Imagine if you will that standing at the cauldron next to this hardworking and serious Slytherin
is a lovely, redheaded, Muggleborn girl who excels in school, particularly in Potions and, almost
certainly, Charms. Not only is she smart and good looking, but she is also friendly, brave,
straight-forward and doesn't take any dragon dung from anybody. Severus wants to detest her for
her lack of bloodline and for the unpardonable sin of being sorted into Gryffindor. But she
doesn't rise to his slights and barbs. Either she laughs him off or cuts short his taunts, or
she bests him. He must admire her, if only grudgingly. He hears Professor Slughorn praise her
to the skies over the years, while he gets an encouraging pat on the back. Yes, he gets excellent
grades in Potions, and he is clearly gifted in the subject. But all he hears from Slughorn is
Lily, Lily, Lily. He begins to watch the Mudblood work, sees her furrow her brow, looking first
into her potions kit and then back at Borage's book, tapping her wand idly against the table as
she reads. A little smile comes to her face as she reaches into her kit and pulls out... mint?
Why mint? Severus makes a mental note and continues to follow the book's instructions. At the
end of class, Slughorn gives a curt nod of approval to Severus' potion and then exclaims in
rapture over Lily's. Mint. Severus makes a note in his potions book and vows to watch the
cheeky Gryffindor more closely in the future.
He is mortified one day when she turns to him and whispers, "The clockwise stir comes after every
seven counterclockwise. See? It's lightening nicely, isn't it?"
He turns away and tries to pretend he wasn't watching her work. As he glances back she is looking
at him, half challenging him and half... encouraging him? She clearly sees through his pitiful
ruse. "Go on. Give it a try."
He can't believe that she is speaking in this friendly manner to him. After all, he did call her
a Mudblood, just last spring. But he was under extreme duress. She seems to have forgiven him,
or at least chosen to ignore his insult. She is businesslike. Open and friendly, but not pushy,
pleading or simpering, and she doesn't seem to be covering anything up. She is just... talking
to him. As if to say, "Look, I'm a person, you're a person. Let's just forget that and try again,
alright?" Slowly, he adds the clockwise stir to his potion, and... voila! It lightens. He
looks back at Lily, who smiles at him and continues working.
In truth, she had always treated him this way, but he always ignored it. She has never taunted
or persecuted him as the Marauders and other students have, and she has stuck up for him on more
than one occasion. They always had a friendly, though careful, relationship. Yet he never
expected to have a kind word from her again, not after last spring. And, in truth, it's hard to
look her in the eye after that awful day, both because of his own humiliations and because of
what he said to her. He is surprised by her apparent willingness to forgive his rude remark, and
he becomes even more aware of her work and her personality as weeks go by.
Lily's intuitive nature intrigues Severus, who has always done things strictly by the book.
Severus is brainy, creative and very powerful for a young wizard. But he is controlling of his
magic, and very conservative in his approach. Lily's inventiveness and flexibility is compelling
and challenging to him. He begins his own experiments and uses his precious Potions book to
chronicle some of his favorites. As he jots down another note in the book one day, (he had seen
Lily using an interesting technique to crush her sopophorous bean) he remembers with shame that
horrible day at the lake. His face reddens as he sees Levicorpus (nvbl), where he wrote
it some years before in the Potions book. (While this is the first year Snape has been in NEWT
level potions, he has had the book for years [it was his mother's], and has been chronicling his
experiments and inventions of spells.) Seeing the carefully written incantation for the spell
that Potter used against him is a humiliating reminder of that day by the lake. He remembers
what he called Lily. He also knows, though, that his own father was a Muggle. That he, himself
is a product of a mixed marriage, as are others in his House. No Slytherin speaks of or
acknowledges this, and Severus plays up his mother's background and name in every way he can, in
order to escape the taint of his ancestry. He quickly stifles any sense of camaraderie that he
may feel with Lily and turns back to what he knows: become powerful enough that you do not need
to depend upon anyone else. Survive and prosper through your own talents.
She is impervious to his rejection. She continues to be friendly as always, and Severus begins
to soften towards her again. They exchange friendly words in class, and he finds he looks forward
to seeing her. He says nothing and has no intention of admitting these feelings, which put him at
risk of more hurt and rejection. However, her presence lightens his otherwise frustrating
existence, and they have a sort of unacknowledged friendship.
Then, in their seventh year, he sees it: Lily and James, holding hands. He quickly
compartmentalizes all feelings associated with Lily (as a good Occlumens is fully capable of
doing) and cools towards her in class. Mercifully, Potter seems not to be hexing and cursing him
when Lily is around, so he is spared the humiliation of having Lily stick up for him, which has
happened more than once. He is back to feeling insignificant and, he discovers to his surprise
and chagrin, jealous.
Dark Magic offers power and comfort, and he has a gift for it. It is appreciated in his House,
and his abilities get him to a place of some power and respect, if not popularity. His
temperament and abilities garner the attentions of a particular set of Slytherins, who begin to
speak of the rise of Lord Voldemort. Severus is intrigued, and flattered by the attention. This
might be the way to success and acknowledgment. It is in direct opposition to the hated Gryffindors
and their ways, which is an added allure. He soon joins the group, and begins to follow Voldemort
and aid his goals. His many years of experimenting with the Dark Arts have put him into a strong
position to rise up the ranks of Voldemort's followers, though he is very young. His innate
talent for Occlumency and Legilimency help him to sift through the intrigues, plots and lies
surrounding him, and he begins to gain confidence in his ability to prosper and rise to a powerful
position next to the Dark Lord. He has real talent, and he is a loner, without sentimental
connections. Any beginnings of an opening of his heart were quickly locked away when Lily began
to date James, and he has kept to his own path ever since. He begins to realize after a short
time, though, that it is a slippery slope.
Demelza Robins, the Gryffindor Chaser in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, is named after Daniel Radcliffe's favourite charity: the Demelza House Children's Hospice, which cares for terminally ill youngsters in Kent, East Sussex and South London.