Why Did Snape Become A Death Eater?

Quick Links

  • Snape Grew Up In A Broken Home
  • Reasons Snape Became A Death Eater

Severus Snape is a complex character, with as many flaws as virtues. He fulfills varied roles and responsibilities from the very beginning to the end of Harry Potter. Snape is introduced as the Potions Master, takes on the mantle of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in Harry’s sixth year, gives him private Occlumency lessons, and is appointed Headmaster after Voldemort is in control.

One of the most shocking plot twists in the entirety of Harry Potter directly concerns Snape. The Deathly Hallows’ chapter 33 “The Prince’s Tale,” brings Snape’s truth to the fore. The driving force behind him switching sides, working as a double agent, and the courage to protect the child (Harry) that the love of his life (Lily) had with his foe (James Potter) are all revealed. A deeply flawed individual, here is why Snape allied himself with the Death Eaters in the first place.


Harry Potter: Did Snape Use Sectumsempra On James Potter?

Snape invented the Sectumsempra hex in Harry Potter but did he use it on his foe, James Potter at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

Snape Grew Up In A Broken Home

A Maltreated Child

Younger iterations of Lily Evans and Severus Snape in Harry Potter. 

Once Harry collects Snape’s last thoughts in a flask, he bursts into Dumbledore’s office and pours them into the basin of the stone Pensieve. With no affection whatsoever for the man who was killed by Voldemort’s pet snake before his eyes, he thinks escaping into these thoughts should be “a blessed relief.” Little does Harry know that the thoughts he is about to dive into are a slow drip of revelations that will forever change his opinion of Snape.

In the very first scene, Harry finds himself in a deserted playground and sees a younger iteration of his mother, Lily Evans, and a skinny boy from the wrong side of the tracks. This boy, Snape observes Lily and her older sister, Petunia, from behind the bushes. Harry takes notice of Snape’s raggedy appearance, as he doesn’t look well-fed or cared for. Harry Potter lore states that Snape was born to an unpleasant Muggle father named Tobias Snape and a witch mother named Eileen Prince. He was from Spinner’s End and would go on to befriend Lily and tell her she was a magical person:

You are a witch. I’ve been watching you for a while. But there’s nothing wrong with that. My mum’s one, and I am a wizard.

In another scene, Lily asks Snape if his parents are arguing. He replies:

Oh yes, they’re arguing. But it won’t be that long and I’ll be gone.

In the same The Deathly Hallows chapter, Snape also admits his father “doesn’t like anything much.” So, in a nutshell, a young Snape cannot wait to move out of his parents’ house and join Hogwarts, alongside his best friend, Lily.

Dabbled In The Dark Arts

Bullied at Hogwarts by James and company

Harry witnesses Snape's Worst Memory in Harry Potter.

At Hogwarts, Snape is sorted into Slytherin, and much to his dismay, Lily into Gryffindor. She also happens to be friends with the four Gryffindors – the Marauders, who are a constant source of misery to Snape. Barring Remus Lupin, Harry’s father, and his godfather, Sirius Black, intentionally torment Snape from day one. Snape, on the other hand, is friends with Avery and Mulciber as they find common ground in Dark Magic. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’s “Snape’s Worst Memory,” reveals the fourth friend, Peter Pettigrew follows Potter and Black around and cheers them on during a pivotal episode. James hoists Snape into the air and exposes his underpants to the schoolchildren. Lily comes to Snape’s aid, but he calls her “Mudblood” in a fit of anger, which causes an irreparable crack in their friendship. Lily’s deepest fear is confirmed when Snape neither accepts nor denies that he is set to join the Death Eaters that rally around Lord Voldemort.

Reasons Snape Became A Death Eater

He is the ultimate anti-hero

Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Snape’s story has the trappings of an anti-hero, and his redemption comes at a great cost. His and Lily’s relationship takes a nosedive after their fifth-year O.W.L. in Defense Against the Dark Arts with him calling her a “Mudblood.” Snape gets better and better at Dark Arts and Lily eventually enters a romantic relationship with James. Snape’s further isolation leads him to become a deeply flawed individual with a strong need for association, and his penchant for Dark Magic is the perfect catalyst. It is a dark time, with the wizarding world split into the good and the bad side.

Snape’s childhood wound, emotional neglect, loss of his best friend, and unrequited love for Lily compounded, and he succumbed to the dark side in Harry Potter. He found himself spying for Lord Voldemort, but all this came to a screeching halt when the Dark Lord marked the Potters for death. Snape had relayed Sybill Trelawney’s partial prophecy to his master and that ultimately caused the deaths of the Potters. Harry lived, and Snape switched sides towards the end of the First Wizarding War. He spent his life in regret and Dumbledore was his only confidant.

Sirius Black provides an outline of Snape’s time at Hogwarts, saying:

Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in the seventh year, and he was part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters.

harrypotter.0 Cropped

Harry Potter

When Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard, he enters a world beyond belief. Aside from continuing his studies at Hogwarts with best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry must also face Voldemort and his dark wizarding forces. The Harry Potter franchise is a worldwide phenomenon, spanning seven books, eight movies, three spinoff movies, a stage play, and numerous video games.

MORE: Harry Potter: Snape’s ‘Always’ Quote, Explained