Chapter 7 : July, 2037 - Epilogue: You, Me and Time
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It was nearing night in muggle London. The sun was resolutely slipping below the horizon line, looking brilliant, bright and orange. The sky splattered with red and orange in the wake of its disappearance.
There were large groups of people everywhere; some were crowding the bus stops, grumbling about going home despite the traffic. The streets were crowded with an assortment of people – children, businessmen barking into their phones, and hassled looking mothers. Now and then, someone would do a double take over their shoulder, turn a street corner and disappear entirely.
On the other side of a crumbling, decrepit building, a brunette woman was waiting impatiently on a busy cobblestone street. Diagon Alley could be so tiring on Fridays. She checked her watch for the third time and gave an irritated glare down the street. After a few more minutes, she heard a shout.
“Priscilla!” a brown-haired man came rushing down the busy street.
“There you are,” she exploded, “You know you never are on time.”
“You could’ve waited inside,” mumbled Nicholas, “it’s not like you’d be alone.”
She pointedly ignored his suggestion.
Nicholas Corner rolled his eyes, but took her arm in his and opened the door to the Leaky Cauldron. Several brightly colored banners were pinned up. A green one caught his eye and he pointed to it. 15 Year Reunion!
“It’s been fifteen years already?” he asked wonderingly.
“Don’t be sentimental,” said Priscilla. “Take one look at everyone and it’s obvious they’ve gotten old.”
The interior of the Leaky Cauldron was teeming with mildly familiar faces. People that Priscilla could vaguely recognize were laughing together, heads bent over drinks or food. Others were roaming around, making loud conversation. The entire Leaky Cauldron had been reserved for the occasion and cleaned and scrubbed until it was nearly unrecognizable.
“Fawcett, is that you?”
Two loud voices made Priscilla turn. She gave a smirk. “Weasley. Bosworth.”
“Those two were Ravenclaw girls, right?” whispered Nicholas loudly.
“We’re neither Ravenclaws nor girls now,” said Rose Weasley imperiously. She was leaning against a counter, swirling a butterbeer in one hand. “Nice to see you, Fawcett. It’s only been a decade.”
“Thank Merlin for that,” said Priscilla. “How’ve you been, Weasley? You, Bosworth?”
“I’m a Davies now,” said Victoria Bosworth, waving her left hand in the air.
“Which Davies did you slip a love potion to?”
“Baron,” said Victoria imperiously. “Baron Davies.”
“Who?” said Priscilla.
Nicholas gave an apprehensive look at her and gave a polite “Congratulations”, before navigating away to look for his friends. Before he got too far, there was a boisterous, “Attention, everybody, attention!”
Desmond Jordan’s voice boomed over the chatter. He hopped onto a chair, waving his arms. “Attention! Attention, you noisy pricks! C’mon, shut it, already! I organized this whole bloody thing and I want my moment to shine!”
There was appreciative laughter and the yelling finally quieted.
“Good,” he said. “Well, as you lot know, it’s been fifteen years since we’ve raised hell at Hogwarts. Now we’re out in the world, becoming leaders of society and all that. And if anyone’s been reading the papers lately, you can all tell how well that’s been going. Economic crises left and right, every other country hates us and muggles are this close to finding out that they haven’t just been seeing things all this time. But anyway, in more important news, I’ve got a wife! And a pregnant one at that! Pregnant due to me! Podmore owes me ten galleons!”
Beside him, Nikita Patil-Jordan looked up from a whispered conversation she was sharing with other former Gryffindors and smiled.
“Right. And look at us. Look at all of us. Fifteen years ago, we were awkward and specky and acne-prone and moody. And we’re still all of those things, only we’ve got children now! Fantastic how time works, isn’t it? The point of this whole event was that we – my wife and I – haven’t seen some of you in ages. And we really wanted to. Even some of you former Slytherins. We tried the five year thing and then the ten year thing, but nothing ever seemed to work out. It looked like the stars finally aligned for us this time, so we made this whole mess happen--” There was some clapping, which Desmond muted with a raised palm. “—because Merlin knows when we’ll ever be together like this again. Congratulations on the past fifteen years, thanks for coming and let’s enjoy ourselves! Wine complimentary of the Mrs. Longbottom, but I swear to god if any of you idiots passes out from drinking too much, all I’m going to do is draw a giant cartoon mustache on your face and leave you here. We’re getting too old for that sort of thing.”
He took a seat at a long table centered in the middle of the chaos. He looked up to see Priscilla weaving through the crowd, with Nicholas struggling behind her. Priscilla grabbed a chair at his table uninvited and scoffed as Nicholas appeared beside her.
