Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #11: Unrequited Love

Severus Snape’s allegiance and motivations had become the central question surrounding the series; we learn in The Prince’s Tale, Severus’ memories given by him at his death, that his service to Dumbledore and Harry is all a consequence of his unrequited love for Harry’s mother, Lily, Severus’ childhood friend. Severus vows to Dumbledore that he will do anything for him if the Headmaster will save Lily from Voldemort; at Lily’s death, Severus is convinced that his continuing love for her means he must stay on at Hogwarts to protect her son. Two questions: Are Severus’ thoughts about Harry an echo of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and his bizarre relationship with Catherine Earnshaw (or another tip of the hat to Sydney Carton)? Was dropping all this Snape information at the very end of the very last book “brilliant story-telling” or “breaking the rules of detective fiction” ( i.e., withholding clues)?

Comments

  1. I had initially put up this quote at BabyBlueOnline.org from Wuthering Heights:

    “Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you. ”
    -From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1818-1848)

    But the more I think about Snape’s love for Lily, the more it seems to me to be more than “unrequited” love – though he did suffer greatly. But it seems to me that Snape’s love for Lily was an example of agape love, that he put his own suffering aside (though most often just barely), to protect her son at all costs. In that way, he is more like Sydney Carton – who sacrificed his life for the woman he loved. Heathcliff never does that. Snape is a brooding Heathcliff who does not let his love consume him (though it could have done that), but instead focuses outside himself to protect and help Harry to the very end.

    Now we will read the first six with new eyes, as Harry has new eyes in the end. All those times that Snape was staring in to Harry’s eyes may not have been about legimency, but looking at the eyes of Lily – which had to be extremely painful for him. His last dying request to have those eyes look at him and that is the last thing he sees are Lily’s eyes.

    Snape has to hide any affection he might feel for Harry from Snape – and so he channels all his hatred of James into that cover. We never, ever, hear from Snape how Harry might be like Lily (and is like her very much). That would just completely give him away. And the fact that Lily was excellent at potions (one wonders if Snape became excellent as well to impress her) and Harry didn’t take it seriously was so frustrating to him. In Potions Class Harry did behave like James – though Snape could never give him room to be any different because to do so, to talk as Slughorn did would have completely give him away. Voldemort never suspected – even after he killed him – that Snape was a spy. Snape successfully carried out his mission – he saved Lily’s son and he never betrayed Dumbledore.

    ZR

  2. It was not withholding clues. Most all of it was there.

  3. Actually I was not counting on that one at all. Yuck, Snape loving Lily. Who would have thougt. I mean I know we all discussed it, but being a reality. I am glad to see he turned out not to be a total traitor. Even though it was selfish for him to not think of James or Harry too, since James saved his life.

  4. chrusotoxos says

    I don’t know if we can be judgemental about how selfish Snape was in his plead to save Lily. I mean, how many of you have een heartbroken? And how many did befriend your lover’s new lover? Snape may just be thinking, with James out of the way, she may want me. And that’s selfish, ok, but understandable.

    Plus, Severus never had real, unselfish love, as far as we know. JKR said that someone loved him, but I can’t think whom she was referring to. His parents? When he was so eager to get away? Or Lily? But then we talk about friendship, not true love.

    In the end, I think Snape is more broken than selfish. He simply doesn’t know how to love unselfishly, and being forced to care about Harry is the one thing that makes him grow up emotionally.

  5. I really like the point you made ZR about Lily’s eyes being the last thing Snape saw and wanted to see.

    However, I don’t think we can conclude that Snape secretly liked or admired Harry. In his private conversation with Dumbledore, he lists all of Harry’s negative flaws, to which Dumbledore responds that he’s only seeing what he wants. True, it may have been too painful to see this son of his rival with traits of Lily’s. Certainly, one would expect mixed emotions.

    As for Snape’s “love” of Lily. There seems to be some wiggle-room on what “love” is for Snape. At certain points, JKR seems to suggest that his love for her is more about possession and control (the presumably final confrontation in front of the Gryffindor painting). Certainly, there was longing, as when we learned Snape groaned to be Sorted into Slytherin and away from Lily.

    Dumbledore makes the distinguishing point about whether Snape really loved Lily or just wanted her in the manner of acquiring her. Dumbledore’s answer was that if Snape loved her, he would live a life of sacrifice protecting her son.

    As for the “willing” sacrifice on Snape’s part, was it willing? Voldemort decided to kill him as a necessity for gaining control of the Elder Wand. Snape never volunteered himself to die. In fact he was constantly saying, “let me get the boy”, etc. in response to Voldemort’s questions. Perhaps he thought if Harry sacrificed himself, as he knew he must, then Voldemort would die before Snape could be killed.

    Do we know that Snape’s final act wasn’t an act of vengeance against Voldemort who had killed him???

    Dumbledore never trusted him with the secret of the Horcruxes… and he didn’t tear the picture of the Potters in a way that would let him keep Lily and Harry, just Lily.

    At the best, I think Snape was a tool who let himself be used as an instrument of retribution for Lily’s loss. I was shocked to hear the name “Albus Severus”.

  6. jdilbeck-

    The way that we know that Snape’s final act wasn’t one of vengeance against Voldemort comes through Snape’s memories. Dumbledore gives Snape instructions to find Harry and tell him that part of Voldemort is in him and what must be done only when Voldemort realizes that Harry has destroyed the Horcuxes and keeps Nagini with him in magical protection. That’s why Snape is so eager to find Harry, because he knows that it is time for Harry to finally know everything.

  7. TonksnLupin says

    Rumor says that he wasn’t counting on Snape loving Lilly but, I must confess, I had a feeling (after I had read the books several times) that that might be the case. I totally agree with chrusotoxos that if you have been heartbroken all that Snape has done seems perfectly reasonable and that Snape would undoubtably would have mixed feelings for Harry because, Lilly had Harry with James. Also, Harry looks incredably like his father.

    I actually have more remorse after Snape’s death than I do for Harry’s father. I admit that we all do stupid things in school (and i am sure that he changed when he grew up) but how James acted at school was enough to make me hate him. I can understand why Snape would be hanging around with the people he did because the people that were “good” were treating him worse than dirt. However, that doesn’t justify him becoming one of Voldemort’s Deatheaters.

    I also understand why Albus would have little sympathy for Snape when he first told him (begged him) to help him save Lilly. He was being selfish and didn’t care for James or Harry so naturally Albus was cross. Also he was still a Deatheater then folks!

    We know that Snape’s last act wasn’t of vengence. He was merely doing what he was told to do and also he couldn’t help but like if not love Harry because he was all that he had left of Lilly. Again, you have to experiance a love lost to completely understand this mixed up way of loving a son that you feel should have been yours.

    Tonks

  8. TonksnLupin says

    I also believe that JKR ended the book as it should’ve been and that she souldn’t be accused of withholding information for, would the series have been enjoyable if we already knew everything about Snape?

    Tonks

  9. Personally, I was quite disappointed in the choice to leave all the Snape material for the flashback chapter. I agree with mslilly that most of the clues were there in the earlier books, so it wasn’t “unfair” in that regard.

    It was just disappointing in that Harry/Snape was left as such a major conflict at the end of Half Blood Price – even more personal than Harry and Voldemort as Jo said in an interview – and we didn’t get to see any of the process of resolving that conflict.

    Harry still hates Snape when he flees from McGonagall and Flitwick, and then two chapters later he sees the Prince’s memories, and two chapters after that he’s taunting Voldemort for ever trusting Snape. One would have thought that changing his mind about Snape’s loyalties, accepting that Snape loved his mom, and forgiving Snape’s absue over the years would take a little bit more work than that.

