"Dumbledore left the hall, walking quickly and quietly. Snape
stood for a moment, watching the headmaster with an expression of deep
resentment on his face; then he too left." (HPatPoA, chapter 9)
The general consensus in the fandom, particularly in the realm of fanfiction,
is that Snape's relationship with Dumbledore is, in the very least, amiable.
Snape may occasionally snap at the headmaster, but only if under extreme
stress. Outside of fanfiction, most theories involve Snape being loyal
to and trusting of the headmaster and protective of the school. However,
this view is partially incorrect. Hints throughout the books indicate
a very different relationship between the two.
HPatPS: In this one, Snape did not go to Dumbledore to
inform him of what he suspected Quirrell was doing. Instead, he tried
to take care of it himself. Even after he had repaid his debt to James
by saving Harry's life, he still attempted to keep things quiet and stop
Quirrell alone. He told Filch what was going on, since he needed the caretaker
to keep watch over the school at night when he himself could not. He refereed
Harry's Quidditch match, which must have been an extremely difficult task
to get the rest of the staff, particularly Madam Hooch, to allow him to
do. He even spent part of the year following Harry around during the day.
"Harry didn't know whether he was imagining it or not, but he
seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went. At times, he even
wondered whether Snape was following him, trying to catch him on his own."
Yet, Snape didn't need to do any of this. He didn't know that Dumbledore
already knew what was going on, so from his point of view he could have
just brought the whole thing out into the open and had the farce ended
then and there. But he didn't. Why? Part of it may have been simply because
he wanted to prove his own self worth by not playing coward and running
to Dumbledore for aid. However, I think that the larger part of it may
have simply been a lack of trust. Perhaps he did not think that Dumbledore
would believe him, and that accusing Quirrell would only lead to the staff
believing that he was the one up to something? After all, he knew he was
dealing with Voldemort and that his former master was skilled at manipulation
and twisting things around. Maybe he thought that Voldemort would simply
turn the tide back at him? As Quirrell said, "Next to him, who
would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?"
If he didn't think Dumbledore would believe him, a former Death Eater,
over Quirrell, inept but harmless, then he probably thought that he would
continue his little struggle against Quildemort until he had enough solid
evidence to back himself up, to make sure that Dumbledore had to take
his word for it.
On a side note, the person in question here is Snape. I'm quite sure that
despite whatever opinion Snape has, the headmaster trusts our lil' greasy-haired
At the end of it, Snape's distrust of Dumbledore and his dislike of Harry
probably increased even more when the house cup was taken from Slytherin
and handed to Gryffindor while Harry and co were cheered on for their
efforts to stop Quildemort. This was all done by Dumbledore, despite the
fact that the intrepid trio suspected the wrong person and didn't figure
out who was really the 'villain' until they were face to face with him.
Whereas Snape knew who it was right from the beginning and acted accordingly;
saving Harry's life, and probably on more than one occasion due to his
watchfulness. In Snape's eyes, the Gryffindor brats were considered heroes
while his efforts were overlooked. Harry got the credit for 'defeating'
someone that couldn't even touch him, while Snape spent a year struggling
against the same person. Harry fainted and merely ended up in the hospital
wing getting tons of gifts and concern, while Snape nearly got his leg
ripped off by a three-headed dog with the only concerned person being
a crotchety old caretaker that talks to a cat. He saved Harry's life without
even a 'thanks,' Harry saved nobody's life, actually endangering the lives
of his friends by leading their little investigation, yet became the school's
hero. Harry was rewarded with praise, Snape was rewarded with nothing.
HPatCOS: This one has only a few things here and there,
but I'll focus on just this one part...
Pay close attention to the following lines...
"Sir," said Malfoy loudly. "Sir, why don't you apply
for the headmaster's job?"
"Now, now, Malfoy," said Snape, though he couldn't suppress
a thinlipped smile. "Professor Dumbledore has only been suspended
by the governors. I daresay he'll be back with us soon enough."
"Yeah, right," said Malfoy, smirking. "I expect you'd have
Father's vote, sir, if you wanted to apply for the job - I'll tell Father
you're the best teacher here, sir."
