A/N: This story is finally complete. It only took me five years, with a few detours from life, Wedlocked and a moderately graceful swan dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I once again remind you that this story is based on Turn Back Time by SStarLuna. Please, please, please, go read the original and give it all the praise it deserves. All my attempts at contacting the author have yielded no results, but that doesn't mean we should stop sending reviews her/his way.
Time Turned Back
Chapter 73: Tea with Tildy (an epilogue of sorts)
Tea with Tildy (an epilogue of sorts)
Harry had only ever travelled through King's Cross during the rush of school starting or ending. To be there on an arbitrary Saturday was beyond strange to him. There were no trunks or owls, no wizards or witches dressed as they thought Muggles did. Just regular people coming and going on their regular weekend errands, and he was one of them.
"What's that smile about?"
He looked to the boy by his side, Sirius Granger, and smiled again. "Just enjoying being one of the crowd, I suppose."
"Well, when you're famous, I imagine that would be a nice change of pace," he agreed.
He had to laugh. Sirius had taken quite a fancy to the idea of dating someone 'properly famous'. The first time the Daily Prophet printed a photograph of them together on a Hogsmeade Weekend, he ran through the common room showing it to everybody, though no one much cared. It was still a subject of some ire that he never once mentioned being a celebrity, but, as with most of the other secrets Harry had kept from him in the past, Sirius seemed to enjoy the thrill of discovery.
"There's Remus!" Hermione cried and waved her hand high to get the man's attention. She needn't have bothered; the foot traffic was so sparse, he could hardly have missed them, and, besides that, Lupin was in tune with his girlfriend more than any other people Harry had ever known. They always knew precisely where the other was. If one sneezed, he wouldn't have been shocked if the other sent an owl from across the country with a note reading 'bless you'. Sirius thought it was sickening, but Harry's heart warmed whenever he got to see them together, defying time, prejudice and bigotry.
"Smiling again," Sirius whispered in his ear.
"Because I'm happy," he admitted.
Hugs were offered, and then Remus led them through the train station, where their portkey had deposited them, out through the exit and into the Underground station nearby.
"Why couldn't we have just portkeyed straight to the shop?" Hermione griped.
"One," Remus said as he paused to allow a cluster of women to bustle past, "it would be too dangerous for Tildy if someone found out she was connected directly with Harry. And two, you'll want a moment to acclimate yourself to Tildy's world before she finds you."
Harry and Hermione shared a concerned glance before Harry questioned, "Is there something we ought to know about this place?"
"Nothing specific. It's just... Tildy is still Tildy."
They boarded the Piccadilly line, settling into the plastic chairs lining the curved exterior of the tube car, and rode in contemplative silence, Sirius studying the adverts and other passengers with a rabid delight, until it was time to change lines. Remus and Hermione linked hands and walked together, Sirius and Harry following behind as they stepped onto a new train travelling toward World's End. Those hands stayed linked throughout the ride to Fulham and the walk from the station to King's Road, their fingers knitted together and as inextricable as a gorgon's knot.
"Smiling again," observed Sirius. "Is it hand-holding that makes you so happy? Or just when those two hold hands?"
While he knew precisely what it was that made him smile, he replied, "I'm not sure. Care to test it?"
With a smile of his own, Sirius slid their fingers together. His hands were just as large and warm as ever, making his own hand heat – a heat that rose and spread through his entire body.
"Ooh, now you're not just smiling, you're blushing. Thinking naughty thoughts, are we?"
"Not at all," Harry assured him.
His cheeky reply died on his lips as he looked past Harry to the shop opposite. "That has got to be it."
The shop he indicated was, much like any other in Chelsea, housed in an old Victorian building. The wide expanse of windows on the first floor was surrounded by a vibrant, electric blue trim mostly covered by artistic graffiti and concert posters. The brick of the upper floors seemed far too dull to be allowed, but the top floor diminished in a scrolling peak that reminded him of something he had seen in one of Aunt Marge's photographs from her holiday on Majorca.
The window displayed a collection of mannequins dressed and posed as if they were performing the songs being played through the speakers. As they stood, the mannequins moved to a new position – the singer raising the microphone, the drummer slamming down on the drums, a guitarist leaning back as she played.
"Magic?" Harry questioned.
"Unlikely," Remus said with a shake of his head. "This is a Muggle neighbourhood."
He could only nod as he watched the artificial band change positions again.
