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Severus Snape

Portrayed by: Alan Rickman (films, adult), Alec Hopkins (teen), Benedict Clarke (child), Foreign voice actors Paul Bentall (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, first West End run), Byron Jennings (Cursed Child, first Broadway run)

Appears in: Philosopher’s Stone | Chamber of Secrets | Prisoner of Azkaban | Goblet of Fire | Order of the Phoenix | Half-Blood Prince | Deathly Hallows | Cursed Child | Hogwarts Mystery

"I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death, if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."

Hogwarts' resident Sadist Teacher, as well as the head of Slytherin house. While he's liked by his Slytherin students and respected by his Hogwarts colleagues, Severus Snape is personally unpopular with the rest of the student body. Right from Book 1 and his first appearance, the Potions Master of Hogwarts develops an irrational grudge on Harry Potter and other Gryffindor students for reasons that Harry and his friends do not understand at the time, and this leads to much distrust, dislike, and antagonism from both sides with Harry and his friends often finding themselves doubting his true loyalties, motives, and alignment. We learn however this grudge stems from his heated rivalry with James Potter, Harry's dad.

Snape's motives and true allegiance remain mysterious and murky until near the very end of the final book. As Dumbledore tells Harry, the reasons why he trusts Professor Snape is a matter between the two of them.

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  • Abusive Parents: He's implied to have had an abusive father and a neglectful mother. When he tries teaching Occlumency to Harry, at one point Harry accidentally gets a look into his mind and gets a brief flash of a very young Severus crying in the corner while his father yells at his mother.
  • The Ace: Snape is an incredible wizard who is a master of potion-making and the Dark Arts, is able to create his own spells, and is one of two wizards to ever perform unsupported flight. As a student, he developed different variations of official potion recipes which produced high quality potions with half the effort. Arguably he's the greatest Occulumens ever since Voldemort, said to be the greatest Legilimens ever, could never read Snape's mind. Both Dumbledore and Voldemort trusted him a great deal and kept Severus close within their circle because they valued his magical capabilities and skill. He managed to deceive everyone into believing he betrayed Dumbledore and was loyal to Voldemort when it was really the other way around. However, many Hogwarts students and others are less than fond of him as a person to say the least; he's notorious for having a bad temper, teaching ridiculously hard Potions classes, and bullying other students, especially those in Gryffindor.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The books are very frank that Snape isn't exactly winning any beauty contests anytime soon (his appearance as shown in the illustrations of the books is somewhat different, with him being slightly bald and having facial hair), and the narration compares him (unfavourably) to things like spiders or gargoyles. In the movies, he's played by Alan Rickman, who — even with the unflattering hairstyle and wardrobe — is still Alan Rickman, and is most noticeably missing the hooked nose frequently mentioned in the books.
  • Adaptational Badass: Downplayed in the third film. In the book, Harry knocks him out, causing him to miss the entire event involving Sirius, Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. In the film, he recovers after Lupin just had transformed into a werewolf and, despite being without his wand at the time, puts himself between the trio and Lupin with little hesitation.
  • Adaptational Comic Relief: A minor case, but his more amoral and abusive behaviour as a teacher and his attitude against his non-Slytherin students are mostly Played for Laughs in the movie adaptations, especially the early ones. He also sometimes can come across as The Comically Serious when in exchanges with other characters like Lockhart and Umbridge in the movies, while in the books, which are told by Harry's POV, his actions and mannerisms are generally taken way more serious.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Snape is much less of a Jerkass in the films, where his dubious teaching methods in Potions, blatant favoritism towards Slytherin students, and abusive way treating non-Slytherin students is greatly downplayed. They hardly show a single class session with him in detail aside from the introductory scene in the first film. His Kick the Dog moments towards Neville, Harry, and Hermione (of which there are many in the books) are also toned down. The films imply he's intentionally teaching Harry skills and spells to survive, and goes out of his way to protect him on his own instead of Dumbledore's orders whenever Dumbledore insists he does so.
    • His rant towards Harry and Ron in the second film, after they crash into the Whomping Willow, comes across as Anger Born of Worry, whereas in the book he was gloating about their possible expulsion.
    • In the second film, he agrees to join Lockhart on how to duel, and when the duel starts, he gives Lockhart two seconds to defend himself when using Expelliarmus, and is implied to have held back. Then there's his suggestion to replace Ron with Malfoy as Harry's duel opponent because Ron's broken wand could accidentally kill Harry, and even suggested Lockhart that he should have also teach duelists how to defend themselves from unfriendly spells. In the book, he has nothing but contempt for Lockhart and only begrudgingly agrees to join his demonstration on how to duel. He immediately shouts his signature spell that sends Lockhart to a wall without a second to let him defend himself, and then proceeds to split up Harry and his friends with his Slytherin students just because.
    • In the third film, Snape tells Dumbledore that Harry needs to know the truth about Sirius Black. In the book, Snape was perfectly fine with keeping Harry in the dark. If anything, he always criticizes Dumbledore for telling Harry anything because he doesn't think he's capable, competent or anyone special, and he outright resents Dumbledore for giving Harry private lessons and telling him stuff that he doesn't tell Snape.
    • In the third film, when Snape realizes there's an angry werewolf standing behind him, the first thing he does is to push Harry, Ron and Hermione, three students he loathes, behind himself to protect them. In the third book, he was knocked out for the entire event, and it's unclear whether he would have been so caring. Likewise, the entire sequence earlier in the book where Snape sadistically tries to test Neville's dodgy potion on the boy's pet toad is removed.
    • The third film never specifies that Snape was the one who let slip that Lupin was a werewolf unlike the book.
    • In the fourth film, he believes Harry when he tells the staff he didn't put his name in the Goblet of Fire and agrees with McGonagall's belief that there must be a plot to get the boy killed. In the book, he assumes Harry is lying to avoid being punished and entered his name himself to be a Glory Hound, even if it doesn't make sense that a fourth year student like Harry somehow managed to deceive the Goblet.
    • The final film adds a scene of Snape holding Lily's dead body in his arms while baby Harry looks on, making Snape appear more sympathetic, while at the same time, leaves out Snape calling Lily a "mudblood" in a moment of humiliation and fury, and then descending into his obsession with Dark Arts and signing up with Voldemort. Also, Snape immediately asks Dumbledore to protect the entire Potter family, while in the book, Snape does ask Dumbledore to protect the entire Potter family, but after Dumbledore is angry with Snape when he gets him to admit that he tried bargaining for just Lily's life in exchange for her son and husband. In his memories scene, Dumbledore asks him if he actually cares for Harry, and he responds by producing Lily’s patronus, implying that he does care for Harry if only because he is Lily’s son. However, in the book, Snape makes it very clear to Dumbledore that he only cares about Harry’s protection because of Lily. In the final scene between Snape and Harry in the film, Snape explicitly states that Harry has his mother's eyes whereas in the novel, Snape's final words to Harry are, "Look at me," with only the implication he wants to see Lily's eyes before he dies.
    • During the Hogwarts Mystery spin-off, he is very impressed by Penny Haywood's aptitude at potions, so much so that Snape actually treats her kindly (much to the surprise of the player character).
  • Adaptational Personality Change: In addition to the above, his entire behaviour is also vastly different in the films. In the books, Snape comes across as a very emotional, even extroverted person; he becomes positively gleeful whenever things are going his way, and is equally quick to loudly lose his temper and throw tantrums whenever they are not. In contrast, the films make him a stone-faced Perpetual Frowner combined with a little Cold Ham, giving the vibe of a deeply bitter man rather than an unstable Manchild as in the books.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Lily Evans called him "Sev" when they were children.
  • Age Lift: One of the most striking examples in a film series full of them. In The Philosopher's Stone, Snape would have turned 32 just after Christmas. Alan Rickman was already 55 in the film version.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Very much. Just try reading, let alone watching Snape's death scene without the tissues. Subverted though, as at that point, he did seem like a genuine villain, not a Double Agent under deep cover.
  • Allegiance Affirmation: Pulls one of these during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, finally confirming where it is that his loyalties ultimately lie.
    Dumbledore: After all this time?
    Severus Snape: Always.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Snape was a misfit in school, which is partially what made the Death Eaters so appealing as a young adult.
  • Alliterative Name: Severus Snape.
  • Ambiguously Evil: He's a deeply unpleasant fellow with an extremely transparent bias in favour of his own house, Slytherin, and has an intense hatred of The Hero. This results in Harry and friends swiftly jumping to the conclusion that Snape is one of the bad guys, especially in books one, two, six, and seven. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the only book in the series that doesn't seem to go out of its way to vilify Snape in some fashion, at least in Harry's eyes. It doesn't help that the events of the books have a knack for making you think that Harry's suspicions might be well-founded, at least until The Reveal at the very end. This comes to a head in the last book, in which Snape has pulled an apparent full-blown Face–Heel Turn by returning to the service of the Death Eaters. However, near the end of the final book, as he lies dying, Snape gives Harry his memories, revealing that he had been loyal to Dumbledore the whole time.
    J.K. Rowling: You can't make him a saint: he was vindictive & bullying. You can't make him a devil: he died to save the wizarding world.
  • Ambition is Evil: Suffered from a big dose of this as a teenager, since he craved acceptance and respect and wished to show everyone that he was a clever and dangerous wizard, even if it meant being a Death Eater. He was deluded enough to believe that being a Death Eater would win his crush's affections.
  • Animal Motifs: He's occasionally compared to a bat in particularly dramatic moments, with his black hair, brooding personality, flowing dark cloak, love of dark spaces, and his habit of hanging out in Hogwarts' cave-like dungeons. Which makes it all the more surprising when we learn that his Patronus is actually a doe.
  • Antagonist Title: He's the titular Half-Blood Prince in the sixth novel, and the main antagonist of the novel.
  • Anti-Hero: Of the Nominal Hero variety. He's got a load of issues and problems, and is a colossal jerk, but he is ultimately good and few characters are more loyal to Dumbledore.
    J.K. Rowling: [in a 2007 interview on if she thinks Snape is heroic] Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likeable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That's pretty heroic!
  • Anti-Role Model: A variation of sorts, but according to Rowling, this is one of the reasons Dumbledore keeps Severus Snape around. He is well aware of Snape's behaviour with the students, Dumbledore also sees it as a learning experience for his students. Namely to teach them to not always trust authority figures and that the people above you will not always be reasonable nor fair.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Mixed with Brilliant, but Lazy. Merely following Snape's one-decade-outdated school notes allows Harry to come off as a genius potion-brewer. One can only imagine what results he could get from his students if he actually cared enough to teach them properly. Indeed the only time Harry does well in his Potions class is in the fallout after he sees "Snape's Worst Memory" where he ignores Harry during class allowing him to focus on his assignment and creating a good sample... which Snape "accidentally" breaks. During the OWLs, the fact that Snape isn't overseeing them actually inspires Neville and Harry to do well. It's implied Potions isn't Snape's first choice as a teaching position and he'd prefer to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Dumbledore won't let him until Half-Blood Prince because the position has been cursed by Voldemort and anyone who gets the job doesn't keep it more than a year due to various incidents and he still needs Snape for other purposes.
  • Arch-Enemy: While Draco is The Rival to Harry, Snape is the one who antagonizes him most effectively thanks to Draco's intense jealousy of Harry leading him to embarrass himself most of the time. He seems compelled to make Harry suffer as much as possible, since Voldemort can't always be there to instigate conflict. Once Snape kills Dumbledore, Harry makes it clear to Ron and Hermione he wants to deal with him personally as much as he wants to defeat Voldemort. Then this is entirely averted, once Harry learns the truth about Snape being a Double Agent who risked his life, and ultimately died, protecting him since he was Lily's son. He even names one of his children after him in recognition of his bravery, even if Snape still hated his guts.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Bellatrix angrily confronts Snape about her distrust of his loyalty to Voldemort, he asks if she thinks he has fooled Voldemort himself, an accomplished Legilimens with a masterful talent for breaking into peoples' minds. For the first time in the meeting Bellatrix doesn't have a response even though this turns out to be true.
  • Athletically Challenged: When Harry gets a glimpse into his memories, one of the things he sees is a young Severus being laughed at by a girl as he tries to mount a bucking broomstick. This was part of the reason he was The Resenter towards James, as James was Snape's equal in academics as well as the star athlete Snape could never be.
  • The Atoner: He spends the rest of his life atoning for giving Voldemort the information that leads to Lily getting killed.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: He is the youngest of Hogwarts' senior staff by at least two decades.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Snape is one of the most advanced practitioners of curses and dark magic in the series, being perhaps second only to Voldemort himself. While he's far from a saint his true loyalty is to Dumbledore. This winds up coming in handy when Snape is able to give Dumbledore an extra year after the latter contracts an otherwise fatal curse placed by Voldemort himself.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Well-versed in all of the magical subjects and one of the most formidable wizards in the series who can occasionally display magical ability close to Voldemort and Dumbledore's level. We only see Snape fight twice: the first time is against Harry one-on-one in Half-Blood Prince and he wins in a Curb-Stomp Battle and the second time, in Deathly Hallows, Snape fights the more experienced McGonagall to a standstill until a master duellist forces him to flee under the two-on-one duel. And he still manages to hold his own for a while. It should be noted that Snape was holding back as he did not want to harm his former colleagues and some of Hogwarts' most effective combatants just before a major battle.