Snape smirked as he swept off around the dungeon...
In contrast to Hagrid, who would probably have lobbed Malfoy out a window
for such comments, Snape did not seem the least bit bothered by them;
if anything, he seemed to fancy the idea himself. Not that he thinks he's
likely to become headmaster, but that idea of Dumbledore gone did not
evoke any sort of negative response. I may be wrong, he might have just
been smiling because he knew Malfoy was full of dog dung and could no
more make Snape headmaster than Neville could. But I don't think so. I
think Snape is as resentful of Dumbledore as he is of James Potter, if
not more. Trouble for him is that he can't voice anything against the
headmaster. He's in Dumbledore's debt. He was given a second chance when
anyone else would have thrown him to the Dementors. A tricky situation
to be in: to be angry at a person and yet owe them your life.
This is the biggy... First and foremost is THE PRANK - one of the most
talked about events in the Harry Potter fandom. There are a million fics
and theories detailing what happened that night and why. But the facts
as we know them are as thus: Snape had become curious about where Lupin
went every month. One night, he saw Pomfrey leading Lupin to the back
of the school. Sirius told Snape that all he needed to do was grab a stick
and prod the knot at the base of the WW's trunk and that he could go after
Lupin. James got wind of what was happening and went in after Snape. He
and Snape got out, but not before Snape caught a glimpse of Lupin at the
end of the tunnel. They went back to Dumbledore who made Snape promise
never to speak of what he had seen. That's what we know so far. But this
event is firmly rooted into Snape's mind, and governs much of his behavior.
First thing I'm going to confirm is the fact that it wasn't just a prank,
Sirius really did mean to kill or, in the very least, maim Snape. Lupin,
when he told of what had happened, said that Sirius had thought it would
be 'amusing' to tell Snape how to go under. If that's true, then
it speaks volumes for Sirius' sense of humor as a teen.
Second of all is Sirius' explanation for his actions. "It served
him right," he sneered. "Sneaking around, trying to find out
what we were up to... hoping he could get us expelled...." He
says this before Snape had made his presence known in the Shrieking Shack.
If that was his reason, and one that he still believes to be just, then
he clearly has no remorse for what he tried to do. Meaning that, much
as many people (including myself) like him, he has a rather dark side
to his personality.
The last clincher for it not being a joke was Sirius' age. Some people
have said that he was just a kid and didn't fully understand what the
consequences of his actions could be. He was sixteen years old though,
not ten or eleven. At that age, most people have the presence of mind
to understand right and wrong, and that you don't try to kill someone
because they annoyed you. If all Snape was doing was tattling at every
given chance, then he clearly was little more than a bother to them; certainly
not deserving of a gruesome death in a werewolf's jaws.
Now that it's been established that it wasn't just a joke, I'll move on
to how Dumbledore responded and how Snape reacted.
All that we know of what Dumbledore did is that he made Snape promise
to never tell anyone, something he kept until the end of PoA. Sirius was
not expelled and, as far as we know, not even punished. Why? Even if Dumbledore
spoke with Sirius about the incident, we know for sure that Sirius had/has
no remorse for it, and still believes that Snape deserved death. Any speech
Dumbledore gave had no effect. No punishment for attempted murder.
Now, on to Snape's perception of the event. As you all know, Snape carries
a deep grudge over the events that occurred. When he went after Lupin,
it was probably just curiosity coupled with the hope that he could get
them detention or something; nothing different from what he had always
done. He then, rather foolishly, trusted Sirius and used a stick to go
under the Willow. It's unknown as to whether it was before or after James
caught up with him that he saw the werewolf, but you can bet that it probably
gave him quite a shock. By the time he and James got back to the surface,
he likely had already come to the conclusion that they had been trying
to kill him. They went to Dumbledore, and the worst 'betrayal' of all
in Snape's mind occurred; Dumbledore placed the werewolf's secret in greater
importance than Snape's life. To further add injury to betrayal, the seriousness
of what had occurred was downplayed and Sirius was never punished. Snape
may be a git, but he is right in his belief that Sirius should have been
severely punished. From Snape's point of view, the life of him, a 'slimy
Slytherin,' was judged as worthless and the Gryffindor 'golden boys' got
off scot free. An injustice he has yet to forgive, or forget.
