Moving to put the cake she's been making in the oven, Ivy almost jumps a feet high in the air when she suddenly discovers Petunia and Haesel standing behind her. The latter is looking at the envelope the former is clutching tightly with faint interest, and Ivy almost laughs at her furrowed brows. It is Petunia's expression which really catches her interest, though. She's biting her lip – a nervous habit she has been trying to lose for years, shuffles her feet, eyes wide with disbelief and hope.
Ivy raises an eyebrow but waits to question her until she's done what she wants and the oven door is closed.
"Is there anything wrong?" she questions when Petunia stays silent. The blond girl merely hands her the envelope en Ivy has to keep back a gasp when she sees the seal on the back. It's from Cheltenham Ladies College, her own alma mater.
"Oh Petunia, does this mean..."
Petunia can't hold back a beaming smile of utter delight. "I got in! They said there was a problem with the mail, that's why the letter is so late or something like that, but I got in!"
Ivy moves to hug her eldest, also smiling widely.
"I'm so proud of you, darling! So very proud!"
Petunia laughs. She's still clutching the letter tight, as if it will disappear the moment she lets go of it.
"Oh we've got so much to do, so much to buy! We'll go for your uniform and everything tomorrow, there's not much time left. We'll go over what you'll need tonight. What House are you in, does it say? It's a lovely college, you'll have such a great time!"
Haesel stands at the kitchen door, feeling out of her depth as mother and daughter start an exited conversation that goes entirely over her head. She turns around to go upstairs, intending to look for Lily. She will surely know what that was all about.
Lily is laying on their shared bed, still in her pyjamas. Haesel goes and lays beside her. She doesn't say anything for a while and the silence is comforting, only disturbed when Lily turns a page in the novel she's reading – one Haesel recognises to be nicked from their Mum's collection.
"Say..." she starts. Lily looks up from her book, noting with interest the puzzled frown Haesel is wearing. She nudges it with a frown.
"Stop that, it's unbecoming. You'll get wrinkles before your time!"
Haesel merely furrows her brows an extra bit, the Petunia-impression not managing to make her amused. Lily abandons her book entirely and sits up. She now recognises Haesel's mood as the one she gets when she's doubting her place in the family, which, despite Lily's assurances, still happens fairly often.
Haesel searches for words.
"Petunia got this letter from some college or another. When she showed it to Mum, they were both terribly exited."
Lily nods. It's not entirely unexpected. Petunia had applied and gone through all the tests and the visits. When the letter hadn't arrived, all of them had thought she hadn't been accepted even though her application had been favourably received as far as lily had been aware. Of course most of this had happened when Haesel had been in the hospital still, so she wouldn't have known. No wonder she feels a little left out.
"Mum went there when she was young, too, and it's always gone sort of unsaid that we'd go there as well. Or, you know, try to get in. It's very fancy and very good, so it isn't very easy. When no letter came, we thought she'd not been accepted."
Lily pauses. Cheltenham is the reason Petunia's been trying to make herself be more ladylike, it's why she's worked really hard in school. She'd been quietly crushed when it seemed like her every effort had failed but had tried not to show it.
"I'm happy for her! It's really important for her, to get into Mum's school. They share so little, I mean, Petunia looks like Dad and has always been a Daddy's girl while Mum and I had lots in common." She nods, considering. "That's what I always thought, anyway."
Most of the confusion has cleared from Haesel's face. It's their ritual, to go get the post together. Petunia carries the letters and bills and Haesel the paper, and she likes it very much.
Sometime every little way to connect, to belong, is important to her.
Lily pokes her. Haesel shifts a little to peer up at her better.
"I'm not sure if you're supposed to try to get in there, actually."
Haesel starts. She's not?
"Do you know about the fostering thing?"
Haesel shakes her head. She knows the word but she hasn't a clue what Lily is on about.
"Well, there used to be this tradition in Mum's family to foster someone out for a bit, like a year or so. It was usually for boys, but then there were only two girls – Mum and Aunt Ianthe."
