Title: A Return to Motherhood
Characters: Eileen Snape, the "lurking woman," and Severus
Beta Reader: arynwy and shiv5468
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Mentions of violence and the application of an abortifacient.
Summary: Blaming herself, Eileen turns time to make things right.
The house was quiet. I wasn't surprised. He was out celebrating with his mates, and I was too tired to do anything but sleep while I could. I know that I shouldn't have, but I tidied up some. I remember thinking that it was Tobias as had done it once I woke up. Foolish of me, I know, but at the time, it was all wishful thinking, wasn't it? The baby was sleeping next to me; I couldn't bring myself to touch him. Instead, I left some old Galleons in the drawer by his nappies. Funny, but I can remember finding them and knowing somehow that it wasn't Tobias who'd left them. I suppose that's why I spent them without fear.
I wanted to stay longer, but I didn't dare. Once was enough, and I was lucky this time. I won't go back.
I should get rid of it, I really should, but I can't. The temptation's too great. This time, Tobias was sleeping it off, his arm around me on the sofa, and Severus was sniffling. I gave him the drops and he quieted down nice and quick. I've always been so proud of my boy for never being as sick as some of the other girls' babies. His strength made up for his taking so much after me, I've always thought. I'm such a fool! And my boy was only ever as strong as I helped him to be.
Is that wrong?
Tonight, I held him. The stupid chit Tobias brought home to watch our boy while I was delivering the washing and he was up at the mill was sleeping over her books at the kitchen table, and Severus was crying. I changed him, washed him, and tucked him in after I held him. I can remember feeling so surprised, back then, when Tobias' choice turned out to be the right one. What a fool I was!
But I held my boy, and he smiled at me. That's all that matters now.
I can't do it again. He almost caught me. He sang to him while I stood behind the door. Sang. I don't even think he was pissed. He just stood there staring for the longest time, singing.
And when he placed his hand on our boy's forehead and whispered his love for him, I almost hexed him for a liar. If he hadn't have been crying over Severus, he would have heard my gasp.
I was lucky, this time.
Why am I doing this? Why can't I stop?
What if I stop, and something bad, something worse than what was, happens?
Severus is walking now, not that my useless bastard of a husband would know. Taking the bookworm against the back door—now I know I was right about her, don't I? Tobias, he was never faithful, I know that. Seeing them shouldn't have hurt, but it did. And my little walker, did he ever remember what he saw his da doing? If he did, he never said—not that he ever would have. My boy was never a great talker, was he?
Oh, gods, the visit. I'd forgotten about that. My mother treated me like a whore and threatened to take Severus. Tobias would have killed her for the suggestion if she'd not ruined every bit of our fragile peace by telling him about me, about his son. Damn her!
But now I know why Severus never cried. I was holding him during all the shouting. I was making him feel safe.
Damn her for never actually keeping him so.
He left me bloody and went tearing up the stairs after our boy. I had to do it, and I'm not sorry I did. I had to keep him away from Severus. He was so drunk, so enraged. If I'd left him to it, he might have killed our boy. Thank Merlin for Obliviation. Funny that he thought I was my own mother—lucky, that—but I have to stop now. I do. Severus is getting old enough to recognise me. He knows I'm not his mother, at least, I think he knows that.
Hells, I don't know what my boy knows, but it doesn't matter. I can't do it again. If I change things, make them worse than they were, how could I live with myself?
How the hell did I live with him?
It was fear, that's what. Fear made Tobias hate our boy more than anything. I never knew about the fags. I never knew Severus hid them. Tobias was furious, but he didn't expect a four-year-old to be able to fight back. Merlin help me, I almost laughed at his expression when the lamp flew across the room at his head. But the things he was screaming—no wonder Severus wouldn't come out from underneath his bed when I got home.
I should have helped myself when he turned his rage on me, but I just couldn't. I deserved it. I only wish my boy hadn't had to see it.
I wish I could make myself forget his crumpled, frightened face.
At least he had me to wipe his tears away.
