Selfish or selfless?

Was Snape’s love for Lily selfish or selfless? Due to Snape being such a complex character this question kept coming up during the Book Club and it is a tough one, not at all black and white, so in order to try and find the answer I think I’ll have to do what I do best and add a scientific approach, so here goes (in chronological order):

When Snape watched Lily through the hedges:
I must admit I find this behaviour a little creepy and I think he wanted her from the moment he saw her, and before you get upset I mean wanted her as a friend. He had to have her in his life, to know her but the thing is that at this point he had never spoken to her so how would he know what she was like personality wise? Answer: he didn’t but he wanted her anyway.
Selfish.

During their school years:
All evidence points to Snape wanting to keep Lily for himself, or at least keep her away from James. Though I must add that the ability to be happy for the one you love, even if it means that you don’t get what you want, calls for an incredible maturity and, let’s face it, as a teenager Snape just wasn’t that mature and is therefore partly excused.
Selfish.

When Voldemort went after baby Harry:
Snape’s proposed exchange of the life of the mother for the lives of the father and son is disgusting, and let’s dwell on the consequences for a moment if Voldemort had actually agreed. Did Snape honestly believe that Lily would even want to live after her husband and son had been brutally murdered? That she would run back and be with him? I think he loved her in his own way but it is not the kind of love you and I feel where we’d want the person to be happy no matter who they choose to be with.
Selfish.

Protecting Harry from harm:
I see three possible reasons why he protected Harry from harm, and sadly they point in opposite directions.

A) He loved Lily enough that he wanted to protect her son from harm, and that that is why he was horrified when Dumbledore told him that Harry had to die to defeat Voldemort.
Selfless.

B) Dumbledore told him to because he had a hunch or foresaw what Harry had to do in the end, and Snape “simply” acted according to his orders.
Not selfish or selfless.

C) He wanted to redeem himself because he was the (in)direct reason why Lily and her family was murdered and that protecting her son was the only way he saw how.
Selfish.

Always:
In my opinion it is a bit odd that Snape never moved on with his life and hung on to this kind of obsessive love. However; I truly believe that a Patronus is the sign of all that is pure in this world, so the fact that Snape’s Patronus is a doe tells me that his love for Lily is pure. At least it has been since she got murdered (where I think he was finally able to produce a Patronus, or that his original Patronus changed). Though it doesn’t mean that his love necessarily is what we would call a traditional classic form of love.
Selfless.

I simply have to add that whether he wanted to redeem himself, get revenge on Voldemort for killing Lily by doing everything in his power to help defeat him, or sacrifice himself in order to honour Lily’s memory, he died a war hero no matter his motivations and flaws.

A final addition:
The fact that Snape hates the word “mudblood” adds, in my mind, to the evidence in favour of Snape loving Lily selflessly. He hates the word because it disgrace her memory.

Conclusion:
It is almost a tie but with a tendency towards selfish. I do agree with those who say that his love matured as he got older and, in some ways, I personally  think that Snape matured; in other ways not so much.


snape and lily 2

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