Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 145

What if Snape interrupts…

In this chapter, Draco is alone (with Harry) with Dumbledore, ready to “kill”. Dumbledore is slowly convincing Draco to come to the light side, however, Death Eaters interrupt him – and then Snape shows up. If Snape had shown up first, would it have changed anything in the path of the story?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or send us an AudioBoom using the little green button on the right!

  • Sian Zoe Dawson

    I believe that if Snape had showed up first instead of Draco, that he would have want to talk to Dumbledore for a little while, but Dumbledore would not have wanted this to happen; not only because he did not want to reveal too much in front of Harry (Harry being a Horcrux), but also because he wanted it done quickly before Snape pleaded to Dumbledore to not let him do this, but Dumbledore would have said to Snape something along the lines of “You promised, Severus. There’s no going back.” I then believe that before anyone else showed up (for he did not want Bellatrix to kill him), that Snape would then point his wand at Dumbledore and cast the killing curse. I think at this point the others would join him (Draco, the Carrows, Greyback, etc.), and asked Snape what happened as the full body-bind on Harry became undone. Snape would have told them that there was no time to tell them, and that they had to flee before the Ministry showed up. They would have then rushed back down the stairs of the Astronomy tower, and Harry, after recovering from the shock of seeing Dumbledore die, would then go after them.

    • MoodyHorcrux

      Bellatrix was only movie cannon and wasn’t actually there in the book. Or are you referring to the Unbreakable Vow? I don’t believe that Bellatrix would have literally killed Snape if the Vow wasn’t fulfilled, I think the curse itself is what kills you and Bella wouldn’t have to be anywhere in the vicinity.

      • Sian Zoe Dawson

        I know Bellatrix was movie cannon, but in Snape’s memories in Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore did say to him that it was better that Snape killed him, rather than have Bellatrix do it herself if she was there, because she would probably have tortured him, and he didn’t want that. I know she wasn’t there in the book, but that’s all I meant by it.

  • I think Snape would have still killed Dumbledore. It would have been more respectful to such a great man to have presented the body to the death eaters rather than “betray” Dumbledore in their presence. I think that Dumbledore was in enough pain in that moment and Severus alone would have been enough relief. He would like it to end there and then, as seemingly was planned.

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    I think the only thing that would truly be affected is Draco. The end result would still be the same — Dumbledore pleads with Snape to kill him, Snape obliges, they flee, Harry gives chase.

    I think the Death Eaters showing up first is massively important for Draco’s development, however. He has been offered pity, kindness and compassion from a man who, whether he admits it or not, he must look up to on some level as his headmaster, and who has admitted that he has known all year that Draco was trying to kill him. Let that sink in. Dumbledore tells Draco that he has known ALL YEAR. Which must leave Draco wondering why Dumbledore never tried to stop him, why Dumbledore did not seem afraid, what was he playing at? Draco is frightened, he is terrified, and yet he is still resolute, until Dumbledore begins to offer him such kindness and understanding: “No, Draco, it is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.” It’s unnerving.

    Annnnd then here come the Death Eaters, with their coarse manners and lack of all decency and general horribleness. Dumbledore is the most incredible contrast to them here — one of my favorite lines from him in response to the Carrows: “Jokes? No, no, these are manners.” Dumbledore is calm, so calm, gracious, polite, and fearless in his last moments, and Draco is seeing all of this in contrast with Greyback, who is licking blood from his fingers, and the Carrows, with their raucous laughter and ridiculous jeering.

    All of this is what Draco needs to see to show him just how vast the difference is, and to show him exactly who and what it is that he has aligned himself with. It has to disgust him, to shame him, to side with these brutes in the face of Dumbledore’s serene acceptance. Draco needs this moment. One can only imagine he runs it over and over in his head afterward, and the more he sees of the Death Eaters, the more he remembers how different Dumbledore was, and the more he begins to want away from all of these horrible people.

    The Death Eaters showing up show Draco exactly what is wrong with what he is doing, and he needs this moment. It is one of the moments that sets him toward redemption.

