At the end of HBP one of the most widespread revitalized theories across fandom was the old moldy chestnut that proposed that the real reason Severus Snape hated James Potter is because he had loved Lily Evans too.
By that time I really did suspect that we were all supposed to believe that Severus had loved Lily. But at that point I still also thought that while Lily was unquestionably central to Harry’s story, she may well have been a redheaded herring to Snape’s.
Although, not necessarily. There was room for a considerable variety of possibilities there.
At any rate, I strongly suspected that whatever significance she may have had to Snape’s story, it was not what we’d been encouraged to think it was.
I was pretty sure that we’d all been had.
Deliberately, too. There was astonishingly little actual support for the regulation-issue Snape-Loved-Lily theory beloved of fanon anywhere in the books. And none at all for the conclusion that this was the reason Severus hated James. We’d already been given plenty of reason for Severus to have hated James.
Dumbledore also had already told us all the way back in PS/SS that James and Severus’s immediate reactions to one another were on the same order as Draco and Harry’s. And I really do think we can be reasonably confident that Draco and Harry’s relationship had nothing whatsoever to do with rivalry over the affections of Pansy Parkinson.
Or Ginny Weasley, either.
• • • •
And, for the first book or two, we didn’t think so either. The whole Snape-loved-Lily theory appears to have been a by-product of PoA.
Well, to be altogether fair, the whole phenomenon of Snape fandom was to a large extent a by-product of PoA. Prior to that point in the series, the majority of the readers were perfectly content to see Snape as merely “that nasty teacher who hates Harry”.
Plus, of course, incidentally, he was also the only really interesting adult character in the series. Mainly because by the end of the first book he had refused to fit into a simple pigeonhole and permit himself to be categorized and dismissed. However much fans may have tried to shove him into that pigeonhole.
But after the showdown in the Shrieking Shack there was no looking back. The theory of Snape-loved-Lily [S-»L] leapt out of the margins of PoA (not, it should be noted, the actual text), grabbed us all by the throat, and hung on like static cling.
• • • •
And Snape-loved-Lily looked pretty good, circa PoA, when we really did feel a need for some additional context to the “hereditary enemy” backstory for Severus Snape and James Potter that we had been handed by Quirrell, and which had been confirmed by Albus Dumbledore all the way back in PS/SS. That Albus had already begun harping on his theme of “so great a Love™” in Book 1 only pushed fanon’s expectations further in that direction.
By OotP I had finally managed to peel it off and relegate it to the waste bin, and frankly, that came as a relief. But then I had to reconsider the idea all over again after Slughorn spent a whole book trying to throw the pair of them into proximity.
And I still could not buy it. I thought there may have been a brief interaction between them in 6th year (since at that point we hadn’t yet been told about Lily kicking him to the curb when he tried to apologize) but even if there was I didn’t think it was going to amount to what the fans wanted it to amount to. As I have already pointed out in the essay above, I thought that Snape already had ample motivation to do his part in bringing down the Dark Lord without adding the dubious motivation of the “love for a good woman”.
And when examined; S-»L didn’t even fit Rowling’s basic message.
Or not the one she admitted to.
• • • •
The saving grace of the Potterverse may very well be Love, but it was emphatically not romantic love. In fact, HBP could readily serve as a crash course for an introduction to Rowling’s apparent opinion of the relevance of romantic love to anything of substance. Only Bill and Fleur seem to have got it right. The ballots were still out on Remus/Tonks. And none of the kids came within hailing distance of even being able to scrape a “pass.”
Think about it. The only form of Love that had actually done anything in the whole series so far had been a mother’s sacrifice for her child. A love so “fundamental” as to be often confused with a biological imperative. This may be regarded as overwhelmingly sentimental, but it sure ain’t romantic.
Sentiment is not romance. And there are far too many fans who do not make that distinction. I suspected that they may be disappointed at the end of the day. If Harry Potter brings Voldemort down by the Power of Love™, it will not be by the power of Harry’s love for Ginny Weasley. And whatever Severus Snape is motivated by, I seriously doubted that it had all that much to do with Lily Evans. Indeed, the ONLY character we had met by that point in the whole series whose actions were unequivocally motivated by romantic love was Merope Gaunt, and we all know how well that worked out. (ETA: and in DHs Rowling went and gave Snape a badly-fitting personality transplant and rendered him down into nothing more than Merope Gaunt “lite”. *sigh*)
Upon the whole, I get the feeling that, in the Potterverse, to permit oneself to be spurred into action upon the consideration of romantic love is likely to be as disastrous as to permit oneself to be goaded into action in response to a Prophecy. It is apt to be just as deceptive and/or illusionary. And it certainly doesn’t win you any respect from your author.
And, in the end, even though I have to agree that, in my opinion, a desperate attempt to save the life of the only friend you ever had in an emotionally-starved childhood — even when the shallow little bint eventually hung you out to dry and wouldn’t give you the time of day — vastly trumps any kind of “romance”, even if it sure doesn’t seem to serve you any better in that quarter.
