- His Behaviour Toward Harry Potter
Now, if know the fandom well enough, I would say that as soon as this is read everyone will be up in arms, saying that Snape protected Harry, that James was a bully and obviously there would be resentment stirred up by someone who looks exactly like him.
Firstly, let’s look at Snape’s first interaction with Harry.
“Potter,” said Snape suddenly. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Powdered root of what to an infusion of what? Harry glanced at Ron, who looked as stumped as he was; Hermione’s hand had shot into the air.
“I don’t know, sir,” said Harry.
Snape’s lips curled into a sneer.
“Tut, tut - fame clearly isn’t everything,”
He ignored Hermione’s hand.
“Let’s try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”
Hermione stretched her hand as high into the air as it would go without her leaving her seat, but Harry didn’t have the faintest idea what a bezoar was. He tried not to look at Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, who were shaking with laughter.
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Thought you wouldn’t open a book before coming, eh, Potter?”
Harry forced himself to keep looking straight into those cold eyes. He had looked through his books at the Dursley’s, but did Snape expect him to remember everything in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi?
-Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Potions Master
There you go. There has been no aggression Harry’s part. He was sitting in his Potions class, just as attentive as any other student and he is singled out among a class to answer a question without any lesson beforehand. Snape refuses to look at Hermione, who actually knew the answer, and continues to pick on Harry. Harry is respectful and simply tells him he doesn’t know the answer. Then he accuses Harry of not looking at his books before coming, despite the fact that these questions are completely random.
Let’s also take into account Harry is essentially Muggle-born. Not all Muggle-borns are as studious as Hermione. Harry had no parents to teach him magical things; he was kept as far away from magic as possible up until he went to Hogwarts. He did not have the same freedom that Hermione did to study as soon as she learned what she was. How can he be expected to know these answers right off the bat? There was no indication in his Hogwarts letter that he be familiar with all the course materials by the first day.
Now let’s address those counter-arguments I mentioned earlier. James Potter and Severus Snape were enemies. James Potter at times bullied Severus Snape (to be noted: “I mean, he never lost an opportunity to curse James so you couldn’t really expect James to take that lying down, could you?” -Remus Lupin, OOTP). James Potter also saved Severus Snape’s life, but that apparently isn’t a factor in Snape’s opinion at all. What matters is: Harry cannot be held accountable for his deceased father’s actions. Harry didn’t even know about the bullying until fifth year (at which point he felt ashamed of his father and begrudgingly sympathetic towards Snape).
Even ignoring this, Snape is a teacher. It is his duty to teach his students no matter what his feelings are outside of the classroom. To refuse to provide a safe environment for a child to learn is completely unfair. Not only this, but when Harry discovers Snape’s past, Snape refuses to continue teaching him Occlumency. This isn’t just about schoolwork anymore, this about Harry’s personal safety and the safety of those around them. Harry had the potential to be possessed by Lord Voldemort and made to kill people or himself and yet because Snape’s pride was damaged, he stopped teaching him to defend himself.
Which brings me to the third counter-argument: Snape protecting Harry. For what he can remember of the first eleven years of his life, Harry Potter was stuck under a cupboard, given little to eat and bullied. Despite the fact that Snape could probably relate to such a situation, he shows him no simply and continues the bullying Harry, as shown above. As for protecting Harry he did a rather terrible job of it. Harry faced Quirrel anyway, he faced Tom Riddle anyway, he faced Voldemort anyway, he was forced to harm himself by Umbridge anyway. Perhaps the only thing you could allow Snape is spying for the Order, but even he says it’s not because of Harry. It’s because of Lily.
- His Behaviour Towards Neville Longbottom
I’d like to see anyone try to excuse this away. Neville Longbottom was a bumbling young man who really never wanted to harm anyone. And yet Snape bullied him to the point where the thing he was most terrified of in the world at thirteen was his Potions professor? How can that sort of man be admirable?
“Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn’t you hear me say, quite clearly, that only one rat spleen was needed? Didn’t I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?”
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban, The Boggart in the Wardrobe
Neville was bad at Potions, that’s easy enough to figure out. But the way Snape treated him was ridiculous. If a student is struggling, they should be allowed to come in for help. But as Snape constantly snarled things like ‘idiot boy’ and scared Neville out of his wits, he didn’t have that option. He wouldn’t have felt safe enough to do so. Snape even went so far as to try to poison Neville’s pet toad, Trevor, in third year. He knew Neville wouldn’t do well on the Shrinking potion but he tried to make him test a bad potion on his only pet. When Neville got the help he so desperately needed in Potions from Hermione, Snape decided to deduct points for him getting help to save his pet’s life.
