|“||You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? Yes. I'm the Half-Blood Prince.||„|
|~ Severus Snape reveals himself as the Half-Blood Prince in the 2009 film of the same name.|
Severus Snape, also known as the Half-Blood Prince, is the former tertiary antagonist (until his final loyalties are revealed) and a major anti-hero in the Harry Potter franchise. He was the head of Slytherin House in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the school's Potions teacher. He was a double agent between Dumbledore's and Voldemort's warring sides, whose allegiance remains a mystery for the major part of the franchise. Although bitter, fixated in the past, unfair and viciously abusive, it is revealed that he was selflessly siding with Dumbledore since the murder of Lily Evans, his true love.
He was most notable for killing Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, near the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, however this was part of a plan between Dumbledore and Snape, as Dumbledore was already dying and doing so would gain Snape Voldemort's trust.
Biography (1960 - 1998)
ChildhoodDuring his childhood, Snape lived in a village that was right next to the home of the Evans family. Snape dared to speak with the young Lily Evans (Harry's mother, who later married
James Potter and got murdered by Voldemort, while trying to protect Harry) with whom he was in love with. He revealed that she was a witch who became his best friend, spending hours describing the magical world around her. It can also be assumed that he was abused as a child, as shown by his memories.
Hogwarts YearsWhen he was a student at Hogwarts, Snape harbored a bitter and reciprocated hatred for the Marauders: James Potter (Harry's father), Sirius Black (Harry's godfather), Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, due them bullying and abusing him on their part. Snape was sorted in the Slytherin house and eventually became friends with people like Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy and grew to share their extremist ideals, drifting away from Lily.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Severus Snape first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, shortly after Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts school. He is the school's Potions Master, though he is widely rumored to covet the Defense Against the Dark Arts post. Snape himself confirms the rumor in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Snape is a sinister and malicious teacher who makes frequent snide and disparaging remarks at Harry's expense. He quickly becomes the primary antagonist of the book, as Harry suspects him of plotting to steal the Philosopher's Stone, and of attempting to kill him. Only the climax of the book reveals that Professor Quirrell, in league with Lord Voldemort, is the real enemy; Snape, suspicious of Quirrell, had been looking out for Harry throughout the book. In the final chapter, Dumbledore suggests that because Harry's father James had saved Snape's life when they were both students, even though the two detested each other, Snape felt responsible for Harry in return. As the final book reveals, this is not the full story. In any case, even after Quirrell's true role is revealed, Harry retains feelings of suspicion and resentment towards Snape, and their relationship remains tense. Snape's behavior and attitude towards Harry also remain unchanged.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Snape has a minor role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where he helps Gilderoy Lockhart oversee Hogwarts' short-lived Dueling Club, but he has little interaction with the main plot. It is while attending the Dueling Club that Harry learns the Expelliarmus spell, which plays a significant role in later books, by seeing Snape use it.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Snape demonstrates his expertise with potions by brewing the complex Wolfsbane potion for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin. Throughout the third book, Snape suspects that Lupin may be helping Sirius Black enter Hogwarts castle; Sirius had been convicted (wrongly, as it is later revealed) of murdering innocent bystanders and betraying the Potter family's hiding place to Voldemort. This suspicion stems from Lupin's friendship with Sirius and Harry's father, James, while they were all at Hogwarts as students. Near the climax of the book, Snape attempts to apprehend Black, but Black escapes with Harry's aid. Snape informs Dumbledore of this circumstance, and when Harry and Lupin are not punished, Snape retaliates by revealing to the entire school that Lupin is a werewolf, forcing the latter to resign his post.
Prisoner of Azkaban reveals more details about the connection between Snape and James Potter. While in school together, Sirius once tricked Snape into almost entering the Shrieking Shack while Lupin was there, transformed into a werewolf. James realized the danger and stopped Snape, saving his life; this is the incident Dumbledore referred to at the end of the first book. Snape, however, believes James's actions were self-serving, to avoid being expelled.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Snape's role in the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is not substantially different from that of the previous three books. He is apoplectic when Harry is unexpectedly entered into the Triwizard Tournament. Later Harry accidentally falls into Dumbledore's Pensieve and views memories of several Death Eater trials from years before. At one point, Snape is named as a Death Eater by Igor Karkaroff, but Dumbledore comes to Snape's defense, claiming that although Snape had indeed been a Death Eater, he changed sides before Voldemort's downfall and turned spy against him. Later, Dumbledore assures Harry that Snape's reformation is genuine, though he refuses to tell Harry how he knows this, saying the information "is a matter between Professor Snape and myself".
