It was sunny on the countryside, the following afternoon, when Madeline and Sereth arrived at a little cottage on the outskirts of a tiny coastal community.
“The beach,” Sereth pointed across a large open prairie that seemed to stretch for miles where it finally met a cool aquamarine body of water.
“Yes baby,” Madeline said.
She silently wished that the beauty she saw surrounding them would extend beyond the door and into the tiny house, but she knew that was nothing more than a wistful hope that was soon dashed from her mind. She didn’t bother with dreams anymore, it was a waste of energy.
Realizing she could put it off no longer she reached out and rapped quickly. Hurried, shuffling footsteps could be heard on the other side of the paper-thin door. The door inched open and two huge, scared eyes set in a less than pretty face peered out from the small crack between them. An unidentifiable sigh echoed as the door swung open.
“Madeline, Sereth.” The woman was wearing a reluctant smile. Madeline didn’t mistake it for anything less than pure joy, for she had only seen the tired woman, worn well beyond her years, smile a handful of times in the past seven years that she had known her. When she did smile, though it looked reserved, it was always genuine.
“Eileen,” Madeline greeted her mother-in-law with some sort of mixed feelings that she couldn’t quite identify.
“Please, come in,” the frail, fragile woman said just as Sereth was wrapping his tiny arms around her leg. The same, wary, smile passed over her face as she bent and collected the little boy in her arms.
“Is Tobias home?” she asked peeking into the small living room as she stepped through the threshold of years of pain and toil. Madeline felt awkward in very few places, however this was one of those few places where she would have been happy to avoid if she could. She couldn’t bring herself to admire the shell that was Eileen Snape, the only thing left of the once cleaver witch was a broken old woman who was filled with her husband’s ridiculous notions about the world, which Eileen fought internally because she didn’t want to believe them. Madeline pitied her, beyond anything else.
“No,” Eileen said quietly, bowing her head, “I am expecting him later this afternoon. Oh my,” Eileen freed her hands from the grasp she had on Sereth and placed them, shocked, to her mouth. The smile again, Madeline thought surely the woman would die from happiness due to their visit. “I had no idea you and Severus planned another baby.” She eagerly reached for Madeline’s stomach, but recoiled and turned away before touching her, “I’m sorry.” She quivered.
Madeline’s brow furrowed and she sighed pitifully on Eileen. She reached out to her, “Eileen,” she took her by the shoulders and scooping her hand up she pressed it to her belly, “don’t be sorry. We’re family. Though I must admit Sev and I never planned children – we didn’t not plan them either, however I’ve been surprised, twice.”
At this Eileen put both hands on her, “Wonderful,” she whispered more to herself than anything, “Severus always wanted a girl.” Eileen looked at Madeline’s young face, into her eyes and said, “He loves you, dear.”
“Yes,” Madeline agreed to pacify her. She turned away, “I’ve come to ask about Sev…” she glanced over her shoulder, “When was the last that you heard from him?”
Eileen was still standing as she had been, with her hands extended to where Madeline was standing, but had since left. She thought for a moment, “Christmas I suppose. When I received your gift and letter.”
“You only received the items from the two of us?” Madeline asked.
“Yes,” Eileen said.
“The one sent by post, not owl?”
“That’s right. It is odd that I haven’t heard from him, he usually writes monthly. Yes,” she nodded as if surprised by this new fact, “The first of the month, I always hear from him.”
Severus had warned Madeline about sending owls to his parent’s house. Mr. Snape loathed owls and everything they stood for so for Christmas they always sent mail the Muggle way as to prevent any misunderstandings between the husband and wife.
“Please come in, sit. I’ll make some tea.” Eileen urged.
Again, to pacify her, Madeline agreed to a cup of tea. She settled Sereth in a seat at the kitchen table first, where he could barely see the table top. He seemed pleased just being allowed to sit at the table with his mother. She smiled, a trait she rarely exhibited as well, at him as she told him to place the napkin on his lap. He did so, but it fell to the ground. Madeline retrieved it for him several times as it reacted the same continuously. Finally she instructed him to sit all the way back. He laughed at the mini game they’d played until Eileen returned with the tea.
“He laughs,” Eileen mumbled, pleased; it was clearly a silent wish she had always harbored for her own son that never seemed to come to fruition. She placed a cup in front of Madeline, a bowl of steamy porridge in front of Sereth, and took another cup of tea to her seat with her. Just as Madeline was placing a sugar cube in the steaming liquid they all heard the door slam hard enough to rattle their teacups.
“Oh my,” Eileen said suddenly, in sheer terror. “Sereth!”
The little boy looked across the table to his grandmother (where he had been perched on several pillows, as his porridge was delivered, to reach is food). She moved to get to her feet but froze, as heavy footsteps thumped toward the dining room, and time seemed to elapse all that much faster.
