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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 33)

I completely agree with "Rodent" as well; a brilliant comment you've contributed there! Snape's way was never laid out for him as Harry's was, he had to make painful decisions - and he had nothing to guide him apart from the love he felt for Lily.

But to get back to the HBP issue raised - it is probably right that Snape didn't leave his book for Harry on purpose, but Harry refers to it on different occasions as a "kind of guide and friend" and states that it "taught him so much" and "helped him."
This could be seen as a link to Snape's true mission to save Harry.

Harry and Snape couldn't be any more different - but they loved the same person, would see the same person in the Mirror of the Erised: Lily - and they were both ing to risk their lives for her.

Harry survived and defeated Voldemort in the end -, I think, not so much because Voldemort's curse fired back, but because he confided in friends, trusted and valued Ron and Hermione, and was open to them.

Snape d because he chose to fight alone.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on November 5, 2007 07:46 AM

actually, i think snape did a good thing bullying harry. sure, he sort of made his life miserable, but in a way, i think by doing that he made harry stronger in a way too. Imagine if snape favoured harry like all the other teachers, i think harry might have turned out someone completely different, and maybe not even that brave.

Posted by Anonymous on November 8, 2007 7:57 PM

Given the importance and significance of Snape's potions book in HBP and all the things Harry learned from it, whether Snape intended him to or not...though he must have realized that Harry had found the book...I was disappointed that potions (and the book generally I suppose) didn't feature in DH...apart from Polyjuice potion, which they learned how to make in the second year after all. I felt sure there would be some tie up with the ss Harry had learned through his time at Hogwarts and the things he would have to do to destroy the horcruxes...a bit like the way his Quidditch training served him well escaping from Voldemort in the graveyard at the end of GoF...I guess I kind of thought Snape's teaching would have a more direct relevance in DH. For me, the intensity of the links in the books grows from PS through to OotP but then fades somewhat in HBP and doesn't seem to feature much at all in DH which is almost a book to stand alone....

Did the Snape's potions book burn in the fiend fire or Albus Severus find it some time do you think?

Posted by Joe from England on November 9, 2007 02:07 AM

I think the significance of Snape's teaching comes up in the way that Harry is generally more confident to perform his spells in DH, which started showing in HBP, when even Snape had to admit being impressed (though not happy) about Harry using the "Sectumsempra" against Malfoy.

And, I think, it is, as pointed out by "Anonymous" before, due to Snape's rather provocative way of treating Harry, that the latter started speaking up for himself and defending himself. Harry was a real people pleaser before then, and this is the kind of behaviour that would have made him extremely vulnerable.
Harry once said: "I am not weak!" and Snape replies:"Then prove it!" I think this is what Snape wanted Harry to do, find his strength and act accordingly.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on November 10, 2007 02:55 AM

I have been hoping that Snapes potions book had been saved at some time and not mentioned like the invisibility cloak at the end of HBP. It was left at the top of the tower but we were never told when and how he had retrieved it. So I think since it was the better potions book, it should be the one the school uses to teach with in class. If it made Harry a better student in that class it would work for all of them. I think Snape would have liked that, no more dunderheads.

Posted by jeannette from simi valley ca. on November 10, 2007 10:37 AM

Jeannette, Dumbledore got the Invisibility Cloak from the tower, he leaves it in Harry's dormitory with a note: "Just in case." And Harry didn't actually learn anything from the book, he didn't become a better potion-maker, he just used a bunch of shortcuts and cheats. And if a heavily enchanted Horcrux couldn't survive the FiendFyre, I doubt an old Potions book could.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on November 12, 2007 12:26 PM

Snape was a good man from the vary start -and before.

Jo, unless she was tricking us (sounds like her), was telling us that. He was a best protector that harry had, he stayed on the sidelines and never got thanks.
I don't care if it was for Lily more then Harry. After she stuck up for him all the years that was the least he could do. I hope they made-up in the afterlife.

Posted by Bela from Davenport, Iowa on November 12, 2007 4:28 PM

C.J, I think that "just in case" thing was at the end of Sorcerer's Stone, and not at the end of Half-Blood Prince. We really don't come to know when, how and who reterived the invisibility cloak from the astronomy tower.

