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It's well known that Severus Snape was, in one way or another, a Death Eater since he was at Hogwarts. He hung out with the likes of Avery and Mulciber who became well known Death Eaters, he joined Voldemort right after he left Hogwarts, and he basically became Voldemort's right hand man until the very end.

However, in his time as a Death Eater did he ever kill anyone? We know that he was a Death Eater for around 3 years before Voldemort fell; Lily and James died at 21 and they were the same age as Snape, so it would have been 3 years since they left Hogwarts. Then after Voldemort came back in book 4, Snape would have been a Death Eater again for around 3 years. That's a total of around 6 years of Death Eaterhood with Voldemort.

So, in either of these periods, did Snape commit murder as part of his job as Death Eater? I'm not counting a certain death at the end of book 6 for reasons which are obvious if you've read book 7.

Clearly it's much more likely he killed before Voldemort fell since that roughly correlated with the period when he pledged allegiance only to Voldemort, before he became a teacher at Hogwarts. But did he ever do it?

  • 2
    To be clear, are you asking if he DID kill anyone during those years, or if he would have if the situation/need arose? The former may be answerable, while the latter may call for too much speculation. – phantom42 Dec 7 '12 at 18:10
  • @phantom42 I'm asking if he ever did. I'll rephrase the question to make that clear. – commando Dec 7 '12 at 18:10
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    Test subjects for Sectumsempra? – Izkata Dec 8 '12 at 0:51
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He did not.

This is based on his conversation with Dumbledore (as seen by Harry in his memories at the end of DH):

“If you don’t mind dying,” said Snape roughly, “why not let Draco do it?”
“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.”
And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?

This is a pretty clear evidence that his soul WAS (by Snape) considered in danger of being ripped apart from the murder, and therefore was a thing that he did not yet experience, else he would not be worried.

  • 6
    Say he comitted murder in the past and regretted it. Acc to Dumbledore remorse can heal a ripped apart soul, so maybe Snape was worried about his patched-up soul ripped apart again. – Ekaterin Nile Sep 6 '17 at 20:41
11

TL;DR: Did Snape ever commit murder? I would guess probably. Is there any canon verification of Snape having committed an outright homicide, excluding Dumbledore's murder? Not that I'm aware of (As always, please let me know if I'm wrong.). My longer answer follows.

"Murder" and "homicide" are technical terms which simply mean one human being causes the death of another. It could be accidental or premeditated, or perhaps even assisted suicide might technically qualify, but clinically, murder is simply the act of taking another's life.

In the US, many states have a felony murder law, which holds a person who is associated with a murder equally as responsible as the murderer. And please note I'm not suggesting there is for certain any kind of law similar to this in the Wizarding world -- we have no idea about that. I'm just using this as an example of what a law addressing certain kinds of murder might look like. I am not saying this is from canon or is canon.

The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder in two ways. First, when an offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill in the commission of a felony, the offender can be charged with murder. Second, it makes any participant in such a felony criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. WIKIPEDIA: FELONY MURDER

I believe it is impossible to discount Snape's killing of Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince. Snape killed Dumbledore and this is a huge big deal that we can't just exclude. It shows his ability to commit the action, motivations and altruism aside. Why this is important and telling goes back to Goblet of Fire, to a bit of information given out by Mad-Eye Moody (Barty Crouch Jr).

‘Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it – you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nose-bleed. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not here to teach you how to do it.

Goblet of Fire - page 192 - Bloomsbury - chapter 14, The Unforgivable Curses

Mad-Eye Moody (Barty Crouch Jr) suggests that Avada Kedavra is not a curse that is easily performed on the first try. Practice was necessary. Snape had enough practice with Avada Kedavra -- whether or human, animal, or magical creature victims -- to be able to successfully murder Dumbledore even though he clearly didn't want to do so. And, as Bellatrix Lestrange says in Order of the Phoenix, a person has to really want to perform an Unforgivable in order to do it successfully. Snape was able to compartmentalize his caring and companionship to Dumbledore well enough to be able to kill Dumbledore and I don't discern that as being any small feat.

