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Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection — Potterverse People Essay: His Heart Belongs to DADA?
Potterverse People

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

It is common knowledge that Professor Snape wanted the DADA position.

Common knowledge, like public opinion, or the law, is sometimes an ass. But in this case, if common knowledge is an ass it is one that comes heavily laden with a load of double-bluff. For, according to the Ministry records, as stated by Madam Dolores Umbridge, Snape apparently really did want the DADA position. He had applied for that position originally, and had regularly re-applied over his fourteen years on the Hogwarts staff. Eventually he got it.


Well, yes, one must keep up appearances, mustn’t one?

But, if that was the case: why did Cornelius Fudge not appoint Snape to the position when Dumbledore was “unable” to find another applicant in 5th year?

Did Snape, by some oversight “forget” to apply for the DADA position that particular year? Or was he warned off from it by Malfoy, whose Master had other plans?

Or was he perhaps warned off of it by Dumbledore, who wanted a Ministry shill sent, in hopes that he would be able to get this new conflict with the Ministry raised and settled as quickly as possible, before Voldemort managed to regroup his forces?

Or did Albus simply refuse Snape’s application as usual and let the Ministry do its worst?

For that matter, my fellow traveler Swythyv raised the question of whether Dumbledore had actually wanted to advance his agenda, give Snape the DADA post, and bring Slughorn back from retirement as soon as Tom managed his return at the end of Year 4, and Sluggy thwarted Albus’s plans by doing a bolt, and could not be found in time?

And while we are on the subject; had Snape shot himself in the foot by revealing his Dark Mark to Cornelius Fudge at the end of Year 4?

If that was the case, why was he not removed from the staff altogether? Was this also the hand of Lucius Malfoy at work?

Well, maybe. But what is more likely is that when Cornelius Fudge burst into the DMLE the next morning, demanding Snape’s arrest as a DE, Amelia Bones looked up Snape’s file (you know there is one) and informed Fudge that Snape was one of their own side’s undercover agents, and to stop being so silly.

• • • •

Or did Snape shoot himself in the foot at all?

Conversely, he may have intended to do exactly what he did do, in the service of some form of double-bluff that we were never let in on. After all, given that to reveal his Dark mark at just that point seems, perversely, to have lulled the readers’ suspicions of him more than otherwise, it is possible that it had the same effect upon enough of his witnesses to be a risk worth taking. For he did not just reveal himself as a former Death Eater in that demonstration; he revealed himself as a spy. Their own spy. Which would have been confirmed by the first glance into his sealed file in the DMLE (and do not try to convince me that there isn’t one. Of course there is one).

He also gave himself an alibi. If he was standing in the Hogwarts Hospital wing at the side of Albus Dumbledore, then he obviously wasn’t off meeting with Dark Lords in unidentified cemeteries who-knows-where, as Potter is claiming, is he?

• • • •

But wait, there’s more.

Post-HBP we now also know that the DADA position really is cursed. And it was Voldemort who cursed it.

So, given that the post is cursed, and Voldemort knows it is cursed, and Snape has now tacitly claimed openly right there on the page that it was Voldemort who ordered him to take a job at Hogwarts as a spy, and according to Dolores’s records, he first applied for the DADA position, you have to ask; why would Voldemort order his own agent to take a cursed position which will limit his period of usefulness at the school to one year only?

(For that matter, why did he send Amycus Carrow to take the position? Was Carrow in disgrace? Or just expendable?)

Voldemort certainly couldn’t have anticipated that he was going to be soundly defeated before Snape’s first (and only?) year at Hogwarts was even decently underway. And the manner in which we are given to conclude that he had been conducting his reign of terror toward the end of VoldWar I, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to depend upon his campaign to overturn the legitimate wizarding government and bring the whole thing down into anarchy to be accomplished in no more than one additional year. Nor, looking at matters from this end of the series, can we be altogether sure that he necessarily even wanted it to be. He was stringing the whole thing out as long as he could, since creating mayhem and panic on all sides seems to have been the whole point..

