Lucy and Scorpius understood each other immediately in a way that I couldn’t.
He was nervous and reserved. She shouted over him and swore and brought her Quidditch broom into the library and got us chased out. She made him wince when she teased him about his glasses and whacked him around the head with the broom when he started ranting about Potions. They were an odd cacophony of a pair – haphazardly thrown together and not entirely tasteful, but she made him smile covertly when she stormed to interrupt us. His inability to fight her off made her laugh.
Between them, I understood why we could have never worked out.
We waited for her arrival one day, both anticipating the huffing footsteps.
“She’s remarkably angry for her size, that one,” he reflected, but he smiled and the glowing iridescence of the pink April twilight was floating in his eyes. “I can’t see how you two are related.”
I thought of Dom. Dominique who had lived like my sister.
There were days when I hadn’t stopped crying. I still felt the sadness sitting inside of me, but instead of the tears, it became something warmer. I didn’t feel tears slipping out, but when I saw the lake and dungeons and the library, I would see her standing beside me, smiling.
And I thought of everyone else. Perfect Victoire, now like corrupted marble, but blooming with her new baby. Roxanne sobbing and silent. In the beginning, she had waited for him to save her. In the middle, he never had. In the end, she had never needed him to.
My mum had survived death and dying, war and danger. My dad had lost his brother like I had lost Dom. I was part Hermione Granger and part Ronald Weasley. Perhaps I’d gotten the bushy hair and insensitivity, but the thought that I had my mum and dad with me was enough for this lifetime.
When we returned for our Easter holiday, Victoire was incredibly pregnant.
“God,” said Lucy, poking her, “you look like you ate a watermelon or something.”
“You’re so crude,” said Roxanne, tsking.
There was still a tenseness in the way Victoire looked at Roxanne, but they both laughed all the same. Victoire was radiant as we sat around in her flat.
“We’ve already gotten the nursery ready,” she told us. “Teddy’s just painted it!”
“Has the new job gone anywhere?” I asked Roxanne as we toured the light pink room.
“Haven’t started yet. I’m still raising enough money to start, but my Dad and Uncle Percy both agreed to invest. I think your mum might too! She told my mum so!”
My mum and buying books. Like our house wasn’t exploding with them already. As I shook my head in exasperation, she all but bounced in excitement. “If your mum can, this means I can get started in July or August!”
“On about the job again, are you?” said Victoire, her protruding stomach cutting in between us. “She’s already told anyone who’d listen.”
“Like you already didn’t bore everyone to death just because your husband painted a room,” said Roxanne. Victoire leaned and put one arm around both of our shoulders, navigating us out of the room.
There was no longer enough time to be angry or to hate each other. We found that if we weren’t around each other, the world felt more chaotic.
We sat our exams and I passed after a few weeks of studying and stress. It was gone before I’d noticed it had begun.
And with that, my class graduated with little fanfare.
I packed my clothes and notebooks into my trunk and Ruth, Cecilia and Emily all slowly hugged me in goodbye. I didn’t know if I would ever see some of the people from this school again as our paths diverged and schooling became simply life.
It was almost a comforting thought.
In a place like Hogwarts where we grew up together, what we were once never left us. Staying at Hogwarts meant that you were trapped in memories. It was a corner of the world that didn’t much change, a static little universe in its own right and you could never escape the person you once were while you stayed within its walls.
It had been my home for seven years. The four-poster bed, the Gryffindor Common Room with the squashed chairs, the stuffy Potions dungeons, the Charms classroom , the Transfiguration classroom, the Astronomy tower where so many things had begun and the lake where I had spent so many lunches with Dom.
Everything was doused in familiarity on that last day.
The air smelled like honey. The bright morning sun flashed from a brilliant blue sky and we crowded onto the train for the last time. Something stirred in me again – regret? sadness? – as the doors closed for the last time. I looked on the castle for what might be the last time in my life and felt the memories take flight into the air.
As Hogwarts castle began billowing out of view, tears rolled down.
This was a day I knew would come, but one I thought I would never have to live.
It was the final good-bye. To my childhood, to the laughter and friends and memories. To the Quidditch games. To having been a Gryffindor where I was now just a person. To the Dominique who would forever be sixteen and in her robes in my mind. To the shuddering sadness and maddening exhaustion and the loneliness.
