Disclaimer: Not mine.

Home for the Holidays

Eileen Snape finished decorating the Christmas tree that she had put on a small table in front of the sitting room window, and then put dinner on the table. She knew Tobias would not comment on it, choosing to ignore the holiday completely, but was too tired to care, and too fed up with him to stop from having a tree this year. As long as his meal was ready and the house clean, he would keep his silence.

She was still in the kitchen when she heard his boots in the entrance way and then a minute later the telly as he turned it on. Sighing she picked up his plate and carried it into him, silently handing him his dinner, not even hearing a grunt of appreciation in exchange. Returning she sat alone at the kitchen table, pushing her food around on her plate, unable to eat.

Scraping her plate in the bin, she then washed her dishes before collecting his, replacing it with what would be the first of several beers. She used to mind his drinking, but for the past few years found it easier to just give in and give up. If she were lucky, he would fall asleep in the chair, or stumble up to bed leaving it to her. She knew he had already spent half the day in the pub, getting off work early for the holiday and buying rounds of drinks for his friends.

She fixed herself a cup of tea, adding a shot of whiskey and a spoonful of sugar, hoping to ward off the cold of the night. Then, sitting at the table, she listened to whatever show he had turned on and waited for his lumbering steps to make it upstairs. Before long she sighed, relieved as he made his way to bed, knowing she would not have to deal with him until noon tomorrow.

This would be a quiet Christmas Eve, unlike the ones before. This year she would not try to find enough money to cook a special meal, pretend that everything was fine, or get between Tobias and Severus as they fought. This year she would turn the radio on and listen to music, or find one of the Christmas Masses that aired each year from Canterbury.

She sat looking out the kitchen window thinking of Christmas Eves past and the fighting and tears that always came with them. There had been years when Tobias could not find work, and the only presents she could put under the tree were second hand clothes or homemade sweets. Severus had only looked at her sadly, never voicing his disappointment that there was not a toy, or a new book, or something new and shiny. Tobias had seen the look that passed between them and flown into a rage.

Eileen stood, rinsed out her cup, poured herself a fresh cup, and added the last of the milk. She smiled thinking of the Christmas the boy had run down the stairs to find a new bike, shouting for her to come see. She wouldn't dare to do that now, spend that much money for a present to put under the tree.

Frowning she walked back to the sitting room wondering whatever became of the bike. That was the first Christmas that she remembered feeling fear. Afraid of Tobias' fists, afraid to ever spend that much again. That was the year Severus had first matched her bruised face to his father's angry words.

She suddenly remembered that he had never used the bike, but had rather pushed it into the small walled space behind the house and never touched it again.

He had not come home in his sixth year, preferring to stay at Hogwarts, and when he was in his seventh, she had received an owl from a Mr. Mulciber informing her that Severus had been invited to stay for the holidays with his family. Now, that he had finished school and was of age she knew not to look for him.

She adjusted the radio, and turned off all the lights but those on the tree. Stepping back to look at the decorations she smiled when it looked so much better then she had thought it would. Snow had started to fall, making a backdrop for the small multi-coloured lights and the radio playing Christmas carols led to a pleasant setting. She sat down and curled her legs up under her, staring out the window through the branches of the tree.

Carols gave way to the Canterbury Mass and still she sat and watched the snow and lights. When the service was over, she stood to unplug the tree and saw a figure on the pavement looking up at the house. Pulling the curtains back, she saw a thin black-robed figure standing with his hands thrust in his pockets, long black hair obscuring his face.

Pressing her hand against the window, she felt tears sting her eyes as she stood watching her son. Then, glancing over her shoulder, she suddenly worried that Tobias would wake. She stepped back from the window, and with her hands shaking, pulled the curtains closed.

The End