Against the Grain

Slightly more than just jibba jabba

Lily Potter’s Eyes and Severus Snape

Posted by Patrick on 30 Dec 2006

There is much-to-do about the apparent connection between our resident magical double agent, Severus Snape, and the mother of our superhero, Harry Potter, namely Lily. Nearly every character we meet throughout the first six episodes of Harry Potter makes a point of telling Harry that he has his mother’s eyes, but why? We’re told by JK Rowling that we will learn the importance of this in Deathly Hallows. But let’s speculate, for the sake of making some justifiable speculations about what we think might possibly be written. When we’re proven wrong later, let’s laugh about it.

First, let’s connect a few of the more subtle dots from the story so far which emphasize that there is a subplot connection between Severus Snape and Lily Evans. There are two subtle contextual things which firm up in my mind that Lily and Severus even dated for awhile:

  1. The first of these is at the beginning of OotP when Aunt Petunia blurts out that dementors are what “guard the wizard prison, Azkaban”. When Vernon asks how she knows that, she says she heard “that awful boy — telling her about them — years ago”. Even Harry pipes in and is furious that Petunia did not name what he believes to be his parents by name.

    But Petunia never says who the “awful boy” is. We assume it was James, but let’s speculate that James was rather proud and cared little of dementor talk, and that it is actually Severus who she is referring to. Petunia would have probably likened to a bloke like James in her youth, which is another distinction between her and Lily, who couldn’t stand James’ attitude in the few historical scenes we see them together in. If Lily and Severus were together in the presence of Petunia during the Hogwarts days, this can only mean that Severus was at the Evans household during either summer or winter holidays. Why would he be visiting Lily if they hated each other?

  2. What firms it up for me is in HBP when Harry and Dumbledore go to meet Horace Slughorn in chapter 4 (aptly named). The first time the word Lily appears in HBP is when Slughorn begins talking to Harry about her as one of his “favorites”. He calls her “one of the brightest I ever taught”. Then later (around p.240) during potions class, when Harry wins the Felix Felicis potion, Slughorn squeals out “Good lord, it’s clear you’ve inherited your mother’s talent! She was a dab hand a potions, Lily was!”

    At this time, we’re led to believe that Slughorn doesn’t know Harry’s book is actually Snape’s old potions book (neither does Harry). What’s subtly suggested here is that Lily wasn’t good at potions, either, but that she learned everything she knew from Severus, whom we find out in HBP is indeed the owner of “the half-blood Prince’s” book and author of several tips and spells contained therein.

Why would Severus be teaching Lily potions tips? Ahh yes, as we are led to believe for much of this series, Snape loved Lily. We have to step into supposition to say that Lily and Severus marked up the book together as Slughorn suggested, even after Hermione’s comment that the handwriting looked “girlish”, because we still have to assume that this book is used for the first time in the sixth year. If it holds true that Lily and Severus had a falling out during their fifth year (see below), that doesn’t really make a lot of sense unless someone as seemingly dark as Snape has whimsical handwriting.

We aren’t told exactly when, as in which year of school, that Petunia became privvy to the bit about the dementors, but let’s assume that it is some time before he called her a mudblood after she defended him during their fifth year (this is Snape’s Worst Memory, end of ch.28 in OotP). It would make sense that he’d try to insult her after things went south with them, but not before they ever got together.

So, what is it about Lily’s eyes, anyway? They are described by the narrator as “startlingly green, almond-shaped eyes” which, we all know by now are the same as Harry’s eyes. (Incidentally, we learn in CoS that Ginny has “bright, brown eyes”). We learn over the course of the series that eye contact is critical for a few things:

  1. casting spells
  2. occlumency

but do either of those buy us anything when we’re referring to a dead woman? I’ll venture it as unlikely. What I do believe is significant is what you can do with your eyes. Namely: look at stuff, like the 2-way mirror and like the mirror of erised (it is widely suggested that the claw-footed mirror of erised is the “unknown” horcrux, since so many people seem to know what 5 of the 6 are). What I suspect is that Harry will find a way to communicate with his mother’s spirit (remember that she also 3x defied Voldemort) and that this will play a key role in the final story. We know little of Harry’s family outside of James and Lily aside from what we briefly read as Harry stares at the mirror of erised for the first time; perhaps that will also come into play.

update: 30DecemberI’ve got a second theory that I guess I didn’t know how to relate to the others before. We learn very early on in the story line that Lily was evidently skilled with charms. It’s first mentioned, I believe, when Harry meets Ollivander for the first time and he says “Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work.” We find out at the end of book 1 that Lily’s skill with charms in her own sacrifice was met with the second demise of Voldemort in the form of a love-based protection (a charm, so to speak). We have to come to grips with how powerful this love-based protective charm is — to the point such that Dumbledore has to spell out the entire bit for Harry near the end of the first book. I wonder why nobody else ever tried to use this to reflect the killing curse? We can be sure nobody ever had succeeded in doing it since we hear that Harry is the only one to have ever survived.

Without digressing too much, perhaps Lily has another charm or 2 out there which we will discover. Perhaps she placed a charm on Snape (like the Fidelus charm) which bade him to protect Harry after he was born. Or, perhaps we get to meet her ghost in book 7 and something can ensue there. I’m sure Harry would ask about Severus if he met her as a ghost. (we have to assume that Lily feared death if this is going to play out, but it’s not likely since she sacrificed herself).

My other theory, and call this a wild theory if you wish, is that the whole bit about “power the Dark Lord knows not” is named as love by Dumbledore in HBP. If we follow on with Snape and Lily, maybe we find out that Harry is protected by Snape’s love for his mother through Harry, because he sees Harry and remembers his feelings for Lily (despite his poor ways of showing them).

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4 Responses to “Lily Potter’s Eyes and Severus Snape”

  1. wandless said

    Hey, thanks for commenting on my blog! About the whole Snape loves Lily thing – I can definitely see how that’s a plausible idea. It would make a lot of sense and explain a lot of things. However, the idea of Snape liking her kind of sickens me. I really, really hope that he didn’t love her. I’ll have my fingers crossed! I definitely don’t think that Lily liked Snape though.

    I like your ideas about the significance of Lily’s eyes, except the bit that involved Snape. Like I said, that’s just weird.

  2. Patrick said

    true that it is a seemingly far-fetched idea that Snape could be protecting Harry, even if inadvertently, by his love for Lily. But I really do think that it’ll come out in book 7 that Lily and Snape could have happened.

    We see a very brief glimpse of Snape as a teenager when Harry’s shield charm shows him Snape’s mind during Occlumency lessons, where he’s described as “a greasy-haired teenager…alone in a dark room…pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies”.

    Except for perhaps the greasy-hair part, does this remind us of someone else during their summer months?

  3. Patrick said

    I made a particular note to say that Ginny has brown eyes in helping to play down a rather unpopular theory about Ginny being Lily’s daughter. While it’s a swell idea, I also believe it’s not very well-founded.

  4. […] Lily Evans Potter, continued. Filed under: harry potter — Patrick @ 0:23 My initial post on Lily, presented more as a connection with Snape. […]

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