"Okay, girls, stay behind me," Penny said as she led the girls downstairs.

"No problem," Prue answered, her voice quavering slightly. Truth be told, she was most afraid than she thought she was going to be. Her heart was pounding and all she wanted to do was run back up the stairs and hide under her blankets until everything was over. She knew, though, that she had to at least appear to be unafraid for Piper's sake. When they were almost at the bottom of the stairs, Piper all of a sudden gripped Prue's hand tightly, looking for a little reassurance. Prue caught her eye and smiled. After a moment, Piper smiled back.

Once they were downstairs, Penny put her finger to her lips and motioned for the girls to follow closely behind her. They obeyed, huddling together as their grandmother called for Patty. She received no answer, so she tried again more loudly. After a moment, Patty stalked out of the kitchen. Piper gasped when she saw her. Her face was twisted in a cruel sneer and her eyes were glittering with anger and rage. "You think you can get rid of me with a piece of paper?" she laughed when she saw the spell folded in Penny's hand.

"No. We know we can get rid of you with the one thing you hate most," Penny answered. "Go on, girls."

They both hesitated, but Prue spoke up first. "Mommy, we love you. Fight her and come back to us. We miss you."

"It's not going to work," Patty said. "My hold on her is too strong. Your mom's gone, girls, and I'm taking her place."

"Ignore her," Penny answered calmly. "You can get your mom back. Keep trying."

"Mama, I know you can hear me," Piper said softly. "Please come back and give me a hug. I love you."

"I want a hug, too," Prue said with a grin. Piper's idea was very smart. The one thing her mother loved more than anything was giving her girls hugs and holding them. "Please, Mommy, I miss getting hugs from you."

Patty groaned a little bit, Laurel's hold on her weakening slightly. "Keep it up!" Penny exclaimed excitedly. "You're doing great! Just a little bit more."

"Mama, I love you more than anything," Piper said, her voice getting stronger. "You have to come back because if you don't, I'll be very, very sad."

Prue grinned, proud of Piper's resolve. Even though she was young, she knew exactly what to say. Patty groaned again and stumbled backwards, but she quickly regained her composure. "Let's see if you still love her after this," she hissed.

She rushed forward towards Piper. Piper, frightened, threw her hands up to protect herself and her mother froze in place. Panting, she lowered her arms and looked up at her grandmother, completely confused. "Girls, go in the playroom, now," Penny said, seeing her chance.

Prue grabbed Piper's hand and dragged to the playroom. She knew that her grandmother wanted them out of there so that they wouldn't see what she was about to do, but she had to watch. She wanted to see her mom come back. Standing by the doorjamb, she peeked around the corner. "Stay there," she whispered to Piper.

"No!" Piper yelled with a small whine. She huddled up behind Prue and peeked around Prue's shoulder. "How come I could freeze her?"

"'Cause it's not Mommy, it's Laurel," Prue whispered quickly. "Now, shush."

Just as Patty unfroze, Penny began reciting the spell. "Evil woman from the past, we have found you out at last--"

"No!" Patty screamed, lunging at Penny.

Penny sidestepped her and finished her chant. "This curse you made I now will break, never again a soul to take."

Patty sank to the ground, but a white mist stayed. After a moment, the mist formed the spirit of a woman dressed in a long, royal purple velvet dress. Prue gasped and Piper hid her eyes in the folds of Prue's shirt. After a quick moment, Patty sat up. "You're free now, Laurel," she said weakly. "Go to Brian."

The woman looked around the room angrily for a moment, then gave Patty a knowing, grateful smile. She once again turned into a mist which swirled its way through the ceiling and disappeared. Patty sighed heavily as she tried to stand.

Prue and Piper ran from the playroom and tackled their mother, both of them giving her the biggest hug they could. "Whoa, girls!" she said, laughing. "Hold on a sec. Let me at least stand up."

Penny helped her daughter stand, then scooped up Piper as Patty picked up Prue. "Where are we going?"

"We're going to make a picnic lunch and take it to the park," Patty said. "I want to spend some time with my girls. We have a lot to talk about, don't we?"

Prue nodded, wrapped her arms around her mother's neck, and nestled her head on her shoulder. It was so good to have her mother back.

**********

Prue and Piper were busy throwing pebbles into the pond as Penny and Patty cleaned up the paper plates and cutlery. After everything was thrown away and the uneaten food put back into the cooler, Patty sat back down cross- legged on the blanket and leaned back on her hands, letting the wind blow through her hair. She felt a little strange, like she had been drugged for a few days.

"How're you feeling?" Penny asked as she sat down next to her.

"A little weird," she answered slowly. "Like, you know how when you're really sick and then you get better, sometimes you don't know what day it is and stuff like that?" Penny nodded. "It's like that, but more intense. It's also kind of . . . empty, I guess is the word."

"You identified with her, didn't you." It was more of a statement than a question.

Patty looked at her mother, then back down at the blanket. "Yeah, I did. I mean, she missed her husband so much. And then when she lost her house, too, it was like her entire life was falling apart. I know it doesn't excuse what she did to Samantha or what she did to Prue and Piper, but I understand why she did it." She sighed and watched the girls giggle by the water's edge. "Does that make me evil?"

"No, darling, it doesn't," Penny said, resting her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "It makes you compassionate. You were able to see past all the anger and rage through to the human being Laurel was, all while she was hurting your children. It takes a strong woman to do that."

Patty nodded sadly, then grinned when she saw the girls running back to them. She opened her arms and both of her daughters ran into them, squeezing back. When they let go, she sat Prue on one of her legs and Piper on the other. "I missed you girls."

"I missed you, too, Mommy," Prue said with a smile. "I'm so happy you're back."

"And Laurel can never, ever come back?" Piper asked softly.

"She can never come back, ever," Penny said, grinning.

"Good, because I hated her," Piper said, a hint of anger in her voice.

"Don't hate her," Patty said, looking down at Piper.

"But she was evil!" Prue exclaimed. "She almost took you away from us and she hurt us. Why shouldn't we hate her?"

"Because hatred is what made Laurel evil in the first place," Patty explained. "Laurel was a good mother at one point, but then she lost someone very dear to her and she started hating everything. She became so angry and blinded by her hate that she lost sight of what was good in the world. I don't want that to happen to you, either of you."

The girls were silent for a moment. "Do I have to like her?" Piper asked.

"No, you don't have to like her," Patty said, smiling gently. "But don't hate her." She kissed the top of Piper's head as Piper leaned back against her.

Prue leaned back against her mother as well, grinning when her mom kissed her, too. It was so good to have her mother back that she almost didn't care what had happened to her during the past few weeks. It was like a black cloud had been lifted. There was a light, airy feeling around her mother now and there was no longer anger hovering over the four of them. The girls could go back to their carefree playing and bickering without fear of consequences. As a matter of fact . . . "Tag, you're It!" Prue exclaimed as she poked Piper's arm and scrambled off her mother's lap.

"I'll get you good!" Piper yelled, taking off after her.

Penny and Patty giggled. "Things are already back to normal, huh?" Penny said, grinning.

Patty nodded. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."