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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 40)

But Mike, remember that Snape never actually succeeded with his bullying.. Rowling makes sure of that. Yes, Snape is nasty to Harry..but when does this actually get him anywhere? See HBP for example, where Snape puts Harry in detention on a Saturday morning. Snape wants to prevent Harry from playing in the last match of the season, clearly thinking that if Harry's not playing Seeker, Gryffindor lose. Well, and what happens? Gryffindor wins anyway.. and there are more occasions like this one throughout the series. Think back to "Prisoner of Azkaban" where Snape is desperate to turn Sirius in.. he doesn't succeed, Harry sees to that.
Snape treads on Harry's fingers,yes, and on Ron's and Hermione's as well. But all he ever does is pointing them towards their weaknesses. Harry is intelligent but he isn't academic at all and not articulate either, he does give a very clumsy answer when asked about the difference between an Inferius and a Ghost, for example. By answering in the way he does he makes himself the target for Snape's snappy retorts. But when does Snape ever do something really bad to Harry? I don't know but I feel sorry for a person like Snape: a person who gains pleasure from watching someone sorting out rotten flobberworms without protective gloves..
During their Occlumency lesson Harry actually does something he wasn't allowed to do, so you can't really blame Snape for getting angry and throwing a jar at Harry.. and for the HBP book, well, strictly speaking, he shouldn't have used that either..

You said that Snape redeemed himself by giving Harry ONE memory. Well, it isn't just one memory really, it is everything Harry needs to know to (a) fully understand his position, that he has to sacrifice himself in order to finish off Voldemort but (b) also everything Harry needs to know to finally understand Snape's actions, thoughts and, yes, feelings.. I think Snape is very brave to make himself vulnerable by letting Harry see those memories concerning Lily, the beginning of their friendship and the developments that finally led to Lily turning her back on Snape. In fact Snape does quite the opposite of what he did during the Occlumency lessons: he now reveals everything to Harry, allowing him to understand, as if saying: Look, this is what made me the person I was.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on March 4, 2008 05:16 AM

in my opinion snape redeemed himself not only by giving his memory to harry but
1. deciding to switch to order's side to finish voldemort off and be loyal to Dumbledore forever.
2. becoming a double agent and taking utmost risk against the most accomplished legilemens voldemort.
3. ed Dumbledore on his orders so the ultimate plan could succeed against risk of ripping his own soul.
4. helped harry to get the sword, protecting hogwarts kids during "dark" regime as far as he could.

and he did all this "Anonymously".

It was snape who showed the strength of the charm "Expelliarmus" which ultimately became the signature move of harry, saved his life many times and ultimately helped him to overtake voldemort.

in a way he redeemed himself by being instrumental in many ways for voldemort's defeat.

Posted by swati from India on March 4, 2008 9:40 PM

Snape only works for himself and I HATE him. He uses both sides to his advantage, and I don't think Harry should have given him the respect that he did by naming his son after him

Posted by Sirius' Number 1 Fan from Somewhere in Hogwarts on March 17, 2008 2:56 PM

Snape is very horrid to Harry throughout most of the siries but i think that he shows total breavrey in letting Harry see his memories about Lily though and after all harry's father put snape through at school it's not surprising that snape act's in that brutal way towards harry and his friends.

Snape probably feels that Harry is more like his father when he see's how well he and Sirius get on and it's not like harry is Excepatnally nice to snape either.

Severus Snape risk's alot for Harry and he loved Lily and hated James but when Lily d he could have just kept on being a eater still loving Lily's memory but he did not he showed (what i like to think as) love to harry and in the end after all that he did to harry snapes riskes payed off, he felt that he had to protect harry from LV after what LV did to Lily.

I think that Snape is an excellent hero but not in the same way that Harry is.

