Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Terence Higgs, Mr and Mrs Higgs, Alicia Spinnet
Prompt: fanfic50, Prompt table 8, prompt 34. Accuracy
Word Count: 4131 words
Summary: Marrying the girl of your dreams isn’t as easy as one would think.
Notes: Inspired by this song by Shawn Elliott.
For some reason, Terence had always imagined that in case he’d be so unfortunate enough to witness his life fall apart, it‘d be a bit more dramatic. You know, the usual; war and mayhem and thunder and lightning. Now that the unimaginable had become true, however, nothing of the sort happened.
No, as unbelievable as it was, as maddening as it was, the unfortunate truth was that the world stayed the same.
It was just another typical night at the Higgs household. The grandfather clock kept ticking. Yellow flames happily danced in the grand fireplace as white snowflakes did the same in the howling wind outside. Somewhere else in the manor, his mother was instructing the house elves about supper. In the background, Celestina Warbeck was singing a haunting song of broken hearts and poisons on the Wireless, which was strangely appropriate for the situation Terence found himself in.
His insides churned painfully and the only thing keeping him from bolting to the loo to dispose of his stomach’s contents was the painful grip his father had on his shoulder. At the same time, fingers digging into his skin told Terence that this wasn’t a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. He would’ve preferred it to be one; he could wake up from those. No, the stinging pain, nausea, the blood drumming in his ears, it all told him the same thing; this was really happening.
Gulping hard, Terence tore his gaze off his fists balled in his lap. He quickly glanced up at his father, who was standing by his chair. He wondered if his father honestly thought that an apologetic smile and a shot of Firewhisky could make up for the earthshattering bit of information he’d dropped on him tonight.
“Do you understand what I’ve told you?” Alexander Higgs asked kindly.
There were many things Terence wanted to say in answer to that question. From cursing his father’s name to let his wand do the talking for him, anything to make the old man feel the same pain as he was currently feeling. He didn’t do any of those things, however. The news had been paralysing, too numbing for him to use his voice. Instead, he found himself feebly nodding in agreement.
“You also understand that you can’t continue this, then?”
No, no, no!
Suddenly, the room felt too hot, too suffocating, and his churning stomach didn’t care for formalities and respecting your elders. Bile burnt his throat, threatened to exit his body if he stayed in the study any longer. To keep the last bit of his dignity, Terence jumped up, roughly shaking off his father’s hand.
“I-I need to go. Tell mum I’m not hungry, yeah?” he croaked and hurried to the door.
“Terence, wait,” Alexander ordered sternly and took a few tentative steps towards him. He didn’t meet his son’s eye as he quietly said, “Don’t tell your mother about what we’ve discussed here. She doesn’t know. It’d kill her if she were to find out.”
Terence shut his eyes and took a deep breath. Kill her? What about him? Again, there were so many things he wanted to say in reply. And again, like a coward, he found himself nodding and muttering in agreement. His life was already in ruins; he couldn't bear the idea of putting his mother through the same.
Afraid that his father would find it necessary to spill more secrets, Terence threw the door open and hurried into the corridor. He had his fill for today. No, scratch that. He had heard enough secrets to last him a lifetime.
How was he ever going to look his parents in the eye again after this? Trust his father, his hero?
But those were questions to ponder about later.
For now, he had misery to drown and pain to numb and preferred to do it on his own.
Margaret Higgs managed to leave her son alone per his request for nearly a week before the worry became too much and she entered his room uninvited. That was something she hadn’t done in over a decade, not since her little boy had reached puberty and she’d walked in on him doing something very private. It hadn’t bothered her, of course. It was only natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but he had acted as if she’d scarred him for life.
“Terence,” she whispered from the door opening, hoping that he was here. Her face twisted in disgust when the stench of mouldy food and stale booze that hung heavy in the air hit her in full force.
Margaret pulled out her wand and whispered, “Lumos.”
