Summary

  • Severus Snape's story is a reflection of the complexity of morality; he wasn't a strictly good or bad person, but a mix of both.
  • Snape's love for Lily Evans revealed the pain and weight he had carried for years, adding depth to his character and motivations.
  • Despite his despicable actions, Snape ultimately dedicated himself to protecting Lily's son, Harry, and sacrificed his own life to ensure his mission was fulfilled.

Severus Snape was a far from perfect character in the Harry Potter series, but his complete story was truly remarkable. Not unlike Harry, he had started out as an unhappy boy with a neglectful family but grew up to be a savior of the wizarding world. Still, he wasn't a perfect hero or what anyone would expect from a savior. He did truly despicable things in his life, both before and after he turned from Lord Voldemort's side. Overall, Snape is a lesson on how the idea of morality is not black and white, and this is reflected in his overarching story.

Harry Potter knew very little about Snape for the majority of his time at Hogwarts. It wasn't until the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that he realized that the Potions Master, headmaster, and double agent was more complicated than Harry had ever imagined. The reveal that Snape had been in love with Lily Evens didn't absolve him of his crimes but instead revealed the kind of pain and weight he had been carrying for years. Ultimately, Snape wasn't a strictly good or bad person—but once, years before the events of Harry Potter, he was just a young boy in love.

Severus Snape Is Born To A Muggle Father & Witch Mother - 1960

Cokeworth

Severus Snape was born to Tobias and Eileen Snape in 1960. The family lived at Spinner's End, the working-class suburb of an Industrial town called Cokeworth. Eileen (Prince) was a pure-blood witch, though she seemingly isolated herself from her family when she married Tobias, a Muggle. Though little is known about the couple, a young Severus said that his father didn't much like anything, and it's implied that the man was heavily abusive. Though Snape didn't regard his witch mother with the same level of contempt, Snape's lack of care indicates that she was neglectful.

Snape Meets Lily Evans - 1970

Harry Potter young Lily and Snape square (1)

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry witnessed the memory in which Snape finally introduced himself to Lily Evans. It's implied that he had seen her several times before this moment—Harry had gotten the feeling that the boy had imagined his first official meeting with the girl several times before he finally got the nerve. Severus was nervous but excited, and though they got off to a rough start, they quickly became close friends. They were both still a year away from heading out for Hogwarts, and Lily knew nothing of the wizarding school, so the pair bonded as Snape told her everything he knew about the magical castle.

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Snape Starts At Hogwarts & Meets James Potter - 1971

Lily-Snape-Hogwarts

The day that Snape and Lily set out for Hogwarts was also the first day they met James Potter. He was seated in the compartment near them on the Hogwarts Express and was immediately someone that neither of them much liked. As Harry witnessed this memory in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he noted that James looked and behaved like someone who had been thoroughly adored his whole life—a stark contrast to Snape. James immediately began to pick on Snape, teasing him for wanting to be in Slytherin house and insulting his appearance.

James Potter Saves Snape From Remus Lupin - Circa 1974

Lupin screaming in his werewolf form

Though Snape and Lily were sorted into different houses, they remained good friends for most of their time at Hogwarts. Sometime near the beginning of their fifth year, however, Severus became obsessed with showing the school that James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin weren't as great as everyone thought they were. He knew that something was going on with Lupin, and when he began to follow the Marauders, Sirius sneakily showed Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow, knowing if he did, a werewolf would be waiting for him. Luckily, James stepped in and stopped Severus before he was killed.

Snape Calls Lily A Moodblood & Ends Their Friendship - 1976

The Marauders walking together in Harry Potter.

James saving Snape's life did nothing to cure the boy of his hatred. Severus recognized that the Gryffindor student only did it to protect himself, not out of kindness. He became even more set on taking James Potter down. This led him to develop friendships with the Slytherins, who were eager to join Lord Voldemort after leaving Hogwarts, something Lily was unhappy to see. Things finally fell apart when James Potter made sport of hanging Snape upside down in front of the whole school. Lily stepped in to stop it, but Snape was so embarrassed that he called her a Mudblood. Furious, Lily demanded that he pick between their friendship or the Dark Arts.

Snape Adopts The Name Half-Blood Prince - 1976-1977

Young Snape reading a book

Snape's sixth year at Hogwarts was his first without Lily as a friend, and this led him to speed further down the path of Darkness. He took on the secret nickname "The Half-Blood Prince," referencing his 50 percent connection to the pure-blood Prince family. This was when he would have taken the N.E.W.T level Potions class—which required the Advanced Potion Making textbook he would fill with notes showcasing his magical genius. Interestingly, since Gryffindors and Slytherins took Potions together, Lily would have also been in this class. As two potions prodigies, this would have been an interesting sight to see.

