The Harry Potter series has brought us some of the most beloved and memorable characters in young adult fantasy. The trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are icons of heroism, friendship and compassion to a whole generation of readers. We love to hate the dark villains like Voldemort, Malfoy, and Umbrage, and who could forget the wisdom of Dumbledore, or the wit of McGonagall or the kindness of Hagrid?
Then there is Severus Snape, arguably the most complicated and controversial character in the whole franchise. When he is first introduced, Snape is mean and treats Harry and his friends horribly. The more we learn about him in the books, the less he seems like one of the good guys. He used to be one of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters, but he seems to keep venerating the Dark Lord despite working for Dumbledore. His hatred of Harry, his friends, and his family never cease. Also, in one seemingly irredeemable act, Snape takes the life of Dumbledore, making Voldemort poised to take total victory. Only at the very end of the seventh book do we learn the sad truth about Snape’s life and loyalties.
His childhood love of Lily Potter lead him to secretly protect Harry his entire life, and his final acts helped cement Voldemort’s ultimate defeat. However, more than 10 years after the main books were completed, many fans are still not satisfied with certain aspects of Snape’s story. His actions and motivations throughout the series still beg questions.
After all this time, here are 20 Things That Make No Sense About Severus Snape.
20 WHY DIDN’T LILY’S GOOD HEART RUB OFF ON SNAPE?
Lily Evans and Severus Snape met when they were both youngsters, before either of them attended Hogwarts. Snape’s home life was miserable and Lily’s sister Petunia thought she was a freak. Snape and Lily might have been the first magical friends either of them ever had. Lily was always kind and noble, but Snape was mean and self-centered.
It seems as though Snape’s friendship with Lily never inspired him to become a better person.
We see that Lily told Snape her concerns about his interest in the Dark Arts and his pre-Death Eater friends. However, Snape’s love never seemed to lead him to listen to her.
19 WHY DID DUMBLEDORE BELIEVE SNAPE GENUINELY DEFECTED?
We don’t see what interactions Dumbledore and Snape may have had while Snape was still a student at Hogwarts. Did Dumbledore ever know about Lily and Snape’s friendship? Did he have any inkling of Snape’s real feelings for Lily? Was there anything to make him believe that Snape was telling the truth when he pleaded with Dumbledore to save the adult Lily’s life?
Dumbledore says flat out in the book that Snape’s sole concern for Lily as an object of his love disgusts him. Perhaps Dumbledore still had his reservations about Snape until he saw how he acted after Lily passed away.
18 WHY SHOULD ADULT HARRY’S TOLERANCE OF SLYTHERIN BE INSPIRED BY SNAPE?
Harry did learn that Snape risked a lot to secretly help Harry throughout his adventures, but Snape was still a total jerk to him. Slughorn might have been materialistic, but at least he still fought against Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry even gains some respect for Draco by the end of the series.
Harry tells his son Albus that he shouldn’t worry about being sorted in Slytherin, and that Snape, who was a Slytherin, was probably the bravest man he ever knew. Couldn’t he have also told little Albus that the stigmatization and stereotyping of Hogwarts Houses was a bad idea in the first place?
17 WHAT HAPPENED TO SNAPE’S MOTHER’S FAMILY, THE PRINCES?
Snape’s mother was Eileen Prince. Eileen came from a family of Pureblood witches and wizards in England, as Hermione discovers in Half Blood Prince. Who were her mother and father? Did Eileen have any brothers or sisters? What about her extended family?
If they were a Pureblood family at the time of the story, they would have certainly been married to other Pureblood families, like the Blacks or the Malfoys.
However, no other members of the family are mentioned. The fate of Eileen Prince herself is never revealed either. If Snape was the only member of the family in his generation, the Princes may have gone extinct with him.
16 WHAT DID EILEEN PRINCE AND TOBIAS SNAPE EVER SEE IN EACH OTHER?
We know next to nothing about the witch Eileen Prince and the muggle Tobias Snape besides the fact that they were married and they are Severus Snape’s parents. Based on young Snape’s words and his memories, Tobias was clearly abusive to Eileen and her son. However, it's unknown whether he was always this way.
Perhaps there was some genuine love between them in the beginning. Fans have speculated that the revelation of Eileen being a witch hurt their relationship. It is also possible that Eileen’s family disapproved of her marriage to Tobias since he was a muggle. Both scenarios have happened in the series before with other couples, but neither excuses Tobias of abusing his wife and son.
15 WHY DID JAMES POTTER SAVE SNAPE’S LIFE?
James Potter and Severus Snape disliked each other almost immediately. They argued over which House was best even before they were sorted in rival Gryffindor and Slytherin. Their hatred only grew over their shared years at Hogwarts.