“Eileen!” Came the thundering voice as the footsteps entered the room. All three heads turned to see a thick, mean looking aged man with long dark hair and a hooked nose.
“What the hell are you doing here? And where’s that good for nothing son of mine,” He boomed.
Madeline narrowed her eyes, and sipped her tea placidly, “It’s lovely to see you too Tobias.”
“Damn Yanks have no respect!” He growled just as he noticed young Sereth…in his seat. His face turned red and no words came as he launched himself, with no warning, at the very confused looking little boy.
Madeline tossed her teacup down and scrambled to her feet, while Eileen clapped her hands to the sides of her face as she was thrust several decades into the past…
Tears, a lot of tears. That’s what filled the house from the day Tobias Snape brought Eileen Prince, as his new wife, into it. There had been even more tear falls the day Eileen was told by a Muggle doctor that she would soon produce a child. She had wanted to be joyful, she had wanted to laugh and be excited, but she knew her husband and she knew the only reaction she would get from him was negative in nature.
He had fooled her, told her he loved her, before she knew his true nature. He became the dangerous Tobias who came barreling at her with vicious intent days after their union. Because she had little experience with being the recipient of male attention she had quickly fallen desperately in love with him the moment he spoke to her, regardless of his non magical upbringing. Her parents had arrogantly disowned her when she agreed to marry him.
His abusive nature didn’t stop with her; her baby, the thing she cherished most, became another focus of his rage. There was no indication of what made him so violent or any signal when he would break and, as with most abuse cases, when Tobias took his family out (a rare occasion indeed) they portrayed a perfect, well mannered, normal, household.
The day was a bright and sunny one, with golden rays filtering into the dining room bringing with them the salt spray smell of the ocean that was not so far off. Tiny six year old Severus was contented eating his porridge and Tobias was grumbling distastefully at the newspaper in his hand. Eileen stepped into the kitchen for a matter of seconds when she heard the sound of ceramic shattering and then a muffled thud. She dropped the rag she had just collected to start on the dishes and bolted for the next room over.
Severus was precariously hanging several inches off the ground by his father’s grasp, a nasty bloody nose seemed to be the result of the noise Eileen had heard.
“I told you NO!” Tobias shook the house with his shout. Eileen came around the table.
“Tobias please,” she begged, her eyes fixed on the small boy trembling with his tear filled eyes squeezed tightly shut anticipating another blow.
Severus fell to the floor in a crumpled heap and Tobias turned on her, “If I wanted anything from you…” he was so irate he didn’t finish his thought, but he brought hell’s fury down on her. Severus’s small whimpering cries couldn’t be distinguished over the violence taking place before him. He huddled himself in the corner and sobbed: all of this just because he asked to be allowed to go out and play in the warm spring day.
“NO!” Madeline dove for Tobias, but it was too late. Sereth had been hefted out of the chair and tossed like a rag doll across the room. She ran to her son, dropping all semblance of pride, and skidded on her knees next to him. The child had two large tears welling in either eye. She sat him up in the corner where he looked at her sadly, sitting absolutely still, making no sound what-so-ever.
Madeline climbed to her feet and swung on her father-in-law, “How dare you!” She growled lowly as she trembled with rage.
“Stupid boy shouldn’t have been in my chair! You damn Yanks think you can waltz in here and do whatever you like, whenever you like. Somebody’s got to teach you and if my son is too afraid or stupid to do it -”
“Severus is a good man and I would never stand for such injustices!” She raised her chin high, “No one should.” Reapplying her haughty attitude she looked down on him and lowered her voice dangerously, “You don’t deserve what you have you disgusting piece of filth!”
No sooner had the words left her mouth than she felt the world spinning and her face searing in hot pain. She could barely make out Sereth’s shout over the ringing in her ears. Sereth had climbed onto her and she wrapped her arms around him, picking him up with her as she got up from the ground.
“Good heavens, she’s pregnant Tobias,” Eileen managed to say barely above a whisper.
“It won’t be the first mistake Severus has made,” Tobias spat.
Madeline didn’t budge for a moment, she stood her ground holding her son while trying to regain her bearings. Her head felt like it had split wide open and the world was still spinning around her.
“You’re right, it won’t. I’m sorry Eileen,” she said glancing at the terrified woman then she looked to Tobias, “You’re lucky I’m not in a more dangerous mood myself.” And with that she turned and left the Snape house with no lingering regrets and no more than a second thought. She wished for a very brief moment that she had made Tobias understand the real meaning of pain, but she respected Severus more than that and she wanted no additional problems for Eileen. She ran the thought from her mind, she had no time to bother with the past, her next destination was far and she had to make it there with haste.
A/N: As always, thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think and that I'm not totally crazy for writing this tale. I’m having writer’s remorse for this story, haha. Chapter title borrowed from the song of the same title.
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