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I was reading the answer here

Snape dressing up as Darth Vader fanfic

It mentions a fan-fiction which states Snape joined the Hogwarts staff when he was 20, possibly making him the youngest person to join as a member of staff at the time. And Professor Snape is definitely one of the younger people teaching.

But is this true in canon? I think it's mentioned how long Snape had been teaching in OotP, and I think it's possible to figure out Snape's age at the time from the books. How old would that make him when he joined Hogwarts?

Incidentally, can Dumbledore just hire anyone that young to be a teacher at Hogwarts? Or was he hired as a trainee first, like he hired Hagrid?

Any level of canon is welcome. If this is not specifically mentioned then logical deductions from the books will be appreciated.

  • Are you rewatching Harry Potter on HBO too? – Evorlor Jan 9 '18 at 0:49
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1981

Snape states in Order of the Phoenix that he has been a teacher at Hogwarts for fourteen years.

"Now...how long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?" she asked, her quill poised over her clipboard.
"Fourteen years," Snape replied. His expression was unfathomable. His eyes on Snape, Harry added a few drops to his potion; it hissed menacingly and turned from turquoise to orange.
"You applied first for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, I believe?" Professor Umbridge asked Snape.
"Yes," said Snape quietly.
"But you were not successful?"
"Obviously."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 17, Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four).

Snape makes this comment in around October 1995, meaning that he must have begun teaching in 1981. Presumably he started teaching at the start of the school year, making his first day 1st September 1981.

Note that in the quote that Snape gives fourteen years is the length of time that he has been "teaching at Hogwarts". He gives no hint of any other, less senior posts. Neither indeed do we hear any mention of any trainee or junior teaching roles elsewhere. There are only teachers and non-teachers (like Madame Pomfrey and Filch). It seems that Snape applied for the DADA job, didn't get it and then subsequently was offered the role of Potions Master, which he took without any period of training or probation. Since he was a rare talent at Potions he was still an excellent candidate, even given his youth.

Rand al'Thor very sensibly points to Pottermore to demonstrate that Snape was born on 9th January 1960. We can verify this date of birth from the books because Lily and James, who were in the same school year as Snape, were also born in 1960.

JAMES POTTER
Born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981

LILY POTTER
Born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981

(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 16, Godric's Hollow).

Thus on 1st September 1981 Snape would have been 21 years old. Yes, this makes Snape a young teacher but he wasn't the only one. Minerva McGonagall was hired at basically the same age.

As for what Dumbledore can get away with, he can more-or-less appoint anyone he wants. Up until Educational Decree Number 22, anyway - and even then the Ministry could only hire someone if the Headmaster couldn't find a candidate.

As recently as 30th August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-two was passed, to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 15, The Hogwarts High Inquisitor)
.

Dumbledore isn't accountable to anyone, apart from perhaps the board of governors and the parents. Some people may very well have been unhappy with Dumbledore hiring an ex-Death Eater, and a very young one at that. Dumbledore is well used to putting up with this sort of criticism, however. He had a thick skin and tended to ignore the gripers.

"Really Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time," said Dumbledore, now peering sternly over his half-moon spectacles. "Not a week has passed, since I became Headmaster of this school, when I haven't had at least one owl complaining about the way I run it. But what should I do? Barricade myself in my study and refuse to talk to anybody?"
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 24, Rita Skeeter's Scoop).

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    I think I'd prefer the answer phrased in delta years, rather than absolute. The reason is that most people when reading the series will want to think of it as set in roughly the "present day", no matter what year they happen to be picking up the book. As phrased, I now have to consider the entire work a (alternate universe) "period piece", and work out what year each book is set in. – T.E.D. Jan 8 '18 at 3:31
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    The viewing of Venus at midnight provides a set of cosmologically firm time frames for events. – pojo-guy Jan 8 '18 at 3:50
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    @pojo-guy well, in the Potterverse, stuff like moon phases and visible stars work.... ahem... differently. – xDaizu Jan 8 '18 at 10:00
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    @pojo-guy : Viewing Venus at local midnight from the surface of the earth is not possible with Muggle technology (Venus is always close to the Sun). – Martin Bonner Jan 8 '18 at 10:22
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    @xDaizu Northwestern Scotland, which IRL matches the geophysical decription of the location of Hogwarts from other given evidence, is far enough north that at certain times venus can be visible. space.com/15279-venus-weekend-skywatching-tips.html – pojo-guy Jan 8 '18 at 15:27
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According to HP Lexicon, it's a "reasonable guess" that Snape was hired at Hogwarts in circa 1981.

This is based on the fact that he took up the post on Voldemort's orders (as stated in chapter 2 of HP and the Half-Blood Prince), so it must have been before 31 October 1981 when Voldemort killed the Potters and 'died' himself; but it must also have been after Snape became a double agent after hearing the prophecy in 1980. So we can say 1980 or 1981 for sure, at least.


According to Pottermore, Snape was born on the 9th of January 1960. So when he started working at Hogwarts, he must have been 20 or 21 years old.

  • Was he teaching there as a staff before he turned to the light side? I had the impression he wasn't a teacher at the time he was eavesdropping on Professor Trelawny in the Hog's Head – user13267 Jan 7 '18 at 16:14
  • @user13267 Surely Dumbledore would only have allowed him to teach at Hogwarts after he turned against Voldemort? – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '18 at 16:16
  • @user13267 No, no! Snape turns to Dumbledore in an attempt to stop Voldemort from going after the Potters, and Voldemort only disappears once he's already gone after the Potters. – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '18 at 16:18
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    Sorry I keep deleting my comments by mistake. So if I understand correctly, Snape wasn't hired when he heard the prophecy, then some time passed between Voldemort finding out about the prophecy and attacking the Potters and during this time he also sent Snape to work at Hogwarts, and by this time Snape had switched sides as well? – user13267 Jan 7 '18 at 16:23
  • @user13267 The prophecy was made before Harry's birth, so definitely in early 1980. Snape only switched sides once he knew Voldemort had decided the prophecy referred to Harry. He then begged Dumbledore to protect the Potters, and they went into hiding under the Fidelius charm. (It must have been somewhere around this time that Snape started working at Hogwarts). Only after the Secret-Keepership was transferred to Pettigrew was Voldemort able to find and kill the Potters. – Rand al'Thor Jan 7 '18 at 16:33

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