S is for — Severus Snape, from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
Out of all the many characters in Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the most complex and interesting was Severus Snape. Potions Master, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (briefly), Half-blood Prince, member of the Order of the Phoenix, Death-Eater. Snape had many titles, but I would add another: Hero. Unbeknownst to everyone but Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Snape walked a razor line between the Order of the Phoenix and the side of good, and Voldemort and the evil Death-Eaters, working tirelessly to keep Harry Potter alive because of his deep love for Harry’s mother, Lily. Yes, he initially chose the wrong path toward darkness, but the strength of his love redeemed him and brought him back from the edge of evil.
It’s no wonder he chose the dark path, considering his childhood of neglect and abuse and the bullying he suffered from James Potter (Harry’s father) and Sirius Black. They tormented him for no reason other than his unkemptness and outcast personality and his friendship with Lily, in whom James had an interest. After the bullying was revealed via Harry’s sneaking a look at Snape’s memories in the Pensieve in The Order of the Phoenix, I disliked James Potter as much as Snape did. When Harry asked Sirius about the episode, Sirius’ only excuse was that James was 15 and “A lot of people are idiots at the age of 15.” Well, I’m sorry, but being 15 is no excuse for bad behavior, and there is NO excuse for bullying, period.
After that episode, I really wanted Harry to man up and apologize to Snape for his father’s behavior. I don’t know if it would have made a difference in Snape’s treatment of Harry because Snape’s hatred of James was so deep-seated, but it seemed like the right thing to do, and I would have gained respect for Harry if he’d done it. As it was, I lost some respect for him and James and Sirius, and my opinion of them was forever colored by that incident.
Snape lived a lonely and difficult life, completely reviled and misunderstood, yet he had courage and strength of character and such capacity for love. His love for Lily, though unrequited, saved his soul. I mourned his tragic end and wondered what he would have been like if he’d had a secure and loving childhood and if Lily had loved him back. Sadly, I’ll never know.