Severus Snape (January 9, 1960 - May 2, 1998) was the Potions Master, Defense Against The Dark Arts, and Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He helped in the war against Lord Voldemort, covertly relaying information to Albus Dumbledore and The Order of the Phoenix. Despite his secret motivations, he still made the lives of various students difficult, particularly Harry Potter, most likely due to his hatred of James Potter, Harry Potter's father.
In the Harry Potter movies and video games, Severus Snape is acted by Alan Rickman.
Born to Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape, Severus was raised in Spinner's End, a primarily Muggle dwelling that also provided the home of Lily Evans (Harry Potter's mother) and her sister, Petunia Evans (Harry's aunt). From a young age, Severus felt a deep love to Lily, who had similar feelings for him as well. Revealing the truth and potential about magic to Lily, a Muggle-born, Severus spent a great amount of time with her and is considered to be Lily's first communication with the Wizarding world.
It is also said that Severus had a difficult childhood with abusive parents, though this was never gone into great detail. Severus seemed anxious to leave for Hogwarts because of the distance he would be away from his parents. Regarding his father, Severus said that "He doesn't like anything, much". This neglect and abuse most likely led to his usually sour attitude.
Upon arriving at Hogwarts, Severus was promptly sorted into the Slytherin House. Lily Evans was sorted into Gryffindor and Severus soon developed a grudge against a few select members of the House: Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black and, most importantly, James Potter. James made many moves on to Lily Evans, hoping to get her love. Severus was not pleased with this love and wanted Lily to love him alone. Lily said at first that she finds James to be a cocky and unpleasant individual, but their love would eventually develop and form into marriage.
Snape was the victim of bullying by James and his crew and, in one situation, he insulted Lily, most likely unintentional but in a vicious fashion nonetheless, that would harm their relationship for years to come. In their fifth year, James used the spell "Levicorpus" on Snape, lifting him into the air upside down and binding his ankles. Lily came to Severus's defense but, whether in blind pride or anger, Snape called her a "Mudblood," severely upsetting her. According to the Pensieve, this is Snape's worst memory.
As a student at Hogwarts, Severus was at the top of his class and one of the best students in school, even in his first year. His true sign of academic and magical greatness lies in the copy of Advanced Potion Making (labeled the copy of the "Half-Blood Prince") in which Snape wrote many notes and new spells. This copy fell into the hands of Harry Potter during his sixth year and it greatly improved his standing with the new Potions master, Horace Slughorn. A few new, original spells that were in the book were Muffliato (a cautionary spell that causes a ringing sound in passerby's ears), Sectumsempra (a dark curse that acts like an invisible sword attacking the target) and the previously mentioned Levicorpus.
As A Death Eater and Double Agent
Following his pure-blood supremacy instincts, Snape joined the ranks of the Death Eaters and came to be the informant to Lord Voldemort regarding Trelawney's prophecy. Stating that a child born at the end of July would be the one to kill Lord Voldemort, the prophecy was spoken by Professor Trelawney during the interview between her and Albus Dumbledore for a job. Standing by the door way, Snape naturally relayed this information to Lord Voldemort but later regretted his actions once learning that the Potter family (including Lily) was the subject of this prophecy. Voldemort would kill Harry and his parents to prevent his downfall and Snape quickly switched his alliance to the Order of the Phoenix in order to protect his true love, Lily Potter. Dumbledore told Snape that he would make the family safe using the Fidelius Charm, which is a charm that keeps a certain household invisible to no one besides people that are informed of its location by the Secret-Keeper. For the Potter's, the Secret-Keeper was Peter Pettigrew, as he was a "talentless", unsuspecting friend who would not seem to be a threat. However, Pettigrew shamefully revealed the secret to Voldemort and framed Sirius Black to be the traitor. Voldemort knew where the Potters lived and promptly went to murder them. He killed James and Lily but failed to kill Harry, as his Killing Curse was reflected. Harry was the only person to ever survive a killing curse.
Snape kept with the ranks of the Death Eaters even after this event, but only as a spy for the Order and was severely distraught, emotionally, over the loss of his true love. He promised Dumbledore he would do anything to keep Lily safe, and when that failed, Dumbledore told him that the step now is to ensure the protection of the living son, Harry Potter. Snape obliged, especially once he knew that Harry had his mother's eyes. Despite his later abuse of Harry during school, Snape always wanted to keep him safe and from the harm of Voldemort.
