Epilogue: And So It Continues
Beth stood before the memorial plaque behind which was interred the remains of the sister she had never known. Lily Peace, she thought, feeling sad. What a pretty name.
"I wish I were pretty."
The slender, pale, green-eyed, black-haired nine-year-old was not supposed to be in the Hall of Monuments, but she had long since become adept at slipping away from her goblin nanny, Tonguepuller, and she knew that she would not be missed for quite awhile.
After all, her mother was about to give birth again.
Elizabeth Gift was the eldest of her siblings, who included Sebastian Arthur, seven, William Maddox, five, and Christopher Remus, three. She had come to her almost-sister's marker to pray for a live one. She was tired of boys.
"All of the Weasley babies have been boys," she told Lily Peace of her Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron's children. "Even Uncle Bill and Aunt Padma and Aunt Ginny and Uncle Draco have boys!"
Uncle Charlie had not yet married, and Beth had heard "Molly Lady," as she referred to her honorary grandmother, despair of him ever finding a wife.
The little girl did not believe that her favorite uncle was looking for one.
If two boys get married, it probably means that they have to have boys, she thought in irritation.
She was old enough to realize that Augie had not moved to the Carpathian mountains to work with dragons.
"But I really want a little sister, Lily. I'll need her to play with when 'Bastian and Billy and Remie go away to school."
Grandfather Oddfish, Grandma Azalea's second husband, had promised Beth that her magical abilities would come in time, but she did not believe him.
I can't even levitate a broomstick, yet.
It wasn't that Beth did not feel loved; she knew how special her parents thought she was.
But Mummy is so proud of my brothers' nascent powers.
"Nascent" was a Daddy-word. He was fond of weird words, and Beth had struggled hard to learn as many of them as she could. She needed to impress one of her parents.
"Maybe I've spent too much time in the earth, and that's why my magic won't come," she said meditatively, ignoring the fact that her brothers rarely left the Great Goblin Hall.
"I shouldn't think so, young lady," a kindly male voice said. "It never did me any harm."
Beth turned to see a young-looking, red-haired man standing behind her. She knew at once that he was actually quite old. For one thing, his clothing, a simple, shimmering, silver robe with black buttons that shone as if there were hundreds of shining stars caught inside of them, was rather worn. For another, he felt older than the stone that surrounded them, in much the same way that Albus, her dear friend who had gone away, had always felt.
The girl forced herself to look away from the stranger's buttons before she fell into one of them.
"Who are you?" she asked, not truly afraid.
"No one at the present time," he replied mildly, "and yet, a friend if you would like one."
Beth snorted rudely in disgust. "Another boy?"
"I'm afraid so, Elizabeth Gift."
"How do you know my name?"
"I know a great deal more about you than that, my dear," the "young" man told her before beginning to glow.
"You're a fairy!" she exclaimed, thinking about how Tonguepuller did not care for them.
"As are you, after a fashion. And you are named for both she who gave you the gift of fairy magic, and the gift you will become to your people."
Beth knew very well the story of her birth. The Muggle queen had called her from her mother's womb only days after her conception. But that was a very great secret. It had always annoyed her that it was one she had to share with so many people.
"What are you talking about? And . . . and if you are as old as I think you are, why aren't you dead?"
The man laughed, and his glow began to fade. "Many have wished for my death, child, but I am Taliesin. My place has always been here."
"You're nutters! Merlin was trapped in a cave--trapped forever!"
"Ah, yes--that was a great story, but I am afraid something of a myth. No, I have only been waiting, my dear, waiting until it was time to guide the king again."
"But . . . but I'm a girl. Why are you talking to me?"
"Because every king must have his queen, a partner with whom to share the burden of leadership, and I think that you would make a proper one for Harry."
"Harry? Do you mean Valentine? But that's stupid! Val can't even herd gnomes out of his own garden--how's he ever going to lead anyone?"
It was then that Beth noticed the reflected light from the stones, but it was not emanating from them. It was coming from her.
"Hey! I'm glowing! How did you do that?"
"Indeed you are, my dear, and with quite a lovely light, too. But I assure you, Elizabeth Gift, that the light is all your own."
"That may be," the girl replied with a tartness she had learned to affect from her father, "but lighting up like a stone isn't very useful, is it?"
"Oh," Merlin said, "I wouldn't say that. You'd be surprised what secrets one may find in stone."
And then Beth found herself returned to her room in the Snape Family's hall. Her father was waiting for her.
"Daddy!" she exclaimed, running to Severus, who opened his arms and scooped her up. "Daddy, I--"
"--went off again. Yes, I know. What have I told you about worrying Tonguepuller in that way?"
"I'm sorry, Daddy, but--"
"--you'll be wanting to meet your sister, I assume?" the wizard said, smiling indulgently at his daughter.
"A sister!" Beth exclaimed, quite forgetting, for the moment, that she had a secret to share. "Is she named, yet?"
Severus laughed, something that Beth, like her mother, never got tired of hearing.
It's just like a gift when Daddy laughs.
"Not yet. That's why I've come for you. Your mother wants you to help us name your sister. Would you like that, my love?"
"Oh, yes, Daddy," the child told him, struggling down out of his arms impatiently and running through the open door. "I've got lots of ideas!"
And that, thought Severus proudly as he followed his daughter, who was glowing with something more than happiness, is only appropriate for the future queen of the Friends of Merlin.
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