|Beth H (bethbethbeth) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2009-05-08 11:59:00
|Entry tags:||beholder 2009, eileen prince snape, fic, het, severus snape|
FIC: "Playing For Keeps" for regan_v
Title: Playing For Keeps
Pairings: Eileen/Severus, (Eileen/Tobias)
Word Count: 5800
Warnings: incest, dub-con
Summary: Eileen Snape, former Captain of the Hogwarts Gobstones Team, is losing her marbles.
Author's Notes: Regan V, this is a bit grim, but I hope you enjoy it.
She was perched on the edge of the sofa, watching Coronation Street and working on a packet of KP Outer Spacers (chutney flavoured, and awful stuff really), when she heard a key turn in the front door. The telly turned to static as she watched her son nudge his way inside, his arms full of bag and books and his skinny bum to the door. He did it quietly enough - not like Tobias, who had worn a doorknob-shaped hole into the plaster over the years - and then he stood there, hunched and silent, in their too-small sitting room. A crisp lodged in her gullet, scratching at her, and she choked on the welcome she wanted to give him.
"I'm home," he said finally, blowing a strand of hair from his face, and she gave him a watery smile, knowing it was the last time.
His feet trod the stairs with care, heedful of the worst creaks and gripes. She watched until he was out of sight, and when she turned back to the telly the snow had eased, just as it always did, and Ena Sharples was berating poor Elsie Tanner about something or other. She flicked the telly off, not without a pang of reluctance - Ena was a tough old bird, always good for a laugh - and then she rose from the sofa and headed for the kitchen.
She opened a cupboard and hesitated for several minutes between Heinz Baked Beans and Baxters Royal Game. She didn't mind beans herself, but she remembered the way he used to scowl through those Heinz ads on The Goodies, the ones where Graeme Garden would give Tim Brooke-Taylor a walloping every time he mucked up his lines. Besides, he'd want toast with his beans, and although there was a knob of butter left in the fridge, there wasn't a slice of fresh bread to be had in the house.
If she'd known he was coming, she might have done a shop. She'd best do one tomorrow, before the bank holiday weekend, but for now soup would have to do.
He was already crouched over his books when she knocked at his bedroom door. She shifted a couple of them, careful not to lose his pages - he scribbled notes in the margins, just like she used to do, and she'd never been certain whether to tell him off for it or no - and put the tray down at his side. "The biscuits are a bit stale, but not too bad," she said. "A dunking won't hurt them."
"Thanks, mum," he said, as he wrapped his hands about a mug of Tetley's. Black, two sugars. Strong like he favoured.
"You could've called me," she said, although she knew and he knew that she wasn't a sure chance to answer the telephone, even after all these years. Phones had never really sat right with her. Sometimes Tobias would tease her with one of his Sybil Fawlty impersonations, primping a head full of invisible curlers and whinnying "Oh, I know, I know!" into the phone's dead air, but the plain truth was that she didn't have anyone to talk to. "Or you might have sent an owl. I could have met you at King's Cross."
"No point the both of us going all the way down to London and back again," he said. He blew at the tea and took a cautious sip. "I don't mind the bus. I got a lot of reading done."
"I wasn't expecting you," she said, as if he hadn't spoken; she felt strangely insistent on this point. "You never come home for Easter holidays."
He shrugged. "Too noisy at school."
Funny he should say that, since she knew full well he'd be setting up his turntable quick enough; she was surprised he hadn't fished it out of his wardrobe already. She wondered if that Mudblood he was so keen on was home for the break too, but she figured better than to ask. "Everyone's fretting about their N.E.W.T.s, I suppose."
"Fat lot of good it'll do them. Bunch of idiots." He shrugged again, then said, "I knew it'd be quiet here."
She nodded, taking the hit without resentment. "Dad's gone down for the championships at Tinsley Green like always." The World Marbles Championship was held in Sussex every Good Friday, and every year the Spinner's Six got knocked out of the ring in the first round, without fail. Tobias wouldn't miss it for anything.
