Headscratchers / Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Severus Snape Good Or Bad

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    Snape's plan with Lily 

  • How is Snape a good man? From what I could tell, he was a sleazeball who was bitter because he didn't get to marry Lily. From what I gathered, he planned to let Voldemort kill James and Harry so Snape could comfort her and possibly be her new hubby. Harry's too much of a male Pollyanna.
    • ...Wait, what? When did he ever indicate that he planned to let Voldemort kill Lily's husband and son? Are you referring to when Snape goes running to Dumbledore and begs him to protect Lily and Dumbledore's all "OMG, why didn't you also specifically ask me to protect a man you hate and a baby you've never met despite the fact that it's highly unlikely that if I did agree to protect Lily I wouldn't bother to so much warn James"? Snape quickly replies with a "Yes, yes, protect them, too. Does this mean you'll help?" He was only particularly concerned about saving Lily, yes, but Lily was the only one he had a personal connection to, and if saving Lily involved saving James as well, he was okay with it. Him asking Voldemort to save Lily also was just an insurance measure in case Dumbledore failed (which he did). He couldn't ask to protect James as well, as that would look suspicious (since they hate each other). He definitely couldn't ask to protect Harry, since killing Harry was why Voldemort was going after the Potters in the first place.
    • Probably because it's been smashed into our heads time and time again that Snape despises James and especially the product of Lily and James' union, Harry, that it wouldn't be ridiculous to assume he particularly asked to spare Lily. And only Lily. Even Dumbledore realizes how sickening it was of the wording. When Dumbledore 'corrected' him, Snape obviously agrees to protect the entire family at the last minute. He doesn't give a rat's ass (Heh, heh Pettigrew humor), about James or Harry. Just Lily. He only went with it because he pissed off Dumbledore, something he wasn't looking to do. I don't agree that he's looking to be 'hubby to a widow Lily', (no doubt Lily would hate Snape severely if she found out). He just wanted her ALIVE and safe, that's it.
    • It's because when Dumbledore asked Snape why didn't he ask Voldemort to spare Lily and kill James and Harry (it's phrased differently; can't find the quote), Snape said he HAD asked him that. To which Dumbledore responds with, "You sicken me".
    • It's more a matter of Snape trying to do penance for his mistakes. He's forced to do certain things because of Dumbledore's grand plan, but he also works very hard behind the scenes to ensure Harry wins. Yes, he started out very selfishly trying to get Lily for himself, but after she dies, he realizes exactly what he'd done and works hard to protect Harry, despite not liking him at all, for Lily's sake. He's not a good man, but he's a decent man who tried to make up for his perceived greatest mistake.
    • So wait... Nothing Snape did counts as "good"? Putting his life on the line as a spy, protecting a whole school full of children from the most evil wizard in a century, making sure an innocent (broadly-speaking) kid didn't permanently damage his soul by committing a murder, and oh yeah, dying for that person he hated so much... None of that matters in the end? Way to miss the point on that one, OP.
    • I don't think that Snape was a good person, but he was still on the side of good, if that makes any sense. It's not even a Good Is Not Nice situation; he wasn't cruel or ruthless because of tough love or because it would make people stronger, he was cruel because he was a dick. He regularly bullied children and psychologically tortured Neville to the point that, despite knowing the face of the woman who tortured his parents into insanity, Snape was his worst fear. He didn't abandon Voldemort's cause because he stopped believing in it, he left because he loved Lily obsessively. He was brave, yes, and loyal to Dumbledore and Lily's memories, but he was still an asshole, actively sabotaging the attempts at happiness of Harry and anyone close to him. He was a bad person, but he was a good guy.
    • You apparently missed the part where I said "nothing he DID..." And um, yes, it is a Good Is Not Nice situation. From the Good Is Not Nice page: He never kills anyone if he can help it, nor will he allow people to come to any sort of harm by ignoring them. He's always willing to go out of his way to save the town and complete strangers. When the call comes, he will answer it, usually with very little protest. He will often help people in need with little promise of reward. In almost every way, he acts like the typical hero. Except that he's antisocial and sometimes downright abusive toward most people he meets. He may refuse to explain anything. He may actively repulse people who express gratitude, friendship, and love, as well as offers of support if he's got a problem. ...Good Is Not Nice is... a character who is morally slanted toward the good side, but is rude, unfriendly, and mean. If that isn't Severus Snape to a T, nothing is. (It's usually a good idea to read the trope pages before making an example of them, yanno?)
    • Yeah, except it's not Severus Snape to a T. In exchange for turning coat on Voldemort, Dumbledore provided him with immunity from prosecution for his crimes while under the Dark Lord's employ, the promise of Lily's safety (which obviously didn't take), and a position at Hogwarts. He has, in the past, actively sabotaged Harry (and friends') ability to receive an education, despite knowing for a fact that he (and friends) would be faced with dangers far beyond those that an undertrained teenage boy (and friends) should be faced with. He attempted to effectively murder Sirius. He is not unfailingly good. He is, perhaps, failingly good. And the reason that he is currently on the side of good is not because of his own moral code but that of Lily's, and while the strength of his loyalty, bravery, and devotion are worthy of merit, his morality isn't. He's not Good Is Not Nice, he's Greyish Morality Is Not Nice. But you're right: I did fail to address your original point, which was your refuting "nothing he did counted as good." Because I agreed with it. He did good things. He also did hateful, malevolent things that would easily push him out of the Good column and well into the Neutral.
    • "He has, in the past, actively sabotaged Harry (and friends') ability to receive an education..." I'm sorry, but what series did you read?! Allow me to point out here: everybody in Snape's potion classes passed their O.W.L.s! Ron, Hermione, Harry, and even Neville "can barely stand a cauldron up straight", all passed it. Snape never actively sabotaged anyone's ability to receive an education. Let me point out also that Harry was never particularly active or attentive in Potions until HBP, and that he bore as big a grudge against Snape as Snape did against him. You're talking to a future teacher here, and I am telling you with absolute certainty: The burden of educating cannot rest entirely on a teacher's shoulders. The student must be willing to learn, and Harry actively refused to learn anything from Snape, even at the cost of mastery in his best subject, Defense Against the Dark Arts. Hermione was just as subject to Snape's personality, but she didn't suffer much for it (and it's not because she's Hermione and she's the Author Avatar; it's because she's mature enough to realize that "this dude's an asshole, but he also knows what he's talking about; it would be in my best interest to listen and learn from him"). Don't act like Snape is to blame entirely for Harry being an Idiot Hero; Snape did his best to teach him (even if he didn't have the best attitude), but Harry's own stubbornness was his downfall when it came to learning the necessary skills.
    • I remember a scene in the third book where the kids were supposed to be making a Shrinking Solution, and Neville messed up badly and began to redo it in the middle of class. A good teacher would have explained to Neville what he did wrong the first time and how he could improve. A bad teacher would have left him alone and failed him for the day when he messed up his second potion. A dick teacher would have left him on his own, then force-fed the potion to his "beloved" pet, fully expecting the stupid toad to die. Guess which one Snape did.
    • While it's true that Harry was unwilling to learn from Snape, Snape was, from the very start, unwilling to teach him. He began by bullying him (relentless pop quiz on his first day of school, and his first introduction into magical education). Harry should have tried to rise above this abuse for the sake of his education, as Potions is important for later life and the career he wishes to attain - but is it really fair to ask a 15 year old boy (as he was during his OWLs, for example) to be the bigger person? Or to try hard in a class where (as we see one day when Harry thinks he might have actually done well) the teacher will actively sabotage your efforts and fail you? Not good for motivation. Hermione learns from Snape because she has a thirst to learn and do well, but for an average student, why would you work hard if you're guaranteed to fail? As for DADA, I think the mutual hatred was basically ingrained, although I don't think it was particularly mentioned that Harry didn't pay attention. He probably did. He just still hated Snape and Snape continued to bully him. He should have been more open to Snape's lessons, but I can easily see why he wasn't.
    • I agree. Snape did "actively sabotage" them on several occasions: at least once, because Harry hadn't made a potion perfectly (and, as he had mentioned, there were many in the class whose potions had turned out worse than his), he gets a 0 for the day. Later, when he makes sure that he had followed every step, Snape intentionally drops his flask, ruining the potion, and gives him another 0. It isn't restricted to Harry: Neville is bad at the subject, yet Snape never tries to correct his mistakes, only bullies him. He basically presents the material and expects mastery, rather than helping students when they encounter problems (I've had teachers like that before — I know that students need to make the effort to learn, but the teacher needs to actually care about them learning, too). What really irritates me is that the end of the series basically Hand Waves all of his considerable shortcomings and outright cruelty because he did a lot to help the good guys. It feels like the readers are supposed to forget how nasty Snape was throughout the series because they're deluged by an onslaught of him being a somewhat decent person.
    • Actually, there's at least one clear instance in GoF where Harry hands a lab assignment in and Snape "accidentally" drops Harry's potion on the floor the instant Harry's back is turned, and then sneers and gives Harry a zero. Deliberately destroying a student's assignments so you can flunk him is academic sabotage, which is a severe code-of-conduct violation in any remotely sane school district and sufficient justification for firing a teacher all by itself.
    • Uhm, no. It happens in "Order" and after the Pensieve incident. It's not sabotage - it's revenge. You will probably say that a teacher should not succumb to such petty pursuits, and I will wholeheartedly agree, but then counter that, just as with all other Sev's failings as a teacher, it's a moot point because Snape is not a teacher. The Potion Master position is a front. He's DD's link to Malfoys, a triple agent with V and one of the master hands in Harry's preparation/indoctrination, namely the Bad Cop and the foil to DD himself (hence no, DD couldn't have pushed him to some desc job, especially an invented one - he had to remain close to the Scarhead and also to appear to be in DD's confidence, not just just his viscinity).
    • Which is, as already conceded, still no excuse for his behavior. Also, Dumbledore's recurring ethical lapses in hiring teachers who can't teach because it serves his purposes elsewhere is a separate Headscratchers vs. Dumbledore. Lastly, this argument contains the implicit assumption that the only possible way to allow Snape to remain a viable double agent is to make him Potions Master, Head of Slytherin, and nigh-immune to standard academic codes of conduct re: the ethical responsibilities and basic decorum expected of teachers. An assumption that is — to put it charitably — contested.
    • Like the posters above, I read the books where Snape deliberately gave Harry failing marks unfairly and bullied his students without correcting their mistakes. I would also like to add that SNAPE IS A TEACHER. I fail to see how some people do not understand what a teacher is supposed to be. If students are meant to sit down with a list of ingredients and just figure things out themselves like in Snape's class, then the class is little more than self-study and the students should be applauded for passing their OWLs with nobody to teach them. That would put Snape on the level of a poor teacher like Binns, who drones in monotone straight from the textbook. When Snape doesn't teach anything and also bullies the students, then his class is worse than a self-study session with no teacher. He is actively sabotaging their learning.
    • Re: the OWLs, it is specifically mentioned in OotP that the main reason Neville did as good on the test as he did is because Snape wasn't in the room. If your students experience a quantum leap of improvement in their skills from your not being there, then you must be the worst teacher ever. Also, I don't think its coincidental that the one time Harry's Potions skills were graded by independent evaluators not named Snape, he got a higher grade from them then he ever did in Snape's class.
    • Also, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Neville, who is a thirteen-year-old boy, fears Snape, his TEACHER, above all else, so much that he was terrified at the prospect of facing him (evidenced by his boggart). You are not supposed to terrify your students that much. That is abusive.
    • re: "Snape is not a teacher" — yes, yes he is. He is being paid by a school to instruct children in academic subjects. Therefore, he is a damn teacher and is expected to act like one. The fact that he has several jobs in addition to being a teacher does not make him stop being a teacher as well, nor does it immunize him from criticism for failing to do his day job, nor does it excuse Dumbledore hiring him to teach if he can't or won't actually do the job. Its not even strictly required for his "cover" — the vast majority of Order members are not Hogwarts employees..
    • Another point: Harry Potter is a child. Snape is an adult. Why should Harry have to be the one who keeps having to mind his manners? Why can't Snape ever mind his own? In a confrontation between an adult and a child don't we usually expect the grown-up to be the one who has less excuse for acting pettily, not more?
    • To answer your question, it's because most of the people who post on here are either Americans or British, and both the United States and England have rather long histories of child-rearing practices where parents expected more from children than they did of themselves (although this has started to go away in recent years, to mixed reactions). In fact, in any situation where there's a power imbalance (not just teachers vs. students or parents vs. children), power also tends to have the power to "define reality", and of course this is used to shield power from criticism. The people on here are expecting more from Harry than they are from Snape because they think there's nothing that can really be done about Snape anyway. He's a power figure, he'll just dismiss all blame. So, might as well solve Harry's half of the equation since Snape will never solve his half; at least I think this is the reasoning behind it.
    • ... um, I don't get it. I posted the entry you're replying to and I am American. Also, any educator like Snape that existed in one of our school systems would be lucky to avoid lynching once word of what he was doing finally got out to the parents of the kids (even if our nation can, sadly, provide real-world examples of school adminstrators who would enable or help cover up such abuses).
    • It seems likely that Rowling projected her own behaviour toward her science teacher onto Harry's behaviour toward Snape (who was based on her science teacher). If so, she could be admitting what we all know – that she has zero understanding of science, maths or logic. Cleverly done, Rowling.
    • Furthermore, Snape being an unlikeable and harsh teacher helps teach students that you cannot always rely on authority or adults, which is a reason why Dumbledore has him as a teacher, outside of being a good potioneer. Although the wisdom of starting 11-year-old children off with the lesson 'authority figures cannot be relied upon', delivered via an emotionally traumatizing medium no less, is debatable. Generally speaking, its considered wise to wait on teaching the 'Adults cannot always do it for you; you must be prepared to do it for yourself' lesson until the children in question are actually old enough that they can start functioning at adult level at least part of the time... i.e., when they're older teenagers. There is a reason young children are treated like children — they're not yet ready to survive the world without relying on adult guidance and support. That's basically the definition of "child".
    • People are not "good" or "bad". People can do good things or bad things or both, sometimes to the extent that it is impossible to weigh the one against the other in any meaningful way. Isn't that the whole point of Snape's characterization and story?
    • Yeah, I agree with you, for the most part. The problem is how the material about Snape is presented. One critic of The Great Gatsby had said that the ending basically relied on the reader forgetting everything unpleasant that they'd learned about Gatsby up until that point, so that his death is portrayed as tragic and sympathetic. It feels the same way with Snape: the readers are supposed to forget everything nasty about Snape (of which there is a great deal) and place him firmly in the "good guys" category. I can't really say why it feels that way, it's just that the series undoes his supposed villain status by showing that he was a double agent, and from then on Snape is presented only in a positive light, by everyone.
    • Gotta disagree with the above categorizations of "good guys" versus "bad guys." As the comment above the one above mine states, it isn't always the case that there are "good" or "bad" characters; rather, they are defined by their actions and choices rather than clear-cut morality labels that indicate on which side of the good/bad scale that the characters stand. Morally speaking, even the supposedly "good" characters clearly perform certain actions that violate an unspoken set of standards that "good" characters must adhere to (Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore quickly come to mind). Though there are some characters who clearly define anything but "evil" in the series (i.e. Bellatrix Lestrange, the Big Bad Tommy Riddle), many of the others aren't so conspicuous, which is what Snape is supposed to represent.
    • Snape's treatment of his unfavorite students, and his ability to get away with it in this particular boarding school, is positively Dickensian. So are cloaks, writing quills, lanterns and candles, trains, and unequal treatment of the sexes by ancient laws (such as the spell preventing Gryffindor boys from entering the girls' tower, but doesn't reciprocate because supposedly women are the 'purer sex'). Whenever Harry leaves the Dursleys' neat suburban home for the school year, he is pretty much transported a couple hundred years back in technology, social conventions, and morality.

