With A Little Help From My Friends
Persephone looked much as I’d remembered her, but like all of us, she also looked older. She'd been around when I was at Grimmauld Place my fifth year, as part of the Order, but moreover part of Remus and Sirius's lives. I’d asked after her several times after Sirius died, but Remus replied by saying she was ‘doing well’. Even he’d had trouble contacting her in the last months of the war. I suppose if I were in the business of spying against the Ministry and sneaking information in and out of Britain, I’d make myself hard to get in touch with as well.
“Harry, Ginny, welcome to Mischievously Managed Brewery,” she said, her faint brogue lilting over certain vowels and rolling the ‘r’ in brewery. “I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place?”
“The directions you provided were fine...er, what should I call you?” I asked. Remus, and just about everyone else in the Order had called her Seph when she was at Grimmauld Place, but in the literature she sent me, she went by the name Perri.
“Well, the staff all calls me Ms. Gwynn, however I know you’ve heard my nickname, so I’ll leave it up to you. I started going by Perri Gwynn when I went into hiding in the first war,” she explained quickly. No one ever explained why she had to go into hiding, it was something I hoped I’d come to learn.
“What did my Mum and Dad call you?” I asked, hoping I’d get an answer which would help my decision process.
“They called me Seph,” she replied with a faint smile crossing her lips. She then cocked her lip up, “or your Dad called me George.” I looked at her puzzled.
“Why on earth would my Dad call you George?”
“I was the quietest of the quartet of girls, really the quietest of us all. I generally agreed with what others wanted, did what was required of me and stayed out of the hot tempered arguments between folks. He said I reminded him of George Harrison, from the Beatles. The band wouldn’t be the same without him, but he also didn’t make waves. I suppose it was a term of endearment...” she suddenly looked forlorn, and I regretted making her sad. Ginny squeezed my hand.
“Why don't you call me …” she trailed off before taking a shuttering breath, suddenly looking unsure of what she wanted.
“Why don’t we just see what happens naturally,” Gin suggested and I was relieved she was with me. She usually knew the best thing to say in the midst of an uncomfortable situation.
“That sounds like a plan,” Seph remarked with a nod of her head. “Come on, they should be just about ready to move the mash and then I can explain the process of brewing beer to you.”
We followed her through a pair of glass doors into a small dressing room where she handed us some strange white coats and things to put over our hair and shoes.
“If we’d been at the magical brewery, this wouldn’t be necessary,” she said. “We charm the vats to keep foreign objects out. I can’t do that much spell work here, not by myself anyway, so we need to cover up. Finding someone’s hair in your beer isn’t good for business,” Seph explained.
We walked into the main brewing room, and the staff greeted Seph warmly and were polite and respectful to both Ginny and me. An older man named Walter, who Seph explained was her 'brewmaster', hugged not only the boss but Ginny as well. He was a hearty man, ruddy cheeks and bright eyes. He looked not too dissimilar from Uncle Vernon; Walter, however, was a happy man and I took an instant liking to him.
“Well, look at you,” he said as he took my hand between both of his huge ones, “you are the spitting image of your father. One of the finest men I'd ever known, your grandfather as well. Started working for old Albert when I was just a boy, tending his horses. When your dad started this place, he offered me a job on the floor and I've worked my way up. Great man you dad was.”
“Thank you for saying so,” I responded.
“Walter here will have stories for you. Anytime you're ready to hear about what problems we were as kids, he'll fill you in,” Seph urged while she patted him on the shoulder.
“You knew my Dad as a kid?” Walter nodded with a hearty laugh.
“Knew him, practically grew up before my eyes,” he explained. “This little lady here, too. Watched her grow from pigtails to those high heels of hers.” Seph shook her head and blushed.
“Your godfather, Eliza, Sibéal and I, we were all friends from early childhood. Your dad, however, pretty much from birth,” Seph explained. “Drove Walter and his horses crazy when we were at the Potter house. I think James gave him the job here as a way to thank him for putting up with our antics as children.” Seph might have sounded joyful, but there was a wistful air in her eyes which betrayed her timbre.
“Don't let her fool ya,” Walter contradicted her, “this pretty one here was always the most polite of the bunch.” Seph shook her head, ever so slightly and then indicated we should follow along. Walter stayed with us and between the two of them Ginny and I were introduced to the entire process of beer brewing. After several hours on “the floor,” we were all covered in a light sheen of sweat and hungry. We removed our coats, booties and hair nets and retired to Seph's office, which overlooked both the brewing room and the lobby.
She indicated we should take some seats and then picked up the telephone on her desk and pushed a few numbers.
“Kate, could you bring in the food I'd ordered as well as several bottles of the MMB?” Seph paused and I could faintly hear the woman responding. “Thanks.” Seph hung up the phone and turned to face us, lowering herself into the chair behind the desk.
“Lunch will be here in a minute,” she explained. “There's a great deli down the street we have a relationship with. In fact, one of our newest beers was developed to go with their dessert buffet. Moonlit Memories is a sweet brown stout which works well with their pasties and pies.”
