Friendly warning: Spoilers ahead! Read on only if you have read all seven of the Harry Potter books.
Continuing from where we left off last week ...
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The Goblet of Fire marked the return of Voldemort to power. Here, we saw Snape's extreme unwillingness to have others know or recall about his past as a Death Eater. However, when Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge stubbornly refused to acknowledge Voldemort's return, Snape walked up and revealed his reappeared Death Mark before Fudge's eyes, in full view of teachers, parents and students around, including those who might not have known of his past identity otherwise —— once again sacrificing his valued dignity for a noble cause. Unlike fellow deflected Death Eater Karkaroff, Snape was unshaken in his resolution to stay on in Hogwarts to continue his mission for Dumbledore, Lily and Harry, mentally preparing himself to face the wrath of Voldemort. Finally, on the order of Dumbledore, Snape returned to Voldemort, knowing he was already branded a traitor, knowing the Dark Lord's intolerance of disloyalty, knowing his arduous task ahead, and —— knowing the cruel fate that awaited him if Voldemort failed to be convinced. Thus, in spite of the fears brewing inside him, Snape re-embarked on a treacherous journey as a double agent, putting himself in constant mortal danger from then on.
In the next title, The Order of the Phoenix, Snape undertook the task of imparting the skill of Occlumency to Harry, giving him a peek into some of Harry's most unpleasant memories. Harry noted that Snape took the chance to mock at him when Snape inquired who the dog threatening Harry in one of the memories involving the Dursleys belonged to. On closer inspection though, Snape's selection of the memory to remark about was most intriguing. Why did he focus on a dog when he could have inflicted worse hurt by jeering at Harry's fragility in face of the dementors or teasing about the kiss with Cho Chang? No doubt Snape might not have gotten a proper view of those more embarrassing scenes, but why didn't J.K. Rowling let him if that was the case? There is hence a possibility that Snape was actually concerned about the Dursleys' ill-treatment of Harry. This first-hand insight into Harry's muggle life might have partly contributed to Dumbledore's confrontation scene with the Dursleys in the book to follow.
Speaking of the next book, The Half-Blood Prince was the start of another tragic tribulation for Snape. Before that though, like in The Chamber of Secrets, Snape was again the teacher to meet Harry at the gates when the young wizard failed to arrive at Hogwarts with the rest of the students, quietly forsaking his dinner at the school-opening feast while waiting for his safe arrival. Disliking Harry as he was, Snape still kept a silent lookout for him during his arrival at the start of each school year, holding a vigil for him on an empty stomach when he failed to arrive with the others, and punishing him after he finally appeared in hope that Harry would not place himself in such danger again. Even though all these were misconstrued as bullying antics by almost everyone else.
A strict disciplinarian Snape was however, unlike Dolores Umbridge and the Carrows, he never resorted to corporeal punishment. Instead, what was the most physically excruciating task he assigned Harry in the name of cruel punishment? Flobberworms, probably the most harmless magical creatures around.
It is also in this year that Snape rescued a number of people from death or severe injury: Dumbledore, Katie Bell and Draco Malfoy. This marks a significant difference between Snape and some ordinary Dark Arts fanatic. Unlike Crabbe and the Carrows, Snape devoted efforts to the defence of the Dark Arts as well, studying the means of undoing their damage. A not very obvious aspect of Snape's personality was also in play. From his fine feminine-like handwriting, his notes-laden potions textbook, his devotion to his studies and research, his mastery of the subtle art of Potions and the elaborate charms he performed with a high concentration on Dumbledore and Draco, it can be sensed that underneath Snape's cold and harsh exterior was a thoughtful and caring soul after all.
Tata for the night and remember to come back for the concluding piece in the series!