• • • •
And around that time I thought I might have finally decoded the “significance” of Harry’s having Lily’s green eyes, too.
And I decided that it wasn’t significant. I expected it to have no functional interaction with the storyline. It wouldn’t enter into the solution of the problem with the Dark Lord, it didn’t relate to Harry’s relationship with Snape in any significant manner, and it would have no effect upon the action.
I had finally decided that it is there strictly for symmetry. A detail intended to flag and to maintain the parallels and contrasts to the other key characters in the Dark Lord continuum. In this case, specifically to enhance Harry’s parallel to Tom Riddle.
It blew right past us in HBP that Tom — like Harry — is the image of his father.
With one striking feature that he owes to his mother. In Tom’s case it was the ability to speak and understand Parseltongue (as well as the fact he is a wizard at all). In Harry’s, it is Lily’s green eyes (and possibly the fact that he also seemed to have inherited more of her character than that of James).
And when you stop and remember, Hagrid, who clearly takes after his mother has his father’s beetle black eyes.
And I really did think that was all there was to it. It was set-dressing. It didn’t “mean” anything.
Or maybe not. I wasn’t able to completely dismiss the possibility that it might have a point.
Harry’s physical resemblance to James had served an actual plot function in PoA. I supposed that if the Book 7 = Book 3 interpretation paned out, Harry having Lily’s green eyes might yet turn out to matter in DHs. For something.
• • • •
After our trip into the Pensieve it was clear to anyone who cared to look that an unrequited crush on Lily Evans was no longer required in order for someone as jealous of his dignity as Severus Snape to hate James Potter, forever.
Even leaving aside the fact that most men will tend to connect favorably with the child of a woman he ever really loved, even when the kid isn’t his.
And from that point, I could no longer entertain the idea of the standard issue Snape-loved-Lily seriously.
• • • •
And just what did Albus actually have to say about the matter back in PS/SS? What does Dumbledore’s version of the feud amount to? James and Severus “took an instant dislike to one another”. (So?) Their relationship “resembled that between Draco and Harry”.
So what? What did that amount to? Some name calling; a rather nasty little attempt to get Harry in trouble that cost him a lot of House points. So? You carry a feud over to the second generation for that?
Fish fuzz. Even if you are as petty as Severus Snape you need more reason to carry the hate over to the guy’s kid than that.
As of OotP Rowling finally gave us one.
• • • •
However, after the release of HBP we were forced to have to reconsider the possibility of some form of Snape-loved-Lily being in the equation, because with the entry of Horace Slughorn and his reminisces of students past into the story arc he seemed to at least insist on putting Lily and Severus into proximity.
It is hard to believe that either of those two kids would have failed to sign up for NEWT-level Potions. So they at least were sitting in the same classroom for their final 2 years at Hogwarts.
Of course, acto Rowling, by then Lily wouldn’t have given Severus the time of day. So perhaps Slughorn’s failure to make any further comment regarding a discernible friendship between them is hardly surprising.
Mind you, I always admitted that Severus may easily have fancied Lily. A great many young wizards did. She was a very good-looking young witch, highly popular, and any of the reigning Quidditch star Potter’s signs of crushing on her would have even further brought her into general attention. And you have to admit that James Potter wasn’t what you could call subtle in his attempts to draw her attention, either. It’s no stretch to propose that Snape had taken notice and agreed that she was fanciable.
And I rather thought that he might have been annoyed at himself over that, too. Because she was everything he was being prompted by his so-called peers in Slytherin House to despise. And, just to put the icing on the cake, Slughorn kept going on about her as well.
• • • •
Well, okay. Theories are fun. And I’m a theorist. You want a Snape/Lily theory? Here’s one made to order. It’s totally hosed, but I’d had it posted in the collection for a couple of years at least by the time DHs was released and I never saw this particular one anywhere else, although I may just have missed it. And back in the wake of HBP it was looking at least marginally possible. I don’t know whether anyone else would find it more satisfying than Rowling’s. But I’ll have to admit that Rowling’s version didn’t satisfy me at all.
This possibility got kicked off when I received an e-mail from someone who had been following the site. My correspondent tried to float the theory that Snape and Lily had at some point sworn an “Unforgivable Vow” (yes, that’s exactly what she said) which had led to every bit as bad an end as one might have anticipated.
Well, leaving aside the fact that by that time, the Unbreakable Vow was striking me as every bit as tacky a plot device as a Prophecy — and ghod knows there were already too many of those running about, and I strongly suspected we’d get another one in Book 7 — the whole thing just didn’t wash from where I was standing.
However; it did jog something else, and I suddenly thought I might have another extreme theory on my hands.
Preliminary question; aren’t we perhaps taking something for granted that we ought not to be when we just assume that of course the Gryffs and the Slyths shared Potions classes through the lower grades in the Marauders’ years, merely because they do so in Harry’s?
I think we could be.
Maybe the combinations of the combined classes rotate.
