We were under a severe thunderstorm watch this afternoon. I have several collies who really don’t like thunder and one is deathly afraid of it. Long before the first rumble of thunder was heard, Snape began howling. (Yes, I have a champion collie named “Snape.” He was born the day that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was released.)
This howl wasn’t his “I’m bored” howl, or his “Mommy, you’re home!” happy howl. It was his “I’m terrified and I want in the basement in my crate where it’s safe” howl. Needless to say, several collies were put safely in crates in the garage, and Snape was brought into the house. He raced me to the basement and dove into his crate. (And, please, before anyone says anything about dogs in crates—it’s like a den for them. They feel safe there, guarded, and protected from the world.) When Snape’s this terrified, there is no way he can stay in the rest of the house with me because all he does is hyperventilate and stress out, and he honestly feels safe in his crate in the basement.
Once I was sure he had settled down (which took him about ten seconds), I went outside to watch the weather roll in. I started thinking about my cowardly collie and the fictional character I named him for. The conversation I had with someone at his first show came to mind. It went something like, “HOW can you name such a beautiful puppy for such a horrible character?”
“Snape’s not a horrible character. Yes, he’s a piece of work, but he’s not horrible.”
“He killed Dumbledore!”
“Yes, and I’m not sure why, but I’ll bet every last dollar I have that Dumbledore told him to do it, or he had made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore to kill him if the old man asked him to.”
(AND, NOW FOR THE DISCLAIMER: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE HARRY POTTER SERIES OR SEEN THE MOVIES, STOP READING NOW! SPOILER ALERT)
Needless to say, by the end of the last book, my belief in Snape and his never wavering from the side of the Light was vindicated, and quite frankly, Dumbledore wasn’t the gentle, sweet, caring character quite a few people seemed to believe he was. (Trust me when I write I could go on a pages long rant about how cruel, manipulative, and vindictive Dumbledore truly was, but this isn’t the time or the place for it.) I was one of those who always believed in Snape, from the very first book, and I always felt that there was more than a vein of pettiness and evil in Dumbledore. I fell in love with Snape long before Alan Rickman portrayed him in the movies. Alan Rickman as Snape was simply frosting on the cake for me.
However, I’m digressing from the point of this blog entry. That poor dog, howling his terror of thunderstorms, got me to thinking about the character of Snape and how (in my humble opinion) J.K. Rowling created a personality in Snape that was a “gift of a character” and yet because he was so layered and faceted, he was a character a lot of the Harry Potter fans could get behind and grow to love, despite Snape’s many short-comings. And, he was a character that Ms. Rowling could never understand why people loved him so. Allow me for a moment to be completely rude and state, “Well, DUUUUUUUH!”
There are parts of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 that I honestly cannot watch a second time. The first time I saw those scenes, I was sobbing and thinking, “Stop, you fools! Stop! Look at him. He doesn’t want to be doing this. Just stop!” One of those scenes is when Harry steps out of the student body and accuses Snape of killing Dumbledore and demands to know how he could do such a thing to a man “who trusted you.” Another is the scene where Snape duels with Professor McGonnagall in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. McGonnagall calls Snape a coward when he flees the Great Hall.
Coward? Coward?!?!? Really? Never once, in any of the books or movies—other than in the chapter “Snape’s Worst Memory”—does Snape ever retaliate when attacked. He blocks and parries, but he doesn’t attack.
How much courage does it take to merely defend rather than return the attack, especially when facing an opponent as skilled and deadly as you are? How much courage does it take to face the most evil being your world has seen in a generation—or longer—and play double agent, knowing every moment could be your last? How much courage does it take to keep your mouth shut, when you know in your last moments, that evil Dark Wizard is going to kill you, and with one sentence, you can send him looking for a fairly defenseless boy, because you aren’t the one he really needs to kill if that evil Dark Wizard wants to control the most powerful wand of all time? But you don’t say it because you know that boy deserves to live.
Coward? I don’t think so.
And, what does any of this have to do with the writing life? I don’t know how it applies to other authors, but I know that when I write, I want to write characters as compelling, as faceted, as complex as J. K. Rowling created, the kind of characters that readers grow to care deeply about and remember long after the last page is read. I want to pull the many threads of the story line together to form a rich tapestry, shimmering with the magic that every author weaves within their story.
And if the Muse is ever generous enough with me to give me that “gift of a character”, as J. K. Rowling referred to Snape, I won’t be so ungrateful to kill that character, and certainly would never kill that character in such a senseless, demeaning manner where that death served truly no other purpose than to thumb the author’s nose at the myriad of that character’s fans.
Now, to go check on my Snape and give him a hug, and assure him that he is loved and as long as he lives, there will never be a shallow, petty bitch at my house named “Lily.”