In Defense of Severus Snape as a Professor

Admin Note: This meta was originally titled “Snape is not a child abuser, and he’s possibly the best teacher at Hogwarts”. Title has been shortened for display purposes.

Snape is one of the best teachers at Hogwarts, and the only one he mistreats is Harry.

This relies heavily on lists – so please let me know if I’ve forgotten or made up anything, or ignored relevant context.

Three things always come up in the context of Snape’s abusiveness. One of them is not something Snape does but a reaction to him.

1. Threatened to Poison Neville’s Toad

This is one of two direct interactions between Snape and Neville in the books. Since it merits real-time narration, it must stand out: Snape is at his worst at this moment.

A particularly nasty mood is understandable:

“have you heard? Daily Prophet this morning — they reckon Sirius Black’s been sighted.

“Where?” […]

Not too far from here,” said Seamus.

Snape believes that Black betrayed the Potters and wants to go after Harry. Black also nearly murdered Snape in their fifth year, so Snape has reason to be on edge.

His potion, which was supposed to be a bright, acid green, had turned —

Orange, Longbottom,” said Snape, ladling some up and allowing it to splash back into the cauldron, so that everyone could see [Harry assumes].

“Orange. Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn’t you hear me say, quite clearly, that only one rat spleen was needed? Didn’t I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?

Neville was pink and trembling. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears.

“Please, sir,” said Hermione, “please, I could help Neville put it right —

I don’t remember asking you to show off, Miss Granger,” said Snape coldly, and Hermione went as pink as Neville. “Longbottom, at the end of this lesson we will feed a few drops of this potion to your toad and see what happens. Perhaps that will encourage you to do it properly.

Not great. Snape is not a suitable teacher for an introductory class, or for insecure children like Neville, but abusive, this is not. The fact that Neville brought Trevor to class shows that Neville never expected to be very severely sanctioned for doing that or for Trevor to come to any harm, before that lesson. Snape is at the end of his rope with Neville and wants him to take the lesson seriously. He states his motives plainly – to get Neville to understand.

Did he mean harm to Trevor? Snape is competent enough that if he’d wanted that toad dead, it would be. In any case, the potion turned out alright, and Snape knew it – he can tell from the way the potion looks. Snape also has a bottle of the antidote in his other pocket:

Snape picked up Trevor the toad in his left hand and dipped a small spoon into Neville’s potion, which was now green. He trickled a few drops down Trevor’s throat.

There was a moment of hushed silence, in which Trevor gulped; then there was a small pop, and Trevor the tadpole was wriggling in Snape’s palm.

The Gryffindors burst into applause. Snape, looking sour, pulled a small bottle from the pocket of his robe, poured a few drops on top of Trevor, and he reappeared suddenly, fully grown.

Is he sour because he hoped to kill Trevor? Why give it the antidote, thus saving it? Maybe he is sour for the reason he says he is:

I told you not to help him, Miss Granger. Class dismissed.”

This is also why he docks five points, not because Neville got it right. This was a misguided attempt to teach. Nothing was ever going to happen to Trevor.

[Sidenote: Animal cruelty is commonplace at Hogwarts. sentient or semi-sentient animals are experimented on regularly in Transfig. They even vanish cats. Even the herbology plants seem able to feel pain, but 2nd year students are expected to chop up humanoid mandrakes. Flitwick demonstrates levitation on Trevor, and Harry practices Accio on him.]

But this is immediately followed by DADA, in which…

Neville’s Boggart

True, his boggart is Snape.

This does not mean that Snape is truly scary. (assuming Snape is scary because Neville fears him because he is scary is circular reasoning). His fear of Snape is not overwhelming or traumatizing. Neville’s fear is on par with Ron’s fear of spiders (which itself was caused by the twins, who are much scarier), Dean’s fear of hands, etc.

If Snape had been abusive, other students would not have found this funny, and Neville would not have smiled. If the fear had been overwhelming, Neville would not have defeated the boggart on his first try.

Neville looked around rather wildly, as though begging someone to help him, then said, in barely more than a whisper, “Professor Snape.”

Nearly everyone laughed. Even Neville grinned apologetically.

Professor Lupin, however, looked thoughtful.

“Professor Snape… hmmm… Neville, I believe you live with your grandmother?”

