Why did Snape become a teacher when he hates children so much? Why didn't he, for instance, set up a potions emporium on Diagon Alley?

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    Snape didn't seem to be very rich, he may not have had enough capital to buy or rent a room in Diagon Alley
    – user13267
    May 4, 2018 at 12:25
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    @user13267: I think it's obvious that the Diagon Alley is just an example. Snape was a very talented wizard, it should not really be too hard for him to get jobs other than teaching.
    – Lie Ryan
    May 4, 2018 at 14:49
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    What makes you say he hated children? It seemed like most of his animosity was towards Harry/non-Slytherins. He seemed to get along pretty well with Slytherins. May 4, 2018 at 14:49
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    @Salmononius2 Furthermore, the animosity towards Harry might be entirely because of the pain he feels seeing Lily's eyes every time he sees Harry. And a reminder of his complicity in Lily's death. And a reminder of James, whom Lily chose to be with. Although he is certainly a stern and not very sympathetic teacher in general, but I've had teachers who have been that way out of love and a desire to drive their students to excel. May 4, 2018 at 19:43

4 Answers 4


Snape became a teacher to protect Harry and as penance for Lily's death

Snape felt terribly guilty of his own role in Lily's death. Dumbledore made use of that guilt, and made him promise to protect Harry Potter. Therefore he became a teacher at Hogwarts, because he had to be close to Harry in order to protect him.

“If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear.” Snape seemed to peer through a haze of pain, and Dumbledore’s words appeared to take a long time to reach him.

“You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily’s son.”

There was a long pause, and slowly Snape regained control of himself, mastered his own breathing. At last he said, “Very well. Very well. But never – never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear…especially Potter’s son…I want your word!”

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Since Voldemort was ultimately responsible for Lily's death, Snape joined the Order of the Phoenix, and in order to be active in the cause against the Dark Lord, he needed a credible excuse to be in contact with the headmaster. Teaching proved to be a good cover, since Voldemort never realized Snape's betrayal until his death.

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    I think this answer can be extended by including OoTP’s other businesses. Harry starts Hogwarts at 13, Snape could be doing something else meanwhile. But Dumbledore needs a spy in Hogwarts, as Death Eaters have children too, and a Slytherin spy is perfect for this. Think about the Malfoy case in book 6. May 4, 2018 at 10:23
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    @atayenel Harry starts Hogwarts at 11, but otherwise your point stands!
    – owjburnham
    May 4, 2018 at 13:30
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    @atayenel If Snape had built up another career, then dropped it to become a teacher just as Harry came to Hogwarts, that would have been a little suspicious. May 4, 2018 at 14:58
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    @Laurel The war wasn't over atleast until 31st October...So, it's likely that Hogwarts education wasn't regular in those turbulent times. Maybe the school was closed before Halloween 1981..
    – Simpleton
    May 4, 2018 at 16:51
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    @Simpleton: Or perhaps J.K. Rowling just isn't the best at math ;-)
    – tonysdg
    May 4, 2018 at 20:14

Snape may have have become a teacher on Dumbledore’s orders.

When Snape tells Dumbledore about the prophecy he overheard, and that the Dark Lord believed it to be about Lily Evans, ne promised Dumbledore anything in return for Lily’s safety.

“And what will you give me in return, Severus?’

‘In – in return?’ Snape gaped at Dumbledore, and Harry expected him to protest, but after a long moment he said, ‘Anything.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)

When Umbridge asks him in Harry’s fifth year, Snape says he’d been teaching at Hogwarts for fourteen years. If he’d started at the beginning of the school year, he’d have been teaching since September 1981.

“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.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 17 (Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four)

The prophecy was made shortly before Harry’s birth on July 31st, 1980, so the timing fits - Snape would have started teaching after he’d already joined Dumbledore, and right before Lily’s death. Dumbledore could have told Snape to become a teacher at Hogwarts, and he’d have complied in exchange for Lily’s safety, despite teaching probably not being anything like the career he’d originally intended to have. Snape would be unlikely to refuse since he valued Lily over all, including his own career prospects.

Dumbledore chose his own teaching career as a way to keep out of trouble.

Dumbledore may have suggested it for multiple reasons. He considered teaching a safe option for “reformed” people - he chose to teach because he thought it was the safest place for him.

“I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

‘I was safer at Hogwarts. I think I was a good teacher –”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King’s Cross)

Though he trusted Snape, Dumbledore may have thought having him teach at Hogwarts would be a safe place to have him especially when he’d only just joined, or perhaps he had some other reason.

  • Just out of curiosity, do we actually know that Snape joined Dumbledore before Lily was killed? Or might that have been a little white lie by someone who trusted Snape and didn't want anyone else to doubt? I don't remember the circumstances of that info being revealed.
    – BlackThorn
    May 4, 2018 at 19:11
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    @BlackThorn Yes, we do - it’s revealed in Snape’s memories when he gives them to Harry. He joined Dumbledore seeking protection for Lily while she was still alive. Here’s a quote! “Snape said nothing, but merely looked up at Dumbledore. ‘Hide them all, then,’ he croaked. ‘Keep her – them – safe. Please.” - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)
    – Obsidia
    May 4, 2018 at 19:17

He became a teacher on Voldemord's orders.

He tells this to Bellatrix in The Half-Blood Prince, Chapter2,

“You ask where I was when the Dark Lord fell. I was where he had ordered me to be, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, because he wished me to spy upon Albus Dumbledore. You know, I presume, that it was on the Dark Lord’s orders that I took up the post?”

She nodded almost imperceptibly and then opened her mouth, but Snape forestalled her.

He remained there for reasons we can speculate on, as the other answers have done, but he became a teacher under orders.

  • This is good, but are we sure that he was telling the truth to Narcissa and not just saying what she and the Death Eaters wanted to hear?
    – Wallnut
    May 11, 2018 at 8:28
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    @Wallnut We can be fairly sure it's true, because Bellatrix does know it as well, as does not refute him. I've added her reaction to the answer.
    – BlueMoon93
    May 11, 2018 at 9:56
  • @BlueMoon93 Bellatrix also wanted to seem like she knew all the Dark Lord’s plans - she might not have known if it was true but didn’t want to seem uninformed.
    – Obsidia
    May 11, 2018 at 14:00
  1. He is too talented to not be a teacher
  2. He was a teacher to protect Lily and Harry from Voldemort
  3. He was a Double-Agent. He was telling Dumbledore what Voldemort is planning.
  • 1
    Hello and welcome to SFF! While this may answer the question it is better to include sources. Also don't forget to take the tour!
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 6, 2018 at 10:31
  • Point 1 is a bit wooly, there are very many very talented people in the world who aren't school teachers.
    – Colin
    May 11, 2018 at 12:41
  • @Colin__s yes, but Severus was a bit special in the collection of talented people. I mean, he managed to trick Voldemort that he is with him, not anybody else. May 12, 2018 at 9:40

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