Author's Note: With a tinge of sadness, I post this, the final chapter of "The Brewmaster's Mystery". It's been a fun fifteen months since I first had this crazy idea of the Marauder's having their own brewery. The thought wouldn't let me go, and I immediately began the drafting of the backstory. I think the best thing about writing this story is truly learning about beer and the brewing process. I have become a beer snob who doesn't drink the stuff. My deep thanks to my team: Arnel and Peter (My Ginevra) who have beta'ed the story, Stephanie my pre-reader and my family, for putting up with all the writing and research. I'll finish up Before the Brew, and then this trilogy will be complete. Some of you have been here since the beginning, reviewing every chapter, and I thank you. The song is familiar, the disco hit by Sister Sledge. If there ever was a family which deserved an anthem, it's the greater Weasley-MacPhearson-Potter clan. Enjoy, MNF
We Are Family
1 January 2001, just after noon
"Oh, Sunny sweetie, let's get that cake out of your hair before you run off," Molly was calling after one of the birthday girls. Sunny had only just begun walking in the last week; unlike her twin who had been running for what seemed like forever, even though Ginny swore it was only a month. Seeing the little redhead coming at me, I stepped into her way and scooped her up.
"Arwy, Arwy, down," she pleaded.
"Not until the cake and icing are out of your locks, sweetie," I explained, giving her a big smooch on her cheek. Molly caught up with her and quickly drew her wand and cleaned off the remainder of her birthday cake.
"All clean there, my little angel," Molly cooed before kissing her.
"Down, gammy, down. Iby pay bawl."
"Okay, you can go play ball with Lively," she said and nodded that I should put the girl down.
"Umm pay?" she asked, grasping my hand when her feet were firmly on the ground.
"How could I pass up such a great offer? Let's go find your sister." Sunny and I left the dining room, rounded into the hall and then went into what was probably once a ballroom, now a playroom. Lively squealed when she saw her twin and ran over to her. While they could speak a bit, when they were together they reverted to babbles, giggles and mimics. Honestly, there was nothing better than watching and listening to them. Molly had said her twins were the same way. It was nice to think of Fred and have happy thoughts about him and a toddler George plotting away together.
"Hey there, Mr Potter, you're looking at those little ones rather longingly," a familiar voice said to me. I wrapped my arm around Ginny's waist, still watching the twins happily chattering.
"A little, definitely would love a little girl like those two. The truth though, I'm just madly in love with those little redheads. It's a Potter thing, we have a weakness for gingers."
"You've got a weakness for ginger, too," she teased. "That holiday beer is very spicy."
"It is, but it hasn't slowed you down. How many have you had today?" She was near giddy, something which only happened when she had been imbibing or when she was wanting us to be alone. I hoped she wasn't horny at the twins' first birthday party.
"This is my third," she replied casually. "Good thing my metabolism is so high, being an athlete and all."
"Definitely a good thing," I replied with a bit of a chuckle. "Let's go grab something to eat; they might have salvaged some cake now that the girls have left the table."
"They did have a go at it, didn't they?" Earlier, Sunny and Lively were set up at the table and allowed to enjoy the cake all on their own. Smash and mush was a more accurate sight. Icing was all over them, their chairs, the table, the floor, Seph, Charlie and Connor. The last needed to be right there, between his baby sisters, cheering them on. Audra and Gus were wise enough to be on the other side of the table.
"Hey, if you can't enjoy your own birthday cake – even if that means wearing more than made it into your mouth – then why celebrate?" I quickly scanned the room, and felt confident leaving as both Naomi and Elizabeth were in the room and Eva was on the floor, beckoning the baby girls over to play with her and the big pink ball which had been such an attraction only moments before.
The dining room was occupied by the adults who were enjoying the buffet of excellent finger foods prepared by Hannah and her team. There were miniature versions of some of the pub's best sellers, as well as some items she was testing out. By the way empty platters were disappearing and then reappearing full, I suspected the new items would be as well received as every other dish she'd created for us.
Another table held a wide variety of our beers, magical and non, as well as a chart to tell the drinker what the best temperature for consumption was. Our holiday beer this year was a Dunkle Wizen, a dark roasted wheat beer with flavours of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg charmed to take away the shivers when drinking the version marketed by MMB. The name, Festive Fourteen, was a very inside joke between Charlie, Seph, Orla and me. We'd be sharing the reason with the family later today. I picked one up and tapped it with my wand, making it the perfect forty-eight degrees for drinking. The table was also laden with juices, wines, butterbeer and even a small array of Muggle fizzy drinks.
