When Potterheads the world over discovered Snape’s secret in the final book, eyes misted over, lumps collected in throats and hearts broke a little. Such eternal love, such steadfast devotion, such endless loyalty! Poor misunderstood, broken-hearted, suffering-in-silence, loyal, besotted Snape.
Fan fiction went into overdrive in re-imagining the series if Lily had chosen lovesick Snape rather than that bully James.
But here’s the thing, Snape’s love for Lily did not stop him from being a mean and nasty teacher, the kind who reduced students to tears, gave them nightmare and even Boggarts took the shape of. We know he abandoned Voldemort and the Death Eaters because of Lily, but did he fully abandon his ideals? His obsession with the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts remained a constant refrain in the books. Did his views regarding mudbloods soften? Did he believe in what the Order was fighting for? Did he change for the better? Or were his actions only motivated by his crazy, captivated heart?
Yes, James Potter and his gang of boys were a mean bunch of bullies. And Lily did hate them. At first. But here’s the thing – James changed. He wanted to make himself worthy of Lily and therefore took it upon himself to be a better person.
His loyalty towards his friends was already well known – whether it was towards the shunned, shy Lupin or the black sheep of the Black family, Sirius. Did he make amends with Snape? No. But that was probably because he knew Snape would not have sneered at any attempts towards an apology and friendship. And you need two hands to have a proper handshake.
Related reading: How I realised my soul mate is none other than my best friend
While James made all the right moves to win Lily, Snape unfortunately, did not.
That’s what makes JK Rowling such a gifted and insightful writer – her ability to give her characters different shades and thus make them so realistic. While James was indeed a bully towards Snape, he did eventually become a good man, one loved and admired by his peers. And while Snape’s devotion to Lily is indeed heart-wrenching, how many women can honestly say they would willingly pick a man with a violent past, one who is a racist and a bigot, and who lives an isolated, solitary life.
While the idea of trying to change him may be romantic, we know what happens when you go for the bad boy.
Seeing Snape from this perspective, does it make me feel less sad about his tragic, unrequited love? No. Do I still feel for him? Of course. Always. But do I wish he got the girl? No. Nuh-uh.
So while Harry remained the-boy-who-lived (twice over), Snape went on to become the-man-who-loved. But it just wasn’t enough. Lily made her choice and it was a good one.
And truly speaking, Snily (Snape+Lily) would sound rather silly, wouldn’t it?