I was already an adult when I first experienced the Harry Potter series. My parents were of the same mindset as most Christian families, that Harry Potter was evil and their children needed to be protected from it. I never really minded all that much, apart from missing out on the latest thing that had all the kids my own age salivating. So, when I did finally watch the movies and read the books, it was without the wide-eyed wonder I would have used as a child reader. I wasn't moved by the story. Oh, it was interesting, but nothing spectacular, and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Ron was a jerk. Hermione was a know-it-all. And Harry, well, Harry goes it alone far more often than I liked in a child.
Fortunately for me and the best friend who has waited oh, so patiently for me to join her fandom, my opinions are prone to change. I wasn't ready to love Harry Potter when I read it 6 or so years ago. But I was ready when I plunked myself down in my office chair for a long work-day, and plugged myself into the audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I was hooked from that moment on. I couldn't wait to start my day so I could spend 6 or so hours with Harry and his friends. I love going to work every day anyway, but listening to Harry Potter made the day that much more enjoyable. I lost myself in that world, a world come alive through the voice acting of Jim Dale. I'm very much an auditory and tactile learner and the books themselves were too long, too burdensome, for me to fully enjoy reading. You must admit that Rowling got more verbose as she went along. I didn't remember much of them after my first reading. Now, I feel like I remember almost everything. Sure, some details have escaped me, but where I saw Harry's world in black and white before, now it's in vibrant color with scents and sounds and sights that before I couldn't even imagine. Jim Dale did it for me. He drew me into the world of Harry Potter, a feat I thought impossible.
Which brings me to my topic for this post . . . Severus Snape. Based purely on logic, MBTI studies reveal that Snape is an ISTJ. A lot of people would love him to be an INTJ, but that simply does not fit because Snape, as an ISTJ, utilizes internal sensing (Si), something an INTJ does not have. His functions go in order of: Internal Sensing (Si), External Thinking (Te), Internal Feeling (Fi), and External Intuiting (Ne). On some very basic levels, I understand how Snape sees the world because the ISFJ has Si as our top function too. Snape is caught in a loop of memory, unable to break free from it. Whereas I try to forgive and forget through my Fe function, Snape can't do that because his 3rd function is Fi, internal feeling. Everything that reminds him of his past is seen in a negative light because that past hurts, but I'll dive into that more later on.
I could be like so many others in Potterdom and discount Snape entirely, but I won't do that because I need to examine the journey he takes to get from Point A (the little boy who is desperate for affection) to Point B (the man who bullies small children). Fortunately for me, because I waited so very long to read these books, I knew Snape's outcome before I ever read the series. I knew of his demise, but I also knew who he ultimately served, and it wasn't Voldemort. With this second reading, I immediately set myself to looking for bits and pieces about Snape that might help me see him in a different light from the cruel man I'd known him to be during my first reading. There was nothing, no real, genuine hint of the man underneath who betrayed, in fact was constantly betraying, the Dark Lord, putting himself in danger every single day of his life to keep Harry Potter safe.
This lack of hints about Snape's true loyalties led me to question why the books didn't have them. Was it a shortcoming on the part of the author, I wondered? Had she not planned Snape's true loyalties far enough in advance? No, I realized, that couldn't be the case because Snape saves Harry from Quirrell in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. So what is the excuse behind Snape's loathsome behavior? It was only because I was reading the books through my ears instead of my eyes that I suddenly realized the reason. The reader only ever sees Snape through Harry's eyes except for that one scene in Half-Blood Prince where Narcissa and Bellatrix visit him to discuss Draco's oh, so dismal future. Nowhere else is Snape seen apart from Harry's perception, until Harry is made privy to Snape's memories and by then it's too late because Snape is dead and Harry can never make amends. Any bias against Snape from the reader occurs because of Harry's hatred of the man. I noticed it, listening to the series, how deeply Harry feels everything. He never does anything by half. When he hates someone, he hates them. When he loves someone, he pretty much loves them, even Dumbledore despite his flaws. So when the reader sees Snape, we see him through the filter of malice that colors Harry's every thought about his least favorite professor. Don't mistake me. If the books were from Snape's perspective we would get the same skewed viewpoint from Snape about Harry because the both of them are Fi users, internal feelers, which means they are strongly aware of their own emotions and less aware of the emotions of others, even to the point of discounting the feelings of other people
When the reader looks at Snape solely through Harry's eyes, he is a monster. He is cruel and heartless with no good left in him. This is how Harry sees Severus Snape and so the reader is forced to see him this way too. The only way the reader can view Snape any differently is through Snape's own memories, those precious few moments where Harry isn't coloring everything he touches. How did Lily Evans see Severus Snape? Did she see a cruel monster? Certainly later, yes, but it was only after years and years of choices and hurt had built up inside Snape to the point where he started lashing out against the people he loved, or, the one person he loved.
