Friday, December 25, 2015

Severus Snape is NOT A Sadist

* Originally posted on 7/6/2013

This is another rant about people's treatment of Snape. I'm getting extremely tired of being told that Sev is a sadist. He's not.

Nothing I'm saying in this rant hasn't been noted by other Snape fen, you can find all of these points in my favorite essays. But I want to consolidate them here.

The definition of a sadist is "someone who obtains pleasure from inflicting pain on others". Severus is the opposite of a sadist, going out of his way to save people from harm or pain. We have plenty of scenes to prove that, although most HP fans don't agree.

Patterns are key. If someone does something over and over, it is much more a part of their personality than if they only did it onc
e. When being told Sev is a sadist, most bring up ONE key scene - the Trevor scene in PoA. That scene is important, but not in the way a lot of fans think. terri_testing made a very good argument, stating that Severus never planned on harming Trevor, and that the only reason he put on that act was to convince people he really is a mean and sadistic Death Eater (see her essays "Poisoning Toads in the Dungeon" (part 1 and part 2) and "Snape's Reputation among his Colleagues" for her analysis on this).

I agree with her analysis. Because one scene, an extremely important scene (and we know it was important given the amount of page space it took up) does not negate all of the subtle clues. In fact, both strengthen Terri's analysis. As Severus himself said: "Where do you think I would have been all these years, if I hadn't known how to act?"

He acted like he was a cruel sadist, to keep his cover, but he isn't one. We know that because he shows his true personality whenever he can - small, subtle moments that add up to show us an extremely protective and caring person.

In fact, he often shows it when he shouldn't. Bellatrix tells us his reputation as a Death Eater - all talk and no action. And, as a Death Eater, he would have had every opportunity to torture, rape, or kill (at least, if we believe parts of the fandom. I don't believe that), but he does not. He would have been encouraged to hurt others, it would help keep his cover. And yet, he does not. I cannot sum it up any better than whitehound does when she says, "Not to hurt people when you are pottering along with your safe civilian life may indicate nothing but laziness and lack of opportunity. Not to hurt people when you are burning up with rage and you have every opportunity to do so, everyone around you is encouraging you to hurt them and doing so would be to your advantage argues a profound determination not to hurt people."

So let's go through and look at the scenes that prove that Severus is a caring person:


He was not on the front lines, torturing or killing like some parts of the fandom assume. We know that because in the fourth book, Sirius admits that Severus was never accused of being a Death Eater in gossip or in court (we know Karkaroff brought him up, but that was after Sirius was arrested).

Yes, he told Voldemort the prophecy. I've talked about it in past posts, but I'm going to talk about it again. It wasn't his decision. This is what I've said before:

Severus is ease dropping. The prophesy starts.

Aberforth catches him, and they make a lot of noise.

Prophesy ends, and the door opens.

Albus and Sybill see Severus in Aberforth's hands.

Aberforth throws Severus out of the building.

Sybill doesn't remember telling true prophecies, but she remembers seeing Severus. So the prophecy had finished before the door was thrown open. They also made a lot of noise, that Albus would have been able to hear.

Albus knows Severus has heard the first half, which speaks about a threat to Voldemort. He also knows that no one other than himself heard the second half – the half that stated Voldemort “will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not, [cut] the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies”.

Now, Albus knows how Voldemort's mind works. He knows that Voldemort will pick this person and go after him, and that in doing so Voldemort would be creating his own executioner.

Dumbledore tells us this in HBP, Chapter 23:
But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him — and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!
Don't you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!
It is essential that you understand this! By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job!”
So, we send his servant back with the message, instead of modifying his memory. We know that Albus has no problem modifying peoples memories (or instructing others to do the modifying). We see that with Marietta.

Of course, people have disagreed with that. I honestly find their responses funny. Apparently Severus escaped all on his own. It's funny because they are giving him more credit than Snape fen do! I mean, do you honestly think that Sev could just escape from Aberforth's hold with Albus staring straight at him? Ahh, no. I may not like Albus, but I've never denied that he is an extremely powerful wizard.

Also, Severus had no way to know that Voldemort would target a baby, much less Harry. All he hears is "The one with power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies." It sounds much more fitting with the “approaches” part that it is an adult. It's not until the second part – that Sev did not hear – that says the one “will be born”. It could be talking about practically anyone born at the end of July.

