Five months was a restless age, Harry thought. Hermione kept trying to get Forsizia to nurse -- they'd taken a flying carpet from Rome, so there'd been no question of convincing her to have her usual midmorning snack, and she had to be hungry as a bear -- but Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was brand-new to her, full of sounds and lights and colors, and all she wanted to do was look around.
It would have been nice if there'd been a private place for them, but the back room was swarming with rogue Follow-Me Fireflies, which was one of the reasons they were there in the first place. Plus Hermione was on a bit of a pro-breastfeeding crusade, so suggesting they go elsewhere would just get him a lecture on "treating a beautiful natural process as though it were something that we ought to be ashamed of."
Eventually Ron transfigured his windbreaker into a set of curtains that closed off the three of them from the rest of the shop, and Harry grabbed something off the shelves at random -- it appeared to be a quill that changed colors, and he really hoped he wouldn't discover any additional tricks just yet -- and dangled it over Hermione's shoulder from behind, keeping it moving all the time so Forsizia would have something interesting to look at while she had her lunch.
It took her forever when she finally settled down to it. Harry twitched the quill about, making it dance, tickling Hermione's neck and chest with it and getting a mock-irritable swat in return. Ron went out to hold off Fred and George, who didn't really understand why Hermione couldn't fix the charms on the Shape-Shifting Stuffed Sheep and nurse a baby at the same time, and came back in with a bottle of water for Hermione, holding it to her mouth so she wouldn't have to let go of the baby to drink.
Harry lifted Forsizia over his shoulder and patted her on the back while Hermione turned her back and buttoned up her top.
"All decent again?" Fred called, and when Hermione said, "Yes," the curtain around them disappeared. "If you're all done with family matters, Hermione --" George said with thinly concealed impatience, and Hermione grinned over her shoulder as she followed the twins back into the product development room.
Now the trick was getting Forsizia to pay attention long enough to burp. Every time the enchanted bell over the shop door rang (or cheered, or sang a chorus of "Let Wizards All United Be," or, occasionally, farted), she lifted her fuzzy head to look about and pushed off Harry's shoulder.
"Yes, yes," he murmured, "one nice big belch and then you can see everything."
At last she emitted the sort of burp that would make a Hogwarts first-year very proud. "There," Harry said approvingly. You had to be mad to be a parent. Parents were people who were happy to feel a blob of hot half-digested milk hit their backs.
"Scourgify," Ron said behind him, and the wet spot disappeared from his shirt. "Give her here, Harry, and I'll change her."
Harry levitated Forsizia through the air to Ron, who batted her back, trailing giggles through the air. "Right-side up!" Hermione called from the back room -- amazing how she knew what they were up to without even being able to see them. "And mind the beams!" Harry tossed her back to Ron, and she let out a peal of happy babble. Ron caught her and rubbed his long nose against her tiny one.
"Oh, look! It's the Potter-Granger-Weasleys!" sang a voice, and Harry turned to see Eloise MacMillan coming through the door with a pudgy, suspicious-looking baby boy on her hip and a slightly older girl clinging to her leg and whining. Ernie shepherded in two older girls, who made a beeline for the most dangerous shelf in the place.
"Well!" Ernie said, in a voice that was half jocular and half disapproving. "No need to ask what you three have been up to." Harry sighed internally. As if Forsizia's birth hadn't been all over the Prophet. "Finally stopping all that nonsense and settling down, I see."
"Ohh," crooned Eloise, handing off the boy to Ernie and descending upon Forsizia. "Oh, but oo's the sweetest cootums looly, idn't oo? And what's oo name?"
"Forsizia," Harry answered. Eloise looked at him blankly for a moment, and then cooed, "I'll just call her Princess. Princess! Come to Aunt Ellie!"
Harry glanced at Ron, who shrugged and handed Forsizia over. She immediately began grabbing for Eloise's necklace of fat silver beads and trying myopically to cram it into her mouth. "What's oo last name, then?" Eloise said.
"Granger," Harry said. He didn't add, of course, but it came out in his tone of voice.
Eloise shook her head. "Ohh, poor iddle baby! People will think oo's got no daddy! People will think Mummy did a bad, bad thing!"
Ron caught Harry's eye and circled his ear with one finger. Harry stifled a snicker.
"No, no, Edie, no touchie!" Eloise called. The oldest girl, who looked about six, gave her mother a look of long-suffering contempt and went on rearranging Weasley's Wheels of Fire in size order. Eloise turned back to Forsizia. "And who gave oo dat yellow hair, hm?" she murmured. "Mummy doesn't have yellow hair, and Daddy --" She broke off, covering her mouth with her free hand as if she'd been caught swearing.
Ron shouldered the bag of baby supplies while Harry levitated up the teether that Forsizia had flung to the floor and ran a quick cleaning charm over it.
"So, boys," Ernie said. "You can tell an old school chum, eh?" Harry caught a resigned glance from Ron: Here it comes. "Which of you is the real father?"
Forsizia leaned out of Eloise's arms, reaching for Ron, who took her and tossed her up in the air again.
"You know, Ernie," Harry said wearily, "that's a really stupid question."
Feedback me at email@example.com
Read "Bed and Board"
Read the story notes
Back to in medias Res
August 5, 2004