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Note: This is a working draft for a collaborative rewrite of the Severus Snape article being done by Project Greasy Git. All project members are welcome to edit in this space. Please see the project talk page for current areas of focus.

Severus Snape
Biographical information

9 January, 1960
Spinner's End


2 May 1998 (aged 38)
Shrieking Shack

Blood status


Also known as

The Half-Blood Prince

Physical information


Hair colour


Eye colour


Family information
Family members
Magical characteristics


"...he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
Harry Potter on Severus Snape[src]

Severus Snape (9 January, 1960 - 2 May, 1998) was Potions Master (1981-96), Defence Against the Dark Arts professor (1996-97), and Headmaster (1997-98) of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Snape played an important role in the war against Voldemort.

Born to Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape, Severus was raised in the muggle dwelling of Spinners End where he was in close proximity to Lily and Petunia Evans, the former of whom he fell deeply in love with at a very young age. In 1971 he began his first term at Hogwarts where he was sorted into Slytherin. Severus became the immediate enemy of James Potter and Sirius Black and was a frequent victim of their bullying. Snape developed a passion for the Dark Arts and pure-blood supremacy, which put his friendship with Lily under strain. After leaving school he joined the Death Eaters along with a large group of his fellow Slytherins. He was described as a thoroughly unpleasant, cynical and sarcastic individual, and a persistent antagonist to Harry Potter and his friends.


Early Childhood

Lily Evans: "They’re not arguing anymore?"
Severus Snape: "Oh yes, they’re arguing. But it won’t be that long and I’ll be gone."
Lily Evans: "Doesn’t your dad like magic?"
Severus Snape: "He doesn’t like anything, much."
— Severus and Lily discussing his family.[src]

Severus Snape was the son of Eileen Prince, a pure-blood witch,[1] and Tobias Snape, a Muggle.[2] He was born 9 January, 1960. It is implied that Severus was a loner, and a victim of neglect by his parents. This neglect (and possible abuse by his father) may have contributed to Severus' unpleasant personality in adulthood.

The Prince&#039;s Tale

Snape tells Lily that she is a witch while Petunia looks on jealously.

Snape's parents lived in a Muggle town near a river, at a place called Spinner's End. Snape continued to live there throughout his life when not at Hogwarts. At least in his later years, the district was a poor one, with cobbled streets, broken street lamps, disused factories and dilapidated houses. Lily Evans' family lived near enough that Snape noticed her as a child who could do magic and befriended her, before they both received invitations to attend Hogwarts. It seems that at this time in his life, Severus began a romantic interest in Lily, which was never reciprocated though she regarded him as a friend.

Information from Snape's own memories of his first meetings with Lily suggest that he was an awkward child who had difficulty making friends, even when it was important to him to make a good impression. Severus' father did not seem to approve of magic, while Severus expressed a dislike for Muggles, even though his father was one. The memories show that both he and Lily could perform deliberate wandless magic before attending Hogwarts.

Life at Hogwarts

Severus Snape: "You'd better be in Slytherin."
James Potter: "Slytherin? Who wants to be in Slytherin? I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"
— Severus telling Lily that she better be in Slytherin and James Potter saying that no one would like to be in Slytherin.

Severus attended Hogwarts as a pupil from 1971 to 1978, and was sorted into Slytherin House, at that time led by Potions professor, Horace Slughorn. On the way to Hogwarts for his first year, Snape sat with Lily when they met James Potter and Sirius Black. This hostile first encounter, during which James and Sirius came up with the derogatory nickname "Snivellus", would set the tone for Snape's enmity with the two Gryffindor wizards for the rest of his life.

According to Sirius, Snape excelled at the Dark Arts from an early age; while still in his first year, he knew more curses and hexes than most of the seventh-year students. He reportedly was friends with a "gang of Slytherins" who "later went on to become Death Eaters", including Avery and Mulciber. Other Slytherins Sirius mentioned as being friends with Snape included Evan Rosier, Wilkes and his cousin Bellatrix Black. There is some confusion about this, as a note from the Black family tree suggests Bellatrix was born in 1951, and thus would have left school two years before Severus started. Severus also had contact with Lucius Malfoy, who was a prefect during Snape's first year. Other classmates of Snape included Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew.

Snape 5thyear

Snape in his fifth year.

