This month, we will celebrate the birthdays of two important characters in Harry Potter – Severus Snape’s on January 9 and Lily Evans-Potter’s on January 30. In honor of these two friends, this month’s theme will focus on them.
This article was inspired by one of the many interesting conversations I had with my blogger friend Aspenlinmer – in particular, our exchange of replies about his post “Loving Those Who Cannot Love You Back”.
Aspenlinmer opened his final paragraph with the following lines:
Therefore, in a seemingly impossible situation, I see hope for Severus. Although his hope cannot rest in reciprocation of his love for Lily, his love for Lily provides hope for circumstances to be transformed. He has hope that his love will cause some good while he is still here on earth, and hope that conceivably things may be different when he leaves the world.
My first reply was to clarify whether this love gives hope in that it makes the impossible possible. Aspen affirmed my idea. Then, it was his turn to ask me a question: Where do I see hope for Severus?
My response went as follows:
For Severus, since he’s already dead, I can see the hope for him in the new world that he has helped create for future generations. While it’s sad that the love cannot be reciprocated, the good part is that the love extends to other people, it not just goes back and forth.
It’s quite similar for others who are not loved back by their beloved. They can sublimate or redirect the love into other avenues. Do something creative or socially relevant thing. Or even simple things that can guide or help other people. Or even give time to oneself so that one can discover new things about one’s character. I view these things as similar to a patronus. From a very threatening situation you conjure something that can be a source of protection and salvation. And if one can manage to use it to communicate with others or make it extend to others, the better. Who knows…they may find a sweet surprise as they do this 😉
Creating love out of pain, emptiness, and desperation is extremely difficult. I suggested possibilities of doing it in my quoted response above, but those suggestions are surely not easy. Even when people do succeed in creating love out of pain, the hurt may remain. Thus, the Patronus Charm is understandably one of the most difficult spells to execute. It is useful in terrible situations, but, in order to cast it, one needs to project positive feelings despite the situation being very hopeless.
One painful, terrible situation is the life of Severus Snape. His beloved died possibly due to the details of Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy that he passed on to Voldemort. He lived the rest of his life without belonging to a community that fully trusted and accepted him. He was not anymore a Death Eater by heart while his relationship with the members of the Order of the Phoenix was not amicable. Finally, he knew that much of the pain he carries were caused by his own terrible mistakes – mistakes which he couldn’t anymore erase.
Probably, he had moments when he would say to himself “I wish I did this, I wish I did that, I wish I could still.” While reflecting on these things, an idea popped in my head. What would Snape see if he looked in the Mirror of Erised?
My guess is that he will see Lily Evans alive and well beside him.
While the Mirror of Erised typically shows a lack that we know is often difficult for us to fill, sometimes the image that it shows can still come true, although not always in the way we expect it to be.
In a way, Snape is one of those who have successfully translated their desire into reality. The means that he has used for Lily to return and remain beside him is his patronus.
As most Potter fans may know, Lily’s and Severus’ patronus take on the same form: a doe. While it is highly possible that Snape’s patronus has been a doe even when Lily was still living, that the revelation has been made in the scene wherein Snape delivers his famous line “Always” hints at the extension of Lily’s life through Severus.
If you can recall, one of the most difficult decisions that Snape has made was to agree to kill Dumbledore. In doing so, he has made himself the bait who will later on be killed by Voldemort. It is in the effects of his courageous death that Snape mimics Lily’s sacrifice. Like her, his death has become Harry’s protection as Snape’s sacrifice is the critical detail that will later on fool Voldemort into thinking that he could use the Elder Wand against Harry.
In a very dangerous moment, Snape figuratively acts as the invisible shield that protects Harry. While Lily’s protection may have faded by the time we reach the 7th installment of the series, Snape takes on the role of Lily’s love which, for a long time, has acted as a shield that safeguards Harry. He also takes on the role of a patronus since the meaning of this charm is to invoke a protector.
Snape’s role as protector has been foreshadowed by the chapter about the silver doe. In a very hopeless moment, Snape’s silver doe arrives to guide Harry so that the latter can find Godric Gryffindor’s sword.
I have to say that JK Rowling is brilliant for not revealing at once the identity of the wizard who has conjured the silver doe. Besides providing suspense and wonder, the uncertainty of ownership can also mean that the silver doe may figuratively have two owners. The living Snape is protecting Harry as much as the dead Lily does.
Then, it will not be far-fetched to say that, in Snape and in his patronus, Lily lives again. Finally, the two friends who have drifted apart once more become together in spirit.