Lily barely waits for Haesel's nod to continue. "So they fostered Aunt Ianthe out for a year to a family is Scotland, when they were ten. Afterwards, Mum told me, Aunt Ianthe had gotten so attached to her family that she wanted to enter the same school as her host-sister, some Saint George something, I'm not too sure what it was called again."
"So you think Mum might like me to go there?" Haesel says thoughtfully. They both know she means both her Mums when she says that and Lily shrugs.
They lapse in silence again and Lily contemplates returning to her book when a though strikes her. She turns on Haesel with wide eyes. She can read those identical green eyes better than she knows her owns and sees her fears reflected back to her.
"I won't let them!" Lily exclaims, wildly waving her hands. "We won't!"
Haesel nods solemnly. "We won't." she agrees.
Lily calms down. After a moment she lets out a small sigh.
"Well, I should try to find out all I can about that school, then – if I'm going to try to go with you."
She groans. "Not knowing the name for sure is embarrassing!"
Her new school is all Petunia is concerned with the next few days and she can scarcely talk about anything else. Lily and Haesel let her, secure in their promise to try out for the same school when the time comes. They've become so attacked to each other the idea of separation for years is one that is impossible to stomach. They've not said anything to their parents. Lily wanted to, but Haesel said not to. This time is for Petunia, she said, and we'll not ruin it for her! Petunia deserves the attention, the happiness. She's bright, extremely so, but she doesn't hold a candle to the sheer genius of Lily and if Haesel is honest, herself. It's the second reason she thinks of going to a different school, so Petunia can hold on that glory even when Lily and Haesel outstrip her... because they're undeniable special.
Haesel is reminded ever so often of that day in the park, when they did those...tricks and that boy saw them. He tried to talk to them, yelled something about witches to which Lily had said "How rude!" and pulled Haesel away.
They've not been to the park since, keeping to the backyard and the swing they've managed to talk Robert into. They're trying to talk him into a pool as well, but haven't had much luck so far.
They've talked about the tricks enough times though. Haesel has even been able to admit to Lily about the dreams, and the strange things she sees in them. Lily nods, thinking deeply before proclaiming them both to be 'magic'.
Haesel falls of the bed laughing, but Lily only stares at her seriously.
The evening of the day Ivy takes Petunia for her school uniform and other school things, she takes Haesel aside for a moment. With a sad smile she hands her a battered dark green case.
"Open it." Ivy says. There's something in her eyes that Haesel finds hard to name.
She undoes the clasps one by one, until the case is open and she's presented with a beautiful, gleaming violin. Haesel looks up to her Mum, wonder in her eyes. She suddenly yearns to play this instrument, although she's sure she doesn't know how.
"I'm sure you don't remember but... you've been playing since you were five." Ivy smiles. "Though that might not have been the same instrument, maybe a smaller size." Her hand touches one of the burnt spots that litter the case. "It was in the car with you. I've been told that you tried to protect it with your own body."
Someone gasps and Haesel looks up to see Lily stand in the doorway to the kitchen from where Robert and Petunia's voices still come.
She feel the burns on her back and shoulder itch.
"Go on, try it!" Ivy encourages.
Haesel lays down the case on the sofa and frees the violin and bow from their secure confinement. She tightens the bow, lifts the violin to her shoulder in a thoughtless gesture. She touches the bow to the strings.
It's like coming home all over again as Haesel traces the notes of a song she didn't know she even knew. When she opens her eyes again – when did she close them? – the whole family is standing there. Lily is near tears and is clapping enthusiastically when she finishes. Haesel grins.
She can't mean her 'thank you' to Ivy enough.
Hi! I'm sorry to have taken so long – and then have the balls to appear with such a short chapter. I've got my reasons, though! It's exam time in two weeks so yep, have to study! And I want to do a time skip but felt I needed to include just a little more before I did.
Hope you liked it!