Severus Snape was one of Hogwarts’s most relatable yet most disliked professors in Hogwarts. Albus Dumbledore was one of the most outstanding headmasters that Hogwarts had ever seen, and he placed a great deal of trust in Snape, even though most didn’t think that Snape seemed to deserve it. So, why did Snape kill Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince?
Snape killed Dumbledore out of responsibility and loyalty and not anger. Dumbledore was already cursed and dying, so acting at Dumbledore’s request, Snape killed him. He also prevented Draco from having to kill Dumbledore, and more importantly, having to carry that weight the rest of his life.
But as many complex layers make up Severus Snape, there are many layers to why Snape killed Dumbledore. This article will explore all of those reasons and give you a better understanding of why Snape had to kill Dumbledore and how both men felt about it.
Why did Snape have to kill Dumbledore?
The most important thing to remember is Snape didn’t want to kill Dumbledore; he HAD to. Dumbledore was cursed and knew he was dying, but he wanted to avoid a death that would degrade his image and be excruciatingly painful. He asked Snape to help him end his suffering when the time came. Snape showed his loyalty to Dumbledore in killing him and granted him the mercy of sparing him a long, painful death.
Furthermore, Dumbledore knew that Voldemort had ordered Draco Malfoy to kill him, and he wanted Snape to do it so that Draco wouldn’t have to. Dumbledore didn’t think that Draco would have the courage to kill him and knew Voldemort would kill the boy if he failed. On the contrary, if he succeeded, Dumbledore feared Draco wouldn’t be able to live with himself after the fact, and his soul would become dark.
And finally, Dumbledore knew that if Snape killed him, Voldemort would consider him still loyal to HIM, and Snape would remain a Death Eater. Keeping up this ruse was important to Snape because his ultimate goal was to protect Harry from Voldemort since he had failed to protect Harry’s mother, who was also his first love. Snape had also made an unbreakable vow with Draco’s mother Narcissa, which would have resulted in his own death had he not intervened and killed Dumbledore.
How did Snape kill Dumbledore?
Snape killed Dumbledore using Avada Kevadra, which is the Killing Curse. The Killing curse was one of the three Unforgivable Curses. Death from the curse was instantaneous and painless.
Power and concentration were needed to cast Avada Kevadra, and Snape was able to tap into both. Though the blast from the curse was powerful enough to blast Dumbledore off the Astronomy Tower, he was killed instantly and did not feel any pain. This way, Snape killed him out of mercy, rather than hatred, by giving him a quick and painless death.
Why didn’t Dumbledore stop him?
Dumbledore didn’t stop Snape from killing him with the Killing curse because he is the one who told Snape to kill him. Dumbledore had put on the Marvolo Gaunt’s ring out of temptation but quickly realized the ring was a cursed Horcrux that would kill whoever put it on. Dumbledore knew that he would die in less than a year because of the curse, and he would grow weaker and more vulnerable, making his death painful and humiliating.
He also knew that Draco planned to assassinate him. He feared that the boy might not have the courage to kill him, and if he didn’t, Voldemort would make sure that Draco and his entire family died instead. On the other hand, Dumbledore knew that if Draco did follow through and kill him, his soul would become dark, and there would be no hope for him after that.
So, Dumbledore proved why he was one of the greatest wizards ever and planned his death with Snape acting as his assistant to execute it. Dumbledore knew that although Snape was a Death Eater, he was still loyal to him, and he would fulfill his request. Also, Dumbledore knew that since Snape would be killing him out of mercy instead of hatred, Snape’s soul would not be harmed as Draco’s would if he were the one to do it.
So in the moments before Dumbledore dies when he says, “Severus…..please,” he is actually pleading with Snape to keep his loyalty to him, grant him mercy, and kill him, rather than begging him not to kill him as some have believed.
How did Snape feel about killing Dumbledore?
Snape ultimately did not want to kill Dumbledore. He killed him out of loyalty because he knew Dumbledore wanted him to and out of mercy. After all, Snape knew what kind of death Dumbledore would experience due to the Gaunt’s ring. Still, he was greatly distressed when the time came for him to follow through with Dumbledore’s request.
However, casting an Unforgivable Curse such as the death curse requires that the person casting the spell genuinely want to harm or inflict pain on the person they are cursing. Unforgivable Curses require a lot of power, concentration, and emotion. If Snape didn’t want to kill Dumbledore but felt more like he had to, how did he muster the necessary feelings to execute the curse?
What appears to be hatred or anger on Snape’s face when he casts the death curse is actually anguish. Snape was conflicted about killing Dumbledore even up to the moment he had to do it. But still, he knew what he had to do, and he knew that he had to tap deep into his emotions to follow through.
Snape was angry when he killed Dumbledore, but it was because he had to reach deep into his emotions to cast the curse. He was mad at Dumbledore for putting him in the position to have to kill him. Perhaps, he was even angry at himself for feeling the loyalty to Dumbledore that allowed him to be in that position.
Also, Snape had been pretending to be bad for quite some time, so not only was he good at controlling his emotions, he knew exactly what emotions he would need to execute the curse successfully.
He also knew that he was saving several other people, including himself, if only for a short time by killing Dumbledore. He was saving Dumbledore himself from a long and painful death. He was saving Draco from Voldemort’s wrath if he failed but saving his soul if he had succeeded.
He was also saving himself because of the unbreakable vow he had made with Narcissa Malfoy. But I don’t think he saved himself selfishly; Snape was trying to keep himself alive so he could continue doing what he had been doing all along: protect Harry from Voldemort.
Did Severus Snape act heroically or maliciously when he killed Dumbledore? Many will say the former, but knowing the reasons behind his actions, some think of Snape as a hero.
Was he as evil as most people made him out to be? I don’t think that he was. I think he was just conflicted and misunderstood. Above everything, he was loyal to the people he truly cared about.