Before we dive into what could have happened, let’s take a look at why Snape’s infatuation with Lily was so important to the story…
Severus Snape spent the majority of his life in love with Lily Potter. It is easy to understand why Snape, who had an unhappy homelife as a child, fell hard for the first person to show him love and kindness. His feelings for Lily seemed to be the motivation behind many of his decisions and it often seemed as though their friendship was the thing that he held most dear.
If it wasn’t for Snape’s love for Lily, it could be suggested that the story of Harry Potter would have looked completely different. Snape’s actions helped Harry to overthrow Voldemort. It was Snape that persuaded Voldemort to give Lily a chance to save herself. He also protected Harry during his time at school (however reluctantly). He risked his life constantly as a double agent. He was the one who was in on Dumbledore’s plan for Harry. He was the one to ensure Harry had the sword of Gryffindor when he needed it. Finally, Snape gave Harry his memories, so that he knew exactly what to do to end Voldemort’s reign of terror.
If Snape hadn’t loved Lily, then it is hard to see where his motivation to do good would have come from. Even though it must have been incredibly painful for him to love someone who didn’t love him back, that relationship was critical. Without it we wonder how things might have changed. Would Snape and Lily still have been friends? Would he have been a Death Eater? Would Voldemort’s Horcruxes have been destroyed? And possibly the most important question, would Harry have survived as an infant and would there ever have been The Boy Who Lived?
We think that Snape and Lily may have still been friends in the beginning – even if Snape had not fallen in love with her. Lily brought light and warmth into Snape’s life from the moment they met. He was an isolated, lonely child whose magic would have only made him more of an outsider in his hometown of Cokeworth. The happiness that he must have felt upon discovering that there was another kid that lived close by who was just like him, can’t be underestimated. We can imagine that Snape would still have been drawn to Lily in the beginning – even platonically.
Likewise, as Lily was such a warm and empathetic person, she would probably have recognised that Snape didn’t have much exposure to kindness and would have tried to be his friend before they headed to Hogwarts anyway. Also, as a Muggle-born, Lily probably felt different to the rest of her family, and Snape would still have been Lily’s first exposure to the magical world. You could say that he was the person who introduced her to who she really was. So, we are pretty confident that they would still have been friends initially.
However, without Snape falling for Lily, we doubt their friendship would have survived for as long as it did. Snape had been obsessed with the Dark Arts from a young age and the friends he made in Slytherin (such as Avery and Mulciber) were partial to them too. In fact, the majority (if not all) went on to become Death Eaters. We can believe that if Snape hadn’t developed any romantic feelings for Lily, a wedge would have been driven between them once they were sorted into their respective houses. Snape would have finally been around people that were more like him, and we think that he would have allowed himself to fall in with the wrong crowd more quickly. Keeping Lily on side wouldn’t have mattered as much to him – and she wouldn’t have been there as the conscience to keep him on track.
As we mentioned before, Snape kept some decidedly dodgy company at school and ended up part of Voldemort’s inner circle. That all happened even though he loved Lily who detested Dark magic and those who practiced it. If Snape’s desire for Lily hadn’t existed, there would have been even less reason for him to not support Voldemort – and we can actually imagine him being an even more fanatical and devoted follower.
We also think Snape’s fascination with the Dark Arts would have made Voldemort irresistible. By supporting Voldemort, he could fully immerse himself in that world. He was also not above the arrogance that afflicted many witches and wizards, despite being a half-blood rather than a pure-blood. He sneered at Petunia for being a Muggle, hesitated when Lily asked if it mattered that she was a Muggle-born and even called her a Mudblood. Snape was clearly sympathetic to Voldemort’s abhorrent ideology and enjoyed feeling superior. We reckon that without his feelings for Lily, Snape would not have been tempted to come into the light and probably would have gone down an even darker and more twisted road.
Snape did eventually turn away from Voldemort – but it wasn’t for any noble reason. As soon as he found out that Voldemort was planning to kill Harry and his parents, he met with Dumbledore and begged him to save Lily. He couldn’t have cared less if James and Harry had ended up dead but couldn’t stand the thought of Lily dying. While Dumbledore said he would protect the Potters, it was on the condition that Snape now worked for him as a double agent. Snape’s love for Lily ran so deep that he agreed. When she was still murdered, he reluctantly decided that her death would not be in vain, and that he would protect her son.
If Snape had regarded Lily as merely a friend, acquaintance, or just someone he had once known, we don’t think he would have accepted Dumbledore’s conditions or worked as a spy. Snape was put in an incredibly dangerous position the moment he turned away from Voldemort. We can’t believe that he would have been willing to do that for just anyone and we highly doubt he would have done it to do the right thing. After all, when he found out that Harry needed to die at the hand of Voldemort, he was furious – but not because he had grown to care for Harry or even the cause. Snape had worked tirelessly to protect Lily’s son for her and felt it had all been in vain. His love for Lily trumped everything – after all those years and always.
