he surface renders us an image of hatred so articulate and consistent we don't bother to question it. Snape's hatred hoodwinks us: clearly, he's nothing more than a vile, spiteful and likely miserable man. We would have held onto these delusions until the end had it not been for a glimpse unprecedented into the mind of our antagonist. The surface is revealed as superficial disaffection. Sometimes, actions speak no more than words.
person's life can only be understood backward, for which Snape's relationship with the Marauders, and later Harry Potter, is evidence. Here lies the source of embitterment, an unfortunate truth in so many ways. Circumstance paved the way for childhood tyranny, and then the worst of a role reversal, and finally far worse devastation. Like prints to wet pavement, these experiences branded Snape for life.
Scrawny, dressed in mismatched clothing, not quite sightly, and with a definite brooding air about him, Snape found himself rejected at first sight by James Potter and Sirius Black.
… Harry … saw his father: slight, black-haired like Snape, but with that indefinable air of having been well cared for, even adored, that Snape so conspicuously lacked.
Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
For Snape, the final slight takes place in his "worst memory". After exams, the students head out into Hogwarts' grounds to relax and enjoy the weather. Sirius and James, unlike the other students, find relaxation in tormenting Snape. Using his own spell against him, James raises Snape into the air upside-down, eliciting laughter from his friends and some of the crowd. James then cracks a joke to the amusement of many, but not Lupin or Snape's only friend Lily. Lily jumps to Snape's defence, but Snape, humiliated twofold, tells her off with the choice word of "Mudblood".
Snape's worst memory is such on two levels. The first, more obvious level is the pinnacle of bullying he suffered at James and Sirius' hands. But the second level, hidden to all but those in the know, is the truly devastating part of this experience. The experience pinpoints exactly when Snape loses Lily. Snape's worst qualities burst forth in one terrible word that proves to end he and Lily's friendship. Even worse, the other major player in this experience — James Potter — later comes to replace Snape in Lily's life. Further, his treatment throughout the experience sets the stage for his treatment by those around him later in life at Hogwarts — almost universal dislike. At the time, the experience is terrible enough, but in retrospect it takes on a greater magnitude of sorrow.
‘I would hate for you to run away with a false idea of your father, Potter,’ he said, a terrible grin twisting his face. ‘Have you been imagining some act of glorious heroism? Then let me correct you - your saintly father and his friends played a highly amusing joke on me that would have resulted in my death if your father hadn’t got cold feet at the last moment. There was nothing brave about what he did. He was saving his own skin as much as mine. Had their joke succeeded, he would have been expelled from Hogwarts.’
Chapter 14: Snape's Grudge
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Tired of being shadowed by Snape, the Sirius stages a trick: lead him to a transforming Lupin on the night of a full moon by giving him the secret way of bypassing the Whomping Willow. Only James' intervention saves Snape from probable death, and for this, for saving him, Snape's hatred doubles. Although James can't speak for himself, his actions speak for him. James didn't hate Snape: he was a weirdo and an annoyance, particularly because he was close to the girl of both of their dreams. James' less-than-hatred is strengthened by Sirius' lack of concern over the nearly fatal trick. Sirius tells Harry that Snape would have received only what he deserved. (Ch.18, PoA) Of the Marauders, only Sirius truly hates Snape.
‘I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment,’ said Sirius viciously. ‘There’ll be great grease marks all over it, they won’t be able to read a world.’
Chapter 28: Snape's Worst Memory
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The nuances to Sirius and Snape's relationship grow numerous over the years. At first an adolescent dislike fueled by difference, the hatred builds between them. The incident with the Shrieking Shack is only the start. As he surrounds himself more tightly in a cloak of Dark Arts, Snape begins to resent Sirius for turning away from his family's dark path. This resentment turns into full-blown hatred when Sirius inadvertently betrays the Potters, leading to Lily's death. An even greater strain is placed on the two when they are expected by Dumbledore to work together, to tolerate each other. Even in Dumbledore's presence, they are barely able to shake hands for him. (Ch.36, GoF) Sirius feels an intense jealousy towards Snape when he is stuck at Grimmauld Place while Snape gallivants around on dangerous errands for Dumbledore. (Ch.4, OotP) Sirius is unable to ignore any slights Snape makes about James nor about himself. He nearly starts a fight in front of Harry and others in Grimmauld place, right after Christmas. Harry feels impelled to interrupt, almost like a parental figure stopping the squabbling of children. (Ch.24, OotP) The levels of disliked have been piled on as thick as sludge; for Sirius, the only escape is death, while Snape presumably lives on harbouring the remains of their mutual loathing.
