The house had been cleaned, re-cleaned, and cleaned again. Fresh bouquets of flowers adorned nearly every flat surface, Rose’s way of bringing the garden inside since her mother could no longer get out among the plants like she used to. In fact, between an overly attentive husband and daughter, it was a wonder Laurenna was even allowed to blink for herself. Thankfully, the unexpected pregnancy seemed to have given an abundance of patience along with her ruined waistline. She hummed to her unborn daughter–both she and Rose would hear no argument over what exactly this child would be–and happily spent many hours with her feet propped up on precariously stacked piles of pillows.
Everywhere you turned, the prospect of new life cast its glow over the entire house. For Ambrosia, this was a welcome distraction and exactly what she needed to keep her mind off the things she’d rather not be thinking about. The arrival of the O.W.L.’s lists–perfect Os with the exception of one glaring A in Arithmancy–had cast a cloud over the little blonde’s face but the impending birth had been enough to bring her out of it. At least in public.
Today the little blonde knelt in the garden, cutting sunflowers for the dining room table. Gently rescuing a praying mantis, she placed the fearsome looking insect on a still growing flower so he could continue his work then pushed a blonde curl away from her face.
“Hey,” Tommy walked up with his hands tucked into his jeans pockets.
She smiled up at him faintly. “Hi Tommy.” A silence fell between them as she gathered up the cut flowers around her. “Are you having a nice day?”
“Yeah,” Tommy nodded, “Just got back from Wales.”
Her smile finally grew. “Did you have fun at Bobby’s?”
“Yeah,” Tom nodded, “but it is nice to have this again,” he twirled his wand in his fingers. “I don’t think I’ll write a book like Daisy Hookum, but it was interesting to just be a muggle.”
“And Bobby’s parents are really nice. That always makes it easier.” She leaned back on her elbows in the soft grass, looking past her friend’s head to the nearly cloudless sky. “So I guess you had your letter waiting for you when you got in…”
“Got it at Bobby’s actually,” he grinned and plopped down on the grass next to her, “How’d you do?”
“All Os… except for Arithmancy. That one was a pity A.” Her voice was a strange mixture of pride and sadness. “How ’bout you?”
Tom sighed, “Not bad. Os in Transfiguration, Potions, and Charms. Es in History of Magic, Arithmancy, Astronomy and Herbology. And an A in Muggle Studies.”
The blonde cocked her head as she looked over at him. “I thought you’d manage higher in Muggle Studies.”
Tom shrugged, “I kinda stopped caring after Professor Quirrell showed what an ass he is.”
“That seems like so long ago,” she laughed softly. But of course the train of memory traveled from there to Belle then farther down the path of recent sadness. It was the hippogriff in the garden… impossible to avoid forever. “I overheard my mom and dad talking a few weeks ago. Eric’s parents are gone. Just like that. His dad just didn’t come into work one day. No one’s heard from them since.”
Tom closed his eyes, “Damn.”
“Yeah.” That silence fell between them again as they rested on the grass. Finally Rose sighed and slowly got to her feet. “I should get back inside to help my dad with dinner.” A small smile tugged at her lips. “He’s getting a lot better at it. I think that by the time the baby’s born he won’t be burning anything at all. Much.”
“Oh that’s right,” Tom grinned, “How is your mum doing?”
Extending her hand to help him up, Rose couldn’t help but laugh. “I think she’s getting tired of all the attention. She’s very ready to meet my new sister. And it could be any day now. My dad still looks a little panicked when he thinks about it though. But it’s his job to worry.”
“True enough,” Tom pulled himself up, “I better go too. I just got back and…”
“Ambrosia! Your mom… You need to… I have to… it’s time!”
Rose’s eyes grew wide at the sound of her father’s barely coherent voice. Giving her friend a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, she dashed to the house, sunflowers completely forgotten. “I’ll come over later and give you the news! Tell your parents!”
Tom was left frozen in the garden, “Wow.”
Toes curling and uncurling in the thick carpet of the living room, Rose let out a long sigh and looked down the hallway for the millionth time since her father had called her inside. The midwife from Saint Mungo’s was down there with her parents; mom was in good hands. That left the soon-to-be big sister alone to wait.