“You know, Fawcett,” began Desmond, “it’s actually considered rude to just waltz up here and inflict the rest of us to your presence without asking first.”
“Fine,” said Priscilla sweetly, “And just out of curiousity, do you prefer being hexed or jinxed?”
The redhead to the immediately right turned around with a tut. “Oh you two. Please behave.”
“You know Lucy,” said Nicholas, “you used to say that back in first year. It was like your catchphrase with the boys. And Pris, of course. Twenty years later and look at us.”
“Still worth a try,” said Lucy, smiling. “How have you two been?”
“Fine,” said Nicholas. “It’s only been a few weeks since we’ve seen each other so not much’s changed. Shop’s still going well, Pris’s still throwing people in jail. I assume all is well with the goblins?”
Lucy began to answer, but her eyes flicked above Nicholas and she broke out into a grin. “Trista! Meg!”
Nicholas turned around to find two women hovering over him.
“Hello everyone,” said Trista breathlessly. “Oh, we’re so excited to see you all! It’s been ages!”
They both took a seat at the table. Moments later, they were joined by Henry and Elizabeth Bates, followed by a dusty looking Duncan Podmore. The air was filled with bubbly chatter. Henry was recounting a particularly nasty Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw match from last month to Trista and Megara, Priscilla and Desmond were hunched over a piece of parchment, whispering conspiratorially to each other.
Their table was nearly full, save for two empty seats. Every now and then, Lucy’s eyes slipped to the two empty seats and she murmured to nobody in particular, “They’re a bit late.”
“It’s only been ten minutes,” said Desmond, resurfacing from his piece of parchment. “As if the Potters are ever anywhere on time.”
A black-haired man came to a stop outside the Leaky Cauldron. He checked his watch and groaned. He was late. And he was going to get scolded. He found himself already putting together his defense: a long line of idiots had paraded through St. Mungo’s in the morning, ranging everywhere from an git who had accidentally transfigured his sister into an antelope during an argument to a middle-aged Welsh man who’d suddenly woken up that morning to find that his left hand had turned into a tentacle. Then there’d been an emergency surgery in the evening and…
He pushed against the thick glass door and entered. He was promptly engulfed by a small crowd standing beside the door.
Albus looked up, surprised. He looked beside him at his old Gryffindor group.
“How’ve you been?” said Anthony Kirke.
“F – fine,” said Albus. The sight of his old friends gathered together like this was a bit strange. He’d lost contact with most of them over the years. Their faces and voices were simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar.
“Albus, here,” said Vincent Thomas, handing him a Butterbeer. He accepted gratefully and peered at Vincent, feeling reassured that there was at least one person here that he still knew well.
“Hello Al,” said Xavier Wood somewhat dully. “How’s St. Mungo’s?”
“Er – good,” said Albus. “How’re you?”
“Drunk,” he said earnestly, waving an empty Firewhiskey bottle at Albus. “Very very – mmph.”
One of the old Gryffindor girls had stepped in, placing her hand over his mouth. “It’s only nine o’clock, how on earth are you drunk? We’ve been here like fifteen minutes.”
“He’s a real lightweight, isn’t he, Cora?” piped up Vincent. “Brings back fond memories of sixth and seventh year, doesn’t it? Remember that time he got so drunk he thought it’d be a good idea to go fishing for the Giant Squid? In the middle of the night. In December.”
They all laughed.
Albus listened to their conversation for a few minutes, briefly giving answers when they probed. He learned that Cora Livingston was now a writer at Witch Weekly. That Anthony Kirke had quit his position in the Beast Division and spent the last year and half hopping between part time jobs. That Iris Bosworth was an announcer on a radio station. He listened politely and nodded his head and sipped the Butterbeer that Vincent had pressed into his hands, grateful for something to do while they talked.
Finally, it was Vincent’s voice that forced him to resurface: “Life’s gone in a funny sort of way for all of us, hasn’t it?”
“What?” he said, feeling only half awake.
“Well, look at us,” said Vincent, gesturing around the circle. “One’s hopping between jobs at thirty-four. One’s married with kids. One rushed off into getting married to some girl who always picked fights with him and now finds himself divorced.”
“Right,” said Albus, feeling uneasy at the thought of a second wave of nostalgic talk. He escaped, armed with the excuse that he had to look for his cousin.
He made it a few steps before he was stopped again, this time by a group of former Ravenclaw girls.
“There’s Albus, girls. You were so curious about him. See,” drawled Rose with a teasing smile, “now that he’s here, it’s nothing special, right?”
