Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 – Spinner’s End

Another chapter outside of Harry’s point of view! We don’t usually get two of these right up front! I particularly like this chapter because it deals with one of my favorite characters in the whole series: Severus Snape. Now, to be clear, I do NOT think Snape is a good person. He’s a terrible teacher who belittles his students. I do, however, find him fascinating as a character. There are lots of complex layers to this guy, and this chapter shows a few of them. Plus, the fact that he was played in the films by one of my all-time favorite actors doesn’t hurt either (RIP Alan Rickman, gods above, I miss him!).

We start out in a very run down neighborhood next to a dirty river next to an old mill. Two hooded figures appear and head into town, one of them very determined and the other trying to stop the first. The second one is very jumpy and actually kills a fox because she heard a sound and was afraid it was an Auror.

The first woman is named Narcissa, the second is named Bella, and it’s pretty clear that this is none other than Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, who we have learned are sisters as well as cousins to Sirius. Narcissa is on the verge of hysteria and is heading into this town to find someone who can help her with something. Bellatrix is not happy about any of this. She keeps trying to stop Narcissa from entering the dirty Muggle town and she definitely doesn’t want Narcissa to seek out the person she is looking for.

“Cissy, you must not do this, you can’t trust him –”

“The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn’t he?”

“The Dark Lord is . . . I believe . . . mistaken,” Bella panted, and her eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to check that they were indeed alone. “In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord’s –”

“Let go, Bella!” snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from beneath her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other’s face. Bella merely laughed.

“Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn’t –”

Yeah, it turns out that she will. Narcissa shoots what is probably a Stinging Hex at her sister and keeps walking to a street called Spinner’s End down to the last house on the street. Before Bella can stop her, Narcissa knocks on the door. The door opens to reveal . . . Snape. This is his house, although it is clear from the threadbare conditions that he doesn’t spend a great deal of time there. He greets the sisters and lets them in. Another thing that’s clear: he and Bellatrix do not like each other AT ALL.

After they are seated (except for Bella, who chooses to stand), Narcissa asks to make sure they’re alone. They are, except for Wormtail, who is just outside the room behind a hidden door, which Snape blasts open. It seems Wormtail just enjoys eavesdropping, maybe left over from so much time spent as a rat. Snape sends him off to fetch drinks. He and Wormtail don’t particularly like each other either. Wormtail was sent to “assist” Snape and resents being treated like a servant instead. He brings out the wine and then scurries away, Snape slamming the door behind him.

Narcissa accepts the glass of wine. Snape raises his and toasts the Dark Lord, which the sisters do as well in response. Narcissa begins to talk to Snape, but he stops her, casting a spell towards the door Wormtail just left through. You hear a yelp and then footsteps running away. Snape apologizes and asks Narcissa to continue. She begins by admitting that she shouldn’t be there and were told not to say anything. Bellatrix jumps on this, saying that it proves that Narcissa should keep her mouth shut, especially in front of Snape, because she absolutely does not trust him.

“Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix,” said Snape. “Why is it that you do not trust me?”

“A hundred reasons!” she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. “Where to start!” Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you’ve lived in Dumbledore’s pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Sorcerer’s Stone? Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?”

Jeez, Bella! Do you feel better now that you have all that off your chest? None of this fazes Snape. He tells her that he will definitely answer all her questions, but also, does she really think that Voldemort didn’t have the same questions for him? And does she really think that Snape would still be here if Voldemort wasn’t satisfied with his answers? Does she really think that Snape was able to fool her hero?

Which is actually funny because, yes, Snape did fool Voldemort. But that’s neither here nor there. Bellatrix doesn’t know that.

First question: where was Snape when the Dark Lord fell? He was at Hogwarts, right where Voldemort told him to be, assigned to spy on Dumbledore.

Second question: why didn’t he find Voldemort when he vanished? He thought Voldemort was gone, just like Lucius, Avery, and many others did. Voldemort has chosen to forgive those who doubted.

Third question: why did he stay at Hogwarts if Voldemort was gone and he no longer needed to be a spy? Why not stay at Hogwarts? He had a good job and Dumbledore’s protection to keep him out of jail. What’s more, Voldemort himself is very happy that Snape stayed because it meant he could go back to spying once he returned.