We are now looking at the hilltop scene. Albus has the upper hand throughout this entire scene, and manipulates Severus like a finely tuned fiddle. I am going to give full quotes, because it is so important.
The adult Snape was panting, turning on the spot, his wand gripped lightly in his hand, waiting for something or for someone... His fear infected Harry too, even though he knew that he could not be harmed, and he looked over his shoulder, wondering what it was that Snape was waiting for - 
Then a blinding, jagged jet of white light flew through the air: Harry thought of lightning, but Snape had dropped to his knees and his wand had flown out of his hand.Don't kill me!”
Sev truly believes that Dumbledore is going to kill him without hesitation. He is so terrified that Harry starts feeling his fear.
That was not my intention.” 
Any sound of Dumbledore Apparating had been drowned by the sound of the wind in the branches. He stood before Snape with his robes whipping around him, and his face was illuminated from below in the light cast by his wand. 
Well, Severus? What message does Lord Voldemort have for me?” 
Snape was wringing his hands: He looked a little mad, with his straggling black hair flying around him. I – I come with a warning – no, a request – please -”
Sev is still so scared he is wringing his hands and stuttering. He starts to say he comes with a warning, but he knows that is not true. He doesn't just want to warn Dumbledore. He has a request he will beg for (“please”).
Dumbledore flicked his wand. Though leaves and branches still flew through the night air around them, silence fell on the spot where he and Snape faced each other. What request could a Death Eater make of me?” 
The – the prophecy... the prediction... Trelawney...” 
Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore. “How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?”
Ah, yes.” Dumbledore is not surprised at all. He leaked it on purpose.
Everything – everything I heard!” said Snape. “That is why – it is for that reason – he thinks it means Lily Evans!” 
The prophecy does not refer to a woman,” said Dumbledore. “It spoke of a boy born at the end of July -” 
You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down – kill them all -”
Sev interrupts Dumbledore, frustrated by his deliberate misunderstanding. Sev says them.
If she means so much to you,” said Dumbledore, “surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?” 
I have – I have asked him -” 
You disgust me,” said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. Snape seemed to shrink a little. “You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?” 
Snape said nothing, but merely looked up at Dumbledore. Hide them all, then,” he croaked. “Keep her – them – safe. Please.”
Sev never said he would be fine with Harry and James dying. Look at this. Sev shrinks a little at Dumbledore's contempt, but he is not surprised. Instead, he immediately tells Dumbledore to hide them all.

Remember, he was never one of Dumbledore's favorites. Dumbledore's reaction to Sirius almost killing him was to swear him (Sev) to secrecy. Sev truly believed, at the beginning of this scene, that Dumbledore would kill him without hesitation. Also remember that Sev never asked Lily to date him. He never made a single move on her. And when she ended their friendship and told him to leave her alone, he did.

What Sev does say, is that he talked to Voldemort. That's it. He also says “them” again twice.

There is a crucial flaw to Dumbledore's manipulations.

Sev asked Voldemort to spare Lily, yes. But asking Voldemort to spare Harry would just get him (Sev) killed, and everyone seems to know about the Marauder's torment of him. It's not like they tried to hide it (at least those first six years). It would be too suspicious to ask for Voldemort to spare James. But he had been friends with Lily, Voldemort probably knew that; and Voldemort had wanted her to be a Death Eater in the first place. She he could ask him to spare. That would slow him (Voldemort) down somewhat, he wouldn't immediately go to Killing Curses the moment he broke in. All of this has been noted by other Snape fen (the last sentence is my analysis added on). But none of this is the crucial flaw. People have argued against it, saying he didn't really care. So here's the flaw:

If he really didn't care, why go to Dumbledore? After all, his precious Lord had agreed to spare Lily, so all was good! If he truly didn't care about Harry or James, there was no reason to go to Dumbledore. Remember, Dumbledore has shown that he does not care about Sev. So why go? Because Dumbledore could (supposedly) save them all. They would listen to what Dumbledore had to say.

Oh, I'm not saying he liked Harry or James. He didn't. And his primary focus is Lily, yes, not a child he has never met, or his tormentor. But he's no sadist who traded Harry and James for Lily – he genuinely cares about saving people from pain or harm, and that's the point of this post.
And what will you give me in return, Severus?” 
In – in return?” Snape gaped at Dumbledore, and Harry expected him to protest, but after a long moment he said, “Anything.”
This entire time Dumbledore has been playing mind games and manipulating a terrified Sev. He actually demands that Sev give him something in return for the Potters' protection! Sev can't believe this, but agrees to do “anything.” Note that is “anything” for Lily to be clueless and safe with her husband and child. It has nothing to do with her relationship with Sev.