For that matter, maybe the class sizes were large enough 20 years earlier that mandatory classes like Potions at OWL-level weren’t combined at all. If some classes are only shared when a given year’s enrollment is smaller than average, as might well be the case with Harry and Ginny’s years; their birth years being during the very worst part of VoldWar I when anyone but uninformed Muggles, over-confident DEs, and the Weasleys might have been hesitant about starting or increasing their families. Back in the ’70s, the two Houses may not have shared any core classes at all.
• • • •
So, come 6th year we have Snape and Lily in NEWT-Level Potions together. Regardless of whether the Gryffs and Slyths had been paired at OWL level or not. For the purposes of this theory, we will assume not.
At the same time, I could not really imagine any compelling reason for any of the Marauders to have also done so. Lupin admits he isn’t good enough at Potions to have qualified, Peter is too lazy to volunteer for extra class work (although he appears to be reasonably competent at Potions), and James and Sirius were Transfiguration and Charms whizzes, but were not bucking to get into any professional field that required a Potions NEWT, and had no reason to. They probably didn’t much admire Slughorn, either. Most of Sluggy’s pets were exactly the people that Sirius most despised, and James would have stuck with Sirius in a show of solidarity, even if it did mean he had one less opportunity to mend fences with Lily.
And on Slughorn’s end of the equation, we never once heard him even mention James Potter’s name. It certainly doesn’t sound like he knew him well. Or considered him memorable. Regardless of his family connections.
Consequently, if any sort of interaction between Snape and Lily took place, it would have been off the Marauder’s radar in NEWT-Level Potions class.
Which, before DHs was released, was a perfectly viable speculation. We didn’t know about them having been childhood friends, then. (In retrospect, that appears to be the only piece of new canon that was introduced in DHs that no one appears to have had any difficulty accepting. Poorly handled as it ultimately was.)
• • • •
And I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t get a lot of feeling of past patronage and obligation in the vibes between Slughorn and Snape. I caught the echoes of a very tepid degree of mutual respect at best. Snape and Evans shared a classroom, but I am still not fully convinced that they shared the Slug Club.
Although they may have. I will admit that much. Snape does seem to have been invited to Slughorn’s Christmas party, which was for Sluggy’s favorites, past and present. And Slughorn certainly appeared to display no surprise that Snape showed up. Snape could have been a former Club member. Even if not a particularly prominent one. Or, perhaps, Sluggy just extended the invitation to the rest of the staff.
As a consequence, I wondered whether Snape may have initially resented Lily like mad.
Or, I conceded, he may have been just as bowled over by her potions brilliance (once he saw it for himself) as Slughorn was. But going by the information at our disposal at the time, by the end of his 5th year I doubted that he ever had any authentic interest in her as a person.
Rowling did a very good job of isolating Lily from the whole storyline and rendering her pseudo-irrelevant. She was reduced to a symbol. A Thing. I even suspected that the “filthy mudblood” crack may not even have been the first, or a one-off. Although her shocked reaction suggested this certainly wasn’t typical conduct from Snape, and it certainly wasn’t something she acted like she was used to having thrown in her face, either.
• • • •
For my own part; after my experiments at the “extreme sports” end of the activity of theorizing I was no longer even slightly inclined to support the still widely held Snape-loved-Lily theory. I couldn’t see the Snape-loved-Lily — in its typical iteration — as a viable factor in Snape’s backstory at all.
Over on the Martian Canals, I proposed that he had much better motivation to do his part in bringing down the Dark Lord on his own account than any soppy (and wholly implausible) nostalgia over a stint of unrequited teen lurve. Even Rowling hasn’t been tacky enough to expect us to swallow that.
And I thought — or wanted to think — that Lily herself mattered more to the story arc, and for far stronger reason than just that a lot of different teenage boys had once happened to fancy her.
From where I was standing, S-»L — as it was typically reduced to its common denominator by the fandom — was a theory which seemed to have become about as necessary to the overriding plot as the — by then completely exploded — theory of MemoryCharmed!Neville.
I was quite prepared to accept that there may indeed have been something between the two of them. We seemed to be getting a build-up to some kind of reveal on that front. But I suspected that it wasn’t anything as obvious as just some stupid teen crush.
• • • •
Well, skipping off into the land of theories past; prior to DHs when we knew nothing of any prior associations between Snape and Lily, and could still make a viable effort to think well of all these people, I thought that the disgraceful performance by the lake may have been the point at which a certain Severus Snape had suddenly shown up above Lily’s horizon and had become a real person.
Who didn’t like her.
And if she was anything like as promising a youngster as we had been led to suppose (which it turns out she totally wasn’t, she was a self-worshiping and self-righteous little bint, and shallow with it besides), she would have been honest enough to admit that she had given him some reason not to like her; bouncing in and making the whole incident all about her, instead of informing a teacher. And she (again, unlike Hermione) wasn’t used to being disliked.
