You Have Used Me: Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Betrayal and Trust

The World of Severus Snape

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You Have Used Me: Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Betrayal and Trust

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by Bohemianspirit

In considering the relationship between Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, two things become clear: Severus trusted Dumbledore, and Dumbledore betrayed that trust, time and again. Over the long term, Dumbledore took advantage of that trust to use Severus for his own ends.

Severus' Trust

Severus Snape began his life with high hopes for Hogwarts. The Muggle world, apparently, had not treated him well; his home life was at the least neglectful, and possibly abusive. He felt out of place. The Wizarding world, on the other hand, represented to young Severus a beacon of hope, a promised land where at last he would find understanding, acceptance, and appreciation as the intelligent, gifted wizard that he was. He would belong. At Hogwarts he would find a place.

That hope began to be disillusioned on his very first train ride to Hogwarts, when James Potter and Sirius Black set the foundation for a pattern of bullying and abuse that was to continue throughout Severus' education at Hogwarts. Whether, as Sirius Black claimed, Severus arrived at Hogwarts already knowing more hexes than the seventh years, or whether he quickly set himself to learning them upon his arrival, it appears that Severus employed hexes primarily as a measure for self-defense against the bullying of the Marauders. He did not, after all, begin hexing everyone left, right, and center the moment he boarded the train. Nor do we have reported to us that he started zapping everyone in sight upon arrival on the school grounds. What we do see, clearly, is that James and Sirius initiated the bullying of Severus, a bullying we are told continued until the end of their seventh year.

So the first bit of trust--that Hogwarts would be a safe haven, and that the authority figures, including Headmaster Dumbledore, would protect the students in their care--was eroded at the outset of Severus' association with Hogwarts.

Now, it may have been expected that students should fend for themselves in matters of "routine" bullying. Only in recent years have people begun to vocally challenge the cultural assumption that any bullying should be viewed as "routine," rather than as an ethical violation not to be tolerated. In any case, when "routine" bullying crosses the line into serious physical and psychological harm and endangerment of life, that is the point at which the authority figures--such as Dumbledore--should step in and put a stop to the abuse, meting out appropriate consequences to the abusers and doing everything possible to right the wrongs and heal the harms that were wrought upon the abused.

Yet we see no indication in the books that bullies were held accountable for their actions, let alone required to reform their ways and make reparations to the ones they had bullied. Instead, a "blame the victim" mentality seems to have prevailed at Hogwarts: It was Severus Snape who was to blame for being so awful that James Potter and Sirius Black wanted to bully him. It was Severus Snape who needed to just "get over" the bullying, rather than the ones who bullied him who needed to make amends. Instead of saying, "We were wrong, we're sorry, what can we do for you," Remus Lupin accused Severus of continuing to hold a "schoolboy grudge"--trivializing and dismissing the traumatic impact of bullying and abuse that in one case had been life-threatening--and Sirius Black continued to treat Severus in a derogatory manner.

And Albus Dumbledore, headmaster, did nothing to facilitate the process of reparation, said nothing to suggest that Lupin or Black had any obligation to apologize or otherwise make an effort to repair the damage for which they each bore partial responsibility. Instead, Dumbledore continued to treat Severus in a dismissive, patronizing manner whenever Severus raised any issues regarding the Marauders.

Indeed, Dumbledore apparently shared Lupin's belief that the burden was upon Severus to somehow find it in himself to "get over" his wounds, without any reconciliatory efforts being made by the ones who had contributed to creating those wounds. "Some wounds run too deep for the healing," Dumbledore told Harry at the end of Order of the Phoenix. "I thought Professor Snape could overcome his feelings about your father--I was wrong." Simply throwing Severus into close association with Harry and hoping for the best hardly constituted an effective strategy for healing the wounds of past abuse. Perhaps if a real, constructive effort had been made to heal the wounds, back when they were being inflicted during Severus' school years, Severus might have emerged from his student years far more healthy and whole.