  10. Lily as Beatrice and Snape as Dante? Snape loved the highest love in the process of loving the love he knew. Snape was transformed as far as possible in his world by his love of Lily. Her eyes became for him the Way to the Beatific Vision. Harry seems to have some grasp of that in the names given and in his appreciation of Snape (“the bravest man I ever knew”). Let’s cut Severus slack. He made his transformation in the middle of life from the road to perdition to the road to Paradise and spent his remaining life in Purgatory until he achieved the long obedience that cost him his life and gave him entry to the Blessed Realm. Lots of Dante here, ya’ll. Lots.

  11. OK, I know John’s questions here were pointed toward Severus Snape and his love. However, has anyone been struck by the fact that the three major examples of unrequited love were Slytherins for someone else? Merope Gaunt (a Slytherin descendent, whether or not she ever attended school) for Tom Riddle; the Bloody Baron for Helena Ravenclaw; Severus Snape for Lily Evans. Is this accidental or a characterization of those “who love great ambition”?

    Just musing and wondering if it has any merit . . .

  12. canofworms says

    beth kk–i think that is a pretty cool observation. i didn’t even really notice that. i’ve only read the book once, and i read it rather quickly (with kids, you gotta jam an hour into 15 minutes), so i am not 100% familiar with all the details of the Baron’s love, but the other two are examples of what i would consider a kind of immature love (at least i think snape’s was in the beginning). when they are at their worst, slytherins think of themselves first, they are survivors. i think we can see this in merope’s willingness to dope up the object of her affection and we can see this in the strong possessive/me! streak that snape has for lily (to the point that it is not lily’s happiness that matters, it is his–does he really think that lily will fall for him once his buddies kill her husband and child?!?). But for these slytherins, this changes. merope eventually drops the doping and snape continues to honor lily after she is dead by protecting harry, albeit in a rough manner. I think, like everything, traits can be used for good and for ill, and it is often those we surround ourselves with that help us use what is in us for the right cause. in the end, remembering how lily had been kind to him when no one else was pushed snape to use his cunning and his instinct for self-preservation in order to protect harry (and i think it is at that moment that he can honestly say that he truly, truly loves lily with an unselfish, profound love), but i don’t know if he could have completed this transition without being guided by DD. when harry sat under the hat it said that he could be a slytherin, because after all, harry is a survivor too. i wonder how things would have turned out for harry had he been just a bit more slytherin or a little less gryffindor and fallen in with malfoy’s bunch. i think this could be a great lesson that isn’t talked about enough: surround yourself with good people and you will (eventually) do good yourself. surround yourself with bad people, and you will (eventually) do bad. anyway, cool observation and no, i don’t think it was an accident.

  13. The clues were not withheld. We even had one from Petunia. So I think JKR played fair in this regard.

    I think Sydney Carton is the better analogy to Snape, because both did give their lives for the sake of love. Unfortunately, the exact means and timing of Snape’s death seemed kind of pointless, except that it allowed Harry a chance to collect those last memories.

    What really tore at me was Snape’s accusation to Dumbledore of having been used, while Dumbledore raised Harry like a pig to be slaughtered. This discussion point is about Snape & Lily, but it’s the stuff revealed about Snape & Dumbledore that I think I need to think about more deeply.

    What really impressed me was that while Snape’s central focus was on protecting Harry for the sake of Lily’s memory, he was able to extend it, not only to the students of Hogwarts whom he promised to protect after it fell into Voldemort’s hands, but even more widely– when Dumbledore asked how many people he had seen die, he said, “Lately, only those whom I could not save.” A clear indication to me that Snape, with all his limitations and shortcomings and disadvantages, had moved beyond eros and philia to agape… he was willing to put his life at risk for those who had nothing at all to do with Lily.

  14. hadrianwall says

    I’m depressed by this turn, at this time, it read like a bad fanfic. I was really hoping for something more profound.

    I’m really going to miss Severus Snape, I may get some perspective on it later, but as of now. Its Rubbish.

  15. Beatrice and Dante – that’s it. Here’s an excerpt on a description of that relationship from Wiki. As a fan of PreRaphael art, Dante and Beatrice are a major subject for Rossetti. A print of his Beatrice (and he had a Beatrice of his own as well) is over the mantle of my livingroom. No wonder I this means so much to me:

    Dante’s love for Beatrice

    The manner in which Dante chose to express his love for Beatrice often agreed with the Middle Ages concept of courtly love. Courtly love was a secret, unrequited and highly respectful form of admiration for another person.

    Yet it is still not entirely clear what caused Dante to fall in love with Beatrice. Seeing as how he knew very little of the real Beatrice, and that he had no great insight to her character, it is perhaps unusual that he fell in love with her. But he did, and there are clues in his works as to why he did:

    “She has ineffable courtesy, is my beautitude, the destroyer of all vices and the queen of virtue, salvation.”

    Dante saw Beatrice as a saviour, one who removed all evil intentions from him. It is perhaps this idea of her being a force for good that he fell in love with, a force which he believed made him a better person. This is certainly viable, since he does not seem concerned with her appearance – at least not in his writings. He only once describes her complexion, and her “emerald” eyes. Although Beatrice was most likely a very beautiful lady, her beauty is ultimately not what Dante was attracted to when he met her.

    He wrote of her, following her death:
    “ The love between them was wholly spiritual; after her death Dante realised she was more alive than ever. ”

    I really want to explore this more – including the “courtly love” that Snape held for Lily. Who else in modern times writes of courtly love???

    ZR

  16. I was astonished and pleased that Snape turned out to be as unlovable in the end as he was throughout the whole series.

    Trust Harry, one should say — Harry never liked Snape and he was proved right in the end. Snape didn’t protect Harry because he loved him, or saw Lily in Harry’s eyes. I think it is clear Snape despised Harry from the moment he was born and never changed his view.

    Snape protected Harry because Dumbledore led him to understand that only by Harry surviving to be sacrificed as the last Horcrux could Voldemort be defeated. Voldemort killed Lily, and Snape wanted Voldemort dead. Nothing else mattered.

    My affection for the actor Alan Rickman aside, Snape is a tool that was used by Dumbledore to protect Harry so he could defeat Voldemort.

    I was quite surprised by Harry giving his son the middle name of “Severus.” But knowing Harry and his ability to forgive, he probably invited Draco Malfoy over for Christmas pudding every year.

  17. TonksnLupin says

    I don’t understand how you (Bonnie_) say that Snape turned out as “…unlovable in the end as he was throughout the whole series.” I actually have more feelings (positive) for Snape than James. James was painted as one of the worst bullies in his year and especially myself being one of a kind with Snape (outcast, unliked, etc.) I found that he was even more honorable. Again, I point out to a later post that I wrote:

    We know that Snape’s last act wasn’t of vengence. He was merely doing what he was told to do and also he couldn’t help but like if not love Harry because he was all that he had left of Lilly. Again, you have to experiance a love lost to completely understand this mixed up way of loving a boy that you feel should have been your son.

    I am, therefore, not surprised that Harry gave his son the name of Albus Severus Potter for Snape ended up doing the right thing in the end. It is true that his forgiveness is great and I can see him inviting Draco over Christmas pudding but again I believe that Draco grew up to be quite a different person after having Harry save him from the fiendfire seeing he risked his own neck and didn’t like him much in the first place.

    Tonks

  18. TonksnLupin says

    Also, I was moved to tears when I was “in” the pensive with Harry seeing Snape for what he was so I believe (especially since I hated him more than anybody when I first read the books) that Harry can have a huge change of heart and I think that him having a job helped him get over his past torments with Snape. But I do still believe that he neede more time after that to get over Snape’s meaness but again, he named his son Albus Severus 8 years after that happened and one can have a change of heart after 8 years.

