Why Snape Is The Best Part Of Harry Potter

Every story has its hero. First instinct would have most believe the champion of virtue in the Harry Potter series to be Harry himself. While the Boy Who Lived is certainly a protagonist for the ages, there is no one quite like the complicated man known as Severus Snape. There are a multitude of reasons for loving everything Harry Potter, from Quidditch to Butterbeer, but as the franchise ages gracefully, Snape continues to show us why he deserves our admiration. The Half-blood Prince tears our emotions asunder with each new viewing marathon, series re-read, and passionate discussion with fellow fans.

Alan Rickman stepped into Severus Snape's shoes in 2001, and has since been immortalized for his memorable performance in every film of the Harry Potter franchise. At times, the late actor almost seems to know Snape better than J.K. Rowling herself. Long before the character arrives at his final destination, Rickman's performance lays the groundwork with its careful balance of prickliness and ennui. A major part of Harry Potter's rewatchability comes from the complexity of Severus Snape: Each viewing peels back another layer of the complex professor. This timeless quality is one reason why Snape is the best part of Harry Potter – but there are a myriad of other reasons as well. Let us count the ways, one potions lesson at a time.

Snape is the most accurate character adaptation from the books

When the first film hit theaters, readers had already enjoyed the first few volumes of Harry Potter. These fans had their own interpretations of the characters cemented in their minds, and they prayed that the films would do Snape justice. When Severus Snape's face popped on screen in the first film, quite a few of those nervous Harry Potter enthusiasts exhaled in relief. Then, Rickman spoke his first lines to a young Harry Potter: "Mr. Potter ... our new celebrity." His subtle, silky tone caused a familiar chill to run down fans' spines — a chill they recognized from sitting alone in their bedrooms, devouring scenes involving the mysterious potions master.

Most of the character adaptations in the Harry Potter films are spot on, but there are still a few variations and liberties taken. Sometimes, those variations aren't quite what we pictured, but we accept them and love the character just the same. The movies' Snape, however, forces no one to compromise. Alan Rickman's portrayal of the Slytherin alumnus is one of the most accurate character adaptations to ever grace the screen. For an endeavor that requires transforming a deeply personal reading experience into a visual story millions will evaluate, that's an impressive feat. It's even more impressive when you consider Snape was only on screen for a grand total of 43 minutes across all eight films.

Snape is the most virtuous wizard in the whole story

Yes, Snape used to be a Death Eater. But let us not forget that he was a  teenager at the time, and had spent his years at Hogwarts being ruthlessly bullied. Hogwarts' social dynamics are brutal, and can leave students spinning. Snape may have lost his way, as many of us do, but once he chooses the virtuous path, he remains devoted to it. Said devotion is tested more than any other, but he does not waver.

In order to gain Voldemort's trust, Snape needs to lie to nearly every person in his life — and so he does. Snape sets aside his personal desires, and abandons even the possibility of meaningful relationships to better atone for his sins. Voldemort's prodigious skill as a Legilimens means that Snape cannot leave even a single person (save Dumbledore, whose skill matches Voldemort's) in doubt as to his evil nature. This means Snape is condemned to crushing loneliness ... and yet he remains dedicated to the destruction of Lord Voldemort. His life is one of isolation: Everyone has to truly believe, at their core, that he represents everything he actually abhors. That's selflessness on a scale that can scarcely be comprehended.

Snape is one of the most powerful wizards around

Severus Snape's knowledge of magic is encyclopedic. In terms of potions, it is his brew that allows Dumbledore to extend his life when he is cursed by one of Voldemort's horcruxes. Though his knowledge of the Dark Arts leads many to believe he has a proclivity for evil, it actually makes him skilled in defending against dark spells. Furthermore, Voldemort's Death Eaters are empowered by their hatred. The same cannot be said for Snape, who is, as we later learn, rooted in love — an emotion utterly at odds with the Dark Arts.