    Life Debt 
  • What bothers me is the fact that he never intended to repay his life debt to James. I know he did eventually, by looking out for Harry, but since Harry was supposed to die, Snape fully intended to let James die without the debt ever being repaid. Also, the fact that he wanted to save Lily for his own selfish reasons without any regard for what she may have wanted makes him an ass. What if his plan had worked? Did he really think she wouldn't loathe him when she found out that he'd been completely fine with Voldemort killing James and Harry? He's a selfish prick who decided his own happiness was more important than Lily's. Otherwise he would have wanted her to be happy with James, and would've asked Voldemort to spare him too. I realise that asking Voldy for two favours probably isn't the smartest thing to do, but if he were even a halfway decent person, his conscience wouldn't have let him NOT at least try. And didn't it even occur to him that maybe Lily wouldn't have wanted to live if James and Harry had died? He was basically saying, "I couldn't give a fuck that you're going to be miserable over the husband and son you're losing, I only care that I don't have to lose you."
    • I honestly find this completely in character for him. He loathed James for seven years and couldn't see James doing anything for his sake, and probably never believed that James saved him out of the goodness of his heart, but only to get out of trouble. Personally, I could never see Snape beg Voldemort to save Harry or James, as he could care less about them. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that Voldemort was going to kill James for defying him three times and kill Harry for being the prophecy child and only really believed in sparing Lily because Snape begged selfishly (Voldemort probably would have killed Snape for trying to beg for all three lives). He loves Lily, but that doesn't mean he wants her to be happy with people he hates. It's meant to be portrayed as a very selfish love in my opinion.
    • I agree, but as noted above, and as you kinda noted too, there's really no way Snape could have begged for all three lives. Now, when Snape came to Dumbledore and asked him to help save Lily, that was selfish and Dumbledore called him out on it. But with Voldemort, Harry was the whole reason he was focused on the Potters, and James had drawn Voldemort's wrath anyway. The only person Voldemort might conceivably spare, if properly begged for by a loyal Death Eater, is Lily. Snape asking Voldie to spare her was effectively a backup plan if the Order of the Phoenix failed to protect all three, and it was the most he could expect from the Death Eater side of things. It's still selfish, but it's also the only thing he could ask from Voldemort without getting exposed as a traitor, or at least sounding like he's gone completely mad ("Um, say, Voldemort, could you just forget all about that baby prophesied to destroy you? And his father, the one who's defied you three times, we can spare him too, right? Oh yeah, and the boy's mother, let's just make it three for three. So, we're all done with this Death Eater meeting about how to deal with the prophecy, right? Who wants tacos?").
    • What makes you think that Voldemort felt more wrath towards James than Lily? The prophecy said that Harry was born to "those" who had thrice defied him, not "he who had thrice defied him and she who is a pretty face but completely neutral in the matter". I always assumed that Lily and James had both gotten themselves in bad situations with Voldemort three times and defied him.
    • Then he already personally wants to kill them both, which makes Snape trying to bargain with Voldemort for all their lives even more impossible.
    • This is somewhat moot, as Voldemort did do what Snape asked, giving Lily a chance to save herself. She did not. This was the entire point of the 'love' protection, that she could have just walked away and been safe, but chose to die. Presumably, without Snape's request, he would have just have killed her immediately.
    • Not exactly any less evil, but he could have tried to change Voldy's mind into going after Neville instead. Still a dick move (which is in character for Snape), but at least it would've been an attempt at repaying the life debt to James. Seemed to me that he was happy that James (and probably Harry too) were going to die, otherwise he would have tried (and probably failed, but still would've been worth a shot) to get Voldy to take the option that would keep Lily out of danger completely. Also, on the matter of James's motives for saving Snape, you're probably right that they were less than pure, but Snape's obviously far more capable of killing/letting someone die (hence the whole Death Eater thing), so I tend to think James deserves to be cut a little slack there.
    • To be fair, Voldy probably intended to kill both the Potters and the Longbottoms to secure his power over the prophecy. It's just that Wormtail betrayed the Potters so ridiculously quickly (it was mentioned in some other Headscratchers page that he betrayed them 'not 48 hours' after the Fidelius charm was set up, but I'm not certain of the source) that there was really no real reason to wait around for whoever was protecting the Longbottoms to slip up too. Presumably, if the Longbottoms' protective charms failed first, Voldy would have no qualms going after them, and then maybe the story would've turned out differently, but there probably wasn't a convincing enough argument Snape could've given to override Wormtail's information.
    • I'm a little confused about the premise of the first question. What Life Debt? (Yes, yes, I've read the books, I'm not literally asking what you're talking about). Snape didn't actually have any "life debt" that was motivating him to help James Potter's son. That was just a load of hogwash Dumbledore told Harry in Book 1, because it's a lot easier to feed something noble and heroic like that to a ten year old than, "Your least favorite teacher had a huge obsession with your dead mom". If anything, James kind of owed SNAPE, for putting him in danger in the supposed 'life debt' incident, before saving him. So, no, he probably didn't give a rip about paying back James.
    • ^That's true but it was actually Sirius who put Snape in said dangerous situation, not James. But Harry does indeed bring it up at one point and Snape basically says he doesn't give a crap about the fact that James saved his life since (from his perspective) James did it selfishly to spare his own skin. Also regarding Neville, I'd say there's a very real probability that Snape tried to convince Voldemort that it was him since Snape willingly handed the prophecy over to Voldemort and when meeting Dumbledore Snape said "he thinks it refers to the Potters." Also bear in mind the Longbottoms were specifically hunted down and tortured by Voldeys most loyal supporters afterwards so it's very likely there was a plan to eliminate them too that Bellatrix was following up on (though I can imagine she didn't really know why since Neville himself was spared).


