Severus Snape has always been one of the most fascinating Harry Potter characters. It has been more than a decade since we first learned of his secret heroism, but we’re still uncovering new layers of intrigue behind Dumbledore’s most trusted secret weapon. Lately, we’ve been thinking about how Snape fooled Voldemort for so long.
Y’see, the Harry Potter stories gave Voldemort a power beyond that of the other malevolent bad guys in the franchise: a real aptitude for seeing inside people’s minds. The Dark Lord was skilled at the art of Legilimency, which meant he could tell when Harry Potter characters were lying to him. But not Snape, it seems. Why?
Well, we have an answer for that courtesy of Potter fan Jason Sarasti on Quora: Snape never lied to Voldemort. The real genius of the Hogwarts potion master is that he managed to fight alongside the biggest and baddest Harry Potter villains without them ever being suspicious, and that’s because he chose his words very carefully indeed.
Of course, we know from the events of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that Severus Snape is a master of Occlumency, which means he could repress mind-reading. However, Voldemort was smart enough that he could detect when things were being hidden from him. “Snape knew that Voldemort’s skill in Legillemency would immediately alert him to duplicity, so instead, Snape only told Voldemort the truth,” Sarasti wrote.
Snape claimed that he abandoned Voldemort’s side because he believed he had died in Godric’s Hollow, which is true. He also had no idea that Professor Quirrell was acting on Voldemort’s orders and Dumbledore deliberately kept him in the dark about his plans for hunting Horcruxes. Then, after the Dark Lord finally returned, Snape did as he was told and killed Dumbledore, continuing to play the perfect Death Eater.
When the Order of the Phoenix moved Harry Potter from his home, Snape revealed the true date of this plot to Voldemort and exposed the false trail that had been planted through the Ministry. This led to the Battle of the Seven Potters.
Sarasti added: “Even if Voldemort had decided to raid Snape’s mind, he would’ve found little of interest. Snape’s love for Lily Potter was already known to Voldemort (and he foolishly underestimated it, just as he did with Lily’s love for Harry), and the fact that he spent a great deal of time scheming with Dumbledore would not have perturbed Voldemort, but would’ve pleased him. That was literally the job that Snape was given; to earn Dumbledore’s trust and spy on him, and then relay his plans to Voldemort.”
Truly, it is Snape’s intelligence and cunning that make him one of the most impressive wizards across the best movies in the franchise. That’s why he’s the ultimate Slytherin, despite his heroic status as a double agent. He was willing to make tough decisions and do despicable things in order to serve the greater good, making him a vital cog in the fight against Voldemort.
Next time you rewatch the Harry Potter movies in order, keep a close eye on Snape and you’ll notice that he plays his role so perfectly because he plays it as truthfully as he can. His mission was so secret and his cover so deep that almost nobody knew his true allegiance, which shows just how gifted he was.
For more on the Harry Potter cast, find out why Rupert Grint looked like Donald Trump on set of the final film. And you can learn about new movies in the franchise with our guide to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child movie release date, as well as the Harry Potter TV series release date.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.