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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 34)

One of the comment (from Siena) a little earlier about Snape...�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.�

I do agree a lot with the conclusion here, but when I that chapter, I thought Dumbledore misunderstood Snape a bit here. I thought Snape would hate Lily Potter�s son to know that he had caused the of his parents. I doubt if Snape thought Dumbledore would tell Harry that he, as his schoolteacher, loved his mother. That isn�t something to tell a child, and would a child really understand that what Snape had done revealed �the best of him�. That�s adult stuff isn�t it? Don�t you think Dumbledore just took Snapes statement a bit too far?

Also, a comment much earlier (I can�t find from whom it was) but he said �Snape had to hate Harry. He had to develop a true hatred of him to show his love for him. As good as Snape was at Occlumency, he couldn't allow the slightest risk that Voldomort would find out that he was helping Harry/Dumbledore/the oppostion in any way whatsoever.� I think this is very important point, and I also find it so sad when Snape is in Sirius� old bedroom, picking up the letter and picture of Lily, crying. If Harry saw Snapes memory in the pensieve in a cronologically correct order, then Snape � at this moment � would have told (or was about to tell) Lord Voldemort the correct date and way of the transport the Order had set up for Harry going from Privet Drive, and must have had some thoughts that it could go all wrong and Harry could be ed by Lord Voldemort, and then he would have betrayed Lily Potter, again. Even though this time it was on Dumbledore�s order, it would not have helped him much, Dumbledore beeing . He would have been despised by everyone even more than before. I really think Rowling has been a bit hard with him. Lucky she let Harry be there to pick up his memory.

Posted by Lala from Oslo, Norway on November 19, 2007 3:06 PM

Reading some of the older comments, I was reminded of some things I've been wondering for a while. What would life have been like for Severus if he had survived? From almost the very beginning he was kind of a slave, working for someone and acting on some behalf other than his own. In school it was for his Slytherin brethren to the point of estranging the woman he loves. After school it was for Voldemort. A few year later, and all the way until his , everything he did was all by Albus' design. The only time he really truly could act of his own was before he went to school, those few little moments of him and Lily in the park talking about the magical world. Now that the war is won, what is left for him? Would he know what to do with himself now that he is free?

Posted by monkeeshrines from orlando fl on November 21, 2007 2:52 PM

I agree with monkeeshrines, I would wonder what Severus would have done with his life had he lived. Since the books are centered on Harry, maybe Rowling would not have wanted to get into what Snape would have become. It was cleaner for her to him off, but I think it was a huge opportunity lost, especially if she ever does choose to return to the Harry Potter world in the future. Imagine James, Albus and Lilly having Professor Snape as a teacher!

Posted by Michelle on November 22, 2007 07:33 AM

I thought that "reveal the best" in this case would have meant to openly reveal that Snape was on Harry's side and ready to protect him. It wouldn't have meant to reveal Snape's love for Lily to Harry, but rather to state that Snape really is a good person who can be trusted.
But I agree with you, Lala, it could also mean that Snape was afraid that Harry would find out that he told the prophecy to Voldemort.

What Snape's life would be like had he survived you're asking? Well, I still think it would have depended a lot on Snape's ingness to forgive. Would he have revealed the truth to Harry had he not been mortally injured?
I'd love to think that he would have. Then he could have let go and start anew, maybe he could have found another woman, could have written ten volumes of "Brilliance at Potions" and could have started a career as a Professor at a University, where he would teach Masterclasses in Potion Making and Defence against the Dark Arts. I think he was the kind of teacher who would have been a lot happier teaching Higher Education courses where he could have expected academic excellence; he wasn't really a school teacher. A school teacher has to deal with "dunderheads" and Snape never really wanted that. He did cause quite a lot of fear, especially in Neville, who could perform a lot better in the acual examinations when Snape wasn't around looking over his shoulder.

Yes, you're right, Michelle, it is an opportunity lost not to continue writing about Snape as he was the one who had to face the most difficult decisions, and his decisions made the story truly interesting for me.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on November 23, 2007 05:42 AM

"I thought that "reveal the best" in this case would have meant to openly reveal that Snape was on Harry's side and ready to protect him. It wouldn't have meant to reveal Snape's love for Lily to Harry, but rather to state that Snape really is a good person who can be trusted."

Siena - I assumed it meant Snape's capacity to love and perhaps also his loyalty to Lily and the fact that he risked to pass information to Dumbledore on the Eaters and Voldemort.

When Harry finds out towards the end of HBP that it was Snape who told Voldemort about the prophecy he confronts Dumbledore about it and demands to know HOW Dumbledore can possibly trust Snape. I had worked out that Snape was in love with Lily and assumed that Dumbledore hesitated to tell Harry that because he'd have known how offensive Harry would have found the idea. Possibly also Harry might not have realised how important it was. He was still struggling to accept the importantance of his own capacity for love. Obviously Dumbledore felt bound by that promise to Snape.

All the time Snape is trying to persuade Voldemort to let him go after Harry during the battle he is trying to get to Harry to give him the information as Dumbledore had asked. In the end those memories, Snape's thoughts might have been the only thing that would have convinced Harry to trust what he was hearing. He really did have to see it, be shown the truth. Just telling after all those years of bitterness wouldn't have been enough. As it was Snape's last words had me close to tears.