Beside me, Molly sat tearfully, gently squeezing my hand as Lily and Lucy sat at her feet. At least we were ending this journey together, with much more than we had begun it with.
It was the end of an era.
The train ride was over and we wobbled out, uncertain with what to do with all the mingling emotions.
At the train station, I could see all the former seventh years spilling onto the platform and the noise and tears overwhelmed us. Molly ran past me straight into Uncle Percy’s arms, still crying. Some distance away, I could see Scorpius embracing his mother.
I was still, feeling paralyzed in the center of it all.
“Rose! ROSE!” Hugo emerged behind me, grunting as he pushed his trunk. “Here you are! Mum and Dad’ve been looking for you!”
“Rose!” Mum jostled her way past the crowd, rushing to hug us. She engulfed us in a lopsided hug, breaking out in fresh, happy tears. “Rose, darling, I can’t believe you’re all done with Hogwarts! I can’t believe it! It’s been seven years!”
Dad’s arms wrapped around her and me. “You did pretty well for yourself, Rosie. All things considered.”
“Everybody’s forgetting me!” said Hugo crossly. “Oi, I had OWLs this year and I – ”
Mum whacked him around the head. “Congratulate your sister now! We’ll have plenty of time to discuss you failing Charms later!”
Hugo looked at me on command. Freckly, annoying, loud-mouthed, insensitive Hugo. Intelligent as a toaster. But my brother was now taller than me and considerably well-built and looking like Dad more and more. “Congratulations, Rosie.”
“Thank you!” I pulled my arms around his wide shoulders and he grinned as he hugged me back. “I love you, Hugo.”
“You too,” he said, sounding surprised as he pulled away. New tears bounced off my cheeks and fell down his face and onto his clothes. “Ugh, you’re crying all over my robes!”
“It’s just – I can’t believe it – I can’t believe I’m done, Mum, I can’t – and Molly and Al are also – I should find them later – but I can’t believe it! It’s been seven years and I did it – somehow – ”
“When did you get so grown up?” said Mum, breaking into more crying. Tears were obscuring my eyes as she pulled me into another embrace. She was sobbing over me as she yanked Hugo towards us.
“Why am I surrounded by weeping females?!” he said frantically, attempting to fight her off.
Dad patted him on the head serenely. “You get used to it after a while.”
In a week, Victoire’s baby came. It was nightfall, and all of us were in scattered locations, but we received Teddy’s panicked phone call to all of our parents. “She’s at St. Mungo’s and she’s giving birth and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do! So get down here NOW.”
Hugo and I had both been eating dinner while Mum was showering when the call to us came. Hugo raced down the hallway with the phone still in hand, waking up Dad from his sleep with his yelling.
St. Mungo’s ended up with a dozen Potter-Weasleys all in various states of disarray. James came, with mud splattered all over from Quidditch practice. Mum’s hair was still wet from her shower. Uncle Percy was wearing a bathrobe and Aunt Audrey was touting an apron.
Aunt Fleur, Nana Molly and Roxanne were all with Victoire as we paced outside. For the first time in what felt like ages, I saw Louis, staring cluelessly at the door. He was now nearing ten, but still had the same drooping cheeks that I remembered from our days by the seaside.
“What’s going on in there?” he asked, his big blue eyes looking up at us. “Why are we here?”
Everyone promptly avoided eye contact.
When I nudged Hugo, he cleared his throat. “Er – well, you see Lou – your sister’s about ready to pop.”
“It’s kind of disgusting, so I’d rather not talk about it,” said Hugo, to general eye-rolling.
“If it wasn’t for birthing, you wouldn’t be here,” chided Molly gently. “So be more sympathetic.”
“Not me,” said Lucy shuddering. “Imagine a big, fat thing coming out of – ”
“Lucy!” said Molly, clapping her hands over Louis’s ears.
“What name did she choose in the end?” asked Lily.
“She’s got something in mind, but she won’t say,” said Aunt Ginny.
“Anything as long as it’s not Lyra. Ooh, it’s already been forever. I hope she’s all right.”
“She’ll be fine,” I said, my voice hoarse, “everything will turn out okay.”
It had to.
They all looked at me, surprised. I hadn’t said anything until that point. Hugo put his arm around me. “Glad to see you’re coming around, Rose.”
