WARNING!! MASSIVE HBP SPOILERS!!!
Other than that, I’m extremely proud of this essay and hope you find the time to read it after you’ve finished the novel.
An Essay of Snape, of Slytherin, and the fate of their fans
I stand here at work, less than an hour after completing my first reading of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Ever since the end of the last book, Order of the Phoenix, I have been preparing myself for what I thought was the worst that could happen, the death of Severus Snape. Obviously, I have long been a fan of the greasy long-time potions master, and I would never have believed you two hours ago if you had told me that Severus would not only betray Dumbledore to his death, but had in fact been working for Voldemort all along.
Even as I read through Half-Blood, even as Severus swore the Unbreakable Vow, my only wavering was wondering which of many ways Snape would get out of the vow, or even use it to the Order’s advantage. Surely clever Severus could find a convenient loophole in Narcissa’s wording to nullify, or even exploit the situation. It was with an eye to such a loophole that I examine the promise, and, fining nothing obvious, I turned my thoughts to what I considered the distressing alternatives.
The first possibility I thought of was that, though Snape was bound to give whatever mischief Draco had been assigned his best try (I suspected even at the beginning it might have been Dumbledore’s murder) Dumbledore was a more powerful wizard and could subdue Severus until the vow’s danger could be nullified. Alternatively, and rather more unpleasantly, was that Dumbledore’s murder was part of the aging headmaster’s own plan. This theory was supported by the fact that he indicated to Harry that he knew of the vow. Even now this theory gives me some glimmer of hope that Severus’s true allegiance has yet to be revealed. A final, grim possibility presented itself in the idea that Snape might now have to sacrifice himself; a hero’s death.
However, discussing these theories with you now is almost definitely a moot point, and really, only meandering before I could find it in myself to come to the true point.
It took me a great deal of time, over an hour, after my initial reaction, to understand why Snape’s betrayal of the Order, and allegiance to Voldemort hit me so hard. After all, most of my favorite characters in my fandoms are evil villains anyway, and even if I wasn’t fond of Voldemort, I still fancied Lucius Malfoy, who was as evil as they come and had been all but his lap dog. So what was different about Snape that, after my initial shock, confusion and disbelief gave way, acceptance of his evil ways brought a new range of painful emotion? In my heart I now found anger, resentment, and strangest of all, I felt hurt. As I puzzled over why I would feel this way it hit me all at once, what I felt was in fact betrayal.
I felt as personally betrayed by Snape’s actions as though it had been me he had been lying to for all those years, and in a sense perhaps that was true. After all, hadn’t I spent six years taken in by his ruse? I had trusted him implicitly and for himself, not only due to Dumbledore’s admonitions. I spent as much, maybe even more time defending Snape’s actions to the suspicious as Dumbledore had. I had trusted Severus, so completely that the thought that he might be on Voldemort’s side after all never crossed my mind, not even once. Even as I am writing this there are parts of me that refuse to believe, and parts of me even that momentarily forget; a disbelief that borders n repression, and I refer in my mind to “noble” Severus as though nothing has changed. And yet everything has.
I know in the coming months my mind will repeat this trick of forgetting, referring to him in a thoughtless and natural manner, like Harry about to write Sirius for advice, only to remember…
I trusted Severus, I trusted him with all my heart and mind and now I feel much more betrayed than even I imagine the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix, none of whom counted Severus even the friend that Dumbledore did. The closest analog I can find is that I am the marauders and Snape has pulled a Wormtail on me.
I thought I’d be grateful if Severus escaped the book alive, but now I find myself wishing he’d died that Hero’s Death I imagined for him when I found out that he would be teaching DADA, his favorite class, and yet I feel like sobbing, feel like shouting, feel like grabbing him by the collar and demanding to know how he could lie to me for so long. Why couldn’t he let even one little slip? Just once? Just enough to know where he stood. It’s not the fact that he is evil that bothered me, it is the fact that he made me believe he was good. I feel like a fool being taken in by his machinations.
Its not only that I fancied him, either, though I most certainly did, but more than just attraction I also felt a deep respect for and kinship with him. Severus Snape was an idol, someone to look up to, admire, and imitate. He was intelligent and witty and mysterious, bitingly sarcastic and amazingly cunning. He was efficient and poetic, and perhaps a bit aloof and untouchable. He was a powerful wizard. He was an outcast, like me, and on uncertain terms with his father. He was too smart for his own good, and got bullied in school, more traits I identified with.
I’m not saying he was faultless, hardly! He was cynical and more than a little bitter and had an incredible temper. But these sins seemed hardly damning, and as they were ones I often shared, I defended him staunchly and to all detractors. The Order, I believed, had an intelligent and determined, if rather vindictive ally in Severus Snape.