Posted by Evans/Potter 818 from sommerset England on March 23, 2008 06:29 AM

Perhaps we need to think of Snape not as being "the Hero" in the same way that Harry is the hero, or even "a hero", but simply as "heroic". No one is ever perfect or flawless, not even in fiction. Flawless character=reader boredom. Sirius for example - he's been to hell and back, and the experience has warped him. This comes out in his treatment of Kreacher, which IS awful. This only makes him stronger as a character because he isn't perfect. Knowing what he COULD have been, his is all the more tragic.

Snape is the same. The fact that we can all have so much fun arguing about Snape is fairly significant. It means he is complex and there is more than one way of looking at him. Let's face it, if we knew the guy probably most of us would dislike him intensely. He would never let anyone get close enough for anything else. But then if we found out everything Harry does after his , that he had spent his life trying to expiate a horrible mistake, that despite disliking us, he actually DIED trying to help us, then we might be inclined to be a little bit forgiving. That doesn't mean we have to LIKE the guy, but we might feel a touch more charitable. Think: can you imagine James, Lily, or even Sirius turning their backs on Snape if they meet him after ? Because I can't. I think Lupin's attitude in life towards Snape is a very good pointer here. He admits that there never be friendship between them, but he always treats and speaks of Snape with respect. This of course is until Snape s Dumbledore, and we need to remember that Remus had great difficulty believing this.

Also I don't think Snape does only work for himself. I don't think he works for himself at all, unless you count trying to redeem himself. If he was working for himself then he would have tried to gain real power under Voldemort. Perhaps even gone after that sort of power for himself. He could have done it. Snape is a very gifted and accomplished wizard. Think about his duel in DH with McGonagall - the one Flitwick interfered with. He could have probably ed the pair of them had he wanted to. In fact, faced with a witch of McGonagall's s who wouldn't have minded ing HIM, it took a very fine wizard to escape without hurting her at all. Snape had the potential for real power. What he lacked after Lily's was the desire for that power. Her , and I think even James's despite the hatred there, was a real turning point for him. Perhaps the mistake we make is equating "heroic" with "likeable".

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on March 24, 2008 05:36 AM

i think Snape is a hero. the main thing that the books talked about was the power of love and those who can love. snape loved lily before and after she d. his love for her never changed. if snape was bad to harry that was just because snape saw james in him and james was really bad to snape.snape's love for lily made him protect harry even though he saw james in him. snape loved lily till the last moment of his life. he was one of the characters in the book who could love the most and could do anything for his love. snape deserves the respect harry gave him.

Posted by aakash on March 24, 2008 11:24 AM

I agree with everything positive everyone on this thread has said about Severus Snape. He is the ultimate hero - all for love.

Posted by lilyalways on March 24, 2008 3:17 PM

this is a tricky subject for me, because although snape did cast a dementor-ish shadow over harry's potion class, his heroic acts can also overshadow his faults. he was always for the right side, there's no doubt in my mind anymore, but he was cruel to harry. but he's entitled to his opinion, isn't he? he had given his life to dumbledore when he heard what voldemort was planning to do to Lilly and her family. he went with dumbledores plans, however foolish they seemed to him with the information given to him. he ed what seemed to be a great friend and ally to him for 16 years, completely to protect harry potter. he secretly gave harry the tool to destroy the shattered pieces of voldemorts soul without any idea what the tool was going to be used for. he followed albus' orders, even after he d, and snape could've been able to give all the trouble away, like many other slitheryns would have, but he stuck to the plan, and was loyal to dumbledore, and harry, and Lilly. i believe he is a hero, to the full extent, no matter to how tough his shell is, or how many misdeeds he may have committed, or how foolish he may have felt by proceeding with plans that made no sense to him. with his sacrifices, voldemort was defeated, and harry couldn't have done it without him.