However, that is not to say that Dumbledore wouldn’t have found another way to recruit Snape – he could be very persuasive. Once Snape was working for Dumbledore, you could see that he did have some influence on him. When Dumbledore was injured by Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, Snape’s anger at him seemed to come from a place of concern and care. He also seemed to respect Dumbledore – even if he didn’t always see eye to eye with him. We also found out that as an adult he didn’t tolerate the use of the word Mudblood, though that was probably more to do with the painful memory of calling Lily one.
Either way, Snape did demonstrate growth, which suggests that while Voldemort’s philosophy was incredibly enticing, there was something in Snape that was good. And an incredible and intelligent wizard like Dumbledore may have been able to use that small sliver of light and turn him. Though we don’t doubt it would have been an almost impossible task.
Snape wasn’t a natural teacher. He despised so many of his students and seemed to take great pleasure in torturing them (unless they were Slytherins). If he hadn’t ended up being Dumbledore’s spy, we reckon there is a good chance that this surly Potions Master would never have lurked in the Hogwarts dungeons as a teacher.
Instead, we can imagine Snape would have lost himself in studying and practicing Dark magic. He could have spent all his time working for Voldemort as a Death Eater and it is possible that he would never have considered returning to the school where he was bullied.
However, if we consider the idea that Harry never had survived as an infant, and Voldemort had been able to rise to power, he might have found his way back to Hogwarts. Voldemort had always seen Hogwarts as valuable. For example, in Cursed Child, in an alternate reality where Voldemort succeeded, Hogwarts was one place that he clearly had control over – there was even a Voldemort Day. And even in the Deathly Hallows, we see that Voldemort had installed the Carrows to try and keep a grip on the school as his power grew.
So, we think it would be highly like that Voldemort would have installed his best and brightest followers at the castle to indoctrinate the students. As Snape was intelligent, we could easily see him being someone Voldemort thought suited for a role there. And if he was allowed to teach the Dark Arts, we can actually see him being pretty happy.
When Snape heard the prophecy and pleaded with Voldemort to spare Lily’s life, he may have inadvertently caused his downfall. While we know Voldemort killed Lily, he did give her a choice. If she stepped aside and allowed him to murder Harry, he would spare her. Lily refused and sacrificed herself to save her son. That action (and Lily’s love) was what gave Harry protection from Voldemort’s Killing Curse. Arguably, if Voldemort hadn’t given her a choice, then Harry wouldn’t have been protected, probably would have died and the curse wouldn’t have rebounded. Consequently, if it wasn’t for Snape’s intervention the story could have looked very different.
So, we think it is safe to assume that without Snape loving Lily, there would have been a strong possibility that Harry would have died as a baby. We doubt he would have fought so hard to try and save her life. We also think that Voldemort would not have given her a choice and would have killed her on sight. Without the opportunity to put herself between Harry and Voldemort, Lily’s love may not have protected Harry and he would have been left vulnerable.
Even though Snape’s goal was to protect Lily, he ultimately saved Harry and set off the chain of events that would eventually lead to Voldemort’s end. It is possible that his unrequited love ended up saving the wizarding world from Voldemort’s tyranny.
When Harry discovers the sword of Gryffindor in a frozen pool in the Forest of Dean – his Horcrux hunting prayers had been answered. Having been impregnated with Basilisk venom, the sword was the perfect tool for destroying the pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Though, if it wasn’t for Snape, the sword may have remained out of Harry’s reach. It was Snape who placed the sword there for Harry to discover – and ensured that it was under the conditions of need and valour. He followed Dumbledore’s plan, even though he didn’t know why Harry needed the sword, because he still felt as though he had a duty to protect him.
Now if he had never loved Lily, he would probably have never felt compelled to look out for Harry. He would probably not have been the person to give Harry the tool he needed to destroy Voldemort – especially if was still a Death Eater. Now that is not to say that Harry wouldn’t have ended up with the sword at all. It is supposed to appear to those true Gryffindors that are worthy of it – and we know that Harry had met that criterion before, when he pulled it out of the Sorting Hat in his second year. So, with that in mind, we think that Harry’s Horcrux hunt may have been delayed but he would still have been able to eventually gather what he needed to ensure Voldemort’s death.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with what we think about Snape and if he never had feelings for Lily?
If this has made you wonder about more ‘what if’ scenarios – then take a look at some of our previous musings: