It's amazing how quickly time passes with three infants to care for. Adam kept insisting "there were ways" which would basically mean turning the children over to others while I came around for a quick kiss now and then. That wasn't my style and I gently told him that wouldn't suit me. He didn't understand my reluctance as that's how royal children had been reared for generations but he didn't argue with me. He had other things to deal with - what with running the kingdom and all that.
The small, cooing infants quickly grew into mobile toddlers and were everywhere. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't hear a shriek from someone as they nearly tripped over one of them. They were just small enough to go unnoticed by someone carrying a load of something but not so small as to not cause chaos.
Rowena, my little princess with gorgeous black ringlets, was always finding new ways to make trouble. When her hair had first started to grow out, most everyone looked horrified at the dark black wisps of hair. A few of the maids started looking at me differently and I knew what they were thinking - how could that child have come from Adam?
She and Bellatrix were very close. There were times I would watch them and they seemed to be gossiping even at their tender age of only a year. They also seemed to speak in a language all their own! Whether Godric was unwelcome by the two little princesses or he simply wasn't interested in playing with them, I always found him playing with something else off on his own.
Despite being King and very busy with every petition imaginable, Adam was an excellent father. He took time to play with the children and was particularly attached to Godric. I imagine he looked at him as the future heir of the kingdom but that doesn't mean he neglected Rowena at all. He didn't spend as much time with Bellatrix as he did with his own children but she wasn't wanting for love an attention.
I almost wished we could have not taught the children to walk - as if they weren't enough trouble already! But the longer I delayed, the more and more risks they'd take. Rowena especially liked to crawl over to the hard stone stairs as if she were about to climb down them all on her own. I knew she probably could but I didn't want to think of what would happen if she tried without someone holding her hand.
While watching the children play one afternoon, I felt a pang of sadness for Godric. While he didn't seem bothered by being excluded from the girls' playtime, he seemed lonely to me. I knew one of my maids had a son only a year or so older than the twins and asked her to bring him to the castle to play for an afternoon. While she was startled, she agreed and the trio became a quartet. After that, I had her bring Percival almost every day so they could all play together.
Every evening before we tucked them into their beds, we sat together for some well earned family time. Sometimes we'd talk about our day - the children were growing more independent by the day and my obligations as queen were growing as well. I was expected to make more appearances and had no choice but to give the children over to others as of late. Even at three years old they could tell a bit of their day - though it took three times as long to say it. Other nights we'd gather around for a fable or book. Adam had a wonderful voice for storytelling so usually I left it to him. Plus I just liked watching him with the kids.
But when they were all tucked in and Adam had banished all the advisors and emissaries, the evenings were ours and they were some of the best hours of the whole day. The children were almost three years old when I first brought up the idea of having another. Adam was terrified given what had happened after my first delivery but in time he came around to the idea. I didn't tell him at the time that I may already be with child - I couldn't be sure yet...
The tell-tale nausea and other symptoms soon came out in full force but still, I kept my suspicions to myself. I wanted to be sure before telling Adam or before even accepting it myself. While I'd been in and out of a fever during the childbed sickness, I had some recollection of Adam and others standing nervously around my bed for days. I'd seen the look of terror and sadness in his eyes and I never wanted to cause him such pain again.
Soon the nausea became too much to ignore and I got the confirmation I needed before approaching Adam. "Darling." I said anxiously.
"Hmm?" he asked, not looking up from the table he was studying. There were maps and figures scattered about the table and his forehead was creased.
"I need to tell you something..." I said. My tone must have caught his attention because he looked up and came to me, fear and anxiety spread across his face. "I'm with child." I said with a small smile - praying that he would be happy as well.
To my great relief, he seemed genuinely happy about the news and hugged me a few times before touching my stomach tenderly. "It'll be different this time." he said softly. I'm not sure if he was trying to reassure me or himself but we both seemed to accept the words to be true.
For whatever reason, I felt compelled to paint more than anything throughout the pregnancy. I'd never fancied myself a particularly good artist but the things my mind created during this pregnancy were astonishing - in a bizarre sort of way. I painted scenes of impossible things I couldn't even give a name to and yet they seemed real to me.
