At the end of HBP one of the most widespread revitalized theories across fandom was the old moldy chestnut that proposed that the real reason Severus Snape hated James Potter is because he had loved Lily Evans too.
I really did suspect that by that time we were all supposed to believe that Severus had loved Lily. But at that point I still also thought that while Lily was unquestionably central to Harry’s story, she may well have been a redheaded herring to Snape’s.
Although, not necessarily. There was room for a considerable variety of possibilities there.
At any rate, I strongly suspected that whatever significance she may have had to Snape’s story, it was not what we’d been allowed to think it was.
I was pretty sure that we’d all been had.
Deliberately, too. There was astonishingly little actual support for the regulation-issue Snape-Loved-Lily theory beloved of fanon anywhere in the books. And none at all for the conclusion that this was the reason Severus hated James. We’d already been given plenty of reason for Severus to have hated James.
Dumbledore also had already told us all the way back in PS/SS that James and Severus’s immediate reactions to one another were on the same order as Draco and Harry’s. And I really do think we can be reasonably confident that Draco and Harry’s relationship had nothing whatsoever to do with rivalry over the affections of Pansy Parkinson.
Or Ginny Weasley, either.
• • • •
And, for the first book or two, we didn’t think so either. The whole Snape-loved-Lily theory appears to have been a by-product of PoA.
Well, to be altogether fair, the whole phenomenon of Snape fandom itself was to a large extent a by-product of PoA. Prior to that point in the series, the majority of the readers were perfectly content to see Snape as merely “that nasty teacher who hates Harry”.
Plus, of course, incidentally, he was also the only really interesting adult character in the series. Mainly because by the end of the first book he had refused to fit into a simple pigeonhole and permit himself to be categorized and dismissed. However much fans may have tried to shove him into one.
But after the showdown in the Shrieking Shack there was no looking back. The theory of Snape-loved-Lily [S-»L] leapt out of the margins of PoA (not, it should be noted, the actual text), grabbed us all by the throat, and hung on like static cling.
• • • •
And Snape-loved-Lily looked pretty good, circa PoA, when we really did feel a need for some additional context to the “hereditary enemy” backstory for Severus Snape and James Potter that we had been handed by Quirrell, and which had been confirmed by Albus Dumbledore all the way back in PS/SS. That Albus had already begun harping on his theme of “so great a Love™” in Book 1 only pushed fanon’s expectations further in that direction
But by the end of OotP it just didn’t play. Or not in the form that the fandom had already spun it off into. It was the wrong shape to fit that particular gap in the puzzle.
I mean, let’s take a look at it shall we? What does Dumbledore’s version of the feud amount to? James and Severus “took an instant dislike to one another”. (So?) Their relationship “resembled that between Draco and Harry”.
So what? What did that amount to? Some name calling; a rather nasty little attempt to get Harry in trouble that cost him a lot of House points. So? You carry a feud over to the second generation for that?
Fish fuzz. Even if you are as petty as Severus Snape you need more reason to carry the hate over to the guy’s kid than that.
As of OotP Rowling finally gave us one.
• • • •
After our trip into the Pensieve it was clear to anyone who cared to look that an unrequited crush on Lily Evans was no longer required in order for someone as jealous of his dignity as Severus Snape to hate James Potter, forever.
Even leaving aside the fact that most men will tend to connect favorably with the child of a woman he ever really loved, even when the kid isn’t his.
And from that point, I could no longer entertain the idea of the standard issue Snape-loved-Lily seriously.
• • • •
But I tried to. I really did. Even in the wake of DHs I still cannot see it working the way that the fans kept trying to dress it up and shove it at me. It doesn’t explain anything.
Indeed, Rowling’s final version turns the whole thing into an ugly case study of a shallow little user who had clearly been looking for an excuse to drop someone who no longer served her purposes, rather than the depiction of a falling out between to actual friends.
And the timing was all wrong.
• • • •
However, couple of years earlier, after the release of HBP we were forced to have to reconsider the possibility of some form of Snape-loved-Lily being in the equation, because with the entry of Horace Slughorn and his reminisces of students past into the story arc he seemed to at least insist on putting Lily and Severus into proximity.
