Why You Should Respect Severus Snape
Why You Should Respect Severus Snape
Have you ever done something terrible? Not like cutting someone in line, but truly-hurt-someone terrible? If you answered this question ‘no’ then you are either a saint or in need of some serious self reflection.
Severus Snape did terrible things. Worse than most of us will, hopefully, ever do in our lives. This blog post isn’t going to defend those or make light of them. They were serious sins. But rather, I want to highlight the good. For at what point of suffering have you properly atoned for your crimes? Do you need to suffer forever? Or is there an end date? I believe the latter and that Severus Snape more than paid for his.
Every decision we make as a teenager has a huge impact on our life. Severus was poor. Not middle class poor like the Weasley’s, but truly poor. He was also half muggle. While he owns this at a later date by describing himself as the “half blood prince”, you can imagine how hard these two circumstances he had no control over affected him at school. Especially since he was in Slytherin house when some of the worst wizards were. Most of them went on to become Death Eaters for crying out loud. How lonely he must have felt and how hard he must’ve worked to gain acceptance in his own house. Sure, he had Lily Evans. But she wasn’t in all his classes and certainly wasn’t hanging around the Slytherin common room with him.
Now some of you will come at me with cries, “but Rachael he was already bad — he was mean to Petunia and hesitated at Lily’s question about if being muggle born mattered.” This is true. But he was also eleven and had not been in contact with much of the wizarding world himself. Remember his dad hated that his mum was a witch? Despite only having his mother’s prejudices to go off of, he quickly shows his ability to learn when he meets Lily Evans. He hesitated when asked about being muggle born because he knew it mattered in the broader world. Yet, his answer was no. Because in the very short time he had known Lily, she had changed his mind. He showed his capacity for growth in the summer before his first year at Hogwarts. Unfortunately for him, however, he was sorted in Slytherin where he was isolated and surrounded by terrible influences. This is not a shade at Slytherins. My favorite person is one. It is merely an observation of the reality of Slytherin house at the time Lord Voldermort was rising to power.
So yes, while he was at Hogwarts, he ended up in the wrong crowd. Befriending outside houses certainly wasn’t an easy option with James Potter et al bullying him mercilessly. This led to him saying horrible things and joining the Death Eaters right out of school. But again, he was just a kid. A kid who made a bad choice and ended up in an organization he couldn’t escape. Like Regulus Black, I’d imagine he quickly realized this was far darker than he had anticipated. It is important to note how charming Tom Riddle was the first time he rose to power. He got alot of witches and wizards on his side and I would imagine, like any evil leader, he lied and manipulated people. Rarely was he showing his true, fully evil colors. We must all remember he wasn’t yet the noseless, snakelike creature we know in the Second War. So Severus is in a gang he can’t escape, even if knowing the full evil of the Dark Lord he wanted to. Critics often get upset that it took Lily’s life being threatened for him to turn traitor, but I ask you this — what would it take for you to be able to look death and possibly torture in the eye? Most of us couldn’t do it. As much as we’d like to pretend we could. So, yes, it took love being threatened for Severus to risk everything. I seriously question why any of us judge this. Not only did he beg the Dark Lord to spare Lily, which I would imagine Voldermort exacted a very high price for, but he turned to Dumbledore. He would give, “anything” to save her — including risk his and possibly his mother’s life. We don’t know where she was, but I think this is a safe assumption.
Some are willing to forgive his Death Eater years, but find issue with Severus’s school room cruelty. It was malicious, to be sure. Letting Hermionie’s teeth grow out of control when cursed, verbally abusing them, and forcing Neville to poison his toad all come to mind. I am not defending any of these actions. They were terrible. Horrendous acts perpetrated by a man deep within his own taruma, but horrendous nonetheless.
But he also did more good than any of us will ever do. Have you looked the most powerful person, who could read minds, in the eye and lied to them repeatedly to play double agent? Have you risked your life every time you return? Been asked to kill your only surviving friend and confidant (Dumbledore) for the greater good? Shunned any real companionship or healing by not telling anyone this truth? Nope? Cool. Me neither. His actions to the students were awful, but once weighed against the good he did, they are insignificant. They are not enough to keep him from heaven. (I say this not to be religious but because in the Potter world, at least, afterlife is real). Furthermore, I think there are many questions as to how evil he needed to be in everyday actions to pull off his role. Whether literally or because of how he protected truths from Voldermort while seeming to open his mind to the intrusion.
I admit this is an emotional topic for me. In a fandom that embraces Draco as a dark hero, but not Snape I see a lot of contradictions. This is common in real life. Some of us have to pay infinitely more for our sins than others. Society is set up that way and it is desperately unfair.
I’m not saying you should love Snape. But I am saying if you really hate him take a good long look in the mirror and ask how long and seriously you should have to pay for your sins. I’m asking you to give him grace.
Harry is amazing at giving grace. He forgave Dumbledore, which the fandom is also incredibly hostile about, and he forgave Snape. Try to be more like Harry — the Boy Who Loved.