Snape is not prone to grandiose displays of power, unlike certain other wizards. His skills are put to use in much more practical and calculated ways. This lack of flashiness distracts from the fact that Snape is, in fact, an incredibly powerful wizard. He's invented several spells, some of which become commonly used among his colleagues. There is also his skill in casting wandless spells, his talent for dueling, and his useful array of healing spells. From his earliest days as a Hogwarts student, Snape has proved he is a genius wizard, and his standing in the wizarding world reflects that. This is evidenced by Snape earning the trust of two of the most powerful wizards in history: Dumbledore and Voldemort.

Snape has strong protective instincts

On numerous occasions throughout the series, Snape's first instinct in dire situations is to thrust himself between students and imminent danger. The best display of this is in Prisoner of Azkaban, when he steps out of the Shrieking Shack. In Snape's mind, he has just been deceived by one of the students he was trying to protect: Harry had aimed his wand at Snape, rather than assist in the capture of Sirius Black. After recovering from this hit, he finds his students face to face with Lupin, fully transformed into a werewolf. His first and immediate reaction is to place himself between the threat and the children. Let's also not forget that he attempts to protect Harry from the very beginning, as when he counters Professor Quirrell's destructive spells during a Quidditch match.

Snape's determination is rooted in his protective instincts. He seeks to protect Harry, son of the woman he loves, from Voldemort, by diving into the belly of the beast. Once deep in the lion's den, he continues to make decisions that will protect those around him. Recall his decision to make the Unbreakable Vow and kill Dumbledore, which is made largely to protect Draco Malfoy, at his weeping mother's behest. Without Snape's instinctual desire to protect those around him, the entire wizarding world would have fallen to Voldemort.

His loyalty to Dumbledore is absolute

Snape is a double agent for the ages. Rowling loves to play with this fact, leaving readers in the dark as to his true intentions through most of the series. Once the whole picture comes into focus, though, it is obvious that Snape's loyalties lie with Dumbledore. This isn't apparent until the final chapter comes to a close, but that final chapter leaves nothing in doubt: Snape manages to fool everyone around him, using their uncertainty as his strength. His only confidant in the whole ordeal is Dumbledore, the only person who knows his true intentions and with whom he can speak freely.

Snape's reward for being loyal to Dumbledore is yet more suffering. But he continues down that path regardless, knowing it is the right way. Consider, for a moment, the enormity of Snape's loyalty: After Lily dies, he is forced to return to Voldemort and pledge allegiance to the man who killed her. Eventually, Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him, which will condemn him in the eyes of many. Snape remains true. His loyalty even extends beyond the grave: Snape's final actions are to enlighten Harry as to his Horcrux nature, per Dumbledore's request. He does so with his dying breath.

The incredible love Snape has for Lily

The first time Harry Potter meets Severus Snape, the potions teacher asks him a rather complex question: "Tell me, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?" There is more to the question than meets the eye. Fans have discovered that in the Victorian language of flowers, asphodel is a type of lily that means "my regrets follow you to the grave," and wormwood is a root that symbolizes absence, bitterness, and grief. Snape's first words spoken to Harry essentially translate to "I bitterly regret Lily's death."

From our first introduction to Snape, Lily is on his mind. This love is what pushes him towards heroism — even though it is unrequited. Snape loves Lily so deeply, he devotes his life to protecting her son, who bears a striking resemblance to the man who bullied him as a student. As Snape grew up in an abusive household, his only escape was his relationship with Lily — she essentially teaches him what it means to be loved. This is the keystone of the man he becomes. Though he strays from goodness, he finds his way back in the end, guided by the North Star that is his love for Lily. It's the "best of him," as Dumbledore says, and the reason he is one of the series' most memorable heroes.

Snape is the most human character in the entire series

The Harry Potter franchise is a fantasy series, but its magic isn't what makes us fall in love with the wizarding world. Expelliarmus charms and enchanted goblets are delightful to watch, but what keeps us coming back are the characters. These people have deep, rich layers, allowing them to live forever in our hearts. The majority of Harry Potter characters tend to fall into one of two categories, however: good or evil. Snape complicates this, and as such, stands out.

Snape is perhaps the most human character in the series. Humanity is a complicated beast: Right and wrong are rarely painted starkly. Snape's path through the wizarding world is a touching story about wrestling with that sort of murkiness. His life is filled with heartbreak, betrayal, pain, love, and death. His virtue is tested on a far greater scale than almost anyone else in Harry Potter. Most other characters in the series have a clear path towards their destiny, but Snape's is winding and shadowy. That's much closer to the actual human experience, and that's why fans love him.

