Because Snape wasn’t in love with Lily. He was obsessed, and that’s a really big difference from being in love with a person.
But anyway, this is a character analysis (aka meta post) about Severus Snape, because I felt like you guys (that’s the readers, obviously) needed a break from the complete radio silence and recently-blogged sexuality angstpost. Also, I told my English teacher that I was going to write a post and actually put it online this week. (Hi, Mrs. N!)
So, getting back to the point: Severus Snape.
I’ve got a little thing to confess: I love Severus Snape. I love his snark, I love his sarcasm, and I think he’s a pretty terrifyingly badass character.
I also think he’s an abusive, petty, neglectful bastard who can’t teach for shit. (Yes, I can recognize flaws in my favorite characters)
1. Severus Snape was a bad teacher.
There is no doubt about it: Severus Snape was a bad Potions professor and an even worse Headmaster. I’ve got some stuff to say about his position as Headmaster, but let’s talk about his Potions position first, shall we?
When Harry Potter walked into Hogwarts, Snape made it his mission to abuse, mistreat, neglect, and otherwise harm him. This is evidenced by Snape’s actions during Harry’s first Potions lesson, when he called on an unprepared, uneducated student who had only known about magic for a few months before his arrival at Hogwarts. Obviously, to fire questions at one’s students on the first day, when it is perfectly logical and reasonable to assume that at least a few of those same students have never brewed potions before, is a bad way to teach.
Snape went above and beyond this. He asked Harry, specifically, “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” Snape then continued to pepper Harry with questions, taking points off when Harry didn’t know them. Admittedly, I do see the point in wanting to know if your students had actually cracked open their schoolbooks during the summer, but Snape directed his questions only at Harry, and scorned Hermione when she tried to answer them. We see Snape from Harry’s biased point-of-view, so our perspectives of the Potions professor are somewhat tainted, but anyone who had observed that first scene would have realized that what Snape did was, at the very least, slightly unethical.
An addendum to this scene: Some fans have theorized that Snape meant something when he asked Harry about asphodel and wormwood. Apparently, in the Victorian language of flowers, asphodel is a type of lily meaning ‘my regrets follow you to the grave,’ and wormwood means ‘absence’ and symbolizes bitter sorrow. When you apply these meanings to the question Snape asks, its meaning changes to something along the lines of “Lily’s death is bitterly regretted.” Honestly, I think this is just J.K.’s mastery at work again, and isn’t supposed to be an intentional message from Snape to Harry. Besides, does Snape really expect Harry, an 11-year-old, to know the Victorian language of flowers? A pureblood first year might know the meaning of Snape’s question, but seeing as Malfoy was in Harry’s class and didn’t show any signs of having realized what Snape was allegedly trying to say, it’s pretty doubtful.
Snape continues to torment Harry throughout his years at Hogwarts, blaming him for others’ innocent mistakes–one notable incident occurred when Neville messed up his potion and Snape told Harry off for ‘not stopping Neville from doing the wrong thing.’ In his judgements, Snape is clearly biased against the houses Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff, but has a vendetta for the Golden Trio in particular. Several incidences of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle tossing things into Harry’s potion in the middle of class, and Snape rounding on Harry for messing up, have occurred throughout the series. Obviously, Snape chooses to let the Slytherins have free reign in his classroom, and tries to thoroughly and completely squash anyone else who tries to achieve greatness under his foot.
This is further demonstrated in GoF, when Snape happens upon the Trio and Malfoy’s troupe of Slytherins fighting in the hall. As far as I can remember (I don’t have a copy of the 4th book on hand right now), Malfoy (?) hexes Hermione with Densaugeo, making her two front teeth (which she happens to be very self-conscious about) grow incredibly large. I think she was described as looking like a beaver in the book. Anyway, Snape looks around. He sees the evidence of a fight, and his eyes land on Hermione, who, at this point in time, is almost sobbing. Or at least I think so. But anyway, he says, “I see no difference” in Hermione’s appearance, and this sends Hermione into tears, and she flees the scene.
Additionally, Snape berates and humiliates Hermione countless times throughout the series; when she tries to help Neville, he tells her to stop; when she tries to answer a question, he calls her a know-it-all; he refers to her as the ‘Gryffindor know-it-all’, part of the Trio.
Some people have claimed that Snape hates and insults Hermione so much because she reminds him of another really smart, skilled female Gryffindor Muggleborn: Lily Evans.
What do I think? I think this is a bunch of crap. Yes, there are many surface similarities between Hermione and Lily, but wouldn’t Snape have tried to treat Hermione nicely, if he was supposed to have regretted Lily’s death so much? I don’t know about you, readers, but if I were reminded of a dead love by this precocious little kid, I wouldn’t treat them like shit. But anyway, let’s go on to Neville.
Boy, have I got a lot to say about Neville and Snape.
From the very beginning of his 7 years at Hogwarts, Neville was constantly undermined, beaten down, and mentally and emotionally abused by Snape. Yes, abused. It is abuse if one of the people you can trust to take care of you insults your every attempt to learn, you know. Snape constantly talked down to Neville, told him he was nothing, and yelled at him every time he messed up, while making no attempt to correct Neville’s mistakes and teach him the correct methods of brewing.
Also, I want to talk a bit about a small moment in the 3rd book, PoA.
When Remus Lupin, the Defense teacher in 1993, brought in a real live Boggart for his third-years to face, Neville’s worst fear was Severus Snape. His worst fear wasn’t his parents lying dead on the floor, or Voldemort reborn, come to kill them all, or even a small phobia. It was his goddamn Potions professor. A teacher is someone you can trust, and at Hogwarts especially so. They do board there for 10 months out of the year, of course. But even if you can’t exactly trust your professor, you’d probably know them well enough that you wouldn’t really fear them. Except when you hadn’t done your homework.
