Disclaimer: Not mine.
The Bed She Made
When Eileen lost the first baby, her little boy, she had stayed in bed a week, not wanting to get up, wondering what it would be like to die. Her mother had refused to come and had written a letter saying that Eileen deserved what she got, that she had asked for it and brought it on herself by turning her back on her family and heritage. Tobias didn't know what to do. He had fixed cold ham sandwiches and hot tea, set them on the nightstand and had gone to sleep on the couch.
In the mornings, as she had lain in bed, listening to the noises in the kitchen, knew he was getting ready for work and dreaded the day to come. Rolling to face the wall, she had waited for him to come and tell her good bye before leaving. Not wanting to see him, afraid of his caustic tongue and that he would put the blame on her as her mother had. Hearing the front door open, and then the sharp slam as it closed behind him, she had cried because he had not.
A month later, Parson Rivers had come from the church and told her it was her wifely duty to get on with life, to put her trust in God and not to question His decision. She had watched his back as he had walked down the pavement and wanted to throw a hex at him, finding him pompous and overbearing.
Eileen had kept her secret. Hiding her wand on the top shelf of the cupboard, afraid that if her husband discovered her secret, things would get much worse. As if things were not bad enough, she had thought. He had only been able to grab a day's work at the time, sometimes going as far as the docks. They had spoken of the mill reopening, how he would make enough to support them when it did, and enough to move from this god damned place.
At first, before they had married, she had planned to tell him. Then, when her parents had thrown her out for refusing a forced marriage, she had run to him, having no place else to go, no one else that would accept her. He had taken her in, promising that things would work out, and she had pushed the conversation to the back of her mind only anxious to please him. When they moved to a flat north of the city, she had been confused and lost. Not knowing the shops, how to ride on the buses, how to keep house, she had tried to broach the subject, tired to tell him who and what she was, not to give an excuse for her lack of knowledge, but to give an explanation. He laughed at her, and told her if she wanted to learn magic tricks to do her work first, to learn how to be a 'real' woman and to stop her foolishness.
He had scoffed at her years later when she tried to broach the subject again. Told her if she wanted to act like a fool, she could go right ahead. She could dress in black and go live with the beatniks and street people in London. He laughed whenever there was a show on the telle about the Wicca celebrations on All Hallows Eve, and asked her why she had ever been so stupid as to think all that tripe was real. That was when she knew she would have to wait, to wait until things got better and he didn't feel the pressure of making ends meet to convince him of the true extent f the magic.
She couldn't explain it, not when he called her a stupid bint, or a worthless cow that was never satisfied. Not when he had been disgusted at her displays of levitation and Accios and told her if the neighbours ever found out he would make sure she never left the house again. He had thrown all her clothes, all but two dresses, in the bin and told her to keep her arse home. He laughed at her when she said she would leave, that she could find a job and support herself. Eileen knew he was right, even as she had cried that he was wrong. She could never make her own way in this world and was unwanted in hers.
When they got into the council housing at Spinner's End, with a promise of a steady income, she had spent the night in tears instead of the happiness she had thought the move would bring. He had used her with no thought to kindness that first night, no thought to what she needed, only turned her over and ordered her on her knees. She had fought against him, pleading with him to love her, not to treat her as he did and had earned an open-handed slap for her trouble. More and more often he would come home drunk and take her roughly, grunting and pushing into her then rolling over and falling asleep without even cleaning himself, and demanding she lay still and shut up.
At the beginning, she would comb her hair, letting it ride loose on her shoulders, wanting him to see the girl she had been. Every day she would see his sneer as he walked in the door and looked at their shabby existence. She knew he blamed her. Blamed her when she could not to do the simplest of jobs to bring in a few extra pounds or even keep the house the way he wanted.
The second baby would have been a girl. The midwife had spirited its lifeless body away before she saw its face. Tobias had looked at her, disgusted that she could not even carry a child to term before heading down to Sloans for a round of drinks and the compassionate companionship of his friends, leaving her home alone. After that, she almost gave up hope that their lives would ever improve.
