Characters: Severus, Nymphadora, Eileen
Word Count: 2067
Summary: Severus is troubled by a Slytherin bond.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: This fic follows A Thoroughly Inappropriate Death. Thank you, arynwy, for beta'ing.
Severus awoke with a gasp to the sound of a damnably loud train whistle. His hands flew to his throat, and he opened his eyes. "Fuck!"
It was bright, too bloody bright, and he was freezing. It didn't take him long to realise why: he was naked and lying on a hard cold surface, apparently unharmed. He shot to his feet.
"Potter! Potter, where are you? Did you look at them? Do you understand? Potter!"
The whistling of the train began again, drowning out his calls. Severus turned sharply at the sound and saw the Hogwarts Express resolving itself from out of the fog.
What the hell?
In spite of the whistling, Severus thought he could hear voices, but they weren't coming from anywhere nearby and faded as he examined his surroundings. He was standing on a platform, and it was empty but for the clinging fog and spectral train.
"I'm . . . I'm dead, aren't I?"
Something poked his arse.
"You don't feel dead to me."
Severus spun around. "Nymphadora!"
"Wotcher, Snape. Why all the shouting?"
"Why all the shou—what is this place? What are we doing here?"
"Well, I'm waiting to board the train."
"Waiting for what?"
Nymphadora just looked at him, a light smile on her face.
"Ah. I see. Waiting for your wolf."
"Yeah, for Remus. He has a name, you know."
Severus folded his arms.
Nymphadora laughed. "Always so contrary. I think you enjoy it."
In no mood to be teased, Severus demanded, "Have you seen Potter?"
"Hmm? Oh, Harry? He's at the school. There was . . . fighting. I think he meant to join it. I did."
"Nymphadora, I think we're dead."
"Well, I know I am—wouldn't be here otherwise, I expect, but you . . . like I said, you don't feel dead to me."
Severus dropped his arms to his sides and looked around himself in confusion. "I want my wand, and I can't find my clothes."
"Funny you should mention that. I wasn't wearing any when I showed up here, either."
"So where did you get yours?"
"Wished for them is all. Give it a go, yourself."
Severus tried; it didn't work. "Damn it!"
"Perhaps you want something more than clothing," Nymphadora suggested.
"Yes, like my wand. I've got to get back to Hogwarts and find Potter!"
"There you go—you want to go back more than you want robes or your wand. No wonder you're still naked."
"This is a ridiculous conversation! How do I get back? And just where the hell do you think that train's going to take you?"
Nymphadora shrugged. "I'm probably the wrong person to ask since I only just arrived, myself, but death's a pretty big deal, isn't it? Like a journey—and one of the most exciting ones I ever took was to school for the first time. This is another first for me, so I'm here, waiting."
"Yes, but for what?"
"To go on, Snape, where else?"
Severus closed his eyes in frustration. "But I don't want to go on. I want to go—"
"Home?" a familiar voice interrupted. "Is that what you were going to say, boy?"
Severus looked over Nymphadora's shoulder to see a hand thrusting his clothes at him from the mist. "Mam? Is that you?"
"Who else would it be? You, girl—have you your ticket?" Eileen Snape asked.
Nymphadora grinned and waved it at her.
"Good, then go wait for your man while I deal with my boy."
"Bye, Snape," Nymphadora told him, standing up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "Good luck finding Harry."
"Wait!" Severus called after her, as she slipped away into the mist. "I was going to ask—"
"It's not her you've got questions for, boy, not anymore. Now get dressed. It's thoroughly inappropriate for you to be standing about in your altogether, no matter how much that one's seen of your bits."
Severus' face grew hot; he seized his clothes and turned around while he hurriedly dressed himself. "H—how do you know about that?"
"Been watching you, haven't I been?"
Oh, fuck. Watching me do what? Severus wondered, while his mother continued speaking.
"And you've done all right, I expect."
Severus looked at his mother, but the expression of disapproval that he'd expected to see on her face wasn't there; instead, she was regarding him almost . . . affectionately. "You're not my mother."
At once, Eileen's expression hardened. "Don't you dare deny me, boy. You know your own mam."
Now I do, Severus thought, though he didn't dare say as much. "Why are you here? Why am I here? What is this place?"
"I came for you. You're waiting. This is a train station."
"You're not helping, Mam."
"Well, if you want to gad about without any clothing, I'll have those back," Eileen retorted.
"No, that's not—thank you for the clothes. I just meant that—"
"You don't know what you mean half the time, you never did. You mostly just want."
"Do I? Well, perhaps that's because you never—"
"Gave you anything?" Eileen interrupted. "I gave you life. I fed and clothed you as best I could. I took the worst of your father's temper to spare him from turning it on you."
"You were a witch! You could have made him stop!"
"No, boy, I couldn't have. I lied to him. I failed him, and he thought I failed you."
"Your father was so angry at me when he learned I was a witch, but that was nothing to his fury with regard to what he thought my lie had meant for you. Do you remember your first bit of uncontrolled magic?"
"I . . . I exploded all those jars of jam you put up."
"Yes, and that's when I had to explain everything to him. Tobias thought you might not have done it if I'd been teaching you to control your 'gift', as he called it."