So what gives?

Did Tom order Snape to take the DADA position or not?

Snape was definitely ordered to take a post at the school. I think we can probably take that much as a given. Snape tells us as much. And even if he hadn’t told us so, Snape cannot have taken any position at the school before Voldemort’s fall without his knowledge, and it is far easier to assume it was on his orders, than to float the theory that it was Snape’s own bright idea presented after the fact as a sort of;“Master, guess what!” moment after he’d secured the position. Voldemort isn’t the sort of leader who much appreciates that level of initiative on the part of his followers. Neither, for that matter, is Albus.

But it isn’t clear that he ordered Snape to apply for the DADA post. Snape may have just applied for that post because it was the most likely post to be vacant.

Which raises the question of whether anyone bothered to inform Snape that the position really was cursed.

On reflection, I think Albus might have. For that matter, it’s not impossible that both of Snape’s masters had filled him in on that. But I still tend to doubt Voldemort would have been so forthcoming. And I’m no longer altogether sure about Albus.

Of course if my own speculation had been correct, and Snape had gone into the DEs undercover, he might have already known about it. In that case, Albus might have shown him the Pensieve presentation of the Life and Times of Tom Marvolo Riddle, just as he showed it to Harry. Sans the Slughorn memory, of course. And with a translation from the Parseltongue.

Snape is not unobservant. That post has been cursed since well before Snape started his own schooling at Hogwarts; he must have registered that none of the teachers in his day lasted above a year. The rumors that it is jinxed have been floating round the school for much longer than Harry’s been there. Snape would have known to ask.

It isn’t hard to work out a possible explanation for why Voldemort might not have informed him, of course. But not a particularly nice one. Nothing to do with Tom Riddle is ever particularly nice.

The first probability, of course, is that whatever he sent Snape into the school to accomplish was something that they both believed could be accomplished in under a year.

The second probability is that Tom considered Snape expendable.

A third is that Snape was uniquely qualified to perform a particular task.

Or, perhaps all three. Voldemort does not seem to have told his followers about the existence of a Prophecy concerning himself until the year of OotP, after his return, when retrieving the record of that Prophecy suddenly became his primary objective. I can’t really blame him for not sharing that information. Given the caliber of his followers, he wouldn’t want to be telling them about Prophecies concerning his downfall and giving them ideas about a future time that he might not be in charge. After all, he’s the invincible Dark Lord Voldemort. Neither successors nor challengers are required, thank you very much.

But Snape already knew there was a Prophecy. He was the one who had reported it to Voldemort in the first place. Isolating Snape where he wouldn’t be likely to pass that information to anyone else might have looked like a good idea to Tom. For that matter, given that he’d overheard it at a job interview between Dumbledore and Trelawney, perhaps he was under orders to try to find out the rest of it if he could. As well as, perhaps, to make a list of all the magical births to have been recorded in the year following the Prophecy.

And if the curse on the DADA position got him permanently, then that’s one fewer person who knows about any such Prophecy, isn’t it?

• • • •

And for the hopeful sorts who avow that if Snape had gotten the DADA position then Voldemort would have “lifted” the curse; horsefeathers.

He didn’t lift the curse for Crouch, his “most loyal servant”.

He didn’t lift the curse for Quirrell, when he was on-site riding Quirrell.

I don’t think he could lift that curse, once he put it in place.

In fact, Rowling informs us (off canon, admittedly, so our acceptance is optional) that the curse only ended when Tom was finally, sincerely, dead.

After all, he wasn’t likely to use any method of cursing it that Dumbledore could counter. Which means he probably couldn’t counter it himself either. I suspect it was as unblockable as an AK. Or could only be canceled by means that no one with a sound moral compass would be willing to use.

Or perhaps he directly tied it to Albus Dumbledore’s tenure as Headmaster, That plays too. That might have been a bit of luck for Amycus Carrow, anyway.