I was surprised, as I suspected Ginny was too by the sort of purr she made, when I saw a full sized sheet cake on the dessert table. It sat alongside the toddler-destroyed one.
"Where'd this cake come from?" I asked Seph as she stood slicing up the last of the "neat" cake.
"I had it in the kitchen," she replied. "It was an idea Kate Montgomery gave me. She said she'd baked two cakes for her children, one for everyone to eat and one for the baby to smash. Since I had two little babies, I made the cake large enough they'd each have a half to smear and scotch."
"Ah, well played, Seph," Ginny complimented her. "Now, I could use a large slice, please."
"Most certainly." Seph complied with a happy smile on her face. "What about you, Harry?"
"Never pass up cake. Might have been the only thing I ever agreed with Dudley Dursley about," I joked and the two most important women of my life laughed. The dark chocolate cake with vanilla marzipan was decadent; Beaghy had outdone herself.
Slowly people ate, then became full and bid their pardon. There were those like Walter Orr and Lancaster Summersby who worked at North London Brewing - comfortable in the Muggle world even though they came from Wizarding families. Neville and Luna brought Augusta with them, and while Professor McGonagall enjoyed her time here she still needed to prepare for the new term at school. The people I'd brought in to staff MMB were mostly gone by half one, and the last of Charlie's friends from the dragon preserves and the Houghton's were departed by two.
GrandMolly and Pop-Pop were in charge of coordinating FOB - or Flat On Bed - with Charlie and Eva feeding and changing the birthday girls and the two nannies getting the rest down comfortably. They'd all crashed from their sugar rushes and were ready to sleep. As Seph was cleaning up, she offered us more of the cake.
"While I don't have my wife's metabolism, I was told I needed to gain another ten pounds at my physical last week. Apparently my litheness is a determent for my new career." I couldn't believe I'd been told to gain weight by a healer. Who hears these things?
"They told Sirius the same thing," she reminded me. "I don't think he ever did. If anything, he became more sinewy as time went by. Speaking of Sirius, do you think you two could come upstairs with me for a moment? I have something I'd like to give you."
"Sure, it's not like we're going to make the announcements until after supper anyway," I answered and she nodded. Seph had planned the party so that everyone could enjoy their mid-day meal with us, watch the girls with their cake and presents and then when the little ones went down for their FOB, the house would clear out. Supper was just the greater Weasley clan. Seph deposited the cake into the kitchen where Molly and Beaghy were hard at work for dinner, and led us upstairs.
The open, winding staircase which started just outside the kitchen and study and overlooked the grand marble floors of the entranceway was enviable. There was a time when I simply wanted a home, my home, a place where I belonged. Nearly three years after eradicating Voldemort, I'd learned to appreciate architecture and living in well built homes. Charlie and Seph's Hilcote was certainly that. The dovetailed inlayed floors of the entry, the intricate balustrade of the staircase, even the high, buttressed, ornate ceiling was a work of art in this home. Having been in a nice, albeit entirely manufactured home in Surrey as a child, I found I much preferred the older and handcrafted homes the countryside offered.
I was happy when Seph asked if we'd like to have a room here. She was the closest thing I had to family, my family, and I still wanted that closeness we'd created when I first came to work at the brewery. Even with the new kids and the rapid expansion of the MacPhearson-Weasley clan, Seph and Connor were the mum and little brother I would have had if Dumbledore had let Seph and Sirius adopt me. Ginny and I had a private bedroom and bath on the second floor - the only bedroom up there. It was us and the walk-in attic storage.
I looked down at the long hallway, at one end Seph's office and study, the music room and sitting room while at the other were the playroom and nanny Naomi's room. The kitchen and dining room were sandwiched in the middle, across the hall from each other.
The master bedroom was at the near end of the house, and Seph loved that she could overlook the wisteria arbours and the willow tree where the bench with the Marauders carved into the back sat beneath the branches, along the edge of the small brook. There was no question Charlie and Seph were happy, but she had continued to remember and honour the friends who kept her, and eventually Connor safe, and her first love who helped her create our businesses.
