This was written in response to Pipperstorms 'Blue Christmas' challenge on the forums, and as an attempt to try to break the writers block that has been preventing me from uploading the next chapter of 'Joining the Bloodlines'. Fingers crossed it's done the trick.
(Just a quick note for anyone who doesn't know Niamh (pronounced Neeve) it's a traditional irish girls name.)
He couldn’t help but wonder where exactly it had all gone wrong, how it was he came to be here, alone propping up the bar of the Leaky Cauldron on this of all days. He caught sight of his watch as he raised the glass to his lips with an unsteady hand; Christmas Eve, 8.02. This time last year he was tucking her into bed, kissing her goodnight, listening to a sleepy ‘I love you, Daddy,’ as he got up to leave. How could it possibly have gone so wrong, and fallen apart so very quickly?
When he thought about it, really thought about it the process hadn’t been so quick. Last Christmas, the last Christmas, as it turned out hadn’t been so perfect.
He remembered getting in late from work Christmas eve; cramming his mouth full of peppermint gum on the way, trying to mask the unmistakable stench of the firewhiskey still fresh on his breath. He’d lifted his daughter into his arms, and met her mother’s gaze as he mounted the stairs and he could tell that she knew. This time there were no tears, there was no shouting, just a silent look that screamed ‘How could you?’
She’d been waiting for him in the kitchen when he came back downstairs, sitting at the table, and wringing her hands as if unable to sit still. He stopped in the doorway just watching her, hating himself for doing this to her.
“You’ve been drinking,” she stated, no hint of a question in the words.
“I know,” he answered softly, unable to meet her gaze. “Some of the guys from work…”
“Don’t,” she cut him off, quietly but with finality to her tone. He knew in that instant that an excuse wouldn’t wash anymore. “I don’t want to hear it.”
There was silence for several moments. Unable to look at her he allowed his eyes to wander over her shoulder to the sink; there on the draining-board stood the half-empty bottle he’d hidden in the study the night before. She’d found it. She knew now how bad it had gotten. He knew there was no more denying it, he had a problem, and if he didn’t get some help soon he was going to lose them.
“You promised me, Seamus.” She whispered her eyes brimming with unshed tears. This time it was she, who couldn’t meet his gaze, staring blindly down at her hands. She couldn’t even bare to look at him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered “I won’t do it again.”
At this she smiled wryly, and finally met his eyes. It was an expression he hoped he’d never see again, a dry condescension that spoke only of how she pitied him.
“Yes you will.” She whispered, rising from her seat and pushing past him out of the kitchen. “You can sleep down here tonight.”
He reached for the glass before him, draining the last of the amber liquid before motioning to the barman.
“Double, no ice.” He stated not even looking up.
“You sure about that son?” he asked, reaching for the bottle behind him “It’s Christmas eve, haven’t you got a home to go to?”
He scoffed wryly as he raised the glass to his lips, downing the liquid in one before slamming it loudly back to the bar, flinching at the burning sensation in his throat
“No,” he answered coldly, motioning to it again. “Another.”
He remembered the day she’d come home to find him passed out on the bathroom floor, their four year old daughter playing unaware in the next room. He remembered how she’d filled the cup on the sink with cold water and then slowly, deliberately, poured it over his face. He remembered her expression as he came too. The hatred he’d seen in her eyes as she stared down at him.
“You’re supposed to be looking after Niamh,” he could hear in her voice the barley controlled anger. She was trying not to shout. She didn’t want to frighten their child.
He struggled against the nausea rising in his throat, the thumping in his head, the swimming of his vision, to pull himself up. Managing only feebly to pull himself to a seated position before slumping against the bath. “Sorry,” he whispered wondering why he bothered, knowing it would merely make he more angry. “Sorry?” she asked “Sorry?! What if something had happened? What if she’d gotten hold of a wand? What if she’d fallen down the stairs or swallowed something and choked while you were lying in here in a pool of your vomit?!” She was shouting now, and for just a moment he was convinced she was going to throw the glass that was still in her hand at him.
“Our daughter could be dying in the next room and you wouldn’t even know!” She slammed the glass back down onto the sink and turned and headed for the door.
She paused, her hand on the doorknob, she turned and asked almost calmly. “What would you do? Married to a man you can’t even trust to be alone with your child.”
It had started during the war. The night his father had been murdered at the hands of Gregory Goyle, he’d taken that bottle of firewhiskey up to the study, and drained it in under an hour. He’d done it because he could think of no other way to forget. The next night he’d done the same, and the next and the next. He kept telling himself that it was just to get him through the day, just until it didn’t hurt anymore, just until he could stop hating himself for not having been there.
As the months rolled on, he’d found himself finding excuses to have a drink during the day; a job interview, it was just one glass for Dutch courage, a lunch meeting, it was only sociable.
It was slow, but steady. But he hadn’t really seen it coming. It was only after Niamh came along and the pressure to step up and be a good Dad and to support his wife, that he began to think that maybe he had a problem. It was only when he found that he hadn’t been home to bath and put her to bed in over a month, because he simply couldn’t walk past that pub on the way home from work, that he knew something was really wrong.
But he felt powerless to stop it.
Maybe he didn’t want to enough, and that frightened the hell out of him. Because he had known, from almost the very beginning that he would lose them.
He remembered the bags lining the hallway when he stepped through the door. He knew the second he saw them that finally it had come. It was over, and they were leaving. He remembered walking into the kitchen, and seeing her sitting at the table, her eyes bloodshot but otherwise calm and reserved.
Unsure of what to do he took a seat opposite her and waited for it, for what he now knew was inevitable. For a long time, neither of them said anything. He didn’t know what was left to say. Six years and it had come to this; he couldn’t even beg her to stay.
“Niamh’s at my Mum’s,’ she began, her tone slow and determined. “I didn’t want her to see this.”
“No,” he’d whispered softly.
“I’m sorry Seamus,” she reached over and placed her hand over his, he smiled as he realised that it was probably the first time she’d deliberately touched him in weeks. “I just can’t do this anymore.”
She rose from her chair and immediately he missed her touch. His skin called out to her, but he knew it was too late. They were suddenly so very far apart.
“Where are you going?” he asked softly.
She turned to him shrugging her arms into her coat.
“I’m not sure. My Mum’s for a few days until I sort out something more permanent,” she fiddled with the last of her buttons “I promise I’ll let you know where we are.”
“Are you moving in with him?” he asked softly. He had thought that he’d feel at least a little anger when he finally confronted her, but now? The most he could muster was a quiet acceptance; he’d hardly been a husband these last few months.
She sighed sadly, raising her fingertips to her temples obviously unaware that he had known. All this time, he had known.
“I don’t know,” she whispered “maybe.”
She reached over and squeezed his shoulder, he raised his hand to cover hers, gripping tightly to her knuckles as if hoping to just cling on to her for just a few moments longer.
And then she was gone.
“Another” he said, again slamming the glass to the bar.
“I think you’ve had enough,” The barman said kindly.
“I said another!” He repeated angrily.
The barman’s face changed instantly, from concern to anger.
“This is my bar. I say you’ve had enough,” he reached over and took the empty glass away from him “you’ve had enough.”
Sighing in resignation he threw a handful of Galleons onto the bar and rose uneasily to his feet. Pulling his jacket around himself he looked at his watch; 10.42. His wife, and that man; they’d be putting his daughters Christmas presents under the tree now. They’d be getting ready for their first Christmas as a family, and here he was, being kicked out of a bar, alone, and drunk.
“Merry Christmas” the barman called as he turned towards the door.
“Is it?” He asked bracing himself for walking out into the sobering December wind.
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