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This Time With Us by Celestie

Format: Novella
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 30,364
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ginny, Albus, Lily (II), Victoire, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing, OC/OC

First Published: 10/01/2012
Last Chapter: 07/23/2013
Last Updated: 08/16/2013

Summary:
Perfect banner by noxxx 



Seven years have passed since Albus Potter left Hogwarts. But June Bernard and her friends are still driving him mad. Nothing seems like it will ever change until in bits and pieces, everything does. (A story about a girl who read romance novels, the boy who inspired them and what happened after they finally grew up.)
'Sequel to Bathing in Roses' 


Chapter 1: Mid May, 2029 - The Friday Blues
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The Friday Blues

Mid May, 2029

Was it so much for him to ask for one quiet evening?

He grumbled to himself as he opened the door to his house. 

It was quiet. That much was promising.

Every day for the past two weeks, he had been welcomed home from a long day’s work by a small scale catastrophe. Only this week, he’d had to deal with a Quidditch team, an ex-convict and what certainly looked like an illegal animal scampering around his house. 

Monday. Half of the Kenmare Kestrels were clustered around his kitchen openly weeping over his teacups. Tuesday. Arrived home to find a well-known blackmarket dealer engaged in friendly chit chat while demonstrating a Catherine wheel that promptly exploded and flooded his entire house in fumes. Wednesday. A Ministry worker was sitting despondently in his living room. Albus entered to find him seated on his seat at the sofa, on about relationship advice.  Thursday. Entered at approximately seven o’clock only to be bitten on the leg severely upon entry by what looked like a particularly malicious dog. Was later informed – after a trip to St. Mungo’s - that it was in fact a Blast Ended Niffler.

So now it was Friday. He had had all of his favorite tea pilfered off to Quidditch players, had things explode in his face and been bitten.  

Albus lingered carefully near the doorstep. He could hear a soft mumbling from the other side. He exhaled. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, his girlfriend was merely on the phone. Not attracting anymore ex-convicts, Quidditch players or illegally bred magical beasts.

He entered his house.

A large vase went sailing past his head.

URGH!”

So much for that.

“Come on, please,” came his girlfriend’s voice, wheedling. “Calm yourself. Yelling this much can’t be healthy.”

“I’ll calm myself when I want to!”

He recognized the voice and winced.

Oh no.

It was his girlfriend’s crazy friend. Though most of them struck him as crazy, this one was particularly dangerous. 

He cowered behind a potted plant as a teapot – his teapot! ­­– crashed against the wall.

Hysterical shrieking followed at such a high octave he mistook it for Mermish.

“Please, it’s not the end of the world. Calm down,” his girlfriend pleaded. ”Listen, you’re just suspicious. You’re not even sure if you are. It’s too early to tell. It might just be nothing.” She considered her words before continuing, “Have you told anyone else?”

“No.” There was ragged breathing. “No. I’ve heard Lucy got back yesterday. I’m thinking of telling her next week at Justin’s birthday party. She’ll know what to do.”

“Okay, good,” said his girlfriend gently. “Now, put down that encyclopedia. Albus actually likes that one.”

Straightening himself, Albus emerged from the potted plant and slowly crept to the kitchen.

They heard his footsteps and the conversation in the kitchen abruptly stopped.

“Albus? Is that you?”

“Potter’s here?” asked her hysterical friend. “Damn it! At a time like this?”

“Is everything okay?” he called. “June?”

“Yes, everything’s fine. You can come in.”

As he approached the kitchen, his girlfriend’s face came into view. She was standing by the dining table, pouring more tea for her hysterical friend. This time, it was her friend from Magical Law Enforcement – Priscilla Fawcett – a girl who he had never been on good terms with, even in his time in Hogwarts.

“Potter,” said her friend coolly.

“Fawcett.”

“Well,” said June, looking nervously between the two. “Albus. It’s nice to see you. Now go upstairs.”

“But – “ he looked longingly at the tea.

Upstairs,” she said sweetly through gritted teeth. 

“Fine,” he said, limping toward the stairs. As he climbed up to his study, he could hear the whispers break out again.

“So, what’re you going to do if – you know?”

“I’ve got no idea,” came Priscilla’s gloomy voice. “I’ll just pray I’m not. If I am, I’m absolutely doomed.”

*

As Albus set the table for dinner, he threw furtive glances at his girlfriend. She was waiting for him at the table, absorbed in a new edition of Witch Weekly.

“You know, it says here that knee-length robes are very fashionable in Shanghai.”

“Really?” He was used to giving such one word answers when she brought up her work. “That’s good.”

She shut the magazine and smiled up at him. “How was work today for you?”

“Fine.” He sat down across from her and began eating. “Some bloke from Manchester thought it’d be funny to try and Transfigure his friend into a reindeer. Ended up making him sprout an extra leg and antlers.”

“Ouch. How’d you fix that?”

“Took forever.” He puffed himself out. “Managed it at last, though. And the research on Hippogriff Pox’s been going well.”

She reached across and kissed him on the cheek. “Good.”

He smiled at her before promptly returning back to earth. “June. Listen.”

“What?”

“I’ve been wanting to ask you. Is this going to be a regular thing with your friends?”

She looked at him blankly. “What d’you mean?”

“I mean, am I going to be coming home to the Kenmare Kestrels crying all over my kitchen again?”

“You know that’s only happened twice,” said June. “How can you blame them? They lost to the Wasps and that hasn’t happened in nearly ten years! Of course Trista was upset and had to drop by and she brought a few of her friends along and they’re really very nice girls – ”

“Then what about that bloke from the Ministry? Dunstan?”

“You mean Duncan Podmore,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Albus, he needed help. He’s been fancying this girl in his office since last year! Her birthday’s just around the corner, apparently, so he needed my help. And anyway, you know they’re not just my friends. They’re like my family.”

“Last I checked, no family member of mine ever blew up my house.”

“Desmond didn’t mean to, you know that. Anyway, that was my fault for egging him on to ignite that thing. We’re just lucky the Charms on the house kept it together.”

“We’ve only been living together for two weeks,” he whined. “When’ll I ever be able to come home to find some peace? Remember last week when that loony goblin tried attacking me?”

“He came with Lucy!” she said indignantly. “And he wasn’t loony! D’you know he used to work in Gringotts when your dad and his friends blew it up! He was just explaining to me and Lucy how the very sight of your dad gives him post traumatic stress. And then you chose that moment to come barging through the door and you know how much you look like your father sometimes and I suppose he was just overwhelmed – ”

“I think I’m going to have a word with Lucy about what kind of guests she brings over,” he said angrily.

“No, please, don’t. You know she’s just got back from Norway. Don’t argue with her when you know how tired she must be with work and her family.”

“And that thing that bit me,” he went on. “What the bloody hell was that?

“Oh, the Niffler? Henry’s friend brought him. The poor Niffler’s been missing Henry ever since he took off for Tanzania. We just thought we’d keep the little thing company. We really had no idea it’d bite you like that.”

“Living in my home should not be this dangerous,” he struggled, waving a fork at her.

She sighed. “All right. I’ll ask them to not visit as much. Is that what you want?”

When he saw her frowning, he grimaced. “No. If it’s going to upset you – “

“It won’t upset me. I can try having less things – you know – bite you.”

Thank you.

He rose and kissed her across the table. It gave him the light, floaty feeling it usually did and she smiled at him.

“So,” he began again. “When’re you ever going to tell me what Fawcett was on about?”

She pulled away immediately. “Never. Don’t even joke about that. I’m just praying I dreamt that part up.”

*

The entire idea of living with June Bernard even four years ago would’ve seemed laughably impossible. She had been the dim girl who’d tried handing him a love letter in the middle of lunch at Hogwarts. And after blackmailing and coercing him and yelling at him rather loudly, he’d somehow fell into fancying her halfway on accident. He’d spent most of the year reassuring himself that he’d had higher standards than a girl who couldn’t perform a simple Confunding Charm and had a thorough lack of knowledge on magical principles, yet he’d bungled into a relationship. This one, to be exact, that ended up with him getting bitten or screeched at by lunatics.

Still, it had its good moments. Wonderful ones, really, when nobody else was around. It’d been exciting in the beginning – physically, emotionally, all that soppy sort of thing. Now it had become a warm glow . The thought of coming home after a long day at St. Mungo’s and being rewarded with some tea and maybe a snog was enough to cheer him up.

Of course, who was he to know that she and her crazy friends would make everything worse before they could become better?

*

“Tomorrow. I swear.”

“What do you mean tomorrow?”

“Look Albus, I really can’t talk.” Her voice came as a whisper over the phone. “Victoire and I are really busy right now. We’ve got a lot of orders we need to ship to Madrid. I’ll call you back later. Bye.”

Exasperated, he heard the beep as the call dropped.

“No luck, mate?”

Vincent Thomas, Colin Creevey and Anthony Kirke were staring at him, each holding a glass of firewhiskey. 

“She’s not listening to me for more than ten seconds.”

“Ah, that’s what happens,” said Vincent, sagely bobbing his head, “when you’re married for so long.”

The other two howled with laughter.

“We’re not married,” he said irritably. “I never get to see her anymore. It feels like it’s been a month since I last saw her. We’ve both been that busy with work.”

“Right, that’s what they all say. Then suddenly, two months later, someone throws out the suitcases and half of the Wizarding World’s hearing about a divorce over the Wireless,” said Vincent, leaning back with the same look of mischief in his eyes.

Albus frowned. It was Colin who interjected with, “Don’t get married, Al. You’ll end up like poor Wood otherwise.”

There was a moment of silence as they remembered the missing member of their small quintent: Xavier Wood. Stuck at home, babysitting his children.

“Twenty-four and twins,” said Anthony, looking repulsed. He held up his glass. “Gentlemen. I toast to our freedom.”

“Aye,” said Vincent, holding his glass aloft. “To freedom. And to the thought of Wood wearing an apron.”

Albus rolled his eyes. Perhaps his friends weren’t too much better than his girlfriend’s.

 It was strange, he decided, as he spent more time with his friends. Seven years had passed since they’d left Hogwarts. In that time, he’d finished Healing school, gotten a job at St. Mungo’s in the Potions and Plant Poisoning Ward. June had kept her job with Victoire in Mademoiselle, but she’d climbed up from a shopgirl to a business associate. 

Even his friends had grown up. Colin was a writer now for Transfiguration Today. Both Vincent and Anthony worked for the Ministry; Vincent in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes and Anthony in the Beast Division.

But, Albus decided, not everything had changed. He watched Vincent and Colin challenge each other on who could drink more Firewhiskey. It was Vincent who managed to guzzle down his third bottle first; beside him, Colin took a sip and fell flat on the ground. Vincent began to yell triumphantly before falling down as well. And it was Albus and Anthony that Apparated them back to their respective flats.

It had been the same seven years ago when the two idiots would drink too much after Quidditch matches and it was still the same now.

Yes, some things definitely hadn’t changed.



Author's Note: Hello, my dear BIR readers (if any of you are still there). As promised, the sequel is out! It's much, much shorter than Bathing in Roses and will only be 6 chapters long followed by an epilogue. I've already written it all, so expect weekly updates.


The format will also be quite different. Each chapter will be spaced several weeks or months from the previous ones. Unlike BIR, there will be several chapters focused on just some of the minor characters and their subplots (yay rounding out characterization). Three of these chapters will be focused on June/Albus, so never fear!

I would love to know what you think of this seven year time skip. Most of the characters are now twenty-four/twenty-five, so it's nice to see them a little more mature. I'd love to see your feedback.




Chapter 2: June, 2029 - Bits and Bobs
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Bits and Bobs

June, 2029

“There she comes!” came a shout from under an umbrella. “The Mrs. Belby! After three long months!”

Lucy scoffed at the sight of the two grinning boys. Nicholas Corner and Desmond Jordan were waiting for her outside of Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. The bright, sunny day did nothing to diminish the glowing smiles they gave her. Treading warily, she pushed past the crowd and joined them on their table under the umbrella.

“So,” began Nicholas, a twinkle in his eye.

So,” contributed Desmond.

Lucy sighed. “Will you ever let it go?”

“I don’t think so, Mrs. Belby,” said Nicholas. “How’s the baby?”

“She’s - ” began Lucy, before getting cut off by Desmond.

“Oh, and how’s your daughter too?”

Nicholas and Desmond broke out in howls of laughter.

Lucy sighed crossly. “And you two wonder why I never bring Justin with me.”

“We were serious about the baby, though,” said Desmond, mopping his eyes. “My little niece’s fine, isn’t she?”

Lucy opened her mouth to point out that he wasn’t her daughter’s uncle, but stopped. None of them were, really. That didn’t stop Desmond from calling himself ‘her favorite uncle Des’ or Trista from buying toy brooms carved with ‘From Aunt Trista’.

“Ophelia’s fine,” said Lucy. “Justin’s at home with her.”

For some strange reason, the very idea that Lucy Weasley-Belby had settled into domesticity seemed to be a running joke with her friends. She never could understand the humour in it. Her life nowadays was rather ordinary. Her house was rather ordinary – small, two bedrooms and comfortable. Even Justin wasn’t worth goggling too much about. He’d been a nice boy she’d met at the Ministry four years ago; after a year of dating came a lovely spring wedding. After the wedding came Ophelia, who was now nearly a year old.

“Ah,” said Nicholas fondly, “you need to leave the little dwarf with me and Pris sometime. She hardly ever gets to see her Uncle Nic.”

“I’ll see,” said Lucy, hoping she sounded convincing. The truth of it was that Nicholas got along well with Ophelia, though Priscilla scared the life out of her daughter. “Now why’d you two call me here?”

“Simple,” said Desmond, pointing behind Lucy.

 Lucy stood up, surprise plastered on her face. “Trista!”

A blonde haired girl was pushing through the crowd, wearing bright green Quidditch robes and carrying a broom in one hand. “Hello,” she said, looking tired. “I feel like I haven’t seen you guys in ages!”

“Two months to be precise,” said Desmond. “Though Bernard tells me you still have time to stop buy her place for tea, but not mine. I see how it is.”

“Oh, hush you,” said Trista. “I’ve been so bloody busy. I’m sure everyone’s heard. We lost to the Wasps.” She looked away sadly. “The Kestrels haven’t lost to the Wasps in a decade.”

“You’ll be back on your feet in no time,” said Lucy, reaching for Trista’s hand. The two girls smiled at each other. “It’s lovely to see you.”

“You too,” said Trista. “So I heard you’ve been out of England for the last three months.”

“Ten weeks,” said Lucy. “The Goblin Liaisons Office needed me in Finland and Norway. There’s been goblin riots there and we were called in to help. I just got back a few days ago.”

“It’s so strange that we’re all spread around now,” said Trista. “I’m in Kenmare. June, Nicholas, Desmond and Priscilla are still in London. You’re all over the place. And Henry’s still down in Tanzania.”

