Log in

No account? Create an account

Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Chapter One (Prologue) of "Returning Were As Tedious"

Chapter One (Prologue) of "Returning Were As Tedious"

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

I've told many of you of my hope to do a multi-chapter fic about Severus Snape.  I've finally started it, and here's the Prologue.  I've not yet given it to bandcandy to beta, because it's so different from what I've done in the past that I feel the need for lots of guidance.  So I'd like as many comments and especially suggestions as you feel able to give; then I'll write a second draft and give that to my mighty beta.

Story Title:
Returning Were As Tedious

“I am in blood / Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” (Macbeth, III.iv.160-162). The education, life and times of Severus Snape, with particular attention to the unhappy confusion of his affections and his relations with the Dark Arts.

Chapter Title:
Prologue:  Things that Do Sound So Fair
Chapter Length:
About 2,000 words.

Chapter One:
Prologue: Things That Do Sound So Fair
                            Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear
                            Things that do sound so fair?
                                                             Macbeth, I.iii.52-53
The pub was full of smoke and could have been better lit than it was. Objects at the walls of the room were indistinct, and even people closer to her had a bluish cast, as if a pane of tinted glass separated her from them. Eileen felt as if she had wandered into a misty evening bog like the ones near the village where she grew up; while her mind knew she was safely indoors, her instincts were telling her to watch her step, lest she fall into an unsuspected hole.
She played with her pint, not having tasted it, not really accustomed to it and not wanting to drink until her friends arrived. The publican had given her an unwelcome look when she asked for the pint to start with, as if it were somehow indecent for her to be asking such a thing. Now, looking around the room through the smelly haze, she realized that she was the only woman drinking ale; all the rest seemed to have fizzy drinks. A few of the men were looking at her strangely too, and she didn’t think it was her looks or her clothing. How was she supposed to know? Probably it would have been better to go to The Three Broomsticks or The Leaky Cauldron for a butterbeer.
The mist around her brightened in one direction as the door of the pub opened, and vaguely, like shadows of themselves, David and Mary could be seen arriving together. She waved enthusiastically at them and they came quickly to her table. Eileen stood up as they arrived; Mary threw her arms around her and kissed her.
“Darling, how are you?” Mary sang.
“Wonderful now,” said Eileen with a grin. She released Mary and hugged David so hard around the chest that he nearly fell down, and he laughed at her. She stepped back and looked at them; they’d both done a very respectable job of imitating Muggle clothing, and she doubted that anyone there thought they were anything but three University friends meeting to have a chat. They were so good to look at, the two of them; it felt as if her eyes had been dry and tired but suddenly were soothed.
“Did you have any trouble finding the place?” she asked while they seated themselves.
“Well, I would have,” said David with a lopsided grin. “I was looking up and down the street with no idea where I was; then Mary Apparated and took immediate charge of her poor old friend, leading me here step-by-step. I think she’d’ve put a dog collar and leash on me if she could have.”
Mary snorted. “He never did have any sense of direction; he used to get lost in Hogsmeade.”
Eileen giggled. “I remember.” She couldn’t stop grinning. They were here!
“First things first,” said David happily. “Let’s get the drinks. Think they have a stout?”
“Mary’d better not have the ale,” warned Eileen.
“Why ever not?” demanded Mary.
“I don’t think they like women drinking beer, here,” replied Eileen.
