Chapter 1 : Solitary Glass
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In the recesses of her mind, she always knew that they were meant to say goodbye. He could not have loved her better. He gave more, and she gave the most. The rancid odor of his love corrodes her sense of smell. The mint he chews intoxicates her into a false fairytale. Eileen Snape, dying from the poison, remembers the taste of the mints on her tongue. The black curtains shade the sunrays from her drooping eyelids.
“Tobias,” Eileen rasps.
From a far, darkened corner of the faded bedroom, Tobias emerges. The graying hair upon his shoulders hides their sagging, the evidence of his defeat. He limps over to the bed, the fraying quilt sending up a film of dust as he settles down heavily. Eileen coughs as the dust encompasses her face, its ashy color bringing out the green of her eyes.
Grasping his wife’s withering hand, Tobias whispers, “Eileen.”
“I…I’m leaving you.”
Tobias’s grip tightens upon Eileen’s hand and she winces. Tobias hates this feeling of despair. He is not a wizard, he cannot cure Eileen. The patter of his heart quickens and he fears he will die at her bedside. Tobias mentally scolds himself; he must think only of his wife, for he matters not in this case. Where once was love, love is no more. Love is for the living and Eileen is dying. Tobias loves her with all of his heart, but it is not enough to keep her alive. He feels bereft of his pride and his strength. Years ago, he would have had the ability to save her. Tobias believes he could have scoured the earth and saved his love. It is not enough.
Through gritted teeth, she says quietly, “You must not hurt him.”
“I will see that he dies, Eileen! Look what he has done to you.”
“Tobias, he is our son. He…”
Turning to face the windows, Eileen motions to Tobias. Knowing exactly what she wants, Tobias rises and shuffles to the curtains, pulling them back. The evening sun colors the room with dying rays and sighs as it moves behind the apple tree in the yard. Eileen’s little mouth crunches into a half-hearted grin, memories of the good days flowing like the Nile. Eileen has never seen the Nile. Now in her last minutes, she wants to see the Nile. To bath in its waters, clean or not. Tobias comes back to his ailing wife and stops to finger the stained blanket hanging on the headboard.
“Remember the day he was born?” Tobias says as he snatches his gaze away.
“Always. Would….you…hand me the…blanket?”
Tobias carefully handles the baby blanket, little faded cauldrons and wands adorning it. He remembers his son, bloody and crying, settled in his arms. Eileen watches as her husband strolls through times long past and wonders where the time has been swept away to. She wonders if she should have loved Severus more. He has poisoned her and it despairs at her soul. She had held Severus with a love no one could compete with. Eileen yearns with a curious wonderment if Severus was actually her child. Did she really birth him? Tobias places the blanket upon Eileen’s lap and admires the stains of life.
“I’m glad you never cleaned that, Eileen.”
Eileen turns to simply stare into Tobias’s brown eyes. She sees so little in those eyes. They no longer reflect excitement for a new day, only weariness. The two of them, they had been a pair. Heads had turned in wild abandon as they had slithered past. Eileen and Tobias stare at each other; their thoughts are separate and free. The two worn lovers peer softly as recollections slide down the bridges of their noses and tumble into the fabric of the quilt.
“Lay beside me, Tobias. Just hold me.”
Moving back the quilt, Tobias slips into the tiny bed. He huddles to his wife and strokes her jaw. Long, silky hair is matted and greasy. He ponders the idea of carrying her out of bed and washing her. Tobias knows that his Eileen is not strong enough for a journey to the bathroom. He wants to giggle as he notices the hairline scar upon Eileen’s forehead. Severus had been ill that day, unhappy with his peas. Strong as an ox, he had flung the spoon at his mother’s head, slicing it open. Tobias had been reading his newspaper in the living room when Eileen had screamed and began to laugh. Such a naughty child, yet Tobias had always loved him.
“Would you like a glass of water, Eileen?”
Tobias buries his face into the pillow, awaiting an answer. No answer slips past her lips. “My love?”
“No!” Tobias shouts. He will go to hell before he allows his son to sit beside his wife’s deathbed. He wants to make his wife’s life last a bit longer. Prolong the bringer of sorrow, and be happy for a moment more.
“Please,” Eileen cries as her face contorts into a mass of tears.
Tobias is without words. How will he face his son without murdering him? How will he love him if he has to look at him? Tobias knows he will do it for his Eileen, his vanishing love. “Okay.”
Tobias knows the place where Severus will be hiding. Severus is sure to be at the park. Limping as fast as he can, the aging father hurries along. The houses crumble around the man as he goes for his son. The park, though close to home, is kilometers away. For every hello there is a goodbye and Tobias craves to say goodbye to his wife. Should she disappear before he arrives home, he won’t catch her. In her last moments, the tide will sweep salt water into her face and smother her. Without him, Eileen will die a lonely, sad death. Tobias sweats as the last of the sun beats down on his brow. He is tiring quickly just as Eileen is fading fast. And there, as he rounds the corner of the street, Severus swings like a child on the set. His black cloak billows out behind him, suffocating the happiness. The happiness that was once a centerpiece of their family is now riding on the back of a beetle into the sands beneath Severus’s feet. Fear bites Tobias’s skin as he stands before his son.
“Severus, your mother is about to die. She wants you.”
“If I wanted her, I would have not poisoned her, Father,” Severus snaps.
“You have killed her, now say goodbye. Go now!”
Severus jumps up and strides over to Tobias, who is bent over with exhaustion. “Hold on, we are using magic.”
The son apparates to his former home and dumps his father on the floor at his feet. Using the kitchen table as leverage, Tobias stands and uses his all of his remaining to strength to push Severus into the adjoining bedroom. And there, in the dark, Eileen sighs.
“Severus…I…I love you.”
“No, Mother, you don’t.”
Eileen’s green eyes narrow and she hisses, “I would have killed…you…abandoned you if I didn’t love…”
Eileen realizes that she is leaving her body quickly. Her soul is climbing out of her body; the force compelling it to leave is unrelenting. She allows her head to list to the side so that she can glimpse her son, and her husband who stands in the background of her vision.
“Bit late there, aren’t we, Mother,” Severus sneers.
“Love…for me,” Eileen closes her eyes.
Having been slumped against the sagging wall, Tobias rushes to Eileen. He cradles her face in his hands and presses his lips to her cold ones.
“I love you, Eileen,” he murmurs. Tobias doesn’t understand if his wife ever even walked the Earth. He rolls down on his knees, their life together crashing in pieces on the floor. As his knees dig into the hardwood flooring, the sweat pouring off his body slips into the cracks. Tobias knows his wife is gone and for a moment, he decides she was never there. But no, he washes the thought away. He loves her too much to commit such treason. Tobias rubs the floor with his hands, the sweat and memories combining in a toxic substance. A tear falls unbidden into the mixture. Fleetingly, Tobias mulls over Severus and if he happens to kiss his mother goodbye.
Severus looks to his mother one last moment and leaves. He strides through hallowed halls and glances at the cup of poison still sitting on the kitchen counter. The potion was easy to concoct. With a little of this and tad of that, he had created a poison that would kill in twenty-four hours. Severus fits his feet into the grooves of the floor. So many instances in which he had trotted through this corridor. Severus believes that he will never enter the house again; he won’t for himself and he refuses the suggestion here and now. He won’t explain his motives; motives are fickle things, for the weak and sorrowful. Severus slams the front door on his way out and passes the kitchen window where he stops to scrutinize his father downing the solitary glass.