• • • •
At the end of HBP we still hadn’t really anything to draw an informed conclusion from. But Lily had been set up as being a young woman with a streak of decency to her (another promise that Rowling welshed on). And just because she had red hair, there was little reason to assume that she was necessarily as vulgar and self-righteous as a Weasley. What if, once her temper cooled off, she came to the conclusion that her own behavior in that exhibition was simply not justified, and she offered Snape an apology?
How often has Snape ever been given one of those?
He’d been hanging around with Blacks and Malfoys, remember?
That alone might have blown him away. Particularly since he can hardly be unaware that her calling him Snivellus isn’t nearly as inexcusable as his calling her mudblood. And the very fact of his whole “total makeover” seems to suggest that he really can learn from example.
• • • •
And the more I try to wrap my head around it, the less certain it seems to me that Snape was in the Slug Club at all. He certainly should have qualified on the grounds of intelligence, skill and ambition, but there is an additional qualification in which Snape is notably lacking, and that is the one which probably counts above all others. That qualification is a capacity for personal gratitude to Horace Slughorn.
Rank ingratitude is certainly not one of Snape’s shortcomings. If anything, he is far too willing to submit to abuse from those he trusts, without more than token protest. But he is not indiscriminate in his acceptance of favors, and he has learned (probably the hard way) to be selective about who he permits to patronize him. I also rather suspect that he was every bit as put off by Slughorn’s obvious vanity and name-dropping as Harry was.
And there almost appears to be another unstated qualification for the Slug Club as well. All of the complete outsiders that Horace has been known to have taken up were bright, magically gifted, and ambitious. Some of them were socially adept as well. But the ones we have actually seen him take under his wing also seem to have had something else in common, too. For that matter, rather a lot of the kids that Slughorn took up on the strength of their “connections” appear to have had this quality in common also.
They were just about all of them very good-looking.
I get quite offended when some fans try to paint Slughorn as a slimy old pedophile, which he absolutely is not, but there is no denying that he does love to surround himself with beautiful things. And beautiful children, too.
So where does that leave geeky, gawky, homely young Severus Snape?
The kids who rate the Slug Club are also the ones who Sluggy believes will reciprocate by not forgetting him when they have left Hogwarts and embarked on their careers. And these usually are also kids that he can honestly tell himself will have a reason to be grateful to him, because he really does perform a valuable service to them by singling them out and promoting their advancement.
We’ve been given no reason to believe that he ever performed any such services for Severus Snape. His input certainly had no affect upon Severus’s position now. He certainly does not make any such claims, either. And if he had one would have expected him to. The the most we ever herd him claim in Snape’s case is that he “taught” him.
Striking poses of intellectual superiority is not a part of Snape’s “self-made gentry” performance. That annoying habit came with the territory when he was still just a grubby, pushy little commoner with a northern accent. And from the degree of annotation that was added to Slughorn’s preferred text, it is possible that Snape considered himself well above Slughorn in Potions-brewing and, being Snape, he would have made sure that Slughorn was aware of it. In short, that in his opinion there was nothing that Slughorn could teach him. (I do not think that Snape was a particularly likable student for a teacher to have in their class. Especially not if he was good at the subject.)
That alone would have permanently disallowed him from being invited into the Slug Club. Also, Bellatrix was known to have been a member, back in the day, which might have further put Snape off of it. An attitude which he — most ironically — shared with Bella’s cousin, Sirius Black.
• • • •
For his part, Sirius Black would have certainly gotten an invitation to the club on the strength of his family connections. And he would have spurned it — on the strength of his family connections. Anything that cousin Bella had ever been associated with was nothing that he wanted any part of.
With James, we can be less certain. James was pureblooded, affluent, clever, good-looking, and obviously talented. You would expect him to have been a natural choice for one of Sluggy’s handpicked little stars. But if James had ever set foot in his Club, Slughorn would have made a big deal of it as an inducement to Harry, and James’s name is never heard to pass Slughorn’s lips. If James was extended an invitation, it would appear that he must have refused it in a show of solidarity with Sirius.
Besides, from everything I’ve managed to figure out, James Potter had next to no ambition. He just wanted to have fun.
All of which boils down to the possibility that IF Lily’s first exposure to Snape, in his element, had been in a NEWT-level Potions class, after the embarrassing incident in which he first showed up on her radar, she might very well have discovered something to draw her interest away from James Potter (to whom she was “not speaking”) at least temporarily. Lily was unquestionably a member of the Slug Club, and she might have been astounded that someone who was so obviously qualified, and was in Slughorn’s own House, wasn’t. And after 5 years of basking in Slughorn’s regard she would have learned to recognize excellence in the subject when she saw it, and to accord it the respect it merits.
For that matter Snape may have been gobsmacked to discover that that damn mudblood that Sluggy was forever raving about really was every bit as good as he said! And more. I did think that there is a scant possibility that Lily might really have been even better at Potions than he was. I did think that he was impressed — and that’s not easy. Whether that translated into resentment, or admiration, or competitiveness I would hesitate to guess. I rather thought that the direction whatever the interaction took would have been determined by Lily.
