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Head-canon and fugue (variations on TMI) – Severus Snape - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Head-canon and fugue (variations on TMI) – Severus Snape
  1. The historic county border between Lancs and the West Riding ran through the very midst of Todmorden generally, of Spinner’s End specifically, and of the Snapes’ two-up-two-down terrace particularly. Severus always sensed that a similar division ran right through him.
  2. Tobias’ family were traditionally Church-not-Chapel; Tobias himself was a Freethinker brandishing Marx and Owen and the Webbs in one hand and Darwin and Huxley in the other. Nevertheless, the traditions of Yorkshire nomenclature, in which one finds farm labourers christened ‘Marmaduke’, and Tobias’ nominally C of E background, alone caused him to accede, if with no very great grace, to his son’s christening as ‘Severus’.
  3. Had he been given the opportunities he resented having been denied, Tobias might have made his mark, and perhaps taken to some higher technical trade or become, even, an applied scientist.
  4. Likely not, though: Eileen had not had to resort to the devices of Merope Gaunt to find a husband in Tobias because Tobias from an early age had already dosed himself into a series of follies, by reason of an overmastering thirst. His failures, the failure of his marriage (and to so plain a woman), his resentments, his soured temperament, and the ensuing rages and violence all came of his ungovernable thraldom to alcoholic potations.
  5. Even at that, it was from Tobias and his lost, drowned aspirations towards chemistry and engineering and All Sorts, that Severus took his interest in Potions of all magical disciplines open to him.
  6. It could only have been in Todmorden, really, that he could have met a Lily and a Petunia in the fashion in which he met them: the town was small enough to permit of it, and its traditions, whereby even the local JPs and mill owners had been Radicals and Chartists, and the local Establishment, Unitarian, alone could have permitted and created a space and society in which the half-Wizarding son of a savage, drunken mill-worker could meet and play, as children, with the daughters of the local GP and health inspector.
  7. There were despairing times, largely in the small hours of the night, when Severus almost wished that this had never occurred, with all the evil and heartache that came of it.
  8. Queer that even in Wizardom, the class system and its resentments could help create rebels and traitors and would-be tyrants. How very odd that even in Wizardom, the class system and its resentments could be the womb of spies, double- and treble-agents, men who had lived so many lies so thoroughly and so long that not even they remembered quite who they were at bottom.
  9. Well before Severus had left Spinner’s End, he’d begun training himself to observe such distinctions, and to change his speech. By the time he’d reached Hogsmeade, a hyper-aware and guarded child, he had long since eradicated such vulgarisms. He had learnt to call pudding and looking-glasses and napkins by their correct names. He had drilled himself to say ‘there were many’ rather than ‘there was many’, to use ‘ago’ where every instinct bred in him would have had him say ‘since’, to use ‘something’ for ‘summat’ and ‘most’ for ‘main’. He had not used ‘while’ for ‘until’ or forgotten to insert that unnatural definite article in his speech (I must always remember, it’s ‘down to the mill’, never ‘down t’mill’, never, never) since his tenth summer (since he were ten year old), and he could hardly recall, by then, the Tilley lamp and the dolly-tub and bath nights in the ‘back-kitchen’.
  10. He had been silent and distant as a Slytherin firstie, hanging upon and learning to model his diction and deportment upon the Great Slug, Old Sluggers, Horace Slughorn.
  11. He had studied style, and greedily had he listened for every rhythm of the Great Slug’s speech, every rotundity of Old Slugger’s vowels. He had studied the cut of The Slug’s robes as sedulously as ever he had the properties of wolfsbane. He was resolved that he would find the key, the secret, the magical shortcut, that he would puzzle out the mystery. He had lashed himself to adapt, schooled himself to assimilate, spurred himself to rise above the shabbiness of his origins.
  12. And when he returned to Hogwarts for his second year, he was certain that he was ready to speak and not to stay silent for fear his very vowels would betray him. He had learnt flair, after all, and the actor’s ability to project and sway and seduce, with modulated tones and in orotund accent.
  13. And they’d seen right through him, and mocked him the more, the posh bastards, the plummy-voiced toffs, the toffee-nosed bastards. Some were kind enough not to say so openly: Sluggers, for one. Some pretended not to notice: Regulus, more than anyone. Some had their own reasons for not mocking him to his face: Lucius, who barely knew him in any case, but who – as the grandson of a near-Squib collateral who’d been plucked from a suburban aspidistra pot to change his name by deed poll and marry the sole Malfoy heiress and preserve the line – was not a little parvenu and non-U himself. But Regulus’s brother, the great beast, and his flash pals (especially that arrogant bugger Potter), had revelled in taunting him, his not-quite robes and his strangulated genteel vowels and his quasi-RADA pronunciations.
  14. Had Lily Evans never existed, this alone had sufficed to turn Severus to the careful, exquisite planning of a long and fatal vengeance.
  15. The orphanage-raised son of a Wizarding line fallen into squalor and yokel savagery, sired by the gormless son of a raw Northern mill-owner turned squire, was the first Wizard he ever met, bar Lucius, who understood.
  16. Or partly understood. There was a piquant irony in the Dark Lord’s blind spot, that a man who had lived a life of hiding and literally burying his own antecedents, a sort of Wizarding ‘Baron Corvo’, a fantasist with a fantasist’s false peerage title, did not see that Severus was deep-dyed in deception. It was even more ludicrous, really, than that Lucius Not-Quite Malfoy never saw that Severus was a series of masks over masks, a man who held up a mirror to the world before his countenance, so that all who saw him saw only a reflection of themselves.
  17. Of such stuff were spies made, always and ever, Muggle and Wizarding, in all generations. Had Severus been a Muggle, winning a place by sheer scholarship at University and there likewise exposed to cutting disdain by exquisites and rahs, his trajectory should have been the same: CPGB membership, espionage, turning and doubling as an agent….