At the end of the book, Dumbledore attempts to convince a disbelieving Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, that Voldemort has returned. As proof, Snape willingly shows Fudge the restored Dark Mark on his arm. He is subsequently sent on a secret mission by Dumbledore. This mission, as had been implied in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and revealed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was to rejoin the Death Eaters and spy on Voldemort as a re-doubled agent, while pretending to spy on Dumbledore on behalf of Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Teenage Severus Snape (Alec Hopkins) in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
In the fifth novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Snape returns to a more prominent role. With Voldemort having returned to a fully corporeal body, Snape continues working as a re-doubled agent for Dumbledore. He is seen prior to the start of school at Number 12, Grimmauld Place giving reports to the Order of the Phoenix. He has a very strained relationship with Sirius, who owns Grimmauld Place and must remain there in hiding. The two trade frequent snide remarks and at one point almost begin a duel. Snape taunts Sirius about the latter's not being able to take an active role in the Order's missions because of his fugitive status. Harry feels later that this taunting contributed to Sirius's willingness to take unsafe risks. Back at school, Snape's allegiance to the Order has no effect on his dislike for Harry.
Later in the book, Dumbledore has Snape teach Harry Occlumency, the protection of the mind from outside intrusion or influence. The sessions are made difficult by their mutual hostility and end prematurely when Harry uses Dumbledore's Pensieve to view one of Snape's worst childhood memories without the latter's permission. He sees the memory of Snape being bullied by James and Sirius, and of calling Harry's mother, Lily Evans, a Mudblood (a highly offensive term). Only in the final book is it revealed that, prior to this confrontation, Snape and Lily had been close friends.
Towards the end of the novel, Dolores Umbridge –the school's politically-appointed headmaster–captures Harry and interrogates him about Dumbledore's whereabouts. She sends for Snape to provide a truth serum to force Harry to reveal any information he may be hiding. Snape claims that his supplies of Veritaserum were exhausted earlier, when she had attempted to use the drug surreptitiously to force information from Harry. Snape withholds further assistance. It is later revealed that Snape had in fact supplied Umbridge with fake Veritaserum on the prior attempt. Snape then carries Harry's cryptic warning about Sirius' capture to the other Order members, allowing them to come to the rescue in the Department of Mysteries. Harry still holds Snape partly responsible for Sirius's death, believing Snape's goading spurred Sirius into joining the battle.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Double-Agent for both sides
Snape returns as the eponymous title character and the true main antagonist in the sixth novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy visit Snape at his home in Spinner's End. Narcissa's son Draco has been given a difficult task by Voldemort, and Narcissa swears Snape to an Unbreakable Vow that he will protect Draco, help him complete Voldemort's task, and finish the task himself if Draco fails. When questioned by Bellatrix about his loyalties, Snape says he has been working for Voldemort ever since Voldemort's return, and explains his actions in the previous books in that light. He points out that gaining Dumbledore's trust and protection has kept him out of Azkaban and free to operate on Voldemort's behalf.
Harry's discovery of the Half-Blood Prince's Potions textbook
At the start-of-term feast at Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces Snape as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Horace Slughorn, a retired Hogwarts teacher, replaces Snape as Potions Master. With Snape no longer teaching Potions, Harry enrolls in Slughorn's class and is lent an old textbook until his new one arrives. Harry finds marginalia, including a variety of hexes and jinxes seemingly invented by an unknown student, and substantial improvements to the book's standard potion-making instructions. The text is inscribed as being "the Property of the Half-Blood Prince". The notes greatly bolster Harry's performance in Potions, so much so that he impresses Slughorn. Snape, who maintains that he "never had the impression that [he] had been able to teach Potter anything at all", is suspicious of Harry's newfound Potions success.
Later, during a fight with Draco, Harry casts one of the Prince's spells marked "For Enemies," and is horrified by the devastating wounds it inflicts to Draco's face and chest. Snape rushes to the scene and heals Draco, then interrogates Harry regarding the spell, using Legilimency to extract the source of Harry's knowledge (the Potions textbook) from Harry's mind. When Snape insists that Harry show him his Potions textbook, Harry hides the Prince's book and gives him Ron Weasley's book instead. As punishment for the attack and knowing Harry is lying about the textbook, Snape assigns Harry detention during the final Quidditch match of the year.
