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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 8)

JK... of course you are right about the relationship between the 3. DH (US) 697 "He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here..."

However, the difference between them is more subtle. Voldemort never wanted friends..as Dumbledore points out HBP 'more like servants'. Snape? Well we don't know, but certainly for the last 16+ years he has been almost totally isolated unable to talk to anyone except Dumbledore. And Harry.. It is Harry who has Hermoine or Ron or both to help him through massive emotional travails and provide support.

Honestly, if viewed from that perspective, Dumbledore is right again. It is Love (through friendship) which has made the differences among the 3.

Whether or not each had a predisposition towards his eventual make-up is a subject for more debate I am certain. Riddle: Harassed, terrified, controled other children. Snape: Shot flies out of the air in his room with the AK curse at a very young age H. Potter: Absorbed physical and mental punishment and continued to work for approval and love from relatives incapable of providing it.

Of course his innocence or lack of malice is exactly what makes him so special with a pure and untarnished soul as Dumbledore has pointed out several times.

Posted by Charlie Tarbox from Gettysburg, Pa on August 4, 2007 07:23 AM

I think Snape was very brave, but he was blinded by sorrow and anger and that made him hate everything to do with James, including Harry.

Posted by jeanette from almond, wisconsin, USA on August 4, 2007 08:15 AM

Severus Snape was, and still is, one of my fav characters in the books.

After HBP I'd been hoping he'd turn out to be good. And somehow I've always defended him when others spoke bad about him. To be quite honest; I cried my eyes out in DH when he d and in the following chapter. (call me a wuss, I don't mind)

Like Pottermaniac said, Snape showed to be a man with many layers. He's been through hell himself when he was a youngster and most of the time because of James and co.
Given the fact Harry resembles his dad so much it was normal for Snape to dislike him. I think I would've felt the same when put in his position.

But now we know why JKR has been hinting us about the fact he has the eyes of Lily. Snape must have loved her to and because he couldn't save her, he did everything he could to save Harry. He has put his life at stake in order to save Lily's son.

To me, he truly is a hero.

Posted by Gabrielle from Netherlands on August 4, 2007 08:58 AM

What we all agree on is that 1) Severus Snape is socially inept and 2) He is also a very accomplished Wizard, surpassing even Dumbledore and Voldemort in some aspects of magic. I think that one drives the other. He has no idea how to relate to people so he puts his emothions into his magic. He just expresses himself better that way.

Posted by BNICKEL from IL, USA on August 4, 2007 1:39 PM

Snape is an interesting character, here are my opinions.

1. Being a child, snape was lonely, living among muggles (at his father's house). There was not much support in the family for him, and from the arguing at home, he got the first idea about the muggles being something less than wizards. Yet, he was a child and did not understand it very much, and he was very fragile and immature. So he needed desperately somebody to talk with and he was lucky. He found Lily - the muggle-born witch. She accepted his company and was curious about the fairy-tale world, and he was grateful for the company. So a long relationship began.

Yes he was a bit careless about others feelings then, but why is it? There was nobody to give him an example (little love in family, he was a freak to the muggle children, a half blood to the wizards, and laughed at for being poor).

2. Unfortunately the freak mark arrived at Hogwarts with him. Being small and fragile (and coming from Slytherin family), some other children automatically took advantage to bully him. He recognised very soon, that reveling his feelings is weakness (even if it is bravery), so he closed up, and found refuge in stu (he was excellent at defence against dark arts, and potions... and who knows at what else). This sound a bit like Hermione, don't you think? (Except the fact, that she had loving family). She was quite a nerd in first year, and was disliked for that. But Snape did not meet the correct people to pull him out of this circle in the Slytherins (did the Sorting Hat hesitate, maybe, when putting him there?). Instead of that, he found so called "friends" to pull him deeper to the dark part of his character. Fortunately, there was still Lily. His one true friend, his mother, and his love. Over the years he became truly loyal to her, that is sure. But as he was in a bad company all that time, and with Potter and company and their jokes, he was more and more closed. He became devoted to the Voldemorts ideas (but Lily was exception for him).

3. After leaving school, he was still not mature enough to realise where he is going, until that Prophecy came. Yes he was Eater, but he was still loyal to Lily. And then he made first decision to act, to save the only person he truly loved in his life at that time. It was so strong, that it had driven him to face the mortal danger of being ed.