“Er — yes,” said Neville nervously. “But — I don’t want the boggart to turn into her either.

Neville seems more scared of admitting he fears Snape than of Snape. He does not want to confront his grandmother either, probably because, like Snape, she makes him feel inadequate, which is what really scares him. But she should have loved Neville unconditionally and not compared him to his parents, and Snape is his teacher, whose job it is to let him know when he is doing poorly.

Neville defeats his Snape boggart on his first attempt because it’s a trivial fear. Molly, an adult witch and the bad-ass who killed Bellatrix, fails to beat her boggart, in OOTP, because there’s nothing trivial about her fear of losing her husband or her children.

Snape is listed among the meaningless boggarts the kids defeated with ease:

“Did you see me take that banshee?” shouted Seamus.

“And the hand!” said Dean, waving his own around.

And Snape in that hat!

“And my mummy!”

This is the textbook definition of a boggart:

Hermione put up her hand.

“It’s a shape-shifter,” she said. “It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.”

“Couldn’t have put it better myself,” said Professor Lupin.

The boggart is whatever’s on your mind, not your true deepest, darkest fear (unless Ron is a monster for fearing spiders when just last year, he nearly lost Ginny). POA already introduces a creature that actually makes you relive your worst moments – Dementors. Introducing two creatures that do essentially the same thing is redundant. Snape’s on Neville’s mind because this lesson immediately follows the toad scene.

If that does not convince you: Hermione’s boggart is McGonagall (but actually, failure).

An out-of-universe explanation for Neville’s fear of Snape is that his parents’ story, just like the Cruciatus curse, did not exist at the time of writing the boggart scene. You’d think Draco would tease Neville about it, if it had existed by POA.

This passage is from GOF, after the lesson about unforgivables, in which Neville was clearly thinking about his parents:

“What was that?” said Seamus Finnigan, staring at the egg as Harry slammed it shut again. “Sounded like a banshee… Maybe you’ve got to get past one of those next, Harry!”

It was someone being tortured!” said Neville, who had gone very white and spilled sausage rolls all over the floor. “You’re going to have to fight the Cruciatus Curse!

This scene shows that Harry is unlike the rest of his classmates because his fears are real and serious. It provides comic relief, because the big meanie is in drag. It’s the beginning of Neville’s arc from someone who fears Snape in Y3 to someone who leads the DA in Y7 and fears nothing. It hints at the Snape-Marauders relationship. It’s used to make Snape’s behavior in the werewolf lesson seem petty and vindictive, to obfuscate the fact that it actually takes place right after Sirius infiltrates the castle for the first time, which is what’s actually bothering him.

In conclusion, the boggart says nothing about Snape, only about Neville.

“I see no difference”

In context:

“And what is all this noise about?” said a soft, deadly voice.

Snape had arrived. The Slytherins clamored to give their explanations; Snape pointed a long yellow finger at Malfoy and said, “Explain.”

“Potter attacked me, sir —”

We attacked each other at the same time!” Harry shouted.

“— and he hit Goyle — look —”

Snape examined Goyle, whose face now resembled something that would have been at home in a book on poisonous fungi.

“Hospital wing, Goyle,” Snape said calmly.

“Malfoy got Hermione!” Ron said. “Look!”

He forced Hermione to show Snape her teeth — she was doing her best to hide them with her hands, though this was difficult as they had now grown down past her collar. Pansy Parkinson and the other Slytherin girls were doubled up with silent giggles, pointing at Hermione from behind Snape’s back.

Snape looked coldly [as opposed to his usual smirk/smile, when he enjoys whatever he’s saying. Also, what’s the difference between being “calm” and being “cold”? Harry is awful at reading people, and at reading Snape in particular] at Hermione, then said, “I see no difference.

Hermione let out a whimper; her eyes filled with tears.

Snape is demanding an explanation from Malfoy, not the trio. Harry admits that both of them attacked each other. You’d think Snape will never miss an opportunity to punish Harry, who attacked his favorite, right? Wrong. He sends Goyle to the hospital wing calmly, despite Goyle being in pretty bad shape. Ron seems to expect Snape to be helpful, otherwise, why does he direct his attention to Hermione? The Slytherin girls hide their giggling from Snape, as if expecting him to discipline them if he sees them. But he simply says he sees no difference. Why is he acting this way, so out of character? Because at this point, in GOF, the Dark Mark is already growing darker and Voldemort is coming back. Snape will soon have to resume his spying role. He cannot act like he otherwise would have, which is to punish everyone, including the Death Eaters’ children – he is downplaying the whole thing to avoid punishing anyone.