    • Minerva’s tartan biscuit tin

      I agree. It was important for Draco to see the other Death Eaters and their behaviour to fully aknowledge for himself that it’s not his path, that he could not kill a person. Had Snape arrived before the Death Eaters Dracos’s feelings for Snape would have left a different Impact. He felt patronized by Snape and therefore would have wanted to proof to Snape that he could do it on his own. When Snape had to kill Dumbledore (because of a promise given to Dumbledore) Draco would have felt like he failed and not be able to see for himself that he couldn’t kill someone. Had he seen Dumbledore dying while still clinging to last of his the convction that he could kill him, he would have never been able to come to terms with his true feelings of disgust with that situation. I believe Draco would have still wanted to prove himself to the Death Eaters had Snape arrived earlier because Draco wasn’t in the right mindset yet. I actually think his actions in the Malfoy Manor Scene after the arrival of the snatcher and the trio could have been different in he last book, had he not made this particular exerience with the Death Eaters on the tower.

  • CrochetWitch78

    He still would have had to kill Dumbledore so Draco would see it and Snape would be able to then keep up the ruse of being in the Death Eater inner circle. Only Snape and Dumbledore both also knew Snape was doing Dumbledore a favor b/c he was dying anyways due the curse he was struck with while destroying the ring. All part of the “grand Horcrux plan”….HP as a “pig for slaughter” and all that…

  • DisKid

    What if Snape had killed Dumbledore before Draco and them arrived or Draco didn’t feel the need to disarm Dumbledore with Snape there as back up? Then Snape would have been the master of the elder wand and after Voldemort killed him, becoming the new master, Merlin only knows if anyone would have been able to kill him after that! Now that’s a plot change all right.

    • MartinMiggs

      no because Snape and Dumbledore planned this death so Snape would never have really defeated Dumbledore and the wand’s power dies with him.

      • MoodyHorcrux

        Would that really happen though? Even if you plan the death – the kill is still a kill, the wands wouldn’t recognize that it’s a planned death, and I would think that Snape would still become the owner of the Elder Wand.

        • MartinMiggs

          no because it literally states otherwise in the book

        • Paige Crawley

          i agree. I do acknowledge that it is otherwise stated in the book, but i think that the deathly hallows are very ambiguously described and i can’t imagine they’d work so precisely. I don’t think its the intention of the killer, but more so what enabled the killer.
          The second comment said that the wand’s power would have died with dumbledore, however in the book it is also stated that this only occurs when the owner dies naturally, and the killing curse is definitely unnatural.

  • Ellen Dawn

    To me it is very clear that Dumbledore’s death would not have changed regardless of the order of the arrival of Dumbledore and Draco’s guests. The unbreakable vow made absolutely sure that Dumbledore needs to die at this moment, or Snape will instead. And since Dumbledore and Snape are both aware that Dumbledore is going to be dieing in the near future thanks to the ring horcrux, this is the only choice that makes any sense at all.

    I think regardless of the order of arrival, Snape would have executed his task immediately so as to keep his facade. No discussions with Dumbledore could be had because of Draco’s presence. But I think it somewhat likely that the death eaters would probably arrive just after the death. Perhaps with this slight delay of the death eaters departure, Harry would end up getting his wits about him a bit quicker and immobilizing more of the death eaters. Or perhaps because he is in such a reckless state he would take off his invisibility cloak before they depart and Snape would have to interfere for his safety (or to ‘save him for the dark lord’) earlier. All in all, I don’t seem many realistic scenarios that change the end result.

  • MoodyHorcrux

    Snape showing up first would definitely change the path of the story! Draco and Dumbledore would have never had that moment together on the tower – where I seriously believe that at that moment, Draco’s eyes had began to open slightly to other possibilities for his life, and didn’t want to be a death eater anymore. He was horrified and Dumbledore was saying there could be another way. I’m always reminded fondly of this moment they had together, when I think of what Draco became after the war.

    If Snape had gotten there first and killed Dumbledore before Draco ever had the chance to finally do what he’s been aiming for all year, Draco would have resented Snape, he would have said that he could have done it and Snape took all the glory for himself – and I think he would become a bigger threat in book 7. I could see Draco really craving for another opportunity to prove himself and to have his Moment. Maybe.. we could have lost Draco at the end of the war, trying to prove himself, or doing something else Voldemort asked of him that would put him in another position that would again, almost guaranty his death.

