Quite a Birthday Present
Disclaimer: Major thanks to JKR for being so cool about letting us play in her mental backyard…even though it's not our swing set.
Author's Notes: This story is an epilogue to Moondance. If you haven't read that one yet, this one probably won't make much sense. Many thanks to Elanor Gamgee for her impeccable beta services. Hagrid-sized hugs to everyone who asked me for another Bridget story. It was a joy to write about her again.
Quite a Birthday Present
They had walked a fair distance since Apparating and Remus Lupin was prepared for the question long before his friend asked it. As they walked, Remus continually sneaked sideways glances at Elias, mildly amused at his attempts to hide both his curiosity about their surroundings and his discomfort in his Muggle clothing. Elias Kitchens had never been particularly good at hiding his opinions.
"How much further do we have to go?" Elias scratched at his chest through the heavy knit jumper.
"Not too far, I think. Parts of this road are starting to look familiar to me." The memory of walking this way before was blossoming freshly in his mind. He seemed to recall each tree and every patch of grass, even those that were still buried under what was left of the snow.
A large station wagon trundled by and the driver smiled at the men as she passed. Remus noticed a well-groomed boy in the passenger seat, holding a wrapped gift on his lap. He felt certain that the car was also heading to the Logan house and he took a moment to tighten his grip on the knapsack containing his own birthday gift.
As if reading his mind, Elias looked down at the knapsack and frowned slightly. "Tell me again, boy. How are you going to do this?"
"Simply. That's the best way there is." Remus smiled at his friend, who returned a flatly unconvinced look. "The bigger box is for the party, so she can have something to open in front of her friends."
"That's the expensive one from the Muggle shop?"
"It wasn't THAT expensive." Remus paused, as Elias seemed poised to interrupt him, then continued. "And then when the party is over and everyone has gone home, we'll get some time to chat with Conor about the other one. I think it's best to talk to him first."
"Wise call, I think. You know it's not likely to go easy. No man takes it lightly when his whole world is called into question."
"I know. But you have to remember...this man's world has already been questioned. Three years ago, when Bridget was bitten."
Elias nodded, but didn't seem totally convinced. "All I'm saying is not to expect an easy road. Tread lightly."
"Yes, sir." He looked further up the road and grinned. "We're almost there...perhaps you might try to stop scratching."
Elias tugged at the collar of his jumper and shot him a scornful look. The look did nothing to dampen Remus' spirits. He had recognized the fence at the edge of the Logan's property and was anxiously anticipating seeing the birthday girl.
"Sounds a bit like a carnival back there."
Remus hadn't noticed the sound until Elias pointed it out. There was music coming from the pasture behind the Logan's home and over the music, he could hear shouts and laughter and the raised happy voices of children.
They walked through the gate and around the house and Remus believed he felt his pulse quickening with every step. As they rounded into view of the pasture, Elias leaned in close and whispered, "Which one is your girl, then?"
The question proved highly unnecessary. Before Remus had even really had a chance to look at the group of girls gathered by the stable, one had broken away from the pack and was running toward him. He hadn't even seen her there.
But in the few seconds it took Bridget to reach him, he had time to notice everything about her. She looked taller. Her hair was shorter. Her new front teeth had grown in. She looked, he thought, as he lifted her up into a hug, even more beautiful than his memory of her.
"I knew you would come, Remus. Daddy said I shouldn't get my hopes up because we hadn't heard from you for sure, but I just knew you would be here."
"And you were right, of course." He put her back down on the ground and took a step back. "Let's have a look at you."
Bridget straightened her shoulders and stood as tall as she could. She was wearing jeans and a rose-colored jumper. "Do you think I've grown taller?"
"Definitely." He turned to include Elias. "Bridget, I'd like you to meet my very good friend, Elias Kitchens."
Bridget reached to shake his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kitchens."
"Likewise, young lady." Elias shot a glance over her head at Remus. "It's always a pleasure to meet someone who knows proper respect for their elders."
"Well, Daddy says it's important to be nice to old people." Bridget pointed in the direction of her father, oblivious to Remus's attempts to hide his laughter. "He's over there, setting up the food."
Remus watched as Conor set out a stack of paper cups. A nearby boy spoke to him and he nodded in return. The boy called to some friends and they all ran into the barn, appearing to be playing some type of tag game involving imaginary weapons. They ran in and out of the empty stalls, calling out words that Remus didn't understand.
