- "You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? It was I who invented them — I, the Half-Blood Prince!"
- —Snape revealing his past pseudonym and accomplishments[src]
Professor Severus Snape (9 January, 1960 – 2 May, 1998) was a half-blood wizard who was the son of the witch Eileen Snape (née Prince) and Muggle Tobias Snape. During his lifetime, Severus Snape was Potions Master (1981-1996), Defence Against the Dark Arts professor (1996-1997), and Headmaster (1997-1998) of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (which he attended as a student from 1971-1978. He was also member of the Order of the Elementals and played a very important role in both of the Wizarding Wars against Lord Voldemort.
Severus Snape was raised in the Muggle dwelling of Spinner's End, which was in close proximity to the home of the Evans family, though in a poorer area. He met Lily and Petunia Evans when he was nine, and fell deeply in love with Lily, becoming a close friend of hers. In 1971 he began his first term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he was Sorted into Slytherin House. This put him in the same year as his one love, Lily Evans, but unfortunately for him, in rival houses. Severus became the immediate enemy of James Potter and Sirius Black and was a frequent victim of their bullying. Snape developed a passion for the Dark Arts at a young age, which increased as his desire for revenge grew stronger. Snape became involved with the bullies in Slytherin House, many who were pure-blood supremacists. This put his friendship with Lily, a Muggle-born, under great strain, until it was eventually broken in their fifth year. In an attempt to win back Lily's affections, Snape joined the Death Eaters along with a group of his fellow Slytherins.
Severus was made a member of the Slug Club, presumably because of his brilliance at potion-making, and Horace Slughorn kept a picture of him as a student, clutching his copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Despite this, Horace did not have many hopes for Severus's future, as his photograph was kept behind many others.
Shortly before Lily Evans was murdered by Lord Voldemort, Snape changed sides and became a member of the Order of the Elementals and double agent during the Second Wizarding War. With tremendous difficulty, Snape prevented Lord Voldemort from learning the truth about his loyalties. Despite the opinions of most others including Harry during his early life, Albus Dumbledore trusted Snape for reasons that were kept between them both until their deaths. When he died, it was revealed that his deep strong love for Lily Evans caused him to redeem himself, joining Dumbledore's cause at the prospect of her protection (and, after her death, that of her son) from Lord Voldemort.
The relationship between Dumbledore and Snape would be one of an unusually strong loyalty, so much so that Snape agreed to kill Dumbledore upon Dumbledore's own request. Before Dumbledore's death, Snape promised to protect the students of Hogwarts from the Death Eaters, who would inevitably take control of the Ministry of Magic, as well as the school. Snape later participated in the Battle of Hogwarts, but was murdered by Lord Voldemort who mistakenly believed that Snape was the master of the Elder Wand (an immensely strong and powerful wand that Voldemort deeply desired, one of the Deathly Hallows) when in reality, Draco Malfoy was, unknowingly, the master of the Elder Wand because he disarmed Dumbledore, but was later disarmed by Harry Potter, thus Harry was the wand's rightful master and therefore able to use it and stop Voldemort.
After his death, Harry Potter ensured that Severus Snape's portrait remained at Hogwarts, honouring him as a hero, despite their significant personal differences. In addition Harry later named his second son Albus Severus Potter in honour of him.
- Lily Evans: "Doesn’t your dad like magic?"
- Snape: "He doesn’t like anything, much."
- — Severus and Lily discussing his family[src]
Severus Snape was born 9 January, 1960 to Eileen Prince, a pure-blood witch, and Tobias Snape, a Muggle, making him a half-blood wizard. Severus, whose father was neglectful and possibly even violent, began to identify with his mother's family and created a secret nickname from his mother's maiden name, calling himself "the Half-Blood Prince." His unhappy relationship with his father may have been the origin of his disdain for Muggles. It is implied that Severus was friendless and uncared for by his parents. This lack of care largely shaped Severus's bitter disposition and cruel behaviour later in his life.