Before they could interrogate him for too long, Albus again invented an excuse – this time involving the loo – and sidestepped them. He saw a former Slytherin prefect he recognized and all but ran away. After a few minutes of scanning around, he spotted a woman leaning against a wall, half shrouded in darkness with a drink in her hand. She was checking her watch.
He circumnavigated two drunk former Slytherins and planted himself beside her. She looked up and smiled. “Hello.”
“Warm sort of evening isn’t it?” he began stiffly.
She laughed. “It’s July. Are you expecting snow?”
“Still,” he said, feeling sheepish. He turned to face her. “So. What house were you in?”
“You first,” she said.
Her eyes widened with mock surprise. “Gryffindor?”
“Why? What’s wrong with Gryffindor?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it. Except the fact that they were the worst house.”
He feigned hurt. “Yeah? What’s so bad about it?”
“What’s so hard about being brave? Loads of people are brave all the time.”
“Ouch, that’s unfair,” he said.
“And you just don’t strike me as the brave kind anyway.”
“Wow,” he said. “I think I’ll just go now.”
“Because,” she said, grabbing his arm, “what kind of Gryffindor doesn’t inform his wife he’s going to be late to a dinner she’s been nagging him a whole month about?”
He made an attempt to run for it, but she held on. “Come on, tell me. I won’t get mad. You’re just like thirty minutes late.”
“Emergency surgery,” he mumbled.
“See? I’m not mad, I understand. But some bravery you’ve got,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I saw you hiding the moment you came in. You certainly took your time coming to find me.”
“Yeah, well,” he said, slinging his arm around, “you scare me. Why were you hanging around here alone anyway?”
“Because I only got here a few minutes before you,” she said, grinning. “Long day at work for me too.”
“You mean I got worried about nothing?” he said, taking his arm off. “And you put up that whole scary act for no reason too? Thanks a lot, Bernard.”
“It was funny. And stop calling me that. I swear, you must be the only husband on the planet that likes to call his wife by her last name,” she said, shrugging. “Come on, let’s go find everyone. I’m sure Lucy’s convinced we’ve been kidnapped.”
“Oh, but what kept you?” demanded Lucy.
“Work,” said June and Albus in unison, taking a seat beside her.
“Ah, the age old excuse of work,” said Nicholas sagely. “You know, I used to hate hearing my parents say it, but I feel like it’s just about consumed my whole life lately. Sometimes I catch myself wondering if this is all my life is going to be like.”
“All right, all right,” cut in Desmond. “This is supposed to be a fun evening. And I’d like to remind you that any and all mid-life crises are a decade away so let’s leave them there, shall we?”
“Well,” said Lucy earnestly, cutting over Desmond, “if you really enjoy your work, it isn’t so bad.”
“Really, Luce,” said Nicholas skeptically. “Do you just adore the goblins even when they call you over at five in the morning on a Sunday?”
“Fine,” she admitted. “It goes up and down.”
“Five galleons to me,” whispered Priscilla, elbowing Desmond.
“No way, they haven’t had children yet so it doesn’t count!” he retorted, scribbling something on the parchment.
Trista looked up and seemed to notice June and Albus for the first time. “Hello, you two! Long time, no see! What’s gone and happened in the last few months?”
June and Albus swapped a look. “Nothing much. You?”
“Quidditch Today’s got me traveling, but I’ve liked it. And I’ve been popping in, checking in on Puddlemere now and then. I really ought to visit you more,” said Trista. “Still, work’s kept me and Meg so busy…”
“You should come by more often,” piped up June, “you know how they miss you.”
“Ophelia still asks about you all the time,” said Lucy. “And Meryl’s convinced that she’ll be playing Quidditch for England one day. It’s so strange how we don’t see you that often anymore.” She peered over the table at Henry and his wife. “And you two are even worse! We see you maybe twice a year, Henry!”
Henry chuckled. “Well, you can’t hold your children over my head. They'll see me nearly every day in Hogwarts. But I only get a few weeks off a year, so I can’t really visit much. Sorry, Lucy.”
A few people over, June was whispering to Albus, “Why didn’t you spend more time with your Gryffindor friends?”
“I only talk to Anthony and Vincent regularly these days.”
“All the more reason you should be over there, don’t you think?”
He shrugged. “It’s gotten awkward. I don’t know. I don’t have much to say to some of them anymore. All these years with these loons has sucked away my ability to converse with sane people.”
June gave a small, sad smile. “So you like my friends more now. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. I’m glad you like them as much as I do, but I’m sorry that you’ve grown apart from some of your friends.”
“Just some, not all,” said Albus. “Bound to happen.”
He sat up straight and stiffly took another sip of the Butterbeer.
