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Indestructible - Introduction and Part I

Or, a multi-part meditation on Severus Snape, moral struggle, and love.

This looks bad already.

All that thinking about terri's Greater Love and the fic I'm writing has prompted me to blather on a bit about how I see Severus as embodying the more complex aspects of moral struggle that work their way into the HP books, despite JKR's refusal to let him openly come into his own on the page.

Because it's not like she wrote an entire chapter dedicated to his backstory, or anything.

I’ll be posting the parts of this as they get written (that is, in between writing sections of my dissertation, sigh). It’ll be more a sprawling web of related pieces than a single long argument, I think, so I’ll just post whatever feels complete enough at the time. This is an introduction of sorts to the theme, and to my view of Severus. It’s a view heavily inspired by our own terri and mary, as well a few others over on Snapedom and elsewhere.

I suppose my view of Albus is somewhere between terri’s Fool Albus and marionros’ Narcissist Albus, with a large helping of swythyv’s Well-Intentioned Moral Failure Albus. When I’m being generous.

What about canon Albus?

(Hey! I can be as cynical and petty as any potions master too, you know – no claiming perfection of spirit here. XD )

Not for yourself, maybe, but...

My view of Voldemort… Well, we’ll get to that, in time.

Onward.

* * *

Indestructible – Part I

"You’ve got to hide your love away…” sang the Beatles.

Well. I don’t think they meant it quite this way, but looked at from a certain angle it’s an apt theme song for our dear Professor during the most spiritually trying phase of his struggle, and the war, that we see.

What struggle?

And no, I don’t just mean the surface fact of hiding from Voldemort, even under torture and Legilimency, any memory that might betray that he, in one way or another, loved and loves a girl named Lily. Or even a boy named Harry, or a man named Albus.

That’s the easy part.

Well. Relatively easy, in comparison. I'll come back to this point a little later, though.

Nothing in Severus’ life was or is ever truly easy, is it?

I don't know, it was awfully easy for him to yell a racial slur at his best friend. Or to be cruel to children he was in a position of authority over for years.

He wouldn’t be the man he is if it were.

And if he weren’t the man he is, he wouldn’t be able to do what needs to be done in order for Harry and company to win the outward struggle they are faced with in solving the problem of Voldemort, nor to give them the tools he tries to give them for going forward in life beyond that particular struggle.

What tools?

I do rather wish that Harry had let himself learn a little more from Severus, and a little less from Albus Dumbledore.

Oh, yes. If I were Harry, I'd LOVE to learn from someone who bullied me and my friends and insulted my dead father at every opportunity.

He won the outward war, yes. And he sacrificed himself for it bravely, he did.

Behold, for here we have a rare sighting of a Snapefen saying something nice about Harry.

But he hobbled himself rather drastically in fighting the inward battle every time he chose to give preference to Albus’ twinkly-eyed natterings over his own instinct to care, and over the hard-won authority of his severe protector and (would-be) corrector.

I'm sorry? When did Snape ever try to correct Harry's behavior?

For Severus, despite Harry’s persistent refusal to acknowledge him, does know a thing or two about fighting that battle. From painful experience. And he loves the boy.

No, he doesn't.

In his own way, eventually, whatever conscious feelings of affection he did or did not over time develop or permit himself to feel, he does love Harry.

NO, HE DOESN'T. It's been YEARS since I last read DH, and I still remember, clear as crystal, the scene where Dumbledore asks Snape if he's come to care for Harry after all, and Snape shouts "For him?" and casts a Patronus. It's a doe, same as Lily's.

Hence the impulse to correct.

Is that what they're calling emotional abuse these days?

To be the guiding hand that Albus Dumbledore had always failed to be to him and was and is failing to be to Harry (and to Draco, and to the other students, and to Severus himself still, though Severus for a time uses Albus as a mirror to guide himself).

Why do you keep using his first name? It's starting to creep me out.

As best he can, given how little guidance he ever himself received, and circumstances that make it difficult, if not impossible, to be fully direct, open, and consistent about what he's doing and why, he does try to guide Harry, and Draco, and others under his care.

When does Snape ever do anything like that for anybody?

He knows (bitterly) the necessity of it.

But Albus Dumbledore has worked consistently against him in that regard.

He has?

Albus had long ago betrayed himself, and from that betrayal spring his later betrayals of Severus and Harry,

Dumbledore used Snape, which was wrong, but he didn't betray him.

and his facilitation of those times they betrayed each other, and those times they seemed to.

