In the Harry Potter series, one of the main antagonists is Severus Snape. A lot of debate has been created around him. He turned out to be more of a good guy than fans initially thought, and his somewhat sticky past with Harry's father was revealed — not putting James in a good light at all. Clearly a complex character, with some fans and some haters. Some would argue that James was the worse person, who made Snape what he became; some would argue that Snape's misdeeds were far worse than James'.
So let's take a look at the facts and decide once and for all who was actually the worse person out of these two. One thing's for sure — neither of them were perfect.
10 James Potter Was Privileged
It'd be a lie to claim James Potter didn't grow up a very obviously privileged kid and it gave him a bit of an ego in school. As a child, we can safely assume James didn't know hardship. He was a pure-blood, so faced no discrimination at Hogwarts; his parents were both rich and loving; and he was automatically popular due to his charisma.
Privilege doesn't always automatically create bad people, but it can certainly give them an inflated sense of self-importance and boy, it sure did create that in James.
9 Severus Snape Was Not
Severus Snape had much more humble beginnings, making him more sympathetic as a child. His poor hygiene made him a target for bullying in school. He was talented and clever, but generally treated as if he didn't belong. He grew up poor and his father was most definitely abusive.
He definitely needed some kindness shown to him at Hogwarts that he never received — least of all from James Potter.
8 James Potter Was A Bully In School
James was a bully in school — even the biggest of James Potter apologists can't deny this. He mercilessly teased Snape and in one particularly horrific memory, hung him upside down and exposed him in front of the entire school. He may have been a teenager, but there's no denying that it takes an especially cruel kid to do this.
7 Severus Snape Was A Bully As An Adult
But Snape was a bully as an adult. He reduced Neville to near-tears every Potions class, and would surely have done the same to Harry if Harry was as easily intimidated. He made comments about Hermione's appearance she was only in her fourth year and reduced her to tears. As an adult in his thirties, he should have known better than to do that to his students.
He had a rough life, but to take it out on people dependent on him, in a teaching position, was a gross abuse of power regardless of what had happened to him in the past.
6 James Potter Harassed Lily Evans
James was definitely far too pushy with Lily at school. His crush on her knew no bounds, and he tried repeatedly to push her into dating him even though she consistently said no.
This is wrong. If a woman says no — stop! She'll let you know if she changes her mind! Teenage boys, however, can be sadly oblivious to this fact because they haven't grown up enough to know what borders on harassment. He meant no harm, but it doesn't excuse the behavior. The moment she said no, he should have raised his hands and backed away. But he didn't. And that's not a point in his favor.
5 Severus Snape Was Obsessed With Her
Whether Snape was any better, though...
Snape called her a Mudblood, a horrible slur in the wizarding world, and when she didn't want to speak to him — understandably — he waited outside of her dormitory. Even years later, he treated her son awfully because Harry was a constant reminder that she had chosen James. Yes, he protected Harry, but he was the one who sent Voldemort after the family in the first place and had selfishly thought that Voldemort might spare Lily. He was literally willing to get her entire family murdered to have her.
4 James Potter Had A Huge Ego
From what we know of James, he definitely had a huge ego. He absolutely loved himself, and seemed to find no fault in any of his actions. Sure, that's really nice and self-love is great, but there's a difference between confidence and arrogance and it's a line James crossed, frankly, far too many times.
3 Severus Snape Was Into The Dark Arts
But while James was maybe staring in a mirror too much or throwing out one too many flirtatious remarks with confidence they'd land, Snape was involving himself in the Dark Arts. He even wrote off his friend Mulciber using such spells on a fellow classmate as "just a laugh", something that absolutely horrified Lily.
2 James Potter Grew Up To Join The Order
Ultimately, James Potter grew up to join the Order of the Phoenix. This was a secret organization founded by Albus Dumbledore that was dedicated to stopping Lord Voldemort and saving lives. The people in the Order were willing to risk their own lives on a day to day basis, and Dumbledore only asked people to join that he truly trusted. If James had been an inherently bad or selfish person, he simply wouldn't have been invited to join such a cause. Dumbledore truly thought he was worthy of it despite any past transgressions.
1 Severus Snape Grew Up To Join The Death Eaters
Meanwhile, Snape grew up to join the Death Eaters.
Yes, he later switched sides. Yes, he regretted his decision — but only because the woman he was obsessed with died because of his own actions. He willingly accepted the Dark Mark on his forearm. He literally joined a genocidal cause.
James Potter was a scoundrel with an ego that severely needed deflating, but Severus Snape was actually rotten to the core.
Were either perfect? No.
Is one set of actions and personality traits far more forgivable than the other? Almost definitely.