It only took him a few moments to notice what was missing. He looked all around the pasture behind the house and turned to Bridget. "Where are the horses?"
A stricken look washed over Bridget's face and her eyes seemed to be trying to convey a thousand messages at once, none of which Remus could discern. He started to reach a hand toward her, but she stepped back a pace and offered him a manufactured smile. "Horses take a lot of time and trouble. So we decided not to keep them anymore."
An awkward moment of silence passed between them, which Elias broke. "Is there someplace special set up for presents? You did bring the birthday gift, didn't you, Remus?"
In an instant, Bridget's false smile faded away and was just as quickly replaced by a sly (but obviously genuine) grin. Remus opened his knapsack and felt all around inside it as though it was empty. "Funny, I could have sworn I put it in here..."
Bridget giggled. "Don't be silly, Remus. I can see the corners of the box right there." She pointed to a corner of the knapsack. Remus looked at the corner, then reached into it and produced a wrapped box with a shiny yellow ribbon.
"You're right! This IS for you. Happy birthday." He handed the present to her and she dropped a slight curtsey as she took it from him.
"Thank you, Remus. I'll go put it with the others." She took a few steps away from him, then stopped, her eyes dancing between the present in her hands and the two men standing near her. "Can I open this in front of everyone or is it kind of a secret present?"
"It's perfectly fine to open in front of everyone. True, there's a bit of our secret in it, but nothing that anyone would notice."
Bridget nodded and then stepped back to his side and cupping her hand around her mouth, whispered, "Does Mr. Kitchens know about our secret?"
Remus stifled another laugh with difficulty. "Yes, Bridget. Elias is actually something of an authority on our secret."
Bridget looked up at Elias with an expression of hopeful enthusiasm. "Are you here to help me?"
Remus silently took notice of the eagerness behind her question. She was too fervent. Something was wrong.
Elias, however, didn't seem to notice. He was smiling cagily. "Perhaps so, Miss. But at the moment, I'm here to celebrate your birthday and I could do with a cup of that punch."
"You come with me then and we'll get some punch and you can meet my friends." As they walked away, Remus heard Bridget's raised voice. "Daddy! Look who's here!"
Conor seemed to have already noticed the new arrivals, as he was making his way through the throng of children towards Remus. The two men shook hands, Conor grasping Remus's hand in both of his. "I am right glad to see you. Bridget was fairly certain you would be here. I must admit I had my doubts."
Remus nodded. "I'm sorry about that. I wasn't able to get in touch with you to let you know I was coming."
"I would have called you just to make sure you knew the time and date...but you're a hard man to find, Remus Lupin. No listed phone number, no address, not even any mention in the government records I was able to get my hands on. So what did you do when you left here back in October - disappear from the face of the earth?" Conor seemed to be making the question playful, but Remus picked up on the same urgency he had heard in Bridget's voice earlier. "Or does your address have to be top secret?"
"If so, it appears that I wouldn't be the only one here with a secret. The last time I was here, there were horses in that barn and all I got out of Bridget just now was that they were too much 'trouble.' She has good instincts for knowing when to lie, but she's going to need some acting lessons if she plans to get away with it very often."
Conor narrowed his eyes at Remus, and looked away from him in the direction of Bridget and Elias, who were engaged in what appeared to be a very lively conversation. "That bloke she's talking to...is he your family friend? The one you told me about?"
Remus nodded. "That's Elias. He's been a part of my life as long as I can remember."
"And you brought him to Bridget's party?"
"Yes, I did."
Conor cut his eyes back to Remus, a mischievous smile on his face. "Then I assume you'll both be staying for dinner after the party."
* * *
Bridget knew that Daddy asked her to take her presents upstairs and get ready for bed so that he could talk to Remus privately and tell him about what had happened. She wondered if Remus would be upset with her. Part of her felt sure that he would be very cross and maybe even want to stop being her friend, but another stronger part was sure he would just feel sad for her. It was hard for her to feel afraid of Remus.
She could hear their voices downstairs and she tried to listen from the doorway of her room, but they were speaking too quietly for her to overhear. She crept quietly down the carpeted part of the stairs, hugging Paddington Bear close to her chest, careful not to make a sound. It was certainly not the first time she had managed to sneak downstairs without being heard.