Snape and Lupin share not quite the same level of hatred as with the other Marauders. In fact, Snape's hatred of Lupin seems to stem from a similar cause as his indirectly-sprung hatred of Harry Potter. Harry notices that Snape looks at Lupin with the same amount of anger he usually directs at Harry himself. (Ch.5, PoA) Lupin, like Harry, provokes Snape only when the opportunity strikes. Most memorable is his hand in the Snape Boggart incident. (Ch.5 & 6, PoA) Although surely Lupin didn’t know (or only guessed) that Neville’s greatest fear was Snape, he had had a part to play in Snape’s childhood bullying, not to mention it was he who suggested Neville imagine the Snape Boggart in his grandmother’s clothes. As with mentions to Harry about his father, Snape taunts Lupin with the secret of his lycanthropy, going so far as to all but reveal it when he takes over for Lupin in his Defence Against the Dark Arts class. (Ch.9, PoA) Both share a faulty understanding of what makes Snape tick: Lupin had believed Snape's hatred of James had stemmed from jealousy over Quidditch, not knowing about his love for Lily. (Ch.18, PoA) The draw is made in Harry's favour when Lupin fails to outwit the system: Snape tells the Slytherins Lupin is a werewolf, and nothing can prevent his being forced to leave Hogwarts. (Ch.22, PoA) Underneath, this is a kindness for Lupin, as his relationship with Snape remains forcibly cordial, while his hatred towards the untouchable Harry increases.
nape and Harry's mutual hatred is legendary. As James' son, Harry had no choice but be the object of Snape's loathing, unfortunately renewed. But the hatred is second to what its presence speaks of Snape's character. Snape saw what he wanted to see in Harry; namely, James. Only rarely did he see she whom he loved in Harry. Harry had inherited James' appearance, and the cover was too much of an eye-catcher to gloss over. Harry's ignorance had the unfortunate effect of instilling in him a selfsame hatred. The combination led to a years-long conflict that was only truly resolved after Snape's death, when he could not reap the fruits of its absolution.
Snape's interest in Harry shows its face almost at the moment Harry arrived at Hogwarts, as does Harry's interest in him. Without prompt, Snape turns from a conversation with Quirrel to stare for a prolonged moment at Harry's eyes. (Ch.7, PS/SS) Following this, Harry feels pain in his head, thanks to Voldemort's physical proximity, attached as he is on the back of Quirrel's head, hidden in Quirrel's turban. Later that night, Harry has a nightmare featuring a horrifically cackling Snape. (Ch.7, PS/SS) Classmates paint for Harry a wicked picture of Snape. His impressions combined with Snape's less than kind treatment of him in his first Potions class decide for Harry that Snape hates him.
‘Ah yes,’ he said softly, ‘Harry Potter. Our new - celebrity.’
Chapter 8: The Potions Master
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
At the start of the first Potions lesson, Snape hounds Harry with a pop quiz of which only the most studious (Hermione) or a potions expert (Snape) would know the answers. Snape’s motives seem clear: embarrass the apparent object of his loathing publicly. But perhaps this is a superficial cover for another motive, one of the same ilk as Dumbledore’s decision to have Harry spend his childhood with the horrible Dursleys. In fact, Snape’s antics could be seen as a continuation of one of the reasons behind the choice of the Dursleys. In exposing to his schoolmates that the hero Harry Potter is no greater than they, at least when it comes to witchcraft and wizardry, Snape effectively dampens the glamour that naturally surrounds the legendary boy.
The first round of unfortunate misunderstanding between Snape and Harry takes place in the Shrieking Shack during the revelation of Sirius. Harry, knowing only that Snape had been made a fool of by his father and his friends, taunts Snape for not believing Lupin and Sirius' pleads of innocence. The effect is shocking and telling: Snape snaps, and the first great show of emotion plummets forth, dismantling a stunned Harry's confidence. (Ch.19, PoA) Later, when Sirius escapes, Snape faces another breakdown of control. (Ch.22, PoA) Although Dumbledore chocks it up to disappointment, Harry can't help but think him maniacal. (Ch.22, PoA) Harry aiding Sirius and Snape's shocking behaviour make for a marked increase in their detestment of each other.
Snape takes delight in annoying Harry, takes every opportunity to embarrass, harass or pin the blame on him. Snape almost foils Harry's opportunity to become an Auror by denying him entry to NEWT levels, and then by giving him an insufficient OWL mark. (Ch.12, OotP; Ch. 4, HBP) He makes trouble for Harry's Quidditch team by overbooking the pitch. (Ch.19, OotP) Resentment builds in Harry over time.
