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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 41)

Joe and Elizabeth: I think Harry had a choice - and this is what Dumbledore meant to make him aware of. Harry thinks he HAS TO try and Voldemort because the prophecy says so - Harry, as Dumbledore said, takes the prophecy as the reason for his actions. But those words uttered by Professor Trelawny shouldn't be the reason for Harry to go out and fight - but the s of his parents, of Cedric Diggory, Emmeline Vance and all the other people Voldemort ed. As Dumbledore said, Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, Voldemort himself planted feelings of hatred and revenge in Harry. I think this is the crucial point for Harry to be ing to surrender himself and prepare himself for his end: the feeling that he hasn't got to do anything according to the prophecy - but he of course WANTS to do it to revenge his loved ones.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on April 1, 2008 04:43 AM

Siena, I think that's pretty much it. Dumbledore shows Harry that it shouldn't be the prophecy that dictates his behaviour - but his own moral choice. Destroying Voldemort is the right thing to do, not just to avenge the s of Lily and James and countless others, but as Dumbledore says, to prevent others being ed and other lives from being ruined and lived in terror and despair. Like what Lupin says, that he hopes his son understand that he d to help ensure Teddy could live a happier, safer life. In the end I'm not sure how much the desire for revenge comes into what Harry does. He's focused on stopping Voldemort, and in the final showdown in the Great Hall he even offers him a final warning, asks him to show remorse. That doesn't sound like a desire for vengeance which in itself is not necessarily an admirable trait. One doesn't have to look very far in our own world to find situations where the desire for revenge has led nations into tragedy.
This is why I like the way Dumbledore prepared Harry for his task. He didn't tell him what he had to do specifically, just tried to make sure he was morally equipped for the choices that lay before him.

Siena - I think in my earlier post I did not make it clear that when I referred to Sirius being a stronger "character", I was referring to him as a character in the literary sense. I think his flaws make him a marvellous counterpoint to Lupin for example who is far more mature about his problems. That said, I don't think Sirius really got a chance to grow up. He can't have been more than 21 or so when he ended up in Azkaban. Many of his failings seem to be to be those of a very young man and the stint of mental torture in Azkaban can only have made him more determined to cling onto who and what he is. Even his treatment of Kreacher seems to stem from his youthful rejection of his family. I'm not excusing it, mind you, just trying to understand where he was coming from. He had Snape both are examples of what Dumbledore meant when he referred to lives ruined, if not directly taken, by Voldemort. Sorry to be a while responding. I've been a touch busy.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on April 1, 2008 6:54 PM

You said Elizabeth, that Dumbledore was gambling - but as you said as well he knew that Voldemort's move to take Harry's blood would protect the latter. Dumbledore didn't risk Harry's life although he let him find out a lot of things for himself to strenghten him. But, as Harry himself said, Dumbledore made an effort to really get to know Harry and to discover his true nature ( which, as Dumbledore says to Snape, is like his mother's) - to be fairly certain about Harry's choices. And as Harry was who he was - a Christ figure really - he would be protected and survive after sacrificing himself for his friends.

But Dumbledore clearly gambled with someone else's life: Snape's. By letting Snape him - to ensure he would undefeated and the power of the Elder Wand would with him - he sacrifed Snape's life. It was not Harry who was kept alive to at the right moment, it was Snape who was the pig to be slaughtered. There was nothing to protect him from Voldemort's wrath when the latter discovered the Elder Wand wouldn't work for him. Dumbledore knew about Voldemort's way of thinking. And even if Draco Malfoy hadn't interfered and disarmed Dumbledore - Snape would never have been the master of the wand. But Voldemort didn't understand any of this anyway- and Dumbledore knew it.

Why did Dumbledore not warn Snape about the wand and what would happen after the arranged ? Snape didn't know anything about that wand I assume - he didn't even bother to pick it up after he ed Dumbledore.It was left where it fell down when Draco disarmed him. Shouldn't Dumbledore have told him to pick it up and destroy it? I find it quite strange that none of the Eaters bothered about it - after all it was the wand belonging to the wizard even Voldemort was too afraid to . Or why, if Dumbledore wanted to undefeated in order to destroy the wand's power, did he not himself? Wouldn't this action have spared Snape?

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on April 2, 2008 03:46 AM

Siena, I don't think that Dumbledore WAS absolutely certain about Harry being protected by Voldemort using his blood.

