SPOILER ALERT: Secrets from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are revealed in this post!!
What does it mean to be a hero?
Anyone can be a hero, from the smallest child to the frailest elderly widow. Anyone, that is, willing to risk comfort and approval, in the quest to do what’s right. They brave the difficult path when others around them quail in fear or simply do what’s easy.
We all face tough choices in life. We undergo heart-wrenching trials. The question is, how do we respond in the face of these difficulties? Do we succumb to the pressure to fit in? Do we sink in discouragement and despair? Or do we cling to our beliefs and to hope with the tenacity of a bulldog?
Even more telling are the day to day choices we make when not under pressure and when no one else is looking. What habits and thought patterns do we cultivate? Do they lead us to protecting the weak or thinking only of ourselves? In great part, our choices determine who we become.
In the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, Severus Snape becomes an unlikely hero. I say this for two reasons. First, he just doesn’t seem to have the temperament for it. He’s snide and unpleasant, with a perpetual frown and sheets of greasy black hair. Second, from a young age, Snape was fascinated with dark magic and the power it brought. He allied himself with Voldemort and became a Death Eater.
What changed him? Ultimately, a combination of things altered who he was. One was his enduring love for Lily, Harry’s mother. He’d loved her from his youth. Years and years later, Dumbledore asked him if he still loved her, “After all this time?”
Snape’s reply was as simple as heartfelt.
Such love has the power to transform even the coldest heart, if allowed. When Snape’s loyalty to Voldemort resulted in Lily’s death, he felt sorrow so deep that he couldn’t bear it without help. He turned to the most improbable person for support—Albus Dumblebore, the enemy of Voldemort and the only person the Dark Lord ever feared. And why did he fear him? It wasn’t only because of his power, but his enduring, unwavering goodness.
Our experiences shape us, but ultimately our choices define who we become.
Snape faced a choice at the moment of Lily’s death: harden his heart and seek affection with other, “more worthy women”, as Voldemort suggested, or embark on the painful, yet liberating path of repentance. He chose to feel the pain rather than mask it in riotous living and bitter dark acts. Instead, he poured out his sorrow on Dumbledore’s metaphorical shoulder. Then, for the rest of his life, he made restitution for the damage he’d done.
His change of heart, however, did not entirely change who he was. It did not change his personality and his patterns of interactions. This is clear in the way he treats Harry even as he tries to protect him. He just can’t look beyond Harry’s resemblance to his father.
But at Snape’s core, his choice to embrace goodness, to risk the wrath of Voldemort, remained. This is evident in his desire to prevent pain and suffering in Dumbledore and in Draco Malfoy. It is even more evident in his loyalty to what is good and right, manifest through the memories he shared with Harry, showing what he had done and why.
In the end, it was Snape’s reaction to the loss of the love of his life that made him a hero.
We all face turning points that define us.
In every person’s life there are crucial turning points, crossroads that determine the direction of our future. Often they are quite clear milestones such as the choice of who to marry and under what circumstances or whether to go to college.
Even more often, these turning points spring upon us when least expected. How do we react when a trusted friend betrays us? Do we address the issue and forgive or nurture a grudge that will destroy our own happiness? How do we respond to temptation? To crisis?
Our daily actions lay the foundation that helps us make crucial, life-changing decisions, whether for good or ill.
Your Mission: Consider how your habits are influencing your life. What helps you live like a hero? What changes can you make? Share your thoughts in the comments below.