Of course, most of the Hogwarts staff we encountered in the books seemed like completely glorious company – Filch, Sprout, Dumbledore? We’d love to sit down and have a Butterbeer with them sometime. However, during his time at Hogwarts, Harry Potter encountered more than a few staff members who were grumpy, mean, short-tempered, or who otherwise had a chip on their shoulders. From Harry’s point of view there was no need for it, but when you really think about it, you can sort of relate to how those sourpusses were feeling.
There’s no denying that Argus Filch could take things too far sometimes. We’re not, for example, going to defend his desire to bring back corporal punishment. His general bad mood, though, was much easier to understand, because a) Filch was apparently the only caretaker for an entire castle, and b) the castle was a school for magical students. It would have been hard enough cleaning up after normal teenagers, but these ones had access to Dungbombs.
Don’t forget that Filch was a Squib, too, so not only did he have to watch the students delightedly learning spells, but he was unable to use magic to clean up any of the mess they made. Fred and George once turned a corridor into a swamp and Filch had to ferry students over it between lessons. He really did have to put up with a lot.
As the nurse for Hogwarts, Madam Pomfrey had to heal all the things that pass for ‘normal’ maladies in the wizarding world, like students trying to curse acne off their faces or having to administer Calming Draughts in exam season. From the day Harry arrived, though, things escalated: there were bones that needed regrowing, Hippogriff attacks, and in the second year the Petrified victims of a Basilisk took up almost every bed in her ward. She was probably in a state of perpetual exasperation, so it’s no wonder she could be brusque with her patients sometimes. She said it herself:
Madam Pomfrey examined Harry’s shoulder, talking furiously all the while. ‘Last year Dementors, this year dragons, what are they going to bring into this school next?’
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Even in a normal library there are certain rules you have to obey. Most librarians would be peeved at students being loud, writing on books or dog-earing pages, and Madam Pince was no different. The Hogwarts library was a communal resource, after all. We’d probably get as frustrated as Madam Pince did at the way some students treated it.
Madam Pince wasn’t just protecting the books, either. Some of them were extremely dangerous, so she was protecting the students just as much. That was the whole reason the Restricted Section existed, after all – although calling it the Restricted Section probably wasn’t the best way to stop students wanting to go in there and flip through a few volumes. All the more frustrating if you’re a long-suffering librarian just trying to keep everyone involved safe.
Professor McGonagall was probably the strictest Head of House, at least when it came to her own students, often proving that she had no qualms about docking points from Gryffindors. Though she wasn’t averse to bending the rules, like getting Harry onto the Gryffindor Quidditch team before he was officially old enough to play, McGonagall had a ‘steely glint’ in her eyes. At times, it seemed that Harry was more afraid of her cold, controlled fury than he was of Voldemort, especially when he had done something extremely silly or dangerous, like the unforgettable time he took a flying car to school instead of the Hogwarts Express.
But McGonagall was under a lot of pressure, especially leading up to and during Voldemort’s return. The students under her care were put in increasing danger, and after Dumbledore’s escape in Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts, McGonagall and the other teachers had to deal with Professor Umbridge, too. It’s a wonder she was ever in a good mood at all.
Professor Snape was, as we know, a very conflicted man – and it’s awful that he was never formally called out for his bullying nature in Potions classes. He seemed to be specifically horrible to Harry from his first day at school, which we soon learned was born out of a mix of having been bullied by Harry’s father James (and Harry looked very much like James), and still mourning Harry’s mother Lily. Snape’s many repressed feelings had clearly manifested into an ugly and cruel teaching style. As such, Harry, Ron and Hermione’s dislike of Professor Snape was cemented in their first year, and they even believed that Snape was trying to kill Harry, but of course that turned out to be an unfortunate case of very crossed wires. In their second year they thought Snape was somehow helping to open the Chamber of Secrets, but again, it wasn’t true.
Eventually, of course, we all found out that Snape was a double agent for the Order of the Phoenix, and was spying on Voldemort at the height of his power. Snape’s life was in constant danger, and he’d lost the only woman he loved years before.
It’s quite possible that Snape was never happy from the time he joined Hogwarts as a pupil until the day he died, hence all the callous deducting of house points, threatening Neville’s pet toad, and calling Hermione an ‘insufferable know-it-all’. It’s not something we can forgive Snape for, but at least we know why he was the way he was.