After all, we were led to believe that Tom eventually intended to be running that castle himself. He would hardly want one of his own curses running about loose in it. Particularly not one that couldn’t be canceled. He may have just intended to eliminate the DADA class altogether once he openly took the place over. And indeed I gather that DADA had been replaced by an outright Dark Arts class in the year of Snape’s Headmastership.

Indeed, the fact that the curse turned out to still be in place at the end of the school year in June of ’82 may be part of what convinced Albus that Tom wasn’t really dead.

And yet, the curse itself does not seem to show any signs of serving Lord Voldemort’s interests. Quite the opposite, if anything. It almost seems to be calibrated to do its greatest damage to those who are the greatest threat to Hogwarts. It was the agents which Voldemort had placed there himself (apart from Snape) who were the ones most deeply “bitten” by it.

I mean, look at that track record during Harry’s time in the school.

Year 1 & Year 4: the DADA instructor was Voldemort and/or one of his agents. The result? Death and worse.

Year 2 & Year 5: The DADA instructor was an unaffiliated outsider. Result? Both were “hoist on their own petard.” Both brought to grief through the defects of their own characters. Mental, emotional, or physical damage of varying degree.

Year 3 & Year 6: The DADA instructor was one of Dumbledore’s agents. Result? Exposure, loss of reputation. Both driven from the school, without permanent or long-lasting injury. They both still had any problems that they brought with them, but they took no significant (additional) physical or mental damage from that posting, whatsoever.

That’s hardly the way you would expect the curse to go if it were Lord Voldemort driving it. Evidently the spell is operating on automatic. I don’t know how else one would account for it.

Although if my suspicions regarding the nature of the Dark Arts is correct, in that they are fueled by the powers of Chaos, then we may have a clue.

An awful lot of the Dark = evil arguments loose their teeth once you apply that reading. You need to learn to defend yourself from falling prey to chaos. Particularly if you are able to channel magic. Because if you don’t you are gong to do an appalling amount of damage to yourself and everyone around you when it decides to use you. And if you get too close to it, it will. It is not a tame magic.

So any wizard who IS committed to controlling chaotic energies, even a Dark wizard like Snape (yes, Snape is a Dark wizard. That’s much of the point of Snape) is hardly going to be automatically disqualified from the post, unless there is something else going on. Like that jinx, which seems to consist of the fairly devilish trick of focusing the energies that the instructor of the class is forced to invoke in order to teach his students a defense from them, and turning them against the instructor.

• • • •

But the fact is that the curse on the DADA position couldn’t be counted on to “get” Snape permanently. None of the DADA Professors we’ve ever seen have lasted above a year (indeed we’ve never seen one completely finish out the year), but we don’t know of anyone other than Quirrell who actually died on the job. And you’d think if Tom was just sending Snape in to spy, he’d want his spy in a more protected position, wouldn’t you? How much spying can you get done in a year?

Ergo: if he told Snape to take the DADA post he wasn’t just sending Snape in as a general spy. He had a specific mission for him. One that he expected could be accomplished within a single year.

Like the one he gave Draco Malfoy.

In fact, I very much suspected that it may have been the same mission that he later gave Draco Malfoy. And what is more, I still think so.

The big difference was that Snape was told to await Tom’s orders before setting the assassination of Albus Dumbledore into motion. And those orders would not have come until after Voldemort had taken care of this pesky child of the Prophecy. Even after Tom’s physical return, those orders never came.

Instead, Voldemort revoked them altogether, and gave the assignment to Malfoy, only instructing Snape to keep out of the way.

And speaking of the Malfoys; according to Albus, Voldemort now appears to have entrusted the Diary to Lucius Malfoy at very much *exactly* the same time he sent Snape into Hogwarts to “spy”. I don’t think that was a coincidence, either. I’m not sure I want to even try to contemplate what was on the menu for the school once Voldemort succeeded in killing little Harry Potter and completing his planned set of Horcruxes.

But, I do suspect that Tom isn’t likely to have put one of his Horcruxes, or at any rate not that one, into someone else’s hands unless he was getting ready to deploy it.

