He is one of the most discussed literary characters and a character which divides opinions amongst all fans of the Potter series; Severus Snape, potions master, double agent and obsessive stalker or Lilly Potter. When his name comes up in facebook groups dedicated to the Potterverse, there is instantly a major discussion about whether or not Snape was a good guy or if he was just a bully who happened to do some good things in the meantime. One thing that is certain, is that Snape is a well-written round character that gets us thinking. But the question remains, was he an okay dude in the end or not? Let’s take a look at both sides of the discussion.
Why Snape is a bad guy
We first meet dear Snape as he is having a staring contest with Harry in the Great Hall and later on he shows his true colours in the Potions classroom. He is an asshole to Harry instantly and also Neville is not safe from Snape’s wrath. Unless you wear green and silver, you are unlikely to get any house points. While the Slytherins cheer him on, a lot of people critical of the character mention that while yes, he may have saved Harry and yes, he may have sacrificed himself and risked his life for the good, he still traumatised Neville by bullying him so much that Neville had no greater fear than the potions master. And let us not forget that even from a young age, he was very interested in the Dark Arts and basically invented spells that ripped your enemies apart pretty much (Sectusempra anyone?)
Another argument is that Snape did not care about Harry at all, but only did it because of his undying love for Harry’s mother Lilly. Snape was the one who told Voldemort about the prophecy and begged Voldy to keep Lilly alive. He wouldn’t have given a single fuck if Harry had been killed too and he was probably glad that James was blown off of the face of the earth. I don’t know if Snape thought he and Lilly could live happily ever after once he played a vital part in eliminating her entire family, but that was indeed selfish. Also, had Neville been the one Voldemort chose, Snape wouldn’t have had any sleepless nights over that and he probably would have continued living the Death Eater life.
Why Snape was a good guy
It is a fact that Snape was a bitter and lonely man. Nobody will argue with that. And I think that partly the reason he became this way is because of his past, because of all the bullying he had to enure (and no, I know he wasn’t a sweetheart himself) and because of the massive mistake he made in calling his best friend and crush a Mudblood and consequently losing her and therefore joining Voldemort. While some people might become stronger when they’ve endured a situation like this, Snape probably did not know what to do and turned to the only thing he knew, which were the dark arts. Is this an excuse for him being nasty to his pupils? No. And nobody will argue he was a kind man. But I think he has a lot going for him that argues that he was in fact a hero.
Yes, if Snape hadn’t told Voldemort about the prophecy, Lilly and James would have probably still been alive. So Snape is in a way responsible for Lilly and James’ death. While it was selfish of him to only want to save Lilly, the moment he held her corpse in his arms, was a turning point for him. It was the moment he realised what he had done and he was desperate to make it up to her. While all of this shouldn’t have happened, it did and instead of turning his back on his friend, Snape decided to become a double agent. He risked everything in order for Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix to bring Voldemort down. He wanted Harry to stay alive and he wanted Voldemort gone to avenge Lilly. He swore he would do anything Dumbledore asked him to do and he kept his word. I think you could pretty much argue that yes, he redeemed himself. It did not turn him into a pleasant person, but if that means he wouldn’t be able to redeem himself then nobody would be able to.
Let’s not forget that saving Harry wasn’t the only thing that Snape did. His sole motive wasn’t just to keep Harry save because he was Lilly’s son. Snape also protected Draco, killed Dumbledore instead of Draco because Dumbledore knew the damage it would cause to him, plus the fact that Voldemort would have killed Draco had he failed. He made Lupin the Wolfsbane potion despite not being able to stand him. He saved Katie Bell after she was cursed. He brewed the potion that made the petrified victims of the Basilisk come back to life and he protected the students at Hogwarts from the Carrows during his short stint as Headmaster. All of this not because of Lilly, but because he was Dumbledore’s man through and through.
So was he good or bad?
Suffice to say that Snape is a character that falls into a very grey area. No he wasn’t a good man but the things he did were good and I think we would do him short by saying that he wasn’t a hero because he wasn’t a nice guy. Sometimes heroes are the people you least expect. And while I think that Harry was a bit of a fool giving his son the middle name of Severus (poor thing), I think that we should applaud Snape for being such a vital part in saving the wizarding world.