James: "How’d the exam go, Snivelly?"
Sirius: "I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment. They’ll be great grease marks all over it, they won’t be able to read a word…"
Lily: "Leave him ALONE!"
— Lily comes to Snape’s defence[src]~-start-79-stop~-start-40-stop

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{{Dialogue a-b-c|James Potter|"Gryffindor, where the dwell the brave at heart!" Like my dad. Got a problem with that?|Severus Snape|No. If you'd rather be brawny instead of brainy – |Sirius Black|Where are you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?|James Potter, Severus Snape, and Sirius Black on the Hogwarts Express|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows}}


James Potter: "'Gryffindor, where the dwell the brave at heart!' Like my dad. Got a problem with that?"
Severus Snape: "No. If you'd rather be brawny instead of brainy –"
Sirius Black: "Where are you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?"
— James Potter, Severus Snape, and Sirius Black on the Hogwarts Express[src]

There was considerable friction between Severus and James Potter and his friends throughout their school years. Snape's memories, recorded in the Pensieve, suggest that he was an introverted and studious individual, whereas James was an extrovert, popular, athletic, and spoiled by his parents. According to Sirius, Snape was an "oddball up to his ears in the Dark Arts", which James despised. Also, in later years, James' crush on Lily Evans and Severus' friendship and unrequited love for her may have caused both wizards to act in jealousy.

One recorded memory in the Pensieve bears witness to James' bullying of Severus with the spell Levicorpus, Lily coming to his defence, and Severus' subsequent lashing out at James in an attempt to recover his lost pride - inadvertently calling Lily a "Mudblood". Lily refused to forgive him for it, even after his desperate apologies. This would forever be Severus' worst memory[2]. Once James and Lily had begun to date, James assured her that he had stopped bullying Severus, but that was not true.

Sirius Black fell out with his own aristocratic, pure-blood-supremacist parents, became a Gryffindor when all his family were Slytherins, and disliked other wizards of that same philosophy. Sirius became firm friends with James and they took to bullying Severus together. One instance in particular, Sirius decided it would be fun to trick Snape into visiting the Shrieking Shack at a time when Remus Lupin, afflicted with lycanthropy, would be there during his transformation into a werewolf. This could have cost Severus his life or his humanity (he could have been turned into a werewolf by Lupin's bite) and, in the end, James warned Severus about the trick. Albus Dumbledore later reasoned that, as a result, Severus owed James a debt for saving his life. Severus persisted in believing that James had only acted out of fear of punishment for his part in the trick.

Half-Blood Prince

Severus Snape was a brilliant wizard, especially in his childhood years. It is apparent through the notes and scribbles in his Potions textbook that he had time during classes to dream up curses, charms, and brilliant potion innovations while simultaneously learning the required textbook lessons.

Severus Snape's potions textbook contains two spells which he specifically took credit for inventing: Levicorpus, which grabs the victim by the ankle and dangles them upside-down, and Sectumsempra, which causes slashing cuts guided by hand gestures on the victim. Levicorpus somehow escaped from Severus' secrecy, and became very popular around the school towards the end of his fifth year at school. His book contains unusual and helpful spells, such as Muffliato, which fills the ears of anyone nearby with an "unidentifiable buzzing sound," and Langlock, which affixes the victim's tongue to the roof of the mouth. Snape's book later fell into the hands of Harry Potter in 1996. Harry used the Prince's tips and earned praise with Potions master Horace Slughorn. Harry considered the Prince to be a better teacher than Snape, unaware at that point that Snape was the Prince.

There was no clear explanation of why Slughorn later praised Lily as his best student, and failed to mention Severus, who conjured innovative potions tips (of exactly the sort Slughorn claims Lily invented), such as different methods of mixing and brewing. Since there were tips in the book for successful potions that Slughorn remembered Lily to have performed and Severus to have failed, it is possible Severus gave his tricks to Lily to win her favour. It is equally possible that she invented them and shared her knowledge with Severus. Another possibility is that Slughorn had some knowledge of Severus' status as a Death Eater and did not wish to associate himself even with former Death Eaters.

Some handwritten notes in the textbook appear as though the author had never finished them, and had continued to make additions and corrections here and there. This could be further evidence that Severus obtained the ideas from an outside source such as Lily Evans, or that he was just so brilliant that new innovations continued to come to the fore of his mind.

The potions textbook has an inscription indicating it is property of the Half-Blood Prince. Remus Lupin reported that Snape never used the nickname at school. Hermione Granger's research indicated that Prince was his mother's maiden name, but the 'half-blood' was either something of an insult, or a further credit to Severus' brilliance.

During the First Battle of Hogwarts, Snape admits that he is the Prince. When Harry tries to use some of Snape's own curses on him, Snape is easily able to block them, and flees from the school with Draco Malfoy and the Death Eaters.

As a Death Eater and Double Agent

"Severus Snape wasn't yours. Snape was Dumbledore's."
Harry Potter to Voldemort[src]

Severus Snape eventually joined the ranks of Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters, and was the spy responsible for informing Voldemort about the prophecy fortelling his downfall.

