The Harry Potter franchise has had no shortage of controversies over the years. The books have been repeatedly banned and questioned, and even tops the list of the American Library Association’s most challenged books of the 21st century. Even after the conclusion of the main book and movie series, the debates have only grown more heated over the years. J.K. Rowling’s statements continue to send shockwaves across both the Wizarding World and our own, including revelations about Dumbledore’s orientation, Nagini’s real identity, and even Voldemort and Bellatrix’s secret daughter.
Among one of the most polarizing characters of the series is Severus Snape, the brooding Potions Master of Hogwarts. He shows an intense distaste for Harry right from the start and continues to make the boy’s life harder than it needs to be. Snape ultimately makes a great sacrifice, motivated by his love for Lily Evans, and it prompts Harry to name his own son after his Potions Professor. While some may view Snape’s undying love for Lily as a love story to end all love stories, there’s no denying that he’s done some questionable things over the years. Snape’s faults are part of what makes him such a compelling character, and they’re worth examining without making excuses for him.
The list below contains materials from the core seven books of the franchise and all eight of the main movies, so no need to worry about getting spoiled for any of the Fantastic Beasts spinoff films.
Here are 20 Things Wrong With Snape We All Choose To Ignore.
20 He Torments Harry From The Start
Snape establishes himself as a bully right from his first appearance in The Sorcerer's Stone. Harry is already known throughout the Wizarding World as “The Boy Who Lived” even though he’s only eleven years old. Snape shows no sympathy for a child who’s lost his parents and has spent all his life in an abusive household.
Instead of being a professional educator, he makes fun of Harry’s celebrity-- even though he himself is partially responsible for the boy’s tragic past. Snape could have used the situation as a chance to honor Lily’s memory and take care of Harry. Instead, he chooses to admonish a mistreated child because Harry reminds him of Lily and James.
19 He Is Neville's Boggart
First introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban, a Boggart is a creature that takes the form of one’s greatest fear. As a testament to how awful a teacher Snape is, Neville’s Boggart takes the shape of the toxic Potions Master.
Some might view this as a sign of how timid Neville is, but keep in mind the context in which this happens, too: Sirius Black had just broken out of Azkaban, the only known escape from the high-security prison at the time. Neville isn’t afraid of the convicted criminal notorious for allegedly ending the lives of over ten people-- what he is truly afraid of is his Potions Professor. In comparison, Lupin’s Boggart is a full moon, and Harry’s is a Dementor.
18 He Makes Fun Of Hermione's Thirst For Knowledge
Okay, Hermione may come off as a snobby know-it-all at times, especially when she’s just starting out at Hogwarts, but that’s not a reason for Snape to make fun of her in front of her peers. To top it all off, he’s a teacher. If anything, he should be encouraging her thirst for knowledge while assuaging her anxieties about overachieving, not ridiculing her for being an eager learner. A proactive student! Oh, the horror!
Snape expects nothing less of perfection from even his lower-level students, but when one of them dares to excel, he makes fun of her for it. Snape’s inconsistency is unprofessional and his constantly moving goal posts are arbitrary and unfair. It's yet another element that undercuts his qualifications as an educator.
17 He Makes Neville (Almost) Poison His Pet
Neville—among many other students—is terrified of Snape, and with good reason. Snape is mean to pretty much everyone for no reason, in addition to being a pretty bad teacher who expects no mistakes. To top it all off, Snape even threatens Neville’s pet toad, Trevor.
During a particularly awful Potions class, Snape makes Neville feed his Shrinking Solution to Trevor, adding that Trevor will probably not survive it because Neville had made mistakes in the process. Neville is understandably shaken. Hurting a kid’s pet is textbook child abuse. Plus, Snape is telling Neville to poison his own toad himself! It’s astonishing that Snape is able to do all of this and get away with it.
16 He Then Punishes Neville For Getting Help
Much to Neville’s relief, Trevor doesn’t get poisoned. In fact, the toad successfully turns into a tadpole. You’d think it’d be cause for praise, or at least just a silent glare from Snape. No, Snape takes five points from Gryffindor because Hermione had helped Neville make the Shrinking Solution.
Sure, it’s not the most ethical thing to get external help on your own work, but Hermione’s help is probably the only thing that keeps Trevor alive. Also, Neville having to ask for a classmate’s help is yet another testament to how poor a teacher Snape actually is. He provides nothing but negative feedback that helps exactly no one. There’s no winning with Snape, and everything you do gets you punished one way or another.
15 He Shows No Compassion
It’s imperative to be punctual and to adhere to official dress codes, so we can understand why Harry got points deducted for being late to the first day of Hogwarts in Half-Blood Prince. But here’s the kicker: Harry is literally covered in blood because he’d been attacked by Malfoy on the Hogwarts Express and left immobile under the Invisibility Cloak. He wouldn’t have made it off the train if Tonks hadn’t found him and healed his broken nose in time.