So...Dumbledore made it easy for Snape and Harry to betray each other? When?

Though this did also eventually offer the (agonizing, heart-breaking) opportunity for Severus to test himself to the very limit, and so to reveal the very strongest and purest parts of himself, to any who could – or would – see.

Dumbledore did not see,

Yes, he did. "My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?"

not ever more than partially, and from those glimpses he turned consciously away, for all that he relied semiconsciously on what he saw there being true.

What was that supposed to mean?

I think deep-down he recognized and feared just how profoundly Severus could reveal his own failings to him.

I thought Ariana's death already did that.

Harry eventually, I think, saw a little, and acknowledged it – but that he, last we saw him, did not grasp the whole of it, I am afraid is rather clear. Courage after all is not quite itself a virtue; even people committed to evil can be brave. (Bellatrix, anyone?) But it is, absolutely, a requirement for real virtue. It is the foundation for it.

Oh, really? You can only be virtuous if you have courage? Not kindness, or compassion, or mercy?

Something about this really bothers me, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is.


A coward will never let the strength of his would-be virtues and values be tested; he’ll turn from the fight every time. As Lupin, unhappily, demonstrates.

And he still went back to his wife, and died fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts. Those are not the actions of a coward.

And Harry never did see, either, what a coward Albus was until the end, that he felt the need to attribute Severus’ goodness to his being “Dumbledore’s Man.” If he had been Dumbledore’s Man in truth at the end of the war, Severus Snape could never have achieved what he did.

Why not? And what did he achieve, anyway?

Voldemort, of course, never saw at all. For all his peering into the depths of Severus’ being, and his recognition of certain true things there (I’ll come back to this point later in the series), he remained utterly unseeing of the greater part of Severus’ fundamental nature and of his commitment to good – or, I should say more precisely, to the moral struggle. Of that we can be certain.

I only hesitate to state for sure whether or not Severus himself was ultimately one who could, or did, fully see. (During the war, I mean, of course. We all know he slipped away to a nice beach somewhere for a well-deserved break afterward. ;) )

O.o Is this essayist a Das Sporking fan, by any chance?

I like to think that somewhere along the line he consciously recognized, at least for a moment, the truth of his own virtue, of the strength and love and capacity for gentleness

*howls with laughter*

expressed so beautifully in the doe,

Yes, I'm sure Lily possessed all those qualities.

and was able to fully own what he fought so bitterly for. I think you can even argue for that reading, somewhat. He certainly grasped some part of it, or he would not have been able to trust himself so much in those last two years as we do see him doing, nor to attempt to provide what moral teaching he could and did.

What moral teaching?

But given what was required of him and his circumstances, I think it could also be argued that he never did quite fully see – perhaps, because of the very nature of his tasks, as set by Albus and Tom, could not let himself see, or not for very long – not only how very far he came, but also how very great the strength of his own heart was,

*still laughing*

and how indestructible

Title drop!

was the most central core of love and gentleness and desire to heal, to repair, that existed in him from the beginning and that persisted,

*again, howls with laughter*

despite the neglect, abuse, and repeated betrayals

Woobie!Snape ahoy!

that caused him to suppress it some and that threatened at times to stamp it out completely.

But, seen fully or not, he did fight for it. He fought, it seems alone, as best he knew how and with what means were available to him. With all his heart and all his severity. And in that, in his own unrelenting way, despite all the anger and guilt and grief and self-contempt – and even perhaps despair – that he must have felt in his struggle, Severus did love himself. In deed at the very least, whether or not ever in conscious feeling.

Ultimately he refused – unlike so many others – until the bitter end, to give up on Severus Snape.

This required him to figure out how to be his own light in a very dark place, and also how to cover his light as needed, as he had to be and do in order to be the light, the help unlooked-for in the darkness, to Harry, and thence to all who looked to Harry to be theirs.

*falls on the floor laughing*

Like Severus himself, perhaps.

Post tenebras lux, Severus. Though for himself he might only word it, post tenebras spero lucem.

After darkness, (I hope for) light.

(I would ask him to forgive me the Protestant reference there; whatever his views of God and religion, I can’t help but see Severus as an essentially Catholic figure in outline – for many reasons – and I wouldn’t be surprised, from what little I know of northern England, if Catholicism wasn’t an influence on him to some degree as a child. But I promise, this isn’t an explicitly religious essay series, though I might mention religion now and then.)

Why the hell should it matter?

That's where it ends. I might spork the other parts, or I might not. We'll see.


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