How My Scorn for Severus Snape Helped Me Make a Difficult Choice
This article was written by a staff member who has requested anonymity in sharing their story.
Severus Snape was a terrible human being. I never wanted to be anything like him. I never thought that I would sympathize with him – but I came close. At the very least, there was a tumultuous period in my life when I empathized with him. I knew how Snape must have felt about Lily because I felt the same way. I felt as uncomfortable as Harry did, sitting in Dumbledore’s office in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and contemplating the similarities between Tom Riddle and himself.
In Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry it’s his choices that make him “very different from Tom Riddle” (CoS 18). In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry realizes that the choice he makes to face Voldemort was “the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high” (HBP 23). The right choices are often the most difficult, and this is how Harry Potter helped me make the right choice.
I’ve struggled with social anxiety and to a lesser extent, generalized anxiety for most of my life. Recently, I’ve been depressed. If it wasn’t for Harry Potter, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t even know if I would be here today. The earliest memory I have of Harry Potter being used as a coping mechanism for my mental illness was in elementary school when I would sit and discuss Potter with my school counselor.
As a result of my mental illness, I find it difficult to form connections and friendships with people. I can count the number of friends I’ve had in my life on two hands. I can probably count the number of close friends on one hand. I make Newt Scamander look like a social butterfly. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating there – but seeing the way Eddie Redmayne portrayed Newt in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them felt incredibly fulfilling.
Remarkably, when I was in high school I met a girl who was very easy to talk to. She was my best friend, and I poured my soul into her like Ginny poured her soul into Tom Riddle’s diary. It felt like she was one of the few people who understood me. Soon, we started dating. We were in a relationship for almost nine years. She was the first and only girlfriend I’ve had in my life. She was there for most of my formative years and we experienced a lot of milestones in our lives together. I hardly have any friends, but at the time, I overlooked that because I was content with my relationship.
A couple of years ago, my world came crashing down when my now ex-girlfriend suddenly told me that she wanted to break up with me. She was very tactful, but that didn’t ease the pain. I felt like I had been Crucio’d.
To borrow a line from Dumbledore, “Did I know, in my heart of hearts,” (DH 35) that our relationship was over? Deep down, I probably did – there had been a lot of tension in the months leading up to our breakup – but I was in denial. We both struggled with mental illness and that was straining our relationship.
I largely blamed myself for everything. I hated myself and I hated being mentally ill. Several months after we broke up, I found out that my ex-girlfriend had met someone shortly before she ended our relationship. I was grateful, at the very least, that she chose to break up with me rather than cheat on me. That didn’t make it hurt any less, though.
Through my self-hate, guilt, and blame, there was a moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that struck home for me. It was this moment in “The Prince’s Tale”:
Snape took the page bearing Lily’s signature, and her love, and tucked it inside his robes. Then he ripped in two the photograph he was also holding, so that he kept the part from which Lily laughed, throwing the portion showing James and Harry back onto the floor.
Snape’s love for Lily was selfish and self-centered. He didn’t care about Lily’s happiness, didn’t care about her husband or child. And I knew that I didn’t want to be anything like Snape. Realizing that helped me move on. I had a choice to make. I could either continue to feel bitter, or I could make the choice to be happy for someone who had given me the happiest moments of my life. Don’t get me wrong – it still hurts like hell. But when I was at my lowest point, my repulsion for Severus Snape taught me to be a better person.