The point here is that I didn’t just trust Severus, I believed in him as well, believed in his intelligence and endurance and wicked sense of humor. And now that trust, so strong and sure as it had been, is shattered into a thousand tiny and uncertain fragments.
Whatever should happen in the next, final book of the series, I am now, standing on the threshold of the end, forced to reevaluate a number of my assumptions about the Harry Potter world and my relation to it, specifically my affiliation with Slytherin house.
I have always been associated with the Slytherin traits, by myself and by others, but this had never bothered me, it has always, in fact, been a source of immense pride. SO much so in fact that it is rare I am caught without my ring, sterling silver in the form of a coiled snake. This pride however, however has been based, not necessarily on the assumption that some Slytherins are good, but rather that not all of them are blindly, stupidly and pointlessly evil..
Slytherins are ambitious. Slytherins are Cunning. Slytherins are often cold, cynical, caution and cruel. We often take advantage of people and seek our gain at the expense of others. All of this I say completely without shame, but never, before this morning, would I have been ready to give ground to the idea that all Slytherins are locked in a constant game of ‘follow the leader’, or that they exist merely as cronies for Voldemort, or the most powerful Dark Lord of an era.
Surely one would think that the famed Slytherin ambition at the very least, would keep the house form such ignoble and loyal servitude. Severus Snape was the icon on which I hung this often scoffed at assertion. Cunning and witty, Severus Snape at least knew which way the wind was blowing and acted accordingly, or so I had thought. Never had I imagined him to honestly follow an already defeated Dark Lord who had naught but contempt for his followers should their usefulness waver even briefly.
Perhaps I would have more respect for Severus even now, if it at least looked like Voldemort was poised on the cusp of certain victory; its only good sense after all, to side with the obvious winner. However, unless it turns out that Snape has more information on Voldemort’s infallible plan than we, or that the Dark Lord has been secretly blackmailing Snape via his true love the whole time, which I doubt, then his allegiance to Voldemort may have undone all of my years of faith in the “noble” house of Slytherin, the house which has until now been the object of my fierce and prideful devotion.
And so Snape has in one fell swoop not only crushed my belief in him but also in his, my favored house, and by that same token, my faith in myself.
If I am a Slytherin, as I, and others have always declared, and all Slytherins are resolutely and often idiotically evil, what does that mean about myself? If all Slytherins are followers of Voldemort, does my dislike of the Dark Lord make me unslyhtherin, or does it mean that I do in fact approve of Voldemort and have simply not admitted it to myself? And if not Slytherin, if what house would I belong?
I have always, even before he became my favorite character, believed that Snape was on Dumbledore’s side. Now that belief has been shaken, nigh destroyed, and so have the foundations upon which I built my view of the Harry Potter world. I do not yet know how other Snape fans feel, but in my mind it seems as though everything has been turned upside down and I think I will spend a great deal of time trying to sort it all out again.
In regards to Severus it seems as though I, and my fellow fans, have five options ahead.
Firstly, I can accept that he is, and always has been a Death Eater, and that the Severus I respected and admired, even loved was a bald faced lie and a treachery. In this case I would reevaluate the books and try and find a new favorite, all the while hating “dear” Severus for his lie of a persona I had so much affection for.
Secondly I could admit that he has been a Death Eater up to now, and as many Draco fans, begin hoping that he will see the error of his ways and redeem himself in the final book.
Thirdly, I could deny that he is a Death Eater and wait for the moment in book seven where Dumbledore’s magnificent sacrifice to The Plan is revealed, and that Severus ‘betrayal’ of him was a sad and inevitable duty in his work for the Order. This option, as the previous, has the risk of book seven coming and going without its occurrence, which would then leave me faced again with the same dilemma at the end of the series, with no hope for a canon rewrite.
Fourthly, I could swallow the last shreds of my morals, and more importantly, my good sense, and follow Snape down the dark path, allying myself to Voldemort in my mind and becoming a Death Eater. I honestly don’t know what to say about this possibility, nor the likelihood of it coming to pass.
Finally, I could take what many would say is the darkest path of all and delve wholly into the realm of denial and fanfiction; fanfiction in which options two and three occurred, or even alternative universes which refuse to acknowledge that the event of Snape’s betrayal even occurred.
All in all, I don’t know what to do. I have been hit with a blow that I honestly never expected. Like the events of book seven, the fate of the fans of Severus Snape is uncertain, even more so than the fate of Sirius fans after his untimely demise. Even I can’t venture a guess as to the outcome of the new majority rule.
One thing I can predict, however, is that the fate and intentions of the potions master and DADA Professor, half-blood Prince and probable Death Eater will be subject of great, lengthy and perhaps vicious debate. Emotions will run high, perhaps even higher than those reserved for the tragic fate of beloved headmaster Dumbledore; Dumbledore who trusted Snape as much as any fan.