A Step in the Right Direction

Despite his disillusioning experiences during his school years, Severus apparently continued to harbor a fundamental trust in Dumbledore, for, having joined the Death Eaters in his late teens, he risked his life to approach Dumbledore and plead for him to protect Lily Evans Potter from Voldemort. He trusted that Dumbledore was not only powerful but good: that Dumbledore had not only the ability but also the desire to protect Lily and prevent her death.

And how was his trust, and his risk and his fear, honored? Not by an immediate, "Absolutely! I shall see to it immediately!" but by Dumbledore playing mind games with the distraught and terrified young man: "If she means so much to you, surely Lord Voldemort will spare her?"

Much has been made by detractors of Severus Snape (including, of course, Albus Dumbledore) about the fact that he asked Voldemort only for Lily to be spared. Apart from his lack of a fully-developed, mature sense of ethics that would have extended his empathy beyond personal partiality, and apart from his understandable lack of concern for the welfare of a man who had repeatedly and unrepentantly abused him, Severus is hardly to be blamed for "failing" to ask Voldemort to spare the life of Voldemort's primary target for death: the child of the prophecy. Even if Severus did find it in himself to wish for an innocent child to be spared, even the child of the hated James Potter, to have begged Voldemort to spare the life of the child would not have spared the life of the child. Most likely, it would have ended the life of the one asking for the child's life to be spared!

Critics have also pointed out that Severus, at least at first, didn't really care about doing what was right, only about saving Lily. If anyone else had been in danger of death, it would not have bothered him in the least, and he could have gone on merrily serving Voldemort for the rest of his life. I am not certain that this assertion is true--that his conscience never would have begun to bother him and caused him to defect from the ranks of the Death Eaters. In any case, in pointing that finger at Severus Snape, aren't we pointing several fingers back at ourselves? Isn't it true for all of us, that often we only begin to care about what's right when it hits us close to home? How easy it is to be indifferent to the wrongs in the world until they affect us or someone we care about.

The important thing is that Severus, in going to Dumbledore, took a first step in the right direction. However limited and self-interested his reasons for taking that step, he took it, at great risk to himself. Such courage and humility--for it takes humility to admit that the other person was right about a wrong turn we took--should have been honored with encouragement, respect, and full unconditional cooperation, while gently adding that the whole family, not just Lily, would be given protection. Instead, Dumbledore met it with coldness, condemnation, and opportunistic manipulation of the young man's distress and vulnerability to obtain gain for Dumbledore.

Yet is not clear if Dumbledore truly cared about the welfare of Lily and James. It is clear that, ultimately, he did not truly care about the welfare of Harry; he saw Harry, as he saw Severus and perhaps all other people, as a pawn in his game to defeat Voldemort and prove himself the victor.

Seeking Affirmation

Severus, in spite of Dumbledore's callous treatment of him, still apparently looked up to Dumbledore. Throughout his years of teaching at Hogwarts, we see expressions of respect and trust that do appear to be genuine. One of the most vivid examples of Severus' implicit trust in Dumbledore occured in the climactic scenes at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban.

As far as Severus knew, Sirius Black was the man who betrayed Lily's location to Voldemort and led directly to her death. He had every reason to believe that the man was a murderer, and that Harry and his friends were in grave danger in the Shrieking Shack. If personal vendetta alone were motivating Severus, then surely he would have dispatched of Sirius without delay, rather than conjuring a stretcher and having him brought back to the castle to face the appropriate legal procedures (such as they were in the Wizarding World). When Dumbledore asked Severus, along with Poppy Pomfrey and Minister Fudge, to leave the ward of the hospital wing where Harry and Hermione are recuperating, Severus hesitated.

"You surely don't believe a word of Black's story?" Snape whispered, his eyes fixed on Dumbledore's face.

"I wish to speak to Harry and Hermione alone," Dumbledore repeated.

Snape took a step toward Dumbledore.

"Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen," he breathed. "You haven't forgotten that, Headmaster? You haven't forgotten that he once tried to kill

"My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus," said Dumbledore quietly.

Snape turned on his heel and marched through the door Fudge was still holding.