Was the Diary supposed to pass from Malfoy, to Snape, to some expendable child in the school, and thereby raise some havoc on Dumbledore’s turf? With Dumbledore’s murder to be accomplished under cover of the resulting uproar, and the school closed as a result? It’s definitely a possibility.

We know Tom wanted the castle.

Back then, he may not have wanted the school.

• • • •

From Dumbledore’s end of the equation, once the Dark Lord was no longer a clear and present danger, he needed eyes and ears inside what was left of the Dark Lord’s organization. Lucius Malfoy isn’t quite as much of a threat as he no doubt thinks he is, particularly after being publicly outed and kept on a short leash by his own father, but he isn’t a safe man to overlook. (ETA: of course Rowling doesn’t necessarily see the story from Dumbledore’s end of the equation. In her mind’s eye the whole universe was just marking time until the it could start revolving around Harry.)

Besides, “officially” it was probably the Malfoys who got Snape his job, and Lucius probably would have wanted him to stay on board and pass him word on what Albus was up to, too.

And, while we’re on the subject of the cursed DADA position: why not simply discontinue the class and replace it with a class in “Magical Self Defense” decades ago — which would include the sort of basic “Heath and Safety” instruction which is a required course in most secondary schools anyway. In addition to defense against the Dark Arts, and the information on dealing with or avoiding Dark Creatures which the class already covers. For such an allegedly clever man Albus Dumbledore seems wonderfully deficient in common sense.

Or maybe he decided to leave the jinx in place in order that Tom Riddle wouldn’t attempt to replace it with something worse.

Or, as I suggest above, it was clever and twisty enough that he couldn’t get rid of it any more than he could get rid of Peeves.

It should also be noted, that in DADA the Marauders’ (and Snape’s) cohort seems to have been rather better served than Harry’s. Nonverbal magic had clearly already been introduced to them, and possibly expected of them before 6th year. Not only did the Pensieve junket get played out with both Snape and James casting spells nonverbally, but the notation “(nvbl)” which accompanied the incantation for Levicorpus isn’t likely to have meant anything to a student who was still unaware of this form of magic.

It was also interesting to note that Hermione, even despite the fine collection of reference books on the subject of Magical Defense provided by the Room of Requirement, to the D.A. in 5th year also seems never to have encountered what now appears to be such a fundamental form of spell-casting (given that once a student embarks upon NEWT-level studies, it is required not just in DADA, but in Charms and Transfiguration as well). And, considering her performance in the DoM of silencing, rather than stunning, one of the DEs and getting herself soundly cursed in response, clearly she had never encountered it, which now seems decidedly peculiar, and smells strongly of “idiot plot” device. (Especially since nonverbal spellcasting turns out to have summarily dropped after HBP and everyone in DHs was screaming out their spells again, as if they were Firsties.)

And Snape, who was left to clean up the mess (10 different Potions to heal the damage), rubbed her nose in the fact by making certain that nonverbal magic was the very first lesson he gave the kids when he finally did get the DADA position!

• • • •

Despite the fact that it was almost certainly the hand of Lucius Malfoy at work that sent Dolores Umbridge to Hogwarts in Year 5, it is still unclear whether the point was to encourage her to displace Dumbledore, or merely to get her out of the way after her stunt of sending dementors after Harry Potter without authorization.

— Although it does belatedly occur to me that it would have been much easier to have lured Harry into the Ministry to retrieve the Prophecy record if he had been expelled, and wandless, and was either living in London with his godfather or in Surrey with the Dursleys, rather than at school in Scotland. Can we be altogether certain that the dementor stunt was really Dolores’s own idea?

On the other hand: Umbridge is much quicker on the uptake than Fudge when it comes to smelling out a possible threat, even if she is incompetent about dealing with one. It might very well have been her own idea.

Umbridge also had what, to me, looked an awful lot like a personal axe to grind against Dumbledore and his perceived ideals, and a lot to gain by removing Fudge from Dumbledore’s influence. Between she and Lucius Malfoy, they had kept Fudge surrounded for the previous year or more. Percy Weasley, a proven, and highly competent dupe, had also been reeled in to continue the good work. And we still aren’t altogether sure just what the backstory is regarding that particular decision, from any of the participants’ point of view.

