Disclaimer: Not mine.
This was done for Hogwarts Online Forum and is posted as part of a series of chapters, all done by different writers. See The Beginning of Love for the rest of the collection.
The The Bed She Made
Eileen walked along the pavement keeping her eyes downcast and her arms clasped close to her body, fighting back tears of frustration and disappointment. She had been to all the shops, and had even asked her aunts for a pair of silk stockings, only to receive the same look of sadness and a shake of their heads.
She would be the only girl at the dance with bare legs, if she chose to go at all. It wasn't as if she had a date, she didn't, but she wanted to go anyway. She wanted to dance. She wanted someone to sweep her off her feet, someone who liked her for her, and not only her name. She wanted to be like the other girls who oohed and ahhed and talked about their first kiss, how wonderful it was, how she had melted into her lover's arms and how he had whispered into her ear.
Now, she would look like nothing more than a poor relation, a stupid silly girl that did not even know how to dress properly or was too lazy to care. Madam Malkin had shown her leg oil, and assured her that if applied correctly no one would know the difference. Eileen knew she was lying, lying to make a sale, secretly laughing at the poor little pureblood that would look a fool with oiled legs and pretend stockings.
Before she knew it, she was at the far end of the Alley, and making a quick decision, transfigured her robes into a jumper, walked through The Leaky Cauldron to step out into the streets of London. She knew where to go, she had been to the shops many times, and although her mother had insisted they did not have silk stockings she knew one of the many shops in the area would.
"Not for some time now," the sales clerk cocked an eyebrow at her. "We have tights, if you wear a long dress they may work, or you can just …"
"No. Do you know somewhere else? I've already been everyplace I know of."
"Not since the war heated up. We used to get a few pair now and then, but nothing for a year now. Most of us just use an eyebrow pencil, you know, just draw on the seam."
"Thanks," Eileen said flatly, as she walked outside and worried her lip at the quickly fading sun.
She walked toward the taxi queue as a blast of sirens filled the air. Throwing her hands over her ears, she spun around, seeing lights click off and the city become a blur of rushing late night shoppers, and tenants running from their apartment buildings. Spinning back to the taxis, she watched as the drivers stepped out and started following the rest, across the road and underground.
"Miss?" One of the cabbies grabbed her arm. "Come, this way. It's probably another false alarm, but can't be too sure."
"What? What is happening?"
"You must be new here?" he smirked. "You one of those yanks?"
"Yeah, from… where are you from?"
"I live…away…out in the country."
"You don't have air raids?" he asked, looking up and down the street before stepping off the curb, pulling her along behind him.
"No." She tugged against him, making him yank her harder, as he nearly dragged her across the road.
"Well, we do here. Bloody hell, three this week alone."
"Air raid? I…I need to get back."
"What? You live in a fucking convent or something? Yeah, an air raid. Now get your arse down there and shut up."
Eileen stumbled down the steps, guided by men wearing arm- bands and funny hats, hard and round. Once at the bottom of the staircase she turned to run back up, when the taxi driver pushed her forward until he found a place next to the wall.
"Sit," he frowned, pointing to the dirty floor, "could last a few minutes or we may be here all night."
"I can't," she whined, putting her back to the wall and sliding down to the floor. "I'm going to a dance. I have to get ready."
"Dance?" he snorted. "Not around here you ain't. What school around here still has dances?"
"I didn't say it was a school dance." She pouted, folding her arms over her chest.
He laughed and slid down to sit next to her. "With that god awful uniform I'd guess you go to one of those catholic schools. Didn't think they approved of dances."
"It is a … a private school… you wouldn't have heard of it," she sighed. "Guess it doesn't matter anyway."
"There'll be another one," he said more kindly, seeing her face crumble.
"No, there won't be," she sniffed, running her sleeve over her face. "I won't be going back next year. This is my last one."
She looked up at him and shook her head, wondering if this Muggle would understand. "No, I…this is my last year…I have to get married."
"Oh," he said flatly, his eyes going to her stomach. "Your boyfriend, is he in the war?"
"I don't have one."
He snapped his eyes up to hers and grinned. "Sorry, I just assumed when you said you had to that…well you know."
"You know." He looked around uncomfortably and squirmed to sit up straighter. "I thought you had a bun in the oven."
