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Severus Snape: Heel or Hero?

Is Snape a hero? Would James and Lily be alive now if not for him? Would Harry be dead now if not for him? Did he ever care about Harry, or only Lily? At the end of the epilogue, Harry says that Severus Snape was the bravest man he ever knew. Did he feel that way only after years of reflection? How do we feel now, while it's still fresh for us?

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Reader Comments: (Page 13)

can i ask a question? do you think snape would of been so harsh or have this hatred (that some people feel he has) and joined the eaters if james and co. had not taunted him from the start, but took him in as a friend or just left him alone?

Posted by 3ps from uk on August 8, 2007 1:00 PM

snape was a hero. period.

what did being a horrible teacher have to do with what he did, risked his life more any other? he saved harrys life on plenty of occasions, at the same time being bad to him, that means he was rough only for his cover.

for those asking why he didnt reveal himself when attacked by the teachers, there are several answers: when he fled, he didnt know about the carrows being captured. he didnt know about harry being there, but felt voldy being summoned. he fled to try and protect the students.

its possible that he couldnt wormtail because of his magical hand.

Posted by dk from il on August 8, 2007 1:07 PM

I agree after all Snape saved Harry's life so many times and if you think about it, Snape really wanted to find harry to tell him about him being a horcrux. we've all had teachers who made your life diffucult but its hard to find a teacher who would save your life multiple times, and Snape even tried to save Lupin and hates Pettigrew like Harry, maybe because its Pettigrew's fault too that Lily was .

Posted by Tina from Silver Spring, MD on August 8, 2007 6:18 PM

First and foremost I must declare that I LOVE Severus Snape! I liked him from the time I learnt he saved Harry from Voldy in PS even though he has been quite nasty to Harry! From that moment, I knew we are going to have a many layered complex character whom we can love or hate but cant ignore! My liking for Snape turned into love after seeing Alan Rickman portraying him to the point of perfection in the HP movies (i thought that I am only influenced by Rickman but it happened with others also as someone has written it here).

Whatever may be the reason, I dont know myself, but I always knew that there is more to Snape than Rowling was showing. Snape is the misunderstood guy who never got what he deserved.

First of all he had a tumultuous childhood as we know from DH and in OotP; in school he was bullied from the very first day by the arrogant James potter and his gang
(I dont know why did Lily Evans ever chose James Potter! I wonder was it because at the back of her mind she wanted to punish Snape for not understanding her and choosing Dark Arts over her? Well, there are reports that Rowling has stated that Lily might have loved Severus in the romantic way if he would not have took too much interest in the Dark Lord!)

I must admit Snape that he made the "wrong choice" of taking the side of Voldy but then it is not hard to assume that there had been peer pressures of Slytherin house and his own greed for getting importance and power. Snape seems to be always craving love and importance which he never had in his life. In DH, he seems to be hurt when he found that Dumbledore is not telling him everything in spite of his risking his life. He tells Dumbledore quite childishly that he is more brave than Karkaroff... This underlies Snape's longing, to some extent childlike longing, for appreciation.

His hatred towards James is absolutely justified and his greed for power, love and importance are all so very human. It is his flaws and his goodness that makes him so appealing.

Though everyone has already explained his goodness, still I cannot stop myself again from pointing to the good heartedness of Snape throughout the series.

Snape, I admit, in the beginning of his life, cared very less for others, which is quite evident in him becoming a Eater. But the depth of his love for Lily is much greater than his greed for power. And it his love that completely turned him into a better human being.
He risked his life saving Lily and her son. Initially his sole purpose might be to save her, but he did realise that Lily would be happy only with her husband and son. So Snape put his life at stake to help Dumbledore. And then it was because of Harry that he continued to live - it seemed he would have committed suicide if Dumbledore would not have told him to continue Lily's work. I think in the whole HP series we have not seen anyone else with such maddening love. Snape might have decided to save Harry for his love for lily, but in DH it is clear from his horrified look and contempt for Dumbledore when he heard that Harry is 7th Horcrux and going to . Even Dumbledore was surprised at his concern - I think Snape showed his patronus to prove that he still has love within him and it was always for Lily and now it was for her son. Even if Snape has not loved Harry, he DID CARE for his worst enemy's son. Otherwise after Dumbledore's he could have easily sided again with Voldy. It shows the degree of Snape's loyalty, love and above all his bravery.

Many people have criticised Snape for bullying Harry and his friends. But like many others I am of the opinion that Snape did this purposely to be in the good books of the eaters and their children. Of course, Snape did relish making fun of Harry because he wanted Harry to feel the way he was treated by James Potter. But hardly he might have enjoyed Draco bullying Harry because when he saw Harry being bullied by Dudley in OotP, Snape was sympathetic.

I just cried when in DH Snape was ed by Voldy. After reading HBP I had anticipated that Snape would be one of the important characters that would . But now after
reading DH, I feel like screaming at Rowling and ask her "WHY? Why did you Snape? Couldnt you keep him alive to get some happiness which he never got? Snape didnt get a good home, saw his love in the arms of his enemy, got cold behaviour from his colleagues. Were the mistakes of his past so big that he had to have such a unceremonious in the hand of Voldy? Why did not Snape live at least few days of life in a glorious manner, getting respect from others for all his great deeds?