Did he absolutely have to mock Hermione? No. Does he ever do that in any other context? No. It was an easy way to demonstrate his hatred of Harry and supposed disdain for his Muggle-born friend, when he needed to reinforce that image of himself.

Some resentment is understandable: Hermione had set Snape on fire, stolen from him, and slammed him against a wall, knocking him unconscious. That she gets away with a mean-spirited comment indicates that he doesn’t hate her.

He wasn’t even necessarily thinking of her teeth. He might have meant “ISND between what Malfoy did to you, and what Potter did to Goyle”, “ISND between what I told Goyle to do, and what you should do”. We know he can insult her outright when he wants to, and nothing stopped JKR from writing “your teeth look the same as yesterday.”

Maybe he was thinking about how, just a few chapters previously, McGonagall had watched Moody torture Draco, and instead of asking Draco how he was feeling (redundant question, since he was visibly in pain, but it would have been her duty nonetheless), and sending him to the Hospital Wing, she had allowed Moody to drag him away for more punishment, meaning it was she who had set the precedent that students in obvious distress can be dismissed.

She gets over this comment instantly. She even defends Snape later in the same book, and up until he kills Dumbledore.

Snape is definitely an asshole. Here are other bad things he does:

  1. The first Potions lesson: calls Neville an idiot and then accuses Harry of not helping Neville because he wanted to look good. Absurd.

  2. “Longbottom causes devastation with the simplest spells. We’ll be sending what’s left of Finch-Fletchley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox.” Hilarious, but ouch!

  3. Calls Hermione an insufferable-know-it-all (which she was), following several more civilized attempts to shut her up.

  4. Reading the article about Harry in front of everyone, when the Trio is discussing it in class instead of working, then separating them, ordering Harry to sit next to him, and taking the opportunity to taunt him, culminating in calling Harry a “nasty little boy” and threatening to use Veritaserum on him. This is clearly an empty threat, or Snape would have simply slipped him some without warning him, like Umbridge (not that the legilimens needed to).

  5. Doesn’t punish the Slytherin who hexed Alicia Spinnet before the big Quidditch game (McG before that: “I’ve become accustomed to seeing the Quidditch Cup in my study, boys, and I really don’t want to have to hand it over to Professor Snape, so use the extra time [from the lack of homework] to practice, won’t you?”

  6. In the first occlumency lesson, calls Harry a lamentable potions maker (irrelevant and uncalled for), as well as implicitly calling him stupid: “The mind is a complex and many-layered thing, Potter… or at least, most minds are.” Why should Harry know how legilimency works? He’s never heard of it. Even that can be explained away, though: Voldemort might be spying on the lesson through Harry’s eyes.

  7. When escorting Harry from the train to the school in HBP, he calls Tonk’s Patronus weak, and needles Harry. He accuses Harry of only wanting attention: “I suppose you wanted to make an entrance, did you?” Then he says this: “No cloak. You can walk in so that everyone sees you, which is what you wanted, I’m sure.” Make up your mind, Snape.

  8. When Harry says ghosts are transparent: “Yes, it is easy to see that nearly six years of magical education have not been wasted on you, Potter.” When Ron points out that this is the most useful way to tell ghosts and inferi apart, because inferi are solid, he says this: “I would expect nothing more sophisticated from you, Ronald Weasley, the boy so solid he cannot Apparate half an inch across a room.” Possible explanation: Harry and Ron were publicly discussing Snape’s and Fletcher’s involvement in the Order, so shutting them up was imperative.

That’s 9 things, so with the toad scene and ISND, that’s 11 bad things Snape does to students, in 6 years. Snape is the teacher we spend the most time with, so we get a large enough sample to have an accurate impression of him. All of his transgressions are insults of varying severity, and that’s it.

He’s rude to everyone, not just his inferiors: Tonks and Sirius, fellow Order members, Bellatrix, a “fellow” Death Eater, and even Dumbledore, his superior in every way. Yes, he should have been gentler with students. He is harsh, unkind, strict, impatient, and overbearing, but not bullying or abusive.