    • There's also his duelling demonstration, in which Snape nonchalantly blasts Lockhart clear across the room using Expelliarmus with no apparent effort. Though given Lockhart's status as a Fake Ultimate Hero, how impressive this is remains debatable.
  • Badass Teacher: Deconstructed. There's no denying Snape's proficiency at what he teaches. However it's demonstrated his proficiency in Potions does not translate into a proficiency in teaching Potions. Outside of the students he favours, mind you, most of his students are reduced to nervous wrecks due to his brusque attitude, callous cruelty and occasional sadistic methods. Even the students he favours do not seem to get a good education, as his policy of never criticising the Slytherins' potions means that they never get the correction they need in order to improve. Best exemplified when he tried to force Neville to feed his beloved pet toad a faulty potion, under the pretext of forcing Neville to fix said faulty potion, only to be furious when Hermione helps Neville anyway.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Lily Evans Potter was his best and only childhood friend. This seems to be the reason he eventually fell madly in love with her and turned Double Agent to protect her from Voldemort.
  • Becoming the Mask: Despite revelations seen later in the series about him, Snape is genuinely not a very pleasant person who only defected to the side of good because of the guilt he felt over causing the death of the woman he loved, but still remained an asshole towards just about everyone else. However, we see that in his final years, he genuinely started becoming a more moral person; when Dumbledore notes that he has watched plenty of people die, he replies that lately it's only been the people he was unable to save. And when Phineas calls Hermione a mudblood, Snape demands that he not use that word in front of him. It wasn't a 100% thing, and Harry certainly never benefitted from it, but it was there.
  • Being Personal Isn't Professional: Snape averts this trope to no end:
    • As a teacher and member of the Order, he's curt, cordial, and more or less projects an indifference to his colleagues and co-workers. However, if he personally dislikes his colleagues, his students and others, he will not only make it known to them, but go out of his way to make their lives a living hell, and not even hide his personal grudges, as in the case of Harry, Neville, Lockhart and Remus Lupin.
    • As a member of the Order and a person in Dumbledore's employ, Snape grumbles but does carry out Dumbledore's orders. When Dumbledore asked him to brew Wolfsbane potions for Remus, he did it well, and when Dumbledore asked him to protect Harry, despite disliking him for what he represents, he carries that out loyally to the very end. But fundamentally there isn't a divide between Snape's private and public self. In public or in private, Snape thinks Harry is a layabout who coasts off the sacrifices better wizards, and he had that opinion since Harry was eleven years old, and never once changed it despite countless promptings from Dumbledore. Or to put it more plainly, Snape saw Harry as no better than James Potter from day one, and never changed that opinion until his own death.
  • Berserk Button: He's normally calm despite his bad temper and unpleasantness, although there are quite a few things that can shatter it.
    • Though he doesn’t visibly burst after Harry sees his "worst memory," Snape disobeys Dumbledore’s explicit orders to teach Harry Occlumency even when Snape is aware of what's at stake. He eventually reaches such levels of spite for Harry that Snape decides to completely ignore his presence. Harry actually appreciates that last bit. In the books he's much more visibly furious and attacks Harry before throwing him out of his office.
    • Most famously, Harry calling him a coward at the end of Half-Blood Prince along with everything that was happening to him at the time briefly sends him over the edge, and he shifts from effortlessly defending Harry’s attacks to actually striking him in the face with the unincantated Sectumsempra before Buckbeak intervenes and Snape resumes his escape. The 7th book shows that he does have a reason to get angry though.
    • Using his own spells against him. When James Potter uses Levicorpus in his "worst memory", Snape's anger leads directly into him calling Lily a "Mudblood". When Harry tries to use Sectumsempra in Half Blood Prince, his sneering demeanour vanishes.
      Snape flicked his wand and the curse was repelled yet again; but Harry was mere feet away now and he could see Snape’s face clearly at last: He was no longer sneering or jeering; the blazing flames showed a face full of rage.
    • The word "Mudblood" itself also sets him off, as he yells at Phineas Nigellus not to use the word in his presence when the latter calls Hermione one. Considering Snape's own usage of the word destroyed his friendship with Lily, this makes sense.
  • Big Good: He becomes this for the Hogwarts students in Book 7, although they don't realize it. Dumbledore's portrait instructed Snape to take control of the school, as he was the one member of Voldemort's inner circle who would be trusted with the post. As Headmaster, Snape would be able to curb the sadism of the other Death Eaters, like the Carrows, while ensuring that the students continued to receive a decent education, more or less shielded from the war. Harry ensures that Snape's portrait takes its place alongside the portraits of the other Hogwarts headmasters to honor this dedication to the school and students.
  • Black Cloak: It's a prominent part of his outfit.
  • Brainy Brunette: Snape has "greasy, black hair" and is also highly intelligent, showing knowledge in numerous magical subjects.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Snape is certainly an extremely skilled Potions brewer, but when it comes to teaching, his style basically consists of "the instructions are on the board, get to work". Rather than give help to students that need it like Neville, he just goes around insulting and bullying them. It never crosses his mind that his students would succeed more if he bothered to actually teach them.
  • Broken Ace: In terms of fighting ability, Snape would fall somewhere between Voldemort/Dumbledore/Grindelwald and everyone else. But well above Gilderoy Lockhart. Outside of duels, he created a slew of potions techniques that made Harry the top of Slughorn's class, several jinxes and hexes, and an extremely powerful curse. Even more telling, he also creates a cure years later. Problem is, he also was so incredibly bitter over his (admittedly bad) experiences in school that he was willing to sell out his first and only love's husband and child in exchange for having her spared from death, and it bit him in the ass later as she died anyway, and his Heel–Face Turn came from having to assume responsibility for that huge screw-up.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Not towards everyone, but for his former friend, Lily Evans. If only he hadn't joined the pureblood supremacists in the first place, thereby resulting in him calling her a "mudblood"...
      "But you call everyone of my birth Mudblood, Severus. Why should I be any different?"
    • Later in life he becomes this to Draco Malfoy. For most of the series, Snape is Malfoy's favourite teacher, and Snape in turn regularly gives Malfoy preferential treatment. After Draco's father's imprisonment in Azkaban following the Battle of the Department of Mysteries Malfoy starts resenting and distrusting Snape, suspecting that he's trying to usurp his father's place in the Death Eater ranks. Which he was, albeit on Dumbledore's orders.
  • The Bully:
    • As a teacher he's never short of insults and condescending remarks and outright humiliation of students like Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and even a good student like Hermione solely because "she's an insufferable know-it-all". The author even considers his bullying his worst trait.
    • Even fellow teachers aren't immune as shown by his treatment towards Quirrell and Lockhart. In those instances, however, both Quirrell and Lockhart did deserve it, as one was a loyal minion of Voldemort himself and the other was a fraud who was perfectly willing to hurt children to save his own reputation.
    • There is some fandom debate over this, but it's generally accepted that Snape "outed" Lupin and got him fired mostly out of spite. A lot of fans see this as the equivalent of discriminating against and ruining a disabled or disadvantaged coworker, especially since Lupin's lycanthropy, according to Rowling, is a stand-in for HIV. Like the previous example, however, Snape's actions are somewhat justified by Lupin having put students at risk by failing to take his Wolfsbane potion (with even Lupin himself conceding the point), yet it's doubtful that Snape had pure motives.
    • He is said to have been a member of a Gang of Bullies as a student, despite many viewing him as a victim of bullying. However, it doesn't seem that Snape himself bullied other students nor acknowledged how vicious his friends were. Snape didn't see Mulciber and his gang as being any different from James and his friends. In fact, he would actually see them as having just a fair bit of fun. Likely since it fit his tastes.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: After Dumbledore the greatest example Hogwarts, and the series in general, has to offer. Snape is wildly condescending, openly disparaging of students he doesn't like, displays undisguised favouritism for Slytherin students and makes no secret that he utterly loathes Harry Potter... but he's also one of, if not the, greatest Potions master in the world and is a damn good teacher when he wants to be. Dumbledore trusted Snape with his life and, more tellingly, with his death. If it wasn't from his harassment and high standard, Harry would actually be an above average student according to the OWL.
  • Byronic Hero: Snape is shrouded in mystery for most of the series. His undying, passionate love for Lily motivated much of Snape's actions, with his guilt over her death driving Snape to protect Harry and help bring about Voldemort's downfall. However, this meant Snape had to play double-agent, actively compromising his own integrity to the point of killing Dumbledore himself, and although at the end Snape is ultimately a virtuous man he is still deeply flawed. He is a bitter, brooding man who had never let go of his childhood trauma over his being abused by his father, the complex hate that he has toward James Potter; his love for Lily does not stop Snape from taking out his hatred of James out against his son, Harry, because he sees in Harry a combination of both James and Lily rather than as a separate person, and his abuse extends to other students as well.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: He was never able to fully communicate to Lily how he felt about her. After he calls Lily a "Mudblood" in a fit of anger, he tries to apologize, but Lily points out that he acts prejudiced towards all Muggleborns, asking flat-out, "Why should I be any different?" Snape is unable to tell the real reason, namely that he loves her, but ultimately he remains silent, and they break off their friendship because he won't give up his Death Eater beliefs for her, and eventually Lily would die without ever knowing how Snape felt. Thus, Snape had nothing to stop him from joining the Death Eaters as he planned, which itself leads to Voldemort learning of the prophecy and trying to kill Harry as a child.
  • Captain Ersatz: Being a potions teacher who bullies the protagonist, he's basically a Spear Counterpart to Miss Hardbroom from The Worst Witch.
  • Celibate Hero: Throughout the series, we don't see or hear of Snape showing anyone romantic/sexual attraction. After the death of his love, Lily Potter, he didn't want to be with anyone else.
  • Character Development:
    • In the chapter "The Prince's Tale" in Deathly Hallows. Notably, young Snape was a loyal Death Eater who only defected after Voldemort threatened Lily's life. After years under Dumbledore, he genuinely regrets not being able to save the innocents caught up in the war ("How many men and women have you watched die?" "Lately, only those whom I could not save") and goes out of his way to save Lupin during the Battle of the Seven Potters, risking his cover as he did so. Also, as much as Snape has despised Harry over the years, he is furious when Dumbledore seems to have been exploiting the boy, accusing him of having raised Harry "like a pig for slaughter." Of course, Dumbledore being a Manipulative Bastard, this is yet another gambit, since it was essential for Harry to believe he would die when he gives himself up to Voldemort.
    • A tiny one: Lily ended her friendship with Snape after he called her a Mudblood and he made it clear that he wouldn't give up his prejudices for her. Years later, Snape tells Phineas, a relatively nicer Jerkass Slytherin, to not call Hermione a Mudblood.
    • In the films, the character development is there, but very subtly done. Rowling has confirmed that shortly after Rickman had been cast as Snape, both of them discussed the character at length, and she revealed Snape's motivations and ultimate loyalties to him. Rickman used this knowledge throughout the series to decide how to play scenes, deliver lines, and most importantly, how to use body language to convey specific emotions. If, after learning the reveal in the final movie, you go back and watch the entire series and pay attention to Rickman's use of body language, you very quickly realize that his words may be saying one thing, but his body language is saying something completely different. The producers struck gold when they cast Rickman for this role, even if Rickman is way more attractive than the character he played.
  • Characterization Marches On: In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Snape, while being his typical jerkass self, was not actively hurting Harry and, indeed, was trying to save him from Quirrell's spell during the Quidditch tournament via a counterspell (which, unfortunately, was seen as Snape hurting Harry's ability to catch the Golden Snitch, thus winning the game - even though Harry is still saved, by Hermione burning Snape's coat in mistake and Quirrell getting distracted by the fire). This is a lot more consistent with the film version of him. Alternatively, it's explained that he protects Harry so zealously because he had a life debt with James. Presumably, after protecting Harry during first year, he considers the debt paid, and deems himself free to properly hate Harry.
  • Chessmaster Sidekick: Some of Dumbledore's plans boil down to "Disappear for a few chapters and let Snape handle it". Usually it works. Except when Dumbledore decides to ignore the fact Harry and Snape do not get along or rather, that Snape couldn't get over his grudge with James.
  • Child Prodigy: Downplayed, because Snape never displayed his talents to anyone during his school days. However, Sirius comments that Snape knew more about the Dark Arts than the seventh-years. The Half-Blood Prince reveals that Snape spent his sixth year inventing unique spells and developing efficient yet improved versions of standard potion recipes. He recorded his knowledge in his potions textbook.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: A one-sided example with Lily Evans.
  • Cold Ham: This is the one difference that Rickman's portrayal enforces. In the films, Snape almost always talks in a calm, almost monotone voice, and yet his threats (usually at Harry) are delivered in such a dramatic way. Compare the books, where he tends to utterly lose it when he gets really pissed off.
  • Comforting the Widow: Dumblwhedore assumes that this is Snape's intention when Snape confesses that he asked Voldemort to spare Lily. While Snape could never have realistically asked for Harry's life to be spared in the first place, he neither confirms nor denies this accusation.
