Photo credit (above): Snape’s True Love | Flickr
“The mind is a complex and many-layered thing, Potter… or at least, most minds are…”
Severus Snape of the Harry Potter series has always been a character of dubious stance and till today, continues to be a hot topic for debate among readers. Nevertheless, whether he was firmly of the light or questionably in the dark, there is no doubt that his story holds many lessons and that they are buried in each of the layers that make up the mind blowing character that is Snape.
Here, we take a closer look at the Hogwarts potions master Snape.
1. Lily Evans
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.
It is undeniable that the main motivation of most of Severus Snape’s actions was his love for Lily Evans, Harry Potter’s mother. After all, she was the reason for his protection of Harry. Her death was also the main reason for Snape’s eventual involvement in the destruction of the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Lesson learnt: Doing things out of love, however small that love is, will always work for the greater good.
2. Half-Blood Prince
“You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? It was I who invented them – I, the Half-Blood Prince!”
Snape pays homage to his heritage by calling himself the ‘half-blood Prince’ in his copy of Advanced Potion Making. The name is something that burdens him as much as it brings comfort. It is both a reminder that he is in a distant way a pure-blood, by way of his mother’s line, as well as a self-recognition of his intelligence which is demonstrated throughout the spells written in the sides of the pages as well as the effective changes made to recipes, in the book.
Lesson learnt: Your past does not make your present, you have a say in who you become.
“No,” agreed Dumbledore. You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon…”
He walked away, leaving Snape looking stricken.
Slytherin was very instrumental in the formation of Snape’s character. It was in this house that he learnt the dark arts and ascended to greatness. He probably even had many friends there and eventually joined with them in the service of Voldemort. Strangely enough, as the Slytherin house teacher, he later demonstrates the quality of a Gryffindor: courage.
Lesson learnt: You don’t have to conform to your environment; you have the power to change it through your character.
4. Death Eater
The main lure of being a Death Eater was power over the general populace: non-pure-bloods in particular. It was probably because he didn’t want to lose that sense of belonging. Unfortunately, it took him down a dark path.
Lesson learnt: Whatever you do, the higher moral ground is always better.
“The — the prophecy … the prediction … Trelawney …”
“Ah, yes. How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?”
“Everything — everything I heard! That is why — it is for that reason — he thinks it means Lily Evans!”
One of Snape’s biggest turning points is his unintentional betrayal of Lily, Harry’s mother which resulted in him reporting back to Voldemort on the prophecy. Voldemort then sought to hunt and kill Lily and family. The crisis would have been completely averted if not for Pettigrew who betrayed the location of Lily and family. Snape never really recovered from the guilt of being the initial cause.
Lesson learnt: Ambition, when taken one step too far can be the cause of downfall, including your own.
“My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?’’
Motivated by a combination of love for Lily and guilt over being the initial traitor, Snape began seeking retribution from the day she died. He renounced allegiance to Voldemort and began assisting Dumbledore in his dual quest of protecting Harry and destroying the Dark Lord. He was a double-agent before Harry was born and died as the final cog in a complicated plan to destroy Voldemort. All the while, only Dumbledore knew.
Lesson learnt: It doesn’t matter if you don’t get recognised now, recognition will come eventually; it always does.
7. Potions Master
“I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…”
Snape always wanted to be the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, but was never allowed to leave the role of Potions master till Harry’s 6th year. I think it was a direct reflection of his character. Snape, no matter how much he wanted to fight openly against the Dark Arts could not do so due to his role as a double agent. However, he was the more subtle panacea and poison for the situation and that was very much reflected in his role as potions master.
Lesson learnt: Sometimes, being on the frontline doesn’t really help the situation at all; it’s okay to be a follower, just be an awesome one.
8. James Potter
James Potter, even in death, was an enormous influence on Snape. In life, James was his main motivation to become powerful. In death, James had left a legacy: his son, Harry. James was the ultimate root of conflict within Snape’s character: every time he had to protect Harry, it felt like protecting his former bully. It says a lot about Snape’s character because Harry never came to any harm at his hands. It also says a lot about the weakness of Snape’s character which allowed Harry and friends to suffer a lot.
Lesson learnt: Don’t let the past distract you, it might be in the way of your own development.
9. Dumbledore’s Man
Draco to Dumbledore: “He’s a double-agent, you stupid old man, he isn’t working for you, you just think he is!”
“We must agree to differ on that, Draco. It so happens that I trust Professor Snape.”
It was Dumbledore that Snape ran to when he accidentally betrayed Lily. It was Dumbledore who gave him that much needed second chance and Snape proved himself all the way: Dumbledore knew Snape best and trusted him most, even with his own death. Because of that chance, Snape grew to be a better man.
Lesson learnt: Don’t be afraid to give someone a second chance, you never know when it might be their turning point.
“DON’T – ” screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them “CALL ME COWARD!”
To the very end, Snape was just that: Courageous. He had the courage to stand between two of the most powerful wizards of his time as a double agent and to choose love, even a long-gone love, over bitterness.
Lesson learnt: Courage is doing the right thing even though it’s hard. Do it.