The way Alice and Frank are now, I doubt you'd ever guess that they were once two of the greatest Aurors the Ministry had to offer. They were powerful, fearless, knew the most spells and found the most Death Eater hideouts- and now the two of them are barely able to feed themselves; Frank can never find his slippers and Alice is convinced the curtains around her bed are plotting her murder. And while I still love my son and his wife dearly, I try not to let myself think of them this way. I try to remember them as they were at the height of their powers: I remember Alice announcing she was pregnant, and Frank's face glowing over her shoulder. I remember the first time they let me hold Neville. I remember them walking down the aisle in Alice's village church.
I especially remember Frank's excitement after he'd come face to face with Voldemort for the second time. His eyes sparkled with excitement and adrenaline. Alice's face bore a similar expression as she sat beside him on the sofa, not yet pregnant and very beautiful.
"We were alone, of course- just me and Alice- because it was just supposed to be a routine thing. We were lucky that both of us were there, actually. I mean, who would have thought they'd need You-Know-Who himself to take an ice-cream parlour?"
"Call him Voldemort, Frank," I said. I had never understood Frank's refusal to speak the name, when he was barely afraid of the man himself.
Frank rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Why, mother? It just upsets people. He continued. "It was quite scary, actually. Just the two of us, hiding in the bushes, and Voldemort turns up. We tried to call the order for reinforcements but they were all off on another mission, it was just little Peter Pettigrew at the Headquarters."
"He didn't look very happy at the idea of Voldemort, so I told him not to worry, we could handle it," Alice interjected. "He seemed quite relieved."
"Doesn't have the stomach for war, that one," I grumbled.
"Hm," Alice said. "But his heart's in the right place."
"Anyway," Frank said, obviously irritated by the digression. "You-Know-Who apparated into the middle of Diagon Alley. And then he stood there for a moment, in the middle of the street, as bold as brass. He knows no-one's got the guts to do anything about him, at the Ministry at least."
"Cowards," I said sharply. "I'd sack the lot of them... Although not you two, of course."
"I would have gone straight for them, but Alice wouldn't let me. We stayed hidden for a few minutes longer, and then when they turned and started to move towards the shop Alice shot a stunning spell at them."
"I hit Avery right in the back of his head," Alice said proudly. "His knees just buckled, and he went straight down. And then the rest of them turned to us." Alice paused and shuddered, showing fear for the first time as she remembered. "Voldemort's eyes... They were weird the first time we saw him, but I swear they've gotten stranger. Almost entirely red now..."
"Yes," Frank said. "The pupils too. There's just a hint of white at the edges now. Anyway, he turned to us and laughed and said, 'Alone, Longbottoms? You'd do best to run while you still have time' or some similarly clichéd statement… Seriously, I don't know what kind of trashy fantasy novels he gets his lines from-"
Alice laughed gently. "Admit it, Frank; you were terrified at the time."
Frank shrugged. "A bit, maybe. But not really- he's not actually that scary."
Alice rolled her eyes and smiled lovingly at his bravado. "Whatever you say, Frank."
"Anyway, Voldemort just raised his wand and flicked it gently. A jet of red light shot towards me, and I deflected it, no problem. But then he smiled- he has the most horrible, cold smile-"
Alice shuddered again.
"-And I realised he was just playing with me, and now the fight was really going to start. He shot the Cruciatus at me, I ducked, and after that we were duelling too fast for me to think. Mulciber tried to jump in, but Voldemort told him that he could cope with one incompetent order member by himself."
"And then Lestrange- Rabastan, not the other one- and Travers both shot spells at me," Alice said. "And their spells hit each in midair and bounced off, which was pretty funny. I shot a Stunner at Lestrange and he deflected it-"
"And then I hit him with Expelliarmus-"
"-Which was totally unfair," Alice said. "Because I was fine by myself-"
"It was an accident," Frank said, with a grin that said they'd had this argument many times before. "I really did mean it for Voldemort. So we swapped for a while, and Alice duelled with Voldemort and I took Travers for a while."
Alice shook her head. "Whatever Frank says, he is an incredible dueller. He just kept firing spells at me, one after the other-" Her voice shook slightly now "-and I was deflecting and dodging and I barely had enough breath to attack back."
"Don't be stupid, you were fine," Frank interrupted.
Alice ignored him. "I was so sure he was going to kill me."
She lapsed into silence and Frank took the chance to speak again. "Eventually I got bored of Travers-"
"You mean you finally had an opening to stun him," Alice interrupted, smiling again.
"I could have taken him out any time I wanted!" Frank protested.
Alice said nothing, but she smiled and rolled her eyes once again.
Frank continued. "And then both Alice and I fought Voldemort for a few seconds-"
were both tiring," Alice said. "It was terrifying; I really,
honestly thought that we were both going to die there. And then by
some crazy chance we both sent stunners at the same time, and
Voldemort deflected them both easily, but it gave Frank a chance to
get him with the Jellylegs curse."
Frank laughed. "It was hilarious. He didn't even think to deflect it- it was the last curse he was expecting. He was wobbling round like a first year that's never had magic used on it before-"
"And then, just as we were both ready to knock him out so we could take him into the Ministry, he shot stunners at us-"
"Both of which missed," Frank interjected.
"-So he just grabbed hold of Lestrange and Mulciber and was gone. We got Travers, though." Alice finished with a triumphant smile. "So I guess that means we've escaped Voldemort twice now."
"Yup," Frank said. "And I for one can't wait for the third time."
Alice smiled, but it was a thin, forced smile. "Well, I can't say I'm looking forward to it, and I can't believe that we'd survive him a third time. But I suppose what comes will come."
I smiled proudly at my son and his wife. They were a wonderful couple in those days: Alice with the brains and Frank with the bravado. Not that Frank was stupid, of course- but Alice helped temper his hotheadedness, making sure he paused to think for at least a few seconds before jumping into dangerous situations.
Now, as I watched them smile dumbly at Neville, the son who'd never been able to properly know them, I felt a wave of sorrow wash over me. They'd beaten Voldemort three times, only to be destroyed by four of his followers just when they thought they were safe.
And yet, I realised as Alice and Frank briefly exchange glances before Alice moved over her bedside table, no doubt to find another gum wrapper… And yet, there was something about them that hadn't changed, that would perhaps always be the same.
They had fallen the way they'd stood, and the way they now lay in their white-sheeted hospital beds: together, side by side. Whatever Voldemort and his followers might have done or tried to do, however much it might look as though they'd succeeded, Alice and Frank would always have each other. A rare smile briefly flowered across my face.
Alice and Frank, forever, side by side.