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Harry Potter – 10 facts you probably don’t know about Severus Snape

He's not a hero. He's not a villain. But he's certainly a Harry Potter icon. Let's delve into the murky, complicated world of Severus Snape.

Harry Potter - Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

While some Harry Potter characters are morally pure to an almost infuriating extent and some are simply loathsome, Severus Snape sits almost entirely alone in a gray, tangled middle ground.

Certainly, Snape goes on a real journey in Harry Potter, helped by Alan Rickman being one of the finest actors in the Harry Potter cast. He’s a thorn in the side of our hero, even if we’re not quite sure whether he’s truly on Voldemort‘s side until the dust settles. He definitely deserves to be considered one of the best Harry Potter characters, but how well do you know him really? Let’s delve into the world of Snivellus.

10. Alan Rickman knew Snape’s ultimate secret… always

Before Alan Rickman passed away in 2016, he often spoke of a secret the Harry Potter author told him about Snape in order to help inform his performance in each of the new movies.

After Rickman’s death, the author revealed that she told him about the meaning behind the word “Always“. It’s very much the key to truly understanding Snape’s allegiances in the series, which all stem from his love and affection for Lily Potter. No wonder Rickman was able to bring so much concealed emotion to his work on screen.

Harry Potter - Alan Rickman knew Severus Snape's biggest secret

9. He was based on a real teacher

In the first few Harry Potter books and movies, Snape is the epitome of the sort of nasty teacher we’ve all had to experience at least once. He’s sarcastic, unforgiving, and plays favorites with particular pupils.

It turns out this came from one of the author’s least favorite teachers, John Nettleship, who taught her chemistry. He was initially horrified by the connection, but ultimately wrote and gave talks about Potter later in his life.

That chemistry connection is why Snape, despite his love for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post, was ultimately written as the potions master.

Harry Potter - Alan Rickman in the classroom as Severus Snape

8. His name has an appropriate duality

From an etymology perspective, the name Severus Snape is pretty damning. “Severus” is the Latin word for stern, obviously giving us the word “severe” in English, while Snape comes from the Old Norse verb for “to disgrace”.

Much as with Snape, though, there’s a lighter side to it all. The author has stated she named Snape after the pretty rural village in Suffolk, which has a population of just over 600 people. That’s a much nicer origin than “Stern Disgrace”, right?

7. He’s the reason Aunt Petunia knew about Dementors

When Harry Potter claims he and Dudley were attacked by Dementors in Order of the Phoenix, Aunt Petunia knows all about them. She explains that she heard “that awful boy” telling her sister, Lily, about them when they were children.

At the time, we all assumed the boy in question was James Potter, but actually this scene was about Snape, who spoke extensively to Lily about magic before they attended Hogwarts together.

Harry Potter - Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths as the Dursleys

6. Rita Skeeter wrote a book about him

Rita Skeeter clearly fancied herself as something of a magical historian, what with her sensationalist book about Dumbledore and another about his predecessor as Hogwarts head, Armando Dippet. She’s no Bathilda Bagshot, though.

In the wake of the Battle of Hogwarts, Skeeter wrote about Harry, of course, but she also wrote about Snape. Harry worked hard to improve Snape’s reputation and spread the word of his heroism, but Skeeter was less forgiving when she penned ‘Snape: Scoundrel or Saint’.

5. He’s officially not a vampire, sorry

We love a good Harry Potter fan theory, and one of the most popular suggests that Snape might have been a vampire. This is based on his dark clothes, dungeon classroom, and how frequently he is compared to a bat in the books.

The Potter author considered including a vampire teacher named Trocar in her early planning for the series. But she confirmed to Pottermore users in 2014 that there’s no link between Snape and this character.

She said: “While it is true that he has an unhealthy pallor and is sometimes described as looking like a large bat in his long black cloak, he never actually turns into a bat, we meet him outside the castle by daylight, and no corpses with puncture marks in their necks ever turn up at Hogwarts.”

Severus Snape defends our heroes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

4. He invented one of the most useful spells

During Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learn that Snape spent a lot of his time at school inventing spells, as well as buddying up with Death Eaters. Some of his innovations were vicious, like the violent Sectumsempra curse, but some of the best Harry Potter spells came from Snape’s teenage innovation.

One of these is Muffliato, which fills nearby people’s ears with buzzing to stop conversations being overheard. Hermione initially disapproved of the spell, but ultimately came to use it as part of the protective charms she’d cast on each of their camping locations during Deathly Hallows.

3. His Simpsons counterpart had a very famous voice

You know you’ve made it in pop culture when you show up on The Simpsons. Snape made a brief appearance as part of the 2013 episode ‘Love Is A Many-Splintered Thing’, showing up when Homer and Bart watch a British movie called ‘Love, Indubitably’.

In this sequence, Snape is voiced by none other than MCU star Benedict Cumberbatch, who also provides the voice for a very Hugh Grant-esque prime minister in the same scene. All the best movies get a Simpsons parody, and Potter is no exception.

Benedict Cumberbatch voiced Severus Snape in The Simpsons

2. There’s a real-life animal named after him

We know that the influence of Harry Potter extends out into the real world, and it turns out that applies to newly discovered crabs as well.

Collector Harry Conley first found a new crab in 1998 and, when it was formally described in 2017, he gave it the name Harryplax Severus, honoring both Harry (himself and the fictional one) and Snape.

1. One of his first lines of dialogue is a massive spoiler

Snape first meets Harry in his potions classroom, embarrassing our hero by asking him magical questions he cannot yet answer. Actually, though, the first of these questions (“What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”) offers a big hint as to Snape’s affection for Harry’s mom.

The real answer, of course, is that this mixture creates the powerful sleeping potion known as the Draught of Living Death. But in a Pottermore essay on the language of flowers, we can learn the secret meaning behind these words.

Asphodel means “remembered beyond the tomb” and is a type of lily, while wormwood is associated with regret. So, beneath the dripping menace and snark, Snape was telling Harry how much he regretted Lily’s death.

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If that’s not enough wizardry for you, find out how to watch the Harry Potter movies in order. We’ve also revealed why we can’t forgive Harry Potter for its biggest book change and delved into the Harry Potter monsters too terrifying for the movies.

Elsewhere, learn about the future of the Wizarding World with our guide to the Harry Potter TV series release date, the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date, and the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date. And for more fantasy, here’s what we know about House of the Dragon season 2.

The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.