Here is my long awaited arguement (complete with quotes) as to why Snape turned from Voldemort, and why he always will.
I know that Dumbledore can be a little over trusting sometimes, but he seemed pretty firm in the belief that Snape was on The Order’s side. I have also come to this conclusion based on the reasons I am about to give.
We have to start at the very beginning. If we don’t discuss why Snape became a Death Eater, we will never know why he turned. That said, when do we see Snape at his youngest? Yes, we see him in a memory, but not due to a pensive. The youngest we ever see Snape, is when Harry pushes back and sees some of Snape’s memories in one of his Occlumency lessons.
“…a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman
while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner…” (Order of the
I believe these people are Snape (the boy), his father (the hook-nosed man) and his mother (the woman). This is a very important memory because I believe it to be the key to Snape becoming a Death Eater. We learn in HBP that Snape’s father was a muggle. We learn from this memory that he wasn’t the nicest of men, and he verbally (if not physically) abused Snape and his mother. Obviously Snape’s mother wasn’t a pure-blood fanatic, because she married a muggle, so where has this muggle-born and muggle hating attitude of Snape’s come from? The simple answer is his father. From a young age, Snape has associated abuse and misuse of power with muggles. This isn’t a true representation, as we know, but in a young mind generalisations can be made, and stereotypes formed. He has grown up being frightened and angry at his father and has associated all of his father’s bad characteristics with muggles. With his mother, however, he doesn’t associate these things, I think he loves (or loved) his mother and because of this, he associated good feelings with her, and thus with pure-bloods.
The next step in Snape’s life is that he attends Hogwarts and he is confronted by a different array of people. Snape is sorted into Slytherin, and if my time-line is correct, in his first year, Lucius Malfoy was in his last. As we know, Snape was disliked, both in his own house, and others. He was bullied by James Potter and Sirius Black (both pure-bloods, but also Gryffindors). Here, there is no problem, he can see both simply as ‘blood-traitors’, much like the Slytherins of 1997-8 see the Weasleys. However, he is also confronted with a witch, by the name of Lily Evans. Lily is a bright girl, she is favoured by Slughorn in Potions class (one of the two subjects we know that Snape is brilliant at), she is resourceful, she is quick-witted, she defends Snape against her own house, she is popular, she is beautiful, but she is also a muggle-born. Lily has sent Snape’s stereotype crashing and burning to the ground.
And I believe, that Snape did in fact, fall in love with Lily.
Now before you start screaming at me, and calling me a shipper, I have to tell you, that I have never shipped Snape with anyone, much less a muggle-born. The major point here is that this was unrequited love, and she obviously didn’t reciprocate the feeling. Snape himself didn’t want to admit that he had feelings for her either. This is why he was so horrible to her; he was trying to prove to himself, and everyone else, that he didn’t feel anything.
Because this is the main point of this editorial, it is important to convince you that Snape falling in love with Lily was not only possible, but canon. To support this theory here is a quote from the MuggleNet/Leaky interview with J.K. Rowling:
“ES: Was James the only one who had romantic feelings for Lily?
JKR: No. [Pause.] She was like Ginny, she was a popular girl.
JKR: That is a theory that's been put to me repeatedly.
ES: What about Lupin?
JKR: I can answer either one.
ES: How about both? One at a time.
JKR: I can't answer, can I, really?
…Lupin was very fond of Lily, we'll put it like that, but I wouldn't want anyone to run around thinking that he competed with James for her. She was a popular girl, and that is relevant. But I think you've seen that already. She was a bit of a catch.” (Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005)
Notice that J.K has answered the Lupin question, but not the Snape one? And why “I can’t answer, can I, really?” Why couldn’t she answer them both? More importantly, why could she answer the Lupin question, but not the Snape one? Surely if it wasn’t relevant or if Snape wasn’t in love with Lily she would be able to say “no”.
‘But,’ I hear you say, ‘she doesn’t like shutting down theories’. True. But again, she could have said something about not wanting to shut down theories, and her reluctance to comment on Snape at all, is a bit of a giveaway. Another quote on Snape in love:
“One of our internet correspondents wondered if Snape is going to fall in love.
JKR: (JKR laughs) Who on earth would want Snape in love with them? That’s a very horrible idea.