The most important failure caused by the building hatred between Snape and Harry is Harry's ability to use Occlumency. Snape, to his credit, holds back insults, even slyly complimenting Harry when deserved. (Ch.24, OotP) He is a harsh teacher, but his honesty is meant to criticise constructively, not offend. When Harry makes little effort in lessons, Snape points it out and warns him that by not trying he is aiding Lord Voldemort. (Ch.24, OotP) He goes so far as to reveal is own greatest weapon: control over one's emotions. (Ch.24, OotP) Snape keeps his cool in the face of an increasingly frustrated Harry. He tells Harry that his job is not to find out information about Voldemort, and when Harry points out that it's Snape's duty to do so, Snape concedes the point calmly. (Ch.26, OotP) Progress, though slow, seems to be making headway.
The delicate truce that had grown between Snape and Harry is broken when Harry views Snape's worst memory. Harry, ever curious and invasive, views the memory Snape had put away in the Pensieve. He witnesses the bullying Snape suffered at his father's hand. Snape wrenches him out of his memories and, nearly speechless in anger, throws Harry from his office. (Ch.28, OotP) Snape's feelings here are complex: he is not be happy that Harry has seen his father for what he was, he is immeasurably angry. The only obvious explanation is that Snape knew full well the sort of person Harry was. Snape knew that instead of Harry being happy at what his father had done, instead of, like Sirius, feeling Snape had received what he deserved, Harry would be mortified: he would pity Snape. Indeed, Harry is consumed by empathy. (Ch.28, OotP) Not only does he empathise, Harry begins to sour at the memory of his father. (Ch.29, OotP) After Sirius' death, Harry looks for a way to regain the comfortable spot Snape had held in his mind. He finds it in blaming Snape for Sirius' foolhardy visit to the Ministry of Magic, seeing it as provoked by Snape calling Sirius a coward. (Ch.8, OotP) This bid of blame paves the way for Harry to reclaim the lost path of hatred.
Pure irony leading to greater understanding next takes a stand. Harry finds himself in possession of a Potions textbook written by one "Half-Blood Prince". In reading the textbook, Harry spots notes along the margins — recalling the writing Snape’s O.W.L. test that Harry had seen in his memories the previous year — which turn out to be far better and quicker methods of creating potions. With the Half-Blood Prince as his guide, Harry gains prestige in Potions class. (Ch.12, HBP) He himself is impressed with the Half-Blood Prince, and ironically compliments the Prince on his teaching abilities in comparison to Snape's lack-thereof. (Ch.12, HBP) Further irony is found when Slughorn tells Harry he should thank Snape for helping shape his Potions craft. (Ch.15, HBP) Remembering that his father had used one of the spells he finds in the textbook, Harry ignores the likely half-bloodedness insinuated by the Prince's title in favour of the Potions genius being his father. (Ch.12, HBP) After casting the horrible Sectumsempra spell on Draco Malfoy, Harry comes to the defence of the Prince at Hermione's refutation of his innocence. (Ch.24, HBP) At the revelation of the Prince's identity, Harry is forced to concede a level of respect for Snape.
But at the site of revelation another misunderstanding arises. At Dumbledore's request, Snape kills him. Thus ensues a fast-paced flight from Hogwarts, Harry hot at the heels of Snape. (Ch.28, HBP) At every instance of attack, particularly when Harry resorts to an Unforgivable Curse, Snape blocks him from casting the spell. At every insult thrown, Snape parries with its unravelling to nothing. Even when Harry calls Snape a coward, Snape reminds him of his father's reliance on his group of friends to seek out and bully him when they were in school. As before, his boiling point is reached:
‘DON’T -‘ screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them, ‘- CALL ME COWARD!’
Chapter 28: Flight of the Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry still lacks the knowledge necessary for true understanding here. Despite knowing of Snape's suffering at his father's and his father's friends' hands, despite knowing that Snape had been risking his life on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix — on behalf of Dumbledore — Harry doesn't yet hold all the keys to the understanding of Snape. This is exemplified in Harry's summed understanding of Snape:
‘He’d play up the pure-blood side so he could get in with Lucius Malfoy and the rest of them … he’s just like Voldemort. Pure-blood mother, Muggle father … ashamed of his parentage, trying to make himself feared using the Dark Arts, gave himself an impressive new name - Lord Voldemort - the Half-Blood Prince - how could Dumbledore have missed -?’
