The Power of a Scar
From the moment I began reading/listening to the Harry Potter books I was fascinated with Snape. Convinced from the beginning that he couldn’t possibly be all bad, I would study his movements and contemplate his actions trying to figure out his perspective and motives. I could easily explain away his snide remarks to Harry, especially after reading the memory of his experiences with James, and even when he was explaining his motives to Bellatrix and seems so convincingly on the side of evil…I was not convinced. The decision point comes with Dumbledore’s death and yet I remained unsure, so convinced there had to be redemption somewhere in Snape, that despite all the evidence telling me otherwise, I fervently maintained that Snape couldn’t possibly be on the side of Evil. What is it that attached my heart so strongly to Severus? Why is it that he is voted the number one favorite character time and time again even though he is seemingly an antagonist to Harry for the majority of the books? My reasons for admiring Severus’s character are many, as is evident by this collection of essays, but I think what first drew my eye to Snape was the idea that if we truly understood his perspective, if we had all the information, than perhaps we would see that he was acting under the power of his scars.
Scars are curious things. We see them, tell stories about them, nurse them, and use them as metaphors. When it comes to a physical wound, scars are often a mark of pride…something we survived or a story to tell. When you are physically injured it is acceptable to take time to heal. People will bring you meals, clean your house, cover you with blankets, all intended to help you have the time to allow a scar to form and to tell others the stories behind what you have survived. However, even physical scars can be much more than just surviving an event. Sometimes we hide them. We cover them up because they are attached to a story we do not want to repeat. And so as a metaphor scars help us understand how emotional, psychological, and spiritual marks could exist as well. Yet these scars are normally much more complicated than physical injuries. If someone is scarred emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually we typically do not allow time, or give the kind of assistance necessary, for healing. The person in question is expected to “pull themselves together” and move on. They are expected to act properly, respond appropriately, proceed unquestioningly past their hurts, taking action to move on. Are any of us really able to do this?
It is clear why we would want to move on. Scars, whether physical or otherwise, have many negative effects. They affect our ability to move. Severus was acting out of residual pain from scars in his life. His scars shaped his actions toward others. The wounds inflicted upon him by James and Sirius resulted in his harsh and even spiteful treatment of Harry, other students, and sometimes his colleagues. These types of scars don’t just affect our immediate actions either. They are passed down through generations. I wonder if James ever considered the impact his treatment of Severus could later have on his son. Scars also affect what we see. Snape’s scars altered his perception and interpretations of events around him. He saw James’ childhood arrogance blossoming in Harry and knew the impact this could have on others, the impact it had on him. He neglected to openly see Lily in Harry because Lily’s death was so painful for him. He was also unable to see Sirius as anything but guilty of evil because of the cruelty Sirius had inflicted upon him. And, his scars affect his hopes for the future. They influence what he thinks is possible. Severus never dreamed it could be possible that the Order members might accept him. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he may be able to tell others how impacted he was by Lily’s death. He swears Dumbledore to secrecy seeing only the possibility for ridicule, laughter, and mockery if they knew. After all, that is what he experienced as a child and young adult, why would it be different now?
However, there is more depth to scars than only the negative effects they have on us. They have optimistic potential as well. Scars allow us to see things that we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. It is quite clear throughout the Harry Potter books that Harry can see and understand things because of his scar that no one else has access to. This is true for Severus as well. Because he is marked he has an awareness of things that others don’t. He knows when Voldemort has returned. He knows when Harry has been captured. He can see exactly where people stand, understanding who is for Voldemort and who is not, aware of others who are marked. Scars also give us very unique opportunities. Snape is the one and only character who can be in the presence of Voldemort and glean information, and this is because he has been marked. He has been scarred. He is the single most valuable teacher when it comes to knowing what evil is doing and planning. Because of his scar, Severus can walk alongside people that no one else can. He can walk alongside other Death Eaters offering them a way out if they want it. He can walk alongside Draco, assist him, teach him, protect his soul. His scar also allows him to enter places he would not otherwise be capable of penetrating. His mark allows him to walk straight through the gates at Malfoy Manor, it gives him access to people and places no one else can touch. Because he is marked he can become headmaster at Hogwarts, in an evil time, putting himself between evil and the innocent. Scars can act as a shield. Not only in this form, where they provide us the unique opportunities to shield others, as Snape was able to protect Harry and the Hogwarts students, but scars also allow us to shield ourselves. After all, it was because of Snapes love for Lily that he was able to shield his mind from evil. All those times he was in the presence of evil, walking with those who served evil and those who are marked – every time he used knowledge gained through his scarred past to shield someone else – he was able to close his mind because of love. A love that was empowered in his scar.
Our scars set us apart. No two scars ever look the same. They are never created in exactly the same way, they do not heal the same, and they do not produce the same outcomes. Yet no one would deny that scars are powerful. They affect how we interpret things, how we act toward those in our lives and even impact those yet to come, and they influence the possibilities and hopes we have for the future. Scars allow us to understand things others may not, they give us unique opportunities, and act as a shield. I was drawn to Severus Snape because I could see the vast potential his character could have in the power of his scars. I find his character captivating because every scene, every sentence, every action can have a deeper motivation and meaning. When we look at those around us are we seeing only their actions, the things they say and do, as many do with Snape? Are we merely reacting, or are we looking deeper? Perhaps we ought to explore the possibilities of another’s perspective and how their marks and scars have shaped their life. Maybe then we would be able to see not only potential in the lives of others but the power our own scars can have to change lives.
Questions for Discussion/Thought
Power of a Scar
- What are some positive ways your scars affect you? What are some negative ways?
- Have you ever felt pushed to “move on” from an emotional, psychological, or spiritual scar when you were not ready?
- Have you ever seen a scar passed down through generations? Do you have any prejudices that were passed to you by your parents?
- What unique opportunities do your scars give you?
- Have your scars ever acted as a shield in your life, protecting you (or someone else), or warning you about what was really going on?
- Tell about a time when you were able to see the deeper reasons behind someone’s actions, a time when you understood how their scars were impacting what they did?
- Who do you admire because of what they have been through, because of their scars?