AS far Severus snape is concerned, for me he is a tragic hero who never got what he deserved, not even a portrait in the august circle of the past headmasters of Hogwarts.

Posted by Doyel from Kolkata,India on August 9, 2007 12:21 AM

Not like any other heroes out there who've shed good light since day one, Snape was different. He was a hero whom we didn't really knew all along.

I know some people think that he's still the villain (besides Voldemort) and they couldn't get over his hatred to Harry. But try putting yourself in Snape's shoes...

I'm not surprised on how Snape behaves. Seeing how sorrowful his childhood was, how he was bullied at school, how his first love was taken away by his mortal enemy... everything in his life was bitter. And there's no wonder he was aroused by the Dark Arts... Every bitterness of his life was leading him to darkness, to being evil and having revenge.

But he was reprieved. He shifted his hatred to humility and acceptance. Taking guard of Harry was the consequence of his mistake. And he did it, though he hated it because he was remorseful. He did so with much bravery; he swallowed his pride because he know that it was his fault why the Potters d. And this was not forced, this was HIS choice.

I love Severus Snape and how he was written in an unconventional way... How JK made him a hero. His life was a tragedy, it was bittersweet until the day he d. And still, his last wish was about love: To see Lily in Harry's eyes.

Posted by Ashley from Baguio City, Philippines on August 9, 2007 01:17 AM

Personally I think that what has been discovered and said in this web page might of conditioned the writing of the book. Snape was always going to turn out good. But Dumbledore probably would have been alive in the last book if you didnt discover all the little clues J.K. left in the last book so he would be alive. The clues all fitted but J.K. left some unanswered questions which is very unlikely in her. So she probably changed the story a bit.

Posted by Mach 5 from Betanzos, La Coruña,Spain on August 9, 2007 02:37 AM

Mach 5: It's a compliment to me that you could think I could put up a website and together us fans could affect the outcome of the Harry Potter books. I just don't think that's possible, however. J.K. has said she's had the whole thing planned out since the beginning, the entire series of books is so complex with clues woven throughout which point to happenings in future books, there's no way she could have done that without working it out all many years ago. There's no way we could have changed the outcome of the last book.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 9, 2007 11:00 AM

to Charlie Tarbox: You asked about where I thought Snape "flip-flopped"... I don't think I said or implied anything of the sort. Snape was an unhappy child. (Like REAL unhappy children I have seen in the world...) He was also unusually intelligent and talented in magic. (Like a lot of kids in REAL life who are harassed by their classmates for being smart.) He had a crush on Lily (I'm sorry, I can't think of that as "love" even though I do believe Rowling has suggested it is the case) and that crush was unrequited. He was tormented by the school "cool clique" (as often happens with jocks versus geeks in their teen years) and he plotted his revenge. He became (understandably) bitter and self absorbed. He learned to use cruelty as a weapon, especially when he could do it within the parameters of the rules, as in discipline for example. While still a student, though, he CHOSE to align himself with Voldemort and the Eaters, and he was a ing participant in their activities throughout the first war until the of Lily. (So, ok, if that event effected him profoundly enough maybe it WAS a sick kind of love...)

Anyhow. That's when he "flipped"... no "flopped" involved! That's when he aligned with Dumbledore to try to defeat Voldemort. He had a goal, a mission, and he was dedicated to it. This does NOT (in my opinion) constitute "being a hero". He had his own reasons, and they were not particularly noble. He was not a nicer, better person. He didn't "see the light". He was NOT simply under Deep Cover, pretending to be nasty. He WAS Nasty, to the core.

He WAS brave to face a horrific enemy and convince that enemy that he was a friend, knowing he would suffer in unimaginable ways if caught. But (again, in MY opinion) a hero is someone with altruistic motives and a certain selflessness. Snape was acting out of revenge and hatred, and any altruism or selflessness were side effects, not motives. (I don't buy into the use of the term whereby EVERYBODY is a hero just for breathing air! Nor do I think people who accidentally do something good/useful/self-sacrificing and are sorry about it are heroes. Wormtail is NOT a hero for briefly hesitating, and if he could have taken it back, you KNOW he would have!)

So Snape was consistently mean and self-serving from day one, and only in his allegience to one side or the other in the battle of "good and evil" switched one time. He was a small souled being. It might not have been his fault, but maybe some think the same thing about other sociopaths like Charles Manson. Fine. Keep them locked up anyhow!

I detect in some people's reactions to Snape a bit of the mentality that leads a lot of women to write letters to men in prison, somehow believing that they are "misunderstood" and that "a good woman" is all they need to influence them to change. These women generally learn to rue that decision -- this would include a former sister-in-law whose divorce from one of those lovely guys I paid for myself, to jettison him from the family after he began to abuse her kids. Yes, this is fiction and Snape is not real. But Rowling took pains to make him seem real, and she's no dummy -- she knows that there are people in the lives of kids everywhere just like Snape, and that these people are troubled and are not good influences. If everybody "in love" with Snape were to consider how they would feel about a real life teacher behaving like that to their kids, they might reconsider -- and get the guy fired!