“It’s life,” said Lucy, looking sad. “At least you get to see humans in Ireland. I’ve been surrounded by nothing but goblins and ice for the last three months.”

“But we’re your welcoming party back to civilization!” said Desmond, throwing out his arms.

As Lucy looked at him skeptically, Trista said, “We’ve got an interesting definition of the word ‘civilization’, haven’t we?”

Lucy laughed. “If anything, it’s a relief that I get to speak in English and not in Gobbledegook. I’m nearly fluent now.”

As the ice creams came, the chatter intensified and they found themselves lost in conversation about the days they’d been apart.

*

After their reunion, Desmond shuffled back down the street and back to work. Diagon Alley was less crowded now that the Hogwarts lot had gone back to school. He looked around the street wishfully. Seven years it’d been. But all the same, seven good years.

He was still stuck in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. He was in a good management position, no longer stuck working the floor like the new meat had to. Working the floor had been a pain in the arse. One could only spend so many hours showing how wands turned into rubber chickens and assuring girls that the love potions were potent enough for whatever poor bloke they fancied poisoning. Now he was in the nice room in the back with Fred Weasley where the two sketched over all the new things they’d be manufacturing.

In the meanwhile, he’d never bothered launching off his own business. It was depressing to think about – he always assured his dad that it was a matter of time – but the truth of it was that he didn’t see a point anymore.

It wasn’t the same as it’d been in Hogwarts. There were no more Slytherins to dupe into believing some dried Doxy droppings was dragon blood. There wasn’t the threat of being caught by a Prefect every time he turned the corner. The excitement of it was gone. And he had a good enough job as it was, even if it wasn’t some high-powered job like Fawcett’s. It paid well and he had a decent flat.

And to be honest, did it really matter anymore if he had his own business or not? Maybe it was his parents’ fault that he had such high expectations stacked on him. Why’d his dad have to go and be a star on the Wireless anyway? And who’d asked his mum to be a big shot reporter? He wasn’t the sum of the parts of Lee Jordan or Alicia Spinnet. He’d be lucky to be half.

He reentered the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, scanning around the store. There were a few shoppers idling around the aisles today. There wasn’t much to do upstairs – Weasley wouldn’t be back for another two hours, so he hung around the store. As usual, some girls were lingering around the love potions. A few others were staring wonderingly at the Patented Daydreaming Charm.

He walked through the shelves and caught their conversation from the other side.

“Does this really work?” a squeaky voice demanded, pushing into someone else’s face. “Tell me, Auntie.”

“It works,” said an exasperated voice. “Pia, please, how many times do I have to tell you not to grab everything you see?”

From between two beat up boxes of Canary Creams, Desmond squinted through the shelves.

Nice, he thought admiringly at the girl in front of him, very nice. Long dark hair, long legs, big, black eyes.

She frowned down at the girl in front of her. “No.”

“But Auntie!”

No, that’s too expensive. I told you I only had three Galleons and I’m not spending a Sickle over. Remember those Fainting Fancies you bought last time? You didn’t even open that box.”

Her eyes large and imploring, the girl squeaked again, “This’ll be different! Promise!”

Sensing his chance, Desmond swooped in. “Hello there. Couldn’t help but noticing you have a pricing dilemma. I’m here to help.”

“Who’re you?” asked the little girl suspiciously.

“Desmond?” asked her aunt. “Desmond Jordan?”

He took a step back. “Err. Yes. Do – do we know each other?”

She looked offended. “You don’t remember me?”

“Uh – er – of course I do. You’re – you’re, er – ” Scratching his head, he rifled through his memory. Was this some girl he’d shagged and promptly left the morning after?

“You don’t remember me after all,” she said, looking unimpressed. “Not that I should’ve expected better.”

“I’ve got no idea how I could’ve forgotten,” said Desmond, hoping he sounded smooth. “Remind me?”

“I used to remind you all the time that you owe me a twenty percent share of your business,” she said loftily.  “Remember me now?”

His jaw dropped and he reeled, feeling as though he’d been hit in the head. “Patil?!

“Yes,” she said shrilly.

Still taken aback, he managed, “Er – well – you look different – ”

And different was an understatement. Where was the little Patil he was familiar with? The one who’d barely reached his shoulders? The girl who’d planned out all his little black market ventures in Hogwarts. Some business partner she’d been. Ordered the wrong ingredients for his potions all the time. Took a bloody massive cut out of his profits for her work. And always slinging around huge spellbooks, leafing through them when she got too disinterested to listen to him.

“Thanks,” she said baldly, not looking happy in spite of the compliment. She bent down to the little girl in front of her. “Go check out those Puffskeins, Pia.”

“But you said you wouldn’t buy those!” asked the little girl.

“I might if you run along,” Patil said. “Go on, go.”

And her niece ran off so fast she looked as though she’d Apparated out. They could hear her cooing over the Puffskeins from the other side of the store.

“So, Nikita,” began Desmond again, running his hands through his hair. “You look good.”

“Drop it, Jordan,” she said flatly. “I didn’t expect to see you popping out of those shelves like my family ghoul. I thought you’d be owning a place in Hogsmeade by now. Or be tossed in Azkaban.”

“You know, you’re not the first person to sound surprised I haven’t been incarcerated. The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office did try calling me in for a trial, though. Full Wizengamot there and everything.” He winked at her; her expression remained unwaveringly unimpressed. Desmond coughed. “So..what do you do? Big writer?”

“Hardly,” she said. “I work in International Relations in the Ministry. I’m the liaison between England and Russia’s Ministry for Magic.”

“So that’s what you did with that History of Magic NEWT,” he said lamely, ruffling his hair. “That’s great.”

“Thanks.” She still looked cautious and standoffish. “My sister’ll be here at five.”

“Oh.” He checked the clock behind her. Four fifty-five. “I take it you’re saying goodbye?”

“No, I’m saying that my sister’ll be here at five and take her little brat off my hands. And I’ll be free after that, if you’re up for drinks at the Leaky.”

“Fantastic,” he said, hoping the large grin splitting across his face didn’t give him away too badly. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

“Okay,” she said, giving him a vague smile. Her eyes flickered away and her mouth opened. “Pia! No, put that down right now!”

She didn’t give him a backwards glance as she ran across the store and wrenched the open box of Itching Powder out of her niece’s hands. Desmond watched agape as the box fell on the floor, scattering powder everywhere.

*

“Sorry,” Nikita said for what seemed like the fifth time. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. I’ll pay you back, of course.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “It’s thirty Sickles. Big deal.”

“Then you should at least let me pay for your Firewhiskey.”

“I’ll manage on my own,” he said, slapping down the hand that was inching towards her wallet. “I might not have a Ministry job, but I’m not that poor yet.”

She smiled. Again he had to marvel that without the glasses and the spellbooks, she looked…nice.

“So you’ve been managing well for yourself,” she said. “In a way, I’m glad you’re not in jail.”

“Thanks,” he said dryly. “Clearly, I could take a few lessons from you.”

She didn’t blush or smile. “Drop the flirting, Jordan. As far as you should be concerned, I’m still exactly the same person. I still like history too much, I still read Russian poetry, I’m still piss poor at anything not history related. All I did was invest in some contact lenses and some expensive shampoo.”

“Glad to hear it,” he said. “I’m glad to see you’re doing well.”

Her eyes flickered down. “Not as well as you think.”

Over the din of the Leaky Cauldron, he nearly missed it. A few hags behind him began cackling loudly and he turned back to glare. “What d’you mean?”

“That Ministry job really doesn’t pay as well as you’d think,” she said. “And I’ve still got my mum’s medical bills to take care of.” She leaned over the Firewhiskey, her eyes glimmering. “Do you still know Nicholas Corner, by any chance? Do you know if he’s seeing anybody?”

“Why do you ask?” he asked warily.

“I read an article in the Prophet yesterday about how well his little portrait shop’s been doing. And of course his family’s rich.”

Desmond felt his throat run dry. He pushed aside his Firewhiskey. “Actually, he’s with Fawcett. Remember her?”

She leaned back irritably. “How can I not? I can hear her screaming in the Law Enforcement office and my office’s two floors up. First Albus Potter, now her. Do you happen to know any other of the Potters or Weasleys? You know Lucy Weasley, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” he began, looking away from her.

“Great, because I’ve lost touch with her and I’d love if you could arrange a meeting. That way, maybe she could introduce me to either Louis Weasley or James Potter. Either one would work.”

“Fantastic,” he said. “Looks like you got that plan all figured out.”

“Or,” she said, her big eyes widening, “what about Fred Weasley? You work with him, don’t you? Isn’t that perfect? I can’t believe I didn’t think of that earlier! I’ve heard he’s recently single.”

“Yeah, maybe,” he muttered, rising up, the sinking feeling in his stomach expanding. “Listen, this’s been…fun…but I’ve got other plans…”

“Wait,” she said, grabbing on to his arm.

Desmond froze. “What?”

“Why’re you leaving?” she asked. “We’ve been here maybe ten minutes.”

“That’s long enough, believe me.”

“Is it something I said?”

“No, it’s because I don’t like the Leaky’s tables,” he said sarcastically. “Look, if all you called me here for is to frisk me for contacts, you’re out of luck.”

“Jordan, please. I’m desperate here.” Her hand moved down his arm and to his hand. She tugged and exasperated, he took a seat. “Why do you think I was always after Albus Potter back in Hogwarts? Of course, now that Bernard’s got him…”

“How much money d’you need?” he said. “You could always get a loan or something.”

“I already did,” she said flatly. “Gringotts’s refused to give me more money.”

They sighed in unison.

“I even tried in Scotland, but the goblins like spreading the word around, apparently,” said Nikita, playing with the ice in her glass of Firewhiskey. “We’ve got a debt on our house, I’ve still got to pay my mum’s medical bills, pay for the loan we took to put me through Hogwarts…”

“Is your mum okay, though?” he asked.

“She’s fine now,” said Nikita. “She had a liver condition starting from my fourth year in Hogwarts, but she’s in remission. She should be okay.” Clutching her hands together tightly, she frowned. “It’s wonderful, of course, but the amount we owe is huge. We owe some to muggle doctors, some to Healers in St. Mungo’s. My sister’s been working muggle jobs to get enough pounds for the doctors. That makes it my job to scrape up the Galleons for the Healers. But my Ministry job just doesn’t pay enough.”

Putting an arm around her shoulders, he said, “You’ll be okay. Trust me, you’ll be fine.”

Looking a little misty-eyed, she asked, “How do you know?”

“I got an E on my OWL in Divination,” he said, puffing his chest out.

She laughed. “Yeah right. I happen to know you slept through every Divination class you attended. I’d be better off asking Bernard. I heard she was the only one in our year to get an O in the NEWT Divination.”

“Did she?” he said, waggling his eyebrows. “That must’ve been poor Bernard’s only O in her whole life.”

“Anyway,” began Nikita delicately, “what do you say to letting me meet Fred Weasley?”

“I’ve got nothing against it,” he said, shrugging and hoping he didn’t look his disappointment. “If you think you can – ”

“You should know that this isn’t what I want, though,” she said fiercely. “I never intended to be chasing after blokes with money. But I’ve already got a job that’s practically ten hours a day. I just don’t see any other way. At least one of the Weasleys’ll be young.”

“Meaning?”

“Oh, I’ve met some men here and there. The rich ones are usually much older. I’m not that desperate yet. I’d rather poke around these sorts of options first.”

Feeling more depressed, Desmond said, “Yeah, Fred’s a nice bloke. His girlfriend just left him a few days ago so I’m not sure what kind of luck you’ll have with him.”

“It’s worth a shot.”

“I…suppose,” he said. “James’s not the settling down and marrying type, so don’t bother. Louis, I think, might have a girlfriend, but I can double check with Lucy. So I’m guessing Fred’s your best shot.”

 She gave him a glowing smile, but retracted it when he gloomily took a sip of his Firewhiskey. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“You can tell me.”

He stared at the ice cubes in his glass for a long minute before saying slowly, “Well…life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I expected. I imagined that I’d have a big, successful business by this age and maybe a girlfriend or something.” He peeked up at Nikita.   

She looked at him pityingly. “I can understand. I certainly didn’t think I’d be running around dodging loan sharks and having to rifle through my mail and toss out Howlers from goblins every morning. But what happened to your store? Didn’t get the money for it?”

“I’ve got the money,” he said. “I’ve had investors lined up from the beginning. My dad, for one, has wanted it for ages. And he’s got loads of money, so I’ll be fine.”

“Then what happened?” she asked.

“No inspiration for it, I suppose,” he said gloomily. “What’s the point, really? There’s already loads of stores that’ll sell the exact same thing. Zonko’s, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes for another, Filibuster’s…and just spending my whole life designing pranks for small children to annoy their sisters and teachers with…I dunno anymore…it’s just so stupid..”

Nikita clapped her hand over his and he broke off, feeling a flurry of heat trickle down from his fingers until it went up his arm. He stared at her, dumbfounded.

“It isn’t stupid,” she said, “and you’ve got to stop being so hard on yourself. You used to love it your pranks! There’s more to it than just blowing up Common Rooms and tricking Slytherins, isn’t there?”

“Is there?” he asked, privately coming to the same conclusion that he had for months now: Without Hogwarts and without his friends, there was just no magic to it anymore.

Yes,” she said. “You made a lot of people laugh. And you’re just a brilliant inventor and a great potioneer. You know how much Professor Aubrey used to adore you.  Even if you don’t feel like jumping right in, maybe start with your own line of potions or something.”

“Like it’d be that easy,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“No, I mean it. You work at the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, don’t you? It’s about time you had a line of your own. Jordan’s Jumping Jinxes.” Her brown eyes sparkled. “I see it now. Or maybe a guidebook or something. How to Filch Filch’s Cat. Stuff like that.”

“That’s not bad,” he said slowly.

“Yeah,” she said, “it’d be different from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes because they sell random things like rubber ducks and Puffskeins and things. You could really tailor it to Hogwarts’s next generation of pranksters and inventors and potioneers. It’d be filled with odds and ends and bits and bobs. Something of everything.”

When his eyes lit up, she continued, waving her glass in the air, “Can you imagine it? It’d be a lovely business concept. There’d be all these different sections. One for pranksters like you, maybe, with walls and walls of fireworks and dragon blood. Then a place with all the books people like me would need. Brooms for Quidditch players, loads of potions ingredients laying around. And you could decorate it to make it look like different parts of Hogwarts. It’d be like a small piece of Hogwarts floating around.”

“That’s it,” he said, unaware that he was now standing up. “That’s bloody it. I’ve been waiting for an idea and I’ve got it!” He looked down at her triumphantly and she peered up at him.

“Great, I’m glad you like it!”

Suddenly, his smile ebbed away and he took a seat. “But I can’t just take your idea and make loads of money off it. That wouldn’t be right.”

Nikita shrugged. “Well, what else can we do, then?”