There’s an important kind of redemptive pattern to Snape
JKR: He, um, there’s so much I wish I could say to you, and I can’t because it would ruin. I promise you, whoever asked that question, can I just say to you that I’m slightly stunned that you’ve said that and you’ll find out why I’m so stunned if you read Book 7. That’s all I’m going to say.” (J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999)
Notice again that J.K says it would be horrible for Snape to be in love with them (you), and you wouldn’t want him in love with you, not: ‘he hasn’t ever been in love’. J.K. is stunned by the question (remembering this is 1999 before Goblet of Fire came out), perhaps because this is a main plot point that has surfaced so early? And, surprisingly, we’ll find out about it all in: Book 7, the book where we will almost definitely discover the reason as to why Snape turned. Coincidence? I think not.
So, getting back to the time-line (which is also very important) Snape,
apparently, was “part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be
Death Eaters” (Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27, pg. 461,
Then, Snape joined the Death Eaters, and while he was under the service of the Dark Lord Voldemort, Snape overheard part of a certain prophecy:
“The one with
the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice
defied him, born as the seventh month dies…” (Order of the
Although not knowing it was only part of the prophecy, this was a major boost for Snape. He was fresh out of Hogwarts, and probably not too far up in the ranks of Death Eaters.
So, the prophecy seems pretty straight forward, simple answer is to kill the “one with the power”. The prophecy is also anonymous; there is no mention of a name at all. So, when he takes word of the prophecy to Voldemort, Snape would have no qualms as to who it implicates.
Then Voldemort decides to go after the Potters.
Since leaving Hogwarts, Lily Evans has married James Potter, someone who Snape obviously loathed, and someone who is fighting against Voldemort. Snape now has even more reasons to hate James Potter. Not only did he torment Snape at school and marry the woman that Snape loves, but they now have a baby. Snape has no problem with the killing of James, and probably Harry, but what to do about Lily? No matter how hard he tried to bottle his feelings, no matter how much self convincing Snape did, he was still in love with Lily, and couldn’t let her be killed.
By this stage, Dumbledore has also heard the Prophecy, but to its
fullest extent. He knows that Voldemort is going to go after either Frank and
Alice Longbottom, or James and Lily Potter, and this is where the timeline of
events is very important.
·Sybil Trelawney goes into a trance and creates “The Prophecy”, which is witnessed by Albus Dumbledore and (partially) Severus Snape
·Dumbledore realises that the only two parties applicable are the Longbottoms and the Potters
·Snape dutifully reports the prophecy back to Voldemort and receives a pat on the head, and (probably) a promotion into the Death Eaters inner circle
·Voldemort comes to the same conclusion as Dumbledore; it’s the Longbottoms or the Potters
·Voldemort decides to go after the Potters
·Snape finds out, and is distraught. He discovers that Voldemort is going to kill Lily
When Harry finds out that it was Snape who overheard the prophecy, he is extremely angry. Dumbledore’s answer is the most important one in this entire editorial:
“‘Professor Snape made a terrible mistake. He was still in Lord Voldemort’s employ on the night he heard the first half of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy. Naturally, he hastened to tell his master what he had heard, for it concerned his master most deeply. But he did not know – he had no possible way of knowing – which boy Voldemort would hunt from then onwards, or that the parents he would destroy in his murderous quest were people that Professor Snape knew, that they were your mother and father-’
…‘He hated my dad like he hated Sirius! Haven’t you noticed, Professor, how the people Snape hates tend to end up dead?’
‘You have no idea of the remorse Professor Snape felt when he realised how Lord Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy, Harry. I believe it to be the greatest regret of his life and the reason that he returned-’
…‘I am sure. I trust Severus Snape completely.’”
(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25, pg/s 512-513,
Let us look at the facts of this conversation:
·Snape was still in the employ of Voldemort when he heard the prophecy, ergo he hadn’t come to Dumbledore yet
·Dumbledore’s main point is that Snape didn’t know who Voldemort was going to go after. Now, he could have just left this at Snape didn’t know that Voldemort was going to go after Harry, but then he adds in Harry’s parents
·Harry prattles on about how Snape hated James and Sirius. Yes. But he loved Lily
·Snape then obviously came to Dumbledore and told him everything
·Since then, Dumbledore has trusted Snape completely
Snape has now, apparently, turned to the light. But, at this stage I don’t think that Snape had fully turned. Snape confessed his feelings for Lily to Dumbledore and asked Dumbledore to do all he could in protecting the Potters. Dumbledore was, in effect, a safe gate; double protection for Lily. Snape wanted to protect her as much as he could. He knew that he could not change Voldemort’s mind about killing Harry, but by informing Dumbledore, there was a chance that the Potters could be protected to the extent that Voldemort would never find them. Remember also that Voldemort has ordered Snape to go to Hogwarts, so talking to Dumbledore wouldn’t be suspicious.
