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Based on discussion in comments on this answer, was Severus Snape a Death Eater (real one, with Dark Mark) before he overheard Sybil give the Prophecy to Dumbledore and relayed it to Voldemort? Or was he made a DE after that?

Canon sources only please (books/interviews/Pottermore)

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As I interpret canon, Snape was a Death Eater in allegiance with Voldemort at the time he overheard, and subsequently told Voldemort about, the prophecy. Dumbledore certainly seems to imply this in Half-Blood Prince:

‘Professor Snape made a terrible mistake. He was still in Lord Voldemort’s employ on the night he heard the first half of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy. Naturally, he hastened to tell his master what he had heard, for it concerned his master most deeply.’

Albus Dumbledore - Half-Blood Prince - page 512 - Bloomsbury - chapter 25, The Seer Overheard

That Dumbledore says "still in Lord Voldemort's employ" suggests to me that Snape was nearing the end of his days as a Death Eater because it was Voldemort's interpretation of the prophecy -- and Voldemort's ultimate refusal to spare Lily's life -- that caused Snape to turn against Voldemort and become a double agent for Dumbledore. I think the timing of these events verifies that Snape was indeed a bona fide Death Eater at the time he overheard the prophecy.

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Severus Snape was already a Death Eater.

He approached Dumbledore after having already told Voldemort about the prophecy.

“What request could a Death Eater make of me?”

“The — the prophecy . . . the prediction . . . Trelawney . . .”

“Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore. “How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?”

“Everything — everything I heard!” said Snape. “That is why — it is for that reason — he thinks it means Lily Evans!”

“The prophecy did not refer to a woman,” said Dumbledore. “It spoke of a boy born at the end of July —”

“You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down — kill them all —”

“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?”


“Hide them all, then,” he croaked. “Keep her — them — safe. Please.”

“And what will you give me in return, Severus?”

“In — in return?” Snape gaped at Dumbledore, and Harry expected him to protest, but after a long moment he said, “Anything.”

Here we see Snape's start as a double agent.

Early we see Lily say,

You and your precious little Death Eater friends — you see, you don’t even deny it! You don’t even deny that’s what you’re all aiming to be! You can’t wait to join You-Know-Who, can you?

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