For us diehard Potterheads, Professor Snape has consistently been a looming figure in Harry Potter’s life. In the books, the Potions Master’s “greasy hair, hooked nose, and sallow skin” (Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, page 126) were something to be disgusted with. Alan Rickman’s talented portrayal of Severus Snape only added to the hatred of him.
As we grew with Harry, his insecure friend Ron Weasley, and brilliant Muggle (non-magical) -born Hermione Granger, Snape seemed to get only worse. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he was in favor of expelling Ron and Harry for driving Ron’s father’s flying car and in the Prisoner of Azkaban, he lost his temper when Sirius Black disappeared from his holding place at Hogwarts and blamed the entire incident on Harry Potter. Although it did have something to do with Harry and Hermione’s time-traveling, he leveled the accusation without proof and was “beside himself” (page 419).
But our story starts before Harry’s time. Our story started in 1971 when Lily Evans, James Potter, and Severus Snape all got their Hogwarts letters and packed up their belongings, excited to begin their magical careers. Severus had met the Muggle-born Lily two years prior and notified her of the existence of magic. Lily’s sister Petunia, who would later become Harry’s guardian, desperately wanted to attend the school but, as a Muggle, could not. Petunia wrote to Headmaster Dumbledore and implored him to take her, but he refused. Petunia pretended she was sickened with her sister’s magical talent to cover up her desperation, calling Lily a “freak” (Deathly Hallows, page 669).
Severus was Sorted into Slytherin's house, where he met a group of pure blood bullies and became lasting friends. In the meantime, both Lily and James were Sorted into Gryffindor along with James’s friends he had met on the train.
James and Sirius, who sat in the same compartment as Severus and Lily on the train ride to Hogwarts, taunted Severus until Lily suggested that she and Severus leave and find another compartment. One of them (the book does not specify which friend) called Severus what would soon be his unpopular nickname, Snivellus. Snape was disliked at Hogwarts from the beginning and was bullied by James and his small band of friends.
In the fifth year after an O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Levels), Sirius, James, Remus, and Peter were sitting on the grounds when one of them spotted Severus. They taunted him relentlessly and used a couple of minor jinxes, which included the hex Scourgify after Severus had used a few choice words to describe James (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page 646).
Lily Evans, who was still friends with Snape at this time, came to his defense angrily. “‘You think you’re so funny,” she said coldly. ‘But you’re just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone’” (Order of the Phoenix, page 647).
In his humiliation, Severus yelled, “I don’t need help from filthy little Mudblood like her!” (Order of the Phoenix, page 648). Lily ended their friendship right then and there but still refused to go out with James, considering him a jock who messed with his hair to make it look like he’d just gotten off a broomstick and hexed people in the corridors of Hogwarts just because he could. Lily said James made her “sick” (Order of the Phoenix, page 648).
Severus tried to renew their friendship, but she wasn’t having it. Unbeknownst to the readers of Harry Potter (until the seventh book) and Lily herself, Snape had developed a serious crush on Lily. He joined a group of wizard supremacists known as the Death Eaters, or Lord Voldemort’s followers, in an attempt to win back her trust and affection. However, this did nothing but increase her hostility.
After James “deflated his head a bit,” (Order of the Pheonix, page 671) he and Lily began going out in the seventh year. Severus, James, and Lily graduated Hogwarts in 1978; Severus joined Lord Voldemort with his Death Eater friends, James and Lily married and settled down to have a family.
Shortly before the Potters’ death, Severus learned of a prophecy made by then-applicant for the Hogwarts Divination post, Sybill Trelawney. Driven by his never-ending love for Lily, Severus switched sides, entered the Order of the Phoenix, and persuaded Albus Dumbledore, the leader of the Order and the only person Lord Voldemort feared, to help keep the Potters safe.
The prophecy spoke of a boy born at the end of July whose parents had defied Voldemort three times. There were two choices: Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort preferred the boy who mirrored himself: the half-blood Harry Potter.
Simultaneously, Dumbledore requested that the Potters to go into hiding and made Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, the Secret Keeper of their house. Sirius, hoping to deflect attention away from the house and to get Voldemort to follow him instead, changed the Secret Keeper from himself to Peter Pettigrew at the last minute. But Pettigrew was working for Voldemort as a spy (as revealed in the Prisoner of Azkaban, page 374) and turned the Potters over to him.