Then, he went to Voldemort and asked for a favour. Remember, Snape was the one that has told Voldemort about the prophecy in the first place and is now Voldemort’s ‘blue eyed boy’. So, when Snape says to Voldemort that if he is going after the Potters that he spare Lily, Voldemort obliges. Snape is very young at this stage (about 20) and Voldemort could probably put this request down to a sad infatuation. After all, he only needs to kill Harry for this plan to work. What would it matter if they spared the Mudblood and gave her to Snape?
Here is another piece of the MuggleNet/Leaky interview that compliments my theory:
JKR: [silence] Can't tell you. But he did offer, you're absolutely right. Don't you want to ask me why James's death didn't protect Lily and Harry? There’s your answer, you've just answered your own question, because she could have lived and chose to die … She did very consciously lay down her life. She had a clear choice -” (Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005)
So, Lily was definitely given a choice as to whether she died or not. Interesting. Why would the most feared wizard of all time give Lily a choice as to whether she dies or not? Why didn’t he simply kill her, like he did James? Let’s hear again exactly what Lily and James said that night:
“‘Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off-’
The sounds of someone stumbling from a room – a door
bursting open – a cackle of high-pitched laughter-” (Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12, pg. 178,
“‘Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!’
‘Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside now…’
…‘Not Harry! Please… have mercy… have mercy…’
A shrill voice was laughing, the woman was screaming,
and Harry new no more.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9,
Clear evidence that Voldemort was willing to let Lily
live. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Snape was actually present in Godric’s Hollow at the time.
“MA: Was there anyone else present in Godric’s Hollow the night Harry’s parents were killed?
JKR: No comment.” (Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005)
Personally, I’m going to take that “no comment” as a “yes”. What I believe happened was that, despite Snape’s best efforts in protecting James, Lily and Harry (informing Dumbledore and having him protect the Potters), the Potters, unfortunately, chose a Secret Keeper who was a Death Eater and could not be trusted, and as a result, Dumbledore’s (and Snape’s) carefully planned protection became invalid. But, there was still hope. Snape had managed to get Voldemort to spare Lily. Snape was now an inner circle Death Eater (as demonstrated in Goblet of Fire), and since the prophecy was largely due to Snape, Voldemort let Snape come along. We see no indication that would suggest that someone else was there, other than a “no comment” from J.K, but that “no comment” could be the pivotal point of Snape’s life.
Voldemort, as we know, didn’t spare Lily. Certainly, he gave her the opportunity, but he didn’t follow through, much to Snape’s despair. I believe that when Snape saw Voldemort kill Lily this was the point that he truly turned to Dumbledore’s side. “Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe” (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27, pg/s 547-548, UK hardback edition). Neither is watching the one you love get killed by a master you’re meant to be serving. Especially, when, ultimately, you were the one who brought him the reason for the attack.
I think that this chain of events could be described as a “terrible mistake”, and that because of these reasons, Snape has, and never will, turn back to Voldemort.
Yes, he loathed James and Sirius, but he loved Lily. Yes, he was a Death Eater,
but he became a member of the Order of
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly
are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,
Chapter 18, pg. 245,
to become a member of the Order of the
All throughout the books, it is clear that Snape hates Harry. This is now definitely understandable. Not only is
he forced to teach a miniature look-a-like of James Potter, Harry is a constant
reminder of his actions to tell Voldemort about the prophecy, and as a result
of this, aid in Lily Evans' death. The one he loved died because of his actions.
“‘Kill me, then,’ panted Harry, who felt no fear at all, but only rage and contempt. ‘Kill me like you killed [Dumbledore], you coward-’
‘DON’T-’ screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented,
inhuman, as though he was in as much
pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them,
‘-CALL ME COWARD!’” (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 28, pg.