    Tonks

  19. Bonnie–really? I get quite the opposite take on it.

    Snape didn’t protect Harry so that he could be sacrificed. He was surprised and outraged when Dumbledore told him. This was not what he wanted at all, and he was thoroughly distressed by it.
    You also don’t think much of Dumbledore, using people as tools no matter what it cost them.

    ZoeRose and Helen–I think you have the essence of it.

    Snape’s love for Lily was originally a selfish love. He admits this when he begs Dumbledore to save her. After Dumbledore voices disgust, he then begs him to protect them all–even James, whom he knows despises him. This is a real act of sacrifice for him, and the turning point in his life.

    It must have been painful for him to look at Harry, to see the eyes of his beloved looking out of the face of his hated rival. When he saw Harry, he saw the life he could have had, but for the chance he threw away. It was himself he loathed then. I think he was drawn to the boy, but never dared admit it, even to himself. His overt hostility was a way of distancing himself from Harry (and also helped protect his cover, of course).

    How can anyone doubt that his sacrifice was willing? He knew, when he agreed to kill Dumbledore, what the Order, and Harry, would believe. He knew there was no going back for him. Even if Voldemort was defeated–and I believe that was his profoundest wish–there would always be those who believed him a Death Eater and a traitor. And if Voldemort defeated Harry, he was bound to learn that Snape’s loyalty was not to him. Snape sacrificed not only his life, but his reputation, for people who despised him.

    I don’t think Harry’s change of heart is so sudden or surprising. He is truly a man, now, and is more than capable of recognizing the truth when he sees it.

  20. What’s wonderful about the chapter about Snape called The Prince’s Tale is that we see the power of forgiveness and how the unrequited love Snape has changes him. We see Snape’s memories which are his perspective of the story so far and it fills in some major blanks for Harry who only knows the story from his own perspective. No one is all bad except for Riddle/Voldemort and he had a choice to the end. Snape couldn’t have the love of his life and at first he becomes a deatheater to gain the power he’s never known. He seems a petty miserable man but one thing that is said in the chapter gives some insight to the interior thoughts of the man that everyone either feared or hated.
    When Lily is concerned about being a muggle she askes Severus if it matters he says no. Was he just comforting to this one person, I doubt it as at the end of the chapter someone comes in to say that they had found the mudblood and is sharply corrected by Severus. Also, his patronus (the protector that comes from his most posative memories) becomes Lily’s doe. Dumbledore reminds Severus about Harry’s eyes, that are Lily’s eyes and Severus can never see Harry as just the son of James his tormentor.

    Snapes memories are given to Harry so Harry can make his final choice. They aren’t edited to make the memories more flattering to Snape but just the raw emotions and what happened from Snapes perspective. Both Snape and Dumbledore had power issues but both stay on and try to guide those at Hogwarts away from the mistakes they have made. Snapes biggest sacrifice is killing Dumbledore to spare Draco the stain of murder on his soul.

    In The Order of the Phoenix, Snape says to Harry:

    “The Dark Lord, for instance, almost always knows when somebody is lying to him. Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and so can utter flasehoods in his presence without detection.”

    Snape didn’t strike the killing blow but his years long deception was a big surprise to Voldemort. Harry had to play out the final confrontation but Dumbledore and Snape did a lot of long term planning.

  21. John Madill says

    Rufus, I have to disagree I found Snape pathetic. My first thought was “Get Over It”. He really became Snivellus. I preferred him as a dark hero who loved Lilly from afar, who had felt remorse for causing the death of his love and was willing to try and make amends by protecting his son instead he turns out to be obsessive almost to the point of a stalker who at every chance he got sniped at Harry because he looked like his dad, how petty, how pathetic. I had a great deal of trouble trying to feel sorry for him as he offered himself up like a sacrificial lamb. He pulls his wand and does nothing. I was really disappointed in this plot twist. Before this I thought Snape was the most intriquing and complex character. I was however glad that Harry was able to forgive him and honour his sacrifice.

  22. nelsonholly says

    I think we are a little led astray by the idea of Snape loving Lily as his motivation. We aren’t dealing out all the suits in the deck, so to speak. Hearts aren’t the only suit — there are spades (swords) also.

    Snape’s excellence takes the form of a tough, diamond hard strength of will, driven only in part by his early affection for Lily, but mainly by his unwavering aim at the destruction of the person who embodied a negation of love. It is this undeviating aim which made his service possible.

    This is clearly a monastic personage — and I don’t mean the guys who invented champagne, either. More like the Desert Fathers of the first century.

    This variety of excellence still exists, but is generally not seen for what it is, these days.

  23. I was worried that Harry would die and not be able to tell anyone the truth about Snape! Go back and read the first books through Snape-colored glasses. True…his original feelings for Lily may have been selfish, but he offered to do anything to spare Lily…even defy Voldemort (which he knew would mean his destuction if LV found out). Did any other Death Eater ever change their colors, except to save their OWN skin? (Draco’s mom may have a bit at the end, but she technically wasn’t a Death Eater, and she was only doing it to save her son.) Snape, in the end, tries to become thing person Lily would love, and to keep Harry from repeating those of his father’s habbits his mother disliked.

    Snape couldn’t bring Lily back. He protected Harry so that Lily’s memory could live on, and so that Lily’s death would not be in vain. In reading some of the exchanges between Snape and Lily, I believe that many of the times Snape confronted or criticized Harry, he was calling him on behavior he knew Lily would have disliked. (The very things she initially hated in James.)

    The sad thing is that Snape never appreciates himself and what he’s done. When he first promised Dumbledore that he’ll protect Harry, he swears Dumbledore to secrecy. “My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?” Snape can’t believe the best of himself. At the end, when asked to kill Dumbledore to protect Draco’s soul from damage, Snape asks “And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?” Even then, he cannot believe he’s repaid his debt and that he’s a member of “the good guys.”

    Snape never has a family, and selflessly protects Harry over and over again, even though he appears to be of questionable loyalties to everyone around him. He can never be consider a part of the team…even the Order of the Phoenix members don’t embrace him. The see him as a necessary evil. No friends, no love….forced to live a lie every day…yup…I think that would make me a bit nasty in the end as well. I thought it was completely acceptable that Harry would name his son Albus Severus. In the end, Albus manipulated Harry, and Severus was completely horrible to Harry, but both gave everything for Harry…to help him do what he must. The only difference was that Snape was never honored for his efforts in life as Albus was…no awards, Order of Merlin, honors, etc. I’m really looking forward to digging in to all the stories again with this knowledge.

  24. I think it’s clear in Deathly Hallows that Snape had a shot at Lily when they were at Hogwarts. She knew him, she cared for him deeply, and she was wounded to the heart when he shouted “Mudblood” at her. She was beautiful and intelligent but what mattered most to her in others was the spirit, or heart. If Snape had a good heart, Lily could have loved him back.

    I think therefore that pinning the “bully” title on James Potter is completely unfair. We have one glimpse in the pensieve of James bullying Snape, and we have many examples of his love for his wife, his son, and his companions. James Potter made friends with Sirius, rejected son of dark wizards, Lupin, a disabled student (werewolf), and Pettigrew, a small wormy fellow who otherwise would have had no friends at all. He saved Snape from Lupin the werewolf. Every reflection of James Potter that we see — except for Snape’s loathsome memory — leads to the conclusion that he was a great guy.

    The supreme illustration of this is that he married Lily Evans. We never see how James won her love, but we have every indication that he was well worthy.

    Snape had his shot at Lily, and he blew it. He was already a Death Eater when Lily rejected him. He didn’t turn to the Dark Arts because Lily rejected him, she rejected him because he was involved in the Dark Arts. Snape was the one who caused Lily and James’ death. He was head of the house of Slytherin, and tormented not just Harry but also Hermione, Ron, and Neville.

    He died just the way I thought he should; not in a grand battle or in some self-sacrificing way, but with a wave of Voldemort’s hand and a bite from Nagini the snake. Sad, and ignoble.