As before, I was trapped in my apartments for a period of confinement. I protested meekly but Adam was insistent that it was best. I paced the rooms anxiously and flipped through the books at my disposal almost willing the babe to come now so that I could find some sort of relief from the utter boredom. My maids tried to keep me entertained and offered up a variety of projects but I couldn't focus on anything for more than a half hour at a time before giving it up.
Thankfully my boredom was cut short as the baby decided to come early - just as the twins had. While it was only a couple weeks before my due date, I was sure Adam was scared that everything seemed to be following the same ill-fated path...
I was safely delivered of two babies once again though and this time they came into the world with alarming speed. My labor was short and concise, even having to birth two babies. Prince Draco was born first with a light dusting of blond hair on his little head. Princess Hermione followed him and cried the moment she was taken from my arms to be checked over. She settled down quickly enough once I had her back though.
Unlike my delivery with the first pair of twins, I felt wonderful almost as soon as the labor had concluded. I was holding both children and smiling when Adam was let in. I could see the joy and relief wash over him as he took in the scene.
Nearly two years passed in a blur of sleepless nights mostly. After Percival's mother, one of my maids, had died of illness, Percy became one of the family. Adam had teased me about it, "I hope you don't plan to take in every orphan in the kingdom.." he said. Part of me wanted to - I hated to think of any child out in the world without someone to love them and tuck them in at night but I had to be more practical than that.
Still, with the addition of Percy and our own children - it was a very full, and very LOUD castle at times. There was always the sound of someone playing. As they got older it seemed as if their "play" became louder too, or maybe their voices just carried more.
To my great delight, Hermione's hair grew out to look exactly like mine. Those little pink tips seemed so special and important to me - though I couldn't figure out why exactly.
And Draco had a head full of blond hair as well - his matched Adam's exactly so at least it didn't give anyone reason to talk!
Meanwhile Percy, Bellatrix, Godric and Rowena had all grown into lovely young children - though the boys were a little rambunctious for their nannies and often left them in the dust as they stampeded through the castle, dragging their wooden swords along the stone walls on their way out into the courtyards.
There they would run around for hours battling each other or teaming up to fight some invisible foe! They had very active imaginations when it came to the next epic battle against the castle!
Bella ad Ro were a bit more delicate in their activities. They loved to dance and sing and paint like most young girls their age. They also had picked up the somewhat disturbing habit of gossiping. I would often find them giggling over something when they were supposed to be doing lessons or something else. "Girls..." I said, my voice edged with warning.
They let out one last giggle before running to the piano or out of my sight where, no doubt, they would start laughing all over again.
Peace had reigned in our little kingdom for some time but as with so many things - it was not meant to last. Adam tried to keep the worst of it from me usually, as he didn't want me to worry about things I could not control or alter. But word always reached me one way or another. Usually a well meaning attendant would ask me about something and then spill everything when I expressed my confusion.
So it was no great shock when I found my husband preparing to ride out but I still frowned. "Why must YOU go?" I asked.
"You know why," Adam said simply. He was attempting to fasten one of the straps and I pushed his hands aside to help. He was right, of course I knew. Until now, all the border raids had been minor but things were getting worse, not better. And an army needed their leader...
"I'll be back before long." he whispered, pulling me closer to him. It was awkward to hug him in full armor but I didn't want to let go, even as the edges dug into my own skin.
When it came time for him to ride out, all the children came out to bid him well and say goodbye. He hugged each of them in turn and whispered comforting words to them. Percy and Godric were old enough and world aware enough to realize the gravity of the situation and nodded solemnly when he spoke to them.
Though the same age, Bella and Ro had never paid any attention to talk about war or battles. They were giggling and chattering most of the time and didn't seem to take in all the tearful goodbyes taking place around them.
I handed the children off to a nanny after they'd all had a turn and raised my chin. I could feel the eyes of others on me and felt I must lead by example. Adam grasped my hands and we leaned into each other, our foreheads gently touching. "I love you m'lady."
"And I you, m'lord." I said, blinking back the tears that threatened. "Return to us soon."
"As you wish." he said. With a final kiss, he turned and mounted his horse. There was soon a clattering of noise as the other men did the same, following their King. I heard a few sobs from the women and children that watched but I held mine.
At least until I got inside and was away from prying eyes. Then I cried and prayed for his safe return.