As A Teacher at Hogwarts
Starting as a teacher in 1981, Snape was Potions Master for the majority of his teaching career. Once Harry Potter started taking his class, Snape took an immediate dislike to him because of his celebrity status and resemblance to his father. Harry accused Snape of being the source of pain in his scar during the first year, but this was only because Professor Quirrell was in close proximity at the time. Harry shared a dislike towards Snape with many other students, and was unaware until the Battle at Hogwarts of Snape's righteous and double-agent nature.
A telepathic link was discovered between Harry and Lord Voldemort. Snape, an accomplished Occlumentist (the act of closing one's mind from Legilimency), started lessons with Harry to help close his mind from Voldemort's influence. During these lessons, Snape complained
deeply to Dumbledore about Potter's weakness at this subject and his supposed reluctance to try. Dumbledore realized the true nature of the link between the two minds as being a Horcrux, or a piece of one's soul (in this case Voldemort) in another object or living thing.
In Harry's sixth year, Snape became the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, the position he vied for throughout his entire teaching career. Horace Slughorn took the empty Potions teacher slot. Snape's strictness carried through with this class, having strict guidelines for admission that Harry still managed to pass.
The Death of Albus Dumbledore
Dumbledore went searching for one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, the ring of Marvolo Gaunt. Once finding it, Dumbledore put the ring on out of foolishness and then was afflicted with a dark curse that caused his hand to turn black. This curse was life-threatening and Snape tried to contain the curse in Dumbledore's hand but warned him that his death would arrive in a year because of this.
Meanwhile, Snape also made an "Unbreakable Vow" (a promise that is held up by the threat of death) between himself and Narcissa Malfoy (Draco's mother) that Snape would assist and protect Draco in his task assigned by Lord Voldemort. It soon became apparent that this task involved killing Albus Dumbledore. Relaying this information to Dumbledore, Snape was torn between the strength of his vow and his loyalty with the Headmaster. However, after hearing about his uncertain fate, Dumbledore wanted Snape to kill him, considering his death is certain. By doing this, Snape would remain on Voldemort's good side while fulfilling Dumbledore's wishes.
At the Astronomy Tower where Dumbledore shared his final moments, Draco bursted into the room while Albus was performing a spell to keep Harry immobilized. Disarming Dumbledore while he was helpless, Draco cornered him but failed to kill him, instead offering to explain matters and delay time. Eventually, Snape came to the room and Dumbledore knew what would happen. Snape quickly, yet sympathetically, killed Dumbledore with the Killing Curse, causing him to fall from the Tower onto the ground below.
Harry, in a state of emotional shock, chased after Snape onto the grounds below, dueling with him and calling him a coward. While angry at Harry for calling him these remarks, Snape kept his word and did not try to kill Harry, instead actually advising Harry of which spells he was performing wrong. From this moment until around the time after Snape's death, Harry felt utter hatred towards the former Potions Master, wanting to kill him.
Snape As Headmaster
In Harry's seventh year, after Dumbledore's death, Severus took the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts upon Dumbledore's request. Albus wanted Snape to keep the school safe after his death and secure from the ultimate moment when Voldemort would infiltrate the castle firsthand. During Snape's tenure, a select group of Death Eater including Alecto and Amycus Carrow were given teaching positions at the school and the general quality of education and care the students received dropped drastically. For students receiving detention, the Cruciatus curse (the torture curse) was performed on them by other students wishing to partake in the evil practices. In addition, the Muggle Studies class devolved into a course teaching the "evils" of the Muggle race and their inferiority to the Wizarding populace. Throughout this year, members of the student-run Dumbledore's Army rebelled against the established rule on multiple occasions. The most notable occasion is when Ginny Weasley
, Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom attempted to steal the Sword of Godric Gryffindor that was in Headmaster Snape's office. Their attempt failed when they were caught but the sword was actually a fake, with the real one lying behind Snape's chair in a cavity in the wall concealed by Dumbledore's portrait.
Despite the dangers at hand at Hogwarts and the cruel routines practiced by the Death Eaters, Snape stayed true to his word, keeping the students safe and abstaining from cruelties. For instance, when the trio of students got caught trying to steal Gryffindor's sword, he only sentenced them to detention with Hagrid, an activity that those students tolerate easily.
