Chapter 3: Tobias
Mother emerged from her room later that day, her eyes red and puffy. She made herself a cup of tea and sat, just staring at the wall. Now that I knew why she was upset I understood her sorrow and her frustration with my father, but this was not enough to stop the hungry monster ripping at the insides of my stomach.
My stomach growled loudly as I walked into the kitchen behind my mother. She turned around at the sound. ‘Go get yourself some pasta from the pantry,’ she croaked. I nodded in her direction and hastened to the small cupboard that served as a pantry. I pulled out a packet of raw pasta and ran outside and down the quiet street. On one side of the cobblestone road there were a number of rundown houses topped with rusted iron rooves that gave the neighbourhood the deserted, miserable feeling for which it was known. On the other side of the street was a thick line of trees that hid the small river that ran parallel to the street.
I finally arrived at my destination. It was a small clearing in a thicket of trees where bright coloured flowers punctuated the green of the overgrown grass. Nearby, a sunlit river glittered and gleamed throwing gems of light onto the canopy of leaves overhead. I lay on the ground and lifted a hard stick of pasta to my mouth and crunched down on it gratefully, thinking. So Lily Evans is a witch? Is her sister one? No, she can’t be. Maybe a squib?
My thoughts were interrupted by a rustle in the trees beside me. I rolled onto my side and listened carefully.
‘Ready or not here I come!’ Yelled a voice a hundred metres or so to my right. About a minute later of listening for signs of people approaching, I heard the same voice, closer this time ‘Lily! Where are you? I’ve been looking for ages!’ With less than a second’s warning, Petunia Evans burst through the trees. Her sulky expression changed immediately to an expression of obvious disgust and horror.
‘Lily! Lily!’ She screamed as she ran back through the trees. ‘Lily! We have to get out of here! There’s a creep in the woods! Lily!’ Her screams grew distant as she travelled further away from the spot where I stood, frozen in shock. A creep? What a rude girl! A muggle for sure.
Shaken by this encounter, I hurried home to find my mother in a state of extreme distress. She was pacing back and forth in front of the fire place, starting at every sound she heard. When I walked into the room, she looked up suddenly again and when she realised it was just me she let out a deep sigh and continued her pacing.
‘Mother –’ I started.
‘No…’ she interrupted. ‘You will not ask any questions! And when he arrives you will do exactly as I ask you. Is that clear?’
‘Good. Now go and busy yourself with whatever it is you do. Remember you’ll be going to Hogwarts soon so enjoy your freedom,’ she said. Silently, I wished my school days would come sooner.
I went to bed shortly after this but I lay awake, staring at the peeling ceiling. I didn’t know who was coming that made mother so stressed. I was aware that she paced back and forth well into the night, but before I knew it, it was morning and I had a whole day ahead of me.
I walked out of my room to find mother standing, staring at the front door, biting her nails and looking worn out and tired but less distressed than yesterday. Maybe by the time ‘he’ comes she might be a little more collected.
As I predicted, at midday she was dressed in magenta robes with her hair pulled back from her face as usual. She was cool, calm and collected though I noticed that her hand shake as she placed the two cups of tea on the table. Neither of them were for me.
At around one in the afternoon, the doorbell rang and mother jumped so violently, she hit her head on the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling and sent them crashing down. She waved her wand looking flustered and they immediately hung themselves back on their hooks.
She hastened to the door, pushing me in front of her as she went. I stood beside her as she prepared herself by straightening her robes, brushing non-existent hair out of her eyes and taking a long slow breath. She opened the door and there stood a balding man, holding a suitcase and staring resolutely at the wall behind us.
‘Tobias,’ Mother nodded curtly.
My mind raced back to when it could remember the same man standing at the same door with the same suitcase in hand when I was just four years old.
It was pouring rain and my mother was standing at the door pleading with my father to stay, to think things over. I stood behind my mother gripping her leg with one hand, the other hand holding a dirty blanket to my face with my thumb in my mouth.
‘Tobias! Please! Don’t leave! Come inside! Let’s talk about this!’ Mother had yelled over the pouring rain as tears ran down her cheeks. He glanced back at us; his eyes found my face; mother’s hand pressing my head to her leg.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. With that he had turned and walked out into the night. She had pushed me to the side and I remember hitting the wall and starting to cry. I didn’t cry because it hurt; I cried because I didn’t understand. Over my sobs and the pouring rain, I heard her rush out into the downpour and call his name over and over.
My thoughts were interrupted by my mother’s cold voice.
‘Severus, dear, would you kindly escort your father to the lounge room.’