In my post on Sunday, I observed that the question of Snape’s loyalties really depends on his actions beginning with the discovery that Lord Voldemort was returning. We know from the second prophecy and the statement by Voldemort himself, that he had no followers from the time he was physically vaporized as his killing curse rebounded on him in October 1981, to the time he compelled Wormtail to make him a new body, in early 1995. As Wormtail’s process evolved, the Dark Mark – the brand on the arm of each and every Death Eater minion of Voldemort – began to become more and more visible, and when Voldemort gained possession of his new body, the mark burned hotly on every arm, demanding the immediate return of the Death Eaters, to swear renewed fealty and service to the Dark Lord. We know this courtesy of the cowardice of Igor Karkaroff, who was at that moment the Headmaster of the Durmstrang institute. Igor twice confronted Severus regarding the imminent return of Voldemort, an event which filled Igor with fear. We know, from the pensieve memories Harry has been able to see, that Igor Karkaroff reduced his time in the Azkaban prison by giving up the names of a number of Death Eaters, something which would cause him a lot of trouble at any Death Eater reunion, and endangering his skin so far as the Dark Lord is concerned. I find it interesting, that Karkaroff thought he could speak with confidence about this to Severus Snape, since Severus was one of the people whom Igor tried to implicate (Dumbledore had already cleared Severus with the Wizengamot, through evidence we readers have not yet learned). I cannot tell from the text whether Karkaroff believed his friendship with Severus was strong enough to get past that, or whether Karkaroff was simply that desperate. But for here, it tells us that the Death Eaters had time to decide their response several months before it was time to deliver in person. This makes Severus’ decision significant; the fact that Severus delayed his return by two hours after the other Death Eaters on purpose, and that purpose tells us something about the mind and character of Severus Snape. You see, there could be only three reasons why Severus Snape would intentionally delay his return; to set himself apart from the other Death Eaters in the mind of Voldemort, to speak privately with Voldemort [yes, Severus wanted to be face-to-face with Voldemort!], and to deliver Dumbledore’s message to Voldemort without interference. Crazy as that sounds, this was part of a strategic plan.
The next strategic decision for Severus Snape comes in the fifth book, ‘Order of the Phoenix’. Here too we see Severus doing things that make no sense if he was truly loyal to Voldemort. Severus meets with the Order, but we observe that Dumbledore comes to and goes from the Order’s headquarters without direct contact with the Order as a group; if Severus’ orders from Voldemort were to spy on Dumbledore, then he should have been tailing Dumbledore, but he does not. At the end of OOtP, when Harry and five classmates from the D.A. set out to the Ministry to rescue Sirius Black, it is Severus Snape who calls in reinforcements from the Order. And I can promise you that this was never part of any order from Voldemort. Not only would Voldemort never give up a chance to kill or capture Harry Potter if he could, the whole point of Voldemort’s plan at the Ministry was to collect the prophecy, which Snape’s actions directly thwarted. There is no possibility whatsoever that Severus Snape was working for Voldemort when he called up the Order.
Next: But What About Murder?