Narrowing her eyes, she peered into the dimly lit room. There were dark stains on the ordinarily white woollen rug, which was the least of the visible damage. Numerous scorch marks marred the white walls, and the once majestic mahogany desk that had belonged to Great-Grandfather Higgs was reduced to kindling, which explained the deafening noise from a few days ago.
Shards of glass and mirror covered the discarded clothes and shoes on the floor. Four empty bottles of Ogden’s Finest stood on the bedside table, and Margaret had to admit that she had expected it to be a higher number. But most importantly of all, the lump on the bed gave away Terence’s presence.
She covered her nose with a scented handkerchief and quickly traipsed across the room to the bed, breathing through her mouth and careful not to step into something.
“Terry, sweetheart,” she said to the lump underneath the covers as she sat down beside it.
When Terence didn’t acknowledge her, she shook him until he did. His voice was raspy and barely audible. It wasn’t the answer she’d hoped for, but for now, she’d settle for any sign of life.
“I don’t think so, darling.” Margaret reached for the blanket and slowly pulled it back, grateful that Terence didn’t protest too much.
Her heart broke a little when she finally laid eyes on him after a week. Even in the near-dark room, she could see the dark circles around his dull eyes and his gaunt and hollow cheeks. His usually thick, shiny blond hair stuck to his scalp in greasy wisps. A patchy blond beard covered his handsome face.
For a minute, she wanted to pretend not have seen how he hastily shoved something underneath his pillow but ultimately decided against it. Whatever it was that had caused him to turn into a heap of misery had to do with whatever it was he trying to hide. And as she gently nudged his hand out of her way and pulled the wooden frame from underneath the pillow, Margaret wondered what was wrong with her for not figuring it out sooner.
Alicia Spinnet, smiling broadly, was waving and blowing kisses from behind glass tarnished with dried up tears. Margaret pressed her lips into a thin line as she haughtily studied the girl her son was so smitten by. Alicia this, Alicia that, Saint Alicia with her never-ending kindness. If you had to believe Terence, the girl spat rainbows and farted butterflies.
Now, Margaret wasn’t the jealous type, and if she were, she certainly wouldn’t be jealous of her son’s dream girl since forever. She just thought that her son could do better than a Spinnet. However, being the good mother she was, she had managed to keep her opinions to herself and had supported her son where possible over the years.
Heavens, to think she’d taken it upon herself to have her grandmother’s rings restored for Terence to propose with when he’d confided in her that he was ready to do so. That's why Margaret had not expected this. How dare that harlot reject her son? As if she could do better than him.
“Darling,” Margaret said as she brushed the fringe from Terence’s forehead. “Talk to me, love. What went wrong? Has she rejected your proposal?”
To her horror, Terence bottom lip began trembling as tears welled up in his eyes. A sob escaped his lips as he threw his arm over his face to hide his pain.
“No,” he said after a few deep breaths, his tone quiet and sad. “I haven’t asked her. I broke with her.”
Margaret frowned in confusion. If Miss Spinnet wasn't responsible for this depressed state of his, what else could behave cause it, then?
“Why? What happened?”
“I wanted father’s approval, too,” Terence mumbled and tried to cover himself with his blanket again. “Just leave me alone, Mum. Please.”
“You talked to your father? Why would you do that?” Margaret said shrilly, her heartbeat rising a few notches.
She had advised Terence to elope instead of going through the whole circus of engagement parties and elaborate weddings. Not because she was a romantic, mind you, but because she knew that troubles would arise when certain people got wind of Terence’s plans.
Margaret didn’t need to guess what her thick-headed husband had told their son. He probably thought that he was doing him a favour. Honestly, doing the so-called right thing was greatly overrated. It left her with a headache and forced her to go and fix the mess that shouldn’t have been created in the first place.
Bloody hell, she had a whole script ready to appease all parties involved once the news of the elopement got out. Now she had to revise everything, dammit.
Rougher than she’d intended to, Margaret, pulled the blanket back and threw it on the floor as she stood up. Glaring down her nose at her baulking son, she shed the role of loving mother and friend and resumed the role of the stern mater of the family.