And Slughorn, of course. He encourages competition in his classes. But he doesn’t despise cooperation. I think he may have deliberately thrown his two best students together to see what they produced. Even if they did start the year being distinctly uncomfortable and “stand-offish” with one another; both of them still smarting from the ugly incident at the end of the previous year.
• • • •
But, my primary reason for suddenly feeling a need to backpedal my earlier pooh-poohing of the whole rather mawkish concept of Snape-Loved-Lily was because I suddenly realized I was overlooking another parallel of the sort that keeps cropping up in the aforementioned Dumbledore’s Men continuum.
I suddenly thought we may be getting another inter-generational echo here.
• • • •
I still didn’t think that they were “spoony” on each other. But they may have each regarded the other as the only potential equal in the class on offer. And Sluggy is just as capable of encouraging cooperation, as much if not more than competition, even if the two had started the class being a bit “standoffish” with each other.
Thanks to Slughorn, it was glaringly obvious by the end of HBP that we were all supposed to think that there had been some kind of relationship. And from the information we had at that point, to me it seemed most likely to have developed over the course of Year 6. I also suspected that we were being led to misread the context of whatever that relationship was.
In this, at least, I turn out to have been on the right track. But I will go on record and state that I think this particular segment of the story arc would have been better served by Rowling by dropping at least a hint or two more than she did of there being an early association, (probably via Petunia, a couple of books earlier, which is the source of the only hint that we ever actually got) than to artificially maintain the complete absence of information she chose to give us.
Of course since Rowling has been determined in all her post-release interviews to cheapen the whole relationship by insisting that it was romantic (which it absolutely was not, and neither did she depict it as such) she has ended up failing to altogether convince me that even an authentic friendship ever truly existed, and that Snape had not merely encountered the first in the series of his sad little life’s “users”.
• • • •
Over the course of HBP, we’d also had rather a lot of parallels drawn between Lily and the “new” Ginny. Many of them given to us directly by Rowling herself. That much was absolutely deliberate. Lily is clearly supposed to have been more in “New Ginny’s” style than the sort of bloodless madonna figure that much of fandom had envisioned prior to OotP. I’ll admit that I’d like to have hoped this was misdirection. It was certainly a miscalculation. Most of the fans that I’ve encountered *despised* “New” Ginny. Over the course of HBP “New” Ginny ended up coming across more like a “New” Bellatrix in every chapter we met her. And we hardly needed two of those.
But given that in DHs Lily comes across as a shallow little user who turned out to be utterly useless in a crisis, refused to take the least bit of responsibility for her own actions (yup, Harry’s definitely her kid all right), and was willing to throw anyone but Harry to the wolves rather than come across as looking bad herself, I would certainly not count on it.
But for all that there are multiple similarities, Snape just does not serve as any kind of a stand-in for Harry. Harry/Ginny just doesn’t feel like the right pattern to look for when we try to sort out the probabilities of any relationship between Lily and Snape.
• • • •
Or is it?
Let’s take a closer look at the situation between Harry and Ginny, shall we?
By the end of Book 6, Harry has accepted his mission and has set Ginny aside for her own protection. Which even the shallowest reader can see would ultimately be no real protection. The whole school already knows of their association. “Everybody” has presumably been talking about it for months.
It is hardly breaking news that Post-HBP I was giving a great deal of public reconsideration to the old Snape apologist theory that Severus Snape signed on with Dumbledore even before the end of his Hogwarts days. That an offer of protection — if the DEs ever approached him and tried to force him to cooperate with them, was made to him in the aftermath of the werewolf caper. And that when Malfoy did approach him, Snape chose to fight from inside, rather than to go into hiding. It is gone into in some detail in the ‘View from the Martian Canals’ essay, too.
(I still think this would have made for a highly satisfying “reveal” in DHs.)
So, just what was Ginny to Harry in Year 6? She was “officially” his girlfriend for part of it, yes, but their actual relationship hardly sounds particularly romantic. And she was effectively a new discovery. She became his greatest source of comfort, not excitement. They were friends. It was the kind of friendship that might readily deepen into something far more extensive given time and encouragement, but at that moment they were still mostly friends.
At the end of Year 6 Harry has known about the Prophecy and his place in it for the past year. Circumstances have raised their ugly heads with a call to arms and he has finally accepted his role, and is setting his life in order, so he can concentrate on his duty. How might this parallel to Snape?
• • • •
At the end of his Year 6 I believed Snape had known for the past year that Dumbledore will hide him if the Death Eaters should approach him with coercement in mind. He had already realized that he himself is and has nothing that the DEs really want, apart from cooperation, but that if they decide that he ought to make himself useful to them, he will not be given the option of refusing. Dumbledore has offered him a chance of escape.
And now, at the end of Year 6 I thought that perhaps he had been approached by Malfoy regarding his future plans.
He would already be of age by that time. His birthday is in January. He has his Apparation license. Voldemort may or may not induct boys who are still at school into his ranks, but Malfoy is putting in an early bid, on the grounds of previous association, in order to enlist Snape’s support even before he is out of Hogwarts, intending to introduce him to his Leader under his own patronage. In short, Malfoy isn’t merely threatening to force Snape’s cooperation, he is offering Snape the opportunity to actually join up and infiltrate the organization, under his sponsorship. All Snape has to do in return is to make Malfoy look good to their Leader.
