Okay, I've waited long enough, it's time to talk about Severus Snape.
Poor Snape (or wicked, evil Snape, depending on your interpretation) has always been shrouded in mystery. In the last five books he's conducted himself with the most frustrating ambiguity. There were only a few things that seemed clear about Severus Snape: he is a champion at holding a grudge, he is trusted by Dumbledore, he wants the Dark Arts job and he's a Death Eater, in body if not in spirit.
In Book 6 the long standing question of Snape's allegiance seems to be answered when the man turns his wand on Dumbledore, killing him before Harry's own eyes. Okay, Dumbledore was wrong, Snape is bad. Or is he?
Entertainment Weekly put two of it's writers to the task of debating this question. Since the evidence against him is fairly obvious, I won't bother going into it. Here is Paul Katz's defense of Snape:
- Snape must fulfill his do-or-die Unbreakable Vow to protect Dumbledore's would be assasin, Draco Malfoy - preserving his cover as a double agent. So reluctantly he kills the Hogwards headmaster...
- Dumbledore was ordering Snape to kill him, not begging for his life. He'd never beg!
- Even while battling Harry, Snape reminds him to "keep your mouth shut and your mind closed" - sound advise for his former occlumenscy pupil. Plus, Snape has rescued Harry several times - however begrudgingly - and even tells the Death Eaters in Book 6 to hold off on killing him.
- Dumbledore trusts him "completely." That's good enough for us.
- Not only does Dumbledore trust him completely, but the presense of Pettigrew at Snape's house in chapter two makes one suspect that Voldemort does NOT trust him completely.
- Harry continually defended the Half-Blood Prince, insisting that the person who had left the notes in his potions text book was not the kind of person he'd encountered in Tom Riddle's diary. He even continued to defend the Half-Blood Prince after discovering the mysterious figures tendency toward the dark arts. We learn toward the end of the book that the Half Blood Prince is Severus Snape.