Snape Reports The Chosen One Prophecy To Voldemort - 1980

Sybil Trelawney (1)

Sometime after leaving Hogwarts, Snape joined Voldemort's Death Eaters and was anxious to prove himself to the Dark Lord. Though the circumstances of how he ended up there are unclear, Snape overheard an interview between Albus Dumbledore and Sybill Trelawney at the Hog's Head Inn in June of 1980. During this interview, the witch gave her first real prophecy, which told of a boy born at the end of July that would be Voldemort's downfall. Snape was eager to deliver this news to his master but was devastated to realize that Voldemort believed this to be Lily Potter's son.

Snape Joins The Order Of The Phoenix As a Double Agent - 1980

Snape holding Lily's body in the Deathly Hallows

Snape asked Voldemort to spare Lily, and though it was difficult to say why, the Dark Lord agreed. Still, the Death Eater didn't trust that his master would follow through. He went to Dumbledore, warned him that the Potters were a target, and hoped Lily would survive—though he had no care for her family. Of course, she did not. Lily Potter sacrificed herself for her son, and, to make matters worse, her blood was on Snape's hands. To make amends, Snape dedicated himself to Dumbledore's cause and vowed to protect Lily's son at all costs.

Snape First Meets Harry Potter - 1991

Snape seeing Harry for the first time in Sorcerer's Stone

Severus Snape saw Lily Potter's son for the first time during the Start-of-Term feast at the 1991 - 1992 Hogwarts school year. It was a complicated combination of emotions for the Potions Master. On one hand, this was the first time he was able to see Lily's eyes since the two were at school together. On the other hand, Harry looked so much like James that Snape struggled to differentiate the two people in his mind. He later told Albus Dumbledore, as seen in his Pensieve memory, that Harry was just like James in every way, though the headmaster pointed out that this is simply what Snape wanted to believe.

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Snape Pretends To Rejoin Voldemort - 1995

Snape speaking to Voldemort at a meeting of Death Eaters

During the 1994 - 1995 school year, Snape noticed his Dark Mark growing stronger. This was a clear sign of Voldemort's impending return, but Dumbledore instructed Snape not to answer the call once the mark burned. Instead, Snape delivered himself to Voldemort after the Dark Lord's duel with Harry Potter in the graveyard and claimed that he had not left the school so as to not reveal his true nature to Dumbledore. This allowed Snape to, once again, become a double agent—a job his mastery as an Occlumens made him ideally suited for.

Dumbledore Fills Snape In On His Final Plans - 1996

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Before the start of the 1996 - 1997 school year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore summoned Snape to his office to see to an injury. The Potions Master discovered that the headmaster had been fatally cursed and broke the news that the decay overtaking Dumbledore's hand would spread within a year. Determined not to die that way and hoping to spare Draco Malfoy from darkening his soul with murder, Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him when the moment was right. Later that year, the headmaster also told Snape the truth about the Chosen One prophecy, and the man realized for the first time that he had been protecting Lily's son only so he could die at the right moment.

Snape Becomes Headmaster Of Hogwarts - 1997

Severus Snape as headmaster

At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the moment finally came for Severus Snape to kill Albus Dumbledore. This was the end of his role within the Order of the Phoenix—the headmaster had kept Snape's true mission such a well-kept secret that not a single soul aside from the two men knew about it. It was a devastating blow for individuals like Minerva McGonagall, who was forced to step down as headmistress when Snape was appointed to the position. This dynamic was likely difficult for Snape as well since he was forced to allow his friends (or at least, the closest he had) to believe the worst of him. Still, he kept to his mission and waited until the time came to tell Harry Potter the truth.

Snape Is Killed By Lord Voldemort - 1998

Snape looking at Harry in Harry Potter

Since Snape had killed Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort believed he was the true master of the Elder Wand. Of course, this wasn't true, and Snape urgently realized that his time was limited to tell Harry Potter that he must sacrifice himself to Lord Voldemort. As the double agent saw that Nagini was being protected by the Dark Lord (something Dumbledore had warned him would eventually happen), he knew the time had come—but it was too late. Voldemort didn't use Avada Kedavra to kill Snape in Harry Potter since he believed the Elder Wand wouldn't allow him to. Instead, Nagini did the bloody work.

By a twist of destiny, Harry Potter happened to be present when Severus Snape was attacked. The boy approached his old Hogwarts professor and attempted to help, but Snape was only interested in looking at Harry's eyes—Lily's eyes. The memories that Snape allowed to flow from his body were more than just those explaining Harry's mission. In that moment, Severus Snape had decided that he wanted Harry Potter to know what he had sworn the boy never would—that he had loved Lily Evans and had spent his life trying to make up for his role in her death. Though Snape was a complicated and imperfect man, his final moments in Harry Potter prove he achieved this.