I have a lot of sympathy for teen Snape, but no sympathy for adult Snape.
This has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I feel like I need to get it out.
I’ve seen a lot of Snape hate on tumblr… and I understand why. He’s a very screwed up individual, and basically everything he does to and around Harry Potter is inexcusable.
He torments students, uses grudges against people who are long dead to excuse humiliating and traumatizing eleven-year-olds, displays blatant favoritism in his classroom, is a bigot and a bully, would have happily seen Lily’s husband and son (her priorities) die as long as she (his priority) lived, and pulled a massive dude-bro friendzone move. Also he was a Death Eater by choice and possibly/probably contributed to Neville’s parent’s being tortured into complete dissociation from reality.
And I’m not defending him. I don’t think those actions are defensible. I think all of those things make him an abhorrent human being. By the time Harry gets to know him, my assessment is that he is undeniably a bad person.
Most people seem to think that his history, as shown in OotP and DH, was meant to redeem him and failed to do so, or was meant to further villainize him.
I think the point of his back story is not actually to try to redeem his actions OR cast him as a villain. His back story shows us that he could have taken a different path.
The person he became was a result of bad choices. He started off in an abusive home, latched onto those who showed him kindness and pushed away everyone else with force. He was bullied terribly and alienated from many of his peers due to his appearance, his house, and his flawed personality (which was largely designed to survive his abusive home situation).
His life was horrible, and I have sympathy for that. He hated himself, and I have sympathy for that. I have sympathy for his pain, and how he was trying to take control of his life. He made bad choices, which is a very human thing to do, and does not necessarily make someone a bad person.
This is paralleled strongly in the story of James Potter, who made many horrible choices, was a disgustingly self righteous bully who put other people’s lives in danger for his own amusement and treated Lily poorly as well, and then became a very good person who she deemed worthy of her love and sharing her life with.
It is paralleled in Draco Malfoy who made many horrible choices, and then came to regret the situation those actions had put him in, came to realize his mistake in making the choices he had made.
It is paralleled in Regulus Black, and Peter Pettigrew, and Helena Ravenclaw, and Narcissa Malfoy, all of whom made bad choices up to a point, and then made one immeasurably valuable choice without which all would have been lost.
It is even paralleled in Remus Lupin, and Albus Dumbledore, who made mostly good choices throughout their lives, but became partly defined in Harry’s memory by the bad ones.
And it is also paralleled by all the characters who had every opportunity to make bad choices and didn’t. Neville, Hermione, McGonagall, Lily, Fleur, Luna, etc.
The message of Severus Snape as I see it— the message of so many characters in the Harry Potter series— is that choices make you who you are. The value of a person is the choices that they make, and they can always, always change for the better by making different choices.
Severus Snape made many bad choices, most of them later in life. If different events had influenced him in his teen years, if he had been strong enough to make different choices, he could have been a very different person, possibly even a very good person.
People call him a lot of bad things, and although they are not wrong, in my opinion boiling him down to those terms devalues the message of his character.
I will always personally have a soft-spot for teen Snape because I identify with the pain and the anger in him that comes from being bullied and humiliated.
I do not begrudge Lily in any way for separating herself from a toxic situation and individual. I wish, however, that he had had more than one friend, and that he had had friends in his own house who he trusted enough to be vulnerable with.
Teen Snape always read like a wounded animal to me. If he had been able to be cared for in the right way, without harming those trying to help him, he could have adjusted in a functional way. There’s a potential there for him to have become a good person.
Adult Snape should know better, and thus, adult Snape is reprehensible to me, where teen Snape is sympathetic. Teen Snape is in pain and lashing out without intent to harm, adult Snape is lashing out for the satisfaction of causing others pain.
He became a bad person. He was not always that way.