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A Door Closes, A Window

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"You've got a baby," Greta says blankly at the next midnight moon meeting.

Sue and Peg talked about it, about one of them staying home with Harry while the other went to the meeting.

"But he's up at midnight anyway," Sue pointed out, "so it's no use pretending to keep him home for sleep's sake. Besides, he might learn something."

So they bring him along, wide awake and interested, wrapped up in one of Peg's old jumpers.

"There was a sale," Peg tells Greta.

"Abandoned, poor mite," says Sue, leaning in. She's not above this sort of thing herself, when the mood strikes her. "We thought perhaps he might be a changeling."

One of the younger girls overhears and jumps in. "Oh, such a blessing!"

"Oh, such a ninny," Mary James mutters over the table of offerings, just loud enough for Sue to hear. "Is she sleeping through the night yet? My great grand-son started sleeping through at six months, of course you can't expect all babies to be so accommodating. What's her name, then?"

"Harry," says Peg.

A few of the women stare. Dorothy Martin gets downright shirty. "You're never bringing a boy to the moon meetings, Margaret, I know you're not."

Mary shoulders her gently out of the way. "Shut your gob, Dot, he's only a wee baby. There's no harm. What did you lot bring for the table, Peg?"

Peg hands Harry over to Sue in exchange for the bananas from Leo's. Harry, uncharacteristically, doesn't even make a grab for them as they go by. He's too busy stuffing his fist into his mouth and staring at everyone else. He's been a quiet child, as far as Sue can tell, although she doesn't have much to compare him to. She has vague memories of Lu as a babbling, cheerful baby, and even fuzzier ones of Ed, but she could just as well be making them up. Harry is quiet, anyway, and always watching. A little over a year, the doctor says, with four teeth on the top and four on the bottom. Healthy, he says. Sue wonders, sometimes. Shouldn't he be talking by now, at least a little? So far he hasn't spoken a word. Even his crying is quieter than the babies she's heard in the shop.

"Are you starting him on solid food?" The other Margaret is Peg's opposite in just about every way. Where Peg is straightforward and grumpy, Margaret is bashful and eager to please. She rarely speaks up at the monthly meetings except to volunteer her help to some community project.

Sue wracks her brains for the most recent."Margaret. How is the library project?"

Margaret smooths the front of her skirt twice. "We've had ever so much interest. And I wanted to thank you and Peg for the volumes you sent over. They'll be wonderful for the fifth-formers. But I wanted to ask you about your—about Harry. Is he eating solid foods?"

"We've got in some mushy peas, oatmeal, that sort of thing. He loves bananas." Sue taps Harry on the nose. He blinks at Margaret.

"I only-" says Margaret, shuffling. "Have you got some formula? There've been studies, you know, about babies and getting the right nutrition, and I thought, since the two of you are…older…" She falters to a stop, waving her hands.

"Well I'm certainly not giving him my tit," says Peg. If Sue weren't holding Harry, she'd give her a good smack.

Margaret flushes.

Sue takes pity on her. "We're giving him formula, Maggie."

"All right, all right," Greta breaks in, clapping her hands. "Coo over the little man child later. We've got to do a welcoming ceremony tonight, my dears."

Sue looks around and spots the newcomer. She's a dowdy little thing with sagging stockings and a handbag that's nearly as big as herself. There's a grey tabby cat poking out of the bag.

"Ah min," says Harry suddenly, reaching toward the woman.

"Ah min?" Sue asks him. "Peg—"

"I heard," says Peg.

"Ah min," Harry says again, but then drops his hands and only stares.

"This is Miss Arabella Figg," Greta says, ignoring them. "She's just moved to the neighborhood. I invited her to come along, as she said she had an interest in the magical arts."

Miss Figg wiggles her fingers in a timorous wave, sniffing underneath enormous spectacles. "So nice to meet you all." Her voice is thin and rather nasally. The cat in her bag gazes round at everyone, then disappears into the depths of the bag again, unimpressed.

"Ah min," Harry says one more time.