“‘DON’T’ – screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them – ‘CALL ME COWARD!'” – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Auditorium 14 at the Regal Cantera Theater in Naperville, IL was packed on the night of July 14, as they surely expected it to be, with loud and excited groups of robed youth. Dressed as their favorite characters and ready for the movie over three hours before the showtime, they laughed loudly and cheered for impromptu duels at the front of the auditorium and sometimes even for theater staff. They cheered through the trivia questions on the big screen, the Regal “First Look” series and through every preview. They booed at anything Twilight. I was starting to get annoyed and afraid that they would irreverently cheer through this final installment as well.
But it was a mark of the gravity of the effect this series has had on my generation that everyone, without any prompting, automatically fell silent in awe as the black clouds of the introduction scene darkened the screen. I was proud of my peers in that moment because there was a mutual understanding in Auditorium 14 of the immensity of the story from which we were all about to graduate. The words that had been spoken through Rowling’s characters were lapped up by all of us, together, as we laughed, cried (there were more than a few sniffles in certain parts of the movie) and cheered through the deaths and triumphs.
I will not try to convey how I felt at the end of this because I don’t think I can succeed and I think you already know; in this case, most of you feel the same way. It will suffice to say that I know I will be very disappointed if, during their childhoods, my children can’t foster excitement for something similar to what I got to experience through Rowling’s world. This post is not for goodbyes (though this one does it neatly).
This post needed to be written because somebody needed to honor the character of Severus Snape. Though I think we’ve all established that the Harry Potter series has a world of lessons that transcend every possible limitation, the message that Rowling brings to us through Snape (Professor Snape, excuse me) is one of the most valuable.
Professor Snape not only was a trophy for Rowling’s character development and story telling abilities (and I’m not the only one that thinks this), he was the crux of what differentiated these books from a normal good versus evil battle series. A braver and stronger man than the child-hero he had to protect, his character was proof that nothing is fully good and nothing is fully evil. I believe this idea encompasses much of what Rowling wanted to say to the generation she guided for 7+ years. Every wise man has secrets and every sneering smile used to be sincere.
The complexity of Professor Snape – his love for a woman he could not have, his disgust for a kid he did not respect, his ultimate sacrifice for a man he did not fully understand – shows that, when all is said and done, it is human relationships that motivate our actions. Voldemort had none and his actions showed it. But Snape had the spirit of one, one that was worth fighting for, and his actions for this one relationship sang decibels louder, with the feeling of Fawkes’ song, than his bitter and angry words. Professor Snape was many things, but he was never a coward.
We will see many people mourning the end of the series, but it won’t be over unless we make the mistake of dismissing the complexity in the people and relationships around us. The world is full of Professor Snapes, Mundungus Fletchers, Draco Malfoys, Albus Dumbledores; the sooner we understand and accept this, the sooner we will be able to merge Muggle and magic in a more tangible way.
Until then, we can only read and re-read.