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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 32)

Kaylee: Relax! All Lala said was that she wishes he could have survived. Just because it isn't necessarily reasonable doesn't mean she can't wish. That's the wonderful thing about imagination--it doesn't have to be realistic.

Lala: It's an interesting idea. I've never thought about it that way. I liked the way Snape d, but I liked what you said about how he needed to be mean to the kids--it didn't mean he was a complete jerk for real. Although I think he played the part a lot better than I could.

Posted by andrea from ogden on October 28, 2007 5:50 PM

First of all, I would like to say that I find the scene where Snipe s very touching. What puzzles me most � I think � is JKRs comments afterwards, that Snipe still loathed Harry when he d. If Snipe didn�t have the role as the occlumency/legilimency-expert, it would be easy to say he was �the bad guy�, though on the right side, nut it is the combination of the two roles (bad guy/expert) that makes me wish I knew more. I would have liked to see him afterwards. Would he still be so mean, or would the of LV make him relax and open up a bit? JKR has done a great job though, engaging our imagination so much.

I have been reading all the seven books (at least once) in just a few weeks. Just wanted to eventually find out what the children reads, and then I ended up getting completely hooked.

Posted by Lala from Oslo, Norway on October 29, 2007 03:19 AM

No way your comment is irrelevant, Lala (and I don't think any comment so far on this site should be called as such!) - I would have wished Snape to survive and live his life after Voldemort too!

I think Snape was quite soft actually - and insecure, seeking reassurance from Lily about their friendship ("I thought we are friends, best friends?") and generally behaving very tenderly towards her. She accepted him for what he was, despite his social background and she looked beyond those second hand clothes (unlike Petunia).

And his patronus is a doe, which is a very gentle, beautiful creature. I dare to suggest with the doe Rowling might have hinted that Snape's outer appearance (black robes, gloomy look, etc) might not be all there is.

With James and Snape, we have this classical Upper/Lower Class clash. I think Snape as the vulnerable, neglected boy is extremely aware of that and feels threatened by James for it right from the beginning when they first meet on the Hogwarts train. Snape saw James and made this nasty remark about Gryffindor House ("If you rather like to be brawny than brainy") - a remark which lay the foundation stone for their mutual dislike. James, however doesn't seem to me the kind of person who harboured any reservations about social backgrounds, so Snape maybe put himself on the defence quite unnecessarily.

Snape was clearly jealous of James and part of him wanted to be like James: accepted, sporty and outgoing and sunny. He never learnt from his parents to be proud of who he was; an intellectual boy, who was happier in front of a book than on the Quidditch pitch. He never learnt self-respect, he could never be secure about himself. Snape wouldn't have fitted in the group with James and Sirius (the good-looking sunnyboys) and Lupin and Peter (the admirers) - as he was a character of his own accord and worth, but he could never see that.

Later on he was hurt by Lily's decision to end the friendship and probably closed up completely about his love as he thought he would weaken if he ever revealed his true feelings.

And this, I think, was his true sentence, not the danger he put himself in when spying for Dumbledore, but his uningness to "reveal the best of him", to admit he loved. He never forgave Harry for what happened to him by the hands if his father, he never forgave Sirius and Lupin either. He acted to never reveal his true allegiance with Dumbledore, his true motif and his role in the plan. He chose to remain looked up in his own world, nurturing his feeling of revenge and hatred. He probably was afraid it would destroy him to let go but it would have been the very thing to save him: Harry and the rest of the Phoenix members would have trusted and helped him with his dangerous mission. They could have protected him.

All along I was angry with Dumbledore about not protecting Snape enough: But it is quite difficult to protect someone who thinks of himself as an island. Dumbledore probably had a hard time to tell everyone he trusted Snape, for reasons he wasn't allowed to reveal!

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 29, 2007 06:48 AM

About the meaning of Snape's last words, "Look at me." Rowling chose her phrase very well. In one dimension, it could have meant a desire to see Lily's eyes as he d. In another, it urged Harry to note that his thoughts needed to be collected despite the emotional moment. In another dimension, it could have meant "see me as a human being ." In another, it could have meant that when Harry would watch Snape's thoughts and life under review in the pensieve, he would see/look at Snape as he had lived and experienced his life. Incidents that involved Lily and Harry poured out of Snape's mind to help Harry and show him ever more fully the multi-dimentional Snape's self.

Posted by Alice from Milton on October 29, 2007 07:06 AM

Had Snape given Harry the contents of his life and then, somehow, actually survived the snake attack, his loyalty and devotion would have been made known at least to Harry. And Harry then would have ensured that Snape's name was completely cleared. It would reason, therefore, that Snape's complete loyalty was made known to everyone, and he would be viewed as quite brave and heroic. Loyalty, devotion, bravery....all very appealling traits. So I do wonder how he would have lived had he finally been put up on a pedestal for a change. I'd like to think that he would have become the better for it and softened some of his rough edges. It would have made for a great epilogue. *sigh*

Posted by Michelle on October 29, 2007 09:16 AM


I don't quite think that Snape purposely gave Harry his Potions book. He found out Harry was going to after Harry got that book (see HBP after Ron gets poisoned). He couldn't have Imperiused Slughorn without someone noticing, and Slughorn certainly doesn't seem Imperiused at all in the book.

I think Snape just didn't need it; he either had all the stuff in it copied down or memorized, so he left it in the cupboard and forgot about it.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 29, 2007 2:19 PM

The trail you're following about the circumstances in HBP are really worth a second thought... Harry arrived at Hogwarts assuming that he wouldn't be allowed to do Potions. He assumed Snape would teach the subject and Harry had not achieved the required grade to get taken on, he therefore doesn't bother to buy a Potions Book... He then gets told by McGonagall that he actually has the right grade for the new Potions Teacher - Horace Slughorn, who then gives Harry (not Ron, who hasn't got any books either) the Prince's copy...