Snape is the king of snark

Severus Snape is the absolute king of sass. The man is a straight-up savage. A prime example of this is in Prisoner of Azkaban, when he addresses Hermione by saying, "Ms. Granger, are you incapable of restraining yourself, or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all?" We love Hermione, but Alan Rickman delivers this line so perfectly that our only response is to laugh. His snark is another delightful layer of characterization, and it makes him one of the most memorable characters in the series.

Snape, at heart, is a sensitive creature. But ultimately, he doesn't much care what people think of him. This allows him to relentlessly drop truth bombs on those around him. This skill helps inject levity into otherwise cheesy moments, such as Harry's reunion with Sirius Black. As the two are cheerfully hugging each other, Snape is in the background stating dryly, "I may vomit." While the other teachers and parental figures around the main characters are loving nurturers, Snape steps into the frame and lets them know they aren't all that. It's refreshing, and often hilarious. 

The story of Severus Snape is one of the most heartbreaking in the series

Snape's story is one of the most heartbreaking you'll find. Born to a troubled household, his only solace is Lily, his childhood friend. Upon becoming students at Hogwarts, they are sorted into separate houses. Snape becomes a pariah at school, and is bullied by other students. Later, Lily ends up marrying Snape's bully. His heartbreak leads him down a dark path that eventually leads to Lily's death and a ravaged wizarding world.

Snape is forced to return to the man who killed the love of his life and pledge his allegiance to him. This double life results in Snape's total alienation. Snape is then forced to kill Dumbledore, his only confidant. Completely alone and cut off from any allies, Snape is killed by Lily's murderer. He dies in a boat shed, staring into the eyes of the woman he loves in the face of his childhood tormentor. He is utterly alone in the world in his final moments.

It's a lot to process. Piecing Snape's life together will make your eyes well up with tears and your heart bleed — staring into Alan Rickman's sad eyes only amplifies the experience. Severus Snape's story is its own epic tale within an epic tale, nearly loaded with more sorrow than we can handle.

Snape has the most incredible character journey of the entire series

Aside from a few twists here and there, most characters in Harry Potter remain on a single trajectory. We like them, and Rowling keeps giving us reasons to keep liking them. The roller coaster of emotion provided by Snape's character journey is thus unmatched across the franchise. Snape is immediately viewed as the villain by Harry and his friends. Added to this is the later revelation of his Death Eater past. Once Voldemort resurfaces, then, it comes as no surprise when Snape returns to the Dark Lord.

Snape is hated by most people in the wizarding world. Despite this, we find ourselves enjoying his endearing qualities — but we still remain uncertain about how we truly feel about him. After Snape kills Dumbledore, we align ourselves with Harry in his hatred of Snape. Then, we learn the truth about Severus Snape, and it flips everything around. It's the most dramatic character arc in the entire series: Snape goes from being hated by every single person in Hogwarts to having Harry's child named after him. You can't do more of a 180 than that.

Alan Rickman is unbeatable

The man behind Severus Snape is impossible not to love. Right from the start of his film career, audiences everywhere recognized the magnificence of Alan Rickman. Believe it or not, his first feature film role was Hans Gruber in Die Hard, who has become one of the most iconic villains in movie history. He went on to become known for his more sinister roles, but proved he could play anything time and time again. His comedic talents are on full display in Galaxy Quest and Dogma, for example, and he plays the romantic hero in Love Actually and Sense and Sensibility.

When Rickman passed away in 2016, the entire world mourned the loss of a beloved entertainer. We should count ourselves blessed that he has been immortalized in roles that will never be equaled. Helen Mirren described him best in an interview with Entertainment Tonight when she said, "He was utterly distinctive, with a voice that could suggest honey or a hidden stiletto blade, and the profile of a Roman Emperor." His performance as Snape provides a magical way for fans to enjoy his talent forever. Even after all these years, he still remains one of the most enjoyable parts of the series that just keeps getting better with age.