Boy did we all feel like a bunch of morons when we read The Sorcerer’s Stone and got to the final showdown by the mirror. Many of us, Harry Potter & co. included, thought that the potential thief of the stone would be none other than the potions master: Severus Snape. In book 1, Snape spent a majority of his time being downright nasty to Harry and his buddies. It didn’t help that Harry was less than stellar at potions. When hi-jinx uncharacteristic of the norm at Hogwarts started going down, Harry and the rest of us all thought Snape was most likely to try to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone.
This superlative was so sure in our (and Harry’s) mind that when he stumbled upon st-st-stuttering professor Quirrell, we were all a little taken aback. In the next couple of books we continue to see Snape high on the spectrum of jerkiness alongside the rest of the house of Slytherin. In the 5th book we learn that Snape has been doing some double agent sort of work for the Order of the Phoenix, but can we really trust a guy with that hair?
Then, in the end of the sixth book, Snape does the unthinkable. (Spoiler alert) Snape kills Dumbledore. Many of us were filled with anger toward this horrid betrayal. Others (me) thought that Dumbledore wasn’t actually dead somehow. (dammit.) Then, in the end of the seventh book we all realized that Severus was a hero. And not just any hero, the most heroic hero of the whole series.
Snape had fallen deeply in love with his best friend Lily (later Potter) back in his school days. Hogwarts was tough for him because the biggest jerk of the series was constantly bullying him. James Potter put Draco Malfoy’s bullying techniques to shame in his torment of Snape. James and his buddies were always thinking up new and creative ways to make Snape’s life terrible. James delivers the coup de grace by stealing Lily Potter from Snape and going off to marry her. …I’m still not sure why James wasn’t a Slytherin.
Humiliated and heart-broken, Snape joined in with the wrong crowd (the Deatheaters) and then watched in horror as his new-found friends went off and murdered Lily Potter. He went to Dumbledore and begged to be killed, but Dumbledore had another plan for him. When the Dark Lord Voldemort returned post-Goblet of Fire, Snape convinced the Deatheaters that he was with them again. He reported back information to Dumbledore, but at the end of the sixth book, Snape was faced with either killing Dumbledore, or blowing his cover, allowing Voldemort to continue his nastiness without the Order having any secret weapons.
Snape was forced to kill the only man who believed in him and then got chased out of Hogwarts by the son of the woman he loved.
Snape returned to the Deatheaters, a dark group he secretly hated. Voldemort had the most powerful wand in the world, but what he didn’t know was that it would only work for Draco Malfoy. Snape knew this, and didn’t tell the dark lord. Snape was at constant risk of being killed by Voldemort.
At the end of the seventh book, Voldemort realizes that the wand will only work for the wizard that disarmed Dumbledore. He assumes this is Snape, and so he has his pet snake bite him with her poison and then he wanders off to go kill some folks with his new-found power. Harry finds Snape who gives him his tears to read his memories with.
We learn from Snape’s memories that Snape has been protecting Harry since the day of his parents’ death. He has had to defend him in secret out of the shadows so as not to alert the Dark Lord of his true allegiance. Despite his hatred for Harry’s father, Snape’s love for Harry’s mother was so strong that he would do anything to keep Harry alive, even sacrifice himself.
Snape devoted his life for 17 years to make sure Harry would survive what was to come. In the end he sacrificed himself for Harry and the rest of the world. Though he never received love his entire life, he poured all the love he had into Lily’s memory, showing courage far beyond anyone else in the series.