  • Here's a thought. What if Voldemort had decided to go after Neville? Snape would have been perfectly fine with that. While I will admit Snape did good things and was ultimately on Dumbledore's side, he's still an evil bastard. He was inexcusably rude to his students. As a teacher, his role is to teach the students how to do what they need to do, and to help them when they are struggling. A teacher's role is not to write instructions on the board, then sit back while everyone does it while occasionally assigning them homework. And it is NOT MAKING FUN OF STUDENTS WHEN THEY DO SOMETHING WRONG. I have teachers that have done both of these things and it is completely inexcusable. Neville was scarred for life by Snape. Snape was a man who joined the Death Eater regime solely on his own. He wasn't someone like Wormtail who joined Voldemort because he was scared of what would happen if he didn't. He was a person who fully and truly believed in the pure blood supremacy. And he only left that particular group because they killed the only person he truly loved. This is one of my big problems with the book. It seems to be based on the theory that the only thing different between good and bad is capability to love. While I will admit that someone incapable of loving would generally be considered evil, almost every human on this planet has loved someone; it's a natural part of life. Severus Snape is not a Hero, Anti Hero, Villain, or Anti Villain. He's just an evil asshole who happened to be on Dumbledore's side.
    • I feel that Snape was poorly developed after a certain point — personally, the point where everything he does is because of a girl he liked in school who didn't like him, as it seems rather pathetic and out of character — and that's why it's so difficult to pin him down. I always read Snape as being protected at Hogwarts, but also being trapped at Hogwarts too. He can't go against the headmaster, he's stuck teaching, and Snape himself all but admits he hates teaching and is there because Dumbledore wants him to be. Going on his age, many of his earliest students were probably at school with him and remembered him being bullied and humiliated on a daily basis by the Marauders - wouldn't that be a brilliant environment to work in - with members of staff who remember the people who bullied you as heroes (with the exception of Sirius Black) and a subject that you've always been good at (if you go off his textbook in the sixth book). People who are brilliant at subjects tend to find them very difficult to explain because they don't understand why others can't get it the same way they do. All this before The Boy Who Lived comes to Hogwarts, and when he does, within two months he's chased after a mountain troll (putting himself and others in danger) rather than getting an adult, managed to get the school rules bent so he can be on the Gryffindor team even though it's not allowed - let's face it, anyone else would have gotten detention, and who paid for that broom anyway? Either McGonagall and Dumbledore paid for it themselves (showing blatant favouritism), or the school did (and that's probably worse, as it's not like the school would have paid for some random Hufflepuff's broom, even if they were a good flier; they'd be given a school one). And that's before Xmas! I always figured that Snape decided that Harry's spoiled by his other teachers and that he'll make up for it to keep his feet to the ground. As for Neville, some of the potions ingredients probably do have adverse reactions, and would you want to be the person teaching children who might poison everyone in the room?
    • Sabotaging a child's academic life does not ground them. Neither does going out of your way to show favoritism to class bullies. And whether you want to teach a student that struggles with your subject does not excuse deliberately trying to feed that student something that may be poisonous as Snape did to Neville. These are poor excuses at best. They sound the rationalizations of an abusive and petty human being.
    • Let's just make one thing perfectly clear: Snape never used the term "Mudblood" intentionally after his major screw-up with Lily. That needs to be said. Maybe he used it half-heartedly at a DE meeting or something, but he never referred to his students as such. Where are you people getting that from? Fanon? He actually calls out Phineas Nigellus Black in his Pensieve Flashback when the portrait uses that term to refer to Hermione. It's clear that he felt he crossed the line that time, and hadn't "used the magical equivalent of the N Word on his students" as the above posts seem to claim. I get it, the man is a Jerkass. A flawed, ultimately on the side of good, Jerkass. But let's not go overboard here. Otherwise, you're just as bad as the ones who try to squeeze him into the leather pants. Besides, from how I interpreted his past, he seems to have been driven to the Death Eaters more by his fascination with the Dark Arts than his feelings of Magical supremacy. Oh, I'm sure he paid lip service to the concept, and had his fair share of prejudice, but he said himself in his memories with Lily that blood status really doesn't matter (right before Petunia stumbles in). The Death Eaters are basically a mixture of Supremacists and Dark Arts users, most of whom likely aren't all pure-blooded. Severus could simply switch sides specifically because he didn't believe in the pure-blooded hype any more than he believed in Dumbeldore's equality for all beings. Lily was pretty much his entire motivation. Creepy? Yes. Selfish? Yes. But at least he had the capability to feel love, unlike his former master.
    • I always assumed that Voldemort did go after Neville. Or at least sent Bellatrix as a 'just in case'. I guess Neville was being babysat by his grandmother or something and she tortured them for his whereabouts until they were insane.Why not do both but take care of the most likely himself?
    • Bellatrix tortured Neville's parents AFTER Voldemort was vanquished. The book specifically mentioned that the Longbottoms were tortured because the still-loyal Death Eaters want to know their master's whereabouts.

    Special Treatment 

  • I think there's some truth to this — Snape thought that Harry was being given special treatment, and yeah, he kinda was. Minerva gave him breaks from class so he could practice for the Quidditch team and even let him on the team when he was underage, but that was because he was damn good at Quidditch. The problem is that Snape didn't see Harry's special treatment (or Harry himself) for what it really was — he saw Harry as a miniature version of James. Beloved by everyone, treated special by the teachers, and good at sports. He never even considered (as Dumbledore pointed out to him at one point) that personality-wise, Harry isn't the least bit like James was at school (that is to say, an egotistical Jerk Jock). Yes, Harry hated Snape too, but that's only because he was an unlikeable, bullying dick. If he'd shown up that first day (with no knowledge of James and Severus's history) and Snape acted like any other teacher, he wouldn't have thought twice about it. Snape could've treated him like all his other students (which is pretty crappy, but could've at least not singled him out) and let the grudge end there, but he was too petty to be the bigger man and just went to tormenting Harry as some twisted form of revenge against James. It kind of makes this weird cycle of hatred; James bullied Snape, Snape grows up and bullies Harry, than as Harry grows up, he outright hates Snape because of it. As for Snape being trapped at Hogwarts, I've always felt that way myself; why else would Snape ever work there willingly? But even if he's angry at his job, that doesn't make it okay to take out on the kids he's teaching. All that said, I think Snape was a man who did wrong in the past and redeemed himself over the course of the series, but I, like a lot of other folks on the page, just hate how the last book seems to sweep everything else that was wrong about him under the rug and expect us to forget it.
    • I don't think the last book expects us to forget about his wrongdoings. Once you finish the second-to-last book, it feels like Snape is the irredeemable "bad-guy," and the last book clears it up (if you can call it that, since 'clearing it up' means leaving you in the dark as to whether he was a so-called "bad guy" or "good guy.")
    • I never got the impression it was making it look ambiguous. Harry naming his son after Snape in the epilogue implies that Harry totally forgave everything Snape ever did to him, no matter how petty and cruel. You could argue it's a sign of Harry forgiving Snape and moving past his hatred, which I wouldn't mind. But the way it's presented and the level of fondness he shows seems to imply that Harry looks back on Snape with admiration and affection; it's a little absurd. Admiration, maybe, but you don't look back on someone who dragged out a schoolyard grudge and bullied you every day for 6 years with affection. Likewise, I just read The Prince's Tale, and it puts a lot of emphasis on Snape's reactions to Lily breaking off ties with him and getting picked on, which is fine, but it also totally skives over the stuff Snape did to deserve it. We heard it mentioned everywhere else that Snape did bad stuff at school as well and acted like a git to everyone besides Lily, but the last ending of the series decides to totally cut this out and look at his positive qualities. That's what bothered me, not that Snape was a flawed character, but the book's seeming insistence that he was a victim of circumstance. Freudian Excuse or no, he made his own mistakes.
    • Odd, I thought that Snape's character zigzagged between the side of "good" and "evil" multiple times, until near the end of the book 7 where it's finally revealed that he's in the "good." I think one of the main differences in this book that distinguishes Harry's side and Voldemort's side is reflected upon in their own individual characters; Harry understands and appreciates the value of friendship and the ability to love, while Voldemort cannot. As such, Voldemort is capable of astonishingly "great but terrible" deeds, while simultaneously this trait leads to Voldemort's ultimate downfall in the end of the series. So we've got the extreme "evil," clearly in the form of Voldemort, while on the protagonists' side we've got a bunch of characters bordering/flat-out on the moral gray zone (Neither the titular character nor the series' wise mentor Dumbledore was exempt from committing some morally questionable acts). That is, there's really no single character who accurately portrays the extreme of "good" as well as Voldemort does for the extreme of "evil" - there are no morally perfect characters even on the protagonists' side, while there are morally incorrigible characters on the antagonists' side. Anyway, so wherein this spectrum does Snape lie? Snape did have character flaws; this Troper notes that this is more clearly so noticeable than other characters because Snape was so closely associated with Voldemort, the ultimate representation of how evil that one can possibly get (in this series, I mean, though some would argue that Umbridge is pretty high up there for this position as well). Despite his critical mistakes, Snape did attempt to make amends - one thing that stood out the most for this Troper was that Snape, in essence, absolutely forbid Dumbledore to tell anyone about his personal motive and involvement in Dumbledore's plans. If at the very least Harry had known about Snape earlier, Harry's viewpoint about Snape may have changed considerably towards a much more positive direction than it actually was in the series. This Troper is in no way trying to shove Snape into a pair of leather pants by dismissing all of his flaws as trivial. Snape's overall jerkass attitude during Harry's time in Hogwarts is, at the very least, justified. By meeting Harry, Snape is painfully reminded of his unrequited love for Lily (via Harry's eyes, which remind Snape of Lily's), of his crappy school days (via Harry's similarity to James), and of his own desire for amends (via his promise with Dumbledore) which actually won't change anything about his past. He's a conflicted dude, and I'm surprised he was able to pull off his jerkass attitude so subtly as to hide his true motives and reasons. Basically, this Troper found that he sympathized with Snape's character - James Potter, even to this day, is such a dick...
    • This troper is a psychologist and finds this very interesting. In real life, no one is absolutely good, but psychopaths do exist and can be considered “pure evil” to some degree, so in some regard Rowling [and GRR Martin] does portray that successfully; good vs evil could not be of absolutes and though “absolute evil” does exist absolute good doesn’t.
    • I think thing people should consider, when it comes to a conflict where people's lives are on the line and death and torture on common place, is being a dick really all that bad? A bad teacher is certainly not something that should be glorified but it's pretty minor when put beside pure evil.