Remus had been right. Travelling directly into the shop would have left him stunned. The lights, the noise, the crowd, the sheer chaos of it all was, well, it was Tildy. She might be nearing forty years old, but apparently her exuberance had not dimmed one bit. Harry could hear her chirp over the loud speaker announcing newly arrived CDs and sales on vintage vinyl.
"Wow," Sirius muttered, eyes huge and mouth agape.
"Yep," Remus replied knowingly.
Even with his reflexes, he didn't have time to brace himself. The body that crashed into his sent him to the floor.
"Oh my god, you look exactly the same!" Tildy cried and wrapped him in a hug.
"Yeah," he wheezed.
"Oi! Stop hogging my boyfriend," Sirius demanded.
"Sirius?" The woman leapt to her feet and hurried to crush the boy's ribs as she had just Harry's. "SIRIUS! You're alive!"
"Not for long," Harry muttered.
"I should have known you'd done something brilliant. There was no way you'd turn on James like they said you did. I mean I know people change and all that, but, honestly, there was no way—"
"Tildy, he's turning blue," Remus said gently.
"Oh, sorry," she grinned that toothy grin Harry remembered. Despite a touch of grey in her hair and a few crinkles around her eyes when she smiled, the woman had not changed a bit. "So! Tea!"
"Yeah," Sirius wheezed and rubbed at his sides.
Tildy shouted to an employee with violently orange hair to man to shop before leading the way up a set of stairs, through an office and up to her flat. It looked as if a bomb had exploded in her dresser, sending clothes and shoes flying everywhere, but the woman made no comment and simply walked over it all to reach a tidy kitchen with a large round table.
"Sit," she ordered and bustled about, setting the kettle to boiling and making a pot of tea so properly British that even Aunt Petunia would have been proud of her.
"Shop's doing well," Hermione commented.
"Isn't it?" Tildy agreed happily. "I totally have you to thank for the start up capital. I copied every investment you ordered in that letter to the solicitors."
"Well, that was clever," the girl agreed.
"I have been known to show a bit of smarts once in a while," she grinned and set a plate of biscuits on the table. "Been putting those smarts to use in research lately."
"What on?" Remus questioned, trying and failing to hide his concern.
"Locating certain people of interest," she said vaguely. Her coy evasiveness lasted for approximately naught-point-five seconds before she was bouncing in her chair again. "Okay, so I was curious what you lot were up to. Obviously, Harry, you're properly famous. Everybody's heard of you since 1981, but I wanted to know about everybody else. I have a whole album!"
She spun in her chair and pulled a fat book off a shelf of cookbooks. It was four inches thick and had to weigh at least five pounds.
"That's us?" Hermione questioned.
"A bit of you, a bit of Harry, some Remus and Sirius," she said with a smile. "And a bit of Alfie Quintain."
"What?" Sirius growled.
"He's still alive?" Harry said, blanching at the thought of what that monstrous creature might have gotten up to in the past twenty years.
"Oh yeah," she said, flipping past pages brimming with articles clipped from various Muggle and Wizard newspapers. She slapped the page down and spun the book around for them to read. "There."
The moving photograph told him the story was from a Wizarding magazine, but the text read more like a medical journal.
"What's this from?" he questioned.
"The Healers' Herald," Hermione answered. "Fascinating. I never would have thought to use a transfusion to help reverse the effects of a curse. This is brilliant."
"Alfie won an award for this work," Tildy said. "He's been a healer at St Mungo's ever since this came out."
"You're kidding?" Sirius baulked, nearly tearing the page in his eagerness to read the next article. This one showed a photograph of Alfie looking much more like his old self, though he was still rather hunched and his hair was sparse across his head; he was standing in a hospital ward, the rows of beds stretching out behind him, smiling that perfect smile and looking in no way disingenuous. "You mean he's capable of selflessness?"
"Uh, no, I didn't say that," the woman said, pointing to the paragraph where Alfie brags about his accolades and how much money he had earned from Wizarding hospitals on the continent paying for his cutting-edge techniques in curse reversal.
"Yeah, that fits."
Hermione managed to find a tarnished silver lining. "He's at least helping people."
"Not like Mary," Tildy crowed. "Check this out." She turned to the back of the album and began crowing about the woman's facial reconstruction spells before moving on to Silvia's grand exploits in the world of Quidditch and sports writing – apparently, half the album was Silvia's articles from the Daily Prophet and Seeker Weekly, plus a twelve-page excerpt from her soon-to-be-released The Greatest Game: How Quidditch Shaped the World.