Dumbledore's demand is for Sev to become his spy. Sev does so, and is a spy for at least half a year (this scene takes place sometime between mid November 1980 and February 1981 (see here for details)).

Book Two:

When McGonagall says a student has been taken into the Chamber, he grips a chair hard and asks if she's sure. A subtle moment, definitely. But an extremely telling one.

Book Three:

He brews the Wolfsbane for Remus, and even takes it to Remus's office and reminds him to drink it! Of course, the thought of Remus without the potion must be extremely anxiety provoking as Remus once almost ate him. But he goes beyond the call of duty by consistently taking it to Remus's office and nudging him to drink it. He can be quite the Mother Hen, our Sev! “Fussily protective” is him alright!

He flat-out runs to the Whomping Willow when he realizes that Lupin has gone in (probably to meet Black), and that the Trio is missing. The only reason to rush in instead of waiting for them to come out was the threat to the children, to save them from harm. As Terri points out, he was probably imagining what people like Bellatrix and Fenrir would do to them - unspeakable horrors. Remember, no one knew that Sirius was not a Death Eater. And the Shack is an extremely traumatic place for him, his flashbacks to the night Sirius almost had him get eaten by Remus must have been huge. Yet he still went in, because nothing was more important than saving the children.

Once inside, he hears Sirius say Sev dying would have “served him right.” Overcome with being in the presence of Lily's murderer, he threatens to call the dementors the moment they get outside. And yet, he doesn't. He wakes to Sirius and the children unconscious, and the dementors moving away. What does he do? He summons a stretcher for Sirius - even though he believes that Sirius is a mass murderer who's always wanted him dead. Sirius, however, let his (Sev's) head get bashed against stone multiple times after Sev had already gone unconscious from a head injury. 

He spills the beans on Remus only after he almost eats three students, proving that he is a threat to the students' safety. The essay he assigned on werewolves was for them to start paying attention and protect themselves, and he knew that Hermione was the only one smart enough and willing to do the research anyway to figure it out. He may not be able to stop Remus meeting with Harry in private, but he can clue Harry's best friend in.

Book Four:

He again flat-out runs through the corridors in his nightshirt when he hears a scream, ignoring a break-in to his own office! Saving someone from getting tortured (we know that's what the Egg sounded like when opened on land) was more important than anything else. He didn't even wait to assess the situation - he just rushed in, believing someone was hurt.

Book Five:

Sev doesn't like Sirius – nor would I like someone who routinely bullied me, almost killed me, and thinks I'm worth nothing – but he (Sev) does everything he can to protect him. He warns him that Lucius Malfoy recognized him in his Animagus form. He also gives Umbridge fake Veritaserum when she wants to interrogate Harry about Sirius' whereabouts, and then makes sure Dumbledore knows about it.

When he's called to Umbridge's office and she has Harry he is deliberately unhelpful, telling her that he is all out of Veritaserum (although considering he gave her a fake version before, I highly doubt that's true). Then, seconds after Umbridge has put him on probation, he tells Crabbe to stop choking Neville. This was a serious risk on his part as it was obvious Crabbe was holding on to Neville on Umbridge's orders, and that if he loses his job he loses all importance to Voldemort and the Order. Yet he risks it, to save Neville from pain.

When Harry gave Severus the warning about Sirius, Severus immediately contacted Sirius to see if he was safe. Then, as soon as Harry, Hermione, and Umbridge didn't return he alerted the Order and told them where Harry was headed. He asked Sirius to stay behind and inform Dumbledore when he arrived. He then went and searched the forest for the children. Someone who didn't care would just alert the proper people and be done with it, with the excuse that as a spy he had to sit out. But he didn't. He continued to search for the children.

Book Six:

When he contains the curse on Dumbledore's hand, he is furious that Dumbledore did not summon him earlier, with the sole reason being he could have done more and bought Dumbledore more time. He then promises Dumbledore that he would everything he could to protect the students in the school if it fell into Voldemort's hands. That's when Dumbledore pulls out the big punch, that Sev must kill him. Overcome with emotion, but trying to hide it, his voice is rough when he asks why Draco can't do it. And when Dumbledore answers, he asks about his own soul. Doesn't his soul matter? Doesn't he matter? Other than proving that Severus has not killed anyone (for why would he be concerned about what killing would do to him if he had killed before?), it shows a glimpse of the vulnerable man inside.