Sherry Bailey

Posted by SherryBinNH from New Hampshire, USA on August 9, 2007 12:53 PM

Fiona from Hong Kong: regarding Snape not ing Wormtail, I think the reason he didn't Wormtail at Spinner's End was there was a bigger picture in play there. By the time we've gotten to Spinner's End, Snape is deeply entwined in his double agent act and I feel his motivations have changed.

In POA, ing to avenge Lily would have been his first concern, with Harry's protection coming a close second.

By the time we get to Spinner's End, Voldemort's rise to power is reaching fever pitch, and Snape realises that to ultimately avenge Lily, he must protect Harry (through some persuasive coaxing from Dumbledore). ing Lily's betrayer (now known as Wormtail) is incidental to the bigger picture. I am sure though he gained much pleasure in treating Wormtail as a worthless slave as he did in that first chapter of HBP.

Posted by Meredith from Sydney, Australia on August 9, 2007 8:35 PM

I must say that 'flipped' is an interestingly derogative term to characterize a 'change of heart', or 'doing the right thing finally'? I take it that personal opinions and experiences are being worked into this discussion. I cannot comment on a commentator's personal or family history. I might comment on having walked next to Charles Mason once, but he seemed restrained at the time. However, I must mention that we have no objective evidence that Professor Snape was 'nasty to the core'. Even so, subjective opinions can often be what this forum is about. I, for one, do not derive that same feeling from his actions to see them as complete 'nastiness'. I might point out that the relative 'softness' of the Doe Patronus (itself an indication that this was not merely a 'crush') also gives us insight as to the inner self involved with Snape.

Do I take your comment that he (Snape) is a 'small souled' individual,albeit not his fault, and therefore we should include him with those to 'keep locked up anyhow'?

We see Professor Snape through Griffendor's perspective as well... we have not heard from Slytherins, nor fellow teachers. Harry Potter himself is a flawed individual, at times as flawed as Professor Snape. Does this mean that because Harry 'had a mission', because Harry often acted out of a vengfull motive (Recall that when discussing the Prophecy in OOP and Dumbledore questions Harry on why 'neither can live while the other survives'. The answer was that because Riddle had ed the Potters Harry would wish to and continue to seek him out and finish him.) If we adopt the definition that being a hero requires 'altruistic motives and a certain selflessness' then Harry Potter falls short of this definition at times. Perhaps Snape, over 17+ years also fell short 'at times'? And perhaps at times..with other teachers, with other students he was considerably less offensive and more altruistic? I certainly do not see saving Luna and the DA members from the Carrows as in any way ’self-serving’.

Harry Potter used a magical substitute for a sword to deeply slash Draco Malfoy on school grounds. There are those who, in authority in the septology, would see this as, by definition, a ‘Serious Felony involving serious bodily injury to the victim’. Those sorts of crimes normally earn ‘late teens’ certification to Adult court and often a mandatory prison term. Inmate Harry himself could qualify for letters from Hermoine, Ginny, Romilda Vane and others determined to ‘reform’ him. Who is to say actually that Lilly Potter was not somewhat taken by a reform motive with the somewhat wild James Potter?

Instead, Professor Snape sets the punishment for Harry as relatively short detentions with nothing more onerous than sorting prior mis-deeds of former students. The fact that this specifically includes Harry’s father, with whom Snape has personal issues which cause him to wish Harry would NOT become James Potter, does this constitute some sort of cruel and unusual punishment? If James acted as an ‘arrogant toe rag’ and there appears to be several cartons of evidence which Harry was being forced to sort, read and copy, is it helpful or hurtful that Harry be discouraged from following that path? Perhaps it was Professor Snape who felt that Harry was on the path of becoming a sociopath and wanted to jettison that part of Harry’s personality from Lilly’s family?

In the end I feel that Harry Potter, head of the Auror office, and in law enforcement chose to name one of his children after Severus Snape. If Harry is indeed the Hero most of us believe him to be, then especially as this is a Children’s book, let me say that perhaps, ‘It takes one to know one”?

Posted by Charlie Tarbox from Gettysburg, Pa on August 9, 2007 9:07 PM

To Doyel: i dont think Snape would have gotten all the happiness he lost if he was alive. he loved lily so much. without her, he feels nothing is left for him. at least he can see lily after his . I hope that's his real happiness. even after he remain as a hero forever.

Posted by shini from chennai,Tamilnadu on August 10, 2007 07:25 AM

David from UK: Snape did not make the Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa BEFORE Dumbledore was injured - it was AFTER (and therefore after Dumbledore had already instructed him to him - and that Draco was in trouble).

Chapter - The Spinner's End (Uk Hardback page 36): The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were.

Yet again, further proof of Snape's loyalty and bravery. As he not only promised to Dumbledore - on Dumbledore's terms, but he then entered into an Unbreakable Vow which means he could never ever retract on his promise to Dumbledore - or at least, not if he wanted to carry on living. So Snape sealed his own fate, bound up in Dumbledore's fate.

Posted by Orlando from England on August 10, 2007 12:28 PM

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