He took her hand. “Come into business with me, then. Be a partner.”

She pulled her hand away. “I couldn’t.”

“Come on, it’d be just like old times. You’d finally get that equal cut you were always on about.”

Looking pained, she said, “I can’t. I’d love to, but I can’t just leave a steady paying job that I really need just to wing it with you. And I’ve got nothing to give you. I’ve just got ideas, but I haven’t got any money I can invest with you.”

He waved a hand airily. “I don’t need your money. I’ve got my dad and I could probably get George Weasley to invest a bit.” He leaned in closer. “It’d start like this. You come in when you can. Weekends, maybe, for a few hours. Give me some ideas. Get me that inspiration going. I’ll build products and get the premise ready. I’ll test it out on my own for a few months and if it’s making profit, you can jump in whenever.”

Her mouth hung open. “But – but why would you give me such a great opportunity? You’d lose money just by making that promise.”

He smiled wryly. “Well, if it gets as big as I think it might, I’ll need someone to help me manage it anyway. You in?”

“I suppose we’ll see,” she said.  

He held out his hand.

Giving a smile, she shook it.

“Welcome aboard, Patil,” he said, leaning back breezily. “Anything you want to ask me?”

“One question,” she said. “What on earth are you going to name the place?”

“What about Desmond and Associates?he asked.

She gave him a foul look.

“Desmond and Co, then? Or Jordan and Co?”

“I’m not your ‘co’,” she said. “And don’t slap your name on it like that. It sounds awful. Make it sound better.”

He gave a mischievous smile, feeling the exhilarating high of innovating – something he hadn’t felt in years. It was new and wondrous and refreshing. “We’d better get to work, then.”

 




Author's Note: And that's a wrap on Desmond's chapter! Next up is Priscilla's, before we swing back around to Albus and June :)

Thank you to those of you who are still reading and reviewing! I know the link I put on the forums didn't really work so this story hasn't been getting much attention. But here's to hoping, right?

Any thoughts on Desmond? Nikita's a relatively minor character from BIR - one of the girls who used to help June stalk Albus and a fellow Gryffindor Prefect with Albus. This was a fun side ship I'd been planning to write into the original story, but just didn't have enough room. And Lucy's married and with a child now! If there're any other characters/ships you're wondering about, let me know!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to know your thoughts!

Celeste


Chapter 3: July, 2029 - Someday Soon
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Someday Soon

July, 2029

“Watch it, Fawcett!” scoffed a voice behind her, narrowly avoiding a collision between them as the brunette witch made a beeline for the lift.

It was not often that Priscilla Fawcett was this sloppy; her hair was falling around her face, the bag stuffed with loose papers was threatening to fall from her hands any minute and she stampeded along, her heels clattering against the Ministry floor.

On the whole, the last six years had been good to Priscilla. Her family name and her good marks in Hogwarts had landed her a high paying job in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and at last, she had a place to channel her shrieking, her hysterics and her deep love of breaking down other people’s doors.

She still had a few of her Hogwarts friends in London and she’d finally moved into a big house of her own with her boyfriend of seven years – Nicholas Corner.

She sighed as she crammed herself onto the lift, ignoring the disapproving looks the three other witches in the lift shot at her.

But a few months ago, everything had gone so horribly wrong. So, so, so horribly wrong. Life had skidded off the careful rails she’d built for it and was now speeding towards making her entire world a train wreck.

As she popped out of the lift and elbowed her way past the Ministry crowd, she stifled down the vomit that had been creeping up her throat. Feeling dizzy, she scrambled around herself for a moment; the world became a blur of colours and indiscernible noises. Somehow, she managed to wait her turn in line and climb onto a fireplace, coughing and praying she’d make it home in one piece.

*

“Priscilla? Is that you?”

She clambered out of the fireplace. “Who else would it be?” she snapped back, tossing her bag on the ground and running to the loo.

“I dunno, maybe I thought it was Bernard,” said Nicholas, popping out from around the corner, a pan in hand. He made a face when he saw her bent over the toilet. “Again?

In response, she kicked the loo door shut.

When he heard the retching noises subside and the tap started running, he pried open the door. “That’s the third time this week. Are you sure you’re okay?”

It’d been something like the eighth. Of course, he didn’t know that she ran to the Ministry loos every morning. Already, the witches in her department had begun to send glowing beams her way. Every other time she ran for the loo, it’d be McKinnon saying, “Oh, it was bad for me the first time too!” or Folwell sharing how soothing some creams could be for swollen feet.

“It’s just stomach flu,” she’d barked back at them, stuffing her swollen feet back in high heels.

She emerged from the loo, closing the door around her. Her dark hair was loose now, tumbling around her pallid face. She blinked at Nicholas warningly, as if challenging him to say more.

“I still think you should see a Healer,” he said. “It’s been going on for a whole three weeks!”

It was wonderfully convenient how bloody dim Nicholas could be, Priscilla thought gratefully. If he’d had half the sense of Jordan or Potter, he’d have known a full month ago precisely what’d happened. Precisely why the thought of pancakes made her now want to vomit or why he’d found her downstairs at one in the morning, sitting alone and eating her third bowl of cornflakes sprinkled with pineapples.

But he was an artist and a bit of a thick one at that, so it made it all the more easy for her to pretend nothing was happening.

The big, grand manor Priscilla had built had seemed rather empty in the past few months after Trista had moved out, but never had Priscilla been more thankful that there was not a single female in her presence. Trista had stayed temporarily for a few months , flitting back and forth to Ireland before finding accommodations there. If she’d been here now, Priscilla knew how painfully obvious it would’ve been.

Lucy had known after the first two times she’d seen Priscilla running for the loo, of course. Even now, the memory traumatized her slightly.

Priscilla washed her face, hoping she looked presentable enough to slip back into Lucy’s dining room unnoticed. She looked up and her heart began beating wildly when she saw Lucy standing behind her, arms folded.

“How far along are you?” Lucy asked.

“I’m not – I don’t know what you’re talking about – just a flu – ”

“You’ve been saying that for the past two weeks,” said Lucy, looking unimpressed. “I know you must know what’s happened. You’re – ”

“Don’t,” Priscilla snarled aloud. She hadn’t voiced her greatest fear yet and she’d be damned if she let Lucy Weasley spell it out. Once the truth had been said, it would spill out, irrevocable, never to be hidden away in her mind.

Lucy’s expression softened. “So it’s like that. Have you told Nicholas?”

“That idiot?” said Priscilla, looking nervous. “No, I haven’t. Sometimes I get close, but I just can’t make myself. He’s so bloody stupid. He doesn’t realize at all. Just the other day, he told me he thought I might be gaining weight.” She gave a bitter laugh. “I’m only twenty-four, Weasley. I can’t. I just can’t. I’m too young.”

“But I’ve already got one,” said Lucy. 

“But you’re you!” Priscilla barked. “You’ve been mothering me since I was eleven years old! But I can’t be someone’s mother! You know how I am! I can’t even keep a goldfish alive longer than a week. That owl my mum gave me ran off after a month. It’d be a miracle if I even managed to keep this – thing - alive for a year.”

“So what’re you going to do?” said Lucy, closing the loo door behind her and peering over her shoulder. She sat on the tiled ground, patting the space behind her, indicating Priscilla should join her.

Priscilla sank down despondently. “That’s it, though. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t told a soul yet.”

“How do you think Nicholas’ll take it?”

“I’ve got no bloody idea. We’ve never even talked about the possibility of – you know what. I suppose my father would be over the moon. He’s been on about seeing grandchildren before he dies off considering he’s already like eighty now. Even if it’s the spawn of Nicholas and not the Minister for Magic.”

Lucy put an arm around Priscilla’s shoulders. “Here’s what I think you should do. I think you need to calm down a bit. I’ve got some vitamins that I can recommend. Get loads of sleep and rest. And when you think you’re ready, tell Nicholas.”

After a long moment of silence, Priscilla looked at her. “I suppose I’ve got to tell him eventually.”

“Did you ever want children?” asked Lucy.

“I wanted them someday, I imagine. I’m not sure. I didn’t think about it much. I thought I’d have just one child when I was maybe thirty-five or something and my life was finally settled. I’d be married to a fabulously wealthy bloke and live in this wonderful house – ”

“Both of those things have already come true,” noted Lucy.

“ – and really be mentally ready. Do you know what I mean? I thought if I ever had one – which I didn’t know that I did – that I’d actually do it on purpose. Not like this.” Her face crumpled. “Not on accident and not breaking down over someone’s bathroom about it.”

“Are you going to keep it, then?” asked Lucy.

“Yes,” said Priscilla immediately. “I couldn’t just – you know. And my father’s wanted a grandchild anyway. Maybe I’d just have it in secret and ship it off to him when I’ve had it.”

“And then what? Never see it again?. And what about Nicholas? How on earth would you hide your pregnancy – ” the word earned her a glare from Priscilla, “ – from him? You live with him! And how do you imagine he’d feel knowing you hid his own child from him? Don’t you love him?”

“But we’re not ready!” wailed Priscilla. ”I’m already two and a half months along!”

Lucy’s eyes grew wide. “Are you? No wonder you’re not showing much.”

“It’s due in late December,” whispered Priscilla, mortified. “My life’s over in December, Weasley, it’ll be over if I don’t ship this off to my father!”

“At least tell Nicholas,” implored Lucy. “And if you really think your eighty year old father can raise a baby on his own in that big empty house of his all the way in France, then that’s just silly. But if Nicholas agrees, it’ll be your decision and I’ll never say another word on it again. But only do this if you’re absolutely sure you want to keep it.”

“No, I do want to keep it. But I don’t think I’m ready to have it,” Priscilla sniffed again.

“That’s why you’ve got your dad as an option,” said Lucy. She gave Priscilla a small, hesitant smile. “And for what it’s worth, Justin and I didn’t plan Ophelia either.”

Priscilla pulled away, surprise stamped on her face. “What?! Miss Manners had an unplanned child?”

Lucy’s face went wildly red. “Well, yes. We were both scared to death. It’s obviously not the same situation as yours, but you might surprise yourself.”

“I don’t think so,” said Priscilla resolutely.

Lucy sighed. “All right. It’s up to you. But please promise me you’ll at least tell Nicholas. It’d be wrong to hide something so important from him.”

*

During dinner, as Nicholas went on about his day in his portraiture studio, Priscilla mulled over precisely when to interrupt him with the news.

How on earth would she phrase it?

“Congratulations, we’re having a baby” hardly seemed her style. And to shout it joyously from the rooftops didn’t seem in the best taste considering her state of mind.

“And then I told Dominique that gits like that aren’t in anyone’s best interest. Nubia seemed to agree, I suppose. Can you imagine that? A Malfoy running after her?” Nicholas grinned at her, amused by whatever he’d been going on with.

Priscilla cleared her throat. “Yeah. Imagine.”

A twinkle in his eye, he went on, “Blokes like that are just full of trouble…”

Priscilla surveyed her boyfriend thoughtfully. If she was to be honest with herself, she wasn’t entirely afraid of having the child. The physical pain frightened her, but not enough to throw her off so much.

It was the thought that no matter what Lucy said, she thought that they simply weren’t ready. She wasn’t sure if she would be a good mother. She wasn’t sure if Nicholas would be a good father. And she wasn’t sure if she was ready for a lifetime of commitment with him, of inseparably being stuck together by this one enormous thing.

“Why did you ask me to move in with you?” Priscilla asked suddenly, interrupting him.

He paused. “That was sudden.”

“But why did you? I don’t think I ever asked you why.”

“You haven’t,” he said, a small smile slipping on his face. “I still remember how nervous I was to ask you and you just looked at me like I’d asked you the most stupid question on the planet. And then you kind of nodded at me. Of course, at the time, I was just sick of living with Desmond and Podmore in that dinky little flat. I just wanted a bigger place. And as you must recall, St. Clair moved in with us too in the beginning.”

She felt absurdly disappointed. So it was just about the big house.

“And you know, you’re right about how big it is.” He scoured around the room; the long mahogany dining table, the glass vases scattered about and the black marble everywhere gave it an old, grandiose atmosphere. “It’s a bit too big sometimes.”

“It’s built in the Fawcett style,” said Priscilla, glowering. “It’s a replica of an eighteenth century Fawcett chateau and I upgraded it a bit.”

“At least there was some noise about when St. Clair was here. Now it’s dead quiet when you’re gone.”

 “Fine,” said Priscilla shrilly. “I’ll ask Trista to move back if you miss her so much. And maybe while I’m at it, I can ask June and Potter back in too! And I’ll drag Bates up from Tanzania if I’ve got to! And then everyone’ll be all together and I’ll never have to see you around again!”

Angrily, she stood up, letting her chair fall to the ground behind her, leaving Nicholas utterly confused behind her.

*

He found her in the kitchen, poking around the fridge for more pineapple. Holding a few dishes in one hand, he approached her tentatively. “All right. I’m sorry. I promise I am. What did I do this time?”

“Nothing,” she said, yanking out a box filled with pineapple. “Nothing at all! You’re just so bloody perfect!”

He sighed. “Come on, Priscilla. Tell me. The last thing I remember saying was about the house.”

“And speaking of the house,” she said, “I’ve had enough of you sponging off my generosity. If all you moved in with me for was free boarding, I’ve got half a mind to make you pay rent!”

“Free boarding,” he repeated incredulously. He laughed. “Is that what made you mad? You thought I was just using you? Love, do I need free boarding? You know I make my own money.”

Still,” she said. “You couldn’t afford this in a lifetime!”

“Maybe,” he said. “But I’d never go using you for it. I moved in here because I could come home to you. I could see you more. So we wouldn’t have to schedule a date when we could meet.” He leaned in, pressing his lips against hers. “So I could do that whenever I wanted without worrying about Desmond or Podmore waltzing in.” He pulled away after a long moment.

She snaked her arms around his neck. “Good answer.”

“Right,” he said. “So. Are you going to tell me what’s been bugging you lately? You’ve just been…so odd.”

“Stomach flu,” she said immediately. Being as dim as he was, he seemed to believe it and he sat down.

She remembered June’s advice the night she’d barged into her house, half drunk with rage and self pity.

“Oh my god,” said June, looking terrified. “Oh my god, Priscilla. I can’t believe it.”

“How on earth do you think I feel?” asked Priscilla shrilly. “I’m – I can’t be. I think there’s been some sort of mistake. I’m going to buy another one of those muggle tests. I think it’s still a little early to tell. Maybe I’m just late.”

“Do you want to stick around? Albus’ll be home in an hour and I can have him inspect you, if you’d like.”

“As if I’d let Potter lay hand on me!” Priscilla began walking around June’s kitchen restlessly. “I don’t know what to do if it’s true! My life is over! I’m done for!” Writhing her hands together, she could feel small spasms shaking through her body. She sank into a chair, shaking. “I’ve got nothing I can do now! I might as well quit my job and move to the mountains and live there in banishment out of shame!”