When we finally saw the baby a few hours later, we paraded around. We had winced through Victoire’s screaming from the other room and the fresh cries of a newborn girl. After Victoire, Ted and her parents had seen the baby, the Healer brought her outside, swaddled in blankets.
James poked her cheeks, only to have his hands swatted by the Healer. “It’s so pink.”
“And little,” said Hugo, in equally hushed tones. “Why is it crying?”
“Sensitive, aren’t we?” said Roxanne, looking exhausted but pleased. Aunt Ginny was holding the baby up now, for all of us to see. Louis was watching it with an unreadable expression.
“Are you okay, Louis?” Mum put her arm around him. “You’re an uncle now. Isn’t that exciting?”
“I’m fine,” he said, biting down on his lip. Looking at the little girl that his sister would never meet, he said firmly, “She’s nice. What’s her name?”
“Jolene,” said Teddy proudly. “Jolene Fleur Lupin. Vic wants us to call her Jolie.”
“What does it mean?” said Molly. Everybody looked expectantly at me. So many years had gone by and so many things had changed, but I was still the little girl who was considered the know-it-all.
“Pretty…flower, I think?”
“That’s lovely. Aunt Fleur’ll be so happy,” said Molly. Within seconds, she burst out in tears. “Dominique would’ve been a good aunt.”
Teddy put his arm around her. “Yeah, she would’ve.”
“This – this is lovely – I’m not sad – really – ” Tears were slipping down her cheeks. “ – it’s just that a lot’s happening at once and I – I – ” Aunt Audrey took Molly from Ted and steered her away.
Lucy passed the baby to me. She was pink and soft and sleeping peacefully after the crying. Looking down at her, I could never believe that she would one day face the same things that I had to. That she would see beautiful green valleys pass scarlet trains or lose or cry or be frightened or do anything but sleep and dream of a beautiful future.
One day, she would lose someone dear to her. One day, she would lose all her battles. One day, she would sit on a beach and think of the world passing her by, of lives rotating without her. That she would live and struggle and die.
I didn’t have a name for how I felt about her. Her soft, crinkled pink skin. Her tufts of brown hair. Her tightly sealed eyes, unable to see the world beyond. Her small cupped palms seemed to be holding us all into the truths that we would never be able to see.
But this was a child. It was perfect innocence in my hands.
Whatever she would be, whoever she would become, she was a step forward.
Baby Jolie became a gift to us.
Victoire had never looked more in her place than she did with Jolie. I had grown up seeing Vic as some metaphorical queen, beautiful and untouchable; she was cold and fussy and far away. With Jolie crying loudly on her hip and a soiled diaper by her feet and her hair out of place and her eyes rimmed with circles, Victoire was smiling more than I had ever seen her before.
Molly and I visited often and took Jolie out to Shell Cottage.
With Jolie in our arms, the world seemed softer. The bellowing sea became rasps of water the first time Jolie reached out and grabbed Molly’s hair. Molly whirled around with Jolie in her hands and day by day, I could see the sorrow slowly leaving her.
A few weeks later, Jolie’s first smile – a silly grin, goofy on her delicate face – was at me.
“I can’t believe I was ever sad Vic was having her,” Molly whispered.
Jolie cried and cried and fussed when Victoire didn’t feed her fast enough. There were exhausting moments, but in the depth of her newborn dark blue eyes was everything. I saw her and felt the questions I had asked a year ago being answered one by one. She knew nothing of this life or hatred or suffering and so she knew everything. It was a cosmos in her eyes. Twinkling stars, gaping nebulas, the arms of galaxies, stars filled with wanderlust. It wasn’t the astronomy of my schooldays. Those were constellations.
This was more than the exploration of the universe. It was the definition of existence.
In July, I threw away the charts and circles and maps. I’d wanted to find our place in the sky, some proof that Dominique had never really left me. But I held Jolie and saw it all.
And like that, we spent our days together.
Roxanne became Jolie’s godmother and Teddy asked James to be her godfather. Teddy and Victoire eventually moved to a house that soon saw an endless parade of Weasleys and Potters coming in and out.
It was chaotic and maddeningly tiring, but after a long time, I was happy.
I was in the kitchen early some July morning, eating stale bread. Hugo was sulking over how it tasted. “This stuff is rubbish, I bet snogging Moaning Myrtle would be more pleasant than this.”