Snape was willing to give Harry information via the Pensieve that should have directly led to Harry's death. That Harry survived Avada Kedavra twice is an anomaly, not a reflection on Snape's wilingness to allow Harry to die. Snape delivered the partial prophecy to Voldemort in 1980, anxious to curry favor. Even after he knew Voldemort was targeting the Potters, Snape was only interested in saving Lily -- does failure to prevent a premeditated murder imply culpability? In some jurisdictions, it most certainly does. (See the felony murder info.). I would say that, yes, Snape had likely murdered before his killing of Dumbledore. But I do believe that Snape's emotional quotient regarding the value of human life changed over the years (not that he was ever warm and fuzzy). Compare the following two passages for what I mean. 1981 versus 1997-98:

‘If she means so much to you,’ said Dumbledore, ‘surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?’

‘I have – I have asked him –’

‘You disgust me,’ said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. Snape seemed to shrink a little. ‘You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?’

Deathly Hallows - pages 543-544 - Bloomsbury - chapter 33, The Prince's Tale

AND:

‘You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?’

‘Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?’

‘Lately, only those whom I could not save,’ said Snape. He stood up. ‘You have used me.’

Deathly Hallows - pages 551 - Bloomsbury - chapter 33, The Prince's Tale

  • 13
    I have to say I disagree with the way you've interpreted both Snape killing Dumbledore and Avada Kedavra. Of the former, I would say that you can't set aside motivation and altruism: it's the very fact that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him, and that Snape complied, which (I think) discounts it as "murder" and explains why it would not harm Snape's soul; he commits no evil in the killing, and only "means" to fulfill Dumbledore's wish. As to Avada Kedavra, Moody only said that it needs powerful magic, not necessarily practice, and Snape was quite an exceptional wizard. – commando Dec 7 '12 at 20:07
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    Sorry, I agree with commando. The spirit of the question was clearly direct-action murder (as in 10 commandments), not legal caveats, so Potters don't count. And the reason OP discounted Dumbledore's death was because he said "as a death eater" - when the murder was CLEARLY done on Dumbledore's order and wouldn NOT have hapened on Voldemort's otherwise, it can't be even remotely connected to "as Death Eater" part. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 7 '12 at 20:13
  • @commando -- It's totally fine to want a different kind of explanation than mine :) – Slytherincess Dec 7 '12 at 22:51
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    Great answer in showing that Snape certainly had it within himself to have been capable of murder, but it doesn't convince he was actually guilty of committing the act himself - even if he was legally an accomplice and witness to many (in our laws and eyes). – balanced mama Jan 28 '13 at 19:09
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    I think that second passage strongly suggests that Snape hasn't killed anyone, since otherwise it's a bit odd to speak only of the ones he "watched die". – ruakh Mar 1 '16 at 3:27
2

Very likely.

Severus Snape joined Voldemort's rebellion in 1987 as a death eater. It was a war with many casualties, and Snape was a duelist and a good one - look at him parrying all Harry's spells without breaking a sweat:

“Cruc—” But Snape parried the curse, knocking Harry backward off his feet before he could complete it; "..." “Cruc—” yelled Harry for the second time, aiming for the figure ahead illuminated in the dancing firelight, but Snape blocked the spell again. Harry could see him sneering. “No Unforgivable Curses from you, Potter!” he shouted over the rushing of the flames, Hagrid’s yells, and the wild yelping of the trapped Fang. “You haven’t got the nerve or the ability—” “Incarc—” Harry roared, but Snape deflected spell with an almost lazy flick of his arm. “Fight back!” Harry screamed at him. “Fight back, you cowardly—” “Coward, did you call me, Potter?” shouted Snape. “Your father would never attack me unless it was four on one, what would you call him, I wonder?” “Stupe—” “Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter!” sneered Snape, deflecting the curse once more. ~Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - 28: Flight of the Prince

Not to mention promptly dealing with poor Lockhart to who never stood a chance:

Snape’s upper lip was curling. Harry wondered why Lockhart was still smiling; if Snape had been looking at him like that he’d have been running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

"..." “One—two—three—” Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their opponent; Snape cried: “Expelliarmus!” There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and Lockhart was blasted off his feet: He flew backward off the stage, smashed into the wall, and slid down it to sprawl on the floor. Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins cheered. ~Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- Chapter 11 : The Dueling Club

As a sixth year he already invented curses used to slice up the opponent, causing damage that even talented witches like Mrs. Weasley were unable to heal.

Very unlikely that Voldemort would have left such an asset at home when he and his death eaters left on missions to terrorise London.

Snape probably participated in fights and most likely had a few victims under his belt.

  • What is 1987 based on? – Alex Nov 23 '18 at 20:26
  • @Alex frankly, i don't remember – Ekaterin Nile Nov 26 '18 at 8:52

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