It was years later, when she received the letter in the daily post. She opened it with her hands shaking, casting glances out the window to make sure Tobias was not walking home from the bus stop and read about her parents death, the bills they left and her merge inheritance. An old cherry wood sideboard arrived in a lorry later that week. The old flatbed made enough noise to alert the whole neighbourhood and had the other wives craning their heads and gossiping like old fishmongers. She had run her hand over its smooth worn surface and remembered how it had sat in the dinning room laden with food and could only push it against the wall, knowing she would never have friends and family gathered around it as her mother had.
Tobias had laughed when he came home, tired and worn out from working in the mill all day. He had walked around the sideboard shaking his head and scolding her for putting on airs and how much room it took up in the already too small house. Eileen begged him to let it stay, and finally won a victory when she sobbed out the fact that she carried their third child. A child that was born uneventfully one cold spring night while Tobias sat with a full tankard down at Sloans, to drunk to walk home on his own when news came that the baby had lived.
He had been proud at first. So proud that he was likely to sit on the step just to watch the youngster in the carriage as Eileen pushed him up and down the pavements, claiming that the fresh air would help him sleep. So proud that he bragged when his son took his first step, when he leaned to feed himself and when he said his first word. Proud enough to sit at the kitchen table at teatime, with his son in a highchair, and eat as a family. Proud enough not to yell at her about the condition of the house and to take her tenderly to bed.
Eileen had thought now they were a family at last and happily looked forward to each day. Her joy lasted only a few months when one night as they sat eating in the kitchen, a dish skittered off the table and broke on the floor. Eileen was quick to point out the spilled gravy, the slick surface, the uneven table legs, as she got down on her hands and knees and began to clean up the mess. Her breath came in ragged gasps as she fought back her tears, her hands shaking so badly she could hardly hold the scrub brush.
"It's a fucking dish." He had glowered at her, disgusted to see tears over a chipped bowl. "Take care of the boy, he needs to eat." He turned back to see his son peer over the edge of the highchair's plastic tray at his mother, a spoon in each hand and a pout on his lips. "Bitch, get your arse up here and feed him."
"As soon as I'm done," she snipped. "You want to slip on this mess?"
He leaned down far enough to fist her hair, drag up her head and backhand her. "You talk to me like that again and I'll show you who runs this house."
"Not in front of the boy," she had cried and twisted away, feeling his hand tighten in her hair as he roughly dragged her up and pushed her back into the counter.
He lifted his hand to strike her, his fingers clenched in anger, when the table they had been sitting at moments before tipped over, the uneaten tea and broken shards of china and glass mixing on the floor.
"What the fuck?" he said, releasing her and turning to survey the damage, giving her enough time to push past him and yank the child up into her arms.
"You touch him…you touch him and I'll kill you," she hissed.
"Fucking freaks," he spat and turned on his heel, climbing the stairs to their bedroom and yanking open the cupboard door screaming obscenities.
She had followed him, pleading with him not to do what she knew he would. Pleaded with him not to snap her wand and throw in into the bin. Begged him to understand and let her show him what she could do. He had known she had a wand, had known she used it for her parlour tricks of levitation and Accio, but now…now he knew it was so much more. She held the boy on her hip with one arm, grabbing his hand with the other, trying to bat the hatbox out of his hand. Pleading, begging, promising, her voice hitching with sobs when he pushed her to the floor, she could only wrap her arms around the boy and cry.
After that he didn't speak of his son, didn't tell stories down at Sloans or bring the boy sweets hidden in his pocket to be pulled out and given amongst squeals and laughter. After that day in the kitchen, she would fed the boy before his father came home, and put him in his room hoping he would play with his stuffed animals and not cry.
When the boy was old enough to spend the day in school and Tobias had taken the night shift at the mill, she was relieved that she could be up and out of the house, doing the marketing or some errand, before he came home. She would put a plate back on the warmer and hurry out before he arrived, wanting to spend as little time as possible with him. On occasion he would wait for her, furious that she was not home to perform her wifely duties and smack her face, pushing her up the stairs ahead of him.