    Sadist Teacher 

  • An interesting note: If you erase the way he treated his students, it's easy enough to imagine Snape as the Not Evil, Just Misunderstood guy. In fact, to me, the way he treated his students seemed both out of character and something that had been tacked on as a redundancy. I take it with a pinch of salt, the same way I do with the Dursleys' treatment of Harry. In real life, even if the Wizarding world did exist, there would be a few things that remain the same anyhow: a) the Dursleys' treatment of Harry would not be tolerated; and b) Snape's treatment of his students would not be tolerated. So I see both of these as carefully tacked-on exaggerations meant to reinforce readers' hatred of Snape before we realize his actual backstory.
    • Continuing on this line of thought, though I'm not excusing any of the actually bad things he did, which was mostly how he taught his students, consider that he did have a Freudian Excuse, and a major one. Again, I am NOT saying that we should completely cut him slack, but do take into account that his childhood and life was enough to turn a saint into a psychopath. I think it's the fact that he was still able to cling to a degree of love and in his last breath aid the hero he hated so much, that makes me have some faint affection for him, as long as I take his terrible teaching abilities with a very large pinch of salt.
    • He doesn't get a pass because he had a bad childhood. He's a thirty-odd-year-old man. It sucks that he came from an abusive household, it really does. And maybe that can at least give him some slack for joining up with the Death Eaters, though not a lot. But by the time Harry hit Hogwarts, Snape should have gotten over it, or at least learned to deal with it enough that it shouldn't be informing every action he takes. The fact that his father yelled at him doesn't mean that it's okay that he terrorizes Neville so much that a boy who knows the face of the woman who tortured his parents into insanity still has Snape as his worst fear. Whatever else he did that may have made him heroic, he treated those children appallingly and has absolutely no excuse for it.
    • Why is everyone using "Snape is Neville's worst fear" as evidence against him? This troper always assumed that most of the boggart scene relied on Rule of Funny; otherwise, the whole scene doesn't make sense. Would Neville really be more afraid of Snape being snide than a madman running towards him with a knife? Would Ron really be more afraid of a spider than watching his entire family die while he was helpless to react? No. They're just throwaway, easily illustrated phobias that the reader could connect to a plot point. If Rowling showed Neville's parents being driven insane, the audience wouldn't know what the heck was going on, because that plot point hadn't been explained yet. Even his classmates laughed when Neville admitted what his "worst fear" was. Now, that's not to say that Snape isn't a serious jerkass, especially to Neville, and that's not to say that his teaching skills don't need work. He's a dick, but i would hardly call anything he ever did to his students "appalling". There are people like him that get off on abusing their power everywhere in and out of the school system. He's actually better than most; seeing how almost every single one of his students passed their O.W.L.s without much fuss, including Harry who has neither natural talent nor interest towards the subject, he must not have been trying at that "obstruct their education" thing very hard. Considering some of the teachers this troper knows of, Harry is lucky that Snape is the only jerkass teacher he has to deal with every day.
    • I don't see how Snape's treatment of his students is at all "Out of character." Not when the first two books had his treatment of his students be one of his defining character traits (before stuff got serious and the Death-Eater background came out). Even when you hear his backstory, Snape is only working as a teacher because he's serving Dumbledore, and doesn't seem to want the job. Also, as an Insufferable Genius, it's unsurprising that he'd see anyone not on his level of intellect as incompetent asshats, even if they're only eleven-years-old (this is a common occurrence for people who are really good at something — experts in a field don't always make great teachers).
      • I suspect that when the poster says "Out of character," they mean that the way Snape treats his students is inconsistent with his other character traits.
    • "If you erase the way he treats his students..." Well, yes. If you ignore all the genocide, Voldemort was pretty okay, too. If you ignore the attempt to murder an eleven-year-old girl via a Horcrux and service to the aforementioned genocidal fuckhead, Lucius Malfoy was rad. I know why you would want to ignore the way he treats his students: it's sadistic. Literally sadistic, as in he takes pleasure from causing their suffering. And while we don't know just how far Snape went in the service of Voldemort or how far he was willing to go, we do know that he has worked for the rest of his life to atone for it. For all his faults, I don't doubt that he was sincere in his efforts to make up for working for the man who murdered Lily. But we also know that he was never apologetic for the way he treated his students. For all we know, he never saw anything wrong with it. And that's why you dismiss it: because it's indefensible that a grown man would be so gleeful in torturing children. But the fact remains that he did, and you can't just say that it doesn't count just because he was otherwise loyal to Lily's memory. Snape is a deeply, deeply flawed man, and you discredit the character to just ignore the parts of him that don't fit with how you'd prefer to imagine him.
    • Well, except Voldermort was a terrible murderer even without the attempted genocide (shit, he was torturing kids and killing their pets before he hit double digits), and Lucius Malfoy would still be a rascist rich dick. It is inexcusable how Snape treated his students, yes, but not to the degree that *that* is what makes him evil. No, that's just his big flaw- he'sa Jerkass.
    • What would be really nice is if all of Snape's abuse towards the students was more of an exaggeration on the part of Harry. Haven't we all exaggerated the evilness of our least favorite teacher in our own minds? Not saying that that's absolutely what's going on, but it's certainly an idea.
    • I disagree with the Dursley’s part, sadly in real life you need much more for social services to intervene.
    • Isn't Snape only a Sadist Teacher towards a select few students? Harry, because he reminds him of James, Neville, because he thinks he should've died instead of Harry (and by extension, Lily), and occassionally Hermione, because he thinks she's something of a show-off and a know-it-all. I'm not saying he was justified in treating them this way or that he was a perfectly good person otherwise, but most of his flaws as a teacher was just displaying favoritism toward certain students - which just falls under the category of "normal bad teacher." As both the Potions and DADA professor, he was actually among the more knowledgeable instructors the students had - he was just really, really lousy at giving feedback.

