Her hands hurt in the mornings, knuckles cracking, stiff and sore. She rubs liniment into them and ignores the smell. The baby doesn't seem to mind.
It is a good thing, she tells herself, that the child is so quiet. He watches, mostly - watches her from his highchair as she struggles to perform charms which were once much easier, watches as her hands shake as she tries to feed him. She gives up after the first few useless attempts and hands the baby the spoon. He spills more than he eats, but it is far easier to clean up the mess later.
He doesn't play. She thinks she remembers Alice bubbling on in her letters about what a happy, playful child he had been, but that was before. Now he holds his stuffed lion close as if afraid it will be snatched from him and stares at her with huge brown eyes that are not Frank's. He doesn't walk yet, and seems to have forgotten the few words Frank wrote to her about so proudly.
Laundry and cleaning charms and checking his nappy. Check the wards twice, three times. Alfie sends an owl, but she already knows the news from the hospital will be no better than yesterday or the day before. Worn beyond belief, she finally sinks into a chair and summons herself a cup of tea. She closes her eyes just for a minute. She is sixty seven years old. She has no business raising another child.
A cautious pat on the knee sends her eyes flying open. The baby has crawled over to her silently, his tattered lion dragging behind. She watches as he pulls himself up unsteadily, wobbling, waving chubby arms to keep his balance. His pudgy fists clench on the fabric of her skirt as he holds himself in place.
He's not like Frank. Too quiet, too sweet, nothing of his father's reckless enthusiasm for everything he could see and grab and taste. She sets her teacup down with a sigh and bends to lift him into her lap, back and hands and elbows protesting at the solid weight of him. He settles in her lap, but blinks up anxiously, chewing unhappily on the lion's ear. She cannot imagine what he thinks, whether he has any idea how horribly wrong everything has gone. He doesn't know he'll never be held by his parents again.
The Healers whispered about him that night when all three were brought in screaming. They didn't think the old woman's hearing was so sharp. Would he be damaged, they wondered. Trauma and whatnot. Things a child should not witness. They performed a Memory Charm at her insistence. He hasn't cried since.
He falls asleep curled into her side, and she is too weary to carry him to his cot. She strokes his hair gently, old hands bent and crooked on baby-fine gold strands, and only allows herself to hope that they will make it through the next day.