Time was, she'd have been down there with him, but that was long past. "They've got a decent chance this year, he says."
"If he doesn't piss it all away as usual." His voice was sullen.
She took the mug from his unprotesting hand, placing it safely out of reach, and then slapped him smartly across the face. It wasn't a satisfying connect - he was hiding behind too much hair - but his head still drooped with all the sadness in the world. She scraped his hair back and pressed her lips to his hot cheek. "It's almost eight now, so you can put in a few hours and then lights out. I don't want you studying 'til all hours. Get a decent night's kip and I'll make you a nice breakfast in the morning, all right?"
"All right," he agreed, knuckling away her kiss. Beneath his downcast gaze and fluttering black lashes, two weary lines slashed across his cheeks. She kissed him again and he spluttered in mock horror. "You've got to give up those chutney crisps, mum, they're awful."
She slept uneasily, as the curl of his magic slipped through her grey dreams, and in the morning she woke to a haunting sense of weight, as though a hag had spent the night upon her breast. Tobias' side of the bed remained empty and she stretched a hand across the cool softness of the sheet, missing him.
There was no stirring from the other bedroom bar a steady, low snore. She rose from her bed and wrapped herself in a comfy old dressing gown, tugging the bedclothes into order behind her; she hadn't bothered the morning before, but it seemed more important today. The bathroom felt miserably cold - she'd have to get Tobias to have another go at the radiator once he was home again, it was always playing up - and the chill of the toilet seat made her hiss and jump. She splashed her face with water copper-stale out of the tap and stared at her son's face in the mirror.
Downstairs, she had some fresh eggs and cheese off the milkman along with a few pints of milk; there was a bit of old bacon in the fridge that would do for an omelette. The kitchen looked dingy in the early morning light, and she shuffled about on restless slippered feet, dusting off the counters and scrubbing the sink until it gleamed. It wasn't long before she heard the toilet flush and then the shower running - he was an early riser like his dad - and she put the kettle on the stove for a pot of Nescafé and starting whisking milk and eggs together.
She was stooped over the frying pan, worrying at the edges of the omelette with a fork, when he came down flushed and damp from his shower. She held out her cheek for the brush of his mouth, not taking her eyes from her cooking to see if he'd worn the new trousers she'd put out for him.
He leant over the pan, taking an inquisitive sniff, and said, "Radiator's not working again."
"Dad'll fix it when he gets back. He knows what to do." Maybe, maybe not. Muggle magic had always been beyond her ken, but like as not Tobias'd just bash it to bits with his spanner, same as always. He was about as useful as Selwyn Froggitt really, but she didn't mind after all if it made him feel handy, and she rather liked to see him strap on his tool-belt.
"I could give it a try, if you like," her son offered, with an uncharacteristic diffidence in his tone.
"If you like," she echoed doubtfully. "I'm going down to the shops this morning."
He nodded his understanding of what she left unsaid: if he used magic to fix it, she wasn't to know, and what she didn't know she couldn't tell. "I'll take a look at it later."
She heard a chair scrape behind her as he took his place at the table. "How's the studying going, then?"
"I've still got heaps of reading to do, but it should be all right. Runes is a bit of a nightmare, though. I should never have gone on with it."
"You'll do fine," she said. No point telling him it didn't matter much in the long run; she'd long since forgotten all that stuff and didn't miss it a jot. He wasn't likely to believe her anyhow; he'd always been such a serious boy.
She slid the omelette onto a plate and passed it to him, and he added P&S with painstaking consideration. She took a swift look under the table while he deliberated over his breakfast and discovered that he'd tried on the new trousers after all; the cuffs were almost up to his knees.
Later that morning, she left Tesco's with a full shopping buggy and a depleted purse; he might be a finicky one, but he'd get through his fair share of groceries all right. There was a derelict-looking record shop nearby and she stared at the display window long and hard before propping her buggy by the door and stepping inside. There were no other customers inside and she took her time, flipping through the albums until she found a name she recognised from the meagre collection in his bedroom.
