The sun shone through the window of Ollie's bedroom, a promise of summery warmth. Perched on his bed, Ollie shifted, turning his back to it. He rearranged himself back into a cross-legged position, head bowed over hem of what would soon become a skirt. The periwinkle linen would complement his younger sister Kate's pale complexion and blond hair. Of that he was sure.
What he didn't quite know was its proper length.
Normally, Ollie would have Kate try on the skirt and begin hemming while she wore it. But Kate was out with her friends, savouring the final days of summer, just like Ollie probably should've been. Except Grace had left for Hogwarts and then the neighbourhood boys had begun taking jabs at Ollie's sewing hobby as though it were a new sport. Now, Ollie preferred to stay indoors.
He squinted at the skirt. Kate's absence meant there was no way to properly tell if the hem was the right length.
Ollie paused, needle and thread hovering over the unstitched portion of the hem. He was about a head taller than Kate. If he tried it on and used a tape measure to account for their height difference, he could probably get a fair idea of where it would fall on Kate.
Any other time before this summer, Ollie wouldn't have hesitated to pull it on over his shorts. Now, he looked at the skirt again. Wondered if he should forge ahead and hope for the best once Kate got back.
He blew air between his lips, frustrated by his own indecision. If robes were acceptable for a boy to wear, why not this? It was the same general shape, after all. It didn't make sense.
Neither did mentally waffling when no one was around to tease him, for that matter.
He slid off his bed, then padded to the bathroom, skirt in hand. The linen felt heavy, crisp. He slipped it on over his shorts, then studied himself in the tall mirror affixed to the back of the bathroom door. The few centimeters of skirt he'd already hemmed swayed mid-shin while the unaltered portion brushed against the back of his ankles.
Ollie was just about to start his measurements when he heard the sudden chime of the doorbell. He jumped nearly out of his skin, cheeks flushed like he'd been caught nicking one of his mum's fresh-baked cookies before dinner.
"Ollie!" His mum's voice traveled up the stairs. "You have a visitor."
A ... what? Ollie's thoughts stumbled, then tripped over one another. Since Grace had left for Hogwarts, he'd kept mostly to himself. Their other friends were still around, but Grace had always been the one to invite Ollie out on adventures with them. Ollie couldn't remember the last time he'd been asked to play without Grace present.
"Coming," he called.
He slipped out of the skirt and quickly deposited it back in his room before rushing down the stairs. The moment he spotted Grace, Ollie ground to a halt. He blinked rapidly, not quite believing what he was seeing.
A beat later, Ollie practically launched himself at her, pulling Grace into a tight hug.
"Why are--I mean, how did you..."
It suddenly occurred to him that this also perhaps wasn't proper boy behaviour. Ollie took a step back, cheeks burning again.
"Hi, sorry," he started over." I just wasn't expecting to see you. Not until I got to Hogwarts, rather. I missed you."
Maybe that last part wasn't manly to admit, but for once Ollie found he didn't care. All that mattered was Grace had returned, that they were reunited for the first time in what felt the longest summer apart ever.