Most people would agree that Severus Snape is, at the very least, a well-written character. However, many readers I have talked to absolutely loathe him. I’m not saying there aren’t reasons to feel that way, but I like Snape, and I’ve always wanted to be able to clearly lay out my reasoning.
First, there is what he goes through as a child. I am in no way saying that his subsequent actions are right or even excusable. However, he did not have a model of healthy behavior during the most important years of his life. He probably heard all kinds of horrible things about himself at home. At school, he was essentially told his house was the “evil” house—at age eleven. He wanted to be loved, but was rejected so much that he gave up and eventually became unlovable. This makes him very fallible, but also human.
I love the marauders (James, Sirius, Lupin) as much as anyone, and have seriously considered writing a story about them. However, James and Sirius were also bullies, and constantly tormented Snape, to the point where he would have been killed. Again, this does not mean I dislike James and Sirius or think Snape is some perfectly innocent victim. However, this experience would have confirmed for Snape the idea that the world is against him—and that very dangerous idea is where the death eaters might have come in. I will be the first to say that he absolutely, 100% should have known better, but I also feel like a very important point is that he did get out.
While Snape’s treatment of the students is one of my biggest issues, there are points when he does care. He saves Harry at a Quidditch match in the first book, he protects all of the kids from a werewolf, and he sends the silver doe patronus to help Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the last book. Some of his exasperation and sourness may come from the fact that he disagrees with Dumbledore sending teenagers out to risk their lives and save the wizarding world.
I would also like to address the biggest Snape plot twist—his love for Lily. It’s my biggest reason for liking him (I fall for the sappy stuff, I’m not saying I’m proud). Some people have disagreed with me that it is love, and have called it creepy. I can see where that’s coming from, but there are some things I would point out. First, Snape and Lily actually were friends, so it’s not like he was just hiding out watching her, and deciding that he liked her for no real reason. There’s also the fact that he never said anything to anyone except Dumbledore about how he felt. He literally said, “no one can ever know.”
He didn’t ask Dumbledore just to save her from Voldemort either. He wanted to help save James too, and cried and said he would do “anything” to be forgiven. I also feel like the patronus wouldn’t lie. If he still has the same one as her, it’s not necessarily creepy, because I feel like such a good, bright, and happy spell would not respond to a creepy obsession.
I don’t think Snape should have ended up with Lily, or really anyone, just to be clear. It’s important for his character development, and he needs to be more emotionally healthy. I love the pairing of James and Lily. All I’m going to say is that every time Snape says “always,” I get a little teary eyed.