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A Snape Fragment: 'In My End Is My Beginning' - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
A Snape Fragment: 'In My End Is My Beginning'

In My End Is My Beginning

A Snape Fragment

It was a regal name, Prince, the name of his mother’s fathers: regal, at least, by the sound of it. And Snape was the site of a castle that had seen born one of the eighth Henry’s queens.

Of course, Snape was also the name of a mire and a village by the mire, near Bedale, whence Tobias’s savage forebears had coom t’work in mill. And the Princes of Knippax were hardly a royal company, either, even if magical.

But then, Gaunt was a princely-sounding name, was it not, and Peverell quite bleeding posh, and those primitive, filthy, inbred beasts had been of Salazar’s own distant getting. And the Riddles were industrialists from nowhere, shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in a few short, Muggle-brief generations, all brass and no breeding.

His mother had insisted that he be christened ‘Severus’ – which had enraged his father, but, then, most things had. His father had wanted him to be named ‘Saul’. Or ‘Alf’, after Tobias’s uncle from whom they’d expectations. Even so, the traditions of Northern nomenclature were such that Eileen had prevailed: after all, Yorkshire, particularly in the West Riding and the North Riding, before the Muggles at Westminster had mucked up all the old bounds, was hardly a stranger to farm labourers christened Marmaduke. Perhaps that was why Eileen had got her way, at the font, in the face of Tobias’s furious class-consciousness and his resentful hatred of anything that sounded like ‘putting on airs’ or toadying t’gentry (or, as he’d have put it, ‘any suchlike’). It was the last time she’d got – ‘gotten’, she’d’ve said – her way on anything, that much was certain – ‘any road’, as Tobias himself might have said.

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, now, the Tilley lamp and the dolly-tub and bath nights in the ‘back-kitchen’.

In his first year, in Slytherin, he had kept his head down and his mouth shut – and his eyes and ears open. This was accounted a laudable thing in a Slytherin firstie, in any case. He had studied feverishly, particularly observing all that Slughorn could teach him – and not only, not even most importantly, from books or in his set work. No: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Funny that even in Wizard-dom, the class system and its resentments could help create rebels and traitors and would-be tyrants. Funny that even in Wizard-dom, 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.

Funny that after all that, after the actor’s role in a social comedy that had run longer than most West End productions, the carefully schooled persona and the meretricious airs and graces, he should now be back in the dingy, squalid, common surroundings of his mill-town youth, in Spinner’s End. Funny that after all that, he had his greatest deception left to pull off, his greatest role to fill.

Well. Enough of this bootless reminiscence. It was time once again for the buskin, cloak, and mask, time for the greasepaint, time to tread the boards once more.

And when the curtain was rung down, would there be any left to applaud?

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5 comments or Leave a comment
dolorous_ett From: dolorous_ett Date: August 31st, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was a little dubious at the start of this - with the best will in the world, non-Northerners trying to reproduce Northern speech tend to sound like they're making fun - but this story grew on me, and by the end I was with you all the way.

I particularly liked the reactions of Sirius Black and his friends - having had run-ins with people who think northern accents are just sooooo hilarious dahling myself. Very plausible - and would explain Snape's reaction to them very well, I think.

And the idea that Snape copied his mannerisms from Slughorn - of course he did. I can't now imagine that it would be anyone else.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 31st, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, Thank God.

with the best will in the world, non-Northerners trying to reproduce Northern speech tend to sound like they're making fun.... Or we bugger it up. I was a trifle worried, frankly. (I rely VY, VY, VY heavily on The British Library’s English Accents and Dialects Collection, myself.) Being a proud son of the Wild Southwest (yeehaw. Funny how 'the Southwest' on both sides the Pond has a reputation for conservative, rural types who are either vy agricultural or vy rich, or both, and live rather loudly and splendidly, not to say ostentatiously), I'm always uneasy abt that.

But, yes: how, I wondered, did Severus Snape go from Spinner's End and Tobias's evident antecedents to the ill-favoured but dramatic and magniloquent, actor-voiced adult he is in book canon? And this was the only answer that fit.

I'm glad someone else, particularly someone else whose judgement I so respect, sees it also, and was kind enough to comment.

Welcome home, by the bye. In yr honour, here is a fragment:

‘Actually, Harry, most – well, most civilised werewolves: not Greyback’s deluded lot – do quite like Chinese food, and would prefer to eat at a Chinese restaurant than at, oh, Wilton’s or Simpson’s or Lindsay House. Mind you, I do think Lee Ho Fook’s is rather overrated, but, then, I’ve never been one for the Soho style….’
‘Soho? Well –’
‘No, Remus, why Chinese restaurants rather than a saddle of mutton or a cut off the joint at those posh places?’
‘Chopsticks, Harry. No one hands you silver cutlery at a Chinese restaurant.’
dolorous_ett From: dolorous_ett Date: September 1st, 2005 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, Thank God.

Like you, I'm surprised more people haven't commented on this - it's good.

I've always been interested in voices - and to me it seems that you've picked up on something that happens a lot - a lot of the actors with the really swoony voices learned them from elsewhere - take Patrick Stewart (Barnsley) or Alan Rickman's childhood speech impediment...

The fragment is very clever. Yet another never-thought-of thing - but spot on. You have now started me wondering what the Chinese make of werewolves - somehow I can't imagine that it squares with Confucian morality, any more than fox-faries (who take the form of seductive female humans and Practice their Wiles on unwitting men).
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 1st, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, Zevon Gets the Credit.

... For the Chinese food, at least.

And I meant, really, that I was glad you 'saw' Snape's self-creation as I did, though I thank you for saying more people want to 'see' the fragment: you're most kind.

I remember fox-spirit lore from van Gulik's detective stories, but wd gladly hear more on the subject.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 28th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good Lor'. Thank you, very much indeed.

You're very kind. I'm glad it pleased you so.
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