Severus was seeking more than to have his story believed: He was seeking a sign, some kind of affirmation, that he mattered to Albus Dumbledore, that his life was as valuable in Dumbledore's eyes as that of any Gryffindor. Instead, he got a cold wall of condescension: "My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus." Once again, trust was betrayed.

And the betrayal continued, in little ways. In the year of Goblet of Fire, as Voldemort is gaining strength for his return, Severus assured Dumbledore that in spite of the risk he would not flee if the Mark should burn: "I am not such a coward," he said. And how did Dumbledore reward that brave statement? By affirming Severus' courage, then adding, as a rather backhanded compliment, "You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon," and walking away from Severus, leaving Severus stricken. Whether Severus was offended by the suggestion that he "really" should have been a Gryffindor, or whether he was pained by a sudden flash of imagination--would he have lost Lily's friendship, would he ever have become a Death Eater, had he been sorted into Gryffindor rather than Slytherin--the clear implication on Dumbledore's part is that Severus, as a Slytherin, would always be lacking an essential ingredient to merit full, unconditional respect.

The Final Betrayal

And yet, in spite of Dumbledore's indifferent and sometimes cold manner towards Severus, Severus continued to respect and trust Dumbledore. During Occlumency lessons in Order of the Phoenix, Severus spoke of Dumbledore almost reverentially: "Dumbledore is an extremely powerful wizard"--the only one, apparently, whom Severus considered powerful enough to dare to speak Voldemort's name. And despite his dislike of his pupil, it was out of respect for Dumbledore that Severus subjected himself to giving those Occlumency lessons, continuing to fulfill his promise to help protect the Potter boy.

Nowhere is Severus' high regard for Dumbledore more evident than when he was hovering over Dumbledore right after doing all he could to heal him from the curse of Marvolo Gaunt's ring. In his exasperated, emotional outbursts it is plain that he truly cared about the welfare of the man he looked to as his guide and mentor. Even when Dumbledore asked Severus to agree to kill him when the moment should present itself in the coming year, Severus eventually, despite his misgivings, agreed to do so, motivated by Dumbledore's appeal "to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation."

It was not until the end of Harry's sixth year that Severus discovered the truth about the life he had pledged himself to lead, and about the man who elicited that promise from him. Under Severus' protests that Dumbledore still did not fully trust him--and to all appearances, that was probably a true charge--Dumbledore took Severus aside, in his office, and told him that Harry was the seventh Horcrux. The boy must die.

After a stunned, horrified series of responses, as if he could not really believe that he was hearing correctly, Severus finally confronted Dumbledore's duplicity head-on:

"You have used me."


"I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter--"

The implications of his protest are many:

  • I wasted my entire life protecting a boy who was doomed to die, anyway.

  • I could have been free: free of Potter, free of you, free of this place.

  • I thought I was devoting my life to protect the only child of a woman I loved.

  • I put my life at risk, time and again, in the name of protecting that child, and now you tell me I did it all in vain.

  • You could have told me the truth and given me a free, informed choice. Instead, you lied to me, manipulated me, took advantage of my trust in you and my honor to keep my word in order to use me for your own ends.

  • All this time you have berated me for not liking the boy, when all along you have been callously planning and preparing for him to die--at the "right" moment.

  • You don't care about either the boy or me. You just wanted to make sure I would put myself at your disposal, to do your bidding, without question or protest.

  • I trusted you. You used us both. You bastard.

All of these implicit challenges Dumbledore neatly evaded answering, immediately shifting the focus back onto Severus and onto one of his points of greatest emotional vulnerability: "But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?" To which, predictably, Severus reacted with an emphatic gesture of denial--and thus the focus of the conversation shifted away from Severus' legitimate charge of abuse and back to how Severus, supposedly, "failed" as a person: caring, supposedly, only and always for Lily Evans Potter, after all those years.