Jade eyes watched the furrows in the carpet change as she flexed her toes, the yellow nail polish winking happily up at her. It wasn’t even the waiting that was so hard. She knew how to be patient. It was the knowledge that, once again, she could do nothing to help.
She could hear muffled sounds coming from the room. Her father being encouraging, no doubt. And maybe her mother cursing. Rose liked to think she was saying at least a few bad words. It just fit so well with the image in her mind. Her father, looking so shocked and pale, holding her mom’s hand while the blonde woman swore up and down she’d never let him touch her again. The reality of what was going on down there was probably vastly different. But at least imagining the scene gave the tiny girl something to do.
“I wonder if I have time to send Idril over to Bobby’s,” she mused. She was halfway out of her seat to go send a message when a new sound stopped her in her tracks.
Tiny yet unmistakable, to Rose it was the sound of pure joy. “Be a girl be a girl be a girl,” she prayed. Settling back in her chair, she gave a contented sigh and prepared to wait again. This time it wouldn’t be so hard. Because soon she’d meet her sister.
Tom had been reduced to pulling gnomes from the garden rather than go back inside. Cecelia had been driving Tom up the wall asking if he had heard anything from Dan every five seconds. As Tom pulled his fifth gnome from the garden, his name rang out from the Sheridan side of the garden.
Tom jumped and that was the opening the gnome needed. The little garden pest clamped his jaw hard on Tom’s index finger.
“Bloody…” Tom yelped with pain, “why you little,” Tom tossed the gnome high into the air. He then pulled his wand, “Waddiwasi!” A jet of light hit the airborne gnome launching it even further into the air and over the fence line.
Rose didn’t even pause to yell at him for his mean behavior. She grabbed him by the hand and began pulling him through the garden and toward the bright and sunny Sheridan house. “She’s perfect and beautiful and adorable and you have to come meet her right now!” she gushed.
“What’s going on?” Tommy said as he sucked the blood from the gnome bite on his finger.
She lightly swatted him on the forehead. “It’s a good thing you’re in Gryffindor. What do you think is going on?” she laughed. “You’re going to wash your hands then come meet my new sister.”
“Yes ma’am,” Tom chirped happily as he quickly ran into the bathroom to wash up, quickly joining her in the hall, “Okay, lead the way.”
He hadn’t seen her eyes shine like that since before the OWLs. Practically quivering with excitement, she tiptoed to her parents’ room and paused at the door. “Now you have to be quiet and be careful because she’s so tiny and…”
“Um Rose,” Tom laughed with a smile on his face, “remember Cecelia? I have been in this situation before.” He gave her an evil grin, “And how is it you got into Ravenclaw again?”
The little blonde opened her mouth as if to yell at him then, surprising herself, suddenly pulled him into a tight hug. “Just go meet her,” she laughed. Hand between his shoulderblades, Rose pushed her oldest friend into the room then tiptoed with him to where her mom and new sister were resting in the bed.
“Hi Tommy. I see Rose wouldn’t let you wait.” Looking tired but triumphant, Laurenna turned the small bundle in her arms and gently moved the blanket. “Tommy, meet Halcyon.”
Tommy’s eyes widened as he took in the new little life in front of him. His right hand gently moved up toward the baby his index finger curled as it caressed the little one’s hand, “She’s beautiful,” he said breathlessly.
Peering over his shoulder, Rose giggled softly. “Of course she is. She’s my sister.”
Tom laughed under his breath, “Yeah, good point.”
“And she’s going to be brilliant. Just like the rest of her family,” Alcander stated firmly, though his gaze kept drifting toward the window as if expecting something.
Rose rolled her eyes. “Relax, dad. Halcyon’s barely a few hours old. Owls can only fly so fast you know.”
Looking properly chagrined, Rose’s father nodded and chuckled. “I know. I know.” Puffing out his chest in a gesture of fatherly pride, he grinned at Tommy. “Now, how ’bout you run on home and tell the rest of your family. I’d hate to start Halcyon’s life with the tragic murder that will happen if you mother isn’t one of the first visitors.”
“She is an absolute vision Alcander,” Giles whispered softly as he cradled the tiny Halcyon in his arms, “With this kind of success rate maybe you and Laurenna should have had a few more,” he said with a huge grin.