Snape has reported this to Dumbledore. He has declined the offer of being hidden, (which to be fair, would also mean missing out on his NEWTs) and made his own counter-offer to serve Dumbledore as his agent. Neither Snape nor Albus had ever anticipated that an opportunity of that nature would be on offer. Snape just plain doesn’t fit the typical demographic for recruitment. And Albus didn’t already have anyone inside that organization.
It was just too tempting to let pass.
I speculated that after assuring himself of Snape’s sincerity (and no doubt trying very hard to dissuade him), Dumbledore (well, Dumbledore as we thought we knew him before DHs) had accepted the offer and pledged his support. Snape had accepted his role, and in the summer before Year 7 he was setting his life in order, so he can concentrate on his duty.
• • • •
What, I wondered, was whether Snape and Lily had become friends — not so much as Harry and Ginny are friends — and confidently expected to become more than friends, but more as Harry and Hermione are friends (or possibly to be even more accurate, as Ginny and Hermione are friends), and that Snape may have confided his mission to her? At least to the degree of explaining why their friendship had to remain secret, kept in the background, and why he could no longer risk an open association with a Muggle-born witch.
As well as the corollary that for her to be associated with him was not safe for her, either, and something of why.
Snape may have been rather more forthcoming with Lily than Harry was with Ginny. I think Severus may have trusted Lily more than Harry trusts Ginny. Harry after all, has other, closer confidants. Snape did not.
I think he explained what he was risking, and what could go wrong, and why Lily should distance herself from him, for her own safety.
I think he did promise to try to keep the Death Eaters away from her.
A promise that he unknowingly broke when he reported the partial Prophecy to Voldemort. The fans were right about that much. Once he discovered the results of that action his remorse was both profound and utterly sincere.
But, regardless, nothing connected to the public, overriding issue of VoldWar I or II actually came of Snape/Lily. That is not the reason Snape turned to Dumbledore, and Snape’s remorse at having endangered Lily by reporting the partial Prophecy on Dumbledore’s orders is not the reason that Dumbledore trusted him. If an association between them existed at all it dates from that brief interlude during 6th year.
Since at that point in time we were all still inclined to read Lily as an essentially decent person, rather than a shameless little user, I was beginning to think that they may have struck an agreement. He promised her that he would try his best to keep the DEs away from her, and that if something went horribly wrong; something happened to Dumbledore, and Snape was arrested and threatened with the Dementors, she would try to speak in his favor. That might have been the conversation (with “that awful boy”) that Petunia overheard.
In this alternate universe, they may have continued to be friends for as long as Lily lived, although I suspected that unless they were co-workers, they may not ever have met face-to-face after they finished school.
• • • •
But they may have corresponded. We have been given a fairly strong hint that the tiny, crabbed “hand” of Snape’s school days, which is scribbled all over the Advanced Potions-Making textbook is not the same script as the one that has been showing up on the chalkboard in his classroom for the last 15 years. Nor does it sound much like the large spiky ‘Ds’ that showed up on Harry’s essays. It is easy to postulate how Snape might have been prompted to iron out a regional working-class accent, or adopt his formal, buttoned-up manner in the interests of his own advancement, in order to make himself “presentable” when moving among his higher-status housemates, but why would he choose to reinvent his handwriting as well, unless he had some reason to want to correspond with someone in a script that no one would recognize and identify should a letter fall into the wrong hands? Such an aim would not have been necessary for correspondence with the Death Eaters. Nor for corresponding with Albus, either. So who then? Tom Riddle isn’t the only wizard we’ve met with an instinct for secrecy. Harry has a finely-developed tendency in that direction himself. To say nothing of Albus. Let alone Severus Snape.
He may have developed a different “hand” in which to pass notes to Lily. They may even have used code names as well. Lily may have regarded it as a game. For Severus it was in deadly earnest.
• • • •
Well. That was the theory. I’m a little sorry that it did not play out. Not that I had expected it to do so, you understand. It was always distinctly “out there”.
And it’s certainly not that I have any actual objection to the childhood friendship that Rowling ultimately gave us. A childhood friendship is much closer to the general caliber of relationship that I had envisioned than fanon’s ghod-awful icky, sticky, unrequited teen crush. And since Rowling failed to give us any real clue at all as to the Evans sisters’ socioeconomic or regional background, I cannot feel particularly at fault for failing to have anticipated it. A number of other fans managed to do so. But I still think that was more in the nature of a lucky guess than anything that a reader might be able to have reasonably deduced from the text.
I just wish that Rowling had depicted that “friendship” as something a bit less abusive on Lily’s part. But, then, we really do have to consider that perhaps Rowling intended that we should finally conclude that Harry’s mother was no more of a bargain than his father, and that, indeed they deserved one another.
