Chapter 1 : perpetuity
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I feel as though we have lived forever.
Maybe we have. I’m not sure. Time isn’t something that seems to pass anymore.
I am lucky, really, to have had such a wonderful, accomplished lifetime, sharing it with such a daring and adventurous husband. I am happy, healthy, and so contentedly old. My soul feels a little tired, my blood a little too warm for all that I have lived through. I know that he feels the same way. We were ready, resigned and accepting when Nicholas’ wizarding friend from a time gone by suggested that it may be the moment to destroy the Stone.
That Stone. It is a lifeline, a bright sunrise after a long and weary night. It has been enchanting and it has been one great adventure, but it is time to give it up.
Nicholas smiles at me, places his hands over mine and clasps them tight. The palms feel comfortingly cool, his skin wrinkled delicately by age, and together we trace our fingers over the Stone’s blood red surface one last time. It feels the same; emanating warmth across its hardened edges, smooth and clear facets that soften at a touch. It is like a human heart captured in hot ice, fuelling our bodies. We hand the stone back to the wizard. Dumbledore, Nicholas later reminded me of his name because my memory often fades, smiles at us both before folding the stone in velvet fabric, and placing it in one of the large pockets of his deep green robes. We say our farewells and as he kisses my cheek politely I suddenly wonder if we shall see him again.
We have enough of the elixir to last us a while, though for how long I am not entirely certain. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, and for a reason I cannot totally comprehend I am pleased to see the Stone go.
That evening, Nicholas and I sit in the garden, a pot of tea between us. We have been quiet all afternoon, small smiles like ghosts on our lips. I exhale, as though I have been holding my breath for a very long time, the steam rising from my china teacup dancing with the wisps of air in spirals. The summer sky is mauve and light blue, as though the sun is reluctant to set, and long shadows lay across the sloping lawns of our cottage garden, beckoning fingers of the oncoming cool night.
“We have come so far,” Nicholas says quietly, his eyes twinkling like the constellations that shine dimly above. I glance upwards, and as I stare they grow brighter, filling the sky. Minutes pass like seconds, now.
“You are a very fine husband,” I smile at him fondly, his round face withered like a flower, but one that still held their colours, holding on until the last moments of summer, “and I could have asked for no better.”
“And you, my dear, are a very fine wife.”
He takes my hand in his, a gesture we always do, but it feels immeasurable to have a companion so close to my side. Slowly, soothingly, he rubs the back of my hand with his thumb, and I close my eyes.
The words fall from my lips without me intending them to, and after a while I open one eye and peer at him. His gaze is lost in the hedgerow, at the slight fluttering of bird wings as they settle down for the night-time, but he smiles to himself. We listen.
“You know, Penny,” he releases my hand after a while and tucks a strand of loose silver hair behind my ear, before interlocking his fingers upon the garden table, “we have time enough for another adventure.”
He speaks quietly as the low hum of evening settles down and a blanket of steady, sleepy silence softens the air. In the midst of the countryside, it is easy to awaken a small slumbering animal with words too loud. This our favourite time; when all the world is drifting into dreams and we stand like constant guardians overlooking its entirety.
“I’ve been thinking of moments that have helped define me and this grand old life,” he continued, and as the words float between us I realise I can never love him any more than I do in this moment, “such as when I first uncovered the secrets of the Stone, when I was honoured and praised for my work, and when I made this house my home. And when I first met you.”
I bat his forearm with my hand, smiling at his sentimental mood. Vapour has stopped rising from my tea, and now that the sun had slid behind the horizon the hairs on my arms begin to prickle and rise. A weariness sweeps over me, intermingled with a vivacious passion to linger in memories of the past. I felt ready enough to escape into them, one last time, and Nicholas felt the same. He sat straight in his chair, his silver hair like a halo, but was somehow a little slumped, too. I used to ever be astounded at the youthfulness in his stature, but it seems there is a time when everything must age, even the timeless and perpetual.
“We have all of eternity, Perenelle,” Nicholas says wisely, and I knew he wasn’t speaking of the Stone and its elixir anymore, “to spend with each other, and visit these times again.”
Silence surrounds us once more, save for the occasional rustling and swooping of the night-time creatures. After a while, I rise, kissing my husband tenderly on his forehead and grasping his hand briefly. Then, I make my way into our kitchen, which in the dim light reminds me of a cavern chiselled into a mountain. Its angular crevices are bathed in shadows, as though even the house were falling asleep. We have done well, I think to myself as I reach up to our beautiful oak cabinet pressed against one of the walls, and we have come so far. I hold the four remaining tiny crystal bottles in my hands and carefully carry them towards the sink. Nicholas joins me, holding one up to the window, the blue-grey light dimly illuminating its golden contents. We remove to stopper from two each, our eyes meeting across the lips of the crystal. Slowly, slowly, we tilt the bottles until a gentle stream falls into the basin, and in a moment they are empty. A faint golden residue coats the tired metal, but soon it is carried between the mesh of the drain. It has finally gone.
He kisses me once more, holding me close against his chest and letting my chin rest against his shoulder. I feel as though I have been walking constantly for hours and days and years, and at last my body stands motionless, the rush of moving blood whirling like a torrent inside my skin, until steadily it slows to mirror me.
“An adventure, again,”
I look into his face and I know that it is Time. Sweeping, omniscient and playful – Time has come to a head for us here.
Nicholas pauses by his study door, stepping in only for a moment and returning with a small golden Time Turner dangling from his fingers. He places his palm on the small of my back and we ease our way upstairs, settling ourselves comfortably on the bed in which we have slept many nights. I think of all the books I have read, all the sunrises I have seen, all the cakes I have baked. I think of the times I have smiled, the moments I have embraced my life with open arms. Now, I am embracing something different, something new, and am being carried by the current as I drift with my memories to the ends of the earth.
A final kiss, and I settle against his chest. Our legs are intertwined, our toes just touching, and he wraps his arm around my shoulders. Slowly, he drapes the fine chain of the Time Turner around both of our necks, but I cannot open my eyes now that sleep is holding me. His breathing is smooth and slow; he is as ready as I am. I will happily lie forever on this chest.
I hear him gently turn the pendant indefinitely, sweeping past decades and centuries and millenniums, back to the beginning of Time. It is the gentle turning that comforts me as I sleep. I do not know what reaches us first; the future or the past.