Harry Potter—Character Analysis: Sorting Snape Part Two

By Bec C.

It cannot be doubted that Snape displayed extreme bravery. He was willing to lay down his life, on the chance that Harry would be able to defeat Voldemort. He was willing to risk everything for to protect Lily Evans, and then later, Harry Potter, the last remnant of Lily herself. But does this bravery truly make him a Gryffindor instead of a Slytherin? Is it possible to be brave without being in the house that prides itself on bravery? First let’s examine the notion of bravery.

Being brave is an ability to do what needs to be done, or what you see as right. Being brave does not mean you aren’t scared. It is easy to see that many of the Gryffindors are in fact brave, and willing to risk everything for what is right. Harry himself is an obvious example. His journey to defeat the Dark Lord was not an easy one, and there were many times he seemed to want to give up, or not have to face another friend dying. And yet he carried on, because he knew that was the right thing to do, even if it meant he himself would die in the process. In fact Harry was willing to lay down his life for his cause, was willing to give up his life to protect his friends, and in fact the whole world, against Voldemort.

And Harry was not the only Gryffindor who was brave. Neville, in the first book, showed extreme bravery in standing up for his friends. Yes, it may have been easier to let his friends leave the common room and not stand in his way, yes he risked offending them, or having them dislike him for his act of bravery. But he did what he did because it was right, because he knew that the rules of Hogwarts spoke against students roaming the common room at night, and because he was trying to protect his house from losing more points. And later, despite the fact that it appeared Voldemort had won, and that there was no more hope in fighting, Neville was the one to stand up to Voldemort, and to declare that even without Harry they should fight on, they should be brave and do what is right.

Ron and Hermione are also cases of extreme bravery for what is right, as any fan would agree without my needing to go into specifics. Why even when Ron did run away, under the influence of the Horcrux, he immediately regretted what he had done, and tried to return. Ron faced a terrifying phobia of his, a fear of spiders, in the Chamber of Secrets, because Hagrid had asked them to follow the spiders, and he knew that trying to prove Hagrid was innocent of the crime accused of him was the right thing to do. He could easily have refused to face the spiders, and allowed Hagrid to continue languishing in Azkaban, but instead, like a true Gryffindor he stood up and acted with bravery, for what is right.

In each of these cases, it is clear that the characters are acting bravely because they are trying to pursue what they see as the right, or moral course of action. They are trying to bring about some greater good, to make the world a better place, and to at all times follow what their heart was telling them. Now as we all know, Snape was brave. But was he brave because it was the right thing to do?

For years, Snape was drawn to the death eaters and Voldemort, intrigued by the dark arts. He did not question the path he had set himself on, even if that path led to the torture and death of many wizards, and was set against muggle borns, like his former best friend Lily Evans. The only reason Snape baulked in his dedication to an evil cause was when something he cared about, Lily Evans was threatened. Did he go to Dumbledore and ask him to protect the Potters because the right thing to do would be to not let an innocent family be murdered? No, he went to Dumbledore, because his own attempts to save Lily, by asking Voldemort for her, had failed, and he was out of options. He went to Dumbledore because it was Lily, the woman he loved he wanted to protect. He cared little for James or Harry, despite their innocence in all this.

And while later, after Lily had died, did Snape protect Harry because Harry was an innocent child, who should be protected because it was the right thing to do? He cared little for the boy when Dumbledore mentioned Harry had survived. It was only when he learnt that Harry in some way resembled the woman Snape had loved dearly, that he had his mother’s eyes, did Snape agree to protect him, to save the last remnant of Lily Evans, and to later die to ensure this boy had a chance against Voldemort. Protecting Harry was never about doing what was right, but instead had everything to do with Snape’s feelings for the boy’s mother. This is even implied by Snape himself, when he conjures a patronus for Dumbledore, the word Always on his lips.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not in any way trying to diminish Snape’s bravery. I am among those who believe he is one of the bravest men in the book, risking everything for love. However, I don’t believe this is truly Gryffindor bravery. But let’s look at the traits of the Slytherins, who are known to be cunning and ambitious, and to go after what they want any way they can. Couldn’t it be said that Snape’s bravery, his desire to save the woman he loved and then, later, the woman’s son, would fit in more with Slytherin’s own trait. It was an ambitious kind of bravery, a bravery focused on protecting something Snape cared about, a bravery focussed on fulfilling Snape’s own desires and not on what was right. Gryffindor does not hold the monopoly on bravery, and I feel to claim Snape was a Gryffindor in some way diminishes his bravery. Anyone can be brave, if it is what they believe they should do, and it is ingrained in their personality. But Snape did not have a brave personality, and yet in the end, he chose bravery over the easier task of moving up the ranks of the death eaters. His ambition and cunning would have served him well as a double agent for Voldemort, but instead he chose the side of good, the side of what is right, all for his love of one woman. And that I believe, makes him brave as only a Slytherin can be.