'We used to be able to do this whenever we wanted,' said Lavender wistfully as she shuffled along with the multitude.
'There are a lot of things we used to be able to do whenever we wanted,' Mark reminded her.
He slid his arm around her waist and squeezed her gently.
The crowd leaving the New Globe Theatre suddenly stopped. Lavender Moon could see nothing but the enclosing mob, and she hated being hemmed in. Mark had the advantage of height; he could see over the stationary throng. Even in four-inch heels, she barely reached his shoulder. She looked up at her husband and raised her eyebrows enquiringly. They had been together for more than five years; she didn't need to speak. Mark caught her look, stood on tiptoe, and provided the information.
'It's busy, that's all,' he assured her. 'They've already started moving again at the front. We'll be outside soon.'
Within moments the crowd began to shuffle forwards. They slowly inched their way out from the theatre and onto Bankside Jetty. Mark guided Lavender out from the horde and over to the Bankside Pier. For a few minutes they leaned against the railings; they gazed, unspeaking, out over the Thames, thinking about the matinee performance they had just left.
The pungent smells of the city were a heavy spice on the unmoving air. The lethargy-inducing heat was unsparingly sticky as they watched the river flow sluggishly seaward. The post-solstitial sun hung high and bright to the west, its midsummer glare creating sparkling iridescences on the slow and tired old Thames.
'"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown",' quoted Lavender, breaking their contemplative silence. Unlike her husband, she wasn't good at silences. 'He was a smart man, that Muggle.'
'He was, but I still prefer his funny stuff,' replied Mark dryly.
Lavender laughed, turned towards her lean and lanky husband and threw her arms around his neck. She tried to pull him down for a kiss, but Mark resisted. Instead, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her up to sit on the railings. Once she was seated, and almost his height, he bent forwards. They kissed a long, lingering, gentle and familiar kiss.
'I've made a damn good kisser out of you,' murmured Lavender boastfully when they'd finished.
'I'm no' so sure,' said Mark. 'I think that I probably still need a lot more practice.'
Lavender laughed and hugged him. He enfolded her in his long, lean arms and she relaxed into his enveloping embrace.
'Happy Anniversary, Mrs Moon. Two years as a married woman. How does it feel?' he asked. His soft Scottish brogue was little more than a whisper of warm breath on her ear.
'It's not two years until tomorrow, Mark. Three o'clock tomorrow afternoon, but—so far—I have no regrets.' Lavender wriggled in his arms in order to look at her wristwatch. She looked thoughtfully into her husband's eyes.
'What now, Mark? We've got almost four hours before the full moon rises,' she asked.
'Come with me,' Mark told her. He lifted her down from her perch and placed her gently on the ground. Hand in hand, they meandered slowly along the South Bank.
They were reminiscing about their wedding day as they passed HMS Belfast. The conversation was, as usual, one-sided. Lavender was chattering away twenty to the dozen and Mark was interjecting the occasional, usually wry, comment. By the time they were crossing the Thames, at Tower Bridge, they had finished with their honeymoon; the discussions about that three week long trip to the USA had resulted in them stopping four times to kiss, with ever increasing passion.
The Tower of London imposed its presence ahead of them as they reached the north side of the river. Mark ignored it, and the moment they turned away from its pale crenellated walls Lavender knew exactly where they were going. She slipped her hand into the back pocket of her husband's chinos.
'You really are a sentimental old thing, Mr Moon,' she told him.
They walked along the North Bank, into St Katherine's Dock and towards the huge former spice warehouse which was now the Dickens Inn. They stopped in the courtyard outside the inn, at the point where, two and a half years earlier, Mark had rather clumsily proposed.
'Too late to say no, now,' Mark told her.
'I have no regrets, Mark. Do you?' she asked. 'Even though all I got was a lanky Scottish scruff with no dress sense. Fortunately, these days, and thanks entirely to me, you are acceptably well-dressed. In fact, you're almost smart.'
'I was smart enough to marry you!' observed Mark. Lavender pursed her lips and stared up at him, waiting for him to continue. He didn't. She wasn't sure whether he was complimenting her or teasing her.
'That's not very smart,' she said eventually. 'All you got was Lavender Brown, the notorious werewolf Auror.'
'The notorious Lavender Brown is long gone, isn't she?' Mark asked. 'Lavender Moon hasen't done anything to get your name into the papers … except…' his face creased into a worried frown and he stopped in mid-sentence.
'…except when Violet was born. Almost dying in childbirth seems to have been the most newsworthy thing I've done since I met you, Mark. But I'm still an Auror and I'll always be a werewolf, and that's enough to make me notorious,' said Lavender. She watched her husband pondering her past. He said nothing, so she slipped her arm around his waist and hugged him.