Fourth question: why did Snape prevent Voldemort from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone? Simple. Voldemort wasn’t sure Snape was still loyal and, as such, did not reveal himself. Snape only saw Quirrell trying to steal the Stone and, yes, tried to stop him. According to Snape, if Voldemort had trusted him, he would have returned to power three years ago. Think about that for a second. Would have made the first book in this series a whole lot different, wouldn’t it!

Fifth question: why didn’t Snape return when Voldemort was reborn? He did not return immediately . . .

“Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumbledore’s orders.”

“On Dumbledore’s –?” she began, in tones of outrage.

“Think!” said Snape, impatient again. “Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours, I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord’s side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since! Consider, Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next move, to escape like Karkaroff, didn’t I?

“The Dark Lord’s initial displeasure at my lateness vanished entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, although Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong.”

See, this is what makes Snape such a fascinating character. Even here, even listening to him spell it out bluntly before two of Voldemort’s faithful followers, we still don’t know for sure what side he’s on. He could be telling the absolute truth. He could be lying his face off. No way to know for sure.

I also love his little stab at Bellatrix when she demands what information he’s brought, and he says that he reported directly to Voldemort and it isn’t any of his business if Voldemort decides not to share it with her.

Sixth question: why didn’t Snape fight with them at the Ministry? See, Bells, this is why you aren’t in charge of planning things. Don’t you think the Order would have noticed if all of a sudden Snape started fighting against them? Voldemort wants his spy in place and ordered Snape to stay out of it.

Seventh and final question: why has Snape not taken out Harry Potter? You know, for a Slytherin, Bellatrix has no sense of subtlety whatsoever. Imagine. Voldemort is believed to be gone. Snape is under Dumbledore’s protection, which is keeping him out of jail. Sure, let’s go ahead and murder Dumbledore’s favorite student. That’s a good idea! Also, and this is new, when Harry first survived Voldemort’s attack as a baby, there were rumors that Harry was a powerful Dark wizard and that was how he did it. The Death Eaters wondered if Harry would rise up to be their new master one day.

Of course that didn’t happen, and isn’t likely to, but they didn’t know any better at the time. Snape can’t stand Harry and has tried to get him thrown out of school on numerous occasions, but can’t do any more than that with Dumbledore keeping such a close watch. Bellatrix is still skeptical. If Snape is loyal to Voldemort, how has he been so good at fooling Dumbledore all these years?

“I have played my part well,” said Snape. “And you overlook Dumbledore’s greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of people. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms — though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has,” (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), “the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were. But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord.”

Bellatrix is flummoxed for the moment, so Snape turns to Narcissa for her to continue her request. Narcissa didn’t know where else to turn since Lucius is in prison. Voldemort has a plan, but has forbidden her to speak of it. Bellatrix leaps on this to convince her to keep her mouth shut, but turns out Snape also knows about the plan. He doesn’t think he can change Voldemort’s mind though, and it would be foolish in the extreme to try.

Narcissa starts to cry. Whatever this plan is, it involves Draco, her only son. Bellatrix thinks Draco should be proud for this assignment, but Narcissa knows that it is only because Draco is young and doesn’t know the dangers involved. She frets that sending Draco into peril is vengeance for Lucius failing in his attempt to retrieve the prophesy. There is no way for Draco to succeed in this mission. Voldemort’s intent is for Draco to die trying. He is furious that the prophesy slipped through his hands.

Snape can’t risk Voldemort’s wrath and can’t get him to change his mind, but he can do his best to help Draco and protect him. Bellatrix sneers that sure, Snape may try, but that is meaningless. Narcissa falls at his feet and asks him to make the Unbreakable Vow. At first Bellatrix starts to laugh, but stops when Snape agrees. He kneels on the ground across from Narcissa and asks for Bellatrix to be their Bonder.

The Vow is spoken over their clasped hands, red flames encircling them. Snape swears to do the following: to watch over Draco as he attempts his task, to do his best to protect Draco from harm, and if necessary, if Draco should fail, to carry out the task Draco has been ordered to do. This last one in particular surprises Bellatrix, but the spell has been cast, and Snape is now bound to this responsibility. She can’t argue with that!

So where has Harry Potter been through all this? See you next time for Chapter 3!



Categories: Chapter-A-Long

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