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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 39)

"So now that we know so much more about Severus Snape...what was the deal with Emmeline Vance? Was that purely to preserve his cover? Is she included in the response to Dumbledore's question about how many people Snape has seen when he says "lately, only those I could not save"?"

I've been wondering about that too, Joe. He's there when Charity Burbage is ed and is unable to save her. Possibly he was in the same situation when Emmeline was ed and/or Amelia Bones. Certainly the comment (which chronologically he makes before Charity is ed) suggests that he is not happy about the situation even then, that he had regrets and his uningness to Dumbledore is couched in terms that suggest he already fears for his soul.

And Mike from Columbus, I'm not so sure about no religion accepting Snape's repentance. If his repentance was genuine, soul deep repentance at what he had done, and if one does accept the existence of a merciful God (and I'm not saying anyone has to!) then logically that God would forgive him. Especially since his repentance was acted upon and he tried to atone for what he had done. (I'm talking about genuine moral repentance here, not a naughty child realising that if s/he doesn't look sorry then there's no TV for a week!)
However as you say, all of us interpret the books individually and a good thing too. I agree with you, though for slightly different reasons, that Snape's was inevitable. If he had survived I suspect he would have become a complete recluse.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 13, 2008 03:30 AM

To Mike from Columbus: You cannot deny that Snape risked and lost his life to save Harry and to enable him to defeat Voldemort. Snape put himself in the most dangerous position as a Spy without gaining anything from it apart from possibly a peace of mind.

You call all this "some remorse"? The man wishes he was when he learnt what happened to the Potters and he changed his whole life after the incident.

Snape shared his memory with Harry - without it Voldemort would still live and . Snape surely wasn't nice - but does everyone have to fall on his/her knees in front of Harry in order to be accepted as a good person?

And for the naming - if you decide to name your kods after a person you surely value this person beyond all means - just think about it:


In short - the people Harry valued most in life and Snape is among them.

You don't have to like Severus Snape, you don't even have to label him a hero - but you cannot shun from acknowledging Snape's deeds.

And for those who label Snape a bad teacher: He at least made an impression enough on Harry for him to remember the Bezoar stone - which later saves Ron's life. Yes, Snape treated Harry badly - for reasons we've already discussed in depth.

But what about other Hogwarts teachers, Horace Slughorn, for example? He and his exclusice club of the intelligent, famous, daring or otherwise spectacular: would you call this ideal teaching methods? The guy even fails to remember Ron's name!

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on February 13, 2008 08:19 AM

Snape might have passed info on Vance in the same way he informed Voldemort and the Eaters about the plan to remove Harry from Privet Drive at the beginning of DH, taking a calculated risk and trying to control as much as he could while staying under cover.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on February 14, 2008 05:32 AM

Snape is, without a doubt, one of the biggest heroes in the series. He had courage, integrity, love, tenacity and perseverance in spades. His whole life was utter crap from beginning to end - he had an abusive father, he was bullied and labelled as a social outcast and was shunned for almost all his life. He was never trusted by anyone (other than DD and LV) and was trated with disdain. The same two points that all you Snape haters keep repeating is that he was a DE, and that he wasn't bothered if an entire family was ed due to his info on the prophecy. This is certainly valid, but the point you seem to be missing, is that that was the turning point in Snape's life! One of the main themes in the series is of redemption through love and remorse, and Snape is aperfect example of this. He truly realised the extent of his actions and what they had led to. Even though his he felt that his life was virtually worthless, he pledged himself to DD and to taking out LV and protecting Lily's son. If you don't accept the concept of redemption and forgiveness (wich Harry and DD clearly do) then you must equally castigate DD for being infatuated with theDark Arts and wanting to subjugate the Muggles - with him also, it took the of his sister to for him to change his ways and become different. Just because one had a long silver beard, was nice to Harry and supposedly benign, while the other was greasy, a loner, and bat-like does not change anything. In fact, I think that JK is cleverly twisting the pre-conceptions we had about them. Up till the 6th book, DD was the paradigm of wisdom and benign protection, while Snape was the greasy villain, skulking and back-stabbing. It is revealed in the 7th book, that, in fact, DD was a crass manipulator, only interested in the greater good, at the expense of other people's lives, whereas Snape was the true hero, sacrificing his life, and endangering himself on adaily basis.
The 2nd point made is that Snape was very nasty to Harry and his friends. While this is undoubtedly true, one must realise, that Snape had been bullied by Harry's father, who had take Lilly from him. Harry was a living reminder of this, and a big source of torment for him. An entire life of rejection and despair- such a history of negative experiences can't just be gotten over - they express themselves in bitter, irrational behaviour. How can anyone judge the man, not having been in his situation, and not having suffered the hell that was his life? Ponder this; the only two people, who showed him adrop of compassion and warmth - Lily and DD - he pledged himself to and remained utterly loyal to for the rest of his life, even when he found out, that DD had just used him. His was a tragic waste - based on an assumption that was false, but he live on in our hearts.
Long live Severus Snape