And the tool Dumbledore uses to get him to agree? Not that it would secure his position with Voldemort, no. Dumbledore appeals to his innate mercy. Save me from a slow and painful death, like the one Bellatrix and Greyback would give. Save me from pain and humiliation. That is what makes Severus finally agree.

Then Narcissa comes to him, distraught about her son's fate, while Bellatrix taunts him. He agrees to make the Unbreakable Vow, yes, but he still hesitates before for agreeing to kill Dumbledore – even though he has already promised Dumbledore he would. He doesn't want to do it. By making the Vow he can help Draco and Narcissa, beyond keeping an eye on Draco (like Dumbledore asked). He can help save a child from a horrible fate. His hands are tied, he will be forced to kill Dumbledore anyway. But this way he can still help save a child. This he can do.

He bursts through the bathroom door, not knowing anything other than that a girl had screamed murder. Nothing is more important than saving a student's life – not even a potential threat to his own safety. His first instinct is to save and protect. Then, he comforts Draco, telling him they may prevent any scarring from happening; and taking him to the hospital wing. 

Out in the woods, when he gets angry about Dumbledore not telling him anything, he says that perhaps he has changed his mind about killing him (Dumbledore). He clearly still does not want to do it, even if not doing it means dieing himself. That doesn't matter to him. He is willing to die so he doesn't have to kill Dumbledore. So he doesn't have to become a killer. And as Dumbledore cuts him off later about the topic, we know this is not his only time protesting.

He is horrified when Dumbledore tells him that Harry has to die, that Dumbledore had been raising Harry “like a pig for slaughter”. He may not like Harry, but he's protected Harry with his entire being. He thought that was what Dumbledore had been doing, as well.

How many people has he watched die, Dumbledore asks. Lately only those he couldn't save. He's saved the Death Eater's and Voldemort's victims when he can, risking his cover to spare them.

When Sev shows his Patronus, Dumbledore is surprised and moved to tears by such a pure expression of unconditional love. He didn't think Sev still loved Lily, but he still knew Sev would do the right thing.

And when Flitwick comes to get him for the fight, he stuns him, telling Hermione and Luna to care for Flitwick. Keeping all three of them out of the fight, out of harms way. When he makes it to the Astronomy Tower, he takes in the scene, seeing Greyback and the other Death Eaters. And yet Dumbledore still has to beg him several times for him to make the final blow. And, full of hatred and revulsion for himself and the task at hand, he does it. Go, he tells Draco, run.

He shouts at the Death Eaters that it's over, that they have to go. Don't stay and fight, don't hurt others. Just run and leave. The other Death Eaters tried to fight Hagrid, Sev however took Draco and continued running. He then shouts for Draco to keep running, as Harry targets him (Sev). He's done all he can to protect Draco, to get him out safe.

He blocks Harry's spells, warning him not to cast the Unforgivables, warning him to close his mind. Protecting Harry to the last possible second. And when one of the other Death Eaters casts the Cruciatus curse on Harry, he roars no, with the flimsy excuse that Harry belongs to Voldemort. To kill, yes, but not to torture.

And when Harry tries to use Levicorpus, he makes Harry fly backwards, and reveals his identity as the Half-Blood Prince. He cannot have another Potter casting that spell during one of his worst memories. Harry calls him a coward, tells Sev to kill him like he killed Dumbledore. And he can't take it anymore, his agony at having to kill Dumbledore, knowing the boy in front of him will have to one day die. He gives Harry a magical slap (which is not as strong as the one Remus gives Harry for calling him a coward in DH).

Buckbeak comes for him, slashing and clawing at Sev. And yet he doesn't fight, he doesn't hurt. He just runs, letting an animal maul him, instead of hurting Buckbeak himself.

Book Seven:

It's on Dumbledore's orders that he tells Mundungus to use decoys and tells Voldemort the real date. Dumbledore reminds him, if he's forced to take part, to act his part. Yet Sev disobeys, quite loudly, to try and save Remus's life; accidentally hitting George. He then cares that the others know the truth so much that he includes the memory in his dying testimony. I didn't mean to hurt him, it was an accident. I'm so sorry.