Severus grew up at Spinner's End, a shabby suburb of Cokeworth. This area of town was near a dirty river and full of dilapidated houses, disused factories and broken down street lamps. Through the rest of his life, Severus continued to return there when he was not at school. The young Severus is depicted as being unwashed and wearing ill-fitting clothes "that were so mismatched that it looked deliberate". As a child, Severus was neglected and his parents often fought with one another. He could not wait to leave for Hogwarts at the end of the summer.
Lily Evans and her family lived in the same town, close to Spinner's End. After watching her for some time, Severus noticed her evident magical abilities and began making friendly overtures. The two bonded quickly and it appears that he was very interested in Lily right from the beginning, though she only regarded him as a good friend. During this time he also developed a contempt towards her older sister, Petunia. This was most likely because she made disparaging comments about his clothes and residence, but may also be because she was a Muggle.
Information from Severus's own memories of his first interactions with Lily and Petunia suggests that he was an awkward child with poor social skills. Even when it was important to him to make a good impression, he always seemed to have trouble doing so.
Hogwarts years (1971-1978)
Severus attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as a student from 1971-1978, and was Sorted into Slytherin House, at that time led by Potions master Horace Slughorn. On the way to Hogwarts for his first year, Severus sat with Lily Evans on the train, where they met James Potter and Sirius Black. This hostile first encounter would set the tone for the antagonism between the three of them for the rest of his life.
According to Sirius, Severus excelled in the Dark Arts from an early age. At the age of eleven, he knew more curses and hexes than most of the seventh year students. He reportedly was friends with a gang of Slytherins who later became Death Eaters, including Avery and Mulciber. Severus was credited with creating a good number of popular spells like Levicorpus, Liberacorpus, Muffliato, and curses like Langlock, the Toenail Growth Hex, and his signature curse, Sectumsempra. Other Slytherins that Sirius mentioned as being friends with Severus included Evan Rosier and Wilkes. Severus also had contact with Lucius Malfoy, who was a prefect during his first year and greeted him kindly when he was Sorted into the Slytherin House. Most likely the two had good rapport at Hogwarts (which could also be a reason why Narcissa Malfoy trusted Severus to take care of Draco Malfoy and why he seemed to favour Draco during his later teaching years). Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew were also classmates of Severus.
James and his group of friends were constantly at war with Severus throughout their school years. Severus's memories, recorded in the Pensieve, suggest that he was an introverted and studious individual, whereas James was arrogant, popular, and athletic. Immediately upon meeting him, James disliked Severus for expressing a desire to be in Slytherin. James's big crush on Lily, and Severus's close friendship and unrequited love for her also heightened the tension between the two.
One recorded memory in the Pensieve bears witness to James bullying him, turning him upside-down to reveal his underwear in front of many students, including Lily. Lily came to Severus's defence, but this only made things worse: in a subsequent lashing out at James in an attempt to recover his lost dignity, Severus inadvertently called Lily a Mudblood. Lily refused to forgive him for it, even after his repeated apologies. This would forever be Severus's worst memory. It was seen by Harry whilst in the Pensieve.
Severus noticed that Remus kept disappearing during the full moon and once followed him past the Whomping Willow (after being tipped off on how to do so by Sirius Black) to confirm his suspicions. This act could have cost Severus his life or his humanity (he could have been turned into a werewolf by Remus's bite) if it had not been for James. When James found out what had happened, he went after Severus and managed to save him just before he got to the Shrieking Shack while Remus was in his wolf-form. Albus Dumbledore swore Severus to secrecy, but the true nature of Remus was clear to Severus. By their seventh year, James had grown out of his immaturity and arrogance to the point that Lily agreed to start dating him, even though he never grew out of his hatred for Severus — according to Sirius, Severus had always been a "special case" with James. Lily ended up marrying James, which only strengthened Severus's bitterness towards him.
Severus was a talented wizard even in childhood. It was apparent through the notes and scribbles in his potions textbook that he made time during classes to invent curses, charms, and clever potion innovations, while simultaneously learning the required textbook lessons.