It is hard to believe that either of those two kids would have failed to sign up for NEWT-level Potions. So they at least were sitting in the same classroom for their final 2 years at Hogwarts.
Of course, acto Rowling, by then Lily wouldn’t have given Severus the time of day. So perhaps Slughorn’s failure to make any further comment regarding a discernible friendship between them is hardly surprising.
Mind you, I always admitted that Severus may easily have fancied Lily. A great many young wizards did. She was a very good-looking young witch, highly popular, and any of the reigning Quidditch star Potter’s signs of crushing on her would have even further brought her under general attention. And you have to admit that James Potter wasn’t what you could call subtle in his attempts to draw her attention, either. It’s no stretch to propose that Snape had taken notice and agreed that she was fanciable.
And I rather thought that he might have been annoyed at himself over that, too. Because she was everything he was being prompted by his so-called peers in Slytherin House to despise. And, just to put the icing on the cake, Slughorn kept going on about her as well.
• • • •
And I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t get a lot of feeling of past patronage and obligation in the vibes between Slughorn and Snape. I caught the echoes of a very tepid degree of mutual respect at best. Snape and Evans shared a classroom, but I am still not fully convinced that they shared the Slug Club.
Although they may have. I will admit that much. Snape does seem to have been invited to Slughorn’s Christmas party, which was for Sluggy’s favorites, past and present. And Slughorn certainly appeared to display no surprise that Snape showed up. Snape could have been a former Club member. Even if not a particularly prominent one. Or, perhaps, Sluggy just extended the invitation to the rest of the staff.
As a consequence, I wondered whether Snape may have resented Lily like mad — even as he daydreamed at great length about sweeping her off from under James Potter’s straight little nose and parading her like a trophy.
Or, I conceded, that he may have been just as bowled over by her potions brilliance (once he saw it for himself) as Slughorn was. But going by the information at our disposal at the time, by the end of his 5th year I doubted that he ever had any authentic interest in her as a person.
Rowling did a very good job of isolating Lily from the whole storyline and rendering her pseudo-irrelevant. She was reduced to a symbol. A Thing. I even suspected that the “filthy mudblood” crack may not even have been the first, or a one-off. Although her shocked reaction suggested this certainly wasn’t typical conduct from Snape, and it certainly wasn’t something she was used to having thrown in her face, either.
• • • •
For my own part; after my experiments at the “extreme sports” end of the activity of theorizing I was no longer even slightly inclined to use such reasoning in support of the still widely held Snape-loved-Lily theory. I couldn’t see the Snape-loved-Lily — in its typical iteration — as a viable factor in Snape’s backstory at all.
Over on the Martian Canals, I proposed that he had much better motivation to do his part in bringing down the Dark Lord on his own account, than any soppy (and wholly implausible) nostalgia over a stint of unrequited teen lurve. Even Rowling hasn't been tacky enough to expect us to swallow that.
And I thought — or wanted to think — that Lily herself mattered more to the story arc, and for far stronger reason than just that a lot of different teenage boys had once happened to fancy her.
From where I was standing, S-»L — as it was typically reduced to its common denominator by the fandom — was a theory which seemed to have become about as necessary to the overriding plot as the — by then completely exploded — theory of MemoryCharmed!Neville.
I was quite prepared to accept that there may indeed have been something between the two of them. We seemed to be getting a build-up to some kind of reveal on that front. But I suspected that it wasn’t anything as obvious as just some stupid teen crush.
• • • •
Well, skipping off into the land of theories past; prior to DHs when we knew nothing of any prior associations between Snape and Lily, and could still make a viable effort to think well of all these people, I thought that this may have been the point at which a certain Severus Snape had suddenly shown up above Lily’s horizon and had become a real person.
Who didn’t like her.
And if she was anything like as promising a youngster as we had been led to suppose (which it turns out she totally wasn’t, she was a self-worshiping and self-righteous little bint, and shallow with it besides), she would have been honest enough to admit that she had given him good reason not to like her. And she (again, unlike Hermione) wasn’t used to being disliked.
