Professor Severus Snape – Hero or Villain?
As I’ve posted before on this blog, I’m re-reading the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling and I’m really enjoying it. I’m taking my time and paying attention to all the little details, which brings me to the topic at hand, Professor Snape. Is he a hero or villain?
Regardless of which he turns out to be in the seventh book, Deathly Hollows - slated to be released July 21st, he’s clearly my favorite character. He’s the most complex and mysterious of them all.
Now, like millions of other fans across the globe, I too have a theory about our dear Potions, or should I say Defense Against the Dark Arts, Master.
To understand where Professor Severus Snape is now, we must go back to the beginning of his life and see how he got to the place he currently occupies.
Severus Snape was born to misfortune (wizard father and muggle mother) and as a child cried a lot, displaying behavior of someone whose been abused. I think this degrading emotional abuse caused a young Severus to have low-self esteem and issues with trusting others. I believe he then poured himself into his studies, because he couldn’t trust people to not hurt him.
Of course, when he finally came to Hogwarts at eleven, his worst fears were confirmed when he was treated as an outcast and teased by the most popular kids in school (Marauders/Gryffindors – Potter, Black and Lupin). He lashed out at them, not in malice, but as a way to protect himself. Most victims of abuse hurt others to keep from getting hurt themselves. So, animosity grew between Snape, Potter, Black and Lupin – but not true hatred. If anything, I think Snape longed to be like James, but despised him because he couldn’t.
However, being a member of Slytherin house, Snape found acceptance from people like Malfoy, Lestrange and the others who eventually became death eaters. In other words – he didn’t really fit in anywhere and by default hung out with the wrong crowd.
Snape was always in the background, learning, studying, being alone – never stepping out front and showing what he was truly capable of. He’s smart like Hermione, but lacked her confidence and didn’t have the fortune of befriending a Ron and Harry. I think, often times when Professor Snape snapped at Hermione for being ‘an insufferable know-it-all’, it was mostly out of jealousy. You know how the old saying goes: You’re usually guilty of what you find irritating in someone else.
I feel that perhaps Snape went with the flow, keeping all his true emotions inside, thus teaching himself to be an excellent Occlumens, able to hide his thoughts and emotions, so people couldn’t use them against him, including the powerful Lord Voldemort.
I think Snape joined the Death Eaters not out of a desire for power, but to have a place to fit in. He didn’t have the love of a family, he didn’t have the support of friends and he didn’t have the love of his life (Lily Evans – Lily Potter – Harry’s mother). All he had was his potions, his school, and his knowledge – which was great, but not that anyone knew.
How do I know they were great? Look what Harry learned just from the notes left in the potions book by the Half-Blood Prince. At a young age, Snape had an understanding of his craft that exceeded even the teachers. He not only figured out short cuts and better ways to perform written formulas, but created new spells. He also built a wall around himself so strong and so tall, he couldn’t see over it. He didn’t know his own greatness. So, he made a mistake and joined forces with Voldemort - Not because he ‘had’ to, but because he wanted to fit in somewhere… anywhere.
Snape discovered it was more than what he bargained for. Voldemort was no different than is evil parents, or the bullies at school. Everyone tried to present them selves as the best, all the while Snape just sits back in the shadows and watches. He witnesses Voldemort growing in power and influence, and the Potters, Black, Lupin and Dumbledore fighting on the other side, all the while Pettigrew (Wormtail) slithers back and forth between the two camps. None of it concerned him. He was neither for, nor against any of it. He disliked both sides and trusted neither – until he heard part of the prophecy given by Sibyl Trelawney.
I think Snape realized how important of a role he played when he recited the prophecy to Voldemort, but then it was too late to take it back. I think perhaps Snape was able to Occlumens Voldemort and saw what he planned to do – and Snape felt responsible. I think it scared him, and for the first time he actually ‘chose’ the side he wanted to be on, and it wasn’t with Voldemort.
I believe he then went to the one person that he felt accepted him and saw him for what he truly was, and told him everything. Dumbledore helped Snape see himself for what he truly was and gave him the confidence to break away from Voldemort, which he discovered wasn’t as hard to do as he previously believed. Snape realized Voldemort was no more powerful than he was, yet Voldemort was none-the-wiser, nor anyone else for that matter, except Dumbledore – who then began to train Snape to become a spy for the Order. For the first time in his life, Snape had a purpose and someone who believed in him, and that’s really all he ever needed.
I don’t think Potter, Lupin or Black fully accepted Snape as a member of the Order, knowing he was once a Deatheater, but to keep up the rouse, Snape played the part of bitter rival – which somehow resulted in James saving his life. Now, he owed a life debt, but that’s not why Snape has been looking out for Harry all these years. I think he feels responsible for Lily and James death, because he could have stopped it, but out of his anger he chose not to, or he couldn’t without exposing his loyalties. So, guilt and owing a life debt has had him watching over Harry ever since, but he doesn’t always like it – because Harry is a lot like his father, James. He’s popular, likable and headstrong. He also reminds Snape of his mother, Lily, whom Snape loved and perhaps feels guilty over her death.
That brings me to the present and how Snape fits in with what happened in The Half Blood Prince and what I think will happen in Deathly Hallows.
The one thing I know about Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, it’s his insatiable love and loyalty to students at Hogwarts. It was this love that caused Tom Riddle to fear Dumbledore. Not because Voldemort fears Dumbledore is more powerful, but because Dumbledore is the only person in the world who ever cared about Tom Riddle. Love scares Voldemort, because it’s a power he doesn’t understand.
For Snape, that love saved him, combined with perhaps the love of and for Lily Potter as well. But, it’s also in his understanding that the same love Dumbledore had for him, he also has for ALL students of Hogwarts, including Harry and Draco, which caused Snape to have to kill him. First, bound by the unbreakable vow made with Narcissa – to do ‘whatever Voldemort had commanded Draco’, and knowing that in order to save Draco’s life (which would have been Dumbledore’s ultimate desire) Snape had to do it. He had every opportunity to kill Harry afterward, but he didn’t. If he was so evil to kill Dumbledore, killing Draco or Harry would have been nothing to him. I believe Dumbledore communicated with Snape via Occlumency and then begged him to do it, that it was the only way – and gave him instructions on what to do to finish destroying all the horcrux that remained.
Which brings me to what I think will happen.
Harry will destroy all but the last Horcrux, which he will discover is in the very scar on his head. He will face Voldemort, but be unable to kill him and get severely hurt – but Snape will save him and cast the final blow that kills Voldemort. Then Snape will reveal to Harry the whole truth of everything, through Occlumency and through his words. He and Harry will finally have it out and Harry will finally see Snape for who he truly is and then realize what Snape will have to do. Severus Snape will have to kill Harry Potter, because Harry is the last Horcrux. As long as he still lives, Voldemort will always be able to return. Harry willingly chooses to sacrifice himself (much like Dumbledore and his father). He will make Snape enter into an unbreakable vow to always protect his friends. Snape will then kill Harry Potter – and then tell the world that it was Harry who finally destroyed Lord Voldemort, once and for all. Harry will always be known as the Greatest Wizard of All Time, and no longer The Boy Who Lived.
Severus Snape will be the next Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – and will spend the rest of his life protecting the students above all else, just as his predecessor before him. Harry Potter’s name will live in infamy as he is reunited with the people he’s always loved behind the veil – His mum, his dad, Sirius, Ginny and Dumbledore. Bottom line… I believe Professor Severus Snape is a hero, perhaps the true hero of the whole story.