I found the smiling day again, and this time, I picked him up and sang my own lullaby to the boy, not Tobias'. I should never visit on any other day. The way he smiles, well, that should be enough memory for any mother, shouldn't it be?
But if I hadn't been there when I wasn't, who knows what would have happened? I keep trying to remember the worst of it and going back on those days, making them the littlest bit better. How can that be wrong? I'm beyond foolish, I know, but I can't help myself. I worry about Severus so much it hurts.
She may have failed him, but I don't have to.
The house was quiet again, too quiet. It was a fighting night. He had a blackened eye, and she, I, I had bruises where they couldn't be seen, I could tell from how I came gingerly down the stairs. I should have checked on him, but I couldn't do it. It wasn't safe with me still awake. I barely made it out the back door before I saw myself enter the kitchen. Foolish. I know it.
I look so much uglier when I cry.
I've been afraid to go inside the house since the last visit, so this time, I followed Severus outside while he played. My magic's not yet so weak that I can't use the necessary concealment charms. Those awful boys, teasing him like that! And him, so much younger and smaller! Well, they'll remember those jinxes, won't they? Nasty little bastards. No better than their fathers, I know.
Perhaps next time he'll smile.
The neighbourhood brats think it's Severus as is making things happen. I shouldn't encourage them to believe it, but it's so hard to watch them pick on my boy. I remember Tobias telling him that it should matter, him being a "freak," that he should be able to use that to keep the bullies away. I suppose that's why Tobias didn't raise his hand to Severus after Mr McMurphy came 'round to complain about what Severus did to his boy.
Was that the only time the man was proud of Severus after he knew what he was? I remember feeling proud, so proud I started teaching him what to do, how to protect himself.
It really was my fault, wasn't it, Severus' interest in the Darker spells?
Oh, gods. I'm worse than a fool. I'm the "old witch" we always wondered about, the "lurking woman," as Tobias called her. That can't be good, can it be? But there was a lurker, wasn't there? Just some lonely old woman who stood up for my boy? It's just a coincidence, my being there when she wasn't, that's all.
No. No, I'm wrong. It could have been me all along. I won't go back, not to any time he's old enough to know what's what. No, I'll keep myself to his infancy, this, I vow.
He's so sweet, all clean and fed and cuddled. And his smile—I can't honestly say I remember it now as it was, only as I've made it be, but I don't care. My cuddles made him feel safe, not hers.
Well, that didn't take long, did it? I shouldn't have gone back, not to when Severus might know me, but it was lucky I did go. All that shouting in the kitchen! It's a wonder Tobias didn't beat Nancy for her news, but I suppose the man always did go to work when he had it. Once he was on his way to the factory after his dinner break, it was easy enough to slip the herbs into her tea.
No whore's going to steal my husband from me and mine, and that's a fact.
Tobias could barely ever manage one child as it was.
This time, I left as soon as I arrived. I just couldn't bear to see the two of them all cozy like that. Funny, I never even let myself wonder just why Tobias came over all sweet after Nancy went away. How could I have been so forgiving?
I disgust myself. I'm not going back.
I continue to lie to myself even now, even so sick, but there aren't drops for this, and I miss him, my brave little man. I'm proud of him, too. He can see through his father's lies now. He knows better than to trust him.
Why he continues to trust her is beyond me.
Damnation! I left my reading glasses somewhere, but I can't remember when. Thinking on it, I don't have a clear recollection of ever buying them.
Why did she confront Mr McMurphy? Now his boy and his hateful little friends won't give Severus a moment's peace! And it was settled, too! The neighbourhood bullies weren't really even troubling him anymore, and Severus never would have hexed that little shite if she'd just let well enough alone! All that self-righteous indignation—who the hell does she think she is? Stick to your washing and cringing, you useless bitch! Leave my boy alone!
His smile is mine, not hers. How could he smile at her like that?
And what's Tobias going to do when he discovers that Severus has been fighting with the foreman's son again?
I wish I could remember quite what happened there. It's getting harder to think on things clearly. Perhaps I won't go back. I'm not sure what I can do for him now.