Severus eavesdropped on a job interview for divination professor between Sybill Trelawney and Albus Dumbledore at the Hog's Head Inn. In the course of the interview, Trelawney prophesied that at the end of July, a child would be born who would cause the destruction of Lord Voldemort (which impressed Dumbledore sufficiently to hire her). At that time it was not clear who was meant by the prophecy, or even precisely which month was meant. Two children of prominent wizard families were born that year at the end of July, Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Dumbledore reported at the Wizengamot trial of Igor Karkaroff that Severus had come to him and explained that he had been the one to overhear the prophecy, and reported it to Voldemort.

Severus: "Hide them all, then. Keep her – them – safe. Please."
Dumbledore: "And what will you give me in return, Severus?"
Severus: "In – in return? Anything."
— Snape switches sides[src]

Severus suffered terrible remorse when Voldemort discovered that Harry Potter was the subject of the prophecy, and that Lily was now in danger as a result of his actions. Severus secretly defected from the Death Eaters and joined the Order of the Phoenix, under Dumbledore. Severus continued on in the ranks of the Death Eaters as a spy for the Order.

Teaching Career at Hogwarts

Umbridge inspecting Snape

Dolores Umbridge as High Inquisitor inspecting Snape in 1995.

Dolores Umbridge: "You applied first for Defence Against the Dark Arts post, is that correct?"
Severus Snape: "Yes."
Dolores Umbridge: "But you were unsuccessful?"
Severus Snape: "Obviously..."
— Professor Dolores Umbridge antagonizes Snape of his failures[src]

Severus Snape applied for the position of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, acting under Voldemort's instructions. The timing of this application is of interest. Severus' application came after Sybill Trelawney's prophecy (possibly Halloween, October 1979, approximately Harry's date of conception), but before the Potters' deaths (Halloween, 31 October 1981). It may be that Voldemort specifically sought a spy who could tell him about students from the Hogwarts records of all magical births. What's more, that Voldemort ordered him to apply for a job which Voldemort had himself cursed suggests that Severus was not intended to remain at Hogwarts for more than one year. (the curse, of course, did mean that there would be a staff vacancy each year)

Snape was not given his requested position, but rather the position of Potions Master and, eventually, Head of Slytherin House. As a teacher, Snape was a ruthless disciplinarian, with little patience for foolishness, yet effective in his job and was well respected by other professors. His deep understanding of potions brewing, as shown by his expert concoction of Wolfsbane Potion[3], transformed the knowledge of potions from mere chemistry to an art. He was not unlike Minerva McGonagall in his strict and formidable manner.

Snape Jinxing Quirrell

Snape performing a counter-jinx on Harry's broom

Harry Potter became a student in Snape's classes in 1991. Harry remarked on a pain in his scar and a sensation of being disliked, the first moment he exchanged glances with Snape, in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. However, Quirinus Quirrell was speaking to Snape at the time, and unknown to anyone had been possessed by Voldemort. Harry's scar always reacted to Voldemort's attention and gave him an insight into Voldemort's feelings. On this occasion, most probably Harry blamed Snape unfairly for the feelings being expressed by Voldemort. Harry's resemblance to his father and his acquired "celebrity" caused Snape to jump on the defensive in their very first Potions lesson. Once again, Snape's role as a double agent required him to hide his real feelings and views, and this may have affected his public reactions to Harry.

Severus Snape: "Ah, vengeance is sweet. How I hoped I'd be the one to catch you. I told Dumbledore you were helping an old friend enter the castle and now here's the proof."
Sirius Black: "Brilliant, Snape - once again you've put your keen and penetrating mind to the task and as usual come to the wrong conclusion... Why don't you run along and play with your chemistry set?"
Severus Snape: "I could do it, you know... But why deny the Dementors? They're so longing to see you. Do I detect a flicker of fear? Oh, yes. The Dementor's Kiss. One can only imagine what that must be like to endure. It's said to be nearly unbearable to witness, but I'll do my best."
— Snape confronts Sirius and Remus in 1994[src]

On several occasions Snape rescued Harry, despite his public detestation of Harry and while maintaining his position as a Death Eater. When Harry was attacked by Professor Quirinus Quirrell, who attempted to jinx Harry's broom during a Quidditch match, Snape performed a counter-curse. He tried to protect Harry from Sirius Black when Sirius was believed to be on the hunt for Harry, though Snape was also eager to get revenge on his old enemy. While he sometimes threatened to have Harry expelled from the school, Snape never followed through. He also claimed to be unaware of Voldemort's plans to avoid being held responsible for allowing Harry and his friends to foil them.

