Madam Puddifoot’s: Severus Snape in Love?
by Rachel LaBozetta
We are all aware of how Professor Severus Snape feels about emotions. He even went so far as to claim:
“Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions…weak people in other words…” (OotP, p. 536)
So we know that he considers any exhibit of positive emotions to be a sign of weakness and, of course, these emotions we never see Snape himself reveal. But even though he doesn’t show these emotions, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. We do see him express negative emotions and sarcasm, which can’t be controlled easily by others. Severus takes pride in the fact that he can appear to be in complete control of himself. He is, after all, an exceptionally skilled Occlumens, able to close off his real feelings from outside penetration, a superb defense and an excellent protector of his true feelings and character. He only shows us what he wants to show us. I doubt even Dumbledore knows what Severus keeps locked up inside his troubled mind.
Harry’s delving into the Pensieve and his penetration into Snape’s mind during Occlumency lessons are some of the rare times that anyone sees into Snape’s feelings and into his past. We tend to feel compassion for Professor Snape who, obviously, still dwells on the past. We see that his past was far from happy. He was highly unpopular and a loner. From the state of his clothing in the Pensieve he was either poor and/or neglected. He was often teased and his home life contained domestic violence. All of us, even Harry, can empathize with poor Snape. Almost all of us, at some time or another, have been the subject of ridicule. To protect himself from further humiliation and pain, he builds a fortress around his mind to prevent outside intruders and places upon himself this facade of power and perfect self-control for his adult life — the ultimate lie and the ultimate protector of self. Severus is emotionally unsound and developmentally immature. His unstable childhood and lack of love has made him both fearful of, and containing a sense of hopelessness for love and affection. It’s not that surprising that he grew up to become extremely bitter and hateful.
From what we know of Severus, there have been only two people to have ever stood their ground and defended/protected him: Albus Dumbledore AND Lily Potter. From what we see from Snape’s behavior when he is around the headmaster, he shows nothing but complete, unfaltering respect. This behavior gives me reason to believe that Severus Snape not only respected Lily Potter, but that it’s highly possible that he was also infatuated with her. Let me explain.
It’s pretty much a well known fact that James and Severus were archenemies when they were students at Hogwarts. We can assume that they probably would’ve been archenemies after leaving Hogwarts as well (particularly by the way Snape acts when he’s around Lupin and Sirius in the present time). Snape isn’t the kind of person to forgive and forget. Snape, however, was always brutally honest with Harry about the arrogant and pompous ways James had behaved. In fact, he seemed almost beside himself when telling Harry so. With all of the terrible things Harry saw from Snape’s childhood when he broke into his mind during Occumency lessons, it’s quite hard to believe that the scene in the Pensieve could truly be “Snape’s Worst Memory.”
We already know that Snape mentions numerous times to Harry that James was a conceited git whose head was so big that it was surprising that he could’ve lifted it at all. So seeing James act exactly like we’ve been told he acted was hardly a shock. One big difference here is that, in the Pensieve, Lily is present. Notice that throughout Harry’s life at Hogwarts thus far, Snape NEVER mentions Lily even though they had known each other throughout their school lives and after graduation from Hogwarts. Countless times, he speaks viciously of James. Whenever we see Snape speak about or to most people it’s sarcastically or flecked with bits of hatred or loathing (i.e. Lupin, Sirius, James, Harry, Lockhart, etc.). We know that showing any positive emotion would make him feel as if he’s weak. If he has no pessimistic opinion towards someone or something, i.e. Lily, he’s of course not going to openly “wear his heart on his sleeve.” An example of not showing a positive emotion is when he walks by Hermione’s perfect potion without comment, for instance. He’s going to keep his emotions locked safely away from prying hands and continue with the facade he invented for himself.
In the Pensieve, Lily stands up for Severus and what does he do? He offends her by calling her a foul name. She retaliates with an insult and marches off. Now I’m sure Snape feels quite embarrassed and enraged by his treatment by the Marauders but I believe that “Snape’s Worst Memory,” this memory floating in the Pensieve, has to do with Lily. Let me be more specific: his worst memory has to do with himself AND his treatment of Lily. Lily is this girl who is intelligent and beautiful, with stunning emerald green eyes. She’s the only person, other than Dumbledore, and the only female that we know of, to have ever courageously defended Severus and what does he do? He calls her names. Pretty tactless on his part.
I think “Snape’s Worst Memory” has to do with how he feels about himself. We know that Snape dwells on the past. We know, and Dumbledore has reason to believe, that Snape has seen the error of his ways. Remember:
“Dumbledore trusts him and if we can’t trust Dumbledore, we can’t trust anyone.” -Hermione
Snape has, apparently, had an epiphany of sorts. If this is true, then it would make sense that Snape feels nothing but self loathing, humiliation, and disgust for the way in which he behaved towards Lily, a person kind enough to try to lend a hand when he was in need. It would then ring true that Severus was as angry as he was for Harry seeing this memory because he was utterly ashamed of himself. It’s possible that Snape only insulted Lily to not lose face or show weakness in front of his enemies. His facade, of being in control of himself, of course, resulted in being harsh to Lily. This is a poor way of showing a girl you care. But is it so far-fetched? It’s no different then boys punching, teasing, or pulling a girl’s pigtails in the real world because they’re enamored with them. It’s immature, yes. But it’s been done for eons as a way of showing a girl you like her.