“Get your arse out of bed and into the shower. You have ten minutes to meet me for lunch downstairs.” She swatted her wand at him when he tried to object.
To give him a final push, she opened the curtains and windows with a snap of her fingers. Bright daylight streamed into the room, exposing the filth and damage of the past week. There would be another conversation with her son once they had solved the main issue.
“Ten minutes,” Margaret ordered as she turned to exit the room. “Don’t forget to shave.”
It gave her just enough time to collect her thoughts and come up with a way to explain what his father had most likely told him.
“Who were you talking to?”
Pulled from her musings about the Floo-call she had just ended, Margaret blinked rapidly as she wondered how long she had been staring at the ashes in the hearth.
“No-one. I was thinking, s’all,” Margaret lied when she realised that she was still staring at said ashes.
Margaret took a deep breath and turned to face Terence. He was standing in the door opening, barefooted, hair dripping wet, and to her great chagrin, dressed in his pyjamas and morning robes. She bit her tongue to keep herself from snipping at his choice of attire. Although he still looked like a house elf that had been kicked one too many times, he was clean, at least, and not stinking up the room. Progress, as far as she was concerned.
“Sit down.” She pointed at the dinner table where a simple lunch of tomato soup and sandwiches awaited him.
“I’m not hungry,” Terence protested feebly, his hands in his pockets and staring at his bare feet.
“I wasn’t asking.” Setting the right example, Margaret sat down at the table and poured herself and Terence a cuppa. From the corner of her eye, she could see him dawdling by the door, debating whether to bolt back to his room or do as told. “Sit down and eat. You’ll need your strength for what am going to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“Do as your told and find out.”
A small smile hinted at the corners of her mouth when curiosity replaced the sadness on his face, and he sat down opposite her. The hint of a smile grew into a broad grin when he started eating. It was an apprehensive nibbling at first, but that soon turned into boorishly gobbling down the food. Poor boy, how famished he must have been, Margaret thought as she pushed her soup and sandwiches towards him so that he'd have enough.
“Not hungry, you said?”
Terence glared at her as he grunted something unintelligible. ‘Talk’ was the only recognisable word. Scolding him for his rude behaviour was her first instinct, but she knew better. He was right, after all; they needed to talk. So, after a deep breath, Margaret did.
“Why did you go and talk to your father? Didn't I tell you to elope and get it over with?”
Terence shrugged, looking guilty. “It seemed right to tell father I was seeing Alicia and wanted to marry her. I wanted to go about it the proper way-”
“And you thought your father, the paragon of virtue, could give you the advice you needed?” Margaret interjected, suppressing the urge to roll her eyes.
Terence smiled bitterly as he listlessly stirred the soup. “No, not anymore,” he said scoffing as he ducked his head.
Margaret chuckled, shaking her head. “Let me guess, your father nearly choked on his Firewhisky when you told him you wanted to marry Edward Spinnet’s daughter.”
Terence nodded without looking up. Margaret saw just enough of his face to notice his brow furrow.
“Then he told you that you couldn’t because it would be all sorts of wrong.”
Again, Terence nodded as he slowly put down his spoon.
“Oh, oh, and then he explained that Alicia is, in fact, your sister and asked you not to tell me. You know, with me being a fragile witch and all.”
Terence remained silent, and for a fleeting second, Margaret expected him to go off on her for already knowing about it and not telling him sooner. She had her rebuttal ready, but he only took a deep, quivering breath as he averted his head and hastily wiped his cheek.
“S’alright, love. No worries. It’ll be alright in the end, you just wait and see,” Margaret said. She reached over the table for his hand, squeezing it reassuringly, a wicked grin on her face.
“Now, finish your soup whilst Mummy tells you how wild the seventies really were.”
“Wand parties?” Terence croaked for the umpteenth time as he dropped his head in his hands, taking deep, calming breaths to overcome the dry-heaving.
Margaret reckoned that he looked a bit green around the gills. It was an amusing but at the same time, a disturbing sight. How could any child of hers be so prudish? Her girls weren't. Where had she gone wrong with him? Deciding it was something she’d figure out later, she continued her story.