“You’re even less unsentimental than Priscilla,” said June, rolling her eyes. “Unbelievable. I don’t know why I bother with you.”
“Hey, look, I’ll be sentimental on some day that didn’t have me learning about antelope anatomy, okay?” He looked ruefully at the bottles of firewhiskey around. “I could use a drink. I wish I hadn’t driven here.”
“You drove here?” she said incredulously. “You – you’re so ridiculous sometimes! Why do you insist on lugging that piece of rubbish around? There is such a thing as Apparation!”
“I’m not good at Apparating.”
“You were the first person in our entire year to pass the Apparition test with perfect marks. And I’ve seen you Apparate loads of times,” pointed out Lucy from the side.
Albus ignored her. “I like driving.”
“He got his driver’s license a few months back and now I’ve got to put up with him and that Ford Anglia ever since,” said June by way of explanation to the probing looks being sent across the table.
“Meg and I came via broomstick,” said Trista.
“When don’t you,” murmured Desmond. “I’m surprised that Mother Nature hasn’t descended out of the heavens and forced you to evolve into something with wings. Just for sheer practicality reasons. Maybe a goose or a chicken.”
Before Albus could respond, there was a buzzing noise from June’s robes. She pulled out a cellphone. “Hello – yes - is everything all right?”
Albus could hear his mother’s voice. He leaned in to listen. “Yes,” he heard. “Everything’s fine. It’s just that Rhys’s telling me something about taking medicine before sleeping and I haven’t the faintest idea what he’s talking about.”
“I thought I gave it to you,” June began, before clapping her hand on her forehead. “I’m so sorry, Ginny. It’s still here in my handbag. I’ll be right over to drop it off.”
“No, I’ll bring them instead,” said Mrs. Potter.
“It’s the Leaky Cauldron,” said June. “There’s a few drunk people, so there’s really no need.”
“It’s nine-thirty, how drunk could they be?” said Mrs. Potter airily. “Besides, I’m sure all your friends want to see your children. I’ll be right over.”
Before June could respond, she heard the call hang up and sighed.
“My mum takes every chance to show them off, doesn’t she?” said Albus.
“I’d really be thrilled if James and Gloria would hurry up and have children,” said June. “Your mum would die of delight, hone – “
The door opened. June looked up to see a red-haired older woman with two black-haired children by her side. A young girl recognized June immediately and made a beeline for her, with an exuberant “Mummy!”
The boy had a book in his hand and had to be prodded by his grandmother to look up to see his parents.
“Vivi,” said June, allowing her daughter to leap into her lap. She rummaged through her purse and looked up in time to see her daughter reaching for a glass of Firewhiskey. She swatted away her daughter’s hand. “No, darling. That’s for adults. You can go home and ask grandmum to give you something to drink.”
Her daughter pouted at her with the exact face that Albus made. “Mummy, I don’t want to go home. Grandmum says I have to sleep soon.”
Her pout had attracted attention. The others at the table were now leaning over, cooing. Distracted, June handed off the medicine to Mrs. Potter. “Ginny, see that he takes two before sleeping.”
“Rhys,” said Albus, leaning in towards the boy, “look up. Look at me.” The boy looked up reluctantly with an irked face. Albus turned to June. “Yeah, he’s looking better already. Less pale.”
“It’s really nothing,” said Mrs. Potter, accepting the medicine from June, but answering Megara’s question. “Rhys’s been able to read since he was two years old! Always been a remarkable child, like his father. And you should see Vivienne when she starts drawing. The girl’s going to be an artist!”
“My god, mum,” said Albus, burying his head into Rhys’s hair.
“Dad,” said Rhys, speaking up for the first time and pushing his father’s head away. “Don’t. I can’t read.”
“Stop reading all the time,” crowed Vivienne atop her mother’s lap. “It’s boring. All you ever do is read.”
“All you ever do is talk,” said Rhys, looking up blearily. “You’re boring.”
“Stupid!” fumed Rhys. “You just – you just sit around all the time and you – I’m not stupid!”
“Rhys is six and Vivi’s seven,” Mrs. Potter was informing a random passerby. “My grandchildren!”
“Here!” said June, pressing the medicine bottle into Mrs. Potter’s hand. “Don’t you two think it’s time you went home? Please take them to bed, Ginny.”
“I wouldn’t mind going home,” chirped Vivienne. “I have something to show Rhys.”
Vivenne grinned mischievously while her brother gave her a long suffering sigh. He looked up with earnest, round green eyes. “She’s just going to force me to get on that toy broomstick, Mummy. She knows I think it’s scary.”
