Look, I am not — nor will I ever be — #TeamSnape, but even I am a little bit emotionally compromised by this. Tumblr user tomhiddles, who is clearly a more faithful Potterhead than all of us combined, has revealed the true meaning behind Snape's first words to Harry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. You're going to want to grab your emotions and hold on tight. It turns out that what we all thought was a throwaway line, meant only to set up Snape as the Big Mean Jerk of the series, was actually a thick veil obscuring more angst than even fifth-book Harry. Here is what tomhiddles figured out:
The first thing Snape asks Harry is “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” According to Victorian Flower Language, asphodel is a type of lily meaning ‘My regrets follow you to the grave’ and wormwood means ‘absence’ and also typically symbolized bitter sorrow. If you combined that, it meant ‘I bitterly regret Lily’s death’.
SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR.
If you look at the research behind tomhiddles' logic, it's quite sound. In Greek mythology, asphodel was deeply associated with death and graves, notably as it was part of the crown which Persephone (wife of Hades, ruler of the underworld) wore on her head. It's a little hard not to picture Lily as Persephone and Snape as Hades in the narrative he had no doubt imagined them in, even when he knew that a mutual love between them was impossible.
What makes it even eerier, though, is that asphodel was once thought to be a cure for snake bites — and as we all know, Lily sacrificed herself for her son, preventing his death at the hands of a wizard heavily associated with snakes.
And wormwood, as it turns out, isn't just associated with absence — it's also associated with the moon and lunar deities, particularly Artemis. It just so happens that another strong association with Artemis is (drumroll, please) ... a deer. As you will well remember, the doe is Lily's Patronus, and the very same one that Snape shares with her.
Is it possible this was all coincidental? Absolutely. The ingredients were called for the creation of Draught of the Living Death, a potion which can make someone look dead when they aren't (check it, Romeo and Juliet), and both plants were heavily associated with "death" properties. But knowing J.K. Rowling and her scarily perfect brain, I've got a feeling that this was in the cards from book one.
So the next time you're minding your own business, with your emotions in check, and happen to see this:
Just know that Snape's really like this all on the inside:
WHOMP. Props to tomhiddles for emotionally destroying whatever was left of us after Fred's death!
Images: Giphy; tomhiddles/Tumblr(2); Warner Bros