Mary made a face. “You’re having an ale, and you haven’t been thrown out,” she observed. “I’ll risk it.”
They chattered about friends from school, who was doing what, who was dating whom, while they waited for the drinks to arrive. Both Mary and David seemed much more up-to-date on their old acquaintances than Eileen was; although it had only been two years, she realized that she was really out-of-touch with practically everyone from Hogwarts except these two.
“And I just heard,” Mary was saying, “that Bonnie Bones is engaged to Eddy Goldsmith!”
“Yeah, bet she cornered him into it,” said David cynically.
“David! Haven’t you a romantic bone in your body?” Mary was nonplussed.
“Several, but none of them are in my head,” he grinned.
The drinks arrived. David lifted his pint and said, “To Hufflepuff House!” The other two repeated his words and they all drank. The words were somehow absorbed into the smoke and the other bodies in the room, sounding strangely hollow. Eileen wasn’t expecting the bitterness of her ale; she made a face.
“Maybe you’d better stick to butterbeer,” David said. She stuck her tongue out at him.
“You know, I was wondering about that,” said Mary, swallowing her own ale. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a Muggle pub before. Why did you decide to come here, instead of, say, The Leaky Cauldron?”
The fog in the room seemed to thicken a little.
“Why can’t it just be an experiment or a whim?” asked Eileen in what she hoped was a carefree voice.
Mary lifted an eyebrow and her glass stopped on the way to her mouth. “But it isn’t, is it?” she persisted.
Eileen hesitated. Finally she answered, a bit too lightly, “Tobias doesn’t like The Leaky Cauldron.”
“Oh, is he coming?” asked David brightly – or at least Eileen thought that “brightly” was how he was trying to sound.
“Well, then what does it matter what he likes this afternoon?” asked David firmly.
Mary rolled her eyes and looked sidelong at Eileen, taking another drink. “Honestly, David.”
“What? I don’t notice him asking for my opinion when he decides where to take Eileen for dinner.”
“Well,” drawled Mary, gazing at Eileen with a slight smile on her face. “I think our Eileen is trying to take Tobias’s feelings into account more than the average witch would do.”
Although she was a bit embarrassed, under her friend’s amused and affectionate eyes Eileen was inspired to bring the conversation where she planned on taking it to begin with. She took another small sip of the bitter ale, and began, “Actually that’s rather why I wanted to meet you in the first place.”
Mary put her elbows on the table, made a bridge of her fingers, and laid her chin on the bridge, looking with mischief into Eileen’s eyes. “Do tell,” she said, with a hint of a meow in her voice.
“Well,” said Eileen, smiling and beginning to blush. “We’re going to get married.”
“How wonderful!” squealed Mary, getting up to come to her friend’s chair and hug her around the shoulders enthusiastically. “Only the best wishes, and may the sun shine on you!” She kissed her cheek, then released her and returned to her seat, still smiling.
There was the slightest of pauses. Mary’s eyes, just for an instant, flicked towards David as a little swirl of smoke drifted in front of her face. David’s eyes, just half a moment later, darted towards Mary as the swirl reached him. Eileen then noticed that David, who had not said anything yet, was apparently trying to smile but not succeeding very well. A second look told her that Mary’s wide, toothy smile had become just a bit fixed. Her eyes didn’t look as happy as her mouth did.
“What’s the matter?” Eileen asked.
David jumped as if he’d been caught doing something naughty. “What? Nothing!  Congratulations, My Prince!” he said heartily. Too heartily.
“Oh David,” teased Mary with a grin that was only a tiny bit forced, “You don’t congratulate a bride-to-be. It’s the groom who’s to be congratulated.”
“Lucky sod, he sure is!” David said, more loudly than was necessary.
“What’s the matter?” Eileen repeated.
There was another brief silence, during which their smiles faded. David spoke up, although he didn’t look like he wanted to. “Well, this is a bit sudden; we had no idea the two of you were even thinking about getting married. I was sort of wondering – You’re not – well, you’re not – ”
