We've learned as the years have become shorter that it isn't just one day that defines a relationship.
A child can do that to you. Having three teaches you that in good time, each day is as precious as the next and the one before it. You're tempted to boil days down to hours, and then hours become, in a flash of the sky, minutes. You wish then to be aware of each passing moment, the ones that pass before you understand they exist, and then you wish that something in you could understand what a half of that felt like.
You rather feel that if you could know, you'd understand what it would feel like to exist. Your labels stripped away, no longer a woman, because how are you a woman in the time it takes for one electron to pass the next? You're no longer a wife, a lover, the granddaughter of a Veela. You're no longer beautiful, as the essence of what beauty is can't catch up to you. You're not even a person, you're not human. All you are is an ellipsis that expands and folds. That is. You are, for some reason, believed-in, and that is what makes you.
Sometimes, when the air is still and you can feel what it feels slipping in and out of your lungs, you hold hands with your husband and you feel that this day is rather quite magnificent. But then you're tempted to count the hours, and the minutes, and the time between one tick of the second hand and the next. You'll wonder, occasionally, as you read the paper, what it would feel like to sit in the cup of an 'a' or an 'o.' Impossible?
And then a day comes around that you're suddenly not content to sit in your cottage above the sea and lose yourself in the wonder of what it is to witness the perpetual marriage of the two great elements. You want other people to feel it too. You want to take the world for some person and fit it into the blank space in their palm, where the lines are deep. You want to share what you've learned in years of waiting to know, but never really knew until you stopped waiting and started knowing.
"Are you ready?" Bill asks me, the playful glint in his blue eyes reaching through the space between us effortlessly. I study the wrinkles and scars that mingle freely on his face while I have the moment, and smile. I know no one expected it of me—I didn't certainly expect it of me—but I always loved Bill for what he was. The scars, though they still cause to pulse through my veins an overwhelming gratefulness for his being, never could stymie any attraction I had felt to him. My soul, Veela and all, had recognized in him the markings of a kindred spirit, and if I was Fleur Delacour, nothing was going to separate me from a kindred spirit.
I wait a moment longer, immersed in the memory of my first sight of him, and then I nod, allowing a large, imperfect, wrinkled smile to erupt across my face.
We've gotten tired of waiting for them to figure it out on their own. The world is a dark place when you're young, full of mystery, full of wondering. Full of the misconception that your neighbors are in this for themselves, could care less what you love, what you believe, what is sacred. What your world looks like.
But Bill and I care.
And we've gotten tired of waiting, so we go out to show them.
"I'm ready, darling," I say, and go to him, taking a leathery paw in my hand and patting it lightly. I rest my head on his stooped shoulder and look up into his wide, friendly face, scanning the empty hole in his ear that used to hold the occasional fang, ruby from an underground vault, piece of Muggle machinery. I love that spot, where something is supposed to be. And that it's open, so anything can be there.
He looks down into my face, his cracked, pale pink lips forming into a half-moon and parting over his sturdy, white teeth. His canines are pointed, too pointed to be human. I've grown rather to like them over the years. He's Bill—Bill with the fanged mouth. My Bill with the fanged mouth.
"What do you think the kids are doing tonight?" He whispers, leaning down to kiss my forehead.
"Probably what all zeh ozzer young couples in love are doing," I respond. "Dining at zeh dimly-lit restaurant, or mingling at one of zose clubs zat zey love so much," I add, my nose scrunching with mild distaste. Bill lets out a bark-like laugh and takes my hand, spinning me on my feet and Apparating us into the brief oblivion.
I have often attempted to pause these moments of my life, when my body defies all accepted laws of the ordered universe and squeezes between atoms, between the borders of life and death themselves. I struggle to open my eyes, and sometimes, when I can, I see a colourless tunnel expanding in every direction, and sometimes little galaxies interrupt my vision, reminding me that I have any at all. If I didn't need air, I can imagine that it would be easy to lose yourself there.
Bill has caught me sometimes Apparating from the kitchen to the bedroom, just to try to lose myself in that half-life that exists where there isn't anything else. He'll often laugh, offering to try it with me. We've never succeeded in suspending ourselves there, or escaping from time this way. It'll just be another way, then, we decide. Maybe it will take us until after we've exited bodily form; but we're confident that, with nothing else to occupy our troubles, the kids moved out, lives of their own, and our own lives entering into periwinkle twilight, we'll reach that suspension somehow. We'll find something to hide behind and see what Time is.
