In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II we see the eleven-year-old Snape on the Hogwarts Express with Lily. He shares with her that:

You'd better be in Slytherin

Are there any explanation (or at least guesses) why would he think that way at eleven?

  • 12
    Why wouldn't he? Aug 2, 2015 at 19:10
  • 12
    @MattGutting - Because JKR clearly believes that all houses other than Gryffindor suck.
    – Valorum
    Aug 2, 2015 at 19:26
  • 10
    Because alliteration.
    – Wad Cheber
    Aug 2, 2015 at 20:15
  • 1
    You yourself answered this on my question ,remember! "Slytherin seems to be kind of aristocracy-oriented house while his family was poor. So for him being in Slytherin might look like joining the club of the rich/important guys "
    – axelonet
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:24
  • 6
    Relevant - on hearing James talk about the Houses, Snape replies that Griffindor is fine "if you'd rather be brawny than brainy". Clearly he viewed that house as the "jock" house (and for good reason, arguably). Hufflepuff has a bad reputation so that's out. I think he'd have been ok with Ravenclaw, but Slytherin has the dark prestige, the ability to climb the ranks and get the power he lacked at home. Plus, Houses usually run in families, so if his mother was a Slytherin that would have massively influenced him as well.
    – DavidS
    Aug 3, 2015 at 8:59

3 Answers 3


Because Slytherin is the House you're Sorted into when you desire power, and - other than Lily - that's what Snape wanted the most. At the age of eleven there's no reason to believe he didn't have the same need to be powerful, and the same desire to be feared or respected, that he displayed a few years later as a teenager at Hogwarts when he began hanging out with future Death Eaters.

He may have also already developed his fascination with the Dark Arts even before he was old enough to attend Hogwarts, but even if he didn't, the neglect - and possible outright abuse - from his parents that would make him feel powerless, and therefore desire power so much, would have already happened.

It's not uncommon for children to travel to Hogwarts knowing at least a small amount about the four Houses, and to have made a decision about which House they'd like to be in, or at least which House they don't want to be in. The general reputation that Slytherin has which makes most kids say they don't want to be Sorted into it would definitely appeal to an eleven-year-old Snape.

  • 2
    I think Sirius said as much in one of the books, that Snape came to school knowing more jinxes and hexes than many of the seventh-years.
    – Scimonster
    Aug 3, 2015 at 7:47
  • I'm not sure "most" kids would want to avoid Slytherin, depending on your definition. I seem to recall something in the book dealing with why anyone would put up with Slytherin, given their poor reputation. In response the point is made that for most Slytherin students power is a positive force: the power to change the world for good.
    – Bob Tway
    Aug 3, 2015 at 9:45
  • @MattThrower That's not in any of the seven main books, as far as I recall. Possibly Pottermore, or I think there was a question on here along those lines? It's possibly skewed by us only seeing things from Harry's perspective, but it seemed like most of the characters in the books who expressed an opinion on which House they did (not) want to be Sorted into said they wouldn't want to be a Slytherin. I think Malfoy and Snape are the only two we see express any sort of positive feelings towards it. Aug 3, 2015 at 9:54
  • @AnthonyGrist I'll have to see if I can dig out the source. Either way, my comment was not supposed to be critical - just thinking off the top of my head. Yours is a good, clear answer.
    – Bob Tway
    Aug 3, 2015 at 10:05
  • I'll accept this answer although I'm not sure Snape had power as his prime need. He was an abused child growing up in a defective family. So power would have been a mean to be accepted and liked by someone - something that Snape missed so much as a child.
    – vap78
    Aug 10, 2015 at 12:25

It could be that he hated his father a lot who was a muggle. This hate for his father might have manifested as general hate for all muggles. I guess his hate for his father (muggles) reflected in his desire to join Slytherin

There is a small hint about Snape's relationship with his father.

“How are things at your house?” Lily asked. A little crease appeared between his eyes.

“Fine,” he said.

“They’re not arguing anymore?”

“Oh yes, they’re arguing,” said Snape. He picked up a fistful of leaves and began tearing them apart, apparently unaware of what he was doing. “But it won’t be that long and I’ll be gone.”

“Doesn’t your dad like magic?”

“He doesn’t like anything, much,” said Snape.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale

The wiki page for Severus Snape also points towards this fact.


Maybe just, that's the house his family was in?

He was probably just around Slytherins and therefore assumed they were better!

  • 3
    Hi, welcome to the site! You know, this is quite a skinny answer - we tend to like answers to be fully justified - ideally with textual or other references to support them, would you be able to have a look and see what you can find to support this answer? That way, you might gain some reputation, which will enable you to leave comments. Without the full justification, this answer should ordinarily go in the comments :)
    – Au101
    Sep 13, 2015 at 22:36
  • 4
    I think his mother (Eileen Prince) was in Slytherin, though I'm pretty sure it's not stated explicitly in the books. JK Rowling may have said something about it, though. His father (Tobias Snape) was a Muggle. Given that he apparently had a pretty difficult childhood, the line "He was probably just around Slytherins and therefore assumed they were better!" could probably do with a little embellishing (although, to level with you, I think there's probably a fair chance that his mother was a Slytherin and he followed in her footsteps)
    – Au101
    Sep 13, 2015 at 22:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.