She turned the page onto a photo of Peter, slamming the book shut and muttering an apologetic, "And the less said about that rat the better."
"What have you been up to?" Hermione inquired.
"The shop mainly," Tildy said. "But I hear rumblings about computers taking over and making physical music collections obsolete, so I think I might look into forming a record company or maybe get in on the ground floor of this computer stuff. Any thoughts on that? You are my financial advisor." She beamed at Hermione, eyes wide and hopeful.
"Sorry, I only know about past trends, not future ones," the girl apologised.
Harry had feared that after the dashed hopes and nostalgia they would run out of conversation and sit around the table awkwardly until it was time to leave, but Tildy heaved a theatrical sigh which barrelled into a barrage of questions about the current goings on at Hogwarts, what Harry was planning on doing about Voldemort, what Hermione and Sirius would do with themselves after school. There was fast and lively debate about the possibility of revealing the existence of their world to Muggles, whether Dragons ought to be re-introduced to the UK, if they ought to allow for mid-game player swapping when someone wasn't broken, bleeding, dying or vomiting, among countless other topics.
"You're smiling again," Sirius whispered, his lips brushing the shell of his ear.
"This is fun," he said quietly as Hermione and Tildy argued passionately about the ramifications of electrifying Hogwarts. "Is this normal for most people?"
The boy snorted. "Nothing with you or Tildy would ever be considered normal, but, yeah, talking about something other than people trying to murder you is how most people spend their time."
"Can we do this more often?"
The excited cry came from Tildy, who had paused long enough to notice the two boys talking.
"Remus said you're moving in with him in Egerton Crescent for the holidays, so you are totally going to be here like every day. You can work down in the shop if you like, but if you're shit at music selection I'll have to keep you in the back room no matter how pretty you are – Sorry, Sirius."
"What? My musical tastes are fantastic!"
"For the 1970s," she sighed. "You've missed twenty years of innovation. I mean, do you even know what Prog Rock is? Have you heard of Bauhaus?"
He levelled her with a scathing glare. "How can I forget the three-hour lecture on Prog Rock I sat through first year. It's a wonder I talked to you after that."
She smiled fondly at the memory. "Oh, yeah. Well, prepare for further musical enlightenment!"
"And on that note, I think it's time to leave," Sirius announced and stood. "Ta for the tea."
"He's right," Remus agreed when the woman moved to protest. "We were trying to avoid drawing attention to you in case we were followed, but we've been here too long."
The woman shrugged as if threat of Death Eaters was nothing to get worked up about. "That just means you'll have to make shorter visits more often. Tomorrow. I'll make sandwiches."
"Uh, why don't you come see us at Number 19?" Remus hedged. "I don't think I could handle another Tildy Special."
"What? I am an incredible cook!"
"Sardine and banana sandwiches," he reminded her coolly.
"They were delicious," she huffed and crossed her arms over her chest petulantly.
"We'll see you tomorrow," Hermione smiled and offered the woman a hug.
"I'll bring sandwiches," she told the girl in a stage whisper that had Remus shuddering.
"Fuck that, bring whiskey," Sirius demanded.
"For you, I will bring a mix CD for educational purposes."
"And for me?" Harry asked.
"All my love and affection," she cried and threw her arms around him. She didn't playfully squeeze the life out of him as she had when they arrived in her shop. This was a proper hug like those he got when visiting The Burrow, like those he got from a mum. The feeling only increased when Tildy whispered, "You better remember to write. I'm like a proud mother always bragging about you to people."
The warmth of her embrace clung to him even after they had separated. Her words echoed in his head all the way to Egerton Crescent.
"Harry?" Sirius said quietly. "You're crying."
"You're crying," the boy repeated, adding, "And smiling."
He wiped a hand across his face and felt the tears on his cheek. "Yeah."
He looked at Sirius, the boy who had given up everything because he loved him. He looked at Remus and Hermione disappearing into the kitchen of their home, a home he had been invited into as family. He felt the warmth of Tildy's hug, heard the words she had spoken only to him.
Love. Home. Family.
All the things he had ever wanted and been denied, all right here.
"Yeah. I'm perfect."
A/N: The End.
I hope you liked it.
It wrote itself in no way as I originally plotted, with Harry and Sirius being nothing more than bi-romantic, Sirius staying in the past and Harry seeing Tonks as the reason he semi-fancied Sirius to begin with. After Sirius and Harry turned into a proper thing, that ending was inadequate, especially after all the angst I put them through. So yay for characters taking over and dictating the story!