Before leaving Hogwarts to accompany Dumbledore in locating another horcrux –part of Voldemort's soul– Harry discovers from Professor Trelawney that it was Snape who overheard the prophecy and told it to Voldemort, resulting in Voldemort hunting down Harry and his parents. Despite this and Harry's angry questions, Dumbledore avers his trust in Snape. Returning to Hogwarts after retrieving Voldemort's Horcrux, Harry and Dumbledore alight atop the school's astronomy tower. Gravely weakened by the horcrux's protective potion, Dumbledore tells Harry he must fetch Snape, but before Harry can leave, Draco suddenly arrives, intending to carry out Voldemort's order to assassinate Dumbledore, closely followed by other Death Eaters (followers of Voldemort), and Snape.
Snape interrupts the planned murder, by killing the headmaster himself, so that Draco didn't have to. He falls off the tower (often compared to when Scar dropped Mufasa to his death in The Lion King). Harry, who is paralyzed under his invisibility cloak by Dumbledore for his own protection, witnesses the murder, and is released upon Dumbledore's death. Enraged, he pursues Snape, Draco, and the Death Eaters as they flee the castle.
After fighting through several lethal Death Eaters, Harry confronts Snape by Hagrid's Hut. The two of them engage in a deadly duel, which increasingly becomes hopelessly one-sided in Snape's favour. Snape easily overpowers Harry by reading his mind and predicting his opponent's moves, using them against him - he only directly struck out once, at the climax of the duel, after revealing himself as the eponymous "Half-Blood Prince" (being the half-blood son of Muggle Tobias Snape and pure-blood Eileen Prince).
After incapacitating Harry, Snape passes through the school gates and Disapparates with Draco in tow at the book's end. The full relationship between Dumbledore and Snape and the reason for Snape's actions remain unknown until the final book. In an interview, Rowling mentioned that at this point in the series, the Harry–Snape relationship has become "as personal, if not more so, than Harry–Voldemort."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Headmaster of Hogwarts
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort and his Death Eaters have tightened their grip on the wizarding world. Snape is named Headmaster of Hogwarts, while Death Eaters Alecto and Amycus Carrow are appointed as Hogwarts staff. The novel focuses largely on Harry and his friends, and events outside the school; therefore Snape plays a limited role at the start. In the course of the book, Harry and Ron are led to find the Sword of Godric Gryffindor by a Patronus taking the form of a doe. (Towards the end of the book, Harry learns that this was Snape's Patronus, taking the same shape as Harry's mother Lily's Patronus, a visible sign of his lifelong love for Harry's mother, and that Dumbledore had asked Snape to ensure that Harry gained possession of the sword. The novel also reveals that Snape had covertly used his position as Headmaster to protect the students and to contain the Carrows.)
Betraying Voldemort and DeathTowards the end of the school year, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout force Snape to flee the school. After an intense duel with McGonagall, Snape retreats to join the Death Eaters. He fights in the Battle of Hogwarts, but his full role remains unknown, until Voldemort summons Snape to meet in the Shrieking Shack. Voldemort explains to Snape that he believes that he has become the master of the Elder Wand by killing Dumbledore and that Snape's death will make him the master of the Wand. Snape tries to explain but Voldemort kills Snape by having his pet snake Nagini bite him through the neck. The dying Snape releases a cloud of memories and tells Harry, who has watched the entire scene from a hidden spot, to take and view them. With his last breaths, Snape tells Harry that he has his mother's eyes and then dies.
Extracted memories viewed by Harry
From these memories, Harry sees Snape's childhood and learns his true loyalties. In this vision, Harry learns that Snape befriended Lily as a child when they lived near each other. Upon their arrival at Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat placed Snape and Lily into Slytherin and Gryffindor Houses, respectively. They remained friends for the next few years until they were driven apart by Snape's interest in the Dark Arts; the friendship finally ended following the bullying episode that Harry had briefly seen in the fifth book, in which Snape calls Lily "Mudblood". Despite this separation and Snape's enduring animosity toward Lily's eventual husband James Potter, Snape continued to love Lily for the rest of his life.
