The Prince's Dungeons

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"Severus Snape 101"
princessofsnark
There still seem to be, and probably always will be, those die-hard types who think someone has to be the tall, good-looking guy in the white hat who rides up on a white horse, smiles his "aw shucks" smile, and saves the day. They think the hero has to be some kind of saint. They think he has to be someone you want to invite to dinner or to sit around a cozy fire and chat with. They think he's suppose to be flawless. They think he (or she) has to meet their criteria before having the title "Hero" emblazoned upon their chests.

Well, real life tells us different. Real life tells us that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and personalities and are not cookie-cut out of some romance novel image.

So, for those dunderheads who haven't "gotten it" yet, here is The Princess's version of "Severus Snape 101 - or How to Know a Real Hero When You See One."

*Snape was not suppose to be warm and fuzzy and likeable, so it doesn't matter whether you personally like the character or not. He is what he is, but that does not take away from his courage, determination, loyalty or devotion to what he had to do. That does not take away from what he accomplished. And, it certainly does not take away from the fact that he put his life on the line every moment that he spent as a double-agent.

*Snape was not suppose to be perfect -- that was part of his appeal, that he made mistakes, like the rest of us human beings, but went on to try to make amends.

Don't look for a saint here, because you're not going to find one. You're going to find a flawed human being who screwed up royally during his youth (now, how many famous and heroic people can one find throughout history who screwed up royally during their teens or early 20's??? I'm sure there are quite a few more who did than those who didn't.)

But, he saw the error of his youth, in somewhat the same way that Dumbledore saw his...through the endangerment/loss of someone he deeply loved. That puts him in some pretty good company right there, it seems to me.

*Snape's main focus was not to be a good teacher, although, from what we see, he was respected by his colleagues and must have done a fairly decent job since most of his students went on to pass their OWLS and NEWTS in Potions.

He was no more a bully than McGonagall, he just lacked her finesse. And, he was no less fair, that we can see in canon. He gave detentions to his own House (starting in SS/PS, as Draco could not have served the detention given by McGonagall for breaking curfew without his Head of House agreeing to it. We see support for this statement in CoS when Snape wants to expel Harry and Ron for flaunting several wizarding rules and arriving in a flying car. Dumbledore informs him that their punishment is up to the Head of their House, Professor McGonagall and not Snape's decision to make).

*Snape did not set out on his mission for Dumbledore to "redeem" himself, but to atone for being what he'd allowed himself to become, and for having even a part in Lily;s death -- the "redemption" happened because he was truly sorry for his past.

Severus Snape never forgave himself for carrying the Prophecy to Voldemort and setting that whole series of events in motion. Even though he did everything he could to protect Lily -- and her family;  even though it was one of James Potter's good buddies and fellow Marauders, Peter Pettigrew, who finally brought about their deaths by breaking his vow as Secret Keeper and disclosing their location to Voldemort, Severus Snape always seemed to keep a sense of guilt for even having been a part of Lily's dying.

But we know he also changed his view on the value of all human life, not just Lily's, when he is "horrified" as Dumbledore explains that Harry must die. When Dumbledore tells him not to be shocked and then asks him how many men and women he had watched die, Snape replies, "Lately, only those whom I could not save."

*Snape was not supposed to go "have a life" between Voldy Wars. I would love to see an interview with a true "mole,' a spy so deeply entrenched that neither side, other than the few who really know their mission, (like Dumbledore) trusts them completely. Then we might get a sense of what Severus Snape's life was like during the lull between Voldemort's temporary vaporization and his return to full power.

Dumbledore knew the Prophecy and he knew Voldemort would return. If he knew, Snape knew. While we aren't told exactly what he did for those years before Harry arrived at Hogwarts, I would think he spent them working with Dumbledore to hone the skills he would need to resume his role as double agent.

In particularly I would think he'd be working on his Occlumency skills, his dueling skills, and his contacts with the likes of Lucius Malfoy and other former Death Eaters. He had to maintain the "loyal but not quite sure when Voldy was coming back" attitude that people like Lucius had so as not to arouse suspicions, and so he would be able to go to Voldemort, as he did in the graveyard the night of the Dark Lord's rejuvenation, and have a feasible cover story to tell.

*Snape was suppose to protect Harry, not be his pal. Harry's protection  was his primary objective -- this is what he'd promised to do, and that is what he did. And, he carried out his promise up to the moment of his death. Then, so that Harry could complete the plan that Dumbledore had set out, Snape gave him the information he needed, as he was dying, in the form of his memories.

