Before I even begin, I would like to start by saying I’m not the most objective person in the world when it comes to Severus Snape. This is because when I see Severus Snape and his character spread over the seven Harry Potter books, I can see myself as Severus Snape. I can relate to him on so many levels, we all can. Whether as the guy who doesn’t get the girl. The unsung hero. The person capable of feeling deeply intense, and passionate feelings, yet hiding them. The kid who didn’t fit in, coming from a difficult home and childhood. A person who always believes in keeping a clear and concise head, yet is ruled solely by his heart. Most of all what Snape is about, is contradiction. He contradicts his own character at every step of the way.
While some of his not-so-pleasant features can be explained away, such as his hatred for Harry Potter can be explained by his not so candid relationship with James Potter. Some things remain very disturbing about Severus Snape. Facts like, he was Neville Longbottom’s worst nightmare. A teacher being the worst nightmare of someone with a tragic past like Neville. His long fascination with the dark arts. His apparent bullying of some students and undue favorism of others.
Just to say, if I knew Snape as a student, colleague, neighbor or any other sort of low maintenance relationship, I won’t be writing him any Christmas cards. I’d probably hate his guts.
Problem is, I know Severus Snape’s story but, his difficulties in life can never be an excuse for his actions. We can’t control what happens to us, we should control how we react to it. “Our choices make us who we are.” Severus Snape could’ve sat with the sorting hat on his head and demanded he be put in Gyriffindor, like someone we all love did.
Remus Lupin when he reminisces about Lily Potter tells us that, she had a gift, a gift for seeing the good in people when no one else could. She saw it in Remus Lupin despite knowing he’s a werewolf, she saw it in James despite his childishness and bullying habits, she saw it in the giant Hagrid and she saw it in Severus Snape when no one else could.
Lily Potter was an enigma, a most exotic species of humankind. This post is not about her. However, one thing about her was that she was the kind of woman you couldn’t help but love and she had two men in her life who loved her oh, so dearly. One gave his life trying to protect her. The other gave his life for the mere memory of her.
Was Snape’s love for Lily Potter borderline obsessive? Yes, it was. Is there any great tragic love story where the love didn’t go on to be borderline obsessive? No, there’s not.
Severus Snape’s devotion to Lily Potter cannot be questioned. I like to think, how Harry Potter’s most brilliant power was love. It was love that stopped Voldemort from taking over his mind at the ministry in The Order of Phoenix. Voldemort for all his prodigious might and magical pedigree couldn’t seem to take over something that was so full of love. And how is Severus Snape’s story any different? He comes across Voldemort, the most accomplished Legilimens of his time, and he lies to him while looking into his eyes. Was it simply because, Severus Snape had extraordinary control over his feelings? Or was it because, like Harry Potter, Severus Snape’s power against Voldemort was love. Love he bore for Lily Evans Potter. Love that drove him to risk his life, over and over, simply to protect a child, who also happened to be the son of his worst enemy. “He has her eyes, Severus,” was the argument that worked so easily on a man, who was so engrossed in dark arts that he had lost his moral compass to the point that, he begged Voldemort to kill James and Harry Potter but, leave Lily Evans alive.
Was Snape incapable of feeling for anyone that wasn’t Lily Potter? Did he not cry gripping her letter in the noble House of Black when he had cut George Weasley’s ear off. How did the Severus Snape that didn’t care for anyone suddenly felt haunted by the thought that he had maimed a child that had no connection to Lily Potter. How did the very same Severus Snape hated every fiber of Dumbledore for choosing him to end Dumbledore’s misery? The task of killing Dumbledore was too difficult for him. Snape was a death eater, he had done horrible things, and this wasn’t even murder, simply a staged assisted suicide. Yet, the same Severus Snape asks, “What about my soul, Dumbledore?”
What, indeed. What about his soul? What had changed? Was it that when Lily Potter’s goodness was not enough to deter Severus Snape from the path leading to Dark Arts, was it that her love, her sacrifice and the goodness of Harry Potter, the very embodiment of the acceptance, love and loyalty that Lily Potter was; was it his love for Harry Potter, a love he would deny even to himself seeing as how much Harry reminded him of James Potter. Was it his love for Harry Potter that so changed Severus Snape?
Was this why Severus Snape in his time as headmaster tried hard to save people like Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood from the wrath of the Carrions. Made an unbreakable vow to protect Draco Malfoy when he could have easily refused.
Severus Snape didn’t have a heart of stone. He had a heart of flesh, only visible to people who tried to get past the exterior of stone. It’s tragic only one person really tried, and God was cruel to take her so young, yet her sacrifice meant life and hope for so many others.
They say love can do peculiar things to people. What I know for sure, is that Severus Snape wasn’t a perfect man, God knows there is no such thing. What he was for me at least, the perfect personification of love and embodiment of how love changes us for the best.
In the end I would say, it’s indeed our choices who make us who we are. Severus Snape choose to die a hero.