Eventually, James’ friend Sirius set Snape up for a life threatening prank. He led him to the entrance to the Whomping Willow and would have let him enter the Shrieking Shack while Remus Lupin was in werewolf form. However, James intervened when he heard what Sirius had set in motion. Perhaps this was the beginning of James finally maturing into the more responsible man who Lily fell in love with.
14 WHY DID DUMBLEDORE TOLERATE SNAPE’S BIAS AND ABUSE OF STUDENTS?
Snape was a horrible teacher. He was certainly knowledgeable of his subjects, but he belittled and bullied most of his students. Neville was so frightened of Snape that he became Neville’s Bogart. Snape also mocked Hermione’s uneven teeth after she took a curse in the face.
He even sabotaged Harry’s potions work at least once during his fifth year, and he singled out flaws in Harry’s work even if the Slytherin’s work was poorer than Harry’s.
We must also assume that Dumbledore thought this behavior from Snape was acceptable, because he never did anything about it. J. K. Rowling has said that Dumbledore thought that tough teachers was a necessary life lesson, but it’s still very harsh.
13 DID SNAPE REALLY NEVER THINK THE PROPHESY COULD INVOLVE LILY?
Up until he heard Sybil Trelawney’s prophesy, Snape was a Death Eater. However, he still had an all abiding love for Lily. The prophesy described a boy born at the end of July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort.
It seems like there were only ever two boys who the prophesy could refer to - Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom. Snape is shrewd and well informed throughout the series. Did Snape never deduce that Lily Evans and her son could be one of the families that Voldemort targeted if he reported the prophesy? It seems like Snape forgot his love for Lily until after he told Voldemort.
12 HOW DID SNAPE BECOME SO GOOD AT OCCLUMENCY?
Snape’s ability to conceal his true thoughts was crucial to his mission to spy on Voldemort for Dumbledore. If the Dark Lord suspected Snape’s true loyalty even for a moment, he might have ended Snape without a second thought.
However, we never find out how Snape became so skilled. Occlumency requires you to be cool and detached from your emotions. However, we see Snape driven by bitterness and vindictiveness throughout the series when it comes to Harry and his friends. Was he really that good at compartmentalizing when the Order of the Phoenix or the Death Eaters were around? Perhaps the abuse from his father and heart break with Lily taught him a lot about shutting down emotions.
11 HOW DID SNAPE INVENT THE SECTUMSEMPRA SPELL?
Snape devised many of his own curses during his time at Hogwarts. The most notorious was Sectumsempra. This spell could cut into opponents as though they were being slashed with an invisible sword. However, we never find out how Snape invented such a powerful and dangerous spell.
According to Sirius Black, Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in seventh year, so his knowledge of the Dark Arts was extensive.
The problem here is really about the lack of lore in general about how spells are invented in the Harry Potter series. Did Snape just decide one day that he would like to make his enemies bleed and wham, so Sectumsempra was made?
10 WHY IS THE BULLYING BY THE GREAT LAKE SNAPE’S WORST MEMORY?
When Harry gets a chance to peak into Snape’s private memories, he witnesses James Potter humiliating and cursing Snape by the Great Lake. Lily urges James to stop. However, Snape spits indignantly that he doesn’t need help from someone like her.
The series paints this moment as the impasse for Snape and Lily’s relationship, but why should that be? Snape was already devoting himself to the Dark Arts and calling other muggleborns “mudbloods” by this point. Was Lily that naïve about it until Snape carelessly called her a "mudblood"? Perhaps Snape hadn’t realized how close he was to losing Lily for good until that moment.
9 DID DUMBLEDORE NEVER TELL SNAPE THAT THE DEFENSE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS POSITION WAS CURSED?
Every single year Harry was at Hogwarts, he had a different Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. It was common knowledge that the position had high turnover even before that. Snape repeatedly applied to the post, but Dumbledore always turned him down. In fact, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that Voldemort cursed the position when Dumbledore refused to hire Voldemort.
This means that had Dumbledore appointed Snape to the DADA position, he would likely lose Snape from Hogwarts at the very least. Snape was too valuable an agent to let that happen. However, we never find out if Dumbledore ever told Snape that the position was cursed. It seems unlikely, since Snape kept applying for the position.
8 WHY DIDN'T DUMBLEDORE PUNISH SNAPE FOR OUTING REMUS AS A WEREWOLF?
Harry’s third year at Hogwarts involved a tense affair with Snape and Remus Lupin, as the two were both back as teachers. Their old school rivalry came to a head in the Shrieking Shack. Snape confronted Lupin about his suspicions that Lupin was helping his old friend Sirius into the school. The revelation that Sirius had been innocent the whole time did not lessen Snape’s hatred of the Marauders in the least.
After Sirius escapes, Snape tells the students that Lupin was a werewolf and the outcry forces Lupin to resign.
