"It's for the best."
That is the last thing I remember the Healer saying before the Sleeping Draught took its effect. It's therefore no wonder that when I open my eyes again, waves of pain still flowing throughout my body, I am in no mood to be told to wait.
"Where is he?"
"My apologies, Madam Black, but I think—"
"Where is he?"
Despite my heavy breathing, I manage to fix my iciest glare on the elderly Healer. He has served me in my previous two pregnancies, and thus knows better than to deny me my request.
My heart pounds as he hands me the bundle wrapped in a soft blue blanket. My son isn't crying like my other two children had, and I fear more damage has been caused by the operation than I first thought. One perfect pregnancy was a blessing, two a dream, but a third? I'm more practical than to believe in miracles.
Gazing down at the baby in my arms, however, I feel the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders. He looks perfect, gazing back up at me with familiar grey eyes, and I know at this moment my Marius is special.
"It's for the best; at least she'll be able to catch up now."
A murmur of assent echoes around the parlour, and I take a sip of tea to keep from rolling my eyes. We all know that Lucinda Goyle doesn't really like the idea that Camelia Parkinson's daughter is the one receiving extra tutoring; it is no secret that her husband's finances prevent their own daughter, Gemma, from attending the additional lessons.
"Tell me, when did your son first show his magic, Lyra?" Camelia asks while fanning her face, desperately trying to rid the pink tinge to it.
Lyra Malfoy smirks at all of us. "We knew when he was born, of course. But, if you are talking about when it became more prominent, just last week he caused all the books in our library to float."
"Did he indeed?" Irene Belby pipes up. "Well, my Thomas turned the cat purple."
I take another sip of tea, listening to everyone compare their children's achievements. I smile and nod at each announcement, but inside, my heart begins to beat faster. Young Thomas is only eight years old—two years younger than Marius. Marius who still hasn't shown any indication of magic.
Suddenly, the tea tastes bitter, and I have to put my cup down.
"Violetta? You seem to be unusually quiet. Tell us, has Marius shown any signs?"
I blink as I realise all eyes are on me. I ignore my silly doubt and meet their gazes with my head held high.
"Of course; he's a Black. Why just yesterday he helped Cassiopeia and Pollux with their spellwork. Oh, did I not tell you that Pollux got his Hogwarts acceptance letter yesterday?"
It's the right thing to say, for shoulders drop and smiles are replaced with pursed lips as they no doubt wonder why their own offspring haven't received early offers.
I pick my teacup up again and allow myself to forget my worries. There is nothing wrong with Marius; I know his magic will come soon.
"It's for the best. After all, I'd rather not have the curtains set on fire." I try to keep the smile on my face as Marius drops his shoulders. Holding my hand out for my wand, I add, "Perhaps you just need your own wand to channel your magic."
Before he can return it, however, Cygnus strolls into the room.
"Finally practising magic, are you?"
I resist the urge to snap at my husband; he wouldn't know what any of our children do each day, being far too busy with his work.
"Well, boy? Go on, let's finally see some magic from you."
The same hammering feeling from the week before starts in my chest as I watch Marius hesitate. Only when Cygnus clears his throat does he give the wand a wave.
"Oh yes, very impressive," Cygnus says, clapping his hands slowly. "Did you see that, Violetta? Nothing! Our boy can do nothing. What a show!"
I glare at Cygnus before softening my gaze as I turn to Marius. I can see the doubt in his eyes, and I know I can't let him give up now. I vow to find a way to help him, no matter what it takes.
"It's for the best I leave you here," I say, nodding my farewell at Lucinda.
She looks at me with a raised eyebrow, and I can tell she's already concocting some scandalous tale about why I insist on finishing my shopping unchaperoned.
"But, do you not want to hear about what happened to Ismelda's cousin?" she splutters, taking a step towards Flourish and Blotts.
I stand in front of the door. "I thought that perhaps you'd prefer to head home early; won't
George be in need of your support?"
It's a nasty thing to say, but I watch with some satisfaction as Lucinda's cheeks turn red; she probably doesn't realise that everyone knows her husband has been caught copying Galleons at Gringotts. Turning on her heel, she scurries off to the nearest available store with Floo access, allowing me to head inside the bookshop alone.
"Good morning, my dear Madam Black. What can I do for you today?" The greasy clerk greets me, reaching for my hand to kiss it.
I leave it at my side and fix him with a steely look. "I'm after a book I've been recommended. Whilst it's none of your concern, I trust you understand that the title is of mere curiosity to me, and thus my search should be kept between us?"
I can see his little mind ticking away as he no doubt wonders why I would need a purchase kept secret. Still, when his gaze meets my own, his grin disappears and he nods. "Of course. And what may I ask is this book?"
I gaze at him for a little longer, ensuring he knows I'm serious, before I whisper, "Requiem for a Wand."
His eyes alight with shock and he hurries up the stairs. In no time he is back, a rectangular parcel wrapped in brown paper in his hands. When he passes it to me, I place a small pile of Galleons in his outstretched palm, with two extra coins that he notes with a nod of understanding. He won't tell.
"It's for the best, really, if we keep her at home for one more year."
The parlour is silent as the news sinks in: Marigold Parkinson will not be attending Hogwarts this year, and probably never will. No one dares say the 'S' word, but already I can see the sideways glances going on and subtle shifts in posture. Lucinda is the most obvious of all of them, turning her back to Camelia as though she no longer exists.
"Well, I am pleased to say Gemma is looking forward to going to Hogwarts. Already, her father has stated she will be receiving his grandmother's Slytherin brooch, which has been passed down for seventeen generations of Goyles," she says.