"But surely you explained tha—"
"I tried, but the damage was done. I don't think Tobias ever trusted me again after that, and it was hard for him, living with a wife and son who weren't like him. We scared him, you and I."
"Then why didn't he just leave?"
"Because he cared for us too much to let us go. You of all people should understand that," Eileen said, holding something up above the mist, "stuck Between as you are."
"I know. It fell out of your robes."
"Give it back!"
"Stop snapping like an angry little dog. I taught you better than that."
Clenching his fists, Severus replied, "Give it back, please."
"You want this onion, do you, boy?"
"You know that I do."
There was no way Severus was going to tell his mother about Daphne. He glared at her in silence.
She rolled her eyes. "I can wait. I've always been more patient than you."
"More stubborn, I think you mean."
"That smart mouth of yours won't win you any onion—or anyone."
She knows. She knows about Daphne.
As if his mother had heard his thoughts, she replied, "Of course I know about your girl. I told you, I've been watching you."
"She's not, she's not my girl. She's a student. She's—"
"The one who got you but good with the Binding Balm," Eileen interrupted, smirking.
Severus swallowed. "B—binding Balm?" His fingers flew to his lips. That kiss . . . .
"It's an old pure-blood witch's trick, you see, a way to look after one's man. Why do you suppose she tried it on you, your 'student'?"
"She was frightened for me. Perhaps she thought that if . . . ."
Severus stopped talking; he didn't actually know what Binding Balm did, but before he could ask his mother, she was speaking again.
"This is about as "if" as it gets, boy, so you have a decision to make, don't you? And one that has nothing to do with the Evans girl's son."
"Is he safe? Does he live?"
"You kept your promise. He'll meet his destiny."
"That's not what I asked. Couldn't you at least try to be reassuring?"
"I've never lied to you, and I won't start now. I only know that you don't have to go back for the boy's sake—and even though it's your girl's Binding that's keeping you Between for the moment, the choice to stay or go is yours. You did your duty. You kept your vow. You are done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're finished, if you take my meaning."
Severus sat down heavily and was surprised to find a bench under his arse.
"Good for you. You're beginning to get the hang of the place," Eileen said, joining him.
"Perhaps that means I should stay."
"What makes you say that?"
"I'm . . . afraid to go back, Mam."
"I can't blame you for that. Caring for someone does hold its terrors as well as its joys."
"You would know."
"Yes, I would. It wasn't all shouting."
Thoroughly mortified by his mother's implication, Severus said nothing.
"In any case, we did manage to keep body and soul together, however prone you were to romanticising our troubles. It's not as though he ever laid hands on us."
"'Romanticising our troubles'? I never did! We had troubles! We were poor, and . . . and there was never enough to eat, and he was always shouting, Mam, always!"
"We weren't so poor that we didn't have a roof over our heads or that you ever missed a meal—"
"It was meat I was missing!"
"—even if you were never partial to my cooking—but you're right about your father. Tobias wasn't a man who knew how to keep quiet when he was pained, and . . . and I should have done something about that for your sake. I would have done, too, if I'd ever been able to stop blaming myself for . . . ."
That was as close to an apology as Severus had ever heard his mother utter, and it stunned him into silence.
"I'm s—sorry, boy. I didn't m—mean to be a bad mother."
"But you weren't!" Severus said quickly. "I mean, aside from your awful cooking, of course." He smiled at her, willing her not to cry.
Eileen snorted. "A joke. From you. Still, I m—might have—"
"Mam, you taught me more magic than any of my professors did for at least the first three years of school! You . . . you gave me my first cauldron."
"I did grow weary of having to repair mine."
"And the chip on your shoulder was almost as big as your father's. I thought it best you be prepared."
"Are you blaming me for—"
"I'm not blaming you for anything, boy, I'm trying to tell you that I lo—that I don't blame you. You've had more than your fair share of pains."
"Oh," Severus said, flushing more deeply. "I love, I mean, well, yes, me, too."
Eileen snorted again, but her little laugh did nothing to dispel the awkwardness between them. Severus cast about for something to say and remembered Nymphadora.
"Shouldn't Nymphadora have been shouting, or at least, more upset than she was?"
"Death takes each of us differently, and she didn't arrive alone."
"But she's a mother, now."
"One who knows her babe is safe," Eileen replied, as if that was enough for any mother.
"So you came for me because you didn't think that I was, then?"
Eileen turned to him. "I came to remind you that you weren't alone," she said, placing the onion in his hands, "here or there."
Daphne, Severus thought, abruptly asking, "What's Binding Balm?"
"You're a master. Shouldn't you know?"
"You did call it 'an old witch's trick'. What, exactly, does it do?"
"That depends upon what stupid sort of trouble a man gets himself into, I suppose."
"Mam, please, I need to know."
"Most commonly, it's how a woman keeps track of her man's whereabouts, but in times of dire need, it's also how she shares the strength of her magic with him. It's saved a lot of wizards, that balm, and doomed just as many witches."
Severus shot to his feet. "What?"
"I don't believe that I was unclear."
"But . . . but are you saying that the only reason I'm hanging between life and death is because I'm . . . I'm draining Daphne's magic?"
"Well, yes. What else did you think I mea—"
The mist swallowed his mother before she could finish speaking, and then Severus was running across the platform in search of the train, clenching his onion.