"I said I had to get married, not that my folks were going to kill me," she spat.
Eileen looked up with the rest of people in the underground bunker as the sound of lumbering planes and retorts filled the air. She gasped as the ground around her shook, and tried to get to her feet, panicking, knowing they could be trapped, only to have him pull her back down.
"Whoa, girl," he laughed. "Its fine, nothing can get you down here." He put his hand on the top of her head, pushing it down until she was looking at him and not the cracked ceiling.
"Seems we are going to be stuck here a long time," he sighed as she whimpered and sucked in her lower lip, her eyes filling with tears. Gently pulling her up to his lap, he pushed her head down to his shoulder. "Now, I'll go first. My name is Tobias Snape. Yep, not a great name. I would guess yours is better, but we will get to that. Let me tell you about myself and then it's your turn."
She didn't hear the beginning of his story, fighting to hear the planes, learning the sound of sudden silence that came a few seconds before the earth trembled and the dust in the tunnel swirled up in clouds so thick she knew her clothes would be filthy. His voice didn't waiver, the only indication that he too could hear the pending explosion come closer was a gentle tightening of the hold he had on her. She tipped her head up and watched his profile, realizing that he was talking just to calm her.
After a time she relaxed and leaned on his chest, resting her head on his shoulder as her sobs diminished and she could listen to what he said. He had finished school, and tried to … to enlist… she was confused and filed that word in the back of her mind to look up later. His left eardrum had never healed, he told her, tipping his head down and grinning at her. So instead of…enlisting…he came here to drive until the regular cabbies came back from the war and the factory he normally worked at could be repaired.
"Good money in it," he nodded knowingly. "Studied the maps and I can get you from one end of this bloody hell hole to the next faster than any other cabbie out there. Get good tips I do. Now, it's your turn."
She sat up straight, feeling embarrassed at the realization that she had been sitting on a stranger's lap, crying into his neck. Others in the area were beginning to stand and walk toward the stairs. She blushed and slid off his lap, resting on her knees next to him.
"I'm Eileen, Eileen Prince."
"Fine name," he smirked. "It's nice to at least know the name of the girl I just spent the night with."
"Can we go out now?"
"Wait for the all clear," he nodded and stood up, brushing off his trousers, "any minute now."
"How bad do you think it is?"
"Not too, the factories are a ways out. I think they just toss one into us every once in a while to keep us on our toes. But...these? Nah…small ones they were."
"Mum's going to kill me," Eileen said as she jumped up. "I've been out all night and… she is going to kill me."
"We can find a phone."
"She…she doesn't have one."
"Anything close? When I call my mum I leave a message at the grocers."
"No, we…we are too far out," she bit her lip and pulled her jumper close. "I look a mess."
"Eileen, look around, so does everyone else," he said softly, frowning at her. "You really don't know about any of this, do you?"
She shook her head adamantly, feeling ready to cry again and turned away from him as a shrill siren started. Seeing everyone starting out, she ran up the stairs and into the street, knowing that this was the 'all clear' he had spoken of. She fell on her knees as the fresh air filled her lungs, and feeling her hands begin to shake was glad when Tobias squatted down next to her.
"Come on kid, it's over. You're safe now."
"Until my folks … yeah," she staggered to her feet and tried to smile at him. "Thank you, Mr. Snape. I need to…"
"Mr. Snape?" he laughed, full throated and deep. "I am not that much older than you. You make me sound like my father."
"I'm seventeen." She lifted her head proudly, feeling insulted that he should laugh at her. "Furthermore, we have not been properly introduced."
"Well…la-de-da," he sneered at her. "Kind of uppity now that you don't need me."
"I am not." She scowled at him.
"Seventeen, huh?" He stepped back, appraised her body, grinning as he walked around her. "Looks sixteen to me."
"I'll be seventeen next month," she stammered. "And what about you, Mr- you- are-too –uppity-for-me?"
"Never said you were too uppity, said you were kind-a-uppity. There's a difference you know."
"I asked you a question." She looked at him defiantly.
"Twenty-four, just about the right age for an almost seventeen. When you are seventeen we could try this again."
"Try what again?" She asked, confused at his words but not his smirk.
