A young Severus Snape asked Voldemort not to kill Lily Potter. He knew Voldemort wanted to kill Lily's baby son, but asked that Lily be spared because Snape was in love with her.

“What request could a Death Eater make of me?”

“The — the prophecy . . . the prediction . . . Trelawney . . .”

“Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore. “How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?”

“Everything — everything I heard!” said Snape. “That is why — it is for that reason — he thinks it means Lily Evans!”

“The prophecy did not refer to a woman,” said Dumbledore. “It spoke of a boy born at the end of July —”

“You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down — kill them all —”

“If she means so much to you,” said Dumbledore, “surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?”

“I have — I have asked him —”

“You disgust me,” said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. Snape seemed to shrink a little. “You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?”

Why would he think Voldemort would keep that promise?

He likely knows Voldemort is not the type to keep any promise when it suits him to break his promises.

He likely knows Voldemort would kill full blooded wizards and even those closest to him.

He likely knows Voldemort would use Deatheaters, their house elves, and their properties as pawns.

He likely knows Voldemort might use knowledge of Snape's desire for Lily as a weapon against him. (Assuming Lily had lived that night.)

If he knows all this, then he knows promises mean nothing.

  • 7
    Because he is desperate?
    – RichS
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 21:41
  • 4
    Which surely explains why he became a traitor and sought out Dumbledore a man who might kill him?
    – Au101
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 22:39
  • Doesn't hurt to ask.
    – Misha R
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


He didn't.

He only came to Dumbledore after talking to Voldemort, who didn't give him much hope.

"Snape's Patronus was a doe," said Harry, "the same as my mother's, because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children. You should have realised," he said, as he saw Voldemort's nostrils flare, "he asked you to spare her life, didn't he?"
"He desired her, that was all," sneered Voldemort, "but when she had gone, he agreed that there were other women, and of purer blood, worthier of him -"
"Of course he told you that," said Harry, "but he was Dumbledore's spy from the moment you threatened her, and he's been working against you ever since!"
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan).

So Snape asked Voldemort to spare Lily. He basically rejected this request out of hand; killing the Potters was too important to him. He agreed to give Lily a chance to save herself, but he certainly didn't promise to save her life.

Voldemort was actually true to his word when he said that he'd give Lily a way out. He gives her several chances to run away and leave Harry.

"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
"Stand aside, you silly girl...stand aside, now..."
"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead -"
"This is my last warning -"
"Not Harry! Please...have mercy...have mercy...Not Harry! Not Harry! Please - I'll do anything -"
"Stand aside - stand aside, girl -"
He could have forced her away from the cot, but it seemed more prudent to finish them all...
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17, Bathilda's Secret)

Voldemort's rejection of Snape's request was the reason Snape went to Dumbledore. Voldemort simply said that he'd offer Lily a way out. Snape knew that this wouldn't keep her safe (especially if he was planning to kill Harry and James as well). He didn't publicly argue with Voldemort, which he knew would get him nowhere. Privately, however, he panicked and desperately sought another way to keep Lily safe. It was then which he decided to go and find Dumbledore. When Lily had died he told Voldemort that he could find a better woman, but by that point his loyalties had already changed.

  • 4
    In the last sentence you mean when Lord Voldemort regain his body? I always thought you kept Snape's request by giving a chance to Lily. Good to know from The Dark Lord himself. :)
    – Krish
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 15:01
  • You have answered your own question in the quotes: the attack was going to happen anyway he asked out of desperation and hoping his pleas would be honored, but he didn't have much hope 'you' would keep your promise which is why he turned to Dumbledore.to save her. Lack of empathy with others is your greatest weakness (that's pretty much what all the books are about) :-)
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 21:15

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