"I don't think she actually remembers anything, no. But she knows what happened...I had to tell her the next morning. That was the worst part."
Bridget tucked herself behind the potted plant that stood outside the door to the waiting room. It was her favorite place not to be seen. She drew her knees up to her chest and leaned her head back on the wall to listen.
"Which dog was it?" That was Remus. His voice sounded quiet and something about it made her want to cry.
"It was Icarus, the sheltie."
"Where did you take the others?"
Bridget covered her ears. She didn't want to know where they were. Sometimes she liked to pretend that Bruno and Eliza and all the horses had gone to live at Buckingham Palace. Maybe the two Princes were riding her horses. After a moment, she took her hands down from her ears.
"...why she would have attacked a dog? Werewolves don't normally pose any threat to other animals." That was Mr. Kitchens. She liked him. He smelled like the cherry tobacco Granddad Logan used in his pipe.
"After the transformation, her blood pressure started dropping fast...I had to reverse the anesthesia and bring her out. She woke up agitated and in a panic. I must have done it too quickly. I was just so afraid of losing her."
"I'd say you're lucky you weren't attacked yourself." Bridget swallowed hard. She would never hurt her daddy. Never.
"I opened the door and let her out. I had no choice. Icarus was out in the yard, barking like mad..." Bridget felt her eyes well up with tears and covered her face with her hands. She hoped with all her heart that Icarus didn't know it was her.
"Poor Bridget. What a horrible thing for her to go through. And she made you take the other animals away after that?"
"Before the next full moon. She insisted." Daddy sounded tired. "Remus, I honestly don't know how much longer she can do this."
"I brought another gift...something that could change everything for both of you. Actually, I'm glad she's still upstairs. I wanted a chance to talk to you alone first. This is likely to take a bit of explaining." Bridget sat up and wiped at her eyes.
"I can't tell you how much I was hoping you'd say that. I tried to get in touch with you over Christmas."
Bridget heard someone get up from their chair and had to fight the urge to peek around the corner. Then she heard the chair squeak as they sat back down. The squeaky chair was her favorite. She imagined it was Remus sitting there.
"Before I can tell you about the present itself, I should answer your earlier question about why you couldn't find me. I've been thinking about this for months…and I haven't come up with any clever way to say this, so I'll just tell you the truth. The truth is that I live in what you might call a different world from yours, Conor. Elias and I are wizards and we belong to a community of other magical people throughout the British Isles."
There was a pause. "Magical people." Daddy's voice sounded strange to her.
"I know what you must be thinking right about now..."
"No, I don't think you do."
"You think I sound like Amanda." Bridget stiffened against the wall. It had been a long time since she had heard anyone say her Mummy's name. She waited to see if he would say anything else about her but it was quiet for what felt like a long time.
"What do you know about Amanda?"
"Enough. I had to share what I knew with the Ministry of Magic to get their permission to come tell you all this. It's normally not allowed. But Bridget's condition makes her a special case, since we have ways to help her that you don't have access to."
Bridget felt her heart beating very fast. She knew he had come to help her. Somehow, when she saw him at the party, she had just known it. She wondered if Daddy was as excited as she was.
"Oh, of course! You can help her through magic! Why didn't I think of that before? Well, go ahead and do your magic spell...or do we need to wait for the leprechauns to show up?" Bridget sucked on her lower lip. Daddy's voice made a cold shiver run through her.
"Dr. Logan...I know this must be very difficult. Remus and I grew up in homes where magic was routinely practiced. There was never any question about whether or not it was real...only whether or not we would be able to learn it. We're asking you to give over a bit of your disbelief. Isn't it worth the risk of feeling foolish for any chance to help your daughter?"
"Yes, if there's any real chance to help her. I'll listen with as open a mind as I can put together. That's the best I can do."
Mr. Kitchens started talking about something she didn't understand, but Bridget's mind drifted unexpectedly to a memory she had long dismissed as nothing more than a funny dream. With sudden certainty, she knew it had really happened and before she could stop herself, she was on her feet and running into the waiting room.
"She stopped me from falling down the stairs! I thought it was a dream, but it was real. I know it was. I was falling from the top stair and then Mummy was at the bottom and she yelled something and I just stopped falling and stayed frozen where I was. She ran up the steps and picked me up and hugged me." Bridget looked from one face to the next. Mr. Kitchens looked surprised, Daddy seemed to be annoyed and Remus was smiling in a way that made her feel brave enough to meet Daddy's eyes again. "It really happened, Daddy. I don't think I dreamed it at all."