Given the dynamics of emotional vulnerability and manipulative abuse between these two, not only here but throughout their entire relationship, I would suggest that we not take Severus' statement at face value. Yes, I do think he remained devoted, in some degree, to loving and honoring the memory of Lily, and continued to harbor anguish over her death; and no, I don't think he came to absolutely love and adore The Boy Who Lived as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But based upon his reactions in this scene, I do think that he had, by this time, developed the ability to regard Harry as a human being in his own right--an exceedingly annoying, burdensome, and overrated human being, perhaps, but a human being, all the same--and to be genuinely appalled that Dumbledore had been setting up Harry to walk to his death, all in the name of the Greater Good.

In sum, I don't believe that it was literally only love for Lily that motivated Severus to do what was good: I do believe that was the message he wanted to convey to Dumbledore, to deflect attention, in his turn, from one of his own vulnerable points. His shouted "Expecto Patronum!" was a defiant, impulsive act of self-defense in what, despite Dumbledore's outwardly mild manner, was very much a battle of conscience and will between the two men.

Conclusion: Bullying vs. the Categorical Imperative

In the end, Albus Dumbledore proved to be a bully. Expressions of external, overt, physical control are only one tool in the arsenal of a bully. The bully's most effective tool is internal control of the one being bullied: in effect, to condition the targeted person to bully himself or herself.

Bullies tell us we have no choice. Bullies tell us we have no control. Bullies disempower us by convincing us that we are powerless: over ourselves, over our lives, over our fates. Bullies succeed in manipulating us when they blind us to our power within, thereby preventing us from taking hold of and exercising that power.

Rather than empowering Severus to make better choices, choices for the good, Dumbledore used shaming and emotional manipulation to keep Severus in a continual sense of disempowerment, in order to ensure that Severus would continue to be a useful, compliant, trusting and controllable tool in Dumbledore's hands, for Dumbledore's purposes, for Dumbledore's ends.

Severus trusted Dumbledore. Dumbledore exploited that trust. However "good" the intended ends may have been, it still amounts to a fundamental violation of an ethical principle the philosopher Immanuel Kant articulated well: Always treat people as ends in themselves, never merely as means to our own ends.

Dumbledore, in the end, proved to be no better than the man he accused the young Severus Snape of being--a man who cared not who died as long as he got what he wanted--and far worse than the man of conscience that Severus Snape, in such a short lifetime, grew to become.

* * * * * * * * *

  • Applause! I have been unable to reread DH for a number of reasons but one of the primary ones is how obvious Dumbledore's callous disregard for human feeling is. Shudder. I don't care who Dumbledore lusted after, I care about whom he loved and he appeared to love no one.
  • Great essay. Yet JKR persists in telling us how good and great Dumbledore was. I'd like to see her try and argue her case as adroitly as you have yours. AArgh... all angry again now.
  • Very well done!

    I love your opening sentences. And your conclusion, that Dumbledore is a bully, is so true - and yet I had not put it to myself in exactly those words before. HOW can Rowling not see this!? How can she expect us to see Dumbledore as "fundamentally good" and Severus, poor guy, as "deeply horrible"? Next to my other faves, Neville and Luna, he is the only truly good person in these books, IMHO. And he is the only person who actually exhibits moral and emotional growth.

    I, too, can't bear to reread these books, but, based on what you cite here, canon is quite clear. Severus is, indeed, a hero. And Dumbledore is essentially a cult leader. "Bully" is the word. Terrific essay.

  • Very good essay! As opposed to what often feels like most of fandom, I'm not all that fond of the character Severus Snape, but his story touches me nonetheless - exactly for the reasons you've outlined above.

    It is striking how similar he and Harry are in some ways, emphasised by those last chapters where they both die through the scheming of the man who's set both of them up. Dumbledore is indeed a manipulating bastard. (Pardon my language.)
  • opportunistic manipulation of the young man's distress and vulnerability

    Dumbledore's M.O., apparently. How strange that the author's interpretation (and some critic's, as you pointed out), is that Severus' appeal to Dumbledore was a weakness. I agree with you that it took strength and courage to face his greatest bully with an appeal for saving Lily's life.