Posted by kissin from london on February 14, 2008 09:01 AM

I said in my comment from Feb 6 that Seamus Finnigam made a comment about Snape's teaching; this is not true.
Ernie McMillan regards Snape's first "Defence against the Dark arts" lesson "good" in "HBP" when talking about Shield Charms with Harry and Hermione and Ron.
Sorry but I mixed up the names there.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on February 18, 2008 09:00 AM

Joe, you mentioned one of the Harry Potter mysteries here, I think. We never learn what really happened and what Snape did or did not do. I tend to agree with Elizabeth though - he probably couldn't find a way to save her and his remark to Dumbledore "Lately, only those I couldn't save" has to be understood as such.

However, I've just read the article by Louis Casa Bianca "Emmeline Vance: The Future Rosetta Stone" featured on this site and I'm finding it highly interesting!
All the theories mentioned in it are possible in my opinion and they are well researched and supported!

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on February 20, 2008 06:50 AM

You know, Kissin, I think you are being a little harsh on Dumbledore. I agree with you 100% on your estimation of Snape, but to say that Dumbledore was a crass manipulator seems unfair. I know Harry feels like that for part of ly Hallows, but I think he realises in the end that it wasn't really the case. Dumbledore's position was as appalling as Snape's. He had to find a way to defeat Voldemort, or given the prophecy, enable Harry to do so. Somehow he had to give Harry the tools and information necessary, but at the same time leave Harry morally free to make his own decisions. Yes, people d because of Dumbledore's decisions, but I very much doubt he ever intended those s or saw them as unimportant. This is war we are talking about and people in wars. Dumbledore never hesitated to put himself on the front line and was in the end ing to for the cause. All the members of the Order knew the risk of when they joined. I doubt Emmeline Vance or Amelia Bones would have hesitated to sacrifice their lives in battle to bring about Voldemort's destruction. Snape keeping his cover was just as important as a decisive battle in a war. Whenever you move troops in battle it's inevitable that some be ed, but even knowing that the person giving the orders still has to give the command if moving troops to a particular position is likely to result in victory, or save a greater number. The phrase "for the greater good" is a two-edged sword. Sometimes you do have to consider the final outcome, but I doubt Dumbledore took any of those decisions lightly. He certainly wasn't trying to bring down Voldemort to enhance his own power. This is where his actions differ in old age from in his youth. Then the phrase "for the greater good" was used to justify the plans Dumbledore and Grindelwald had for the wizarding world. Plans that would have given them power at the expense of other people's freedom. After that Dumbledore avoids power because he doesn't trust himself. When he is forced into making decisions for the safety of others he does so without taking his own safety or benefit into account. Nor does he use the threat of Voldemort as an excuse to step into power himself which he could easily have done. In this instance "the greater good" is other people's freedom and happiness.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 20, 2008 8:00 PM

Elizabeth, while I agree with most of what you're saying about Dumbledore, I think the point Kissin tries to make is that all too often we judge from appearances and Rowling cleverly plays around with this. She goes on and on describing Snape's appearance in the worst light (or should I say shadow?) possible: greasy-haired, sallow face, yellow teeth. She misses no opportunity to rub it in, ( probably in case we are too blinded by Alan Rickman's dashing appearance in the films to judge properly..) and some people even conclude from this and a few other things that he might be a vampire! - whereas Dumbledore is always depicted as the serene, calm, silver-bearded old wise man with half-moon spectacles and long white hair - all very positive, bright features. Naturally, we put more trust in such a person than in someone who looks like someone who has seen no daylight for a decade.

