*Note: This post was written in 2018 before I knew about JK Rowling’s trans-exclusionary views and the harm her tweets, articles, etc. are bringing to trans people, their safety, and their rights. I no longer support or promote Rowling, but I’m leaving this post up as a discussion of a series that still means a lot to many people who have already read it. Leaving it up also gives me a chance to say all this and spread more awareness to anyone who may not know. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I encourage you to do some research about Rowling’s views and listen to trans people about why her views are so harmful. The links I provided might be good starting points. I also encourage you to find diverse works by diverse authors and perhaps support and promote those instead!*
I recently reread the Harry Potter series and decided to do some discussion posts about my thoughts on it! There was too much for one post, so I split it into two parts. Part 1 was about general things and the younger/student characters. Part 2 (this post) is about the adults!
*Note: I haven’t seen the movies, so this is based entirely on the books. I have no idea what differences the movies have.*
*Also note: This whole post contains spoilers.*
*This post contains SPOILERS for the entire Harry Potter series*
Barty Crouch Sr.
I know, I know, you’re probably like, “Who the hell is Crouch again?” or, “Why on earth is Kristen making a whole section to talk about him when he was just a random side character who was barely even in the book?” He was the one whose son impersonated Mad-Eye Moody for a year. His son was a Death Eater whom he sent to Azkaban but then helped escape because his wife couldn’t bear it and wanted to trade places. His wife then died in Azkaban, and he kept his son hidden away, under the Imperius curse. But then his son got away, and Crouch Sr. was put under the Imperius curse. And I actually felt bad for him.
He may have gone overboard, but he worked hard against the Death Eaters and was just trying to put away as many of them as possible. It had to be hard to send his own son to Azkaban, but he did it because his son really was supporting Voldemort as a Death Eater. But then he made another hard decision when he snuck his son out because it was what his wife wanted, and probably also because he still cared in some way for his son. He then had a lot of extra stress and difficulty in his life keeping that secret, keeping his son hidden, etc. I feel like he tried to do the right thing, but he was in such a tough situation, and I really can’t blame him for his actions. Especially since, when he realized the bad things his actions had led to, he tried to do the right thing and confess everything to Dumbledore, only to be killed before he could.
Controversial opinion time! I know some people love Snape, but I do not. He’s a well-written character, but regardless of everything we learn about him throughout the series, I don’t have sympathy for him, and I don’t feel he redeemed himself.
It doesn’t matter what your childhood or past is like, it doesn’t give you an excuse to treat others badly. But he did treat others badly. He was prejudiced. He tried to get James, Sirius, and Remus expelled when they all were in school together. As an adult, he bullied children to the point that they were terrified of him. He insulted Hermione’s teeth, purposely trying to make her feel bad about how she looked. He tried to poison Neville’s toad once just to teach Neville a lesson (therefore he’s cruel to animals). There’s no excuse for any of that. Not to mention he was just an awful teacher with awful teaching methods that didn’t encourage the students to learn and improve but rather demotivated them and made them too scared to think straight.
And here’s the other thing—he may have changed his allegiance from Voldemort to Dumbledore, but it wasn’t because he actually stopped being prejudiced and realized his mistakes. He only changed his allegiance because Voldemort killed Lily. Therefore, it stands to reason that if Voldemort hadn’t killed Lily, Snape would still have been a true Death Eater. Even when he found out Voldemort was going to go after the Potters, he admitted to Dumbledore that he only asked Voldemort to spare Lily, not James or Harry. He literally didn’t care about Voldemort killing James and Harry. He didn’t care about anyone else Voldemort was killing, not even children or babies. Just Lily.
As Lily said in the memory, Snape made his choice. He could’ve chosen not to become a Death Eater, but instead he chose to prejudiced and cruel. Not only was that wrong, it was also what pushed Lily away.
So yes, risking his life to work for Dumbledore as a double agent was a good thing that he did, but it wasn’t enough, in my opinion. And even if it did cancel out his actions of being a Death Eater (which I don’t feel it did because his actions were based on revenge against Voldemort more than actual remorse or repentance for taking the side of someone horrible), it still didn’t cancel out how badly he treated his students, especially Harry and Neville, whom he seemed to treat the worst.
And that’s another thing—I wonder if maybe he treated Neville especially badly because he wished that Voldemort had gone after Neville instead. Remember, the prophecy could’ve been about either Harry or Neville, but Voldemort chose Harry. It makes sense that Snape might’ve hated Neville for that reason, which only makes his actions toward Neville all the worse and proves even further that Snape wasn’t actually remorseful for being a Death Eater, only for getting Lily killed. (But of course this Neville thing is just speculation.)
Also, I feel like his love for Lily is made out to be his redeeming quality, but honestly? Pining over someone you can’t have for 20 years is obsessive. That “always” line is far more creepy, obsessive, and stalkerish than sweet and romantic, in my opinion.
Anyway, that’s why I don’t feel he truly redeemed himself.
Also, I think he should’ve quit teaching wizarding lessons and taught creative writing instead because he could be very eloquent when he wanted to be. I will give him that.
“I don’t expect you will really understand the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses.”
-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“The Dark Arts,” said Snape, “are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”
Harry stared at Snape. It was surely one thing to respect the Dark Arts as a dangerous enemy, another to speak of them, as Snape was doing, with a loving caress in his voice?
-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
SIRIUS IS JUST SO TRAGIC. I feel so much worse for Sirius than I do for anyone else in this series. He grew up with a terrible, prejudiced family who treated him like crap simply because he refused to be prejudiced like them. When he was only 21, his best friend, who was like a brother to him, was killed. He was thrown in Azkaban for 13 years, and everyone thought him a traitor. He broke out only to have to go into hiding for two years, living off rats in caves, hungry all the time. He was then stuck living back in the childhood home he hated, unable to even leave or be helpful in fighting against Voldemort. Then he was killed.