    That Severus did not alter his course against the wave after wave of personal disappointment and abuse by those in whom he placed his trust is a great testament to his courage. How easily it would have been to NOT protect Harry, especially as the boy never acknowledged Severus' efforts. How terrible that Severus had to witness harry's fawning adoration of Dumbledore, when Severus was truly one of the few people protecting Harry at all costs.

    I need to stop, or I shall weep for Severus the boy, Severus the teen, Severus the man.

    Excellent points and conclusion.
  • Well put, and great catch on Dumbledore's deflection of Snape's accusation. The whole story is like seeing through a looking glass, where right is left and bullies are heroes. The sad thing about Severus is that he is seen through the eyes of someone who claims to have conquered all insecurities and who apparently feels no compassion for those not so quick to find the same solution.

  • (Anonymous)
    Wonderful essay!

    On reading DH, I saw Dumbledore as a marvellously written character, whom we have been led to believe is the paragon of goodness and the preacher of love, until in the grand finale where we are made to discover to our shock (much in the same way we were shocked at the end of PS/SS at the true nature of evil-looking Snape) that he is an abusive manipulator with some Wizarding World equivalent of a personality disorder. There are no words, none, to describe my sheer horror at the author of this story coming out and telling our children that he is supposed to be read as "inherently good." My God.

    Very good points about how Dumbledore started failing Snape's trust since way before he came into his service... It reminds me of my utter shock at discovering that the Shrieking Shack incident came before the OWLs day incident, rather than the other way around. I'd been assuming it went the other way around, as had the Lexicon, apparently, because it wouldn't make much sense that James & Sirius be allowed to bully Severus in such a public manner after the Shack incident. How, I ask, how could Sirius have been made to feel free to set his wand on Severus ever again, after his attempted murder of the boy!?? Apparently whatever disciplinary measures and/or future warnings he got (if any) weren't such that they would make him hesitate, even for a second, about whether or not it would be wise for him to go bullying Severus in the middle of dozens of witnesses. What kind of a school is this, anyway?

    Sorry for the ranting, and thanks for the good read!

  • Wow, excellent essay! I know I've said this before, but I was horrified by Dumbledore's response to Snape's plea to save Lily. The focus of his love may be narrow and self-centered at this point, but it's a step in the right direction, especially for someone like Snape. (I don't think it's very realistic to expect a troubled, neglected boy who fell in with wrong crowd to suddenly turn into a saint.) Like you, I would have expected Dumbledore to recognize this and nurture that impulse, and guide him in the right direction. Wouldn't it have been better if Snape had served the Order wholeheartedly, rather than being blackmailed into it? Ah, but then Dumbledore would not have retained absolute control over Snape.

    And the same people who castigate Snape for only caring about Lily should remember that Mr. Lovegood did essentially the same thing--he protected Luna at the trio's expense. Most readers don't condone his actions, but they do seem to have some sympathy for him, and I've never heard anyone say, "Xenophilius is such a selfish bastard for only caring about Luna!"

    And I do agree that Snape's reply to Dumbledore's question of "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?" cannot be taken solely at face value. Why on earth would he want to expose more vulnerabilities to the man who has just betrayed him?

    The one thing I still wonder about is why Snape remained "Dumbledore's man" even after this betrayal. Because he is more honorable than Dumbledore, and stands by his sworn word even though the one he made the promise to may not be deserving of his loyalty? Or because he's gained a broader sense of morality, beyond protecting Lily's memory, and reluctantly agrees that Voldemort must be stopped at any cost?
  • Brilliant.

    I've felt this way about Dumbles since OOTP. I knew from the moment he told Harry the prophecy that he was a cunning man who would sacrifice anyone.

    He could have told Harry to not trust his visions because they were coming from the Dark Lord and just like how Harry was conscious of them, so was Voldie and that he would soon learn to control those visions and give Harry false visions.

    Did he do that? Hell no.

    I personally think he wanted the Ministry incident to happen and the fact that Sirius, Harry's only guardian who could protect him from Dumbles manipulations, was killed was icing on the cake.