    "You disgust me. You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?"
  • The Comically Serious: Especially in the movies, though that's not to say he doesn't have his moments in the books. On being told by Dumbledore that he (Dumbledore) is going to die and that he has a Thanatos Gambit with Snape playing a starring role, Severus snarks:
    "Do you want me to do it now, or would you like time to compose your epitaph?"
  • The Confidant: Deconstructed. He's the closest thing to this that Voldemort has, with Narcissa Malfoy even lampshading it. Dumbledore specifically engineered events throughout the books so that Snape would be Voldemort's favoured servant over truly loyal ones like Lucius or Bellatrix. When Voldemort's Horcruxes are compromised Snape is the first and only person Voldemort warns albeit without divulging the full details.
  • Consummate Liar: By necessity. He has a Deep Cover to maintain. Indeed he's so good at his cover that Voldemort — who is almost always able to tell when someone is lying to him — never finds out he's a Triple Agent until after he dies and even then Voldemort finds it hard to stomach. He was a perfect spy. In fact, Voldemort killed him for being too good as a covert Death Eater operative.
  • Cool Kid-and-Loser Friendship:
    • Was the loser to the very popular and much adored Lily Evans in their childhood and their time at Hogwarts. Lily mentions to Severus that her friends kept wondering why she put up with hanging around him all their years. Granted, this was mainly because of Severus' own anti-social behaviour and his friendship with future Death Eaters. Eventually, this friendship would fracture as Lily sees how Snape is and ironically, Snape's views toward Lily were more than romantic.
    • He also had this relationship with Lucius Malfoy who was older, rich, pure-blooded, and far more charismatic. Despite this, the two seemed to have maintained a degree of friendship even into their adult years.
  • Cool Teacher: Many of the Slytherins seem to regard him as this, though to the other houses he's somewhere between a Stern Teacher and a Sadist Teacher.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Heavily implied to be this, thanks to a combination of his anti-social behaviour and his knowledge of the Dark Arts, which, according to Sirius Black, was disturbingly comprehensive when Snape was eleven years old. Other than Lily Evans it seemed that as a student his only friends were Slytherins who would grow up to become future Death Eaters. In the series, he occasionally seems to be the grown-up version of this trope; the rest of the time, he comes off as a semi-normal (if moody, depressed, and extremely emotionally-detached) adult. Harry sees a memory of him as a child killing a fly with his wand.
    • Also of note is the scene where he tells Lily about the dementors. Aunt Petunia, of all people, makes a passing reference to this in Book 5, which on first reading appears to be an allusion to James is actually him.
  • Crying Wolf: Invoked by Dumbledore's painting who warns them about this. He really is trying to help Harry in the seventh book and protect his students as temporary Headmaster of Hogwarts. The problem is that the students don't believe that he's protecting them and are rebelling in as many ways as possible. Dumbledore also tells him that Harry and Hermione won't believe Snape is sneaking them the sword of Gryffindor and has to be unseen while passing it onto them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Seems to take pleasure in doing this to Lockhart in Book 2, putting the fop on his ass with a single spell.
    • Deals one out to Harry in Half-Blood Prince, almost contemptuously deflecting Harry's attacks. Ironically, he does this to protect Harry from the other Death Eaters.
  • Curtains Match the Window: Black hair and black eyes.
  • Daddy Issues: If his undying love for Lily Evans provides the most insight into his character and motivations, his bitterness against his abusive father is probably second or third. The fact that there are memories of his father in his Pensieve along with the others indicates that (despite his talent as an Occlumens) he would struggle to suppress them otherwise. Not to mention it may have had an effect on his desire to feel powerful instead of powerless as he did at home.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Comes from Quirrel of all people. He saw Snape hates Harry and James, but never wanted the boy dead.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His father was abusive and his mother was neglectful, which is what led him to becoming a troubled young man. The hateship with James just added fuel to the fire. His past as a Death Eater also counts.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Though he is incredibly petty, petulant, vengeful and abusive towards students, Snape has the capacity to be a decent person, but he dresses in black and teaches in a dungeon. He also proves to have enough capacity for love for his true loyalty to be to Dumbledore. More tragically, perhaps he could have been a better person who never gravitated towards the Death Eaters under different circumstances.
  • Deadly Dodging: Used to great effect in the final movie when he duels McGonagall, still under the ruse of being a Death Eater. This doesn't stop him from parrying McGonagall's attacks specifically to take out both the Carrows without anyone noticing before fleeing.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes borders on The Snark Knight. He's so good at being a deadpan snarker that he does it twice to Umbridge — the first time with words and the second with merely the raising of eyebrows — and she doesn't even realise it.
  • Dean Bitterman: An unusual example. Snape publicly became this after being made Headmaster of Hogwarts. This was engineered by Dumbledore to give Snape a position where he could protect the students of Hogwarts once Dumbledore was gone, requiring Snape to deliberately play this trope up to stay in Voldemort's good graces. During the school year Snape consulted with portraits of previous headmasters and would often "punish" students with less sadistic penalties such as sending them into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid rather than sending them to be tortured by the Carrows.
  • Death Seeker: Snape briefly becomes this after he accidentally gets Lily killed, telling Dumbledore that he wishes to die. Dumbledore angrily snaps him out of it.
  • Debt Detester: James Potter saved Snape's life and it's implied that Snape protects Harry because he detests being in James' debt. Or at least that's the story in the first few books, until it's revealed that he also loved Lily.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Crossed it briefly when Lily died, before Dumbledore pulled him back. He outright says he wants to die.
  • Determinator:
    • Say what you will about how badly he screwed up in his youth, but once Voldemort threatens Lily, Snape vows to protect her child, no matter the cost. There's a reason why in the end, Harry considered him to be the bravest man he ever knew.
    • Subverted as a teenager, even after knowing how she felt about Dark Arts, Snape never abandoned his interest or the approval of his friends or make an effort to change to gain her approval. Unlike James Potter who at least made some effort to change his behaviour.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: He is conciliatory toward Harry in his final moments, sharing his memories which explain his actions. He also gets to look into the eyes of Lily, one last time.
  • The Dog Bites Back: It's ironic at that. Snape would've remained loyal to Voldemort if he didn't kill Lily. Which is part of his Moral Myopia initially, he finally did become selfless at the end.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Coming from a poor upbringing, he was driven by an intense ambition to be seen as a powerful and clever wizard. As such, anything that could be percieved as pity was an attack on his pride. He absolutely didn't want anyone to know about his feelings for Lily and he refuses to let anyone other than Dumbledore see his true vulnerable side much to Dumbledore's regret about no one getting to see the best of Snape. During the Snape's Worst Memory, his pride combined with his jealousy at the spectacle of James only stopping his bullying of Snape because he saw it as an excuse to flirt with Lily, leads him to lash out by claiming that he doesn't need help from "filthy little mudbloods" like her.
  • Double Agent: Up until the end of The Half-Blood Prince. Becomes The Mole in Deathly Hallows.
  • The Dragon: Or so Voldemort thought... A lot of Dumbledore's plotting in books five and six is designed specifically to make sure that Snape eventually becomes this in Voldemort's ranks, over former pets like Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: As it turns out, he has a different goal, in contrast to Voldemort. He's actually on Harry, or rather, Lily's side all along. Indeed, he's appalled when Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry would have to die and that Lily's sacrifice was just additional borrowed time.
  • Dramatic Irony: After all his work to maintain his cover and protect his mind from Voldemort to ensure his true loyalties are never known, Voldemort kills him for an entirely different reason.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Dumbledore told him the best way he could honour Lily's memory was by helping protect her son. Snape agrees...and the minute Harry comes to Hogwarts, Snape bullies the kid for the crime of being Lily and James's child. Sure, Snape, Lily would love it if she found out you were taking your frustrations out on her son and Neville, who is an innocent party.
  • Dramatic Pause: As a side effect of being played by Alan Rickman, Snape is quite fond...of
  • Enemy Mine: Zig-Zagged. Snape never really viewed Dumbledore or Voldemort as his "enemies." He was an up-and-coming Death Eater who was trying to be The Mole for Voldemort by eavesdropping on Dumbledore's interview with Sybill Trelawney and heard part of a prophecy warning him against a future threat against him. Voldemort decides that the best candidate would be the child of Lily Potter, which endangered her, and until that time never seemed to consider jumping ship. Indeed, his initial motivation was doubting that Voldemort would follow through on his side of the bargain.
  • Entitled Bastard: Despite treating Harry and company like absolute shit throughout the books, he expects them to treat him with nothing but respect and courtesy and gets angry whenever they push back at his behaviour.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Harry's first impression of Snape in The Philosopher Stone very quickly sets him up as a Sadist Teacher with an irrational grudge against Harry. It doesn't help that Snape's thoughts on Harry when he first arrived to Hogwarts were that "He's his father all over again", not really seeing Lily in their son but rather the man Snape resented the most.
    "At the start-of-term banquet, Harry had the idea that Professor Snape disliked him. By the end of the first Potions lesson, he knew he'd been wrong. Snape didn't dislike Harry-he hated him."
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Subverted when we find out the real reason, or rather reasons, why he killed Dumbledore; it was to ensure Voldemort's trust in Snape, because the curse of the Gaunt ring Albus tried to wear was going to kill him soon anyway, and to prevent Draco from going down a dark path if he was to kill Albus.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Unpleasant as he is, he is not evil and there are moments when even he is disgusted. Case in point:
    • Even he is deeply disgusted by Umbridge and wanted her gone every bit as much as everyone else.
    • He probably isn't completely lenient towards Slytherins either: after Harry and Ron's stunt with the flying car in the second book, he as good as says that he'd have expelled the two of them if they were in his house. In the movie, he flat-out admits it.
    • He also seems acutely aware that Crabbe and Goyle are not good students, as all the praise he gave was to Malfoy, who for all his faults, did well in school. Eventually he even puts them in detention for not doing their work!
    • The one thing he, Harry Potter and the rest of Hogwarts agree on in Book 2 is is that Gilderoy Lockhart must go.
    • He's visibly horrified when Professor McGonagall informs him and the rest of the staff that Ginny Weasley has been taken to the Chamber of Secrets.
    • When McGonagall openly turns against him and the Carrows to protect Harry and the other students, Snape goes Oh, Crap! as she draws her wand. He knows she is a great duellist, and aiming to kill. Even so, he refuses to take the offensive in either the book or the film. He promised Dumbledore to protect the school, teachers and all, and doesn't want another innocent person's death on his watch after what happened to the Muggle Studies professor.
    • Even Snape thinks it was cruel of Dumbledore to keep Harry alive so that he could "die" at Voldemort's hands, accusing him of using Lily's memory to manipulate Snape to serve his plans.
    • He takes the Unbreakable Vow when Narcissa begs him to help Draco.
    • Dumbledore's portrait intimated that once the coup happened, Snape would have to take over as Headmaster because Voldemort would never let McGonagall run the school, and the Carrows are more sadistic than Umbridge.
    • In the eighth movie, he actually goes Oh, Crap! when Harry shows up at Hogwarts and confronts him for killing Dumbledore. Snape only draws his wand with resignation, looking guilty when Harry demands he tells everyone what happened that night.
    • In the fifth book he is presented with the perfect opportunity for revenge on Sirius when he is captured by the Death Eaters but instead of letting him die he immediately warns the order to give Sirius a chance for survival in spite of his hate for him.
    • In the seventh book, despite how harsh his own punishments can be, even he isn't willing to hand students over to the Carrows for punishment, and will instead try and give them lighter punishments.
    • In the second book, he actually defends Harry from accusations that he was behind the Basilisk attacks, stating that they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As much as Snape might loathe Harry, he won't railroad him for something he clearly didn't do.
    • In the movie adaptation of the third book, he shields Harry, Ron and Hermione with his body when they come face to face with Lupin in werewolf form.
  • Evil Counterpart: He seemed to be one to Harry, who refers to himself, Voldemort, and Snape as "the abandoned boys", and notes that they all found a home at Hogwarts. Interestingly, Snape seems to have been set up as the half-way point between Voldemort and Harry — in his youth, he delved into the Dark Arts and swore allegiance to the Dark Lord, but after his actions caused the death of the woman he loved, Lily Potter neé Evans, he realized the folly in all this and sought atonement through becoming Dumbledore's spy and protecting Lily's son.
  • Evil Former Friend: Towards Lily. It was his Fantastic Racism and his increasingly darker tendencies that drove her away, after which he committed full time to serving with the Death Eaters. Although he loses the evil part later, mostly after her death.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Learns this the hard way. He aligns himself with the Death Eaters so he can become the powerful wizard he'd always wanted to be, thinking Lily might finally find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater, despite her repeatedly voicing her disdain for the organisation and its ideology. Not only do his aspirations destroy their friendship, but they also set off a chain of events which result in Lily's death.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • While not completely evil, Snape is one of the most petty characters in the books. He openly uses his position to torment and bully his students in a way that hinders their education, and when punishing Harry he forces him to read various school reports about his father's days as a troublemaker. He also never let go of the grudges toward his boyhood enemies. When the climax of the third book keeps him from getting to see Sirius suffer a fate worse than death, Snape "accidentally" outs Lupin as a werewolf out of spite, forcing the latter to resign his position due to Fantastic Racism.
