Character Study of Severus Snape: A Tragic Hero

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Character Study of Severus Snape

Potterheads, please light up your wands for the great wizard that has passed protecting Harry since day 1… Professor Snape! 

If you were a good reader, you must’ve noticed until now that I have a soft spot for Professor Snape. And to tell you a secret, he was my favourite even before I knew his motivations!

The series might be about The Boy Who Lived, but you must keep an eye on that hook-nosed, greasy-haired, and ill-tempered professor! What makes us fans love him? With all the cruel things he had done throughout the series? His accomplishments? Not at all. But his character. He has made something out of himself, he has made himself a hero. We learn that there is stuff only he could do, and throughout the books or the movies, we wait for him, with our hearts in our mouths, to save the day, because he always did. 

Look At Me…

Severus Snape is a mystery for the reader or the watcher to dissolve. A myth no one understands, a double agent that has deceived us all. His truths are tightly hidden until his last dying breath when he whispers: “look at me.”  It was Snape from the beginning, the guardian who saved Harry, the one who loved him the most, and showed it the least.

Snape’s personal dislike of Harry is the most notable trait in him over the seven years.  His eyes are “cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.” (HP/SS, 136) But the challenge is to think about whether there is something at the end of those tunnels? However, Harry doesn’t learn that until later on. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, he’s sure that Snape hates him. 

In a confrontation that has happened between Harry and Snape in the Sorcerer’s Stone, Snape whispers to Harry: “You don’t want me as your enemy.” That’s true, in between the sea of ambiguity, this sentence stands very clear. NO ONE would want Snape as his enemy with all the terror around him. 

However, Snape saved Harry when he played as a referee in Quidditch. He was actually very mad at Dumbledore for putting Harry in such a situation. Harry didn’t believe it. HE HATED HIM FOR ALL HE KNOWS! But what are Snape’s motives? Why didn’t he want Harry dead even after we learned that “He was at Hogwarts with your father, didn’t you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you dead.” (HP/SS, 290) 

In the chamber of secrets, Professor Snape is yet again deprived of the Defense against the Dark Arts position in favour of the monstrously incompetent narcissist named Gilderoy Lockhart. This made him more hostile, not knowing why on earth would Dumbledore do such a thing. However Dumbledore’s intentions go much deeper, he wanted to show the true potential of Lockhart while Snape served as the true Defense Professor. 

In The Prisoner of Azkaban, we learn all about the injustice that has happened with Snape when he was a teenager. The Marauders(which I talked about before) has bullied Snape, turning into a near murderer. Sirius lured Snape into Lupin’s pathway, who then was a werewolf, and he would’ve been killed if Lupin didn’t risk his own life. We learn that Snape was actually traumatized by this incident. 

Throughout the book, Ron tells Hermione to look at Snape as he was looking at Lupin. Do you want to know how the story goes? Look at snape. He was trying to save his students from what he has suffered before, but how could he show it? How could he tell of his suffering and bullying? Lupin was the new Defense teacher, and Snape looked like he was jealous of him. Snape once again was prejudiced, not allowed to do the right thing, and the werewolf was once again about to destroy Hogwarts. Snape was right and no one listened to him. Not even Dumbeldore who was the ONE to bring Lupin to Hogwarts and made Snape participate in protecting him. 

What were Severus Snape's real motivations?

What were Severus Snape’s real motivations?

As the series continues, Snape’s real motivations start to appear, but were you aware of them? In The Goblet of Fire, the trio starts to question Snape’s intentions, he hates Harry but he saved him multiple times. And on many occasions, he did well. We discover his past as he has worked for Voldemort. And just like Harry, do we trust him? For all we know, he was a Death Eater!  However, Harry sneaks off into Dumbledore’s office and looks at his Pensieve, seeing that Snape was a double agent! And now, his double agency is about to reemerge. He goes to Voldemort, he tells him what he wants to hear, and Voldemort discovers that there is stuff that only Snape could do. 

In The Order Of Phoenix, Snape’s real missions begin. It’s the grimmest book and movie in the series. I mean, we’re introduced to Umbridge! What makes me love Snape, even more, is his loathing for her. Snape and Harry are forced together, as Snape starts to privately teach him how to lose Voldemort from his mind. He learns that he was to be sorted as a Slytherin.  But then, Voldemort learns about those lessons, and Snape is left to deal with the tough situation. What should he do? How might he teach Harry how to defend himself while also not sabotaging his loyalty to Voldemort?  Voldemort is manipulating the scar, and Snape has to do something. So he stopped the lessons, without telling Harry why. 

But then Harry thought that Sirius was trapped by Voldemort, and who saved him? Sirius. And he got killed. Who looked like he was the reason? Snape. But then, Dumbledore explained everything. Harry has told Snape through a cryptic message of his beliefs about Sirius, and he understood. So, he communicated with Sirius, his childhood enemy, in favour of saving Harry. He learned that Sirius was okay, but then Sirius went off to the ministry to save Harry, getting himself killed. But we learn that Snape’s intentions were, as always, good. And that when he stopped the lessons, he stopped them for Harry’s sake, but we only discover later on. 

As we become nearer to the ending, we learn in the Half-blood Prince about the complete past of Snape. Snape is finally a Defense master, and Dumbledore is teaching Harry how to hunt down Horcruxes(also spoke about it). Let’s speak about how Snape never wanted to commit evil, but he did kill Dumbledore. Here is the climax, the conflict. Now, he has to appear as a true servant of Voldemort, to accomplish his true mission as an agent to Dumbledore. Complicated right? No, easy. Kill Dumbledore instead of Draco as it was assigned by Voldemort. 


And on to the deathly hallows. Voldemort believed that killing Snape would make him invincible, and Snape knew that. So he wanted to deliver his last message to Harry. The missing piece to his story. Lily. In the first part, where Snape dies protecting Harry from Voldemort, look at me, serves as the whole story. Look at me, do you see it? Look at me, I’m sorry. Look at me, I never hated you. Look at me, you have your mother’s eyes. 

Then Snape gives Harry two memories, and Harry runs off to the Pensieve to see them. Harry, see how magical your mother was. See how much I loved her. Then he sees how Snape threw himself on Dumbledore to protect Lily from dying, “in return of what?”, “Anything!” but then Lily is dead, and Dumbledore says “If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear. . . You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily’s son.” (HP/DH, 678-9)

And then… Dumbledore comes to death. He asks Snape to kill him. He knew that Voldemort wanted him dead, so he asked Snape to do it, to spare him humiliation. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

And to end this article here’s a passage:

He stood up. “You have used me.”


“I have spied for you and lied for you, putting myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter—” (HP/DH, 687)

“But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”

“For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto Patronum!”

From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. (HP/DH, 687)

Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.

“After all this time?”

“Always,” said Snape. (HP/DH, 687)

Snape was a hero, driven by the force of love, and we will always and forever, keep him in our hearts…

Work cited: Snape: A Definitive Reading – Lorrie Kim