Dumbledore insists later on that Harry has what it takes to get Slughorn's concealed memory of the Horcrux incident.. Dumbledore must have known about the book by then and the fact that it had helped Harry to receive the "Felix Felicis"...

Maybe Dumbledore pulled the strings here again...letting Harry assume Slughorn would teach the "Defence Against the Dark Arts" class and not Snape...

It is indeed strange that Snape would leave his book behind at Hogwarts, but maybe he, like Harry, had to hide it and didn't have the opportunity to retreive it?

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 30, 2007 03:47 AM

Snape chose during his lifetime not be seen as a good person. He requested Dumbledore not to reveal "the best of him" come what may - he chose to seen as an abigious figure, chose to inflict mistrust and suspicion. Dumbledore is once tempted to reveal why he trust Snape to Harry - it's when Harry had just found out that it was Snape who told Voldemort about the prophecy, but Dumbledore kept his promise to Snape and didn't confide in Harry. I respect Dumbledore for this.

I don't think Snape would have lived a different, more open life had he survived and people had known about his bravery. In order to connect truly with people he would have to be ing to forgive - and I can't really see (unfortunately) what could make Snape let go of his grudge..

I wish Harry would have demanded of Snape (while he was still alive) once: "Stop hating me for what my father did. I hate what my father did too. But I cannot make up for it. I am not my father." This is of course wishful thinking, as Snape had surely done his best to be absolutely unapproachable for anyone, but for Harry in particular.

Rowling said she is not sure whether Harry ever talked to Snape's portrait. Well, I wish he did! Harry sought clarity in all his relations and encounters during his life, so I am pretty convinced he would want to make his peace with Snape as well.

Just thinking about the portraits.. I can imagine poor,gloomy Snape next to a beaming, probably chuckling Dumbledore... Dumbledore probably tease him saying:"See, Severus, this is what you get when you're too stubborn to admit your love, bravery, loyalty..and chose to operate alone... you end up on the wall next to me!"

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 30, 2007 05:35 AM

In the final analysis I think Snape was neither a hero or a heel, he was what we all are...human. Horrrible things happened to Snape throughout his life, some beyond his control others completely within his control. Dumbeldore said to Harry in Chamber of Secrets that is our choices that make us who we are. Snape made some bad choices that forced him to live with a terrible guilt. I think that Snape held on to his hatred of James Potter and to a lesser extent Harry not because he was evil but simply because it made things bearable. Perhaps it was hard to watch Harry and know that the pain he'd endured was in portion his fault. Perhaps it was not. I think that ultimately the rift between Harry and Snape had nothing to do with Harry looking some much like his father but in Harry having the one thing that Snape never could...Lily's love. Perhaps at the end when he looked into Harry's eyes, he found some peace.

Posted by Searcy from Georgia on October 30, 2007 11:34 AM

When Harry told his son that Snape was brave, he didn't explain what exactly he meant.

Many of us naturally assumed, therefore, that Snape's bravery was to do with the dangerous situation he was in, pretending to be a supporter of Voldemort, while spying for Dumbledore.

But Harry, when he spoke of bravery, could also have been referring to bravery of a different sort.

The idea of remorse crops up repeatedly in Book 7. Hermione, when asked how a horcrux can be unmade, says that it only be unmade by remorse, but remorse can be so painful that it could the person. Later, Harry asks Voldemort to "find remorse."

Although these references to remorse are to do with Voldemort, they also have a lot to do with Snape, the man who has actually done wrong, and who actually feels remorse for it.

If remorse can be so painful as to result in , only a brave person would voluntarily choose to undergo that pain and do what is right. This is where Snape's true bravery lies - he is brave enough to face the pain involved in turning from wrong to right.

Posted by Rodent on October 31, 2007 10:19 PM

I agree with u rodent!
Snape was always the key element of HP world. he unknowingly wheeled the circle of events when he asked voldemort to spare Lily. Had lily not been given the choice of saving herself her may not have been a sacrifice and voldemort�s AK curse might not have rebounded.

Posted by swati from India on November 1, 2007 9:44 PM

Snape was a hero in that he was ing to undertake some very difficult tasks in the name of love (for Lily) and loyalty (to Dumbledore).

That he might have eventually been a very different person were it not for his outburst that damaged his relationship with Lily is one of the great "what if's" of Potterdom. Snape was ing to act to protect Harry because it would have mattered to Lily, even though he resented Harry, not least because of his glaring resemblence to James.

This doesn't mean that Snape was a particularly nice person. Heroism and social ss are not automatically intertwinned. Plus Snape was forever a bitter person over what he'd lost. Voldemort (who was indifferent to love) was casually dismissive and assured him that there were women of "better" blood than Muggle-born Lily for Snape. Not understanding love, Voldemort couldn't grasp the pain of losing the love of a special person, something which is not replaceable.

So Snape was heroic, but he was also very bitter and that defines his character. He gains a kind of absolution at his by "confessing" what happened and his mistake to Harry. This is what Harry admires, just as he did Dumbledore's admission of his errors in his infatuation with Grindelwald and his schemes, and his sister's subsequent . Voldemort couldn't face up to his own mistakes or admit he might have been wrong. And that divides him from Snape and Dumbledore.

Posted by Daniel from Philly, PA on November 4, 2007 1:01 PM

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