*Snape gave Harry a gift through his memories. But, he also gave Harry more. He gave him a view of his mother, as a young girl and teenager, that Harry would have never seen otherwise. He also showed him the reasons that he had done many of the things that Harry detested him so much for.

When he said "Look...at...me..." and gave Harry 20 specific memories, only a few of which pertained to information Harry needed, I feel he was asking Harry to look at him, Severus Snape; who he was, what he'd done, and how he'd tried to make up for it. I think he was asking for Harry's understanding, and maybe even his forgiveness.

I know there are those who don't think that Snape ever cared for Harry. I don't think he did at first, not until he gave him the Occlumency lessons and saw how similar their backgrounds were and that Harry had not come from some plush, pampered existance like James, and with an ego big enough to fill the Black Lake. Snape saw the "real" Harry then, and, if Harry hadn't infuriated him by invading his privacy and looking into the Pensieve, I think there might have been a less confrontational attitude. But, once that was done Snape had no choice but to keep Harry at arm's length because of the mental connection to Voldemort and the possibility of Voldy perceiving too much through Harry's thoughts.

But, when Harry nearly killed Draco using Sectum Sempra, a spell from Snape's old Potions book, he didn't take him to Dumbledore, he didn't try to have him expelled for nearly killing another student, he gave him detention, in his company, every Saturday until end of term. While this may sound like a terrible thing,  I think to Snape it meant as long as Harry was with him he wasn't in danger. And, that made his job just a bit easier. There were many things he could have done that were much worse.

Many point to the times that Snape tries to spoil Harry's fun by trying to get him off the Quidditch team. Quidditch is a dangerous game, at best. And, if you happen to have a Dark Wizard and/or his henchman after you, that can make it even more so. We see this with Quirrell and with Dobby (even though Dobby was trying to help, he still did several things that put Harry in danger).

Yes, Snape tried to get Harry expelled, how awful. But, both McGonagall and Dumbledore also tell Harry, at certain times, that his continued behavior might lead to him being expelled. Also, as Snape was a "friend" of the Malfoys, if Dobby knew in CoS that something dangerous was going to happen, Snape probably knew it too. Maybe not to the same extent, as I'm sure the Malfoy's ignored Dobby's presence and spoke freely in front of him. But, I can imagine that Lucius, ever the braggart, didn't let something slip when talking to Snape.

But, Snape also knew that Harry was safe at his aunt's home, which had a protection provided through his mother's sacrifice of her life. To Snape, it might have seemed the safest place at the time, since Harry seemed bent on breaking rules and pursuing adventures, might have been there.

*Snape saw James in Harry and reacted to that. He probably couldn't help it. The physical appearance, except fot "Lily's eyes," seemed to be most striking. Everyone noticed it and mentioned it.

With an uncomfortable history of being bullied..."tormented," to use Harry's own word...by James and the Marauders, seeing 11-year-old "James" sitting in front of him again had to cause all kinds of flashbacks and emotional turmoil for Snape. That he couldn't let go of his school time traumas might be considered a flaw. But, even Albus Dumbledore says that some scars run too deep to heal.

And, there was also Harry's penchant, like his father, for disregarding rules and thinking they only applied to others who were not on whatever "mission" he was on at the time. So, small wonder that Snape saw so much of James in Harry.

So there you have it, dunderheads. "Snape 101."

And, if you still can't wrap your small, closed little minds around it, just remember this: in the end, Harry Potter named his second son after two Hogwarts' headmasters, one of them a Slytherin, and, probably the bravest man he ever knew. So that kind of says it all, doesn't it?

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Excellent! I will link this on my LJ so they can comment here! ;)

Excellent character analysis. It's a shame it can't be posted on A Certain Forum, because of course it would be ripped to (completely illogical) shreds.

Very interesting - thanks for writing this up. Some very good points. :)

Just a couple of other points I'd like to make if I may:

1) We actually don't see Snape ever try to get Harry expelled in a situation in which he had a real chance of *success.* In CoS he had to have known that Dumbledore would never have allowed it. (Also, given that the blood wards did nothing against anyone but Voldie himself, Harry was actually safer at Hogwarts.) In PoA, on the other hand, when he has a chance to go over Dumbledore's head to the Minister himself, right after the Trio have *attacked* him in the Shack, he instantly defends them by claiming they are not responsible for their actions. Imho, the threats of expelling Harry are just that: empty threats, part of him throwing up a smokescreen and also trying to scare the kids into behaving. Not necessarily nice, but I think it fits his role as protector better, and it fits his characterization in the books (using threats as a distraction from his actual behavior).