His treatment of Harry is truly unfair. He projects the trauma James had caused him onto Harry, which is completely undeserved (but he also protects Harry out of guilt and love for Lily, which is also, strictly speaking, undeserved). Snape doesn’t see Harry for who he is, but even that is not as superficial as it seems, and it’s not entirely the result of Snape’s “immaturity” (i.e., long-term trauma).

  1. PS: When they first make eye-contact, both of them are set on the wrong path because of Quirrell. Harry feels a pain when Snape is looking at him, pulls a face, and continues to stare at Snape. The legilimens might be sensing Voldemort in him. Harry then sasses at him in the very first lesson, and nearly knocks him off his broom.

  2. COS: Harry arrives at school by flying car, launches a seemingly random attack on Slytherins, the appears to be encouraging the snake to attack Justin.

  3. POA: Harry displays recklessness truly worthy of his father, sneaking off to Hogsmeade, throwing snowballs at Malfoy, lying about it

  4. GOF: Harry becomes the center of attention. Snape resents this, as do Ron and Sprout. Twice, the legilimens is looking into Harry’s eyes while Harry is fantasizing about hurting him.

  5. OOTP: Harry violates Snape’s privacy and endangers him, Snape does not know that Harry regrets the whole thing. He also catches Harry at this:

“What are you doing, Potter?” said Snape coldly as ever, as he strode over to the four of them.
“I’m trying to decide what curse to use on Malfoy, sir,” said Harry fiercely.
Snape stared at him.

This must have been flashback-inducing. What we see as fiercely, Snape sees as vicious.

6. HBP: Harry hexes people at random, including Filch, and worst of all, Snape catches Harry casting Sectumsempra on Draco.

Snape has a disincentive to try with Harry: He knows he will return to Voldemort as a spy. The cover story is, “I thought Voldemort was finished, and that Harry did it.” Becoming buds with Harry would have been inexplicable; becoming buds with Harry and then NOT using that to deliver Harry to Voldemort (i.e., what BCJ has done) – unforgivable. Snape relied heavily on half-truths and misdirection but there was one thing he could be honest with Voldemort about: He hates Harry with a passion. That, ironically, helped him protect Harry.

FWIW, I believe the memory of Snape ranting about Harry, and Dumbledore dismissing Snape and telling him he’s wrong, is included as an apology.

Snape’s three biggest victims are Harry, who names a child after him; Hermione, who doesn’t mind him and even likes him; and Neville, who clearly got over it with ease.

Snape vs. Other teachers

Discussing what other teachers do is not whataboutism. A serious discussion of child abuse in Harry Potter must acknowledge all incidents. A serious discussion of Snape as a character must acknowledge the full context of his actions, and that includes prevailing norms.

Dumbledore will never fire Snape. He has a free pass to be as cruel as he wants, because he has a cover to keep. Other than the DADA teachers and Hagrid, he is the least experienced, and he is the youngest by far except for, briefly, Lockhard and Lupin. Hogwarts is a site of lifelong trauma for him. Since he is so young, some of his students probably saw or heard about him being publicly humiliated. It also meant that he was initially barely older than some of the students’ siblings, so he had to cultivate a very strict persona to control his classroom.

Hence, if you find judging teachers’ conduct in a children’s book a worthwhile pursuit (I don’t think it is, but here we are), Snape should be judged less harshly, not more harshly.

He has no incentive to dial down his cruelty and a wealth of excuses for being cruel, so the cruelty we see in him is the worst he could do, despite being under extreme stress. Yet it is limited to sarcastic remarks, docked points, and mild detentions.

He never lays a hand or a wand on a student, except when pulling Harry out of the Pensieve and then blowing up a jar over his head. Pulling him out was obviously justified – Harry not only violated his privacy and humiliated him, he also risked showing Voldemort classified memories. I believe that if he had wanted the jar to hit Harry, it would have, and he missed on purpose. He never takes advantage of his position over students or his relationship with them, and his punishments are never dangerous.

