Who was the worst, James Potter or Severus Snape?

In it Harry Potter series, is one of the main antagonists Severus Snape. Not surprisingly, the audience is still debating where he lands on the moral spectrum. He turned out to be more of a good guy than fans first thought, and his somewhat sticky past with Harry’s father was revealed – which did not paint James in a good light at all. Clearly, he was a complex character with some fans and some haters. Some would actually argue that James was the worst person who made Snape what he became; others will argue that Snape’s misdeeds were far worse than James’.

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Each of them has their good and bad traits, but in relation to each other, who was the worse of these two Marauders-era characters?

Updated January 3, 2022 by Hilary Elizabeth: Although much of their character and story was built before the modern story of Harry Potter even began, James Potter and Severus Snape are two complex and dynamic characters whose presence in the series changed the course of the wizarding story. Many aspects of each of their personalities and experiences should be considered to provide a complete comparison of the two.

James Potter was the worst because

He was Privileged


A plaque depicting James Potter as Seeker

It would be a lie to claim that James Potter did not grow up as a very openly privileged child, and that gave him a bit of an ego in school. As a child, it seems safe to assume that James did not know difficulties. He was pure blood, so he was not discriminated against at Hogwarts, his parents were both rich and loving, and he was popular.


Privileges do not always automatically create bad people, but it can certainly give them an inflated sense of self-worth. And boy, that definitely created it in James. He apparently had everything, but was willing to harass those who had nothing.

He was a bully at school


James and Sirius

James was a bully at school – to the point that even the greatest of James Potter’s apologists could not deny it.

He teased mercilessly Snape, and in a particularly horrible memory he hung him on his head and revealed him in front of the whole school. He may have been a teenager, but there is no doubt that it takes a particularly cruel child to do this. He was clearly popular and well-liked, so the fact that he used his status to hurt others does not look good.


He harassed Lily Evans


Young James and Lily Potter at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

James was certainly too fussy with Lily at school. His infatuation with her knew no bounds and he repeatedly tried to convince her to date him, even though she consistently said no.

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This behavior is not okay, and when Lily denied him, he should have listened. They could have ended up together eventually, but James should have let his personality and actions speak for themselves, waiting for Lily to come around and actually reciprocate her feelings. His aggressive attitude does not age well.

He trusted his friends too much


It is amazing that the robbers (apart from Peter Pettigrew) were closer than brothers and would literally die to protect each other. But James was probably a little too dependent on his friends.


Not only did it have fatal consequences to make Wormtail his secret guardian, but honestly, it was too great a risk for both Potters and the looted to put his life, as well as the lives of his wife and baby, in the hands of his friends.

He had a huge ego


Robbie Jarvis as a young James Potter in the Harry Potter movies

From what fans know of James, he certainly had a big ego. He absolutely loved himself and did not seem to find any fault in any of his actions.

Sure, it’s really nice, and self-love is great, but there’s a difference between self-confidence and arrogance, and that’s a boundary that James has crossed, frankly, way too many times. A little humility could have gone a long way and his jaw height had a negative effect on him as well as everyone around him.


He took unnecessary risks


James POTTER dead

James joining the Order of the Phoenix to defeat Voldemort was undeniably the morally right thing to do. However, a reasonable argument could be made that James should not have done so himself.

James had a family he had to take care of, and his involvement in the Wizarding War could have caused him to kill, even apart from the prophecy about Harry driving Voldemort against his family. Participating in the fight was a huge risk and it is one that James possibly should have reconsidered.

Severus Snape was the worst because

He was an outcast


Young Snape

Severus Snape had a much more humble beginning than most, which made him more likeable as a child. His poor hygiene made him a target for bullying at school. He was talented and clever, but he was generally treated as if he did not belong. He grew up poor and his father was certainly violent.


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He certainly needed some kindness shown to him at Hogwarts, which he almost never received, and what makes it worse is that James was one of his greatest tormenting spirits.

He was a bully as an adult


Severus Snape and Harry Potter

James was a bully as a child, but Snape was a bully as one adult. He deliberately intimidated Neville every time he was in the potions class, and would certainly have done the same to Harry if Harry had been equally easily intimidated. He made comments about Hermione’s appearance when she was only four years old, and made her tears. As an adult in his thirties, it’s awful and actually embarrassing to do that to his students.


He had a hard life, but taking it out on people who depended on him, in a teaching position, was a gross abuse of power, no matter what had happened to him in the past.

He was dangerously obsessed with Lily


Snape with Lily

Snape may have called Lily Evans a mudslide, but he could never get over her, to the point that it was unsettling and rather dangerous.

It was he who sent Voldemort after the family in the first place and had selfishly believed that Voldemort could spare Lily. He was literally willing to have her entire family murdered to get her. Even years later, he treated her son horribly because Harry was a constant reminder that she had chosen James. Yes, he protected Harry, but Snape’s all – consuming occupation did life – altering damage to many people.


He turned on his best friend


Harry Potter Lily Potter and Serverus Snape

Lily Evans was Severus Snape’s first friend, and for a very long time she was probably his only true friend.

Clearly, Severus was having a really hard time at school, but the fact that he took it out of Lily and treated her so badly reflects on him very badly. He pretty much embodies the old adage “with friends like these, who need enemies,” and the fact that he could turn on the person who was the best against him says a lot.

He’s a classic “Nice Guy”


Snape seemed to feel very entitled to Lily’s time and attention, and as their friendship began to go south, he reacted to what might just be the worst possible way.

His fixation on her and their lost relationship was so excessive that it literally got Lily (and James) killed, and he abandoned someone who really cared about him because he wanted a romantic relationship with her instead of just being her friend.


He was in the dark art


Severus Snape The Creator of Liberacorpus

James was certainly not perfect and could sometimes be an idiot, but when James was the classic school bully, Snape began to get involved in the art of darkness.

Severus went a very grim road very early in his life, which says nothing positive about him as a person. He even dismissed his friend Mulciber by using such spells about a classmate as “just a laugh,” something that terrified Lily completely.

James grew up to join the order


The order of the phoenix group image

Eventually, James Potter grew up joining the Order of the Phoenix. This was a secret organization founded by Albus Dumbledore, dedicated to stopping Lord Voldemort and saving lives. The people in the order were willing to risk their own lives on a daily basis, and Dumbledore only asked people to join whom he really trusted.


If James had been an inherently bad or selfish person, he simply would not have been invited to take part in such a case. Dumbledore really thought he was worthy of it despite past offenses, which says a lot about his character.

He was a Death Eater


He may have changed teams and deeply regretted his decision in the long run, but in the end it was Snape’s decision to join the Death Eaters.

Clearly, one of the biggest features of this group was simply that they accepted him, but the fact that it took Lily Potter’s death before he actually dropped the death seats is disturbing. He should have switched sides because their case was morally abominable, not because he personally lost anything as a result of their actions, and it seems fair to say that he was worse than James alone at it.


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