Sniffing, she looked up at June. “Will you pray for me? Pray that I’m not expecting?”

June jumped off her seat with a start. “Calm down. Let me get you something to drink. I’ve got cocoa, coffee, tea – “

“No, no,” said Priscilla, springing up again and pacing the kitchen floor. “Give me something to throw, will you?”

June shook her head, yanking a kitchen knife out of Priscilla’s reach. “How’re you going to tell Nicholas?”

“I’m not,” said Priscilla. “Not in a million years.”

“But if you’re absolutely set on keeping it, you’ve got to tell him. It should be one way or another, shouldn’t it? You don’t have to deliver it, but now that you want to, you at least need to tell him. But, Priscilla, be gentle with him. He loves you so much. Tell him kindly. Don’t yell it at him like it’s his fault.”

“It is his fault,” she steamed. “The night it might’ve been conceived, it was entirely him goading me on!”

“Oh, I didn’t need to hear all that,” said June, looking disgusted. “Have you told Lucy? She’d know what to do.”

“She’s still in Finland or whatever, remember?” said Priscilla. “I – I haven’t got anyone! I’m all alone in this!” She looked around wildly. “I’ve got to throw something!”

She walked two paces and grabbed the nearest thing she saw; an old teapot adorned with petunias. Slinging back her arm, she hurtled it with all her force at a wall. She gave a loud “URGH!” of anger. The vase swept past into the living room and hit something there.

“Please, it’s not the end of the world. Calm down,” June begged. ”Everything’ll be okay. Have you told anybody else?”

“No.” She breathed in deeply. “No. I’ve heard Lucy got back yesterday. I’m thinking of telling her next week at Justin’s birthday party. She’ll know what to do.”

“Okay, good,” June said calmly. “Now, put down that encyclopedia. Albus actually likes that one.”

Priscilla looked at her hands. As if subconsciously, she’d been walking towards one of the bookshelves and had swiped a large book to toss next. Sighing, she set it down. Before she could voice anymore of her concerns, her fears, her regrets, her difficulties, there’d been a call of “June?” and Potter had come barging through into the kitchen.

And that had been that.

“Are you quite all right?” asked Nicholas, touching her forehead. “You’ve been looking off at the table for the last two minutes. And you’re burning hot. Let’s get you into bed.”

“No, no,” she said, swatting him away. I’ve got to do it now, she told herself, or I know I never will. She remembered Lucy’s words on honesty, June’s on being gentle. She breathed in. “Do you remember meeting my father?”

“How can I not?” asked Nicholas. “What’s gotten into you? What’s all this about your father now? Let’s get into bed.”

“Listen to me,” she said. “Do you remember meeting my family? Do you remember my mum? My aunt Lysandra? Do you remember Helen?”

“Hard to forget Helen considering she was our Head of House for seven whole years,” said Nicholas. “Her mum’s quite interesting. She went on about her collection of stuffed deer for fifteen minutes, didn’t she?”

“That’s the one,” said Priscilla. “What do you remember about my family?”

“Well…your aunts are nice, if a bit strange. That other aunt of yours – the one who ran off with that Italian bloke – seemed nice enough. And your cousin Cassandra was fit.

“That’s it?” she asked irritably. “That’s all you have to say? That you ogled Cassandra?”

“Your dad didn’t like me much in the beginning, but I suppose he’s warmed up. Like a glacier that’s melted about a drop or two, but it’s something.”

“What about my mum?”

Nicholas put his arms around her. “I’ve only met her twice. You look like her. She’s always a bit distant, isn’t she? And you won’t say much about her...”

“I don,t” said Priscilla. “And what about my house?”

Enormous,” said Nicholas. “The one I’ve seen in France, anyway. I’ve heard that castle your dad’s bought in Belgium’s even bigger.”

“It is,” said Priscilla. “We’ve got one more in Romania and one in Russia, I think.”

There was a pause.

“So,” ventured Nicholas, “is the interrogation session over?”

“No!” barked Priscilla, pushing him off. After a moment, she said, “I’m going to tell you some things. And you’d better listen.”

“I will,” he said patiently.

She hesitated. “Remember how I told you my family’s not the greatest?”

“Yeah, sure.”

She stopped again, sighing. “I’ve got no idea where to start. My father’s Charles Fawcett.”

“I know that.”

“But he’s the Charles Fawcett. All the Fawcetts’ve been wealthy since the sixteenth century or so, but Father really made our family even wealthier. He was already married when he met my mum. He was fifty-three and she was twenty-four.” Priscilla leaned back, a bitter smile on her face. “Romantic, isn’t it? He was bored to death of his first wife and he’d just come abroad to France for a few weeks for work. And she was just this beautiful girl barely done with university, aspiring to be a singer. I think they met when she performed for him and his friends in one of those stuffy old socialite gatherings.”

“So they had an affair?” asked Nicholas. “Huh. Strange. How did they ever end up married?”

“Oh, they didn’t, not really,” said Priscilla. “He never thought more of it. Until he got a ring from her telling him she’d ended up pregnant. And then he left England and he moved to France and waited for me. And he’s stuck around in France since then. He may not have been a model husband. but he's been a good father to me. He's loved me and done the best he can for me.”

“But your mum?”

“Ooh, she only had me because she had to,” said Priscilla. “She knew having the child of such a rich man would mean she’d be looked after for life. And my dad had wanted a child for so long with his first wife and nothing had ever come of it. Anyway, she didn’t stick around long after I was born. When I was two or three years old, she took off to see the world. My dad paid her well to get her off our hands and she’s been traveling and singing and doing her own ridiculous things since then.”

“So she left?” said Nicholas. “And you’ve resented her for it since…”

Looking put out, she folded her arms. “The truth is, she could’ve stayed and been a real mum to me. Maybe we could’ve been a proper family. But I don’t really think she’s ever seen me as anything more than a meal ticket. Whenever she’s spent her allowance, she crawls back home and asks me to slip a word in to my father and then she’s gone again. And I’ve been raised in that big empty house since then.” She looked up at him dolefully. "You know, lots of people wonder why I got put into Hufflepuff instead of Ravenclaw or Slytherin. If you think about it, I'm not much of a fair player at all and I'm about the furthest thing from being a nice person. But if it's one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it's disloyalty. When I heard from Helen what Hufflepuff was like, I told that stupid old hat to put me there. Had a full blown argument with it, actually."



"You're a Hufflepuff if there ever was one," Nicholas assured her.

"That Hat almost didn't think so. And Father would've had me sent of to Beauxbatons if he'd had his way with it."

Nicholas thought perhaps that Priscilla appeared on edge, so he wrapped an arm around her and kissed her again.

“Back off,” she snapped. “I don’t need pity. I still had loads of governesses and the biggest house in the bloody world. I got everything I wanted if I asked for it. It was a dream childhood.”

“Was it? Is that why you seem so sad talking about it?” said Nicholas. “You know, my family’s rather well to do. Not anywhere as ridiculous as yours, of course. We’ve had a nice house, I’ve always had a big extended family. And my mum and dad aren’t much like yours. For one, my dad doesn’t give me anything I want. Actually, we’d get into huge arguments a lot when I was growing up because I’d always be up trying to sneak out and never studying much. And my mum’s the biggest nag you ever saw. She doesn’t give me two seconds alone when I’m home. She’s always smothering me and on about something or the other. But they’ve made me really happy.”

“Show off,” said Priscilla.

“What I mean is that now, they’ll do all those things for you too. They’ll be there for you if you need them. Nobody needs to be raised in a big empty house.”

He beamed down at Priscilla, expecting her to come sweeping into his arms. Instead, he drew back, aghast when she looked as though she would cry.

Pulling her arm back, she slapped him on the shoulder, a few tears slipping down. “I hate you for saying that! I hate you!”

“What?” he said, bewildered. “What’d I do?”

Inadvertently, he’d managed to pull back the memories of her lonely childhood back to her. How many times she’d been left alone, wishing she’d had company her own age to play with. A sinking feeling resurfaced. As she whacked Nicholas harder, crying more, it was a new realization. I could never sending another baby to live all alone with my father. I couldn’t do the same thing my mother did to me.

Finally, when she was done whacking him and he stood there, looking at a cross of bemused and lost for words, she sniffed and said, “I’ve got some news to tell you. You’d better sit down.”

Finally,” he said, sitting in a chair. “I figured something must be wrong. You’ve been absolutely insane lately. First this, the crying, eating so much pineapple…I think I know what’s happening.”

“You do?” she asked, feeling more shocked than she had ever thought possible.

“Yeah,” said Nicholas. “You’ve been seeing too much of Albus Potter again. Look Priscilla, he’s with Bernard now – there’s just no way to avoid him, you might as well get used to him - ”

“Hang on, you think this’s because I’ve been seeing too much of Potter?” She laughed. “Now this I simply must hear. Why do you think Potter’s to blame?”

“Well, it’s happened before, hasn’t it?” said Nicholas. “I dunno. Remember Christmas three years back? You went and bought all that soap and took a bath for two hours because he fell on you. And last Easter, we spent a weekend with him and Bernard in Ireland and you tried pushing him off that cliff three separate times. Or that once time last July when you tried slipping in a whole vial of itching solution in his wine and I had to pretend to spill it on myself to make sure the poor bloke didn’t die.” He held up his hand. “Look, I know we’ve been having Bernard and Potter over for dinner lately, but I’m sure they’ll understand if we tell them we need time alone. Seeing too much of someone isn’t a good excuse to start making me buy so much pineapple or hit me.”

“Nicholas – “

“And I know you’ve said you think you’re allergic to him, but it just doesn’t seem possible – ”

 “Nicholas – ”

“Already spent eight Galleons just this month on pineapples and I really can’t stand the smell anymore –  and I’m starting to get suspicious that might be why you’ve vomiting so much these days - ”

“Corner!” Priscilla shrieked over him. “For once, my vomiting has absolutely nothing to do with Albus Potter!”

“Really?” he said. “So what’s all this about, then?”

Nicholas stared as Priscilla went a bright, tomato red. He’d rarely seen her blush and he already felt a weight settling in his stomach. “You’re not dying, are you?”

“No, no,” she said, looking quite speechless. “I’m…um. I - erm. We ­are going to scandalize your mother very much.”

“Why?”

“Well, you know. We’ve already done everything under the sun despite not being married or even engaged. And now we’re living together. And now I’m going to be doing something else.”

“What?” he asked cluelessly.

“Think about it, will you?” she steamed at him. “I’ve been vomiting, I’ve been having food cravings, I’ve been moody, I’ve – oh, you bloody twit, I’m pregnant!” Breathing deeply, she raged, “I’ve even got to spell it out so much for you!”

Nicholas blinked, looking frozen with shock. “You’re – you’re pregnant? How?”

What do you mean ‘how?”

“No, I know how, I mean, er – but – ” He shook his head, still trying to process it. “You’re sure? Absolutely sure?”

“Positive.”

He gave a huge, wide smile. “Pris, that’s great.” Standing up, he engulfed her in a hug. The pointed glare she’d been giving him disappeared.

She sighed under his arms. “You’re happy?”

“Of course I am! I’m thrilled! This’s great!”

“You don’t feel like we’re not ready?”

“I suppose we’ve got no idea what we’re doing,” said Nicholas, “you’re a bit of a lunatic and you know how I can be sometimes. But it’ll be loads of fun having a son or a daughter. What d’you think they’ll be like? You suppose we’ll have a girl who looks like you or a boy who looks like me? What House’ll they go to in Hogwarts? Better not be Slytherin, that’s all I can say. How far along are you?”

“Three and a half months, I think,” said Priscilla, smiling more.

He gave an excited sort of leap through the kitchen. “That’s brilliant! In six more months, we’ll have a little you or a little me scampering around!” He stopped and looked around. “It’ll be great, Pris! We’ll be up all night changing diapers, but it’ll be a brilliant new adventure.”

“You think it’ll like us? Our kid, I mean? You think it’ll like us? You don’t think it might hate me a little?”

“Of course not,” he gushed warmly, taking her hands, “it’ll love us. It’ll be a lunatic just like you and it’ll be the best lunatic the world ever saw. We’ll be a proper family, Pris. You kept going on about how much you didn’t like yours, now have a look at what’s happening. You’re going to have a brand new one and it’ll be wonderful.”

She stared at his hands enclosing her own and then at her stomach. “I suppose it might be fun.”

“Yeah, it will, it really will,” he assured her, before looking about. “But maybe we’ll need a place that’s a bit more hospitable, eh? No more ice sculptures and marble floors? Maybe some carpeting and some wood ought to do the trick. And some regular stairs too, not these fancy ones that go on forever. And maybe we could change up that room with all those portraits of your grandfather.”

“It’s family tradition, though.”

“But this’s going to be our home now, isn’t it? Let’s make it more like one and maybe less like your dad’s study.”

A small smile crept across her face. “Fine. The portraits are negotiable. The black marble bathtub in our bedroom stays. So does that collection of old violins.”

“Fine, fine,” he said dismissively, continuing to leap about. “Holy hell, now we’ll have to ring the whole entire world and tell them all. I’ll call my parents and you call your dad. I imagine he can write to your mum or we can tell her whenever she turns up next.”

He made a mad dash and appeared again, telephone in hand. “Then we should call Bernard, she ought to be thrilled. And Weasley, Jordan, and Podmore too. They’re all still in England, so it shouldn’t be too expensive. I’ve got no idea what Bates’s number in Tanzania is, though. I suppose I can just a letter and hope the magical post sorts it out. And we can ring up St. Clair in Ireland.”

Priscilla laughed as he began punching in numbers. When nobody on the other side picked up, he barked into the phone, “Mum! It’s me! It’s Nicholas! Priscilla’s pregnant! And it’s actually with my child too, so dad owes me ten Galleons! Er – call me back when you can.”

He hung up, looking energized. “Can’t believe she didn’t pick up the phone the one time I actually want to talk to her.”

Still bubbling with energy, he turned around and kissed Priscilla once more, a happy look settling into his face. “Can’t believe we’ll be a proper family now. Now I’m all grown up and settled – ” he broke off, eyes huge. He scoured around the kitchen, obviously looking for something. Finally, at a loss, he grabbed a clean spoon off the table and sunk to the floor.

Priscilla stared at him. “What the bloody hell are you doing? Cleaning the floor with a spoon?”

“No, no,” he said urgently. “I realized after all that I said about being a family, we’re not married. And we might as well be, Priscilla. I’ve known for ages I want to spend forever with you, but every time I get started on this topic, you try shutting me up.” He sank on one knee, holding the spoon aloft. “But I’m not shutting up this time. And even if it’s just with a spoon, it’s still something. Priscilla Marie Fawcett, will you marry me?”

She stared at him for a long moment and broke out in laughter. “You know, I expected someone to propose to me one day. And I’m from one of the richest families in Europe, so we always get huge diamonds. And now I’ve been proposed to with a spoon. I think I’ve seen everything.”

