

3. Dumbledore thinks Snape is good:

“I have given evidence already on this matter,” he said calmly. “Severus Snape was indeed a Death Eater. However, he rejoined our side before Lord Voldemort’s downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk. He is now no more a Death Eater than I am.

“Rejoined.” Dumbledore seems to think Snape was good, went bad, and then good again. Very good – he is no more a Death Eater than Dumbledore is! No one is less a Death Eater than Dumbledore. And that’s what Dumbledore has to say long before Snape started saving Harry’s life all the time and so on.

4. Bellatrix does not trust Snape.

Bellatrix is a true sadist and a true racist. She does not see a kindred spirit in Severus Snape.

“The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn’t he?”
The Dark Lord is . . . I believe . . . mistaken,” Bella panted.

She is so distrustful of him she is willing to doubt the Dark Lord himself.

“‘Present company’?” repeated Snape sardonically. “And what am I to understand by that, Bellatrix?”
That I don’t trust you, Snape, as you very well know!

Snape would have pointed out all the evil things he’d done to get her off his case, but there aren’t any. Only this:

”The Dark Lord is satisfied with the information I have passed him on the Order. It led, as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and murder of Emmeline Vance, and it certainly helped dispose of Sirius Black, though I give you full credit for finishing him off.”

Possibly, Snape gave information that got Vance killed, but if he is taking credit for getting Sirius killed in the very same sentence, even that is not necessarily true, because Snape certainly did not help get Sirius killed and in fact, he is the one who alerted the Order about Harry being in the Department of Mysteries.

Here is Snape, showing off again:

But through all these years, he [Dumbledore] has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord.

So… not in his capacity for murder and torture, then.

Bellatrix is not impressed. Later in the conversation:

“Aren’t you listening, Narcissa? Oh, he’ll try, I’m sure… The usual empty words, the usual slithering out of action.”

This is how she sees Snape – he is all talk.

5. At the very least, Snape almost certainly never killed anyone:

When Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him instead of Draco:

“If you don’t mind dying,” said Snape roughly, “why not let Draco do it?”
“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.”
And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?
“You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” said Dumbledore.
Snape and Dumbledore both know Snape’s soul is not harmed.

When Snape finds out Harry must die:

Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified.
“You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?”
“Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?”
Lately, only those whom I could not save,” said Snape.

Snape is horrified at the thought of Harry dying. Dumbledore only accuses him of watching people die, not of killing anyone, and does not argue with Snape when Snape takes credit for saving as many lives as he could, lately.

It is clear that Snape finds even the task of euthanizing Dumbledore incredibly distasteful, to say the least. This is after he has taken the Unbreakable Vow to kill Dumbledore:

“After you have killed me, Severus —”
“You refuse to tell me everything, yet you expect that small service of me!” snarled Snape, and real anger flared in the thin face now. “You take a great deal for granted, Dumbledore! Perhaps I have changed my mind!

So Snape is still not sure he can do it? Despite this meaning he will die?

”There will come a time — after my death — do not argue, do not interrupt!

Dumbledore is expecting Snape to have yet another hissy fit about it.

Either Snape has killed before, but now regrets this so much he does not want to do it ever again, or more likely, Dumbleore is his first and last kill. It is very clear that the hatred and revulsion on his face when he does it are at himself.

6. His one confirmed action as a Death Eater is non-violent

The one thing we know for sure Snape did as Death Eater was to try to get a job at Hogwarts, which is non-violent in nature. Since Snape was so young at this point, and Dippet denied Voldemort a teaching post because of his youth, part of me suspects this was Lord Voldemort playing a joke on Snape. Say he wasn’t playing a joke on Snape, though – he must have pegged Snape for somebody Dumbledore will hire (it might even be proof that Snape was not marked at this point). Whether or not you buy it, what’s certain is that this is a pathetic assignment; can you see Voldemort sending Bellatrix or Lucius or Macnair to teach? However, this led to Snape overhearing the prophecy, and you know the rest.

Snape’s one accomplishment as Death Eater that we know of is getting half a prophecy; maybe this is what he was marked for. It also led him to defect and turn spy, and amazingly, it also led to Lord Voldemort’s downfall, twice. With bad guys like that, who needs good guys?

But he only defected for Lily, he would have been fine with Neville dying!