“Vivi, I told you not to make him. You know he’s scared of heights, so leave him alone.” June frowned at her daughter .She leaned down and kissed both of them on their foreheads. “I love you two. Now, don’t argue, all right? And listen to grandmum and granddad. And please go to bed soon.”
“And Viv, don’t bully your brother,” said Albus. “And Rhys, stop drawing on your sister when she’s asleep. Mum, get going already.”
Albus watched as his mother finally tore herself away from ranting to the fifth person about her grandchildren. “Oh, well, yes. It’s nearly ten. We should leave.”
“Bye, mum!” said Albus, a little too happily. Mrs. Potter turned around to glare at him, but took each child’s hand and wandered out of the Leaky Cauldron.
“Sometimes my mum…” Albus began.
“Don’t,” said Trista, her eyes sparkling. “I’m so glad I got to see them! Vivienne’s gotten big! She’s going to be an athlete, that girl. She’s got it in her.”
“Yeah, and Rhys can join my son and they can both be librarians,” said Nicholas. “You know, all Sebastian does these days is read and scowl at us. And he spends most of his time locked up in his room brewing things and testing out new spells. Unbelievable. He’s going to make a horrifying teenager.” He leaned in to whisper, “Not to mention he’s got Priscilla’s temper.”
They looked up to see Priscilla trying to strangle Desmond. “Don’t you dare try to cheat me! That’s five galleons to me, you pig!”
Nicholas paled at the possibility of his own words.
“Still,” said Trista, still looking starry-eyed. “I’m always so happy to see everyone’s children. I really do adore being a godmother.” She began counting. “Between Ophelia, Meryl, Vivi, Rhys and Seb, I’ve got so many little darlings to keep an eye on.”
“Meryl’s no little darling,” said Lucy earnestly. “She looks rather harmless, but I really do think she’s got a dash of my father in her. She can scream her head off when she’s displeased. She’s a nightmare sometimes.”
“You’re all scaring me,” said a new voice. Nikita Patil-Jordan drew up a chair beside Desmond. She looked tired and enormously pregnant. “Should I be afraid?”
“Our kids aren’t so bad,” said Albus. “Vivi picks on Rhys a lot. There’s always screaming on our house. Someone’s always dropped something or lost a tooth or scraped a knee. But it isn’t so bad.” He took a blasé sip of water.
Everyone around him stared.
“Well, I’m impressed, Potter,” said Desmond. “Five galleons to me, Fawcett.”
“Yeah, well, you get used to it,” he said, still trying to sound nonchalant.
“He wasn’t that ‘used to it’ last week when he thought Vivi broke her leg. He nearly went mental,” said June, eliciting laughter around the table. “You should’ve seen him. Yelled at poor James for not keeping an eye on her, then – “
“All right, all right, spare me,” said Albus. “I’ve only got a few years of experience on the job. I’m improvising as I go.”
“It isn’t that great,” came Duncan’s voice from the other side of the table. He looked dully at Nikita. “Francine and I have a three month old, but I feel like I haven’t slept a wink in years. And she’s just getting her magic in, too. It’s a complete nightmare. Last week, she laughed and she shot up ten feet in the air and just stayed there. Most terrifying ten minutes of my life.”
Before anybody could respond, Desmond suddenly perked up and crowed, “That’s it, Fawcett! It’s a clean sweep for me! We’re done!”
“What have you two been doing for the past hour?” asked Lucy, leaning over Desmond to peer at the parchment.
Priscilla promptly snatched it away. “A little game he and I played back in fifth year. Don’t worry your little head, Weasley. We’re going to announce it now anyway.”
“Announce?” said June and Albus simultaneously. Before June could probe for more answers, Priscilla flicked her wand and the butterbeers littering the table slid to one side. Using Desmond’s head for support, she hopped on to the table.
“What the - ?” was all Albus managed as she tread over his foot before clearing her throat.
She drew the attention of the whole Leaky Cauldron. She seemed to realize this a moment too late and barked, “It has nothing to do with you lot!” before hopping back off the table.
“Desmond and I made a little bet back in fourth year,” she said, once she had properly returned to her seat. “A little bet about what was going to happen twenty years later. So this’s back when we were fourteen. And seeing that he turned thirty-four last week, it seems an appropriate time to reveal it.”
Priscilla grabbed the parchment again and held it in the air with a flourish.
“What kind of a bet?” asked Trista wearily. “And exactly what’s at stake here? Because I remember you tried to make Duncan feed the Giant Squid after he lost that one Quidditch bet with you.”
“Lost the bet and nearly lost a few fingers too,” said Duncan, shaking his head.
