The death of Severus Snape broke my heart. I wanted him to live and still do, but lately I have come to think the reasons behind the death of this favourite of many so called Potterheads. I came to the very simple conclusion that the character would have not worked.
For Severus Snape to have been able to live his life would have had to have been very much different from what it was since before he was born. Severus Snape was born the 9th of January 1960 to Tobias Snape and Eileen Snape (née Prince). Not much is known of his parents or his childhood other than that his mother was a pure blood witch and his father was a Muggle. They were a couple that fought constantly and paid little attention to their son’s welfare. Snape is described in his childhood to have worn clothes so big and mixed that it seemed almost deliberate. The Snape family was poor living in an industrial area in a place called Cokeworth. We know that Tobias Snape was a man of a sour disposition towards life “not liking much anything, especially magic” as Snape said.
This brings me to the first fundamental aspect of his life that makes it impossible for Severus Snape to have survived the Second Wizarding War: a broken home. I think this depended greatly on the characteristics of his father. Snape preferred his mother. This indicates that she took at least some care of her son. Hence Snape’s self appointed nickname the Half-Blood Prince. Perhaps with a happier attitude towards his wife and son Tobias Snape would have helped Snape to grow into a completely different person.
This plays directly into understanding Snape’s aversion to showing emotion and considering people who did so weak. I personally agree with this assessment, all though others would say that it actually takes a lot of strength to show emotion. Still maybe without his parents’ constant arguing, a display of emotion, it would have not been necessary in Snape’s mind to bottle up his own. As a child he might have felt like a reason for more fighting, a reaction common to children of dysfunctional families.
The whole being of Severus Snape is defined by his unfailing love towards Muggle-born witch and his dearest childhood friend Lily Evans. The two met a few years before they got their letters inviting them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. From the moment Snape laid eyes on Lily Evans his destiny was set since they met at the age of nine when the basic mental map of a human, especially self confidence, has developed.
There are still a few things that had the possibility of changing the course Snape was set on, however unlikely they might be at this time. They all involve Lily Evans. These possibilities include the two being sorted into the same house which would have possibly kept them closer than when they were separated into Gryffindor and Slytherin, two very opposing houses. The other options are ones mentioned by J.K. Rowling herself.
The First Wizarding War broke out around the same time Snape and Lily began school in Hogwarts. Snape hanged out with a gang of Slytherins who would eventually become Death Eaters, the followers of Lord Voldemort. These friends included Avery and Mulciber, some of the most notorious Death Eaters. Snape’s fascination with the Dark Arts and longing to be part of a larger group due to his almost completely friendless life put a great strain on his friendship with Lily. It is said by J.K Rowling that part of Severus Snape’s fascination of the Dark Arts was because he thought Lily would admire him more if he became a real Death Eater. If he would have realised that Lily’s disgust towards the Dark Arts was genuine, a point she vocalised several times to Severus, she might have fallen romantically in love with him. The future: Severus and Lily Snape, possibly with children. A very delicious thought, but very perfect and poetic leaving Snape’s character profoundly contrary to what we know.
This strain on the friendship of Lily and Severus lead to what we know being as his worst memory. This memory is set at Lily’s and Severus’ fifth year right after their Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. where the students go to the yard to relax. Snape is reviewing the questions of the test, James Potter and his three friends, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, are under a tree a small distance away from Snape and Lily is on the lakeside with her friends. Suddenly James Potter decides to pick on Snape who they have nicknamed Snivellus. James Potter turns Snape around in the air disarming him of his wand. Lily notices this and rushes to stop James Potter, but Snape who never wants to appear as weak or a coward, calls Lily a Mudblood. This was a major turning point in their relationship. Later the same evening Snape tries to beg Lily for forgiveness which she is refuses unless he stop conversing with Mulciber, Avery etc. This confrontation split the close friendship and maybe without it the gap could have been repaired or they would have drifted apart slower.
James Potter’s rivalling love towards Lily was a factor that lead to what we know from the seven Harry Potter books. Sirius Black once told Harry that Snape was always a special case to James. This shows that he had a certain awareness of Snape’s affections towards Lily. It could be argued that without this awareness the rivalry between James Potter and Severus Snape would have been more humane, more on the level of which the rivalry between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy was in which the two were able to put aside most of their differences in their adulthood.
Through the talent of hiding his emotions and being extremely gifted in the art of Occlumency Snape became the most powerful weapon and double spy to Hogwarts’ Headmaster Albus Dumbledore who used his love towards Lily against Voldemort. It was Voldemort’s own mistake and lack of understanding that turned one of his most trusted advisors against him. Voldemort’s decision was the last to set Snape on the sure track to his death the very final one being Dumbledore’s request for Snape to kill him instead of Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Part of the death of Lily Potter (née Evans) was arguably Snape’s fault. He was the one to deliver the first part of Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy to Voldemort who then decided who the prophecy was about of the two possibilities (Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter). Voldemort, as we know, decided that the prophecy was about Harry Potter. It is widely thought that this was because Voldemort recognised himself in Harry Potter who was a half-blood just as he was when on the other hand Neville Longbottom was a pureblood.
Snape delivering the message to Voldemort and Sirius Black insisting that the keeper of the Fidelius Charm protecting the Potter family would be Peter Pettigrew whose loyalties turned out to be to Voldemort were crucial turning points in the First Wizarding War. Without Pettigrew revealing the secret to Voldemort and Lily’s sacrifice to save her son Voldemort might never have been defeated.
There is a rumour that J.K. Rowling has said that when Lily died she was pregnant with her second child and that she had convinced her husband to make peace with Severus Snape even to the point that they were going to ask him to be the child’s godfather. There is no telling if this is true, but it brings out more interesting points for speculating about what could have changed and possibly not lead to Snape’s death on May 2nd 1998. What if Voldemort would have not been defeated? What if Voldemort would have been defeated and Severus would have escaped the trip to Azkaban like many other Death Eaters and he would have become a good friend of the Potter family? What if Lily would have realised that she loved Snape instead of James Potter?
There are a million possible paths that the story could have gone down. Paths that would have taken us farther and farther away from what we know.
I would like to argue that the Harry Potter books would have not been as successful without the antagonism between the Potters and Severus Snape. Many of the characters’ loyalties were very clear even though not all the aspects of their pasts were. This was especially true with the main trio: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Snape adds a depth to the story that allows the book to reach over age groups. In the end his character would have not had such an impact on the readers without his tragic death. Even William Shakespeare became successful with his tragically ending plays, such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet.
My analysis on why Severus Snape had to die might be biased, ignorant and incomplete, but if anyone’s death was ever inevitable in the after light of things it was the death of Professor Severus Snape.