Nevertheless, I still think that there is a more than slight chance that the Pensieve incident we witnessed was the point at which Snape single-handedly derailed the whole budding romance between James and Lily, and it took James until 7th year to get it back on track. In fact, now that Rowling has endorsed the 1960 birth date for the Marauder cohort, if we dare to trust any of the dates on the Black family tapestry sketch it may not have been until James was orphaned in his 7th year that Lily took pity on him. She does seem to have enjoyed positioning herself as Lady Bountiful. (Post-DHs, she must have developed a taste for it back in her playground days with Snape.)
But, back in the more innocent days when one could still spin a theory which tried to show these participants in a good light, I speculated that:
Snape would have known that Lily Evans was Muggle-born from Slughorn — because you know that once Sluggy found that out he would been very loud on the subject (and his own astonishment at this discovery). But if they were not both members of the Slug Club the two of them might have had little reason to have interacted at all prior the Pensieve incident.
We don’t, after all, know that the Gryffs and the Slyths have always shared the OWL-level Potions class. They may not have in the Marauder’s day.
For that matter, even if they did both attend gatherings of the Slug Club, you get the impression that Snape spent most of his time there as he did at the Christmas party, lurking in corners, propping up the wall, and watching, rather than “singing for his supper”. In the Pensieve junket Lily certainly didn’t act as if she actually knew anything of him. Except, presumably, that he was the kid her housemates called “Snivelus,” and that James Potter despised him.
• • • •
Well, okay. Theories are fun. And I’m a theorist. You want a Snape/Lily theory? Here’s one made to order. It’s totally hosed, but I’d had it posted in the collection for a couple of years at least by the time DHs was released and I never saw this particular one anywhere else, although I may just have missed it. And in the wake of HBP it was looking at least marginally possible. I don’t know whether anyone else would find it more satisfying than Rowling’s. But I’ll have to admit that Rowling’s version didn’t satisfy me at all.
Preliminary question; I repeat, aren’t we perhaps taking something for granted that we ought not to be when we just assume that of course the Gryffs and the Slyths shared Potions classes through the lower grades in the Marauders’ years, merely because they do so in Harry’s?
I think we could be.
Maybe the combinations of the combined classes rotate.
For that matter, maybe the class sizes were large enough 20 years earlier that mandatory classes like Potions at OWL-level weren’t combined at all. If some classes are only shared when a given year’s enrollment is smaller than average, as might well be the case with Harry and Ginny’s years; their birth years being during the very worst part of VoldWar I when anyone but uninformed Muggles, over-confident DEs, and the Weasleys might have been hesitant about starting or increasing their families, the two Houses may not have shared any core classes at all.
And if the class was combined, and the combinations do rotate, then the two Houses might have shared some other class, like Herbology, which would have been slightly more neutral ground, since neither House Head was involved, or Transfiguration (which it turns out is also a shared class, although we never heard of that until HBP). But not Potions. Maybe in their year one of their Houses shared Potions with the Hufflepuffs, the other with the Ravenclaws. If it is a strict rotation of, say: Year A; Gryff/Slyth, Year B; Gryff/’Puff, Year C; Gryff/’Claw, the Marauders’ birth year cohort (1960) would not have been sharing Potions class with the same House that Harry’s birth year cohort (1980) does.
And if that is the case; then Lily and Snape wouldn’t have shared Potions class until they reached NEWT-level where students from all four Houses are combined.
I have long taken the view that the Snape/Marauders “war” was something that had grown out of Snape having shown up on the Marauders’ radar as just too competent not to be regarded as competition. (ETA: It now turns out that he showed up on their radar as a long-haired sissy whose best friend was a girl, and who let the girl boss him around, too.)
