Disclaimer: Not Mine.
Written for the Hogwarts Online Forum and the prompt…ashes.
His Father's Son
The day was perfect for the sombre event, grey and damp, a cold wind rolling over the downs and settling on the valley floor. Bare limbed trees stood sentinel around the tiny churchyard, as if holding back the spring and waiting for the travesty of prayers to be over before they graced the air with their fragrance. Parson Whittaker shivered and opened the prayer book, indicating it was time to begin.
A handful of black-clad men, and one woman, stood around the grave while he stumbled over the name of the dead. Parson Whittaker had never met the deceased, nor ever spoken to the widow before she had pressed money into his palm, and had explained it was her husband's beliefs and not hers that now brought her to his small chapel. He said the prayers dispassionately and quickly. With one eye on the storm clouds, that were gathering on the horizon, he hurried through the service, ending with the ashes to ashes, and dust to dust, that he knew all true non-believers expected to hear. Closing his prayer book, he nodded to the widow, who stood unmoving and expressionless, before quickly leaving the mourners alone as he hurried back to the safety of his sacred parsonage. He felt his spine prickle as an uncomfortable foreboding fell over him, knowing he was foolish and it was just the widow that unnerved him and not the man in the grave.
A dry cough brought Eileen out of her thoughts and made her look at the men whose names she was not even sure of, standing uneasily in ill fitting suits, toeing the ground and shoving their hands in their pockets. Nodding to them, she looked back to the grave, hoping they would take the hint and leave her alone. She did not respond to their mutters and sympathetic words of loss and death, preferring to keep them at a distance and not have a repeat of what had been a very uncomfortable greeting.
Eileen stood alone long after the small group of mourners had left. Mourners, she thought, freeloaders and gossip mongers is more like it. She nervously patted her small black felt hat, to make sure it still sat primly on her head, and checked her hair, to ensure the repeated halfhearted hugs from the half-drunk well-wishers had not loosened the small bun that she wore at the back of her neck. Satisfied that she was still presentable, she lifted her chin and began the walk back to the chapel where the car awaited her.
He had been dead for only three days and she had only today begin to think beyond what had happened and what was still to happen back at Spinner's end in the coming months and years. The first day, night really, as his heart had given up on his way home from the local pub, she had spent making arrangements to have his body taken care of, and notified the handful of men he considered friends. Friends that only knew him from the drinks he bought down at Sloan's place.
The second day she had waited anxiously for it all to be over, all the while pacing through the now empty rooms and wondering if it was too early to pack up his meagre clothing and personal effects, wanting to rid the house of his presence, with him not yet in the ground. Their son had sent a short clipped answer to her summons, explaining that his studies could not be put off but that he would attempt to make the services. She had not expected him to return, but now seeing him standing beside the car, she was surprised he had bothered at all.
He was so like his father, dark and brooding, that at times she had often wished he would stay in his world and leave her alone. Perhaps now he will not find fault with everything, she thought. Now that his father lay in the ground, perhaps the arguments and fighting would stop.
She lifted her arm in signal that she had seen him, dropping it again quickly when he nodded and looked away, putting off their reunion as long as possible.
"Boy," the driver yelled over to the gangly youth that lounged against the boot, "better get her to hurry up. I leave in five minutes."
"Keep your shirt on," Severus sneered, flicked a cigarette butt to the roadside, and stood up tall and straight. "She is burying her husband. You can give her a few minutes."
"I don't want to get stuck in traffic," the diver muttered. "Thought this one would be quick."
Nodding to the path, Severus scowled. "Here she is, now watch your mouth."
Eileen walked stiffly to the side of the car, looking over the top, waiting for Severus to come around to open the door for her.
'Mother," he greeted her and leaned down to kiss her lightly on the cheek. "The luncheon will be starting. You should be there."
"I am sure more than the six that were here will turn up. Always do for free food," she muttered. "You missed the service. Too good for it are you?"
Severus furrowed his brow and pulled the door open for her, shutting it after her and walking slowly to the other side where he opened his own door and slid in next to her.
"You didn't have to come," she quipped with that nasal quality to her voice that set his nerves on edge.
"I was concerned about you."
"Me? Heavens, you have no need to concern yourself with me. You never have before."
"What will you do now? Will you return to…?"
"No. There is nothing left for me there, and no one that I know any longer. I will stay put right where I am."
"You plan on staying in the house then?"
She set her jaw and lifted her chin, staring at the back of the drivers head, not answering, nor bothering to carry on a conversation with this stranger of a man-once-son that sat next to her. There was a time she could have spoken to him, could have asked him to stay, to help her, to not leave her alone. Only now, there was too much between them, too many fights, and too many unheard words.
"I am studying potions," he said after several minutes had passed and the car was out of the cemetery, picking up speed as it approached the M20. "I should have my Masters within the year. Professor Slughorn arranged for me to skip the first year of lessons and moved me right into an apprentice program."
"You expect to earn enough to support yourself that way?"
"Good luck," she snorted. "Just don't look to me for help. I'll have all I can do to keep body and soul together. Not that your father ever brought home much, and what he did he drank."
"I am sure you can wait until tomorrow to start this."
"I'm not starting anything," she sniffed and smoothed her skirt. "You're the one that's starting. You want to stay in that damnable place you go right ahead. When they don't want you, just don't think you can run back here."