    But after reading these other reflections on Snape, I will re-read the series and try to put a fresh eye on Severus Snape. (I’m so glad I found this site.)

  25. Jayne1955 says

    I love John Madill’s post!

    As for myself, I did not need another character mooning after a second character from the age of ten turning into a major plot development. The romance aspects of this book, from Snape/Lily to Harry/Ginny to Remus/Tonks were pathetic as a whole, but especially the first two.

  26. Bonnie–

    You’re wrong about James. He was a bully. When Harry asks Sirius and James about it, they don’t deny a word of it. The admission makes them uncomfortable and ashamed.
    Lily herself calls him a bully. Sirius tells Peter Pettigrew that Peter went to Voldemort because Voldemort was “the biggest bully on the playground”, but who was he following before that? James.
    In HBP many of the detentions James and Sirius got were for tormenting other students. There is this dialogue in OotP:
    “‘She started going out with him in seventh year,’ said Lupin.
    ‘Once James had deflated his head a bit,’ said Sirius.
    ‘And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it,’ said Lupin.”

    These are his poor little “outcast” friends talking. James hexed people just for the fun of it. If that’s not being a bully, I don’t know what is.

    Sirius was not “the rejected son of Dark Wizards.” He was a pampered son who turned his back on his family, and abused his house-elf unmercifully–this after condemning Crouch for doing exactly the same thing. James wasn’t befriending the lost and abandoned when he formed his gang with Sirius and Lupin. He was daring and reckless, looking for excitement. What could be more exciting than to be friends with a werewolf? Peter was a hanger-on, and it suited James and Sirius to be adored.

    Snape was not the one who ultimately caused James and Lily Potter’s deaths, incidentally. Sirius was. It’s true that Snape set the wheels in motion, but he tried to stop Voldemort by going to Dumbledore and asking for help. Sirius, who was headstrong, did not. It was he who insisted that the Potters make Peter Pettigrew their secret-keeper, and it was that which led to their betrayal.

    Snape’s story is a story of sacrifice and redemption, and I’m sorry for those who can’t see it.

  27. inked, I really like the idea of Lily as Beatrice to Snape’s Dante– that perhaps, as he died looking into Harry’s green eyes, he had one last glimpse of the beatific vision that had held him true to his course, until at last he had to turn away from the image, and come face to face with the love that moves the sun and the other stars.

  28. ps. According to Dante’s Vita Nuova, Beatrice had emerald eyes!

  29. ZoeRose, Charles Williams uses the image of love of the seen as a gateway to the Beatific Vision in the novels he wrote. I am currently reading his ROMANTIC THEOLOGY and (since I began it before DH came out) have discovered a few more connections in his conceptualizations and Snape and Lily’s relationship. I will keep you posted.

    Helen, smashing confirmation of the Dantean connection: “Beatrice had emerald eyes”. Thank you! I have not read the VITA NUOVA. I am indebted to you.

  30. fastboy21 says

    i’m still on the fence with snape. i’m glad he turned out to be an ally to the OoTP in the end, even if he revealed himself to be motivated for (unrequited) love of Lilly (not Dumbledore, Harry, or even Good).

    In some ways, his motivation is extremely selfish. It makes him, however, a very real hero (as JKR made Dumbledore as well) as it showed him with all his faults and defects.

    The question I keep wrestling with is:
    Do Snape’s actions in the end negate any of the failings in his motivation?

    I’ve also been feeling a great deal of pity for Snape. He is obviously a gifted wizard, but was socially inept resulting in his relegation to a sort of pariah at Hogwarts…both as a student and teacher.

    His unrequited love for Lilly is, at best, a pitiable existence. He has dedicated his adult allegiance to the girl he loved as a boy.

    I keep thinking about how it felt to be a teenager in love for the first time. How I was convinced that the girl I cared for was the love of my life. In retrospect, of course, I know think back on that time as extremely foolish—wonderful—but, not genuine. It’s as if Snape never got over his first love, and has clung to her memory far longer than a healthy person ought to.

    Of course, she was killed by the dark lord in a brutal attack…but all the same, if he is a believable character you have reconcile his unending love for a girl he knew as a boy with the reality of a grown man still obsessed with her. There is something i feel tremendous pity for there…almost as if Snape never really got to grow up.

  31. Hmm… In my understanding, a Horcrux is a place of protection for a bit of soul that is given to it and that the person will continue to exisit as long as the Horcrux remains intact. That being said, those who experience unrequited love give away a piece of themselves (heart, soul?) and can never feel quite whole again until/unless the love is returned. In both situations, there is a sense of being unfulfilled and incomplete.

    I find the Dante discussion fascinating and would add only this tidbit… Dante supposedly spoke to Beatrice twice…the first time being when he was 9 and she was 8. How old were Snape and Lily on the playground when they first met?

    Dante also credited Beatrice with being his muse. Was Lily Snape’s muse when it came to potions? Did he excel to impress her? Or are we considering this backwards and did she excel because of him? I need to reread HBP before I continue forming theories about that!

  32. Hm, I wonder if John would consider a new talking point: “James Potter, was he a hero or a rake?” Or something along those lines.

    As I recall, the kids at Hogwarts are always hexing each other and this was discouraged only lightly. Ginny Weasely was brought to the attention of Slughorn because of her fine use of the Bat Bogy Hex. Why would you think James Potter was bad because he hexed kids while at school? Is Ginny then a bad person?

    My contention remains that James Potter was a fine and good man (though not the hero that his son turned out to be.) The examples of his cruel and arrogant behavior come from the twisted and bitter man who hated him. The good and kind in the novel — Dumbledore, Lupin, the entire Order of the Phoenix, Arthur and Molly Weasely, McGonnagal — all admired James Potter.

    And of course I repeat: He married Lily Evans. If he wasn’t a good hearted, terrific guy, she wouldn’t have married him.

    I think I’ll hang with Ginny, Harry, James and his gang. Snape presented a twisted and wrong image of James Potter through the distorted lens of his own hatred. I don’t buy it.

  33. hadrianwall says

    Snape was far from selfish and I’m really FED UP!

    He missed the childhood friendship, Lily was no angel herself, and the BIG PLOT HOLE, how did she fall in love with James anyway?

    Severus Snape went beyond the call of duty, and he swallowed his pride to take care of Harry. I would think Lily has now had to forgive him for the mudblood comment.

    Have all of you forgotten what Hermione said in the first book, cleverness aside, there is also friendship, bravery, and love, Snape missed that, that is what the love is about, he blew it and so did she, as far as I’m concerned they are both to blame. And admittedly unlike the trio, they were not able to forgive each other quicker- a shame for them both.

    But that is what in the end he exemplified, he really was Lily’s friend, he showed great bravery, and that is love, it has nothing to do with carnal lust and how dare anyone say it, your missing the point.

    Still think the book is drek, I will re-read the first three books but as far as I’m concerned Rowling just lost the magic.

  34. Ginny did not hex people “for the fun of it.” James did. That’s sadism.

    The examples of James Potter’s cruel and arrogant behavior were all confirmed by Sirius and Lupin, and by the school records. They were not invented or distorted by Snape. Sirius and Lupin never denied any part of Snape’s worst memory (which shows him in as bad a light, or a worse one, as it shows James). They acknowledged it all to Harry. If you reject it because you don’t like Snape, you are rejecting their testimony also.

    The greatest virtue of these books is the complexity and flawed nature of the characters–ALL of them. Don’t try to turn James Potter into a plaster saint. He, and Harry, and you, deserve better.

  35. Elmtree01 says

    I find Snape to be one of the true heros in the book. His choices defined him- especially the final ones. I think the books are about the ‘sanctification’ (albiet quite incomplete) of three people: Dumbledore, Harry, and Snape. All have problems trusting, and problems with Pride.
    As far as Snape, in the end he acted very humbly in giving all those memories to Harry. As another person said, it was time.