"Spending the night together," he said honestly, enjoying the look of shock and surprise on her face. "Seriously, you never did tell me your story."
"I have to get home." She turned to hurry away, hearing him call out to her that he would be at the same place every night until the bloody war ended. She heard his laughter, and wondered if she would have the nerve to come back.
She had been banished to her room, forbidden to go out for a full week when she had finally made it home. It was only at her mother's insistence that she'd had no choice but to stay until the all clear was given that the fighting and arguing had calmed down.
"After all," she had said, more then a hint of exasperation in her voice, "we couldn't very well have her Apparating in front of a bunch of Muggles."
Now, Eileen sat on the windowsill, her forehead pressed against the glass, wishing she was back in school and that she had never grown old enough to marry. She reached over to her desk and grabbed a piece of parchment, fanning her face with it as she leaned her head back against the window frame. The summer heat had settled over the city, refusing to leave even with the gentle breeze that moved the tree branches and rustled the bushes.
It wasn't that she didn't want to get married. She just wanted to find her own husband the way some of the girls at school did. Her mother had acted put out and asked her pointedly who else would want such an unlovely girl as she. Eileen turned back to the window and locked her eyes with the girl in the reflection, and wished that she were beautiful. Beautiful enough to turn a man's head and want me for more than my name, she thought, tipping her chin just enough to see her face in profile and sighed loudly.
"Because you are a Prince!" Her father's angry voice still echoed in her mind.
"Please? Just a year, give me a year to myself, please, Papa. At least give me the summer!"
"What in Merlin's name will change in a few months? He is willing to take you sight unseen and give you children, what more do you want?"
In the end he had relented, allowing a postponement until the holidays, forcing her to write her intended a letter, setting the new date and explaining that with the war raging in Germany she felt unsafe to travel such a distance. She had paced the floor anxiously waiting for the return post, glad and relieved when he had so easily agreed. She reread the missive, holding a small picture he had sent under the parchment, and judged that he wanted this no more than she did and would be enjoying his freedom as she planned to find hers.
She held his picture up to the light and studied his face and eyes. He was a large man, as old as her father, but his eyes seemed kinder, his smile…real. She suddenly thought of this large beefy man leaning over her in bed and gasped, dropping the picture and running downstairs.
"I have shopping to do," she muttered as she yanked her handbag off the hook by the back door.
"What do you need that for," her mother nodded to the handbag, her face growing hard. "I told you to stay away from the Muggle cities."
"I wanted to look at lace, all they have in Diagon is that old fashioned stuff…I want real lace for my wedding. I…I thought something from Germany may be fitting."
"With the war, there may not be anything worthwhile," he mother said, eyeing her suspiciously.
"I know…then I thought of sewing those little pearls across the bodice. Not real pearls, but they have tiny little beads that look the same. It shouldn't cost much."
Her mother nodded slowly, remembering the picture she had seen in a magazine. "Get extra, it will take more than you think."
"Sure," Eileen muttered as she headed to the door, wondering what time Tobias started work, or if he would have passengers and be unable to talk.
She waited by the queue, feeling the eyes of the other drivers watching her, knowing that some of them had been here the night of the air raid and had seen her in tears. She leaned against the wall of a near by building and waited until she saw him drive by and pull into the back of the line.
"Hey, Eileen," he shouted as he rolled down his window. "Over here."
She hugged her handbag to her chest and hurried to the curbside, bending over and peeking in the window at him. "Did you mean it? You know, when you said I should come see you?"
"Sure." He grinned at her and then reached across the front seat and opened the door. "Hop in. You can sit here 'til I'm up again."
She smiled widely and slid in next to him, sitting sideways to see him better. "So, Tobias, since we are on a first name basis you may call me Elle."
"Thought you would be an old married lady by now," he joked, quirking his eyebrow at her and grinning.
"I don't want to talk about that," she said firmly. "I want to tell you my story now. You said it would be my turn."
"Yeah," he said cautiously. "Just don't go telling me some shite. I don't play games."
"You know, don't go trying to impress me with how smart you are, or all the important people you know, or stuff like that." He turned his face from her and spat out the window, sitting up straight and turning to sit sideways as well. "If I want a bitch to tell me lies I can get one on any corner."
"I …" she stammered, and reached for the door handle, ready to leave.