“I’m serious,” he said, flustered and sweating.

“You know I said I never want to get married,” she said. “I don’t believe in it as an institution. My mum and dad were technically married and look how far they went with it. And besides, I’m too young to be married. I refuse to take anyone else’s name.”

“Priscilla, please.” He waved the spoon at her. “For me. If you really love me. Please.”

“Urgh,” she said, rolling her eyes. She took the spoon from him with a, “Fine. I’ve accepted your proposal. We’ll get married someday.”

As Nicholas rose up in relief, she added, “Not someday soon, though! I’m too bloody young! Maybe when I’m forty!”

 




Author's Note: I actually updated on the dot! It's been exactly seven days! Huzzah! Anyways, now you all know precisely why Priscilla was acting up during the first chapter. Poor Albus waltzed in on a full scale mental breakdown, hysteria and all.

So I've always intended for Lucy to be the family type and Priscilla to more or less fall acicdentally fall into that way. I'd love to see your reactions to her pregnancy and whether or not you think she'll be a good mum. Plus I got to add in backstory about her family! I've been wanting to do that for ages!


Chapter 4: August, 2029 - Questions, Questions
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Questions, Questions

August, 2029

“A proposal?!” had been the first thing to gush out of June’s mouth when Priscilla flourished her hand.

That had soon been followed by a happy squeal at an unintelligible octave that was soon joined by the chatter of the other females in the room.

The ring on Priscilla’s hand, to Albus’s eye, seemed unseemly huge. The diamond was as big as an egg, for god’s sake. As soon as he’d seen it, he felt a lump in his throat and amidst the buzz, he’d quietly slipped out of the room.

Bloody rings. Bloody Corner giving her such a big ring. Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched June flutter around her friends. Nikita Patil was opening a new bottle of champagne and they were all laughing over some joke that was out of his earshot.

“Well, I know how you feel,” came a smooth voice and he jumped, nearly spilling his glass of wine.

It was June’s friend – the future convict, Jordan.

“Do you?” he asked, not meeting Desmond’s eyes. “Interesting. I’m not sure how I feel myself.”

I feel like walloping Corner when he’s got his back turned,” said Desmond. “Did you see that effing ring? It’s the size of a birdhouse. I don’t want Ni – er - ” He reddened. “I mean. I don’t want people getting any sort of expectations from me. If the ring already looks like that, I don’t want any part of the wedding. I expect it’ll cost the earth and more.”

“Did you expect Fawcett to get married on the cheap, then?” asked Albus, grinning. “Anything not involving a giant castle of some sort’s not her style.”

It was strange, Albus reflected, as Desmond laughed. He’d never been particularly fond of June’s friends when they’d started off. Desmond Jordan had blown up far too many things that Albus’d had to clean up in their schooldays for them to get along swimmingly. Nicholas, like Priscilla, was simply too ostentatious. Fawcett was a screaming banshee. His cousin Lucy and Trista St. Clair were manageable enough, but Henry Bates’s collection of animals and that one bloke Albus never could remember were all he’d been able to take.

Still, seven years of birthday parties and Christmases had softened him. If only a little.

“Albus, Desmond,” said Lucy, hovering up from behind Desmond. “Come in to the kitchen. Nicholas’s ordered a cake and he insists we go eat.”

“Is it huge?” asked Albus.

Enormous,” said Lucy, rolling her eyes. “Especially considering it’s just a few friends. I don’t know why they’ve got to everything so grandly. When Justin and I announced our engagement, it was dinner at the Leaky. And last month, when Victoria and Baron announced their engagement, it was just drinks at the Three Broomsticks.”

They walked past the sitting room, passing two large ice sculptures of angels playing the harp.

“If only,” muttered Desmond. “I’m just surprised they haven’t made a golden statue of the baby, stuck it into the earth and proclaimed it our future emperor.”

“Hush,” said Lucy, tsking. They entered the kitchen, where a long mahogany table set with candles welcomed them. A large chandelier glimmered over, adorned by vases of white roses everywhere. Lucy giggled at the aghast expression on Desmond’s face before she stepped beside him to sit by her husband.

“You responsible for this?” said Desmond, pulling a chair.

Beside him, Nicholas looked up. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t even see the point of this. I thought we’d just write to you all, but Priscilla insisted.”

“And now there’s cake?” asked Desmond. “We just finished eating that dinner. I’m still recovering.”

“And it’s all bloody expensive too,” said Nicholas. “I’d have a conniption if I didn’t know her father’s paying for all this. He’s overjoyed. Says his Flooing in tomorrow. I’m horrified.”

Across the table, Albus looked away boredly from the animated conversation about baby names that the girls were partaking in. “You’re going to be meeting him as your future father-in-law for the first time, then.”

Nicholas went a pale shade of green. “Bloody hell. I didn’t think about that. He’s probably going to strangle me for knocking her up, even if he’s happy about the baby. He thinks I’m too middle class, whatever that means. All her family does, I reckon.”

“You’ll live,” said Desmond. There was a squeaking noise and three house-elves entered, levitating a huge chocolate cake between them. As they set it on the table carefully, Desmond stared up at its four layers. “Me on the other hand…”

As the slices were passed around, Desmond lunged for the biggest slice he could see. As he chomped away, there was a whooshing sound from the fireplace and someone clambered out, coughing from the Floo gas.

Priscilla stood up, wand aloft. “Who is that?”

“Me,” came a familiar voice.

“Oh Duncan!” gushed Lucy, scrambling out of her chair. She came back into the kitchen moments later, pulling a tired looking sandy-haired man behind her.

“Sorry for being so late,” said Duncan tiredly. “Long day at the office.”

“Has the new job been settling in well?” asked Nicholas, as Duncan took a seat between June and Trista.

“Well enough,” said Duncan. “I’m busy a lot.”

Seven years ago, Duncan Podmore had settled in for what he’d thought would be a long career in professional Quidditch. But one tumultuous tumble from mid-air a year ago had shattered his ankle and ended all that. Though the bones had grown back, he’d put aside his Keepers robes and announced the end of his Quidditch ambitions. Now, he’d found a decent job in the Department of Magical Games and Equipment.

“It’s still strange seeing you around without Quidditch robes on,” said Trista, a little sadly. She was still wearing the bright green and navy blue Kenmare robes she’d gotten off work in.

“Don’t feel bad for me, I did it to save my own ankle. You lot heard the Healers. If I’d gone on like that, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk right now,” said Duncan. “Besides, I think I like the Ministry job more these days. There’s loads of pretty girls around instead of sweaty men. And I get decent hours instead of nine hour practice days. No more waking up at dawn either. And the pay’s higher, so it’s a good change.”

Trista smiled tightly and turned back to June, looking melancholy.

“Oh, don’t look sad,” June pressed. “How’d you think he’d feel if he knew you felt sorry for him? Besides, you heard him. I think he really is happier in the Ministry. Duncan was never like you. He wasn’t as ambitious and I’m not sure he really wanted to play Quidditch forever. Dreams can change.”

“Still,” said Trista.

She peered off as June sighed.

*

It was after the cake that Albus found himself wandering off again, the same thoughts once again cluttering his mind.

Behind him, Lucy was fussing over the phone. “Oh Justin, please tell me she’s all right.”

There was a pause.

“Well, I should be over in half an hour. Make sure you give her a bath before I get home, will you? Not too hot. All right. I love you. Good-bye.”

She hung up the phone and turned to find Albus considering her.

“Anything the matter?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “Are you happy, Lucy?”

“What an odd question,” she said, bewildered. “Do I seem unhappy?”

“No, I’m just – I’m just asking. Are you happy married and with a kid and everything?”

“Of course I am. I love having Ophelia, you know that. And I love being married.”

“It doesn’t get boring?”

“Why would it?” asked Lucy. “It’s been a wonderful two years. And having Ophelia is this lovely bond that Justin and I will always share. It’s so exciting to watch her grow up. She’s already rolling around a bit. It’s like she can’t wait to start crawling.”

She beamed at him. It wasn’t very surprising to Albus that she was a happy wife and mother. He’d known for ages that Lucy would be a good mother.

“Still,” he asked, “how’d you know you wanted to marry Belby?”

“Well, he proposed to me and considering how happy I was, I suppose I knew I had to say yes.” Smiling, she amended, “I knew I wanted to marry Justin because I could see our whole lives together. He had values that I thought were important. And we had lots of things in common. He was kind to me and my family and my friends. We both agreed on the important things. We both wanted to be working full time, but we both wanted a big house with a big family. And I really cared for him. Truly. So I knew. I think it was simply common sense.”

Looking thoughtful once more, Albus said, “I see.”

“Why’re you asking me?” said Lucy, a suspicious look falling into her face.

“No reason,” he said hastily. “Well, I’d better go keep an eye on – er – Jordan. Make sure he doesn’t set the house on fire.”

He wandered off sheepishly, with Lucy giggling.

*

When June and Albus Floo’ed back home an hour later, they toppled into their living room.

Brushing herself off, June said, “So, Lucy told me something interesting.”

Albus turned bright red. “What? What? What’d she tell you?”

Looking drawn aback, she said, “I didn’t think you’d be so interested. She thinks Desmond and Nikita Patil might be dating. He told everyone he just brought her as a friend, but she’s convinced there’s something else going on.”

He exhaled a breath of relief. “Yeah? Why does she say that?”

“She went to the wine cellar to get champagne two hours ago and found them snogging their heads off. Apparently, most of their clothes had gone mysteriously missing. She was mortified, of course.” June began peeling off her coat. “Well, we’re all very happy for them. It’s good to see Desmond settling down with someone instead of just picking up girls from the Leaky. Still, I didn’t think I’d see the day.”

“Yeah,” he said, falling into the sofa and considering her.

“And Trista’s still on about feeling so sorry for Duncan even though I know perfectly well he’s doing splendidly at the Ministry. He’s finally asked out that one girl he’s fancied for so long. Her name’s Francine Kirke. We’ll be having them over for dinner next week.”

“Right,” he said again, not listening.

“I’m so happy for him,” she said. “He was so down around this time last year being stuck in St. Mungo’s like that. Remember? The poor thing could barely walk and look at him now. He’s told me he’s more relieved than anything to be done with Quidditch. The pressure was too much, I think. Not that Trista sees it that way…”

“Great.”

“And Nicholas says that Priscilla’s going to be having a – ” She turned around and broke off abruptly at Albus’s distant expression. “Albus? What’s wrong?”

He blinked and jumped a little. “What?”

“Are you all right? You looked a thousand miles away.”

“Just…thinking,” he said.

“About what?” She took a seat on the ground beside his feet and smiled up at him.

He grinned, bending down to kiss her on the cheek. “It’s been a good seven years.”

“It has,” she agreed, leaning up to kiss him again.

“I’m glad how everything’s turned out. Even if your loony friends insist on spending half their lives in this house.”

“I’m so happy to see you getting along with them.”

“Wasn’t exactly by choice.” He nudged her.

“Still. So is that all you were thinking of?”

“I was wondering what the next seven years’ll be like too.”

“Really different, I think,” she said.

“Why ‘really different’?”

“The last seven years’ve been eons away from the seven years at Hogwarts. In just these seven years, Lucy and Henry’re both married. Nicholas and Priscilla are engaged. Duncan’s even switched careers. Trista’s now Captain of the Kestrels. Desmond’s planning to open his own business in a few months. And we’re – ” She broke off. “ – we’re living together. Who would’ve imagined?”

She smiled at him.

“Right,” he said again, still unsatisfied. “Who would’ve imagined?”

“Well, it’s nearly midnight,” she said, rising up. “I’ve got to get to work tomorrow at seven ,so I should be heading to bed. Victoire’s got all these orders ready for me to ship and you know how she’s like if anyone comes in late.” She gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Go to sleep soon too. Goodnight.”

“Good night,” he called after her. He waited until he heard her footsteps diminish entirely, before scrambling back up to the fireplace. Dipping his hand into the pot of Floo powder, he clambered into the fireplace, recited an address and whirred back away into the night.

*

When he climbed back out, there was a yell of, “Albus?”

His mother was staring at him, shock plastered all over her face. She was in her night dress now, looking as though she’d accidentally fallen asleep on the sofa reading. “What on earth are you doing here?” Before he could answer, she sat up frantically. “Is something the matter? Is everything all right? Is James – “

“Keep your hair on, everything’s fine,” he said. “Where’s Dad?”

“I – I’ve got no idea. I fell asleep reading,” she said, pushing her red hair away from her face. “Did you come all the way just to see your father? At this time of night?”

“I had to talk to him about some stuff,” said Albus vaguely. He looked at his mother and bent down to kiss her cheek. “Listen, it’s nothing to be worried about. Why don’t you go to bed?”

She stood up, shivering slightly. “Good idea. I’ll be off then. And I expect your father’s still in his study. Old habits and all. Good night.”

He waited until she went upstairs to navigate the corridor to his father’s study. A shaft of light peeked out underneath the closed door. He knocked once.

There was a reply of, “Ginny, go to bed already!”

“It’s me,” he called.

There was a shuffle and the door opened. His father’s creased face and salt and pepper hair peeked out. “Albus? Why are you here?”

“Just to ask you some stuff. Can I come in?”

His father held the door open. “Of course.”

His father waited until he had shut the door behind him and seated himself in his usual chair across the desk before beginning. “So. I hope it’s nothing bad.”

“No, nothing bad,” said Albus. “It might even be something good if I can figure it out.”

“Sounds interesting,” said Mr. Potter, folding his arms together and peering at Albus.

“I – uh – I was wondering – er – how exactly did - ” Albus went red once more as he stammered for words.

Mr. Potter sighed. “Look Al, it’s already midnight.”

“I was wondering when you knew to propose to Mum.”

Mr. Potter’s face suddenly lit up. Albus groaned, waiting for the “aha!” he thought was sure to come. Instead, his father smiled in his quiet way. “Oh, I’d been considering it for a while. We’d been together through quite a lot. An entire war, a whole decade of knowing each other. And I’d known for the entirety of my life that I wanted a family.”

Albus dipped his head quietly. His father hadn’t really had a family growing up – not a proper one, anyway. The Dursleys didn’t really count and neither did the Weasleys or all his friends, however much he loved them. They didn’t substitute for the mother and father he missed.

“So there were a lot of things that had told me for years that I should marry her,” he said, winking. “But I loved her. And that was what convinced me. I loved her very much. I think in many ways, she has made me a better person. And all that matters too. Whether you love someone, whether you see yourself loving them for a long time.”

“Right,” said Albus faintly.

“And there were so many wonderful things I got by marrying your mother. I got her. I got so many extra family members.” Mr. Potter frowned a little, thinking of all the brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws he know had, the many little nieces and nephews that had scarpered over his house for decades. “So many. Enough to not give me a minute of peace. And for the first time, I got my own family. Not somebody else’s that I belonged to, not friends that felt like family. Real family. James, Lily and you. It’s been a wonderful thirty years.”

