In the climax of the Battle of Hogwarts, when he duels the Dark Lord for the last time, Harry Potter explains to the Dark Lord that Professor Snape was in love with Lily Potter.

‘Snape's Patronus was a doe,’ said Harry, ‘the same as my mother's, because he loved her for nearly all his life, from the time when they were children. […]’

(Harry addresses the Dark Lord here, but it seems that everyone in the hall can hear his speech.)

Why would Harry do that, if he knows that Professor Snape specifically wanted to keep that a secret? This seems very disrespectful towards Professor Snape to me.

  • 38
    Because Harry is a snitch!!!
    – user96551
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 13:07
  • 36
    Snape: "You're just like your father. [...] arrogant..." Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 14:56
  • 6
    On what basis do you claim that "Professor Snape specifically wanted to keep [his love for Harry's mother] a secret"? Where in the canon does it say so? Note that this claim is quite separate from what Snape made Dumbledore promise, i.e., that Dumbledore would never reveal that Snape was working to protect Harry, all appearances notwithstanding. AFAICT, Snape extracted no such promise from Harry, right?
    – Mico
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 16:22
  • 4
    @user96551 worse than that, he's a golden snitch! Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 0:29
  • 3
    I'm not sure the whole "being in love with Lily" thing was the secret Snape wanted kept hidden (although I'm sure he didn't want it advertised). I think the secret he wanted kept hidden was why he was helping the Order - that involves a far broader and more shameful tale of woe. Note that Snape only asks for Dumbledore's silence when Dumbledore tells him to watch after Harry, not when he asks Dumbledore to keep Lily safe.
    – DavidS
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 9:36

4 Answers 4



He's using it as further evidence that Snape had turned against Voldemort and had been playing him the entire time.

He's calling out to Voldemort that not only was his attack on Harry and his family part of his original undoing - but it will ultimately serve to be part of his final undoing and Snape will have had a hand in that, all because of love. He's telling Voldemort that he (Voldemort) had miscalculated entirely on the front of how powerful a motivator and magical power love can be.

Harry is in a battle for his life with the most powerful dark wizard ever. He isn't going to say "hey - I've got some news for you, but, it's kind of a secret from a former pal of yours and he may not be terribly comfortable with me telling everyone standing around here listening. Would you mind leaning in so I can whisper it to you? Be cool though, no attacking."

Additionally, Harry probably on some level did want to redeem Snape in the eyes of everyone, just in case Harry died. They all spent years not trusting and hating Snape and Harry had a chance to correct some perceptions about Snape and Snape's motivations. But, on the other hand, while he eventually came to respect and admire Snape, Harry probably still had 7 years of harassment to outweigh any concerns over Snape's feelings over being potentially embarrassed.

Also - Snape didn't care anymore :\

  • 18
    You can safely delete all of the answer and leave the last line. I'm pretty sure Harry wouldn't have said so if Snape had not died Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 0:37
  • 1
    Yeah, well, Snape was dead by then. Though technically, his portrait in the Headmaster's office might have been listening in.
    – Otheus
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 11:05
  • 3
    @Otheus Doubtful, since he didn't automatically get one, because he abandoned his post! Harry had to lobby for one to be put there (who knows how they managed to create that one). JKR said so herself.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 15:42
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    He's telling Voldemort that he (Voldemort) had... +1 for properly identifying your pronouns!
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 19:31
  • 10
    You were prudent to start off your answer with "Speculation", as the very premise of the question is flawed: Nowhere in the canon is it stated that "[Harry] knows that Professor Snape specifically wanted to keep [his love for Harry's mother] a secret". For sure, when Snape, Lily Evans, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin etc attended Hogwarts, it was widely known that Snape admired and loved Lily. Voldemort too knew that Snape had at one point been in love with Lily. Not much of a secret to hide, if you ask me.
    – Mico
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 19:39

(Too long for a comment, hence posted as an answer.)

On what basis do you rest the claim that "Professor Snape specifically wanted to keep [his love for Harry's mother] a secret"? As far as I can tell, (a) Snape's love for Lily was never a secret and (b) at no point did Snape make Harry promise to keep this (non-)secret.

When Snape, Lily Evans, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin etc attended Hogwarts, it was widely known that Snape admired and loved Lily. Voldemort too knew that Snape had been in love with Lily. Not much of a secret, this piece of knowledge... It is probably true that not many people knew the reason for why Snape's Patronus was a doe -- that Lily's Patronus was a doe too. However, that's just one -- admittedly very tangible -- proof of the strong feelings Snape felt for Lily, not a revelation of the underlying secret.

For sure, Snape made Dumbledore promise -- immediately following the deaths of Harry's parents -- that he (Dumbledore) would never let Harry know that Snape was committed to helping Harry survive and succeed. Importantly, though, Snape extracted no such promise before giving Harry his memories as he was dying from Nagini's bites. Harry was thus free to make use of the memories as he saw fit.

The two preceding paragraphs are based on the very end of Chapter 32, "The Elder Wand", and on Chapter 33, "The Prince's Tale", in HP7.