And, it is, indeed, a very real possibility that Snape had already been specifically warned off from submitting any application to the DADA post for Harry’s 5th year in preparation for the Ministry’s attempted coup, which Voldemort, through the chain of Lucius-» Fudge-» Umbridge was using.

• • • •

By that point, the story of Snape wanting the DADA position had been drifting around through the series for a long time. It was first handed to us in PS/SS by Percy Weasley (surprise, surprise) in the form of a modified crowing session over the fact that Quirrell had the position and Snape didn’t. It had the ring of being a well-established student rumor by then. But what other support did we actually see of it?

Snape has certainly always been the first in line to sneer at the class, its teacher, and the way it was taught. But does that automatically mean he wanted to do it himself? Well, perhaps. But not necessarily.

In all justification, Snape had ample reason to sneer at Quirrell’s handling of the subject and even more to do so at Lockhart’s expense. And the comment that Lockhart was hired because no one else wanted the position, on the surface doesn’t say much for the soundness of the “common knowledge” which avers that Snape did want it himself.

Snape’s dislike of Remus Lupin was even more acute than his dislike of Lockhart. But when we saw him actually take control of Lupin’s class, what did he do with it? He sneered. He picked holes. He belittled the class, the lesson plans, the teacher, and the students, and then threw them an assignment for which he knew they had not prepared, and which advanced only a petty agenda of his own. Did he act like he actually cared whether the students learned anything about defending themselves against a werewolf? Given that he knew that Hogwarts was harboring a werewolf?

Hardly. He merely taunted Lupin with his own knowledge of Lupin’s condition, and tried to make things uncomfortable for him. For that matter, Lupin left Hogwarts in the first week of June. Nearly a month before the year was out. Who took over his classes at the end of the year after he was gone? Not Snape, certainly. We don’t hear of him having taken any of Lupin’s other classes over the course of the year, either, do we? Just the one that happened to contain Potter. And, perhaps more to the point, the ever-so-clever Miss Granger. And he took that class only the once. The last thing it sounds like he wanted to do for that class, that year, was to actually teach them something.

Besides, what Lupin was teaching was a comprehensive course in dealing with Dark creatures. Dark creatures are not the Dark Arts.

Stack this up against the obvious passion for Potions that shines through his opening salvo to the First years in his own class and by 5th year the idea that Snape wanted the DADA position began to look downright laughable. And the fact that — acto Ministry records — his Potions classes consistently perform in advance of their age group alone was a good reason why even if he did want the DADA position, it was unlikely that he would ever get it. Good Potions masters are probably rather thin on the ground. When the writing appeared on the wall, Dumbledore recalled Horace Slughorn from retirement rather than look for a new one. And I think his suspicion that Horace might hold a key to the apparently unanswerable Riddle was not his only reason to do so.

Dumbledore had other reasons to recall Slughorn, of course. He was bringing a man that he represented to Harry as both a colleague and a friend into the school and out of what appeared to be a rather precarious situation. He also wanted someone to whom he could entrust the Slytherins, since he was aware that by the end of the year, neither he nor Snape would still be at the school.

And, for my own part, I find it comparatively easy to believe that Dumbledore and Slughorn were, indeed, friends. Even if the friendship didn’t go very deep. And there is no question but that Slughorn’s knowledge and connections would have been a fine resource for Riddle to attempt to exploit. It makes one very curious as to just how the discussion in Albus’s office in the summer of ’81 went, when Slughorn retired the first time, and whether his retirement was his own idea.

Although if Albus was already asking inconvenient questions regarding Horace’s recollections of Tom Riddle about that time, it probably was his own idea.