The memories also show that as a Death Eater, Snape had revealed to Voldemort a prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney, causing Voldemort to attempt to prevent it by killing Harry and his parents. Snape, who had not realized until too late that the prophecy was referring to Lily and her family, asked Voldemort to spare Lily. Still in terror for her life, he also approached Dumbledore, admitted his actions, and begged him to protect the Potters. Dumbledore chided him for thinking only of himself and not of Lily's husband and child, but agreed and ensured that they were placed under the Fidelius Charm. In return, Snape secretly allied himself with Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix as a re-doubled agent against Voldemort, using his powers of Occlumency to hide his betrayal from Voldemort. However, Snape demanded of Dumbledore that his love for Lily (his reason for switching sides) be kept a secret, especially from Harry, because of the deep animosity he felt towards Harry's father and his mixed feelings towards Harry (who reminded him of both his love for Lily Potter and her death, and his animosity towards James Potter). Dumbledore agreed and kept the secret throughout his life, although questioning Snape's request to "never reveal the best of you". Even with his efforts to protect her, Snape felt responsible for Lily's death at Voldemort's hands. Snape's memories then reveal that Dumbledore had impetuously tried to use the Gaunt ring which had been cursed by Voldemort, and had been suffering from a powerful curse. Snape's knowledge of the Dark Arts enabled him to slow the spread of the curse from Dumbledore's hand through his body, but he would have died within a year. Dumbledore, aware that Voldemort had ordered Draco to kill him, had asked Snape to kill him instead as a way of sparing the boy's soul and of preventing his own otherwise slow, painful death. Although Snape was reluctant, even asking about the impact of such an action on his own soul, Dumbledore implied that this kind of coup de grâce would not damage a human's soul in the same way murder would. Snape agreed to do as the Headmaster requested. Snape's memories also provide Harry with the information he needs to ensure Voldemort's final defeat, in the form of conversations Snape had with Dumbledore.
In the epilogue to Deathly Hallows, set nineteen years after Harry defeats Voldemort, Harry has named his second-born son Albus Severus, after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. As Albus is about to enter his first year at Hogwarts, he expresses concern that he will be sorted into Slytherin. Harry tells his son, "you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them [Snape] was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
Rowling interview about Snape
Rowling noted in an interview that because Snape abandoned his post before dying or officially retiring, a portrait of him does not immediately appear in the Headmaster's office following his death. She adds, however, that she would like to think Harry made Snape's true loyalty and heroism known in the Wizarding world, and that he lobbied to ensure that a portrait be installed in the office. In a separate interview, Rowling discussed Snape's back story, saying she had planned it ever since she wrote the first book because the whole series is built around it and she considers him one of the most important characters of the seventh book.
Snape appears as a thin man with sallow skin, long greasy black hair, a hooked nose and black eyes. He also dresses in a flowing black robe.
Severus Snape, as a young man, was an extremely insecure, vulnerable and painfully embittered person with a colossal inferiority complex. From the year dot, he strived to be part of some greater cause for the sake of recognition, admiration, authority or, if need be, fear. He grew up in complete and utter poverty under a vicious father and a witch mother, leading him to be a very fearful person. This also drew him towards Lily Evans, to whom he developed an increasingly powerful love for - however, though she ambiguously regarded him as a friend, she did not return any romantic affection.
Snape's prejudice was very debatable, as he was renowned for hating Muggles like Petunia Dursley, but he did not appear to regard Lily in the same light because she was Muggle-Born - this might have been influenced by his love for her. He would turn cold and callous towards what was seen as racially inferior by others if it meant being liked by his peers, shown by him viciously scorning Lily's blood status in front of James Potter simply so that he didn't lose face - an act that he deeply regretted afterwards.
Snape was a determined and highly driven man, and quickly developed supreme confidence in his own talents and abilities. He was, in his own right, an extremely powerful wizard, so this assurance was not unjustified. He would also become critical towards the magical powers of others, particularly Hogwarts students he didn't like. However, despite his immense prowess as a sorcerer, Snape relied on his genius-level intelligence and power of mind to survive in a world where magical powers were considered the defining trait of everyone around him.
He showed himself to be diabolically cunning and calculating to an extreme, capable of creating elaborate and highly effective plans to achieve difficult and sometimes transparent goals in very short amounts of time, which is shown frequently throughout the series. This is shown by how he deduced that something had happened to Harry when he disappeared into the Forest with Umbridge. It was shown again by him creating a convoluted way of planning out the Battle of the Seven Potters without directly endangering Harry, or himself, whilst simultaneously keeping Voldemort's perception of his true allegiance at bay.
Snape's intelligence made him very quick-thinking, shown during a Quidditch match when he saw Harry's broom go out of control, at which point he quickly deduced it was cursed and immediately conjured a counter-curse to reverse it's effects - however, this made people, especially Harry, think he was doing the opposite. Snape later volunteered to referee the next match to ensure such an incident did not repeat itself a second time.
