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I think it is safe to assume that Severus Snape’s father was abusive.
In the essays that I have read, our favorite double agent is most commonly referred to simply as Snape. Dumbledore’s use of Snape’s first name speaks volumes about their relationship and the extremely complex character that is Severus Snape.
In this essay I will discuss why Severus is different from Snape, why different characters address him by different names, and why Severus and Snape have very different attitudes.
Between the time that he sees Snape and is killed, Dumbledore utters only three words.
Those three words are of the utmost importance in attempting to divine Snapes true allegiance and motives: “Severus…Severus…please.” Dumbledore is pleading to Severus.
From what we have seen of Snapes childhood, it was not a happy one.
During Order of the Phoenix, Harry glimpsed a memory in which Snape’s father was shouting and his mother was cowering.
Whenever Harry Potter mentions Snape in front of Dumbledore, the old man is always quick to correct Harry that the Potions master is Professor Snape, not merely Snape. Dumbledore very frequently addresses Snape as Severus. And when Dumbledore and Harry return from the cave, a vulnerable Dumbledore says, “Severus, I need Severus.” (page 580) Dumbledore does not seem to need the professional opinion or help of Professor Snape. Snape is the son and image of a possibly abusive, negligent father. Dumbledore was reminding Snape of the potential for good that we all have within us.
Dumbledore needs the personal, familiar, and trustworthy help of Severus. Snape is the cruel, angry, humorless, sneering Potions master. And Severus responded to Dumbledore and did an essentially righteous, good deed.
There is a clear difference in Severus Snape’s attitude towards those who call him Severus and those who call him Snape. A highly illustrative example is the chapter Spinner’s End in Half-Blood Prince.
Bellatrix Lestrange addresses him as Snape and is rewarded with rudeness, anger, and contempt.