2) Not as big a point, but I think if you read the books carefully, the comparisons to James only come out at times Harry has done something particularly reminiscent of James' own behavior (though the reasons behind Harry's behavior, which Snape is not aware of, may differ from James' reason); it's not random.

3) I forget where I saw this, but's it been theorized that the detentions were also a way of spending *time* with Harry while he still could, without it setting off any alarms. (And honestly, detentions for nearly killing another student are not that terrible a punishment. Hagrid was expelled for less. Even Minerva tells him it's lenient.)

^^^^ THIS ^^^^
Those detentions... I was actually quite shocked when I read that. Did Severus suggest detention- it would seem so. Of course he did. McGonagall thought it should have been worse. Snape suggested detention.. what a "cruel" man.

I'm one of the people who has suggested that Snape wanted to keep Harry with him in detention. And sure enough in Prince's Tale, he and Dumbledore are nearly bickering over custody, which echoes the "custody" scene at Grimmauld Place between Snape and Sirius. As an ex-DE, Snape could probably never be Harry's legal guardian, plus Sirius was alive so it was impossible. But I think JKR hints at it several times.

By the time of Sectumsempra, Snape knows that Harry will have to die eventually. That makes it even sadder that they never talked while he was in detention. And with Snape about to kill Dumbledore and seem as if he was completely on the Dark Side, he had to keep his distance from Harry, but at least he could be with him if he was in detention - he could explain that to Voldemort. :(

But I do like Princess of Snark's idea about Quidditch being a dangerous place at that time also. Harry had his priorities wrong - all he thought about was Ginny and Quidditch. He wasn't really growing up that fast.

Snape knew his own world was going to be turned totally upside down very soon. And, he knew what Harry's fate was to be. Maybe he did want to spend time with Harry. It was such a cruel situation he was in, not to be able to have any real feelings for anyone. To have to isolate himself emotionally so that he didn't endanger himself or anyone else. How sad.


Yes, and it got a whole lot worse when he was headmaster, I imagine. By the end of the year Minerva literally wants to kill him, and it seems hinted at in earlier books that there is at least a friendly rivalry between them. Indeed, Snape is downright sentimental (for him) when he sees Minerva coming back from St Mungo's.

The other thing that really gets me when I consider DH is that Severus was apparently willing to die, not only while everyone still believed him a traitor, but with no proof he could leave behind to *posthumously* vindicate himself. Harry, so far as he knew, was supposed to die, and he couldn't assume he would stop off and tell people 'oh, by the way, Snape was on our side all along.' Dumbledore's portrait knew, but considering how Dumbles treats him, did he really expect that the portrait would go out of its way to vindicate him unless truly necessary? He had to have known there was a chance that he would be remembered only as a traitor and a murderer. That's some selfless dedication, there.

I'm in a Read-a-thon (which is on hold right now because everyone is so caught up in DH 2) and we're just into the first six chapters of CoS. Something that struck me: Right at the end of SS/PS Harry KNOWS that Snape saved his life at the Quidditch match. Dumbledore blathers something about James having saved Severus' life and seems to imply that is the reason for Snape's resentment toward Harry. (I've never quite understood this part -- unless it was Dumbledore helping to distance Harry from Snape early on, knowing Snape didn't want Harry to know the good about his as well as knowing there couldn't be ANY emotional bond between them since Snape would have enough to try to hide from Voldy when he had to return to him. Dumbledore always seemed certain that Voldy was coming back -- full force -- some day and worked his whole plan with that in mind. But, even with all that, Harry is still aware that Snape was doing a counter-curse and that's what kept him from being killed right then.)

My question (after all that rambling, which I hope you could unravel) is: Why, right off in his Second Year, does Harry still have such a hatred of Snape when he knows he owes him his life?

Now, I realize that Harry is only 12, but I would have thought just a bit of appreciation would have been in order.

When Harry and Ron arrive in the flying car and are outside peeking in at the Sorting Ceremony, they start making nasty comments right off about Snape's empty chair. Not once does Harry say anything in defense of the man who he KNOWS saved his butt less than a year ago. He just goes on laughing with Ron about how Snape might have been sacked. And, Snape hears all of their comments, such as "nobody likes him" and such, and their enthusiasm at the thought that he might not be there that year. Not a very good way to make points with a teacher at the beginning of a school year.

And, to this time, Snape has not done anything to Ron (only snarked at Harry, Hermione, and Neville), nor have the twins ever indicated that they feel he is nasty to them -- and, with their track record, I'd think they'd have been two of his favorite targets. Snape never makes any detrimental remarks about the twins or compares Ron to his brothers or anything negative toward them, which often happens with teachers who've had different members of a family come through their classes.

