Better known for his flat black mane, long nose and incessant hatred for Harry Potter, Alan Rickman was the legendary actor who played Professor Snape. While all of us grieved his demise on January 14th, and promised to always remember him in our hearts, very few of us knew the real meaning behind the word “always.”
When Alan Rickman first began playing the role of Professor Snape, the last few books had not even been published. We would think that Alan was as clueless to the secrets that Severus Snape held in his heart as the audience was. However, the audience always speculated that Alan Rickman knew more than he would let on. After the last books were published, the audience was convinced that Rickman had known something about Snape well before the last books were published. David Heyman once said that Alan Rickman would sometimes object to what the director wanted him to do in a scene because it wouldn’t fit the story later.
Alan Rickman disclosed to the audience in 2011 that Rowling had given him a key piece of information about the character. This story of how Rowling got Alan Rickman to play the role is well known among Harry Potter fans. However, it was never known to the public what exactly she had said to him.
“[Rowling] gave me one little piece of information, which I always said I would never share with anybody and never have, and never will,” Alan Rickman said. “It wasn’t a plot point, or crucial in any tangible way, but it was crucial to me as a piece of information that made me travel down that road rather than that one or that one or that one.”
The only thing Rickman clarified further from this statement was that Rowling had not actually told him that Snape wasn’t the villain. Yet he stubbornly kept his word and remained mum about the piece of information itself. After the release of all of the Harry Potter films, Rickman said that it was this piece of information that convinced him that “there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume.”
While fans all over the world mourned Alan Rickman’s death after his battle with cancer, one fan asked Rowling what she had told him years ago about Snape.
@jk_rowling Will you tell us the piece of information that you told Alan Rickman about Severus Snape? Or will that forever be a secret? ☺ – Sarah (@sarahrosefrank) January 18, 2016
Rowling responded quite promptly, and just as Rickman had told us, it really had nothing to do with whether he was a good or bad person at the end. It was however, something much more, and vital to the character of Severus Snape.
I told Alan what lies behind the word ‘always’. – J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 18, 2016
The word ‘always’ comes from the end of Deathly Hallows in a scene that reveals Severus Snape’s actual alliance with Dumbledore. It was the scene in which Dumbledore sees Snape’s Patronus – a silver doe – which used to be Lily Potter’s Patronus. Dumbledore asks him, “After all these years?” and Snape responds with “Always”. We learn at this time that everything he did for Harry and Dumbledore was motivated by his love for Harry’s mother Lily, although he was always bitter and spiteful towards Harry, who looked more like his father James. This was the key piece of information that Rickman knew. He always knew the motivation that Severus Snape had behind doing everything in the series, though he did not know the end of the story either.