At the end of Harry’s first year, Dumbledore tells Harry:
“Professor Snape couldn’t bear being in your father’s debt. I do believe that he worked so hard to protect you this year because it would make him and your father even.”
Snape, throughout Harry’s life thus far, does attempt, no matter how poorly, to save Harry’s life on numerous occasions. But what about after Harry’s first year? Are all these later attempts by Snape to protect Harry also a way in which to pay off a life debt to James? I was under the impression that Snape only had ONE life debt to pay off to James. Personally, given Snape’s past experiences with James (and the fact that he blames ALL of the Marauder’s regardless of if they were involved or not in the werewolf incident), I seriously doubt that Severus would care if he was indebted to James. (This is the same man who tried to hand Sirius over to the dementors regardless of if Sirius was innocent or not.) However, I do believe that he would save Harry as penance to Lily. She tried to help him once (maybe many times). He would return the favor.
James and Snape hated one another. Sirius and Snape also hated one another. James and Sirius were practically like brothers and very much alike in their behaviors, beliefs, and abilities. So why did Snape hate James so much more than Sirius? I mean…Sirius WAS the one solely responsible for almost getting Snape killed by a werewolf. Maybe because it had to do with Lily. Sirius never showed an inkling of infatuation with Lily (or any other girls for that matter even though they sure did notice him!). James very obviously liked Lily. He ruffled his hair when she was around, tried to sound more mature, and would try to trick Lily into going on dates with him. James seemed to use Snape as a means to rile Lily. Being a victim is of course not a positive thing for poor Severus. But this humiliation in front of Lily, who tried to protect him and who he seems to respect in some way, must’ve also been unbearable. Snape possibly saw James as competition for Lily’s affections and, thus, hated James more than he hated Sirius. (His hatred must’ve intensified after James and Lily got married.)
In an interview, JKR said that in the third film Alfonso Cuaron “put things in the film, that without knowing it, foreshadows things that are going to happen in the final two books.” One of these things, of course, would be the blossoming relationship between Ron and Hermione. (Sorry Harry/Hermione shippers!) There is one conversation in the third film that speaks volumes. It’s the first conversation between Harry and Lupin, a conversation that’s not in the books. In this conversation, Lupin is speaking to Harry about his mother Lily (which in itself is a very rare occurrence. We scarcely know anything about Lily. Yet.) He says that he recognized Harry immediately because he has his mother’s eyes. He goes on to say, “Your mother was there for me at a time when no one else was. She was a singularly gifted witch and an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others even, and most especially, when that person could not see it in themselves.”
At this point in the series, as mentioned earlier, we know very little about Lily’s character and personality while we know loads about James. Snape’s memory, in the Pensieve, gives a rare window into Lily’s person and it matches almost perfectly with what Lupin says about her in the third film. We know that she was caring and compassionate. She was there for Snape at a time when no one else was. (At that point in Snape’s life, I don’t think Dumbledore was at his side yet.) She could see the beauty in him when even he could not. When Snape realized this, he probably fell for her as, I am sure, many others have who crossed her path. From the way’s she’s depicted in the books, there is only one word to truly describe her — perfect. She was intelligent, beautiful, with astonishing green eyes, willing to lend a hand to someone in need, and was always looking out for others even if it meant losing her life to protect them. Who wouldn’t fall in love with such an extraordinary person?
In regards to Harry, I think Severus is very confused indeed. On one hand, Harry looks like a James clone — the man he’s despised since childhood. Harry has many of his father’s qualities that Snape was jealous of. He’s good at Quidditch, quick, and has a disregard for rules. (Even if Harry’s disregard for rules is, generally, for noble purposes.) Harry, visually, is like James back from the dead. Since James is dead, Severus takes out his hatred for him on poor Harry. He might even, at times, have trouble distinguishing James from Harry. (A similar situation arises in OotP between Mrs. Weasley and Sirius.) On the other hand, Harry has many of his mother’s qualities — pity, kindness, unpretentiousness, and is quick to come to someone in need. The only physical characteristic Harry inherited, as we well know, is his mother’s emerald green eyes, her most distinguishable feature. Often throughout the series, Snape and Harry make eye contact. Half the time, Harry felt that Snape was trying to read his mind. Now that we know that Severus is a master Occlumens and Legilimens, he probably was trying to read Harry’s mind on those occasions.
But what about the other times their eyes met? Snape would look at Harry with the deepest amount of loathing he could muster even on the very first night that Harry was at Hogwarts when he didn’t have the faintest idea who Snape was. When Snape looks into Harry’s eyes, he sees Lily looking back at him. When he looks upon Harry’s whole person, he sees James. In his entirety, Harry is a hodgepodge of everything Snape loved and hated all wrapped up in one. Harry is the walking, talking evidence of James and Lily’s love for one another. Love that Severus Snape could not, did not, and will never have.