Now that Dumbledore claims that Voldemort is back, Slughorn claims to have been living as a fugitive for the previous year. Had he some other contingency plan in ’81 which is no longer available? Or did he get burned the first time, turned into an Imperiused puppet, and was on the run to avoid being co-opted again? Is Slughorn one of the people who also was acquitted on an Imperius defense, and, in his case, his innocence absolutely true? Slughorn’s knowledge and connections would have been just as attractive to Riddle in 1996 as in 1981.

I doubt we will ever be filled in on the matter, but it does bear consideration.

• • • •

For quite a number of years I really did think that it might have been a conceit of the Headmaster’s to only hire as teachers of the DADA class persons who had no history of being Dark wizards. Which could be one of the secondary reasons why Dumbledore found staffing that position so difficult. This further assured us that under most circumstances, even if it hadn’t been cursed, if Snape did want it, as long as Dumbledore had his way, he wouldn’t get it. However, in light of the actions over the course of HBP, when it was made plain to everyone that Albus finds Snape’s expertise in dealing with the Dark Arts, and Dark curses to be all too obviously useful, I had to dismiss this entire line of reasoning. By that time I did so with few regrets, for we had seen little in canon to support it.

If it had ever been the case, it’s clear that Dumbledore’s views of the matter were apparently NOT universally supported by a society which regards the Dark Arts as a perfectly legitimate, if dangerous, branch of magical study. Dumbledore’s intention might have been an attempt to ensure that there will be no more young Tom Riddles, but that point seemed to be being consistently lost on the wizarding public.

For that matter, it now appeared that Tom Riddle was the larger part of the reason that Snape did keep applying for it. From Umbridge’s comments on the subject in OotP, and the timing of just when he came on staff, the simplest reading of the matter was that it was actually Voldemort who wanted to place Snape in the school — as the DADA professor. And that, in fact, Voldemort had originally sent him in to apply for it, the summer before his defeat at Godric’s Hollow.

All of which appears to have turned out to have absolutely been the case. That Snape continued to periodically apply for the post established and maintained a paper trail accessible to Malfoy, and to Voldemort’s other moles inside the Ministry that Snape was still dutifully and doggedly attempting to execute his original orders. (I suspect that very few if any of them are aware that there is a literal curse on that position, although they will have all heard the student rumors.)

By the end of OotP, Snape had spent Harry’s first five years openly sneering at the class in a manner which led me to believe that he might have been contemptuous of the whole concept. At the time, I suspected that he regarded the idea of teaching people to defend themselves against the Dark Arts without teaching them how the Dark Arts actually work to be ludicrous. To some degree I was correct in this suspicion, for the first thing he did, upon being given the post was to at least attempt to give the students some (long belated) idea of what the Dark Arts are, and how they behave.

Which is an issue upon which Rowling consistently short-changed both her readers and her characters. We never got an official explanation of what, precisely, the distinction between the Dark Arts and “normal” magic even is. And by the end of HBP it really looked as if she did not intend to ever make a coherent distinction between them. This was either inexcusably slip-shod planning for a series in which a conflict with a Dark wizard is central to the action, or a strong hint that most of the wizarding public does not really know the distinction either. (Nor does the author.)

And given the way that the DADA class of the only magical training school in Great Britain has been hobbled for the past two generations, it doesn’t really look as if they had much of a chance to learn one.

Which could have been Tom’s intention from the get-go.

• • • •

So far as my original interpretation went, Snape’s attitude looked like it might be based on the kind of philosophical difference between Snape and Dumbledore which would have been impossible to resolve. It would have also been one of the few safe subjects in which Snape could have felt justified in sneering at the Headmaster. A fact of which Albus Dumbledore might have been perfectly well aware.

At the time I believed that Dumbledore might very well have been determined to keep that particular outlet available to that particular subordinate even if the class, as it stood, were a good deal less successful than it, in fact, is. Under most circumstances, it isn’t a good idea to put a subordinate into a position in which they have no subject upon which they may safely oppose you. For that matter, Snape might not have even been the only staff member to make use of that particular outlet. And, in any event, the class is not a complete failure. The students generally do manage to learn at least something of use from it. Even if only how to recognize a phony when they see one. Or how to stage a mutiny.