I’m not going address counter-arguments here, because quite frankly I don’t think there are any. There was no indication that Frank or Alice Longbottom treated Snape poorly (though as previously discussed even if they did, it would not be an excuse to harass his students) or that they even knew him. Neville never sassed Snape or caused trouble. He wasn’t arrogant like Snape thought Harry to be. All Neville did was be bad at Potions. So Snape treated him terribly, just because he could. He was a bully, to someone two decades his junior.
- His Behaviour Towards Hermione Granger
For some of his behaviour, we can reference bullet point one. She shows eagerness in class and he continually ignores her for no apparent reason. Hermione gets her teeth hexed and he claims to see no difference and lets the students off without punishment. Not only is this blatant favouritism, it’s also playing on her insecurities. Again, as a professor it is his duty to intervene when students are breaking the rules (which he is always eager to do when he can target Harry and his friends) and yet he does not. He deducted points when she helped Neville in Potions class.
He wasn’t able to treat her quite the same as he did as Ron and Harry, because she was so good at Potions. But apparently it still wasn’t enough to win her fair treatment, because he was willing to call her an “insufferable know-it-all” in front of a room full her peers. Even Ron, who did the very same on many an occasion, was sure that this was out of order. An authority figure should not make fun of a student.
Why did Snape do this? Because she spoke out of turn on occasion? Unlikely. Even in his very first instance of knowing her, he refuses to acknowledge her hand. He simply doesn’t like her, a dislike which accumulates as she becomes friends with Harry Potter. She showed nothing but respect for him as far as I can tell and yet he bullied her anyway.
- His Behaviour Towards Remus Lupin
“Don’t ask me to fathom the way a werewolf’s mind works,” hissed Snape.
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Servant of Lord Voldemort
Snape alludes to Lily that Remus is a werewolf after the Whomping Willow incident, despite the fact that it is supposed to be a secret. And he proceeds to blame all four of them for the prank. Remus wouldn’t have been in his right mind during the full moon and probably would have killed Snape or turned him. But Remus was not at all in control of this. Snape couldn’t have honestly thought Remus was part of the prank because 1) Remus never showed any antagonism towards Snape and 2) It would have ended up with Remus in Azkaban or executed. And yet Snape lumps both Remus and James in with the prank’s initiator, Sirius. Despite the fact that he followed someone he suspected to be a werewolf to his place of transformation, it is somehow James’s or Remus’s fault?
And then there’s the fact that he outed Remus to the whole school as werewolf. He subjected Remus to prejudice and unemployment and Remus just sat back and took it, as if a whole year with a job he enjoyed had been too good to be true. Which, for Remus, it probably was. With continued use of Wolfsbane, Remus would have been no danger to anyone. It would rarely affect his teaching ability. But Snape didn’t care that Remus would have little to no way to support himself, because he wanted revenge on him for their childhood or for taking the DADA position or cooperating with Sirius. None of which are fair reasons to do what he did.
Counter-argument: Remus was friends with Snape’s bullies. Yes, he was friends with James and Sirius. Whether or not James and Sirius were always the aggressors is another argument entirely, but for the sake of this, let’s say that it was usually them that initiated fights. But, as shown by Remus’s actions in Snape’s Worst Memory, he did not participate in it. He even showed unhappiness by his expression as he ignored the scene. He is willing to admit the wrongness of standing by, which is more than you can say of Snape.
“Of course he was a bit of an idiot!” said Sirius bracingly, “we were all idiots! Well - not Moony so much,” he said fairly, looking at Lupin.
But Lupin shook his head. “Did I ever tell you to lay off Snape?” he said. “Did I ever have the guts to tell you I thought you were out of order?”
“Yeah, well,” said Sirius, “you made us feel ashamed of ourselves sometimes: that was something.”
-Harry Potter the Order of the Phoenix, Careers Advice
And then we have Snape’s reaction towards his friend’s horrible actions:
“We are, Sev, but I don’t like some of the people you’re hanging round with! I’m sorry, but I detest Avery and Mulciber! Mulciber! What do you see in him, Sev, he’s creepy! D’you know what he tried to do to Mary Macdonald the other day?”
Lily had reached a pillar and leaned against it, looking up into the thin, sallow face.
“That was nothing,” said Snape. “It was a laugh, that’s all - ”
“It was Dark Magic, and if you think that’s funny - ”
-Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows, The Prince’s Tale
Even taking into account that Snape was around fifteen here, he refers to Mulciber’s actions as a laugh, even though he tried to god knows what to Mary MacDonald. Whatever it was, it was dark magic and Snape actually defends his friend’s actions, which is more than Remus did when his friends were being bullies.
