Title: Fall From Grace
Category: One (1- to 10-years-old)
Characters: Eileen, Toby, Severus and a host of others
Beta Reader: schemingreader
Word Count: 5537
Author's Note: I've stuck as close to canon as I could for this, but I wanted to explore what was happening outside of what we see in canon.
Summary: Severus has eleven birthdays before he goes to Hogwarts.
Eileen looked around the room, not seeing the shabby corners but the bright hope and love in each hand-painted item. Toby had been the right choice, even if it meant giving up her family. She had a new family now.
Her hand curved protectively over the swell of her belly. "We'll take care of you," she whispered, "and all of your brothers and sisters." A heavy step behind her was all the warning she got before strong arms wrapped entirely around her. She started, then leaned back into her Toby's strong chest.
"Feeling broody?" His voice rumbled over her head, the teasing tone in his voice belied by the gentle way his big hands stroked circles around her belly button.
"I was just promising her that we'll be good parents." She tipped her head up and smirked into his face.
He smirked back, and just before leaning in for a kiss, he said, "Him. You're promising him."
They both stilled as her belly tightened. "Was that a ..." he asked, eyes wide. She gasped and nodded.
"I'd better get the doctor," he said. Her laugh stopped him halfway to the door.
"Not yet, Toby," she said. "That was only the first one. They'll get stronger and there'll be more."
Several hours later, she was clinging desperately to his hand. The contractions had sped up more quickly than she'd anticipated, and they'd barely made it to the Muggle hospital before her water broke. Eileen clutched her wand under the thin blankets, trying to whisper the pain relief spells under her breath, for the first time wishing they could have afforded to be on the Floo network. When she looked into Toby's worried eyes, though, and remembered the way they'd been treated the one time she'd tried to bring him to Diagon Alley, she dismissed the thought of St Mungo's from her mind. Muggles had been dealing with birth for as long as Wizards – surely they could do as good a job.
Toby watched his wife's face contract, her lips move with the spell, and wished again that he could be part of the world she'd come from. He loved to hear her tell stories about growing up in a Wizarding home. His siblings and schoolmates had teased him when he still believed in fairies and magical beings long after most of the boys had turned to footie and the girls had settled on make up. Meeting Eileen, knowing that the things he'd dreamed of for so long were real had filled him with wonder. When she'd agreed to step out with him, and later to marry him, he'd nearly not believed it.
His family hadn't taken to her, but he knew that his mother wouldn't be able to resist any grandchildren.
Seeing Eileen in pain on the bed in front of him had never been in any of the happy fantasies he'd spun of his new family. His panic grew as the labor went on until he was shoved aside, the doctors and nurses yelling incomprehensible things to each other. All he could make out was "... bleeding out..." and "Clamp that. I said, clamp it!" Above all the chaos and noise, he heard his Eileen's low voice keening in pain.
Suddenly there was a moment of total silence, broken by the sharp wail of a new baby. Toby staggered backwards, his desperate joy fading in the face of the following rush of chaos around his wife. He watched from the doorway where he'd been shoved, out of the way, as his baby – their baby – was summarily wrapped and stuck into a nearby basket. The nurse who'd held the baby barely looked at it – her eyes were entirely absorbed with the spectacle on the hospital bed. Then her eyes met his and she shut the door in his face, her distracted "Just wait there." echoing in the hospital corridor.
Toby never told anyone what regrets he had, what desperate promises he made in those bleak hours. He just knew, when he was allowed back into the room to see his wife and child, that nothing else mattered but them.
Eileen was pale and fragile, the baby a fabric covered bundle in the cot next the bed. Her hand was stretched out over the baby's chest, shadowy against the blinding white sheets. When he shut the door behind him, her eyes opened.
"I'm sorry," she said, her voice thick with the drugs they'd given her for pain.
Toby felt his eyes burn. "Oh Eileen," he said, bending over the bed and sliding a tentative hand under her shoulders. "He's beautiful."
Toby stood in the shop, looking at the different toys. He wanted to get his son something to help him learn. He was already so bright; Toby was pleased he was taking after Eileen. His boy wouldn't be stuck in the mill or working at some dead-end job.
"Can I help you, sir?" A girl who looked like she was just out of school had come up to him while he was thinking. "Are you looking for something special?"
Eileen stirred the cake with her wand, standing so that Severus, on her hip, couldn't reach into the bowl. He was always very curious, and could be counted on to scoot his way over to anything left on the floor near him. Everything inevitably made its way into his mouth, which had been almost disastrous the one time he'd managed to get hold of Eileen's wand.
With a smile, she dipped her finger in the batter and let him have a taste. His hands waved wildly and he made enthusiastic noises. "Oh, you like that, do you?"
"Are you spoiling my son's dinner?" Toby's low voice came from behind her and Eileen spun around, already laughing.
"No. I'm teaching him about cake." Severus was reaching for his Da, so she handed him over, smiling to see Toby dangle him upside down over his shoulder. "I thought we'd have gammon and peas and potatoes for supper, with cake after." He nodded, then tipped Severus upright and propped him on his hip.
"Sounds nice." He watched her for a minute; he loved watching her, dark and small and quick about his house. She had the gammon roast already tucked into the pan. She turned the knob on the oven and pushed the gammon in. She grunted as she shoved at the oven door. "I'll fix that," he said, knowing he'd get distracted by something and forget.
"You'll forget," she said, echoing his thoughts. Her smile made her words less sharp. "I'll just Reparo it."
He glanced away, not wanting her to see how much he still wished he could do things, magical things, as easily as she did. "I'll put this big boy down for his nap. He'll want to be up for his party."
She watched him go, knowing how much he wanted to be magical. This divide was the only thing she ever regretted about marrying a Muggle. Well, that and the disaster that had been Severus' birth. She knew that she couldn't possibly regret the loss of their future more than Toby did himself.
He'd spent months pulling her out of bleak depression after Severus was born and they'd found out just how badly things had gone.
She gritted her teeth and took three deliberate deep breaths. She would not think about that now. Today was for good things. Today was for their one and only child. At least it had made her mother-in-law less hostile.
Eileen turned to the small counter and set the knife to chopping the potatoes. Toby's family was coming that evening for Severus' first birthday, so she was making more food than usual. She wanted to show his mother that she was trying, that the bad times were over.
She stretched to reach the heavy pot she wanted for the potatoes, the one that never seemed to scorch. Sometimes she'd look at it and wonder if there weren't magic far back in Toby's family, if he hadn't come from a squib somewhere along the way.
Toby stood in the hall, watching her. He'd seen her face change and knew she'd been thinking about last year. He still felt himself rock with fury that the doctors had been so incompetent, but... well, he had an exceptionally bright son, and a wife he loved. He knew that things could have been so much worse. He couldn't bear to think what his life would be without Eileen in it.
Moving slowly and softly so she wouldn't hear, he snuck up behind her and waited. When she'd paused for a moment, he slipped his arms around her, cupping one hand under her breast. She jumped and half screamed, then relaxed against him, chuckling.
"So, he's down for at least two hours and it looks like supper's got a while to cook. How'd you like to come upstairs and see my ... etchings, little girl?"
Her little hand snaked between them and cupped him. "Little girl? I'm not interested in little."
That evening, when his mother wouldn't stop asking if Severus was crawling yet and if she was sure the house was clean enough, she thought of the way his hands made her feel, the way his smile warmed her, and smiled brightly.
Toby sat her on his knee after they'd put Severus back down for the night, clutching his stuffed bear. His mam hadn't left for an hour after the boy's bedtime and he could see that she'd been picking at Eileen while he'd been outside talking to his brothers. He didn't know how to get his mam to stop; he'd almost decided to talk to his brothers about it, but he wasn't sure they could do anything. Maybe his da would be able to help.
At least Severus had liked the model of an aeroplane he'd gotten from the little shop.
Severus stood, fingers wound deeply into his mam's skirt, watching as his da and grandda wrestled his new bed up the stairs. He was a big boy now and didn't have to sleep in the crib any more. Above him, he heard his mam talking to his grandma. He didn't know what they were saying, but he didn't like the way his mam sounded unhappy.
He tugged at her skirt. "Mam," he said, holding up the arm that wasn't buried in her skirt. She turned to him and smiled.
"Want to come up here, Severus?" Her hands were strong on his body as she swung him up high, then down onto her hip.
"You spoil that boy," Toby's mother said, watching the dark girl she still didn't like tuck her grandson's hair behind his ears. "And why won't you cut his hair?" She didn't understand what her youngest son saw in this strange girl. He had always been interested in normal, Yorkshire girls before, but something about this girl seemed to have bewitched him.
The one time she'd accused him of being bewitched, though, he'd laughed long and loudly and cheerfully agreed. When she'd heard, last year, that something had gone wrong with the birth, her first thought had horrified herself. She didn't actually wish her daughter-in-law dead. She didn't.
She just wished she knew what it was about the girl that set her teeth on edge.
At least the girl seemed to love her Toby back, and the unhappiness she'd shown about not being able to have more babies had seemed real. And, really, Mrs Snape thought to herself, Severus was a fine boy, even if Eileen had insisted on that strange name for him.
She held out her hands to the boy and smiled when he reached for her. Eileen looked over her shoulder from the pot of turnips she was boiling and unlooped her arm from under the boy. "Take him," she said, "just be careful. He'll want to taste your earrings."
Mrs Snape held Severus out for a minute, then put him down on the floor. "You're a big boy now, aren't you?" He nodded gravely, and wound his fingers in hers. "Would you like to see what your Da is doing?"
Eileen watched them leave the kitchen, her mother-in-law's tall form bent slightly to hold Severus' hand, and sighed. At least Toby's mother never seemed to point her distain at Severus. That mattered.
She turned back to the stove, regretting that she hadn't gotten more cooking done before the family had come. She hated doing things the slow Muggle way, but she didn't think Toby's mum would be pleased to know she was a witch. Toby had told her, laughing, about the time his mother had accused him of being bewitched. Eileen knew that the love potions she and the other girls in her year had made in Third Year would have done a perfectly good job.
She didn't like to think about how her friend Ruballa had gotten her first two boyfriends. The girl had been well known in the Slytherin dorms for using potions to attract the boys she wanted. She'd been married twice already – Eileen was sure that the husbands' deaths were as inevitable as the seasons changing.
Eileen prided herself on not doing something underhanded like that. Just because she was a Slytherin didn't mean she had to cheat; it just meant she had to be able to know how and to know when it was being used against her. And how to deal with it when it happened.
The Eve's Pudding was in the oven, so she went to go find her husband.
She found him outside with his brothers, deep in conversation about footie, of course. Sometimes she wished she could show his oldest brother Quidditch - she and Toby were sure he'd like it. They'd been talking about letting more of his family know about her, but they hadn't come to any clear conclusions.
"Did your mum come out here? She said she was going to bring Severus to see you." Toby looked startled and shook his head. "No, she didn't. I wonder where she went." He started to stand up, but Joseph, his father stood up.
"I'll go," he said. He smiled at Eileen and she smiled back, knowing that this was what her husband would look like in thirty years. She couldn't wait.
They found Severus and his grandma upstairs in his bedroom, where the little boy had fallen asleep on her lap as she read him the story of Rupert the bear and his adventures. Severus' own bear, called Beary, was tucked under his arm and his hand was twined around her arm. As Eileen stepped into the room, Mrs Snape looked up, her eyes misty.
"His da liked this story as well," she said softly. Eileen smiled and gently lifted Severus up. "I'll just set him down in his cot. Why don't you come down for a cup of tea?"
Toby wanted to get Severus the big toy aeroplane he wanted for his birthday, but with the money he was losing by not crossing the strike line, he didn't know if he could afford it. Just, he didn't want his son to be disappointed in anything, and the little boy wanted this 'plane so much. He'd seen how Severus stared at the plane in the shop window every time his mam took him shopping.
Eileen wanted to get him something smaller, but she was the one who'd been trying to make their budget stretch to feeding them all when he was off work. He saw her struggling, he saw the way she'd linger over the larger cuts of meat and the nicer veg. He knew she was shopping in the local Fine Fare instead of the nicer shop across the town, but at least they had food, unlike some of his fellow mill workers.
He turned away from the shop. He couldn't do it. He knew Severus would be disappointed, but he couldn't make his beloved wife's life harder by spending the money.
Eileen saw him come into the house, his shoulders rounded and his head down. She knew he'd gone out intending to get the plane, even though they couldn't afford it. She stared down into the small pot of stew and wished she had taken more NEWTS. Maybe there was something she could do for them.
She cast a stasis spell over the stew and stepped in front of Toby, who was trying to slink through the front room.
"I can try to get a job," she said. "I know we wanted me to stay home while Severus isn't in school yet, but I could find something."
Toby snarled, "You can't. There's no jobs downtown. The damned owners have told all the business to stop hiring worker's wives."
She smiled. "I'm a witch. You and those stupid Muggle men can't tell me not to." At his slight gasp, she nodded. "There's a small apothecary on Sidwell Street that might take me. I'll have to have your mum take Severus, but they might be interested in having me help with something. It's worth a try."
He leaned into her, wrapping his arms around her, enjoying the way she fit so well into his chest. Her head was the perfect height to rest his chin on. He hated the thought of her working; he resented that he wasn't enough for her, but he knew that they needed something to help them make it through this strike. So far it had gone on much longer than any of the damned union leaders had said it would.
She felt him nod, his chin poking her. The relief she felt made her sag. He'd let her help. She'd been so afraid that he'd let his stupid honor get in the way.
"Go and get the plane," she said, hugging him tighter, not wanting to let him go immediately. "I know it's a lot, but we'll figure something out."
Mrs Snape sat at the table in the window of the front room of her son's house and watched Eileen and Severus.
Eileen sat on the low couch, Severus before her, his hands on her knees, looking earnestly up at her.
He was trying to get his mother to let him have his birthday cake before they ate supper. Eileen had been distracting the boy with other subjects, asking him what he'd done when he stayed with his grandma, asking him to show her how he'd learned to count on his fingers, trying to get him to tell her what time they expected his da home.
She didn't like to admit it, but maybe her son had made the right choice, even though the girl wasn't what anyone in the family had expected.
There was a sound at the door – laughter preceeded her husband and youngest son into the room. As Mrs Snape watched, her daughter-in-law and grandson's faces lit up; she glanced up at Toby's face and had to look away from the answering look on his face.
Maybe Toby had done well. Perhaps.
"That'll be five sickles." Eileen turned to wrap the old witch's purchase in an two day old copy of The Prophet, then paused, her eye caught by a headline. Quickly stuffing that sheet under the counter, she hastily rolled the next sheet around the dried gillyweed and handed it to the witch. "I'll get your change"
Once the store was empty, Eileen pulled the sheet out and read the headline over.
STRANGE DEATHS IN WARWICKSHIRE
The bodies of a family were found in their home
outside Dudley, a medium sized Muggle town.
There is no cause of death, but there was a
strange sigil floating over the house. (For more
about the family, turn to page 15)
The photograph was grainy and small, but Eileen could clearly make out the outline of a skull, with something dangling from its mouth. Her face contracted and she crumpled the paper into a ball, dropping it onto the stone floor. "Incindio," she whispered, shivering a little with horror from what she knew was beginning to happen. She only hoped she could keep it away from her little family.
Toby watched from the door. He knew there was something going on in her world, something bad she wasn't telling him about. He wished she thought he was strong enough to handle it, but he knew she'd tell him, eventually.
He rapped his knuckles on the door jamb. "Come with me, little girl?" Seeing her hide her worry from him upset him, but the smile she ended with was the same one he'd fallen in love with.
"Oh no," she said, turning to get her bag from the back of the shop. "I've got a date with a younger man."
He laughed. "You do, do you? I'd like to see this younger lad of yours."
Eileen laced her fingers with his as they walked down the street to pick Severus up from the Muggle day school they'd let him start. She'd protect her family – she was a Slytherin, wasn't she?
Severus didn't know why his grandma was so angry at his mam. It wasn't her fault that Grandda had died, so he didn't understand why Grandma had said so. He missed his Grandda too, but he knew that his mam had tried everything she could to help him.
He'd even been allowed to help – Mam had let him chop the billywig stings and had praised him, telling him that they were exactly the right size. The potion they'd made had been right, but it just hadn't been enough.
Mam and Da had sat with him and talked a lot at him about death and what it meant to die. He knew that his mam's family was different – Wizarding – and that Da's family wasn't, but he hadn't known that meant that his da would die before his mam. From the look on his da's face, he wasn't sure Da had really thought about it that way.
It was his birthday today. He hadn't known if they were going to have a party – Grandda had died just a week ago. When he came home from school, though, there was a small cake on the counter.
Downstairs in the basement, Eileen heard Severus shut the front door when he came home. She sighed and set aside the ingredients she was working on. Upstairs, she saw him looking at the cake.
"Don't even think about eating any of that before you eat your supper, young man." She laughed at his guilty jump, then sighed. "I'm sorry, pet. I know things haven't been all right for the past few weeks. We all miss your grandda."
Severus nodded, not sure he wanted another conversation about dying. "I got a book at the library. Can I go read it until supper?"
Eileen nodded, wondering what had happened to her little boy. "I'll call you when it's time. Would you like a snack for while you're reading?" She gathered some chocolate biscuits and a glass of milk and put them on a tray. "I'll come up with you and get you settled in, yeah?"
Once up in his room, she didn't want to leave. His room was small, but they'd kept the bright paint on the walls and the winter sun made the room the brightest in the house. He settled in quickly, tucked under a small blanket and a warming charm. After a long moment, she kissed the top of his head and went back down into the basement. She had to finish making the rest of the week's order for the apothecary.
Toby sat in the kitchen, watching Severus do his sums. The boy was bright, but Toby wasn't sure that he wanted to see his only son go into the Wizarding world. Eileen had finally told him what was going on there, what she'd been so worried about, and Toby wasn't sure he wanted his boy to go someplace where he'd be hated simply because of what kind of people his parents were. Or, in Severus' case, one of his parents, but Toby didn't care about fine distinctions like that.
Only, and he didn't like to admit this to himself, there wasn't much hope the boy could do much in the Muggle world either. He was clearly very strong, magically, and he loved making potions with his mam. He'd have to get training. He could maybe go on to uni after he was finished with the Wizarding school, but from what Eileen said her classes had been like, Severus wouldn't learn much of use in the Muggle world.
He heard Eileen come in through the front door. She'd been working late at the apothecary for the past two months to try to make up some of the income they'd lost when he was made redundant at the mill, but money was tighter then it had ever been. He watched her – even when she looked tired and unhappy, she was beautiful to him. She dropped her bag on the couch, then caught his eye and smiled, tiredly.
"Ready for supper?" Her voice was tired as well. Next to him, Severus glanced up at him, eyes dancing slightly.
"We've been ready for an hour, woman," Toby said, voice sounding a bit strangled.
Eileen sighed. She'd hoped that she could rest for a few minutes after coming in; her boss at work had made her stay after closing to discuss the news and she left the shop trying to hide tears. Maybe she could make something small for supper. It was Severus' birthday, and she'd made the cake the night before but she didn't know if she could stand to do much more cooking today.
In the kitchen, she saw three pots in the sink and her largest tureen on the counter. There were strange splotches on the floor and there seemed to be a handprint on the wall. Wonderingly, she lifted the top of the tureen.
"We made stew for supper!" Severus was standing on his chair, beaming at her. Behind him, Toby smiled, eyes hopeful.
She started to laugh; all the stress and unhappiness of the day fell away. "I'm sure it's delicious. Thank you! You made a birthday gift for me."
That night, after Severus ate too much cake and unwrapped the one present they'd been able to buy for him, a book about Muggle fighter jets, Eileen and Toby sat together on the couch in the sitting room.
"About my brother," Toby started—
"Don't," Eileen said. "I don't know why he and your mam stopped liking me when your da died, but it's all right. I'm just sorry Sev had to see it."
Toby wrapped an arm around her. "He's a fine, strong lad. He'll survive."
Toby wasn't sure how he'd become the gardener. Eileen had been making potions for the shop for years, but she'd always bought supplies from other places. She'd convinced him that they could make more money if they grew some of the plants she'd need.
He washed his hands, scrubbing hard under the nails. He'd just have time to get to the Home to visit his mam with Severus before Eileen came home. She'd want to know how his mam was doing, even if the old woman still hated her.