Also, Dumbledore is very guarded - he never reveals much, his words are controlled, his temper never rises. Harry mentions this on a number of occasions when he disappointed his Headmaster in some way; Harry always wishes Dumbledore would shout at him rather than show no emotions at all. This of course causes Harry a lot more pain than simply being told off. Dumbledore very well knows this and uses it - yes, to manipulate, but in a careful, controlled way. Dumbledore knows that often a lot more power and sarcasm is hidden in a whisper than in an outburst. His way of greeting Alecto and his sister in " The Lightning Struck Tower" springs to mind. Snape, on the other hand, loses it ever too often, he spats on the floor when angry or shouts out insults to defend himself.

But what do we learn in the end? We learn that both Dumbledore and Snape made mistakes, they were both vulnerable. We learn that Dumbledore was as weak as Snape in at least one moment of his life: he was tempted to use the Resurrection Stone to bring back Ariana, very well knowing this was foolish, as he himself remarks. He got himself poisened. This is the reason for his , not so much his ingness to for the cause. He weakened himself and this meant he couldn't be there much longer to guide Harry. This, in my opinion, was his greatest flaw, though it made him human. He left it all to Snape to tell Harry about him being a horcrux - but can you really imagine this conversion between Harry and Snape?

Would Harry have ever believed Snape? Snape, the man who, as Harry is still forced to believe at this point, has ed Dumbledore in cold blood? I find this the most incomprehensible part of Dumbledore's plan, to use Snape of all people to hand Harry the most important and most awful piece of the jigsaw. For Harry, Snape's was fortunate as without the unfiltered memory, I doubt very much that Harry would have ever trusted Snape. It is only Snape's that enabled Harry to believe the information given to him.

Posted by siena from Leeds, UK on February 22, 2008 05:02 AM

Snape was amazingly selfless. He devoted his entire life help bring down Voldemort after he threatened Lily. I know he wasn't pefect. Not to make excuses but he didnt have a great childhood. He caused the of his one true love and friend. Imagine the guilt of that. And he didnt just himself after that. SUre he was horrible to Harry but imagine having to see the eyes of the one you loved on the face of your worst enemy. And think of his sacrifice for harry(really lily) and tihnik how mad you would be at harrys lack of respect to him. And if it was realy all for only lily then why? did he not just stop after he found out that Dumbledore was and Harry must in the end? That was the test that he really was a good man. a hero

Posted by someone from Hufflepuff on February 23, 2008 1:38 PM

I wanted to cry when i heard that Snape cared all along, but i just couldn't. I guess it was too hammered into us that Harry hated Snape ALOT, and since the book is in Harry's perspective then so would we, right? I think that it had something to do with the fact that he actually went throught with Dumbledore's , and whatever other risky and dangerous things Dumbledore ordered him to do.

Then again, would Harry really make it this far without him? It was Snape who sent the doe,Snape who gave him the memory to help him the rest of the way. Well, we cant say Snape isn't a good actor. He acted as if he hated Harry as much as Harry thought he did, but secretly loved him. He acted as if he were with Voldemort all the way, seeing as Voldemort didn't find it neccessary to read his mind and know about his real feelings for Harry, or about anything else for that matter...

Well i think this entry is long enought... I'm out:D

Posted by Beth from Brampton,Ontario on February 23, 2008 5:04 PM

Man, this is great. All these different opinions about the exact same books. Although I have my own opinions and have expressed them, I cant reconcile in my mind that Snape is a hero. That is my take on it. If, however, others see him differently than I do, then by all means, you have that right. It is what makes this kind of forum all that more enchanting. Exchange of ideas and opinions, looking at others opinions with an open mind.
From book one, I hated Snape, and by the end of book seven, I still hated him. I am not saying he had to bend down at Harry's feet, but through all the books, he just treated people horribly, I honestly feel he didnt love himself, took his self loathing out on others. Sure, he loved Lily, and went to Dumbledore to try to save her, yet it didnt come to pass. He may, FINALLY, have redeemed himself a bit by giving Harry ONE memory, but only on his bed at that. Human nature is not so forgiving for a lifetime of abuse handed out by a bitter, sour man. I give Harry the credit for rising above it in the end, but I can't, in good conscience, give Snape any credit for being a "good" guy. Plain and simple, he wasnt. Just re-read the books and example after example are easily found how badly he treated others, especially Harry.

Posted by Mike McGrath from Columbus Georgia on February 27, 2008 6:53 PM

i acually cried i never thought snape was bad or hated harry some of the ways jk describes the way severus looks at harry told me that especially in the fith book

Posted by lorraine from dayton ohio on March 2, 2008 4:28 PM

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