The question is then, who is Severus Snape? He is known by many names and nicknames, some not so nice and some downright disrespectful. The closest Snape ever comes to obtaining someone's respect is Albus Dumbledore who calls him Severus with a deep-rooted affection behind the name. Harry, as we all know, calls him Snape. As a student, this is highly disrespectful since he should be calling him Professor Snape and I'm surprised Hermione let him get away with it. The one that hurts him the most, though, is Snivelous, the nickname from his childhood, the one and only gift from Sirius Black and James Potter. The nickname is ugly and derisive and roots a deep resentment in Snape that he spends the rest of his life yielding to instead of combating. For the moment, however, let's focus on the one name that is my personal favorite, the one Lily Evans called him . . . Sev. Think of the Potions Master Snape we see throughout the Harry Potter series. I don't know about you, but I can never, in my wildest dreams, imagine anyone calling that Snape a simple fond nickname like Sev. It doesn't fit the harsh, cold, empirical man who is so cruel to the non-Slytherin students in his class.
Am I the only one amazed at the friendship between Lily and Snape? They were in rival houses, the two houses with probably the strongest rivalry of all, but they were best friends. Imagine if Harry had been put in Slytherin. Do you think that Ron and Hermione would have stayed close friends with him? I doubt it, which is what makes Lily's fondness for Snape so unique. She saw something in him, some spark that snagged her attention, and kept her returning to their friendship despite, I'm sure, buckets of resistance from other Gryffindors. I admit, the way Rowling words Snape's fascination with Lily as a child is a little disturbing, staring at her as if he were hungry, but what does that mean in the eyes of a child? Snape's upbringing was horrible. He was starving for connection to someone, anyone, and then this perfect little girl comes along who also possesses magic. He needs the human connection with someone who understands what he is. Lily Evans gave him that connection. And only once did he ever call Lily mudblood. It was unforgivable, and I'm willing to bet that he beat himself up for it every day of his life thereafter. Snape, for the entirety of his friendship with Lily, didn't care that she came from Muggle parents, all he saw was her.
I've had many a fascinating discussion recently about Snape and Sirius Black with a new friend whose very first crush was Sirius. We go back and forth and round and round about them whenever we meet. She loathes Snape, no empathy for him at all, and it's amusing to me because I feel much the same way about Sirius. All of the behavioral dysfunction the reader sees in Snape can also be attributed to Sirius. Snape is cruel to certain of his students. Sirius is hateful to his old house elf. Both of them are internal feelers which prevent them from seeing the other's point of view. Of course, my dislike of Sirius also stems from him being one of my least favorite personality types, the ESFP, also known as The Performer who is reckless, careless, and overall a bad egg. Ronald is an ESFP too, which explains a lot actually.
