On the year that marked the end of a bygone century and the anticipation that welcomed a new one, what excited me the most was the replacement of the 90’s era, that I proudly partook in for a good four years, with the imposing 2000. As a child, this number was nothing more than a change in the last two digits of the date, lost somewhere in the warped rays of a morning sun I drew in the margin of my class notebooks. As a 90’s kid, I set great store by The Addams Family that made me believe that anything was possible, Scooby- Doo that made me realise the worst evils always take the form of human, The Power Puff Girls that gave me the confidence to win over a fist fight with the scrawny lads in class, Ed, Edd n Eddy that told me it was alright to seek solace in plain stupidity sometimes and Popeye that taught me to adore my veggies. And, now you wonder why the 90’s kids place themselves on a pedestal?. We had every reason to do so.
But, we ought to grow and with growth comes inexplicable change. With the entry into a new century, the Dursley’s weren’t the only ones who were in for a surprise. Their surprise was shared by the world. Their gift of a baby boy, was very much ours and the scar that adorned his face was a scar that we’d carry long after this boy ceased to exist. Harry Potter stole no time in making a sweeping entry into my life, partially sidestepping what qualified me to be a staunch 90’s kid; this was a new beginning indeed. Thus, I began to make room in my store for a story that would expand it’s legacy over the next decade, tracing my growth like the pencil marks our parents fervently made on the wall every year. Harry Potter was our mark on the wall. I can only too clearly recall my first tryst with the bespectacled boy who lived. I was myself bespectacled and around the same age as this boy we all speak of. With the hours that unfolded, in po(r)tions and in magic, I grew to form my first impressions of adoration, admiration, detestation and vilification esoteric to each character that came by me on the screen. You know they say, the impressions etched on a child are lasting. Naturally, I carried my preconceived notions to the skein of Harry Potter instalments I religiously watched.
The hero of the film was indisputably our favourite. But, who would be the hero of the film? Harry Potter?. Now, that’s a disputable question.
As children, we saw the lion as a majestic animal and not as a creature that could induce fatal harm. We made sense of things on a superficial scale. Multidimensional layers were non-existent to our simple minds. So, naturally I adorned my walls with posters of Harry Potter; my newfound muse. But, if I could grow to love a character so much, I could grow to hate a character just as much.
I found the deep entrenched baritone piercing through the theatre a tad too powerful to fathom. It was a class apart from the other voices that pervaded the air. It made me stir uncomfortably in my seat and rubberneck at the imposing and cloaked figure of Severus Snape, the menacing potions master at Hogwarts, expecting to see more than what meets the naked eye. He fleeted his way into the potions class, with his matted and greasy hair slung over his sullen face, billowing out around him. He picked on the bespectacled boy of my age and asked him condescendingly, “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” only to be treated with a blank stare much to his fury. This scene earmarked the entry of an important character into my store of emotions who nestled befittingly under hatred.
The stand was set. The lines demarcating the good and the evil were clear cut. My conviction was only strengthened with Snape’s waxing animosity for Harry Potter and it was cemented when he unflinchingly killed Albus Dumbledore. I could see no shades of grey in between, right through my school years, until the penultimate end. The end of Harry Potter and the end of my school years snowballed into one realization: we are quick to make people wear our impressions of them.
This is where the lines started to become indiscriminate. This is when I had grown enough to look keenly into the multitude layers that defined the depth of the stoic faced potions master whose stoicism was, now exponentially waning; waning to reveal the vulnerability deftly cloaked within. Now, he conflicted everything I held him to be. How could a man act out 10 years of his life leaving nothing to the imagination? What seemed to me as cold sarcasm and structured replies and stinging comebacks all these years, is actually a simple man who bared his heart and soul out to a woman he could never be with and whose devotion and love continued posthumously by way of having her son, Harry Potter’s back. Harry, would have been called “The boy who lived (momentarily)”, if Snape hadn’t suavely thwarted away threats in a purported callous manner. I do not know how it is possible for a person to be so ambivalent, but I was. Whatever I held him to be, remained, but I had new explanations for it.
Severus Snape wasn’t being condescending to Harry Potter. Potter was after all, the boy who lived and the boy who lived was bound to get a lot of clamour from all corners. Somebody had to shoot down his escalating broom stick. If Snape hadn’t put Potter in the right place, we wouldn’t be loving him the way we do now. All those times Snape got our blood boiling with his brazen and blunt remarks and retorts oozing of sarcasm, we missed out on the witticism in all of it. If there were a game called quippot, Snape would have won indomitably. I found the deceit unbearable when a ruthless Snape murdered Dumbledore. Oh, the irony of it. Dumbledore trusted him enough to place his death in Snape’s hands, when the time is right. Snape spied for him, lied for him, placed his life in mortal danger when asked to, by Dumbledore on the pretext of saving Lily’s son. He came across as a man devoid of emotions, yet he was the man who exemplified love even in death by doing anything and everything that would preserve every ounce of his unrequited love for Lily. If I were shaken by Dumbledore’s demise, I wept at where I placed a hero of a man out of ignorance , when I was taken through Snape’s memories after his untimely death. But, this was collective ignorance. We, as a world perceived things together. We were in it together, until the very end. Severus Snape had managed to pull wool over the world with his unequivocal acting. Or not?
Snape was an acquired legilimen, magically navigating through the depths of one’s mind and analyzing his findings. Yet, nobody could see Snape beyond what he wanted us to see, paradoxically. By crisply asking his students to turn to page 394, Snape infiltrated into the story that filled the pages of our lives. From all the parables I acquired through a decade of Harry Potter, I will always remember that he who seems to be incapable of loving, will love the most.
“After all this time?” you say.
I wish I could say “always” but I can’t because these are realizations that struck me a tad late in my ten year journey of “The Man Who Loved”.
Severus Snape is sometimes fondly called, Alan Rickman. I once saw him dressed as the Shreriff of Nottingham and I asked him, “ Alan, what are you doing walking the corridors of dreams?”. He didn’t respond. I guess he didn’t realise I was talking to him. But, I can’t blame him either. I didn’t call him, Severus Snape.
So, as I was saying, the hero of the film was indisputably OUR favourite.