The Book

One day, he brings home a book. The binding is smooth; the parchment stiff, unblemished, full of possibility. Turning to grin at him as she leafs through the large blank pages, there is a sudden warmth in her fingertips. It is the perfect book in which to write a life.

Even before Teddy is born, they fold themselves into the pages, etch their hope into the wide leather spine with laughter and whispers. He produces a camera from somewhere - it's old and it smokes and everything has a slightly more orange hue than is normal - and the book fills up with pictures. Speckles of sunshine, yellow in her hair as they paint the nursery walls. Her mother, wrapping a tape measure around the ever-expanding bump. The pair of them, doubled-up on the floor, surrounded by a veritable ocean of tangled wool, bright and fluffy and uncontrollable.

(There's a photograph in the book that neither of them knew existed. Lit by the flickering fire, they lie slumped on the couch together; she reaches up to kiss his sleeping face, over and over.)

The leaf that lodged behind her ear during an afternoon walk finds its way into the book, tucked between an advert for the new Celestina Warbeck album (he protested, and was duly overruled) and a recipe for carrot cake (it's the icing - completely addictive). He wants to write things down, spends hours trawling musty volumes for inspirational quotes; smiling to herself, she folds paper cranes and carefully presses them into place.

He blinks, slightly stunned by the sheer volume of glitter that she trails across the pages, tracing patterns with the tip of her wand. She catches sight of his face and bites back a chuckle; dark eyes twinkle as she flicks the gold dust at him, making the air dance and sparkle until he is forced to wrap his arms around her, lifting her off her feet so that she squeals.

When Teddy is born, he gets slightly carried away. He shows her the obscenely large gold letters embossed onto the front cover, a sheepish grin on his face until he realises she is sobbing.

"You're an idiot," she says, but she clutches the book to her chest and her smile through the tears is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Later, he will notice the splash of the saltwater on the leather.

Three sets of handprints stain the page with paint that flashes like Teddy's eyes, and suddenly their life spills over the bright smudges, beyond the constraints of words scrawled in the margins with a hasty quill, outside the edges of the photographs jammed in at odd angles. The book is too small for them, now; it can't contain this messy expanse of joy and sleeplessness and terror and peace that their life has suddenly become.

With dry eyes, Andromeda fastens them in, her Sticking Charm as steady as it ever was.

A lock of long-ago hair; faded pink.

A small blue sock; not quite finished, the wool unravelling.

A photograph of a turquoise-haired baby, brandishing fat fists at the camera; slightly crumpled.