Throughout Harry's quest to find the rest of the Horcruxes during his seventh year, Snape communicated with Dumbledore's portrait on a regular basis. Dumbledore told Snape that he must give the real sword of Gryffindor to Harry and in a covert fashion. Harry and Hermione were camping at the Forest of Dean when Snape placed the sword at the bottom of a freezing, ice-covered pond (by receiving it firsthand, Harry would fulfill the courage required by a true Gryffindor) and cast a Patronus guiding Harry to the specific spot. Snape's Patronus (a doe) was later revealed to be a sign for his affection to Lily Potter, as her Patronus was the same. It is said that under severe emotional stress, a Patronus can change to reflect their true feelings; in this case his deep love and regret for the death of Lily.
Snape's Final Act
Before The Battle of Hogwarts, Voldemort
brashly exhumed Dumbledore's body from his grave and took the Elder Wand that was buried with him. The Elder Wand was the most powerful wand ever made and it provides the true master with magnificent magical power unrivaled by any other wand. The true master of the wand is passed along a blood line that determines who overpowered who in order to obtain the wand. In this case, Voldemort believed the true master was Snape, as he killed its previous master, Albus Dumbledore. After this revelation, Voldemort brings Snape to the Shrieking Shack and orders Nagini (Voldemort's snake) to kill him, calling the decision "regretful." Harry, who was watching the event from underneath his Invisibility Cloak, approached Snape's dying body and watched as Snape painfully and tragically died. Snape was emitting his memories in addition to blood and Harry contained them in a bottle. Upon Snape's final moments, he wanted Harry to stoop down beside him, looking into his eyes. Harry's eyes, the same greenish tinge as Lily's, would be the last thing Snape would see in his life.
Taking these memories to Dumbledore's pensieve, Harry is revealed the truth of Snape's role of double agent as well as his love for Lily and other moments that unveil his true, righteous nature. These events uncover Severus's unrequited love for Lily Evans including his pleading for her protection from Lord Voldemort, the origin of Dumbledore's fierce trust in Snape and the fact that Harry was unintentionally made a Horcrux by Lord Voldemort. Also, when George Weasley suffered a lost ear from the curse "Sectumsempra," Snape's specialty, it is revealed that Snape was aiming for a Death Eater who was going to curse Remus Lupin, protecting his fellow Order members, but it missed and hit George instead.
Snape's legacy is overly positive and even Harry Potter finds him to be "probably the bravest man I ever knew" because of his dedication to Harry's safety. His love for Harry's mother, shown in a scene with him crying next to a letter written by Lily in her final days and a picture of her laughing, resulted in him being able to produce a Patronus, the only Death Eater able to produce one. Snape was originally denied having a portrait in the Headmaster's office because of his abandonment of the position but Harry eventually requested for his portrait to rest in his office in an act of forgiveness. One of Harry and Ginny's sons was named Albus Severus Potter in recognition of the two Headmaster's importance in their lives.
Severus Snape was an accomplished wizard, capable of many skills even the most accomplished wizards were not acquainted with:
- Snape was capable of flight without a broom. The only other wizard known to do this was Lord Voldemort.
- Severus also was an accomplished potions master, able to create ideal versions of potions by his own knowledge and writing down many notes under his alias the "Half-Blood Prince" in a copy of Advanced Potions Making.
- Severus created many new spells, such as Sectumsempra, Levicorpus and Muffliato, that were used regularly by other wizards and witches.
- Snape could heal various people with the ease of a very accomplished wizard medic, as he saved the life of Katie Bell and Draco Malfoy, after he suffered the brutal effects of Sectumsempra. He also contained the effects of Dumbledore's scar from the ring to his hand, although his death was still certain.
- Snape could duel incredibly well as he was able to fight off Professors Sprout, Flitwick and McGonagoll by himself before fleeing by flight, also showing another amazing trait.
Severus was known for his unique appearance. With long black, greasy hair, he had a disheveled look that many students such as the Weasley brothers would frequently make fun of. He also would wear black, draping cloaks that gave him the look of a bat. His pale face and ominous eyes did not suggest a warmness to his attitude. He spoke in a soft voice with frequent pauses, either applauding a Slytherin student's supposed "efforts" or condemning most of the other children for petty misdemeanors. His look in general shielded his true intentions, a main contributor to why many students actively despised him.