    Harry's POV 

  • What this troper believes is that everyone wants to see Snape's character as "good or bad", and that's not how it works. You're forgetting that the books are written in the biggest part from Harry's POV in a third person focus. While the objective thing was to present evidence about Snivellus's good/evil status for us to debate (It was done, just not in the same row), this dude, being Harry, decided to overlook the bad things and just let the dead guy's memory rest in peace. This also serves as a "better than you" moment, since Snape didn't forgive or at least forget his grudge against James, EVER, and look what it did to him. The aesop about the power of love and the self-destructive nature of hate was drilled in Harry's skull with every single experience he lived. And as a very wise old man said, "If you cannot forgive, at least forget, because hate will destroy you from the inside... and you wouldn't want to give the one who made you suffer that pleasure, right?". So yeah. Harry forgot Snivellus's jerkass moments and decided to like him for his anti-heroic sacrifice. Even Voldemort died as a pitiful man; Harry faced him without hate or revenge's desire, just to finish the job. That's what he was feeling and thinking, that's what the book showed us. Snape being an ass is up to the reader, so subjective that it doesn't have an absolute answer.
    • If Snape was a good guy, then when was he planning on telling Harry he was the last horcrux? Its almost like Snape knew he was going to be killed so he can finally tell Harry the truth.
    • He did ask Voldemort to let him look for Harry moments before he was killed, and he didn't exactly have many oppertunities before that point. Though that does raise another question: how would he have gotten Harry to actually listen to him?
    • Disarm and tie him up, obviously. Harry was still no much for Snape in combat.
    • Snape also tried to find Harry when he suspected that he was in Hogwarts, but Mc Gonnagal attacked him before he could explain why (she thought Snape wanted to capture Harry for Voldemort). Other than that, he really had no chance between killing Dumbledore and the battle in order to talk to Harry without a bunch of Death Eaters around.
    • Some of you seem not to understand the difference between "being good" and "doing good things". Barty Crouch Jr. taught a lot about DADA. Was this a good thing to do? Yes. Was he good? No. But he did good things for several reasons. Same could be said about Snape. Now, I'm not saying Snape was a bad person like Crouch Jr., I just want to demonstrate that you could be a Bad Person and still do good things. Being good or bad is about motivations and morals, and this Headscratcher is about whether Snape was good or merely did good things because of some reasons, even though he didn't believe in it.
    • Which is what bothers me when people call the protagonists gray. Save Dumbledore, Harry, and James, I'd argue everyone else is pure white. It's practically like Lord of the Rings with outright Black and White Morality. Save Snape and the three above I'd argue that no else is Grey at all. Oh sure they've all made mistakes. It still doesn't excuse Snape, and frankly it's all too easy to see his death as an Author's Saving Throw for his character and the book. He bullies the non-Slytherins, and actively looks down on everyone who is in a position he "deserves", whether the glory of James Potter and Co., the charisma of Harry, the love of Lily, or the DADA position. If it wasn't for him, Barty Crouch never would've taken over because Lupin wouldn't have been forced to leave, all because of a grudge. Yes, he did good things but only to further get what he wanted which was, after Lily died, revenge on Voldemort. He's Lawful Neutral at best as I can see, only caring about himself and the rules for Hogwarts.
    • Fair points, but did you forget about the curse Voldemort put on the DADA position? Whether by being outed from the lunar closet or by more deadly means, Lupin would have had to give up the job either way. And considering the heroes weren't able to permanently arrest Wormtail, he was still fated to find Voldy and free Crouch Jr so that he could "take over" as you put it. Snape's role in Lupin's departure was ultimately just one way of many for events to unfold exactly as fate would have it.
    • Fridge Logic: If Snape knew about the jinx back then, he was actively SAVING LUPIN'S ASS.
    • Going back to the original post in this folder. On that same note, the horrible things that Snape did to his students earlier on may have also been exaggerated in the POV of Harry Potter, as children are prone to do when recalling their least favorite school teacher. If we are to take everything presented to us with a grain of salt due to the biased viewpoint it is presented from, then we might be led to believe that Snape wasn't really as "evil" towards his students as was depicted in some of the earlier books, and was really closer to the light side the entire time.
Or, conversely, he was really, really gray.


  • I will never understand why so few people seem to get that Snape is a Byronic Hero. Don't try to make him completely evil. Don't try to make him completely good. He is a tragic, deeply flawed hero, guys.
    • That's because he isn't a Byronic Hero at all. Of the five listed traits on that page... Snape only matches one. He's cynical and jaded. He doesn't produce conflict because he's determined to follow out a personal philosophy, it's because he's just a Jerkass. He sees himself as subordinate to Dumbledore. He's not isolated from society, he's in a position of power and flaunts that power as much as he can.
    • Oh, really? Let's check the traits of a Byronic Hero. He actually is isolated from society, just not when he's at Hogwarts. He's introspective and dwells on the pains of his life. He is The Atoner and an activist, working for the Order, and is very passionate, rising above the Slytherin values..
    • Isolation: nope. He is introverted, and doesn't like making friends, but he's not isolated. He's still friendly enough with his "old crew" well before Voldemort's return. Introspective? not at all, or else he'd be able to recognize his own biases, and he has plenty of biases. We don't even get to see his thought processes, anyways. Dwells on pain- sure, but that just goes with being cynical and jaded. Passionate- unless you mean "short-tempered," then no. "Cold" and "bitter" are more apt descriptions when he's not wearing leather pants. Atonement? He's not searching for atonement. You don't atone for driving away the girl you love and directing a madman to her murder by verbally abusing her son. He's out for revenge against Voldemort, and he's Slytherin to the bone. Cunning, deception, and the drive to get what he wants- Voldemort dead. He is not rebelling against society. He is not living out a socially-questionable philosophy. Just because he's a bad person who ends up doing something heroic does not make him a Byronic Hero. And here's the litmus test- is he doing evil because he's evil, or only because it's necessary for a greater good? How does making fun of Neville or crushing Hermione's self-esteem help make the world a better place?
    • It doesn't. He's a huge dick; I acknowledge that - so does Rowling, and even Snape himself, in the end. What he did to Neville, Hermione and Harry was just him being an immature Jerkass I meant passionate as in passionate about his beliefs, which he clearly was, or he wouldn't be willing to fight for the Order.(And now you'll probably say that he only did that because of Lily, to which I answer; no, he didn't. He got into it when Lily died, because he saw how batshit insane Voldemort really was, but he did want to fight to the end and stop the Death Eaters.) Byronic heroes are never kind or unconditionally good; the trope name comes from Lord fucking Byron, guys.
    • I never said Snape needed to be good. He just needs a good reason for being bad. Which he doesn't have. Lelouch toys with free will and sacrifices human lives like pawns, and he's clearly doing evil- but he's doing it in order to topple another evil empire. He's a cold, manipulative jerkass because he sees everyone and everything as a potential resource in his fight against the empire. Snape, however, is a jerkass because he's a playground bully in an adult's body. Also, if you're going to dispute "Snape fought against Voldemort because of Lily" then you're going to have to take it up with J. K. Rowling. It's almost stated explicitly in "The Prince's Tale" chapter of DH, i think. Dumbledore keeps reminding him "Do it for Lily!" whenever the going gets tough.
    • Playground bully? Really? I don't know what you think, but I would call that victim-blaming. And comparing Snape to a dude who is willing to sacrifice the lives of innocents is pretty unfair. And no. If Snape was only doing it for Lily, then he would be manipulating people behind the shadows and being too cowardly to go out and fight. Because that's what he does best, but he just chooses not to. And that is why he's mentioned as the bravest man Harry ever knew, I think. He didn't want to, but he did it anyway, because Voldemort needed to be stopped.
    • Yes. Really. Because there is no other way to describe how he treated the students. I like how you concentrate only on his noble aspects and conveniently forget 6 books of straight-up BULLYING. And I don't see how you can jump from "Snape did it for Lily" does not lead to "He will fight directly against the man that killed her." It's a perfectly logical explanation that is supported by canon. Your idea that he's actually capable of being a Dumbledore-esque mastermind manipulator is likely a fanon interpretation.
    • By your wording, you are portraying him as some kind of Draco Malfoy type who did everything For the Evulz. That is my main problem with your theory. He was an asshole, and his treatment of his non-Slytherin students was horrible, but you have to remember that he was the product of a lifetime of emotional abuse. He was not quite as good at The Plan as Dumbledore was, but you have to remember that this guy managed to convince Voldemort that he was a loyal Death Eater. For years.
    • What you don't seem to understand is that people react to abuse and bullying differently. While some brush it off and mature, some are greatly effected by their bullying and abuse and their emotions and how they treat people as well as their confidence is greatly affected ( even Alan Rickman said that Snape felt he needed to have respect, and he felt the character was insecure). I will admit that Snape was a bad teacher and I think he would have been happier with a job in a private lab in St. Mungos or something, and while I will admit, or mostly I see him as forever, emotionally and maturity wise, stuck as a seventeen year old boy. Also he is not evil and in the last book there are so many things he did for Harry and others that, if he was evil or the bad guy, he didn't need to do. If he was so evil then why, after killing Dumbledore and after everyone thinks he was evil and he had complete control over the school did he even bother helping the Trio or the students? (Like sending Ginny and Luna to Hagrid as punishment). If he had been caught then he would have most likely been put to death or at least tortured. Furthermore if he was bad then why obey Dumbledore at all? Dumbledore is nothing more then a painting and can't do anything. Besides even JK said "there are no truly good and evil people in my books, except for Voldemort" or something like that, during an interview. The thing is not one single character is all good or all bad but a mix of the two. Just like in real life people are shades of grey. - Silver Doe

