Proud

She had a lot to live up to, Amelia thought as she stood with the other first years in the Great Hall, waiting her turn to be Sorted. Across the hall she could see Edgar at the Ravenclaw table, and she hoped desperately that she would be joining him in a few minutes. Mama would not mind which House she was Sorted to, but Papa would be disappointed with anything less than Ravenclaw, and she hated disappointing Papa.

"Arnold, Patrick!" and "Bennett, Peter!" were called, and then it was her turn.

"Bones, Amelia!"

Amelia took a deep breath and walked over to the stool, pulling the ancient Sorting Hat onto her head.

A couple of minutes later, she was making her way to the Hufflepuff table, throwing a look of desperation at her brother, who was smiling and applauding her anyway. Edgar was kind like that.

But she could not imagine that her father would be as accepting of the Hat's verdict.

She worked hard, partly because it was in her nature to do so, and partly to please her father, and she came top or nearly top in every subject. (Apart from Divination, which she did not understand at all, and Care of Magical Creatures, which frankly bored her.) But she always came up short against the feeling that she had somehow let her father down, that she was a disappointment to him. Peter, arriving at Hogwarts four years after her, was Sorted as a matter of course into Ravenclaw, and although his marks never matched hers, she knew that their father was much prouder of his achievements than of hers.

"Don't worry about it, Amy!" Edgar told her over tea one Sunday afternoon in the Easter holidays. "Your marks are brilliant; you're bound to get in at the Ministry. Father will have to admit he's proud of you then."

Amelia shook her head doubtfully. If she did get in - and she had to admit that her chances were good - she would only be following in Edgar's footsteps. Papa would expect no less, but would not applaud her for doing it. And if Peter failed to get into the Ministry in a few years time - as he very well might, as he was totally lacking in any sort of ambition - her father would not mind and would say he was proud of him anyway.

Her mother smiled as she stood watching Amelia standing uncomfortably while Madam Meredith pinned up the hem and sleeves of her new robes.

"You look very smart, dear," Susan Bones told her. "Very much the up and coming Ministry worker. Your father will be proud of you."

Amelia shook her head. "He won't," she said flatly. "You know that he won't." Her mother bit her lip, but did not deny it.

Four years later, Amelia was in her office - her very own office - in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, when a harassed looking messenger tapped on her door and delivered a note in her mother's handwriting marked: "Urgent". Amelia slid the papers she was working on into her desk drawer and pulled on her travelling cloak at once, dread rising in her heart and threatening to choke her as she headed for the Floo in the atrium.

But she was too late. By the time she reached her childhood home, her father was dead. Both his sons had made it in time to be present at his deathbed and to hear his final words.

"He told us he was proud of us," Peter choked through his tears. "I wish you'd been here too, Amy, so he could have said the same to you."

Amelia shook her head doubtfully. "He wouldn't have said that to me, Peter," she said quietly. "I was always a disappointment to him." She swallowed hard. "I think he never quite forgave me for being a girl."

It was ten days before Amelia returned to her desk at the Ministry. Her secretary had dealt with most of her post, and there was only one unopened letter in her in-tray, one marked: "Personal. Confidential."

Amelia looked at it with a tight feeling in her chest. Seeing her father's handwriting so unexpectedly was a shock. Her hands shaking, she slit the envelope and tipped out the contents.

Just a small sheet of parchment, dated the day before her father's death, and just four lines of writing:

"My dear Amelia,

It came to me today that I have never told you how proud I am of you and of your achievements. Today it seems right to remedy that omission. I hope you can forgive me for not doing so sooner.

Your loving and very proud Father, Edwin Bones"

Amelia read it through three times, dabbed impatiently at her eyes with her handkerchief and put the letter, carefully folded, into her pocket.

When her secretary came in at eleven o'clock with her morning coffee and biscuits, she was working diligently at some overdue paperwork and did not even look up as she murmured her thanks.

After Amelia was murdered years later by Lord Voldemort, her personal effects were delivered to her brother Peter. Amongst them, crumpled and thinned by time and much folding and re-folding, was a small piece of parchment in her father's handwriting, retrieved from her pocket after she died.