“I’m afraid we can’t, Giles.” Aclander gave a mock sigh. “Laurenna made it very clear to me during the birth that I was to keep my hands to myself from now on. So now it’s going to have to be your turn.”
“Dad!” Rose scolded, blushing a little to think that she’d been right about her mother’s state of mind during labor.
“Four is more than enough for me old friend,” he laughed, “Besides, I already heard that speech when my dear Cecelia was born.”
“Daddy!” It was now Cecelia’s turn to admonish her father.
It was somewhat comforting to see that all fathers were embarrassing. Rose smiled at Cissy and briefly considered asking about Danny. After all, his mom was getting close to her own due date. But rather than go to any potentially awkward place, she seized the opportunity to yell at her father as she caught him sneaking glances at the window again. “Dad! I told you to quit worrying.”
“I’m sure it’s fine Alcander,” Giles sat down in the chair still holding Halcyon, “It is a Sunday, the Ministry is more than likely just running a little slow.”
Alcander sighed again. “I’m sure that’s it,” he said, trying to laugh at himself. “But I seem to recall someone pacing the floors after Cecelia was born…”
Giles nodded, “Yes well,”
“He has a point Giles,” Milly curled her arms around Giles’s neck from behind and kissed her husband on the top of his head, “you were beside yourself.”
“Okay maybe a little,” Giles grinned.
“See. It’s not just me. I’m sure every–” He stopped, beaming with pride and pointed to the window. The Llewelyn and Sheridan families turned as one to see a large tawny owl heading for their home. Alcander gave a relieved laugh and hugged his oldest daughter. However, from her seat not far from her newborn daughter, Laurenna merely gave a knowing little smile. Catching her eye, Rose could see her mother had never been worried.
Opening the window for the messenger, Rose handed the letter to her mother. “Now that that’s settled… I think it’s time for celebration cake.”
The visitors had all gone back to their homes. The few remaining pieces of cake were stored away for breakfast in the morning. Laurenna Sheridan was sleeping peacefully, still glowing from her achievements. And Rose and her father sat together in the quiet of the back porch.
“You were beautiful like Halcyon, you know. Right from the start everyone was in love with you.” Alcander said with a fond smile.
“Too bad I grew up?” the blonde girl laughed, giving a little push with her feet to start the gentle movement of the porch swing.
“Don’t be silly. You were remarkable then and you’re remarkable now.”
“Remarkably ordinary.” It was childish, to say the least, to be anything but happy on her sister’s birthday, but she couldn’t help it.
Her father didn’t sigh. He did, however, use her whole name. “Ambrosia… you had a very rough end to your year.”
She sidestepped around the conversation, like she’d been doing since she left school. “Tommy and Céilidh are animagi now and Danny and Orlando are right behind them.”
Alcander watched his oldest daughter, struggling with parental urge to want to make everything better versus letting her find herself even though the pain. “I’m sure their families are quite proud. Was that something you wanted to do?”
Rose blinked and wrinkled her nose at the very thought. “No, but… Bobby’s a Legilimens.”
Finally understanding, the balding man gave a slow nod. “It’s not the same, you know.” Obviously his daughter didn’t know, the look on her face was complete bafflement. “Tommy and the others are right to be proud of their accomplishments. I’m sure they worked very hard. But Legilimency is something Bobby was born with.”
His tiny daughter still didn’t understand. Before she could open her mouth to ask, or worse, try to change the subject, Alcander continued. “Are you proud of having blonde hair? Or being short?”
“That would be silly…”
Alcander sighed and scooted across the swing to wrap an arm around his daughter’s slim shoulders. “I know it’s hard. So much of what makes you great comes from inside you, from your heart. It may not seem as impressive or flashy as some things. It probably won’t get you noticed by the Ministry. But just by being you, you make the lives of everyone around you so much better. That’s more impressive than any spell.”
The teenager beside him was silent. She leaned her head on his shoulder and stared out into the night with him. “Halcyon’s gonna love being part of our family,” she said finally.
“That she will,” Alcander chuckled. “She doesn’t need a famous family when she’s got a good one. And with a sister like you,” He gave her shoulder another affectionate squeeze. “I’d say she’s got a great one.”