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Who Was Worse, James Potter Or Severus Snape?

In the Harry Potter series, one of the main antagonists is Severus Snape. Unsurprisingly, audiences still debate about where he lands on the morality spectrum. He turned out to be more of a good guy than fans initially 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 worse person who made Snape what he became; others would argue that Snape’s misdeeds were far worse than James’.

RELATED: 8 Reasons Severus Snape Is An Irredeemable Character

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Each of them has their good traits and bad, but comparatively speaking, who was the worst out of these two Marauder’s-era characters?

Updated on January 3rd, 2022 by Hilary Elizabeth: Although much of their characterization and story was built before the contemporary storyline in Harry Potter even began, James Potter and Severus Snape are two complex and dynamic characters whose presence in the series changed the course of Wizarding history. Many aspects of each of their personalities and experiences should be taken into account in order to give a complete comparison of the two. 

James Potter Was The Worst Because

He Was Privileged


A plaque showing James Potter as Seeker

It’d be a lie to claim James Potter didn’t grow up a very obviously privileged kid, and it gave him a bit of an ego in school. As a child, it seems safe to assume James didn’t know hardship. He was pure-blood, so faced no discrimination at Hogwarts, his parents were both rich and loving, and he was popular.


Privilege doesn’t always automatically create bad people, but it can certainly give them an inflated sense of self-importance. And boy, it sure did create that in James. He seemingly had everything but was willing to harass those who had nothing.

He Was A Bully In School


James and Sirius

James was a bully in school — to the point that even the biggest of James Potter apologists can’t deny this.

He mercilessly teased Snape, and in one particularly horrific memory, hung him upside down and exposed him in front of the entire school. He may have been a teenager, but there’s no denying that it takes an especially cruel kid to do this. He was clearly popular and well-liked, so the fact that he used his status to hurt others is not a good look.


He Harassed Lily Evans


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

James was definitely far too pushy with Lily at school. His crush on her knew no bounds, and he tried repeatedly to convince her to date him even though she consistently said no.

RELATED: 5 Ways Harry Potter Is Like James Potter (& 5 Ways He’s Like Lily)

This behavior is not okay, and when Lily denied him, he should have listened. They might have wound up together in the end, but James should have let his personality and actions speak for themselves and waited for Lily to come around and actually reciprocate his feelings. His aggressive attitude did not age well.

He Relied Too Much On His Friends


It’s great that the marauders (save for Peter Pettigrew) were closer than brothers and would literally die to protect one another. But James was probably a little too reliant on his friends.


Not only did making Wormtail his Secret Keeper have fatal consequences, but honestly, putting his life, as well as the lives of his wife and baby, in the hands of his pals was too great a risk for the Potters and the marauders both.

He Had A Huge Ego


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

From what fans know of James, he definitely had a huge ego. He absolutely loved himself and seemed to find no fault in any of his actions.

Sure, that’s really nice and self-love is great, but there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance, and it’s a line James crossed, frankly, far too many times. A little humility could have gone a long way, and his cockiness 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 fair argument could be made that James himself should not have done it.

James had a family that he needed to look out for, and his involvement in the Wizarding War could have gotten him killed even aside from the prophecy about Harry that drove Voldemort towards his family. Joining the fray was a huge risk, and it’s one that James possibly should have reconsidered.

Severus Snape Was The Worst Because

He Was An Outcast


Young Snape

Severus Snape had much more humble beginnings than most, making him more sympathetic as a child. His poor hygiene made him a target for bullying in school. He was talented and clever, but he was generally treated as if he didn’t belong. He grew up poor and his father was most definitely abusive.


RELATED: 10 Questions About Severus Snape, Answered

He definitely needed some kindness shown to him at Hogwarts that he almost never received, and what makes it worse is that James was one of his biggest tormentors.

He Was A Bully As An Adult


Severus Snape and Harry Potter

James was a bully as a kid, but Snape was a bully as an adult. He intentionally terrified Neville every Potions class, and would surely have done the same to Harry if Harry was as easily intimidated. He made comments about Hermione’s appearance when she was only in her fourth year and reduced her to tears. As an adult in his thirties, it’s horrible and actually embarrassing to do that to his students.


He had a rough life, but to take it out on people dependent on him, in a teaching position, was a gross abuse of power regardless of what had happened to him in the past.

He Was Dangerously Obsessed With Lily


Snape with Lily

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

He was the one who sent Voldemort after the family in the first place and had selfishly thought that Voldemort might spare Lily. He was literally willing to get her entire family murdered to have her. Even years later, he treated her son awfully because Harry was a constant reminder that she had chosen James. Yes, he protected Harry, but Snape’s all-consuming obsession did life-changing 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 likely his only true friend.

Clearly, Severus had a really hard time at school, but the fact that he took it out on Lily and treated her so poorly reflects very badly on him. He pretty perfectly embodies the old saying “with friends like these, who needs enemies,” and the fact that he could turn on the person who was the kindest to him says a lot.

He’s A Classic “Nice Guy”


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

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


He Was Into The Dark Arts


Severus Snape The creator of Liberacorpus

James certainly wasn’t perfect and could be a complete jerk sometimes, but when James was being the classic school bully, Snape was beginning to involve himself in the Dark Arts.

Severus went down a very grim road very early on in his life, which doesn’t say anything positive about him as a person. He even wrote off his friend Mulciber using such spells on a fellow classmate as “just a laugh”, something that absolutely horrified Lily.

James Grew Up To Join The Order


Order of the phoenix group photo

Ultimately, James Potter grew up to join the Order of the Phoenix. This was a secret organization founded by Albus Dumbledore that was dedicated to stopping Lord Voldemort and saving lives. The people in the Order were willing to risk their own lives on a day-to-day basis, and Dumbledore only asked people to join that he truly trusted.


If James had been an inherently bad or selfish person, he simply wouldn’t have been invited to join such a cause. Dumbledore truly thought he was worthy of it despite any past transgressions, which says a lot about his character.

He Was A Death Eater


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

It’s clear that one of the major draws to this group was simply that they accepted him, but the fact that it took Lily Potter’s death for him to actually ditch the Death Eaters is unsettling. He should have switched sides because their cause was morally abhorrent, not because he personally lost something as a result of their actions, and it seems fair to say he was worse than James on that alone.


NEXT: 20 Crazy Things The Marauders Did Before Harry Potter Was Born

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