Eileen’s eyes narrowed. “No, I’m not, David.” She counted to five and then started again. “Is that all?”
“Well, no, not really.” He looked distinctly uncomfortable, but at this instant Eileen didn’t feel a desire to let him off the hook. She waited while the smell of old tobacco filled her nostrils.
He continued, much more quietly, “Eileen, why doesn’t Tobias like The Leaky Cauldron?”
Eileen wasn’t sure how to answer. The walls seemed very far away and invisible.
David continued, “It’s because he doesn’t like wizards, isn’t it? Doesn’t like magic?”
Eileen looked at the floor. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Mary and David exchange another look. The sounds of conversation from the other tables seemed to get louder.
“How can you marry someone who hates what you are?” he asked.
“He doesn’t hate me,” Eileen answered; in her own ears her voice was whingy.
David’s face was impassive. “But would he hate me, or Mary, or Professor Dippett, or your parents?”
There was another pause.
“I love him,” said Eileen in a small voice, looking at Mary with a pleading expression on her face.
“Does he love you?” asked Mary gently, her eyes fixed on Eileen’s as if looking for something she’d lost.
“Oh, yes, I’m sure he does,” said Eileen quickly.
“Has he said so?” Mary pursued, still in that same gentle tone.
Eileen pressed her palms against the top of the table.
“What you have to understand,” she said, “is that Tobias is not a very verbal person; he doesn’t talk a lot.”
Mary continued to look at her, but her expression was now sad. “Oh Eileen, dearest…”
“Mary.” Eileen’s voice was higher than it had been before, and its tone begged her friend to understand. “It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t said it, does it? I can tell. I know how he feels. I can tell by how he holds me – ” Her voice caught.
 Her face darkened and she started again, more quietly. “And where else am I going to find someone to marry me?”
David’s face turned bright red and he spluttered for a moment before finding his voice. “That – that’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard you ask!” he said angrily.
“Oh?” she said miserably. “Popular with the blokes at school, was I? Always being asked out on Hogsmeade weekends?   Have a face to charm the socks off of any red-blooded young wizard, and a body to match?”
“Stop it! Anyone who knows you – anyone – knows how beautiful you are!” His voice was fierce; Eileen wanted to kiss him for his loyalty.
Mary cut in, her voice steady, her face serious, her eyes locked on Eileen’s. “Listen to me, darling. Someone who loves you for what you really are is worth waiting for. Someone who will tell you he loves you is worth waiting for. Someone who won’t ask you to run away from your life is worth waiting for. And you are worth having those things; you deserve them.”
For a moment Eileen wanted to slap her best friend’s concerned face.
“I’m marrying him.” Her jaw set.
“So what will you do, give up magic for the rest of your life?” demanded David.
“David, Mary, please.” Eileen balled her hands into fists and leaned forward over the table. “I need you to support me. I need my friends behind me. I need you to be happy for me. Please.”
There was a space of about five seconds during which Eileen thought Mary would start to cry and David would break something. Then David’s face softened and Mary’s calmed. They got up, almost at the same moment, and walked around the table – Mary clockwise, David counterclockwise – until they were standing on either side of Eileen’s chair. Mary knelt down, put her right arm around Eileen’s middle and rested her head on Eileen’s right shoulder. David gently stroked Eileen’s left shoulder with his right hand.
Mary spoke, her voice vibrating on Eileen’s neck. “Always, sweetheart. We’re always with you. We’ll always support you. If you’re happy with this, then so are we. What would you like us to do?”
Eileen thanked her stars for such friends.
She began shyly, “Well, for starters, Mary, I was hoping you’d be maid of honor.”