    Morally grey 

  • Snape is neither good nor evil. He's ... very, very complicated. He is a survivor of child abuse, evidently throughout his entire childhood. Survivors of long-term abuse (childhood or otherwise) tend to (very broadly speaking) either follow in the footsteps of their abusers, curl up in a ball (metaphorically speaking) and never truly deal with it/move on, or do a complete 180 from their abuser's behavior in a determined attempt to never be like them. Add into this seven years of systematic, continual terrorization (I'm sorry, but it goes several steps beyond mere 'bullying') by the Marauders, who, despite one of them (sorry, Sirius) damn near getting Severus KILLED never suffered much in the way of consequences, being in Slytherin, which in canon seems to house all the slimy gits, and Severus being in school during Voldemort's rise to power and really, it's a miracle he didn't do a Bellatrix and go completely, irredeemably Dark. That he was capable of loving Lily (and I do not doubt he did), however 'obsessive' and 'possessive' that love might have been, was a minor miracle. Was it right for him to hate Harry and carry the grudge over? Heck no. But it was understandable. Not like he had much of an example to follow in how to behave appropriately, and no, Dumbledore is NOT an example of appropriate behavior. Severus still helped Harry when Harry was in mortal danger. Did he behave appropriately, and was he 'good'? Heck no, but considering everything that had happened, he was doing better than he could have done.
    • THIS, So, so much. I couldn't have said it better.
    • Seconded. I also want to point out that, along the lines of Snape's ability to love Lily being a minor miracle; his love was nowhere here as "obsessive and possessive" as one might expect from such traumatized character. I couldn't help but compare him to figures such as the Phantom (who was willing to kill Christine's suitor and blow up the opera house) in order to get her. True, Snape didn't care if James or Harry would survive. But the fact that he was willing to go to Dumbledore and work to protect the entire family instead of plotting to have James and Harry killed leaving Lily for himself is pretty significant.
    • You win at life. You have said what I have been saying to people my whole life.
    • I think that Snape's personality, whether or not he's a hero, good, bad, evil, etc. really depends on the person. Some people think he's good and others think he's bad. So I just propose that we agree that Snape, and who he really is, depends on the person and their definition or opinion of what makes a person good or bad or what makes a person a hero.
    • True. Also, at least in the third HP movie, Snape put himself between a werewolf and the three kids he didn't like. Whether he would've cared if Harry, Ron, and Hermione got killed by the werewolf or not, that takes tremendous balls.
      • Heartwarming moments with Professor Snape! ... Yeah, that's pretty much it.
    • Thank you very much for taking the effort to write all this off me. While I agree with other people on this page that Sev wasn't good and wasn't evil, and yes he was selfish, his past has to be taken into consideration. I also think he truly did regret his deeds after Lily's death and Harry was, well, a reminder of James and everything James had, in his eyes, 'ruined'. He wasn't able to see past 'James' and see Harry, or even just Lily's son, aside from his final moments. After the past he went through, it's a pretty good thing he eventually DID. I also agree on the werewolf point - third book was where I started liking him, I had that poster in my room.
    • I would also like to point out Snape's patronus. It's a doe, right? So if really, after all was said and done and Lily was dead, still loved her selfishly and only wanted her to himself, why wasn't at a stag then, the perfect counterpart and partner to the doe, Lily's patronus? I think his patronus shows that he did feel remorse.
    • Actually a Patronus can only change because of true love. Yes his love was selfish but she was the only person (for a while) that seemed to be the only one to care about him and the only light in his abused and dark world. As for the remorse then yes, he felt remorse for something that was largely not his fault. Voldy was after them long before the prophecy and it was Wormtail who blabbed the location thus enabling them to be found. I think the Potters would have died without the prophecy anyways in time. But because of Snape we have the series so that's a plus. About the stag....it doesn't represent his personality. Lily's was a doe and he loved her thus the doe. Another animal would have to represent his personality like a fox, cat, falcon, wolf, etc.
    • Buck and Doe go together, as do Stag and Hind.
    • Snape may have grown up in an "abused and dark world", but the choices he made were his own. While he genuinely did care for Lily, mostly it was a selfish love. Snape bears more credit for the Potters death than the above poster gives him. He was the one who accidentally gave Voldemort the prophecy, after all. There's also no indication that he would of cared if Voldemort had gone after the Longbottoms instead, There's no way of determining what the Potters' fate would of been without the prophecy. It's equally as likely that they would have survived. Actually, because of Harry we have the series. Snape was just the messenger.
    • Actually no. If you read carefully it states that the Potters were already being targeted by Voldemort. Thrice defied remember? all the prophecy did was piss him off more. But prophecy or not, the Potters were going to most likely die by his hand anyways. And they wouldn't have been found if Wormtail had kept his coward mouth shut. What Snape did do was get Voldy to give Lily the option to move aside thus saving Harry. And about the indication thing. The series is through the eyes of a character: Harry Potter. He didn't seem to want to go into that or think of it so we never found out. We find out why he joined the death eaters and we know that if given a second chance that he wouldn't do it again. If he was really into being a DE then he would have joined again if given a second chance.
    • The Potters weren't specifically targeted until the prophecy. Exactly, thrice defied. The Potters had proved themselves to be very badass. If Voldemort wasn't spending all of his energy on them, they may of had a chance. Yes, Wormtail did betray them, but that doesn't make the Potters any less competent, nor does it mitigate the fact that Snape indirectly led Voldemort there. Snape did initially believe in the cause, as he didn't find anything wrong with his Slytherin friends playing cruel jokes on Muggleborns like Mary MacDonald. The only time he got upset about it was when the muggleborn in question was Lily. I do agree that after Lily died, he seemed to have lost his taste for racism.
    • I think the problem was more along the lines of Severus did nothing to stop his friends but that doesn't mean he participated either. I think what pissed Lily off is the fact that Severus didn't do anything about his 'friends' but honestly can he afford to have the whole school against him? this, however, does not excuse his lack of action. Not doing anything is just as bad as doing something. But I think his logic was 'the marauders hex and hurt me and others and apparently that's okay. So why is it bad for us to do what they do?' Fun fact though, both his 'friends' and the marauders hexed people. But for some reason the marauders hexing of both Snape and innocent bystanders is less bad then what the Slytherins do. I always found that double standard to be quite queer and unfair. As a child Snape was not an angel but then again neither were the marauders, actually no one is innocent at all, but that's how life works. As children and teens our minds and emotions are everywhere. Unfortunately Snape had an anger problem and after loosing lily (mostly his fault) I guess he just snapped. Adult Snape did drop his racism and truthfully his reasons for joining were not what you expect. He joined because he wanted acceptance and was insecure (this still does not excuse his joining). The adult Snape has problems, very big mental and emotional problems but hes also brave, loyal, I personally don't see him as selfish but apparently it depends on the person. Hes intelligent, powerful, and protective. The thing is that Snape, like everyone else, is not wholly good nor bad. He's shades of grey like everyone else. Hes made bad choices and hes paid for them. Snape is to blame partially for the Potters being killed (like you said) but he knows this and has suffered for it. Sorry if this sounds like I'm excusing his actions. I'm not. I'm just trying to explain them and understand them.
    • I never said that Snape participated. What I said that he didn't see anything wrong with it unless Lily was the one being attacked. It would would be a vast overstatement to say the the whole school would be against him if he stood up for the muggle-borns. Slytherin might not be happy with him, but I don't understand why the other houses would. Like you say, social expectation does not excuse his actions. The Marauders did hex people, but they mostly grew out of it by seventh year. Besides which, they're not an excuse for not doing the right thing and they did not take away Snape's ability to think for himself. In the end, Snape made his own choices and he has to live with them.
    • I already addressed why he saw nothing wrong with it. Everyone thinks what the marauders do is OK and is funny. So why is what his friends do seen as bad when they do the same things the Marauders do? If people don't find anything wrong with a certain action or actions then you don't find a problem with it either. When he was hanging upside down who, in the group that gathered, bothered to help? Who do we hear about that helps him or tries to stop the bullying other then Lily? we don't. So we can make the assumption that the houses or the majority of people didn't like or care for Snape. You could say that the assumption means nothing since we don't see much of anything but still, the only person who defends him is lily and that's one person out of a whole school. So all he has is Slytherin and probably is getting enough crap for defending Lily so if he stops pleasing them then who does he have? the only thing that will change is that he will be sleeping in a dorm filled with people who hate him and he would still get bullied since much of the Marauders bullying was because of James' jealously of Snape for Lily. It doesn't excuse his actions but it definitely influences the actions of a person. JK said, in regards to why he joined the death eaters: "Given his time over again Snape would not have become a Death Eater, but like many insecure, vulnerable people he craved membership of something big and powerful, something impressive.... He was so blinded by his attraction to the dark side he thought Lily would find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater." You would be surprised what bullying and abuse and constant humiliation does to someone. Especially when that one person looses his only friend and is completely and utterly alone. Even Alan said "Snape is a very lonely man, who lives a very lonely life". Snape does live with his choices and he is fully aware of his mistakes in the books. He's got so much self loathing and depression that I'm surprised he hast killed himself yet. Also why did JK, when he is called one of the abandoned boys, say he found a home in Hogwarts? how was Hogwarts a home at all for him. All I saw was that it brought him suffering, misery, and the loss of his one friend. I think that he sometimes wishes he was never a wizard or maybe he wished he was never born. Once again, he is a dick and very fucked up mentally. Im not excusing his actions, I'm just explaining them or trying to.
    • I already knew why he thought there was nothing wrong with his friends picking on Muggle-borns. It is a legitimate Freudian Excuse. In the end, though, that's all it is. It's a very sympathetic reason for why he's a Jerk Ass Woobie. It by no means justifies anything that he did, but it does explain it.
    • We both agree then. That's good.