Plus he was allegedly a Dark Arts geek, or, at any rate, he was pointed out to James as such by Sirius Black, and that factor attains the level of a certainly if we can believe Sirius Black when he claims Snape made the mistake of having let himself be taken up by the junior DEs crowd, thus arousing the enmity of Bella’s young cousin and his friends. That implies that the Snape/Marauder feud was well established before any of the participants had even noticed girls, and it did not need the opportunity for additional friction to keep the pot boiling. Lily, not being one of the Marauders, and Muggle-born to boot, could have been off on the sidelines of it.
• • • •
And the more I try to wrap my head around it, the less certain it seems to me that Snape was in the Slug Club at all. He certainly should have qualified on the grounds of intelligence, skill and ambition, but there is an additional qualification in which Snape is notably lacking, and that is the one which probably counts above all others. That qualification is a capacity for personal gratitude to Horace Slughorn.
Rank ingratitude is certainly not one of Snape’s shortcomings. If anything, he is far too willing to submit to abuse from those he trusts, without more than token protest. But he is not indiscriminate in his acceptance of favors, and he has learned (probably the hard way) to be selective about who he permits to patronize him. I also rather suspect that he was every bit as put off by Slughorn’s obvious vanity and name-dropping as Harry was.
And there almost appears to be another unstated qualification for the Slug Club as well. All of the complete outsiders that Horace has been known to have taken up were bright, magically gifted, and ambitious. Some of them were socially adept as well. But the ones we have actually seen him take under his wing also seem to have had something else in common, too. For that matter, rather a lot of the kids that Slughorn took up on the strength of their “connections” appear to have had this quality in common also.
They were just about all of them very good-looking.
I get quite offended when some fans try to paint Slughorn as a slimy old pedophile, which he absolutely is not, but there is no denying that he does love to surround himself with beautiful things. And beautiful children, too.
So where does that leave geeky, gawky, homely young Severus Snape?
The kids who rate the Slug Club are also the ones who Sluggy believes will reciprocate by not forgetting him when they have left Hogwarts and embarked on their careers. And these usually are also kids that he can honestly tell himself will have a reason to be grateful to him, because he really does perform a valuable service to them by singling them out and promoting their advancement.
We’ve been given no reason to believe that he ever performed any such services for Severus Snape. His input certainly had no affect upon Severus’s position now. He certainly does not make any such claims, either. And if he had one would have expected him to. The the most we ever herd him claim in Snape’s case is that he “taught” him.
Striking poses of intellectual superiority is not a part of Snape’s “self-made gentry” performance. That annoying habit came with the territory when he was still just a grubby, pushy little commoner with a northern accent. And from the degree of annotation that was added to Slughorn’s preferred text, it is possible that Snape considered himself well above Slughorn in Potions-brewing and, being Snape, he would have made sure that Slughorn was aware of it. In short, that in his opinion there was nothing that Slughorn could teach him. (I do not think that Snape was a particularly likable student for a teacher to have in their class. Especially not if he was good at the subject.)
That alone would have permanently disallowed him from being invited into the Slug Club. Also, Bellatrix was known to have been a member, back in the day, which might have further put Snape off of it. An attitude which he — most ironically — shared with Bella’s cousin, Sirius Black.
• • • •
For his part, Sirius Black would have certainly gotten an invitation to the club on the strength of his family connections. And he would have spurned it — on the strength of his family connections. Anything that cousin Bella had ever been associated with was nothing that he wanted any part of.
With James, we can be less certain. James was pureblooded, affluent, clever, good-looking, and obviously talented. You would expect him to have been a natural choice for one of Sluggy’s handpicked little stars. But if James had ever set foot in his Club, Slughorn would have made a big deal of it as an inducement to Harry, and James’s name is never heard to pass Slughorn’s lips. If James was extended an invitation, it would appear that he must have refused it in a show of solidarity with Sirius.
Besides, from everything I’ve managed to figure out, James Potter had next to no ambition. He just wanted to have fun.
All of which boils down to the possibility that IF Lily’s first exposure to Snape, in his element, had been in a NEWT-level Potions class, after the embarrassing incident in which he first showed up on her radar, she might very well have discovered something to draw her interest away from James Potter (to whom she was “not speaking”) at least temporarily. Lily was unquestionably a member of the Slug Club, and she might have been astounded that someone who was so obviously qualified, and was in Slughorn’s own House, wasn’t. And after 5 years of basking in Slughorn’s regard she would have learned to recognize excellence in the subject when she saw it, and to accord it the respect it merits.
