In case you needed a bit of a cry today, J.K. Rowling has taken to Twitter to share the one little piece of secret information she shared with the late, great actor Alan Rickman to help him better portray Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. As Rickman previously revealed a few years back, Rowling gave him a piece of advice to help him better understand the complexities of his character, who is far more than the shrewd, dodgy potions master he first appears to be.

Back in 2011, Rickman told HitFix that Rowling had given him “one tiny, little, left-of-field piece of information” to help him understand that Snape “was more complicated and that the story was not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought.” What was that piece of advice? In the wake of the actor’s death, Rowling took to Twitter to answer the question:

Harry Potter fans know that “always” was what Snape said when asked about his enduring affection for Harry’s mother, Lily. Snape says “always” when Dumbledore confronts him near the end of the franchise to ask if he still carries the torch for the dearly departed Lily Potter after all these years. It’s that devotion that drove Snape to dedicate himself to protecting Harry, and his lasting love for Lily proves to the younger Potter that Snape is not the scheming Slytherin he once perceived him to be.

Rowling had not yet completed her beloved book series when the films were being made, so only she knew the truth of Snape. Not even Rickman knew exactly where his character was going, but thanks to Rowling’s advice, the actor felt “some sense of protection for Harry,” regardless of his character’s ultimate outcome.

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