When Neville, Luna, and Ginny break into his office, he gives them a punishment that is really an award – detention with Hagrid. He then spreads a story around that he tortured them horribly. He would have been found out, his cover blown, if anyone had read the childrens' minds. We know that both Bellatrix and Voldemort knew how. But he took that risk, to save the children from pain.

When McGonagall and Flitwick are dueling to kill, he only casts defensive spells, before fleeing. He gave up any power he has at Hogwarts so he would not have to hurt them. Fleeing so not to hurt them, to Minerva's cry of coward. Oh, if only she knew.

We don't know what Sev knew about the Elder Wand, but we do know that he knew he wasn't it's master. He has probably heard the story from Draco, that he (Draco) disarmed Dumbledore. He may or may not know that Harry overpowered Draco weeks before. Yet, he lets Voldemort think he's the master, never fighting to save his own life. He sacrificed his life, knowing that Voldemort was now going into a battle with a weapon that did not answer to him, and that Voldemort was unaware of that. A small protection he could give the others that were still fighting. He died protecting Draco and Harry by keeping his silence.


So this is our man. Our loving, protective man that does everything he can to save people from pain. And people wonder why I love him?


  1. I'm not 100% convinced by the argument about Dumbledore having chosen not to Obvliviate Snape of the prophecy, since Snape is an Occlumens who might re resistant to being Obvliviated, and it's also possible that to Obliviate a wizard would be illegal. But if he did choose not to Obliviate Snape, and assuming he already knew Snape was or might be a Death Eater which we also don't know, it would mean it was Dumbledore who chose to put an as-yet-unborn baby in danger.

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      Dumbledore had Kingsley do an illegal memory charm on Marietta in front of Ministry officials.

      I have to rewrite that section because I have a better understanding of Dumbledore's motivations now. However, I still 100% believe Dumbledore leaked it on purpose.

      It really comes down to your view of Dumbledore. As I said above, the first part does not sound like it is talking about a baby, but an adult. All Severus/Voldemort heard was "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies".

      However, Dumbledore heard the rest. Dumbledore is also the one who knew Harry was a horcrux since Halloween 1981 ("I guessed, fifteen years ago, when I saw the scar on your forehead, what it might mean. I guessed that it might be the sign of a connection forged between you and Voldemort."). He knowingly left Harry in an abusive household ("Well - not quite whole. You had suffered. I knew you would when I left you on your aunt and uncle's doorstep. I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years."). He set up the Philosopher's Stone to test Harry. He, as Sev said, raised Harry "like a pig for slaughter".

      I would continue, but comments aren't the best place for long quotes. :)

    2. Kind of. In fact from the end of GoF he knew that Harry had a good chance of surviving but he suspected that Harry's perfect willingness to die would make his survival more likely, so he concealed that knowledge in order not to contaminate Harry's pure willingness with hope which might in fact be fatal. I suspect both that he leaked the prophecy and that he tweaked it. "Neither can live while the other survives" is nonsense - if they hadn't fought, Harry and Voldie actually insured each other's survival. But Dumbledore needed Voldie to think that he had to kill Harry because only by trying to kill Harry could Voldie bring about his own death, and also free Harry from the Horcrux. Whether he could have known that when the prophecy was first made, though, is another matter.

    3. Bear in mind btw that fanon grossly exaggerates how abusive the Dursleys were. They were certainly emotionally abusive and moderately physically neglectful but they never beat him, his cupboard was a walk-in one big enough to qualify as a bedroom by Scottish standards (albeit windowless and badly lit), and the idea that he was deprived of food or made to do a lot of chores on a regular basis is almost wholly derived from fanfiction, not canon.

    4. Yes fanon exaggerates the physical abuse, but emotional abuse is far more devastating, and Harry thinks exactly like an abuse victim does.

      Dumbledore couldn't have altered the prophesy - we see Trelawney give it. Also, the prophecy did not take into consideration Lily's actions, which gave Dumbledore the chance for the blood protection; nor Voldemort's action of taking Harry's blood. Both of those things were done outside of the prophecy. Dumbledore goes over this in HBP, when telling Harry he is "setting too much store by the prophecy."

      And yes, after GoF Dumbledore had hope, but he didn't until then.

      In fact, Dumbledore's speech in HBP shows us his thinking: "Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he had not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!"