He was the professor you loved to hate. Even amongst villains like Bellatrix Lestrange, Dolores Umbridge, and Lord Voldemort himself, Hogwarts’ potions master was, for many years, the most reviled of all the Harry Potter villains. Then, with the final book, JK Rowling turned all that on its head and made Snape one of the noblest and most tragic heroes of the whole series. Whether you love him or hate him, Snape is undeniably one of the Wizarding World’s most compelling characters. Why not learn a little more about him?
1. A Major Player
Severus Snape is mentioned exactly 1,849 times throughout the run of the series. That’s a lot of mentions!
2. A True Dark Arts Master
So much of the series focuses on Snape’s ties to Voldemort and his disdain for Harry Potter, but this guy also has some serious magical skills. Snape invented (to just name a few) a nonverbal spell, Levicorpus, that can lift people up by their ankles, a counter curse spell to Levicorpus, and a violent spell that can slash through opponents called Sectumsempra. Uh, those definitely sound like dark arts to me.
Because of Snape’s double agent status, he’s described in a lot of unsavory ways by a lot of people: for example, “Snivellus” by Sirius Black, “Overgrown bat” by Professor Quirrell, and “Slimeball” by Peter Pettigrew (who’s one to talk).
4. Kind Words
Even with all this name calling, Harry also later describes Snape as “The bravest man I ever knew.”
5. Getting Into Character
The late, great Alan Rickman had a strong hand in how Snape was portrayed on the big screen. Rickman determined the tightness of the sleeves, the number of buttons, and other critical features of Snape’s costume.
6. Something Is Missing
Despite Rickman’s involvement in Snape’s character design in the movies, there is one thing missing from the book: a goatee. In the series, Snape is always illustrated with some kind of beard, which is mysteriously absent from the films.
Snape is the only Death Eater who can conjure a Patronus. His is (of course) a doe, just like his love Lily Potter.
8. Fan Theory
There is a fan theory circulating that Snape is actually transgender. The proponents of this theory, mostly on the website Tumblr, have created a whole world of fan fiction, fan art, and literary analysis surrounding the potions master
9. Soft and Greasy
The two words used most often to describe Snape throughout the books are “Cold” and “Dark.” Runners up include “Soft” and Greasy.” Not exactly the adjectives I’d want, but hey, if the shoe fits.
10. A Jinxed Position
Snape, as we know from The Half-Blood Prince, was half-Muggle. His mother, Eileen Prince, was a witch, but his father, Tobias Snape, was a regular, non-magical person. He resented his abusive father and his Muggle heritage, and so he created the identity of the Half-Blood Prince (after his mother’s maiden name).
11. Cut Short
Severus Snape was born on January 9, 1960, making him a Capricorn. He died on May 2, 1998; he was only 38 years old.
12. Snape Should Find Better Cologne
Rowling enjoys interacting with fans on Twitter and answering their questions about her series (though the practice has received mixed reception in recent years). However, not all of her tweets fundamentally change the Harry Potter universe. When one user asked her what Snape smelled like, she replied with, “bitterness and old shoes.” Wow, what type of cologne was he wearing?
13. Little of Column A, Little of Column B
Some of the worst things Snape has done? He tried to have Harry and Ron expelled after the flying car incident in The Chamber of Secrets, and he also, well, killed Dumbledore. But he did do good things: that killing thing was on the Headmaster’s orders, and he did once save Draco Malfoy’s life in The Half-Blood Prince.
14. Serving the School
Becoming Headmaster at Hogwarts takes a lot of time and experience. That’s why it’s impressive that Snape held the title at such a young age, though his time there was admittedly not under the ideal circumstances. His tenure was incredibly short, but his portrait still graces the grand office of historical Headmasters.
15. Reading Way Between the Lines
When Snape approaches Harry Potter for the first time, the first thing he asks him is “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” A fan translated the etymology and symbolism of the words, particularly using the language of flowers. Asphodel is a type of lily meaning “my regrets follow you to the grave” in Victorian flower language, while wormwood symbolizes bitterness and sorrow. The fan interpreted it as, “On Lily’s grave, I promise to protect you.” Deep, man.
16. Snape’s POV
Pottermore is the gift that keeps on giving. On it, there is a feature article that includes a summary of the Harry Potter books from Snape’s perspective, offering a differing view of the story about The Boy Who Lived.
Harry Potter’s son, Albus Severus Potter, isn’t the only who named after Snape: In 2017, researchers discovered a new species of crab and called it Harryplax severus. Well, he is a pretty crabby guy.
18. Vampire Roots?
Many fans have felt that Snape is a vampire because of his demeanor, attire, and pale skin. Rowling has refuted this rumor, but that still hasn’t stopped fans from asserting this as a potential truth—and writing lots of fanfiction about it, no doubt. That’s the nice thing about Harry Potter—if there’s a theory about it, there’s definitely some fanfiction to go along with it.
