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What is Snape scared of?

Severus Snape is one of the most complex and fascinating characters in the Harry Potter series. The potions master turned Defence Against the Dark Arts professor has a mysterious past and appears cold, calculating, and even cruel at times. However, Snape is not simply motivated by malice – he has deeper fears and vulnerabilities that drive his actions.

Fear of Failure

From a young age, Snape was determined to prove himself as a talented wizard. He grew up in hardship and poverty, which fueled his ambition to make something of himself. Snape excelled at potions and the Dark Arts as a student at Hogwarts, earning recognition for his magical abilities.

However, Snape was humiliated and bullied by James Potter and Sirius Black. They out-flew him in Quidditch matches and used their popularity against him. This left Snape feeling like a failure and fueled an intense rivalry between them. Even as adults, Snape remains haunted by these schoolboy defeats and insults.

As a teacher, Snape is relentless in his standards because he fears appearing incompetent. He intimidates students in his classroom, anticipating they may laugh at his expense. Snape overcompensates by removing any possibility he may be seen as weak or ineffective. His tenure as a Death Eater also took a toll – after Lily Potter’s death, Dumbledore remarks that Snape disgusts Voldemort by failing to kill Harry.

Snape is ruled by a fear of failure that has lingered since childhood. He feels the need to constantly prove himself to avoid embarrassment and maintain respect.

Fear of Vulnerability

Snape is wary of emotional exposure and keeps his cards close to his chest. He assumes a frosty, unfriendly demeanor that discourages people from getting close to him. Snape refuses to display vulnerability, likely because it backfired terribly in the past.

As a student, Snape fell in love with Lily Evans. He made himself emotionally vulnerable by confessing these feelings to her. However, Lily rejected him, creating humiliation and heartbreak for Snape. After this experience, he closed himself off as a protective measure.

Snape’s decision to turn spy against Voldemort was also an act of courageous emotional exposure. He took tremendous personal risk that could easily have resulted in torture and death if discovered. While admirable, this choice did not earn Snape the full redemption or gratitude he may have hoped for.

With his history of unrequited love and incomplete atonement, it’s understandable why Snape is slow to make himself emotionally vulnerable again. He chooses to isolate himself rather than risk further exposure and disappointment.

Fear of Love

Love represents Snape’s greatest vulnerability of all. As a damaged individual, he struggles to properly experience or express love.

Snape’s childhood provided little foundation for healthy love. He grew up in an unstable home environment where his parents often fought violently. Neither parent demonstrated affection toward Severus.

At Hogwarts, Lily Evans was Snape’s sole positive experience with love. Her friendship offered rare care and validation, which Snape craved. However, when Lily cut ties, it reinforced notions that he was unworthy of love.

Snape protected Harry out of devotion to Lily, but couldn’t channel caring feelings toward Harry himself. His bitterness and jealousy toward James Potter clouded his judgment about Harry. Snape’s decision to became a double agent was also rooted in deep, unrequited love for Lily.

As an adult, Snape is socially isolated and distrustful of emotional intimacy. He relies on obsession over the past, rather than seeking new relationships. Snape struggles to reconcile ongoing feelings toward Lily with bitterness about his own inadequacies.

Overall, Snape’s traumatic history makes him fearful of leaving himself emotionally exposed. He chooses isolation and represses positive emotions to avoid being hurt again. Love has repeatedly backfired for Snape, causing him to close off his heart.

Fear of the Dark Arts

Snape has an affinity for the Dark Arts dating back to his childhood. As a troubled youth, he gravitated toward sinister spell books and potion recipes.

However, Snape’s fascination with the Dark Arts turned to fear once he experienced them up close as a Death Eater. He witnessed Lord Voldemort’s violence and cruelty first-hand and knew these dark powers had taken hold inside himself.

By teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, Snape now dedicates himself to protecting students from the same evil that corrupted him. He is intimately familiar with the Dark Arts’ dangers. Snape tries to control dark forces before they control others.

There are moments where Snape’s past attraction to the Dark Arts surfaces, suggesting old habits die hard. For instance, Snape is merciless in punishments toward Harry, implying he still harbors traces of internal darkness.

Ultimately, Snape fears the darkness inside himself that was awakened through his Death Eater history. He knows how evil can consume a person and twist them to do horrific things. Snape lives in fear of succumbing again to forces he can’t fully control or contain.

Fear of Death

Snape’s work as a double agent forced him to confront death on a regular basis. He constantly risked exposure and lived in danger serving two masters. This bred an undercurrent of fear in Snape regarding his own mortality.

Snape is haunted by the death of Lily Potter and his role in it. He failed to prevent Voldemort from taking her life. This still motivates Snape years later to protect Harry from harm in Lily’s memory.

Beyond Lily’s death, Snape has witnessed killing first-hand as a Death Eater. He knows the cruelty Voldemort is capable of and understands death could come for him at any time.

When Dumbledore agrees to Snape delivering the deadly blow against him, it clearly distresses Snape despite their mutual agreement. Having to directly cause Dumbledore’s death shakes Snape and represents a point of no return.

Even facing his own demise in the Shrieking Shack, Snape works frantically to pass along his memories to Harry. This reveals his deepest personal fears being realized at once – death coming for him, and failure to complete his mission.

After confronting death so often, it leaves an imprint on Snape in the form of anxiety and hypervigilance. He knows better than anyone how suddenly a life can end.


Severus Snape is a man haunted by powerful fears rooted in his troubled past. His desire for respect shields a deeper fear of failure. Emotional vulnerability terrifies Snape due to past heartbreak. He is wary of love and intimacy after childhood neglect. Snape’s attraction toward the Dark Arts morphed into fear after witnessing true evil.

Above all, Snape seems to fear death – his own death, the death of loved ones, and the evil he’s capable of. He is in a constant battle to redeem himself through courage and sacrifice. However, Snape remains unable to escape the shadows of his past.

These complex fears drive Snape’s surly, isolated facade and fuel his determination to destroy Voldemort. Snape’s innermost fears underscore the depth and tragedy of his character.