"Sit down, I just need to grab the items," she told us, nodding her head to the left to indicate the sitting area close to the windows. We sat together on the two-seat couch, leaving the lounging chair and footrest for Seph.
"When I turned eighteen, and no betrothal contract was found, Sirius and I honestly believed we were free to marry. At my birthday party the next day, Mr Potter had a document prepared which stated that my mother, now the head of the MacPhearson family, and Sirius' father endorsed our choice of each other as spouse. It wasn't a marriage contract, for no dowry would change hands. It was instead their official blessing," she explained as she came to sit down, two small boxes in her hands. "We were not betrothed, we would be engaged, a demonstration of our free will regarding marriage. It was a very important distinction to us, me especially.
"The letter was a shock for both of us, but a most pleasant one. We'd loved each other so long, perhaps even back into childhood, but it was never to be as the MacPhearson girls always had arranged marriages. He'd given me the sweetest little black kitten named Lautitia, brilliance in Latin, because my name means brilliance. He had wanted to spend more money on me, but I wouldn't allow him to, because it just didn't seem proper; not if I was going to be another's wife.
"After we started reading the letter, he quickly deduced what it said. Before I could finish reading it aloud, he got down on one knee and proposed to me right there, in the middle of the common room in Gryffindor tower. I said yes without hesitation. The only thing lacking was a ring." Seph was glowing as she retold us the story of their love. I glanced at Ginny, wondering how she felt knowing that part of Seph's heart still belonged to her first love. Seph loved Charlie deeply, but we all recognised that if Sirius was alive, Seph wouldn't have ended her relationship with Sirius for Charlie. My fears were dispelled when I glanced into Ginny's mahogany orbs and saw how much the young lovers' story was affecting her.
"After I said yes and was resoundingly kissed," Seph continued, a little blush coming to her cheeks when she told of the kiss, "we went up to the boys' room, pulled the curtains and cast spells to lock the others out as well as keep our utterances to ourselves and engaged in what still remains my most favourite snog with Sirius. We kissed and caressed until the early morning when we finally had to stop as our lips were now bruised.
"The next morning we were up with the elves. I changed into the remarkable dress my dorm mates had given me. It was stunning, Ginny; deep amethyst cashmere which caressed the curves of my eighteen-year-old self. If I find it, you can have it. You'd look spectacular in it. My friends also provided the foundation garments of the same deep purple and black lace. Those, sadly, are long gone."
"Foundation garment?" I inquired. It dawned on me that it was a discrete way of saying underwear while the words were halfway out of my mouth. "Never mind, just a slow guy here," I admitted. We shared a good laugh, and Ginny gave me a pity kiss, but I wasn't too proud to take it. Any kiss from Gin was a good thing. "Okay, dressed up in an amazing dress, and with firm foundation. You were saying?" Something I said made the girls laugh again.
"Wait," Ginny interjected. "What were you wearing on your feet?"
"I had a great pair of knee-high black leather boots. I wore them when Sirius and I went out on his death trap, er, motorbike. Those I still have, and Charlie loves them on me just as much," she confessed, another blush but this time with a cheeky smile.
"I've got to get myself a pair of those," my wife mentioned and imagining her in knee-high boots with a significant high heal went right to my manhood. We'd go shopping tomorrow.
"Okay, so we're both dressed and ready to leave the castle before just about anyone else. Being as we're both adults, we were allowed to leave Hogwarts, as long as we had permission from our Head of House. While she appears stern on the outside, Professor McGonagall is actually a romantic softy at heart. When we told her where we were going, she gave us permission. Sirius took me to Glastonbury, and we walked through the huge fair that weekend.
"We looked everywhere to find me an engagement ring, but nothing looked right; that is until we found these," she said, handing us each a box. "Go ahead, open them."
Inside the plain white box was a ring. I lifted it out of the cotton and turned it to see the face of a roaring lion, small rubies for eyes. Ginny was tentatively holding the blue and gold ring between her fingers. I realised there were several diamonds, as one caught the light and refracted across her face. While they were beautiful and meant so much to me, it didn't seem right that I was the one receiving them. "Seph, don't you want to wait and give these to Connor?"
"I thought about that, but I have something else for him; something which is far more precious in my heart," she sighed, a tear forming as she pursed her lips. "Harry, when we found out about the prophecy and when Dumbledore refused to let the three of you move in with Sirius and me, my Phinney and I became scared. Even though it was decided he wouldn't be the Secret-Keeper, he was sure as hell going to make it look that way. We recognised the danger he would be in. He was putting himself into mortal peril. He wanted everything of his to go to me, with the understanding that if something happened to James and Lily, you and Remus would continue to be cared for from out of his fortune.