Severus rested his hands on his knees and leaned his head back against the high back of the taxi, watching the road markers moving past the window. Suddenly he was a five year old boy again, sitting in the back of the family car, listening to his parents argue as he fought to block out their angry voices and not so veiled threats.
"Severus! Did you hear a word I said? Or are you back to daydreaming?"
He sat up and quickly, yanked back to the present. "Yes, of course I heard you."
"Remember it then. One word from you and I will be a laughing stock," she hissed, nodding to the back of the divers head. "Last time you were home you nearly slipped up."
He clenched his jaw and looked straight ahead, wishing now that he had never come, wanting this short ride and conversation over. "Whatever became of Dad's old car?"
"Sold it he did," she sneered. "Gave it away is more like it. Sold that old sideboard I got from my mum too. It's all I had left, and he sold it. Hundred pounds he got, was worth ten times that."
"Mr. Malfoy sends his regrets. He and Mrs. Malfoy said they remember you from school. They are…"
"Snobs. They wouldn't have anything to do with the Prince family after the war. Neither would the rest of them. You mind my words, boy. If you don't have enough money …enough… pull…in that place you are worth nothing. Nothing at all."
"Where is the lunch?" he asked, hoping to divert her to a safer path.
"Up at St. Marks. The ladies auxiliary is doing it, don't know why, they never wanted to come around when he was alive."
"Them and I, both," he muttered.
"Where do you plan on living? She ignored his comment, letting it go as if she had not heard. "I am sure this … this training you are so keen on will not supply your lodgings. How do I contact you if something else happens?"
"I am staying on with the Malfoys. They have been good enough to open their home to me."
"Good enough? Not likely, there will be strings attached. If I remember anything about the Malfoys it's that they don't do anything out of the kindness of their hearts. After they had that brat of theirs, they were too good for the likes of me. What was his name…Louis?"
"Lucius," Severus said so softly that she had to turn to look at him, seeing his own gentle nod towards the driver, his unvoiced warning to say nothing more.
They rode in silence, he mindlessly watching the landscape, wondering when the area had suddenly grown up or if it was him that had grown. He saw the new shops and petro stations where none had been before and wondered where his childhood trials and hiding places had gone.
"I said," Eileen hissed, "are you listening? What ever happened to that girl you were so keen on? The one from the north-side?"
"Is any of Father's family in attendance?" He answered, avoiding any further mention of Lily.
"You are here. That is all the family he needs."
"You did contact them, did you not?"
"I sent a letter to his brother."
"A letter," Severus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "So, am I to assume that his family has not been notified yet?"
"It is best this way. So, I take it you messed things up with her as well? I told you she was just another lousy Muggle, but you wouldn't listen. She has made a fool out of you again, will you never learn?"
He turned his head slowly to look at her. "Mother? His family?"
"I want his belongings crated up before they descend on me like vultures. You know how they are. It's bad enough he left you his books and tools, they would at least bring in something."
"Burn them," Severus spat, "What the fuck would I want with them?"
"You don't have to get all uppity, you know…"
"Sell them then," he sighed, looking out the side window as the taxi began to slow and pull off the highway, already considering not staying the night. "I have no use of them."
They sat in silence the rest of the way to the luncheon. Severus was relieved that he did not have to carry on a conversation, unsure if his mother felt the same, of if she was capable of forgetting him even now that he sat beside her as she had seemed to forget him from fall to summer for the past seven years.
At last, Severus could step out of the back seat and take a deep breath before assisting his mother to do the same. His eyes went up to the steeple as they walked toward the small parish church. "I will leave you here, Mother. I only wanted to make sure you were well."
"I didn't expect you at all, so if you run away it won't make any difference to me," she said flatly, refusing to meet his eyes. "No one has even asked after you."
"Do you need anything?" Her son clasped his hands behind him, making it clear that he desired no physical contact, he took a step backwards, placing even more distance between them.
"He didn't like magic," she muttered, looking down at the ground. "I never told him about me before we married. Everything was fine before you came along."
Severus swallowed hard, and turned to walk away, not hearing what she said after that, not caring as he walked purposely down the pavement, intent of reaching a secluded place from which he could leave. He wanted this world no more than she wanted him in it or had the man that now lay in the cold ground wanted a son. Stepping behind a hedge at the end of the churches property, he dissipated to Malfoy Manor, not surprised to see Lucius open the door as he approached the house.
"Back so soon?"
"It is an abysmal affair, one I needed to leave," he smirked.
"She is not one of us, remember that. She chose to leave and marry a Muggle. What did she expect?"
Together they went into the library and crossed to the liquor cabinet where Lucius pulled out a bottle and two glasses, pouring their drinks and handing one to Severus.
"Have you decided about tonight? Or are you still chasing that skirt?"
Severus swirled the amber fluid in the bottom of his glass, thinking of Lily, and how she saw him now, unskilled, a pauper with no more future than his father once had. "I need to talk to her, but yes…I think it is time."
"Good show!" Lucius slapped him soundly on the back. "You'll see, once she knows the wealth and power that will be yours, and knows you have shed yourself of Spinner's End she won't hesitate."
Severus looked into Lucius eyes, and knew it did not matter. He had made his decision and would not back down.