Severus's potions textbook contained a few spells and curses which he was credited with inventing: Levicorpus, which grabbed the victim by the ankle and dangled them upside-down, and Sectumsempra, which caused slashing bloody cuts (guided by the wand gestures of the caster, like a blade/sword) which bled extensively. Levicorpus somehow escaped from Severus's secrecy, and became very popular around Hogwarts towards the end of his fifth year at school. Some other spells were Muffliato, which filled the ears of anyone nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing sound and another hex that caused toenails to grow at an unnaturally fast rate. Severus's book later fell into the hands of Harry Potter in 1996. Harry used the Half-Blood Prince's tips and earned praise with that year's Potions master, Professor Slughorn. Harry considered the Half-Blood Prince to be a better teacher than Severus, unaware at that point that Severus was the Prince, much to Harry's later displeasure.
The potions textbook has an inscription indicating it is Property of the Half-Blood Prince. Hermione Granger's research revealed that Prince was the maiden name of Severus's mother and so the nickname was revealed to be a combination of his mother's maiden name and his blood status. Harry Potter also pointed out the similarities between Snape's nickname and the name Voldemort gave himself. This nickname was apparently a secret, as Remus did not remember it ever being used publicly by Severus.
Magical abilities and skills
Severus Snape was an extremely powerful and very knowledgeable wizard, showing proficient talent in many different areas of magic — he had an encyclopaedic knowledge and proficiency in potions, was incredibly talented in Legilimency and the only Death Eater capable of producing a Patronus Charm.
- Flying: Severus was capable of unsupported flight. The only other known wizard that was able to do this was Lord Voldemort himself (who is likely to have passed down this skill to Snape personally). In 1997, he used this skill to escape from Hogwarts after his duel with Minerva McGonagall.
- Love: Severus was one of the only people in Voldemort's inner circle who was capable of feeling unconditional love. He fell in love with Lily Evans as a child and maintained his devotion until his death. Despite their differences in beliefs about many things, Severus felt nothing but absolute love for Lily even though she never extended her reciprocity beyond friendship. Snape was devastated by Lily's death and spent seventeen years in constant danger in order to protect Lily's son and ensure that her sacrifice was not in vain. Indeed, Snape's Patronus was a doe, just like Lily's, showing that his love for her was far stronger than his loyalty to Lord Voldemort. Snape was the only Death Eater who was able to cast a Patronus.
- Dark Arts: Severus had a passion for the Dark Arts from a young age, and was especially talented with curses, or so some believed. According to Sirius Black, Snape was "up to his eyeballs in the Dark Arts" when he was at school. However, they had an age old rivalry which could have influenced Sirius's words. During his schooldays, he invented numerous spells, mostly curses, hexes, and jinxes. It is unknown if he was aware of the existence of Horcruxes or Voldemort's employment of them as he never mentions them.
- Potioneer: Severus was extremely adept at potion-making and worked as the Potions Master at Hogwarts for about 15 years. His prowess at potion-making extended beyond simple execution from recipes. When he was still only a student, he would alter official instructions with his own variations, which usually resulted in quicker and more efficient results. He was capable of brewing highly complicated potions such as Veritaserum and the Wolfsbane Potion. Snape was also able to identify Polyjuice Potion by smell and produce fake Veritaserum that seemed real enough to fool Dolores Umbridge.
- Occlumency and Legilimency: Snape's unerring ability to conceal his thoughts and feelings from external penetration proved to be crucial for him. For seventeen years, he managed to hide facts from Lord Voldemort such as his remorse for Lily Evans's death and his secret alliance with Albus Dumbledore; it was his mastery of hiding his mind that made both sides distrust him. Snape was also skilled at Legilimency; Harry Potter often felt as if Snape had the ability to read minds even before learning what the art was. Snape used Legilimency on Harry constantly while attempting to teach him Occlumency in their private lessons. Since Voldemort was considered history's greatest legilimens and was unable to ever read Snape's mind, despite being in the same room with him on many occasions, Snape could be history's greatest occlumens.