'Do you think that Violet will be all right tonight, Mark? Are we cruel parents?' she added worriedly. Mark smiled.
'Your mum and dad will be able to manage a ten-month-old baby until tomorrow, Lavender,' he reassured her. 'You saw how excited they were. Your dad has been a constant surprise to me ever since Violet was born. He comes across all serious and stern and strong, but he must have been in their attic for days, finding all of your old toys and cleaning them.'
'I didn't even know that he'd kept them,' admitted Lavender.
'Violet will be fine with her grandparents. I can manage to look after our baby girl on full moon nights. They will have no problems, and if they do, I'm certain that they'll contact us. Don't worry,' he said. 'They brought you up all right.'
Lavender snorted in disbelief at his last remark.
'You had a few difficult years, but you are a lovely person and I love you,' Mark told her.
Lavender decided that it was time for another kiss.
'What a nice man you are, Mark. Sometimes I think I don't deserve you.' At that remark, Mark looked very satisfied with himself, so she impishly added, 'But most of the time I think that sensible, predictable iyou/i don't deserve someone as gorgeous and perfect as ime/i! Have you booked a table in the restaurant?'
Mark took her hand and they walked towards the huge wooden building.
'What do you think, gorgeous and perfect wife?' he asked, with only a hint of teasing in his voice.
'I think that you considered booking a table, but the day you proposed we hadn't booked, and there weren't any tables available so we made do with eating sausage and mash in the beer garden. So…'
'You're right, Lavender, I thought that we'd do what we did before I dragged you out here and proposed.' Mark looked a little sad. 'I iam/i predictable! I don't mind being nice and sensible, but…'
Lavender scampered up the steps ahead of her husband. She stopped when she was two steps above him and turned to face him, almost at his eye height.
'Oh, Mark, don't be upset. I'll tell you what, if you don't want to be predictable, you can be reliable, or dependable, instead,' she suggested. Lavender pulled her husband into a hug and wriggled into him, resting her chin on his shoulder and pressing her chest firmly against his.
'I rely and depend on you, and reliable and dependable are similar to predictable, but nicer for some reason.' She lifted her head and slid her cheek along his. Her tongue darted out and flicked his earlobe. 'But if you fancy something unpredictable, that's fine too,' she murmured provocatively. 'Kitty needs her sausage. We can have an unpredictable night, an exciting night, a wild night.'
'Normally, I look forward to wild and exciting,' said Mark. 'But it's the full moon tonight, Lavender. We need to be home before dark, before you change. We can't have an Auror breaking the law.'
'We don't need to go home,' she whispered. 'We could use a disillusionment charm and be wild right here, we've done that before. Or, we can leave as soon as we've eaten,' said Lavender.
'Main course here, followed by dessert at home,' teased Mark. 'That's what we did the night we got engaged. I saw the strawberries and cream at the back of the larder, Lavender. You didn't hide them very well. So that makes iyou/i predictable, just like me.'
Lavender pulled a face and then grinned mischievously. 'If you don't want to eat my strawberry surprise, Mark, I'll just have to improvise. I'll be able to think of something wild and different for you when I get you home.'
He grinned, kissed her and escorted her into the busy pub.
They found a small table in the beer garden and Mark went to the bar to order their food and to buy drinks. Lavender twisted sideways in her seat, leaned against the weathered wooden rail and looked out over the marina. She watched in fascination as the Muggles went about their business. She was watching an obviously wealthy, and just as obviously nautically inept, couple failing to moor a large yacht when Mark returned with pint and a half of Bombardier bitter.
'Which one is mine?' Lavender asked in mock petulance.
'Whichever one you want,' he replied evenly.
Lavender took the half pint glass and sipped the beer. She turned her attention to her husband and next hour passed in quiet, relaxing conversation, teasing banter, and a little familiar flirting. They had almost finished their meal when Lavender leaned languorously across the table and whispered, 'Who has just sat down at the table behind me?'
Mark stared over her shoulder at the table. 'Three guys, all quite a bit younger than us, early twenties I'd guess,' he told her.
'Keep your voice down and don't make it so bloody obvious that you're looking at them, Mark.' Lavender spoke in an annoyed and commanding undertone, but smiled sweetly, as if she was still flirting with him. 'Don't stare, and don't look so confused, just look at me and smile. Pretend that you like me, and tell me what they look like.'
'Why?' Mark asked. He tried to do as he was asked, but merely managed a false and contorted grin.
'The closer the moon gets to the horizon, the more my senses heighten. I can smell an unpalatable amount of perfume. The stench is almost overwhelming, but behind it, I can smell hag,' Lavender whispered.