In any family – save the ones with no children or no lack of funds – there is a phenomenon known as the hand-me-down. In the Halliwell family, though they were odd in almost every way, it was no different. It had started with the eldest child, as is so often the case.
“What is her name, Patty?”
The young witch rubbed her protruding stomach, gazing down fondly as though able to see the growing fetus within. “How do you know it’s a girl, Mother?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow at the older woman. “Are you getting premonitions, now?”
“Of course not,” Penny huffed dismissively. “But Halliwells simply do not have sons. That is the way it has been for over three-hundred years, and that is the way it shall be for the next three-hundred!”
“Victor and I—” Penny clucked her tongue when her daughter mentioned her husband, “haven’t decided on a name yet. You will know when we know.”
“Very well, dear,” Penny sighed. “Get some rest. I will be in the attic if you need me.”
As soon as her mother was gone, Patty pulled the soft white fabric from underneath her pillow. She couldn’t knit to save her life, but she could sew, and she had purchased the fleecy material to make a baby blanket for her daughter. For her Prudence.
Patty threaded a tapestry needle with a thick lavender yarn, and began to stitch an outline around the ‘P’ she’d cut from a scrap of purple floral. “’P’ for Penelope, ‘P’ for Patricia, ‘P’ for Prudence Alana,” Patty mumbled to herself.
Baby Prue came home in that blanket, and slept in that blanket, and wore that blanket like a cape. When she was two years old, she had a little sister.
“Welcome to the world, Piper Marie,” Patty cooed. “Prue, come meet your baby sister.”
“Sister,” Prue repeated, crawling up onto the hospital bed. Then she frowned, noticing something out of place. “Blankie! Mine!”
“This is a special blanket, Prue,” Patty said seriously. “A magic blanket.”
“Mm-hmm,” Patty nodded. “Just like you, and me, and your Grams. I made this blanket with magic, so that it would keep you safe. And now I need you to help me keep your sister safe. She needs the blanket to keep her safe, Prue. Can you let her have it?”
“Sister safe?” Prue asked.
“With you and the blanket? She’ll never get hurt.”
“Don’t want sister hurt,” Prue said emphatically.
Patty smiled. “You are such a wonderful girl, Prue,” she murmured, kissing Prue’s cheek. “You’ll look after your sister, won’t you?”
Prue nodded. “Me and blankie,” she agreed.
Another three years, and the charmed blanket saw many bedtimes and bathtimes and playtimes and naptimes. One foggy November night, rumbles shook the Manor.
“Prudence! Piper! Find a doorway!” Penny was worried. Her granddaughters had never been in an earthquake before, although they had been taught how to react to one. Five-year-old Prue was sensible and responsible, and Penny felt sure that she would make sure that Piper and herself were safe and out of harm’s way.
“Mother?” Patty called out. She was nine months pregnant, and almost due. “Mother!”
“Patty? Patty, where are you?”
“In the conservatory – Mother—” Penny hurried to the glassed-in room off of the kitchen. Patty was standing stock-still, staring in shock down at a puddle between her feet. “I think my water just broke,” she said quietly.
“We can’t get to a hospital during a quake!” Penny shrieked. “We’ll just have to – darling, what is it?”
Patty moaned loudly, sinking down onto one of the loveseats. “C-contraction,” she stuttered. “Oh!”
“Patty, how close are they? Patty?”
“Oh, dear,” Penny sighed. In the panic over Patty, she’d almost forgotten about the girls and the earthquake. Now that she thought about it, though, the house had almost stopped shaking. “Come on, let’s get you and the girls to the hospital.”
“No, Mother, we don’t have time,” Patty said, her breathing harsh and ragged. “You have to do it. We have to do it here.”
“What? No, Patricia—”
“Mother!” Patty yelled. “Mother, Phoebe is coming!”
“Another ‘P’ name, why am I not surprised,” Penny groused.
“Now is not the time!” Patty hissed, grinding her teeth. “And if anyone’s to blame—” With another harsh yelp, Patty doubled over on herself. “She’s rather impatient, this child of mine,” Patty joked between gasps.