Chapter 30: The White Tomb
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Dumbledore, of course, hadn't missed a thing. It's Harry who lacks the final, pivotal piece of knowledge in understanding Snape completely. While Snape incidentally shared a Muggle father and pure-blood mother with Voldemort, Snape had exactly what Voldemort lacked — the ability to love.
Leading up to the revelation, we see a preoccupation with Harry's eyes. At the end of his fourth year, Harry catches Snape looking at his eyes from across the Great Hall, a complicated expression upon his face. (Ch.37, GoF) At the start of what would be his final year at Hogwarts, Harry glances into a broken fragment of glass and we are reminded of the brilliant green hue of his eyes. (Ch.1, DH) We are lead by his eyes to a foreshadowing of the truth yet to be revealed, though it has always implicitly been there.
In the last book, Snape's true motivations begin to surface. Although his tip-off to Voldemort about Harry's flight from the Dursley's indirectly leads to the deaths of Hedwig and Mad-Eye Moody, Snape is given a perfect chance to off George Weasley, but instead only wounds him, and accidentally. (Ch.4, DH; Ch.33, DH) When Ginny et al. attempt to pilfer the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape's office, and are caught, Snape's punishment is merely a trip into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid. (Ch.15, DH) Harry's mysterious deer helper who leads him to the Sword of Gryffindor in the pond is the greatest revelation with the deepest secret, having been — unbeknownst to both Harry and the reader — inspired by Snape's love for Lily. (Ch.19, DH) Although outnumbered, Snape escapes from Hogwarts before the battle prematurely, perhaps to avoid having to kill the students. (Ch.30, DH) Where he could have done damage, Snape refuses or even removes himself from the situation.
Snape's death heralds the final understanding for Harry: he gives Harry his deepest, most telling memories to experience, for the sole purpose of being understood, at the end. First, the final clue in his commanding Harry to let him look into his brilliant green eyes one last time. (Ch.32, DH) Harry then takes Snape's memories to the Pensieve. (Ch.33, DH) In his hated teacher's memories, Harry sees the early, nearly unwavering love he'd had for Harry's mother Lily. He sees again the torture Snape faced not only at the hands of Harry's father James and his friends, but also in the rejection Snape faced from nearly every other student in the school. Harry sees Snape's worst memory again, this time with the understanding he'd previously lacked. With this understanding as the key to Snape's drive, Harry plows forward to the time when Snape surrenders his services to Dumbledore, who pities him and sees the best in him, and though he is dismayed at Snape's request, keeps this best thing secret from everyone. Harry sees how Lily's death tortures Snape, how his love for her doesn't let loose its grip as years go by — watches with renewed understanding as Snape swipes the second page of the note found in Sirius' bedroom and tears the side of the photograph containing Lily's face off from the rest and pockets it. Harry sees how it had been Snape's silvery doe Patronus that had lead him to the Sword of Gryffindor. As the secrets of Snape's memories come to be secrets no more, Harry's understanding becomes complete.
But he was home. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. he and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here …
Chapter 34: The Forest Again
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The truth at last. With this truth, Harry's image of Snape undergoes a revolution. Where Harry had been critical, assumptive, and cruel in his interpretations, he comes to accept Snape. No longer does he think him evil, but an unfortunate person who, despite all he said and did, had the capacity to love — to be human — after all.
In his memory, Harry names his second son after Snape, and tells him this when the young lad fears being placed in Slytherin:
‘Albus Severus’, Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear … ‘you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.’
Nineteen Years Later
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry's memory of Snape, what could have been pure hatred, is instead one of understanding and appreciation.
atred among those competing for supremacy in a heirarchy built on power sets the stage for the relationship between the Death Eaters. The difference strikes a sure separation between those teamed on the side of good and those vying for predominance within the ranks of evil. The scenes in which Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange come face-to-face serve as fuel for this model of inter-Death Eater kinship.
As one of Voldemort's most trusted followers, Snape was a natural enemy for Bellatrix, whose sole aspiration was to gain the height of her master's adoration. Voldemort dealt Snape what can be considered for him gratuitous respect, trusting him as a spy and valuing the information he gave above that which he recieved from other Death Eaters (notably Laxley). Coupled with his stoicism, and any other petty thing should could sink her claws into, Bellatrix saw Snape as undeserving of the Dark Lord's favouritism.
‘… I don’t trust you, Snape, as you very well know!’
Chapter 2: Spinner's End
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
After voicing her disapproval of his Muggle residency out of earshot, Bellatrix proceeds to make it very clear her disapproval of Snape himself to his person. This tactic proves futile in the face of Snape's sharp intellect: Bellatrix is mollified when Snape points out that she is indirectly speaking ill of Voldemort, who trusts Snape.