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corner t the heart of the character we find that which drove him onward. Shrouded in mystery until the last was the heart, but we needed only to look to another heart — the heart of the story in which Snape found himself — for the mystery to fall away. That which Voldemort lacked; that which was Harry's strongest weapon: love.

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lily

corner young, shabbily-dressed Snape watches the two sisters playing from afar. Lily shows her magic to Petunia, who reacts poorly. Insulted, red-faced, Snape emerges from his hiding place in the bushes and proclaims Lily a witch, a magic-user like himself, a wizard. In retribution for her offense, Snape puts down Petunia for being a Muggle; both sisters neglect to take this well, and leave. Snape is greatly distressed: his perfect moment, carefully chosen, turned to dust over something as inconsequential as an insult to a Muggle.

Snape's first important memory of Lily cruelly foreshadows their relationship to come: one built on unhappy endings borne of Snape's faults.

The two meet again, sometime later, and Snape eagerly engages the redhead in discussion, informing her of Hogwarts history and infinitely pleased at the second chance to do so. He's sure they'll both be on the Hogwarts Express come their eleventh year:

‘Definitely,’ said Snape, and even with his poorly cut hair and his odd clothes, he struck an oddly impressive figure sprawled in front of her, brimful of confidence in his destiny.

Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Snape is satisfied to ignore Lily's status as Muggle-born, though he hesitates when she asks if it matters. That bit of hesitation precludes the disastrous ending of their second meeting: Petunia, hidden much in the same way Snape had been the last time, reveals herself with a nasty remark about Snape's shabby state of dress. Too young to keep his anger in check, Snape looses a branch on Petunia's head, and off the two sisters trot once again.

Much later, Snape and Lily are boarding the Hogwarts Express, happily on their way to Hogwarts. Petunia, jealous after being kindly denied entrance to Hogwarts by the Headmaster, sees them off with a choice salute: "Freaks!"

Although Snape warns Lily that no other house than Slytherin would be appropriate, the Sorting Hat finds it fit to place her in Gryffindor. To make matters worse, one of the other children sorted into Gryffindor pokes fun at Snape's dishevelled appearance. This child is Harry's father, James.

Here ends the beginning of all that was to come.


corner earest to Snape's heart was Lily Evans. From the moment he met her, he wished to know her and impress her. But almost as early was their relationship marked by the unrelenting hand of ill favour. All of Snape's select memories end in negativity, and most as a result of his personal failings: bigotry, social difficulty, an unchecked temper. His efforts were doomed from the start, but still carried forward, trying to make it work.

The odds make room for a friendship between Snape and Lily. Both share a childhood discovery of their powers, a friendship precluding Hogwarts, a hometown. They embrace their magical abilities (for Lily, in spite of the rejection of one close to her). Regardless of differing houses and opinions, their friendship grows strong while at Hogwarts. Initially, they both even share a disapproval of James Potter.

The worst of Snape, as Dumbledore may have called it, eventually interrupts their friendship for good. Being in Slytherin meant adopting certain attitudes and befriending certain people that would come to be at odds with Snape's friendship with Lily. In one memory, Snape and she are arguing about the gang of Dark Arts-obsessed students with whom Snape associates; Lily disapproves of bullying no matter who does it, but for her using Dark Magic to bully takes matters from bad to evil. The significance of this is lost on Snape, who does not share Lily's morals, and who has adopted the mindset of Slytherin House. Following this is "Snape's Worst Memory", in which Snape, mortified at Lily's coming to his aid against James and the Marauders' attack, crosses the final line by calling Lily a "Mudblood".

'Slipped out?' There was no pity in Lily's voice. 'It's too late. I've made excuses for you for years. None of my friends can understand why I even talk to you. You and your precious little Death Eater friends - you see, you don't even deny it! You don't even deny that's what you're all aiming to be! You can't wait to join You-Know-Who, can you? (...) I can't pretend anymore. You've chosen your way, I've chosen mine.'