Remus leaned forward in his chair. "Did your mother have a wand, Bridget? Something that looked like this?" He reached into a pocket and pulled out a long pretty wooden stick.
"Look, Daddy! Just like Mum's stirring stick!" An odd look had come over Daddy's face as he looked at the stick.
"Stirring stick?" Now Remus looked like he was trying not to laugh.
Daddy nodded. "She used it to stir her coffee. It was sort of a family joke that we were never allowed to touch it. I used to think it belonged to an old boyfriend. Especially after she took it with her when she left."
"It's true, then? My mum really could do magic?" For some reason, Bridget felt like she wanted to cry. She squeezed Paddington Bear closer to her.
Remus turned to face her dad. "Conor, permission from the Ministry was important, but not as important as permission from you. I wanted to have that before I spoke to Bridget, but as she has decided to pop in on our conversation...," he shot Bridget a glance, "I'm not sure how you want me to proceed."
"Proceed in the best interest of my daughter. I don't know what I believe of any of this...except that I don't believe for a moment that you'd do anything to hurt her."
"Elias? Will you give Bridget our other gift?" Mr. Kitchens opened the knapsack by his chair, took out a box wrapped in gold paper and handed it to Bridget. "Your mother could do magic, Bridget. So can Mr. Kitchens and I. This present is from us. Open it."
Bridget turned the box over in her hands and heard something shift inside it. She sat down on the sofa next to Mr. Kitchens to open it. Inside the box was a goblet. It was very pretty, with a trail of ivy carved into the sides. "Oooh, thank you! This is lovely!"
"You're welcome. That's a special goblet, though. I have a goblet much like that one at home and every month, I use it to drink a special potion that Elias makes. It's called Wolfsbane Potion. It allows me to still think clearly when I've changed into a wolf. I'm not a danger to anyone with this potion, Bridget. I curl up in my room and sleep until the next morning. How does that sound to you?"
Bridget gripped the goblet very tightly. "It sounds brilliant! So does this goblet mean that I can start having Wolfbang Potion, too?"
"That's going to be up to your dad. Elias could manage a double batch of the potion, but it would make it easier to get the ingredients if you were registered with the Werewolf Registry. Your dad would need to help you do that, since you're still a child."
"Not such a child! I'm seven now. That's practically ten." She stood on her tiptoes and held her head high.
Remus grinned. "Of course."
Elias pointed to the goblet. "That'd be yours, just for the Potion. You'd have to remember to bring it with you."
"Bring it where?"
"Well, you'd be coming to my house for full moons. I've a special building where Remus has done his transforming for many a year now. Wouldn't take too much effort to extend it out a bit, fix up another room for a young lady."
"I would stay calm. I wouldn't be in danger of hurting anybody. I would still be Bridget inside. And I could be with you?" She looked at Remus and he nodded solemnly. She turned to her father. "I can go, can't I, Daddy?"
She looked expectantly at her father, who met her eyes briefly and then dropped his head to look at the floor. Bridget felt a nudge at her shoulder and she turned around. Mr. Kitchens pointed to Paddington Bear and reached out his hands, nodding. Without hesitation, Bridget handed the bear over and watched as Mr. Kitchens whispered some strange words and pointed his own stirring stick at Paddington's tummy.
There was a hint of pinkish light from the end of the stick and Bridget's hands flew up to cover her open mouth. She was amazed to see Paddington's hands do the same. She took her hands away from her mouth and watched as he followed suit. She open and closed her fingers, her eyes widening as he copied every movement. She looked up at Mr. Kitchens, who gave her a slight wink.
"Daddy! Look at Paddington!" Bridget pointed at the bear sitting on the sofa beside her, who was, subsequently, pointing at Mr. Kitchens. She waved her hands around in front of her and smiled at Daddy, who was staring at Paddington's movements. Remus chuckled behind one hand. Bridget stood up quickly. So did Paddington. "It's magic! It's real magic!" She ran to the far side of the waiting room, reaching the wall just before the bear.