Snape OOP trailer

Snape teaching Occlumency to Harry.

The telepathic link between Voldemort and Harry via Harry's scar became clear during Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts[4]. Snape was instructed by Dumbledore to teach Harry Occlumency to keep out Voldemort's influence. It was during these Occlumency lessons that Harry uncovered the source behind Snape's hatred for his father, when he went into Snape's Pensieve and saw into his memories of being bullied by James (in the movie Harry broke through Snape's Legilimency attack to see the memory).

During Slughorn's potions classes with Harry in his sixth year[2], Slughorn repeatedly remarked that Harry must have inherited his potions skills from his mother. Slughorn and others repeatedly remark on the similarities between Harry's eyes and his mothers, although the rest of his face strongly resembles his father. Thus Snape was always faced simultaneously with a reminder of Harry's father, whom he hated, and his mother, whom he loved.

Unbreakable Vow

In July 1996, Snape was visited by Bellatrix Lestrange and her sister Narcissa Malfoy to beg help for Narcissa's son Draco. Snape swore an unbreakable magical vow, on pain of death should he break it, to: "watch over my son Draco as he attempts to fulfill the Dark Lord's wishes, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm, and should it prove necessary, if it seems Draco will fail, carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform."

As it became clear in the end, Draco's assigned task was to murder Albus Dumbledore. It may or may not be the case that the vow had some wriggle room for Snape to evade it in the phrase "should it prove necessary", but otherwise it appeared to present him with a choice of either being forced to kill Dumbledore or himself.

At the end of Harry's sixth year, Dumbledore and Harry went in search of a Horcrux, which they believed to be a locket formerly the property of Salazar Slytherin. Dumbledore was left mortally injured after drinking an unknown potion in the process of obtaining the locket. He and Harry returned to Hogwarts, to discover that it was under attack from Death Eaters. Dumbledore asked Harry to fetch Snape, but before he could do so they were surprised by Draco, atop the Astronomy Tower.

Snape AvKe

Snape uses the Killing Curse on Dumbledore.

Harry was already hidden under his Invisibility Cloak, but Dumbledore's first act was to use a spell to paralyse him and thus stop him taking part in events. Draco used the moment while Dumbledore did this to launch his own spell, disarming Dumbledore. Draco and Dumbledore then talked, and Dumbledore seemed to convince Draco that what he had been doing was a terrible mistake. At this point more Death Eaters arrived, together with Snape. Snape and Dumbledore exchanged a glance, before Snape took control of the situation, and used the unforgivable curse Avada Kedavra to kill Dumbledore.

Snape's next action was to order the Death Eaters to leave Hogwarts. Harry was freed from Dumbledore's spell and tried to give chase, but Snape warned the Death Eaters not to harm him and refrained from doing so himself, even warning Harry what he was doing wrong as they dueled. Snape reacted in fury when Harry called him a coward, but still did no harm to him.

It was finally revealed to Harry during the Battle of Hogwarts (1998) that Dumbledore's hand injury, caused by Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, was only the outward sign of a fatal curse. Dumbledore used Godric Gryffindor's Sword to destroy the ring, and returned to Hogwarts with his injury. Snape intervened and was able to stem the curse, but only temporarily. After Snape gave an estimate of a year for Dumbledore to live, Dumbledore requested that Snape kill him when the right time came so that he could escape the inevitable painful death. After some persuasion, Snape agreed to the plan, and this finally took place upon the Astronomy Tower.



Snape's Patronus guides Harry to a frozen pool in the Forest of Dean.

In 1997, Snape was appointed headmaster after the Ministry of Magic was taken by Voldemort and Pius Thicknesse was appointed Minister for Magic. Death Eaters, Alecto and Amycus Carrow were appointed as his deputies. Snape's memories show that during his time as headmaster, he consulted with the portraits of the previous headmasters, and continued to receive instructions from Dumbledore's portrait. In particular, he placed Godric Gryffindor's Sword in a forest pool where Harry would find it, led to the place by Snape's Patronus. A subterfuge took place whereby Voldemort seized the Sword displayed in its glass case in the headmaster's office, but this had been replaced with a fake. The real sword had been hidden behind Dumbledore's portrait. As a headmaster, Snape was thoroughly disliked by the students who attempted to rebel against him and the Carrows. The revolt was led by the members of Dumbledore's Army, recruited two years earlier by Harry. Snape subtly undermined the attempts of the Carrows to keep control by means such as sending student to help Hagrid as punishments.