Instead of questioning why a sixteen-year-old boy is drenched in blood, Snape chooses to punish Harry without considering the context. Had Snape known that Malfoy did it, he probably would’ve let his cherished student go on his merry way without punishment, too.
14 He Makes Fun Of Hermione's Appearance
Hermione’s intellect and eagerness to learn aren’t the only things that Snape openly mocks her for. He has even made fun of her appearance, and his cruelty is even more apparent when you put the incident in context.
Harry and Malfoy have a stand-off, and their curses hit bystanders instead of each other. Hermione is hit by Malfoy’s Densaugeo hex which causes her front teeth to grow to alarming proportions, past her collar. Not only does Snape not do anything about it when he intervenes, he actively shames Hermione, telling her that he sees no difference in her teeth even though they’ve now been magically enlarged. On the other hand, Snape sends Goyle to the hospital wing immediately.
13 He's Unabashedly Biased Towards Slytherins
Based on Snape’s differing attitude towards Goyle and Hermione, who had both been hit by stray spells, you can already see his immense bias in favour of Slytherins. Snape is the Head of Slytherin House, a role that makes him responsible of taking care of and disciplining the students in the House. However, Snape conveniently forgets the second part of his duties.
He routinely takes points away from other Houses for the pettiest of reasons, all while allowing Slytherins to run free. Sure, each Head of House belonged to said House during their school years, so there might be a bit of a soft spot for their own students, but nobody else shows such blatant favoritism.
12 He was always Fascinated With The Dark Arts And Blood Supremacy
Born to the pure-blood witch Eileen Prince and the Muggle Tobias Snape, Severus Snape is technically a half-blood wizard. He takes on the nickname “Half-Blood Prince” as a way to identify with his Wizarding heritage because of his poor relationship with his father. This turbulent upbringing drives him towards the Dark Arts and blood supremacy from a very young age.
His rough childhood isn’t his fault, of course, but throughout his years at Hogwarts, surrounded by the most brilliant minds and diverse ideas, Snape only gets more fascinated with these disturbing ideologies. Even his life-long friendship and obsession with his Muggle-born neighbour Lily Evans don’t make him think twice about his support for blood supremacy.
11 He Calls Lily A Slur
Snape and Lily go way back before their Hogwarts days, and Snape has been enamored with her for years. The two remain friends at school, and Lily is the only one who comes to Snape’s defense when the Marauders bully him when Snape’s worst memory is revealed in Half-Blood Prince.
In response, Snape calls her a “Mudblood,” a highly offensive slur for Muggle-born witches and wizards. Lily gets rightfully outraged, and understandably stops being friends with him. Snape regrets using the word not because it’s wrong and bigoted, but because he’s hurt by Lily’s decision to stop talking to him. Snape brings this skewed moral compass well into adulthood, making very little progress towards actually embracing Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards.
10 He Becomes A Death Eater
Not all Slytherins are evil. We all have that one Slytherin friend who’s great at asserting themselves and protecting their loved ones-- but Snape isn’t one of them. When he graduates from Hogwarts, he promptly joins Voldemort’s ranks as a Death Eater, complete with the Dark Mark on his forearm. There’s no canonical evidence that Snape directly harmed anyone, but he’s a known spy for the Dark Lord, facilitating Voldemort’s torment of Muggles and Muggle-borns.
Redemption isn’t impossible. There are people both in the Wizarding World and in our own universe who have turned their backs on their past bigotry and changed for the better. However, Snape’s change in allegiance isn’t motivated by a true change in ideology.
9 He Only Changes His Mind For Lily
Snape’s change of heart only comes when he overhears Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy about Voldemort’s downfall. He eavesdrops on Trelawney and Dumbledore at the Hog’s Head and gets thrown out before hearing the entire prophecy. Still, he relays what he knows to Voldemort. The Dark Lord decides that Harry’s the Chosen One, and Snape realizes that he’s just doomed the love of his life, Lily. It’s then, and only then, that Snape changes his mind and begs Dumbledore for help hide Lily.
Snape only switches allegiance out of his obsession for Lily-- not because he’s come to the realization that his blood supremacy is pure bigotry and that harming Muggles is bad. Changing his mind out of selfishness is better than not changing his mind at all, but he certainly hasn't earned his redemption.
8 He only tries to save Lily's life
Before Snape runs to Dumbledore for help, he approaches Voldemort first to plead for Lily’s life. At first glance, that seems sweet-- until you realize that his deal with the Dark Lord involves exchanging Lily for Harry and James. Lest we forget, Harry is still an infant at this point.
Snape isn’t at all concerned with Voldemort taking over the world by ending the life of an innocent child and his father, as long as he could be with Lily in a world that deems Muggle-borns like her inferior. After Lily’s passing, Snape becomes a double agent to help ensure Harry’s safety and honouring Lily’s sacrifice. How bullying an eleven-year-old counts as respecting Lily’s memory is beyond us.