“We just bet money,” said Priscilla, nostrils flaring. “Which is really kind of a shame if you think about it. So uninteresting. What’s a few galleons to any of us now? But I suppose we weren’t quite so innovative back in those years.” With a grin, she began anew. “So, this bet. Nothing too fascinating. We just wrote down a little list with some categories. Boring ones like Most likely to be married first and the like. And then the two of us chose some names among you lot and among the rest of the idiots here too. And we’ll see how accurate we were. That’s all.”
There were murmurs of disbelief at the table.
“That seems so…normal,” mumbled Nicholas. “I dunno. I really expected something stupider.”
“I’d like to take this moment to remind you all that I did an OWL in Divination,” said Desmond.
“I’d like to add that he got a Dreadful in that OWL,” piped up Nikita. “He actually offended his examiner halfway through by predicting that he’d go bald and that his house would burn down and nearly got himself kicked out of the exam.” She turned cheerily to Desmond. “With that said Des, go on.”
“Thanks a lot,” he said, shaking his head. “Fawcett, go on and read aloud.”
“So these were our predictions back in fourth year,” said Priscilla. “The Most Likely to Get Married was too obvious, right?”
There was a general answer around the table: “Lucy.”
Lucy looked around, flushing. “Wait, what?”
“Come on Luce,” said Trista. “Everyone knew. You’re just the type to settle down and have kids early.”
Lucy muttered, “But my family was so shocked.”
“It gets a bit more interesting though,” said Priscilla, barreling on. “Most likely to end up in jail. Desmond picked me. I picked June.”
June looked up, shocked. “Why would I end up in jail?”
“Stalking charges,” said Priscilla simply.
“Makes sense,” said Albus. June glared at him and he gave a feeble, “…Joking.”
“Most likely to murder someone. Desmond picked me. I picked me as well. We both lost this because I haven’t killed anyone yet. Though I’ve come close now and then.”
Everyone nodded in consensus.
“Most likely to be murdered,” said Desmond, reading over Priscilla’s shoulder. “I picked Bernard. Priscilla picked Nicholas.”
“What?” said June and Nicholas together. They both caught each other’s eyes and looked away.
“To be fair, you couldn’t do a simply defensive spell, June,” said Priscilla. “And the way Nicholas used to follow me around back then…I definitely thought he’d get himself killed. I might’ve even killed him myself and won both those bets.”
“Most likely to come out,” said Desmond. “I picked Evan Sloper. Priscilla picked Potter.”
“What?” said Albus, looking aghast.
“We both missed a big and obvious bombshell,” said Priscilla rather sorrowfully. “St. Clair pulled a fast one on us in seventh year. I was so miffed she hadn’t told me earlier, so I could’ve at least changed my answer. By then, Desmond had the list under lock and key.”
For good measure, Trista face palmed. “I really think we’ve had enough of this list of yours.”
“We had some other interesting ones too,” said Priscilla. “Most likely to get bitten by a zebra. Most likely to discover a new way of being splinched. Most likely to get poisoned – “
“I’ve got bitten by a zebra,” offered Henry.
“Drat! I bet on Podmore,” said Desmond.
To everyone’s displeasure, Priscilla continued reading aloud for a few more minutes, listing another slew of unnecessary bets they’d placed: Most likely to be maimed, most likely to set themselves on fire, most likely accidentally begin the Third Wizarding War....
“Please stop,” said Duncan, eliciting several moans in agreement. “Why did both of you pick me to be the one to start the Third Wizarding War?”
“Because there’s no weapon more powerful than stupidity,” said Priscilla, waving her bottle of Firewhiskey, “And while everyone here’s got troves aplenty, you just seemed the perfect fit!”
“Great, thanks,” sulked Duncan.
“You know, Pris, I think you’ve actually made everyone here feel worse about coming to this reunion thing than not,” said Nicholas.
“I thought these kinds of things were supposed to be fun and nostalgic,” said Lucy, clasping her hands together.
“As opposed to creepy and weird,” said Duncan.
“Why am I even sitting here?” mused Albus. “I should’ve stuck to the Gryffindor table.”
“Maybe I should come with you,” said June, eyeing Priscilla.
“They might be boring, but they’re mostly sober, I swear,” said Nikita.
“Weaklings!” said Priscilla tipsily. “Anyhow, the sad part of the whole bet was that I ended up not winning against this buffoon. We tied!” With an angry “Pfft!”, she took another sip.
“I think you’ve had enough there,” said Nicholas, grabbing her bottle of Firewhiskey and trying to wrestle it away from her.
Priscilla continued having a vice-like grip on it. The drink sloshed around as they forcefully slid it away from each other.