    No one could deny the way Dumbles was taking care of Harry, not anymore.

    It's also funny how he kept Remus away from Harry all his life and then with missions since the end of Harry's 3rd year, making sure he was only sparsely connected to him. So as to not be a big influence on his life.

    I disagree with Snape not coming to care for Harry, I find it hard for a person to repeatedly save a person from harm and death and not come to care for them in some manner.

    Then again I'm a Snarry shipper and I think Snape loved Lily like a crush/best friend manner. ;D

    Loved it.
  • Dumbledore was a "good man" in that he was kind to children (well, the pretty ones anyway), protective of animals (except for "dangerous" ones like Buckbeak), and of course, against large-scale oppression, murder and tyranny.

    Which he decided are best fought by oppression, murder and tyranny on a small scale.

    He'd "do what's right for society" according to some checklist (allow Muggleborns in Hogwarts, no killing/imprisoning people without at least a minimal trial, no stealing large sums of money from individuals, and so on), but damned if he was going to worry about who got hurt in the process.

    He's one of those "society must be protected" men who fails to noticed that "society" is made up of people. The idea that the individual must always be sacrificed for the group denies the individualities that make a society worth having.

    To quote Heinlein, "Men are not potatoes." One is not the same as the next; sometimes, you do sacrifice twenty in the hopes of saving one, because each one matters. (If you're being ethical, those twenty are volunteers for what they know might be a suicide mission.) As we learned from That Other Canon, "sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many."

    I have to wonder if he decided to "protect Draco" from the soul-twisting damage of A.K., when he basically ignored the damage done to Snape in his teen years, because Draco was pretty and popular, unlike Snape, a surly and much-disliked child. Wonder if he didn't seek a better trial for Sirius, with Veritaserum (either time), because Sirius' fate was irrelevant to him. It neither served nor detracted from The Goal: the defeat of Voldemort (another pretty, popular boy in which Albus apparently failed to catch the warning signs of of a selfish, power-hungry tyrant).

    Hmmmm.... maybe someone should do some research about just how many "pretty boys" Dumbledore encouraged and supported, and how many less-than-pretty people he shoves aside for them.
  • (Anonymous)
    "I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter--"

    That sounds to me as a quite good summary of the whole saga somehow...

  • (Anonymous)
    Loved this essay. I particularly appreciated "The Final Betrayal", but all the sections are great.

    Much has been made by detractors of Severus Snape (including, of course, Albus Dumbledore) about the fact that he asked Voldemort only for Lily to be spared.

    Young!Snape's ethics may be deficient (where did he have the opportunity to learn any? Not at Hogwarts, that's for sure), but as you and others have pointed out, being prepared to risk his life for another person is surely a positive sign.

    It's understandable that Dumbledore reacts with hostility to the sight of a young DE. Most of Voldemort's henchmen are scum. But this DE has put himself at risk to protect another person. Shouldn't that indicate to Dumbledore that the young man isn't completely lost to humanity? Instead he makes a very strange remark: "Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?" As if Snape could bargain with Voldemort, and had the power to spare all the Potters if only he cared about them.

    Not to mention, Dumbledore's pose there on the moral high ground would look a lot better if he'd ever reached out to obvious high-risk kids like Snape, or done anything else to prevent Voldemort's people from recruiting hand over fist in his own freaking school. But at least, unlike Snape, young Dumbledore never joined any wannabe evil overlords and plotted with them to conquer the world. OH WAIT.

    All of these implicit challenges Dumbledore neatly evaded answering, immediately shifting the focus back onto Severus and onto one of his points of greatest emotional vulnerability: "But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"

    I might tolerate his callousness a little better if he weren't such a weasel about it. He knows perfectly well that he deserves a major part of Snape's reproaches. Why not man up and admit it? I get the impression that in his mind, Snape isn't worthy to reproach him. Probably only Harry "Sir Galahad" Potter himself would be.