The lad behind the counter didn't look much older than him. He gave first the cover - carnations and rats' tails - and then her, a dubious look. "You sure, mum? They're a bit rude."
"So's my son," she answered, and they both laughed dutifully, their social obligation fulfilled.
"Shall I wrap it?" he asked, waiting with a familiar awkwardness while she counted out her money. Some days it still seemed like foreign currency, and Tobias got stroppy when she got it wrong.
"No need, ta," she answered, shaking her head. She put the change in her purse, tucked the album under her arm and walked out the door, taking up her worn buggy handle for the long walk home.
The breakfast things were drying on the sink, along with the plates from the night before, and she could hear music drifting down from upstairs. She busied herself putting the groceries away, blinking uneasily at how much she'd bought. There was already an open box of Bournville Cocoa from last Christmas in the cupboard; she stirred a couple of spoonfuls into a glass of milk until it frothed like mad, and then she hid the two new boxes towards the back of cupboard with the worst of the best-before tinned apricots and canned soups. Her wand was somewhere back there too, tucked behind a set of cracked glass phials and her old brass scales. She didn't have much use for such things anymore, but no heart to throw them out just yet, either.
She buttered slices of white bread and wavered slowly between corned beef and tomato or cheese and lettuce filling before deciding on both. Some McVitie's Digestives would go nicely with his cocoa; she nibbled at the edge of one biscuit and realised that it was the first bite she'd had all day. It was so easy to forget sometimes.
Walking upstairs, she found the air warmer than before, and it made her shiver. She called out his name and toed his bedroom door open. He turned, red-eyed and distant, from his books, but he took the lunch things from her obligingly enough; when he saw what they were balanced upon, he snorted under his breath, looking pleased.
"You don't have that one?" she asked, already knowing the answer. Sometimes, when he was away at school, she liked to sift through his stuff, as though it might remind her of who he was, if he was.
"No," he said, sliding the vinyl from its plastic sleeve and holding the grooves up to the light. "I've got their first album, but not this one. Thanks, mum."
"And you got the player working all right?" Sometimes it was hard to tell, given the music he favoured. If Tobias had been there, he'd have shouted "Turn that bloody racket down!" but she knew it pleased him really, this evidence of Muggle taste in his child. "It's not giving you trouble?"
"It's fine." He hunkered down upon his haunches and lifted the needle between his meticulous, ink-stained fingers, taking Rattus Norvegicus off the turntable and replacing it tenderly with No More Heroes. "The radiator's all right now too, I think. There was something rattling around near one of the valves."
"Oh, was there?" she said absently, wondering if Tobias was adopting a similarly reverent posture at that very moment. The lads were doubtless practising up a storm, their knees cracking and their anxious knuckles flexing, with the big day coming up tomorrow and the Team Championship trophy up for grabs.
"But we probably don't need the heat on at the moment, anyhow," her son said, interrupting the daydream. He was just loud enough to be heard over the words I feel like a wog people giving me the eyes but I was born here just like you. "Sun's come out now."
She nodded. The grey day had relinquished its objection to spring at last; perhaps the daffodils in the window box would be coming out soon. "I thought I might make up a batch of hot cross buns," she offered quietly, but his attention was on his music and not her, and she left the room unnoticed, humming 'Bring Me Sunshine' from The Morecambe & Wise Show beneath her breath as she went down to the kitchen.
The new album had had a few spins, and she was mixing flour and water for the crosses and waiting for her dough to rise when he came downstairs a few hours later. The sandwiches were plainly a distant memory, since he stuck his head in the fridge and fossicked about the cupboards and drawers before poking a hopeful finger in her bowl. The taste made him grimace, and she shook a packet of Sun-Maid Raisins under his nose to keep him out of mischief. He scooped a few into his mouth, throwing his head back extravagantly and looking like a great gawk with his adam's apple bobbing here, there and everywhere.