Death and Legacy

Although Voldemort obtained the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave, he was unable to use it properly. Believing that the only way to wield the Elder Wand was to kill its master, he ordered Nagini to kill Snape, whom he assumed to be that master. Fatally injured, Snape gave up his silvery memories to Harry, who had been concealed nearby. As he died, he asked Harry to look at him, to see Lily's eyes one last time. The memories revealed, through the Pensieve, that Snape was, and always had been, Dumbledore's man, motivated by his lifelong love for Lily Evans.

Dumbledore: "After all this time?"
Snape: "Always."
Dumbledore and Snape discussing Snape's continued love for Lily Evans in Snape's last memory, as viewed by Harry Potter.[src]

During the final duel between Harry and Voldemort, Harry revealed to Voldemort that Snape was "Dumbledore's man from the beginning", and that he was always loyal to Dumbledore. Harry also revealed that Snape was never the true master of the Elder Wand, because Draco Malfoy disarmed Dumbledore (who was the master of Elder Wand) before Snape killed him. Therefore, Draco was the true master of the Elder Wand, not Severus Snape. Voldemort was convinced up to a minute before he was destroyed that Severus Snape had always been his most loyal Death Eater. He most likely never saw through his skills as a legilimens Snape's true loyalty due to the fact his actions were motivated by love, which Voldemort neither understood nor cared about.

Snape's portrait was not automatically put into the Headmaster's office since he had essentially abandoned his post during the Battle of Hogwarts. However, Harry, in one of his acts of showing forgiveness towards Snape, made sure that his portrait was placed there. However, it is not certain if he ever went to speak to it.[5]

Albus Severus Potter, the second son of Harry, and the only one of Harry's children to have inherited Lily's eyes, is named after Snape. When Albus was worried that he may be sorted into Slytherin, Harry responded that Albus was named after two headmasters, one of which was a Slytherin and who was "probably the bravest man I ever knew."

Rita Skeeter published a book about Snape's life, entitled Snape: Scoundrel or Saint?, sometime after his death.[6]

Physical appearance

Snape was a tall, thin man with sallow skin and a large, hooked nose. He had shoulder-length, greasy black hair which framed his face in curtains. His cold, black eyes resembled dark tunnels; their colour looked similar to Hagrid's, but contained none of the half-giant's warmth. He had a thin-lipped, sneering mouth with yellow, uneven teeth and often spoke in a soft voice. Like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the ability to keep students quiet without effort. He preferred to wear black, flowing robes, giving him an appearance sometimes likened to a bat.

Personality and traits


Snape's brand of class discipline.

Snape was notable for being highly intelligent and for having expertise in more than one magical discipline. By his teens, he was developing his own jinxes, as well as finding successful ways to improve upon standard methods of potion-making.

As a professor, Snape was a strict disciplinarian with a low tolerance for cheek. He held his students to a high standard and refused to take any student into his N.E.W.T.-level Potions classes who did not receive an "Outstanding" in their O.W.L. He kept his students working until the last minute and, leading up to holidays, refused to let them relax and play games unlike some of the other professors.

Snape was usually regarded as unpleasant and sarcastic. He had a tendency to hold grudges and could be extremely spiteful toward those who earned his dislike. While Snape's disdain for the Marauders can be understood in terms of the history they shared, the disdain he showed toward Gryffindor students like Harry, Hermione, and Neville seems to have been either misplaced or taken out of proportion. Snape acted intimidatingly toward his least favourite pupils: he often directed snide comments at them and was not above making a spectacle out of anyone in his classroom if he thought they deserved it. He also tended to punish students who personally displeased him more severely, but overlooked any rule-breaking done by students he favoured, particularly those in his own House.

Despite his vindictive side, Snape was a brave and loyal ally to the Order, motivated by his devotion to the memory of his former friend, Lily Evans, who he loved — albeit obssessively — from boyhood to death.

Snape was an intensely private man and viewed emotional display as a sign of weakness. As an Occlumens, he was adept at concealing his thoughts and feelings, which allowed him to maintain a calm, collected demeanor. Nonetheless, there were occasional lapses in his self-control, and he was especially prone to fits of temper when it came to Harry Potter and Sirius Black. Snape also inevitably became furious whenever he was accused of cowardice.

Magical Abilities and Skills

Snape was said to be a very powerful wizard, and to have been talented while a student. Snape had numerous skills in various aspects the magical arts.

Dark Arts Mastery: Snape had a talent and passion for the Dark Arts from a young age, and was especially proficient at curses.

Master Potioneer: He specialized in Potion making, teaching the subject at Hogwarts as an adult and able to come up with innovative methods to achieve quicker and better results as a teeanged student.

Spell Creator: As a student at Hogwarts, Snape had a gift for creating new spells. Some of the spells he invented were Sectumsempra, the non-verbal Levicorpus and its counter-curse, Liberacorpus.