Lord Voldemort killed James and Lily, but his Killing Curse rebounded when he turned his wand on Harry. Voldemort was reduced to a shell of a man. The Wizarding World celebrated his downfall and became comfortable with the reassurance that he would not return. Thirteen years later, he came back for a second time in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, page 643.
Albus Dumbledore promptly began to re-recruit members of the Order, including Severus who worked as a double agent. He pretended, at considerable personal risk, to be Voldemort’s confidant but in reality, he was Dumbledore’s spy. He exchanged valuable information to the Order which aided them in their plight to defeat Voldemort.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione (well, mainly Harry and Ron) believed that Severus was working for Voldemort and didn’t depend on him. Dumbledore, of course, knew of Snape’s love for Lily and knew that was why he could be entrusted with information of the utmost importance.
Dumbledore knew that Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy had been branded a Death Eater (in his father’s place after Draco’s father’s failure to retrieve the prophecy concerning Voldemort and Harry) and had been sent to assassinate him. Professor Dumbledore asked Severus to pretend to help Draco and, in the end, kill Dumbledore himself in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This was significant to Dumbledore as a way of sparing Draco’s soul and preventing an unpleasant death.
Severus took an oath for Dumbledore to help defend the students of Hogwarts and took over as Headmaster after Dumbledore died.
In chapter 33 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is told the whole story through the Pensieve in the headmaster’s office. Voldemort, during the Battle of Hogwarts, is in control of the Elder Wand but realizes that he is not its rightful master. Believing that Snape is, he summons Severus to him and kills him (Deathly Hallows, page 656).
In his final moments, Snape seems to be “leaking...silvery blue, neither gas nor liquid” and tells Harry, who is with him, to take it to the Pensieve and learn the entire story.
After setting the scene in which Severus and Lily met each other, the memory changes to a “small thicket of trees” (page 665) where Lily asks Snape for information about the Wizarding world, eager to get her start in magic. From there, we watch Snape and Lily go to Hogwarts by means of the Hogwarts train and get Sorted into Slytherin and Gryffindor, respectively.
Lily argues with Snape about his friends and how she “detests Avery and Mulciber” (page 673). Severus tells Lily that James “fancies” her, but Lily repels his affections with a dismissive “I know James Potter’s an arrogant toerag” (page 674). We watch as James and his friends, who named themselves the “Marauders” bully Snape. Lily comes to his defense and his shouts “the unforgivable word: Mudblood” (page 675). Lily tells Snape that she’s not interested in his apologies and ends their friendship.
We fast forward a couple of years to when Snape comes to Dumbledore to plead for Lily’s life. He arrives to share news of the prophecy with the professor and implores him to hide them all. When Dumbledore asks what Snape will give him in return, he says, “anything” (page 678). We can assume here that this is where Dumbledore asks Snape to become a spy for him.
The subsequent part is where Snape tells Dumbledore that “I thought you were going to be her safe” (page 678) after news reaches them that the Potters were killed and that their only son, Harry, had survived by some miracle. Dumbledore confides in Snape that Harry will be in terrible danger when Voldemort returns.
In the fourth year, the year Voldemort returns, Severus tells the Headmaster that the Dark Mark (a mark branded into the skin of Death Eaters as a means of transport and communication between them) is becoming darker.
Two years later, Dumbledore is “semi-conscious” (page 680) after putting on a ring worn by the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin, the founder of the Slytherin house. The Dark Arts professor informs his superior that the “ring carries a curse of extraordinary power” (page 681). This ring is identified as a Horcrux or an object that a person can hide their soul in. Fundamentally, if a body is destroyed, then their soul survives through these means. It is this meeting that Dumbledore tells Severus that he must be the one to kill him.
Professor Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry is a Horcrux himself and when the time is proper, Harry must die so that Voldemort can be truly destroyed. Severus paused and said, “I thought all these years that we were protecting him for her. For Lily” (page 686). Snape accuses Dumbledore of manipulating him, saying, “I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me that you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter--,” Dumbledore says gravely, “Have you grown to care for the boy [Harry], after all?” Severus casts the Patronus charm, his Patronus of choice represented as a doe. Lily’s Patronus was also a doe; her husband was a stag (both as an Animagus and as his Patronus) and she was clearly affected by his choice.
The following is essential to the story:
Professor Dumbledore asks, “After all this time?”
Severus, with tears in his eyes, says, “Always.”
Always. Severus, always bullied by James Potter, loved Lily. Severus, after Lily’s death and after Lily’s marriage with James, worshiped her.
And he always would.
Story by Caroline Barton