Severus Snape grew up in a poor, unhappy family with no siblings or friends and an inherent distaste for non-magical people, whom he considered inferior. He possessed a natural inclination for power and showed no hesitation in using it against weaker ones for sheer sadism. Snape always knew where his loyalties lay – with house Slytherin, with dark magic, and as a Death Eater, with the Lord of Dark Magic, Voldemort. But there was another side to his life: Lily Evans.
As children, kind and loving Lily never made fun of Severus or his oversized coat, short jeans and sickly face. She listened to his stories eagerly and to a certain extent was also influenced by him (when they decided to sneak upon Dumbledore’s letter to Petunia). But the foundations of their friendship always remained shaky for Lily because her friendship with Severus became the apple of discord between Lily and Petunia.
Moreover, the motives for friendship were entirely different for the two. Lily, on one hand, befriended Snape because he was the only wizard around while she was a muggle-born who had no source of information about the wizarding world. Severus became her only friend before Hogwarts, whom she continued to be friends with until Snape’s dark side consumed him. On the other hand, Snape had always fancied, in fact, hungered for Lily’s companionship as a child and that childhood hunger never left him. To make matters worse, James Potter fancied Lily too and ultimately won her, while Snape was left heart-broken.
All this while his heart had been split into two – desire for the love of Lily and desire to be a Dark Arts headmaster. Lily’s loss to James made him plunge headlong into his darkest ambitions. Perhaps Snape saw it as the only way of healing his aching heart.
Was there a possibility that Lily’s presence in his life, her goodness, would have wrested Snape away from his own darker self?
It is a sad irony then – what Lily Evan’s life could never do, Lily Potter’s death did. Severus Snape never shed his cloak of darkness.
On that grim day, on a storm-beaten hilltop, when a hysterical Snape begged Dumbledore to save Lily Potter’s life, he knew that everything was lost. Later, he did look like a man who had lost his own zeal for life. He confessed to Dumbledore, “I wish I were dead.”
But it is remarkable how Snape slowly and painfully gathered the shards of his life, and build them around one single purpose: Protect Lily Potter’s son, no matter what.
Putting aside hatred for James and his look-alike son, Harry, Snape kept a constant vigil over Harry. He saved his neck a number of times, directly and indirectly. A wizard of immense skill, he befuddled everyone into believing he was a servant of darkness, including Voldemort. He never cared for the constant risk he put himself in, for several years. But what must have given this man the strength to do what is needed? Surely a greater source of magic than his wand skills… something visible only to him in a Pensieve of Memories, in a handwriting, a photograph and a pair of still alive green eyes.
In a world of dwindling faith, hope, humanity and love, the Prince of Spinner’s End stunned the entire Muggle world along with Harry Potter into a shocked silence with his tale in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Tears were shed, hearts beat fast with awe and admiration, heads bowed down in shame. Because, in today’s give and take, more expectation and easy disappointment, break up and make up, one night stands and pleasure on mobile screens world, there was a Severus Snape, who with his life and his death, showed that even in the darkest of times, there exists the light of hope and love. If only you believe and hold on to it.
Decades have passed; many lovers have come and gone from existence. But the touchstone to finding a Severus Snape remains the same: People ask, “After all this time?” and if you mean it, you say, “Always.”
Baisali Chatterjee Dutt has quite the opposite view of Severus Snape. Into which camp do you fall?