I think Snape was probably ready to . All that he would have feared in as he did was that he had failed Dumbledore in not getting those last instructions to Harry. In the end to fulfill his task he revealed everything to Harry.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 24, 2007 12:13 AM

I'm not convinced that Snape was ready to ; I think he knew the dangers, but I don't think he thought he would . His mistake was in not telling anyone else about Harry being the last horcrux; he should have at least told McGonagall the truth. She may not have trusted or believed him, but he should have told her just in case Snape d before being able to tell Harry. I think that the reason he didn't tell anyone else was more out of his own arrogance or conviction that he was too smart and capable to . I think Snape truly believed that he would live to see Voldemort defeated. Despite Harry's hatred of Snape, I think Snape would have thought of a creative way of telling Harry about the last horcrux, at a minimum he could have done it via the doe patronus. Snape was a very clever man and he certainly thought of a brilliant way to get the sword to Harry.

Maybe I'm way too sappy, but I would have loved to see an ending where Snape openly helped Harry defeat Voldemort, and afterward was finally able to swallow his own pride and show Harry the "best of himself" by allowing Harry to see the memories of Snape and Lilly. Harry would finally understand the truth, and Snape would finally get the resolution, while living, that his character ached for throughout at least the last 2 books.

Posted by Michelle on November 25, 2007 09:43 AM

I believe snape is one of those two faced people. He's good sometimes and evil others but what matters to me is his final desicion. J.K. wrote snape so well over the series that you hate him for the things he did.

Posted by IJ on November 27, 2007 06:34 AM

I think the reason Snape did not confide in anyone else about any of his secrets was that, being a double agent himself, he probably had suspicions of loyal Eaters working alongside him, masquerading as teachers.

Didn't Dumbledore mention to Harry about something being "a secret, which of course, means the whole school knows about it."?

I would imagine that one of the first rules of being a spy is to trust no one.

Posted by Patty from Quincy,Massachusetts on November 28, 2007 05:49 AM

"I would imagine that one of the first rules of being a spy is to trust no one."

I'm sure that was a large part of it, Patty. Snape of all people would have been aware of the dangers of Legilimency. He must have buried those thoughts and feelings very deeply to keep them hidden from Voldemort; it would be easier and safer just to keep them totally hidden from everyone. Even his very real loathing of Harry might have helped there - Voldemort probably didn't bother to look any further.

Also I think Snape would have loathed the idea of James's son knowing all this. In the end the reason Harry believed Snape was because he saw those memories from Snape's moments when his life literally passed before his eyes. How else could Snape have convinced him? Your second-worst enemy coming to tell you that you have to let your worst enemy you? I think it was important that Harry wasn't tricked into acting but made that sacrifice in full knowledge of what he was doing and why - he had to believe Snape and the likelihood of Snape getting close enough to convince him in any other way seems remote.

Snape was not a good person but nor was he totally evil. He did some dreadful things, yet he had within him the capacity to love and therefore the possibility of redemption.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 28, 2007 10:34 PM

Snape was an abused and unloved child raised in a household full of hate and prejudice. He was rejected by James and Sirius because of his appearance and lack of socia ss but found some acceptance in the company of Slytherin house. When Lily, the love of his life, rejected him in favour of loutish bully James Potter, he turned to them. That was a dreadful mistake for which he spent the rest of his life atoning.

Because the books are about Harry Potter, readers tend to see things through Potter's eyes. Snape disliked Harry from the beginning, admitedly unfairly, because he reminded him of a man whom he loathed. He also was jealous of Harry's unearned fame and popularity as the boy who didn't . However disliking someone that the readers like or even love, does not make a character evil. Despite his dislike, Snape frequently put himself in dangerous situations to protect Harry, who needed rescuing frequently because his magic ss were only averge, while Snape was an extremely sed wizard.

Snape wasn't pleasant and he was an unfair teacher, but he was a hero.

Posted by Giselle from Vancouver, B.C, on December 3, 2007 11:49 PM

I wonder...when Snape looked at Harry, did he hate Harry because of his resemblance to James and it reminded him of all of the hateful things James did to Snape? Or did Harry's resemblance to James remind Snape of the role Snape played in the of the Potters, and therefore Snape's own guilt and remorse manifested itself in an unfair hatred of Harry. I guess the question I have is, was Snape's hatred of Harry really a reflection of his hatred of himself? Imagine if you played a role in the of someone and then had to look at their lookalike every day for 6 years. It would be a terrible torment.

Therefore, when Snape said "look at me" while he was , was he in a sense finally able to forgive himself for what he had done? Was he simply trying to get one last glimpse of Lily's eyes before he d, or was his soul finally at peace?

Posted by MIchelle on December 4, 2007 07:42 AM

Michelle, I think the answer to your questions might be; all of the above. I doubt Snape himself fully understood how he felt about all this and I think that perhaps giving Harry those memories and completing his task might have felt in some ways as though he had "made confession" and that in doing so his soul would be at peace. You put that really well.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on December 4, 2007 4:19 PM

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