“Yes, wand parties. How many times must we repeat that? It was the seventies; everyone did it. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes... It was then that Susan Spinnet and I agreed not to tell a soul that her husband wasn’t the father of their newborn daughter. It would've been too cruel to not only tell a man he’s as barren as the Saharan desert but add that his firstborn he mad about isn't his either.”
“But... but... wand parties? Dad?” Terence said as he briefly glanced up, sounding a bit sick. Then, his eyes grew wider than they already were when another thought hit him. “Oh Gods, Ali’s brothers. Are they…?”
“Not your father’s as far as I know,” Margaret said, sounding more confident than she felt. She hadn’t always been near Alexander to remind him to cast the charm, so who knew how many times he mucked up. “Then again, Susan and I haven’t had a meaningful conversation in a long while. S’all a bit awkward, you understand.”
“Alicia…my love...” Terence cried softly in his hands, his shoulders shaking. “Oh, bleeding hell, I made love to my sister! If anyone finds out, we'll end up in Azkaban!”
“No-one's ending up in Azkaban.” Rolling her eyes at her son’s dramatics, Margaret switched seats and wrapped her arms around him in consolation. “Get a grip, son,” she said as kindly as she could muster. “It’ll be alright.”
“How dare you?” he retorted as his head shot up. “How can you just sit there and tell me to get a grip. The love of my life is my fucking sister! Something you apparently knew all along. So, tell me, when- no, how will it get better, eh? She’s my sister, Mum.”
Margaret guessed she deserved that little outburst. Perhaps it was time to help him out of his misery. Better yet, she should’ve started with that. Oh well, live and learn.
“See, that’s where you’re wrong and where it everything gets better. Alicia is your father’s daughter. Not your sister.”
“Mum- WHAT?” As if a switch flipped, Terence stopped sobbing. His shoulders stilled as he wiped off his wet cheeks and nose with his sleeve. He studied his mother for a long time, head tilted. The frown on his forehead deepened as he tried to make sense of what she was saying. And still, the Knut didn’t fall.
Margaret hoped that he wouldn’t make her spell it out to him.
“What d’you mean? Mum?”
Yeah, spelling out it was, then.
Margaret hesitated a bit, stalling time to find the right words to explain. It was a somewhat delicate situation, much more than the conception of Alicia Spinnet was. The girl was the result of a carefully thought out plan, after all, whilst her son, well, wasn't. Chances were, he wouldn’t look at her the same after this, and she wasn’t ready to be judged by him in the same way he was judging his father at the moment.
“Mother,” Terence urged when she took too long to answer him.
“Fine, but remember, I’m still your mother, so you better be nice about it.” Margaret let out a long sigh as her shoulders slumped. “You honestly don’t think that your father was the only one of us having fun at those parties, do you?”
Terence made a retching sound, which earned him a slap around the head.
“What did I just tell you?” Margaret snapped, secretly thankful for the distraction. “Don’t look at me that way. I may not look the part these days, but I was a young witch with insatiable needs once. More needs than you father could handle. Whose idea was it to organise those parties in the first place you think?”
“Organise? You? I’m gonna be sick.”
Margaret scoffed, once again baffled by her son’s prudishness. “Suck it up for a while longer; I haven't finished talking yet. Anyway, the only reason Miss Spinnet exists today is that I wasn’t present at that particular party to remind your dad to use contraceptive charms. You know how forgetful he can get when he's enthusiastic about something. At the time, Susan Spinnet was high on everyone's to-do list, and he was the first to have a go with her.”
“Oh for fuck's sake... That's not helping, mother.”
“Yeah, yeah. As I was saying, I wasn’t there that night because I’d just pushed your big head out a few weeks before and wasn’t quite myself yet down there,” Margaret continued, ignoring her son’s growing impatience. “He forgot to cast the charm, of course. Susan didn’t remind him, nor did she share the fact that she wasn’t on the potion, and here we are.”
“Mum, please, yes, I get it. When will we reach the ‘it all get better’ part?” pleaded Terence.