    • Although Harry assumes that the Sword of Gryffindor is lying at the bottom of a frozen pool because it can only be retrieved through "daring, nerve, and chivalry" (seemingly confirmed by Dumbledore later), Rowling states that Snape placed it there primarily due to "spiteful impulse".
  • Evil Principal: He seemed to have became this for a Voldemort-controlled Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows until he was revealed as The Mole.
  • Eye Twitch: Snape's mouth twitches whenever he sees Harry at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, which worries Harry quite a bit.

  • Fake Defector: Snape plays this twice. He claims to be one to Voldemort loyalists like Bellatrix Lestrange, pretending to be part of the Order, and later gains this to the Order, when he kills Dumbledore, making them believe he was Evil All Along. He was merely taking part in Dumbledore's most convoluted gambit.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • As a student, due to peer influence he changed from the kid who didn’t believe blood purity mattered, with Lily being for a time his sole Morality Pet.
    • He's also prejudiced against werewolves, stemming from the incident in youth where he nearly lost his life. Lupin, who is used to even worse racism than what he gets from Snape, doesn't mind too much. Partly because he feels guilty about not stopping James and Sirius from attacking Snape. But mostly because he is grateful that Snape made the Wolfsbane potion for him at Hogwarts. One of the signs that Snape had turned heroic was when he, unbeknownst to nearly everyone, saved Remus' life during the attack of the 7 Potters.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • PRIDE. Snape's pride has been the single biggest driving factor since childhood. In fact, every single one of his other major flaws such as his belief in pure-blood supremacy back in his youth and his fascination with the Dark Arts can all be tied back to his pride. Ever since he was a kid, Snape wanted to be acknowledged and respected for being a talented and clever wizard, likely the result of his rough childhood and thus was filled with immense ambition. Being a half-wizard, he indulged in the prejudice to spite his abusive father and make himself seem more special (hence why called himself Half-Blood Prince, given his mother's maiden name was Prince).It's implied that this is part of the reason he hated James so much. James was his equal in magic in addition to being talented in Quidditch and social skills so conflict between them was virtually inevitable, especially when combined with Snape's resentment and James' own hate of Snape. James made Snape look foolish and to Snape, that was unforgivable. Snape's ambition to be acknowledged along with the pureblood prejudice he believed in likely gravitated in the Dark Arts. They were difficult and dangerous forbidden magic, something a talented young wizard with something to prove would be all too willing to pursuit, especially once he learned he was good at it. However, this cost him his friendship with Lily, the girl he loved, because she could no longer deny or excuse his negative behaviour. To add salt to the wound, James would grow up and end up marrying Lily.
    • Related to the above, Wrath. Snape has carried his grudge against James for years, long after the man was dead. As a result Snape passed this hatred on to everyone around him, especially Harry. Snape relentlessly torments Harry, completely ignoring that the boy is not his father and has traumatic memories like Snape had. He also bullies Neville because if Voldemort had gone after the Longbottoms, maybe Lily would still be alive. Ultimately, thanks to Snape being a Jerkass to them both, neither of them trust Snape when Harry goes on the run after the Horcruxes, and Neville leads a rebellion at the school.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence:
    • He and James Potter despised one another within their early days together. Snape resented James for being just as talented as him while having a loving home life, good looks and being talented and social with the others. James seems to loathe Snape for embodying every negative aspect of Slytherin and people like it (especially given the rise of Voldemort at the time) while also because Snape was close to Lily despite being... well, Snape. James' fancying Lily was just the icing on top of the cake. It's unknown when exactly it boiled over to full-out hate between them, but given how James and Sirius were pranksters, it's likely that Snape ended up being pranked by them and Snape's pride had him lash out.
    • Snape likewise resents Harry Potter simply because of who his father is, and who he looks like, and what Harry represents (as Rowling notes "living proof that [Lily] preferred another man"), projecting his loathing of James onto Harry. Snape is torn as Harry is both the son of the man he hated and the woman he loved.
  • Flight: He's the only known person that Voldemort taught how to fly without a broom.
  • Foil: James and Snape were both romantic suitors towards Lily. Both believed that their houses (Slytherin/Gryffindor) were superior and were pretty much the total opposite of each other in terms of looks/popularity/upbringing/attitudes towards dark arts. In terms of their relationship with Lily, they both had a tense relationship with her, justifying and rationalizing their actions while putting her on a pedestal. Unlike James, Snape never changed his attitude nor listened to her criticism. Their relationship ended up destroyed, after which he sunk into the Dark Arts while James ended up marrying Lily and joining the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Forgiveness Requires Death: Harry forgives him for his Jerkass tendencies after his death and after seeing Snape's memories which put his actions in context — such as Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore, love for Harry's mother Lily, and efforts to protect him. Harry forgives Snape even knowing that Snape had genuinely disliked him.
    J.K. Rowling: Snape died for Harry out of love for Lily. Harry paid him tribute in forgiveness and gratitude.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first book and movie, during the Quidditch game. It seems Snape is casting a spell to sabotage Harry's broom but actually Snape is casting a spell to counteract Quirrell's spell sabotaging Harry's broom. Even before then, in the movie, when he sees Harry and notices him wincing, he looks to his left, and Quirrell happens to be on his left and knows something is wrong.
  • Freudian Excuse: His bad homelife of an abusive father and neglectful mother created the foundation that Snape would base plenty of his pride and inferiority complex on. Add to that being accepted by the "wrong crowd" and him choosing his wants/ambitions first and foremost.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: This seems to be his hat in every group he's associated with. Several of the Order of the Phoenix members outside of Sirius and Remus (who have a very personal feud with him going back to their schooldays) dislike him due to his unpleasant personality. Most of the Death Eaters distrust him either out of jealousy or because he plays his part well enough to have them fooled. In a group of Hogwarts teachers, the only one who can stand being around him is Dumbledore. Keeping that in mind, Hagrid is very vocal and stubborn about his trustworthiness, they all implicitly trust him to brew the school's medicine to perfection, and everybody recognizes that his contributions as a double-agent for The Order of the Phoenix are invaluable.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: He starts of as a half-blood who grew up in a loser class muggle district. He also was a somehow awkward bookworm without many friends who constantly got bullied by his friends. He grew up to become a high-ranking Death Eater and competent wizard who Voldemort himself valued high. Even after his Heel–Face Turn before the first book even started he still is a Sadistic Teacher who is feared and hated by most of his students and collegues alike.
  • Gag Nose: His hooked nose is often mentioned and is one of the things the Marauders made fun of about him. Averted in the films. Christopher Columbus and Alan Rickman discussed the idea of having Rickman wear a prosthetic nose but decided that it would look too silly.
  • Glory Hound: Several Death Eaters accuse him of this. Draco Malfoy notably angrily accuses Snape of wanting to take his father's place as Voldemort's preferred servant. He is, but not because he's out for glory. Snape and Dumbledore worked to ensures that Snape would be powerful enough in Voldemort's inner circle to minimize the damage during Voldemort's second reign. This also had the benefit of reducing the influence of genuinely loyal Death Eaters like Lucius and Bellatrix.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Snape has a tendency to do this. He revelled in Fantastic Racism as a child, which pushed away his only Muggleborn friend, and eventually led to her death. He murders Dumbledore in a Mercy Kill and pretends to side with the Death Eaters to save Draco, all the while convincing everyone in the Wizarding World that he's not to be trusted. Then while pretending to chase after Harry with the Death Eaters, Dumebledore's portrait tells him to put on a good show of being evil. He ends up cutting off George's ear, which means that when he gives the sword of Gryffindor to Harry and Hermione, he has to wait months for an opportunity to deliver it without revealing his identity, and the end result of this delay, Poor Communication Kills is that he doesn't align with Harry in time, gets killed randomly by Voldemort, and only achieves his mission by "sheer dumb luck". Had Snape been less himself, and tried to be trustworthy, he might have lived.
  • Good All Along:
    • In Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone he acts as a Red Herring as Harry and his friends (and so is the reader most likely) are convinced that Snape is the one who wants to steal the Philosopher's Stone. Not only turns it out Professor Quirell is the one, no, Snape even secretly fought Quirrell and saved Harry's life in process.
    • In the last book, it's revealed Snape pulled off a Heel–Face Turn long time ago and every of his actions in the books was on behalf of Dumbledore to protect Harry, including killing Dumbledore.
  • Good is Not Nice: There are few characters in literature who exemplify this trope as well as Snape does. He's admirably brave and selfless when it comes to protecting Lily's legacy and is reinforced time and time again to be in Dumbledore's side and fighting against Voldemort and the death eaters even when it seems like he's joined them. He is also excessively nasty and cruel to almost everyone, including his students (aged 11-18, by the way), whom he bullies endlessly and rarely attempts to actually help them learn.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Very very much so. This is one of the primary reasons for his loathing of James Potter; while Snape grew up in an abusive home and looked down upon, James had a wonderful family life and was a popular young man who was very talented in wizardy and sports. Then when he found out James liked Lily as well...
    • One scene during the Occlumency sessions in Book 5, shows Snape trying to fly a broom and failing, which implies that he tried to be as good at flying at James but failed at it, which explains why he keeps dismissing and looking down at it later.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: His relationship with James Potter in their school days. James was an arrogant bully, but Snape was seduced by the Dark Arts and fell in with the wrong crowd, creating a far more morally ambiguous parallel to the present-day relationship between Harry and Draco. Ultimately, it is Snape's Fatal Flaw of Pride that prevents him from moving on and becoming a better person (something James was capable of doing), and it is this that costs Snape Lily's love in the end.
  • Guile Hero: He's an amazing spy and pulls a deep cover like no one else.
  • Hate at First Sight: He hates Harry as soon as he steps foot in Hogwarts, due to the boy's resemblance to his father James—Snape's childhood bully, romantic rival, and probably least favorite person in the world. Just the feeling of Snape laying eyes upon him for the very first time is enough to make Harry's scar ache.
  • Hate Sink:
    • For the early part of the series, he largely acts as a cruel, bitter, and absurdly unfair Jerkass. Even as the series progresses and his backstory and Hidden Depths are revealed, he never truly stops being a petty and spiteful bully towards Harry and one of his major antagonists in his school life. This changes somewhat in Book 5 when Umbridge quickly turns out to be far worse than him, and then there's Book 7, when we find out just how much of a (morally grey) hero he was all along despite remaining a cruel, bitter and absurdly unfair Sadist Teacher.
    • Book 3 features Snape at his most detestable. With very little of the Deadpan Snarker on display, sadistically torturing Neville openly in class, insulting another teacher publicly in front of his students, and in the end gleefully looking forward to feeding a man to Dementors even when he was willing to come quietly and requested a fair hearing. When it's clear that he won't listen to reason, the trio resort to knocking him unconscious. After the climax, he gets in one last act of spite by outing Lupin as a werewolf (which he had already tried, more subtly, at least once earlier in the year).
    • He was never fully redeemed in the public eye following the war, as most people still believed he murdered Dumbledore (but didn't know of Dumbledore's Thanatos Gambit). He wasn't even given a portrait at Hogwarts, having abandoned his post as opposed to retiring or dying, until Harry requested one.
  • Hated by All: Only a handful of characters (Dumbledore, Voldemort, and the Malfoy Family) seem to have any kind of affection for Snape. Voldemort's followers hate or distrust him, seeing him as a turncoat who jumped ship to Dumbledore at the earliest opportunity. Dumbledore's followers distrust Snape for his history as a Death Eater. He is hated and feared by all the Hogwarts students except for the Slytherins, and even they tread carefully around him.
  • Healing Serpent: Makes the potions that cure the petrified students in book 2 and in book 3 a potion that relieves the symptoms of lycanthropy.
  • Heartbroken Badass: He always regretted losing Lily's friendship.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: His actions look like this to Harry. And to the reader. In reality, he's been a "face" since Lily's death.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Near the end of the first war, the thoroughness of which is displayed by an exchange between him and Dumbledore in his memories that originally took place during the sixth book, showing that he had become unambiguously good during the time he spent as Dumbledore's double agent.
    Dumbledore: Don't be so shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?
    Snape: Lately, only those whom I could not save.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Snape is interesting for showing how complex this process is. When he first came to Dumbledore, it was because of doubts that Voldemort wouldn't follow through on his side of the bargain of letting Lily live. Dumbledore chewed him out about his brazen selfishness and seeded doubts in his mind. He became a double agent for the Order but Lily's death and Voldemort's downfall robbed him of the things he wanted most. Dumbledore convinces him to live on, to protect Lily's son as a form of atonement and honour her sacrifice.
    • Later on, when Voldemort takes over, Snape finds himself having to help Harry from a distance and without anyone seeing him. As the portrait Dumbledore puts it, if anyone from the Order sees Snape, then he's a dead man for killing Dumbledore and hurting George. Then the Dark Lord poisons him using Nagini, and Harry feebly tries to stop the blood from flowing from Snape's fatal wounds; Snape gives him memories that Harry needs which shows his true allegiances.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In The Cursed Child, his Bad Future counterpart returns the timeline to its default state despite knowing full well it will kill him.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Hero is a stretch, but he fits the profile. He's a former Death Eater and just generally not a very nice person, but he's definitely a good guy, whatever others may think.