Personally, I like the theory that Snape tried to convince Voldemort to go after Neville. There is no proof of it, though, and the reason I like it is that at this point it seems like Snape hardly has anything to be redeemed of, and I appreciate moral ambiguity in art. Brainwashing happens in real life, and it’s interesting to think about, especially if, like me, you view the Death Eaters as a cult. Clearly, however, we do not know for sure that it happened.

We do not even have proof that Snape knew it could be Neville.

Does the prophecy, especially the bit Snape heard, obviously mean a baby? Or is it only obvious to us now that we know how it turned out?


“Approaches” is a weird way to say “about to be born”. It could mean he was already born and he is coming from afar, or something.

Snape could not have guessed that Voldemort will decide that “killing a baby and its entire family” is the best course of action. Positioning yourself as your equal’s enemy does not necessarily make strategic sense.

But whatever; Lily was put in the crossfire. Snape then goes to Dumbledore in person, despite expecting Dumbledore to kill him. That was not the obvious course of action to get a warning to Lily. Snape could have owled Lily, given Dumbledore an anonymous tip, or… something. Him asking to meet with Dumbledore face to face might indicate that Voldemort’s interpretation of the prophecy was not the only reason Snape defected but rather the last straw. Of course, this is speculation.

Could he have defected earlier? Not without risking his own life.

Sirius again, about Regulus:

From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well, you don’t just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It’s a lifetime of service or death.

Lord Voldemort, about defectors:

And here we have six missing Death Eaters… three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return… he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever… he will be killed, of course.

Amusingly, he is talking about Snape, here. Karkaroff, the “too cowardly” one? He also dies:

“And they’ve found Igor Karkaroff’s body in a shack up north. The Dark Mark had been set over it — well, frankly, I’m surprised he stayed alive for even a year after deserting the Death Eaters; Sirius’s brother, Regulus, only managed a few days as far as I can remember.”

Snape not defecting for Neville’s sake does not prove that he was OK with Neville dying. It only proves that he was not willing to risk his life to prevent it (it does not even prove that, strictly speaking, because we do not know what would have happened if Voldemort had gone after Neville, but yes, OK, realistically, he would not have done anything for Neville). He cares more about Lily than about other people, at the point of defecting, that much is obvious, but not risking your life does not imply indifference to others’ lives. Is the argument that Snape cares about people he cares about more than he cares about people he doesn’t care about? Is the issue here that he is not risking his life for some kid? Nobody has a moral obligation to risk their lives for some kid.

Also… Frank and Alice were Aurors. As Aurors, who knows what they had done to Death Eaters.

Sirius again:

”The Aurors were given new powers — powers to kill rather than capture, for instance. And I wasn’t the only one who was handed straight to the dementors without trial. Crouch fought violence with violence, and authorized the use of the Unforgivable Curses against suspects. I would say he became as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side. He had his supporters, mind you — plenty of people thought he was going about things the right way.

Skipping over the fact this Sirius is being, yet again, a raging hypocrite, he is definitely useful in demonstrating that things are complicated. Frank and Alice might have tortured or killed Snape’s friends. He might have had good reason to actually hate them. Also, why would Snape go to any trouble to protect them? They were more than capable of protecting themselves (you’d think). By all accounts, they were powerful.

The Ministry, by the way, remained corrupt and morally questionable after Fudge’s departure: Stan Shunpike is imprisoned, as is a NINE YEAR OLD CHILD. Asking teen Snape to discern between subtle shades of thuggery and racism and corruption when the only person in his life who might have been able to help him do that is Lily (if indeed she is as morally developed as we think) is absurd. It is a persistent theme of the books that the Ministry is corrupt and violent. The Order was not an option for Snape, initially, for obvious reasons. What’s left?

Oh, he was playing both sides!

This one is one of my favorite arguments, it’s just so stupid, you gotta love it.

Snape did not know he will be Dumbledore’s killer before the summer between OOTP and HBP. By this point he had already risked himself to protect Harry multiple times. When Dumbledore summoned Snape after he had gotten himself nearly killed, Snape could have simply done nothing and take credit for finishing Dumbledore then. When he did find out he’ll have to kill Dumbledore, he did not want to do it. But even if this was somehow part of some grand scheme, he was only playing both sides from the moment he killed Dumbledore. Except even this is ridiculous.