“Don’t rush me, I'm getting there. Look, your dad is your dad, just like Edward Spinnet is Alicia’s. They’re just not the, uh, not the fathers in the way they think they are.”
Terence stared at her for a long time, unblinking and mouth agape. And just when Margaret started to think that she’d killed her son with the news, he started talking again. “Not my… Does Dad know?” he asked quietly.
Margaret shook her head ‘no’. “Let’s keep it that way, yeah? He’s as open-minded about those things as Edward Spinnet is. They were all for sticking their dicks in every wet crevice that walked by, but woe betides you if you dare to have a child that’s not theirs. Funny how that works all things considered, eh?”
“Yeah, funny.” Terence scowled at her in disbelief. “Who’s my… you know.”
“Contributor?” And thus, Margaret arrived at the most challenging part of her story. She had hoped to avoid this part by shocking her son into speechlessness. No such luck, however. Uncomfortably squirming in her chair, she tried to find the right words and failed. Forwardness seemed once again the best way to go.
“I don’t know,” she blurted out. “Someone with blond hair and blue eyes, I think. I don't know. I mean, you didn’t get those from my side of the family like I’ve been telling your dad since the day you were born. It was late, we were drunk, and someone came up with the fun idea to try out a new aphrodisiac potion. I'm not sure how we got home that night, let alone remember the complete guest list. I think the Malfoys had a few cousins over from France, but that could’ve been another party. Let’s put it this way, your conception was a group effort, that I do remember.”
Thankfully, before Terence could demand more of an explanation or just fall dead to the ground by the shock of it all, the door slammed open. As Margaret had hoped, Alicia Spinnet appeared in the opening, tears streaming down her cheeks in droves. Susan Spinnet had been right earlier; the girl looked worse for wear, even worse than Terence did.
“Mum told me everything,” she said as she launched herself at Terence, clinging to him for dear life as she sobbed against his chest. “You should've told me.”
“Ali…” Terence murmured. He wasn’t fairing all that better compared to her. He buried his face in her hair, sobbing and apologising for disappearing on her out of the blue.
“We'll figure it out,” Alicia cried. “Won’t we? Please say we will?”
Knowing very well when to take her leave, Margaret quietly slipped out the room, sure that the young couple had much to talk about. Terence would need to fill in the blanks for Alicia, explain and clarify some topics that her mother couldn’t have known and that were bound to bother her as they had him.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Margaret slouched against it as she let out a deep sigh. Despite the messy situation, she had to give credit to herself; she had handled that far better than she had initially anticipated.
“What’s going on in there?”
Of course, the party wouldn’t be complete without him, the instigator of it all. Margaret smirked secretively as studied her husband. He was still as handsome as the day she’d met him all those years ago. They had built a beautiful life for themselves with more than enough fun with each other, and others in their younger years, to keep their lives spicy and exciting. It was just a shame that he was such a stickler when it came to certain things, like blood-related heirs and such nonsense.
“Terry and Miss Spinnet need some privacy,” Margaret said. She took her husband by the arm and led him away before he could accidentally overhear the young lovers share her secret on the other side of the door. “It seems that we’re having a wedding soon, darling.”
As expected, Alexander spluttered a string of objections and profanities, digging his heels into the carpet. “No! No, no, we have to stop them! Because of …because…”
“Oh, honey, don’t worry,” Margaret whispered in his ear and kissed his cheek to calm him down. Sometimes she scared herself with the ease the lies came to her. “I know your secret, darling. I have since the start. But you’re wrong, Susan and I’ve done the appropriate spells as soon as the girl was born. She isn’t yours.”
It was enough to render Alexander harmless without directing unnecessary attention to herself. She hastily guided him to his study so she could show him how upset she was with him for keeping secrets and give him a chance to make it up to her. Still, as they made their way down the hall, Margaret couldn’t help but relay the question Terence had asked her about the Spinnet boys.
“So, are there any other bastards I need to know about, my love? Our girls will soon be old enough to have suitors, you know.”