“On the whole,” said Lucy, “I suppose we should all just be happy that things have turned out well for all of us.” She gave a tired sigh. “You know, Ophelia’s starting Hogwarts this year. It’s going to be so strange to have her gone.”
“What for?” said Priscilla, “You’ve got two others just like her.”
Lucy ignored this. “She’s the oldest and the calmest and the quietest in the house, but having her will still make a huge difference. I’m sure Justin’ll practically refuse to let her go. He’ll be one of those fathers pitching a fit by the train.” She gave a faint smile. “It’s so hard being magical sometimes. They leave us at eleven and they never live at home full time again. After Hogwarts, she’ll move on to a flat and a job and everything.”
“That’s a long way off,” pointed out Trista.
“Right,” said Henry, “Seven years is ages. Look what’s happened in the last seven years.”
“Still,” insisted Lucy, “I couldn’t make head or tails of the last seven years if you asked me to. It’s been a blur. But why does it have to be boarding school? The muggles’ve got it right, don’t you think? There’s a muggle family near where we live and their son’s school is just ten minutes away.”
“Lucy,” said Megara gently, “I think Ophelia will adore Hogwarts. She wants to play Quidditch and she’s already talking about being Head Girl someday.”
“Yes, and that’s the problem, isn’t it?” said Lucy dully. “She’ll adore Hogwarts and she’ll leave us behind. I’ve just got two more months with her and then she’ll be off into the world, getting ready to grow up.”
“She’s eleven,” Desmond reminded her. “They’re all so hyperactive and loudmouthed and they can barely tie their shoelaces at that age. I really doubt she’ll be sailing the seas anytime soon.”
“Does it go by fast?” asked Nikita, looking down at her stomach.
“It inches by and then suddenly you look up and realize it's gone by at lightspeed,” said Lucy. “Are you two ready for Vivienne taking off?”
Albus and June looked at each other.
“We haven’t thought of it,” said Albus, answering for both of them. “To be honest, it seems ages away. Vivi’s still so little.”
“It goes by fast!” wailed Lucy, now blubbering over her drink with her head bent. “At least I’ve got Emily and Meryl! But even then – “
“Okay, I think you’ve had enough to drink too,” said Desmond, snatching her Firewhiskey bottle away. “Good God, you lot are even less fun than usual. To think that I waited fifteen years to watch you all be drunken, moody idiots.”
“My head hurts,” complained Priscilla.
“It’s almost one o’clock,” said Nicholas. “I think we’d better head home.”
Lucy gave a semi-hysteric shriek and leaned against Trista’s shoulder as they all rose.
“There, there,” said Trista, half confused, half anxious.
Desmond looked around. The Leaky Cauldron was now half empty. He supposed during the course of the last few hours, people had slipped home on their own. Regardless of what he’d said, it’d been fun. Fun to see them drunk. Fun to see them be angry. It’d been years since they’d all been together like this. With his shop now established and with a son on the way, life had gotten busy. They saw each other now and then – many times in passing, many times on accident. Like that, accidentally, without even noticing, they had become his second family. He watched as Trista and Megara comforted Lucy, as Nicholas supported Priscilla up, as Duncan and Henry bid goodbye, as June muttered something about her children to Albus, as his own wife peered up at him - it had been worth it, after all. This one last, great send off as they wandered off into the rest of their lives.
“Why did you insist on driving?” mumbled June as they left the Leaky Cauldron. Outside, the air was cold and cutting, despite the earlier warmth of the day. It was dark and quiet outside in Diagon Alley; it had an eerie sort of air about it that had Albus peering over his shoulder every few seconds.
When he didn’t reply, she went on, “And you’re so paranoid.”
“Can’t help being paranoid seeing as Knockturn Alley’s just down there,” he said. “And that crowd sometimes wanders out here.”
“Even those witches selling skulls have to sleep sometime,” said June. “Unlike us, apparently.”
“Hey, coming to this thing was your idea,” he grumbled. “Today was a nightmare at work.”
They turned and reached the end of the street. Albus fumbled in his pockets and retrieved a pair of keys. He clicked a button and stood back, waiting. There was a large rush of air and a thump as something invisible landed nearby. He clicked another button and their car, an old blue Ford Anglia, appeared in front of them.
“You parked the car in mid-air again?” said June. “Why couldn’t you park on the street?”
“Because I might as well’ve painted steal me on the front,” said Albus.
“Like anyone would steal a car when they can Apparate,” said June. She opened a door and took a seat.
He took a seat opposite her and put the keys in the ignition. With a click and a swipe of the steering wheel, the car took off. They ascended higher and higher into the sky.
“We’ll be hitting muggle London in a minute. Turn on the invisibility cloaking,” she reminded him.