Legilimency/Occlumency Expert: Skillful in the arts of Legilimency and Occlumency, Snape was able to both access the minds of others, and protect his own thoughts. As an Occlumens, Snape was able to keep his betrayal from Lord Voldemort, who was probably the most skilled Legilimens of his time.

Patronus Charm: Snape was the only Death Eater that was able to produce a Patronus, which, like Lily Potter's, was a doe. The most likely reason for this is that Snape was not a loyal Death Eater, and that his unconditional love for Lily was stronger even then his practice of the Dark Arts.

Expert Duelist: Snape was shown to be a talented duelist, able to hold off by himself (if only briefly) a group of three Hogwarts professors that included Horace Slughorn, former dueling champion Filius Flitwick and extremely powerful witch Minerva McGonagall.

Flight: Snape could fly without the use of a broom. The only other wizard that was known to be able to do this is Lord Voldemort, who likely invented a method and taught Snape.

Healer: Snape also seems to have had a talent for healing, as he helped save Katie Bell after she touched a cursed necklace, and Dumbledore after his mishap with Marvolo Gaunt's Ring. Also easily healed Draco when Harry used Sectumsempra on him.


Lily Evans

Lily Potter

Lily Evans Potter

"Snape's Patronus was a doe, the same as my mother's. Because he loved her for nearly all of his life."
—Harry Potter[src]

Lily Evans grew up near Snape’s childhood home of Spinner's End, and Snape soon noticed that she was a witch born to Muggles. He took to watching her covertly as she played outside with her sister Petunia, and eventually revealed himself. The two children became friends, discussing various aspects of the wizarding world and their excitement about attending Hogwarts together. He also told her his secrets, stories from his unsatisfactory life at home, showing that he trusted Lily more than any one else; she was his only friend at the time. Snape began to have romantic feelings for her from a young age, but although Lily loved him as a friend, his slightly obsessive romantic love for her was unrequited.

At Hogwarts, Snape was upset when Lily was sorted into Gryffindor house, rather than Slytherin with him, and hated that his rival James Potter was also romantically interested in Lily. However, the two remained best friends until their fifth year, when Snape began associating with students like Avery and Mulciber; Lily detested that they took pleasure in using Dark magic and suspected that they all intended to become Death Eaters. Their friendship was shattered when Snape unintentionally called her a “Mudblood” after being humiliated by James and Sirius Black; Lily refused to forgive him and severed all ties.

When Lord Voldemort came to believe that Lily’s son Harry Potter was the subject of a prophecy made about his possible defeat in 1981, Snape betrayed the Death Eaters by bringing the information to Albus Dumbledore. He

File:Snape and lily.jpg

agreed to do anything in order to keep Lily safe. When she was murdered along with her husband, Snape was devastated to the point of wishing he was dead as well. To honour her sacrifice for her son, Snape agreed to join the Order of the Phoenix and to protect Harry’s life at all costs. In his dying moments, Snape demanded that Harry look at him so that he could look into eyes like Lily’s one last time.

The Marauders

James Sirius youth

Sirius Black and James Potter in their fifth year.

James Potter: ""Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart!" Like my dad. Got a problem with that?"
Severus Snape: "No. If you'd rather be brawny instead of brainy – "
Sirius Black: "Where are you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?"
James Potter, Snape, and Sirius Black on the Hogwarts Express[src]

Snape first met James Potter and Sirius Black on the Hogwarts Express on their first day at Hogwarts. When Snape expressed his wish that Lily Evans be Sorted into Slytherin, James and Sirius insulted him.

During their years at school, Snape would share a deep enmity with James and Sirius that extended to their friend Remus Lupin and later Harry Potter. Sirius would later claim that Snape was jealous of James, who was a popular Quidditch player and who eventually dated Lily Evans, whom Snape had always loved. He also justified his and James’ dislike of Snape based on the latter’s practice of the Dark Arts. However, he and James often bullied Snape, sometimes simply because they were bored. On one occasion, they turned Snape’s Levicorpus spell against him to humiliate him, leading Lily to come to his defence, and Snape to lash out at her. Sirius also once told Snape how to get to the Shrieking Shack without telling him that Remus Lupin was there during his transformations into a werewolf. Snape might have been killed had James not stopped him, an act Snape insisted was done not out of nobility but to avoid expulsion.

Later in life, Snape delighted in telling Harry that his father was not the great man he liked to believe he was, and maintained his grudge against Sirius and Remus. He was eager to see the former receive the Dementor's Kiss after his escape from Azkaban, and later took to taunting Sirius about how he was useless to the Order while confined to 12 Grimmauld Place. He also exposed Remus as a werewolf in 1994, forcing him to resign as professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Harry Potter


Snape protecting Harry, Ron, and Hermione when Remus Lupin transformed into a werewolf.