“Children though,” Albus stammered. “I’m not sure if I’m ready for any of those.”

“There’s no use being nervous,” said Mr. Potter. “That’s far enough away as it is. And at the least, when it happens, you’ve got plenty of people around you who’ve been through it before. And lots of free babysitters.”

There was a pause as Albus stared at his hands.

“So you want to marry June, eh?” said his father. “Well, you already know I approve.”

Albus jumped. “Er – yes. Yeah, I think I do want to marry her. I love her. Living with her has gone really well. And she gets along with everyone in our family.”

“Even with Lily,” said Mr. Potter. “That’s when you know you’ve got to keep her. Take it one step at a time, Al. Worry about the kids later. There’s no need to scare yourself about that now.”

“Okay,” said Albus. “Thanks, Dad.”

His father stood up and walked to the door. “Now for the real challenge. We tell your mother. I expect she’ll die from happiness. We’ve got the word this carefully.”

He wrenched open the door.

From the other side, Mrs. Potter and Lily, both in night clothes, fell on the floor. Mrs. Potter was still grasping the doorknob, struggling to stand up. Lily had collapsed on her mother.

“Mum!” she trilled, pushing at her mother. “You’re on my feet!”

“Ginny, Lily,” began Mr. Potter disapprovingly.

“Stuff it, Harry,” said Mrs. Potter, rising up and clasping her hands together. She gave Albus a radiant beam and walked towards him dreamily. “Oh, Albus, Albus, Albus. My dear, sweet boy.”

“Er,” Albus began.

The same dreamy look in her eye, she began hugging him and attacking him with kisses. “My dear boy! Sweetheart! You’re getting married! I’m so happy for you! I’m so – oh, June will be thrilled – she’s such a darling, she’s already like a daughter to me and now she really will be! You must let me plan your wedding, we’ll get it all fixed up when the time’s come. And make sure to ring Roxanne and Dom and Lucy and Molly – they’ll all make splendid bridesmaids along with Lily, of course -”

“Let the boy breathe, Ginny,” said Mr. Potter.

Mrs. Potter released her vice-like hold of Albus’s head. Albus stepped back, the room spinning. “Mum, I haven’t even proposed to her yet. What if she says no?”

“What a ridiculous thing to say,” said Mrs. Potter. “I knew something was up when you marched in so late at night. I just knew!”

“No, you didn’t,” said Lily. “You thought he’d been sacked from his job.”

“Is that why she yanked you out of bed?” asked Mr. Potter. “To come down and help her eavesdrop to see if he’d been fired?”

“No,” said Ginny irritably. She wheeled around to look at Albus. “Now, if only your brother would follow your example and settle down instead of prancing around with every Parkinson in town.”

“Your mother’s still bitter,” said Mr. Potter. “James’s twenty-six, Ginny. Let him live his life.”

“Still, a Parkinson, Dad?” said Lily. “We’ve got to have some standards. I’m dating Lysander, but still.”

Albus shook his head, still reeling. “I think I’ll go back home.”

“Are you asking her tonight?” asked Mrs. Potter eagerly.

“No, Mum. And don’t ring anyone asking them to a bridesmaid and don’t tell anyone. I’m not sure when I’m going to do it, so don’t ruin the surprise.”

“Surprise?” said Mrs. Potter. “Seven years with her and you think she’ll be surprised? I wasn’t the least bit surprised when you proposed, Harry.”

“I know,” said Mr. Potter dryly. “I don’t know if that was my fault or Ron’s. Your Uncle Ron’d been dropping hints for months that I’d be proposing soon, if you can believe it. Went and ruined the surprise.”

“We can believe it,” said Albus and Lily in unison.

“Oh, it wasn’t just Ron’s awful hints. It was you suddenly being nervous and hiding things. I just knew it’d have to be soon. By the time you asked me, all I had to say was, ‘But what took you so long?’”

Mr. and Mrs. Potter smiled at each other.

Lily looked at her brother. “So you’re really set on marrying Bernard, then?”

“Got anything against it?” he asked, ruffling her hair fondly.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Lily, shrugging. “I’ve gotten used to her after all these years. Even Rose was wondering just the other day when you two’d finally do it.”

“Rose?” said Albus. “If even Rose’s wondering, then I’d better get home and start planning just how I’m going to do it.”

 






Author's Note: Hello, my lovely readers! I am here once again to apologize for not updating for nearly two months....life has unfortunately turned really, truly horrible and even though I had this pre-written, I simply just forgot to update. Anyway, I promise to have the next 3 chapters up and will definitely be updating regularly. 

3 more chapters to go! Next up is Trista's, wrapping up the last of the chapters on the minor characters, followed up by another June/Albus chapter and finally, an epilogue. The June/Al chapter will once again remain very Albus-y as I feel like we had lots of June in BIR and not enough Al. :)

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! Your thoughts on this chapter would be much appreciated!

Celeste


Chapter 5: October, 2029 - In All Honesty
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In All Honesty

October, 2029

---but we’ve all been very well! I can’t believe it’s been a whole four months since we’ve heard from you. Of course, I miss you dearly.

Not much’s happened. Priscilla’s still hellbent on not actually marrying Nicholas. Strangely, Albus’s been nagging both me and Nicholas about the whole engagement affair, if you can believe it. I’m not sure if he’s gotten any ideas, but please don’t tell June. He’ll be furious if you do. Also, Desmond’s just quit his job at my uncle George’s and he’s been telling everyone that’s he’s already bought a place in Diagon Alley. He says that Nikita Patil’s going into business with him and I’m glad. After I caught those two together, I hope they can work things out. I think she’ll be so good for Desmond.

Henry’s also going to be up from Tanzania later this week, so we’re all hoping you’ll be able to pop in to his welcoming party. Everyone’s so eager to finally meet him and his wife. Oh, and Ophelia’s also just started teething. She misses her aunt Trista, so do come by soon.

Love,

Lucy.

Trista St. Clair set down the letter, grinning happily. So everyone was getting along fine in London.

It was now common news that Priscilla was well along on her way to being a mum. She was almost six months pregnant now and looked as though she’d shoved a swallowed a small watermelon. She was moody and prone to cursing vilely and throwing murderous looks to everyone.

Tucked so faraway in Ireland, she missed them all. They were out of her daily reach now. No longer could wake up in the mornings to find them all asleep as she snuck out for Quidditch practice. There was no Lucy humming to herself over breakfast, June rearranging the shoe rack for the tenth time, no Priscilla threatening to hex the old man who’d lived upstairs when they’d still shared a flat. Now they were all going down their separate roads. Lucy and Justin were properly married and had a baby. June and Albus and Priscilla and Nicholas had all settled in their own ways. Even Henry Bates was married now and off scouring the world for magical creatures.

She shuffled through the rest of her post, stiffening when she saw a letter penned in familiar script. Trista St. Clair, Kenmare Kestrels. On it was a familiar navy blue seal.

Feeling a whirl of melancholy, she tossed it aside, refusing to open it. She’d read the contents of an identical letter that had arrived in the mail three weeks ago, but had refused to answer it or acknowledge she’d received it. And since then, every few days, a new letter had arrived.

The door opened and a black-haired girl entered, shaking her hair free of the rain. “Hello there, Trista. Didn’t know you were home already. It’s been crazy, hasn’t it? The rain hasn’t let off.”

“Yeah,” echoed Trista. “It’s been…rainy. You shouldn’t be out and about with that cold of yours, Fiona.”

She nudged the letter underneath the stack of her other mail.

Her current flatmate, a girl who played on the Kenmare Kestrels as a Beater smiled. “Oh, I’m fine. It’s Saoirse you ought to be worried about. She’s spent all of last night sneezing. I don’t think she slept a wink.”

There were two girls Trista shared her dinky flat with – a Fiona Browne and a Saoirse Hanlon.

“Anything come in the mail for me?” asked Fiona. “I’ve been waiting for a letter from my brother.”

“No, nothing,” said Trista, pushing in the letter with navy blue seal further into the pile. “And give Saoirse some warm water, will you? She’s got to be in shape for our match against the Ballycastle Bats. We can’t manage without a Seeker.”

Fiona smiled and walked into the kitchen. Trista exhaled in relief.

The seven years she’d spent with the Kenmare Kestrels had gone by fleetingly. True, they’d never won a Quidditch World Cup as she’d hoped. True, they had still yet to beat many of the teams Trista had sworn they would. The Pride of Portree had beaten them in all three of their past matches. The Wigtown Wanderers had beaten them four separate times over the years.

Truth be told, it was all a bit humiliating.

Trista had done well for herself within the team. Within the year, she’d been made Captain and she’d trained the six girls to the best of her abilities. Kenmare was a nice enough place, but had a dearth of talented players. She’d given it her everything to train them. She’d even moved out of Priscilla’s nice house to rent a small flat in Kenmare just to spend more time with her team.

And if she was going to be honest with herself, it was depressing.

She missed England. She missed home. She missed her friends. She even missed her family.

But she could never voice these little truths.

Ireland had been good to her. And the girls on the team loved her.

The letter that had arrived in the post could’ve been her salvation. She’d read it eagerly the first night she’d received it.

Dear Miss St. Clair, it began. We’ve been watching your performance in your last few matches – namely, your match in April against the Wimbourne Wasps and in June against the Montrose Magpies and would be interested in discussing becoming a Chaser for our team.

It went on, promising to nearly double her pay. Finally, it was signed, Jacqueline Jones, Puddlemere United.

She could be home again. She could be playing for a team that would take on international Quidditch teams.

But how on earth could she leave the girls?

Kicking herself for being tempted again, she folded the letter away in her robes. Sighing, she went to the other room, where a red-haired girl was lying in bed, looking pale. Beside her sat Fiona, who was mopping her forehead.

“You feeling all right, Saoirse?” Trista asked.

Saoirse made an attempt to sit up. “I’m feeling better than last night. I thought I was going to cough my lungs right out.” She smiled feebly. “So Fiona told me you still wanted me to play against Ballycastle.” She wheezed. “I don’t think I’ll live through it if you make me play.”

“Get some rest,” said Trista. “You’re in no shape for it. I’ll get O’Hara instead.”

“Margaret’s got no idea what she’s doing,” said Saoirse faintly. “We’re going to lose again.”

“At least it won’t be as humiliating as last time,” said Fiona.

“We will not,” said Trista savagely. “I’ve been up at dawn for a month training O’Hara if we needed her. And I’ve got all these new game plans written out.”

“Margaret doesn’t know left from right when she’s in mid-air. She treats the Snitch like it’s a Bludger,” said Saoirse. Fiona smiled at her. “Oh Trista, you’re too good for us. You know you are. Why you’re still here after seven years is beyond us. Every good player trades up. Do you ever blame any of the other girls for leaving? Where you angry when Jennifer Hughes left us? Or Elsie Branson?”

“I wasn’t,” said Trista. “I was happy for them, of course.”

“Then why don’t you leave?” said Fiona. “There’s just no use forcing yourself to stick around. Everyone’s got to leave at some point. That’s how the game works.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” said Trista frankly. “Get some rest, Hanlon.”

Before she could walk away, she heard Saoirse say, “Wait, I was supposed to do that interview with that lady from Quidditch Today. Some Vaisey something.”

“That’s just out of the question,” said Fiona. “See if you can get Aoife or Rachel to go.”

“I can go,” said Trista. “When is it?”

“Today at five. We agreed to meet on the Pitch,” said Saoirse. “Fiona, get me my quill. I’ll write her a quick letter telling her you’ll be going instead.”

*

At four-thirty, Trista reluctantly stopped doodling in her strategy books, changed back into her emerald green Kenmare Quidditch robes and Apparated to the lone Quidditch Pitch in Kenmare. It was a windy November day and the grey, overcast sky gave everything a dull and lonely feel.

She waited in the cold for a few minutes before a loud popping sound came from a few feet away. She turned around to find a woman brushing herself off.

The red-haired woman looked around, her eyes finding Trista’s immediately. “Are you Trista St. Clair?”

“Yes,” said Trista. “I’m sorry Saoirse couldn’t make it.”

“I’m not,” said the red-head mischievously, grinning. “Now I get an interview from the team’s captain instead of just a Seeker. I might even get my article on page two for a change.” She held out her hand. “I’m Megara Vaisey. But everyone calls me Meg. Shall we begin?”

As Trista shook her hand, a flush of heat went through her. It didn’t help that this girl was much prettier than she’d expected. Feeling her heart jump to her throat, she gulped. “Oh. Sure.”

“Do you have any comments on your previous match with the Wimbourne Wasps? The first loss in a decade, apparently.”

“Well, our biggest weak point so far’s our lack of coordination with our Chasers, I think,” said Trista sadly.

“Maybe because there’s been so many changes on your lineup?”

“I suppose,” said Trista reluctantly. “Nobody expected Jennifer Hughes to quit as fast as she did. And then Elsie went and got pregnant and we couldn’t’ve done a thing about that. Of course, it hurts a bit that there’s no lads willing to try and play for us because we’ve got a reputation as a girls’ team.” As Trista began rambling on, she noticed Megara Vaisey surveying her a bit oddly. She broke off, blushing. “Yes?”

“Sorry,” said Megara Vaisey abruptly. “I was just thinking…you went to Hogwarts, didn’t you?”

“So?” said Trista.

“We were in the same year, I think,” said Megara Vaisey. “I was in Slytherin. I was Head Girl when Baron Davies was Head Boy.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Trista, shrugging. “It’s been seven years, so who knows?”

“Oh,” was the only response Megara Vaisey gave in response, looking disappointed.  At her disappointed expression, Trista felt a strange and sudden urge to kick herself.

As Megara Vaisey returned to asking Quidditch questions, Trista felt deflated. Here it was, right in front of her. A pretty girl and an open opportunity.

Truth be told, her personal life had all but disappeared in the last three years. She’d dated a Keeper from the Ballycastle Bats for a few months, but other than him, nobody had even been a remote blip on her radar in the years she’d left Hogwarts.

Whenever these thoughts of loneliness, of sadness swirled, she firmly reminded herself she was in a relationship with her Quidditch team.

Before she was aware of it, Megara Vaisey was thanking her for her time. Trista blinked, wondering just how mechanically she’d answered her questions.

The sky was now growing a steady dark blue as Trista answered the last of her questions, thrusting her hands into her pockets.

“That’ll be all,” said Megara, folding her notepad shut. “Thanks. For your time.”

“Right,” said Trista, feeling miserable. 

“And here,” she said, handing her a card from her pocket. “My number. Call me if you…have any concerns about the article after it comes back.”

“Sure,” said Trista.

Megara smiled once vaguely and reached for her pocket, Apparating away before Trista could say good-bye.