A) Why send Harry the Silver Doe and lead him to the real sword of Gryffindor?

He could have simply done… nothing.

B) Why follow Dumbledore’s plan to the letter? In case you’ve forgotten, Dumbledore’s plan was as follows:

There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake.
“For Nagini?” Snape looked astonished.
“Precisely. If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry.
“So the boy . . . the boy must die?” asked Snape quite calmly.
And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential.”

Snape prevents others from killing Harry:

No!” roared Snape’s voice and the pain stopped as suddenly as it had started; Harry lay curled on the dark grass, clutching his wand and panting; somewhere overhead Snape was shouting, “Have you forgotten our orders? Potter belongs to the Dark Lord — we are to leave him! Go! Go!”

Snape must have fed Voldemort that line, or at least manipulated Voldemort’s arrogance so that he’ll continue to insist on killing Harry himself, even though he is the one person who cannot kill Harry. Preventing them from torturing Harry was just a cover-blowing moment, though.

Voldemort himself:

“I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be.”

Snape follows Dumbledore’s plan exactly:

“I have thought long and hard, Severus. . . . Do you know why I have called you back from the battle?”And for a moment Harry saw Snape’s profile: His eyes were fixed upon the coiling snake in its enchanted cage.“No, my Lord, but I beg you will let me return. Let me find Potter.

He also did not tell Voldemort that he is not the master of the Elder Wand; we know how that worked out for him (not very well). But, say he hadn’t died. Say he hadn’t died, and Harry hadn’t returned from the dead to clear his name. In this scenario, Snape looks like #1 Death Eater, Dumbledore’s killer, who opened the Gates of Hogwarts to let Voldemort in. Rather than playing both sides, that’s how you buy yourself a Dementor’s kiss, or if you’re lucky, death by raging mob.

Had he chosen to simply do none of that after killing Dumbledore, Voldemort would have won, and Snape would have had a very nice life.


The world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters. Some non-Death Eaters are bad people, and some Death Eaters were good.

Snape did not join up to let out his quote-unquote genocidal maniac tendencies. He joined up for protection and influence after 7 years of grooming.

Once he joined, he did nothing that we know of except deliver the prophecy and then defect. It is almost certain that he never hurt anyone, much less killed – which is more than can be said for many on the good side. He was definitely not a wholesale murderer/torturer.

We don’t know how long he was a true Death Eater for, but it can’t have been more than 4 years (from coming of age to, say, a week before Lily’s death); it’s probably closer to 2.5 years. He joined the Death Eaters for very powerful reasons, and left them for a very weak reason, in terms of benefit to his own self, yet he remained faithful to the good side after the failure of his original goal (saving Lily) and very much against his own interest, for nearly his entire adult life. His sacrifices for the good side were innumerable.

The sum total of actual violence Snape commits on-page is:

  1. Hitting Petunia with a branch at 9 or 10 in response to being mocked.

  2. Inflicting a gash on James in self defense, which does not slow James down at all.

  3. Pulling Harry out of the Pensieve and nearly hitting him with a jar (I say he missed on purpose). Also, completely justified.

  4. Blasting Wormtail (one of his bullies and the person who betrayed Lily!) away from the door in HBP.

  5. Magic-slapping Harry on the face, knocking him to the ground after Harry shouts: “kill me like you killed him, you coward”. He is punishing Harry for being suicidal, not for the word “coward”. Harry calls him a coward earlier in the same interaction and Snape only reacts by going off about James again. Again, completely justified.

  6. I guess attempting to cast Sectumsempra on a Death Eater in the 7 Potters Battle also counts?

Snape is verbally aggressive, but extremely averse to violence.

What is his true allegiance? What are his true values? What is his true nature? Is that even a question?

By on February 16th, 2023 in Blog Updates


Very strong attention to detail in the quotes you have selected! You raise some important points fro the Goblet of Fire, which I had not considered. Great post!


The GOF bit was my favorite find 🙂 Isn’t it brilliant how presenting information in the wrong order makes everything slightly more interesting?

Damn, your posts are killing it, hell, even Snaters may convert to the Snovers with the way you find hidden truths underneath the broad text and put your points in a fair and comprehensive manner.


So, had any luck converting anyone?

Unfortunately I was overestimating too much of Snater’s capability to understand things beyond their comprehension. 😹😹