One of the great strengths of the Harry Potter series is the great swathe of nuanced characters who populate the novels. Whether it’s Harry or that janitor who is married to his cat, there are so many people to relate to in these books, and who make reading them an experience that can be enjoyed again and again, even twenty years later.
There is, however, a particular character who speaks to the heart of fans perhaps more than others. And that character is Severus Snape. The cantankerous master of potions, who seems to move back and forward in his allegiance but ultimately does the right thing, speaks to all of us. He makes mistakes, some of them terrible and almost unforgivable, but he does everything in his power to rectify them. He represents redemption in all its forms.
But I’m here to talk about what Snape taught me. And the thing Snape most taught me was understanding. Let’s not mince words: Snape is a bully. He relentlessly persecutes Harry throughout the books, doing things that could cause lasting psychological damage in a young person. But ultimately, we find out that he only did it because he really wanted to fuck Harry’s mother. And that makes it alright.
Yes, Snazzy Snae just wanted to pluck the lily. That’s all he wanted. He and Lily were friends, so she totally owed him, right? I mean, it’d be a dick move to friendzone him, amirite? And he was a nice guy, except for that time that he called her the wizard equivalent of a racial slur. So she was just being kind of a bitch to turn him down like that. No wonder he was angry and took it out on her son years after her murder by the man who led the group that he was part of at the time. Seems totally legit.
And this made me think, what if the teacher who relentlessly bullied me at school wasn’t doing it because he was a terrible person. What if he was doing it because he wanted to fuck my mum? Wouldn’t that make his behaviour so much more excusable? Wouldn’t it make him sympathetic? If it was the simple fact that he was horny but had been rejected by a woman, wouldn’t that make his unceasing persecution of me understandable?
Isn’t an assault on the fragile self-esteem of a child legitimised by the fact that that child’s mother didn’t fancy him?
Isn’t the perceived right of a man to have sex with somebody he’s been kind of nice to a justification for taking out rejection on the child?
Of course it is. And Snape taught me that.
I feel now that I can finally forgive my bullying teacher for the damage he did to me. Because I understand that he only did it because he wanted his early emotional connection with my mother to include sex, but it didn’t. And that makes him a hero.