For that matter Snape may have been gobsmacked to discover that that damn mudblood that Sluggy was forever raving about really was every bit as good as he said! And more. I did think that there is a scant possibility that Lily might really have been even better at Potions than he was. I did think that he was impressed — and that’s not easy. Whether that translated into resentment, or admiration, or competitiveness I would hesitate to guess. I rather thought that the direction whatever the interaction took would have been determined by Lily.
And Slughorn, of course. He encourages competition in his classes. But he doesn’t despise cooperation. I think he may have deliberately thrown his two best students together to see what they produced. Even if they did start the year being distinctly uncomfortable and “stand-offish” with one another; both of them still smarting from the ugly incident at the end of the previous year.
• • • •
Or just possibly not.
At the end of HBP we still hadn’t really anything to draw an informed conclusion from. But Lily had been set up as being a young woman with a streak of decency to her (another promise that Rowling welshed on). And just because she had red hair, there was little reason to assume that she was necessarily as vulgar and self-righteous as a Weasley. What if, once her temper cooled off, she came to the conclusion that her own behavior in that exhibition was simply not justified, and she offered Snape an apology?
How often has Snape ever been given one of those?
He’d been hanging around with Blacks and Malfoys, remember?
That alone might have blown him away. Particularly since he can hardly be unaware that her calling him Snivelus isn’t nearly as inexcusable as his calling her mudblood. And the very existence of his whole “total makeover” seems to suggest that he really can learn from example.
• • • •
And we’ll go on and conclude that any subsequent interaction between them almost certainly took place off the Marauders’ radar. James and Sirius were certainly Charms and Transfiguration wizzes, but both of them came from sufficiently affluent backgrounds that they did not expect to need to actually work for a living. And neither of them was trying to qualify for Auror or Healer training which require a Potions NEWT. There appears to have been no need for them to volunteer for something that would cut into time better spent planning mayhem by taking NEWT-level Potions.
Lupin admits that he is not much good at Potions and probably either did not qualify for NEWT-level, or chose not to risk it for fear of flunking out. The only one of the four that I could potentially see in a NEWT-level Potions class is Pettigrew (who does seem to be rather good at the skill), but his inherent laziness suggests that he did not make the attempt either. You don’t need a Potions NEWT to ride a desk somewhere in the Ministry. And for all we know, there may have been family money backing Pettigrew as well.
• • • •
And if we need to slip off the board into the realm of “extreme” theories (after all, what sub-collection are we actually in?); by 6th year, which was safely in the aftermath of the werewolf caper, I thought that Snape had already spoken with Albus, and was looking at the possibility that he might yet come rather unpleasantly to the DE’s attention and have to disappear with Albus’s help.
So, even if he had wanted to, he couldn’t really afford to draw further attention to himself by any kind of an open relationship with an all-too-conspicuous Muggle-born witch. Despite the fact that as a halfblood himself, a Muggle-born would not be beneath his touch, and in Slytherin House, no pureblood witch could be expected to have encouraged him.
And, indeed, I thought if there was any relationship between them at all it was not a publicly visible one, since to the end of HBP there was absolutely no indication in the books that anyone had EVER noticed an open relationship of any kind between Lily and Snape. Which renders what Rowling has finally dumped on us in DHs totally implausible. Someone ought to have noticed something. We really ought to have been given something more than s passing reference from Petunia to the existence of some “awful boy” who told her sister about Dementors.
Remus Lupin’s utter disbelief of Harry’s reiteration of Dumbledore’s “official” reason for trusting Snape, and Harry’s comment that Snape couldn’t have given a damn about his mother either since he called her a mudblood, certainly ought to have jogged Remus’s memory to the contrary if there had been anything there to jog, at the very least.