I'm hoping to use a Shakespeare quote, preferably a Macbeth quote, for the title of each chapter.  So far I've isolated eight quotes I want to use, but I think I'm going to have about twenty chapters (if I have the nerve to complete this...)

Thanks in advance for the help.
  • What a wonderful person Mary is! David, too. So supportive (and lost in the fog) LOL. I love the atmosophere of the pub - the sinister fog and the collision of Muggle and Magical worlds. The bitterness of the ale and the resentment of the patrons seems to sum up Eileen's marriage.

    You're off to a rousing start. I hope Death Eaters don't kill David and Mary off - but I'm not holding out a lot of hope since you're working with MacBeth here.

    A great start!
    • Thanks! I needed Mary & David to be absolutely committed to Eileen, so that their warnings against Tobias would have the ring of genuine alarm for her happiness.

      As I mentioned to you offline, I hadn't thought about David & Mary's future because the next chapter probably takes place at Hogwarts, fifteen years later. Is that a mistake, skipping Severus's childhood like that? I wanted to get him into Slytherin House as fast as I could.
    • Mary, did you see Annette's recommmendation that I ask you about getting the reader too invested in characters she'll never see again?

      Have you a comment?
      • There are a couple of ways to think about this. Because you're writing with MacBeth as you thematic backdrop, already you're introducing the concept of tragedy. Tragedy (this is a simple definition, I know) begins happily and hopeful and somehow those happy hopes are dashed. You've made David and Mary part of Eileen's happy, hopeful past and part of the non-prejudiced magical world - they are the polar opposites of the Death Eaters and the forces Severus aligns himself with.

        You don't have to ever mention them again - but they may prove to be useful - it's wonderful how the imagination works and knows something before you do. Leave them in and see if they want to pop back into Snape's life or the story somewhere along the line. This isn't cast in stone, you know!
        • Thanks, Mary. That makes a lot of sense.

          Actually I just had an idea that might make some use of the other Mary. I picture Eileen being cut off from her wizard friends after marrying Tobias, and pining for David and Mary especially. So when Severus goes to Hogwarts, Eileen begs him to look up Mary's daughter (the name Eliza comes to mind for some reason), who starts Hogwarts when he does and gets sorted into Hufflepuff. Eliza is smitten with Severus but he is only tolerant of her, having eyes only for Lily (with whom he has no future). This would be another in his long series of bad choices. I'm not sure that setting up another triangle is necessarily what I want to do, but it just jumped out at me when you mentioned that I could keep D & M around in case they were needed for later.
          • I was going to suggest the next generation and how Severus wouldn't be willing to breach the divide between houses for Eliza (but maybe kinda sorta for Lily)but you beat me to it. 'Eliza' works for me. :)

  • Beautiful atmosphere - I'm reminded very much of the rain during Ron and Harry's conversation in Counting to 5000. Of course, we all know how this match turns out and I could feel myself begging Eileen to wise up even though I know she won't (I had the same reaction when Harry jumped into the Slytherin baggage rack in HBP - the whole time I was whispering, don't!). That's good writing, when your reader feels the characters are alive enough that they plead with them to make better choices.

    So Snape's mother was a Hufflepuff - I bet he hates that. Beautiful depiction of Hufflepuff loyalty, that they'll stand by her even when they think she's making a mistake.
    • Thanks, Val. That's a really good sign, that you wanted to stop Eileen. Yeah, they sort of became Hufflepuffs when I realized that their loyalty would make or break this chapter.
  • I enjoyed this opening chapter quite a bit! I love your characterizations! There is fierce loyalty and honesty in their interactions, and these three feel like real people whom I definitely want to learn more about. I have NO time on-line today, but I wanted to slip in a quick review. I wish I had time to write more. One thing I'd advise is to watch your use of passive voice. For instance - the first sentence:

    The pub was full of smoke and could have been better lit than it was.

    You could change it to something like: "Swirls of hazy smoke filled the dimly lit pub, blurring objects at the walls of the room." You get the picture. Gives it a little more punch.

    But that's such a little thing in an opening chapter filled with wonderful dialogue, great insight into Eileen's emotions and thoughts, and a build up of some great tension and sympathy for your characters. Loved it.

    Keep writing!!
    • Wonderful atmosphere!! I loved that pub scene. It was like inhaling the drinks as you walked in.

      Ah those mixed marriages....when you're in love you always think they will work out. I was just thinking how very Snape the name Tobias is. "grins" I liked that line about a romantic bone in your body. There several lines that jumped out for me. Clever conversations. Fits the title.

      I have to add...every story you write is very different then the one before. If you had not left your name...I would have thought, cool... I've found another terrific author. I think a lot of authors would like to write that way.
      • Thank you, Rachel. That last comment, about every story being different than the one before, is the nicest compliment you've ever paid me; and that's saying a lot.
    • Annette, I appreciate your taking time out of what sounds like a hectic day! I'll work on that voicing, and I'll think especially hard about that first line. (First lines are really important to me.) (And I feel great that you feel comfortable and collaborative enough to suggest lines and styles -- that gives me a lot of confidence in the relationship.)