    • MoodyHorcrux

      Harry also wouldn’t have heard all the means and ways of how Draco did everything this year and all the details we got through Dumbledore talking to Draco, would have been lost.. and also, Madam Rosmerta, hellooooo? How and when would people realize that she has been under the imperious curse……

  • DisKid

    What if Snape had killed Dumbledore before Draco got there? What if he had not and Draco had not felt the need to disarm Dumbledore with Snape there? Then how would Harry have defeated Voldemort? Harry wouldn’t have ever become master of the wand so his own death spell probably wouldn’t have backfired onto Voldemort. Talk about a real plot changer! Now defeating Voldemort gets a little more complicated as Harry, apparently, can’t seem to cast a killing curse.

    • MoodyHorcrux

      Harry dies? ….. That’s how this story ends.

      • DisKid

        What a great ending. I was scared to death that was going to happen though.

  • ccmoundshroud

    I don’t believe the order the characters arrived in played much of a difference in how the events unfolded, perhaps some more “mysterious” exposition between snape and Dumbledore would have occurred but remember, this is the point in the seven books where you are meant to question everything. The death eaters would still have come and snape would still have fulfilled his duty by euthanizing Dumbledore and we would still be waiting for “the princes tale” in book 7 to discover who’s side snape was truly on

  • Voldemort’s Lost Nose

    I think two things would have been different:

    Firstly, Dumbledore could have told Harry that Snape killing him was pre-arranged and told him about the curse on his hand. If we assume that Harry understands this, he would have told it to McGonagall, who wouldn’t have driven Snape away in the Battle of Hogwarts. In the Battle, Snape would fight for the light side. Then Voldemort wouldn’t be able to summon Snape to kill him. So I think that it’s possible that Snape would have survived.

    Secondly, as Dumbledore would be able to speak freely in front of Draco, Snape, and Harry, he could have convinced Draco to come to the light side – maybe Snape would even help Dumbledore doing so. Draco would go into hiding with his family and thus would NOT have been there for Harry to disarm at Malfoy Manor. Harry would NOT be the Master of the Elder Wand, and the final duel between Voldemort and Harry would turn out differently. If neither is the Master of the Wand, they duel on skill alone, and Harry would probably die. This, of course, depends on how the Blood Protection works: It is possible that with Harry’s blood in Voldemort’s veins, Harry essentially has a Horcrux in Voldemort and is immortal as long as Voldemort lives. If that is so, it wouldn’t really change anything …

  • Harry couldn’t know the overall plan. It was way too risky. Dumbledore needed Voldee to believe that Snape was 100% loyal to his dark lord and letting Harry know that this was untrue could have damaged everything. Whether Voldee re-entered Harry’s mind, caught him and read his mind, or Harry revealed it himself in a fit of rage to the ears of Voldee and his death eaters, nothing could have gone well if Harry knew the plan. So had Snape showed up early I strongly believe the only thing we would have seen was a sooner goodbye to our beloved headmaster.

    • ISeeThestrals

      Perhaps if Harry had learned to close his mind in book 5, he could be more in the know.

  • Paige Crawley

    I think things would have gone down much the same way, only Harry would have been more knowledgable about the whole snape thing. Snape would still have to kill dumbeldore, but maybe wouldn’t put up so much of a facade and Harry (and Draco) might have a better understanding of what was happening, but i still don’t think snape would’ve said anything outright because he would know too much information might ruin the plan.
    I don’t think snape would have helped him because it was still important for Harry to think snape was working for voldemort and for him to think dumbeldore was murdered

  • RoseLumos

    I tend to agree with a lot of the commentators here – I don’t think much would have changed. The Death Eaters would have still been right behind Snape so he wouldn’t really have much choice.

