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London — Harry Potter readers have long wanted to know: Why did the boy wizard choose to honor Severus Snape — a teacher who had been so mean to him?

Author J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to answer the enduring question on Friday in an exchange with a fan who asked why one of Harry’s children received the middle name of Severus.

The acclaimed author explained that Harry paid tribute to Snape because of “forgiveness and gratitude.” Though Snape bullied Harry, he also saved him.

“Harry hoped in his heart that he too would be forgiven. The deaths at the Battle of Hogwarts would haunt Harry forever.” Rowling said that while a whole essay could be written on why Harry gave his son Snape’s name, it goes to the “heart of who Harry was, post-war.”

Rowling’s seven Harry Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies and been made into eight films. Readers eagerly seek clues about her thinking behind the character.

“Snape is all grey. You can’t make him a saint: he was vindictive & bullying. You can’t make him a devil: he died to save the wizarding world,” Rowling tweeted.

The question of Snape has dogged readers in part because he returned to side of the villain, Lord Voldemort, and killed Harry’s hero, headmaster Albus Dumbledore, in one of the later books in the series, “The Half Blood Prince.”

In the final book, “The Deathly Hallows,” Rowling reveals that Snape was acting on Dumbledore’s orders and had protected Harry at school out of love for Harry’s mother, Lily.

“Snape died for Harry out of love for Lily,” Rowling said.

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