    As far as him not being willing to give up his life- he put his life in danger every day he was with Voldemort, pretending to be his servant. And he knew that. He was obviously quite willing to die if need be. He wasn’t asking to go after Harry in order to escape- it was to fulfill his mission.

    His love was for an individual, not a group- but it was love nonetheless. I like the fact Rowling made it a childhood friendship- that made it more clearly a love, and not just an adolescent crush or unrequited romantic love, or obession. And he was transformed by that love. And defined by his final choices.

  36. John, I never saw Snape a a dark hero as that kinda hints at perfection that no one can really live up to. Snape loved Lily from square one and she may never have been aware of it putting the un in the unrequited love. Snape shows that love can transform you in ways that you never expected. Proof of that is Snape stuck on course when Karkaroff is ready to run to avoid Voldemort. This is when Dumbledore says:

    ‘You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon…’

    Every character has aspects that are posative and negative. James could be cruel in that he was capable of tormenting another student but that wasn’t the only thing that James was capable of. Snape originally fell in with Voldemort and became a Death eater but the fact he was capable of feeling love gave him the courage to change his mind. When you (John) say Snape could be taken as just pathetic in his unrequited love I can agree partially with the sentiment, but where I disagree with you is the results of the love. Snape could have just decided to go for a power position with Voldemort, or he could have hid in a room with picture of Lily, doing nothing to help either side. The love he felt, though at times expressed in a selfish way still made him a man that Dubmbledore could call brave and Harry would name a son after.

    Rufus

  37. inked, ZoeRose, Helen: what a wonderful connection you’ve presented with Beatrice/Dante! Thank you! That’s some food for thought.

    I’m not sure who is writing in or about the courtly love tradition now. For a bit of a refresher, I went to the introduction of Petrarch’s Songs and Sonnets from Laura’s Lifetime (translated by Nicholas Kilmer), which discusses the tradition. (Petrarch loved Laura, who died in the Black Plague of 1348.)

    They’re beautiful poems, and it’s eye-opening to read some of them with Snape and Lily in mind. This is definitely a lens that works for me, and helps me wrap my mind a bit around the lasting power of Snape’s love for Lily, even though she was long inaccessible to him (partly by his own faults and choices).

  38. I see that there are a few here who reject the romantic aspects of J.K. Rowling’s fiction, but she is writing – with certain 21st century twists (we are not sure if it’s satire or serious, by the way!!) as a descendant of romantic British literature. Several types of British literature come to mind – not the least of which is the social commentary of Dickens. But for the moment, what comes to mind in Harry Potter is a sort of “marriage” of two streams of British romantic fiction – one from the south and one from the north.

    From the South we have Jane Austin and her comic, even satiric look at the human condition in the late 17th to early 18th Century. Coming on her heals, we find from the North Emily Bronte with her Byronic hero and gothic themes of love and betrayal, sin and death. In Harry Potter we see the joining of these these two forces – the humorous, somewhat satiric look at human relationships and society blended with the gothic drama of tragic life. Jane Austin meets Emily Bronte (and Dorothy Sayers thrown in to keep us reading!).

    When we compare the love-relationships to those we find in Austin novels (and they can be quite complicated) with the love-relationships we find in Bronte’s novel, or in the novels of her sister, Charlotte – we see both of these influences at work – not only in Severus Snape, but in the other relationships as well.

    Having started my second read of Deathly Hallows, I am watching the unfolding tragic drama of Remus Lupin and Dora Tonks. In the start of the book, Tonks is the picture of joy and Remus is brooding, conflicted, unhappy. It is fascinating again to see the subtext, as we see Remus before Tonks returns from the flight from Privet Drive, anxious for Tonks – he nearly flies out of the house when she returns – only to see him even more conflicted after she returns. It is clear to him that Bellatrix, Tonk’s aunt, had tried to kill Tonks in the flight from Privet Drive – not because she’s trying to find the Real Harry – but because her niece is married to a werewolf. When the Minister of Magic arrives, it is Remus who suddenly announces that he and Tonks must leave quickly and he’ll explain later. My guess is that Tonks (who was looking radiant) had discovered she was pregnant and Lupin is not able to share her joy. If the Minster of Magic should discover her condition, he is not sure what will happen to Tonks since such children do not fare well in the Wizarding World, but especially as the events in Deathly Hallows unfold. It is tragic.

    Tonks had spent almost all of Half Blood Prince in unrequited love, only to see a change at the end after Bill is bitten by Greyback and his fiance still love him. Tonks gets what she wants – Lupin – but he continues to be tortured by what it has cost her to marry him. Did he do the loving thing in requiting her love? Until Harry gives him a dressing down at Grimmauld Place, it is clear that Lupin regrets what he has done.

    That Lupin’s fears for his son are not realized and he is only born with his mother’s hair, he is at last able to know joy. But it is short-lived and one of the haunting moments in the book is when Harry looks over and sees Lupin and Tonks – as though asleep – but asleep in death. They would not live to see their son grow up, as James and Lily were denied the same.

    I do think it’s important when looking at the “ships” in Harry Potter, how J.K. Rowling hides clues through out the entire books of what is happening in the romantic field. It comes to us as surprise, I believe, merely because we’re not paying attention. We read the text as is, not realizing that there are clues all over the place of the building drama between the characters. By the time she actually points it out, we should all ready know, if we are paying attention. Otherwise, we are like Ron who is clueless about his love for Hermione until Deathly Hallows, and it’s still Hermione who finally takes the initiative in the closing chapters of the book. There love remained unrequited because they were too immature to know what to do with it and their love had to wait until they had grown up before they could see it.

    Ginny Weasley had also known unrequited love from the very beginning (in Chamber of Secrets she is so terrified of her feelings being known – Harry is clueless at first – that she flees). After the Weasley family tell Harry of her feelings for him, Harry does not feel the same way about her and that continues until Book VI. We know that Ginny has loved Harry through at least five books before Harry runs into Ginny and Dean in the hallway and begins to figure out his own feelings.

    The list goes on – but perhaps at the center is Severus Snape, the classic Byronic hero, of Heathcliff notoriety, but who chooses not to follow Heathcliff into madness. Instead, Snape makes a choice – and that is one of the great themes of the book. What builds our character is our choices – and the choices of Severus Snape were ultimately centered on love. He chose wisely because he loved deeply, for better and for worse.

    ZR

  39. rosesandthorns says

    Trish says: “The greatest virtue of these books is the complexity and flawed nature of the characters–ALL of them. Don’t try to turn James Potter into a plaster saint. He, and Harry, and you, deserve better.”

    Definitely agree. Both James and Severus are flawed, and both have a capacity for love. (Indeed, they both loved Lily!)

    James was definitely a bully, though he seems to only go after Slytherins. Right from the moment he finds out that Severus wants to be in Slytherin he starts hounding him. For James, that is all he needs to know. He doesn’t even consider that a Slytherin could have the capacity for good: for him, being a Gryffindor and being brave is the most important thing, and Slytherins are bad and evil. (Sorting really does put people at a disadvantage and pigeonholes people who are far more complex than that, and I have to agree with Dumbledore when he says “sometimes I think we sort too soon” because the ambition-at-all-costs attitude of Slytherins does not always reflect the entire person, as we see later with Severus.) James also becomes popular, and that gives him quite a bit of arrogance. But he never does turn to Dark Magic, for example, and has a good core that, once he loses some of that arrogance as he gets older, is obviously seen by Lily, who marries him. And they clearly fight against Voldemort (the prophecy said the child would be born to parents who thrice defied him, if I remember correctly.)