“Why does it sound like you would know?”
He stared at my tired attempt at humor, and perhaps out of pity or good spirits, burst out laughing. “I’ve got about as much experience as you’ve got with Peeves, I suppose!”
In the other room, I could hear whispers. Ignoring them, I opened the door with Hugo at my feet, before stopping starkly at the sight in front of me.
Mum. Dad. Snogging.
“Ugh!” Hugo covered his eyes. “God, have some decency!”
It was a sight so ingrained in my childhood’s most embarrassing memories: walking in on them snogging while with Dominique and Aunt Fleur. The image of Aunt Fleur’s expression swam into my eyes and I began laughing. It was harsh and strange and it ripped from the bottom of somewhere I had long forgotten, but it spiraled out.
I was laughing, laughing, laughing, until it exhausted me. Laughing until tears were springing forth and I was bending forward, my stomach aching, my throat drying, my mouth. Hugo was holding on to me in alarm, but I was laughing and it was a wonderful, wonderful, floating feeling.
Mum peeled herself off Dad, looking embarrassed. He was grinning sheepishly. She attempted to flatten her hair and she gave me a disapproving look. “Alright, Rose, that’s enough.”
In August, Lucy invited Scorpius to one of our usual Weasley dinners. Since Jolie’s birth, we had all made a tradition of meeting by Shell Cottage once in a month.
I hadn’t seen him since we’d left Hogwarts and he lingered around the rest of us nervously. Molly later told me that he’d stayed in contact with Lucy all through the summer.
“He writes her three times a week,” she said to me as we watched them from afar. “She gets excited every time his owl drops by.”
They were walking together on the warm sand, distant from the rest of us, their silhouettes long and lean in the burning light of the sunset. When I walked up to them, they both smiled at me and continued talking. It was slightly awkward being with Scorpius after several months of no contact, but he didn’t let on to it. We’d barely talked even when we were together anyway.
He was on about something or the other. “My new flat really is rubbish, though – you were right about that.”
Lucy crossed her arms. The gesture seemed lifetimes away from the small girl who had frowned up at me in second year. “I told you, but you never listen to me.”
“What d’you think, Rose?”
“You’re not listening to me again,” Scorpius said accusingly.
“Well, who would want to listen to you drivel on about your filthy flat?” said Lucy.
“Are you interested, Rose?”
“Not particularly,” I said.
“See, Scorpius? I was right!”
“That’s only because she hasn’t heard the story about my flat yet. The roof smells like dead – ”
“I don’t want to know,” I said, retreating backwards into the sand.
“You wouldn’t have any of your problems if you’d listened to me,” said Lucy. “See, he wrote to me telling me about the place, but I thought he was getting into it too quickly. And it’s damn suspicious that the rent’s that low, so I knew something was off!” She punched his arm and he winced. “You idiot, if only you listened to me! You never do!”
We were by the ocean now and the tints of the sunset had wetted the canvas of the water.
“I should, shouldn’t I?” His eyes were soft.
And he leaned down and kissed her, the sunlight spreading behind them, the air breaking, the world spinning.
Her eyes grew wide. She stood on her toes and kissed him back.
From the tables where everyone else sat, somebody had noticed them and catcalls broke out. The air was filled with delighted shrieks and whistling and there was a mass movement as everyone ran towards us. Lucy was being hugged by Molly and Scorpius was being torn off her by James, Hugo and Uncle Percy. Lucy was blushing profusely and Scorpius was muttering a half-hearted explanation as Uncle Percy frowned down at him.
Finally, behind everyone came Victoire, barefooted and her hair splayed in the evening wind. She was still holding Jolie and sprinting across the sand wildly. “Wait, what just happened? Why’s everyone shouting?”
But only Lucy and Scorpius heard my triumphant shout over the noise. “I knew it, I knew it! Finally! What took you two so long?”
One day as August flew into September and the nights became cooler and bluer, I sat downstairs, reading half-heartedly. Mum was beside me still editing the preface to her edition of Hogwarts, A History. Dad and Hugo were playing chess, occasionally making strangled sounds as the game proceeded.