As a teacher, Snape was externally bitter, cynical, precise, cold, sarcastic, aloof and apathetic. He was very direct in his opinions of others and did not regard people's feelings very highly. His standards for his classes were much higher than that of the other professors, as he only allowed students with the very best grades to continue into advanced study. He seemed to favor Slytherins against all other Houses, possibly because of his experiences with Gryffindors as a child and him coming from Slytherin. He was not liked very well among most Hogwarts professors, but he was highly respected for his experience, power and knowledge.
Snape, being such a powerful wizard, possessed an encyclopedic and extremely precise knowledge of various advanced types of magic - he was one of the finest Oclumenses of all time and a highly accomplished Legilimens. He was also so learned in Potions that he could recite the origins, etymology and capabilities of various potions off by heart, and he could even correct a Potions handbook (An advanced potions book, which should have information that is accurate and effective) so that it provides quicker, more efficient and more precise ways of accomplishing the creation and usage of potions.
Snape was normally a very calm and reserved person, but he possessed a brutal temper that would infrequently get the better of him. He would react violently if he thought he was being pitied, underestimated or especially if he was being viewed as a coward. The most climactic episode where he lost his temper was in his famous duel with Harry Potter, where he turned furious and explosive when Harry used his own spells - that is to say, spells that he personally created - against him, just like James Potter would. This gave way to pride, as he freely described himself as the Half-Blood Prince.
Severus Snape was, finally an enormously brave man - throughout the course of the series, Snape placed himself in unimaginable danger every day of his life, in his efforts to protect Harry from any harm that came his way - he even protected Harry from a werewolf by covering his body over Harry, risking extreme physical harm to his person. Snape was a person who possessed a deep capacity for love. Everything that he did in the latter part of his life was motivated by his devotion to Lily Evans, whom he loved unconditionally. He was one of Dumbledore's most reliable allies and in his role as a double agent, took great personal risk in ensuring Harry's safety at the hands of Lord Voldemort.
Portrayal within films
Severus Snape appears in all eight Harry Potter films, portrayed by the late British actor Alan Rickman. Rickman was Rowling's personal choice to portray the character. He had conversations with Rowling about his character and is one of the few Harry Potter actors that she spoke to prior to the completion of the book series about the future direction of the character. "He knew very early on that he'd been in love with Lily," said Rowling. "He needed to understand […] where this bitterness towards this boy who's the living example of her preference for another man came from."
Rickman used this knowledge of Snape's ultimate loyalties throughout the films by deciding how to play certain scenes, deliver specific lines, or using body language to convey specific emotions. When the directors of the films would ask him why he was doing a scene a certain way or delivering a line in a specific manner, Rickman would simply reply that he knew something they didn't.
Rickman himself refrained from talking about Snape, asking readers to wait and "see what unfolds" in the course of the novels; however, he did say Snape is a complicated person, very rigid and full of himself; in an interview he went further, saying: "Snape isn't one who enjoys jokes and I strongly fear that his sense of humour is extremely limited... But in his defence, I will add that he didn't have an easy adolescence, particularly during his studies at Hogwarts." He also said Snape is a fascinating character, and that he takes immense pleasure in playing such an ambiguous person.
Rickman's performance as Snape was widely acclaimed by critics, fans and Rowling herself. Entertainment Weekly listed Rickman as one of the most popular movie stars in 2007 for his performance as Snape, saying: "As the icy, humourless magic instructor Severus Snape, Rickman may not be on screen long—but he owns every minute." Rickman also noted fans' reactions; in an interview, he said he found "that people in general adore Snape. He is sarcastic, stubborn, etc, etc. But he is also fascinating. I have a lot of fun impersonating him." Rickman was nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Snape, and in 2011, was elected the best character portrayal in all the Harry Potter films series.
In 2011, Empire magazine published an open letter from Rickman to J.K. Rowling, ruminating on the ten years of working on the Potter films and thanking her for telling the story.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifteen-year-old Snape (portrayed by Alec Hopkins) makes a brief appearance in a flashback to Snape’s youth. In the final film,Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the younger Snape, perhaps ten or eleven, is played by Benedict Clarke.
Before Alan Rickman was offered the role of Severus Snape, the role was originally offered to Tim Roth, who turned the role down in favor of portraying General Thade in Planet of the Apes.
- Snape is portrayed by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies. Rickman also portrayed Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's film adaptation of Sweeney Todd.
- Another part of him of being an anti hero is due to him being an extremely biased teacher, who blatantly favoured students of Slytherin, in which he was the head of the house; while unfairly punishing and verbally abusing every other student, especially Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville.
- In honor of Alan Rickman's 2016 death, Snape appears in a 2016 episode of The Simpsons.