When she lifted the damp tea towel from the baking tray, the buns looked plump and promising, and she nodded in satisfaction. "They'll do, I should think," she said. "Make yourself useful and do me up a piping bag, would you?"
He nodded and tore off a length of GLAD Baking Paper, folding it with deft hands and spooning batter into the snug cone. She gave the tip a scissor snip and kept a watchful eye on him as he loomed over the tray and piped crosses across the buns. It was a neat job he did of it, not like when he was just a small lad and would smear batter all over the kitchen table higgledy-piggledy, although he still tucked his tongue up into one corner of his gob, as absorbed at eighteen as he'd been at eight.
She popped the tray in the oven and set the timer for twenty minutes, and they both tucked their hands beneath the kitchen tap for a quick scrub. The batter came off his fingers well enough but the ink stains didn't budge one bit. She thought he'd be better off using a Bic - he'd been happy enough using them in primary school - but she didn't say so. Bad enough when he caught it from his dad; he didn't need to hear it from her too.
Wiping her hands dry, she fetched out a saucepan and some castor sugar and vanilla essence for the glaze. He had started up his ritualistic teenaged rummagings once more, head down bum up in the lazy susan in the corner - the new trousers really were far too short, he must have shot up two inches since Christmas time - and she sighed in exasperation. "If you've nothing better to do, then see if you can't find the basting brush, would you? I daresay it's in one of those drawers by the window."
"All right, all right," he said, lurching to attention. The top drawer held utensils and the bottom held tea towels, but the middle overflowed with the random domestic detritus of her Muggle life: bottle openers and chopsticks, tea strainers and spatulas. His eyes were quick and his fingers nimble, and he soon pulled out a small basting brush from the hoard with a triumphant a-ha.
"Thank you kindly," she said, when he tossed it her way, but he was already nose-deep back in the drawer, hunting out treasure, so she left him to it.
She was stirring sugar into boiling water at the stove, working up a thick syrup and wondering what time Emmerdale Farm was on - they'd been playing ducks and drakes with the programming that year, and she couldn't keep it straight for the life of her - when he hooked his chin over her shoulder and said, "Are you up for a quick game then, mum?"
She flicked off the gas and raised an enquiring brow. He was wearing a coaxing smile - it seemed hesitant and almost grotesque on his drawn face - and it took her a moment to register the old corduroy Gobstones drawstring bag swinging like a pendulum before her eyes. "Where'd you dig up those relics?" she said, a queer pang piercing her belly. She didn't think she'd clapped eyes on the bag in years.
"They were in the drawer where you stashed them, I suppose," he said, rolling his eyes; he'd never thought much of her habit of hiding her magic away. "Come on, how about it? Dad's not the only one who can have a bit of fun, is he?"
She hadn't even known he was familiar with the game, although she supposed some things never went out of fashion. Before he was born, she had often played at Gobstones with Tobias, who had hooted every time he had lost a point only to be splashed with cream of horned slugs or worse. That his own winning shots couldn't effect the same punishment on her - Gobstones didn't work the same for Muggles - had never deterred him from crying "We lay, we lay!" and knuckling down for a round of Snake Pit in the backyard, never mind that there was no one else there to bags the hole anyhow. Somehow they had fallen out of the Gobstones habit once she'd caught pregnant, and they had never fallen back into it. He was too busy, and she was too tired, and they'd lost the way of it before long.
She shook the old thoughts away and found that her son's inviting smile was starting to slip; he was always braced for a knock-back, even from her. He said, almost defiantly, "It's spring now, isn't it? That means it's Gobstones season."
"I thought I'd thrown these things out years ago," she said, taking the bag from him. She couldn't remember how many Gobstones it held (and a serious player always knew precisely how many Gobstones she owned) but it had a satisfying heft to it. The material felt dry enough, so none of them had been leaking.