“Wow. I didn't know you could pair beer with different foods,” I remarked, feeling like a bit of a fool. I knew nothing of beer, especially Muggle beer, and here I was, part owner of a brewery.
“You can. It's something I can explain to you in the future. For now, though, I'm certain you have some pertinent or relevant questions for me?”
I looked at Ginny and she stared back at me. The office became unpleasantly quiet and I was thankful when Seph started talking again.
“Let's do it this way, then; why don't I tell you the story of how this began?” I nodded eagerly. “Here, follow along with this,” she directed even as she lifted the large, leather bound book from her desk. “Your mum was never without her camera, documented everything.”
“I didn't know that,” I whispered even as I was lifting the cover of the book to reveal the first page. It was a large picture of eight students sitting and lounging around a strange-looking machine in what appeared to a bedroom in Gryffindor tower. I shifted the book so Ginny could look along with me.
“There you see the founding members of Mischievously Managed Brewery: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Lily Evans, Eliza Houghton, Sibéal Cínneidigh and me, Persephone MacPhearson. That picture was taken the night we created the first drinkable batch of beer from that monstrosity behind us. We were in the first term of our seventh year. We should have been revising, instead we were brewing.”
“How did you get started brewing? And why were you using such a strange machine?” The questions started to tumble out of me, even as I watched the smiling, waving teens in the picture.
“How much do you know about your Grandfather Potter, Harry?” Seph asked and I shook my head at her. “That's where to start them. Your grandfather, Albert Charles Potter was a brilliant attorney. He served as the lead prosecutor for the office of Magical Law Enforcement and was also in the Crown Prosecutors office in the Muggle world. He was such a good man. He treated everyone, Muggle, wizard, half-breed, goblin, elf, everyone with respect. He wanted your dad to follow in his footsteps, study law and bridge the two worlds. Your dad wasn't really the desk job sort of fellow,” she explained with remorse in her words.
“Anyway, Albert took James and Sirius to Oxford the summer before our seventh year. He hoped he'd convince James to enrol at University, working on his magical law degree first, and then finishing up with his Muggle one. The guys didn't take well to the studying part of the uni experience, but they were intrigued by the partying part of it. One day, while Albert was meeting with some former classmates, James and Sirius toured the town, coming across the Hook Norton Brewery. They took a tour, sampled the wares and the rest is history. They came up with the hare-brained idea they could brew beer in the Gryffindor tower.”
“How did you not get caught?” I asked.
“Ah, well the Head Boy that year was your dad and Remus was a prefect. When we girls came in, your mum was Head Girl and I was the prefect. As long as McGonagall stayed out of the boys’ dormitory, which she did, there wasn't anyone to catch us. Even if she'd found out, your dad and godfather could have charmed the skin off a snake. She had quite a soft spot for them both.”
“Harry's has her around his little finger, too,” Ginny added and I playfully punched her.
“I do not,” I rebuked.
“Oh, no, it was everyone she hugged and kissed on the cheek last week at the Hogwarts re-dedication,” Gin sarcastically added.
“Fine, she likes me,” I relented.
“I'm not surprised,” Seph said with a chuckle, “you should have seen her with you when you were a baby.”
“McGonagall knew me as a baby?” I was stunned, she'd never let on that she knew me that well before school started.
“As I said, your mother was all about the pictures. I'll find the albums and bring them to you. It's your past, you should have them,” Seph explained and I was excited. I'd revelled in the stories people used to tell me about my parents, but now I'd get to see them, see what their lives were like and who they were close to.
“So, anyway, James and Sirius came up this silly idea. They persuaded Remus to be involved, which is good because he was the only one of us who was mechanically inclined. They started attempting to brew, but the early batches were horrible. Smelled bad, tasted worse. Remus asked Lily and me to come help – your dad was too proud to ask your mum for help yet – since potions and Herbology were our strong suits. They guys were trying to take short cuts, even with magic you can't rush certain aspects of brewing beer. Eventually, all eight of us were spending as much time brewing as we were revising.
“When school ended, none of us were really sure what we wanted to do, except for your dad, Sibéal and me. Your dad was set on becoming an Unspeakable, Sibéal a society wife and I wanted to work in my families chain of Apothecaries. Since the rest weren't sure what to do, and it was obvious that the world was changing, we figured brewing beer was a good way to avoid growing up. That all changed about six weeks before school ended,” Seph wasn't looking at us anymore, she was staring out the window onto the production floor.
I turned the page to find two nearly identical pictures of the group, facing each other through the folds of the album. The left side one showed the eight at Hogsmeade Station, Dad has his arm around Mum, Sirius was pulling on the ponytail of the shortest girl, Remus laughing at something Wormtail had said. It hurt to see him happy with my parents, knowing what he'd do to them. Seph was the only person in the picture who didn't look happy. She looked frightened.
The picture on the right was taken outside King's Cross in London, and while they were dressed the same, there was something off about the picture.
“Seph,” I called to her and she turned back to face us, her cheeks tear stained, “why aren't you in the picture in London?”
“That was the day Persephone MacPhearson disappeared.”