A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 19

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.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series Photo Credit: Harry Potter Wikia

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
in the Harry Potter series
Photo Credit: Harry Potter Wikia


30 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 19

  1. I read the first Harry Potter as soon as it came out (it was on approval for my library and I added it to stock). I thought it was just “OK”. Obviously my judgement was a bit off there!


  2. I completely agree with this post! Snape is one of my favourite characters, and I definitely see him as a hero, but everyone else always seems to categorize him as a villain. Also I agree about James, although everyone seems to prefer him to Snape, I always thought he seemed like a spoilt bully.


    • Yes, that always bothered me. Even though Sirius says James outgrew being a jerk and we know he worked for the good side, it’s hard to root for or even like someone who acted as he did. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.


  3. The scene of Snape’s death was so sad, knowing that he was really the hero and knowing all his suffering. It seemed to me that the reality of James Potter’s character, based on his treatment of Snape was somewhat glossed over or avoided. Do you think so too?


    • Yes, I completely agree. Even after Harry found out the truth of his father’s treatment of Snape, the prevailing mood throughout the books was like James was still a hero. The whole bullying incident was just dropped and I don’t remember it being mentioned again. If I had been Snape, I would have hated James, too.


  4. You make me want to read the rest of the series. I became bored halfway through The Goblet of Fire but just may need to revisit them. Thanks.

    Visiting from A to Z Blog Challenge Drusilla


  5. Hi Lori, I agree with your portrayal of Snape. What a wonderfully complex character (and played so well by Alan Rickman). I also heartily disliked James for his bullying. I understood, though, why Harry might not want to delve too deeply into his father’s mistakes. It’s always tough to acknowledge your parent’s failings, but I think it would be especially hard for someone like Harry, who grew up without his father and didn’t really have anyone to take the place of a father figure until he came to Hogwarts.


    • I know it must have been difficult for Harry to learn his father was less than perfect. I just wish there had been some kind of acknowledgement about what happened between his father and Snape. In the first book, Harry never acknowledged that Snape was trying to save his life when Quirrell jinxed his broom during the Quidditch match, either. But I guess if Harry’s attitude toward Snape softened in any way, Snape might not have been vilified to such a degree, which would have lessened the shock of the final revelation of his memories.


      • You’re right that it did get glossed over in the books. It would have been interesting to see if acknowledgment of the bullying affected that later revelation about Snape. We’ll never know!


  6. I don’t blame Harry for not immediately apologizing…It’s not until Snape is dead that Harry gets the whole story. I do wish that he’d had the opportunity to thank Snape for everything he did though.

    In my post about the Pensieve, I wrote that Snape’s memories were reliable because when Slughorn altered his memory, it was very obvious. I think it’s important to remember though that Snape was skilled at Occlumency…so perhaps he could’ve “misremember” or exaggerated the behavior in his memories?

    I only say that because I don’t want to hate James Potter, but from what we see, that’s the only option we’re given. I wish we could see his side of the story as well.

    Michelle @ In Media Res


  7. Yes, I, too, wish J.K. Rowling had included more about James so that we would be left with more than just that one bad image. Your post about the Pensieve is very interesting. I think if Snape had altered his memories, it would have been obvious, like Slughorn’s altered memory, because from what I read, Slughorn was also an accomplished Occlumens, so if he couldn’t alter memories without it showing, I don’t think Snape could have, either. I am glad that Harry did finally learn the truth about Snape. I just wish it had happened before Snape died.


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