“Right,” he said, pushing a button. The car regained its original invisible sheen.
They floated higher and higher among the sky, looking down at the twinkling lights of muggle London in silence. June looked upward, where strips of clouds were obscuring the moon.
“It feels like we’re floating in the sky, doesn’t it?” said Albus.
June didn’t seem to hear him. A few seconds later, he hit the brakes and they stopped entirely. He turned to look at her. “What is it?”
“Lucy,” she said. “It’s been bugging me ever since she started talking about missing Ophelia.”
“What an embarrassment.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know why I bothered.”
“No,” he said, a minute later, seeming to regret his earlier reaction. “No, go ahead. It’s fine.”
“It’s just…I’ll miss Vivi and Rhys too. Like mad. They’ll grow up before we know it.”
“And then I’ll finally get some sleep.”
“Albus,” she pressed, “Really. I’m being serious.”
“So am I about the sleep thing.” He sighed. “Okay. Well. Look. Time’s going to pass. We can’t stop the clock. We can’t force them to stay cute and small forever. They’ll grow up like we grew up. Probably fight a lot and be a real nightmare as teenagers. Vivienne might end up being Head Girl and a Gryffindor. Rhys might be the most obnoxious Ravenclaw since Rose. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I have no idea.”
“Great,” she said moodily. “Thanks. Now just drive.”
“No,” he pressed, “but still, I can tell you that we’ll do our very best with them like we always have. Aren’t you the least bit curious to see what kind of people they’ll be? Is Vivienne going to be the next Minister for Magic? Do you think Rhys’ll be a Healer too? Don’t you think it’ll be interesting to see what kind of human beings we’ll raise? We’ll get to see a whole new generation build a new world. What’s so bad about that?”
June gave a small smile and continued looking out at the window. “So our kids will build a brand new world. And what about us in the mean time?”
“I’m sure we’ll be fighting about all the boring usual things. Like how I’m not allowed to take food upstairs and how late I come home from work and how I never do the cleaning. I can’t promise any riding off into the sunset though.”
At this, June scoffed. “Oh please. As if being married to you didn’t kill those delusions ages ago.”
He gave a grin. “I love you too. And like I said, time will pass. Things will change. But I’ll pretty much be there through it all. Like something sticky on the bottom of your shoe. You’ll be different, I’ll be different. Our kids might grow up and life’s going to go on. There’ll be boring days, days where we argue loads, days we might not even remember. But aren’t you dying of curiosity to see how it all pans out?”
Yeah, fine, June admitted to herself as her husband drove on, looking like the most smug person on the planet, I’ll get over the whole time thing. Desmond was right about mid-life crises being a decade away. And she had to admit that Albus had been right. Everyone and everything would change. Time was funny in that way. It could be your best friend sometimes. Like how slow it could go when you were writing a letter to someone in the privacy of your room, or when you were grabbing his tie in the Great Hall or kissing for the first time in Hogsmeade. It could be your worst enemy in others. How it could breeze through your first eight years of life with your mother before she left you. How it could swallow your thirty-three years of your life in one swoop.
Finally, she laughed. “I wouldn’t say dying, but yeah, I’m a bit curious.” She rolled down the window and let the cold night air flit briefly in the car before she closed it again.
He began driving again with a small, self-satisfied smile. Outside, they could see the full moon, huge and white. The sky was in alternating parts striped with clouds and specked with stars, like a blanket made with a dozen different fabrics.
“Glad to see you’re done moping,” he said.
"Do you always have to be so smug? But I feel better," she said. "Now let's go home."
Author's Note: And here it is. You guys, I had the hardest time writing this. I've mentioned that I already had an epilogue written from last year, but I really wasn't happy with it. I'm happier with this one. I know it's not all that epilogue-esque, but I wasn't going for a whole off-into-the-sunset-they-go happily-ever-after sort of thing (though they do ride off into the night, heh). Some of you guys've stuck by these characters since the beginning and I just wanted to show a glimpse of their thirties and of how their lives are shaping out to be.
I wasn't sure what angle it was I was going for, but I just wanted to show you guys that they turn out okay! So just this one last time, I ask you for your thoughts about this story.
Thank you to all of you who have stuck with this story. I began writing it in my last year of high school and I've learned so much about writing via this story and Bathing in Roses. I look back at this story and at BIR and think of all the things I could've done better or differently, but in the end, it's been a fascinating learning experience. Thank you to all of you who sat through the six month waits and my endless excuses. I hope you had as much fun with this story and its characters as I did. I'm going to miss hearing from you guys as well as writing this story, but it's been a great ride!
Thank you for everything, be well and goodbye! :)