Posted by swati from India on November 12, 2007 8:51 PM

It doesn't seem likely that Snape's potions book survived the fire. And since Snape had taught Potions for 16 years, he had ample time to write a revised book on Potions. But I think this was the point he made in Book 1; Potions is a subtle art, not something to be followed like a recipe from a cookbook. He wouldn't have been "teaching" the students anything if he had shown them the exact way to make a specific potion. Harry proved this when Snape had a potion written down on the board in front of the room, and Harry missed a step and his potion didn't turn out. Harry wasn't looking at the potion itself to see what was happening, he was too intent on following a prescribed series of steps. All of the students were using the same flawed potions book, but I'm guessing that only those students who truly understood potions, those who could extrapolate and adjust their potions beyond what was written in the book, only they would achieve an Outstanding on their O.W.L. It seems it's not easy to make potions, otherwise Lupin could have made his own Wolfsbane potion. He instead relied on Snape, who understood the subtleties of the potion.

I think Snape was a great teacher personally (yes, he had a very harsh tongue), but if the students could get past their bias against him then they could have really learned from him, as Hermione did. They had to earn his respect first by demonstrating talent.

Bela, I agree with your comments about Snape, but Rowling has repeatedly said that Snape was not a good person, was not a "big" man. She clearly didn't like him. But I just re-read all of the books now with the perspective of Snape revealed in DH, and I have to say that as much as I liked him the first time around, I like him so much more the second time through.

Posted by Michelle on November 13, 2007 04:50 AM

Rowling has later on said about Snape: "I like him but I also want to slap him hard." She also said she values a lot his ability to love very deeply and his bravery.

I think she likes Snape quite a lot, I even dare to say he is in a way her favourite character. The way she depicted him in such a subtle way, making everyone suspect him first and then in DH to feel with him very deeply, making us understand the big WHYs..the very touching scene with Harry and then Harry naming his kid after him!

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on November 14, 2007 06:41 AM

I've just read through Rowling's comments on Snape again and there's this point which is a bit ambiguous (or not quoted correctly): "Was Snape a good guy? In many ways he wasn't. So I haven't been misleading everyone all this time, when I say HE IS A GOOD GUY."

I think she means that really was a "good guy" considering his bravery, his love for Lily, his remorse and return to the good side( and, as "Rodent" pointed out, the courage to face the pain involved with that decision) and his devotion to save Harry and to fight against the evil.

But he also was a "bad guy" in Rowling's mind as he couldn't forgive and a lot of his actions were fostered by bitterness and prejudices; blaming Harry for his father's deeds. He was also ing to hand over Sirius Black to the Ministry to have him executed, without even looking further into the matter, which would have lead to the of an innocent man. Snape was completely filled with his longing for revenge and hate against Sirius at that point, which prevented him from judging the situation fairly. He was also quite keen to receive the Order of Merlin for handing over Sirius.

I think to be considered truly "big" in Rowling's mind would have meant for Snape to give up his grudge and not let it prevent him from objective acting. A vindictive person is always at risk to get carried away by his/her emotions and to judge unfairly, which Snape clearly did at times, although Dumbledore prevented the worst in the case of Sirius.

Don't misunderstand me though, I do completely understand where Snape's resentments come from and I loathe what James and Sirius did to him when he was young. But Snape should have made a point at some stage of his life to see that, although James and Sirius mistreated him badly, they weren't necessarily bad persons generally.

To be considered big by Rowling would have meant for Snape to forgive and to grow out of his urge to seek revenge all the time, which would have enabled him to connect with people again.

Then again there probably isn't the ultimate "big" character in the books; Rowling never explicitly said that Dumbledore was big, for example, it's just what we assumed judging by his controlled, benign and calm wisdom. But then we learn that he was a rather Machiavellian figure, who used people, as Rowling herself has said.

I think it's up to us readers to decide whom we favour or whose flaws we are more likely to forgive.

I mean Rowling has even described Harry as flawed and sometimes arrogant, something I don't really see, Harry seems to me quite saint-like almost in a Christian sense, always fighting for justice and ready to hand himself over for the cause.

Maybe Lily would be considered as truly big by Rowling, she had such a pure heart that made her act out of pure love and bravery when for her son. This purity was recognized by Snape early on when he and Lily were kids.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on November 16, 2007 04:48 AM

I've always believed Snape was a hero. He was unfair, but Dumbledore trusted him. I think Dumbledore knows who to trust and who not.
It is true that he was brave at the end of the book, but he saved Harry's life. He wanted to stop Quirrell... He did what Dumbledore asked him to do.
Snape also saved Dumbledore's life. That he saved to lifes is enough for me.
This is why I think Snape is a hero. Dumbledore trusted him, and Snape was very brave.

Posted by Samantha from Boxtel, The Netherlands on November 19, 2007 06:24 AM

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