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There's been something I've been trying to get my head around ever since I first read Deathly Hallows. When Dumbledore asks Snape if he has grown to care for Harry, Snape shows him his patronus in answer (doesn't he also say "always?"). I know this is Lily's patronus, but how does this relate to how Snape feels about Harry? It's not that I'm questioning whether Snape cared for Harry, because I believe that he did, I just don't get how Snape is using his patronus to answer Dumbledore's question about his feelings for Harry, since the doe could just be about Lily. Thanks! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Kdua100 (talkcontribs) 22:21, 12 April 2009.

“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?” “For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto Patronum!” From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe. She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. “After all this time?” “Always,” said Snape.”

Snape's 'him' is italicized, and then he produces a Patronus the same of Lily Potter's. This indicated that Snape cared for Lily, and cared for Harry because Lily would have wanted it. 

Then, Dumbledore asked, "After all this time?"

I think he was asking whether Snape had this Patronus for the 17 years Lily was dead, whether it changed, whether his loyalty to Lily ever wavered.

"Always," Snape responded. Snape has cared for Lily since knowing her. 

I actually think that the Patronus was used as a way not to answer Dumbledore's question. In the scene, Snape had just learnt that Harry would have to die for Voldemort to be defeated, and that Dumbledore had known this all along. Snape, distressed by this revelation (the text describes him as looking "horrified"), had harsh words for Dumbledore:
"I have spied for you, and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter –"
"But this is touching, Severus," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"For him? shouted Snape. "Expecto Patronum!"
Rather than answer Snape's accusations, Dumbledore spun things back on Snape, effectively dismissing everything he had said. So, in a way, the Patronus was simply tit-for-tat — Dumbledore refused to answer Snape's accusation, so Snape refused to answer Dumbledore's. But more than that, I think Dumbledore hit a raw nerve. I agree that Snape cared for Harry, despite having an intense personal dislike for the boy, but I think that this was the last thing he wanted to admit to Dumbledore (or, moreover, himself). In Snape's mind, revealing his true feelings to Dumbledore would probably be equivalent to handing Dumbledore yet another weapon with which to manipulate him, so I think he summoned the Patronus to distract Dumbledore from making any further inquiries involving Harry. The Patronus seemed to prove, beyond question, that Snape only cared for Lily.
However, this is just my own interpretation, and may not be how Rowling intended the scene to be read. Starstuff (Owl me!) 02:12, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't think Snape is using the patronus to answer Dumbledore's question about whether he cares for Harry. I think he casts it to contradict Dumbledore when he says that Snape has grown to care for Harry. He casts the Patronus to show Albus that he still loves Lily, and that he is doing it all for him, that's also why there are the italics. Margiechocoholic 13:15, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

So, after he conjures the patronus, why does he say "always" if he doesn't mean that he cares for Harry as well as Lily?

I think he is showing Albus that he still loves Lilly, by showing him his patronus proves that, therefore he cares for Harry. Also, Harry's patronus is a stag, Snape's a doe, each are one half a a whole so to speak. Therefore his answer is plain and simple. Yes, I care for the boy. This is only my opinion though. - Becksibee_From_Gryffindor

It's interesting how in the Harry Potter books, expressing loyalty to someone has very real, tangible results. This seems to be a recurring theme:

  • When Harry, in the Chamber of Secrets, declared his loyalty to Dumbledore, Fawkes came to Harry's aid (carrying the sword and hat).
  • When Severus, in the Headmaster's office, declared his loyalty to Harry and Lily, he conjures a full, corporeal Patronus to go help Harry. The patronus later directed Harry to the same sword.

I'm sure you can find other examples of tangible, efficacious loyalty.


What I've understood from this is that Dumbledore says these words "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?" because Snape was aghast to listen to what Dumbledore had said i.e. that Harry Potter will have to die. We can't just point at one thing and say that this is the reason why Snape felt that way. There were many emotions, firstly he agreed to listen to and accept whatever Dumbledore said because he wanted to take care and keep Harry safe, not because he had feelings for the child but because he loved Lily his mother (Remember Dumbledore's words: If you loved her, you'll take care of the child... He has her mother's eyes...). Secondly, Snape could not imagine someone like Dumbledore say something like this for Harry because he was the one man who loved Harry the most. And more than that, he knew all along that it would eventually come to this - something that Snape could not digest. And, thirdly, Snape's use of the word 'slaughter' showed that he could not give his consent to this thought; which is what Dumbledore feared because it was something that really needed be done. Was it because he had some feelings for Harry? I don't actually think so (others may disagree). I think the real reason was that Snape felt "Ah! What the heck? All this was done for the sake of Harry, for what? I thought I was doing the right thing and that Lily would be happy with me seeing that her son is safe." I do think Snape felt sorry for Harry and surely he could never think of Harry being dead - so I would call this feeling as concern not love for Harry. And actually Harry reminded Snape less of Lily and more of James, the guy he hated (not everyone can understand this feeling, only those who have faced similar things example: ask people who have been victims of bullying. They would tell you that those memories never disappear).

But Dumbledore's words "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?" showed his own fear that Snape might have gotten disoriented after learning these things and or by getting emotional might give up. He wanted to bring him to the practical aspect of this task so that he may realise that it must happen. So, knowing that Snape is not so fond of Harry, he speaks these words "But this is touching, Severus," "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"

But it was Snape's reply that stunned Dumbledore. His reply was "For him?" followed by a patronus. Now, for a patronus one needs to fill his thoughts with good memories... And it really was not for him (Harry) but for her (Lily). And Snape's doe hopped on and away leaving behind Snape filled with pure memory of his love for her.

It was then that Dumbledore really understood how much Snape loved her and how real his love was... He questions "After all this time?"... "Always" was Snape's reply...

Even after so many years his love had not faded away... He could still conjure a strong patronus by his memory of her...

I really love Snape's character and most astounding performance by Alan Rickman. If you would concentrate on Snape's character and then concentrate on Alan's acting you'll come to realise how accurately he brought the character to life...

I'm sorry, I always get a little carried away while thinking about the character Snape...

I hope my perspective helped shedding some more light on the interpretation of this dialogue between Dumbledore and Snape...


- eNVy