    However, I think that the person suffering the most from this situation would be Draco. My impression is that he feels very alone and feels as if no one understands his situation. While it might not look like it, I think Draco’s conversation with Dumbledore taught him many things – 1) That he is not a murderer, 2) That he has choices that can be made, 3) That, most importantly, he is not alone. Dumbledore understands his situation and let’s him know that is it okay, after all this time, to feel afraid. I think that’s why, in DH, that Draco chooses not to straight away identify Harry in the manor. He realizes that, if he had more time, he could have made a right choice. He realizes that his soul is still whole and that he still has a heart. I think he is willing to show mercy to Harry because Dumbledore did the same to him. Without Draco’s conversation, I don’t think he would have realized that he is still human. He may have given up and given in to Voldemort. But because of Dumbledore, he realized that he still has a chance to be “saved”, even if it seems small.

  • ISeeThestrals

    The reverse order almost seems to suggest that more information could have been shared with Harry on what was going on or that Dumbledore could have somehow been spared. I would say the Death Eaters could almost be ignored in this scene, yet at the same time they can’t. As opposed to being there to mock Dumbledore and cheer Draco on, they keep Draco feeling torn between following the path of evil or realizing this might not be who he truly is. There is still the Unbreakable Vow to consider, unless Dumbledore found a loophole for it where it would keep him alive as well as Snape. If anything, I could see Snape ordering Draco to leave while he took care of Dumbledore, which would leave both professors and Harry alone and open an opportunity for more information to be passed to Harry, if doing so doesn’t ruin the plan. I still see Snape killing Dumbledore, but depending on the idea that Snape would send Draco away, it would have confused us as well as Harry to see Dumbledore still having Snape kill him when they are not in the presence of any Death Eaters.

  • HufflepuffVet

    I believe that Snape would have still killed Dumbledore, otherwise I think he himself would have died because of the unbreakable vow. But perhaps he and Dumbledore would have discussed a bit of their plan more openly (making it known that Snape is supposed to kill him anyway) without any other death eaters there and continued to try and convince Draco that the light side is the right side to be on. Maybe then it would not have seemed as much as a betrayal to Harry, but more of following the plan that has been in place all along and Snape could have had a chance to explain his actions to the Order. I’m not saying all would be forgiven or even whether the Order would believe him, but at least they would hear Snape’s side of the story as well instead of just what Harry saw.

  • SocksAreImportant

    Wow I love this podcast question of the week, so props to whoever came up with it. Snape coming to the aid first would have allowed for interaction between Draco and Snape. I do not think there would be anyway for Snape to commit the murder of Dumbledore and go back to the Order in anyway. Even if he was able to explain the situation to Harry and Harry believed him, the plan to have Snape kill Dumbledore was to have Voldemort trust him completely. Snape and Dumbledore knew that once the deed was done, Snape would have to sever all ties with the Order. Voldemort now has no doubts about Snape’s loyalty to him and this in my opinion is what leads Voldemort to thrust the Headmaster position at him. Snape needed to be headmaster at the school in book 7 to attempt to prevent as much dark arts practices as possible. One can argue that he didn’t do that good of a job, but I believe the school would have looked a lot worse if Snape was not elected headmaster.

  • Roonil Wazlib

    If Snape had arrived first, I like to imagine that Dumbledore would’ve used that time to give Harry a few final bits of information…like, oh I don’t know, maybe just how to destroy a horcrux?? You know, just that vitally important info that Dumbledore has been sitting on this entire year.
    Then when they heard the other Death Eaters coming up the stairs Dumbledore could’ve immobilized Harry, leaving Snape and Dumbledore to play out their roles as planned. But I agree with other commentators in that this order of events would hurt Draco in the long run, and would also mess up the whole Elder Wand plotline.

  • Silverdoe25

    I agree that Snape still kills Dumbledore. He’s pretty much hemmed in by the Unbreakable Vow. I think Snape and Dumbledore had that conversation early on. I even think that’s why he made the Unbreakable Vow to begin with – he’d already made the agreement with Dumbledore.

    • ISeeThestrals

      It’d be interesting to know how this would be if there were no Unbreakable vow. If such a bind dind’t exist in the magical world, Snape could disregard the order to kill Dumbledore, but knowing what was at stake, it’s likely he’d still follow the order. If Snape couldn’t get around that vow, it’s difficult to see another conclusion to this.