How do the other teachers measure up? Here’s everything that came to my mind, there may be more. By teacher, just to show how bad anyone would look if you listed their bad deeds:

Fake Moody [a Death Eater, but a Death Eater who fooled everyone, meaning his behavior was not that OOC for real Moody, whom Dumbledore hired]:

  1. Transfigures Draco and slams him repeatedly against the stone floor while Draco is squealing in pain

  2. tortures spiders with Crucio in front of Neville, which causes him such distress Hermione interrupts the lesson. Then, he “comforts” Neville. Now picture how Neville must have felt when he found out it was one of his parents’ torturers. That had to be more traumatic than watching your toad not get poisoned

  3. curses students in class – “The rest of the class was very eager to leave; Moody had given them such a rigorous test of hex-deflection that many of them were nursing small injuries.”


  1. does nothing about Luna’s bullying

  2. has Seamus repeatedly write “I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick”. The Irish were once openly compared to apes in England in the past, so that’s in extremely poor taste

  3. Lavender bursts into tears during Charms, Flitwick doesn’t notice


  1. predicts a death every year and generally distresses students with her predictions

  2. To Hermione: “I don’t remember ever meeting a student whose mind was so hopelessly mundane.”

  3. takes her anger about Umbridge’s performance review out on students: throws a book at Dean and Seamus, and thrusts another one so hard into Neville’s chest that he falls. She then calls the entire class a bunch of idiots: “You know what to do! Or am I such a substandard teacher that you have never learned how to open a book?”


  1. starts an elitist club to promote his favorites and doesn’t even bother to learn Ron’s name. This clearly affects Ron (Molly is still raw about Arthur being excluded from the Slug Club, years later)

  2. Ron is poisoned and he just stands there

  3. was Tom Riddle’s mentor and his influence on Tom is apparent in Tom trying to become a teacher to influence young minds, and testing poisons on house elves; he is openly prejudiced, though non-violent. Further, Slytherins were groomed into the DEs under his nose.


  1. silenced student Snape after Sirius tried to kill him, and did not expel Sirius

  2. His attitude toward Harry in OOTP was emotionally abusive

  3. recruited students into the original Order while they were still his students in the Marauders era, and continued to use children for his war against Voldemort.


  1. gives Dudley a tail because Dudley’s father insulted Dumbledore. Dudley has to get surgery to remove it. He intended to transfigure him into a pig

  2. gets the Trio involved in his illegal and dangerous dragon hatching scheme, which results in them being caught and punished and in Ron being gravely injured, for which he blames Ron

  3. calls Draco an idiot

  4. first sends Draco and Neville alone, after the unicorn killer, then sends Harry and Draco alone, despite seeing that Draco is trying to cause trouble

  5. sends Harry and Ron into the forest to speak with Aragog

  6. Draco gets injured in Hagrid’s lesson

  7. His blast-ended skrewts lesson result in multiple injured students

  8. threatens Draco with transfiguration again after Moody’s stunt

  9. asks Harry and Hermione to secretly look after his incredibly dangerous brother

  10. makes a fuss about the Trio dropping his subject and guilt-trips them about it

Lupin, who, in his defense, quit:

  1. endangers everyone for an entire year by covering up for a mass-murderer just to look good, even after said murderer has infiltrated the castle twice, once attacking and traumatizing the Fat Lady and once pulling a knife on Ron

  2. is negligent with his Wolfsbane – Snape has to nag him about it. This leads to him transforming in front of the Trio

  3. Hermione doesn’t get a chance to fight the boggart, leading to her first less than perfect grade, which affects her confidence well into her 5th year. As the DADA OWL exam included banishing a boggart, this is presumably why she doesn’t get the O she deserves

  4. Has no apparent issue with executing Peter in front of three children


  1. forces Harry to become Seeker without asking him if he wants to, threatening him with punishment if he doesn’t practice hard (in the process, ignores Draco’s attempt to steal Neville’s Remembrall)

  2. pulls 1st-year Draco by his ear in addition to assigning detention and docking 20 points, doesn’t give points back or apologize when it turns out he wasn’t lying

  3. sends 1st years to the Forbidden Forest to find a unicorn-slaying horror, in addition to docking the trio 150 points, thus making them a target for hatred, for breaking curfew

  4. Doesn’t notice 1st-year Ginny’s obvious distress

  5. Allows Ron to study with a broken wand

  6. catches Harry and Ron wandering the hallways alone, at a time when teachers escort students everywhere, and lets them get away with it because Harry lies that they’re going to see Hermione in the hospital wing; does not escort them there

  7. Locks Nev out of the common room with a mass murderer on the loose for having his passwords stolen, a humiliating and dangerous punishment for something that’s not Neville’s fault, in addition to a ban from Hogsmeade visits and detention.