So Snape was sworn never to speak of what he had seen. I doubt Snape agreed
to that willingly, so it is possible, even probable, that Dumbledore threatened
him with expulsion or something of the like to keep him quiet. Snape's
opinion of Dumbledore before that point is unknown, but I'm sure it changed
drastically after that night. To him, Dumbledore's altruism and kind facade
was only for Gryffindors and members of the other houses. Not for Slytherins,
whose lives were as nothing by comparison. He wouldn't be totally incorrect
either; can you picture Malfoy trying to kill Harry and getting off without
so much as a slap on the wrist? I sure can't. So why, why would Dumbledore
take no action against Sirius? Just a short time left until Order of the
Phoenix. I hope we find out the reason then, if there is one.
There is one part in PoA that may counter Snape's 'innocence' concerning
"You surely don't believe a word of Black's story?" Snape
whispered, his eyes fixed on Dumbledore's face.
"I wish to speak to Harry and Hermione alone," Dumbledore repeated.
Snape took a step toward Dumbledore.
"Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen,"
he breathed. "You haven't forgotten that, Headmaster? You haven't
forgotten that he once tried to kill me?"
"My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus," said Dumbledore
Hmm... What else could have happened that night? Did Sirius have reason
to do what he did? Had Snape done something that set off the Gryffindor?
Dumbledore's line seems to imply that there was more to those events than
what we have discovered so far. With that line, he may have been reminding
Snape of whatever it was that he had done to bring Sirius' wrath upon
Now, I'll deal with the events of PoA itself. Before the term started,
Snape spoke with Dumbledore about his choice for DADA teacher, as Snape
mentions when Sirius breaks into the castle...
"You remember the conversation we had, Headmaster, just before
-- ah -- the start of term?" said Snape, who was barely opening his
lips, as though trying to block Percy out of the conversation.
"I do, Severus," said Dumbledore, and there was something like
warning in his voice.
"It seems -- almost impossible -- that Black could have entered the
school without inside help. I did express my concerns when you appointed
"I do not believe a single person inside this castle would have helped
Black enter it," said Dumbledore, and his tone made it so clear that
the subject was closed that Snape didn't reply.
Well, we can guess that the conversation they had was not a pleasant one,
and that Snape did not believe that Lupin should become DADA teacher.
Judging from Snape's reaction to Lupin's presence at the head table, we
can bet that nothing Dumbledore said was able to dissipate Snape's belief
that Lupin is as homicidal as Sirius. Perhaps he believed this to be another
'betrayal', having to work alongside the same person who he believes to
have tried to kill him all those years ago; not to mention being told
(I doubt he volunteered) to brew a difficult potion every month for that
person. Unfortunately for him, he had no voice in the matter.
I'm going to skip forward to the ending chapters of the book, to a part
that I find particularly interesting...
"I suppose he's told you the same fairy tale he's planted in Potter's
mind?" spat Snape. "Something about a rat, and Pettigrew being
"That, indeed, is Black's story," said Dumbledore, surveying
Snape closely through his half-moon spectacles.
"And does my evidence count for nothing?" snarled Snape. "Peter
Pettigrew was not in the Shrieking Shack, nor did I see any sign of him
on the grounds."
And does my evidence count for nothing... Such an interesting
line, is it not? Perhaps it mirrors words spoken years before, by an angry
sixteen year old boy? Standing, perhaps, beside four others before Dumbledore's
desk, demanding to know why Dumbledore was believing their story and throwing
away the importance of the fact that he could have died under that Willow
tree. Murdered by his fellow students. At that moment in PoA... I think
they were a last ditch effort to get Dumbledore to believe him, since
he himself 'knew' that what he was speaking was true. That Sirius and
Lupin had worked together to lure Harry and co to their deaths. All of
his evidence was solid, whereas the story the trio had was farfetched
and seemed only to serve getting Sirius off the gallows he was currently
on. The situation did not turn as he had hoped, Dumbledore believed Sirius'
story and the escaped convict ended up going free; perhaps confirming
in his mind his belief that Dumbledore didn't trust his word, anymore
that he had valued his life.
