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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 11:09 GMT
Rowling's 'spell' on science teacher
Harry Potter
Harry Potter novels are still dominating book sales
A Monmouthshire school teacher is believed to be the model for the "evil" Professor Snape in the Harry Potter books.

John Nettleship is the head of science at the Chepstow comprehensive school where the books' author JK Rowling went to school.

A BBC 1 Wales documentary on Friday will feature the author returning to Wyedean School in south east Wales where Mr Nettleship still works.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling: Has written a 'sophisticated retaliation'

But, after the shock of learning that the character who gives Harry Potter a hard time in science lessons is at least partly based on himself, he has come to terms with his new-found fame.

Professor Snape is portrayed in the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as a brooding and fearsome lecturer who delights in belittling the young wizard.

He is played in the film adaptation by Alan Rickman and, as Pottermania began to grow, Mr Nettleship was first challenged over the link by reporters from Britain's national newspapers.

It was then that he discovered his friends and family had already made the connection between himself and the terrifying teacher long before the story hit the big screen.

I'll just have to hope that the worst bits of Snape are based on two different ones, won't I

Jophn Nettleship

Mr Nettleship was shocked to learn that his wife, Shirley, agreed that JK Rowling had used him as a template for the character.

He said: "I was rather distressed about this but Shirley said 'I'm afraid so: I realised that a long time ago but I didn't dare tell you'."

"I'm quite sure that a lot of the pupils thought that I was as bad as the character, at least that's the way that I came over to them."

But, as if by magic, he has since come to believe that his former pupil's literary work is more of a gentle, if wile, way of paying him back for ensuring that people always paid attention during his lessons.

And he has a glimmer of hope that the meaner aspects of Professor Snape's character are not based on him at all.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling is a former pupil of John Nettleship

"It's a bit comforting, but in the main interview that Joanna (Rowling) has given, she does say Snape is based on three people.

"I'll just have to hope that the worst bits of Snape are based on two different ones, won't I?"

He added: "There are ways of pupils getting their revenge, but this is a much more sophisticated retaliation."

In an interview to be broadcast on December 28, the author said that she knows what is going to happen to the series' major characters - including some untimely deaths.

JK Rowling: Harry Potter and Me, BBC1, 1900GMT

See also:

20 Dec 01 | Arts
Film boosts Potter books
18 Dec 01 | Film
Diary star joins Potter sequel
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