Lily Evans
Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

All of Snape's protestations are quelled by Lily's fine-tuned logic: if she shares the same status of birth as other Muggle-borns, why should Snape not call her a "Mudblood" like he does the rest? Like Lily of him, Snape had been making an exception of her for years. The final cycle of fragile camaraderie and disaster that had defined their relationship comes to an end.


corner ar from last in their history is Snape's failed friendship with Lily. As fate would have it, Snape's greatest role in Lily's life comes to play at the advent of her death — and, in the cruel way that fate demands, the beginning of the life Snape should have led long before.

In a stroke of chance, Snape bears witness to a part of a prophecy involving his master, Lord Voldemort, and his master's greatest enemy, yet to be born, and chosen. He, however, fails to discover the most important aspect of the prophecy in that it would lead Voldemort to Harry Potter, and thus Lily Evans.

‘You have no idea of the remorse Professor Snape felt when he realised how Lord Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy, Harry. I believe it to be the greatest regret of his life and the reason that he returned ...‘

Albus Dumbledore
Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Upon relaying the information to Voldemort and discovering who he believes the boy of the prophecy to be, Snape pleads with his master to save the child's mother for himself. Voldemort denies him this. Desperation drives Snape to meet with Dumbledore. On a weather-ravaged hilltop outskirting Hogwarts, Snape, filled with fear but driven by undeniable distress, awaits his meeting with Dumbledore. When he arrives and Snape explains the situation, Dumbledore presents asks Snape if he had not asked the Dumbledore to spare Lily in return for Harry. The trick question and Snape's abhorrent answer — yes, he'd asked for Lily to be spared at the cost of her child — reveals the ugly single-mindedness of love.

Dumbledore agrees to protect Lily and her family for the cost of Snape's alliance. After a considerable moment, Snape agrees to the conditions. Here, we may see him mentally counting his losses and determining the state of his future depending on his choice. In the end, love wins out.

And then, Lily's death:

… Something was making a terrible sound, like a wounded animal. Snape lumped forwards in a chair and Dumbledore was standing over him, looking grim. After a moment or two, Snape raised his face, and he looked like a man who had lived a hundred years of misery since leaving the wild hilltop.

Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Snape's pain is limited to Lily's death alone: no mention of Dumbledore's failure to protect Lily, no frustration over the apparent pointlessness of his double-crossing Voldemort. He is monopolised by grief. He tells Dumbledore that he wishes to die. Dumbledore has another option, reminds him of the reason for Lily's death — suggests Snape adopt that reason for life. And so Snape carries on Lily's last role as guardian of her son, though he can barely overcome the fact that it simultaneously means protecting the son of James Potter. To Dumbledore's dismay, Snape asks him to keep his status as Harry Potter's sentinel secret.

Throughout the period of calm proceeding Voldemort's first fall and his revival, Snape keeps to the promise he made Dumbledore. Through his direct interference on a number of occasions during Harry's first year, Snape keeps Harry from harm. When it becomes clear that Voldemort has returned, Dumbledore asks Snape to once again become spy on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix, and Snape, without hesitation, acquiesces. At great risk to his life, Snape plays Voldemort while providing the Order with pivotal information. To protect him from Voldemort's Legilimency, Snape agrees to teach Harry Occlumency — and continues to do so even while Harry is unresponsive to his teachings.

Dumbledore's revelation that Harry is one of Voldemort's Horcruxes — and that he'd figured it was so all along — sends Snape into a fury. In contrast with his reaction to Dumbledore's failing the first time, Snape is livid and openly resentful:

‘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 you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter ...‘

Severus Snape
Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dumbledore, of all things, teases Snape for his apparent fondness of Harry, in spite of the way he's treated Lily's son all these years. Perhaps he truly believed that Snape couldn't possibly be living his life for Lily, after so much time. Perhaps, in his underhanded way, he sought to reinforce Snape's loyalty in the face of possible dissension. In response, Snape casts his Patronus: the doe.