But Neville? Neville was scared. He was scared of one of the only authority figures in his school life, because in his three years at Hogwarts, Snape had done nothing for Neville but insult him, laugh at his attempts at brewing, and completely undermine Neville’s enthusiasm and self-esteem. And to make things worse, Snape probably knew it. No, he definitely did. In canon, Snape treated Neville considerably worse after the Boggart lesson, because he had heard that Lupin had coached Neville to imagine Snape in Augusta Longbottom’s clothing. Like I said, abuse.
Snape really fucked up Neville’s education, in summary. And watching the frustration and hate grow in a young boy for a valuable subject and skill, to the point where he would shudder when talking about Potions or Snape, is just so sad. Because, as we saw in DH, Neville is a hero, in his own way. He helped kill Voldemort, stood up to the whole of the Death Eater army and the Dark Lord, and organized children into a veritable army. And this makes me wonder; if Snape had been a real, caring, good teacher, what would Neville have managed to accomplish in his Potions class? Would he potentially have gone on to invent the Wizarding World’s equivalent to a cancer cure? Maybe a better version of the Wolfsbane potion?
I have no idea. And that makes me sad. Because, if Neville, the boy ridiculed by pretty much everyone in his own house, was able to do such great things, how many other students has Snape’s negligence and shitty-as-hell teaching skills ruined?
Let’s sit back and summarize for a second, just to review what we’ve seen of Snape.
- He undermined and ruined many students’ potentials
- He neglected his teaching
- He outright abused many of his students
Keeping all that in mind, let’s proceed to the topic of:
2. Lily Potter
(damn, this is a long post. 1540 words written already, and I still haven’t reached the Marauders yet)
Snape and Lily’s friendship is a very…complicated thing. The two were friends from their pre-Hogwarts years to right after the 5th-year OWLS. Then, Snape did the unthinkable: he called Lily a Mudblood.
In the HP canon, as J.K. has structured it, to call someone a Mudblood is, in a pinch, really fucking terrible. I’d wager it’s worse than calling someone the n-word, especially since that word has been removed of most of its shock value with pop culture. White boys, y’know? They just never stop calling each other f****ts and n****rs. (“Woo, yeah, let’s go make light of minorities’ struggles by calling each other derogatory insults!” seems to be the mentality I’ve seen.)
So, keeping in mind the sheer horror and intensity of the word ‘Mudblood,’ let’s proceed.
Snape and Lily, at the point in time before the Incident, were great friends. Though Lily disapproved of Snape’s associates in Slytherin, and Snape, in turn, disapproved of James Potter’s constant flirting with Lily, they were still the closest things to best friends they would ever be, up until the Incident.
The Incident itself is a pretty horrifying thing. Imagine that you’ve had a friend for, oh, about 6-8 years now. You share several very important secrets (the magic thing, for one) and you’re pretty much always seen together, even though everyone in your school disapproves of your friendship. You think you’re probably going to stay friends forever, and you plan to stay that way. Then, your best friend in the world calls you the most demeaning, insulting thing ever known to man (or wizard, in this case). Obviously, you’re going to feel betrayed, destroyed, like your friendship is now worthless. You probably never want to talk to your former friend again. Thing is, he keeps trying to talk to you.
That was probably Lily Evans’ reaction to the Incident. It’s entirely reasonable that she would act aloof, cold, and even rude to her former best friend after these events, no? Then why is it that people insist that Snape should have married Lily, and that Lily should have, in the words of a certain Tumblr user, “just sucked it up and forgiven him”?
Honestly, Snape merely fancied himself in love with Lily. He wasn’t in love with Lily, he was in love with the idea of her. He stalked her to the point of obsession, obsession so severe that his Patronus mirrored hers exactly.
That’s not love. Having your Patronuses match doesn’t show love, it shows obsession. What James Potter had with Lily is a different matter. James’ Patronus was a stag. Lily’s, a doe. They were a pair, the two of them. Snape’s Patronus matched Lily’s, not because he loved her so much, but because he was obsessed.
Besides, if the real Lily Potter, not the construct Snape had built in his own mind, were alive, and if Snape were to tell her of his affections, I bet she would bitchslap him so hard there wouldn’t be anything left of him for James.
A man abuses your child for six years, plots to sacrifice the lives of your husband and child so that you can live, helped in the alienation of your elder sister, completely hated your husband and his friends, exposes your friend’s ‘furry little secret’ to the world, and then tells you he’s in love with you?
Because, of course it’s completely in character for Lily to say “OMG, I want a love story in which my best friend calls me a racial slur and then proceeds to join a terrorist group based on killing people of my heritage and then accidentally endangers me and tries to bargain the lives of my child and the man I love away in exchange for me like some creepy bartering system and in causing my death decides to protect my son out of guilt but really spends his entire childhood being an asshole to him – OH WAIT”
Basically, telling people you think Snape’s actions in the first six books and most of the last book are completely justified by his betrayal of Voldemort and ‘love’ for Lily is the cue for me to whip out my 2k+ metapost and slap you with it.
Also, telling people you “love them like Snape loved Lily” isn’t really a good thing.
And that’s the end of my hella long spiel on Snape. For now.
I mean, I really appreciate his snarkiness, but he doesn’t make for a character that symbolizes ‘good’ nearly as much as people think he does.
That said, I think Severus Snape is motherfucking fabulous.
And with that said, I think I’ll end the post here. This monster’s almost 2,400 words long, so…
Don’t worry, I’ll be back. I’m working on a Who fic I think some of you guys’ll like. A lot. So keep your eyes open, I guess, and check back at this blog for more soon!