The final Harry Potter novel will be in our hands this weekend. It will be then that our theories will be crushed or vindicated. We fully expect to be surprised and enthralled with what JK Rowling has put down in the final chapter of her saga. But there is one area of debate in the Potter universe that has fans lined up on opposite sides of the road. It’s time for us here at CB Tech to take off the gloves and determine the truth to the greatest debate in the Potter fandom.

Is Snape Evil?

Yes! Snape is a murderer!

-- Steve West

The question of whether Snape is evil or not has been entangled in his loyalty. I maintain that Snape’s loyalty to Dumbledore or Voldemort has no bearing on the truth in his heart. The simple fact is that throughout the books we have seen the Potions master skillfully play everyone he has come in contact with. This is a game of chess, and Snape is playing on a whole separate level.

In no situation can murder be a noble and just act. Through Dumbledore, Rowling has clearly indicated that murder is the most heinous of crimes in her world. The act of murder literally rips a persons soul to pieces. No matter how much we wish it to be so, there is no way Dumbledore would be an accomplice in the murder of anyone. Yes, that includes himself. Otherwise all our trust in the goodness of Dumbledore must be called into question.

If you do choose to take that path, you must still look at how Snape came to the tower for Dumbledore’s final moments. At the beginning of “Half-Blood Prince” we see Snape make the unbreakable vow with Narcissa Malfoy to protect Draco. When Bellatrix asks if he will finish the job (meaning the murder of Dumbledore) if Draco cannot, he twitches. Snape, like all Slytherins, is interested in self-preservation and his own gain. An unbreakable vow is something that he would not enter into lightly. It is at this moment where Snape positions himself to begin his endgame.

Snape murdered Dumbledore, only a fool would dispute that. The question is…why? The answer lies in the man himself. We know that Snape is one of the most powerful wizards in the world; possibly third only to Voldemort and Dumbledore. Snape is a skilled legilimens who has fooled The Dark Lord and Dumbledore for many years. Finally Snape has spent his life derided by peers and denied the position of power he’s so often sought. No one would want to tolerate such treatment, especially a powerful wizard. Unless there was a greater plan at work.

The final item to look at here is the murder of Lilly and James Potter, and how the present day wizarding world came to be. We do not know all the details of that night, but we do have some information. Here’s what we know: Snape overheard Trelawny telling Dumbledore the prophecy; Snape passed that information on to Voldemort; in the process of trying to kill Harry Voldemort fell and lost all his power. It was in fact Snape who was most responsible for that night of death, a fact that Dumbledore acknowledges to Harry. Snape set into motion the events that would lead him to a position of power. Look at Snape’ reaction to Harry at the end of “Half-Blood Prince” when he’s called a coward. Snape erupts with rage, an emotion that denotes he has been pushed too far. At this point in the game Snape no longer wishes to tolerate the derision he so often received, and it’s here that he nearly reveals to Harry his true character.

Snape committed murder, and that makes him evil. No amount of explaining can remove that. If we remove the red herring (a plot device Rowling is immensely fond of) that is his loyalty it becomes clear that our dear potions master may have been playing us all for a fool.

No! I trust Severus Snape!

-- Kelly West

Why do I trust Snape? The short answer is because Dumbledore trusted Snape. Dumbledore's trust in Snape wasn't something that was recently introduced. It's been an ongoing theme since the first book. Sure, Dumbledore isn't perfect and he's proven in the past to make errs in judgment but in this case, he had plenty of reasons to distrust Snape. So why did he trust him?

We learned in "Half Blood Prince" that Snape was the one to spy on Trelawny when she recited the prophecy during her job interview with Dumbledore. Snape then went on to tell Voldemort the portion of the prophecy he overheard. Dumbledore claims that only when Snape learned that Voldemort intended to kill the Potters, Snape did come clean to him and ask for a chance at redemption. Why would Snape have told Dumbledore what Voldemort was about to do if he wasn't sincere in wanting Dumbledore to try to stop it? What purpose would that have served for the Dark Lord? Sure, it would be a good way to assume a role as a double agent and spy on Dumbledore but if Voldemort believed he could kill Harry and thus, destroy the "one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord," why would he need Snape to work as a double agent?

As for why Snape was willing to confess Voldemort's plan to Dumbledore, all we know is that when he gave Voldemort the information about the prophecy, he didn't know that it was the Potters Voldemort would be going after. So for whatever reason (and there are some good theories), Snape didn't mean for his actions to cause the Potters harm and did what he could to undo what he'd done, even if it meant turning his back on Voldemort.

It has been widely theorized that Dumbledore and Snape had planned for Snape to "murder" Dumbledore when the time came. There are a number of events, including what went on in the Tower, that support this theory. Dumbledore incapacitating Harry instead of Draco when Draco first showed up. Dumbledore's calm but weak demeanor throughout his conversation with Draco and the Death Eaters, followed by him suddenly begging Snape as soon as he showed up all suggest that he was somewhat in control of the situation. Perhaps the potion that Dumbledore drank in the cave was killing him anyway. Or maybe he was on borrowed time since he destroyed the horcrux in the ring. Either way, it’s possible he was going to die and decided to make his death count by allowing Snape to do him in, thus solidifying Snape's place at Voldemort's side, earning the trust of the Death Eaters who doubted his loyalty to Voldemort and positioning himself firmly in the trust of the Dark Lord.

Snape's look of disgust just prior to killing Dumbledore added to the rage he expressed when Harry later called him a coward could be interpreted as severe emotions he felt at having to kill the one good man who trusted him, despite his dark past.

Whether or not the above ideas will turn out to be true remains to be seen. What it comes down to is the fact that Dumbledore trusted Snape. If Snape's murdering Dumbledore really was a betrayal then Dumbledore was a fool for trusting him and I just can’t believe that. While Dumbledore wasn't perfect, he was able to see people for who they really were. He believed that not only did Snape want to be redeemed, but also that he deserved the chance to redeem himself and I think there was enough good in Snape to realize that opportunity was worth more than whatever Voldemort could offer him.

In the end, what it comes to is: I trust Dumbledore. Dumbledore trusted Severus Snape. I trust Severus Snape.

Don’t forget our other Potter debates here.
Read previous Great Debates by clicking here. Read previous Great Debates by clicking here.
Go where it all began, Great Debate in our Music section here.

Do you think Snape is evil?

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