Posted by andrew from cedar city, utah on March 26, 2008 5:35 PM

even after I read the book i ended up having almost as many doubts as before about severus snape.Even if it all shows up into that direction i really dont think snape never got a certain sympathy toward harry, i think maybe everything severus snape did was for both lily and harry i would really like to know cause im not quite sure, on the other hands i didnt liked snape's last words, i would have prefered for them to be something more like "you are a great wizard harry, just like your mother" but that again would have shown something im not that sure of

Posted by ellie from milano on March 29, 2008 8:27 PM

Very slowly reading my way through HBP again...Just got to the sectumsempra chapter. I think it doesn't do Snape any favours...he just comes across as a nasty piece of work...emotionally damaged. Ok, yes, he looks after Malfoy and sorts him out (partly because of the unbreakable vow and its consequences), but the way he treats Harry and the punishment he gives him of sorting through Filch's cards with details of the marauders misdeeds...that's just petty nastiness. Snape may have been heroic in DH, but he wasn't a good guy and he definitely wasn't a nice person. And his motivation was questionable...Snape was a twisted soul...

On a different note, the chapter on Horcruxes where Dumbledore explains to Harry that he is setting too much store by the prophecy becomes so much more intense knowing what happens in ly Hallows....Dumbledore's motivation and actions become much more frightening....chilling...was he just using Harry to defeat Voldemort at all costs?

Posted by Joe from England on March 31, 2008 02:29 AM

Joe, I think the clue there is in what Dumbledore says about Voldemort's reaction to the prophecy: that Voldemort would never stop hunting Harry whether Harry wanted to destroy him or not. Since Voldemort set store by the prophecy, Harry had little choice. Which in turn leaves Dumbledore with little choice but to prepare Harry as best he can. At the same time he had to leave Harry free to make his own discoveries and moral choices every step of the way.
Yes, Dumbledore is gambling. Remember though, he is fairly sure that Voldemort's having used Harry's blood protect Harry. But he can't tell Harry that. All he knows for sure is that Voldemort and his Eaters never cease to hunt Harry. Add in the dreadful transformation in the wizarding world with Voldemort in power, and I really can't fault Dumbledore's decisions. Perhaps he should have been more open with Harry, but I honestly think the book would have been far less exciting if there hadn't been the mystery about exactly what Harry had to do. And I think it was vital that Harry only came to full knowledge at the end, when he was ready for it and knew what the alternatives were.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on March 31, 2008 06:06 AM

I'm not so sure about what you are saying about Sirius, Elizabeth. He has spent more than a decade locked up in Azkaban wrongly accused. While I admire that he obviously never succumbed to the constant threat of the Dementors - only a very strong person could do that, although strength in this case doesn't equate goodness here - as we know Bellatrix Lestrange also managed to survive the prison- I think he hasn't changed much from the arrogant boy he was as a student at Hogwarts. He was, as a student, able to divide people in " worthy" ( James, his hero and " unworthy" ( Snape, his victim). He was ready to torment " unworthy" people at school - and, as an adult, he is the same - he thinks of Kreacher as an unworthy creature way below his standards and therefore thinks he has got the roght to mistreat him. I'm not happy about many s in "Harry Potter" - but I'm actually very glad Rowling ed of Sirius. She made him pay the price for his arrogance. I think actually Sirius' attitude towards Kreacher was not so far of Voldemort's! Voldemort and Sirius failed to understand the true value and feelings of a living creature, as Dumbledore later pointed out. Sirius'brother Regulus - although seemingly a -hard Slytherin decendant and Eater - on the other hand, did just that - he valued Kreacher's loyalty to him and spared his life, while for the good cause. Sirius made such a fuss about how much he despised the Slytherin line of his family - but he lived what the Slytherins stood for: the division of people into "worthy" and "unworthy" - which isn't far off calling someone " Mudblood" in my opinion. I'm therefore not so sure whether Sirius would have understood what Snape did.. namely quite unceremoniously and quietly switching the sides. I think Sirius was the typical "black and white" kind of person - for him, there was no shade between the two and he had the arrogance - like Voldemort - to define for himself who fell into which category.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on March 31, 2008 07:55 AM

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