An ode to Severus Snape

21:22, Oct 31 2013

The day after All Hallows, when kids are waking up with high fructose corn syrup hangovers from cheap candy and parents are waking up with lack-of-sleep hangovers from squeezing themselves and their offspring into cheap polyester costumes that are but poor imitations of the real thing.

It would be the perfect time to talk about my favourite spooky stories. Or literary villains. But I've written about them before in previous posts, and shall say no more till there is fresh ground to cover.

I have decided to dedicate today and this post instead, to one of the best characters of all time - Severus Snape. The Harry Potter series began when I was but a wee, wide-eyed high schooler in Doc Martens and perfectly ironed uniform, with quiet rebellion in my heart. 

I started out, like many others, intensely disliking Snape. Who was this snarled-browed, dark-eyed, bitter wizard who had such a deep capacity for cruelty and a seemingly bottomless well of hatred for Potter?

But then slowly, a kind of grudging respect for his mulishness crept in. If Snape had seemed somewhat like a caricature at the beginning, J.K Rowling very quickly turned this around and he developed into a unique and intensely individualistic character.

Even before I understood his motives for doing things, before finding out in the final book the tragic tale of Snape and Lily...even when he was being painted as the villain extraordinaire who killed Dumbledore in cold blood, casting his shadow over Hogwarts forever...there was something about Snape.


There are many awesome quotes from him scattered throughout the books, where he manages to tread that fine line between sarcasm and pure meanness with the lightness of a tightrope walker. Take, for instance, this classic Snape-ism:

"I would expect nothing more sophisticated from you, Ronald Weasley, the boy so solid he cannot Apparate half an inch across the room."

Or this:

"Yes, it is easy to see that nearly six years of magical education has not been wasted on you, Potter. Ghosts are transparent."

Of course, the real crunch came in the final book, the Deathly Hallows, when loyal Snape fans or slow converts (such as myself), discovered the real reason behind his bitter and long-standing war of wits with the hated Harry. Snape had been in love with his mother, Lily Potter, who ended their once-close friendship because of his inability to let go of the dark arts.

Rowling excels at writing the antihero. Exhibit A: Sirius Black. Yet Snape remains my favourite. The scene in Dumbledore's office in Deathly Hallows, when he produced the silver doe from his wand, once Lily's Patronus and now his? Reader, I wept.

I love Snape for many reasons, the main one being his crushing and bloody single-mindedness. How many people can be so devoted to a promise made, cling on to a cause with such ferocious tenacity, love one person so madly and truly for the entirety of his life?

I would argue that Snape embodies the qualities that Rowling aspires to, that we all aspire to in life - the ability to grapple with our demons and yet not let them take over and win. If there is any one thing that saddens me about Snape, it's that he wasn't able to forget Lily and move on...though I suppose that's the point of the story.

In a way, Rowling's brilliant twist at the end turns the entire series into Snape's books. It becomes in some ways, instead of a story about a boy wizard who saves the world, the story of a broken-hearted man who must make amends with his past and find forgiveness within himself for the heavy price his unspeakable actions exacted.

What are some of your favourite Snape moments?

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