  18. All the masks he wore, one over another, never sufficed to show him that in any mirror that he could bear to accept: he knew and loathed his own true countenance too greatly, even as his contrary pride demanded that he not consider his lost Lily beyond his desert.
  19. None of the masks he wore, nor the face he bore unflinching as his own, was as hateful and ugly to his gaze as was the face of James Potter to him. And to see, in the Celebrated Harry Potter, Lily’s eyes in James Potter’s hateful face, was a blasphemy which called up in him all the savagery of which his father Tobias had been capable, and more than that savagery.
  20. Dumbledore had been kind to him, had thus seduced him – in mind alone, not in body – to virtue … and to onerous use, to reforging as a subtle weapon of war. Why then ought not James Potter’s spawn to know no better fate?
  21. And yet – to use Lily’s son, as a weapon, unconsenting and unwarned…. The division, the border, that ran cleanly through Severus’ nature in all ways, at once hated and exulted to be the instrument of Dumbledore’s sacrifice, even as he admired the man equally for his kindness and his ruthlessness, and despised him equally for his sentimental weakness, his requirement that another compass for him what was ultimately his suicide, and his manipulative cunning that was at the last cold as charity, and as impersonal. The greater good … it was sickening.
  22. Severus loathed the obligation he was under towards Dumbledore for his kindness (the kindness of the farmer fattening the beasts for slaughter, when all was said and done, Severus made certain): it was unforgivable, that kindness. And he made certain also that, had he – and the Rat – been as boyishly fair of form, as handsome and as cheeky, as Regulus and Lucius, as Potter and Black, and those as ill-favoured as he and Pettigrew, it had been he and not Black, and that vile beast Lupin, who should have been the Headmaster’s indulged pet, and Lupin and Black expelled or worse. Sentimental, sublimating old fool that Dumbledore was….
  23. He knew himself – knew – that he was worth twenty of the others, thickies, clotpolls, golden lads and lasses who traded upon their bloodlines or their grace of body and form and face, no score of them together his intellectual equal, yet preferred to him by a world as thick and superficial as they.
  24. It wasn’t fair.
  25. When the Dark Lord, powerful in occulted might and still himself then well set up and fine of feature, took him in, waiving from sheer admiration of his mind and talents all consideration of blood status, preferring him before comelier yet stupider Witches and Wizards, praising his wit and subtlety, he had exulted.
  26. When – the Dark Lord’s true colours revealed – Albus Dumbledore, powerful and revered, took him back, with resented kindness made less painful and shaming only by the conditional absolution granted him on condition of a lifelong and perilous penance, he surrendered.
  27. It wasn’t fair. And yet … if there was a subtle and satisfying art in the delicate science of Potions, there was still more intellectual excitement, the thrill of risk, the exciting feeling of having perhaps bitten off more than he could chew, the sheer witful delight, in espionage.
  28. It was the greatest of games, and he played it well.
  29. Played it better, indeed, for the knowledge that he, he alone, could play it at this level, deceiving even the Dark Lord and hugging his secrets to himself.
  30. If Nature had been so cruel as to make him Richard Crouchback, and James Potter a usurping Claudius indeed winning to his will the virtuous She whom he had loved, then sure he’d smile and smile and be himself the villain….
  31. He had delighted secretly, inwardly, in his cunning, running featly alike with hare and with hounds, the arbiter of Fate and War, the cardinal point on which the hinges of Fate’s postern turned. Was he not wise, and subtle, and beyond the capacity of these poor fools to comprehend?
  32. And then, with a shock as of a man who walks into a bollard in the dark of night, the stakes had been clear before him, and nobility required of him, and all his pride of cunning was turned to ash. And he had chosen.
  33. And at the last he had not seen James Potter’s hated, hateful face, but rather only Lily’s eyes, as he lay dying, and he had taken his last comfort and his last revenge at once. His portrait Harry demanded be placed in honour as that of a hero and true Headmaster of Hogwarts, and Harry stops to visit it from time to time, with Albus Severus, Severus’ equivocal legacy and namesake; but of all these things, the portrait and Harry do not speak, and never shall, for the grief is too great for words.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
germankitty From: germankitty Date: September 3rd, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quite Interesting. :) Less amusing than the others, but hardly surprising, given the character. Well done!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 3rd, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, yes.

And thank you.
germankitty From: germankitty Date: September 3rd, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well, yes.

Welcome. *giggles at your icon*
altri_uccelli From: altri_uccelli Date: September 3rd, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
A stark and unsparing look at Dumbledore, and one to which I'm not unsympathetic.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 3rd, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

But the view is Severus', not - wholly - mine.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: September 3rd, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, yes, yes. I believe this to be as close to the "real" Severus Snape as we are likely to get.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 3rd, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

How very kind of you to say so.

Although I imagine it's La Rowling shall have the last word, really...
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 4th, 2011 08:26 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm greatly obliged.

Thank you.
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: September 4th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
16,17,18 are superb and 33 brought me to tears. Top drawer.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 4th, 2011 08:26 am (UTC) (Link)

You're far too kind.

Thank you.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 8th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)

A question of attribution?

Thank you. And, yes; that shouldn't surprise me in the least. (George Smiley as a Squib has an odd, subversive plausibility....)
11 comments or Leave a comment