What would Snape See in the Mirror of Erised?

This editorial was written for an essay contest at the Harry Potter Festival at Chestnut Hill College.

by Kat M. 

What would Severus Snape see if he had looked at his reflection in the Mirror of Erised? I have thought of this question while reading the series multiple times. Severus Snape is an extremely complex character. Many say he was a hero, others say he was a villain, and some say that he was neither, just being there to represent something. There are so many things that we never learn about Snape, but I have an idea of what he would see in the Mirror. Let us dive into a Pensieve and relive Severus Snape’s life from his point of view to try to understand.

Severus Snape was a half-blood, the son of Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape. Eileen was a witch, while Tobias was a Muggle. Unfortunately, Tobias was a horrible father, causing Severus to break away from the name of ‘Snape’ and make himself a nickname, “The Half Blood Prince”, taking his mother’s last name instead of his father’s. This may be one of the reasons Severus seems disgusted by Muggles. Severus Snape was a neglected child, and wore clothes that were too big and dirty, but what would you expect from a boy whose parents didn’t care? The three lived in Spinner’s End, a horrible and dirty section of Cokeworth, England. He and Harry would grow to have the same mindset during the summer, eagerly waiting to go back to Hogwarts and leave their horrible households.

During his time at home, Severus met two sisters, Lily and Petunia Evans. He discovered that Lily had magical abilities, and took an interest in her. They quickly became good friends, but Severus wanted it to be more than just friendship. Lily was oblivious to this, more focusing on enjoying the summers. Once Severus got to know Petunia, the Muggle sister, it became obvious that the two were not destined to get along. This was because of her rude comments about his lifestyle, but Snape’s dislike towards Muggles may have also contributed.

Unfortunately, this would all change once they got to Hogwarts. On the train during their first year, Lily and Severus ran into James Potter and Sirius Black, and just from this encounter you can sense the hatred the two pairs have against each other. Severus knew that he was going to be sorted into Slytherin, so he prayed that Lily would join him in the same House. To his dismay, she went to Gryffindor, along with Sirius and James, who had become friends with Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. Lily remained friends with Severus for most of their beginning years at the school, until Snape began to experiment with the wrong types of people and magic. He was brilliant with the Dark Arts, knowing more curses than almost any student, even the seventh years. Severus became friends with a group of Slytherins that would later be known as the Death Eaters, including Avery, Mulciber, Evan Rosier, Wilkes, and Bellatrix Lestrange. Lucius Malfoy was an acquaintance at this time, having been a prefect when Snape was sorted into Slytherin.

Severus was a brilliant wizard, and he would write down ideas for new spells and better ways to brew potions in his Potions textbook, signing his name as “The Half Blood Prince”. Some of the spells included Levicorpus, a hex that would cause the victim to be flipped upside-down in the air. Muffilato, a spell that would fill any listening ears with a strange buzzing noise, distracting them from listening in to any conversations that were meant to be be quiet. One of the most interesting curses was Sectumsempra, which would slash open the victim’s skin like it was being cut with a blade. Levicorpus quickly became a popular spell in school, and you had to be careful or else you would become the next victim.

During Severus’ fifth year at Hogwarts, things changed between him and Lily. The Marauders, the four Gryffindors that Severus so deeply hated, bullied him horribly after taking the O.W.L.S. James flipped him upside-down with Snape’s own spell, Levicorpus, which revealed his underwear in front of a gigantic crowd of students, Lily included. She immediately went over to help Severus, who was furious with James. He tried to defend himself, but ended up calling Lily a Mudblood, which was an absolutely horrible name to call a Muggle-born. This was the final straw, and Lily broke her ties with Snape, even though he apologized profusely. Severus was heart-broken, but things would only get worse.

During their seventh year, James continued to become even more mature, gaining the respect of Lily, who started to date him. He still hated Severus, but his love for Lily won out over his hatred. This only fueled Snape’s anger, and his hatred for James grew stronger as his love for Lily remained the same. After Hogwarts, Lily married James, who loved her with all of his heart, even though they had hated each other when they were young. They had a son named Harry, who looked just like his father, except for his eyes that were identical to Lily’s.