“Okay, okay,” Penny soothed. If her flower child days had served any purpose, she hoped it would present itself now. Her friends had taught her the ways of peace and love and harmony, and had introduced her to Wiccan credos. Many of them had dabbled in homeopathy, and Penny tried to harness that knowledge now. Telekinetically, she removed any barrier between her and her daughter’s womb, and she helped Patty recline against a grouping of pillows. Quickly, she grabbed a blanket off the back of a chair, and draped it over Patty’s bent thighs.
“I see her head, darling,” Penny narrated. “You need to push.”
“Oh, no,” Patty moaned.
“It’s okay, Patty, it’s okay, just push,” Penny instructed.
“Not now, Prudence!” Penny called back impatiently. She couldn’t let the girls see their mother like this.
But Prue and Piper found their way into the conservatory anyway.
“Mommy?” Piper asked innocently.
“Prue, take your sister and go upstairs,” Penny ordered.
“Mother!” Patty cried out.
“Mommy, are you okay?” Prue asked worriedly.
“Your mother is fine, sweetheart, just take Piper and go upstairs.” Penny turned her attention back to her daughter. “Patty, I can see her shoulders. You’re almost there, just push!”
“Is the baby coming?” Prue asked.
“Prudence, upstairs!” Penny shouted. “Patty, push!”
With an ear-splitting cry, Patty made the final push to bring Phoebe Jane Halliwell into the universe. Phoebe began to cry, and Patty began to cry, and all the crying made Piper cry, too.
“Oh, it’s okay, little one,” Patty murmured soothingly to baby Phoebe, once Penny had cut the cord and cleaned her off enough to be held. “It’s okay, Mommy’s here.”
“Girls, why don’t you—” Penny looked, but only one sister stood in the doorway. “Piper, where’s your sister?”
Piper sniffled. “I dunno. Mommy screamed, and the baby cried, and Prue went away,” she said.
“Piper, would you like to say hello to your baby sister?” Patty offered, smiling warmly at her middle daughter.
“I found it!” Prue announced, bursting into the room with a triumphant yell and her chest heaving.
“Shh!” Penny scolded.
“It’s okay, Mom,” Patty said. “Phoebe doesn’t seem to mind. Prue, come join your sisters.”
“I got this for her,” Prue said proudly, brandishing the blanket in her hand.
“Hey, that’s mine!” Piper whined.
“It was mine first,” Prue corrected, “and now it’s the baby’s. For protection. Right, Mommy?”
“When you were born,” Patty began telling Piper, “I told your sister Prue the story of this blanket. When I was pregnant with her, I made this blanket, and I charmed it so that it would keep my babies safe. You and Prue have magic of your own, but baby Phoebe doesn’t yet. She needs her big, strong sisters – and this magic blanket – to keep her from harm. Can you help me with that, Piper?”
Piper tilted her head in consideration. “I guess so,” she said finally.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Patty smiled widely. “I love you so much.”
For a year, the sisters were all safe. But then Victor left, and Patty started seeing Sam, and then her daughters stopped seeing her. She was pregnant again, but there was no joy in this.
“We can’t just give her up,” Patty cried, cradling her fourth daughter in her arms.
“But we can’t keep her, either,” Sam reminded her. “Some Elders would do anything to prevent a Twice-Blessed child from coming into their powers – even if it meant killing an innocent baby.”
“So we have to lose her to save her?” Patty sniffed.
Sam cupped Patty’s face in his large, callused hands. “It’s breaking my heart, too,” he said, “but if the choices are her alive or her dead? I’m picking alive.”
“Samuel,” Patty whispered.
Sam slid in beside her on the cot barely big enough for one, let alone three. “We’ll make it through, Patty,” he promised. “We’ve done it under worse circumstances.”
Even he didn’t believe that, but he couldn’t stand to see Patty so heartbroken.
Two days of tears later, and Patty and Sam were standing in the nave of a cathedral. In Patty’s arms, their newborn daughter was swaddled in a familiar blanket. The pristine fleece had darkened to a cream color over the years, but it was just as soft and four times as precious as it ever was.
“Please, take care of her,” Patty begged the nun. “Find her a safe home, where she will be loved.”