When she turned to look at her father again, Bridget saw immediately that he believed. In those eyes she loved so much, she saw years of worry melt into a single teardrop, which his hand was quick to wipe away. He turned to Remus with a look of complete astonishment. "It IS magic, isn't it?"
Remus nodded. "There's more, Conor. Magic is often hereditary."
Mr. Kitchens had reached out for Paddington again. Bridget handed him back and watched with interest as he poked him with his stick again. He handed the bear back with a nod of his head. Bridget hugged Paddington with both arms and sat down close to Mr. Kitchens. When she looked up, her daddy and Remus were talking quietly. "What does hereditary mean?"
Daddy looked at Remus, who nodded, and then he turned to her, smiling. "Hereditary means something you inherit from your parents. Or, in this case, one of your parents. Remus says that he believes...."
"Actually, it's more than just a belief. There's a special book that registers the name of every magical child the moment they are born. I had a friend check it for me after I found out about your mum, Bridget. Your name was right there in the book."
Bridget gasped. She looked from her father to Remus and back, unable to come up with anything to say. Finally, she jumped up and ran over to Remus. "Can I have my own stick?"
"It's called a wand, Bridget, and yes, you'll get your very own. But you'll have to wait until you're old enough."
"When will that be? I'm already seven, you know!"
He laughed again and she found herself suddenly wanting very much to hug him. "You have to wait four more years. Then you'll get an invitation to go to a special school called Hogwarts. I'll come and take you and your dad to a wonderful place in London where you'll get everything you need to learn magic."
Bridget yawned. "Will I get a magic teapot like the magician we saw?" She rubbed at one of her eyes with one hand.
Conor stood up and kissed her on the head. "There are still four years before you need to start thinking about any of this, young lady. Right now, you are only seven and it is past your bedtime. Say goodnight to our guests and let's get you up to bed before you get too excited to ever sleep again."
Bridget walked over to Mr. Kitchens and curtsied politely. "Goodnight, Mr. Kitchens. Thank you for coming and thank you for the presents. I hope I'll be seeing you again very soon."
"You will, miss." He opened his arms for a hug and she happily obliged. She turned and looked at Remus, then up at her father again.
"Daddy, can Remus tuck me in?"
He nodded, a satisfied smile sitting handsomely on his face. "Whatever you want, my birthday girl." He scooped her up into his arms and planted several loud kisses on her cheek, which she immediately wiped off. "Goodnight, love."
"Goodnight, Daddy." She took Remus by the hand and they walked up the stairs together, not saying a word.
When they got to her room, she crawled into bed and sat up against the headboard. "I wanted to ask you a question."
"Have you ever done anything bad? When you were a wolf, I mean?" She swallowed hard. It was a very scary question and she felt better now that it had been said out loud.
Remus sat down on the side of her bed and put his warm hand over hers. "No. I've never harmed any other living creature. But that's because I've been very lucky. I've had friends or family who knew what to do for me. Just like you will from now on."
She looked down at his hand and saw the traces of scars. She didn't meet his eyes. "Does what I did make me a bad person?"
He put his hand under her chin and lifted her face. When she looked up, he wasn't smiling, but his eyes were clear and shining. "No, sweetie. You never would have hurt Icarus. It was only when the wolf lost the Bridget inside that it could do such a thing."
Bridget leaned forward and kissed Remus on the cheek. She scooted down under her sheets and then held up Paddington. "Show me the magic again, please."
Remus took his wand from his pocket and looked around her room. "You've already seen that kind of magic. How about something different before you go to sleep?"
On her nightstand was the snowglobe he had given her at the party. Inside the glass ball was a scene depicting a family of wolves standing in a grove of trees. He gave her a sly grin and aimed his wand at the snowglobe. Bridget clapped her hands as the wolves inside came to life, scampering through the fallen snow.
"This spell will last tonight and be gone in the morning when you wake up. But we'll be together again soon. And there will be such magic...soon you'll forget what life was like without it." He paused for a moment, then leaned down and softly kissed her forehead. "Goodnight, Bridget. Sweet dreams."
"Goodnight, Remus." He closed the door behind him as he left and in the glow of her nightlight, she watched the snowglobe. After a while, one of the adult wolves lay down in the shadow of a tree and the smallest wolf, yawning, curled up against its side and fell asleep. Bridget's eyes closed and she drifted off to sleep, where all the dreams waiting for her were very sweet indeed.