*

“Where’re the glasses?” said Lucy, balancing a dozen plates in one hand swiveling around her kitchen. “Oh, this place’s a mess.”

“It looks fine to me,” said her husband, reappearing behind her and carrying glasses in both hands.

“Oh thank heavens, Justin. Put them out onto the table, will you?” There was promptly a wail from the other room. “That’ll be Ophelia.” Lucy leaned into the other room. “June, would you please keep an eye on her? She’s finally started rolling around and it’d be awful if she hurt herself.”

“Of course,” came June’s voice from the other room. The crying stopped within a few seconds.

Trista maneuvered into Lucy Weasley-Belby’s kitchen, accepting whatever Lucy pushed into her hands.

“Oh Trista, perfect, here,” said Lucy, handing her a large platter of biscuits into her hand. “Take that outside, will you?”

“I’m not a server,” she complained, but Lucy hushed her with a pleading look and pushed her gently out of the kitchen.

Gripping the platter, Trista barely dodged Desmond and Nikita and turned directly into a broad pair of shoulders. “Oops – “

“No problem,” was the twinkling response she got. She blinked for a moment at the figure in front of her that was now staring at the platter in interest. “Henry! When did you get here?”

“Hello,” he said, grinning and helping himself to a biscuit. “A few minutes ago.”

“How’ve you been?” she beamed, staring at him for the first time in four years. He was a little taller now and his hair was slicked back with even more oil than it had been in their schooldays; his shoulders had grown broader and his skin much tanner – all a consequence of roaming around Tanzania, she supposed.

“Great,” he said through bites of a biscuit. “You? I’ve been paying attention to your matches when I could over the radio.”

“Thanks,” she said, still eyeing him happily. It was a good feeling to be reunited with old friends, she decided. “Well, I suppose you’ve seen June and Albus now?” She leaned in. “Are you jealous they’re still together?”

“I’m a married man now, aren’t I? I think I beat her to the punch on that count,” he said, and they broke out in laughs.

“Speaking of, where’s your wife?”

“Outside. Desmond and that girl he’s with are showing her one of their parlor tricks.” As if on cue, they heard laughs and applause wafting in from the other room.

“She must be easily impressed,” said Trista. “Well, she’s Australian, though, isn’t she?”

“That’s hardly got to do with anything.”

“It’s got to do with everything and you know it,” said Trista. “Are you going to introduce me to her or what? I’m half convinced she’s made up.”

“I wouldn’t stoop so low,” he huffed as they proceeded into Lucy’s sitting room.

“Australian!” Trista reminded him and he rolled his eyes. A pretty blonde was sitting beside Desmond and Nikita and watching wonderingly as Nikita swiped one hand through the air. A hairclip in her hand promptly turned into a butterfly.

“Adorable,” said his wife, laughing a tinkling laugh. “That’s so cute. What spells are you two using?”

“Those are trade secrets, my dear,” said Desmond. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

“Eliza,” said Henry, and her eyes flickered away immediately. She met him with a smile on her face and stood up to kiss his cheek. “This’s Trista. The Quidditch player.”

“Hi,” said Eliza, extending her hand. “Yes, of course you’re Trista. I’ve heard loads about all of Henry’s friends. We even caught a few of your matches over the radio. You’re with the Irish team, right?”

“Kenmare,” said Trista, accepting her handshake. “You’re so much prettier than I thought was possible for Henry.”

Everyone laughed.

“Right,” said Desmond, “in case you ever get glasses, I’ll be available if you need me. For any reason. At any time of night.”

“She might need glasses, but she isn’t blind enough for you,” said Nikita, whacking him lightly on the shoulder.

The door swung open and June, Priscilla, and Lucy entered.

“Dinner’s ready!” announced Lucy. “Everything’s all set up!”

“All set up?” demanded Nicholas’s voice from the kitchen. “We’re the ones doing all the bloody work back here!”

“It won’t kill you to do some work once in a while,” growled Priscilla, placing one hand over her growing belly and sitting down wobblingly on a chair. “Oh my god, it’s even more horrific than I imagined.”

June wandered into the room, as Priscilla sat down, balancing a plump, smiling baby on her hip. She ran her hand through Ophelia Belby’s soft red hair and Ophelia gurgled happily. “Say hello to Aunt Eliza and Uncle Henry,” June cooed, leaning in towards Eliza and Henry.

“What a darling,” said Eliza, touching Ophelia’s tiny hand. Ophelia promptly tugged on a lock of Eliza’s hair.

“Yeah, she looks kind of like Lucy, doesn’t she?” said Henry as Lucy beamed.

“Really?” said Lucy, clasping her hands together. “Everyone’s been telling me how much she looks like Justin. It’s nice to hear she looks like me for a change.”

“It’s still strange that you’ve got a baby,” piped up Desmond. “I get all addled if I think too much about how bloody old we’ve all become.”

“Yes, well, it was bound to happen,” said Lucy a little haughtily. “I might be the first, but I certainly won’t be the last.”

Everyone’s eyes slipped to Priscilla who stopped fanning herself and looked up with a defensive, “What?”

 “I still can’t believe you got knocked up,” said Henry, staring at her. “I can believe Nicholas would knock somebody up, but I didn’t think it’d be you.”

“I’m flattered,” said Priscilla, who resumed fanning herself. “June, would you please get me some water?”

“Albus!” June screeched at the door. “Priscilla wants water!”

There was a moment of silence.

“She asked you, didn’t she?” came the crabby response from Albus.

“Yes, and I’m asking you for her! I’m holding Ophelia!” said June back, a smile in her voice.

“So? You’ve got two feet, haven’t you?”

“Please?”

“I’m not your wife, Bernard, I don’t bring you things!”

“At this rate, you’re never going to have one!” she yelled back.

At this, a glass of water came levitating in the room, nudging June in the shoulder. “See, it didn’t kill you, did it?”

“Actually,” came Duncan’s weary voice from the kitchen, “that was me. I just got tired of the yelling. First, Priscilla and Nicholas, then you and Al. I don’t think I’m ever going to get married at this rate.”

As June went into the kitchen and dragged a reluctant Albus out, Trista marveled over her friends. June and Albus, Priscilla and Nicholas, Lucy and Justin, Henry and Eliza, even Desmond and Nikita by the way they were going on…bit by bit, one by one, all her friends were pairing off, finding lives to settle into. Only Trista still alone, saddled with a job in a place she was no longer sure she loved.

She was twenty-five years old now and still waiting for her life to go somewhere.

The night went on with the same melancholy thoughts still dangling in the back of her mind. They ate and reminisced over old times…times they agreed they would miss but not want to return to. They had all moved on from Hogwarts, moved on into successful and exciting lives. Henry was navigating the jungles of the world, Lucy was balancing being a first-time mum and working with goblins, Desmond was finally opening his shop soon, June had settled into a happy life with a comfortable job…to them, Hogwarts held good memories, but it ended there.

As the night proceeded and they finished dinner, they were suddenly scattered all around Lucy’s home: Lucy and Justin were putting Ophelia to sleep, Albus and June were sitting alone at the table, whispering to each other over their wine, Priscilla was laying down on Lucy’s sofa, her head in Nicholas’s lap. Desmond, Nikita, Eliza and Duncan were engaged in the loudest game of Exploding Snap that Trista had ever had and Henry had disappeared off momentarily.

Feeling lonely, Trista accepted her third glass of wine from Albus and wandered off outside Lucy’s home, closing the door behind her as she took a seat on Lucy’s door step. Feeling the chill of evening, she swirled the red wine in the glass aimlessly, staring at the stars and wondering if they had any answers she didn’t know.

After a few moments, she found herself lost in thought. She jumped with a start when the door opened.

She turned around, flustered. Henry was leaning over her, a glass of wine in his own hand.

“Can I join you?” he said, gesturing at the doorstep.

“Sure,” she said, still embarrassed.

He shut the door behind him and took a seat beside her, spilling some of his wine in the process. “So,” he began, “what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said automatically.

He looked at her skeptically. “Look, I know we weren’t as close as you and some of our other friends were in school, but I’ve still known you for sixteen years. And I know what it looks like when any of you lot aren’t happy.”

“Sixteen years?” said Trista, taken aback.

“Shocked?” he said, taking a sip. “So what is it?”

“It’s…stupid,” Trista began reluctantly. “It’s just…I’ve gotten an offer from Puddlemere. But obviously, I’d have to leave Kenmare and the girls behind if I took it.”

“Do you want to?”

“Of course I don’t want to leave the girls behind!”

“No,” said Henry gently, “do you want to take the offer?”

She bowed her head, letting her silence be her answer.

“I see,” said Henry, giving a sad smile. “I can tell you really care about these girls.”

“You don’t know Henry, but I’ve known them for ages. I couldn’t just leave them.”

“But they’ve never had that problem, have they? Leaving you.” When she gawped at him, he said, “I’ve been keeping up with Quidditch here and there, remember? Look, Trista, the girls who left went on for bigger and better dreams. Why can’t you?”

“Because it wouldn’t be right!” she said. “They need me!”

“You need you too,” said Henry. “Sometimes that Hufflepuff loyalty really does us in, doesn’t it?” When she blinked at him in shock, he said with a knowing look, “I don’t think you’re afraid of leaving these girls behind. You know that isn’t a very big deal. They’ll find another Captain. No, listen.” He held up a hand, silencing her protests. “It might even help them. They might need to reorganize themselves and figure things out without having someone always doing the hard work for them. But I don’t think it’s just about these girls. I think you’ve gotten too comfortable. In all honesty, I think you’re afraid of leaving.”

What?” said Trista, the heat rising to her cheeks. “That doesn’t even make sense, why wouldn’t I be thrilled to leave Kenmare and come back here?”

“Because you like Kenmare and you like your girls and you like your team, even though you know you’re too good for all of them.”

She was quiet once more.

Henry smiled at her. “Take a chance. I did, when I left England and went to live in Tanzania in for four years. I didn’t know what’d be there. I met my wife. I had the time of my life. And now I’m back.”

“You’re back?” she said, taken aback. “Why?”

“Hogwarts needs a new Care of Magical Creatures Professor. Professor Hagrid’s ancient, after all.”

“Henry! You’re going to be a Hogwarts Professor?”

“Nothing’s official yet,” he said, grinning. “Still trying to get it sorted out with Headmistress Aubrey. Now there’s a weird thing to say. Headmistress Aubrey.

“Congratulations,” she said, awestruck.

“Thanks,” said Henry. “Anyway, the point of that wasn’t that I’m going to be a professor. It’s that change…is a part of life. We outgrow things all the time and move on because that’s what’s best for us. Now you’ve got to decide if you want to stay back because you’re comfortable or if you’re ready to move on.”

Smiling at her, he glugged the last of his wine down and stood up. “Ah, I’m going to go in. It’s a bit cold and Eliza’s probably looking for me.”

He shut the door quietly behind her, leaving Trista alone on the doorstep. She stared wonderingly at her wine glass. Half full, half empty and a swish of red. She took a deep breath and remembered one of her first memories of Quidditch: first year, rifling through the newest edition of Quidditch Today, her finger hovering wonderingly over Puddlemere United. Feeling tears prickling at her eyes, she took a deep breath and smiled.

Maybe it was time to move on.

She set her wine glass down and aimlessly put her hands in her pockets. She could feel something pricking a finger and she extracted a card out of her pocket.

In curly script, it read, Meg Vaisey, followed by a few digits. A phone number and new possibility. Thinking about all the people paired away in the house beside her, she smiled wishfully and put it away, making a note to call first thing tomorrow and ask her for lunch.

It wasn’t just time to move on.

It was time to move forward.






Author's Note: Hello, my lovelies. As usual, I am late on the update, so I'm just going to stop promising things. The last three months have been the most stressful, chaotic and hectic of my life...so any thoughts about fanfiction went promptly out the window on day one. Anyway, I'm glad to be back to you, if only momentarily! I hope you've enjoyed this little portion on Trista - I've really enjoyed writing more about just her. ;)

It's also been about 2 years since I began and posted Bathing in Roses! Technically 2 1/2, I suppose. I was still in high school and plotting over things with my best friend and now I'm nearly halfway done with university, so it's all really nostalgic to think about! I believe there's only one more chapter left before an epilogue and then we'll all be bidding goodbye to June, Albus and everyone else. I'd love to know your feedback on this chapter and I really will try to post the next one up at some reasonable time.

Thank you for reading!

Celeste 


Chapter 6: November-December, 2029 - Always in Roses
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Always in Roses

November-December, 2029

“My dear boy, I would be delighted!” Mr. Bernard squeaked, wringing Albus’s hands.

Albus exhaled in relief. “Thanks, Mr. Bernard.”

“Father-in-law to you soon, eh?” said Mr. Bernard, sitting back and looking satisfied. “Oh, June’ll be wonderfully surprised! She’ll love it!” With a hint of sadness, he said, “And Victoria would have been as well. So happy.”

“Yeah,” said Albus somberly, thinking privately that he’d fully expected June to say as much as well.

But Mr. Bernard did not seem too upset for long. He sprang back up. “Such a joyous occasion calls for a drink, my boy. Let me see what I’ve got.” 

In the seven years since they’d graduated, Mr. Bernard had moved out of the home he’d once shared with Albus’s parents. He now lived in a small flat above the muggle café he owned and cooked for. It was small and cozy; June had painted in oranges and beiges last summer and filled it with knick-knacks and keepsakes. The oddly coloured purple teapot and the assortment of flowery vases stamped her presence over the flat. Mr. Bernard himself looked and acted much the same, though he’d grown less plump and much balder.

“This was all I could manage, I’m afraid,” said Mr. Bernard, tottering out of the kitchen with a bottle in hand. “Just apple cider. Not exactly the champagne I’d hoped for. But all the same.”

“Good enough,” said Albus, accepting the glass that Mr. Bernard poured him and taking a sip to be polite. “Do you think she’ll be happy with how I’ve arranged it?”

“Delighted, my boy, she’ll be delighted,” he said firmly. “What a considerate thing to do. And I’ll be very happy to book the place for you, very happy indeed. She’s got a strong personal connection to the place, of course, since she’s been a little girl.”

“I’m glad, sir.”

Albus waited until they’d finished drinking before taking his leave. As he clambered into the fireplace, he heard Mr. Bernard ask behind him, “Have you told Ginny already, Albus? She must be very happy. As I recall, she’s been hoping for this sort of thing for a good eight years.”

“You’ve got no idea,” said Albus, grinning before he whirled out of sight.

*

At this time of year, the boutique Mademoiselle was a veritable mangle of chaos. There were shopgirls yelling to each other when Albus entered, yelling bits and pieces of phrases he couldn’t understand.

“ – the magenta one, size two, asked for it to be flowy – ”

“ – Emma, she wants it in chartreuse! This’s beige.

“I’ve got no bloody idea what beige is and what chartreuse is! Come and get it yourself!”

