She lies there in state, on the flowered bier. Unmarked, except for a diagonal slash along her right cheekbone, she appears to be sleeping. Only the unnatural stillness of her body belies the fact that my mother's spirit no longer inhabits her body.
She looks so small, like this. The fiery sabre-tooth, who we believed to be twice as tall as Bill, lies still, a husk. With all her energy drained, I realise that I am now taller than her. Mum, who my brothers and I had never seen in a state of inactivity, will never hug me again, never cook dinner and chase us out of the kitchen again, never just be there when I need her, as she is gone.
My hand is tightly gripped around something. I look down to see my fingers tightly clutched around Harry's, a claw grip in which my muscles have frozen. Noticing my gaze, he places his other hand upon mine, rubbing it steadily until my muscles loosen. He gently squeezes my hand, to reassure me, so I flash him a grateful smile of thanks, and then return my attention to the front. Noticing his attire, I think it's sweet of him to wear his Weasley jumper to the funeral. Bright colours make this funeral far less dreary and depressing, even though black is the traditional hue of mourning clothes. Mum would have liked the colour.
Someone is speaking. My mind had previously blocked out all the sounds of their speech, and I wish it would again. The person speaking obviously didn't know Mum, as he is talking about a quite different person. No one who knew her would ever use the word ‘mild' to describe her, unless there was a negative somewhere in the sentence. I don't want their ramblings about this other person, who also happens to be called Molly, to affect my memories of her, so I focus my attention on them. On what my mother has done and shown to me that made her my Mum.
I focus on her cooking, often simple, but always tasty and provided in large quantities. Mum was always ready to feed anyone who came in the back door. Food symbolised love to her, and she lavished it upon us and upon all of those around her. My earliest memories of her were of being sat on the kitchen bench, with a biscuit in one hand and a piece of carrot in the other, watching her bustle around the kitchen. The kitchen always, irrevocably, belonged to Mum. All the rest of us could enter it, but it was her domain, and only those approved by her could help with the craft she concocted there, a magic in its own right.
The memory of cooking with Mum is inextricably linked to the First of September, 1991. The day I first saw Harry. When we got home from Kings Cross station, Mum and I made chocolate biscuits in the kitchen, whilst I talked obsessively about Harry. When the biscuits were finished, Mum let me have the first ones off the tray. They burnt my fingers and mouth, but they tasted so sweet and delicious. Thinking about them, or about Harry, causes the flavours to return unbidden to my tastebuds.
The flavour and the memory of Mum just being, well, Mum, threaten to overcome my barriers. I did not cry when she died, and up until now, I have stubbornly refused to shed tears. There is too much emotion tied up in this for me to cry, as I feel that if I begin, I'll never stop.
Harry, as if he senses my emotions, slips an arm behind me, hugging me close. He doesn't say anything, but just his presence and proximity comforts me. I turn my head, so that I'm looking at him, and curl up, leaning my head upon his chest. His other arm comes around to encircle me, so that I am protected from all outside influences. These feelings of protection, comfort, and safety unblock my clog of emotions, until tears begin to intermingle upon my cheeks and bead on Harry's clothes. Harry just whispers things in my ear and rubs my back.
Lost in our own little world, I wonder if Mum would approve of what is happening, when, whilst shifting my head, rough wool fibres rub against my cheek. She did.
Author's Note - The story title, chapter titles and inspiration for this fic come from Gwen Harwod's poem 'Mother Who Gave Me Life'. Thanks go to: Cathy, Loui and Knight Samar for being sounding boards; Kagome and Heather for pre-betaing; and OHGinnyfan, as always, for betaing and being so supportive.