• • • •
Still, Severus Snape is not the kind of person who needs the threat of death via Unbreakable Vow in order to keep his promises. And at the point that he reported the partial Prophecy to Voldemort (which I sincerely believed was on Dumbledore’s orders, and still believe was at his contrivance), NO ONE knew that the family threatened by it would turn out to be the Potters.
Once it was clear that the family (or one of the families) at risk was the Potters, I could very well believe that Snape profoundly regretted following that particular order. And this is a matter that would have become clear as soon as the Potters announced their impending parenthood.
There may be a reason why it took over a year for Voldemort to catch up to just who the Child of Prophecy might be. He may have taken the “seventh month” literally, and waited until the end of September to start hunting. (This may very well still hold true, not that we will ever be told as much. I place no dependence upon Rowling’s alleged Encyclopedia giving us any answer that makes sense. The whole project appears instead to be being floated as an attempt to rewrite the series after the fact without going to the — admittedly considerable— trouble of actually *doing* it.)
And at that point one wondered whether when Harry returned to Godric’s Hollow he would find anything of his mother’s correspondence. It turns out I ought to have been thinking of #12 Grimmauld Place instead.
The odds seemed against it.
But even if he did, I was sure the appearance of any such correspondence would be misleading. I was confident that Harry was not going to know Snape’s real motivations until after their final confrontation at the end of the book.
But, yes, I did have to finally admit to the possibility that Snape and Lily might provide another echo along the continuum pertaining to Dumbledore’s Men.
• • • •
Nevertheless, I still think that there is a more than slight chance that the Pensieve incident we witnessed was the point at which Snape single-handedly derailed the whole budding romance between James and Lily, and it took James until 7th year to get it back on track. It may not have been until James was orphaned in his 7th year that Lily took pity on him. She does seem to have enjoyed positioning herself as Lady Bountiful. (Post-DHs, she must have developed a taste for it back in her playground days with Snape.)
I have long taken the view that the Snape/Marauders “war” was something that had grown out of Snape having shown up on the Marauders’ radar as just too competent not to be regarded as competition. (ETA: It now turns out that he showed up on their radar as a long-haired sissy whose best friend was a girl, and who let the girl boss him around, too.)
Plus he was allegedly a Dark Arts geek, or, at any rate, he was pointed out to James as such by Sirius Black, and that factor attains the level of a certainly if we can believe Sirius Black when he claims Snape made the mistake of having let himself be taken up by the junior DEs crowd, thus arousing the enmity of Bella’s young cousin and his friends. That implies that the Snape/Marauder feud was well established before any of the participants had even noticed girls, and it did not need the opportunity for additional friction to keep the pot boiling. Lily, not being one of the Marauders, and Muggle-born to boot, could have been off on the sidelines of it. In the Pensieve junket Lily certainly didn’t act as if she actually knew anything of Snape. Except, presumably, that he was the kid her housemates called “Snivellus,” and that James Potter despised him.
• • • •
And, indeed, I thought if there was any relationship between them at all, it was not a publicly visible one, since to the end of HBP there was absolutely no indication in the books that anyone had EVER noticed an open relationship of any kind between Lily and Snape. Which renders what Rowling has finally dumped on us in DHs totally implausible. Someone ought to have noticed something. We really ought to have been given something more than a passing reference from Petunia to the existence of some “awful boy” who told her sister about Dementors.
Remus Lupin’s utter disbelief of Harry’s reiteration of Dumbledore’s “official” reason for trusting Snape, and Harry’s comment that Snape couldn’t have given a damn about his mother either since he called her a mudblood, certainly ought to have jogged Remus’s memory to the contrary if there had been anything there to jog, at the very least.
• • • •
But, back in more conventional theoryland, Severus probably would have appreciated the attention of a girl of the supposed caliber of Lily Evans. As well as the opportunity for privately scoring one in the eye on James-bloody-Potter. She, of course, would have believed that any resistance to her overtures, in spite of his giving back some small signs of mutual interest was because of her housemates, rather than his, and she may have fancied herself a later-day Juliette with a reluctant Romeo. (The werewolf caper allegedly was successfully hushed up, we were originally told. Lily ought not to have known about it. That it later turns out she did know about it is a strong hint of her being involved in it at some level.)
Lily might even have made some catty comments in James’s hearing on the subject. Messages on the general order of “dating MacClaggan”, and James would have been frothing at the mouth over Evans’s sudden interest in Snape of all people. (A factor of which Lily was perfectly aware, and may have taken some degree of personal satisfaction in. That would teach him to make her a part of a disgraceful public exhibition!)
But, once again, if Remus doesn’t admit to remembering anything about it, then if anything did go on, either it wouldn’t have taken place where the Marauders had a ringside seat to watch it, or Rowling is deliberately not playing fair with her readers.
James is unlikely to have confided in anyone other than, possibly, Sirius — which he might have done while they were away from Hogwarts. 6th year was the year that Sirius was living with the Potters during term breaks. And James couldn’t very well do anything about the Lily situation after he’d blotted his copybook (or had it blotted for him by Sirius) over the werewolf caper itself.
