Forget Harry; what about Snape?

Ok, I know the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series came out over two weeks ago, and the rest of yall are probably all talked out about it.  But I signed the closing papers on my house two weeks late on July 25th, giving me just one week to get all my stuff out of my old apartment. Moving in the DC summer humidity is not fun, let me tell you! :p

So it wasn't until this weekend, Friday afternoon, that I had the chance to sit down and read the Deathly Hallows... all in one sitting.  And while of course I wanted to know what happens to Harry and Hermione and Ron et al, what I was really dying to know is what happens to Snape.  We all knew that Snape would die; the question was how - was he killed by Harry in a final showdown?  Or does he sacrifice himself to save Harry thereby proving his goodness?

This has been a matter of fierce debate ever since book six, where Rowling masterfully spun the plot to its climatic cliff-hanger - Snape's murder of Dumbledore.  The death of Harry's mentor and rock was shocking, and my roommate insisted that this proved once and for all that Snape was indeed bad.  But I persisted.  I had faith.  In truth, I knew, just knew, that there was no way that Snape could not be redeemed.  Rowling is too good and sensitive a story teller to make it so simplistic.  Plus, it would have broken my heart.

Snape is dark, troubled, unlikeable.  He does things that aren't nice, that makes us cringe.  But underneath that we sense that there is a reason, there is pain.  Snape lives with the guilt of having been on the wrong side, for which he carries an indelible mark.  It would be too easy to write him off; to do so would be to write off part of ourselves.  At least for me, even tho I love Harry et al. and want them to triumph, and adore Dumbledore and wish I would be like him, it's Snape with whom I identify with most.  I too have been less than noble at times.  I've hurt others because of my own unhappiness.  I've done things that I regret and wish I could take back but can't, and have to live with the consequences.  I have to believe that no matter how horrible the sin, there is always still the possibility of redemption.  

(C'mon, if Darth Vader can be redeemed then why not Snape?)

In the end, Harry did not kill Snape in a triumph of good over evil.  Nor did Snape sacrifice himself to save Harry in the ultimate gesture of redemption as I had envisioned.  Snape's demise was shockingly trivial - a testimony to the true evil of the Dark Lord.  Yet the story that Rowling spun as a eulogy to Snape was more touching and beautiful than what I had imagined for him.  The story was of an awkward boy, his personal flaws leading to the loss of what he most desired.  In the end, he still was not grand, his desires still selfish, and he was used by the larger players around him.  But it was love that redeems him, love for another that kept him from going over completely to darkness.  Not grand, sweeping heroic love for all humanity, but the kind of love experienced by the most of us. 

I read the entire book in one sitting, stopping only to eat once.  And then I went back and reread Snape's story again.  Thank you Ms. Rowling.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative