By the time the old man's tale had finished, the sun was heavy over the horizon and all the children were in various states of dozing.
He smiled to himself, and pulled himself carefully out of his chair, gently dislodging several napping grandchildren, and stepped quietly to the study's egress. He knew their parents knew where they were. They would be collected in time. Heavens knew the summer had all the time in the world.
He left the manor and stepped briskly through the Hogsmeade streets, returning the waves of wizards and witches who were waiting outside and enjoying the warm evening. He knew most of them by name now. Many of them were of his generation.
He had enjoyed simply telling the story out loud, Sir Trilby Longbottom reflected, even after the children had all drifted off. Storytelling was something so easily enjoyed for its own sake. Breathing a story into history, a narrative into events that had seemed so disconnected at the time, was a rewarding task.
Admittedly, his version had been mostly from his own point of view, and had contained more dashing sword fights against dark lords than were strictly realistic, but the children had hardly objected. The fact that most of them were asleep at the time was entirely beside the point.
The sun really was low in the horizon, and painted the sky colours that a painter would have died to render. Considering the nature of the upcoming task of the evening, that hopefully wouldn't be necessary.
He walked all the way up the road to Hogwarts, where his wife Katherine held court as the Headmistress. He wore his years well, the result of wizard medicine and food. His hair was iron-grey now, and he used a stick when walking long distances, but his green and brown eyes still sparkled as bright as they ever did.
He circled around Hogwarts, making his way to the official residence of the representative from the muggle courts to Hogwarts. Of course, no muggle sovereign had actually known of the post ever since Balliol had been overthrown in the wars of decades past.
He found Sir Cadogan waiting outside the cottage he had lived in since arriving at Hogwarts, looking out over the waters of the lake.
The old knight was white-whiskered and plumper than ever, and his years in the saddle had finally manifested in bandy legs and a crooked gait. But you only had to look at his weathered face and crooked grin to know that he hardly changed a bit.
He turned as Trilby arrived, and raised a brow.
"Odsbodikins, is it that time?"
"I fear so," Trilby grinned. "My wife requested this for you, and she assigned me to making sure you went through with it."
Sir Cadogan harrumphed.
"Well, if it has to happen, then let it be over with. But it's a waste of time. And I don't see why I have to do it with these props." He waved a gauntleted hand at a collection items at the side of the cottage. A fat grey pony, a descendant of Trilby's when he first arrived at Hogwarts, nibbled at the grass. An ornamental sword leaned against the wall. The armour Sir Cadogan wore looked especially polished in the sun.
"Call them aids to posterity."
"Posterity? Bah. I've got no interest in being memorialised. A painting seems excessive."
"You are the knight who broke House Gaunt. Amongst other things. That makes you a part of wizarding history, sir."
"Listen, only people on plinthes and on dusty scrolls deserve to called a part of history. I'm still very much alive and kicking."
"For what it's worth, you do appear on a few scrolls."
"Bah." Cadogan resumed admiring the sunset. Trilby stood beside him.
"The thing is," said Cadogan, after a moment's silence, "Posterity isn't something I care for. What people think of you, in life or after it, is worthless compared to what you actually do. I'm happy with my life, lad. I don't need it recorded in song and story, or with a bunch of paints, for that matter."
"But there's no harm in making sure others don't forget. Children in future years will remember that tyrants can be fought. That they can be beaten."
"So please be polite to the painter when he shows up. Being made a caricature out of a fit of pique won't help posterity."
Sir Cadogan considered this. "Bugger posterity. I've said it a hundred times, and I'll say it a hundred times more. Actions matter, and the why of the actions. Nothing else."
Trilby sighed, just as the painter appeared. He was a slight young man with an armful of canvas and an unfolding stand, and a case of paints hung from a box set in his belt.
"Aha, and who's this vagabound?" said Cadogan abruptly, rounding on the painter. "Oh. My pardon. You must be the recorder of posterity."
"Indeed," said the man, raising one thin eyebrow. "And I assume you are the knight Cadogan?"
"You assume correctly. If you're here to paint, then get your business over with post-haste. I have other things to do, and watch," said Cadogan, gesturing at the sunset.
"Then let's finish this as quickly as possible, shall we?" said the young man tonelessly, as he set down his stand and unrolled canvas.
Trilby pressed the ornamental sword upon the reluctant Cadogan, and gave him the reins of the pony. The knight continued to look at the painter with a look of exaggerated belligerence.
"You'll set a ghastly example if that gets set down on canvas," said Trilby quietly. "They'll call you the Mad Knight."
"Perfectly accurate," said Sir Cadogan with satisfaction. "Perfectly accurate, lad."
The young painter directed Trilby out of the picture, and made sure he had a clear frame of Cadogan, backed by the sunset upon a grassy field. He assayed the sight before him, taking in the oversized sword, the grazing pony, and the mad old knight critically regarding him. Off to one side, the lord of House Longbottom fought to hide a grin.
He touched the brush to the enchanted paint, and the paint to canvas, and wove posterity.