    Severus, meanwhile, has grown up in poverty, and with parents that fight. It seems obvious that James is wealthy and has loving Gryffindor parents. From the beginning, Severus wants better. (I can really identify with Sev, being from a broken home and living in poverty as a child, though as I was saved from an early age I had hope, and I had a loving mother, which Sev might not have truly had.) Thus Severus seeks the ambition-loving Slytherins as the way to get what he wants: Success, belonging, power, even love.

    The rare thing of it is, before he even gets to the school, he meets Lily, he sees her magic, and, as Severus has apparently been growing up in the muggle world with his muggle father and witch mother, he finds someone like him that he can identify with. Here Lily is, young, beautiful and brave, and even though he has probably been taught to hate mudbloods, he can’t help liking her and seeing that she has “loads of magic.” And she does accept him, despite his poor appearance, and takes him as a friend. She is probably the first real friend Snape has ever had, and I don’t think Sev ever truly regards her as a mudblood, only this wonderful, angelic girl who accepts him as he is. He is not perfect. His anger at Petunia means he hurts her that one time with the falling branch, and that briefly seems to ruin the relationship with Lily, who loves her sister. Then they (Lily and Sev) get to school. They are separated into the polar-opposite houses at Hogwarts. Here Snape is, very unpopular, and he has to seek friends among those of his house. Gryffindors seem to despise him as a whole, and the one who seems to despise him the most is very popular, well-cared for, and rich and, eventually, in love with the girl Snape himself wants. Sev would no doubt be jealous of James and want some way to get ahead. For him, as a Slytherin, the most obvious answer is unbridled ambition, an ambition that can mow others down that are in the way. Avery and Mulciber and the rest of the eventual Death Eaters offered this chance to him, and he jumped at it. I think there was a part of him that knew that having such friends was wrong, and a part of him that knew Lily was right, but at that time Sev was not brave enough to stand apart from the pack, and he did have very selfish tendencies. Harry was right in reading the look on Snape’s face as “greedy” when he looked at Lily when he was just a child. For him, Lily was something to win, something beautiful and kind, something he had never had before and desperately wanted, no matter how he got it. (It was this greed that made him think that once Voldemort killed Harry and James then he could have her, but there was always a nagging fear that Lily would get hurt, so that is why he went to Dumbledore, because part of him had to doubt Voldemort would spare her.)

    Maybe if Sev hadn’t succumbed to the temptation of being one of the Death Eaters, which was hard, as they were probably the only ones besides Lily who accepted him at Hogwarts: remember, he was unpopular, and unpopular people often join “gangs” and other bullying groups for acceptance, as it’s either that or being alone. (I am drawing on a lot of personal experience here: throughout elementary and high school I was unpopular. Often the ones who went to church would be the same ones who made fun of me and ostracized me at school for no reason other than I was not as beautiful or as well-dressed as they were, and I was fairly shy and quiet. So I was a loner. If anyone did accept me and allow me a place at the lunch table it was what people would call “white trash,” though I just called them fellow outcasts. I never really belonged with them either as I had little in common other than outcast status – quite a few slept around or did drugs, which I was not interested in – but I found they did not judge me and accepted me with no questions.)

    Obviously, there was a part of Sev that knew that Lily was right when she at last broke their friendship. He had no answer for her when she asked why he could accept her, but not others of her birth; he had no answer for her when she accused him of getting ready to join You-Know-Who. He just wasn’t strong enough to go against the flow, he wasn’t strong enough to give up his ambitions, for he must have thought that joining the Death Eaters would give him what he sought. As to whether Lily would have loved him as more than just a friend? I don’t know if anyone can know. She obviously had great affection for him, and I don’t think his appearance (Snape was never described as being very good-looking) truly mattered to her, as she looked at the heart of those she loved. Possibly she could have loved the man he did become, the man able to feel remorse at selling out the one he loved to Voldemort, the man who adored her for his entire life, and whose love for her turned from a more selfish love to a selfless love that was willling to protect the son of the man he despised (Snape was horrified at the possibility of Harry’s death as he had protected the only thing left of Lily).

    Anyway, I digress. Snape is very complicated as a character, as was James. Both learned from childhood mistakes, and both became better men. Even Dumbledore had his serious flaws. So did Harry. Just like all of us, needing redemption, needing to be saved.

  40. A correction: Beatrice’s emerald eyes aren’t in the Vita Nuova, they’re in the Purgatorio, Canto XXXI (Longfellow’s translation). Beatrice’s handmaidens are telling Dante:

    109 We’ll lead thee to her eyes; but for the pleasant
    110 Light that within them is, shall sharpen thine
    111 The three beyond, who more profoundly look.

    112 Thus singing they began; and afterwards
    113 Unto the Griffin’s breast they led me with them,
    114 Where Beatrice was standing, turned towards us.

    115 See that thou dost not spare thine eyes,they said;
    116 Before the emeralds have we stationed thee,
    117 Whence Love aforetime drew for thee his weapons.

    And isn’t it interesting that Dante finds Beatrice in the company of a Griffin?

    The view one takes of Snape’s long adoration of Lily, whether it’s pathetic and immature and indicative of “issues” or commendable, even noble, and a path toward Love itself, is strongly dependent, IMHO, on one’s initial ground. Do you stand with Plato and Dante, or with Freud and Dr. Phil?

    I’m going with Dante on this one. Just as Beatrice rebuked Dante and spurred him on to greater gentility of conduct, Snape was rebuked by Lily (and later by Dumbledore)… and to my mind, the fact that Snape was willing to extend his efforts and even put himself at risk to care for many more people than just Lily’s son with Lily’s eyes indicates that his love for her had indeed put him on the genuine path of Love.

  41. There’s a lot of discussion about whether James was “good” or a hero… I agree with Bonnie when she asks John if this should be point #21…and even suggest that the discussion of James be moved to #20…Disappointed?

    The majority of this series has been told from Harry’s point of view; therefore, we know only what he knows and expand our knowledge only when he does (except on rare occassions). Even in this case, we only know what is passed on to Harry through Snape’s memories…and like Harry, we have to make choices and decisions based on what we know from our limited perspective. Snape’s memories ARE his reality ~ whether flawed or not. “Of course its happening in your head, Snape, but why on earth should that mean its not real?” So who are we to judge Snape’s memories or make such bold inferences about a third party (James) from them?

    So, was dropping all of this information about Snape in this chapter “brilliant storytelling”? My initial thought is that it is not so much brilliant as it is realistic. Rowling has hinted at Snapes love for Lily in the past, and, like Harry, many readers paid more attention to James and Lily in those moments than to Snape. They had already decided how they felt about Snape (as did Harry) so the images and memories of Harry parents were much more enticing at the time.

    Realistically, this is the only time and the only way that Snape could share any of this information with anyone. He is now dead; no longer severing himself from everyone to protect Harry and himself. And maybe, in sharing his memories with her son, he finally had the opportunity to “tell” Lily what he may not have been brave enough to tell her in life: that he loved her.

    Fastboy21 above sees Snape as pitiable because he can not reconcile the feelings of love he had when he was a boy. He indicates that to sacrifice everything in your adulthood to something you held dear and loved as a child is foolish and immature. If we were talking hot wheels or something here I might tend to agree. But were not. We’re talking about the first person to be emotionally responsive to Snape. the person who befriended him, who allowed him to feel worthy of being loved, who permitted him to both give and receive love. That’s a powerful thing. And I believe that when you truly love someone, you do give them a piece of yourself (your heart, your soul…) that can not be replaced by anything else. Sometimes we have enough left to give someone else; sometimes we don’t.

    Fastboy21 assumes that Snape was given the opportunity to move on. He may never have gotten “over” his first love because no one else loved him the way she did. We simply don’t know.

