The Prince's Tale

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Chapter 33 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Prince's Tale← Chapter 32 | Chapter 34 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

After witnessing Severus Snape's death, Harry hears Lord Voldemort's magically amplified voice, speaking to everyone at Hogwarts, and specifically to Harry, giving him one hour to surrender and threatening to kill everyone if he fails to comply. Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts through the tunnel, and Ron and Hermione enter the Great Hall, where the defenders are regrouping and the many wounded and dead lie. Harry sees Fred, Lupin and Tonks among the deceased. Unable to bear the sight, Harry runs to the Headmaster's office, where all the portraits stand empty, and finds Dumbledore's Pensieve.

Harry pours Snape's memories into the Pensieve, and, hoping to briefly escape his own mind, enters the memories. He finds himself in a playground. A young, small boy, whom Harry recognizes as Snape, is watching two girls, Petunia and Lily Evans, from behind a small bush. After Lily shows some strange tricks to her older sister, unaware she is performing magic, Snape emerges and informs Lily that she is a witch and derides Petunia as a Muggle. Insulted at being called a witch, Lily follows her indignant sister and goes away, leaving Snape bitterly disappointed. It is apparent he was planning this for a while and it all went wrong.

The scene dissolves and reforms into a new one. Snape is telling Lily about Hogwarts and magic, including Azkaban and the Dementors. When Lily inquires about Snape's parents, he says that they are still arguing, revealing Snape's unhappy home life. When Petunia appears and insults Snape, a tree branch above breaks and falls on her. Accusing Snape of breaking the branch, Lily goes away, leaving him miserable and confused.

The scene changes into a different memory. Snape is standing on Platform Nine and Three Quarters next to a thin, sour-looking woman whom Harry recognizes as Snape's mother, Eileen Prince. Snape is staring at Lily's family. Petunia and Lily are arguing. Petunia calls Lily a freak for being a witch, and Lily retorts that Petunia had not thought so when she wrote to Professor Dumbledore, asking for admission to the school. An embarrassed Petunia, realizing that Lily and Snape read her letter, insults them, and they part on bad terms.

The scene reforms once more, and inside the Hogwarts Express, Snape finds a compartment with Lily and two boys. She is upset over her sister's hurtful words. Snape begins to say that Petunia is only a Muggle but instead grandly announces they are setting off for Hogwarts. When he mentions she had better be in Slytherin, one of the boys, the young James Potter, scornfully remarks to his friend, Sirius Black that he would rather leave than be in Slytherin, and prefers Gryffindor. Sirius points out that his entire family have been in Slytherin. Snape engages in a little battle of words with both Sirius and James, until an indignant Lily asks Snape to follow her to different compartment.

And the scene dissolves again into Hogwarts' Great Hall during the House sorting ceremony. Lily is sorted into Gryffindor, much to Snape's dismay. Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter are also sorted into Gryffindor, joining Sirius Black. Finally, Snape is sorted into Slytherin. At the Slytherin table, he receives a pat on the back from a Prefect, Lucius Malfoy.

The next scene depicts Lily and Snape arguing. Lily says they are still friends, though she detests whom Snape hangs out with, naming Avery and Mulciber specifically. Snape counters by mentioning the trouble James Potter and his friends cause and hints that Lupin is a Werewolf. The fight is resolved and Snape is satisfied when Lily criticizes James as an "arrogant toerag."

The scene switches for the sixth time and is the same memory Harry saw before when he peeked into Snape's Pensieve during their Occlumency lessons. Harry keeps his distance somewhat, not caring to witness this memory again. It ends when he hears Snape shouting "Mudblood" at Lily.

The scene changes to night time in front of the Gryffindor Tower. Snape is remorseful for calling Lily a Mudblood and had threatened to sleep outside the entrance had she not come to see him. Despite his deep, desperate apologies, the angry Lily is fed up with Snape and will not forgive him, and disapproves of him having friends with Death Eater ambitions. She leaves him and the scene dissolves.

The scene takes longer to reform and now becomes a hilltop in the darkness. The adult Snape is panting and pacing and appears to be waiting for something. A jet of white light flies through the air and Snape, disarmed, drops to his knees. Dumbledore asks what message he has brought from Lord Voldemort. Snape replies with a request from himself. He admits he relayed everything he heard of the prophecy from Trelawney to Voldemort, and that Voldemort believes the chosen child is Lily's son. He reveals that Voldemort plans to hunt down and kill the entire family. Dumbledore is disgusted that Snape has asked Voldemort to spare only Lily's life without regard for her husband and son. Ashamed at being rebuked, Snape then pleads with Dumbledore to hide the entire family. Surprising Snape, Dumbledore asks him what he will give in return. After a long moment, Snape replies, "Anything."