      I wonder whether I'm building up too much sympathy with these characters...this is only a prologue, after all, and it's entirely possible that we won't meet any of these three again. Is it wasted energy or too much of a diversion?

      • Hi Ken!

        Well - the main reason (of course not the only one)I write fan fiction is to improve my writing, so I CRAVE constructive criticism in feedback to me. From what I've read on your LJ posts, you seem to feel similarly. I have a very thick skin when it comes to con crit, and unfortunately I've assumed that other people do, too. Not everyone feels the same way, I've since found out! Your response tells me I've not been too harsh, right? I really did love this chapter. I used to have a link to a great essay on active vs passive verbs - but it died with my old laptop. Maybe I can dig it up again. If I do find it, I'll send it too you.

        Regarding your last paragraph of questions regarding your characters and building up too much sympathy - I think that's a PERFECT question for Mary. She's given me similar advice in the past, though directed towards introducing a love interest, and she's just SO wise about that sort of thing. Introducing characters at certain times and in certain ways in the story induces expectations in the reader. It sounds like all three of us who commented above certainly already care about all three of your characters and do want to hear more about them!

        If you do talk to Mary about it and she gives you some advice, would you please share it with me? Thanks so much! Now get on with this wonderful story, LOL!
        • Well, I told you offline, but just so everybody else sees it: I really was grateful that you gave the constructive criticism (meaning, suggestions for improvement). More, I want more! :)

  • sovranspecific's comment

    Sovranspecific sent a very interesting comment by e-mail that I thought I'd show to you all, to see whether you have any response.

    Here's his initial comment:

    There is one thing I'd point out, but I'm not sure if it's a result of your writing or simply a figment of my over-fic'ed imagination. If it is a result of the writing, I'm also not sure if you intended it or how you feel about it. In any case, Eileen, Mary, and David gave me a VERY strong Harry/Ron/Hermione vibe. At first, it was enough that I wondered if perhaps it was the trio meeting under pseudonyms. Of course, the genders argued against that, but it was still something I thought of. Actually, for a moment I seriously considered that it might be Hermione waiting for Harry and Ginny to arrive. Those characterizations fit, and I got the impression from the tone that Ron was deceased.

    In any case, the feeling was there. If you intended it, I can see it as an excellent tie to the main plot line, but I wonder if it wasn't too blatant. Did you want me to actually think that it was Harry & Co.? Did I think that just because I'm up to my eyeballs in a current-gen fic? In any case, I like the idea that from any group of friends, something bad can be produced based on lousy decisions. If it had been Harry, Ginny, and Hermione, who's to say that Hermione might not make a bad choice and produce another Severus Snape? A chilling thought, and it fits the prologue's tone quite nicely.

    If you did not intend the similarity, the question is whether or not you want it. If so, congratulations, it's there. It may simply be that any group of three friends will, almost by default, have characteristics similar to those of HRH or HGH. A few specific details (the crooked grin leaped out at me) pinned it down more thoroughly. If you did not want the similarity, you might consider removing the specific traits or more clearly identifying the protagonists earlier on.

    Here's my response to him:

    WOW. I have to admit that I never thought of these three as being the trio or even analogous to them. (I did notice that David resembles Ron in some ways, and I put it down to my not having enough versatility in how to express outraged loyalty. The lopsided grin reminded me more of Sirius, somehow.) But now that you point it out, yeah, I see what you’re talking about. It may be that there are only certain patterns a group of three friends can fall into – one is bound to be more serious, one less serious, the third a mediator between them; one is bound to be more of a romantic, another less of a romantic, the third a mediator between them. Think of Kirk-Spock-McCoy; Han-Luke-Leia; Athos-Porthos-Aramis; Danny-Joe-Irene (is that one too obscure?); Nancy-Bess-George; etc.

    I had a few specific narrative needs for the characters, and the other characteristics grew as I was writing. Mary (because I’d named her after the other Mary) became a demonstrative, affectionate romantic (lots of endearments, bubbling, touching). David started out a bit out-of-it because he got lost on the way there, and that became the key note for his whole character.