  • Hey, You!: "Snivellus", courtesy of the Marauders.
  • Hidden Depths: On the surface a Sadist Teacher and later apparently revealed to be The Mole, turns out to be a Double Agent and The Atoner who is torn over his feelings towards the son of the man he hated and the woman he loved, both of whom he involuntarily got killed (hence the atoning).
    Dumbledore: You know, I sometimes think we sort too soon.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: He's not the kind of guy you'd go out for drinks with and it's pretty easy to get on his bad side. Nevertheless, he does have people's best interests at heart, and given his brains and loyalty, he's exactly the kind of guy you'd need on your side to win the fight.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The irony is that if he could have shed his bullying ways, then Harry and Neville would have believed he was a double-agent. When he takes over as headmaster as Hogwarts, Neville becomes the biggest thorn in his side by reviving Dumbledore's Army and aggravating the Carrows with organized disobedience, both ensuring Snape can't do his job enforcing "Voldemort's orders" or protecting his students from abusive harm. Dumbledore's painting also points out to Snape that if Harry sees him after for the former cut off George's ear, he's a dead man walking.
    • In the film, it's implied Voldemort whacks him with Sectumsempra, a spell Snape invented, before killing him.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Because of his hatred for James Potter who bullied him, and because he can't stand the fact that the woman he loved chose another man over him, Snape stubbornly views James' son Harry as an arrogant, attention-seeking, and selfish brat, when in actuality, Harry is a kind, emphatic and humble young man who hates being famous.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Snape is very powerful and, for lack of a better word, competent, but he's ultimately a sidekick to Voldemort and Dumbledore, the two strongest characters. This becomes a point of tension when Snape realizes that for all his considerable sacrifices Dumbledore doesn't tell him everything either, and is only letting him have information on a "need to know basis" just like Harry and everyone else. This angers him because he feels that Harry not knowing Occlumency deserves to be Locked Out of the Loop. Dumbledore does let him know that Harry will have to die, making him essentially his posthumous message sender after his death.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Snape can at one moment badmouth someone he doesn't like doing something wrong and the next or prior to, doing that very action. He had this self-biased beliefs since childhood even:
    • Harry was not happy to see how James and Sirius were messing with Snape. However Snape who is an adult and professional, not only doesn't feel empathy with Harry's treatment at the hands of his relatives, he finds it amusing and gloats about the power-difference that allows him the right to protect his privacy while denying Harry his. He continues to use his position and standing to abuse students, including the likes of Hermione and Neville whose families have no personal baggage with him. Insists and takes the slightest offence when people make fun of him, while never missing the chance to bullying Neville, Harry or Hermione.
    • Snape was part of a group of bullies who would later join the Death Eaters. When Lily Evans tried to tell him about something these future Death Eaters did to a student he called it "just a laugh", when Lily pointed out that was "evil" and Dark Magic and worse than anything the Marauders did. His main problem was that James and Sirius were "having a laugh" at him. Furthermore, Snape dismisses James saving his life insisting that it was selfish both to Lily, in the past, and Harry years later, while Remus insists that it was truly a courageous moment. Snape doesn't have any remorse whatsoever for causing James' death and not asking Voldemort to spare James and Harry, which Dumbledore called him out on, and insists on talking smack about the guy who for all his flaws, did save Snape's life when he didn't have to do so.
    • Snape criticizes a number of other authority figures, especially McGonagall and Fudge for giving Harry preferential treatment and insists he be treated the same as any other student. While not necessarily a bad point on its own, at least not in Fudge's case, Snape enjoys treating Harry much worse than any other student. He gives preferential treatment to the students of his house, being flagrantly corrupt in punishing students of other houses while letting those of his own get away with murder.
    • Snape claims that Harry is just like his father, in that "he's so arrogant that criticism simply bounces off him". However Harry often feels guilty when people call him out, especially in the same book when people such as Ginny Weasley and Phineas Nigellus Black call him out on his Jerkass behavior. His father James also started to change his ways after being called out by Lily. Snape on the other hand, despite being repeatedly called out by Harry, Lily and Dumbledore, among others, for his behavior, refused to grow up and spent his life being bitter and nasty to everyone.
    • Insists that fools who wear their hearts on the sleeve are weak people and easily fall prey to Voldemort in Book 5. This from a guy shows open favouritism toward some students (namely those in his own house) and doesn't try to hide his disdain for others (namely Harry, Hermione, and Ron), lets emotions overwhelm his mission (such as teaching Harry Occlumency which was ordered to him by Dumbledore) and who furthermore, himself fell prey to Voldemort as a young man solely for his own delusions of grandeur.
    • He gloated about the change of Tonks' Patronus to resemble Lupin's and basically mocking her for falling in love with Remus when his own Patronus (which he hides from others in the Order) also changed to reflect his unrequited love. In Book 4 he mocks Hermione over Daily Prophet tabloid reports by Rita Skeeter spinning a fake Love Triangle between her, Harry and Krum, when it turned out that at the same age he was immersed in his own love triangle and was incredibly obsessive and possessive of his crush.
    • He accuses Hermione of being an "insufferable know-it-all" despite himself being an Insufferable Genius who bullies and insults students for not living up to "his standards".
  • I Gave My Word: For his many other faults, if Snape promises something he will honour it:
    • He pledged to do everything his power to protect Harry (if solely to honour Lily's memory), which he remarkably did while maintaining his cover as a supposed spy for Voldemort. As abusive and hateful as he was towards Harry, Snape always stopped just short of putting him in real danger or expelling him. In a bit of Fridge Brilliance this may be the only reason Harry wasn't expelled after using Sectumsempra on Draco Malfoy.
    • He promised Dumbledore that he would Mercy Kill him to spare him the painful, humiliating deaths of either the fatal curse of Marvolo's ring or at the hands of Voldemort's lieutenants. Snape was repulsed at doing it, but he did.
    • He promised Narcissa Malfoy that he would do all in his power to assist Draco in his mission to kill Dumbledore, going as far as to make an Unbreakable Vow. This turns out to be a subversion when Snape's memories reveal that Dumbledore planned his own death, although he does keep his promise to the letter if not the spirit.
    • He also promised Dumbledore that he would do everything he could to protect the students of Hogwarts during Voldemort's return to power. During his tenure as headmaster he admirably used his position to contain the sadistic Carrows and protect the students as best he could without giving himself away.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Lily calls him out for being prejudiced towards Muggle-borns and thinking she's excluded, as well as for engaging in Dark Magic. After he called her a Mudblood in front of the other fifth years, she tells him off more bluntly about how he doesn't know what he's becoming. She's pretty much telling Snape that if they want to be friends, he has to give up his prejudices. Snape can't, so she ends their friendship.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Tells Lily she's a good Mud-Blood when she calls him out on his pureblood supremacist attitude. Oddly, this doesn't end the argument.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Snape felt this about Lily especially once he realized that James developed a crush on her. She was popular, good-looking, and Gryffindor just like he was while Snape was none of those things. Ultimately, why she chose James over Snape was because James recognized his faults and was willing to change while Snape doubled down on his views.
  • Inspector Javert: Snape takes it as an article of faith that Harry Potter is doing something stupid or illegal at any given time. Granted, he's usually right.
    • He becomes even moreso in the case of Sirius during Book 3, noting that he looked forward for catching Sirius and showing Remus as The Mole. Sirius offers to turn himself in to Dumbledore as long as Harry and Ron bring Scabbers (Peter Pettigrew's secret form) to Hogwarts as evidence of his innocence. Snape however insists on turning Sirius over to Dementors and looks forward to it and even hopes that Lupin gets his soul sucked too. He then gets knocked out after insulting Harry's father again.
    • The Javert-like tendencies are shown off that he's too eager to persecute Harry, cementing that he's less concerned with Harry doing anything illegal and more just making him suffer. It gets twisted around on him in Book 4 when he (correctly) concludes that Harry is involved with a current escapade on incredibly flimsy evidence, and Moody gets him to drop it by pointing out how suspicious it looks for his mind to jump right to that.
  • Insufferable Genius: Improved his textbook while still a student; invented his own spells at the same time; one of only two wizards capable of independent flight. At the same time he's a terrible teacher; not only does he bully his students but he has utter disdain for their not picking up simple concepts right away. zTruthInTelevision as sometimes experts can make really bad teachers. This makes it infuriating when he hypocritically accuses Hermione of being an "insufferable know-it-all".
  • Irrational Hatred: To Harry. He sees Harry as a constant reminder not only that Lily chose James, his hated school bully, over him but of his own failure to save her and so treats Harry like shit as a way of sorting through his complicated feelings of protecting a child he hates for things Snape intellectually knows he isn't to blame for.
  • It's All About Me: Snape can be very self-centered and has real trouble seeing things outside of how they relate to them, believing that bullying is terrible when it happens to him but perfectly fine and amusing when he does it or it happens to others he dislikes. Even his love of Lily is filtered through his own selfishness, never truly seeing her as her own person.
  • I Owe You My Life: When they were teenagers, James saved Snape from werewolf Lupin. Dumbledore attributes Snape's desire to protect Harry from Voldemort to this at the end of the first book, claiming that Snape wants to honour his debt so that he can go back to hating James' memory in peace. The truth is more complicated; Snape loved Lily, and on some level Snape wants to protect Lily's child.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • He's thoroughly wrong for pushing Harry's Relative Button, but as Harry realizes, James Potter, among other things really was an arrogant show-off in his youth and not entirely as spotless as his posthumous reputation allows.
    • He also has legitimate concerns about Harry's character, considering that Harry was sneaking out of school in his third year, cheating in Potions in his sixth year, and nearly killed Draco Malfoy by impulsively using a Dark magic curse without knowing what it would do. Snape also had reason to suspect that Harry had repeatedly stolen from his ingredient cupboard, although truthfully Harry was only partly responsible for one theft (when Hermione stole boomslang skin in their second year), and benefited from another when Dobby stole gillyweed on the false Moody's instruction.
    • Him getting Lupin sacked was almost certainly motivated by spite, but the fact is that Lupin didn't drink his potion and in the process endangered the lives of three students and Snape himself. Even Lupin himself acknowledges this error on his way out.
  • Jerkass Realization: In the movies, Snape's last words are an acknowledgment that Harry has his mother's eyes — the first time he compares him to Lily and not James, Harry's father. In the books, this is left ambiguous. When Snape asks Harry to look at him as he is dying, the narrative mentioning Harry's green eyes at this time implies Snape wanted to see Lily's eyes one last time but Snape does not vocalize a comparison between Harry and Lily. When Snape shares memories with Harry, they vindicate Snape in that he was loyal to Dumbledore and earnestly protected Harry, but they also reveal Snape still disliked Harry himself and protects him out of love for Lily, rather than for Harry's own sake.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Manages the exceedingly rare feat of being both this and a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, as despite still being extremely unpleasant, petty, and downright cruel, he doesn't lack for redeeming qualities. He's extremely brave with a surprisingly great capacity for love, and in his final years did genuinely start to become a more moral person, and even mentions in the final book that the only people he's seen die recently were those he couldn't save.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Despite having certain redeeming moments, Snape is a world-class jerk (but the films in particular excise many of his worst moments).
    • He's highly biased towards Slytherin, he holds a personal grudge against Harry due to being bullied by Harry's father and his unreciprocated love for Harry's mother, and routinely bullies his other students for no particular reason other than he's a jerk. However, in the end, he was devoted to Dumbledore, saves Harry's life and eventually gets himself killed by Voldemort for the greater good. The good he does also come across as pretty weird when you consider that it (and basically his entire adult life) is based entirely around a girl he was in love with from the ages of 10-16, give or take.
    • He also holds a borderline homicidal grudge against Sirius Black in Prisoner of Azkaban. However, at the time, he still believes that Sirius betrayed (and thus indirectly killed) James and Lily Potter, so the outburst is likely attributed to his life-long love of Lily (Evans) Potter, Harry's mother. Then again, given that it was Snape himself who told Voldemort about the prophecy which placed a target on the Potters' backs, it would still be at least a little hypocritical of him to hold a grudge against anyone over this. In any event, his rivalry with Sirius is much tamer in all later moments in the books when he has been assured of Sirius' innocence, even going so far as checking up on Sirius' safety when Harry has visions of him trapped in the Ministry with Voldemort. Not to mention Sirius and James routinely bullied Snape throughout their time in school, and Sirius tried to feed Snape to a werewolf at one point, so they aren't starting from a great point.
    • All of the tragedies in Harry's life are traced back to him telling Voldemort the Prophecy. This gives his bullying, which has an already dark angle because he is a teacher and students cannot retaliate, and even darker undertone. Since across the saga, he does not regret how his actions destroy several lives. He only cares that HE lost Lily, something that Dumbledore actually calls him out on, when Snape comes to beg him to hide Lily and Lily alone.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: His bullying of Neville is never addressed in the first six books, not even by Dumbledore. That changes when he becomes Headmaster of Hogwarts. Neville decides to take Harry's place as the leader of Dumbledore's Army and cause as much trouble as possible. The end result is Snape has to deal with the other Chosen one finally living up to his potential exactly at the moment that Dumbledore has charged him to protect the students and Neville absolutely refuses to trust him, understandably. We can assume it wasn't a fun year for Snape.