- Transfiguration: Severus was skilled in Transfiguration, being able to conjure objects and animals, and Transfigure elements into other objects with apparent ease. He could also vanish objects as seen when he vanished Harry Potter's Draught of Peace potion in 1995
- Charms: Snape could use charms without fail, such as levitation, disarming, shields, vanish potions, the incredibly difficult Patronus Charm, and he was able to write instructions on a blackboard with a single flick of his wand.
- Duelling: Although he rarely appeared in any known duels Snape was shown to be a very capable duellist. He was able to block the spells being fired at him by the extremely powerful witch Minerva McGonagall (who was capable of duelling Voldemort along with Kingsley and Slughorn) during their brief duel, though was forced to flee by the arrival of the other Heads of House. He assisted in a duelling club in 1992 with Gilderoy Lockhart, defeating him with a single spell, though, as Lockhart was an unskilled wizard, this was not such a great achievement. Snape also easily blocked all of Harry Potter's hexes during his escape from the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, using Legilimency to read Harry's attempted moves and countered them all before they could be cast. Severus participated in the Battle of the Seven Potters, joining the Death Eaters's side (though secretly attempted to protect the Order). Contrary to the vicious duelling styles of other Death Eaters, Snape preferred using defensive spells and only used aggressive magic when facing a weak opponent, such as Lockhart, or when his foe grew frustrated and started making mistakes.
- Spell creation: As a student at Hogwarts, Severus was very inventive with new spells. Some of the spells he created were Sectumsempra, healing spell Vulnera Sanentur, Langlock, Muffliato, the non-verbal Levicorpus and its counter-curse, Liberacorpus. The last two somehow became common knowledge around the school. It is unknown what thoughts and techniques Snape put into his creations.
- Non-verbal and wandless magic: Snape was skilled at using non-verbal spells, from the most basic uses (such as instruction-writing on blackboards and cleanups) to the most advanced (such as combat curses). Snape was also skilled at performing wandless magic, such as rope conjuring, counter-jinxing and memory extraction. (Although memory extraction does not require explicitly the use of a wand, relying instead on direct eye contact, conjuring and counter-jinxing are more often depicted to take place with the help of a wand.)
- Logical thinking: Snape's logic and deductive reasoning skills were such that he helped protect the Philosopher's Stone by creating an obstacle, which was based on logic rather than magical skill. According to Hermione Granger many powerful wizards have a blind spot in regards to logic.
- Flying/Quidditch: As well as being capable of unsupported flight in his later days, Snape was at least an able flier on a broomstick, and sure enough in the rules of Quidditch to take over the position of referee at least once. However, in one of Snape's memories, Lily was laughing as he attempted to mount a bucking broomstick, so perhaps he wasn't always a good flier. He likely tried to acquire this skill in his youth in an attempt to impress Lily and to out-do his rival, James Potter.
- Poetry: A skill that Snape possessed but did not make very much mention or display of, Snape was capable of fluidly crafting his words in a way that could often befuddle the reader. His only known composition was the logic puzzle that he used as part of his defences of the Philosopher's Stone. Since this poem showed Snape's logical thinking, it was obviously one of his own creation. Snape's other possible works, if they exists, remain unknown.
Severus means "stern" in Latin, and is the root of the English word "severe". It was a Roman cognomen, common to members of the Severan dynasty of Emperors, including one notorious for his harsh persecution of the early Christians.
Septimius Severus, also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors. After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger (possibly Phineas Nigellus Black) and Clodius Albinus (Albus Dumbledore). Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus in Cilicia. Later that year Severus waged a short punitive campaign beyond the eastern frontier, annexing the Kingdom of Osroene as a new province. Severus defeated Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum in Gaul.
J. K. Rowling has said that she took the surname Snape from an English village in Suffolk. There is also a village called "Snape" in Yorkshire, which was rebuilt by the aforementioned emperor, Septimus Severus. Snape is also an English verb meaning "to be hard upon, rebuke, snub", derived from the Old Norse "sneypa", "to outrage, dishonour, disgrace".
Interestingly J.K. Rowling used to live in Clapham Junction at the time of her starting to write the first book. Opposite Clapham Junction station is a road named Severus Road, though it is unknown if this is simply a coincidence.
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