    I find it difficult to verbalize what I feel about Snape’s immense faith and allegiance. I don’t know that it matters why he repented — in the end love was the force that drove him and to some extent, protected him. Isn’t that the lesson we learn over and over?

  42. Helen,
    Excellent catch on the source of the quotation regarding Beatrice eyes!!!
    I abase myself for not recollecting Beatrice’s eye color. The description as emerald is in the Dorothy L. Sayers, John Ciardi, and Carlyle-Wicksteed translations as well as Longfellow’s. I have been reading Dante for decades and had not caught this connection before. I should probably be sent to the Trophy Room to polish awards for this truancy of my old neurons!

    Any one reading the XXXI Canto of Purgatorio and catching the eye color and Beatrice as the revelation of the divine knows why Snape said “look… at…me”.

    Well the Florentine connection beats the French connection in this matter, hands down.

  43. fastboy21 says

    I will concede that IF Snape’s feelings for Lilly were, in fact, true love I wouldn’t pity him. This is possible. In real life though, how often does someone’s first crush turn out to be true love worthy of dedicating one’s life to as an adult? We really don’t know the details as JKR leaves them out…perhaps, it speaks more about myself that I tend to assume it isn’t true love.

    On another note:

    I think, ultimately, it DOES matter why one repents regardless of the fruits that are born later on.

    If we look at this as a Christian story (as many on this website do, including myself) it is not merely enough to do good things in the name of love. Lots of people in the real world do good things and are moral people, but fall short of salvation because they don’t ever love Christ.

    If Snape does good things out of a selfish motivation he isn’t a hero; he is just selfish. Now…I’m not sure that Snape’s motivation is so bad as (again) we don’t really know the details enough in order to know for sure.

  44. Seamus Clay says

    Yikes. Just when I thought my mind would be made up about Snape, he’s still just as difficult to figure out as before, but in a much different way. With Snape, Rowling seems to be challenging the reader, “How merciful are you, really? Could you forgive a snake like Snape? Would you condone his bad behavior?” Mental note: I need to practice forgiving the unforgivable without condoning the unpardonable.

    I predicted Snape would either be an Anakin Skywalker type (struggling with allegiance and perhaps reversing it at the end), or that he would be loyal to Harry and Dumbledore all along, but possibly for all the wrong reasons. After Rowling’s comment that Dumbledore wouldn’t pull a Gandalf, I also suspected Snape wouldn’t pull a Saruman (remaining corrupted by evil to the end, partially against his will– Snape wasn’t headed that direction, anyway).

    I had hoped all of his nastiness had just been an act to make himself more believable as a Death Eater, but I didn’t expect Rowling to do that. As I feared, turns out Snape was really just a mean, hateful person with a twisted moral code. I really wish I had been more clearly wrong.

    I think what Rowling did with Snape was important from a cathartic point of view, but I really don’t enjoy reading about largely unsympathetic characters like Riddle and Snape. It’s like the sound of fingernails scratching chalkboard to me.

    Did Snape demonstrate selfless agape love for anyone, really? His obsession with Lily was extremely unhealthy since childhood, and seemed far more selfish or guilt-ridden than selfless and self-forgiving. He seemed to guilt himself into braving some of the most difficult tasks set to anyone in the books; but his motives also seemed very twisted. To the bitter end, Snape didn’t really care much about Harry, just wanted to get a last look into Lily’s eyes. Ick! Rowling sure didn’t go out of her way to make him easy to forgive.

    As for the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader parallel, Snape doesn’t completely disappoint. “Harry, I’m in love with your mother” is as close to, “Luke, I am your father” as the Potter series could get within its parameters. Also, the DH story line turns on Snape’s delivery of Dumbledore’s last messages to Harry in an unconventional way, thus sealing the defeat of Lord Voldemort almost as surely as Vader’s dying action was to secure the demise of the Darth Sidious a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine. He lives up to the sound of his name: “Sever A Snake”.

    I don’t see why some are disappointed with how Rowling treats Severus when she had Harry and Ginny name a child Albus Severus. She has Harry (Mr. Bravery Himself) describe Snape as one of the bravest men he ever knew, and that because of Snape, he wouldn’t mind at all if Al were to become a Slytherin. What a reversal! Come on, if that’s not giving Snape high praise, what is? That Al wasn’t Harry’s firstborn? Puh-leeze.

    Snape did play a key role, but he’s far too flawed, even at the end, to be a character who could survive to enjoy accolades, or whom it would be realistic for anyone other than Harry to have forgiven by the end of the Battle of Hogwarts without sending them all into the Pensieve first. The whole Order still considered Snape the worst kind of turncoat and the murderer of Dumbledore. Molly Weasly, for one, would have killed Snape on sight for cutting off her son’s ear– look what she did to Bellatrix just for aiming in Ginny’s direction!

    Does Snape’s dedication to protecting Harry against Riddle realy justify his horrible behavior and creepy fascination with Lily? If he was saved by love, was it love for Lily, or for Dumbledore? I have a difficult time classifying the “unrequited love” Snape felt for Lily in the same category as agape love. There was nothing charitable or compassionate about it– just greedy and guilty.

    If Snape had any “redeeming quality”, it was that he might have appreciated Dumbledore’s forgiveness enough to dedicate his life, quite literally, to atone for his role in Lily’s death by protecting Harry, the child he had previously been willing to sacrifice to steal Lily. However, it’s just as easy to assert that Dumbledore “guilted” Snape into it more out of manipulation than mercy, so that Snape’s heart may never really have “been in the right place”. I choose to think better of Dumbledore than that, so I should also give Snape the benefit of any doubt. It would have been nice, however, if Rowling had cleared up the purity of Snape’s motivations as well as she did the status of his allegiance; but I suspect it was her intent to make us think.

    In the real world, we can’t know the purity of a deceased person’s motivations because we can’t see into their innermost thoughts. So, if Snape were real, I’d prefer to assume the best of him based on his ultimate loyalty rather than judge him harshly for his lifestyle of misdeeds and flaws. But because Snape is a fictional character and we’ve been inside his head to an extent, it’s difficult to assume the best when the author tells us a lot of bad stuff and very little good. So, he remains as ever, an enigmatic paradox of inner conflict.

  45. ZoeRose Says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    …Having started my second read of Deathly Hallows, I am watching the unfolding tragic drama of Remus Lupin and Dora Tonks. In the start of the book, Tonks is the picture of joy and Remus is brooding, conflicted, unhappy. It is fascinating again to see the subtext, as we see Remus before Tonks returns from the flight from Privet Drive, anxious for Tonks – he nearly flies out of the house when she returns – only to see him even more conflicted after she returns. It is clear to him that Bellatrix, Tonk’s aunt, had tried to kill Tonks in the flight from Privet Drive – not because she’s trying to find the Real Harry – but because her niece is married to a werewolf. When the Minister of Magic arrives, it is Remus who suddenly announces that he and Tonks must leave quickly and he’ll explain later. My guess is that Tonks (who was looking radiant) had discovered she was pregnant and Lupin is not able to share her joy. If the Minster of Magic should discover her condition, he is not sure what will happen to Tonks since such children do not fare well in the Wizarding World, but especially as the events in Deathly Hallows unfold. It is tragic.

    Tonks had spent almost all of Half Blood Prince in unrequited love, only to see a change at the end after Bill is bitten by Greyback and his fiance still love him. Tonks gets what she wants – Lupin – but he continues to be tortured by what it has cost her to marry him. Did he do the loving thing in requiting her love? Until Harry gives him a dressing down at Grimmauld Place, it is clear that Lupin regrets what he has done.