  • Kick the Dog: Regularly engages in acts of petty cruelty and bullying for no other reason than that he can and doesn't seem bothered at all by targeting and traumatizing kids, particularly poor Neville who never did anything worse than be clumsy and struggle in class, due in no small part to Snape's behavior, and who considers Snape the thing he is most frightened of.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, he threatens to feed Neville's badly-made Shrinking Solution to his pet toad Trevor, and makes it clear that if the potion isn't made right, Trevor will probably be poisoned. At the end of class, when Neville's potion turns out to have been made correctly with help from Hermione, Snape takes five points from Gryffindor anyway!
    • In Goblet of Fire, when Hermione gets hit by a hex that makes her front teeth grow extremely long, Snape looks at her and says, "I see no difference," causing her to run off crying.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Snape's Worst Memory has him calling Lily a "mudblood" out of the fact she went in to save him after he got humiliated by James.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: While Snape didn't do the deed himself, as the Death Eater who partially overheard Trelawney's prophecy and relayed its contents to Voldemort, Snape bears a large portion of the responsibility for Lily's death. Unlike most examples of this trope, this isn't a Moral Event Horizon, but the inspiration for his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Snape is extremely bitter by the time he's introduced. No doubt that spending close to a decade fully aware that the woman he loved is dead because of him played a part in this.

  • Lack of Empathy: Snape shows very little compassion and understanding for other people's sufferings, most notably making fun of Tonks' Patronus changing when he went through the same thing, and finding Harry's memories of being bullied by Dudley funny when he himself went through the same. Despite his fury over humiliations and slights done by James and the Maruders on him, he has no issue with bullying and inflicting similar humiliations on his students, and he likewise sees no problems with the more malevolent actions his friends (the future Death Eaters) would do. He's very much a believer in It's All About Me, and even his love for Lily was tainted by this, as Dumbledore calls him out.
  • Large Ham: Again, Alan Rickman's Cold Ham tendencies are largely an invention of the films. That being said, Snape has his share of Not So Stoic moments in the books.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • He had a crush on his best friend, but she ended their friendship after he called her a Mudblood and refused to give up the Death Eaters or Dark Magic for her. Then she married the boy he hated because James Potter for all his flaws made the choice to become a better person. He only got a wakeup call when his actions indirectly led to her death, leaving only her son alive.
    • Pettily, his attempt to get Sirius Kissed by the Dementors when Sirius surrendered to him, in exchange for bringing Ron's rat to the castle, leads to the Trio knocking him out.
    • Snape spend six books being a jerkass to every non-Slytherin student, especially Neville. In the seventh book, Snape, following Dumbledore's orders, tries to protect the students from Death Eaters as Headmaster, only for the students to not trust him after everything he's done to them and openly riot against him. To extra karma, the leader of the resistance is Neville.
    • His final death where Voldemort murders him out of convenience seems like this, but later developments lean more to it being Redemption Equals Death.
  • Light Is Good: His Patronus shows he is capable of love and devotion.
  • Like Father, Like Son: His father was hinted at being emotionally abusive and prone to angry outbursts. Snape himself has no problems verbally tearing down his students to the point of reducing Neville to a nervous wreck at times, although he prefers to do it via cold sinister threats rather than shouting. The really sad part is, if he hadn't pushed Lily away, she might have fallen for him instead of James, and he would have succeeded in not turning out like Tobias.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: When Bellatrix interrogates him about his actions throughout the series at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince, this is his explanation as to why he helped stop Voldemort from getting the Philosopher's Stone. He had no idea that Voldemort was pulling Quirrell's strings and did everything he could to thwart Quirrell, whom he saw as unworthy. Of course, Snape is lying and he really was loyal to Dumbledore from the start.
  • Love Redeems: Downplayed. He turns to Dumbledore and against Voldemort because he wants to protect Lily from the latter. This started him on a lifelong Redemption Quest.
  • Love Triangle: With James for Lily's love. Lily chooses James over Snape because Snape was unwilling to better himself for her, which James was capable of doing despite all his faults.
  • Loving a Shadow: Snape largely fixated on his crush being one of the first people to be nice to him. However, it's a point of fact that while she was alive, he never made an effort to change his behaviour or listen to her constant criticism of his Death Eater friends, indeed joining the Death Eaters even after getting "The Reason You Suck" Speech from her.
  • Manchild: A more functional version of this but at his core, he's petty enough to harass Harry purely out of a bitter grudge and dispute the latter had no idea of growing up (having grown away from his parents) and he never truly lets go of his past and more importantly, despite repeated prompting from others, refuses to see differently. Indeed, from the moment Snape saw Harry at 11 years of age, he refuses to see any of his good qualities purely because he looks like his father.
  • Master Actor: He has to be this if he was to spy on Voldemort.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • He's also known as "Piton" (in the Italian and Hungarian translations), "Snow" (in the Russian one) and "Rogue" (in the French one). He also calls himself the Half-Blood Prince, in reference to his mother's maiden name.
    • Severus is Latin for 'stern, harsh, serious', which fits his attitude very well. It also contains "sever", which is very appropriate for the inventor of the Sectumsempra spell.
  • The Medic: A more specialized example than usual. Due to his expertise on curses in a way that more traditional medic Madam Pomfrey lacks he fills this role in Half Blood Prince containing the curse in the necklace worn by Katie Bell, and later it's only his remedies that buy Dumbledore some time after being afflicted with the fatal curse of Marvolo's Ring.
  • Mercy Kill: Dumbledore wasn't murdered: he was spared from a slower and more horrible death.
  • Mind Reading: Legilimency, a very limited and forbidden craft. Snape is a master nonetheless, alongside Dumbledore and Voldemort.
  • Mirror Character:
    • There are more than a few parallels between himself and Sirius Black. Both were branded as criminals, both hated their families (Snape hated his father and Sirius hated his most of his family), both were hated to a murderous degree by Harry for something they did (or more accurately, were accused of doing and cleared off after death: Sirius's "betrayal" of James and Lily, and Snape's murder of Dumbledore), and both are extremely protective of their friends' sons (Sirius to Harry, Snape to Draco). Both of them are too blind to see Harry isn't his father. Furthermore, both refused to let go of schoolboy grudges. And, let's face it, they're both noble assholes. (A minor/meta similar: there are two titles that feature their nicknames.)
    • Snape himself isn't so different from Harry, and ironically it's the younger of the two who realizes and internalizes this. This was noted in book 6, where Hermione notes how Snape, despite describing the Dark Arts like a fanboy, was actually saying the same things Harry himself said when teaching the DA members in book 5.
    • Snape is also not as different from Petunia Dursley, another person he looked down upon. Both hate Harry half because he's a living, breathing reminder that they never made amends with Lily Potter and half because he reminds them of something they hate (magic in Petunia's case and Harry's father in Snape's case). Furthermore, both of them are motivated by pride and resentment. Snape's ambitions to be recognized as a powerful and clever wizard is not dissimilar to Petuina's emphasis on appearances and social status, both of which are motivated by feelings of insecuriy. In addition, both characters tend to turn a blind eye to their "favourite child" in their care (Dudley for Petunia, Draco for Snape). However, both still protect Harry despite their hatred of him out of loyalty to Lily.
    • A reason for Voldemort's indulgence to Snape and his acceptance of Severus's Please Spare Him, My Liege! offer is the latter's awareness of the similarities between them. Poor orphan boys with disappointing Muggle fathers and suffering witch mothers as well as proud Slytherins. Harry himself notes that he, Voldemort, and Snape were three "lost boys" who regarded Hogwarts as their home.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • The moment Harry steps into Hogwarts, Snape immediately loathes him because of how much he resembles his father James, who bullied Snape for years. For the next several years, Snape goes out of his way to make Harry's Potions classes miserable.
    • One of the biggest reasons Snape hates Neville is that the boy was the other potential "chosen one" in Trelawney's prophecy, and if Voldemort had targeted him and his parents instead of the Potters, then Snape's beloved, Lily Potter, might have survived.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Years upon years of mistreating his students and fellow teachers turned EVERYONE against him during his time as Headmaster, making his already extremely hard job as spy even harder. And when Harry reveals that he killed Dumbledore no one doubted it and he was ousted from Hogwarts. Dumbledore's portrait calls him out on this.
  • The Mole: In Deathly Hallows he seemingly returns to Voldemort's service, but is actually still a member of the Order of the Phoenix and is passing information along to them.
  • Mole in Charge: He's technically The Dragon, but close enough. Dumbledore's machinations ensured that Snape would have enough power and influence in Voldemort's inner circle to minimize the damage during his reign. He indeed uses his position as Hogwarts headmaster to subtly undermine the sadistic Carrows.
  • Moment of Weakness: What ruined his relationship with Lily Evans. Then again, according to Lily herself, choosing to surround himself with wizards obsessed with the Dark Arts like Lucius Malfoy was what strained their friendship. Snape calling Lily a mudblood was just the final straw. Likewise, even after this rebuke, he still joined the Death Eaters despite knowing that Lily wanted nothing to do with it, and it wasn't until she was directly endangered years later that he started to turn.
  • Moral Myopia: Snape is extensively self-centered and biased to his actions and the actions of those around him. He calmly defended his friend Mulciber's action as a "bit of fun" in a Noodle Incident that Lily claims was dark magic. However, he seethes with anger when on the receiving end of James Potter's "bit of fun".
  • More than Meets the Eye: One of the most nuanced and complicated characters in how he is, especially as is shown later on.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When he realizes that his own actions hurt Lily, the person he cared the most for, and eventually led to her murder. He's described as looking like "a man who had lived a hundred years of misery".
  • Nerves of Steel: He is serving Voldemort, a supreme practitioner of Legilimency, who will not just murder anybody who betrays him, but likely put them through a long round of Cruciatus first. And yet Snape is working for Dumbledore the entire time. It is for good reason that Harry calls him "the bravest man I ever knew".
  • Never My Fault:
    • Zig-Zagged. Despite acknowledging how his actions as a Death Eater led to Lily's death, he refuses to stop seeing Neville as anything other than the one Voldemort didn't go after instead of Harry. However, neither the Longbottoms nor the Potters would have been in danger in the first place if Snape hadn't passed on information about the Prophecy detailing Voldemort's defeat.
    • In the latter books, he gets furious every time Harry and his classmates stand up for themselves and act disrespectful towards him during lessons. It doesn't seem to occur to him that if he didn't constantly insult and bully them, they might respect him and listen to him.
      • Throughout the series, he constantly degrades and insults the intelligence of his students, blaming any failure to meet his standards on their inherent inadequacies, and not the fact that he never actually bothers to provide any real guidance or teaching beyond trial and error.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: A Berserk Button of his — entirely justified, given how much he has risked and sacrificed for the sake of the good cause.
  • Nominal Hero: Snape is an arrogant, petty, and often cruel man who seems to delight in treating non-Slytherin students poorly. And he clearly despises Harry for being so much like his father, who Snape hated. Yet despite this, Snape is one of the heroes, or so it seems. And ultimately after everything about him is revealed, he is still this. His defection over to the side of good was solely because of his love for Harry's mother who he indirectly caused the death of. Despite turning against Voldemort and working at Hogwarts for over a decade all for Lily's son's sake, he genuinely is still an unpleasant person. We do see that during the final years of his life, he did start to be a good person genuinely however.
  • Noodle Incident: We get a few glimpses of his past with the Marauders. Remus says that while he won't accuse Snape of not being reformed there is too much bad blood between both to ever call themselves friends.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: It's very easy to paint Snape as a "bad guy" due to his personality and the ambiguity of what side he's on, but once you realize what he's been through in life, it's apparent that he isn't really an "evil" character, or at least not anymore. It's downplayed in that he's still a genuinely unpleasant human being despite his more noble traits.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: With both the Death Eaters and the Order. He's not a traditional pureblood supremacist in the same vein as Lucius Malfoy and his cohorts, being a half-blood from a poor muggle home. However, even as a child, Snape carried a great deal of anger and resentment due to his poverty and his abusive father, which in turn led to a desire to be seen as someone important and powerful. When he went to Hogwarts, he found himself going up against James, who was not only as intelligent and magically talented as Snape was, but also athletic, handsome and popular, things which Snape wasn't. When James began to show interest in Lily, Snape's jealousy and insecurity hit boiling point. Given that he was in Slytherin house which was dominated by pureblood supremacists, Snape began to look to the Death Eaters as a way of proving that he was the powerful wizard he'd always wanted to be, and began to adopt the racist beliefs of his peers. He was so deluded that he actually thought Lily would find him impressive if he became a Death Eater, even though she repeatedly told him she found them disgusting and actually ended her friendship because of how far gone he was. Similarly, he has no interest in Dumbledore's cause aside from Lily's protection initially, and after her death protects her son only to ensure that her sacrifice wasn't in vain. Subverted in that by the end of his life he's saved and protected numerous people who had nothing to do with Lily or Harry, felt a growing amount of guilt for the people he couldn't save and ultimately chooses to impart Harry with the information that would lead him to his death in order to rid the world of Voldemort, thereby choosing "The Greater Good" over his commitment to Lily.
