Title: That Story that They Only Tell Each Other
Age-Range Category: One
Characters: Eileen, Severus, Tobias, Original Female Character
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): For implied abusive behaviour and active haggary.
Summary: Audreth Deathsoother was a working hag.
"—and now to return to our story, Audreth Deathsoother was a hag who did just as her name suggests."
"But hags don't have magic, Mam. Everyone knows that!"
"Boy, what 'everyone' knows is enough to get them all killed. Now listen."
Severus settled down in his mother's lap and did as he was told.
Eileen thought about smiling but did not. "Audreth was, as hags go, quite pretty—which is to say that she was plain and had only the one mole."
"One mole," Severus sleepily repeated.
"And in that one mole," continued Eileen, "were all her secrets contained."
A slight snore met her ears.
When he didn't reply, Eileen almost did smile; it had taken most of her energy and all of her creativity to wear the boy out, he being as indefatigable as any seven-year-old.
"All right, then. To bed with you," she murmured, tucking him in on the hearth.
Tobias had yet to repair the leaking roof in Severus' room; Eileen supposed he'd get around to dealing with it, eventually.
"When the pub burns down . . . ."
"Was Da angry," said Severus, "about the fire?"
"Not by the time I saw him. Your father had managed to save a few bottles by that point."
"You mean he was drunk!"
Eileen sighed. "What did we last discuss?"
"Not to mention when Da drinks?"
"No, no, about the hag."
"Audrey Deathsoother?" Severus asked.
"'Audreth'," corrected Eileen.
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
Severus swallowed. "One mole. Why was that important?"
Eileen raised her eyebrows and sat back, pushing her share of oatmeal in Severus' direction. "You're a smart boy. Eat that and think. Why is it interesting that a hag should have only the one mole?"
Severus didn't reply until he'd wiped the bowl clean with his finger; Eileen didn't chide him for that.
"Er, hags are ugly, everybo—most people know that."
"'Most people' are idiotic dunderheads," retorted Eileen. "And?"
Severus bit his lip. "'And' what?"
"And what else does a one-moled hag suggest to you?"
"Well, you said she was a pretty hag. That's good for being around real people, but—"
"Severus!" interrupted Eileen. "Hags are entirely real, no matter if they're plain or not."
"I s'pose, Mam, but I bet it's no good for them to be plain-pretty around other hags. Bet, er, bet they get teased."
Eileen's chest tightened to see Severus' face redden. In as gentle a tone as she could manage, she rasped, "Most people are idiotic dunderheads, boy. Don't forget it."
"I won't, Mam."
"Right then," Eileen continued, "we've established that Audreth Deathsoother had only the one mole and was considered plain by people. And you rightly assumed that being so thought of did her no favours with hags, but do you remember what I told you about her one mole?"
Severus shook his head.
"'In that one mole were all her secrets contained'. Now what do you think I meant by that?"
"I don't want you to think I'm a dunderhead, Mam."
"I'm teaching. You're learning. You. Are. Not. A. Dunderhead."
Severus smiled, and it made Eileen want to do the same, but she did not.
"I don't know, yet, what it means. Would you tell me?"
"I will, Severus. It's a clue," said Eileen. "How could a mole contain anything but more mole?"
"Was it a magical mole?"
Eileen clapped her hands together. "Well reasoned, boy."
"But how can a mole be magical?"
Eileen leaned over the table. "Because Audreth Deathsoother's greatest secret was that she was, in fact, pretty. She had no true moles at all!"
"She played a trick! She had a trick mole!"
Pleased by how well things were going, Eileen allowed herself an inward smile.
"So what did she keep in it, Mam?" Severus asked, as he passed up pieces of broken crockery to Eileen.
Neither of them spoke of Tobias' "mood."
"Books, things of haggery—she'd pull that mole off her face and pull it open to take out whatever she needed."
Severus frowned and knit his brow.
"Yes, I know. Hags don't have magic," acknowledged Eileen, "at least, that's what the ill-informed would say."
"You mean the idiotic dunderheads?"
"I do," Eileen replied.
"Did she buy it?" Severus asked. "The mole, I mean?"
Eileen held up a hand. "Watch."
The broken pieces floated up out of the dustbin and began to reestablish themselves as a bowl.
Severus clapped. "That's good, Mam!"
"Too bad we can't restore the soup."
"That was sou—"
"Thank you for the soup," Severus said quickly. "But where'd she get a magical mole, anyway?"
"That's a story for another day. Off to bed with you."
"Could I sleep down here? Da didn't, I mean, it's raining, and—"
Eileen waved a hand, and Severus fell silent. She could fix a bowl; Tobias would assume glue. Fixing a leaking roof, well, that was man's work, and even though her man was terrible at most forms of it, it wouldn't do for she and the boy to appear ungrateful.
"You could do it, Mam. He'd just think he did it while he was drunk."
"That's sneaksome of you, boy, but well reasoned just the same. Well done." Eileen held out her hand to Severus and led him upstairs.
"I don't know how Audreth Deathsoother came by her magical mole, Severus, but I do find it curious that you have not asked me the most obvious question about Deathsoother, herself."
"You mean how she got her creepy name?"
Eileen bit her lip to keep from chuckling. "No, I mean why would a hag go to the trouble of affixing a magical mole to her face."
"Ooo!" exclaimed Severus. "That is a good question! Why?"