The sister asked no questions, just nodded slowly and promised she would. Through sobs, and with shaking hands, Sam helped Patty hand the baby over to the nun. “What is the child’s name?” she asked.
“We don’t know, and we don’t want to,” Sam answered for the both of them.
“But the blanket—”
“Keep it for her, to give to her when she comes looking for us,” Sam said.
“And her name…make sure it starts with a ‘P’,” Patty choked out, and then Sam shepherded her out of the church.
The baby started to wail as soon as her parents left, and the nun rocked her softly, cooing and humming to try and quiet her. “Don’t worry, angel,” she whispered. “I’ll take good care of you.”
Paige placed the last candle, forming a circle in the middle of the attic. She stepped back, then, and carefully chanted the words she practically knew by heart now.
Hear these words, hear my cry
Spirit from the other side
Come to me, I summon thee
Cross now the Great Divide
A million balls of the purest white light burst forth, swirling and reforming to create a glowing specter of Paige’s birth mother.
“Paige,” Patty smiled warmly.
“Hey, Mom,” Paige grinned. “I, um, I have a question for you.”
“Of course, ask me anything!”
Paige played with her fingers, unconsciously twisting her wedding band around. It was a nervous habit, and talking to her mother – or grandmother, for that matter – always made her a little nervous.
“Paige, darling?” Patty asked gently. “Are you alright?”
“Oh, yeah!” Paige nodded quickly. “Totally fine. It’s just – well, as you know, or maybe you don’t know? But you probably know, I mean, you guys keep up with our news and stuff Up There, right? Because you generally seem to know what’s going on, and I know Grams is nosy enough to keep tabs on us a lot, if not all the time, and—” she flushed and stopped speaking, looking down at her feet. “Sorry, I ramble sometimes. Bad habit.”
“It’s okay. What do I know?” Patty asked.
“That Phoebe’s pregnant?”
Patty smiled, this one both tender and full of pure joy. “Oh, yes. We’re all very excited about that.”
Paige sighed, relieved. “Good. I mean, we are too, but it’s good that you know, because I’m sure if you didn’t know, Phoebe would want to be the one to tell you, even though I’m doing this without her here because I want it to be a surprise, and it wouldn’t really be a surprise if she knew about it beforehand, would it? So – ugh, sorry! Rambling again.”
“It’s okay, Paige,” Patty laughed. “What’s this surprise? Is it for Phoebe, or the baby?”
“Oh,” Paige bit her lip. “Um, well, kinda both. See,” Paige turned around, and grabbed a small box off of one of the attic couches. She undid the latch, and brought the opened container over to where Patty stood. “Right about the time I met my sisters, I went to the church where you and Sam—” she faltered, not knowing how to say ‘where you and Sam, my birth parents, abandoned me’ politely.
“Where your father and I left you?” Patty asked. Her expression was still warm, but Paige could see her eyes fill with sorrow. Paige couldn’t imagine ever doing what they did and living with herself, especially now that she had children of her own.
“Um, yeah,” Paige nodded slowly. She shook her head quickly, to knock away the bad thoughts, and hurried onwards. “Anyway, I met a nun who said she remembered you guys, and she gave me this.”
Paige turned the box to face her mother, and Patty gasped.
“Your baby blanket,” she murmured.
“She said I was wrapped in that when she got me, and that you asked that my name start with ‘P’,” Paige recounted. “Was this – I mean, did my sisters have this, too? I just figured, since we all have the same initial, maybe—”
“Yes,” Patty breathed. “I – I made that, when I was pregnant with Prue. It took some doing, but I charmed it…put some of my magic into the fabric itself and into the things I added, so that it would protect you girls and keep you safe. I wanted you to have it so that it could take care of you when I…when I couldn't.”
Paige was silent for a moment. She had sort of known, since she discovered her true heritage, that her biological parents had loved her. She knew that it wasn’t their explicit choice to give her up. And it certainly wasn’t as though she’d trade her parents – her real parents, the parents that had raised her and kept her and given her the surname she wore with such pride – for anything, even if it would be nice sometimes to have the background and history and inside jokes that Phoebe and Piper did. But to have this tangible piece of devotion from her mother…made it all more real, somehow. This was something Paige could hold in her own hands, see with her own eyes, and understand that this was a physical manifestation of her mother’s love. To Phoebe, who had grown up with two sisters who had known their mother while she had not, maybe that would mean even more.