  • Not So Stoic: There are several moments where Snape's stoicism cracks and he flips his lid. However, considering what happened to him the last time he truly lost self-control (calling Lily "Mudblood") he does have a point about reining in his emotions at least.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Snape pulls this in Umbridge's office when Harry passes him a coded message that he's seen Sirius being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. This backfires somewhat when Snape, unable to confirm that he understood the message in Umbridge's presence, dismisses it and Harry, whom Snape has bullied for six years now and who knows he hates Sirius anyway, assumes Snape has just brushed him off.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • One of the main traits of his friendship with Lily Evans. Also deconstructed since the pressures of their respective Houses, social backgrounds and other friends proved too great for the friendship to endure and they initially ended up on the different sides of the war.
    • Also has this with Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. Two rich pure-blood supremacists who look down on nearly everyone seem to consider him, a poor half-blood with no social skills and who works under Dumbledore, a legitimate friend. Snape is far more sympathetic and less snarky towards them than most other characters.
    • Depending on how much you stretch the word "friendship" as they are more allies than real friends, the close relationship between Dumbledore and Snape could also count. Dumbledore usually is depicted as a very well-meaning, open minded person who is ultimatly loved by the students and teaching staff at Hogwarts alike while Snape is a feared and hated teacher who constantly bullies others (including his students) and more or less only cares about himself. Still Dumbledore would always consultate Snape first. After Snape killed Dumbledore, both Lupin and McGonnegall confess they never understand why Dumbledore trusted Snape so much to begin with.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Despite being half-blood himself, he only became a Double Agent for the Order of the Phoenix after Voldemort targeted Lily Potter, whom Snape had been in love with at Hogwarts. Meaning basically that he was completely on board with Voldemort's plans right up to the part where they targeted somebody he actually cared about.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: When Harry says "He's got Padfoot in the place where it's hidden", Snape realizes that Harry means that Sirius is in danger even though the sentence makes no sense to everyone else in the room. With the situation so severe, Snape passes this information onto the Order.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Towards Draco Malfoy, and via Narcissa's request; if you mess with that kid, you will have a come-to-Severus meeting in your immediate future. (Not that Draco actually needs Snape's protection, but this is the reason fanon has it that Snape is his godfather.) Though Draco doesn't feel all that close to Snape by book 6, as shown in Half Blood Prince, even regarding Snape as a usurper who's trying to take Lucius' former position in the hierarchy. Snape himself tells Dumbledore in The Prince's Tale that Draco no longer looks up to him as much after Lucius is imprisoned.
    • Towards Harry. Snape may treat him like shit most of the time, but you'll have to go through Snape to hurt a hair on Harry's head.
  • Perpetual Frowner: He's no ray of sunshine in general, but Alan Rickman really emphasizes this in the films to the point of comedy at times.
  • Personal Hate Before Common Goals: Severus Snape is revealed in the final book to have been one of Dumbledore's strongest allies since the night Harry's parents were killed. Unfortunately, Snape continuously trashes any trust he might have been able to earn from his other allies because he lets his pride and schoolyard grudges define his relationships with everyone, meaning that Harry, Sirius, and the Order as a whole never give him an ounce of trust.
  • Pining After Protagonist's Parent: Harry's mother is Lily Evans. Snape and her were friends when they were young, before they came to Hogwarts. He was in love with her. At Hogwarts, he fell in with the wrong crowd, and their friendship eventually disintegrated. Lily went on to marry James and have Harry. Snape went right on loving her.
  • Playing Hamlet: Snape, who ages from 31 to 38 over the course of the books, is played by Alan Rickman, who played the role from ages 55 to 65.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: He begged Voldemort to spare Lily's life after she (along with James and Harry) became #1 on Voldy's hit-list. It almost works — Voldemort gives her a chance to step aside and let him kill Harry, but for obvious reasons she doesn't take it. This proves to be a Spanner in the Works for Voldemort. Voldemort offering Lily that genuine choice leads to a binding magical contract which results in The Power of Love protecting Harry.
  • Posthumous Character: Set 19 years in the future, Snape has long passed by The Cursed Child but he still manages to help Scorpius and Albus battle evil from beyond the grave.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Claims this to be the explanation for many actions he took during the sixteen years between Voldemort's first downfall and Half-Blood Prince. Remaining at Hogwarts gave him a cushy job and Dumbledore's faith and protection, both of which he could exploit for his own ends and those of Voldemort, and when Voldemort returned he was able to provide lots of information that was far more useful than Bellatrix's tales of Azkaban. Not murdering Harry Potter at the first opportunity or returning to Voldemort's side until he had Dumbledore's say-so has kept him in Dumbledore's good graces and in a position to keep providing intel on the heroes to the Death Eaters. Of course, the real reason is that he had genuinely defected to Dumbledore's side as a result of Lily's death.
  • Psychological Projection: Given that he and James Potter were similar, it's fair to assume that when he projects James' bad traits on Harry, he's also projecting his own, especially considering that James grew out of them (for the most part at least), while Snape didn't.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Snape's impoverished background lends credence to the idea that his involvement with the Death Eaters started as this. He was born poor to a Pureblood mother who married a Muggle and had an abusive marriage to show for it, leading him to identify with her side of the family, which leads him to long to go into Slytherin, and which leads him to becoming part of the Death Eater circle under Lucius Malfoy's influence. His one chance out of the Dark Arts was his friendship with Lily, but his refusal to listen to her, and his longing for power led him to choose the Dark Arts, a decision that ruined his life for good.
  • Red Herring Mole: He is this, over and over and over again. In the first book, all evidence points to him as the person trying to steal the titular Stone. In the fourth, we learn both that he is an ex-Death Eater and that Voldemort has a mole at Hogwarts. In the fifth, we learn that his rivalry with Harry is deeply personal, and he seems to be conspiring with Sadist Teacher Dolores Umbridge against Harry. Was he ever guilty? Nope. And then in the sixth book he kills off Dumbledore, meant as part of one of Dumbledore's own plans, but taken as "proof" of his treachery by Harry (and any readers who hadn't yet picked up on the pattern.)
  • Redemption Equals Death: His ultimate redemption in Harry's eyes takes place posthumously.
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: Ultimately, he has long since abandoned the Death Eater cause by the time Harry comes to Hogwarts. He's still an unrelenting and remorseless jerkass, though. That might be one of the reasons why he's able to convince Voldemort and the Death Eaters to still be on their side.
  • Rejected Apology: After he accidentally called Lily a "filthy little Mudblood" in a fit of rage, he later tried to apologize, but she wasn't having any of it. Not just because of how he treated her, but because of the Gang of Bullies he hung around and how he treated everyone of her blood status. When she asked him what made her different from the other Muggle-borns he bullied and he didn't have an answer, she broke off their friendship for good.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Inverted. He declines to act on his grudge towards Wormtail after learning that he was the Marauder who betrayed Lily due to being a Double Agent reporting to Dumbledore. Instead when Wormtail is assigned by Voldemort as Snape's "assistant" Snape assigns him the most humiliating and degrading tasks possible. Ironically this was probably what Voldemort wanted.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you pay attention to his actions from the first film until Deathly Hallows Part 2, the last film recontextualizes what he was doing prior to the final movie. He may hate Harry, but he doesn't want him dead.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: The poor to James' rich during their love triangle with Lily.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Invokes this during the opening of Half-Blood Prince, when Bellatrix asks why he didn't help Voldemort get the Philosopher's Stone in Harry's first year. Snape points out that Voldemort didn't know Snape could be trusted, and so he didn't confide his identity in Quirrell's turban; therefore, Snape didn't realize that it was Voldemort going after the Stone, and assumed that Quirrell was just some run-of-the-mill greedy wizard. While it’s likely that Voldemort really didn’t confide in Snape in Harry’s first year, what Snape didn’t reveal was that he was actually on Dumbeldore’s side by then, so Voldemort would actually have been right not to confide in Snape.
  • Rival Turned Evil: He is a rival towards James, and he turned evil because he joined the Death Eaters.
  • Rule of Three: Snape went down the tunnel of the Whomping Willow three times. First when he followed Sirius' prank and nearly got killed until James saved him, second when he followed the trio and tried to capture Sirius and Remus only to get knocked out, and finally when Voldemort summons him and lets him in on his suspicions about the Elder Wand and then kills Snape, who meets Harry before passing away, his body left in the Shack for the rest of the night.

  • Sadist Teacher: Mostly towards Harry:
    • His treatment of Harry across the series is incredibly disproportionate and hypocritical, generally petty, and hostile. And after their falling out of the Pensieve incident, Snape still finds time to "accidentally" destroy more than one of Harry's potion assignments, "Oops, Zero Marks, Potter".
    • He torments Neville on and off screen so much that Neville's Boggart in Book 3 takes Snape's form. Boggarts are explicitly stated to be the victim's worst fear given form. Damn.
    • He derides Hermione seemingly for no reason other than her intelligence and reduces her to tears on two occasions.
  • Sarcastic Confession: He rhetorically suggests to Bellatrix if she really believes he has successfully deceived Voldemort himself, a noted master of Legilimency and a virtual Living Lie Detector. We later discover that he actually did.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: Subverted. In his own schooldays, he was antagonised by James and Sirius (something that horrifies and disillusions Harry when he finds out). Decades later, he still absolutely hates James and Sirius for it. However, as a student however, Snape himself defended his friend Mulciber's actions to Mary MacDonald as "a bit of fun" when Lily points out that it's dark magic and far worse than anything James or the Maruders done.
  • Selective Enforcement: He goes out of his way to punish Gryffindor students for the pettiest of reasons, while letting the Slytherins get away scot free.
    "When Alicia Spinnet turned up in the hospital wing with her eyebrows growing so thick and fast that they obscured her vision and obstructed her mouth, Snape insisted that she must have attempted a Hair-Thickening Charm on herself and refused to listen to the fourteen eyewitnesses who insisted that they had seen the Slytherin Keeper, Miles Bletchley, hit her from behind with a jinx while she worked in the library."
  • Shed the Family Name: Of a form. Going along with pure-blood views as an adolescent, he definitely didn't think much of his Muggle father, Tobias Snape (not that he had any reason to, anyway). While he never completely sheds his surname, he does label his Potions textbook, and presumably his other possessions, as "the Property of the Half-Blood Prince", identifying himself as a Prince (his mother's maiden name) rather than a Snape.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Implied to be this as he never expresses any romantic/sexual interest in anyone besides Lily Evans/Potter. Voldemort, in the final battle, implies that Snape bluffed him about this and convinced him that he'd moved on to other women.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Played with. His hooked nose is probably intended to make him seem more like a villain, especially at the beginning. Ultimately subverted, however, since he isn't really evil and is actually on Dumbledore's side. He's cruel and and sadistic, but evil is a stretch.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Despite the numerous clashes they had, Snape never was able to let go of his vendetta against James, but with him gone, he picks on Harry instead, to the point that he automatically assigned him all of James’ character flaws without ever bothering to actually see if the shoe fit. Considering that he believed Harry of all people enjoyed the spotlight, one has to wonder if he ever looked at Harry as an individual instead of as a remnant of his parents.
    Severus Snape: -–mediocre, arrogant as his father, a determined rule-breaker, delighted to find himself famous, attention-seeking and impertinent-–
    Albus Dumbledore: You see what you expect to see, Severus. Other teachers report that the boy is modest, likable and reasonably talented. Personally, I find him an engaging child.
  • The Smart Guy: In the Order, he is one of the most valuable agents due to his knowledge and Remus admits he wouldn't have lasted so long in Hogwarts if Snape didn't provide him with the necessary potion Remus needed against lycanthropy.
  • The Sociopath: A morally grey example of one. Snape definitely shows a lot of low-functioning sociopathic tendencies such as manipulation, sadism, no social skills, near complete self-absorption, a disturbing lack of empathy and bullying of children who can't fight back. His Moral Myopia and constant Hypocripsy also count, and his love of Lily is self-serving and shows a lot of traits of Entitled to Have You.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Despite the above-mentioned sociopathy, Snape is still a hero. He has ultimately noble intentions at heart, genuinely did love Lily and died to save the Wizarding World.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Snape's voice is repeatedly described as being both soft and dangerous, and he's the Hogwarts equivalent of the teacher whose classes you dreaded as a kid. He rarely needs to do more than whisper to keep a room of students quiet, and his voice only gets quieter when he's really angry with someone. This makes the few moments when he genuinely loses control all the more striking.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: He grew up with an abusive father and neglectful mother, making him very ambitious to escape his poor background and reach greatness. When he arrived at Hogwarts, he ended up developing an intense mutual hateship with James Potter as well as befriending a group of malicious young men and women who would become the Death Eaters and eventually chased the one friend who could stand him because he chose his ambitions and desires over their friendship. The death of his childhood friend and love of his life didn't help his mood either.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Snape's wish for Lily to be spared results in her sacrifice that protects her son with love. Had he not done so, the choice would not have been offered or the sacrifice would not take effect. Snape immediately grasps the irony when Dumbledore reminds him why Lily died and he resolves to protect Harry out of respect for her memory.
