I have always had somewhat mixed feelings about Snape when reading the series previously. However, I think I tended to err on the more positive side since I remembered his love for Lily and the fact that he was a double agent on Dumbledore’s side the whole time. At the start of this class, I knew I wanted to pay extra attention to the things he did in order to develop a more informed view. I think I still have mixed feelings, but they are a bit more positive now that I have a better understanding.
I have heard multiple times in class that Snape’s behavior is stalkerish, but I don’t know if I would call it stalking if the person who did not return you love is not alive. I feel it would be creepy if we found out that he regularly visited Godric’s Hollow or had a shrine for her. And compared to real life, there are plenty of men who harm or murder women who don’t return their affection. He could also imperiused her, or done what Queenie did to Jacob in Fantastic Beasts, or done something USS Callister-like, which all would have been just as creepy, if not creepier. Granted, the part where he took the other half of her letter and ripped the photograph does kind of approach that, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of him interacting her after they left Hogwarts.
The way I see it is that once he called her a Mudblood, he knew he messed up and clearly regretted it, but there was no longer any chance of friendship between them, which probably left him slighted and remorseful. Add to that the knowledge that she was going to be murdered by a wizard who he served, and though he tried to save her life unbeknownst to her, he ultimately failed. So, he essentially lived the rest of his life in a constant life of penance trying to make up for what he had done in the past. One of the ways in which he has changed is evident when he does not permit Phineas Nigellus to call Hermione a Mudblood. I always wonder how Snape felt towards Voldemort after Lily’s murder- if he had lost faith and regretted his actions like Lucius Malfoy had, but hid it much better.
This certainly doesn’t excuse his bullying of Harry and his friends, though, because that was terrible. I don’t know if that was a result of his past experiences with bullying from James, the household in which he grew up, or his severe disdain of James and everything about/related to him, or maybe a combination of all three, but I think it’s something that is inexcusable. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling really wanted to give him negative qualities so that he could be redeemed later, but it was difficult to read at times.
However, I felt somewhat sick after reading his death scene. If I had known nothing about his love for Lily and had only known about him as a character until then, I would not have minded if he died, because he wasn’t the greatest person. On the other hand, I feel as though the manner in which he died (i.e. Voldemort killing him so that he could possess the power of the Elder Wand) made me much more empathetic towards him. Voldemort kills him right after calling him a good and faithful servant, which is extremely ironic, and coldly saying that he regrets Snape’s murder. Snape was just left to die in the Shrieking Shack. Who knows who would have found him eventually and what they would have done. And I feel that having witnessed his death before looking at his memories serves to further change the way you view him.
I think it would be fascinating to have the books or a book written from Snape’s perspective, to really delve deeply into his character and psyche. I would be very interested in learning why he chose to master Occlumency and when he did it. I also wonder if Snape suspected that Voldemort was intending to kill him for the Elder Wand before he was called to the Shack, especially since Dumbledore never told him about it.
R.I.P. to one of the bravest men that Harry Potter ever knew.