From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
  ‘After all this time?’
  ‘Always,’ said Snape.

Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Snape, here, is almost indescribably moving. Where great things had been done for love elsewhere in the story, only Snape's instance of love is unexpected, in the face of his character and life path. He owed Lily nothing, Dumbledore even less, for what he was put through as double agent, and his debt for his part in Lily's debt had surely long since been repaid. Dumbledore is reminded as we come into an understanding of Snape's compulsion that it is love, enduring and potent love, that is everything to Snape.

Followed by the blatancy of his telling us so, we're shown in one poignant scene Snape's love for Lily:

… Snape was kneeling in Sirius’s old bedroom. Tears were dripping from the end of his hooked nose as he read the old letter from Lily. (…) Snape took the page bearing Lily’s signature, and her love, and tucked it inside his robes. Then he ripped in two the photograph he was also holding, so that he kept the part from which Lily laughed …

Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The discovery of Lily's letter and photograph are bittersweet for Snape. Engulfed in sorrow, Snape nevertheless cherishes these artefacts of his old friend and dear love.

Beyond expressing his love through dedication to her memory, Snape amended that which brought the end to his and Lily's friendship. Phineas Nigellus, returning from a portrait-crossing trip to speak with the trio in hiding on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, refers to the Muggle-born Hermione as "the Mudblood". Snape reprimands him for referring to her with that hateful term. One can only wonder whether or not he reprimanded anyone else — say, his students, in particular Draco — if willing to speak against the portrait of a former Hogwarts Headmaster.

In this way, Snape becomes the person who would not have lost Lily's friendship. For her sake, in love for her, Snape throws aside the vile shawl that had brought about the end of their friendship and eventually had led to Lily's early death. He had gripped the shawl with both hands when he had met with Dumbledore on the ravaged hilltop and offered his services for Lily's protection; he had ripped the shawl from his shoulders when he had accepted the task of protecting Harry Potter in Lily's place; his fingers had finally loosed their grasp in his small efforts to make amends with his childhood failings; and the shawl was all but forgotten when, after Dumbledore's death and his release from bound services, he continued to do all he could for Harry out of love for Lily.

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patronus

‘The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon - hope, happiness, the desire to survive - but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the Dementors can’t hurt it.’ (…) ‘Each one is unique to the wizard who conjures it.’ (…) ‘[It is conjured] with an incantation, which will only work if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.’

Chapter 12: The Patronus
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

corner silver doe borne of the love Snape had for Lily made material the happiness he had once had and continued to cherish.

Before Harry knows what the silver doe that leads him to the pool in which the Sword of Gryffindor resides is, his unbiased interpretation convinces him that it is purely good, in particular not borne of Dark Magic. (Ch.17, DH) Ironically, it is the Patronus of the "evil", Dark Arts-obsessed Snape.

What happiness Snape drew from his memories of Lily is unclear. Simply the thought of her, no matter how imperfect, could have been sufficient. Perhaps those memories he gives to Harry upon his death are not the only ones he has of her — only the ones most important to Harry's understanding. Maybe, in one of the many odd containers Harry sees collected on Snape's shelves in his office, lies bottled memories of Lily, memories of pure bliss, that he horded for safety from Voldemort.

Where Snape draws the doe from in connection to Lily is not directly known. Dumbledore's reaction to Snape's Patronus taking on the shape of a doe suggests the connection between the doe and Lily. (Ch.33, DH) Harry's father's Animagus form was the stag; considering that he was the love of Lily's life, it is not surprising that Lily's Patronus should take the form of the stag's counterpart.

That Snape's Patronus should take on the form of a doe is doubly appropriate, given not only his love for Lily, but having adopted her role as guardian over Harry. Lily's Patronus as the doe symbolises her bond with James Potter and her son, Harry, who's Patronus is also the stag. When Snape takes Lily's place, even in the unorthodox, clandestine way that he does, it makes sense that he would adopt the symbol of her love, as well.

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