"Come on, you know you want to," he said. "It shouldn't take long. I'm rubbish at Gobstones, so you'll likely slaughter me."
"I'm out of practice," she said, although her fingers were already flexing with want. She rolled the bag familiarly in the palm of her hand, then looked up to catch a fleeting expression of pity on his face, and she understood that this was goodbye.
There was no chance of Snake Pit. Tobias had a lovely six foot ring laid out in the backyard for his championship prep, but she didn't think he'd be too pleased if she carved a hole out of the middle with her boot heel. They didn't play pit games at Tinsley Green.
A ringer game would do, she supposed, although it was grubbier than pit once the fluids started flying and no hole to catch the worst of it. "Shall we lag for first shot?" she asked, looking about for a stick to draw lines in the dirt.
"Let's nose drop for position, like Dad does," he said. She wondered how many hours he'd spent watching from his bedroom window as Tobias practised.
"All right," she said, although she thought he'd have better luck finding the line lagging for it; he had his dad's nose. She pulled the bag open and peered inside, smiling as the mazes and clouds and cats-eyes clattered for daylight. Dimly she could recall the covetousness and belligerence that had won for her the Hogwarts captaincy, and even more dimly still, a number came to her - 241, I have 241 Gobstones - and she knew somehow that the number was wrong, but she couldn't remember why.
"Mum, stop gloating over your plunder and let's go," he said, and she startled to see him tracing a pitch line with his wand.
"Hang on and I'll find us a couple of nice shooters," she said, sifting through the tumble of Gobstones for a pair of decent-sized taws.
"I've got my own, thanks," he said. He patted his trouser pocket smugly. "We're just waiting on you now."
"I'll dig out my favourite then," she said, nonplussed. In a lifetime's worth of laundry, she couldn't recall ever finding a Gobstone in his pocket - coins, lollies, swap cards and even candle stubs, but never Gobstones.
"Go on, then," he said. "First to knock seven gobs out of the ring wins, and we're playing for fair, obviously, since the gobs are all yours anyhow. All right?"
"All right then," she agreed. But her fingers couldn't find her favourite shooter, search as they might - for the life her, she couldn't even remember what it looked like - and she settled for a deceptively innocent-looking butter and honey. It contained a thick golden curl of pus that rolled languidly in the sunlight, just waiting to burst over some hapless victim; shooters were always the prettiest Gobstones on the outside and the most revolting inside.
She toed up to the pitch line, balancing the shooter on her nose, and he stepped up beside her and did the same. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," she replied, and they nose dropped to find out who'd fire first.
His shooter landed closest to the line in spite of his nose. She stared at the two Gobstones in stark horror, and the clouds in her memory receded.
It was her favourite he was using. As much as she'd forgotten it, as desperately hard as she'd put it from her mind, it had found its way to his hand somehow and into the game.
It was a white maze, much like a typical Muggle wire pull, except that its insides writhed about their clear glass cage, eager to escape and do their worst. She'd enchanted it herself and pitted it against Tobias, knowing she couldn't lose, and then she'd stuck seven consecutive gobs and blown him out of the ring. He'd hated her ever since.
"Where did you find that Gobstone?" she said. Her voice sounded eerily calm. There was no stopping a game of Gobstones once it had begun. No substitution of the shooter, no quitsies. No one knew that better than her, a former Hogwarts Team Captain.
"It was stuck in the radiator," he said, as if the answer ought to have been obvious. Perhaps it seemed so to him; their home had always been such a warren of haphazardly hidden magical artefacts. "Didn't I tell you? I thought you must have lost it there."
"No," she said. He knew household repairs were Tobias' purview.
"Well," he said, giving a shrug, "doesn't matter."