    I agree, too, that by the time this conversation took place, Snape had developed a conscience. For me, the saddest aspect of the whole series is that he dies at the point when he'd not only grown as a human being, but could have been free of both his masters and maybe even his burden of guilt. I mean, what is there for him in the afterlife? Watching James and Lily cuddle?


  • Damn right.
  • Your logic is impressive: so what is wrong with Joanne Rowling that she can't understand that what she actually wrote is NOT what she keeps telling everyone? Quite the opposite.

    Dumbledore is not inherently good; he's manipulative and unjust. He makes unwarranted assumptions, he plots and schemes based on his arrogant prejudices, and blithely takes for granted that he and he alone knows what is best for everyone - the Greater Good. He's charming, I'll give him that - but when necessary, so is Tom Riddle - and his machinations against Riddle keep getting other people hurt and killed. Just because he loses his mind and puts on a ring he KNOWS is cursed, presumably in the hope of resurrecting his sister whose death he caused unintentionally, doesn't make Dumbledore any less of a selfish, inconsiderate bastard. More so, in fact, because it leads him to manipulate Severus Snape - AGAIN - into doing a horrendous, dirty job he doesn't want to do (killing the old man) with no regard for Snape's emotional state or other possible repercussions for Snape.

    I don't want to get any further into a long rant about the old man's failings (or Rowling's), but I do want to say that I agree with the points you've made. Good essay!
  • Great essay! And an excellent summary of AD's many failings as a human being in general and with regards to Severus in particular.

    When seeing the full list of atrocities it's nearly inconceivable that Severus should have felt anything other than disgust and loathing for Dumbledore towards the end... Actually a lot earlier by rights >_
  • Excellent essay! And I'm glad to see someone else giving the lie to the idea that Snape was a 'lost boy' who 'found a home' at Hogwarts. I hated it that after 'The Prince's Tale' Harry never seemed to have any reaction to what Snape had actually shown him of his life and motivations, but did manage to find time to put him into this obviously false pigeonhole.
  • What Can I Add to The Comments But Brava and Thanks!

    Excellent point by point, line by line deconstruction of Dumbledore.
  • I was a bit let down by DH for several reasons, and you've expertly pinpointed the two largest ones - Dumbledore's cold-hearted manipulation, and Snape's belittled suffering and ultimately purposeless death. Dumbledore maintained a stranglehold over Snape's actions, even after the man had passed on.

    Viewing Snape's memories in the Pensieve brought home just how callous and devious Dumbledore could be. I had thought that Dumbledore was possibly the only one who trusted and cared about Snape - now we learn that the relationship was possibly the most toxic of all.

    Some have argued that Snape's love for Lily was selfish and stalker-like, since he could not let go. I believe that Dumbledore kept Snape tied to Lily's memory through guilt and self-blame. If Snape overcame his need for repent, then his puppet would be gone. Dumbledore gave Snape a second chance, but if someone had intervened during his school years, perhaps he would have never wasted the first one.
  • (Anonymous)
    Your essay was absolutely great and you made very good and true points. It's always nice to read something that supports your view of your favourite character, namely Severus Snape. However, I have a few words about Dumbledore.

    While I agree with you that Dumbledore used Severus horribly, in the end of DH he at least seemed to regret the pain he caused. I got this feeling that he thought he was doing what no one else could, basically beating Voldemort in his own game. Much like Severus and spying, although he was manipulated into it.

    There's also the 'desire for power' which Dumbledore said he had. Wasn't manipulating everyone to serve his purposes a form of granting this desire? He refused to take the position in which he could openly have power, thinking he would abuse it. Which, like you pointed out, he sort of did as a Headmaster. I guess he couldn't keep this impulse fully in check.

    So I come to the conclussion Dumbledore wasn't really the model of good. But he wasn't completely evil. Just narrow minded old fool with twinkling eyes, that couldn't see that forest is made of trees.

    PS: Sorry, if I've made some language mistakes. I'm not native English speaker.
  • Great essay!