You will also notice that there was no sneering from Snape’s quarter during the year that the class was being taught by “Alastor Moody”. Just a great deal of wariness and dislike. Snape obviously didn’t feel that it was safe to openly sneer at Moody.

• • • •

Well, in the wake of HBP, my reading was obviously a bit off-target. Once you know that the post really IS cursed, you no longer have to ask why Dumbledore refused to give it to Snape. And my postulation of the repeated applications for it DO start to look like a deliberate “paper trail”.

It also would have also made a fine hook upon which to hang some periodic grousing sessions to Lucius Malfoy. Because I did believe that for 14 years, Snape continued to serve Dumbledore as a spy upon Malfoy’s (and perhaps other DEs who escaped prosecution’s) probable activities. And no doubt to serve Malfoy as a informant upon Dumbledore’s activities in return. There was nothing new about his position as a double-agent.

Up to the last few months before the release of HBP, I really did tend to think that Snape would be given the DADA position only over Dumbledore’s dead body, despite the widely held fanon conviction that he would be given the post in Year 7. However, the release of the cover designs for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in the run-up to the release of the 6th book, kicked off an alternate theory on the matter which made perfect sense, and turned out to be correct.

The British “adult” editions of the books had a very good track record for depicting on their covers some object which really does closely relate to the central issue of that particular book.

The object depicted on the cover for HBP was an old Advanced Potions textbook stacked with other books on a tabletop.

The theory which this illustration gave rise to was that since clearly potions were going to turn out to be important in Year 6, and that there was no way that Harry, in view of his OWL score, would be able to continue to study Potions while Snape was teaching the class, Snape must necessarily become the DADA Professor, not in year 7, but in year 6. This did not require the death of Albus Dumbledore before it happened. All it required was the determination of Minerva McGonagall.

It was from Minerva that we learned (in the career advice chapter of OotP) that Professor Snape absolutely refuses to permit any student into his advanced class who has not received an Outstanding result on the Potions OWL. Or, in other words, that this difficulty was nothing to do with Harry, it was an established policy of Snape’s which was common knowledge to all of the Staff.

Although Harry did not believe that he did so badly as all that on his Potions OWL, it looked unlikely to everyone, including himself, that he received an Outstanding on it. The probability was that he had passed. That his results were judged to be Acceptable, or that possibly he had managed to scrape an Exceeds Expectations. But this alone would not get him into Snape’s advanced potions class.

On the other hand, Minerva had vowed before witnesses that she would assist Harry to become an Auror if it was “the last thing she ever did”.

Still, for all the faint air of mutual respect between Professors Snape and McGonagall which we saw upon her return from St Mungo’s at the end of OotP, it would probably be more difficult for her to convince Snape to bend his own rules in Potter’s favor than it would be to convince Albus to let Snape take the DADA position, even if against his better judgment.

Ergo; Snape gets the DADA position at last; just as Voldemort wanted him to in the first place. The new teacher in year 6 is not the new DADA instructor. He would be the new Potions instructor. (And is just too late for Longbottom, more’s the pity. Neville might have learned something in the class under Slughorn.)

• • • •

I liked this theory. Unlike most fan theories it did not seem to be overly complex, it was not there merely to amp up the “drama”, and it required only that all of the people involved in the issue behave according to their already-established characters.

Unfortunately, however much I may have liked the theory, and was not at all astonished to discover that it was right on the money, I could not in any kind of good faith look forward to the general fanon expectations of getting a satisfying depiction of Snape as a truly kick-ass DADA instructor who managed to finally give the kids some decent instruction. Indeed, the best instruction they have been given since year 3, in fact.

(The false Moody may have taught the rest of the school well enough, but Harry’s class was probably undermined by Moody’s concentration on teaching Harry — and only Harry — to resist the Imperius Curse to the exclusion of any other instruction for several weeks, if not more.)