• • • •
But, back in more conventional theoryland, Severus probably would have appreciated the attention of a girl of the supposed caliber of Lily Evans. As well as the opportunity for privately scoring one in the eye on James-bloody-Potter. She, of course, would have believed that any resistance to her overtures, in spite of his giving back some small signs of mutual interest was because of her housemates, rather than his, and she may have fancied herself a later-day Juliette with a reluctant Romeo. (The werewolf caper allegedly was successfully hushed up, we were originally told. Lily ought not to have known about it. That it later turns out she did know about it is a strong hint of her being involved in it at some level.)
Lily might even have made some catty comments in James’s hearing on the subject. Messages on the general order of “dating MacClaggan”, and James would have been frothing at the mouth over Evans’s sudden interest in Snape of all people. (A factor of which Lily was perfectly aware, and may have taken some degree of personal satisfaction in. That would teach him to make her a part of a disgraceful public exhibition!)
But, once again, if Remus doesn’t admit to remembering anything about it, then if anything did go on, it wouldn’t have taken place where the Marauders had a ringside seat to watch it.
James is unlikely to have confided in anyone other than, possibly, Sirius — which he might have done while they were away from Hogwarts. 6th year was the year that Sirius was living with the Potters during term breaks. And James couldn’t very well do anything about the Lily situation after he’d blotted his copybook (or had it blotted for him by Sirius) over the werewolf caper itself.
The Marauders really ought to have all been on very thin ice with the faculty over Year 6, and James ought to have realized it, even if Sirius and Peter didn’t. Even saving Snape’s life didn’t cancel out the crime of putting it in danger in the first place
Particularly not in the manner that had been put in danger.
In any realistic scenario, the worst-case repercussions of that stunt could have sent shock waves all the way up to the Wizengamot. Plus James was probably having to head off Sirius’s and Peter’s attempts to continue open hostilities even after the werewolf debacle. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that it was James’s feat in successfully keeping those two in check for a year that got him his Head Boy appointment despite not being a Prefect. The Hogwarts staff would have been discretely watching him.
• • • •
Well. So much for semi-realistic scenarios. The little twerps seem to have actually boasted about it in the Gryffindor common room! Or at least made sure that Lily was filled in on James’s side of the story.
• • • •
But, post-HBP, it seemed just barely possible that Snape and Lily may have met at least once during the summer before year 7, or away from Hogwarts during one of the term breaks. I was prepared to agree that there was a good chance that “that awful boy” of Petunia’s recollection who told Lily about the Dementors of Azkaban could have been Snape. Although it was far from a done-deal. Petunia would regard any suspected wizard as an “awful boy”. And, for that matter, I thought that the adolescent James Potter was pretty awful, myself.
Whoever the boy was, the conversation may have spun off from some quip of Lily’s regarding what she could do, now that she was of age and no longer limited by the restrictions on underage magic. Possibly in regards to a snotty sister.
Or maybe not. Because post-HBP I also could entertain another possibility, one which definitely belongs here in the ‘Out on a Limb’ collection of “extreme” theories. You won’t find any support for it in the text of the books. Like all of my other extreme theories it is designed to fit into one of the rather interestingly-shaped gaps in our information, and so far as Rowling’s version was concerned it turned out to be totally in left field.
But we did still keep seeing suggestions of echoes between the generations, and it seemed to me that if any association between Severus Snape and Lily Evans existed, it clearly wasn’t an open relationship. Snape could not have afforded one. And, if it existed, it may have actually been either a deep, but platonic, friendship, or a prototype of a professional association, rather than anything even remotely romantic, and certainly noting so trite as an unrequited teenage crush. I tended to doubt that we would ever find anyone who was at Hogwarts at the time who would admit to having noticed anything between Snape and Lily at the time. Slughorn being the only possible exception. And, indeed, right to the end of the series, no one is talking.
According to this theory (I told you I would build you one to order), there was an association, even if it flew under the radar. And it was a close one. They were friends. Indeed, Lily may have been Snape’s only friend during 6th year. the alleged Avery and “Mulciber” may have finished school by then.