Severus Snape: ". . .mediocre, arrogant as his father, a determined rule-breaker, delighted to find himself famous, attention-seeking and impertinent. . ."
Albus Dumbledore: "You see what you expect to see, Severus. . . Personally, I find him an engaging child."
— Snape and Dumbledore differ in their assesssments of Harry[src]

Snape vowed to protect Harry Potter in order to honour his mother’s sacrifice. However, he had a great personal dislike of Harry, considering him similar to his father, whom Snape had despised. J. K. Rowling also described him as bitter about being constantly confronted with living proof of Lily's preference for another man.[7] While teaching Harry at Hogwarts, Snape frequently derided the boy's abilities, and threatened to have him expelled. But despite numerous opportunities to do so, Snape never followed through on this threat, presumably because it would have put Harry in physical danger. He came to the assistance of Harry, Ron, and Hermione many times, albeit only out of duty. When he learned that Dumbledore had apparently sent Harry to face certain death at the hand of Lord Voldemort, Snape was horrified, seeing it as a calculated betrayal of his commitment to Lily's memory.

Severus Snape: "I have spied for you, 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—"
Albus Dumbledore: "But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
Severus Snape: "For him? Expecto patronum!"
— Snape and Dumbledore discuss Harry Potter's fate[src]

In turn, Harry disliked Snape, and distrusted him until he found out that the reason for Snape’s loyalty to the Order was his love for Lily. Harry was occasionally disrespectful towards Snape, despite his status as a professor, and furious with him over Sirius Black’s death in battle, believing that Snape had deliberately not aided the Order swiftly because of his own loathing of Sirius. Harry’s Occlumency lessons with Snape failed partly because the two were so hostile towards one another. After learning of Snape’s love for his mother and true loyalty to the Order, Harry came to respect him, and ensured that his portrait was placed in headmaster’s office in Hogwarts. He even gave his younger son the middle name “Severus”, whom he called the bravest man he ever knew, though he likely never visited Snape’s portrait.

Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore and Elder Wand

Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore: "I prefer not to put all my secrets in one basket, particularly not a basket that spends so much time dangling on the arm of Lord Voldemort."
Snape: "Which I do on your orders!"
Dumbledore: "And you do it extremely well. Do not think that I underestimate the constant danger in which you place yourself, Severus. To give Voldemort what appears to be valuable information while withholding the essentials is a job I would entrust to nobody but you."
— Dumbledore and Snape on the latter’s espionage[src]

Snape's relationship with Dumbledore was one of implicit trust. After indirectly sending Voldemort after Lily, Snape turned to Dumbledore to keep her safe. In return for Dumbledore's protection, Snape willingly offered him anything he wanted.

As a spy for the Order of the Phoenix within the ranks of the Death Eaters, Snape kept Dumbledore in the loop about their movements. As a double agent, he also, in turn, supplied Voldemort with information about the Order, while leaving out anything that would compromise them.

In 1996, Dumbledore became aware of Voldemort's plan to kill him. Knowing Voldemort expected Draco Malfoy to fail, and assuming Snape to be Draco's successor, Dumbledore assigned Snape the task of killing him when the situation arose. Dumbledore also entrusted Snape to protect the students once Hogwarts fell into Voldemort's control.

Lord Voldemort


Lord Voldemort

"Perhaps you already know it? You are a clever man, after all, Severus. You have been a good and faithful servant, and I regret what must happen… The Elder Wand cannot serve me properly, Severus, because I am not its true master. The Elder Wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner. You killed Albus Dumbledore. While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot truly be mine… It cannot be any other way."
Voldemort just before ordering Nagini to kill Snape[src]

In his days as a Death Eater, Snape was one of Lord Voldemort’s most trusted and devoted servants. In 1980, Snape overheard part of a prophecy foretelling Voldemort's downfall. After being caught, Snape hurried to tell Voldemort what he had heard, unaware that his information was incomplete. However, he turned against the Dark Lord the moment he decided to target Lily Potter.

When Voldemort returned to physical form in 1995, Snape ostensibly returned to him as a spy for the Order. Using Occlumency, Snape was able to hide his true allegiance and maintain his cover as a faithful Death Eater. Voldemort coldly had Nagini kill Snape in 1998, believing it would make him the true master of the Elder Wand. Although he claimed he regretted its necessity, he felt no grief over murdering a Death Eater he considered one of his most trusted and useful servants.