But that day is not today; there are other matters to attend. I let myself slip easily through that tunnel and emerge, fully human, fully existing, on the other side. Bill and I appear in a little alley attached to an old community of London, where there are flagstones and dozens of young couples hoping to gain a sense of urbanity and community through the old buildings; I can imagine myself, forty years younger, in their place, pressing up to the old walls trying to listen to their stories.
Bill squeezes my hand, and I look up at him. He smirks, not having lost in his age all that humour of youth. He leans down, as if a secret dangles from those old lips, and whispers into my ear, "Did you try it this time?"
I laugh, a wizened, bubbling sound, and nod. "I can never stop myself."
He laughs, too. "Neither can I."
We shuffle, which is the fastest we can manage to move, through the alley and into the labyrinth of little houses. With my free hand, I reach into the knapsack that hangs by my side and grab a giant bouquet of wildflowers. I look up, grinning, at Bill, and see that he's done the same, but he nods to tell me that I can do the first house.
It's funny, how over time language assimilates such a meaning beyond what words can give it.
You understand language a little by little, often regressing. But what you learn after sixty years of life is that language is a nod, is a smile, is a sentence, plainly spoken, and is a handful of wildflowers found nowhere in London suddenly appearing on your doorstep on St. Valentine's Day.
It's nearing evening now. The sun is still high in the clouds, dancing, I think, with some distant stars. The variegated stripes it leaves on the cobbles bounce up to my eyes and I forget, for a moment, that it's a day at all and feel only what it feels to be a ray of light encountering the blue of an iris.
"Zat one," I say, pointing suddenly to a small, dirty-looking cottage with a lovely garden. Bill nods and we stoop low, looking around for any possible observers. I let out a giggle. Bill laughs too, and we attract the attention of a kitten rummaging through a pile of rubbish. It mews quietly, and Bill scoops it into his knapsack, where it sits sniffing the flowers, its daily routine uninterrupted by this action.
Bill meets my eyes.
"It's been a while since we've had another mouth to feed," he whispers as we move closer to the little cottage, still hunched below the level of the gates.
"And to zink, I 'ad just been zinking zat we had too much food in our cupboards," I reply, and he squeezes my hand, winking.
"I'll wait here," he says as we come to the gate of the small house. I nod, letting his hand free, and crawl up to the doorstep. I kneel here for a quick moment, arranging the flowers in a neat little bunch, before moving to my feet and crouching in front of the door. Its paint is white and chipped, with cracks near the doorknob and coloured a dirty grey in the immediate surrounding of the knocker. I take a deep breath, looking back at Bill, who waves and raises his eyebrows. I smile, then turn back to the door. I exhale through my nose, and raise a hand to the knocker. I grab it and then, tensing my muscles and ready to dash, I bring it down on the wood a few times, letting it fly out of my hand as I run back through the garden. I dive behind the bushes where Bill is waiting, laughing excitedly, his back to the hedge. I sit with him, breathing hard. I can't stop the laugh before it bursts through my lips.
The kitten purrs, as if it knows what fun we're having.
It takes a moment, but the door opens—it always does. There's a creaking; Bill and I turn around to peer through the hedge.
He's slightly disheveled, but then again, the young don't ever know how to take care of themselves. Even for his hair sticking up in odd places, he looks distinctly love-struck. I remember the times when I was caught up in thinking that love was too good to be real…it's taken old age, and aging, and wishing to escape time that has shown me that love is really the only real thing.
Nonetheless, the realest things do often seem the least likely. As Bill and I watch the young man look around with an inquiring eye, and observe with heightening contentment his gaze alight upon the flowers on the doorstep—as we watch him gesture for his wife, also young, with a bulging belly, to come and see what some miracle has left at their door—and as we see, through all the leaves and through all of what should have prevented us from observing light in a dark place, their smiles and their gentle happiness at the gift of hope—as we take up each others' hands and run off into the growing darkness with a kitten in the knapsack mewing—
I can't help but think that like love, and hope, and joy,
the believed-in has to seem impossible to be true.