So, Ron's just hating Snape "second-hand" because of Harry's experiences with him -- and neither he nor Hermione have ever been told by Harry, even though he spills his guts to them about every little negative thing, that Snape saved his life and Hermione's setting his robes on fire might have had a negative effect if Quirrell-mort's concentration hadn't been broken along with Snape's. Not a positive word about Snape by Harry to them at all. Why? Was there really that bit of James, that Snape kept seeing flashes of, in Harry that made him feel he was entitled and that anything that interfered with his fun was the worst thing in the world?

NOTE: I'm so sorry they decided to change the scene with Snape sneaking up on Harry and Ron in the movie. I was picturing Rickman's face as he was listening to their comments and their looks, once they found out he was right behind them. It would have been a fantastic bit.

I've always thought those threats were more bluff than anything else. He knew Dumbledore was never going to expel Harry, no matter what he did. And, like you said, when he had a shot with Fudge, he defended the trio as having been "confunded." So much for "always wanting Harry expelled." He had his best chance when Harry sliced and diced Draco, but he only gave him detention, and with him. Oh, but the mental anguish that Harry had to endure reading about the escapades of his father and godfather. I don't know about Harry, but my kids would more than likely have been mentally cheering "Way to go, Dad."

You're right about his seeing James mostly when Harry was breaking rules. That's probably what Snape remembered most about James: breaking rules and getting away with it. I'm still wondering what occurred that kept the "werewolf incident" from getting them in some big-time trouble. Was it that Dumbledore hadn't told the Ministry he was allowing a werewolf to come to school and had Madam Pomphrey helping him keep it covered up? The only one who got punished in that one it seems was Snape (again) who had to promise not to tell and couldn't defend himself when Lily threw it in his face about being ungrateful after James saved his life. So James got to go around bragging how he saved Snape and Snape had to shut up.

I really do think Snape softened his view of Harry after he saw Harry's memories during the Occlumency lessons and saw that he wasn't the spoiled brat he'd assumed he was. But Harry never gave Snape any quarter. Right from the first, when his scar hurt as Snape looked at him, he disliked him. And, from then on he just seemed to go looking for more reasons to dislike him.

I can definitely see Dumbledore saying, "You wouldn't want Madam Pomfrey to lose her job, would you?" And here's Snape, who is interested in potions, and probably sees Madam Pomfrey as a comforting mother-figure. So he's going to agree to that. Poor kid - he never could argue with Dumbledore!

Oh, but the mental anguish that Harry had to endure reading about the escapades of his father and godfather. I don't know about Harry, but my kids would more than likely have been mentally cheering "Way to go, Dad."

Haha, really. Interesting silence from JKR/the narrator on Harry's views there.... Although he seemed from what I recall to be more caught up in feeling sorry for himself for having to *gasp* have detention at all. (Also interesting is that there is no mention of him seeing cards involving Snape, either as attacker or victim. Is this an oversight, another radio silence, or did Severus remove those before he gave them to Harry?)

RE the Werewolf incident: We are never told, but the only explanation I have ever seen anyone come up with is basically that, yes, Dumbledore had kept his little experiment with educating a werewolf secret and did NOT want the Ministry to find out (especially given the crap security he provided). So he covered his own ass, bought off the Marauders by not punishing them (at least not in any way that would have had an impact) and silencing Snape. What makes it worse though is that afterward he didn't bother to improve the security arrangements, meaning there was nothing to prevent other students from getting down there.

I agree about his attitude towards Harry softening after the Occlumency lessons - we even see hints of it during them, I think. But yeah, at that point Harry is just too attached to his hatred of Snape to see that at all (and then of course at the end of the year there is the Tower, so all bets are off). After OotP I had been thinking/hoping that Harry might finally get a clue, now that he's seen the damage his distrust and unwillingness to do as he's told and stay out of things can do, and might actually manage to go to Snape and say (awkwardly of course) 'hey, I messed up.' But no. He can't acknowledge that he messed up to anyone, much less Snape; instead everything is once again Snape's fault. This is one of my biggest gripes with the series: it sells itself as a bildungsroman at first, but Harry never grows up.

I came here via link from rattlesnakeroot.
Wonderful post. Unfortunatly so many people are in denial about cannon. Personally, I like Snape so much because he is so flawed and his character in my humble opinion is all more intersting and complex because of this. Even Harry is a flawed hero.

Excellent post. I so enjoyed reading this. :)

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