I love how the various book promos are making this the “big” question of book 7. We were at Borders a few days ago, and all their promo material is centered around this question. They have little strips of paper with the “Good Snape” data points on one side and the “Bad Snape” data points on the other. Most of this discussion centers around the ambiguity of Snape’s behaviour in Books 5 & 6. For most of Order of the Phoenix, we see Snape fighting on the Side of The Good. Then cracks appear during Occlumency lessons, leading to the big confusion in Half-Blood Prince. Snape does something pretty much unforgivable at the conclusion of that book, but there are enough questions surrounding his motivation for that act to leave things up in the air.
As I was rereading the graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire last night, I was struck by something Voldemort said as he reviewed the Death Eaters.
There are six vacant spots for missing Death Eaters in the circle around Voldemort. During his strutting monologuing, he recaps the whereabouts of those in an oblique way.
- Three are in Azkaban
- One Faithful Servant is in place at Hogwarts. We know by the end of the book that this is Bartemius Crouch, Jr.
- One is a coward and will be killed. We find out during subsequent books that this is Karkaroff.
- One Voldemort believes “has left him forever”. This must be, by power of deduction, Snape. During the confrontation with Fudge in the Hospital wing at the end of Book 4, Snape shows the Dark Mark on his arm and explains the way it works. So we know clearly that he is still a branded Death Eater. He is not the coward, because he didn’t turn in fellow Death Eaters, as did Karkaroff. He is not the “faithful servant” because he is not the one who made arrangements to deliver Harry to the graveyard in Little Hangleton. Therefore, Snape MUST be the Death Eater whom Voldemort believes has “left him forever.” When Snape returns to Voldemort it is clearly under Dumbledore’s orders. We see the order given in the Hospital Wing. Later, in Spinner’s End, Snape tells Bellatrix Lestrange that his three hour delay in returning to Voldemort bought Snape the right to act as an efficient double-agent. That conversation is supposedly the “out” for Snape’s late return.
- We know Snape is the source of Voldemort’s incomplete information about the Prophecy.
- We know that Voldemort was angry about being vanquished by Harry in Godric’s Hollow.
- Voldemort clearly believes that Snape has ‘left him forever’ . This would indicate that Snape was defellowshipped prior to the events in the books. So he is not acting as a double-agent prior to the end of Book Four.
- When Snape does return to Voldemort it is under Dumbledore’s orders. At that point he would be an agent of Dumbledore. Part of that duty would be to convince Voldemort that Snape is acting as an agent on Voldemort’s behalf.
My conclusion? That Snape is ‘good’ and still acting on behalf of the Order during Books 5 & 6.