The last part from PoA I'm going to deal with is a scene taking place
directly after Snape's rather pitiful 'rage' in the hospital wing...
Snape stood there, seething, staring from Fudge, who looked thoroughly
shocked at his behavior, to Dumbledore, whose eyes were twinkling behind
his glasses. Snape whirled about, robes swishing behind him, and stormed
out of the ward.
Just a short time before, Snape'd had what he had waited so long for:
justice. Sirius was going to pay for his crimes, and perhaps Lupin as
well when the werewolf was caught. He was going to be given the Order
of Merlin 1st class, the highest honor a wizard could achieve and something
that would place him a hero in the ranks of Dumbledore, who bore the same
honor. In short, he had everything going his way when it was all torn
apart before his very eyes.
With Sirius gone, all was shattered. He lost his chance at justice/revenge,
as well as the OoM1stC. He knew Harry had something to do with it, and
that Dumbledore had probably helped. So there he stood, before the head
of the Ministry of Magic, having made himself seem like a madman; and
with Dumbledore's twinkling eyes mocking him. To him, it probably seemed
as though Dumbledore had thought the whole thing amusing, that his loss
was something worthy of a comedy. If he'd had much faith in Dumbledore
left at that point, them I'm sure it was crushed.
Prisoner of Azkaban was a rather painful book for our little Potions Master.
Now, it's time to move on to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire...
This is the book where we get the revelation that has spawned more fanfics
than any other plot twist encountered so far. Our Potions Master becomes
more than just a teacher in our minds, he becomes the spy, the double
agent, the man who turned against his former master. We discover that
Severus Snape was once a Death Eater. A million theories have risen from
this, but I'm going to remain focused on the Dumbledore/Snape side to
it. Snape's reformation and the second chance he was given.
"What made you think he'd really stopped supporting Voldemort,
Dumbledore held Harry's gaze for a few seconds, and then said, "That,
Harry, is a matter between Professor Snape and myself."
The only things we know for sure is that Snape was once a Death Eater,
that he changed sides at some point, and that he became a spy for Dumbledore.
After Voldemort's downfall, Dumbledore gave evidence to the Ministry to
prove that Snape had been a spy, thus preventing Snape from being thrown
to the Dementors. We don't know why Snape became a Death Eater, nor why
he decided to, 'at great personal risk', switch sides. Now, for a little
My personal theory is that Snape was recruited because, as Sirius mentions,
he had made himself famous at school for his skill in the Dark Arts. I
think he may have become a DE because everyone else was doing it. After
all, his friends became Death Eaters, so why not? I don't think he did
it for psychotic reasons, or that as a DE he did many horrible things.
I don't think Dumbledore would have given Snape a second chance or the
Ministry allowed him off the hook if Snape had been killing and torturing
other people. Dumbledore may be forgiving, but he's not THAT forgiving.
As for why he decided to switch... We all know that Snape is a nasty,
slimy, git. But we also know that he's not evil. I think he may have seen
what Voldemort's little organization really was like, and realized that
he did not wish to be a part of it. Trouble is, he couldn't up and leave.
He may have gone to Dumbledore, not trusting him but knowing that the
information he had was too invaluable for the headmaster to hand him to
the Ministry, and made some sort of bargain. Or, more likely, he did something
for someone on DD's side and was offered a chance for redemption. Perhaps
he helped someone that was captured to escape? Maybe he undermined one
of Voldemort's plots? The list is endless... Whatever the reason was,
the fact remains that he was handed a second chance, and the man he hated
was the one who gave it to him. It was said in PoA that when a wizard
saves the life of another, it creates a certain bond between them. Perhaps
this second chance Snape got could qualify as having saved his life. Indebting
him to Dumbledore until he is able to repay it.