“No, forward you idiot, forward.” Hugo was prodding his knight on. “Come on, attack, do it right – ”
I shut my book and stared up at the empty ceiling. The open windows were letting in a breeze that smelled like fields and earth and sky. The sitting room was shrouded in shadows from lamplight and the same feeling overcame me.
My mum looked up distractedly. “Yes, darling?”
“I feel bored.”
“Yes, I expected as much. It’s about time you did feel bored, don’t you think?”
“It’s a good sign,” she said, smiling. “It means you’re ready to do something else now. Have you thought at all about what you want to do, Rose?”
“Like your career. You got six NEWTS in Hogwarts. You’d do well in a Ministry job. I could talk to – ”
I hadn’t thought much about life after this summer. There wouldn’t be a Hogwarts to return to, so it seemed only reasonable that everybody would move on and find work. “I don’t know what I want to do, though.”
“Have you talked to anybody about it? Your old classmates? What about those girls you stayed with?”
“Er – ” I tried vaguely remembering a conversation with the my dorm mates from the middle of our sixth year. Nothing particular came to mind. “I think Cecilia was planning to work for the Wireless Wizarding Network.
“Oh, that’d be no good for you. You’ve got such a soft voice and you’re too nervous to do anything like that.”
“I’m just being realistic, Rose.”
“Molly said she might go to Healing school.”
“I was never under the impression she’d wanted to.”
I shrugged. “She did all right, I suppose. She told me she wants to work in the maternity ward.”
“That suits her,” said Mum. “Ever since Victoire had Jolie, I presume?”
“Yeah, Molly adores her.”
“And I know Roxanne’s starting her bookshop.”
“Your mum only knows that since she tossed in five hundred galleons,” piped up Dad from his corner. “And it was my money, too.”
“Be quiet, Ron,” said Mum crossly. “I was more than happy to invest. Harry did it for George, we’ll do it for his daughter.”
“I’m not complaining,” said Dad, looking frightened at Mum’s expression. “Er – really, I’m not – ”
“At least we get free books whenever we want, right?” said Hugo.
“That would be useful if you actually read,” said Mum. “Instead of just flying around on your broomstick. Hugo, an education is the most important – ”
“Forget I said anything!” yelped Hugo over her.
As they argued, I watched the flowers outside titter in the breeze. Something was making sense when it hadn’t ten minutes ago.
“Mum,” I said, my voice shaking. She stopped mid-lecture at Hugo. “I think I want to leave.”
Mum and Dad shared a look.
“Darling, I was wondering when you’d finally say so.”
“Where’re you going?” asked Lucy.
“Don’t be so intrusive,” said Molly, though she was nodding.
We were sitting under a broad umbrella, huddled away from the bright sun by Florean Fortescue’s. Molly was the only one eating ice cream and it had melted fifteen minutes ago into a pile of chocolate milk.
“Abroad for a while.”
“Around,” I shrugged. “I’m going to Italy first. We vacationed there once when I was younger in a castle. I’d like to go back.”
“Then I’ll figure out where I want to go from there. Greece, maybe. Or Turkey.” The idea exhilarated me. I’d be away from it all and I’d be beginning anew again. “I’ve always wanted to go to Russia as well. I want to see the stars from all around the world. I might drop by South America.”
“It’s the same sky,” said Lucy and Molly nudged her.
“Is your mum paying for this?”
“Yes,” I said. “She thinks it’ll be good for me. I’ll get a job somewhere along the way and start paying her back.”
Molly looked at me anxiously. “You’re leaving permanently?”
“Not permanently. Maybe like a year. Maybe more.” I smiled at her. “What about you two? What’re you going to do?”
“Lucy’s still got Hogwarts, of course,” said Molly.
“After that, I want to be a Chaser for the Tutshill Tornadoes!” said Lucy.
“We’ll see,” said Molly over her. She broke out into a large smile and pulled her hair out of her eyes. “I’ve been accepted to Healing School.”
“I’m entering the Dilys Derwent Institute of Healing in October! My mum and dad are so happy! In a few years, I’ll be working with babies!”
“She won’t stop bragging about it,” said Lucy in exasperation.
“You’re not much better,” said Molly, her head held high. “Ever since Scorpius asked – ”
Lucy went very red. “Don’t!”
“What?” I asked, staring between them.
“Scorpius asked Lucy to be his girlfriend two weeks ago,” said Molly in hushed tones. “He keeps writing her and visiting us at home. He’s already met Mum and Dad! Mum’s very taken by him. She finds him very proper.”