At that time it was just because Lily. But his feelings revealed to Dumbledore that he was not totally lost case (if he loves one person, he can learn to love others slowly).

4. After her he was struck down, at that moment he was very fragile again. Just few good aimed words and he would have returned back to Eaters. Luckily this time, he was with correct person. For the sake of the once loved Lily, he should protect her son, the last living memory of her. But this child was a son of the hated James. The decision was very hard, yet finally he accepted.

And why he asked to keep it secret:
- he didn't want to tell anybody how he really felt about Lily
- and he definitely did not want to make himself vulnerable in the eyes of others.

5. Harry finally arrives at school. Snape evaluates him for the first time. How much of Lily and how much of James was there? To him, he was all James (except the eyes). And he was famous already. As a result of this mixture, he decided to be hard on him (How come he did not opened a single book to prepare himself? How dare he be famous, if he is so common and mediocre).

So started his complicated relationship with Harry. He strongly disliked him at the beginning, but he had not hated him, he still saved his life from Quirell. At that point the boy was a bit disappointing. Far behind Lily's magic and a rule-breaker.

It was in year two when Potter really surprised him for the first time - he was a Parslemouth. Was there a connection with Voldemort?

Then there was Sirius Black - the man who betrayed Lily, the man who tried to him once. How he detested him and how he wanted revenge. Yet the foolish brat protected him. He did not want to hear reasonings at that moment, he was in a rage. But he already trusted Dumbledore. Should he lie to him in the hospital after Wormtails escape? Most probably, he got an explanation later in Headmasters office.

Than in GoF, Harry had for the first time faced real danger - The resurrected Voldemort. He knew that Voldemort was coming (the dark mark) and he believed Potters story. So for the first time he revealed a part of his hidden past by showing the dark mark in front of Harry.

Very slowly, he started to accept even Black, but of course he disliked him a lot still.

And then Umbridge came to school and now he faced a mirror of himself, or to be more precise, somebody even worse than him. Well, old Severus might loved detentions and expelling from Hogwarts, but he did not torture students. Furthermore the connection between Harry and Voldemort had proven to be real. So now he had to teach Harry Occlumancy. And what he found was not exactly what he had intended to find. Actually he found out how alike their childhood was. Unfortunately the virtuosity of Harry made him step back - no more Occlumancy.

At this moment he was caring. He clearly proved it by passing along the message about Sirius from Harry to the Order. He may not like some people, but now did not want them to . (As he confessed in the final book, “Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched ?” “Lately, only those whom I could not save,”)

Yes, Snape has changed a lot since being in school. And he has suffered a lot. The loss of Lily, loss of Dumbledore. Snape came a long way, his final act one of trust - giving his precious memories to Harry.

I think he was a hero. In his own fashion.

Posted by Eva from Slovakia on August 4, 2007 4:10 PM

I think J.K had placed Snape as someone whom we cannot determine whether he was good or bad. Throughout DH i was actually convinced that he was on Voldemort's side until Harry entered his memory.

I was surprised to know that he actually had deep affection for Harry. This was not shown by him, blatantly, throughout the 7 books. There were certain scenes he tried to save Harry. That was actually affection plus the life he owed James. He treated him in a horrid manner possibly because he resembled James. But deep inside he did have affection for Lily's son. Dumbledore did the right thing, trusting him. Now I know that.

Snape is one of those characters whom i've had a change in mindset. J.K has portrayed his character in a very brilliant manner. In a single chapter my extreme hatred for Snape changed to extreme admiration and sympathy. I can't take my mind off him. He is not all like Voldemort, like what Harry thought. He is half blood and he does hate his muggle father. But he is someone who can feel love, remorse and who is exremely brave.

Posted by Dodo from Singapore on August 4, 2007 11:26 PM

Although I liked Snape through all the books, because I figured he was good. My bias has nothing to do with me saying that he's a Hero.

Harry considers him the bravest man he ever knew because Snape lived a horrible life after his mistake and placed his life in far far last from that day forward. Snape never cared about himself after Lily. He was always taking orders and protecting Harry, protecting everyone by returning to Voldemort. Snape has given from his life over and over because of the mistake he made. Harry sees him as the bravest man because of this. I think it might also have had to do with the Elder wand too. Harry might have realized that Snape knew Voldemort had the Elder wand and knew that he had to for him to have the wands power.