19. Least Favorite Subject
Rowling wasn’t a huge fan of chemistry while in school. She hated it so much, in fact, that when she decided what subject Snape should teach, she settled on potions because of its resemblance to its scientific equivalent, and its conjuring of all the bad memories she had while learning the subject. While writing Snape, however, she found she actually did have some interest in the topic. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad teacher after all!
20. Death by Toenail
One of Snape’s weirder spell inventions? He created a spell (a hex really) that caused toenails to grow long incredibly quickly. Now, what would you need that for?
21. Perfect Nomenclature
According to the English etymology dictionary, Snape means “to be hard upon, rebuke, revile, snub.” All of these words describe things not only things Snape participated in, but also, sadly, things he experienced as well.
22. The Home of A Hero
Pottermore is the home base of Potter fans everywhere, and it continues to reveal fantastic tidbits about characters even now that the series has ended. One riddle contest revealed details of Snape and Lily Potter’s hometown: Cokeworth. That’s the kind of question that will decide Harry Potter Trivia Nights everywhere, so write it down!
23. The Wrong Side of the Tracks
The Snape family lived in a neighborhood called Spinner’s End, one of the poorer areas of Cokeworth. The Evans family, including daughters Lily and Petunia, lived in a more affluent area nearby, and Snape first met them when he was nine years old, almost instantly falling in love with the magical Lily.
24. Change of Scenery, Change of Clothes
Lily Evans was the only bright spot in Snape’s young life. His parents fought constantly, and many fans believe that he was likely abused as a child. His family struggled financially, and Snape was forced to wear poorly fitting, mismatched clothes. As such, he could not wait to leave this behind for Hogwarts every year. He would immediately change into his robes upon boarding the Hogwarts Express, glad leave his shabby Muggle clothes behind.
25. Young Master
It should come as no surprise to anyone, but the Half-Blood Prince was a remarkably talented wizard, especially when it came to potions. In fact, young Snape was appointed Hogwarts’ potions master by September of 1981, when he was just 21 years old.
26. Dark Prodigy
Despite growing up in the Muggle world, Snape was already a talented young wizard by the time he arrived at Hogwarts. Sirius Black once remarked that young Severus knew how to perform more curses upon his entry to the school than most students knew after seven years of training.
27. Gobsmacked by Gobstones
Little is known about Snape’s mother, Eileen Prince. She was said to be skinny and unattractive, usually appearing both angry and sullen. She did, however, seem to have a particular passion for a game called Gobstones (like a magical version of marbles). In her time at Hogwarts, she was both the captain of the Gobstones team and president of the Gobstones club.
28. Pain Begets Pain
Snape’s tragic story is painfully similar to that of many real-life bullies. When he arrived at Hogwarts, he was almost instantly singled out for torment by James Potter and Sirius Black. His victimization led him to fall in with similarly cruel Slytherin students, and he became a terrible bully himself—eventually ending up as a Death Eater.
29. The Worst of the Best
Snape was an impressive enough student to end up in Professor Slughorn’s Slug Club, but as far as the group went, Slughorn considered Snape on the bottom end of the scale. He kept Snape’s photo with the other Slug Club members, but he made sure to hide it behind more impressive students.
30. Hidden Letters
Two years after Alan Rickman’s death from pancreatic cancer, a collection of his personal letters was put up for auction. Together, the papers were valued at £950,000, and among correspondences with Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Prince Charles, there were also several never-before-seen letters that shed new light on the actor’s experience playing Snape.
One letter that stood out was from David Heyman, who produced the Harry Potter films. He wrote, “Thank you for making HP2 a success. I know, at times, you are frustrated but please know that you are an integral part of the films. And you are brilliant.” This instantly led to speculation as to what made Rickman so frustrated during filming.
32. Mass Appeal
Fortunately, delving deeper into the cache of letters reveals the source of some of Rickman’s frustrations. In a note written during the filming of The Half-Blood Prince, Rickman said, “It’s as if David Yates has decided that this is not important in the scheme of things i.e. teen audience appeal,” referring to the darker aspects of Snape’s past (such as the abuse he received at the hands of his father).
33. Method to his Madness
Apparently, Alan Rickman was extremely committed to the part when he was on set. Upon first meeting Rickman, David Yates thought he was “really prickly and quite unpleasant.” It was only after seeing how warm and charming the actor could be off set that Yates realized Rickman had simply been “in the zone” as Snape while on set.
When Rickman first took the role of Snape, the ending of the book series had not yet been revealed. So, to make sure that he could best portray the complicated character, JK Rowling revealed a key piece of information about the character to him. Rickman died never revealing what that piece of information was, but Rowling eventually let fans in on the secret. She told him what lies behind the word “Always.” That Snape would always love Lily Potter. That he would always protect Harry. That nothing in the world, no amount of torment or danger, could change that. So while audiences were left guessing as to Snape’s allegiances until the final film, the actor himself knew all along.
35. Trust Me, I Know
The fact that Rickman knew more about his character than anyone else made for an interesting dynamic between the actor and his directors. There would be times where a director would tell Rickman to do something, and he would respond by saying, “No, I can’t do that—I know what is going to happen and you don’t.”