    But now that it’s out there, I don’t know what I want to do with it. On the one hand, it could create a whole other layer of metaphor to analogize these three to H-R-Hr and maybe really enrich the narrative. But would it be a distraction? (This is where I have to stop thinking like a short story writer and start thinking like a novelist – the short-story writer’s motto is, “Not one comma or preposition that doesn’t add to the artistic purpose of the story;” the novelist’s motto is, “If it doesn’t fit here, it’ll fit in Chapter Seven.”) Is there a way to make use of the metaphor to the benefit of the story? This is supposed to be a tragedy – man makes a series of progressively bad decisions that increasingly torture him and destroy any chance he may have for happiness, and is finally left with no choice but martyrdom to atone for the evil he has committed or allowed. Macbeth is the underlying model, though not exactly. But does this analogy fit into that tragedy? Hmmmmmm…

    Any additional thoughts on this topic, anyone?
  • As for the Eileen, David, Mary angle, I think that would be a distraction. You indicated earlier that you could not decide on jumping ahead to Hogwart as a student, or his earlier years growing up in a half magic, half muggle world. I would like to see Eileen and Tobias because I have always wondered about Snape spending his early life in two situations. How it shaped his prejudice. I always wished Rowling had written something about that.

    One reason I like Snape is because he IS bad. All he cares about is himself. The only person he is looking out for is watching his own back.
    • The more I think about it, the more I think Rachel's right about Severus's childhood.

      Severus in canon doesn't actually demonstrate strong feelings about Muggles or Muggleborns (except for that one, fateful, pivotal remark to Lily) -- what he does seem to have are strong feelings about the houses themselves and an intense antisocial streak (i.e., desire to be on his own rather than with others). We also know that he arrived at Hogwarts knowing a lot of curses. The question is, why are his feelings about the houses so strong, why is he so isolated and how/why did he come to learn all those curses?

      I think his relationship with his father, or his observation of his mother's relationship with his father, are the best way of explaining those three things. What I think we need is an abusive husband who hates and will not allow magic, creating in his son (1) a desire to be with "his own kind" (meaning, not Muggles who hate Wizards), which feeds him right into Slytherin's mouth; (2) a mistrust of others, causing him to be a loner, and (3) a habit of learning violent magic almost as a self-defense device. The father, in other words, is the key to understanding the son who was already so warped by the time he got to Hogwarts.

      Okay, I've talked myself into it. Or rather, Rachel started to talk me into it, and I finished. So Chapter Two won't be the Sorting scene I imagined; it'll be something pretty horrible at home. Age eight, I'm thinking...
      • It would be very easy to use the scene Harry witnessed in Snape's memory as a jumping-off point:

        ...a hooked-nose man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner...A greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies...A girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick -
  • Amazed

    Well you accomplished something I never thought possible. You've captivated me with a story about and from the eyes of one sadistic, greasy haired and insufferably arrogant protagonist known as Professor Severus Snape. Amazing!

    While I often wonder the journey of the slippery slope that creates a character such as Snape, he's one of those characters that I really don't care what decisions, actions or trauma created him. Mainly because of his sadistic treatment of Harry, which to me is inexcusable no matter the cause. While I can try to forge in my minds eye stories and causes for a mans struggle and downfall the phrase "You knowest this mans fall but you knowest not his wrassling", comes to mind and my heart can forgive, can understand. But not for Snape, I give him no such quarter.

    I literally chortled out-loud at the lines "What could make a man both terrified and tickled? A highly amusing executioner? A playful poisonous spider?"...Priceless

    I'm quite envious of your writing Ken, again, especially given the character. But I am also quite curious to see your Shakespearean spin to this story. I would assume that Snape's hands are stained with innocent blood "Out, Out, damned spots"

    Thank you for sharing this with me. Enchanted aka Maggie
    • Re: Amazed

      Hi Maggie,

      Since this is the same comment you left for the other chapter, I'm just as happy with it here as I was there! I really appreciate your taking the time to read this.

Powered by LiveJournal.com