After Voldemort's fall, Snape became a teacher at Hogwarts. From what
we've seen in the books, Snape doesn't seem to enjoy his job. He may like
bullying the Gryffindors and giving his Slytherins special treatment,
but his overall job satisfaction seems to be zippo. Why then, does he
teach? The number one theory for this is that he teaches at Hogwarts because
he isn't safe anywhere else. It's known to Voldemort's followers that
he was a spy (read my other Snape essay for proof of this). The instant
he steps out of Hogwarts he'll get fried. Plus, he probably can't get
a job elsewhere. The instant any prospective employer checks on his background
and finds that he was once a Death Eater, they'll punt him out of their
store before he can yell 'innocent!' So, he's stuck with teaching. Snape
is NOT a people person, so I don't think it's done much for his disposition
to be around gobs of noisy children all day every day. Year after year
of this, with no chance of leave, seems to have left him rather bitter.
All throughout GoF, there is a definite change in Snape's behavior from
the first two books. After the events of PoA, the relationship between
Snape and Dumbledore became rather strained. In PS and CoS, Snape and
McGonagall were always at Dumbledore's side in any crisis, and Snape played
an active role in the events taking place at the school. In GoF, that
changed. Snape spent most of the year in the background, Moody replacing
him at Dumbledore's side. When Harry told Dumbledore of what he had seen
in the Forest, Snape did not follow. Snape did not help in the first two
tasks, and in the final task, Moody acted as one of the sentries around
the maze instead of Snape. The most interesting part in GoF from my POV
concerning Snape's view of Dumbledore is the following scene...
"You know I'm hiding nothing, Moody," he said in a soft
and dangerous voice, "as you've searched my office pretty thoroughly
Moody's face twisted into a smile. "Auror's privilege, Snape. Dumbledore
told me to keep an eye -"
"Dumbledore happens to trust me," said Snape through clenched
teeth. "I refuse to believe that he gave you orders to search my
Snape affirms here that Dumbledore trusts him, enough that Dumbledore
would not order someone to search his office. But if Snape really believed
that, then why did he not go to Dumbledore over it? When he caught Moody
in his office, why didn't he just take it up with Dumbledore? The truth
is that he himself does not believe the words he's speaking. Or, possibly,
he decided he'd rather live with doubt over having his suspicions that
he was an untrustworthy Death Eater in Dumbledore's eyes confirmed. Better
to suspect and have the possibility that he was wrong, instead of finding
out a painful truth.
Up to this point, my focus has been on the negative side of their relationship,
the lack of trust and Snape's views. But, there is another side to it.
Snape IS loyal to Dumbledore, and not entirely resentful of the headmaster.
He was given a second chance at life, and his tetchy personality and many
faults have been tolerated with benign smiles and good-humored teasing.
At the end of GoF, Snape is back at Dumbledore's side...
Moody was thrown backward onto the office floor. Harry, still staring
at the place where Moody's face had been, saw Albus Dumbledore, Professor
Snape, and Professor McGonagall looking back at him out of the Foe-Glass.
He looked around and saw the three of them standing in the doorway, Dumbledore
in front, his wand outstretched.
This part is also important...
Snape followed him, looking into the Foe-Glass, where his own face
was still visible, glaring into the room.
Here, Snape sees himself clearly. If he had any doubts about what side
he was on, and the path he had chosen, the are vanquished. The Foe-Glass
shows the enemies of the person who owns it. The owner of this one was
Voldemort's most loyal supporter. He sees himself, at Dumbledore's side,
against the very people he had once been among.
And finally, to the few lines that have had more theories than anything
else in ANY of the books...
"Severus," said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, "you know
what I must ask you to do. If you are ready . . . if you are prepared
"I am," said Snape.
He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered
"Then good luck," said Dumbledore, and he watched, with a trace
of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius.
My theories about what Snape's task was are contained within my other
Snape essay. But here, we see that Snape is afraid to do whatever the
task may be. It must have been extremely dangerous, since Snape is a very
tough character and has never shown fear in any of the previous books.
He did it though, showing that he is willing to risk his life for Dumbledore's
ends. We all know that Voldie is gunning for Snape, so for him to leave
Hogwarts on the very night that Voldemort of was resurrected takes a lot
of guts. Whatever it was that he did, Snape was scared and Dumbledore
was worried about what might happen. Less than a week left until Order
of the Phoenix, less than a week until we discover what that task was.
Frankly, I'm dying to find out. ^_^
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