Who: Portia Diggle, Wayne Hopkins
Where: Outside the Diggle home
When: 12 December 2001, evening
Portia had had a pretty good day. After all, what was the point of being a celebrity if you couldn’t do something spontaneous and extravagant like get a last minute portkey to Paris for some serious Christmas shopping? As the day had gone on she’d thought about Penny less and less, burying all her guilt and worry in a spending spree.
Now, clutching her many bags and feeling very satisfied with her purchases, she Apparated into the street a little way down from her house. Penny found it difficult to sleep these days so Portia didn’t like to Apparate directly into their house in case she was napping and the noise woke her. As she approached her house she was surprised to see a figure sat on the front doorstep. “Wayne? What in Salazar’s name are you doing?”
Wayne had not had such a good day. After hours of looking everywhere he thought Portia could possibly be, he was tired, he was frustrated, his feet were sore, and now his butt was numb too because he’d been sitting on her cold doorstep for — he wasn’t sure how long. He’d finally come back here thinking she might have returned while he was out searching for her, which would have been nice and ironic. But then when she hadn’t been home he’d just sat down, unable to think of where to go next without just retracing his steps all over again.
In his tiredness and defeat he was kind of zoned out and slow to react when Portia approached. Then suddenly he recognized her and scrambled to his feet. “Portia, you—” he caught sight of her bags and his eyes widened. “You were shopping this whole time?!”
“Your powers of observation are remarkable,” Portia said dryly. “Wait, what do you mean by this whole time?” Her good mood evaporated instantly as she realised there was only one reason Wayne would be waiting on her doorstep, and she took a step forward, her voice sharp with urgency. “What’s happened?”
“Ever since your sister went into labour in the middle of town and I’ve been looking for you everywhere. She’s at St Mungo’s now, I don’t know if she’s had the baby yet.” Wayne had been so focused on trying to track down Portia that it hadn’t occurred to him to try to get any updates on her sister’s actual condition, which now struck him as something of an oversight. But he hadn’t asked to get involved in any of this to begin with, he’d just happened to be there. He pushed the hair out of his eyes and said, “So, that’s the message.”
“In the middle of town? What was she — oh, nevermind,” Portia snapped, pushing past Wayne and unlocking the door so she could dump her bags inside. It was so typical of him not to know anything. And if she focused on how useless he was, maybe she could feel angry rather than sick and anxious. Because if Penny was at St Mungo’s rather than having her baby at home, like she wanted, didn’t that mean something was wrong?
“She slipped on the ice, but I think she’s OK. Just… you know, having a baby.” Wayne wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do now. Leave? That seemed rather anticlimactic, after the day he’d had. But it wasn’t like Portia was being effusive in her thanks or leaning on him for moral support or anything. “Do you… need anything?”
“She slipped?” Portia repeated in horror, staring at Wayne as her brain conjured up all sorts of awful scenarios involving blood or broken bones. And all while she, Portia, had been strolling along the Champs-Élysées picking out expensive presents.
“No, I don’t need anything. I just — I have to—” She shut the door in Wayne’s face distractedly, for once not even trying to be rude. It didn’t even occur to her to thank him.
What the hell? Wasn’t she even going to go to St Mungo’s? After all that? Wayne felt a wave of anger not only on his own behalf but also on Penelope’s. Portia was demented.
“OK, well, you’re welcome,” Wayne grumbled, but he didn’t really raise his voice to be heard through the door. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets and trudged down the steps, planning to stop at Sally-Anne’s and reward himself with some hot chocolate. If that was all the thanks he was going to get for doing a good deed… Or trying, anyway.
On the other side of the door, Portia noted with a vague feeling of surprise that her hands were shaking. Probably not a good idea to Apparate, then. She moved towards the fireplace, then stopped. Would Penny need anything? Should she take a change of clothes, or things for the baby…? No, she could come back for that. Besides, she didn’t have a fucking clue what things a newborn baby would need.
A baby. Salazar. Portia took a deep breath and reached for the jar of Floo powder.
Arriving at St Mungo’s, it only took her a few minutes to find out where Penny was, and Portia was soon walking down the right ward, scanning the occupants of the beds for Penny’s distinctive hair.
There she was. Her sister. Sitting up and cradling a bundle in her arms.
“Penny,” Portia said hoarsely. “Are you — are you all right?”
“Wonderful,” Penny said, looking up and beaming at Portia. “Come and meet your niece. Here, sit down,” she urged, as Portia approached the bed. “You can hold her!”
“Wait a moment —” Portia said, alarmed, but Penny had already passed the bundle over and was adjusting Portia’s arms with an efficiency that surprised her. Her sister had been a mother for mere hours and yet she was acting as though she was born to this role. Then the bundle squirmed, and Portia looked down into a crumpled purple face. She let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Penny said, sinking back onto her pillows.
“Yes,” Portia agreed automatically, although she’d never seen anything so alien-looking. After months of dreading this moment, it had finally arrived, and she felt —
It was strange, but she felt a lessening of the tension in her chest. She’d been terrified of looking into this baby’s face and seeing Orpington’s features, but now she realised it was just a baby. She still hated Orpington, but she couldn’t hate this baby. It was Penny’s baby, and Penny was the one person in this world whom Portia loved more than herself.
This was going to take a lot of getting used to, and Portia still missed the days when it had been just her and her sister — but this was reality, and there was nothing she could do about it. It didn’t mean she was going to offer to change nappies or anything, but she’d be there for Penny. That was enough for now.