SPOILERS – SO READ WITH CAUTION
Today marks the 11th anniversary of the release of J.K. Rowling’s final installment of Harry Potter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, I thought it fitting that for this week’s romantic moment, we pay tribute to one of the most romantic reveals in all of literature. And while it’s fun to discuss Ron and Hermione or even Harry and Ginny, I want to instead put the spotlight on the epic unrequited love story between Snape and Lily.
Now, it’s impossible to pinpoint one exact moment, as rather it’s a series of moments that led to the surprising romantic reveal from Snape himself. I also chose to cover both the book and the film as how can I not also pay tribute to the emotional performance of Alan Rickman (R.I.P.) who brought Snape to life in such an unforgettable way?
So, for this week’s romantic moment, it’s going to be a combination of both the literary romantic moment and the film romantic moment between Snape and Lily. Let’s get to it…
THE ROMANTIC SEQUENCE BEGINS
(NOTE: I’m writing this as if you have already read the book and don’t need a full summary)
While there were clues of Snape’s love for Lily carefully placed throughout the books and films (thanks to Rowling revealing the truth to Rickman early on), it’s the moment of Snape’s death that it all begins to come together. Snape, a character with a questionable character and mysterious motivations throughout the series, switches seemingly from bad guy to good guy, making one wonder just where his loyalty lies.
And when he killed Dumbledore, it seemed the truth was revealed. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, Snape’s truth is only revealed during and after his death.
THE TEARS OF MEMORY
Jump to chapter 32 in the final book. Or to Snape’s death sequence in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. That’s where our “romantic” sequence begins. Harry witnesses the murder of Snape by Voldemort and the snake. After Voldemort and the snake left, Harry rushes by Snape’s side surprised by his own rush of compassion.
It’s as if he intuitively knows that Snape isn’t the villain he claims to be. As Snape takes his final few breaths and cries a few tears, he tells Harry to take his memories. Harry, not understanding why yet, does just that.
In the book, Snape whispers, “Look … at … me.” Harry looks Snape in the eyes. “The green eyes found the black…” It’s then we receive a major clue. Throughout the series, many characters mention how Harry has his mother’s eyes. “The green eyes.”
And it’s these “eyes” Snape wants to see. Then he takes his final breath, dying.
In the film adaptation, the dialogue needed to be a little bit different. But the meaning’s the same. After Snape asks Harry to look at him. He says, “You have your mother’s eyes.”
With a brief reprieve from The Battle of Hogwarts, Harry goes to the headmaster’s office to find the Pensieve. There, he escapes into the memories of Snape, learning that he was so much more than Harry could have ever imagined.
SNAPE AND LILY
Snape’s memories bring us to a few key moments between him and Lily. From the same neighborhood of Cokeworth, Snape watches Lily from afar, clearly in love with her even as a child and even before they meet. We see Snape as a lonely, solitary figure with a rough home life and no real friends. That is until Lily.
When they do meet, Snape and Lily connect through magic. In fact, it’s Snape (in the book) who first reveals to Lily that she’s a witch.
In the film adaptation, take note of the coloring and setting. Snape meets Lily in a moody, atmospheric, dark setting resembling a Brontë novel. Another clue to just “who” Snape is.
Poor Snape grew up bullied by humans (he’s poor and has strange looks and awkward manners) and then later by the other young wizards – most notably James Potter. Still, Snape and Lily remain close despite their differences (including being sorted into different houses) and his lack of popularity.
As the years pass, Snape begins hanging out with the wrong crowd. His bullying as a child leads him to turn against humans and Muggle-born witches (minus Lily) and joins the followers of Voldemort. This ultimately pushes Lily away from Snape and over to James.
Within these memories in the book, we also see the divide between sisters, Lily and Petunia, first begin. Petunia not able to overcome her envy calls her sister a “freak.” One can’t help but notice the similarities between Petunia and Snape. One becomes hateful toward witches and wizards, the other hateful (for a time) toward humans. Snape calls Lily in a weak moment “mudblood,” while Petunia called her “freak.” Snape’s hurtful words must have hit her hard because he knows of her history with her sister.
In these memories, Harry soon watches Snape and Lily grow older. And while Lily and he grow apart, Snape’s love for her remains constant. And he sees Snape turn on Voldemort when he learns of the prophecy. Snape runs to Dumbledore ready to become a spy in exchange for keeping Lily safe.
What then follows is the tragic death of Lily and James which becomes the catalyst for the entire story.
In the film adaptation, there’s a gorgeous sequence (with an added scene not in the book) of Snape in Godric’s Hollow finding Lily dead. He takes her in his arms and holds her, weeping. A true representation of Snape’s grief in the book and film.
