Today marks the 19th anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts and J.K. Rowling has once again apologized for another character’s death, and this time, it’s Severus Snape.
If you are a fan of the series, I feel like you fall into one of two camps: Snape Sympathizer or Snape Scorner. You either love him because you see the deeper meaning in why he acted the way he did, or you hate him for his treatment of Harry, Neville, and the other students, and the favoritism he showed to fellow Slytherin, Draco Malfoy.
Me? I’m a Snape Sympathizer.
Severus loved Lily Potter, before she ever met James, when they were just children. He loved her from afar, and being awkward and antisocial to her vibrance and sparkle didn’t bode well for him. She never saw him that way and thus, his love for her remained unrequited for more than a decade, and then even well after her death. Snape never fell in love with anyone else. His love of Lily remained steady and true, so much so that his love was the driving force of his guilt and return to Dumbledore, and his work as a double-agent with the Order of the Phoenix. His love was so absolute that when she died, his Patronus took on the form of hers: a silver doe.
Was he a prick to Harry and Neville (and basically every other person within Harry’s personal sphere)? Yes, of course, and perhaps you find his behavior inexcusable. But when you dissect his actions, you realize that he had to play that role. In The Half-Blood Prince, he is semi-accused by other death-eaters of not being a loyal follower to Lord Voldemort, to which he replied that he must play the role of a responsible, dependable teacher at Hogwarts so as not to cast any doubt as to his allegiance so he could continue to gain intel. He had to play both sides so his role on the good side went undiscovered.
I personally think he was so hard with Harry and company because he was afraid to feel again and thus put up a barrier couched in derision and temper. After all, the last time he loved, he lost that person and had grieved for her ever since. But that’s just my own personal theory.
Let’s talk about all the times Snape actively took a role in protecting Harry (and others).
- He refereed the Quidditch match so Quirrell wouldn’t interfere and harm Harry.
- Snape tells Dumbledore when Harry and team break into the Department of Mysteries and help arrives to aide in their battle.
- Snape hides the Sword of Gryffindor in the forest where Harry can find it and then leads him to it with his Patronus.
- He sent students to Hagrid in the forest instead of the Carrows whenever he could to protect them, while he was Headmaster.
- He taught Harry Occlumency to help Harry train and protect his mind from Lord Voldemort, even though he didn’t want to.
- Snape tells Fudge that Harry was confunded by Sirius after Harry attacked Snape in the Shrieking Shack, even though Harry wasn’t.
- Snape saves Dumbledore’s life after Dumbledore returns with the ring in bad shape.
- Most importantly, Severus Snape had the opportunity for more than 5 years to kill Harry, or at the very least, deliver him to Lord Voldemort – and he never did.
Snape loved Lily Potter from childhood until the day he died during the Battle of Hogwarts. That’s a long time to love someone and never be loved back. Did Snape make mistakes? Yes. He knew he never should have joined the Death-eaters and he spent his lifetime making up for it by protecting the boy with Lily’s eyes.
Everything he did, he did for a love that he knew would not be returned to him. But he did it anyway.