The scene switches to Dumbledore's office. Snape, grief-stricken, is slumped in a chair with a grim-looking Dumbledore standing over him. Snape asks why Dumbledore failed to keep Lily and her family safe. Dumbledore replies that they put their faith in the wrong person, much as Snape had in trusting Voldemort to spare Lily's life. He says that her son, Harry, survived. Snape wishes he were dead with Lily, and Dumbledore tells him that if he truly loved Lily, he will help protect Harry when Voldemort returns. Snape reluctantly agrees. He makes Dumbledore promise never to tell anyone that he is protecting James Potter's son, ever.

The scene shifts again and Snape is criticizing Harry to Dumbledore, saying he is like James Potter. Dumbledore replies that other teachers report Harry to be a modest, likable, and reasonably talented boy. He asks Snape to keep an eye on Professor Quirrell.

With a whirl of color everything changes again and Snape and Dumbledore are now standing in the entrance hall as the Yule Ball is ending. Snape tells Dumbledore that Karkaroff's Mark is becoming darker as well and that he plans on fleeing if the Mark burns. When Dumbledore asks if Snape is tempted to do the same, Snape denies it and says he is not a coward. Dumbledore then muses that perhaps students are Sorted too soon, leaving Snape shocked.

The scene dissolves for the twelfth time and reforms into the headmaster's office again. Dumbledore is semiconscious, his right hand blackened and dangling over the side of the desk. Snape is muttering incantations and pouring a golden liquid down Dumbledore's throat. When Dumbledore regains consciousness, Snape asks why Dumbledore even tried on the ring. Dumbledore says he was a fool. Marvolo Gaunt's ring lies on the desk, cracked, with the Sword of Gryffindor next to it. Snape says it is a miracle he got here and that the curse is extraordinary powerful. Snape believes Dumbledore may only have a year to live since all he can do is contain the curse, not stop it. Dumbledore replies that this makes things much easier to decide and begins discussing Voldemort's plan involving Draco Malfoy killing Dumbledore. Snape says it is only to punish the Malfoys and that Draco is expected to fail. Dumbledore correctly guesses that when Malfoy fails, Voldemort wants Snape to finish Dumbledore off, saying that Voldemort feels he will soon not need a spy at Hogwarts anymore, as it will be under his control. Dumbledore makes Snape promise to watch over the students in that event, and to be the one to kill him (Dumbledore). Snape questions this and Dumbledore says it would be helping an old man die. He would rather die on his own terms at the hands of Snape than foes like Death Eaters Bellatrix and Fenrir Greyback. Snape reluctantly agrees and the scene ends.

In the next scene, Snape and Dumbledore are strolling through the castle grounds at night. Snape asks what Dumbledore has been doing with Harry all these evenings alone, and Dumbledore replies that he has information he must give to Harry before it is too late. Snape challenges Dumbledore as to why he is not entrusted with the same information, to which Dumbledore replies that he does not like to keep all his secrets in one basket. They get into a row about Snape having to be a double agent on Dumbledore's orders and that Harry is no more trustworthy than Snape. Dumbledore begins to go on with his plan to Snape, however, Snape is angry that Dumbledore refuses to tell him what he has told Harry and threatens that he has changed his mind about killing Dumbledore. Dumbledore reminds him that he gave him his word and that he is also to keep an eye on Draco. Snape looks unsatisfied so Dumbledore invites him to his office that night.

The scene shifts to Dumbledore's office. Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry must not know what he has to do until the final moment, and that after Dumbledore's death, there will come a time when Voldemort fears for Nagini's life. He instructs Snape that, if there is ever a time when Voldemort keeps Nagini magically protected and always in his sight, Snape must then tell Harry that he is a seventh Horcrux, inadvertently created by Voldemort, and that Harry must die in order for Voldemort to be killed. Snape feels tricked, upset that Dumbledore made him protect Lily's son only to have him die. Dumbledore asks if Snape has grown to care for Harry, but Snape spurns that possibility and casts his Patronus, a silver-white doe. Dumbledore, shocked, asks Snape, "After all this time?", to which Snape says, "Always."

The scene switches to Snape talking to Dumbledore's portrait. Dumbledore says Snape must give Voldemort the correct date of Harry's departure if Voldemort is to trust Snape. Snape is also to suggest the Potter decoys using Polyjuice potion to Mundungus so that Harry is indeed safe.

The scene shifts to Snape face-to-face with Mundungus in a tavern. Snape confunds him so he will suggest using multiple Potters, and to forget seeing Snape or that he got the idea from him.

The scene shifts yet again, to Snape gliding on a broomstick at night. Up ahead are Lupin and George, disguised as Harry. Snape casts Sectumsempra at a Death Eater to prevent him from Cursing Lupin, but the spell misses and hits George instead, severing his ear.

The scene shifts again to Sirius's room at Grimmauld Place. Snape is weeping as he reads Lily's letter to Sirius. He takes the second page containing Lily's signature, and tears out her image from the picture of her and Harry, then leaves.