It's not right, her showing him her old spell books.
Does she truly think one good scare will do it? Can't she see that Tobias will be back as soon as he sobers up? Or worse, he'll come back drunk and angry and out for blood. I know he will. I remember him doing it.
When this foolishness started, I told myself that the Arithmancy bore out my not doing any harm. I never stay long, and back home, back now, it's all the same. My boy's still gone. History's still the same. I'm still alone. I'm not going back.
He's got work again, and she's fawning all over the man as if he were a hero no matter his treatment of Severus. If she could see the way my boy looks at her now she'd cower in shame. No wonder he won't come home until threatened with the belt. And does she even know about the girl? Severus wags after her like a pup. She's just a girl, just a ginger-haired brat. What's so special about her?
This time, Severus wasn't anywhere I could find him, but she was home, wasn't she? She was home scrubbing the blood off the floor without first seeing to her own damned wounds, the stupid woman!
Why did we fight? Was it over the Hogwarts letter? Yes, I believe it was. Tobias was angry about the cost of Severus' schooling. I think he may even have threatened to harm him, threatened to break his wand hand so he couldn't go, the bastard!
And the blood, I'd forgotten about all the blood. It was horrible to see it again, and I know I shouldn't have helped her when she passed out, but I couldn't have had Severus come home to such a sight.
This is getting to be too hard. I'm never going back.
I can't remember the smiling day. I keep finding the day he sings. That bastard has no right to touch our boy like that, all false tenderness and sickening pride. I would have hexed him if I'd had the strength.
His little friend was with him today, and he was laughing. Laughing. I liked seeing him laugh, even though it hurt. I never made him laugh much, did I?
This time, I saw her, the old witch! She was following my boy and his friend. She didn't look a thing like me, so I suppose I'm safe on that score, aren't I? All bent and gnarled. I never saw much of her, but I remember her, now. I remember her scaring away the bullies from time to time. I remember my boy talking about her.
Now it's only Lily as is on his mind. Through the kitchen window, I can hear him talking of a night to his mam about her, rambling on about magic and Hogwarts and Lily. He's sure they'll be Sorted the same. He's desperate for it, too. And how does she react, the ungrateful woman? She snaps at him not to get his hopes up! What kind of a mother does that to her boy? Why won't she let him have his hope?
I've been a fool, trying to help him with a cuddle here, a Galleon there, an abject, useless fool! Why didn't I go back to the beginning and change everything? Why am I only thinking of it now when I'm too feeble?
I should talk to her, remind her of the Time-Turner, make her do it! But no, I can't, can I? Eileen would never listen to me. She was always so sure that Tobias loved her, loved their boy, no matter how Tobias behaved. She would tell me not to meddle, to go away, but I just can't. Severus has to go to school, and I know Tobias has drunk up and gambled away all the washing money.
I've got to go back, just the once, just to hide the money where she'll find it. She can tell him that the fees are included, and he'll relent and allow Severus to go. That is what she told him, anyway, isn't it?
I don't remember his having been awake the night of the Hogwarts fight, but there he was, sitting in the kitchen as if he were waiting for me, demanding to know who I was. I kept my hood up and told him his mam had asked me to come 'round and look in on him. What else could I have done? I had to stay long enough to hide the Galleons.
"You're lying," he said. "Mam doesn't like people coming here."
"She'd like it less if she knew you were showing such disrespect to an elder, boy," I told him. "Now go to bed."
"You're not my mother. You can't tell me to go to bed!"
Merlin help me, I drew my wand on him. "I can tell you whatever I like, boy. Now. Do. As. You're. Told."
There was more than sharpness in my tone, and my words compelled him to rise—but he spoke again before leaving me.
"You can't come back. I'm a big boy now. I don't need your help. Don't come back. You said yourself messing with time was wrong. You said, so I know it's true."
Oh, Severus. Ten isn't a big boy. And I'm going back, just the once, just to give you a final cuddle. You never had enough of those, my little love.
Her fault, that was.