7 He Ignores A Crying Orphan
In the movie version of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, there’s a flashback to the night of the Potters’ passing in Godric’s Hollow. It’s an addition by screenwriter Steve Kloves that doesn’t appear in the book, but it illuminates Snape’s motivations even further. Snape runs to the Potter residence after their confrontation with Voldemort, and makes a beeline for Lily’s prone figure lying on the ground. He straight-up ignores a crying baby in his crib, sitting right next to his deceased mother.
Grief for a lost loved one is horrible and can be incapacitating, but it’s pretty heartless to leave a child alone while you hug a woman you’ve been disrespectful and bigoted toward, despite your love for her.
6 He Tries To Out Lupin
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin takes days off from teaching Defense Against The Dark Arts to accommodate his transformations into a wolf during full moons, and to recuperate from the agonizing experience. Snape has long been eyeing the position of DADA Professor, and subs in for Lupin.
Lupin gives Snape instructions and Hermione even explains where they’d left off, but Snape still opts to dive right into the werewolf section, hoping that a student would figure out the reason for Lupin’s absence. Snape does help Lupin out with Wolfsbane Potion that makes transformations easier, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he repeatedly tries to out Lupin, exposing him to intense systemic prejudice in the Wizarding community.
5 He Makes Fun Of Tonks' New Patronus
As if Snape’s prejudice against werewolves— and Lupin in particular— isn’t enough, his distaste extends to those who associated with them as well. After Tonks saves Harry from the Hogwarts Express in Half-Blood Prince, she conjures her Patronus to send word to the castle. Harry merely perceives the Patronus as a four-legged animal, but Snape realizes that it’s actually a wolf that reflects Tonks’ love for Lupin, much like how his own doe Patronus symbolizes his love for Lily.
Snape promptly sneers at Tonks, saying that her new Patronus looks weak. Not only is he insulting Lupin and his lycanthropy, but also Tonks, for falling in love with a werewolf whom Snape considers beneath him.
4 He Gets Angry When Harry Defends Himself
Legilimency is a way to invade someone’s mind and read their deepest, darkest secrets. Occlumency is its opposite, a way of defending one’s mind from these attempts. In order to protect Harry from Voldemort, a highly skilled Legilimens, Snape is tasked with teaching Harry Occlumency.
On the surface it’s a noble and essential part of protecting Harry, but the way Snape goes about it is too harsh. Dumbledore chooses Snape because of his skills, but Snape’s hostility towards Harry gets in the way of their lessons. Snape repeatedly invades Harry’s mind while giving him very little info on how to defend himself. Harry literally tells Snape to stop, but Snape keeps going. To protect himself, Harry uses Legilimency on Snape, who then gets enraged. How dare a vulnerable fifteen-year-old shield himself from violation!
3 He Created Sectumsempra For Enemies
During Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, he finds a Potions textbook belonging to the Half-Blood Prince, a.k.a. Snape. In the book, he finds modified instructions for various potions, as well as original spells, including one called “Sectumsempra." As it turns out, it’s a highly dangerous curse that slashes people apart, causing deep wounds that put the victim at risk of passing. Plus, any body parts that are cut off can’t be regrown, like George Weasley’s severed ear.
To top it all off, a teenaged Snape had written “for enemies” next to the incantation in his old textbook. Even as an adolescent, he had no qualms about damaging his fellow students so severely that they might lose their lives from blood loss.
2 He Uses His Childhood As An Excuse
Okay, Snape had a rough childhood. He was born to a pure-blood witch and a Muggle father, and his parents often fought with each other and neglected young Snape in the process. However, Snape is far from the only tormented soul in the Wizarding World. There’s Harry, who loses his parents and is raised in an abusive home, and is further picked on by Snape himself. Neville is also a child with a troubled past, but still uses his trauma for good.
Rather than confronting his own dysfunctions like a grown adult, Snape repeatedly makes other people— even children— bear the weight of his pain. Like Snape says, life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean he should make it harder for other people, too.
1 He Never Shows Remorse
In the end, Snape redeems himself in many Potterheads’ eyes. Even Harry is so grateful for him and his sacrifice that he names his child after him, sparking countless memes. However, it’s important to note that Snape never actually shows remorse or apologizes for his problematic behavior.
Recognizing that you did bad things and made mistakes is a crucial part of atonement, but at no point does Snape actually say sorry or come to see the error of his ways. He’s seemingly motivated purely by his own selfish obsession with Lily, without regard to justice or peace. Yes, he does play a part in protecting Harry, but he does it while unnecessarily making the boy’s life a living hell.
What issues with Snape do fans tend to overlook in Harry Potter? Tell us in the comments!