Well, I’m back. We did have to put Rusty down yesterday. To celebrate his life, we will be looking for a pair of (boy and girl) kittens to name Severus and Minerva. Don’t worry, though. They won’t be treacly Umbridge kittens!
I’m still not quite up for a bit of “Flight of the Dursley’s” slapstick, but I am starting to recover enough from the Rusty trauma to write about Severus Snape. First, though, check out some pictures – from my house – of this weekend’s DC area Snowpocalypse (click for full-size):
Did Severus Snape Betray the Order of the Phoenix?
If you have read this blog before, I’m sure you already know my answer to this question. However, I have recently encountered an argument insisting that since Snape was not reporting to any living member of the Order, the information he passed to Voldemort in “Dark Lord Ascending” was an act of betrayal. Never mind that he was taking orders from Dumbledore’s portrait. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement.
Here is the Snape-Betrayal argument, along with my response.
Snape-Betrayal Point 1:
Neither Snape nor Dumbledore’s Portrait is working with or for the Order. Therefore giving information to Voldemort without informing living members of the Order is an act of betrayal.
- Headmasters’ portraits have the imprint of the deceased Headmaster’s thoughts and memories.
- The purpose of the portraits is to provide counsel to future Headmasters, from the “voice” of the deceased Headmaster. They occasionally provide counsel to others.
- Harry regards Dumbledore’s portrait as having the same authority of wisdom as Dumbledore himself, as we see in Harry’s visits to the Headmaster’s office at the end of DH.
- Dumbledore founded the Order of the Phoenix, and the Order would not have existed in either war without Dumbledore’s initiative.
- Snape’s job was to serve as a spy, and Dumbledore was a brilliant Spymaster and wartime Strategist.
- Both Snape and Dumbledore were accomplished in the arts of Occlumency and Legilimency.
- There is no evidence in the text indicating that anybody else in the Order is an accomplished Occlumens, Legilimens, Spymaster, or Strategist. Failure in any of these areas would almost certainly have proven catastrophic for the anti-Voldemort forces.
- Given that the portrait is the imprint of the Headmaster’s thoughts and memories, it is clear that Dumbledore planned before his death to continue to serve as Spymaster for Severus Snape on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix.
Essentially, Dumbledore founded the Order, he clearly planned to continue his work for the Order after death, and it is crucial that he keep his plans secret from the other members of the Order unless there is some other unknown member of the Order who is an accomplished enough Occlumens to withstand a session of Legilimency with Voldemort. (Since there is zero evidence that such an Order member exists, my assumption is that there is no such member).
In other words, Snape is working for the Order in a top secret role. While this would not be possible in the Muggle world, Headmasters’ portraits make it possible in the Wizarding World.
Additionally, if we assume that Severus Snape was wrong to follow orders from a portrait with regard to the Battle over Little Whinging, then we should also assume that he was wrong to get the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry in the Forest of Dean – on the word of two Headmasters’ portraits. And yet, if he had failed to get the sword to Harry at that time, what would the outcome have been with the locket Horcrux? It was already destroying the trio. It is quite likely that Voldemort would have triumphed in the end without Harry receiving the sword at that specific time.
Snape-Betrayal Point 2:
Since Dumbledore is dead, Snape is not working for the Order. He’s only working for (dead) Dumbledore and is not really a double agent.
See above. Also, this is clearly not how Harry sees it once he has seen the memories. The portrait is conveying the overall game plan Dumbledore hatched before his death, while he was leader of the Order. Harry regards Snape in retrospect as working for the Order, not independently of it and not against it.
Snape-Betrayal Point 3:
The only purpose for Snape giving the information to Voldemort was to get himself in good with Voldemort, not to protect the Order or Harry.
Actually, that’s exactly what spies do in order to protect those they are protecting. It is a pretend betrayal and the entire purpose is to protect Harry and help defeat Voldemort, over the longterm.
Actually, this entire scenario is parallel to the work of a British double agent during WWII with regard to D-Day. He was told to give the Germans real information that they in turn would not be able to use effectively, in order to establish the credentials of the double agent with the Germans – just as the 7 Potters tactic that Snape passes on to the Order similarly prevents Voldemort from using Snape’s real information effectively but helps establish Snape’s bona fides as a Death Eater.
Snape-Betrayal Point 4:
Dumbledore and Snape had a different agenda than the Order, and it involved callously using the lives of Order members as canon fodder. Dumbledore and Snape should have communicated their plans to the Order and coordinated with the Order.
Well canon fodder, sorry, is part of war. This is what war commanders do, and Dumbledore clearly hatched his general game plan while he was indisputably war commander for the anti-Voldemort side. Unfortunately, every member of the Order is expendable if it means the success of the war effort – even Dumbledore and Snape.
And why should Dumbledore and Snape have set up any plans to communicate and coordinate with members of the Order? Spy work is always kept secret. Snape’s mission was too sensitive to reveal to other members of the Order – short of the Order possessing another accomplished Occlumens, Spymaster and Strategist. It was strategically crucial that he appear to be Voldemort’s man. It was strategically crucial that nobody know this because otherwise the secret could have been betrayed, even unwillingly, by somebody who could not stand up to Voldemort’s Legilimency – basically, I think, any other member of the Order.
Snape’s action, in my opinion, is no betrayal. It is crucial for defeating Voldemort in the long strategy.
Okay, short of some new catastrophe beyond the Snowpocalypse, I will finally be back this week with “The Flight of the Dursleys.”