One has to imagine that this was directly against Dumbledore’s confidence. Did Dumbledore ever punish Snape for outing one of Hogwarts’ own teachers? Not as far as we know.
7 WHY DIDN’T DUMBLEDORE COME UP WITH AN ALTERNATE EXPLANATION FOR SNAPE’S LOYALTY?
Nobody liked Snape much - not even the members of the Order of the Phoenix. Most were at least wary of his previous status as a Death Eater and his persistent fascination with the Dark Arts. However, every one trusted Dumbledore’s judgement. If Dumbledore said that Snape was definitely on their side, they accepted his word.
However, Dumbledore never gave a satisfactory explanation as to why he trusted Snape. Instead, he only mentioned that it was an ironclad reason. Snape made Dumbledore swear to keep his love of Lily secret. However, it seems strange that Dumbledore never came up with a different, believable explanation about why Snape was on the good side.
6 THE TIMING OF SNAPE’S UNBREAKABLE VOW TO NARCISSA
In the opening chapters of Half Blood Prince, Narcissa Malfoy asks Snape to make an unbreakable vow. He vows to protect Draco, to help him in his task, and to finish it should Draco fail.
An unbreakable vow is taken under pain of perishing, so Snape had basically resigned himself to finish Dumbledore when he took that vow. Was this before he and Dumbledore had agreed to have Snape finish him or after? Did Snape make that vow knowing that he was already going to end Dumbledore anyway, or did he make a bold move by making that vow on his own? It’s not explicitly clear, even if the former seems more likely.
5 THE UNBREAKABLE VOW AND HARRY WOUNDING MALFOY
Snape made the unbreakable vow to Narcissa to protect Draco in Half Blood Prince. However, towards the end of the year, Harry and Draco get into a duel and Harry seriously wounds Draco with the Sectumsempra spell.
Wouldn’t this qualify as Snape failing to protect Draco? Why didn’t Snape combust or at least get injured when Harry struck such a potentially fatal blow?
Perhaps Snape felt the peril that Draco was in because of the vow. It could explain why Snape was the first one on the scene. Snape didn’t meet his end until a year after that scene at least.
4 HOW DID SNAPE LET LOOSE THE MUFFLIATO SPELL AT HOGWARTS?
Snape clearly prided himself on his accomplishments and his secrecy. Under the identity of the Half Blood Prince, he created many spells for his own use. Snape was also adept at nonverbal spell casting, so he would have likely never recited an incantation aloud if he could help it.
Nevertheless, a few of Snape’s spells became widely known and used at Hogwarts, not just by him. Levicorpus was one, but Muffliato was another that Snape let slip. How did Snape let that spell out of the bag? Even in using it, the spell fills the victim’s ears with an unidentifiable buzzing, so how could anyone Snape used it on learn it?
3 WHY DID SNAPE BULLY HARRY SO RELENTLESSLY?
The series paints Snape’s unrequited love of Lily as so profound that he was willing to sacrifice the entire rest of his life just to keep her son safe from Voldemort. However, this love apparently never eclipsed Snape’s hatred and jealousy of James Potter. Snape could never get over the resemblance between Harry and James.
Could Snape truly never bring himself to at least be neutral to Harry, out of respect for Lily? Harry was still Lily's son, after all. If Lily could see how her former friend was treating her son, she would probably dislike Snape even more. It seems like Snape’s grudge was just too great.
2 WHY DID VOLDEMORT TRUST SNAPE SO CONSISTENTLY?
Snape joined the Death Eaters at first when he left Hogwarts. He also conveyed the prophesy that warned Voldemort about the child who could defeat him. However, Voldemort also met his downfall partly because of faulty information that Snape gave him.
Given the false information and the fact that Snape stayed with Dumbledore between the Wizarding Wars, Voldemort should have been very suspicious of Snape when he tried to rejoin him.
However, then again, Voldemort was incapable of grasping the real and hidden reason why Snape was ultimately loyal to Dumbledore. Voldemort could never believe that Snape’s love for Lily would motivate him to stay on the good side. Still, it seems like Voldemort should have been a bit more suspicious.
1 WHY IS SNAPE ALIVE IN THE CURSED CHILD ALTERNATE TIMELINE?
Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy get into a lot of trouble with the time turner in Cursed Child. In the second alternate timeline they create, a humiliated Cedric Drigory takes the life of Neville Longbottom during the Battle of Hogwarts. This prevents Neville from slicing Nagini and allows Voldemort destroy Harrysince at least one of his Horcruxes was intact.
This is entirely separate from the events surrounding Snape. Presumably Voldemort still would have ended Snape over the Elder Wand. However, Scorpius finds Snape alive and willing to help set the timeline right later on. The story never explains why these events turned out this way.
Are there any things about Snape in Harry Potter that still don’t make sense to you? Let us know in the comments!