Once Severus was finished at school, he joined the Death Eaters, Lord Voldemort’s most faithful group of servants, as a spy for the Dark Lord himself. While he was in the Hog’s Head Inn, he overheard a conversation between Albus Dumbledore and Sybill Trelawney, who was being interviewed for the position of Divination Professor at Hogwarts. Snape eavesdropped on the conversation, and heard a prophecy that a child born at the end of July would be the death of Lord Voldemort. Before he could hear the rest of the prophecy, however, Severus was thrown out by the barman that caught him eavesdropping. He then quickly reported what he had heard back to Lord Voldemort.

After hearing the prophecy, Lord Voldemort came to the conclusion that Harry Potter, the son of James and Lily, was the one who the prophecy spoke of. Severus pleaded with Voldemort for Lily’s life, and was willing to let James and Harry die just so she could live. Unfortunately, he knew that Lily would rather die protecting her son, so he decided to go to Dumbledore and ask him to help. He begged and pleaded with him, and Dumbledore agreed, but only if Severus would switch sides and become a spy for him in the Dark Lord’s inner circle. Snape quickly accepted the deal.

Unfortunately, Peter Pettigrew, one of the four Marauders, betrayed James and told Lord Voldemort how to find the hidden home of the Potters. Snape was devastated. He went to Dumbledore, angry that Lily had not been protected. Dumbledore told him that Harry was still alive, and that Snape should help protect him in Lily’s memory. Severus hesitated, believing that the Dark Lord was gone forever, and that Harry would be safe. After Dumbledore insisted that he would return, Snape agreed to protect the boy.

Severus returned to Hogwarts as a Potions master, becoming the Head of Slytherin House. Severus, or Professor Snape as he was called then, was an extremely strict professor with no time for foolishness. He remained an excellent brewer, and students could learn many things from him if they paid attention and worked hard. When Harry arrived at Hogwarts, Snape immediately felt a dislike to him, the resemblance to James being extremely strong in both his looks and personality. He may have also looked at Harry with anger as the son that he could have had with Lily if they had remained friends. His hatred could also be considered an act that he put up with so Voldemort wouldn’t suspect anything if he returned, even though Snape protected Harry on multiple occasions during his time at Hogwarts, even if Harry didn’t realize it until years later. Behind the scenes of Harry’s adventures in his attempt to rescue the stone during his first year, Snape was doing everything in his power to prevent Quirrell from getting to the stone.

Many important events relating to Snape happened in Harry’s fourth year during the Triwizard Tournament. This was the year that Harry learned more about Snape’s past, accidentally using Dumbledore’s Pensieve. Snape noticed that his Dark Mark was getting darker than usual, a topic he discussed with Igor Karkaroff, another former Death Eater. After the Third Task, when Harry revealed that Voldemort was back, Dumbledore and Snape went to Cornelius Fudge to try to convince him that he had indeed returned. After the conversation, Snape was sent by Dumbledore to go spy on the Dark Lord once more as a double agent.

At the start of the Second Wizarding War, Snape continued to work with Dumbledore as a spy, going to the Order of the Phoenix and giving reports to the groups. Even though Snape was helping the Order, he still showed Harry no mercy, teaching him Occlumency by delving into his most embarrassing memories. Harry once again found out about parts of Snape’s past by looking into a Pensieve, this time seeing when James used Snape’s own spell against him in fifth year. After Harry told Snape through code names that Sirius had been taken by Voldemort to the Department of Mysteries when he had been captured by Umbridge, Snape quickly alerted the Order members, helping them rescue Harry.

During Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Snape created an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy, and swore that he would protect Draco and finish the mission that Lord Voldemort had given Draco if he could not complete it himself. Snape was the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, his old job being taken by Horace Slughorn, who unknowingly gave Harry the old Potions textbook that Snape had used, the one with his notes and new spells. Harry used the notes on potions to quickly become Slughorn’s favorite student, which made Snape suspicious. During a fight against Draco, Harry used Sectumsempra, which had been labeled as a spell to use against enemies, not knowing what it would do until Draco started bleeding from multiple wounds. Snape found them and forced Harry to give him all of his textbooks, trying to see if Harry had his old book. Harry realized that he couldn’t let Snape see his book and switched his with Ron’s, and Snape let him go, giving him detention for the rest of the year.

It was around this time that Dumbledore and Snape discussed the fact that Dumbledore was going to die in less than a year, either by his cursed arm, Draco, or Snape. Dumbledore confronted Snape, telling him that he must be the one to kill him. As Dumbledore revealed his plan, saying that Harry has to die so that Voldemort can be killed, Snape became angry, questioning why they even tried protecting him at all, comparing him to a pig being fattened for the slaughterhouse. Dumbledore told him that he had to give the boy a chance to live, and he questions Snape, asking if he had become fond of Harry. This threw Snape into a small rage, and he quickly conjured up his Patronus, a beautiful silver doe, the exact copy of Lily’s Patronus. Dumbledore asked if the Patronus had stayed the same after all the time that had passed, and Snape replied with one word, “Always”.