If anything, I thought that their friendship mirrored the association between, not Harry and Ginny, but the one between Harry and Hermione. (Or possibly even a solid partnership of such clever opposites as that occasionally suggested between Ginny and Hermione.)
We were given a heavy hint in HBP that the tiny cramped handwriting which is spread all through the margins of the Prince’s Potions text is not the same script that Snape has been scrawling across his student’s essays for the past 15 years.
...Leaving aside that most of those Snape-scrawled notes across student essays is pure fanon. It is nowhere in the books. The most we see are some large spiky ‘D’s, and generic writing that (magically) appears on the blackboard. But apparently the writing in the Potions book doesn’t match the ‘D’s, either. Or the writing on the blackboard.
Under a lot of circumstances a person’s handwriting might not change all that much over their lifetime. But it can. Particularly if they make a point of deliberately modifying it.
It’s easy to understand why Snape would have ironed out a regional working-class accent, or adopted a formal, buttoned-up manner in order to be accounted “presentable” among his better positioned housemates, but why would he also make a point of modifying his handwriting?
Perhaps in order to not have it recognized if a message should fall into the wrong hands? Tom Riddle isn’t the only wizard we’ve met with an instinct for secrecy. Harry has a finely-developed tendency in that direction himself. To say nothing of Albus. Let alone Severus Snape.
He may have developed a different “hand” in which to pass notes to Lily. They may even have used code names as well. Lily may have regarded it as a game. For Severus it was in deadly earnest.
• • • •
And if some extreme speculation can be left to spin out in aid of this made-to-order theory, at some point in 6th year, or the summer immediately following, Snape would have been approached by Lucius Malfoy concerning his future plans. I still cannot believe that Voldemort makes a habit of enlisting schoolboys who cannot even Apparate yet into the ranks of his marked Death Eaters, nor that Snape was anything that the DEs in general valued, but at the end of 6th year Snape was of age and had his Apparation license, and Malfoy may have wanted to put in his own bid for Severus’s services early. This “fishing expedition” may have taken place at Malfoy’s wedding reception (or the stag party). We do not know just when Lucius and Narcissa were married, but the summer a year or two after Narcissa finished Hogwarts certainly seems to be a reasonable possibility. And Snape might well have been sent an invitation, given his established association as a hanger-on with the Malfoy crowd.
So, the day that Snape had hoped would never arrive had actually come. Indeed, it had come a year early. But it had come in a whole different guise than anyone had anticipated. Rather than as a threat to force him to cooperate with the DEs or else, Lucius was offering him an opportunity to infiltrate them. At the mere price of making Lucius look good in the eyes of their Leader. Dumbledore was immediately informed of Malfoy’s interest, and Snape gave Albus his counter-offer to stay and fight inside the DE organization as Albus’s agent rather than to take Albus’s offer to sit this one out and go into what might turn out to be perpetual hiding, and finishing off his education in some other country. It really was too good an opportunity to let it pass. And Albus reluctantly (or not) agreed.
And, much as Harry at the end of 6th year had accepted his mission and set Ginny aside for her own safety, Snape at the end of his 6th year, did the same.
• • • •
Snape may have been rather more forthcoming with Lily than Harry was with Ginny. I think Severus may have trusted Lily more than Harry trusts Ginny. Harry after all, has other, closer confidants. Snape did not.
I think he explained what he was risking, and what could go wrong, and why Lily should distance herself from him, for her own safety. And that could be the conversation that Petunia overheard.
I think he did promise to try to keep the Death Eaters away from her.
A promise that he unknowingly broke when he reported the partial Prophecy to Voldemort. The fans were right about that much. Once he discovered the results of that action his remorse was both profound and utterly sincere.
But, regardless, nothing connected to the public, overriding issue of VoldWar I or II actually came of Snape/Lily. That is not the reason Snape turned to Dumbledore, and Snape’s remorse at having endangered Lily by reporting the partial Prophecy on Dumbledore’s orders is not the reason that Dumbledore trusted him. If an association between them existed at all it dates from that brief interlude during 6th year.