Ahem, anyway, one of the arguments I've heard to excuse Snape is that when Snape looks at Harry, he sees James. Why not? That's exactly how I perceive the relationship, a perception solidified when Harry actually looks into Snape's memories about his years spent teaching Harry. Every argument against Harry comes back to how much he is like his father. Snape sees a mini James Potter in Harry, and he can't move past it. Why? Because Si is is first function. Sorry folks, that's how it works. Si is my top function, and if Fi were my 3rd then I would be just like Snape, holding grudges forever. I don't do that thankfully, but I can see how he does because he has almost no other alternative. Harry would have needed to prove him wrong for there to be any alteration in their communication, but he doesn't do that. Instead, Harry is an awful lot like James, breaking the rules, sneaking out, not listening in class. He's a bad, disrespectful student to Snape, and only to Snape, so Snape's mind immediately zings to him being like James. I get it. I'm not excusing it or his own wrongful reactions to Harry, but I see how he arrives at that conclusion about Harry's character.
Think for a moment, just one single moment, what it must have been like for Snape to be working to save Harry Potter. I'll be the first to admit that he didn't do it for the boy. No, he did it for Lily. Perhaps his love is a selfish love, but it was all he knew, and Snape sacrificed everything he had, everything he was, his own life in order to try and save Harry Potter, a boy he purportedly hated. It's easy to defend someone you love. But it is so difficult to defend someone you hate. I'm not saying Snape didn't hate Harry. In his own way he did because let's be honest, he wanted to have children with Lily, to be in James' place at her side. That never happened and he turned bitter, and because of what he is as an ISTJ he couldn't move on from that damage. So, I'm not saying Snape didn't hate Harry, what I'm saying is that he protected him anyway. To me, that is massively telling about Snape's character. I'd like to think that I could defend someone whose very presence reminded me of bad experiences, but I'm not so sure I could. In that regard, Snape is better than me, more noble than me since he died in defense of Harry.
Nothing will ever change Snape into a loving, caring individual. He made mistakes, a lot of them, the first and biggest being that he joined the Dark Lord as a way of lashing out against his enemies and the bullies in his life. It's unfortunate that Snape became a bully after being bullied. You would think that he, above almost anyone else, would know how that feels and would have made sure to never make the same behavioral choices as Sirius Black and James Potter. But he couldn't do it, he tied himself too fiercely to his memories and his pain that he couldn't see beyond it. He did love, but it was a love that could have been so much more if he hadn't tried to control Lily. At least he turned away from Voldemort and he tried, in his own way, to be of some help to Dumbledore and to Harry. Aren't those memories Snape has of Dumbledore beautiful? Harry was missing pieces to the puzzle, partially because Dumbledore isn't exactly a big sharer, but also because he didn't want to see Snape as anything other than evil. When we view people as our enemy, even when they do something to help us, we're too blinded to see it. Snape is beautiful and tragic and no better or worse than any of the other flawed characters in this series, excluding Dolores Umbridge who I hate with every fibre of my being.
Readers, do not base your opinion of Snape solely on the books. Harry Potter, as much as I love him, is as biased against Snape as Snape is against him. Every evil glance and sneer Snape sent his way, every hateful look, could have had a multitude other connotations and meanings that Harry simply did not see because his own emotions got in the way. Snape is a mystery to the reader, possibly just as Rowling intended. I just wish she had fleshed him out more than she did, but then I wish that for most of the characters apart from the main three, not just Snape. What I do see of him, though, is a man shaped by pain, and loss, and lack of understanding from the people around him, Harry included. The only ones who tried to get through the barrier were Lily and Dumbledore, and he let them in. Sometimes all it takes is trying.
My final thought to leave you with is that Lily Evans' death saved not one, but two lives that night. She saved the life of her precious little boy, but she also saved Snape. He walked away from Voldemort. Her death broke his loyalty to evil, and I think that is something Lily would have been very glad to know. She loved him too, remember. Perhaps not romantically, but they were best friends for so many years, and you don't come out of that without some lingering affection for the other person. Snape is more than we can ever know, and that makes him so much more wonderful to ponder and contemplate than if we were given every deep, dark, morbid secret of his life. The questions can never be answered, but they will always be asked.
Thanks to Charity for doing the graphics for this post, and I strongly encourage you to visit Funky MBTI Fiction on Tumblr for more details on how the MBTI works.