"He went out and bought me a stunning engagement ring, emerald-cut amethyst ring and a platinum wedding band with smaller amethysts embedded in it. He had a plain platinum band for himself. We couldn't risk being married in a magical ceremony or even by a wizard, so we went into a church and said our vows to one another. I will give those rings to Connor when he's old enough. I want the two of you to have these; I know Sirius would have insisted as well."
"Seph, I...I remember seeing this on his hand and commenting about it. He told me it showed his family he had the heart of a lion and the soul of a true Gryffindor," I explained, even as I slipped it on the ring finger of my right hand. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Wear it, and think of him smiling and laughing. When Connor is older, you can tell him all about your adventure in breaking him out of Hogwarts, just not quite yet. I'd like for him to know that doing something so dangerous may lead to punishments," she added with a glint. Parenting was a mine field. As much as I loved playing with the little guy and his baby sisters, I didn't want one of my own yet.
"Seph, there must be a story about this ring," Ginny said as she slid the blue, gold and diamond ring onto the middle finger of her left hand. "It's unusual, but it's gorgeous too. The inscription inside is unique as well."
Seph sat back in her chair and explained about a summer trip to the Aegean Sea with Sirius, Dad, and my grandparents. She told us of days spent exploring and nights where they'd sit up talking until the stars had completely filled the sky. She explained just how it deepened the already sibling-like relationship between her and my dad. She told us of the girl they met, and how they were touched by getting to know her. By the time she was done, both Ginny and Seph were in tears and I felt a thick knot in my throat. Seph escaped to the en-suite loo while we went up to our second-floor retreat to freshen up and get our emotions straightened out.
"Knowing why she picked this ring, how she wants me to have it, I doubt I'll ever take it off. I'll put a Sticking Charm on it when I fly," Ginny said as she removed the skirt she'd worn for the large party, and summoned a well-worn pair of jeans for supper.
"I definitely won't take this off," I said to her, peeling the jumper off my chest and leaving the long sleeved Henley on. This shirt could go in the wash, always something important when dining with the five and under set. Audra had already asked if Ginny and I would sit on either side of her tonight. "Like my dad's watch, this ties me to Sirius. I wish I had something from Moony, then I'd carry the Marauders with me."
"Harry, they're so much a part of you," Ginny said while coming to stand in front of me, her hands sliding up my chest. "You already have the Marauders with you. I just hope they can protect you while you're out in the field." I chuckled before I kissed her.
TBM TBM TBM TBM TBM
The main course of our family meal was over; pudding was being held until Seph and I made our announcements. I was certain some of the family had guessed my secret, I was sure they hadn't guessed Seph's. She was across the table, and I caught her eye. She smirked at me and nodded. Together we rose, taking our water goblets together. I started the speeches.
"Three years ago today, I was still reeling from latest encounter with Voldemort, inside a tent which I hated, somewhere out in the cold. Hermione and I wondered if we'd ever be able to return to civilisation; or if there would even be something to return to," I began. I had worked very hard on what I wanted to say, ensuring that everyone knew how important they were to me.
"Slowly things began to get better, starting with the return of my best mate, Ron. Everyday since that horrible New Year's with only Hermione as friend or family, my life has improved. All of you have appeared and brought with you a bit of this new life I've been privileged enough to have. Many people saw me as a whole lot of things after the last battle. Most of those titles and accolades weren't anything I wanted to be part of.
"Not quite two and a half years ago, I received a strange letter from someone who knew my parents, and was running the brewery that Dad had helped found and where Mum had helped create the beers. I wasn't sure what I was going to find, but Ginny and I arranged a meeting. My circle grew again, this time providing me with a surrogate mother and awesome little brother."
"Hey, that's me and Mummy!" Connor cheered and laughter rang off the panes of glass in the windows and the crystal of the chandelier.
"It is most certainly you, buddy," I confirmed while mussing his hair. "Connor, the son of my godfather, became someone I could help raise, like Sirius should have done with me. Within a year, Seph fell in love with Charlie and our families, the Weasleys and the MacPhearson/Black/Potter conglomerate merged. Hermione is still here, although she's now Ron's bride-to-be and I can count another twenty-four family members who circle the table.
