Snape is a powerful wizard, who is capable of casting spells non-verbally. And, we know that even complex spells like Avada Kedavra can be cast non-verbally. Using non-verbal magic should have been second nature to Snape.

However, when Snape cast Avada Kedavra on Dumbledore, he did speak the name of the spell. Is there any reason why chose to cast a verbal spell here, when we would normally expect him not to?

Shouldn't the act of casting verbally have alerted the Death Eaters that something was up, possibly to his wish not to kill Dumbledore?

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    I'm, uh, not really sure what you mean here? If you're asking why he didn't kill Dumbledore with Avada Kedavra - well, he did in both the book and the film. If you're asking why he didn't do it non-verbally - well, why would he need to? Besides, as we know, Avada Kedavra needs real power behind it. Very difficult to pull of non-verbally, especially as killing Dumbledore was very hard for Snape anyway, he didn't really want to do it – Au101 Jan 23 '16 at 17:09
  • @Au101 I mean non-verbally – Pioneer Jan 23 '16 at 17:22
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    It's not a casual spell like Lumos, which you can sing through the woods! People use it very, very selectively :) – Dawny33 Jan 23 '16 at 17:26
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    Because if he had, you'd instead be asking why he didn't cast it verbally. – jwodder Jan 23 '16 at 18:36
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    Perhaps I'm missing something: what would be the point of Snape killing Dumbledore with a non-verbal spell? How would that have made any difference over a verbal spell? I'm especially confused about the second question you added to the end: he did cast it verbally and it didn't alert the Death Eaters. – KutuluMike Jan 23 '16 at 19:13

Generally speaking, when casting a difficult spell, verbal casting is to be preferred unless there is a specific reason to avoid it. Non-verbal casting increases the risk of the spell failing.

The only reason Snape might have wanted to use non-verbal casting when killing Dumbledore is if the Death Eaters might criticize or be suspicious of him for failing to do so. But Voldemort cast Avada Kedavra verbally when attacking Harry in Order of the Phoenix. From a Death Eaters point of view, if it's good enough for Voldemort, it's surely good enough for Snape.

Also, if he had cast the spell non-verbally it might have left doubt as to what spell he had actually cast; it could have been nothing but a spell for green light, after all. This way, the Death Eaters know for certain that Snape really did kill Dumbledore. That was pretty effective at diverting suspicion. :-)

[Out of universe, both Snape's and Voldemort's choice to cast Avada Kedavra verbally is presumably to avoid any confusion or doubt on the reader's part.]

  • More than doubt, it is a spell that can only be verbally performed. It is immensly powerful spell that requires high hatred... This power could only be generated through a verbal spell, not with soft thinking... – prakhar londhe Jan 27 '16 at 11:52
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    @prakharlondhe: that's what I thought at first, but when Dumbledore and Voldemort fought in the Ministry of Magic, Voldemort seemed to cast Avada Kedavra non-verbally. That is, at one point he attacked Dumbledore with a spell that created green light, and the book didn't mention him saying anything. So far as I know, no other combat spell that creates a green light has ever been mentioned. – Harry Johnston Jan 27 '16 at 23:28

Casting Avada Kedavra nonverbally wouldn’t be worth the effort.

Casting a spell nonverbally gives a bit of an advantage, but is also more difficult - in some cases, it’s not worth the extra effort to cast it nonverbally. Just because Snape can do it doesn’t mean he always would, or that it’s always the best way thing to do. It’s also unlikely to raise suspicion. The Death Eaters, and the Dark Lord himself, often cast Avada Kedavra by saying the incantation.

‘Avada Kedavra.’

The flash of green light illuminated every corner of the room. Charity fell, with a resounding crash, on to the table below, which trembled and creaked.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)

As Snape himself says, nonverbally casting spells takes a lot of concentration and mind power - so it’s not worth it to use them when there’s no need to, just because someone is capable of doing it.

“Yes, those who progress in using magic without shouting incantations gain an element of surprise in their spell-casting. Not all wizards can do this, of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some ...lack.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 9 (The Half-Blood Prince)

When Snape teaches his class nonverbal spell casting, it’s clear that it’s a lot harder than saying the incantation - they have difficulty casting nonverbal spells that they’d cast before and could easily cast if they were just saying them. Avada Kedavra is already a hard spell, casting it nonverbally would therefore take quite a lot of power. Dumbledore was unarmed and weakened. There was no reason that Snape would need to cast it nonverbally so the Death Eaters wouldn’t be suspicious. He also wouldn’t need the element of surprise, because he and Dumbledore planned it.

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