This time, Harry figured out more of Snape’s past from Trelawney, who revealed that Snape had caused the deaths of Harry’s parents by telling Lord Voldemort the prophecy. When Dumbledore and Harry returned to Hogwarts after searching for the Horcrux in the locket, Dumbledore had Harry fetch Snape. Unfortunately, before Harry could get to him, Draco disarmed Dumbledore and attempted to kill him, but was unable to, leaving Snape to finish the job, which he does. Snape revealed himself to be the “Half Blood Prince” after Harry tried using his own spells against him, and then ran away from the school, disapparating.

Snape returned to the Death Eaters after Dumbledore’s death, telling Lord Voldemort that Harry was going to be moved from his house four days before his birthday, giving him the real date by orders of Dumbledore before his death. During what would have been Harry’s seventh year at school, Snape became the Headmaster of Hogwarts, using his powerful position to secretly protect the students. He continued to obey Dumbledore’s orders using the old Headmaster’s portrait in his office.

During the beginning of the Final Battle, Snape was summoned by Lord Voldemort to the Shrieking Shack. Lord Voldemort falsely believed that Snape is the master of the Elder Wand and killed him by having Nagini bite his neck. Before Snape passed away, he gave Harry his memories so he could learn about his past. His last words were “Look at me”, so he could see Harry’s eyes, the exact copy of Lily’s, the woman he had done everything for in the end. It was only after Snape’s death that Harry realized he was protecting him, and he called him “probably the bravest man I ever knew”, naming his second child after both Dumbledore and Snape.

Now let us see what we can take from Snape’s life to find his deepest desire. We know that his Patronus is a doe, the exact same Patronus that Lily had. J.K. Rowling has said that your Patronus can reflect who you love, because they would probably be related to your happiest memory that you would use to conjure them. Severus loved Lily with all of his heart, and his happiest moments would almost certainly be when he was friends with her, enjoying the innocence and freedom of childhood before reality hit.

However, people see many different things in the Mirror of Erised. They do not just see something related to love. Harry saw himself with his family, Ron saw himself as the winning Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, and Dumbledore saw himself with his whole family, not a pair of woolen socks like he had told Harry when they first discussed the Mirror. What would Snape see?

Judging from his childhood, it might be parents that had loved and cared for him during his childhood. His parents never paid him any attention, and if they did, it was only to insult him. Maybe Snape, like Harry, would see his family surrounding him, smiling and happy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Snape thought of his family much as he got older. He probably tried to ignore them as much as possible, focusing more on juggling his grades, creating new spells, and loving Lily. There are other options, but only one makes complete sense.

Severus Snape would see himself with Lily Evans in the Mirror of Erised. Ever since he laid eyes on her playing with her sister on the swings, he was in love. He wanted to always be there for her, protecting her from the horrible things in the world. Snape hated Petunia because she bullied Lily, and he hated James because he loved Lily too. Unfortunately, Snape let the darkness in his life take over, joining the bad group of Slytherins instead of sticking with Lily, who was one of the targets of the hate because she was Muggleborn. When she tried to protect Snape like he had always protected her, he lashed out and called her a Mudblood, which ended their close friendship.

Snape wanted to be forgiven for all of the horrible things he did to Lily when they were young. He regretted it every day for the rest of his life, and if there had been a chance he would have turned back time and fixed everything. Marrying Lily would not be his true deepest desire. Being worthy of Lily’s love would be what he wanted most. Ever since their fight in fifth year, Snape had not been worthy of her love or even her friendship.

Looking in the Mirror of Erised, the Lily that he saw would not have been called a Mudblood. Their friendship might have blossomed into love, which could have lead to their marriage and life as a happy family. Maybe he would have seen Harry there too, but as a version of what he would have looked like if Snape had been his father. Severus Snape had no real reason for protecting Harry than his love for Lily, and the fact that he was the only thing of hers that Snape had left in the world, except that Harry was tarnished by his father’s looks and personality, save for his eyes. Lily’s eyes, as everyone would say. Severus Snape loved Lily with all of his heart, and she was his everything, even though in the end he meant nothing to her.