  • I think that Snape is a rather ambiguous character. He does only kill Dumbledore due to Dumbledore's own death wish-which is good. However, he bullies Neville and Harry quite a lot. This is understandable: it is shown in the books that Snape was an outstandingly clever student, to teach a notoriously slow student like Neville must be rather frustrating for him. With his social issues (stemming from a history of abuse and neglect at home, and, later, extreme bullying, then rejection from the girl he loved). Harry and Snape share Mutual enmity, from when HARRY became prejudiced against him because he blamed Snape for the pain in his scar when he first saw Snape. Also, when Snape sees Harry he sees the ghost of his tormentor , James, returning to haunt him as Harry looks like his father. It cannot be pleasant to see a daily reminder of the rejection of the girl he loved and her love for the man he loathed-no wonder he automatically dislikes Harry! The fact that Lily died for him makes Snape see Harry as the reason for his infatuee's death, whilst he is committed to not letting her die in vain, he still hates the thing she gave her life to save. He dislikes Sirius because, from his point of view, Sirius tried to kill him by attempting to trick him into the shrieking shack while a werewolf was in there. This is why he goads and almost fights Sirius.
    • Where is it shown that Neville's slow? He's clumsy and lacks self-confidence sure. However, once he gains his confidence, he's one of the most competent characters in the series. Being bullied by Snape probably didn't help his early years. As for Harry, I'd hardly call that prejudice. Harry's scar hurt he first saw Snape. Harry's scar has never hurt before and it's not like Snape is looking at him in a kind manner. Besides which, Lily died partially because of Snape's own actions.
    • Harry's scar doesn't hurt because he sees Snape. It hurts because he is also looking at a man with VOLDEMORT ON THE BACK OF HIS HEAD.
    • Neville is slow in potions (to Snape) and Snape has little to no patience for people screwing up.
    • Snape was an immensely vulnerable young man, Harry's intrusion into his privacy to witness his humiliation cannot be welcomed in 'the order of the Phoenix'. Would you like someone to view the memories you are most ashamed of and embarrassed by? Snape regards any person who cannot control their emotions as 'weak', to him this loss of control (when he insults Lily) must have been despicable, or this could be the reason for the aforementioned belief: when he lost control was when he lost everything, therefore losing control makes you vulnerable, so those who lose control are weak.
      Snape saves Harry- a person he hates- which is admirable, but shows little moral fibre himself, he needs someone else to shoe him what to do. He is selfish at first: originally he only tries to save Lily. He does change sides, and puts himself in grave danger to do so, but he does not act on what is right, but on what he is told to do to avenge lily. None is truly down to his moral integrity.
    • Neville is slow in potions partially because Snape never bothers to explain what Neville did wrong and how to do it right. All Snape does is insult him and bully him. He's really not that much of a teacher. As for Harry seeing Sanpe's memories, it becomes a little hypocritical when Snape had spent the entire book reading Harry's memories. Sure, Snape was trying to teach Harry how to defend himself against mental intrusion. However, he again fails to tell Harry exactly how. He doesn't provide any exercises or any research that Harry can do in in spare time. Also, you'd think that Snape would think to lock up his stuff.
    • We know he's a terrible teacher. The problem is that he doesn't want or like being one and he's a genius so when Neville screws something up that he finds as easy as walking then he's gonna loose his shit. Snape has no patience for the slow, the lazy, or failure. Also Snape is teaching how he knows how to which is: post instructions and go make a potion. Its a terrible way to do things but its how he does things.(plus potions is easy for him so most screw ups are going to drive him up a wall) Now with Harry JK said that Harry would forever suck at Occlumency because you have to control and empty your emotions which is something Harry can not do. Also Snape can only teach and tell someone how to do something as he knows how. Like if I'm gonna teach you how to sing then you would have a difficult time because it would be hard for me to teach what is so natural to me. Snape told him to 'control his emotions' 'empty his mind' and that's what you have to do. That's how Occlumency is done. He told Harry every day to empty his mind before bed (think of nothing, empty all emotions) but Harry was so filled with hate and other emotions that he refused to cooperate. Teaching someone Occlumency is really, really, hard. Especially when said person can't empty emotions (like Harry) but when you teach a person like Draco Malfoy or Snape then it's easier because they can empty emotions. Also Harry should be more respectful and not go snooping in other peoples things. It's rude to go snooping into peoples things and Snape shouldn't have to constantly worry about locking his pensive away when a kid as old as Harry is old enough to know how to respect peoples things. Just because Dumbledore is cool with him being a snoop does not make everyone else cool with it, you know?
    • Again, that is not Neville's fault. Snape has no right to take his anger out on an innocent child. Bullying children who you have that kind of power over is no way sympathetic or justifiable. As for Harry, yes, he shouldn't have been sneaking into Snape's things. It's not that Harry's filled with hate; it's that he has a lot of unresolved anger. His guardians are abusive, there's a powerful individual who wants him dead and can get inside his head, and he has to deal with murder attempts every year. Not to mention that he witnessed a murder and an entire society is accusing him of being a liar. It really doesn't help that Harry doesn't trust Snape due to the the fact that Snape goes out of his way to make him miserable. However, Snape is still the teacher and Harry is still the student. The student's job is to learn and the teacher's job is to teach effectively and help provide a safe learning environment. How Snape taught Harry was the equilivant of a karate teacher telling his new student to defend himself and then beating him up. Snape failed to set boundries and guidelines. What Snape should of done is first giving Harry the mental equilviant of katas or exercizes.
    • I didn't say that was Neville's fault. Snape is a very mentally damaged character with little to no patience for people who are slow (by his definition) and who is a genius who hates teaching and children. Not everyone can become a teacher because not everyone is suited to becoming one. To be a teacher you must have patience, you must have somewhat of a liking or tolerance of children and you must be able to teach properly. All of which Snape is incapable of doing. I have no idea what Albus was thinking but putting him into a private lab in St.Mungos would have been a better choice instead of making him a teacher. Anyways onto Harry. The problem with Harry, even Hermonie acknowledges this in book 5, is that when Harry doesn't like someone he really shuts down. ("Hermione, I can’t. You know I’m lousy at Occlumency. I never got the hang of it." "You never really tried!")Snape does the same thing. If Albus wanted a proper teacher for Harry in Occlumency (a branch of magic he still wouldn't be able to learn because according to JK: "Harry’s problem with it was always that his emotions were too near the surface and that he is in some ways too damaged. But he's also very in touch with his feelings about what's happened to him. He's not repressed, he's quite honest about facing them, and he couldn't suppress them, he couldn't suppress these memories") then he should have taught him. Albus knows there is this anger and hate between them, he knows Snape has no patience and he most likely knows that Snape can only teach this magic one way. IE the only way he knows how which is shutting down all emotion and basically avoiding them. Harry can't do that and I'm sure that Albus would have been able to teach him a different way that would work for him. (a different branch of magic) But Occlumency was never going to be able to be taught to him. The only exercise for Occlumency is: "shut down your mind and all emotion" it's a one way street and one way exercise and Harry was given it but never really tried. Now Harry is also reckless and doesn't think before doing. A lot of the danger Harry is in or finds himself in is because he doesn't think and just charges into situations and this usually results in the death of others or people getting hurt. I think Snape has a bit of hate (more then he has you know) because Harry is constantly disobeying rules and getting himself into danger and that is a slap in the face to the people who are trying to protect him and a slap in the face to Lily who gave her life for him. It's certainly why I don't like Harry. Both have anger and both have issues. Putting them together was a horrible idea and it leaves me to ask Albus once again 'what were you thinking?'
    • When is Neville shown to be slow? when he gets his confidence he becomes one of the most competent characters in the series i'm sorry but that is really pushing it. I'm sick of people retroactively applying traits to him that simply did not exist until the latter half of the books. With the exception of herbology he spent every moment until joining the DA messing up at every possible opportunity. He even risked Harry's life in book 3 when he wrote down the Gryffindor password during a time when everyone thought Sirius was a mass-murderer - even his own grandparents thought he was a squib for years due to his sheer lack of magic. He became a badass there is no denying that but one of the most competent in the series? no dice.


  • I just wanted to bring up a point. I don't actually believe in this theory, but it is somewhat plausible. Apparently, Severus was aware that Voldemort was going to come back eventually, and that he needed to continue spying. For all we know, the whole cruel, sadistic teacher could have been an act. If he suddenly started treating everyone besides the Slytherins nice I doubt he would have been welcomed back as a Death Eater. This would explain why he at least tried to protect the children in the last book. Or maybe he did it on Albus' orders. We never actually found out. Of course, this is all theory. To be honest, we know next to nothing about Snape. All we really know is that he was a Death Eater, he might have been abused or at the least neglected, he loved Lily, and that he was a total dick to everyone. Like I said, who knows. He might actually just have some serious antisocial disorder, as that can cause cruel and violent tendencies not unlike Snape's, especially if you were abused as a child.
    • Except this makes no sense. Peter Pettigrew was recruited into the Death Eaters, despite being a shitty wizard, a pathetic personality generally, and a member of the Marauders (who'd gone a million miles out of their way to piss off every Slytherin and future Death Eater in the school). Why? Because he had information they could use. By this same token, Snape could get his double agent back on simply by showing up at Voldemort's pad with "useful information", even if he and Dumbledore actually sat down and composed it all personally. When a guy on the inside of your enemy's team wants to sell out to you, you give him a chance to show the goods before making up your mind. Snape could have acted like a reasonable human being for fifteen years and justified it all on his return with 'Well, Boss, I really needed to convinced these people I was actually reformed or else I'd have ended up as Bellatrix's roommate in Azkaban, which would have done neither me nor you any bit of good. Which meant I actually had to act reformed. However, here's a nice pile of secrets from the Order of the Phoenix, which I hope will prove my bona fides. Besides, I didn't do anything that Barty Jr. wasn't already doing all of last year, as regards 'not openly favoring the Slytherins'. Hell, I wasn't do anything that you weren't doing, when you were possessing Quirrell, and by the way I'm really sorry I didn't know it was you, I could have helped a lot. So basically, this whole contretemps is because Lucius Malfoy spoils his brat so much that he thinks you should give a higher importance to 'sucking up to Draco in school' than you should to 'your double agent in the Order needing to keep his cover'. Wonderful sense of priorities Lucy has there. Really a guy who keeps his eye on the big picture. Do you want to Crucio Lucius yourself for being so stupid as to put his personal concerns above your strategic concerns, or may I join in?'
    • Canon confirmation of the above exists. In the scene where Snape and Bellatrix are arguing with each other at the start of HBP, Snape says flat-out that the reason Quirrellmort didn't approach Snape for help at Hogwarts is because Voldemort thought that Snape had genuinely defected to the Light Side. But within two hours of Voldemort's return at the end of GoF, Snape had convinced him to reverse this opinion... simply by approaching Voldemort and offering to spy on Dumbledore as a double agent within the Order of the Phoenix, and "proving" the sincerity of his offer by bringing him inside information Tom didn't already have. All of Snape's assholery in school towards the Gryffindors, favoring Slytherins, general misanthropy, was entirely irrelevant to Tom's decision-making process. Tom thought Snape had sold out to Dumbledore anyway, and Snape then reversed Tom's suspicion by appearing to sell Dumbledore out to Tom. So, no "Snape had to be mean because cover", no nothing.
    • Actually, that might have made Snape's hypothetical (I'll admit, at this point it's all entirely hypothetical,) mean person act all that much more necessary. Think about it- if Quirrellmort, even after seeing Snape being, well, Snape to all the Hogwarts students except the pureblooded Slytherins and Voldie STILL wasn't sure about his loyalties, then imagine how hard it would have been to convince him otherwise if Snape had acted like a decent human being!
    • This suggestion makes the Death Eaters sound like a bunch of Saturday Morning cartoon villains. "No, we won't let him join us. He's a teacher and that's not EVIL enough!" Why on earth would the vicious murderers care about how Snape treats his students. The fact that he works for Dumbledore is a big enough red flag to make them dubious of him. Wether he's mean or nice to a few kids is such a massively irrelevant point. Not to mention we actually to get to see via flashback how Snape thinks of elven year old Harry.


