Snape has always been one of the most controversial characters in the Harry Potter franchise, and certain fans still struggle to forgive him for his actions simply because he had a redeeming arc in The Deathly Hallows. All in all, however, Professor Severus Snape did have his heroic moments, even if his actions were more frequently perceived as villainous.
Given that Harry Potter himself named his son Albus Severus Potter – honoring both Dumbledore and Snape – it is safe to say that The Boy Who Lived made up his mind about who Snape was after all. If you are still deciding for yourself, here are 5 times Snape was a total hero, and 5 times he was a complete villain.
10 Hero: Snape Saved Harry From Quirrell's Jinx
Throughout the first novel and movie, The Sorcerer’s Stone (also known as The Philosopher’s Stone), fans got a sense that Professor Snape had something against Harry Potter. What’s more, he constantly favored Draco Malfoy, who quickly established himself as Harry’s nemesis. Things became even clearer to Harry and his friends when, during his very first game of Quidditch, Harry’s broom was jinxed, and Snape seemed to be casting a spell from the bleachers.
However, turns out that it was Professor Quirinus Quirrell (under Voldemort’s command) who was casting the spell for Harry’s broom to spin out of control. Snape, on the other hand, was casting a counter-spell to protect Harry from the jinx, thus saving his life.
9 Villain: Snape Joined The Death Eaters
After his time at Hogwarts as a student in the 1970s, Snape eventually joined Voldemort’s side as one of his Death Eaters. Despite the fact that his involvement with Lord Voldemort would later serve the greater cause, Snape’s intentions were certainly not in the best place when he joined the Death Eaters.
The fact that Severus Snape was once genuinely associated with Lord Voldemort – and served him as a Death Eater for years – proves that this character was not entirely on the right side of history all of the time. During the First Wizarding War (which took placed between 1978 and 1981), Snape fought alongside Voldemort to cause destruction and chaos in the world.
8 Hero: Snape Acted As A Double Agent For Dumbledore
After Lord Voldemort killed Lily Potter and her husband, Severus Snape realized that being a Death Eater was not the wisest choice. So he decided to approach Albus Dumbledore and look for a path of redemption. Thankfully, Dumbledore believed Snape and gave him a second chance, vouching for the wizard and eventually hiring him as a professor at Hogwarts.
Over the years, Snape acted as a double agent for Dumbledore, gathering information from the Death Eaters and learning about Voldemort’s plans to return. All in all, many (if not most) of the plans that Dumbledore devised to protect Harry Potter came from information that he received from Snape.
7 Villain: Snape Shamed Hermione Many Times For Being A Good Student
One of the most unforgivable things about Snape as a professor (and as an overall character) was how many times he shamed Hermione for simply being a good student. What’s more, he even would go as far as judging her appearance, which is quite disturbing for a professor-student dynamic.
Time and time again, Snape put Hermione down for asking questions, having the right answer in class, or simply wanting to learn. Furthermore, when a curse caused Hermione’s teeth to grow larger, Snape declared that he saw “no difference” in her appearance. Why so shady, Snape?
6 Hero: Snape Attempted To Save The Potter Family From Voldemort
While this is certainly a controversial move from Snape’s part, many consider his actions attempting to save the Potter family as a heroic act. As the story goes, when Snape learned that Lord Voldemort planned to kill the Potters, he begged the Dark Lord to spare her life. In a way, this was a little messed up, because it didn’t seem like Snape cared about anyone’s life but Lily’s.
However, many critics fail to mention that Snape also went to Dumbledore after failing to convince Voldemort that he should spare Lily’s life. With Dumbledore, Snape tried to hide the entire Potter family. Despite the fact that Snape failed to save them, it bears repeating that Snape did try to save the Potter family.
5 Villain: Snape Created A Terrible Curse
Creating a curse that can bleed your opponent to death is a pretty villainous act, there’s just not a lot of debate there.
During his time as student at Hogwarts, Severus Snape created ‘Sectumsempra,’ a curse that slashes its target. This curse was found by Harry Potter during his 1996-1997 school year, when he discovered a book that was property of the Half-Blood Prince. Later, it was revealed that Severus Snape was the Half-Blood Prince, thus having created ‘Sectumsempra.’
Throughout the movies, there were a few key moments when fans saw ‘Sectumsempra’ being employed. For instance, Harry used this curse when dueling with Draco Malfoy during the events of The Half-Blood Prince. Moreover, George lost an ear during The Deathly Hallows after Snape used ‘Sectumsempra’ against him.
4 Hero: Snape Secretly Watched Over Harry Over The Years
When analyzing Snape’s overall attitude throughout Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts, there are several key moments that define the professor as a villain. However, it is hard to look back at those moments without considering the nuance that Snape had to project the appearance of acting maliciously toward Harry. Otherwise, his work as a double agent would fall apart.
All in all, Severus Snape actively protected and watched over Harry Potter during many moments of the seven books and eight movies – we just didn’t understand it all back then. And sure, there were certainly moments when Snape’s disdain for James Potter jumped out (causing him to be fully mean to Harry, James’ son). In general, however, it is safe to say that Professor Snape did his job at protecting Harry against real threats, and taught him many spells that would later be useful against Lord Voldemort.
3 Villain: Snape Exposed Lupin As A Werewolf
One of the most nonsensical and villainous things Severus Snape did was exposing Remus Lupin as a werewolf. Sure, Snape was always somewhat jealous of the people who taught the Defense Against the Dark Arts class – and he didn’t care much about Lupin in the first place –, but working to expose such a personal part of Lupin’s identity was not okay.
Some may argue that Professor Snape did not out Remus Lupin entirely. However, Snape took the one opportunity he had to teach the Defense Against the Dark Arts class (substituting for Professor Lupin) to cover the topic of werewolves, which was not at all in the curriculum. Snape made things very clear for all the students, consequently outing Remus Lupin and causing him to resign from his post as a professor.
2 Hero: Snape Killed Dumbledore For The Greater Cause
It may seem hard for some Harry Potter fans to accept that Snape killed Dumbledore for the right reasons, but that is just a fact. In the end, Dumbledore was aware of Voldemort’s plan to kill him, and asked Snape to do it instead of Draco Malfoy.
The goal of Dumbledore’s agreement with Snape was two-fold. Firstly, Dumbledore would have a friend kill him, rather than a Death Eater that would actually gain pleasure from the act. Secondly, by killing Dumbledore, Snape would gain a lot of credit from Voldemort, which would benefit his position as a double agent.
Killing Dumbledore was Snape’s most heroic act throughout the Harry Potter saga, even if it pained fans to see it. At the end of the day, someone had to do it for the greater cause, and Snape was the only one capable of it.
1 Villain: Snape Treated Lily Very Poorly
Snape’s redemption arc is largely dependent on his love for and friendship with Lily (Harry’s mother) during their childhood. However, it comes without saying that their relationship wasn’t necessarily positive or healthy.
For one, Snape apparently has no qualms calling Lily a ‘mudblood,’ which is the ultimate slur in the Wizarding World. Then, as Lily fell in love with James Potter, Snape became vengeful and bitter rather than being happy for his so-called friend.
Despite the fact that Severus Snape spent the rest of his life grieving the loss of Lily, it still doesn’t excuse how Snape treated her time and time again when they were younger.