This isn't the life intended for her. Eleanor had been young and bright and beautiful once, in love with a clever, brave young man, and the whole world had been set down before them. And then there was an accident, and then there was no more clever, brave young man.

She marries Barty because she can't bear to be alone and, of all the men who court her, she is sure this one will never love her. It all seems less complicated that way. She's known love; it seems mostly composed of disappointment and pain.

She loves her son from the moment he was born, from the moment she feels his warm, soft, breathing weight in her arms.

Barty can't spare a glance for the infant they've named after him. His eyes are only for her. The childbirth was hard; Eleanor's always been frail.

When she thought he couldn't love her, she was very wrong. This cold, stern, proud man would fall at her feet if it pleased her, give her the world if she asked.

She asks for nothing, and wonders aloud, in her son's nursery while her ambitious husband is out, why he would love her and not the little miracle she's given to him.

My little dove, she croons to her baby, crying over a shattered vase. It can be repaired.

The first time Barty comes to her, his eyes tear-filled and remorseful, a still-warm, bleeding pile of flesh and fur in his hands, she believes him. Can you fix it?

An accident. An accident, she tells herself. No, she says. This I cannot repair.

When Mrs-Remington-from-next-door's cat goes missing, and she finds ginger hairs stuck to Barty's jumper, she knows.

Eleanor Crouch cries all day in her austere, empty house, her husband at work and her son at the village school.

She knows Barty is wrong. He doesn't love her, is cold as his father, but lacking even the pieces of humanity and decency that make Eleanor's husband so devoted to her. She loves him anyway, and it is like a vice on her heart.

Disappointment and pain, is there any love not wrought with these?

When they sentence her son, when he cries out for her and she is helpless, she falls apart. How has it come to this?

Her husband is steel. He cries only when they've come home, and he mourns only for her pain.

When he protests, Eleanor says, I ask only this. You would offer me the world, I ask only this.

His protests die and he looks at her and she realizes for the first time how well he knows she does not love him.

All right, love. It's defeat.

She goes willingly into his arms and they both cry amidst the cruel ruin fate and love have made of their lives.

He barely looks at her when she takes his place. He isn't grateful, he doesn't care that she is laying down her life for his.

It doesn't even matter. She can't leave him here, can't let the Dementors corrupt what little soul he has in him. He's missing so much, she'll let him keep what he still has.

She loves her husband for the first time as he closes the cell door.

He can't possibly hear the thank you she whispers, can't perceive the gratitude in her every thought.

She dies alone, but it's really just as she lived, and she's never felt as light she does when Death comes to free her from the horror of Azkaban.

She wanders out of the light of her own volition. She'll come back.

There's shuffling in a tiny corner of the infinite dark, the tinkling of glass shards shifting on cement.


And Eleanor kneels down beside him at he tries to pick up the shards, as they melt through his hands as though only shades.

My little dove, she soothes, her hands reaching down into the dark. The shards don't melt through her hands, two heal to one in her palm.

Can you fix it?

I'll try. And she will, Eleanor will try.

I'm missing pieces, mother. Don't leave me in the dark.

The pieces come together in her hands; there are so many but they have the time. It's all right, love, we can share some of mine.

I know I promised fluff and sunshine, but my brief bit of such inspiration just sputtered and died on me. And a lot of my usual flooded my head. So, ha, deal with it! :0)