The fact was that — as with Harry’s Occlumency lessons — I did not think that Snape could afford to teach those particular kids truly effective defense. That is not why Voldemort sent him to take that position in Dumbledore’s school. Consequently, I reasoned, if Snape is the DADA teacher in year 6, what we were most likely to see from him was a masterful performance of trying to serve two Masters without ever losing his balance on the tightrope he has been walking ever since we met him in Book 1.

In an unfamiliar context on something which is not yet his home turf.

To Harry Potter, his behavior would eventually look very suspicious.

Maybe not immediately, but I was sure that another collection of the sort of cumulative maybe-clues such as the ones we had been getting all along were likely to see Snape doing yet another stint as JK Rowling’s favorite red herring.

• • • •

Well, it didn’t really work out like that, did it? If anything, Harry got his nose rapidly put out of joint by suddenly no longer finding himself the star pupil — as he was under Lupin and Moody — or as covert alternate instructor of the DADA class, as he had been under Umbridge. (I wonder if Harry ever realized that this was probably exactly how Hermione now felt in Potions class?)

It was just as well that I wasn’t completely convinced of my own infallibility on this issue, (and I would have been a fool to have been so. My average was about 1 correct theory out of 3, with no certainty of which theory was going to turn out to be the correct one). But I allowed that this time there might be some fire to go with all that smoke. Not that it would necessarily signify what Harry might think it did.

— And it can be seen that I was for the most part right. Although we got a lot of passing references to the homework that Snape assigned, we saw only a couple of instances of Snape actually teaching the DADA class. But I was way out in the outfield when I thought that he would not attempt to teach them effective Defense. For it appears that he was quite effective. We just didn’t really get to witness it.

I also supposed that, in keeping with tradition, Snape would probably only have the position for one year. I didn’t expect that he would die from it. But something would come up which had him back in the dungeons for year 7. Unless what came up was something that had him leaving the school. In which case he would still be back in year 7. Eventually.

And I was more-or-less right about that too, although I’ll admit I never expected to see him installed in the Headmaster’s office.

But from what little we did see, it was very clear that Snape’s passion for the Dark Arts was every bit as great as his passion for Potions. It finally looked as if there may actually have been something to Sirius Black’s claims that Snape had been “famous” for being fascinated by the Dark Arts when he was a kid at school.

• • • •

So, yes, I finally had to admit that I think that he did actually want that position. But he knew why he could not have it. Hermione may claim to have thought he sounded like Harry in a burst of intensity, while he was describing the Dark Arts, but I’ll have to admit I was put most in mind of Hagrid rhapsodizing about dragons.

It really looks very much to me now as if all three of the known, or presumed, fatherless boys that seem to the reader to have adopted Dumbledore as a “father/grandfather figure” appear to be suffering from some variety of a death wish. Hagrid with his monsters, Snape with the Dark Arts, and now we have Harry, who is determined to find a villain somewhere, anywhere, and foil his plans. Personally.

• • • •

But, Rowling loaded the dice this time. It was clear from Chapter 3 of HBP that Dumbledore was aware that this was going to be the year that he would die, and he was clearly putting his affairs in order from his first appearance. His visit to the Dursleys and his request that they continue to house Harry until the protection on him ran out upon his 17th birthday had all the feel of a “final request”.

And I think that Dumbledore would have would almost certainly decided that once he was officially off the playing board, Snape would be of greater use deep inside Voldemort’s organization than semi-isolated in what would probably be Minerva’s school (actually, post-DHs we now know that he was very much aware that it was likely to be Tom’s school, and Snape would be back in it, regardless). To finally give him the DADA position, which Voldemort knows to be cursed, would be sure to generate some circumstance that would eliminate any suggestion that Snape had abandoned his post at the school voluntarily.

And if my conclusion that Snape and Albus (and Slughorn, and possibly others) had all conspired to make a production of Albus’s death and let Voldemort know he had gotten what he wanted ever panned out, then it becomes abundantly clear why Snape was not given the DADA position until Year 6. Particularly if Snape’s original orders had been to eventually assassinate Albus Dumbledore.

After all, as I keep saying, who else among his own agents could Albus have trusted to kill him?