“ – aubergine, size ten, doxy skin – ”

Albus sighed and looked around. It was a stylish place, reeking of expensive clothes. The walls were light gold coloured and every few feet hung another elaborate chandelier. There was already a small drove of women inside, sorting through racks and pulling out dresses and bags, chattering excitedly to one another.

“Can I help you with something?” a girl probed Albus. She appeared behind him, several dress robes draped over one arm. She began folding them as he watched. “You must be Mr. James. Mrs. Lupin said you might be coming.”

“Albus, actually,” he amended. “Is she here, by any chance?”

“She should be in her office,” she said. “Go down to the end of the store and down that long corridor. Her office’s three doors down. You’ll know it when you see it.”

“Thanks,” he said, getting on his way. As he navigated through the labyrinth of clothes, it became more obvious precisely why he’d never ventured past the door to go inside his cousin’s boutique.

Suddenly, a familiar dash of black streaked his way. He grabbed the first dress he saw and held it aloft, hiding his face. He peeked behind it.

June stood a few feet away, engrossed in a clipboard. She called out to one of the shopgirls arranging the clothes. “Emma, has the Dublin order been shipped already?”

Albus tip-toed his way across the few feet in between him and the door, still holding the frilly pink dress in front of his face. Once he was safely out of view, he tossed it aside and dashed down the corridor.

Victoire’s office door was immediately visible. It was a bright gold colour, ornamented with a large sign: Victoire A. Weasley-Lupin, Owner.

Without knocking, he wrenched the door open.

There, on her desk, his cousin was sitting, wearing her signature glasses and frown. Without looking up, she droned, “James, you’re early.”

“It’s Al,” he said and she looked up.

“For heaven’s sakes, Albus, you know I don’t like being surprised,” she said, pulling off her glasses. Despite being in her mid-thirties, she looked younger. “Even James had the good sense to call ahead of time. What on earth do you want?”

“Nice to see you too,” he said, taking a seat opposite her.

“You know how busy I am this time of year. We’ve run out on half our winter stock and we’re putting the finishing touches on our spring line.”

“I know. June’s busy too, remember?”

“Fine, fine.” she said, brandishing her long, lacquered nails at him. Every bit of her reeked of being primed and stylized, from the crocodile skin bag at her feet to her heels to her bright red lips. Her beauty had always occurred to Albus as being a little severe – she was a businesswoman and looked every inch of it. “I can spare a few minutes, I suppose. What do you need?”

“I’m proposing to June.”

“Oh good,” she said, not looking particularly surprised but smiling all the same. “I was starting to worry for her. I thought at the pace you were going, she’d be stuck a spinster. So what do you need? A wedding dress? I’ve got some great designs I’ve been dying to test out.” Without waiting for an answer, she began yanking out several sketchbooks from behind her. “Look, look at this one –”

“Er, no. Actually, Vic, I had something else in mind. Could you design a ring for me?”

“A ring?” her eyes widened.

“I wasn’t sure if you knew how to design rings. If you don’t, I could ask – ”

“Of course I do,” she said angrily. “I’ve learned it all in school and more.”

“Um, Vic, if you don’t know, you don’t have to force yourself.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “I’m just going to draw the design. We’ll get a jewel expert to actually make it. But I know a few things about design myself, so all we need to decide is what kind of stone, colour and clarity you had in mind. And if we’re talking about diamonds – ” She looked at him eagerly.

“Yeah, I think we are.”

“Then carat.” She leaned her head in closer. She reminded him why simultaneously, he admired and was slightly terrified of her. “This’ll be perfect. Let’s get started.”

*

“Finally,” gushed Lucy, taking Albus’s hands in her own and beaming.

“I agree,” said Trista, taking a sip of her tea. “I think it’s brilliant you’ve finally plucked up the courage to do it.”

Albus looked sideways at Priscilla, who looked as though she were halfway between a conniption and a tantrum. “You’re marrying her?”

“Well Fawcett,” he said irritably, “I haven’t proposed yet. But if she says yes, that’s the general idea of things, yes.”

“And you’re proposing over the holidays!” said Lucy, clasping her hands together. “Oh, it’s lovely! It’s the perfect time of year!”

“Yeah, if you like rain and cold and doom and all the joy in the world shriveling up and dying,” said Priscilla grumpily.

“I happen to like doom very much, thanks,” said Albus.

They continued glaring at each other.

Lucy sighed. “Albus, Priscilla, please.”

“You’d think after nearly fifteen years of knowing each other, some things would change,” quipped Trista.

“Potters don’t change their spots,” said Priscilla.

“Careful,” said Albus, “June’ll be a Potter soon if things go my way.”

Priscilla’s jaw dropped. “I hadn’t thought of that! I’ll have to call her Potter instead of Bernard! You’ve turned everything inside out!” But after her glaring, she paused. “Oh, I imagine she’ll be thrilled, though. Even if I hate you and wish she’d found someone else.”

“Thanks,” said Albus dryly.

“But at this point, that seems impossible. She’s just too dim. So I suppose I’ll have to deal with it.” Priscilla frowned.

“That’s as close to a blessing as you’ll ever get, Albus,” said Trista. “But Lucy and I approve, so go for it.”

*

It was almost two weeks later that Albus found himself whispering into the phone, “Is everything ready?”

“All ready,” Mr. Bernard repeated obediently. “I wish you the best of luck, my boy.”

Albus hung up the phone and waited until June Floo’d back home. When she arrived twenty minutes later, she found him sitting on the floor, his hands tied together. He looked up and jumped. “You’re here!”

“Yes, I am,” she smiled, taking off her coat.

“You’ll want to put that back on,” he said, stashing something into his pocket. “We’re going out for a bit.”

“We are?” she said, looking surprised.

“We are,” he said firmly. “I insist. It’s important.”

“O…kay,” she said. “Are you going to tell me where?”

“No. Put your coat back on.” He grabbed her hand. “We’re Apparating there, so hold on.”

“Okay,” she said, closing her eyes. He flicked his wand and the world blurred before them.

When they stepped out, it was on a winding staircase. It was a windy December evening in muggle London. The sky had already turned black and a few stars were glinting out. Behind the lampposts and the trees, a wispy winter moon was hovering.

“Wow,” June began to gush, before Albus once more grabbed her hand. She looked around; it all looked very familiar. She blinked and the blurry world settled in. The winding staircase was beside a storefront. There were a few tables outside, situated under a large sign that read, Victoria’s Café. “You brought me to my dad’s café?”

“Yeah,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant. “He wanted to talk to you about something. Said it was important. Let’s go inside.”

“All right,” she said anxiously. “I hope he’s all right.”

“He’s fine,” said Albus, pushing the door open.

“But how do you know – ” She broke off, her eyes huge. Inside, the café was fully left in darkness, save for the candles he’d scattered on each table an hour ago. There were hundreds of lights hanging from the ceiling, each in the shape of a star. Finally, he’d hung a big white orb, which dangled at the center of the room and the star-shaped lights. She turned around, unable to find her voice. For a brief moment, June thought she knew what was coming next. But she pushed it out of her mind. No, she’d thought he was going to do it many times before, only to be disappointed each time.

“It’s been an amazing seven years,” he said, taking her hand. “When I think about all the things that’ve changed, it’s just…it’s brilliant. Everything’s worked out.”

“It has,” she said, flustered. She swallowed resolutely. “What’s all this for? Early Christmas present?”

“Not exactly,” he said. “You know I love you. I really do. And I think you feel the same way about me. You’ve made me so happy all these years. And I think it’s time.” He grasped her hand and dropped to one knee, yanking out a box from his pocket. “June, will you marry – “

June clenched her hands tightly, feeling very much like the flustered girl who was penning the first love letter of her life seven years ago. Their relationship had gone through its angry and ugly moments, through its arguments and bickering and seven years later, they had emerged out of it together.

“YES!” she exhaled, going furiously red. “Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you!”

“I didn’t even finish,” he said, disbelievingly. “I even forgot half that speech I memorized.”

 Laughing, he kissed her. She collapsed into an embrace, laughing and crying at the same time. He swept her hair away from her face. “God, you won’t believe how nervous I was.”

“How nervous you were,” she said, accepting his kiss. “I can’t believe you finally got to proposing! I’ve been waiting for it for ages!”

They kissed once more for a long moment. She broke away and looked around, laughing waterily. “I haven’t even seen the ring yet.”

“Oh, right!” He opened the box.

She stared at it, dumbfounded. “Albus.

“It’s special,” he said. “I had Victoire draw it out for me. I know you wanted to wear your mum’s wedding ring, but your dad said it’s been lost for a long time. And then you wanted to wear my mum’s, but my mum’s already promised hers to Lily. I’m just lucky your dad still remembered what your mum’s ring looked like. He knew exactly. Even after all this time. ” He held the ring closer to her. “So this’s kind of a blend of both. My mum’s was antique early nineteenth century. Your mum’s was some kind of 1950s French design. It’s some of both.”

“It’s perfect,” she said, accepting the box. He took the ring out of the box and slid it onto her finger.

She looked at it for a moment, looking as though she were near tears. “I love it. Thank you.” She looked around the room. “But I have been wondering though. Why all these decorations?”

“Lucy’s idea,” said Albus. “I wasn’t going to do anything to the place, but she insisted it look nice.”

“I love that you proposed in my mother’s café,” said June. “I really feel like she’s here with us today.”

Before they could kiss again, there was a knock on the windowpanes and a hiss of, “Potter? Are you done yet? It’s freezing outside!”

There was a collective groan of “Priscilla!”

“What?!” came back a voice filled with umbrage. “It’s snowing and I’m eight and a half months pregnant! I might just have this baby right now just to spite you! Let me in!”

“Priscilla’s outside,” said June, turning to Albus. “And who else?”

“Practically everybody,” said Albus. He turned and called, “You lot weren’t supposed to say anything until I announced it!”

“Screw your announcements, it’s snowing,” came back James Potter’s voice. “I’m with your mad pregnant friend here – I’m turning into an icicle. Let us in, won’t you Jane?”

“I concur with both women,” snarked Desmond’s voice.

“Oh, just let them in, Albus,” said June.

“But I wasn’t finished,” said Albus grumpily. “Oh, fine.”

He wrenched open one of the doors and a crowd much larger than June had anticipated filtered in. Both James and Lily Potter came in together, teeth chattering. James had his arm slung around his sister’s shoulder and looked nearly blue with cold. “I’ll congratulate you once I’m done melting, Al.”

Honestly,” said his sister in exasperation. “I told you to dress warmly but you insisted on dressing the only way you know how. Like an idiot.”

Behind her came Rose and Victoire. Both beamed at Albus and June.

“Finally, you’re done living in sin,” said Rose, embracing Albus. “I wish you all the happiness you need.”

“How’d the ring work out, June?” said Victoire, pushing Rose aside. “Beautiful, isn’t it? I drew it myself off those ratty designs Al gave me. Honestly, the man sounds like Michelangelo the way he describes his own designs and then draws stick figures for me. His first design looked more like a raisin than a ring. But you do like it, don’t you?”

“It’s lovely, thank you,” June assured her and they hugged.

Behind Victoire came June’s favorite shivering trio: a beaming Trista, a crying Lucy and a tempestuous Priscilla.

“I’m so happy for you,” trilled Trista, flinging her arms around June. “So, so, so happy! I know how badly you wanted this! I’m so glad for you! I hope you’re very happy!”

“As am I,” said Lucy shakily, mopping her eyes. “Oh, I can’t b- believe it’s already b - been eight years. It feels like just yes- yesterday that you were egging me on to deliver that love letter and Priscilla was so angry.” She hiccupped through her tears. “I hope you know how happy I am.”

June hugged her and Albus kissed his cousin briefly on the forehead. “We do, Lucy.”

“Oh, now you’re on the engagement bandwagon,” said Priscilla. She looked at Albus blearily. “Do anything wrong and I break every bone in your body and then you go for a mysterious, decade long vacation in the jungles of Cambodia.”

“Priscilla!” said Lucy, scandalized.

But Albus laughed. “I appreciate the sentiment, Fawcett. I know you mean the best.”

Still looking at him suspiciously, Priscilla walked on. June was then hugged by her father and Albus’s parents. It was after she’d accepted Henry and Eliza’s congratulations, smiled at Nikita’s “Stalking does wonders, doesn’t it?”, taken Desmond’s promise to stay awake through the wedding, laughed at Nicholas’s “Now you’ve done it, mate,” to Albus, and posed for Cora Livingston’s cover photo for tomorrow’s Witch Weekly, that she got a moment of peace. She peered at Albus beside her and squeezed his hand.

“I feel like you’ve invited the whole world. What would you’ve done if I’d said no?”

“Gone into hiding and never shown my face to these people again,” he said smiling. “And tomorrow’s press headline would be ‘Potter humiliated in front of dozens’ with a picture of me hiding sheepishly, I suppose. But I didn’t think you would. So I thought you’d enjoy it more this way. You always say, ‘the more, the merrier’.”

“I do love it,” she said. “I’m glad we can share it with them.”

“One last thing I’ve got to give you, then,” he said. He pulled out his wand and stroked the air. A single white rose appeared and he offered it to her. “Can’t forget the roses today.”

Her eyes twinkled with amusement as she took it. “No, we definitely can’t.”

Lucy turned around, breaking off her animated conversation with Trista to admire Albus’s handiwork. “Oooh, roses. That’s lovely, Albus.”

“We’ll have plenty of them in our wedding, won’t we?” said June.

“Why?” said Lucy, scanning between Albus and June and not understanding the familiar grin they shared.

When she looked at Albus, he smiled, remembering their seven years together and the many more to come and said, “I suppose you could say it’s just a little joke. It’s always roses with us.”






Author's Note: Hello my wonderful, wonderful readers. I actually updated relatively...on time. I was eager to get this chapter out. It's not one of my favorite ones in this novella (and definitely not in the original BIR) but I really thought it was a necessary one. We all know that cliche moment when the proposal comes, right? But I suppose I still wanted to write one for Junebus anyway before we bid them goodbye.

This is technically the very last chapter. I have an epilogue typed away, set some fifteen years or so later, though I'm still very much debating putting it up. It's very DH epilogue-esque, but it will indicate who got married, who had kids and who didn't. Would you like to see it or would you rather have TWWU end on this note? I'll keep your feedback in mind before posting anything.

And in any case, this chapter marks a pretty big deal for me. My main characters are going to be married off after 3 long years of writing and mulling over them. I can't say how much I've appreciated the reads, the reviews, and the support. It's been such a pleasure writing this story and its prequel and I really hope you've enjoyed the ride as well. 

Much love,

Celeste


Chapter 7: July, 2037 - Epilogue: You, Me and Time
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You, Me and Time

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.

“Priscilla!”

“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.

“Potter!”

“Albus!”

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.

“Gryffindor.”

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.”

You’re stupid.”

“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." 

Fin.






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! :)

Much love,

Celeste

 

 


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