Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

OK, first of all, my Harry Potter knowledge is a bit rusty so I may be forgetting something.

  • In The Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore made Snape kill him (I know he was going to die anyway) so he could gain Voldemort's trust.
  • In The Deathly Hallows, his portrait instructs Snape to provide Voldemort with the correct date on which Harry was to be moved, again, to gain Voldemort's trust.

Why did Dumbledore want a spy in Voldemort's inner circle so badly?

Would anything have been different if Snape had not been in Voldemort's inner circle?

share|improve this question
6  
This question is already answered here. Not sure how I feel about closing your question as a dupe of a -6 score question though. Perhaps the best solution would be to merge the old question into yours, thus migrating my answer here? – Rand al'Thor Mar 17 at 12:01
3  
@randal'thor Questions merged. – Null Mar 17 at 13:59
9  
I think Dumbledore wanted Snape to kill him less to gain Voldemort's trust and more to protect Draco's innocence (or what was left of it, anyway). It's been a while since I've read the book, but I seem to remember Dumbledore was more interested in preventing Draco from delivering the deathblow than anything else, really. – Ellesedil Mar 17 at 17:23
5  
@Ellesedil Hmm. It's not entirely clear. Dumbledore says: "Ultimately, of course, there is only one thing to be done if we are to save [Draco] from Lord Voldemort's wrath. [...] You must kill me. [...] I ask this one, great favour of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year's league. I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved - I hear Voldemort has recruited him? Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it." – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 at 0:26
3  
@Ellesedil One would assume that if Voldemort didn't already trust Snape by Book 6, Snape would be dead – DavidS Mar 18 at 9:59
up vote 71 down vote accepted

He was invaluable as a spy.

As a double (triple, quadruple) agent, Snape served two purposes:

  1. As an Order agent in Voldemort's ranks, he could pass information about Voldemort's plans to Dumbledore and the Order.

  2. Since Voldemort believed him to be a spy for him in the Order's ranks, he could pass false information about the Order's plans to Voldemort.

Both of these are extremely important roles in espionage. The secret of all warfare is knowing the enemy's plans while keeping your own hidden, so as to keep the element of surprise. The two-way flow of information through Snape gave the Order a much-needed advantages over Voldemort.

"All war is based on deception" -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War.


After Dumbledore's death, he was the most direct link between the late Headmaster and Harry. He was the person who, on instructions from Dumbledore's portrait, conjured the Patronus to lead Harry to the sword of Gryffindor.

He also used his position as a double agent during this time to subtly protect the students at Hogwarts while seeming to be terrorising them on Voldemort's instructions. Using his power as Headmaster, he kept the Carrow siblings under control and ensured many students were given 'fake' punishments such as being sent into the Forest with Hagrid.


Not really relevant to the main point of your question, but as @Ellesdil pointed out in a comment, Dumbledore's reasons for having Snape kill him were considerably more than just for the latter to gain Voldemort's trust:

"Ultimately, of course, there is only one thing to be done if we are to save [Draco] from Lord Voldemort's wrath. [...] You must kill me. [...] I ask this one, great favour of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year's league. I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved - I hear Voldemort has recruited him? Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it."

-- Dumbledore, HP and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 37: The Prince's Tale

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for the quote! In the era of social media it's more true than anyone could imagine. – KeyWeeUsr Mar 17 at 20:07
2  
It's a little strange that this answer was posted before the question. But that's probably irrelevant. – wizzwizz4 Mar 17 at 20:25
5  
@wizzwizz4: Not sure if you already realize this, but: that's because the answer was originally posted at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/104372. That question was merged into this one a few hours ago. – ruakh Mar 17 at 20:31
1  
@SamWeaver -- Dumbledore died at the end of Half Blood Prince. The Patronus 'lure' was mid-Deathly Hallows. – user23715 Mar 17 at 21:30
1  
@ruakh It was supposed to be a witty comment... – wizzwizz4 Mar 17 at 21:37

Yes, Snape would have provided any information he learned about Voldemort's and the Death Eaters' plans.