"Wizard space is convenient."
"Mam, that's not enough of a reason."
"Well, being pretty is problematical for a hag, as we've discussed."
"Then why," demanded Severus, "wouldn't she have stuck loads of fake moles on her face?"
"Vanity, I suppose."
"Does that mean she wanted to be pretty?" Severus asked.
"It does. Well done, you and your thinking cap."
Severus sniffed and asked, "Why'd Audreth have only the one mole for her secrets?"
"Wipe your nose," Eileen told him. "She didn't have that many secrets, at least, none that were hers alone. Audreth Deathsoother was a working hag."
Eileen saw Severus' wide, frightened eyes as she threw herself in front of him. "Tobias, no! He's just a bo—"
Tobias' blow sent her into a bookcase, and she fell, attempting to shield Severus from the books that fell with her.
"That's it, woman! That's enough! I'll ki—"
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"Not a word, either of you!" hissed Tobias, rushing towards the door. "What is it, you old busybody?"
"I'm neither old nor a busybody, you rude man. I come from the factory with your back pay, but if you can't deal with a body politely, then—"
"Back pay?!" Tobias thundered. "Er, that is, what? What money?"
The unfamiliar female voice that Eileen hadn't looked to hear that night continued. "That's right. You're Tobias Snape?"
"Yes, yes, I am!"
"Well then, I've your back pay. I'm going 'round to all the sacked workers to pay them tonight. Do you want your money or not?"
"Of course I do!"
"Then do let me in."
"Er, well, couldn't you just pay me here?"
The woman's voice grew nasty and impatient. "I'll not be opening an envelope of money in the cold open, man. Let me in—and send your poor wife and son to the kitchen."
"Don't you tell—"
"The police?" interrupted the woman.
"Now you see here," Tobias began.
"Mr. Snape, I don't care what your familial issues are. I have business to conduct. You will allow me to conduct it, or you will receive nothing. Is that clear?"
Eileen heard soft footfalls enter the room, and looked up to see the slight figure of a tidily dressed, "plain-pretty" woman with a mole staring down at her. Without looking at him, she knew that Severus could see her, too.
"Audreth Deathsoother, at your service."
Twitching her fingers to send Severus to sleep, Eileen mouthed, Thank you, as she watched the hag reach up to tug off her one mole.
And whatever Tobias was saying as he entered the room was smothered along with the rest of him as that small lump of flesh smacked into his own face.
It fascinated Eileen to see how it stretched and rippled and enveloped the entirety of her husband, whose eyes—wide, dark, and terrified—were the last things she saw of the man she had married.
"What an effective sleeping spell," Deathsoother murmured. She picked up her misshapen mole from the carpet. "Do you cast it often?"
Pain radiating throughout her back, Eileen shook her head. "He's a good boy. I try not to use magic on him at all."
"If I had any true magic and children," Deathsoother remarked, reaching down to help Eileen up, "I'd use it all the time."
"Thank you for, for coming. I've the agreed upon fee in, in, er, the kitchen."
"Don't fret, girl. He didn't feel a thing."
"He should have—that would have been only fair, I think—but he didn't."
Eileen nodded and moved as if towards the kitchen.
"Oh, no. Use your magic."
Wringing her hands, Eileen said, "But I can't. Your fee, I—"
Deathsoother glared at her. "You really are a stupid girl, aren't you? Siphoning off your magic to pay a hag? And needing one in order to get rid of a bag of bones and spite such as your husband. If I'd known you were this kind of weak, I'd've—"
"Stop it!" interrupted Eileen. "Just stop it! I did what I did for him!" she shouted, pointing at Severus. "I wanted him to grow up in peace!"
"And so he will," replied Deathsoother. "So he will, in 'relative peace'." And with those words, the hag threw back her head and cackled.
"Is Da feeling better today?"
Eileen swallowed as she followed her son's eyes to where Tobias sat, slumped in his chair, as if deeply asleep. "Your da is on the mend. Let's allow him his rest, shall we?"
Nodding, Severus said, "Could we finish the story, then?"
"About Audreth Deathsoother. She was a working hag?"
"Yes, she is, er, was. She's a good story, don't you think?"
"But I still don't know what her job is, Mam."
"Since your da isn't well, you eat his share of the oatmeal, all right?" Eileen moved from the stove to the table. "I added a few berries to it."
"And some cinnamon!"
"You're welcome, Severus."
"Thank you," he replied, dutifully.
"You dreamed about Audreth Deathsoother, didn't you?" Eileen asked.
"She didn't look scary, in my dream, I mean. She felt scary, though."
"What job do you think she had? Reason it out," instructed Eileen.
Severus didn't say anything at first but looked towards Tobias. "She makes bad daddies behave," he whispered. "She takes away their shouts and smacks."
"And where do those awful things go?"
"Into her one mole," Severus said, matter of factly.
"Very good," Eileen told him. "Now eat. You don't want that to get cold."
Severus picked up his spoon but didn't use it. "Mam?"
"The hag . . . ."
"Yes?" prompted Eileen.
"She's . . . she's just a story, now, right, Mam? One we only tell each other?"
Eileen reached for Severus' hand. "You're a very smart boy, and I'm proud of you—but let's never tell that story again, all right?"
"All right. Let's not." And with that, Severus tucked into his oatmeal in earnest.
In relief, all Eileen could do was smile.