:’-( :’-( :’-(
Seeing Sirius sad made me so sad, but seeing Sirius happy also made me so sad because I knew what was coming. Why wouldn’t anyone just go live at Grimmauld Place with him??? I felt terrible for him, stuck there. But I guess part of the problem was that he didn’t even have friends anymore, except for Remus, and 13 years apart would put a bit of a damper on any friendship. (Not to mention how much more awkward it would be if you subscribe to the Wolfstar headcanon.) And I mean, I guess it would feel just as shitty, in a different way, to know someone is only living with you or visiting you out of pity. Poor guy, no wonder he was depressed and bitter and drinking. And another thing, yeah, he was still kind of immature and reckless, but that makes sense, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for that. He was thrown into a cell in Azkaban at 21. For 13 years. He didn’t have the chance to grow up, to experience adulthood the way most people do. In some ways, he would be kind of mentally stuck at 21. But in other ways, he’d have grown up a lot, because the horror of that place would do that to you. Harry even noticed a haunted look in his eyes that never went away. Gosh, I don’t even know where I’m going with all this, I just feel terrible for him.
I saved my favorite for last. Remus is one of my favorite literary characters, period. I’ve talked a bit about it before, but here’s a little more personal of an explanation. The first time I reread Harry Potter, it was during one of the worst periods of my chronic illness. I was struggling, and I felt alone because most of the people I thought would be there for me weren’t. It also seemed like, everywhere I turned, chronic illness was portrayed as something you’re not allowed to struggle with emotionally, that you’re just supposed to be this bright, shining ball of positivity. Then I came upon this character who was not only kind and caring and brave and a great person but who, as shown in later books, was also struggling, and some of his struggles had some similarities to my own. I finally felt like someone understood me, at least a little bit. Now, obviously having a chronic illness is entirely different from being a werewolf, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I formed a connection with his character in a way I had never formed a connection with any other character. So he’ll always be one of my favorites. But I think, even if I hadn’t connected in that way, I’d have loved him anyway because he’s such a good-hearted person <3
The Marauders vs. Snape
Despite how sad I feel for Sirius, and despite my love for Remus, I know they were not perfect. Sirius and James were bullies, definitely toward Snape and it sounds like toward others too, from what Lily said about James hexing people in the hallways. And Sirius did basically try to get Snape killed when they were both students by sending him to the Shrieking Shack while Remus was transformed into a vicious wolf. And Remus, though he didn’t do the bullying himself, just kind of let it happen sometimes.
But number one, we don’t know the whole story. Look at Harry and his friends vs. Draco, for example. They only fought with him because Draco was an asshole. And from what I’ve seen of Snape, I have no reason to believe he was any better.
Number two, they grew up to realize their mistakes and become better people. They didn’t join a prejudiced gang of wizards who hated muggle-borns, they didn’t terrorize children, etc. And look at what happened when Remus worked at the school—he didn’t do anything to try and antagonize Snape, but Snape purposely gave the students homework to learn about werewolves in the hopes that someone would figure out Remus’s secret and then he was the one who “accidentally” leaked that secret to the students at the end of the year, causing Remus to resign. Sure, Sirius was still kind of immature and argued with Snape, but again, that’s because his adulthood was spent in Azkaban. What’s Snape’s excuse? Snape could have moved on and had a decent life.
Number three, sitting back and letting things happen, as in Remus’s case, isn’t ok, but I can understand why he did it. I’m sure he did tell them to stop sometimes, but you ultimately can’t control you friends. He could’ve stopped being friends with them, but they were the ones who stood by him even when they learned he was a werewolf, the ones who weren’t prejudiced against him and who even learned how to become Animagi just to be there for him. I can see why he didn’t want to lose them.
None of this makes the behavior we saw from them ok, but it makes more understandable. Anyway, if people are able to brush off Draco’s and Snape’s behavior by saying they were young, then the same applies to how the Marauders were when they were teens. (Which, I have mixed feelings about that. I agree with Harry, who kept pointing out, whenever anyone excuse was, “He was young!” that they were the same age as Harry and his friends were during the book. But on the other hand, 15/16/17 is young, and we do make mistakes, so, depending upon the severity of the actions, I tend to cut teen characters some slack, especially if they become better people as they grow.)
For anyone who doesn’t know (I didn’t until recently), Wolfstar is the Remus + Sirius ship name. It might not technically be canon, but it totally could be. I mean, there’s nothing in the book that negates it from being possible or believable. It never says anywhere that either character is straight, and it never mentions either of them having others partners when they were at Hogwarts. And if you read the series from this viewpoint of shipping them, it makes everything between them even more emotional and tragic, especially the scene when Sirius died and Remus, pale with his voice breaking, had to drag Harry away and tell him that Sirius was gone :’-(
If you ever want to make yourself sad, just look at #Wolfstar fanart/fic while listening to "Not Gonna Get Us" by t.A.T.u….
[whispers:] …while thinking about how they *did* get them.
— Kristen Burns (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@whykristenburns) March 13, 2018
Btw, if you’re looking for some of that aforementioned fanart, this tumblr is my favorite (and this one, by the same artist, for NSFW art) because the art is amazing, and she actually draws them close to how I picture them myself. This picture especially is heartbreaking D-‘:
Again, there were more adult characters, but those are the only ones I felt like discussing. If you want to chat about any other characters or things that happened in the comments, go ahead!