    Seems I am really late to read this, but you have so clearly written what went through my mind when reading Deathly Hallows... great essay, lots of good points.
  • Snape

    Although I do sort of understand what you are saying about Dumbledore and some of his decisions were definitely Machiavellian this is not the same as being bad. Also Snape is a really dislikable person he is a bully just accept that statement, he bully's children under his care which is fundamentally different from bullying a peer, because of the position of responsibility, he was foul to Harry even when he first met him. This is childish, spiteful and the marks of a very poor teacher. With Lily he thought that dark magic used against an innocent girl was funny, he called his best friend a "Mudblood" publicly they had been friends for five years, she did not immediately brush him off as soon as they got to Hogwarts not being friends anymore with someone who calls you a racist slur, uses dark magic which can be clearly defined as different to hexes and wants to become a member of a group seeking to eliminate you and people like you is a perfectly reasonable course of action. In the shrieking shack scene what is on the line is Sirus and maybe Lupin to having their souls sucked out this is a major over-reaction to a what Remus is correct in stating is a "school boy grudge". We only see a couple of scenes of the interaction between James and Snape all from Snape's point of view. Snape is highly capable and perfectly able to defend himself, that curse that curse he used on James and in the Half-blood prince secptumsensa which I can't spell was labeled "for enemies".
  • Finally!

    Finally! I'm so glad that I found something that articulated exactly why the direction the whole series took bothered me so much. I've always liked Snape as I've always liked prickly or unlikeable characters. They always seem more real and more understandable than the hero who is sometimes almost saint-like. I'm glad I'm not the only person who was kind of shocked to hear Rowling characterize Dumbledore as basically the epitome of good. While I wouldn't call him an evil character, I'd hardly think of him as role model. I was disappointed by the failure to address issues like the treatment of children like Snape, who unlike Harry is not too pleasant, and the house system, which seems to set up one house as inherently bad. I always felt a disconnect with how she drove home the message of not being prejudiced, but then Snape is totally shafted. Given that real life is full of people like Snape, people who have never really gotten a fair start and who are quite unpleasant, though not bad people, it seems like a poor example for children. It's like saying don't be mean to people like that, but don't go out of your way to empathize or in any way give then one good, honest chance. Like it just seems to leave him in limbo, which to me just mirrored how society always treat people like that. We are led to pity him, which is shabby replacement for respect. Basic respect might have gone a long way with him.
  • This was a very good article. But I disagree on one aspect:

    "It is clear that, ultimately, he did not truly care about the welfare of Harry; he saw Harry, as he saw Severus and perhaps all other people, as a pawn in his game to defeat Voldemort and prove himself the victor."

    I believe that Dumbledore grew to care about Harry very much. But defeating Voldemort mattered more to him.
  • sardoneia

    I like to think that Dumbledore held a very specific kind of disdain for Snape. He envies him, I'd argue.

    Dumbledore envies Snape:

    Both Dumbledore and Snape only fell in love only once in their lifes, and this love, although in both cases unrequited, turned their lifes around for them. However,
    their experiences go off in reverse:

    Dumbledore fell in love with a megalomaniac psychopath, and in doing so compromised his inherent goodness. Ironically, he, as the advocat for love in the whole series, saw his own love as a weakness that caused him to betray himself.

    Snape fell in love with Lily, and it is his love for her that he finally grew to become the person he wasn't allowed to become under all the abuse he has suffered.
    His love was a source of strength.
  • sardoneia

    I like to think that Dumbledore held a very specific kind of disdain for Snape. He envies him, I'd argue.

    Both Dumbledore and Snape only fell in love only once in their lifes, and this love, although in both cases unrequited, turned their lifes around for them. However,
    their experiences go off in reverse:

    Dumbledore fell in love with a megalomaniac psychopath, and in doing so compromised his inherent goodness. Ironically, he, as the advocat for love in the whole series, saw his own love as a weakness that caused him to betray himself.

    Snape fell in love with Lily, and it is his love for her that he finally grew to become the person he wasn't allowed to become under all the abuse he has suffered.
    His love was a source of strength.
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