  • Luna LoveDuck

    I don’t know whether I quite believe the idea I’m about to put out there, but I’d like to play devil’s advocate and see what everything thinks: It’s possible that Dumbledore never really had any intention of helping Draco. He was buying time, saying whatever he could to keep Draco talking and stall until Snape arrived. I believe that the reason Dumbledore kept asking Harry to get Snape was because Dumbledore knew that he was on death’s door. He didn’t expect Snape to help him recover, he just wanted to make sure that it was Snape who killed him, and not the potion. If that’s true, then Dumbledore’s number one priority is to keep things under control as much as possible until Snape arrives. So when Draco shows up, Dumbledore is simply interested in stringing him along for as long as it takes.
    I agree with a point that was brought up on the show, that a lot of what Draco is saying is for Harry’s benefit, to allow Harry to understand Draco better and to let go of his obsession with Draco. So I concede that Dumbledore might have had that same idea in terms of the leading questions he was asking Draco, that it was all for Harry to hear. But then he runs out of exposition questions, the story has been told… What else is Dumbledore gonna say? Of course he starts trying to tell Draco he can help him and his family. But have we ever thought about whether that would actually work? Even if Draco was willing to change alliances in that moment and Snape showed up before the other Death Eaters, I don’t believe that Dumbledore or Snape would risk the whole plan by admitting in front of Draco that Snape is one of the good guys. And even if team Snape/Draco/Dumbledore did join forces and fight off all the Death Eaters, that would completely blow their cover and they probably wouldn’t even get to Narcissa in time to protect her too. And in that scenario, neither Draco nor Snape would end up killing Dumbledore, a murder that we know must be committed by one of them. No, Dumbledore is too smart to not have already considered all of these options. As much as I hate to admit it (I share Rosie’s feelings about having so many issues with Dumbledore as the puppet master), I think it’s entire likely that when Dumbledore was offering to help Draco, it was just a Machiavellian tactic. He was using Draco to buy time, and he would have been willing to say anything to stall until Snape got there. If Snape had showed up first, Dumbledore would have done the exact same thing: Pleaded with Snape to do what had to be done.

    • RoseLumos

      I like the second part of your comment – what was Dumbledore really going to do to save Draco? He is in no condition to Apperate or escape the tower in any way. The Death Eaters were right behind Draco. It’s not like he would suddenly turn on them and attempt to fight them, because he would have no chance. But, let’s pretend that the Order wins the battle and fight their way up to the tower before the Death Eaters. Even if Dumbledore gave orders for Draco to be hidden, how in the world would he have gotten to Narcissa?!? Let’s remember, she is in Malfoy Manor, which is either currently or very soon turned into Voldemort’s headquarters. Was Dumbledore or an Order member supposed to march in and convince her to leave, right in front of Voldemort and Bellatrix? As much as Dumbledore wants to help (and I think his offer was genuine) I can’t imagine it actually happening.

      • Luna LoveDuck

        Totally, thanks for entertaining this possibility with me! I can’t believe these factors never occurred to me before, this was just a really good question of the week to make me reflect on this specific moment and what might have been. I especially like your point about the difficulty of getting to Narcissa. So even if, by some miracle, Dumbledore managed to get out of there alive with Draco, Dumbledore has no business telling Draco that Narcissa can be protected as well. Despite all that, I agree with you that Dumbledore’s offer to help might have indeed been genuine. I certainly don’t like to entertain the notion that he would just be using Draco, playing on his emotions. It’s just tough that there are so many other instances when it feels like he’s being a puppet master in similar ways with Harry, so I couldn’t help but wonder whether he was deliberately stringing Draco along in this moment too… Sigh, Dumbledore!

  • Ravencaw

    Snape still would have killed Dumbledore, regardless of the order in which everyone arrived. They had agreed to this inevitability long before it actually happened. However, I do think Snape arriving before the Death Eaters would have had a negative impact on Draco, as others have stated. Draco wouldn’t have experienced the same character development without observing the stark contrasts between Dumbledore’s compassion and level-headedness and the Death Eater’s chaotic immaturity.

    There is the slight possibility that Draco would have killed Dumbledore before Snape had the chance. We see in his conversation with Dumbledore atop the tower that Draco seems to be deeply offended by Snape’s attempts to “steal his thunder.” I think there’s a small chance that Draco, upon seeing Snape, would have turned and killed Dumbledore to prove himself and ensure that Snape couldn’t steal his glory.

