I was kept pretty busy for the next six weeks as parents continued to bring their eleven-year-olds in for wand matching, but about two weeks before the start of the Hogwarts term things started getting crazy. I had ten kids through between opening and my morning tea break and was on a massive high when my best friend, Rose Weasley, dropped by.
“They’re talking about you, Emilia,” she informed me, tossing a packet of chocolate biscuits on the crowded table in the back room and helping herself to tea.
“Who’s saying what about me?”
“Everyone at work,” she replied. Rose technically worked for the Ministry, as part of the Potioneer’s Research and Development Centre, which meant she got to mix with a whole lot of academics and researchers from all disciplines of magic. “Sarah-Louise Dempsey from Worthy Wandlore has called you ‘the most promising new wandmaker since Garrick Ollivander.’”
“Seriously? Is that why I’ve had half the magical population of Britain through here in the last couple of hours?”
“Probably. You’re moving up in the world.” Rose took a handful of biscuits, settling herself on the edge of the table and leaning forward. “I hear your sister’s pregnant again.”
“When is she not?”
“Well, yeah, that’s true. I thought Amie would have been her last, though. I know the Prophet wants her to go full-time.”
“How do you know everything that happens in the wizarding world?”
Rose shrugged. “I have connections. I drink a lot of tea with a lot of people who have nothing better to do. And occasionally, people who do have something better to do but can’t get rid of me. Like you.”
“You are my pet limpet, Rose Weasley.”
“I do a good job of it.”
“Speaking of people who have better things to do,” I began, “Why aren’t you at work?”
“It’s infusing day, there’s not a heck of a lot to do. Do you need any help here?”
I peer round the door into the shop, where a couple of kids are already milling around, waiting for me.
“That’d be great. Can you handle the payment side of things?”
“As long as you come out for lunch with me.”
Things didn’t slow down in the shop until September 1, when there were few enough customers that I was able to clean the shop and even continue my research on new types of wand cores. For the past several decades, most European wandmakers focused on the “Garrickean cores,” named after Garrick Ollivander, who discovered them. Though there was no denying that unicorn hair, phoenix feather and dragon heartstring were powerful cores, I nevertheless believed it was too restrictive to only have the three, even if the range of wood, size and flexibility ensured few, if any, witch or wizard ever got the same wand as another.
“She’s gone,” a familiar voice said morosely from the doorway to my office, and I turned to see Cassia leaning against the wall, voice breaking on the last word as she burst into tears.
I glanced at the clock on my wall. Quarter past eleven. Of course.
“She’ll be back for Christmas,” I reasoned.
“How did you know what I was talking about?” she asked in a thick voice.
“Because it’s quarter past eleven on September first. Who’s looking after the other kids?”
“Come sit and have tea,” I suggested, patting the seat beside me and putting the kettle on.
“Thank you. God, I’m such an emotional wreck. I should be proud. How many mothers cry when their kid goes off to Hogwarts? Most rejoice.”
“She’s your first though,” I reasoned. “Cry your eyes out. Milk and two sugars?”
“Please,” Cassia sniffled.
“She know anyone at Hogwarts this year? Sophia, I mean.”
“She knows Paddy.”
“Little Patrick Lupin? He’s Hogwarts age?”
“Wow.” I frowned. “He didn’t get his wand from me.”
“He got his grandfather’s old one,” Cassia explained. “Teddy kept it for him.”
“That’s okay then.”
“You’re going to take it as a personal insult if any of our friends or extended family doesn’t buy their kids’ wands from you, right?”
Cassia reached for the latest copy of Worthy Wandlore and flicked through it. “Is this the one that says nice things about you?”
Her eyes skimmed Sarah-Louise Dempsey’s column and she looked up, thoughtful. “Feel like being interviewed?”
“What, by you?”
“Me, or someone else at the Prophet. I was going to tell you, but everyone’s been talking about your wands lately.”
“Rose already told me.”
“Well, yeah, Rose would know.”
“She also said the Prophet wants you to go full-time.”
“They’ve been wanting me to do that for a while.”
“Cass, when are you going to stop reproducing?” I blurted.
She arched an eyebrow at me, and I was reminded exactly how much she’d inherited from our mother. Though her disposition didn’t suit it, she could definitely pull off Mum’s contemptuous glare well enough.
“When are you going to start?” she countered.
“Not for a long time. If at all.”
“Don’t you ever feel like there’s something…I dunno…missing in your life?” She flailed a bit.
“No. I love your kids enough I don’t need my own.”
“Aw, Em,” she said, beaming. “You’re a sweetie.”
“Well, it’s true.” I grinned at her. “And I maintain Sophia will be in Ravenclaw.”
She threw a paperclip at me. “I hope your firstborn is in Gryffindor.”
“Now you’re just being horrible. At least Ravenclaw’s a neutral house…”
“Fine. I hope your firstborn is in Hufflepuff.”
“Well then, I just won’t have kids.”
“Does Albus want kids?” Cassia asked suddenly.
I fidgeted uncomfortably. “He may have mentioned it.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean, what am I going to do? He can wait.”
“Is he willing to?”
“He’ll just have to be. And before you go telling me I’m being unfair to him,” I interrupted, holding up my hand, “Considering it’ll be my career that’s disrupted by kids, not his, he can either suck it up or leave.”
“Is everything okay with you two?”
“Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know.” I shrugged. “It feels like we’re moving in opposite directions, you know?”
“Quit with the fancy metaphorical break-up bullshit and tell me how it is,” she ordered. “Do you love him or not?”
“Well, yes, but…”
“Then hold onto him, you silly girl,” she admonished. “You’re not going to find a better man than a Potter.”
“You’ve never argued with James about kids, I bet.”
“Who are you kidding?” she asked incredulously. “We have six. I assure you there has been much arguing over the last twelve years.”
“Not about the existence of them.”
“He didn’t want Amie.”
“Once the twins were born, he thought we had enough kids. I disagreed.”
“What did you do about it?”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m not sure how to take that question,” she said matter-of-factly. “You saw me practically every day when I was pregnant with her. You met her for the first time when she was a day old. If you’re questioning the fact that I got pregnant, quite frankly, Emilia, I’m worried.”
“I was more meaning the fact you got pregnant to solve the argument about having more kids or not.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” she conceded. “But after that he decided he wanted a big family as well. And Amie’s a sweetie, so all’s well that ends well. I think she’s my favourite.”
“She’s my favourite at the moment. She doesn’t get into half as much trouble as the others and she’s most excited about the new baby. Harriet was my favourite last week. I like to rotate.”
“Is this your last, then?”
“Second to last,” she said firmly. “I decided ages ago I’d stop when I was thirty-five. I can still have another in that time.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Speaking of my children,” she said, “I should probably go rescue Ginny from them. Go home and talk to Albus, okay?”