“He’s a bit strange,” I mused. “With all the Potions and – ”
“That’s very true,” said Molly. “He’s actually working under a Potions master in Diagon Alley. He’s an apprentice for Roland Tugwood these days.”
“Like I said, he’s strange.”
Lucy bypassed red into scarlet. “Would you two stop? I’m right here. I can hear you talking about him!”
“You’re family, we’re allowed to embarrass you,” I said and Molly began laughing.
Three days later, I was standing inside an empty store that was filled with boxes. There were enough boxes to drown us, but Roxanne and I found solace on the desk she had shunted into a corner.
It was late afternoon outside in Diagon Alley, and the dust swirling in the store mingled freely with the air of the coming twilight. A few stars were already beginning to be emblazoned in the sky.
“You seem excited,” she said. With her dark hair pulled back, her face was clear and familiar.
“So I’ve got to congratulate you, then?”
“I suppose it’s finally your turn.”
She smiled. “I’m happy for you, Rose.”
“I’m happy for you too.”
Over the last few weeks in which I’d begun to know Roxanne more, we’d both found precisely how much in common we’d had. It was the same resilience and silly stubbornness. And the same whimsical hope that was taking us both away from who we once had been. The plate on her desk introduced her as R. Weasley and the thought that we were both an R. Weasley made me smile.
I looked around at the bare, cobwebbed walls, dusty windows and dozens of boxes. “When do you open?”
“Next month. Fred and my mum are both going to be helping me around here. Speaking of - ” She dove under the desk and retrieved a large sign that read in curly lavender script: Weasley & Co. “I’m going to put this out front. Could you help me?”
We both struggled under the weight of it as we shuffled out.
“Okay,” she said, grunting as she held it up, “now we’ve got to levitate it and hang it from the roof.”
I yanked my wand from my pocket and the sign rose through the air. We both watched it fly up.
When Roxanne placed a sticking charm on it and it dangled down, we looked at our handiwork in admiration.
“Looks nice, doesn’t it?” I said.
“It looks perfect,” she said, staring up at it and breathing deeply. Her eyes were full of the night and stars.
“I’m leaving,” I told Victoire.
She was changing Jolie’s diaper. Her expression didn’t flinch. She looked up at me with her rainwater blue eyes. “Yes, I knew. You seemed like you would for a long time. Just remember.”
She handed me Jolie as she cleaned up. Jolie gave me the same toothless smile as she waved her small hand into my hair. I kissed her cheek and she smiled more.
“I’m going to miss her. She’s a little princess.”
Victoire smiled as I transferred Jolie back to her. “She’s a very fussy, spoiled little princess. She starts crying immediately if you don’t feed her or clean her. She isn’t very patient.”
“She’s just like her mum, then.”
Vic stuck her tongue out at me as Jolie flailed around in her arms. “Of course. She’s my little princess, after all.”
“And what about you, Vic?” I asked. “You going back to work any time soon?”
“I’m staying at home for a few years until Jolie’s grown up a bit more. I like the time with her. It’s so peaceful.”
“Are you planning on a sibling for Jolie?”
“Maybe someday,” she said airily. “But not any time soon, trust me. Teddy wants a boy, but I’ve gotten enough diapers and crying to worry about for now.”
Molly wrung out of me several promises – to write, to take care of myself. Roxanne wanted a long list of interesting things from every place I was going to visit. Rugs and brushes and vases. Lucy wanted a riveting account of all torrid romances, nonexistent as they would be. Victoire wanted me to write, telling her everything interesting I had done.
“So I can tell Jolie what Auntie Rose has been up to,” she said. “They’ll be bedtime stories of beautiful places.”
The night before I left, it was only me, my mum, my dad, and my brother in our home. It felt strangely full, even with the silence.
Mum was cutting vegetables. Dad and I were both reading. Hugo was scribbling something. Mum looked up and said, “Take care of yourself, darling.”
“Of course she will,” said Dad. “If anything comes up, don’t be scared to jinx the hell out of – ”
“Merlin, I’m only joking, Hermione,” said Dad feebly. But he gave me a sideways glance that said otherwise. Hugo and I broke out into grins.