"We're not a conventional family, we're not even a family someone could imagine easily; but family is what we are. You are the only people who have never labelled me with a title which I didn't want. Brother, son, husband, uncle, friend are all part of me; those titles I embrace and relish. After much consideration and discussion with my wife and business partner, I've decided to take on another one, which the public has been clamouring for. As of next week, I will be Auror-Trainee Potter as well."
Ron immediately popped up and shook my hand. Bill and Arthur were proud of me and Hermione hugged me.
"It's where you belong, Harry. I'm glad we'll be working together again," she whispered in my ear.
"What's going to happen to the brewery? Who's going to run them?" Bill asked.
"Orla is running MMB and doing a spectacular job of it," Seph piped up. "Walter will continue with NLB. Both breweries are in fine hands."
"Will we still get free beer?" George asked and again raucous laughter broke out, even the little ones laughing along.
"George, I'd never deprive you of free beer," I answered.
"Seph, dear, if you're not running the brewery; what are you going to do?" Molly asked, and my partner smiled.
"Well, I'll still be in and out of the head office for both, but I'm opting for a slower life. I'm going to have to put my feet up much more, especially come summer." Seph lifted her top and waved her wand, revealing a pronounced bump. Molly was the first to squeal, getting up from her chair at the head of the table and coming to tackle her daughter-in-law.
"When are you due? You're so big already."
"About that, apparently the twin gene is very, very strong in some of these Weasley brothers. I'm due around the first of June, and the healer has already confirmed it's twins." Seph glowed as Molly first hugged her, as did Arthur, and then the remainder of family members who wanted to congratulate her. Audra was quite excited by this, hoping they'd be more girls.
"I'm surprised no one asked us about the title of our holiday beer this year," Seph remarked. "It was a HUGE clue about the arrival of these two. Festive Fourteen. Really, no one wondered about the name?"
"I thought it was like the twelve days," George threw out.
"But there's only twelve of those," Percy stated. "I thought perhaps it had something to do with the number of beers you have on tap right now."
"That's a good thought, but no. We usually only have five on tap at the pub," I explained.
"Wait, I only count thirteen of you," Arthur spoke up. "Two parents, nine kids, two new babies, that's only thirteen."
"Not quite, Pop-Pop," Orla said, standing up, her left hand still hidden in her pocket. "After we left your house on Christmas Eve, Daniel, my boyfriend showed up here. He asked me to marry him," she announced while producing her left hand. "I'm getting married next October."
Just like with Seph's news, Orla's produced hugs, kisses and more. Molly was thrilled at getting to help with a wedding. Everyone returned to their seats, a small amount of pudding appearing on the little ones' plates.
"Hey, why do they get their dessert and we don't?" Ron whined and Hermione glared.
"You'll get it in a minute as you're old enough to wait," Charlie said as he got to his feet. "I swear, this is our last announcement. I have been given the go ahead to return to work." There was clapping this time, although not as explosive and many of the women, Molly and Ginny included, looked worried. "Mum, relax, you've got your worried face on." The Weasley kids laughed at that. "I will not be a dragon handler anymore, however. Instead, I've been promoted to the Deputy Head of Dragon Breeding for the Magical United Kingdom.
This time the cheering was loud and happy, and Molly stood up to hug her son. With the commotion, I took the opening to walk around the table to hug Seph and then kiss her temple.
"Tell me you're truly happy, Harry. Tell me that you've really put the problems of the past where they belong," she pleaded.
"Seph, I didn't lie earlier. Every day of the last three years has given me something wonderful and magical. I wouldn't trade my life for anything now."
"Good, very good," she said no louder than a whisper before returning to Charlie's side. The many desserts the ladies had prepared began appearing on the table, and just as people were digging in, Bill stood.
"As long as everyone is making announcements, Fleur and I decided to share ours. You're not the only Weasley branch which is getting bigger. We're due to have another child in August." Dessert was ignored and congratulations filled their space.
Without any sense of regret, I could affirm now. Life is good.
Author's Note: On May 30, 2001 (Seph and Charlie's second wedding anniversary) they welcomed Arthur Remus Weasley and Jamie Fred Weasley, two more boys, bringing the totals to 6 boys and 5 girls. As for what happens after that date...only time will tell if we ever know. MNF)