  8. Lets Harry practice Quidditch outdoors in POA despite the danger he is in, because, as she explicitly says, she wants the Quidditch Cup

  9. reacts to “Moody” torturing Draco by ordering Moody to take Draco to Snape to be punished some more, and doesn’t check on him

  10. humiliates Neville because she doesn’t want to look bad in front of the foreign delegations

  11. punishes Harry for losing his temper with Umbridge, proceeds to do the same thing in front of him

  12. admits she treated Peter poorly because he wasn’t as talented as his friends

  13. The worst two sets of troublemakers in school history were her charges and she failed to control them.

I can forgive Dumbledore since his position was impossible. Hagrid has the equivalent of a 7th grade education and zero teaching experience, and as a half-giant, his concept of risk is not entirely human. Lupin’s desire to be loved is understandable, and he took responsibility for his wrongdoings. McGonagall is not masterminding a war or spying, she doesn’t have enduring trauma, and she’s a fully qualified witch and an experienced teacher, head of house, and deputy head – there are no mitigating factors for her.

Is Snape too punitive?

Snape lets students get away with a lot, including Gryffindors:

  1. Hermione set him on fire

  2. The twins aim bludgers at him when he refs a match, Harry nearly knocks him off his broom

  3. Ron threatens to attack Draco for saying Granger should die in COS – Snape’s unresponsiveness hints at his true allegiance

  4. Hermione steals Polyjuice ingredients while Snape is dealing with a seemingly random, unprovoked attack that harms multiple Slytherins in the middle of a lesson. Harry knows Snape knows it was him, and Hermione turns up furry. They get away with it

  5. Harry shouted at Snape to “shut up about my dad” in POA, and he didn’t even lose points

  6. The trio knocked Snape out in POA, which Snape covered for in front of Fudge

  7. Harry was not punished for viewing Snape’s Worst Memory

When he does sanction students, he makes unsubstantial deductions, and sets very safe and normal detentions. E.g., Harry gets one detention for “no need to call me sir, professor”.

But he is biased, right?

Not as biased as people think. He has issues with the Trio+Neville, but not other Gryffs, or with students in other houses. He assigns zero house points, including to Slytherins, and his deductions are rarely substantial. He does not bend the rules to get a 1st year student on the Quidditch team, and he does not give 170 last minute points.

Unlike points, grades do matter, and he grades fairly:

According to Lucius in COS, Hermione beat Draco in every test, including potions:

“I would have thought you’d be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam,” snapped Mr. Malfoy.

Harry expects Snape to grade him fairly, when he tries:

Determined not to give Snape an excuse to fail him this lesson, Harry read and reread every line of instructions on the blackboard at least three times before acting on them.

Harry does fail. This is the Strengthening Solution they work on over two lessons. In the second lesson, Harry isn’t paying attention because he is too busy listening in on Umbridge’s interrogation.

Except the bit where Harry’s vial breaks, there is no evidence that he grades unfairly. This was petty, but Hermione is the one who vanished the rest of the potion and prevented him from being able to turn in a second sample.

At the end of the lesson he scooped some of the potion into a flask, corked it, and took it up to Snape’s desk for marking, feeling that he might at last have scraped an E. He had just turned away when he heard a smashing noise; […] His potion sample lay in pieces on the floor, and Snape was watching him with a look of gloating pleasure.
“Whoops,” he said softly. “Another zero, then, Potter…”
Harry was too incensed to speak. He strode back to his cauldron, intending to fill another flask and force Snape to mark it, but saw to his horror that the rest of the contents had vanished.
“I’m sorry!” said Hermione.

This is after Harry views SWM. Assuming Snape did this on purpose (we don’t know), he might have been vindictive or he might have been putting on a show of it because Voldemort was watching through Harry’s eyes.