"Hey, I didn't mean it that way. It's just since I came to the city…girls are … you know, different down here. They tell me what they think I want to hear and then put the hit on me."
"I…I don't understand," she sighed. "Maybe I should leave."
"The hit, you know, wanting me to buy them stuff."
"I don't want anything," she said softly. "Well, maybe … just a day out. You know, away from my folks. I just thought I would look you up."
"You are a strange one," he laughed, draping one arm over the back of the seat, digging out a pack of cigarettes with the other. "Fag?"
"No, no thank you." She watched him tap one out of the package, stick it between his teeth and then strike a match, using one hand, and take a deep drag.
"So, what did you have in mind?"
"I don't know…just…talk I guess."
"I get off work at seven. How about stopping for a drink or two?"
"As long as it isn't underground during an air raid I think I may like that," she said in a rush, glad that he was not sending her away. "I'm not much of a drinker."
"If I thought you were I wouldn't ask you out," he said evenly. "Now, run off, got to get back to work and there are a couple of fares up there."
"Sure," she said, opening the door and stepping out. "Should I meet you back here?"
"Yeah," he said, his eyes travelling down her body, "put on something nice."
She nodded and closed the door, watching the taxi pull forward and two businessmen in suits glance at her before jumping in the back, and then watched the black car pull away from the curb.
She had time to finish her shopping and to find a secluded place to transfigure her clothes. Feeling her neck begin to turn red, she stifled a grin as she thought of the tall, dark haired almost stranger that wanted to take her out for drinks.
Drinks, she thought, Merlin, now what? Suddenly feeling younger than her seventeen years, she started toward the shop, determined that she could do this.
She bought the beads she had come for, tucked them in her handbag and crossed the road to gaze at the summer frocks that were draped over slim bodied manikins in the shop's window. The heavy black drapes, pulled to the side, served as a reminder of what could happen in this world. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she glanced anxiously up to the sky, feeling exposed and alone, wondering if the sirens started…would he come.
In an act of bravery, so alien to her, she lifted her chin and pulled open the door. If she bought the dress she would always have it, even in Germany, married to a man that would not care, she would always have a reminder of this one day. Even at her cold winter wedding, she would have this.
Five months, she thought as she spun in front of the mirror, feeling the full skirt swirl and whisper against her bare legs, five months more.
"It is quite lovely on you," the sales lady smiled. "I would go a size smaller. You can get away with it you know."
"I wish I had stockings," she sighed, looking over her shoulder into the full-length mirror.
"Are you wearing it tonight?"
"Yes, I … I want to wear it out. You can put my old clothes in a bag, but… I'll try on the smaller one."
"Step up," she pointed to a chair, "let me paint on your stockings."
Eileen felt all grown up as she sauntered to the taxi queue, seeing Tobias leaning against the boot, talking to his replacement. Her breath caught as he saw her, and stood up straight, flicking his cigarette butt into the street and smirking at her. Running to meet her in the middle of the street, he took her arm and led her back to the curb.
"Wow," he whispered, leaning down to her ear. "Seems that little schoolgirl went home."
"You like it?"
"Yes, yes I do." He licked his lips and looked down the street, seeing a small pub and started pulling her toward it. "I was going to take you someplace else, but with you looking like this I don't think so."
She would later think of the walk to the pub, how her hand had been tucked into his elbow, how his eyes had flickered from the pavement to her, the gentle way he had squeezed her hand and the way his face had darkened in what she had assumed was desire.
In the coming years, when things got too much for her to handle, she would remember the way he had slid into the booth next to her, his hand under the table as he had stroked and kneaded her leg and repeatedly leaned down to kiss the outer shell of her ear. She would remember his smell, sweaty and sweet, smoky and harsh, and the way he had apologised for not taking time to shower and change before their date.
When she held an ice pack to her cheek, to take down the swelling from one more blow from his beefy hand, roughened and strengthened by his work in the mill, she would remember how he had tenderly carried her upstairs and had laid her down.
However, what she would remember the most, years later as she buried him in a pauper's grave, north of Spinner's End, was the way she had clung to him. Skin against skin, her nails digging into his back, crying out her love for him and the way he had only closed his eyes, lowered his head and had come to completion without repeating her words.