The Malfoys


Lucius and Draco Malfoy

"Lucius always spoke highly of you."
—Dolores Umbridge[src]

Snape appeared to be on good terms with the Malfoy family. Lucius Malfoy was a Slytherin prefect when Snape began attending Hogwarts, and the two ran in the same social circles, which included other future Death Eaters. Lucius continued to think and speak highly of Snape later in life, including to Ministry officials such as Dolores Umbridge. Perhaps because of this, Snape also seemed to favour Lucius's son Draco, although this fit in to his favouring of Slytherin students in general. Draco seemed to look up to Snape, once sycophantically saying that he would make a far better headmaster than Albus Dumbledore. However, after his father’s imprisonment in Azkaban following the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Draco came to resent and mistrust Snape, suspecting that he was trying to usurp his father’s place in the Death Eater ranks. He refused Snape’s repeated offers of help with the task Lord Voldemort assigned him in his sixth year. Narcissa Malfoy, on the other hand, begged Snape to assist Draco in his task to assassinate Dumbledore, fearing that her son was being set up to fail. She ignored the warnings of her sister, Bellatrix Lestrange, who did not trust Snape, and had him take an Unbreakable Vow to help Draco and take over the task should he fail. This speaks highly as to the trust and respect the Malfoys had for Snape.


Bellatrix Lestrange

Bellatrix Lestrange

"I don't trust you, Snape, as you very well know!"
—Bellatrix Lestrange[src]

Unlike her Malfoy relatives, Bellatrix Lestrange invested none of her faith in Snape. She saw right through his spying for Albus Dumbledore, even though Lord Voldemort could not; part of the reason for this may have been Snape's half-blood status and his avoidance of imprisonment in Azkaban, while she was incarcerated there for years. Given Bellatrix's obsessive, slavish love for Voldemort, she may have envied the trust the Dark Lord put in Snape, whom she considered her inferior in both blood and service. She was suspicious when Snape did not immediately return to Voldemort after his rebirth, and why he never took an opportunity to kill Harry Potter when, as one of the boy's professors, he had easy access to him. Bellatrix was uneasy speaking openly about things around Snape, and tried to discourage her younger sister from asking him for help with Draco's task. She was shocked when he agreed to make an Unbreakable Vow to help Draco in the plot to kill Dumbledore.

Neville Longbottom


Neville's Boggart in 1993.

Remus Lupin: "Right, Neville. First things first: what would you say is the thing that frightens you most in the world?"
Neville Longbottom: "..."
Remus Lupin: "Didn't catch that, Neville, sorry."
Neville Longbottom: "Professor Snape."
Remus Lupin introduces Neville to Boggarts during a DADA class[src]

Neville Longbottom was perhaps one of the worst Potions students Snape ever taught. As such, Snape was especially cruel to him, and often made a point of ridiculing his failures in class. On one occassion, Snape threatened to test Neville's Shrinking Solution on his pet toad, despite the fact that the potion is apparently poisonous if not brewed correctly. Even outside of his own classroom, Snape did not hesitate from offering harsh opinions on Neville, warning Professor Lockhart that Longbottom caused devastation with simple spells and advising Professor Lupin not to trust him with difficult tasks unless Hermione Granger was "hissing instructions in his ear".

This treatment made Neville extremely nervous to be around Snape and further contributed to his poor performance in Potions. Neville admitted in 1993 that Snape was his greatest fear, and, predictably, Snape was the form Neville's Boggart took at that time.


Severus means “stern” in Latin, and is the root of the English word “severe”[8]. It was a Roman cognomen, common to members of the Severan dynasty of Emperors, including one notorious for his harsh persecution of the early Christians.

J. K. Rowling has said that she took the surname Snape from an English village[9], probably one in Yorkshire near Hadrian’s Wall, which was rebuilt by the aforementioned emperor, Septimus Severus. Snape is also an English verb meaning “to be hard upon, rebuke, snub”, derived from the Old Norse sneypa, “to outrage, dishonour, disgrace”.[10]

Behind the scenes

  • J. K. Rowling referred to Snape as an anti-hero because while he was incredibly brave, he bullied many of the students, particularly Harry, Hermione, and Neville.
  • During his childhood, he personally knew Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it was to Snape that Petunia referred when she said "that awful boy" told Lily about Dementors and Azkaban, even though Harry thought she was referring to his father.
  • The chapter illustrations by Mary GrandPré in the American editions depict Snape with a thin goatee. Rowling's own drawing of Snape, which she held up to the camera in Harry Potter and Me, showed him with a full beard and thick mustache. However, it is nowhere mentioned within the text that Snape has facial hair, nor does Alan Rickman sport any in the films.
  • J.K. Rowling has stated that Snape was loosely based on an unpleasant teacher she had as a child.[11]


Notes and references

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