Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Harry Potter Fan Theory That Makes Snape's Backstory More Tragic

In all of Harry Potter lore, there is no character more retroactively beloved than Severus Snape (besides maybe Neville Longbottom). Maybe Malfoy, as well, once he pulled it together there at the end. Hedwig was pretty unlovable for a while, but she did a real 180 at the end there. In retrospect, a lot of characters had a false start.

But Snape got the short end of the stick for the better part of the series. Sure, there were fan theories. Wild suppositions about his perceived decency got thrown around the message boards until the big ta-da moment in Deathly Hallows when Harry realizes that his old potions professor's heart had grown three sizes some time back, and that the whole jerk routine was actually a long-running, elaborate hoax. Sure, Snape had some very real beef with Harry's dad — and some of that residual loathing transferred onto Harry — but for the most part Snape's bad attitude was all part of an effort that successfully played Voldemort and company for a bunch of chumps since early on in the Thatcher administration.

It couldn't have been easy, either. Severus spent the second half of his life as a Death Eater, which meant regular bro-downs with the wizarding world's most gifted criminals. When your social circle consists of sociopaths with magical powers, pulling a long con is probably a stressful proposition. What if one of them starts to suspect that underneath your oily exterior lies a soul made of marshmallow fluff?

According to a Harry Potter fan theory posted to Reddit's /r/harrypotter forum, the odds of Voldemort ever figuring out Snape's true intentions were actually nil from day one, and the reason is characteristically heartbreaking for a series where (spoiler alert) the house elf dies at the end.

Snape is the wizarding world's ultimate sad sack

It all stems from a paragraph in Deathly Hallows, explaining why Voldemort couldn't get into Harry's head following the death of his favorite former indentured servant. "Just as Voldemort had not been able to possess Harry while Harry was consumed with grief for Sirius, so his thoughts could not penetrate Harry now while he mourned Dobby," the book says. "Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out... though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love."

The Reddit poster then points out that both things can be true, since "grief is all the love you want to give but cannot." That brings up an interesting idea. Maybe Snape was safe from Voldemort's brain-jiggery, not because he had the wizarding world's most stoney poker face, but because he was constantly in a state of grief. Snape had been mourning the death of Lily for close to two decades, and the feeling never left him as evidenced by his patronus. Boom, chalk up one more reason that Snape is the Harry Potter universe's most admirable sad boy.

It's a fascinating theory. Does it hold up? Maybe. It's up to J.K. Rowling to decide whether or not it's canon, so we'll have to wait to find out until she's done explaining the important things on Pottermore, like how wizards go to the bathroom.