It wasn't long after the episode in the kitchen when he stopped giving her money, doing the marketing himself, refusing her even a few coin for her pocket or money for the household. She held her chin high as she walked down to the church and picked up a sack of clothes for the needy when the boy had outgrown what he had. She would tug the ill fitting clothing over his head, smile thinly and send him off to school, knowing that the other kids would tease him but unable to do anything to stop it.
When the boy was eight, Eileen waited until Tobias fell into a drunken stupor, dug his wallet out of his pocket and took what money he had. Rushing to the train station, they had almost made it to London before Tobias woke, furious to find them gone. He reported her to the police, and claimed her an unfit mother, mental unbalanced and prone to self mutilation as evidenced by her many trips to the local clinic, himself as the long suffering husband and father. That was the last time she dared to run, that was when she knew he could kill his son to keep his control over her.
The boy would sit on the floor and hunch over day old newspapers and old magazines his mother gave him instead of toys and games that she had no money for and his father would not buy. Sometimes he would cut out the pictures and put them under his bed, later arranging them in order of some story he had learned.
Eileen cut scrapes of paper and drew pictures on them. Then sitting on the black and white chequered kitchen floor, she taught him to play chess, all the while telling him stories of witches and warlocks and great feats of magic. Soon she began attaching names to the pieces, real names that he would some day know. She taught him the importance of never being the pawn and the hidden strength of the knight. She taught him to control the ranks and files, to always watch the diagonals, but never...never to take his eyes off the Queen and no matter the cost, to protect the King.
When he was ten, she went with him and the other students on a school trip to the Tower of London. Seizing her chance, she hurried to Diagon Alley, entering through the Leaky Cauldron and all but ran into Knockturn Alley. Here, she remembered, they sold used books, old and tattered, unlike the fine leather bindings of Diagon. The shopkeeper shrugged and accepted her Muggle money and handed over two books from the bottom shelf.
She taught her son secretly, taught him the old pronunciation of Latin, telling him he would not be using the new corrupted dialect taught in his school. She taught him how to hold a wand, and proper manners, how not to speak with his fathers slurred inflections, and the way to hold his head, high and proud. By the time his Hogwarts letter came, she could only hope he was strong enough.
"Severus," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed and stroked his brow, "I'll tell him, don't worry. But you have to stand up to him when he says no. I'll be right there, but you have to do it. If you start crying and run off he'll win."
"He'll be mad." The boy lay still, as if his very movement in the bed would start his father's anger.
"It's okay, don't you go worrying. We have to leave at nine to catch the train. I'll wait until breakfast to tell him, he won't have time to do much about it." She smiled at him thinly. "The important thing is that you do this. You do this and don't you ever come back."
"But, Mum, the hols and…"
"Oh, now…I didn't mean that, I mean when you are all grown and big." She smiled and pulled the covers up to his chin, tucking him in and kissing him on the top of his head. "It's a grand place you are going. You just be careful, you know how your Dad is. There's lots like him, people that don't like magic, people who will hold it against you that your father is…different."
"Mum? Who will help you? You know, when Dad gets mad?"
"Don't you worry about me," she gently chided him, "you just worry about your grades and show them that a Prince, even a half-blood Prince is just as good as them."
The next few years she watched as her son grew and her husband became older, tried and worn down from his work in the mill. She thought of the Healers, that all he needed was a potion, a quick trip to her world, a touch of magic. Sometimes in the mornings she would sit across the table from him and sip her tea, thinking back to the first time he had leaned down to kiss her ear and wondered what had gone so terribly wrong. Then, he would push his plate away, and scowl at her before he left for work and all the years of open hand slaps and closed fisted hits would crash down on her.
Her son came home less and less, until his last year in school when he politely told her he would be spending the hols with a friend and that his summer was already planned. She had been proud of him the last time he had come home, seeing the way he turned his back and walked away from Tobias, no longer cringing as his father threw out venomous words at his back. She had smiled and cupped his cheek in her hand, nodding her understanding as he had swept out of the back door, walking away and not coming back.