In another question, a good answer is given regarding how Snape shot down suspicions that he was a double-agent by explaining his opposition to Quirrell in the matter of the Philosopher's Stone. Snape didn't know that Voldemort was back (possessing Quirrell), and he was opposing Quirrell, not Voldemort. Snape was brilliant.

But it doesn't seem to me that this would also explain why Snape would stop Quirrell killing Harry Potter during the Quidditch match. In the movie, Quirrell tells Harry what happened and of course Voldemort's right there hearing it all from the back of Quirrell's head -- if he didn't know from the start, or perhaps even directed Quirrell's efforts to kill Harry in the first place.

Wouldn't Snape's defense of Harry raise a second suspicion that could not be as easily answered as the first?

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    Why? Snape's supposed to be a DE, so killing, watching a killing, or standing idly by while someone's killed should be second-nature. Assuming he's a real DE, if he'd just taken his leave from the box to go to the bathroom -- so as to avoid suspicion if accused by Harry's suspicious friends -- and let Harry die, it'd have been clever and easy. Heck, if he'd managed to reveal it was Quirrell, he kills two birds with one stone. Instead, he's evidently actively watching over Harry, and actively -- and visibly -- jumps in to help him. Odd for a DE.
    – Wayne
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 0:38
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    Harry was not Voldemort's biggest problem. At least there was no way of knowing it for sure. This was long before the Death Eaters started looking for the prophecy. Voldemort's biggest problem was Dumbledore, as well as the host of wizards surrounding him. Sure, Harry was a reminder of Voldemort's limits, but this was a symbolic problem, not a practical one. If Voldemort wanted to take care of Dumbledore, he would get much more use out of a well-placed double agent supposedly making sure Harry stays alive than he would out of Snape killing Harry.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 8:56
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    With Harry dead, Snape could no longer see the beautiful eyes of the women he truly loved ! Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 14:54
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    @DVK: In the movie, at least, Quirrell explains to Harry that it was he, not Snape, trying to kill Harry and that it was Snape who was counter-spelling to attempt to stop him. So Quirrell knew.
    – Wayne
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 17:07
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How can Voldemort trust Snape after the events of the first book?
    – TGar
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


Snape's explanation to Bellatrix:

"I should remind you that when Potter first arrived at Hogwarts there were still many stories circu­lating about him, rumors that he himself was a great Dark wizard, which was how he had survived the Dark Lord’s attack. Indeed, many of the Dark Lord’s old followers thought Potter might be a standard around which we could all rally once more. I was curious, I admit it, and not at all inclined to murder him the moment he set foot in the castle."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2, Spinner's End)

"I have done my utmost to have him thrown out of Hogwarts, where I be­lieve he scarcely belongs, but kill him, or allow him to be killed in front of me? I would have been a fool to risk it with Dumbledore close at hand.”
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2, Spinner's End)

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    The second comment nails it. His excuse is that he couldn't have avoided blowing his cover. Plausible enough. (Though personally, I still think an opportune trip to the bathroom or some other magic that would reveal Quirrell after the fact -- "If only I'd been there", "Alas, I was too late!" -- would have also been an option for a true undercover DE.)
    – Wayne
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 17:09
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    You're right, there was some wiggle room left if he wanted. And Bellatrix was also not that convinced by his answer, but does not go into it because he has Voldemorts trust apparently. "Bellatrix looked still unhappy,..." But for some reason, Voldemort (wanted) to trust him.
    – Don_Biglia
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 20:15
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    @Wayne He wasn’t an undercover Death Eater at the time, not even by claim. He and everyone else thought/assumed Voldemort was dead and gone. The Death Eaters were disbanded. Snape had simply moved on and become a teacher at Hogwarts. Even that opportune trip to the bathroom would have been risky, and there was no reason at all for Snape to risk his neck like that—particularly not with Harry Potter. Snape’s convenient absence would have been enough to start questions that he was still clinging on to Voldemort(’s memory), and possibly get him fired. Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 21:10

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