“Take care of yourself, will you though, Rose?” asked Hugo. “Not fond of Mum lecturing only me.”
“You’ve got such good intentions,” I said dryly. But we laughed all the same.
I waited outside the fields outside my home around midnight for my Portkey and all I could think of was Dom.
It had already been over a year.
I wondered if I should have said my goodbyes to her like I did with everybody else.
In the end, I never did.
Every time I thought of her, I still felt the pang.
My muscles still stiffened at the thought of her lying there in her grave. The cool air washed over me and I stared up at the flowers rippling in the breeze and up at the sky.
I would never be able to tell her all the things I’d wanted to. The past still felt strange and sweet and more faraway by the day. I pushed myself as far back as I could, taking in all of the sky at once, willing the stardust to fall into me. Somewhere through the endless echoes of time, somebody would hear everything that I should have said and felt for Dom. Somebody had felt it once and somebody would feel it someday. There was some perfect place in the universe that would always understand.
It would understand the salty taste of the ocean on those seaside days. It would understand our laughter. It would understand falling asleep together and the teenage anger and the envy. It would understand how much I’d loved her. The unsaid, nameless things that defined us. It would know.
And wherever it was, whatever arch of the sky it was – flying past Neptune or between Mercury and the sun or deep in the Andromeda galaxy, I would never find it. But that was where Dom was.
I’d given up trying to look for her or an us. The sky held no answers for me – only the promise of an existence. So I left her in my memories, where she was meant to be and all my love, which she always had.
The Portkey – an empty bottle – appeared with a pop. I breathed in the stardust, reached down to it and left the world behind me.
The years away took me around the world. Into small towns in Italy, and the warm ocean in Greece. I felt the dust of Turkey, the desolate whiteness of Siberia in the wintertime. It was an antiquated season drenched in the perfect wilderness of nature.
There were still places forgotten by man and lost to time, old archaic caves and vine-filled forests. I wandered through destroyed cathedrals, and saw time in all its forms. There were still black lakes and flowing blue rivers and rolling days where I forgot it all and just walked and remembered. There was finally enough time in this lifetime for me to just breathe.
There were villages in Mongolia and looming palaces in India. There was the dirt and the pavement baking in the sun and mountains that cascaded from the sky. The world had more greenery and water and I’d imagined. I didn’t know much about beauty, but I knew plenty about love and standing there, I wondered what it mattered because they were the same thing anyway.
I drank it all and watched and listened.
Within the magnitude of it all, I found the solace of my individual existence watching the stars every night. Lucy had been right. It really all was the same sky. That alone was more reassuring than I could have known.
The moon swooped through ebony clouds and the seasons passed.
Four years passed when I made the most important journey: I went back home.
Home offered old and new puzzles alike.
By the time I’d returned, everything had changed and nothing really had.
Hugo had sprouted until he was positively thundering over me. He showed off his new Chudley Cannons uniform by wearing it absolutely everywhere – even at Lucy’s wedding the month after my arrival.
Lucy’s wedding to Scorpius was the happiest chaos of my life.
My aunts all rushed around, fretting with food and decorations and planning the minutiae of a Weasley wedding. There were the usual violins and wedding tent and streamers. Lucy forced us all into light blue bridesmaid’s dresses – even Victoire, who now had a pregnant belly all over again. Lily’s red hair clashed horribly with the dress and Roxanne’s was a little too long, but in the pictures, all we could see were our bright, happy grins.
Molly cried as she walked down in her Maid of Honor dress and it seemed like not so long ago that another girl had attended her sister’s wedding.
After the wedding, James, Fred, Hugo and Al all pelted Scorpius with eggs as a bright new welcome into the Weasley family. Even with cracked eggs all over his robes, he was grinning brilliantly and his wedding dance with Lucy left Aunt Audrey and Scorpius’s mum in tears.
A few months later, Victoire delivered her baby boy – Olivier Remus Lupin. A year passed and Molly had her engagement and Lucy had her first pregnancy. I joined work at the Aurora Sinistra Observatory that winter. That spring, I published Stars From Around the World, my first book on astronomy; Roxanne stocked up the entire of Weasley & Co. with copies of the blue book speckled with white. I left the dedication to Dom, knowing that wherever she was, she’d understand.
I contented myself with the observatory and writing and watched many of my cousins get engaged and married before me. Mum joked often that I’d left behind my future husband somewhere in Siberia, lost in the snow.