    That Lupin’s fears for his son are not realized and he is only born with his mother’s hair, he is at last able to know joy. But it is short-lived and one of the haunting moments in the book is when Harry looks over and sees Lupin and Tonks – as though asleep – but asleep in death. They would not live to see their son grow up, as James and Lily were denied the same.
    ____________________

    The way the Lupin-Tonks story played out reminds me of the earlier scene when Snape sees Tonks’ Patronus, which had apparently changed to be a wolf-shape, and says that it was weaker than her earlier one. He was right. He knew Lupin. Lupin was weak, in the way that only an intelligent, think-too-much, highly conscientious, self-doubting person can be. Until Harry gave him a timely tongue-lashing, Lupin was on the point of virtually abandoning his wife and child “for their own good.” I thought this portrayal of Remus was subtle and realistic. There really are people like that.

  46. nelsonholly says

    Zoe Rose wrote: Severus Snape … makes a choice – and that is one of the great themes of the book. What builds our character is our choices – and the choices of Severus Snape were ultimately centered on love. He chose wisely because he loved deeply, for better and for worse.

    And the more I look at his conduct throughout the books the more I can admire the thoroughness he must have used in cementing this choice.

    He appears to have NO close friends save Dumbledore, yet he could have had, I am sure. I’m inclined to think the nastiness, and even the greasy hair, were carefully maintained hedges to prevent such relationships. Heavens, he’s a wizard! — surely he could have clean hair if he’d wanted it. And to teach for a decade or two and not collect at least one insightful, admiring, dedicated ex-student or clear-eyed colleague is a task which requires steady work.

    Also, many of the descriptive terms JKR used for him (silky speech, the capacity to nearly whisper and yet hold an audience, silence in his movements, delicate skill with potions) make it plain that task probably required constant hard work.

    Noni

  47. TonksnLupin says

    It’s is true that James did do some things honorable like befriending a werewolf but lupin was a trouble maker [or else really nice so as to not get james on his bad side] and him being a werewolf was probably not found out until later. True, hexing is normal at Hogwarts but him picking on someone with no real cause other than him possibly being nosy is just cruel. Again, i can relate to Snape alot and not to James. Also, he was popular, probably had run of the school and most people get bigheaded and mean after that (trust me, i have seen this happen in every single school i went to). Also, BIG point… Lily didn’t like him for a long time. Lily, as we know her, was kind and generous to everybody and as Lupin said “had the special talent of finding the good stuff in people when no one else could” so why then, if James was “alright” as some people have said did she dislike him if she could befriend a werewolf? Also, james got the easy end… he got the girl, he wanted he had a son, he had a good job, he had good friends, and he didn’t have a messed up family. Now what did snape have? nothing other than bitter resentment twords others which he aquired because he couldn’t trust anyone. Again, I am like Snape and find it safer for myself to have next to no friends other than to be betrayed. I also have lost the love of my life to the Marines. He chose his future over me and i have become someone i hardly recognize.
    Tonks

  48. savingpeoplething says

    I liked that JKR left the Snape question unanswered until the very end because it was one of the mysteries in the series that I was waiting on and she knew how to keep me reading by dangling that in front of me, prolonging it as long as she could 🙂

    I thought it was interesting that Snape’s last words are “Look…at…me” to Harry, who has his mother’s eyes and are probably what Snape wanted to see.

    I pretty much figured since OOTP that Snape had a thing for Lily since she was the only one who would stand up for him and he always seemed to protect Harry or give him advice when he didn’t need to, so I saw all of that coming. But, I think the timing was well-done because even though I felt STRONGLY that Snape was a good guy, she had me going up until the memory flashbacks that he really WAS working for Voldemort as a genuine Death Eater.

    Lily called Snape out on his beliefs and knew that he was better than that. Glad to see that, in the end, she was right and he knew it.

    – Rebecca

  49. TrustSeverus says

    I completely agree with TonksnLupin. James was nothing but a macho bully, tormenting people because he needs the entertainment. Ginny didn’t do that.
    If you remember, when asked why he bullied Severus, he replied, “It’s more of the fact that he exists.”
    Now if that’s not the most disgusting, repulsive thing to say, then I don’t know what is.

    Severus was indeed the bravest of all the characters– and devoting his entire life to his unrequited love who has died cannot be called selfish by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, the fact that he wanted only Lily to be saved that night was not particularly admirable, but it IS understandable when you’ve gone through such pain, sorrow, and suffering as he has. It’s only human to feel that way.

    I’ve been a fan of Severus ever since I read the first book- and my love for the character increased by each book I read. Mostly due to the fact that I saw myself in him immensely– especially in Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows.
    So I’ve had a kind of connection that way to the character. And after reading OotP, I just knew that there was something more between Severus and Lily.
    I think Lily was the perfect “light” to his “darkness”. She saw in him what he could not. He NEEDED her.

    I was disappointed that we weren’t informed about why Lily would even consider James after torturing her best friend daily.

    And as for the “Just get over it” thing– Let’s see you put yourself in Snape’s place during “Snape’s Worst Memory” and see how easy it is for you to get over being savagely humiliated in front of an entire school plus the one you secretly love. It isn’t easy.
    And of course James could get over it, he didn’t have anything to forgive!

    I just thank God Harry was more like Lily. Even if he didn’t have her ability of seeing the best in people.

  50. hambrick91 says

    On the question of how Lily could consider James after the way he treated Snape, I have a personal insight.

    During college, I was once engaged to my husband’s roommate. At the time, Troy (my fiance) and Glen (my husband) were at odds with one another. Naturally, I took Troy’s side in every argument and refused to see that perhaps Glen had an inkling into his roommate’s character. When Troy unceramoniously dumped me and tried to move across country without telling me, I realized maybe Glen had a point about Troy. But Glen was still obnoxious in many ways, and I wasn’t especially fond of him until nearly 2 years later. Then suddenly, everything was different. Glen matured a lot in those 2 years and had many character qualities that had always lurked beneath the surface magnified and become more dominant. Suddenly he was a person I could love. We’ve been married nearly 16 years now.

    We aren’t told exactly how James changed and matured in the intervening years. But we know he must have. Honestly, would YOU want to be judged forever on some foolish acts when you were 15? Boys that age, being normal boys, tend to do idiotic things–often in a misguided attempt to attract the attention of a girl. Witness the case in the US where 2 7th grade boys were put in JAIL for 5 days for smacking the backsides of girls as they went down the halls at school.

    I’m NOT saying James was right, or even justified in his treatment of Snape. He was unquestionably wrong to treat Snape that way–not just wrong but cruel. But the whole point of the series is that our choices define us. We know Lily didn’t think much of James’ treatment of Snape. But that was in about their 5th year. James and Lily became a couple at some point after that. From what we know of Lily, James must have changed in the better in some regards for her to consider him a boyfriend, let alone marry him and have a child with him.

    We know the choices Snape went on to make and what he chose to make of his life. Remember, the reason Lily broke off their friendship was that what Snape’s friends were doing was far worse than anything James & Co. ever did. She saw her friend going down the same path and knew she could not be part of it. “What fellowship has light with darkness?” After years of trying to be a light to him, it was obvious Snape didn’t want the light she was offering. He wanted HER, but not necessarily her values.

    Eventually Snape made the hard choice to do the right, brave thing, but not until he lost everything he valued most in the world. I have enormous respect for Snape, because it was an amazingly difficult thing to do. And I always thought that what happened on the Tower had been pre-arranged as part of maintaining Snape’s cover/saving Draco/saving Snape from breaking an Unbreakable Vow. I always thought we would find him to be much deeper and more loyal to Dumbledore and the side of Right than most would have given him credit for, and I’m glad I was proved right on that issue. I’m glad he proved to be a character I could respect.

    But to my original point, I think James must have changed/matured/grown up–and done so in a big way. The fact that we’re not told the details doesn’t mean they weren’t there. We know Lily, and because of who she ultimately chose to marry, we must know a bit about who James CHOSE to become.

    Just my personal take.

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