    • Snape ends up being one for Voldemort, but almost certainly not in the way he intended. After spending the entirety of Book 7 unable to use the Elder Wand, Voldemort assumes that Snape is the master of the wand and kills him for it. Since Snape was not actually the master, Voldemort never gains control of the wand and it backfires during the final battle with Harry, killing Voldemort once and for all as a result.
  • Stealth Mentor: At the end of book 6, and other subtle instances besides, you know, his job as a Potions Master. The stealthiest example may be "Expeliarmus", which might be the single most famous spell from the series (famous enough to be referred to in a Doctor Who episode). Harry uses this spell so often, by Book 7 Death Eaters have come to think of it as Harry's "signature spell". Guess which teacher Harry inadvertently learned this spell from during a certain Duelling Club way back in Book 2? Snape didn't intend to teach Harry that spell at all - Harry picked it up himself and admits to Lockhart that "you shouldn't have let Professor Snape teach us that spell." A running theme in the series is that Harry learns from Snape without either of them being conscious about it, especially via his old potions textbook, which in fact mirrors their relationship. More ironically, it was not just through Harry that Snape's Stealth Mentoring influenced the grand scheme. Being at the Dueling Club, Draco Malfoy also mastered the spell. He later used it to disarm Dumbledore. If not for this and then him getting disarmed by Harry in turn, Harry would not have mastered the Elder Wand. Voldemort would have guessed correctly that Snape is the wand's master after killing Dumbledore and would have, by murdering Snape, gained the wand's allegiance, winning the war.
    • Also during Harry's first Potions lesson, Snape asks him about the properties of bezoar. Harry remembers it's a potent antidote just in time to cure Ron from poisoning.
    • Snape seems to do this even when fighting Harry at the end of book 6. He pretty much told Harry that to fight effectively, he must be able to perform non-verbal spells and hide his thoughts from an accomplished legilimens like him and Voldemort. By the end of book 7, he can cast non-verbal spells well enough to be ninja-like when wearing his invisibility cloak.
    • Contrasted by Snape's failure to teach Harry anything when he actively tries to (potions, occlumency and non-verbal magic) due to the antagonism and resentment they feel toward one another. Becomes a major point of irony when Harry ponders how the Half-Blood Prince is a better potions teacher than Snape ever was.
  • Stepford Snarker: Is he ever. Of course, Harry and the gang don't know this at first, but it all makes sense in the last two instalments.
  • The Stoic: For most of the series, he only really shows two emotions: stoicism and dickishness. This is completely flipped upside-down in "The Prince's Tale".
  • Stone Wall: Snape is shown to be different from most Death Eaters by primarily using defensive spells, only using offensive techniques when his opponents tire and start making mistakes, or if his opponent is egregously incompetent, like Lockhart. Most of his duel with Harry at the end of book six is Harry attacking him and Snape deflecting everything that comes his way. Justified however as he never wishes to cause any true harm to any of the good guys.
  • Super Window Jump: Towards the end of book seven, leaving behind an Impact Silhouette.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: His death, and the manner in which it happens, is totally unexpected, both by him and by Harry. In fact, it's unlikely he even fully knew why he died, since it had nothing to do with him being a double agent or any issues about his loyalty, and it is unknown if Dumbledore apprised him fully about the Elder Wand. Both Harry and Snape likely expected some meaningful final confrontation between them, but it never happens, illustrating the generally random nature of conflict.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: He's that page's image for a damn good reason.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With Sirius Black throughout Order of the Phoenix.
  • Teen Genius: Implied to have been one. Among other things, he became a Hogwarts Professor in what's implied to be his second best subject at age 21, just four years after himself graduating.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the seventh book, he is bitten by Nagini and left to bleed to death by Voldemort. In the eighth movie, however, Voldemort cuts his throat and lets Nagini bite him over and over. And you can hear each blow she deals him. Bloody Hell, indeed.
  • Tragic Hero: He's ultimately a very flawed but heroic man whose various flaws, pride above all else, led to the death of the only woman he loved and living with the guilt that he was the originator of the circumstances that killed her.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Snape gets angry he usually gets calmer and quieter, which is sufficient to intimidate most of his students into shutting up and backing down. However, there are several moments where he gets really pissed and the tranquility goes out the window.
  • Troubled Abuser: It's implied he was abused by his parents in his childhood and it is revealed over the course of the books that Snape was physically bullied by James Potter and his friends. Once he became a teacher, he starts to become a bully himself towards his students who aren't Slytherins. While he has a personal hatred for his former bully's son, Harry, he is also revealed to be Neville's biggest fear and makes Hermoine cry on different occassions.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: So it seems at first in Book 7 when he becomes headmaster of Hogwarts.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Regardless of his skill with Potions, he is a professor who bullies most of his students and shows open favouritism for others, and he's a former Death Eater. Regardless of whether he's useful to Dumbledore's efforts to fight Voldemort, that's no reason to allow him to teach.
  • Unbalanced By Rival's Kid: The main reason he hates Harry so much. It turns out that he is a former childhood friend of Lily and Harry represents the fact that Lily loved James and had a child by him, becoming the living picture of everything he missed.
  • Undying Loyalty: Everything he does is because of Harry's mother, Lily. This goes as far even in an altered timeline where Voldemort wins and Harry and Dumbledore are dead.
    "After all this time?"
  • Unfriendly Fire: When McGonagall attacks him in movie 8, Snape parries the spells towards the Carrows as a way of taking them down without blowing his cover.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • On one hand, he might seem like this for not feeling grateful to James Potter for saving his life from the werewolf. On the other hand, the incident doesn't stop the spite between James and himself and one can say that it just made him angrier being in James' debt, especially since the entire thing started with Severus trying to oust them.
    • Really he should be locked up in Azkaban for his time as a Death Eater, but thanks to Dumbledore, he was able to walk free and get a steady job at Hogwarts, where he bullies his students and refuses to teach them properly.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Severus loved Lily until the day he died, long after her death, and even longer after their friendship fell apart.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Used to be a Death Eater and when he turned to the good side, he remains quite cold and unpleasant.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • For the series as whole. His eavesdropping of Trelawney's prophecy and report of the same to Voldemort and asking him to spare Lily resulted in the deaths of Lily and James Potter and Voldemort. He's only too painfully aware of this himself.
    • He ends up cutting off George Weasley's ear by accident when, as part of his role as spy for Dumbledore, seemingly helps the Death Eaters chase down Harry in book seven.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Downplayed; the flashbacks in "The Prince's Tale" show that young Severus lacked tact or basic social skills. In spite of that, he was courteous and caring to Lily until when their friendship broke.
  • Vetinari Job Security: Among the Death Eaters. Aside from the Malfoys and Voldemort himself, they mostly view him as an untrustworthy bloke who never seems to find himself in the line of fire, but his skill at Occlumency makes him the only one who could spy on Dumbledore so successfully and so Voldemort is forced to trust him. This is implied to be the case in the Order of the Phoenix as well, at least by Sirius and Harry.
  • Villainous Underdog: During his teen years, Snape as an aspiring Death Eater and Dark Arts practitioner, while the Marauders were later Order members. So he was the villain to their heroes, but Snape was the underdog in their conflict, he was poor, came from a bad home, and pulled himself and made himself as smart as he could by his own efforts, while the Marauders always attacked him 2-or-3 on 1, and James and Sirius at least were rich, while Remus and James came from families that cared for them.
  • Vindicated by History: In-Universe. By Albus Potter's era, he is known as a badass double agent who was instrumental in bringing about Voldemort's defeat.
  • What Could Have Been: An in-universe example: Dumbledore quotes that "I think sometimes we sort too soon" in regards to the courage shown by Snape and his sorting into Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. By the end of the books, Harry himself ends up acknowledging it, calling Snape "the bravest man I ever knew" in the epilogue.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He does not like what Dumbledore's plan entails since it would mean Harry has to be killed by Voldemort.
    Snape: I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me that you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Deconstructed; Snape has had this problem all of his life, that he would always hold his true feelings close to his heart so that even those closest to him didn't know both his kind and malevolent intentions. He was unable to give up loyalty to the Death Eaters when his best friend called him out on his horrible prejudices, was unable to confess that he wanted to be more than friends with her, and only switched sides to save her life. Snape and Dumbledore know, at Snape's request, that he is working to make amends for his mistakes, and he's doing it to make amends for a dead woman that can no longer accept his atonement. Dumbledore sighs with exasperation that Snape wants no one to know about his nobility, which ends up dogging both of them. No one knows that Snape is Dumbledore's double-agent, not even the other members of the Order, and no one knows that Dumbledore wants him to give the professor a Mercy Kill and run Hogwarts after Voldemort takes over because the Carrows are a much worse choice. The other teachers turn on Snape when they learn that he murdered Dumbledore, and only allow him as headmaster because the other choice is the Carrows who will torture the students; McGonagall when she turns on the Death Eaters' regime makes it clear that she's duelling to kill, not to stun, and Snape has to flee from her spells in both the book and movies. Even after Harry finds out the truth, he has a hard time convincing the Wizarding World, for a good reason, that Snape was complicated but not fundamentally evil.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Another extension of his pride; he is often motivated to get back at anyone who slighted him or injured his pride. The fact he holds these grudges for decades is an indication of his obsession:
    • This was in part a reason why he kept getting into conflict with the Marauders as he was looking for ways to get them expelled or give them grief. This led up to Sirius getting sick of this and trying to trick Snape into confronting Lupin during his transformation (the fact that Snape actually listened and broke the rules shows how inane it was.) James was unsurprisingly horrified the moment he found out and promptly went to save Snape.
    • As a teacher, in his interactions with Harry, he keeps bringing up James and Sirius and more or less uses the same arguments he used against Lily as a schoolboy. Hell, he takes sadistic pleasure in giving Sirius Black to the authorities for something he didn't do; even with Sirius trying to point him to the actual culprit, he couldn't resist the urge to have Sirius be sentenced to the Dementors and be awarded for it. When Harry and Hermione use the Time Turner to save Sirius (and Buckbeak), Snape throws such a fit at his loss, he outs Lupin out of spite (ironically the one who tried to keep Sirius and James back.)
    • In any case, Snape never got the vengeance he sought out. James married Lily, and though he died, so did she, while Harry is — as Rowling states — "living proof that Lily loved another man" and Snape dies before reconciling with Harry or being vindicated for his work as a spy.
  • Wild Card: Had this status among both the Order and the Death Eaters, regardless of whether Voldemort or Dumbledore was there or not, he seemed to carry on. This is all part of the plan. This annoys members on both sides and Severus never misses an opportunity to rub this in their faces.
  • Witch Classic: A Rare Male Example; Snape has a hooked nose and dresses in all black, is morally ambiguous and unpleasant, and specializes in brewing potions.
  • Wrong Line of Work: While a very gifted potioneer and occlumens, Snape is a truly terrible teacher, for reasons that go well beyond his personal cruelty towards his students. While some of this could be attributed to Harry, whom he particularly hates, being the books' narrator and main point of view, the signs of this go well beyond his treatment of Harry. Notably, his teaching method appears to be principally trial and error - in potions he writes a recipe on the blackboard and then swoops around the dungeons making biting remarks about students' potions, but not explaining to them how they have gone wrong or why the particular steps they have left out matter. While he will occasionally name the specific way in which a potion is badly-made, he never explains the effects involved, relying exclusively on homework to teach the broader theory of potion-making and giving the impression that he is teaching students how to follow recipes rather than understand the actual magical processes involved in how potions work. The same method seems to hold true in his attempts to teach Harry Occlumency, as while he repeatedly tells Harry to clear his mind of emotion, he provides no guidance about how to achieve this, but merely demands his desired result without any advice as to the process involved in achieving it. His practice of favouritism towards the Slytherins likewise does them no favours, as while he does not bully them as he does students from other houses (particularly Gryffindor), he also never criticises their potion-making even when it is obviously poor, leaving them with no more guidance than he gives any other students.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: One of the main reasons why he and Lily had their falling-out was due to him seeing Lily as this with regards to Muggle-borns, as he found it acceptable that his Death Eater friends (and Snape himself in their influence) liberally used the Fantastic Slur "Mudblood". In fact, Lily herself calls him out for this.
  • You Are What You Hate:
    • He mocks Hermione for her tabloid reputation in Rita Skeeter's pages and belittles and torments Neville, and Harry, and later makes snide jokes about Tonks changing her Patronus for Remus, when he himself was the laughing stock in his schooldays and his own Patronus changed for Lily.
    • While the details remain scarce, it's pretty indictive that Severus became the same sort of unlikeable jerk that he hated his father Tobias for being.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Voldemort kills him to gain full power over the Elder Wand.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Arranged between Snape and Dumbledore: all of Dumbledore's plans for Snape (and Harry, for that matter) would have failed if Harry and Snape had liked each other at all. Dumbledore Lampshades this when he tells Snape that Harry will have to perform a Heroic Sacrifice and Snape is horrified that Harry must die:
    Dumbledore: But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?

"Look at me...You have your mother's eyes..."