  • JeffDowning

    I just do not think it could have changed. The unbreakable vow fated Snape to kill Dumbledore. Snape, nor Dumbledore, would have allowed Draco to actually fulfill Voldemort’s homicidal order. If Snape got there earlier, he might have tried to examine Dumbledore, he might have counseled him that the potion was going to kill him, that his time was almost up from the curse on his hand, that the Death Eaters were attacking the castle, etc. All the time that Dumbledore spent talking with Draco would be taken up with Dumbledore talking to Snape, if latter showed up first. Once Snape and Dumbledore spoke for a bit, the Death Eaters would have shown up on the tower, perhaps with Malfoy. Snape would have put on a show for the Death Eaters, but Dumbledore would still have been killed. Dumbledore needed Snape alive to carry on the mission, and if Snape did not cast the fatal curse the unbreakable vow would have killed him. The Elder Wand is still in question here: would Dumbledore allow Snape to disarm him? I think so because there was no indication that Voldemort was aware of the power of the Elder Wand, or that Dumbledore was in possession of it. The next issue would be that Harry would be present for all of the discourse between Snape and Dumbledore. He should know Snape’s loyalty, which remove the antagonism in the DH, but could have also added the dynamic of Snape being Harry’s inside man throughout the conclusion of the story. The downside, is that it would remove the necessity of The Prince’s Tale chapter from DH.

  • Love-potion-4-Noah

    The ways in which it could have changed are vast. I’m sure Jo toyed with many possibilities but that would not have moved the plot along as fast enough for her to end our favorite series.

    Some of these ideas could have been:

    1 Snape could hide him by transfiguring Dumbledore into something like a potted plant.

    2 Snape could have given him something to recover maybe Snape always carries a bezoar in his cloak who knows wizards are weird.

    3 Finally Snape could have made him appear dead. Snape and Draco could say to the Deatheaters Draco was responsible for AD’s death gaining him some needed Valdi-credit. Then later Dumbledore could hideout in Grimmauld Place.

    If you would like Snape to kiss Madam Hootch turn to page 394.

  • TheAmazingBouncingFerret

    Do we think Dumbledore and/or Snape had some sort of plan that could actually get the Malfoys out? Or was he just bluffing? I mean, they had to know there would be a chaotic Voldemort reign of terror in the time between Dumbledore’s death and Harry defeating Voldemort. Snape would obviously have to stay undercover, so who would have kept the Malfoys safe? I don’t think post-Dumbledore Order of the Phoenix could have managed that. Seems he was just stalling. So, if the Malfoys can’t be brought over to the good side, Draco has no reason to protect Snape, so I think it is best if Draco sees Snape kill Dumbledore and keeps believing Snape is loyal to Voldemort. I think you were right when you said Dumbledore did not expect to get out of there alive, possibly from the moment he saw the Mark, definitely by the time he learned Death Eaters were in the castle (what better way to consolidate Snape than have Death Eaters witness the whole thing, he was probably pleased on some level), but Draco as a sole witness would have been enough. He only needs him and Harry to see it, and while the Death eaters are a plus to the plan, they are not really essential. The situation would have still been ideal to carry out the “murder” in Dumbledore’s mind, no sense in outing Snape to anybody for a few more days or weeks to live.

  • Olivia Underwood

    This has nothing to do with the question of the week but does anyone else feel that Snape is eerily similar to Heathcliff, in terms of his character and plot line in Wuthering Heights? I have always viewed WH to be a story of obsession rather than a love story.

    • VoiceofDobby

      Well we do know that Jo pulled lots of ideas from other stories/books…

  • ISeeThestrals

    Don’t know if this has been discussed or not, but how does this scene compare to that in the movie for some of you? I think the one thing I could appreciate in this particular scene is Snape knowing Harry was there and about to witness what he had to do. I’m not sure if I’m remembering correctly or not but I believe just before Snape kills him and before Dumbledore begs him, Snape is looking down at Harry below. I can’t help but get the sense Snape feels all the more guilty about doing this with Harry there even though he always despised him.