If there'd been anything in her belly, she would have vomited it up. He took the bag from her feeble grip and placed thirteen small Gobstones in a neat cross at the centre of the ring, then knuckled down at the edge to take the first shot. Her old favourite sat on his stained index finger, swirling in excitement and anxious to be loose. He took aim at a silvery cats-eye and flicked his thumb, and his shooter knocked the smaller Gobstone out of the ring.
She wiped sardine oil from her eyes - the cats-eyes were always fishy - and waved away his unrepentant "Sorry, mum!" He'd won himself a second shot and took out a rainbow with his next go; the spray smelt like petrol. A third Gobstone - a chipped china - doused her in sour milk, and he laughed. "You'll be wanting a shower after this."
"Yes," she said quietly, hardly daring to breathe, and not because of the pong. Just four shots to go, and then she'd wash off the mess and he'd tuck into hot cross buns and later they'd sit in front of the telly and watch the evening news and perhaps that band he liked might be on again - she still remembered the Rotten lad saying 'shit' to Bill Grundy's face a couple of years back, such a funny one - and then he'd put in a few more hours' study and she'd put in a few more hours' telly and then they'd sleep and sleep and not dream.
Just four shots to go. She hadn't hoped to see such skill in him, but she shouldn't have been surprised; he had two talented bloodlines for it, and a ruthless, analytical brain besides. He could win this game without her lifting a stone.
Except that he looked at her again with that awful expression of pity and flicked his shooter deliberately from the ring, and the Gobstone punished him for it with gouts of - of something.
The scent flooded her nostrils and she was only catching the tail end of it; he flung himself to the ground, rolling and howling as if he was on fire.
She gritted her teeth and turned her stony eyes from him. No quitsies in Gobstones. She took up the butter and honey shooter, rolled up her sleeves and hunkered down for a shot. He'd neatly nicked three tips off the cross, as if symmetry was more important to him than points, and she lowered her brow, narrowed her gaze and broke the cross hard. Four cats-eyes spat from the circle at once, spraying in all directions, but their payload found him unerringly, dousing him with stinking brine. It did little to cut the underlying taste; her enchantment was as heady as ever, and wild after its long entrapment.
She released a deep, shuddering breath and rubbed viciously at her arms; they were crawling with gooseflesh and shaking like anything. The next shot she almost muffed, bagging just one little Worcester sauce swirly for her troubles; it spat meanly into his eyes, making him heave onto his belly and claw at the dirt, and still her magic was stronger.
Grim-faced and sickened, she examined the remaining targets in play. A glittering group of end-of-days clustered near the ring's edge, and she picked them off, one two three, releasing a mad waterfall over his head. His mouth mashed into the muddy ground, gulping fishlike for relief until the last drop fell, and then he stilled.
"Quick game's a good game," she said quietly, to no one in particular. He probably didn't hear, and that was probably just as well. She'd won the game but it wasn't over yet, and she had no idea what to do.
She crawled about the ring on her hands and knees, gathering her Gobstones and dropping them back into the bag, and she didn't need to count them to know that there were 241 in there now, just as there had been when she was a girl not much older than him. She thought that she must have Obliviated herself somehow, all those years ago, only she had done it in the Muggle manner, with telly and supermarkets and slow, grey despair.
She watched as he rolled to his back, his eager young cock straining the too-tight trousers. His face was filthy but he tongued his wet lips lickety-split, and his eyes lit upon her with a hungry animal gleam.
"Mum," he pleaded, and she closed her eyes, because she couldn't very well close her ears. A hand latched about her ankle, tugging insistently, and when she didn't budge for him he snarled and wriggled closer. He dragged his hand across her support hose, pressing into the yielding podge of her calf as he sought purchase, and then his thumb found the hole at her knee and he yanked at the material hard. It tore reluctantly and static washed her skin; she gulped wetly, convulsively, as he stretched his fingers beneath the hose and soothed her with his warm, grubby palm, chanting, "Mum, mum."
