Severus Snape: A Hero to Remember?
On May 2, J.K. Rowling posted her annual tweet apologizing for a character she killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. In the past, she has said sorry for the slaughter of Remus Lupin and Fred Weasley. This year, Jo decided on a more controversial character – Severus Snape.
OK, here it is. Please don’t start flame wars over it, but this year I’d like to apologise for killing (whispers)… Snape. *runs for cover*
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 2, 2017
The fandom has seemed to change its tune on Snape in the years after Deathly Hallows and done a complete 180°, going from one extreme to the other. It used to be that Snape was the almighty hero who saved the day with the power of love; now he has been reduced to a “garbage human,” as one Mashable author proclaimed. Both of these sentiments are wrong because I feel they are reducing such a rich, complex character that J.K. Rowling wrote into an archetype. There has to be a middle ground here.
J.K. Rowling writes characters that are gray, not black and white. As Sirius Black would say, “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got light and dark inside us. What matters is what part we choose to act on” (OotP). I feel that Severus Snape is the perfect example of this description, a double agent doomed to protect what he is sworn to hate. Now, I myself have always been a fan of Snape. His dry humor, interesting backstory, and complex emotions make him a memorable character. Also, the fact that Snape is played by Alan Rickman doesn’t hurt either.
Saying all of this, I’m not disagreeing that Snape is a mean person. He’s a jerk. While being bullied his entire life can explain the way he is, it doesn’t excuse it. He teases Hermione’s teeth, he harrases Harry, and he is Neville’s boggart, for God’s sake! But people tend to forget all of the other aspects of Snape’s character.
Always the Slytherin, Snape is easily one of the most intelligent and cunning people in the Harry Potter series. Not only is he smart enough to trick Lord Voldemort, but he has book smarts as well. He became a Potions Master at only 21, meaning he taught people who went to Hogwarts with him. In his Hogwarts days, he knew more than his Potions book and would improve the potions for fun (nerd alert). He could conjure up his own spells, and he was the only one outside of the Marauders to pick up on the fact that Lupin was a werewolf. He can conjure a Patronus, which we tend to forget is a difficult spell, can perform Legilimency, and knows Occlumency and everything there is to know about DADA.
The epilogue states, “One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” I agree with Harry. The Half-Blood Prince could give any Gryffindor a run for their money. After the first Wizarding War, Lily Potter was dead and the Dark Lord was supposedly gone. Snape never truly had to stay at Hogwarts, but he kept his promise to Dumbledore. He protected Harry every year at Hogwarts, despite his grudge against him. (Let’s be real. Harry never tried to be the better person when it came to Snape.) He saved Harry from both Quirrell and werewolf Remus, alerted the Order about Sirius, took the Unbreakable Vow to save Draco Malfoy’s soul, and was forced to kill his mentor in order to gain Voldemort’s trust. Even though Hogwarts was hell in Deathly Hallows, Snape was still keeping the students as safe as possible without blowing his cover. In the end, he died alone, for Lily, for Dumbledore, and for the wizarding world. He was only 38.
Snape is all grey. You can’t make him a saint: he was vindictive & bullying. You can’t make him a devil: he died to save the wizarding world
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 27, 2015
So I say, raise your wands for Severus Snape. A teacher, an agent, a soldier, a hero, and a big old jerk. What can I say? He’s my favorite character. And J.K. Rowling, I will take that apology, thank you very much.