The Marauders really ought to have all been on very thin ice with the faculty over Year 6, and James ought to have realized it, even if Sirius and Peter didn’t. Even saving Snape’s life didn’t cancel out the crime of putting it in danger in the first place.
Particularly not in the manner that had been put in danger.
In any realistic scenario, the worst-case repercussions of that stunt could have sent shock waves all the way up to the Wizengamot. Plus James was probably having to head off Sirius’s and Peter’s attempts to continue open hostilities even after the werewolf debacle. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that it was James’s feat in successfully keeping those two in check for a year that got him his Head Boy appointment despite not being a Prefect. The Hogwarts staff would have been discretely watching them all.
• • • •
Well. So much for semi-realistic scenarios. The little twerps seem to have actually boasted about it in the Gryffindor common room! Or had at least made sure that Lily was filled in on James’s side of the story.
• • • •
But we really were set up to suspect that some variety of an association existed. And I thought that if Book 7 did end up mirroring Book 3 the way that OotP copied the plotline of PS/SS, and HBP replayed so many elements and decorative motifs from CoS, then we could already see how all of the cast of characters had been deliberately positioned to gradually feed us the backstory of a Snape+Lily association over the course of Book 7 which would prove to be as crucial to the overriding backstory of the series as the James+Sirius one was in Book 3.
The whole James and Sirius “double-act” was not even hinted at prior to PoA, It was fed to us in dribbs and drabs over the course of that book. And until the grand reveal/reversal at the run up to the climax NONE of it showed to Sirius’s advantage.
I was inclined to suspect that Snape+Lily would be the central element that Rowling had been saving up to wrap the Book 7=Book 3 redux around.
And I actually wasn’t wrong about that, although we got no long slow build-up of information, only the whole botched mess of the thing dumped on us at the next-to-last minute. But it was the long-term results of that association which enabled Lily to save Harry the first time. Oathbreakers do not prosper in the Potterverse. Ultimately it was the long-term effects of that association and those that it touched, that destroyed Tom Riddle.
And there was indeed such an association. And it mattered more than any mere teen crush.
• • • •
Before DHs came out I suspected that such an association may have had a great deal more to do with how Lily managed to save Harry’s life the first time. But my reading on what was going on there was a lot more individualized than Rowling’s. (It also kept the participants in character.) Frankly, at the end of the series, I can believe that Voldemort inducts schoolboys into the DEs a lot more easily than that he would spare the life of a designated victim on the strength of one follower asking him to pretty-please not kill her.
But I was sure that Severus did know just how potentially important to the downfall of the Dark Lord Harry Potter (or Neville Longbottom) potentially was. And I was convinced that he also knew about the Horcruxes.
And, if my suspicions regarding that book collection in Spinner’s End had been correct, he may have known the “mechanics” of how Horcruxes are made.
Which, could also have been the mechanics of how to derail the process.
After all, the sort of offer and counter-offer by a willing sacrifice that we have been told saved Harry the first time (and which turns out to have been completely contradicted by the revelation of what Tom Riddle supposedly actually remembered of it) is the sort of exchange that you would be more likely to look for among the crude, chaotic interactions peculiar to “wild Magic” as it occurs within the Dark Arts than any of the orderly, disciplined spells and principles of “domestic” magic, or “wizardry”, as it is taught at Hogwarts, or sanctioned by the Ministry of Magic.
Mightn’t an association and/or partnership with a truly gifted young Dark wizard have been what gave Lily Potter the edge that enabled her to save her child?
It could have been.
At least in the hands of some other author.
(You wanted a Snape/Lily theory? Okay. There’s one. Made to order.)
• • • •
I did think it was likely that the two may have never met face-to-face once they finished Hogwarts. Or, conversely, it was possible that they really were coworkers somewhere. Although I thought that if that was so Rowling would certainly tell us as much.
Instead, Rowling implies that Lily never forgave Snape for having once called her a name and never spoke to him again.
I thought they could have corresponded right up to the day that Lily and James went into hiding under a flawed Fidelius Charm.
But, in any case, We all believed that once she was Head Girl to James’s Head Boy, James demonstrably managed to turn over a new leaf with her and make a better impression, for she did finally start dating him in 7th year. This time, on her terms.
What is more, at some point within a year after finishing Hogwarts, James, having lost both of his parents to some magical malady during the previous year, and finding himself alone in the world, and I think, not much liking it, popped the question.
And, Reader, she married him.
But, realistically, there was no indication anywhere in canon up to the end of HBP to support the view that Lily Evans and Severus Snape ever had anything more in common than a couple of years of NEWT-level Potions classes.
But they did unquestionably have that.
And if there was anything significant beyond that, I still trusted that Rowling would eventually make sure that we learned of it.
It’s a pity that, however fed up with this story she might have been by that time, that over the course of bringing it to a conclusion, she couldn’t be bothered to make what she chose to tell us either believable as a friendship, or any of the cast of characters involved come across as likable human beings.