Paige was pacing outside the closed door, clutching the tissue-wrapped bundle to her chest.
“Paige, would you relax?” Piper pleaded. “You’re making me nervous, and I’m not even an Empath!”
“What are you so worried about, babe?” Henry asked his wife quietly.
“Nothing, nothing,” she muttered distractedly. “Jeez, how long does this take, anyway?”
Piper rolled her eyes. “If you’ll recall, you had not one, but two babies less than six months ago, and your labor took a hell of a lot longer than we’ve been waiting. Chill out, sister.”
“I do recall, thank you very much,” Paige sassed. “I’m just—”
Paige was cut off by a scream from the room, and then the heartbreakingly beautiful cry of their newborn niece.
“Is she here?” Piper asked excitedly. “I think she’s here!”
After a tense few minutes, Leo poked his head out of the door. “Girls, do you wanna come in? Henry—”
“No, that’s fine, I’ll wait,” he said easily. “You two go ahead.”
Paige stretched up to kiss her husband on the lips, but Piper breezed past them both and bustled into the bedroom. Paige, rolling her eyes at the eldest’s impatience, patted Henry’s cheek appreciatively and then hurried after her sister.
Piper was already sitting beside Phoebe, having taken the chair Coop vacated to join his wife and daughter on the bed.
“Hi, Paige,” Phoebe rasped, her sweat-soaked brow and tired eyes radiating ecstasy. “Prudence Johanna, this is your Auntie Paige. Can you say hello?”
The baby didn’t move at all, and Paige giggled. “She’s sleepy,” she whispered.
“Yeah, so is her mama,” Phoebe agreed.
“She’s so beautiful,” Piper breathed in awe.
“Yeah, so is her mama,” Coop joked, mimicking Phoebe’s words. He looked up at Paige. “What have you got there, Paige?”
Paige bit her lip, now wondering if it was the right time.
“Something big, I think, because she was about to have a nervous breakdown in the hallway.”
“Piper!” Paige hissed.
Piper grinned brightly, raising her eyebrows as if to say, ‘what did you expect?’
“Is it a present?” Phoebe asked. “For me?”
Paige had to smirk. Even after hours of labor, her sister was such a child. “Partially,” she nodded. She sobered. “It’s for you and the baby.”
“Well, I wanna see,” she insisted. “Gimme!”
Paige handed the package to Phoebe, who handed it to Coop for the actual unwrapping.
“It’s a blanket,” he informed his wife. “Thanks, Paige.”
He was enthusiastic, but he didn’t get it.
“Oh,” Piper gasped. “Phoebe, look.”
Phoebe looked down at her lap, and her mouth dropped open. “Paige?” she asked quietly. “Paige, is this—?”
“Oh, honey, no,” Phoebe protested weakly. “I can’t—”
“Yes, you can,” Paige insisted. “Our mother made it for us. It was meant to protect us, when we could not protect ourselves. Each of us had it when we were babies, and now it’s time for your babies to have it.”
“How did you know that?” Piper asked.
“I did my homework,” Paige answered glibly.
“Sweetie, Mom left this to you,” Phoebe began again. “I can’t just take that away.”
“You’re not taking, I’m giving. This was always meant to be passed on.” Phoebe’s face showed that she was unconvinced, so Paige tried another tactic. “Look, I’m a big witch now. I can orb, I can glamour, I can brew a dozen different potions in my sleep! Baby Prue doesn’t have her powers yet, and she needs the charms and spells this blanket can provide her with. And besides,” Paige shrugged. “I was an only child growing up, so I never got or gave hand-me-downs. This is a new and exciting experience for me.”
“Hand-me-downs are the opposite of new and exciting,” Piper snorted dismissively.
“Especially the third time around,” Phoebe agreed. Her gaze softened, and she stared at Paige with tears in her eyes. “You have no idea how much this means to me, Paige. Thank you.”
“You like it?” Paige asked.
“It’s the best gift I could’ve ever been given,” Phoebe insisted. “Even if it is a hand-me-down.”