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Always: The Immortal Love of Severus Snape} ?> “Always.”
It’s a word that we overuse. (“I always say ‘thank you.'” “You always eat all of the cheese sticks.”) Most people, in reality, don’t do things so consistently.
But when Professor Severus Snape said “always,” not only did he use it correctly, truthfully, and lovingly, he used it in the most perfect way possible. It was a most profound statement that I believe resonated with readers everywhere. For Harry Potter fans, this word has become something of a mantra—particularly when the man who so amazingly portrayed Snape in the movie series, Alan Rickman, passed away. For me, finding out that the actor had passed was like experiencing Snape’s death all over again. He was a great actor and his roles meant a lot to many people, but he will especially be Severus Snape to me for all time.
The “always” that Snape says is a testimony to his unending love for Harry Potter’s mother, Lily—but the word only has meaning because of how he chose to live after her death. Snape loved Lily from the moment he met her, loved her through the years that she dated the man that bullied and tortured him, loved her through her marrying that man, and loved her through her death and beyond. She had not chosen him and, in her death, the certainty of her never being able to choose him became a reality.
“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy after all?”
“For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto patronum!”
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Snape’s love for Lily was immortal. It went beyond the bounds of space and time—and more importantly, beyond the bounds of his own personality. His love for her transformed him and inspired him to care for Lily’s son. He sacrificed himself in a way that very few people would ever be willing to; he gave up his reputation, his pride, and his own life to keep Harry safe. A lot was at stake for Snape, and he was willing to give all of it up out of love for her.
Why did he do it? Why did he give up everything over a love that would never be returned?
Dumbledore answers this question in the very first book of the series when explaining why Voldemort couldn’t touch Harry: “If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign . . . to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”
Love is powerful.
We might not have any evil wizards in our lives to test it against, but to truly understand it, you have to experience it. The character of Severus Snape shines a light on the immortal nature of love. Love is necessarily self-giving and self-emptying. It’s considering someone else’s needs as more important than your own. Most importantly, true love never ends. True love means you don’t stop caring about somebody because they make bad choices, or because they don’t care about you in return, or because they die.
Severus chose the difficult route of staying true to his love for Lily, even after she turned away from him, even after she died. His love never faded or faltered.
If I believe in an all-powerful, all-loving God, this is what I imagine His love looks like. I believe that God loves people—to the point of appearing weak and foolish, to the point of dying for them. It reminds me of how God, in the person of Jesus, gave everything up for people who would consistently seek out other lovers in place of Him. God’s love is so complete that He made humanity immortal so that we could be with Him forever.
The “always” that Snape speaks reminds me of the “always” that Jesus spoke to His apostles as He was getting ready to ascend into heaven, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20). I believe that, akin to the way Severus loved Lily, God loves me and plans for me to be with Him in heaven… always.