Severus Snape: Bravest man Harry’s ever known?


By S3CY (21) Mok Hei Yi Gyneth and S3LT (26) Kelly Yeung Sum Yuet Kelly

Snape, Snape, Severus Snape. Who’s this vastly controversial character to you? Harry Potter makes his feelings about this question clear at the end of the series by naming his own son Albus Severus Potter, noting that Snape was “probably the bravest man I ever knew.” But is he the bravest man Harry’s ever known, the hero that braved the Dark Lord’s wrath for the greater good? Or is he greasy-haired, hook-nosed Snivellus who cowered behind Albus Dumbledore’s robes? Well, that’s what we will be discussing today.

Snape is Brave

Bravery isn’t determined by whether the act is good or bad. It’s simply an act that requires guts, determination and risk.

Snape knows that he is going to kill Dumbledore since as early as the Order of Phoenix, which means that he carries the information for a startling two years (or maybe more). Imagine seeing a person for years knowing he or she will die by your hands. Imagine that the person is one of your most trusted friends. It would be hard not to break down every time you see them, right? Normal people, and I’ll admit myself included, would run away from such a responsibility. Not to mention it would damage one’s (and for Snape's case, already bad) reputation and is extremely illegal.

Snape is also brave because of what he is willing to sacrifice. To make a Horcrux, one must first kill a person, as the act of killing splits your soul into two. When Snape kills Dumbledore, his soul then becomes incomplete. And yet he continues to live his life, even under enormous pain, and carries an incomplete soul. Imagine living with an internal part of yourself gone forever, torn from your body. Besides, Dumbledore is Snape’s only friend. Dumbledore is the only person (before Harry) who knows about the true intentions of Snape’s actions, the one who Snape truly confides in. Dumbledore is the person who has an unyielding trust in Snape, who gave Snape countless second chances. With Dumbledore dead, no one will truly believe in Snape. We can’t really count Voldemort as a friend, right? This means that by killing Dumbledore, Snape is truly alone. Worse, Snape will have no one to back him up anymore. All of Dumbledore’s supporters will hate him, and he’ll no longer have the protection Dumbledore offers. Whatever he does, he will need to do it alone. That’s like jumping into a shark tank all covered in blood. Yet, Snape does his job astoundingly well with the courage of a Gryffindor.

Finally, a part of bravery is finishing what you started, no matter the risks and hardships. One of the most dangerous things Snape does is spying for two of the greatest wizards of the century: Dumbledore and Voldemort. Astoundingly, he manages to gain the trust of both while maintaining his side with Dumbledore. And this double agent job isn’t a one-day thing - Snape does this job for years. And yet he never wavers or ditches this agonising job. He continues following Dumbledore’s orders, even after his death. And let’s not forget that both Dumbledore and Voldemort are skilled Occlumens, meaning that they both can penetrate your mind whenever they want. Quite scary when you are undercover. A slight twitch in expression or wording can completely ruin the plan, causing Snape to die, and letting evil rule the world. Talk of the burden and bravery needed to hide your true intentions from Voldemort, a ruthless killer.

Snape is Cowardly

Dumbledore may have been Snape’s only friend, but the most important thing in Snape’s life was Lily Evans. That is probably the only thing he had in common with James Potter. However, when Snape knew of Voldermort’s plans to kill her, he immediately ran to Dumbledore to ask for help. When Voldemort set out to murder Lily, James and Harry, Snape did nothing to prevent him. On the other hand, when the Dark Lord appeared in Godric’s Hollow, James shouted for Lily to take Harry and leave. He didn’t even hesitate to try and take on one of the most powerful wizards of all time with bare hands. He knew he was going to die, but he simply hoped that he would be able to delay Voldemort for just a little bit so that Lily could escape. James Potter sacrificed himself for Lily Evans, a touching act of bravery. Snape, in contrast, was too frightened to stand, literally, in Voldemort’s path.

In addition, a part of bravery is also owning up to your mistakes. Now, we’ve heard Hagrid admit his mistakes one too many times, and “I should not have said that” is one of his most iconic quotes. Even Dumbledore, one of the greatest wizards of all time, apologizes for his past beliefs and actions, as we see in the King’s Cross scene in the last book. However, does Snape ever admit he was wrong? The only times he ever apologized are when Lily Evans was involved.  He apologized when he called Lily a mudblood, and even then, he only apologized because he was obsessed with Lily, and he later continues calling other people the discriminatory slur. Later, when Snape finally realizes Sirius Black was innocent, he doesn’t even apologize for sending him to receive the Dementor’s Kiss, a fate worse than death. In many cases where he is accused of being wrong, he reacts by snapping or insulting other people to make himself feel better and more powerful, which is a cowardly thing to do, and isn’t unlike Voldemort’s actions. If he were truly brave, he would own up to his mistakes or learn from them, like Hagrid and Dumbledore (two true Gryffindors, I might add) do.

In conclusion, Snape does some remarkable acts of bravery that most wizards would not dare attempt. However, Harry Potter has crossed paths with several brave people and true Gryffindors. Yes, Severus Snape is a courageous man in some ways, but he was certainly not the bravest Harry has ever known. So, should Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, change his middle name? I’m afraid this question may never truly reach its conclusion.