Actually, I think that is a major difference between Voldemort and Dumbledore, as well as Voldemort and Harry. Voldemort is operating on intellect, on what he understands of the "rules" of magic. While Dumbledore also operates partially on intellect, he and Harry both operate on faith as well. They take the human factor and love into account, but you can't KNOW how things turn out. You have to trust. Like Harry in the end obeying Dumbledore and going after the Horcruxes rather than the Hallows. He had to accept Dumbledore's instructions on faith and trust without the least idea of WHY. Rather similar to the way Dumbledore trusted in Harry's nature to make the right decisions - and probably prayed like crazy that HE had got it right.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on April 3, 2008 01:12 AM

Siena - I didn't have time before to comment on your speculations about Dumbledore and Snape. First: why didn't Dumbledore tell Snape about the wand? Earlier he probably didn't tell him for the same reason he didn't tell Harry about it. The Elder Wand was the most dangerous of the Hallows in terms of the temptation it presented. As for Snape or one of the Eaters picking it up after Draco had disarmed Dumbledore, well, they couldn't; when Draco disarmed Dumbledore the wand went over the edge of the battlements. Neither Snape nor the Eaters had any opportunity to retrieve it and Dumbledore would not have wanted to draw attention to it anyway.

You certainly have a point about Dumbledore gambling with Snape's life. I suppose it is possible that Dumbledore, in the form of his portrait, might well have given Snape some extra information that we are not privy to. It's pretty clear that the portrait was advising Snape during, but would a warning really have been necessary? Certainly Snape knew that Dumbledore was not telling him everything. Also, the very nature of his position as a double agent meant that he was knowingly risking his life the whole time. If Voldemort had suspected him for an instant, he was a man. Even if he had destroyed the Wand, that might have been enough when Voldemort discovered the truth about it, to make him suspect Snape.

Dumbledore says at one point in the chapter The Prince's Tale, that he prefers not to risk all his secrets in a basket that spends so much time hanging on Lord Voldemort's arm. Not because he does not trust Snape's integrity, but because of the risk of Legilimency. This may be the reason that he never tells Snape about the Wand. Or he may simply have feared that the temptation of the Elder Wand might prove too great for Snape. In the end of course Dumbledore does trust Snape with nearly all the truth; that Harry have to at Voldemort's hand. Possibly he did that partially in order to ensure that Snape had some way that Harry would trust of telling him the truth, perhaps by using the Pensieve? Or letting Harry use Legilimency against him?
I think though that Dumbledore realised the justice of Snape's charge that much was being demanded of him without trust to balance it. It worked out too. By trusting Snape as he did Dumbledore ensured that Harry had the final bit of information he required. The thing is that Dumbledore didn't calculate this; he just did what he thought at the time was morally right.

I think too that this is the sort of thing Remus is referring to on Potter Watch when he tells Harry to trust his instincts which are nearly always right. He is referring to Harry's gut feelings about right and wrong. Note the "nearly". He doesn't imply that Harry is infallible! Nor is Dumbledore. I think it is Gandalf in LOTR who says that not even the wise can see all ends. Might have been Galadriel or Elrond for that matter, but you get the point. Not even Dumbledore could see every single thread to the end.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on April 3, 2008 05:30 AM

Well, it was obvious and Dumbledore knew it that Voldemort was after the Elder Wand, even Grindelwald wasn't surprised that Voldemort turned up at Nurmengard. I think Dumbledore should have told Snape this, after Snape agreed on the "little service" of ing him. By agreeing on this, Snape had already lost out on the wand's potential power anyway, as we know, the wand would have only worked for him if he really defeated Dumbledore. So there wasn't any danger of him getting power-hungry, and, as you said before Elizabeth, Snape wasn't really after gaining power anyway after Lily's . Dumbledore was blunt with Harry, he told Harry upfront that Voldemort wouldn't rest until he got the chance to finish him off. So why wasn't Dumbledore honest with Snape, telling him that Voldemort, assuming him to be the person who defeated the last owner of the wand, would attempt to him? Yes, the risk of Legilimency - but throughout the books we learn how great Snape is at Occlumency - so great even to fool Voldemort, the " greatest Legiliment the world has ever seen" - to quote from Snape himself here. In fact Snape's ability in this field was after all one of the reasons why he made such a good spy.

But anyway, Voldemort had already singled out Snape to be the one to finish Dumbledore, he did not really believe Draco to be able to do it. Voldemort was oviously too much of a coward to confront his greatest opponent ( strange though, isn't it, he doesn't fear Harry, who really is a danger to him - but fears Dumbledore!). So Voldemort would have expected this service from Snape as well.. I wonder how Snape would have dealt with this - hadn't Dumbledore asked him to do it as well? Maybe, thinking about it actually - maybe Dumbledore wanted to save Snape from a moral dilemma - as well as ensuring Draco would be spared and the wand's power would be destroyed?

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on April 4, 2008 07:32 AM

"He intends me to do it in the end" - this is what Snape tells Dumbledore, and Dumbledore had probably assumed this before anyway. It seems more and more that Snape hadn't a choice whatsoever - only to keep his fingers crossed that Dumbledore would a natural before it ever came to the point when he would have to prove once and for all to Voldemort that he was a loyal servant?

As for Harry, I do think Dumbledore was pretty certain that he would be protected. It's the way he speaks about it in the "King's Cross" chapter - there is no point where he actually sighs with relief at the sight of Harry undamaged or any: "Oh I'm so glad this worked out - I feared I was mistaken", no tears of relief or anything. Dumbledore appeared confident and certain. He is never really mistaken. They even joke about this when Dumbledore is "guessing" about what Harry's wand did on the night he was chased by Voldemort. Of course he doesn't guess - he knows.

