If you think you are the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan I’m sorry to tell you that’s impossible, because nobody loves the wizarding world of Harry Potter more than its creator, J.K. Rowling. I mean that in the best way too. The esteemed author seems just as interested today in the magical universe she created as she ever has. I’m not even saying that in regards to the upcoming movie, the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or even the new play set to open next year, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling still thinks and cares about the characters of the Harry Potter world as much as we all do, or ever did, and she still finds ways to explore their stories and engage them.
This happens with updates on Pottermore, but her passion for her fans and her characters is never more present than when a spontaneous flurry of thoughts and insights pour from her on Twitter. Which is how we ended up with a wonderful conversation about the complicated, and apparently often misunderstood, life of Severus Snape.
It started when a fan asked the author about Harry’s tribute to his former professor. “Why did you pick Snape to name Harry’s kid after? I’m genuinely curious as he was nothing but abusive towards everyone.”
It’s always fascinating to see what happens to Rowling’s twitter feed when she addresses a Harry Potter topic. From that one answer a huge debate started.
The idea of Harry both honoring Snape and forgiving him seemed to be the impetus for much of what followed. One fan said, “Kind of strange you’d say ‘in forgiveness’, I mean Snape held no malice against Harry (which Harry came to knew, eventually).”
This is one of the absolute most important reasons Snape is arguably the best character in the entire story. When we learn about what he has been doing all these years and why, his personal animosity towards Harry becomes even more interesting, considering he is devoted to protecting him.
In the midst of talking about Snape, Rowling also gives us further insight into Harry (and possibly into next summer’s play).
It’s almost remarkable this even needs to be said. Snape’s actions are all over the place. He was a Death Eater responsible for the death of the only person he ever seemed to love, yet a courageous protector of that woman’s child at great personal risk to himself. A spiteful, petty man full of jealousy, yet one that sacrificed himself in many ways to protect others. Snape is complicated, a genius who is capable of the most base human emotions, whose actions in life range from truly monstrous to unfathomably heroic.
You’d have to imagine so much of next year’s play will address this post-Hogwarts life for Harry. One of the reasons these children’s books are so beloved is that Rowling always treated her readers and characters with respect, and that stems from telling the truth. The truth is Harry would never be able to recover from what happened that day, or what had happened in his life. Voldemort was defeated, but at a great cost. Harry is too good of a person to not feel guilt. Fair or not, Harry will always carry the feeling that he was responsible, that so many died, yet he lived. The hero riding off into the sunset is a fantasy, and, even in a world of magic, not one Rowling would ever say is possible. That would be a lie.
When someone accused her of being angry, she succinctly explained why Severus Snape is such a wonderful character.
All of this was great, but the masses are never happy. “I’d like to see you do one of these about Dumbledore – he’s the character I’ve had the most issues with upon reflection,” said one fan.
Tell us when, we’ll clear our calendar.
I know Harry Potter fans have wide-ranging feelings about Severus Snape. I trusted Dumbledore so much that I always believed in him, even during the absolutely brilliantly deceptive opening to The Half-Blood Prince. When Snape killed Dumbledore my faith in what I believed was shaken, though I never totally gave up hope that Dumbledore had been right. When Harry took the deceased Snape’s memories to the Pensieve it was crushing. The man who had bullied and antagonized Harry for so long had also been responsible for his parents’ death and had treated Harry so poorly because of a hatred for James Potter, yet all of that made Severus worthy of our empathy. The jealousy, the fear, the sadness, the guilt, all of the things in his life that had made him do so much wrong had been responsible for him doing so much good.
Our best traits and our worst traits always come from the same place. It’s what makes us human. There is no character in all of Harry Potter that reflects who we are, at our best and at our worst, than Severus Snape.
What are your feelings on Snape? Share them right here in the comments.
Image: Warner Brothers