  • No. It is clear from the paragraph before the one I quoted in the question that the Dark Lord did not know that Snape had been in love with Lily.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 6:54
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    Whether Voldemort knew or not doesn't even really matter -- Voldemort doesn't care about such trivialities as a childhood crush. The secret to keep wasn't that Snape loved Lily once but that Snape still loved her and blamed himself for her death, and he was willing to go to great lengths of betrayal to atone for his guilt. This is not something Voldemort could have figured out on his own, given that he doesn't understand anything of love, and that is the secret Snape needed to have kept -- but only for the pragmatic reason of not wanting to be on the wrong side of a Killing Curse. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 9:56
  • 2
    This is the correct answer. Snape never hid his love for Lily, but didn't wear it on his sleeve like a cheap Romeo. I'm sure everyone of his generation knew about it. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 9:56
  • @b_jonas - To my reading, the passage immediately before the quote you posted contains no information at all regarding Voldemort's knowledge of Snape's feelings for Lily. In the subsequent passage, in contrast, Voldemort dismisses Harry's claim about Snape and sneers that Snape "desired [Lily], that was all." Voldemort, of course, is a master dissembler and misleader. Hardly anything he says should be taken to be truthful. Quite the opposite, actually! To me, then, this passage reveals what I wrote in the answer, i.e., that Voldemort did in fact know that Snape had been in love with Lily.
    – Mico
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 11:23
  • 1
    @b_jonas That's not true. Snape had asked Voldemort not to kill Lily, and Voldemort complied until she wouldn't move out of his way. He didn't want to intentionally kill Lily, because he knew of Snape's love for her. It was more a crime of inconvenience than anything for Voldemort.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 15:11

One thing to consider is that Harry is in a fight for his life. I think he would have grabbed any tool that was available to him. He was thinking on his feet.

There is another thing to consider relating to whether his revealing of this (somewhat open, arguably) secret was respectful of Snape or not. Harry's entire picture of Snape had just been radically rewritten--inconceivably rewritten, probably--and, for all we know, Harry was honoring Snape's memory, recognizing that his incredible courage was sourced, fundamentally, from the greatest of all possible motivations.

It seems likely to me that he is throwing Snape at Voldemort as an example of greatness in the same way that he just previously threw Dumbledore at him. He is presenting Dumbledore as someone who had the capability to do what Voldemort did, but the wisdom not to. And he is presenting Snape as someone that would go to incredible lengths to be loyal to someone that he loved, at great personal sacrifice. Snape and Dumbledore both laid down their lives to save Harry; Harry could, in his mind, be paying the highest honor he could to that memory.


Harry knew that he could not let Voldemort win at any cost, as it was not just a battle for Hogwarts but a battle for the whole Wizarding and Muggle communities. This is not the first time they had come face to face, and it was not just because of Harry's own wizarding might that he managed to stay alive in their previous encounters.

  • He survived as a baby after taking a direct hit from the Killing Curse of Voldemort at his forehead; the curse was not only ineffective but managed to send Voldemort into hiding in a highly weakened state. Harry, as a baby, of course did not control this win.
  • In Goblet of Fire, the power of their Wands prevented Voldemort from making the strike, and then the memories of Harry's parents took shape and delayed Voldemort from taking a second strike as the Wand connection broke away. Harry was on the retreat, quickly disappearing with Cedric's body as another Killing Curse narrowly missed him. Again Harry did not fully control this win.
  • In The Deathly Hallows, Voldemort made the strike in the Forbidden forest at point blank range, but Harry survived that Killing Curse too, where he offered no visible resisting spells back at Voldemort. Harry walked into Forbidden forest not armed with an attack plan to win, he offered no fight, and was giving himself up for the sake of the rest of the world.

But in the final battle Harry would have realized the meaning of his past wins with Voldemort. Harry now would be a fool to not realize that he cannot defeat the mighty Voldemort in a head-on duel with the handful of spells he knows, as compared to Voldemort's huge arsenal of destructive spells. In all the three instances mentioned above, the common factor was the invisible protection of his parents, binding to his body, especially Lily's. He knew that if there is one thing Voldemort couldn't comprehend fully with all his wizarding might, it was the unknown, invisible protection of Love, the white divine magic that could resist all destructive dark spells. And again it was this concoction of Love and emotions inside Harry that prevented Voldemort from possessing Harry for too long at the battle at the Department of Mysteries in the Order of the Phoenix.

He walked to the final battle knowing that Snape who was Voldemort's right-hand man was in fact Dumbledore's man through and through. And that Snape had an undying Love towards his mother and caring for Harry that remained till his last breath. He knew that by letting Voldemort know about his trusted man's true credentials and its underlying tale of Love, he would be reminding Voldemort again about the power of Love, the magic he never was able to fathom, one which he not only despised but perhaps even feared, and by re-confirming its existence to him using Snape's case was perhaps one of the most powerful weapons he could unleash against him.

  • It's more than that. Harry was taking the Dumbledore approach so to speak. Applying calm rationalization to why Voldemort was about to die. Harry confidently walked into that battle. He wasn't taking on the "Mighty Voldermort" any longer. He was taking on a mortal man. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 15:59

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