- His Dark Magic
Even before he joined the Death Eaters, where it’s pretty much required to use Unforgivables on innocent people, he showed tendencies of dark magic. He created a spell which inflicts bloody wounds on someone as a sixteen-year-old, or earlier. For those who think James Potter was an idiot at fifteen, at least he wasn’t trying to figure out creative ways to end someone’s life.
Time to talk about a possible counter-argument: Harry used Sectumsempra against Malfoy. Hell, he even used Unforgivables at different points in time. I won’t excuse his use of the Cruciatus, that was simply for vengeance (even if he was using it on someone who killed Muggle-borns, tortured his friends at spat at his teacher). But the Imperius was used to gain access to a vault that possibly contained a horcrux so he could save the world. I think that warrants an excuse. And his initial (and only successful) use of Sectumsempra was done before he even knew what they spell did. For all he knew it could have been an altered Bat Bogey hex. He didn’t create it with the intent to harm someone.
- His Bigotry
I know that anyone who sympathizes with his character is going to jump immediately on the “Snape-loved-Lily-and-she-was-a-Muggle-born” train.
“I never meant to call you Mudblood, it just - ”
“Slipped out?” There was no pity in Lily’s voice. “It’s too late. I’ve made excuses for you for years. None of my friends can understand why I even talk to you. You and your precious little Death Eater friends - you see, you don’t even deny it! You don’t even deny that’s what you’re all aiming to be! You can’t wait to join You-Know-Who, can you?”
He opened his mouth, but closed it without speaking.
“I can’t pretend anymore. You’ve chosen your way, I’ve chosen mine.”
“No - listen, I didn’t mean - ”
“ - to call me Mudblood? But you call everyone of my birth Mudblood, Severus. Why should I be any different?”
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Prince’s Tale
Racist words don’t just slip out. They need to be a regular part of your vocabulary. Which they are for Severus Snape. Lily says it plain and clear: he uses the word Mudblood to address Muggle-borns. His interactions with Petunia as child, “Wouldn’t spy on you anyway,” he added spitefully, “you’re a Muggle.” showing that he thinks himself superior to Muggles. He even hurts Petunia, however unintentionally. He makes no attempt to deny his inclination to join a terrorist group that plans to wipe out Muggles and Muggle-borns.
Now, I don’t think that anyone in modern society would try to distinguish between a racist and say, someone who uses the N-word just to fit in. Certainly not someone who joins the KKK to fit in. So I think it’s a little ridiculous that anyone would allow that for Snape.
As for Lily, it’s possible for someone to have conflicting beliefs. It is possible for him to be all for blood purity and still love Lily Evans. He showed no inclination to leave the Death Eaters before it affected her fate. He even calls her Mudblood, showing that despite their friendship/romantic feelings he has towards her, part of him still does think that her Muggle heritage makes her lesser. Therefore, his love for her does not make the argument for his prejudice void.
- His Lack of Value for Human Life
Snape was willing to let Harry and James die. Let’s say that wanting to let James die is reasonable (which it’s not - James refused to let Snape die when he had the opportunity to do so), what grudge could he possibly hold against a one year old baby? Harry had done nothing to provoke any sort of anger except being James’s son. He was a defenseless child.
Also under this topic is his behaviour towards Sirius Black in the Prisoner of Azkaban. Yes, Sirius Black bullied him at fifteen. But was this reason enough to lie to Cornelius Fudge to get Sirius Black sent back to Azkaban? Hermione and Harry were obviously not Confunded and Snape would have known this, as good of a wizard as he was. But he chose to tell the Minister that to discredit anything that Harry and Hermione might say in defense of Sirius. An innocent man would have gotten his soul sucked out. He wouldn’t even allow Sirius the mercy of death.
With his disregard for human life is his joining the Death Eaters. There’s really no excuse to be made for his initial endeavor to join. He chose to join a group of people who wanted to kill others because they were thought to be lesser than pure-bloods. He likely participated in a fair number of these killings in the four years he was a Death Eater. He also probably would have continued to do so, if not for the fact that Voldemort targeted the girl he “loved” over a prophecy he told Voldemort about.
I could also talk about his behaviour towards Ron Weasley, his general prejudice against Gryffindors or discuss to the validity of his being a victim of bullying, but I think this post has been long enough to convey my feelings: Severus Snape was not a good man. Harry may have been willing to forgive and forget, but I’m not.