raebird ([personal profile] raebird) wrote2005-07-19 06:42 pm
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The Half-Blood Prince

So, as I mentioned earlier, I think Snape was in love with Lily. Why? Simply because it elegantly and cleanly ties up a lot of loose ends.

Initially, I didn't think so. From the pensieve scene in OotP where Lily makes James stop taunting Snape, only to have Snape turn on Lily and call her a mudblood, I thought he was a pureblood Muggle-hater of the Malfoy variety.

But now we know he's a half-blood. And calling himself "The Half-Blood Prince" suggests that he might even consider that a point of pride. Or at the very least, it's not something he's actively trying to deny. He probably adopted the anti-Muggle language when it suited him in school because he was, in Sirius's words, "Lucius Malfoy's lapdog." And so he didn't insult Lily because he really hated her or the fact that she was Muggle-born; he just deeply resented being humiliated in front of the girl he liked and pitied by her for it.

Snape being in love with Lily provides an explanation for a lot of his actions that are otherwise confusing or contradictory. We can assume that Snape initially fell in with the Death Eaters because they were his friends (or idols) in school. But then he switched sides and came to work for Dumbledore. Why? Because of an upsurge of shiny, pure moral character? Maybe. Or maybe he felt guilty that what he'd done, revealing the prophecy to Voldemort, had turned out to put Lily's life in danger.

It better explains why Snape hates Harry so much. If Snape has been horrible to Harry just because of his grudge against James and for no other reason, well, that's really remarkably petty of him. (Admittedly, I thought this was the case up until this morning.) But if he loved Lily, then his behavior toward Harry is more understandable (though not excusable, IMO) as Snape acting out his pain at the loss of the woman he loved, at his guilt over causing her death, at the disgust of having to see her eyes in the body of his own childhood tormentor (who was also the person who ended up with the woman he loved).

Most importantly, I think, it is thematically pitch-perfect for the goodness in Snape (assuming you're not of the mindset that he's really deeply evil) to be rooted in love. Love is what makes Harry stronger than Voldemort. And I think it's primarily because Snape's goodness is based in love that he has been able to hide from Voldemort that he has been on Dumbledore's side all this time. As Dumbledore said, Voldemort always underestimates the value of love, the power of love-magic. So when Voldemort looks at Snape, he may see the bitterness and pain of unrequited and lost love, but Voldemort has never loved anybody. So he thinks that's all it is. But Voldemort underestimates love, and that fact is one of his greatest weaknesses. Because of that, Snape has been able to act as a double agent all this time because on a certain level Voldemort is truly blind to the goodness in him. Elegant, see?

Snape is still a grey character in my eyes. I think if things had gone only slightly differently in his life, he could have stayed fully on Voldemort's side. But something changed him, and I think it makes the most sense for that something to have been love. And he's still an asshole. Even though Snape loving Lily better explains his treatment of Harry, it doesn't excuse it. He's a grownup, so he should learn to snap out of his old resentments and treat Harry fairly. But the depth of that resentment seems more in proportion to the offense this way.

And I think that's about it. But [livejournal.com profile] sunbrae linked me to this post which posits another really interesting dimension to the idea of Snape/Lily. I'm not entirely convinced that it's going to play out that way, but it's certainly plausible and a fascinating idea.

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