As my best friend can attest, I never liked Snape and I never, ever, trusted him. Once the movies started coming out and I saw him on screen I started to appreciate his character more. Alan Rickman gave Snape a sort of cool, dry humor, which I loved, but I still didn’t trust him. My best friend always trusted him. Always. I don’t think she wavered once. And it was my best friend, not me, who was vindicated when we finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because she was right: Snape had been a white hat all along.

Whenever I re-read these books that I love so dearly, I try to pay attention to everything more than I did the time before. I focus on chapters, on lines, on pieces of dialogue, and I’m usually rewarded with something new. The first time I read The Deathly Hallows, I was annoyed that Snape’s relationship with Lily seemed to come completely out of the blue. The second time I re-read it I was too focused on the deaths that were yet to come (and the ones that had already happened) that I didn’t really pay attention to Snape or his story. The third time I re-read The Deathly Hallows, I read it. I really read it and I learned more about Severus Snape than six previous books had ever taught me.

There was one moment that really stuck out to me: a scene from Snape’s memory–a discussion he had with Dumbledore during Goblet of Fire. He told Dumbledore that he wasn’t going to run; that he wasn’t a coward like Karkaroff. Dumbledore replied: “No, I believe you are a far braver man than Igor Karkaroff. You know, sometimes I wonder if we Sort too soon.” That sentence, that thought, was branded into my mind.

What if Snape hadn’t been Sorted into Slytherin? He wouldn’t have ended up in Hufflepuff. Possibly in Ravenclaw, but I believe that if the Sorting Hat could have put him in a different House, it would have been Gryffindor. He probably never would have made friends with all those Death Eaters. He probably never would have grown apart from Lily. I think there’s a very good chance he would have married Lily instead, but even if she had married James I think that Snape would have remained by her side as her best friend–silently loving her until the day he died. The circumstances surrounding his entire life would have been different. I wonder if part of the reason he hated Harry at first sight was because this little black-haired boy with Lily’s eyes simultaneously reminded him of James Potter… and of the child he and Lily could have had.

It feels strange to weep for the man who killed Dumbledore (no matter what pre-existing agreement they had), for the man who hated Sirius, goaded Lupin and bullied Harry for so many years. I doubt anyone would ever accuse Severus Snape as being a kind man, or a warm-hearted person, but he was brave and he was loyal and in the end he did what was right–not for Harry, not for the Wizarding world, but for a pretty red-headed girl who never knew how much he gave up for her.