I'm not sure if it's the tea again—really, Lucinda ought to dismiss her house-elf—but I start to feel sick as everyone but Camelia engages in conversation.
"Ah, yes, my Victoria picked out her luggage as soon as she got her letter."
I know it's already mid-July, but somehow, I had hoped that it was the school that was wrong and had forgotten our address. It was ridiculous to think so, though. The book I bought last month outlines all the symptoms of a Squ—a child without magical ability, leaving no room for doubt.
Yet again, I soon find myself under the scrutiny of everyone when I fail to do more than nod, too lost in my own thoughts.
"Is young Marius looking forward to joining his siblings?" Lyra asks.
My hands begin to tremble slightly, and I find I have to sit my teacup down. The air feels like it has been sucked from the room, and I look away from her piercing blue eyes.
It's a mistake to do so, I realise, as my eyes land on Camelia. Although she has barely made a sniffle, her eyes are bloodshot. It's hard to watch as she examines her nails and bites her lip, perhaps regretting her decision to share her news.
I feel even worse as my lingering gaze turns the attention back to Camelia, and she jumps. Lucinda's lips twist into a satisfied smirk.
"Don't worry, dear, I'm sure your Marigold will be fine. Why, I know quite a few of them who have married into good families and keep the bloodline going, despite their… wretched circumstances."
This time, Camelia fails to keep her upset to herself, and I see her blue eyes spill over with fresh tears.
I tear my gaze away, my mind reeling. Will Marius be treated the same way? Will his masculinity or name be enough to spare him from a lack of companionship?
The same, single passage from the book that has haunted me all day swirls around my mind:
It is for the best if a child, upon suspicion of a lack of magical ability, is sent from the home to live with those more comfortable with his or her abnormalities.
Would Camelia do that to Marigold now? Could I?
"Well now, where were we?" Lucinda asks, looking back at me.
With a final glance over at Camelia sobbing freely, I make a decision. "Actually, I was just about to inform you all of Marius' news. We will be sending him abroad to train at Durmstrang Institute, where he has been given early admission."
It is like Silencio has been cast over the room. I try to settle my frantic heart as I look each of them in the eye, daring them to doubt the news.
Lyra, of course, forgets her place. "Really? But is it not a Black tradition to study at Hogwarts?"
I feel ill, but I don't miss a beat as I put her in line. "That's exactly why we are sending him to Norway. He is a Black, and we only want the best for him. I'm surprised you haven't heard of the breakthroughs their school has made in education recently."
I can't help but smirk at the way Lyra opens and closes her mouth like a goldfish. "Why, yes, I have heard that, but there's nothing wrong with Hogwarts—"
"Of course not."
I hold my head high as, slowly, the congratulations pour in from the other ladies, refusing to allow my fear to show.
It's for the best...
My heart is heavy as I watch Marius look out the window, his nose pressed to the smooth glass. His eyes are full of hope, just as they have been all month. They portray no sign of the tears he had shed earlier that day, when his father had given him a wand and told him to use it, to no avail.
Part of me wishes Cygnus was here now, just this once, to hold my hand and tell me everything is going to be okay. A larger part knows that it's best that he isn't.
"Marius?" The word comes out strained, and I have to clear my throat. "Marius."
He turns my way with his thin lips risen in a small smile. It soon falters, however, as he meets my eyes, and I have to wipe furiously at them with a silk handkerchief.
I fix a smile on my own face. It's hard to see through my eyes for they have gone blurry, but I manage to bend down and find the package I had purchased in rushed excitement two years ago.
"This is for you."
Marius takes the package with curious eyes, tearing off the ribbon around it. It's a small trunk, and as I tap my wand on its lid to enlarge it, I can't help but hope that he would be able to enlarge it himself.
He glances out the window, and suddenly I feel dizzy. "But does that mean an owl did come? I thought… I thought there was something wrong with me."
My throat is clogged as I watch him fiddle with the ornate brass lock on the trunk, his eyes now dancing with excitement. I know I must tell him, but the words won't come out.
I finally sigh, my energy now focused on at least making sure my tears are kept at bay. The way his fingers fall from the lock tells me he already knows anyway.
"If not Hogwarts, where?"
I always knew my Marius was special, and now he has proven as much. I can see that he's trying to hold his own pain in by the way his lips start to tremble.
"You'll like it at this school. I-I made sure that it has the best Mug—the best professors."
I can't even bring myself to say the name of the kind of people who will be raising my son from now on. My knees grow wobbly, but still, I focus on wiping away the sticky trails the tears are making.
"But what if I don't want to go? Oh please, mother, let me stay! I can help Dorea with her magic, or I could… I could…"
I have to turn away from him, for if I don't, I know I will run and hug him and never let go. My mind wanders back to that day eleven years ago when I clutched him in my arms in a blanket, and the questions I've asked since come flooding back: If they hadn't had to remove him the way they had, would he be alright now? Should I have known he was a—a—that he was different back then?
I look back up to see that Marius is staring at me. He, too, has given up the pretence of being strong, and his cheeks are ruddy.
"I'll be good, I promise," he whispers.
I remain silent, my heart breaking, and he flees from the room in tears.
I'm not sure how long I sit here, down on the floor, my head buried in my hands. When I finally look up again, it's to see that Cygnus has entered the room and is holding the Requiem for a Wand book.
His eyes wander over to the trunk. "Is someone going somewhere?"
"I've decided to send M-Marius to school abroad." I don't say which school, and he doesn't ask.
He flips through the book instead. "It's for the best," he says once he's finished.
Marius is my son, my special son, and it's for this reason I don't argue or retract my decision.
It is for the best.