Still, without belief and faith and trust in Dumbledore and ultimately his ingness to give himself up - as you said - Harry couldn't have made the right moral choices, that's for sure. And Harry did not know whether Dumbledore would lead him on the right path, but he chose to trust him and to give up pursuing the hallows.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on April 4, 2008 07:59 AM

It would have been unrealistic and shamelessly cliched if snape had "thrown" himself in front of Harry when Voldemort attacked. In reality, you don't see many ppl like that.

They are ed without dignity, and Rowling's technique only strengthens the idea that is fast and unforgiving. How many ppl are actually around when their loved ones ? Who is actually there? Most of the time, you hear the bad news and attend the . Moody's sudden , Hedwig's demise, and Wormtail's sacrifice only bring about the truth in : It's unpredictable, undignified, and sadly insignificant.

Posted by Josh on April 21, 2008 07:50 AM

Snape had every right to hate Harry (yes, hate, not dislike) after all James and his gang made him put up with at school. THEY didn't really have a reason to hate Snape, yet they still bullied him. Then, Lily, the love of Snape's life, married Snapes worst enemy- well, I think we can all understand how he felt about this and particularly how he felt towards Harry. More proof of this is the fact that he did his very best to have Sirius subjected to the Dementor's Kiss (PoA); only the very worst of enemies would wish this upon each other.
Yet, through all this, Snape could still love Lily, feel regret for what he had done and devote the rest of his miserable life to helping her son defeat her er. It takes an enormous amount of courage to overcome all that happened to him and help someone who resembles his worst enemy. Snape is my hero and in my opinion, all that was explained in the DH excuses his bullying of Harry in the other books.

Posted by earl from brisbane on April 24, 2008 9:33 PM

I think Severus Snape had a good reason for being mean to Harry (not that I agree with him whatsoever). You have to admit, if your worst enemy who tormented you constantly got married to your true love, you wouldn't be happy either. Then the fact that everyone thinks of their child as a hero wouldn't make him feel any better. As I said, I'm not sticking up for Snape, I think he has no right to be so cruel to Harry and his friends, but I see where he's coming from.

Posted by Holly of Gryffindor on May 12, 2008 3:15 PM

Severus Snape was a real Hero. At least in my opinion. We read how james potter was in The order of the phoenix. He said that very existence of snape was a trouble, James and his gang of boys (barring Lupin) constantly bullied Snape in his school days and made his life a hell. then The girl he loved married the man he hated the most.
even then, even then Snape put himself in mortal danger just for the sake of Harry. Though he saw James in Harry, the man he hated the most, he still gave up his life saving his son.
What do you call that "Cowardice"?
He was by far the bravest man if we analyse and Harry is right in acknowledging so in The Epilogue.

Posted by Shivam from India on May 28, 2008 07:05 AM

Elizabeth and Siena: I feel like that is the only question I still have, after months of analyzing every little detail... why did Dumbledore plan for Snape to end up with the wand, which was meant to become powerless @ his planned , knowing that Voldemort would go after it?

It is the one thing - but it is huge - that suggests that Dumbledore is 'heartless', but I don't think so. Rather, Snape already gave his loyalty to Dumbledore for years... already decided to constantly risk his life... so, partly because of that, Dumbledore may have not seen it as 'wrong' to put Snape in that danger, because Snape's already in danger - always.

Secondly - and this may be more of the reason than the aforementioned one - remember that Snape told Dumbledore, those many years ago, that he wished he were ? After Lily d, and what with it sort of being his fault, Snape would rather have d than anything else. It very well may have been in Dumbledore's head that Snape would prefer , when it was all over. I mean, Snape never wanted anyone to know that he loved Lily, and least of all Harry.... so, perhaps, Dumbledore realized that once Snape revealed the truth, he would want ... or, who knows, perhaps Snape directly told Dumbledore that he would want , once his role was done... I mean, his other choice would be life, which, to Snape, was.... constant misery/regret/etc.

Looking at it that way, Dumbledore may have seen himself as doing Snape a favor. I do realize that, in 'King's Cross', Dumbledore says, "Poor Severus..." which would imply that he didn't mean for Snape to , and that is the one factor that keeps me uncertain, but there are so many possibilities behind that comment, as well... one being that it was still inside of Harry's mind, so that he may not have been able to figure out all of the truth; the other is that Dumbledore just decided to keep that quiet, forever, because it wasn't really necessary to say... dunno.

And, back in Life... we don't see every single one of their - Dumbledore's and Snape's - conversations... or, we can assume we don't... although, in that case, I would wonder why Jo would leave it out... but, then again, it seems to make perfect sense that she would leave that out... no? Hmmm...

Posted by Katie T from California on May 30, 2008 8:17 PM

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