  • Snape told Voldemort the prophecy. This makes him responsible for the Death of Harry's parents and the incapacitation of Neville's. Despite this he show's absolutely no sympathy to either Neville or Harry. Fine, he hates Harry because of his resemblance to James. What's his excuse for Neville?
    • Snape hates Nev because Nev isn't the chosen one. It was either the Longbottoms or the Potters, Voldemort decided it was the Potters and so killed Lily. If Voldemort had decided it was the Longbottoms who were parents to the chosen one, then his Lily would still be alive. Sure it isn't very rational, but I think we can safely say that rationality and Snape are not exactly on what you might call speaking terms. Good or bad, Snape is screwed up and probably needs therapy like a fish needs water.
    • That's not an excuse, that makes it worse. He's bullying a child for not being dead and thus not getting what he wanted out of the prophecy scenario. Said child has already lost both his parents to insanity. So, not only is his abuse of him completely unjustifiable, it also means Snape is incapable of empathy. After two years of this, Neville's boggart transforms into Snape. Compare that to Harry, who has a choice between Voldemort and a Dementor, and Ron, who has a fear of giant spiders, who under normal circumstances would rarely be encountering their fears at all, Neville by comparison is encountering his several times a week. And, when Snape hears the story of being dressed in Neville's grandmother's clothes, instead of reconsidering his actions, he decides to be an even bigger dick to Neville instead. This takes him some way beyond how bad the Marauders ever were, because that was a mutual thing and they were his equals, whereas he as an adult bullies a child who cannot fight back. I'm sorry, Harry, that doesn't make him the bravest man you ever knew, that makes him a coward and a complete arse. JK and Harry fucked up.
    • Re: 'Snape is bears a heavy share of the responsibility for the deaths of the Potters and the Longbottoms, yet shows no contrition towards the Potter and Longbottom orphans and indeed singles them out especially for emotional abuse', this behavior is highly disturbing not just because its a grown man in a position of responsibility (teacher) abusing his power to bully children towards which he has a duty of care (students), but because it means Snape is either oblivious to the part where he shares responsibility in those deaths... or that Snape does acknowledge that he shares responsibilty, but still doesn't give a shit. In other words, that Snape is either incapable of realizing the true nature and consequences of his actions, or that he's entirely indifferent to both feelings of remorse and the suffering of the bereaved even though he was a primary participant in the wrongful deaths in question. One of those is a primary marker for criminal insanity, the other one is a characteristic typical of sociopaths. Adding in that he gets some type of emotional satisfaction (or at least some type of emotional release) from deliberately inflicting nontrivial amounts of pain to others, which is a textbook definition of sadism, and the conclusion is clear: Snape is direly fucked in the head. And should not have been allowed near children — or, for that matter, allowed to walk around with a wand. Or allowed to walk around at all. Forget outpatient therapy, this guy needs psychiatric confinement and supervised living at best.

    Character development 

  • Personally, I think it's not that Snape was neither good or bad, it's that he was good and bad at different points in his life. Child!Snape was a good (if VERY socially awkward) kid. At this point, blood prejudice genuinely did not matter to him. Fast forward a few years, and we see Snape exhibit the behavior of many real life kids who join street gangs or extremist organisations. He was an insecure individual from an impoverished background who was ostracised by the "rich kids" who ran his school, and wanted to show them that he was powerful and was worth something. I honestly believe that Snape never truly believed in blood supremacy, but supported the movement because it would show James, Sirius etc how great he could be. As a young adult Death Eater, it's clear that being in the presence of some very evil people has fucked Snape up even further. The fact that he's willing to allow Lily to survive at the expense of James and Harry shows some serious nastiness, and Dumbledore is more than right to call him out on this. However, I do think that the years spent under Dumbledore's guidance did him some good, particularly the last few years of his life. His treatment of both Harry and Neville is inexcusable, but understandable. Harry was the son of his love, but had the face of his childhood tormentor, and I think Snape knew that had he made the right decisions as a youth, Harry could have been his son. It's hard to look at a kid who embodies practically all your regrets. As for Neville, some believe that Snape hated him because his parents survived instead of Lily. Personally I doubt even Snape would go that far. I think his dislike for Neville came from his general incompetence at potions, which Snape found frustrating given that potions were extremely easy to him, and being that Neville was a non-Slytherin, Snape wasn't about to help him or show any form of kindness towards him. While that is obviously very wrong and very cruel for a teacher, it is important to remember that Snape didn't want or like being one. I think Snape became a better man towards the very end of his life. When he first joined Dumbledore, it was clear that he was just doing it "for Lily" but by the end, he was a genuinely better person. He seemed to regret being unable to save people ("Lately, only those whom I could not save") and went out of his way to save Lupin during the aerial battle, not to mention his disgust at being ordered to kill Dumbledore. To conclude, Snape went from good, to bad, to worse, to good-but-rather-nasty, to being a somewhat good person at the very end. I think Snape was the "boy who made all the choices" Dumbledore was referring to. More than anything else, he was a victim of the bad decisions he made as a teenager. Had he chosen not to support the Death Eaters at school, he would have turned out very different. He would never have been a saint - even as a youth he was too far gone for that - but he would have been a far cry from the utter bastard we saw in the books.
    • How is risking your life for the sake of someone else selfish?
    • I've seen people berate Snape for wanting to let Harry and James die instead of Lily, but it's not like he could have gone to Voldemort and asked him to spare her or anything, unless I missed something. I'm honestly asking, what else could he have done? It probably would have killed him. Dumbledore, in his judgment on the hilltop, was being a deliberate prick in several ways when Severus came to him. If Severus hadn’t asked Voldemort to spare Lily, the Sacrificial Protection Charm would not have worked because there would’ve been no reason for Voldemort to have given Lily the choice to step aside.
    • But that just concedes that there was nothing heroic about him. Or good for that matter as he wasn't going to jeopardize his safety for a child. That he was comfortable with both Harry and James being murdered just cements how much of a bad person he was then. Again this wasn't pragmatism to accomplish good. This was flat indifference to other people's well being. A trait he keeps for almost all of his life.

    Good Test Scores, Good Teacher? 

  • I believe it’s mentioned that every student in Harry’s year at Hogwarts managed to do well on their OW Ls for Potions- even Neville, who is so scared of Snape he was unable to brew a single decent potion ever, in SEVEN YEARS. Now, many on this page are arguing that the reason Neville, at least, did so well is because Snape was not in the room when they were taking the test, thus Snape is a horrible, abusive teacher. I’m not going to argue that Snape is the greatest potion brewer to grace the dungeons of Hogwarts or anything, but I just can’t buy that he’s a HORRIBLE teacher. Here’s my reasoning: It’s one thing to do well on, say, an oral examination as opposed to a written test, or essay questions as opposed to multiple choice, or you might learn better with different teachers or teaching styles or whatever. What you can’t attribute to teaching style, however, is the knowledge itself. I can’t buy that just because the greasy haired git isn’t scaring the socks of Neville anymore, he is magically (pardon my pun) gifted the ability to brew a potion for his OW Ls. Potion brewing requires practice. And what about all the other kids who passed the OW Ls? It was implied that Harry and his friends really had to cram for their potions exam because Snape didn’t teach them anything. Again, I don’t buy this. EVERY SINGLE KID, just by cramming the week before, managed to pass a major standardized test, even though the teacher didn’t teach them anything? Barely Sensible. But then again, we never really see Snape actually teaching the kids anything particularly useful- just, “Instructions on the board, go! Meh, you suck, Harry and Neville. Ten points from Gryffindor. Ten points to Slytherin. (By the way, Lupin's a werewolf.)” (Seriously, what are the characteristics of a werewolf in human form? That would have been darn useful.) I have a few hypotheses to explain these seemingly irreconcilable facts:
    • A. Harry, being a somewhat unreliable narrator, only bothers to note the times that Snape is acting like a slimy git, when all the while, Snape is actually teaching them things in his roundabout, slimy git way. I have had teachers for advanced classes with unusual teaching styles, where it doesn’t seem like the class learns anything, yet by the time exam day rolls around, we’re surprised to find that we know all the material. Mr. Miyagi style, only we can all agree that Snape is nowhere near as nice as Mr. Miyagi.
      • Just to be clear, when I say "unreliable narrator," I don't refer to the literal definition on our Unreliable Narrator page; I'm not saying that Harry is lying. What I mean is that he's not omniscient, and two people can remember the same series of events very differently. For example, obviously we get a lot of play-by-plays from Harry's Quidditch games, because Harry loves Quidditch, but we don't get a lot about History of Magic with Professor Binns. (That being said, the events told from Hermione's perspective must have been a very boring book.)
    • B. Harry, being a somewhat unreliable narrator, (this time, I actually mean the definition on our Unreliable Narrator page,) exaggerated when he said that everyone passed their OW Ls. You really expect me to believe that no one got test day jitters and fumbled with the moonstone dust or the unicorn hairs at the last minute, and accidentally botched their potion? Not one? Not even a Hufflepuff? Not even Neville?
    • C. Honestly, it would be a lot simpler if JK just didn’t include this offhanded sentence- but then again, that’s why it’s a headscratcher. The whole thing seems at the very least ironic, if not completely incongruous with what we know about Harry’s potions experience and Snape’s teaching methods.
  • I'd extend possibility B to include the possibility that Harry exaggerated (or even outright lied about) the bad events we did see. Ultimately though we have to wonder why JK put that offhand sentence in. If a writers good then every single sentence will have a clear and defined purpose in the writers own mind. Given the position in the series it's said, I think the intent was to start moving passed Snape as a dick teacher and more towards Snape as a double agent that would be the principal role of this character in the later books. So the idea that everyone managed to pass despite his abuse was a subtle suggestion that he wasn't as clear cut a character that he might appear to be. He could actually be a decent teacher as well as a dick (in the same way he ultimately could be a decent person as well as a dick). The actual explanation has to how he could possible be a good teacher despite what we see isn't expanded upon (either because it wasn't considered important enough or because it might draw too much attention to his redeemable qualities before the last book) so in the end we can only assume it's based off stuff we didn't see.
  • When is it actually mentioned that everyone passed their Potions OWL does anyone have the quote? I don't remember it being said and I think it's true. Certainly very few people got into even Slughorn's easier-to-get-into NEWT class. I mean maybe everyone scraped As? But like I said I don't remember a quote to that effect. The closest being him threatening them all at the start of their OWL class in Oot P.

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