The scene shifts again and Snape is in the headmaster's office. Phineas Nigellus' portrait says Hermione and Harry are in the Forest of Dean. Dumbledore's portrait, appearing happy, tells Snape to plant the sword of Gryffindor there without being seen. Snape says he has a plan, removes the Sword from behind Dumbledore's portrait, and leaves.

Harry returns to himself, lying on the carpet in the same room he just saw Snape leaving.

Analysis[edit]

It has been mentioned that Rowling is highly skilled at what is called the "set-up and pay-off" writing style. Here, we see a classic example. The preceding six books have created a long set-up, from as far back as the first novel when Snape was introduced, and on through the entire series as the conflict within Snape is repeatedly shown. While readers accept Harry's belief in Snape's untrustworthiness, evidence shows that Snape was protecting Harry since the first book. Here, we have the pay-off: it is revealed that Snape has been among Harry's staunchest protectors, despite his hating Harry's father, because he made a promise out of his love for Harry's mother.

Snape's constant inner conflicts have helped make him an intriguing character. His love for Lily never faded, and, unknown to Harry, that is why Snape always protected him. Snape's seeming malice towards Harry actually resulted from Snape's lingering hatred and resentment towards James Potter; Harry was merely an unfortunate reminder and a convenient target. As Snape was about to die, he asked to gaze into Harry's eyes, presumably because they looked just like Lily's, something Harry has been repeatedly reminded of.

We additionally learn why Petunia despised Lily and, by extension, Lily's son Harry. Because she was born without any magical ability, Petunia hated magic and everything associated with the Wizarding realm. As Petunia had actually requested permission to attend Hogwarts, and had been declined, it is clear that her rejecting the magical world is simple jealousy and retaliation for it never accepting her, an all-too-human characteristic. We can surmise that she wed Vernon Dursley because he possessed a so-very-stolid non-magical nature, and it is clear that the ill-treatment she inflicted on Harry was part and parcel of those same feelings.

Judging by the above, it can be seen that Snape and Petunia shared certain similarities in their personalities. Both were denied what they most desperately wanted, and each manifested their jealousy and disappointment as hatred toward Harry. In Petunia's case, her hatred was extended from her envy over her sister's magical abilities, while Snape was consumed with spite for James Potter and his pain over losing Lily. Petunia could never ever set aside these feelings and never ceased to hate Harry throughout his life. Snape, who also remained bitter about James Potter, carried forward this bitterness towards James's son Harry; this was not helped by Harry's own dislike and disrespect for Snape himself. However, Snape's outward attitude towards Harry also was a part of his mask which helped him remain trusted by Voldemort, who would have killed Snape instantly if he was seen to be protecting Harry.

There are many other revelations, large and small. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Petunia Dursley says, "I heard – that awful boy – telling her about them – years ago." "Her" is of course Lily, her sister, and "them" refers to the Dementors, whom Petunia has just identified as the guards of Azkaban. It is interesting to note that "that awful boy" was actually Severus Snape. Knowing Petunia, we expected this to refer to James Potter.

Snape's memories show something else unexpected. Previously, Harry had seen the memory after the Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. test in a chapter called "Snape's Worst Memory." Considering the extreme humiliation Snape suffers at James Potter's hands, that would seem sufficient reason for it being his "worst memory." However, knowing Snape's strong feelings for Lily, the memory acquires a different meaning: it is the worst because one word spoken in it forever ended his friendship with Lily Evans, who later married James Potter and gave birth to Harry.

While the reason is never explicitly given, it is clear that when Dumbledore, watching the students return from the Yule Ball, remarks that perhaps the students are Sorted too soon, Snape is shocked at the thought that his true place at Hogwarts as a boy, and his entire later life, could have been different had the Sorting been delayed until he better understood his own desires.

The conversation between Snape and Dumbledore on the castle grounds, appearing as Snape's fourteenth memory, is one we have heard pieces of before. Apparently this discussion took place the previous year, just before Ron's rather disastrous birthday. It was partially overheard by Hagrid, who, with his usual inability to keep a secret, passed on the bits he overheard to Harry and Hermione.