Such as:

  1. Hocruxes (what objects they might be or where)
  2. Elder Wand / Hallows (if Voldemort had made any connections)
  3. New Recruits (such as Draco)
  4. Movements or locations of Death Eaters
  5. What other factions Voldemort has recruited (Dementors, Giants, etc.)

The list could go on. We may never see this information relayed directly as Harry's POV is our view into the world and Harry would not have first-hand accounts of this; only what Dumbledore or Snape told him or what he saw in the Pensieve.

Also, I would argue that Dumbledore had Snape fulfill the "murder" so the ownership of the Elder Wand would pass to Snape and to save both Draco and Serverus' lives, as an Unbreakable Vow had been made between them.

share|improve this answer
3  
While I agree with the last 3 points, I do not think he could have provided any information on the first two. First, it is well known that Voldemort kept his Horcruxes (and his past in general) a very closely guarded secret. R.A.B. only learned of them because Voldemort discounted a house elf. Dumbledore never even confided with Snape about the Horcruxes. In regards to the Elder Wand, the 7th book makes it fairly clear that Voldemort saw it as a quest he must undertake alone. None of the other Death Eaters were aware of where he went during his search for that Hallow. – ssell Mar 17 at 16:02
    
@ssell Very true, I was more implying that Snape could pick up on clues in Voldemort's behavior or read into certain things he did say. I listed in more of order of magnitude if the information was found rather than he likely hood of that information being discovered. Granted he had already turned a Hallow into a Horcrux... So yes very valid point! – Skooba Mar 17 at 16:21

During Voldemort's first rise, Snape's information very nearly saved James and Lilly Potter. After passing on the fragment of Trelawny's prophecy that he'd overheard at the Hog's Head, Snape found that Voldemort thought the prophecy referred to the then-infant Harry, and was going to go and murder him to make sure the threat would never arise. This of course is what sent Snape to Dumbledore to change sides, and that information also led to Dumbledore's suggestion that the Potters use the Fidelius charm to protect themselves.

This worked perfectly until their Secret-Keeper betrayed them, but had that not happened - had they chosen Sirius or Dumbledore instead of Pettigrew - they would have remained perfectly safe.

Of course, that was just the information with which Snape proved his betrayal of Voldemort. We don't know how much other useful information was passed before Voldemort's attack on the Potters because it was never directly relevant to Harry's plotline and our limited POV prevents us from finding out about it.

During the second rise of Voldemort, Snape was there almost from the beginning, acting as a double agent. Dumbledore would have known who'd returned to the fold, would have known many who had been placed under the Imperius curse, and other valuable information. It is entirely possible that without Snape, Voldemort would have taken over the Ministry a year earlier. It's even more possible that without Snape calling in the Order of the Phoenix at the end of the fifth book, the Death Eaters would have captured Harry and Voldemort would have killed him shortly afterwards.

share|improve this answer
    
"Snape's information very nearly saved James and Lilly Potter" - and on the flipside, Snape's information provided to Voldemort before that was exactly what killed them. Still, +1 for a nice summary and some specific examples. – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 at 7:58
2  
Yeah it was that which led him to change sides of course. He passed on the prophecy but never imagined it'd lead to a threat to Lily - and he probably had no idea how strongly he'd react to hearing about that either. – Matthew Walton Mar 18 at 8:17

With regard to the Elder Wand, the importance of Severus killing Dumbledore is that the Dark Lord would assume that this had made him master of the wand, when in fact Draco became master of the wand when he disarmed Dumbledore.

When Harry then disarmed Draco, this made him master of the wand at a time that the Dark Lord believed that Severus was the master. The Dark Lord then killed Severus, intending to become the wand's master, and Severus went willingly to his death, knowing that he had delivered the final deception that would permit Harry to overcome him.

When Tom then dueled Harry at the end, having killed the portion of his soul that was inside Harry, he was trying to use the wand against its master, and thus fatally weakened.

share|improve this answer
    
"Willingly" might be stretching it - he didn't have much of a chance – NKCampbell Jun 28 at 22:13

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.