Since 2015, J.K. Rowling has made it an annual tradition to apologise on the anniversary of the fictional Battle of Hogwarts for killing off a Harry Potter character. This year’s selection was not met with the usual mourning.
Image: Warner Bros.
In 2015, she apologised for Fred Weasley. In 2016, it was Remus Lupin. Both are mostly beloved characters, and her apology turned into more of a general mourning for them.
This year, Rowling decided to just lob a bomb in the direction of Harry Potter fandom and watch it go off.
OK, here it is. Please don't start flame wars over it, but this year I'd like to apologise for killing (whispers)… Snape. *runs for cover*— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 2, 2017
See? She knows she’s stirring things up and she does it anyway.
For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.
On this issue, I am Switzerland. I have opinions on pretty much everything in the Potterverse except this one. Mainly because I agree that Snape’s behaviour towards, say, Neville is unacceptable. As written, Snape is awful. But I have also read some very compelling headcanons and fanfic that have made Snape worth having as a character.
Anyway, despite Rowling asking for things to not devolve into a flame war, the responses have been… pretty much as expected. There are the people who think there are plenty of other characters she should have apologised for killing instead:
@jk_rowling CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT HEDWIG?— Rebecca Reid (@RebeccaCNReid) May 2, 2017
@jk_rowling yeah but why'd you kill all the hufflepuffs though? Justice for hufflepuffs— Calum McSwiggan (@CalumMcSwiggan) May 2, 2017
@jk_rowling I'd like to apologize louder on your behalf for one Lily Evans Potter— emma lord (@dilemmalord) May 2, 2017
@jk_rowling You misspelled "Hedwig"— JustMe (@RandomizedViews) May 2, 2017
People who think she didn’t need to apologise here:
@jk_rowling I'm pretty sure the child abuser deserved it— Paul Verhoeven (@paulverhoeven) May 2, 2017
@jk_rowling you really didn't need to apologise for that one it's chill— emma✰ (@sscorbus) May 2, 2017
And of course approximately a billion more tweets debating Snape’s relative morality:
@jk_rowling Obsession isn't love. Snape was abusive and cruel. He got what he gave, in the end.— Rune Johansson (@Runesael) May 2, 2017
The responses go on for a long time, and basically everyone agrees that they do not agree. They don’t agree about Snape as a character, about whether Rowling should have apologised for killing him or someone else, or even if he needed to die. In the end, the response that best sums this all up is:
@jk_rowling HOW CAN I UNSEE THIS TWEET— Sandy (@happilysandy) May 2, 2017
Happy Battle of Hogwarts Day.