Ladies and Gentleman of the Wizengamot, Severus Snape’s murder of Dumbledore revealed his true nature, marking him as a confirmed Death Eater. But did it really? It is your onerous duty to judge this very talented wizard and I put it to you that in order to condemn him you must establish his guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. You have been asked to authorise the use of the Unforgivable Curses in the pursuit of this wizard. Let us therefore consider the evidence:
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face. “Severus … please …”
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. “Avada Kedavra!”
You have heard this, ladies and gentleman, from the eye-witness, Harry Potter, who was on the scene during Dumbledore’s last moments and has given us his sworn testimony that he saw Severus Snape cast the Unforgivable Curse at the weakened and disarmed Dumbledore.
There can therefore be no doubt, no doubt at all ladies and gentleman, that Snape did cast that killing curse at Dumbledore but ... BUT, ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you that this damning fact is not enough to condemn this man. I ask you, before you come to your verdict, to take a moment to consider the possibility that Dumbledore was not begging Severus to spare him but pleading with him instead to end his life.
The entire magical community is screaming for Snape’s blood but the entire magical community, ladies and gentleman, has been wrong before. What of Sirius Black? What of Peter Pettigrew? Only last summer The Daily Prophet had us all convinced that Harry Potter himself was an attention-seeking pratt and that the great Albus Dumbledore had lost his marbles. Ladies and Gentlemen, the entire magical community and The Daily Prophet were wrong then and they could be wrong now!
Let us therefore examine the events leading up to that fateful scene on top of the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts.
The witness, Professor Hagrid, has stated that he overheard Snape and Dumbledore arguing, “I jus’ heard Snape sayin’ Dumbledore took too much fer granted an’ maybe he - Snape - didn’ wan’ ter do it any more ... Dumbledore told him flat out he’d agreed to do it an’ that was all there was to it.”
I submit that if Snape really was a Death Eater, the last thing he could afford to do was quarrel with Dumbledore. Their argument can only mean that Snape was loyal but that he baulked at a task which he saw as asking too much of him.
Snape’s bravery, in the words of Dumbledore himself, “[turning] spy for us, at great personal risk” makes it unlikely that it was fear that prompted his objection. I put it to you that it was revulsion. Dumbledore and Snape must have been discussing the one thing we know that Snape had agreed to do, and I emphasise we know this from uncontested evidence - to kill Dumbledore.
Severus had Bellatrix Lestrange watching him as Narcissa Malfoy begged him to make the Unbreakable Vow to watch over her son and he agreed. Bellatrix was already suspicious of him - “I don’t trust you Snape, as you very well know”, accusing him of “the usual empty words, the usual slithering out of action”.
In his double-agent role, Snape had, at all costs, to avoid blowing his cover. He could not refuse to make the Unbreakable Vow and, after all, there seemed to be no harm in saying he would strive to protect Draco. The vow, however, seemed to go further than he anticipated. He had no hesitation in agreeing to “watch over” Draco, nor to “protect him from harm”, but his hand twitched within Narcissa’s as she whispered, “if it seems Draco will fail ... will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?” There was a moment’s silence ... “I will,” said Snape.
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Susan Wight is a Victorian mother who, together with her
husband, home educated her three children who are all now well-educated adults.
She is the coordinator of the Home Education Network and editor and a
regular writer for the network’s magazine, Otherways.