Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Monday, July 16, 2007
The Snape of Things to Come -- I

The question is not, is Snape good or bad. In certain obvious ways he's quite bad (or, as some people see it: "b-a-a-a-a-a-d," knamean?). The question is, is he ultimately a devoted servant of Lord Voldemort, or is he fundamentally opposed to him, and therefore, ultimately allied with the Order?

Prediction: Snape is anti-Voldemort and on the same side as the Order.

To say that he's working with the Order might place too much strain on the words "working with." Given the reactions of other Order members at the end of HBP (and rejecting silly theories that have almost everybody polyjuiced into everybody else in that book), his immediate reappearance at Headquarters might be distinctly awkward. In fact, expect an early Spinner's End-type chapter, in which Snape is once again hanging out with Death Eaters. When he took his "flight" at the end of HBP, he sure wasn't headed for Miami Beach. (If you like, check out this story by The Guardian, reporting on, inter alia, the supposed first two or three grafs of DH as captured by the camera last October in the filming of a documentary on JKR.)

I'll go further: Snape's ultimate allegiance will probably not become clear until far into the book, perhaps after his death. And yes, I predict he will die, and that his death will have the effect of saving Harry from something: perhaps from death itself, perhaps from some moral collapse -- the way he saved him from performing Unforgivable Curses near the end of HBP.

Why do I think this? Mainly because an ultimately-bad Snape would be, in retrospect, a very boring character. He swans around in a black suit and cape, he's mean to students, he's unfair in class, he has a yen for the Dark Arts, he has a confirmed Death Eater past -- and guess what, he's bad! Whod'a thunk it? Gimme a break.

Besides that, his multiple interventions to protect Harry are not explicable if he's on Voldemort's side -- and don't give me what he told Bellatrix. I may be a classroom lawyer rather than the courtroom kind, but I can still tell a hole-filled story when I see one, and Snape fobbed Bellatrix off with one at Spinner's End. He left much unexplained, moved at his own pace, not Bellatrix's, from point to point, and throughout, he ruthlessly manipulated Bellatrix's tremendous vulnerability -- her deteriorating status with Voldemort, and her awareness of it -- to psych her out. He dribbled her around the court and slam-dunked her. Nice work.

The Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa? That leads us to What Happened On The Astronomy Tower, which is another post. (No no: Dumbledore IS DEAD. Hold your hippogryphs, I'll get there.)

Then there's Dumbledore's trust -- but since Dumbledore has admitted he makes mistakes, and given the perfection of occlumency/legilimency in the Dumbledore/Snape/Voldy triad, I think JK has put this factor into equipoise. For me the tie-breaker is that if you can't rely on Dumbledore, you can't rely on anybody, and in that case -- well, with apologies to Dostoevsky, if Dumbledore isn't reliable, everything is permitted.

Another reason for my view is that Snape's moral compass is warped but not upside-down. He has allowed the emotional scars of childhood and youth to warp him far beyond what is normal, to the point where he is -- as Elinor points out -- afflicted with a kind of emotional autism: wrap your black cloak around yourself, cherish your grievances, and view the entire world through their prism. That's not good, but it does not enfeoff you to the Dark Lord forever. Something earned him Dumbledore's trust, and something causes him to look out for Harry even while hating him.

"Oh you're gonna pull a Snape-loved-Lily on us." Maybe, maybe not. I am convinced that what is truly "worst" about Snape's Worst Memory is not that he was humiliated by James -- that must have happened dozens of times (and btw, I'm still waiting for someone other than Harry to attest for me that James was not, in fact, a "swine"). No, what made that Snape's Worst Memory is that he viciously spurned Lily's help -- the only time in the entire cycle that he speaks ill of Lily.

In the Flight of the Prince, Snape once again roars about "your filthy father" (who was pure-blood, btw), but breathes no word against (Muggle-born) Lily. Harry later tells his friends: "And he didn't think my mother was worth a damn, either, because she was Muggle-born. 'Mudblood,' he called her." But in so saying, Harry can only be referring back to what he saw in the pensieve. If he's talking about his just-concluded confrontation with Snape, then he's simply wrong; perhaps mis-remembering out of emotion. At all post-adolescent points at which we see him, Snape never disses Lily.

Does that mean he loved her, maybe still does? Perhaps, but that's not necessary to explain the facts. Maybe she mommied him at school, the way Hermione does to Neville. Neville's not in love with Hermione, but I bet he'd be forever ready to beat up anybody who insulted her (that first-year misunderstanding involving petrificus totalus notwithstanding).

Some have speculated that Snape made an Unbreakable Vow with Lily, witnessed by Dumbledore, and that this may be the "ironclad reason" (McGonagall's words) that Dumbledore trusted Snape. It would explain a lot: I consider it a possibility, and not one that requires the "Snape Loved Lily" theory. Of course, there would then be great potential for a clash between the Unbreakable Vow with Lily and the one with Narcissa. Which means Snape will die. QED.