Snape appears unfair in the sense that when Harry does poorly, he receives poorer grades than he deserves (in Harry’s opinion), but when Harry does well, he expects to be graded fairly (OOTP29). Specifically, Harry complains that Snape grades only him unfairly, and not Ron or Neville, meaning that the issue is with Harry and not with all Gryffindors (OOTP12+15).

Snape’s bias shows only in that he does not punish his own students for their wrongdoings on-page. However, Slytherins wait until Snape’s back is turned to misbehave, and that includes Draco, Snape’s favorite:

  1. In the ISND incident, Pansy and her friends giggle behind Snape’s back.

  2. Draco flashes his Potter Stinks badges when Snape’s attention is directed elsewhere.

  3. Draco taunts Harry with his “remedial potions?!” jeer when Snape isn’t looking.

  4. Right before the toad incident, Draco was pretending to be badly hurt, and pointed out to Snape that Ron (who was sitting next to him and whom Snape had asked to help Draco) wasn’t helping him properly. Draco lowers his voice to admit he pretends to be hurt partly because it means Snape will have someone help him.

They routinely bother to hide their nastiness, because they expect some sort of sanction. McGonagall sends Slytherin transgressors to Snape for punishment, meaning she expects him to handle them.

Snape also assigns Crabbe and Goyle detentions liberally to make sure they “pass their DADA OWLs”. This is also done to thwart Draco’s attempts to kill Dumbledore, but nobody is surprised at this.

Snape is a very effective teacher and the students don’t all hate him

In Y2, Snape teaches students about Polyjuice Potion, which exceeds the curriculum requirements. Umbridge’s objective is to discredit Dumbledore’s hires, but even she recognizes that his class is advanced. Snape constantly explains to the students what they did wrong, even if Harry calls this bullying. His exam pass rate is high: The trio earns two Es and one O even though Harry and Ron don’t care about the subject. Snape is an effective, albeit very imperfect, teacher (Harry, Ron, and Hermione all earn the same grade in Potions as they do in Charms and Transfiguration; Neville can be deduced to have passed his Potions and his Transfiguration OWLs with an A).

He only admits O students into his NEWT potions class, whereas Minerva is “very pleased” with Harry’s E. This is not as restrictive as it sounds:

This is the composition of Harry’s 6th year Potions class:

The four Slytherins took a table together, as did the four Ravenclaws. This left Harry, Ron, and Hermione to share a table with Ernie.

Everyone but Harry and Ron had earned Os, because they all had the textbook already. That’s at least 10 out of 28* students in Harry’s year who got the highest grade.

*There is some debate about the size of Harry’s year. I’m only counting students who have names.

25 out of 25 eligible students take DADA with Snape in their 6th year:

”Before we start, I want your dementor essays,” said Snape, waving his wand carelessly, so that twenty-five scrolls of parchment soared into the air and landed in a neat pile on his desk.

The missing ones are Crabbe and Goyle, who failed their OWLs, and Abbott, who left.

Neville definitely took DADA with Snape:

Typically, ten minutes into the lesson Hermione managed to repel Neville’s muttered JellyLegs Jinx, a feat that would surely have earned her twenty points for Gryffindor from any reasonable teacher.

Harry whines, but note that Snape doesn’t take points from Neville for muttering, either.

That’s how unbiased students talk about Snape:

“Harry,” Ernie said […], “didn’t get a chance to speak in Defense Against The Dark Arts this morning. Good lesson, I thought.”

Safety is his top priority


  1. stops Ron from hitting Draco

  2. Upon hearing that a student had been taken into the Chamber – he was distressed enough that he had to grab a chair “very hard” (even though his Slytherins alone were not in danger)

  3. is the one who nags Lupin to drink his potion in POA, and not the other way around

  4. runs into the Shrieking Shack to face Black and Lupin on the full moon to save the trio

  5. when the egg starts screaming in GOF, runs toward the sound of someone screaming as though they’re being tortured in the middle of the night

  6. Supplies Umbridge with fake Veritaserum

  7. Orders Harry to release Neville when he thinks Ron and Harry are fighting him

  8. Saves Neville from being choked by Crabbe

  9. Runs toward a woman screaming in the middle of an occlumency lesson (it’s Trelawney getting fired)

  10. Makes an unbreakable vow to protect Draco, keeps it

  11. Runs toward Myrtle’s cries of a murder, not knowing who was hurt or how and what danger he might face there

  12. Steers Hermione+Luna out of harm’s way before the Astronomy Tower battle

  13. After killing Dumbledore, he stops Death Eaters from Cruciating Harry when Harry confronts him. Harry tries to curse Snape, including an attempt at Crucio, yet Snape risks breaking cover to spare Harry pain