From that point on, there was never any chance of Snape having any kind of loyalty to Voldemort. Why? Because Voldemort killed his true love. Voldemort’s inability to recognize or believe in love is ALWAYS his downfall.
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT – “ALWAYS”
Harry continues to watch Snape’s memories which ultimately leads to a moment between Snape and Dumbledore (soon before his death). Here, Snape learns of the truth about Harry’s necessary death – which shocks him.
“I thought … all these years … that we were protecting him for her. For Lily,” Snape says in the book. Upset, Snape realizes Dumbledore has used him. Has used both of them. That Harry, Lily’s son, was raised by Dumbledore to be “like a pig for slaughter.”
Dumbledore questions if Snape actually cares for Harry. It’s then we learn in the book and film the truth.
“For him?” Snape shouts. “Expecto Patronum!”
“From the tip of the wand burst the silver doe.” Lily’s Patronus was also Snape’s. Realization dawns on Dumbledore. Realization dawns on Harry as he sees his mother’s Patronus.
“After all this time?” Dumbledore asks with tears in his eyes.
And with that one word, we were all given one of the most romantic moments in literature (and then later in film). His love was constant. He would “always” love her.
But what does this tell us about Snape and what more could it reveal?
SNAPE AS A BYRONIC HERO
On the surface, the romantic reveal is that Snape has loved Lily since he was a boy. But I think it’s more than that. And it’s the “more” that makes it so epic and memorable. The true reveal is that Snape’s a Byronic Hero with Lily as his true romantic focus – which all good Byronic Heroes of the Brontë-persuasion have. And if you understand this subtype of the Byronic Hero, then you “always” know what they will do. They are loyal to one constant: their love.
Now, Dumbledore knew Snape loved Lily. It was how he was able to turn him to his side. And it’s why Snape became his spy. But notice Dumbledore was surprised when Snape revealed he “still” loved Lily after all this time. It’s the continued focus that astonished him. Snape was loyal to Lily above all else.
So, when you understand the motivations of a Byronic Hero with an all-consuming passion, you know it would be impossible for Snape to ever love anyone but Lily. And you know it would be impossible for Snape to ever be on Voldemort’s side. He committed the ultimate crime. Voldemort murdered his Byronic love.
Snape loved her “always.” That’s what Byronics do. They love with their whole soul and they love forever. Their love may be darker or even almost obsessive-like, but there’s something impassioned and focused about a Byronic Hero in love that intrigues us as readers.
Think Rochester in Jane Eyre or of a romantic vampire in love. They skirt societies’ rules, thinking they’re above them. And often they waffle between good and evil. But they love deeply. So, it’s not Dumbledore, Snape’s loyal to. It’s not even Harry. It’s Lily. This turns him to the good side. And it keeps him there. And even when Dumbledore would lead Harry as a “pig to the slaughter,” it’s Snape who shows more remorse. Why? Because of his love for Lily and because of her love for her son. He would protect Harry at all costs…for Lily. Even if Harry reminded him of James – the one who bullied him.
Does he grow to care for Harry and Dumbledore? Yes, I think he does. But it’s Lily and only Lily who will have his love and complete loyalty.
THE FINAL BATTLE
The romantic sequence and reveal takes us to the final battle between Voldemort and Harry. As they fight, Harry (in the book) reveals a shocking truth to Voldemort.
“Severus Snape wasn’t yours…Snape was Dumbledore’s, Dumbledore’s from the moment you started hunting down my mother. And you never realised it, because of the thing you can’t understand. You never saw Snape cast a Patronus, did you, Riddle?”
“Snape’s Patronus was a doe…the same as my mother’s, because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children. You should have realised…”
Yes, Voldemort should’ve realized. But we can all be glad he didn’t. It’s Voldemort’s own sociopathy and lack of emotion that led him to his defeat. Sure, he mocks Snape’s “great love.” But we all know it’s Lily’s love, Snape’s love, and ultimately Harry’s love that leads to victory.
While there’s no kisses or dates or happy endings for Snape and Lily, his constant heroic love, is an example of a deep, profound love story. Snape loved Lily “always,” and because of it helped protect and save her son. And in his last moment before death, “the green eyes” once again “found the black.”
I don’t know about you but it doesn’t get more romantic than that. The love story of Snape and Lily is the kind of love books are made for. And I admit, Byronic Heroes…they’re my one weakness!
How much did you love Snape’s love story in the books and movie? Did you love the scenes between Snape and Lily? Which version (book or film) did you enjoy more? Can you believe the final book came out 11 years ago? Let me know in the comments!
Photos: Warner Brothers
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Chapters 32-36); British 2014 edition.
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