Severus came in and dropped his bag at the kitchen table. "I don't want to go see Grandma," he said, not looking at his da. He hated the way the place smelled, and he hated having to hide the awful things she said about his mam. She'd gone once, when they'd first had Grandma put in the Home; some of the words Grandma had used then still could make him feel dirty.
His da sighed. "I know, Severus, but she loves you and you should go see her. She's your family."
Severus didn't say what he was thinking, that if she was what family was like, he didn't want one. Sullenly, he followed his father out of the house and down to the bus stop.
Over birthday supper, Eileen asked how the visit had gone. She knew it hadn't gone well when her two men had come home; Severus had been particularly stroppy, and Toby had asked her if there were any potions or spells for someone who was losing their memory. The disappointed look on his face had made her feel smaller than an ant.
The bus ride there seemed to have gone well, though; Severus had seen a new park being built nearby, with a play structure and swings. Maybe he could make some Muggle friends there, she hoped.
Severus liked working in the garden with his da. He liked the feeling of the dirt in his hands, he liked the way the plants were direct – they grew more when he treated them better. They didn't lie or change their minds. Plus, he liked knowing that he was making potions with his mam and using the plants he helped grow.
He'd come home early from school today to get his gardening chores done before they had supper. He was looking forward to cake for pudding – his mam always made sure his birthday cake was special.
Something was odd, when he got inside, though. He trotted upstairs to change into the mismatched and ugly clothes he used to garden in, and was halfway out the back door when he realised how quiet the house was. With a small shrug, he started weeding. His mam must be doing something down in the basement. He'd see her when he was done here.
A little while later, he heard something odd. There was a sound coming from the house – it sounded like yelling. He knew that his parents didn't always get along, but they didn't usually yell at each other, the way his schoolmate Geldon's parents did. He crept up to the back door and cracked it open to see if he could hear anything.
He pulled back quickly, suddenly furious. He couldn't believe his da would say things like that to his mam – he'd always said he liked magic and that it was a good thing. How could he say things that were mean, the way Grandma always said?
Severus dropped the trowel he was holding and ran for the safety of the little park he'd been hiding in. That pretty girl might be there – maybe he'd be able to talk to her today. Although, no one at home liked him, so why would she?
Toby stopped yelling, hearing his words echo in the house. In front of him, Eileen stood, her face stony.
"Eileen, I didn't mean it. Please," he staggered against the wall, "please, I'm so sorry. Mam died this morning and I couldn't get to you and …" His head fell to his chest and he put his hands to his face, surprised to find it wet with tears. "I'm so sorry."
He heard Eileen sigh deeply, then he felt the warmth of her arms around him. "Oh Toby." She ran her fingers into his hair at the base of his neck and began to rub his scalp. "I'm so sorry. I had to go to Diagon for work. The girls at the shop said you'd been by, but I thought you'd just stopped in for lunch."
Severus didn't understand, that night at supper, how his mam could ever forgive his da for saying those awful things. He knew he'd never forgive him, but at least the pretty girl had liked him. Her name was as pretty as she was, "Lily," he whispered to himself, that evening after he'd gone to bed. "Lily."
Severus spent the whole day worrying that Lily would listen to her awful sister and stop talking to him. He snuck out of school and went to their park – she'd said she'd sneak out of her school and meet him there at noon. It was quarter past now, and he was sure she wasn't coming, that she hated him like everyone else did.
Suddenly, he heard her voice. He waited to see what she'd do when she didn't see him right away.
"Severus?" She sounded like she was coming closer. "Sev? I thought…" her voice trailed off. She sounded sad. He felt a rush of joy that she was sad he wasn't there, and came out from behind the bush he'd been using to hide.
"I'm right here," he said. She grinned at him and he felt as if he'd been given his cake and all the aeroplanes in the world as a present.
"Come on, Sev," she said, grabbing his hand. "Let's go down to the river and see what we can find."
He got home late that day and dropped his dirty trousers into the washing basket in the bathroom. He knew his mam would ask how he'd got so dirty, but he didn't have to tell her.
He'd been right. Cake that night was nothing like as perfect as Lily's smile had been.