Posted by Matthew from Peoria, Arizona on August 4, 2007 11:54 PM

Well i reckon Eva says it all! it was never apparent how alike harry and snape's childhoods were alike. poor snape. he couldn't get past harry's appearance--so like james. i wish he could have survived. stopped hating harry, you no?

snape has always been one of my most fave characters and i never thought him to be evil. dont know why riddle turned out so wrong though... i mean his mum and dad weren't exactly evil and wicked were they? he probably gets it from his descending line from salazar slytherin. its all merope's ffault for running off to hav a kid... nah, its not.

snape may have been different if he'd had a kinder, nicer childhood. Love him! R.I.P.

Posted by amanda 22--aly&aj rock from adelaide on August 5, 2007 04:05 AM

I think Snape's love for lily was obsessive...an example of the power of obsessive love mentioned by Slughorn. It's not a healthy love...His patronus is Lily's doe because he loved her...in the same way that Tonk's patronus became a werewolf. (Interestingly there are lots of examples in traditional songs and ballads of the white doe or hind leading lost hunters to find things they don't expect.) I thinks Lily's patronus was a doe, while James's was a stag to show how perfectly they fitted together and loved one another, hence Harry, a child born of TRUE love.

James and Lily might be alive now were it not for Snape...equally they might not, already having defied Voldemort three times...Voldemort himself might also be alive still seeing that Snape set the story in motion by telling Voldemort about the prophecy. Not good Voldemort being alive I mean.

More interesting is the question of whether Harry would be . I'm still working out the intricacies of the Harry as the last horcrux, and Voldemort as Harry's apparent anti-horcrux. What was the original plan? Did Snape know that Dumbledore had the Elder wand? Was Snape supposed to be the one to become its master when he ed Dumbledore? and then pass it on to Harry? Has anyone worked out what the original plan actually was?

And, as Snape s, we see him using occlumency for all he's worth to protect Harry from Voldemort...an amazing description but hardly touched upon in passing. What a complex person and what a way to explore complex ideas about remorse and love and forgiveness...I think Snape did mature emotionally towards the end of his life in some ways, and he did use his considerable powers for good in the end. But his still was a damaged soul. And I don't think he ever loved Harry.

Another thought, I wonder whether Tonk's patronus stayed as a werewolf after she and Lupin got together...presumably they had requited love and a good relationship in the end, whereas Snape's love for Lily was not only unhealthily obsessive but unrequited!

Posted by Joe from England on August 5, 2007 04:19 AM

i think that snape is a brave man, and he showed his loyalty to dumbledore by ing him, as you find out in DH, that dumbledore was already , but so snape wasnt to for breaking the unbreakable vow, he had to dumbledore. also ing dumbledore would not have ripped his soul, as he was putting a man out of his misery and snape knew the reasons, whereas if malfoy who was supposed to have ed dumbledore, had his soul would have been ripped apart because he was ing? because he was told to and would not know that dumbledore was already . snape ing dumbledore also meant that he could still spy for the ootp, as he would be in voldemorts favour. harry is brave but snape is braver, because if this plan had failed then he would have d before giving harry his memory, so that harry could understand what needed to be done.

Posted by stephanie from england on August 5, 2007 07:02 AM

Hannah from LA:

1: Harry's childhood was not any worse than Snapes. Harry had a cousin, aunt and uncle who hated him. Snape had parents who didn't treat him well. (and i think his dad hated him.) Harry had Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle to deal with. Snape had James, Sirius and Wormtail (Lupin didn't really do anything)

2: You were mad that Snape only told Voldemort to spare Lily. Well do you think that if he had told Voldemort to spare all three he would still be alive?

One last thing. The books say Wormtail was in Gryffindor but I can't think of a single time when Wormtail showed bravery.

Posted by he who chose not to reveal his name on August 5, 2007 07:33 AM

Snape has been very mean to Harry in the past, but only because he was just like James. But in the end Snape showed hat his love for Lily made him care for harry. So, he's like a good and a bad guy.

Posted by Aydha Shahzad from Ontario, LA on August 5, 2007 07:42 AM

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