• • • •
But we really were set up to suspect that some variety of an association existed. And I thought that if Book 7 did end up mirroring Book 3 the way that OotP copied the plotline of PS/SS, and HBP replayed so many elements and decorative motifs from CoS, then we could already see how all of the cast of characters had been deliberately positioned to gradually feed us the backstory of a Snape+Lily association over the course of Book 7 which would prove to be as crucial to the overriding backstory of the series as the James+Sirius one was in Book 3.
The whole James and Sirius “double-act” was not even hinted at prior to PoA, It was fed to us in dribbs and drabs over the course of that book. And until the grand reveal/reversal at the run up to the climax NONE of it showed to Sirius’s advantage.
I was inclined to suspect that Snape+Lily would be the central element that Rowling had been saving up to wrap the Book 7=Book 3 redux around.
And I actually wasn’t wrong about that, although we got no long slow build-up of information, but only the whole botched mess of the thing dumped on us at the next-to-last minute. But it was the long-term results of that association which enabled Lily to save Harry the first time. Oathbreakers do not prosper in the Potterverse. Ultimately it was the long-term effects of that association and those that it touched, who destroyed Tom Riddle.
And there was indeed such an association. And it mattered more than any mere teen crush.
• • • •
Before DHs came out I suspected that such an association may have had a great deal more to do with how Lily managed to save Harry’s life the first time. But my reading on what was going on there was a lot more individualized than Rowling’s. (It also kept the participants in character.) Frankly, at the end of the series, I can believe that Voldemort inducts schoolboys into the DEs more easily than that he would spare the life of a designated victim on the strength of one follower asking him to pretty-please not kill her.
But I was sure that Severus did know just how potentially important to the downfall of the Dark Lord Harry Potter (or Neville Longbottom) potentially was. And I was convinced that he also knew about the Horcruxes.
And, if my suspicions regarding that book collection in Spinner’s End had been correct, he may have known the “mechanics” of how Horcruxes are made.
Which, could also have been the mechanics of how to derail the process.
After all, the sort of offer and counter-offer by a willing sacrifice that we have been told saved Harry the first time (and which turns out to have been completely contradicted by the revelation of what Tom Riddle supposedly actually remembered of it) is the sort of exchange that you would be more likely to look for among the crude, chaotic interactions peculiar to “wild Magic” as it occurs within the Dark Arts than any of the orderly, disciplined spells and principles of “domestic” magic, or “wizardry”, as it is taught at Hogwarts, or sanctioned by the Ministry of Magic.
Mightn’t an association and/or partnership with a truly gifted young Dark wizard have been what gave Lily Potter the edge that enabled her to save her child?
It could have been.
At least in the hands of some other author.
(You wanted a Snape/Lily theory? Okay. There’s one. Made to order.)
• • • •
I did think it was likely that the two may have never met face-to-face once they finished Hogwarts. Or, conversely, it was possible that they really were coworkers somewhere. Although I thought that if that was so Rowling would certainly tell us as much.
Instead, Rowling implies that Lily never forgave Snape for having once called her a name and never spoke to him again.
I thought they could have corresponded right up to the day that Lily and James went into hiding under a flawed Fidelius Charm.
But, in any case, We all believed that once she was Head Girl to James’s Head Boy, James demonstrably managed to turn over a new leaf with her and make a better impression, for she did finally start dating him in 7th year. This time, on her terms.
What is more, at some point within a year after finishing Hogwarts, James, having lost both of his parents to some magical malady during the previous year, and finding himself alone in the world, and I think, not much liking it, popped the question.
And, Reader, she married him.
But, realistically, there was no indication anywhere in canon up to the end of HBP to support the view that Lily Evans and Severus Snape ever had anything more in common than a couple of years of NEWT-level Potions classes.
But they did unquestionably have that.
And if there was anything significant beyond that, I still trusted that Rowling would eventually make sure that we learned of it.
It’s a pity that in the course of it she couldn’t be bothered to make what she chose to tell us either believable as a friendship, or any of the cast of characters involved come across as likable human beings.