"I'm here," she said, feeling both his hands now, scrabbling at her in entreaty. He hoisted himself clumsily to his knees, rucking up her skirt and petticoat and pressing his nose into the small of her back, where her sweat pooled. The hose defied him and he tore it into ladders with his teeth, creating bubbles of pale skin for him to suck raw. She moaned uneasily and he growled a low answer, nudging her knees wide and mounting her without delay. Her back bowed for him, obliging and low, and he bent over her, gripping her thin waist between his hands and hunching against her frantically until he came in his knickers and sobbed.
Released, he fled into the house and stormed up the stairs. She followed slowly, awkward in her undone clothing.
"It's no good," she said, as she looked about the empty kitchen. The hot cross buns were burning; the timer must have rung out unnoticed. She dropped the bag of Gobstones back in their drawer and then turned off the oven, pulling the tray out and leaving it to smoke on the stove top. The acrid smell made her eyes tear, and she shook her head. "It won't do, it's not enough."
She climbed the staircase and entered the bathroom. The radiator was cold again - he must have switched it off earlier in the day. She wondered how Tobias had got her favourite Gobstone in there, and why he'd chosen such a peculiar place. Maybe he'd thought the heat would kill the magic.
"It's no good," she said again. Nothing would kill it. She stared at her son's face in the mirror and washed the mess off her face, out of her hair, and then she stripped off her stained garments and shivered in her nudity. She was older now but the timing was good, better even than it had been back then, if you could call any of this for the best. Maybe they'd have this over with by morning.
She tucked herself up in her nicely made bed to wait, and she didn't have to wait very long. He crept into the room, sweat rolling down his flushed, wretched face, his own clothes gone and his wanting cock wet and shamed with his lonely efforts. She lifted the edge of the duvet, like he'd come in from a bad dream, and he crawled into bed beside her and pressed his face to her breast. "I tried to stop, I really did," he whispered, his lips a shiver on her skin.
"I know you did," she soothed. She spat on the corner of the duvet and tried to scrub the worst of the dirt from his face.
"What is it?" he asked, mouthing at a swollen nipple and rubbing the tip of his cock into her pubes. She got a hand down between them and petted him, and he shoved himself into her palm, moaning, "Why can't I stop? Mum?"
"It's all right. It's nothing I want you to fret yourself over," she said, as she spread her thighs and guided his rutting hips into their cradle, bearing this unlovely child now as she'd borne him then. There was nothing she could say to his pitiful murmur of mum mum mum; he would either forget this or he would fret for always.
A crack of disapparition woke her late the next morning; the bedside clock said it was near midday. She sat up in bed and felt the warm, wrinkled sheet he'd left behind.
She got up gingerly - her head was stupid with exhaustion, her mouth clagged with thirst - and wrapped the duvet about her shoulders. It dragged behind her like a train as she drifted down the corridor to his empty bedroom. His books and clothes were gone, and the record player was packed away. She sat at his desk and stared out the window, wondering where he'd gone, if he'd be safe.
Her bare toes kicked against something hard, and she bent down to find one of his books beneath the desk. Advanced Potion-Making: not one of her favourites, nor his, judging by his copious annotations. Still, he'd probably want it; she'd have to send it up to Hogwarts for him.
She was smiling over his little 'half-blood prince' joke on the back cover when the phone jangled her from her thoughts. Maybe that's him, she thought dumbly, knowing she'd never hear his voice again. He's missed it already.
She trudged downstairs to the sitting room, picked up the phone warily and said, "Hello?"
"It is my lucky day now, isn't it? Somehow I knew you'd answer."
"Tobias." They were amazing things, these phones. He sounded like he was in the room with her.
"You'll never believe it, love, we made it through to the second round!"
She could tell from his exuberant voice - from the fact of the call itself - that he'd already had a few. "That's wonderful, Tobias," she said, as she dropped to the floor in her duvet nest, ready to hear his tale; the phone's cord didn't reach as far as the sofa. She still held Advanced Potion-Making under one arm, and she pulled it across her lap, searching the index for 'abortifacient'.