  14. He is the one Dumbledore assigned to keep students safe during DH. Snape did not have to stay at Hogwarts at that point, both of them knew Harry won’t be attending next year, so this had nothing to do with the original mission, Dumbledore just trusted him this much, and rightly so – nobody is reported to have died during Snape’s year as headmaster, which is more than can be said for Dumbledore. Within this, he Sent the silver trio to Hagrid as a form of “punishment” for trying to steal the sword.

Only in one of these cases is Harry even in the picture (that Snape knows of before springing into action). I omitted things like saving Harry in PS. In one case, he leaves Harry to go see what’s going on. Also not included are multiple instances of Snape saving students at no risk to himself or to his cover, by brewing potions or using his Dark Arts expertise (COS, HBP). His attempts to save adult characters are not included either.

“Her [the Doe Patronus’s] presence had meant safety.


Other teachers don’t lift a finger to protect students, and they sometimes actively endanger them. That Dumbledore needed to make up the lie about Snape’s life-debt to James instead of saying “teachers are expected to save students even if they hate them” proves that Snape went above and beyond the call of duty to protect the students.

I hope I’ve successfully made my case. May all our teachers be like Snape.


I really liked this one, Snaters selectively hate Snape’s behaviour as a teacher while the others get a free pass for their behaviour. Snape might not pass the modern pedagogy standards but he was still one of the best teacher that Hogwarts got.

Thanks for the nice analysis and I especially like the comparisons with other professors. I generally find the contrast between Snape’s verbal interactions with students and his protectiveness very interesting. My headcanon is that Snape prowled the castle every night not only because of his insomnia but also to prevent bullies and rescue students who were attacked (probably based on his time at Hogwarts) and since he became a professor I can imagine the bullies were significantly reduced at Hogwarts.


Thank you for this excellent meta! I’ve never seen why Snaters says he was abusive as a teacher.

This was laid out so perfectly. I’ll have to share it with others who are at the cusp between liking Severus or hating him. I wouldn’t share this with a Snater, most I’ve encountered have an irrational anger that exceeds what’s written in the books. It’s as if Severus personally came into their homes and committed cruel acts.

Hey, I totally agree with them all! But I wonder, how can I make a post? Can I as a student? BC I have more good reasons to Nevilles boggart!

So I just wanted to say, ’bout Nevilles toad. Some people say that what Snape did was animal abuse. Well first – It was 19–. And also alternate universe. I mean Filch says that in hos time kids were tied by their hands on the celling! It obvsly changed in time. But not everything. And also, literally in first Harry Potter book (“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”) when Harry and rest were ELEVEN years old, McGonagall makes them turn their pet (maybe for someone emotional support, who knows?) into dead things! I don’t mean dead as animals died, but still life. We see cups. So this also should be count as animal abuse. I mean, they were 11, it was their first year, first semester, so they didn’t know that much, right? I HP PoA they were with two years of experience and knew more spells and potions. And ofc Snape had an antidote in his pocket.

So together:
McGonagall makes 11 year old KIDS with no experience, turn their beloved animals (Canon, we now that Ron loved his rat, and Harry Hedwig) into still life, into things (Remember that Rons wand was destroyed and when he turned rat into cup it still had tail and moved itself. I mean, for God sakes, it was literally human! We can not like Peter, but still! Even if he wasn’t, he still was a living animal! And McGonagall after Rons “show” just says that he needs a new wand.
And we have Snape, who didn’t want to kill Nevilles toad, OR turn him into an object, he wanted to show Neville to listen to his instruction. Sure, he might have been to harsh, but for skakes, he literally had antidote right with him! He would save it! It would be a lesson for him. I mean a lot of parents do smth like that (No, i don’t mean pretending to kill a pet).
What McGonagall did was worst.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her, and imo she didn’t do anything wrong – it was literally another universum and timeline. But Snape also did nothing wrong! But if some toxic people say that he did, they also CAN’T try to protect McGonagall. It’s just not fair.