The following conversation, in Dumbledore's office, turns out to perhaps one of the most important revelations of the entire series. Dumbledore finally explains to Snape the reason why Harry has a connection with Voldemort, why Harry can see Voldemort's mind (and vice versa), and why Harry can speak to snakes. It turns out a part of Voldemort's soul attached to Harry when the curse rebounded, and it lived inside him ever since. Harry was the Horcrux that Voldemort did not intend to make, and unless Harry was killed, Voldemort would not be able to die. Snape is horrified upon learning about this, and shows a side of his character that we hadn't seen till now. He accuses Dumbledore of manipulating Harry's life, to raise him and protect him so that at the proper time Harry must voluntarily seek Voldemort and allow himself to be killed. When Dumbledore sees that Snape is so angry that Harry must die, he asks if Snape had grown to care about Harry. We learn that Snape is still in love with Lily, performing a Patronus which takes the shape of a doe, which we believe, and Dumbledore recognizes, is somehow reminiscent of Lily. From the shape of Snape's Patronus, the reader recognizes that it was actually Snape who placed the Sword of Gryffindor in the forest and guided Harry towards it; this is of course confirmed by the final scene in Snape's memories.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. How was Harry able to get into the Headmaster's office, which needs a password to enter?
  2. Based on what he has just learned, what might Harry do next?

Further Study[edit]

  1. How will Harry, who distrusted and hated Snape, cope with the reality that Snape was loyal to Dumbledore and had protected Harry, always at great peril to himself?
  2. Is it possible that Lily could have ever felt more than friendship for Snape? Could she have felt more for Snape than for James?
  3. Why and how did Lily, who initially despised James Potter, fall in love with him?
  4. Why did Dumbledore call Harry's mother "Lily Evans" rather than "Lily Potter" when trying to convince Snape to switch sides? This is after Lily had married James Potter and shortly before Harry is born.
  5. Now that Harry knows the reason for Aunt Petunia's bitterness and resentment towards him, is it likely to change their relationship? Explain.

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

It is interesting to note that of those around him, Dumbledore most often confided in Snape, whereas up until this chapter, Minerva McGonagall had always appeared to be his closest confidante. Before, Snape always seemed on the periphery and his true allegiance questionable. Now it is revealed that Dumbledore and Snape enjoyed a close relationship, forged by a common quest. When others asked why he trusted Snape, Dumbledore always alluded to a nebulous event, but never elaborated. Now, not only do we see what he was referring to—Snape's undying and unrequited love for Lily—but also why Dumbledore refused to identify it: Snape extracted that promise from him. Finally, we understand why Dumbledore trusted Snape implicitly, and vice versa, and our, and Harry's, faith in Dumbledore is reaffirmed.

Also noteworthy is that this chapter fully explains why Snape was so eager to see Sirius Black turned over to the Dementors, and why he retained his hatred for Sirius even after both realized they were on the same side. Sirius Black had been framed as an accessory to Lily's murder. The Order of the Phoenix shared the Ministry belief that Sirius betrayed Lily and James. Snape wanted revenge on Sirius for his lost love's murder. Even after Sirius' innocence was established, Snape continued to hate Sirius, though his lingering resentment over their antagonistic schooldays at Hogwarts likely also fueled his emotions. Snape may also have blamed Sirius for allowing James to trust Peter Pettigrew, so inadvertently causing Lily's death.

The key item that Harry takes away from this is the message that Dumbledore had required Snape to pass on to Harry: that Harry must allow himself to be killed in order that the last Horcrux be destroyed. It is, of course, critical to the story that Snape provide this entire set of memories to Harry. Snape had no time, and was wise enough to recognize Harry's deep distrust of Snape and his motives. Even if he had more time, Snape knew that he would be unlikely to convince Harry that Dumbledore wanted Harry to subject himself to Voldemort. Providing Snape's entire back story with Harry and his parents, in a way that was entirely trustworthy, no matter how uncomplimentary to Snape, is the only way that Harry would be able to accept the truth of Snape's allegiance. In fact, given Snape's ability as an Occlumens, it is only with Snape being in extremis that Harry is likely to accept these memories as being true. If Snape had not been in the final moments of his life, Harry would likely have distrusted Snape's memories as possibly being edited.

We must be careful about the wording here, of course; note that while Snape refers to the soul shard as a Horcrux, Dumbledore does not. This, it turns out, is critical to Harry's future; a Horcrux is magically bound to its container, and the container must be destroyed in order to destroy the Horcrux. The soul shard within Harry, while acting as a Horcrux in that it would anchor Voldemort's flayed soul to the earth, is not bound to Harry, but is simply clinging to him, and can be separated from Harry and destroyed by means that are less destructive to Harry.

However, Harry is too dismayed by the other implications of this conversation to discern such fine points; he has just learned that in order to finally defeat Voldemort, Harry must allow Voldemort to kill him. Given Voldemort's announcement at this chapter's beginning, Harry believes that the same magic that protected him after Lily's death may be invoked by his own death to protect Hogwarts' defenders from Voldemort. Even so, the awareness that he must allow Voldemort to murder him is almost more than he can bear.

While Harry is currently far too occupied with current events to be able to deal with the major revelations in this chapter, we will see that he does accept that Snape had been acting to protect him. In the Epilogue, we will learn that Harry had named his second son Albus Severus, after two headmasters of Hogwarts, and that he felt the one from Slytherin was one of the bravest men he had ever met.