It took two years from my return for me to find him. I’d lingered over some of the most exotic and romantic locations in the world, thousands of kilometers from any civilization. I could have met him in Venice or Paris or Morocco. In the end, we met at Weasley & Co., which was only ten minutes from home.
Dan understood me, even from the start. I was perusing Roxanne’s growing astronomy section. He was looking for a history of the Giant Wars. We met in between when we went to pay. After that, he started coming in every Tuesday afternoon like I did and sat in the corner and read. A month later, he asked me to dinner. He had brown hair and brown eyes and I was seemingly hoping for more from him. I almost said no, until Roxanne shouted a yes over me.
He wasn’t as broodingly romantic as I’d hoped for my husband to be when I was fifteen. He was cheerful and studious and light-hearted. With my stubbornness and his ability to laugh anything off, we were engaged when I was twenty-five, about a year and a half after we first met. He’d been at Hogwarts around the same time as me – he was only a year older – and it was a strange thought to think that we might have passed each other in hallways and crowded corridors and never once noticed each other. My husband had been somewhere in the background all along, waiting for me. He studied magical history, I studied the stars and between us, we learned to grow.
It wasn’t the glamorous lifestyle I’d dreamt for myself, but I was happy with my place in the world. Between becoming Mrs. Greene and my ever-growing family and writing more books, life became easier to love.
“That’s it?” asked Jolie, her eyes wide. “But you didn’t say the rest of it!”
I laughed. “But you know the rest, don’t you? It’s caught up with the present.”
“It hasn’t!” she said, looking outraged. “You left out some important stuff!”
The door downstairs opened with a loud creak and there was a frantic shuffle of feet.
“Oh, they’re home,” said Jolie, looking at the floor.
“Yes, they spent a lovely day with the grandparents and your Uncle Daniel went to pick them up.”
“How come you didn’t mention everybody’s children, then?”
“Because you already know them!”
“It doesn’t sound like a good story otherwise, alright?” She crossed her arms stubbornly and began listing her cousins to the walls. I let her, wondering who she was trying to impress, but thinking she looked more and more like her mother as she did so. “Aunt Roxanne and Uncle Jack had Tatiana. Aunt Lucy and Uncle Scorp have Genevieve and Orion. Aunt Molly and Uncle Ed had Francine.”
“You can’t possibly list everyone,” I said, thinking of all the others. James’s three sons, Albus’s daughter and son, Louis’s daughter, and -
“And of course, Uncle Hugo has Aunt Eve and Arthur. And Auntie Rose, you have twins and they’re both six!” She clapped her hands together, evidently satisfied. “Rebecca Jane and Hermia Dominique.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Mum told me you named Hermia that because it sounds like your mum’s name.” She leaned back in her chair smugly. “I know everything about our family!”
“All right Jolie, you can stop now.” She reminded me too much of myself when she gave me the self-satisfied smile; she was the next Rose Weasley-Greene, the beginning of another line of know-it-alls.
The pounding of feet on the staircase interrupted us both and the door opened. Dan peeked through.
“Hey Rose, Jolie.”
“Hi Uncle Dan.”
“I picked up the girls, Rose.” He waggled his eyebrows. “And there you were, telling me I’d forget. Are you impressed now?”
“Yes, we heard,” said Jolie testily. “Everyone can hear them.”
“Oh, I’m very impressed,” I said. “So, did you remember to buy some dinner like I asked?”
He slinked out guiltily.
“How predictable,” said Jolie, staring after him.
As Dan left, there was a new, frantic pounding up the stairs, bubbling towards us like an explosion. There was a jostling towards the door as it flung open.
The running was enough to set the floor bouncing as they hurtled towards me, their brunette braids untying themselves and their brown eyes large and excited.
I opened my arms as they ran towards me. “Welcome home, darlings!”
Their sparkling cry came out together.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for embarking on this journey with Rose. Hopefully, it's been enjoyable. I hope you'll review with your thoughts on the conclusion! Writing this story was extremely special for me. It was based on some real life events, including the birth of a very beloved baby girl in my family.This story took me two years to write, six rewrites and a rather lot of frustration. But finishing it has been a rewarding and enlightening pleasure and one that I consider a milestone in my writing.