Posted in Character SketchesHarry Potter

Severus Snape is a significant character in the Harry Potter series written by JK Rowling. An exceptionally skilled wizard, his sarcastic, controlled exterior hid deep emotions and anguish. He was a part of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry faculty, where he taught Defence Against the Dark Arts to the students. In the series, he is pretty hostile to Harry due to his father, James Potter. This is mainly because James bullied Snape during their school years, much before Harry arrived on the scene. Also, Snape believed that Harry was why Lily Potter died, which fueled his hostility and hatred.

As the series progresses, the character of Snape becomes multi-layered. A central mystery in the entire series was about Snape’s true loyalties. Lord Voldemort kills Snape in the last book of the series. It is at this time that his back story is revealed. Although he was interested in the Dark Arts and supported Voldemort’s supremacy ideology for pure-blood wizards, his devotion and love for Lily Evans, a Muggle-born witch, compelled him to betray Voldemort. In other words, Snape was a successful agent for Albus Dumbledore, despite being a Death Eater himself.

Motives, Actions & Values

Severus Snape is one of the most significant conundra in the Harry Potter universe. Sarcastic, rude and mean to his most vulnerable students, yet respected by his colleagues, Snape was also one of the most trustworthy confidantes of Dumbledore. In addition, Snape was also a member of the Order of the Phoenix while being a Death Eater. He was instrumental in warning Dumbledore about Voldemort’s attack on the Potters. Although he was not successful in saving Lily Potter, her death was pivotal in why he remained a double spy till the end of his life.


To understand Snape’s motives, we have to go back to his childhood. Born on 9 January 1960, Snape was born to Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape. His mother was a witch, while his father was a Muggle {non-magic folk}. Snape did not enjoy a happy childhood. Snape’s father disapproved of magic, which is Snape hated Muggles. Additionally, Snape’s father physically and verbally abused his mother, which added to Snape’s dislike for the Muggle population and his bitter attitude. Snape projected his hatred of his father on all Muggles and Muggle-borns, with Lily being the only exception.

These childhood experiences played a vital role in framing Snape’s character and are most probably the origin of his dislike for the Muggle population and his bitter and cruel attitude in his later life {most notably at Hogwarts}. Snape’s childhood was dominated by poverty and lovelessness, which is why like Harry and Voldemort, he considered Hogwarts as his true home.

Unrequited Love – Snape & Lily

Lily Evans {later Lily Potter} played another important role in the life of Severus Snape. She was a neighbour of Snape. They both met when they were children, at the age of nine. Watching Lily perform unknown magic for a while, Snape finally introduced himself to her. Snape liked Lily right from the very start, but she only regarded him as a friend. He also met Petunia {Lily’s sister} who he disliked mainly because of her nasty attitude towards him and because she was a Muggle. Later, when both Snape and Lily went to Hogwarts, he remained infatuated with her, even when she did not reciprocate his feelings.

It’s almost like Snape created a kind of butterfly effect across the entire series. It was Snape who overheard the prophecy that eventually changed the lives of Harry Potter and Voldemort forever. The prediction was a catalyst for everything; it led to the death of Lily, his one true love, and Snape spent the entire course of Harry’s (and his own) life trying to rectify his mistakes. Snape could be seen as the greatest instigator of the story’s events if you think about it.

Character Growth

There is no doubt that Severus Snape is a great character, and it does hurt to know that he lived a very isolated and lonely life. That is why it is easy to understand why he garners such a lot of love and empathy from the Harry Potter fandom. He is tortured, and that is why readers have such a serious emotional investment in his life. All of us have faced bullies at some point or the other, and that is why we have sympathy towards Snape. More importantly, his story of unrequited abandoned love. His Patronus was a doe! And it hits home because we have all been there – all of us know what it feels like to care for someone who does not give us the attention we want from them.

Add to that, he was an incredible double agent between Voldemort and Dumbledore, toying a line that no one in the book could have done. However, there are people in the fandom who believe that Snape is some sad, tormented martyr. However, that is far from the truth because Snape made his choices and dealt with the consequences of his actions.

Overall, Severus Snape did not have much character growth because he remains quite stoic and hostile till the end. The only difference is that we were able to understand his motives and reasons. And we have to realise that Severus Snape was not justified for his actions, especially as a teacher. The point is that Snape is not a hero and should not be called one. He was burdened by real demons and made the wrong choices. All this led him to pay for those mistakes with things that were dear to him. Severus Snape does not require pity because he is not meant to be pitied – the fact that he owned his mistakes and made efforts to rectify them is what makes him exceptional. And that is far more interesting than being a martyr any day.

Impact on The Series

Both critics and readers have widely acclaimed snape’s character. Rowling described him as a gift of a character whose story was very clear from the very beginning. Elizabeth Hand of The Washington Post explained that Snape’s life “is the most heartbreaking, surprising and satisfying of all of Rowling’s achievements. 

IGN listed Snape as their 4th top Harry Potter character, saying that he makes “quite an impact in the Harry Potter series”, and IGN’s Joe Utichi called Snape his favourite Harry Potter character and praised his character development. 


The most important lesson that Severus Snape teaches us is that there are no good men and bad men. We are born with our own quirks and complexities painted in thousands of different shades. Whether we decide to look at Snape as good or bad, there are always two sides to a story. But as Dumbledore often likes to say: ‘It is our choices that show who we truly are.’ In the end, Snape made some terrible choices. That is why he spends most of his life repairing the one genuinely terrible choice that eventually defined all the characters in the book. 

Note: A word of appreciation for Alan Rickman, who played the role of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. There could not have been a better Snape ever. You were born to play that role.

Favourite Quotes Of Snape

Hang on…Harry muttered to Ron. There’s an empty chair at the staff table. Where’s Snape?
Maybe he’s ill! said Ron hopefully.
Maybe he’s left, said Harry, because he missed out on the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again!
Or he might have been sacked! said Ron enthusiastically. I mean, everyone hates him —
Or maybe, said a very cold voice right behind them, he’s waiting to hear why you two didn’t arrive on the school train.
-Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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.

J.K. Rowling • Author/Harry Potter series

Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there were revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
Severus please
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. Avada Kedavra!
– Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Lookatme…he whispered. The green eyes found the black, but after a second, something in the depths of the dark pair seemed to vanish, leaving them fixed, blank, and empty. The hand holding Harry thudded to the floor, and Snape moved no more.
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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